Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Cliver Barker: Abarat
GK Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday
Arthur C Clarke: The Other Side of the Sky
Aldous Huxley: After Many a Summer
Aldous Huxley: The Devils of Loudun
PG Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing
PG Wodehouse: Service with a Smile

I have a stack of reviews to catch up on. Trying to get them done by the end of the month.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Rating: 6/10

Published: 1997
Number of pages: 219

Started: 16 July 2008
Finished: 28 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

'Timequake explores what happens to Vonnegut when, in 2001, a 'timequake' hits. The universe has a decade of self-doubt, shrinking back to 1991 and forcing everybody to relive the last 10 years of their lives exactly as they had before, but without free will. The same mistakes. The same corny jokes. The same doses of clap.' James Urquhart, Independent

I really tried to enjoy this book, but it was just so disjointed and confusing that I couldn't really get into it. Part autobiography and part fiction, it's often hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins. I know the book is supposed to be this way but, regardless, I struggled with this method of writing.

The basic plot (and I use the term 'plot' very loosely) discusses a 'timequake': an event whereby the universe shrinks slightly and everyone is thrown back 10 years in time to relive their lives exactly as they happened the first time around. That is, every thought, every action and every word is identical. When the timequake ends and humans are suddenly presented with free will again, most don't know what to do with it. It's an interesting premise, but one that isn't used to great effect. The timequake is more like a thin thread that weaves together some of the thoughts and anecdotes of Kurt Vonnegut, which make up the bulk of the book.

Timequake's saving grace is that Vonnegut comes up with some absolute gems concerning humans and their environment. Some of his stuff is very quotable (so quotable, in fact, that I forgot to write any down!) I'd only recommend this for the more hardcore Vonnegut fan. Having only previously read Slaughterhouse-Five, I'm not in that camp myself, but Timequake certainly hasn't put me off reading other works by Vonnegut.

Friday, August 15, 2008

BTT: Other Worlds

(From 7 August 2008): Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live? Or where you certainly would NOT want to live? What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?
I'd love to live in Harry Potter's world of course! Even with Voldemort and the other baddies, there'd never be any shortage of exciting things happening. And who wouldn't want to live in a world with magic?

And now for a little secret...I've sometimes fantasised about living in John Marsden's world from the Tomorrow...When the War Began series. If you haven't read the series, it's about a group of Australian teenagers who manage to escape being imprisoned when Australia is invaded by another nationality. They go bush and then begin making attacks on the enemy, starting small (blowing up a bridge) and getting bigger and bigger (blowing up an airport). I know it would be an awful, awful world to live in, but I can't help but think about being in that situation myself and wondering whether I'd have the guts to do the stuff they did. I suppose it's the inner delinquent in me wanting to get out and experience the adrenaline of destroying stuff (structures, not people, of course!) So now you know my dirty little secret...

Oh, and having just finished Thank You, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse, I'd happily move in with Bertie to watch him get into his mishaps! And the world of Alice in Wonderland might be all right, but it'd probably do my head in after a while. And I'd love to join the time-traveller in The Time Machine by HG Wells. Ooh, come to think of it, give me War of the Worlds too! If only so I can get to see aliens/spaceships.

I've just been looking through the books I've read in the past few years, and I didn't realise how utterly miserable most of my books are! There are very few worlds or lives I'd like to inhabit.

As for where I wouldn't want to live...A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess says it all, I think. I also wouldn't want to live anywhere that Stephen King has written about!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Rating: 8/10

Published: 2006
Number of pages: 459

Started: 7 July 2008
Finished: 15 July 2008

Summary (taken from blurb):

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family - fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie, her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmaline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates...

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield's past - and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has the house been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret's own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield's spell?

The Thirteenth Tale is an engaging and atmospheric gothic novel, and Setterfield reveals herself as an excellent story-teller. Having a booklover narrate the story helped me to identify with Margaret, the main character, and there are some lovely insights on reading.

The story is very well developed and the mystery is built up nicely. I wouldn't say it was suspenseful, but I was kept very interested in learning the outcome, which I didn't guess beforehand. I like that not everything was resolved, and also that the story had no definite time setting; it helped add to the mystery.

The main problems I had with the book were Margaret's obsession with her twin, which came on a little strongly, and I also felt that the Angelfield family were a little too unbelievable as characters. They were all so remote as to not even seem human most of the time, and in the time setting that I had concocted in my mind, they seemed very out of place (actually, when I tried to place them at different points in time, they didn't seem to fit anywhere).

Overall, a very enjoyable book; different and full of intrigue. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Popular Books

(From 17 June 2008): What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?
No surprise really, but the most popular book in my library is one of the Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (owned by 34,182 LibraryThingers). Of course I've read it! Multiple times in fact, and I'll be reading it many times more.

The most popular book on LibraryThing that I don't own is The Kite Runner (owned by 15,707 LibraryThingers). I'm in two minds about reading this book. Well, no I'm not. I'd definitely like to read it, but despite its huge popularity, I just can't get excited enough about it to go and a buy a copy and read it immediately. The subject matter just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps one day I'll get around to it.

A book's popularity doesn't factor into my decisions too much. If I read a lot of good things about a book, I'll probably be inspired to try it, but seeing on LibraryThing that a large number of people own the book isn't going to make me rush out and buy it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

Picked up some bargains today:

Arthur C Clarke: The Space Trilogy (Islands in the Sky, Earthlight, The Sands of Mars)
John Connolly: The Book of Lost Things
Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist
Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Henry Fielding: Tom Jones

BTT: Beginnings and Endings

(From 24 July 2008): What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?
The first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has always stuck in my mind:

'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'

Then there's the first sentence of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, which rather alarmed me when I first read it. I'd had no idea what the story was going to be about, and was expecting something quite highbrow and serious (which I guess it was, but I certainly wasn't expecting a line like that!):

'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.'

And then there's the first (rather long) sentence of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'

(From 31 July 2008): What are your favourite final sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its last sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the last line?
I think the last line that will always stick in my mind is (again) from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.'

I positively bawled when I was reading that. I don't think any other line can top that!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Recently Acquired Books

I've been a bit lax in updating my 'Recently Acquired Books', so here's what I've bought or received in the past few months:

Raven Hart: The Vampire's Kiss
Raven Hart: The Vampire's Secret

Daphne du Maurier: Julius
Kathryn Kenny: Trixie Belden #19: The Secret of the Unseen Treasure
Stephen King: Night Shift
PG Wodehouse: Thank You, Jeeves

William S Burroughs: Naked Lunch

My book-buying has dropped a lot since I joined a 'read 3, buy 1' support group for book-buying addicts like myself to help us decrease the size of our TBR piles. The idea is that you must read 3 books to earn 1 credit that you may then spend. I joined a few months back and things have been going well until today, when I officially fell off the wagon (having teetered on the edge for a couple of weeks now). But who can resist buying books when Borders sends you a voucher for 30% off?