Catherine Blyth’s “The Art of Conversation”

Posted in Books, Non-Fiction, The Art of Conversation with tags , , , , , on 5 July, 2009 by Nicola

I simply could not finish this book since Catherine Blyth appears to be unable to write in a clear, concise and coherent manner. Too many times I found myself re-reading passages trying to grasp her meaning. She is at her worst when explaining her personal experiences; it took several tries to determine what was even going on, who she was talking about and who said what.

I cannot possibly tell you which is worse: her choice of diction or her sentence structure. They are both terribly bad and make for very frustrating reading. Having six clauses in one sentence and employing high-brow phrases and obscure words are not the marks of a good writer. This book has every sign of a wannabe writer trying too hard. Continue reading

New Classical Crossover Website

Posted in Diary, Personal Musings with tags on 5 July, 2009 by Nicola

I am starting a new project.  It’s also hosted on WordPress, but it will be less like a blog.  It’s still in its starting stages, but it’s basically dedicated to the music genre ‘Classical Crossover’.  It will aim to have profiles and reviews for as many artists from the genre as possible.  Its unique element is that each artist are given star ratings on their different attributes. 

It won’t be ready for a while, but if you want to see me working on it, check it out anytime: Classical Crossover

I won’t be stopping this blog, as although I do review a lot of my music on here, reviews for artist of that genre will be restricted to that site only.  I will still reviews books, films, talk random stuff and review music from other genres.

Laura Whitcomb’s “A Certain Slant of Light”

Posted in Books, Laura Whitcomb with tags , , , , , , , , , on 5 July, 2009 by Nicola

I was having a slow day at work, and when I was sorting out reservations for books, I found A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb.  It was reserved by a work collegue, and since she generally has good taste in everything, I read the blurb, was intensely intrigued and left a post-it on the book saying ‘Let me know what this book is like once you have finished’.  That she did, telling me that she blubbed like a baby at the end of the story.

Encouraged, I took the book up myself.  The first quarter of the book is the strongest, with the protagonist’s love interest echoing the same air of mystery and puzzlement as the hero of the Twilight series.  It all starts in a classroom in high school; the boy gives her particular attention that she does not understand, and she is uncontrollably drawn to him.  She abandons the only existence as a ghost and drastically changes into a living form to be with her new infatuation.

So far.  So Twilight.  But where as Twilight goes on to become a ridiculous fan-fictitious farce, this novel remains more grounded and though it never verges on the ridiculous, it does seem to lose track and the impulse to keep turning pages slackens towards the end.  Continue reading

Why You Should Shop At CD Baby

Posted in Diary, Music, Personal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , on 30 June, 2009 by Nicola

Aside from the fact that CD Baby is a great place for independent upcoming artists to go to release their albums when their sound is not commercial friendly enough to be picked up by record giants.  And aside from the fact that it’s recommendation system is superb and precise.  And aside from the fact they have so many genre and sub genre categories that you cannot possibly go there without finding something you like, CD Baby have this to say in your dispatch notification e-mail:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole partymarched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Tuesday, June 30th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.  Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh…

And that is why you should shop at CD Baby.

Escala’s Debut Album: “Escala”

Posted in Escala, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on 28 May, 2009 by Nicola

Have I ever mentioned that I hate self-named albums?  It’s lazy, it’s boring and it makes the titles of my articles particularly awkward.  It’s not on.  Especially when it’s such a crap name for a band, anyway.  Scala is a very good name, and I’m not without sympathy that they had to let it go, but as coincidences have it, I have been a big fan of the “obscure Belgian choir” (as a tabloid described them, hey, they have only released seven albums!) that had first dibs on the name for a few years, and so I’m siding with the choir on this one (have you heard their rendition of ‘Teenage Spirit’?  It’s bloody creepily fantastic, check it out here).

So, after changing their name from Scala, to eScala and then finally to Escala, they finally released their debut album.  It kept being delayed but common sense tells me they wanted to release the album on the week of the Britain’s Got Talent live shows for maximum impact on sales, which has worked tremendously.  After their live performance on the show, they ranked number one on the Amazon charts the next day above Eminem.  I was expecting a modest but respectable top 30 album if I’m honest.  I knew such an album would sell but not that well.  It demonstrated the impact that Cowell’s shows have on the music industry. Continue reading

Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’

Posted in Books, Philippa Gregory with tags , , , , , , , , on 13 May, 2009 by Nicola

This is only my second outing with Philippa Gregory, and it took me a while to decide that she was worth my time.  The Other Boleyn Girl, was, of course, my first and I had mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, I though Philippa a beautiful and intelligent writer, on the other, the content and characterisation irritated me.  Gregory as often stated that her books follow fact but only fills in the gaps where facts are either unknown, uncertain or speculative.  She chooses to fill in these gaps with the most outrageous theories that she can possibly find about these historical figures.  It’s a little bit annoying. 

I can’t quite forgive the heavy hints she made in The Other Boleyn Girl that Anne Boleyn did commit incest with her brother.  That did not make good reading, it made it offensive.  Offensive to Anne’s memory and a mockery of all the historian’s that have found that Anne was executed solely on trumped up charges.  Only the other day I read on a message board from a reader asking if Boleyn really had sex with her brother.  I despair that someone even has to ask that question. Continue reading

Trudi Canavan’s “The Magician’s Apprentice”

Posted in Books, Trudi Canavan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12 May, 2009 by Nicola

I do like a bit of escapist fantasy, and when I want to read a good fantasy book, I know that turning to Trudi Canavan is a good idea.  Her narrative is not perfect, and her habit of italicising characters thoughts is actually very grating and something I am still not used to.  But who cares?  Canavan is creative and knows how to tell a story.

The Black Magician trilogy is the only story other than Harry Potter to make me cry at the loss of a character.  This is not a ‘boo-hoo-character-died-closed-book-and-forgot-about-it’ type cry.  No.  It is a loss that puts a nasty unsettling feeling at the pit of your stomach that could go on for as long as three days.  Sad, isn’t it?  Yes, it is, but do you know how satisfying it is to become attached to a character in such a way?  It is what makes a good read into a great read and only the most talented writers that specialise in characterisation that can acheive such a feat. Continue reading