It has been eighteen years since I read a Pratchett book, and so I haven't kept up with the recent goings on in Discworld, but I picked this book up i...moreIt has been eighteen years since I read a Pratchett book, and so I haven't kept up with the recent goings on in Discworld, but I picked this book up in the library on a whim. Tiffany Aching is a great young heroine and, although the main story takes a little while to get going, once the supernatural villain arrives and threatens Tiffany's life it becomes a very enjoyable read. After finishing it I wished it was a hundred pages longer, and then wondered why I hadn't read a Prachett book in eighteen years, and then thought I should probably read some more of them. (less)
Prosper and Bo, two orphan brothers, run away to Venice, Italy. There they join a gang of street urchins living in an abandoned cinema who are ruled o...moreProsper and Bo, two orphan brothers, run away to Venice, Italy. There they join a gang of street urchins living in an abandoned cinema who are ruled over by a show off teenager - an expert thief who has given himself the grand monicker of 'The Thief Lord'. The gang spend their days picking tourist's pockets and trying to outsmart Victor, a bumbling private eye hired by Prosper and Bo's uncaring guardians to find them. Then, Barbarossa a Fagin-like fence offers them a chance to make big money, all they have to do is carry out a robbery for a mysterious figure known as the count.
I really enjoyed this children's book and if I had read it as a 10 year old I think it would be a firm favourite. It is nicely written (translated) and crammed full with daring do and twists and it gets an extra star for its magical setting of Venice. The story situations are all very fairytale and the grownups behave like archetypes rather than characters but all of that seems acceptable to me in this fantastical world, though my credulity was stretched more and more as the story went on. People here have compared it unfavourably to Oliver Twist, a more realistic and darker book with much stronger characterisation, but this is a book for young children and is much softer and simpler in its characterisation and I think it works very well in that context.(less)
I read Huckleberry Finn first and found that an infinitely superior book. I think what makes that book so much better is it has a strong overarching s...moreI read Huckleberry Finn first and found that an infinitely superior book. I think what makes that book so much better is it has a strong overarching story and a very strong narrator in Huck, whose childlike 'simple' view Twain uses to question the status quo of the world around him. The only part of Huckleberry Finn that I really disliked was Tom Sawyer's appearance at the end - so that didn't bode well for this, but I thought I would give it a go anyway.
In this book Huck is not as fully formed as he appears in his own story but you can already see he's got a lot more character potential than Tom. Tom is just a naughty boy, getting into various episode of comic mischief, some of the episodes - like the famous fence painting - I found fun, others - like the attempts to impress and woo Becky at school – I found boring and cloying and they just made me want to skip huge chunks of the book. It is interesting that Twain's reuses similar stories from this novel in Huck Finn - the running away to the island and the townsfolk thinking Tom/Huck are dead, plus the conversation about pirates and robbers. Not only that, but the whole - everyone in town thinks Tom is dead and then he shows up alive schtick, is repeated twice in this book. You'd think the second time, when he's lost in the cave they'd all say - 'well, he's having us on again.'
I think essentially, Tom Sawyer is a children's book, and it would be a fun read for kids, but reading it as an adult, and knowing episodes of the story, I didn't find it that interesting. (less)
I really enjoyed this book. The tale of Grayson Perry - the artist and transexual potter - growing up in suburban Essex. His childhood and teenage sto...moreI really enjoyed this book. The tale of Grayson Perry - the artist and transexual potter - growing up in suburban Essex. His childhood and teenage story is pretty interesting and I often wished that the book had gone into more detail about parts of that, especially the feel of the places, but it gave great detail to the family characters. The book ended soon after his graduation from art school and I wish it had carried on a bit longer, taking us through the early years of his career as a working artist. I thought he was a character of quirky and opposing interests, dressing up, cross-dressing, mechanical repairs, pottery, imaginary worlds, S&M. It was interesting also to see connections with Boy George and Marilyn - he lived in some of the same squats as them in London. All in all it was a quick, easy read and I got through it in a day. It reminded me a little of Toast by Nigel Slater and he even used the same metaphor at one point - how love is making warm buttered toast for someone.(less)
A compilation of Tracey's columns written for the Independent newspaper which are a rambling diary of holidays, jet setting, gallery openings, vomitin...moreA compilation of Tracey's columns written for the Independent newspaper which are a rambling diary of holidays, jet setting, gallery openings, vomiting at art parties, product placement, posh hotels and boozing. The book does not include forty illustrations, or in fact any.(less)
For Esme - with Love and Squalor is a near faultless collection of short stories that all take place in J. D. Salinger world. A world that depicts you...moreFor Esme - with Love and Squalor is a near faultless collection of short stories that all take place in J. D. Salinger world. A world that depicts young people before they were properly teenagers, precocious genius children who speak like adults, rich New Yorkers who take cruise ship and seaside holidays, play little league in Central Park or tennis at the country club. A world of WASPs and angst. A world of the genius, perfect, flawless Glass family and the creeping empty malaise at the centre of their lives.
My favourite stories in the collection are the two about the Glass clan. 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish', which I have read many times, concerns Seymour Glass. 'Down at the Dinghy' concerns his sister - Boo Boo Tennenbaum nee Glass, her young son Lionel, and a conversation they have about sailing and the help. Boo Boo's married name bears witness to the amount of influence the characters in these short stories have had on Wes Anderson and his film characters. After all nobody writes precocious deadpan children and maudlin twenty-somethings like J.D. Salinger - except maybe Wes Anderson.
Also fantastic is Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut. A brilliant story about a housewife named Eloise whose drunk tales of college, recounted to a neighbour, are interrupted by the arrival of her young daughter and an imaginary friend. And 'Just before the War with the Eskimos' where Ginnie visits her classmate Selena's Upper East side apartment after they play tennis and meets Selena's brother and his buddy. The other stories I liked too, not quite as much but they are all consistently brilliant. Salinger has an amazing eye for gesture and body language of his characters and each short is slice of life. A single event with the illusion of naturalness and realtime flow, told with beautiful dialogue and gestures that bats back and forth between the characters like a tennis match.(less)
The book is about love, myth and stories. Interactive stories written between Ali, the writer, and her lover, a married lady who she meets online ever...moreThe book is about love, myth and stories. Interactive stories written between Ali, the writer, and her lover, a married lady who she meets online every night. Together they are writing the story of their courtship, or is it mostly Ali?
I loved this book. The prose is sparse but it's beautifully written, like poetry, and the descriptions of Paris, Capri and London are almost like walking in these places on a summer's evening. There is the stylised dialogue and sparring wordplay between the lovers, I guess meant to symbolise online conversations, at least the ones a clever writer might have. And as usual there is something about Jeanette's childhood and once again a few great Mrs Winterson-type scenes with her mother. There are also fairytales and myths about love, all retold to feature elements of Ali and her lover's story. But, in the end, the book is as much about love itself, love of life and stories and places, as it is about the nebulous relationship around which it centres.(less)
I'm about halfway through and have given up on this. It's as dry as a piece of old toast. I'm sure it was all very revolutionary when it came out, and...moreI'm about halfway through and have given up on this. It's as dry as a piece of old toast. I'm sure it was all very revolutionary when it came out, and probably influenced the likes of Marina Warner or Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood with their modern takes on fairy stories, but it all feels very dated and 60's Freudian. There are a lot more recent interesting books on both fairytale analysis and child development out there. 'The Child in the Mirror' and 'They f##k you up' on child development and 'The Seven Basic plots' and 'The Writer's Journey' (based on 'The Hero with a thousand faces' which I never managed to finish either!) on Fairytale analysis.(less)
Milos is an assistant at a rural railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia 1945. He watches trains of ammunition and food pass through on their way t...moreMilos is an assistant at a rural railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia 1945. He watches trains of ammunition and food pass through on their way to the front and trains of injured German soldiers returning the other way.
At the station there is a disciplinary hearing for the dispatcher who printed all the station's stamps on the female receptionist behind during a night of passion in the stationmaster office. The stationmaster keeps pigeons in the station loft and is angling for a promotion. He is prone to long rants, delivered down the ventilation pipes, about the corrupt and decadent state of modern society. Milos meanwhile is trying to lose his virginity.
Some lovely writing and a few very funny characters, but also some poignant scenes and a rather abrupt end to this short book, just as you are getting to know the characters. (less)
A beautiful short story about an old shepherd who spends a lifetime planting trees. Told in simple thoughtful prose with accompanying woodcut illustra...moreA beautiful short story about an old shepherd who spends a lifetime planting trees. Told in simple thoughtful prose with accompanying woodcut illustrations. There is also an amazing hand drawn animated short film based on this tale by Fredrick Back http://www.moviesfoundonline.com/man_...(less)
Four child refugees hide out in Warsaw at the end of the WW2. When it is finally over they set out on a journey across Poland and Germany to Switzerla...moreFour child refugees hide out in Warsaw at the end of the WW2. When it is finally over they set out on a journey across Poland and Germany to Switzerland, where they hope to meet their father, who escaped from a Nazi prisoner of war camp earlier on in the war.
I remember reading this book as a child and finding it very enjoyable and exciting. The book is a great adventure story that gives a lot of social history to kids about life as a child refugee in destroyed post-war Europe. At the time it was written it was unique in that respect taking on such harsh subject matter and presenting it with sensitivity to a young audience.
As an adult reader I found it not nearly as successful, but then it's not aimed at me. My problem with it was the way it skimmed over a lot of the gritty (and probably depressing) detail of the destroyed places and communities the kids visited in favour of a more jolly adventure tone, but then maybe that was the point, being as its for children and I should probably read some adult books about the war instead!
The Turn of the Screw is a ghost story novella by Henry James. The narrator, an unnamed young woman, accepts a job looking after two orphaned children...moreThe Turn of the Screw is a ghost story novella by Henry James. The narrator, an unnamed young woman, accepts a job looking after two orphaned children Miles and Flora at Bly House - a country pile, mainly because she takes a fancy to their uncle (who is also their guardian). His only stipulation is that she never contact him regarding the children, just go and look after them and let him get on with his life in London. The governess arrives at the country house and befriends the housekeeper Mrs Grose. The children are perfect little angels - creepily perfect in every way, so when Miles returns from his boarding school with a letter saying he has been expelled, the governess wonders what terrible thing the boy has done. Then she starts to glimpse strange figures wandering the grounds of the house.
The book is very nicely written and succeeds in creating some exceedingly creepy scenes, between the governess and the children - I don't know how much of this is deliberate and how much is period language. Some of the ghost scenes are brilliantly scary too. It has quite a modern style, in that, as the children deny her stories, you begin to wonder about the reliability of her as a narrator, is she paranoid and insane or are these things really happening? In that respect it was a little like The Yellow Wallpaper.
I was relieved that it was only a novella, and so the scenes were pretty concise, compared to other rambling victorian novels I've read recently. It would have got four stars, but the ending was a little lame, after all the winding up, all the turns of the screw, it doesn't quite pay off with the action a modern writer might give it. In fact, I think the ending of Florence and Giles is a little bit better, though less believable.
Florence and Giles, by John Harding, was the main reason I wanted to read this book. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/73... They are similar and I wanted to compare the two. Very similar it turned out. Florence and Giles live in a Blye House an almost identical house in New England, with the housekeeper Mrs Grouse. They are orphans, whose absent uncle sends a governess to look after them, the book is narrated by Florence also an unreliable narrator, who may not be telling the whole truth about events. there are many other similarities although the twist at the end turns out very different. But it is interesting that John Harding obviously took all the main elements of Henry James's story and refashioned them into something different. Both books are worth reading.
Thailand, some time in the future. In a world of unrest, pollution and disease, water is scarce. Calorie Corporations control the food supply and exer...moreThailand, some time in the future. In a world of unrest, pollution and disease, water is scarce. Calorie Corporations control the food supply and exert political influence over governments. Genetically created crops, animals and New People (or windups) are a reality and there's old and new technology - click springs, airships and gas devices, but there's also a lack of oil, and consequently no computers, combustion engines, or electricity.
Anderson Lake, a Calorie Man from AgriGen, has come to Bangkok in search of a mysterious gene hacker called Gibson who's creating illegal fruit and vegetables for the Thai Government that may be immune to disease. In a sex club he meets Emiko, a raped and abused windup girl from Japan. She wants to escape the city, but cannot. Windups are illegal in Thailand and she would be destroyed if the authorities ever found her. Through selfish motives, Anderson helps her out and they both become pawns in a military coup that is about to sweep through the country.
I listened to the audiobook version, which was probably a mistake, I think you really need to have the paperback so you can flick back and forth to work out what the hell is going on.The plot is very complicated (much more so than the synoposis suggest) and follows the machinations of at least ten or fifteen characters. It was hard to remember who was who and what they had been doing previously. I was disappointed that so little of the book revolved around Emiko, who was by far the most interesting character. Her story arc was also very slow to get going, but when it did, in the second half of the book, it was riveting, and I wish this had been more of the main thrust of the story. Apart from Anderson and Emiko I never really felt I got that close to the rest of the characters, although the world they inhabit is amazingly detailed and thoughtfully constructed. The East-meets-stempunk-meets-genetics theme reminded me of 'The Diamond Age' by Neal Stephenson, which I think, on balance, I preferred. Although both books seem to reach the thrust of the action a little late in the day. (less)
This book is number one on the goodreads list of steampunk books, really?
First the good. I liked the book's main conceit, the idea that vampires and w...moreThis book is number one on the goodreads list of steampunk books, really?
First the good. I liked the book's main conceit, the idea that vampires and werewolves are just another part of the Victorian society and how all sorts of etiquette and rules have developed to deal with that civilly. I thought the main plot was a bit hackneyed, but with potentially interesting characters and situations. I really liked the opening pages, which set a tongue in cheek tone. I imagined Alexia as a sort of Mary Poppins vampire slayer, a no-nonsense spinster, operating in Victorian England, and trying to get her job done, whilst dealing with all of the social etiquette and niceties of that time. Unfortunately, this was not exactly how the book panned out.
What I thought, up front was going to be all victorian vampire slaying turned out to be mostly cheesy bodice-ripping romance, and there was a lot more slobbery french-kissing than there was tongue in cheek comedy. When narrative tension arises the author does a brilliant job of diffusing it by telling you what a secondary character is thinking, or by dropping a storyline completely, or by whisking her heroes out of harms way as soon as she's put them in jeopardy. Characters start a chapter by sitting down for tea and giving a brief summary of the last chapter's action. There is little description and no geography, so that a story set in London might as well be anywhere. The dialogue tries for victorian wit, but often comes across clunky. The scene between Alexia and Lord Maccon repeat in variation with almost the same dialogue and the authors idea of changing this up, is to have Lord Maccon lose more clothes. But most disappointing of all is the fact that Alexia doesn't get any vampire/wolf/gollum killing action, all that gets left (in one brief scene) to Lord Maccon. In fact the vampires and villains and werewolves are all so neutered that the action never really has a chance to take off.