Month: September 2014

Monthly Review – September 2014

Posted September 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Gone GirlNow that September comes to a close, I would like to hear what people thought of Gone Girl. Did you read it? Did you like the ending? Did it keep you up all night? Or any other comments you want to make of this novel. Personally I was gripped and reading this to about 4 am, just to find out what happens. I know the ending is weird but there isn’t a better way to end it, that I’ve found.

Next month’s book we will be reading the some steampunk/fantasy with The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. I ‘m not sure what to expect, I am a little nervous. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to steampunk or fantasy novels. However I am hoping everyone reading this book will generate some interesting discussions. Also, as a reminder, in November we will be reading Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle as part of the short stories theme and we will be looking for a book to fit the Christmas/Religious Holidays theme to wrap up the year. If you are not aware, the book discussion and everything else will be happening over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

I have had an amazing reading month, which is a nice change after reading only three books during my vacation. I have read sixteen books this month (which included four comic collections) and some of the highlights included The Odyssey by Homer, A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård and The Circle by Dave Eggers. But my favourite of the month is a book, that is a top candidate for novel of the year was All That is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon. For fans of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, I highly recommend picking up All That is Solid Melts into Air. What have you been reading this month and what were the highlights?

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Posted September 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Crime, Thriller / 0 Comments

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2012
Pages: 442
Genres: Crime, Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

I’ve been trying to review this book for a while now and it has become a real struggle. I don’t want to give any spoilers for this brilliant book so I will try my best. Advanced warning: this review may have spoilers or turn out incredible vague. When I first saw this book I kept thinking this was just another YA novel but then I noticed this book kept popping up everywhere so I thought I better read what this is about and when I did, I had to read it right away.

When Amy disappears in suspicious circumstances all eyes fall to her husband as the primary suspect. Nick claims he is innocent but the evidence is not in his favour. Did Nick kill his wife? As this novel progressed any ideas of what happened will be shattered, any presumptions you’ve made about the characters will be wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a dark and twisted journey with so much unpredictability that you will be up all night trying to find out what really happened to Amy.

What I loved about this book was that you never really know what to expect. The book is told from the perspective of Nick and Amy, the diary of Amy tells the back story of their lives while the alternative chapters told from Nick takes the story from the disappearance. Slowly the pieces start to fall into place but there is always another curve ball just around the corner. The dark and psychological aspects of this novel remind me of something Jim Thompson would write but then the thriller and suspense of this book reminds me a lot of books like Before I Go to Sleep or Into the Darkest Corner.

Flynn did a brilliant job with this novel, it kept me up at night, made me want to skip work to read this book and in the end any spare time I had I was back in this book trying to find out what really happened to Amy. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and I didn’t know who to believe but in the end I enjoyed the ride. On reflection this book seemed incredibly basic with its plot but writing in a brilliant way that while reading you never have enough pieces to solve this puzzle. Highly recommend this book to any lovers of mystery and suspense.

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Posted September 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy MillerTitle: The Year of Reading Dangerously (Goodreads)
Author: Andy Miller
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 252
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Hardcover

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

It is no secret that I am a fan of books about books; I especially enjoy a bookish memoir. The idea of reading and learning about someone’s bookish life is fascinating to me. Let’s be honest, I blog about books because I think I have an interesting bookish journey to talk about and I want to capture that for posterity sake. I would love to learn how to write a bookish memoir, so I read anything I can get my hands on. I have even written a post asking for recommendations for books about books and I am always on the look out for more.

I am not sure how I discovered Andy Miller’s memoir The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life but I do remember being really excited about it. I ordered the book and it sat on my shelf for a little too long. With a holiday to America planned, I packed the book in my suitcase and was determined to read it. Turned out Simon Savidge from Savidge Reads started talking about this book about the same time and now I look like I was just following him in an effort to be as cool as he is.

Andy Miller worked as an editor at the time of writing this book (I assume he still does) and found himself only reading for work. On impulse he picked up a copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and something just clicked for him. He set out to read ten books, which he called The List of Betterment, which consisted of books he has once lied about reading or felt he should read. This list obviously expanded over the course of the year but it was his starting point into rediscovering a passion for reading.

My discovery for reading was not unlike Andy Miller’s except mine involved Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the 1001 Books Before You Must Read Before You Die list and it wasn’t a lost passion. I loved this book, I was so happy to read about all the awesome books Miller was reading in the course of the year. While this memoir is not healthy for my TBR and judging by Andy Miller’s glowing praises for Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes, I really need to get onto this novel first.

My only problem with this memoir is that Miller didn’t spend enough time talking about my favourite novels, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Iwas happy to see that The List of Betterment not only includes canon but also involves books like The Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1 by Stan Lee. It is just good to see a memoir that doesn’t just involve highbrow literature. He even considered calling this book How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life referring to Dan Brown.

There is so much to talk about within this memoir, especially when talking about the fifty books mentioned in the book. I’m hoping that I can find some more great bookish memoirs to follow this one. The Year of Reading Dangerously is essentially a book about connecting with great books and the positive effects reading has on a reader. I highly recommend the book and I hope the Andy Miller will write a follow up about his continuing bookish journey.

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Posted September 26, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Humour / 0 Comments

Straight Man by Richard RussoTitle: Straight Man (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Russo
Narrator: Sam Freed
Published: Vintage, 1997
Pages: 416
Genres: Contemporary, Humour
My Copy: Audiobook

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

I must admit, I do enjoy a good campus novel and when I heard about Straight Man by Richard Russo I knew I had to read it as soon as I could. The story spouted from a real life situation Richard Russo had teaching at a small State University. Having made friends with the Dean of the university he found himself in a conversation about the budget. Year after year, the same thing happened and while walking past a duck pond the Dean jokingly complained that he would have to threaten to kill a duck a day until he got his budget. This ended up being the basis of not only the main character from Straight Man but the birth of the novel.

The novel tells the story of an English professor, William Henry Devereaux, Jr. at a fictional Pennsylvania University. He has been appointed as the interim chairman of the English department and once again the administration of the university has not provided a budget yet. William is also enjoying a midlife crisis and the complacency of being a tenure professor which gives us a sharp, witty and satirical look at college life.

You know what they say; ‘Everyone has a book in them’, and an English professor is more likely to know the pains of writing. For William, he has already enjoyed a brief brush with success when he released his fast forgotten novel. Despite his abilities, he will always remain in the shadows of his father; a far more popular and successful writer and professor. This creates a volatile mix of emotions and frustration for this character and the results play out wonderfully with Straight Man.

I was pleasantly surprised just how satirical this novel turned out, often humour was delivered in a number of different ways. From the outlandish situation, to dry deadpan deliveries and self-deprecation; these combinations worked well with the character and the novel itself. However behind the humour is the brutal truth of the bureaucratically nightmare an academic department faces year after year.

Ultimately what impressed me the most with this novel was the way Richard Russo managed to balance everything perfectly. He had a good sense of comedic timing and knows when to hold back or push forward. Yet he also knew how to sneak in some heavy themes without destroying the light hearted manner of the delivery. Above all, he has able to write great prose that showed beauty and tenderness as well as bitterness and comedy. It must have been difficult to balance everything but the execution made it look easy.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Posted September 24, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin MoranTitle: How to Build a Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Caitlin Moran
Published: Harper Collins, 2014
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: ARC from Edelweiss

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

Take to trip back to the 1990s, a time I am all too familiar with; the music was great but being a teenager was not all that it was cracked up to be. Johanna Morrigan is a fourteen year old who is unhappy with her life. That was until she decided to reinvent herself. By sixteen she was a sharp tongued goth, aspiring music journalist who went by the name Dolly Wilde (named after the socialite). How to Build a Girl is the debut novel by Caitlin Moran who is more popularly known for her views towards feminism in books like Moranthology and How to Be a Woman.

I will be honest; the only reason I picked up this book was because it was often described as The Bell Jar if it was written by Rizzo from Grease. I’m a fan of The Bell Jar and this was enough to get me curious about this novel. I can’t say I have ever been a fan of Caitlin Moran or her view points but I think her underlying message that no one should be judged for being who they are is something I can get behind.

Moran has made it clear that this is far from an autobiographical novel; her parents were never like Morrigan’s parents. However there is an element of this novel that probably reflects her teenage years. I think the teenage years are often a journey of self-discovery and reinvention and this was the main reason I wanted to read this novel.

It doesn’t matter if I agree with Johanna Morrigan’s choices and decisions; this was about her finding herself. The whole notion of self-discovery being similar to reinventing yourself is an interesting one and I enjoyed watching Dolly Wilde evolve into the person she wanted to be. Her parents and family often got in the way and tried to unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional) mould her personality. This was just an interesting journey to watch evolve.

I’m not going to talk about the feminist views within this book, it is not my place to agree or disagree. How to Build a Girl reminds me of the TV show Girls (or what I have seen of it) and if you are a fan of this show then maybe you will enjoy the novel. My biggest problem with the book was not with the feminist themes but with the writing itself; it never seemed to work for me and I felt like the intent was to shock rather than tell a good story. It is a shame, the premise is excellent and I could have enjoyed the book if more time was spent improving the proses and editing.

I wanted to love this book; the whole coming of age, self-discovery, and sexual awakening topic has always been an interesting one to me. This book started off with the best intentions but it lost its way, both in plot and writing. The rise and fall of Dolly Wilde (the character in this book, not Oscar Wilde’s niece) was worth reading but there is so much in the middle that could have been taken out and the novel would have ended up being less than a hundred pages. But these are my opinions; there are people that loved this book, I wasn’t one of them.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List

Posted September 23, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 45 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Books on my Fall Spring To-Be-Read List. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading but I thing these books will be involved. Because I couldn’t stop at ten, here are twelve books, I hope to read during this season.

the people in the treesThe ParrotsBelzharA Man in Love

Abandoning The Corners of the Globe

Posted September 21, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Having recently read The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard I was so angry that the book ended mid story, I didn’t plan to continue. However I received The Corners of the Globe (book 2) in the mail and I decided to give it a go. I started reading and got a few chapters in before I remember the rage I had for the first one. I didn’t want to go through that again, so I flipped to the end of the book. There it was, the words ‘To be concluded’, and I abandoned the book on the spot.

Maybe I will read the book again when the final book is released but I suspect that I will have no interest in attempting it again. The story sounds entertaining enough but after The Ways of the World I have too much rage to be forgiving. It is a shame that Robert Goddard would do this to his fans, it doesn’t make me want to read anything else he has written.

The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard

Posted September 20, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 14 Comments

The Ways of the World by Robert GoddardTitle: The Ways of the World (Goodreads)
Author: Robert Goddard
Series: The Wide World Trilogy #1
Published: Bantam Press, 2013
Pages: 404
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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

Set in Paris just after World War I, The Ways of the World takes a look at the battle for peace. James ‘Max’ Maxted was a Royal Flying Corps ace during the war but now finds himself in a completely new situation. While the world looks to Paris as diplomats and politicians try to negotiate peace, Max is trying to work out what happened to his father. Sir Henry Maxted was a British diplomatic who mysteriously died from a fall off the roof of his mistress’s apartment building. The authorities rule the death as a suicide but Max suspects there is something far more suspicious going on.

The Ways of the World is everything I expect from an espionage novel; nothing like the popular spy thrillers. I view the intelligence game as one of diplomacy and manipulation, not high tech weapons and action. Robert Goddard uses the murder mystery as a device to manipulate the story and keep up the pace. This is a successful tactic as the majority of the novel is told in conversations and the novel could have easily fallen into the realm of boring and tedious.

The Paris Peace Conference allowed the game of espionage to play out. France, Britain, America and Italy all have representatives there and inter-country politics feature heavily here. Each country has their own agenda and I really enjoyed watching this play out. As the host country, France also wanted to quash any notion of a diplomat being murdered and keep their image. This perfectly sets up the story that Robert Goddard wanted to tell.

However there is something terribly wrong with this book. There are three words that took me from loving this book to throwing it across the room. I actually didn’t physically throw this book across the room because it was a library book but I was very tempted. Those three words at the end of the novel that ruined everything were ‘To be continued’.

I am normally ok with a story continuing into a series, but when you end a book without a sense of closure, it really doesn’t work. When I was getting close to the end of the book, I wondered to myself how to possibly conclude the novel that quickly, and then I found out. This works well in a television show when people only have to wait a week for the next episode but in a book there is normally a year between them. This situation makes me so mad that I don’t think I can continue the series.

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

Posted September 19, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction, Short Stories / 0 Comments

Levels of Life by Julian BarnesTitle: Levels of Life (Goodreads)
Author: Julian Barnes
Published: Random House, 2013
Pages: 128
Genres: Non-Fiction, Short Stories
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

“Every love story is a potential grief story.”

It is official, I’m now a huge fan of Julian Barnes. Having read and enjoyed The Sense of an Ending and Metroland, I knew I had to read more of his novels. I did try Through the Window and found his essays challenging but mainly because the man is far too intelligent and I couldn’t keep up. I decided to try Levels of Life simply because I wanted to see how Barnes connects love and loss with ballooning and photography.

“Love is the meeting point of truth and magic. Truth, as in photography; magic, as in ballooning.”

Told in three masterful parts, Levels of Life tells stories that don’t seem connected but Barnes manages tol fit together. He is a master at the metaphor and this book told in narrative form tells the highs and lows of love. Part one “The Sin of Height” tells a narrative of Colonel Frederick Burnaby, an English soldier and traveller who crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon in 1882. This story focuses on the obsessions that both Burnaby and French photographer Nadar had towards ballooning.

The next part, called “On the Level” looks at Colonel Burnaby and the French exotic actress, Sarah Bernhardt. Both shared an interest in ballooning which led to love. Two larger than life characters and a love that could never last, while Burnaby believed it was possible, Bernhardt thought differently. Here we have two stories; one depicting the highs of passion and love and the second, the idea of love fizzling out which only leaves one last essay.

“You put together two people who have not been put together before. Sometimes it is like that first attempt to harness a hydrogen balloon to a fire balloon: do you prefer crash and burn, or burn and crash?”

But sometimes it works, and something new is made, and the world is changed. Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.

“The Loss of Depth” is the last essay and is the story of the loss Julian Barnes suffered when his wife died of a brain tumour in 2008. This is a tender account of dealing with grief. The build-up of the other two essays just made the last one heart breaking and I found myself crying (something I don’t often do). Barnes explores life after losing his wife and at times it is a little funny, yet remains very moving.

“Initially, you continue doing what you used to do with her, out of familiarity, love, the need for a pattern. Soon, you realise the trap you are in: caught between repeating what you did with her, but without her, and so missing her; or doing new things, things you never did with her, and so missing her differently. You feel sharply the loss of shared vocabulary, of tropes, teases, short cuts, injokes, sillinesses, faux rebukes, amatory footnotes – all those obscure references rich in memory but valueless if explained to an outsider.” 

Julian Barnes managed to capture love and loss so perfectly, I felt like adding so many quotes to this review but I had to hold off. This is the type of book that will sit with me for a long time and I tear up just thinking about it. I’m amazed at Barnes’ skill as a writer and how he fit so much beauty and so many emotions into a short book is beyond me. I am going to have to read every book I can find from Julian Barnes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Need To Read More

Posted September 16, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 30 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More. I have a very bad habit of trying plenty of different authors and never returning to them. It isn’t because I don’t like the author but because I like to try a bit of everything. Here are some authors I’ve really enjoyed but have only read one book by them.