Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin

"And the longer I gazed into her eyes, the stronger this feeling became, rousing me to ecstasy, to a state of physical pain - as if she had thrust a knife into a crack in the wall behind  which I was trying to hide and, with a few swift movements of the blade, had loosened the brickwork so much that the wall had collapsed and I was left standing before her once again, as naked and defenceless as a child."

What an amazing read! It is hard to believe this is a translation from the original Russian, if I could read Russian, I would certainly be exploring the original for a comparison.I fell in love with this book's combination of musky sensuality, mystique and intrigue.

Taking standard supernatural tropes to another literary level; this is truly a delight.
The protagonist is a fox in every sense of the word, beguiling, enthralling, the natural enemy of the English aristocracy and able to catch chickens.

The novel intermingles these supernatural elements with a satire on Russia and corrupt government control, prostitutes and oil oligarchs - this is a multi-faceted read that has an engaging quality that makes it hard to put down. Did I mention it is sex on a stick... or brushy tail?

How can you not love a fox obsessed with Stephen Hawking and able to realise your deepest darkest wishes?

5 out of 5, love is the key that no locksmith can find.

Alana, The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

"She could feel it trembling as she gripped the hilt."

Apologies for the choice of quote - I can see how that could be taken out of context. My  fellow literary aficionado and friend, Nicki, suggested I check out this little adventure that she carried as a treasured memory of childhood,  and proffered a well worn copy. If I had been introduced to this tale as a child, I feel certain that it would hold a similarly lofty position in my esteem as those delightful wardrobe bound tales of Narnia, alas I'm just discovering this.
What strikes me, as an adult devouring a child's tale, is its brilliant simplicity and reliance on clarity and plot. This is a combination that is not easy to realise and still manages to draw me in.
As an adult, however, the breast binding and gender bending adventures seem a little unlikely. Yet, this is fantasy and entertaining fantasy at that.
I'm drawn in to continue the adventure and see where Alan/Alana's intrigues take her. Who can resist a girl knight?

4 out of 5 magic girls can become knights.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

"You are not by nature a hedonist, sensualist or Casanova, and so when one day you look back on your life you will find you don't have particularly vivid memories of where you've stuck your stuff."

Neil  Patrick Harris’ choose your own adventure (CYOA) style autobiography is every bit as charming as you might have imagined it would be. From dorky Doogie, to sleazy Barney, to King of Broadway and father of adorable twins, it is an appealing tale with something to appease all his fans.

You can almost tell whether someone is gen x, y or whatever they are calling the kids these days – certainly what decade from which you hail – by your most enduring identification of NPH. Oh I am firmly in the Doogie camp, when I used to query his bedside manner and ongoing love for Wanda. Who calls their kid Wanda? Apologies to anyone who has that name.

So back to the book. It is a collection of little tales, formulated in such a way that you could read it in traditional CYOA fashion, or sail straight through and catch the odd hidden little tit bit.

As grand as his “Bigger” opening for the Emmy’s – which I loved – there are special guest appearances from some very recognisable names – Wheedon fans in particular will be happy.

I feel like I’ve grown up with NPH and am better for it. He made me cry as a pre-pubescent doctor, he made me laugh as a horrible doctor, he made me wish I had bar friends like those on How I Met Your Mother, and he made me believe that it is possible to find a gorgeous, loving partner as he has managed to do. Kudos NPH and double bonus points for all the singing and dancing.

5 out of 5 nerds get better with age and superior hairdressing.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick

"Mr. Nobusuke Tagomi sat consulting  the divine Fifth Book of Confuscian wisdom, the Taoist oracle called for centuries the I Ching or Book of Changes."

An alternate reality where the nazis won, Hitler is no longer around, fake post war knick- knacks are just the thing to redecorate with and everyone consults the I Ching form the strange setting for this  1963 Hugo award winner.

 Reality and fiction perform a merry dance under the tutelage of the Book of Changes, which apparently drove the production of the strange and unusual book within a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy  which tends to suggests there might be an alternate reality where the Nazis did not succeed.

My memory of this one is a little foggy I have to admit. I was flying back on a plane interstate after celebrating my best friend's birthday and possibly having destroyed a number of brain cells, although not PKD style, just through one too many cocktails.

This was not my favourite PKD book. On reflection though, I can't help but marvel at certain aspects of it and think it is probably something I should re-read when I have the time.

4 out of 5 cigarette lighters belong to assassins in alternate universes.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

"As much as she admired Felix's slouch and overconfident flirtations, how could she reconcile her politics with her dislike of his father's secret society."

I have been awaiting the latest novel from Ms Carriger with anticipation. As indispensable as the perfect cup of tea or fashionable mech-animal, it is time to return to Mademoiselle Geraldine's particular finishing school for instalment number 3.

Lord Felix reminds me of someone annoying. If only Sophronia could end up with Soap - but I have a feeling that won't eventuate, although who knows? Sometimes appearances can be deceiving and can you really get past being of a completely different opinion on all the things that matter to a potential mate?

This novel is full of fun, adventure, intrigue, high speed rail travel and the odd dirigible. Just one quibble for me, I want more Lord Akeldama... what can I say... i'm a fan!

5 out of 5 longing looks can have an intriguing impact.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

"Tsukuru couldn't answer, but he had a strange feeling. If circumstances had been different he might have spent his life entirely within the confines of Nagoya too, and never questioned it."

I absolutely devoured this tortured yet beautiful book. Perhaps it reflects where I’m at in my life, at a similar age to the protagonist, reflecting back and seeing for the first time how coloured memories can be by our own perceptions. Tsukuru is a shell of a man after his high school friends abruptly cease contact while he is away at university in Tokyo, while they remain in Nagoya.
His adult life has been shaped by this perceived rejection and it takes a particular woman to make him confront the demons of his past.

Murakami expertly conveys a sense of differing perspectives. We begin with the narrator, convinced he is the victim of an unfathomable rejection, cast out by the circle of coloured names that formed the crux of his child and early adult hood.
Like a mystery novel, the circumstances behind this upheaval are slowly unveiled, revealing a far more tragic tale and its impacts on all the key players.

I don't want to go into detail about what happens, as I feel that might detract from your appreciation as a reader. Ultimately, I came away from the book with a strange sense of optimism, that someone else's take on reality might be quite different from my own. Like Tsukuru, sometimes we need to reject our insular view of the past and the feeling we get of being hard done by at times.Our macro view can distort reality and our interactions with others may be seen in a completely different light from how we initially perceive them.

To distill some of the themes in a rather messy way, I'd say this is a novel about the perspective of time and middle age ( crap am I really that old?) and allowing your adult self to heal the seemingly insurmountable wounds of adolescence. That's my take, I'm intrigued to hear what others have to say and eagerly await tonight's ABC first Tuesday book club to hear more.

5 out of 5 school friends change.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

"I asked for something entirely different; for me chemistry represented an indefinite cloud of future potentialities which enveloped my life to come in black volutes torn by fiery flashes, like those which had hidden Mount Sinai."

This is an interesting and somewhat strange collection of stories that it would be tempting to rediscover in Italian and compare and contrast with the translation.
Having said that, my reaction to it was a little ambivalent. Aspects of the stories certainly drew me in, yet as a whole I felt somewhat distanced.
Named, apparently as the best science book ever, I'm not sure that I agree, but I'm sure greater minds than mine have come to that conclusion.

I read this rather in a hurry, whilst on public transport and the like. I think that perhaps detracted from my appreciation and this book could definitely benefit from a re-read. Consequently, I feel a little disingenuous about my review, there are some exquisite passages of prose, but as a whole it missed some crucial element for me.

3 out of 5 tables are periodic