Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Death at Pemberly by P D James

Oh dear. What happened here? I'm not sure what to say.

I ordered this book for my new Kindle and opened it with glee. I only started to read Jane Austen a few years ago and have been continuously delighted with every book. She is witty, clever, a great tale teller and wonderful at developing characters that are so real and memorable. P D James - not so much. I don't really understand why she felt the need to use Elizabeth and Darcy as her characters. I understand that she is a huge Austen aficionado and that those characters are out of copyright and fair game but....

The book actual fails. There is no interesting anything. I didn't enjoy the people even though we know exactly who they are - she didn't bring forth any of their characteristics already established. The setting was dull. The story lagged for so long I lost interest. The ending is predictable and ho hum.

Oh dear. I hate being mean to a 91 year old legend but she shouldn't have done it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a hard one. I absolutely love the format. The story is a simple but clever one - well, if you like Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters type of stories, which I do. The eccentric Grandfather of a troubled young man is killed in very mysterious circumstances. Jacob - the young man - goes on a quest to uncover the mystery behind his Grandfather's last words to him and this takes him to a remote island off the coast of Wales and a house that was destroyed in WWII. I'm going to leave the description of the story there because I hate to reveal any little part of a novel - I never even read the dust jackets anymore.

The format of the book is the clever part. Handsome - sorry - Ransom Riggs has gathered together a collection of old vintage photographs which he includes into the book as reference and illustration points. I suspect that the parts of the story that seem out of place and jagged, are there because he tried to form the telling around some really interesting photo that he just couldn't leave out of the book. The story doesn't run completely smoothly and the author's editing is obvious in parts. If the photos were removed the reader would have a hard time putting 2 and 3 together to make 5. But the photographs ARE there so the story works.

I also had a bit of a time picturing the main character Jacob. He felt more like a 13 year old boy to me, than a 16 year old. He is awkward at times and over confident at others. There is just a bit too much of a contrast between the two parts to get a clear picture.

This is a playful story which beats too much of its own moral values down the reader's throat. It's like trying to slip that bitter medicine in with the ice cream - you can still taste the bitter medicine. I enjoyed the ice cream parts very much. It is not published as young adult fiction but I think it probably should have been.

I have read that Tim Burton will be making the film (Hooray) and that they have a very good scriptwriter to adapt it - Jane Goldman - who wrote one of the X-Men screenplays (Hooray again). The film could turn out fantastic and I hope so. And they already have the basis for the filming in the photograph collection in the book.

I look forward to the next Ransom Riggs novel and I hope he improves with age. Apparently he will be writing a sequel. Let's hope he doesn't find a cairn and disappear into a loop somewhere.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Competing Books

My books are competing with each other and it is driving me spare. First Book One siddles up next to me and whispers sweet nothings in my ear, so I pick it up, caress its spine and gently open it up. For a while it has all my attention and keeps me interested. Without warning and with no prompting on my part another Book comes flirting into my life. Book One is abandoned with no more thought than a bookmark and Book Two has captivated me. Book One sits there in plain site, forlornly, making me feel completely guilty so I pick it up again and start the affair all over. Book Two screams at me that I mustn't be so fickle. I must make a choice between the two and stick to it. Book Three is hiding just behind the alarm clock and springs out at me as I set the time for an early rise and being the irresolute reader that I am, I start to read a third novel. All this time my Kindle is patiently waiting in my bag for me to toss aside these old fashion paper models, come to my senses, and read the e-book novel I have been promising myself for years.

They argue, they interupt each other and I am not a good arbitrator. I am stuck between covers and don't know which page to turn.

Habibi by Craig Thompson won the first round. The graphic novel of a fictional islamic world in which two children find each other only to go their separate ways, unwillingly, lead lives of desperate desperation, and come together again to find an uneasy love. This is a terrible story which is superbly illustrated. It is so hard to read at times but it is so worth continuing along the journeys of these worthy people. Please do yourself the favour of reading this novel if you ever get the chance.

Now that Habibi has been read it has traveled far away from me and is in the arms of another lover. Stephanie Plum snuck in there with Explosive Eighteen as a quick non-committed relationship. It is the same as all the others in the series, good for a one night stand.

Now it is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs that has me in bed early for the past few nights, and lingering in the mornings as well for some fun in the sack. I think I am in love but, I'm sure, it will also be a short affair. This book is wonderful fun and I'll tell you why when it has finally been spent and leaves my bed like all the others before it.

I am having a long distant relationship with Patrick White and his Aunt's Story right now - it is on the floor. Its not that I don't love it, I do, deep down inside. Its just that it is so serious and I feel like a little fun and light reading.

University starts up in a couple of weeks and then it will be all work and no play for this girl. I am actually looking forward to being involved again. It will be my last literature class and I mean to stay completely true to the syllabus for at least the next 6 months so all the little affairs will have to be put on hold until the next semester break. I'm sure they will still be sitting there ready to tempt me when I get back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Empire of the Summer Moon by S C Gwynne

I wouldn't presume or pretend to know anything about the Native American plight, either in the past or now. I have read a bit about the history of the Americas and some about indiginous Americans. They didn't have it easy, needless to say. The Native North Americans were proud and strong until they were cut down by the white man - mostly by diseases and displacement. There is something about their history that draws me. I have been to a lot of historical places - Little Big Horn, Puebloan site in New Mexico and Colorado, Indian Nations in Montana, Wyoming, and Washington State. I've seen all the tourist stops and bought jewelry. That makes me interested but not knowable.

Empire of the Sumer Moon is subtitled Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the most Powerful Indian tibe in American History. It is a book rich in all things Comanche. This book is set around the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker and the rise of her son Quanah. Well, that was the most interesting part for me - I remember seeing The Searchers (the movie was based on the story of Cynthia Ann) with John Wayne and Natalie Wood when I was just a kid and really loving it. It is a great account of the state of affairs in the mid 1800s through to the early 1900s. The warrior tribe, the US military debacles, the love of a mother for her child and a son for his mother, the decimation of a proud nation. This book has it all.

It is also an easy to read story full of emotion and character. Gwynne has done his homework and is not afraid to announce it but that doesn't detract from this good account. If you are interested in Native American History at all this is one you should read.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Heat and Patrick White

There is something about the heat today that doesn't like me. Usually I'm OK until it hits 35 degrees and it is only 30 right now. So I am in my bedroom with my really old evaporative air conditioner on, sitting on my bed, with my computer, my knitting, my book and my dogs - they are not on the bed but beside it. We are all happy and lazy and snoozy. It is the first day of the new year and I am happy to see it in right - reading.

The Aunt's Story is such a treat. It is intellegent and seductive. Im on page 76 and I have alread gathered a crop of words and lines to feed me. I just read the most delightful passage:

"Because he had to make some motion to hold up the darkness that was pressing down. It was too big. When Frank Parrott was on the road, droving, or for some reason overtaken by darkness, he could not scrape together a few sticks quickly enought, to make a little fire, to sit against.
'You forget,' he said. 'It's so long between dances you forget to buy a new pair of shoes. I remember at Singleton, in the autumn, there was a ball, an' these damn shoes pinched so bad I took them off after supper and danced on my feet.'
Frank Parrott laughted. He laughed a tthe vision of himself. He had lit his little fire."

That, to me, is brilliance. And Patrick White has littered these little gems throughout the story. I don't even need to be on my toes to catch them. They are right there for the taking. Where else in this world of ours can you find diamonds and pearls without digging or diving? In books!

I'm not going to get ahead of myself (never do that, ahem) but I think this may be my Patrick White year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My own personal Summer Challenge

Oh - that's just silly calling it a Challenge - with a capital C no less. In fact, it's silly to give my reading life any sort of title at all and summer is 1/3 over anyway. And since when do I have to challenge myself to read anything? OK - changing the title of this post to 'What should I read next' - way more comfortable with that!

To make a short story long, I was speaking to a friend of mine who lives in Melbourne and she and her husband were going to start reading Ulysses by James Joyce again for the third time. They read it aloud to each other in the evenings because telly is 'so boring this time of year". My friend is an artist so she has a decent attention span and her husband just likes to sit still and be calm. She is no super intellectual (she is smart though), nor his he (he's smart too), but if they can read it - so can I.

This is the 2nd time I have picked up this novel and had a go. Last time I didn't hate it but I can remember saying to myself that Joyce just made things up, like words and phrases, and pops them into the conversation as if everyone knows what he means. He waves his hand, turns his head and ptoshes us if we challenge (there's that word again) him. Joyce is so uber-confident in his writting. I dug into the bookshelf and found my copy - it is huge. I thumbed thru it and found that of the 950-odd pages almost 250 of them are notes, appendices, introductions (there are two!) and various other explanatory thingys. I can manage a 700 page novel no worries. I'm now on page 11 and already more than a little confused but determined.

I picked up the Monthly Summer Reading Special the other day and there is a wee little story about Manoly Lascaris, the partner of Patrick White. It was a sad little piece and it led me to youtube to watch Patrick White sitting on his front porch doing an interview for his Nobel Prize win. He said that one of his two favourite of his own novels was The Aunt's Story. Hey, I have that book too. I've never read Patrick White which I consider a great downfall of mine. I bought The Aunt's Story when I was going to read it for a little book group I was in but we never did - can't remember what happened. So another dig into the bookshelf uncovered a pristine, never read copy. AND less than 300 pages.

Now, the number of pages in a book mean absolutely nothing to me usually. But I have a bit more than two weeks before I have to go back to work and a bit more than four weeks before the next university term starts so I don't want to put myself into the position of having to choose between university and literature! Literature usually wins to the downfall of my grades!

I am 31 pages into The Aunt's Story and it has got me, so Patrick White is my book of choice for "What should I read next?" after the dishes are done and the grass is mown. I'm excited.

Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

Nope, sorry, didn't work. And believe me I am sorry. I love Sally Gardner's other books - I, Coriander, Red Necklace and Silver Blade and would recommend them without hesitation to anyone interested in Young Adult period novels. They are clever, engaging, and intellegent well-researched stories set in 17th century London and 18th century France. They have interesting characters and intriguing plots.

Double Shadow had none of this. Sorry - the character of Ezra was easy to connect to and like and his family was equally likeable. But the other characters were lifeless and bland. The plot was convoluted and the settings were vague and uninviting. I'm not going to tell you about the story because any telling on my part would ruin the little bit of tension that is there if you do decide to read it. I listened to Sally Gardner say that she had to dive deep to bring out this book. I wish she hadn't gone so far and had kept things just a little simpler. I love action and curiosity in middle reader's fiction but this is just plain confusing and 'hmm - so what!'

Please read her earlier novels and you will love Sally as much as I do. I will forgive her this one because her first three were really great. I hope she gets back on track with her next. Sorry!