Psutto 1212 part 3

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DiskuteraThe 12 in 12 Category Challenge

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Psutto 1212 part 3

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jul 18, 2012, 10:03am

1 - The 12 days of Christmas - books bought for me for Xmas and my birthday (which happens to fall before 12th night) obviously I don't know how many books will be in this category
2 - Life, the Universe and Everything - having reached that age which is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything I thought I'd read books asking the big questions
3 - It's in the cards - there are 12 face cards in a deck of cards - books about games, chance, fate, prediction
4 -12 Angry Men - courtroom dramas, noir, books of the film, crime
5 - 12 hours on a clock, 12 months in a year - books about time, time travel and the future
6 - 12 stars in the flag of Europe - books by European authors & not from the UK (which likes to pretend it's not part of Europe)
7 - 12 Olympian gods - mythology, mysticism and fantasy
8 - 12 Caesers - ancient world, history, biographies
9 - 12 signs of the zodiac - books about astronomy, space and the solar system
10 - 1912 - 1912 saw the race for the South Pole ( and Scott's death), the end of the Meiji era in Japan, the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Bram Stoker, the birth of A E Van Vogt, Tarzan of the apes, the lost world, the book of wonder and a princess of Mars are all published - books with a 1912 theme
11 - Doomsday clock - the closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is to disaster, as of January 2010 the Doomsday clock stands at 6 minutes to midnight - books about global disaster, apocalypse, the atomic age & nuclear war
12 - Baker's dozen - books that really can't be placed in the other 11 categories but I have to read them because they're shiny as well as short stories, novellas articles and essays and graphic novels

Redigerat: nov 19, 2012, 6:17am

The 12 days of Christmas (unknown number)

of men and monsters William Tenn
we Yevgeny Zamyatin
The city of words Alberto Manguel
Planet word J.P. davidson
Carter beats the devil Glen David Gold
rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch
Farenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
a history of reading Alberto Manguel
big bang Simon Singh
The Psychopath test Jon Ronson
The Devil In The White City Erik Larson
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

got a rather fantastic "reading year" present which means I'll get a brand new book chosen by my favourite bookshop every month so this category is expanding...

the Slynx Tatyana Tolstaya
Gould's book of fish Richard Flanagan
The invention of Morel Adolfo Bioy Cesares
Pathfinders: The golden age of Arabic science Jim Al Khalili
the waterproof bible Andrew Kaufman
wait until spring, bandini John Fante
fire season Philip Connors
sombrero fallout Richard Brautigan
warlock Oakley Hall
a fraction of the whole Steve Tolz

22 books read

Redigerat: aug 6, 2012, 8:07am

It's in the cards


the coincidence engine Sam Leith
a casual revolution Jasper Juul
the new games book New Games Foundation
Trigger happy Steve Poole
moby dick Herman Melville
holes Louis Sachar

6 books read


Redigerat: aug 2, 2012, 7:42am

12 Angry men


The high window Raymond Chandler
the price Joseph Garraty
The Mourner Richard Stark
If he hollers let him go Chester Himes
Refusal shoes Tony Saint
The little sleep Paul Treblay
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
Osama Lavie Tidhar
the woodcutter Reginald Hill
rogue male Geoffrey Household
the islands Carlos Gamerro
the choirboys Joseph Wambaugh

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: nov 27, 2012, 6:08am

12 Hours on a clock, 12 months in a year


Longitude Dava Sobel
a brief history of time Stephen Hawking
angelmaker Nick Harkaway
long dark tea time of the soul Douglas Adams
dirk gently's holistic detective agency Douglas Adams
An experiment with time JW Dunne
Paintwork Tim Maughan
time travel: fact, fiction and possibility Jenny Randles
Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins
memories of the future Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Ack-Ack Macaque Gareth L Powell
House on the strand Daphne Du Maurier

12 books read -COMPLETED

Redigerat: sep 24, 2012, 4:33am

12 stars in the flag of Europe


Harbor John Ajvide Lindqvist
Bruges-la-morte Georges Rodenbach
The Rebels Sandor Marai
Bartleby & Co Enrique Vila-Matas
Suite Francais Irene Nemirovsky
the prince Machiavelli
the whispering muse Sjon
the cave Tim Krabbe
vertraging Tim Krabbe
the white castle Orhan Pamuk (Turkey is sometimes considered to be in Europe!)
purge Sofi Oksanen
the riddle of the sands Erskine Childers

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: sep 21, 2012, 10:09am

12 Olympian gods


In the night garden Catherynne M. Valente
Babylon Steel Gaie Sebold
in the cities of coin and spice Catherynne M. Valente
above the snowline Steph Swainston
to rule this broken earth Joseph Garraty
moxyland Lauren Beukes
legend David Gemmel
the girl who circumnavigated fairyland Catherynne M Valente
the last werewolf Glen Duncan
giant thief David Tallerman
a cruel bird came to the nest Magnus Mills
railsea China Mieville

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: sep 21, 2012, 10:10am

12 Caesers


The hare with the amber eyes Edmund de Waal
how I escaped my certain fate Stewart Lee
portrait of the gulfstream Erik Orsenna
siren rising James R Blandford
utz Bruce Chatwin
in patagonia Bruce Chatwin
the doors of perception Aldous Huxley
Letters from Skokholm R.M. Lockley
snow geese William fiennes
deadkidsongs Toby Litt
surgeon of crowthorne Simon Winchester
Alan M Turing Sara Turing

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: dec 9, 2012, 4:40pm

12 signs of the Zodiac

Red moon rising Matthew Brzezinski
13 things that don't make sense Michael Brooks (not 100% about space but enough to shoehorn into this category)
the moon is down John Steinbeck (It has Moon in the title!)
dark eden Chris Beckett
the eerie silence Paul Davies
Ascent Jed Mercurio

6 books read


Redigerat: okt 1, 2012, 7:03am



Titanic: A passenger's guide by John Blake
The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski
Scott's last expedition by Robert Falcom Scott
A tale for our generation by Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers
The longest winter Meredith Jean Hooper
The South Pole: An Account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram" 1910-1912 Roald Amundsen
the wreck of the titan Morgan Robertson
the anarchistic colossus A. E. Van Vogt
a tragic night remembered Titanic 100 years Guy Foster
the lost world Arthur Conan Doyle
Tarzan of the apes Edgar Rice Burroughs
Riders of the purple sage Zane Grey

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: sep 28, 2012, 1:07pm

Doomsday clock


Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
2013 Marie D Jones
In the country of last things Paul Auster
dark mountain issue 1 Various
the end of time Damian Thompson
a history of bombing Sven Lindqvist
pontypool changes everything Tony Burgess
hospital Toby Litt
dark mountain issue 2 Various
the cold war experience Norman Friedman
the last policeman Ben Winters
atomic the first war of physics Jim Baggot

12 books read-COMPLETED

jul 18, 2012, 10:13am

Life, the Universe and Everything


The salmon of doubt Douglas Adams
in search of the multiverse John Gribbin
the origin of species Charles Darwin
Almost like a whale Steve Jones
on extinction Melanie Challenger
last chance to see Douglas Adams
survivors The animals and plants that time has left behind Richard Fortey
blind giant Nick Harkaway
incognito David Eagleman
sum David Eagleman
self illusion Bruce Hood
why does e=mc2 and why should we care Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw

12 books read - COMPLETED

Redigerat: nov 7, 2012, 9:44am

Baker's dozen


The Sisters brothers Patrick deWitt
January Dancer by Michael Flynn
Nelson by Rob Davies and Woodrow Phoenix GN
Walking Dead 15 by Charlie Adlard & Robert Kirkman GN
Hector Umbra by Uli Oesterle GN
Cultural Paradox, fun in mathematics Jeffrey Zilahy
Pure Andrew Miller
It rains in February Leila Summers
Alan's war Emmanuel Guibert GN
Blankets Craig Thompson GN
Astro city book 1 Kurt Busiek GN
unwritten volume 1 Mike Carey GN
unwritten volume 2 Mike Carey GN
unwritten volume 3 Mike Carey GN
unwritten volume 4 Mike Carey GN
unwritten volume 5 Mike Carey GN
Black Fire Hernan Rodriguez GN
scars Warren Ellis GN
monstermen and other scary stories Gary Gianni GN
aya Marguerite Abouet GN
Gulliver's travels Rowson Martin Rowson GN
the great god Pan Arthur Machen
flashman on the march George Macdonald Fraser
heliopolis James Scudamore
baggage Etheridge brothers GN
choker #1 Ben templesmith & Ben Mccool GN
Three messages and a warning Various
locke & key Joe Hill GN
kraken science Wendy Williams
the log from the sea of cortez John Steinbeck
cannery row John Steinbeck
A secret history of coffee, coca and cola Ricardo Cortes
East of Eden John Steinbeck
East of Eden letters John Steinbeck
Dante's inferno Hunt Emerson
when Johnny came marching home William Heffernan
adamtine Hannah Berry
Household worms Stanley Donwood
Where's my Money Mike Manson
Tiberius Found Andrew Goodman
paradise now Jari Moate
secret thoughts Guy Hasson

42 books read (21 Graphic Novels)

Well my catch all category seems to have grown into a beast! must remedy that next year (I think I may have nailed it by not setting a limit on any category but we'll see) - I'm going to add the books that I read for unputdownable in this category too...

jul 18, 2012, 10:14am

I was having trouble deciding on numbers of books per category but Claire (clfisha) came up with a great idea - I am going to read up to 12 books in each category and can only stop reading a category when I've reached a number that 12 is divisible by - so if I've read 3 books and can't find any more to fill the category then I can stop but if I've read 5 I can't - if I read 6 and don't stop then I'll have to go to 12 in that category...

I think the only categories I won't do that in is the 12 days of Xmas one as the number of books will be random in that one and the Baker's dozen.

Also in previous years I've not included graphic novels (for no readily apparent reason) so for the 1212 they will go on the Baker's dozen....

jul 18, 2012, 10:14am

I'm going to slightly alter my rating system for the 12/12

Books will be rated:

Unfinished - self explanatory really, it was so bad I couldn't finish it

Poor - I finished it but it wasn't very good

Average - an OK book but one I wouldn't really recommend it

Very good - a good example of the genre, one I'd recommend

Brilliant- books that everyone should read, really outstanding and memorable

jul 18, 2012, 10:15am

wait until spring, Bandini John Fante

Very Good

Coming of age tale

Arturo Bandini’s Italian immigrant father is a bricklayer and the family is going through a hard time in a hard winter in small town Colorado during the depression. A tale of poverty, the ambiguousness of religion, unrequited love, an immigrants dual nature (not really Italian any more yet not quite American either) and the transition from childhood. Fante writes beautifully and although there is nothing here that’s new it is a story well told. It was published in 1938 but has a timeless quality to it and perhaps would have been fresher in its day. Arturo tries to get on with his life, live through the boredom of school, pursue the love of his life Rosa, attend church as an altar boy etc whilst his family goes through a crisis as his father leaves them in the lurch. As eldest son Arturo feels some responsibility to his mother and brothers as the family implodes although this isn’t the central thrust of the plot which is refreshing. This edition has an interesting foreword by Fante’s son explaining why he’s not better known (a little something to do with a chap named Hitler). Definitely going to track down more Fante and its criminal that he isn’t better known.

Overall – Great first novel

Redigerat: jul 18, 2012, 12:23pm

Funny, Fante is such a quintessential Los Angeles author that it had never occurred to me that he might not be a born Angeleno. I'd highly, highly recommend his Ask the Dust, which is widely considered to be the epitomal LA novel - if you take any sort of creative writing class anywhere in the LA area, Ask the Dust will be required reading! :)

jul 18, 2012, 3:16pm

It's definitely on the list now!

jul 19, 2012, 8:13pm

Haven't heard of him before, but will add him to my TBR list!

Redigerat: jul 23, 2012, 12:02pm

legend David Gemmel

Very Good

Classic fantasy

There’s a dying empire with an uber fortress, there’s the equivalent of the Mongol hordes going to attack the fortress, there’s a dying Earl and an incompetent general so who you gonna call? Druss the Legend! oh and the white Templars and er a random bloke who’ll replace the old Earl by marrying his daughter and some suspiciously honourable criminals who happen to be formidable archers & some other blokes that it would be a spoiler to reveal. The Mongol hordes have a university educated siege engineer and a bunch of shaman to make mystical war with the white templars and a whole bunch of seasoned warriors who have already taken over half the world as well as a genius general.

The plot relies heavily on some coincidences (which I was living with until right near the end when it became a little bit too silly) add a little deus ex machina and voila an unbeatable foe meets an impregnable fortress. Despite it all being a bit hokey (at least there were no elves or dragons) its an enjoyable swords and sorcery page turner. It was written in 1984 and I wonder if Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian was based, just a little, on Druss (light fantastic was 2 years after legend). You see the trouble is although he’s this legendary warrior he’s in his 60’s, has arthritis and his eyesight isn’t so good any more.

Despite it all being a little bit silly I actually enjoyed it very much, apart from the last few chapters where it seemed Mr. Gemmel ran out of steam

Overall – Very enjoyable fantasy, me at 14 would have loved it, like an enjoyable popcorn muncher of an adventure film

jul 25, 2012, 1:18pm

Legend sounds like something I (or the 14 year old inside me) would enjoy. There are times when pure escapist fun, silliness and all, is exactly what I need!

jul 26, 2012, 12:09pm

21 its a classic fantasy series apparently

not been reading so much, have lots of stories from the weird compendium to review though

its finally sunny here so perhaps will get outside and read soon....

aug 2, 2012, 7:51am

falling behind on reviews

think theres 18 weeks or so left of the challenge (if I'm to finish by 12/12/12) and I'll need to read a minimum of 24 books to complete it (if I was going to do 12 in all the remaining categories I would have to read 49 books) - 24 is do-able don't think 49 is... I'll "stick" with those categories that already have a divisible number with the option of reading bonus books in them when/if I complete the challenge

started putting together my categories for next year now looking at the pile I won't get round to this year and wondering.....

aug 3, 2012, 4:09pm

My reading pace has been somewhat erratic this year so I am happy I decided to only aim for 6 books in each category. That will give me time to mess around at the end and try to figure out what I want to tackle next year. Sticking sounds like a good plan!

Redigerat: aug 6, 2012, 9:55am

As I’m so behind on reviews I’m doing some short ones…

snow geese William Fiennes

Very Good

Part travel writing, part nature writing, part biography

Fiennes is recovering from an un-named illness and an enforced idleness living with his parents. His father is a keen birdwatcher and Fiennes becomes interested in birdwatching, perhaps seeing their freedom as cathartic. He also re-reads the snow goose a book read in school. He combines the two things into a quest to follow snow geese on their migration across America once he is well enough to do so. Filled with memorable characters (which Fiennes must have embellished?) and a corresponding philosophical journey this is an interesting and enjoyable read.

Overall – recommended to those who like nature writing

the girl who circumnavigated fairyland Catherynne M Valente

Very Good

Whimsical modern fairytale

Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. That is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble

September grabs the chance to have an adventure in Fairyland without looking back or thinking about her parents. Valente’s Fairyland is lushly imagined (as usual for one of her books) and works on both a child’s and an adult’s level. Once in Fairyland of course September must undertake a quest (she in fact has more than one) and is aided by a Wyverary (Library Wyvern). Many adventures follow and of course in one of them she must circumnavigate Fairyland.

Overall – Thoroughly charming & highly recommended

the choirboys Joseph Waumburgh

Very Good

Blackly humorous look at cop culture in the 1970’s

Waumburgh establishes a cast of very memorable and very flawed characters through a series of interconnected stories. The cops who take part in “choir practise” go to a local park to let off steam through drink, drugs and group sex. Each partnership is explored through episodes of investigation and glimpses of choir practise. Inexorably leading to the inevitable denouement where it all comes crashing down.

Overall - It reads like a darker vision of the humour of MASH.

fire season Philip Connors


A memoir of a season of fire watching in New Mexico

Connors is a fire monitor in the Gila wilderness area of New Mexico. It’s about Aldo Leopold, Jack Kerouac, the history of fire watching, the establishment of the wilderness areas of the US, changing ideas of wildfire management, land management, the joys of owning a dog, dodging bears, an almost spiritual approach to boredom, ecology, lightning storms and his relationship with his wife which is stretched as he spends 1/3 of the year on top of a mountain in a tower watching for fires.

Overall –beautiful, engaging and enthralling writing highly recommended

13 things that don’t make sense Michael Brooks

Very Good

13 different scientific mysteries

Listened to this one over a few bus journeys which was OK since each chapter mostly stands alone. Brooks covers a series of scientific mysteries that we have no good explanation for. From the well know Dark Matter/Dark Energy to cold fusion, the Pioneer problem and life and death. It’s an interesting approach to view the things we don’t know as the spur to progress and Brooks does a good job of explaining sometimes difficult concepts simply. As others have noted though there are some problems here – is “cold fusion” actually possible (getting more energy out than put in) & accepted by science? Is the chapter on Homeopathy just a little credulous? However as a thought provoker the book works.

Overall – uneven but worth exploring

aug 6, 2012, 9:39am

Good to see that you enjoyed The Choirboys as it still remains as a candidate for my own challenge and after some recent comments by VictoriaPL it wasn't looking too appealing.

aug 6, 2012, 1:12pm

Another good mix of reading Pete. I did enjoy the Brooks book when I read it a few years ago as something intellectually interesting to think about and found it easy to read off and on over an extended period of time.

aug 6, 2012, 6:27pm

I'm going to have to give The Choirboys a try as well - dark humor works for me!

aug 7, 2012, 7:31am

I really enjoyed it

aug 7, 2012, 4:08pm

Oh crap, all of them just got added to my TBR. They're just too enticing to pass up! :)

aug 13, 2012, 7:59am

the cave Tim Krabbe

Very Good

Drug running story

Egon is running drugs and yet is a respectable geology teacher,the book opens with him getting ready for the drop and worrying about all the things that could go wrong. How did he end up here? Well then the book takes a step backwards into his childhood, his coming under “the peculiar authority” of his friend Axel. Gripping from start to finish and with an unexpected narrative this short (150 odd pages) book is an accomplished thriller easily read in one sitting.

Overall – Keeps you turning the pages

vertraging Tim Krabbe

Very Good

Dutch TV star goes missing on a stopover in Australia

Jacques is a successful writer and TV star in Holland and whilst on tour in the antipodes has the chance for a short stopover of a few hours in Sydney whilst his plane is delayed. Knowing that a childhood love lives in Sydney he goes to look her up and becomes involved in a long adventure. As the world searches for him and “Madam Twenty” who he has followed into the outback we see the childhood story played out. Another great read from Mr. Krabbe.

Overall – Great modern thriller

dark mountain issue 2

Very Good

Second collection of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction from the Dark Mountain folks

Very much in the vein of the first issue (my review here: post 152) however this issue the theme is more around the subject of death. Interesting analysis, some good short stories, pictures and poetry.

Overall – more of the same, if you like issue 1 you’ll like issue 2

deadkidsongs Toby Litt


Childhood memoir with a difference

Using a framing structure of memoirs discovered after a father has committed suicide the book shows the history of “Gang”, four adolescent boys in 1970’s England. Gang are obsessed with war and wear a uniform, have a number of “base camps” and perform missions for the Major General (also known as “the Best Father”). All seems innocent until one of the boys dies and things begin to escalate alarmingly. Litt here creates a very familiar world of childhood summers, tree climbing, gangs, crushes on the opposite sex and all the rest of what you’d expect from a coming of age tale. Like stand by me but horribly twisted. This is not a life affirming tale. However it is brilliantly written and as I turned the end page I was tempted to start again to catch the bits I missed first time round.

Overall - Narratively complex, disturbingly dark and utterly gripping

aug 13, 2012, 7:50pm

I've been meaning to add some Dutch writers to the wishlist and it sounds like Tim Krabbé would be perfect - thanks for the tip!

aug 14, 2012, 6:24am

Tim Krabbe is very good, not read his "best" the vanishing, tim krabbe yet (made into film at least twice) but his book about cycle racing the rider is brilliant

aug 14, 2012, 5:10pm

I have never heard of Toby Litt before, but deadkidsongs is now on my wishlist. Have you read anything else by him? I have also added Corpsing to my wishlist.

aug 15, 2012, 4:41am

Yes I've just read hospital (will review soon) but suffice to say I really enjoyed it and am looking to track more Toby Litt down

aug 15, 2012, 4:15pm

->33 psutto:
Even without an interest in cycle racing...? :)

aug 15, 2012, 9:08pm

My Mt Tbr has become even higher after a short visit here. I've just made a start on The Whispering Muse which I collected on my last visit to your thread.

aug 16, 2012, 4:14am

36 yes definitely, I'm not interested in cycle racing

@37 hope you enjoy it!

aug 16, 2012, 12:06pm

Excellent - that's the one of his my library has a copy of.

aug 20, 2012, 5:08am

Was at the Edinburgh book festival at the weekend, got a signed copy of the information, queued for ages to get Grant Morrison to sign supergods. picked up a copy of light on a dark horse in a second hand shop (could have bought so many more books but heroically managed to resist) and got a really good looking book called kraken: The curious, exciting and slightly disturbing science of squid

aug 20, 2012, 5:29am

Having had a fatal laptop fail (onto my third in as many weeks courtesy of work) I've lost my ongoing stats for the challenge so July's round up (hopelessy overdue) is in a slightly different format...

books read in July = 16
unfinished = 2
Poor =
Average =
Very Good = 12
Brilliant = 2

aug 20, 2012, 5:38am

heroically? you mean forcibly removed whilst crying ;-)

aug 20, 2012, 5:49am

my thread, my reality ;-)

plus no tears were shed!! although there may have been lip wobbling :-)

Redigerat: aug 20, 2012, 9:15am

saw jennifer rohn at the Edinburgh festival (in conversation with Neal Stephenson) who I'd not heard of, she has a fun website for science geeks like me

aug 21, 2012, 2:28pm

Just registering my envy at your Edinburgh-visit.....

aug 21, 2012, 4:03pm

Sixteen books read this month! And a book festival!

aug 21, 2012, 4:21pm

That website looks interesting...and also envious that you've been to the Edinburgh BF, I'd love to go.

aug 21, 2012, 5:50pm

Yep a particularly good reading month. EIBF is one of the best festivals in my opinion, always seem to find stuff to see there. Talking of fests I've just booked a couple of events at Cheltenham Lit fest and am nervously excited about Bristol Lit fest that I'm helping out at

aug 22, 2012, 5:20pm

How many festivals do you and claire go to a year? Just curious :)

aug 22, 2012, 8:18pm

Agreeing - the Edinburgh one is quite outstanding! Highly recommending to anyone who is remotely close to the British Isles in August!

aug 23, 2012, 5:46am

@49 - book festivals? it differs each year depending on what's on but probably Bath, Cheltenham & definitely Edinburgh & Bristol - thinking about trying the Hay on Wye festival next year although I reckon that one would be very dangerous for the TBR!

aug 23, 2012, 10:32am

Hospital Toby Litt

Very Good

Hmm how to summarise? Bizarro tale of Hospital (note, not “The” Hospital) with boys who swallow apple seeds, messiahs in comas, satanism, voodoo & eternal life

Litt has created a very strange tale here where he takes an idea and just runs and runs with it. It's surreal, phantasmagorical and yet utterly page turning with a breakneck plot. It’s set in a soap opera style hospital with clichéd characters which make you smile – a beautiful nurse who is obsessed with the dashing and brilliant surgeon etc. However the plot just takes this away from anything you may have seen before and into bizarre territory, when the Satanists and the voodoo cult both do rituals at the same time it all becomes a lot more odd. Wouldn’t want to give much more of the plot away though. Will definitely be getting more Toby Litt!

Overall – highly recommended

the surgeon of crowthorne Simon Winchester

Very Good

Tale of how the OED was made and the story of one of its contributors

Dr W C Minor is an American Surgeon and civil war veteran and was one of the major contributors to the OED. He was also a murderer, a paranoid schizophrenic and his contributions to the OED came from Broadmoor asylum. Winchester has found one of those interesting historical fact and spun it into an interesting tale. He covers some biographical details of Minor and Sir James Murray who was the editor of the dictionary and some details on how the dictionary was put together (in itself interesting). Winchester is a little drier in this book than in his previous ones I’ve read but still very interesting.

Overall – recommended to dictionary buffs and those interested in history

Alan M. Turing Sara Turing

Very Good

Biography of Alan Turing by his mother

Sara Turing writes a book about her famous son Alan Turing. She reveals many biographical details about his early life, less details about his adult life, extracts from letters she received about him and some appendices on his work. What she doesn’t do is talk about his homosexuality and refuses to believe he committed suicide. The centenary edition also has an after word from Alan’s brother which throws a different light on his brother’s life and worth seeking out the centenary edition for.

Overall – flawed but interesting biography

the last werewolf Glen Duncan

Very Good

Jacob is the last ever werewolf and is being hunted by the son of a man he killed

Duncan is obviously a good writer and for the first half of the book I thought I was in for a 5 star read. Jacob is tired of life, he’s the last ever werewolf and is being targeted by an organisation dedicated to hunting werewolves. One of the hunters has sworn to cut his head off as Jacob killed his father. He smokes and drinks whisky by the gallon as neither can kill him. He is a little bit whiney in this section but generally the tired, cynical narrative voice carries you through this. Then everything changes and the book becomes a little less likable but still worth reading, maybe losing perhaps half a star. Then it totally loses it in the denouement doing something that I REALLY didn’t like (no spoilers). Yet he did enough groundwork that I’ll read the next instalment with interest.

Overall – unevenly paced, flawed update of the gothic standard man cursed by being a werewolf

Kraken science Wendy Williams

Very Good

All about squid (and octopus & cuttlefish) and how they’ve contributed to science, in sometimes unexpected ways

It seems like Williams didn’t quite know what book she wanted to write here. She covers some details about what we know about squid and their cousin cephalopods. A bit about the search for Architeuthis (Giant Squid), a bit about how squid etc are studied in the field by marine biologists (accompanying a trip by said biologists) and a bit about how cephalopods have contributed to science from neurology to parallel evolution to camouflage to animal intelligence. It’s all mixed together really with no real framing structure but still a great read if your interested in the subject matter, if you weren’t already interested in all things tentacley then maybe the loose grab bag style may bother you.

Overall – A bit incoherent but full of really interesting stuff

aug 23, 2012, 11:41am

I recently added my first Toby Litt to the tbr shelves so it's good to see you enjoy another of his. Shame that The Last Werewolf didn't quite follow through on your early expectations but at least it was good enough for you to want to continue. Still waiting for the paperback release so I can get to the sequel myself.

aug 24, 2012, 7:17am

Which Toby Litt? will definitely read the sequel as I really enjoyed a lot of the book, just wasn't sure about the ending...

aug 24, 2012, 11:25am

Neither of the ones you've read: I Play the Drums in a Band Called Okay.

aug 24, 2012, 11:57am

cool - look forward to seeing what you think - am definitely on the lookout for more books by him

aug 24, 2012, 4:32pm

Toby Litt sounds very interesting...will have to investigate.

aug 25, 2012, 4:17pm

@52 Very glad you enjoyed Hospital! I'm also on the lookout for more Litt. The short story collection Exhibitionism was very hit and miss for me, but I love the man's ideas. Will be looking out for your review, Wolfy!

aug 25, 2012, 11:57pm

I've heard The Last Werewolf is really good. Might read it... but I don't like what you said about the end. I hate reading a book all the way through and then being let down or annoyed by the end.

Redigerat: aug 26, 2012, 7:55pm

@ 58 I actually enjoyed deadkidsongs more than hospital so you should definitely track it down

@ 59 I really didn't like the end but you should perhaps check out more reviews?

Redigerat: aug 29, 2012, 5:40am

seems I've neglected to review any stories from the weird compendium for a while so here goes:

The Brood - Ramsey Campbell - Very Good - a Liverpool apartment dweller lives in a decaying area and spends time watching his neighbours, when one of them, an old woman, doesn't appear for a while he feels that he must go investigate

The Autopsy - Michael Shea - Very Good - weird science fiction version of demonic possession

The Belonging kind - William Gibson/John Shirley - Very Good - the only collaborative effort in the Compendium, a man becomes obsessed with a woman he meets in a bar and follows her

Egnaro - M. John Harrison - Brilliant - Borges-like story about a secret country

The little dirty girl - Joanna Russ - Very Good - a story in the form of a letter about a spooky experience which leads the narrator to attemp a reconcilliation with an estranged mother

The new rays - M. John Harrison - Very Good - A man travels to a spa to receive a new treatment for his disease and discovers that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease

The discovery of Telenapota - Premendra Mitra - Average - written in the second person, which I think is very difficult to get right, you are drawn into a story about death and memory

Soft - F. Paul Wilson - Very Good - surreal and disturbing post-apocalyptic tale where the apocalypse is very inventive and refers to the title of the story

Bloodchild - Octavia E. Butler - Brilliant - Weird science fiction where an alien species exists in symbiosis with humans with a bit of body shock thrown in

In the Hills, the cities - Clive Barker -Very Good - two towns take part in a weird ritual competiton

Tainaron - Leena Krohn - this is a epistolary novella told in letters from an insect city, having read this before fairly recently I've skipped it but I would recommend it

Hogfoot right and bird-hands - Garry Kilworth - Very Good - SF body modification story with a nice twist

Shades - Lucius Shepard - Very Good - Interesting weird ghost story which also manages to act as a commentary on war

The function of dream sleep - Harlan Ellison -Very Good - A man awakes half way through a dream and catches a glimpse of hidden reality which changes his life

Worlds that flourish - Ben Okri - Average - A man tries to escape a dictatorship and weird things happen

The boy in the tree - Elizabeth Hand - Very Good - weird science where autistics are used as psychiatric investigators through human engineering

Family - Joyce Carol Oates - Very Good - Very odd tale of a family living through an environmental/civilization collapse

His mouth will taste of Wormwood - Poppy Z. Brite - Very Good, darkly gothic tale about friends who try to push the boundaries and start to rob graves, a good example of Brite's work

The end of the garden - Michal Ajvaz - Average - Surreal tale that starts when a man hears a cry for help and discovers a woman fighting with a lizard, it gets weirder from that point on

The dark - Karen Joy Fowler - Very Good - A medic in the Vietnam war sees that the reality of the plague is different to what we believe

Angels in love - Kathe Koja - Very Good, a woman listens to her neighbours having sex and becomes obsessed with meeting the man of the couple who she's never seen

The Ice man - Haruki Murakami - Very Good - a woman marries an Ice man and weirdness ensues

aug 29, 2012, 7:05am

Damn, that compendium, that compendium...

aug 29, 2012, 12:44pm

Damn, that compendium, that compendium...

aug 29, 2012, 12:45pm

Triple Damn it!

aug 29, 2012, 9:52pm

> 62 - 64 - LOL!

Didn't catch me with that LONG list but only because I scrolled though it rather quickly. I have to dodge these book bullets when I can!

aug 29, 2012, 10:23pm

#62-65: in total agreement! Already on my way to amazon to do a price check.

aug 30, 2012, 11:31pm

Ohhh - I own Bloodchild. I haven't read all the stories in the collection, but I've read that one. Creepy - I started using the phrase "ick factor" as a literary term after reading that story. It makes my friend's "centipede erotica" short story look tame! I'll have to find The Weird Compendium some day.

aug 31, 2012, 6:02am

centipede erotica how intriguing :-o

aug 31, 2012, 9:55am

No. No, that is not intriguing!

aug 31, 2012, 4:31pm

A cruel bird came to the nest and looked in Magnus Mills

Very Good

Can’t do better than blurb on the back to introduce this Far away, in the ancient empire of Greater Fallowfields, things are falling apart. The imperial orchestra is presided over by a conductor who has never played a note, the clocks are changed constantly to ensure that the sun always sets at five o' clock, and the Astronomer Royal is only able to use the observatory telescope when he can find a sixpence to put in its slot. But while the kingdom drifts, awaiting the return of the young emperor, who has gone abroad and communicates only by penny post, a sinister and unfamiliar enemy is getting closer and closer...

Mills has written one of his more allegorical novels here and it’s a little more obtuse than previous books. Mills deliberately gives his characters no backstory, he uses a roll call on the first page to introduce his main protagonists and uses a series of lectures to throw some light, but perhaps obscuring more than revealing, about the empire of Greater Fallowfields. And yet, for me, this didn’t quite work as well as previous Mills books. It is a good read, it does tick the boxes you expect from Mills but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on it failed to grip me as much as previous Mills books.

Overall - This is a very Mills book, odd, understated and deceptively simple however mostly lacks the brooding menace of his earlier books.

aug 31, 2012, 4:50pm

The white castle Orhan Pamuk


In the 17th century a Venetian is captured by Turks and becomes a slave, the book tells his story

After being captured on a sea voyage our un-named narrator is enslaved and impresses a friend of a Pasha (a high rank) with his knowledge and refusal to give up his faith and convert. By strange coincidence slave and master are very similar in appearance, spookily so. Using their science they seek to gain influence over the Sultan and he asks them to create a formidable weapon, which eventually they will use to attack the White Castle in the title. This is not an adventure book or even an exploration of the history of the period or the location (although there is enough for those who wish it). The greatest part of the book is an investigation into identity and the nature of morality and the plot, such that it is, is basically a framing device for this study. If you’ve not tried Pamuk before then I’d recommend my name is red over this though.

Overall – Short yet chewy book, worth investigating

aug 31, 2012, 4:55pm

Giant thief David Tallerman


Easie Damasco has stolen the wrong thing from the wrong person and ends up in the army of a warlord and by luck he is put in charge of one of the warlords giants. Being a thief he decides to steal from the warlord during his escape and ends up with a Macguffin that the plot revolves around from that point. Although there are no surprises, the world is very lightly coloured in, the characters are not really fleshed out there was enough there to keep me turning the pages.

Overall – Does what it says on the tin, competent fantasy

aug 31, 2012, 4:55pm

the cold war experience Norman Friedman

Very Good

The Cold War Experience which is a short history of the cold war from the end of WW2 to the collapse of the USSR contains 30 facsimile items of memorabilia (letters, posters, secret reports) integrated into the pages of the book & includes a DVD of several classic US public information films from the era.

Its less than 100 pages long although is the size and shape of a photograph album filled with photographs & the above mentioned inserts. Its whirlwind coverage with the major events and themes given perhaps 1 or 2 pages each and this is my only quibble with the book.

Overall – worth the money just for the inserts

aug 31, 2012, 4:57pm

Tarzan of the apes Edgar Rice Burroughs

Very Good

Classic 1912 novel of a man raised by apes

I thought I knew the story and yet the book felt at the same time both familiar and refreshingly unfamiliar. A family is abandoned on the coast of Africa and when the adults die, the baby is taken and raised by apes and becomes Tarzan, King of the Jungle. It’s dated in its treatment of both women and non-whites, it uses plenty of purple prose, it relies of some truly mind boggling coincidence and yet Burroughs is a good enough author to make it a rollicking good adventure story with plenty of lion wrestling, cannibals, ape wrangling and romance.

Jane- her lithe young form flattened against the trunk of a great tree, her hands pressed against her rising and falling bosom, and her eyes wide with mingled horror, fascination, fear, and admiration - watched the primordial ape battle with the primeval man for possession of a woman - for her

Overall – Camply over the top yet engaging adventure yarn

sep 1, 2012, 12:07am

Oh my, that is purple!!! Interesting review of A Cruel Bird and The White Castle. The Pamuk story sounds like it is very much influenced by The Prince and the Pauper. Am I right? I read his Snow and liked it a lot, but not enough to want to run and read everything he has ever written. I don't think I realized just how unreliable the narrator was until the very end.

sep 1, 2012, 6:38pm

I want to try Tarzan at some point - I read the comic books when I was a kid. That quote is holarious!

sep 1, 2012, 9:25pm

A Cruel Bird sounds fantastic! Sadly my local library doesn't have that one but they do have Mills' Three to see the king, The scheme for full employment and Explorers of the new century. All sound appealing so it looks like I will be checking out Mills' works sometime soon.

sep 2, 2012, 1:48pm

All 3 of those are good but explorers of the nEw century is my favourite

sep 2, 2012, 3:23pm

Excellent! good to know, thanks. ;-)

sep 3, 2012, 5:06am

sort of taking a short break from the 12 categories to read Steinbeck in September. I will add those to my Baker's dozen category & still review here...

min # books left to finish = 9 (4 more months of reading year present, 1 in 12 flags, 1 in Olympian gods, 1 in 1912, 2 in Doomsday)
additional # books left to finish if do 6 in each category = 6 (3 in 12 hours, 4 in zodiac)
additional # books left to finish if do 12 in each category = 25 (6 in cards, 9 in 12 hours, 10 in Zodiac)

sep 4, 2012, 7:54am

Purge Sofi Oksanen

Very Good

Gritty Estonian story

Tow women’s stories are interwoven with the history of Estonia from the second world war to the fall of communism. Aliide finds Zara unconscious in her garden one day and the book explores their two stories as it jumps all through 50 years of history with different chapters following the different characters in different locations. What could therefore be a chaotic read is well handled by Oksanen so that the various narratives intertwine and build towards a strangely abrupt ending. It is unflinching in its portrayal of violence, mainly inflicted by men on women and it’s therefore not a comfortable read. However Oksanen masterfully handles the story and what could be gratuitous is in fact very well done creating a claustrophobic and gripping narrative.

Overall – intensely sad and darkly fascinating

sep 4, 2012, 7:54am

the log from the sea of Cortez John Steinbeck

Very Good

A biography of Ed Ricketts and an account of a scientific exploration of the fauna of the Sea of Cortez

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again

Ed Ricketts was the inspiration for Doc in Cannery row (which I’m going to move onto as my next Steinbeck in September). He was killed when a train hit his car and Steinbeck writes a short biography as introduction to their expedition to the Sea of Cortez to collect specimens. In 1940 Steinbeck, Ricketts and a boat crew travelled down the coast of California and into the Gulf of California, also called the Sea of Cortez, to collect marine specimens. The book is a reprise of an earlier work by Ricketts and Steinbeck which was unsuccessful. It is a description of how marine specimen collecting works, musings upon the political situation in Europe (WW2), an exploration of the two men’s philosophy, biological information about various different species, some musings on Darwin, Mexico, politics and fishing and humorous asides on the intractability of outboard motors.

Our Hansen Sea-Cow (the dinghy) was not only a living thing but a mean, irritable, contemptible, vengeful, mischievous, hateful living thing

Overall – Steinbeck does nature writing, not as powerful as his novels but a very interesting and enjoyable read.

sep 4, 2012, 8:49am

I'm glad you liked Purge. I read it a while ago and I still think about it now and then.

sep 4, 2012, 10:18am

I still have Purge sat on the tbr shelves. Still a possibility for this year's challenge but who knows...

Redigerat: sep 4, 2012, 12:58pm

Loads of good reviews here as usual, but no new book bullets! I look forward to reading Mill's Peake-esque take on castle life especially!

>78 psutto: I agree - all three of those are very good. My pick, however, would be Three to see the king :)

sep 4, 2012, 9:00pm

Well Pete, you hit me with Purge and it looks like I will have a couple of Mills' books that are safe to move up the reading list based on the responses from you and Anders!

sep 4, 2012, 10:15pm

I'm trying to figure out a way to squish Steinbeck in to my categories too. My classics section was one of the first completed. I saw a book of his at a vintage/antique bookstore recently that was a photo-essay - there was a documentary too - on a rural Mexican village in the 30s or 40s. If it hadn't been a bit stinky and if I hadn't been a bit short on cash, it would be mine now and I'd call it "off the shelf" and sneak it in that way.

sep 4, 2012, 11:19pm

I too have Purge on Mt. TBR. There's always next year... :)

sep 5, 2012, 4:40am

You know I read a 1 star review on amazon based solely on the books horrible smell :) A little harsh but we have all been there!

sep 5, 2012, 10:59am

I've given a book a better rating because of the incredibly smooth texture of its pages!

Redigerat: sep 5, 2012, 2:30pm

Part of The joy of reading slightly older books is the smell, bad smelling books therefore would spoil the experience...

sep 5, 2012, 10:50pm

I understand - I've got almost all of the Child ballad books. Child Ballads are public domain and available in quite a few additions, but I had to get mine from a certain publisher because the paper is so lovely - even though the last book in the collection still isn't out.

Redigerat: sep 7, 2012, 5:24am

I got a couple of reviewer copies from Akashic - The Secret History of Coffee, Cocoa and Cola by Ricardo Cortes and when Johnny comes marching home by William Heffernan.

purely on the basis of buying a few books from them :-) (makes them my favourite publisher at the moment!)

Review of the Cortes book to follow shortly as I've already read it, will get to the Heffernan book after September...

sep 7, 2012, 10:25am

The litfest I'm involved with puts up its programme on the website later today (fingers crossed) - looks like a great programme too, some interesting venues including a bus, caves & a replica of the Matthew (the ship John Cabot discovered mainland America in). I'll be chatting about the fest over here: if your interested...

sep 7, 2012, 11:23pm

Ah, random review copies arriving as surprises as an added bonus makes buying that Mexico Noir collection even more of an interesting prospect. Do you think Akashic knows you're on LT?

sep 7, 2012, 11:50pm

"makes them my favourite publisher at the moment"
Such wonderful people! :) I got an email from one of my favorite e-publishers asking if I wanted review copies since I had bought a couple of their books. Well, of course I do - what a silly question! :)

A Secret History of Coffee, Coca & Cola looks very interesting! Cortés is the illustrator for Go the F**k to Sleep - quite a different subject. :)

sep 10, 2012, 1:10pm

95 - not a total surprise as they did mail me and ask if I wanted review copies which of course I said yes to :-D I've let them know I'm on LT when I acknowledged receipt of the books

I've got a few reviews to write, falling behind again!, one of them being the secret history which was a very very quick read...

although I'm almost there with the challenge I'm off at a tangent reading Steinbeck & Adams this month, I'll get onto the reveiwer copy of Johnny came marching home after that & I'll need to catch up with a few of the authors that are going to be at unputdownable!

sep 10, 2012, 4:57pm

Yup, I'm hearing the call of tangential reading this month too. So far... resisting...

Redigerat: sep 11, 2012, 5:26am

Here's my 10/10 review of Dirk Gently -

Dirk Gently's Holistic detective agency - Douglas Adams (audio book read by the author)

5 out of 5

Humorous and surreal detective story

Including ghosts, electric monks, the music of life, time travel and the fundamental interconnectedness of everything its hard to give a plot synopsis without it including spoilers. Its a very multi-layered work and probably Adams's best book (although I also very much like the long dark teatime of the soul). This book was another re-read (probably after a 10-15 year gap) but since I listened to this whilst at the gym or on bus/train/plane journeys over a period of a few months it gave me a fresh perspective on the book. Adams has often been described as having a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything and this book has some rather profound ideas albeit delivered within a comedy detective tale. This rightly deserves to be on the 1001 books list and if you've not read it yet you should immediately go out and buy a copy!

Overall - utterly brilliant & works on many levels

Not much to add this time round, I read the book this time instead of listening and therefore appreciated different aspects of the story

sep 11, 2012, 11:58am

I take it Adams was a good reader considering the review - do you remember if he stood out? Some authors make horrific readers - anyone that is great or even someone that you don't really notice is good news!

sep 11, 2012, 1:07pm

@ 99 -- Nice review of Dirk Gently! I really need to get to that one soon.

sep 12, 2012, 4:57am

Yeah Adams was a good reader, I must do my review of the long dark teatime as well!

On a different note I went to a Kitschies event last night I London where China Mieville, Laren Beukes and Patrick Ness all read new work and were part of a panel discussion. Great event and now I not only finally have a copy of railsea I have a signed copy :-)

sep 12, 2012, 1:43pm

Excellent - I saw Kitschies' Facebook post and they posted a link to the story Miéville read, but I would really have wanted to be there!!!

sep 13, 2012, 5:45am

Yep a really good event with drinks and a chance to mingle with the authors after

Redigerat: sep 13, 2012, 9:33am

So August reading

books read in Aug = 16
unfinished =
Poor =
Average = 2
Very Good = 13
Brilliant = 1

am a few reviews behind but will catch up tomorrow hopefully - tonight I'm off out to my favourite bookshop to see James Meek talking about his new book the heart broke in

unfinished categories -

12 days of Christmas - some books left from my monthly reading year present and a few hundreds of pages left of the weird compendium

Its in the cards - Stick (will be bonus books if/when I finish)

12 hours on a clock - 1 more book then Stick probably will be an experiment with time

12 stars in flag of Europe - 1 book left will probably be riddle of the sands (Childers was Irish)

12 Olympian gods - 1 book left, was going to read Gormenghast but now Railsea is beckoning... (I will read both books, one will just have to fit elsewhere!)

12 signs of the Zodiac - Stick (will be bonus books if/when I finish)

1912 - 1 book left will probably be riders of the purple sage or possibly a princess of Mars

Doomsday clock - 2 books left but 3 candidates - metro 2033, atomic: the first war of physics & just picked up a copy of the last policeman

off on a tangent at the moment though so my Bakers Dozen category is bound to grow...

sep 13, 2012, 3:10pm

Well, Gormenghast is an amazing, if tremendously weird, book. But I'm very interested in Railsea, so I can't help you on what to read first as I'd really like to see what you think about both of those!

sep 13, 2012, 3:38pm

Congratulations on having such a very good reading month in August with 16 books read of which 13 you rated Very Good & 1 got a Brilliant.

sep 14, 2012, 4:47am

106 - it is just a decision on which to read first which will be a mood thing - I'm committing to another 3 Steinbeck once I finish East of Eden but they'll be short ones. Then I'll read When Johnny came marching home since its a reviewer copy and then see what I'm in the mood for!

@107 - Thanks!

sep 14, 2012, 4:54am

Cannery row John Steinbeck

Very Good

Steinbeck’s classic about Monterrey California

Reading like a character study of a small area the book mainly concentrates on a group of bums, “Doc” (based on Ed Ricketts – see above for log of the sea of Cortez) a corner shop and a whorehouse. When the bums decide to do something nice for Doc they mobilise the community to throw a party. This is a short but very entertaining read like a series of interconnected short stories sharing the same characters.

Overall – entertaining short read

Sombrero fallout Richard Brautigan

Very Good

Surreal darkly humorous tale

A humorist writer tries to write a short story about a sombrero that falls from the sky, it is icy cold, there are three men who wish to pick it up. He then abandons the attempt because he cannot get over the fact that his Japanese girlfriend has left him. In the wastepaper basket the story starts writing itself. Brautigan examines the humorist as he obsesses over his loss and a strand of his ex-girlfriend’s hair. His ex-girlfriend and her cat as she sleeps and dreams and the story as it writes itself as the sombrero sits at the focal point of a new war pitting American against American. Its very short and easy to read in one sitting but leaves you much to ponder.

Overall – Bizarre but very readable

sep 14, 2012, 5:38am

A secret history of Coffee, Coca and Cola Ricardo Cortes

I have a hard time rating this book

Illustrated short journalistic history of 3 plants and a certain beverage

I’m not sure what to say about this book – I suspect I’m just not the target audience. The book is short, very short, pamphlet thin in fact and the amount of information inside is by necessity brief. His illustrations are good (see here although his style is not one that moves me particularly. The information in part 1 about coffee is so brief I wondered why it had been included, although I guess it did form a basis for some of what comes later if you'd never heard of caffeine I suppose. The heart of the book is about Coca and the special formula for Coca Cola, it also explores the collaboration between U.S. Bureau of Narcotics commissioner Harry J. Anslinger (infamous for his “Reefer Madness” campaign against marijuana) and the Coca Cola company.

I think I should track down belching out the devil by Mark Thomas for a more in depth analysis

Overall – Far too brief

the long dark tea time of the soul Douglas Adams

Very Good

Another outing for the holistic detective

Susan attempts to travel to Oslo but is prevented when there is an explosion at Heathrow later attributed to “an act of god”, yet which god was it? Gently is drawn in via the usual coincidental interconnectedness of everything and discovers a world where the old gods are still around, after all we wished for them to be immortal. At the same time there is a murder of a music industry insider and of course everything is connected. This time round Adams doesn’t quite pull it off quite so well as he does in the first book and the ending feels a little rushed but its still a very enjoyable book that I would thoroughly recommend.

Overall – Norse gods, holistic detective attacked by eagles, evil contracts and zen navigation – a very good read

Redigerat: sep 14, 2012, 10:32am

nabbed a copy of household worms last night and was chatting with the bookshop lady and she was telling me about his book with Robert Macfarlane -


they had 1 copy in the shop - already purchased by someone and I can confirm that it was a thing of beauty

sep 14, 2012, 5:19pm

re. Sombrero Fallout - A story that starts to write itself in the waste bin is a neat idea. LT's 'will I like it' thingee predicts - with high confidence - that I probably won't like it. Sadly, my local library doesn't have this one...... still, a book bullet taken.

sep 14, 2012, 11:34pm

ah - I first discovered Richard Brautigan in Highschool. Sombrero Fallout sounds like a story only he could pull off.

sep 15, 2012, 5:03pm

Hi Psutto, I liked the first Dirk Gently book better than the second, but both are pure Douglas Adams fun! Great reviews!

sep 17, 2012, 10:15pm

I'd reread Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy recently and am hoping to squeeze in Dirk Gently before the end of September. I'm happy to see that you liked it so much!

sep 18, 2012, 4:44pm

I just finished Dirk Gently as well and really liked it. It's definitely a fun and absurd little book.

sep 19, 2012, 8:57am

- 112 & 113 - I'd highly recommend it as a good example of Brautigan's work

- 114 - yep DA is a favourite author of mine

- 115 & 116 - I'd recommend reading long dark teatime if you enjoy dirk gently

bit busy at the mo, lots of reading happening but falling way behind on reviews again...

sep 20, 2012, 5:02am

Never heard of Richard Brautigan, but that sounds very interesting in a bonkers kind of way...

sep 20, 2012, 5:27am

yes he is totally bonkers - I'd never heard of him either until I went to the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco a few years ago and came across him whilst browsing - I now have 8 books of his on my shelf.. (although not his most famous oddly trout fishing in America) He has a book set in a library which I think all LTers would enjoy Abortion an historical romance

sep 20, 2012, 8:01am

east of eden John Steinbeck


Steinbeck’s “big book”, classic tale set in the Salinas Valley

This is a book that follows 3 generations from mid 1800’s up to early 1900’s, the Hamiltons and the Trasks. There are so many memorable characters in the book and Steinbeck drew on his own family history for the plot. Although Steinbeck is sometimes heavy handed with Biblical allusion (the story of Cain and Abel) and although the ending is perhaps not as shocking as he thought it was going to be I thoroughly enjoyed this book. One of my most satisfying reads this year and one I was sad to put down.

Overall – Deservedly classic

journal of a novel John Steinbeck

Very Good

Steinbeck’s journal of the writing of East of Eden

Every morning, except most weekends, Steinbeck produced several pages towards his “big book” East of Eden. He wrote it long hand in a journal and each day in the same journal he wrote an ongoing letter to his editor as a warm up exercise before starting writing on the novel. This he never intended to be published so it is a full and frank look (some ellipses are used to protect still living people) at his thoughts and feelings and his home life whilst writing the book. There are some musings on the writing process but its by no means a “how to”. Its interesting to see what Steinbeck was trying to achieve.

Overall – fascinating if read alongside the book, I’d recommend reading the book first though!

Only 6 more reviews to write!

sep 21, 2012, 11:54am

Make that 7 reviews left to write as I've finished Railsea

sep 21, 2012, 1:36pm

Looking forward to hearing what you thought of Railsea seeing as you just finished Moby Dick!

sep 22, 2012, 4:00am

120- I started reading East of Eden with the premise that it would be a classic that wouldn't be horrible but also wouldn't be great. I was surprised at how quickly it sucked me in and hung on. It's a good thing when reading something exceeds expectations.

sep 24, 2012, 4:33am

-123 I remember you liked it, great read isn't it?

sep 24, 2012, 6:31am

the moon is down John Steinbeck

Very Good

Steinbeck does propaganda

Un-named invaders (but obviously the Nazi’s) occupy an un-named Northern European country. When the invaders try to force the natives to work in the coal mines there is a flare up of violence and a resistance is formed. This is a short and powerful book which was an attempt at propaganda to encourage resistance in occupied countries. Although the Nazi’s are recognisable but unnamed, it could be read as an example for any invading force and any invaded country.

Overall – Short but powerful.

of mice and men John Steinbeck

Very Good

Very short yet very famous

In 50 pages Steinbeck introduces us to George and Lennie a pair of men looking for work. Lennie is slow witted but very strong and George looks after him. They get work on a ranch after leaving their previous job after some “trouble” and we find out that Lennie caused the trouble. This is a swift and extremely good character study that Steinbeck produces in an incredibly short amount of pages. His deft touch reveals both George and Lennie in great detail but also you feel as though you get to know some of the other characters very well too.

Overall – Long short story or short novella excellently crafted

(Can’t believe how many reviews on LT have major major spoilers for Mice and Men!)

Redigerat: sep 24, 2012, 6:32am

Dante’s inferno Hunt Emerson

Very Good

Madcap retelling of the Italian classic

Hunt Emerson’s art is instantly recognisable and seems to fit with Dante’s vision very well. Here in pictorial form is the Inferno. Dante meets Vigil who takes him on a tour of Hell. Emerson highlights the farcical nature of the Hells and throws in a few sly metafictive pieces to us the modern audience. In the back is an afterword by Kevin Jackson which is worth buying the comic for anyway as it’s a great guide to Dante’s work.

Overall – Worth reading if your at all interested in Dante but can’t be bothered with his verse

Adamtine Hannah Berry

Very Good

Creepy comic

Berry crafts a deep psychological horror using atmospheric dark art. Moon is nicknamed “The Postman” for delivering notes to the victims of a mass murderer. and although he is suspected he is acquitted. He says a monster, the Bogeyman, gave him those notes. Four strangers find themselves on a train that has stopped in an area of no phone coverage, in the utter dark of night. The story then advances in two ways, present and past as Berry treats us to a stealthily increasing sense of wrongness.

Overall – Creepily atmospheric

sep 24, 2012, 6:33am

When Johnny came marching home William Heffernan

Very Good

American civil war murder mystery yarn

The small town of Jerusalem’s Landing sends three friends off to the civil war. By war's end, one boy is dead, one returns a physically crippled and emotionally compromised man, and the third comes home as an unfeeling psychopath. The book then revolves around the investigation of the murder of one of the boys. Heffernan has crafted a very tight novel which remains gripping till the end. I don’t know much about the Civil War but am assured by the press release that it is well researched. I assume that to people who know the war in detail they would get a kick from the accounts of the various battles our protagonists take part in, the only one I recognised was Gettysburg. Shifting constantly back and forth in time telling the stories of the boys growing up, the story of their war and the story of the murder investigation.

Overall – Solid and enjoyable murder mystery

sep 24, 2012, 6:33am

Household worms Stanley Donwood


Collection of short stories

Donwood is the artist for Radiohead and his book looks like an album cover. This collection of stories is his second and he says of it “'These were written to avoid staring for too long at a night-filled window that only reflected my own sorry-for-itself face”. Each story is short, some less than half a page but each is well crafted and together form a coherent collection. I devoured this in one sitting, all 41 stories and Mr. Donwood is propelled immediately to being one of my favourite short story writers. Donwood promotes the book on his website as “Ideal as a Zmas stocking filler for the slightly deranged.” These are darkly grey stories and could be viewed as depressing if it wasn’t for the self-depreciating black humour throughout. Donwood’s oeuvre is despair, where litter, decay and long dead insects on windowsills are the background upon which the characters fail to fit in with the world.

Overall – Brilliant collection of flash fiction.

sep 24, 2012, 6:34am

Railsea China Mieville

Very Good

Sham Ap Soorap has signed aboard a Moler as an assistant Doctor and initially the crew doesn’t take to him or he to the work. The Moler is captained by Naphi who lost an arm to a giant mole “coloured like old ivory” & therefore has made this mole, known as Mocker-Jack, her philosophy. You see a lot of Captains have a philosophy which is a link to an animal that they hunt & they all have a missing limb in common. When they discover a wreck & Sham recovers a set of flatograph pictures showing an unexpected landscape feature both he & the crew are drawn into an adventure. Mielville’s world building is on top form here, obviously a nod to Melville’s story of the white whale we are on the Railsea which is built and maintained by “Angels” where there are eructhonians (burrowers who erupt from the Earth) where the only safe places, like the film Tremors, are on islands of rock. As it is “aimed at a younger reader” (i.e. YA) we are treated to that tired old trope of orphans with a special destiny (yawn) and a young protagonist. However Mieville is a good enough writer for me to ignore my usual issues with YA and enjoy the ride. Great use of the & as well as a few pieces of metafiction to spin the story in different directions. There is absolutely no need to read Moby Dick before tackling this book, a basic understanding of the story will do.

Overall - I felt it lost its was a little towards the end but overall a very good read.

sep 24, 2012, 6:34am

the last policeman Ben Winters

Very Good

Police procedural in the shadow of the apocalypse

Less than 6 months from now a very large asteroid called Maia will hit the Earth and over half the World’s population will be killed in the impact with the rest living in an icy world thereafter. By April the impact site will be known to an accuracy of 15 miles. Concord in New England has become “Hanger city” as a number of suicides have chosen to take their lives through asphyxiation. When Henry (Hank) Palace discovers a hanger in a McDonalds rest room he thinks it’s a suspicious death but has problems convincing his colleagues, the DA, the Coroner etc. Against the background of increasing religiosity, creeping despair and people “going bucketlist” Palace doggedly persues his hunch. A couple of things dented my enjoyment of this book which are perhaps less to do with the writing than my own issues. Firstly it’s the first in a trilogy and the world will no doubt be more coloured in in later episodes and secondly I couldn’t help but compare to the stunning end of science fiction which is very similar but in my opinion works so much better. I think if I’d come to the last policeman first I would have enjoyed it more perhaps. Another very minor problem I had was that they knew the date the asteroid would hit, they’d modelled it’s trajectory and yet they didn’t know where it would hit? I’m not sure this is plausible and it felt as though the location was kept unknown purely for narrative tension.

Overall – clever mystery set in a pre-apocalyptic world

sep 24, 2012, 6:34am

The riddle of the sands Erskine Childers


Classic of the spy genre

Carruthers is at something of a loose end for the autumn and therefore jumps at the chance to join an acquaintance, Davies, from college who is yachting around the coast of Holland and Germany. Together they discover that there’s something strange happening around the seven islands of the Friesland coast. Written in 1903 this is the seminal spy tale as told by Childers who worked for the Government at the time of writing although later his is executed by an Irish firing squad in 1922 for possession of a firearm in violation of martial law during the fight for home rule. Carruthers is our narrator and is initially a fop and idle dandy who is shocked that the yacht does not have a crew and this is not a pleasure trip where he will be waited on hand and foot. Davies is a very able sailor and his back story and the two men’s suspicions of what Germany is up to are slowly revealed. The pace of the book is slow but heavy on atmosphere and there are innumerable details on sailing, tides, currents, canals and sandbanks and the mystery, such that it is, hinges on this rather dry and technical data. I felt that it was rather flabby and could have been trimmed down and more action injected but was an interesting read.

Overall – slow and atmospheric but not overly exciting

sep 24, 2012, 8:45am

Glad you enjoyed Adamtine too. Claire has already added it to my wishlist but always good to get a 2nd opinion. Not sure if The Last Policeman is already on there but will have to consider it along with The End of Science Fiction.

sep 24, 2012, 10:11am

You've been on a reading tear! I'm eager to read Railsea and The Last Policeman.

sep 24, 2012, 10:31am

I need to look for The Last Policeman since my local library doesn't have it. Sounds like one I would like.

Redigerat: sep 24, 2012, 11:08am

-132 go get Adamtine you won't be disappointed!

-133 more a review lull ;-)

-134 if you like it then check out the end of science fiction too, in fact I'd recommend the Smith book over the Winters one...

sep 24, 2012, 6:39pm

Great reviewing tear! :) I too have added The Last Policeman to the wishlist.

That's the idea I got when I read Railsea, that Moby Dick wasn't required. I did watch the movie and flick through a student-guide, so I had the storyline down fairly well. Good to know as I doubt I'll ever actually get through Moby Dick for real. :)

sep 25, 2012, 6:11am

although I would encourage people to read moby dick on its own merits...

sep 25, 2012, 10:25am

Me, too. It's a challenging read, but very, very rewarding.

sep 26, 2012, 6:06pm

A bunch of interesting stuff here as usual. Adamtine sounds great, I'll surely look that up. I love the premise of The last policeman, but take your workd for it and make note of The end of science fiction instead. Great review of Railsea too!

Steinbeck will probably won't happen until october for me...Are you all alone over at that group read?

sep 26, 2012, 6:46pm

The Last Policeman sounds good and goes on the WL. As for knowing the trajectory, but not where it will hit - yes, they should've known - but I think of Katrina - yes, they should've known. Face it, no one listens to scientists. ;)

sep 27, 2012, 6:37am

- 139 there are a couple of folk reading Steinbeck but it was lonely for a while ;-) Guess people were doing the Steinbeckathon over on the 75ers...

-140 Yes thats true :-) however in the book the world is waiting for the scientists to announce where it will hit... still its only a very minor gripe in a great book

Redigerat: sep 29, 2012, 12:28pm

Where’s my money? Mike Manson (no Touchstone) -

Very Good

Max is a slacker whose benefits lifestyle is changed when he falls in love with woman at the Department of Works and follows her suggestion to get a job with said department. Set in Bristol in the hot hot summer of 1976 this is a gentle yet thoroughly entertaining slacker comedy. Max is taken under the wing of Alex who advises him to get out before developing X-Ray specs (the ability to totally ignore benefit claimants) contends with the despotic Mr. Blunt over an ever increasing personal file. Obsesses about Astral, the woman he got the job for, and takes part in office life in the UB40 culture whilst dreaming about escape to South America. Manson has a great absurdist comedy turn of phrase, an interesting set of characters and there are a few genuinely laugh out loud moments. Anyone who was around in 1976 will remember the sinister behaviour of the ladybirds (lady bugs) for example. Bristol is well explored and brought to life and recognisable even though I didn’t start living there until 12 years after the events of the book.

Overall – Thoroughly entertaining slacker comedy

sep 28, 2012, 1:11pm

My gosh, you've been busy! Adamtine doesn't seem to be easily available here in the States, don't know why. Maybe in a couple of months, in time for the holiday season? Excellent reviews as always, psutto!

sep 29, 2012, 4:56pm

- thanks! HopeAdamtine makes it to he states soon

sep 30, 2012, 3:14pm

Glad to see your comments on Railsea, especially the part about not needing to read Moby Dick in advance. I do intend to attack Moby Dick one day, but perhaps not before Railsea, as I've really enjoyed the Mieville works I've read so far and would like to read more in the near future.

okt 1, 2012, 6:34am

- 145 read everything you can by him, they're all good! although saying that I've not yet read un lun dun ...

just spotted this -

okt 2, 2012, 9:15am

atomic the first war of physics

Very Good

History of the making of the Atomic bomb from 1939 to the first Soviet bomb “Joe 1”

A hugely ambitious book following the developments in physics immediately before the war and the physicists who pursued the bomb in France, Britain, Germany, USA and USSR taking in all the key figures. This was fascinating reading but occasionally got bogged down in detail but at just under 500 pages there wasn’t much “unnecessary” detail. Although I was familiar with the UK & USA development of the bomb which culminated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki I wasn’t at all familiar with the French contribution, the German efforts during the war or the espionage that brought the USSR the bomb. Along the way we see heavy water and other materials smuggled out of occupied France by the French physicists, the “Heroes of Telemark” story (the sabotage of the German controlled Heavy Water plant in Norway). Oppenheimer, Heisenberg, Bohr, Einstein and many other physicists make an appearance, we see attitudes of the US and UK governments on the bomb and there is a great afterword on nuclear proliferation post WW2 and the state of the nuclear threat today (well when the book was published so a couple of years out of date). Technical details are included but well explained so that you understand fission, enrichment and all the rest of the jargon that goes along with nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Overall – Highly recommended to those interested in WW2 history and the beginning of the cold war.

riders of the purple sage Zane Grey

Very Good

Western published in 1912 set in 1871

This Western is set in Utah which is very much Mormon country and you very much get the impression that the author really didn’t like the Mormons. The principal character is Jane Withersteen who is a Mormon who has defied the church by not getting married and running her father’s ranch with 2 herds of cattle by herself. When she befriends a gentile, Venters, and adopts a gentile child she is targeted by the church who get her riders to quit, then run off one of her herds into the hands of cattle rustlers and take pot shots at a man named Lassiter who has come looking for a friend of Withersteen’s (who she buried some years ago). When Venters goes looking for the missing cattle and shoots a mysterious masked rider the plot thickens. I’m not widely read in the Western genre but this is held to be one of the genres seminal novels. The prose is somewhat overblown and everyone seems to speak in high emotion but the plot itself is a good Western trope, isolated farmhouse being besieged etc.. Withersteen is assisted by the gunslinger Lassiter, there is cattle rustling and lots of details of horses with several being important characters in their own right!

Overall – Entertaining early Western novel

okt 2, 2012, 10:35am

Tiberius Found - Andrew Goodman

Very Good

Near future YA adventure yarn

On his sixteenth birthday Daniel Henstock's parents are murdered and he discovers that his life, so far, has been a lie. He was genetically engineered and those responsible want him back.

As the book opens Daniel is in school, performing well on tests but with few friends and having problems with the school bully. A couple of chapters later and his life has been turned upside down and given a damn good shaking. Daniel, with some help from a mysterious benefactor, has run to America and is trying to hide in the metropolis of New York. We are in the near future where there are bullet trains between American cities, people have to carry DNA cards for security reasons and mobile phones can do X-Rays. Daniel finds an ally in a blackmarket contact and through judicious reading and a little practise becomes a kung fu expert. He meets a girl in the library and when she is threatened decides to take the fight back to those that are trying to retrieve them. Queue Bourne style adventure as Daniel attempts to extract rough justice.

As you may be aware I’m not a huge fan of YA and there were some things in the book that I didn’t like due to this but that’s just my issues with YA in general and this is a very solid YA so if that’s your bag your definitely going to enjoy this

Overall - Ticks all the YA boxes, if you like YA read it!

okt 2, 2012, 6:49pm

mobile phones can do X-Rays
There's an app for that?!?

okt 3, 2012, 5:09am

there is in the future apparently - not sure how dosgae would be controlled though!

okt 3, 2012, 7:30am

if you like YA read it!

You can't go around making statements like that. Don't you know what it does to a person's wishlist?

okt 3, 2012, 9:04am

go on you know you want to....

okt 5, 2012, 10:46am

making slow progress on an experiment with time and everything is its own reward as I've had a very busy week out & about - on Monday I went to see ace Pirate metal band Alestorm, Tuesday the Swan Down film by Iain Sinclair, Wednesday saw Nikesh Shukla and Tim Maughan & Gareth L Powell in an especially busy night doing two events in two locations in Bristol, last night I went to see Marc Abrahams do a talk on the ignoble prize & his new book this is improbable, tonight I'm off to see Iain M Banks read from hydrogen sonata and tomorrow I'm off to Cheltenham for a day at the Literature festival, on Sunday I can rest and hopefully catch up on my reading!

okt 5, 2012, 4:50pm

Wow, that is a busy week.... and sounds like it has been a good one! ;-)

okt 5, 2012, 6:19pm

What a fantastic week!! I've been at work. That's about it. :)

okt 5, 2012, 8:59pm

Jealous. Let us know all about the Literature festival. Bring a wheelbarrow or a forklift so you can get your new books home.

okt 6, 2012, 2:31am

Wow that is a great week you've had!

okt 8, 2012, 6:16am

Thanks alll - I consider it training for next week as I'll be at the Bristol Festival of Literature doing events for 7 days - managed to resist buying too many books but did grab paintwork at the Word of Mouth event (very good, review soon) and maps and legends at the Chelt Lit fest at the "literary salon" with jojo moyes, alex preston and michael chabon - had a wander round the fest site which is in 2 squares in the town centre and wasn't overly impressed with the book selection (stuff I either already had or not interested in hence just the one book!) Edinburgh is far superior in that respect! The literary salon was good with all 3 authors doing readings from new work but it was one after another being interviewed by the host - I think it would have been nice if they'd been interviewed individually but then did a discussion together.

Redigerat: okt 8, 2012, 9:36am

Everything is its own reward Paul Madonna


Collection of art from his long-running weekly San Francisco Chronicle series All Over Coffee

I draw to support my writing habit

I didn’t know that this was a series when I bought it so I would have bought the first collection first otherwise. However once I’d flicked through the book I had to have it due to the gorgeous art work. This is a series of almost photorealistic pencil & ink drawings of mostly urban landscapes. Some pictures have text, some a lot of text, some a pithy comment only, some you have to search for the text, some the text is alongside. Flash fiction, short poems and thoughts from the author.

Words spoken
Then forgotten
Turn up again
Like tiny shards of glass
From broken bowls
Hidden in the rug
Missed by the vacuum
Pierce your toes
In the early hours of morning
As you wander the hall
Wondering why it is
you can't sleep

You can see some of the artwork here:

Overall –Great art & some thought provoking text - I'll be tracking down the first collection now!

okt 8, 2012, 9:37am

An experiment with time J W Dunne


Psychonaut J W Dunne explores the concept of serial time during dream experiments

Since all observation is the observation of the observer at infinity, all successive, automatic experience of the cerebral states situated along Time 1 is the thinking of that not always very clear minded individual
This was a very chewy book, the above quote is a typical sentence & if you can get your head round that one with a quick read through then the book is possibly for you. Dunne posits that everyone is able to dream of future occurrences as well as past occurrences and these are jumbled together in dreams. This was first published in 1927 but I read a 3rd edition with substantial additions. The first portion of the book deals with the dreams that prompted Dunne to pursue his experiment, the middle section is technical and philosophical and the last an account of the experiment and the dreams of those that took part. Dunne realized that he had discerned a hitherto overlooked peculiarity in the structure of Time. And he concluded that the standard model of Time—a series of events flowing into the future—was simply a mode of human perception. Past and future are nothing more than artefacts of the waking mind, beyond our daily experience existed a timeless Present and Time was an illusion. The experiment is simple, merely record your dreams and see what integrations (future events integrated into the dream) occur. Can you see into the future? The reader may repeat Dunne’s experiment and decide for himself.

Overall – Obscure and difficult read

okt 8, 2012, 9:38am

Paintwork Tim Maughan

Very Good

3 long short stories or short novellas set in the near future – Paintwork, Paparazzi & Havana Augmented

2 of these stories are set in Bristol and the third in Havana. In the first we follow 3Cube the street artist as he performs some art over 3 consecutive nights, the second story follows John Smith as he is hired for his documentary film skills to get an inside look on a new AR game and the last is the prize winning look into the future gaming industry in Cuba with giant virtual battling robots. Although the stories are different they’re somewhat linked stylistically, thematically (dedication to art) and with some recurring characters. We are in a future of brand domination, where gamer guilds are as powerful (if not more so) as the corporations of today, where augmented reality is viewed through branded “spex”, where the Nano revolution has occurred. Maughan covers all the techno with aplomb and uses it with a light touch with just enough explanation to bring you into the stories which are at heart about people. It’s hard to choose a favourite here as each story stands alone. As a Bristolian I feel more connection with the first two stories although as a gamer I liked the last story a lot too.

Overall - This is cool SF with Maughan taking our current world and spinning it faster to see what happens. Highly recommended to those who like moxyland

Redigerat: okt 8, 2012, 9:57am

well I was briefly in the situation of being able to close the challenge if I'd wished but then instead of sticking I went and added another book to the 12 hours category so minimum of 5 more books to finish now, maximum of 23 (3 more in reading year present, 6 in it's in the cards, 5 in 12 hours & 9 in signs of the Zodiac) and knowing that I've decided to read a book highlighted by the Bristol Lit Fest Paradise now which doesn't really fit any of those categories...

okt 8, 2012, 10:13am

Detta konto har stängts av för spammande.
Detta meddelande har blivit flaggat av flera användare och visas inte längre (visa)

okt 8, 2012, 1:33pm

I will be sure to avoid the Dunne book. The Maughan book, however, ...
That festival sounded like a lot of fun.

okt 11, 2012, 5:30am

Nobel prize for literature is announced today at 1pm CET - any ideas on who should win it?

okt 11, 2012, 10:16am

Redigerat: okt 11, 2012, 10:56am

Paradise Now Jari Moate

Very Good

Art and redemption, terror and gameshows

Set in a skewed version of Bristol where “The Company” provide makeovers and reality gameshows our protagonist, Elektra, is trying to be an artist creating video installations in a derelict chocolate factory. Her boyfriend, Atom, grabs the success from that venture though which sees them move off in different directions as Elektra’s life takes a downward turn. However Elektra works at a call centre for the Company and catches the eye of the marketing bods for the next reality gameshow. At the same time she has a complicated relationship with an ex-boyfriend who introduces her to a child preacher who changes her life. Interweaved with Elektra’s story we also follow Tariq who grows up in the shadow of a war against the coalition of USA, Britain etc and is radicalised due to it. There’s a lot going on in the book yet Moate deftly weaves the various strands of plot together better than I’ve tried to explain them above! Moate’s prose can soar poetically and it can scuttle darkly but is always a joy to read. There were a couple of niggles that dropped a star – the main character is a bit wet and basically things happen to her rather than her driving things along, the setting (Bristol) was both familiar and unfamiliar, at times recognisable other times seemed like an imagined place which felt a little uneven (although I guess if your not familiar with Bristol this wouldn’t be a problem) and the ending felt a little rushed but that may be because I read it in a rush wanting to see how it all ended!

Overall – Complex and rewarding read

okt 11, 2012, 5:42pm

Lots of goodies here as usual. Making note of Paintwork especially, sounds exactly like my brand of sci-fi.

>167 psutto: I would have guessed Nawal el Saadawi for the Nobel this year, what with the Arab spring and all. Have never heard of Mo Yan (first winner in many years I don't know at all), but it sounds pretty interesting from what I've heard of comments, excerpts and so on.

okt 11, 2012, 6:35pm

Paintwork sounds good and is going on the WL - it's making me think of an odd story that was in an online zine where the artist was painting with emotions. ick ick, ick, but such a good story.

Redigerat: okt 15, 2012, 5:19am

paintwork is highly recommended :-)

Very busy weekend at the Bristol Literature festival - launch party on Friday, Future Doctors and Treasure Trail on Saturday, Pirates! and Tales in the Caves Sunday. I got to have a chat with both Peter Lord (Director of the Aardman Pirates! film) and Gideon Defoe so very happy about that :-D

Redigerat: okt 15, 2012, 12:18pm

Interesting. We do publish far too little in translated literature, but that's not a comment on our writing, really, but of our publishing system and of our readers, too, maybe, although given our sheer size, there are certainly more American readers interested in global literature that, say, Dutch or even French readers (even if a significantly larger proportion of their readers are interested in foreign authors). The problem is in the nature of our economy, rather in the parochial nature of our writers. We have giant chains and prefer them to the independent, neighborhood store, meaning that we end up with a smaller choice of reading than someone in a smaller country with three or four different bookshops (not different branches of the same chain) with different books within shopping distance.

The criticism that I think does hold water is the one that far too many of our young authors end up with an MFA tinge to their work. There are books I read where I can tell within a few chapters that the author must have an MFA--and that's not a good thing. But there are still many, many excellent American authors doing very interesting things, some of whom even have attended prestigious writing programs.

So, I disagree on the whole, but agree in part.

okt 19, 2012, 6:04am

busy busy busy with Bristol Litfest and not had much reading time am half way through the intense western warlock but am reading in very short bursts at the moment - tomorrow is the last day of the fest, we'll tidy up Sunday and then normal service will be resumed on Monday....

The fest has had its highs and lows but has been a great experience, nice to meet a whole bunch of authors in more than a fan capacity and some really interesting events and venues.

okt 21, 2012, 3:45pm

Sounds like a fantastic time. A true literary highlight!

Redigerat: okt 22, 2012, 4:49am

Apparently working at a literature fest means you have no time for reading :-o it was a great week but am quite tired after a couple of really late nights and early starts, am keen to do it again next year though

still working on Warlock but expect that this week will be a better reading week than last! I tried hard to not add too many books to the TBR but having manned the festival shop for a couple of days and attended a few author events I inevitably took home some books, most of which will make an appearance in next years challenge...

now it'll take me a while to catch up here on LT with the hundreds of posts that have built up over the week

okt 22, 2012, 5:01am

anyone grabbing this?

okt 22, 2012, 11:28am

The books on humblebumble don't interest me but I have seen this site being mentioned over on the 75 Group where some have gone for the offer.

okt 22, 2012, 4:17pm

I bought the bunch. I have read one of the books already (and bought the hard cover for my high school library). I ordered it through my Amazon account and downloaded it from Amazon.

okt 23, 2012, 5:29pm

>178 psutto: A nice set of books! I still haven't gone into e-reading though. The living room, where the computer is, is one place where you can be sure no reading peace will ever occur until after the kids are asleep. These days I need books I can read in the loo, in bed, or while pushing a pram :)

okt 27, 2012, 6:08pm

Also, paper books are much more likely to withstand tiny fingers.

okt 28, 2012, 5:24pm

>178 psutto:: I bought the bundle! Also, there was interest from a few people in doing a Zoo City group read in 2013, or a more general Humble Bundle read. Did you end up buying it?

okt 29, 2012, 5:59am

As I had half the books I decided not to but I've signed up for updates so if they do another I'll be in...

Redigerat: okt 31, 2012, 12:33pm

Finally finished warlock which has taken me most of the month to read although there's been a lot of non-reading time this month and I did concentrate on fest books there for a bit

So at 5 (12 hours on the clock) plus 2 more reading year plus completing the weird compendium as minimum to finish the challenge with a possible 15 extra books although would be hesitant to "twist" on categories which I've currently "stuck" on....

Talking of the Weird Compendium I must get round to reviewing the about 20 stories I've read since the last set of reviews! I only have 14 stories left to read in it, it comes highly recommended if you haven't already spotted that!

okt 31, 2012, 10:59pm

I always like seeing your weird reviews. :)

Redigerat: nov 1, 2012, 5:42am

will probably do a batch tomorrow

now to catch up on people's threads....

Redigerat: nov 1, 2012, 12:58pm

Warlock Oakley hall


Classic of the Western Genre

The pursuit of truth, not facts, is the business of fiction

Take every single cowboy trope you can think of, it's in here - Rustlers, lawless town, gunslingers, town drunk with philosophy, stagecoach hold ups, apaches, US cavalry and much much more. I mentioned to the guys in the book store that I was thinly read when it came to westerns but had hugely enjoyed lonesome dove and this is what they sent me. This was a Pulitzer nominee in the 50’s and is loosely based on the gunfight in the OK Corral (there is a chapter called gunfight at the Acme Corral). When a town without a charter, and no sherrif but a long line of deputies (who either run or are shot) has a problem with local criminal cowboys, rustlers and road agents led by Abe McQuown they hire a Texas gunslinger named Clay Blaisedell to be Marshall of the town. Although things improve the moral ambiguity of his “posting” men out of town, so that if they return they are under sentence of death, quickly complicates matters. This is a brooding character study not least of one of the Deputies John Gannon who has a foot in both camps having once worked for McQuown but left after becoming tired of the rustling lifestyle. Things are further complicated by the fact that Blaisedell brings with him a gambler friend Tom Morgan. No-one really comes out well in this morality tale but although it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test there are two very strong female characters that are central to the plot.

The earth is an ugly place, senseless, brutal, cruel and ruthlessly bent only upon the destruction of men's souls. The god of the old testament rules a world not worth His trouble and He is more violent, more jealous, more terrible with the years. We are only those poor, bare, forked animals Lear saw upon his dismal Heath, in pursuit of death, pursued by death

Overall – absorbing reworking of the Wyatt Earp legend

nov 1, 2012, 12:51pm

Agreeing about enjoying the Weird-reviews (and, yes, we've spotted that you like it - most of us now have it added to our wishlists!!).

Warlock sounds great. I still have Lonesome Dove to read, but this one goes on the look-out-for list.

nov 1, 2012, 10:20pm

Warlock certainly has caught my attention. Adding it to my wishlist.

nov 2, 2012, 2:26am

I have never heard of Warlock but your review makes it sound darn enticing..... and tend to steer clear of westerns!

nov 2, 2012, 10:28am

-190&191 hope you enjoy it when you get round to it - I see it has mixed reviews here on LT...

nov 2, 2012, 11:13am

more stories from the weird compendium

The Replacements by Lisa Tuttle - women start bringing home strange oddly needy animals as pets and his changes heir relationships with the men in their life - Very Good

The Diane Arbus suicide portfolio by Marc Laidlaw - a police photographer becomes obsessed with a photographer that commits suicide that he is called to photograph - Very Good

The country doctor by Steven Utley - a man from a small town that is due to be drowned by a dam discovers its bizarre history when the local graveyard is examined by archaeologists - Very Good

Last rites and resurrections by Martin Simpson - a man discovers that he can hear the thoughts of dead animals (roadkill mostly) and feels compelled to bury them in his garden - Brilliant

The ocean and all its devices by William Browning Spencer - a couple and their daughter visit the same hotel year after year, there is something strange about them and one year the hotel owners investigate what's going on - Very Good

The delicate by Jeffrey Ford - a short yet grotesque story about a fantastical killer - Very Good

The man in the black suit by Stephen King - the devil toys with a small boy, not one of King's best - Average

The snow pavillion by Angela Carter - a woman breaks down in the snow and takes shelter in an odd mansion which gets weirder and weirder - Very Good

The meat garden by Craig Padawer - weird war story vegans firing rounds that germinate inside you and mechanized units fire rockets made out of clocks- Brilliant (very Vandermeer!! think shriek)

the stiff and the stile by Stepan Chapman - strange and short possibly modelled on the old woman that swallowed a fly - Average

Yellow and Red by Tanith Lee - weird ghost tale wih nods to M.R. James - Average

The specialist's hat by Kelly Link - as this is in stranger things happen which I didn't read too long ago I skipped it, it is a good story though

A redress for andromeda by Cailin R Kirenan - A woman discovers that a party she's been invited to is much weirder than she imagined - Very Good

The god of dark laughter by Michael Chabon - nods to Lovecraft and Poe in this weird crime story that also involves circuses - Very Good

Details by China Mieville - in looking for Jake good story but another I skipped over

The genius of assassins:three dreams of murder in the first person by Michael Cisco - Cisco has a very dreamy style which suits this story which is as per the title 3 murderers telling their stories - Very Good

Feeders and Eaters by Neil Gaiman - this story has been printed a few times, a darkly weird story about a dysfunctional relationship - Very Good

The Cage by Jeff Vandermeer - Having read this a few times I did skip it but it is a very good story

The beautiful Gelreesh by Jeffrey Ford - metamorphosis and murder in this odd and cruel story - Very Good

nov 7, 2012, 11:36am

time travel fact and fiction Jenny Randles


An investigation into the possibilities of time travel

Randles posits that time travel is not only possible but is occurring now. She is inspired by an experiment with time which is why I wanted to re-read this book. She covers the possible time travelling powers of dreamers as theorised by Dunne in his book and covers how time travel has been fictionalised in various books and films. She then uses time travel as an explanation for all sorts of “supernatural” phenonema such as ghosts, UFOs and even crop circles as well as some psychological effects like Déjà vu. Although she does mention that “many” supernatural phenonema have a natural explanation she is basically taking the Mulder stance of “I want to believe” and is a little credulous as a consequence. It is a novel explanation for ghosts and UFOs and she does make it sound plausible explaining for example that time travellers may wish to avoid paradox by convincing people in the past that strange vehicles in the sky are little green men, and therefore open to ridicule rather than serious study. She has since written two other books on the subject and although this one wasn’t brilliant I am interested to read the others especially the race to build the first time machine

Overall - It’s an entertaining read but best not one read with scepticism.

nov 7, 2012, 11:36am

Secret Thoughts Guy Hasson

Very Good

Three novellas set in the same world where telepathy is possible

Hasson creates a world where telepathy and extreme empathy is possible via touch and investigates what this would be like in three linked novellas. In “Perfect girl” we see a telepathy school and what is would mean to be able to read the thoughts of the recent dead. In “the linguist” some of the same characters recur and we see telepathy across species boundaries and in “most beautiful intimacy” we see what it would be like to form a telepathic bond with a baby during pregnancy. The strongest story for me was the middle one although all three are well written I didn’t really identify with the characters in the first and last stories. All 3 stories take the premise “what would it be like if you had a telepathic bond with…” and are intellectually interesting and well explored by Hasson

Overall - Hasson has created an interesting world that could be explored further, possibly in a longer work.

nov 7, 2012, 6:58pm

yeah!!! Weird reviews!

nov 8, 2012, 10:30am

-196 only 100 odd pages left!

I won't bother doing an October review as I was mainly reading 1 book (Warlock) which was excellent but took me a long time during a busy month...

nov 8, 2012, 7:00pm

I think you'll be a little bummed out when you finish the Compendium. You'll have to start looking for another short story doorstopper. ;)

nov 12, 2012, 9:55am

-198 I have lots of short story books lined up!

nov 13, 2012, 7:26pm

Should've known! I've got a plethora of the too.

nov 16, 2012, 7:37am

a fraction of the whole Steve Tolz

Very Good

At heart a father son story set in Australia

Where to begin my story? Negotiating with memories isn't easy: how to choose between those panting to be told, those still ripening, those already shrivelling, and those destined to be mauled by language and to come out pulverized

The framing device for this book is that Jasper Dean is telling a story from a prison cell for an undisclosed crime. The story is about Jasper, his father Martin and his uncle Terry mainly. It’s a multi-perspective book and we get to see Martin grow up and the birth of Jasper from Martin’s perspective, Jasper’s life from his perspective and a later chapter again from Martin’s perspective. This is a large book at 700+ pages and it failed to keep my full interest until the end as word fatigue set in. I think if 200 pages had been trimmed this would be a 5 star read, as it was the later chapter from Martin’s perspective was slightly jarring and I struggled slightly to get back in the flow for a while which is possibly why it felt too long. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this though as Tolz has a great way with words and there are plenty of funny moments although the tone does get serious later on in the book.

Overall – Entertaining but could have been trimmed

nov 16, 2012, 9:52am

I have that on my TBR. Interesting review. I like books about family relationships and will pick it up when I'm in the mood for lots of words.

nov 19, 2012, 6:23am

Finished the weird compendium and the blind watchmaker which leaves me 4 books to complete the challenge minimum, am aiming to finish the "12 Hours" category and have started another short story (well a collection of shorter than novel stories) memories of the future which so far (2 stories out of 7 read) is very very good

will do an overall review of the weird once I've completed the mini-reviews (in next few days) but needless to say it comes highly recommended!

nov 19, 2012, 9:04am

Finished the weird compendium

Congratulations! Looking forward to the final batch and the overall review.

nov 19, 2012, 12:42pm

Congratulations on finishing the compendium!

nov 19, 2012, 12:59pm

Congrats on finishing The Weird! I too am looking forward to the overall review, although I can already sense it'll be favorable. :)

nov 20, 2012, 6:37am

review for the weird coming soon, promise!

in the meantime

the blind watchmaker Richard Dawkins

Classic pop science about evolution


Originally published in 1985 and badly dated because of this (e.g. he’s oh so proud of his 64k computer) Dawkins is on his hobby horse of arguing against the creationists. I’ve read much better books on “why evolution is true” and this book dragged especially in later chapters. In addition Dawkins authorial voice is pompous and extremely patronising to those that don’t understand or question the validity of Darwin’s theory. OK creationists have got things wrong, young Earth creationists very badly so and they deserve a little derision but Dawkins argues with perhaps too much stridency and is therefore preaching to the converted. In addition Dawkins sometimes isn’t very clear in his explanations and even on a few subjects I thought I knew well I got confused by his explanation.

Overall – Evolution deserves a less pompous advocate, there are better books about evolution out there

nov 20, 2012, 10:51pm

Okay, I'll follow my initial instinct to avoid Dawkins. Thanks for confirming that.

nov 21, 2012, 6:10am

-208 yep I've read two of his books now and won't be reading any more...

nov 21, 2012, 7:31am

Memories of the future Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

Average to Very good

Seven short tales written in Russia in the 20’s and 30’s and considered too subversive even to show to a publisher

From the back - a man loses his way in the vast black waste of his own small room; the Eiffel Tower runs amok; a kind soul dreams of selling "everything you need for suicide"; an absent-minded passenger boards the wrong train, winding up in a place where night is day, nightmares are the reality, and the backs of all facts have been broken; a man out looking for work comes across a line for logic but doesn't join it as there's no guarantee the logic will last; a sociable corpse misses his own funeral; an inventor gets a glimpse of the far-from-radiant communist future...

The stories are a bit mixed but always show a lot of imagination even where the writing (or the translation?) doesn’t quite work. Sometime almost Borges like (especially “The Bookmark”), sometimes surreal and reminiscent of Kafka, often phantasmagorical these stories are a most relevant to a lost time specific to the inter-war years in Russia. The first two stories were really good and the novella of the same name as the book was the best story. A couple of the others (Red Snow & The thirteenth category of reason) I admit to struggling through and left me wondering what the point of the story was, they may reward a re-read. Would I recommend this book? Yes definitely but not all the stories are “easy” reading.

Overall – mixed bag but interesting

nov 21, 2012, 9:51am

You caught my attention with Memories of the future Pete. I do like Borges' writing so if I do pick this on up I will look forward to reading "The Bookmark". Interestingly, the book is being recommended to me by LT based on the fact that I have Wittkop's The Necrophiliac in my library ......Humm.

nov 21, 2012, 10:50am

another reason why I should pick up the necrophiliac then! I hope I haven't oversold the Borges connection now ;-o

nov 22, 2012, 9:29pm

You've convinced me the title story is worth reading - not sure about the rest. I should set up a "to borrow" library list so they don't get mixed up with my WL - which implies nice to own.

nov 27, 2012, 6:16am

Ok have finished another category so my aim for rest of challenge will be to complete my Zodiac category up to 6 books. Am in Finland this week tho so there will be a delay in reviews, commenting on people's threads and am reading the howling miller which is off challenge....

nov 27, 2012, 10:06am

Reading an off challenge book.... who does that? *sneaks glance at the off 12 in 12 challenge book I am currently reading* ;-)

Have a nice trip!

nov 27, 2012, 1:34pm

That's why I made an "overflow" category for 2013 - I just need to make sure I don't read only from that one. :)

nov 27, 2012, 6:18pm

Catching up, Pete! Congratulations on finishing The Weird compendium, and on making almost every single story feel like an argumnet to pick it up! The hardback is currently out of print though, and the paperback version basically feels like reading a phone book (I leafed through it at the bookstore a while back), so I guess I'll hold out a little longer...

nov 27, 2012, 11:25pm

GBM - The Weird compendium was one of my major justifications for getting an e-reader!!! I didn't want to be smothered to death one evening when I fell asleep reading it... not that any of those stories are conducive to falling asleep.

Redigerat: nov 28, 2012, 3:54am

not that any of those stories are conducive to falling asleep.

Or for having normal dreams if you did!

Once back at home I'll do a quick review for the final few stories...

-215 & 216, well I have an overflow category (Baker's Dozen) but its definitley overflowed! I like the aesthtics of stopping that category at 42 books (21 GN & 21 novels) so thats why two of the books I have with me this week are "off-challenge", I'll still review them but won't count them against this years targets...

nov 28, 2012, 5:24am

I dunno an e-reader can do some serious damage if you drop it on yourself when reading in bed ;)

nov 28, 2012, 2:50pm

I haven't injured myself yet. And the cool thing is that it eventually shuts itself off.

Redigerat: nov 29, 2012, 9:10am

Ack-Ack Macaque Gareth L Powell

Very Good

Alternative history SF

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of Gareth L. Powell’s latest book. The novel hits the beaches in January 2013 from Solaris. Imagine what the world would be like if the UK, France and Norway amalgamated in the 50’s and spin that forwards 50 years into the future. This is what Gareth Powell has done with this story that is an “xpunk” (taking the best from Cyber AND steam) novel. There are aircraft carrier sized nuclear powered Zeppelin cities that are neutral territory. There are soul catchers that allow people to record a backup of their personalities. There are immersive alt reality games. There is “gelware” that can replace brain tissue if you accidently bash your head in a helicopter accident. There is the prince of Wales who gets involved with a girl with purple hair who is an AI rights activist. And there is a foul mouthed, one eyed, cigar chomping monkey with a pair of revolvers, a flying jacket and a bad attitude.

"Do you know what you have to do?" Ack-Ack Macaque grinned, exposing his teeth "Same as I always do, right?" He snapped the reloaded Colt back together and spun the barrel. "Blow shit up, and hurt people"

Throw in Nazi ninjas, a dastardly plot, a woman journo with a dead husband in her head, a looming nuclear conflict and a rocket to Mars and you have a full on entertaining adventure yarn. Ack-Ack Macaque started life as a short story (albeit one very different from the novel), included at the end of the novel, that was published in Interzone.

Overall – It has Monkeys. Monkeys flying planes. Monkeys shooting Nazis. Nazis who are also ninjas. Need I say more?

nov 29, 2012, 11:57am

Need I say more?

Not so far as I'm concerned. Will be on the lookout when it gets released.

Redigerat: nov 30, 2012, 12:22am

LOL - speaking of weird dreams - sure sounds like ack-ack macaque started as one tripster-bad-dream!

dec 1, 2012, 1:15am

Nazi ninjas, a dastardly plot, a woman journo with a dead husband in her head, a looming nuclear conflict and a rocket to Mars

Serious overload to the senses with that statement!

dec 2, 2012, 4:40pm

I will have to be on the lookout for ack-ack macaque for my brother - if a book has monkeys - he's there!

dec 2, 2012, 10:52pm

That just sounds completely mad. So it's obviously going on the wishlist. :)

dec 3, 2012, 4:32am

Hope you all enjoy it!

dec 6, 2012, 5:49am

Redaing The living by Anna Starobinets which apparently I am the only person on LT to have?!? This is my final :-( Reading year present - after that will have 1 book left to finish the 12/12!

will add some reviews tomorrow....

dec 6, 2012, 5:52am

>229 psutto:

It just needed different languages editions combining. I did not know she has a second book out - I've read the first when it was published...

dec 7, 2012, 5:43am

>230 AnnieMod: Thanks! I can highly recommend it too :-)

dec 7, 2012, 6:27am

final weird compendium mini reviews:

The Town manager by Thmas Ligotti - weird allegorical tale that felt like it was set in Eastern Europe but is in an un-named town in an un-named country, a succession of town mangers make changes to the town - Very good

The Brotherhood of mutilation by Brian Evenson - Brilliant tale, I have read the book before though but definitely rewarded a re-read, a detective tale with a man who has lost a hand

The White hands by Mark Samuels - a writer of the weird affects writers of the weird after her detah - Very Good

Flat Diane by Daniel Abraham - a man sends a life size picture of his daughter ot into the world to his relatives, weirdness happens - Very Good

Singing my sister down by Margo Lanagan - having read this before I skipped it, can confirm its a very good story though!

The people on the island by T.M.Wright - a man and a woman live on an island where there are many un-alive (dead just doesn't cover it and undead conjures the wrong images) - Very Good

The forest by Laird Barron - A man on a hunting trip comes across some weird science - Average

The hide by Liz Williams - a group of friends come across a bird hide in the marshes and share an intense experience, later they fail to find the hide again - Average

Duest enforcer by Reza Negarestani - as this was a chapter from the cyclonopedia I skipped it, I can confirm that it is very very weird however

The familiars by Micaela Morrissette - interesting take on childhood's invisible friends - Very Good

The Lion's den by Steve Duffy - a man enters a lion's den in a zoo and disappears, weirdness happens - Brilliant definitely going to track down some more by this author

Little lambs by Stephen Graham Jones - a weird building is guarded by soldiers, very atmospheric tale showing a lot of imagination, would adapt well to film I think - Brilliant

Saving the gleeful horse by K.J.Bishop - weird fantasy story about a giant that tries to save a horse - Brilliant

Afterweird by China Mieville both manages to sum up the tone of the book and add new insights

Well that's it - Am going to write an overall review when I have time, am a couple of reviews behind....

dec 7, 2012, 10:02pm

!!! Can't wait to get time to read the Compendium myself. I don't think I can top your mini-reviews though!

dec 8, 2012, 6:31am

Yeah, the mini-reviews have been great. Congrats on working your way through the collection. I'll be keeping an eye out for that overall review as well.

dec 9, 2012, 4:38pm


So I finished my challenge yesterday so am going for a few bonus reads, I'll do a wrap up and add the missing reviews tomorrow as now I'm off to read pirates! In an adventure with the romantics

dec 9, 2012, 6:33pm

Congrats on finishing your challenge!

dec 9, 2012, 7:05pm

Congrats on finishing! Looks like you have timed this well. Looking forward to reading your final reviews.

dec 9, 2012, 10:09pm


dec 10, 2012, 1:39am

Alright, attempt number two - Congratulations!

dec 10, 2012, 4:35am

thanks all

dec 10, 2012, 5:01am

Enjoy your bonus reads and congrats on finishing.

dec 10, 2012, 5:09am

The house on the strand Daphne Du Maurier


A man is given the means to travel in time using an experimental drug

Sometimes a book confounds your expectations and this was one of them. I was really looking forward to reading it and yet found it a little flat. Richard Young has given up a job in London and his American wife is trying to get him to move to New York. He goes to a place in the country, predictably Cornwall as this is Du Maurier after all, owned by his best friend who has created a drug that allows you to travel into the past, sort of. It actually allows you to view the past but not interact in any way and this passivity is one of the frustrating things about the book. The drug takes him in steps through the life of a steward in the 1300’s and he gets to see the local nobles and their servants as a sort of soap opera. Things get complicated with the drugs side effects and his compulsion to always see more as his wife and two young boys come to stay he gets entangled in a web of lies as he tries to keep his “trips” secret. As Richard cannot affect there is a slight lack of narrative tension and the book also felt a little overlong and slow. It’s an interestingly different style of time travel book but doesn’t quite work in a satisfying manner. Obviously Du Maurier can write and even though the plot doesn’t quite work it wasn’t a chore to read it.

Overall – Lacked something, obviously better Du Maurier books out there to get to before this one

dec 10, 2012, 6:49am

Congrats on completing your challenge.

dec 10, 2012, 6:54am

Congratulations! I have two books to go on this challenge. I'm trying to finish this challenge before starting the 13/13 challenge but I'm getting very impatient...

dec 10, 2012, 10:58am

Well done! Hope 2013 is another winning year for you.

dec 10, 2012, 12:44pm

Adding my congratulations!

dec 10, 2012, 2:49pm

@ 242 -- The bit about hiding his "trips" from everyone made me laugh. Hooray for double meanings! Also, congratulations on finishing the challenge -- on to 2013!

dec 10, 2012, 2:58pm

Congratulations on finishing.

dec 10, 2012, 3:49pm


dec 10, 2012, 6:16pm

Um ya The House on the Strand sounds quite dubious. Could have the same story perhaps but replace drug with hypnotist... and I'd expect the story to be more about the credibility of his claims than his hiding his "trips." That turns it into a fancy addiction novel.

dec 10, 2012, 11:35pm

Adding my congratulatory remarks to this thread too!

dec 11, 2012, 3:13am

I've enjoyed my previous du Maurier's but House on the Strand sounds completely different to the du Maurier I know and love. Not sure if I'll pick that one up ...

dec 11, 2012, 3:58pm

Yep a bit of a disappointment.

Since tomorrow is my official end of the 12/12 I really must catch up on my reviews and do an end of year summary....

Redigerat: dec 12, 2012, 11:22am

Dark Eden Chris Beckett

Very Good

Lost colony science fiction

You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you.

Sadly not written in 2nd person this is still a very cool SF book. Told through multiple perspectives (different person in each chapter) it follows the story of John Redlantern who wants the story to be about him and who thinks that its worth trying new and different things. I expect that there will be a sequel as there are some unresolved issues at the end of the book. The worldbuilding is interesting although the characterisation is a little simplistic but then this is a hunter gatherer society awaiting rescue to come from Earth. There is an interesting device used in the book where to emphasise adjectives they are repeated with sometimes different inflections, therefore something can be “good good” or even “good good good” (3 times is the limit) or even “goodgood” I found this made the way the characters spoke different and interesting although I think it could potentially be annoying to some readers I guess.

Overall – Not really a new story but one told very well

the eerie silence Paul Davies

Very Good

Book all about SETI

Paul Davies is head of the SETI post-detection task group and has written a reflection of 50 years of scanning the skies for alien intelligence. This is an exploration of our existensial angst, are we alone in this vast universe? Davies explains why SETI may have been unsuccessful these last 50+ years. The option that we are truly alone, we after all only have 1 example of life (everything on Earth comes from a common ancestor), is thoroughly explored. Davies uses basic science and statistics to explore this idea and suggests a new way forward for SETI, not just to listen out for radio signals in a small wavelength but look for all different signs of life.

Overall - This is a very thorough investigation of what it would mean to find intelligent life “out there”. Highly recommended.

dec 12, 2012, 10:48am

The Living Anna Starobinets

Very Good

Future dystopia

In the future there are exactly 3 Billion humans. There is no death, those that cease do so only for a “Pause” of “3 seconds of darkness”. People are born with an “in-code” that keeps track of all their various incarnations. All members of the human race are particles making up the body of “The Living”. Then one man is born without an in-code, who is this Zero and what does it mean? This is a very neat idea and the writing is also spot on. However it owes an obvious debt to Logan’s Run with people having a compulsory pause when they get old and there is even a “carousel” later in the book, admittedly not the same as the Carousel in Logan’s run but really! It also fizzles out a little toward the end as if the author didn’t really know how to end the book. Before that it is a page turner and gets gripping in the middle section especially.

Overall – Flawed but still a very good read, recommended to dystopia fans

Ascent Jed Mercurio

Very Good

About a Russian jet fighter pilot who becomes a cosmonaut

Yefgenii Yeremin becomes a fighter pilot in the Korean war in a secret Russian squadron who are not officially there. The book is divided into 3 sections. During the Korean war the exploits of the aces and “Ivan the terrible” are recounted in a breathless adventure style. The middle section, which drags a little, Yeremin is assigned to an obscure Arctic post and the last section Yeremin is chosen for the Cosmonaut program. There are problems here, the first part starts with Yeremin as an orphan in post WW2 Stalingrad and this is pretty grim, with a bit of a gratuitous rape scene. The middle section drags, as I mentioned and some of the lst section are a little unbelievable. However saying that it kept my interest throughout and the first section is very very good.

Overall – uneven but still worth checking out

There is a GN version of the book which may be better as it may work better in such a format

dec 12, 2012, 10:48am

the weird compendium Edited by Jeff & Ann Vandermeer


Collection of really cool, really weird stories

From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird, and its practitioners include some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature.

Since The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories is almost 1200 pages long and just chock full of stories a review of the entire book will probably not do it justice (although I will attempt to summarise) This is supposedly the definitive collection of weird stories (although they admit to not being able to get a few in there due to publishing issues which they list in the introduction) and there’s an immense amount here in chronological order over 100 years of the best English and non-English (some new translations were commissioned for the book too) short weird fiction. Ann and Jeff Vandemeer have excelled themselves with this sumptuous collection of very cool weird stories. As well as acknowledged masters of the genre, with an obligatory Lovecraft tale for example, there are some lesser known writers. The vast majority of these stories I gave a Very Good or Brilliant rating with only a few being Average and only a couple being Poor which in itself is a great accomplishment from the editors.

Overall – An amazing collection, highly recommended although you need strong wrists to read this book ;-)

dec 12, 2012, 10:49am

and a couple of bonus reads:

Dotter of her father’s eyes Bryan & Mary Talbot

Very Good

Graphic Novel biography

Mary Talbot tells a story of growing up in 50’s Northern England with a Joycean scholar father intertwined with the story of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia. This is the story, or two stories, of two women’s relationships with their fathers. It is also the story of Mary and Bryan and has a number of asides from Mary where Bryan has drawn things wrong. For Mary the ending is somewhat happier than Lucia’s who’s unhappy relationship with Samuel Beckett and a failed dance career led to a breakdown.

Overall - This is an engaging story artfully blended.

in watermelon sugar Richard Brautigan


Surreal and allegorical tale, possibly post-apocalyptic? Who can tell…

Brautigan has a very individual voice and this short book (140 odd pages) is definitely as off centre as his other books. It is the tale of an un-named narrator (there is an amusing chapter when the narrator thinks of lots of things his name is like) lives in iDEATH which is a small community next to “The forgotten works”. Most things are made from Watermelon sugar & watermelontrout oil. The story is sandwiched with present story giving way to past story of inBOILbefore returning to the present. Explanation of the plot cannot do it justice, Brautigan has created a dreamlike world with poetic language.

Overall - This is my favourite of his books so far, deceptively simple

Feeding Orchids to the slugs Florencia Clifford

Very Good

Tales from a Zen kitchen Zen practice is about making your life a work of art

Florencia Clifford is a Tenzo a Zen cook, working on Buddhist retreats to provide soul warming food to the retreatants. This book combines her reminiscences of growing up in Argentina with her experiences cooking at Buddhist retreats along the way she shares many yummy vegetarian recipes. Moving chronologically through a number of retreats we share the authors spiritual journey as she probes various questions such as “who am I?” as well as sharing several Buddhist Koans. There is much beauty in the book, from lush descriptions of the remote Welsh farmhouse where the retreats take place to intense descriptions of the food. Right near the beginning of the book Clifford shares the prayer of grace recited at every meal at the retreats:

At one with the food we eat
We identify with the universe
At one with the universe
We taste the food
The universe and the food we eat
Partake of the same nature
We share the merits of this food with all
The first bite is to discard evil
The second bite is to train in perfection
The third bite is to help all beings
We pray that all may be enlightened

The book is a compelling read as Clifford struggles to find an inner peace and a sense of home as we see her formative experiences in Argentina and what it means to be an immigrant to the UK (she now lives in York). This is at heart though a celebration of food and this is reflected in the many beautiful recipes throughout. The essence of her cooking is to let the ingredients guide you and improvise and this comes across very clearly although she does include the usual step by step guides on how to make the recipes. Having read the book through I now need to go off and make all of the recipes but can already highly recommend the Baba Ganoush and Beetroot dips…

Did you taste the fennel in the winter slaw, the hint of pomegranate in the dressing? The salt flake? Did you wonder where it came from, who harvested it, packaged it? Did you relish each bite like the only bite to be bitten, each chew, chewing, mindfully, that moment, gone, forever.

There is a video of the author cooking with an explanation of the title which apparently has had some people feeding back that a cook book should never have slugs in the title!

Overall - You can add this to your kitchen bookshelf, and the recipes to your cooking repertoire and also enjoy it as a biography of a spiritual awakening

dec 12, 2012, 10:50am

Frankenstein Galvanized Mary Shelly

Red Rattle books

Frankenstein Galvanized is a new expanded edition of the classic novel that also contains 8 new essays.

"Topics include vegetarianism, the role of Robert Walton as the narrator, Frankenstein as an immature artist, the birth myth, and the significance of medical science and the corpse to the novel. We also begin the essays with a very clear history of the Gothic novel prior to Frankenstein and there is information about the life of Mary Shelley."

Classic gothic tale plus commentary with the 1818 edition text. Previously I read Frankenstein in the Penguin classics format which was the 1831 edition text but with notes on what had changed in the back. The book is edited and introduced by Claire Bazin and with 8 essays of commentary and analysis following the main text. Since I read the book fairly recently I didn’t re-read but did enjoy the commentary. The articles are mainly scholarly but not in a dry way, even the one about Locke. My favourites were the article about the philosophical vegetarian stance that Shelley shared with her monster and the article by Howard Jackson bringing together Frankenstein, Elvis and Orson Wells. The article about collecting body parts was very familiar to me having read about the resurrectionists before but it’s a good introduction if you don’t know the subject. The first article does a good job of explaining what “Gothic” is and the history prior to Frankenstein and Samia Ounoughi’s essay on the role of the narrator was fascinating, something I’d not consciously noted when reading the book previously but something that I will be paying attention to next time I read it. I didn’t really like the essay about Frankenstein and the workers (in a Marxist sort of way) thinking it was a bit of a crowbar topic and the last essay about it being an allegory of birth and post partum depression also didn’t really resonate with me.

Overall – A handsome edition with much thought provoking discussion, if you need to get an e-book version I’d recommend this one.

dec 12, 2012, 11:17am

The Pirates! In an adventure with the Romantics Gideon Defoe


Return of the inimitable Pirates! In another crazy adventure

We start off in Switzerland with the Pirate captain visiting the bank looking to extend his overdraft (yes the pirate ship is on the lake). But Switzerland is deadly dull and Byron (yes that Byron) is tempted to commit suicide to liven things up.

“Are you sure it’s the right address?”
“Villa Diodati” said the pirate with the scarf, “that’s what it says on the gate”
“You don’t think some other coves beat us to it do you, number 2? Neptune’s lips! I hope it wasn’t those confounded cowboys, peddling their idiotic Stetson and cactus based adventures!”

Luckily the Pirates turn up and sweep the Romantics (Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin & Byron) off for an adventure, picking up the dour Charles Babbage along the way.

You realize that sailing from Switzerland to London is more geographically challenging than it sounds?

Defoe has obviously done lots of research and then discarded most of it in favour of his special brand of silliness, running gags galore and erudite and amusing footnotes. With a few excepts from Byron’s fanzine Young, brooding & doomed and writing lessons from the Pirate captain to Mary Godwin and much much more.

Overall – The fifth Pirates! Book. Read it, but read the first four first…

Redigerat: dec 12, 2012, 11:46am

12/12 round up

Read 5 bonus books (1 GN) & 172 books (21 GN) which is a 51 book increase from last year!

I think as usual the first half of the year was generally better as I read all the shiny books I got for Xmas and the most exciting ones on the shelf

so many books I'm having a hard time thinking of best and worst will re-read my threads and ponder and post to the wrap up threads soon...

I have LT to thank for supercharging my interest in books and it's therefore indirectly responsible for me getting involved in Bristol Festival of Literature which was my literary highlight of the year

I'm also doing a bit of freelance work for a local publisher next year and hope that some LT pals will help us out

So many thanks to all my LT pals for the love of books!!

and merry Xmas to everyone!

2013 challenge up next...

dec 12, 2012, 3:47pm

Thanks for your thoughts on all the books you read. Like you, I find that LT has really inspired me to read lots by making it easy to find books I want to read. I'll be keeping tabs on you in 2013, too!

dec 12, 2012, 6:19pm

I may just have to give in and pick up The Weird Compendium at some point. Daunting as it is, you've made it sound too good to miss out on completely. I might also have to give Richard Brautigan a try.

Congratulations on a great year. It's been fun following along for the ride. Hope next year works out in every way you want it to.

dec 12, 2012, 9:59pm

Yes, you're reminding me how good Brautigan can be. Totally flipping insane, but quite interesting - and impossible to imitate.

I finished story 1 of Weird Compendium today while waiting at the eye doctors - bifocal time - Quite weird, but it was abridged and I kept saying "who"?

dec 12, 2012, 10:56pm

I've really enjoyed following your reading this year, and I'm looking forward to doing the same in 2013. Congratulations on completing your Challenge - you sure timed your finish perfectly!

Redigerat: dec 14, 2012, 5:25pm

I realised I neglected to review 1 book - so 6 bonus books...

hidden Bristol the Bristol Writers Group

Average - Very Good

This small collection of shorts aims to set stories in Bristol without mentioning the bridge, Brunel or Alfred the gorilla. There are 10 stories within Take an irreverent walk through Greenbank cemetery join a riot on Stokes Croft; watch a chocolate factory burn; glimpse Victorian times or the devastation of the plague. Don’t miss the strange night by the SS Great Britain or the odd goings on in Totterdown. And the woman who drowned – was she pushed or did she jump? Read this book to find out As usal with short story collections there is a mixed bag here. Mike Manson’s story I’d read before, Jari Moate’s story a brick in my hand stood out as did Terry Stews the other door and Gavin Wakins Untitled also good was Louise Gethin’s Heaven below.

Overall – enjoyable short book recommended to those interested in Bristol

Redigerat: dec 14, 2012, 11:47am

Right I'm probably not going to have much internet access over the next few weeks so Merry Xmas & Happy New Year to you all - see you in 2013!

dec 14, 2012, 12:18pm

Congratulations on finishing your challenge! Merry Christmas!

dec 14, 2012, 5:44pm

Congratulations! Hope you have a great holiday.

dec 15, 2012, 12:28am

Great list of final reviews Pete! Happy holidays!

dec 15, 2012, 10:38pm

Congrats and Merry Christmas!!!

dec 16, 2012, 3:18am

Merry Xmas!!!

dec 28, 2012, 6:59pm

Hope you have great holidays, Pete! You managed to dish out a few more book bullets in your bonus reads, even... Noting both Brautigan, Beckett and Starobinets. It's been great following you this year, looking forward to coniyuing in 2013.

jan 7, 2013, 8:56am

Thanks for all the holiday wishes - see you all on the 2013 group