Category Archives: Rice Ben

August Retrospective

A thin month this time, for various reasons!  Still, here is a summary of my August reading, with links to reviews:

The Blue Book by A.L.Kennedy – 4/5

Although the style grated in parts, the story was ultimately really good, and well worth wading through the bits I wasn’t so keen on.

How to Forget by Marius Brill – 3.5/5

Not at all what I expected from the jacket blurb, but turned out to be an enjoyable comedy/action romp that would make a great film!

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – 4.5/5

A re-read from my teenage years, this is still a powerful read for any age, that will give you lots to think about.

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing – 4.5/5

An intensely disturbing read that is horrific on many levels – how the introduction of one child leads a family idyll to self-destruction. Very keen to read the sequel which gives more insight from the child’s point of view (this one focuses more on the mother).

 

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July Retrospective

(Posted early due to leaving for ‘holiday’ but updated retrospectively with the month’s final books.)

A summary of the books I read in July, with links to reviews:

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside – 4.5/5

Although I wasn’t immediately captivated by Burnside’s style of writing, by the time I finished reading I was reeling, and my head was so steeped in the atmosphere that I couldn’t settle into reading anything else for a good while longer than usual.  I really want to read this again, already, and discover everything I missed first time around.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – 4/5

Although not a sequel to The Tooth Fairy, it bears a lot of similarities, both in location, ‘type’ of characters and story.  Joyce’s strength is the portrayal of an ambiguity between supernatural and psychological realities, and this particular novel is one of his best.

Bereft by Chris Womersley – 3/5

This story of a man accused of murder as a boy, then returning to the scene of the crime after years away at war, had lots of potential but was ultimately disappointing.

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig – 4/5

The first in a phase of re-reads, this month.  Although I found the structure a little televisual, I was ultimately impressed by Craig’s ability to cast an intensely unlikeable man in her lead role but create enough psychological intrigue to keep the reader reading regardless.  Very interesting use of fairy tales as a means of exposition.

A True Story Based on Lies by Jennifer Clement – 4.5/5 

A beautifully dark and simple tale, told with a timeless, storybook feel.  Suffused with magic, lyricism, and disquieting undertones.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail – 4/5 

An earthy fairy tale and unexpected love story, with the landscape exuding as much character as the people.  I enjoyed this more than on my first reading, about 12 years ago.

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn – 4/5 

A carefully exposed story of inherited madness, juxtaposing luscious landscapes of exotic island life with interior dreams and nightmares.

Pobby & Dingan by Ben Rice – 4/5

A short and sweet fable about the power of the imagination.

Snake by Kate Jennings – 4.5/5

An intense, stifling, poetic portrait of two lives trapped in the wrong marriage, and the sweeping, poisonous landscape around them.  Beautifully visual prose creates a story of startling clarity and power.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman – 4.5/5

A wonderful novella about the powers, pigeonholes and pitfalls of everyday life but also a love story as sweet as they come.

Dreamland by Tom Gilling – 3/5

I sought this one out as I love the author’s previous novel (a light historical story, Miles McGinty), but sadly it turned out to be a very forgettable mystery thriller entirely lacking in personality and plot.

The Little Hammer by John Kelly – 4.5/5

Witty, wordy, wandering & playful prose dances around a story of murder, memories and misdirection.

The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman – 4/5

Lots of overwhelming emotions being dealt with in this successor to All My Friends Are Superheroes – just as likeable and ‘quirky’ and some interesting allusions to spirituality, but ultimately did not throw me any curve balls or make me think twice.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  On their wedding night, Tom becomes invisible to his wife, The Perfectionist. After six months of waiting for Tom’s return, The Perfectionist buys a plane ticket and a new apartment in a new city. Invisibly, Tom sits next to his wife throughout the plane journey trying to think of ways to make her see him. Time is running out – will he discover his own superhero power in time?

THOUGHTS:  At first glance, this is a not very subtle but quirkily humorous story about the characters we build in order to survive everyday life. A superhero power exists for every strategy, defence, and pigeonhole Read more of this post

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When Kellyanne’s imaginary friends disappear, she quickly slides into a mysterious illness. Although big brother Ashmol has never believed in Pobby and Dingan himself, he decides that the only way to cure her is to get the rest of their small mining town out looking for the missing invisibles, to prove to Kellyanne that people care. But will the plan work?  At the same time, their father is accused of ‘ratting’ at the local opal mines, and must contend with a swell of local opinion against him as his daughter wastes away before his eyes…

THOUGHTS:  Although on the surface this is a sentimental premise, Rice neatly avoids cliché in its telling. Read more of this post

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

DATE FINISHED: May 13th, 2012

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  18 year old Merricat (Mary Katherine) is derided by the villagers when she ventures out of the Blackwood family home for supplies. The scandal of a poisoning years earlier (of which her elder sister Constance was acquitted) hovers over the family home, where the two girls and their ailing Uncle Julian live, and Julian daily relives – or tries to remember – the day that changed their lives forever. When Constance invites their Cousin Charles into the family home, Merricat does everything within her powers to make him leave, from asking him outright, to storing up ‘magic’ words, to…much worse. But Charles is equally determined that Merricat must go. Who will win?

THOUGHTS:  Like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, I’m certain I would have loved this book if I had first read it when I was 14.   Read more of this post

Neverendings e-zine #1: Antipodean fiction

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Click here for FREE neverendings e-zine of reviews ( titles as listed below) & further reading suggestions

 

  • Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
  • The Potato Factory – Bryce Courtenay
  • Strandloper – Alan Garner
  • Miles McGinty – Tom Gilling
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme
  • Snake – Kate Jennings
  • Sixty Lights – Gail Jones
  • Remembering Babylon – David Malouf
  • Pobby and Dingan – Ben Rice
  • Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living – Carrie Tiffany

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Lists are not intended to be all-encompassing, but representative of books I have personally read and enjoyed.  Feel free to post further reading suggestions in the comments, as I will update the list with my future reading.  I will also link reviews as I re-read & they are added to the site.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

DATE FINISHED: March 24th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: The unnamed narrator believes she is a mermaid.  She is also in love with war-damaged Jude who holds himself apart from her.  According to legend, the mortal who will not marry a mermaid will be killed.  She does not want to kill Jude, but words have a way of winning…

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post