When you read as many books at once as I do, you look for books that are so good you put all other books aside to finish them. It took me just over 10...moreWhen you read as many books at once as I do, you look for books that are so good you put all other books aside to finish them. It took me just over 100 pages into Mr Mercedes before this was the only book I was interested in reading. I'm a latecomer to King's work, and this is only the fifth book of his I've read, but four of them, including this one have been masterful tales.(less)
It saddens me when a book serves no purpose but to teach you how NOT to write. The stakes in the first story arc are too low. The prose clunks along w...moreIt saddens me when a book serves no purpose but to teach you how NOT to write. The stakes in the first story arc are too low. The prose clunks along with the grace of steam trains colliding. I really wanted to like it, but this time around, I've suffered for my patriotism. (less)
It's kind of tacky the way it's written, but it has a nice rhythm. The idea behind it: telling the tale of Jesus' birth from the point of view of a do...moreIt's kind of tacky the way it's written, but it has a nice rhythm. The idea behind it: telling the tale of Jesus' birth from the point of view of a donkey kept my interest up more than I expected.(less)
Part of the appeal of Hollywood is the behind-the-scenes stories of the stars.
This one starts in Italy in 1962, with an attraction between an hotelier...morePart of the appeal of Hollywood is the behind-the-scenes stories of the stars.
This one starts in Italy in 1962, with an attraction between an hotelier and a starlet who has a role in Cleopatra. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different character, in a different time, until all those threads are woven together.
This is an epic love-story with flawed characters. It shows the link between the lives of superstars and those of ordinary people.
In many ways, it’s a story about Hollywood. Walters has chosen to reflect this in the dialogue and some situations, which can be clichéd, and a Hollywood-style ending where all the strands are wrapped into a neat bundle that anyone can understand.
This is a light, beautiful, fun read that’s perfect for a holiday. (less)
Sometimes fiction uncovers a common experience and tells a story about it before the vocabulary exists to describe what’s happening and link people go...moreSometimes fiction uncovers a common experience and tells a story about it before the vocabulary exists to describe what’s happening and link people going through it together.
Laura and Clare are sisters who seem destined to be victims. Their father died; their mother abandoned them. Laura cares for the younger Clare.
Things look set to change with the arrival of the older Felix, who seems caring, attentive and successful. But he’s no knight in shining armour. After marrying Laura, his alcoholism surfaces and he’s unstable, abusive and controlling.
The Watch Tower shows the challenges of living with an addict, and the choices people make to remain victims. Harrower does this, as Joan London says in the introduction, before we had the words “misogyny”, “abuse” and “co-dependence” to label these experiences.
This book is set in Sydney, Australia in the 1940s at the outbreak of the Second World War, and was published in 1966. This is the first Australian novel I’ve read from the 1960s and the first describing Australia in the 1940s.
It deserves its place as a Text Classic and on the list of the “Top 50 [Australian] Books You Can’t Put Down.”(less)
Many books start with characters in bad circumstances who escape those places. Sharp Objects looks at what happens when you return.
Camille Preaker is...moreMany books start with characters in bad circumstances who escape those places. Sharp Objects looks at what happens when you return.
Camille Preaker is a reporter dealing with life after a stay in a psych ward (or the politically correct, “mental health inpatient unit”). Her alert editor smells a story, a potential serial killer on the loose in a small town, that will boost the paper’s prestige. The murders, however, are taking place in Preaker’s home town, Wind Gap.
Once back there, Preaker struggles to remain the adult she’s become since she left and moved to Chicago. She finds herself deferring to her mother and wanting her sister to like her.
Like Preaker, I had a childhood filled with troubles – I was sexually abused by two relatives and emotionally abused by another – and while I’ve resolved those things, whenever I return to visit my family, I find myself acting like a little boy.
Flynn’s story is gripping. One of the things I love most about crime novels is working out who did it. Flynn outwitted me and I’m grateful. Her writing is sharp and fresh.
If you like crime books, then this is a no-brainer must-read.(less)
You know “those” people – the ones who attract trouble and then insist on sharing it with you? Jane Eyre is one of those.
The book starts in the same p...moreYou know “those” people – the ones who attract trouble and then insist on sharing it with you? Jane Eyre is one of those.
The book starts in the same place as the first Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone book: Jane Eyre’s parents are dead and the people she lives with dislike her and put her through hell. Also like Potter, Eyre is sent to a boarding school – but despite this book’s Gothic tones and ghost scares, you won’t find any supernatural elements. At the school a teacher believes in Eyre, pushing her to build character and competence. When Eyre finishes, she becomes a governess with dreams of building her own school.
In evaluating this book, you have to remember when it was written. It breaches literary “rules” often, the kind that would never get past a slush pile editor today: sentences that are adjectival train wrecks (in one sentence I counted six adjectives to modify one noun), authorial intrusion (when you’re a fair way into the book, suddenly Bronte starts addressing the reader directly), and she calls readers stupid (“I cannot expect the reader to have the same intuitive perception, so I must repeat his explanation”).
While Bronte’s writing skills are poor, and her storytelling average, this book became a classic because of its characters. Love them or hate them, you’ll want to get to know them at least once.(less)
My partner and I host travellers from around the world. Our guests tell us stories like these three from Damon Galgut.
The “In a Strange Room” of the t...moreMy partner and I host travellers from around the world. Our guests tell us stories like these three from Damon Galgut.
The “In a Strange Room” of the title refers to what happens as you travel. Each morning you wake up and find yourself in an unfamiliar room.
This book is not a novel, but three independent stories first published in the Paris Review, and linked together by theme. Galgut titles the stories based on the role the narrator plays in each one: follower, lover and guardian. Each of the stories reveals how powerful emotions become as you travel and how it’s rare to have a storybook ending to your time with the people you meet.
While this book tells stories about travel in Greece, Africa and India, the author’s focus is on the people he meets and not the places. You won’t get a sense of visiting any of the places that he travels through, but you will get a sense of some of the national characteristics that define his fellow travellers. That said, he avoids resorting to stereotypes.
You may be, like me, someone who has never travelled outside your country. Galgut’s book will help you feel what it’s like to travel.(less)
The bookseller who showed me where this book was located said that it was a really good read.
College professor Ezekiel Farragut is sent to prison beca...moreThe bookseller who showed me where this book was located said that it was a really good read.
College professor Ezekiel Farragut is sent to prison because he's a heroin addict and sexual adventurer. This novel tells of his time in prison before his trial.
The prose to this has a nice rhythm and it's one of those books that you need to read many times to fully appreciate. I can see it's good, and I like it, but I can't put my finger on why on this first reading. One thing I liked was that despite dealing with heroin, drug addiction, sexual misadventures and life in prison, it's not a depressingly heavy read.
The introduction in my edition describes it as "The Great American Novel" -- if not in all of US history, then certainly of the past 40 years -- and for this reason alone it's worth reading at least once.(less)
My father was a Vietnam Vet and my Grandfather served in one of the world wars, so I was raised with respect for the sacrifices our soldiers had made....moreMy father was a Vietnam Vet and my Grandfather served in one of the world wars, so I was raised with respect for the sacrifices our soldiers had made. All the soldiers I met as a boy were old.
In the Second World War, Jack Tanner is leading his men back to the Allies out of Norway but on the way they come across a man they must help because his survival is essential to a victory for the Allies. Tanner and his men selflessly put aside their own desires and do their duty.
Despite my family history, I'm not a lover of war books, or anything to do with war really. But this novel worked for me on so many levels. The soldiers are young men who bumble along, going in pursuit of their objectives but making a lot of dumb mistakes along the way. They are heroes, but not in a Hollywood over-the-top dramatic way; the heroism is understated.
You don't have to be into war books to enjoy this. If you like a good adventure, you should read it. But if you do like war stories, then you'll have a lot of fun with it.(less)
I read this today expecting to like it -- I mean it's a cute dog, for crying out loud.
The story is of a woman whose husband has died who finds a dog w...moreI read this today expecting to like it -- I mean it's a cute dog, for crying out loud.
The story is of a woman whose husband has died who finds a dog whose owner has died. The dog had been shot with an arrow which drives the woman to find out what happens.
After the books I've read over the last couple of days on topics I didn't expect to like, such as German war criminals and Jewish assassins, and horse racing, I found this was the only one I really didn't like it. It's also become the first book this year that I've given one star to. The story is boring and pointless -- what's with the random sections told in first-person from the dog's perspective? -- and I'm sorry I wasted my time on it.
Even if you love animals, I don't think you'd find much to enjoy in this book.(less)
The only reason I read this book was it was in a Reader's Digest condensed edition. It's books like this one that inspire me to read the Reader's Dige...moreThe only reason I read this book was it was in a Reader's Digest condensed edition. It's books like this one that inspire me to read the Reader's Digest collections. It's one I would have passed over in the shops but I've found a new author to love.
When an elderly man is shot on the doorstep of the United Nations, lawyer Tom Byrne gets called in to placate the man's daughter. But as he digs deepr he discovers the man's history as an assassin in a Jewish group that targets former Nazis who escaped the war unpunished.
I tend to find anything about the Holocaust extremely difficult to read about. It's the most disappointing event of human history. Even books renowned for being inspirational, such as Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, were just so overwhelmingly bleak as they describe the terrible horrors of the period. That said, this book recounts some horrors, through as it uses excerpts from a (fictional) diary written by the dead man, but rather than being difficult to read, it's a fast-paced thriller full of twists and turns and several big surprises at the end.
Sam Bourne is now up there as one of my favourite novelists and I'm looking forward to reading anything else he has written or is yet to write.(less)
When the lawyer character has the nickname "Perry Mason", you go into the story with certain expectations.
A few years before this story starts, lawyer...moreWhen the lawyer character has the nickname "Perry Mason", you go into the story with certain expectations.
A few years before this story starts, lawyer Geoffrey Mason failed to successfully defend his client. Now that client has been released and is coming after him in a tale that combines horse racing, murder and manipulation. Like a Perry Mason episode, most of the significant drama takes place in the courtroom.
This is the first Dick Francis book I've read and going on the blurb, it's not one I would have felt inspired to pick up. Given that I recently read Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, horse racing is something I'm learning more and more about. (Memo to self: take myself off to the races.) I felt a little disappointed then that the novel didn't give a lot of inside into the horse racing world.
That said, I really enjoyed this book and it's the kind that would make for a good summer read.(less)