Clfisha's 11 in 11

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Clfisha's 11 in 11

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Editado: Ago 17, 2010, 5:28pm

Well I just cannot resist another category challenge and if I keep my categories much more open I might actually do it!

So without any fan fare I announce that I have stolen them straight out of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveller (go read it, it's brilliant)

I am doing the step challenge so in descending order:
11. Books that fill you with sudden, inexplicable curiosity, not easily justified
10. New books by authors or on subjects not new (for me or in general)
9. New books by authors or on subjects completely unknown (at least to me)
8. Books you could put aside maybe to read this summer
7. The books you've been planning to read for ages
6. Books you can borrow from someone
5. Books that if you had more than one life you would certainly almost read but unfortunately your days are numbered
4. Books you need to go with other books on your shelves
3. Books read long ago which it’s now time to reread
2. Books you've always pretended to have read and now it’s time to sit down and really read them.
1. A book by Italo Calvino

Right now to have some fun finding candidates.. that I probably will never actually get round to reading ;)

Editado: Dic 27, 2011, 5:27am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
wherever my fancy takes me

11. The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh (23/1 Amazing)
10. The Toff on Board by John Creasey (23/4 Average)
9. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (7/6 Good)
8. The Rider by Tim Krabbe (Excellent 29/6)
7. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Good 1/7)
6. The Lost Machine by Richard A Kirk (Amazing June)
5. McSweeney's enchanted chamber of astonishing stories edited by Michael Chabon (ok 16/8)
4. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (Excellent Sept)
3. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Excellent Oct)
2. Under Arizona Skies: The Apprentice Desert Shelters at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (Good, Oct)
1. The Unwritten: Volume 4 by author (Mike Carey) and artist (Peter Gross) (November Amazing)


Editado: Dic 27, 2011, 5:31am

10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)
Completing an authors canon

10. The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills
9. Cast the First Stone and Yesterday Will Make You Cry by Chester Himes by Chester Himes (30/1 Excellant)
8. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (13/2 Excellant)
7. The Ecstatic by Victor LaValle (Excellant)
6. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (8/3 Average)
5. The Unwritten Volumes 1-3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist) Amazing
4. Embassytown by China Mieville (Amazing 11/5)
3. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (Good 21/5)
2. Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson by Will Bingley (Good 14/5)
1. A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in by Magnus Mills (Good Sept)


Editado: Dic 27, 2011, 5:34am

9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)
All author recommendations welcome

9. The Red Tree by Caitlin R Kiernan (2/1 Good)
8. Rats : a year with New York's most unwanted inhabitants by Robert Sullivan (7/1 Amazing)
7. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Amazing)
6. Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan (Amazing 5/2)
5. Fingersmith Sarah Waters (Good 28/4)
4. The Wrong Case by James Crumley (average 17/5)
3. Rings of Saturn W G Sebald (Excellent)
2. Purge by Sofi Oksanen (8/8 Excellent)
1. The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (Amazing)


Editado: Dic 14, 2011, 3:10pm

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
summer blockbusters or dreamy sunny day kinda books or books I read on holiday

8. All Quiet on The Orient Express by Magnus Mills ( 5/6 Excellent)
7. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Average 2/8)
6. The Last Call by Tim Powers (Good 30/8)
5. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (Good 29/7)
4. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (Good 28/7)
3. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Amazing 26/7)
2. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (ok Dec)
1. John Dies @ The End by David Wong (Excellent 14/12)


Editado: Nov 26, 2011, 8:31am

7 The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages
the list is endless but lets be realistic...

7. Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol (Good) 25/1
6. Tale of the One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (Good 15/5)
5. Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot (Excellent 25/8)
4. In the Night Garden by Catherine M Valente (Excellent 29/8)
3. Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (Excellant 7/9)
2 .Nile Shadows by Edward Whittemore
1. Jericho Mosaic by Edward Whittemore


Editado: Nov 27, 2011, 9:47am

6 Books You Can Borrow From Someone
Must get down the library more often

1. The True Blood series Books 1 - 8 by Charlaine Harris (Good April)
2. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre (Ok 17/4)
3. The Vampire Diaries by L J Smith (Books 1-8) Ok
4. How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Good
5 The Dark Lover + other books in the series by J R Ward Good so far.
6. Night World by L J Smith (ok 24/11)


Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 9:22am

5 Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered
classics, classics, classics

5. The Drinker by Hans Fallada (4/6 Bad)
4. Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en (19/6 Good)
3. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (15/7 Excellent)
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (26/11 Excellent)
1. Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee


Editado: Nov 30, 2011, 7:41am

4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves
Sequels, pretty covers and books I just need

4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (author) and Jim Kay (artist) Excellent
3. Locke & Key Vols 3 & 4 by Joe Hill (author) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist) Excellant/Good
2. Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger
1. From Aberystwyth with Love (Good) & The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still (Good) by Malcolm Pryce


Editado: Oct 17, 2011, 8:07am

3 Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread

1. Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay (Excellant) 25/3
2. Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay (amazing)
3. The Troika by Stepan Chapman (amazing 16/10)


Editado: Oct 17, 2011, 8:10am

2 Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
I dont really pretend to read books I just like the title

2. How to live safely in a science fictional universe by Charles Yu (bad)
1. The last Llanelli train by Robert Lewis (bad)


Editado: Jul 15, 2011, 6:30am

A book by Italo Calvino

1. The Baron in The Trees by Italo Calvino (good 20/6)


Ago 17, 2010, 6:30pm

Brilliant! So glad to have you on board for next year - can't wait to see how much you'll end up adding to my wishlist in 2011...

Ago 17, 2010, 7:31pm

Another well thought out set of categories. I'll look forward to following your challenge again.

Ago 17, 2010, 9:46pm

Well thought out and you have managed to nudge If on a Winter's Night a Traveler back towards the top of my TBR pile. I keep moving it up to the top, get the book out from the library, find myself sidetracked and have to return it unread. Time to go place yet another hold on that one.... hummm.... maybe after I work through some of the current piles first.....

I will be following your reading next year with interest.

Ago 18, 2010, 7:59am

Thanks, hopefully I might actually achieve this one.. 2010 is looking poorly...

15 It's a great book, his decsription of a reader in the 2nd chapter is brilliant if you never have enough time its worth just read that :)

There are so many people planning 2011 already I am feeling dizzy.. I cannot keep up with the threads for this group even now! sigh.

Ago 18, 2010, 9:44am

I also have Chinatown Death Cloud Peril on my shelves and on my 2011 list. I can't for the life of me remember where I saw it first, but I thought someone in the 1010 read it.

Ago 18, 2010, 9:53am

Those are great categories! And I actually have If on a Winter's Night a Traveler lined up for my own challenge next year in the books-on-books category. It could also go in my recommended-by-half-of-LT category.

I like the idea of a reread category. I always feel guilty rereading anything when my shelves are overflowing with the bought but never read.

I did read Chinatown Death Cloud Peril back in 2007. I read it out loud during a three-day road trip that was mostly across Montana. (I wasn't the driver.) Any book can hold your interest when you're driving across Montana. I don't remember a lot about it though. It does help to already enjoy pulp fiction and other best sellers of the day. A lot of the charm for us was in the use of real life authors. We even recognized a character from very recent fiction! (*Checks* A character from a book I don't see in your library but it's very possible you've read it anyway looking at other works. You have the author!)

Ago 18, 2010, 11:35am

Right. Making note of both Waking beauty and The troika. Damn you.

Ago 18, 2010, 11:48am

I definitely need to do a step challenge next year!

Ago 19, 2010, 6:00am

I like how you've broken the number of books in each challenge from 1 to 11 - great idea :)

Ago 23, 2010, 5:41am

18/19 I do enjoy pulp fiction so I should enjoy it .. fingers crossed..

19 Sadly they are hard to get hold of and really the only books they have written/worth reading :(. I really want to reread them to make sure they are as good as I thought they were! I found Waking Beauty was highly inventive fantasy which had enough erotica to put people off (its not gratuitous), mind you its less hated than his parallel dimension/role-playing incestuous/romance/science fiction novel Tumbling After, sadly it isnt as good.

oh and the The Troika just endearingly odd...

20 It does make the challenge much easier, can claim it my was my idea though.. although I cannot remember who I borrrowed it from!

Ago 24, 2010, 3:41pm

I did a quick check at Waking beauty does seem out of print. The troika is available - but only in Finnish. And seeing that Finnish is a more distant relative to Swedish than sanskrit or farsi, that does me no goo whatsoever.

Ooh, Berlin Alexanderplatz is a book I've too pondered at times. Hope you get through it, would be lovely to hear what it's like.

Sep 27, 2010, 8:41am

Love love love the category names! Of course, I'm an Italo Calvino fangirl so maybe that's just me nerding out over here... :P

Editado: Sep 27, 2010, 12:38pm

Just starred this link. I have already added a new author to my watch list: Mike Carey. Urban fantasy is my current R&R reading addiction and I'd never heard of him before. I look forward to watching you fill out your categories. Thanks.

(Forgot the "c" in addiction the first time through. Turned the message into a math problem.)

Dic 20, 2010, 6:05am

I also love your categories, makes mine seem so mundane. I'm planning on reading Calvino's The Path to the Nest of Spiders but now you have me intrigued about If on a Winter's Night a Travellers.

Dic 20, 2010, 7:18am

This is a pretty cool factoid. I don't usually click on Conversations when on the work page. When I saw Waking Beauty mentioned above I went there to see how many LTers have entered it into their libraries. We are the only two that have mentioned reading it. Well, at least touchstoned it. Now GingerBreadMan has touchstoned it too. I haven't seen my copy for a while. I hope I still have it.

I have the 1,299 page Everyman's Library edition of Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. It claims- All of Chandler's short fiction in one volume for the first time. There might be some stuff in there I haven't read yet. Not sure. I'll start reading from it a bit this year.

Dic 20, 2010, 1:27pm

26 Thanks, lucky for me I has If on a Winters night to inspire me. There are so many of Calvinos books I haven't read and The Path to the Nest of Spiders is one of them, but it would be very interesting to see where he started. I am half way through The Castle of Crossed Destinies which is probably more interesting for his insane obsession with Tarot then it is to read.

27 I am positvely jealous with envy. I only have The Simple art of Murder with selected stories. I expect only inanse fans would appreciate having every piece of short fiction but I am one of those fans so I will track it down! :)

and Waking Beauty the factoid makes me quite sad and very tempted to go to abe books and buy people copies and then make people review it ;)

Editado: Ene 3, 2011, 10:05am

Oh I have given up on star ratings in my reviews since I was all over the place last year. This year it's going to be something like: Awful, pretty bad, average, good, excellant, amazing.

The 1st book of the year is a present from my wondeful SantaThing.
Category: 9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown

The Red Tree by Caitlin R Kiernan
Fun New England Ghost Story

Sarah Crowe has moved to New England to pick up the pieces from a tragic relationship and try and kick start her long awaited new book. Within the dark dusty cellar she finds an unfinished manuscript, one mans obsession with an ancient oak, an obsession that soon becomes her own.

Ok so I didn’t find this at all creepy, maybe because the main character isn't the least bit scared herself but it was enjoyable ghost story, with a suitable scary setting, some nice ghostly set pieces and a great unreliable narrator to carry the tale. Of course that's not really a spoiler as we are told how unreliable she is often enough, it's one of the small weaknesses in the book. Nothing to detract from a great tale though. Although not eerie enough I would still recommended it for fans of the paranormal.

Ene 10, 2011, 5:46am

Category: 9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown
I have a feeling this category will fill up fast!

Rats : a year with New York's most unwanted inhabitants by Robert Sullivan
Fascinating Rat History

A beautifully written, highly engaging book on err.. rats. Well it's not just about rats, it's a wonderful mix of social politics, history and science too. Sullivan chose to concentrate on rats ‘ relationship with humanity and this keeps this book from being dry, instead it's fun and full of life. He knows when to digress with a fascinating aside, concentrate on personal accounts or recount history. It's packed full of interesting things but even though there's a wide remit it fits together remarkably well. I thought it a well researched book and luckily the author doesn't need to show off, his judicious use of facts and his ability to clarity makes this lots of fun.

Of course there's a caveat people expecting to have a book based solely on rats will disappointed, others who already have a good knowledge of New York or USA history may have seen some of it before and be bored. Although Sullivan writes in such an engaging fast paced manner that that this may not matter. The was one minor fault for me (although it did not detract from the book). Sullivan's attempts to tie the book together thematically, to reach a conclusion to his obsessive year seemed false, interesting yet strained.

Still I would highly recommended this book to ..well just about anyone.

Ene 10, 2011, 1:51pm

Thanks for this review! I rescued this book from a end of booksale sale and was trying to figure out if I should add it to mount TBR or find a new home for it. I think I will add it to the pile for a while :)

Ene 10, 2011, 9:38pm

Rats! I have that rat book around here somewhere. You should have made it sound really boring- that way, I wouldn't have to worry about reading it. Rats!

Ene 11, 2011, 4:35am

31 No worries, I had heard criticism it wasn't ratty enough but to me thats a good thing too!

@32 No it IS boring really.. really I have a high boredom threshold.. I can stare at paint for hours... does that help?

Ene 11, 2011, 3:50pm

heheheh.. Yes, you wouldn't like it. What with all the social context and all :P

Editado: Ene 13, 2011, 8:21am

Category: 9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
A glorious epic western

Writing this review is so hard. This books is so amazingly, stunningly good I am in awe, riveted for the entirety of its 950 pages, I raced through it in days. It doesn't matter if you don't much like westerns or huge books, this one is worth trying.

Fully deserving of the epic label, this starts off in a suitable dusty town in Texas with what first seems those quirky characters always found in stories set in out of the way small towns the world over. It's a pleasant experience easing into the story, especially one as engaging as this. Soon though this story starts packing hard, glorious punches.

It has many grand themes (but I don't want to spoil it even slightly). A story about life set in the last
death throes of the wild west, still a harsh life; violent, unfair and tragic but also glorious. The characters are fantastic and I take my hat off to McMurty who creates such strong interesting female characters in a book & world populated mostly by men. But then McMurty is the master of story; the pacing and plot in such a large book is stunning; he knows when to forebode, when to sweep aside your expectations, when to make you smile and (for my part) cry like
a baby.

Look just try this book, please? The 1st 50 pages will tell you like the style but if your not sure of the story stay with it, because it grows beautifully for you to love (or hate) the characters. For you to care and it's rare a book makes me care that much to honest, I was in floods of tears at the end.

Ene 13, 2011, 1:29pm

Absolutely a great review. If I had to list my all-time favorite books, Lonesome Dove would be very near the top of the list. A work of true genius.

Ene 13, 2011, 8:43pm

Wasn't Lonesome Dove a splendid read? I'm glad you enjoyed the heck out of it.

Ene 14, 2011, 4:27am

You know I proof that review but the puncuation still makes me wince. sigh.

I now learn its a series has anyone tried the others, I must admit I am slightly nervous about spoling Lonesome Dove

Ene 14, 2011, 12:24pm

Hm. Hard to argue with that review. Need to read this sooner or later, no question about it. I have a hunch I'll have a one book "Western" category for my 2012 challenge...

Ene 14, 2011, 1:33pm

heh heh. When I am King of the World everyone will have to read it ;)

Gosh another hard book to review.. I apologise in advance..

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills
Wonderful offbeat bus philsophy

'There is no excuse for being early.' said Breslin
'No I suppose not.'
'None whatsover.'
'It is forbidden.'

Who knew that the kafkaesque bureaucracy of a bus company could by so funny or engaging?

A short, yet fun and engaging story by the master of tricks. Well except this time there are none, nothing wrong with that just forewarning to stave of disapointment of fans. What it does have is dry wit and dead pan humour, some great characters, wonderful observations and the ubiquitous unsettling sinister overtones. Ok there is no plot, more a series of vignettes and humourous discussions but that doesn't matter it's still engaging and everyone who has used public transport will see the ring of truth.

If you haven't read Mills this may not be the best place to start, his 1st book Restraint of Beasts is a good as place as any though.

Ene 18, 2011, 7:29am

Well one of my favourite authors, Jeff VanderMeer started a bloggers bookclub and they have been doing some great reviews. Now its opening up so anyone can read along and post a review (cue excited girlish squeal). So in case anyone else is interested his post is here:

The 1st book is in early February and it's the intriging graphic novel Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan which has been on my radar for a while...Touchstone broken LT book link is

The next one (march/may) are are the collected works of Eric Basso. should be good.

Ene 18, 2011, 7:40pm

Your categories are awesome. :)

I've been meaning to read The Red Tree heard good things about it and I liked some of her earlier books.

Ene 19, 2011, 7:12am

42 Hi & thanks! I think the Red Tree is worth a go. It does have some potential irritating habits but personally they didn't really bother me. There's some more great reviews on LT if your not sure.

Ene 19, 2011, 5:47pm

41 Very cool news. Will have to try and follow that! Oh, and props for beginning to add some of your reviews from last year to the books' pages. They make great reminders.

Ene 19, 2011, 10:06pm

Quirky choices! It will be interesting to see what you read. I like your no-star system. & I usually don't like westerns, but your review makes Lonesome Dove sound like it earned all the hype that's been around it.

Ene 24, 2011, 5:07am

44 I tended to steer away from adding review to books which had loads already but I find I want to keep them somewhere... LT will have to do for now.

@45 I am not a fan of western films really but Lonesome Dove seems to polish and improve all the usual tropes. Its a really great place to start. Not sure if any other western novel can compete though :)

Editado: Ene 31, 2011, 7:07am

Sigh already behind on my reviews.. still heres one for the best book I have read this year...

Category: Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manaugh
Eclectic, fantastical thoughts

Practically indescribable, this is amazing, fantastical, eclectic and beautiful book on .. hmm well on our relationship with the built environment. Perhaps he describes best himself "Forget academic rigour. Never take the appropriate next step. Talk about Chinese urban design, the European space program and landscape of Alfred Hitchcock in the space of three sentences -
because its fun and because the juxtapositions might take you somewhere."

Expanded from his blog but oh so much more, there are enough ideas here to keep a fantasy/sci-fi author happy forever. He takes interesting scientific articles, architecture projects, books and movies and lets his imagination go wild. Take some examples: There's a fascinating interview with the author Jeff Vandermeer on city building in stories and on the next page a fun aside on the architecture of email spam (yes they have 3D modelled keywords in spam). But it isn't just short bites there are longer themed chapters dealing with topics such as the underground or sound or the geological apocalyptic future. Rarely have I seen the end of the world looked at with such beauty as cities are ground down to the essential elements, rivers of liquid architecture "molten steel, swept by currents of gelatinous glass.. " London mixing with Paris mixing with Moscow. "What is the melting point of Manhattan?" he asks.

It's also a beautiful book in itself. It is lovingly designed as you would expect but it's also interspersed with gorgeous photographs from Dickensian ship breaking yards to lush futuristic landscapes. Its a book to flick through, to dip into or to ruthlessly devour. There is no need to have interest in architecture or geology, if you love ideas this is the book for you, if you get excited by speculative fiction this the place for you. It is joie de vivre writ large.

Now go get a taste of it at

Editado: Ene 31, 2011, 7:06am

Category: The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol
Sociological horror

On a tiny remote Antartic island a young man arrives to take up the post of weather observer. But when he lands there is no trace of the man he is sent to replace, just a mute deranged lighthouse keeper. Everything is a mystery and then night falls..

Its a odd book but an enjoyable one. Once I overcame my utter disbelief that anyone would be stupid enough to stay behind on a remote island with a potentially murderous lunatic I really enjoyed it. The lovecraftian horror segues into a mediation on warfare, on hope, sex, insanity and the brutality inside us all. Some scenes are shocking and sympathy with the narrator is lost time and time again, yet the protagonists loftier ideals are catching, his hope insidious and I became engrossed hoping for his redemption, for a happy ending.

It is in the end a deeply satisfying story, with enough to make you think and enough twists to provoke emotion. The ending makes for a great discussion too.. but I really don't want to spoil it.

Recommended for fantasy and horror fans

Feb 1, 2011, 11:36am

I read a library copy of the BLDGBLOG book. I should buy my own copy because it had some neat things I'd like to go over again.

Feb 2, 2011, 8:07pm

Wow! Cold Skin sounds almost like an Antarctic Heart of Darkness. Is it by a Chilean or Argentinian author? The name looks like it, & I'm think antarctic islands aren't too far for those countries.

Editado: Feb 3, 2011, 4:49am

I think he was Catalan Spanish. In fact I think the orginal is slightly different from the English version, I have heard references to the IRA have been removed.. not sure if thats true though..

I don't think it's heavy as Heart of Darkness, it's heavy on the fantasy horror for a start and there's a lot of hope but yeah same sort of issues.

Feb 3, 2011, 12:34pm

@47 I don't really get what it is, I don't think. I get excited though! And Cold skin sounds like a book I'd enjoy - the small cast, the simple premise. As usual Calire - thanks for some great tips!

Feb 3, 2011, 6:03pm

>51 clfisha: I think it may have to go on the wishlist. :)

Feb 4, 2011, 4:33am

@52 its a very hard book to describe :) If you can visit the website it will give you a taste.

@51 Hope you enjoy it, I admit I'm not a fan of Heart of Darkness!

Feb 4, 2011, 3:58pm

>54 clfisha: Well, Heart of Darkness isn't on my reread list either.

Feb 21, 2011, 4:12pm

You still here, Claire?

Feb 22, 2011, 4:24am

I am. I have a new job which is sucking all thought into it like a black hole.. I will get round to review some books soon... no look I promise.

Mar 1, 2011, 6:03am

Look a review!

Category: 9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown

Elmer By Gerry Alanguilan
since touchstone isnt working;
Powerful and beautiful graphic novel

Alanguilan starts with the premise of what would happen if chickens suddenly aquired sentience. This is not as silly as it sounds, in fact it's not silly at all. It's beautiful, funny, tragic, hopeful and mixes the everyday with huge, overarching themes.

Elmer is perftect for the comic meduim, I cannot imagine it done well in any other and Alanguilan's craft here is wonderful. His art and dialogue are fantastic but also the careful layout & the impact this brings, there are some highly memorable parts to the story.

It is easy to care about the characters, chicken or human are all truly and fully realised, and all carry a difficult story with ease. After all without them it just becomes a tall tale but with them the fantastical becomes real. Oh I did mention the art right? Well it's black and white and gorgeous.. with just enough anthropomorphism to keep the story in check.

Recommended for's the kind of comic you press into other peoples hand and say "look..."

Mar 2, 2011, 5:12am

Sounds great. "Det är taget" as we say in Sweden. ("Consider it taken").

Mar 7, 2011, 6:14am

I read Waking Beauty years ago and remember enjoying it. I'm interested in checking out the Rats: A Year with New York's Most Unwanted Inhabitants. I hope it won't freak me out too much since I live in NYC.

Editado: Mar 8, 2011, 4:42am

@60 Well it might do :) there are a lot of rats

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
Wonderful eerie shorts

Shirley Jackson is a master at taking everyday life and twisting into ominous shapes, and whilst these very short tales are a mixed bag there are more than enough good ones to make this a must read. Morality and social life are viewed through odd perspectives. The loneliness and alienation we all feel at times is pinned and displayed in delicious biteszied vignettes and you ride happily along with polite society until you feel the creeping horror as things go awry, when it's rules create racism or death. You share the horror at the strangers that kids can become and then sit inside someone's else head with growing murderous rage at their husbands unthinking actions and what's more you can understand it. This empathy is what makes the horror all the more real.. I mean what if she is talking about our own lives?

It is in an intense, wonderful read and though I didn't always like every story (and I missed the growing evocative atmosphere of her novels) I would highly recommend to anyone.

Mar 8, 2011, 8:06am

On an unreleated note there is a great interview with China Mieville over at:

Mar 9, 2011, 5:31pm

Great review for the Lottery! Too tired to read the long interview with China tonight, but doing some happy skips in seeing that a new book is apparantly on the way! :)

Mar 13, 2011, 9:48am

Is Embassytown already out in the UK? It was an ER book this month. I requested a copy but it has a whole bunch of requests so I'm not holding my breath in snagging it.

Mar 13, 2011, 10:14am

Not yet, amazon says 6th May. I wish the UK got the chance to try and get it as a ER book. sigh

Mar 13, 2011, 1:45pm

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

The Ecstatic by Victor LaValle
Darkly funny mystery of madness

Anthony James weighs 315 pounds, is possibly schizophrenic, and he's just been kicked out of college. He's rescued by his mother, sister, and grandmother, but they may not be altogether sane themselves.

In the afterward he tells us that the ecstatic was a term used to explain people whose actions were impossible to understand, people possessed or touched by God and that's a good a starting point to trying and explain this brilliant but deeply odd debut novel. One that mixes so many themes in order to come up with something funny, emotive, surreal and constantly unique.

James maybe an unreliable narrator but LaValle always ensures that everything that happens lives in the realm of plausibility. From the surreal experience of a diet clinic where the obese watch thin people do everyday tasks through a one way mirror, to a road trip (or rather an epic quest) to get his sister to a beauty pageant of virgins. From his saviour of illegal cleaning jobs to his surely imaginary B movie horror films we follow his life as he is temporarily taken into care by his put upon family.

It doesn't really matter whether its real or not, it's a beautiful ride and one I heartily recommend to anyone.

Mar 13, 2011, 7:24pm

@65 As a swede , I don't even bother to check ER anymore.

I have Big machine on my list for this year's challenge, and am really looking forward to it after all the love you and psutto gushed on it last year. How would you say those two books compare?

Mar 13, 2011, 8:13pm

Big Machine is on my wishlist for that very same reason. I think I'll wait till I've read that one before adding another by the author but I'll certainly bear it in mind for when I do eventually get to it.

Mar 14, 2011, 6:00am

Well if you liek Big Machine then I think its worth tracking down The Ecstatic. I dont think its as good (afterall it is his debut) but it's stil highly enjoyable. I mean I really, really loved Big Machine it's mixing of forteana and a noir mystery, mixed with even better writing.

Mar 14, 2011, 12:22pm

Re: The Lottery
It is such a haunting story for sure. I read it a long time ago, but it has stayed w/me. I fairly recently read The Haunting of Hill House and really enjoyed it. What you said about twisting everyday life fits that book perfectly too.
p.s. the Mieville interview is (as always) brilliant

Editado: Mar 16, 2011, 9:33am

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

Cast the First Stone and it's original Yesterday will make you cry by Chester Himes
Intense tale of life in a 50s US prison.

Ok this is going to be a messed up review.

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Cast the First Stone and then I found that it was a much revised version of a book called Yesterday will make you cry. Which I then had to go and read.. So what to do? Well write a long waffly review obviously :)

For those who wish to skim read just skip to the end recommendation :-) But Chester Hime's life and the differences between the two books are fascinating ... look....

Extremely interesting background information

Chester Himes started writing in prison in the 20s for armed robbery. After he was released on parole he gained recognition, started work as novelist and wrote the powerfully, angry novel If he Hollers let him Go (go read it now!). He was reputedly sacked as a screen writer for being black, then turned his back on the USA and moved to France in the 50s, where his popularity was high. During this time he tried and failed to get Yesterday will make you cry published and instead turned to the more lucrative detective fiction. Eventually after many rewrites it was published as Cast the First Stone but luckily (and posthumously) the original saw the light of day.

Well informed initial thoughts on Cast the First Stone

Chester Himes writes (when he desires) raw, powerful, disturbing novels. Cast the First Stone was a brilliant, simmering story and with that it in mind I was overjoyed to find this book, loosely based on his experience in prison for armed robbery in the 20s/30s.

I really wasn't disappointed, this story encompasses the horror and loneliness of a 20 year stretch. You can actually feel the unremitting hopelessness; the pettiness and the boredom interspersed with extreme violence. Himes and therefore his character witness some pretty horrible stuff, the prison fire is an eye opener to hell. However its not really too bleak, there is hope too as eventually finds a way out, but utlimately it feels real. The protagonist does not become a saint and runs the full gammit of emotion but in the end you feel a change is possible, his life isnt futile after all.

Of course it had its problems; With one eye on the era (50s) I forgave the toned down (oddly platonic) homsexual relationship and read between the lines. It tended to meander at times too, which life would being in prison for so long but in a tight 1st person story I think it was too noticeable.

Those Differences

You can cleary see the the publishers idea of what would sell encroaching on the story, not necessrily the squeamishness towards black authors or homosexuality but to aim it at a certain market, a specific genre. There are there 3 major differences that struck me; the switch from 3rd person to the then fashionable 1st person, the original is a more ambitious story that also breaks away in the middle to look at the early life of the protaganist and the change of ending (a less noble end to the gay character was introduced).

There are also minor plot diffrences, the later parts of books differ quite a lot and the original concentrates on the saviour of writing stories rather than the excitment of softball. In fact whilst some of the text is a straight copy a lot has been rewritten it's very nearly a totally different book. A better book? Well it's hard to say go read my review :)

Review of Yesterday will make you cry

It is still a hard hitting, powerful story looking at prison life in the 50s, but we also a deeper look at disechanted youth. Split into 3 parts with a the harsh story of prison life bookending the middle section showing an angry, intelligent, self centered guy who blows all his chances for instead quick and easy excitement. Whilst thstructure lessens the impact of the constant daily fight that depth more than makes up for it, it is an honest and unflinching look as well as a dramatic one.

Historically its fascinating, maybe more so as you know its based on Himes actual life but it also resonates today. It's not harshness that stood out for me but the loss of freedom and lack of direction, the loneliness and desperation and also the hope. All darkness needs light. Take the part where the story looks at how stories helped and hindered the long stay at prison its both disturbing and wonderufl at the same time.

The recommendation

I am really glad I found the original and I am very glad I tried both. Chester Himes can write and I think his non detective stories show him at his best.

So which one?

Well I enjoyed both greatly but I would urge anyone interested to seek the original Yesterday Will Make you Cry however reading both was fascinating and they are different enough books to hold up so to Himes fans and anyone interested please go read both. It will be worth it.

Mar 16, 2011, 9:38am

70 Thanks for popping by. China Mieville is such an interesting person to listen to isn't he? I have yet though to be interested in his political non-fiction I fear it would be over my head!

Mar 16, 2011, 4:01pm

#71. That's really interesting. Usually, I'd assume a rewrite would be better, but it seems the emotion was more raw in the original.

Mar 17, 2011, 7:33am

It certainly seems more honest. I forgot to mention that it took over 10 years to finally get published so maybe time and distance made it less honest too. I do think that the combination of a black author writing about criminals and homesexuality would of put many people off in 50s America.

Editado: Mar 17, 2011, 9:09am

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
So so historical fantasy

Epic historical fantasy set in 8th centuray China. Shen Tai is honouring the death of his father buy burying (and therefore honouring) the many dead, on both sides, of his fathers last battle. But then China's enemies honour his work with a gift, a poisoned chalice dragging into deep in the dangerous politics of the empire.

Some parts of this story are striking and beautiful, mostly though I just floated through in an oddly detached way noticing it's many faults. So whilst my caveat is that I sort of enjoyed it, I cannot recommend it to anyone but interested GGK fans.

I think it's mostly the theme of fate that detached me from the story. This is a tale set firmly in the past and the foreshadowing is heavy, the outcome is set. There is very little else to make you care what happens and it's like watching very ornate, pretty Chinese wallpaper. Maybe it also doesn't help that the main characters are only minor figures in a chaotic and turbulent period of history, the ones on the sidelines not in the spotlight. Or maybe it's because I never really got a sense of place, a must in historical or fantasy book. That could be that because this is a field well trod, in films and books and I expect something more, something different. Of course it really didn't help that the main protagonist seemed slightly anachronistic at times (and dull), very western and just stating that he cannot play political games does not make it feel true. To be honest after the lovely beginning I just found most characters dull, only the female characters occasionally roused my empathy.

There were other problems. Stylistically I think it fell down; how many times does an author need to repeat plot points or themes? Repetition of phrases is something GGk used to use to good effect so why it fell down here I don't understand, but being told again and again (not shown but told) that certain things such as the Chinese fear wolves is something I didn't need and found dull. I also disliked the usually justified use of jumping, fleetingly, to a small unimportant character. This usually works to good effect expanding the view point and adding to the drama, but again here I didn't understand the point. Why for example did we jump into the young prostitute's head for 2 pages? I didn't gain any knowledge or see her again? At least I don't remember.

Mar 17, 2011, 8:24am

Actually the above brings up a question I am never quite sure about.. do you add negative reviews to the book? I know it sounds silly but I always feel churlish.. I have decided to with this one since the reviews are overwhelmingly postive I thought a difference of opinion was required ;)

Mar 17, 2011, 11:33am

I think more information about a book can be gleaned from a well-constructed negative review than a positive one. As long as the reviewer explains why then I think they are vital to sites like LT.

Enjoyed your review for the Chester Himes books and I'll have to keep an eye out for his work when I go trawling the shops.

Mar 19, 2011, 2:49am

I used to hide my negative reviews. I know a lot of authors, and it's professional courtesy not to rip into another author. That said, this site is used for a lot of different purposes. One is to see if a book is for *you.* LT has a lot of different types of people, so not every book will be for every person. Seeing both the positive and negative reviews is helpful. You might dislike something in writing that I know I like, and your mentioning it in a review might actually peak my interest. Or you might persuade me to start with a different GGK book.

LT is also used by authors to hone their craft. If people only wrote nice reviews, LT wouldn't be of any use in this manner.

The only reviews I mind (that I can think of at least) are the ones where being cleverly negative is the point of the review. It's easy and fun to cut down a book. The negative reviews are often far more amusing than the positive reviews. If a review seems to be about showing how much more clever the reader is than the writer, I'm turned off. That kind of review is disrespectful. The kind of review you wrote, though, isn't that way at all. It is respectful. You just didn't like the book, and you had good reasons not to.

& hey, authors like having discussion about their books, even if all the discussion isn't positive.

Editado: Mar 23, 2011, 12:10pm

@78 Good rule of thumb!

Having just finished 21665::Sailing to Sarantium, Claire, I think it's interesting what you point out how Kay in 8698218::Under heaven fails to make the jumping into the heads of minor characters work. Because the polyphony of 21665::Sailing to Sarantium is truly one of it's strenghts for me - not least the minor characters who become narrators for a single chapter, like the asshole courier Titillicus. I can totally see how this could be annoying if it doesn't make sense, if it isn't "expanding the view and adding to the drama" like you write. A shame if Kay is beginning to lose it. Perhaps he needs to try another genre?

Mar 26, 2011, 12:36pm

77/78. You are both right but sometimes I feel so rude.. :-) still as long as I am clear and there are other reviews I guess it's ok.. I might still hesitate if mine was the only review on there!

79 A lot of people still like GGK but for me I wish he would pick the powerful themes, plot and characters that mark his earlier work. It's been over 10 years since he has written something I liked so I don't have much hope in a change.. Although, frustratingly with GGK I dislike something about every book but I usually can ignore it because the rest is so enjoyable.

I think his pacing and switching between characters is masterful in Sailing to Sarantinium, especially at the beginning. Jumping into Martinian's head is wonderful.

Mar 26, 2011, 11:05pm

80> Perhaps you have higher expectations from him now?

Mar 28, 2011, 5:06am

@81 - higher expectations is part of the problem for sure. I went and read lions of al-rassan straight after under heaven and noticed that the same things I'd complained about in under heaven were, to some extent, also problems in lions of al-rassan which was a little unexpected - I'm posting a small comparison of the two books on the GGK group read thread.

Mar 28, 2011, 6:39am

@81 I think you are right. When GGk is good he is very very good so any deviation is a huge let down. Ah well I am going to go watch Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and get my Chinese historical fantasy fix.

Hmm any reccomendations for Chinese fantasy/historical fiction? Apart from Monkey: Folk Novel of China ;)

Editado: Mar 28, 2011, 6:55am

Editado: Mar 28, 2011, 7:42am

Oh yes I forgot that one, I enjoyed it too, especially cohen.

Let see I think I also have:
Flashman and the Dragon, Ghostwritten & Quin's Shanghai Circus & 9 Tail Fox. Not counting WIld Swans but that's it.

Mar 29, 2011, 5:06am

I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, but Fudoki by Kij Johnson was very popular around here when it came out.

Mar 29, 2011, 4:17pm

*saunters in with an expression on face that suspiciously looks like a gloat*

I did snag a copy of Embassytown!

*slinks out of thread quickly before cyber-object is thrown in my direction*

Mar 29, 2011, 4:27pm

*Throws cyber-object in your direction, green with envy*.

Then again, I've yet to read both Kraken and Un Lun Dun, so I should be alright until it's availbale also for us mere mortals.

Mar 30, 2011, 3:35am

If I recall correctly, you're a big fan of Shaun Tan, right? He just recieved the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), considered to be kind of the Nobel prize for children's literature. :)

Mar 30, 2011, 5:02am

@87/88 I think I might go over to his thread and throw objects.. :-)

@89 I am a huge fan and yeah to Shaun Tan he so deserves it! I think I am going to have a Shaun Tan evening and start by perusing The Arrival in celebration tonight.

Editado: Abr 1, 2011, 9:04am

Never done a monthly review but I am on the most boring call :)

I have read 20 books this year and 12 of those have met the 11 in 11 Challenge which is cool but sadly March has been far too slow with only 2 out of 4 books.

The most popular category was "10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general) "

Out of the two books(!)
The best was: Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay and worst book was Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Go GGK :)

Overall the top 5 are:
The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
Yesterday Will Make You Cry by Chester Himes

It's very hard to see that Top 5 changing very much.

Abr 1, 2011, 12:29pm

I think March was a slow month for many people, maybe due to the overly long winter. I know that now that spring seems to have finally arrived here, I am feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle my reading more seriously.

I had to laugh at a Guy Gavriel Kay being both your best read and your worst. His books do seem to affect people that way - love em or hate em - but always interesting!

Abr 2, 2011, 11:56am

20 books so far this year is good. If they don't all fit the challenge - oh well - it is all about reading books you want to read!

Abr 3, 2011, 5:39pm

@91 Hehe. I love it when it's that simple.

Regarding Yesterday will make you cry: I love a good prison book. Borstal boy and A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich are a few of my favourites.

Abr 5, 2011, 4:43am

Both look really interesting, thank you! May in return recommend the heartbreaking Bronson (and the film). It's not brilliantly written but it is very good.

Editado: Abr 14, 2011, 6:34am

Category: Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread

Really this review should be both books , so closely are they entwined. Reading the 1st one without moving onto the second will be a lesser experience each book shapes each other.

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

Sailing is at heart a tale of journeys, of change and of beginnings, subtly echoing Yeat’s famous poem Sailing to Byzantium we follow our reluctant hero, Crispin the mosaciast, as he travels to Saratium on request on the Emperor to help create a wonder of the world.

It may sound far too simple a story but in the hands of GGK it is a dramatic, gripping life changing journey. We may follow just one man but there is a large supporting cast that GGK deftly and judiciously populates to make his world feel real. No one goes to waste here, we drop into other ‘s thoughts briefly serving not to confuse but to enhance. Take for example one beautiful moment of reflection, the night after a dramatic event where three characters mull over what happened. It’s brief in length but serves on so many levels to enrich the tale; characters, the plot & pacing are all the better for it and this is one of the books strengths.

It has a wonderful balance between history and fantasy, the fantasy maybe light but it is powerful as a little goes a long long way and I think it is one of GGK ‘s most compelling and atmospheric fantasy books outside the Fiovionar tapestry

If there is an problem it’s a different type of book to his others, it is after all a precursor to the more dramatic second book. The action here, whilst gripping is more of a personal nature. I don’t want to sell it short though it’s got intrigue, action sequences, delightful characters, heartbreaking tragedy and wonderful moments.

Lord Of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is simply a masterful, beautifully written story and is one of my favourites tales ever, so don’t expect a balanced review

It is a sharp contrast to the first book, where that was a slow burner of a book this one is the frenetic pay off. Without the 1st book this would be a lesser experience but the reader has invested time now and the hook is there.

GGK takes a horde of fully realised characters, complex political manoeuvrings and dramatic action and makes it utterly gripping but not overwhelming. As always with GGK there is nothing black and white about this tale, the tragedy of characters, good or bad, are their failures. Their human frailties that even the emperor has.

The weaving of characters and events into the rhythm of the story is joyful. Take the early event of the wedding drawing all characters together then adding new ones and all with their own thoughts and motives that enhance, enrich and underline the story and then he drives them separately into the night and we follow them through the darkness and their passions. There are so many different ways to love here and GGK has much fun exploring them.

The overarching plot, even though signposted (in fact because certain things are hinted at), is one of the most gripping I have ever read. Ok I might be basking in rabid fandom but I can assure you, if you have lasted this long, it will hold your attention. For there are some beautifully written pieces, from the action of the chariot race(s) to the dazzling political, empire changing, manoeuvring. Towards the latter half the pace is frenetic.

Ok there are problems with it.. some of the ways he ties up the story irritate me beyond belief, some off the characters from the first book are awkwardly forgotten and everyone is a shade too beautiful, especially the women and for a story that tries to mirror a whole world, plain women are a noticeable absence.

However none of these faults matter to me for in the end it is a great story, well told. I recommend this ‘duology’ to fantasy and historical fiction fans and to lovers of drama, political intrigue and romance. Of course if the investment in two books puts you off and you have never read GGK I would recommend Lions of Al-Rassan.

Abr 14, 2011, 8:55am

I'd like to reread those sometime too. Actually, it's been a long time since I read any of his books.

Editado: Abr 18, 2011, 5:34am

Category: 6 Books You Can Borrow From Someone

True Blood Books 1 - 8 by Charline Harris

To save you from eight separate reviews here is one for the whole eight books. I think I can get away with this because they are all pretty good and if you like one I expect you will like them all. Well ok Eric fan will like book 4 the best :-)

Separate mini reviews can be found here although I haven't done all 8 yet!

These books do what they say and no more; If paranormal romance is your thing and the idea of a high number of gorgeous men and a heady mix of sex and violence (nothing too bad don't worry) sounds great then go for it. I have spent a lovely time reading them, in fact not being able to put them down and feeling bereft when I finished is probably a good advertisement.

They're an easy read, streamlined you might say, with a small cast and non too torturous plot. Sometimes the author tries to fit more than one plot in and for some unknown reason does this sequentially, which is annoying because you end up with a very bitty book, and sometimes the amount of romantic suitors passes the silly line and it becomes banal. While I am moaning does anyone else have an irrational dislike of Sookie's "word of the day" calender? Because it drives me mad.

I may have enjoyed it more because I am fan of the TV show and I borrow the look and feel of actors/actresses (lucky me). They roughly follow the same plot but otherwise are very different, some of your favourite characters won't be found here (poor Lafayette) and there is much less story to packed into one as they aren't a mammoth TV series. Since they are different mediums that is a good thing.

Ok some books are better than others but they are all fun, exciting, and eminently readable so whats not to like? Recommended to most women and some men.

Oh & I am counting them as one book because I am over confident :-)

Edited for spelling but leaving awful sentence intact

Abr 17, 2011, 5:09pm

Got to love it when "amount of romantic suitors passes the silly line."

Abr 17, 2011, 6:31pm

Great summing up of the Sarantium Mosaic. We very much agree about both strengths and weaknesses. And hooray for cockily calling eight books one! That must mean you're really adamant to pull this off this year, eh?

Abr 18, 2011, 9:17am

99 If only real life was like that ;)

100 Thanks, although I just reread my reviews and they are making me wince.. I just can't proof read! :-)

Abr 18, 2011, 9:27am

I keep hearing wonderful things about Sailing to Sarantium, but I have two of his I need to read first Tigana and Under Heaven. I guess I'm going to be a month or two behind on the group read ;)

Abr 19, 2011, 7:06am

Tigana is a very good, thought provoking read so its worth waiting for. Hope you enjoy them.

Editado: Abr 21, 2011, 9:31am

10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

The Unwritten volumes 1 -3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)

Imagine the worlds best selling fantasy series was never finished, the author disappearing into thin air. Now imagine that was your father and those books star you as the hero and your life is now one round of signings and interviews at fantasy conventions. Bad enough until you realise your childhood was a lie and someone is out to kill you.

I have just finished Volume 3 and I can say this is the best comic/graphic novel series out there. The playful merging of reality and literature is not only great fun it also makes a great plot, one which moves along at a fast pace and is complex but never overwhelming.

Carey is having much fun with convention whilst juggling pacing and plot. Where else would you get a characters back story as a choose your own adventure tale or a conspiracy concerning Nazi propaganda using old Jewish stories for it’s own purposes used to explore the lethal downside of fantasy versus reality.

The characters are superb, the dialogue spot on, the art is beautiful and whole world feels real even when you know it’s all a house of cards. It’s fully populated too, the events matters here to everyone. I haven’t been as intrigued in a comic series for years and years I hope Carey has the skill to pull it of.

So I cannot recommend this series enough. With it's literary roots held high, it's playful post modernism deepening the work and it still manages to be at heart a great story. It’s going to be a wild ride, don’t you want to get on board?

Abr 20, 2011, 1:41pm


OK, so here's the problem: When I go to add those three to my wishlist, I notice that Carey has also written a series about Lucifer which looks like a must-read, so now, instead of three new books in the wishlist, there are 14 new books... When am I supposed to read these? LOL! I love my fellow LT-ers!!!

Abr 21, 2011, 4:30am

ooo yes go on try Lucifer too it's his 1st comic series but it's really good.

Abr 22, 2011, 1:39pm

Can't believe I haven't come across your thread sooner - thanks for leaving a post on mine, or I might not have discovered this. I LOVE Italo Calvino and love your categories, and now want to read Lonesome Dove and Magnus Mills and Chester Himes and The Unwritten. It was neat to think about The Lottery - I remember coming across that the first time as a required read in high school. I haven't been watching True Blood (can't add a new show without dropping one, cuts into my reading time!), but I think I'll have a look at the Charlaine Harris books that I've collected but haven't started yet. Thanks for all the good stuff!

Abr 26, 2011, 6:00am

Thanks :) I dont manage to read as many threads as I would like, far too many!

Abr 26, 2011, 7:05am

Going waaay back to Lonesome Dove, I have this somewhere near the top of my Mount TBR, and you've just nudged it even closer to the top. Thanks for a fantastic review.

Editado: Abr 27, 2011, 8:26am

109 nudge nudge.. it's really a quick read.. honest. ;-)

Category: 6 Books You Can Borrow From Someone

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre
Classic but ultimately annoying Cold war thriller

Alec leamus has been recalled to London after the loss of all his East German agents but instead of being retired he is given one last job...

A book with very little action which surprised me. Le Carre is very good at evoking the place, from a lonely, creaking hunting lodge to a dirty tiny boarding house they all become alive with just a small, judicious amount of description. The characters are sadly very hard to like, which hinders connecting with the story, but even so the plot setup is good enough to draw you in and the tense conversations cement your interest. It's a pity then, that later on I started to become irritated and towards the end downright fed up. It's sad that the only reason I sensed the alienation was down to everyone else liking the book.

Ok so it is dated and I am over familiar with the cynicism and nihilism that imbues the page. So that stops the shock and surprises and it’s hard for the ending to be anything to be formulaic, not the books fault it happens to overused. Of course your reaction to this will depend on your reading experiences.

Then (and most damningly) there were the female characters, amongst the hatred of communism and Jews, it was the misogyny that undid me. Ok out of the few women there was a judge (alongside the bitter shrew & traitorous mistress) but it was the main character that was the nail in coffin. I think it annoyed me so much because the books ultra realism was so modern (the sex out of wedlock accepted) but ultra devotion to your man is just a horrid idea and if you do it in a book you better do it damn well.

So I recommended it to fans of the spy genre (who lets face it probably have already read it) and to everyone else I say avoid (especially to sensitive Communists). However this book seems to be well loved on LT so check out others reviews instead, it’s possible I might be wrong :-)

Oh and if anyone wants this book let me know, it was part of world book night so I will be passing it along.

Abr 26, 2011, 8:54pm

#110 Thanks for the review. I've tried reading this book a couple of times, and it just turns me off. Now I understand why. I can forgive myself and move on now.

Editado: Abr 27, 2011, 7:07am

Category: Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Toff On Board by John Creasey
Fun, brief, 1940s murder mystery

Perusing in a second hand bookshop I noticed many many books by John Creasey (ok he is famous but I had never heard of him). Intrigued I flicked it open and I saw this:
He's cool...
He's rich...
He's debonair...
He has friends in Mayfair - and
frriends in Bow. He can use a gun, or
use his fists, but prefers to use his wits,
And no one in trouble, young or old,
rich or poor, is ever refused the help
of the Hon. Richard Rollison - alias -
The Toff...

Well of course I had to buy it. So does it live up to the promise?

Well bearing in mind that it was written in 1949 it's not too bad. The setup's ok: The Toff is hard on the heels of a murderer who escapes by err cruise ship. Sadly he isn’t an over the top aristocrat but he does have a highly intelligent butler (I find that sort of thing amusing). There is a good number of potential villains, some menacing thugs and beautiful women (bonus points for the gorgeous love interest being 40). No one is what they seem and it's all one big, fun, conspiracy. I don't tend to try and work these things out so no idea how the mystery plot holds but it seemed ok to me, more parcelled out info than hidden clues but that’s ok. It moves along at a brisk pace interspersed with cocktails, threats and the odd quaint bits of violence.

I might not be seeking the next one out straight away but if I ever need a very quick, light read and I am near that bookshop again I think I would try another, there are 21 of them.

Abr 28, 2011, 1:28am


I've thought that The Spy was one of those have-to reads, but after reading your review, I'm thinking it's a have-to-not read. Sounds ghastly!

Abr 28, 2011, 5:13am

Oh dear I always feel uncomfortable putting people off books and it did get rave reviews... but if awful female chracaters annoy you I would stay away!

To get my tastebuds ready for Embassytown I have just enjoyed one of China's short stories and thought someone else might as well:

Abr 28, 2011, 7:10am

114, I'm sure there will be a few. Thanks for the link.

Editado: Abr 28, 2011, 1:01pm

I would definitely be annoyed with female characters like that. Also, to get to remove one book from the "have-to" list still leaves a billion potentially great books in Mt. TBR. :)

Thanks for the link! I finished Embassytown a few days ago and it's great - you won't be disappointed!!

Abr 28, 2011, 5:19pm

Nice to see you read some books that don't interest me in the least for once :)

Abr 29, 2011, 5:20pm

My mom read a lot of Creasey. I didn't realize it was a bit of Jeeves & Wooster meet murder & mayhem. I can't decide if that sound appealing or corny.

Abr 30, 2011, 4:11am

117 Thanks ;)

@118 I think it's more cheesy than Jeeves and Wooster and sadly more more modern too...

Mayo 1, 2011, 12:41am

119> So in other words, I should work on Mount TBR instead.

Editado: Mayo 1, 2011, 1:54pm

121 Yep, unless you spot one in a secondhand bookshop

Well I am nose deep in Embassytown by China Mieville, only had to use the dictionary 5 times so far;-) quiddity, I love it! Hmm what happened to the touchstone...

Mayo 1, 2011, 3:58pm

I complained about the touchstones on new books to the bug collectors. Apparently Tim is rolling out some changes to LT and the new touchstones won't be in until then. ??? something like that. I haven't read Mieville yet, but from what I hear from others, people either love him or think he's boring and over-rated. There seems to be no middle ground. I tried to get the ER book, but of course, so did everyone else. I'll look forward to seeing what you think.

Mayo 1, 2011, 7:08pm

Thanks for the update about the touchstones Cammykitty.

Mayo 2, 2011, 6:32am

Yep thank you for the info.

I don't think this is the book to change anyone's minds, so typical is it. It's a sublime piece of world building so far.. yeah I am an excited fanboy.. I even bought my own copy!

Editado: Mayo 5, 2011, 7:44am

9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)

Caveat: As always with reviews it depends on what you like.. so let me admit crime mysteries aren't my favourite and I flee at the sight of Dickens. So bear in mind this isn't my favourite genre.

FingerSmith by Sarah Waters
Good Victorian mystery

Two young orphans miles apart, a complex scam to gain inheritence, cruel ayslums for unwanted women and young burgeoning love. This is an intriguing Victorian crime thriller.

I knew nothing about the book when I started and it does have quite a few surprises in store, not enough to elevate it to a griping page turner but I was definitely intrigued. The settings are quite wonderful, its place and time have just enough details to make it real and quite atmospheric. I did like the more modern feminist sensibility too, it gave the story such a good spin.

The main characters I liked less, although the supporting cast were truly great, I guess it took me ages to warm to Sarah because I never really bought Sarah's "voice". Don't get me wrong the book is well written it was just a personal reaction I can't quite pin down.

(minor spoiler)
Then of course there is the sudden switch of character which killed my interest dead and if wasn't for fellow LTer's I may never have finished it. I admit it was worth it, as it does get better and in fact middle/latter half of the book is the best, although I would have preferred more twists (it is an odd mixture of startling turns and obvious pathways). Yes I am too picky.
(minor spoiler ends)

So appreciated the book more than I enjoyed it and I recommend it in that vein, it's a well liked book so lovers of crime or Victoriana should definately seek it out, others I am not so sure.

Mayo 5, 2011, 5:58pm

I remember Fingersmith very fondly, but it's been a few years. I think you're probably doing a fair assessment in your review regarding who will and who won't like it. I mostly remember a certain ambience - and the big gasp twist of course.

Mayo 6, 2011, 4:06am

I'm nursing Embassytown. If I don't pick up the pace the bartender is gonna throw me out. This is strange. Embassytown is reading like a M. John Harrison book to me. I have to keep checking the cover to make sure China's name is on there.

Mayo 6, 2011, 5:48am

126 I should really avoid crime mysteries/thrillers I never truly get on with them.

127 I was taking it gently but my greed got ahead of me and I gobbled it up. Plus pete (psutto) is there poking me with a stick so he can start reading it. :)

Mayo 6, 2011, 8:37am

I am falsely accused!

Editado: Mayo 7, 2011, 12:41am

@129 Nah! On LT, you're guilty until proven innocent. We all understand book greed.

Mayo 14, 2011, 6:15am

Just dropping in to see what other odd and eerie books you've listed. Adding The Lottery to the list. I'm a big fan of Magnus Mills. He knows all about working for a living!

Mayo 14, 2011, 5:12pm

Well put, pamela!

Mayo 16, 2011, 5:50am

I am in a major book and review slump (stares forlonly at awful review of Embassytown) but now I fancy a bit of Magnus Mills therapy, thanks for the memory prompt! ;)

Editado: Mayo 16, 2011, 7:39am

Although I did go to comics fair at the weekend and bought this little lot, plus some more.. (note: this is why I am poor). Anyway I love photos of peoples purchases so here's mine..

Mayo 16, 2011, 1:16pm

How have I missed Magnus Mills??? *off to order one now!*

Great loot!!! Poor is a relative state - that pic makes you wealthy in my book! :)

Mayo 16, 2011, 2:04pm

I second that order. Magnus Mills is great!

Mayo 17, 2011, 5:01am

ok I am torn between The Scheme for Full Employment or All Quiet on the Orient Express.. any nudges in a direction?

Mayo 17, 2011, 5:12am

All quiet on the orient express is my favorite Mills. The scheme for full employment is funny, but lacks some teeth. It doesn't have the slightly eerie quality his best books have. So I vote for the former!

Mayo 17, 2011, 6:12am

Seconding All Quiet on the Orient Express, but I enjoyed them both. Because I've always been a union member, the cringe quotient of The Scheme for Full Employment is multiplied. I even thought Magnus was a bit right wing, until my sense of humour reasserted itself.

Mayo 18, 2011, 10:14pm

Hmm... Looks like I better but Magnus Mills on mount TBR too.

Editado: Mayo 24, 2011, 8:09am

Fed up trying to write this review, here is my less awful version!
10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

Embassytown by China Mieville
Brilliantly flawed sci-fi

It’s an oddly paced novel and a frustrating novel but ultimately a brilliant novel.

Mieville very slowly builds the world and the plot and the characters (and I love the characters). Told in the 1st person, with all that ensues; slapdash descriptions, biasness, omissions, emotional responses, all seductively create the narrator and other characters. Of coursing being Mieville he is his usual playful self with language (floaker, immer, turingware, miab). The words and phrases are beautiful, his concepts fun to decode.

All of this of course pays off because you are thoroughly immersed in the alieness off it all when the plot morphs into a gripping page turner that twists unexpectedly and wont let go of your head. However this is also the books main flaw; it's too directionless at the beginning.. impatience can set in and, if you don’t buy into what Mievilles doing, huge frustration.

But I think it''s worth it, not only a damn good story but one that uses science fiction to have the freedom to explore some huge and interesting concepts. So yes it's about language and how language defines who we are, how it allows us to think but also it's about colonisation, the clash of cultures with accidental cruelties, misunderstandings and power plays. There are political intrigues galore, violent plots, religious fanaticism, betrayals, huge sacrifices, love, despair and war.

Be reassured it's not just a lofty intellectual exercise, Mieville succeeds damn well in exploring the weightier, dryer topics, I mean I can't remember many other books that contain nail biting discussions on semiotics.

So it may not be a good place to try Mieville nor is it a book to convince his detractors, an odd bastard child of strong concepts in City and the City and the baroque chaos of Kraken. It’s ambitious, refreshingly different and thoughtful and I already want to reread; so lovers of literature and fans of speculative fiction I think it's worth your time.

Oh and there is an interesting review by Jeff VanderMeer over at
Does contain spoilers though.

Mayo 24, 2011, 2:26pm

You got a thumbs-up from me on that!! :) And, definitely agreeing on not making this your first Miéville.

"I can't remember many other books that contain nail biting discussions on semiotics."


Mayo 24, 2011, 11:08pm

Interesting review on Embassytown, but I'll heed your warning and pick a different book for my first Mieville.

Mayo 25, 2011, 4:39am

142 Thanks :)

143 I always find it really hard to suggest a book for people to try. I guess the general recommendation is Perdido Street Station but I don't think thats his best,trouble is they all tend to be a bit different! He has does a book of short stories Looking for Jake

Mayo 25, 2011, 11:13pm

Thanks for the recommendations. Perdido Street Station is always the one you hear about, but short stories is probably a good way to get a taste.

Mayo 26, 2011, 12:35pm

@144 Which one is your favourite, Claire? I'd rank the ones I've read roughly like this (with the reservation I might feel diefferently tomorrow, and also that I find all of them a good step above avergage) :
Perdido Street Station
Iron Council
Looking for Jake
The Scar
The City and The City
King Rat

I've yet to read Kraken, Un Lun Dun and of course Embassytown (great updated review by the way!).

Mayo 27, 2011, 4:55am

oo ah err.. tricky question especially since I havent read the Bas Lag books for ages.

I would say:
The City and the City
Perdido Street Staion
Looking for Jake
Iron Council
King Rat
The Scar

I haven't read Un Lun Dun either.

Gosh that was hard... I rearranged it twice too! Hmm I think that City and the City might fall dramatically after a reread but I loved that idea sooo much I just cannot push it down.

Editado: Mayo 27, 2011, 5:13am

9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)

I am on an 3* role sadly so the next few reviews aren't going to be inspiring.. come on book depository deliver Magnus Mills! (10% sale this month btw)

The Wrong Case by James Crumley
So so 70s noir

Mixing 1970s sensibilities with noir tropes and delving into heavy drinks and alcoholics culture this promised to be one interesting ride but sadly I just couldn't get on board.

Ok I confess I am a diehard Raymond Chandler fan and to my eyes the introduction of drugs, free love and more explicit violence just didn't fit. I guess, for me, it didn't date and so my expectations were affronted. Although it felt forced too: right at the beginning there is a dramatic and yet casual fatal hit & run of a purse snatcher. It's treated with ennui and fatalism but it felt out of place and too forced i.e. "lets grab the readers attention". Probably unfair of me but it put me in the wrong mood for the rest of the book.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find in the end it didn't turn out too bad. Ok the plot was average, but then the mystery is not really the point, and the characters don't stray into stereotypes too often, although for all his idiosyncrasies, I felt the main character was a bit bland. No where it does stand out is in the depiction of the culture of alcoholism, refreshingly painting a fond & accepting eye over their proceedings whilst acknowledging the tragedy, stupidity and horror of it. It made interesting eddies into the story and created some great locations and characters.

So whilst getting a look into the mindset of a heavy drinker saved this for me but I am not sure I would recommend it. I guess crime lovers will probably know if it sounds like their thing or not.

Mayo 27, 2011, 7:59am

I have a James Crumley on my wishlist but thankfully not that one just haven't got around to picking it up yet. He usually gets a pretty good write-up so it's a shame that one didn't appeal to you. Was that your first read of his books?

Editado: Mayo 31, 2011, 11:03am

10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Interesting, fun non-fiction

Fans of Mary Roach will know exactly what they are getting: an erudite look at the human (and animal) side of space exploration. Science will be explained with aplomb, delightful observations made and it will be packed full of interesting, well researched facts. The reading style will be wonderfully fun and easy and her personality will subtly enlivens any subject. Inn this case that is topics such as; cultural differences of a space station living, the question hygiene, whether you could (or should) have sex, what happens when you don’t walk for a year and if can you survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour.

So even though I preferred Stiff (better topic, more direction) I think anyone with a glancing interest in human nature and space will like this book. Go read.

Mayo 31, 2011, 11:10am

Category: The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot
Beautiful graphic novel.

Beautiful in art and also plot this is a tale of abuse and runaways and how one teenage girl overcome them. It is also a tale of how fantasy touches reality and how we find role models in unlikely places. The story is done well and the characters are wonderful, especially our heroine. The darker, harsher aspects are deftly worked in, nothing explicit but still forceful and elevated by a story of transition mixed with the gorgeous art of the Lake district.

This is a lovely graphic novel and I have no hesitation recommending it.

Mayo 31, 2011, 11:18am

and that's me caught up on reviews :)

10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson by Will Bingley
Engaging biography

I am a bit of a fan of Hunter S Thompson’s earlier works and tend to keep an eye out for Hunter related literature (may I recommend The Joke's Over: Bruised Memories: Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, and Me by Ralph Steadman). So I had to buy this when I spotted it and whilst there maybe no surprises in store, I still enjoyed this speedy rush through Hunter S Thompson’s life.

The art work is the highlight. Drawn lovingly, black and white, it manages to distil the essential Thompson. The text is a great compliment to it, mixing his literary works is spot on in tone and makes this a great read. Ok so although detail is obviously missed, this is a graphic novel not a biography and it's a great start for interested newbie’s’ and fans alike.

Mayo 31, 2011, 1:11pm

->150 clfisha:

Always a lot of answers to questions you never knew you had with her books! I just love her deadpan humor. Stiff may be unsurpassable, but this one did a really good job, I thought.

->151 clfisha:

I saw at the "Look Inside" preview on Amazon and it looks amazing - definitely going on the wishlist!

Mayo 31, 2011, 3:57pm

I keep forgetting Mary Roach! I'll read her and start with Stiff. Dammit.

Jun 2, 2011, 7:45am

154 Definitely worth it, I found something comforting about Stiff on top of being a damn good read.

Jun 3, 2011, 11:11pm

Ooo!!! One Bad Rat is going on the TBR!

Jun 5, 2011, 1:21pm

->154 GingerbreadMan:
I may even go so far as calling Stiff a "must-read." And, ye old home-country gets a nod at the end as well! :)

Jun 14, 2011, 7:15am

Category: Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered

The Drinker by Hans Fallada
One man's descent into destructive alcoholism

It's a very sad thing when a book and a reader are mismatched especially one bought on a whim. It did sound good; it's by the author of the lauded Everyman Dies Alone (which I have wanted to read for years), the enticing blurb states that it was written in a Nazi asylum and smuggled out to friends waiting to publish (a lie so afterword tells me). Ok I thought maybe not the best written but maybe visceral.

Sadly I cannot think of one good thing to say about it. I can recognise it's not a terrible book but personally although it promised to get better, it never did (even the afterword describing Fallada's interesting life sent me to sleep!) The style (translation?) feels off as the light tone doesn’t work with tragedy but adds only to a feeling of superficiality. The main character is boring, annoying and his heart breaking doomed descent feels banal. Then the most promising observational aspects come across feeling small and flat compared to much more emotive literature I have read.

The afterword states that like or loathe the protagonist you want to get under his skin and understand why he is this way, but sadly I can categorically say I just wished him a speedy end so I could stop reading the damn book. No I cannot recommend this book at all, one for fans only.

And now I have sold the book so well can offer my copy with confidence someone will pick it.. just drop me a note and it's yours!

Jun 14, 2011, 7:37am

Almost irresistible, but I can just manage to pass up your excellent offer, clfisha. I hope you're not so annoyed now with Fallada that you won't enjoy Every Man Dies Alone.

Jun 14, 2011, 10:23am

Thanks for making the sacrifice to read The Drinker. I think I'll stick to reading Alone in Berlin instead.

Jun 14, 2011, 2:16pm

I've said it before: it's not like I want my LT friends to get stuck with bad books. But it does make for some good reviews :)

Jun 14, 2011, 2:26pm

Any fellow LT:er who adds a book to my don't-bother-list gets a thumbs-up from me! :)

Jun 15, 2011, 7:57am

hmm I am going to have to give me and Fallada some breathing space before I try Every Man Dies Alone.. maybe 2014?

On a happier note here is a house made of bookshelves.. I am not jealous at all.

Jun 15, 2011, 9:26am

I want that house! My library is nowhere near big enough to fill it, but I'd have so much more room than I have now.

Jun 15, 2011, 12:19pm

No jealousy here either. None at all. Nope.

Jun 15, 2011, 5:06pm

Gah. Posted a link to Flea's facebook page earlier today. Her reply (and I quote) was: "Ohohohoho!"

Jun 15, 2011, 10:04pm

Really cool house, but knowing us LT people, we would still end up with piles of books on the floor.

Jun 16, 2011, 7:14am

I have a secret love of books the overspill their bookshelves and pile on the floor.

Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Peter Ness
Rollicking sci-fi adventure

OK here is a caveat: I am not much of a YA/coming of age tale fan so this was a departure for me and I suspect all the things I find irritating about this book can be ignored by a YA fan.

Having said that this is a fun, furiously paced science fiction, dystopian, adventure. It's a great premise (cut off colony, telepathy, the disappearance of women) and Ness doesn't waste one single word setting it up and hooking you in. He is masterful at setting pace and keeping the action going so you won't wish to put it down. It's quite cinematic too, not just because it borrows some movie tropes but is very easy to visualise in your head, the telepathy is wonderfully done in this respect.

The characters are mostly great, our hero especially so and probably because it's written in 1st person that the female love interest takes time to flesh out. Although, oddly, for a book touching on gender issues the roles here are nothing but the usual split. I did too, grind my teeth in annoyance as our hero constantly says "eff" with a nudge nudge wink wink. Swear or don't in my opinion.

Lastly I must warm you that the ending is purely cliff-hanger so be warned you may well have a urgent desire to pick up the next one, unless you are like me who has a pet hate of cliff-hanger endings.

So recommend to all action adventure and YA fans, everyone else its probably worth your time too.

Jun 16, 2011, 10:45pm

I've heard a lot of good things about the Ness series, and even checked this out of the library but it went back unread. Too busy at that time. But I might pass on it. There are too many "must read" ya series that I haven't read, and I'm with you. Cliff-hangers stink. A series novel should be able to stand on its own.

Jun 17, 2011, 5:44am

169 Yeah it's a pet hate of mine there are ways to close the story and want you leaving more, still loads of people love it. I know what you mean about more "must read" books I am using it more and more as a criteria of what to read or not!

Jun 17, 2011, 9:07am

I enjoyed The Knife of Letting Go and will be starting The Ask and the Answer this weekend. I just have to know what happens!

Jun 18, 2011, 2:08am

Victoria, we'll both be interested in knowing if you think the whole series is worth it once you've finished.

Jul 6, 2011, 8:38am

Hmm I am 9 books behind on my reviews.. I feel bad. Still in order to keep this thread alive have some links and my 1/2 year round up.

Science fiction & fantasy translation awards have been announced... so more books to go on the wishlist!

and Jeff VanderMeer is blogging a novella over at:

1.2 year round up

I have read 52 books this year and 30 slots have been filled in this Challenge.. The most popular category was "10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)" Still two categories unfilled but I have managed to complete the "A book by Italo Calvino" category. Hooray!

Overall the top 5 are:
The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
The Unwritten Volumes 1-3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
Embassytown by China Mieville

The worst book so far (or this years Ernest Hemingway experience) goes to:
The Drinker by Hans Fallada

Jul 6, 2011, 11:46am

Quite a lot of people went for Lonesome Dove, right? It's somewhere around here in the bookpiles, but for some reason I never picked it up. Sounds like people are liking it a lot, though, so I should start digging.

"this years Ernest Hemingway experience"

Big LOL @ this!

Jul 8, 2011, 9:23am

@174 it's a bit of a chunkster but it's so easy to read it just flies past. If you do find it I would give it about 70 or so pages to see if you like it I wasn't sure at first, don't usually like Westerns.

Anyway I have bitten the bullet and actually written a review

Category: 10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills

I can see this book provoking either a joyous reaction or a rather bemused one. His books aren't for everyone and this book in particular seems to be pure concentrated Mills, which of course pleases me greatly.

He is a genius at mixing everyday banalities with quiet menace, filled with dry dark humour, spot on observations of the Kafkaesque idiocy of working life. The everyday is made unsettling and shocking acts are made banal. So on the one hand this is simply a story about going on holiday to the British Lake District and never leaving, falling into the 'out of season' job trade, on the other - well read into it what you will.. every act and conversation has disturbing nuances and you are constantly on the edge waiting for the nasty shock. Mills writes very tight prose and no detail is left to chance; you will be wrapped up and transported into a world of darts matches, disappearing boats and the insidious repainting of everything to horrid repetitive green.

Funny, unsettling and a pure joy to read, everyone should try at least one Mills book in their lives. I am not sure where I would recommend to start but this would not be a bad choice. Go on it will only take a few hours.. well maybe… maybe you will never be able to leave either..

Jul 8, 2011, 1:53pm

I agree, westerns aren't really part of my regular fare, but if it's a captivating read, I'll not scoff at anything!

I have The Restraint of Beasts on deck, so I can't wait to see if his is my type of writing - I hope so, since those I hear from who likes it, likes it a lot.

Jul 9, 2011, 6:56pm

Very nice review of my favorite Mills book!

Jul 9, 2011, 7:55pm

spot on observations of the Kafkaesque idiocy of working life Well said! Great review.

Jul 11, 2011, 6:08am

Thank you :-) It only took me a month to get round to it as I kept putting it off.. Magnus Mill's is so hard to review. Oh am I going to boast, cos I am happy, that we (me and psutto) got tickets to see Mr Mills at Edinburgh's book festival.

@176 Restraint of Beasts is very good too, hope you enjoy,

Jul 11, 2011, 6:20am

Very cool about seeing Mills in the flesh! Which is your favorite by the way?

Editado: Jul 11, 2011, 1:22pm

Congrats on getting tickets!! I heard the website was a terrible mess and a lot of people I know missed out.

Jul 12, 2011, 4:58am

180 um... I have no idea what a horribly difficult question! I thought Restraint of beasts was his most menacing but All Quiet on the Western Front was pitch perfect. Oh then I liked the Maintenance of Headway because I have to travel on British buses ;)

@181 Thanks.. makes up for missing Neil Gaiman and China Mieville! It's horrible racing to buy tickets and getting websites issues whilst doing it. No excuse really :(

Jul 12, 2011, 7:24am

180 - got a soft spot for the first one I read explorers of the the new century as I wasn't expecting the whole tone etc.

Jul 15, 2011, 8:21am

Ok starting to make in roads on all those reviews ...!

Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered

Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en (translated by Arthur Waley)
Fun and lively Chinese mythology.

An abridged collection of the classic 16th century Chinese supernatural adventure stories all dealing with the lively, roguish Monkey. Always full of tricks, always getting himself into trouble against the gods, he fights demons, dragons and bandits with his amazing array of powers. He is joined by a motley cast of characters from the spiritual Tripitaka to the gluttonous Pigsy. If you have seen the old TV Show you will get the gist but obviously there is much more to be found here and thankfully no poor special effects.

Monkey is abridged (thank goodness because it's huge), very easy to read and periodic in style (so it's great to pick up occasionally). It's fun, amusingly silly and fast don't really need to know much about Chinese history or eastern religion, spotting satire or allegories is not necessary for enjoyment.

All recommended to anyone interested in eastern myth and also those wanting something different form their fantasy.

Jul 15, 2011, 8:22am

Category: A book by Italo Calvino

The Baron In The Trees by Italo Calvino

Cosimo (an 18th century Italian noble) climbs a tree out of teenage pique and decides never to come down. His life; his romances, battles, friendships and education are all carried out in the tree tops. So he woos the love of his life, hunts ravenous wolves, frights pirates, befriends the lowly bandits, takes tea with arboreal nobles and ponders his philosophy all high above the earth.

It is one of the more straighter stories of Calvino’s but doesn’t suffer from this. The book manages to encompass the whole sweeping events of his life with a deft touch taking judicious turns to be light hearted, then thoughtful or just tense. All humanity is covered and whilst elevating Cosimo Calvino manages to concentrate on all our everyday dramas as well on philosophy and society as a whole.

Simply enjoy its oddity or ponder its questions this is a delightful read and one I recommend to everyone.

Jul 15, 2011, 9:35am

Glad to hear that you enjoyed Monkey. It's on my tbr shelves and quite possible that I'll include it in my own challenge for this year as well.

Jul 17, 2011, 10:39am

Monkey sounds awesome. Going on the WL, & I know Waley is a most respected translator.

Jul 20, 2011, 7:51am

Hope you both enjoy it!

New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)

Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald
Beautifully odd travelogue

Sebald travels through the UK's Suffolk coast and his own mind; his past, his dreams and his musings. Before, though, you run screaming from a potential stream of conscience novel please be reassured this one is a delightful, haunting, fascinating and eminently readable tale. Sebald strings interesting odd topics together seamlessly, travelogue prompts reminiscences which flows into delightful dissections of information.

I don't think I have read anything quite like this before, it is almost like going on holiday with him you get a sense of what he thinks as much as what he likes and what he feels, his past and future laid out. So we move from a dream he has to a recounting of the time he spent with the oddest, decaying boarding house in Ireland, or we move from an observation of fisherman on the beach to a history of herring farming. No topic is boring, each diversion surprising and only a masterful writer could have pulled this off. Even better it's interspersed with haunting black and white grainy photos so you can also literally see his viewpoint.

It's not a happy book, as it concentrates on the sad march of progress but it is wonderful and unusual. I don't think you will have read anything like this before so I highly recommend it to everyone.

Jul 21, 2011, 3:19am

W.G. Sebald is on my list(s). Been there awhile too. Must get to him.

Ago 3, 2011, 6:20am

@189 Hi, glad you are still popping into LT :) I think Sebald is definitely worth trying and I know its not his most famous but I felt it was a good place to start.

Ago 3, 2011, 6:25am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Rider by Tim Krabbe
Nail biting, fascinating and intense description of err.. cycling

You don't even need to like cycling to find this novella constantly interesting and nail biting (quite literally in my case) description of one mans amateur endurance race. I usually prefer watching paint dry to the Tour de France but I couldn't put this book down for anything.

Tim Krabbe uses the superb device of breaking the race, and it's description, into kilometres, swathes of flat country pass by in a flash but crawling up mountains slows to mere metres and then to millometeres as he fights for his position. Although don't be put of it's not a mere description, we ride with Krabbe, in his head; his thoughts and feelings, his constant planning, his reminisemces, his hatred of losing, his psychological dismissal of competitors, his wildy meandering sudden thoughts. It all builds a vivid picture, one that seems to play out in real time, you can almost feel the mental and phsyical toll, taste his sheer force of will to win.

Of course it helps that Krabbe doesn't come accross as a single minded, arrogant sportsman. He is a funny, engaging and dryly passionate author that writes prose that is so tight a crow bar couldnt find purchase. He pacing is masterful he knows when to break away to tell an amusing remenencse of his early sporting encounters, drop in a fact or two and then back in to the race.

I cannot recommended it enough, if you want something different, quick and forceful go get a copy right now. I for one am going to track down the rest of the books forthwith.

Ago 4, 2011, 4:40am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
Disappointing fantasy

Lets say be upfront on this I didn't really like but I reckon you might..

Well only if you like action packed, swashbuckling tales, with a smidgen of Steampunk (it's got airships), a roguish cast of pirates, dastardly villains, dark humour, posh balls, bar fights, mechanical golems, daring escapes, gunfights, and heroic redemption (but not too much) and a fight against the odds.

The opening chapter is one of the best I have read, straight into the action whilst introducing the cast and a perfect balance between humour and edginess. In fact it's a really ripping read for the 1st half of the book. Ok the latter half does have some issues, it slows down a bit and some of the characters act a bit too idiotically and there's a odd shift in tone from rollicking adventure to deadpan heartbreaking seriousness which I felt didn't quite work.

However for me it was the lack of female characters that just ended up unbalancing the book, a personal issue for me sure, but one it's worth mentioning (but skip this bit if you don’t care). The anti-hero is a misogynist and whilst it's fine during the rollicking adventure bits when shifted into seriousness it left a bad taste in my mouth; the lack of female characters/use of 3rd person made me feel complicit in this attitude because the alternative view is hidden.

It's a shame because there is a lot of interesting plot laid out for the next one, the other characters (yes all horribly flawed too) are well done and interesting but there isn’t a promise its going to get better on the misogyny front and I won't be seeking the next book.

Ago 4, 2011, 9:21am

Good review of Retribution Falls!

Ago 4, 2011, 11:30am

Will skip Retribution Falls I think. Lack of female characters is a pet peeve of mine too, and with sexism in the main character on top of that, I can see myself getting annoyed.

The rider sounds like an unlikely book for me to like (although I can hear my old hero Alfred Jarry crying for joy in his grave), but I tend to enojy what you like so I'll make note of it anyways :)

Ago 4, 2011, 12:07pm

@ 192 -- Thanks for the review of Retribution Falls! I think it will remain on my TBR list for now...if I can handle the misogyny in the Bond books, I think I'll be able to handle it here too. Plus, I do like a good swashbuckle!

Editado: Ago 5, 2011, 6:02am

Thanks guys, I just reread my view and thought I should actually state what female characters there are, because there are some just not enough for my taste. Out of the crew there is err.. just 1 and she is really a great character but I disliked the 1 female villain. Then there were some distressed damsels and peripheral characters such as bounty hunters. Gosh it's really hard to say why I hated it without giving away spoilers!

@194 The Rider is not my usual fare but I picked it up in a bookshop and fell in love. I want to try his others, especially The Vanishing which is a fabulous French(?) film (Oh & US remake).

Ago 5, 2011, 7:48am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Lost Machine by Richard A Kirk
Superb and hauntingly beautiful fantasy

I fell I love with this novella, maybe because it landed during a dry, dull reading period but probably not. This is exactly the type of fantasy/new weird story that I like, burgeoning with evocative ideas, dark yet full of humanity, a tantalising hint of the world with just enough to get the imaginative juices flowing. There is magic here, and heroes and quests but it's not your standard fantasy.. and I haven't even mentioned the illustrations because Kirk is primarily a wonderful artist and he has added some truly gorgeous drawings.. the cover below is only a hint.

The premise sounds dark;
"Lumsden Moss steps put of a plague ravaged prison armed only a collection of notebooks of murdered children and a will to track down their killer. He will travel to the City of Steps and beyond accompanied by a silent, unsettling stranger.“ Really though it's a bittersweet tale, about revenge, friendship and attaining peace. The characters are wonderful, the writing great and the plot fits nicely in the short space (ok slightly obvious towards the end).

This jumps up to the top books of the year, I don’t think it will be beaten.

Now if you want to buy a copy you will need to go to his website (worth a trip just for the artwork), Amazon doesn’t sell it:

Ago 6, 2011, 9:53am

Wow! Sounds like you found a treasure.

Ago 7, 2011, 5:28pm

That's two hits for The lost machine. You and Pete are a lethal duo.

Editado: Ago 8, 2011, 7:53am

@198 Yep :) I love it when that happens!

@199 we seem to of read a lot of the same books too... :)

4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (author) and Jim Kay (artist)
Gorgeous, heartfelt fantasy

The use of fantasy to explore hard hitting issues is always interesting and this book proves to be a fantastic, emotional and true look at losing a parent at a young age, in this case to cancer.

The story follows 13 yr old Conor, who is fighting the reality of his mother's terminal cancer. He is bullied at school. his absent father cares more about his new life in the states, his grandmother appears as an austere, lifeless influence and so the monster comes calling, at night to offer him a bargain, to find the truth.

It's all handled so well, from adult to child the characters are fully human, the situations fit, even the fairy tales told are modernised and twisted to tell a more real darker truth when nothing is black and white and no one is perfect. The artwork is beautiful and its scratchy, dark images instantly create atmosphere required. Ness's wonderful prose is carefully set amongst the art, meshing words and art seamlessly create something wonderful.

Highly recommended to everyone, depending on your mood of course; it's a beautiful but tragic tale.

Ago 9, 2011, 5:58am

Just popped in to say I really look forward to your reviews on Zoo City and Purge. No pressure or anything. ;-)

Editado: Ago 9, 2011, 7:11am

eek! I am about 8 reviews behind... sigh.

5 Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Told in a mix of timelines and a whirlwind of delicious characters this is a funny, intelligent and exuberant story of the "Brodie Set". Miss Brodie is an unorthodox teacher at a girls school in the 1930s and she (as she likes to remind people) is in her Prime. Her favourite pupils are groomed to be the crème de la crème: the Brodie set.

'This is Stanley Baldwin who got in as Prime Minister and got out again ere long,' said Miss Brodie. 'Miss Mackay retains him on the wall because she believes in the slogan "Safety First". But Safety does not come first. Goodness, Trust and Beauty come first. Follow me.'

It's a damn hard book to review, short and chaotic it's full of pitch perfect, intelligent and humorous writing. I cannot really find anything to pick out. From the intriguing and enticing way Spark introduces the Brodie set by narrowing them to a simple skill (Rose is famous for her sex appeal, Monica for her maths and her anger) to the extra tension of the ominous betrayal and then the bitter-sweet edge of future reality. It is a book of many layers and complexity but it is never confusing or tiresome and oddly, although very much of it's time it doesn't feel dated.

"We shall discuss tomorrow night the persons who oppose me' said Miss Brodie. 'But rest assured they shall not succeed.'
'No,' said everyone. 'No, Of course they won't.'
'Not while I am in my prime. It is important to recognize the years of one's prime, always remember that,..'

Highly recommended. It's my second attempt at Muriel Spark, I didn’t quite gel with the character in Drivers Seat but I loved this.

Ago 9, 2011, 8:12am

Whilst I am here can anyone recommend an online book site (I am in the UK). I try not to buy everything from Amazon and now it's taken over The Book depository I am at a loss!

Ago 12, 2011, 3:53am

So glad you liked your second go at Muriel Spark. Great review, makes me want to re-read the book.

Editado: Ago 16, 2011, 7:27am

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer (it was holiday reading ;-)

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Noir/Dark Fantasy heaven

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you feel the author wrote it just for you, a noir/dark urban fantasy? So the caveat is I loved this book but I might be a tad blind to it's faults.

Cue blurb:
“Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.”

Yes its takes the animal familiar trope and twists it into an exciting, innovative and most interestingly; a very modern fantasy. The setting and the characters are the highlights of this book: reality taken and twisted with a highly flawed and potential unlikeable female protagonist (sadly that's refreshing) that is so well written I was rooting for her all the way.

The setting is so rich not only because it’s set in unfamiliar (to me) South Africa but also there are so many topics (very well researched) seamlessly combined to create a vibrant, believable, noirish world, from the fraudulent scams of the spam emailers to the seedy side of the music and journalism industries and further into the impacts of clashing cultures, of rich versus poor and those immigrants feeling from war torn areas. This is the hook on which the fantastical elements are hung and it grounds the story and gives it greater depth.

In addition Beukes uses the literary device of inserting articles, interviews, blogs, emails and transcripts works (written by others). This works amazingly well, taking her idea in new and interesting directions as well as providing context. It’s not gimmicky or jarring but a central part of the story; how does the USA handle these misfits? how does this affect the old prison hierarchy? How does it help or hinder people?

Don't get me wrong there are dramatic action sequences too, it is at heart a twisting crime plot* with some loud, fast paced action sequences, the full gamut of human emotion, love interests, voodoo magicks and enough ne'er do wells to make the Maltese Falcon to look tame. The pacing felt great (although not tight) as I was too hooked to care if it meandered . The ending was perfect noir and I fervently hope there will be no sequel because how can you top that.

So I may be blind to its faults but to honest if you like fantasy/noir or just looking for something different then it’s worth your time. This is Beukes second book (the 1st I haven't read) but there is nothing wrong with starting here.. I mean why not start with the best?

*Sadly not familiar enough with the crime genre to really advise.

Editado: Ago 16, 2011, 7:25am

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Imaginative YA urban fantasy

I feel I add too many caveats to my reviews but I must say I don’t really read much YA nor usually enjoy it and this is the main reason I only mildly enjoyed this book.

It's certainly got the Mieville touch when it comes to fantasy ideas, man eating giraffes? ninja rubbish bins? roaming bridges? It’s hugely rich on neat ideas, but ones which don't tend to overwhelm the story and whilst Mieville only uses his linguistic creativity to name things he doesn't dumb down the words he uses either (quiddity being my favourite)

The story is simpler then I am used to, and tends to run from one set piece to other but that’s certainly not a bad thing. I was worried at first as it did seem to be a kids fantasy by numbers, with the heroine, who everyone loves going on a series of quests with her convenient helpers but don’t worry this trope is nicely subverted quite soon into the story. The characters are ok, a bit on the chirpy side for me and a bit flat but the bad guy suitably malevolent and they all bounce off each other to keep the interest going. The plot races on at a fair old pace too and it’s interspersed with some great action (when’s the film?)

It's fun and engaging enough to recommended to YA lovers or those who find Mieville’s other books a bit too baroque and the over the top. I did enjoy it but I do prefer Mieville at full tilt ;)

Ago 16, 2011, 8:50pm

I read Beukes Moxyland this year and loved it. Your review definitely makes me think Beukes has a certain cyberedged style that includes politics a la kitchen sink, and of course "flawed people." There wasn't really anyone in Moxyland that I'd trust as a friend. I've got Zoo City on my shelf, and am looking forward to it.

Ago 16, 2011, 8:54pm

Zoo City sounds great and is going on my wishlist immediately.

Ago 17, 2011, 5:42am

@207 Cannot wait to read Moxyland :) I did like the edginess and whilst there were a few people that came off ok, you right I wouldn't trust anyone in the novel! I like that even though most characters are disreputable you come to care for them in spite of their faults.

@208 Hope you enjoy it!

Ago 17, 2011, 7:59am

#203 Betterworld? They have new books as well as used, and are postage free.

Ago 17, 2011, 8:39am

Zoo City is already on the tbr shelves and everything I've not yet read by China Mieville is either there as well or on the wishlist already so no new book bullets this time around. *Phew!*

Editado: Ago 18, 2011, 9:49am

210 ooo thanks I will check them out.

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Enchanting Edwardian romance

Set in the beautiful locations of Tuscany and Sussex we follow Lucy Honeychurch and her chaperone touring Italy for the first time and beginnings of freeing herself from straight-laced British society.

In fact if you have seen the delightful film you pretty much know what you are getting; wonderful characters from the supercilious suitor to our naive passionate heroine, wry humour, some wonderful observations on English society and the clash of cultures, plus a bit of romance. You also get some great writing, a mostly tight paced plot and unfortunately an odd ending that seems a tad stuck on, but really that's not too much of a fault.

Recommended to those looking for a brief taste of Edwardian fiction, lovers of romance and those just wanting an enchanting, dreamy read.

Ago 17, 2011, 8:47am

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer

The Last Call by Tim Powers
Innovative, if overlong fantasy.

It's a great idea;
There’s a cyclical battle to become The Fisher King, war waged by violence, gambling and magic. Souls are bought and sold, ghosts become real and the archetypes wait behind the tarot to give you power or drive you mad.

The problem is about half way through the paces starts slowing a bit and by 3/4s the cracks in the plot are starting show. Although don't get me wrong it's still very readable but the direction the plot takes isn't as interesting as I thought it might be, partly because it needs a bit of tightening up but also its starts to get too pat: the ending is unsurprising and seems a bit forced.

However did I mention the world? It's not spelt out in detail (which I love), its chaotic with a blend of religions and magic; tarot cards and ancient gods, chaos magicks and hidden royalty all blended in with the seedy side of crime. There are some great exciting action pieces, some wonderfully eccentric characters and Las Vegas makes a great backdrop.

So I do recommend it, it's worth reading for the idea and none of it's boring, just the end is slightly disappointing.

One for a long journey perhaps?

Ago 17, 2011, 5:07pm

@ 205 cammykitty sparked my interest in Lauren Beukes with her review of Moxyland and you hammer it home with this. I read too few african writers, and look forward to crammig this into my 1212 somewhere.Un Lun Dun is on my list for next year, as is Embassytown. I plan for a small completist China category...

Ago 17, 2011, 10:30pm

@214 Gingerbreadman, you won't be disappointed. She creates a really rich world.

Tim Powers has been on my TBR for quite a while. Expiration Date is the one on the shelves. You're convincing me that I need to move it to the upper part of the stack.

Editado: Ago 18, 2011, 9:51am

@211 Opening an LT thread can really be a fun sort of Russian roulette can't it :)

@214 Hope you enjoy Beukes, I think you will find it interesting at least :-)
I feel a bit bereft now I have finished reading everything by Mieville's.. he better hurry and write another book ;-) I am looking forward to your Kraken review.

@215 Be interested to see what you think of Expiration Date.

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
overlong, average biopunk science fiction.

Food is rare, oil ran out long ago and the genetic wars wiped out most of the food and countries have to go begging to the all powerful GM companies. Thailand stands out, independent and food rich it watches its borders and its seed bank closely but there are spies coming on the new airships and the country is starting to tear itself apart as international trade beckons.

Ok this book has been hyped all over the place and many people love but I have no idea what the fuss was all about.

Although I have a long list of faults but what’s frustrating is that parts of this book I found very very good. When it kicks into the dramatic action it becomes gripping: the clash of cultures, the description of civil war and different ethical and spiritual viewpoints come alive whilst the characters become less important. Which is a good thing because I really found the characters dull as dishwater and as you know a book is never going to work for me if I find the characters flat.

Maybe I was too familiar with the genetically modified/AI 'slave' but the wind-up girls polite only invokes horror (it's quite explicit), the amoral company spy was dire although his tortuous reasoning could have been interesting. I could go on. There
was some hope in the conflicted customs official and her leader in the latter half of the book but that was all.

Being un-engaged in the story means verisimilitude gets dropped and I started picking at the story rather than believing in it. So inattention might have led me to miss bits but kept wondering what was happening in the rest of world. Why hasn't the old world international politics changed? Why was China mentioned so briefly?
Why wouldn't everyone fly around in airships and not just sail? Why is the company so damn useless?

So sci-fi/dystopia fans its probably worth your time (although lets face it you have probably already read it). Everyone else it depends on your tolerences; if you have patience and a preference for the more world building/idea driven plots go for it.

Ago 18, 2011, 1:55pm

I just downloaded Zoo City from Amazon, it was only $ .99, looking forward to reading it.

Editado: Ago 18, 2011, 2:00pm

I've been wavering back and forth on The Windup Girl but it's definitely off now - I have to have good characters. Thanks for helping taking that one off the list.

Ago 18, 2011, 2:08pm

The Windup Girl seems like one of those hit or miss titles but as it already resides on those bulging tbr shelves then I'll give it a go sometime to see which it is for me.

Ago 18, 2011, 8:38pm

The description for The Windup Girl caught my eye but I will agree with Eva and focus on other books on my reading list.

Ago 19, 2011, 3:03am

I've been pondering The windup girl too. Premise still sounds good to me, but I won't make it a priority in the next...ah, let's be realistic, next couple of years. Did it put you off Bacigalupi altogether, or will you give his work another go sometime?

Editado: Ago 19, 2011, 12:03pm

I've heard a lot of good things about The Windup Girl and am planning to read it, so I'm saving your review for after... but I can see from the comments what I've heard is true. It isn't a pleasant book.

Ago 19, 2011, 12:03pm

I was also considering The Windup Girl.

Ago 19, 2011, 12:35pm

Whoops, me to, I've added to my list of reading for the 12 in 12 Challenge.

Ago 22, 2011, 5:53am

Well The Windup Girl is liked my many people so I hope you guys enjoy it.

I admit I I like it even less after I reviewed it (does that happen to other people?)! Plus it also suffered in comparison with Purge which manages to portray sexual abuse without going over the top into 'Hollywood' territory.

221 Yes it did, until he writes something much shorter and/or something a bit different. The old world politics was a tad disappointing (i.e. USA/Japan powerful, Muslim fundamentalists etc..)

Ago 22, 2011, 9:14pm

Yes, I think it does. Sometimes writing the review brings clarity.

Ago 23, 2011, 1:59am

I find the same thing. Writing the review, and often as part of that I'll read some other reviews as well, really helps me to figure out what I really think of a book.

Editado: Ago 31, 2011, 6:59am

9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)

Thanks to Anders for this recommendation.

Purge by Sofi Okansen
Chilling drama

Aliide wakes one morning to find a dishevelled girl in her garden. Seemingly destitute, terrified and barely talking in outdated Estonian she is a mystery. Why is she here, what does she want and what trouble is following hard on her heels?

I have been having trouble writing this review because one word repeats in my head like a mantra obliterating all consideration of character or plot, of craft or pacing. That word is claustrophobic. From the plot to the characters to even me, all trapped and itching to escape. The story winds itself around you like an unwelcome Boa Constrictor. It's maddening even if addictive.

Don't get me wrong the writing is good. The two characters are well drawn (although you could argue Zara is just a future echo of Aliide). What could be pretty bad pacing because of lurching between characters and time is instead brilliant and the plot goes from mildly interesting to gripping.

There's more here than a family mystery hidden in the past, of a tale at how life traps us and we survive. There are the horrors of totalitarianism and free market capitalism, tales of love, hope and hatred. A hard hitting look at abuse, slavery and torture (strong but not gratuitous and I thought well done). Themes and lives mirror each other throughout and strengthen and deepen the book.

It does have it's bad points, although really disliking a main character but still wanting to know what happens isn't one of them. The ending is a bit abrupt and Zara gets somewhat overshadowed because of this. I also thought the beginning was tad slow too but to honest it's not really a problem.

All in all a strong, fascinating read I would recommend to anyone with the stomach to take it.

Ago 31, 2011, 7:01am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

McSweeney's enchanted chamber of astonishing stories edited by Michael Chabon
OK horror shorts.

Short stories collections are usually a mixed bag and there is enough variance in here to accommodate different tastes but that also means whilst all stories are ok very few actually stand out. It says astonishing stories but its mostly a mix really of horror and tales of the unexpected, so if that’s your bag and the impressive list of authors intrigues then it might be worth your time, it certainly has one of the best book covers I have seen this year :)

Anyway the stories I really liked (out of 15):
-Lisey and the Madman by Stephen King - A mesmerising portrayal of character as an author's wife, coping with an violent attack on her husband.
-Delmonico by Damon Handler (yes that’s a pseudonym) - Another one with wonderful characters. It's a straight crime story but beautifully written.
-Reports of Certain Events in London by China Mieville - A wonderful tale of cults and feral streets, with intriguing letters and documents of expeditions. Sadly it’s one I have seen in other collections
-7c Jason Roberts - a unsettling and truly odd short story about one mans madness.

Editado: Ago 31, 2011, 12:36pm

Thanks for a detailed review of Purge. I have another of Oksanen's book on Mt. TBR, so I'll try that one first before deciding if this one goes on the wishlist.

Sep 5, 2011, 9:18pm

Just wanted to pop out of the shadows and say how much I enjoy reading your reviews!

Sep 6, 2011, 4:40am

@230 No problem, be interested to read your review of another Oksanen book, not sure if I what to try next.

@231 Thanks! Its nice to hear I keep worrying they are too long.

Editado: Sep 9, 2011, 10:10am

7 The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot (artist & author)
Joyful look at history, myth and of course Alice.

This is a joyous mix of myths and history, stories and meta-fiction. It is deceptively about the history of Sunderland, UK and the creation of Alice in Wonderland but really its a joyous mix of history and myth across the ages and geography; Sunderland as microcosm of the world. So from the constant invasions of Britain to the first comics, from popular culture to life altering social changes. It may connect with Sunderland but really its fascinating to all. Alongside this we dip into Alice's and other storytelling creations, from ancient myth to modern rumour.

It sounds chaotic but it's hangs together so well mainly through the myriad artistic styles, so photo realism for the geographic locations, pastiches of famous comics, murals and of course Talbot's own luscious style. It really is an artistic tour de force, storytelling styles through the ages to match its eclectic topics.

I heartedly recommended this to all comics fans as much to lovers of all odd historic titbits.

Sep 9, 2011, 10:12am

Oh and there's a great post by Lauren Beukes on the art mentioned in Zoo City, so if like me you wondered what it looked like check out:

Editado: Sep 15, 2011, 5:03am

Category: 7 The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

“Stories are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end, only that you bend a knee and say the words.”

If it wasn't for the abrupt ending (there is a part 2) this book would get a perfect score. It's everything I require in a fairytale; beautifully written, clever, intelligent, heart-felt, amusing and modern.

Using the device of Arabian Nights, we have a spinner of tales and one avid listener. A girl lives by her wits in the sultans garden, thought to be cursed because of the deep black marks around her eyes.. marks which are really multitudes of tales, imprinted until she speaks them..

The books is split into two parts, each one story but oh these stories are tales within tales within tales. So we travel with a naive prince who meets a witch who tells him a story when she rescued a monstrous princess who then tells the story of her fate and on and on in a delicious winding path, though one in which everything is connected, the story emerging like a intricate thousand piece jigsaw.

The writing is beautiful but accessible, so for those who have tried Valente before and disliked it is worth another go. The characters are of course fantastic, fully realised and refreshing. The central mythology full of twisted tropes and rich invention: there are serpent gods, bears who become
men, living ships, fox women and goose girls, gold wars between gryphons and monstrous elephants. It's exuberance is overwhelming.

Ok maybe sometimes too overwhelming and if a story doesn’t gel with you, it is sometimes frustrating but in the end I think worth it. Lovers of fantasy and fable, fans of playful post modernism I cannot recommend this enough, it is definitely worth a try. For those who prefer just a few characters to know and love and like a linear narrative I would avoid

Sep 14, 2011, 8:46am

Great review of The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden. Thumb! I loved Valente's Palimpsest when I read it and really should get around to reading more of her works soon.

Editado: Sep 14, 2011, 1:08pm

I've completely missed Valente, but I do love fairy tales, so this is going on the wishlist - sounds like a luscious read!

ETA: Oh, she's the one that's written The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I thought that one looked really interesting as well!

Sep 15, 2011, 5:02am

@236 Thank you! I loved Palimpsest too, the writing style is simpler but no less lovely so I hope you try it.

@237 I have been eyeing up The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, I know there is a web preview if you haven't seen it here:
I haven't peeked yet :)

Editado: Sep 15, 2011, 5:03am

Category 6 Books You Can Borrow From Someone

How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Witty but repetitive feminism.

The problem with this kind of book is that preaching to the converted can be boring so it helps that its a mix of memoir and polemic and Moran is one of the funniest women columnists out there, although I mostly just follow her tweets and giggle.

The memoir bits are good, she is funny but also brave and it helps she has had a very interesting life from her chaotic alternative childhood to becoming an award winning journalist. Ok so it's not a serious academic text, just one women's passionate opinion but agree or not they can be interesting.

Still though sometimes I just got bored, its a bit too periodic in nature (each chapter dealing with a topic) and some topics were just alien to me, I feel no need to conform through clothes or work, I have no desire to go for a Brazilian and celebratory gossip passes me by.

So to be honest I usually wished she would get back to the memoir and therefore I cannot wholly recommend it, it’s often an interesting and fun book but your mileage might vary.

Sep 15, 2011, 11:04am

Working through a lot of catch-up reading in your thread.. great reviews! I think I will have to add A Baron in the Trees to my wishlist. I can see you have been very busy!!

Sep 16, 2011, 8:02am

240 Thank you! I am almost caught up writing them too. Hope you enjoy A Baron in the Trees it is a lot of fun.

7 The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
Fun, literary mash-up

This is a fantastic re-publishing of a 1992 book that I have long wanted to read.

Set in an alternative err.. literary reality where Dracula won the fight, wooed Queen Victoria to rule the British Empire, spread his vampire get everywhere and stuck Van Helsing’s head on a pole, but amongst the social upheaval and civil unrest someone is viciously murdering vampire prostitutes and that is starting to capture the publics imagination…

1st in a trilogy (the other two are very good by the way) we get a fun, adventure read packed to the brim with literary and historical characters. Ok there is much fun spotting them (or googling) but the story holds up on its own, nor do you have to have to be familiar with Dracula or Jack the Ripper it’s just a rollicking good story.

Well researched historical London meshes wonderfully with its myth to create a evocative smog ridden London that lives large in your imagination, it’s just such a good idea. The characters, invented or not are delightful from pure dastardly villains to conflicted killers, from strong heroines to eminently uptight Victorian ladies.

Because its Newman there is some horror elements but nothing too intense. The plot seemed a bit too gently paced, more layering the story and building tension than a non stop action page turner but, although I feared it might become dull it never did.

All in all a damn fine read and one I recommend to horror/urban fantasy fans, lovers of Vicotoriana /Vampires and appreciators of literary mash-ups.

Sep 16, 2011, 4:43pm

I have Orphan's Tales too but haven't gotten around to it. I need to some time!

Sep 19, 2011, 8:05am

@242 Hope you enjoy it!

Completely forgot to review these next comics. Doh!

4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves

Locke & Key series by Joe Hill (author) and Gabriel Rodriguez (artist)
Horror at its best.

Series review:
Locke & key is a great comic series taking much pleasure in devising fantastical doorways. Doorways transform you into a ghost, unlock the mind or even just transport to your required destination. The plot centres on a suitably gothic house, a family shattered by tragedy and of course those who seeks its power. The artwork is beautiful, the writings great and the characters are superb.

Locke & Key V.3: Crown of Shadows
Ok number three has to be the best yet, the story is tight, gripping, beautifully written and utterly fascinating. The characters drive this story and emotionally I was hooked. I love the fact they are dealing with some very human issues as well as insane fantastical ones it gives the book its edge and its heart.

Locke & Key Volume 4: Keys to the Kingdom
Oh dear it was all going so well, but whilst this may have worked in the original comic format in collected volumes the different stories feel chaotic and the pacing seems way off. Also while it's fun to experiment it doesn't always work which is shame coming from a great third volume. There number of magical keys is exploding and its feeling a bit silly plus on top of that I have my doubts about the end plot twist.. only number 5 is going to let me know whether this is a series worth continuing. Such a shame.

Sep 21, 2011, 5:38am

Category 6 Books You Can Borrow From Someone

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J R Ward (so far books 1 to 4)
Entertaining paranormal fantasy

Do you like very racy paranormal romance? Do you Like your fantasy to have rugged, muscular (yet oddly sensitive) male Vampires to meet emotionally strong women, have dramas and quite a lot sex and eventually get together all whilst fighting the evil undead Vampire killers? No? Then I wouldn’t even look at the cover..

Unashamedly with its feet in the racy end of the paranormal romance genre and not breaking the traditional gender role mould one inch this is nonetheless a fun, fast paced series with a great set of characters, some great dialogue and quite a lot of fighting (and of course the sex).

Apart from book two the plots tend to be good, the world interesting enough to wrap around the romance but even so I would only recommend it for genre fans, everyone else might be a bit mystified (and embarrassed).

Sep 21, 2011, 11:53pm

#241 My step-son picked up a copy of Anno Dracula at one of our local used bookstores. I keep reminding him it's my turn to read it! :-) Thank you for the great review.

Sep 22, 2011, 4:50am

Hope you enjoy it!

Sep 22, 2011, 5:08am

oops just realised these two books fit in my challenge:

4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves

Changeless by Gail Carriger
Dull and lifeless Steampunk

The newly married Lady Maccon heads to deepest darkest Scotland to with her trusty parasol to find out what's causing Supernaturals to come over all human..

Sometimes you read the 2nd in a series and wonder if you were severely deranged by loving the 1st one. Which I actually want to reread the 1st to make sure that isn’t so.

Possessing of exactly the same in-jokes but not many new ones, a shockingly obviousness plot with so little of the action I enjoyed in the 1st one and no romance (heroine is now married). There is also no real sense of danger, all loved characters seem fated make it to the end, so where’s the much needed excitement in an adventure story?

Ok there are some new features; we get some new characters, a new location (a rather bland Scotland), airship travel and some new gadgets but nothing really engaged me until the end. Now the end promises a more interesting plot next time, with more to loose and some emotion so I am heading straight into the next one.

Time will tell whether I have fallen out of love with this series and whether I will recommend this book as a way of getting from A to C.

Sep 22, 2011, 5:08am

4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves

Blameless by Gail Carriger

3rd in the series and much better than the limp 2nd. This time Lady Maccon is in disgrace and on the run from, well everyone, so she heads with her trusty parasol to Italy, the templar stronghold and haters of all things unnatural.

We have killer mechanical ladybugs, vampire assassins, mad scientists and their yapping dogs, madcap chases across Europe, heads in jars and, of course, high tea. Ok so it's not as much fun as the 1st, but the world exploration is interesting, the plot sweeps along at a fair old pace and the characters are very slightly more lively than the 2nd.

I can't say I am enthusiastic about continuing but I am notoriously bad at continuing series (so many other shiny books!). For me there aren't enough plot hooks nor characters I really enjoy to keep me buying and I ‘m afraid I cannot recommend it, although if you have read number two its probably worth your time everyone else depends if you are a genre fan.

Sep 22, 2011, 5:45am

Catching up a little bit in a few stolen minutes at work...

Locke and Key is on my list for next year. Seems hard to come by here though, has been sold out in all the comic stores I've visited. I try to support my local holes in the walls, but I might be forced to take this order online...

I see we felt exactly the same about a book yet again. God, Changeless was such a letdown. I'm glad to read your review on Blameless though, and will give this series another chance later this fall.

Sep 22, 2011, 7:04am

Ha me too :) well its very nearly lunchtime..

I am actually worried that reading straight after Changeless made it look good because it wasn't anywhere as bad :-) Anyway I wouldn't rush out and buy a copy but if it's sitting there why not?

Its a shame about Locke & Key the 4th one has just come out so you would of thought some republishing is in order!

Sep 24, 2011, 10:10pm

Ah, thanks for the warning. When I get to Soulless, if I like it I'll skip over Changeless. I must say, killer mechanical ladybugs is a good invention. Along the line of bejeweled hissing cockroaches. Eek!

Sep 26, 2011, 4:42am

There's a cliffhanger ending in 2, but a quick wiki search will sort that out ;) and everyone should have a mechanical ladybug for personal protection!

Oct 7, 2011, 8:09am

10 New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for me or in general)

A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in by Magnus Mills

At once very similar but utterly different to what has gone before. It's a hard book to review as Mills dry, amusing minimalist style also applies to his plots.

This time we are far away in Greater Fallowfields, where the emperor has gone missing, a mysterious edict states the sun must always set at 5 o'clock, none of the ministers can get a pint and there is mysterious sounds and smoke coming closer from the east.

The amusing (and scary) familiar Kafkaesque bureaucracy is there, much mystery and memorable characters. Mills expertly controls the information creating a world which is hauntingly familiar if very unreal. The dialogue is tight and funny, there are quite a few characters, all full of human quirks who bounce o ff each other beautifully. The quiet menace has gone though and is much missed, especially with a plot of conquest that could of been much darker.. but maybe that’s the point.

A whimsical, endearing story and one although I would recommend to Mills fans and newbies’ alike I think they should be prepared for something different.

Oct 8, 2011, 2:31pm

Hmm. With the only Mills book I've liked a little less (The scheme for full employment) my main objection was exactly a certain lack of sharp teeth. The lack of quiet menace, as you so well put it. Sounds like this might be a little bit the same. Still, even a slightly sub par Mills is more fun than most other books, so there's no doubt I'll read this sooner rather than later.

Oct 9, 2011, 7:11pm

A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in sounds like a strange and interesting book! Went and thumbed your review, now to add it to my bookmooch wishlist :P

Oct 10, 2011, 4:42am

@254 You can tell he is having a lot of fun writing, which is nice so I really wanted to love it instead of just like it. Although as I bonus the hard cover is gorgeous.

255 Thanks & I hope you enjoy it, it is very odd!

Editado: Oct 17, 2011, 8:25am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

Dark Matter: A ghost Story by Michelle Paver

If you like quiet, creepy, horror and stories set in the cold, dark Artic then this book is for you, it is a perfect example of the genre.

It’s 1937 and 28 year old Jack is offered the life saving position of a wireless operator, part of scientific exhibition that will winter in the empty, isolated, unloved bay of Gruhukan…

Out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid.
My skin prickled. My heart thudded in my throat.
My body knew before I did that I was not alone.

Thirty yards away on the rocks, something moved

Carefully and tenderly setup, the plot crafted so well, not only to make everything believable but also to slowly whittle way the readers sense of comfort and surety, because when the permanent darkness starts to becomes imminent you realise you are on tenterhooks, bearing witness to what is becoming an untenable and terrifying situation. You start to ask yourself as the deadline becomes nearer what would you do alone and in the dark?

Using the trope of an old diary works very well, not only to get into the wonderfully portrayed main character‘s head, but also the slow unfurling knowledge of the others. Paver also uses it to playfully leave the question of haunting or insanity carefully open, both unsettling concepts but the reality of insanity grounds the supernatural and provides much need edginess. She is judicious in what should be left unsaid.

Compliment these strength with the some lovely writing (the descriptions on the landscape are great) then you get a very good book. Sadly it drops a few marks for
(minor spoiler) a overly crafted and somewhat harried denouement (minor spoilier ends)

Still I highly recommend it to lovers of creepy stories.

Oct 17, 2011, 12:01pm

Ooooh, sounds perfectly shiver-inducing! It's added to my wishlist for sure! Thanks for the great review, Claire. :)

Oct 17, 2011, 1:43pm

Yep, I felt a little tingle as well. Dark Matter is going on my wishlist as well.

Oct 17, 2011, 3:31pm

sounds very interesting... as does her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.

Oct 17, 2011, 4:25pm

>257 clfisha: Another good review, another interesting read. Great cover too! Thumbed!

Oct 18, 2011, 6:19am

Thanks guys :)

@260 I did wonder how it would compare with her YA series. If I was more of a YA fan I think I would be making a beeline for them right now :)

@261 Lovely isn't it? I like it much more than the old dark, foreboding almost skeletal driftwood.. I think that was over egging it!

Oct 27, 2011, 7:15am

Oh gosh I seem to be review bloating again.. sorry!

9 New Books By (new) Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to me)

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway
Amazing multi-layered dystopian fantasy. With Ninjas.

A brilliant Frankestinian mesh of ideas and tropes. I mean we get a dystopian future to die for, ninjas, love triangles, the harsh reality of modern war, mimes, political satire, pirates, terrorists and freedom fighters, a variety of circus acts and murderous bees. Do I need I say anymore? I mean dystopian ninjas? come on!

Of course all these ideas would be nothing without the characters and plot to hold them together and Nick Harkaway writes brilliantly. He imbues everything with a wry humour and then smacks you with the heartfelt highs and lows and of humanity. This balance is everything, he can write tense, dramatic action sequences, quiet romantic moments, zany madcap escapades and horrible acts of war. The man is an alchemical genius.

The characters are superb. Written in 1st person we have a fantastic protagonist, funny, intelligent, self depreciating side kick to his overly heroic best friend. Add a cast of a lifetime (don’t worry it’s not too much) all wonderfully portrayed and you have a real gem.

The story is a breath of fresh air, imaginative, fast moving and challenging expectations. I mean what starts out as a zany band of heroes going to save the world, switches straight into memoir territory as we quietly (and grippingly) catch up to the present day and into the future.

Of course this mucking about with your expectations could I guess be a problem because you will repeatedly realise this book is about something else. There other minor problems being a 1st person means you really have to enjoy the company of the protagonist and all those brilliantly written ideas are pack into so tight its overwhelming and the initial start can seem slow. What this needed was an evil, heartless editor to rip out some of good stuff but make a tighter plot. Although then again the build up is worth it so who I am to say?

It's one of those books that when you finish and finally stop stuffing the words into brain in a madcap frenzy, pause and think and then smile at what Harkaway has managed to achieve. Its his bloody debut too.

Highly recommended to everyone!

Editado: Oct 27, 2011, 10:36am

A good review which I would have thumbed if you'd have posted it. I read The Gone-Away World a couple of years ago and have been eagerly awaiting his 2nd book ever since. Thankfully that wait is almost over.

Oct 27, 2011, 10:42am

Um. Wow.

Oct 27, 2011, 3:04pm

Oops I have the attention span of a gnat at the moment, tis added now.

I cant wait for his second either, due out next year I believe.

I do wonder sometimes if you love a book you can set it up expectations too much, but then again personal review I like that (it got 4 1/2 stars btw due to slowness). I usually go straight for the 3 star reviews for an honest and balanced opinion :)

Oct 27, 2011, 6:29pm

It's definitely a book that's worth reading and even though he did have a quick way into the publishing world (son of John Le Carre and mother was a book editor) I'm sure he would've got there anyway.

Oct 28, 2011, 4:46am

Yeah I did a double take when I learned he was John Le Carre's son. Not one of my favourite authors :)

Oct 28, 2011, 5:59am

I'll repeat Anders' Wow! The Gone-Away World is in my stacks, but now I really have to bump it way up Mount TBR.

Oct 28, 2011, 1:30pm

I've had The Gone-Away World on my wishlist since Wolfy recommended it, now I just have to fit it in somewhere.

Oct 28, 2011, 11:07pm

I've wishlisted it too. Your review makes me think it's a bit like Moxyland - everything, and the kitchen sink.

Nov 1, 2011, 8:56am

I haven't read Moxyland yet, curse my large TBR but yeah it definitely manages to by eclectic and coherent. Not as mad as say Jasper Fforde or Douglas Adams though.

Nov 2, 2011, 10:43pm

I always look at my burgeoning wl as a guarantee that I'll never have to scratch my head too long to find a worthy book. Thank heavens the library can track down most things on my wl!

Editado: Nov 3, 2011, 7:35am

Libraries are great :) If only I was the type of person to return books in a timely manner.

Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread

The Troika by Stephen Chapman

Amazing err. Ok there is probably no way I can describe this book..

I could start off by saying there is a jeep, a dinosaur and an old Mexican women walking across an infinite desert...

Or I could mention a few key ideas and themes of families and experiments, of insanity and angels, of cyborgs and Aztec sacrifice.

Or I could just drop in a quote (from the wisecracking Alex the jeep)
A story? You want a story? I'm crawling with stories. They slide in and out of me like pinworms. I'm like some long-winded war veteran with a story for each of his missing limbs. I'm like a pilbug on its back, bristling with amputations and waving my long lost legs while silicon chips coagulate in my thick black blood. My brain is clotted with stories.

But all I can really say is I think I can guarantee you won't have read anything else quite like this. It's eminently readable, surreal but accessible, sometimes fun, sometimes horrific, sometimes heart warming and always exciting.

The three characters are rich and their fevered imaginings of the past form the setting for the overarching thriller, easing us in through their bizarre, vibrant short stories with only a tantalising glimpse of truth. The writing is great and its tone almost reminds of a great lyrical, noir crime novel as it sweeps across the genres mashing sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

I really don’t want to give away more but maybe I should to entice you in. This is the second time I have read it and I still love it, in all its audacious glory. It may not be for everyone but I promise you will find it interesting. I still mourn the fact that this is his only novel, although if I had just one book in me, I would be very proud if it could be something like this.

For those interested (and I recommend to everyone) its cruelly out of print but it's going to be republished as an e-book. Excerpt of book and info here:

Nov 3, 2011, 7:56am

Right. You named this one of your two favorite books ever sometime last year, and I slammed my poor forhead into the "out of print" brick wall already then. The swelling has gone down, but I'm warily awaiting a reprint before thrusting forward again. Thumbing your appetizing review in the meantime! (E-books? Doesn't really do it, where our coumpter is at is no comfy nook).

Nov 3, 2011, 8:09am

@275 Try not to resume banging :) If I ever find a second hand copy (ha!) it's yours. (oh and thanks for the thumb it was a hard book not to spoil!)

I am no fan of e-books, even on a laptop, I have tried but its just not the same. I guess if I travelled a lot I might be forced to buy a kindle but then I could just take less clothes.. :)

Nov 3, 2011, 9:14am

I think The Troika will definitely be one to keep an eye out for. There are some copies at Amazon Marketplace or AbeBooks but I'll just add it to the wishlist for now to see if I can find it anywhere else first.

Nov 3, 2011, 12:00pm

Between your review and one of the other ones posted on LT (which reads in full, "Squid-headed priests? Okay, I'm in."), it definitely goes on the wishlist!! :)

Editado: Nov 4, 2011, 5:20am

One of my favorite details in Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris is the immensly popular "Torture squid" book series that is widely spread in the city. They all have fab titles, but my favorite has to be "Torture Squid beat up some priests". Could that be a tip of the hat from the clearly meta-loving VanderMeer?

Editado: Nov 4, 2011, 7:06am

@278 edit I was going to say hope you enjoy it!

279 You know I have always wanted to read those books ;-) hmm after a google search looks like there was a comic planned! I wonder what happened to it..

It could be a nod you never know. I know I would never of found Stephen Chapman without Jeff VanderMeer (as with so many other authors).

Editado: Nov 4, 2011, 5:49am

Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Enticing novella of memory and mystery

This is a carefully constructed story of perfect length. A story of one man‘s memory and another's truth, of lifes seemingly chaotic events and the effect we have on others. Many layered and beautifully written. The characters (well most of them) are utterly human and this at heart makes it also a touching portrayal of age. Wrapped around the remininensce of an orindary life, is a mystery of a tradegy and as the book says

"We could start perhaps with the seemingly simple question.
What is History? Any thoughts, Webster?'
History is the lies of the victors,' I replied a little too quickly.
'Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that.
Well as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated...'

It may not be to everyones taste, the story could be found to be highly contrived or the overall effect too understated. Nor will an old mans musings be of interest to everyone,
beautifully written or not I am unsure whether I would of enjoyed it in my early twenties.

Still I highly recommend this slight, bitter-sweet and rich tale.

Nov 4, 2011, 5:51am

Hmm anyone finding this thread too long? shall I start another?

Nov 4, 2011, 7:02am

I was thinking the same about my thread! You don't have far to go to complete the challenge, but I'll hope you'll stick around anyway? In that case, a new thread might be a convinience at some point. For now, I find it quite manageble.

Nov 4, 2011, 9:20am

It's not a pic heavy thread (often the cause of slow load times) so seems to be okay for me too.

Editado: Nov 4, 2011, 9:29am

Cool :) I like the symmetry of 1 thread per year! and this is me caught up with reviews. Huzzah!

Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

Under Arizona Skies: The Apprentice Desert Shelters at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
Small and tantalising look at desert architecture

Early Reviewers Copy

Small and perfectly formed this is a bite sized look at the buildings designed by students of the Frank LLoyd Wright school of architecture. Frank LLoyd started his unorthodox school in mid 1930s and found a beautiful spot in the Arizona desert for his students to work, live and build their own accommodation. It's been going for a while now and there are some fascinating buildings, this book has selection of them, some gorgeous pictures and interesting historic snippets. I really didn't want it to end, I could have viewed many more examples and being greedy I would of loved more interviews with students on what it was like.

A great, beautiful book that does exactly what it sets out to do. Recommended.

Nov 4, 2011, 12:22pm

You are becoming a regular fixture on the Hot Reviews module. You should be awarded a HR badge!

Nov 4, 2011, 5:13pm

Troika does sound awesome. Seems like those omg bit of everything novels go out of print too fast because no one knows where to put them in the bookstore. Thanks for the link.

Nov 5, 2011, 1:38am

Oooh another shiny! Under Arizona Skies sounds like a book I'd enjoy.

Nov 5, 2011, 6:28am

286 aww I didn't spot that thanks :) Always makes me smile when I get thumbed.

@287 I know, very sad. I am reading another one right now.

@288 It's good but being an early reviewer book I didn't notice the cost.. It's pricey and I am not sure it's worth the full price of £16, although it's cheaper on Amazon.

Nov 16, 2011, 7:52am

11 Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified

The Unwritten Volume 4 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
Continually amazing fantasy meta-fiction

Series Review
Imagine the worlds best selling fantasy series was never finished, the author disappearing into thin air. Now imagine that was your father and those books star you as the hero and your life is now one round of signings and interviews at fantasy conventions. Bad enough until you realise your childhood was a lie and someone is out to kill you.

This is the best comic/graphic novel series out there. The playful merging of reality and literature is not only great fun it also makes a great plot, one which moves along at a fast pace and is complex but never overwhelming. Add someone gorgeous artwork and you have a winner.

For those who are have read up to volume 3
The artworks still stunning, showcasing a myriad of styles to fit the story and boy the story is good. The plot is bedding down now and the various players are coming more to the fore. More literary playfulness and musings on the life of stories themselves. Of course as we burrow deeper more layers open but that's part of the fun right? A direction with many possibilities. On top of that, as a lovely extra, we get visit that grumpy rabbit again, a deliciously dark story within stories.

Ah I love this series, please go and try it. I think you will all love it too

Nov 16, 2011, 9:50am

I keep reading reviews for graphic novels and your review for The Unwritten above has convinced me to try them out..... that and it helps my library has this series so it sounds like as good a place as any to start!

Nov 16, 2011, 10:32am

Lori, the proliferation of graphic novels means that you can pretty much find something there to suit just about any reading tastes. It's no longer limited to the superhero genre anymore. I have other stuff by Mike Carey on the wishlist but The Unwritten series will probably find their way there at some point.

Nov 16, 2011, 10:37am

Yeah I think there is something out there for everyone. The Unwritten is a great fun with many literary allusions and if it's at your library there's nothing to loose! :) Still if you don't like it there are plenty of other styles to try!

Nov 16, 2011, 6:58pm

Got volume one, all crisp and unstarted, waiting on my shelf for the 12 in 12!

Nov 18, 2011, 4:39am

I hope you enjoy it, I am sure that at the very least you will find it interesting.

Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 8:45am

7 The Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages

The Jerusalem Quartet by Edward Whittemore
(Overall: Amazing)

A fascinating series by a sadly unknown author, out of print but still findable. Four books, loosely connected, pretty much unclassifiable & very hard to do justice in a review. The tags whimsical & magic realist are utterly misleading; they are fascinating, outlandish, beautiful, tragic and wise and most odd of all: true.

So look I am going to review the series and then review the books. I warn you I have a lot to say, catching perhaps from Whittemore because these books are the secret history of the middle east, encompassing everything and I mean everything. It’s such an audacious idea, with each book its own time and its own tone that put together, is quite frankly astounding.

You can easily dip a toe in starting with the 2nd book btw. Excerpt here:

I have read the 1st two books but not the last two so to refresh my memory I jumped in at number 2 (Jerusalem Poker) before starting them, hence reviews are just for books 2,3 & 4.

Series Review

The whole point, is that all? Well of course I was getting round to it. I was just sort of sizing up the countryside along the way. What's the point taking a trip if you don't see the sights?

The writing is style is pretty much unique, actually it's more that it has its own internal rhythm. Something which at first you find odd and then, afterwards, well other books seem to flow less and lose richness and vitality.

It’s not just the style but the plots too which are wide ranging, chaotic yet coherent, going from A to B but wander entertainingly. These books encompass the two world wars, the birth of Israel, three main religions and countless lives. Larger than life characters who dream of peace or conquest or revenge rage across the century. Spies and alchemists, secret rulers and wise men rub shoulders against every day folk beset with everyday problems, for the best thing Whittemore does is to hook you into the characters so you care. About all of them.

Kicking off in the late 1880s and finishing in the more recognisable 70s with each concentrating on a minor character from the previous book. So yes you can read these apart but to really get the full effect read all. From the more unreal, hopeful early books full of myths to later darker books, one heavy on action, one full of dialogue. You could view them as walk through age from optimistic youth to bitter adult to reflective elder or as the author pouring his therapy on the page (for he was a ex? CIA operative) or as a view of history with dim past as golden glorious myth and starkness of recent events.

We add new vows to the old and forsake nothing and the soul becomes like the holy city, the myth which is Jerusalem, a dream of ourseleves which is forever unachievable, to be seen only by others, its wonders recounted to us in imaginary tales of distant places.

Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 5:23am

The 2nd book Jerusalem Poker

"…..Mummy dust. Trading in futures, Religious symbols.
With that kind of backing, the three men seemed unbeatable. Year after year, they stripped visitors to Jerusalem of all they owned, bewildered emirs and European smugglers and feuding sheikhs, devout priests and assorted commercial agents and pious fanatics, every manner of pilgrim in that vast dreaming army from many lands that had always been scaling the heights of the Holy City, in search of spiritual gold, Martyr and Szondi and O'Sullivan Beare implacably dealing and shuffling and dealing again"

2nd in the quartet and a nice place to start. A place where harsh surrealness(?) meets whimsical reality. Where a 12 year poker game is played for the control of Jerusalem and an insane millionaire alchemist who tries to destroy them destroy what?. Or it’s a story of three (four?) lives, unreliable narrators all.

For the characters at first loom larger than life before we scratch underneath and find them unerringly human before the heroism bleeds back in and it goes full circle. Myths and legends deserving of the sweep history from the garrulous, gun running Irish man, saved by the dancing baking priest to Harun defender of Jerusalem for 3,000 years, wearing his rusty helmet and tattered cloak living in the slipstream of memory or maybe just insanity. It doesn’t matter much which, there is a different truth here.

Of all the four it has most contrast and I think therefore most interesting. It has the myth but also heavy history and these play on each other wonderfully. Whittemore really draws you in to care about the characters. It’s not perfect in a reread, I guess because the tension of who wins the poker game is lost, but the 1st time I was blown away.

So just be prepared to relax and enjoy the ride, as he does wander off track. It's a brilliant, utterly unique book and if you go in open minded it might just break your heart.

Highly recommended.

Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 5:34am

The 3rd Book Nile Shadows

Just here in the shadows in the strong quiet sounds of their being.. Nile shadows after all, the shadows of the world raging. But those strong quiet echoes of the river are within us too, thank God, going right on and never to be still..

Egypt during WW1, with Germany fast encroaching is a place full of spies. A chaotic whirlwind of double dealing and confusion. In amongst them is the Monastery, headquarters of the secret, secret British service, where the tough decisions are made, where the most secretive espionage is done. Brought into this mix is the garrulous Irish Man of Jerusalem Poker, his task to find out the truth of Stern. A double, triple agent? Fighting for peace, but whose? And at what cost?

This, I think is the most difficult book of all the Quartet. Not just, because in stark contrast to the previous books it so very dark but because it’s filled with dialogue. Action is light and happens between the lengthy conversations as characters bleed their life story onto the page. It's worth hanging on though, the payoff is good, all that listening has drawn you into the tragedy unfolding (Don’t worry no spoiler it starts at the end). I say good, I admit I was in tears and unlike before there is no obvious truth here to comfort, well apart from that, life is murky after all.

It’s a powerful book and I don’t recommend starting here. If it doesn’t sound like you, you can probably skip to the last book but it would be a shame, it’s a intense book, but a good one.

"Revolution, said Stern. We can't even comprehend what it is, not what it means or what it suggests. We pretend it means total change but it's much more than that, so vastly more complex, and yes, so much simpler too. It's not just the total change from night to day as our earth spins in its revolutions around a minor star. It's also our little star revolving around its own unknowable center and so with all the stars in their billions, and so with the galaxies and the universe itself. Change revolves and truly there is nothing but revolution. All movement is revolution and so is time, and although those laws are impossibly complex and beyond us,
their result is simple. For us, very simple. Relentlessly plunging Jerusalem into its greatest turmoil since the First Crusade."

Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 5:24am

oops double posted

Editado: Dic 2, 2011, 5:33am

The 4th book Jericho Mosaic

Ah yes, thought Bell, races & wars and caravans of believers and seas, with their armies of chance and their games of skill... all come to meet in a orange grove at the crossroads of Jericho

Inspired by true events, this centres on the one Mossad agent who gives up everything to spend his years buried deep within Syria. A pivotal role in the taking of Golan heights and the birth of Israel as we know it today. Although being Edward Whittemore it is also much more than that, the theme of threes continues with each religion represented in the beautiful town of Jericho where old men (a Moslem, Jew and Christian of course!) meet daily for board games and chat. Life flows around them and characters touch, fleetingly but with great impact.

Less dark than the last but with the current future hanging over the scene we know there no happy ending. Still it’s bitter-sweet and cleverly mixes an overarching tense espionage plot with a feel of purely reminiscing of a past eventful life, of what will be will be. Its tone very much showing this is the last book in series. The characters are of course full and many and varied, the plot has more focus then before and passed fast so this feels the shortest one of series even though it’s not.

One word that sums it up is satisfying, a good end to an astounding series. It could easily be read alone and enjoyed but would lose that peaceful finality. More accessible than the others so recommended to lovers of historical fiction, those interested in middle east history. For those seeking chaos try the 2nd book.

Dic 2, 2011, 5:35am

that sounds like a terrific series Claire! I'll keep an eye out for it.

Dic 2, 2011, 11:04am

Wow, a great set of reviews Claire and I too will be keeping my eyes open for this series!

Dic 2, 2011, 1:16pm

Definitely on the wishlist! It seems quite random too which are available to buy new and which you have to find second hand. Odd. Sounds fascinating all the same!!

Dic 3, 2011, 1:31am

Whittemore is on my lists. Great reviews. I had a couple of them in my Amazon cart. They went out of print while in my cart! The bastards. Well, I've had some stuff in that cart for a long time.

Dic 3, 2011, 4:10am

Great reviews Claire. As seems so often the case you find interesting books to add to the wishlist.

Editado: Dic 3, 2011, 4:57am

Thanks guys I was sold on them after reading a fantastic review by Jeff VanderMeer here:
They are not for everyone but they are pretty much unique. His also wrote the standalone Quin's Shanghai Circus but it was his 1st book and not as accomplished.

304 I have books like that on my wish list :)

Editado: Dic 7, 2011, 6:35am

5 Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
A haunting, evocative and memorable classic.

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" so begins the wonderfully evocative tale of Rebecca. A story dripping in atmosphere and tension, a haunting anti-romance, a tale of the other women, of a young women’s struggle for a life and an identity, of a beautiful all consuming place and ... well.. of many things. There is much here to chew over or just sit back and enjoy a masterful tale.

It is beautifully written and I think the opening chapter is one of the best I have ever read. The characters fit so snugly, the place so rich it's a character itself. The plot too, carefully laid out so suspense just grows and grows combine that with a delicious undercurrent of menace juxtaposing against innocence and you have a winner of a tale. Subverting, just subtly, your expectations of what will happen, twisting it’s meaning. I mean you know but until you read the words you haven’t yet felt it.

Highly recommend to lovers of dark tales, mysteries, romantics and lovers of the gothic. Ignore the turgid plot summaries the book is so much better. Now can someone suggest if the film is worth checking out?

Only two books to go.. hoorah! Wait I have 3 reviews left as well. eek!

Dic 7, 2011, 12:21pm

LOL - sometimes writing the reviews seems to take longer than reading the book, right?!

I've neither read nor seen Rebecca, so I'll have no input, but it's on Mt. TBR. Maybe check out the film first, or is that blasphemy...? :)

Dic 7, 2011, 3:05pm

Another string of excelent reviews, claire! Daphne, strangely, is not that well known here - I can't even say for sure it's been translated. Thanks for the reminder!

Dic 7, 2011, 9:46pm

When I read Rebecca I always think- this time Du Maurier is going to slip up and I'm going to find out the name of the narrator. It never happens.

Dic 7, 2011, 11:54pm

I loved Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek but have yet to get to Rebecca. Must get it.

Dic 8, 2011, 4:52am

@308 Ha I don't think the film would ruin it too much!

@309 Thanks!. She is quintessentially English (well a fellow West Country person) I suppose, but I think you would like Rebecca and it's her most famous book so hopefully it will be translated.

@310 It's a brilliant trick and to be honest it wasn't late on I realised I still didn't know her name.. just Mrs De Winter. The connotations of that are delicious. Anyway it was your praise that finally nudged me to read it.. so thanks!

@311 I have loved Jamaica Inn since I was a kid and always get a thrill when I visit the pub.. even though it has a terrible plot spoiler on the floor and too many other tourists :)

I can't wait to try another book of hers.. Frenchman's Creek next I think. I refuse to read any of the sequelsthough (by Susan Hill and Sally Beauman) I think the ending was just perfect.

Dic 9, 2011, 1:00am

Oooh I didn't realise you could visit the Jamaica Inn pub!

Dic 9, 2011, 3:08am

It's now also a hotel and museum but the pubs still cool and being a staging inn a great location :)

Dic 14, 2011, 3:11pm

Ok that's me done (does a small celebratory jig in chair) and now I must find time to do 5 reviews...

Dic 14, 2011, 4:28pm

Congrats!!! I've a few reviews to write as well, but I am at least reading my last challenge book, so that's something. :)

Dic 14, 2011, 5:06pm

Congratulations Claire! Looking forward to those final reviews as I'm sure you'll be adding to my wishlist some more.

Dic 14, 2011, 7:08pm

Congratulations on completing your challenge!

Dic 14, 2011, 9:07pm

Yahoo!!! Congrats on finishing!

Dic 15, 2011, 2:16am

Congrats on finishing your challenge!

Dic 15, 2011, 2:58am

Congratulations on finishing, Claire! Well done, and thanks so much for a really good thread!

Dic 15, 2011, 8:38am


Editado: Dic 16, 2011, 5:36am

Thanks guys!
Category: 4 Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves

Overview of Aberystwyth series by Malcolm Pryce

That was where it all happened: the bars, the dives, the gambling dens, the 24 hour Whelk Stall, and Sospan’s ice cream kiosk. That’s where the tea cosy shops were, the ones that never sold tea cosies; and the toffee apple dens, the ones that never sold toffee"

From the 1st utterly hilarious blend of noir and humour, set firmly in Wales with its Druidic gangs and femme fatales in stove pipe hats and echoing Chandleresque LA, I was hooked. Even if the series changed and became much darker still with a twist of dark humour and a soupcon of idiocy and of course forever Welsh.

I spent the years before the deluge operating out of an office on Canticle Street, above the orthopaedic boot shop. And you know what that means: take two lefts outside the door and you were on the Old Prom.

Number five: From Aberystwyth with Love

It's a stifling hot August day when Uncle Vanya climbs into the clients chair with a sock and spins Louie a tale of a missing girl and the legendary Aberystwyth replica town built in Ukraine. Thrust suddenly into a deadly world of spinning wheel's salesman and snuff philatelists will Louie make it out alive?

A good return to the humorous side of the series, out go all the old baddies, the old Patagonian war theme and we even get new scenery as they rush off to a Stalinesque Eastern European. It's much lighter in tone, we get some great running gags (fish milt ice cream anyone?), a wonderfully twisting plot and more of those great musings (I loved the character of Uncle Vanya). But you know there were problems...I had to grit my teeth through the Transylvania joke piece and some of the East European tropes seem tired and obvious. Luckily it didn't detract to much too much though, I simply enjoy Pryce's writing too much for that.

Number six: The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still

Your mind is closed,’ said Calamity with amusing pomposity.
‘It’s not closed, it just has a strict door policy. I don’t admit riff-raff.’

Pryce has a sublime ability to get to the cold dark heart of a PI and wring his thoughts onto a page. It fits so snugly amongst the comedy and oddity it’s really a joy to read. But.. hmm, book number six is sadly my least favourite basically due to the plot. What starts to be a err.. simple case of finding a resurrected criminal turns into a government conspiracy to cover up an alien crash landing, the Welsh Roswell.

There is nothing wrong with the plot nor the humour, maybe no brilliant new characters but tons of great old ones. The writing still has the PI pastiche down to a pat, his heartfelt musings almost lyrical, his wisecracks sharp. Trouble is, personally I am thoroughly bored of alien stories and their tropes so I found much of the plot and humour a bit so so. With nothing to hook me into I got a bit bored.

Doesn't put me off the series, I love his writing and characters too much and I can’t wait for next one.

Editado: Dic 16, 2011, 5:38am

5 Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Almost Read But Unfortunately your Days Are Numbered

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again...

Episodic in nature, but beautifully written in a deceptively simple, lyrical style, Laurie Lee manages to capture his childhood in a small village in the British Cotswolds before cars arrived, before buses squeezed distances and urban sprawl encroached.

From a child’s view we witness the seasons, first love, the first and last days of a tiny village school, his eccentric villagers, festivals, crimes and joys all bundled together in nostalgic joy. The bad is here, but softened from a child’s point of view and put all together it is a fascinating look into the past.

The village school .... Every child in the valley crowding there, remained till he was fourteen years old, then was presented to the working field or factory, with nothing in his head more burdensome than a few mnemonics, a jumbled list of wars, and a dreamy image of the world's geography

Whether it’s the book for you depends if this whimsical memoir and his dreamy style appeal, for me it only goes so far and I can’t buy into the nostalgia, it was a harsh, poverty stricken life for all its beauty and my inner cynic cannot totally enjoy it.

Still recommended. It’s the 1st in Lee's trilogy of memoirs but I reckon the 1st two can be read out of order.

8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer

As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

Second in the Lee's autobiographically trilogy and it has lost nothing of the 1st beautiful writing skill and turning a tale out of life’s experience. This books starts with him leaving home and walking to London and after a building job finishes, with a startling act of freedom he decides to see Spain. Armed with just one Spanish phrase and his violin he lands at Vigo and starts walking south.

Although I can appreciate the writing, the style here just isn't for me, it grates and I had to force myself to pick up the book. It may capture a snapshot of a country pre-civil war, poverty and violence amongst the friendliness but I found it too depressing and somehow Lee's lyrical style made this worse, somehow it felt dishonest. Not that it hides the good or the bad just reality and I never got a sense of the place just of Lee.

"All I'd known in that country - or had felt without knowing it - seemed to come upon me then; lost now, and too late to have any meaning, my twelve months' journey gone. Spain drifted away from me, thunder-bright on the horizon, and I left it there beneath its copper clouds."

Recommend only for those who loved his other books or anyone interested in the Spanish civil war.

Dic 16, 2011, 9:10am

Hope the Aberystwyth series hasn't run its course yet. Even if it has then it looks like I still have a few more to look out for having only reached #2 so far.

Dic 17, 2011, 9:13pm


You're making me want to read more DuMaurier - I've only read (and loved) Rebecca - and I have The Loving Spirit sitting here on my shelves, so that's probably next up. Though I also have an old copy of Jamaica Inn that was my Grandmothers, so maybe that should be next. (Side note: I remember watching an episode of "Most Haunted" at the Jamaica Inn and I remember thinking what a perfect place it was for smugglers. What atmosphere!)

Dic 26, 2011, 8:12am

Hope you enjoy! I am must read more DuMaurier this year and I cant wait. Well I am having a "Do Nothing Day" so maybe I will finish off the frightening amount of reviews and dive straight into my 1212 challenge...

Merry Belated Xmas and Happy New Year.

Dic 26, 2011, 1:38pm

Congratulations on finishing! (Sorry it's so late, but I've gotten dreadfully behind on threads.)

Editado: Dic 27, 2011, 5:09am

No problem I took ages catching up yesterday!

Category: 8 Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
(I was on holiday when I read it you see)

John Dies @ The End by David Wong
Darkly amusing OTT horror

“Let's say you have an ax. Just a cheap one, from Home Depot. On one bitter winter day, you use said ax to behead a man. Don't worry, the man was already dead. Or maybe you should worry, because you're the one who shot him.”

Like a lovely bit of dark humour? Like to settle down with a horror? Then this could well be the book for you. Opening with one of the funniest chapters I have read we are introduced to Dave Wong, a small town loser who, thanks to a nasty supernatural drug 'fixes' hauntings along with his outlandish friend John. Cue a meet up with reporter and flashback to "That Incident".

“Something coming back from the dead was almost always bad news.
Movies taught me that. For every one Jesus you get a million zombies.”

Familiar movie territory (and yes it is soon to be a movie) maybe but this works sublimey in a book. The buddy thing, the slacker humour, the outlandish gore, the mind boggling theory of paranormal dimensions, the really bad jokes, the tension of when does John die at the end?

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”

Wong has a great turn of phrase, some finely tuned comic timing, the ability to write action and dialogue and keeps a pretty, tortured, twisted plot going. In fact the main criticism is that the pacing isn't that polished and there are enough plots for two books, but it never gets dull or too awkward and OK it's not hilarious all the way through but it did cheer me up no end.

It's hard (for me) to review humour so really go this excerpt here if you like it just go buy the damn book!

Oh the movie trailer can be found here..

Recommended to horror, dark humour and B movie fans.

Dic 27, 2011, 5:18am

Right that was my last book in this challenge to review! Since my last book was a good one Boneshaker I am going to start the 1212 Challenge early its over at here:

I have read 3 more but only Down the Rabbit Hole was any good, both Sisters Brothers and A Small Free Kiss in The Dark were lacklustre.... still you can read them here:

Anywaaaaaay thanks to all those who commented and lurked, recommended or reviewed great books, its been a good year hasn't it?

and now I get to do the yearly round up.. sorry for the multiple posts... but I promise the next ones my last(ish)

Dic 27, 2011, 6:04am

End of Year Round Up

Best Character
Zinzi (and her sloth) from Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Favourite new (to me) authors
Richard A Kirk/Nick Harkaway/Larry McMurtry

The book that me to laugh (out loud in public!)
John Dies @ The End by David Wong

The book that made me cry the most
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Best 1st words
Well I thought it was going to be "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." from Rebecca
but it fact it's this rather wordy start from Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
"I remember, in no particular order:
   -a shiny inner wrist;
   -steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
   -gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
   -a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
   -another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
   -bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.

The book that most annoyed me (or this years Hemingway prize.. I am still bitter)
The Drinker by Hans Fallada

Ok these next two are pretty hard to pick!
Prettiest cover
(because I love the picture, the layout is so so I know)

Worst cover
(I mean that pose, that dress, the horrid background... ugh!)

Most enticing cover
How could I not buy it?! Pity the short stories are average.. not recommended

will stop with the cover categories now.. promise

Most Memorable moment
Lauren Beukes thanking me for a my review I tweeted in twitter.. huge grin on my face for the rest of the day.

The Most Memorable Top 5
The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh, lets face it 1st book I read and the best book all year.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Unwritten Volumes 1-4 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
Embassytown by China Mieville
Zoo City By Lauren Beukes

Dic 27, 2011, 6:26am

Glad you got your last review done and a good one it was too. John Dies at the End has been on my radar for a while but wasn't sure about it. Now I am thanks to your review and on to the wishlist it goes.

Good wrap-up on your challenge as well. Looking forward to following your 2012 thread.

Dic 27, 2011, 12:12pm

Love your review of John Dies at the End. That is totally my kind of book (Yes, I have a warped mind and I like it that way)! Great wrap-up and I am looking forward to following your reading over on the 12 in 12!

Dic 28, 2011, 5:26am

Thanks guys, hope you both enjoy it!

Dic 28, 2011, 8:44am

how exciting to receive a tweet from Lauren Beukes! I really enjoyed Zoo City and must look up her other books..

and I shed a few tears over Lonesome Dove too.

congrats on completing your challenge... hope your reading in 2012 is as memorable!

Dic 28, 2011, 9:30am


Dic 29, 2011, 7:10am

Right, so this year's last (?) book bullet was yours. No surprise there. John dies at the end sounds funny and smart, and I add it to the ever-expanding "Books Claire shoved in my face" list :)

Great summary for your reading year too. I'll surely steal your best first line- idea. Oh, and Blameless comes high on my list of ugly covers too. Changeless was even worse though.Both are surely the kind of books you hold low in your lap while reading in public...In the end though, I already know of another book getting the prize from me this year. Soon to be revealed on my thread!

Dic 30, 2011, 1:42pm

ARGH I missed Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World out of the top 5. I would of have to remove Embassytown though. Oh well.

and thanks for the congrats. Anders I am sure with a day and a bit to go more book bullets will have time to hit ;)

Dic 30, 2011, 4:24pm

They did, over at Wolfy's.