Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review by Aimee: The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

YOU, Blogosphere- Amazon- Goodreads- you've Asked me to read this book by plastering shamelessly positive reviews of it all over yourself.

I have Answered.

The Ask and the Answer ("TATA") by Patrick Ness is book 2 of the Chaos Walking trilogy. Now before we go getting our teeth stuck into this fresh piece of meat, I highly HIGHLY recommend that you read Book 1.

I repeat: this isn't one of those series' where you can afford to pick up at Book 2 - you simply MUST read Book 1 FIRST. Patrick Ness' ROARINGLY adventurous dystopian trilogy is all about the suspense, and besides the story being absolutely spoilt in its entirety, you won't have any EFFING clue what's going on at ANY stage. So if you want to be part of this exclusive club, GO. Now. Read. And love.

So with that out of the way: TATA begins at The End. I mean that it presents itself as the tail of Book 1, where we are left hanging by one very sweaty hand off the edge of a high, rocky cliff, otherwise known as the dreaded 'cliffhanger'. There, first page in, written THE END, and then the story begins...

----Mild spoilers start here - watch for the splash as you hit the water below - DON'T SAY YOU HAVEN'T BEEN WARNED ------

---------------------Begin Spoiler -------------------

I guess it's no big secret that Viola lives to see another day, brushing off that bulletwound that showcased Todd as the hero we all know he is in The Knife of Never Letting Go ("TKNLG").

Problem is, Viola's been picked up by a group of healing and silent (no 'noise') dastardly WOMEN, while Todd's thrown in the deep end with Mayor (now President) Prentiss, who sees 'big things' in Todd and wants him to join his gang. It's a power struggle and brainwashing of epic proportions as the two young protagonists fight their way through evils untold and doubts unnumbered in pursuit of their destination: each other.

----------------------End Spoiler--------------------

That is seriously ALL I'm going to say about the plot. Read it yourself.

Now for everything else:-

As the second book in the series, TATA has a fair bit to live up to. In Book 1, Ness built a world where a cowboy and a GI Joe could feel equally at home within its landscape. Book 2, with the further introduction of females and especially with the added viewpoint of the sensible and sweet Viola does run the risk of softening the novel's edges. Lucky for us there's plenty of dust, horses, blood and guts, bomb explosions and gunfire, sweaty boys and sadistic men to keep us thrilled to bits with the second offering.

In my thoughts on TKNLG (see review here) I had challenged Patrick Ness to include Viola's perspective in the next book - Todd was so full of life and guilt and strangeness that I felt sure Viola would bring something extra special if she were allowed to be NOISY with the rest of them.
I was, however, a little disappointed in Viola's representation in the second novel. I was hoping she would be a joint protagonist similarly to Will's role in His Dark Materials (yes I'm still comparing Todd and Viola to Lyra and Will because they are PRETTY MUCH ONE AND THE SAME - you just don't want to admit it), but instead Viola's still that backstage prop used to reflect and deflect Todd's NOISY musings. Further to this point, I had difficulty establishing which character was speaking, except that Viola spoke/ wrote/ told the story like a genderless, stunted being. She sometimes experienced moments of warmth but Todd's overriding personality gobbles it up. Viola is still two-dimensional, Todd is like ten-dimensional. Viola should have been at least a five-dimensional by my awesomely accurate maths calculations. And can I just lament over how much I miss a certain adorable someone from the first book who didn't quite make it to the second? You know who I mean.

But despite these slight hitches, TATA is a dangerously addictive addition to the three-part series. The reading style continues to be accessible and despite its thickness, I guarantee you will rip through it like a horse through a gate at the mere mention of the word 'lightning'.

Happily, Todd's language is still an endearing mix of Shakespeare, current teenage slang and toddler spelling. And ordinary words like "ask" become something entirely different and somewhat dangerous with the simple addition of, for example, some silver paint and a capital "A". Manipulating words and screwing with multiple layers of meaning makes the trilogy enviously exclusive to the readers, like learning a secret society's handshake. Only YOU know what The Knife of Never Letting Go refers to. Thankfully, it's the same with The Ask and the Answer. This book will scribble on your brain like a PARTICULARLY HYPERACTIVE PRESCHOOLER in search of the creative holy grail, so be warned: side effects from reading include expecting everyone around you to talk in echoes with thoughts popping up in bold and unapologetically messy font around their head. You may find that you have to consciously refrain from using the word "effing" in more than three sentences in a row and on blog reviews you'll almost certainly increase your rate of TYPING IN CAPS LOCK FOR NO APPARENT REASON....

..... NO APPARENT REASON........


And the physical book itself is adorable. It's lovely and fat and uncontrollably baby-blue in colour. There's a massive silver letter A (which will ONLY make sense when you're reading it) and it's covered in a thick plastic perfect for adventurous boys and girls who don't understand the meaning of keeping books in good condition.

I also think it's SUPERCOOL the way highly mature themes are dealt with in this series. There's racism, sexism, other general discrimination, dictatorship, questions of religion, abuse of power...I could go on for a while. Chunks of heart and hope are just bowled in randomly along with the usual suspects of greed, guilt, betrayal of trust and general disillusionment. It reminds me a lot of the movie District 9 (which I LOVED as well, by the way - see my review of the movie, here) - fellow Aussie blogger Rhiannon Hart touched on the book's familiarity to District 9 as well (see THAT review, here).

All in all, the sense of creative adventure in this series is sure to overwhelm you- it'll quicken the hearts of any Peter Pan in pursuit of a freshly opened window or a wizened pirate desperate for a new frontier, but equally girls should love the first buds of romance and Todd's crazy "boy-ness". I think I can say without reservation that almost everyone with a still-beating heart will appreciate the elements of humanity and community: an oh-so-relevant commentary on today's increasingly distant and ego-centric world.

So if you have an impossible sense of adventure; if you enjoy tales of an underdog fighting against the injustices of a dystopian world; if you enjoy transformations and the triumph of EVIL over GOOD as well as GOOD over EVIL; if you fly the flag for teenage romance in the most unlikely of situations...pick up the first book and join the revolution, or get ready to read the third and final instalment before the rest of the world catches on.

Cos I think we're on the brink of something big.

4.5 stars for The Ask and the Answer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

*Karen, *Per Petterson, *Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses is a story about this guy having memories about his father. He's Norwegian and there are lakes and timber and affairs and stuff.

Yes, I'm aware I'm not doing justice to a book that received rave reviews and is considered one of the top books published since 2000. I don't really care.

It did nothing for me. It's a great book, and there's emotional resonance, a beautiful little theme about pain, crisp scenery, sex, suspense, and war. But I just didn't care.

I found the narrator inconsistent and untrustworthy. In high school, we talked a bit about the untrustworthy narrator after reading The Great Gatsby, though for the life of me, I can't remember why the narrator was untrustworthy. But that's not the point at all. The point, of course, is that I found THIS narrator unreliable and kind of annoying. Perhaps I was the untrustworthy one--maybe I wasn't reading close enough, and so felt that he was holding out on me and misleading me, when really I just wasn't paying attention--but the result is, I begrudged the time I spent with Trond, and I'm glad to be moving on. At last. This is not a long or difficult book. It should not have taken me so long to get through it (over a month).

Since Out Stealing Horses was originally written in Norwegian, I found one of the most interesting parts of the book to be thinking about the translation; choosing "torch" instead of "flashlight" helped to give it a European air. Not knowing anything about the Norwegian language, however, I really wonder what the book was like in its own language. English speakers are blessed/cursed with one of the largest supplies of words in the world. I wonder how that changes our reading experience. Since the English translation was not exactly brimming with fifty cent words, I'm curious as to how complex the language was originally.

In a foreign language with a limited lexicon, what, exactly, makes a novel literary instead of just boring?


If it's not too much trouble, could you guys maybe put publication years in the labels?
I think it might be fun to look for reviews of books that have a similar dates, just for kicks.

Babbittry Explored

Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)

I have the feeling Sinclair Lewis and Upton Sinclair have the Schubert/Schumann problem: similar names, similar job, similar times. Knowing what little I do about Upton Sinclair, I’d say he’s the Schumann because what I’ve heard about him makes him sound like a bit more of a heavy hitter (Schumann couldn’t orchestrate lightly if they held a blunderbuss to his frontal lobe) than the bantamweight Sinclair Lewis.

Lewis darts and flies around and delivers deft stings with his adjectives and adverbs. Hardly ever have I seen them so smartly chosen.

Babbitt “made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but he was nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.”

That “nimble” is great, especially because Babbitt “was not fat but he was exceedingly well fed; his cheeks were pads, and the unroughened hand which lay helpless on the khaki-colored blanket was slightly puffy. He seemed prosperous, extremely married and unromantic;…”

I LOVE that he is “extremely married.” And the little bit of story that finally emerges centers on this married-ness.

It takes a while for the story to emerge since the novel is largely a portrait of this upper-middle-class Republican in an industrial several-hundred-thousand inhabitant city named Zenith.

The benefit is that you could excerpt any chapter of the novel and read it as a vignette and you’d be just fine. The downside is that, once you set down the book mid-read, you don’t always have a great incentive to pick it up again. Especially since one of the points is that this kind of character isn’t really likeable.

Still, you get highly enjoyable chapters of (the chapter titles are mine): Babbitt at the Office; Babbitt and his Car; Babbitt at the Club; Babbitt Holds a Dinner Party; Babbitt Gets Away for an Extended Vacation; Babbitt on the Train; etc. And the chapters are all fun in their own way.

Let’s see if I can’t find some more fun adjectives. Ah:

Fricasseed chicken, discouraged celery, and cornstarch ice cream

Signed it, in his correct flowing business-college hand,

Vaguely frightened

Notorious freelance preacher

All of them volubly knew, or indignantly desired to know,

Mrs. McKelvey was red-haired, creamy, discontented, exquisite, rude, and honest.

There. I’m done.

The Times Picks the 50 best paperbacks!

The Times (uk) have started their countdown to the best paperback of the year. I thought i'd include the longlist so we could all have a gander (maybe add to our lists) or give us some ideas.


The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale: Reinvestigation of a killing in an isolated Wiltshire house that became the prototype for the Victorian murder mystery.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga: Adiga’s first novel and Man Booker winner is a highly original story about the lengths to which Balram Halwai (the White Tiger) must go to break free of his caste.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

Churchill’s Wizards by Nicholas Rankin: Along with cigars and rallying speeches, Churchill liked deception. Rankin reveals the ingenuity of the men and women who fought Winnie’s secret war.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day: In 1959, the burgeoning freedom of the Sixties forces a crisis at the heart of the superficially stable Singleton family on their annual trip to Blackpool.

Mystery Man by Colin Bateman

The Girl Next Door by Elizabeth Noble

The Other Half Lives by Sophie Hannah: Aidan Seed, a picture-framer, confesses to his girlfriend, Ruth, that he killed a woman called Mary Trelease. But Ruth knows her and that she’s still alive.

The Return by Victoria Hislop: Sonia, a PR exec, flees her banker husband to dance flamenco in Granada. But the Spanish Civil War’s turbulent legacy permeates her experience.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver: The retired criminalist and quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme teams up with his paramour Amelia Sachs to trace “Unknown Subject 522”, the identity-stealing villain.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

The Reapers by John Connolly

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies

Remember Me by Melvyn Bragg: The estrangement of two young lovers has a tragic ending in Swinging Sixties London. The fourth in a series of Bragg’s autobiographical novels.

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Testimony by Anita Shreve: A videotape of three boys and an under-age girl performing sex acts is found at a New England boarding school. It sparks a disproportionately damaging scandal.

The Bolter by Frances Osborne

In the Dark by Mark Billingham

The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams: A reunion between a solitary moth expert and her sister in their creepy childhood home masterfully reveals the rivalry and strange secrets that bind them.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer: Meyer’s first novel for adults is set in a future in which humans have been body-snatched by mind-controlling aliens. It involves a love triangle with only two bodies.

Full Hearts and Empty Bellies by Winifred Foley

The Paper Moon by Andrea Camilleri

Revelation by C. J. Sansom: While Henry VIII is pursuing Catherine Parr, Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer, is on the trail of a serial killer who is a religious fanatic.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki

An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay: Rivalry between painters Jennett Mallow and David Heaton results in a competitive marriage. But drink dilutes his flair and lets her slow-burning talent eclipse his fame.

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Doors Open by Ian Rankin

Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly: When a Hollywood lawyer is murdered, Mickey Haller inherits his case. Enter detective Harry Bosch, hell-bent on trapping the killer and keen to use Haller as bait.

A Simple Act of Violence by R. J. Ellory

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid: An ambitious young Muslim leaves Pakistan to go to Princeton, where he wins a prestigious Wall Street job. But 9/11 changes his fortunes.

Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks: The Bond torch has passed to Faulks for the latest instalment of 007, picking up where Ian Fleming left off in 1966 with Octopussy and The Living Daylights.

The Believers by Zoë Heller

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Fractured by Karin Slaughter: An Atlanta housewife discovers her teenage daughter dead on the landing, with a stranger wielding a bloody knife. Special Agent Will Trent has his work cut out.

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams

Dambusters by Max Arthur: Fascinating oral history from the men in 617 Squadron whose key Second World War mission, Operation Chastise, was to destroy Ruhr dams.

The Murder Exchange by Simon Kernick

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith: Stalin’s Government won’t admit that crime exists in communist Russia. Exiled war hero Leo Demidov becomes an enemy of the state for hunting down a child serial killer.

When Will There be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Keeping the Dead by Tess Gerritsen: A killer with a knack for ancient mummifying death rituals is leaving a trail of victims. The race is on to prevent him adding to his grisly collection.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review by Aimee: Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan is not human. I say this with absolute certainty because I know no human could write this good. Margo has obviously employed the services of some local sorceress to gift her the ability to transform readers with her writing - I'm only curious as to what the price for such a gift might be.

Tender Morsels, then, is an expansion of the classic story of Snow White and Rose Red. And like all the best fairy stories and fairy story retellings, the beauty, light and happiness of Tender Morsels emerges from the blackest of shadows.

Liga Longfield is a teenage girl surviving in what appears to be a traditional European-fable-style village. I say 'surviving', as her existence consists of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Unbeknowst to Liga, the local witch of the village (who was actually a pretty, spunky young thing back in her day) takes pity on Liga's situation. Liga is transported to a personal Utopia in which she raises her two beautiful girls, the angelic Branza and the whirlwind Urrda, in a perfect bubble of safety away from the troubles, sorrows and evils of Liga's former world.

But AS WE ALL KNOW, those in the truest business of fairytales can rarely live "happily ever after", ever after.

As the girls bloom into adolescence, the fabric between the heaven of Liga's created world and the purported hell of another existence begins to thin and rip. A dwarf in search of treasure makes his way into Liga's heaven and meets the two girls. Men in the form of bears requiring Liga's hospitality also accidentally cross worlds. And Urdda, curious and yearning for what lies beyond the rabbithole, finds her own way into a place where evils exist.

Tender Morsels is equal parts tender and savage, wicked and compassionate, light and dark. I have read other reviews and the comments on the reviews have been hesitant, wondering whether this book might be too depressing. But unlike Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (see review here), the book is not entirely desolate. There are sparks of adventure, and desire and hope in the thick tangle of magic and sin.

A warning though, for the eager YA lovers. This is, in a sense, a demanding novel - those who are used to the easy fumblings of many recent YA 'faerie' novels may find the language in this book difficult to navigate. Let me clarify that point, the writing IS superb, and use of words are careful but not sparse. I have no doubt though, that YA enthusiasts who appreciate poetry and art through the structure of sentences and the images they evoke will find it in abundance between these pages. Further on this point, the themes also necessitate a certain level of maturity. Which begs the question as to why this is marketed as simply a Young Adult novel. BUT I've pretty much given up on those publishers and agents who think that because the protagonist is a teen, or because it's a fairytale, it must automatically be for children and teens alone. If any of you have seen the movie Pan's Labyrinth, you will know what I mean by how silly it was for a parent take a child of 3 to watch it, which is what happened at my theatre viewing! They must've complained about false advertising - I'm sure the kid had many sleepless nights afterwards...

At its deepest root, Tender Morsels is an exploration of gender, of power, of understanding and knowledge, and of that necessary crossover from innocence to experience. The characters are passionate, strong, full of folly, capable of great rights and great wrongs. The story is rich and creamy with symbolism and the writing is delicately strange to taste. Each word is to be marvelled at for its carefully chosen position within the wider text, but the overall story has the desired combined effect of the sparkling lyrical and deceptively simple - it makes the fable grooowwwwl and ROAR into its quiet corners.

What's more, the author's imagination feels limitless...I'm dumbstruck by it. This novel constructs worlds that you FEEL A PART OF - I actually feel like I'm co-existing right now, shifting between here and the worlds within the book. I can still smell the apples on the trees, the leaves burning in the forest woods, I can hear the laughter of children and the slow paw-movement of the bears... I want to be swept up like those leaves from the woods and sat in a pile on a woodcutter's cottage doorstep, waiting for my own bear-man to come and play with me over a summer that never cares to end...{insert sigh of full and deep longing HERE}.......

There are times in your reading life when you come across a piece of writing that not only speaks to your heart, but listens when your heart speaks back. This is one of those books for me. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan now sits on my favourite shelf along with His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman; The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis; Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll; and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

I don't expect you to feel as strongly about this book unless you have the exact same taste in books as me - it's unlikely. But if you enjoy Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen-style fairytales, or if you enjoy writing that feels like you're eating a particularly good sour cherry tart with an extra dollop of cream, then please FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY... move this one up your TBR list.

I adore it.

5 stars.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver
(from inside flap)

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it--from garden seeds to Scripture--is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post colonial Africa.
The novel is set against one of the dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder if its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against the backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband's part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters--the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharpe observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father's intractable mission, and my Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

MY THOUGHTS: This book has been on my TBR(to be read)list forever. I have heard about it and all the people who have told me about this book said it was really good.
It is a fairly long book, 546 pages, but if so full of info on Africa and history that it keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens. The book starts out with Orlenna telling her story from Sanderling Island, Georgia. The book is put into sections like the bible. The first one is Genesis. As the family goes through their stay in Africa, of their trials and tribulations, they describe their life and all that happens to them. They each in turn have their own version of Africa. But of all the girls telling the story, Leah and Adah are the ones I like the most. They seem to have a better understanding of what's going on there in Africa. The political upheaval, the petulance, and the diseases that can wipe out whole villages. If you haven't read this book, put it on your list and read it. It's a truly awesome book!

Aimee's List

For my 100 list, I'm not really going for anything specific - this is a list of books I've had recommended to me NUMEROUS times, and then others that have been gathering dust on my TBR list, and then a few new ones that I'm looking forward to.

This is my semi-final list - it may change a little as I iron out the kinks, or maybe it'll stay pretty much the same.

I'm open to recommendations on books, particularly if you spot something by an author and you think I should swap it for another book of theirs, or a similar but superior (in your opinion) author.

Of course, I'll be attempting to review each and every one of them on my blog:
My Fluttering Heart.

eeek! This is a little scary - I have commitment issues on the best of days :)

*takes deep breath* So, here goes....

1. The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighiere
2. The Island of the Day Before - Umberto Eco
3. The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
4. Children of Dune - Frank Herbert
5. The Lord of the Rings - by J. R. R. Tolkien
6. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
7. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
8. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
9. In the Woods - Tana French
10. The Wrong Grave - Kelly Link
11. The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
12. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
13. The Secret Scripture - Sebastian Barry
14. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
15. The Sweet Far Thing - Libba Bray
16. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
17. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
18. The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
19. The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
20. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
21. The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff
22. The Crimson Petal and the White - Michael Faber
21. Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan
22. Shogun - James Clavell
23. The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
24. The Devil and Miss Prym - Paulo Coehlo
25. The Screwtape Letters - C.S. Lewis
26. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
27. The Children's Book - A.S. Byatt
28. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
29. The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
30. The Once and Future King - T.H. White
31. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
32. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint- Exupery
33. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
34. The Stand - Stephen King
35. Cross-Stitch (Outlander in the U.S.) - Diana Gabaldon
36. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

37. Arabian Nights - Anonymous
38. Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
39. The Boat - Nam Le
40. The Meaning of Night - Michael Cox
41. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
42. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
43. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
44. The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracey Chevalier
45. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
46. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
47. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
48. World Without End - Ken Follett
49. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- Michael Chabon
50. Memoirs of Cleopatra – Margaret George
51. Antony and Cleopatra - Colleen McCullough
52. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
53. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
54. V - Thomas Pynchon
55. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H. Lawrence
56. Katherine - Anya Seton
57. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick
58. The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
59. The Good Earth - Pearl S Buck
60. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Dai Sijie
61. The Leopard - Guiseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa

62. Possession - A.S. Byatt
63. Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein
64. We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson
65. Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
66. Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier
67. The Magician - Raymond E. Feist
68. The Gormenghast Novels - Mervyn Peake
69. An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears
70. Paradise Regained - John Milton
71. A Suitable Boy: A Novel - Vikram Seth
72. A Fraction of a Whole - Steve Toltz
73. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
74. The Pirate's Daughter - Margaret Cezair - Thompson
75. Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales - Angela Carter
76. The Evil Seed - Joanne Harris
77. Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl
78. The China Lover - Ian Buruma
79. Alchemy - Maureen Duffy
80. The Seance - John Harwood
81. Mistress of the Art of Death - Ariana Franklin
82. The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
83. The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Bedder
84. Un-Lun-Dun - China Mieville
85. The Dawn Stag - Jules Watson
86. The Last Witchfinder - James Morrow
87. The Conjuror's Bird - Martin Davies
88. The Dawn Stag - Jules Watson
89. Angel Time - Anne Rice
90. The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness
91. Idoru - William Gibson
92. City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

93. Of Bees and Mist, by Erick Setiawan
94. Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
95. Random Magic, by Sasha Soren
96. Isis, by Douglas Clegg
97. Cybele's Secret, by Juliet Marillier
98. Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst
99. How to Catch and Keep a Vampire, by Diana Laurence
100. TBA

So do you have any recommendations for numbers 94-100? If so, I'd love to hear them! I haven't read hardly anything in the way of mysteries, sci fi, or adult fantasy, so I'd appreciate those suggestions most of all :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review by Shellie @ Layers of Thought: Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

2nd Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking] Open locks, Whoever knocks! [Enter Macbeth]

Macbeth: How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do? Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44–49

something wicked this way comes audio

Book Stats:

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio books; Unabridged (October 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786176261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786176267

    Mini Summary:

    This classic fantasy/horror tale was originally published in 1963. It revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade whom are the best of friends and live next door to one another. They are inseparable with Will being the down to earth easy going boy and Jim as the wilder and “darker” of the two.

    The setting is a small town in middle America and its October. A scary storm front moves into town along with a mysterious and creepy traveling circus/carnival. As things get a bit wild and go awry the two boys become inextricably involved in the traveling carnival's evil doings. As the story progresses the nature of good and evil and how evil itself may be combated are addressed.

    My Thoughts:

    I listened to this story in audio format, which was pleasant. I liked its lyrical, slightly poetic style which is characteristic of Bradbury’s signature style. Read by Stanley Kubrik with his deep and resonant voice, where he changes his tone with each character and their moods. It is close to perfect for this story.

    Recommended for Halloween/Fall reading for young adults, mature older children, and adults to read to children. Most significant it has the perfect solution for being scared - laughter/humor. There is little or no violence, mild language, yet it is very suspenseful. I give this audio version of the book 3.5 stars. (I liked it a lot.)

    Links to GLBT:

    This particular book was read for a GLBT challenge and taken from a site which lists it as having these elements. The relationship is however not clear unless one is aware of such nuances – such as the community itself. Once aware it does become subtly apparent as the relationship between Will and Jim is revealed. The boys are obviously very close, and are fairly affectionate which could allude to the possibility of a budding romantic relationship.

    Wikipedia link for the novel.

    Amazon purchasing links for this audio book are US/UK/Canada respectively (book only for UK):

    A Sound of Thunder / Something Wicked This Way Comes /Something Wicked This Way Comes/ Something Wicked This Way Comes/A Sound of Thunder

  • Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Review-Fluke by Christopher Moore Review
    In his entertaining adventure-in-whale-researching, Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, Nathan Quinn, a prominent marine biologist, has been conducting studies in Hawaii for years trying to unravel the secret of why humpback whales sing. During a typical day of data gathering, Nate believes his mind is failing: the subject whale has "Bite Me" scrawled across its tail. Events become even stranger as the self-proclaimed "action nerds," Nate, photographer Clay, their research assistant Amy, and Kona, a white Rasta (a Jewish kid from New Jersey), encounter sabotage to their data and equipment. They also observe increasingly bizarre whale behavior, including a phone call from the whale to their wealthy sponsor to ask that Nate bring it a hot pastrami and Swiss on rye, and discover both a thriving underwater city and the secret to what happened to Amelia Earhart. Thoughtful, irreverent, and often hilarious, Moore has crafted a tale that contains a bit of the saga of declining whale populations due to hunting and habitat destruction, as well as his over-the-top, decadent wit as applied to scientific methodology and professional jealousies. Moore notes a pasty, rival scientist "looked like Death out for his after-dinner stroll before a busy night of e-mailing heart attacks and tumors to a few million lucky winners," and that killer whales (which are all named Kevin), are "just four tons of doofus dressed up like a police car." Smart, sincere, and a whale of a story, Fluke is terrific. --Michael Ferc

    I've been a fan of Christopher Moore's books since I read Lamb. I added Fluke to my list since I hadn't read one of his books in a while and I had no idea what Fluke was about.
    One thing you have to know about Moore's books is that what you think is going to happen won't and something so bizarre happens instead. Fluke is a great ride that you have to be willing to let go and let Moore take you. If you fight it you won't enjoy the book so let go of all preconceived notions and read.
    I definitely got sucked into Nate's world. Although my favorite character had to be Kona. He was funny and perfect comic relief at times. Especially since I've known white Rastas with dreads in my past. I could picture him perfectly.
    Fluke is funny and thought provoking. What if you spent your life study something like whales only to learn everything you thought about them was wrong?

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    fill in gaps

    Must play.
    I used to think that the Da Vinci Code was a gap in my reading because it was so incredibly popular. But I made the mistake of looking at the first page and couldn't deal with it, and then I found out that the albino monk was not a joke, so I let it go.
    Dan Brown keeps writing more and the gap seems to be getting bigger, but Slate has the solution:

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    finished A FAREWELL TO ARMS

    I feel like I don't have a whole lot to say in terms of a review--but anyone else read it? I'd love to "chat" about thoughts and feelings.

    Mine being


    that dang, I didn't see that ending coming. Also, it's not exactly a cheerful book, is it?

    I liked the prose, which was often vivid and, especially in the war scenes, very direct at conveying the reality of the action. It struck me--unexpectedly--as cinematic.

    I did often feel distanced from Henry in terms of feeling, though, and I didn't really buy a lot of the interaction with Katherine.

    I did like it a lot, but maybe I was expecting something... other than what it was.

    Also, I wonder at the use of the N-word in the text, which even taken in the context of the usage seems, well, just racist of Hemingway (and his character). Do we forgive Hemingway racism because of when he wrote? I personally feel like the answer should be no. But... we do, don't we?

    Vicar of Wakefield and The Regeneration Trilogy

    No contrast could be greater than that between these books. On the one hand, Oliver Goldsmith's pleasant, optimistic tale of virtue overcoming misfortune. On the other, Pat Barker's brutal but thoughtful epic of how a society at war becomes a culture of war.

    The Vicar of Wakefield tells the story of a family fallen into misfortune through the fault of others and how, by keeping his honesty and good humor intact, the Vicar pulls through in the end. It is both a mild sermon on morality and a gentle satire on the literary cliches of Fielding and Richardson. Full review here.

    I reported on Regeneration earlier, and have since finished the other two volumes in this trilogy. The three novels comprise a chronicle of the psychological and social impact of the First World War. The Regeneration Trilogy belongs on the shelf of great war novels alongside All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, and Catch-22. Here are my full reviews of each volume: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, The Ghost Road.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    This is my first book for the 100 books list. I won't reiterate my entire review, but I enjoyed it tremendously for what I learned about African culture in this particular region of Nigeria.
    My review is up on my blog, Reading and Writing about It and on 5-Squared.
    My general goal with my 100 books is to learn more about other cultures than my own and African culture more specifically.
    Coming soon is Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies which is on my list. I am currently reading her book The Namesake which is not on my original list, and I'm loving it for the luscious prose and wonderful ability to tell a story. Plus she won the Pulitzer.

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009


    "Dewey" by Vicki Myron
    (from inside flap)

    How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to trnsform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't begin to answer this question until you hear the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.
    Only a few weeks old, Dewey was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart. For the next nineteen years, he nver stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.
    As his fame grew, Dewey became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

    MY THOUGHTS: I have had this book on my to read list for the longest time. It was time to read it. This is a very fascinating book. How one little kitten could hold a town and it's people together during the worst times. If you like cats, or hate cats for that matter, this is a wonderful book to read. You not only learn about Dewey, but the folks that live in Spencer, Iowa. With all their good and bad times. Dewey is always there helping them through the crisis. You will laugh, wonder how and why and you will also cry.

    My review is at my place, Just Books.

    Blogging a Book Experience

    I'm currently reading Atlas Shrugged off my list. Given my husband dared me to read it (and bribed me with a fancy-schmancy dinner) we're reading it together and blogging about it, if you want to follow along.

    The Zen Leaf nominated!

    So our own dear Amanda's book review site has been nominated for the best general book review blog over on Book Blogger Appreciation Website.

    It would be great if we could all pop over and show our support :)

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Rebecca & Shameless Self Promotion

    I've been away for too long, I apologize. I believe I owe at least one more round of stats on the original lists. Coming soon...I hope.

    Has anyone else read Rebecca by Daphne DeMaurier? I'm in the middle of it. I don't understand why this is a classic. Can someone please enlighten me? I don't think I even know the protagonist's name...she doesn't even seem to be trying to make her own place in her marriage and it's driving me nuts. So many issues could have been avoided or alleviated if she just spoke up!

    Reason for my long absence: Eternal Press published my novella today. Because of the holiday, I thought the launch was, I'm having a twitter launch party tomorrow to give away some free copies. Do you tweet? You could win. More details on my home blog: (Link opens new window...)

    Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Review - In The Woods - Tanna French

    "In The Woods" by Tanna French
    (from the back cover)
    Three children leave their small Dublin neighborhood to play in the surrounding woods. Hours later, their mother's calls go unanswered. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children, gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
    Twenty years later, Detective Rob Ryan--the found boy, who has kept his past a secret--and his partner Cassie Maddox investigate the murder of a twelve-yer-old girl in the same woods. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him, and that of his own shadowy past.

    MY THOUGHTS: This is a very good book. This was my Book Club's selection for August. I really liked this book. The twists and turns of the plot leave you turning the pages to find out what's going on. You actually have two different cases going on at the same time. They murder of Katy Devlin and the 2 missing children from 20 years ago. They murder of Katy Devlin is solved. Buttttt, the case of the missing children is not. I was very disappointed about this ending of the this story. It gives you all the clues and I guess you have to figure out or guess who and what happened to the missing children. From my own opinion their are 3 endings to this book. Rob Ryan had something to do with the missing children, a stranger did it or their are also some hints of super natural forces at work. So I guess you could take your pick. Even though the ending doesn't tell you it was still a very good book!!

    24 of 100

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    Review by Shellie: The Road by Cormac McCarthy


    Two down 73 more to go.

    This is the slightly altered post from my blog. It has created the most comments since I started it several months ago and the opinions swing greatly. Either they loved it or hated it. It appears that this has been happening everywhere.

    Book Stats from Goodreads:

    Published September 26th 2006 by Knopf

    Binding Hardcover - 241 pages

    Literary Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction (2006), The National Book Critics (2006)

    ISBN: 0307265439 (isbn13: 9780307265432)

    Mini Synopsis:

    An unnamed man and his boy are faced with trying to survive on a post apocalyptic earth. The cause of this is alluded to but never fully explained. They are traveling on a road toward the coast in the futile hope of finding sustenance – food, clean water, life, and like minded companionship. Their world is ashen, and no other life exists except a few wandering survivors and bands of lawless thugs. Resources are scarce since it is apparently years after the actual event and most have been already used by the remaining survivors. As they struggle and travel theirs becomes a story of horror, familial love, sadness, and an almost impossible hope for survival.

    My Thoughts:

    I rated it unusually – it swings bluntly between 2.5 stars and 4.5 – on balance it it 3.5 stars.

    For the highest rating of this swing I gave The Road, I can say It was incredible. I felt such strong emotions as I read this book. As I read I felt the loss, pain, and horror. It left an empty feeling deep in the pit of my stomach - very real. The writing flows and is broken up into small sections making it easier to digest since it has a heart wrenching effect. Most importantly, I found myself thinking about it as during the day.

    The problem that I had with this book was that within the simple text and realistic dialog between son and father, there were little sections of which were impossible for me to understand. Small and short as they were - they appeared to be describing very intense emotions. I just did not “get these little bits”. Feeling a little dense - I even read them to my husband and he expressed the same perspective. (Because of this he probably will not read the book.)

    In Summary I recommend this book, if you can overlook the parts that I am describing, or perhaps you will not notice them at all. I seldom give above a 4 star rating so parts of the book are exceptional.

    On another positive note it is now out in paper back, should be available used at second hand stores everywhere, and not so hot off the press that you can get it at your local library.

    Amazon Purchasing information linked below respectively. US/UK/Canada

    The Road (Oprah's Book Club)/ The Road/ The Road (Oprah's Book Club)

    For the original post link to Layers of Thought here.

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    I have a confession to make...

    So I'm reading Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, and I have stalled.

    I have stalled because it is one of the most amazing books I have ever read, and I'm only going to get to read it for the first time once! All I want to do now is run away to the Northern Territory (and I'm so jealous of my friend, who is already there). It's such a wonderful lyrical story that captures the top end perfectly. No wonder it won the Miles Franklin.

    I had the same problem the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird. I remember finishing it and wishing I could have that experience over again. Does this happen to you guys? And how do you keep going?

    plays go by so quickly

    Here's another.
    Der zerbrochene Krug, by Heinrich von Kleist (1802-05, performed 1808).
    Cute. That's really the most I can say about it. A bit of a farce about justice. A judge who has some injuries whose origin we don't know (yet) is visited by an inspector. On this day a case of a broken jug is brought before him involving a mother, her daughter, the daughter's fiancee, and, it turns out, a mysterious third party (or fourth, I guess). Guess who it turns out to be?
    But the way it makes you squirm while the people on stage figure out what you've already divined is entertaining and somewhat enlightening. As in: why does it bother me that they're being so dense? Do I really want the characters in the book (or actors on stage) to acknowledge that I figured it out before they did?