The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – A Book Review.

The Name of the wind is the first in a traditional fantasy trilogy called ‘The Kingkiller Chronicle’, it has been on my ‘to read’ pile for a while knowing I’ll love it but not quite ready for the commitment. It’s so intimidatingly large that I just couldn’t bring myself to start it; I have a habit of becoming very antisocial when reading fantasy books and it never seemed quite the right time. To give you some idea of its size, it is approximately 250,000 words long; for context the first book in David Eddings’ Belgariad series (The Pawn of Prophecy) has 104,000, and it’s a similar size to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The second one isn’t much smaller, I bought both the first two when I saw them at a charity shop after hearing good reviews of the series.

nameofthewind

I’m so relieved to find a new traditional fantasy series to lose myself in. If you are at all familiar with the genre then you will feel instantly at home. Horse and carts, bards and lutes, taverns and gods, it has all the pieces for a full fantasy world. I like urban fantasy well enough, J. K. Rowling, Patricia Briggs and Shanna Swendson, to name a few, have managed to bring the fantasy into our own worlds in I way I really enjoy, but often the genre has a angsty or sleek and sexy vibe to it which is very different from the homely, rustic feel of the old fashioned fantasy genre. The novel is suitable for most age groups, there’s no bad language (or so little I’ve forgotten it) no raunchy sex scenes, any violence is implied rather than explicit and the book doesn’t lose anything for it.

20150825_180013

A lot of the story is told as a story with very occasional, intermittent chapters of present time. Qvothe, the protagonist, is retelling his life story to Chronicler, a man who collects stories. There is clearly a plot to the current time events, but very little progress is made in that area, instead most of the action occurs is Qvothe’s recollections. The book is packed with events that keep the book moving along nicely, there are stories within the story which have their own set of characters and resolutions. The writing is beautifully done, and the characters are vivid and colourful. There are multiple, unofficial sections to the book that make convenient brake points and the chapters are thankfully small, as I said before the book is huge. There are times of humour and time of sadness; moments of cleverness and moments of foolishness; flashes of profound greatness and instances of weakness. Overall it is a great, long winding tale with highs and lows and no dull moments.

Despite its size, the book doesn’t really standalone well. There is no overarching plot to the book as a solo book. As I said there are many minor resolutions within the novel, but nothing that wraps the book up with any satisfaction, if fact quite the opposite, it leaves off on a bit of a cliff hanger, or more of a tease really. I’m not sure I like a book to end so openly however I can forgive it as I knew beforehand that it is part of a trilogy; a trilogy I shall most certainly continue to read. The slightly troublesome thing is that the third book is yet to be released, Rothfuss seems to be taking his time with it. However rumour has it that a Movie, TV series and videogame are in the works so at least I’ll be able to immerse myself in the world a bit more. (Kingkiller Chronicle movie news).

trilogy

Here’s a couple of excerpts from the book that show a little of the writing style and world created.

‘Dax set himself alight while attempting a spectacular bit of fire breathing and had to be doused. All he suffered was a bit of singed beard and a slightly bruised pride. He recovered quickly under Ben’s tender ministrations, a mug of mead, and a reminder that not everyone was cut out to have eyebrows.’

map

‘”I’m giving you the opportunity to say something,” Kvothe said. “Something along the lines of, “That can’t be!”, or “There’s no such thing as dragons…””

Chronicler wiped the nib of his pen clean, “it’s not really my place to comment on the story.” he said placidly. “If you say you saw a dragon…” He shrugged.

Kvothe gave him a profoundly disappointed look. “This from the author of The Mating Habits of the Common Dracus? This from Devan Lochees, the great debunker?”

“This from Devan Lochees who agreed not to interrupt or change a single word of the story he is recording.” Chronicler lay his pen down and massaged his hand. “Because those were the only conditions under which he could get access to a story he very much desired.”

Kvothe gave him a level look. “Have you ever heard the expression white mutiny?”

“I have,” Chronicler said with a thin smile.

“I could say it, Reshi,” Bast said brightly, “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

Kvothe looked back and forth between them, then sighed. “There are few things as nauseating as pure obedience,” he said. “both of you would do well to remember that.”’

 

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells – A Book Review.

invisibleman-133159

I am falling behind in my 1 book a week aim which is a shame. I seem to spend a lot of my days doing jigsaw puzzles, and then as I feel going outside once in a while is healthy, and interacting with real people is necessary, I seem to have used up all my anti-social time. It took far longer than it should have for me to come up with the idea of listening to audiobooks while puzzling. I thoroughly recommend it.

I have managed to read a few books lately though I haven’t posted any reviews in a while as I haven’t had much to say about them. However having recently finished listening to The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and finding it very different to my expectations, I have decided to recommence the reviews. I have had the audiobook version of The Invisible Man for several years, but haven’t got around to listening to it; the avid readers among you will no doubt understand the nature of a ‘To Be Read’ pile, it works the same with audio books, I seem to gather them faster than I listen to them.

How Out of Control Is Your TBR Pile

The Invisible Man (1897) is one of the most famous sci-fi novels ever. It was written by H. G. wells and has innumerable films, TV series and comics based on it. Wells is also known for The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau which also have various media adaptations. Before listening to the book, this was pretty much all I knew. I had heard of the invisible man in the world of comics and superheroes and I vaguely remembered a film adaptation of The Time Machine that was a fun family friendly adventure. Consequently I was expecting something along those lines with this book; some of you will know that’s not what I got.

Invisible_Man_Cartoon_Series

I listened to a free audiobook version of The Invisible Man downloaded from Librivox (link here). The narrator (Alex Foster) was fine; I have no criticisms. I have experienced audiobooks that were hugely enhanced by a great reading, this wasn’t one of them, but on the other hand he certainly didn’t detract from the story, he was perfectly listenable, which isn’t always the case with the volunteer lead readings you find on Librivox.

I’m very well behaved when reading or watching sci-fi with respect to the science. I am willing to suspend logic and reality to an extent to allow the authors to create the new world, and in fact I enjoy the logic of the world they create and generally will allow it to stand without question. After all if science could actually do it, it would be reality not sci-fi. I reviewed Replay by Ken Grimwood and touched on The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North last year (link here). In Replay the science isn’t really attempted, and that’s OK, but I was highly impressed with the science element in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August; I’ve yet to come across a better developed sci-fi world. In The Invisible Man Wells has also done a great job of explaining his scientific phenomena with a  reasonable explanation of how to make something invisible, in fact this was one of the most satisfying parts of the book from my point of view.

harry august

Now to the story itself. As I alluded to earlier, The Inivisible Man is not a light fun adventure. It’s not even a slightly sinister or dark superhero book. It’s just dark and angry. The main character, the invisible man himself is called Griffin. When we are introduce to him he seems a rather harsh and grumpy however with my preconceptions I felt there would be reasonable justification for this later on. However as the book proceeds you are lead to like Griffin less and less. I clung on to the hope of a sort of redeemable anti-hero for a while but gave it up on that idea about half way through. Griffin is simply selfish, angry and brutish. You may think that is very well done by the author to build such a dislike about a character particularly when you are predisposed to like them, it must have taken very strong writing to create those emotions and I do agree to a certain extent. Griffin is a well developed character.

The main problem I had with the book is that non of the other characters in the book are particularly developed at all. There isn’t really anyone to like or root for. There is a tramp that is controlled by Griffin for a while. You would think you would feel some sort of support, or liking for the tramp but at most I felt a mild kind of pity. The tramp didn’t really have enough of a sense of character to really be noticed. Later Griffin holes up with an old acquaintance, Kemp, who when he realises Griffin’s brutality and unrelenting drive for complete domination, betrays Griffin to the Police. Griffin being angry at being betrayed and now hunted turns his anger on Kemp with the intent to kill. Even Kemp is hard to care about. I did support him in the sense that your enemy’s enemy is your friend, and Griffin was definitely an enemy by then, but there was very little emotion invoked on behalf of Kemp himself.

Overall I can’t say I liked the book, the writing style with a third person narrator I quite liked, the bits of science used to describe various phenomena were interesting, but without a likable, relate-able or redeemable character in sight it just felt like spending several hours in the company of and angry psychopath.

 

Yes Man by Danny Wallace – A Book Review

One Little Word Can Change Your Life!

yesman

I enjoyed last week’s book Back Story by David Mitchell (review here) so much that I wanted to stay in a similar genre for my evening walks. I chose Yes Man by Danny Wallace, I’d had the audiobook for a while but hadn’t listened to it, then the other day I came across the book in a charity shop and had to buy it. Danny Wallace is a comedian/presenter/author that sometimes crops up on TV; less well known than David Mitchell, but still I was aware of him. And now I could switch back and forth between reading and listening as convenience dictated. What happened in practice was I started the book, was enjoying it so I switched to the audiobook for my walks and enjoyed it even more. It wasn’t until I began to write this review I realised the audiobook was an abridged version and that I’d missed all sorts in the actual book. I will have to read the whole thing another time. So this is in essence a review of the audiobook abridged version of Yes Man (audible link here).

sayyes.jpg

The book is an elaboration of his diary over the better part of a year as he undertakes the role of Yes Man. After a chance encounter on a bus when someone inadvertently tells him to say yes more, Danny Wallace embarks on an adventure to not only say yes more, but to say yes to everything. This is hugely entertaining, the strange encounters, odd experiences and unexpected successes are both ridiculous and believable.

This book has something for everyone, there’s a challenge, a nemesis, UFO groups, Maitreya, money, a love story and an unexpected nursing degree to name a few highlights. Continue reading

Back Story by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Not that David Mitchell, this is the British comedian, star of Would I Lie to You, Peep show and That Mitchell and Webb Sound amongst others. This is his biography. I bought this on a whim when I was looking for an audiobook to accompany me on my evening walks, coincidently the book is structured around David Mitchell going on a walk. I am a David Mitchell fan, his awkward and repressed persona coupled with his extremely quick wit, sarcastic, cynical rants and wonderfully expressive turns of phrase never fail to either amuse or impress me. That being said I am not usually one for biographies, however as he was narrating this version  I thought I’d give it a go. (Audibe link here)

Backstory_cover

 

I loved it, I would say it’s my favourite audiobook ever, but I realise I’ve said that before and would likely say it again. Often when I’m completely enjoying a book I can’t imagine enjoying another book as much, I can’t compare them, I am in the world created by the author and no others exist. I think this is the greatest compliment you can give a book, and it applies here. I loved it so much I have now bought it in book format, feeling slightly low at the prospect of trying to fill my evening walk with some other audiobook.

davidmitchell

This biography was touching, clever, amusing and so very David Mitchell. Continue reading

The Evolution of Personal Reading Preferences.

Have your reading tastes changed over the years?

Have you ever thought about it, noticed it or wondered when, how, why?

I am extremely interested to hear any of you views on this, particularly your ideas on what prompted the change.

 

I have always been an avid reader. As a child I devoured books; I loved Enid Blyton, the Hobbit, Harry Potter, Robert Muchamore, David Eddings and so many more. As a teenager I read more than ever.

th-Enid-Blyton-Books

My Mum sometimes said that I would read anything with words on it, it was only when in the school library one day trying to choose a book that I considered this statement and whether it was really true. The librarian was trying to help me out by asking what sort of book I wanted to read. That was when I realised I wouldn’t, in fact, read anything. I had extremely specific tastes. I think maybe when I was learning to read, I would read anything, they joy of being able to read probably eclipsed anything else, the magic of creating whatever was written about in your head is exciting, particularly when it’s new. By the time I was in my early teens and trying to choose a book in the library I seemed to have a very narrow area of interest.

With my current ‘read 1 book a week’ aim I am attempting to read a variety of books rather than sticking in one genre. Through this and a few conversations with friends, it has dawned on me how my tastes have changed over the years. The change that struck me most is that non-fiction appeals to me now the way it never did as a child. I want to read a book on physics, on gardening, on social science. Bee keeping interests me, projects fascinate me, and people’s everyday lives now have a draw. When discussing this with a friend we decided this was a common evolution in peoples reading preferences. Continue reading

Ecclesiastes – A View on Life and Happiness

I have just recorded the whole of Ecclesiastes in the NLT version which can be found here.

Ecclesiastes has always been one of my favourite books of the Bible, though that might seem odd with some of its negative themes, it has always made sense to me and echoed many of my own thoughts. There are many well-known quotes and ideas in Ecclesiastes that are used in everyday life that perhaps people aren’t aware are biblical. For example ‘There is a time for everything’ or ‘Meaningless, meaningless everything is meaningless’, ‘We can’t take our riches with us’, also ‘Eat drink and be merry’ is a concept that is brought up often as the writer sees the expanse of life and its purpose.

eccles

As one who has often looked to the past and future and recognised the futility of all efforts, it is comforting to read Solomon’s view on life. He too see’s that what we do in the end comes to nothing. That history repeats itself in cycles, each generation forgets the earlier ones, the time and effort we take to build our fortunes is left to someone else. Continue reading

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse – A Book Review

Week two of my book challenge and I’ve opted for a classic, the second in Wodehouse’s Blandings series.

Something Fresh (Blandings #01)

P.G. Wodehouse is an author I have only recently discovered despite being fairly well known and being first published in the early 1900’s. My first venture into his work was by audiobook, the first of his Blanding’s novels called Something Fresh and it was possibly the most perfect audiobook I have as yet encountered. The story is engaging without requiring too much concentration; ideal for driving or knitting or any other everyday task. The humour light and quick without being stupid or crude and the characters extremely well drawn without hours of description. Add to this a wonderfully fitting narration and you have the most rounded experience of an audiobook you could ever hope for. Yes, it really is that great!

something-new-by-pg-wodehouse

Continue reading