Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tome Time - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Started October 16th, finished October 16th.

This was an impulse 'free for Kindle' Amazon download.  I fully intend to exhaust their free ebooks that tickle my fancy.  Suggestions are mroe than welcome :-)

I love this film but I'm afraid to say I hadn't read the book first.  When the film was released I didn't even know there was a book.  

I wasn't surprised to find the book much 'quieter' than the film.  It hadn't been 'Burtoned'.

The tsory tells of Ichabod Crane.  A lanky, superstitious guy who isn't ever going to be part of the 'in crowd'.  He is sent to the small hamlet of Sleepy Hollow as a schoolteacher.  Here he falls for a girl who is seemingly way out of his league.  I won't tell you any more.  It's a short enough tale to enjoy in one sitting and i think worth a read.

The book is spooky with a sense of fun.  Just the right length to tell the somewhat open-ended tale.  It is definitely one I will read again.  None of the characters are fleshed out very much.  The style is more the telling of a folk tale.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tome Time - 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn

Started October 11th, finished October 15th.

After the events of 9/11 I read quite a lot of books written by people involved in the events, cleanup or building of the World Trade Center.  Then for quite a few years I didn't read anything more.  With the tenth anniversary of those terrible attacks there were obviously books being re-released and catching my eye.

This book tells the tales of those that were in the towers from the time the first 'plane struck to the the falling of the North Tower.  Needless to say this is a moving book.  It seems to contain only what is factually known.  No romanticising things, it's totally unnecessary.

It is well told.  The stage is set well.  The events unfold without any overdramatic build ups to what we know will unfold.  This is s very moving book and although you know the final outcome it is very gripping.  The stories that are most well known are not dwelt on.  Making this a very human book where it would be difficult not to empathise with the people whose stories you are learning.

The facts about the engineering are explained in layman's terms.  As are the planning laws that were in place as the World Trade Center was planned and built.  There is no finger pointing, just the facts.  Which speak for themselves.  This is not a book for conspiracy theorists.  They will find nothing here to occupy their imagination.

I found this a very well written book about a very tender subject.  It's still hard for me to fully grasp the loss of life on that day in America.  This book helps with that while never trying too hard to expand beyond its remit.

5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tome Time - The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Started October 6th, finished October 10th.

This was a bit of a special read as it was the first I'd read on my ebook reader.  An experience I found I disliked much less than expected.  It's not reading a book by any means and it lacks something but there are also bonuses too.  I won't desert my books but they will be complemented.

The best thing about this book for me was Wilde's way with words.  His put downs are wonderful.  He writes quite differently to anyone else I can think of.  He is a man of wit.  

The story of Dorian Grey is one I assumed I knew.  Picture in the attic and all that.  When I actually thought about it though I realised that was all I knew.  How did the picture come to be?  Is it the only picture?  How does it all end?  Finding the book for free download was the push I needed.

The story moves much slower than I expected.  Maybe a little too slowly.  The scenes are set as opulently as some of the scenes themselves.  We are left in no doubt of the characters and what makes them tick.  I did begin to wonder when things would actually start happening though.  Once they did I was happier.  Though they still meandered a little slower than I'd have liked.  There are so many quotable passages from this book.  Mainly spoken by Lord Henry Wotton.  I wonder if there's any of Wilde in Wotton and his observances.

I did enjoy this book but I wish it had been shorter.  Maybe I was impatient as I can't really say I disliked the  bits that weren't moving the plot along fast enough.  Apparently Wilde added to his original version due to criticism.  Maybe the original version would have suited me better.  I can't complain too much as it isn't a very long book anyway.  I'm glad to have read it and I wouldn't rule out a re-read in the future.  The one thing the book doesn't do is over explanation.  I hate it when everything is explained too heavily.

3.5 pawprints out of 5

Next  - 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn

Tome Time - Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Started September 26th, finished October 6th.

I'm always glad to be starting a new Michael Connelly novel, especially if it's a Harry Bosch story.

This starts with Harry looking into a robbery/murder.  Whilst not being too happy with his partner's work ethic. From there it twists and turns and twists and turns.

This is by far the most 'action' of Connelly's novels that I've read.  It's also the first time I've come sort of close to disbelief.  However, it didn't mar my enjoyment of the story.  I do kind of hope it's not the first of a run of movie style books about Harry.

This looks into things that are new for Harry.  It takles a look at the Immigrant Community and the darker side of that than we've seen before.  Harry leaves LA.  He learns much more about being a father.

I won't go into the plot any more as it would be difficult to do so without spoilers.  Whilst I was reading the book certain things didn't add up for Harry as he was working things out.  It was the same for me.  Stick with it though.  It all makes sense in the end.

There are big shocks in this book.  Connelly certainly doesn't pull any punches.  This is a whirlwind of a story.  One I enjoyed but I'm not sure it would work trying to find similar situations for Bosch to recover from again.  I like his ordinariness.

Harry's life is certainly changed by the happenings in this book.  Much more than we've seen things change before.  I'm interested to see how his story progresses.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tome Time - When the Tripods Came by John Christopher

Started September 26th, finished October 4th.

Now, I have made little secret how The Tripods trilogy is my favourite reading material from when I was but a child.  I still love it.  This is the prequel, written a while after the original trilogy.

I am always dubious when encountering something, added to something great, at a much later date.  However, true to form the author doesn't disappoint.  The story of how the Tripods came to Earth is told through the eyes of a young teen, Laurie and his friend, Andy.  Once again the characters are well written and believable rather than being heroes.  Laurie is reminiscent of Will in some ways and Andy has some similarities to Henry but that is where the links end really.  There is no tedious links to teh original trilogy which would make the story unbelievable.  The story of how The Tripods conquer Earth is well told and logical.  I was originally feared that this book could spoil the experience of the story.  It doesn't, it enhances it.

It leaves you at just the right point.  You know where they are and what will come but it's not all tied up in a patronising fashion.

Whenever I re-read the books I always read the prequel last.  It feels much better that way.  I suppose I should try reading it first and see what that does to the reading experience...

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Need Your Help!

Reading Challenge 2012

Dear Reader, you probably know that I did the 50 Book Challenge this year.  As I have little responsibility in my life and I read too fast I managed to finish early.  I probably would again if I tried next year so I decided to opt for something a little different.

I would like to expand my reading outside my comfort zone.  I have decided on 12 genres and I would like you to choose for me a book in those genres.  Hopefully I will get at least one suggestion for a book that is new to me.  I will read at least one book from the genre list each month and try for more than that.

The list is below and I'll be repeating requests for each month as we go along.  Please comment with your suggestions.  I need help to travel further afield in the world of literature.

January - Great  American Novels.  This is an area I have hardly read anything at all.  In fact I think the only book that would qualify that I've read is To Kill A Mockingbird.

February - Historical Fiction.  I have read quite a bit in this field but I want to find something new.

March - Classic British Novels.  Again an area I am shamefully uneducated in.

April - Novels Set In or Around Manchester.  My latest interest in reading.

May - Travel Memoirs.  Not an area I've read much in at all.  Strange as I love to travel and this genre should appeal to me.

June - Fantasy Novel.  I haven't read much in this area lately.  Apart from the first in the Game of Thrones serial.

July - Biography.  An area I find fascinating but I want to read about someone that hasn't occurred to me before or one I've missed that I should have read.

August - Science Fiction.  An area in which I am scandalously badly read.

September - Crime Fiction.  Probably my favourite genre and I'm always hungry for more of it.

October - A Non-Adult Book.  Maybe teen fiction/young adult fiction would be a better description.  An area I feel many adults miss little gems.

November - Autobiography.  Same as with biography really :-)

December - Your Favourite Book.  Whatever you feel I should definitely read.  In any genre, fiction or non-fiction.

I am quite excited about this so please give me plenty of suggestions and ask people you know to do so too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tome Time - Doctor Who The Tomb of the Cybermen by Gerry davis

Started Sept 30th, finished Oct 2nd.

This is a follow along with  Paul's Blog.  Pop over there.  His reviews are usually in much more depth.

I was looking forward to this one.  I hadn't read it before and it's one of my favourite stories.  Luckily I had missed the hype before I saw it.

The pedant in me was dismayed by the wrong Cybermen on the cover.  I'm very fond of the very early Cybermen and they shouldn't be airbrushed out!

I have heard that there are slight updates in the Target novel to update it for a more modern audience.  Since we're now even further on those updates were a little lost to me.  I have to say I couldn't find much difference between the text and the TV version. 

The story was told well.  Built most of it's character's up at a good pace.  If I had to choose between the book and the TV version I'd take the TV version.  That's rare for me but 'those iconic scenes' just don't come across as well in the book.

I enjoyed this telling a lot although the excitement is never there when you know how it all ends.  I'd say it's one of the better re-tellings.  It's just a shame I never read it as a kid.  Unless I've forgotten that I did.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - When the Tripods Came by John Christopher

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tome Time - Twisting My Melon by Shaun Ryder

Started September 27th, Finished September 30th

Now, I knew before I borrowed this book from the library the risk I was taking.  They say you should never meet your idols.  Though no-one in the right mind would cast Ryder as an idol.)  I would add to that, be very wary of the memoirs of those characters you find interesting.  Hearing someone tell their story always alters your perception of them.  Sometimes, as with Mandelson, you are pleasantly surprised.  Others and I think a little more often they disappoint.  That's probably because they're human and I've built up an image I like to think of them as in my mind.  The worst was Gordon Ramsay, I read his autobio and liked him a lot less once I'd finished.  I then read Marco Pierre White's and was amazed how he'd managed to write a book about himself, I'd read it and I knew very little more afterwards.  he managed to hide his true self behind words.

Now Shaun Ryder, the local legend I grew up hearing about.  Star of many a scandalised newspaper article.  Centre of many urban myths.  The man who seemed to epitomise the Madchester dream.  I knew very little past the facade that had been erected around him and his bands.  I didn't watch I'm a Celebrity.

I knew reading this would give the legend back the bog standard humanity.  The question was would I like what I read?  In truth, it didn't give me huge feelings either way.  He cam across as pretty selfish at times but not too badly.  It would be nice to read an account from someone else in the band.  He's not too complimentary about most of them.  Without ever seeming to see that he must have been hell to work and tour with.

He tells his story pretty light heartedly.  The scrapes he gets himself into are far from funny but the way he tells it you can't help but see an amusing side.  It's written well by him and his ghost writer in that you can fly through it.  This isn't a book to ponder over and weigh up the morals.  That would be painful.  Pick it up, go along for the ride and enjoy it.  Just be glad he can remember as much as he has!

3.5 pawprints out of 5

Next - Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen by Gerry Davis

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tome Time - The Third Man by Peter Mandelson

Started September 6th, finished September 24th.

Now this is a massive read.  It's thick enough but then you realise how small the typeface is. 

It is a book I'm glad I gave the time to though.  It's a fascinating look at modern politics and New Labour.  It's a no holds barred look at both those subjects.  The big surprise was the lack of bitterness and bitchiness.  The book is startlingly fair.  I couldn't quite understand how he could be so fair but maybe the nasty environment of power grabbing they call politics gives you a thick skin.

No one comes out of this book all nice and shiny bur no one is shot down in flames either.  Gordon Brown comes out the worst.  Even more so because Mandelson doesn't attack him personally.  Letting the acts speak for themselves.

Blair and Campbell don't shine all the time.  Blair comes across as weak and Campbell as arrogant and unwilling to listen. 

Mandelson tells an often complicated and dragged out story well.  Some pieces took longer to read than others but I never wanted to put the book down.  I would have liked to hear more about his work as an MP.  That features very little.  leading me to believe that 'career politicians' have a constituency merely to gain a cabinet position.  What benefit that is to those constituencies is worrying.

Another question that raised its head persistently was who pays for all the back room staff?  Next time the Labour party rings me for a donation at election time it will get short thrift.  Politics seems to be about image rather than helping the masses.  Thankfully we have limits on electioneering spending.  So while we may waste considerably less than the US (think what their party spends could do in NASAs budget instead) we still could improve on how party's spend their donations.

I did feel that Mandelson had the urge to better the country and especially it's lower classes.  However I think that is impossible if you also want to have a 'career' in Politics.

This is a fascinating but very long book.  I'd recommend reading it in sections.  Even the chapters were monstrously large.  It would be interesting to read as candid a book as this from his opposite side of the House of Commons.  I fear it would read very much the same though.

Next - Red Shift by Alan Garner

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tome Time - The Cats on Hutton Roof by Marilyn Edwards

Started August 22nd, finished September 22nd.

This is another titbit book.  The third in the series by the author about life for her and her cats.  In this book there is much upheaval as they all move house.

These books are wonderful for cat lovers but may not entrance one who is not so enamoured.  I love the author's observations.  So many are so similar to many of my own.  This lady can just tell the story much better than I ever could if I tried.  

The illustrations are also superb.  Not all artists, by far, can catch that feline essence.  It may have four legs and a tail but it doesn't always look like a cat.  Peter Warner catches it perfectly.

The story is mainly about life with her cats but also includes other people's stories.  People she has met and people who have contacted her with their stories.  These are always wonderful to read but, be warned have had the tears rolling on more than one occasion.  She also includes info on the local wildlife and her neighbours.  It's a lovely book to read.  Makes me want to move myself and my cats somewhere more rural.  One day....

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Third Man by Peter Mandelson