Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Eric by Terry Pratchett

"The whole point about the end of the universe was that you couldn't go past it accidentally."

Hello Rincewind old pal, you lousy wizard you, with your crazy luggage. What ho, death, good to see you again, if only for a few capitalised, Kanye style exclamations. Yes, it was time to take another journey into Discworld and it was a delight as ever.

The introduction of young Eric, and his quest to make a deal with a demon to meet women is hilarious. Particularly his desire to be a eunuch, will anyone ever explain that to the kid?

One of the shorter little excursions to Pratchett's fantasy realm, I read this in about 15 minutes and it was quality not quantity. Sometimes a tasty little morsel can just make your life so much sweeter. Thanks once again to the lovely Nicki for lending me her beloved copy.

5 out of 5 pieces of luggage tend to run away.

The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble

"Dr Babs Halliwell, having powdered her unsatisfactorily mauve nose with a clumsy dusting of inadequate beige, returns to her seat and opens the text once more."

Yet another tick off the 1001 list and I have to say it is a corker. Two stories in one, well perhaps it counts as three when you consider the character of the author making an appearance. The tragic tale of  the Crown Princess in Korea morphs through the ages and comes to life in the hands of Dr Halliwell when she receives a mysterious package containing the translation of an ancient text.

Conferences, lost luggage, an appealing affair with a world renown scholar with disastrous results - yes this novel is jam packed with romance, adventure, history, violence, re-birth and death. Joined throughout the ages by the written word and the colour red, what's not to love.

The voice of the Crown Princess called out to me through the night, tempting me to switch the light back on and get to the end.

5 out of 5, Remembering your room number as an important date, I like it.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Reality by Ray Glickman

"I hope to god this thing never ends up in court, Kathleen found herself saying out loud."

I was pretty excited to hear that I'd won an advance copy of an upcoming novel through Goodsreads' First Reads program. The novel started off with promise and short, punchy prose filled chapters that introduced the main characters, along with a promise of a big master plan pay off.

My biggest quibble would be that the pay off wasn't exactly big or impressive. There was a lot of promise and some big promises made, but ultimately, the finale left me a little cold.
Perhaps it was the narrator's source of inspiration, Big Brother, that led an air of insipidness.
I don't want to give the impression that the book wasn't well written  - it certainly was.
There was an initially brilliant conceit that just got a little lost about half way through.

3 out of 5  random people might get up to more interesting things.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Serena by Ron Rash

“Dwelling on the past, the very thing Serena had shown him he, and they, had no need of”

Being a stickler for reading books before they are adapted into films, I was seduced by the possibility of discovering another book before having a director's viewpoint imposed on me. What an amazing tale, with some truly ornery types. Think depression era Lady Macbeth who runs a timber empire with her husband.

Now if only hubby had kept it in his pants before marriage and not had to deal with a ruined local girl and a bastard baby to boot. Who could have predicted what would happen to his seemingly unbreakable wife. Prepare for a body count.

What I find really interesting is that the adaptation will star Jennifer Lawrence who comes across as really adorable and here will play something beyond a word that rhymes with witch. Jealousy is a curse, but unfettered power plus jealousy equals shaky ground for anyone who gets in the way of Serena's serenity.

I pretty much flew through the pages of this one. It is an easy read and if you like conniving anti-heroes and believe revenge is a dish that you could eat no matter when, or how cold it is, then definitely check it out. If you are easily put off by horrible people and live a lovely sheltered life, please let me know your secret, and hold off on this book.

5 out of 5, the author maybe Rash  but don't you judge the cover that way.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

"In the days when the Cheyennes num­bered in the thou­sands, they had more horses than any of the Plains tribes. They were called the Beau­ti­ful Peo­ple, but fate had turned against them both in the south and in the north. After twenty years of dec­i­ma­tion they were closer to oblit­er­a­tion than the buf­falo."

Let me begin by stating, this is not an easy read. Sometimes, I think reading non-fiction is the biggest struggle of all (well in relation to reading at any rate), as it highlights the really sordid aspects of the human race. The proud indigenous natives of America were brought to their knees in sometimes gruesome fashion as this record of history lays bare.
It is easy to cast aspersions as far afield as America, when here in Australia we have our own, similarly shameful history with our indigenous inhabitants, however the immediacy of what occurred is brought to life in this book in searingly awful detail.

Atrocities never make for an easy, palatable read and here they are rife. Nevertheless, it is a testament to the author, that the reader perseveres due in no small part to the gravitas of the writing.

It took me a long, long time to  get through this and I think that is the reason why I deducted a point on my review. This is undoubtedly a worthy non-fiction read and certainly something that everyone should read at least once, if only to gain a vivid picture of a period of history. They say we learn from history, but I highly doubt that sometimes. Imagine one day you were just getting on with your life and the next a foreign power decides to settle and take over your lands, treating you as sub-human. It is scary to think that this still happens in the modern world.

 I think the photography also caged this in perspective; the mix of relative modernity with true vicious savagery. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspects were the deals made that were then used only as an excuse to imprison and deny people their basic liberties.
This review sounds a little more like diatribe than usual, I think that relates to my discomfort with the content.

4 out of 5 readers' stomachs will turn at this true tale.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

"I worried about my brother standing in his briefs and eating spoiled poultry by moonlight."

I began reading this little gem on my way to hear the author read from his latest work. Getting there early, thanks to my friend and an David Sedaris fan, we both managed to get a book signed and take part in a charming little conversation with the raconteur in person.

This particular book was not the one I had signed ( I was reading it in ebook form) but it is rather entertaining. I get the impression that David would be the perfect dinner party guest with his little tales of the everyday. The one about his brother, i found particularly interesting as it explored the strange diversity that can exist within the family unit and the roles we play within that construct.

Sedaris books make for an easy read. You can flit from one little nugget to another in between a busy life and I think that is one of the reasons for his popularity - that and his engaging personality and sense of childish wonder that seems to illicit comments that people might think rather than say.

4 out 5 brothers and sisters don't always agree.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

"Days ran changelessly in the seasonless glare: hungover mornings on the school bus and our backs raw and pink from falling asleep by the pool, the gasoline reek of vodka and Popper's constant smell of wet dog and chlorine, Boris teaching me to count, ask directions, offer a drink in Russian, just as patiently as he'd taught me to swear."

Initially I was counting down for the release of Donna Tartt's latest work, but when it arrived I was slightly intimidated by the sheer size of the tome. Don't be put off, fellow readers, this is a gem that you will devour with relish, well I did in any case.

I feel like its best not to give too much away about the plot. The journey from innocent child  exposed to tragic circumstances to troubled teen and eventually troubled adult is an addictive one with some truely memorable characters.

Tragedy, tragedy, drama, tragedy, this novel is action packed and kept me reading well into the wee hours.
There were some odd aspects, for example the first person narrative meant that I didn't recognise the narrator was male for the first chapter or so. If I was to recount the actual action of the novel, it  might appear a little over the top, but it is so brilliantly realised that you don't even question until well after the final page.

5 out of 5 missing artworks are for the birds.