Blimey. Ages since I’ve done a Bookshelf. I can’t even remember half the books I read six months ago. But I’ll try.
This time, we have funny feminists, scandalous classics, a wizard who would totally make Harry Potter cry, the new George Saunders, epic American history, and assorted randomness.
The usual health and spoilers warning applies.
Well, I’m finally done reviewing all the books from last year and this year’s reads are already piling up. Time for the first Bookshelf of 2013!
The usual health and safety warning: May contain spoilers.
It’s almost March and I still haven’t reviewed all of last year’s reads. But here, finally, is the last batch.
I’ll have to come up with something a bit shorter for this year’s bookshelf to resolve the constant compromise of whether to spend my lunchtimes reading or writing…
Some more books by some of my favourite authors
I’ve been lazy. So, with a massive delay, here’s the first bunch of the Bookshelf from the second half of 2012!
The usual health and safety warning applies: May contain spoilers.
THE DISCWORLD-A-THON CONTINUES…
Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett’s take on the music industry: Somebody finds a magical electric guitar and soon the Disc is turned upside down by Music With Rocks In It. It’s basically a condensed history of everything that happened in music since the first rock ‘n roll tune was born – rockstar tantrums, shady agents and crappy punk bands are just the start, and of course the traditionally Pratchett-esque digs at musical celebs and the industry they feed are spot-on as ever, and laugh-out-loud funny, too!
Pens: 4 out of 5
So, here’s the last batch of books I’ve read in the first half of 2012. More to come as soon as I’ve had a payday and can stock up the bookshelf…
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman | Amazon (UK)
Although Neverwhere had left me pretty disappointed, I decided to try another Gaiman, and I’m glad I did. Written for a young audience, the story of an orphaned toddler being adopted by a bunch of ghosts and raised in a graveyard is as morbid as it is touching. The Graveyard Book reminded me very much of the movie version of Coraline with its wacky characters and magical excursions into fantastically scary worlds. It’s the kind of book that is full of characters you’ll want to pluck off the page and add into your real life. It’s the kind of book I would have read over and over again as a girl, feeling the characters become more real every time, until I’d convinced myself that they actually do exist somewhere in a graveyard just beyond my reach. (I was a bit of a loner, as you’ve probably figured.) The Graveyard Book took me right back to my early reading days and reminded me why I’ve never been able to live without books.
Pens: 5 out of 5
The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde | Amazon (UK)
Oh-kay, weirdness alert. I wasn’t really sure about the whole Thursday Next series, but decided to give it a go after several friends recommended it. And I’m afraid it ends for me with volume one. Although the meta fiction thing grew on me about halfway through the book (when the actual plot finally kicks in after some over-indulgent introductory rambling), the concept behind it seemed just a bit too chaotic. Special detectives protecting our literary heritage? Cool. Real people and fictional characters jumping in and out of books? If we’re going that way, fair enough. A Nineteen Eighty-Four inspired setting? Well, if you must crush us with references, okay. It was when the time travelling came in that I got a bit of overload, and when it moved on to the vampires and werewolves, I finally had enough. It’s a shame that Fforde had to hopelessly over-clutter The Eyre Affair by cramming in every possible aspect of fantasy literature he could think of. Because the bit about moving between the real world and literary world would have been pretty awesome without all the rest annoying the hell out of you.
Pens: 3 out of 5
And onwards with the bookshelf. Here’s part two of the books I’ve read so far this year. This one mainly rounds up my (very brief) phase of being into Rich Hall’s books, but makes up with a few new all-time favourites on my shelf. Which, by the way, is absolutely bursting at the seams and needs to be extended very soon. I’m sure the Boyfriend will be delighted, seeing as he’s already had so much fun designing and building the original bookshelf…
by Rich Hall | Amazon (UK)
A collection of short stories from one of the funniest comedians around. From a dude in Montana who makes his money hoovering prairie dogs out of the ground, to a teenage girl who invites hundreds of thousands of MySpace friends to her house party, to the author of a business book entitled Highly Successful Secrets to Standing on a Corner Holding Up a Golf Sale Sign, this book is full of fantastically messed-up characters. And behind each story – most of which, admittedly, are a bit off weird – you discover the very touching truth of human encounters. And that’s what makes Rich Hall so good and so funny.
Pens: 4 out of 5
The Adrian Mole Diaries – The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4; The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole; True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole; Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years; Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years
by Susan Townsend | Amazon (UK)
What can I say! Adrian Mole has been one of Britain’s favourite literary characters for decades, and finally I am one of his many fans. Sue Townsend is a complete genius, and not just because of her uncanny ability to get into the head of a teenage boy. It’s Adrian Mole’s entire world – from the early 80s West Midlands small-town life to the 90s Soho food renaissance – that makes these books such an unbelievably delightful read. To me, a German with a not very solid basis in British history who has spent the last four years trying to figure out this country, the Mole Diaries have been a most enjoyable lesson in recent cultural history. And I also very much wish I’d known Adrian Mole when I was a teenager, because it would have made being a teenager infinitely more bearable. I cannot tell you how much I love these books.
Pens: 5 out of 5, plus a whole pack of new pens on top
Er, yikes. It’s July and I still haven’t done a bookshelf for this year. We’d better get going. There are 33 on the read-list so far, so I’ll split them up into a few posts to protect you from complete book overload.
Comes with the usual health-and-safety warning: Spoilers.
Schweinskopf al Dente
by Rita Falk | Amazon (DE)
Another German provincial murder mystery, part three of Rita Falk’s bestselling Franz Eberhofer series is mostly more of the same, which in this case means more hilariously entertaining micro-cultural comedy with a bit of a crime story in the background. To be fair, I probably only love these books so much because they are set around my home town and feature a whole range of characters and customs that could have been plucked straight off our road in the village. Most of the fun in this series is based on regional culture and dialect, so this one’s probably best enjoyed by German natives / native speakers, which means we can move right on to the next book.
Pens: 3 out of 5
Island of the Sequined Love Nun
by Christopher Moore | Amazon (UK)
I had almost given up on Christopher Moore in the light of the recent, largely disappointing additions to my bookshelf. But then, just in time, along came Love Nun to sway my opinion of his writing back into more favourable regions. This is a great adventure, with a good story that’s nutcase enough to have you laughing out loud but doesn’t go completely off the rails in terms of the plot. A washed-out pilot stumbles onto a remote island, where a vaguely mental doctor and his evil wife are doing some not exactly ethical stuff with the cannibalistic natives under the guise of an old cargo cult. Much madness ensues. This could also make a fantastic movie, by the way.
Pens: 4 out of 5
Well, this has certainly been my discovering Pratchett year. I fell in love with Discworld after a friend gave me The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky (both reviewed in part 1), and once I’d got hooked on the magic there was just no stopping. I particularly love the witches, so I went with their storyline for my first proper exploration of the Discworld universe…and then spent the rest of the year reading mostly Pratchett as well. So here we go, the third and last part of my epic 2011 book review.
I Shall Wear Midnight
by Terry Pratchett | amazon (UK)
Oh wow, that was dark. Prattchet’s teenage witch has certainly grown up, and for a witch that means facing a whole lot more than puberty. This book made me realise once again why I love Pratchett so much: It’s comic fantasy, but there’s a balance, a kind of very practical-minded morality to it. With Pratchett magic’s not all sparks and glamour; it has consequences and requires sacrifices. And so I Shall Wear Midnight reveals that Tiffany’s dallying with her magical powers in the previous volumes didn’t only lead her into immediate showdowns with mythical enemies, but has also conjured up a much more complex force from a deep, dark corner of history – one that’s frighteningly human. Where there’s witches, there’s always people with a stake, and history tends to go in cycles and repeat itself. And with the ancient spirit of a powerful witch-hunter on the loose and turning her land against her, the stakes are high for Tiffany. Meanwhile, there’s still that issue with boys being idiots…
Read it? Yes. And read the other three first!
It’s time for another round of book reviews. Same idea as before. In the second half of the year, I’ve moved on from reading mostly Moore and Pratchett to some American classics (and some that will certainly find their place among the new classics), some randoms, and – okay – some more Pratchett.
So, here’s the bookshelf from June to August. I’m determined to go through with this until the end of the year, so there will probably be another round or two later on. Some of the books I read recently have reminded me how much I used to love American literature. So expect some more of that. And feel free to make recommendations in the comments.
by Terry Pratchett | amazon (UK)
The idea of a mortal young man becoming Death’s apprentice / holiday cover and getting himself into all sorts of supernatural trouble certainly makes for an entertaining story. The style is very Pratchett, which is always a good thing. Sadly, aside from Death (who totally rocks on any appearance throughout Discworld), the characters just didn’t get to me. I didn’t massively care about their fate, which also means I wasn’t too bothered about the outcome of the story. Maybe it’s because of the main character, Mort, who’s just not very interesting. I had a similar problem with the male protagonist in The Truth – they’re both all right, but they’re just a bit flat. In contrast, all of Pratchett’s female characters I’ve come across so far have been multidimensional and complex, with contradicting good and dark sides, and very distinct quirks and attitudes. It seems to me as if Pratchett is putting a lot more attention into the creation of his female characters, embellishing their personalities with a massive amount of those feminine kind of details you don’t necessarily expect to ever even cross a man’s mind. Mort is still a good book though, just not one of those that I will remember for a long time.
Read it? Depends on how big a Pratchett fan you are.
I like lists. I like to keep track of things. I hate it when somebody asks me which books I have read recently, and I know that there are some great titles somewhere at the back of my mind that I could shout out – but when I try to remember the author’s names, the covers, stories and characters, my fuzzy brain mashes everything up into a big blob of literary goo while I try to get hold of any one title that I could pull out of the mess.
Therefore I have embarked upon the attempt to remember all the books I’ve read this year and write down a few thoughts about them. Just to keep everything neat and organised. Of course this is only part one becuase there’s a whole lot of year left, and I have got a load of books on my wish list for the second half of 2011.
Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade
by Patrick Dennis | amazon (UK)
My little darling! Auntie Mame is one of the most dazzling characters I’ve ever come across in literature. Spreading her charms at the centre of this fictional memoir of a boy raised by his rich, eccentric aunt in 1920s New York, Mame is a socialite slightly ahead of her time, who turns her nephew’s life into a mad fairground ride with one outrageous adventure chasing the next.
Told in the author’s sarcastic, down-to-earth voice, Mame’s airy, naively radical ideas and attitudes turn into comedy of the finest kind. But Dennis’ very detailed observations of the fashion, the mindsets and the manners of the time add a distinct shine to the slapstick, sweeping you up in a sensation of the glamour and luxury of an era that you’ll find yourself struggling to step out of again. This book is an exquisite treat – it’s that feeling of eating a whole box of fancy chocolates that you know you can’t afford.
Read it? Yes, yes, yes!