2010 Book Prizes Chunkster Science Fiction Thriller Uncategorized

Angelology – Danielle Trussoni

Angelology takes place in a world where angels walk among us. Their wings are tied flat beneath their clothing so you have no way of knowing who they are, but these angels have been breeding with humans to create dangerous hybrids called Nephilims. Unlike the immortal angels these nephilims are dying and so are trying to do everything within their power to get hold of the angelogogist’s research in the hope it will reveal a cure for their disease.

Angelology is a fast paced thriller, which I’d describe as a well written hybrid of The Da Vinci Code, The Historian and Twilight – so if you enjoyed these three books then you are bound to love this one.

I loved the atmospheric descriptions:

The angelologists examined the body. It was intact, without decay, the skin as smooth and as white as parchment. The lifeless aquamarine eyes gazed heavenward. Pale curls fell against a high forehead and sculptural shoulders, forming a halo of golden hair. Even the robes-the cloth woven of a white shimmering metallic material that none of them could identify exactly-remained pristine, as if the creature had died in a hospital room in Paris and not a cavern deep below the earth.

This initial scene setting was quite slow, but the pace soon sped up. I enjoyed the beginning, but about 100 pages in I began to lose interest. The plot was convoluted, meandering and never reached any real conclusion. There was a lot of history added to the book, but as most of it was made up this didn’t hold the same appeal as other pieces of historical fiction.

The central character in the book is a young nun called Evangeline, but she never really engaged me. I felt as though I was carried along by the fast flow of the words, rather than any real desire to know what happened.

The book is being made into a film by Sony and I am sure that this will be a  much better medium for the story – especially once the plot has been condensed into a two hour time slot!

The lack of a fully resolved ending means that I’m sure there will be a sequel, but I’m in no rush to read it – I am happy to wait until its inevitable DVD release!

Overall I found it to be a fast paced, inventive book, but I just didn’t care what those fictional angel-hybrids were doing.

This book is getting very mixed reviews, but I am sure it will be a massive hit – especially after its release in paperback.

…an incredible novel that I can’t recommend highly enough. S. Krishna’s Books

….in the end Angelology falls far short of its potential. Muse Books Review

…too many weak points to the overall story for me to end up really invested in the story. Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ News and Reviews

I loved the world Trussoni has created with its mixture of the esoteric, history and myth and not least for Trussoni’s quality prose. Chasing Bawa

Do you think you’ll enjoy Angelology?


German Recommendations

German DVDs

I recently noticed that three of my favourite films are German.

If I was able to force people to watch one film then it would be The Lives Of Others; with the possible exception of Shrek and Jean De Florette/Manon Des Sources,  The Lives Of Others is my favourite film. It is a thought-provoking, emotional film set in Eat Berlin during the 1980s it shows how small acts of human kindness can make the world a better place. It has fantastic acting, brilliant plotting and everything else you could possibly want in a film. I highly recommend it. 

Run Lola Run is a bit like Sliding Doors in that it shows how small differences in your actions can produce several versions of events. It is fast paced, clever and amusing. I recommend it. 

Goodbye Lenin! shows how East Germany changes after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I loved the way it combined humor with serious political issues. Recommended.

Do you know any other great German films?

German Books

I tried to think of my favourite German books, but was shocked to discover that I couldn’t actually remember reading anything translated from the German. I have read lots of books set in Germany (ie WWII books) but none actually written by a German. I seem to share the German’s sense of humor, so would particularly like to read something that combines serious issues with lighter moments in a similar way to the films above.

Can you recommend any books which have been translated from the German?


The Temple-goers – Aatish Taseer

The Temple-goers has an impressive blurb. It is described as being as “seductive and unsettling” as The Reluctant Fundamentalist and like an Indian version of Netherland. The author was heralded as the ‘Indian Brett Easton Ellis’ by The Bookseller and as ‘a writer to watch’ by V.S. Naipaul. I’m a big fan of Indian novels and so was excited about reading it.

Unfortunately I don’t think The Temple-goers lived up to the hype, but I wonder if that is because I didn’t fully understand/appreciate the complexity of the novel.

The book is set in modern day India and focuses on a young man who has returned from the West to rewrite his novel in cosmopolitan Delhi. The central character, Aatish, is named after the author and we follow him as he struggles to adapt to the fast changing city.

Aatish strikes up a friendship with a gym trainer and together they enjoy getting drunk and having sex, always ensuring they visit the temple afterwards to atone. The balance between ancient tradition and the modern way of life is an interesting concept for a novel, but I failed to connect with any of the characters and so I found myself not caring what they got up to.

Throughout the book we hear about Aatish’s novel writing, which is often criticised:

Sanyogita didn’t like the writer. She felt he wasn’t kind; that was her word. She had begun many books of his. I think she read them for my sake rather than out of any real interest; and later I felt she finished them for the same reason. One lay by her bedside now.

‘I can’t!’ she said, standing in front of a dressing-table mirror, her head cocked to one side as she put in an earring, ‘I just can’t. I’ve tried, but they’re so dry. And he’s not kind to his subjects.’

All the criticisms reflected my thoughts on The Temple-goers, so I wonder if this book is a satire on novel writing.  I can’t understand why someone would deliberately create a dry novel with characters that you can’t connect to, but that does appear to be the case here. The way the author has named the character after himself also seems to suggest this.

There were some interesting sections on life in modern day India and the book had an easy-to-read, fast pace, but I found most of the book quite dull.

Recommended to people who enjoy experimental writing – perhaps one of you will be able to explain this book to me at some point!

2009 Books in Translation Chunkster Historical Fiction Other Prizes Recommended books

The Kindly Ones – Jonathan Littell


Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell

Winner of 2006 Prix Goncourt and the grand prix du roman of Académie française, Literary Review’s bad sex in fiction award 2009, 2010 Best Translated Book Award: Fiction Longlist, 2010 long list Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

The Kindly Ones is one of the most controversial books written in recent years. The book is a fictional biography of Max Aue, a senior SS officer, present during the Holocaust.  His job is to compile recommendations for future Nazi policy and so he travels to see the execution of the Jews, the German front line and finally the concentration camps. The fictional characters are weaved together with real people like Göring, Speer and Hitler; producing a well researched, compelling version of WWII.

The Kindly Ones is the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. I have read a few individual scenes in books like A Fine Balance or Fugitive Pieces that almost equal the horror of the milder sections in this book, but the descriptions of the Holocaust were so intense and prolonged that I found this book very hard to read. There were times when I could only read a page or two before having to put the book down and do something else. Sometimes even that wasn’t enough and so I started skim reading sections. I found this didn’t help much as I was still painfully aware of what was happening, so I reverted to the slow, painful pace I had started with.

The whole book is like driving past a car crash – you know you shouldn’t look, but you do anyway  –  unable to resist the temptation to see how bad things really are.  I was gripped throughout, an amazing feat for a book so long. The prose is easy to read, but I did get a bit confused by some of the German military terms (most of which are explained in the back, but as I don’t really understand the British equivalent that didn’t help much!).

I expected the plot to emphasize the fact that the people involved in these terrible events had no choice in the matter – that it was basically ‘do or die’.

The man posted to a concentration camp, like a man assigned to an Einsatzkommando or a police battalion, most of the time doesn’t reason any differently: he knows that his free will has nothing to do with it, and that chance alone makes him a killer rather than a hero, or a dead man.

I was therefore surprised to see many opportunities for Max Aue to avoid ending up on the path he took. Initially I wondered why the book was written in this way, but then I realised how clever and realistic it was. The events leading up to the atrocities are obvious with hindsight, but to the people involved each step was so small that they were unaware of the final consequences. Many questioned the actions and were given what seemed to them to be reasonable justifications. For this book to change the way I view the Holocaust is an incredible achievement.

The Kindly Ones also contained many poignant scenes. I was particularly touched by this passage:

“I started sobbing: the tears froze on my face, I wept for my childhood, for a time when snow was a pleasure that knew no end, when a city was a wonderful space to live in, and when a forest was not yet a convenient place to kill people.”

Overall I’d describe this book as a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the Holocaust, but the length and graphic descriptions of human suffering mean that most people should approach this book with caution. I will remember this book for the rest of my life and although I sometimes wish I could erase some scenes from my memory, on the whole I think it is helpful to remember that these events happened.

Do you want to read The Kindly Ones?


Links I’ve stumbled across this week

Do you own an e-reader?

If so, there are still a few weeks left for you to fill in my short survey. Thank you to everyone who has already answered my questions – I hope to compile the results soon.

Elsewhere on the Internet

David Mitchell explains why he likes anonymity and talks about his new novel.

The secret of savage book reviews on Amazon – the wife did it!

Penguin books make a costly typo.

Will a blog ever win the Pulitzer prize for journalism?

Do you know who the wealthiest fictional characters are?

Are book covers an endangered art?

46% of Amazon Marketplace sellers are considering quitting

This has nothing to do with books, but I was amazed by this new train design from China. This bullet train will never stop, saving lots of time on each journey. My two little boys watched this over and over again, so if you don’t enjoy it you can always use it to entertain some small children!

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

2009 Mystery

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a delightful cozy mystery. The book is set in a small English village in the 1950s and the story begins with 10-year-old Flavia de Luce finding a dead snipe on her doorstep. The bird has a postage stamp impaled on its beak and her father’s reaction to the discovery implies that this is a warning of worse to come. His fears are confirmed when a man is found dying in a cucumber patch.

Flavia de Luce is a budding chemist with access to a laboratory in her country house. She enjoys learning about poisons and other chemical reactions – I loved her! She was such a wonderful, quirky character and I liked reading about the preparation and effects of various poisons. She wasn’t entirely believable as a ten-year-old, but then much of the plot was a bit far fetched so I don’t think realism is the key aim of this book!

“I wonder, Flavia,” Inspector Hewitt said, stepping gingerly into the cucumbers, “if you might ask someone to organize some tea?”
He must have seen the look on my face.
“We’ve had rather an early start this morning. Do you think you could manage to rustle something up?”
So that was it. As at a birth, so at a death. Without so much as a kiss-me-quick-and-mind-the-marmalade, the only female in sight is enlisted to trot off, and see that the water is boiled. Rustle something up, indeed! What did he take me for, some kind of cowboy?

The plot was fast paced and entertaining. It needed little concentration – I read much of it on a train journey, a time when I find the noise prevents me from reading anything too deep. The ending wasn’t earth-shattering, but the light mystery was well resolved.

Overall I enjoyed my journey back into the charming life of 1950s England and while I won’t be rushing out to buy the next in the series (The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag ) I’m sure I’ll get round to it at some point.

Did you enjoy The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie?

Which is your favourite cozy mystery?