Posts Tagged ‘3.5 out of 5’

10th January
2011
written by Steph

Playing a bit of catch-up, The Wilding is the last book I need to review from 2010. I read the bulk of it while up in the winter wonderland that is Minnesota, which seemed like the perfect setting for a novel that is largely set in the great outdoors in the very heart of nature. I must admit that were it not for Indiespensible, I never would have heard of this book, never mind have picked it up, but this is why I love that program! It’s constantly exposing me to books that would otherwise fly under my radar or not immediately appeal. This was a ripping read, full of plenty of suspense and tension so I’m definitely glad I read it. (more…)
14th December
2010
written by Steph

Today is a momentous day, gentle readers, for today is the day I can claim to have lost my Sarah Waters virginity. It was a long time coming since there’s hardly a book blogger out there who doesn’t rave about her books, and yet I bided my time to see what all the fuss was about. Whenever I would see her books at McKays I’d always pick one of them up, but then I would pause and wonder if I was ready for Sarah Water’s jelly. I finally decided I need to take the plunge and picked up a copy of her first novel, Tipping the Velvet. The rest, as they say, is history. Tipping the Velvet tells the story of Nancy Astley, a young girl living in Victorian England who comes from Whitstable where she works in her family’s oyster parlor. Nan enjoys attending the local theater that puts on variety shows, and one evening she becomes completely captivated by a young masher (male impersonator) named Kitty Butler. Mesmerized by Kitty, Nancy attends the theater every night until her frequent visits finally capture Kitty’s attention. The two swiftly become thick as thieves, and Nancy is all too willing to throw over everything she has ever known in order to be with Kitty, desperately longing for more than friendship. Together the two head to London so that Kitty can further her career, and Nancy soon has her eyes opened to worlds she never dreamed existed, while also learning that following your heart and being true to yourself can sometimes be the hardest thing. (more…)
16th November
2010
written by Steph

While Sweden seems wintry and cold in so many ways, the one way in which it seems to be blazing hot is on the crime fiction front. With the insane popularity of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, authors with umlauts (how’s that for the name of a federation?) have never been so well-read. Poor Helene Tursten, may not have any fancy diacritics gussying up her name, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking out her crime novels. I admit that “Detective Inspector Huss” is not necessarily a title that’s going to immediately pique your interest, but just as we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, we should also probably refrain from judging them based on their titles… If you like novels that involve: drugs, sex, explosions, conspiracies, political agendas, and awkward translations, then this is the book for you!  When financial tycoon, Richard von Knecht plummets from his balcony onto the pavement below, all signs point to suicide. But upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that von Knecht didn't jump to his death, he was pushed. Enter Sweden's Violent Crimes division and detective inspector Irene Huss, who begin to look into von Knecht's increasingly suspicious - and dangerous - death. With an itinerant bomber on the loose, clues and suspects are being erased at a frightening pace... The clock is ticking for Irene and colleagues to crack the case, but to do so, they may have to take a few risks... (more…)
28th October
2010
written by Steph

Free at last!

If book reviews here have slowed down of late, you can attribute it to this beast of a book. Normally I can polish off a book in two or three days, but with Freedom: 12 days. Granted, life has been busy, so it’s not like I had tons of time to sit down and read, but still, this sucker is big and it takes a while to wade through its 575+ pages. Although this is the first Franzen I’m officially reviewing here on the site, it’s not the first time I’m mentioning the man. Whenever I read a book about dysfunctional families, I’m likely to mention how great I thought The Corrections was, such that I’m sure most of you are like, “ALL RIGHT! I get it! You love The Corrections and I should probably read it! Enough already!” So what I’m trying to say is that I’m no Franzen newbie, and I was interested to see how I’d respond to his follow-up to what is apparently one of my literary touchstones. I’d skimmed several reviews before picking up my copy, not absorbing enough to spoil my own reading experience, but gleaning enough to see that the book was rather polarizing: either people LOVED it more than The Corrections or people did not like it at all. (more…)
21st September
2010
written by Steph

Scarlett Thomas is an author who has intrigued me for a while. I’ve heard good things about her last novel, The End of Mr. Y, and my friend Trisha really enjoys her writing, so when I saw that NetGalley had copies of her newest novel, Our Tragic Universe up for review, I hastily requested a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect, but suspected I’d be in for a relatively cerebral but quirky read. I was right. Our Tragic Universe is a novel that’s incredibly difficult to summarize, because it is largely a novel that is filled with ideas, and one that frequently verges into metafictional territory. Loosely speaking, the novel centers around struggling writer, Meg Carpenter. After experiencing some nominal literary success during her early 20s, Meg has since been wrestling with writing a proper, serious novel. Unfortunately, Meg has been much more productive writing pulp fiction, formulaic novels under the name of Zeb Ross, a job that does little to address her creative ambitions but manages to pay the bills. Meg’s boyfriend has no income of his own (volunteering on heritage restoration sites), so in a bid to make ends meet, Meg also writes the occasional book review for newspapers. To this end, Meg picks up a copy of a self-help book called The Science of Living Forever, which claims we are all immortal and that the universe is just a creation meant to allow us to live every possible permutation of the hero’s journey before we finally ascend to a higher plane. Initially Meg dismisses the book as nonsense, but when she begins investigating other self-help books for a larger editorial piece, she finds some unexpected answers to questions she didn’t even realize she had… (more…)
6th September
2010
written by Steph

Tony and I haven’t done a “group read” in a while (in this case “group” = Tony and me… and sometimes our dogs), but when I finally got my hands on a copy of latest YA juggernaut The Hunger Games, we figured there was no book better to read aloud to one another. Given that we shared the reading experience together, we thought we’d gift y’all with a joint review, dialogue style. It’s rather long because we had lots of feelings, so let’s get to it. If you’d prefer, you can listen to the recording of our conversation, which involves more joking and snarking, which I mostly edited out for brevity (seriously!). Choose your own adventure!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And of course, there are mild spoilers, though we don’t go so far as to break the book down plot point by plot point for you but stay clear if you’ve not read the book yet but are planning to. (more…)
24th August
2010
written by Steph

One of the places I’d really like to travel one day (and trust me, there are so many) is Thailand. I’m intrigued by the food, the people, the culture, and of course the geography. From the jungles, to the cities, to the beaches, Thailand is a place I can imagine spending a lot of time exploring. If plane tickets over to Asia weren’t so prohibitively expensive from the East coast of North America, you can bet that I’d have already been there by now. Alas, ticket prices being what they are, for now I’ll have to slake my desire for Thailand through fiction. Of course, one of thing I’ve found is that it’s not all that easy to find fiction set in Thailand, and certainly not fiction written by native Thais (at least that’s been translated into English). Mostly I’ve resorted to picking up books by farangs (Westerners) set in Thailand when they’ve appealed, which is perhaps less than ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers, after all. A few years ago I read Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski, which took me into the wilds of Thai hillside tribes. Recently on a whim, I picked up Alex Garland’s The Beach, which took me to the Southern reaches of Thailand, allowing me to vicariously visit its lush, tropical beaches. (more…)
5th August
2010
written by Steph

One of the things I try very hard to do on this blog is write something about each and every book I read. For some books, this is easier said than done… sometimes I don’t have tons to say about a book because it failed to make much of an impression (hence my tag of “mehcommendation”), but sometimes writing is hard for a very different reason.  Sometimes a book is SO GOOD, it just defies my own attempt to grapple with it linguistically. Last year I read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima and it was definitely a case of the second issue. It was a brilliant book, but it was also very difficult and challenging, and in the end, I never felt like I was able to sufficiently collect my thoughts to say anything marginally coherent about it or that would come close to doing that literary masterpiece justice. I must admit, it was the only book in 2009 that I didn’t review, but I’d hate for any of you to think it’s because it wasn’t any good. Y’all know I don’t mind sharing my loathing of a book when that happens to be the case; words rarely fail me when I’m peeved! After reading Temple I was determined to read more Mishima. I am open about the fact that my knowledge of Asian authors is not nearly as good as it could be, so I was happy to find an author from that part of the world who really wowed me with his poetic prose stylings. One of the things I respected so much about Temple was that while it was very Japanese in its setting and its perspective, I found the writing very approachable and surprisingly western. Yes it could have been a good translation, but I tend to think that in order for literature in translation to really sing, it has to be pretty impressive in its original form as well. The writing was melodic and precise and incredibly evocative. I was really impressed by the psychological depths that Mishima explored in his writing, and admired that he wasn’t afraid of going to some very dark places. (more…)
19th July
2010
written by Steph

Before I had the chance to pick up This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, I had read a good deal of reviews about the book that had stressed how darkly funny the book was. Several readers admitted to laughing out loud while reading this book about a family that comes together to sit shiva when their father (a militant atheist… or so they had believed) passes away. Obviously death and mourning aren’t the typical topics one writes about when aiming to tickle the funny bone, so needless to say, I was intrigued. After all, I would say I probably enjoy inappropriate, mordant humor more than most so if this book is going to appeal to anyone, I figured it would be me. When Judd Foxman’s father dies, it marks the first occasion his entire family has convened and spent time together in a very long time… and for very good reason. As they are sequestered together for a week to remember the late family patriarch, dysfunction is the name of the game and it becomes clear why family time is a commodity best engaged in limited quantities. Suddenly all the old rivalries and obsessions that have lain dormant for so long resurface and demand resolution. Through the brawls, tears, and rekindled romances, the Foxmans ultimately realize that no matter how hard you try to define yourself as something other than how your family has pigeonholed you, returning home always results in some degree of regression. (more…)
30th June
2010
written by Steph

One of the things I was most excited about when Tony and I embarked into the world of e-readers was discovering the plethora of e-books that were now open to me via our public library. I’ve probably spent at least 3 hours clicking through the catalog of available titles, making a list (and checking it twice), of all the books I can’t wait to get my grubby little jamhands on FOR FREE. So exciting. Finally I’ll get to try stuff like Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed, and if the desire should ever strike to continue with the Stieg Larsson trilogy, well, I can do that too. Maybe I’ll check out those Sookie Stackhouse books. You just never know. Of course, there’s an awful lot of… well, crap might not be the right word, but let’s just say that for every The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie in the collection, there are at least 15 Harlequin romances, with titles like The Billionaire’s Bride and The Greek Shipping Heir’s Lovechild. I’m sure they have their fans, but they’re not really my speed. All to say that I had to do some digging to find the diamonds. And when I found What The Dead Know, a book I had actually considered reading many times, I snapped and quickly borrowed it. I had heard good things about it, and it seemed like a worthy book to break my e-reader in with (except without any actual breaking). (more…)
Previous
Next