Month: January 2013

Monthly Review – January 2013

Posted January 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As the first month of 2013 comes to a close, it has been amazing to see how much excitement people are having towards both The Shadow of the Wind and the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

I’ve been off to a flying start this year, I’ve read twenty books, a feat I’m not sure how I managed, but I’ve had so much fun doing so. Nine of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here. I’m thinking about trying to read two books for each genre this year and I’m keeping a record of every book and which genre it best fits into on that page as well, just to see which genres need more attention in my exploring.

Highlights of the month for me include; the highly talked about Wool by Hugh Howey, the bittersweet Big Ray by Michael Kimball and the existential The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. But the one I really thought deserves high praise is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a novel of great beauty, decorum and love lost. I haven’t reviewed these books yet but keep an eye out, they will come. So what have you been reading this month?

Monthly Reading

  • Big Ray by Michael Kimball
  • Black Vodka: Ten Stories by Deborah Levy
  • Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
  • Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman
  • In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
  • Revenge: Stories by Yoko Ogawa
  • The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
  • The Dark Winter by David Mark
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick
  • The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  • The Toe Tag Quintet by Matthew Condon
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Wool by Hugh Howey

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Posted January 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Crime, Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónTitle: The Shadow of the Wind (Goodreads)
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Translator: Lucia Graves
Series: Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1
Published: Penguin, 2001
Pages: 487
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Barcelona, 1945; Spain is still dealing with the aftermaths of the Spanish Civil War. An antiquarian book dealer’s son, Daniel, who is mourning the recent loss of his mother, finds comfort in a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. When he decides to hunt down more books by this mysterious author, he is shocked to find someone is on a mission to destroy every copy of Carax’s books. It is possible that Daniel may in fact have the very last copy of a Julián Carax book.

I think I‘m in love…with The Shadow of the Wind. This book has everything you really want in a story; it’s epic, mysterious, and full of adventure, as well as being haunting and beautifully written. The story is set in post–Spanish Civil War Barcelona, and follows the story of a teenage boy, who adopts a book, from the secret library known as the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The boy becomes obsessed with this book and tries to track down the obscure author of this book.

This is an epic story of murder, madness, doomed love and secrets; while this book may seem over the top, Carlos Ruiz Zafón shows extraordinary control over the plot and language. The atmosphere in the book is beautifully created; it makes me want to go back to Barcelona. But while there is this beauty in the scenery, there is this underlining gothic feel to the whole book that just works really well for a reader like me.

Though the synopsis doesn’t really give you an exciting representation of this book, I can say this book is addictive and a joy to read. I think I became obsessed with this book. It’s like a cult following, where not just the protagonist that is obsessed but the reader becomes obsessed too. I want to adopt a book now.

This book just has something in it for everyone; it’s a rare find to find a book that can cater to such a wide range of people and I think The Shadow of the Wind did just that. If you enjoy this book check out the rest of the series, I thought the prequel; The Angel’s Game was wonderful and really need to get onto The Prisoner of Heaven in the future. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book (this is an old review) but when the series completes, I plan to read them all again.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Posted January 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiTitle: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2007
Pages: 180
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami where he talks about his interest in running. From running for pleasure to competing in over twenty marathons and an ultramarathon. Part training log, travelogue and reminiscence, this is a memoir of Murakami’s passion for running.

Now I’m not a runner and I don’t think I ever will be but I like to read about people being passionate about a topic and although this was brief, the passion was not in short supply. Most people know Haruki Murakami for his postmodern novels which include Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84. This is an unusual memoir, not just because it only focuses on one interest, but because I don’t think any other authors have written something like it.

The book tries to explore why he is so passionate about running and why he runs. For a non runner reading this book for its memoir aspects, it’s just interesting the approach he takes. It’s like seeing Murakami’s thought process on the page; not offering tips or anything, just being nostalgic about past runs or discussing plans for a marathon or just tracking his daily runs.

For me this is nothing special, but for people obsessed with running this would be an interesting read. I read just to see the passion he has towards running, as well as the fact it was mentioned in Metroland and I want to be a book hipster. I was surprised how well this worked, like a stream of conscious of Haruki Murakami’s love of running.


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

Posted January 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Slap by Christos TsiolkasTitle: The Slap (Goodreads)
Author: Christos Tsiolkas
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2008
Pages: 485
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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To celebrate Australia Day (January 26th) Book’d Out and Confessions from Romaholics have hosted a blog hop/giveaway. In celebration of Australian literature I am giving away a copy of one of my favourite Australian novel (open internationally).

At a suburban barbeque, one slap will change the lives of these people. Christos Tsiolkas unflinchingly looks at domestic life in the Australian suburbs in the twenty first century. The slap and its consequences cause everyone to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires. A gripping novel of loyalty and happiness, compromise and truth from the very start to the end.

You’ll either love it or hate it; Christos Tsiolkas’ controversial novel The Slap is heavy reading and very confronting and it all starts with a Slap. The Slap starts at a barbeque for group of family and friends, when one adult slaps an unrelated child the universal tension begins. The book changes perspectives of the different characters at the Barbeque to show different emotions and feelings about the events.

The Slap goes through topics like Discipline, Child Raising, Family Life, Adultery, Friends verse Family, Gossip and Multiculturalism. While the characters are extremely flawed and sometimes you want to slap them, don’t let that put you off. If you are not a fan of course language, be warned it does feature very heavily in this book. Apart from that the writing, the characters and plot are well crafted, I have noticed women seem to hate this book more than men, it could be because of the subject matter. But it doesn’t matter whether you think the child deserved to be slapped (He did), or if the adult should have known better (he should have) this book is going to challenge you in one way or another.

The Slap will play with your emotions all the way through this book and you will rage at the characters and want to slap them senseless. But the turmoil and the internal monologue of all the characters was done really well and makes for an excellent read. It’s like you have an intimate look into the head of all the characters involved in this one incident at a barbeque. It’s a compelling read all the way to the end.

 

To celebrate Australia Day, I am giving away a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers. Entries are open to all my readers as I plan to send a copy of this book via book depository, so if you would like to win a copy of this book, enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure you pop over to Book’d Out to see the others involve in this blog hop with other chances to win.


Black Vodka by Deborah Levy

Posted January 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 0 Comments

Black Vodka by Deborah LevyTitle: Black Vodka (Goodreads)
Author: Deborah Levy
Published: And Other Stories, Feb 2013
Pages: 125
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Swimming Home was one of my favourite books of last year, so when I saw she released a collection of ten shorts stories, I knew I had to read them. Stories of love and loneliness, Levy has a unique blend of experimentalism and wit which has really hooked me.

This collection of short stories has a real contemporary feel to them, as well as a European flavour to it. Every story was gripping and I stretched this book out as long as I could. One story a day and each one as good as the other. There is a real joy to find an author that you love and can’t wait to delve into everything they write.

Short stories of relationships, sadness, love, being alone and bitterness; Deborah Levy has a unique and minimalist voice that I adore. I would love to find other authors similar. While Swimming Home is far superior,  the stories from Black Vodka was still a great dip into the works of Deborah Levy.


Metroland by Julian Barnes

Posted January 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Metroland by Julian BarnesTitle: Metroland (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Vintage, 1980
Pages: 176
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Metroland is the first hand account of Christopher Lloyd, from growing up in the suburbs of London to the brief period after graduation in Paris and then the early years of marriage. As a child Christopher was obsessed with the idea of bourgeois lifestyle with his friend Toni. In Paris he remembers his French girlfriend Annick and now he has a mundane marriage.

While this is a novel, it’s also a reflection of Christopher Lloyd’s life. As a child he has big plans as well as being obsessed with the idea of having sex. Then he finally meets Annick and has sex and has such fond memories of this relationship. Then looking at his marriage, he sees it’s not perfect and he wonders to himself is he really happy.

Some people call it “growing up” and others “selling out”; this account of Christopher’s life was really interesting, his attitude and angst didn’t end and he just hasn’t let go with his old ideals. While his French girlfriend challenges his ideals and tries to explain that growing up isn’t selling out he never really gets it. It’s not until he reflects on his past that he starts to understand. Sure his marriage has its problems but he is not unhappy; he is content. But while you never find out what happens next, I got the feeling that Christopher has truly started to understand that his life is good and slowly is changing his thinking.

I loved Julian Barnes’ A Sense of An Ending and I wanted to explore more of his writing. I decided to read this one because of it was short and it felt like a similar style. I really thought this book had a lot to offer, in the way of ideals, morals, relationships, love and just the way we view our lives. Looking back on our lives, it’s easy to remember the good and the bad but there is a whole lot in between we tend to forget, so when Christopher is looking at his past, he misses so much.

A beautiful novel, while very short has so much in it to offer. I went and watched the movie adaption of this book as well. While it captured a lot of the books ideas, I couldn’t get past the idea of Christian Bale as Christopher Lloyd and felt it left out a lot of be beauty. Fans of Julian Barnes should check this book out. Christopher Lloyd is an interesting character; a coming of age novel but this hipster took a long time to really grow.


Bodies are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday

Posted January 20, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

Bodies are Where You Find Them by Brett HallidayTitle: Bodies are Where You Find Them (Goodreads)
Author: Brett Halliday
Series: Mike Shayne #5
Published: Dell, 1941
Pages: 188
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Hard to find visit your local Indie bookstore to order it

Mike Shayne is back, and yet again he finds himself unable to say no to a beautiful rich woman asking for his help. But maybe he will change his tune when she winds up dead in his bed and his is being accused of a crime he did not do. With the girl’s political stepfather eager to see Mike fry, will he find out just who is trying to frame him?

Bodies are Where You Find Them is the fifth (of over seventy) Mike Shayne book by Brett Halliday, but it is the first I’ve read.  Shayne is a heavy drinker, heavy fisted but a quick thinker. However the thing that really stood out with this character was the fact that he was a real anti-hero. I find with hard-boiled detectives they normally blur the line between good and evil but they always seemed to always be a hero; well in all the ones I’ve read, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. But with Mike Shayne he often crossed the line, not particularly into evil but he was a deeply flawed detective that found me groaning at some of his actions.

The novel is a typical hard-boiled plot, with some political thriller aspects thrown in; Shayne has backed one candidate to be mayor and now he finds himself being framed. With the help of a reporter, he uncovers political corruption and dead bodies. You are never really sure exactly what is happening, I think this is because Shayne’s thought process really throws the reader off.

The Robert Downey Jr. movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is apparently based on this novel but I think it must be very loosely based; there are glimpses of a resemblance but nothing really that stands out apart from the idea of being constantly sidetracked  by the protagonists thoughts and unexpected bodies.

While this book wouldn’t be high up in my recommendations for pulp novels, it was an enjoyable read. There are some parts of the book that felt like they have been done to death but I do think Mike Shayne will go on to be a great protagonist; one I’ll love to hate. One thing that stayed in the back of my mind was the amount of cognac Shayne drank; seriously I kept imagining just how hard it would be to be a private investigator if you are plastered all the time. I wonder if anyone have written or filmed a satire about a PI that is too drunk to solve or do anything. Bodies are Where You Find Them is worth reading for pulp fans but if you are new to this genre maybe check out these recommendations.


Big Ray by Michael Kimball

Posted January 18, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Big Ray by Michael KimballTitle: Big Ray (Goodreads)
Author: Michael Kimball
Published: Bloomsbury Circus, 2013
Pages: 192
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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A middle aged man is coming to terms with his father’s death and in fact his life. Big Ray is not a nice man; his size and his temper define him. So when he dies, Daniel is mostly relived but it is still the death of his father. “For most of my life I have been afraid of my father. After he died, I was afraid to be a person without a father, but I also felt relieved he was dead. Everything about my father seem complicated like that.”

Big Ray is Daniel’s attempts to recount his father’s life, each paragraph is a single thought that slowly piece together a sense of who Big Ray was; at least in the eyes of his son. This narrative style works really well, you experience the emotions Daniel has and it really drives the story along with the mystery and sometimes randomness of his thoughts.

This is a brutal novel.  Daniel ultimately hates his father; from the abuse as a child to trying to understand him as an adult. You can see the pain and hurt come through in the narrative, but there is still a tenderness and sadness at the loss of his father.  All relationships are not as they seem; there are the unusual and even unsettling truths of Big Ray but then you have the little glimpses of what might be considered love towards his father.

I read this book in one sitting, not something I normally do. From the very start I was hooked, the narrative style just has nice balance between tenderness and brutality, beauty and mystery. I’m a little concerned for author Michael Kimball because that pain and anger Daniel had towards his father felt way too real. Highly emotional and disturbing; the internal conflict of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship was captured really well in this novel.


Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Posted January 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 0 Comments

Revenge by Yoko OgawaTitle: Revenge (Goodreads)
Author: Yoko Ogawa
Translator: Stephen Snyder
Published: Picador, January 29, 2012
Pages: 176
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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An aspiring writer moves into a new apartment and discovers that her landlady has murdered her husband. Years later, the writer’s stepson reflects upon his stepmother and the strange stories she used to tell him. Yoko Ogawa weaves together a collection of short stories to create a haunting tapestry of death.

While this is a collection of short stories, Yoko Ogawa has managed to link each story with the last with recurring images and motifs. Apparently this is an old tradition from classical Japanese poetic collections. This is an eerie and very sinister novel but there is a real beauty within it too; not just in the writing, but in the imagery.  Yoko Ogawa takes the reader on a clever journey of life and the afterlife.

I love what Ogawa does in this book, not only looking at the human psyche but plays with it a little to mess with the mind.  From the very start of this book, I was planning my next dip into the world of Yoko Ogawa, I was hooked and I wanted to explore her writing more. It was just the combination of beauty with the sinister tones of the stories that really worked for me.

If this book is anything to go on, Yoko Ogawa is an amazing writer; showing the reader the beauty behind the dark and disturbing. Each story is macabre but the best part of the entire book is the way the stories link together and the beautiful tapestry Ogawa weaves.  Highly recommended for lovers of short stories and the dark and disturbing, you won’t be disappointed by how Yoko Ogawa captures your attention.


Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Posted January 16, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Fantasy / 0 Comments

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanTitle: Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Goodreads)
Author: Robin Sloan
Published: Text, 2012
Pages: 288
Genres: Crime, Fantasy
My Copy: Personal Copy

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Clay Jannon is a 26 year old who finds himself looking for a new job thanks to the economic meltdown. He finds it at Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, working the late shift. But Clay soon finds out that there is more to this bookstore than the question of how it is possible it remains in business. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore will take you on a literary adventure of complex codes and a global conspiracy.

This will be a hard book to review without giving away any spoilers but I will try my best. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore starts off as an exciting mystery when Clay begins his new job and is faced with a lot of unanswered questions. But I soon found myself being bored with what was happening and almost quit. It did change its gears when Clay has found out what is going on and the adventure begins. Though I think it was a little too late to fully revive this novel for me.

I do like the way Robin Sloan blended mystery and literature together but honestly he really lacks the skills to turn this into something as good as The Shadow of the Wind. I will say that the novel does display a glimpse at a possibly great career. I found myself thinking the adventure elements of this book were too generic and predictable but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it.

There is a love story in the novel but it wasn’t a romance between Clay and Kat. Sure that was there, but that was just a predictable boy meets girl and nothing ever goes wrong with their relationship. That isn’t worth mentioning, the love story I’m talking about is the love that author Robin Sloan has with Google; the whole book reads like a love letter to Google. The characters didn’t have to try and solve anything; they just need Google to solve all the mysteries of this book.

I haven’t mentioned the characters in the book because they felt very one dimensional; there was nothing complex about them and everything felt too neat. Sloan might have a career in thriller adventure novels but I think he really needs to learn how to make the characters flawed and realistic. I’m sure if another book of Sloan’s catches my attention I will read it but Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore failed to excite me the way it should have. I like books about books but maybe my expectations were a little too high.