Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Further Adventures Of Girlbooker's Genre Fiction Reading

Reading Daniel O’Malley’s first book, The Rook was a novel experience for me; no pun intended (ok, I suppose if I’m honest I really did intend the pun). It is quite unlike the books I normally read, even taking into account the fact that I like to think I read quite a variety. It is pacey, boy’s-own-adventure-with-tentacles-and-mind-control, Science Fiction. The opening scene involves one amnesiac surrounded by numerous dead bodies all wearing latex gloves. I loved it!

I am a fairy typical squeamish girl who can’t bear to watch surgical procedures or people being beaten up on TV. The slime and blood and violent behaviour didn’t really worry me in The Rook, perhaps because it was in the realm of such fantasy. I loved the mystery behind the premise, as well as the kooky cleverness of the central character reading letters from her past self to her present (post memory loss) self in order to explain the various things she encounters. I also enjoyed the freshness of reading something unencumbered with poetic symbolism or metaphor.

I did reach a point somewhere around about page 250 where it felt like the middle of the book had gone on a bit long and I was ready for the end. Unfortunately, the book is just shy of 500 pages so I had a while to go but I decided to stop the bookish judgement and go along for the ride, after which I began to enjoy it again. I did begin to feel that there was a bit too much variety; I got tired of each new character being introduced with crazy new bodily appendages or abilities to manipulate metal. I personally felt that it could have lost 50 pages and been a better book, but I am not generally a scifi reader, and I do note that these books seem to be a lot thicker than average fiction so I presume that is what readers of the genre like.



If you loved Pride and Prejudice and after something similar, I recommend you stay the hell away from The Rook but if you are after something fun and escapist and don't mind a touch of purple slime in your reading material then get your hands on a copy. Seven slime covered men with retractable porcupine spikes out of ten.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Common Loss, A Cup Of Tea


Reading A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter is like drinking a cup of Budddha's tears tea. I think I should explain: Buddha's tears are tiny little balls of jasmine tea curled up to look like browny green knots. You put a few of them in a cup and pour hot water over them, and they gradually unfurl into long seaweedy strands of tea, gently colouring and flavouring the hot water. Much about A Common Loss begins with hard, nuggety little facts and concepts but gradually and almost imperceptibly opens up into beautiful, large, sad and soft ideas.


On the surface it is about a male friendship group and a trip to Vegas but the book is not at all what that description makes it sound like. It is, among other things, about surfaces and appearances, and how these can be deceptive; about imagined realities, fabricated realities and multiple perceptions of supposedly identical realities; and authenticity versus falseness and falsehood. So yes, lots of big ideas but they are easily digestible.

The frame of the story mirrors the ideas that the story seeks to explore, and I like that very much. A very thin layer of yang covers a large womb of yin; both in the way the characters people a physically harsh, false environment while attempting to deal with their emotions and memories, and in the way these concepts of memory, longing and grief are the real meat of the book. Also, Tranter has popped in a character who is doing research for a PhD in notions of authenticity and inauthenticity, which is a nice touch.

I give this book four Buddha's tears out of five, dropped into a lovely porcelain teacup.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Back To Work

I am back from holidays having been on a delightful reading binge! I am therefore extremely pleased to report that I have actually managed to knock over a few books on my (ever expanding) list of Books I Will Get Around To Reading One Day. I also just washed the kitchen floor so am completely brimming with self-satisfaction at my achievements.

This pile of books sits beside my bed as a physical adjunct to The List which is written in a blue notebook


So what have I been reading? A Scandalous Life by Mary S. Lovell has been on that list of mine for about two years. I have packed it into a suitcase at least three times, thinking it would make a brilliant holiday read but never managed to go past the first dozen or so pages. It was worth the wait and held up to two whole years of sporadic anticipation. It's a biography of a nineteenth century British upper class rebel: Jane Digby. I found it interesting, well researched, sad, illuminating and thought-provoking. Tallboy and I are now partway through Lovell's latest book: The Churchills, and we are both fascinated with the multi-generational story. I am also reading Wild Mary, a biography of Mary Wesley written by Patrick Marnham and would chiefly describe it as inspiring. Each of these books crosses over similar territory at times so I am enjoying the picture of 19th and 20th century Britain that is building in my mind as a result.

I've also read some kids books and some rather fluffy books that were not on the list but were happily consumed just the same. This Is A Love Story by Jessica Thompson came recommended and although I am not generally a chick lit chick I found this book utterly endearing and thoroughly readable. It's best read either in bed or - if you're lucky enough - lying by the pool at a holiday resort. It's a more grown up version of a teen novel I recently read: The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight (Jennifer E. Smith) which I found rather sweet and with more depth than expected.

The Tunnels Of Tarcoola (Jennifer Walsh) and Song Of The Quarkbeast (Jasper Fforde) make up my efforts with young fiction. I liked them both although I preferred Song Of The Quarkbeast. It was like a junior version of a Terry Pratchett Novel, so was probably more in line with my reading tastes.

Next up I'll be posting about A Common Loss, Kirsten Tranter's second novel which I finished this morning. I need a little more time to let the experience of it swim about in my head before I write about it.