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Posts tagged ‘fiction’

1001 Book Review: Native Son by Richard Wright

native son

Native Son by Richard Wright
Published in: 1940
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4.5 stars
Find it here: Native Son

There are some books that will leave a lasting impression on you and Native Son was one of those books for me. This novel put me through the emotional wringer. I cried multiple times, I was often disgusted at the description of violence, I was inspired, and now I feel emotionally drained. I have to confess that I’m writing this review with tears in my eyes.

Native Son is the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man living in Chicago in the 1930s. When he commits a terrible crime, it throws him into a downward spiral resulting in more violence and a whole series of events and ramifications. The question at the center of the book isn’t whether Bigger committed the crime — he is clearly guilty — but why he did so. Read more

Most anticipated books of the fall: Which books do you want to read?

At the end of July, Publisher weekly released a list of most anticipated books that will be released this fall. These were the books that made the fiction category (click on the hyperlink to pre-order them on Amazon): Read more

1001 Book Review: The 39 Steps by Buchan

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The 39 Steps by John Buchan
First Published in: 1915
Reviewed by: Jen and Book Worm
Find it/buy it here (free on kindle): The Thirty-Nine Steps

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Richard Hannay’s boredom with London society is soon relieved when the resourceful engineer from South Africa is caught up in a web of secret codes, spies, and murder on the eve of WWI. When a neighbor is killed in his flat, Richard, suspected, decodes the journal, runs to the wilds of his native Scotland in disguises and local dialects, evades Germans and officials.

Book Worm’s Review
Rating: ★★★

Credited as one of the earliest spy novels and set in 1914 before the outbreak of WWI this is the story of Robert Hannay. Hannay, who recently moved to London from Rhodesia is finding life rather dull until the mysterious Scudder turns up on his doorstep and tells him about a German conspiracy to assassinate a key public figure.

When Hannay comes home to find Scudder murdered in his flat, he realizes he is being set up for murder. Instead of trying to explain things to the police and clear his name, he decides to continue Scudder’s work and escapes London for the wilds of Scotland.

Told entirely in the first person, this is a fast-moving adventure story. The only problem is that Hannay is unbelievable as a character. He is too skilled at everything. Nothing fazes him and he is a one man spy network. While this makes for an exciting read, you do need to suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride.

Jen’s Review
Rating: ★★★

The 39 Steps is a fast-paced and entertaining, but completely unbelievable man-on-the-run, spy novel. Richard Hannay is bored with society life and is saved from his boredom just in the nick of time by a stranger who turns up in his apartment only to trigger a series of increasingly unbelievable events.

In many ways, Hannay is the like the movie version of James Bond (the book version of Bond being much more believable), but without all the spy training — he just happens to be naturally brilliant at handling explosives, disguising himself, decoding military secrets. Mix in a little Sherlock Holmes and you have Richard Hannay. Reading this book, you can’t help but see how it would translate into a great movie. In fact, several film translations exist, including a 1935 Hitchcock version.

The writing style is rather sparse and typical of the dime novel genre. Buchan worked for the British War Propaganda Bureau and this book, originally published as a magazine serial, was highly popular among men in the trenches during WWI. The Guardian listed 39-Steps as one of the 100 Best novels and Boxall considers it to be one of the 1001 books to read before you die. It’s a relatively short and entertaining read — if you don’t require realistic scenarios in your novels. It’s worth reading simply because of its contribution to the genre.

Want to try it for yourself? Find it (for free on Amazon) here: The Thirty-Nine Steps

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?

1001 Book Review: Anagrams by Lorrie Moore

anagramsAnagrams by Lorrie Moore
First Published: 1985
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/Buy it here:Anagrams (Vintage Contemporaries)

Do you ever wonder how your life and all your relationships could be different by shifting small details around? If so, you might just enjoy Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams.

Until this book, I had never read anything by Moore. Perhaps this is because I generally don’t like short stories. I often feel unsatisfied by short stories. As I have mentioned before, I like to get to know my characters and spend time with them before they disappear and new ones take their place. I guess this was a good book for me since it is a short story collection that follows the same characters throughout the course of the whole book. It has much less of a short story feel than do traditional collections.
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Love it or Hate it: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review and two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Last month we discussed Life of Pi and once again the “love it” fans won with 66% of the vote. Many thanks to Sara and Kristel for their wonderful reviews.

This month we will be discussing: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. We have two contributors this month and their names will be revealed after voting closes! Please make sure to vote for this month’s book even if you haven’t read the book you can vote! The poll is at the bottom of this post.

oscar wao
Book Summary (from GoodReads): Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim – until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere – and to risk it all – in the name of love.
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1001 Book Review: Crash J G Ballard

Crash

Crash by J.G. Ballard
First Published: 1973
Joint review: Jen & Book Worm

Synopsis: When Ballard, our narrator, smashes his car into another and watches the driver die, he finds himself drawn with increasing intensity to the mangled impacts of car crashes. Robert Vaughan, a former TV scientist turned nightmare angel of the expressway, has gathered around him a collection of alienated crash victims and experiments with a series of auto-erotic atrocities, each more sinister than the last. But Vaughan craves the ultimate crash – a head-on collision of blood, semen, engine coolant and iconic celebrity.

First published in 1973, ‘Crash’ remains one of the most shocking novels of the twentieth century and was made into an equally controversial film by David Cronenberg.

Jen’s Review: Read more

Blindness by Saramago: Non-1001 Book review

blindness

Blindness by José Saramago
Published in: 1995
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it/Buy it here: Blindness (Harvest Book)

Synopsis: A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” and one by one every citizen loses their ability to see. During early phases of the epidemic, the authorities attempt to contain the disease by setting up quarantine zones in various locations. A group of characters who are among the first to become blind, find themselves quarantined in an old mental institution. As the epidemic spreads and society starts to break down, more and more “inmates” join the original group until the place becomes saturated. Among the blind, there is one woman who retains her eyesight. This woman, “the doctor’s wife,” pretends to be blind in order to avoid being separated from her husband. She becomes the central character in the story and ultimately leads the group through a variety of harrowing experiences. Blindness is more than just a apocalyptic tale. It is a story of the merits and downfalls of human nature that is both terrifying and uplifting. Read more

1001 Book Review: Flaubert’s Parrot

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Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
First Published in: 1984
Reviewed by: Book Worm and Jen

Synopsis (from book jacket): Which of two stuffed parrots was the inspiration for one of Flaubert’s greatest stories? Why did the master keep changing the color of Emma Bovary’s eyes? And why should these minutiae matter so much to Geoffrey Braithwaite, the crankily erudite doctor who is the narrator of this tour de force style and imagination?

In Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, who has been compared with writers such as Joyce and Calvino, spins out a mystery, an exuberant metafictional inquiry into the ways in which art mirrors life and then turns around to shape it; a look at the perverse autopsies that readers perform on books an lovers perform on their beloved; and a piercing glimpse at the nature of obsession and betrayal both scholarly and romantic.

A compelling weave of fiction and imaginatively ordered fact, Flaubert’s Parrot is by turns moving and entertaining, witty and scholarly, and a tour de force of seductive originality

Bookworm’s Review
Rating: ★★★

Flaubert’s Parrot deals with Flaubert, parrots, bears and railways; with our sense of the past and our sense of abroad; with France and England, life and art, sex and death, George Sand and Louise Colet, aesthetics and redcurrant jam; and with its enigmatic narrator, a retired English doctor, whose life and secrets are slowly revealed.
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Read around the World: Canada

canada_flag_1110335_fullwidth We are starting off our book tour of the world in Canada. Here are some fun facts about Canada (feel free to add your own facts in the comments section):

  • The name Canada comes from the word ‘Kanata’ which means settlement or village in the language of the indigenous St Lawrence Iroquoians.
  • It is the second largest country in the world by area, but has the fourth lowest population density. It has the longest coastline of any country in the world.
  • Winter temperatures can drop below -40C in some parts of the country. The lowest record temperature in Canada was -63C (-81F) on Feb 3rd, 1957 in Snag Yukon.
  • Famous Canadian authors include Lucy Maud Montomory (Anne of Green Gables), Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Stephen Leacock, Pierre Berton, Robertson Davies, Douglas Copeland, Alistair MacLead, Farley Mowat, Yann Martel, Carol Shields, and Michael Ondaantje.
  • It has a literacy rate of over 99%

Book Selected: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood Read more

Love it or Hate it: Atonement

Have you ever noticed how some books seem to drive a wedge between people? You check the reviews and find almost no middle-of-the-road ratings. Instead people either seem to love it or hate it. Well, welcome to the new Love it or Hate it post category! Each month, we’ll pick one book to review. Two contributors will battle it out to convince you to pick it up or throw it out. Our February book is Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Special thanks to guest contributor Nicole R for writing one of the points of view this month!

Make sure to read to the end and cast your vote. And to celebrate our first Love it or Hate it category we are giving away a gently used copy of the book to one randomly selected person who writes in with a comment saying “I want it.” Read more