Monday, October 27, 2008

Gothic continued: The Gargoyle

Interupted The Seance to read The Gargoyle, which I've been patiently waiting to arrive in my library since I read the NYT review.

I could not put this book down. It is a compelling read that is difficult to describe. Call it a kind of mystery story, gothic romance and meditation on love. To give anymore away would be to ruin the story.

One of the best 'grab you immediately' chapters of a book I have read for while too.

I also loved the 'story within story' aspect of the book. The book traverses, Dante’s Inferno and fables from Japan and Greenland. Fascinating.

Part of my enjoyment also came from the sarcastic narrator, whose jaundiced and cynical view of the world is scarily similar to mine!

The book has managed to lodge in my mind since I have finished it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gothic stories - Oz style: John Harwood

So excited, I've got my hands on Australian author John Harwood's latest gothic ghost novel, The Seance.

I read the blurb and loved it:

"London, the 1880s. A young girl grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for the child lost."

Cool or what? I know I'm going to be up for some late nights with this book.

I stumbled upon Harwood's first book, The Ghostwriter by accident at the library. I was enthralled, it was a great ghost novel.

I'm a bit of newbie to the whole gothic suspense genre, but got a taste for it after reading the Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale.

This book is brillant. I could not put it down, it is so well written in terms of characters, narrative and of course a real page turner. I'd recommend this book if you are after an enthralling read that just totally draws you and doesn't let go...right onto the last page.

There is nothing like curling up in bed with a great ghost story. Even better if it is cold and wet, hearing the rain on your window while reading a ghost story really adds to the ambiance.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Food and history combined: Fushia Dunlop's Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper

Just finished Fushia Dunlop’s Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China.

It's a fascinating and enjoyable read, the intertwining of history and food together in a travelogue, plus recipes too. What more can one ask for?

I learnt a lot about China and Chinese food in this book, but it never felt like a lecture. Dunlop writes in such an engaging way and captures the complex feelings of being totally at home in another culture but then realising that you are, and always will be, still a ‘foreigner’ in the eyes of the ‘locals’.

Her affection and love for China and Chinese cookery comes across clearly. There is a real depth to this book, both in terms of research and analysis. It really is a stand out read on so many different levels and also so different from the often shallow living in exotic/romantic overseas place memoirs out there.

I love how Dunlop skilfully dissects both Chinese and Western stereotypes of each other’s cuisine. And interestingly, she identifies how Western countries ignore China as a place where ‘haute cuisine’ happens. She notes that Ferran Adria, the famed chef from El Bulli, actually identifies China as the country above all others where exciting things are happening in terms of innovation and food.

Oh and her descriptions of the food are so sharp you can taste the flavours and textures, especially when she talks about dumplings and noodles. It reminded me of the time I was staying with my family in San Francisco. Every morning for breakfast my auntie made fresh wontons in broth for me - yes homemade pork wontons, freshly steamed and then placed in homemade broth. Mmmm....I felt like a right little Emperor!

Imagine waking up to this every morning:

The book has one of the funniest and touching epilogues I’ve read. I won’t give it all away but it has got to do with a caterpillar and a salad. And the NY Times Review is right, it is a really fun a “swashbuckling memoir studded with recipes.”

Go out and read this NOW.

Plus I have been also checking out Dunlop's blog - cool pictures of red hot chillies - love it!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Satisfying Crime Read’s Continued – Val McDermid

Reading the latest PD James has started me on a crime-reading spree.

Just finished Val McDermid’s The Mermaids Singing.

McDermid writes a quality crime thriller – the narrative is set at a fast pace and the suspense is fantastic. But, there are also fully developed characters and a lot of funny dialogue and humour too.

Plus I swear DCI Carol Jordan's overbearing, overweight, sexist, boss reminds me of an ex-boss of mine. Right down to T. Scary.

And I must admit a crush on the kooky, slightly self-obsessed and geeky Dr Tony Hill, psychological profiler extraordinaire. He is the perfect foil to the cool, calm and organised DCI Carol Jordan.

In a reverse on the usual, I have already seen a couple of episodes of the BBC TV series version of McDermid's Dr Tony Hill series. Called, The Wire in the Blood it is perfectly cast Robson Green and Hermione Norris.
Gotta say, so far the book are just as good.

I’m about to start The Torment of Others – so will be a couple of late nights!

Oh here's another pic of RG for your viewing pleasure: