Saturday, 21 January 2017

Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

"The tingle became an uncomfortable burning sensation in the base of her skull that quickly spread to clamp her entire head in a fiery vice."

I finally finished the series and while I commenced with vigour, that has somewhat dropped off as I've progressed. Yes, I know this is fodder for kids, that doesn't dissuade me usually. There's a sense of contractual obligation, both in my forcing myself ( in my contract with me) to finish reviewing everything I read and in the author completing the eighth and final episode.
How to tell you what happens without giving away everything?  Well, Opal Koboi is back, mad, bad and dangerous  and potentially about to destroy everything.  The Fowl family are firmly in her sights, particularly the familial home and one Artemis and his brother.
 Throw in the usual fairy crowd and settle in for one last ride.

4 out of 5 adventures all come to an end.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

"I wasn't about to do myself an injury, for the  sake of a sixteen-inch waist"

Sarah Waters has this amazing ability to transport a reader, well certainly this one, back into a vivid, palpable past. I'm certainly not the only fan of her work, this particular novel, published in 2002 to high acclaim, garnered nominations for the Booker and Orange prizes. I've come to this novel through its inclusion in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die  list.

So, to the novel itself. Prepare to travel back to London in 1862 and some rather unsavoury pickpockets - or Fingersmiths- have the delicately, somewhat innocent, orphan, Sue Trinder. Her life is about to change, as she is engaged in an elaborate con under the guidance of 'the gentleman'. Taking on the position of a lady's maid to swindle the strange, Maud Lily, the unworldly Sue has no idea what lies in store and how much her world will be shaken up through this dodgy endeavour.

I don't want to tell you anymore, except that you should grab yourself a copy, and enjoy. I loved the carved up structure, the thriller-esque unfolding of events and the sense of being back in time.

5 out of 5 times you can't trust a fence.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

"Tuppence pulled herself together with an effort.Her voice shook a little, but she spoke out bravely."

I recall fondly my pre-teens when I was completely enamoured of the work of Agatha Christie. Happily I recently discovered this little treasure which is out of copyright and therefore freely available on the net. Tuppence is sick of being broke and laments her current cash strapped status while talking with her old pal, Tommy. Together they form, The Young Adventurers Ltd, ready to do anything for money. That sounds far more salacious than anything they volunteer for.
The two young adventurers find themselves swept up in some dangerous, international intrigue regarding a missing girl, some classified documents and the mysterious Inspector Brown.
Adventure, money, romance, spies and drama are all part of the status quo here and the pages fly back in merry succession. A very quick read and an enjoyable one!

5 out of 5 dynamic duos are always a winning combination.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex

"A part of Artemis was horrified by this newfound superstition about numbers"

Artemis Fowl is not himself and it seems overexposure to the fairy world is to blame. Cut adrift from his ever faithful Butler ( who has his own adventures to deal with) things could get rather dicey for our usually evil tween mastermind.

Trapped deep in the recesses of his own mind courtesy of the titular Atlantis Complex, our anti-hero might now be in real danger. That being said, I kind of switched off on this outing. Artemis not being himself, makes his complex self a lot less interesting. This one feels like a speed bump as we await the final chapter. Hopefully that will be more enjoyable, although  this is perfectly readable as always.

4 out of 5 cranky fairies and scary robots

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

"I stood there as if my breasts and I were somewhere else"

As a little girl, I always wanted to be Princess Leia. The cool chick that keeps up with the boys and still manages to indulge in a romance. She was forthright, a survivor and even chained up in a metal bikini looked equal parts amazing and sarcastic. What heady stuff, Carrie Fisher wrought on screen.
Like most little girls that grew up watching the strange, and often incestuous, hi-jinks of Star Wars, - okay maybe not like most little girls - I was transfixed that this leader with the strange ear muff hairdo demonstrated you could still be a take charge kind of girl, work with men and fight the evil ones on your own terms. The actress behind one of the few females in space was just, if not more impressive. An amazing actress, novelist and always entertaining interview subject, it is so sad that Carrie Fisher is no longer with us and a rare treat that she left us with some intriguing memoirs over the course of her life.

The Princess Diarist,  was a much welcomed Christmas present for me from my good friend and I was eager to devour it. Upon hearing of its author's untimely demise, this joy was tinged bitter-sweet. What is so captivating here is the young, voice of the inexperienced Carrie, recounted by the more wider lived, older version. The Carrie that is brought forward front and centre is the young, wide-eyed actress from one of my favourite films and her innocence and ability to get swept up in youthful exuberance reminds me so much of myself  from 17 to 20. Granted she looked way better in a metal bikini- but the sentiment remains.
Her much lauded depiction of the love affair with Harrison Ford takes on the importance that early sexual connections do, it is all consuming for the young, innocent party and a strange, if beneficial, burden for the older, more worldly one.

The book commences in the year of my birth, the year Star Wars  was filmed and a plucky young woman, with exceptional showbiz pedigree and a wry, entertaining voice made her mark on all of us. Vale, Carrie Fisher, gone but never to be forgotten, not even in a galaxy far, far away.

5 out of 5 stars burn brightest.

F**k It – Do What You Love by John C Parkin

"Your body knows when you're doing what you love, just as your mind does"

Panic set in at the thought of returning from Christmas holidays to work. Grasping at straws, I bought this book. Who could resist such a delightful title? The egg graphic was equally irresistible. There's nothing particularly new here, but its reassuring to posit the possibility that life could be better than the monotonous drone of a 10 to 14 hour day of misery.

At some point in life you have to take a chance. The best thing you can back is yourself. I probably didn't need a book to confirm that, still the conversationalist tone of this one is like a warm hug married with a good kick up the backside.

4 out of 5, a change is well overdue.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

"Pretense, fakery, but who's to know?"

First, confession time, The Tempest, is not my favourite Shakespearian work and I was a little rusty on the details going in. I’m almost certain I’ve seen a Bell Shakespeare production and recall vague details about an island, a storm and Prospero. Nevertheless I was keen to dive into Atwood’s re-imagining.

This retelling is very much of the play within a play variety which is ultimately rather Shakespearian and intriguing. The prolific Canadian writer takes us on a journey which ultimately leads to prison. Director Felix, mourning the loss of his daughter, seeks to bring her back to life through the magic of the theatre and yet, is unceremoniously ousted from staging his challenging new rendition of The Tempest at the Makeshiweg Festival.

Cast out, much like Prospero, Felix takes a job teaching Shakespeare to prisoners and what better way to cause havoc than to stage the ultimate The Tempest revival? That’s basically the plot, throw in some crazy times in the clink and some crazy times in general and you get the picture.

I wanted to love this so much more. I was distracted and in that pre-Christmas funk. You know the one where you realise that those much needed sane days off work are going to be replaced by family stress, increased alcohol consumption and competitive present buying? I’m sure you do. Now, I return this book to my dear friend, Nicki, fly back to that bookshelf courtesy of Australia Post.

4 out of 5 times meta seems appropriate.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

"I haven't killed anybody for years and don't intend to."

If you seek some relaxing holiday reading, then The Wasp Factory, should probably not be your first port of call. Teenager Frank, is, quite frankly not what he seems except to the extent that he is a nasty piece of work. It’s not often that a protagonist begins his tale with claims of committing the murder of three children before the age of ten.

Set in a strange desolate, Scottish Island, the novel reeks of death, the unknown and a sense that the world has just all gone wrong. Perfect reading for this miserable age, perhaps that’s why I finished it towards the end of 2016. I know my reviews are a little behind.

Frank’s older brother, Eric, is another frightful character who escaped from a mental institution after having lost the plot, quite understandingly, when he tries to feed a brain damaged baby, missing a skull cap, whose brain is being attacked by maggots. Oh Sorry, that should have come with a “don’t read this line before lunch” warning.

I don’t want to give the game away as to what actually transpires at the end, other than it was unexpected and enhanced my perception of the novel as a whole. The author reflected on his work as a way of publishing his writing and passion for Science Fiction by considering the Scotland of his youth as a jumping off point.

Particularly of interest was his commentary that the book was -
which makes it firm fodder for a post-Trump world where fake news is part of the daily narrative.

The novel’s extreme violence within the constraints of childhood makes for confronting reading and yet anyone who has been bullied at school knows how evil other children can be. Banks further posited that he 
I’m not sure the sophisticated moral framework helps that much, as I read the news sometimes I think we are living on that island populated by crazy kids with guns, trying to be something they’re not and wreaking havoc on the planet. On that dire note I think I need a lie down. 

4 out of 5 ways to put a dampener on your holiday cheer.