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Talulla Rising

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Like the reviewer below me, I failed to see what all the hype was about with this book, which is a shame, because it was fairly competently written.Jacob Marlowe believes himself to be the last of the werewolves, the rest having been hunted and killed to extinction by vampires. He is being pursued by two human hunters - Ellis and Grainer - who belong to an organisation called WOCOP, and the book mainly deals with his efforts to elude them.What jarred for me was the coarse language and obsession with sex (of the male fantasy variety influenced by porn of course). The frequent use of the 'c' word, which I usually don't have a problem with if it fits with the overall tone of the book, just felt gratuitous. Okay, so Jacob is an animal with animal instincts and urges, blah de blah. I found this a real pity as the writing had the potential to be good literary prose. These scenes just didn't fit with the rest of the book.Jacob refers to his 'wulf', sidestepping his moral responsibilities in much the same manner as Hesse's character in Steppenwolf. I had little sympathy for either of them.(***edited: could the editor of this book please note that the word is DUCT tape - not DUCK!)
The Decameron: Selected Tales

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I borrowed The Decameron because I read somewhere that it was a major influence on The Gargoyle, one of my favourite recent books.The Decameron (deca referring to the 10 days of 10 stories, I think?) is a collection of short tales from 14th century Italy, mostly about money, love and sex. Once you get used to the language, it is actually very witty and a bit risqué in places, but the language did make it quite a laborious read for me.It's worth persevering with though. Some of the stories are hilarious, with memorable characters, most of whom are involved in deception related to philandering in one way or another, and the female characters in particular are very strong.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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A bearded young Pakistani man tells a story in a café in Lahore. We deduce that his companion is an American man who remains quietly faceless throughout.Contrary perhaps, to the companion's first impression, our storyteller Changez has lived another life in New York. He studied at Princeton (as did the author) and became a Wall Street analyst. His first love was an American girl, and he was striving to achieve his own American dream.Something changed though, and the book tells the story of how this came to be so. Highly readable, the book deals with its subject matter with a subtle and ambiguous touch. A distinction is drawn between the America known by Americans as their home - and the 'America' as a powerful political entity as viewed by the rest of the world. This, I think, is hugely important and often overlooked by those who might dismiss alternative opinions of the Iraq war as "anti-American".
The Age of Miracles: A Novel

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Like the reviewer below, I got the sense that this was YA fiction.It is about how 11 year-old Julia and her family cope with the lengthening of the days in a dystopian California, but focuses a lot on her crush on Seth, and how her childhood friendships are changing as she and her friends grow older. It's about feeling awkward and unpopular in high school, and not understanding your parents.It does work on this level. It works much less so as a dystopian novel. We aren't given enough information about how society and government deal with the changing environment. The author mentions that citizens are given the choice to stick to the clock or daylight, but then some of Julia's neighbours are targeted for making the "wrong" choice. I get that we are seeing the world through Julia's eyes, but I would have liked more detail about how the changes affected everyone, and how society overall was affected - isn't that what dystopian novels are about?But wait. It's been written by someone who attended a creative writing course and used to work in publishing. Could that explain the hype and ill-deserved positive reviews?
Full Dark, No Stars

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Again I am surprised by how much I enjoyed these stories, after so many years not reading anything by this author. This collection contains 4 stories, two of which are fairly derivative of classic horror tales, but still enjoyable to read. 1922 - a man rows with his wife about some inherited farm land.Big Driver - a female author is given directions for a short-cut on her way home from a book signing session in another town.Fair Extension - a dying man stops to talk to a roadside vendor, and ends up making a purchase.A Good Marriage - a wife discovers that her dull accountant husband of 27 years has been hiding something.Of these, I liked Big Driver the most, and then A Good Marriage. The others I felt had been told so many times before. King acknowledges this of course, and it doesn't lessen his storytelling in any way. He has a good insight into people, I think, and it's always my favourite thing to be reading a book that keeps me awake until the early hours.
Under the Dome: A Novel

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Don't mistake this for one of those hefty and disposable airport novels (though it is quite hefty if you're one of those people who still like to read real books). And don't go into it expecting classic Stephen King horror / terror that he's so renowned for.I'll admit that I hadn't read any of his books since Misery in the early 1990s, and didn't think I'd missed much. Like lots of people, I read most of his famous books when I was a teenager and kind of grew out of them.Under the Dome isn't much like Cujo or Christine or The Shining. What King reveals here is is real talent for drawing small town life. Okay, so some of the characters are a little cliched (feisty journalist / retired soldier / corrupt mayor anyone?), but this is a fascinating and enjoyable read.The citizens of Chester's Mill are going about their business one autumn day when a series of accidents lead them to realise that their town has been enveloped by an invisible dome. Chaos ensues, of course, as people soon adapt to being trapped, some of them quickly using it to their advantage. Others set out to find out what the Dome is, where it came from, and how to get rid of it.King is great at writing the lives of New Englanders, and I think I probably missed this when I was younger. Overall, I thought Under The Dome was a 4 star book, but the final revelations seemed weak compared to the strength of the rest of the book, so it gets marked down for that. I am going to revisit The Stand though, and give some of his other recent titles a fair shot.
Perdida

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Blown away by this - it's been a while since I've wanted to turn the pages of a book so quickly.Told in the "he said, she said" style of a husband and wife recounting the wife's disappearance and the husband's emergence as prime suspect in her murder, Gone Girl is an excellent thriller.The book has three parts, some told in diary format. I can't say too much in case it spoils it for those who haven't read it yet. What I will say is that it's an incredibly clever tale of suspense, and the author is quite brutal in describing how men and women fool each other and pretend to be what they're not to get what they want. The Cool Girl rant was a particular favourite. Awesome, and with an interesting ending that doesn't take the easy way out.
So Much for That: A Novel

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Wow. This is a hard book to read, and all the more so because many of the characters are equally hard to find empathy for. We follow the lives of two married couples, Shepherd and Glynis, and Carol and Jackson. All are close friends, with Shep and Jackson working together. Originally, Shep was the owner of the handyman company, but made the decision to sell so that he could use the proceeds to fund his escape to the "afterlife" - his dream of living in Africa on minimal funds as simply as possible.Shep is perceived as a dreamer by his wife and their friends, who never believe that he'll act on his plans. As we meet him, he has lived a straight and respectable life, though we can see that his morality is continually taken advantage of.The prospect of death looms throughout the book, for reasons I won't go into here, but the book's lesson is about life. I'm starting to think that Shriver has been quite underrated. It is important to write about the things that no-one wants to talk about, and her personal reasons for writing the book (outlined in the acknowledgements) emphasise this importance.****editing as I've been prompted by abbottthomas's review below to mention the NHS in the UK. How any American could object to national subsidised healthcare after reading this book is beyond me. Where would you find hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide medicine and care for someone you love if they become ill? Social care is not the same as socialism.
Pigeon English

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Thoroughly enjoyed this book, told in the voice of 13 year-old Harrison, recently arrived in a rough part of London from Ghana.When a local boy is stabbed outside a takeaway, the aftermath is felt among Harri's schoolmates. Harri's friend Dean - a devotee of CSI - helps him "investigate" the murder, but their search for evidence is ill-advised.Harri is touchingly funny and naive, overwhelmed by a world where trainers and mobile phones are suddenly hugely important, but homesick all the while for Ghana, and his father and sister who have remained there.The pigeon seemed unnecessary.
The Dinner

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Paul and Serge Lohman are brothers, both married with teenage sons. 'The Dinner' refers to their meal in an Amsterdam restaurant. Paul is our narrator, thoroughly underwhelmed by his politician brother's pretensions, and those of the restaurant they're eating in. The biting sarcasm describing the food and the waiting staff is a delight to read.The meal has been arranged to discuss a larger issue with their sons. I don't want to reveal much more about the plot, but I really enjoyed how I started off with one impression of the narrator, and ended up thinking something very different by the end of the book.It is cleverly done, almost a black comedy. One of the better books I've read in a while.
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