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American Gods

American Gods - Neil Gaiman Definitely good, ticks all the boxes, but it wasn't as good as I might have expected.
I really liked Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. They wrote together and continued in the Mythical-realist style but went in different directions.In this book he seems to take the whole, personification of mythical gods and forces, too seriously and it made me miss the humour of terry pratchett or even Christopher Moore.

For me there is one great mythical-realist book. Little Big by John Crowley. But, maybe coming to it from this book, one could find it long and winding and a little twee. Still, for me, it started the genre, and remains the best.

From Then to Now: A Short History of the World

From Then to Now: A Short History of the World - Christopher  Moore, Andrej Krystoforski I was glad to win a copy of this book even though when I applied I didn't realise it was for kids or young adults.
Although I'm a long way from being a young adult the book immediately appealed to me. An overview of world history that avoids an overly Euro-centric view and yet doesn't become too PC. Illustrated with watercolour paintings that avoid most of the stereotypes too, I wondered whether it would attract the ipod generation. I needn't have worried. My 12 year old son and 16 year old daughter both asked to read it after I was finished.

Fathom: The Definitive Edition Volume 1

Fathom: The Definitive Edition Volume 1 - Michael Layne Turner, Bill O'Neil, Geoff Johns Beautiful colour and design for a comic, but the story lacks in originality.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Playaway Adult Fiction)

The Dream of Perpetual Motion (Playaway Adult Fiction) - Dexter Palmer I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book, which I would have been interested enough to seek out anyway.

It suffers slightly by comparison to another steampunk sci-fi favourite of mine, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/827.The_Diamond_Age_Or_a_Young_Lady_s_Illustrated_Primer
but it is well worth the tour of this debut writer's dark imagination.

Even though I felt it was, at first, a gothic horror version of Charlie and the Chocolate factory crossed with Angela Carter's "Nights at the circus" [leaving aside the obvious "The Tempest" and "The Wizard of Oz":] the plot soon grows into it's own unique creature.

Populated with mechanical men, monsters and wizards this is a fantasy world that is strangely like our own in it's noise and loss of faith in "the age of miracles"


Solar - Ian McEwan This gave me everything I could have asked for from a new Ian McEwan, a topical subject,[ global-warming:] and a totally human, messy character making a mess of his life as we make a mess of the planet.
My criticisms, if any, are very small ones.
If one thinks of a random number to put in a story the usual choice will be 23, and this happens several times.

Dust from our eyes: an unblinkered look at Africa

Dust from our eyes: an unblinkered look at Africa - Joan Baxter Unfortunately the packaging doesn't convey the interesting and lively quality of the writing inside. Joan Baxter has a rhythm in her writing that goes from personal anecdote to investigative reporting to broad sweep history that never lost my interest.
Recommended to all fans of Naomi Klein and Ronald Wright, and anyone who wants to know Africa.

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood Stunning. I was really excited to get this book and it kept me that way right to the end. After reading her "Oryx and Crake" I was already anticipating a dystopian masterpiece but this parallel story brings the two of them into the league of modern classics.
I think anyone would benefit from reading "Oryx and Crake" first, although it's not strictly necessary, but then they wouldn't get all the resonances I did.

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Frederick Davidson Audio book. Horrible voice of the narrator put me off it.

The System of the World

The System of the World - Neal Stephenson

I was tricked into reading this, but I'm glad because why else would I have started in on this 2700 page trilogy? Years ago Neal Stephenson intrigued and thrilled me with his cyber-punk classic "Snowcrash" so that I could see where he was going with "Diamond Age" a neo-victorian culture in an incredibly futuristic world. By the time I read "Cryptonomicon" I had enough trust in him as an author to take me through a lot of reading involving multiple characters and time periods and to know it was going to come together satisfactorily.

He goes through a lot of history and technical details in these books but the main story and the excitement is sustained all the way. I can't put it any better than the inside jacket blurb from Entertainment Weekly "...he might just have created the definitive historical-sci-fi-epic-comedy-punk love story. No easy feat that."


Runaway - Alice Munro I'd heard how good Alice Munro is and how she's the best living short story writer but as a guy, the domestic detail themes were putting me off, a little.
If you are male and think this writer isn't for you, you'd be wrong. If you are a feeling human being you'll get something from them. She has a way of letting the stories resonate with each other, so that they move deeper feelings like really good poetry, yet on the surface there is nothing flashy, just "ordinary" lives, being lived out.
Some of the stories are connected with the same characters and some are separate, but I come away with the feeling of a unified force.

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen Thanks to Megha's review http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/39133771. I had lowered expectations of this, after all the other rave reviews.
I realise it has several flaws and doesn't innovate in any way but if you're looking for a good old story to relax into, you couldn't do much better.
Somebody coming from chick-lit might be amazed that a woman could take on the voice of the male narrator in all his male adventures, but for this man it didn't ring quite true. Still it never distracted me from the two threads of the story while my imagination was fed with details of travelling circus life.

2666 (3-Volume Boxed Set)

2666 (3-Volume Boxed Set) - Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer This is I'm sure a very literate and well written book but it just became too much hard work.
I can take the post-modernist view ( "Dorian" by Will Self ) of the world and don't wear rose-tinted glasses, (I loved "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy), but the endless list of rapes and murders was not my cup of meat.
If this will lead to the solving of some of these murders ( or the prevention of new ones) then it's worth anybody's distaste, but I don't think it will...review fades to ambiguity and obscurity...

In the Hand of Dante: A Novel

In the Hand of Dante: A Novel - Nick Tosches I'm going to give up on this one. Life's too short to listen to all this foul-mouthed egotistical babble.
I get the point, the author inhabits the caricature of himself to play with your mind and undermine the foundations of "literature" and the publishing industry, but I just got bored.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka If you've heard that this book has been nominated for all sorts of prizes you might be expecting something different; but if I tell you it reminds me of Anne Tyler or Joanna Harris you might not be disappointed and might even be a little surprised at the steel edge under this tragi-comic family story.


Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Maurice Hindle In the last year I watched the two Bela Lugosi films of Frankenstein and was curious to read the book. They are remarkably different,yet complement each other. If you can cope with a lot of gothic gushing and emoting it's a worthy read.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie I've read Sherman Alexie before, but this is going back in his writing history. It shows; the stories are more raw, which can be a good thing but also leaves plenty undone.
The pain of poverty and oppression of life on a reservation is more evident and his dry humour less so. Still, it's not one to miss.