When it’s a jar

By Tom Holt

Statement: This is the third Tom Holt novel I have read, and I must say I really enjoy his writing. Even though I enjoyed it, it took me a wee while to get into the book (I kept distracting myself with chic-lit and other stuff which didn’t help). I didn’t have this problem when reading Barking or Blonde Bombshell. The plot kept repeatedly building towards something exciting, then suddenly turning back to the seamingly mundane. This was just a plot device, so “bare with” fellow readers. I laughed out loud at times, and you’ve gotta love a novel that makes you laugh.

Plot: Strange things keep happening to Maurice Katz. People keep telling him he is a hero for one thing, with seems contrary to Maurice’s perception of his life (unsuccessful, just hanging onto his job etc). Extraordinary things keep happening, and Maurice steadily tries to ignore them until his reluctant inner hero steps out to save the world. And then there’s the bloke who keeps waking up in a jar.

Writing: Modern prose, good flow, funny

Thoughts: I love the balance of modern day London to the various parallels mutliverses. And the humour of course.

Read if:  … you like Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Ben Aaronovitch, Terry Pratchett.

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Catching Fire

By Suzanne Collins

Statement: The second instalment in the Hungar Games trilogy. I’ve had this on the shelf for a while because I thought it might be a bit grim, and I often want to keep it a bit lighter … I know, the books I’ve just talked about aren’t lighter.  A great read. I want to break my vow-to-me of finishing all unread books on my bedside shelf before I buy a new book, and just go out and buy the third book.

Plot: Katniss and Peeta have been back from the games for about six months, when they have to tour the districts as the last game winners. Creepy President Snow gives Katniss a challenge, something is up in the districts, and then there are new games.

For me it started, not slowly, but I wondered if it was just going to be Katniss coping with her new life. Then it started getting bleaker in Disteict 12, and then more games, and finally hope. I want to read the next book soon.

Read if: You like kick-ass young adult fiction, and dystopian futures.

The Last Runaway

By Tracey Chevalier

Statement: Easy to read. Simple prose. Strength in silence. Approachable and everyday history.

Plot: Honor Bright is a young Quaker who moves to Ohio from England in the 1840s. Tragedy strikes early and Honor finds herself amongst strangers and married into a strange-to-her family. Following her own beliefs, Honor begins to help runaway slaves.

Thoughts: Tracey Chevalier writes approachable historical novels, often told from the point of view of young women (e.g. The Girl With the Pearl Earing, The Virgin Blue). I feel this novel is less depressing in a way because Honor finds her strength and changed circumstance rather than being beholden too or having her fate decided for her. 

Writing: Simple, clear prose with good storing telling. Not Hilary Mantel, but I like this author. As well as the novels mentioned here I have also read The Lady and the Unicorn, and Remarkable Creatures.

The Power and the Glory

By Graham Greene (1940)

April’s statement: What on earth have I been doing without Graham Greene in my literary life??

Plot: 1930’s southern Mexico, follows the journey of the last surviving practicing priest in the state as the police hunt him down. 

Thoughts: Brilliant, eye opening, poverty, balance, faith, what is goodness, fear, hope, humanity.

Writing: Evocative. Short, but full of meaning.

New approach for a new year

Well dear readers, I have been reading heaps but recording none of it. Even the short paragraphs I do write feel like too much in the great balance of life. So I have come up with a new approach … really, really short notes. Bullet points maybe. A sentence about how I feel about the book. I thought about this new approach a couple of days ago, so I will start my reading log from there.

And as always, feel free to disagree.

Wild : a journey from lost to found

By Cheryl Strayed

This is the true recollection of Cheryl Strayed, who walked 1100 miles along the Pacific Coast Trail (California to Oregon). I enjoyed reading it because I really enjoy these sorts of survival stories. I enjoy the scenery, even though there are no photographs.

Strayed was, as she said herself, physically lost. This very long walk helped to ground her. Interwoven with Strayed’s mammoth walk is, are excerpts of her life.

I knew nothing about this book, and didn’t even know there was a movie recently starring Reese Witherspoon! I picked it up at an airport book shop on the way to Brisvegas, and read it while there. The writing is good, which is always a bonus!

The Ghost Road

By Pat Barker

This novel sees out the last few months of the First World War through the eyes of Billy Prior, a young officer, and William Rivers, the psychiatrist who has treated Prior for shell shock.  The present day is linear, and follows Prior waiting to be declared fit to return to the front. France, Prior is a contemporary of Wilfred Owen, who is a fellow officer and has also been treated by Rivers. The front and battles as experienced by Prior are those that were faced in real life by Owen. W H R Rivers is also a real person, and famous for treating soldiers with shell shock, amongst other specialities like anthropology.

in fact, not only do we dip back into Prior’s past briefly, we dip back into Rivers past as he recalls his time in the Torres Straits recording the lives and practices of the people who lived there. The memories of rivers run in parallel to the Prior’s story.

Now I looked at reviews of this novel and I came across an open piece from a newspaper where the author thought that Rivers’ stories were rambling and totally incongruent to the story. The person who wrote that was probably way better qualified than me to comment, but I felt that they were missing a few points.

Both the story of life at the front, and Rivers’ recollection of the Torres Straits centred around death. Dude. The novel is, after all, called The Ghost Road. Rivers came across as a sympathetic recorder of Island customs, but there was the sense to the European sensibilities that traditions of the islands around death were savage, and the  people savages. I think Barker parallels this with the front, which is also savage, where decisions are made by savages (military hierarchy and governments). Barker questions so called sophisticated society.

it is the second Pat Barker novel I have read, and the writing is good.  So easy to read despite grim war reading. I have posted previously about Toby’s Room.