What We're Reading

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Neil

Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed (Bloomsbury February 2013)

This is a Hollywood celebrity novel, about the family, friends, lovers and colleagues of an A-list actor in his middle age. The voice shifts between a number of characters, some told in the first person, others in the third person. Despite the structure, it's not hard to follow the narrative, as it moves forward with each chapter, and it's always clear who is who. It looks at the effect that fame, wealth and celebrity have on those in the orbit of the celebrity; the narcissism, the greed, the envy; the easy access to sex and drugs; the unreality.

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Neil

No Way Back by Matthew Klein (Corvus/Atlantic March 2013)

I don't read an awful lot of thrillers, so I'm not the best judge of a book like this, but it has come VERY highly regarded within Allen & Unwin, so I thought I'd better check it out. It's been widely compared to Michael Connelly, especially The Poet, which I have read, and Lee Child seems to be a fan. It's certainly incredibly exciting! Right from the opening prologue, you're completely hooked.

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Neil

Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather by Pierre Szalowski (Canongate, January 2013)

A first novel by a Montreal-based writer, and one of those discoveries that Canongate are so good at, this is a quirky, warm and funny novels that sits alongside Life Of Pi or Jasper Jones. Set in one street during an ice storm, the un-named 10 year old narrator describes how the storm brings an eccentric group of neighbours together, while hoping the same magic will work on his recently separated parents. It's magical, accessible, light but though-provoking, beautifully written and extremely charming. Lovely!

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Neil

The World Was All Before Them, by Matthew Reynolds (Bloomsbury, February 2013)

This is another of those books which I had intended to read a few chapters of, just to get a sense of it, and then finished up completely hooked. It's very reminiscent of Jon McGregor, especially his early novel If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things (http://www.jonmcgregor.com/books/if-nobody-speaks-of-remarkable-things/ ). It's about a year in the life of a couple in their 20s, told in four sections, each about a day or two days through that year.

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Neil

Leaving The Atocha Station, by Ben Lerner

There was quite a buzz about this book in the States a while ago, but sadly it doesn't seem to have transferred to NZ, where it has largely passed without notice. A pity, because it's a great read. It's about a young American poet on a fellowship in Madrid, lost and out of his depth, unconfident about his work, ashamed at his lack of affinity with the local language, and untrusting of those around him. His paranoia increases as he self-medicates, drinks too much alcohol and coffee, and lies his was into humiliating situations.

Neil's picture
Neil

Big Ray, by Michael Kimball (Bloomsbury, January 2013)

This was one of those books I thought I'd read a few pages of to get a feel for it, then would probably put aside, but finished up reading in a sitting. It's short, only 180-odd pages, and slips past at speed, and but carries real force. Daniel's father, Big Ray dies at the beginning of the book, on or around Daniel's 38th birthday. The event triggers a series of around 500 short reflections, confessions and memories about Daniel's childhood, his parent's life together and apart, and Daniel's journey into adulthood. It's not a happy story.