Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Next Always by Nora Roberts

I will be sending a strongly worded letter to the Amazon 'recommendations' department re this novel. It is proper chick lit. The plot was boring, predictable and idealistic and the characters one dimensional and unrealistic. I could feel my brain cells dying. There's better writing in the real life section of Take A Break. Almost the only verb used was 'to grab' (showers, movies, breaks, all sorts of food and drink) and this is an actual extract:

"The extra project wasn't as much of a time suck as he'd feared."

One has to assume the inclusion of this sentence won the author a bet.

My personal morals did not allow me to give up on this book. That, and the promise I made to that effect to Brown Owl when I collected my readers badge. But if I'd been allowed one reprieve, I would have cashed it in.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Well, don't ever say I'm not open minded. A sci fi novel of all things. And I did very much enjoy it.

Formulated in the style of the Canterbury Tales, it follows seven pilgrims to the planet of Hyperion. Inevitably, I found some of the stories less enjoyable than others but overall I found this novel surprisingly accessible, readable and engrossing. The characters were well drawn and unexpectedly realistic, which made the novel a much deeper, more compelling read. I was also impressed with the writing - the language was a lot richer and more descriptive than I was expecting.

I'll admit that some of the nuances eluded me and I still don't really know what "more than 150 planetary data-spheres mingled their resources within the framework created by 6,000 omega class AIs to allow the OCS:HTN to function" means. But this did not detract from the plot which is still exciting and easy to follow even if you weren't previously aware that a möbius cube was a carbon-carbon-shell set around a zero impedance containment field folded back on itself. Which I was, of course.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Devil All The Time by Pollock Donald Ray

I really enjoyed this book which has a very fast paced plot centered around a small town in Ohio called Meade.  There are a number of different characters all with a connection to Meade and the novel is separated into different parts, each focusing on these different characters.  It is quite a violent novel in parts so not really a girly novel but it wasn't unnecessarily gory.  The writing is fairly unobtrusive and some of the characters are unrealistically depraved but overall a good, gripping adventure/thriller novel.

There But For The by Ali Smith

This book is very thought provoking but is also easy to read and excellently written.  It is about a man who locks himself into his host's spare bedroom during a dinner party and refuses to leave for months.  There are a number of different characters who are affected by this decision and the novel describes the impact on their lives.  The language is very clever and often funny and the characters are well drawn.  There is a precocious young girl who the novel starts to focus on about half way through and she, in particular, is very compelling (although a little irritating after a while).   Although this novel does lose its way towards the end, I would recommend it and I very much enjoyed it.

At Last by Edward St Aubyn

The story in this novel takes place over about 5 hours during the main character's mother's funeral.  The funeral is attended by various friends, relatives and acquaintances from the deceased's past and the novel describes the event from many of their point's of view.  There are some quite dark recollections but the novel as a whole is intended to be an acerbically witty observation of the upper classes.  To be fair there are three quite funny bits.
I found this very difficult to engage with.  I kept drifting off and couldn't concentrate on the narrative.  At one point I was seriously worried that I had something wrong with me and googled "severe lack of concentration".  But then, somewhere between Moorgate and Bank it hit me like a tourist's rucksack - this book is not very good.  It was a huge relief.  But not as big a relief as when I finished this book.  I did indeed sigh, "at last".
As a caveat - this is the last in a trilogy and I am semi-reliably (Amazon) informed that this book is better if you have read the first two.  On your head be it.

Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

A novel about a young student in America who settles in a small town for her last year of high school after a long childhood of constant moving with her lecturer father.  The student, Blue, befriends Hannah a film studies teacher at her high school and becomes part of a group of students who attend Hannah's exclusive weekend dinners.  As the teacher apparently becomes more unhinged the students start to wonder if there is something deeper going on.
The novel is excellently written and whilst the book is easy to read there are a lot of academic references and metaphors.  I did enjoy the language, but I found the characters and the plot a little unrealistic.  In fact, the plot itself seems to be forgotten about for the middle 300 pages of this novel.  Whilst this is not a great disappointment because of the quality of the writing, it but could detract if you were looking for a gripping mystery story which the back page summary seems to suggest.
This is an enjoyable book, particularly the writing style, but in my view the rather slow plot lets it down somewhat, especially in the middle.

Home by Marilynne Robinson

This is one of those "proper" novels where not a huge amount happens but there's lots of words.  It is very well written and I did enjoy it but it is quite heavy.  The main character, Glory, is the single, middle aged daughter of a preacher who finds herself back at the family home looking after her elderly father and alcoholic brother.  The atmosphere throughout is very dark and although the narrative is excellently presented this is not a gripping novel as the plot is more contemplative than thrilling.  It is worth reading but when you are in the mood for some literary appreciation rather than light entertainment.

The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

This novel is told from the point of view of a family dog (I know -  but honestly it is rather good).  The dog narrates events, partly from his point of view, as his owner marries, has a child, loses his wife and then battles his in-laws for custody of his daughter.  It is very well written and gripping and I found the narrative surprisingly touching.  Quite a light book but there is something very charming about it.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

A novel about a Jewish American man (Jonathan) who travels to Ukraine to try and discover more about what happened to his family during World War II.  This novel is touching and very well written.   Parts of the novel are written as letters from a Ukrainian boy (who was Jonathan's guide on his travels around Ukraine) to Jonathan following his return to America and I particularly enjoyed these chapters which employ a very clever use of language.  I found Jonathan's narrative a bit less compelling but it works well in the context of the novel as a whole.  Whilst this book is very powerful in places it is also accessible and humorous.  I know I am late to this but if you haven't read it yet I would recommend it.