Monday, 27 June 2016

The woman who rides like a man by Tamora Pierce

"It does not hurt men to know women have power, too"

I was a little late to the party I admit and it has taken to book 3 for me to fully embrace the awesomeness that is Lady Alanna and the Song of the Lioness Quartet.  It is a little like only really appreciating Game of Thrones  in Season 6 - not that I'm guilty of that. Written for youngsters as they may be these tales of magic and quests are strangely adult and more real than some of the fiction I've read based in the supposedly real world.

Alanna represents the struggle that it is to be female in a man's world. To have to deny one's femininity in order to compete and yet to constantly query what that means to your sense of self and your romantic relationships. She is bold, brave and amazing and even her love affairs bring a sense of joy and freedom and the chance of freedom lost.

If that all sounds a little hard going for 228 pages of a story with a slightly dodgy title, fear not. Looks can be deceiving and this is amazing.

Already cracked on to the last book. Nicki thankfully lent me both in tandem, - nice one lady!
It is great to have a friendly book lender with fantastic taste,

5 out of 5 magic swords can be troubling.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The St. Tropez Lonely Heart's Club by Joan Collins

"Think of an Italian Brad Pitt crossed with the brooding Latin sex appeal of a Benicio del Toro and that's me"

Just the perfect antidote to the first onset of winter cold in Sydney. A glitzy, glam sojourn into the high camp, mad cap world of St Tropez. A killer is on the loose to boot!
Will rampant sex god Fabrizio be forced to marry the ultra wealthy lush Lara to pay for his youthful discretions? Will the gorgeous Carlotta overcome the horrors of her first marriage to find love by the sea? Will the carefree model lesbian couple survive the season?

There will be scandals, unfortunate waxing, funicular traumas and just one big delightful romp that is so removed from the everyday. I loved it. War and Peace, it isn't. Don't let that put you off, this is a whole lot of fun. Enjoyed best over cocktails.

5 out of 5 for a perfect, quick getaway into the sun.

The Wimbledon Poisoner by Nigel Williams

"Henry could honestly have said, as he and Roger From the Practice made a body count, that he had not wanted any of this to happen."

This is a hoot. Seriously, I can't recommend it enough. It is a delightfully wicked, black comedy about a man who is really over living with his wife. His plans to do away with her make of some entertaining reading. The daily malaise of suburban life gets turned upside down by the exploits of the Wimbledon Poisoner. Has the ghost of a past murderer taken possession of a modern day executioner? Will the body count raise the ire of the local constabulary? Should you worry if your usually inattentive spouse has made you some fancy, organic chicken with secret herbs and spices out of the blue?

Don't ask me, grab yourself a copy. I had to sneak this one in to work to read on my lunch break, I just couldn't abide leaving it unfinished. Henry Farr is kind of a suburban, middle class Patrick Bateman who finds his desire to be rid of his wife and interest in dangerous substances might impact the entire neighbourhood.I can definitely see why this novel was included on the Guardian's 1000 novels everyone must read and concur with this selection.
Apparently this is the first novel in a series of three - I'm keen to explore the others now.

5 ou 

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

"He wondered whether there was some ancient piece of superstition about what happened to aspiring adulterers when they gazed on the dead bodies of the women they had coveted."

Life has been chaotic and frenetic of late and reading the gruesome occurences of this Le  Carré novel somehow made my troubles seem a little less significant. Certainly lack of sleep, dramas with the non-boyfriend and work deadlines really don't compare with the trials and tribulations of traumatised protagonists who rail against evil pharmaceutical companies, and deal with the torture and murder that coat the pages of this paperback.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortuitously since I've been so distracted of late, this was one of those strange instances where I had seen the movie before reading the book. That did somewhat spoil the thriller aspects of it. As always, Le  Carré weaves an oppressive environment that makes your hairs stand on end.

4 out of 5 times no one needs a green thumb.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

"There comes a time in all passionate attachments when life, real life, must be faced once again with its varied and endless obligations, when the lover know in his innermost heart that the halcyon days are over."

This particular novel had been in my to read pile for a long time. I'd been a little bit put off by the blurb and the idea that perhaps I wouldn't engage with a lesbian love story. That was a really short sighted view. I think anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in any way can find something that resonates here. Stephen's journey is one of pain, exclusion, momentary joy,guilt and betrayal. This is a book chock full of emotions and I was hooked.

Perhaps what struck a chord with me particularly was the idea of femininity that Stephen challenges. Her father expecting her to be born a boy, perseveres with the name and brings up his child with an equality of experience that is to be applauded and yet is too progressive for the times. Social expectations are a constant challenge to Stephen, eager to please her parents , her inability to conform is  the source of a never-ending, losing battle.

With a milestone birthday approaching and the constant sense of disappointment voiced by my mother that I haven't bred her dreamt of grandchildren, I could really identify with that sense that you can't, in good conscience to yourself, grant your love ones their desired outcomes.

It would be great today, to look back at this, at times, gut wrenching work of fiction and laugh at how much things had progressed  While there have been many improvements in the world of 2016, it is sad to think that many still suffer as Stephen did. Hiding her relationship with Mary, and being treated like a leper by her family. Stephen's pain at not being able to marry Mary and provide for her future is sadly a struggle that many people still face in Australia today.

This review is most probably a little more heartfelt than usual and undoubtedly stems from the fact that as I get older and the news gets more horrific and 24-7,  it is my continuing wish that sanity could prevail in the world. That there would never be a question as to equal pay for women and equal representation on boards and in government. Likewise, that wherever your heart lies, you have the ability to provide for your loved ones, no matter if both of you wear a dress or a tux  at a wedding. 

Something about the ending of the novel - SPOILERS- just irritated me, I wanted Stephen to transgress society's norms and thrive. I wanted the crazy passion between Stephen and Mary to quell to something manageable and comforting. I did not like the ending. It felt like one of those code era American film endings where if you do something outside the norm you will be punished. The self-sacrificing lie is just gut-wrenching. Never has a title so eloquently enunciated the finale!

5 out of 5 why do good things have to end?

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

"I can still remember how the vibrant hue of the dress contrasted crisply with her dark hair, it made her bob appear as slick and shiny as a pool of spilled ink."

There are sometimes when you read a novel and while you love the world, you feel a disconnect. There's a sense that something isn't quite up to scratch. Such was the case, for me, with The Other Typist.  

Roaring twenties prohibition shenanigans are of course appealing. Marry that with the contrast of a virginal woman reared in a convent and you can immediately see the appeal of this literary world. I wanted to be swept away, Gatsby style, in the excess and excitement. I recently watched Baby Face and Barbara Stanwyck's character in that reminded me somewhat of Odalie.

This tale benefits so much from the existing canon of literature of that sparkling, heady age and yet is prone to such repetition as to continually draw the reader back into the real world. The novel is an easy read that could have been rendered a great one with a little editing.

I note that Kiera Knightley is in development for the movie adaptation. I don't see that improving on the book. I don't think I could sit through another A Dangerous Mind  fiasco, that is however, just my opinion. The source material here has such possibility, with the right screenwriter and director and possibly another actress, it could make for an intriguing movie.

3 out of 5 great ideas sometimes need a little more work.

Who Buries the Dead by C.S.Harris

"Theirs was a rarified world of manners and careful calculations ruled by the dictates of taste and fashion,a world where extremes of emotion were outré  where all was controlled and measured."

Finally, another instalment of the Sebastian St. Cyr series, with a little Jane Austen action to boot. That always delightful lender of books, Miss Nicki, has once again, delivered unto me a great read. It is a truth universally known, that one must have good friends to swap paperbacks with. Well that is my conceit in any case.
I'm currently tearing myself away from the latest episode of Penny Dreadful  to catch up on my reviewing. Life has been busier than a night of horror tales with the Shelley family of late and I appear to have a bit of a reviewing back log.
Sebastian St. Cyr's latest adventure is decapitation heavy. There is something quite striking about the images the novel invokes. All smokey, dark alleys and headless corpses. The stuff of nightmares.
It was no wonder then that I absolutely raced through this read to put the spooky thoughts to bed at quick speed. I don't want to give too much away, so I won't dwell on Sebastian's look alike and how upset I was by that sub plot- actually perhaps that was a bit of a spoiler.

Bring on the next one I say, I need some more quality St. Cyr time!

4 out of 5 times the butler didn't do it.

And the weak suffer what they must? by Yanis Varoufakis

"Alas by 1963 it was clear that the horse was developing a mind of its own and the coachman was losing his grip."

Yanis Varoufakis is an engaging speaker and I was fortunate to see his charm in action at the recent Sydney Writer’s Festival, where I grabbed myself a copy of this latest work, And the weak suffer what they must?.
The intriguing title stems from a passage of Thucydides' The Peloponnese  War,  found underlined by John Maynard Keynes within his documents at Kings College. It demonstrates the inequality of decision making between unequally matched interests  with a direct inference on the outcomes of the Bretton Woods meeting and the cherry picking of Keynes’ notions for a post war IMF and currency market.
The book makes for an interesting and at times worrying read. It is rare that the curtain is drawn away from global economic with such ease and intrigue.I have to say it has lent a new lease of life in my interest in world economic policy and learning from the mistakes of the past. If only more people would study history so we were not continually forced to repeat it. I think I took a star off just because I find the idea of the imbalance of power as an alarming one - yet another thing to have nightmares about.

 4 out of 5 times, the banks are to blame.