Kindling #2

This post is from a series of review posts - for the whole list, see my Kindling page.

Some of you may remember an earlier post I wrote covering my recent tendency to read a lot - now due to a few trips and further reading time, I've been able to get through a lot more, and so have compiled an updated summary for the purpose of those in the future who, like me, search for reviews of books they like to see if they can find suggestions for more. (If you're one of those, hello, person from the future!)

Finished recently:
Blue Monday (Nicci French) - for those left in suspense last time: not a bad read, but the ending kind of let it down, it just fizzled out; the plot development left behind a few interesting characters and developed a bit too predictably. That said, I'm open to trying out a sequel as the psychological parts were better than average - and it turns out, "Tueday's Gone" is indeed going to be released soon;

Berlin Noir (Philip Kerr) - At the recommendation of a friend, I tried this Kerr sampler for his detective Bernie Gunther, three shortened tales about a detective set in Germany and Austria in 1940s. First things first - Mr Kerr really really likes his similies, where were ok at times but their abundance was a bit grating. Secondly, Bernie is a hard man to like - I'd class him as an anti-hero: fond of violence, womanising (I think ending up in bed with every female the author didn't characterise as old or ugly...), insulting, although generally using these to solve his cases. It's hard to tell if this is just Kerr's style or how detective work was at the time, I'm not familiar with the time but there was a very engrossing, atmospheric picture painted of the area, even if unpleasant. Hard to tell if it'd be more enjoyable in full form rather than 3 stories, but I think I'll leave meeting Bernie until I move to Europe and can more appreciate the areas described.

The Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins) - Due to the huge amount of press surrounding the movies, and even the books, I decided to consume one of each of these after each of the three sections in Kerr's book. The first was certainly amazing, well worth the hype - a true airport novel, void of depth but full of excitement, action, mind games etc, and sadly, over in one 5hr sitting (and my reading speed is slow). In particular, the books had wonderful coverage if the main character's thought processes, something that the movie unfortunately couldn't capture (understandably). After finishing the first, my Kindle included an interview with the author who claimed the idea came from mixing war news coverage with reality TV - I wouldn't be surprised if the latter was Survivor, due to some overlapping concepts, which just made me like it more :) But then the second and third books came along...I almost gave up when the protagonist was spending most of her time musing over how selfish and incompetent she was. I felt that is it progressed, more and more sentences should have had "Conveniently, " as a prefix, and the overall takeaway message (Give localised help only to those that appear the most immediate needy, even to the detriment of longer, more important plans - as superficial appearance is still important, and you'll get lucky in the end...) is not really something we should be sending the Young-adult target audience. ...but at least they're reading.

Damned (Chuck Palahniuk) - To put my bias out there, I'm an absolute Palahniuk junkie, enough to be able to spell his last name. His situations and characters are just so far out of left field, but the journey you make during the story always seems to make perfect sense, and be amusing in its super-pragmatism. Damned is the story of a 13yo girl who's ended up in Hell, as she learns the environment - avoiding the undesirable landscapes, English Patient reruns, fighting Hilter, and working as call-center operator while recounting her past to try to work out how she got there. As usual, a short summary just doesn't do it justice; if you like non-standard plots, just read it!

11/22/63 (Stephen King) - Since enjoying the Dark Tower series, I've read most of King's recent works; this one covers a time portal that's discovered in a basement in Maine (of course) that drops the traveller in 1958, through which the protagonist tries to subvert the assassination of JFK (among other things). As with other of his stories, the plot is secondary to the life of the world in which they live in - and most of the otherworldly sci-fi of time travel was mostly forgotten after the start, what was left was an enjoyable (though not super-exceptional) recollection of the path that Jake Epping takes to the fateful day.

The Games (Ted Kosmatka) - I'll keep this short, but I read this due to its interesting premise: that genetic engineering grows hugely popular and funded from an olympic contest where engineered monsters battle to the death. Very Michael-Crichton-y, though nothing new for the genre - it's also written by a Valve writer (computer game company), and read exactly like a game script.

Currently reading:

1Q84 (Haruki Murakami) - I read and thoroughly enjoyed Murakami's Norwegian Wood a while ago, and had purchased 1Q84 a while ago so have now finally got around to reading it, and if anything I'm pretty sure I'm liking it even more. The narrative cycles each chapter between Aomame - a peaceful trainer who doubles as an almost accidental assassin who feels reality doesn't quite correspond with what she remembers - and Tengo, a talented writer who's helping rewrite a non-writers's story to give it the publicity it deserves. Murakami's Tokyo seems a serene but extremely complex place, and the two formerly quite separate characters' worlds have started to show signs of joining, so at this rate, the last 60% of the book is looking good.

And that's all in this installment - my kindle now has about 3 books left on my to-read list after 1Q84, though the to-buy list is 20 or so...I'm starting to think I should just stick to a few authors and read everything they write (which I do already for a few) - are there any authors you do this for?


  1. I have read everything of David Brin's that I could get my hands on. The uplift series were entertaining. For a while, I read every Orson Scott Card but then he got all weird. Neil Gaiman is just weird anyway 8-) And of course Anne McCrappy. I enjoyed a lot of Sara Douglass's work but one of her series scared the bejeezus out of me to the point where I could not sleep. Like Ms McCrappy, don't expect more of her work, nor Douglas Adams for that matter. Dan Simmons - the Hyperion series in particular - scary in parts. I admit to reading most of Stephen Donaldson's works too, though I have not read the very last Thomas Covenant book - I've hit myself over the head through all the rest of them. His Gap series was good though. And of course Pratchett, who has matured nicely. Pity he's losing his na-na. And I think I've dated myself enough now :-)

  2. Never met a Philip Kerr book I didn't love. Though I actually can't *stand* Chuck Palahniuk.
    Murakami is a lot of hard work, but that work always pays off in the end. "Norwegian Wood" was possibly one of the most depressing books I ever read, but having read it I felt richer for it. "Sputnik Sweetheart" is an excellent (much shorter) one, with a plot that will never be resolved - and that's fine by me.
    For an easy-read science fiction, give Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict series a go. The first one, "A Talent for War", was very well thought out until the ending, where everything just suddenly and too neatly comes together. The second effort, "Polaris", was much more polished. Lots of fun.
    Of course, if you feel like deviating to non-fiction, check out Richard J. Evans' Third Reich trio.


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