August & September reading

Posted by admin on Oct 3, 2009 in books |


The last two months have seen me whittle down the Booker list even more, as well as indulge in some heavy chick-lit, for no other reason than it’s easy to find in charity shops. My attempt to be frugal has resulted in a lower calibre of books being read, but has also introduced me to some new authors. Typically, when I did splash out on a new hardback (Nick Hornby, Juliet naked) I was disappointed.

The Life and Times of Michael K by J.M Coteze

A moving tale featuring a Forrest Gump a like protagonist. Expertly woven characters flesh out the book and the miniature descriptions of activities such as sleeping and eating add poignancy.

Daemons are Forever by Simon R. Green

Green is famous for his rollicking fight scenes, boundless enthusiasm and characters that don’t just jump off the page, they come swords drawn and teeth bared. For this he can be excused plot repetition and a disregard for syntax. We follow the antics of Shaman Bond, one of the Drood family, in his quest to save the world from evil spirits, followed by his sidekick Mad Molly of the woods. Fast-paced and full of life, this is popular sci-fi at its best.

White Tiger by Aravinda Adiga

An entertaining breeze through the strange occurrences that make up Indian life, with brutality and segregation cloaked in a veil of humor and an oddly compelling narrative. The protagonist displays a strange mixture of casual racism and sensitivity and you’re torn between condemning and commiserating with him.

Shadow’s Lede by Brent Weeks

Assassin wetboy and tangled web go hand in hand in this tale of intrigue and deception. It has lost its way slightly- the previous book was full of life and intrigue while this feels more messy and conflicted, but still an enjoyable yarn.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Dark and compelling, this book interweaves Maori text with everyday banalities to a spectacular degree. Loner Kerewin inhabits a windswept tower and remains aloof till her life is confounded by a deaf mute child entering her private space. This precipitates a chain of events where she builds up a friendship with the boy and hos father, with semi-tragic conclusions. Haunting.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F.Scott.Fitzgerald

Two society airheads find each other and embark on a tempestuous love affair fuelled by vacuousness and bourbon, til the money dries up and they’re forced to look at their lives afresh. Oddly poignant with themes that still apply today

The Android’s Dream by John Scazi

Any book that begins with ‘Dirk didn’t  know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident..’ is going to go two ways, It will either be entertaining, raucous and tongue in cheek, or it will flop further than a comeback from Hears’ay. This is a friendly yarn of aliens, international diplomacy and galaxy romps. It thinks it’s cleverer than it is, but reminds one of Robert Rankin, interwoven with some Robert Aspirin humour.

The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton by Catherine Alliot

Alliot is back on form with this entertaining romp through the life of a married woman struggling with lack of direction. Alliot crafts fully fleshed characters with warmth, humour and delicious twists and creates laugh out loud moments as you devour your way through it. Evie is coping with being jobless and her husbands illegitimate progeny as her BFF/enemy belittles her farming prowess.

It’s different for Girls by Jo Brand

Before  picked up this lurid yellow and neon novel in a charity shop I had no idea Ms  Brand had forayed into fiction. I was always of the impression that if she turned to writing it would be one of those biographical pieces that features her being caustic and self deprecating at the same time. In fact, she may have done so- I honestly don’t care enough to google it. This novel charts the lives of two girls, from council estate to cul-desac and does so with humour and warmth. Sadly the book doesn’t really go anywhere  and whilst still an enjoyable yarn is not quite the biopic that you;d expect from a personality like Brand. It’s a nice light hearted chick-lit read with eighties references, but not quite the larger than life tale you’d associate with her.

8th Confession by James Patterson

Poisonous snakes, evil street bums and proposals, Patterson weaves a compelling tale of murder and mayhem in his latest installment in his standard snappy prose

Samantha Smythe’s Modern Family Journal by Lucy Cavendish

Maybe it’s te fact that the typeface for this free-with purchase book was tiny but this was a seriously dry humdrum read that offered little entertainment and felt more of a chore than a pleasure- and chick lit/yummy mummy bookdom is meant to amuse.


Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Another Booker novel down and a deliciously written tale of death and intrigue. Black humour permeates the super short novel, and solemn asides combine with perceptive descriptions. The only likable character is dead, yet they play a large role in the book, with the other characters reflections of them making the deceased somehow more vivid and alive.

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

Great authors have a lot of pressure placed upon them. What would be a perfectly adequate book with touches of humour by an unknown is subject to heavy criticism and dissemination. The book follows the tale of a music obsessed man following his idols last known steps, whilst his long suffering girlfriend actually makes contact with said star. Add some complications like a couple of estranged children and some local humour such as a sharks eye exhibit and you have a sweet slightly introspective tale. But for a Hornby, well, it’s no Long Way Down. Not even close.

Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell

Bored Tilly moves to the country on a whim after a breakup, and starts lusting after the local Lothario. Cue smouldering looks, heavy flirtation and eccentric behaviour. An easy entertaining read with happy endings all round.

It’s the Little Things by Erica James

People who experience serious tragedy are forever altered, and this book follows the tale of four friends who survived the Phuket Tsunami. Whilst this might sound like a premise for a heavyweight novel full of grief, this is actually a lighthearted chickflick, with moments of surprising tenderness and humour. The night the tsunami hit a couple decided to conceive despite not being maternally minded- to inevitable but unhappy repercussions. Affairs are started, relationships evaluated and time is needed all round to recover and assimilate. Based on the authors personal experience of the tragedy this is the very definition of a heartwarming read.

Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

How much do you know about your ass? How it smells, how it tastes, how it feels? Learn more than you ever felt comfortable thinking baout it, in this graphic book about a girl who has no hold on propriety.

Hive Dreadnought by Mark Walden

Amiable romp through a subterranean world, with kids with special powers in training.

To Love, Honour and Betray, Kathy Lette,

Lucy is left floundering when her husband leaves her- for her BFF of all people. Now she has to deal with the fact that she’s been uprooted to Australia a week ago, her teenage daughter is dating unsuitable men and that she’s overweight. Lette hits all the predictable rom-com buttons, yet fails to inject her classic humour and wit into this romance by numbers flick. Readable- just.

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Quasi Serendipita
Oct 22, 2009 at 1:04 am

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the secret life of Evie Hamilton! The first chapter was available on trashionista a few months ago – I read it and there and loved it (and I really am not normally a chick-lit chick!) I snapped it up as soon as it came out in paperback and I am pleased to say that the rest of the book lived up to the first chapter!

Dec 8, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Hi Zara,

I’m always interested in book reviews, and eagerly read yours when you post them, but I have to disagree about Juliet, Naked (which I got from the library ‘cos I wasn’t sure I’d like it). I thought it was a return to form and that Hornby really excels at portraying immature men. Then again, I haaaated Long Way Down (I don’t think it came even close to exploring how it feels to be clinically depressed and it wasn’t that funny either). Maybe it’s just not possible to like both books?

D x

Dec 9, 2009 at 12:37 am

Absolutely loved White Tiger! Between the Assassinations is a great read too. I look forward to more from this talented and humorous author.

Dec 13, 2009 at 1:46 am

Hi Diane
I though a Long way Down was darkly beautiful and humorous, and loved how the disparate characters came together. Juliet Naked may have followed the same unlikely scenario premise but if felt (for me) like an indulgent romp through his past without really challenging his talents or being particularly engaging. I find Hornby very hit or miss as a writer as loved How to be Good and loathed Fever Pitch(whilst understanding its niche appeal) so you may be right about different novels of his appealing to different people.
x Zara



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