The Nine Tailors

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Read 22/12/2016-26/12/2016

Rating: 2 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I love crime books. My favourite crime writer is Agatha Christie, to whose works I’ve been addicted since I was about 12 years old. I also recently read a Ngaio Marsh Inspector Alleyne novel and really enjoyed it. I find crime novels soothing. There’s something about the horror of the crimes committed, being able to imagine such awful events while safely tucked up behind the pages, mixed with the dogged determination of the detective to solve the mystery and the successful resolution at the end, that makes me feel happy. As an angry person, too, this genre assuages my rage somewhat. I read some pretty violent crime books, not just the cosy Golden Age type, and jokingly say that, in deflecting my inner rage from external expression, they stop me becoming a violent criminal myself.

I’d never read any Dorothy L Sayers before, so I was pleased when one of my monthly Willoughby Book Club titles was a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I used to watch the TV adaptations of the books, so I was looking forward to reading The Nine Tailors. Continue reading

The Miner

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Read 17/12/2016-22/12/2016

Rating: 4 stars

In his introduction to this book, Haruki Murakami has all kinds of thoughts about why it isn’t a novel, and why, if Sōseki had had more time to think about it instead of a looming newspaper serialisation deadline to meet, it wouldn’t have been written at all. Continue reading

The Sixth Gun Volume 6

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Read 17/12/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Becky Montcrief takes centre stage in trade volume 6 of The Sixth Gun series. The group reunited at the end of volume 5, with Drake and Becky physically affected by their run in with the Wendigo. Volume 6 begins with Missy Hume gathering malevolent forces to draw the five guns in Drake and Becky’s control to them.

Meanwhile, Becky, Drake, Gord, Kirby and Asher are taken by a pair of Native American scouts to their camp, where Becky collapses and sets off on the Ghost Dance of the book’s title.

She travels through parallel realities, witnessing various outcomes that depend on who has control of all six guns. What she sees, experiences and learns change her irreparably.

During Becky’s wanderings, Missy Hume’s demonic helpers attempt to kill her, but the scouts Nidawi and Nahuel draw on supernatural powers to fight them in the real world.

The plot is less involved in this volume, but it kept me gripped all the same. There are only three more volumes in the series, and it’s starting to feel like the narrative is beginning to wind up to a climax.

Titus Awakes

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Read 13/12/2016-17/12/2016

Rating: 2.5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

This is the fourth Gormenghast book. Peake died after completing only three of his series, which has for a long time been thought of as a trilogy. It turns out his intention was to write more, to follow Titus further into his life. A fragment of the fourth book exists, a fragment which Peake’s widow Maeve Gilmore took and expanded into a novel. Continue reading

The Descent of Man

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Read 11/12/2016-13/12/2016

Rating: 3 stars

I went to see Grayson Perry’s stage show Typical Man in a Dress recently. It was entertaining, part lecture, part performance. Grounded in the research carried out for this book, there were some interesting observations.

The format of the book echoes that used in the stage show. It reads a little like a lecture and is interspersed with illustrations that poke fun at the nonsense men subscribe to in defining themselves as masculine. It’s a little flippant at times, a little too glib, but there is enough in the way of thinking around the subject of masculinity differently that made it a worthwhile read. Continue reading

The Magic Toyshop

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Read 09/12/2016-11/12/2016

Rating: 5 stars

The Magic Toyshop won Angela Carter her first literary award, 1968’s John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It’s her second novel and describes a disturbing moment in the life of Melanie, a 15 year old girl at the edge of womanhood. Melanie is waking up to herself as a sexual being, and the first chapter finds her wondering about her mother as a fellow woman. Her parents are away in America. It’s the summer holidays, and Melanie takes the opportunity to explore her parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night.

During that night and into the following morning, tension builds and a crisis occurs that sees Melanie’s life, and that of her younger siblings, change forever. Continue reading

The Big Midweek: Life Inside the Fall

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Read 02/12/2016-09/12/2016

Rating: 5 stars

From Albert Camus’s The Fall to the autobiography of a man who spent 18 years as a member of the band named after that book.

The book begins in 1973. Even though for most of that year I was only two years old, Steve Hanley describes the Manchester I remember from my childhood. The weird pet shops on Tib Street. The fact that the Northern Quarter wasn’t. It was just Tib Street and Band on the Wall. The rest was run down and called Smithfield. You only went to Tib Street for Army & Navy surplus, bootleg recordings, second hand tapes, and lizards. Even into the 80s.

Hanley spins a good tale. There’s no embellishment. His writing voice is as frank and deadpan as the way most of us speak round here. It helps with accepting the more bizarre elements of his story as truth. Continue reading