31 December 2013


Favourite Reads of 2013

So many books ... so little time!

Astute and wry observations about a raft of topics  
A provoking satire of the US

A degustation of plotlines, a showcase of thoughts
Each a tasty course, each a contributing part to the whole

Like a flaky pastry - layer upon layer
Enclosing tasty morsels


30 December 2013



100 Must Read Works of Southern Literature

Tournament of Books Long List

 So far, from the list I have read :

All That Is by James Salter x
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout **
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra **
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King **
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell **
The Flamethrowes by Rachel Kushner X
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi ***
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt **
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride **
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid ****
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson *****
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri ***
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood ***
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert x
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki ****
Tenth of December by George Saunders ****
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann **
You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt **

On the Kindle, to be read :

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hild by Nicola Griffith
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

06 December 2013

Doctor Sleep ~ Stephen King

** OK **

Nicely paced, easy to read, pageturner ... tick
Horror of the nightmare variety ... cross

This is a sequel to The Shining but it worked well enough as a standalone (well, it had to for me because I haven't seen or read The Shining).  There was some referencing to the previous book but not enough to be intrusive.

The premise was well developed and incorporated into the plot.  The characterisation was strong (though I found the names of the members of the Knot a bit on the corny side).  There was cute referencing to other literature.  In fact there is a fair bit of corny and cute throughout the book!  But the narrative seemed to just follow a writing formula : not boring, but predictable.

This was a suspenseful supernatural adventure.  It had scary moments.  It had evil monsters.  But, unlike some other Stephen King works, you didn't need to read it with the lights on and the doors locked.  Maybe he contracted someone else to write it for him?

05 December 2013

The Signature Of All Things ~ Elizabeth Gilbert


Tournament of Books : 2014

Tedious Boring Banal
Exposition with no characterisation 

Give me a break!  I only persevered because this had been recommended by a friend (even after I paled at the mention of Eat Pray Love).   And also because it is on the ToB X Long List (omg omg omg ... it couldn't possibly make the Short List! Please, NO!!!)

While there may be a lot of factual information, it is simply regurgitated in a neverending narrative peopled with dull characters. Blah blah blah ... Botany ... blah blah blah ... History ... blah blah blah ... Masturbation ... blah blah blah  ... a Touch of Everything (whoops, sorry to put that right after the masturbation reference).

The author has the gift of good description and has a broad spectrum of research showing through  but it is all buried in an avalanche of words.

04 December 2013

The Flame Throwers ~ Rachel Kushner

-X NO X-

Don't know about art (or motor cycles) ... 
But I know what I like (and it is not this)

This did not throw flames for me ... in fact, I threw the book (metaphorically speaking, as I was reading it on my Kindle).   And there were lots of metaphors in the narrative

Maybe, like artistic photos of tire tracks on a salt pan, this appeals to those who are far more hip than myself.  It is not that I like join-the-dots or paint-by-numbers but the topics of the narrative (art and motorcycles) bored me.  Was this why I couldn't engage with the narrative? 

The writing was vivid in places but it didn't convince me to finish.  The characters were players on a page.  The plot was ... hey, was there a plot?? There was a series of events but not much of a storyline.

03 December 2013

A Tale For The Time Being ~ Ruth Ozeki

***** FAVOURITE *****

Tournament of Books : 2014

Like a flaky pastry - layer upon layer
Enclosing tasty morsels

I enjoyed this so much that I have avoided writing down my opinion about it because I could not possibly do it justice!  Many books are "multilayered" but this one does it so well.  

It is set in different geographic locations, different time periods, different generations, different cultures, different POV - but they all interlink and overlay each other.  

It explores Zen Buddhism, bullying, relationships, self esteem, mental illness, aging and more.  

There is a wealth of "trivial" information by way of footnotes (mainly Japanese background) and the autodidactic husband (a mine of information about everything from ocean currents to growing trees).  

The story is developed through narrative, diary entries, emails, dreams.  

There is a wisp of humor, a low note of despair, a fascination with the supernatural.  

I particularly loved the way it explored the relationship between the writer and the reader.  But then, I loved everything about this book - and engrossing, provoking, entertaining read.

02 December 2013

The Good Lord Bird ~ James McBride

*** LIKE ***
Winner : National Book Award 2013

Fictionalised history in drag that dragged
A ridiculous romp

This was an interesting, unusual and irreverant look at the abolitionist, John Brown, through the adventures of Onion.  Unfortunately, I was so incredulous that Onion could fool everyone for so long that "he" was a "she", that it made me question the validity of the historical aspects. It was quirky and told in the vernacular, giving it a Huck Finn feel and there was some creative cussin'.

The characters and locations and actions were interesting, but Oh So Repetitive (like John Browns prayers it went on forever when it didn't need to).  It held my interest then it became boring, then interesting, then boring.  Did I mention that it was repetitive?

01 December 2013

The Man He Became ~ James Tobin

 **** RECOMMEND ****

How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency

In depth and specific
Well researched, well told 

FDR "defied" polio but wasn't "defined" by it ... yet it definitely shaped the President he became.  Polio sharpened his character and remodelled his ethics.  The argument presented isn't that FDR became President in spite of his polio, or that FDR became President because of his polio, but, as the title says so clearly, the argument is about the man (and President) he became.  

The author stays on task and presents a lot of interesting information and statistics about polio, its causes and its effects. There is also a lot of social information about the perception of those with disabilities and how FDR challenged this.  FDR had to overcome the illness (physically and mentally) and not waver from his ambition to be President.

Not just a fascinating account of polio and FDR, but also full in interesting insights into the society of the day, this is an excellent read.  The book finished with FDRs nomination, but I would have liked a little more of the "man he became" of the title, not just winning the Presidency but an indication of the "man he became" as evidenced in his policies and actions as President.