Friday, 30 January 2009

Cause of Death: Patricia Cornwell - Book 7, 2009

Cause of Death: Patricia Cornwell Type: Crime/Detective
Rating: 6/10
Comments: I generally like murder mysteries of all types and was looking forward to this book but I ended up being more irritated than entertained. I found it really hard to engage with the protagonist, a completely neurotic and emotionally distant perfectionist. And sentences such as: "The lasagne was superb because I had drained fresh mozzarella in dishcloths too much during baking and, of course, the pasta was fresh" reeked of the author's own over-research and obsessive perfection and did nothing to add to the story or character development in any way.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody: Michael Gerber - Book 6, 2009

Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody
Type: humour
Rating: 6.5/10
Comments: The title really says it all.  It even comes with a "tick the box" letter of complaint you can send to the author.  Every line in the book is a bad pun on something in the original series.  Mildly amusing but gets tedious after a while.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Confessions of a Pretty Lady: Sandra Bernhard - Book 5, 2009

Confessions of a Pretty Lady: Sandra Bernhard
Type: personal/confessional
Rating: 6/10
Comments: To quote Claudius, this book is indescribable. Part memoir, all biting commentary, Bernhard is a highly intelligent, high strung writer with a provocative attitude to match. I found little to relate to in the writings of this obsessive-compulsive and ultimately cold and distant character - despite her sharing of some very intimate details of her life.

I've had this book for over a decade, along with 'Love, Love & Love' which is in almost pristine condition. By page 4 I remember why. The book starts with a conversation between two lesbians in a less than perfect relationship. When I got to the line "You're the one who loves to eat my pussy when I have my period" I shut the book and decide to donate both of Bernhard's works. I am tempted to give them to a fundamentalist church op shop but will probably dispose of them in Brunswick where they will be more appreciate.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Mortover Grange Mystery: JS Fletcher - abandoned reading, 2009

The Mortover Grange Mystery: Joseph Smith Fletcher
Type: Mystery
Rating: 1/10
Comments: I am a quick and voracious reader and I abandon very few books part way, but in this case I made an exception.  Written in 1926, The Mortover Grange Mystery has not stood the test of time. JS Fletcher is no Christie or Sayers. The writing is dull, the characters one dimensional, the police procedures and actions unbelievable and every step of the plot predictable.  It doesn't even provide any historic interest.  It's just a very boring book.

God's Debris: A Thought Experiment by Scott Adams - Book 4, 2009

God's Debris: A Thought Experiment by Scott Adams
Type: Philosophy
Rating: 8/10
Comments: The fact that I enjoyed this book so much proves that in my heart (or head) I am still a university student.  The book, written by the creator of the cartoon strip Dilbert, apparently appeals most to 23-year-old university students who find it a supreme mind-fuck.  Religious fundamentalists loath the book, partially because it includes the notions that the universe is simply the debris of God, rebuilding itself, after committing suicide to try and better understand itself, and that all religions are simply alternate delusions people use to best get by in the world.  Some philosophers dislike the book because it is an overly-simplistic thought experiment.

I liked the book because it is extremely well-written and provides some interesting ideas in plain English rather than academic pontification.

My main criticism of the book is that it includes some false science and claiming this was planted there is an intellectual cop-out, as one disgruntled reviewer put it.  This would have been a brilliant book if all the "facts" as presented were at least consistent with current scientific understanding.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories: F Scott Fitzgerald - Book 3, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories: F Scott Fitzgerald
Type: Short stories, literature
Rating: 10/10
Comments: Literature is wasted on school kids - I first read Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby at the age of 15 but didn't appreciate it until much later.  This is a poignant collection of stories that illustrate much of the attractions and illusions and ultimate shallowness of 1920s America.  Many people (myself included) will come to this book through the current film starring Brad Pitt.  The film detours quite significantly from the book, and while Brad Pitt is perfectly cast and does a superb job, the story loses something (especially in the second half) through its Hollywoodisation.  Read the original story for something a little more meaningful - and read the other stories too.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Say When: Catherine Deveney - Book 2, 2009

Say When: Catherine Deveney
Type: Opinion
Rating: 10/10
Comments: As the article linked above (I couldn't find any link to her book) puts it, you either love Catherine Deveney or you loath her.  I clearly am in the former category - I even went to Readings to have my book signed by her.  It's essentially a collection of her columns, most of which were previously published in The Age.  Catherine Deveney is a left-wing comedian with atheist beliefs, a proud product of suburban Melbourne (Reservoir) and LaTrobe Uni (which is not in the Group of 8). She makes no apologies for being who she is and saying what she thinks, albeit in a very funny and smart way.  Apparently she has dyslexia and can't spell, which could be a problem for most writers but she's either mastered modern spell-check technology or has a great proof-reader.

I don't agree with every word she writes but she certainly makes one think.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

2009: New year, new house, new resolutions

I really am going to try and keep a record of everything I read this year - even if I don't write a detailed review.

I now live about 15km from the nearest public library, however we get a library bus visiting once/week.  Not to mention a brilliant second hand bookshop in walking distance.

I also have a massive pile of unread books in my collection.  So part of the challenge will be reading what I have.

Prayers for the Dead: Faye Kellerman - Book 1, 2009

Prayers for the Dead by Faye Kellerman
Although less prolific than her husband, I find Faye Kellerman's books much more satisfying and less formulaic.  Prayers for the Dead is not perfect and there are some annoying coincidences and unbelievable behaviour - but overall it is a well-written and rich text with plenty of twists and turns.