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Reading Round Up – May-September 2016


Well, it has been quite a few months, hasn’t it? I knew I’d neglect this blog during most of May and June as that is always the busiest time of the year for me. I thought I’d get right back on to it but the summer here in London has been glorious which has kept me outside a lot, and a house move and bathroom reno have not helped the situation much.

So, again I look to the bloggers who always post regularly with great admiration – I know it’s not a competition but I¬†do envy those who keep their blog going all year round.

However, I have been reading my usual four or so books a month. I’ve read some amazing books and to catch up on reviews they are going to have to be short and snappy. I’m sure the authors will understand ūüôā Hopefully I can still do justice to them all.

Two main trends have emerged in my reading these past few months – I’m mostly reading crime fiction, and I am drifting further and further away from the recently published books with all the hype. Neither of these are necessarily a bad thing!

Now for two belated comments on prizes:

Petrona Award

This is the first time I have ever read a full shortlist and I was so lucky that there was not one weak link in the list. I picked Jorn Lier Horst’s The Caveman as my winner. I managed to get this prediction out on Twitter before the prize was announced and lo and behold it was the winner. It’s a fantastic crime novel so I was thrilled.

Miles Franklin

I was hugeley excited when A.S Patric’s Black Rock White City made the shortlist, and even posted about why it should win. I was worried it may not have been the version of Australia the judges were looking for but luckily it was. Congratulations A.S Patric – one year on and your novel still affects me.

Pick of the Month/s

Out of all 13 books in the image above – The Caveman by Jorn Lier Horst. I couldn’t put it down and it introduced me to a new author who had 4 other books for me to read!

Coming Up

13 short and snappy reviews coming your way!

I also hope to get my Japanese Lit challenge underway.

 

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Literary Connections: Scandi Twists

 

I had a great time watching Follow the Money. How much more Scandi can you get – a crime story about big business, alternate energy sources and wind farms. This makes me want to read Gunnar Staaleson’s We Shall Inherit the Wind which is a crime novel with a wind farm setting.

 

My favourite character in Follow the Money was Nicky. Would anyone disagree with this? How fantastic he was from Jutland like my Department Q hero, Carl Morck.

Jorn Lier Horst, where have you been my whole life? After binging on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series last year, I’ve been searching for a new series to be obsessed by. Now I have met William Wisting.¬†My sincerest apologies to Karin Fossum – ¬†The Drowned Boy¬†was next on my reading list but I fear I will be sidetracked by Lier Horst and Norway for the next few weeks…

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April 2016 Reading Round Up

I only read four books this month but they were all wonderfully enjoyable so I don’t feel left wanting as I do some months. I had hoped to finish my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge this month but am still one book short of the Franklin level (10 books). Hopefully this will be rectified next month!

AWW Bingo Challenge

I was really excited this month to launch the Australian Women Writer’s Bingo Challenge. With the help of Elizabeth, Sue and a few others in the team, I’ve put together two Bingo Cards that keen AWW readers can try and fill in before 31 October. Books from 1st January can be included and there will be prizes for both Australian and international participants. Looks like I now have a target of 18 AWW titles to read in order to fill in both cards!

Miles Franklin Longlist

This is the first year in a while that I like the sound of most books on the Miles Franklin Longlist. I am pleased by this as I must say that the Stella Prize Shortlist didn’t necessarily excite me this year although there were a few on the longlist that I still want to read. Anyway, while I have only read two titles on the MF Longlist I was so thrilled to see AS Patric’s Black Rock White City selected that I wrote a post¬†about how fabulous the novel is and how I feel it would be an incredibly deserving winner. As the SMH summarises the novel brings European modernism to the Australian suburbs. Go Graffito!

Bookish and Non-Bookish Posts

I had great fun this month with Book Spine Poetry – I wish I had time to write more!

I was so excited after my 12 month and final laser eye surgery check that I decided to write a post about my experience and the wonderful service I received. It meant I had to branch out and create a new ‘other’ category for my blog. Fittingly, I then discovered that this was the 200th post I published! (Thank you Accuvision for my wonderful vision and my ‘new pair of glasses’ – cryptic!).

Operation Read My Own Books

As it is most likely I will be moving house later this year, I am forcing myself making an effort to read read some of the many novels on my bookshelves, particularly those that I have already moved with twice in the last decade.
I did make a very small dent in the pile but as I loved The Women in Black so much I plan to keep my copy so I can read it again. I never hold on to books so this is really challenging my instinct to run it down to the charity shop!

Pick of the Month

If you can’t guess, it is Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black. I loved every page!

women in black

 

Coming Up

I hope to read some of the crime novels I’ve not yet read on the Petrona shortlist.¬†Curling up with one will make perfect Bank Holiday Monday reading. In fact, there are some on last year’s shortlist that tempt me too. Any recommendations?

 

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2016 Miles Franklin Prize – The Case for Black Rock White City

black rock

I have never before written a post about book prizes but I have to admit I was thrilled when I saw A.S. Patric’s Black Rock White City long listed for the Miles Franklin prize. Now, while the whole long list looks incredibly enticing this year I have only read one of the other novels on the list to date.

So while I can’t really compare it with other titles on the list I know that Black Rock White City is a strong and original novel worthy of accolades and it sets its own benchmark.

Black Rock White City tells the story of Jovan and Suzana who were refugees from the Bosnian war and are now settled in Melbourne. Jovan works as a cleaner in a hospital and looming over their story is a a Kafka-esque existential graffiti artist whose words Jovan must constantly remove.

I must admit that for the first few pages I did wonder if I would enjoy it but I can assure you it is a crazy and powerful novel. It made my top 2015 reads and as the months have passed it is the 2015 read that has affected me most. Some snippets in the story are so sad I still linger over them when they come to mind.

Could it win the Miles Franklin? Yes, most definitely as it is creative and shows how complex Australian society is today. Hopefully this is the version of Australia that the judges want to promote this year. I also hope the judges leave some time to digest the content so they can fully appreciate it.

You can find my original review here.

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March 2016 Reading Round Up

 

 

After reading a huge number of novels in January and February, the inevitable reading slump followed in March. I published a silly number of reviews to catch up on all my reading but I felt rather ho-hum about most books I picked up. Luckily, in the last few days of the month when my passion for reading began to return.

Shout Out to Text Publishing

Last month I highlighted two publishers I suddenly realised I love and this month I am going to add a third: Text Publishing. I am currently reading my third novel of the year from this wonderful Melbourne publisher of literary fiction. I¬†feel that filling my Kindle with some of their Australian Classics may remedy my reading slump. Of course, before browsing I’d have to set myself a strict limit, otherwise I’d go crazy. I know myself too well.

After looking on their website I may also just be tempted to do some international shopping with this offer:

Text Classics Special Offer

Shopping in multiples of 5 is fine by me.

Moral of the story:¬†I rarely pay attention to who publishes what but¬†I must always check. It’s the perfect way to discover more books I will also love.

Abandon?

Due to my reading slump I ended reading The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund for about a fortnight. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, not because of the content but because I found the story bland rather than gripping. Furthermore, despite the setting it has no unique Scandi-noir atmosphere. It could be set anywhere. I read far more of it than I would have otherwise. As I have now read a fair chunk of it, do I continue on to get to the end? Usually I would say yes but it is so long… my Kindle percentage barely ticks along…

Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings is excellent but again, it is super long. I am reluctant to abandon it but let me ask, does it ever become gripping, or is is just a comprehensive story that immerses you in a different time and place, like a Jamaican War and Peace?

Operations Read My Own Books/ Read Rebus

One down, many shelves to go. / Fail.

Pick of the Month

The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter for being so original and challenging my¬†fear that the literary genre-bender element of it would be pretentious.

Coming Up

Hopefully some Text Classics! I’d like to read a few novels for my Australian Women’s Writers Challenge and read book two in Rangar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series.

 

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Some Bookish Reflections

I wrote my February post before actually reviewing any of the books I read. Now that I have been catching up on reviews I couldn’t help but notice some ridiculously obvious similarities in my February reading…

Refugees

I read three books that included tales of refugees:

The End of Seeing by Christy Collins – highlights the current problems in the Mediterranean with the unsafe boats from Africa bringing refugees north to Europe. (review to follow)

The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto – describes the long term problems refugees face after having their residency approved or denied.

The Healer by Antti Tuomainen – Imagines the plight of climate change refugees in the future.

Despite different contexts, there are mostly similarities between the three experiences.

Climate Change Fiction

9781921924439

It seems that the thriller The Healer will be my Cli Fi read of 2016. Last year I read A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson which has elements of fantasy. Both are highly creative and thought provoking reads that made me re-imagine the cities of Helsinki and Melbourne respectively. Oh, and Rawson also finds time to explore the refugee situation.