Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

I read the first of these and thought I would read more, but 2 and 3 passed my by. I enjoyed this one, but it is too long. Too much extraneous information.

Here’s the blurb …

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”

When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been—Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much trickier than that.

I still like the relationship between Robin and Strike (although it has turned a bit romantic) and I didn’t guess the villain (which in my books is a good thing).

Another review …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/17/lethal-white-robert-galbraith-review-jk-rowling

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Pachinko – Min Jee Lee

Pachinko -Min Jee Lee

Here is the blurb …

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

I know lots of people loved this, but I found it to be interminable. I enjoyed learning about Korea and Japan (and Koreans living in Japan), but it felt like a very long high school essay.

Another review …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/15/pachinko-min-jin-lee-review

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos De Laclos

Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

The theme for my historical fiction group is classic french literature, so we started this year with Dangerous Liaisons by Laclos. I was quite keen to read this having see this film when it was fisrt released at the cinema and then again recently in preparation of reading the novel.

Here is the blurb …

The complex moral ambiguities of seduction and revenge make “Dangerous Liaisons” (1782) one of the most scandalous and controversial novels in European literature. Its prime movers, the Viscount de Valmont and the Marchioness de Merteuil — gifted, wealthy, and bored — form an unholy alliance and turn seduction into a game. And they play this game with such wit and style that it is impossible not to admire them, until they discover mysterious rules that they cannot understand. In the ensuing battle there can be no winners, and the innocent suffer with the guilty.

The Marchioness de Merteuil and the Viscount de Valmont are creations without precedent. They are the first [in European literature] whose acts are determined by an ideology. —André Malraux
One of the two greatest French novels. —André Gide
What really keeps “Dangerous Liaisons” potent after two hundred years is not so much its depiction of sex as its catalog of corruptions, including but not limited to the corruption of language by polite cant and the corruption of morals by manners. It implicates a whole society so founded on falsehood that a single act of emotional truth is tantamount to an act of subversion. —Luc Sante
In many respects, Laclos is the perfect author: he wrote, at around the age of 40, one piece of fiction, which was not merely a masterpiece, but the supreme example of its genre, the epistolary novel; and then he troubled the public no further. —Christopher Hampton

It is a long novel so don’t do what I did and leave it to the last week and not finish it in time!

It is epistolary and written in four parts – the third part dragged for me. This novel is suprisingly modern – it was published in 1782 – and very salacious. It was designed to highlight the depravity of the french aristocracy. Valmont and de Merteuil were amoral, bored and making life interesting by seducing and ruining people.

The writing is extraordinary, each writers’ letters have a distinct style from the naive teenager Cecile to scheming, cynical Valmont.

More reviews …

Book Review | ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ – Choderlos De Laclos

Book Review – Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

2015 – In Review

Some of my favourite reads for 2015

Some of my favourite reads for 2015

Last year I reviewed 27 books – I have about 6 left to write – still much lower than 2014’s 44. I have had less time this – with more maths students and a bit too much busy work (that’s my inability to say no!).

My favourite novel for the year was Mr Wigg or The Dressmaker – unusual to have two Australian authors as my favourites.

I don’t have any big goals for the year – unless it is to read the books in my pile (that could take me the whole year).

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham

The Dressmaker – Rosalie Ham

 

Obviously I had to read this when I learnt that it was to be adapted (and with Kate Winslet). I have already read Summer at Mount Hope  and There Should be More Dancing . I didn’t enjoy The Summer at Mount Hope, but I have recently re-read it and I was quite taken the second time around.

Here is the blurb …

A darkly satirical novel of love, revenge, and 1950s haute couture—soon to be a major motion picture starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth

After twenty years spent mastering the art of dressmaking at couture houses in Paris, Tilly Dunnage returns to the small Australian town she was banished from as a child. She plans only to check on her ailing mother and leave. But Tilly decides to stay, and though she is still an outcast, her lush, exquisite dresses prove irresistible to the prim women of Dungatar. Through her fashion business, her friendship with Sergeant Farrat—the town’s only policeman, who harbors an unusual passion for fabrics—and a budding romance with Teddy, the local football star whose family is almost as reviled as hers, she finds a measure of grudging acceptance. But as her dresses begin to arouse competition and envy in town, causing old resentments to surface, it becomes clear that Tilly’s mind is set on a darker design: exacting revenge on those who wronged her, in the most spectacular fashion.

This was funny, moving and terribly sad by turns. It is a very visual novel with fabulous descriptions of Dungatar, it’s inhabitants and the frocks (reading about the frocks is particularly delightful). It is gothic – the characters almost caricatures -Mr Almanac the twisted (literally) chemist who refers to almost everyone as a sinner, Prudence Dimm, the bitter, vengeful school teacher, etc. There are very few likeable characters! But it is funny (in a dark way) and it skewers small town pretensions while highlighting the lack of power of vulnerable citizens.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/books/review/the-dressmaker-by-rosalie-ham.html?_r=0

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2015/08/21/book-review-the-dressmaker-rosalie-ham/a3WMu6yQYgfvLHh8j8xA5H/story.html

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous, Recommended

Mr Wigg – Inga Simpson

Mr Wigg - Inga Simpson

Mr Wigg – Inga Simpson

This novel was recommended to me by someone at my Victorian book group – the same person recommended Olive Kitteridge. As I really enjoyed Olive Kitteridge, I was keen to read this one.

Here is the blurb …

A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.
It’s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he’ll see her again.
He spends his time working in the orchard, cooking and preserving his produce and, when it’s on, watching the cricket. It’s a full life. Things are changing though, with Australia and England playing a one-day match, and his new neighbours planting grapes for wine. His son is on at him to move into town but Mr Wigg has his fruit trees and his chooks to look after. His grandchildren visit often: to cook, eat and hear his stories. And there’s a special project he has to finish …
It’s a lot of work for an old man with shaking hands, but he’ll give it a go, as he always has.

This is a charming novel – quirky and simple. It is an easy read – not a lot happens. Mr Wigg works in his orchard (he tells himself and his grand children a beautiful story about an orchard), he bakes with his grandchildren, helps his neighbours and works on his sculpture. Along the way you learn that things haven’t always been lovely – there was the year when everything went wrong. His son has had to move and Mr Wigg seems distant/estranged from his daughter. The reasons for this are revealed slowly and I am sure it is a tale common to many farming families. However, this novel is mostly about taking each day as it comes and taking pleasure in the simple things – fresh peaches, homemade icecream, spending time with your grandchildren and working on something creative.

Another review …

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/arts/inga-simpson-opens-a-window-on-the-past-in-evocative-work-mr-wigg/story-fniv7r7y-1226673212160

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

2014 Review

Some books read in 2014

Some books read in 2014

I reviewed 44 books last year, which must mean I read at least 44 books because I don’t write reviews for all of the books I read.

My favourite reads were The Good Luck of Right Now and The Collected Works of A J Fikry and I feel most smug about finishing The Women in White and The Moonstone (both enormous Victorian novels).

1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Lost and Found – Brooke Davis

Lost and Found - Brooke Davis

Lost and Found – Brooke Davis

This was our latest book club selection. There has been heaps of publicity – here and here and here. This novel is set in Western Australia and it is always quite nice to read something set in your home town plus it had reading group questions (that should help with the discussion).

Here is the blurb …

Millie Bird (aka Captain Funeral), seven-years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her red, curly hair. Her struggling mother leaves Millie in a local department store and never returns.
Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house – or spoken to another human being – since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silences by yelling at passers by, watching loud static on the TV and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife’s skin. Now he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl is moved into a nursing home but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes. A series of events binds the three together on a road trip that takes them from the south coast of WA to Kalgoorlie and along the Nullarbor to the edge of the continent. Millie wants to find her mum. Karl wants to find out how to be a man. And Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was. They will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself experience sadness just might be the key to life.

This was reasonably easy to read – although I did struggle to get to the end (I suspect that says more about me than the book). There are three main characters; Millie, Agatha and Karl and we hear from each of them in the telling of this story. I preferred Agatha and Karl to Millie – who seemed a bit consciously naive to me – and who wouldn’t like Agatha’s inappropriate shouting? There is quite a bit of death mentioned – all three characters have lost someone significant – so possibly not for the recently bereaved.

Another review …

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2378731/books-brooke-davis-lost-found/

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction, Miscellaneous

Hester – Margaret Oliphant

Hester - Margaret Oliphant

Hester – Margaret Oliphant

We’re reading this for my Victorian book group – I did finally make it to the end, but not in time for the meeting! It is not as long as some of the novels we have read (Bleak HouseLittle Dorrit), but I still struggled to get to the end. Not because it was difficult to read, it was easy to read, but it needed editing (a lot of editing!).

Here is the blurb …

 Hester tells the story of the aging but powerful Catherine Vernon, and her conflict with the young and determined Hester, whose growing attachment to Edward, Catherine’s favorite, spells disaster for all concerned. Catherine Vernon, jilted in her youth, has risen to power in a man’s world as head of the family bank. She thinks she sees through everyone and rules over a family of dependents with knowing cynicism. But there are two people in Redborough who resist her. One is Hester, a young relation with a personality as strong as Catherine’s, and as determined to find a role for herself. The other is Edward, who Catherine treats like a son. Conflict between the young and the old is inevitable, and in its depiction of the complex relationships that develop between the three principal characters, Hester is a masterpiece of psychological realism. In exploring the difficulty of understanding human nature, it is also a compulsive story of financial and sexual risk-taking that inevitably results in a searing climax.

When I try to write what this novel is about I am overwhelmed with possibilities – the role of women, the mother/child relationship, financial speculation, dependence and independence and there is a large cast of characters to highlight all types. Hester and Catherine both strong-willed women who want to take charge of their own destinies – Catherine because she is wealthy achieves this, but even she thinks it would be better for Hester to marry than work, Edward – who at first seems so steady and then risks everything (well other people’s everything) in risky financial speculation, Emma who wants ‘her chance’ (that is the chance to find a husband), Ellen flighty and extravagant, Mrs John (Hester’s mother) who is gentle, loving, but dim-witted, Roland Ashton charismatic and the catalyst for Edward’s speculation, and finally the malicious tenants of the Vernonry.

Nothing about this novel feels forced or contrived. I was never jolted out of the story and reminded that I was reading a novel. It would make a great BBC adaptation.

I think most modern readers would struggle to finish this novel. There is a lot of internal dialogue – there is a whole chapter where Hester wonders if Edward loves her and if she loves him and no one is any the wiser at the end! A good prune and this novel would be exciting as well as insightful. However, fans of George Eliot and Dickens should really give this one a go after all it’s only five hundred pages rather than a thousand!

Here is a link to the Margaret Oliphant page at Victorianweb.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

2013 in Review

2013

2013

This year my plan of only reading from my stash was a bit unsuccessful, so I shall plan to do that this year! There are a lot of books in my pile.

I read 32 books, but I suspect there are a few more that just didn’t make it to the blog.

Favourites: The Rosie ProjectThe Summer Without Men and  Dear Life.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous