Month: June 2012

Monthly Review – June 2012

Posted June 30, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

What a great month we have had; with the reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray via the bookclub. There was some interesting discussions taken place about first impressions, the criticism, the idea of Prose vs. Plot? and Style vs. Substance? as well as people’s final thoughts of the book. If you haven’t read The Picture of Dorian Gray yet, when you do get around to it, please feel free to join in on the discussions. Remember next month we will be having a look at unusual settings in Literature and reading Life of Pi.

As for this blog, we have had some exciting conversations and with Armchair BEA being hosted earlier this year we have been pleased to welcome all the new readers and commenters here. It has been such a wonderful experience and I’m so pleased to be involved. My Google reader is now full of awesome blogs to read and comment on.

My personal reading this month has been wonderful; I’ve discovered some wonderful books, but also had a bit of a rage about one book in particular. Highlights from the twelve books I’ve managed to read this month include The Last Kind Words, a book of crime and family with shades of an Noir narrative this book blends mystery with literary elements. Empire State is a fun read set in an alternative world, the book blends Science Fiction with Superhero and Pulp elements; also the publisher has some interesting ideas on expanding this world. Gone Girl was the biggest highlight of the month (review will be up next month) a novel that kept me on the edge of the sit and occupied all my free time.

June’s Books


Top 5 Sci-Fi Recommendations from the 60’s

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

I wanted to do something different for my next top five post and I was thinking about what genres I could probably do but I thought why not take it one step further. So I thought I might focus more on the pulp sci-fi genre and take it a little further than that with the addition of psychological science fiction novels. So here is my list of the top five Science Fiction recommendations from the 1960’s.

5. Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
Far in the future, two powerful families are locked in a bitter feud; this classic series is not only a great example of a space opera but this book has some interesting political aspects as well.

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
This fantastical world has elements of time travel, philosophy and religion. For a children’s book, this really has a whole load to offer and can be easy to read but complex to diagnose.

3. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (1966)
I have nothing bad to say about this book; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a sci-fi masterpiece.  Without giving too much away this book has a strong political message but done in such a way that the story and climax is never effected.

2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
Of course there was always going to be a Philip K. Dick novel here, the man is the master of writing sci-fi that will keep you thinking well after the book has ended. This book will challenge your views on society by showing what life could be like if the war turned out differently.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
The whole story just has too many layers to try to explain, this was a book that just grows on you. It really highlights the effects of war on the survivors and what could be considered schizophrenia.

I would love to know what others would recommend when it comes to 1960’s sci-fi or even just psychological science fiction.


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Posted June 28, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book of the Month, Classic, Gothic / 0 Comments

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeTitle: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Goodreads)
Author: Oscar Wilde
Published: Barnes & Noble Classics, 1890
Pages: 248
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I feel perplexed about The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. On one hand, the story is well written about a young man being moulded and shaped. On the other hand, this book was incredibly flowery and doesn’t really start for 100 pages. Dorian doesn’t really know about life and meets an artist and an aristocrat that help him though his journey into manhood. The artist paints his portrait, subsequently making him keep his youth. The aristocrat had the biggest influence on Dorian Gray, though Lord Harry Wotton is very annoying. He talks and talks the whole way through this book, thinking he’s so witty.

Dorian Gray starts off in this novel as a blank slate, an easily influenced young man. Throughout the rest of the story he gets moulded and pushed into shape. After Basil paints his portrait Dorian starts to unravel, afraid to show the picture, he locks it way in a room and never lets anyone see it, protecting it at all costs. The whole thing symbolising the way we hide our real selves from the rest of the world, scared of what they may think.

The Picture of Dorian Gray would have been controversial in its day, with strong homosexual themes. Though the book itself is more about the life and morality, Oscar Wilde did a brilliant job of capturing this element of the book. For me the biggest downfall of this book was that Lord Wotton was too loud and dominates throughout the entire book.


RIP Nora Ephron

Posted June 27, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literary News / 0 Comments

American playwright, journalist, author, and blogger Nora Ephron has died in New York at 71. Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia. She will be remembered for her romantic comedies, in particular When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle. Other books include; I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections and Heartburn. Rest in Peace Nora Ephron 1941 – 2012.


The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Posted June 27, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Pulp / 0 Comments

The Grifters by Jim ThompsonTitle: The Grifters (Goodreads)
Author: Jim Thompson
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 1963
Pages: 189
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

There is a reason they call Jim Thompson the Dimestore Dostoevsky; his works really spotlight the moral dilemma his protagonists and main characters face, so I was really looking forward to reading The Grifters.  I’ve seen the movie so I was interested in seeing the inner thoughts of the characters. 25-year-old short con operator Roy Dillion suffers an injury when a simple con goes horribly wrong; he finds himself in hospital recovering from an internal haemorrhage. This brush with death has led him to rethink his life, though his mother Lilly feels like Roy still owes her. She’s inattentive and manipulative while trying to care for Roy, but she is also trying to pull off a long con at the race tracks at the same time. Throw in another femme fatale, Moira, Roy’s girlfriend, who we also find out is also a grifter who favours the long con. The three explosive characters make for an interesting and twisted noir story, much to what we have come to expect from Jim Thompson.

I have to admit I do love Jim Thompson’s twisted plotting, he captures the pulp feel well while giving it is own flavour of surrealism. While The Grifters is not is most solid piece it does a good job at spotlighting what this author can do with crime and with is unreliable narrating. The characters are great and they each work well together while making life difficult for each other. His is one of the few pulp authors that break into the world of serious literary while never losing sight of what he does best.

If you haven’t read a Jim Thompson book maybe this is a good place to start, it’s not as dark or gritty, the characters are great, the plot isn’t as twisted as some of his other works and the suspense is a bit watered down. Let’s just call this book ‘Jim Thompson for beginners’; it gives you everything you expect in a Thompson book, just not to the same intensity, making the book approachable and easy to read.


Question Tuesday: Books are Better than the Movies; Any Exceptions?

Posted June 26, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

“Never judge a book by its movie” – J.W. Eagan

I’m not sure if I’ve seen a movie that I liked more than the book. I know if I read American Psycho before seeing the movie I might have enjoyed it more. I think there are plenty of examples of books I didn’t enjoy because I saw the movie first. Others include Psycho by Robert Bloch and Limitless by Alan Glynn. There are a few movies that I enjoyed more than the books, like The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and The Hunter by Richard Stark (Payback, 1999) There are books I thought were average and I would rather invest 2 hours watching the movie than 8 or more hours reading the books. Even if the movies turned out bad, it was still less of an investment than reading the book.

Graphic novels seem to be the best at being adapted to movies. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, Sin City by Frank Miller, Kick Ass by Mark Millar and V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchman by Alan Moore all seem to be good examples of that. While all these graphic novels are decent, I prefer the movies over the books. I’m sure many people will disagree with this but that’s my opinion. What movies do people prefer over the books?

While we are on the topic of Movie Adaptions; one of the things I hate most about them, is when the cover of the books change to match the movie posters or even the name of the book changing to match. I really hate owning a book with the movie name or cover on it but sometimes there is just no getting away from it.


What Books Have Been Trending – April-June 2012

Posted June 25, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book Trends / 0 Comments

Back in March I did a post where I talked about what books I’ve noticed were trending for the first three months of 2012. I loved doing this post and thought it was really interesting looking at what was popular and what was been talked about. There is no real science to the books I’ve picked for this post, I looked at Goodreads and Twitter and book blogs and just picked the books that seemed to be mentioned. Sure there are probably other books that were trending but the post was just an interesting way to reflect on what was popular. Since this post I’ve had been thinking about trending books more and more and have been keeping an eye on what seems popular so I thought maybe I could do something similar again. In fact maybe I can do this every quarter as a way to look at what’s been happening in book trends. I’d like to have a better system and I hope with practice and help maybe these trending posts will become more accurate and maybe more frequent.

In the last post I tried to predict a book that would be trend in the next few months; my pick was Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway.   While it seemed to do really well, unfortunately the book was outshined by the ever annoying popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. So let’s look at what I’ve noticed trending for the past three months (minus Fifty Shades) and for the sake of not flooding the post with YA novels I will only pick one or two of the most popular Young Adult book for each month (YA book bloggers might want to focus on these books, I would rather have more of an overview from all genres).

April

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a mostly true memoir of one of the most known bloggers of our time; Jenny Lawson, also known as The Bloggess. Her blog averages close to half a million page views a month; now that is the kind of readership I can only dream of.

 

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa looks like it has every key ingredients to make this book a popular YA novel; Vampires, Paranormal Romance and a dystopian world, so it was no surprise this book trended from the very start of publication. The Immortal Rules is a fantastical is the story of Allison who has to face the difficult choice; to die or become one of the monsters (vampire).

The Selection by Kiera Cass is another dystopian young adult romance, but this one seems to be written to be more like a fairy tale. Maybe this book would be more suited as a gateway between YA romance and chick lit, but I’ve not read it so couldn’t tell you. The Selection is about a woman named American hoping to win the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

May

Book twelve of the ever popular Southern Vampire Mysteries (or should I call it the Sookie Stackhouse series or maybe True Blood), Deadlocked was always going to trend. This time there is trouble and bad timing for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially when the body is of a woman whose blood he just drank.

 

Insurgent by Veronica Roth is book two in the popular dystopian YA; Divergant series. Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

 

Book five in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clair is another paranormal romance YA novel, this one features vampires, angels and demons. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg was released back in February but it wasn’t till May that I seemed to see this Non-Fiction novel being mentioned. This might have something to do with the #fridayreads giveaway of this book. In this book, Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.

June

Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel is back with the next book in the Wolf Hall series; Bring Up the Bodies. This book continues the Tudor history, but this time focusing mainly on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn. Read my reveiw of Wolf Hall here.

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn seems to be the first mystery/thriller to trend since last year’s Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. Amy’s disappearance leads to a gripping and chilling book of love, hate and revenge. I’m currently enjoying this book at the moment.

 

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead is the second book in the Bloodlines series; which is a spinoff of her popular Vampire Academy series. This is another vampire, paranormal YA novel that always seems to be popular and dominate the book trends.

 

Nick Harkaway does make it into the book trends but not with the expected Angelmaker but with is non-fiction book The Blind Giant. The digital age;an age of isolation, warped communication, disintegrating community. Where unfiltered and unregulated information pours relentlessly into our lives, destroying what it means to be human; or an age of marvels.

I did try to cover both fiction and non-fiction book as well as adult and young adult books. I hope I didn’t flood this post with too many YA novels. While I’ve not read any of these books there is a few that look interesting and I’m looking forward to checking out. Like the last post, I feel I should try and predict a book that will trend next quarter (not a YA novel, as they are a little easier to predict. So my pick for next quarter is The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. This Post-Apocalyptic novel follows the story of Hig a pilot that has survived the flu that killed everyone he knows and loves. I’m expecting it to be a book of love, loss, risk, rediscovery and battling against the odds. I would love to know what other thing of the books that have trended, which books did I miss and what should we keep an eye out in the next three months.


The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald

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

The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonaldTitle: The Deep Blue Good-By (Goodreads)
Author: John D. MacDonald
Series: Travis McGee #1
Published: Ballantine Books, 1964
Pages: 384
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve never read a John D. MacDonald book before and I’ve read a lot of good things about his Travis McGee novels, so I thought I might start at the beginning for this series. This is the first in what is now a 21 book series and the first time we meet Travis McGee, a self-described “salvage consultant”, almost like a treasure hunter but instead he recovers the property of his clients for a fee; half.  He is hired and has to go up against the pathologically evil antagonist Junior Allen, who may seem friendly but has a very sinister agenda.

For a hard-boiled style “salvage consultant” McGee seems to be very ordinary; I felt like all the guys liked him (except the antagonist) and all the girls wanted him. There wasn’t much depth in the character at all except in one scene where he was ready to torture someone for information and I saw a glimpse of a sociopath in McGee. This just made me want to read a book with a sociopath hard-boiled detective, so if you have any recommendations let me know.

The story felt very predictable, it was more of a quick enjoyable story being told to me. I think, while this series might work well as filler reading to  help recover from something heavy, there are much better books out there to read instead of this series. The sex and violence that was in this book was pretty intense for a book written in 1964 so I really don’t want to just write off the entire series because of predictability; so if you share a different opinion or can recommend me one of the Travis McGee books that could change my mind, please let me know.


7 Deadly Sins of Reading

Posted June 23, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Random / 0 Comments

So blog tagging is annoying and I don’t normally participate in them, but I saw this post from Jae over at Book Nympho where she just pretty much told everyone to participate. I thought this would be a nice follow up to my confession of a reader post, so I’m going to join in. I’d like to encourage others to participate too as I’d be interested in reading their answers.

7 Deadly Sins of Reading

GREED: What is your most inexpensive book?
Obviously that would be a free book, but do ARC’s count? My latest ARC received would be The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. But if you aren’t talk about advance reader copies of books the last free book I received was the new 24hr book Willow Pattern, which I’ve read but not planning to review on my blog so I might as well talk about it a little here.  I thought it was an interesting social experiment but was it great literature? No, it was not. It’s amazing that a book can be written, edited and published in just 24 hours. It is interesting how the nine authors worked together but this really isn’t one voice and the story didn’t really flow well from author to author.

WRATH: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
I don’t think I really have a love/hate relationship with any author. Probably the closest would be my feelings towards China Miéville; I love what he does for literature but I keep hoping he will write another book that I will like. I love The City & The City but haven’t read anything else of his that even compares.

GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?
That’s easy, I have a gluttonous feeling towards Frankenstein and most of my readers know this. I own multiple copies of this book and have already shared my thoughts on re-reading recently.

SLOTH: What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
I’ve always wanted to read Finnegans Wake by James Joyce because that will make me look cool, right? I think it sounds like a weird and interesting book but I’m too lazy to put the time and effort into reading it, I think that’s why many people haven’t read it. I also want to read Ulysses  but that isn’t really a priority.

PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?
I don’t do that; let’s talk Russian writers shall we? I really think Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was quite brilliant but I do prefer the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Notes from  Underground may be a great starting point for Dostoyevsky but you really should read Crime and Punishment. Ok maybe I do, do that.

LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?
I love the smart, witty characters in books. Maybe that is slightly nerdy of me but I think they are just the most interesting characters to read. I also love the inner torment of a character but that is not really an attractive feature. But ultimate fictional crush would be Alaska, she was so cool and I was so heart broken when she died.

ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?
I do need more copies of Frankenstein; I would love some nice leather-bound, cloth bound or maybe a first edition of this book. They would look so pretty on my book shelf.

So there we have it, more confessions. I would love for people to either do a post similar and link me it or let me know what their reading sins are in the comments.


Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer

Posted June 22, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Historical Fiction, Romance / 0 Comments

Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy SayerTitle: Love in the Years of Lunacy (Goodreads)
Author: Mandy Sayer
Published: Atria Books, 2011
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I admit historical romance is not something you’d expect me to read but I’m all for literary exploration, so I thought I would give this Australian novel a go. Love in the Years of Lunacy is a typical story of forbidden love, set in war time Sydney. Eighteen year old Pearl is an alto sax player in an all girl jazz band that one day meets African American and jazz legend James Washington and quickly fall in love. While Australia didn’t have any laws to prevent them from falling in love or marrying, like America did, their love was taboo. While there is a lot more that I could probably say to summarise this book, you get the picture and probably can predict what happens. What I want to do is vent all my frustrations about this book (potential spoilers from here on out).

1. Historically Inaccurate
I’d probably enjoy this book a lot more if it wasn’t for the huge inaccuracy that happens in the book. The scene happens while the two love birds are at Luna Park, air raids sound and Sydney is under attack; but wait, there were no bombing in Sydney during World War 2, there was the submarine attack but this book made it sound like Sydney was getting bombed. Why? Most likely wanting to use this as an excuse for the two characters to have sex.

2. Misdiagnosis
So when the two are inevitably separated, Pearl tries to commit suicide; she says she doesn’t want live in a world without him. The Master of Lunacy (this title is government appointed to act as the authority in civil commitment proceedings) diagnoses her of having a fear of dying but when he talked to her and asked her, she told him that she was afraid of dying.

3. Faking it
You know the typical ‘fake that you’ve gotten better’ to stop having to be constantly under supervision? Pearl does this to stop herself from being bored but she did it so well that I think even the writer forgot about her depression after that paragraph ended.

4.  The Marriage Proposal
Pearl fakes her recovery so well, she ends up dating the Master of Lunacy; what? Does this not seem like an issue, an irresponsible doctor/patient relationship? Let alone the fact that Pearl was faking being over her depression and over James, so much so she falls in love with the doctor.

5. Cross Dressing Soldier
I get that a woman can fake being a man but faking being a solder in a war zone seems like a huge stretch. Especially when the writer likes to remind the reader just how beautiful Pearl is through the book. But tuck your hair under a hat and bandage her breasts up to make herself look flatter; that would work. How about when she got her period and the blood stained her pants? No one noticed that?

There is so much more I can think of that didn’t sit write with me in this book. I think there was a point I only found out Pearl was a blonde when she showed off her pubic hair to prove she wasn’t a male soldier. I did like the way this book was told in a way that a fictional Indigenous crime writer was listening to the tape recordings of his mother (who he thought was his aunt and also thought he was indigenous at the same time). But apart from that, I have too much I disliked about the book to really enjoy the story. I’ve had my rage about this book now; I can finally get it out of my mind.