Tagged: Favourite authors

re:View – The 2016 Bookshelf
March: Myths, Magic, Aliens and Killer Ants

This year’s March bookshelf was filled with surprises (both pleasant and nasty), some disappointments, a cast of weird creatures and a bit of a song and dance. From dead semi-goddesses to talking war cats, from magicians travelling between worlds to plant-based alien TV executives, this is certainly a mixed bag of books. And mostly wonderful.


The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

“It’s always an imprudence to step between a man and the reflection of his own cleverness.”

After reading this book I love Margaret Atwood more than ever. She basically takes Homer’s Iliad and lets Penelope tell her version from the underworld, thousands of years later, to set the record straight. Penelope’s down-to-earth, delightfully no-nonsense style is at the same time hilarious and tragic, describing her father’s attempt to drown her as a child, her arranged marriage, the long years of waiting for Odysseus and her loneliness among the hostile members of his court, the struggle of fighting off the suitors trying to wriggle their way into her husband’s, and earning nothing but suspicion and scorn for remaining faithful all these years. If you think Odysseus had a hard time, try being a woman in his story. A particularly morbid and wonderful device in Atwood’s storytelling is the chorus line of Penelope’s twelve dead teenage maids, who were cruelly murdered for no apparent reason after Odysseus’ return, and share their version of events here in a number of interludes, from mournful poems to naughty songs and anthropological lectures analysing their own significance. Basically, this is a wickedly clever celebration of feminism and womanhood told by the master of her genre with a ton of wit and soul.
Pens: ELEVEN out of 5!

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re:View: A Bookshelf special – the complete Discworld reviews, in memory of Sir Terry Pratchett

My first Terry Pratchett book was The Wee Free Men.

[In fact, reading back through my reviews I just realised that this is a fact I’ve mis-remembered for years. My first Discworld book was The Truth. But somehow, even though I enjoyed it, it didn’t stick; maybe I wasn’t ready. When I read The Wee Free Men some time later, however, that stuck – so much so that it made me read the entire series and actually became my first Discworld book in my memory. So we’ll go with the heart over logic version for the sake of this article.]

A good friend had been recommending Pratchett’s young adult books for years, and when I couldn’t get round to reading them she eventually just bought me two as a present. That’s a very effective way to force me to read a book as I can’t leave books lying around unread for long, or give them away without at least checking them out.

So I read The Wee Free Men, and then I immediately read A Hat Full of Sky. And so began the biggest reading journey of my life. Straight after those two, I read the remaining Tiffany Aching books. Then I read every Discworld book involving the witches. Then I moved on to the Death storyline. Then I went back to the beginning and read all the remaining books in chronological order.

Four years later I had made my way through 40 Discworld books and my world was changed forever.

Terry Pratchett, by Paul Kidby

Terry Pratchett passed earlier this week and in his memory I wanted to make something. You know, paint a picture, build a statue – whatever. But I’m no good at drawing or sculpting or building things. I do all right with words, though. So these are my reviews of all the Discworld, and an account of most of my reading journey of the past five years, collected here as a tribute to the man who created this beautiful world and shared it with everyone willing to open their minds.

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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf V

This summer I went on a bit of an Edith Wharton binge after being stuck on a journey without a book and finding a collection of her complete works on Kindle. I think by now I’ve made my way through all the novels and most of the novellas, but I’ve still got thousands of pages of stories, poetry and non-fiction ahead of me. This is my favourite author after all. Which means I will read EVERYTHING by her. Eventually.

So here’s the 2014 addition to the Wharton bookshelf. Now somebody just needs to go and publish shiny editions of all her books. Folio Society, I’m looking at you.


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re:View – Going back to the future with James Ellroy’s Perfidia

So James Ellroy is writing a new L.A. Quartet and this is a BIG FUCKING DEAL because the original L.A. Quartet is easily the best thing that ever happened to noir crime.

After covering the brutal, corrupt world of the L.A. Police Department from the late 1940s to late 1950s in The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential and White Jazz, and then going on an international scale with the political history of the 1960s and 1970s – from JFK to the Cuban Revolution and Vietnam – in the Underworld USA trilogy, the master of noir has circled back to 1941 in the first of four L.A. Quartet prequels.

The place is, of course, L.A. and the time is Pearl Harbour. Ellroy’s new 740-page monster Perfidia follows four characters through the chaos of early-days war in December 1941 as they converge, collide and set in motion the relationships and conspiracies that create a densely intriguing back story to the four existing novels. We have Hideo Ashida, the only Japanese-American on the LAPD’s payroll, a brilliant and obsessive forensic who finds his identity turned inside out by the new ‘anti-Jap’ hysteria. And we have Kay Lake, megalomaniac dilettante and police world hanger-on, as well as Ellroy’s most infamously corrupt and charismatic character, Dudley Smith, and the real-life police caption William H. Parker – who will all go on to play central roles in the original L.A. Quartet.

What starts as a routine investigation of the slaughter of a Japanese family on the eve of Pearl Harbour soon pans out into a mind-blowing tangle of narratives which reach from the very heart of the L.A.’s underworld all the way to the federal government, and where coercion, betrayal, mass internment, eugenics and cold-blooded murder serve as means for personal or political advancement for individuals and the agencies that run the nation. And while your mind still struggles to keep up with the whodunnit of the quadruple homicide of the early chapters, you find yourself in the middle of an epic tale of international espionage, the birth of the Red Scare of the 1950s and the formation of a host of police-underworld alliances that will come to dominate the city throughout the later books.

Perfidia is pure Ellroy skill, refined over the years and condensed into the essence of what makes his writing so utterly breathtaking: it’s tough; it’s fast; it hits you with a constant crossfire of names, facts and connections that leave your mind screaming and desperately clawing its way through this barrage of information to get a grip on the truth before you are dragged under by the immensity of this man’s dark and twisted imagination.

I’ve said recently that I would quite like to be inside James Ellroy’s mind when he writes one of his novels, to figure out how he can stay on top of this overwhelming, interconnected narrative he has created over the past two and a half decades. But, to be very honest, I think that after five minutes inside James Ellroy’s mind, my brain would melt out of my ears.

Pens: 5 out of 5

…plus gold stars to Waterstones for publishing this gorgeous beast of an edition:


re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf IV: The last leg of the Discworld-a-thon

Level up: After four years I’ve finally finished my Discworld marathon. There has been a lot of Discworld reading going on this year, so I’ve decided to bunch them all into one big, final super-Discworld review before I move on to new adventures – that is, the zillion other books that have been piling up on my shelf for the past six months.

Get ready for time-travelling monks, vampires, werewolves, talking rats and cunning cats, dragon-powered spaceships, coppers, crooks, AUSTRALIANS (except they’re not really Australians because Terry Pratchett is good at this diplomacy thing), public services and new technology.


Oh, a note: These are in chronological order but with some novels missing as I started reading some of them out of order before I went back to the beginning and did the rest properly…

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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf III

My dear bookworms, I just realised what an absolute ton of books I still need to review from this year – and there’s not that much year left.

This shelf brings you tattoos, a bit of terror and a whole lot of urban and other fantasy. Yes, I have finally gotten into the urban fantasy thing, courtesy of Ben Aaronovitch’s brilliant London-based wizard detective series. (Move aside, Harry Dresden – these guys have the accent.)


As before, I’m ditching the Amazon links. Explore your local bookshop.

PS: I need more Goodreads friends. Hint, hint.

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re:View – The 2014 Bookshelf I

Once again we’re months into the year and I’m just catching up on the Bookshelf! In my defence I’ll say I’ve had a very busy spring with lots of things happening that kept me away from both my books and the blog. But books have been read and are now in the process of being reviewed. This year’s Bookshelf, so far, has been a weird mix of classics and random books I picked up in bookshops or got as presents, some of which took me quite a bit off my planned reading path for the year. Here’s the first lot, with more on the way.


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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.)

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