Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz
Publisher: Corsair
Publication date: 20 September 2012
IBSN: 9781780338675

I haven’t read a book like this in a long time. It’s a heart-string puller, but not in the annoying way that many chick-lit books attempt to be. It’s truthful, stark and at moments chilling. I’d read Reservation Road by Burnham Schwartz prior to this for an American Modern Fiction lecture at University, and as much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t grab me in the same way that Northwest Corner did.

The book follows five characters’ tales, making up very much one solid story: Dwight, Sam, Ruth, Emma and Penny.

Dwight Arno is a fifty year old man. He works as a manager at a sporting goods shop. His Life seems simple,but it is far from it. 12 years before, Dwight is complicit in a terrible accident and a cover-up which lands him in prison for a substantial amount of time. He lives alone in California, dating a woman who knows nothing of his past and seems unable to move on from his tragedies. He has a son and an ex-wife who he never sees. That is, until one day, Sam turns up on his doorstep.

Sam is in college. Or at least he was. A star athlete with the physical attributes of a lithe, gorgeous god, he is certainly a young man I wouldn’t say no to meeting. But he’s not cocky, he’s not a jock and  he’s certainly not happy. Self-deprecating and broody, he struggles to live with the consequences of his past, a past lain out for him, without any way of him changing it. And then Sam makes his own terrible decision, an in-the-moment devastating act that sends him running to the front door of the man he thought he’d never want to see.

Ruth, the mother and ex-wife. With her own battles, a cancerous attack on her femininity, who is frail in body but strong in mind. Sam is the apple of her eye and her every mood can depend on his smallest of actions. A baseball bat to a stomach sends her world spiraling and memories cascade into her everyday narrative.

Emma, the sister of a killed boy. Spending summer at home helping her mother. A chance meeting with Sam brings their history to the surface.

Penny is Dwight’s lover. It’s not serious and it might already be over before it even really began. But his revelations get her thinking about the future.

I think the reason I was so taken with this book was the use of language. It was absolutely beautiful, lyrical and fluid. It’s a book for those quiet moments, that deafens out the commuters, the trains and the children who won’t stop crying that you’d like to punch in the face.

Breathtaking.

4/5

Whilst my TBR pile is ever increasing and I’ve still got 80 pages left of my current read (Northwest Corner). I am now planning my future library. Here’s some ideas:

Dreaming.

Absolutely amazing shelving idea.

Are the books even reachable?

Luxurious gothic library.

So which do you think I should go for? Maybe just a mix of them all.

So who’s buying me a house?

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: 16th August 2012
IBSN: 9781780339139

This little beauty was my back to work (only after the weekend…it’s not like I’ve been on maternity leave. Can you even imagine.) read and what a quick read it was. A short-feeling 208 pages after a list of much longer books and with its stylish lay out – i.e. missing out loads of pages – I reckon it only came in at about 180.

I’m always a bit wary about reading Japanese translations, I’ve read the odd book that I’ve not identified with at all or the culture has seemed too alien. I’ve also read some that have been fantastic. It can be very hit and miss. I don’t know if it’s just me, but every single one that I’ve read involves prostitution.

Well hello, fantastic. Nice to see you again. This book was stark, snappy, honest and thrilling. It follows a pickpocket who’s cruising through life one rich man’s wallet at a time. His compelling first-person narrative quickly slots itself into your psyche until the anonymity of a thiefing lifestyle doesn’t seem so strange anymore. The thing is, he gets himself into a bit of a sticky situation. One harmless crime too many and now pure danger is nipping at his heels.

The protagonist is smart, likeable and sitting on the oustskirts of the community. But can he get himself out of this pickle? You’d better read it to find out then.

Oh and by the way, I feel like this today:

“Good thing I’m so fluffy.”

A Wanted Man by Lee Child
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication date: 30 August 2012
IBSN: 9780593065730

So today is the day that the Starbucks red cups came out. It is now officially christmas time. And I am a sucker for soya toffee-nut lattes. Don’t worry, I realise that makes me a prick. But being a special occasion, and the fact that my housemates are never home anymore, I decided to shack up in Starbucks for a while after work and finish my book. Said book being A Wanted Man.

I can never fault Lee Child for giving me an easy and compelling read. He is, after all, the ultimate master of the single-word-sentence. Bam. Yeah, you liked that, didn’t you? If I were to pick a bone with the series as a whole, it would be that, once read, each book is barely distinguishable from any of the others. Pair this with similar, non-descript titles and it can be very difficult to remember which ones you’ve read. So read ’em all, I say.

Book 17 begins with Jack Reacher, a 6″5 ex-military cop, trying to hitch a ride. INTERLUDE – can I point out that Tom Cruise was picked to play Jack Reacher in the film adaptation. Tom fucking Cruise. How tall is he? Nowhere near 6″5, the height of the REAL Jack Reacher which is mentioned a gazillion times in all 17 books. Ok, Interlude over – as you can tell Tom Cruise makes me very irate. With a recently broken nose, bandaged with some good old duck tape, Reacher is not setting himself up for an easy hitch-hiking experience. So who picks him up? Two men and a woman.

The book flips between Reacher’s road-bound narrative and that of FBI agent Julia Sorenson. There’s been a murder. One man dead, two suspects. And the continuing presence of nosy outside agents shrouds this death in mystery.

Reacher, with his sharp military eye, picks flaws in his car-companions and after an extensive blinking session, works out the woman’s secret code. Karen Delfuenso has been kidnapped. At the same time, Sorenson’s case gets murkier and murkier.

A few of gun-shots later and nobody is who they first seemed to be. And finally, Sorenson and Reacher cross paths.

I would like to point out that there is no sex in this book. This Mr Child, I think is a serious mistake. One reads a Jack Reacher novel expecting a lot of violence and at least a smattering of sex. And there were TWO viable women in this book. And no sex.

Nevertheless, an enticing tension builds between Sorenson and Reacher as they set out to solve this intriguing mystery against many opposing forces.

All in all, this book was ok. It felt a little static considering the amount of driving in the novel. I kept wondering when the action was actually going to hit – which it does in a thrilling climax, but a little too late and a little too lack-lustre.

In Lee Child style, here’s my short sentence round-up: Page-turner. Gripping. Not exactly ground-breaking.

3/5

So I’m sitting in my house, in bed, with most of the lights out. I am hiding from the teenster trick-or-treaters. Call me paranoid, but I walked past several youngsters on bikes in masks on the walk home from the train. This isn’t the riots people.

In keeping with the Halloween mood, I thought I’d read one of the Grimm Tales in Phillip Pullman’s new book:

Grimm Tales for Old and Young by Philip Pullman
Publisher: Penguin Classics
IBSN: 9781846140266

I’ve had this in my TBR pile for a while now after reading lots and lots of its reviews. As per usual I have too many books on the go, so instead, I thought I’d read a tale at a time.

Tonight…because it sounded creepy….I read ‘The Girl With No Hands’.

To be honest, it wasn’t that creepy. Weird though. It’s a story about a miller who unwittingly sells his daughter to the devil. This is only at first. The miller cowardly goes on to cut off his daughters own hands to save himself. Some crazy deal with the devil.

The daughter leaves – I would! – and because she is so good in spirit and angel looks after her and brings her to food and shelter. And they all live happily ever after. Forget about the devil? Yeah you did! He’s still trying to mess everything up, bur bear in mind this is still a fairy tale – so everything works out ok in the end. Well, I wouldn’t be that happy with having spent years of my life in peril, but ok, sure, be happy about it.

Pullman’s tone is easy to read and I liked his explanatory paragraph at the end, but I’m not sure how gripping it would be to read in full.

Anyways, have a spooky evening y’all.

Randy Penguins, the future of publishing?

So the official news came out yesterday of the merger between two of the giant publishing houses: Penguin and Random House. Although it’s brought some funny merger nicknames – the Randy Penguin being my favourite, try and come up with a logo for that – it highlights, more than ever, the scarily changing world of publishing.

Ebooks, don’t get me wrong, you are very convenient (hush kindle, I still love you), but don’t ever ruin the physical book. Hear that people? GO AND BUY A REAL BOOK SOON, PLEASE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

I can’t help but think of the merger as one less opportunity to get into the publishing industry.

Read The Bookseller’s article, here, for a useful round up of the media’s reaction.

As for bloggers’ reactions, here are two of my favourites, both from http://title2come.tumblr.com/

The Merger: 

Amazon…

Random Penguin’s House…

Everyone else (me included)…

The Rumour Mill: Penguin and Random House 

Twitter:

Me:

IBSN: 9781472100146
Published by: Corsair
Publication Date: 17th January 2013

This little gem was handed to me, in proof copy form, with the lines ‘well everybody else is going bat-shit crazy for this, so you might as well read it too.’ Hmm. Bat-shit crazy, I thought, I think I will.

Now, I love a good crime thriller as much as the next Lee Child and Harlen Coben enthusiast, but this was something different. Renner’s debut novel follows David Neff, a best-selling author who is still struggling with the aftermath of his wife’s suicide. Thrown back into writing by his pushy editor, he investigates the murder of the man from Primrose Lane.

I found myself enthralled in Renner’s suspenseful plot line, his oscillations between past and present creating questions I had to read on to answer. This was until I reached the first interlude. Confused. Apparition about a frog-type monster. I won’t go into details, wouldn’t want to ruin the incredible tie-ins. And then suddenly we’re back into the swing of things, the book and I, continuing on the search for the identity of the Man from Primrose Lane.

And then something happens. I had to read it back over four times to make sense of it. I’m still not sure I’ve made sense of it. I was tossed out of my comfortable crime-thriller world into a narrative I wasn’t sure I liked. The book became difficult, messy even, but definitely thinking outside of the box.

By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was fictional or auto-biographical. Lavender from Matilda ran through my head with her distinctive, croaky ‘wow’. If you like your reading easy and satisfying, then don’t buy this book. But if you’re up for a rewarding challenge…read away.

4/5