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?


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!

2010 Historical Fiction Orange Prize

The Long Song – Andrea Levy

 Long listed for Orange Prize 2010 

The Long Song is set on Jamaica and follows July, a young slave girl, during the last few years of slavery and after she is granted freedom. 

The book is very different in style to Andrea Levy’s last book, Orange Prize winning Small Island, but I think they are both good in their own way. 

Much of the speech in The Long Song is written in Jamaican dialect, which adds atmosphere to the book. I think this would be even better on audio, as I’m sure my inner mind doesn’t quite do it justice! It isn’t hard to understand the dialect, in fact the whole book is quick and easy to read. I felt that this was actually one of the negatives of the book – it was so light that it seemed to skim over some very important scenes. The plot was quite simple, but the book covered a reasonably large chunk of time. This speed of events meant that I didn’t fully connect with July or understand which emotions she was experiencing. 

The narrator, July, frequently addresses the reader of the book, adding references to her present day life. 

Reader, my son tells me that this is too indelicate a commencement of any tale. Please pardon me, but your storyteller is a woman possessed of a forthright tongue and a little ink. 

Having read a few other reviews I’ve discovered that this style seems to annoy some people, but I found it a refreshing change to the similarity of many books. 

Overall, it was a light, entertaining read, but I have heard the amazing way Andrea Levy narrates her books and so I recommend getting the audio version of The Long Song.

Did you enjoy The Long Song?

Do you think it will make it onto the Orange short list tomorrow?

2009 2010

The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno

The Great Perhaps has one of the best first lines I’ve read:

Anything resembling a cloud will cause Jonathan Casper to faint.

The premise of this book is fantastically original. The central character, Jonathan, suffers from a rare form of epilepsy which causes him to have a seizure if he sees a cloud. To avoid clouds Jonathan becomes a palaeontologist, searching for prehistoric squid in the depths of the ocean.

Jonathan’s wife, Madeline, is studying the violence of pigeons; his daughter Amelia is making bombs in her bedroom and Thisbe, the youngest member of the family, is discovering Christianity. The book also follows their grandfather, Henry, who is dying and decides to utter one word less each day.

This book is a fantastic study of an American family. I was impressed by the way each person had their own unique voice, realistically capturing the thoughts and behaviour of their age group. The book is narrated by each character in turn, with a different writing style being used for each person. Some people may think the styles are gimmicky, especially Madeline’s which consists of 26 different thoughts each ordered by the letters of the alphabet, but I loved it! The continual change of pace and style kept me gripped and allowed there to be humor as well as deeper moments in which the complex relationships within a family could be observed.

The plot itself is quite simple, but I was desperate to know whether one of Amelia’s bombs would go off or if Jonathan would ever find his squid. It was easy to read, yet covered many important themes. 

I don’t think I’ve read a better book about an American family – I’d vote for it to win the Pulitzer prize this year.

Highly recommended.


Solar – Ian McEwan

Solar is one of the big contenders for the Booker Prize this year so I decided to see if it is good enough to beat The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.

I have to admit that I haven’t had much success with Ian McEwan so far. I wasn’t a fan of The Comfort of Strangers or Amsterdam, but have heard that his books are very different from each other and so was prepared to give him another try.

Solar centres on Michael Beard, a physicist who has won the Nobel Prize. He is an unlikable man who has had numerous affairs and seems to enjoy manipulating people more than engaging with them. Beard travels the world talking at conferences and reluctantly leads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming.

Solar is the best McEwan I’ve read so far, but I had a lot of problems with it. The book is packed with physics:

Quantum mechanics. What a repository, a dump, of human aspiration it was, the borderland where mathematical rigour defeated common sense, and reason and fantasy irrationally merged.

I did a course on quantum mechanics at university so understood the ridiculously long scientific passages (as much as anyone can claim to really understand quantum mechanics!) but I’m not sure why the science was needed – it wasn’t an integral part of the plot and I don’t think it added anything. It will go over the heads of most readers and the fact that everything needed explanation meant that the passages weren’t realistic portrayals of scientists. To illustrate this point I’ve invented two conversations.

Which conversation do you think is more likely to occur?

Baker 1: I’m just putting 20 loaves of bread into the oven.

Baker 2: I hope that you added some yeast to make them all rise.

Baker 1: Yes, it amazing to think that it was only in 1857 that Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast was a living organism whose activity caused fermentation.

Baker 2: Did you add some sugar for the yeast to feed on?

Baker 1: Yes, the yeast and the sugar produced carbon dioxide that will make the bread light and fluffy.


Baker 1: I’m just putting 20 loaves of bread into the oven.

Baker 2: Thanks. I’ll have my lot ready to go in soon.

This over-explanation of everything annoyed me and some of the science felt stilted; there were also a few sections that didn’t quite ring true. If we ignore the physics then there is a reasonable story buried in this book. I actually enjoyed reading the middle section, the small glimpses of plot in other areas and I thought the ending was very appropriate too.

Several sections were quite amusing, but I’m not a big fan of satire and so the ridicule was wasted on me.

I think that fans of McEwan will love this new one, but I’m hoping the Booker judges decide that The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is the better book.

Which is your favourite McEwan book?

Have you read Solar? What did you think of it?

Opinions appear to be very mixed:

…dull as dishwater. BookNAround

…one of my very favourite books of the year so far.  Savidge Reads

2010 Crime

Pocket Notebook – Mike Thomas

Pocket Notebook is written by a serving policeman and describes the life of Jacob Smith, a tactical firearms officer, who begins to loose control of his life. He abuses steroids, has relationship problems and can no longer cope with his demanding job.

It doesn’t sound like my sort of book at all and I have to admit that I would never have picked it up. It arrived unsolicited from the publisher and I was quite prepared to leave it on the shelf unread. One day I decided to sort out my book shelf and started to read the first page of this book – I couldn’t put it down!

It gives a fascinating insight into the life of a police officer. I loved learning about the detail of their job – the little things that they do in order to get through the day. Of course we will never really know how much of it is true, but I suspect that most of the events described in this book have happened to some extent. I assume that many in the police force will be upset by the release of this book – they won’t want the controversial behaviour to become public knowledge, but I was reassured by what I read. They have an incredibly difficult job and if “black dogging”* makes their life easier then I’m all for it!

The plot of this book isn’t that earth shattering, but that just reflects the mundane life of the average police officer:

I’m neither surprised nor exhilarated by anything I’ve done or any call I’ve been to in the last week. Just constantly shocked by the pettiness of it all, how the people I’m supposedly serving are so inept as to be virtually  incapable of looking after themselves. I’m society’s garbage man, just here to take out the trash, to spoonfeed these spastic sink-estate dwellers, the trolls and inbreds in their shellsuits with their state-funded cinema-sized surround-sound tellies, these women – these girls – who think spewing out babies by different and now absent fathers qualifies as an occupation.

The characters are well drawn and there are some really emotional scenes in there. I’m not sure how interesting this book will be to people in other countries as it is very British, but perhaps those from overseas will enjoy reading about dysfunctional people living in the UK!

Recommended to anyone who’d like to find out what police officers really get up to!

*Black dogging is when a police officer ‘sees’ a black dog crossing the road and so brakes sharply, throwing anyone in the back of the police van against the wall. It is pure coincidence that dogs tend to cross the road when the detainees in the back of the van are being disorderly and abusive.