Monday, June 28, 2010

Tamburlaine must die - Louise Welsh

I am on a reading binge at the moment, wanting to read short and easy books. Tamburlaine must die, on face value meets one of these criteria. It is short at 140 pages of story and an extra six of historical background. While it is easy to read, it is not when you are distracted by the tv... note to self turn off tv when concentration is required.

Tamburlaine must die is the story of the last 3 days of Christopher Marlowe's life. He is out of London while it is threatened by plague, but is summons back to face the Privy council, having been betrayed by Thomas
Kyd. He is allowed to go free on what is essentially bail. Marlowe is presented as a bit of an unsavioury character involved with shady characters, drink and sexual exploits.

The writing is at times lyrical, I guess reflecting that it is supposed to be Marlowe's writing. I quite enjoyed the book, but it seemed a bit too short. I wanted to find out more about the world he inhabitited.

The second short life of Bree Tanner - Stephenie Meyer

It has been quite a while since I read the Twilight books. When I first read them I really enjoyed them. I was quite excited to hear that Stephenie Meyer was releasing a new Twilight novel... well it's called a novella but that's just pedantics. I found The second short life of Bree Tanner hard to get into.

It took quite a while to warm up to the characters... and we don't really get much history about Bree before she became a vampire. I think that's the danger of picking up an established character; that there is all this assumed knowledge. Well that would make sense if we got to know Bree in Eclipse, but we don't. I read most of the novel without remembering who she actually was and only found enlightenment at the end of the book. That's probably why I wasn't so keen on the book, that we don't get to know the characters really... it's like we've come in half way through a movie.

I did enjoy reading it... the end especially when Edward and his family make an appearance. But I had to force myself to sit down and get through it. Certainly a different experience to what I had when reading the other Twilight books.

Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller

I watched the DVD of the movie for this a couple of years ago and quite enjoyed the tension between Sheba and Barbara. I remember thinking that  Barbara was quite a strong, but creepy character and was quite keen to read the book. I was making a quilt while I watched it, and so whenever I look at the quilt I remember watching the DVD.

This was suggested by one of the book club members to read this year, so I held off reading it. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I did I couldn't put it down. Barbara is creepier in the book. There was one part before she and Sheba became friends that made me shake my head. It was after Barbara had discovered Sheba's friendship with Sue (pg 36)

"My mistake with Jennifer had been to attribute to her an intelligence that had never really existed. For the last six weeks, I realized, I had been making the same mistake with Sheba. Thank god she had revealed her truecolours at this juncture, before I had invested any more of my feelings! Once again, I told myself, I had made an error of judgement. Sheba was not my soul mate. Not my kindred spirit. She wasn't, in fact, my sort at all."

Barbara, at this point, had barely spent any time with Sheba to be able to pass any sort of judgement on her. Sheba would have been unaware that Barbara had event thought that they might be soul-mates. It's like Barbara had imagined this whole friendship, that the other person wasn't even aware of. This also struck me when Sheba and her family went to France for the summer. Barbara kept ringing the house and leaving messages, expecting Sheba to call. I don't think it would have occured to Sheba that their friendship was that sort of friendship, which is the point of the book really.

It's about how Barbara creates the type of friendship she has with Sheba in her head, but Sheba isn't aware of it. Not until she reads the manuscript.

When we discussed it in book club, I suddenly thought that Barbara couldn't share her friends with anyone. If someone was her friend, then they couldn't be shared with anyone else. That's why her friendship with Jennifer broke down when Jennifer got a boyfriend. It's why Barbara was upset when Sheba became friends with Sue first. In the end Barbara gets what she wants when Sheba's life falls apart and she is the only one there to look after her.

I'm including this in the Bibliophilic Challenge, because Barbara is writing this story as a book to be published.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Harry Potter series - Books 1 & 2

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J K Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J K Rowling

I've started to reread the Harry Potter series because I know that I can read them in a day, if I had the chance. The first 3 books I'm reading for the third time, for the later ones for the second. It's interesting to read them over again after having finished the series as I find myself going oh! as I make connections between what happened in earlier books and what will happen in the later ones.

Although, this time after reading the first book, I found myself wanting to know more about Professor Snape. We do get bits and pieces of his story throughout the series, and the Half-blood Prince is more his story, but it
would be interesting to have a whole book from his perspective. In this reading at least, he is my favourite character. His is complex as we are never quite sure which line he has taken.
I managed to read the first two when I went to Casino for the long weekend. I wished I had taken Prisoner of Azkaban as well. It will now have to wait until book club on Friday.

House of Night Series - Books 1 & 2

While everyone else is getting over the glut of teen vampire novels I am continuing to devour them.
I bought the first book in the House of Night series a good while ago because it was cheap and I was having Twilight withdrawals. I didn't actually get around to reading it until now, after hearing a colleague say she could read one in a night. I am on the look out for easy reads to boost the number of books I've read. (I have to make up for a disastrous May).

I didn't read it in a night, but it was pretty close. I quite enjoy the new take on vampires in this series - they become marked and the change process takes a long time. They don't burn up in the sun, but it does hurt their
eyes and skin. They still eat "normal" food. They are governed by a goddess and don't go around biting people so much. I think that's what I enjoy about all these vampire novels - that authors aren't content with the
traditional ideas about what a vampire is and does, and they create their own.

In this series, teenagers are chosen and marked to become vampires. They then have to make their way to The house of night, a school for fledgling vampires. If they don't, they become sick and die. Being at the school is no guarantee that they will survive the change either. At the school, classes are reversed, starting at 8pm at night and finishing at 3am. They learn vampire lore and about famous vamps. Apparently all the great actors, writers and artists are really vampires. Zoey is descendent from Cherokee Indians and already has some spiritual connection to the goddess when she enters the school. She becomes firm friends with a group of other fledglings and spends time trying to avoid Aphrodite, the leader of a clique called the dark daughters and sons. Zoey just wants to fit in, but from the outset she's different. Her mark is filled in, where all the other
fledglings have just an outline.

I quite enjoyed part 1 of the series. Book 2 - Betrayed was ok and follows on a month after the events in the first book. The authors seem to make up words which really started to bug me in the second book. Gihugic??? Ginormic?? I could deal with ginormous... and use that quite often but those two words are just wrong, they don't roll of the tongue.
I like how the friendship between Zoey and her friends is being developed. It looks like the single characters are slowly pairing off.
The authors also seem to have an idea where the story will go, as there are lead up clues woven into the story. I read somewhere that there will be 12 books in the series and it's up to book 7 at the moment. So I still have
some reading ahead of me!

Brooklyn - Colm Toibin

People that I know who have read Colm Toibin's books rave about his writing, so I had certain expectations before reading anything by him. I expect brilliant language and to be moved by any story he tells. Brooklyn
is the first of his books I've read, and frankly I don't see anything special about it. It's just like a hundred other books about a girl who has no job in Ireland migrating to the US in search of a job and a different future. Only different because it's been written by a man, and Eilis doesn't really ring true as a character. Granted, in those types of books something terrible usually happens to the main character and that is missing from this book... this is not necessarily a good thing.

It's a quick and easy but a nothing read. It's the story of a life I guess... but people don't really want to read about real life, where nothing much happens. I feel like Eilis isn't taking control of her life, she's not learning anything, instead she is just going with the flow. What a slow flow that is. She doesn't realise until too late that this lackadaisical attitude could have cost her happiness.

Maybe I am just used to reading more action packed books, that it has spoilt me for slower paced books. No, that can't be the case because I am happy to dip in to classics, such as Pride & Prejudice that aren't so fast moving either.
The only thing in it's favour is that it has only taken me 2 days to read. That's partly because I wouldn't be prepared to spend too much time on it.
If you want a nice easy to read "coming of age" story. I guess this is for you. That's the best recommendation that I can give it.

Foundation - Isaac Asimov

I have been thinking for a long time that endings for books must be the hardest part to write. It's often the part of a book that lets me down and affects how I feel about a book when I've finished. The only excuse I can come up with for the end of Foundation by Isaac Asimov, is that he knew this was the first part of a series and wasn't really the end at all. There was all this build up only to have it fizzle at the end.

I did enjoy Foundation. It was easy and quick to read. It is the first book in a series of at least 5 books. I'll get around to the others on the long weekend in June. Hopefully they won't all end as weakly. It was weird reading it and have references that have been used in other Sci Fi classics - for example Encyclopedia Galactica which turns up in The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, and parsecs which is in Star Wars. I've
never notice before when I've read a book that has such a direct influence on other books or movies in the same genre.

The other good thing about this book is that it counts for the Bibliophilic Challenge as Terminus has been established as a colony, originally to write the Encyclopedia Galactica... a book!

A group of 20 000 people have been banished to a planet on the edge of the galaxy, orginally to compose the Encyclopedia Galactica. They were banished because their leader Hari Seldon, had predicted the end of the Empire by psychohistory - a branch of mathematics. The Emporer and the government didn't like the idea of this and had Hari Seldon arrested. The first part of the novel is taken up with the board of governors being obsessed only with the writing of the encyclopedia and ignore the events going on in the galaxy around them. Salvor Hardin tried to make them see they are wrong and on the night when Hari Seldon is supposed to send a message, takes over by bloodless coup. Hari Seldon appears and talks about a series of crisises which have to occur to hasten the coming of a new Empire, of which Terminus is the centre. The rest of the book talks about the lead up to 3 more "Seldon Crisis'"

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Who moved my blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway

I don't like the main character Martin Lukes, he's self centred and blames others for his mistakes. Yet I find that I am compulsively reading this book. I just have to find out what stupidity he will get into next.

Who moved my blackberry is told in the form of emails and texts from Martin Lukes the Marketing Director of AB Global. He is not a likeable character. He treats his PA as a personal coffee fetcher and being a stereotypical male manager, he starts having an affair with her.

I don't mind the format of the book. Though we do only get to see the world through Martin's eyes as he initiates and responds to other emails and text messages. It is kind of funny though... and I kept hoping he'd turn out to be a C and have to deal with losing his job. Sadly... no.

The Kite Runner - Wednesday Book Club June Selection

I seem to be reading many books for the second time this year. The Kite Runner is another one. the first time I read this book I really quite enjoyed it. Khaled Hosseini has a wonderful way with words and deals with hard subjects in a ... gentle isn't the right word, but it will do.

Reading it for the second time, I'm remembering things from my first reading... I think... I could be remembering it from another book, that happens to me a bit. Anyway... with this remembered bit, I'm reading the book in a different way, particularly the bits where Amir is talking about
Baba and Hassan. This book is really a sad tale about a strong friendship between two boys, and the guilt of choices we make. Friendships often are lopsided and in this case Hassan was the more honourable and devoted of the two of them.

Hosseini evokes a strong feeling of place, both in Afghanistan before the Russians and then after the Taliban has come to power, and in America. The Sunday markets and the sense of community are very well described.

I think it is the second half of the book when Amir returns to Kabul that is the most powerful part of the novel. The book definitely stands up well to a second reading and I still highly recommend it.

May Roundup

May was a very slow month for reading. I only finished two books. They were both in the Hamish MacBeth series by M C Beaton.

May Books
Death of a traveling man
Death of a nag

Total for the buck-a-book challenge - $31