Monday, December 29, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Publication Date: 2008
Category: Fiction about friendship and love of books.
Who'll want to read it? The title is enough to get you interested.
Point of no return: The book was recommended by a friend and after reading the blurb, I thought this is a story I would really like. Has some historical facts which makes good reading.
What's it all about? By Chance a book comes into the possession of a Guernsey islander. He sets out to trace the owner, and they begin a correspondence. Hence a friendship starts between the two and Juliet finds out about the Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet becomes friends with other members of the society and a very firm friendship develops between them all.
The book brings forth the difficulties and times of the islanders living under German occupation. Quirky personalities, funny stories, but also some very sober times add to this most enjoyable read. Everyone can some times have one of the characters in your own family.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 2008
Who'll want to read it? Anyone who likes travelling
Point of no return: Title - on my list of things to do before I DIE !!!!!!!!
What's it all about? This is a warmly written book revealing the cities, towns and history as they walk the Way of St James. "Camino de Santiago". Kim describes their experiences as pilgrims trekking along the section of the 798km walk they travelled. It is illustrated with photographs by Malcolm which makes it a more enjoyable read with the feeling you are part of their spiritual journey.Not written as a guide book but does have a section on planning tips at the back.
Publisher: Freemantle Press
Author: John Bailey
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, Australian History, Australian Explorers John McDouall Stuart led six expeditions into the centre of Australia and beyond, succeeding where others had failed to cross Australia south to north and return.
John Bailey reveals insights into this intrepid explorer, his financial backers, the Chamber Brothers, and what drove this social misfit to return to the inhospitable regions of Central Australia. With meticulous research and the narrative skill of a first rate novelist, Bailey reveals the motives and consequences of this extraordinary exploring feat with easy readability.
Publication Date: 2006
Author: Helen Garner
Publication Date: 2008
Category: Adult Fiction
Who'll want to read it? Anyone
Point of no return: I read this book in one night, do I need to say anymore?
What's it all about? This is a book about two women, Helen and her friend Nicola who is coming to stay with her for three weeks while she undergoes controversial treament for advanced cancer.
It is the story of their friendship, of potentially any friendship, and the tests that that friendship faces under the circumstances that unfold. While it really makes you think about important questions to do with life and death, you find yourself becoming wrapped up in the intense bond between these two women, being able to laugh and cry with them at their in-jokes and private moments.
I loved this book, the emotions and frustrations seemed quite real, it was a brilliant read that opened my mind to new ways of thinking, living, feeling and understanding.
Publisher: Text Publishing Co.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Publication Date: 2008
Category: Fiction - chic lit
Who'll want to read it? Fans of Irish female authors
Point of no return: Hard to say - was one of those books where you want to know what happens, but aren't always engaged by the characters
Classic line: "Evening drew to a close. Blanche had to leave. Is dairy farmer. Has sixty head of cattle and has to get up at 5am to milk then. Blanche is a man of means."
What's it all about? The interconnected lives of three women, all of whom have been badly affected by their relationship with the same man - an up and coming politician. Looks at how & why women allow themselves to be manipulated by a certain style of man.
There are some incredibly disturbing passages in this novel and those expecting the previous breezy style of Marian Keyes' earlier novels will possibly be disappointed. The humour is still present, but is in much smaller doses. I was torn between abandoning this - I really felt distressed when reading some passages, but I was compelled to discover how it all worked out.
Publisher: Michael Joseph imprint of Penguin.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Publication Date: 2008
Category: Children's non-fiction, Animals
Who'll want to read it? Everybody, especially animal lovers
Point of no return: Front cover
Classic line: "The vast park, which spills over into Rwanda, is home to about 380 mountain gorillas, just over half of the planet's remaining gorilla population." (first page).
What's it all about? This book comes from the same team who brought us Owen and Mzee. It tells the story of Miza, a baby gorilla who disappeared with her mother under mysterious circumstances. It highlights the treacherous existence of the few remaining gorillas in Congo and Rwanda. In the story we meet the dedicated park rangers Innocent Mburanumwe and Diddy Mwanaki who search for Miza. Impressive as they are, it is Kabirizi, the fearless silverback leader, who takes control of his family by ensuring their safety while he searches for Miza. Looking for Miza is a beautiful story of a family pulling together to save little Miza: "When Miza was left alone, she cried. Right away, Tumaini or Mivumbi would pick her up." The book is full of fantastic photographs of Kabirizi's family before and after Miza's disapearance, making it suitable to share with children of all ages.
Publisher: Scholastic Press, New York
Read about the five baby gorillas found in Virunga this week. It looks like they are new members of Kabirizi's family.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Publication Date: 2006 Category: Literary Fiction Who'll want to read it? People who like a challenge. Point of no return: Pg1 "And what's your name?" "Wait, it's on the tip of my tongue." Classic line: Pg6-7 ' "My name is Arthur Gordon Pym." "That isn't your name." Of course Pym was someone else. He did not come back again. I tried to comes to terms with the doctor . "Call me...Ishmael?" "Your name is not Ishmael. Try harder." ' What's it all about? Yambo, an ageing rare-book dealer, emerges from unconsciousness into a world where he remembers nothing of his past. Yet he remembers every single book he has ever read. Hence, the witty opening chapter. To find himself, Yambo returns to the home of his wartime childhood. The house is like a museum with books, comics, diaries, photo allbums and records from his early years. He studies them all, listening to records in effort to regain himself and emerge from the ever present fog blocking his memories. During the process he imagines how he might have lived in the war years as he uncovers each layer of propaganda and popular fiction. Best of all the book is interspersed with pages from the comics, propaganda posters and lyrics of popular songs, including the Italian version of "Lili Marleen". It's an intricate, very clever book - a rewarding book to read.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Author: Nicholson Baker Publication Date: 2008 Category: War, History Who'll want to read it? World War II buffs, people interested in insights into human nature Point of no return: pg 1. "Alfred Nobel, the manufacturer of explosives, was talking to his friend the Baroness Bertha von Suttner, author of Lay Down Your Arms. Von Suttner, a founder of the European anti-war movement, had just attended the fourth World's Peace Conference in Bern. It was August 1892. "Perhaps my factories will put an end to war even sooner than your congresses," Alfred Nobel said. "On the day when two arm corps may mutually annihilate each other in a second, probably all civilized nations will recoil with horror and disband their troops.""
Classic line: "Winston Churchill pictured to himself an aerial invasion of England. It was June 29, 1941. A quarter of a million troops might parachute in, or crash-land, or arrive in gliders. The English must be able to respond, he wrote to his chief of staff and secretary of state for war... Every man was to have a weapon - even if only a mace or a pike. "Let me also see some patterns of maces and pikes," Churchill instructed his staff. " pg 350. What's it all about? This was a godsend for me, I have just finished reading a number of books about World War I (I'll have to review some of them - get that 'war' tag up a few more times) and was getting ready to start on World War II. But where to begin? It's hard to tell what sources are reliable and which aren't, and it's a pain constantly trying to weight the value of a book when you just want an introduction into what happened. Fortunately, Human Smoke is just the thing.
First of all, it's not your average history book. It's written as a series of vignettes. The first one is the one I've listed in 'point of no return' - the rather amusing tale of Nobel's optimism. Two world wars and over eighty million dead later we can see how wide of the mark he was. Baker doesn't try to draw a firm line between events, he presents the textual version of the powerpoint slide-show. It's great if you have a lousy attention span like I do, and a refreshing change from wading through page after page of dense writing.
But Smoke differs in how it portrays the War as well. I had not known, until I picked up this book, that there was an active peace movement throughout the war - I always assumed that the English were eager to fight until the finish, Vera Lynn and all that. While the atrocities and outrages of Germany are in no way minimized, the other sides involved in the war did not have their hands clean either, and Baker does not hesitate to show the Allies' warts during this time (Churchill seems to have been the first to bomb civilian targets in the war, he certainly wanted to destroy crops and forest and had no problem starving Europe to defeat Germany).
As for the reliability of this book as a historical source, each and every vignette is footnoted. It's never wise to take a single author's word for how events unfolded, especially a far-reaching and complicated event like World War II, but fortunately Baker has done our homework for us and given us plenty of other books to read once we're finished with this one. This book is simply perfect for beginners to World War II history and probably not bad for war buffs who want to read sometimes amusing, sometimes mad, and sometimes wrenchingly tragic snapshots from the War. Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Publication Date: 1993
Who'll want to read it? People who need to know the meaning and spelling of various words. Anyone reading a book by Tibor Fischer.
Point of no return: "Entries are listed in strict alphabetical order." pg xi
Classic line: "insidious... a M16.... Full of wiles or plots; proceeding or progressing secretly or subtly; treacherous; crafty." pg 1379 Vol 1.
Another favourite of mine:
"ideology n. L18. 3 A system of ideas or way of thinking pertaining to a class or individual, esp. as a basis of some economic or political theory or system, regarded as justifying actions and esp. to be maintained irrespective of events." pg 1305 Vol 1.
What's it all about? It's a great big list of words, their meanings, origins and pronunciation. It provides a connection with the past, being always slightly out of date. It's not the sort of book to be read from cover to cover, just dive in anywhere at random. Be careful, you may want to look at one word, yet find yourself spending hours being led from one word to another that you've never heard of. Your serendipitous journey may start with you wanting to clarify the meaning of "sycophant", but landing on the wrong page, you are led up a sylvan path, eventually finding that sylvanite is a "monoclinic telluride of gold and silver that occcurs as silver or yellow crystals or masses with metallic lustre". This knowledge is further enriched by the discovery that the word comes from [f. Tran) sylvan (ia a region of Romania ... ]. It's insidious, but in a nice way.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Publication Date: 2008 (extended edition)
Who'll want to read it? Dog lovers, history lovers, humour lovers
Point of no return: Front cover, because I once had an Terrier cross named Paddy, who was a bit of a wanderer himself.
Classic line: "He was just a dog who captured the heart of a city." pg 215
What's it all about? Set in Depression era New Zealand, this is the story of a dog who made his home on the wharves of Wellington. Paddy's story is aimed at children, but will appeal to anyone who loves dogs. This intelligent and charismatic dog was so well loved that his licence was paid for by wharfies, cabbies and seamen every year. Paddy's adventures include stowing away on coal ships bound for Newcastle and Sydney, rescuing his mates, performing tricks in pubs for food and flying in a Gipsy Moth. The Museum of Wellington City & Sea now houses a permanent "Paddy the Wanderer" exhibit.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Author: Craig McGill and Susan Elliott
Publication Date: 2007
Who'll want to read it? Dog lovers
Point of no return: Front cover, featuring Rodney
Classic line: From Razoo, a Labrador, whose obsession is: riding in the ute, second only to driving the ute.
What's it all about? A photographic collection of dogs from wineries throughout Australia. This is just fun for people who love dogs. Apart from great portraits the book has a profile of each dog, which winery belongs to it, the breed and the names of its owners. Much of the humour lies in the dog profiles, for example the cover boy, Rodney: Obsession: Jim Jim (his kennel mate) ; Favourite toy Jim Jim ; Favourite food: human food ; Known accomplices: Ross or anyone with food ; Favourite pastime: chasing kangaroos at night ; Naughtiest deed: stealing the main course at a winery function. There are about a dozen local Hunter Valley wine dogs featured, including Ella from Tulloch Wines, Jack from Hope Estate, Lucky and Bear from Gartelmann Wines, Dusty from Poole’s Rock Wines, and my favourite, Booph from Brokenwood. I have met Booph on a number of occasions and this photo makes him look very dignified.
There is also a useful winery and vineyard listing providing locations and contact details.
Wine Dogs have their own website: http://www.winedogs.com/
“Veterinarians have reacted with alarm to a new book called ‘Wine Dogs Australia’, featuring photographs of dogs carrying bunches of potentially deadly grapes in their mouths.” http://www.dogs.com.au/news/13/
Hence the doggy health warning in the 2008 reprint.
Publisher: Giant Dog
Friday, June 27, 2008
Author: Tibor Fischer Publication Date: 1997 Category: Humour, Literature Who'll want to read it? People who like a laugh looking for something different. Point of no return: "Lugals aren't strong on humour. Power rarely has a use for humour. They don't have much interest in being entertaining or popular. This one tries to act as if he has; a project perhaps to help him imagine that people are drawn to him for his charm and wit and not his integrity-crushing riches. There are lugals like that." Classic line: (referring to a blind date for his 'collector' - you'd better see my comments below if you want to know what I mean) "Teacher: not a good sign. Few people go into the profession because they want to. They're failed somethings: bank robbers, conductors, pilots, people who never found their way out of the educational system. A teacher of English to foreign students: even worse. Someone whose only employable trait is having been born in a country where the language happens to be in demand." What's it all about? This book is literature's best-kept secret. It's narrator is a vase, old as history itself, which can change shape and gets itself collected by interesting (and sometimes interestingly dull) people throughout history: it's a collecter of collectors. His latest 'acquisition' is a lugal (someone who is filthy rich and irredeemably corrupt) who, suspicious that the narrator is a fake while not realising just how unique 'he' really is, gives him to an authenticator named Rosa. Unfortunately for the narrator, Rosa is psychic, and can sense that the collector collector isn't all 'he' seems.
Fischer's command of the English language is fantastic. He peppers his book with words rarely used in books (crystalelephantine, stercolith, and of course lugal), yet his writing is not impenetrable. Far from it, once you read the first page you'll be utterly addicted. Collectors in particular will get a kick out of the narrator's habit of categorising everything 'he' sees (there are 166 different types of noses). If your library doesn't have it, order it. This book is unmissable. Publisher: Vintage
Monday, June 23, 2008
Author: Terry Pratchett Publication Date: 2000 Category: Fantasy Who'll want to read it? Those in need of a laugh, those who believe what they read in a newspaper Point of no return: p9 (the first page) Classic line: "There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And there are those who say: this glass is half empty.The world belongs, however to those who can look at the glass and say: 'What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass! " What's it all about? The dwarfs can turn lead into gold... William just wants to get at the truth. Unfortunately, everyone else wants to get at William. and its only the third edition... William de Worde is the accidental editor of the Discworld's first newspaper. Now he must cope with the traditional perils of a journalists life - people want him dead, other people want him dead in a different way and worst of all, there is a man who keeps begging him to publish pictures of his humorously shaped potatoes. The 25th Discworld novel tackles the Third Estate, the search for truth ,or at least newspaper truth, and the difference between news and olds. Publisher: Doubleday
Friday, June 20, 2008
Author: Compiled by Rebecca Gillieron & Catheryn Kilgarriff Publication Date: 2007 Category: Non-fiction Who'll want to read it? Curious people Point of no return: I didn't read this book in any order, but page 34 grabbed me when "online personas" were discussed: "Of course there are those that have no illusions about themselves, 'Grumpy Old Bookman' is hardly casting himself in the most flattering light, neither are 'Bourgeouis Nerd' or 'Old Hag' and some might be put off for quite different reasons by the self-proclaimed 'Bookslut' or 'Fiction Bitch'". Classic line: Chapter heading, page 149 "Riot Lit and the Literary Groups Who Blog" What's it all about? All aspects of literature and blogging, from "Why do people blog?" to the tension around the issue of newspaper reviews vs blog reviews. There are more people out there talking about books than I realised. Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd
Monday, June 02, 2008
Author: Morgan S. Friedman and Michael Malice Publication Date: 2006 Category: Non-fiction, Humour Who'll want to read it? People who need a good laugh Point of no return: Any page Classic line: "Little tourist boy in line to see Bodies Exhibition: "Will there be rides?" pg 283
"Professor: Does anyone know the significance of Plato?
Girl 1: Wasn't he a writer?
Girl 2: No, that was Plateau" pg 96
"Man: If I punch SpongeBob in the face, it would be because he is living at a higher moral standard than me"
What's it all about? Snatches of surreal, stupid, funny, sometimes offensive real-life conversations overheard in New York. Read the book or take a look at the web-site where it all started. After you've read this, try "Overheard in the Office". Publisher: Penguin
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publication Date: 2001
Category: Historical fiction
Who'll want to read it? Anyone interested in history delivered with a fictitious twist.
Point of no return: Anne advising Mary on how to catch the king: "But don't run too fast, remember he has to catch you."
Classic line: "Anne can do it," my father agreed. "She could turn a polecat off the scent of a mouse."
What's it all about? The strength of the Boleyn family in their pursuit of the crown (and whatever else they could lay their hands on!) Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king's court at a young age, becoming players in their uncle's plans to advance the family's fortunes. It is Mary who first wins King Henry VIII's favor when she is barely 14 and already married to one of his courtiers. But later her sister, Anne, insinuates herself into Henry's graces, displacing Mary as his lover and begins her machinations to rid him of his wife, Katherine of Aragon.
The recurring theme of this novel is the strategy and strength of the Boleyns to do whatever they could to raise the family status and fortune. Anne is described as a snake on several occasions and her behaviour in this novel certainly warrants that description.
Historical accuracy of the tale is discussed in a Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Other_Boleyn_Girl
but I prefer the facts not to get in the way of a good story!
This book is currently being launched as a movie, raising the profile of the Boleyns again. http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/theotherboleyngirl/
Monday, February 04, 2008
Publication Date: 2008
Category: Humour, Parody
Who'll want to read it? Anyone
Point of no return: "Aaron McCloud had come to Ireland, to County Kerry, to the shores of the Western Sea, so he could, in solitary majesty, feel sorry for himself." 1st line.
Classic line: There isn't just one. Every line builds up to something in the next line, like a great epic poem: "Lolly McKeever stood on the far side of the bed and looked down at the skeleton that lay stretched out before her. After a pleased guffaw, she slapped her hands onto her chest. "For the sake of Jesus and Mary too!" Then she laughed and put one hand on the shoulder of the skeleton's coat and let it rest there." p65-66.
What's it all about? This story revolves around the main character - the skeleton of Declan Tovey. The more he the more he falls apart, the more we appear to know him. What should be macabre, somehow isn't. It's probably an unclassifiable read, but it is very funny, intriguing and mischievous. From the soliloquies of Kitty McLoud, Lolly McKeever and Kieran Sweeney, to the descriptions of Aunt Kitty's (a novelist) "corrections" of the classics there is much to keep the reader amused. Of course the whole book appears to be a "correction" of classic Irish tales, but I don't know much about them. Add a comment if you recognise any of them.
Publisher: Delphinium Books
Monday, January 21, 2008
Publication Date: 2006
Category: Literary Fiction
Who'll want to read it? People who don't mind a long tale, love the idea of Scotland, myths and questions of faith.
Point of no return: "... and what exactly Mack had confessed to. 'Quite a lot, for a minister,' Harry said. 'Adultery, for example, and meeting the Devil.' " pg5
Classic line: "I have walked and run through this world pretending emotions rather than feeling them. Oh, I could feel pain, physical pain, but I had to imagine joy, sorrow, anger. As for love, I didn't know what it meant. But I learned early to keep myself well disguised." pg27
What's it all about? On the surface this book is about Gideon Mack, a preacher in the Scottish town of Monimaskit. It's about the events leading up to Gideon's meeting with the Devil and what happens afterwards. Gideon narrates most of the book in the form of his 'testament', but insight is delivered in a prologue, written by the testament's fictional publisher, and an epilogue, covering "interviews" with the townsfolk of Monimaskit.
For me, the book raises more questions than answers about "what it's all about". I'm left concluding that it's about issues of face value, identity and reality - the clash between what we think is real and what other people think is real. How people only see facets of each other, yet interpret their whole being in the context of their own beliefs.
While most of the book deals with thoughts and feelings it also includes descriptions of the wild and beautiful landscape in which the events take place. The references to Scottish folklore were also enjoyable and added layers to the supernatural theme.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Author: Rex and Sparky
Publication Date: 2007
Category: Humour, Parody
Who'll want to read it? Dog Lovers
Point of no return: pg vii "we seem to have lost touch with the greatest joys of canine existence... finding the nastiest odours to roll in, savoring the subtle earthy flavours of a Jimmy Choo slingback - and, of course, mounting bitches."
Classic line: From "Training a New Human" - "Eventually he will learn that he is only in your bed because you - generously - let him stay", pg 181
What's it all about? It's a parody of "The Dangerous Book for Boys". If you are the owner of a dog, especially a naughty, irresistibly gorgeous one you will recognise many of the behaviours and attitudes in this book. You may even find yourself asking did my dog (in my case Lili Marlene the Apricot Terror) merely read this book, or secretly undertake a pseudonym and actually write most of this book. Except the bits that boy dogs obviously wrote. Eerie.
Publisher: HarperCollins UK