Category Archives: Genre

Gift Of Stones, Jim Crace

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Pure In Heart, Susan Hill

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Book 2 in the Simon Serrailler crime series is starting to feel a little like a cross between The Archers and Midsomer Murders. It’s not quite a domestic drama and it’s not quite driven by the police procedural elements.

I’m wondering whether poor Martha Serrailler is long for this world… angels of death seem to be working her care home.

Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge

Her head hurt. There was a sound grating against her mind, a music-less rasp like the rustling of paper. Somebody had taken a laugh, crumpled it into a great, crackly ball and stuffed her skull with it. Seven days, it laughed. Seven days. 

  I’ve never read Hardinge – although a quick Wikipedia search shows she was born in the same year and county as me! But there is something gorgeous in her use of figurative language: the crumpled crackly laugh above vanish “like breath from glass” as two warm hands close around hers “as if they were a nest for it” and recalling her name, Triss, “seemed a bit more natural” than her full name, Theresa, “like a book falling open on a much-viewed page”.

I do like each of these similes and metaphors… But I wonder if they all needed to be included in page 1 before Triss has even opened her eyes. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as purple prose… but maybe a hint of lilac is creeping in…

World Book Day 2015 Shelfies

So at my school, we are doing this to support World Book Day (5th March): take a Shelfie of your bookshelf. 

Here are mine:Edit

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My Year In Books: Worst Reads of 2014

There are blessedly few of these and only one truly bad book. I have had the very good fortune of reading some wonderful books this year, which can be read here.

And I mean bad in every way. The writing was cliched and repetitive. The characters were laughably two dimensional. In fact some barely had that many dimensions! The plot was nonsensical with more holes than a colander. The descriptions were pedestrian.

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst book I read this was Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain.

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Do not waste your time on it!

I’ll also grumble quietly about The Long War by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett and Blackout by Mira Grant, not because there were terribly bad just rather … underwhelming.

I wonder what it says that two of my least successful reads were co-written. I hope the both Messrs del Toro and Pratchett were minor contributors to these disappointing projects.

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One more co-written book which was so bad I did give up on it was Dragons Of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I’d picked it up – well downloaded it – as a trip down memory lane having warm memories of it from reading it as a kid. Alas, some things should not be revisited. Banal. Tedious. Formulaic.

A small part of my childhood died as I read it.

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My Year In Books: Best Reads of 2014

It’s that time of year again: the last day before New Year. As with last year, it’s time to look back and consider the books I’ve read.

This post will deal with my favourite reads this year. Worst reads (of which there weren’t that many!) will come later – follow this link to see them! So this is, I suppose, like the Booker Prize… Except that there’s no money on offer… And that these are books read in rather than published in the last year.

So not very much like the Man Booker at all really! Although there will be some overlapping books.

Right let’s aim for a top five.

#5 The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker was actually my first read of the year! Beautiful depictions of immigrant cultures to New York and compelling on many levels: sociological, fantastical, personal and a rollicking good plot!

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#4 Room by Emma Donoghue. A powerful and poignant story of a mother and child brought up in the most appalling situation as captives. Donoghue said she wanted to create that story at a distance from the horror and terror of the kidnapping when rituals had been established and tedium set in. And the most beautifully realised child’s voice I’ve read.

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#3 Harvest by Jim Crace which was a Man Booker nominee in 2013 – as Room was in 2010. An absolutely astounding evocation of a moment in time and a wonderfully breathy summery feel to it which makes it wonderful to recall in this grey weather.

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#2 The History Of The Rain by Niall Williams.

I really did love this book, a Man Booker longlist nominee. I loved the poetry of the language, the literariness of it, the humour and humanity.

Just absolutely wonderful.

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#1 The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton.

I only came upon this book and Catton because of her Booker-winning The Luminaries which was also wonderful. But for me The Rehearsal was sublime. It was coruscating and complex and writhed like a snake under the reader’s eyes. Exquisitely discomforting.

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Ahhh… But now I’m already worrying about this list. Am I happy with the order? Should The Luminaries have been included? What of all the other books that were great but I’ve not included.

So a handful of honourable mentions, perhaps?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Good Omens by Messrs Pratchett and Gaiman

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How To Be Both, Ali Smith

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Wow. Just. Wow.

Finding this book and its stream of consciousness a challenge at the moment but Smith’s language can be so beautiful.