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2020 50 Book Challenge

Geoffrey Firmin

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54.In Darkness Visible by Tony Jones

This is a follow on from Mr Jones first novel The Twentieth Man. The action this time takes place via flashbacks in the Balkan Wars after the break up of Yugoslavia and 2005 in Sydney the Hauge and Croatia.

It principal cast comprises journalists, war lords & war criminals, bent (vicious) NSW old school cops “pass me the telephone directory”, alcoholic ASIO agents, a failed lesbian love story. Political intrigue plus Holocaust politics and victimhood, numerous victims of the Balkan atrocities and one or two people attempting to find redemption among ghosts.

I found the ending a particular form of sanctimonious journalistic self righteousness and yes I’ve know a few of them in my time.

A page turner and pot boiler. Picked it up at Vinnies and dropping it back ASAP. Mr Jones I fear has turned into an antipodean Tom Clancy and yes the men in black pajamas did feature in it.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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55. Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

This novel is completely OTP, out the window, yonder there be monsters and madness. It was not what I expected as I didn’t read any reviews before reading it.

It is quite shocking literally unlike anything I can ever remember reading, well there is Maldoror by Lautreamont but that was a surrealist picnic compared to this.

Its brutal, vicious and breaks taboos, social conformity and accepted notions of sanity. It mixed pedophilia, murder, gives a new spin on INCELS, family jealousy and brutality plus other horrors which combine in a narrative that will leave you wanting to wash your mind out to get the taste of it out of your system.

Disturbing in the extreme. It was something else indeed
 

Fueco

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69. Oh Crap! I Have A Toddler: Tackling These Crazy Awesome Years - No Time-Outs Needed, by Jamie Glowacki

A great guide to dealing with your little monsters.
 

FlyingMonkey

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77. Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.
If you flip back a page or two, you'll find my review of the first book in this sequence, and you'd probably be wondering why I read the second one. I can't really explain, other than to say that despite everything I found it original enough that I wanted to to know where the author was going to take things.
In many ways, this book is very different. First of all, it is not predominantly focused on, or in the voice of, the cavalier, Gideon Nav, the eponymous heroine of the first book. This is a very good thing as Gideon's jarring Instagram teen personality was very, very annoying and not half as funny as the author seemed to believe it was (although I recognise that I am in a minority in feeling this). Instead, we're inside the head of Harrowhark, Gideon's necromancer, which is an altogether more serious and dreadful place. Instead of the boistrous lesbianism of Gideon, Harrow is basically a terminally anxious asexual necrophiliac, albeit one with apparently unprecedented necromantic powers.
Secondly, the book is not set amongst peers but in the Mithraeum, a space station populated by just seven people, one of whom is (mostly) dead, and another is 'God', at least the god of this region of space, and the man (real name, err... John) responsible for the resurrection of humanity and its current state in the books. All of the others, including Harrow and the other survivor from the first book, Ianthe, are 'lyctors', John's personal guard and generals. The other three are 10,000 years old and about as cranky as you'd expect at that age.
Third, nothing that happened in the first book seems to have been real. At least Harrow remembers an entirely different series of events with a different companion. Gideon simply no longer exists for her, if she ever did. This account of the events of the first book is interwoven with developments on the Mithraeum, in a way that isn't as confusing as some reviewers seem to think.
Finally, at least until the final quarter, this book is a lot slower, gloomier and for long stretches, more boring than the first book. It takes a long time to start developing anything that might be called 'plot' and then everything comes in a confusing jumble of revelations and action in that last quarter. In that sense, I'd say that the book was poorly paced compared to the first. And I wasn't sure that any of the new characters (John and the lyctors) were actually in any way interesting, again, at least until the end.
In many ways, this is a typical second volume of a trilogy, treading water before the set-up for the final book. That finale does indeed set things up for a revelatory final volume, and yes, I will read it, despite still thinking this really isn't written for me.
 

FlyingMonkey

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78. Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson
I have been having Scandi Crime withdrawal symptoms, and none of my favourite writers have published anything new for a while (some due to being dead...) so I tried another moderately well-recommended series from Sweden. This series features a Stockholm tax lawyer, Rebecka Martinsson, who gets in way over her head, when she returns to her far northern hometown after a friend from her teenage years is found brutally murdered and mutilated in the massive evangelical church which he helped to found. The book is atmospheric, redolent of Swedish small town and country life in the darkness of early winter and some of the players are memorable characters particularly a (heavily pregnant) local policewoman Rebecka's odd friend, Sanna, and the three pastors and their wives at the centre of religious life in the town. However consdering their centrality, they are a little underdrawn. Worse the protagonist herself is not very interesting or engaging, and seems more described for potential TV or film adaptation (she's even said to look like an actress at one point) than actually developed as a person. In fact the most well developed characters are both dogs, which tells you something. Finally, the plot relies a bit too much on shock revelations from nowhere and a contrived climax, which always annoys me, and just seems too unlikely to make you suspend your disbelief. Will I read the next one? Well, if you know me, you know I'll refuse to until I find myself with nothing to read and then I'll give in and be disappointed again.

PS: Be careful if you are looking for Larsson's books because some have been translated at least twice in to English under different titles in Britain and the USA, so read the description!
 

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
7. Children of Ruins
8. Hunger
9. Legacy of Ash
10. When we were Vikings
11. The Yellow Notebook
12. A Couple of Things Before the End
13. Agency
14. Sword of Fire
15. How to Fix the Future
16. The Topeka School
17. Beijing Payback
18. The Lucky Country
19. A horse walks into a bar
20. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
21. The Secret Scripture
22. Stone Sky Gold Mountain
23. The Return
24. The Lost Decade
25. Shop Class as Soulcraft
26. Makers
27. Between the World and Me
28. How to do nothing
29. Amusing Ourselves to Death
30. The Bear
31. Eden
32. The Medium is the Massage
33. The Book of Koli
35. The End of Education
36. Exploded View
37. Quarterly Essay: Cry me a river
38. Water Knife
39. Dance Dance Dance
40. Norwegian Wood
41. Snow Crash
42. Being Ecological
43. The Trials of Koli
44. A Deadly Education
45. New Dark Age

45. New Dark Age


The author contends that a proliferation of information, complex systems and a web of impossible to map interconnection is not making our world more transparent but increasingly opaque. There's no spider at the middle of this web, just an exponentially increasing world of complexity where everything affects everything else and no one knows how or why until it's done.

Nothing makes clear sense and we're overloading our ability to see the forest from the trees.

Smart and insightful.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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51. The Dambusters - Paul Brickhill

Classic tale, great read.
Some of the terms used inside are a definite reflection of times gone by...
I remember the film version of this.

@Journeyman re the dog I worked on researching a documentary about the Battle of Brisbane and if the dog had the name I think it had there is a very amusing story about two Afro American GI’s, an Australian housewife and a dog with that name.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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56. Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

Excellent police procedural which keeps you guessing as the narrative unfolds from numerous perspectives.

Also culturally insightful into the urban environment of Tokyo.

The investigation conducted by the central local Detective reminded me of Columbo. Highly recommended as this is the sixth book of Higashino in translation I’ve read.
 
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FlyingMonkey

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The investigation conducted by the central local Detective reminded me of Columbo. Highly recommended as this is the sixth book of Higashino in translation I’ve read.
Yeah, he is a bit Columbo-like - more interested in a socially-beneficial outcome etc. I like all of Higashino's work, although I don't think anything beats Journey Under the Midnight Sun.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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Yeah, he is a bit Columbo-like - more interested in a socially-beneficial outcome etc. I like all of Higashino's work, although I don't think anything beats Journey Under the Midnight Sun.
Journey Under The Midnight Sun was something else but I rank Salvation of a Saint highly.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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57.American Witness The Art and Life of Robert Frank by R.J.Smith

The subject of this biography made the authors task harder by not cooperating with its writing and instructing friends and and associates not to assist the writer.

However... a lot of people were prepared to talk and what a magnificent tale of human endeavor and its tribulations of which there are many. Frank arrived in NYC at the time NYC was becoming the visual art capital of the world.

This is a thoroughly researched and examined life both in terms of insight of the man and the creative process of how the works were produced and their impact upon artistic and commercial realities of the art market.

The support cast is astounding in their creative prowess. Kerouac, Ginsberg and some young guy who was about to his first gig on rooftop by the name of Dylan amongst others.

Highly Recommended.
 

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