3rd Wednesday Book Club – April 2013 – CrimeReads

This month’s book club theme was Crimereads, and our book clubbers were faced with a veritable banquet of murder and gore- there’s just so much crime fiction out there to choose from. Of course we had our usual mix of genres and tastes as well, along with with our man of the moment, Paul Auster : )

April Reads

Stravinsky’s Lunch by Drusilla Modjeska
The Invisible by Paul Auster
The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
Unplugged by  Eosin Colfer
7 Ways to Kill a Cat by Matias Nespolo
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
The Woods by Harlen Coben
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell
Miracle Cure by Harlen Coben
Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty
Nefertiti Street by Pamela Bradley
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
Murder in the Ashhram: Welcome to the Dark Side of Delhi by Kathleen McCaul
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The End by Bianca Nogrady
Fetish by Tara Moss
Here and Now- Letters 2008-2011 by Paul Auster and J.M Coetzee
Beyond the Red Notebook Essays on Paul Auster (Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction)
The World that is the Book – Paul Auster’s Fiction by Aliki Varvogli
HG Wells- Another Kind of Life by Michael Sherborne
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
Kraken by China Mieville

Most Talked About Reads

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Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell

‘This non-fiction book is about one of the most horrific and unsolved murder mysteries in history.  Examining old case files and remaining evidence of the 114 year old unsolved murders with 21st century technology, the author has written an exhaustive, alternate and highly probable analysis of the true identity of Jack the Ripper:  a famous actor and artist named Walter Sickert.  Ripper mythology has always been a consuming passion for me.  Many people who have also read and reviewed this exposé clearly feel that parallel times, places and events in Walter Sickert’s life are just coincidence.  That begs the question that after 2 or 3 unexplained and coincidental events happen (and more and more follow), at what point should the evidence be taken seriously and the Jack the Ripper identity and case be considered closed?  The author has convinced me and this book is an eye opener and well worth reading.’ – Elaine

Kraken by China Mieville

‘There is a preserved giant squid in the Natural History Museum in London and curator Billy Harrow is in charge of the visiting tour groups.  One day the squid disappears and so begins the search for it which leads Billy to things he could never have imagined.  Among these are “…warring cults, surreal magic, assassins, mythical gods and the end of the world.”
Only read 136 pages of the 481.  To call this science fiction would be an insult to the genre.  Full of annoying and weird characters as well as foul language, the reader cannot help but think that the end of the world cannot happen soon enough.  Mankind deserves extinction.’ – Elaine

The End: The Human Experience of Death by Bianca Nogrady

‘The author, a freelance science journalist takes us on a journey to understand death from every conceivable angle – spiritual, physical, metaphysical.  From chapters on why we die; palliative care; dying at home  to death and belief, this book may be just what we all need to help dispel our fear of death.   Nogrady covers organ donations, palliative care, diagnosing death, where to die and so on.  Fascinating and informative.’ -Lyn

Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty

‘Ros Moriarty is a white woman married to an Aboriginal man.  This warm and wonderful book tells of an emotional journey Ros takes with women of her husband’s Aboriginal family to perform ceremony  for women only.  Much of this even Ros herself is forbidden to talk about.  The book also tells the story of Ros’s husband, John, and his abrupt removal from his mother at the age of 4.  It also details John and Ros’s  life, their children and the path of their design company Balarinji.  The Balarinji company were the designers of the Aboriginal paintings on the Qantas jets and so much more.  The warmth of the Aboriginal women shines through as does their love for each other, the children and the newcomer, Ros.  They are such forgiving people despite the hardships inflicted by whites and white settlement.  Humour abounds such as the story (pp.58-59) of their elderly neighbor, Glad.  So many of them  are still suffering from the various diseases that lack of good nutrition and housing can cause.  I felt despair when I read of the way the tribe can be isolated in the wet season and often runs out of food, despite requests to the government to improve the road to enable them to get to town to purchase food at ridiculously inflated prices.  Great read.’ -Lyn

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

”R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.
Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.
This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…’ (From goodreads.com)

Author Love- In: Henning Mankell

2f5f03596b9a0a7d9362d4_L__V188025836_SX200_“Although my father passed away before my first novel was published I knew he believed in me and was confident that I would have success as a writer.”

Henning Mankell was born in Stockholm 1948. When he was two years old the family moved to Sveg where the father worked as a court judge. The family lived in the court house in Sveg and young Henning much enjoyed listening to the grown-ups discussions on crime and punishment. At age 16 Henning Mankell dropped out of school in order to work as a merchant seaman for two years before settling in Paris. After a year and a half in the French capital, Henning returned to Sweden and got a job as a stagehand in a Stockholm theatre.

In 1973, Mankell released his debut novel, Bergsprängaren (The Rock Blast). In the same year, he went to Africa for the first time. Ever since he has divided his time between Africa and Sweden and since 1986 he is the artistic leader of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique.

In 1991, the first novel in the Wallander series, Faceless Killers, was published. Since, Henning Mankell has written nine more novels in the series, including the novel Before the Frost, about Kurt Wallander’s daughter Linda. Next to the Wallander novels, Mankell has also written more than twenty novels and a dozen children’s and youth books. In addition, he is also one of Sweden’s most frequently performed dramatists.

And, lastly- what genre is Jane Eyre, anyway?

We had some discussion about what genre of fiction Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre falls under. I have always considered it to be a mix of Gothic and Romance, although it’s interesting to see what others think…

Sparknotes.com says Jane Eyre is a “hybrid of three genres: the Gothic novel (utilizes the mysterious, the supernatural, the horrific, the romantic); the romance novel (emphasizes love and passion, represents the notion of lovers destined for each other); and the Bildungsroman (narrates the story of a character’s internal development as he or she undergoes a succession of encounters with the external world).”

Shmoop.com puts dear old Jane into no less than 5 genres: Coming of age, Romance, Gothic, Mystery and Autobiography.

‘We know, that’s five genres – but Jane Eyre is a complex book, OK? Think about it – there’s the whole following-Jane-from-her-sad-childhood-as-an-orphan-to-her-happy-marriage thing, which definitely sounds like a “Coming-of-Age” story to us, especially because at every stage we’re focused on her developing morals and ethics.

jane-eyreJane’s passionate attachment to Rochester definitely makes this qualify as a “Romance” – think of all the times Rochester grasps her and clasps her to his chest. Whew! We get hot and steamy just thinking about it.

Then there are all the supernatural and “Gothic Fiction” elements. Even though most of them get explained away – Bertha may look like a vampire, but she’s just a woman from Jamaica struck with madness – the novel depends on making us feel that creepy, suspenseful atmosphere.

There’s definitely a strong “Mystery” quality here; like a younger version of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (whose first name, we’d like to point out, is also Jane), Jane gradually unravels Rochester’s seedy past to figure out what’s going on in the attic at Thornfield.

Then there’s the issue of “Autobiography,” which is the subtitle: after all, the novel is called Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. Because this is a first-person novel, our protagonist describes herself as though she’s telling us her autobiography…but since she’s not real, it isn’t exactly one.’ Hmm. Interesting.

Other sources we perused also put Jane Eyre in the Bildungsroman genre – and if you’re thinking ‘huh’ when you see Bildungsroman (so are we) here’s a little definition:  ‘Bildungsroman [is] a class of novel that deals with the maturation process, with how and why the protagonist develops as he does, both morally and psychologically. The German word Bildungsroman means “novel of education” or “novel of formation.” (www.britannica.com)

You don’t say?

: )

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3rd Wednesday Book Club March 2013 – Ecoreads/Dystopian Fiction (and zombies!)

We had loads of fun at our March Book Club meeting (well, I did, anyway!) Lots of great book discussion and plenty of enthusiasm and new reading discoveries made for a great meeting. The group’s love affair with American author Paul Auster continues, with more of our members joining this author love-in every month. Check out the list of March reads and you’ll see what I mean…..

March Reads @ 3rd Wednesday Book Club

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Solar by Ian McEwan
The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny
The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
Tiger’s Eye by Ingo Clendinnen
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
55 Scotland Street Series by Alexander McCall Smith
Storm Warning by Billy Graham
The Circle Trilogy (Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods & Valley of Silence) by Nora Roberts
Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Invisible by Paul Auster
Shoes of the Fishermen by Morris West
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Timbuktoo by Paul Auster
The Red Notebook by Paul Auster
Leviathan by Paul Auster
Moon Palace by Paul Auster
Music of Chance by Paul Auster
The Hunger Games Trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins
The Tom Hanks Enigma (bio) by David Gardner
Moon Palace by Paul Auster
The Dark Side of Genius: the Life of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto
Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
Listening to Country by Ross Moriarty
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire Part 3) by George R.R Martin
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

See? : )

Most Talked About Reads

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The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.’ (from Goodreads.com)

Invisible by Paul Auster

‘“One of America’s greatest novelists” dazzlingly reinvents the coming-of-age story in his most passionate and surprising book to date.

Sinuously constructed in four interlocking parts, Paul Auster’s fifteenth novel opens in New York City in the spring of 1967, when twenty-year-old Adam Walker, an aspiring poet and student at Columbia University, meets the enigmatic Frenchman Rudolf Born and his silent and seductive girfriend, Margot. Before long, Walker finds himself caught in a perverse triangle that leads to a sudden, shocking act of violence that will alter the course of his life.

Three different narrators tell the story of Invisible, a novel that travels in time from 1967 to 2007 and moves from Morningside Heights, to the Left Bank of Paris, to a remote island in the Caribbean. It is a book of youthful rage, unbridled sexual hunger, and a relentless quest for justice. With uncompromising insight, Auster takes us into the shadowy borderland between truth and memory, between authorship and identity, to produce a work of unforgettable power that confirms his reputation as “one of America’s most spectacularly inventive writers.”’ (from Goodreads.com)

Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty

“From a trip made by the author to the Australian desert to spend time learning the secrets and hearing the stories of her husband’s family’s matriarchs, comes a warm, intimate account providing rare insight into the spiritual and emotional world of Aboriginal women.

Ros Moriarty is a white woman married to an Aboriginal man. Over the course of many visits to her husband’s family, she was fascinated to discover that the older tribal women of his family had a deep sense of happiness and purpose that transcended the abject material poverty, illness, and increasing violence of their community—a happiness that she feels is related to an essential “warmth of heart” that these women say has gone missing in today’s world. In May 2006, she had the chance to spend time in the Tanami Desert in north central Australia with 200 Aboriginal women, performing women’s Law ceremonies. Here is the story of that trip and her friendship with these women, as she tells their stories and passes on their wisdom and understanding. Offering a privileged window into the spiritual and emotional world of Aboriginal women, this book is a moving story of common human experience, the getting and passing on of wisdom, and the deep friendship and bonds between women. It carries a moving and profound sense of optimism in the fundamental humanity we all share.” (from Goodreads.com)

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

“I tried to read this for our March Dystopian read i.e. “The end of our world as we know it.” At first I quite enjoyed the story, but gradually the horror of what I was reading began to get to me.  I realized it was because the hideous things happening in the novel, even though exaggerated, could very well happen, actually aspects of it were happening now – uncontrolled environmental damage; further class division based solely on income;  science gone mad (that is, experimental science, for example, Pigoons now roamed the landscape freely and were huge and dangerous.  And where did they come from?  Originally pigs were used to grow parts for humans!)  The total insensitivity of people to other people and animals’ suffering; the growth of any type of pornography and “snuff” on the web; the development of a race of people of all colours who had no education, hope etc., all this as a result of a mischievous experiment by a young student.  I just couldn’t finish it and had a few nightmares too!!” – Lyn

Shoes of the Fishermen (The Vatican Trilogy #1) by Morris West

“The pope has died, and the corridors of the Vatican hum with intrigue as cardinals from all over the world gather to choose his successor. Suddenly, the election is concluded – with a surprise result. The new pope is the youngest cardinal of all – and a Russian. Shoes of the Fisherman slowly unravels the heartwarming and profound story of Kiril Lakota, a cardinal who reluctantly steps out from behind the Iron Curtain to lead the Catholic Church and to grapple with the many issues facing the contemporary world.(from Goodreads.com)

The Dark Side of Genius – The Life of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto

As the title suggests this is an in-depth bio of Hitchcock.  Nothing is left untold.  Within the 555 pages are also comments, reviews and a history of the film industry.

Hitchcock may have been a genius of film, but beneath that he was a sadistic, self-centred, emotionally crippled man.  This begs the question:  “are geniuses deranged and flawed people?”  This is a tough and long-winded read, but it was most enjoyable from the history of film perspective.  FYI the most engrossing and MUST READ part of the book is Chapter 13.  To give you an idea of Hitch’s mindset, 2 of his favourite things were Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” and Hieronymous Bosch’s painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.  Another bit of interesting trivia is the fact that Hitch also had one of Walter Sickert’s artworks in his collection.” – Elaine

And lastly…

I think some of our book club members thought I was joking when I talked about the newest hype in the speculative fiction world, Post Apocalyptic Zombie Romance (or, zom rom com). Well, I wasn’t. Click here to read a Goodreads.com list of books called ‘Zombie Romance’  (including such titles as ‘Hungry For You,’ ‘Alice in Zombieland’ and ‘Confessions of a Zombie Lover.’) Also keep an eye out for Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (you can reserve your copy here), which, as well as being number one on the list, has been made into a film due for release here in Australia this week. Looks like fun! – Kelly