Saturday, 24 September 2016

Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger

"Enjoying the float, fighting an inclination for the wrong man, and having a genuine affection for both."

Sometimes life throws you lemons or dramas that make you less that enthused about notions romantic in the real world. Thankfully the antidote is at hand. Climb aboard the dirigibles of Gail Carriger's new Delightfully Deadly series of novellas. I can't wait for the next one. The first is such a treat.

Lady Preshea Villentia is one hell of a heroine, she's gutsy, unconventional, beautiful and deadly. Four dead husbands and the nickname the Mourning Star might just be a bit of a burden, yet this lady takes it all in her stride.

The very dishy Captain Ruthven could really distract her from her current mission in such a good way. If only I could find a Gavin of my own, dodgy nightwear and need for midnight sandwiches seem like such minor traits to overlook, especially in a man who's so superbly built and who can dance.

Like so many good things, this ended way too soon. Bring on the next instalment.

5 out of 5 charming Scottish Literary romantic interests are delightful.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

So this July I had the pleasure of visiting Corfu in Greece and before my travels I did a bit of background research. As a consequence I discovered the ITV series The Durrells which is absolutely divine and inspired by the Corfu Trilogy written by Gerald Durrell. My Family and Other Animals is the first of the series and I couldn't wait to dive in to its sunny pages.  

The Corfu of today is a little different from that of the book, however it is still possible to see some of the natural delights that Gerry notes in his novel. 
Corfu 2016

Gerald Durrell statue  

Corfu Town 2016

While paddling around on an isolated bay reached by boat, I could almost imagine the author splashing about as a child reflecting on the fish whizzing past his toes and wondering what his intriguing family was up to. So you would imagine I would tear through this book, however, reading it on my iPhone has somewhat delayed its completion.

The novel is every bit as gorgeous and amusing as a trip to the very photogenic island and certainly worth exploring. Gerry is an adorable nature loving child, who takes great joy in exploring all the wild life of the island, including the shenanigans of his amusing family.

5 out of 5 roaming animals everywhere are entertaining.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Significant Others by Armistead Maupin

"You're not really a Bohemian until you've peed on a tree next to somebody"

Love, lust, gender roles, AIDS and camping, this is a tale that covers quite a lot of ground.
That mightn't sound like fertile ground for laughs and yet there here we discover some entertaining fare. The machinations of the all-women lesbian love-in music and arts festival Wimminwood, are particularly hilarious. When DeeDee and D'orothea visit with their fraternal twin children, they are shocked that their ten year old boy has to be removed to the boys area, Brother Sun. That will prove the be the first of many shocks, courtesy of dalliances with a famous poet, a kidnapping and much more.

Likewise, we get a hint of the secretive Bohemian Grove and its all-male exclusive camp traditions complete with stage shows and burning effigies of care. I'd never heard of the place until a friend mentioned it (thanks Ben), a strange place where 1%-ers get loose and occult in the forest, all under the watchful eyes of a big owl (yeah sounds like a hoot).

Brian is married to a tv talk show host who he has cheated on with a woman he's since found out is HIV positive. While he awaits the results of his own test he heads off on a bit of a road trip with his best friend, Michael, who happens to be gay and an understanding travel companion in this time of uncertainty, having already endured a positive result. Michael brings along, Thack, who he meets cute on a tour of Alcatraz prisons. There are more characters and side stories and the pages just fly by.

So converging stories of being comedically trapped in a prison for two minutes and finding a love interest, being trapped in a marriage with secrets, being trapped in a camp of militant lesbians or world beating, powerful old men. All tales are dealt with deftly and with a strong dose of humour. I rather enjoyed Significant Others,  perhaps you will too. Now, I look forward to uncovering the other Tales of the City stories.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

"It is a novel about laughter, and forgetting, about forgetting and about Prague, about Prague and about the angels."

Sometimes prose dances on the page with a kind of delicious magnificence, reminiscent of the  sense of wonder you get when you look at a work of art. This collection of stories ebbs and flows with a lyrical quality that draws you in and certainly got me thinking a lot about forgetting and the strange intricacies of everyday life.

Only the other day, a friend and I were ruminating on the strange way we forget trying times and then, when we least expect it, we remember that unpleasant events in the past really happened.The first tale is reminiscent of this, with Mirek recalling his love affair with the ugly, Zdena. His blurred recollections recalling the strange vagaries of memory.

Mama is a tale of a menage a trois relationship that is slowly revealed to the reader in the context of trying to hide it from Karel's visiting mother. There's a sense that Karel, his wife and his mistress are all compromising to the point that there lives are not really what they would like them to be. In the end Karel longs to be alone.

The seven parts of the novel had varying degrees of success for me and I enjoyed the interspersing of Czech history and place with the personal dramas. I found the children raping Tamina in part six disturbing, however my appreciation for the novel was rekindled by the final tale. 

Part seven sees nakedness abound, the final line "The man spoke, all the others listened with interest, and their bare genitals stared stupidly and sadly at the yellow sand". There is something sublime and ridiculous in that imagery.

5 out of 5 forgotten moments have a way of returning.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Imprudence, The Custard Protocol Book Two by Gail Carriger

"Paw, I wasn't in danger,  Mr Lefoux and I have an understanding"

It must be awfully difficult to grow up in the shadow of such larger than life parents as Lord and Lady Maccon. When your father is a werewolf alpha and might be losing the plot, as alphas are want to do, things get even more complicated. 

All this family drama can really get in the way of a girl's romantic education, even with the ever so accomodating Quesnel Lefoux, an excellent physical specimen that could really grow on a girl, around.

As usual I devoured this delight like someone sneaking custard tart on a strict diet. There is something about Ms Carriger's steampunk universe which is so compelling and each new edition to the parasol, custard, finishing school canon has me rushing off to buy the latest tome. Patience, they say, is a virtue and as I was overseas when the second custard protocol novel was released, I had to wait a little to enjoy this one.

Prudence is, as ever, a delight. A glorious combination of Alexia, Conall and a dash of Lord Akeldama's fabulousness, she has a take no prisoners attitude, always finished with a wink. She takes me back to the divine craziness of youth and that is destined to appeal to anyone young at heart.

5 out of 5 balloon rides with were animals are never dull.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

To Be Read at Dusk by Charles Dickens

“He looked like the figure - necessarily so, because he looked earnestly at his brother when he saw him come into the room."

Interesting to be transported away in just 58 pages. This collection of three short stories seemed to whisper at me through the chill of evening. I could just imagine a theatrical performance  by Mr Dickens conveying his eerie tales. In my imagination his voice sounded somewhat like Simon Callow and I put that down to his book on the subject ( and having heard him speak on the subject of Charles Dickens).

'The Signalman', 'The Trial for Murder' and title story, 'To Be Read at Dusk'  are Halloween camp fire ready for your entertainment. Not particularly blood curdling, more likely to induce a bit of a creepy chill. I particularly liked the first story.

5 out of 5 dark tales by lamplight.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

"With two mentions of his name and one of New Zealand Sir Kevin retired hurt."

Watch out when the Queen takes up reading. Her duties may be shirked and her conversations may become awkward. I rather enjoyed this little novella which is sure to raise a chuckle.
The Queen happens upon a lending library and uncovers the undeniable attraction of reading for pleasure.
This is something like 120 pages that are destined to make you smile and moorish like a tasty block of Lindt chocolate. My only complaint was that I wanted more. 

4 out of 5 monarchs don't have time to read for fun.

Amnesia by Peter Carey

"The traitor's mother leaned across and kissed me on both burning cheeks."

I have been reading this for what seems like rather a long time. Perhaps I've been a little distracted. That being said, I felt like the content was somewhat reminiscent of the title, in that I'd forget what I'd read the night before.

Computer hacking and political coverups form the basic plot and will no doubt seem very familiar to readers of the Snowden and Assange filled news of recent years. Journalist Felix Moore is offered a financial and career saving offer to detail the story of hacker, Gaby. Her story is interwoven with that of the journalist, his financial backer, the hacker's mother and so on down the rabbit hole.

3 out of 5 times spent trying to get an internet connection.

Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

"I had no real feeling for her, but there was some kind of pain when she went away, and when the pain yielded nothing, I converted it, like an alchemist busy with the seaweed, into something approaching love."

Considering how slight a volume this novel is, it was rather surprising how long it took me to finish. There was something rather discouraging and demoralising about the story of a young man who dreams of a scriptwriting career with a comedian, leads women on left right and centre and just basically achieves nothing.

Recycling the same engagement ring to get his way, with no intention of follow through, Billy Liar is not exactly the most reliable character.
An atmosphere of futility and disappointment is not a place I'd really choose to dwell and hence my lack of passion for this story. There is a sense that Billy would be just as home today on Tinder, making up stories and headed around in circles.

3 out of 5 day dreamers finish last.