10 October 2011

The Sisters Brothers ~ Patrick deWitt

* OK *
Tournament of Books : 2012 (Winner)

Nice cover
Shame about what's between the front and the back

Thing I like most about this book is its cover. Cool. So if that is what you are looking for in a book then you can’t go wrong.

It wasn’t that it was too oddball or too violent for me ... I just found the narrative too sketchy. It was lacking in pace and the climax was indifferent.

The characters were desperate and depressing yet slightly comic. The setting was a western road trip from Oregon City to the goldfields of Sacramento. I missed the point somewhere because I just didn’t engage.

If you want a Western with great characterisation, great vernacular, great narrative ... pick up True Grit

09 October 2011

The Sense of an Ending ~ Julian Barnes

**** RECOMMEND ****

Man Booker Prize : 2011 Winner
Tournament of Books : 2012

Barely a novella ~ 
But every word is worthwhile.

I was a little worried when review blurb talked about “stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication” and references to “memory, ageing, time and remorse” had me worried that it was like previous winner “The Gathering” by Anne Enright (yuk).

I prefer to quote from a San Francisco Chronicle review that says : “At 163 pages ... it is the longest book I have ever read ..” because this is a deliciously intense read. Such an elegant, polished writing style where every word/sentence seems to resonate.

But while it is complex and skilful writing, the narrative itself shines clear. It is a subtle reveal in a tidy package.

08 October 2011

Joy Luck Club ~ Amy Tan

*** LIKE ***

Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 1989

I was lucky I found joy.
It took a while ... but I came to appreciate it.

Once again, because I have read some excellent literature that uses change of voice vividly (for example : “Cloud Atlas” or “A Visit From The Goon Squad” or “Room”), I found this a bit of a trial at the beginning as it was not well done. At times it was difficult to tell who was the storyteller and the time period of the story ... there are multiple vignettes told in flashback to the daughter’s childhood and the mother’s childhood ... as well as anecdotes and histories from the other members of the Joy Luck Club. It really took me till the last third to feel involved in the storyline.

In the long run, it was a good book. It covers Asian/American + Mother/Daughter relationships well. I am glad I read it ... it was enjoyable ... by the end. But I have others of a similar ilk that I prefer.

07 October 2011

My Sister's Keeper ~ Jodi Picoult


Welcome to my first and last Jodi Picoult
Mawkish mucky muck

Just not my kind of a read ... if it is going to be melodrama then I will take it in period costume. This was trying to be philosophical but fell on its arty arse. The multiple narrative was woeful ... the “voice” used was the same, usually impossible to tell (without names) who was narrating the chapter. (Maybe the problem is that I have recently read some great change of voice/point -of-view multiple narratives that work in spades!!)

I found the characterisations a bit on the clunky side, lacking credibility. In fact there were too many characters who were not relevant to the plot ... what was the point of the lawyer’s old love affair?

Maybe the only problem with the surprise ending is that they weren’t all treated to the same fate!

06 October 2011

Mockingjay ~ Suzanne Collins


Part 3 or TGIF ~ Thank God It’s Finished
Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to read 3-in-a-row.

I do admire that the author planned for a trilogy and stuck to it ... but why did that still lead to a feeling that the ending was so unsatisfying. I felt the main themes were the evils of war and subjugation of people with an underlay of the love triangle. So I was a little aghast that the main character who had had so much grief and physical and emotional torment and torture thrown at her was happy to vote for another Game involving innocents, that she loses sight shooting Snow on a whim. And then there is the avoidance of a reasonable ending to the romance ... Gale went away, Peeta hung around ... boy, that bought it to a climax!

05 October 2011

Catching Fire ~ Suzanne Collins

< OK >

On With The Games ~ Part 2 of the trilogy
Ummmm ... ok ... but ....

I gave a Book 1 a “Reading Excellence” ... fast paced, certainly sucks you in, good plot and characters ... but in Book 2 those characters start to wear thin. The main character, Katniss, becomes a bit wearisome and the two rivals for her affections are too similar in their insipidness. Implausibility seeps in and leads to a bit of eye rolling as you read. And it ends abruptly with a “cliff hanger” that is an unsatisfactory finishing off of the book ... just leaves you hanging.

Push on ... now for Book 3!

03 October 2011

The Hunger Games ~ Suzanne Collins


Fast paced teen fiction ~ Let The Games Begin
Part 1 of a trilogy

Not highly original but that makes no-never-mind as it is such a smooth, slick read. Plenty of non-stop action - a bit bloodthirsty but not overdone. Plus a bit of romance with star-crossed lovers and a bit of teens getting the better of adults. Nice to have a strong female lead and I guess you can forgive her shortcomings because of her youth.

I enjoyed it and have moved straight on the Part 2 ... but will it wear thin?

02 October 2011

Super Sad True Love Story ~ Gary Shteyngart

***** FAVOURITE *****

Tournament of Books : 2011

A satirical dystopian future set in a USA owned by China 
(...hmm hold on???)
Cute, funny, smart

Life is all about social networking, personal and credit ratings, text instead of books, images instead of pictures ... a sad decaying world. Everyone walks around with their “appararati” (iPhone) - a streaming media artefact - constantly reviewing the status of others and posting their own updates (ie Farcebook or, in SSTLS, “GlobalTeens”). The world (well, New York/USA) is ruled by Retail or Media and, according to your race, you are encouraged to spend or save. The $US is pegged to the Yuan, the US is ruled by the Bipartisan Party.

This is a smart political and social commentary. The “love story” runs a poor second to the tragedy of a future showing the decline and implosion of a consumer based world.

I think this is a Love It or Hate It book (though probably that should read LIOHI).
I loved it.

First Tuesday Book Club