Friday, January 22, 2010

Frank McCourt (1930-2009)

I was very saddened today to hear of the death of the author of Angela’s Ashes today as I read today on:


I recall reading his book a few years back and his struggle with poverty and hardship in Ireland really touched me. His ability to find humour in hardship made the story all the more wonderful. Who can ever forget the confessional scene?

Although he tried to continue the genre in ‘Tis’ and ‘Teacher Man’ his first novel will remain as one of my favourite stories. I do recall it transferred well to the big screen. Together they are the must Read and See for everyone.

Rest In Peace Frank.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

If a book started with the rape and murder of a teenage girl, you could be forgiven for assuming you were reading a script for Law and Order SVU. The fact is that this story isn’t a murder mystery or a detective novel.
“My name is Salmon, Like the fish’ Susie introduces herself but before she can tell us more about herself her story is over, or is it?
Susie floats away to heaven after her death and watches over her family. She sees them as they try and fail to cope with her death and as they move along with their lives. She watches as her mother has an affair, brought on by her father’s in ability to let go of her, her sister’s love life and the life her killer leads after the murder.
I don’t want to give too much away but this story is heart warming, dramatic and despite it’s theme a feelgood novel that I think no one should miss.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Procession of the Dead by D. B. Shan


What a roller coaster ride this book was!

I bought it at one of the discount bookstores to make up some number and left it on my shelf at work for a good four months before picking it up. What a mistake that was. I already tracked down the other two books in this trilogy and can’t wait to read them.

The story is that of Capac Raimi who wants to work as a gangster in “The City”. But to do so successfully he needs to get the positive attention of “The Cardinal”. A ruthless leader who literally runs the city. Politicians, mobsters, almost everyone has a tie back to him. As Capac finds his way through he realises there is more to this Cardinal, and for that matter himself, that he is originally aware of.

I was first drawn in when the Cardinal and all his close family made it onto the scene but as I progressed I became more and more engrossed in the story of the City and that of Capac Raimi.

This is a must for those who enjoy a combination of intrigue, mystery and black magic.

Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett

What an interesting story this book was “farang”.
Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep talks to the reader as he investigates the murder of a CIA agent. In this book you are shown a different point of view of what is known as the seedy side of Thailand. Prostitutes, lady boys and all the associated businesses are explained and the reader gets to see them in a different light. I always enjoy reading books when the reader is taken a step closer to the local culture than the TV documentaries allow.
Anyway, I recommend this book as a very interesting read as well as a very compelling story.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This trilogy in five parts has to be my all time favourite read. Now I know there are more than enough reviews, and since these books have been a radio series, talking books, tv shows and a movie it would almost seem redundant for me to mention them but I must pay homage to my favourite author. In fact Douglas Adams was, until his recent passing, one of the five people I desired to meet. In fact I wish he were around today so I could follow his twitter feed. No doubt he would keep his fans amused for ever.
As for the series, well here are some of the characters one would meet along the way.
– Zaphod Beeblebrox, a two headed egotistical president of the universe
– Slartibartfast, creator of planets and winner of the design award for his fjords
– Marvin the Prozac deprived robot
And for what these characters would encounter what could be more interesting than
– A Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, a drink that has the effect of having your brain smashed out by a gold brick wrapped in a slice of lemon
– A Total Perspective Vortox
– An elevator that can see into the future
And the heart of gold, infinite improbability drive.
To be honest no review could do these series justice and maybe they arent everyone’s cup of tea but those who do enjoy Douglas Adams are not simply fans but devout followers.
And if none of this enticed you to read the books then all I can say is “42″!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

When I picked up this book I didnt know what to expect. One of those romantic ‘I love you no matter what’ stories like ‘The Notebook’. But this book held a lot more.

At the age of fifty, Alice Howland is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. A psychology professor at Harvard, Alice is an above average intellectual with an average life and children who are at various stages of her career when the disease begins to slowly erase her memories. Using her blackberry to maintain her sanity, Alice tries everything she can to slow down the progress but to no avail.

This book frightened me at times. It portrayed the slow decline of a smart intellectual person through a one way street with no return directions.

Although I highly recommend this is a great read, I must warn you as it paints a clear picture and is scarier than any horror or thriller might be.

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It has definitely made my top 100 books and is most likely my best read of the year. I picked it up at the library and ended up buying a copy so I could read it again.

Ariel Manto (Anagram of 'I am not real') is a researcher with no money, a serious deficiency in her love life and struggling to publish a paper about a book – reportedly cursed – with no copies in existance. Finding the book takes her through a whirlwind of adventure into the world of the paranormal mind via the Troposhpere.

All in all this book was a fantastic read and really challenged the mind, at some point making you wonder if we are real or simply a Matrix style fantasy.

I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to queston their perception of the real world.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak

Please bear with me as I migrate my blogs from a hosted site to Google Sites. Although relatively simple it is still time consuming and arduous. Anyway here is the review of one my favourite books. Anyone I have recommended it too has had nothing but praise.

What would you expect from a book that starts with the statement: “You are going to die”?

Not much, unless of course the narrator is ‘Death”.

I first heard about Markus Zusak’s award winning book on a radio interview and thought to myself it sounded like a good read. It wasn’t until a year later that I recalled the interview and bought a copy and kicked myself for missing out on what would probably become one of my favourite books.

The story follows Liesel Meminger as she first buries her six year old brother beside the train tracks on her way to foster parents. She then acquires “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” which earns her title.

The narrator then follows her life as he continues his task of “handling souls to the conveyor belt of eternity” as he gets “very busy” throughout the course of the second world war.

Living with the Hubermanns in a small town of Molching outside Munich, she endures the war with her foster parents Rosa and Hans as she turns to her stolen books for solace. Having lived through a similar experience is probably why I related so much to the character. Liesel uses the stories in the stolen books to distract the people huddled in the Fiedlers’ basement during air raids. Her love of stories also drives Max Vandenburg, a Jew who is hiding in their basement to write “The Standover Man“.

The narrator, Death, while making dry jokes about his profession, tells us of Liesel’s struggle, and her strength and resilience through it all as she almost succumbs to his grasp.

“The Book Thief” is not a standard war story. It is the story of a small family and how they tried to survive as the world began to change around them. I have no doubt that just like the narrator, the reader will not be able to escape the book’s reach.