Onward and upward. My target this year is 70. Oh, and Steve shouldn't rest on his laurels. One of my Goodreads friends read 180 books last year, not including the children's fiction she reads for her work as a school teacher. 1. The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Don Tillman is a genetics professor who lives a life planned and programmed down to the last minute. Don almost certainly has Asperger's, although he is blissfully unaware of that. When Don decides it is time for him to marry, he plans out the Wife Project and prepares a 16-page questionnaire to weed out any undesirable candidates.
While executing the Wife Project Don meets Rosie, a young woman who needs his professional advice to help track down her birth father. Don starts the Father Project to help Rosie out. As a barmaid in a gay nightclub who drinks and smokes, Rosie is clearly not Wife Project material.
Don is a terrific comic creation and some of the things he says are laugh-out-loud funny. At times I was helpless with laughter. Graeme Simsion treats Don with affection and respect and Rosie is also a winning character. The two of them are an unlikely but appealing team as they use some unusual methods to seek out evidence of who may be Rosie's father.
The Rosie Project is a feel-good rom-com, and adheres to the structure and conventions that you'd expect to find in the genre, although Simsion's unusual leads and at times ribald humour lift this one above the normal standards. It's no surprise to learn that The Rosie Project started life as a screenplay, and it is now being filmed. Provided the film makers don't stuff it up, the film has every chance of emulating the book's success and being one of the funniest rom-coms for years.2. The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 starsThe Fault in Our Stars
is a pretty tough story for a YA novel. It starts with terminally-ill teenager Hazel reluctantly attending therapy in the True Heart of Jesus. There she meets Augustus, another cancer sufferer with a carefree and philosophical attitude to life. Augustus swears that he loves Hazel and the two of them start to form a deep friendship, sharing the bonds of their disease and of the elusive author Peter van Houten whom they both admire for his clear thinking on death.
John Green fills this novel with some pretty tough sentiments about life, love, death and the dubious motives underlying people's actions. Hazel and Augustus are splendidly clear-headed and uncompromising about their situation and talk of "cancer perks" and of pain demanding to be felt.
While this was marketed as a YA novel, it's a deep and serious read and I can't imagine any adult reader dismissing The Fault in Our Stars
as kids' stuff. In fact, many negative reviews I've read of it seem to be because even adult reviewers found the subject matte confronting and difficult. A demanding and rewarding novel, for any age.3. UnspokenUnspoken
by Mari Jungstedt
My rating: 2 of 5 starsUnspoken
is the second novel in Mari Jungstedt's Inspector Knutas series, set on the island of Gotland. It opens with alcoholic photographer Henry Dahlstrom winning a packet on the races, and subsequently coming to a sticky end. Dahlstrom appears to have been murdered for his winnings; a pretty straightforward case. However there are some loose ends that cause Knutas to look further. As the investigation proceeds, fourteen year old Fanny Jansson is becoming deeply embroiled in a highly dubious relationship.
A warning: Jungstedt peppers her story with back-references to the first Knutas novel, Unseen
. Nearly all of the main characters are introduced with a bit of back story from the earlier novel, to the point where you pretty much give up any inclination to read it, as she gives away almost all of its plot. She clearly expects you to read her novels in sequence, as the ending of Unspoken
I found this novel irritating, in part because of its not standing independently of the earlier novel. Jungstedt should read the Martin Beck novels to see how to write a linked series without ruining it for people who come in part-way. I also thought that far too much of what went on was extraneous to the crime and the investigation. I like my detective novels to be more tautly written than this and to me a lot of this book seemed like padding for the sake of continuing story threads in the series. I won't be bothering with any more of these books.4. Sea-heartsSea Hearts
by Margo Lanagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This fantasy novel by Margo Lanegan is based on the Celtic legend of the selkie - a creature that dwells in the sea as a seal but sheds its skin and takes human form on land.
Rollrock Island is a remote and forbidding place where a small community ekes out a meagre living. There is a scandal in Rollrock's past, that some of the families there carry the blood of selkies as a consequence of illicit relations by their forebears. Misskaella, a fat and ugly child, is the target of such suspicion. Embittered and reviled, Misskaella decides to test her supposed magical powers and wreaks a complicated and terrible revenge against the islanders that rejected her.
Lanagan's story is beautifully and evocatively written, and you never doubt for a moment in the reality of the strange and sad world she creates in Rollrock. This is a moving and captivating fantasy work of considerable originality.View all my reviews