A Blogging Break

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying the last few days of 2011.

I’ve been rushed off my feet entertaining 7 adults and 4 children and so haven’t had a spare moment for blogging (or reading). Things are a bit quieter now, but in the next few days I’ll be visiting friends and spending time with my family so I have decided to have a break from blogging.

Have a wonderful New Year celebration – I’ll be back in 2012.

2011 Other

The Most Important Books Published in 2011

Some books are not enjoyable to read – they can be filled with horrific images or reveal uncomfortable aspects of society, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be read.

The following books contain important messages about society and I think the world would be a better place if more people were aware of their contents.

The Death of the Adversary

The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson

This modern masterpiece was recently rediscovered after years of obscurity. It plots the rise of a dictator and what life is like for those who have to live under his influence.  There are original, powerful statements about the human psyche on almost every page and I wish that more people were aware of it.

The Wandering Falcon

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

This book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the nomadic people who lived in the remote border region of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a stark warning about what happens when modern culture and bureaucracy are allowed to affect traditional tribes.

The Fat Years

The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung

China has an increasing role in the global market place. This book gives a realistic, but shocking prediction of what life could be like in the near future; explaining how Chinese influence on the world will increase and what life might be like for those living in China. At first some of it seems a little far fetched, but on doing some research I discovered that some of the more unrealistic scenarios had actually happened already. Scary stuff.

Which 2011 books do you think are important?


My Favourite Books of 2011

Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed reading all the end of year summaries online, but few ‘best of 2011’ lists contain any of my favourites. Is this because I’ve read more obscure books or because I have an odd taste in fiction?! I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I hope you find some interesting reads amongst my favourites of the year.

The History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins

Interesting facts about Berlin, the issue of suicide during WWII and buildings that turn to flesh combine to produce a fascinating book that pushes the boundaries of novel writing. I’m a little sad that hardly anyone has even heard of my favourite book of the year. Hopefully I’ll be able to persuade a few people to give it a try.

You Deserve Nothing

You Deserve Nothing – Alexander Maksik

A book that deals with many moral issues within a school. It controversially may be based on real events, but I think this only adds to the intrigue. Compelling and thought-provoking – I highly recommend it.

The Afterparty

The Afterparty – Leo Benedictus

This is the ultimate in meta-fiction. The structure is phenomenally clever and the plot is entertaining. It divides opinion, but I think it is worth the gamble as if you’re one of those who loves this insight into celebrity culture it may well become a favourite.

The Nobodies Album – Carolyn Parkhurst

An author realises that her outlook on life has changed with age and so she decides to rewrite the endings to her previously published novels. This combines with a murder mystery to create an intelligent, but compelling read.

Anatomy of a Disappearance

Anatomy of a Disappearance – Hisham Matar

Simply, but beautifully written this literary novel contains an amazing number of different issues in a small number of pages. I’m sad that it was overlooked for all the literary prizes this year.

The Report

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

Do we need to blame someone whenever a tragic accident occurs? This book is a moving account of the Bethnal Green Tube disaster and the public’s need to hold someone accountable.

The Book I’ve Recommended to the Most People

How I Became A Famous Novelist – Steve Hely 

This satire of the publishing industry should be read by everyone with an interest in the subject. Even those who don’t have an insider knowledge will find this book very amusing.

The Best Premise

What would happen if you could see pain?

The Illumination

The Illumination – Kevin Brockmeier



Did you enjoy any of these books?
Have I persuaded you to try any of them?

Come back later in the week to see my lists of:

  • The most important books released in 2011
  • My favourite books released in previous years










2012 Other

The Best Books of 2012? Part 2: Authors We Know and Love

Last week I posted: The Best Books of 2012? Part 1: Debut Authors

This time it is the turn of the authors that we are already familiar with. Here are the 2012 books I am looking forward to reading:

Note: UK release month shown in brackets, date may be different in other countries.

Intrusion (Note: UK cover not available yet – this is the French translation which is available now for all those lucky enough to speak French)

In by Natsuo Kirino (August, Harvill Secker)

Out by Natsuo Kirino is my favourite thriller so I’m very excited that her new book is going to be published here later this year. In contains an investigation into a best-selling author and promises to question the differences between life and literature. I hope it lives up to my exceedingly high expectations.


Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (May, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Alison Bechdel’s darkly comic memoir, Fun Home, introduced me to the graphic novel. She returns with a graphic novel about her mother. I’m sure this will be one of the most talked about books next year.

The Greatcoat

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore (February, Hammer)

The Siege by Helen Dunmore is one of the best pieces of historical fiction I’ve ever read. The Greatcoat is described as a chilling and atmospheric ghost story set in 1950s Yorkshire and my only hope is that her amazing writing skills don’t scare me too much!

.The Chemistry of Tears

The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (April, Faber and Faber)

An automaton brings two strangers together. Using clockwork objects as the basis for a story worked for Hugo Cabret – I think this sounds wonderfully original and I look forward to trying it.


Arcadia by Lauren Groff (April, William Heinemann)

The author of The Monsters of Templeton returns with a new book about a group of people who set up a commune in the grounds of a decaying mansion. The premise doesn’t sound that exciting, but Groff has the ability to turn very ordinary situations into engaging reads so I think this is one to look out for.

All is Song

All Is Song by Samantha Harvey (January, Jonathan Cape)

The Wilderness was one of my favourite books in 2010 so I’m looking forward to reading her second novel. A few people suggested that this one about brotherhood is even better than her first. I’m not sure that is possible, but I look forward to finding out.

The Child Who

The Child Who by Simon Lelic (January, Mantle)

Rupture is one of the best novels published in recent years. I love the way Simon Lelic forces the reader to look at difficult situations in a different light and this book about a solicitor defending a child murderer promises to be just as compelling. I’m lucky enough to have an ARC of this book and look forward to reading it over Christmas.


Phantom by Jo Nesbo (March, Vintage)

Jo Nesbo returns with the 7th book in the Harry Hole series.

Bring up the Bodies

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (May, 4th Estate)

I wasn’t a big fan of Wolf Hall, but if you were you’ll be excited to learn that the sequel is out next year.

Other books to look out for:

The Red House by Mark Haddon (May, Jonathan Cape)

Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis (July, Jonathan Cape)

Capital by John Lancaster (March, Faber and Faber)

Mo Said She Was Quirky by James Kelman (July, Hamish Hamilton)

In One Person by John Irving (May, Doubleday)

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Simon Mawer (May, Little, Brown)

If you’re in the US then you’ll be happy to know that Harper recently announced that it will be publishing new books from Michael Chabon and Barbara Kingsolver in the Fall. Unfortunately those of us in the rest of the world will have to wait a little bit longer for them.

Which 2012 books are you looking forward to?


2011 Other Prizes

The Wandering Falcon – Jamil Ahmad

The Wandering Falcon Long listed for 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize

Five words from the blurb: Pakistan, remote, tribal, honour, conflict

The Wandering Falcon is set in the remote border region of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan where nomadic tribes travel in order to find food and water. When Partition occurred in 1947 the border controls were tightened, leaving entire communities at risk of drought as they were denied access to the springs they had visited for generations. This book follows a young boy, Tor Baz (meaning the black falcon) as he grows up in this threatened culture.

The book started off really well. The first chapter was a roller-coaster of emotion, ending on a heartbreaking scene which gave me high expectations for the rest of the book. Unfortunately I soon discovered that the story wasn’t continued in a linear fashion, but told through a series of short stories. These showed all the important moments in Tor’s life, but the fragmented approach meant that the reader is just thrown from one life changing moment to the next.

The Wandering Falcon provides a fascinating insight into a little known culture and is packed with period atmosphere. At times it read more like a non-fiction book, but it was always engaging and easy to read.

The Mahsuds, because they always hunt in groups, are known as the wolves of Waziristan. A Wazir hunts alone. He is known as ‘the leopard’ to other men. Despite their differences, the two tribes share more than merely their common heritage of poverty and misery. Nature has bred in both an unusual abundance of anger, enormous resilience, and a total refusal to accept their fate. If nature provides them food for only ten days in a year, they believe in their right to demand the rest of their sustenance from their fellow men who live oily, fat and comfortable lives in the plains. To both tribes, survival is the ultimate virtue.

At less than 200 pages it was a very quick read, but I can’t decide if this is a positive or negative. I’d prefer a longer book, with all those gaps filled in, but I can appreciate the power of this book’s simplicity.

The Wandering Falcon is a very important book, revealing the details of this traditional community and I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about this region of the world.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

A brilliant book.  Highly recommended. ANZ Litlovers Litblog

….a beautiful meditation on the life of a nomad in an increasingly modernizing world. S. Krishna’s Books

….a real portrayal of the tribes men not just our western view of them. Winstonsdad’s Blog



Three Slightly Disappointing Reads

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree – Elle Newmark

Five words from the blurb: Indian, marriage, memories, letters, friendship

The Sandalwood Tree is set in 1947 and follows a British couple, Evie and Martin, who move to India with their five-year-old son so Martin can report on the Partition. Evie discovers some letters hidden in the brickwork of their new home and sets out to discover everything she can about their origin, a hundred years earlier.

I think this book was severely hindered by me reading it immediately after Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry – the descriptions of Indian life seemed basic and lifeless in comparison. The Sandalwood Tree was fast paced and easy to read, but I failed to form any real connection to the characters and so didn’t really care what happened to them. The ending was satisfying, but I’m afraid it was too little, too late for me.  If you loved East of the Sun by Julia Gregson (I didn’t) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, but it was a bit too basic for me.


The Sealed Letter

The Sealed Letter – Emma Donoghue

Five words from the blurb: Victorian, women’s movement, marriage, affair, divorce

I loved Room and have been wanting to try one of Emma Donoghue’s other books for a while. The Sealed Letter was published in Canada in 2008, but has just been released for the first time in the UK.

The book is set in Victorian London and is based upon a scandalous divorce case. I initially loved the detailed descriptions of life in 1864 (especially the first encounter with the London underground!) but as the book progressed I began to tire of the way every object was described in minute detail – it felt over researched.

Court cases do nothing for me a at the best of times and this one was particularly slow and painful to read.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction and would like to know what life was like for women during this time period then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, but I think it would have worked better as a piece of non-fiction.


The End of Everything

The End of Everything – Megan Abbott

Five words from the blurb: thirteen, friend, missing, confused, unflinching

The End of Everything was one of Richard and Judy’s Autumn Reads and it seems to divide opinion. Unfortunately I was one of those people who wasn’t very impressed by it.

The book follows Lizzie, a thirteen-year-old girl whose best friend goes missing. Lizzie sets out to discover what happened to her friend, but she also knows more than she is letting on.

The missing child premise has been done so many times before that the writing needs to be really special for something new to be added and unfortunately it didn’t have that magic spark for me.

The main problem I had with this book was that the teenage voices didn’t feel realistic and the writing failed to engage me. I also found the pace to be too slow for the plot.

Recommended to those who still get excited by “missing child” stories.