Wednesday, 16 February 2011

[molotov cocktail]

I've just found a home for this flash fiction piece I wrote before Christmas.  It's in Molotov Cocktail, which I'm really stoked about as it's a quality flash journal online.  Have a look and check out the other pieces in there (and the back issues).

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Reading List 2011

The Wind Up Girl - Paulo Bacigalupi (REALLY enjoyed this! Future calorie-punk)

Reservation Road - John Burnham Schwartz (Interesting idea, not sure the execution totally worked)

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury (Forward thinking with some really beautiful descriptions in there)

The Passage - Justin Cronin (I was reading this for weeks!)

High Rise - JG Ballard (That '60s architectural dream of streets in the sky meets Cabrini Green; modern life is rubbish when all there is to eat is barbecued pet dog)

Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland (Just read the first 70 pages and you'll be fine)

The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas (It's like Neighbours on coke, and with more sex)

Lustrum - Robert Harris (I'm literally OBSESSED with Roman history)

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (Hey, I loved this! So much so I read it in a day)

The Great and Secret Show - Clive Barker (Enjoyed about 30% of it, the rest needed a severe edit)

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman (My first Kindle read! A re-telling of the Jesus myth with some interesting changes)

A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan (Seriously the most amazing book I've read in ages

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (Don't know why everyone raves about this. I found it contrived and full of one dimensional characters)

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes (Liked the setting and the animal spirits as punishment.  Not so sure about the hard to follow thriller plot and bizarre finale)

Small Island - Andrea Levy (This is a potential set text for A level so thought I'd check it out. Enjoyable period details and had a good hook. The outdated attitudes are quite unsettling though! Worth a look)

The Line of Beauty - Alan Hollinghurst (Part 1 - blossoming sexuality in the early '80s; Part 2 - hedonism and Maggie T; Part 3 - the party's DEFINITELY over)

The History of Love - Nicole Krauss (loneliness, some funny bits, interesting divisions, some confusion but hey ho)

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell - (a re-visit for me as I'm teaching it.  I love this book ; it's so playful and varied, plus it gets better when you read it again)

The Secret History - Donna Tartt (another re-read. I love this book!)

Quarantine - Jim Crace (I really didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I found the shifting narrative perspective a bit distancing)

Tamburlaine Must Die - Louise Welch (This has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, literally. It was a fun quick read - kind of a literary romp)

Year of the Flood (Follow up to Oryx and Crake. Loved it - although I preferred Oryx and Crake a bit more. It did lose a bit of pacing at the end)

One Day - David Nicholls (Not my usual genre, but I was drawn in by the structure. Immensely readable, but some of the dialogue and characterisation really did start to grate. Loved the late '80 and '90s references though!)

Sophie's Choice - William Styron (God this was hard-going: Nazis, porn and sexism)

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro (Ironically, I felt let down)

The Fellowship of the Ring - JRR Tolkien (I used to read this every September, but stopped about 10 years ago. Surprised myself by how much I'm enjoying it again!)

The Two Towers - JRR Tolkien (I still can't decide which is my favourite - although I guess that's kind of a pointless thing to think about as Tolkien didn't want them broken up anyway)

The Return of the King - JRR Tolkien (And my marathon is over. I had fun.)

Monday, 7 February 2011

Book Review: Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz

Reservation Road is about the aftermath of a horrific incident; Ethan and Grace Learner's young son Josh is killed one summer night in a hit and run.  However the driver isn't just a faceless figure that disappears into the night.  Instead we get to know him through a first person narrative.  It turns out the Learners know the killer too.  Dwight is a divorced mess of a lawyer who's still obsessed with his ex wife and has violent tendancies.  His ex wife taught Josh piano.  Josh was a gifted piano player - a trait which seems employed to increase the poignancy; Josh had so much to lose.

I wanted to read this book because of Schwartz's narrative stance.  He uses alternating perspectives: Ethan, Grace and Dwight.  So we get three perspectives on the horrible event and see how it alters everything, including the Learners' marriage.  However rather oddly we get a first person narration for the boys (father Ethan and killer Dwight) but a third person for Grace.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps it's to show her emotional distance?  I found her quite hard to connect with, but she's zoned out and in shock so I guess this makes sense.  Or perhaps Schwartz felt he couldn't write from a feminine perspective?  Whatever the reason I found it quite disconcerting, like I wasn't getting the whole picture.  There wasn't really much to differentiate Ethan and Dwight's voice either.

I think it dipped at the end.  I won't give it away but it wasn't really what I expected and didn't feel true to the rest of the book.  But I still enjoyed it; there are some really evocative pieces suggesting the seasons, passage of time and memories and we do get a glimpse of grief.  Bit of a strange one though.  There's a film of it apparently, but I haven't seen it yet.

Book Review: Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

Theroux’s Strange Bodies is an immensely readable literary thriller which actually works quite well. It follows a strange but recognisabl...