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Shack
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

Slightly spooky ghost story where nothing is really ever clear. Fine, just not as good as I wanted it to be.
widowspider
QUOTE (jem @ Nov 5 2010, 11:52 PM) *
Just finished Native Son by Richard Wright.... Very interesting but difficult for me to read. The main theme is a lot broader than I think it was intended (it is a protest novel about being black in America during the 30's). I found myself occasionally identifying with the main character, which was what made it difficult to read as he is not intended to be obviously sympathetic.
I enjoyed very much though.

I highly recommend. I think it might be one of those books that everyone should read. - It describes the human condition quite well and can be applied to any group of people.

I tried really hard to read that and failed. May have to give it another go.
Outatime
QUOTE (widowspider @ Nov 11 2010, 07:48 PM) *
I tried really hard to read that and failed. May have to give it another go.


It's definitely worth it.
jem
QUOTE (widowspider @ Nov 11 2010, 11:48 AM) *
I tried really hard to read that and failed. May have to give it another go.

It's good, it just takes a while to grip (I found anyways), which is odd 'cause the pace of it feels quite fast.

Just finished Ogre, Ogre. It's like Jane Austen for the fantasy folks. Fun. Fun. Fun.
GundamGuy_UK
Picked up H.P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon while I was in town today. Always wanted to read some Lovecraft, and I thought it might be a good place to start.

Was I right?
maian
Assuming that it's the big omnibus that collects pretty much all of his fiction, it's not a bad place to start.
GundamGuy_UK
It's this. It sounds like it has most of his stuff, but not all.
maian
Yeah, that's the one that I was thinking of. A lot of the various collections share a lot of the same material, so a great big chunk of his stuff, and a lot of the really good stuff, is contained in it.
GundamGuy_UK
Cool. Well, I look forward to reading it. It'll probably take a fair while, I don't know if I want to read it cover-to-cover without reading anything else.
maian
QUOTE (maian @ Oct 30 2010, 08:44 PM) *
I've decided to set myself the task of reading the Complete Sherlock Holmes by the end of the year. I need to average 15 pages (or one short story) a day and so far it's going pretty well. At least it's a fun task.


I've just finished reading them. What a fantastic collection of stories. Even over a hundred years after most of them were written, they have such an energy and wit to them that it's not surprising that the character remains so popular. On the whole, I prefer the first half of the canon - before The Final Problem - because the plots seem tighter and there are fewer instances where Holmes bemoans the state of the world. That half also boasts the stronger novels, since A Study and Scarlet and The Sign of Four are both great adventure stories that feel vibrant and fresh, whilst Hound of the Baskervilles is, in my opinion, a bit aimless and The Valley of Fear all too obvious an attempt to replicate A Study In Scarlet.
Sean of the Dead
QUOTE (maian @ Dec 14 2010, 02:01 AM) *
whilst Hound of the Baskervilles is, in my opinion, a bit aimless

I kind of agree - we're left alone with Watson a bit too long and start to miss Holmes - but I think half of the fun is watching Conan Doyle the Rationalist and Conan Doyle the Spiritualist duke it out in the form of a murder mystery.

I recently finished Max Brooks' World War Z, which was a very entertaining and thoughtful book that approached the zombie apocalypse from a rather brilliant international and political perspective, but doing so through the gripping tales of individuals. The only thing against it is the amount of times I was hooked on a survivor's story, and wanted to follow their narrative beyond the snippet the structure and style of the book allows; it constantly felt like it was always building pace only for it to dissipate again and again and again. Still very good though.
Serafina_Pekkala
I've just read the first two Flashman novels. Fucking brilliant. The BBC is missing a trick here. They are ripe for adaptation.
Sostie
QUOTE (Serafina_Pekkala @ Dec 14 2010, 12:37 PM) *
I've just read the first two Flashman novels. Fucking brilliant. The BBC is missing a trick here. They are ripe for adaptation.


I read the first a few years ago a loved it. Also managed to get an US DVD of the film which whilst flawed is geat entertainment.

I agree the BBC should have a stab at the series, but I can now only imagine the young Malcolm MacDowell in the role.
Julie
I couldn't possibly be happier than I was to discover a brand new Doug Coupland while Christmas shopping for books the other day. I 'squee'ed out loud in the book store. And, as usual, it is absolutely perfect and slightly terrifying so far.
Julie
I couldn't possibly be happier than I was to discover a brand new Doug Coupland while Christmas shopping for books the other day. I 'squee'ed out loud in the book store. And, as usual, it is absolutely perfect and slightly terrifying so far.
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (Sostie @ Dec 14 2010, 01:27 PM) *
I agree the BBC should have a stab at the series, but I can now only imagine the young Malcolm MacDowell in the role.


I thought the film was prettypoor but aside the lead, had some good casting. MacDowell being a short pudgy-faced blond is the exact opposite of Flashman. But Oliver Reed as Bismark, Britt Eckland as Duchess Irma and - good lord it is him! - Henry Cooper as boxing champion Gully. Perfect.

Tom Hardy is too famous now. Shame.
maian
QUOTE (Sean of the Dead @ Dec 14 2010, 02:30 AM) *
I kind of agree - we're left alone with Watson a bit too long and start to miss Holmes - but I think half of the fun is watching Conan Doyle the Rationalist and Conan Doyle the Spiritualist duke it out in the form of a murder mystery.


It was still really good, and I thought that seeing Holmes and Watson come up against a (seemingly) supernatural threat provided an interesting contrast to the way that most of the stories are told in that it made Holmes question his view of the world, but I also couldn't help thinking that Doyle did the same thing in a much shorter and effective way in The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.
widowspider
I'm still waiting for my phone call to play Thursday Next in the inevitable series/film.

Although I suppose they're waiting until I'm a bit older, she is in her thirties.
Serafina_Pekkala
QUOTE (widowspider @ Dec 14 2010, 04:32 PM) *
I'm still waiting for my phone call to play Thursday Next in the inevitable series/film.

Although I suppose they're waiting until I'm a bit older, she is in her thirties.


And has dirty blonde hair. Pity I'm not an actress. wink.gif

Winslet should be all over that franchise like a rash.
widowspider
QUOTE (Serafina_Pekkala @ Dec 14 2010, 04:51 PM) *
And has dirty blonde hair. Pity I'm not an actress. wink.gif

Winslet should be all over that franchise like a rash.

I can dye my hair. In all other respects, I am her and she is me.
jem
Just finished rereading Jpod... I think I'm beginning to really dislike Coupland. Shampoo Planet and Generation X were awesome - I loved them, but it seems to always be the same characters in clothes... there is no growth in his work.
I'm now rereading Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis to UnCoupland myself. I think I'm gonna reread all of his before work before finally cracking his new novel "Imperial Bedrooms". (Erin really loves Bret Easton Ellis books, they are literary crack).
maian
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The second instalment in del Toro and Hogan's Strain trilogy picks up right where the first part left off; with New York City gradually being taken over by a vampiric menace that spreads with the speed and efficiency of a flu pandemic, and with only a handful of survivors aware of what is going on and even remotely prepared to face the ensuing chaos.

Having established the world and the characters in The Strain, this time del Toro and Hogan focus more on moving the wider conspiracy along and taking humanity to the brink of destruction, then kicking them over the edge. As such, there are fewer of the little character moments that made the first book more interesting than just another vampire story, and since they established the rules of how their vampire plague works in The Strain, there aren't as many surprises as there were the first time around.

However, it's much more tightly plotted than the first, which focused on far too many characters and wound up feeling crowded, and it was great to see how far del Toro and Hogan are willing to go with their story, and how committed they are to completely destroying all hope for their heroes before the final battle in the third book,
The Night Eternal.

Good, not spectacular, but a lot of fun. I hope that del Toro one day realises his dream of making it into a TV series because it would make for a really great sci-fi/horror show.
jem
Life Before Man - Margret Atwood.
Holy horsemen! This is a difficult book - it's not enjoyable at all. Seriously, what was she thinking when she wrote this?
maian
True Grit by Charles Portis

I read this in advance of seeing the Coen Brothers' version and holy shit is it a great book. A hugely entertaining Western full of clever, funny dialogue (pretty much every funny line in the trailer and, judging by reviews, the film is taken word for word from the novel) and complex characters. Portis writes in the first-person as Hattie Ross, the toughest thirteen year-old girl this side of the Mississippi Delta, as she sets out to hunt down her father's murderer. He imbues her with a dry, digressive wit full of observations about how tough life was for her family (she seems to be writing the book many years later) and her experiences with Deputy Marshall Reuben "Rooster" J. Cogburn and the Texas Ranger LaBeouf. Portis crams so much into the book's slim 208 pages that every page sizzles with adventure, snappy banter or violence, sometimes all three.

Highly recommended.
Outatime
I got the Castle/Nikki Heat novel for Christmas, I'm very much looking forward to reading it.
Raven
QUOTE (jem @ Dec 14 2010, 05:23 PM) *
Just finished rereading Jpod... I think I'm beginning to really dislike Coupland. Shampoo Planet and Generation X were awesome - I loved them, but it seems to always be the same characters in clothes... there is no growth in his work.


I think you may have just hit on part of my problem with Coupland.

I've just finished reading Generation X which took me quite a while to get into it because it felt like Id read it before.

It is a very good book, and once I got into it I did enjoy it, but the similarity with his other books - Microserfs (which I read first and enjoyed) and JPod (which I read second and didn't) - did put a crimp on it for me (JPod also didn't work for me because it just got too clever (or possibly smart is a better word) for it's own good, but that's another argument).

The only other Coupland I have read is The Gum Thief, which I read earlier this year and really enjoyed, but that works better for me because the format of the story is different (I'd recommend it if you are looking for another Coupland to try).

For me though, he is proving to be a bit on the hit-and-miss side.
maian
For me, Coupland is at his best when he is more willing to engage with the emotions of his characters. I didn't particularly care for JPod either because it felt too arch and distant, like he didn't really care about any of the characters and so I found it hard to care about them either. (Even if I did find a lot of his satirical jibes at the video game industry pretty much spot on.) My favourites of his are Girlfriend In A Coma - not just because of the myriad Smiths references - and Hey Nostradamus because they are both grounded in the emotional lives of the characters in a way that JPod simply isn't.
Julie
I think the trick with Coupland is to not try and read them back to back. There are definitely some themes and ideas that he really sticks to and it was the most evident to me when he made the film Everything's Gone Green, which I adored, but recognized pieces of his various books repeated throughout. I feel like he's got one really important thing he wants to say but doesn't quite know how to articulate it.
Raven
QUOTE (maian @ Dec 28 2010, 06:29 PM) *
My favourites of his are Girlfriend In A Coma - not just because of the myriad Smiths references - and Hey Nostradamus because they are both grounded in the emotional lives of the characters in a way that JPod simply isn't.


Those are both on my to buy and read list.

QUOTE (Julie @ Dec 28 2010, 06:51 PM) *
I think the trick with Coupland is to not try and read them back to back.


The four I've read I've done so over a period of three years, how long should I be leaving between books? tongue.gif

QUOTE
There are definitely some themes and ideas that he really sticks to and it was the most evident to me when he made the film Everything's Gone Green, which I adored, but recognized pieces of his various books repeated throughout. I feel like he's got one really important thing he wants to say but doesn't quite know how to articulate it.


I think he articulates his message okay (although it does tend to ramble a bit in JPod) it's just that in three of the four books I have read it's been more or less the same message! (the characters and situations may change, but there isn't a lot of difference between Microserfs, JPod and Generation X).
Julie
I think you're probably right. It took me about ten years to get around to reading all of them, so it wasn't as glaringly obvious, but with subsequent readings, I'm discovering the sameness. It's just that, like with a band you loved when you were younger, when you grow up and realize they aren't quite as amazing as you thought they were, you fight against accepting it a little. smile.gif
Hobbes
I finally finally finally finished reading Midnight's Children last night, after a solid 6 months of flitting in and out with it. I'm not surprised it won the Booker of Bookers in one way, but in another I really am. Its fractured chronology and late-chapter revelations obviously improve the rest of the novel, putting it in that 'ooh clever' bracket that lit-crits seem to love so much.

On the other, it was a frustratingly uneven work, full of bizarre tangents that seemed to exist only to try and make Saleem's life more interesting for no real reason. The fact that he's not even born until 200 pages in is pretty much ridiculous, and while Rushdie's trying to show the cyclic nature of the Sinai family history, it really made it hard to keep up. The ridiculously frequent parenthetical 'clues' to later parts of the book were overused to the point where it felt smug, as if Rushdie was making little jokes at the reader for not knowing what would happen next. The other problem was that there were legions of characters, and Saleem makes reference to every single one all the time, leaving me feeling totally confused it's pretty much impossible to remember all their names, let alone what they did that was so special/memorable/funny and the allusions to them later on are so cryptic you really need a pen and paper to recall what the fuck has already happened.

Also, it felt like I was missing out on about 40% of the thing because I don't have an extremely in-depth knowledge of Indian political history and don't speak any subcontinental languages, so while the uses of Hinglish (Hindi and English combined) added texture, their proliferation was such that I had real trouble actually following the story.

Overall, I can't say I really enjoyed reading it too much; I found it really hard to get into his truncated writing style, the family stories didn't grip me, and it was a slog to pick it up sometimes. Some of the prose is incredibly well-written, and some of the sections, especially the war/Sundarbans ones, are great, but overall it's way too introverted and serendipitous to understand completely. I think I may read it again someday, as with the knowledge I now have of it I feel like it'd be a far more enjoyable read a second time round.

For now though, I'm glad to be going back to my preferred genre, the 19th/20th century American novel. The Great Gatsby and Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping are next up, exciting stuff.
Raven
QUOTE (Julie @ Dec 29 2010, 04:06 PM) *
I think you're probably right. It took me about ten years to get around to reading all of them, so it wasn't as glaringly obvious, but with subsequent readings, I'm discovering the sameness. It's just that, like with a band you loved when you were younger, when you grow up and realize they aren't quite as amazing as you thought they were, you fight against accepting it a little. smile.gif


Despite what I have said I do still like Coupland, and will be seeking out more of his books.

Even though he may be repetitive, on occasion, he does still have a knack for highlighting interesting ideas and thoughts - a lot of Generation X is as relevant today as it was when it was written 20 odd years ago - and I still want to re-read Microserfs simply because I loved the characters.

I'll come back to this again one day!
jem
QUOTE (Raven @ Dec 29 2010, 04:12 PM) *
Despite what I have said I do still like Coupland, and will be seeking out more of his books.

Agreed, even though he has one story to tell and gosh darn he's just gonna keep telling it, his books are fun. They are definite bath time books.

I'm reading Infinite Jest again! I did not manage to make it all the way through last time I read it - I left my previous copy on a bus bench, so I've got to start all over again. Yay me!
PrincessKate
I got the latest Adrian Mole (The Prostrate Years) for Christmas, and whilst it was definitely readable, the catalogue of horrors befalling him keeps getting longer. It would be nice for it to be tied up at least semi-neatly and left there. FOREVER.

Oh, and last night I was presented with Barney Stinson's Playbook, so for the next couple of months I will be pretending to be Amish and getting laid.
maian
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

I was talking about science fiction books with my flatmate's new girlfriend at a party the other day when she asked me if I had read this book. I replied that I hadn't, so she said that she would lend me the copy she had with her since it's less than 150 pages long and I would be able to read it in the three days before she headed back to Manchester. Despite the name not ringing a bell, I realised as I read the back cover that I knew the story very well, because Roadside Picnic is the basis for Andrei Tarkovsky's brilliant 1979 film Stalker (and, to a lesser extent, the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl).

The book takes place roughly ten years after extra-terrestrial, or possibly extra-dimensional, beings visited Earth. This event, known as The Visitation, lasted less than a day, and is shrouded in mystery since no one remembers actually seeing any aliens. What they know for certain is that a great amount of destruction occurred, many people went blind or developed a fatal illness, and six "Zones" appeared in different locations throughout the world. Within the Zones, which are often several miles across, all humanity knows of science ceases to apply, and the mysterious properties of the Zones has led to great scientific advancements, as well as the creation of a black market of "Stalkers"; people who go into the Zones specifically to steal objects which they then sell for a large profit. One such stalker, Redrick Schuhart, is the subject of two of the book's four chapters, and is an important character in the others.

As a fan of Stalker, I found the book really interesting in terms of how hugely different it was from the work that it inspire. The Strugatskii wrote the screenplay for Stalker and although they both share a same grimy worldview and a sense of world slowly crumbling, it's clear that they wanted to achieve something very different with it; whereas Roadside Picnic is about the culture that emerges in the wake of The Visitation and the way that society changes when mankind comes into contact with something they cannot understand (which I read as their response to the proliferation of nuclear technology), Stalker is more about the mechanics of travelling in The Zone and the impact that has on the central characters. Though there is a tension to the sequences in which people travel through The Zone, it is something that is treated as a dangerous but commonplace occurence in the novel, whereas the film is about only one such expedition and so ekes a greater degree of fear and suspense from it. Stalker is also more interested in philosophical and spiritual questions. Whilst there are sections of the novel where people talk about what The Visitation and The Zones mean in relation to humanity's place in the university - an idea which is represented by the title, which refers to the idea that the aliens might have not been aware that there was life on Earth and could have discarded their technology in the same way that humans might leave rubbish behind after a picnic - for the most part the book is concerned with more prosaic matters.

It's a really fascinating piece of cerebral science fiction that is light on explanation but heavy on atmosphere and subtext. I prefer Stalker as an overall piece of work, but Roadside Picnic is much more accessible work. Also, even though I now understand the title, that doesn't make it seem any less silly everytime I write it. It sounds like a fake title for a Ken Loach film from the 60's.
Ade
QUOTE (Serafina_Pekkala @ Dec 14 2010, 12:37 PM) *
I've just read the first two Flashman novels. Fucking brilliant. The BBC is missing a trick here. They are ripe for adaptation.

Glad someone here has mentioned the Flashman books, I've been wondering whether to check them out properly. I so very nearly purchased the first several titles from the strength of the cover art alone - the write-ups on the back really should have been the final straw, so to speak, but I resisted the temptation to part with the dosh.

Now my curiosity has been validated, I think I shall make an investment or twelve.
Raven
^ I've read both of them as well, and can also confirm they are jolly good! (though I must admit I enjoyed the first more than the second).
Raven
Finally got around to starting Watchmen on Tuesday evening.

About a third of the way through so far, pretty good for a comic wink.gif
Ade
Nice one.


So, I've done ordered volume one of the Flashman Papers.
Schlubalybub
QUOTE (PrincessKate @ Jan 1 2011, 08:41 PM) *
I got the latest Adrian Mole (The Prostrate Years) for Christmas, and whilst it was definitely readable, the catalogue of horrors befalling him keeps getting longer. It would be nice for it to be tied up at least semi-neatly and left there. FOREVER.

Although this book made me cry, I can't help but agree. I read the first two when I was about 11, which would have been 1996/7, and I really enjoyed them even though they were a bit dated by the time I got to them. After that I read Cappuccino years, which I enjoyed, but I only bought the book because the series was on at about the same time. I think that Wilderness years, which I read after Cappuccino years, was the last one that was completely believable. Weapons of Mass Destruction, Lost Diaries and Prostrate Years just seem to be getting a bit farfetched. I still enjoyed reading them though
Raven
QUOTE (Ade @ Jan 6 2011, 10:16 AM) *
So, I've done ordered volume one of the Flashman Papers.


Nice one, back atcha!
Outatime
I finally finished volume 2 of The Forsyte Saga today, I've been reading it since at least October. I've still got one to go, although I'm not too sure of it since the blurb says it's not about the Forstyes, which is surely cheating to have it included in their saga.
Everlong
Just finished reading A Study In Scarlet

Very good. Why have I not read Sherlock Holmes books sooner?
ella
Touching the Void and Between a Rock and a Hard Place arrived today.

Have been meaning to read Simpson's account of Touching the Void for a while and want to read Between a Rock and a Hard Place before seeing 127 Hours. I am sure that Danny Boyle will have done a brilliant job but I think it will be better to read Ralston's account first.
Raven
Just finished Watchmen, and I feel like I need to read it again (though I'm not going to in the short order!).

Need sleep now . . .
maian
After starting it last summer, then getting distracted by somewhat quicker paced fare, I finished The Idiot by Dostoevsky yesterday. I thought it was pretty brilliant, at times profound (particularly his observation that the best way for someone of above average intelligence to be happy is to know that they have talent but not to have enough self-awareness to realise that they aren't that talented, which I think is as true today as it was in 1869) and often pretty funny in its depiction of how a completely honest and transparent man, or "Idiot", could be perceived, and ultimately destroyed, by society. My one problem with it, and it's more of a case of how much the idea of 'the novel' has evolved since the nineteenth century than an inherent fault in the novel, was the near-endless monologues, some of which go on for several pages at a time. They can be entertaining, but it does make the book feel like more work than it actually is.
Silky
Currently on The Waste Lands, Book three in the Dark Tower saga, by Stephen King, if you kennit.
Schlubalybub
I'm just Starting Under The Dome by Stephen King (subtitled The Simpsons Movie according to my mum, who owns the book and has already read it...)
Silky
QUOTE (Schlubalybub @ Jan 11 2011, 03:32 PM) *
I'm just Starting Under The Dome by Stephen King (subtitled The Simpsons Movie according to my mum, who owns the book and has already read it...)

Need to read that one.
Schlubalybub
QUOTE (Silky @ Jan 11 2011, 03:33 PM) *
Need to read that one.

I just hope it's better than Cell...Cell was kinda said to be the new Stand (before Under the Dome was the new Stand) and it really isn't
I loved The Stand, but Cell was just weird!

I dunno- King's 1990s/2000s books just seem to have been strange
I read half of Duma Key and wasn't keen...didn't help that the title sounds like "Dyma ci", which is Welsh for "here's the dog"
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