City of the Lost

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Read 04/01/2018-09/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Strong female lead? Check.
Passes the Bechdel Test? Check.
Positive representation of People of Colour? Check.
Passes the Wallander Test*? Check

City of the Lost was one of two books chosen for me by my SantaThing Secret Santa this Xmas just gone. I hadn’t heard of Kelley Armstrong before, so I was curious to find out what her style is like.

City of the Lost is a crime thriller in the hard boiled mode. Detective Casey Duncan is a brilliant heroine. She’s sassy, determined and focused, in control of her life, but a dark incident from her past is about to catch up with her. Continue reading

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

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Read 02/01/2018-04/01/2018

Rating 4 stars

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is a strange tale, but compelling in its strangeness. Author Denis Thériault’s background in screenwriting enhances the imagery conjured by his words. Each place in the story is like a film set, each character like an actor viewed by an audience. Continue reading

Station Eleven

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Read 21/06/2017-26/06/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Emily St John Mandel’s dystopian novel Station Eleven was one of the books I received during my year’s subscription to the Willoughby Book Club. I love a good dystopia, and this one is well thought out.

A pandemic known as the Georgian Flu breaks out, killing all but 1% of the world’s population. Within a fortnight, civilisation has collapsed. Continue reading

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

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Read 24/03/2017-30/03/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge.

In Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien tells a family saga lived through the tumult of political upheaval in Communist China. The story moves from Canada in 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square student-led rebellion, to China in the years following the Communist victory in the civil war, through the land reforming Great Leap Forward to Mao’s Cultural Revolution and on to the events that took place in and around Tiananmen Square. It’s a political novel, but in a quiet way. It talks about loss of beauty as well as loss of freedom. It talks of how music inhabits us, is part of everything we do, has a power in people’s lives every bit as potent as politics. It talks about the violence of politics under an autocratic regime, but matter of factly. It is a thing that happens, it is devastating, but life goes on. Continue reading

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

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Read 10/09/2016-11/09/2016

Rating: 4 stars

I bought this recently after looking for poems set in Grand Central Station. It came up as a prose poem and its subject matter intrigued me.

This, from Yann Martel’s foreword, encapsulates the book:

This is a book about one creature’s obdurate desire to love and be loved, no matter what. Smart was lucid, resilient, hardworking, and responsible in her love-madness.

Elizabeth Smart was in London and picked up a book of George Barker’s poems. She fell in love with his words, so the story goes, but more than that. She decided she was in love with him and needed to meet him. Smart felt awakened by Barker’s poems. It took her three years to engineer a meeting with him. Her memoir of their love, a mix of long form poetry and sanguine reflection, begins with that meeting.

I was expecting gushing romance, a whirlwind of passion, something that would wrench my heart and take my breath away. Instead I found a still small voice of calm. Continue reading

Stone Mattress: nine wicked tales

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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