Sunday, 5 January 2020

The Warhound and the World’s Pain by Michael Moorcock

"I wondered now if Lucifer had been defeated and if, in His defeat, He had taken Sabrina's should with Him and would continue to claim mine."

One minute you're a soldier fighting in bloody conflicts. The next minute you're making deals with the devil because you meet a gorgeous lady in a castle and decide she's worth selling your soul for.

That's the basic premise of this tale and I had a difficult time tracking a copy down. I'd seen it on this list of devilish books to read. Thankfully  iBooks provided the goods and I devoured the tale with impish abandon. 

While I enjoy the vast scope of fantasy reads that concern themselves with the ultimate symbol of evil, I was relatively ambivalent about this one.

3 out of 5 fantasy reads are not bound for salvation.

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

“Only when you are grown up, perhaps only when you have children yourself, do you fully understand that your own parents had a full and intricate existence before you were born.” 

I almost take a deep breath before I start one of McEwan's tales. There is the sense of foreboding that emotional torture lies ahead. The Child in Time is true to form in that regard.

Stephen is broken by the disappearance of his young child, Kate. His marriage seems irrevocably damaged by that life changing event. An event that haunts him through his membership of a committee on child care.

As always, McEwan crafts beautiful sentences that have an almost poetic quality and yet I feel I should've  saved this for a time when I was feeling more upbeat because I knew it would be a downer.

4 out of 5 times I visited the supermarket with Mum she would lose me.

Prospero’s Cell by Laurence Durrell

"Across the rich screen of this landscape many names, ancient and modern, offer themselves to the mind like the translation of  flesh into ghostly appearances which still delude the living by their resemblance to them."

I fell in love the with Durrell family watching the tv series and was fortunate enough to visit the gorgeous island of Corfu a couple of years ago. Below you can see the statute of Lawrence's brother Gerald and a delightful view of the sea. I would love dearly to return and, reading the pages of Prospero's Cell,I could almost smell the sea and feel the sun on my shoulders- such is the power of his writing. The evocative prose is impressive, timeless and formed of tiny snippets of delight.

Durrell died in 1990, but thankfully left behind an impressive bibliography. This particular work is in the realm of travel writing and definitely worth reading, along with his brother's My Family and Other Animals,  should you fancy a trip to the beautiful island of Κέρκυρα.

5 out of 5 - take me back there pronto!

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

"I'm letting a crazy boy into the house, a crazy boy that eats birds."

This is basically what Twilight wishes it was. A vampiric tale for young adults with a real sense of danger and great writing. Zoe's mother is dying and she is having a hard time dealing with every day life. As she withdraws she notices a pained youth that seems to haunt the local streets and exhibits some unusual behaviour. Is he responsible for an outbreak of violence in the local areas? Or is he something else?

This was hauntingly beautiful and I'm really glad I discovered it through this Abebooks list. I love a good Vampire tale and this is how one should be done! Girl meets boy, boy just happens to be more than 300 years old - its a tale as old as time.

5 out of 5 silver crosses won't save you from love in the dark.

Just a Queen by Jane Caro

"I was so anxious for my own safety in the face of Norfolk's scheming that I hardly thought of the plight of my royal captive."

Another entry from the vault of Nicki's library and its the second volume of Jane Caro's trilogy about Queen Elizabeth. When we last left her she was just about to ascend, and this volume sees her reign. A reign not without sacrifice - she was, after all, known as the Virgin Queen.

The threat of her cousin up North and the worries of succumbing to a marriage without love that could threaten her rule are just part of the daily grind. Caro brings the world to life and there is a real sense of entrapment and intrigue at play.

4 out of 5 queens make personal sacrifices to wield power.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

"Dividing a number by zero doesn't produce an infinitely large number as an answer."

As a huge fan of the movie, Arrival, I'd had the source short story on my must read list for quite a while now. I wasn't quite expecting the strange selection of tale's that Chiang provides here. Certainly when it kicks off with the biblical tale of the Tower of Babylon,  I was perplexed as to the connection between the stories.

Once I'd got through them the connecting threads seemed to be about communication and understanding. While some stories are stronger than others, this remains and interesting read.

 4 out of 5 alien languages take all the time in the world to decipher.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Ayoade on Top by Richard Ayoade

"Sliding Doors  is a film that asks us to have sympathy for someone who works in PR, and shows that whether you catch the tube or not, you will never get away from John Hannah."

In preparation for reading this latest effort from the always entertaining, Richard Ayoade, I watched the subject film - View From the Top. In case you haven't seen it, I recommend watching the very average film before reading this treatise on it.

Yes, you might think I've wasted one hour and twenty seven minutes of your life and perhaps you would be right. But then, dear reader, crack open Ayoade's book and prepare to laugh yourself silly as I did.

Is there really anything more I can say? Ayoade is at his acerbic best and with such fertile source material - I mean the section with the bikini clip is pure gold - you know you will see his comic genius take flight.

5 out of 5 - don't read this on public transport or people will seriously wonder why you're laughing so hard.

The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer

"Myles sighed. Now his twin was  whistling at a dolphin, and they would once again fail to get to bed on time."

I love kid's books. Perhaps it is the inner Peter Pan that I know will never die. Having been a great fan of the Artemis Fowl series, I was devastated when the series ended. For those, like me, who really enjoyed that little guy's adventures, fear not, his brothers are carrying the flame.
Artemis has grown up, but his twin brothers Myles and Beckett might prove just as entertaining. This is a rollicking introduction to their madcap adventures and the ending *spoiler alert* suggests there will be more to come.

 4 out of 5 trolls can be tiresome.

Mr Salary by Sally Rooney

"My suitcase was ugly and I was trying to carryout with a degree of irony."

On my quest to hit some easy wins in trying to reach my reading challenge number for the year, I settled on the short Faber stories series. I enjoyed Sally Rooney's Normal People, and decided to explore this little sliver. The dexterity of the author is immediately obvious in the way she can turn a mere 48 pages into an emotional journey.

 While you might knock this tale over on the journey to work, that isn't to diminish it in any way.
The heightened emotions of an emotional entanglement that turns physical despite many reasons why it should not, is delivered in an impressive fashion,

The fact that Rooney is so young makes me feel a) like a failure and b) hopeful that she has many more interesting works to come.

 4 out of 5 guys that pick you up from the airport that don't work for uber are unusual.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Good Muslim Boy by Osamah Sami

"Sisi was of Lebanese heritage, and her dad was of the view that Iraqis were the nucleus of all the Middle East's problems."

Another top pick from the library of Nicki - she does send me some excellent reads. This was funny, moving and beautifully written. From the traumas of the Iran-Iraq war to emigrating to Australia and a visit back Sami's novel is a real page turner and you're constantly rooting for him to succeed. 
One thing it does show is that although some differences are cultural and seem really divisive, underneath it all we're all human. We all were teenagers trying to get away with things, we all become adults dealing with ageing parents and we all want love.

I could perhaps discuss more plot wise and yet I feel this is a book best experienced without spoilers - so dive in and enjoy.

 5 out of 5 - I had Usher stuck in my head after this.

The Footy Lady by Susan Alberti

"Until Sue challenged the manikin incident on the show, such behaviour, and the outdated attitudes it represented, had been tacitly accepted."

This has sat in my 'to be read' pile for quite sometime. The lovely Nicki lent it to me and not being a massive AFL fan, I was distracted by the title. What a fantastic story though! Such an inspiring woman. I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea and settle down with this tale that features equal parts of tragedy and success in an amazing story of a very full life.
Taking on the construction industry, a football team, illness and family tragedy, here is a woman who prevails in a manner which is truly awesome.

A quick read, this one will have you laughing and crying. Ultimately it is a tale of hope and perseverance and that is impressive.

5 out of 5 - so glad I dived into this one.