Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Recent Reading Highlights

At this time of the year, I tend to read so much that I go cross-eyed, but I didn't want to end 2007 without commenting on some of the best of the past few weeks. A big cross-section, starting with Louise Rennison's latest, Luuurve is a Many-Trousered Thing. The cover above is the US one - do they think the American readers won't understand Luuurve? But it is a nicer cover than my plain purple one, I must admit. Although Angus looks very benign. Needless to say, this new addition to the Georgia Nicholson diaries made me laugh out loud. Five stars for readers under 14 (and me).

I also loved Val McDermid's new book featuring Tony Hill, and since I've commented on this before, I won't do so again. It's strange, but Sue Grafton's new one, T is for Trespass, had me yawning for the first four chapters, then I got into the swing of it. She has quite determinedly kept Kinsey, her detective, back in the 80s, so no mobile phones or GPS units or anything very technological. Just plain old detective work. When you read a lot of crime fiction, it's a jolt to discard the CSI expectations and move back in time!

While I loved Meg Rosoff's first book, How I Live Now, I thought the second, Just In Case, had such an annoying main character that I almost didn't finish it. With the third, What I Was, I was blown away by the wonderful writing, and the way in which the quiet plot unfolded. Another main character on the outside, but this time he had enough complexity and self-awareness to create an empathy that grew as I read on. Highly recommended.

I've just finished Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. He wrote one of my favourite kid's books, Millions, and I was sorry that so many of the character and story bits that made it stand out for me were lost in the movie. Framed is similar, in that there is a narrator/main character who is totally convincing in his naivety and view of the world. Like the character in Millions, Dylan has his own passions and obsessions even though he is only about eleven, and these very subtly drive most of the story.

Anything disappointing? Well, yes. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag. I guess I never really warmed to the main character, the mystery seemed a bit flat and predictable, and I'll no doubt study this one again to see what it was that didn't work for me, and try to work out why. On my pile or being read now I have The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes (am reading a couple of chapters a day) and the latest issue of Blue Dog, which is one of Australia's best poetry mags right now. I'm also dipping into a collection of short stories by Nancy Kincaid, and the Lonely Planet guide to France. And looking forward to reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld - nabbed it in a book sale. Will it live up to its hype?


Anonymous said...

Thanks to you giving Meg Rosoff's 'What I Was' a 'high recommendation', I bought it, read it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You say 'the quiet plot unfolded'. Yes, it did, although the quiet part made me, as an adult reader, wonder whether or not it would have been written for a specific target audience or written for the joy of writing it. If it is for young adults, would they keep turning the page? There's very little dialogue in it and, until about three quarters of the way through, the plot is indeed 'quiet'.

The end is intriguing and, although the reader has perhaps picked up on a few of the hints dropped, the final surprise certainly surprised me!

Thanks for recommending it.

Sherryl said...

Glad you liked it. I'd also recommend "How I Live Now". I think she has a lot of YA readers, but I also think many adults read her books too.
Her voice is quite unique, kind of literary but very clear, and slightly odd, if that's the right word. The kind of odd that's really intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm glad you wrote about Meg Rosoff, I love her books. Incidentally, I just blogged about What I Was last nigh,t but my reaction to it was completely different than yours. It was definately my least favorite of her books so far.

How I Live Now is still my favorite, and I tend to reread it a couple times a year.