Archive for the Books Category

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

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

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

Stephen King: Hates Stephenie Meyer, Loves J.K. Rowling

Posted in Books, J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer with tags , , , , , , , on 6 May, 2009 by Nicola

After reading this article of Stephen King praising J.K. Rowling and slagging off Stephenie Meyer, I have to say, I became rather more positive about the state of the world.

To make sure I would stay happy forever, I was cheered by this article that had a poll between Harry Potter and Twilight, and Harry has over three quarters of the vote.  I have to admit that I was worried that people would forget just how great Harry Potter was now that it is all finished and dusted, and with the Twilight series still very much in the lime light.  But I needn’t have worried.  Not to mention that the quarter of people that voted for Twilight are probaby fourteen year old fangirls.

The human race.  I have faith in you yet.

Hayley Westenra: In Her Own Voice

Posted in Books, Hayley Westenra, Music with tags , , , , , , , on 22 February, 2009 by Nicola

Many would consider Hayley Westenra to not have walked the earth long enough to justify an autobiography (plus the fact that this is her second book; an authorised biography, The World At Her Feet, written by Paul Little was published in 2004) but to dismiss this book on that criteria would be a shame. Of course it does not have the intrigues and knowledgeable voice of someone in their fifties, who has endured love lost and found, career setbacks and so fourth, but this book is not really supposed to be about that. At twenty years old at the time of writing the book, Westenra simply wants to document her young life in its own little chapter. Although Darren Henley helps write the book, it is told in the first person, and Henley succeeds at projecting out Westenra’s personality.

This book’s most appealing trait, perhaps, is the inside look of the music industry, not just from anyone’s eyes, but through the eyes of a child, and later a naive teenager. Hayley documents her journey through the industry with innocent sincerity, and what is so beautiful about it all is that she is still young enough to remember everything with utmost clarity; an advantage she has over older autobiographers. There is something charming about reading about the world through so much naivety and innocence. She will lose this narrative voice when she gets older so I can hardly regret that she has written this autobiography early on in her life. Continue reading

Reading List for February and March

Posted in Books, Diary, Lists, Personal Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9 February, 2009 by Nicola

I swear I think of a new book to read with every passing day.  In an attempt to keep track, I am going to write them down here.  Once they are under the watchful eye of my readers (because it seems that I have some, apparently) I will be sure to get through them.  Maybe.

I will try to read in this order, then:

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
I have never tried Stephen King.  Well, he is American, so it is not like I am going to pick him out on my own.  No, a colleague at work, who’s judgement I happen to trust, recommended The Dark Tower series to me.  Since I see her everyday, I better deal with her recommendation first.  I have taken out books two and three from the series, anticipating that I will want to continue (as the first book is yet to arrive), so here’s hoping.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
This book was recommended by somebody who reads my blog (that is a nice thing to do in the first place).  Sometimes I will take recommendations seriously, others I will not.  I decided to take this one seriously because I am ignorant of all things China.  I do not like ignorance.  I must remedy it where I can.  Not that this one book will make me an expert, but I would like to know at least something about the country, even if it just the lives or three women that lived there.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
I watched the film yesterday evening and I loved every frame.  I am very curious about its source material and it is with a heavy heart that it is shoved to third place on my list. Continue reading