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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 47

post #691 of 1935
62. Anything Goes, by Lucy Moore (2008)

Just snuck this one in, finishing on NYE.

This book is sub-titled A Biography of the Roaring 20s, which sums it up. Moore covers well-known 20s figures from Al (Capone) to Zelda (Fitzgerald). She also tells us about some lesser lights such as doomed poet Harry Crosby. (Check the photo of Crosby on the beach in DB suit, shirt, tie and gardenia in his lapel for the epitome of style).

Moore talks about major events including Prohibition, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, a gripping account of the first trans-Atalntic flight and the crash. There are some major ommissions - the Art Deco movement barely rates a mention. And, for a British writer, Moore is blinkered to a US viewpoint only. It's as if European centres such London, Paris and Berlin made no contribution to the Roaring 20s. As far as Moore is concerned, they only rate a mention in the context of Americans who went there. All the same, a great read.
post #692 of 1935
So, reviewing my reading for the year, here are the official CD Literary Awards for 2012.

Best Novel

Winner: City of Bohane. Original in concept, setting and language, with terrific characters and plot. I hope a sequel is in the works.

Close, but no cigar: The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, because it cracked me up. Also a nod to The Cartographer, to support a promising new Aussie writer.

Best Non-Fiction

Winner: Behind the Beauiful Forevers. I enjoyed a lot of the non-fiction I read this year, so this was a hard pick. I chose this one because it was so affecting, without being judgmental or patronising.

Close but no cigar: The Shallows, which had me nodding furiously in agreement, and also enabled me to experience Cage's points while I read it on my ipad. Also 1835. The Founding of Melbourne, which taught me a lot about my local history which I wrongly thought I knew quite well.

Worst Novel

Salvage the Bones. How did this repellent garbage win the National Book Award?

Worst Non-Fiction

This is How. Hopefully nobody is stupid enough to take Augusten Burroughs' advice on anything.

Nicest Surprise

I'm tempted to name a few of the winners above, most of whom were new writers for me. But I think I will give this to the Icelandic writer Sjon because he was a completely out of left field recommendation from Amazon, all of whose works I found challenging and enjoyable.

Biggest Disappointment

Peter Carey. I hated both of his novels that I read this year. I like him enormously, so I really hope he hasn't lost it.

Well that is my year in review. I am certainly in for 2013, and already have two books on the go.
post #693 of 1935
Well I didn't hear from anyone so I just renamed the thread...

1. Bangkok 8 2003 John Burdett many thanks to CW for recommending this author.
(Obviously) set in Bangkok- mystery/ thriller involving a half Thai/half American detective who is fervently Buddhist, which leads to some very interesting analytical thinking. The book revolves around meth, jade, and transsexuals. A lot of twists are hard to see coming; and I got more than a few belly laughs.

Highly recommend it- 3 more in the series.
post #694 of 1935
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

So, reviewing my reading for the year, here are the official CD Literary Awards for 2012.
Best Novel
Winner: City of Bohane. Original in concept, setting and language, with terrific characters and plot. I hope a sequel is in the works.
Close, but no cigar: The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, because it cracked me up. Also a nod to The Cartographer, to support a promising new Aussie writer.
Best Non-Fiction
Winner: Behind the Beauiful Forevers. I enjoyed a lot of the non-fiction I read this year, so this was a hard pick. I chose this one because it was so affecting, without being judgmental or patronising.
Close but no cigar: The Shallows, which had me nodding furiously in agreement, and also enabled me to experience Cage's points while I read it on my ipad. Also 1835. The Founding of Melbourne, which taught me a lot about my local history which I wrongly thought I knew quite well.
Worst Novel
Salvage the Bones. How did this repellent garbage win the National Book Award?
Worst Non-Fiction
This is How. Hopefully nobody is stupid enough to take Augusten Burroughs' advice on anything.
Nicest Surprise
I'm tempted to name a few of the winners above, most of whom were new writers for me. But I think I will give this to the Icelandic writer Sjon because he was a completely out of left field recommendation from Amazon, all of whose works I found challenging and enjoyable.
Biggest Disappointment
Peter Carey. I hated both of his novels that I read this year. I like him enormously, so I really hope he hasn't lost it.
Well that is my year in review. I am certainly in for 2013, and already have two books on the go.

I'll do a simplified version of the "end of the year summary" after I am back from my current travels. Must read some Carey and that City of Bohane.
post #695 of 1935
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

Well I didn't hear from anyone so I just renamed the thread...
1. Bangkok 8 2003 John Burdett many thanks to CW for recommending this author.
(Obviously) set in Bangkok- mystery/ thriller involving a half Thai/half American detective who is fervently Buddhist, which leads to some very interesting analytical thinking. The book revolves around meth, jade, and transsexuals. A lot of twists are hard to see coming; and I got more than a few belly laughs.
Highly recommend it- 3 more in the series.

You did well to rename the thread. You did well to start off the new year with the Burdett series.

I have also read one but no time for the capsule review right now. Well into the second for the year. Both are Chinese authors.

50 - I am on my way!
post #696 of 1935

1. The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon

 

An Australian fantasy writer whose depth of characterisation is to be envied. A newer series of hers that focuse more on adolescent characters. Pulled off well, although not her best by a long shot.

post #697 of 1935
0. In the Time of Love, by Naguib Mahfouz (2010)

This is the first book I've read from this Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian writer.

This novella tells the story of Ezzat, the wayward son of the saintly Sitt Ain, and his lifelong search for love and meaning in his existence. Packed with incident, Ezzat's story covers many decades from his childhood years through to a bitter  but ultimately accepting middle age. This is not a rapid read, but is well rewarding.

Since this is quite short at 120pp I won't count it towards my 50.
Edited by California Dreamer - 1/5/13 at 1:05am
post #698 of 1935
BTW, welcome Matt (pun not intended). Good to see someone else flying the flag for Aussie authors.
Edited by California Dreamer - 1/5/13 at 1:05am
post #699 of 1935
2. Bangkok Tattoo 2005 John Burdett Further adventures of Det. Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police Force. Book opens pretty dramatically with a gruesome murder of a CIA agent in Bangkok near a bar in which Sonchai has a part interest. The denouement is different than what one might imagine and is interesting, but not as much as Bangkok 8. This book is OK, but if you're only going to read one of the series stick to Bangkok 8.
post #700 of 1935
Clockwise counting 1/50: Mo Yan - The Garlic Ballads (1988)

My third Mo Yan novel, this is a somewhat shorter and more straight forward read than the epical, wide ranging historical family dramas I finished last year with. It is also in my opinion less brilliant, merely "very damn good".

The strong influence of Latin American (Garcia Marquez) magic realism is less obvious here. This is much more gritty realism with some absurd and surreal touches than it is magic realism and it is indeed a harsh indictment of the corrupt and utterly selfish Chinese local government officials of the 1980s. It does go beyond a pure criticism of the Chinese Communist party to really put is finger on an aspect of Chinese culture and society which is violent and unforgiving.

The novel has two interconnected stories as its main two narrative streams: one is of a riot among garlic growing peasants that are heavily taxed and cheated by the local government and the other is of a doomed love relationship faced with a pre-revolutionary feudal society thinking still in the late 1980s prevalent in the minds of communist party officials. This is a very violent book and reminded me sometimes of Solzhenitsyn's short classic One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch but it has a lot more in it than just brutal ill-treatment in a camp for political prisoners.

Recommended!
post #701 of 1935
Clockwise counting 2/50: Ha Jin - Nanjing Requiem (2011)

I was interested to learn more about the Japanese invasion of Nanjing and the brutal massacre that took place there 1937-38. I was also interested to read the Chinese writer Ha Jin who emigrated to the US in the 1980s and is now a US citizen and writes all his novels in English. Ha Jin has won numerous prizes including the PEN/Faulkner award (twice) and the National Book Award. Nanjing Requiem is a well-written but for some reason unsatisfactory novel about these historical events. 

The story centres around the American sponsored Jinling college for girls which is turned into a refugee camp for women and children under the guidance of its acting principal Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary. The book has such a strong documentary feel that it sometimes gives the impression of telling the biographies of Minnie Vautrin (a factual person) and her Chinese assistant Anling. The brutal massacre of civilians, the serial rapes and looting that took place in the weeks after the invasion are described in the novel but become almost a backdrop to the moral dilemmas and plights of the main characters.

A readable novel, particularly for its historical interest, but strangely dry.
post #702 of 1935
Clockwise counting 3/50: Mario Vargas Llosa - The Dream of the Celt (1996)

Started reading this in 2012 but forgot to bring it with me on my long Christmas / New Year trip so just now finished it. Much like the Ha Jin novel, this is so much of a documentary / biography that it becomes drily informative for much of its 500 pages. It is definitely not Vargas Llosa's best effort but nevertheless an interesting story.

The Celt of the title is the Irish revolutionary, British traitor but amazingly also and for most of his adult life the knighted and well respected British consul Sir Roger Casement. The best parts of the book are those describing Casement's work in Congo documenting the terrible crimes of the Belgian colonisers in the early 1900s. It seems Casement was a living contradiction, on one hand a fervent human rights advocate and on the other hand struggling with his own dark secrets (homosexuality and maybe pedophilia). 

Casement's development in the later part of the book into a radical Irish revolutionary is less well told and the story becomes more factual and dry as it recounts historical data of who said and did what at certain points of time. Casement lines up with Germany against the British in the first world war and he tries to kick-start the Irish liberation with German military help. Things don't go well for Roger Casement and he remains an enigmatic character long after his death.
post #703 of 1935
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

BTW, welcome Matt (pun not intended). Good to see someone else flying the flag for Aussie authors.

 

Thanks man!

 

2. The Dark Divide - Jennifer Fallon

 

In the first book, Fallon creates several divergent realities that are differentiated through the level of magic found in the realities and the relations between magical species and human species. In this book, Fallon adds complication upon complication, with many, many, many characters finding their dopplegangers in alternative realities. Often feeling like she'd added one too many plot changes, there are some surprising plot twists that re-focus the story towards the end of the novel.

 

Essentially a book written for a late teen audience, but compelling characters and some interesting mechanics make this a pretty fun read, especially if you're in the mood for high quality fantasy.

post #704 of 1935
3. Bangkok Haunts 2007 John Burdett A DVD of a snuff film is delivered to Sonchai. The snuffee is a hooker he had a torrid love affair with a short time ago. Turns out that she wanted to die and was paid a significant amount to provide for her family for life. Meanwhile, even though she arranged her own death the woman is haunting all involved with the case. She tries to take her revenge from beyond the grave, but is thwarted by Sonchai.

There wasn't much suspense to this one, but I enjoyed the narrative. Thumbs up.
post #705 of 1935

3. No country for Old Men

 

Having enjoyed The Road, but having struggled through Blood Meridian without finishing it, I was hoping that this book would redeem Cormac in my eyes. Definitely did. Some of the best dialogue I've read, and each character is quite intriguing and provocative. I have to say, though, that I thought the ending was drawn out, almost painfully, with recount upon recount about a story that is, fundamentally, done and dusted.

 

Reading the book gives me a stronger appreciation for the movie, which might just be my favourite adaptation of any book yet.

 

Hope some of you have read this book - quite an enjoyable read.

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