I don't really know what went wrong - I think it was a combination of too much work, too many things going on, and a pile of books to write about that was so big it put me off even starting. So these are going to be quick and short.
Millions of Women are Waiting to Meet you, by Sean Thomas
Not normally my sort of book, but the Bloomsbury sales rep said it was quite funny and gave me a copy, and I needed a 5-minutes-every-now-and-then book to go along with my current novel, so this seemed like a good idea. Not bad at all, to be honest - more a sort of Danny Wallace type book about internet dating. A bit laddish in places for my tastes, but quite well written. I read a trade paperback, ISBN: 074758219x.
World War Z, by Max Brooks
I'm not really a horror reader, but I've picked up a few things recently that have actually been quite good. This is a bit of an oddity, really - a reportage account of a zombie uprising, just like we've all seen in the films. Lots of different people tell us about their small experiences or contributions, starting from the first hints of a problem and running all the way through to the final clear-up stages, with just a few hints that the problem may re-occur. The (many) different styles and voices are very well handled, and there are bits that are properly gripping. Overall, though, the shortness of the pieces tends to work against the concept, although the big picture is well sketched-in. It would make a great expensive movie, or a really cheap talking-heads one. I almost think the second version would be better.... I read a proof copy, but the paperback is available now, ISBN: 0715635964.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne
I've been meaning to read this for ages, but kept on putting it off - there's been a fair amount of Holocaust fiction for children, and I wasn't convinced that this was going to be different enough to be worthwhile. I suspect I was wrong, because the book is certainly unlike other things out there. Very slow moving and very gentle, I think if I was a kid coming to this with no preconceptions, I would be very moved by it. The ending is as downbeat as it needs to be, and the morality is finely balanced. I found some of the prose a little cloying, but to be honest I suspect that is largely intentional. Well worth a read, anyway, and best not to know anything about it beyond the setting. I read an old proof I've had hanging around for ages, now available in Hardback, ISBN: 038560940x.
Travels in the Scriptorium, by Paul Auster
I've never really got on with Paul Auster (apart from The Brooklyn Follies, I suppose), despite the fact that many of my friends really rate him, so I don't really know why I decided to read this. I suppose I think he's someone I ought to read, and I was going away on holiday, so I decided to take a bunch of books I wouldn't normally read. This was pretty good, although it is very slim indeed. If I knew more about his works I might have got more out of it, as I know there are some characters here that have appeared elsewhere, but it does hang together on its own. Very experimental in terms of plot (not that there is much plot), and not bad at all, but not really fantastic, either. I read a proof, but its just come out in Hardback, ISBN: 0571232558.
The Devil You Know, by Mike Carey
Another bit of horror, here, as part of my 'try new genres' experiment. I've rather enjoyed the Carey comics I've read (especially Hellblazer, so I was tempted by this. Good cover design and back-cover blurb as well, which is always a good sign. To be honest, the whole thing reeks of Hellblazer, although there are a few nice twists. We're in a paranormal London, where ghosts and psychic phenomenon are common, and Felix Castor - our hero - is a slightly crappy exorcist, although he doesn't really want to be, due to (gasp!) skeletons in his closet. Very pacy, though, and the slightly gritty and occasionally prolix prose suits the setting and material. I enjoyed it enough to want to pick up the next one as well, which is a good sign for me. I read a signed copy of the paperback, ISBN: 1841484135.
Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn, by Sarah Miller
And I would definitely never normally read this. American High School twaddle about men and women (or boys and girls, really), with an unneccesary plot driver. Which of the female characters is inside Gideon's head and falling in love with him? Why won't she tell us, and, more to the point, why does she make so many annoying asides to the reader, promising to tell us by the end of the book? Why can she suddenly hear his thoughts? How does she manage to get on with the rest of her life? Why does Gideon have these silly, boyish thoughts about girls and sex? Blah blah blah. Will he ever pick me (whoever I am? maybe you've already met me?)?
I rather enjoyed it, to be honest. Probably better written than most. I read a proof, it comes out in Hardback very soon, ISBN: 0571232558.
Riddley Walker and The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, by Russell Hoban
And, by contrast, some proper literature. Riddley Walker is one of my two favourite books (the other being Mother London, by Michael Moorcock), and I suddenly realised that I hadn't read it in a couple of years. It is still absolutely wonderful. Very hard work, but a book that completely takes over your mind while you are reading it. If you've never come across Russell Hoban, do try him. I also re-read Lion, just because I wanted more Hoban, and I've only read it once before, about 5 years ago. I read tattered old paperbacks of both, but they are available in modern paperbacks, ISBNs 074755904x and 0747549087.
Ptolemy's Gate, by Jonathan Stroud
Third (and so far last) in the series about Bartimaeus, the lovable/evil/sarcastic djinn and his on-off master Nathaniel. I loved the first one, thought the second was good but suffered a bit from middle-of-trilogy syndrome, and was looking forward to this one, which had been sitting on my shelf for a year. Very good indeed, lots of plot strands wrapped up nicely, still seems like a shame whenever we have to hear from anyone other than Bartimaeus. Suitably apocalyptic ending, and great great fun. I read a signed Hardback copy, but it is just out in Paperback, ISBN: 0552550280.
Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko
This is the book that got turned into the Russian film of the same title, which looked quite fun but I never got around to seeing, so I thought I'd read the book instead. I rather liked a lot of the ideas, but the prose (or at least the translation) was awful in places, and fairly mediocre at best. The main character is likeable enough, but the structure of the book - pretty much just three little novellas stitched into a novel doesn't do it any favours either. i don't think I'll bother with books two and three, although there were enough good ideas here for me to still want to check out the film.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson
We all know Bill Bryson is funny, so I was rather looking forward to his biography. At the same time, so many of his books have contained information about his life and his childhood, so I wasn't really sure if there would be much new stuff in this. As it turns out, the book is really rather thin on actual biographical information, but that doesn't matter much, because it's funny, very very readable and everything you expect a Bryson book to be. I read a signed Hardback, ISBN: 0385608268.
The Pinhoe Egg, by Diana Wynne Jones
We love Diana Wynne Jones, and we love Chrestomanci stories. So we love this one. Bad Wizards, good magicians, a Griffin and so on. Not much more to say, really. I read a Hardback, ISBN: 0007228546.
Vicious Circle, by Mike Carey
The second of the Felix Castor novels. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first one, probably because I read the two of them in quick succession, and it is a bit samey. There is some nice continuation of plot threads from the first book, but overall it just felt a little uninspired. I'll certainly read the next one, whenever it comes out - I'll just let these two fade in my memory a little, I think. I read the paperback, ISBN: 1841494143.
Winterwood, by Patrick McCabe
Dark. Oooh, its dark. Very very well written - almost hypnotic in places. Fractured, but that's OK because the mind of the protagonist is messed up. Enjoyable, in a fairly testing sense. But my, its dark. I actually had to stop reading at one point, when he abducts his daughter, and you just know things are going to end badly. I read something light for a while instead, but had to come back to this one - it was almost hypnotic. Very good, but very dark. I read a proof - the book has just come out in Hardback, ISBN: 0747583617.
The Solitude of Thomas Cave, by Georgina Harding
Another dark Bloomsbury proof. Normally I prefer a little gap between dark books, but the rep recommended this to me as well. A first novel, about whaling and solitude. Bits of it work very very well, bits of it lost my attention a little, but it has a nice structure and is quite well written. I'll certainly look out for the author - there's a very very good book in here somewhere, it just hasn't quite made it out. It is different, though, which is a good thing, and happily highbrow, which is also a good thing(I don't just read trash, you know...). I read a proof, the book is out in February, ISBN: 0747587000.
Verdigris Deep, by Frances Harding
I hadn't read a kids book for a while, and something about this intrigued me. Her previous novel had a really nice cover, very simple and elegant. Lots of people said good things about it, but I never quite got around to reading it. This, on the other hand, had a really terrible cover, which I can't share with you here - but I really hope it doesn't stay the same for publication. Despite the rather dull, very traditional cover, this is actually a rather fun (and fairly dark)book. Kids steal money from wishing well, waken spirit that lives there, have to fulfill the wishes that the coins represented. And get magic powers, that of course aren't as fun as one would think. It was unusual, and I rather enjoyed it. I read a proof, but the book is published in May, ISBN: 1405055375.
The Man Upstairs and other stories, by P. G. Wodehouse
Nothing like a little Wodehouse to round things up with. Early stories, these, and certainly not amongst his best, but all is right with the world as long as there is still unread Wodehouse. I found this on my parents' shelves, and I have no idea how I've missed it for so long. Formulaic, simple, and wonderful. I read a lovely old red-and-white Penguin edition, which is falling apart, but that just adds to the pleasure.
There, I'm almost up to date now - next post will be a few Graphic Novels I can't be bothered to do right now, and then hopefully normal service will be restored. Sorry this one was so long...