Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 books, #1-5

I had a phase before Christmas where I was getting very near the end of several books, but had so little to read of each that it wasn't worth taking them backwards and forwards on the train. However, I took this first one down to Jan's on the 30th and read most of it in one go.

Blood line, by Mark Billingham. London: Little, Brown, 2009.

Mark Billingham read the first, hair-raising, chapter of this at the Winter Wordfest event in November, and it was un-put-down-able. Tom Thorne is a wonderful creation, and this is tightly plotted with a twist in the tail to give you whiplash... As ever, his descriptions are graphic but not gratuitous, and you genuinely care what happens to his characters right from the first few pages...

The people's music, by Ian MacDonald. London: Pimlico, 2003.

A series of collected essays in music, with subjects ranging from Bob Dylan to The Supremes; the essays on Dylan and Nick Drake are particularly fine. The title essay talks about the passage of popular music from the essentially amateur process of folk music to the professionalism of writers such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and the manufactured artists of Motown; and then tracking its descent into amateurism again with the Beatles and Stones, and later the punk era. The piece was written in 2002 or so - it would be interesting to hear where MacDonald thinks we're going in the era of The X-Factor...

Little face, by Sophie Hannah [audiobook]. Oxford: Isis, 2007. Read by Charlotte Strevens.

Alice returns to her house after the first outing without her new baby, and claims that the baby in the cot upstairs isn't hers. Her husband is equally convinced she's lying, and her very controlling mother-in-law loses no time in weighing in. I don't think I'd have carried on with this after the first couple of chapters if it hadn't been an audiobook; I didn't really feel sympathetic to any of the characters, the final dénouement was a bit of a disappointment (and I couldn't make the reasoning add up), and some of the mental and physical sadism was just unpleasant. Strevens is a good reader though; now we can search the library catalogue by narrator as well as author, I'll be ordering up some more she's read.

Un Lun Dun, by China Miéville. London: Pan, 2008.

One intended for young adults; this is a wonderfully inventive trip through London and unLondon, with some great inventions such as the binja (fighting waste bins), unbrellas (ever wondered where all those broken umbrellas go?) and Webminster Abbey (populated by giant spiders). The style of it is much simpler than Miéville's complex prose when writing for adults, but none the worse for that, and the London cityscape is skewed just enough to make it magical without it becoming unrecognisable.

Scarpetta, by Patricia Cornwell. London: Sphere, 2009.

I didn't have a lot to say about this one, really; it's a Scarpetta. It is, however, less ridiculously angst-ridden and more plot-driven than some of the more recent ones. I keep reading these, despite vowing that I won't; I always come out of them feeling a little bit disappointed...


E-J said...

How strange: I have just posted to Flickr (no longer updating the blog) a portrait I've called "Little Face", but given the associations with the novel you mention here, perhaps I'll change it!

Wanted to draw your attention to it because it's painted on one of the boards you gave me a while back. They've been good for all kinds of different media and I've had fun with them!

Ros said...

I think all the Tom Thorne books are good - I really enjoyed Blood Line - I dithered about buying it but in the end could not resist through Amazon. At the same time I bought Scarpetta - the first Cornwell I have read for a while. I was quite pleasantly surprised - it was much better than I expected it to be. I am about to start wading through all the Poirots - I bought a whole hardback set a few years ago but have never got round to them until now. Ros

Anonymous said...

"Little Face" plotline sounds utterly ridiculous. I had a 'what if they muddle up the babies' anxiety before our first was born but once I was in the ward with the other mums and babies I realised - babies don't all look alike. They just don't. If the baby was swapped both parents would know.
- Anne.

Jackie said...

Definite ideas to add to my wish list! Thanks