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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 31

post #451 of 2322
24. Two Caravans, by Marina Lewycka (2007)
A fairly slight novel about illegal immigrant workers from Eastern Europe trying to make their way in the UK. It's not a bad book, but the laughs are few and far between and I think Lewycka could have done more with her premise. At times there are mind-snapping jerks such as when she suddenly switches from writing light comedy to indulging in a near-polemic about the poultry industry.

The comic highs come in the form of the befuddled and grammar-challenged letters home from an African character obsessed with "canal knowledge". The lows are when she occasionally switches to the narrative voice of a dog, which just gets boring and repetitive.

Time for some non-fiction now, I think.
post #452 of 2322
25. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo (2012)
I've been fortunate enough to visit India on business a number of times in the last few years, and I always enjoy my trips there. So I am quite a regular reader of books by Indian writers, and books about India.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is an account of the lives of a few thousand people crammed into a half-acre slum near the Mumbai airport. (The slum is hidden behind a brick wall covered with ads for tiles which read "Beautiful Forever", hence the title).

Boo's book is an account of the lives of the marginalised poor, desperate to survive as exploited labourers, scavengers, beggars or worse. Most of all she describes the way India's endemic corruption blights every aspect of their lives. It's told with the clear eye of a Pulitzer-winning reporter, without being judgmental or polemical.
post #453 of 2322
47 White Jazz James Ellroy 1992
Last of the LA Quartet novels.
Set in 1950s LA it's a web of intrigue between who killed whom and who's on the take. 4 or 5 of the characters carry over from the other books. The protagonist is an unabashedly dirty cop. The book is written in a very clipped, stream of consciousness reality. I liked it, but not as well as the other 3 Quartet novels.
post #454 of 2322
26. Bar Balto by Faiza Guene (2008)

I picked this up as one of those near-random recommendations you get on Amazon, which described Guene as an emerging new talent worth checking out.

Guene is a Gen Y French writer of Algerian background. The book is the account of an investigation into the death of the owner of the Bar Balto, a universally-detested man with no shortage of enemes wishing ill of him.

Each chapter in Bar Balto consists of a statement by one of eight characters, mostly made to the police investigator (who never says a word). Guene's great trick is to adopt a different vernacular and style for each chapter, shifting narrative voice so that it's pretty quickly clear who is speaking. In doing so she reveals the incidents leading up to the murder and who did it, with quite a few twists on the way. So it reads like an epistolary novel only with police statements instead.

This is mostly successful, althought there a few false notes. She attributes dialog to a Downs Syndrome character which seems pretty advanced to me. Also, her Gen Y characters talk about having friends on MSN; surely the fad-conscious kids she portrays would have been on Facebook by 2008. I also doubt if anyone actually says ROFL, as opposed to writing it.

Not a bad book overall, and a quick read. I might look for her other two novels at the library some time and give them a spin.
post #455 of 2322
48. The Crossing Cormac Mc Carthy 1994
The second of the Border Trilogy books. Again about the coming of age of a 16 year old with a few differences from All the Pretty Horses. Riding a horse when cars exist. Actually 1940s- protagonist has a heart murmur so he can't join the army. So he wanders back and forth between Mexico and the U.S.. McCarthy's prose is excellent, some of the best I've read. I really enjoy him as an author. Recommended.
post #456 of 2322
49. Cities of the Plain 1998 Cormac McCarthy
The third Border Trilogy book. Theme is the same. As is the prose, describing events, landscapes, and personalities. This book combines the heroes of books 1 and 2. They are older, more comfortable, have steady jobs on a ranch. One of them goes on an impossible quest and loses all.
It's very difficult to describe these books without giving away the plot, but they are all excellent and worth reading.
post #457 of 2322
Clockwise counting 29/50: Evelyn Waugh - A Handful of Dust (1934)

I like Evelyn Waugh's writing and A Handful of Dust may be the best of his books I have so far read. Aristocratic Tony Last is struggling to keep up his Gothic mansion as well as his marriage. Brenda Last is bored and takes a young lover of the useless type. The marriage eventually falls apart as a result of a domestic tragedy and the narrative suddenly moves from the English landscape to a horror story in the Brazilian jungle. Indeed an unusual twist. This is a very readable mix of tragedy, satire and comedy.
post #458 of 2322
Clockwise counting 30/50: John Galsworthy - A Man of Property (1906)

The first novel of a trilogy collectively called The Forsyte Saga. This family epic is an excellent read and there is no wonder its author was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1932. The many characters of this upper middle class English family is treated with sympathy but also with a sharp critical eye by Galsworthy, who himself came from a wealthy family background.

The "man of property" is Soames Forsyte who believes in the ownership of property including ownership of his beautiful, seductive and mysterious wife Irene. This novel scrutinizes the moral codes of the time through a love tragedy in the midst of a rigid class system. I look forward to read the next novel in the series.
post #459 of 2322
50. Bad Luck and Trouble 2007 Lee Child
51. Worth Dying For 2010

Jack Reacher is bad ass. That is all.

(Anna Kareninna on the paralell read, lest you all think I've completely lost my taste)
post #460 of 2322
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

50. Bad Luck and Trouble 2007 Lee Child
51. Worth Dying For 2010
Jack Reacher is bad ass. That is all.
(Anna Kareninna on the paralell read, lest you all think I've completely lost my taste)

1.) Anna Karenina is the best.

2.) What is your new target for 2012?

3.) Congratulations on completing the 50 books challenge for a second year.

4.) Amazing intellectual prowess.
post #461 of 2322
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

1.) Anna Karenina is the best.
2.) What is your new target for 2012?
3.) Congratulations on completing the 50 books challenge for a second year.
4.) Amazing intellectual prowess.

I have it from several sources that Anna is the best book ever written. At least so far it's much lighter than War and Peace.

75...maybe 100. Starting a business venture that may take up a lot of my time.

Thank you. You're pretty far ahead of where you were last year, too. Maybe we should meet at 75. smile.gif

Again, thank you. I'm not doing much else but hanging with my kids. They're all avid readers too.
post #462 of 2322
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

50. Bad Luck and Trouble 2007 Lee Child
51. Worth Dying For 2010

Jack Reacher is bad ass. That is all.

(Anna Kareninna on the paralell read, lest you all think I've completely lost my taste)

Congrats on hitting 50 so soon. Makes me feel lazy, stuck in the 20s.
post #463 of 2322
52. Gone Tomorrow 2009 Lee Child
Another Reacher page turner, but I don't think it was as good as the ones above.
post #464 of 2322
27. The Shallows, by Nicholas Cage (2010)
A truly interesting read about how internet technologies are changing the cognitive functions of those who use them extensively, which is leading to deep and lasting changes in human society.

Cage is discursive, ranging across neuroplasticity, the history of reading and writing technologies, the application of Taylorism at Google, and much more.

It was quite a weird experience reading such a book on my iPad. I found myself confirming Cage's comments with my own behaviour while I was reading them. It certainly helped convince me he is right.
post #465 of 2322
28. The Locked Room, by Sjowall and Wahloo

Martin Beck #8. This one was a bit different, with most of the attention on secondary characters such as Gunnwald and Kollberg, investigating a robbery-homicide. Beck returns to work after recovering from being shot, to pick up the investigation of an unsolved death.

It's an odd book. There are moments of pure farce, especially a chapter where the police raid an apartment. This feeds into what seems to be the authors' intention of being much more overt and forthright in their criticism of the Swedish society of the time, especially of the police, whom they portray as incompetent and power-hungry. They seem more strident than in the earlier books, and it's not hard to see here why an activist such as Stieg Larsson was so influenced by them.
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