Month: May 2012

Monthly Review – May 2012

Posted May 31, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

What a great month we have had here at Literary Exploration. The site was officially launched on the 1st and we have been releasing a new post every one to two days. I really hope we can keep up this momentum and I’ve been working hard to get more and more content on the site for your enjoyment.  You might have noticed some older books being reviewed on the site as well as some new releases and ARCs. I hope you are enjoying the mixture of old and new as well as the different genres because we plan to read books and put up content of all types of books. We are proud to have a guest post up already as well as two books that I’m hoping people will enjoy when they are released in June.

On the forums on Goodreads we have been reading the classic detective novel; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was the first time I’ve ever read this book and I’m still trying to work out why it took me so long to read it. Next month we will be reading another classic novel, when we read the Victorian novel; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I hope you can join in the discussions on Goodreads and have your say on what books we will read in the future.

My reading has been going really well this month, from trying out my first book in the popular Harry Hole series, to the laughs of the weird things customers say in bookstores. Highlights for me included the Russian classic Crime and Punishment which may be a massive book; it was just a beautiful crime novel and a real joy to read. Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan which will be released on the 26th of June is an exciting follow up to The Last Werewolf; it’s dark, gritty, over sexed and I highly recommend it. As well as Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell and Drive by James Sallis which are both great crime novels.

May’s Books

 


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted May 30, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book of the Month, Classic, Crime / 0 Comments

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleTitle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Goodreads)
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Published: Penguin, 1892
Pages: 307
Genres: Classic, Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: Amazon
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

It’s often really hard to review classic literature; simply because it’s already stood the test of time and that makes it difficult to be critical of the book. I’m not really a fan of reading a collection of short stories, especially over a few days; but I really did enjoy reading through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels; this is my second with the first being A Study in Scarlet. I think I need to pick up my act and read more of his books; ideally all of the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Sherlock really is a great character, with some interesting quirks. I think at one point I thought he was taking cocaine to get over the monotony of not having a case to work on and then later in the book he was taking it because he was bored with a case. He really has an eye for detail and often it is really impressive the way he solves a case with the details that he discovers. Dr Watson; while you don’t get too much information about him, having him narrate the stories gives these books the extra boost it needs. The unreliable narrator is the perfect way to hide aspects of each case, without having the reader think the author is withholding on purpose.

There is not much I can say against this book apart from the fact it’s a collection of short stories. I feel like each story only gives you a quick glimpse into the brilliance of Sherlock and then the case is solved. I do like the way that this book does flow together without making the reader needing to reset the mind in preparation for the next story. This may be simply the fact that each story is in the same style and the characters are the same, but when it comes to reading a collection of short stories, this is often what I prefer. I probably should have read The Sign of Four in preparation for this month’s book club read but it will be the next Sherlock Holmes novel I get to.


Top 5 Page Turners

Posted May 29, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Top 5 / 0 Comments

I just did a post which answered the question ‘Have you read a book that has insisted you keep turning over the page?’ and I thought it would be nice to add a Top 5 post to accompany this post with my favourite page turners. So here they are (in no particular order)

  • Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan – This was the most recent page turner that I’ve read. I was lucky enough to get this book as an ARC and I was so excited about reading this book because I considered The Last Werewolf as one of my favourites of 2011.
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway – This is easily my favourite book of 2012 so far. This book may feel much like a plot for a Bond movie, but the writing feels more like Charles Dickens wrote it. The Victorian writing style mixed with the existing adventure makes this book well worth a mention.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – If you are a nerd like me that grew up in the 1980’s, you will know why this book has made this list. The novel is a nostalgic nerdfest jammed packed with 80’s pop culture references.
  • Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – The book is dark and chilling; as a reader I want things to be dark and disturbing, but this even left me feeling uneasy at times. It was this darkness and the desire to know what will happen that made this book so great.
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – I would recommend this book to everyone and I get disappointed when people don’t like this book as much as I do. This book has something for everyone in this novel and, for a bibliophile like me, the extra bonus of being about books.

Question Tuesday: Have you Read a Book that has Insisted You Keep Turning Over the Page?

Posted May 29, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

I’ve never actually read a book in one sitting; this is because I’m a very slow reader and have a busy life. I still think there are a few books that make me want to keep reading. I’m talking about the books that keep calling to me in the night while I’m trying to sleep, the books that occupy my thoughts and I can’t wait to get back to the book and continue reading. There have been so many books like this, these are books that I want to always talk about and my poor wife is probably sick of hearing about but I think I might need to accompany this post with another blog post:  Top 5 Page Turners.


The Hanging Garden and Unfinished Novels

Posted May 28, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Hanging Garden and Unfinished NovelsTitle: The Hanging Garden (Goodreads)
Author: Patrick White
Published: Knopf Doubleday, Random House, 2012
Pages: 224
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

During my last book club gathering, we were talking about Patrick White’s unfinished novel; The Hanging Garden and this lead into a discussion of books being published after the author dies which the author never wanted to see the light of day. Patrick White never wanted this novel released; I believe he did tell someone to burn it because it wasn’t finished or anywhere near ready for readers. There are heaps of authors that have had books released that were never meant to be released including; Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy and the most famous of them all was Franz Kafka’s The Trial. This does lead to some interesting topics; do you think books that the author never intended to be released should be published? Are publishers just using them as a money making gimmick? And lastly, if those manuscripts were submitted to a publisher by an unknown author, would they still be published?

Patrick White is a two time Miles Franklin award winner and has also won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His unfinished novel The Hanging Garden was only just recently published; it feels like an old novel in the sense that, while it’s nicely written; nothing ever happens in the book. This is very much a character driven book, focusing on the two characters and a wild garden. I think I’d be alright with reading a book like this if I didn’t have the feeling that the author hated every single one of his characters; he was mean and cruel to them all, not just the key characters. As a general rule I love dark and flawed characters but this just felt mean and even the attempts of being erotic felt awkward. I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen and I was left disappointed. Also, as this is an unfinished novel, I don’t know what the overall goal was with this book and I get the feeling that maybe Patrick White doesn’t either. There are parts of this book that are beautifully written and then there are parts that felt like the author’s ramblings. This is supposed to be an unedited book but while I think there was some editing done there are also parts of the book that clearly feel unedited. Including a few paragraphs that didn’t make sense and had no punctuation and then some notes to himself reminding him to explore or research some parts later. While I’m not a fan of this book, I think a lot of people might get a kick out of it. Either for the memories of the time and the place; the memorable characters, or just to see the thought process of once of Australian top authors of all time.

On this day 100 years ago, Patrick White was born


Recommended Reading: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

Posted May 27, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Humour / 0 Comments

Weird Things Customers Say in BookshopsNeed a Laugh?

Are you are book lover or book seller?

Then I recommend you get a hold of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell.

Available in Hardback or as an eBook

From the hugely popular blog, a miscellany of hilarious and peculiar bookshop moments:

  • “Do you have this children’s book I’ve heard about? It’s supposed to be very good. It’s called Lionel Richie and the Wardrobe.”
  • “Do you stock Nigella Lawson under ‘Sex’ or ‘Cookery’?”
  • “Is this book edible?”
  • “Did Anne Frank ever write a sequel – I really enjoyed her first book?”

Plus many, many more.


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Posted May 26, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Classic / 0 Comments

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoevskyTitle: Crime and Punishment (Goodreads)
Author: Fyodor Dostoevsky
Translator: David McDuff
Published: Penguin, 1866
Pages: 671
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Amazon
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

While I often find it hard to review a classic novel because we already know it’s stood the test of time, it is even harder to review one that has been translated into English as well. Some of the beauty in the writing could have been lost in the translation and because there is so many different translations out there, how do you choose which one to read. This version of Crime and Punishment was translated by David McDuff and I must admit I didn’t really notice anything wrong with the translation at all. It was only upon reflecting that I realised that something could have been lost in the translation.

I have to admit I really love Russian literature and Crime and Punishment will be the front runner for my favourite Russian piece of literature. Raskolnikov is a conflicted character; he is showing a lot of interest in the classes and thinking he is of a higher class than others believes he has the right to commit murder. Contrary to the title, this novel doesn’t really focus on the crime or the punishment but rather the inner turmoil of Raskolnikov as well as the impact on his intellect and emotions. It is not until the very end that the sense of guilt overwhelms him and he confesses and ends his alienation.

Despite the rest of the characters in this book, the bulk of this novel plays out in the mind of Raskolnikov. Fyodor Dostoevsky must have been a very skilled writer to be able to get into the mindset of such a deranged mind. While the murder of two people is definitely a crime, I think the moral that comes across in this book is that the biggest crime was that Raskolnikov placed himself above his fellow man. I wonder if Dostoevsky was trying to also show the reader the dangers of rationalism and maybe utilitarianism.

I’m really surprised how fast I got through this book and the fact that I really enjoyed this book even though I was warned time and time again that this was a very difficult book and not to expect to enjoy it. I’m a huge fan of a book that deals with the inner turmoil of a person especially in a macabre way. It reminded me so much of Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson and makes me wonder if books like the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsey were influenced by this classic novel. I have a feeling that I will be thinking about this book for a long time and might have to reread it one day.


The Need to Make Speculative Fiction a Genre

Posted May 25, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literature, Speculative Fiction / 0 Comments

twenty thousandRecently in the book club, I started a conversation on the difference between speculative fiction and science fiction, which maybe was met with a little bit of confusion but I think that was mainly due to people thinking of speculative fiction as an umbrella team that covers science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction and more genres. This is correct but I want to talk about Speculative fiction as a genre for now.

While many people thing of speculative fiction as encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, I would like to see a shift away from this definition and more towards the genre that Margret Atwood has been fighting for.  I think she said it best when she defined the differences between the two as:

“What I mean by “science fiction” is those books that descend from HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds, which treats of an invasion by tentacled Martians shot to Earth in metal canisters – things that could not possibly happen – whereas, for me, “speculative fiction” means plots that descend from Jules Verne’s books about submarines and balloon travel and such – things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books.” 

I think there is a real need to separating the two as some books that are classed as science fiction don’t really fit into the general conception of sci-fi. I’m talking about books like George Orwell’s 1984, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and even Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

This brings me to my point, and an interesting problem. While it would be nice to separate the two genres so that people don’t get the wrong impression of a book being classed as Science Fiction; how do we choose which goes where. Take Jules Verne as an example. At the time of his writing, these books would definitely be considered as science fiction, but with the progression of time, most of the technology in Verne’s novels have been realised; making the books speculative fiction. So how do we class these books, do we make them science fiction until the technology catches up or do we just class books as speculative fiction if there is a possibility that these events could actually happen? I would love to hear people’s thoughts on this.


Drive by James Sallis

Posted May 24, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Pulp / 0 Comments

Drive by James SallisTitle: Drive (Goodreads)
Author: James Sallis
Series: Drive #1
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006
Pages: 168
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Amazon
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve been thinking about this book a bit lately and I’ve put off reviewing the book for a week because I wanted some time to collect my thoughts. First of all, most people who know me know how much I love the old hard-boiled and noir novels. But modern noir has been a little off putting for me simply because I never feel they can get the tone and style right and for the most part, they don’t. Now when I think of James Sallis’ Drive, I don’t think this at all. To put it simply, I love and adore the way he went about writing this book.

Drive tells the story of a man simply known throughout the book as Driver; a stunt driver for Hollywood and a getaway driver on the side. This book is so non-linear that I do worry if I tell more about the story I might be giving away something that should be discovered by reading this book. This is a short novel that is jammed pack full of a fantastic noir story that could hold its own against Noir greats like The Postman Always Rings Twice or The Killer Inside Me.

There was so much to like about this book but there were also some things that really bugged me as well. Driver is a mysterious protagonist but I felt he talked far too much for something that would have been more suited as the strong silent type. I’m not sure if he was supposed to be written that way but for me, the impression I received from the character and whenever he spoke, didn’t seem to fit my image of him. There has been a recent movie made about this book and I’m keen to see it but I have a feeling there will be a huge difference between the book and movie. I can see a linear story (which I’m ok with) but I can also see them doing the Hollywood thing and try to make a romantic connection between Driver and one of the women from this book. All in all, this book is well worth reading and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel Driven.


Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Posted May 23, 2012 by Guest Post in Erotica, Guest Posts / 0 Comments

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. JamesTitle: Fifty Shades of Grey (Goodreads)
Author: E.L. James
Series: Fifty Shades #1
Published: Vintage, 2011
Pages: 528
Genres: Erotica
Buy: Amazon
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I first came to hear about Fifty Shades of Grey through blog posts and friends, and couldn’t believe all the hype and excitement this book was creating amongst the reading world. It was phenomenon. I read several romances and erotica in the past so I became curious. I think the only thing that I was holding me back was the BDSM relationship. I’ve hardly read any books that involve BDSM, so I was slightly a bit nervous. But curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a go.

Now that I’ve read it, I’d have to say it was the worst book I have ever read and I want my 2 weeks back. When a few people mentioned that it was mommy porn, I should’ve taken their comment seriously, and not just waved it off as a silly and biased comment toward this genre. By the end of it, that is exactly how it felt.

The sex scenes were continuous, repetitive and boring; one scene, after the other, going through the motion of sex with a little variation of positions or setting but it was all the same – Porn. There was nothing sexy about it. It lacked any passion, class or emotion and I was numb the whole way through. As far as the BDSM was concerned, there was nothing new that I haven’t read previously. It was more talk and negotiation on how far Ana will go than the act itself. There were a few bondage sessions here and there but it was very light.

The writing was pathetic and utterly ridiculous, which made the characters unlikable. Ana is meant to be this intelligent, 22 year old literary student but her personality didn’t match to her persona. The constant use of these juvenile words and phrases such as ‘Inner Goddess’ or ‘talking to the Subconscious’ or ‘Holy Fuck’ almost made me want throw the book against the wall. She would gush or blush over the most so trivial things and came across as being an immature and stupid lady. It’s how I would expect a young teenager to act.

Christian on the other hand, I had an instant dislike him immediately. He’s a deranged and twisted character who likes to dominate every aspect of Ana’s life, not only in the bed; he would question her on how often she would eat, stalk her and set out rules on he would like her to act/behave around him – otherwise she would be punished (BDSM style). I felt the author tried very hard to make him seem appealing or sexy by Ana gushing and being aroused over his looks, charm, sexual comments but his behaviour was a complete turn off and he sounded creepier to me. I honestly can’t understand what women can see that is so appealing in Christian’s character!?!

All in all I think this series could be a great introduction to the genre, if you are new and interested in reading erotica as they ‘flying of the self’ and most people are raving about it. But unfortunately, it didn’t work for me and I have no intention of continuing the series in the future.

This is a guest post by Mish; when she is not reading she is busy moderating that Aussie Readers group on Goodreads. Big thanks to her for this post and being the first guest blogger on Literary Exploration.