Monday, 31 December 2012

Book #7 The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks

The Mind's Eye

Length Of Time In Possession : 1 week

Oliver Sacks, now nearly 80 is the respected neurologist behind the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and the well known book and film Awakenings. In this volume he discusses visual perception, what blind people can "see" for example and relates a journal of his own, terrifying, experience of eye cancer.

It was different from the book I thought it was going to be because it did have a lot to do with actual vision as opposed to what we see when we visualise inside our own minds and how that works, inner visualisation is only really discussed in reference to blind people, and not how it works neurologically for most people.

Like in "Hat" Sacks includes several case studies of people he has known or treated who have had to adapt to unusual types of blindness, and then a new case study, his own, as doctor becomes patient.

It was still, despite not being the book I expected, very readable and I will certainly continue to read Sacks.

Verdict : 7/10    

Destination : Ebook storage

Book #6 The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

Length Of Time In Possession Before Being Read : 1 Week

Arthur Dent is an ordinary guy who just wants to the stop the council building a bypass through his house when long term friend Ford Prefect announces he's an alien and saves his life by removing him from Earth just as it is incinerated by aliens building a bypass.

And thusly, Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy joins the ranks of much hyped much celebrated popular phenomenon that I think is wildly over-rated. It's not very good, it's not well written, there's no decent plot, and the characters are annoying. Indeed Terry Jones of Monty Python writes "No one reads Douglas Adams for his plots or his characters but for his ideas". Well, sorry, I read fiction novels for characters and plots as well as ideas and plenty of writers are perfectly capable of writing all three very well.

Not at all interested in reading any of the follow ups and find its cult status and continued presence on Best Books Ever Lists very bemusing. A bit like a kids book if I'm honest and not like a good one either. I have a feeling that it's one of those things that once certain people have declared it's brilliant, then others feel they must declare it as brilliant because they don't want to look like they "didn't get it" - well, I "got it" but I just didn't get why it was supposedly so awesome.

Emperor's. New. Clothes.

I did enjoy Marvin however 4/10

Destination : Ebook storage

Book #5 The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day Of The Triffids

Length Of Time In Possession Before Being Read : 1 year

The Day Of The Triffids is a 1950's apocalypse novel by John Wyndham which one of my loyal blog readers told me was one on my list I should head for first.

In The Day Of The Triffids, biologist Bill Masen wakes in hospital to find that everyone who was awake and watching during an unusual comet shower has gone blind overnight. The few remaining sighted people begin to organise themselves as chaos descends on the city, trying to decide how humanity will survive with all its infrastructures wiped out. But only Bill Masen senses the danger posed by the Triffids, an unusual plant life which began to grow on the globe some years before.

In reading the Day Of The Triffids with its publication date in mind, what surprised me most is just how many other books, films and TV series about apocalyptic scenarios have heavily plagerised this novel. Most spectacularly in this case the remake of the BBC show Survivors.

Despite it being at 62 years of age a literary pensioner, there is zero trace of it having in any way dated, instead it's rather eerie and could just as easily be Modern Britain.   At first I wasn't sure I liked it, but as I went along I got really into the characters and the prose, and was a bit gutted when it ended to be honest and really wanted to read the"History Of The Colony" he refers to, even though it doesn't exist!

Verdict : A good one, worth reading 8/10

Destination : Ebook storage


Book #4 The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing

The Grass Is Singing

Length Of Time In Possession Before Being Read : 1 Week

The Grass Is Singing is the debut novel of Nobel Prize for literature winning Doris Lessing, set in Southern Rhodesia, where Lessing was born, there is a deliberate attempt to make the area represent all South Africa as a whole.

I've always had a "thing" for Africa and always enjoy finding novels set in the continent. This particular novel is the story of Mary Turner, and begins with reports of her murder, from there it traces Mary's story from her childhood to her untimely demise.

On one level The Grass Is Singing is interesting from the point of view of how much Lessing used autobiographical content, I wondered if the young Mary freed from her parents by education represented young Doris whereas the older frustrated farmers wife Mary who wishes for a less impoverished lifestyle represented her mother Emily, and essentially the fear, which is sadly realised for Mary, of "ending up just like her mother".

The other level is the examination of Apartheid society, and the shocking yet entirely acceptable in its day, bigotry and racism, it's quite eye-popping.

Doris Lessing is someone who "I've been trying to get along with" for some time, because someone I admire is a great fan, but this is the third book of hers I have now read with four others yet to go on my Book Mountain and I still haven't clicked with her.

My problem with The Grass Is Singing in the end is how grim it is. A relentlessly depressing, hopeless sinking of a woman who married because she felt like she had to. It's very well written of course, but not really the kind of novel one reads for enjoyment, and instead "an issues based thing" which are nevertheless good to read from time to time for the point of being cultured, but many novelists manage to both make you think and enjoy the plot and this doesn't do that really.

Verdict : 7/10  
Destination : Ebook storage


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Book #3 The Song Of The Lark by Willa Cather

The Song Of The Lark 

Length of time in possession before being read : 1 year

I’ve read a few Willa Cather novels before and really enjoyed them, you don’t seem to see her in popular bookshops in the UK which is a shame. I’ve had The Song Of The Lark for a year now, and after Exodus, somehow felt in “the mood” for it as I read its first few pages.

Like the other novels of hers I have read, The Song Of The Lark focuses on recent European immigrants to America, in this instance it’s a Swedish family The Kronberg’s and specifically their daughter Thea, one of seven.
The daughter of a Methodist preacher, Thea is singled out early on as a “person of talent” and encouraged musically. The reader follows her story from young girl to grown woman and her trials and tribulations along the way.

Wherever she is wherever she goes Thea seems to find people who adore her, from young doctor Howard Archie, to railway man Ray Kennedy as a child and onwards constantly throughout her life, she is described as somehow bewitching, possessing a kind of aura.

I wasn’t feeling it. Thea was to my mind often quite miserable, angry, spiteful, or snobbish, with very little of any good to say about other women in particular, and specifically rivals. I found her a bit of a bitch to be honest, and a whiner.
 Despite this, I really loved the storytelling of the book, the writing, the form, how it was constructed. Normally, I dislike it when novels leap great chunks of time, but it worked very well in this case. There are still unread Cather works out there for me, and hopefully, I will get to them as I work my way through the books I possess!!

Destination : Ebook = electronic storage

Verdict : A solid 8/10

Book #2 The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World by Richard Osman & Alexander Armstrong

The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World

 Length of time in possession before being read : 1 day

I’m a massive fan of the BBC quiz show Pointless, the sort of fan who watches it every day has it on Series Link, tweets along with it with my own group of Pointless friends who I’ve got to know well over the last year and who as a result, knows the best answers to give for any and all questions about Geography. As a mega-fan, it behoved me to ask for “The Pointless Book” for Christmas. I have to be honest it was a great disappointment, a bit of a poor mans Grumpy Old Men, Alexander’s choices particularly being rather “upper-middle”, the only time I laughed and nodded in total agreement was over my own pet hate “cushions on beds”.

A total Christmas Cash-In book I’m afraid. Does what it says on the tin though in terms of pointlessness

Destination : Charity Shop

Verdict : Meh 5/10

Book #1 Exodus by Leon Uris


Length of time in possession before being read : 2 or 3 days

Exodus is the story of birth of a nation. The nation of Israel as a sovereign state recognised by the UN in 20th Century History. It begins at the close of World War 2 with many post Holocaust Jews endeavouring to be repatriated to the Jewish state promised them by the international community. It is very different from Anita Diamant’s Day After Night, which focused on female refugees themselves and not just because it is a better novel.

We are introduced early in the novel to its two central protagonists. One is Kitty Fremont, a bereaved American nurse, who has some intrinsic anti-semitic prejudices and Ari Ben Canaan, a native Israeli and a hard as nails freedom fighter, part of early Mossad. Kitty joins a party of immigrants in order to remain close to an orphaned girl, slowly finding that she falls in love with Israel and the other characters we meet.

In addition to the post war narrative we also get several other narratives, the journey of Ari Ben Canaan’s forefathers; Yakov and Jossi Rabinsky, as they travel from a closed East European ghetto to Palestine, joining the small groups of Jewish settlements in the late 1800’s, as well as aspects of Ari’s own childhood.

So too, do we get the Holocaust survival stories of Karen Clement and Dov Landau, each with very different stories to tell. The final strand is the birth of a Nation, a birth of blood, grief and loss as the Arab Nations turn on the returning Jews for control of what was once Palestine beginning what is now a 70 year Middle Eastern Conflict.

 I loved this book, each different strand was as compelling as the last and no section bored me. Interesting, informative, engrossing, entertaining, I had but one qualm against it: The book, written by a Jewish author feels biased. The Arabs are described as primitive, lazy, lacking in education or motivation and are rarely described in any positive light and their political standpoint is not given any consideration let alone balanced consideration. A thunderous hit at the time of publication, it is not very hard to see why.

Destination : Keeping this book

Verdict : 10/10

The 2013 Challenge - Climb A Book Mountain

I'm a bibliophile - I love books, I buy books constantly, I borrow books constantly, I acquire books relentlessly. It has got to the point where I no longer have much room for any more. I counted the books in my possession that I have unread and came to a total of more than 130!!!! A total of which I am deeply ashamed.

 I am obsessed with books, OBSESSED. This has led to a growing mountain of books which I own but have either not read or not completed. The time has come to face the awesome task that is climbing Mount ToBeRead (TBR) - either reading an unread book or donating it to charity unread. I will declare the ultimate destination of the book at the end of each post. I must be brave I must be ruthless I must be frugal. Because I am a book addict and it is an illness I can’t control which must be recognised I give myself permission to buy one book a month, I can also receive any amount of books which are free. A belt tightening common sense 2013 for this years challenge.

Unread books I currently own or have in my possession (borrowed) ARE :

  1. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
  2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  4. Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
  5. The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
  6. The White Princess by Phillippa Gregory
  7. Lady Of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory
  8. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  10. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
  11.  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote 
  12. Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller
  13. Shadows Of The Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
  14. Farewell to The East End by Jennifer Worth 
  15. We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K Dick
  16. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 
  17. All Fall Down by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss
  18. The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot
  19. The Outcast by Sadie Jones
  20.  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins 
  21. Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas
  22. No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
  23. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
  24. The Magpies by Mark Edwards
  25. The Trade Secret by Robert Newman 
  26. When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  27.  Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozhi Adichie 
  28. Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
  29. A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale
  30. A Room Of Ones Own by Virginia Woolf
  31. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan
  32. A History Of God by Karen Armstrong 
  33. Dune by Frank Herbert
  34. Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving 
  35. The Red House Mysteries by AA Milne
  36. Memories Of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  37. Man Eaters Of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
  38. Tanamera by Noel Barber
  39. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami
  40. The Other Half Lives by Sophie Hannah
  41. Little Face by Sophie Hannah
  42. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  43. Weight by Jeanette Winterson
  44. The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  45.  The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey 
  46. The Back Road by Rachel Abbott
  47. The City and The City by China Mieville 
  48. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  49. The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  50. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo 
  51. A Factory Of Cunning by Philippa Stockley 
  52. Perfume by Patrick Suskind 
  53. Return Of The Native by Thomas Hardy 
  54. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  55.  Crime And Punishment by Fyodyr Dostoevsky
  56.  A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking 
  57. 1984 by George Orwell
  58. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
  59.  Restless by William Boyd
  60.  House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  61.  Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens 
  62. Go, Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin
  63. Shattered Blue by Jane Starwood
  64. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters 
  65. The Enchantment Of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt 
  66. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
  67.  The Mayor Of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy 
  68. Dark Eden by Chris Beckett 
  69. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  70. The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale 
  71. The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
  72.  The Mouse And His Child by Russell Hoban
  73.  Stuart : A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters
  74.  The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
  75.  Papillon by Henri Charriere
  76.  The Ipcress File by Len Deighton 
  77. Quantum : Why Everything That Can Happen Does Happen by Brian Cox 
  78. A Razors Edge by W. Somerset Maughn
  79.  Homicide : A Year On The Streets by David Simon 
  80. Pictures Of Perfection by Reginald Hill
  81.  The Chapel At The End Of The World by Kirsten Kenzie 
  82. The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  83. The Ancient Garden by Hwang Sok-yong
  84. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins 
  85. Blow To The Heart by Marcel Theroux
  86.  Under The Net by Iris Murdoch
  87.  I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
  88.  Dublin’s Lives by Bernard Malamud 
  89. Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens
  90. HHhH by  Laurent Peters
  91. The Book Of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric 
  92. The Nose And Other Stories by Gogol
  93.  The Cloud Of Unknowing - Anonymous 
  94. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  95.  The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  96.  A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel 
  97. The Player Of Games by Iain Banks
  98.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 
  99. The Trial by Franz Kafka 
  100. The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene
  101. Anatomy Of An Epidemic by Robert Whitaker
  102.  Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  103.  Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  104.  Dante : A Life by RWS Lewis 
  105. The Rise And Fall Of The House Of Medici by Christopher Hibbens
  106.  Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  107.  Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 
  108. How To Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog by Chad Orze
  109. The Marriages Of Zones Three Four And Five by Doris Lessing 
  110. The Sirian Experiments by Doris Lessing
  111.  The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8 by Doris Lessing 
  112. The Secrets Of The Volyan Empire by Doris Lessing
  113.  Small Island by Andrea Levy 
  114. The Magus by John Fowles 
  115. Magician by Raymond Feist
  116.  Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig 
  117. A Spot Of Bother by Mark Haddon 
  118. We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen 
  119. The Master And The Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov
  120. Fatherland by Robert Harris
  121. Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas
  122.  The Pillars Of The Earth by Ken Follett 
  123. The Song Of The Lark by Willa Cather 
  124. Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri 
  125. The Road by Cormac McCarthy 
  126. The Sonambulist by Essie Fox
  127.  The Personal History Of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber 
  128. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway 
  129. The Private Life Of The Brain by Susan Greenfeld 
  130. Absolution by Patrick Flanery 
  131. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry 
  132. The Angel’s Cut by Elizabeth Knox
  133.  Under The Dome by Stephen King 
  134. Tender Is The Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald 
  135. We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee 
  136. The Stand by Stephen King 
  137. On The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin
  138. C by Tom McCarthy 
  139. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
  140. The True History Of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey 
  141. Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy 
  142. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir 
  143. Trespass by Rose Tremain 
  144. The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forma
  145. The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham 
  146. The Rapture by Liz Jensen 
  147. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni 
  148. A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle 
  149. The Life Of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell 
  150. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte 
  151. Villette by Charlotte Bronte 
  152. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
  153.  The Professor by Charlotte Bronte 
  154. Sister by Rosamund Lipton
  155. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
  156. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  157. Derby Day by DJ Taylor 
  158. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray 
  159. Hawthorn and Child by Keith Ridgway 
  160. The Given Day by Dennis Lehane 
  161. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
  162. The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth
  163.  The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing
  164.  Physics Of The Future by Michio Kaku 
  165. The Brief And Wonderful Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz 
  166. To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis
  167. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie  
  168. The Quality Of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
  169. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  170. Bellman &Black by Diane Setterfield
  171. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson 
  172. And When Did You Last See Your Father? by Blake Morrison 
  173. The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks 
  174. Exodus by Leon Uris
  175.  The 100 Most Pointless Things In The World by Richard Osman 
  176. One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  177. Roots by Alex Haley
  178. The Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel  
  179. Thackeray by Lewis Melville
 As I get rid of each I will strike each one on the list through. If any of you have read these books feel free to pop up and say what I ought to get to first!

As I finished 2012's Challenge early, I am already making a start on 2013!

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!!!!!!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Bonfire Books of 2012 (Save)

In no particular order here are the books from 2012 that I would save from a fire, if my books were being burnt!

Save From The Flames! The Literary Heroes of 2012! :

With absolutely no contest whatsoever my number one book of 2012 is Orange Prize For Fiction Winner The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller. A novelisation of the Trojan War particularly focusing on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus as it develops from childhood. This book is beautiful. Outstanding. Moving. Terrifically written. A feast for literature fans everywhere.

In the same month as I read the above novel I read The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Steadman. In this novel Lighthouse keeper Tom and wife Isobel face a dilemma, a dilemma so human and believable and real that I was brought to tears.

Popcorn novel of the year goes to Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Yes, it's a zombie novel, yes, it's a romance, but I loved it and I don't care! Movie due next year.

I don't think I'm alone in considering best selling The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern to be a great book of recent times. Two children are sworn into magical combat in a contest between nature and nurture, but can they take control of their own destinies? Beautiful imagery, and feats of imagination await you at the circus. Buy a ticket.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry can best be described plot wise as "some cowboys go on a journey" but it's impossible to express just how involving the world of this book is, so that, even though it neared 1,000 pages I barely noticed this engrossing book's length at all.

Hilary Mantel's follow up to Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies, was released this year and proved every inch as well written, well researched and entertaining as its predecessor. The Booker Prize Panel agreed and Bring Up The Bodies equally accoladed does not have to be the insecure younger sibling about its place in literature. 

The book which moved me most all year was Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, "a portrait of what it must be to be a 9/11 relative so believable I literally ached"

I followed up one of my favourite books of last year Jonathan Trigell's Genus with Boy A and Cham.
All three novels examine issues facing society with a skill, intelligence and ultimately subtlety not seen in other "issue" novels I read this year. An under-known writer who deserves to be more widely read. Get in now and be able to say you were a fan of his early work.

The most exciting novel this year, in terms of being thrilling to read was Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline. A total nerdgasm of a book, aimed specifically at people in their 30s so overflowing it is with 80s pop culture references. In this novel 3 young hackers take on an evil global corporation to save a virtual reality world for the masses, and it's awesome. 

Dystopia of the year goes to The End Specialist by Drew Magary. A cure for the aging process is found, but is far from the miracle people think it is.

Classic of the year goes to Anne Of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. I read it for the first time this year, and then went on to read the sequels. Though none of the sequels quite match the original, the story of the hilarious, mischief prone orphan on a picturesque island is not to be missed.  

The years biggest surprise came from Michel Faber's Under The Skin. Having read Faber's Crimson Petal And The White, I felt like I knew what to expect. I didn't. By far the single most original book I've read this year, the story of driver Isserley deserves to be promoted completely spoiler free.

The elegant, classy cover of AS Byatt's The Children's Book was matched by it's elegant, classy content as the lives of The Wellwood Family and their associates become interwoven with the events of history from the late 1800's to the First World War. Please bring this reader a sequel.

I went back even further in time with Anita Diamant to the lives of the women in the Bible in The Red Tent. Dinah was only daughter of Jacob of the many sons, Diamant takes what little is said of her in the Bible and extracts a hypnotic, lyrical and ultimately deep narrative identifiable in the lives of modern women. Conclusively a feminist novel if ever there was one.

My last two 10/10 novels were The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng - a beautiful story about a deep entrenched bond between two souls that will last eternally set within wartime Malaysia and the story of a troubled soul Rachel Kelly, a bipolar artist whose life story is told through Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale 

These will be the reads that I will press upon people beyond 2012, I recommend them both for yourselves and as gifts for others.

Thank you for your support throughout this challenge and thanks for reading.

I will be back with news of my 2013 Challenge shortly.

The Bonfire Books of 2012 (Burn)

The reason I am using the expression "Bonfire Books" is that in one of my novels read this year, a character has to decide when the need for heat is desperate which of his precious books he will allow to be used for kindling and which books must continue to be saved from being burnt.

In no particular order and with no set amount, these are the losers of 2012 :

Put On The Bonfire! The Worst Of 2012! :

First up, Disputed Land by Tim Pears, the actual book from which the above reference comes. Though there is an interesting twist, the twist is not well executed enough to save this book from ultimately being a bunch of dull middle class types arguing about money over the Christmas table.

Next The White Lie by Andrea Gillies. The novel begins with a great concept of a family murder, but family ties rapidly feel convoluted and the central conceit that a wide group of extended family have all conspired to keep this secret over quite a length of time feels preposterous. I didn't even finish this.

The other book I failed to finish was Turbulence by Samit Basu, a tale of superheroes set in India, it's woeful wooden dialogue meant that I couldn't keep going with it no matter how hard I tried. 

John Niven's The Second Coming wins the prize for 'the biggest letdown of 2012' with an opening sixty pages of hilarious originality sliding swiftly into mediocrity and cliches.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasuta Tsutsui was 2012's biggest waste of money unless you enjoy paying to read the losing entrants in a high school short story contest. Not sure if it was the translation but regardless it's dreadful. 

In September JK Rowling returned and broke many hearts with her first adult contemporary, The Casual Vacancy, I say heart breaking because the novel essentially about class struggle and middle class snobbery dealt so unequivocally in cliches it was like reading a satirical hyperbolised mock Daily Mail article, except she meant it seriously.

Similarly irritating were Chris Cleave's The Other Hand and Amanda Craig's Hearts And Minds both novels suffering from the same complaint, their authors having used a narrative structure to bleat at their readership about "issues" from the moral high ground, pompously tell them how they must think and feel, if it were possible to die of "smug" both these authors would now be deceased. The anti-capitalist, pro-vegan, rantings that spoiled Scarlett Thomas's PopCo are naught by comparison. 

In April, wanting to read a book about Neuroscience, I picked Lone Frank's The Neurotourist though this was non-fiction, my issues with it were similar to the above books in that she hijacked the topic for discussion, to extensively promote her own feelings and beliefs in quite an egotistical way so that it quite failed as a "topic book" or "science book" and became an opinion vehicle. An arrogant opinion vehicle at that.

The disappointment in that book came hot on the heels of terrible disappointment in All The Myriad Ways an old short story collection by Larry Niven. Discussion about the relevant science behind the title story in various non fiction books I'd read whetted my appetite here, but all the excellent concepts behind each story were frankly, dreadfully executed.

Left of course, is Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov a book which I gave a more scathing review than any book I've ever read by calling it "a wanky book about a wanker for wankers" Pretentious in the extreme; I loathed the thing.

Now, with that rant off my chest I will turn to the heroes of 2012!!! 


The Full Rundown For The 2012 Challenge

And so, after failing by one book last year, I finally complete the 100 books in one year challenge. 

I DID IT !!!!!

Somebody else achieved it last year and wrote out their full list on their blog, I was really jealous that they could legitimately do that, so for the sheer purpose of showing off the full list of the books I got through is as follows :


Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth
Boy A by Jonathan Trigell
Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla
Disputed Land by Tim Pears
Far To Go by Alison Pick
The Damned United by David Peace
The Second Coming by John Niven
PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
The Girl In Times Square by Paullina Simons
Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku


The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
John Dies At The End by David Wong
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
Another Bullshit Night In Suck City by Nick Flynn
Embassytown by China Mievelle
The Paperchase by Marcel Theroux
The Never Ending Days Of Being Dead by Marcus Chown
Death Comes For The Archbishop by Willa Cather
Cham by Jonathan Trigell
The Children's Book by AS Byatt
Under The Skin by Michel Faber
Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar by DJ Connell
Thornyhold by Lady Mary Stewart
The End Specialist by Drew Magary


Headhunters by Jo Nesbø
The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
The Neurotourist by Lone Frank
All The Myriad Ways by Larry Niven
Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
Rules Of Civility by Amor Towles
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson


Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
Fifty Shades Darker by EL James
Fifty Shades Freed by EL James
My Dearest Jonah by Matthew Crow
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Look At Me by Jennifer Egan
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasuta Tsutsui
The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
The Queen Of Whale Cay by Kate Summerscale
The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O'Farrell
Fred And Rose by Howard Sounes


Every Contact Leaves A Trace by Elanor Dymott
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
A Handful Of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Light Between Oceans by ML Steadman
Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides


The Human Factor by Graham Greene
Killing Cupid by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards
Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Pale Fire by Vladamir Nabokov


Death Comes To Pemberley by PD James
Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov
The Universe Next Door by Marcus Chown
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Philida by Andre Brink
The Garden Of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Skios by Michael Frayn
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
Alys, Always by Harriet Lane


Pure by Julianna Baggott
Anne Of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Other Hand by Chris Cleave


The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
Hearts And Minds by Amanda Craig
The Diary Of A Nobody by George And Weedon Grossmith
Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline


Anne Of Avonlea by LM Montgomery
Anne Of The Islands by LM Montgomery
Anne's House Of Dreams by LM Montgomery
Anne Of Ingleside by LM Montgomery
Rainbow Valley by LM Montgomery
Rilla Of Ingleside by LM Montgomery
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Testament Of Mary by Colm Toibin
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green


Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer
Day After Night by Anita Diamant
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick   

Book #100 The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook

I went to see the film adaptation of this novel last month, absolutely loved it and then the friend I went with went on to buy me the book.

The book and the film are very similar, protagonist Pat has been in a psychiatric facility for some time when his mother calls time on it and checks him out. Post-breakdown Pat has a new philosophy : he is determined to look for silver linings and happy endings and he's going to turn himself into the perfect husband to his wife Nikki. The thing is, Nikki is nowhere to be seen, there's more than one restraining order in place, and what exactly happened to send Pat to "the bad place" is never spoken of. Living not quite in-step with reality, Pat strikes up a friendship with the equally damaged Tiffany. 

The film of this book made me howl with laughter and was really popular with the audience I was in, and the film has been true to the book in the sense that it recreates some of the books best moments like "the Hemingway scene". This is however among some of the rare cases where film beats book, the book gets dragged down by the sporting side of the narrative, players and scores etc, in a way that the film doesn't, and is so well acted that it is easier to take the characters into your heart.

The differences towards the end give the book the edge in terms of realism, and particularly Pat's struggle with the concept of time is left out of the film presumably because it would be hard to express visually, but adds weight to the extent of his delusion in the book yet ultimately for me the heartwarming humorous film is a 10/10 but the book is only a 7.

Book #99 Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

Jack Glass

I'm not quite sure how I was drawn to Jack Glass, I think it popped up in 'People Also Bought' on Amazon, it sounded interesting and I think ultimately I bought it as a consequence of that unforgivable thing of "liking the cover" which is very pretty, despite the well known proverb.

What is marvellous about Jack Glass is its originality. We are informed in its preface, that protagonist Jack Glass is an infamous murderer, and what the book comprises of is three short stories about crimes he has committed. These crimes are described thusly by the narrator who is the self appointed Doctor Watson to Glass's murderous Holmes :

"One of these mysteries is a prison story. One is a regular whodunit. One is a locked room mystery. I can't promise that they are necessarily presented to you in that order; but it should be easy for you to work out which is which, and to sort them out accordingly. Unless you find that each of them is all three at once"

As well as being three mystery stories, comprising of "In The Box", "The FTL Murders" and "The Impossible Gun" Jack Glass also belongs to the sci-fi genre with all three stories taking place in some futuristic time which is both recognisable and completely different from our present day.

What I liked so much about Jack Glass was that as well as being a story it's an intellectual challenge, both in terms of solving the mystery before it's revealed and in order to get "your head around" some of the high end Science concepts explored as part of the futuristic science fiction. The paradoxes and so forth.

I found that I utterly kicked myself when the second story "The FTL Murders" was resolved, and also really enjoyed the first story, finding the third weaker by comparison. It is only because I didn't rate The Impossible Gun as much that I am not giving this 10/10, because I really enjoyed the quality and integrity of the book in terms of how it made you think and I will certainly look out for more work by Adam Roberts in future.

Recommended : 9/10   

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Book #98 Day After Night by Anita Diamant

Day After Night

Day After Night covers a period of history not often covered by fiction. Though there are plenty of books about the Holocaust, I do not know of many which cover the decision of many Holocaust survivors to travel to Jewish homeland Israel/Zion to be repatriated. There is, I am told Exodus by Leon Uris, a monster hit in the 1950s, but I have not read it and so this book was my first brush with this period.

The novel focuses on four women Zorah, Leonie, Tedi, and Shayndel who all survived the persecution of their race in different circumstances and are all seeking a new start. Thrown together at British detention centre Atlit, tentative bonds begin to form between the broken and distrustful women.

It is so so hard not to compare this book to The Red Tent, the Diamant novel I read last month. Where the prose in that novel is lyrical and beautiful, Day and Night is far plainer and less engaging. It is hard to feel involved with the women at times, and I hate to say it but at times they bored me, which feels like a terrible thing to say given the subject matter.

There are little pockets of greatness here and there, particularly in the way in which the women's dealings with Lotte are described, and the individuality of each woman's origin, but something about it feels like more of a history lesson than a story, less character than simply archetype, like its purpose is solely informative. For this reason it is a bit colourless as a novel, yet as the fates of each character were rounded up, I did shed a tear so I was definitely moved at the end.

Unlike the Red Tent though it is not a book which lights up your mind and imagination. At best I would consider it a 5 or 6/10    

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Book #97 Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer


In 2009, the US TV network ABC ran a short lived dramatic adaptation of the Robert Sawyer novel "FlashForward"  in which everyone on the entire globe suffers a black out for 2 mins during which they have a simultaneous vision of a day in the future.

Though the series shares its basic concept with the novel it was based upon, the novel is actually very different. The series "Americanizes" the idea, the drama focusing on ordinary Americans, and has a wide ranging scope of individual stories, but the novel focuses directly on protagonist Lloyd Simcoe and his colleague Theo; two physicists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN who are shocked to find an experiment they have conducted has had far reaching and inexplicable consequences.

The fact that all of the focus is upon the workers of CERN throws away the global aspect of event impact. I  have to say that in spite of some thought provoking passages on free will and existentialism, I didn't think much of Flashforward as a novel, it is a fascinating concept suffering from terribly poor execution. Neither its prose nor dialogue are up to much and its central whodunnit mystery is a sad, lazy reduction of the many possibilities for plotlines that the Flashforward idea gives rise to.

Additionally I didn't invest much in the characters whatsoever, and aspects of the ending made no logical sense. Probably the most interesting aspect of it is its historical context, the hysteria/superstition that built up around the Large Hadron Collider that fed a fear that "something bad" would happen as a result of searching for the Higgs Boson, which in reality nothing did.  Passed a Sunday afternoon for me but will be going back to the charity shop from whence it came 4/10