re:View – The 2013 Bookshelf V

The final one! This batch completes the 2013 bookshelf and contains Hobbitses, Dunces, Jeeves and Pratchettses, among others. Amazing books, weird books, and books I should have read decades ago. (I’m approaching 30. I can actually say stuff like “I should have done this decades ago” now.)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
What can I possibly say about this book other than I wish I’d had it as a child. I can’t believe I spent 28 years on the planet without going on this amazing journey of self-discovery with Bilbo Baggins. It is simply one of the most delightful stories ever imagined. To make up for the incredible loss I feel I suffered by not having this book as a childhood companion, I’ve decided to give it as a present to every child that is born among my family or friends.
Pens: 5 out of 5

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This is one of those books I never would have picked up if the boyfriend hadn’t insisted. If you haven’t met Ignatius J Reilly, you must go to your local bookshop at once and make his acquaintance. I demand it. A Confederacy of Dunces is gorgeously pretentious, freakish, hilarious, and as bloatedly exaggerated as the physique of its strangely heroic anti-hero. Ironically in line with the madness that is this book is the fact that the author killed himself over his failure in getting it published – and it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Duh.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I guess the only reason I ever got round to reading Frankenstein was that the National Theatre brought Danny Boyle’s stage adaptation from a few years ago to the cinema. In the run-up to the screening I realised I only had a very vague idea of the actual story beyond the legendary man-makes-a-monster bit. So I Kindled it pronto. Obviously this book deserves its place among the classics for everything it inspired culturally, but in terms of being a good read…nah. Bloody awful. The action is slowed down by pages over pages of sentimental drivel, the language is of the kind no real character would ever use, in speech or thought – in short, it’s a royal pain getting to the end this book. Surely, in her discussion of man as creator, Shelley is probably centuries ahead of her time. I just wish she’d gotten to the point a bit more and the whole thing didn’t read like a gothic teenage girl’s diary.
Pens: 2 out of 5

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
I picked this up to get a short break from reading a really violent and disturbing Ellroy – children’s books are brilliant for that kind of thing. And this, being Neil Gaiman, is just a super delightful little story about a boy who doesn’t fit in going out to save the world. Beautiful writing, characters you instantly fall in love with – this is Gaiman all the way through. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end. Bit of a shame that the story is so short – but I guess if I was eight it would have felt epic. Gaiman is just so good at creating worlds that you can escape to and feel magical for an hour or two. I need more of this in my life.
Pens: 4 out of 5

The Inimitable Jeeves by PG Wodehouse
I have no idea how I got through several years of studying British culture and literature without ever coming across PG Wodehouse. It’s an outrage. So I finally picked up a Jeeves – again on recommendation from the boyfriend – he should work in a bookshop, really! – and, oooh, what fun! I’ll have to read every last one of these stories now, even tough they do get a bit samey and you quickly learn what to expect. But the formula just works over and over again and never fails to make me chuckle, and the language is simply brilliant. And I’m a sucker for a pretty phrase – such as this one, from a society dinner scene:

Some time after this, Lady Wickhammersley gave the signal for the females of the species to leg it, and they duly stampeded.

Kills me every time.
Pens: 4 out of 5

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
A wedding, a werewolf and a gun – it’s bloody murder! An aristocratic assassin is trying to restore the monarchy in Ankh-Morpork and clumsy City Watch captain Carrot, of all people, is supposed to be the king. The Disc’s first and only firearm falls into the wrong hands and develops a mind of its own. And Commander Vimes is too distracted by his own wedding to investigate – or so his wife has ordered. Carrot’s probably got it covered, if only his new girlfriend and colleague would stop behaving strangely during full moon… This is another extremely fun City Watch crime novel that introduces issues such as firearms, monarchism and affirmative action into the Discworld universe. I’ll just never get tired of these books.
Pens: 4 out of 5

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
It’s the return of Rincewind, the Disc’s most incompetent wizzard (with double zz!) and you can be certain that where Rincewind wanders, trouble is catching up quickly. This story sees the unwilling hero teleported to the Counterweight Continent, where some political wrangling for the throne could have dangerous implications for Ankh-Morpork. Meanwhile Cohen the elderly Barbarian and his Horde of unruly pensioners are also en route to invade the ancient empire of the Counterweight Continent. What follows is a hilarious game of misunderstandings, mistaken identities and barbaric merriment. This is another instalment of Ankh-Morpork dealing with Those Bloody Foreigners, and it’s about as funny and wise as Discworld gets.
Pens: 5 out of 5

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
The golems of Ankh-Morpork are out of control, turning from mindless slaves into rampant murderers. Soon the patrician is in mortal danger and civil unrest is bubbling again in the city. And while the Watch steps in to solve the mystery courtesy of its brand-new forensics unit, Pratchett weaves the controversies surrounding robots and artificial intelligence into the fabric of Discworld. I did enjoy this book massively; its cop novel style and structure makes it a right page-turner and the latest additions to the City Watch – a gender-challenged CSI dwarf and a good-natured golem – just add to the wonderful fun of crime-solving in Ankh-Morpork.
Pens: 4 out of 5

Jingo by Terry Pratchett
I really don’t like war stories* so it took me ages to pick up Jingo. But what was I thinking – of course Pratchett on war would be entertaining, mostly because it doesn’t contain any actual warfare. Ankh-Morpork goes to war over a ‘strategic’ piece of rock in the ocean – as you would. The result is that most of the population of the famous twin city gets shipped off to a remote desert state to do battle with yet more Bloody Foreigners, and weighty issues such as nationalism, racism and xenophobia get the usual hilarious Pratchett treatment. And Captain Vimes and his men of the City Watch get another shot at chivalry and honour.
Pens: 4 out of 5

*Ok, except for Parade’s End which I’m currently obsessing about, and Catch-22 which I’m finally getting into.

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