TTT: Authors

TTTI found this one pretty easy. There aren’t too many authors I read just because—without knowing more about the book itself. My original list had about 13 names, and it wasn’t too hard to cut that down to 10. These authors are ten names that have me reading any book by without question.

Christopher Brookmyre – Comedy, crime, satire, well-rounded characters. The day a Brookmyre book doesn’t make me laugh out loud will be a very sad day indeed (and a day that will never happen).

John Wyndham – Insightful science fiction. This man has not written a word I haven’t loved.

Patrick deWitt – I can’t even categorise deWitt’s genre… sharp, witty contemporary. Is that a thing? With only two books written, i’m already 100% hooked.

Stephen King – Horror. As King has said himself: he is the literary equivalent of a bigmac and fries. It’s not the most nutritious meal, and you don’t want to eat it every day, but it’s bloody tasty when you have it.

Shirley Jackson – Horror. Jackson is more classic horror. More chills and meaning. More genuinely scary.

William Golding – Another author who is hard to pigeon hole, because his subject matter and message vary so much from book to book. He is consistently well-written and interesting, though.

George Orwell – Intelligent, insightful and ahead of his time. I’ve only read a couple of Orwell’s books so far, but I look forward to more.

Aldous Huxley – I file Huxley close to Orwell, but not because of Brave New World and 1984, as you might expect. Mostly because they strike me as two people who would have interesting conversations—they both have worthwhile and intelligent things to say.

J D Salinger – Some authors are just in a genre of their own, and I think Salinger is one. He has such a way with words, so simple, but so unique for his characters. He gets across concepts and personality so swiftly that it looks easy.

Ursula Le Guin – Science fiction that holds such imagination and exploration. I adore Le Guin a lot. I can’t get enough of her work, and hold very high—and possibly unfair—expectations of her.

TTT: Quotes

TTTI am all over this week’s topic. I love quotes. I love it when a short section, thought, moment or phrase from a book just stands out to me. When something makes me stop, makes me smile, makes me go, “Yes!” Or causes me to pause and think, and wonder and alter my thought process. I love it when something, some feeling, some concept, is summed up so neatly in a handful of words.

I am slightly obsessed with quotes, and more of my favourites can be found at my goodreads account or my twitter.

I usually expound upon my choices for Top Ten Tuesdays, but this week I am going to stand by the wise words of my dearest Zellaby, and let the quotes speak for themselves…

“Some quotations,” said Zellaby, “are greatly improved by lack of context.”

― John Wyndham, The Midwich Cuckoos

“Naturally, I never told him I thought he was a terrific whistler. I mean you don’t just go up to somebody and say, ‘You’re a terrific whistler.’”

― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

“Of course, I’m being rude. I’m spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don’t have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It’s the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“He would say that God had given him a tail to keep the flies off, but that he would sooner have no tail and no flies.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

“A fool tries to look different: a clever man looks the same and is different.”

― John Buchan, The 39 Steps

“Proud and insolent youth,” said Hook, “prepare to meet thy doom.”
“Dark and sinister man,” Peter answered, “have at thee.”

― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan and Wendy

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.”

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

“If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one-tenth of 1 percent of the books currently in print.”

― Lewis Buzbee, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History

“Have you got any soul?” a woman asks the next afternoon. That depends, I feel like saying; some days yes, some days no. A few days ago I was right out; now I’ve got loads, too much, more than I can handle. I wish I could spread it a bit more evenly, I want to tell her, get a better balance, but I can’t seem to get it sorted. I can see she wouldn’t be interested in my internal stock control problems though, so I simply point to where I keep the soul I have, right by the exit, just next to the blues.”

― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

TTT: Character Spin Offs

TTTWanting more from a book, a book that leaves the reader craving more, is a sign of a great book for me. And for me that will most often come in the form of characters. Characters make or break books as far as i’m concerned, and characters that I love or hate and want more of, will always make a book. These are some of the most intriguing characters i’d love to read more about in some capacity.

1. Zellaby and Lord Henry from The Midwich Cuckoos and The Picture of Dorian Gray, respectively.
This a towfer, but it’s also something i’ve wanted for a long time. A book entirely about Zellaby and Lord Henry sitting down over a pot of tea and talking philosophically. I want it so much, one day, I may just write it myself.

2. The women from The Godfather.
As much as I enjoyed this book, the sexism made me rage. All I wanted was a book from the female characters’ POVs, essentially showing that they were the ones really running the show. That they were so in control, they could pull the men’s strings without the men even realising it.

3. The ‘kraken’ (because they’re aren’t actually called that) from The Kraken Wakes.
I like stories where the villains have their own, valid, motivations. When it’s not as simple as good and evil, when there is grey area. And in books like that—like The Kraken Wakes—i find myself wanting to know more about the other side of the story.

4. Wednesday from American Gods.
I just found him immensely interesting. How in control, self-assured and mysterious he was. He was weaving this plot, knowing where all the pieces were and guiding them into the places he needed them to be. I would love to have experienced that from his point of view. Also, I just generally want more of him.

5. Clarisse McClellan from Fahrenheit 451.
This peculiar young girl who effortlessly helps turn Guy Montag’s life upside down. She’s in, what, two or three scenes early in the book and then she disappears. We never really find out much about her or what happens to her, but I would very much like to.

6. The deaf-mute in a top hat from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.
My favourite line in the entire story:
“An instant later, a silk hat materialised in the air beside me, considerably down and to the left, and my special, only technically unassigned cohort grinned up at me – for a moment, I rather thought he was going to slip his hand into mine.”
How could I not want, just, more of this man?

7. The Triffids from The Day of The Triffids.
Another, perhaps, misunderstood evil creature. Though they did plant themselves (a pun! Ha) on Earth and lay in wait for years before striking when the human race was at its weakest, so maybe not so misunderstood. Still, I love an interesting, complex, plant-based villain. I’d love to read their take over of Earth from their point of view.

8. Tim Vale from One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night and Be My Enemy.
Brookmyre is so bloody good at characters, even his secondary, supporting, fucking fleeting characters are so rich. I’d take more of any of them, really. But Mr Vale… a “security expert”… his back story is just dripping with potential, and I am more than eager to read about it. Also not impossible that he could, in theory, get his own book…

9. The house from The Haunting of Hill House.
I can include inanimate objects on this list, right? Though, ‘inanimate’ might not be a word that describes this house. The mystery surrounding it, the horrors it has contained. I want to experience that with the house, too, not only its inhabitants. Would it be less scary? More? Would it answer my questions, or raise further ones? I don’t mind what the answers to these questions are, but i’d be fascinated to find out.

10. IT from IT.
This villain I would just want to know more about. Its supernatural nature is evident, but no solid answers on what it is or where it is from are ever answered, only that it has been living in, feeding from and influencing the inhabitants of the town for hundreds of years. This is one of my favourite books, and it’s already pretty darn long, but I would welcome more.

TTT: Difficult Reads

TTTThis was pretty hard, actually. I wanted to choose books that were good books, but hard to read because of the subject matter. Apparently… I haven’t read many of them. I wonder if that’s a reflection on me as a reader, or the books i choose to read.

But 10 books i found, and here they are.

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I really enjoyed the writing of this book. It was funny and descriptive, and utterly quoteable. But. The story was almost non-existent. As well-written as the words were, there was nothing pushing them along. I put this book down and didn’t read anything for weeks. That’s how bad it was. In the end I had to give up.

Canal Dreams by Iain Banks
This book just wasn’t that thrilling, really. Especially as the description on the back promised me a kick arse female cello player murder a load of evil men. It was interesting, reading chunks an the history of the Panama canal, but the different parts of the book felt very disconnected. Then there was the rape scene. That’s never going be not difficult to read.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This book was just tense from the get go. It was brilliant, but not a good book to read before bed.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Just… bad. Lovecraft is not good. I was rolling my eyes and cringing and just frustrated during this book. (This book I didn’t actually finish.) He can’t describe anything and his plots make little sense.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
This book really dragged. Things were often repeated to various degrees of detail. Lots of action and time would pass over a few pages, but then nothing would really happen and very little time would pass over entire chapters. It was inconsistent and failed to hold my attention or interest.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
I really enjoyed this book, but it was the kind of book that takes a lot of concentration to read. I couldn’t just fall into it and let it pull me along, it made me work for it, made me pay attention. I could only manage one chapter before needing to take a break, and was often left feeling tired. A wonderful, wonderful book, though.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
This is two stories in one book, and it is the second story that I had difficulty reading. It is pages and pages describing Seymour. Fifteen of those pages are spent describing Seymour’s face. If Chrome Yellow left me tired, this book left me fast asleep.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This was hard to read in an eye-roll cringey way. This author (who is basing this story on her own experiences) is waving her arms and crying out desperately for attention. The book and narrative voice are inconsistent. She claims she did not have any mental health problems, but seems to enjoy the allure she believes being labelled with such gives her. Every word just screamed, “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!”

The Inheritors by William Golding
Another booked I loved, that makes the reader work for it. It is told from the point of view of Neanderthals, whose language and connection with the world and each other is vastly different and simple than our own. They used few words, and grasping the larger concepts they were trying to convey with them took some work, but was more than worth it. I saw this picture.

The Knitting Circle’s Rapist Annihilation Squad by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan
Another cringe-inducing book. Considering the subject matter, this book was verging on slapstick, and it embarrassed itself and the reader.

TTT: Classics

TTT My second Top Ten Tuesday in a row. This is not what i had planned… but, but, but, classics! When i enter a bookshop, “cassic literature” is always the section i head to first. Unless i feel like enjoying the anticipation, in which case i’ll save it till last… Either way, the point is it’s my favourite section. I don’t know why. It’s not that more modern books aren’t good, or that i don’t enjoy them. I do, often. There are just SO MANY new books, i can’t keep up with what’s being released when by who and what else did they write? I just don’t seem to care enough. The classics–the classic classics, not the “modern” classics, never change. They will always be there, no matter if i take my sweet time getting around to reading them.

With my love of classics in mind, here is a random list (and really, it was really hard to make this random and not organise it in some way!) of 10 that i particularly love…

 

class01

 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I haven’t read much Oscar Wilde. A few short stories and Dorian Gray. And i adored Dorian Gray. Actually, i adored Lord Henry, but whatever.

 

 

class02

 

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I bought this on a whim when i saw it in a charity shop and devoured it in a day. I loved the concepts and imagination. Pity i didn’t have the same feeling about War of the Worlds.

 

 

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I loved the original 1963 film, so when i found out it was based on a book, of course i had to read it. Both book and film are creepily atmospheric while leaving the ending open enough for the reader to come to her own conclusions.

 

 

class04

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
I wanted to say this will never be surpassed at the ultimate dystopian, particularly in terms of ‘this could really happen/this is already happening’… but to be fair, i read this over 10 years ago, and i don’t trust my memory enough. I remember enough to know i loved this book, though.

 

 

class05

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This book isn’t perfect, but any negatives are overshadowed by the amazingness of the entire rest of the book. It was so refreshing to read a lot of what was discussed in this book. I would make this compulsory reading for every human alive, if i could.

 

 

class06The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham
Absolutely any John Wyndham book could have been included in this list. There isn’t a word the man has written that i haven’t loved (not that i’ve actually read them all yet–i’m pacing myself!). Picking this one felt like a cheat, because it’s a book of short stories; it felt like i was adding more Wyndham than choosing a novel would have done.

 

 

class07The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This one i didn’t love instantly; I hated it the first time i tried to read it. But the second time was so completely different. I loved Salinger’s understated writing style. He doesn’t give everything away, and makes the reader work a little. And Holden Caulfield is so simplistically philosophical, it was hard not to like him.

 

 

class08
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was my first Christie and my first Poirot. I picked this one because i already knew and loved the who, how and why. Turns out i love smart and egotistic detectives, and Poirot has become a firm favourite.

 

 

clas09Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I had wanted to read and study this at school, but my class did An Inspector Calls, instead. I eventually read this of my own accord many years later and loved it. So many concepts being explored under the premise of a group of children fending for themselves on a deserted island. I found it fascinating!

 

 

PP&WPeter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
This was a classic i had been long overdue in reading by the time i got around to it. All my life i knew i was the namesake of Peter Pan’s friend, but never did i bother picking up the book that made my name popular. I’m glad i eventually did. And i think i got more out of this book about the essence of childhood as an adult than i ever would have in my youth.

Nine Stories

nine storiesTitle: Nine Stories

Author: J.D. Salinger

Summary: The Stories:

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (1948)
“Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” (1948)
“Just Before the War with the Eskimos” (1948)
“The Laughing Man” (1949)
“Down at the Dinghy” (1949)
“For Esmé – with Love and Squalor” (1950)
“Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” (1951)
“De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” (1952)
“Teddy” (1953)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I do love Salinger’s writing, and i think he is particularly suited to short stories. Even his novels are short. With so few words he can show so much. And Salinger is definitely a writer who shows, rather than tells, and i love that.

The stories that stuck with me the most from this book were the first and the last.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish was as excellent start. I’m not sure how gradually more shocked i was getting as i read it said more about me or the story. It didn’t go in the direction i thought it was going, but i think i was right nonetheless. I daren’t say any more about it.

Teddy was a nice enough story until about two-thirds of the way in, when it became a riveting story. Teddy is a young, intelligent and interesting young boy on a boat trip… but he’s also so much more.

Salinger drops the reader into these narratives, these worlds and these characters’ lives without explanations and lets you catch up and draw your own conclusions as you go along. I find myself instantly drawn into the story that way; i immediately want to know what’s going on.

Each story is not action packed or teaching morals or has big surprises or even clear cut story lines. Each story is merely a glimpse into the lives of the characters. Some of the glimpses are significant and clearly life changing (A Perfect Day for Bananafish, For Esmé – with Love and Squalor, Teddy). Others are more like character studies and/or are heavy with interaction (Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Just Before the War with the Eskimos, Down at the Dinghy, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes). And some are simply simple stories offering a more typical beginning, middle and end (The Laughing Man, De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period).

I enjoyed them all. I hated not a single one. Every single character was flawed and perfect. Every story gave me something to take away.

J.D. Salinger may not be an exciting writer, but with his quiet observations, realistic dialogue and talent for showing not telling, he is an exceptional one.

This is the first book i’ve read from my Classics Club list. Yay!