Yiyun Li review

Another review I forgot to link to - obviously my brain took a break in late 2011. My review of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li.

Thomas E. Kennedy review

This went up a while ago, but I forgot to link to it - my review of Thomas E. Kennedy's Falling Sideways.

Chris Beckett review

My review of Chris Beckett's Dark Eden is live at Bookmunch.

reading & competition!

Hello, fine people! Happy New Year and the likes. Here in Casa Valerie, we're gearing up for another house-move (gah - our fourth since 2008 and this time avec baby) sometime in February, so my minimal posting might get even more minimal for a while around then. I'm also sure we'll be without broadband for a while because the broadband-switching-bastards never want to make it easy for us. But then I'll back and I might even be living in a house! I've forgotten what it's like to have more than two rooms. Anyway.

On Sunday 15th January, Peter Wild, my good mate and the man behind Bookmunch, is launching his first novel, The Passenger! If you're Manchester-based, or even further afield, come along - as well as readings from Pete himself and the likes of Socrates Adams, Nicola Mostyn, Simon Crump and me (me!), there'll be live music from (hooker) and The Slow Readers Club. It's in Soundcontrol on New Wakefield St, right near Oxford Road train station. Also: buy Pete's book, The Passenger - it's excellent!

Also. There's a micro-fiction competition running at the moment as part of National Flash Fiction Day, and I'm one of the judges. Send your stories of up to 100 words (including title) by January 31st and you could win a whole bunch of books as well as getting your story published on the site (and maybe on postcards and posters too). Do it.

Reading List 2012

Here's what I've been reading in 2012. As usual, an asterix means the book was a reread. Like with the books, I'll include a literary journal or magazine only if I read it the whole way through. I got a Kindle for Christmas in 2011, so this year I'm going to note which books were ebooks - I'll mark them with an (e). The plan, at first, is to use the Kindle to catch up on my classics, since I'm generally more of a modern lit person, and there are so many free out-of-copyright titles for download from Amazon. First up is Middlemarch, but I suspect it'll take me ages - who knew it was so long?? In the meantime:

December
113. The Museum of Atheism, Laura Ellen Joyce. The first of my MA classmates to publish a novel!
112. Shall We Gather At The River, Peter Murphy. New Irish novel. Wasn't keen. Liked his debut.
111. Fame, Daniel Kehlmann. A novel in stories. Excellent stuff from a German author to watch.
110. Eventide, Kent Haruf. Sequel to Plainsong. Just as wonderful.
109. Tea at the Midland, David Constantine. Excellent story collection.
108. Monkeys. Susan Minot. Linked stories. Very sparse. Family trauma. Very good.
107. Sweet Home, Carys Bray. Really good short story collection.
106. The Ravenglass Eye, Tom Fletcher. Horribly gory and very creepy horror. Great stuff!
105. Raised from the Ground, Jose Saramago. Dull.

November
104. Trilobite, Breece D'J Pancake. Short stories. This came recommended, and though I really admired the writer's style, I found it hard to really enjoy the stories themselves.
103. My Mother Was An Upright Piano, Tania Hershman. Interesting collection of very short fictions.
102. Plainsong, Kent Haruf. Beautiful writing. Not sure about the overall structure but still loved it.
101. Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje. Lyrical, but didn't really engage me.
100. Both Flesh And Not, David Foster Wallace. New posthumous essay collection.
99. *The Beautiful Indifference, Sarah Hall. Reread. Excellent collection - even better the second time.
98. *Legend Of A Suicide, David Vann. Reread for the PhD. Still massively depressing!
97. Come To Me, Amy Bloom. Short stories, some of them linked. Okay. Not very memorable.
96. Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem. I wasn't initially keen on this (though I'm a Lethem fan) but I was hooked by the end. Very long, mind.

October 
95. Cathedral, Raymond Carver. Classic story collection.
94. The Stinging Fly: Issue 22 (Summer 2012). Great Irish literary journal.
93. (e) Three Men On The Bummel, Jerome K Jerome. Not as funny as Three Men On A Boat.
92. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil / In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders. Novella and stories - brilliant, witty, weird.
91. Julius Winsome, Gerard Donovan. Amazing novel about love and revenge.
90. The Stone Thrower, Adam Marek. Great collection of short stories.
89. The Children's Book, AS Byatt. Very evocative. A little too long, maybe. But still great.

September 
88. This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz. Excellent short story collection.
87. Boneland, Alan Garner. Sequel to below, but for adults. Not entirely convinced. 
86. * The Moon of Gomrath, Alan Garner. Sequel to below. Also great.
85. * The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner. Excellent classic kids' fantasy.
84. Train Dreams, Denis Johnson. I'm a big fan but I didn't love this as much as the Pulitzer committee did.
83. (e) Coconut Unlimited, Nikesh Shukla. Coming of age novel with Asian teen rappers. 
82. NW, Zadie Smith. Ambitious new novel. More interesting than her others.
81. The Inheritors, William Golding. Interesting. About Neanderthals.

August
80. The Dogs and the Wolves, Irene Nemirovsky. Boring and disappointing.
79. The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris. Excellent, Cormac McCarthy-esque novel. Very bleak.
78. Capital, John Lanchester. Maybe the most dull book I've read this year.
77. The Lighthouse, Alison Moore. Excellent novel on this year's Booker longlist.
76. Walk The Blue Fields, Claire Keegan. Absolutely brilliant collection of short stories.
75. Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the World, ed. Rebecca Lloyd, Indira Chandrasekhar. Some great stories in here.
74. (e) Shut Up/Look Pretty, various authors. Flash fiction, short stories and a novella. Mixed.
73. Mother America, Nuala Ni Chonchuir. Decent short story collection.
72. Flatland, Edwin A Abbott. Mathematical/social fiction from the 1880s. I loved this as a kid - geek ahoy.
71. (e) The Spectacular, Keith Ridgway. Another story from the world of Hawthorn & Child. Didn't like it quite as much as some of the others, but it's very good all the same. Only on Kindle.
70. Try, Dennis Cooper. Disgusting! Needless to say, I loved it. One for Easton Ellis fans.
69. Leaving The Atocha Station, Ben Lerner. Clever and funny short novel about an American poet abroad.
68. Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart. Candide meets Catch 22 meets A Confederacy of Dunces - in Russia.

July
67. Hawthorn & Child, Keith Ridgway. Brilliant. Novel/stories sort of about a pair of detectives. Brilliant.
66. Close Your Eyes, Ewan Morrison. Didn't like it. Unimaginative prose, dull.
65. Blow Your House Down, Pat Barker. Excellent. A community of prostitutes group together. Loved it.
64. The Man Who Wasn't There, Pat Barker. Quirky short novel, not massively memorable.
63. Emma Hearts LA, Keris Stainton. Sequel to below, really enjoyable. (Makes me want to go there...)
62. Jessie Hearts NYC, Keris Stainton. Smart and funny YA novel.
61. Americana, Don DeLillo. Great (I love Don) but I still prefer White Noise and Underworld.
60. Boxer Beetle, Ned Beauman. Cool, idiosyncratic set-up, but didn't like how it panned out.
59. Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is always good.
58. (e)* Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce. Third time round, still don't like it.
57. (e) 31, Calum Kerr. Flash fiction from the director of NFFD.
56. (e) Housewife With A Half-Life, AB Wells. SF romp by my twitter pal, Alison.
55. Best British Short Stories 2011, ed. Nicholas Royle. Good collection with some gems.
54. A Sport And A Pastime, James Salter. Great prose, and clever, but not really my thing.

June 
53. (e) Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, Kerry Hudson. Grimy and frantic and full of optimism and colour. Great debut.
52. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout. A novel in stories - amazing stuff. Loved it.
51. The Hat You Wear. Anthology of readings from the 2012 Manchester Book Market.
50. Life Class, Pat Barker. WWI, artists - good.
49. Ancient Light, John Banville. Meh. Bet it'll win prizes.
48. Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis. Excellent. Funniest thing I've read in ages.
47. Toby's Room, Pat Barker. Another WW1 novel - decent. Sequel to Life Class.
46. Granta 119: Britain. A mixed bag, but there's soe really great stuff in there.
45. The Insult, Rupert Thompson. Interesting, though I didn't like the second half.
44. Kaffeklatsch, Vol.1, No.2. Lovely poetry journal. (Get me, all poetic-like!)
43. Resurrection Of A Hanged Man, Denis Johnson. Excellent, excellent.
42. Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel. Stupendous sequel to Wolf Hall. Read of the tear, thus far.

May
41. Why By Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson. Compelling memoir about the author's adoption.
40. 50 Stories About Sting, Benjamin Judge. Beautiful and hilarious little chapbook.
39. The Deadman's Pedal, Alan Warner. Another good one by Mister Morvern Callar.
38. The China Factory, Mary Costello. Fantastic short stories by an Irish writer worth watching.
37. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. Really imaginative.
36. Sawn-Off Tales, David Gaffney. Brilliant very very short stories.
35. Beirut 39: New Fiction from the Arab World. Interesting anthology.

April
34. There But For The, Ali Smith. Did not like this one bit. Far too  much punning (amongst other sins).
33. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games sequel. See below....
32. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games sequel. Not bad. Action-movie-esque.
31. A Week In December, Sebastian Faulks. Awful. Massively dull.
30. I Burn Paris, Bruno Jasienski. First English translation of a 1928 French/Polish classic. Good stuff!
29. The Passage, Justin Cronin. Brilliant epic sci-fi vampire book. Just as good as The Stand. Loved it.
28. Dark Lies The Island, Kevin Barry. Outstanding short story collection.

March
27. Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem. His first, and not his best, but I have a soft spot.
26. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. Battle Royale for YA. Entertaining enough.
25. Reality, Reality, Jackie Kay. Engaging short story collection.
24. Five Boys, Mick Jackson. Entertaining, but not a patch on The Underground Man.
23. There Are Little Kingdoms, Kevin Barry. Unbelievably good short stories.
22. Homesick, Roshi Fernando. Great collection of linked stories about Sri Lankans in London.
21. The Tiger's Wife, Téa Obreht. Fantastic prose, but structurally dissatisfying.

February 
20. Care of Wooden Floors, Will Wiles. Odd, funny novel.
19. Somewhere Else, Or Even Here, AJ Ashworth. Fantastic, sad, beautiful short stories.
18. Ten Stories About Smoking, Stuart Evers. Entertaining stories thematically linked by, well, smoking.
17. (e) The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Not sure this counts as a whole book?
16. (e) The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte. Not bad, though the epistolary format was daft.
15. An Invisible Sign Of My Own, Aimee Bender. Waaaay too twee for me.

January
14. Everything's Fine, Socrates Adams. Reminded me of Gordon Lish's work. Brilliant.
13. (e) Jeff In Venice, Death in Varanasi, Geoff Dyer. My first Dyer - liked it a lot.
12. Dark Eden, Chris Beckett. SF novel. Not bad.
11. Vox, Nicholson Baker. Literary phone sex. Baker is an odd chap!
10. U & I, Nicholson Baker. Baker's paean to Updike. Funny.
9. (e) Present At A Hanging, Ambrose Bierce. Short stories. Not bad.
8. (e) Middlemarch, George Eliot. A monster, but liked once I got stuck in.
7. A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore. A brutally sad novel - really excellent.
6. The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker. Very funny meandering thoughts of an office worker.
5. Haggadah, ed. Jonathan Safran Foer. Jewish text for the Passover Seder. Poetic. Interesting.
4. This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You, Jon McGregor. Interesting story collection.
3. Room Temperature, Nicholson Baker. A man's thoughts wander while he's feeding his baby. Lovely.
2. Cadenza 16, ed. Zoe King. Ditto (though I preferred number19.)
1. Cadenza 19, ed. Zoe King. Cadenza doesn't exist any more, but I got a couple of copies from Zoe back in 2009. Nice short set of poems and stories.