08 November 2011

The Happy Prince ~ Oscar Wilde


Catch up on a classic
Short stories (or fairytales)

This was a First Tuesday Book Club book ... and it was a gem!

While there were other stories, The Happy Prince was a standout. It was beautifully written and poignantly told. All the stories in the book had a strong touch of bitter-sweet.

I just don't know how I missed this up till now ... and I think it is worth a re-read anytime!

First Tuesday Book Club

07 November 2011

The Door Into Summer ~ Robert Heinlein

< OK >

Back to a classic
A bit dusty and dated

Having loved Heinlein as a teenager and read all of his that I could get my hands on, I decided to reread this one. I came across it on a YA "recommended reading" list and it was described as one of the best time travel books. So I thought it was worth a reread.

Not sure that I would go out of my way to recommend it or put it on a list or label it great time travel.

I actually found the time travel a bit clunky. It took quite a while to set up the scenario. I found it a bit ERK that when he goes back to the time he came from to beat those who screwed him over ... and meets up with the prepubescent daughter of his partner and arranges to marry her when she takes the Big Sleep to the future (hmmm he is in his 40s and she is not yet a teen ... and while she will be in her 20s when they meet up again ... it is still erk)

It was also a bit on the funny side given that it was set in the 70s with the hero taking the Big Sleep to the "future" in 2000 ... and the book was written in the late 50s ... so Heinlein's vision of the 70's was future-gazing as much as his conception of 2000 (like he was soooo wrong about purple flares being the right clothes in 2000 ... instead of the 70s!)

06 November 2011

The Tiger's Wife ~ Tea Obreht

** LIKE **

 Orange Prize : 2011 Winner
Tournament of books : 2012


It took me a while to get into the narrative but eventually it all knitted together and rolled along. I never worked out the role of Zora to the plot and there were often longwinded descriptions.

I was particularly impressed with how she interlinked the characters from the stories of the grandfather (the Deathless Man and the Tiger’s Wife) ... never overly coincidental, never a hard push to link up. She skilfully interweaves the stories of the grandfather with the events of the life of the narrator. I also liked the way character background is given without it seeming like “author’s notes” just added in to fill it out.

The books was full of the superstitions and violence of the region but lacked emotional involvement ... there were times I just skimmed, making a choice of giving up or moving on.

05 November 2011

Soulless ~ Gail Carriger

* LIKE *

“Steampunk!” I learnt a new word!
Cute, campy, overwritten, giddy.

A fun read with werewolves, vampires and ghosts integrated into everyday living in Victorian England (in fact, they have their own special advisors to the Queen ...and are possibly the reason why Britannia rules!).

It has a particularly strong female heroine. But way too much smooching. While the book is in no way profound, the characters are well developed and the world the exist in is well drawn. The author makes excellent use of Victorian vernacular and witty observations... making it delightfully ’edifying’.

Steampunk : a sub genre of sci-fi, fantasy, alternate history and speculative fiction that involves a setting where steam power is still widely used, usually Victorian era Britain. Works often involve anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as the Victorians might have envisioned them. Steam punk was influenced by, and often adopts the style of the 19th century romances of Jules Verne, HG wells, Mary Shelly Eg : Philip Pullman, China Mieville (don’t think that Jasper Fforde is quite ‘goth’ enough)

04 November 2011

How I Became A Famous Novelist ~ Steve Hely


Awesome! Funny, funny book.
A perfect companion for “The Bear Went Over The Mountain”

I really enjoyed this ... smiled my way through ... loved the irony of writing a novel about writing a novel which is all about suckering the public to buy it ... and the merchandise ... and the movie rights. This is a wonderful satire about understanding the formula to writing a best seller and is complete with jottings from a range of genres where the ‘author’ is trying his hand at various styles. (And I even loved the over embellished, over emotive, claptrap he was dabbling in ! ... ahhh! I must be ripe for the picking ... I obviously can’t tell a Booker from a Bestseller!).

It is all here : literary pretension, publicity posing, selling out, cliched cleverness, a real insight into writing a novel.

Makes it hard to look at a popular novel/novelist the same way!

And then they reviewed it on First Tuesday Book Club ... and generally panned it! HUMBUG!!!

Winner : Thurber Prize for American Humor (2010)

First Tuesday Book Club

03 November 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick ~ Chris Van Allsburg

* LIKE *

Ahhh ... should have left it to my own imagination!
Some good, some ordinary, few as good as the illustrations!

Ok ... there were good ones ... ok, there were even lots of good ones ... They ranged from readable to enjoyable. There were creepy ones, sci-fi ones, sweet ones.

But ultimately for me it was like putting a bird in a cage. Like putting a limit on your dreams. Like watching TV rather than read a book.

I find the intro and pictures in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick so vivid that they enthral your imagination. I have used it often in the classroom and each time I would take it out something new, different, wild or whimsical would come to mind. The “Mysteries” tantalises where the “Chronicles” serves it on a plate.

Is there a place for it? Yes ... i can see that it is a good way to introduce children to a range of genre. Give them an idea and let them better it.

02 November 2011

Birdsong ~ Sebastian Faulks

< OK >

Didn’t do it for me ... so much
The horrors of war are lost in a silly love story.

The preface read so well, promised so much. Faulks was so aware and so stunned by the horrific loss in WW1 that he wanted to write about it. Instead it was the mere background to a rather poor love story.

The book seemed to be peopled with too many characters. Pointless characters. I am still perplexed about the role of the girl from the present. Often I felt like characters were just sentences made from an authors jottings (hmmm .. I know ... I’ll have Elizabeth a bit of a modern miss ... she can go hiking in the north by herself ... yes ... and jump into bed with some young buck ... yes ... And why the birth scene ... ohhh ... wouldn’t it be cool if she gave her grandfather’s name to the baby ... )

I just wasn’t convinced by the modern romance or the main “love” story.

I felt he captured the confusion of battle, the depravations they endured and the human tragedy unfolding around him .... but the Preface lead me to believe that he would bring to the reader a sense of the “extermination” of 10 million men ... TEN MILLION MEN. ... The most we got from the Somme was a rather passing stiff-upper-lip comment of “those poor chaps are doing it hard at the Somme”. My only glimpse of that hideousness, the incredible slaughter, came through Elizabeth’s field trip when she came across a large memorial minutely inscribed with the names of the missing, not the dead, just the missing.

“... the experience of this war had somehow slipped form public understanding ... this was in part due to the reticence of those who had been there .... and then only 20 years later a second frenzy had convulsed the world, one aspect of which had been so well memorialised at the insistence of its victims that it seemed to leave no room in the public memory for earlier holocausts”