Monthly Review – September 2014

September 30, 2014 Monthly Reading 2

Gone GirlNow that September comes to a close, I would like to hear what people thought of Gone Girl. Did you read it? Did you like the ending? Did it keep you up all night? Or any other comments you want to make of this novel. Personally I was gripped and reading this to about 4 am, just to find out what happens. I know the ending is weird but there isn’t a better way to end it, that I’ve found.

Next month’s book we will be reading the some steampunk/fantasy with The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. I ‘m not sure what to expect, I am a little nervous. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to steampunk or fantasy novels. However I am hoping everyone reading this book will generate some interesting discussions. Also, as a reminder, in November we will be reading Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle as part of the short stories theme and we will be looking for a book to fit the Christmas/Religious Holidays theme to wrap up the year. If you are not aware, the book discussion and everything else will be happening over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

I have had an amazing reading month, which is a nice change after reading only three books during my vacation. I have read sixteen books this month (which included four comic collections) and some of the highlights included The Odyssey by Homer, A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård and The Circle by Dave Eggers. But my favourite of the month is a book, that is a top candidate for novel of the year was All That is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon. For fans of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, I highly recommend picking up All That is Solid Melts into Air. What have you been reading this month and what were the highlights?

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

September 29, 2014 Book of the Month, Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Thriller 17

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012
Pages: 442
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I’ve been trying to review this book for a while now and it has become a real struggle. I don’t want to give any spoilers for this brilliant book so I will try my best. Advanced warning: this review may have spoilers or turn out incredible vague. When I first saw this book I kept thinking this was just another YA novel but then I noticed this book kept popping up everywhere so I thought I better read what this is about and when I did, I had to read it right away.

When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances all eyes fall to her husband as the primary suspect. Nick claims he is innocent but the evidence is not in his favour. Did Nick kill his wife? As this novel progressed any ideas of what happened will be shattered, any presumptions you’ve made about the characters will be wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark and twisted journey with so much unpredictability that you will be up all night trying to find out what really happened to Amy.

What I loved about this book was that you never really know what to expect. The book is told from the perspective of Nick and Amy, the diary of Amy tells the back story of their lives while the alternative chapters told from Nick takes the story from the disappearance. Slowly the pieces start to fall into place but there is always another curve ball just around the corner. The dark and psychological aspects of this novel remind me of something Jim Thompson would write but then the thriller and suspense of this book reminds me a lot of books like Before I Go to Sleep or Into the Darkest Corner.

Flynn did a brilliant job with this novel, it kept me up at night, made me want to skip work to read this book and in the end any spare time I had I was back in this book trying to find out what really happened to Amy. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and I didn’t know who to believe but in the end I enjoyed the ride. On reflection this book seemed incredibly basic with its plot but writing in a brilliant way that while reading you never have enough pieces to solve this puzzle. Highly recommend this book to any lovers of mystery and suspense.

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

September 29, 2014 What are you Reading 12

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

The Flame ThrowersThe Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The year is 1975 and Reno—so-called because of the place of her birth—has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial SoHo, are staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, she begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro’s family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.

The Flamethrowers is an intensely engaging exploration of the mystique of the feminine, the fake, the terrorist. At its center is Kushner’s brilliantly realized protagonist, a young woman on the verge. Thrilling and fearless, this is a major American novel from a writer of spectacular talent and imagination.

What We See When We ReadWhat We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. 

What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?

The collection of fragmented images on a page – a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so – and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved – or reviled – literary figures.

In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature – he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader – into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.

Understanding ComicsUnderstanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics explores formal aspects of comics, the historical development of the medium, its fundamental vocabulary, and various ways in which these elements have been used. It expounds theoretical ideas about comics as an artform and medium of communication. Although the book has prompted debate over many of McCloud’s conclusions, its discussions of “iconic” art and the concept of “closure” between panels have become common reference points in discussions of the medium.

Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, this innovative comic book provides a detailed look at the history, meaning, and art of comics and cartooning.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

What Are You Reading?

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The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

September 28, 2014 Andy Miller, Non-Fiction 4

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy MillerTitle: The Year of Reading Dangerously (Goodreads)
Author: Andy Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 252
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardback

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It is no secret that I am a fan of books about books; I especially enjoy a bookish memoir. The idea of reading and learning about someone’s bookish life is fascinating to me. Let’s be honest, I blog about books because I think I have an interesting bookish journey to talk about and I want to capture that for prosperity sake. I would love to learn how to write a bookish memoir, so I read anything I can get my hands on. I have even written a post asking for recommendations for books about books and I am always on the look out for more.

I am not sure how I discovered Andy Miller’s memoir The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life but I do remember being really excited about it. I ordered the book and it sat on my shelf for a little too long. With a holiday to America planned, I packed the book in my suitcase and was determined to read it. Turned out Simon Savidge from Savidge Reads started talking about this book about the same time and now I look like I was just following him in an effort to be as cool as he is.

Andy Miller worked as an editor at the time of writing this book (I assume he still does) and found himself only reading for work. On impulse he picked up a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and something just clicked for him. He set out to read ten books, which he called The List of Betterment, which consisted of books he has once lied about reading or felt he should read. This list obviously expanded over the course of the year but it was his starting point into rediscovering a passion for reading.

My discovery for reading was not unlike Andy Miller’s except mine involved Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the 1001 Books Before You Must Read Before You Die list and it wasn’t a lost passion. I loved this book, I was so happy to read about all the awesome books Miller was reading in the course of the year. While this memoir is not healthy for my TBR and judging by Andy Miller’s glowing praises for Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes, I really need to get onto this novel first.

My only problem with this memoir is that Miller didn’t spend enough time talking about my favourite novels, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Iwas happy to see that The List of Betterment not only includes canon but also involves books like The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1 by Stan Lee. It is just good to see a memoir that doesn’t just involve highbrow literature. He even considered calling this book How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life referring to Dan Brown.

There is so much to talk about within this memoir, especially when talking about the fifty books mentioned in the book. I’m hoping that I can find some more great bookish memoirs to follow this one. The Year of Reading Dangerously is essentially a book about connecting with great books and the positive effects reading has on a reader. I highly recommend the book and I hope the Andy Miller will write a follow up about his continuing bookish journey.

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Straight Man by Richard Russo

September 26, 2014 Contemporary, Humour, Richard Russo 2

Straight Man by Richard RussoTitle: Straight Man (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Russo
Narrator: Sam Freed
Published: Vintage, 1997
Pages: 416
Genre: Contemporary, Humour
My Copy: Audiobook

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I must admit, I do enjoy a good campus novel and when I heard about Straight Man by Richard Russo I knew I had to read it as soon as I could. The story spouted from a real life situation Richard Russo had teaching at a small State University. Having made friends with the Dean of the university he found himself in a conversation about the budget. Year after year, the same thing happened and while walking past a duck pond the Dean jokingly complained that he would have to threaten to kill a duck a day until he got his budget. This ended up being the basis of not only the main character from Straight Man but the birth of the novel.

The novel tells the story of an English professor, William Henry Devereaux, Jr. at a fictional Pennsylvania University. He has been appointed as the interim chairman of the English department and once again the administration of the university has not provided a budget yet. William is also enjoying a midlife crisis and the complacency of being a tenure professor which gives us a sharp, witty and satirical look at college life.

You know what they say; ‘Everyone has a book in them’, and an English professor is more likely to know the pains of writing. For William, he has already enjoyed a brief brush with success when he released his fast forgotten novel. Despite his abilities, he will always remain in the shadows of his father; a far more popular and successful writer and professor. This creates a volatile mix of emotions and frustration for this character and the results play out wonderfully with Straight Man.

I was pleasantly surprised just how satirical this novel turned out, often humour was delivered in a number of different ways. From the outlandish situation, to dry deadpan deliveries and self-deprecation; these combinations worked well with the character and the novel itself. However behind the humour is the brutal truth of the bureaucratically nightmare an academic department faces year after year.

Ultimately what impressed me the most with this novel was the way Richard Russo managed to balance everything perfectly. He had a good sense of comedic timing and knows when to hold back or push forward. Yet he also knew how to sneak in some heavy themes without destroying the light hearted manner of the delivery. Above all, he has able to write great prose that showed beauty and tenderness as well as bitterness and comedy. It must have been difficult to balance everything but the execution made it look easy.

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How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

September 24, 2014 Caitlin Moran, Young Adult 2

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin MoranTitle: How to Build a Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Moran
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

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Take to trip back to the 1990s, a time I am all too familiar with; the music was great but being a teenager was not all that it was cracked up to be. Johanna Morrigan is a fourteen year old who is unhappy with her life. That was until she decided to reinvent herself. By sixteen she was a sharp tongued goth, aspiring music journalist who went by the name Dolly Wilde (named after the socialite). How to Build a Girl is the debut novel by Caitlin Moran who is more popularly known for her views towards feminism in books like Moranthology and How to Be a Woman.

I will be honest; the only reason I picked up this book was because it was often described as The Bell Jar if it was written by Rizzo from Grease. I’m a fan of The Bell Jar and this was enough to get me curious about this novel. I can’t say I have ever been a fan of Caitlin Moran or her view points but I think her underlying message that no one should be judged for being who they are is something I can get behind.

Moran has made it clear that this is far from an autobiographical novel; her parents were never like Morrigan’s parents. However there is an element of this novel that probably reflects her teenage years. I think the teenage years are often a journey of self-discovery and reinvention and this was the main reason I wanted to read this novel.

It doesn’t matter if I agree with Johanna Morrigan’s choices and decisions; this was about her finding herself. The whole notion of self-discovery being similar to reinventing yourself is an interesting one and I enjoyed watching Dolly Wilde evolve into the person she wanted to be. Her parents and family often got in the way and tried to unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional) mould her personality. This was just an interesting journey to watch evolve.

I’m not going to talk about the feminist views within this book, it is not my place to agree or disagree. How to Build a Girl reminds me of the TV show Girls (or what I have seen of it) and if you are a fan of this show then maybe you will enjoy the novel. My biggest problem with the book was not with the feminist themes but with the writing itself; it never seemed to work for me and I felt like the intent was to shock rather than tell a good story. It is a shame, the premise is excellent and I could have enjoyed the book if more time was spent improving the proses and editing.

I wanted to love this book; the whole coming of age, self-discovery, and sexual awakening topic has always been an interesting one to me. This book started off with the best intentions but it lost its way, both in plot and writing. The rise and fall of Dolly Wilde (the character in this book, not Oscar Wilde’s niece) was worth reading but there is so much in the middle that could have been taken out and the novel would have ended up being less than a hundred pages. But these are my opinions; there are people that loved this book, I wasn’t one of them.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List

September 23, 2014 Top Ten Tuesday 25

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Books on my Fall Spring To-Be-Read List. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading but I thing these books will be involved. Because I couldn’t stop at ten, here are twelve books, I hope to read during this season.

What We See When We ReadAbsolute BeginnersZone One Understanding Comicsthe people in the treesFive Days at Memorial SecondsThe Anubis GatesThe Flame Throwers The ParrotsBelzharA Man in Love

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It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

September 22, 2014 What are you Reading 16

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

All That is Solid Melts into AirAll That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

Russia, 1986. On a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old prodigy plays his piano silently for fear of disturbing the neighbours. In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, hiding her dissident past. In a nearby hospital, a surgeon immerses himself in his work, avoiding his failed marriage.

And in a village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes to a sky of the deepest crimson. Outside, the ears of his neighbour’s cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened.Now their lives will change forever.

An end-of-empire novel charting the collapse of the Soviet Union, All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a gripping and epic love story by a major new talent.

YouYou by Caroline Kepnes

When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: She’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams.

Beck doesn’t know it yet, but she’s perfect for him, and soon she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. But there’s more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade. Their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences . . .

A chilling account of unrelenting passion, Caroline Kepnes’s You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve read before.

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Canterbury TalesThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (Translator: Nevill Coghill)

The procession that crosses Chaucer’s pages is as full of life and as richly textured as a medieval tapestry. The Knight, the Miller, the Friar, the Squire, the Prioress, the Wife of Bath, and others who make up the cast of characters — including Chaucer himself — are real people, with human emotions and weaknesses. When it is remembered that Chaucer wrote in English at a time when Latin was the standard literary language across western Europe, the magnitude of his achievement is even more remarkable. But Chaucer’s genius needs no historical introduction; it bursts forth from every page of The Canterbury Tales.

If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.

Check out my reading stats from last week thanks to Literally.

What Are You Reading?

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Abandoning The Corners of the Globe

September 21, 2014 Historical Fiction, Robert Goddard 0

The Corners of the GlobeHaving recently read The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard I was so angry that the book ended mid story, I didn’t plan to continue. However I received The Corners of the Globe (book 2) in the mail and I decided to give it a go. I started reading and got a few chapters in before I remember the rage I had for the first one. I didn’t want to go through that again, so I flipped to the end of the book. There it was, the words ‘To be concluded’, and I abandoned the book on the spot.

Maybe I will read the book again when the final book is released but I suspect that I will have no interest in attempting it again. The story sounds entertaining enough but after The Ways of the World I have too much rage to be forgiving. It is a shame that Robert Goddard would do this to his fans, it doesn’t make me want to read anything else he has written.

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The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard

September 20, 2014 Historical Fiction, Robert Goddard 8

The Ways of the World by Robert GoddardTitle: The Ways of the World (Goodreads)
Author: Robert Goddard
Published: Bantam Press, 2013
Pages: 404
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

BuyAmazon, Book Depository, (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Set in Paris just after World War I, The Ways of the World takes a look at the battle for peace. James ‘Max’ Maxted was a Royal Flying Corps ace during the war but now finds himself in a completely new situation. While the world looks to Paris as diplomats and politicians try to negotiate peace, Max is trying to work out what happened to his father. Sir Henry Maxted was a British diplomatic who mysteriously died from a fall off the roof of his mistress’s apartment building. The authorities rule the death as a suicide but Max suspects there is something far more suspicious going on.

The Ways of the World is everything I expect from an espionage novel; nothing like the popular spy thrillers. I view the intelligence game as one of diplomacy and manipulation, not high tech weapons and action. Robert Goddard uses the murder mystery as a device to manipulate the story and keep up the pace. This is a successful tactic as the majority of the novel is told in conversations and the novel could have easily fallen into the realm of boring and tedious.

The Paris Peace Conference allowed the game of espionage to play out. France, Britain, America and Italy all have representatives there and inter-country politics feature heavily here. Each country has their own agenda and I really enjoyed watching this play out. As the host country, France also wanted to quash any notion of a diplomat being murdered and keep their image. This perfectly sets up the story that Robert Goddard wanted to tell.

However there is something terribly wrong with this book. There are three words that took me from loving this book to throwing it across the room. I actually didn’t physically throw this book across the room because it was a library book but I was very tempted. Those three words at the end of the novel that ruined everything were ‘To be continued’.

I am normally ok with a story continuing into a series, but when you end a book without a sense of closure, it really doesn’t work. When I was getting close to the end of the book, I wondered to myself how to possibly conclude the novel that quickly, and then I found out. This works well in a television show when people only have to wait a week for the next episode but in a book there is normally a year between them. This situation makes me so mad that I don’t think I can continue the series.

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