Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Northanger Abbey

By Jane Austen. (Penguin Red Classics)

Young and impressionable, Catherine Morland loves books and dreams of adventure, romance and hidden passages. A chance meeting with a charming and attractive stranger in Bath, England, sparks an adventure of her own, but real life isn't as straight forward as the plot in a story book.
This is my third encounter with Jane Austen but probably my favourite so far, although 'Emma' runs a close second fiddle or maybe I enjoyed them as much as each other. When I first read 'Pride and Prejudice' I actually wondered what on Earth had hit me and I found it difficult to get my brain around such an old fashioned and convoluted way of writing but perhaps I am finally getting to understand Austen a little bit more. Northanger Abbey is much much accessible, it is romantic and the perfect escapist novel. How better to get your mind off work problems and financial problems but to find yourself riding onboard a horse and carriage in a quaint old English Parish! This novel is gentle and amusing in a subtle way and a thoroughly relaxing read. However the ending is insanely abrupt to say the least and everything is wrapped up way too quickly! Apparently this was one of the first books that Jane Austen wrote but was only published after her death, so maybe that has something to do with it. Would she have agreed to publication without a bit more editing? It's almost as if the last six pages were written by a different author.

Enjoyed. 4/5

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Harvest by Michael Wallace

My latest read was a collection of twisty horror stories by Michael Wallace. All of the eight stories are highly original and imaginative and I can promise you that you won't have read anything even remotely similar before! Although each of the stories were fun to read, the stand out story has to be the wonderful 'A Dog's Night' which in my opinion is the perfect short story if you like something fun and imaginative. My second favourite was the fantastically entitled ' Of ghosts, hell and postmortem consciousness' which surely has to win an award just for the title alone! These were my favourites in this collection of supernatural tales and the rest were maybe a little bit harder to digest but still worth a read. I particularly liked the way Michael weaves a little bit of historical fiction into the mix to add to the raw imagination.

I will have to keep an eye out for some of Michael Wallace's novels.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Book 6 - Play to Kill by P.J Tracy

The body of a man dressed as a bride is fished out of the Mississippi and as more bodies are found videos are posted online to coincide with each grizzly murder. Two cops, a federal agent and a group of computer geniuses set about finding the culprits before it's too late.

Unfortunately for me it was too late to change my mind about reading this book as I plodded along painstakingly towards the end. Apparently 'Play to Kill' is part of a series to feature the same characters so maybe that didn't help and perhaps it would have been better if I had read the others first. Also I have to say that cop thrillers are not my thing and this definitely wasn't my favourite book of the year so far! The story is unoriginal, the characters are pretty one dimensional cardboard cut outs and the plot went from the ridiculous to the sublime and was disjointed to the point that I struggled to finish this. I think my problem with books like this is that they are pretty much the same plot regurgitated over and over again. I think I have read this story a million times and seen it on TV even more times.P.J Tracy have a bit of a following and a bit of a reputation though so maybe this book was just a blip. On a positive note this book was easy to read and contained some nice bits of humour but I lost my sense of humour by the time I read page 325.


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Book 5 - Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse

I only read this book because my son is studying it at high school and I thought it would be an interesting quicky to boost my 52 book challenge. So I borrowed it from him and gave it a go. It is unbelievable how my own family don't understand my obsession and love of reading. My wife was asking 'Why are you reading that?' And my son was asking 'Why are you reading that book, it's a school book?' How many times do I have to say I a writer and as a writer I want to and need to read as many different genres as humanly possible! Oh well enough of my moaning, what about the book?

I haven't read that many plays over the years and this is my first of the year. It is an old play and was first presented on stage in 1916 at the Apollo Theatre in London. Set in my own native north west it focuses on a cobbler who treats his three daughters and his own workers pretty grimly and spends far too much time at his local pub. However he receives a dose of his own medicine when his daughters turn against him and he has to fight to retain his position as head of the family!

I actually feel for the main character because I work in a female dominated profession and I know what it is like to feel the wrath of dominant co workers! But as for the play itself it didn't exactly rock my world. Maybe it just isn't my cup of tea but I found it mildly amusing and average at best. It wasn't exactly a laugh a minute and it wasn't a page turner by any means. But maybe I should read more plays and perhaps visit my local theatre more often.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Book 4 - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This, my fourth book in this year's challenge, has been on my 'to be read' pile for a while and I finally got the opportunity to read it. It tells the harrowing tale of a future gone wrong, a dystopian world where the stuff of nightmares becomes a terrifying reality. The story centres around a woman who is imprisoned inside a high security world where there are armed check points at every corner, where it is illegal to write or speak and where women are used as baby making vessels and moved around like human cattle. It doesn't sound a barrel of laughs and that's because it isn't and it isn't meant to be either. With echoes of cold war communism and religious fanaticism, The Handmaid's Tale is a bleak and uncompromising look at what would happen if the human race fell down a cesspool of it's own engineering.

Although this book is dark and disturbing it is brilliantly and beautifully written and Margaret Atwood creates a stunningly real world that I well and truly believed in. Each page is filled with unbelievably good prose and try as I could I could not think of one good reason why I shouldn't give this book a 5/5.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Book 3 - Grimm's Fairy Stories by Jacob Grimm

This is a book I freeloaded onto my kindle at some point in the last few weeks and it includes 25 of the original Grimm's fairy tales but sadly my version didn't include any illustrations. It was interesting to read a few of the classic tales stripped back to their original format and to note how they were subsequently altered for the purposes of Walt Disney productions and ladybird books! I was brought up on the ladybirds and was shocked to see how different some of the stories actually are. But I won't beat about the bush, I'm not 6 , I'm 41 and although interesting this download didn't exactly set me on fire and I was pretty glad to get it over and done with. Great children's stories though full of nice morals.How can I rate a childrens book that is aimed at the 5 to 8 year old bracket? I can't but as far as enjoyment is concerned I give it a 2/5.