Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by edinatlanta, Dec 23, 2010.
Really struggling to get fully into Slaughter House 5.
Watched the film?
38 9 Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Previous books by this author I've read have been in the post Cyberpunk vein and this is something of a departure.
A police officer is murdered and his partner who was there claims to have been otherwise engaged. To complicate and send it off on a rather bizarre narrative turn the policeman in question before his death encounters a nine tail fox, a Huli Jing. He then wakes up in the body of man who has been in coma for over two decades. From their it turns into an weirdly interesting police procedural with sufficient twists and turns to keep it moving forward at pace.
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
9. Short Stories inspired by Laurinda
10. The Pier Falls
11. A Darker Shade of Magic
12. A Blade of Black Steel
14. Terra Nullius
15. True Girt
16. A Conjuring of Light
17. The Grace of Kings
19. The North Water
20. Jasper Jones
21. That Thing Around Your Neck
23. Wall of Storms
25. The Messenger
26. When the Night Comes
28. Shot in the Heart
29. Common People
30. Walk Away
31. Name of the Wind
32. Wise Man's Fear
32. Wise Man's Fear
Continuation of the 'I'm sick need easy things to read' fantasy phase. If you're into fantasy then you'll know the book, if you aren't then it won't really appeal to you.
52. Smile, by Roddy Doyle
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book ahead of publication.
With his latest novel, Roddy Doyle returns to form after a series of let-downs. While diverting enough, I did not really think much of The Guts and the Two Pints books. Smile is a much more serious and riskier effort, reminiscent of Paddy Clarke and The Woman Who Walked into Doors.
Victor Forde is a minor radio personality who is recently separated from his celebrity chef wife Rachel. Back living in the old neighbourhood, he finds himself at the local pub trying to re-establish himself with a new circle of friends. One of the pub's regulars, Ed, accosts him and starts to remind him of their school days, but Victor cannot remember him. Ed's gibes awaken some bad memories for Victor, both of school and his life with Rachel.
As always, Doyle excels in capturing the badinage and false bravado of middle-aged blokes in pubs, but this time he invests it with a darker edge: doubt, confusion, sadness and regret are heavily present.
The thing that sets this book apart from Doyle's more usual fare is the quite unexpected ending. It delivers a sharp jolt to the reader's expectations and makes one re-evaluate all that went before. I think it will polarise readers, and I had my own doubts, but I'd much rather be surprised and challenged by a great writer than read yet another example of him ploughing the same old field.
It is one of Vonnegut's more eccentric books, although it was also one of the first of his books that I read.
If you want something a bit more mainstream, try "Mother Night" or "Bluebeard", both of which I really enjoyed.
"Cat's Cradle" is also really entertaining, with a science-fiction twist.
53. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, by Adam Rutherford
* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review a pre-publication copy of this book *
"This is a story about you". It's hard to think of a first sentence more likely to engage a reader and beguile them into a 400-page dissertation on DNA and evolution. It gets right to the point and demands attention.
Soon after, Adam Rutherford sums up human evolution as "one big million-year clusterf*ck", and you know that this is not going to be just any science book. And so it proves. <i>A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived</i> is erudite and entertaining, informative and occasionally cerebral.
The book starts with the rise of hominids and the migrations of homo sapiens out of Africa, showing how DNA recovered from fossil finds enabled these migratory pathways to be better understood. For example, DNA has shown that India was settled from both the south and the north, but that both North and South America were settled from the north. Our DNA also shows that homo sapiens and neanderthals interbred.
Rutherford tackles the paradox of "family tree" thinking, which ultimately leads to a point where the number of putative ancestors exceeds the number of people on earth at the time. Oddly, this means that, around the time of Richard II, everybody in Europe was an ancestor of everybody with European descent today. We are apparently all descended from royalty and we all have Viking ancestry.
I found his account of the Hapsburg's inbreeding and the DNA identification of Richard III's remains really interesting, but Rutherford's most potent writing is on race, and he is abundantly clear that there is no genetic basis for the concept of "race". The genetic triggers for skin pigmentation are the same in African and Indian people, yet we perceive these people as being of different "races". The same goes for other characteristics that are used to label a person as being of a certain race. There is no gene for race, and only a tiny number of our 22,000 genes account for the physical differences that we typically use to distinguish between races. We are overwhelmingly more similar than different, wherever we are from.
While I did struggle with some of the concepts in this book, Rutherford's clear explanations and waspish humour kept me engaged throughout what was a fascinating read.
Wasn't aware there was one. Considering how much KV adored it, I should check it out.
Thanks for the heads up, I'll definitely look out for Cat's Cradle.
Spoiler: Previous Books
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (3/5)
A good book, the film is also quite good, if not better. A little cringe worthy at parts, and my high school self can identify with some of the characters.
Charlie has the worst luck, when he's finally about to do the deed with the girl he loves, and that's when he decides to have a flashback to being abused.
2. Magyk - Angie Sage (3/5)
Slightly on a more elementary level of reading, nice and easy, and enjoyable nonetheless. A great world is devised which will hopefully built upon in future books. Felt that the final confrontation was over a little too quickly, and the ending inconclusive with several questions still lingering, whilst not feeling like a deliberate spoiler.
3. From Russia with Love - Ian Flemming (4/5)
My first Fleming (and Bond) novel. Thoroughly enjoyed it, the details the Fleming goes into to describe Bond without being overbearing and dull are perfect. Will definitely read more 007 books.
4. Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie (3/5)
An easy and enjoyable read. Perfect length too. It was my first introduction to detective literature and I really enjoyed it, however I found the story a little predictable at times, so will look for something more
5. The Great Railway Bazaar - Paul Theroux (2/5)
I read this in a day whilst I myself was on the Trans-Siberian railway somewhere between the Ural Mountains and Irkutsk. I found Theroux's low opinions of the majority of his fellow travellers disappointing, although I did draw several parallels with what he was saying. I'm not sure why, but the book never really grabbed me, even though travelling is something I do often and love. The most interesting part of the book was his two and a half page conversation with Bernard, who seemed to be the most interesting person in the entire book. He did somewhat inspire me to start writing down my own thoughts and perhaps write a travel book of my own. Whilst I was disappointed by the book, I will still read his other book on the same journey done in the 21st century.
6. 13 Reasons Why - Jay Asher (2/5)
I enjoyed the Netflix show a lot more than this book, and it is strongly possible that that is because I watched that first. Going back, this book feels somewhat like a proposal to the TV show. The characters, events and the additional major plot details (such as the law suit and the students reacting to the tapes) in the show really added to the suspense and drama. The ending in the show was much more polished and added an extra layer. I think a major part of my lack of enjoyment was that there was not any suspense in the novel for me, so my review may be a little one sided.
7. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World - Jack Weatherford (3/5)
This book provided a good insight into the life of Genghis Khan and the history of the Mongol Empire. I read it whilst traveling through the Mongolian steppe, and it added to the story. I felt as though the book repeated itself a few times, especially when it came to the battles. It came across as a little one sided, with the victories of Genghis and his descendant touched upon heavily, but the failures often were just mere paragraphs.
8. The Cathedral and the Bazaar - Eric S. Raymond (3/5)
A very interesting read, and one that I believe should be read by any computer scientist. The first few chapters are very exciting and a great history lesson. The book lulls towards the end however, especially when talking about the economics of the open source model, but this is still important. It's especially interesting to compare the companies mentioned at the time of writing to how they are performing today.
9. The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom (4/5)
Amazing book. I felt as thought it started off a little slow, and the ending could have been slightly longer. The second and third people he met were definitely the most powerful. The more I think about it, I didn't feel as though the fifth added much. The sentence about the purpose of his life was important, but could have been delivered by almost anyone.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (3/5)
An enjoyable read, But at times relatively boring. I felt as though it focused too much on Boo Radley for the level of involvement he had on the story. I felt the class difference much more powerful than that of the racial tensions. The book seems to dwell far too much on the upbringing of Scout and Jem, with the trial seemingly in the background, and didn't hold the importance that I would have expected. Whilst there is no doubt that it's a good novel, I can't help but think that it wouldn't be held in the same high esteem if it wasn't released in an era outside of the civil rights movement.
11. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut Jr (3/5)
An extremely quirky book. It didn't fully grab me but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I found Vonnegut's style, particularly the short paragraphs very peculiar. I enjoyed his descriptions of Dresden, and my favorite scene by far was the the hospital one towards the end, and felt that it, along with several others could have been fleshed out a lot more. I found myself at times 'lost' in the words, having to back track to figure out what was going on, a process I don't overly enjoy. I think the book requires a second, if not more, to fully understand it. Somehow, I missed the end of Billy's life entirely, and only picked it up from Wikipedia. I also found the reference to the work of David Irving highly interesting.
54. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo is set at the time when Lincoln's son Willy died of typhoid, which was also the time when news of horrendous war casualties started to seep back to Washington. Besieged with grief and sorrow, Lincoln finds himself unable to let his son go, and returns to the burial ground to commune with his dead child.
What Lincoln does not know is that Willy's spirit is still there, remaining in the bardo, a state between death and rebirth. Willy is surrounded by a legion of fellow spirits, all of them plagued by an inability to let go of their past lives and move on. Some of the spirits take a shine to Willy and try to help him release himself from the ties he feels to his father.
This is a highly original fantasy built on a bedrock of fact, which deals with such weighty matters as death, grief, disappointment and love. Lincoln's grief over the death of Willy is contrasted with the heated anger that the war bereaved feel towards him. Lincoln's interaction with the spirits of the bardo lead him to some decisions about the conduct of the war.
There are moments of real horror in this book, as well as quite a bit of humour. The character of Willy is a bit too saccharine, but the spirit characters in the novel (ironically) have more substance.
This book comes with a great deal of hype attached, much of it to do with the writer's unusual style, effectively assembling a novel out of quotes. These quotes are from named sources in the real-world parts of the novel, and from the various characters in the bardo sections. My own response to this is that it did not alter my reaction to the novel at all. I trained my eye to skip over the citations after each para, and then got on with reading the novel. Ignoring Saunders' construct did not mar the novel at all, which shows how unnecessary and superfluous it is.
^ shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Good review CD however I disagree with you about the citations. He could have footnoted that information or added them to an page and parragraph index at the end of the novel.
I think that aspect of it appealed to my inner Research nerd and added another dimension to the work.
That's going to be something people either love or hate, i suspect. It's been shortlisted for the Booker; it will be interesting to see how it goes.
55. Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review a pre-publication copy of this book *
Hotel Silence is a derelict hotel in a bombed-out city that is just emerging from the shadows of war. The population is cowed, there are shortages and the whole area is mined.
Jonas is an Icelander who has had enough of his life. He chooses the Hotel Silence as a place that he can go to where nobody knows him, taking only the tools he needs to end it all. Once he gets there, what he sees starts to give him new perspective, reinforced by memories of home. As the locals start to depend on Jonas, his plans change drastically.
This is a subtle novel about how exposure to the misfortunes of others can allow us to see our own troubles more clearly. It has charm and deals with serious matters with quite a light touch. In fact I wished for a bit more grit and less lightness, given the circumstances being portrayed.
39 Moskva by Jack Grimwood
Old sins cast long shadows and the shadow cast by the actions of a group of Russian soldiers stretches from Berlin 1945 to Moscow 1985. The past has lain silent for many years but with politics in flux an old enmity surfaces and bodies start to pile up.
Enter Major Tom Fox an Englishman sent abroad to keep him safe from a parliamentary committee looking into Military Intelligence activities in Northern Ireland. Throw in a disintegrating marriage, major emotional trauma and the good Major finds himself in the thick of a kidnapping, murder and power politics just as the Cold War beings to thaw.
Add a one legged Afghan veteran who is constantly drunk, some rather hideous murders and a solid supporitng cast and you have an interesting read, Soviet Noir anyone?
Jack Grimwood is the nom de guerre of author Jon Courtney Grimwood. As this novel was published in 2016 I don’t know if its going to be a series or not, the characterisation is first rate and I could easily spend time with Major Tom Fox again.
I'll have to give the Saunders book a closer look. I love his stories, but at first glance, the novel seemed to shout, I don't write novels, and I have a contract to fulfill!
Separate names with a comma.