205 Books: Albania

stonecitycoverIt is time for book number two and after about five minutes of research (which is a lot for me), I came to the conclusion that if I was going to read an Albanian book it should probably be something by Ismail Kadare. It seems to be universally considered that Kadare is the best of the best when it comes to writers from that neck of the woods.

So, that part of the problem out of the way, I signed up to get ebooks from my local library and looked for Kadare. At first, nothing at all came up, but I think I was doing something wrong. I continued to do the same wrong thing for a few more minutes and eventually…

Four choices. Two of them… Not so much. Of the two that remained, one was something like 2500kB and the other was about 500kB. Huh! A winner.

I am pleased to announce that, a couple of nights ago, I started reading The Fall of the Stone City, though I admit, the cover put me off a bit– it looks like someone let my mother loose with photoshop. (Sorry Mum). And without knowing anything about Albanian or its history or politics, I’m not sure how much the story will mean to me, but I guess I will find out. Wish me luck.

And from there, it will be on to Algeria (which, I must say, does seem to be a more interesting list than Albania offered).

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205 Books: A Thousand Splendid Suns

9780747582977 Yesterday, I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The first of my 205 books is out of the way. And I have to say, after all the hype received by this book and The Kite Runner I was a bit disappointed. (Spoilers will follow.)

For me, a large part of the story seemed like backstory. And the part that felt like it should have been the real story, after Laila moves in with Mariam and Rasheed, is very episodic. The story skips years at a time, then we have one short chapter which seems more about a quick history lesson than the story itself. And even with that, Mariam’s father turns up at one point, but we don’t find out about that important event until ten or more years later through a flashback when something else happens.

To make things worse, I was about to see just about everything coming from a long way off.

Look, I suppose A Thousand Splendid Suns was easy enough to read but it really didn’t draw me in as much as I felt it should, given the book’s reputation and the subject matter.

So, there it is, the first review. If you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought because apparently a lot of people did like it.

Next country in line is Albania and, at this stage, it will probably be something from Ismail Kadare. That may depend, again, on what I can get from my local library. Again, comments and suggestions are more than welcome…

205 Books: Afghanistan

So, you may have noticed my review of The Scar. Which means I am officially starting my Around the World in 205 Books challenge (henceforth shortened to 205 Books for reason of I don’t want to keep typing all that). In case you have forgotten, that is where I start at the start of the alphabet and work through every country in the world (205 of them according to the list I found on the net), picking books by authors from that country or about that country or, preferably, both. This is obviously to try to get out of my reading comfort zone.

I went to the library yesterday so borrow a copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini which, yes, is a fairly mild choice for Afghanistan (seeing Hosseini is American) but I couldn’t find a lot of options. But then, I was told that my local library is the only library in the entire Moreton Bay Shire Council area that doesn’t have a copy in stock. They did have A Thousand Splendid Suns, however. So, one book in and the plan already changed. Sorry to those of you who decided to get ahead with your homework. You will just have to start again.

After rigorous research, I discovered that exactly 51% of the internet thinks that A Thousand Splendid Suns is the better book anyway so it all worked out nicely…

I have already started reading and so far so good… I will post my thoughts in a new blog post when I finish but if anyone wants to discuss the book in the comments (avoiding spoilers would be good) then that’s ok. The next country is Albania, so I will also be taking suggestions for the next book in line. Surely someone in Albania must have written a book…

China Mieville: The Scar

scar

I know China Mieville doesn’t need me to do a review of his book, The Scar, but I’m going to do it anyway.

The short review… Wow.

The slightly longer review, that really tells you nothing of substance… I read Perdido Street Station years ago and loved it. But I can’t remember it being anywhere near the same level as The Scar. There is the same sort of invention with the world and the characters, but the plot just seems to start as this little thing and it keeps expanding like some type of fantastical, steam-driven schematic of a fantastical, steam-driven machine. (Don’t ask me about steam driven schematics. I have no idea how they work.) It just keeps unfolding and you keep seeing more and more of the crazy, epically-detailed device. And not only is the device itself amazing, but the paper has an amazing texture and the drawing is beautiful and the ink smells of magic and…

So, yeah, I didn’t mind it.

Book Review: Pale Boundaries

Well, here’s something different. Though this review may end up being shorter than some of my poems…

Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. (Is that enough? No? Okay then…)

Pale Boundaries is a sci-fi thriller that has the requsite fights and chases and all the rest, but also comes with its own set of 3 dimensional characters.

Terson Reilly has had his fair share of trouble with the law but he travells to Nivea to try to go straight. This obviously doesn’t work when trouble comes looking for him in the form of a criminal organisation in the midst of its own internal dispute. We get to know some of the criminals (on both sides of the law) and a parole officer to keep us in the story from all side.

The character are good, but they get a lot of help from the setting– both the natural world and the political/social construct that has grown on it.  A lot of thought has gone into the details and it all works together nicely.

Typos and like are fairly minor and Cleveland isn’t Shakespeare but he does know how to put a sentence together.

The end doesn’t even pretend to be a stand alone book, so there is that, but I have already bought the follow up, Embustero.

So, Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. Go buy it here.

Review: The Company by KJ Parker

The Company is about 5 legendary war veterans (the survivors of A Company) moving to an island to live as simple farmers. The war did things to all of them (and they did things to the war) that has left them scarred both physically and emotionally. They have secrets and old wounds eating away at them. And that’s not to mention the wives and ‘servants’ they organise to go with them.

The story has a bit of a slow build up and moves between the past (the war) and the present, offering snippets that build layer upon layer.

What can I say. There is the fabulous writing; the deep, conflicted, morally ambiguous characters; the interesting setting; fabulous dialog; and all round attention to detail. The tension on the island builds palpably as we find out more about the characters and the things they have done in the past. Nothing is simple and nothing is as it seems.

I think I may have described the last KJ Parker book I read, The Folding Knife, as a bit of a disappointment, but only in comparison  to her (I’m going to say her though nobody knows for sure– well, obviously someone does, but it isn’t the world at large) other stuff.

The Company was definitely a step up, putting it along side The Hammer, though still not nearly as good as The Engineer Trilogy or the Fencer Trilogy. It is still a great book for those looking for something a bit different to the usual fantasy fare.

4 Stars (on the KJ Parker scale)

5 Stars on any other scale

A really short review– The Folding Knife by KJ Parker

I believe I may have noted previously that I’m a big fan of KJ Parker. I will blindly buy anything s/he has written. The Folding Knife hasn’t changed that but…

A lot of the things I’ve come to expect can be found in this novel. The wit and stylish writing and the interesting characters in interesting situations. But this one lacked a bit in the way of plot. I mean, stuff happens, but it isn’t until 2/3 of the way through (or something like that) that we actually get to the point of what’s happening. Not even that, it’s 2/3 of the way before there is a point. Up until then it’s a story about The First Citizen of a city state and his efforts to stay in power and become even more rich. The trouble is there’s no driving force. There’s just this stuff happening.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, for the reasons stated above. But I certainly don’t think it is one of Parker’s better works.