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2016 50 Book Challenge - Page 183

post #2731 of 3284
Clockwise counting 27/50: Denis Johnson - The Laughing Monsters (2014)

Degenerate spies and mercenaries play games of dubious moral or geo-political value in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Congo. I really liked this strange, often beautifully written, tale of deception and twisted love. More Graham Greene than Ian Fleming.
post #2732 of 3284
Clockwise counting 28/50: Anthony Quinn - Disappeared (2012)

I couldn't believe there are two modern authors named Anthony Quinn and I actually thought I was reading a book written by the Liverpool author Quinn who recently wrote the well received novel Curtain Call. This book is instead a noirish crime novel written by the Northern Irish author of the same name. Pretty good story about how the region's violent (IRA) past comes back to haunt those who thought all the troubles were behind them. Liverpool's Quinn is however the better writer of the two.
post #2733 of 3284
Clockwise counting 29/50: Sarah Waters - Fingersmith (2002)

A Victorian thriller and love story with spectacular entertainment factor and surprise twists. It's about two young female orphans whose life destinies are intertwined, one growing up among thieves and the other in a mansion. Just like the other two Waters novels I have read, this is excellent.
post #2734 of 3284
My friend Clockwise is back! Where ya been, buddy?

I seem to be stuck on 46 or 47. Extraordinarily unmotivated.
post #2735 of 3284
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

My friend Clockwise is back! Where ya been, buddy?

I seem to be stuck on 46 or 47. Extraordinarily unmotivated.

I'm on 46 its not a question of motivation its more one of time at the moment. Work is somewhat full on present and watching movies is more relaxing than reading.
post #2736 of 3284
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

My friend Clockwise is back! Where ya been, buddy?

I seem to be stuck on 46 or 47. Extraordinarily unmotivated.

I am not far from you, got 40-something but haven't had the time to catch up on my review posting. No problem reaching the required 50 this year but will not get anywhere near the last 2-3 years high book counts.

Like GF, I haven't lacked motivation. It's been work and family and more work.
post #2737 of 3284
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

I am not far from you, got 40-something but haven't had the time to catch up on my review posting. No problem reaching the required 50 this year but will not get anywhere near the last 2-3 years high book counts.

Like GF, I haven't lacked motivation. It's been work and family and more work.

I've been writing some on my own too. Mostly poetry, but am working on a Western, a thriller, and memoirs as well. Writing is hard work!
post #2738 of 3284
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post

I've been writing some on my own too. Mostly poetry, but am working on a Western, a thriller, and memoirs as well. Writing is hard work!

Just wait till you start editing.biggrin.gif
post #2739 of 3284
List (Click to show)
1. A Wrong Turn at the Office on Unmade Lists

2. Acceptance
3. Shipbreaker

4. Winter's Bone

5. Dhmara Bums

6. Istanbul

7. On the Trail of Genghis Khan

8. Holy Bible

9. The Boat

10. Collected Stories

11. Lost and Found

12. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman

13. White Noise

14. Clariel

15. Off the Rails

16. Sabriel

17 Hitler's Daughter

18. Quack this Way

19. Grapes of Wrath

20. Every Man in this Village is a Liar

21. The Twelve Fingered Boy

22. Riders of the Purple Sage

23. The Sheltering Sky

24. How to Travel the World for Free

25. Deliverance

26. Trigger Warning

27. It's Complicated

28. Fight Club

29. Past the Shallows
30. Wonderboys
31. It's what I do
32. A Long Way Down
33. Men Who Stare at Goats
34. Boxer Beetle
35. This is How You Lose Her
36. No Sugar
37. The Invisible Writing
38. Schismatrix
39. The Water Knife
40. Essays
41. Wolfblade
42. Trash
43. The Honours
44. Cloudstreet
45. Cibola Burn
46. Prince of Fools
47. Nemesis Games
48. Golden Boys
49. Gommorah
50. The Ring
51. Wolves
52. Wind/Pinball
53. Distrust that Particular Flavour
54. Blankets
55. Go Set a Watchman
56. Best Australian Stories 2012
57. Half a War

 

56. Best Australian Stories 2012

 

Some great stories, some very dull ones. At 450-500 pages I wish they'd cut about half of the stories - without any theme or voice connecting these I began to just tune out, not really caring because there would be another story in a few pages.


57. Half a War

 

My solution to feeling dulled by reading: fantasy. This is actually a pretty good read - it follows three characters (a queen, a soldier and a politician) as their lives are transformed by a war, and those they know and love are also changed (many for the worse). While the dramatic moments were a bit cringe inducing (big speeches in fantasy novels are so passe), much of the inner dialogue and development was well-paced, interesting and unpredictable.

 

This moved significantly more speedily in the second half than the first, which is neither here nor there, but leaves me wondering what the next installation will entail. I liked the writing and the characters, so it'll be interesting to read the next text.

post #2740 of 3284

I think this is my 5th, but finished Eye of the Hurricane, an autobiography by Richard Bellman(the creator of dynamic programming). I'm working on some maths that he did and doing some research using dynamic programming. He was clearly a talented mathematician but not an English major.

post #2741 of 3284
List (Click to show)
1. A Wrong Turn at the Office on Unmade Lists

2. Acceptance
3. Shipbreaker

4. Winter's Bone

5. Dhmara Bums

6. Istanbul

7. On the Trail of Genghis Khan

8. Holy Bible

9. The Boat

10. Collected Stories

11. Lost and Found

12. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman

13. White Noise

14. Clariel

15. Off the Rails

16. Sabriel

17 Hitler's Daughter

18. Quack this Way

19. Grapes of Wrath

20. Every Man in this Village is a Liar

21. The Twelve Fingered Boy

22. Riders of the Purple Sage

23. The Sheltering Sky

24. How to Travel the World for Free

25. Deliverance

26. Trigger Warning

27. It's Complicated

28. Fight Club

29. Past the Shallows
30. Wonderboys
31. It's what I do
32. A Long Way Down
33. Men Who Stare at Goats
34. Boxer Beetle
35. This is How You Lose Her
36. No Sugar
37. The Invisible Writing
38. Schismatrix
39. The Water Knife
40. Essays
41. Wolfblade
42. Trash
43. The Honours
44. Cloudstreet
45. Cibola Burn
46. Prince of Fools
47. Nemesis Games
48. Golden Boys
49. Gommorah
50. The Ring
51. Wolves
52. Wind/Pinball
53. Distrust that Particular Flavour
54. Blankets
55. Go Set a Watchman
56. Best Australian Stories 2012
57. Half a War
58. Confederacy of Dunces
59. Half a King

 

58. Confederacy of Dunces

 

Do not understand why this book is so popular, found it hard going, obnoxious and turgid. I'm sure there's something I'm missing, perhaps it embodies something I just didn't realise.


59. Half a King

 

Great fantasy. I love fantasy because, ultimately, it's a hopeful genre - it assumes that people are looking to be better, and that, despite failures, the better people find a way to better the world. An easy read, enjoyable prose, avoids cliches (almost no magic, mainly about power plays), and retains a character and individuality, which is hard to do in a bloated and over-written genre.

post #2742 of 3284
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope
51. Us


52. GOMORRAH
Gomorrah: Italy's Other MafiaGomorrah: Italy's Other Mafia by Roberto Saviano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When Gomorrah was first pulished, it was risky investigative journalism at its finest; Saviano revealed to Italians and to the wider world the nature and extent of the Comorra's domination of Naples, Campania and beyond.

Even the best journalism loses its immediacy over time, but after 10 years and from half a world away, Gomorrah is still a riveting read. Saviano recounts a catalogue of vicious crimes and ongoing feuds that turned Campania into a bloodbath, pretty much the murder capital of the world. As well as their drug and extortion actvities, Saviano explains how the bosses extended their tentacles into the more legitimate business world, coming to dominate the garment and construction industries, waste management and others. Their ruthlessness enables them to spread beyond Italy to Eastern Europe, China and the UK.

The book starts off fairly matter-of-fact, but you gradually sense the author's mounting rage against the system,spilling out in a chapter where he points his finger and sets his face against the clans. They took him seriously - he's needed government protection since publication - and we should too.



View all my reviews
post #2743 of 3284
List (Click to show)
1. A Wrong Turn at the Office on Unmade Lists
2. Acceptance
3. Shipbreaker
4. Winter's Bone
5. Dhmara Bums
6. Istanbul
7. On the Trail of Genghis Khan
8. Holy Bible
9. The Boat
10. Collected Stories
11. Lost and Found
12. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman
13. White Noise
14. Clariel
15. Off the Rails
16. Sabriel
17 Hitler's Daughter
18. Quack this Way
19. Grapes of Wrath
20. Every Man in this Village is a Liar
21. The Twelve Fingered Boy
22. Riders of the Purple Sage
23. The Sheltering Sky
24. How to Travel the World for Free
25. Deliverance
26. Trigger Warning
27. It's Complicated
28. Fight Club
29. Past the Shallows
30. Wonderboys
31. It's what I do
32. A Long Way Down
33. Men Who Stare at Goats
34. Boxer Beetle
35. This is How You Lose Her
36. No Sugar
37. The Invisible Writing
38. Schismatrix
39. The Water Knife
40. Essays
41. Wolfblade
42. Trash
43. The Honours
44. Cloudstreet
45. Cibola Burn
46. Prince of Fools
47. Nemesis Games
48. Golden Boys
49. Gommorah
50. The Ring
51. Wolves
52. Wind/Pinball
53. Distrust that Particular Flavour
54. Blankets
55. Go Set a Watchman
56. Best Australian Stories 2012
57. Half a War
58. Confederacy of Dunces
59. Half a King
60. War

 

60. War

 

Sebastian Junger, a journalist and writer, spends 15 months embedded in the Korengal Valley with an Army unit. Through the book (it's long form journalism) he recounts events, but mainly focuses on the soldiers, their personalities, their experiences, the effects war has on them, and the more terrifying prospect of returning home.

 

Junger also often discusses the role of a journalist and objectivity, and one feels his strain to be objective while being fed, protected and cared for by the Army, and seeing people he cares about hurt, die and struggle. In that regard I feel the attempt at objectivity was noble, but perhaps a flawed premise (and he acknowledges this well).

 

So, this is an attempt at 'Dispatches' for the War on Terror, but it is quite different. The prose is much less poetic (which is, I think, the strength of Dispatches), and the individual soldiers are a much greater part of the writing. I think Megan Stack's "Every Man in this Village is a Liar" is easy the equal of dispatches, for the WoT.

 

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book - it was insightful, caring, meaningful, intruiging and demonstrated a real struggle - to see, to act, to write, to think, to worry, to hope, to fear - on the part of Junger, and the novel stands for something that I'm not sure many new novels do: individual soldiers. And that is really what makes this book.

 

One of my favourite passages:

 

"It's a stressful way to live but once it's blown out of your levels almost everything looks boring. O'Bryne knows himself: when he gets bored he starts drinking and getting into fights, and then it's on a matter of time until he's back in the system. If that's the case he may as well stay in the system - a better one - and actually move upward. I suggest a few civilian jobs that offer a little adrenaline - but we both know it's just not the same. We are at one of the most exposed outposts in the entire US military, and he's crawling out of his skin because there hasn't been a good firefight in a week. How do you bring a guy like that back into the world.

 

Civilians balk at recognising that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up. War is so obviously evil and wrong that the idea that there could be anything good to it almost feels like a profanity. And yet throughout history men like Mac and Rice and O'Bryne have come home to find themselves desperately missing what should have been the worst experience of their lives.

 

To a combat vet the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in power. These men come home and quickly find themselves getting berated by a rear-base major who's never seen combat or arguing with their girlfriend about some domestic issue they don't understand. When men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at - you'd have to be deranged -it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relationships are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life."

post #2744 of 3284
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope
51. Us
52. GOMORRAH


53. Lila
Lila (Gilead, #3)Lila by Marilynne Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Lila is a prequel to Marilynne Robinson's prize-winning novel Gilead; as I read it, I could not shake the feeling that I was missing something because I had not read Gilead first. So I think my rating may be lower than it would be otherwise.

Lila is set in rural Iowa in the Dustbowl period of the '20s. Lila is a stolen child, snatched from outside of a house by drifter Doll. Lila is raised by Doll as part of a wandering group of workers living hand to mouth during the Depression, doing whatever it takes to get by.

Once Lila grows to womanhood she separates from the group and makes her own life. Circumstances bring her to the town of Gilead, where she encounters an old preacher, John Ames, and suggests that he marry her. Ames agrees, and soon a child is on the way.

One of my demurrals about this book is that I could never really identify a good reason why Ames would want to marry Lila; possibly this is covered in Gilead, but I don't think that Robinson makes his acceptance of her proposal convincing, given the complications that it clearly involves.

The great thing about Lila is how well Robinson gives a voice to her undereducated heroine without making her seem either unrealistically sophisticated or excessively dumb. It's a very true to life narrative voice, bolstered by Lila's talismanic knife, her only connection with the wandering life that she would like to leave behind, but is never quite certain that she has.

View all my reviews
post #2745 of 3284
List (Click to show)
1. A Wrong Turn at the Office on Unmade Lists
2. Acceptance
3. Shipbreaker
4. Winter's Bone
5. Dhmara Bums
6. Istanbul
7. On the Trail of Genghis Khan
8. Holy Bible
9. The Boat
10. Collected Stories
11. Lost and Found
12. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman
13. White Noise
14. Clariel
15. Off the Rails
16. Sabriel
17 Hitler's Daughter
18. Quack this Way
19. Grapes of Wrath
20. Every Man in this Village is a Liar
21. The Twelve Fingered Boy
22. Riders of the Purple Sage
23. The Sheltering Sky
24. How to Travel the World for Free
25. Deliverance
26. Trigger Warning
27. It's Complicated
28. Fight Club
29. Past the Shallows
30. Wonderboys
31. It's what I do
32. A Long Way Down
33. Men Who Stare at Goats
34. Boxer Beetle
35. This is How You Lose Her
36. No Sugar
37. The Invisible Writing
38. Schismatrix
39. The Water Knife
40. Essays
41. Wolfblade
42. Trash
43. The Honours
44. Cloudstreet
45. Cibola Burn
46. Prince of Fools
47. Nemesis Games
48. Golden Boys
49. Gommorah
50. The Ring
51. Wolves
52. Wind/Pinball
53. Distrust that Particular Flavour
54. Blankets
55. Go Set a Watchman
56. Best Australian Stories 2012
57. Half a War
58. Confederacy of Dunces
59. Half a King
60. War
61. Angelmaker

 


61. Angelmaker

 

Nicholas Harraway's novel is firmly a steampunk tale. It centers around Joe Spork, the son of a gangster who is trying to live a straight and narrow life as a watch repairman. Things aren't so great, and money troubles, romantic failures and listlessness characterise his life.

 

However, a mysterious visit from government officials, a meeting with an old criminal friend and involvement with a mysterious client throws his life into disarray. The novel is mainly about a device which can show humans the truth of their actions, but in doing so makes life unliveable. Behind this machine is Joe's grandmother, a brilliant artisan, and an evil villian who is pursuing godliness.

 

Eventually the novel sees Joe's life change dramatically.

 

Honestly, the novel was about 150 pages too long - the beginning, especially, dragged and meandered. The novel was definitely a slog, and very messy at times, there's just so much happening that is all so over-the-top. Every character is larger than life, every moment a phenomenon, it's just too much. It's also enjoyable overall - there are some delightful passages and interesting moments, some truly evil characters and some truly weird ones.

 

Yet, really, it seems like a first novel (I believe it was a second) and it's just a bit unfocused.

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