or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Entertainment and Culture › 2014 50 Book Challenge
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 121

post #1801 of 2054
Quote:
Originally Posted by noob View Post

Novel 20. Atmospheric Disturbances, Rivka Galchen (2008)

Here's one I've been putting off for, oh...six-ish years! Time flies and it sucks. Another unwitting double adventure, except different, and recommended. The cover alone feels personalized and makes me want to hold it. And I did.

I was curious and read some reviews. Wow, it sounds very exciting. An "unreliable" first-person narrative and a surreal mystery. Unfortunately I just placed a 20+ book order with Amazon and will need to work off most of those before I can consider my next order. I will keep the Rivka Galchen book in mind.

Only good way to handle time flying is through Buddhism; regular prayer and meditation. And to always dress sharp.
post #1802 of 2054
Ha, twenty books? What is that, like, a week's reading for you? What did you order?

The Galchen book was pretty good! I was anticipating something vaguely European-Nabokovian and literary, but with the contemporary publishing world in mind, and I think that's pretty accurate. The amazon reviews, expecting some kind of pat resolution, I guess, scared me...but I thought it held together OK.

Streetwear and denim has indeed been a reaction to impending doom; I'll have to give meditation a try next. biggrin.gif
post #1803 of 2054
Quote:
Originally Posted by noob View Post

Ha, twenty books? What is that, like, a week's reading for you? What did you order?

The Galchen book was pretty good! I was anticipating something vaguely European-Nabokovian and literary, but with the contemporary publishing world in mind, and I think that's pretty accurate. The amazon reviews, expecting some kind of pat resolution, I guess, scared me...but I thought it held together OK.

Streetwear and denim has indeed been a reaction to impending doom; I'll have to give meditation a try next. biggrin.gif

I have had a bit of a brutal work schedule so slowing down my reading a bit. Traveling in China at the moment. I guess 20 books will take me 2-4 months...

This year I'm into Mediterranean Noir so I placed order for De Giovanni, Massimo Carlotto, Jean Claude Izzo, Pascal Garnier, Vazquez Montalban etc.
post #1804 of 2054
15 SNOW HUNTERS by Paul Yoon CD posted a review replete with a yellow cover picture.

While I was picking up another book at the local library today I saw it and thought why not. I am glad I did as this is a very gentle story about PTSD, healing and tailoring on this point I do have some reservations but why let them stand in the way of a good story.

I read it in a day and was quite moved by both the simplicity of the narrative and how the text effortlessly flowed on very short descriptive and emotionally structured sentences. Highly recommended.
post #1805 of 2054
30. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec (Commissaire Adamsberg, #9)The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I picked up The Ghost Riders of Ordebec because it shared the Golden Dagger award with Pierre LeMaitre’s Alex a book I really enjoyed. Vargas’ novel is the latest in her Commissaire Adamsberg series, centred on a French policeman from the provinces who apparently has a Zen-like approach to investigations.

The book deals with two parallel investigations. The principal plot line kicks off when a woman from the Normandy village of Ordebec visits Adamsberg in Paris to seek his help with a mysterious event; her daughter has witnessed the legendary Ghost Riders, who carry off the wicked to their deaths. The daughter identified three local trouble-makers being carried off, but couldn’t identify the fourth. The first of them has already been killed; could there be more murders on the way.

The second crime is a car arson that claims the life of a wealthy industrialist. A local firebug, Mo, is the immediate focus of police attention, but Adamsberg has his doubts.

I felt in reading this book that I was a bit lacking in background to the main characters, a problem I often find when coming into detective series in the middle. Authors assume you know what they are on about when that is not always the case. The relationship between Adamsberg and his newly-found son was clearly a key ingredient of the previous book, but i couldn’t quite grasp it. I was also unclear whether there was some prior relationship with Mo that caused Adamsberg to go into bat for him. I also felt that there was more to the regular characters than I was picking up; each has foibles that fairly obviously are carried over from previous novels.

Ghost Riders is a pretty unremarkable police procedural really, although there are a few plot twists at the end that kept me guessing. I didn’t think it was anywhere near as creepy, exciting and original as Alex, which I far preferred as a crime novel.



View all my reviews
post #1806 of 2054



Novel 21: Jakob von Gunten, Rober Walser (1908)

Sweden, 1956. Christmas day. Stuffed with turkey, four hale and panting youths take to the hillsides, stabbing birch limbs through the snow at what they believe is a giant log, ripe for the hearth. What they overturn is in fact Robert Walser, high or low modernist, seventy-nine and deceased. Two hours earlier, Walser had at last got his shoes tied and set off on his daily stroll; twenty-three years earlier, he received a definitive and career-ending diagnosis -- schizophrenia; forty-eight years earlier, he completed Jakob von Gunten, a novel beloved by his contemporaries -- Mann, Musil, Rilke -- that inspired a class of writers -- Hess, Benjamin, Kafka -- who would go on to be recognized as the foremost practitioners of their art. Brief, whimsical, and impressionistic, it is the adventurous yet somewhat uneven account of a youth's time at an academy for butlers. Forty years later, it became the subject of an article in a Belgian journal; sixty years later, Germany hailed it as a forgotten gem; ninety years later, The New York Review of Books rediscovered it as a forgotten classic; ninety-one years later, it was read, with unerring passion, by me; One hundred and four years later, it was read again, also by me. Robert Walser: say his name.
post #1807 of 2054
52. Passin' Through Louis L'Amour 1975

The name of the hero is actually passing through. This one provides a swindle attempt and a poisoning by an acting troupe. Also the requisite gun play and the rescue and nuptials of the damsel in distress.

Another sequel of masterpiece theatre.
post #1808 of 2054
53. The Fault in Our Stars John Green 2012

My daughter wants me to take her to see this movie, and I always insist on reading the book before doing so.

Two terminal teenagers meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. Before either dies, they are able to have a wonderful trip courtesy of the Make a Wish foundation.

The story is wonderfully written.

To snitch from The Atlantic: "This is a book that breaks your heart- not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger and bigger till it bursts. "
post #1809 of 2054
31. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Everything Ravaged, Everything BurnedEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned certainly lives up to its title. Wells Tower’s collection of stories is nearly all about people whose lives have been blighted by fallings-out with family or loved ones.

Most of the stories are about a particular incident, and usually end with no resolution, and not even a suggestion of a hopeful outcome. You sometimes sense an ellipsis lurking behind his endings; there is more to this, but he’s not sharing it. Characters have little back-story, which is fair enough in a short story, but it leads them to be a little one-dimensional. One story I did like was In the Show about a single night in a funfair. It’s full of incident with quite a few characters getting attention, and more background filled in than Tower usually gives us. It’s stronger as a result, but still has a little bit of that ellipsis lurking at the end.

The eponymous story is the last in the collection and unusual in that it is a piece of historical fiction rather than set in the contemporary USA. It’s a story about some Viking raiders setting out on a voyage to pillage Lindisfarne. It’s an interesting idea for a story, and I was getting quite engaged until Tower fatally marred it with risible anachronisms like “gung-ho motherf***er” and “hassle”. There’s no excuse for horrible writing like that, and both Tower and his editors should hang their collective heads in shame.

Since I really only enjoyed one story in this collection, I can’t say I recommend it particularly. Maybe others might get ore out of Tower’s writing than I did. I think his stories lack the humour and style that might lift them above the pack in the manner of, say, Tony Birch. Instead, he has just written a collection of very downbeat, sometimes silly stories that would only appeal to somebody who needs a darn good depressing.


View all my reviews
post #1810 of 2054
Clockwise counting 44/50: Manuel Vazquez Montalban - The Buenos Aires Quintet (1997)

Catalan writer Vazquez Montalban's stories about private investigator Pepe Carvalho are lumped into the lose group called Mediterranean Noir. The Buenos Aires Quintet is however a quite different style from Izzo, Carlotto, De Giovanni etc. Argentina is here presented as the country of "tango, Maradona and the disappeared" and the country's emotional and horrible past casts a long shadow over the narrative. It's a political and ideological book but it's also humorous in a sometimes slapstick fashion and it often reads as a gourmet / gourmand travelogue.

The mystery is not much of a mystery but there is a story of the good versus the bad and Pepe Carvalho is an interesting and unusual character. I look forward to soon read more of Vazquez Montalban who may be better than any of the more popular and more immediately entertaining Mediterranean noir writers.
post #1811 of 2054
Clockwise counting 45/50: C.J. Sansom - Dominion (2012)

An alternate history novel along the lines of Robert Harris Fatherland. In 1952, Nazi Germany is in control of Europe after a peace treaty of 1940 which has left United Kingdom with a right wing Nazi friendly government and increasing fascist tendencies. Winston Churchill is the aging leader of an underground resistance. Hitler is seriously afflicted by Parkinson's disease and a power struggle is expected in Berlin. Germany has been bogged down in its war with Soviet Union for a decade.

A minor English scientist with psychological issues comes in possession of information related to the US nuclear bomb program. The Nazis, UK Special Branch, the Resistance and the US, all want to catch the scientist. A small group of resistance people do some heroic deeds to prevent nuclear secrets falling in the wrong hands.

An overly long (700 page) novel of light entertainment. Decent quality but not fully in the same league as Robert Harris.
post #1812 of 2054
Clockwise counting 46/50: Eleanore Catton - The Luminaries (2013)

It's amazing that this 800+ page novel, which is written in the vein of Joseph Conrad or other 19th century literary adventure writer, comes from the hand of a 28-year old female author. It's a musty story of crime, deception and conspiracy set in an 1860s New Zealand gold digging community.

The novel has numerous alternating protagonists and the point of view switches from chapter to chapter. The lure of gold, opium addiction, prostitution, brutal violence and love are the main themes. The first half of the book details a complex mystery with switched identities, lost fortunes and suspected revenge motives between several of the protagonists. The latter part of the book gradually makes the picture clear and finally resolves the mystery.

The novel won the MAN Booker Prize in 2013. It's an ambitious and fully satisfying adventure story, very well written and excellent entertainment.
post #1813 of 2054
Clockwise counting 47/50: Alain Robbe-Grillet - Jealousy (1957)

Robbe-Grillet, once the spokesman for the so-called "nouveau roman" uses an obsessively hyper-realistic technique, with minute descriptions of a banana plantation set in a French colony located either in the Carribean or Africa. The protagonist is only hinted at, he doesn't speak or act throughout the novel. We know he is present from the number of plates put out for dinner and from his way of observing the two main characters of the novel: a woman called "A....." who is presumably his wife and a man called Franck who is a frequent guest and the owner of the neighbouring plantation.

There is a suspicion that A.... and Franck are lovers and small details lead us to this assumption, we can however never be sure about it, we are never presented with good evidence. Some key scenes are played out numerous times with only slight variations and it is likely that we, the readers, are in the midst of the pondering of a jealous husband.

I liked this short novel much more than Project for a Revolution in New York. This is a subtle and low-key study of a love affair in the tropics, it has none of the feverish and sado-masochistic excesses of Project... Not an easy read but well worth the effort.
post #1814 of 2054
Clockwise counting 48/50: H.P. Lovecraft - At the Mountains of Madness (1931)

This short horror-novel is the first person narrative of an American geologist who recapitulates his horrible findings from an ambitious exploration of the vast caves of Antarctica.

Advanced civilizations tens or hundreds of million years old are discovered as well as the dark and monstrous remnants of the same. His story is a warning to future expeditions to stay away from Antarctic exploration and avoid letting lose dark powers that can not be understood by mankind. Pseudo-scientific entertaining nonsense.
post #1815 of 2054
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned certainly lives up to its title.

YES. I read this recently. Loved it. Probably didn't write much of a review, but it stood out as one of the best collections of US short fiction of the last decade. More than the writing (quite deft and delicious), it had that certain bumblebee flies anyway kind of appeal, in which it hit all the same notes people like to demonize in snoozy contemporary fiction, but it performed them so well, it managed to be both absorbing and, frankly, laudable. (And it was lauded, too, I think. This dude cleaned house during awards season).

It's interesting we were both drawn towards the one about the fair -- though I think I ID'd the pleasantry as more the result of a general structure issue rather than back story, there was more back story, which I liked, and it's....neat....that that....struck a chord. It appealed to me as well. I don't think the others lacked anything for being more in the moment because, as you said, that's usually absent from short fiction, anyway. What stood out to me was just how well Tower was able to nail these guys in the present in a capable way that didn't feel he was telecasting his techniques, building character, and so forth. I think the humor -- I did find a lot of the dialogue fresh and funny -- helped out here as well. I felt everything -- esp. the dialogue -- really pulled triple duty in a very engaging way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

The eponymous story ...about some Viking raiders setting out on a voyage to pillage Lindisfarne. It’s an interesting idea for a story, and I was getting quite engaged until Tower fatally marred it with risible anachronisms like “gung-ho motherf***er” and “hassle”. There’s no excuse for horrible writing like that, and both Tower and his editors should hang their collective heads in shame.

hamm_zps0f28c241.gif

And GAH. No, sir! NO! I must respectfully disagree.

You didn't like it, I won't argue that (I thought it was great), BUT calling the anachronisms a misstep, or shaming his editors is in fact a grave mistake!.

It was all present from the beginning! It seems to me that the tension between a historical tale and its modern-day idiom is the whole point, the whole texture, and without it, you couldn't even tell the story. It wouldn't make sense, I don't think, as the even the concepts (relationships, etc) are modern as well.

But yeah. The beginning lays out exactly what to expect. It's all there in the first two paragraphs:

Just as we were all getting back into the mainland domestic groove, somebody started in with dragons and crop blights from across the North Sea. We all knew who it was. A turncoat Norwegian monk named Naddod had been big medicine on the dragon-and-blight circuit for the last decade or so, and was known to bring heavy ordnance for whoever could lay out some silver. Scuttlebutt had it that Naddod was operating out of a monastery on Lindisfarne, whose people we’d troubled on a pillage-and-consternation tour through Northumbria after Corn Harvesting Month last fall. Now bitter winds were screaming in from the west, searing the land and ripping the grass from the soil. Salmon were turning up spattered with sores, and grasshoppers clung to the wheat in rapacious buzzing bunches.

I tried to put these things out of my mind. We’d been away three long months harrying the Hibernian shores, and now I was back with Pila, my common-law, and thinking that home was very close to paradise in these endless summer days. We’d built our house together, Pila and me. It was a fine little wattleand- daub cabin on a pretty bit of plain where a wide blue fjord stabbed into the land. On summer evenings my young wife and I would sit out front, high on potato wine, and watch the sun stitch its orange skirt across the horizon. At times such as these, you get a good, humble feeling, like the gods made this place, this moment, first and concocted you as an afterthought just to be there to enjoy it.


READ THE FULL STORY (I THINK): http://us.macmillan.com/BookCustomPage_New.aspx?isbn=9780312429294

Sorry to interject. I just found this collection to be so much better than others. Go, Wells Tower. You go, grrrrrl!






(clockwise, did you just read five books in two days? cry.gif )
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Entertainment and Culture
Styleforum › Forums › Culture › Entertainment and Culture › 2014 50 Book Challenge