The Sixth Gun Volume 4

1934964956-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 30/05/2016

Rating: 4 stars

I couldn’t resist buying the next trade paperback in this series, after gobbling up volumes 1-3 last week.

This grouping of six stories didn’t feel as strong in terms of plot development as the previous three trades, but what I liked most about it was the silent fourth chapter (issue 21) and Mr Tyler Crook’s illustration of the sixth chapter (issue 23). Continue reading

Did You Ever Have a Family

0224102354-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 29/05/2016-30/05/2016

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Readers’ Room March Madness Challenge

I don’t know whether I liked this book. It gripped me, but not in the best way. It gripped me like a car crash story of misery would in the Family section of The Guardian. Continue reading

The Shadow Girls

009945548x-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 25/05/2016-28/05/2016

Rating: 5 stars

Henning Mankell’s Wallander series is one of my favourite discoveries of recent years. We stumbled upon the Swedish film adaptations late one night (the ones starring Krister Henriksson, not Rolf Lassgård) and I sought out the books. It was love at first read. I love crime and detective fiction anyway, but this was different to what I was familiar with. Wallander was more human, more vulnerable, more honestly ridiculous than most other middle aged, emotionally dysfunctional male detectives that populate the genre. He was those things as well, but he reflected on his inadequacies and used his job as a distraction and a proof that he wasn’t all bad. He also reflected on the nature of the crimes he investigated, not willing to pass them off as the inevitable actions of bad people, but recognising changes in society as an underlying cause. Wallander isn’t a hard boiled cop, he’s a cop with a conscience. The life Mankell built for him outside work was as richly described as his professional one, making him more real. I cared about him. For anyone who hasn’t read the series, I won’t give away the ending, but I will admit that I cried.

I’ve read other books by Mankell, too. I loved Italian Shoes and The Return of the Dancing Master. The Man from Beijing wasn’t my favourite, but it was readable. Mankell also had a passion for Africa and spent a lot of time there, developing a theatre company in Mozambique. He was politically active and supported social justice. He wrote a few novels based on his experiences in Africa, and when I went to change my books at the library recently, I decided to give one a try. I picked up The Shadow Girls, which is about refugees and immigration. Continue reading

The Sixth Gun Volumes 1-3

 

Read 23/05/2016-25/05/2016

Rating: 4 stars

The Sixth Gun is a series of comics written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Brian Hurtt. My husband has the first three trade paperbacks, The Sixth Gun Volume 1: Cold Dead Fingers, The Sixth Gun Volume 2: Crossroads, and The Sixth Gun Volume 3: Bound, which bring together issues 1-17. There are currently 8 trades available, with the final three issues due to be compiled into Volume 9 this summer.

I decided to start reading them because I left The Red Queen on my desk at work one night this week. I was hooked immediately. I made myself finish The Red Queen, but I jumped straight into the second Volume rather than start another novel, and then devoured the third straight after that. I love this series! Continue reading

The Red Queen (Philippa Gregory)

1847394655-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 21/05/2016-24/05/2016

Rating: 3 stars

This isn’t a work of great literature, but it is an entertaining read. Gregory clearly puts lots of research into the background to her historical novels, if this is anything to go by. I don’t know nearly as much as I should about the Wars of the Roses, and I had to keep checking online to see which Edward and which Richard was which, and to find out the significance of the battles mentioned in the novel.

Margaret Beaufort seems a little priggish at first, but she soon develops an admirable strength of character when she is given in marriage to Henry VI’s half brother Edmund Tudor and subjected to conjugal rape from the age of 12 until she becomes pregnant. She knows her duty, and when Edmund is captured, she takes charge of her household, protecting her unborn child and future king to the best of her ability. Continue reading

Life After Life

0552776637-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 17/05/2016-20/05/2016

Rating: 3 stars

LibraryThing review

It’s a clever device, enabling a character to have repeated goes at life, returning them each time to the start, giving them that sense of déjà vu, that sense of premonition, that enables them to dodge the previous death on the next go around until they finally get life on the right track. Continue reading

Rooftoppers

0571280595-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 17/05/2016

Rating: 3 stars

I changed my library books today. One of the books I chose turned out to be children’s fiction mis-shelved in the adult fiction section.

Rooftoppers is a magical mix of The Silver Sword, The Summer Book and Tom’s Midnight Garden, shot through with the child-like wonder of Amélie. Continue reading

The White Tiger

8172237456-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 13/05/2016-17/05/2016

Rating: 3 stars

I picked this book up from my local library on a hit and run in the letter As. Sometimes I don’t know what I want to read, and it feels as though there are too many books but not the right ones. It happens in book shops and in libraries. I’ve developed a technique of going to a letter in the fiction section at random and pulling a book from the shelf based on whether I like the spine and whether I’ve heard of the author before. In a book shop, I’ll read the opening paragraph. If I want to carry on reading, I’ll give it a go. In the library I’m more likely to borrow it without more than a glance at the blurb on the back cover. It’s a risky strategy, but sometimes it works.

It worked in this instance. I enjoyed The White Tiger well enough. It was serious but not too serious. It was angry, but angry in a sanguine way. Continue reading

Half of a Yellow Sun

b002ri9tb4-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 06/05/2016-13/05/2016

Rating: 5 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness challenge

‘You must never behave as if your life belongs to a man. Do you hear me?’ Aunty Ifeka said. ‘Your life belongs to you and you alone, soso gi.’

Aunty Ifeka says this to her niece Olanna about her boyfriend, halfway through the book. She could easily have been saying it about Nigeria.

I didn’t know what to expect from Half of a Yellow Sun. I came to it completely blind, based on people talking about how good Adichie is as a writer, how she is influenced by Achebe. I read nothing about what the book is about. All I knew was that Adachie is Nigerian and this book was about Nigeria in the 1960s. Continue reading

Stone Mattress: nine wicked tales

0349006539-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 02/05/2016-06/05/2016

Rating: 4 stars

I love Margaret Atwood. She is my literary goddess. Although I blithely say that Haruki Murakami is my favourite author, and that’s true because he’s the only author whose works I will buy immediately because I can’t bear waiting for the paperback release, it’s a close-run thing with Ms Atwood. She has been in my life since I was a teenager, and read The Edible Woman. I have read almost all of her novels, and a handful of her short story collections. I wrote an essay about her for a booklet published by my local library service in 1999 for International Women’s Week. I’m shameless, so I’ll add it at the end of this review.

It’s almost a year since I read anything by Ms Atwood, and I saw Stone Mattress on the shelf in my local library, where I was carrying out a random hit and run selection on the As (that garnered me The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, someone I’ve never read before).

What I like about Margaret Atwood’s short stories is that she understands the format. She knows that it’s not for throwaway ideas that might or might not be worked into novels. She understands that the reader still needs to feel drawn in by the story, and satisfied by its ending. Not all writers have the skill to craft a truly good short story, but Margaret Atwood does. Whether it’s 50 pages or 10, she gives you everything you need to know to make the story real.
Continue reading