Sort of a Book Review: Dodger (Pratchett)

I think the most unusual thing is this post is that I am actually writing a blog post and I have read another book.

Another book about real live people and a made up story. Pratchett is, of course, brilliant. This is very good YA fiction with an excellent in joke that is only (partly) revealed at the end.

There is a theme developing that will soon be crushed by one of the next books that I am considering reading.

It’s probably time for a classic. It may well be Dickens. It might not be.

Very busy with life (real and otherwise). I’m swimming a lot. A lot. This is fantastic news for me and very boring for you. I will soon also be cross-training a lot. Ditto.

I have hit on a writing idea that, at the moment, I am throughly enjoying spending time playing with. I mean, properly enjoying, not occasionally dabbling with and then forgetting about. This is good therapy. It really is.

For completely different reasons, I need to spend time on my interview answers and examples.

And cleaning. And getting fresh air. Once it stops snowing. If it ever stops snowing*…

Oh! Also, I am stupidly happy that PJ and Duncan AKA Ant and Dec are all set for a Number 1. Just a childhood thing. No biggie.

*Want to read a good SF book about snow? Read Adam Roberts’ aptly titled Snow.

I’m illiterate

I am. I can’t read at all.

Well OK, what I mean is, I can’t read like a writer. I can’t read to criticise (in the analysis form of the word not the slagging off form of the word). Rather, I’ve never been able to read to criticise easily and I’ve never really chosen to do that either.

Thinking back to school again. It was GCSE English that was the first and last time I read a novel and dissected it. It was George Orwell’s Animal Farm – rather apt for it is some sort of anniversary for Eric Arthur Blair this year but I haven’t quite worked out what anniversary it is yet. I enjoyed scribbling all over my copy bought solely for the purpose. It was colour coded and very neatly done. I may even have sketched a pig or two.

That was the first and only book I’ve ever written on. It was installed in me from a very young age that books are sacred and should never be defaced. Of course as an adult I know that’s just ridiculous. No one is going to arrest me for writing a comment or question on a book that I have bought with my own money. I still can’t do it though. I can’t write on books. That’s the be all and end of it.

This is where e-books are  going to help me massively. When reading an e-book, you can highlight and comment until your heart is content and not ever be seen to have been defacing the thing at all. Fantastic. I hope to do this one day using my Nexus 7. That is when I start using my Android tablet to read books and not just play Hangman or watch endless TV series on Netflix. That is also when I get used to the idea of reading an e-book. But that’s another blog post entirely.

Why would anyone (meaning me) want to read to criticise anyway? Well, if I’m going to take this writing hobby of mine a little more seriously and justify signing up for that University of Oxford creative writing course, I’m going to want to improve and, if I’m going to improve, I’m going to have to change the way I read books so that I can learn from them. I’m going to have to criticise novels and short stories and articles and scripts and anything else that is written down in actual words and stuff. It’s not going to be easy for me but, hey, start small and work up. Double hey, blog about it, so others can join in with your obvious unease.

I just need to decide what I’m going to dissect first. Any thoughts or comments?

Oh, yes, almost forgot. What brought about this blog post in the first place? It was this post (How To Read like A Writer) by the excellent and hugely inspiring Chuck Wendig. I’m mentioned him before. He’s the guy who does an awesome weekly writing challenge on his blog and sometimes hits resonance.


Update of the general variety

I’m not getting on very well with Celestial Matters. Such a shame because I do remember my A Level physics teacher waxing lyrical about how brilliant it was that the book is set in a universe where the laws of physics are literally Greek. I have to agree with him that I find that idea incredibly interesting but I am completely unenamoured with how the author felt the need to include Greek Gods and slaves in this as well. Also, I can’t get into the mindset of the main character. I really don’t want to give up on the thing. Might have to pick something else up in the meantime. This is usually fatal but nevermind.

I’m on leave from work next week. Burglers beware I am still at home. Lots to do. Happy with my flat at the moment. I’ve gotten rid of a great deal of stuff which makes it tidier and much less cluttered. I also have flowers. I do like having some nice flowers about the place.

I think today’s job will be writing a story and some comedy to wake up my pan galactic gargle blaster fried brain. Let’s see what I can do.

Oh, just turned Radio 4 Extra on to Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show – The News from Lake Wobegon. How fantastic.


Book Review: Carter Beats the Devil (Glen David Gold)

And as if by magic, I finished this at about half 12 last night. What an excellent book! Thanks to the last-minute vote on my experiment and to James for recommending it in the first place.

Where to start?

I suppose I should say (as I should have said for Hudson’s The Dazzle) that Charles Carter and various other characters were real live people. There’s even a cameo by Houdini. Houdini! I have to say I find magicians much more interesting than the interwar fast set, if just because of the sheer brio you must have to spend a life on stage deceiving people. As usual, in these cases, I wonder how much of the story was true and how much a fabrication. Certainly, you can perform more outrageous magic tricks on paper than you can on stage, except that, I read in the notes that the tricks were all based on those that were performed at the time. Well…

I like this book because I was fooled into forgetting that Carter was a real person. The story has so many twists and turns that fit so incredibly well together, I was never bored (the book is over 500 pages long). In fact, I did something I haven’t done for a long time, I actually savoured reading it. It’s a romance, a who-dun-it, a coming of age story, a comedy, a tragedy but mainly an adventure. And it’s a debut book!

I had to wait until near the end to find my favourite line though, then two came along at once (discounting “Paddock’s Storage House” for obvious reasons), oh, and I learned a new word: Horripilation (Goose bumps!).

In short, I loved it and was, quite frankly, impressed. It gave me horripilations (see!).

Read it. Don’t delay. Read it now.

I’ve been waiting to read the next book since my A Level Physics teacher mentioned it 12 years ago…

Celestial Matters (Rickard Garfinkle).

Book Review: The Year of the Hare (Arto Paasilinna)

Weird book but then it is Finnish. Recommendation taken from a blog that I follow.

The translation was OK. I can’t say I’ve read worse because this is the only Finnish book translation I have ever read. It had a beginning, a middle and an (happy) end. And I don’t blame the protagonist for his actions.

I think I should like to move to Scandinavia.

6/10 – worth a shot.

52 Books (ish – don’t judge me) A Year

And so, after nearly a whole year, I have finally completed my resolution to read and review 52 novels. That is what I did.

Sort of.

The real (main) idea was simply to read more because for the last couple of years I’ve only read a handful of books and I love reading. The secondary idea was to have a go at a review or two because I enjoy that as well. How did I really do? Here come the stats!

I read a grand total of 26 novels, 1 play, 3 loo books, 4 (officially) kids books, my first e-book, a science book, a CV, a biography on Shakespeare, 2 autobiographies, some letters written by horses, at least 3 really bad books, a good few short stories, a Pratchett, a practical guide for wartime American soldiers, a social reading project book (mammoth count of 5 books because it was huge) and 1 non-finisher. And I reviewed them all! Even if some reviews were very short. I’ve tried some new genres and re-discovered my love of Science Fiction. More importantly I have read more! I think the most I read in a week was 4 books. Unheard of.

I have also found a plethora of weird photos online.

So, that’s that. I will continue to make more time to read. I collected a good number of book recommendations and will enjoy reading them at my leisure. I hope to continue to review the ones I like too.

Which brings me to my 2013 resolution…

Read and review 20 books AND write 13 short (or long) stories.


We’ll see how it goes. And, oh yes, next year… no cheating!

And finally, book 52: Joined-Up Thinking (Stevyn Colgan)

My mind is befuddled by all the facts in this book. But I like a book full of facts. Facts and the odd innuendo. It’s the sort of book you’d read a chapter of here or there (maybe but not exclusively on the loo) and then have to read it again every other day to try to learn then regurgitate in the pub.

Why not take the book to the pub? You’ve obviously not met my friends. If they knew I got most of my facts from a book they’d be very disappointed. Where they think I get my facts from is another debate entirely.

8/10 – It’s just like those conversations you (I) had as a kid which start off with yesterday’s botched chemistry experiment, to clouds and tennis then end up with Henry III and pickled onions. Really interesting.