<![CDATA[ The Great Unread - Views & Reviews]]>Mon, 15 Feb 2016 15:30:26 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Book Magpie: January Count (+14)]]>Mon, 15 Feb 2016 08:04:50 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/book-magpie-january-count-14Literarily, my eyes are bigger than my belly. My want-to-read aspirations cannot, despite my best efforts and intentions, be matched by my able-to-read reality. I know this. And yet. I want to read them all. I intend to read them all. And yet. I'm not sure there's enough lifetime left to read all the books I already have, let alone the ones I haven't happened upon yet. So, here's this year's experiment (or public shaming, but I'm sticking with experiment for now). I'm going to record what I've purchased or been given and what I've read. Let the numbers speak for themselves *gulp*.

Books Purchased (+12)

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Hard copy purchased from QVB
Reason: Book Tarts February selection

From The Heart - A Collection from Women of Letters curated by Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy
Hard copy purchased from airport newsagent
Reason: Smaller format book I've wanted to read, and, really, who doesn't buy a book at the airport?

Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Hard copy purchased from QVB
Reason: Spending Christmas gift card, and this book has been on the want-to-read list for a while

Between You and Me - Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
Hard copy purchased from Harry Hartog
​Reason: I am a word nerd

The Best Australian Essays 2015 edited by Geordie Williamson
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: Some of my favourite writers included here (Helen Garner, Ceridwen Dovey, Tim Winton) and a sensational price ($3.30) 

The Best Australian Stories 2015 edited by Amanda Lohrey
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: A creative writing teacher once recommended these collections to me as a brilliant way to read fabulous stories in one place. Also at the sensational price of $3.30 (love a New Year sale!)

Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: I read an article about this book

The Workd Without Us by Mireille Juchau
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: Description appealed, I have seen references to this book all over the place, and it was on sale. (note; this has since been shortlisted for the Stella Prize)

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Coleman
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: Recommended by a friend

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: Recommended by a friend

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
ebook purchased from Amazon
​Reason: Oliver Sacks!

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
ebook purchased from Amazon
Reason: discovered in Amazon recommendations, liked the description (this happens more often than you'd think/I'd like - I'm Exhibit A for the Amazon marketing machine)

Advance Review Copies (ARCs) (+7)

The Chosen Ones by Stephen Sem-Sandberg
Courtesy of  netgalley
Reason requested: Previously marked on my wish list - wish granted!

Buzz Books 2016: Spring/Summer by Publisher's Lunch
Courtesy of netgalley
​Reason requested: This is one of the best ways to sneak a peek at upcoming releases. It comes out twice a year.

Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Spring/Summer by Publisher's Lunch
Courtesy of netgalley
Reason requested: Collection of upcoming YA releases, with links to netgalley requests. I've discovered some great books and authors via Buzz Books.

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey
Courtesy of netgalley
Reason requested: Wanted to read more after reading the Buzz Books ​extract

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Courtesy of netgalley
Reason requested: Wanted to read more after reading the Buzz Books ​extract

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Courtesy of netgalley
Reason requested: Wanted to read more after reading the Buzz Books ​extract

If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene
Courtesy of netgalley
Reason requested: Wanted to read more after reading the Buzz Books ​extract

​Read (-5)

In January, I read some of the books I added and some that were already in the to-be-read pile:
1. One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Sierstad
2. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
3. Is it Just Me? by Miranda Hart
4. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
5. Buzz Books 2016: Spring/Summer by Publisher's Lunch

I really need to lift my game to even the score. I'll keep chipping away into February and try to tip the scales a little the other way. 
<![CDATA[Review: One of Us]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 12:31:21 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-one-of-us
Author: Asne Seierstad
Published: 2015 by Virago Press, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
Read: January 2016
Why it made it to the top of the pile: Despite wanting to read this, I have been dodging opening a book about such a horrific massacre. The appearance of this book on many 'best of 2015' lists prompted me to sit down and get reading.
Categories: Non-Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Translated into English
Full Disclosure: Advance reading copy courtesy Hachette Australia and TheReadingRoom
Trivia Tidbit: Seierstad is completely fluent in five languages and has 'a good working knowledge' of another four.
Rating: 8/10
One of Us is the story of Anders Breivik and the massacre of 77 people in Norway in 2011. Breivik detonated a bomb in the carpark of a government building 22 July 2011 before travelling to the island of Utoya and shooting 69 people, most of them teenagers.

Asne Seierstad is a Norwegian journalist who has worked for many years as a foreign correspondent. She returned home to cover the massacre and subsequent trial. Her account is thorough, going back to the childhood of Breivik and some of his victims. It spends some time trying to dissect/understand Breivik's manifesto, which I lost interest in - I was far more interested in the lives and potential of the lives of those impacted by Breivik than the murderer himself. On some level it seems to me that to dedicate too many pages to the manifesto of a deluded individual is to satisfy the original motivation for the killings. I agree that some understanding of Breivik's motivation (however outrageous, unwarranted and ranty) is helpful, a 2-3 page summary would have been just as useful as the chapters devoted to the evolving ravings of a madman.

That said, this is a very interesting, engaging, and ultimately heartbreaking story. The victims' stories are told with compassion and respect. The number of times Breivik was almost stopped - from proposed psychiatric intervention when he was two years old, to interruptions during his bomb preparation, and particularly as he was caught in traffic between the bomb site and Utoya, gave this reader serious pause for thought.
<![CDATA[Review: The Middlesteins]]>Mon, 11 Jan 2016 12:05:20 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-the-middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenburg
Published: 2012 by Grand Central Publishing, a division of the Hachette Book Group
Read: January 2016
Why it made it to the top of the pile: I picked this one up while on holiday last October, knowing nothing about it but what was on the cover description. Finally got around to finishing it.
Categories: Fiction, Contemporary
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Trivia Tidbit: Attenburg's bike was stolen in New York and she managed to get it back the next day. She blogs about it - proudly - here.
Rating: 7/10
Food has always been at the centre of Edie Middlestein's life, but Edie's relationship with food is making her sick and she requires surgery. Unfortunately for her husband, Richard, this coincides with his decision to leave Edie after 30 years of marriage. It then falls to Edie and Richard's children and their partners to try and save Edie from herself.

The book is described on the cover as 'an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession'. While I disagree with 'epic' I agree with the rest. In the style of Olive KitteridgeThe Middlesteins examines in detail the life of a woman and those around her in a series of intimate stories that gain far greater meaning when understood as a whole.
<![CDATA[Review: If She Did It]]>Wed, 15 Apr 2015 06:48:46 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-if-she-did-it
Author: Jessica Treadway
Published: 2015 by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, a Hachette UK Company
Read: April 2015
Why it made it to the top of the pile: We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of my all-time favourites, and this explores some of the same themes.
Categories: 10/10, Fiction, Contemporary, Crime
Full Disclosure: Advance Reading Copy courtesy Hachette Australia and TheReadingRoom
Trivia Tidbit: This book is published as Lacy Eye in the US.
Rating: 10/10
Dawn Schutt's college boyfriend, Rud Petty, was convicted of murdering her father Joe and attempting to murder her mother, Hanna, three years ago, but has won an appeal. Hanna cannot remember the night of the attack, but when the prosecution threatens to indict Dawn again Hanna undertakes to try and remember what happened. Dawn offers to move home to support her. If She Did It explores the nagging doubts Hanna has about her daughter's innocence and her efforts to remember the events of three years before.

Hanna is an unreliable narrator because of her memory loss, which she attributes to the horrific injuries sustained in the attack, but the reader is swept along with Hanna as she struggles to remember what happened. Did Rud do it, or was their disaffected teenage neighbour to blame? If Rud did it, could Dawn have known, and if she knew could she have stopped him? This is an intelligently written book which asks similar questions to those in We Need To Talk About Kevin, and while it deserves favourable comparisons to Lionel Shriver's book, If She Did It approaches the questions in its own way and reaches its own conclusions in a way that is absolutely satisfying from a reader's perspective.

The book explores a horrific crime and its aftermath, and Hanna's journey to firstly address the unspeakable possibility that her daughter was involved, then question her and Joe's parenting decisions and consider what possible motive Dawn could have had, and her determination to remember and resolve the questions raised - by herself, her daughters, the police, the prosecution, the media and the community - makes for riveting reading. It also asks the reader the question - what would you do? An excellent read - recommended.
<![CDATA[Review: This House of Grief]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 03:54:55 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-this-house-of-grief
Author: Helen Garner
Published: 2014 by The Text Publishing Company
Read: March 2015
Why it made it to the top of the pile: I purchased this book at the 2015 Newcastle Writers Festival, where I attended a talk Helen gave about writing this novel. This was one of about 6 books I purchased in the festival bookshop, but there was no contest regarding which book to read first.
Categories: Non-fiction, Crime, Australian Authors
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Trivia Tidbit: Helen Garner was threatened with contempt of court by the defence lawyer during proceedings covered in the book.
Rating: 10/10
On Father's Day in 2005, three young boys drowned when the car their father was driving went off the road and plunged into a dam in rural Victoria. This House of Grief is the story of the father, Robert Farquharson, the mother, Cindy Gambino, and Robert's trial for the murder of their three boys, Jai, Tyler and Bailey.

I remember when this incident was reported, and remember hoping this was an accident while acknowledging the possibility that it was not. In the first few pages, Helen Garner relates having similar thoughts, She covers the trial, as impartial an observer as she can manage, but shares her thoughts, doubts, hope and despair with the reader as the trial and subsequent appeal progresses. We are privy to more information than the jury, and this is a blessing and a curse. While struggling to understand the possible motives of a man to direct his car into a deep, icy dam we are also faced with the rules of law and the human errors in investigation that follow each potential crime. At the heart of the book is a deep, deep sadness at the fate of the Jai, Tyler and Bailey. Helen Garner captures this so beautifully that I held onto this image while reading the story of the trial:
The only way I could bear it was to picture the boys as water creatures: three silvery, naked little sprites, muscular as fish, who slivered through a crack in the car's rear window and, with a flip of their sinuous feet, sped away together into their new element (p.49)
Unlike her previous true-crime work, Joe Cinque's Consolation, there are no interviews with the family in This House of Grief. This allows some remove from both the pain and protestation of the family and the accused, but the brilliance of Helen Garner's writing is such that readers' hearts continue to break for the boys throughout the procedural nature of the trial - at all times the loss of these boys to the world overshadows arguments about the existence of cough syncope and lines marked on the side of the road by accident investigation police.
<![CDATA[Review: The Girl with all the Gifts]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 03:17:22 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-the-girl-with-all-the-gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Published: 2014 by Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, a Hachette UK Company
Read: January 2015
Why it made it to the top of the pile: There was a lot of hype about this book, and I'd read an excerpt which had left me wanting more
Categories: Fiction, Dystopian
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Trivia Tidbit: The author wrote the screenplay at the same time as the novel
Rating: 6.5/10
The Girl with all the Gifts is set in an English, dystopian future where much of the population is infected with a virus which turns them into zombies, or 'hungries' as they are referred to in the novel. The main characters are Helen Justineau, a teacher, and Melanie, a 10-year-old girl infected with the virus but able to remain in control of her 'hungry' urges as long as she cannot smell humans (those working at the facility are diligent about masking their scent). Melanie is imprisoned in an army-type barracks where experiments are conducted on the children in an effort to determine a cure/vaccine for the virus.

There are, of course, evil doctors, free-range revolutionaries and gung-ho military types in this tale, in addition to the kind-hearted teacher and the gruff-but-good-hearted soldier. The primary difference between this story and every other zombie story now filling shelves everywhere is that Melanie is sentient. When chaos erupts at the base and the typical rag-tag bunch of characters are thrown together on the run, Melanie tries to control her urges and to protect Miss Justineau in particular, who she sees as a mother-figure.

It was an interesting twist to observe events from Melanie's point of view, and the end had some surprises in store, but in many ways this is a typical zombie story, far from "the most original thriller you will read this year" touted on the cover. I was unsurprised to learn that the screenplay was written at the same time as the novel, as many aspects of the story are visual and will easily translate to the big screen. Ultimately, for me, the book did not live up to the promise of the excerpt or the cover blurb, but that is always a risk when you pick up a book - or watch a movie - touted as the next big thing. 
<![CDATA[Review: I, Claudius]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 01:37:23 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-i-claudius
Author: Robert Graves
Narrator: Derek Jacobi
Publisher: CSA Word
Categories: Fiction, Historical, Audiobook
Running Time: 5 hours and 8 minutes (abridged version)
Released: 3 December 2007
Listened to: April 2015
Trivia Tidbit: Robert Graves enlisted soon after the outbreak of World War 1, and was so badly wounded by a shell fragment during the Battle of the Somme that he was expected to die and was officially reported as having died from his wounds. He gradually recovered, and lived until 1985, aged 90..
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Rating: 7/10
Firstly, an admission: I purchased this audiobook because I, Claudius was our book group pick for April and most of the Tarts had given up a chapter or so in because it was too dense a read. I have found that a narrator who understands the story can add so much to it by inflection and so chose the easier route. And, yes, I purchased the abridged version (tsk, tsk).

So, having chosen what I believed was the easier path, I still struggled in the early part of the book to keep up with all the -iuses - Claudius, Octavius, Tiberius, Posthumus, Germanicus, Augustus - you get the idea. Add to that the intermarriage and penchant for naming children a version of their parent's name (Agrippa - Agrippina, Livia - Livilla, etc), and it's a hard story to get a handle on without a family tree in front of you. That said, once I got the hang of it - I'd liken it to watching a movie with subtitles - I really enjoyed the story, Not short on drama, the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Also, the characters became easier to follow as more and more of them were killed off.

Originally published in 1934, I, Claudius takes the form of a memoir of Roman Emperor Claudius, who became emperor following the assassination of Caligula. He is, essentially, the last man standing. It is surprising, listening to this tale, that the Romans had any time at all to wage wars and conquer the world, given all the political intrigue and backstabbing at home.

Derek Jacobi is an excellent narrator, and his crisp delivery helped my understanding of the novel no end. Jacobi played Claudius in the 1976 BBC miniseries and 2007 radio adaptations of the book, so his knowledge of the character informs his reading of the book beautifully.

Having listened through to the end, I started again at the beginning in order to get clear in my head who was related to who (and who killed who) at the start. This isn't a story for everyone, but if you are interested in ancient history, enjoy a reading/listening challenge and are after some political intrigue, then this might be one for you.
<![CDATA[Review: Heartburn (Audiobook)]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 01:06:51 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-heartburn-audiobook
Author: Nora Ephron
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Publisher: Random House Audio
Categories: 'Fiction', Humour, Audiobook, 10/10
Running Time: 5 hours and 30 minutes
Released: 7 September 2013
Listened to: February - March 2015
Trivia Tidbit: Nora Ephron worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F Kennedy following her graduation in 1962.
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Rating: 6.5/10
Heartburn was originally published in 1983, and is the fictionalised account of the breakdown of her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. Like her main character, Rachel Samstat, Ephron's husband had an affair when she was pregnant with their second child (indeed, Carl Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and subsequent film, but never did). Rachel's story is told with self-deprecating humour and interspersed with recipes as she is a minor celebrity chef of sorts. Some of the recipes sounded quite delicious, but one of the downsides of an audiobook is the difficulty of relocating treasures within once the narrator has passed them by.

As for the narration, who could ask more than Meryl? She is, as you would expect, brilliant, and adds much to the humour of the novel. My main criticism of the novel - and there's not much that can be done about it, given it was originally published over 30 years ago - is that the story is quite dated. I think it would have been a little more cutting edge in its time, but in the past 30 years the story of wronged partner making good on their own has been done time and time again.
<![CDATA[Review: My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday´╗┐]]>Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:01:55 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-my-tomorrow-your-yesterday
Author: Jason Ayres
Published: 2015 by Chapel Street Press
Read: April 2015
Why it made it to the top of the pile: It was my latest Kindle purchase
Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Full Disclosure: Purchased
Trivia Tidbit: Jason Ayres won a competition to be Britain's Official Sausage Taster for 2013 (his book, Sausage Man, is the memoir of this year of sausage-y goodness)
Rating: 5.5/10
I like the idea of this book. The first recollection Thomas Scott, 54, has, is waking on his deathbed in 2025, wracked with cancer. He dies. His second recollection is the day before he dies. His third recollection is the day before that. And so on. Thomas lives his life in reverse, without memory of what came before, jumping back 48 hours every morning at 3.00am (GMT).

It's a curious cross between Groundhog Day and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Gradually the pain, then the cancer, disappears, as he lives his life in reverse. Any financial gain possible with his knowledge of the future (gambling, stock market) is lost at 3.00am when the clock resets. This doesn't stop Thomas trying to change the lives of those he loves for the better. He researches his life through Facebook and text messages, aware of pivotal moments long before he (re)experiences them. The question of alternate futures is raised but not answered, and the reader is left wondering what will happen to Thomas when he gets all the way back to Day 1.

There is - and it seems unnecessary to me - a great deal of focus on Thomas's sexual adventures through his life in reverse. The lives of some characters in the book are changed by Thomas's actions, but the butterfly effect of these actions is not revealed as Thomas continues to move along his timeline in reverse. There are a number of interesting paths left untraveled here, which made the book somewhat unsatisfying.

I should note, however, that this book ties into some of the author's other works (TheTime Bubble series), so perhaps these paths are traveled elsewhere.
<![CDATA[Review: Woman of the Dead]]>Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:46:50 GMThttp://www.thegreatunread.com/views--reviews/review-woman-of-the-dead
Author: Bernhard Aichner
Published: 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, a Hachette Livre UK Company
Read: March 2015
Why it made it to the top of the pile: It was physically on top of the pile
Categories: Fiction, contemporary, crime, translated into English
Full Disclosure: Advance reading copy courtesy Hachette Australia and TheReadingRoom
Trivia Tidbit: First published in 2014 as Totenfrau, this edition is translated by Anthea Bell
Rating: 2/10
This is a bestseller in Austria, but I'm sorry to say this book wasn't for me. The book opens with the protagonist staging the murder of her adoptive parents as an accident. This was among the most likely premises of the story. It compares itself favourably to the television series 'Dexter', and in this it is very much mistaken. The main character is an unlikable psychopath, the storyline both improbable and predictable, and much of the violence within seems to be included for shock value only. Not the book for me, but if you enjoy violent crime fiction and escapist, revenge-driven storylines, it might be the book for you.