Sunday, October 31, 2010


I don’t know.  I think I must have missed something with The Man in The High Castle.  In a way it was a bit like Carry Me Down – it had no ending.  The authors draw you into these peoples lives and situations, build it to a climax and then pull you out of it…… and then what?  You’re just left hanging and feeling like you’ve just wasted valuable reading time.                                                  
I thought I hadn’t downloaded the whole novel to my iPod.  I listened to the last disc twice, then again on my laptop – and nope, there was definitely no ending.  I ask you ‘what is the point?’!!
It was an interesting theme, and the various character stories, though not necessarily intertwining, were good.  I liked the idea of the ‘Oracle’……… but you don’t get that satisfied feeling when there are a ton of loose ends that need tying up.  I feel very let down.
I’m still giggling through Choke.  It really does evoke some funny (if not sometimes shocking) images.  Nurse Paige who takes care of Victor’s mother in the nursing home has read his mother’s diary and informs him that his mother believed that Victor’s embryo contained DNA from Jesus Christ himself.  Another patient at the nursing home recognises Victor (from a choking incident) and says that he has the capacity for great love and compassion.  Victor is terrified of this statement and needs re-assurance from his best friend Denny that he is in fact a degenerate loser!  So degenerate in fact, that they both spend a night prowling gardens and drinking the beer left out for slugs.  This really is a bizarre story, but it's extremely well written and is a very satirical slant on getting through life the best way you can.
I have started The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky which is about an impoverished and orphaned Prince Myshkin who has travelled from Switzerland where he was being treated for his idiocy (epilepsy) to St Petersberg to acquaint himself with the Princess Myshkin.  They are distantly related, and are both pretty much the end of the family line. The princess is not very keen on meeting him at first and is worried that he is an itinerant traveller who will require assistance; but she warms to him and so do her three daughters.  He is conversational, though he doesn’t seem to know when to shut up, and when he does he seems embarrassed about what he has just said.
At one point the characters are talking about Capital Punishment and Myshkin describes how he watched a man guillotined.  He felt it a terrible punishment as there was such a certainty of death in those last seconds from hearing the knife fall, there is no hope of getting away - an awful trauma for the soul.  He also talks about a man who was up before a firing squad, and how he felt that the five minutes he had left was actually a really a long time.  He could spend two minutes saying goodbye to his fellow prisoners etc but when he was reprieved instead of savouring the infintisimal minutes he now had, he wasted many of them. This is, without doubt, autobiographical and very haunting….. apart from the many Russian names and nicknames, I know I am really going to really enjoy this novel.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Knackered" isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind

I wasn’t going to sit in front of the computer tonight after being glued to it at work this past week, but if I leave it any longer I’ll finish these batch of reads without having talked about them J

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick  is a Hugo Award winning novel, set in an alternate reality where Germany and Japan won the war.  America has been divided into the Pacific States and the Reich controlled states.  Germany has wiped out Africa and are still exterminating the few remaining Jews. It is more tolerable to live in the Pacific States as the Japanese are more cultured and less ‘thuggish’ in their daily dealings.

The High Castle is a remote mansion, inhabited by the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.  This book, which is banned in the Reich States, tells of an alternative reality where Germany and Japan lost the war.

I’ve almost finished listening to this, but I can’t relate to any of the characters.  I like the premise, it is well written, but I’ve enjoyed other Dick novels more (Maze of Death and Dr Blood Money especially).

Choke on the other hand I love.  You are warned at the beginning that you won’t like the protagonist – but I do!  You can’t help it.  Victor is a sex addict, who works in an 18th Century themed park, and pays his ageing mother’s hospital bills.

As his mother needs a feeding tube and the bills get higher and higher, Victor needs to bring in more money.  He does this by selecting a restaurant, and choking halfway through his meal.  He always finds a saviour who then will remember him yearly by way of an anniversary card and (usually) a nice cheque.  Victor sees this as helping other people too -  making them feel special, becoming a hero…..

Victor never knew his father, but his mother is keen to tell the story to Victor but unfortunately she does not recognise her only son even though he visits her regularly – she sees him as one of her defence lawyers from her shady past!  Victor is also the bad guy from the all the elderly patients' pasts.  He accepts all their abuse as he thinks that it makes them feel better about what happened to them, and it’s not worth arguing the point with them.

It’s a very unusual novel and very quirky.  I like the way Palahniuk sums up the previous paragraph by saying: for example: “Freedom” isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind.

The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker isn’t overly fantastic.  The writing is a little amateur.  Adam Salton has come to England from Australia to stay with his elderly uncle.  Whilst there he learns about the region they are situated in, which was known as Mercia in Roman times, and also known as the Lair of the White Worm - the worm being some monstrous snake or dragon.

There is something Lovecraftian about it, but it’s not on the same level.  I will persevere with it however.

That pretty much sums up my reading for this week.  I’ve got The Idiot by Fyodor Doestoyesdky lined up on my iPod (another 1001), though it’s only half downloaded from Overdrive, so I need to work out how to finish it off otherwise I’ll be downloading it as an EBook instead!!

Until the weekend then........

Saturday, October 23, 2010

In One Fell Swoop

As predicted, I finished all my ‘books’ at pretty much the same time.  It’s nice to start my next set as a clean slate.

In summary, The Woman in White was excellent, despite the many narrators.  It certainly didn’t pay to be a female heiress back in the early 1800’s; it was an insidious tale of identity theft, though I’m not sure that the reveal as to how it was all done at the end was really necessary.  The reader is not so stupid and is able to work it out from the clues throughout the story; I found it just dragged the story out a little too long.

I can only give it 9 out of 10 however as Collins used that fated phrase which I seem to have developed a strange aversion to since reading Harry Potter ie ‘He looked wildly about’.  Aaaaaagh!  Sorry J.K. that is my only criticism of your writing!

Crime is not my favourite genre, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was fresh and original.  It was rather slow getting off the ground, but it had a cracking revelation towards the end, and the revenge segment was sweet.  I look forward to reading the other two next year.  ‘1001’ books will be my priority until the end of December.

The Book of the Dead, I won’t say too much on this one or reveal the ending as I will write a review in the October Newsletter.  It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was an okay read.  The only thing that really annoyed me were the many spelling mistakes in the text.

Inspiration for my next life - talk about
taking it easy!
The 15th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories were wonderful to re-read through adult eyes.  The Dead Man of Varley Grange, No Living Man So Tall and The Hanging Tree were the best of the selection, but they were all really good.  I’ve several Fontana books I want to re-read so looking forward to it once I’ve finished Mary Danby’s 65 Great Tales of Horror.

Talking of Mary Danby (after speaking with my all knowing mum) it has transpired that I bought the wrong book for Ringing The Changes.  It’s in the 65 Great Tales of the SUPERNATURAL.  So, once again, I await with anticipation the arrival of this book which I’ve ordered via  ETA is 27th December……. Patience is a virtue they say, but I can’t understand why it should take so long????

My next reads then……… I’ve bought a copy of Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (the author of Fight Club), which is a ‘1001’ read, so that’s my physical book sorted.  The Lair of the White Worm (I just can’t help gravitating to titles like this) by Bram Stoker is on the Kindle and will be my lunch time read.  My audio book is The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, as the next book club theme is ‘A Man’s Home is his Castle’.  The premise is that Germany won the war, allied with Japan, and the novel is set in the Pacific States of America……. 

Just thought I'd share this photo which I took today at Dreamworld.
Pi is the latest addition to the Tiger Island family.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bitter Disappointment!

Me and My Kindle
After waiting weeks (or it seems like it) for my long awaited  anthology of horror stories to arrive,  it finally has.  BUT Ringing The Changes by Robert Aickman isn't in it!  Boo Hoo.  I can't believe it, I've read the contents page over and over.... but nope it's not there.  There are some really good stories in it however, so all is not lost, but now I'm back on the hunt for this elusive story.

The Woman in White has taken a turn, and it has been announced that Lady Glyde has died.  It is all a ruse however, and Anne Catherick is in fact the person who died, and Laura (Lady Glyde) was put into the asylum that Anne had previously escaped from.  Marian visits the asylum and recognises her sister at once.   I found this section a bit messy as there are narrations by the doctor, the woman who washes the dead body, and the housekeeper etc  But, now we're back with Walter Hartright who has met up with the ladies and is in hiding with them, and is investigating the history of Sir Percival Glyde in an effort to find out the secret that will destroy him.

In The Book of The Dead Maltravers has found a clue within the Attwater Firewitch story in the form of a series of numbers which prove to be the combination of Carrington's safe.  This leads to more suspects in the murder case, as anyone who has read this unpublished manuscript is now under suspicion.

Blomkvist has been shot at in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which shows that he is getting closer to the truth in Harriet's disappearance.......

Phew - at the rate that I'm reading these books, along with a Fontana book of Ghost Stories I've been puddling through, I'll be finishing these all at the same time so need to line up my next set of reads... one on my Kindle is a must - thinking of The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laura, Get Out Of There!

I’m so full of anxiety for Laura Fairlie!  Marian has had her suspicions for quite some time, but now after overhearing a secret conversation between Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde by sneaking over onto a nearby balcony, they have been confirmed.  Count Fosco, who comes across as full of decorum, consideration and concern for the ladies, has now planted the idea into Percival’s mind that the only way out of his mounting debt would be through the death of his wife.

Earlier in the piece, the Baronet had tried to force Laura to sign a document but Laura had the presence of mind however to ask if she could read it first.  Her husband fobbed her off saying it was unnecessary and she wouldn’t understand it.  Marian backed her up however, and there was a scene, but Count Fosco interceded and the matter was deferred. 

Laura has also been secretly meeting with Anne Catherick, who knows of a secret that will destroy the  Baronet.  Anne leaves a message buried under the sand where Laura takes her walks, but Sir Percival has found it.  Convinced that Laura now knows his secret he has tried to bully her to a confession, handling her very roughly, dismissing her long-time personal maid and locking her in her room.  Count Fosco, again with the outward appearance of concern for Laura’s welfare appeals to Percival’s better nature to release Laura. But when she is freed, Laura only locks herself in her room, admitting only her half sister Marian.

Unfortunately, after Marian’s dangerous eavesdropping (in the rain) on the balcony, she has now become deathly ill.  Count Fosco is very concerned about his ‘worthy adversary’ and whilst helping the doctor during his visits he has had access to Marian’s diary.  Marian’s most recent entry mentions that she needs to get Laura out of Blackwater and back to Limmeridge House under the pretext of visiting her uncle.  A letter had been dispatched to Mr Fairlie but he pretty much dismissed it as he didn’t want an angry Sir Percival Glyde on  his doorstep upsetting his equalibrian.  He won’t get out of it so easy though, as Count Fosco has just come knocking and has stated that he can guarantee that the Baronet will not disturb him in the slightest……..

One thing I love about reading are the various references to other novels or characters, and the more I read the  more I pick up on them.  Sir Percival Glyde has a horse called Isaac of York - now if I had not just read Ivanhoe that would have meant nothing to me.

As for The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo the mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance is slowly being unraveled and the finger is beginning to point to the Vanger family itself.  Lisbeth Salander has found more murders that have a biblical pretext to them, and it seems Harriet was aware of this by the coded message that Mikael had found.  Mikael’s own daughter seems to be following in Harriet’s footsteps by becoming involved in an obscure religious sect, will she be the next victim?  I like the laid back way this is written and the way the mystery is being peeled away layer by layer.

With The Book of the Dead I’m wondering if the unpublished Holmes novel The Attwater Firewitch will hold a clue that will relate to the murder of Carrington.  Holmes is on the trail of a witch who curses a victim, and then the victim falls prey to a murderous bird.  Two people have been attacked, and Mad Meg the local weirdo is claiming to be the witch.  Holmes accepts Meg as the culprit and makes out that he is returning to London with Watson.  He is however going to return to Attwater by a round about route hoping that the real villain will make a mistake ….. what this clue can be to the real life murder I have no idea but why would so much of this 'unpublished narrative' be included otherwise? The plot thickens.......

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thank God It's No Longer a Man's World!

The Woman in White ~ Laura has agreed on a date for her marriage to Sir Percival Glyde, but the family lawyer has his concerns about the settlement details.  Part of Laura’s inheritance includes a substantial sum of twenty thousand pounds, which Sir Percival’s lawyer wants settled on the Baronet in the event of Laura’s death (rather than going to her relatives and beloved half sister).  On investigation into the Baronet’s affairs it appears that he is desperately in need of some ready cash.  Alarms bells ring and the family's lawyer contacts Laura’s uncle/guardian – who is a very selfish man, and takes the easy option in all he does.  Her guardian cannot see that that this could pave the way for a wrong doing against Laura and dismisses the Lawyer’s concerns as Laura is so young and with the Baronet being a good 25 years older it is evident, in his eyes, that he will pass away long before Laura.
I find the laws and rights of women back in this period (1850’s) rather alarming.  It was most certainly a man’s world back then.  Another good example of this is shown in Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu, where an evil uncle conspires to murder his niece for her inheritance.
I’m not too keen on the change of narrative voice in this novel though – we started with Walter Hartright, then Mr Gilmour (the Lawyer) now we’re privy to Marian Halcombe’s diaries.  I prefer one voice throughout, otherwise the story is being told over and over by the different characters.  I’ve only enjoyed this device twice before – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Peter Carey’s Theft.  Collins used this device in The Moonstone to detrimental effect as I didn’t like some of the characters.  Apart from this I am really enjoying it, and the audio narrator is very good. 
I’m halfway through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I like the two stories being told in tandem, and obviously they will merge down the track.  We are following Mikael Blomkvist a disgraced editor/journalist of the Millenium magazine and Lisbeth Salander – a rather disturbed young woman who is under a guardianship law.  The theme of this novel seems to be sexual abuse against women, and the sections are headed by sexual abuse statistics in Sweden.  This should not put you off from reading this; it is a well written mystery and I’m very intrigued to know the outcome of the investigation into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger.
The Book of the Dead is travelling along very nicely.  The lover of Carrington’s wife has been arrested for his murder, but Maltravers believes the law have got the wrong man.  The premise is good, though the writing isn’t any great shakes.  But, it’s okay for a light read during my lunch break.
I’ll sign off for now as Laura Fairlie is due back from her honeymoon in Europe, and Marian has moved into the Baronet’s property to prepare for their return.  We need to know if the new Lady Glyde is happy in her marriage, and to find out more about her estranged aunt’s husband Count Fosco (who is also Percival Glyde’s best friend) whom she caught up with whilst travelling.  Aren’t they just great names? 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts on The Woman in White

Reading with Mum on a wet afternoon
Well, the momentous event in Ivanhoe never happened.  Ivanhoe was to joust as a champion for the accused Rebecca, but when he squared up to the Templar Knight, he barely touched him with his sword and the Templar fell off his horse and died as a ‘victim of his own passions’ – probably a stroke or heart attack.  How pathetic - Ivanhoe was incapacitated and feeble for most of this story and I was very disappointed with him.  It was however a great adventure story and I liked the way Scott described his scenes and what his characters wore, pointing out the differences in dress between the Saxon’s and the Norman’s.   
Now that’s finished, I’ve started listening to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  I have read a couple of Collins’ books and haven’t really enjoyed them; but I do know the premise of the Woman in White and as it’s on the list I’m compelled to read it.  Already I am finding the narrative voice similar to The Two Destinies so I’m really hoping it doesn’t get as corny as that novel did.  Our narrator is Walter Hartright, a drawing master, who has a chance and strange encounter with a woman in white.  She mentions with great regard the name of Mrs Fairlie, and Limmeridge House.  Walter is startled as he is about to begin employment at Limmeridge House.  He assists the lady to a carriage at her request and by chance hears a conversation where a man claims he is searching for a woman who has escaped from his asylum and who is dressed all in white.

Once at Limmeridge House Walter becomes acquainted with Laura Fairlie and her half sister Marian Halcombe.  Laura is delicate and attractive whilst Marian, though lacking in looks, is a strong minded, intelligent and well bred woman.  The half sisters are Walter’s students and the more time he spends with them the more he find himself falling in love with Laura.  Walter mentions his encounter with the Woman in White to Marian and with carefully reading through her mother’s letters she is sure that it is Anne Catherick, once a student at her mother’s school and who bore an uncanny resemblance to Laura. One day a letter arrives for Laura which distresses her and results in Walter being asked to leave the house.  Marian advises that Laura is betrothed to wed a Baronet, an arrangement made by her late father.  But, the letter that Laura has received points to a premonition of unhappiness and despair. Walter and Marian wonder at who wrote the letter, as they have describe the baronet perfectly.

I find that Collins describes what his character is doing in too much detail, and I’m a bit annoyed that Marion had to be construed to be unattractive in order to be a strong character.  But, the story line is intriguing and it has that Gothic feel to it which I like.
The Book of The Dead has taken a nice little turn.  Maltravers has been given the unpublished Sherlock Holmes manuscript to read, which is set in the local vicinity of Attwater.  In the meantime Carrington the owner of the manuscript has been told that his wife is having an affair, and who she has been having the affair with.  The bearer of bad news has long held a candle for Carrington and they agree to meet at his home to talk about it further.  But when Carrington arrives home he disturbs an intruder unlocking his safe and is shot in the chest with a shotgun. Who did it?!  It’s fun, easy to read, and I really liked the few chapters of the Sherlock Holmes story that Maltravers reads.

The weather here has been absolutely atrocious, but at least I can get some reading done!  Still going with Dragon Tattoo, will write some thoughts on it later.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Forces are Conspiring Against Me!

It's that time of night again, and I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts before heading off to bed.

I won't write more on Ivanhoe until I actually finish it.  I've got two discs left and can only summise that we will have some momentous event by the man so that he deserved the title of the book.  I still think it should have been called Isaac the Jew, or the very least Isaac of York!!  Don't get me wrong, I Iike the character of Isaac so it's been okay reading about HIS adventures...... weird!!

I've reached the point with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where I really look forward to picking it up to read more.  I love that in a book, I've read too many where I put them down and forget to pick them up again (The Time Traveller's Wife....... I think that's now relegated to the bottom of my work bag!).  I'd borrowed it from the library and it was due for renewal, and unfortunately someone must have it on hold as my on line renewal was rejected. Like I said the other night, forces are conspiring against me!  I thought about hanging on to it until I'd finished and just return it late, but my conscience wouldn't allow me to do that, so I popped into KMart on my way home from work and bought a copy instead.  Actually I bought all three!  So now I can really enjoy them at my leisure, and even better the copy I have bought is a much more manageable size for reading in bed.  I nearly knocked myself out the other night as I was drifting off, the library copy was so big!

I've also started reading The Book of The Dead by Robert Richardson which is the second book for my club theme: Same Title Different Book.  Not too sure about the quality of the writing, it's more suited to a short story, but I like the premise, which is this: Gus Maltravers is a writer and amateur detective, he is a guest at a social gathering held at a gothic mansion, the home of the Carringtons.  Mr Carrington reveals that he owns an unpublished copy of a Sherlock Holmes story.  The manuscript is stolen and someone is murdered....... sounds a bit Agatha Christie-ish doesn't it?

I really need to get on with The Half Blood Prince too.  I'm been listening to it on and off, and I have been enjoying it, but I guess I'm a bit Harry Potter'd out to be honest.  I've read a few this year.  My daughter will be aghast when she reads this, but I will do my best to finish this one then have a break and read the rest next year.  I do need to prioritise my 1001 books this close to the end of the year.

My anthology containing Ringing The Changes has still not arrived, they reckon it will take six weeks - for a book???  My Kindle arrived after only 1 week - work that one out..... talking of which I still have not played with it yet.  I shall make that a priority this weekend.

Well that's me up to date, off to bed now to read some more Stieg Larsson and fall asleep to this rain (what is going on with our weather?).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Bitter Sweet Week

Josh & Sam
This week has been a bit of a bitter sweet one for me.  I had the joy of seeing my daughter and her family and then today was told the news that my dad’s cancer battle is not yet over.  One day at a time……..
I haven’t done a great deal of reading but now the family has gone back to WA I intend to get back into the swing of it.  I left my iPod shuffle running all day by mistake and was at the end of Ivanhoe when I left work.  I tried to back track on the way home but after wobbling around my lane a bit on the highway I gave up and listened to some Sparks instead.  Now the damn thing is flat and I’m charging it up – more precious reading time wasted!
It was lovely seeing my daughter, grandson and my-son-in-law's sons.  I got the biggest hug from Sam, he’s always good for a cuddle and I think Josh said more to me this week than he ever has!  My grandson Jayden let me hold his hand when we were out, the last time I saw him he would pull it away and say ‘no’. 
My gorgeous grandson
The highlight was going on the Big Red Car ride twice with him, and having my photo taken with Henry the Octopus and Dorothy the Dinosaur at Dreamworld, and being asked if ‘mum’ would like to be in the photo too.  It’s nice being a young nana! 
Thanks to  my son-in-law's habit of not being happy with his meal when we go out I’ve scored vouchers for Montezuma’s and Outback Jacks so guess where I’ll be headed on the weekend……
Getting back to reading: Ivanhoe has been rather different than I expected.  It’s a great adventure story, but I wonder why it was called Ivanhoe as he hasn’t really featured in it very much.  I’ve got three more discs to go so he must show up somewhere.  Whilst listening to this I’m surprised at how ignorant I have been of British history.  I knew about the Battle of Hastings, and I saw the Bayeaux Tapestry when on a school trip to Normandy but I didn’t realise that Richard the Lionheart was a Norman, and I didn’t really think about the Jewish population back then.  It’s obvious there was one – I’ve read Merchant of Venice but I’ve never really thought about it much. 
I really like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; the Vanger family and its mystery are quite intriguing.  The location is different from other mystery novels, and the characters well described.
I’ve also been reading a Fontana Book of Ghost Stories, to keep my ‘spooky’ reading in hand whilst I wait for Ringing the Changes to arrive.  The Dead Man of Varley Grange and No Living Man so Tall have been the highlights from this.  I read all the Fontana’s when I was young so it’s good to re-read them all with an adult’s eye.
I've done more eating than reading this week and I haven’t played with my Kindle yet, but I do plan to check it out properly on the weekend, I'll find a free wifi hotspot (McDonald’s?), and download some books.
So until next time…..