Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I found this on Facebook thanks to Marius whose blog can be found here http://mariuscorner.blogspot.co.uk/
He was happy with his writing style being likened to the great Arthur C Clarke.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I have to admit I was pretty chuffed with Lovecraft.  Though I assure you I differ greatly in mindset towards other things!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tome Time - The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Started January 11th, finished February 17th.  534 pages.

This was a book suggestion for Great American Novel from Adnams.  Thanks for the recommendation.

I had no idea what the book was about before reading.  I just knew it was set during the Great Depression.  From the outset I was intrigued by the introduction of the characters.  My main aim was to find out what had happened to the people as they were introduced and how they'd got to where they were.  Just enough, a bit at a time was revealed about each.  I liked most of the characters.  This was where my difficulty with the book lay.  I liked these people, empathised with them to an extent.  This made it a very hard read.  There is no relief in this book.  The world they inhabit is one of the bleakest I have come across in fiction.  Made all the bleaker by it's reality.  This is our world at its worst.  No fantastical, supernatural forces or huge disasters.  Just a series of things going wrong through no fault of those that suffer.

The depiction of the pitfalls they encounter constantly and the 'nasty' characters willing to exploit them is very depressing.  This book is heartbreaking.  Your hindsight can see the folly in their plans and what is bound to happen.  Whilst knowing that there was no correct option anyway.  You wish there was an out for this family but you know that an unrealistic happy part would ruin the book.  

This is a very, very, good book.  I ma not sure it is one I will ever read again though.  I found it very hard going.  It may be shallow but I find I enjoy books where I can escape my little problems.  One where I leave them for 1000's of families in a dire situation didn't give me a sense of peace but of misery.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints  It only lost the 1.5 because it made me sad.

Next - River God by Wilbur Smith

Book 3 of 2012, total pages 1,082

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tome Time - The Pale Criminal by Philip Kerr

Started January 3rd, finished January 10th. 272 pages.

As you may have noticed my blogging has been terribly ignored lately.  A combination of a busy time at work and home improvements has left me with little free time.    Apologies.

This is the second in the Bernie Gunther series of books.  Once more we're in 1930's Berlin.  This time Bernie is hired to try and solve the killings of many 'Aryan type' girls/young women.  This looks very much like the work of a sexually motivated serial killer.

The scene setting is again very good.  You find yourself immersed in the era.  It's a good story.  Full of the twists you expect from a thriller.  I had inklings of what was going on but never the whole picture.  Just how I like a novel.  

My only problem with the book is the name dropping.  There are a couple of very high ranking Nazi officials who pop up.  I know they give you something you think you recognise.  It doesn't work for me though it takes me out of it for  a second or two.  It's an easy way of giving a character plenty of weight.  We all think we know these people and definitely have opinions on them.  I would have preferred the characters to stay fictional though.  Not a big problem for me, just a niggle.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Book 2 of 2012, total pages 548

Friday, March 2, 2012


This Sunday t'other half and I made a trip to Blackpool to cheer on our running club mates in the Great North West Half Marathon.  We had lots to cheer about as our club had the highest turnout and took second and third place along with a massive amount of PBs.

The first few parts of Blackpool I saw were worse than I remembered.  The town is horrendously run down in parts.  It looks really bad in the back streets.  We drove North and parked near the Hilton to watch the race.  None of the hotels I saw convinced me it would be a good idea to spend the night.

After the race we went for lunch.  We found a nice little restaurant that was busy.  The food was fine, if the menu was stuck in the 1970's.  Not somewhere I'd return in a rush but not as bad as previous attempts at cuisine I've encountered in the town.

After lunch we just had enough time for the Tower.  I've never bothered before.  It's always fell under the stuff I sneer at.  Maybe it was time to loosen up and see if I could enjoy myself.  Well, the fact that it would close for maintenance the day after seemed like a sign we should go up.  So after being relieved of my £12.60 I found the badly signed lift.  Ascended to a floor which I assumed was the right one, lack of signage again.  Found the next stage which led us into the '4D' theatre.  After a bit of a wait...

in sexy 3D spec's, we went through to the theatre.  I won't spoil the film for you in case you're going to see it yourself.  I have to say though impressed wasn't an adjective that sprung to mind upon my exit.  Then another lift with a little spiel given about the Tower itself.  At the top you exit to either the inside observation deck or you can go up a short flight of stairs to an outside one.  As the weather was against us there wasn't a fabulous view, nor did it stretch very far.

The highlight of the observation decks is the Skywalk.  A glass floor for you to test your nerve walking across.  Now, I'd assumed this would be a very simple task.  However it made me feel very queasy.  My brain wouldn't override the safety warnings triggered by what my eyes could see.  Even though the view wasn't as scary as normal as there is work being done on the Tower and the scaffolding broke it a little.  It took a few tries before I could cross it and touch the glass on the other side.  This was most shameful as all logic told me not to be such a total wuss :-(

All in all, I won't be rushing back to Lancashire's most famous coastal town.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Iron lady

This was always going to be a hard film for me to judge.  Due to my dislike for the title character.

The film gives you a background to the character giving you the times she struggled due to her class and her gender.  It gives the impression of her as a feminist icon.  This I'd dispute, she fought for her rights and her career.  I can't think of an incidence of her improving conditions for her fellow women.

The period detail seems pretty good throughout the film as it progresses.  That's probably my favourite thing about the film.  Obviously I'm wrong, as everyone else loves it, but I didn't enjoy Streep's performance.  It was in the Michael Sheen, perfect mimic style.  I didn't get a sense of the woman or her feelings on anything, just that Meryl had her off to a T. The younger actress seemed to be doing more actual acting.

The film is as flimsy as it gets when it comes to a political stance.  Or even showing the consequences of her actions.  There are big events, some which would anger Sean Penn, but zero analysis.  This is a huge let down. I'd like to have seen it tackled in a similar way to McQueen's Hunger.  No sides taken but a proper look at its subject.

My biggest problem with the film was the fictional portrayal of a living woman and her 'hallucinations'.  It was a bad way to move the story along.  Put the facts on screen or tell a nice story about characters that don't exist.  Don't do half of each and portray an elderly, probably not very well, woman like this.  It leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

All in all I liked this film a little more than I liked the woman herself.  I'd rather have watched a documentary.

1.5 pawprints out of 5

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Takings Steps @ Oldham Coliseum Theatre

This was the final play on my current season ticket.  Also the first one to be housed in the theatre's temporary home of The Grange Arts Centre.

I wasn't sure this was going to be a play for me, the word farce had me a little worried.  Some farce tickles my laughter nerve, a lot more leaves me cold.

The temporary theatre has been set up in the round.  The stage isn't very big and had a lot of proppage on it.  I wondered exactly how it was all going to work.  It worked brilliantly.  The stage had 3 separate floors of a house on it.  Never once did you get the floors confused, evern when there were actors on all of them.  A brilliant use of lighting helped but the actions of the cast ascending/descending stairs finished fixing it in your mind.

The cast were all excellent.  This seemed to be very good casting of very good actors in the roles.  Each one was perfectly believable and never dropped a note.  Though not one of them was playing what I'd call a sympathetic role or one which you could respect!  Each character had hilarious moments.  How the cast kept a straight face is beyond me.  Certainly the audience was doubled up.

This is one of the funniest plays I've seen.  In the middle of a hectic, stressful week it was a fabulous distraction.  I'm not one to laugh out loud in a cinema or theatre much.  This had me guffawing with the rest of the people watching.  It took me a little while to get into it.  The first scene had me wondering where it was going but it definitely went to a great place.  From the moment Roland appears I was pretty much chortling until the interval.  The second act I would have described as very, funny.  Very much worth seeing. My favourite parts though were definitely in the second half of the first act.  Some of the laughs you could see coming but, as in all the best farces, this didn't detract at all.

I thoroughly recommend a trip to see this if you're nearby.  Tickets can be bought here - https://oldhamcoliseum.ticketsolve.com/shows/126517066/events  It is showing until March 10th.

4.5 out of 5 pawprints 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Gone Fishing by Wolf e Boy

Short Story.

Last year, I read From Bangkok to BC, Chasing Sunsets.  The blog post can be found here

Since then I have followed Wolf E Boy's blog with interest.  He writes about his life in a nice style.  There's descriptions of what he experiences and his thoughts about things that crop up.  The blog can be found here.  

He alerted his twitter followers to a story he'd written a while ago.  This story is Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Gone Fishing.  He told me it was a true story.  I have no idea if he's one of the characters, or if he knows the characters well. 

It's a very honest, quite blunt style of writing.  You know exactly what the characters whose story is being told are thinking.  There are good descriptions of the thought processes as the story unfolds.  I think a lot of readers could find the subject matter a little shocking.  There's the rub though.  It is quite shocking but it's far more common than those who may be shocked probably realise.

I found myself thinking after I had read this story.  I couldn't help coming to, and changing, and changing again, judgements about the characters throughout the tale.  They were all characters I recognised.  I could put at least two faces of people I know to each of them.

The story had me gripped until I had finished it.  It is definitely one of the most bizarre reads I have come across.  Bizarre to see it on the page, yet not so unfamiliar in life.

I think on the whole the politics of the main characters are pretty similar to my own on the issues explored in this.  I would lay the blame less at the door of the Police though and more at pathetic, hysteria influenced governments.

One question I would ask is how reliable is the main character's account?  Have we the whole story or have things been missed/misread due to his state of mind.  My mind/memory plays tricks on me under much less strain.

The ending of the tale is the most bizarre part of the whole thing.  I wish we could find an explanation for the way things ended.  Or maybe the mystery adds to the whole thing.

I enjoyed this story.  The tension was kept up, I sympathised and I laughed too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tome Time - Le Dossier, How to Survive the English by Sarah Long

Started December 19th, finished January 3rd.  276 pages

This is described as a guide for French ladies who, against all their better judgement, have to live in England.

My first quibbles would be that this isn't for 'French ladies' but Parisiennes.  Nor is it about living in England so much as London.

I feel I'm lacking in a sense of humour for large parts of this book.  Maybe it's the sneering tone I found in it's author?  There were moments of  'Wow, yes, she's hit the nail with that one.'  It also made you think about how our little island does things.  I quite like the way we do some of the things she scorns.  Others hurt a little more because she was right.

I would like to see her version on the faults of Paris as a home city.  I can't see it though.  In her eyes Paris is civilised, London lags a long way behind.

This is not a book I can find much to recommend in.  It's interesting but irritated me too much to be enjoyed.

2 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The pale Criminal by Philip Kerr

Book 1 of 2012, Page Total 276

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Podcasts I've Discovered

I am, like most people I expect, often trying to cut down my subscription list of podcasts.  Podcasts age, they lose their way, they stop producing.  Every now and then a cull clears up your time for what suits your listening taste best.

I'm always happy when a new podcast comes along that I enjoy though.  I like a little shake up of my feed.  This week I've added two new subscriptions.

Firstly Shonky Lab who can be found here http://www.shonkylab.co.uk/  Elton and Pete discussing what they like to listen to, watch, read, etc.  Up to now there are two episodes on the feed.  An introductory show and an episode discussing cartoons of their childhood.  A very entertaining episode, even if they seem to have a totally different taste in animation to me!  Go give them a listen, they're a witty duo.

Next came the Fantastic Stories Podcast which can be found here http://fantasticstoriespodcast.wordpress.com/ This has a solo presenter, Jacob.  The subject is Classic Audio Drama.  So far there has been one episode containing one UK and one US Radio Drama.  These seem to be straight out of the classic era of melodramatic radio plays.  They ooze nostalgia.  The good thing is they're also a good, fun listen.  If you're a fan of the Hypnogoria Podcast and/or The TimeVault Podcast I strongly recommend you pop over for a listen.

I'm looking forward to hearing more from both of these podcasts.  Thanks for the work you put in guys :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tome Time - Cybill Disobedience by Cybill Shepherd

Started November 15th, finished December 29th.  421 pages.

This was an impulse free purchase.  I discovered it whilst hunting around for free/very cheap Kindle books.  I was very surprised to find it for free.  I've always quite liked Cybill Shepherd and thought her autobiography would be popular.  Especially due to the Elvis bits.  Then I began to wonder if she'd missed out all the juicy bits and that's why it was free....

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong really.  This seems to be a no holds barred account of the way she sees her life.  Unless she's led a much more exciting time and she's only given us the tip of the iceberg.  I find this unlikely though as she doesn't look haggard enough.

She starts at the very beginning and we learn of her childhood.  Which doesn't seem altogether the happiest.  there are some dark parts to it.  She's taught early on the value of her looks.  Which she seems to view as a help but also a hindrance at times throughout her career.

I really expected to like Cybill and thoroughly enjoy this book.  She's always come across as beautiful, bright and fun with what seems like a wicked sense of humour.  The tales of her tomboy behaviour at the start of the book further confirmed this.  However as the book went on I found myself not taking to her quite as much.  It seems wrong to state that the author of an autobiography seems self-centred, that's what they're here for.  It just seemed that she saw things from her perspective and nowhere else.

Early on in the book a relationship falls apart, which may have done anyway but she hastened it on.  That's never going to warm the reader up.  But I put this aside as she was honest about her involvement and she was pretty young at the time.  She always seems to come across as though she's a little hard done to throughout the book.  Maybe she was?  The problem was I don't know anything about anyone else mentioned so I can't compare.

The chapters of her life including Orson Welles were interesting.  Hell, she shared a house with Citizen Kane :-)  The parts about Elvis were creepy rather than anything else.  She did well getting out of there.

I hate it when I read an autobiography and I like the writer less afterwards.  I don't hate the woman.  I still have her to thank for episodes of Cybill when I was grounded on Friday nights.  I would love to know the views of those that she was less than complimentary of.  The ones she thinks stabbed her in the back.  You've got to give her credit, she did well in a male dominated world.  She was successful and I'm guessing she did have to stand her ground a lot.  Maybe I'm doing her a huge disservice.

The problem with reading a Kindle book is that you don't get to read the cover and dedications etc, as easily as a real book.  There is a ghost writer here, Aimee Lee Ball.  I forget these things when I read on a  Kindle though.  I have no idea what her input was.  The book read well enough though.

I certainly couldn't complain that there wasn't enough juice in there.  This book is raw and a gossip's dream. Not one I'll ever read again though.

2.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Le Dossier by Sarah Long

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tome Time - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Started December 1st, finished December 19th.  305 pages.

This was recommended by a friend.  It had been on my radar for a while so it became time to finally read it.

I wasn't disappointed.  This is a book that lives up to it's cover comments.

Bourdain has an easy, chatty writing style.  He can see his faults but without false modesty.  He tells his student (and far past student) years honestly without a male bragging style.  I don't really feel like I 'know' the author from this book but I did enjoy 'spending time in his company'.

Of course what we're all looking for is the dirt on the industry.  There's plenty in here to keep you entertained.  But what I liked most were the characters he described.  It's also ensured that I will never attempt restaurant ownership.  Bourdain doesn't give out much more personal info than Marco Pierre White did in his memoir.  However this one is a far better read.  You feel like you've shared rather than been shut out.

The author has a love for his industry and enjoys it warts and all.  It's a fascinating, entertaining read.  I've took his tips on board on what not to eat and when to avoid things but I've survived this long.  I'm never going to refuse the mussels if a place looks respectable enough.

4.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Cybill Disobedience - by Cybill Shepherd

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tome Time - The Spanish Civil War by Antony Beevor

Started May 19th, finished December 16th.  410 pages.

This is a book I wanted to read after seeing a few films set in the era soon after the Civil War.  I wasn't pleased by my total lack of knowledge of what happened.  I was glad that the book is written by Beevor as I find his books an interesting read and easy to understand.

A quick look at the glossary should have warned me of what was to come.  This is a very difficult conflict to grasp.  There are so many factions within the two warring sides.  Far too many names involved to make remembering who's who completely possible.

I came out of the reading of the book with an understanding of what had happened and why.  However the finer an even not so fine detail isn't clear to me.  This may be mostly my fault.  As the book was such a heavy read I dipped in and out of it.  A chapter here, a few pages there.  The book is well written, it's just a very hard subject to grasp.  I'm very glad I read it as I now have a good overview of events that led to Franco's dictatorship.

Neither side comes out of this book well.  The ridiculous in fighting and power struggles are infuriating to read about.  The lives they cost horrendous.  The barbarity of the commanders in what they dispatched their own men into is gut wrenching.  What they used their new technology to do to 'the other side' barbaric in the extreme.  This is a very depressing book.  Spain's people are used to test modern weaponry on by outside factors at no risk to themselves.

It stops at the end of the war.  I would like to read more though.  If anyone knows of any non-fiction accounts of life in Franco's Spain please let me know.  I can't seem to find any.  I can't read any more about the war itself for a long time though.  It seems film makers are now looking at Franco's reign and the war.  Maybe the books will follow.

4 out of 5 pawprints.

Next - Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tome Time - March Violets by Philip Kerr

Started November 20th, finished December 1st.

I came across this series of novels via an ad for the latest.  I was surprised i had never heard of the Bernie Gunther novels.  They are crime fiction, about a Private Eye, Bernie Gunther, set in Berlin under Nazi rule.  Sounds right up my street.  Well, you know how these things go, I'll probably love or loathe them....

It took a while to find a realistically priced copy.  I ended up buying the 'Berlin Noir' trilogy of the first books in the series.  March Violets, The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem.  I can well understand why they named the trilogy Berlin Noir.  It is written very much like an old Hollywood noir film.

Bernie is not a man you would instantly warm to.  His thoughts about women are a tad sexist to say the least.  Up to now though he hasn't mistreated any.  He's a world weary cynic making a living locating or finding information on missing Jews in Berlin.  The events take place in 1936.  He was once a member of the official police force and still has contacts there but now he works alone.

He is hired by a rich businessman to find a diamond necklace stolen as his daughter and son in law were murdered.  As can be expected the case is anything but simple and he comes across many twists and turns.  Most of them involving danger.

As we go long we find Bernie is a man who can survive Nazi Berlin whilst not becoming as bad as the worst people in the city.  He's no Goody, but we're led to read him as a decent soul overall even if he's not the cleanest living soul.

My knowledge of the era isn't good enough to spot any factual errors and Kerr gives a good sense of the atmosphere in Berlin at the time.  My one quibble was that the story had to involve a high ranking party official everyone has heard of.  This wasn't necessary to the tale and felt a little like name dropping for teh sake of it.

I have a feeling the books will continue through Berlin's timeline.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the events of the next few years are tackled by Kerr and how Gunther reacts.  This is a dark book, the lead character leads to some smutty passages.  It's not one you'd read aloud to your Grandmother.  I enjoyed it though and will definitely be reading the next two novels at least.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Spanish Civil War by Anthony Beevor

Tome Time - The Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

Started November 16th, Finished November 19th.

This is a readalong with Paul's Target blogging which can be found here http://goldfishandparacetamol.wordpress.com/target-books/

I had only recently suffered the TV version of The Twin Dilemma.  THis was going to be interesting.  Would I prefer it to the dramatisation, which I didn't remember being anywhere near as awful as it was...

I found the story to be written with a slightly smug edge.  The descriptions of the father character at the beginning is what highlighted this for me.  It didn't seem to gel with what I expect from a novelisation of a children's story.

It probably didn't win any love from me as I was so let down by the DVD so soon before reading it.

The character of Azmael I expected to be fleshed out a little more.  Made a little more like he can make a difference one way or the other.  I don't think he ever gives enough oomph.  No one in this story seems to fulfil a satisfying role.  I think less characters, fleshed out more may have been a better idea.  They all fail to scare me.  

All in all, this book felt cluttered and not very satisfying.  I can't see me watching or reading this story again any time in the near or middle future.

1 out of 5 pawprints

Next - March Violets

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tome Time - The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Started October 29th, finished November 15th.

I was very much looking forward to this book.  The first of this author's I read, The Shadow of the Wind, immediately added itself to my list of favourite books.  The fact that was was another large volume pleased me.

The book is set in the same universe as TSotW, Barcelona, under Franco's rule.  It also contains some of the same characters in smaller roles.  It visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books too.  A wonderful invention of the author's that I'm sure we'll see again.

I was sad to find that this book didn't speak to my soul the way the first did.  I can't say there was anything wrong with it.  It was dark, spooky, filled with well written characters.  I think it was just a little too fantastical for me.  Maybe the story of a text isn't as gripping as the story of a love affair?  It was quite easy to work out what was happening.  I don't think the author wanted to hide this from the reader.  While I grasped 'the mystery' I guess I couldn't really grasp or care 'why?'

I would love to know how I would have reacted to this book without prior knowledge of the author.  Did I feel a little let down because TSotW was so good?  Or was it because this one isn't to my tastes as much?  I'll never know.

It's still an interesting tale.  I wouldn't want to put anyone off reading it as I think it's a taste thing rather than a quality issue I have with it.  It's always nice to read things set in cities such as Barcelona.  There is a real sense of the city here.  He uses it well.  I can't see me reading this again in a hurry but I'm not quite ready to consign it to the charity shop yet.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Doctor Who and the Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tome Time - The Coach House Cats by Marilyn Edwards

Started October 7th, finished November 7th.

This was a titbit book, like all its predecessors.  I haven't much to say on it really.  I thoroughly enjoyed the author's tales of life with her cats and life in her local community.  It is a continuation of the previous books.

I thoroughly enjoy these books.  I think they would be any cat lover's cup of tea.  If you are to read them I suggest you start with her first The Cats of Moon Cottage .

The author comes across as a lovely lady.  She also writes children's fiction, about cats again.  Her website can be found here - http://www.thecatsofmooncottage.co.uk/

I was sad to learn at the end of the book that this is the last.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Tome Time - Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Started October 18th, finished October 28th.

As a teen this was my favourite sci-fi book.  It gripped me early on and kept me all the way through.  I was as desperate as the characters to know what was happening inside 'Rama'.

For some reason I haven't read it in a very long time, probably around fifteen years.  I've never forgotten it though and always remembered it with fondness if it was ever mentioned.  Then my wonderful dad appears with the entire Rama series for me.  He'd found them at a second hand book sale.  No excuses not to retread old paths then....

I was initially worried that I may be disappointed by it. My memory has a habit of pushing things further towards the end of the spectrum than they deserve.  I remember loving or loathing a lot but not so much things in the middle.

I did enjoy this book a lot this time.  The only drawback being that it felt a little dated.  A single comment about women in their space clothing was enough to make me cringe.  However it was not enough to spoil a great reading experience.  I forgive it its faults as they're surrounded by a wonderful story.  A story that unfolds at just the right pace to keep you desperate to know what's happening.  

One surprise was the length of the book.  I remembered it as being a much bigger book.  I'm assuming I must have mixed it up with others later in the series.  

The book ends with some finality and most questions unanswered.  I know there are sequels so this is no bad thing.  I do love an author that is brave enough to leave questions unanswered.  It gives you much less to quibble about and plenty to mull over.

I'm looking forward to getting to the rest of the series.  I remember much less of those than I do of this one.. I do know they're not all up to the quality of the original and I hope they won't make me sad for the legacy.

The first time you read this book will always be the best as you can let the story unfold as it should.  I will be reading it again and much sooner than 15 years on hopefully!  The story is easily strong enough for re-reads even without the 'surprise' aspect.

I can't think of a sci-fi book I enjoyed more so it still has it's favourite crown

4.5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - The Coach House Cats by Marilyn Edwards