Recent Reads in a Nutshell

I’ve been reading quite a bit again which I am loving. I’m finding that I am racing through books but I’m still typically reading a book a week. I have noticed that I am reading more popular  fiction these days rather than my usual feast of moody classics or obscure authors. I have been reading titles that are on all the best selling tables in bookstores (although even that is becoming a rarity these days). So here is a round up and a little summary of what I’ve read lately:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013). A story of the last days of Agnes who was the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Interesting and certainly vivid but I’m not sure if it lived up to the hype. It is certainly different to the sort of ‘Australian’ novels but…I wasn’t left amazed.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007). A Young Adult novel about a girl who commits suicide. Before she died, she made thirteen tapes detailing the steps and people who lead her to take her last steps and she mails them to each of the thirteen people on the list. The people on the list must listen to all the tapes and past them on to the next person otherwise the tapes would be made public. A pretty insightful novel on the teenage world and a cautionary tale about bullying.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013). I love Kate Atkinson. I think she is one of the best writers today and I always love her Brody novels. Case Histories is an amazing book and I remember wanting to stay in and read it while I was travelling in Vienna! Atkinson has this unique talent for structuring overarching storylines and have them interlace together beautifully before bringing it to a close. The best way I can think to describe her stories is that her chapters are like a series of little dots in a painting and by the end, if you step back, you’ll have an amazing masterpiece. Life After Life was no exception although I did find that it lagged a little towards the end.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2013). A ‘love’ story about the marriage between Nick and Amy. Both get to tell their side of the story and it’s a clever psychological read (although I did guess the first part). Both characters became increasingly unlikeable though but a very well written. If you’re in a reading slump, read this!

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013). Galbraith is also known as J.K. Rowling. I never read The Casual Vacancy. I did read a chapter or two but found it hard going and then I had to return it to the library because it had around thirty-five reserves on it and then never felt the desire to continue with it. But this, this is a most wonderful crime fiction. Fantastic character development, very atmospheric and by chapter two, you have forgotten that this is J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. By that time, you’re simply engrossed in the story. I did find the story evolved quite similarly to Harry Potter plotlines but that isn’t a criticism. Another fantastic and clever read. And Rowling seems to have a knack for creating plots that makes you double take at the end and wanting to flip through to the beginning again to see if you spot the clues again. I always love that.

Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen (1813). I think after reading so many contemporary crime fiction, I had a strong urge to re-read this old familiar. A quicker read than I remember but not any less enjoyable. I read my high school copy of this book and I wished I didn’t write so many notes in it. It was quite distracting! But re-reading Jane Austen is always such a pleasure. I spent the most enjoyable afternoons reading on the couch with a lovely cup of tea and biscuits. After reading it, I had the urge to re-watch the BBC version of this and it still proves to be a delight! 🙂

Murder in Mississippi: The True Story of How I Met a White Supremacist, Befriended His Black Killer and Wrote this Book (2013). John Safran’s first book. He is more well known for his documentaries that pushes social (and his own) boundaries. While filming his last documentary, Race Relations, he had shot some film with a white supremacist in Mississippi that never went to air due to consent being withdrawn. That man was later murdered and when hearing this, Safran thought this would be his Truman Capote moment. It’s an interesting book and Safran is as funny and witty in his writing as he is in his documentaries. The way the story panned out was not what I had imagined though but that isn’t a bad thing. Very interesting book but perhaps not Safran’s Capote moment yet. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (1962). For some reason, I picked up this book and decided to borrow it from the library. Perhaps I wanted a little breather after Safran’s book. This is a fantastic play. So short but so powerful. There are four main characters who are two couples. Middle- age couple Martha and George end up inviting a young couple who is new to town, Nick and Honey, to their place for a night cap at 2am after a faculty party Martha’s father had thrown. The first two acts show Martha and George as such grotesque people who are so horrible to each other. As Martha and George both play their games and draw Nick and Honey into their arguments, cracks begin to show in their own new marriage. But the third act, the final act, is so brilliant at explaining everything in such a subtle way that you realise why their horrible games were necessary. 

How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (2013). Set in an undisclosed Scandinavian town, Marta and Hector have been married for a very long time. Their only son, Kylan, have flown the coop and now lives in the city. Marta has been trained to be the perfect housewife with the much older controlling husband and overbearing mother in law. As Marta goes through her days, she recites rules from the Good Wife handbook. But Marta finds herself having flashbacks and a life she can’t remember. She has stopped taking her pills that Hector makes her take everyday, physically putting them into her mouth that Marta mocks swallows. She has taken them for as long as she can remember, with both Kylan and Hector reminding her about the last time she decided to stop taking them and the disaster that unfolded. Marta soon decides that something is terribly wrong with her memory and that Hector is hiding something.

A very thrilling, easy and quick read. Marta is an unstable narrator and as things unfold, you aren’t sure what to believe (although I did tend to side with Marta). There is no definite answer at the end but it does provide a thrilling crescendo that will make you want to stay up and finish the book.


Lazy Sundays

Today was one of the best Sundays I’ve had in a long while. What did I do? Nothing, except lolling around at home watching I Dream of Jeannie DVDs and reading. In the morning I got right into The Mill on the Floss and I’m a quarter of a way through. I’d been struggling with it during the week because I’d been too tired to read it and this is a book that needs your undivided concentration. George Eliot did not write for those who are too lazy to appreciate her work. I’m liking Floss and I love Maggie. The relationship between Mr Tulliver and his ‘little wench’ is already pulling at my heartstrings.

In the afternoon, with the temperamental weather spitting rain and blowing heavy wind one minute then unleashing a blazing sun the next, I laid in bed and read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and it was simply delicious. While I’m a huge fan of the movie, I did like the book and thought it was a little more darker, unnatural but more philosophical than how it was portrayed in the movie. And it made me quite nostalgic simply reading a book that had lovely illustrations inside.

I hope your Sunday was as pleasant and relaxing as mine!

(Painting: Portrait Of Marguerite Guillaumin Reading by Armand Guillaumin)

‘The Rachel Papers’

I’m a quarter of the way through The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis and it is only now that I am beginning to get into it and enjoy it. It was reviewed a few years back by a book club discussion show and it received mixed reviews. The writing is witty and drips with sarcasm and satire and makes fun at the main character, Charles. In fact, Amis pokes so much fun at Charles that I had a lot of trouble caring about him. I didn’t like him, nor hate him, and in the world of characterisation, indifference towards a character is a writer’s worse nightmare. I also have issues with the intense misogynistic comments and attitude. They are never really funny when they are trying to be and it is difficult to distinguish who exactly is making these comments – Charles or Amis himself.

This is my first Amis book and the name is practically royalty in the world of literature so I think I’m going to presevere. It’s just starting to pick up and Charles might have some redeeming and interesting features in him after all (or it could be Amis).

Booking Through Thursday

Here’s my Thursday Meme. These are so much fun!

What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.

This is rather hard. I’m going to say F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I know, I know. I’m committing sacrilege here but when I read it a few years ago I was not at all impressed. I found it rather dull and contrived although I can see the themes of social corruption and decadence shine through. The setting and era was lovely though but the book doesn’t hold a special place in me.

Saying that, I would like to give it another go and I have Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night on my to-read pile.

Teaser Tuesdays

Technically, it’s still Tuesday for the rest of the world. So, my first meme in a long while.

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • “She leaned over me and spread her fingers and said she would scratch my eyes out and scratch my face and my whole body in gratitude and satisfaction, and again she spread her nails above me like claws and then closed them in a spasm, only to collaspse in tears a few moments later. Gradually her silent weeping turned to faint laughter.’” – p. 129, “I Served the King of England” by Bohumal Hrabal. (Gee, that was a long sentence!)


    My minor car accident bought one good thing. Forced to catch transport again I have an hour and a half to kill each way. Like a wise old man once said in ‘The SImpsons’: “You musn’t kill time, you should cherish it”. So, with almost 3 hours to kill each day on the way to uni, I am, once again, able to read. I’m half way through Notes on a Scandal right now by Zoe Heller and it’s amazingly funny and a great read. I’ll post up a review once I finish.