08 January 2012

The Strain ~ Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan


A book to give you nightmares
Vampires run amok in New York

A true page turner. You wait so long just knowing that bad things are going to happen. A wonderfully restrained reveal.

This is the first of a trilogy so there was a lot of setting the scene, giving the history and introducing an array of characters but you never felt overwhelmed by it all. You felt interested in all the characters, keen for their survival, keen for them to champion the cause for humanity ... or keen for them to be dealt with and destroyed.

The scenario was plausible (for a Vampire story!). The storyline engrossing. The action scary.

Bring on Book 2

07 January 2012

The Getaway ~ Jim Thompson


Cold blooded crime.
Classic Pulp, Classic Noir, Classic Thompson

Hope it is not a character reflection to say that you enjoy a book like this!

This book is dark and violent. Murder and mayhem abound with barely a backward glance. There is plenty of bloodshed and and inhuman brutality ... in fact, there is little else! But Thompson is a master of the genre ... fast paced and unapologetically violent. The writing is clean and vivid (well, it became a little off kilter at the end).

A good, page-turning read ... until the end ... an oddly surreal part of the narrative. I get it ... they ended up in a bizarre prison of their own making; that what we see as the prize can turn out to be the punishment ... but to me, it was confused.

I haven't seen either movie but now want to.

06 January 2012

Alias Grace ~ Margaret Atwood

** LIKE **

Shortlisted : Booker Prize 1996
Nominated : Orange Prize 1997

Just not sure about this one
Based on a true story

There is no denying that Atwood is an awesomely good writer. This was a pleasure to read. She establishes strong, believable characters in clearly described settings. I loved the sense of place and time (Toronto area in the 1860's and before in flashbacks). This was a who-done-it with an upstairs-downstairs feel.

The period drama / historical novel was good reading but I felt it was a little long-winded with the narrative getting lost in the slow pace. I wasn't at all fussed about the "twist" ~ felt it was a little lame and still left that red-herring taste in your mouth (was she possessed? split personality? play acting?).

05 January 2012

The Bean Trees ~ Barbara Kingsolver

~ OK ~

Kingslover's first novel
Glad it wasn't the first of hers that I read

This didn't do much for me. I found the plot slightly unrealistic; it was lightweight at times but there was clear evidence of the direction her later novels take. The potential is there to be thought provoking, making you assess your viewpoints, but it all remains a little too sweet and bland. (Hmmm ... is that an oxymoron?). The main character vacillated between being feisty and independent and naive and blinkered.

The high points are the easy readability, the use of vernacular and the south-west setting. There is no denying the author's ability and it interesting to be able to compare this early novel to my favourites by her (Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna)

04 January 2012

Red Dog ~ Louis de Bernieres


Just 'cause I love my dog doesn't mean I'll love a dog book!
A picaresque novel

A short read. And I am sure I read it in the Women's Weekly when it first came out .. and that is where it belongs.

If I were good old Louis I would be hanging my head in shame about the money that the book is likely to be making from the film version. I can only hope that the published anecdotes by Nancy Gillespie (Red Dog) and Beverly Duckett (Red Dog : the Pilbara Wanderer) that were used by de Bernieres get a bit of flow-on cash.

The statue and stories tweaked de Bernieres interest while travelling in the area so he followed up on it (using the above mentioned publications) and wrote his own, slightly fictionalised, version. This is a loose string of rather repetitive anecdotes glued together with a lightweight narrative and one dimensional characterisation.

This is not a serious read. It reads like a feature article in a tabloid magazine. Or great classroom reading for your struggling Year 7. It's nice enough but That's It ... underwhelming.

My gain from reading it was to find the term "Picaresque Narrative" in reviews of the book.

Picaresque : pertaining to, characteristic of, or characterized by a form of prose fiction, originally developed in Spain, in which the adventures of an engagingly roguish hero are described in a series of usually humorous or satiric episodes that often depict, in realistic detail, the everyday life of the common people: picaresque novel; picaresque hero.

03 January 2012

Wolf Hall ~ Hilary Mantel


Don't like doing it but ... I gave up ... but I will be back!
Just didn't get involved

This was the second time I had attempted this book. Thought that maybe the first time I was a bit distracted and that stopped me from getting involved. But this time (after 150 pages of the near-700 pages) I just wasn't getting into it.

I don't particularly like the writing style. The present tense made it run like a race, never slowing down. Lots of detail. Lots of characters. Too much detail, too many characters (and so many with the same name!). The strange punctuation style kept pulling me up ... sometimes she would use quotation marks, sometimes not ... and this was within the same paragraph! And dialogue seemed to be inserted into a paragraph of monologue in an ad hoc way.

Maybe it was the excess of detail that kept me emotionally unattached. I guess I want my historical fiction to lean more on the fiction than the history?.

Winner of 2009 Man Booker

02 January 2012

Mr Pip ~ Lloyd Jones


Awesome! Just loved it!!!
And now I think I'll have to read some Dickens!

This has been sitting on the bookshelf for ages ... so I am so glad that I have made January "Paperback Month" to catch up on unread purchases.

This was a delight ... yet it was about horrible, horrible things.

It was beautifully written, though for the most part I worried about the inappropriateness of the "voice". I felt a similarity to "Caleb's Crossing" where I didn't believe in the voice of the character narrating the events. In Mr Pip, I questioned the voice of the 15yo native girl telling the story ... but that all becomes clear at the end.

This is set in Bougainville. I found it frightening, enlightening, to know about this horrible recent history and wanting to know how complicit Australia was/is. This is a disturbing read ... it should come with a warning label! ... I was so taken by surprise/shock as events unfolded.

The main character is the last remaining white man on the island who teaches the children through his love of Dickens, in particular "Great Expectations". So now I have to add that to my reading list and do a bit of Google research.

Shortlisted 2007 Man Booker
Winner 2007 Commonwealth Prize

01 January 2012

Catcher In The Rye ~ J. D. Salinger


Catching up with a Classic
A Christmas present from Alphie

 The character of Holden is so brilliantly written. Holden is so able to bring out the best and worst reaction in you within the same sentence. Like driving past a disaster, you just have to see the worst and hope for the best. You want to shake him and hug him at the same time. And at times I had to stop reading because I was too worried about what might happen to him!

The voice of Holden is rich with rye opinion and delivered in his whiny, endearing vernacular. Holden is cynical ~ but not the voice of a typical cynical teenager ~ he is damaged goods who wants a perfect world but sees only "phonies". He is such a touching malcontent.

A wonderfully simple complex read!