Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

"No wonder the undead were traditionally considered to be very angry"

Hurrah for another outing to Discworld and what a delight this particular journey promised to be. Who, of those Pratchett readers out there, doesn't like Death - the guy's a scream - boom tish. This lively outing begins with death or rather the lack of it.
As previous visitors to Pratchett's other realm will know, a wizard must be met in person by DEATH at the end of his life - meeting your maker style. Yet, when Windle Poons' days expire it seems no one is available to meet him and well, his body just doesn't seem to be leaving for his final resting place.
Elsewhere Death has been fired and has taken work in a village as the unlikely named Bill Door. I'm thinking doors are more likely to slam shut for an overgrown skeleton, but fear not, adventure, mirth and merriment abound. Well the guy is handy with a scythe.

Thanks Nicki for the loan of this delightful book.

5 out of 5 mediums are verging on small.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki

"They gazed rigidly forward as they spoke, the one seeing the line of the other's nose dimly through the corner of the eye."

It is hard to believe this novel was written in 1929, perhaps because it deals with such a constrained subject as the loss of passion in a marriage and the reticence of both parties to move on. Kaname and Misako still love each other and their young son, but everyone is wearing a mask to the outside world, pretending their circumstances are perfect to shield the void within. This is a story that could happen anywhere and anytime in many ways. The fear of social reprisals through divorce may not be as all pervasive these days ( except in some cultures where it is not an option) yet, there remains a sense of failure that divorce is imbued with and that often keeps couples together who would be better apart.

The sense of timelessness is not the result of a particularly modern translation either, this particular edition was translated in the 50s. In terms of the aspects of the novel that clearly place it in the Japanese setting such as the puppet shows, the kimonos and the social interactions, they add a layer of both complexity and delight.

This novel is certainly not one I would have picked up were it not for its inclusion in the 1001 books list, but I'm glad I did.

5 out of 5 unhappy couples need to let go.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

"A twopenny ice from an Everest tricycle was the whole extent of her knowledge of luxury."

This has been on my to read list for a decidedly long time, but I only got around to it of late. There is something really dense about the prose which is to be savoured and not rushed; admittedly this took a lot longer for me to read than your average 270 page paperback, but that is hardly a bad thing.

Unfortunately the lure of Helen Mirren was too much to resist and so I'd actually seen the film before reading the book. Generally, I find that most disappointing, however I was able to compartmentalise and enjoy them both separately on their own merits. In my imagining of the written word, the colours seemed brighter, the action more lurid, Ida completely un-Mirren like and Pinky less visible, and a little pathetic. His tough act hides the immaturity of his years and poor Rose, who seems so innocent, perhaps she is the real wild card. There's a sense that she is playing the victim  to escape the status quo of her life, and indulge in  a more adventurous one.

I can honestly see why this is on so many best reads lists, but I admit to being a bit of a Greene fan - so perhaps I'm biased. The blend of the seamy underbelly with the innocence of youth makes for a compelling juxtaposition and the parade of well realised, but damaged characters will reel you in from the get go.

5 out of 5 record players might play things you won't like to hear.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

What Darkness Brings by C. S. Harris

"Sebastian was aware of a strange sensation, like a rush of burning liquid that coursed through his veins, tingling his fingertips and dulling all external sound."

Hurrah, another thrilling instalment of the Sebastian St. Cyr franchise all wrapped up and I'm still smiling. I love the trip back in time that these books provide and Sebastian makes for such an attractive heroine. Just when Kat was finally off limits due to his marriage to Hero and her marriage to Russell Yates, circumstances have a way of changing rapidly.

Throw in an enormous blue diamond, continuing intrigue with French spies, unwitting murder witnesses and witchcraft and you have an action packed, exciting tale to draw you in.

The continuing tension with father-in-law, Jarvis, the mystery of Sebastian's look alike non-relative, the sub plots continue and maintain the reader's interest throughout the series, while each instalment provides a delightful morsel of adventure, death and a soupcon of sexual tension - will the rivalry between Hero & Kat heat up? Will Sebastian remain a good boy? Will I have to wait a long time for the next novel? So many questions and I can't wait to have them answered.

5 out of 5 blue diamonds may not be a girl's best friend.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

“I feel half faded away like some figure in the background of an old picture.”

This is my first Murdoch book and happily another tick off the 1001 book list. In some ways it reads like a sort of Noel Coward-esque bedroom farce and yet there is something compellingly real in the descriptions of self deception and the notion that its okay to misbehave as long as no one finds out. Its not all flinging of clothes onto the bedroom floor there are deeper emotional issues dealt with - ironically it seems Georgie, the youngest and notionally least mature, has to deal with the brunt of bad choices, from abortion to suicide to dating members of the same family.

Martin seems a lot older than his 41 years in many ways and yet is immature enough to think that his affair with Georgie has little or no bearing to his wife's leaving him for another man. Initially he plays the innocent victim to the hilt, but truth will out and his dirty laundry is eventually hung out for all to see.

As the drama plays out, everyone manages to be sleeping with everyone and romantic entanglements get progressively more intertwined. All the characters appeared a little ridiculous and unlikeable, perhaps love makes fools of us all and these people seemed to be rather silly and petty. Having said that, as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do and sleeping with your half brother seems a bit weird.

This certainly won't go down as my favourite book of all time nevertheless it was interesting and I look forward to comparing it with the author's other works which, if the writing is anything to go by, are certain to peak my interest.

4 out of 5 men should query if their wife is spending all their time with their best friend the psychoanalyst.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

All That Is by James Salter

What the joys of music were to others, words on a page were to him.”

I have been looking longingly at my 'to-read' pile, anxiously anticipating the moment when I could tear open the pages of Mr Salter's latest work.  A Sport and a Pastime  is one of my favourite novels of late and prompted my digits to feverishly hit the keyboard and order this latest novel on line.

His prose is beautiful as always, and yet I felt a little lost with the narrative here. Certainly, he continues to deliver the sexiest bedrooms scenes in literature and I think of him somewhat as a kind of contemporary Hemingway bursting with pure masculinity.

Perhaps my reticence to award top marks, in my estimation, stems from the storyline and the futile relationships we , as a reader, are party to. An old man carrying on with his ex girlfriend's daughter - I think that was the point when I kind of flinched at circumstances that seemed sad and cliched.

The ending comes about quite abruptly, leaving me still wanting more and finally able to go to sleep.

4 out of 5 ex navy officers are popular with the girls

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

"He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book."

As you might expect from Richard Flanagan, this is a really amazing book and as the subject matter might suggest, it is nothing less than harrowing. At first I thought the juxtaposition of love story and Thai-Burma railway gruesomeness might off set one another. No, this is as rough going as you might expect had you heard anything about the cholera ravaged POWs that carved out a rail way under unfathomable conditions.

Dorrigo is an imperfect, yet engaging protagonist, you could understand why all the women love him and as a reader you are drawn into his torments and trials with an incessant hunger. The makeshift surgery scenes will haunt your nightmares - not to mention when he recounts some of the horrific ablutions.

At the same time that we trample through the physical torments of the line, we're transported to a love affair that can never be and is all the more raw for its circumstances. i feel it would be unkind to let you know too much about this book before reading it, it would be far more interesting to explore it unbiased by too much fore knowledge.

5 out of 5 unhappy marriages are another kind of prison.