Category Archives: Lionel Shriver

My Worst Best Books

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?” That is the question from today’s Booking Through Thursday and I could instantly think of one and that would have to be Twilight which though no one I knew was loving most of the UK population seemed to be joining in with that whole bandwagon and that included me. I thought it was overly long repetitive and didn’t really have any likeable characters. I also got very bored with the whole ‘I love him but he’s dangerous’ that seemed to be repeated twice every page.

However if I am talking about books I have been recommended by lots and lots of people I know and would generally say I trust in terms of great reading guidance I think I have four main contenders, actually no, I have five books I could put forward for you. All of them have been described as being ‘very me’ and though bar one I have finished them all they have left me completely cold. The one I didn’t finish and therefore have promised several people I will re-read this year is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Hated the writing style, was bored and then someone told me the ending which I am hoping I have forgotten! I was also just generally a bit bored with it.

Second on my hit list would have to be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Even I thought I would love this book as I am a big fan of dark gothic spooky tales but this left me cold, one part made me jump admittedly but the rest I thought was a bit dull, Novel Insights read this with me at the time and agreed. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger was another book loads of people told me I should read. I have never disliked a lead character more and I know you shouldn’t like all characters but when all they do is moan, lie and fantasise you come away bored. Fourth would be The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, found it very confusing and then the ending just completely let me down!

Now for the fifth and final book which I am sure will cause uproar for some people when I say this but it has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The leads are two of the most selfish vile characters written and in an overlong and quite dull narrative, totally boring. I couldn’t wait for the end of both of them and the end of the book. There I have said it. Sorry if that shocks you but seriously I was so disappointed. Having been to Haworth and walking to the farm that caused the inspiration for the book and walking the moors I thought I would love it… no!

I do love being recommended books though. I would never have read The Book Thief so early on if it hadn’t been raved about by my friend Danielle. I would never have dipped into Daphne Du Maurier if three people hadn’t told me Rebecca was one of the best books ever written, in fact I would have missed a fair few of my favourites (The Woman in White, Brideshead Revisited, Lady Audley’s Secret, To Kill A Mockingbird) if they hadn’t been recommended to me so fervently.

I am trying to think of books I have recently been recommended. Simon at Stuck in a Book has told me I must read Alice in Wonderland so will be giving that a go soon and reporting back and indeed I have promised Dovegreyreader I shall try We Need To Talk About Kevin once more. I will report back on those! What books would you recommend I read? What are the worst best books you’ve read?

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Filed under Emily Bronte, Henry James, J. D. Salinger, Joseph Conrad, Lionel Shriver

New Book Resolutions

First of all Happy New Year!

It’s that time where we both look forward and look back and stock take isn’t it? At the beginning of last year when I start the blog properly one of the internal resolutions that I made in myself was to keep the blog up and not let it run dry. I didn’t do as well at that as I thought I would, I mean I reviewed every book I read but the blogs I had intended to write like ‘why I am obsessed with what everyone else reads on the tube’ and many more never got written but hopefully they will in 2009, I definitely improved toward the end of the year though! I also made some other resolutions on here…

The ones that sadly I failed at were;
– Read a Jodi Piccoult, I have always had something against her books and have absolutely no rational for this, 2008 wasn’t the year that I broke that habit
– The Odyssey, my mum would have been so proud if I had… but nope
– Read harder fiction, well am gunning through Anna Karenina at the moment and Will Self’s ‘The Book of Dave’ wasn’t easy but was extremely rewarding
– Hardy and Trollope, double no
– Revisit old favourites; nope sadly I was focused on getting through my huge TBR
– Give some books a second chance, no I wanted to have a second slog at Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ but I simply didn’t.

The ones I managed were;
– Read more short stories, I read two collections, maybe three but would have liked to read more
– Read a James Bond
– Read Tess Gerritsen, well I definitely did that actually becoming a big fan, managed to save some for this year though
– Read more non fiction, well with the Mitford Letters, a book on ghost hunting and the fabulous Kate Summerscale I did just that

So what about for 2009? What book resolutions have I got this year? Do I want to take any over that I didn’t manage this year? Well the ones I am setting myself this year are;
– Find a new favourite author I haven’t read before but can’t get enough of
– Classics, I want to read a lot more classics both classic classics and modern classics if that makes sense
– Try stuff I wouldn’t normally, this means joining some more book groups me thinks
– The Man Booker-a-thon, I would really like to give this a go this year especially now I know more publishers
– Possibly re-try a few books like ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ and ‘Company of Liars’ the latter I really wanted to read but it didn’t grab the mood I was in, oh and Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind The Museum
– Not buy as many books; I think this one is unlikely.

I think that’s enough? Is anyone else making any book resolutions this year?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Kate Atkinson, Kate Summerscale, Lionel Shriver, Tess Gerritsen, Will Self

Second Chances

I don’t know if anyone has seen the piece in The Independent today about James Frey, or seen the American book charts and that his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is doing really well. So far… so what? Well some people will know the uproar that James Frey’s first book caused and that he messed with one of the book world giants ‘Oprah’. I’ll explain…

Obviously here we have ‘Richard & Judy’, in America ‘Oprah’ is the book group queen and one of the books she chose back in 2005 was James Frey’s ‘memoirs’ called ‘A Million Little Pieces’. With the help of Oprah’s book club and her whole hearted embrace of the book ‘the man who keeps Oprah awake at night’ it soon became a best seller charts selling over 5,000,000 copies. Now had this ‘memoir’ not been such a saddening and shocking tale (I have still not read it yet) of his addiction to drugs, time in prison, rehab and the suicide of several of his friends. It was a harrowing tale, and an extreme one. The extreme nature of the novel left some to wonder and some to research on in particular (thesmokinggun.com) found that he had not been in prison for the years he stated but actually a few days. It soon became apparent that Frey’s ‘memoir’ was in fact pretty much pure fiction. Within a few months he was invited back on Oprah where she questioned him and said he had ‘duped’ her and all the readers.

Now some people would think this would be a publishers dream, endless publicity equals high sales? Not in this instance. The public followed and naturally so did the press. Random House issued a statement saying that anyone wanting a refund could have one. They subsequently dropped James Frey. James himself was berated in the press and became some kind of hate figure. He was reduced to going into hiding.

Why bring the subject up now years after the events. He has been signed to Harper Collins and his new novel ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is selling nicely and is going to be a forthcoming Waterstones Book Group Book. Readers are giving him a second chance, is this something that I could do?

I don’t mean with James Frey. I have however now put A Million Little Pieces on my ‘to read’ pile. What I mean is could I give a second chance to a book or author I have tried before and either hated or never finished? For example could I read another Martin Amis after the diabolical ‘London Fields’, or finish Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’? Well I have now put the latter and ‘Success’ by Martin Amis on my ‘to read’ pile along with A Million Little pieces, so I guess time will tell. Could you give an author or a book a second chance?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Lionel Shriver, Martin Amis