Today was the first time in ages that I had the time and the energy to visit a library so, naturally, I dragged home two bags of books (though I admit that there was a box of chocolates taking up space in the other bag, so it’s not as bad as it sounds). Here is the curious library haul of 22 November, complete with brief first impressions!
Fiona Giles (ed.): Dick for a Day (Indigo, 1998)
A collection of short essays by female writers on the subject of What Would You Do If You Had A Dick For A Day, something we’ve all wondered at one point or another, surely. Personally, I’d probably be too busy demonstrating my grasp of Klatchian vocabulary to get much else done with the newly-discovered changes in the trouser department, but I’m curious about other people’s take on the situation. Includes authors such as Germaine Greer, Patricia Cornwell, Vicki Hendricks, Poppy Z. Brite and Isadora Alman.
Guy Delisle: A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013)
What can I say, I like books about how not to have children.1 Delisle’s style reminded me of both Hugleikur Dagsson’s comics and the ingenious Bunny Suicides books by Andy Riley, which is another reason I picked it. In fact, the cover features a dad reading his book while the kid in the background is reaching for a plugged-in clothes iron. What could go wrong?
A. S. Byatt: Ragnarok – The End of the Gods (Canongate, 2011)
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Or not, I’m not sure. For the main character, a little girl in the middle of World War 2, it sure seems like it; when someone gives her a copy of Norse mythology, she draws comfort from the stories of Ragnarök. Or that’s how I interpreted the story based on the covers. I’ve been interested in mythology since I was a kid, and WWII since I read I Will Bear Witness; a combination of the two should make for an interesting read.
Linda Castillo: Gone Missing (Macmillan, 2012)
The name rang a bell and lo! Castillo’s novel is… indeed… not on my to read-list on Goodreads. Oh well, I always enjoy a good thriller, never mind whether or not I’ve heard about it beforehand. Teenagers gone missing, female protagonist, hidden dark secrets, head-to-head with a dangerous serial killer, blah blah blah. It sounds a little too clichéd to me but the back cover convinced me to give it a try.
Kathryn Fox: Blood Born (Hodder, 2009)
Hodder’s thriller line has such distinct covers, I can guess the publisher 80% of the time. This one’s a “medical thriller” where a pair of killers – brothers, by the way – has murdered a teen and (accidentally, I’m guessing) left her younger sister alive, so it’s the forensic pathologist protagonist’s job to collect the evidence and get them behind bars. Except, you know. The brothers are less on board with that idea.
Patrick McGrath: Asylum (Penguin Books, 1997)
This one’s about a guy who becomes the deputy superintendent of a hospital for the criminally insane – that is Kay, hooked, for you – and then his wife goes and falls in love with a patient. I expect to be shouting at this book a lot because I’m more in it for the mental hospital than the drama, and a character who falls in love with a criminally insane guy… well.
Italo Calvino: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (Vintage, 1998)
There was a fanfic that I read and really liked that’s titled the same, which is why this one caught my attention – and then the back cover promised me some kind of a reader-fiction-reality meta extravaganza. “A reader goes into a bookshop to buy a book: not any book, but the latest Calvino, the book you are holding in your hands. Or is it? Are you the reader? Is this the book? Beware.” Sold!
Julie Kramer: Stalking Susan (Piatkus, 2010)
An investigative reporter gets wind of a possible serial killer who targets women named Susan, killing one every year on the same day. I’m a little apprehensive about the fact that apparently the reporter’s TV career is somehow mixed up in all this, because that plotline can go messy faster than I run to the fridge during a commercial break. I like the cover of this book, though, it’s the kind of graphic design that I’m drawn to.
Jane Sanderson: Netherwood (Sphere, 2011)
A period novel in the vein of Downton Abbey, the story is about the snobby dipshits who live above stairs and the witty, resourceful staff that lives below stairs. There may be romance involved – not sure – but there’s definitely the help snarking back at the employers by way of pie, apparently. I recall Wil once mentioning that one of her pet peeves is a period novel that has no mention of when it’s supposed to take place. The layman I am when it comes to period fiction, I wouldn’t even know Netherwood was set in Britain if not for the Downton Abbey comparison.2
Jim Crace: Quarantine (Penguin Books, 1997)
I’m all for dystopias. I assumed that the word ‘quarantine’ meant ‘dystopia’ but in this case, it’s four guys wandering into the Judean desert to improve their souls by fasting, and they run into Satan who, according to the back cover blurb, is on his way to tempt this one Galilean guy who can allegedly work miracles and is observing his fast on the other side of the desert. Heck, I’ve lately been on a Judeo-Christian mythology splurge anyway; why not.
Dan Simmons: Flashback (Quercus, 2011)
The first (and so far only) novel by Dan Simmons that I’ve read is Song of Kali which seriously disturbed and horrified me, and of course I love it to bits. This time the setting is a future – America in the year 2036 – where the world is in ruins and people resort to a drug called flashback to relive happier moments in their past. The protagonist is an ex-cop and a flashback addict called Nick whose memories are bought by a Japanese magnate, and it turns out that Nick’s flashbacks may well be the key to solving the biggest case of his life (naturally) – only, that case was the murder of the magnate’s son. Shit, meet fan.
Justina Robson: Aitoa peliä [“Real Game”, orig. Keeping It Real] (Jalava, 2013)
Humans, demons, elves, elementals, oh my! A quantum explosion has changed Earth irrevocably, as nowadays you get special agents who are technologically enhanced, half-cyborg AIs, and elvish rockstars called Zal.3 Um. Not necessarily my cup of tea as the back cover advertises Aitoa peliä as a mix of science fiction, fantasy, agent novel and chick-lit. It’s the last one that concerns me most since I suspect that I may be a tad older than the intended audience of this book.
Muriel Barbery: Kulinaristin kuolema [“The Death of a Culinarist”, orig. Une gourmandise] (Gummerus, 2011)
I’ve mentioned that I love Tuomas Vimma’s Gourmet, right, the novel full of French cuisine and expensive food stuffs? Barbery’s book is about a French restaurant critic who, on his deathbed, thinks back to the more or less savoury experiences of his life. I have no idea if it’s actually the kind of book I’d like, but it’s relatively short so I’ll give it a try.
Jani Saxell: Unenpäästäjä Florian [“Florian the Dream Deliverer”] (Avain, 2010)
I mainly picked this one up because the name intrigued me. An old Finnish word for midwife is ‘lapsenpäästäjä’ and it can be literally translated as “the one who lets (out) [delivers] the child”. The book’s title connects dreams to the word ‘lapsenpäästäjä’, which piqued my curiosity. The author has crammed into one book 1) commentary on Finnish immigration politics, 2) commentary on the situation of the Romanian Roma people, and 3) a dystopian science fiction future where Europe is becoming void of dreams thanks to people called dream deliverers. It sounds ambitious in the way Jan Salminen’s Äidinmaa did, and that one ultimately disappointed me, so I’m not sure what to expect from Unenpäästäjä Florian.
Tuuli Hypén: Nanna 3 (Arktinen Banaani, 2012)
Nanna is comic about the titular character, an urban fox who lives in a shared flat with other girls, studies in the local university and hangs out with her human and more-or-less human friends. I love the humour of Nanna that focuses on the student life, living in Finland and the life of a young woman in the city.