Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Luminaries

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First of all, I need to thank Christina for giving me this book. Because, well, what a ride. I was not honestly going to go out of my way to read this. Yes it won the Booker, but long time readers of my reviews know that that could go either way for me. It makes me hesitant about the winners now. But with a heartfelt recommendation and a gifting, how could I say no? And with a Chunky book challenge this year, perfect timing.

The book is essentially looking at 12 main characters. They all live a West Coast New Zealand town, Hokitika, which is a gold rush town. People have moved around the world in the 1800s chasing gold, and settled in New Zealand. All of these men occupy different roles in this gold rush town and this book tells their story around a particular day. They recount this day to a 13th man. There are another 7 characters that influence and feature in this story. They are all described to you in a neat character table in the front as you would describe astrological entities. It sounds like a lot of people, but at over 800pp not really. If you get lost in the first part just flick back to this chart. I did and it fell back into place. But really, you get to know them all rather well.

This book is a work of art. I do not mean that in a trite saying way. I mean it is literally and intricately crafted and artistically thought through every step of the way. There is stuff I know I do not understand, and another reading may divulge that, but I think I wouldn't enjoy a second reading as much for reasons below. Particularly, the star charts used through out the book. I could work out who would be the main influences in the parts but not the intricacies. I understood that the moving of the stars through time of the different parts influenced the behaviours of the characters somewhat. In fact I could see how the stars influenced the characters, with them being sympathetic and trustworthy in the first part, but as their stars changed so did they, and you couldn't quite tell who to completely believe. It was clever, shifting suspicion to multiple people realistically. However, I didn't get a lot of the individual chapter names, in fact by the end I stopped reading them. But always read the chapter summaries.

I was describing the book to a few people the other day, both online and in real life. The book for me is like a spiral. Or a seashell. You start at the most outmost edge and you follow the ridge further and further in. This is what the book is like. You start at the periphery and get drawn further and further in, with more things exposed and revealed to you the closer you get to the centre. To begin with, it's true, it doesn't quite make sense. And they choose some of the most unsympathetic characters as your introduction. But the more you get in, the more you want to know. You get tighter and tighter towards the reasons, the truths and the characters and their motivations.

Honestly, I thought that she would drop all, if not some, of the balls. Everyone interacts with everyone in their own ways and their own stories. That's 20 factorial storylines! That's a hell of a lot of storylines. But she doesn't drop one! It's astounding.

I will admit I was wondering what the last few parts were about. Then there are more and more subtle reveals. Until the very last page...

This is, for me, an amazing novel. I am astounded how well constructed the whole thing is. And due to holidays, I devoured it. I would have been done days ago if it wasn't for stupid work. This well and truly surpasses all the other Bookers I have read. It actually deserves that damn prize. Read it. Read it now.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Secret River

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This book kicked me. I was sitting there thinking about the human condition, and why we are such scared arseholes, and a baby chicken jumps up next to me, snuggles down and wraps her head around into my lap. Some times we aren't I guess. Some times chickens, who are a bit naive, love you to bits. So I think this book should be sold/lent/issued with a chicken. So you have something fluffy to love you while you read it.

That being said, the book was great. It was a book that tells you the story of William Thornhill, who was born into extreme poverty in London. He turns to being a thief but is given a chance at life by being taken on as a waterman's (boatman's) apprentice on the Thames. He marries the girl he loves, and everything is going well. Until it is not. Like so many people in the 1800s. He is caught thieving again, sentenced to death but reprieved by being sent to the colony of New South Wales.

I feel like I have spoiled half the book for you. But THIS is where the book begins. This book tells the story of so many men and women that came out to Australia in the 1800s. They were shipped from the biggest city in the world to the most remote place on earth. And they survived, and prospered. As a great, great, great, great granddaughter of one of them, that's astounding, and I'm glad they did.

What is the thing that makes me emotional though, is not that part. It's what white Australians did to survive. That's the thing that kicks me in the guts. That's the thing, as an Australian that I know is creeping up on me from every crevice of this book. I understand. I understand the terror. The fear of the unknown. The fear for your family. But it does not excuse at all the horror we unleashed again, and again, and again, and still again even now.

There is still a division in our country. We should be better. We are slightly, but not at all enough. The right calls this a guilt agenda. I do not feel guilty for what my convict ancestor did or didn't do in 1820 or so as he didn't know better. I feel guilty as educated people in 201...4 we are doing terrible things still.

This book was brilliant and humbling. And if you don't know much about the very first settlers to Australia from Britain, it's not a bad way to learn.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Zoo City - #48

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I came back to J-berg. I had to, after the State of Symmetry disaster. I was trying to work out what other book I could read for South Africa and this one fell on my lap. I am so glad it did.

This is like an alternate modern day book. It's set now, everything is similar and familiar. Well, that is, besides the familiars. We would call them familiars but in Africa they are termed mashavi. These are animals that appear one day to certain people, and attach themselves to them. To their "soul" if you like. What kind of animal? Whatever you get stuck with. Zinzi has Sloth. And now they are inseparable.

Who does this happen to? It seems that anyone who does something particularly horrible becomes a mashavi. I am not sure exactly who bad it has to be, the sliding scale is not quite talked about, but you have to have done something pretty bad. All people who are animaled are therefore considered as criminals, and are shunned by society. A lot of them live in an area together, a slum really, called Zoo City. As that is the un-pc name for them. Zoos.

Along with the animal, comes... well... for a lack of a better term, a magic power, or ability. Zinzi and Sloth can find lost things. She looks at people and can see the things they have lost and can follow the trails and find them. Pretty useful. And she in her Former Life used to be a journo. Pretty good combo. Pity everyone looks at you like you're a criminal all the time. But she advertises her services as a finder of lost things, and as people want certain things found, she makes a bit of money.

It is through this she is hired by the top music guy in South Africa to find one of his "next big things" who has run off before her album launch. This throws Zinzi into a whole new world of interesting. Throw in her contract to run email scams - you know the "I'm an African princess dying of cancer and have $20 million dollars and can only give it to you as you are a trustworthy person and I have no one else, but first I need your $2 million so I can escape my terrible oppressive country and die in freedom." emails - to a gang, and the book gets interesting.

That was a long intro... What I loved about this book wasn't the main story line. The music industry thing. I loved the end of it, but not the story. I LOVED the whole animaled lore. It was brilliant. And the aside chapters that are written (turns out by some of the author's friends) in different mediums to explain whats going on. The world is amazing.

Again the sense of place is great. You could really get in to where Zinzi was and what she was doing. I will throw in, as I am on holidays, I could spend hours reading in a comfy chair with a chicken, unlike the few minutes stolen here and there in my real life. But I still found it so easy to get swept along in the place and the story. I need to check out more of her writing.

In a country that has had a problem with an "us" and "them" in the past it was interesting looking at this idea again but from an non-racial premise. I think it was pretty spot on, we all default to shun the unfamiliar and the different. We shouldn't and that's what should make us different from animals, but we're a bit crap at it. It also was a really interesting idea to look at the problem of refugees from all of Africa's wars and conflicts, and how that makes normal people forced into horrible situations scarred, not just on their person and psyche, but can leave an another "scar" (animal) but it may not be their fault... It's interesting...

I say read it. We lose a star as I was getting a little bored halfway through. I couldn't see where it was heading. If this is you too, stick with it, it's only 350pp! It's really different and I can't wait to read more of her work.

And so ends the alphabet! I started Anil's Ghost on the 16 Jan 2013. I finished this on the 4 Jan 2014. I missed our cut off in YLTO, but still within 12 months for me. Thanks for reading these along with me. And this year, the challenge is Chunksters (over 500p books) so looking forward to knocking off some huge reads. Hope you stick around with me :)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Year of Wonders

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You can't describe this book. At all. It's one of those ones that just sounds incredibly boring. A small English town in 1666 realises they have an outbreak of the Plague and quarantine themselves off from the rest of the world, and 1/3 to 1/4 of them die. In fact my Mum described this to me a year or two ago and I thought the same thing. I did go and buy it though as we both have a Geraldine Brooks crush. And I am glad I did.

The thing is, I can't actually describe what I really liked about this book. The pacing and suspense (in parts) was great for a novel talking about something I thought would be boring. I thought I knew what the ending would be about, but I had no idea. That did seem a little left field, but not implausible at all.

This is a book that those who are wanting to use language styles in their historical novels should read. And emulate. The 17th Century language in how it was used, was not at all abrasive unlike other historical fictions I have read this year, and cleverly done. It was similar enough so we knew what was being said, but used enough to be different.

And it had just enough background that I could work out what was going on without feeling like I was being patronised. In fact it made me realise how little I know at all about the Puritans. Granted they are not in power any more in this book, but they are a lingering influence, and you can see the rector's struggle to keep the extreme views of the Puritans under control throughout their plight. I know they killed a king, brought in the only royalty free part in England's history, were so horrible at ruling (or their rules really) people went and found the rightful heir and begged him to come back and reinstate the royalty. Then the Puritans got a bit pissed at this and some of them buggered off and settled in the US. That is my TOTAL knowledge of them. I need to read some more about them. I prefer fiction with fact in there (I remember things better with a story), but happy for good non-fiction selections too so please recommend if people know any. And I need to dig out my list of historical witchcraft and witch trial books again.

Also, the book is based off a real town, Eyam, that did something incredibly similar to save those around it. That's pretty impressive. The author has used real names of people who she has replicated reasonable truthfully in her book. if she changed their character substantially or fictionalised them completely she changed their names. The plaque I have used as the image for this post shows the first cottage to be hit with the plague in reality, and you see that echoed in the book. It's done well and sensitively.

I just devoured it. Which I was surprised about as I wasn't a big fan of People of the Book. So if you like historical fiction (granted no battles if that is your thing), give this a go. It's short and sweet. And plaguey.

An Expert in Murder

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Tell you what. Been definitely getting my murder mystery fix lately. I bought this on a whim. I needed an "X" book quickly. I couldn't find one anywhere, and then ended up in the bookshop at my work. I saw this. It was expensive (I hardly ever pay full Aussie retail for books. Why spend $30 on a new paperback when I can buy it online for $10 or less?) but I was borderline desperate. And I figured if I didn't like it, Mum probably would so it could be a present for her.

So I read it. It is set in the 1930s in London. A murder mystery writer and playwrite Josephine Tey is on her way down to London from Inverness on the train to see her play's last week in production on the West End. Some one gets murdered on the train. It all links back to her play. And then more murders happen. Everyone hates each other or is tied up in some way to another. It all seems too hard, but luckily Josephine and her detective friend who she bases her character off in her books, are there to save the day and catch the baddie.

I sound cynical. But it was cute. It's just such a well used plot now you can't really describe it without sounding cynical. It's a cozy. And we all know how cozies end. And they all sound a little lame when you describe them.

There was a lot of WWI flashbacks which was a little annoying. Not the ones central to the plot, just the whole "Everyone was so happy before the war" ones. Yes, I know. I'm a bad person.

I also had a real problem with the characters' sexuality. Well, obviously not a "problem" problem, as you would know from my other reviews. But everyone was so openly gay or bi. And I understand that it was more tolerated with women especially after the war, but you couldn't go around introducing them as your lover or snogging people on the street. You could and did get arrested for that. You could get locked up in prison or asylums for that as not only was homosexuality a crime, it was a documented mental illness until the 80s. That just didn't feel real to me.

And lastly, I felt we didn't have any of Phryne Fisher's sassy and sexiness of being a bit younger, or Miss Marple's playing everyone to think she's a dear little old lady-ness. Josephine was just a bit middling.

But over all, not an unpleasant book to read over Christmas. I saw the second in the series on sale next door to Lexx's work today where a discount book shop has opened up. Maybe when I run out of a few other reads...

Women of Sand and Myrrh - #47

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It took me a while to pin down my feelings for this book. It raises so many, it was really hard to wade through them all and work out what I thought of the book as a whole.

The book is 4 intertwining stories about 4 different women within a very strict, restrictive Islamic society within the Middle East. The best I can find is Saudi Arabia is probably the closest with these restrictions. I loved that this was from the women's perspective which gave us an insight into a world half of us would never see.

The book is split into 4 parts, each part with a different woman telling their story. The women pop up in other women's stories as they are all connected but your perspective is changing throughout the book. We have Suha from Lebanon who's husband has a contract in this country and they have moved there for him to work for a while. Tamr, who is the daughter of a sheikh and his concubine from Turkey, but is a native to this 'country' and a student of Suha's at the local womens' TAFE. Suzanne, an American housewife who again's husband has a contract in this country, yet she finds all men find her exotic and desirable in this country and never wants to leave. And Nur, who is incredibly spoiled by her very wealthy husband, but there is so much more to that relationship.

Some of these women I completely empathised with. Some I was appalled with. But I understood most of them. They were all products of this restrictive society. And it made me so glad that I could drive and go where I wanted, when I wanted, without a man, I can work, I can be educated, I can leave my house without a man I'm related or married to, I can wear what I like and so much more. It was one of those books that immersed you in were you were and I think that's really important, as so many of us write off these places. We don't think about them. We know about them but we don't think about them, as they make us angry and so it's easier not to. And we forget the women within them.

It's important to remember.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Valmiki's Daughter - #46

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I was overly excited to read this book. I have a friend at work who is from Trinidad and Tobago. We hear all these wonderful stories about her homeland, and I was hoping for a bigger insight into this world.

But what I got is a transplantation of the overly oppressive elements of Indian society in a lovely tropical location. I will have to ask her about this, as that is the cultural background she is from (as opposed to Afro-Caribbean) but she funnily enough went home for the Christmas break so I have to wait until I get back to work. But this was entirely at odds to conversations we had had. And that was worrying to me from the outset. Two possibilities for this. One is my friend's childhood and young adulthood was abnormal. Or the book written by a expat living in Canada was abnormal. So I was slightly on edge.

Valmiki is a rich, successful doctor on Trinidad. He has a wife and two daughters. He sleeps with lots of exotic, foreign women. We also find out in the first quarter, even the first fifth of the book, that he is actually gay (I say gay not bi, as he seems to have absolutely no feelings towards the women besides his wife, and that just seems to be companionship, not love at all)and sneaks off into the forest to go hunting with a group of lower class men (class is a BIG deal apparently...), one of which he has had a long term sexual relationship with. This is apparently a giant elephant in the room as his wife knows and it's all about keeping up appearances.

But then he is so upset about a fight with his wife and eldest daughter as she wants to play sport. And this is wrong and not to be tolerated apparently, more by wifey than him, but it sets off alarm bells for him. And I'm here thinking "Oh here we fricking go". Then there is a big deal about what his intelligent daughter wears. This is an reoccurring theme, about how she likes jeans, a cotton shirt and leather Indian shoes. If I wanted to read a book about clothes I would find the equivalent of Sex in the City in paperback. For disclosure's sake, that's what I wear substituting tshirt for shirt as I feel like it, and shoes would be thongs or skate shoes. But the whole time I'm reading this I'm getting "DO YOU GET IT????? She won't wear a dress!!!! SHE'S A LESBIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" If the author had taken a 2x4 and painted "She is a lesbian" on it, and then smacked me literally over the head with that, it would have been more subtle.

Enter the French girl who apparently goes both ways, because all French girls do.   ...    Really? Is that not incredibly offensive to put peoples sexuality down to a nationalistic stereotype???

And then the end. The ending made me want to throw up over the entire book.

Just. No.

When I get back to work I'm asking my friend for a proper Trini read as this was bollocks. Not very grown up that final assessment, but I really did not enjoy much of this book at all and at 398pp I'm entitled to call it names.

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

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PD James was a presence while I grew up. She was always there. Same with Ruth Rendell. They were an infinitely growing, ominous, dark tomed presence that appeared on and loomed from the bookshelves. I had no idea what was in them, until I was old enough to start watching murder mysteries on TV with my Mum, but these books were slowly taking over.

But up until now, I have never read a book by either of them. So when I abandoned my first U read for the alphabet (Unnatural Fire, I couldn't deal with the language) I picked up this one.

This book is a spin off of sorts to her Adam Dalgliesh series. He makes an appearance at the end of the book and has a talked about presence throughout. Cordelia Grey is a early 20 something who worked a typing temp for a private investigator. He liked her and her investigative skills so much, he hired her on as another PI. Then made her a partner in the business. And then manages to kill himself leaving Cordelia the business which is unheard of in the 1970s for a woman to have a business, particularly of this nature, and so young.

Lurched into all of this Cordelia gets employed on her first solo case to go up to Cambridge and investigate the death of a young uni dropout called Mark Callender. This involves all sorts of running around Cambridge, hard life for some.

It's a short book, so I don't want to give anything else away really. It was fun. It a proper British murder mystery. I felt like I should have been watching it as a BBC miniseries at times. It's dated well, besides the typewriters. At least I spent enough time as a kid playing with a typewriter I know about ribbons and how annoying they are. And despite the title, it was not even half as sexist as I expected it to be. That was rather refreshing, especially after the last couple of reads.

And best of all, I didn't pick the ending! I love murder mysteries when I don't work out then end.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Telesa - #45

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If you would like to read Twilight in a tropical setting this is it. Book is set in Samoa. Lelia is heading there as her Dad died and she is Samoan. But because for some god unknown reason to us Southern hemisphere peoples, even though she is 18 she is unable to execute her adult decisions here. She has money and some how can't use it, so is at mercy of a controlling aunty and uncle she's never met. Who make her go to school. Because even though she is not needed to legally (compulsory schooling seems to be only until 14), they tell her to and it's a good plot device. Oh and church. She can go to church and school and no where else. Talking to people is also out.

Enter Daniel. He's gorgeous. He makes you forget you're an independent human being. You forget you can make any decision in the world. Ever. Because you are a girl and girls cannot exist without hot men. In fact, introduce the hot American doctor scientist guy, and all elements of self determination pretty much go out the window. Us women can't do anything ever without thinking about the men. It comes with the boobs. Rational thought ≠ boobs. It's like teen fiction science or something.

Right so Lelia has special, magical, Samoan mythological powers that has been brought out due to her being back home. Her Mum (FYI Lelia thought she was dead) also has these powers and is tied to some weird sisterhood thing (ie. women with no men are bad). Anyways Lelia needs to work out who she is and what to do and such. With the boys. Because god knows you can't do these things without men.

1. Pretty self evident from above. Unless you are a girl. Then you may need a hot boy to explain it to you.

2. The author is from Samoa, educated in America and lives in New Zealand.  Besides the sexist co-dependent bullshit discussed above, the magic system is interesting and the problems of mixed island/nation race would speak to a lot of us in the Pacific. So I would say the majority of the time this would be written for us in the Pacific. Until you read it. What Pacific nation do you need to spend 2 pages describing netball to? You need to spend 5 pages describing rugby to us? Rugby is the only thing us Pacific peoples agree on! In fact it's pretty much a religion in half of our countries. However, there were a lot of Samoan culture and words I needed help with, and those explanations were welcome.

But it is obvious from the start this book is written for American audiences, not Samoan or New Zealander or even Aussie. I just feel in order to gain a few more readers the author has excluded her actual readership base. As a Pacific reader, granted a tenuous one, I felt like in the bits of this novel I engaged with and could relate to, I was made to feel like a moron, as if someone was explaining it to a slow, senile 2 year old. For an American reader for example, imagine you read an American novel who spent 2 pages explaining baseball and 5 pages explaining basketball to you. You know. You grew up with is. It's part of you even if you hate it. And it makes the book tedious and patronises the reader.

So when you read a book that tells you that your gender is incapable of making a decision without a man, and then spends pages of bullshit explaining to you your own culture, I get the shits. Once it got rid of all of that and talked about her inherited magic and the Samoan lore it was more engaging, and the actual climax of the book was interesting and enjoyable. I enjoyed the bits between say 70 and 95% of the book. So I liked 15%. Hated the other 85%.

Grave Dance

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While on this little urban fantasy interlude, I decided to pick up Grave Dance, the second of the Alex Craft novels I enjoyed in February The covers don't get better just by the by. We pick up with Alex a month after the last book finished. Death is handing around in his deathy kinda way, but faery boy has gone missing. And Alex is trying to deal with some of the repercussions and revelations that obligatorily occurred during the last books climax. However, the police ask her to come investigate some chopped off feet, and all of a sudden people start sending magical constructs to try and kill her.

This was a weaker book than the first one, definitely. It was still fun, but I got bored a few times with it. It also got a lot more convoluted. And I don't know how much of that story I needed in this book. Honestly it felt like a lot of it was just set up for the next book. And I hate that when people do that. Tell me that next book if it's important. Or leave it out.

But this all being said it's still, like I said before, fun. we have surly, sarcastic Alex, hot Death, hot faery boy (he shows back up), cool witchy or faery housemates/friends, gargoyles, ghosts, hairless dogs, etc. We learn a lot more about Faery which is definitely interesting. The world building is still great. We just needed an edit I think.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Storm Front

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Ah Harry Dresden. I was waiting for this. I tried Steppenwolf for my S read (and German read). I had already tried it once on a plane in Changi airport at 1.30am. I couldn't do it. So I tried again in real life and not jetlagged or uncomfortable. Was just as mind numbing. Discussions of the human/steppenwolf psyche which reads like a bad turn of the century Anth textbook. No thank you. So, obviously I was devastated I may have had to read Storm Front. Which has been solidly on my radar for a while and moved up much higher after Lexx's one and only review.

Storm Front is the first in the now mammothly sized Harry Dresden series. Harry is a wizard in Chicago. In a world where magic is sort of acknowledged but still not really welcome. Harry has done some things in his past that means that he's not too popular with the wizarding world, and is making his money by being a Private Investigator. The usual though, he doesn't have much money and has a tenuous relationship with the local police as a contractor.

But even though it is such a cliche, it's a good one and it's done well. There's an interesting magic system, there's a good enough story, the characters are easy to relate to and likable. Personally though, I have two problems:

1. One, like Lexx I found Harry a bit of a chauvinistic dick. But I found it more forgivable than Lexx. Which made me wonder why that was, and my conclusion was "Well, coz he's a man." Once I think that I berate myself for being sexist but also wonder why this excuses it. And I think it comes down to the underlying sexism that does still pervade every day life for women, and we just have to accept that sometimes, some men are chauvinistic dicks. And we have to deal with this or we'd be angry all the time. And sometimes it's not coz they think they are better than us. I mean the old men at work hold the doors open for me, not because they are bad people, it's just what they do. And that's my point. I can't yell at them every time coz that makes me the bad person, not them for implying I can't open a door. But when he says things like:

My own hands were too broad, but Murphy had delicate little lady's hands, except were the practice with her gun and her martial arts staff routines had left calluses. p302

That's just plain fucking rude.

2. I can't stop thinking of Harry Ramsden's. This was a fish shop in a small Yorkshire town next door to Dad's own. He used to ride his bike in the 40s over there and buy fish and chips wrapped in newspaper out of a hole in the wall. It then became a restaurant in the same town, then a chain in the UK, and then in the late 90s it had grown to a chain in airports around the world. It was crap from an Aussie fish and chip perspective, mainly as it was all mass produced at that time. But I can imagine being a kid and buying it out of someone's kitchen it would have been great. I thought they had gone bust but apparently not from the quick google for a link. Anyways, I keep mixing up the names. Not Jim Butcher's fault.

So I'm settling on a 4. I'm hoping Harry get's better. And that James Masters reading the audiobooks I have of the next few make it even better.

Respected Sir, Wedding Song, The Search - #44

This book is three of Naguib Mahfouz's short novellas in one book. I bought this years and years ago after reading The Carpet Wars and took myself off to The Asia Bookroom here in Canberra to edumacate myself some more. I bought this and Geisha of Gion. This was the first one of them I ever opened.

Why did I buy them? No idea. I think the declaration of the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature impressed me somewhat. And it has enough still to ensure I got another one of his books ready to read in case it was just this book. Because once again we have an author who has just written about mainly unlikeable characters that I can't give two shits about.

Respected Sir is about a guy who wants to be the best public servant he can be and gives up everything else in his life in order to be the best bureaucrat possible. Including being an interesting or personable person. Worked with too many public servants like that already thanks.

Wedding Song was the one I enjoyed the most I must say. It's the story of relationships between a theatre company and their employees. But it's told three times from different people's point of view. Interesting and different form of writing and story telling. Again, help if I cared for any of them.

The Search is about a man who goes to Cairo trying to track down his supposedly rich Dad who his Mum left while she was pregnant. As she's now dead, he just got out of prison and needs money or a stupid parent to support him. In the end he lets his penis himself to be manipulated by a beautiful woman.

Looking at them as a writing exercise made it more interesting. I can see why he won a Noble Prize. his writing is spectacular. I just think he needs to get better people to tell us about. I will be less forgiving with his next book.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Queen's Confidante

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This was one of those books. As in one of, I mean if I didn't need a Q book asap I would have dumped this and carried on my way. 

This was one of those books that does make me shy away from historical fiction. It was set after the War of the Roses, and is talking about Henry and his family since he won. And his wife Elizabeth's (formerly of York) desire to have wax effigies made of the dead. And she gets a commoner to do this. And then tells her all her secrets. And there is a sexy knight. You always need a sexy knight.

I have many problems with this book, but I do think it is summarised best with my status updates while reading it:

"Oh, this is going to be one of "those" books. "I accepted my payment from John and Clement - yes, that's right; that was his name - ..." Umm... your point being? It's a common name. I went to school with a Clement and a Clementine... /sigh". Also now I'm thinking about it. It was a Pope's name. In 92AD. FFS!! It was 1408 years old as a name when you were writing the book woman!!!

"Now the Italian speaks with a dreadfully written German accent, and apparently in the 1500s people used the phrase "jolthead"."

 "Despite the aforementioned issues and couple of historical inaccuracies, it is pulling me along at quite a pace so I can see what happens."

"I had begun to forgive the writing until she throws in words randomly like "mayhap" every 30 pages or so. Enough to jar as unfamiliar and out of place, but a 'reminder' we are in history."

It was a quick read. It was kinda fun. It was horribly written and historically inaccurate.

Popular Music from Vittula - #43

Image sourced from here
I distinctly remember starting this book. I was on a plane home from Japan, finally from our sudden month in the UK. They had just turned the lights out after meals and drinks so that people could sleep. It was about 12am at night Japanese time, so 1am Aussie time. I was already feeling self conscious as my light was on, but Lexx and my brother were on either side of me. Lexx had taken a sleeping tablet and my brother still hadn't got the hang of sleeping on planes. And I was desperately trying not to piss myself laughing at this book.

This book isn't really a book of short stories, but it kind of is. It's probably better described as a collection of vignettes of the author's childhood. How many of them are true? God knows. He probably doesn't know entirely himself. This is what is the most gripping part of this book. It tells stories of his childhood growing up on the far northern border of Sweden and Finland above the Arctic Circle, where they speak their own language which isn't quiet Swedish, but not quite Finnish, and considered a bastard kind of area by both Finland and Sweden. With all this in the background, he tells you these stories as absolute truths that just sort of get carried away on a child's imagination until they are fantastical in nature and far too big to be true. But you can imagine little Mikael swearing black and blue that's exactly what happened.

This element diminishes slightly as he gets older, and the fantastic, almost magical realism of the book settles back into a more measured reality. But was it is replaced by is a humour and a heartbreaking assessment of the reality of the town that only teenagers can really give.

That's the thing that sucks you in really. It's the brutal honesty of this book. Whether it's him telling you a story at 5 or 15 or 25. You believe his complete sincerity. In a world that undervalues honestly so much, this is a very rare gift.