Monday, June 9, 2014

28 Books You Must Read

I was interested to see this booklist from Bookworld - 28 Books You Must Read to Call Yourself Well Read - especially as I have read and generally enjoyed about half of them. The list includes children's books and books for teenagers as well as for adults. There is also a mixture of older titles as well as newer ones plus some non-fiction. Some more books to look out for when I have some spare time.
  1. Charlotte's Web by E B White
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  3.  The BFG by Roald Dahl
  4. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  7. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  10. Cloustreet by Tim Winton
  11. Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantell
  12. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
  13. Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Garimara Pilkington
  14. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  15. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  16. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  18. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  19. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  20. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  21. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  22. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared M Diamond
  23. A Fortunate Life by A B Facey
  24. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  25. Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  26. The Brian That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
  27. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  28. Gallipoli by L A Carlyon

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sapphire Skies

The gym that I go to is not only for exercise - from time to time it also involves discussions about books or films. Two of my 'gym buddies' were recently discussing  books by the Australian author, Belinda Alexandra, so I decided to read her latest novel, Sapphire Skies.

Belinda Alexandra's mother is Russian which helps to explain her interest in that country and the setting for this book. Lily is an Australian living in Russia. Her partner, Adam, had died from cancer and Lily decided to escape Sydney for a time as she readjusted to a life without Adam. After a bomb exploded in the underground railway near her work, Lily discovers that an elderly lady that she had befriended has been injured. Lily and her landlady, Oksana, look after the lady, who is reluctant to reveal her name, and her dog. Over time the secret of the elderly lady's life is revealed.

The story is told from several viewpoints. We learn of the life of the flying ace Natalya Azarov through the memories of Valentin Orlov and also from Natalya's perspective. Initially I found it difficult to become involved in the story as the first chapters jump from events in 2000 to events in the 1930s and back again and involved different stories - the discovery of a plane downed during World War II, Lily's life in Moscow and Natalya's life prior to the Second World War. Eventually the pattern of the stories become interwoven and the story of the role of female pilots during the war and the political intrigue when Stalin ruled Russia is powerfully portrayed. As Natalya's story is revealed Lily also comes to terms with the challenges in her life. Sapphire Skies is a novel but it introduces the reader to the horror of aspects of Russia's recent history. However it is also a story of survival and of love.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Australia's favourite novelist?

Booktopia Blog recently conducted a survey to decide Australia's favourite novelist - You may or may not agree with their list but it may suggest some additional authors to try.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Summer Book

Although best known for her Moomintroll books, Tove Jansson also wrote a number of books for adults including, The Summer Book. In a collection of seemingly unrelated chapters Tove Jansson captures the essence of living on a small rugged island in the Gulf of Finland for several months over summer. The main characters are the elderly grandmother and her young grand-daughter, Sophia. The grandmother's son who is Sophia's father is also on the island but usually remains in the background.

The book revolves around the relationship between the grandmother and Sophia as they explore their island and observe the natural and often minute changes that occur over time as Spring becomes Summer and then Autumn approaches. Together they observe the sea, the small animals and insects that inhabit the island, the moss and small flowers that appear and disappear. They discuss and have differing opinions about life and religion and change. There is also the presence of death throughout the book - the death of Sophia's mother, the cat who kills small birds and animals and the approaching death of the grandmother. We see the island on warm calm days and during storms and the celebration for mid-summer. This is a beautifully written book, often philosophical, often humorous, where the small things of life matter. The Summer Book was originally published in 1972 with an English translation in 1974. The English translation was republished in 2003, two years after the author's death.

The Guardian 12 July 2003 published a detailed review of this book.

The Heist

Readers of Janet Evanovich books know what to expect but with this new series written with Lee Goldberg you can add additional action and tension. The Heist is the first book in the Fox and O'Hare series. I read the second book in the series, The Chase, before this book as that was the title that came across my path first. As you would expect, much of this book is setting the scene and introducing the reader to the cast of characters - Nick Fox (conman), Kate O'Hare who was a Navy Seal but now works for the FBI) and their team of specially chosen co-workers capable of successfully staging a con. How and why Nick and Kate are working together as a team is also explained.

In this book, Nick and Kate are charged with conning a corrupt investment banker who has retreated to a remote Indonesian island. First they must establish the location of the missing man and then persuade him to return the stolen money - obviously not an easy assignment, made even more complicated when a boatload of pirates arrive on the scene. One of the characters, Willie, describes her experiences as a great adventure and this book is an over the top adventure story with  humour thrown in plus, a few explosions and of course, a little sexual tension. All good fun.