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2020 50 Book Challenge

mak1277

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1. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe

Non-fiction about the Troubles period in Northern Ireland, centered around one particular murder.
 

LonerMatt

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1. The Tangled Land
2. The Test
3. Grace of Kings
4. Wall of Storms


4. Wall of Storms

Part 2 in a trilogy which hasn't been finished yet. Silk punk, high concept, politics and crafty technology over magical gimmicks, re-telling of Chinese folk stories as alternative fantasy epics. Betrayal, redemption, miscalculation, brilliance, shifting alliances, nothing to cling to during turbulent times, re-imagining the role of women in war fare, pride, fall, sorrow, ignorance, arrogance, comrpomise.

10/10
 

California Dreamer

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1. Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas

One of Australia's foremost writers tackles the story of St Paul, his conversion to Christianity and his subsequent wanderings spreading his version of Jesus' teachings. The story is interwoven with that of his follower Timothy, his early convert Lydia, and the Roman jailer who presides over his final incarceration.

The book is particularly good at highlighting the schisms that existed within the early church and the theological differences that already existed between the original apostles and Saul. These differences are widened by Saul's successors, Timothy and Onesimus (called Able here).

I was intrigued by how a gay writer would tackle the life of a man whose letters have been a wellspring of much bigotry towards him and others. It's a surprisingly sympathetic portrait, a paradox that the author explains well in his afterword.

2. Dr Knox, by Peter Spiegelman

This is a novel about an idealistic young doctor who sets up a clinic servicing poor patients in LA's Skid Row. One day a woman brings a young boy into the clinic suffering from anaphylactic shock. While he is being treated, she sneaks out and abandons the child to Doctor Knox's care.

Before too long it becomes very clear that there is keen interest in the whereabouts of both the woman and the boy, from different but equally implacable people. Despite pleas to extricate himself, Knox gets more and more involved and exposes himself, his clinic and his colleagues to serious risk.

This is an enjoyable read in the hard-boiled LA crime tradition. It's not up there with Ellroy or Connolly, but it's a good outing nonetheless.

3. The Hills Reply, by Tarjei Vesaas

* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

This is a series of vignettes about stoic people living their lives in a remote Norwegian landscape. Many of the stories encapsulate a brief incident or a passing impression, while others recount a somewhat more substantial tale.

The writing here is beautifully done (credit belongs to the translator as well) but it is dominated by rhetorical questioning and overwrought emotions. There is very little by way of characterisation or story to get hold of here. In the end I found this all rather pretentious.
 

LonerMatt

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1. The Tangled Land
2. The Test
3. Grace of Kings
4. Wall of Storms
5. Where there was Still Love

5. Where there was Still Love


Favel Parrett continues her exploration of family and absence in her newest work. Moving away from Tasmania, this story is set in Melbourne and follows a Czech family during the early 80s. Devoid of a traditional narrative there are long slice of life chapters focusing on, alternatively, a young girl in Australia and her young male cousin back in Czechoslovakia.

The writer quietly takes readers along for a journey into the comforts of an immigrant family and even the nice reliable sections of communist life in CS, while also showing how a change in location can shear a family in many small ways.

While lacking any of the mood or drama of "Out Past the Shallows" or "When the Night Comes" I found myself liking the book despite it being, on summary, something I usually don't go for. Lacking a narrative and character development leaves a long and fragile exploration of a particular moment and mood in people's lives, without any impetus or triggers for it. This is not a 'fish out of water' moment, and Parrett's story revels in the mundane quietness of the suburbs.

A work that would have floundered in a lesser writer's hand, this is something I don't love but do appreciate, which is a rare balance for me.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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3. Goethe - Faust
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde


More classics.
Try Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann.

Have a 1970 Penguin edition of Dorian Gray sitting on the bookshelf, will add it to the years to do list. First read it 40 odd years ago.
 

jeradjames

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Try Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann.

Have a 1970 Penguin edition of Dorian Gray sitting on the bookshelf, will add it to the years to do list. First read it 40 odd years ago.
Yes! Doctor Faustus will be one of my next books I dive into. I haven't decided if I will read Buddenbrooks first. The subject matter of Doctor Faustus seems more compelling as a pseud musician.
I love the covers on that era of the Penguin classics. The black format, not orange.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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Yes! Doctor Faustus will be one of my next books I dive into. I haven't decided if I will read Buddenbrooks first. The subject matter of Doctor Faustus seems more compelling as a pseud musician.
I love the covers on that era of the Penguin classics. The black format, not orange.
I read a succession of Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks was ok. If you haven’t read The Magic Mountain I highly recommend it.
B70E9A0E-E7C1-4E03-9D35-F67A16690B5C.jpeg

I had two shelves full of 70’s Penguins. This is what I kept
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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3. The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Scandi Noir focused on a rather gruesome murder (aren't they all) from some mentally disturbed psychopath (aren’t they all).

However what set this apart is a tight timeline of events which moves at pace. The action focuses on following the investigation through the eyes of a hard pressed senior journalist. Also contains elements of the me too movement and feminist ideology about the impact of the glass ceiling.

Has enough twists and turns to keep you entertained.
 

mak1277

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2. The Little Prince - Antoine de St. Exupery
3. A Farewell to Arms - Hemingway


I'd read (struggled through) The Little Prince in french in high school. This was much easier in English!

I wish I'd flipped the order though. I'm not one to agree that all Hemingway is depressing but this one sure was.
 

Fueco

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6. The Iliad -Homer

So much bloodshed... I listened to this one, primarily while working. I read The Odyssey many years ago, and am listening to it now.
 

LonerMatt

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1. The Tangled Land
2. The Test
3. Grace of Kings
4. Wall of Storms
5. Where there was Still Love
6. The Secret Commonwealth

6. The Secret Commonwealth


Phillip Pullman - author of the beloved and acclaimed 'His Dark Materials' trilogy - returns to the world he created in his 2nd installment of 'the Book of Dust'. The first book was a sequel, focusing on an attempted kidnapping of Lyra Belaqua when she was a baby. This novel, on the other hand, takes place 10 years after HDM trilogy ends.

What connects these two novels (BoD1 and Bod2) is not the chronology but the character and the power of the Church.

So, with that said, the book is essentially about a breakdown between Lyra and Pan (and if you've read any of the novels you know that's a big fucking deal). As Lyra has grown up and become a University student she's focused less on her imagination and more on her logic, causing her to often question her own experiences and write off the world that seems mysterious and unknowable, even though it's a world she is involved with.

With a murder, two or three plot twists, excellent characterisation and a consistent pernicious element to the villains this is a rollicking read. Pullman has, in my opinion, never written anything other than an excellent book. This one is really something and takes up the challenge so often ignored in fantasy: cutting off the head of the snake does not kill the body. At the conclusion of the HDM series there's a sense of victory and melancholy and BoD challenges that false sense of closure subtly and effectively.

Highly recommended.
 

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