An important notice from the author

Person's attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted;
Persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished;
Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

BY ORDER of the author
PER G.G, Chief of the Ordnance"

~ The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

And so my Huckleberry Finn journey begins.

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

JM Coetzee's 1999 Booker Prize winner Disgrace is a simply told story with a powerful message, and worthy of the accolades it has received.

I expected something special from Disgrace, which is an exploration of racial politics in post-apartheid South Africa, but I find that I have a lot less to say about this book than I expected.

David Lurie is a middle aged divorced bachelor who finds himself unceremoniously out of his university teaching job following an affair with a student. He is a wretched character, someone whom I found difficult to respect. Finding himself in disgrace, he goes to stay with his daughter Lucy on her country farm, where she grows vegetables and cares for abandoned animals.

Here, he finds himself and his daughter victim of atrocities committed against them in a home invasion and they both struggle to deal with the consequences in their different ways.

David cannot come to terms with the events that have had such an impact on their lives, particularly Lucy's. Lucy quietly accepts what has been done to her as the price that she has to pay for staying on the land that he white ancestors once so barbarically took from the original inhabitants of the land. This doesn't mean that she isn't a changed person by what has happened to her, but she is unwilling to move from her home in the wake of the horrible events. David cannot comprehend her attitude, urging her to move away for fear of further attacks.

Disgrace is about misery and reconciliation on a personal as well as a political level. Coetzee creates a depressing picture of a land full of hate and misery attempting to cope with political change and racial politics.

There is a lot more to say about JM Coetzee's Disgrace that I am not able to adequately discuss in this review.

For the first time ever, I am not going to give this book a rating out of 8 according to my usual practice because I feel so ambivalent towards this book and I really can't explain why.

Is this feeling of ambivalence unique to me? I would love to know what other people think of this well-known book.

Death Before Wicket by Kerry Greenwood

In Death Before Wicket, the sophisticated and debonair The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher visits Sydney, ostensibly for a holiday, but also because she has been summoned there by two young university men to solve the mystery of some missing university documents, which were stolen from a safe at Sydney University. A friend of these young men has been blamed for the theft and they hope that Phryne can clear his name.

Phryne takes on this seemingly simple problem but soon finds herself embroiled in a mystery involving curses and black magic. The deeper she delves in the mystery the more danger she places herself in.

Her investigations into this matter are of course complicated by the fact that upon returning to Sydney, her faithful companion Dot discovers that her sister has disappeared, leaving her husband and children behind. Phryne attempts to discover the whereabouts of the missing woman, but her investigations lead her into the seedier side of Sydney life and she has to try to discover the truth without hurting Dot's feelings or Catholic sensibilities.

I did enjoy this book, although strangely not quite as much as I have her others. I think that is because the change of setting from Melbourne to Sydney may have distracted me a little bit. Having said that, Greenwood's depiction of 1920's Sydney is spot on. She captures the people of Sydney, the atmosphere and of course the heat (something I am very familiar with, especially this week with temperatures reaching almost 40C (104F) every day) so wonderfully that I felt as though I was right there in the 'heat' of the moment with Phryne.

The plot in Death Before Wicket was the most complicated plot I have read in a Phryne Fisher mystery, and whilst that sometimes made it a bit harder to follow than the other books in the series, it still added to the mystery.

Phryne herself was as sophisticated in Sydney as she is in Melbourne. As usual, my mouth watered at the descriptions of all the food and the drink that they all consume and I was particularly taken aback by the raunchiest sex I think Phryne has ever had (that I have read about anyway!).

All in all, a fabulous read and I can't wait to get my hands on another one in this series.

6.5 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written, couldn't put it down. Recommend that you buy it.

Do you enjoy reading books that are based in your own city? What do you enjoy about them?

Space Ranger by Isaac Asimov

Space Ranger is the first instalment of an exciting science fiction series written by one of the most prolific authors of all time, Isaac Asimov.

The star of this series is David Starr, a newly qualified bio-physicist who has recently been accepted as a member of The Council of Science, located on Earth. He is given a task; to uncover a criminal conspiracy to hold the Earth ransom by poisoning its food supplies. Earth has long since used up its natural resources and relies on the farms on Mars as its primary source of food.

David Starr goes to Mars disguised as a 'farm boy' and is embroiled in a plan to dastardly his life is in peril until he can uncover the mastermind (sounds like crime fiction doesn't it).

Asimov is important to science fiction, not just because of how prolific a writer he was, but because he was one of the first writers of hard science fiction, that is, science fiction based on real scientific thought/theories.

Asimov himself was a biochemist as well as a writer, and his depiction of Mars in Space Ranger is all the more fascinating because the Mars that he creates, with its thin atmosphere not able to support human life and its network of fissures that crosses the planet, was an accurate representation of the planet according to mid 19th century knowledge (although now we know differently).

In Space Ranger, Asimov effectively combines this (historically) accurate setting with an exciting story in a way that displays his imagination and his talent for story telling.

I was swept up in the action and drama of this book; unable to put it down until I had figured out who it was that putting the Earth under such a great threat. It had me completely drawn in from beginning to end, so much so that I was giving my boyfriend unwelcome/exciting updates about what was happening as the story progressed.

If you are looking for a tense and exciting read, this is a book for you. If you are looking for a short but creative introduction to the fun and fabulous world of science fiction, this is one for you too.

6.5 / 8 stars
Brilliant, I couldn't put it down. I would definitely recommend it.

 I read somewhere from memory that he is one of the only authors who has been published in almost all sections of the Dewey Decimal system. I am not quite sure what that means, but it sounds impressive.

Have you read any of Isaac Asimov's writing?