Saturday, September 14, 2013

Another Holiday, More Reading

Oh dear I haven't written a blog on here since my last holiday read review back in March. This time it's the results of 10 days in Corfu:

Going to Sea in a Sieve by Danny Baker - 10/10

I started it before we set off but as I finished it on holiday I guess it counts. He has a wealth of stories and tells them well. Find out how he didn't kill Bob Marley, he's not David Essex's brother and all about his intimate encounter with one of the cast from Hair. And laugh, a lot.

 Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh - 7/10

Death doesn't have to mean the end of love, so long as you're pretty enough. Even if you're still alive you may not stand much of a chance unless all your social networking profiles are right and if you become disconnected from that then what chance do you stand? A decent enough look at love and social networks in the near future.

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young - 11/10

Being a Neil Young fan but loth to buy books in hardback, I've been waiting for the paperback version of this since before christmas. And I wasn't disappointed. If you want all the facts and figures then read 'Shakey' by Jimmy McDonough but if you want a real insight into the personality and life of the man then this is the book to read. It rambles and roams through his life, his family and his passions and always seems to come back to his current twin obsessions of his electric car project, Lincvolt and his campaign for better sound quality in digital music, Pono.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - 9/10

I didn't take this book on holiday, my wife did and she enjoyed it so much that I had to read it to find out what all the fuss was about and so that she could talk about it to me. And I'm very glad I did.
The Thousand Emperors by Gary Gibson - 8/10

Always on the lookout for a new sci-fi author that doesn't go on too much (really, a 600+ page brick generally turns me off when it comes to sci-fi), I found this and rather liked it. I'll probably search out some more.

 Archipelago by Monique Roffey - 8/10

I'd tried to read one of her earlier books on the recommendation of my wife but gave up after about 30 pages as it didn't engage me in the slightest. But this one did. A simple, beautifully told story about a man who sails off in search of himself after a traumatic life event.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo - 7/10

I haven't finished it yet but I will soon. It's not fantastic prose but it's such a great story and although I've seen the first 2 films, I've never read the book.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Holiday reading

One of the joys of a relaxing holiday in the sun is the opportunity to have a right good read. I know I can do that at home but on holiday there are no distractions and you can really kick back and get stuck into a few good novels. Here's the list from the past week in Lanzarote:

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch - 7/10

I spotted this on a buy one get one half price table at Waterstones and it looked interesting so thought I'd give it a go. It's not particularly smart or clever and has nothing at all really to say but it's quite fun. If I were to compare it with Laundry Files series by Charles Stross or just about anything by Jasper Fforde, with which it shares many similarities, it falls a little short but not far. There's every chance I'll be reading further books in the series at some date in the future but I'm not going to be racing out to buy them.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway - 9/10

What a cracking read. Not exactly an earth-shatteringly original story - a race to save the earth from the effects of a doomsday by a watchmaker with a family history - but the slight steampunk bent and the tales of London's underbelly give it some nice originality. The conclusion is pretty obvious and so Harkaway doesn't waste much time on teasing that part of the story out, just getting right to the point. I'll certainly be taking a look at his other work.

Filth by Irvine Welsh - 9/10

I don't know why I hadn't read it before or maybe I had and had forgotten it. The protagonist is a nasty piece of work with no real redeeming features, so fairly typical Welsh. From the blurb on the cover I'd expected it to be filthier than it turned out to be but it was still pretty bad and is not recommend for those of a sensitive nature. I notice they're making a film of it, I suspect I'll be there to see it.

The Woman in the Fifth by Douglas Kennedy - 2/10

I was absolutely loving this book until page 295, then I was a little wary and then the clunking, crass cliche fully kicked in. I carried on as I thought it may be able to recover and I rather liked the characters so I wanted to know what happened but to no avail. It actually got worse as a further awful literary cliche reared its ugly head and deprived the book of any sort of a climax. I won't spoil it all by telling you what dreadful misdemeanours were executed but safe to say it's the sort of thing that might have satisfied me when I was 10. I came away feeling completely conned and hoping that I would soon wake up and discover it was all just a horrible dream!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Guardian Crossword

My name is Sunny Jim (it isn't really but what the hell) and I'm a (Guardian) crossword addict (the proper one, not the quick one). There I've said it, I can't do without it. I can't be doing with the online version and it would be such a faff to print it out every day (except for those times when they print the wrong one, cue another snotty email to the readers' editor) that I buy the paper every day. When I'm abroad on holiday I mostly avoid the urge to buy the paper just for the crossword by taking a book of old crosswords with me.

I first started buying The Guardian when I was at UMIST doing Maths and it wasn't long before I took my first fledgling attempts at writing letters in those white boxes on the back page. I wasn't very good but soon got better. There were other students on my course who took an interest and very soon we were working collaboratively on each day's crossword by chalking it up on the blackboard in what passed for our common room and so sharing our answers between (never instead of, oh no) lectures and tutorials. Pretty soon we began to make a pretty decent fist of it and would occassionally even finish it, though we sometimes had to call on the help of the odd (and some of them were) professor to get the last few clues in.

One of the joys of the Guardian cryptic is that you know who you're dealing with, to some extent. Each day's puzzle is formally attributed to a compiler and so we began to recognise individual setters and it would give us some idea of the difficulty and our likely chances of completing a particular grid. Very early on, one compiler stood out, Araucaria. In 1966, Ximenes of the Observer (Derrick Macnutt) wrote a book which laid out a set of 'rules' that he felt should be present in a good crossword. We quickly learnt that Araucaria played fast and loose with these so-called rules and anything was fair in love and crosswords just so long as the answer could be readily and unambiguously determined.

So why this blog post? Well in today's paper there is a crossword that made me smile a great deal whilst also making me feel rather sad as I filled in the clues and worked my way towards the message that it contained. Once finished I also felt a great deal of admiration for a man who has brought me a deal of pleasure over the years and hopefully for some time to come yet. Who else but the crossword compiler's crossword compiler would announce to the world that they have cancer by way of a crossword puzzle?

Many thanks John and I hope there will be many more crosswords to come.