Humbooks my choices for Sue


I nearly missed Emma and Guys  Humbook post and thus missed chance to join in the virtually gift books to a partner for Christmas .So when I managed to get in and was chosen to be partner with Sue from whispering Gums , who I got to know via last year’s Shadow Man Asian . So one of my choices is one I think she will love and the other is one I d like to see her view on it,because when I read it I loved it and now planning a reread so be great to compare notes  .

faces in the crowd

Faces in the crowd by Valeria Luiselli –

this is the choice I feel Sue will love  ,like I did when I read it earlier this year .It is short novella from the up and coming female Mexican writer ,A women now back in Mexico looks back on her time in New York and the fact she was working on a paper on an earlier Mexican poet ,his and her worlds blur as she starts to see him as she heads round New York .Wonderfully poetic and one I feel Sue will love she doesn’t do many translated book but I feel this is one she will really get and I know she tends to read more female writers so this is great choice .

a dead man in deptford

A Dead man in Deptford by Anthony Burgess –

I love his works and the fact that Vintage have just reissued a number of his books including this one , seemed a  great excuse to virtual gift it to  Sue as she  seems to read a few historic fiction novel than myself and this is in that style but the imagine life of Christopher Marlowe as a spy ,I really felt he capture Marlowe as a man trying to keep alive .I read this one when it came out it,sadly  was one of Burgess last novels ,I also have another  motive through gifting this to Sue ,but more about that at another time .

What books have you got for Christmas ?

Best Music ,Tv AND Fillms 2012

I thought be fun to go through some of my music Tv and film highlights of 2012 ,I do worry as I get older having passed 40 this year .My taste are getting quite nostalgic ,this year saw a whole heap of new albums by artists I have loved for year ,so new music been harder to find ,I mean I could not by the two new Neil Young albums could I now ! any way here goes –

Best music 2012 –

I did in the middle of the year have start a music blog partly for the reason I stated my worry of becoming middle-aged and boring in my music tastes ,so here are a few albums I have enjoyed in the past twelve months .

Father John Mistry- fear fun –

The first album under a new name released by J Tilman the former drummer from fleet foxes ,This album saw a change in direction from his earlier solo efforts which where nearer fleet foxes in tone ,this album saw him move towards a more rocky , country rock feel ,also a darker tone to his lyrics .As seen in this video .

The Beachwood spark – The tarnished Gold

A band that disappeared for year but this was first time I had heard of them in this album that saw them return after eleven year ,an album of laid back california rock in fact at times you’d think it was a lost Laurel Canyon classic .As you can see in this video .

Bill Fay – Life is people

I think this is my favourite of year ,you have ask what took him so long this was his first new music in Forty years .But boy was it worth the wait a voice that has age like Cohen ,waits or the late Johnny Cash .Fay lyrics are simple affairs but you find they stick in your head all day after you’ve listened to him .As you see from video something spiritual I found in his music .

Reissue  of the year -A R Kane the singles

I couldn’t find the tapes I had of there early albums, so this reissue was welcome for a band even in there day were overlooked but in their  own way were very influential over ambient dance and shoegazing music .

Other mentions –

Neil Young – Psychedelia Pill – there first Jam album and some great guitar solo’s but maybe not his best lyrics .

Bob Dylan – Tempest – Any new dylan album is a must to me ,but must admit this one has stuck on ipod all year ,which is longer than his last few .

Best Tv programmes –

Well I don’t really get to follow series these days ,with my job shifts mean it is very rare I get a day of the week where I’m not working at some point over space of few weeks ,which makes following series quite hard but I have a couple that I have followed by catching up on line .

Elementary –

When I first heard there was going be an US version of the uk series Sherlock .So when I was Johnny Lee Miller and the casting of Lucy Liu as a female Watson ,was exciting .So I watched the first one and yes it is a bit to like other us drama’s like CSI and House ,but it has one great factor they don’t and that is the frantic Johnny Lee Miller who captures a former drug addict Sherlock so well a man with a past but also a little manic .Great see Miller in a role he is suited too an underused actor I have always thought .

Sherlock  –

the second series of Sherlock built on the first series ,I loved the new take on the hound of the Baskervilles a wonderfully clever twist on the original story .

The story of film an odyssey  –

A journey through film making .I enjoyed how Mark cousin mixed both historic and thematic tones in each episode to build a history of the cinema world-wide ,this did leave me with a list of films I need to see needless to say .

Best Films 2012

Well I don’t often go to pictures so most of the films I watch tend to be when the reach sky so my list will be films from earlier this year .

Tiny furniture –

The debut film from Lena Dunham ,ok it was out before 2012 but I got to it this year and loved her quirky and odd view of the world as a daughter returning home after college facing up to the next step in life ,whilst having parties and meeting a cast of odd characters .

Ted –

we went to cinema to watch this as Amanda and I very rarely agree on films we like but this was a wonderfully funny film about what if a ted came to life and how he deals with his kid growing up ,made me laugh all way through and any film with Sam Jones the flash Gordon from the camp classic is worth watching .

That’s it lots I want to watch when they reach tv or I get them on dvd ,moonrise kingdom and beasts of the southern wild being two .

What have been your music book and film highlights ?

My books of the Year 2012

where tigers are at home

Well I was lucky enough to be asked to name five but actually got ten books for Booktrust Translated fiction Blog so if you click over there .You can see my main choices ,but here are some others .

Honourable mentions for fiction 

When picking the books for the  Translated fiction list I tried to stick with certain places and countries thus two books I loved I didn’t mention there they are –

the flying creatures of fra angelico

The flying creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi -a clever collection of quirky stories and fictional letters from the late Italian writer .


Azazeel By Youssef Ziedan – A Coptic monk struggles with his consciousness as he works on some scripts in 5th century Egypt .

Best non fiction in translation


A journey to Nowhere by Jean Paul Kaufmann -A man journey to Latvia to discover the long-lost country of Courland a small but important country in its time .

Honorable mention – brother mendels perfect horse by Frank westermann

Best memoir in translation

Lanzmann  the patagonian hare

The Patagonian  Hare by Claude Lanzmann Editor of Les Temps Modernes Sartre’s famous  lit mag ,resistance fighter in world war two, oh and he made the film Shoah as well .

Honourable  mention fictional memoir  –  A Death in the Family By Karl Ove Knausgaard

Well that’s my year .

The sound of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

the sounds of things falling

The sounds of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Columbian fiction

Spanish title El ruido de las cosas al caer

Translator Anne McLean

Source Review copy

Jean Gabriel Vasquez is a Columbian writer ,This is his third novel ,he studied law ,after getting his degree he lived in france in the late 1990’s then Belgium finally settling in Barcelona in Spain .I have previously reviewed his second novel the secret history of Costaguana which was on the IFFP list two years ago .

The first hippopotamus ,a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half ,was shot dead in the middle of 2009 .He’d escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar’s old zoo in the Magdalena valley ,and during that time of freedom had destroyed crops ,invaded drinking troughs ,terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch .

the opening of the novel .

So I have read his previous two novel both set in the past ,as is this his latest but this is set more in the present past than his previous two .This is a close look at his homelands distant past .This book deals with the horror of the drug trade and its effects on people .I was struck by the opening of this book that sees a Hippo that has escape from the zoo that was owned by the notorious drugs baron Pablo Escobar ,this reminded me of the novella down the rabbit hole by Juan Pablo Villabos which saw a young boy wanting a pygmy hippo he was actually the sone of a Mexican drugs baron .Anyway back to this book the shooting of the hippo was read by Antonio Yammara now a teaching law ,but his has a Proustian moment reading this and is brought back to the mid 90’s and the hieght of the drug cartels stranglehold on Columbia .Yammara was a young lawyer not overly happy with his lot and spent afternoons in a pool hall this is where he meet Ricardo Laverde ,this guy is a pilot and is maybe mixed up with the wrong people but is someone the young Yammara made a connection with this guy he has spent time in prison and gives Yammara a tape and then is shortly gunned down ,This tape and his wanting to find out more about Ricardo Laverde and how he end up gunned down ,in doing so we see the start and the rise of the drug trade in Columbia .Added to that Ricardo’s daughter and a love story in a way you get a lot in this book.I saw this quest as Yammara trying to find himself as well as what happened and maybe find his place in the world .

A black cassette with an orange label .On that labe a single word BASF

“it is just side A ” ,Consu told me “when your finished listening to it ,leave it all beside the stove .There where the matches are .And make sure the door’s closed properly when you leave ”

The tape from Ricardo that sets Yammara on his quest .

Well this book gives you a real insight into how Columbia fell apart and is slowly dragging its self out of the dark times .I felt in parts this was a personnel story Vasquez was telling a story of his homeland and its distant past through his eyes in a way he did study law and in some ways you could see Yammara as maybe an alternate Vasquez had he stayed in Columbia and not gone to France.What we get is an unflinching portrait ,we all remember the names of people like Escobar ,but until I read this I had not seen the newtons cradle like effect of the drugs trade on every one in Columbia .As ever you can’t pick fault with the twice IFFP winning translator Anne Maclean work on this book it won the Premio Alfaguara on of the best regard and richest literary prize for spanish language fiction other recent winners include Santiago Roncagliolo and Andres Neuman both of which are under review here at winstonsdad .

Have you read Juan Gabriel Vasquez ?

Honour by Elif Shafak


Honour by Elif Shafak

Turkish fiction

source Library copy

Elif Shafak is one of the most prolific writers of Turkish origins around today ,she writes in both Turkish and English .Raised by her single mother as her parents seperated when she was just one year old she grew up in various place round Europe ,She has been longlisted for the IMPAC prize  and her novels have also caused much discussion in Turkey .Honour is her eight novel .

My mother died twice .I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten ,but I could never find the time or the will or the courage to write about it .That is ,until recently .I don’t think I’ll ever become a real writer and that’s quite all right now .

The opening lines as the daughter of Pembe tries to tell us her story .


Honour is the story of a family set over three generations and from turkey to London at the heart of the story is Twin sisters and a man .Pembe the sister that wins the man moves to london with her young family .she settles in seventies London .That is one strand the next is in the present day about her son and daughter ,the son has been in Shrewsbury prison for 14 years because he killed Pembe .His sister is now preparing for his return .The third strand is following the grandmother as she kept giving birth to girls .So we see how from the grandmother to the grand-daughter how things have and haven’t changed for turkish women .Well I say Turkish that is another thread this family is half Kurdish .

Adem had spent his entire childhood torn between two fathers his sober Baba and his drunken Babe .The two men lived in the same body .But they were as different from each other as night from day.So sharp was the contrast between them that Adem suspected the drink his father drowned every evening to be some kind of magic potion .

Adem the man who chose Pembe but loved her sister .

I love Shafak style of writing it is lush and hints at magic realism with out ever falling full length into it, the book  has echoes of both writers like Pamuk but also a large chunk of Gabriel Garcia Marquez especially in scope I was reminded of books like Love in the time of Cholera and 100 Years .But this is part of where I found myself struggling maybe it is too much this felt like a great trilogy of three generations stuck into one book .I loved will Self’s umbrella this has a similar feel at times as we cross time to see the family history woven together.I loved the family and especially the time in London in the seventies it so reminded me of bits from my own childhood .I feel if you’re looking for an insight into how Turkish families work from the female point of view this is the book for you .This was my first book for this years shadow man asian  I m staying in turkey for my next read as I read the Pamuk from the shortlist a book set in turkey at the same time this book is set in London .I may also note that Elif has been picked as one of this years jurors for the independent foreign fiction prize .

Have you read her books ?


The spies by Luis Fernando Verissimo

the spies luis verissimo

The Spies by Luis Fernando Vermissimo

Brazilian fiction

Translator Margaret Jull Costa

Original Os Espiões

source – review copy

Well finally I m getting round to my advent Christmas books from Brazil rather late ,we were off work last week and I decided to take a back seat from blogging reading and books as I decide to spend time with Amanda and my family as they had come to see us both.

Anyway back to the book this is another gem from Machlehose I remember his earlier book called Borges and the eternal Orangutans ,a book which caught my eye just by its title so this one , intrigued me So Luis Fernando Verissimo who is he ,well he is probably one of the best known writers in his homeland of Brazil ,his father was a well-known writer ,he started in papers as a copy editor then work up too being a columnist ,well-known for his satire and being a critic of certain right wingers in Brazil ,he has published   seven novel and tens of collections of short stories .

“Our past the living room in the old house with the candle burning on the floor the corner of the ruined garden where he said that if the moon smiled she would resemble me and I cried “are you calling me “moon-faced” ?! and he kissed me me on the mouth for the first time “only with her heart closed could she exact just revenge for what they had done to her father too ”

the note sent too our narrator

The spies as I said is comic noir set in Vermissimo native Brazil ,we meet our narrator he works in a publishing house and receives a mysterious letter from a women called Ariadne from a small town called frondosa ,this town far away from the narrator is in the middle or wild part of Brazil ,she has sent him some writing but he reads finds out she is after revenge and she is going kill her self as her brother and father have been killed by the local gangsters a pair of brothers that live in a foot ball mad town .So our narrator ,decides to leave behind his drunk evenings in the bar discussing the rights and wrongs of books to find out more about this town and the women that sent this too him .Eventually drawing in his drink buddies to spy and thus become the spies .what do they find out ? well read the book ?

The latest news from Frondosa was our man inside had met Franco Martelli .He had been shown round the factory by him and invited to lunch at his house .into the monsters lair !

the man they choose to try to spy reports back

This book is full of humour witty bits on books and writing and middle age men trying to be spies and not always doing it well ,the fact our main character is a hapless chap ,and he is stuck in a rut when Adriadne and the town of Frondosa appears in his and his friends lives is the spark for this adventure  .It has echoes of classic noir the mysterious women ,who may or may not been under the thumb of the bad guy or is she all she seems ,remind me of the classics of Noir cinema ,but then you have our narrator and his friends that come across as characters from an Ealing comedy the great ensemble bits like the lavender hill mob or the ladykillers .so if you fancy a book like the Maltese falcon  done by Ealing films with a few bottles of rum and a jazz album on in the background.There is also maybe a feeling of Greek myths our narrator as a hero Adriadne  on the way to kill and kill her self over her father’s death sounds like it appeals  this is the book for you .As ever Jull Costa translation seems spot on.

Memories of Brazil for me ,well never being to Brazil but  one of the themes in this book is football and I remember the first brazilian I saw that  really made an impact on English football that was Juninho Paulista as he is known but we knew him just as Juninho when he was playing for Middlesbrough so I found a clip video on youtube he was small and quick ,with a big smile it always seemed .

Shadow Man Asian Jury 2012


I was pleased to be ask by this years Chair to join the 2012 edition of the shadow Man Asian prize  By Matthew and to join again Lisa and Mark as fellow jurors for a second year so today saw the longlist for the 2012 prize announced .

  1. Goat Days – Benyamin (India) I m download the ebook of this from Ibooks to read .
  2. Between Clay and Dust – Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan) I contacted Musharraf direct from his website and he has kindly sent me a pdf of this book to read .
  3. Another Country – Anjali Joseph (India) I have ordered this from my libary to read .
  4. The Briefcase – Hiromi Kawakami (Japan) not got this one yet .
  5. Thinner Than Skin – Uzma Aslam Khan (Pakistan) not got this one yet either 
  6. Ru – Kim Thúy (Vietnam / Canada*) I m downloading the ebook from ibooks for this .
  7. Black Flower – Young-Ha Kim (South Korea) I m waiting to hear for the us publisher about this one.
  8. Island of a Thousand Mirrors – Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka) I have been sent a pdf by the Sri lankan publisher .
  9. Silent House – Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) (That’s one I’ve got on my TBR)
  10. Honour – Elif Shafak (Turkey) I ve picked this up from my local library today and have already started it .
  11. Northern Girls – Sheng Keyi (China) no luck in getting this one yet .
  12. The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia) I have already read and reviewed this one 
  13. The Road To Urbino – Roma Tearne (Sri Lanka / U.K.*) I ve order this one from the libary .
  14. Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil (India) I ve picked this one up from Chesterfield’s main library this afternoon .I had it out when it was on the booker longlist but never got to it so will read it this time .
  15. The Bathing Women – Tie Ning (China) I m downloading this from Ibooks .

So as you see I ve  been busy trying to get my hands on as many as possible today  .Many thanks to the publishers and writer from outside the uk who kindly sent me pdf of there books to cover .

What do you think of the shortlist ?

Have you read any ?

December 2012


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