August 21, 2017

The Trick of Ga Bolga by Patrick McGinley

I was stuck on a train trawling through my Kindle for something to interest when I found The Trick of Ga Bolga. I think I bought it in one of the 99p Kindle sales.

It’s the story of an Englishman who moves to a small coastal village in Ireland during the second world war, and what happens to him there. There’s murder, and suicides, a cow, a donkey and a lot of boring food.

The Trick of Ga Bolga reads like there should be a big sub-text in there somewhere, that it says something more than is on the page. I’m not sure it does (unless I missed it), I think it’s just a view into an odd period in life. I definately won’t be reading it again.

HHhH by Laurent Binet

I picked up HHhH as part of a buy one get one half price at Waterstones. That was the first I’d heard of it – and it lives up to the impressive billing on it’s cover.

Laurent Binet is a Frenchman, writing a historical novel whilst exploring the art of writing an historical novel. It really is rather fascinating, reading the tale at the same time as his deliberations over how to write it and what to write in it. Even the structure of the book pushes boundaries – with no page numbers, or chapters – just numbered groups of paragraphs, sometimes only one paragraph other times 2-3 pages.

The novel itself is about the British / Czech plot to assasinate Heydrick – the author of the final solution. A really interesting dive into the Nazi regime and a surprisingly little discussed part of history.

Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis

Wow! But is Amis on form in this one.

Lionel Asbo is an uncomfortable character – the illogicality of some of the characters is hard to deal with.

Lionel himself is a London thug, who wins the lottery whilst in jail – and the novel goes to some lengths to explore the potential impacts of the ‘wrong’ person winning. As well as our celebrity obsessed culture.

I’d definately recommend it.

Look at Me by Jennifer Egan

By accident I’ve ended up reading 2 books on the trot that cover terrorists entering the USA. After Pygmy I’ve been reading Look at Me by Jennifer Egan.

In Look at Me we follow 4 people and their lives around the town of Rockford, Illinois. One of those is an under cover terrorist of some sort, who remains a mystery right through the book – to be honest I’m not entirely sure of his role within the story. The main character is Charlotte, a model who has a horrific car crash leading to her face having to be re-built ending her career. We then explore the meaning of fame, looks, and more.

It’s an interesting read, but a bit meandering for me.

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

pygmyChuck Palanuik is one of my favourite authors, so I was looking forward to reading Pygmy a lot. And it doesn’t disappoint.

Once you get used to the writing style (not as hard as A Clockwork Orange) it’s a fascinating book. Pygmy is a child terrorist sent to the USA on a school exchange, and the book is his reports on the mission. That includes some reports reminising back to the time of being recruited and the training.

I felt the story is more about how American society functions than the terrorism aspect – Palahniuk is using the eyes of Pygmy and the actions of the terrorist cell to highlight the shortcomings of modern western society.

There’s a lot of humour here, as well as some really shocking moments.

Another fascinating book.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

the wasp factoryIt’s been a while since I’ve read an Iain Banks (The Crow Road in about 1997 I think), so it was great to read another this month.

The Wasp Factory was his first novel, and is about a somewhat fucked up family on a tiny island in Scotland. At first you think some of them might be normal, but then you realise – nope they’re all rather strange.

The story is told in a fascinating way – in real time, but with the reminiscences that explain every dropped in occasionally. So the reader is both uncovering the past and the future as the book progresses.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I was recommend Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by a colleague – such a good recommendation!

It’s a bit of mystery story, but that’s underselling it. Our narrator gets a job at the bookstore, and starts to discover strange goings on – that lead to an ancient society. But for a change it’s not Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstoreabout knights and swords, and the end of the world. In fact quite the opposite!

I found it a very pacey read, and the twists and turns kept it nice and interesting.

Rare Earth by Paul Mason

I got Rare Earth in a Kindle sale – and I’ve been reading it on and off on the kindle.
┬áIt’s an odd story. Group of journalists go to China to film a bit of colour for an insert in a topic news programme. All goes horribly wrong, and they end up ‘discovering’ the rare earth phenomenon and getting tangled up in all kinds of stuff. Including crazy biker private security women, a crazy rich kid, and a rebellion.

An interesting story, but not that great a book. Didn’t have me hooked, seemed to go off on tagents pretty often – not one I’d recommend buying, but if you’re bored on a beach somewhere, you could give it a go!

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I know a lot of people really like this series of books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but I found The Shadow of the Wind really hard going.

The story starts out really intriguingly with a boy discovering a book in the books cemetery, a book he must look after for the rest of his life. The books turns out to be part of a mysterious series of life events. Set in pre-war Barcelona with a fascinating cast of characters.

But it moves REALLY slowly. Maybe I’ll try to read it again one day, but right now – it got so slow that I haven’t even been bothered enough to look up the ending on wikipedia.

Divorcing Jack by Bateman

divorcing jackYup, I reading yet another Bateman – I think it’s down to the covers being easy to spot in charity shops. This time it’s Divorcing Jack, the first in the Dan Starkey series.

Set in Belfast when a journalist (Dan Starkey), gets tied up in a very thick conspiracy case and destroys his own marriage in the process. It’s highly political and very fast moving.

A good read, and full of some cool twists and turns.