Friday, January 1, 2016


These subjective impressions (↑ Mmm to ↓ Ugh)
should not be taken for proper reviews.   

1)  SAY GOODNIGHT TO INSOMNIA by Dr. Gregg. D Jacobs for writing style, ↑↑↑ for usefulness – This programme is not easy to do but it actually works. In 6 – 12 weeks you will be falling asleep easily and staying asleep for 7 to 8 hours a night without drugs. The quality of your sleep will vastly improve and you’ll feel rested and alert. The book itself is repetitive and crammed with un-useful anecdotes so edit it down to its essentials, draw up a diary/sleep chart to keep track of your progress and sweet dreams.

2) THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME by Mark Haddon ↑↑ – This is one of those critically acclaimed, very cleverly written books that one reads and admires but I, at least, skipped many, many pages because the narrator/protagonist is extremely irritating by virtue of his having “behavioral difficulties” which are very realistically described but un-named in the book. Autism, OCD & Asperger's are mentioned by reviewers.

Maybe this would be a case for less showing and more telling?

3) THAT OLD ACE IN THE HOLE by Annie Proulx ↑↑↑↑↑↑ (Did I ever mention I like Annie Proulx?) - The characters’ names are marvelous, starting with protagonist Bob Dollar and all the subsequent put-down versions of his name. These homespun but wily Texans are as lively and full of surprises as only Annie Proulx can make them. She plays with the reader too, by using ominous writing tricks (storm clouds approaching, an armed murderer on the loose, a fearful protagonist) to build to a climax that never comes. Nevertheless, she gives us a very satisfying ending. Not always the case with Ms. Proulx.

4) THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins ↑↑ - Well-constructed plot and nicely observed characters. Gets a bit strained toward the end but she creates powerful images from and on the train that remain with you.

5) GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson – Another very cleverly-written book that required too much from me. I just didn’t want to work that hard for something I didn’t really care about. Didn’t finish. Actually barely started it before I was severely turned off.

6) THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST by Anne Tyler ↑↑↑ - I’ve been meaning to read this for years. Absolutely charming. Beautifully crafted characters (male and female), believable situations, deeds, desires and choices. Warm and pulsating.

7) ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood ↑↑↑ - Starts off a little slowly in order to create a traumatized character and suggest ghastly events but soon becomes all too horribly real and urgent and blood-thirsty. Skillfully wrought scientific consequences of our irresponsible inventions and lifestyle. Clever but warmly human enough not to be alienating.

8) SWAMPLANDIA by Karen Russell ↑↑ -  These characters and their strange actions stay with you long after you finish the book. The plot is pretty far-fetched and the descriptions a teeny bit florid but it’s unusual and human and you can't help feeling for these bizarre people.

9) HOW TO BE BOTH by Ali Smith ↑↑ - Yet another book trying so hard to be clever that the characters become mere scaffolding. Also, there may have been a serious misprint in the Kindle edition and the story, already told twice from different times, points of view and genders, was actually printed four times. Absolutely wonderful descriptions of the act of drawing and creating art, mixing colours and composing the elements of a picture, though. Good portrait of an artist too.

10) THEATRE by Somerset Maugham As wonderful a writer as Maugham is, his female protagonist, Julia Lambert, is pretty masculine in thought and deed. Some twists that a woman would have seen coming a mile away. It’s a rare male author who can create a believable woman. 

11) CITY ON FIRE by Garth Risk Hallberg  ↑↑ - Mitsuko Kakutani loved the frantic pace of this huge book. Not me. While I greatly admire the construction and the interweaving of the real and fictional characters and events, I can't seem to get attached to the protagonists. I think this will make a good movie or HBO series.

12) ACTING MY FACE by Anthony James – An actor whose face is his fortune. At first glance he looks like a psychopath and that’s exactly how he was always cast for decades in Hollywood. But look again: his features are straight and regular, perfectly symmetrical with a strong jaw, dimpled chin and thoughtful eyes. Its only flaw the acne scars that Hollywood casting directors would not allow him to remove as they too are the sure sign of a baddie. Contrary to his looks, Jim seems to be a gentle, creative man, also an artist and writer. 


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