....and sometimes watches.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Books I have Read since my Last Post

in between the sleeping and the cleaning and the playing and the working and the sleeping and the laundry and the cleaning and the unpacking and the napping

1. Harry Potter & The ½ Blood Prince
J.K.Rowling Bloomsbury 2005 HB 608p

“It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind”


2. A Talent for War
Jack McDevitt Ace PB 1986 310pp

“The air was heavy with incense and the sweet odour of hot wax”

This was a surprisingly cool book. I am sure that I have read Mr. McDevitt’s work before and not been that impressed. Can’t tell you what or when tho’, but this book was 10c and I ask you again, what’s the girl to do.
A big space war 200 years ago against freaky aliens and a series of legends build up around the final days – hero’s such have Christopher Sim that now have planets named after them. Our unlikely – but quite likeable hero – Alex Benedict is thrown into the search for a legacy – ooooh is it a conspiracy???? – by the death of his uncle.
Lots about the stupidity of war and the myths that are created to support stupid wars. Lots of spaceships and lasers and mystery.


3.The Autograph Man
Zadie Smith Hamish Hamilton 2002 PB 419p

“He has the ability to imagine himself a minor incident in the lives ofothers.”
Alex the Jew, the collector, the dysfunctional. It’s like “Black Books” with lots of mad mad characters in a contemporary setting that do and say mad mad things that are funny ‘cause you are protected from them by a glass screen, or in this case ‘cause they are flat, black squiggles.
I bought this – it might have been 50c – as I had read an article on Zadie Smith in an ‘Oprah’ magazine. She’s one of those beautiful black women who look stunning with lots of plaits and a bit of cloth wrapped around her head. There’s a fabbo first book, followed by some indifferences, and then a great third or maybe fourth book. I am not sure which one this is, but it was quite funny and enjoyable.
Anyone who collects stuff, or lives with someone who collects stuff or knows someone who collects stuff will either be very frightened or pleased to know they are not alone in the world (personally I was the latter)

Terry Pratchett Doubleday HB 2005 362pp

“The first thing Tak did, he wrote himself”

A Vimes novel. I think I prefered ‘Going Postal’ but that is like saying I preferred one wonderful flavour of ice-cream over another flavour of wonderful ice-cream.
Once again, if you have read his work, read this one! If you haven’t, then GET.A.LIFE and read him. But don’t start here. Ask around. Someone you know WILL have the set.

PS - I was going to buy ‘Where’s My Cow” in hard back from Angus &Robertson for Cozaxcoatl; it featured lovely drawings of Vimes looking like a messed up cross between Pete Postlethwaite and Jim Carey. I kid you not. But it was $33, for about 20 pages. Lucky we don’t need materiality to know we care do we?

5.Saint Peter’s Fair
Ellis Peters Futura 1981 PB 268pp

“It began at the normal daily chapter in the Benedictine monastery of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, of Shrewsbury in the thirtieth day of July, in the year of Our Lord 1139”

Derek Jacobi rocks. Even a stupid wampirish God Father. We Still Love You.

Once again, if you have read her work, read this one! If you haven’t, then GET.A.LIFE and read her. But don’t start here. Ask around. Someone you know WILL have the set.
I read this in one evening this week as I was sick and the children were away and I knew I was not going to work the next day. Like a panacea it was, like a panacea

6.Arrows of the Queen
Mercedes Lackey 1988 Legend 320pp PB

“A gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the trees, but the young girl seated beneath it did not seem to notice”

In a catalogue, this would definitely have a unicorn next to it, and maybe some other kind of symbol – a heart or a rose around the unicorn – signifying teenage wish fulfilment. Perhaps baby unicorns - lots of big eyed baby unicorns...

I really like Mercedes Lackey, sometimes, othertimes she is not so good. Worth a risk tho’ and this is quite sweet.
If it was written 10 years later this would be the first in the 5part trilogy of a young girls epic journey in a world of swords and sorcery and magic gone bad and telepathic white horses and political intrigue and good queens and bad kings. Thankfully we have only this sweet tome; great for a summer’s Sunday afternoon while your children battle each other in Tekken and the laundry remains very silent and sulky in the corner (where all naughty laundry that rudely falls over just because it hasn’t been put away should live)

7.The Salmon of Doubt
Douglas Adams 2003 Macmillan PB 284pp

“Dear Editor”

Douglas Adams as every decent human being knows ROCKS. The Hitchhikers trilogy changed my early teen life – that and the Earthsea trilogy. The classic underplayed Brit humour that was THE highly quotable text choice for the uber-geek before the Simpson emerged.

This is bits that they found on his computer after his untimely death. The favourite bits of those closest to him – apparently there was heaps. Lovely, funny, sad

Very Very Cool

8.Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman 2005 Headline Books PB 350pp

“It begins, as most things begin, with a song.”

Mr Gaiman is one of my favourite authors. I did NOT like ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ and gave the book away but this is more that made up for by such classics as NeverWhere and American Gods. And the Sandman series (which I only gave away ‘cause I was pregnant with my first child and wanted a nice clean pure atmosphere for him. I gave away a lot of CD’s as well, so Neil is in the company of vintage Christian Death, and I really miss them both)

More Classic story telling. Poor Fat Charlie, engaged to a lovely not-before-marriage girl. His father dies and THEN he finds out he is the son of a god. Lots of great dialogue and characters and myth and generally a romp of a story that never lets up.

The book comes ‘packaged’ with several extras. I am in two minds about these – although it is cool to read ‘deleted scenes’ or see copies of his handwritten notes books. I find that when I read a fine story such as this upon finishing all I want to do is close my eyes and let the last waves of the story continue to wash over me. A gentle re-entry. Especially with characters who were very cool, I want to keep them as long as I can. ‘Reading Group Discussion Questions’ such as “What does Anansi Boys say about today’s multicultural society? How are the characters influenced by their varied backgrounds? Do traditional attitudes conflict with or inform new ideas?” are a bit of a hard landing.

Great story tho’. Of course

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Harp and the Grey Rose

Charles deLint 1985 Firebird 272pp PB

“Once a year at midsummer, Tess’s brother Finnan came to stay with us for a day or three”

I finished this coming home from Sydney on the train last week – and the last chapter a day or two later. It is Mr deLint’s first completed work and apparently – according to the blurb on the back – quite a favourite with the public still.
Mmmm well – let me say – as I have said before that I really love the work of this author. The genre may be ‘fantasy’ in the bookshops, but they are usually so well written with characters and plots that stay with you long after bathtime is over. This is…. well – fantasy with a unicorn on top. Dwarves and treks through the snow, a balance between good and evil broken, harpers, beautiful girls that you can never have (‘cause you know, they are like immortal or fairy kind or something) etc etc. I am ashamed to say that I was bored – sigh.

But he got better – so read those.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Alexander McCall Smith Anchor Books 2002 235pp PB

“Mma Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill.”

This was lent to me by the lovely book-lending sister and it was given to her by her American Grandmother-in-law. I had heard much of the series – very famous by now and was interested to read it.
It really is quite charming, I can’t say that it has a lot new to say about the world, but our heroine Mma Ramotswe is strong and resourceful and solves crimes in a highly satisfactory manner.
Always good to read some fiction without dragons in it, I say.

It was stupidly hot here on Monday so I took the children to the pool. I read this book while I was there – in between the ‘ma look at me do this double back flip tricky with a flying squirrel move’. I had to take something entertaining to read because my heart just STOPs – STOPS I tell you – every time one of them puts their head under the water. Every.Time.

It was lovely. Enjoy

The Earthsea Quartet

Ursula Le Guin
1993 Puffin books 691pp

The Wizard of Earthsea 1968
“The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast sea, is a land famous for wizards.”

The Tombs of Atuan 1970
“ ‘Come home, Tenar! Come home!’ “

The Furthest Shore 1972
“In the court of the Fountain, the sun of March shone through young leaves of ash and elm, and water leapt and fell through shadows and clear light.”

Tehanu 2000
“After Farmer Flint of the Middle Valley had died, his widow stayed on at the farmhouse.”

This is a wonderful series of books and the 20 year gap brings not only a real development of character for Ged our hero, but in the writing style of Miss LeGuin. The first books are beautifully written, full of compact description and heroic legends. As the series continues, as the author’s skills grow her focus narrows. The last book ‘Tehanu’ whilst there are dragons and kings, is really about family and love and acceptance and both the evil and good in the world are seen on a more personal level. “Tehanu’ is definitely my favourite book, I love both Ged and Tenar as characters and I cried again last night reading this story. It is soo well written, her descriptions take my breath away.

I can’t convey this properly as I don’t seem to be able to write very well anymore. It feels as though I can’t express what is in my head properly. Too long away from conversations I guess, I even had trouble talking to people face to face in Sydney last week. All my words stumbling and unfunny.

So you will have to trust me and read these books. Don’t be fooled into thinking they are for children, that would be like thinking ‘harry potter’ is for grownups. These books are increasingly sophisticated in theme and ‘tehanu’ has much of what would be called ‘adult concepts’. There are certainly sections I would have to edit out if I read to my children. There are two more books after this that I am keen to find. Anyone out there with a copy?

So very very beautiful.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

In Ya Face, Harry


This woman rocks. Without a doubt.

I was given 'Wizard of Earthsea' in yr 7 english and had to read the first chapter by the end of a fortnight. I read the whole book in a night. "Tehanu" makes me cry - everytime.

'Left Hand of Darkness' is THE book quoted against the tsunami of 12-volume-1000-pages-each-epic-sagas.

There is only economy and tight storytelling in all of her writing - she lets her characters speak first and foremost and NEVER attempts to shift the focus onto the author and the misplaced sense of authorial cleverness

People like K.Dick and Heinlein should clean her shoes and bake her nice cakes.

Thats it! - now I have drunk the last of the christmas alcohol I have come to my senses - that Gene Wolfe collection of short stories - 'innocents abroad' is weird and stupid and I don't want to finish it. I am starting the earthsea trilogy again tonight. YAY!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Banner of Souls

Liz Williams Tor 2004 PB 427pp

“Dreams-of-War was hunting the remnants of men on the slopes of the Martian Olympus when she came across the herd of ghosts.”

This excellent novel – Miss William’s fifth apperently – is a world (ha ha) away from the writing style of Richard Morgan. While he is very straight forward, this novel is very gothic – all blood and shadows and thousand year old bones.

Very very far in the future – Earth a series of islands after the Drowning and Mars run by a matriach of warriors. There are mysterious aliens, and genetically manipulated babies grown in bags in green houses, and many many ghosts. The world imagined is very cool and the story really does move along at a cracking pace. Kind of like China Mieveille if he stopt before the complete and utter ickiness. Poetic and Spooky.



Richard Morgan Gollancz 2005 PB436pp

“The place they woke me in would have been carefully prepared.”

Despite the front cover recommendation from Peter. F Hamilton, i borrowed this book from the library – good move on my part, i say.
Setin a distant future – far from earth. humans now have ‘cortical stacks’ - chips in the back of our necks which upload memories, feelings, experience etc. so in the event of death, these can be removed and put in a new ‘sleeve’ - a vat grown body coming with various enhancements etc. much murder and mayhem can occur when you can carry around the personality of someone in your pocket. And it does.
Ourhero takeshi kovacs – ex uber-soldier – is on a one man mission of revenge when old ties/old friends/old enemies resurface. he is quite a cool character and this book is very well written – the world mr. Morgan creates is very detailed and believable, and there are a number of very sympathetic characters that i enjoying going on adventures with. even a number of surprisingly poignant moments amidst all the battling and betrayal.

it was a book that I didn’t want to end with characters that i didn’t want to say goodbye to.
well done, Mr Morgan. well done.

The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde Hodder PB 2001 373pp

“My father had a face that could stop a clock”

A book for a Christmas present, a dying breed it would seem in the brave new world of DVD. I only received 4 books this year and this the only fictional work (although the jury is still out on that book on the Templers).

I finished this on the train home from Sydney last Thursday (ironic really) –but ahhh public transport – the only time I can read without the pressing guilt of chores awaiting.

Our heroine Thursday Next lives in a wonderful parallel universe. Instead of foolish sport arousing the passions of the masses, it is abstract expressionism vs. the pre-Raphaelites, Keats vs. Milton. I want to live here.

Young Thursday works as a LiteraTec, investigating hoaxes and frauds of the literary kind. Acheron Hades is her time-shifting arch-nemesis and Landon Parke-Laine her lost love. She also has a mad professor uncle who invents a machine that allows characters in and out of novels – which is cool as we get to met Edward Rochester. Its written in that fast-paced jokey noir style – so KissKissBangBang and is very clever in parts. I am assured by the giver/s that this is the best of the series – yes, my friends Thursday’s adventures continue. It is very cute.

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