“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
This is a thriller. It is also a page turner. While I was reading it in public places, two separate women approached me and told me that it was the best book they had read all year. This is not my kind of book. I read it for book club. As sales will, doubtless, continue to climb without my vote of approval, I can tell you that I did not enjoy it. It may be well-plotted but the characters are all entirely one dimensional (my husband points out that I have no difficulty when this happens in science fiction – he knew I was inconsistent when I married him). I found the grisly and explicit violence against women very unpleasant. As one of my book club co-readers said, “I am not the better of it.” Let me put it this way, I won’t be getting volume 2.
“The Spiderwick Chronicles – Volume 1: The Field Guide” by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
I picked this up in the library for the Princess and then read it myself one lunchtime to check that it wouldn’t scare the bejaysus out of her. Having decided that it was reasonably alright (big sister with annoying younger twin brothers moves to a new house and they discover ‘faeries’ – so spelt, of course), I handed it over to her. She started it and then we walked up the stairs to her bedroom and it disappeared. Probably the fault of a boggart. And it’s a library book too. Hell’s bells.
“Lord Loss” by Darren Shan/”Demon Thief” by Darren Shan/ All 12 Books of the Cirque du Freak Cycle
When I saw that the flick “Cirque du Freak” was based on a book by a man from Limerick, I thought I’d have a look. I picked up “Lord Loss” and “Demon Thief” in the Library. They are teenage page turners. A bit ghoulish but grand. Not sure that I can take the other 8 installments though, particularly, in view of the fact that a friend gave me all 12 Cirque du Freak books before Christmas and I read the lot. I read these at the same time as I was reading “Gilead” and “The Senator’s Wife”. Contrasts are good, I find. I have donated all the vampire books to the children’s school suggesting that they may be suitable for the 11 and 12 year olds. My reading age goes up and up.
“Zuleika Dobson” by Max Beerbohm
Spoiler alert – this gives away the ending. Also, a bit of a cheat but I don’t care.
Mr. Waffle recently finished this book which I read and mildly enjoyed many years ago. “A bit weird wasn’t it?” he said. “Um, I can’t really remember, some kind of light romantic comedey?” I said digging deep into the memory banks. “Don’s granddaughter comes to college and all the boys fall for her?” I proferred hopefully. “Mmm, and all of the boys committed suicide.” “Oh, I forgot that, maybe not a light romantic comedy then”.
“Nine Tailors” by Dorothy Sayers
More of aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Lots about bells. I now have a mild interest in campanology. Also quite a bit about flooding which is surprisingly topical.
“Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson
This book has no plot to speak of. I hate books without plots but I loved this book. I found it very hard to read. The prose was beautiful but almost every sentence expressed a new insight which I needed to think about before going on. Probably my book of the year for 2009. Immensely rewarding but hard, hard going. It is an affirmation of the importance of spirituality in prose which is not cliched, patronising or sentimental. It’s easy to make make readers cry, it’s much harder to make them think. This book achieves the latter.
“The Senator’s Wife” by Sue Miller
I read a good review of this over on litlove and picked it up in the library. It’s about two women; one old and patrician, the other younger, just married and a bit insecure. I found it very readable (welcome) and entertaining but, ultimately, a little empty. It seemed to be all about life style and choices somewhat at the expense of character. Interesting life styles and choices admittedly. I thought her writing about the isolation of being with a small baby was excellent. Still, I wouldn’t be rushing out for more.
“The Music Room” by William Fiennes
This is a book about a beautiful castle where the author grew up and his relationship with his brain damaged epileptic brother. I was really looking forward to reading it but I was disappointed. It is very well written but I found it cold and distant. As a child, he seems to love the house far more than his brother and he makes very little apology for this looking back through adult eyes. It is strange as he makes his parents seem like lovely warm people but he, himself, is like a deep freeze. Much too chilly for comfort.
“Smile or Die” by Barbara Ehrenreich
This is a polemic about the positive thinking industry. The author looks at positive thinking in cancer treatment, in religion and in the workplace and concludes that it’s a load of old tosh. The book reads slightly like a magazine article that has been tugged to inordinate length. Her thesis is one that, I suspect, is a lot easier to sell to an Irish audience than to an American one: we are already embittered cynics who think that positive thinking is daft. This was a bookclub read and absolutely the best thing about it was receiving this email from one of our number copied to all of us:
“I am very sorry, but unfortunately I will not be able to make it this evening…
I’d just like to let you know if you’re interested that in my role as coach, myself and a colleague … from Colour Me Beautiful are running a Look Good/Feel Good seminar in the X private members club on … if any of you can come along. The club is lovely and funky and … and I will be giving you tips advice on how to radiate inner and outer confidence. There’ll be canapés and wine too. I’ll send you on more details including how to sign up and the price over the next few days. If you know anyone who might be interested please feel free to send this on to them.”
I’m guessing that she hadn’t got around to reading the book.