Category Archives: Literary

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps- Michael Faber


Synopsis (from amazon)

Note: I don’t like this synopsis, but it’s the best of a bad bunch and I can’t write a better one myself, so…yeah

Siân, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Siân is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

Review

This is more a novella than a novel, which suits my reading habits right now.

The synopsis makes it sound more exciting that it really is, it’s more interesting than exciting. The story carried on nicely though, and was quite beautifully written, it’s no Crimson Petal and the White but it fills the gap well enough.

There’s not really that much of a story to it. The letter offers some intrigue, but it isn’t really used to the best it could be, and the romance was a bit everyday.

I did enjoy it enough though to be disappointed when my kindle copy ended at around 60%, and I felt a bit ripped off, I must admit the customer service at canongate were very good when I complained on twitter though.

Both editions listed below also contain the novella ‘The Courage Consort’

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.53)

Paperback (£8.99)

 

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A Tale For The Time Being- Ruth Ozeki


Synopsis (from amazon)

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Review

‘A Tale for the Time Being’ marks the beginning of what I am calling my return to ‘normal’ reading, ok still not completely normal for me- I’m reading one book at a time rather than two. I’d had a few single books which have held my attention since my return to blogging, but now I’ve had a bit of a run, and I hope it’s not just due to the books I have chosen. (You can read a bit about my lack of reading here). Is it ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which made me be able to come back to my old reading levels? I’m not sure, but I do know that I enjoyed it, I do know that I wanted to read it above other activities which require less concentration (and which I had been holding my interest more than reading), and II do know that since reading it I have read a number of other books which have held my attention (which I intend to review in due course).

So, yes, I really did enjoy ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, but actually I don’t know if I have anything significant to say about it.

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I did get into it I didn’t want to stop. I especially wanted to know what had happened to Nao, and Ruth’s story helped fuel that as she got so absorbed in Nao’s story.

I liked Nao’s voice. It made subjects which were sometimes very emotional easy to read, and her story really did sounds like she was telling it to a friend who she was slowly getting to know.

I certainly recommend it. Although if you can go for a paper copy rather than an ebook, I read the ebook and all the footnotes were at the end of the book, which doesn’t really work when you can’t flick through it!

4.5/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.29)

Hardback (£16.59)

Other reviews:

The Relentless Reader

Words for Worms (contains spoilers)

Fay Simone

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

 

 

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The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£7.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

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The Guest Cat- Takashi Hiraide


Synopsis (from amazon)

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

Review

The Guest Cat is a beautiful book in the same sort of was that The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was a beautiful book. It had a simplicity which some may find boring, but the writing made it beautiful.

I liked the descriptions of the cat, she was so playful, and just generally cute.

Hiraide is a poet, and you can tell.

If you’re looking for a story which will race on this isn’t for you. But if you want something more relaxed and everyday, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s the sort of story to read on a lazy Sunday afternoon

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£3.59)

Other Reviews:

Wensend

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The Casual Vacancy- J.K. Rowling


Synopsis (from Amazon)

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Review

It’s taken me a long time to actually get around to buying and reading The Casual Vacancy. I love the Harry Potter books so I had some reservations when it came to J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel. What prompted me to actually read it was the series starting on TV, I wanted to read the book before I watched it (and I managed it, just!).

When it comes down to it you probably can’t get much further away from Harry. You probably wouldn’t even know that The Casual Vacancy was by the same author unless you’re a Potter addict who can spot J.K’s style. I can’t help comparing to Potter but it’s not really comparable. If you are looking for something with magic, or something exciting, or something fast paced you won’t get it with The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy, you see, is not plot driven, it barely has a plot at all to be perfectly honest. It is more of a study of the characters. That means that despite the characters being very flawed you come to care at least somewhat, even whilst not liking most of them. Probably the most likeable character was Kay, she cared, but she was weak. Krystal was probably the standout character though, at least for me. She was caustic, but I admired her (note admired, not liked). I can’t imagine being friends with any of these people, but they are real.

It took me a long time to get into the book, you need to be prepared to wait, to take the time. There was enough to keep me going, until I realised that it was sort of like a soap (you know how in soaps there are no ‘normal’ families, they all have these ‘issues’). I suppose it’s meant to be a sort of ‘you never know what goes on behind closed doors’ type of thing, but it did put me off a little.

The ending hooked me though, one of those stay up for just one more paragraph/page/chapter type things. I hear that the TV series has changed the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

A lot of people have criticised how much sex and bad language J.K has used in A Casual Vacancy. There is a lot, but I don’t think it’s completely unnecessary. People have been saying that it’s J.K’s way of saying she can write adult fiction. I think that makes her sound like a former child star who does a nude photo shoot to show that they are ‘all grown up’ (because of course becoming a woman automatically makes you a sex object). I don’t see it like that. People swear, people have sex. Can it be realistic if you make it all family friendly? Life isn’t always family friendly.

I intend to write something about the first episode of The Casual Vacancy later in the week.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.85)

Kindle (£3.66)

Hardback (£13.60)

Other Reviews:

Book Jay

Words For Worms

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

Alison McCarthy

Reading With Tea

Recovering Potter Addict

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

Mama Kucing Reviews and Ravings

Heavenali

Nishita’s Rants and Ravings

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House of Sand and Fog- Andre Dubus III



This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon)

Kathy is a young recovering alcoholic recently seperated from her husband. When her family home is repossessed she is devastated. Her house is sold at auction to Behrani, a former Iranian Air Force officer for whom it represents an entry into real estate and a passport to the future for his family and his own version of the American Dream. For Kathy, its loss is the last of a sereis of insults life has dealt her and the stage is set for a gut-wrenching tragedy.

Review

This book was on my wishlist for years, then on my TBR pile for years, and now it’s been in my review queue for about a month, it’s almost as if the fates are against it. I read a review which finally made me take it off my TBR pile and start reading it. I can’t for the life of my remember where the review was, how I wish feedly had a search function! It’s the thing I most miss from google reader. Anyway, if it was you, I apologise, but if you let me know in comments I’ll add a link to it.

So almost a month after reading my overriding thoughts are about the characters. Maybe my reading is a bit character driven because I didn’t really like any characters enough for me to like the book.

My dislike for Lester is probably in fact what connected me most with the book. I couldn’t quite decide if he was just an idiot or was somehow naturally destructive. Loosing her house wasn’t the worst thing that happened to Kathy, meeting Lester was.

I had the most sympathy for Kathy as a character, everything seemed to go wrong for her, although I didn’t think she was completely clean of fault. Maybe she was just naive, but thins did seem to get worse because she didn’t see the big picture, and because she didn’t think things through carefully enough. I can see it as being somewhat a form of denial, if she avoids situations and decisions then how can anything be her fault? I felt sympathetic because she probably got the worst and least deserved problems through most of the book.

I also had some sympathy for Behrani. Really he was just trying to make something of his life. Choosing Kathy’s house to buy was bad luck really, and I can see why he felt he should get something out of it. He didn’t show much thought for others when it came down to it, but for him the house was more than a house. It was his only chance to make something of his life. He was too stubborn mainly, but I didn’t begrudge him.

In the end of things it was too much. The end was a surprise, but somewhat inevitable when you look at past reactions and experiences of the characters.

3/5

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Paperback (£6.47)

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Found Objects- Peter Gelfan


Found Objects, Peter Gelfan, book
Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Aldo Zoria, a successful commercial photographer, lives with his wife and their lover in a happy household that includes the lover’s two young children. Domestic bliss shatters when an unexpected guest arrives and threatens to turn their world upside down. Found Objects is a novel about the struggle between values and instincts, ideas and reality, whom we strive to become and whom we were born to be.

Review.

I enjoyed Found Objects more than I was expecting to. I was interested in the idea of how a relationship with 3 people might work (no, not like that, get your mind out the gutter!), and there was a element of that, but it was more.

There was a bit of a scientific element. A bit psychological, a bit evolutionary, a bit philosophical. A look at the nature of relationships and sex. And I found that really interesting. With it being within a story setting as well it made these ideas and thoughts easier to read than it would have in a text book. Having said that these elements did occasionally distract a little much from the story itself.

I did enjoy the story too, although it did need the more philosophical sections, I think. I liked the characters quite well. Although I sometimes felt a bit annoyed at Aldo, his actions and thoughts were understandable- even if he hadn’t been the narrator.

The ending was a little bit too open, I knew what I wanted to happen next, but I couldn’t see how any option would even be possible.

4.5/5

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Kindle (£9.39)

Paperback (£9.88)

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1Q84 (book 2)- Haruki Murakami



Synopsis (from amazon)

The year is 1Q84.

This is the real world, there is no doubt about that.

But in this world, there are two moons in the sky.

In this world, the fates of two people, Tengo and Aomame, are closely intertwined. They are each, in their own way, doing something very dangerous. And in this world, there seems no way to save them both.

Something extraordinary is starting.

Review

You know what? I have missed Murakami. I struggled a little with 1Q84 book one and felt I needed a rest before book two. I wanted to read Murakami but I wasn’t letting myself read anything by him until I had read book two. So I waited and waited and waited. I finshed reading book 1 in April 2012. I started reading book two in August this year. That’s quite a gap.

I was a bit nervous that I would find book two hard, it’s part of the reason I left it so long. However it didn’t take long for me to wish that I had returned to the book sooner. Book two was much more classic Murakami. There were parts of it which reminded me of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (one of my favourite Murakami novels).

To give a review of a Murakami novel is really difficult. They’re so bizarre that you can’t really explain them, you have to experience them. Even though they have similar themes that you can compare to each other they continue to surprise you.

So what can I say about 1Q84? I loved it, I have the big hardback edition and towards the end I started carrying it with me to read rather than my kindle, I haven’t done something like that with a book for a long time, and never with a hardback. When I went to the new library I went and looked for, and borrow book 3 before I would even look around the library- because I knew I would want to start reading it straight away. It just had me hooked!

It had a plot which in ways was similar to a crime novel, you really wanted to know what would happen next. But of course with Murakami there are twists and plots which you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. Things which could not happen in 1984, only 1Q84.

I can’t really say anything of substance, just if you too struggle with book one please, please, PLEASE, don’t give up! I promise it’s worth it.

5/5

Buy it:

Hardback- books 1 and 2 (£13.20)

Paperback- books 1 and 2 (£6.29)

Kindle- books 1 and 2 (£5.98)

Paperback- books 1, 2 and 3 (£9.09)

Other reviews:

Sam Still Reading (books 1 & 2)

Claire @ Word by Word (books 1 & 2)

Kate @ Nose in a Book (all books)

Una @ Keep Watching the Words (all books)

Marie @ Girl Vs Bookshelf (all books)

Have I missed your review? Post your link in comments and I will add it here.

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Literary, Sci-Fi

Painter of Silence- Georgina Harding


Painter of Silence, Georgina Harding, Orange Prize, Woman's Prize for fiction, book, book cover, book jacketThis book was read as part of the Wishlist Challenge.

Synopsis. (from amazon)

Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of a hospital. Deaf and mute, he is unable to communicate until a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page.

The memories are Safta’s also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor house which was Safta’s family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin’s world remained the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society – and a fleeting love, one long, hot summer.

But then came war, and in its wake a brutal Stalinist regime, and nothing would remain the same.

Review.

This book wasn’t really what I expected. I thought that as a reader we would be wondering who this man was who had turned up on the steps of a hospital.  This was true initially, but we didn’t make a discovery so much as the secret was, rather too quickly, revealed. It took away some of the mystery which I had expected to get from the book, and actually made it harder to get into than it could potentially have been. I was never at a point where I thought I would give up, but I wasn’t very interested in it most of the way through, and tended to be doing other things when I would normally have been reading it. Consequently it took me quite a long time to finish.

It wasn’t even exactly that it was a bad story. It just took a long time to get to a point in the story where I was interested. Generally speaking I found the background story the most interesting, but that story didn’t really pick up until the war started, and more so after the war. In ways I found the most interesting parts were over a little quickly. One particular example is when Augustin is telling part of his story to Safta. It felt like a rather sketchy version of a story which would have interested me. It seemed like there could be a big story there, but because it was told through Augustin’s pictures we only got the outline. The nature of the story didn’t really make this needed. I can see wanting to take time to reveal the story. I can even see why Harding gave such a basic version. I just didn’t like it!

The Painter of Silence was on the shortlist for The Woman’s Prize for Fiction (formally The Orange Prize) last year, and I can see why. It has a style of writing which tends to be popular with literary prizes

3/5

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Kindle (£3.59)

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The Rest is Silence- Carla Guefenbein


books, Carla Guefenbein, The Rest is Silence

Synopsis (from amazon)

As the adults sit down to gossip over a long wedding lunch and the rest of the children rush off to play, a young boy slips out of sight beneath the table. At twelve years old, Tommy’s weak heart prevents him from joining his cousins’ games, so he sets his MP3 player to record the voices chattering above him. But then the conversation turns to his mother’s death and he overhears something he was never meant to know: that she didn’t die of an illness, but suicide.Confused and hurt, Tommy keeps what he has learned to himself and begins his own secret investigation into what really happened. At the same time, his father and step-mother have problems of their own to contend with. Juan is racked by private grief and guilt after the death of one of his patients (a boy of his son’s age), and Alma, his second wife, senses an increasing distance in their marriage and gradually finds herself drawn back towards an old flame. As all three withdraw into their own worlds, leaving more and more unsaid between them, their family story moves inexorably, affectingly towards its devastating conclusion.

Review

This was the first book I read after I finished Life After Life. I really didn’t want to read anything, I more or less had to force myself to start something. I was sure that once I’d actually got into a book it would be alright, but starting was a difficult step. Maybe my view of The Rest is Silence suffered because of this, I couldn’t help comparing it to Life After Life- at least to a point. And whilst I enjoyed it well enough I didn’t find anything special in it either. Maybe I should have chosen something a little more easy going after Life After Life?

It wasn’t really what I expected. I expected the discovery of suicide to be an important plot point which sustained throughout the story. In fact it was more of a spark that starts a fire. It was referred back to, but it wasn’t as much of a key point as I had anticipated, and actually the story may have worked without it (although it would have suffered somewhat if it was taken out).

The story switched through different voices. Tommy, the young boy, Alma, his stepmother, and Jaun his Father. The time also jumped around a little, especially in Alma’s chapters. This was most obvious at the beginning of the story, and it made things a little confusing, and it did make it harder to get into the book.

There were, in effect 3 (or maybe 4) stories running through the novel, one for each character, but another where all the stories interlinked. It was interesting to see the different sides of a story, and the ways the stories deviated showed the fractures in the family.

I enjoyed Alma’s story best, and I think I liked her best too. There was something quite strong about her, but she almost wanted too much control over her life, she didn’t ever seem to just let things happen. Possibly I shouldn’t have liked her, but there was something very easy to like about her. I think part of it was that Juan was shown as having quite a hard exterior, and although we saw his softer side he never seemed to understand that sometimes you have to show you’re soft side and at others it’s better to remain strong. We saw the contrast between the ways he and Alma interacted with people, and Alma came off better.

Tommy’s story should have been the most interesting, but his voice didn’t really work for me. Sometimes it felt like a child’s voice, but most of the time it was a bit too adult, without and common sense.

3/5

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The Virgin Suicides- Jeffrey Eugenides


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon)

The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

Review

After loving Middlesex, the first book I read by Eugenides, I added The Virgin Suicides to my wishlist. It wasn’t something that had really appealed to me before, it sounded a bit depressing to be honest. I had heard that it was good but it took another book by him to make me actually want to read it.

It wasn’t really that disturbing however. In fact the actual suicides took up only a tiny fraction of the books. They still weren’t exactly the most pleasant thing to read about but they were more upsetting from their consequences than for themselves.

It’s not really a story about the girl’s suicides as such. It’s an important factor, but really it’s about a community. Everyone seems to be obsessed with the sisters, even before the suicides start. There’s a sort of shared experience there, with everyone wanting to know as much about the girls as they can, and sharing all the knowledge they have.

There is a certain element of how the suicides effect the family, and the wider community, but the incidents are never really looked into in that great a detail. There is some wondering about why the suicides happened, but once a theory is suggested everyone just seems to go with it, even though it never really fully explains why what happened happened.

I did enjoy The Virgin Suicides. It still had the same beauty of writing, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Middlesex. Maybe because I didn’t really feel I got to know the characters that well. I felt I got to know them in the same way as you might get to know someone who you see everyday, and might speak to, but isn’t your friend. Maybe that was Eugenides intention seeing as that was how the boys knew the girls really.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.74)

Other Reviews:

Alone. Together. Fact. Fiction

So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

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P.S Out of interest has anyone watched the film? Is it any good?

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The Crimson Petal and the White- Michel Faber


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon)

Sugar, an alluring, nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs Castaway, yearns for a better life and her ascent through the strata of 1870’s London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realised characters. Gripping from the first page, this immense novel is an intoxicating and deeply satisfying read, not only a wonderful story but the creation of an entire, extraordinary world.
Review.
I do not rate amazon’s synopsis of this novel at all, it is far to basic, however I do not feel I could write an adequate synopsis myself so I am going to stick with it.
I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this book. There were times near the beginning where everything was very slow and I thought I might just give up. Towards the middle I kept expecting it to end, although by this point I was much more interested and didn’t really want it to end, there was just something about parts of the middle which felt like the end was coming, even though I knew I’d only read around about half the book. Towards the end I wanted to do nothing but read it. I started a new paperback but only read a few pages because I wanted to read this one. I had to force myself to stop when reading on my lunch break so I wouldn’t be late back to work.
I can’t really tell you what happened towards the middle which made it more interesting. Technically there was really no more plot, and the plot didn’t drastically change, I think maybe I just began to feel more about the characters, and that made me anticipate things which I saw as being inevitable- which in itself made me want to find out what would happen next. I wasn’t always 100% correct in my assumptions however which stopped the novel from becoming predictable.
There was a point in the middle where I became rather confused actually, and a point at the end, but to say more would only serve to spoil.
Certainly an atmosphere of Victorian London is built up very well, you can almost see it, smell it, touch it, taste it. In terms of showing a place, and building at atmosphere it’s got to be one of the best novels I’ve read. Don’t go expecting something sanitized, everything is described in great detail.
My main problem actually is that the ending felt rather abrupt, which really doesn’t seem to fit for a novel which is almost 1000 pages long, surely a few extra pages would be no problem?
Had anyone watched the TV series of this book? Is it worth trying?
4/5
Other Reviews:
Kindle (£4.94)
Paperback (£7.09)

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The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald


Image from Amazon


This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Jay Gatsby is a self-made man famed for his decadent, champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island’s bright and beautiful, he longs only for Daisy Buchanan. In shimmering prose, Fitzgerald shows Gatsby pursue his dream to its tragic conclusion.

Review

So what can I say? Is The Great Gatsby great? (God how clichéd, I wonder how many times that has been written?) Well to be honest not really. I know lots of people love it but I must admit most of the time I was just waiting for something to happen. Then when finally things seemed to be starting to happen it ended. Actually the tone reminded me of Catcher in the Rye (which I wasn’t that impressed by either).

Having said that it was an easy read for a ‘classic’. And quite short.

I like the look of the film too. I can see Baz Lurhmann doing the extravagance well (after all he did make Moulin Rogue)

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.49)

Paperback (£1.60)

Hardback (£7.69)

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As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!)

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1Q84 (Book 1)- Haruki Murakami


Image from Amazon

This book was read as part of the Murakami Reading Challenge 2012

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo.

Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult.

Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. He inadvertently becomes involved in a strange affair surrounding a literary prize to which a mysterious seventeen-year-old girl has submitted her remarkable first novel. It seems to be based on her own experiences and moves readers in unusual ways. Can her story really be true?

Both Aomame and Tengo notice that the world has grown strange; both realise that they are indispensable to each other. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.

Review

I read this book as part of the longer book which holds books 1 and 2. I had always intended to write a review at the end of book one then continue on to book to immediately, however just book 1 has taken me the whole of the year so far (alongside my kindle books, and with a break for Catching Fire) so I really feel I need a break. It’s not that I haven’t liked 1Q84 so far exactly, but I have struggled some what. The story seems to be going quite slowly, although it’s become more interesting in the last 100 pages or so.

The book is split into chapters from Aomame and chapters from Tengo, one from Aomame, one from Tengo, then switching back. At first I found Aomame’s story the most interesting, although I loved Tengo as a character, I can certainly see why he is so popular! Gradually though I became just as interested in each storyline. In fact Murakami seemed to have a tendency to finish the chapter just as it was starting to interest me- which was a little annoying because it made me just want to skip to their next chapter. It was interesting as well how he built in areas of the two storylines which fitted together but only really mentioned them briefly. It made me want to read more to find out exactly how the two stories linked together, and just work out the general puzzles of Murakami’s normal oddities. Having said that the oddities were few and far between in comparison to other Murakami books. Not really sure how I feel about this though as the oddities did seem to be building as the links became more frequent.

Overall. Well, book 1 was a bit like an introduction. I didn’t feel like much happened despite it being almost 400 pages long- however things were introduced which I think will be important later on, and it very much opened up avenues for the other 2 books. I’m still going to have a break in case I find book 2 hard going but I am certainly not going to give up

3/4

Reviews of 1Q84 from other challenge participants:

Sam Still Reading

Tony’s Reading List

The Akamai Reader

Buy it:

Hardback- Books 1 & 2 (£12.00)

Kindle: Books 1 & 2 (£9.59)

Paperback: Books 1-3 (£13.00)

Paperback: Books 1 & 2: pre-order (£8.09)

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Filed under Contempory, Crime, Dystopian, Fiction review, Literary

In the Kitchen- Monica Ali


Image from The Telegraph

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabe’s hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen basement… Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked, and change the course of the life he knows – and the future he thought he wanted.

Review

Okay, time to be honest, I pretty much bought In the Kitchen because I remembered really liking Brick Lane.  I was waiting for it to come out in paperback for so long I eventually gave in and brought it in hardback when Borders was closing down, but it’s still one of the books which has been on my To Be Read list for the longest amount of time. I did start it shortly after buying it but decided I wasn’t in the right mood for reading it, so it has sat on my TBR pile staring at me ever since. Everytime my TBR pile gets low it seems to be saying “Pick me! Pick me! You wanted me so much!” but I was never in the right mood.

Well when I eventually did get around to starting it (almost a week ago now) I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel right about it first time. There is something about the opening which showed so much promise. A bit of intrigue, a promise of something unknown to be revealed. Unfortunately things went downhill from there. Things were just so slow. That first chapter made insinuations that lots was going to happen. I didn’t really expect a fast paced, exciting, detective style novel. It’s still Monica Ali after all and if Brick Lane is anything to go by she’s not the writer of fast paced novels, preferring the gradual reveal. However while I remember Brick Lane having so fantastic descriptions and a great insight to life as an Asian migrant in Britain I didn’t find any such interest in In The Kitchen. While there was the element of a revealing of life as an Eastern European migrant it wasn’t as deep as the insight had been in Brick Lane and didn’t hold so much interest for me.

Really it wasn’t a story about Eastern Europeans, or about a kitchen. It wasn’t a story about a death. It wasn’t a story about a woman. No it was really a story about Gabriel, and, to be perfectly honest I didn’t like Gabriel. I have no particular reason to not like Gabriel, I just didn’t, and really I didn’t care about what happened to him. I think if I had cared about Gabriel I would have liked the story, so it’s really a shame I didn’t. In the Kitchen was slow going but it was all about the gradual reveal, the journey to a climatic end. By then I was a little interested, and if I liked Gabriel I might have ended up liking the whole book, such a shame.

Maybe this review is a bit biased. I can see how good Monica Ali’s writing is. I can see how clever she is with her little clues of what will happen to Gabriel, how she uses the journey to a climax with great success. I really wish I could have loved this book, but in the end the journey was just too long for me.

3/5

Other reviews:

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

The In-Between Woman- Rabindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel prize for li...

Image via Wikipedia

The In-Between Woman is a short story taken from The Essential Tagore, it has been reproduced legally and free of charge at the Guernica magazine website.

Synopsis (written by me)

The In-Between Woman is the story of the two wives of one man. When wife number one becomes ill she insists that her husband takes a second wife. She raises the 8 year old girl but as the second wife grows up things begin to become strained.

Review

I read a review of The In-Between Woman on The Reading Life and although I usually don’t even consider reading short stories this one sounded interesting enough to give a go, plus it was free! I suppose one good thing about short stories is that they are very quick to read, I managed to read the whole of this one on my i-pod while drinking coffee in Starbucks. There’s something quite satisfying about being able to read a whole story in one sitting like that.

I did find the story very interesting, the idea of a woman raising another woman to be her husband’s new wife seemed so alien to me. I liked the way the relationship between the two women progressed from a sort of mother-daughter relationship to a more competitive relationship. I didn’t find the change that authentic, but that was partly because it felt like a very abrupt change. I think in a longer story it could have been stretched out more so the reader could see how things gradually changed. I didn’t feel that much for the characters either for the same reason, I did quite like the first wife (who was the narrator) but didn’t feel like I really knew her, I mainly just felt pity, especially after she had opened her home to this woman.

I found the language was quite beautiful, and very descriptive. I can imagine a full length story by Tagore being the type I would describe as beautiful but I did feel description was needed in other sections, even if it didn’t give the reader such a vivid picture.

Still worth a read if you have a little time to spare.

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction review, Literary, Short story