My favourite reads of 2010 and a big thank you to everyone!

2010 has been a fabulous reading year for me. 

I have read more books in one year than I have ever read before and I have found some fabulous new authors that I can't wait to read more of. I have learnt a lot about my reading preferences and habits. Most of all, Page Turners has allowed me to really think about what I have been reading and learn more about literature than I ever knew before.

I just wanted to share my favourite reads of this year with you.

I know that many bloggers will be having the same 'favourite reads of 2010' posts, so I promise that I will keep mine short. 

To help you decide which reviews you might find most interesting, I have provided a little summary of what I liked about each book. 

My favourite reads of 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - this is by far the best book I read in 2010. It is a unique piece of historical fiction by an Australian author that is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. If there is one book that I think that everyone should read from my 2010 list, it's this one.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - I have never had such a strong emotionally physical response to a book in my entire life; in fact I spent a solid 10 minutes crying hysterically on the lounge when I finished it.  This book is dark and deals with difficult themes, but it is well worth reading.

The Passage by Justin Cronin - I know this was the most hyped book of 2010, but I am telling you, it was well worth the hype. Every genre you can imagine is combined in this thriller that has you wrapped you around it's pinkie from beginning to end.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood - I haven't reviewed this one yet, by Atwood has outdone herself again.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - I haven't reviewed this one yet either, but it makes the list just for introducing me to the hilarious literary comic genius of Jasper Fforde in the Thursday Next series.


The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver - Barbara Kingsolver has created another wonderfully colourful story in The Lacuna. It was the first book I read in 2010 and still is one of the best.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif - this makes the list for combining laugh out loud comedy with serious political messages. It sounds strange but I guarantee that it is worth reading.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano - the best literary read of 2010. Bolano's literary talent is astounding.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - probably the scariest ghost story you will ever read.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy by Stieg Larsson - it may not be the best writing that you will ever read, but this trilogy was one of the most thrilling I read all year.


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - one of the best science fiction books that I have ever read and reminded me that this is a greatly under rated genre that I think people should read more of.


I have a new job starting on the 17th of January that will mean that I will not be able to do as much reading next year as I was able to this year. I am pleased that I read so many great books this year and I can't wait for more to come.

Thanks for being such wonderful followers of Page Turners in 2010. I hope to see even more of you in 2011!

The Collector by John Fowles

John Fowles' The Collector is a dark and disturbing book, with some of the best characterisation I have ever read.

The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, a lonely man who is socially and emotionally challenged. He is unable to form relationships with other people, and incapable of participating in life . Instead he collects things, mainly butterflies, and enjoys photography - pursuing hobbies and interests in which he can admire the world that he seems incapable of understanding. He observes life, people and beauty from a distance, longing to reach out but not knowing how.

He becomes fixated on Miranda, a young art student whom he has lived near for some time. He follows her and learns about her life, obsessing about where she goes, who she sees and what she wears.

Unsatisfied by admiring her beauty from afar and unable to form normal human relationships - he does the only thing he knows how to - he collects her.

After a lot of planning Frederick eventually captures and imprisons Miranda in an elaborate set up in his home's basement. She becomes the pride of his collection and he is deluded enough to believe that she will eventually come to love him in the way that he loves her.

Miranda is almost as complex as Frederick himself. She is a passionate person, pursuing her life and her art with all of her enthusiasm. Miranda eventually comes to see that Frederick, or Caliban as she calls him, will not grant her her freedom and she begins on a course of action designed to break free of her cage.

Miranda is not a particularly likable character. She is posh and self obsessed, feeling herself to be entirely superior to Frederick. She appeared to be somewhat of a spoiled brat, someone too pleased with themselves and their abilities to be very sympathetic. And yet, I felt for Miranda. I was constantly hoping for her freedom, whilst feeling sickened by the cruelty displayed by Frederick.
The mood of The Collector is dark and creepy, perhaps one of the creepiest books I have ever read. Fowles brings the characters, particularly Frederick Clegg, to life and it is at times extremely disturbing. I found myself feeling as though I was in the rooms with the characters watching the events unfold.

The characters themselves are so real that it was almost scary at times. It was almost as if Fowles was possessed by them as he wrote the book, particularly the character of Frederick Clegg.

The way in which Fowles wrote The Collector is perhaps responsible for the level of realism that he was able to create.  The first half of the book is told from Frederick Clegg's perspective, and the second from Miranda's perspective. Fowles creates two entirely distinct voices, and by exploring the same events from the differing perspectives we are given a deep look into the dark world that Frederick has created for himself and his captive.

Just as Fowleshas written the book from two perspectives, The Collector is a book of duals, of opposites. Frederick is enamoured by the beauty he sees in the world, yet he is a cruel and ugly person. He desperately wants love and companionship and yet he full of hate. In The Collector we see the clash of the upper and lower classes. Master and slave. Warden and captive.

The Collector is a wonderful piece of literature that is sure to draw you deeply into the creepy and disturbing mind of Frederick Clegg.
  
 Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is a small book and a quick read, but emotionally challenging.

Do I recommend that you read this book?
Yes, it is worth every minute.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I am pleased that I own it, although I am not sure that it is one that I will re-read frequently.


Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it. 


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler


Raymond Chandler is regarded as one of the best crime writers of all time, and his book The Long Goodbye is the perfect example of why he deserves these accolades.

Not only is Chandler a great crime writer, his books are also excellent example of literary fiction. He hasn't had as much recognition for his skills as a writer of literary fiction because of the way in which crime fiction is viewed, but this is a big mistake.

In The Long Goodbye, PI Phillip Marlowe meets and forms a friendship with Terry Lennox, who draws him into a web of deception and murder. The book is set in the fabulously decadent Los Angeles of the 1950's. The characters are larger than life and often stereotypical; there is the alcoholic and introspective writer, the quack doctors, the alluring and beautiful women and the powerful and controlling capitalist.

Yet Chandler still gives his characters in The Long Goodbye a level of complexity that belies their stereotypical exteriors.

Phillip Marlowe is a particularly complex character. He comes across as a tough guy, someone willing to stand up for right and wrong and take on the big issues. Despite being a PI, or perhaps because of it, he is cynical of the criminal justice system. He is moralistic and frustrated about the corruption he sees in the world around him.

Towards the beginning of the book, Marlowe finds himself incarcerated because he refuses to disclose any information about he whereabouts of Terry Lennox to police. The solicitor who has been sent by a mysterious benefactor to assist him apply for bail says this him:
"You had to play the big scene,'he said coldly. 'Stand on your rights, talk about the law. How ingenuous can a man get, Marlowe? A man like you who is supposed to know his way around. The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law ever was ever intended to be. I guess you're not in any mood to be helped. So I'll take myself off. You can reach me if you change your mind."
I liked this quite for two reasons. The first is that as a criminal solicitor myself, I understand what the solicitor who is speaking his trying to get at. People expect justice from the law; but justice is above and beyond what the law can offer. The law is comprised of man-made rules that regulate our behaviour - nothing that could ever really be expected to give true justice for all the wrongs committed by people who do the wrong thing. I also like it because of what it demonstrates about Marlowe - he is moralistic and does believe in justice and fighting for what he thinks is right. In Marlowe you can't help but perceive a greater sense of frustration at life underlying his behaviour.

Yet, underneath of this Chandler gives us glimpses of a sentimental man, a romantic. He is suspicious of people, but his friendship with Terry Lennox and his romance at the conclusion of the book show that Marlowe's inner self can be touched by others. He can be annoyed and frustrated at the position he finds himself in, and yet he is willing to light a cigarette and pour a cup of coffee on behalf of his absent friend at this request.

In The Long Goodbye it is not just the complexity of the characters which Chandler is able to craft to perfection. The plot itself is full of twists and turns. Chandler is able to build up many different and seemingly unconnected narrative threads and draw them all together in the end so neatly that you can't quite help but be astounded at how you got there.

The most putstanding and famous element of The Long Goodbye is of course Chandler's writing. Inspired by Carroll Daly and Dashiell Hammett, this book is a qunitessential example of hardboiled crime fiction. 

Until I read The Long Goodbye, I didn't realise just how influential Chandler's writing and characterisation has been. Now I see his influence everywhere and most recently in the writing of Peter Temple, an Australian crime writer who's work can also be considered literary fiction.

Chandler's writing is edgy and raw. The sentences are short and sharp. The dialogue is snappy. He is perfectly able to create a sense of place and character with his straightforward prose. Chandler's use of simile to describe events is integral to his style. The simile's themselves are unique and often surprising but extremely effective.

I say all the above with my objective hat on. Personally, I did find the hardboiled style a little challenging. The writing is so pared down that I found it required an extra level of concentration to follow what was happening. This was particularly the case with the dialogue, which was often so minimal I had to read the meaning into the words rather than find it there. I was distracted by a little niggling voice at the back of my head that kept saying to me, "People don't really talk like this is real life." I also found the pace of the book a lot slower than I would have liked, which meant that some of the time I felt as though I had to push my way through the story, rather than being carried along by it. I really expected something thrilling and exciting that kept me on the edge of my seat - something very plot driven. Instead I got something slow that meandered about - more character driven than anything.

Having said that, I can absolutely see how Chandler has deservedly become a literary icon. The Long Goodbye is his most well-known and longest book and is, despite my personal reaction, something I recognise as an example of the some of the best literature of the 20th century.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A very intense read that will challenge you as a reader.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, especially to anyone with a genuine interest in literature.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Not unless you are already a big Chandler fan. Borrowing it from the library would be fine.


Star Rating


6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I recommend it. 

The art of reading

"... the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day."

~ Carlos Ruiz Zafon, from Shadow of the Wind

I read this quote on someone elses blog and it fascinated me.

I think that he captures what reading means to me perfectly when he states "that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind". I think that what he is trying to say is that we immerse our mind and our emotions in the books that we read - and that is something that I identify with (mostly anyway, lets face it, I am not too invested in Dan Brown or John Grisham, no matter how much I may be enjoying it). I cry when I am moved by a book, I put it down when I feel that it is becoming too tense. I think about the characters while I am reading, and even while I am not. I often lose my sense of time and place when I read, becoming wholly engrossed in the world created by the author.
I think that I read with all of my heart and mind.

I also love the way Ruiz Zafon refers to reading an "intimate ritual". That phrase is so suggestive and sensual that I would not have connected it with reading at all.

It made me wonder though - is reading a ritual for me? I looked up ritual in the dictionary and found that most definitions or ritual have some reference to religious practices. The broadest definition said "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner." In light of this, I couldn't honestly say that reading was a ritual. Although I read regularly, it is not in any set manner.  I do mainly read on the train to and from work - but I don't have to. Sometimes I prefer just to stare out the window and allow my thoughts to wander. I don't hold my book in any particular way, or turn my pages in any particular way. I just pull out a book and read whenever it suits me.

What about intimate? Intimate suggests private, closely personal, deep. I certainly lose myself in books and that is a very personal experience in the sense that you disappear within yourself completely and enter into a new world or reality, albeit briefly. But is that an intimate act in accordance with the definition? I think not. Reading isn't quite private enough to be considered intimate, at least for. When I think of intimacy I think of telling my friends my inner most thoughts, or lying naked with my partner in bed. Not reading. The act of reading itself can be a personal experience, but I like to share my reading with others. I talk about the books that I have read, debate their strengths and weakness and discuss what books I would like to read in the future. Those are all part of what reading means to me - and it takes away some of the intimacy of the actual act.

And yet... I can't help but love the phrase "intimate ritual". It makes reading sound so soft and pleasurable. Although in a practical sense I don't think that it accurately describes what reading is to me - it does capture that pleasurable feeling I experience when I read.

Is a book a mirror that only offers us what we already carry inside us? This really fascinates and puzzles me at the same time. I am not really sure was Ruiz Zafon means by this. Is he trying to say that those books we identify with most reflect our own experiences and beliefs? Is he trying to say that we will only get from a book what we can put into it? I have heard a lot of people say similar things about books and have always been equally puzzled by it. Perhaps it is because it doesn't reflect my experience of reading - there are so many different books on so many different issues that I have been moved by, I wouldn't know where to begin any attempt to analyse how they might all reflect what is inside of me.

What does all of this amount to?

Is the art of reading slowly dying? Are great readers becoming more scarce? Can reading even be considered an art? I can't answer these questions - I am not sure that anyone can - but I would love to know what other people think.  

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters; a ghost story

Sarah Water's The Little Stranger is a modern day ghost story, and a great read for those of you who like a good ghost story.

The Little Stranger is a modern day ghost story set in post WWII at Hundreds Hall, an old English mansion that has fallen into disrepair. It is owned and inhabited by the Ayres family, a mother and her daughter and son. Doctor Faraday, the local doctor, becomes involved with the family when he is called out to see one of the Hall's servants when she falls in. Gradually though, strange happenings begin to occur around the house that slowly send the family spiralling out of control.

The story is told through the eyes of Doctor Faraday, who plays the role of the non-believer that is essential in every ghost story. He is a rational man with a scientific mind, who tries throughout the novel to make rational sense of the strange ghostly occurrences at Hundreds Hall.

Initially, we are made to think that Doctor Faraday is an objective observer but it slowly becomes clear that perhaps he is not as objective as we might think. We begin to get a sense the Doctor Faraday has a growing obsession with Hundreds Hall; he thinks about it all the time and makes every effort to ingratiate himself with the family as often as he can. I couldn't help but wonder whether he had designs on the property and how this effected his ability to analyse what was occurring within the house.

Waters did an an excellent job of combining a spooky ghost story with social commentary. The darkness of the ghost story fit in very well with the dark and sombre mood of England post WWII.

Hundreds Hall imposes itself upon the story so well that it almost becomes a character in its own right. The large rambling mansion is falling into disrepair because its owners are unable to afford the upkeep. The garden is taking over the house, the steps are crumbling to pieces and inside the wall paper is peeling from the walls. In a way, Hundreds Hall is used a metaphor for the country itself.

Much like James' The Turn of the Screw, the reader is left wondering at the end about what, if any, the ghostly present was. I know this allows for additional mystery - but I would have preferred a more conclusive outcome after investing so much time in the story. Waters makes a bold attempt to create a spooky atmosphere with the mystery - but it fell a little short of the mark for me. I often felt that the story was moving just a little too slowly, and was a little too focussed on Doctor Faraday and not enough on the ghostly elements of the story. Although I enjoyed it, it definitely wasn't in the same league as the Turn of the Screw for fear and tension.


Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is an easy read, but the book is rather thick and it takes longer to read than you might expect.

Do I recommend this book?
I recommend it to people who enjoy ghost stories but it won't be the best ghost story that they read.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No, borrow it.


Star Rating

5 / 8


Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.



Are you a fan of ghost stories? I would love to know what you think of this book if you have read it or any of Sarah Waters other books?

Holidaying on the other side of the country

I am currently holidaying in sunny Perth, WA, Australia and so posting will be limited. Be back for Christmas and have a few posts scheduled for while I am away. Hope everyone is getting some great reading done!

My literary pet peeve - confusing first and third person narrative

Literary Blog HopWhen asked what my literary pet peeve is I actually found it hard to think of something that bothers me all the time.

Everyone has literary pet peeves, but I think that mine are more book or author specific than general pet peeves.

I admit to enjoying books where the author tells the story using by describing people and events, rather than through lots of dialogue. Authors like Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are perfect examples of this (and they both write in Spanish - I wonder if that is the reason?). Still, I couldn't say that the use of lots of dialogue is a pet peeve.

So, I am going to go with something that really annoyed in a book that I read recently - where authors confuse first and third person narrative.

Firstly - what is the difference?

A first person narrative is written from the perspective of the character. Usually, this character is the protagonist, and it is through their eyes that we see the story unfold. They use the terms "I" and "we". This gives usually gives the reader a deeper insight into the inner working of that character. You see what they think and feel from their own perspective by the way in which they speak and think and behave.

A third person narrative on the other hand is written from an outside perspective. The words "he", "she" and "they" are used. The narrator is outside of the story, describing the story unfold. It may be that the narrator provides an insight into the characters feeling and behaviours, but it from an outsiders point of view. It is through description and explanation you gain a sense of the character, rather than through the character's own eyes.

I am not a writer, and I am happy to be corrected if it is required, but it strikes me that if as an author you decide to write in the third person, then you write consistently with this.

I think that the best way to explain this is perhaps by way of example. Recently I read an ARC book that I had been provided for free by a publishing house to review (the review is still pending so I won't say a whole lot about it here) and in it the author was extremely guilty of what I am talking about.

Lets call the main character Fred. The author would say things like, "Fred had been on the train for a damn long time."

If the author was writing in the first person I think this might work well, for example, "I had been on the train for such a damn long time that I could barely keep my eyes open." This gives an idea of how Fred speak and thinks.

But by using that phrase in the third person, it feels as though the author is mixing narrative modes. I get this horrible sense of laziness in the phrase. It feels as though the author is trying to tell the reader what Fred is thinking, without actually telling us that is what Fred is thinking.

Surely, "Fred was frustrated, wondering to himself when the damn train would arrive" works a little bit better in the third person - you can still get a sense of who Fred is and how he thinks, without the laziness of the author not actually saying that what's he is thinking.

In using the phrase "Fred had been on the train for a damn long time" the author is almost turning the narrator into a character themself, and in this book the narrator as just that - an objective narrator.

Okay - looking over the above, I fully accept that there is a reason that I am not a writer, and I also acknowledge that I am doing a terrible job of articulating what I mean.

I wish that I had a little more literary talent and could articulate my pet peeve more clearly for you all but I have done the best that I can.

Does anyone understand what I mean by confusing the first and third person narrative? What do you think?

The Big Four by Agatha Christie

The Big Four is the most exciting Agatha Christie novel I can remember reading.

Hercule Poirot is up against the four biggest and brightest criminals in the world - and has to stop them before their plan to take over the world is successful.

I love the way that Agatha Christie has set up this story. Poirot is faced with many seemingly unrelated troubling little mysteries for him to resolve, only to find that they are in fact related to the big four themselves (I don't think I'm really spoiling anything by disclosing that). Poirot breaks out the disguises and uses a little subterfuge of his own to catch the criminals.

He and Hastings find their lives threatened at many different occasions and in many different ways - but they always manage to escape. The action in this book is completely non-stop and 'edge-of-your-seat' exciting.

The only weakness of this book, if you could call it that, is that it is extremely unbelievable. In fact, the end reminded me very much of a certain James Bond movie that was made fun of in Austin Powers.

Having said that, I was perfectly able to suspend belief and go along with Poirot and Hastings on this dangerous adventure to save the world. It is by far the most exciting Christie novel I have read to date.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Quick and easy, but a nail-biter.

Do I recommend that you read it?
Yes, to everyone.

Do I recommend that you buy it?
Yes. Absolutely.


Star Rating

7 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.


Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs is an exciting tale full of love and adventure; a book for all the ages.

Not only had I never read Tarzan of the Apes, I had never seen a movie adaptation of it either, so I came to this story as a complete novice. This review won't do the book justice, so I hope that you make time to read the book yourself.

In this book, Edgar Rice Burroughs tells the story of John Clayton, born to Lord and Lady Greystoke who were marooned on a jungle island in Africa after the crew on their boat mutinied. Following his parents death while he is a child, John Clayton is taken in by Kala, one of the great Apes that inhabits the island. He is raised an Ape, but begins to explore his true heritage in his parents hut. His curiosity is piqued when an African tribe moves onto the island - but his journey of self discovery reaches a head when an English family are marooned on the island and Tarzan finds himself attracted to the beautiful woman with them.

I loved this story, it had everything you could want from a classic adventure novel. There were pirates, mutiny's, fights to the death, hunting and cannibalism... as well as a little romance.

Strangely, I found the earlier chapters when Tarzan was alone to the island and living with his Ape family the most interesting. Edgar Rice Burroughs did a wonderful job creating a very complete and realistic character in Tarzan - I felt that I was there with him during his adventures and really wanted him to be happy.

When the English and French visitors landed on the island (I won't spoil the story by saying who they are), I began to lose interest. Too much time was spent on what they were thinking and doing, and by then I was very attached to Tarzan and just wanted to spend my reading time with him.

All in all, a really exciting book. The story was so compelling I could barely put it down and I raced through it all the way to the end. If I could re-write it though, I would re-write it with a happy ending.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Extremely compelling, I couldn't put it down.

Do I recommend that you read this book?
Absolutely.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I read it as a free ebook and that was fine. Probably borrowing it would be sufficient.


Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down.


Have you ever read Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs? What did you think of it?



Challenges - the good, the bad and why I won't be joining any in 2011

Image from We Heart Books
Its that time of year again. Everyone will be joining up to all the various challenges that are being hosted throughout the blogosphere and getting ready for the year ahead.

This year, though, I won't be one of the crowd.

I have decided to take a different path to the masses and I wanted to share why.

What do I expect from reading?

I expect a lot of things from my reading.

I want to learn from what I read. I want explore new genres and increase my broader knowledge of the literary world. I want to explore new ideas and different realities. I want my reading to be a process of discovery.

Why didn't you get that in challenges?

Last year I started many reading challenges, all of which I completed some time ago (you can see which one's I participated in here, although the page is out of date). Some of the challenges I participated in (like the Bibliopiliac Challenge) I needed to make an effort to complete and others (like the Classics Challenge) I would have met the requirements of whether I was participating in the challenge or not.

The result of course is that I have been left dissatisfied. None of the challenges really challenged me in an special way and I definitely haven't learnt anything from them. 

The challenges I found were all about quantity. Meeting a particular number of books to complete certain levels. They were things like reading classics, ebooks, new authors etc.

All of these a great ways to challenge yourself - but not quite 'weighty' enough for what I wanted. They didn't satisfy my urge to learn and explore literature. It was too much about quantity and not enough about quality.

So what will you be doing instead?

This year, I have decided that if I really want to explore literature I need to think about what areas of literature I am interested in learning about and make an effort to read them.

There will be no time limits.

There will be no sign up dates.

There will be no levels to complete.

It will just be me reading to learn and explore.

I am calling these my:

Reading Projects!

There are several reading projects that I am going to dedicate my self to next year (in fact I have already started one of them).

Early science fiction

I really enjoyed reading The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne, so I have decided that I am going to explore more of these early works of science fiction. I am giving myself a very broad range, from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. I am really looking forward to this.

Series

There are so many series of books that I haven't read or I have read some and not all of them, so I am going to work on them. I like a good series. I think that there is something special about being able to create a character or characters but be able to keep them fresh and new with each story. Here are some of the series I will looking at:
  • Tarquin Hall - The man who died laughing etc
  • Jasper Fforde - finish the thursday next series
  • John Marsden - finish the tomorrow when the war began series
  • Jean M Auel - finish the earth's children series
  • Kerry Greenwood - start the Corinna Chapman series and read some more phryne fisher
  • Alexander McCall Smith - more detective lady series

 I might finish the Twilight series just because I started it, but we will see.

Crime fiction

I have mostly dismissed crime fiction as a little bit trashy, which a lot of the modern crime fiction is. But there is whole world of crime fiction out there that isn't - Raymond Chandler (I just finished the long goodbye), Dashiell Hammett and Peter Temple to name a few. So am going to explore this genre - I think it deserves more credit that it receives.

In Summary

This is my plan for 2011 and I put a disclaimer here that my Reading Projects might change, disappear, grow or their may be additions. That's the whole point - I read to escape reality for a little while, but also for something much deeper and that is what I am going to focus more on this year.

Readers vs Writers? Who is the most important to literary culture?

From Kissimee Charter Academy
Readers vs Writers? Who is the most important to literary culture? Do we celebrate readers enough?

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the Internet and I came across a fascinating article by Laura Miller at Salon.com entitled "Better yet, DON'T Write that Novel."

It is a discussion about NaNoWriMo - a month long writing extravaganza which encourages people to attempt to complete a novel by writing a set target of words per day. 

In the article, Miller outlines her arguments against NaNoWriMo - perhaps saying that she outlines her complaints about NaNoWriMo would be more accurate. I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but having just completed two dreadful novels provided to me for review by a publisher, as well as earlier this year reading and reviewing an equally dreadful self-published memoir, I have to admit to being slightly sympathetic with her views.

What interested me most about her article though, were comments she made toward the end of the article about celebrating readers.

Here is what she says:

"Yet while there's no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books...

 So I'm not worried about all the books that won't get written if a hundred thousand people with a nagging but unfulfilled ambition to Be a Writer lack the necessary motivation to get the job done. I see no reason to cheer them on. Writers are, in fact, hellishly persistent; they will go on writing despite overwhelming evidence of public indifference and (in many cases) of their own lack of ability or anything especially interesting to say. Writers have a reputation for being tormented by their lot, probably because they're always moaning so loudly about how hard it is, but it's the readers who are fragile, a truly endangered species. They don't make a big stink about how under appreciated they are; like Tinkerbell or any other disbelieved-in fairy, they just fade away.

Rather than squandering our applause on writers -- who, let's face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not -- why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there's not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there's no one left to read it."

This got me thinking - do we celebrate readers? How can you celebrate a reader? Should we celebrate readers at all?

Without readers, the need for written works would become redundant. Does this mean that they are more important to literary culture than writers?

Without writers there wouldn't be any literary works to begin with and of course writers are deserving of celebration. This is done in many ways. There are many writing awards out there - some more prestigious than others, some for fiction, some for non-fiction, even awards for publishing houses. At Writers Festivals authors have their opportunities to be admired and celebrated by giving talks and doing readings from their works.

But I am not sure how exactly Miller would suggest that we celebrate readers more heartily? I know she says "why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers" - but how would this be done in practice?

Is there some way of having a public celebration of readers? Perhaps 'The Day of the Reader' one day per year with associated activities and fundraising attempts to raise money that assist improve literacy rates amoungst children?

I know that all I have really done is pose more questions than I have answered, but these are some of the things that I have been thinking about after reading Miller's funny article.


Are readers the most important contributor to literary culture? Do we celebrate readers enough? How can be celebrate readers more? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne; early science fiction

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne is a seminal piece of science fiction that combines scientific theory with adventure to create an exciting new world, ripe for exploration.

In Verne's first novel he tells the story of Professor Lindenbrock, a famous geologist, who finds an old manuscript by an old naturalist purporting to know the way to the centre of the earth. Lindenbrock travels to Iceland to begin this journey, with his nephew Axel and their Icelandic guide Hans and what follows is an epic journey down into the bowels of the earth.


The great thing about the Journey to the Center of the Earth is that it isn't the science fiction that deals with aliens or distant planets. Instead, Verne has taken real scientific theories and imagined how they really might affect the natural environment. The book was written in 1864, there were many competing scientific theories about how the earth was created and how it worked and sustained life. Verne really plays on these debates to create an environment that is a unique blend of realism and imagination.

In fact, in this book Verne has really given life to the environment of the interior of the earth - it dwarfs the characters and becomes almost a character in its own right. Each element of the interior of the earth has a scientific justification; from the giant sea they find themselves sailing across to the dinosaurs that inhabit it.

The best moment for me was Lindenbrock and Axel catch a glimpse of a prehistoric man herding dinosaurs beneath the shadows of the giant mushroom forest. Verne's characters go into so much depth considering the world they find themselves in. They take measurements, samples and theorise about how the interior of the earth came to be how it is. But when they glimpse something to similar to humanity, something that may even be humanity living in the bowels of the earth, they are unable to accept it. Instead of considering it with their scientific minds, they turn from the vision with a view to escape and we never hear it mentioned again. The scientists in them are not capable of overcoming their horror at the thought that perhaps they are not the only race of man of earth.

The books biggest weakness is the end of the story. I won't say too much on this except to say that it makes the title of the book somewhat of a misnomer. I was really disappointed when it ended in the way that it did. It felt as though Verne started getting bored with his characters and their journey and bought it to an end too soon.

Despite this, Journey to Center of the Earth by Jules Verne is an imaginative and exciting piece of early science fiction, and one that I recommend to everyone. 


Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is a fun and interesting read that makes you feel young again. The scientific language and discussion can at times be challenging, but it is worth meeting the challenge.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes I do. I recommend it to people who wouldn't ordinarily read science fiction just for something different. I also recommend it to people that do enjoy science fiction as an excellent sample of writing from the early period of this genre.

Do I recommend that you buy this?
Borrowing it from a friend or the library, or reading it as a free ebook (like I did) would be sufficient.


Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Really enjoyable, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it.

What do you think? I know that a lot of people are not particularly interested in or excited b science fiction - but do you think that you would be able to put this aside for the sake of an interest in literature and exploring the beginnings of a genre?

What about those of you that like a little bit of science fiction every now and again? Have you read this book and what did you think?

Modern Classics - are there such a thing?

Literary Blog Hop
A question has been posed - how do you define a modern classic? Answering that question is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

A classic is a classic because it has stood the test of time and something modern (in my view) is something that I can recognise and identify with.

So how can they combine?

In my view, they can if you go back a little further in time to, say, the mid 20th century. Although I wasn't personally around back then, it is still a world that is modern in the sense discussed above - and a book written during that period has had a few decades to prove that it can withstand the test of time and therefore be considered a classic.

Examples that come to mind are Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck or The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (which I recently finished reading).

Anything much later than that period and I don't think that it has had it's chance to prove itself - at most, it might be considered a potential modern classic.

I know that it a very literal and rather structured way of looking at it, but I am a lawyer and I just can't help myself.

The Books of Australia - an exciting new blog that needs your help!


There is a wonderful new blog in town and it's called:


"What is it?", I can hear you all asking.

The Books of Australia is a new blog that I have started which will comprise solely Australian book reviews and other Australian related literary chit chat.

You will find books reviews, information about authors and other useful Australian resources.

But that's not all - this blog is something a little bit different (or, at least, I hope that it will be).

The Books of Australia is a cooperative blog.

This is how I hope that it will work. Anyone who is anyone is welcome to post a review or any other post on The Books of Australia, so long as it is a review of an Australian book, or somehow related to Australia literature.

All you need to do is email me at thebooksofaustralia (at) gmail.com with your post. Everyone gets credit for their own work of course, including a link to your blog in the post and in the sidebar.

Why a cooperative blog?

I am passionate about Australian literature and I want to share that passion with others. Although there are some great blogs out there that look at Australian literature (ANZ LitLovers LitBlog comes to mind), I felt like there was a place for a blog where everyone could share their reviews of Australian books.

A one-stop-shop for great Australian recommendations and resources.

There is more information on The Books of Australia about how you can participate. It doesn't matter if you are Australian or not - what matters is the content.


We need your help!

So head on over to The Books of Australia and have a look. It needs a lot more content and for that I am hoping that I can rely on some of you to share your good work with everyone out there interested in learning a little more about Australia through it's literature.


The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke (yes, it is as funny as it sounds)

The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke is a hilarious and modern twist on the nursery rhymes and fairy tales that we all grew up with -  a book for all ages and tastes.

The hero of this story is Mr Pigg, Harry Pigg, Detective. He is the third pig who was sensible enough to build his house of bricks and defeat the evil wolf who so successfully destroyed the homes of his brothers.

Following his success and fame, Harry Pigg opens a detective agency, only to find himself seriously in debt. When his new landlord, Mr Aladdin (the richest man in Grimm Town), asks him to recover his stolen lamp, Harry cannot refuse.

What follows is a hilarious journey as Harry Pigg sets out to locate the missing lamp before he his killed. Along the way we see some familiar faces; Jack Horner whom Harry enlists as his sidekick, one of the Billy Goats Gruff who is Mr Aladdin's body guard and The Wicked Witch of the West-side just to name a few. 

The Third Pig Detective Agency is very small book (running to around 150 pages) but it packed to the brim with action and adventure. It is a hilarious and modern take on the nursery rhymes and fairy tales we all grew up on. It is also full of popular culture references that most people will pick up on. My favourite was the enmity between elves and trolls (a reference to Lord of the Rings).

Harry Pigg has a dry and sarcastic sense of humour that only serves to make Burke's clever adaptation of the nursery rhymes and fairy tales even funnier. Burke has done has a great job of creating a Marolwe-esque (I'm currently reading The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler) detective with all the quirks that being a nursery rhyme character with trotters might entail.

This is easily the most entertaining book I have read all year and I recommend it to absolutely everyone, young or old, regardless of your taste in books.


Summary

What kind of read is this?
Quick and easy but laugh out loud funny

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, to everyone.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
This is definitely one for the book case. I don't think it will ever stop being funny.


Star Rating

7.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. Recommend that you buy it.

The final three Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sign of the Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle are the final three of the four Sherlock Holmes novels - and they are all well worth reading.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles is my favourite of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Holmes is called in to investigate the strange death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Sir Charles appears to have died from shock, and the story of a gigantic spectral dog that haunts the Baskerville family is thought the be the cause. But is the hound real or are there more malicious forces at work?

The book is told from the perspective of Dr. Watson (as usual) who is sent by Holmes to the Baskverville's Hall to look after Sir Charles heir. The Hall is set amongst the moorland, a stark and depressing landscape that is a perfect setting for this story.

What I like most about this Sherlock Holmes novel is that I found it the easiest to really consider what the solution to the mystery might be. I had read it before and remembered the solution which helped, but there are many clues in this one that make it possible to put two and two together. I also enjoy it because it sticks with Dr Watson for the entire book, unlike A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Death.

The Sign of the Four and The Valley of Fear are both excellent reads as well.

The Sign of the Four

In The Sign of the Four you will find intrigue associated with valuable Indian treasure. This is probably the first book where Sherlock Holme's illicit drug use is very prominent (he loves cocaine) and it is in this book that Dr. Watson meets and marries his wife.

The Valley of Fear

I most recently finished The Valley of Fear, which I enjoyed, but probably not as much as the others. It used a similar technique to A Study in Scarlet, that is, the first half of the book followed the investigation of a very unusual murder and the second half of the book explained how that murder had come to take place. This means that Sherlock and Dr Watson don't feature in the second half of the book. I love Sherlock and Dr Watson, so this always let me down a little bit.

Still I am pleased that I have met my goal of reading all four of the Sherlock Holmes novels this year. Next year I will read all the short stories.


Summary

What kind of reads are these?
Quick, easy, mysterious and definitely page turners.

Do I recommend them?
Who couldn't recommend Sherlock Holmes?

Do I recommend that you buy them?
Not really. Borrow them from the library. I downloaded mine for free as ebooks on my iphones.


Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend them.

The Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden (Australian YA)

The Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden was an important part of my childhood reading, and books that I would still recommend to adults and children today.

This series has been a popular success in Australia, and I believe throughout the world. It follows the journey of a group of teenagers who find themselves stranded in the Australian bush after their country has been invaded by another nation. They band together and form their own resistance, fighting the invading force with guerrilla tactics, and going through significant personal change at the same time.

These books were an important part of my adolescence, at least, the first three books were. I read the books over and over again as a teenager.

What makes them so popular? Marsden so accurately portrays the reality of teenage hood - even in a war scenario. The girls talk about boys, the boys talk about girls. They start relationships, struggle through their first sexual experiences and deal with relationship complications. It portrays the difficulties of real friendships like how and when to be honest with one another and how relationships change over time.

Then there are the complications of the war. The teenagers have to grow up fast - seeing death and destruction, some of which they cause themselves. For a teenage book, Marsden gives due consideration to the complicated nature of war. The characters resent their countries invasion and do all within their power to cause damage to the invaders - but they are still able to analyse the situation and acknowledge that their ancestors committed similar acts on the Aboriginal population. They are also able to recognise that the invading population is probably doing so out of over crowing in their own country. Whilst this doesn't make it OK, and they don't justify the invaders actions in any way, it makes for good reading watching these young adults give proper consideration to the war.

Then there is the action - these books are action packed. There are bombs, there are chases, there are stake-outs, there are shoot-outs - it has everything and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Originally the series was a trilogy but now it is a series of seven:
  • Tomorrow, When the War Began,
  • The Dead of the Night,
  • The Third Day, The Frost,
  • Darkness, Be My Friend,
  • Burning for Revenge,
  • The Night is for Hunting, and
  • The Other Side of Dawn.
I have only read the first 4, and it is my current mission to read those again and then finish the series. The reason I only read the first 4 books is because the fourth book Darkness, Be My Friend really let me down. It just wasn't as good as the first 3 and that really put me off reading the rest of the series.

Then as I got older I started reading more age appropriate material and somehow never prioritised reading the rest of it.

So this year I have started reading the series again. I have read the first two books and am currently reading the third. Then I will read the rest of it.

After re-reading Tomorrow, When the War Began I was a little bit disappointed. It just wasn't as good reading it as an adult as it was as a young adult. But once I got that little bit of a let down out of my system I really enjoyed The Dead of the Night and I am really enjoying The Third Day, The Frost.

This is a fun and action packed series of books that I recommend to everyone.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
These books are young adult, so they are not at all challenging and each can be knocked off very quickly.

Do I recommend these books?
Yes, I do. They are an easy but exciting read.

Do I recommend that you buy these books?
Not unless you are a big YA fan. I have been borrowing them from friends and that's been fine.



Star Rating

6.5 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put it down. I recommend it. 


I would love to hear what you thought of the series if you have read it? Has anyone seen the film? I wonder if it captures the book very well. 


How do you review a series of books?

This year I have made a point of trying to read a few good series of books that I felt I needed to either read or re-visit.

These include The Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden, The Earth's Children series by Jean M Auel, the Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle and the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde.

As I have been thinking about how I felt about the books and my observations of them, it has seemed that often what I want to say about one equally applies for the others.

So, you will notice over the next week or so that I have written reviews that review the series itself rather than the individual titles. When I have felt that I need to say something specific about a particular book I have done that. Otherwise it tends more toward general discussion of the series, even if I haven't read all the books yet.

What do you do? Do you think review them all separately or together?

The Earth's Children series by Jean M Auel (a GREAT read)

The Earth's Children series by Jean M Auel is an ongoing historical fiction series about cro-magnon man. This series is many things; epic, romantic, dramatic... and frustrating. I recommend it to everyone.

This series of books is very special to me. My mother suggested I read it when I was in high school, and as soon as I read the first one (The Clan of the Cave Bear) I was hooked.

It is an immense saga set in prehistoric times, as cro-magnum's are coming into their own and neanderthals are dying out. Ayla is a cro-magnum, or an Other, but is raised by the neanderthals, or The Clan, after she is found by them as a young girl. The series documents her life; her trials and tribulations. She is made an outcast by the people she was raised by and goes on a journey to discover her true self and her people. Along the way she meets many wonderful characters, including Jondalar - her soul mate.

Ayla is also fated for some bigger role in the development of the human kind. She has some inkling that this is the case, but dreams of living a normal life with Jondalar and hopefully a family.

As yet, we don't know what will happen to Ayla, and that is because the series is incomplete.

There are five books in this series with the sixth and final book scheduled to be released next year. Auel began the series in the lat 1970's, so it is about time that we got to read the end. The novels are:
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear,
  • The Valley of Horses,
  • The Mammoth Hunters,
  • The Plains of Passage, and
  • The Shelters of Stone.
For as much as I love this series of books, I do have a lot of quibbles with it.

The Clan of the Cave Bear was a really excellent book. It had the perfect blend of story and historical information. Unfortunately, as the books progressed, Auel seemed to become more concerned with showing off her knowledge of the era in which the story was based. You are increasingly given long winded descriptions of landscape and social and cultural practices. Not that this isn't interesting, but Auel takes it so far that it makes me feel as if she is showing off her knowledge rather than telling the story.

Another complaint is in relation to the sex scenes between Ayla and Jondalar. Don't get me wrong, I like a good sex scene.... but these are not good. They read as if they are out of Mills and Boon and yet these books should be so much better than Mills and Boon. The sex is just so cheesy and cliche it is difficult to read.

Finally - the fact that this series has been going for so long! I love this series of books (despite my complaints) and it really annoys me that I have had to wait since 2002 for the next instalment of the books.

How can it possibly take someone 30 years to complete a series. It doesn't seem fair to the fans. The cynical side of me thinks that it is because Auel is spending so much time researching it so that she can bore us with limitless detail instead of just getting on with the story of Ayla and Jondalar, which is what we are all reading the series for.

Please don't let my complaints get in the way of you reading this story - I complain because I love the books so much! I re-read this series all the time, and have re-read the first three this year for the umpteenth time. The Mammoth Hunters (the third instalment) is my favourite of all. Truth be told, I often consider naming my first born daughter Ayla after the character in these books.

If you are looking for something interesting and factual whilst being a little bit trashy at the same time - with a good dose of romance thrown in, this is the series for you. No wait.... this is a series for everyone!

Summary

What kind of read is this?
Although each book looks very thick, they are very easy to read. It is historical fiction meets romance, and it is fabulous.

Do I recommend this book?
I recommend all of them, The first and the third in the series are my favourites.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Without hesitation. They are just as good each time you read them.


Star Rating

8 / 8



Everyone should read them - they are totally amazing. I am in love.


Has anyone else read this series? What do you think of them? Did you know that the sixth was coming out next year and that it will be the last? I didn't, but I am very excited about it. I only hope that it ends well and explains everything.



A Room with a View by EM Forster

A Room with a View by EM Forster is an interesting classic. It combines comedy, satire, social commentary and good story all into one good book and is a worthwhile classic to read.

I had never read any of EM Forster's works and so I was very happy when a friend of mine gave me A Room with a View on audiobook to listen to when I was unable to read for any substantial periods of time earlier this year. I think that I enjoyed the story all the more for having listened to it. There was something very calming about lying on the lounge and being read to and it made me realise that it is something I should more often, regardless of what condition my eyes are in.

A Room with a View seems to widely be referred to as a social comedy and EM Forster used social stereotypes of the time to poke fun at Edwardian society. I listened as EM Forster poked fun at the ministry through the character of Mr Beebe, a minister with little real understanding of the true nature of relationships between people and not overtly religious outside of the pulpit. Miss Barlett was perfectly portrayed as the overbearing spinster chaperone, concerned about accepting a room with a view off two men to whom she and Lucy would then be in debt to. There was a hole host of such characters through which EM Forster seamlessly satirised the social conventions of the time.

I very much enjoyed the story of Lucy Honeychurch and her struggle with her own social conventions. She wanted so much to be a woman of the world and see and feel the beauty in the world around her, but she was stifled by her own internalisation of what was considered to be 'the right thing' for a lady of her age and situation.

It is through her fortunate meeting with the Emmerson family, and particularly the son George, that she learns that she can give in her to own passions and make decisions that arise from her own desires and sense of self rather than those rigid conventions that constrain social behaviour.

Having said all of that, A Room with a View is a very bright book. Although Forster is making comments about Edwardian society, he does so in a way that is light and funny. He focuses on the life of the individual rather than any bigger social issues. At no point did I feel particularly emotional about anything that occurred or any of the characters, which perhaps might explain why I didn't react to it as well as I might otherwise have. Whilst the characters are all very human, I didn't feel particularly close to them which I would have liked to, especially to Lucy. In the end, love conquered and I like a happy ending.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A romance with a twist.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes, but I wouldn't recommend that you prioritise it.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I think borrowing it would be sufficient, but I also recommend that you listen to it as an audiobook, I really enjoyed that experience.



Star Rating

5.5 / 8


Enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it, but there is no need to prioritise it.


Did you feel like you connected to Lucy Honeychurch? I would love to know what you thought of the book if you have read it. What do you think of books that poke fun at social convention?

Cocaine Blues and Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood; fun Australian crime fiction at its best

Cocaine Blues and Flying Too High are both part of the Phryne Fisher series, penned by Australian author Kerry Greenwood. They are fun, sassy and scintillating and I can't get enough of it.

Some time ago I reviewed what was at the time the last book in this series, Murder on a Midsummer Night, and I was even lucky enough to interview the author Kerry Greenwood (read the interview here). I recommend you read the interview, because she is a fascinating lady.

These books are sort of an Australian version of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Very Agatha Christie-esque but a lot more fun and tongue in cheek.

There is a not more to say about the book other than what I have already said in my review of Murder on a Midsummer Night. The fabulous Phryne Fisher is a private investigator in Melbourne in the 1920's/1930's and boy is she flamboyant. These books are great for the mystery, the characters, the food and the outfits.

It was good to go back to the first two books in series and see how it was that Phryne came to be The Honourable Phryne Fisher, how she came to be a investigator and how it is she ended up in Melbourne.

It was also a good insight to see how she has collected her entourage of fabulous characters, such as taxi drivers Bert and Cec and personal assistant Dot. She has yet to collect some her other friends that I saw in the later book, but I can't wait to find out how she meets them.

All in all, fabulous books that I think almost everyone will enjoy.

Summary


What kind of read is this?
Quick, easy and fun.

Do I recommend this book?
Yes I do, I really enjoyed it and I think that a lot of other people would too, whether you a crime/mystery reader or not.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, I think that this will be a fun one to re-read every now and again.



Star Rating

7 / 8


Brilliant, couldn't put them down. Recommend that you buy them.


Have you read any of Kerry Greenwood's books? What do you think of them?


Does anyone read much non-fiction?

Literary Blog Hop
Does anyone read much non-fiction?

When I look over what I have read in the last year, only 3 books have been non-fiction:
I read Clandestine in Chile because it held some personal interest to me... and because I admire Gabriel Garcia Marquez for being a brilliant fiction author. It also appealed to me because Marquez wrote the story of Miguel Littin as if it were novel.

I read 84 Charing Cross Road because it was a book about books and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is its sequel and the two novels came in one book. Truth be told, until I finished the books I didn't even realise they were non-fiction.

So when asked whether I think there is such a thing as literary non-fiction - I have to reply that I am absolutely not qualified to answer.

I don't know why it is that I don't real non-fiction. I do try to sometimes. Last year I read Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey by Farlay Mowat, but I didn't really enjoy it.

There is just something about non-fiction that doesn't capture my attention and I can't put my finger on what it is. I really like a good story - which you could get in some non-fiction. I really like complex characters - which I am sure you can find in some non-fiction. I admire good writing - which can definitely be found in non-fiction.

Perhaps it is the knowledge that what I am reading isn't true that sustains me. Perhaps reading fiction means so much to me because it isn't real, because it is an entirely different world to the one that I live in? It is a world created by the author for the characters that I can access through my own reading experience?

I don't know what it is, but it is an interesting question to ponder.

Shameless review plug - speaking of different worlds, have a look at my review of the science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, a really amazing book.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham; a science fiction classic


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is a gripping science fiction classic that had me on the edge of my seat and the hair on the back of my neck prickling, the entire time I was reading it.

I love science fiction from the late 19th and early through to mid 20th century. War of the Worlds, Time Machine, The Invisible Man are some of my favourites, and this one is going straight to the favourites list as well.

The premise of the story is simple. Bill Masen wakes up one morning in hospital to discover that most of the world has gone blind. In the ensuing chaos of death and disease, the Triffids begin to attack the human population, causing havoc where ever they go. What are Triffids? Intelligent plants that have somehow become a part of nature. It is unclear what their origin is, but what is clear is that they are carnivorous and intelligent plant life that are able to walk of their own volition and will feed on human flesh when given the chance.

There are so many issues that Wyndham explores in this book; the notion of civilised society, how people respond to crisis situations, sex, gender relations and religion. It also deals with the issue of modern day warfare, of the biological kind. It asks how far will people go in the name of progress and explores the consequences of our collective actions. How much is the group responsible for the actions of some? How far should we go attempting to control nature and at what point will nature fight back?

Most importantly, The Day of the Triffids was scary. I felt nervous, tense and excited the entire time I was reading the book. A lot of the triffid attacks come out of nowhere because the triffids are so good at hiding. Wyndham has created this great sense of expectation because the triffids are so intelligent you never quite know what is going to happen.

As the book is written from the perspective of Bill Masen, Wyndham leaves a lot about these carnivorous plants to the readers imagination because Bill himself is only able to conjecture and hypothesise about them.

I was so engrossed by this book I read it in one sitting. I think this might be the best science fiction classic I have ever read and I can't wait to read more of Wyndham's works.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is easy to read, but displays great skill with language. It is scary and tense too, which I appreciate in science fiction.

Do I recommend this book?
Definitely. It's a great read.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes, this will make great re-reading.



Star Rating

7 / 8



Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.


I would love to know what you thought of this book if you have read it. I am not a modern day science fiction fan, but I do love these science fiction classics of the late 19th and early 20th century. Does anyone else enjoy reading this books? What is it that you enjoy?