30 December 2009


The books dated December 2009 were read during 2009

17 December 2009

15 December 2009

The Reader ~ Bernhard Schlink

An interesting take
But rather boring overall

It was an interesting perspective to look at the effects of WW2 on the next generation of Germans ... "sins of the fathers" stuff.

This thought provoking perspective was a background to a much more provoking aspect ~ an affair between a teenager (15) and an older woman (36). The narrative is a a little cold and remote (translation? Germanic??) and I didn't feel that engaged with the characters. But the echoes of the war and the very questionable affair are not the crux of the story ... that is Hanna's illiteracy. And to me that was too much to be the pivot of the story.

14 December 2009

Inkheart ~ Cornelia Funke

Children's Literature
#1 of a trilogy

Mo, aka Silvertongue, is able to "read" people out of a book ... but someone from this world is "traded" back into the fictional world of the book. Mo has accidently "read" his wife back into a book and brought its evil characters here.

The story follows the adventures of Dustfinger, Mo and Meggie as they battle the evil Capricorn and Basta.

There are great quotes from literature at the start of each chapter. They are widely sourced and appropriate to the content.

My reading of the book may have been spoiled because I saw the movie first but Alphie got right into the series and read all of them.

13 December 2009

Library of the Dead ~ Glenn Cooper

al Da Vinci Code
Enjoyable but forgettable

A reasonable page turner with an plot that keeps your interest and doesn't get too ludicrous.

An ancient scriptorium holds all the records of everyone's birth and death ~ including the future. All recordings suddenly stop on a date in a not-too-distant year. The records are under the control of a secret US government agency.

12 December 2009

The Birth of Venus

Spare me!
OMG! Excruciating chic lit

To each his own ... but I am embarrassed having it on my reading list! This is a poorly presented "historical" novel set in Renaissance Florence.

Yuk. This is very short on historical depth and is populated with very shallow stereotypical characters.

11 December 2009

The Angel's Game ~Carlos Ruiz Zaffon

Big disappointment
Was SO looking forward to it

It tried so hard to emulate Shadow Of The Wind but it was a convoluted mess.

The author in the story sells his soul to the Devil. The Devil wants hm to write a book creating a new religion. Who knows? Maybe Zaffon had writers' block and sold his sold to the Devil ... hope he can get a refund!

10 December 2009

The Unlikely Voyage of Jack De Crow ~ A.J. Mackinnon

Non-fiction, humorous travelogue
A "Camilla ~ Bookwarehouse" recommendation

The author, a young Aussie school teacher, had finished his stint at an English Public School and decided to row/sail a small boat from he school, down the river, to the sea ... no ... make that London ... or, why not cross the English Channel ... and just keep going .... to the Black Sea.

This is his account of his adventures on the rivers and canals of Europe

09 December 2009

The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet ~ Reif Larssen

Quirky in presentation & storyline
But a mixed bag.

This had larger format pages to accommodate maps, drawings, diagrams, doodles etc in the margins.

I really enjoyed the first half : A 12yo boy genius is awarded a Smithsonian prize and runs away and rides-the-rails to collect the honour.

So far, so good. Good premise, good characters.

On the train we get a mega-dose of exposition ~ narrative shoved at us to carry the plot along and to fill in gaps (of its own making). T.S. had taken his mother's diary when he left home and his reading of this gives us a great slab of family history. I found this awkward, way too contrived and just not interesting.

But then we go completely off the rails.

The book becomes a mish-mash of SciFi + Dan Brown with wormholes and secret societies at the Smithsonian.

There were many good ideas ... just not all needed to make this book interesting. Needed an edit.

08 December 2009

The Old Man And The Sea ~ Ernest Hemmingway

** OK **

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 1953

Catching up with a classic
Didn't do it for me!

This left me wanting. Wanting to sink the boat. Wanting to find the purpose.

I found it dreary and repetitive. It didn't engage me at all - though Alphie pointed out its appeal to boys and the fact that it was a role model for writers. It is a boys-own-adventure type tale and it is written in a spare, clean-cut writing style.

Fine ... but it just didn't go anywhere ... except out to sea

07 December 2009

The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald


Revisiting a classic.
Not as enjoyable this time ... I've grown up!!

I don't think that I enjoyed it as much this time ... because I think I was shocked by how poorly I read it in my youth! Last read in high school, I remember really enjoying the sense of the 'era" as they partied their way through life on Long Island in the 20s. What fun! How romantic!! Maybe because I/it was superficial ... or just read through the oblivious eyes of youth?!

This is a book wasted on the young... like life is wasted on the characters of this book.

This time I was struck by the vacuous behaviour of the wealthy and their petty self-indulgence. They were so devoid of morals, they were so vacuous, so emotionally corrupt.

The characters were well written - it was so easy to dislike their shallowness - but there is plenty of depth to the way they are drawn. That wonderful setting of the Jazz Age is still there, presented in polished description and tight phrases, but now I see it as the fraying-at-the-edges American-Dream backdrop for what is not a love story but a betrayal of ideals.

First Tuesday Book Club

06 December 2009

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ~ Stieg Larssen


#1 of the Millennium Series
Hook Line & Sinker ... a great read

This is an enthralling pageturner. The plot takes its time to evolve so there is a wonderful depth to the characters and a great sense of place. The main characters work well together and are certaily not "ordinary". Lisbeth is a great "damaged goods" character.

Many social issue threads run through the story and there are interesting facts regarding violence against women heading each chapter.

Settle in with a glass of Aquavit and enjoy the ride.

05 December 2009

Confederacy of Dunces ~ John Kennedy Toole

***** FAVOURITE ***** 

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 1981
First Tuesday Book Club

A GREAT read! A gem! A joy!
Pulitzer Prize Winner

Rich, rich language - like gulping down a double-choc-fudge-mudcake. At times it seemed like every sentence had been carefully and individually honed, shaped, polished, tested.

Characters were all larger than life. Dialogue sparkled with local flavour. It was set in New Orleans with a wonderful (but by no means stereotyped) sense of place.

Ignatius is an obese loony layabout with an equally loony overindulgent mother. He is forced to get a job - first at a pants factory and then as a hot-dog cart guy.

Loved it!!!!

04 December 2009

The Likeness ~ Tana French

Think I might prefer this one to her first
A slow unwind ~ a tribute to Secret History

03 December 2009

Incendiary ~ Chris Cleave


Wow ! Can Cleave do voice!
The sad, horrific repercussions of terrorism.

Apparently this was written and due for release and then had to be held back because of terrorist bombings in the London Tube - an integral part of the novel. The sub-heading on the cover encapsulates the feeling that permeates the book -"unbearable devastation".

The narrative is through the desperate and broken voice of a woman who has lost her husband and child to acts of terrorism. In essence the storyline is developed through a series of letters she writes to Osama Bin Larden. And while it is superficially about her loss, it is also about the losses caused to society by terrorism.

This isn't a dark novel with a heart of gold that will leave you uplifted at the end. It is sad and dark and haunting and will leave you contemplating societal changes and the corrosion caused by terrorism.

02 December 2009

The Other Hand ~ Chris Cleave


ALSO KNOWN AS : Little Bee

Sad, funny, horrific

A special reading experience

This was released in the US as "Little Bee".

Little Bee is an illegal immigrant in England who has gone looking for the holidaying couple that she and her sister met on a beach in Africa.

It's odd but when you check the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, there are people that give this 1 star! Don't understand it ... I loved this book!!!

It engages you emotionally through the characterisation and the plot. It is a poignant, heart-wrenching exposure of the storyline. The switching between Sarah's story and Little Bee's has you yearning to get back to the other storyline so as to know what is happening and, at the same time, dreading to know what was happening!

01 December 2009

The Ice Princess ~ Camilla Lackberg

Good sense of place but some sloppy translation
On Scandinavian coat-tails

This had a good sense of pace ... a page-turner detective novel. The sense of place (Scandinavian) came across well as did the characterisations.

So ... what was the problem? Translation error? Editing error? There was some sloppy chronology that should be picked up in a detective novel, especially when it is essential to the plot. Something just didn't add up. Was the murder victim raped and pregnant at 10 or was she in Year 8 (making her 14ish).

Year of the Flood ~ Margaret Atwood

**** RECOMMEND ****

Tournament of Books : 2010

Companion book to Oryx & Crake
Dystopian future of environmental and genetic instability

Loved it ... though maybe not as much as Oryx & Crake.

30 November 2009

01 November 2009

American Journeys ~ Don Watson

***** FAVOURITE *****

Oryx And Crake ~ Magaret Atwood

***** FAVOURITE *****

Shortlisted : Booker Prize 2003

Dystopian chills
A dark and disastrous future

While the future presented by Atwood may be dark the reading is not (not in the same way as The Road with its unremitting bleakness). The story is told in flashback to reveal what has gone wrong in the world.

Atwood has a clever way with product names. Strong environmental ideas resonate through the narrative.

01 September 2009

March ~ Geraldine Brooks

***** FAVOURITE *****

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 2006

The Road ~ Cormac McCarthy

***** FAVOURITE *****

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 2007
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 2006

Inheritance of Loss ~ Kiran Desai

**** RECOMMEND ****

Winner : Booker Prize 2006
Winner : National book Critics Circle Award 2006

02 August 2009

Never Let Me Go ~ Kazuro Ishiguro

***** FAVOURITE *****

Shortlisted : Booker Prize 2005 
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 2005

01 August 2009

A Short History Of Tractors In The Ukrainian ~ Marina Lewycka

**** RECOMMEND ****

                                Longlisted : Booker Prize 2005

01 July 2009

Gilead ~ Marilynne Robinson

** OK **

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 2005
Winner : National Book Critics Circle Award 2004

05 June 2009

The Girl Who Played With Fire ~ Stig Larssen

# 2 in the Millennium series
Maybe ... just maybe ... not quite as good as #1

I think the reason it wasn't as enjoyable as #1 was because I liked the characters so much that I didn't want anything bad to happen to them!

This was more focused on Lizbeth. Larssen is an all-out crusader for women's causes.

This book has Russians and the sex-trade as the underlying theme.

04 June 2009

In The Woods ~ Tana French

Winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel
Set in Ireland

Detective mystery set outside Dublin. Main male character was woosy and irksome but there was a strong female lead.

The background plot involving the male detective is nicely woven into the main plot. While it is not resolved, it accounts for his personality and actions (friends disappeared when he was young ... did he do it? did he see something?)

Main plot has a few clunky moments : "Where's the trowel?" says a character ... and guess what?? It is the murder weapon!!! Less than subtle!

But even with character and plot shortcomings it was a worthwhile read.

03 June 2009

Nocturnes ~ Ishiguro Kuzuo

Short stories
Nothing special from a fav author

A collection of vaguely interlinked stories ... tied together by a theme of "musicians". Within the compliation of short stories two were two part-ers.

Fair to middling writing but nothing that left me wishing it was a full blown novel and nothing that was more meaningful or vivid because of its brevity.

01 June 2009

01 April 2009

The Amber Spyglass ~ Philip Pullman

***** FAVOURITE *****

Longlisted : Booker Prize 2001

#3 in His Dark Materials

02 February 2009

Cold Mountain ~ Charles Frazier

***** RECOMMEND ****

Winner : National Book Awards 1997
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 1997

01 February 2009

The Shipping News ~ Annie Proulx

**** RECOMMEND ****

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 1994
Winner : National Book Award 1993
Finalist : National Book  Critics Circle Award 1993

02 January 2009

The World According to Garp ~ John Irving

**** RECOMMEND ****

Winner : National Book Award 1980
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award  1978

Oscar And Lucinda ~ Peter Carey

**** RECOMMEND ****

Shortlisted : Booker Prize - Best Of Booker

01 January 2009

Lonesome Dove ~ Larry McMurtry

**** RECOMMEND ****

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 1986
Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award 1985