30 December 2011

2011 Top 5 Reads

It has been difficult ...

I resisted the temptation to "cheat" and list the ones I longlisted ...

but after careful deliberation ...

and hasty decision making ...

here are (maybe) my picks for my 2011 Top 5 Reads :

Drum Roll ....

Cloud Atlas ~ David Mitchell

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas ~ Hunter S Thompson

The Passage ~ Justin Cronin OR The Last Werewolf ~ Glen Duncan : Can't decide!!!!

Skippy Dies ~ Paul Murray

Super Sad True Love Story ~ Gary Shteyngart

10 December 2011

Countdown ~ Mira Grant

< OK >

A Newsflesh Novella
A prequel to the Newsflesh trilogy

Very short ~ a mere 65 pages.

Well constructed, neatly interlinked vignettes giving background to The Rising.

I read this after #1 & #2 of the trilogy ... and I think that is when it was released. I think it sits well here even though it is a prequel. It adds depth to the Zombie saga even though most of the information about the release of the virus had come though in Feed and Deadline.

Maybe this was just a titbit to feed the hungry hoards of rampaging zombies eagerly awaiting the release of #3 Blackout.

09 December 2011

Deadline ~ Mira Grant


Does she think we have the brain of a zombie???
#2 of Newsflesh Trilogy
There were so many times while reading this book that I had to put myself on auto pilot and just keep reading while gnashing my teeth!

#1 (Feed) was a great Zombie book but this second one in the trilogy was a good idea poorly executed (but like any good zombie, it kept getting up and walking again). The editor let too much through to the keeper.

There was way (waaaaaay) too much repetition to remind us what happened in #1. Constant. All the time. Repetitive.

The "talking" to his sister wore so (soooooo) thin. Oooooh! only you can hear her ~ everyone thinks you're crazy!! Give us a break ~ I got it the first time. Constant. All the time. Repetitive.

The references to Shaun drinking Coca Cola (because his sister was in his head) was ... you guessed it ... constant. All the time. Repetitive.

There were other annoying bits :
Shaun's childishness (OMG ... the survival of the human race depends on him ... Help!!)
Shaun's willingness to gloss over and forgive Buffy, their partner and friend who had duped them but his antagonistic and unforgiving attitude towards Kelly because she had worked for the baddies before coming over to the good side.
The characters were very flat.

But ... I am looking forward to #3!
#1 had a great political background, #2 had a more medical background. It was a page-turning read in need of a good edit

08 December 2011

The Madonnas of Leningrad ~ Debra Dean


Take me to the Hermitage!
Recommended by Jeannie

This was a gem. The narrative had two threads, present and past, and I found both to be of equal interest.

The "present" thread presented the sad, sad story of the onset of Alzheimer's eating away at the fabric of existence, with old age robbing you of your family and your dignity. This was poignantly told. Not over sentimentalised and very touching. Marina was drifting away into her past. There was also a sadness in the fact that we are simultaneously being told of this past yet she had never passed this personal history on to her children.

The "past" thread was Marina's experiences at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad during the German siege in World War 2. The horrors of war and the deprivations and resilience of the people are brilliantly counterbalanced by the richness of the artwork of the museum. I am not particularly into art (call me a philistine) but this book left you craving a visit to the Hermitage (or any art gallery!). Marina is involved in packing away the artworks for protection. She walks through the emptied galleries committing the works to memory by visualising and describing them. These descriptions are detailed and vivid.

This was a book where I audibly groaned when I turned the page and found it was the end!

07 December 2011

Feed ~ Mira Grant


Putting new life into Zombie Literature!
A great pop culture tribute

There was something here for everyone ... so you didn't even have to be into zombies. The title/cover was a clever play on words/icons. There are lots of make-you-smile references to George Romero's zombie movies ... which, in the future, have now moved out of the realm of cult movies to survival guides.

In the (as always) dystopian future, after The Rising, the survivors have to worry about not just zombie attacks but the radical religious right politicians that continue to plague the world. Fear is used as a control mechanism by the power hungry (sound familiar?).
Blogging is a legitimate arm of the media specialising in on the spot live feeds - with Newsies (providing the facts), Stewarts (providing the opinion), Irwins (providing the action) and Fictionals (providing the literary take) ... and, yes, that is Stewarts after Jon and Irwins after Steve.

The book was overly long (and it is Part 1 of a trilogy), a little repetitive and there was a lot of explanation about how The Rising came about ... but it was not zombie-trance inducing.

Loved the pop culture references.

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel 2011

06 December 2011

The Call ~ Yannick Murphy


A most unusual narrative style
Sweet, understated, odd

I have to admit I was quite put off at first. But ... it worked! I went with the flow of the Mental Journal style of abbreviated writing and enjoyed the reveal coming through everyday actions and thoughts.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS STORY : We follow a vet making house calls in a small rural community and trying to find out who accidentally shot his son
WHAT DOESN'T HAPPEN IN THIS STORY : We never find out about the spaceship
CALL : Mostly it is someone about their livestock, but sometimes it is a mysterious, unknown caller
ACTION : Deliver a kid, put down a horse, treat a sheep, donate a kidney to a "son".
RESULT : An interesting take on narrative
WHAT I THINK ABOUT AS I READ THIS : Is the whole book like this?
WHAT I DID : I jumped to the back to have a look to see if it was all like this

WHAT THEY HAVE FOR DINNER : Some might find this irritating but I enjoyed it!
This gave the book the warmth that was needed as the writing style made you a bit detached.
DID I ENJOY THIS BOOK : Well, yes ... but I wouldn't want to read everything like this! ... I preferred the odd narrative style of "Super Sad True Love Story" ... but I would recommend it if you are after something a little oddball.
AM I SERIOUS : Yes ... the whole book is like this!!!!

05 December 2011

Gilgamesh ~ Joan London


Bring on the thesaurus for a description
A comforting, evocative, quixotic read.

The story started and finished on a farm in Western Australia and, in the middle, travelled to Armenia. The pace of the storytelling is slow and detailed yet it is sparing in its language and certainly lacks overblown prose. It is this gentle osmosis that lets the characters, the time period and the locations seep into your imagination.

The original Gilgamesh saga is threaded through the story.

04 December 2011

The Chrysalids ~ John Wyndham

 *** FAVOURITE ***

Could be on today's bestseller list!
Religious fundamentalists in a dystopian world

First published in 1955, this book, with its theme of persecution, is as fresh as a daisy. I read it as a teen and loved it ... but loved it even more this time around.

The pace of the narrative was unrelenting ... it was go to whoa storytelling with natural characters and suspenseful action. The children need to survive in and escape from, a paranoid, intolerant, repressive world. Maybe last time I read it as kids-own-adventure stuff whereas this time I was so struck by the underlying questions about society. And is the society that rescued them any better, any less judgmental?

More Wyndham to come! I shall have to revisit my previous favourite, The Day Of The Triffids.

03 December 2011

The Hundred Foot Journey ~ Richard C Morais

< OK >

Be easy to use lots of edible puns here
A snack, a tasty bite, but not a meal

This was a fun, light read. There was lots to keep a foodie interested and it was a colourful journey taken by the main character. It started in India and wound up in France so there was an interesting international diversity in both setting and cuisine.

The characters tended to be more caricature than complex. The author states that he would love this to be made into a movie and I feel that this was his aim in writing. So it is vivid and flamboyant and quirky and distinctive enough to make a fine film ... but, as a read, it needed more seasoning (ooops ... a food pun).

02 December 2011

Cain ~ Jose Saramago


Delicious tongue-in-cheek
A challenge for a punctuation pedant

A subversive retelling of Old Testament as Cain wanders the world on a time-space continuum. He is marked by God and through him we meet up with the players in the stories of Babel, Sodam & Gomorrah, Lot, Noah, Joshua & Jericho. And we constantly find an difficult and vengeful God.

The writing style is as (more?) confrontational than the material. This guy doesn't seem to believe in punctuation ... sentences go on for pages and pages, dialogue is written with no indication of the speaker, capital letters are few and far between.

But it is all a breath of fresh air ... or maybe more like a bucket of cold water thrown over you! This book is quirky and funny and refreshing.

Saramago is a Noble Laureate and I must make sure to find some more (Blindness has great reviews)