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.