Kat Matfield

Wild swan 1664 Reputation points Help-d956b624e3a70f299ff60fb4f6e79359
  • Infinite Jest

    Absorbing, demanding, rewarding

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    This took me a month to read and my strongest impulse after reading the last page was to begin again from the start. The book is slow to start, but the sheer volume of details of the world Wallace creates - equal parts strange and familiar, satire and meditation on the possible future - soon becomes irresistable. I've heard it described as maximalist, and I can see why - Wallace gives you vast amounts of information on every facet of the story, some seemingly irrelevant, and more information still in the copious footnotes. It's also a teasing read - you don't know which of this torrent of information will be essential to understand later events and which will deepen your understanding and which is irrelevant (vastly less than you think). Wallace never offers a simple explanation when a slow trickle of information over a hundred pages (which requires the reader to make his/her own connections) is possible. And my, is it deep. There is enough going on in this book to demand ...This took me a month to read and my strongest impulse after reading the last page was to begin again from the start. The book is slow to start, but the sheer volume of details of the world Wallace creates - equal parts strange and familiar, satire and meditation on the possible future - soon becomes irresistable. I've heard it described as maximalist, and I can see why - Wallace gives you vast amounts of information on every facet of the story, some seemingly irrelevant, and more information still in the copious footnotes. It's also a teasing read - you don't know which of this torrent of information will be essential to understand later events and which will deepen your understanding and which is irrelevant (vastly less than you think). Wallace never offers a simple explanation when a slow trickle of information over a hundred pages (which requires the reader to make his/her own connections) is possible. And my, is it deep. There is enough going on in this book to demand rereadings. I came away from the book with the sense I'd only scratched the surface, but without the sense of dissatisfaction that so commonly accompanies this feeling. My overweening impression is one of awe - it's a sprawling, intricate, demanding, comic epic. And the only book that could possible be worth reading 1000 pages. (more)

  • The Coronation (Erast Fandorin 7)

    Workman-like installment in a generally excellent series

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    This is generally as enjoyable as much of the Fandorin series - the narration from the suspicious, upright royal butler is an especial treat - but seems to require more knowledge of Russian history than I possess to get the most out of the story. The crime and villain seem a little too much as if they were cut from the same pattern as other books - Special Assignments and The State Counsellor in particular.

  • Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century

    An uneasy mix of memoir and layman's guide

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    This is an entertaining guide to some of the best known or most influential experiments in psychological history, their critics and ramifications, but this aspect of the book is frequently lost amid the authors meandering, memoir-style writing. She gives equal weight to her attempts to recreate the experiments (interesting) and the things in her past they remind her of (less interesting). It caused quite a bit of controversy at the time when the author was accused of misremembering/falsifying the interviews with prominent psychologists that make up much of the book - but these encounters seem too full of oddness and awkwardness to be entirely made up. Again, while these bits are enteratining, the book does feel like an unsuccessful mixture of 'personal journey' and intelligent layman's guide.

  • Mr Toppit

    Wry and tragic look at the Harry Potter effect

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    I came to this book expecting something very different but, once I had ceased to be disconcerted, I quite enjoyed this tale of the effects on the family of an author after his series of children's books become a global phenomenon. The author of the books, an unassuming, mild man at peace with being a failure, dies early on in the novel after being run over by a cement truck in London

  • Buckingham Palace Gardens

    Adequate but uninspiring victorian crime novel

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    This novel comes quite far on in a series featuring Pitt, Anne Perry's later 19th century detective figure and, while the story stands alone, it seems like a novel that would be improved by being read in its place in the sequence. Standing alone, it felt a little slight - tantilising hints of that offer a baffingly incomplete glimpse into the regular characters' depths start to irritate after a while. The story follows the aftermath of the murder of a prostitute in the guest quarters of Buckingham Palace, currently occupied by a group of businessmen pitching an ambitious trans-African railway project to the Prince of Wales, and their wives. The plot is pleasingly twisting but hampered by the fact that the murderer is obvious from the start and his motives apparent not long after. The sections told from the point of view of one of the businessmen's wives offers interesting insights into the lives of upper-class women, but at the price of a soapy star-crossed lovers sub-plot. ...This novel comes quite far on in a series featuring Pitt, Anne Perry's later 19th century detective figure and, while the story stands alone, it seems like a novel that would be improved by being read in its place in the sequence. Standing alone, it felt a little slight - tantilising hints of that offer a baffingly incomplete glimpse into the regular characters' depths start to irritate after a while. The story follows the aftermath of the murder of a prostitute in the guest quarters of Buckingham Palace, currently occupied by a group of businessmen pitching an ambitious trans-African railway project to the Prince of Wales, and their wives. The plot is pleasingly twisting but hampered by the fact that the murderer is obvious from the start and his motives apparent not long after. The sections told from the point of view of one of the businessmen's wives offers interesting insights into the lives of upper-class women, but at the price of a soapy star-crossed lovers sub-plot. Enjoyable while it lasts, but utterly forgettable after the last page. (more)

  • The Girl Who Played with Fire

    Gripping sequel, with much more of Lisbeth Sallander

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    Lisbeth Sallander was by far my favourite part of the first book in this series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and this book offers more insight into the obstreporous, prickly investigative genius, with an exploration of her dark and unpleasant childhood. Mikael Blomkvist is back too, investigating the brutal murders of two journalists who were about to break a major story in Blomkvist's magazine - a story that implicated governement figures and high-up police officers in the traffic of women for the sex trade. Going on the very limited evidence available at the scene and Lisbeth's violent past, the Swedish police name Sallander as the prime suspect, and the hunt is on, with Sallander trying to finally tie up loose ends from her past while Blomkvist fights to clear her name and find the real culprit. Despite my love for Sallander, I didn't enjoy this book so much as the first. It could just be my personal preference for serial killer stories over organised crime novels, ...Lisbeth Sallander was by far my favourite part of the first book in this series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and this book offers more insight into the obstreporous, prickly investigative genius, with an exploration of her dark and unpleasant childhood. Mikael Blomkvist is back too, investigating the brutal murders of two journalists who were about to break a major story in Blomkvist's magazine - a story that implicated governement figures and high-up police officers in the traffic of women for the sex trade. Going on the very limited evidence available at the scene and Lisbeth's violent past, the Swedish police name Sallander as the prime suspect, and the hunt is on, with Sallander trying to finally tie up loose ends from her past while Blomkvist fights to clear her name and find the real culprit. Despite my love for Sallander, I didn't enjoy this book so much as the first. It could just be my personal preference for serial killer stories over organised crime novels, but there are another couple of factors. The introduction of a team of police officers made it quite complicated to keep up with all the oddly-named (to my anglophone mind) characters which messed with my enjoyment of the intricate plot. The fact that Sallander and Blomkvist spend most of the novel apart leaves a hole in the centre of the book occupied in the first novel by the scenes of their joint investigation. Splitting the investigation between Sallander and Blomkvist, who spend most of the novel working at cross-purposes, also means that the pace of the novel is not as strong as the first. Nonetheles, this is still a top class mystery, with a satisfyingly complicated plot and intriguing characters. (more)

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Find me at: www.completelynovel.com/katmatfield

Interests Afternoon tea, childlike wonder, hard spirits, independent cinema, bohemian lifestyles, and obscure history

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