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alkhe

Books I have read and loved

The product of a pathological need to categorise and remember every book I've ever read, and my only creative outlet being critiquing others' creativity.

Currently reading

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
Barry Estabrook
Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories
Raymond Carver
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Connie Willis
Flying Too High
Kerry Greenwood
The Luminaries
Eleanor Catton
High Conflict Personalities: Understanding and Resolving Their Costly Disputes
Bill Eddy

The Luminaries - review

I wasn’t sure that I was ready to delve into a hefty tome like this so soon after finishing my Masters and The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay. But I heard a snippet of the author being interviewed on the radio and something about her humility and the huge success of the book drew me to it. I loved it. I haven’t even finished yet – I’ve got about 70 pages to go – and while my concentration and passion is waning, I still really, really love this book.

There is a cast of thousands, which for someone like me with the memory of a goldfish is challenging, and I fully disclose and accept that the astrological aspects have gone completely over my head and passed me by. I was so enthralled by the plot and the steady, well paced stream of revelations, that the Part and Chapter endings were little more than an annoyance that required turning the page a couple of extra times. To my discredit, I didn’t even bother pausing to think about the meaning or significance of the signs and images. I suppose I’m lazy, having read the book at face value like that. If I have missed a key aspect, it’s one that isn’t necessary for the book to be eminently readable and compelling.

I love Catton’s style, and I found her writing beautiful and seamless. Many times I paused and mulled phrases over in my head, smiling and admiring them, but there were none of the unpleasant jolts back to the reality of me reading a book, that are often present and so disturbing in other books set in a different time. Often when reading a book set elsewhere, I will drift in and out of the time period, like the sensation when watching a movie, where a line or a word or a scene will suddenly snap you out of it, and bring you back to the fact of you sitting in a theatre, watching something on a screen.. Where you have been drawn in and ‘in’ the movie, and something jolts you back to being somebody watching the movie.

The passages of dialogue flowed perfectly. The characters are flesh and blood to me, and Hokitika is as real as the Melbourne that I live in. I have a map in my head, and a vivid and intricate understanding of the landscape and townships, the layout of streets, and the stains and discolouration on Anna’s dresses. 

This is a deliciously hulking feast of a novel that I was completely taken in by. Then I did that thing I do, where I get toward the end and start sifting through the thoughts and impressions I have, and reading other peoples’ reviews. If my overall impressions have been negative, positive reviews don’t tend to do anything other than make me irrationally angry (I’m thinking, what seems like everyone else’s obsession with Cormac McCarthy). But if I’m basking in a bubble of joy and contentedness, well written and reasoned critical reviews tend to pull me down a few pegs. Reading reviews before I finish books is a stupid compulsion I have, because so often it ruins my reading of the last part of the book and taints my overall impression.

If I had stopped reading at page 630, or the book had finished around then, this would be a different review, and I would have stopped here, to avoid the kind of rambling ‘it was amazing!!!!!!’ kind of crap that I am so good at. But. In the case of The Luminaries, I tend to agree with a couple of reviews I read that the book is too long by a few hundred pages. I was on page 600 when I read Rebecca Foster’s review and thought, wow, brilliant review but I can’t agree. I went home that night and read some more, hit the point at which we start shifting between 1865 and 1866, and .. Rebecca, you are right. Perhaps I don’t read enough crime or mystery to not be shocked and surprised by the revelations that pulled the remaining fragments of plot together. That said, it just turned what had otherwise been a smooth and effortless book into a smooth book that suddenly became clunky and spattered with unnecessary vignettes.

That aside, The Luminaries is one of the most engaging books I have read for a long time. It was so compelling that I was thankful for its length; until the end, I didn’t feel that there had been any slow points to overcome or get through. It was a pleasure, and I don’t want it to end.

The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides I had high expectations for this book; the characters in Middlesex have been lingering in my mind for years, and I almost forced myself to wait before starting The Marriage Plot, to delay the pleasure. If I didn't know The Marriage Plot was by Jeffrey Eugenides, though, I wouldn't have even persevered beyond 50 or so pages. This book seems to be of a completely different calibre. Much less real and engrossing, and thus much less impressive.

This may be a too-harsh comparison, but what I read of The Marriage Plot was more Mallory Towers than Middlesex. I got about halfway through before every single character became too excruciating to bear, and then accidentally found a blog post by an Indian girl critiquing the way that India was portrayed in the book. Once I realised that oh jesus, the rest of the book really IS going to be set in India, and these grating twerps are going to be moaning for another few hundred pages, while I grit my teeth and force myself to keep reading, I gave up. Continuing to read the book was worse than the OCD tendencies I have about leaving things unfinished, and I tossed it under my bedside table where I'm pretty sure it now now lying, under my foster dog's bed. Either that or he's eaten it, which is fine by me.
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi There are 50 or so pages left in this book, and I just can't bring myself to read them. I sit down and can't remember who the characters are, how they're related, and

The Windup Girl is one of those books that switches from one side to the other with each character - in one chapter we're on this guy's side as he's gearing up to fight X. Then turn the page and we're X, running from the baddie. And then back to the baddie, fighting the good fight. It would have been more enjoyable if I had been able to form some kind of connection to any of the characters. They were all quite one dimensional. What kept me reading was really the world - the food, the energy, the social systems. It almost felt like the written sequel to a brilliant movie, cashing in on the context and back story, but not quite hitting the right note. I'm thinking Stormy the Wild Seahorse, the straight-to-VHS spin off of The Little Mermaid.

The actual 'world' that the book is set in is very interesting - it's post-oil, post-nation-state, really. Set in a Bangkok in some indeterminate time in the future. It feels like it is supposed to be centuries, but seems too familiar to be that far. I'd like to read a prequel to The Windup Girl, and see the apocalyptic lead up to the blah that it becomes.

It's a shame, really. I was really taken in at first, but my attention just waned and the book became increasingly irritating and felt like it lost steam where it ought to have kept dragging me in. Interesting, for such a highly awarded book. It just didn't really get there.
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe The first half of this book, I loved. It is a devastating and important book, but to me pales in comparison to Roots (Alex Haley), which was more forceful and gripping, with more ‘real’ characters.
Old Tom’s Cabin lost me around two thirds of the way through, with what seemed like a degeneration into religious drivel. It is written well enough to read through without grimacing at clumsy language or expression, but not well enough to make me stop and think ‘god, this is so good’. But what was a story turns into a strange Christian diatribe that seems to divert and disrupt any flow it had. It takes on an almost magic realist element which made it a slog to finish, and has completely coloured both my view and memory of the book. It’s about 200 pages too long, and they’re a hard 200 pages to force yourself to read!
The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs - Patricia B. McConnell I finished this book months ago, and am going to re-read it. More than anything I have ever read, this book completely opened my eyes and mind to how little I knew and appreciated about dogs. This book has, more than anything else I have ever done, seen or heard, turned me into a good down owner. I feel for the poor dogs of my childhood, who will never benefit from the understanding and more knowledgeable dog owner that I am today. This book piqued my interest in dog behaviour and psychology, led me to look into rescue and start my own website, www.maggiesfarm.info .

The Other End of the Leash is written with a familiar and friendly tone, with more patience and understanding than I could ever muster. Let alone if I had the degree of understanding and knowledge that McConnell has. It is a combination of anecdotes, science, experience - a perfect mix to enlighten and educate.

I read passages thinking "God, YES. I do that!" and a page later, thinking "God, I am never going to do that again", equipped with an understanding of why I do what I do, and why my dog does what she does in response. I feel like a far better dog person, too, and have a much better ability to "connect" with my own and other dogs. People at the park joke about me being a dog whisperer - probably the greatest compliment I could conceive of receiving, but unfortunately untrue. I just understand what I was doing wrong for so many years, and how dogs respond best.

I could gush and gush about this book, and how influential McConnell has been in my life, but it's probably more productive for everybody if I just urge those of you reading this to please, read it!
In Defence of Dogs - John  Bradshaw I am so glad that I read this book, and as some recommendation on the blurb says, I want to give it to every current and prospective dog owner to read and understand. I finished the book months ago, having purposefully read each chapter slowly and thoroughly, fully digesting it all. It had a huge effect on me and my thinking; I just don't know what to say about it. The book is brilliant.

I have been a dog lover and owner my whole life, but in the last 18 months or so, have become more interested in the training, behaviour and health side of dog ownership. This book enlightened me to a number of myths and misunderstandings about dogs, which completely opened my eyes to different methods and approaches to training and dog handling.

Dominance and the erronous interpretation of wild wolf behaviour, which I now know was disproven nigh on 40 years ago, continues to underpin the interpretation of dog behaviour by many celebrity dog trainers. And whisperers. (No names mentioned). I want to throw this book at anyone who does the alpha roll on their dog at home, or won't play tug with their dog lest it encourage "dominance". Urgh.

It's well written, thoroughly researched and referenced, and an easy pleasure to read. I'm not so sure about the underlying premise that the domestic dog is under threat through misunderstanding, but I do wholeheartedly believe that people, communities and dog would all live much easier and less stressful lives if we all took the time to care about and understand how dogs actually work.

If you live in an apartment, do not get a working dog and then have the audacity to disown him when out of physical and mental boredom, he destroys your couch and curtains. If you get a Jack Russell, please understand the instincts for which s/he was bred, and that he will bark and bark and chase and chase. He wouldn't be here, were his ancestors not bred and able to do those things.

Learn about how dogs learn, and how they see and interpret the world. A great understanding will help us all.
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China - Leslie T. Chang I am going to write this review before reading others' reviews, because I loved this book and want to actually write out one of my little thingies about it before my mind is changed or my positive opinion changed. That always happens.

There's something about social type commentaries written by journalists that means that there will be factual and other inaccuracies, glossings over and other things that a lay reader doesn't pick up on. I have a history degree and studied a fair bit of Chinese history, but will always feel like a hopelessly incompetent outsider when it comes to 'understanding China'. China is such a large country in every sense and meaning that the word could possibly have, that writing about any part of Chinese history, culture, society and anything else is surely an impossible task. The population is almost inconceivably large, it covers an enormous geographic area with timezones, weather patterns and agricultural and industrial profiles.

Leslie Chang wrote for the Wall Street Journal and before embarking on researching this book, published a few articles about internal migrants shaping China. She then went and lived in Dongguan, which is where most of the book is set. Dongguan is a factory town, the destination for millions of Chinese (mainly) women who (mostly) in the late teens leave their villages.

The book was recommended to me by my mum, to whom it was recommended by a friend who works for a large electronics company an ex pat living in Shanghai. I thought it would be along the lines of No Logo, exploring the slavish working conditions in factories and exploitation of people who are locked into lives of misery and servitude. It's not that, though I'm sure there is much of that in China as elsewhere around the world.

I think Leslie Chang does a brilliant job of moving from being an outside observer documenting what she sees, and a participant in this world. My copy of the book has an interview with Chang as a kind of epilogue, wherein she outlines that rather than using the traditional journalistic formula of going into a situation with a set of questions or a particular issue to explore, she went in and just.. went with it. She went to Dongguan, met people that she thought would form the basis of her book, and then lost touch with them after one encounter. The two girls that are central to the book are both interesting, familiar and completely strange to me. They both left their poor rural villages to work in factories; they left not knowing where they were going, what they would do, and where it would take them.

The Dongguan in the book is both fascinating and completely terrifying to me. Only the most tenacious, confident and persistent could survive in a place where to make it, rather than education, understanding or skills, lying and bluff get you ahead. It seems like the most materialistic place imaginable, where potential partners are dumped before a word is spoken for being too 'low class', quiet or short. Hair cuts are of greater consequence than jobs or living situations, and knowledge is gained and imparted through the kind of motivational slogans found on gym walls everywhere.

People are caught between families that don't understand their new life, how it works and and what it involves, and people who are friends as long as they're next to you following the exact same path. Everything is temporary, picked up and dropped with what seems like reckless abandon, in the search for the next best thing, in a rush to become richer and more successful. It's not a book to gush about, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel like I have a much richer understanding of a big force that shapes part of China, or at least a part of the Chinese population.
I found it very readable, and I genuinely cared about the people in the book, despite their decisions sometimes making me want to hurl the book across the room and slap them across the face with a furious 'You stupid girl!'. I would not survive in their world; reading about it was enough to make me grit my teeth and recoil at times. But it's absolutely fascinating, and until I can read or speak Chinese, I must rely on books like these to get a better sense of how a great part of the world lives and works.
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel This oaf of a book was given to me by an old woman at my dog park, along with a paranormal romance which she recommended for its wonderful vampire sex scenes. Books, along with our dogs’ bowel movements and seemingly irrational issues with other dogs, are what we talk about most. I wouldn’t have picked up 1Q84 if Lorenza hadn’t given it to me, because I’ve already learnt the lesson about starting 1000ish page books just as I’m about to start back at uni. But Lorenza is old and has a bung ankle and lugged it all the way to the park for me. I bought it on kindle too, because it’s just so unwieldy and impractical that it was never going to accompany me anywhere in that form. My main reading time these days is on the tram to and from work, unfortunately. I’ve become one of those people.

That was some time in January, and I just finished it last night. I love Murakami, and recommend The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Hard Boiled Wonderland to everybody. I have a feeling, however, that those books would have been the size of 1Q84 without the intervention of a ruthless editor. The kind that 1Q84 would have benefited from.

I don’t know why it’s published as one volume in Australia, when elsewhere it’s three separate books. That said, I doubt I would have gone past the first, had it been a stand alone. I almost gave up on 1Q84 at many points and only persevered past the end of book two after reading a kindle review that seemed to parrot my own thoughts one by one, then conclude that it’s worth finishing because the third part is faster, better and god, you may as well. I agree.

I still feel like I’ve missed the significance of a few things, but I’m sure most readers tie the supposedly loose ends together much earlier than the book does. I’m always slow on the uptake and can never pick the killer or the twin or the glaringly obvious secret, and even I put two and two together early on, here. There’s too much explaining and describing and inane commentary. Murakami’s meditations on daily life are beautiful; I’m sure they’re more beautiful in Japanese than in the English translation, too. They’re beautiful, but there’s too much too often, and it becomes tiresome and frustrating. I just wanted it to be over, for a lot of it.

Ushikawa and his ‘misshapen head’ is the kind of ugly creep that lurks in children’s stories and fairytales. Aomame, like green peas, is too perfectly cold and detached. And then cracks into the kind of clingy-mushy girl when Tengo comes back, with is devastating in the same way as your ballbreaker boss is, when she talks cutesy to hubby on the phone.
Tengo is the boring but loveable guy from every other Murakami novel who had so much potential and settled down into a life of a nothing job and simple, yet painstakingly described meals and trips to the supermarket. The Leader, and his protectors, I don’t know. It’s all a bit so so.

I love Murakami. I really do. I just wish I’d never started reading 1Q84.

You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises for Men and Women

You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible Of Bodyweight Exercises For Men And Women - Mark Lauren, Joshua Clark I'm not judging this book by its cover.
So Much for That: A Novel - Lionel Shriver So Much For That lacks all the force of So Much for Kevin.

My copy has an article at the very end (by Shriver) that is a condensed version of the book, which I wish I had either read instead, or not read at all. An old friend of Shriver, Terri had mesothelioma, and clearly Shriver regrets having been the kind of distant, but really absent, well wisher that she was to Terri. Having read that, the warm fuzziness I felt toward some characters and anger toward others dissipated and the whole thing now feels like a bit of a cop out. It seems now like an attempt at catharsis that should perhaps instead have been a personal journal or a few lonely wine soggedy nights of guilty sobbing.

I kept reading because I wanted to know whether Glynis would die, and whether Shep would get to his afterlife. As another reviewer on this site mentioned, there were a few too many rare and serious diseases and siblings and family members with various convenient failings that it was all a bit ridiculous. While countless books are populated by flawed individuals whose flaws push the plot into the places it needs to go, So Much for That is just overkill. You don't need a perfect hero and you don't need a hoard of personality disorders to create one.

The diatribes and dialogue were in many places overdone. Halfway through a half page outburst by someone, peppered with the kind of lucid and articulate observations and examples of various things that only come from having rehearsed an argument, I would drop the book and 'oh, for fucks sake'.


It's worth reading for the insights into the US medical and insurance systems, but as an acclaimed piece of literature, for me it is sorely lacking. I wish that Shriver had done a Harper Lee, and left it at one gut wrenching book that years later, makes me recoil and shiver.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was one of those books that I made myself wait to read. In addition to the obligatory ten pages of sickeningly lavish literary praise, it comes with the recommendations of real people I know, who have Taste. By which I mean, they like books I like, and/or have actual opinions about books, beyond 'it was good'.

Yet again, I'm left a bit lost. Maybe I read it at the wrong time or in the wrong frame of mind. I would have devoted ample days to its reading if it compelled me in the slightest. Instead, it took months and essentially turned me off reading for its duration. I waited to be pulled in and kept forcing myself to keep going, thinking that having waited so long to finally let myself read it, this book would at least hold my attention. It just never did. It was at times like pulling teeth; what would have been humourous passages were I not resentful of making myself read it, just pissed me off.

It's well written, wordy and I could never come close to something so perfect, in that way. It was just bloody long, and kind of .. lacking the best of both fantasy and "literary fiction", I suppose. I don't even know what I mean by that, except that as a reader of both it missed both marks, and irritatingly so.

The last 100 pages were as gruelling as the former 900, but I did them quickly to finally put it to rest. Since finishing it, I've read 3 books and been unable to draw myself away from my kindle and every bookshop I come across on this holiday. I don't recall having been to gratified to finish a book and feel free enough to get back to loving books and reading again.

So, a conflicted review. It was great. I just kind of hated it. There are enough plot summaries everywhere else for me to avoid going there. On to smaller and better things.
Save Me - Lisa Scottoline I was given this book as a kris kringle/secret santa present this year, by somebody who clearly doesn't know me very well. I have tried to read chick lit before, assuming it would be enjoyable in that vapid, lazy way that playing Bejewelled on my phone and clicking through facebook profiles of friends of friends of friends can be. I picked up a Janet Evanovich (or someone) book in a Johannesburg hostel once, and lay by the pool with it for 10 minutes before giving up in a rage. I should have learnt my lesson there. These books don’t do for me what they appear to do for the rest of the population.
Alas, I took 'Save Me' on holiday with me because flipping through the first few pages was a suitable procrastination activity to avoid packing, and the dialogue was so ridiculous and somehow so All American that I kind of wanted to keep reading. I simultaneously loved and loathed this book, and don't know how to rate it or write about it.
Also, I remember my family accompanying mum on a business trip to France when I was about 13, and reading Lisa Scottoline's first book because I had run out of my books and only had my parents' 'adult' books. 'Everywhere that Mary Went' was the first adult book that I read. In hindsight, it may have been the kind of shockingly "easy" book that Save Me is, to have given me the confidence to peruse all aisles of book shops from then on. I've always meant to go back and read more of her books.
This book, though, was fucking terrible. I kept reading lines like 'because he didn't yet know that all moms [sic] are superheroes' and other .. not even Oprah, but Tyra Banks bullshit. It was hilarious. I glared through the pages with this disbelieving smirk on my face, and sat on the plane, pulling my boyfriend over every so often to READ THIS! Fuck. You have to. READ. THIS. It was that atrociously good. The plot is so heinously unbelievable, the characters such perfect examples of the plot devices they needed to be that everything they did was cringeworthy and predictable. The central driving plot pusher of the book seemed to me so unbelievable and almost wrong, that everything around it was similarly unbelievable. A woman is volunteering at her daughter’s school canteen, delicately confronting her daughter’s bullies, when an explosion occurs. Her daughter has taken refuge in a disabled toilet, and superhero mom [sic] [ew] has to make a choice between saving her daughter’s bullies (right in front of her), or finding her daughter (down the hallway). In actual fact, she seems to do both, ferrying the other girls to a teacher to go outside, then finding her daughter and saving her also. However, the chief bullying child then ends up in a coma and the whole town plus their mama turns against the protagonist: how could you! You let Amanda die! Blah blah blah, you are so selfish, blah blah. The whole thing was so bizarre that I actually flicked through the various characters in my head thinking, is this actually a rational and reasonable response for this person to have? In nothing but midday movie in a small town of an America that scares the bejeezus out of me, did any of it make sense.
There then ensues a conspiracy involving various other characters in the kind of unconvincingly joined up way that much popular crime fiction tends to require. While I didn’t buy it, and was infuriated at various points along the way, I couldn’t put the fucking book down. The gifted education teacher, the dying girl’s family, the school, construction companies: every character was somehow involved, and it was all just a ludicrous joke of a hodge podge. A page turner.
So there you have it. It’s a horrible book that I couldn’t stop reading until I had breathlessly turned the last page. I’d say that it’s instantly forgettable, except that I could recall a good chunk of it to write this, a good week and a few good books later. Perhaps that’s the sign of A Good Book. I just don’t want to inhabit any world or circle of people where books like this are considered Good.
Naked in Death - J.D. Robb A friend gave me the first four or five books in JD Robb’s series, with the promise of being unable to put them down, and to help address my kindle’s pristine emptiness. I think I had just finished the trimester’s exams and was looking forward to some mindless pulp, but I didn’t even care enough to finish this book. I still don’t know who did it, but it was a bit too Sex and the City for my liking. The ladykiller, whose initial I can’t even remember, the tomboyish female detective, the instant coffee, the predictability of every character.

Crimes fiction by numbers. It just doesn’t float my boat.
The Instructions - Adam Levin I've had enough. There are a couple of laugh out loud funny parts in the first 100 or so pages of The Instructions, but they're not enough to make me feel anything but blasé about the rest of it. I’m 200 or so pages in and there’s so much to go that it’s just daunting, and the list of books I can’t wait to read is starting to glow with appeal.

I don't know if it's me or a case of the emperor's new clothes. I can't be bothered reading 1000 pages to tick a box, and I'm not so far in that I now can't turn back. I really don’t know what I think of this book, though. It has some funny bits, and some clever bits, and there are interesting tidbits about Jewish.. things. But every character annoys me, the dialogue is convoluted and affectatious, and there is just so MUCH of it. There's no real story, that I can discern. Certainly not enough to pull me in and make me plough through any more of it.

I don’t even dislike this book, as much as feel completely apathetic toward it. Being partway into it feels like a weight on my shoulders, and that’s not what I look for in a book. Maybe I don’t get it, though often when I “don’t get” things, it becomes obvious that I get them as much as anyone else, just don’t feel the same sense of enlightenment, humour or joy in them. I don’t know, but I’ve had enough with this arsehole of a book. 2 stars, because I think it's probably me.
The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss When people ask why I read fantasy, I never know what to say, and mumble something about ‘escapism’. Which on some level is probably true, but no truer for fantasy than any other kind of book. I don’t really read that much fantasy, either – I love words and expressions, and some fantasy books are peppered with embarrassing dialogue and formulaic plotlines. It often feels as though fantasy books are geared toward people who are explicitly desirous of escapism, and these are the books that I put down in disgust or eventually, resignation. The Wise Man’s Fear, however, is great.

I have a tendency to forget the content of books and movies after having read or seen them, but retain the impression they made years afterwards. I loved In the Name of the Wind. I bought it on a whim and devoured it, having read the blurb numerous times and put it back with no real thought. I was a bit sad, but mostly angry when it finished, gagging for the as yet unwritten follow up.

I don’t even remember what really happened in In the Name of the Wind, not in any great detail. I was going to re-read it before starting The Wise Man’s Fear but was given it as an end of exams present and was so involved so quickly that there was no chance of stopping to go back. It’s so good that I actually bought a kindle primarily to enable me to read it on the tram. It’s not a book for the small handed or weak wristed (which I shouldn’t be after years of epic tomes). Alas.

Kvothe is a wiser, more likeable character in this book. He is less clumsy and irritating than I remember him as being. Characters I had forgotten like Aurie, who in my head is a gorgeous little Luna from Harry Potter-like thing, and Devi, who is Helena Bonham Carter.. they’re great. I have such a wonderful visual map in my head of the University, of the towns, the bridges, the houses and inns. Kvothe’s room, the Fishery, the gardens of the Maer’s estate. It’s swirling around my head and I’m devastated that it’s over again, until the final book is written.

I read a few reviews this morning, mainly negative ones, which seem focused on various traits and annoyances that I didn’t even pick up on or take note of. I found the romp with Felurian a bit long, but I can’t conceive of books like this as being about getting a story out in so many pages. The joy is in the reading, and it’s not a race to the end. The only bits I raced through were the dalliances with Denna, because she’s so fickle and likeable and god, I wanted Kvothe to find her so much more than he himself did.

Kvothe being too young to be the lover that he is. I don’t know whether some people labour this point too much, or I failed to grasp its significance, but Kvothe’s age seems as irrelevant as his sexual prowess. And that didn’t strike me as particularly apparent from the book anyway. It seemed to me that his enigma, reputation and flightiness were of mort import than his skills in the sack.

Parts of this book are so inventive, I actually slumped back against the side of the tram or dropped the book on to the bed while digesting them, thinking how the hell did you THINK of that. Contraptions, twists and turns, little connections between parts of the story that could so easily be glossed over. I’m sure there are many that I missed.

Mostly, I loved this book because I was constantly caught in a need to know what’s going to happen and how things are going to work themselves out. Maybe it’s my stunted imagination and tendency to forget things so quickly and easily, but I was surprised a lot, and kept on my toes. It’s a delicious book, really. I can’t wait to forget it and read it again, for almost the first time!
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Süskind, John E. Woods Perfume reads like a fairy tale, with the kind of lush imagery that actually compelled me to hire the DVD while I was halfway through it.
I’m actually stuck, not really sure what I want to say about this book.
I enjoyed it, reading most of it while curled up in a chair on the front porch, not noticing when the sun disappeared and the weather turned vicious. I suppose that’s the mark of a good book, but it may just be the fact that I bought it when I had one exam to go, and read it on my first study-free weekend for a long time.

In my head, this book brings up the kind of map found inside fantasy novels; a confined little world with terrain and villages and a plot that flows like the marked route. It is set in C18 France with familiar names and landmarks, but fantastical, alchemical kinds of airs, which are really to do with Jean-Baptiste, the protagonist. It reads like a modern recounting of an historical event from a time so long ago that magic is just part of the landscape.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in a fish market, the unwanted fourth child of a woman who is promptly hanged, while he is taken into care. The care given to him, despite its wanting, and the shock of his mother’s abandonment of him seemed kind of .. caring to me, and my notions of the brutality of the time. But, shrug. Grenouille has no scent of his own, nor social graces or real feelings toward humankind, but an uncanny sense of smell. The plot seems compartmentalised into sections of Grenouille’s life, wherein he obtains either explicitly or implicitly, the knowledge and tools to push him along into the next section. Halfway through the book, I knew it was going somewhere but didn’t know where, which kept me drawn in. At some point relatively late in the piece, the aim of Grenouille’s searching become clear. Or perhaps I am the dithering reader that was surprised at the last minute by the obvious twist, as dumb as the character with the bad guy behind him. No, to your left! Now he’s behind you! Now he’s under the table! It wouldn’t be the first time.

The fact of the murders, and Grenouille as a murderer, seem almost insignificant details, despite their obvious centrality. They are just more things that happen, as significant to Grenouille as eating, just mechanisms by which to fulfil his basic needs. The perfumer, Baldini, is a wonderful character, entirely selfish and self-pitying to the point of being ridiculous. I loved him. His delusions of grandeur, his fame and fortune based on a couple of inherited successes, these key factors seeming to have slipped his mind. It may be that he was such a great part of this book because he reminds me of my own favourite naked emperor, who sits near me at work.