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2017 50 Book Challenge - Page 223

post #3331 of 3345
6 Men and Style:Essays,Interviews and Considerations by David Coggins The practice of life as art and how sartorial knowledge combined with a diverse range of other skills will serve you well in life.

Read about a third of part one and will put it aside, I want to slowly ruminate on this. An enjoyable read to savour at a number of sittings, with a good GnT or glass of Pinot Noir close at hand.
post #3332 of 3345
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

1. Roadside Picnic

2. Fifth Head of Cerebus

3. You are not a Gadget

4. Is the future going to be a better place?
5. The Three Body Problem
6. A Cold and Common Orbit
7. A Gathering of Shadows


7. A Gathering of Shadows

 

The 2nd in a series (which I didn't realise) that combines parallel universes with magic. In this novel there are four Londons, each one containing progressively little magic. The main part of the story takes place in the most magical London and follows a series of characters who are dealing with their choices from the first book. Most are flawed, caught between a few things, which is good, however I feel could have been drawn out a lot more, since it's essentially a character study.

 

There's some great heart racing moments, and some end of the world stuff thrown in (for book three though), but overall it's a well paced read that uses some interesting concepts. Will seek out the 1st and 3rd book :)

post #3333 of 3345
5. The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In BetweenThe Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land In Between by Hisham Matar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Novelist Hisham Matar is the son of a major opponent of Muammar Qaddafi. When he was young, Hisham's father was kidnapped and disappeared by the regime. This book is about his quest to find out what happened to his father in the depths of Qaddafi's prisons.

Matar entertains some hopes that his father is not dead, and tries his utmost to learn where he is and to bring about his release, and the release of those imprisoned with him. He presents his father as a wise, poetry-loving gentle soul who had a fierce love for his country, which brought him into inevitable conflict with the dictator.

This book is heartbreaking at times, especially in the parts when Hisham must deal directly with Qaddafi's inner circle to finally learn his father's fate. This brush with evil is enough to give the reader the creeps; one can only imagine how hard it must have been for Matar.

A thoughtful and eye-opening book.

6. Naoko

NaokoNaoko by Keigo Higashino

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Factory worker Heisuke returns from work to learn that the bus that his wife and daughter were on has crashed and they are both in intensive care. His wife Naoko is fading fast, and daughter Monami is in a coma. As Naoko passes away in front of him, Monami begins to stir.

"Darling, here. I'm here".

With that simple sentence, Higashino takes what was shaping up as a fairly ordinary drama, and gives it a huge twist. Heisuke realises that Naoko has somehow taken over Monami's body, and that it is Monami who has effectively died, not his wife.

Similar situations have been played for laughs in many Hollywood films, but Higashino tells a serious and wrenching tale here. How does a man keep a marriage alive and stay faithful to a wife whom the world perceives is his daughter? How do the two of them navigate the emotional and ethical minefield that this situation presents, not to mention the social expectations of them? How can Heisuke deal with his loneliness as he watches his wife regress back into her childhood and start her life over again, with him on the periphery?

This novel, while not crime fiction, is every bit as complicated and rewarding as you'd expect from this master of Japanese noir, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the most avid mystery fan intrigued.


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post #3334 of 3345
List (Click to show)

1. Roadside Picnic

2. Fifth Head of Cerebus

3. You are not a Gadget

4. Is the future going to be a better place?
5. The Three Body Problem
6. A Cold and Common Orbit
7. A Gathering of Shadows
8. Laurinda

 

8. Laurinda

 

What a great book. I don't know if the other Aussies have read anything by Alice Pung, but this novel broadly sticks within familar ground: coming of age as an Asian in suburban Melbourne. While not explicit, the references to Melbourne are pretty obvious (Sunray is the suburb, which is obviously Sunshine), etc. Anyway, the novel follows Linh who (unexpectedly) receives the first open equity scholarship to the prestigious Laurinda - a private girls school. When she arrives things seem a bit complex and there's some Mean Girls narrative that goes on.

 

HOWEVER, what makes the book much better than a 'rich bitches are terrible' diatribe is how Linh returns home to a father who views the shallow materialism of Linh's new peers as aspirational and accurate, while her mother is unable to understand anything Linh is experiencing. This contrasting narrative really deepens what appears to be a simple story and adds a lot of layers and nuance.

 

Really enjoyed this! Kept staying up late to get it finished.

post #3335 of 3345
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

1. Roadside Picnic

2. Fifth Head of Cerebus

3. You are not a Gadget

4. Is the future going to be a better place?
5. The Three Body Problem
6. A Cold and Common Orbit
7. A Gathering of Shadows
8. Laurinda
9. Short Stories inspired by Laurinda

 

9. Short Stories inspired by Laurinda

 

Loads of stories written by teens in response to the book Laurinda, the author (Alice Pung) selected them based on voice. Some are ok, some are close to good, many are a bit basic. Unfortunately the content of the writing was quite boring - so many starting a new school for the first time stories. On the other hand this is a rare chance for average teenagers to actually get published in Australia telling very mundane stories, so I admire the attitude, effort and the project itself, even fi I found the writing a bit dull and repetitive. 

post #3336 of 3345
7. The Consorts of Death
Consorts of Death (Varg Veum)Consorts of Death by Gunnar Staalesen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


In The Consorts of Death Staalesen reaches back into Varg's early days working for social services. He and a colleague go into a drug den and take away a little baby called Johnny Boy from his addict mother Matte and her thug boyfriend Terrje.

Johnny Boy is fostered out and Varg runs into him again as a six year old when his foster father is found dead. He is fostered again, and about ten years later is involved in another murder scene. Years later, Varg hears that the now-adult Johnny Boy wants to kill him.

This is a twisting yarn with gradually revealed connections that swirl around Johnny Boy's miserable life. We also get a good insight into the reasons why Varg has such empathy for children. Less formulaic than most, this is one of the better Varg Veum books.



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post #3337 of 3345
7 The Grand Hotel Abyss:The Lives of the Frankfurt School by Stuart Jeffries

Fascinating insightful biography of the intellectual development, lives and social and cultural impact of the leading figures of the German Marxist institute of social research.

Tragic at times but eye opening didn't know Adorno tutored Thomas Mann on musical theory and supplied musicals sketches for Doctor Faustus.

Enjoyed studying these men and their ideas in my undergraduate degree and still find Critical Theory provides an insightful and relevant analysis of the foibles and follies of capitalist society as it is today.
post #3338 of 3345
8. Burial Rites
Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Burial Rites is a very accomplished debut novel, especially since its Australian author sets her story in 19th-century Iceland.

The story is that of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. Agnes, with two accomplices, has been found guilty of the brutal murder of a local healer and his colleague. The local District Commissioner commands that she be billeted with an unwilling family of crofters until her executuon can be arranged.

Agnes requests the services of Toti, a local assistant priest. Toti tries to give her religious guidance to prepare her for death, but finds himself fascinated by her instead, and seeks to delve into her past to find out the story behind the murders.

This is a beautifully written book, especially the final act, and Kent does a great job of conveying the remoteness and bitterness of Icelandic winters. It reminded me a bit of His Bloody Project, although it preceded it in publication by some years. A very good book.


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post #3339 of 3345
Not sure who was reviewing The Three-Body Problem, but Amazon has the sequel on special today.
post #3340 of 3345

It was me! Thanks :)

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

1. Roadside Picnic

2. Fifth Head of Cerebus

3. You are not a Gadget

4. Is the future going to be a better place?
5. The Three Body Problem
6. A Cold and Common Orbit
7. A Gathering of Shadows
8. Laurinda
9. Short Stories inspired by Laurinda
10. The Pier Falls

 

10. The Pier Falls

 

So the only Mark Haddon writing I'd read before this short story collection was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NIght-time which was a slightly funny and off beat novel.

 

Let's just say that Haddon is a versatile writer, as these stories bore little resemblance to the writing, content or humour in Curious Incident. That being said, they are great.

 

Each story is substantially different from the one before it - some a very dialogue driven others, like the titular story, are completely narration. The only common theme or topic would be adults struggling with their parents, but even this varies quite a bit.

 

The writing is terse, but paced very different story to story, and I think that, on the whole, the collection is really great - there's substantial variety, I found it hard to binge read or skim because of that - and there was only one story I found myself not really enjoying, which is a pretty good strike rate in a ~350 page book.

post #3341 of 3345
9. When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Having been through a few bereavements lately, I found this book on death uplifting. Paul Kalanithi was a promising young neurosurgeon on the cusp of a brilliant career when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 36. When Breath Becomes Air was written as he confronted his impending death; it provides unique insights on death from a man who has both advised terminal patients and been one himself. It is erudite, thoughtful and beautifully written.

I would have given this 5 stars were it not for the Epilogue from Paul's widow Lucy, which amounts to about 10% of the book. It feels tacked-on and unnecessary, intruding on the inner dialogue that Paul has built with the reader, and stomping all over the heartfelt ending that he had chosen for it. At one stage Lucy writes "When Breath Becomes Air is complete, just as it is". She should have taken more note of that.


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post #3342 of 3345
8 Aspects Of The Novel by E.M.Forster A series of lectures delivered in 1927 at Trinity College Cambridge.

Interesting in terms of insight into the creative process.
post #3343 of 3345
10. Tram 83
Tram 83Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Playwright Lucien arrives in the City-State, the stronghold of a dissident General where desperate people scrabble a living centred on the sleazy nightclub Tram 83. The denizens of Tram 83 are musicians, hookers, miners, tourists and other low-lives.

Lucien shacks up with local hood Requiem while he tries to get his magnum opus published. Requiem does his best to play Lucien, as well as everybody else.

Mujila uses language artfully to convey the bustle and hassling of Tram 83, where nobody can conduct a conversation without being hassled by half a dozen chancers. There is a good concept underlying this novel; the problem is that I just could not get interested in Lucien as a protagonist. He's a lame, feeble, ineffectual cypher, not enough to build the novel around. A novel with Requiem as the protagonist and Lucien as a minor character would have been much more fun.


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post #3344 of 3345
9 The Last Days of New Paris by China Mievile In 1941 in a cafe in Paris a Surrealist bomb explodes. This was not the bombs intent it was to be used against the Nazis to secure the agency of the Golem of Prague. However Nazi black magic and occultism trigger the S Bomb and some very strange occurs. It is now 1950 the resistance hears of a new plan by the Nazis to obliterate New Paris and its alternative reality. Can it will it? But wait this is not all to this story its complex and it has a horror lurking in its pages too vile to mention.

This is a fascinating and weird novella is it truth or fiction as the dream world of Surrealism bursts froth off the page. I have to admit its the first Surrealist novel I read since Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian over forty years ago.

10 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Picked this up last night a third of the way in and is it surreal hyper real? Either way its a proving to be a great read about Lincoln and his son in the netherworld and a rather engaging cast of other worldly characters.
Edited by Geoffrey Firmin - 2/25/17 at 4:15pm
post #3345 of 3345
11. Norse Mythology
Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Neil Gaiman seems almost the perfect candidate to write a collection of the myths of the Norse gods and Asgard, and I approached this book with keen anticipation.

It's a great read, breezy and quick, and Gaiman invests the main characters with life and humour. His Thor is a particularly good character, imbued with a blend of dry wit that sometimes comes across almost as stupidity. His Loki is less successful; he fails to really capture the true evil and threat in Loki, preferring to emphasise the trickster in him. The last part of the book, recounting the leadup to and the aftermath of Ragnarok, is probably the best part.

Norse Mythology is worth reading, but does not really stand out from other versions of these tales that I have read; it's just a welcome retelling of familiar stories. Gaiman has not delivered a comprehensive classic in the mold of Robert Graves' Greek myths, and nor has he delivered an adaptation as remarkable as Graves' reworking of Suetonius in the Claudius novels, or T.H. White's take on Morte d'Arthur. A little disappointing; maybe expectations were too high.



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