09 August 2012

The Mirrored World ~ Debra Dean

 ** OK**

Want more than a superficial reflection.
Needed more of the "holy" less of the "fool"

I so loved The Madonnas Of Leningrad that I may be judging this too harshly.  MOL was a multi faceted book (read my review : http://book-file.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/madonnas-of-leningrad-debra-dean.html) that came to life.  TMW stays on the page, flat, uninspiring.

I don't mind dark, grim, bleak ... and this setting was all of those things.  My problem was that I never felt empathy for the characters, I never felt I was there, I never felt I cared (I finished it just to finish it).

Xenia comes across more as a woman with a broken mind than a saint in the making.  While Dean is a lyrical writer, I found the narrative was lacking.  We were just provided with tantalising glimpses of Cathrerine's court and the contrasting riches and poverty and we were introduced to Xenia's early life but then followed her cousin to the conclusion.  The "holy fool" came across more as a heart-and-mind broken "fool" than a "holy" mystic.  I never felt a belief in why Xenia would be sainted (other than her broken-minded generosity).

08 August 2012

Sharp Objects ~ Gillian Flynn

 *** LIKE ***

Sharp characters, sharp language
Dark and nasty ... avoid small towns

So glad that I was introduced to Gillian Flynn through Gone Girl.  This one didn't do it for me ... maybe because I was on to the perp half way through so the ending was no surprise.  Or maybe because I felt it wallowed a little in the middle just padding things out which was odd because I felt that the ending was far too rushed.  In general I felt it was a little overwritten.

I do think that Flynn does wonderful "nasty" ... both plot twists and characters ... and I love the fact that she doesn't shy away from flawed, and rather unlikable, very dysfunctional, female characters.

07 August 2012

Signed, Mata Hari ~ Yannick Murphy

 ** OK **

Light on detail,
Long on getting anywhere.

How awful to be thinking, when you know someone is going to get executed ...  get on with it!  But that's the way it was.

This was a quick, easy read and, while the writing had a strong poignant quality, I did not find enough depth to satisfy me.  The story was told in flashback, jumping between Mata Hari in prison and Margaretha growing up.  We are presented with a picture Margaretha : an abandoned girl, a young woman in a loveless marriage, an ingenue in the making BUT I never felt that the effort was made to present a picture of Mata Hari : exotic dancer, performer, courtesan, spy.  That part of her life lacked vivacity and colour and she seemed always to be presented as rather pathetic and a bit of a bumpkin.

I love The Call by Yannick Murphy ... and thoroughly recommend it.  It was the reason I went in search of other works by her.

06 August 2012

The Fault In Our Stars ~ John Green

 *** LIKE ***
Tournament of Books : 2013 (finalist)

Pitch-perfect Young Adult
(but doesn't stop anyone from "enjoying" it)

Funny to use the word "enjoy" with this book given the topic is Teenage Cancer.

The main characters are well drawn; they elicit our sympathy but not necessarily in a maudlin way.  You feel empathy for them ... and their friends and their families ... and even for mere acquaintances.

But for me there was one major annoyance : While the author captures the precociousness of his teenagers' voices, I felt he failed with the voice of the cantankerous, drunken Van Houten.  While Augustus and Hazel were maybe a trifle overwritten (though not to their detriment given their circumstances) Van Houten was underwritten and stayed a bit flat for me.  To be fair, if the book is aimed at Young Adults then maybe that is the way it should be ... but he always felt contrived, one dimensional and just there for the convenience of the plotline.

05 August 2012

The Dog Stars ~ Peter Heller


A voice that insinuates itself into your thoughts
Well written dystopian future

Such a quiet little book ... yet it continues to resonate well after reading.

It is simple in some ways but its very simplicity, just like a world that has been stripped of everything familiar, is what makes it so honest, so moving, so intimate.

The storytelling voice, a kind of stream-of-consciousness telling, was excellent.  The writing style is both lean and lyrical, with little observation of the conventions of punctuation, but with enormously poignant impact.

Jasper, the dog, was excellent ... so obvious when an author is a dog-owner (or is owned by a dog ... so maybe it should be "dog/owner")

04 August 2012

Gone Girl ~ Gillian Flynn

***** FAVOURITE *****
Tournament of the Books  : 2013

Excellent page turner,
Gotta love a psychopath!

Wonderfully written characters make this a riveting read.  You are waiting for what evil twist will come next ... what will unravel ... what will trip the evil bitch up.

The plotline isn't that typical one of conflict/resolution building to a crescendo.  Instead we are teasingly dripfed the revelations through alternating points of view ... but were this has been done before, in Gone Girl the twists and turns are constant and you are kept off kilter not knowing how things will develop.  It runs from intriguing (can't take your eyes of the car wreck of a marriage) to fascinating (like a mongoose fighting a cobra) to horrific (that car wreck just turned into a highway pileup of enormous proportion!).  And the ending is a sucker punch!  Takes your breath away.  Loved it ... so unconventional!

The language was witty and erudite, characters are uncomfortably believable and it was a darkly suspenseful novel.

03 August 2012

Wool ~ Hugh Howey

 < OK >

This is actually "Book 1" of a 5 part omnibus
Don't know if I should/will continue!

It is not that it is a bad read ... it is more that it is over-hyped to the extreme.  For me this lead to dissatisfaction and a sense of is-that-all-there-is?

And I don't mean the brevity of the read.  It is a short story and is well executed.  But ground breaking, mind-blowing sci-fi .... I don't think so.  My goodness, Philip K Dick would rate off the screen with online rating.  I am trying hard not to think that the ratings and reviews are the work of trolls.  I am trying hard not to think they are disingenuous.  Buuuuuuut ... I am not succeeding. 

It is a clever story of a dystopian future but not in the realms of Margaret Atwood or Cormac McCarthy (just as a "for instance" because there are many others) when it comes to style and depth (they are worthy of the 5 star ratings!)

But I will continue.  I don't mind the episodic approach and think I will choose to read it that way, inserting a new episode into my reading at intervals rather than read the omnibus as one.

02 August 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry ~ Rachel Joyce


Longlisted : Booker Prize 2012

Should have just walked away.

Again, I am out of step with the Reading Public.  I found this was a bore and a disappointing read.

If it was meant to be "quirky", I found it cliched.  If it was meant to be philosophical, I found it shallow.  If it was meant to be endearing, I found it dreary and uninspiring.

And more than that, I found it poorly written.  It ended abruptly.  Character development was minimal and superficial. The sense of place, which could have been a real feature, was lacking, due to the poor use of descriptive devices.  With a chance to paint a vivid picture, the author used a monotone palate.

01 August 2012

Talulla Rising ~ Glen Duncan

 ** LIKE **

It rose to the challenge of a good sequel.
Pros and cons but I was infected

I will admit it took a while for it to win me ... I really loved The Last Werewolf and initially thought that this was a second rate sequel.

This was a much faster paced book with many action sequences and lacking the rather cute literary references from TLWTLW was witty and clever, TR is gritty and dramatic.  The was a surfeit of sex in TLW but in TR it was way over the top. I don't feel that Duncan does female voice of Talulla as well as world weary Jake in TLW

But ... still ... I enjoyed it.  It is a well constructed page turner.  Characters had depth.  The premise Duncan constructed is thought out and the plot is plausible (ok ... I know it is a fantasy ... but it still has to believable!) ... background is provided, threads are knitted together ... and part 3 is set up!