Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Gathering by Anne Enright

A very literary book which is hard to describe as enjoyable (although it is more readable than, say, Possession).  It is a novel about a large Irish family dealing with a family bereavement.  The writing is excellent but very challenging and so not easy to read.  It is the writing not the plot that is the primary focus for this book which results in a novel which is intellectually stimulating and rewarding but not much fun.  It is a very poetic novel and so a great read if you are interested in language but don't pack it with your suntan lotion.

The Red House by Mark Haddon

A book about two families who go on holiday together for a week in a countryside cottage.  The writing is very good and this is an enjoyable, if intense, read but the lack of any real character development let this down for me.  In my view, this novel suffered from too many characters and no one single, fully developed voice.  The mother of one of the families, Angela, is probably the most prominant character and so the one that it is easiest to connect with but even she is too indistinct to be powerful.  I still enjoyed this book and it is a good read but it is the writing not the characters or the plot that really elevates this novel above average.

How the Trouble Started by Robert Williams

A short, dark novel about an adolescent boy who is struggling to come to terms with a tragic accident which occured when he was eight.  This book is difficult to read because it challenges the natural assumption that the narrator is fundamentally good.  The writing is simple but very powerful.  This is a disconserting, often uncomfortable novel which is worth a read if you don't mind the darkness.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

A book about sport. American sport. Baseball. But for all that, it was quite good.

It is long and there's lots of technical bits which I did not understand (bunts, for example) but it is definitely readable even with negligible baseball knowledge (by which I mean zero baseball knowledge and moderate rounders knowledge). The writing is not particularly beautiful or challenging but inoffensive and the plot itself is suprisingly engaging. There's an intreguing sub-plot involving the balance of power in relationships which makes this less obviously a sports novel, although it is not quite developed enough to make this a non-sports novel. This is a bit frustrating but frankly to be expected if you pick up a book called The Art of Fielding with a picture of a baseball and bat on the front cover (because yes, we do all judge). Overall, this is an acceptable book about sport.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I enjoyed this book, which is in effect a retelling of the story of Achilles, with a touch of artistic licence. I imagine that if you are a serious Greek scholar you may find the artistic licence a little too libraly administered but if (like me) you know nothing about Greek gods (apart from that film with all those hot men) it just adds to the plot's interest. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is no doubt discussed at length by the serious Greek scholars over weak tea in the library common room, and the author is very definitely a supporter of the view that they were lovers. Bearing in mind they didn't really exist, whether or not they actually were gay strikes me as irrelevant, especially as the way their relationship develops adds significantly to the plot's interest.

The writing is good, the characters well portrayed and I found the dialogue suprisingly natural and believable. But it is still the plot which I enjoyed the most. Definitely worth a read (unless you are a serious Greek scholar in which case try the modern day legend - with a predictably philosophical title - You Only Live Once by Katie Price).

Friday, 6 July 2012

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

Really enjoyed this book. If I ever laughed out loud in real life I would have laughed out loud at this. At one point I involuntary approximated a smirk, which is my equivalent.

It is a novel about a man who finds himself in possession of a beautiful girl's disposable camera. He develops it and begins a quest to find her. I know it sounds horribly girly but it isn't. It is a wonderfully touching, humorous and intelligent novel about relationships.... so not girly at all.

Fifty Shades of Grey by El James

This is terrible. It has no redeeming features. It is just porn. And who wants porn that goes on for over 500 pages (volume 1)? Oh. Everyone apparently.

I suppose you have to grudgingly admire her. It can't have taken longer than 3 hours to write and, apart from the inconvenience of everyone knowing your depraved, don't know any words over 2 syllables & have seemingly never read a novel, it must have set her up for life. Maybe she can afford to buy a dictionary AND a thesaurus now.

I can only pray to every god I've ever heard of, even the weird celebrity ones, that the recent craze of turning every book ever into a film, draws a very firm, very inflexible line here.

Don't read this Mum. Don't read this anyone. But especially you Mum.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Have you ever met someone and thought they were on your wavelength and then really gone off them? And then of course you must swallow the perfectly-natural-but-guilt-inducing hatred you feel for them for duping you and delicately shrug them off via the phasing method. This book is like that. Kind of. Stretched metaphor acknowledged.

It is about a young man, Joe, whose father was a gangster in London. Joe tries to forge his own, legitimate way as a clockmaker but is dragged into a bizarre tangle of theft, espionage, murder and clockwork weapons of mass destruction.

I loved the first 50 pages or so but the the plot just got too confused and ridiculous. And long.

The writing is very good and there are some great characters in this odd novel but somehow it all become very boring. It is a great shame because there are some very funny, very touching and very unusual moments in this book and it could have been brilliant. It wasn't.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Exciting and fun and, of course, very easy to read. Everyone knows everything about this book so not worth summarising the unusual and gripping plot but worth noting that the writing is surprisingly good. I suppose if you really wanted to you could find something serious to discuss (undertones and shit). But really it's just a good drama.

Not as good as Daughter of Smoke and Bone but much better than Twilight.

Molly Fox's Birthday by Deidre Madden

Negatives: Intensely boring.

Positives: Blessedly short.