Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Celestine Prophecy

I am not providing a link, nor a picture for this 'book'. I don't know which moron published this crap, but you shouldn't give them any of your money. I don't know how this managed to become a bestseller, but can only assume the fault of gullible people who can't actually read. You might think I'm being overly harsh. In which case I suggest you try to read this nonsense yourself. Thankfully my library is smart enough to shelve it with novels (not in the fantasy section [or, even better, the bin], where it belongs) and not the self-help/mystical stuff section. This is a badly written excuse for a sort of new age religious type movement masquerading (and not very well at that) as an adventure/spy story.

I foresee more of this crap in my future, but at least I'm getting paid for it. If you're not, don't read this.

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Alchemist

This is a book that I'm being paid to read and summarise. This is not a book that I would have chosen to read all by myself. I dislike allegory and I particularly dislike spiritual allegory. I've always considered it rather insulting, rather like saying "Well, you'll never understand this, so let me dumb it down for you."

This is the story of a shepherd boy and his 'Personal Legend'. Basically, what this book seems to be saying is that if you follow your intuition and behave in an extremely superstitious manner all your dreams will come true. None of which I believe. I do believe that you must be prepared to take detours and so on while trying to reach your goals. Of course, I also believe that you should make decisions based both on rationality and on your own desire. I do not believe that you should allow anyone (regardless of who they might be) to dictate your life to you.

The one message of this book that I do like is the one that says: you will not be a fulfilled person if you do not make every effort to follow your dreams. That is something I can agree with.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Christopher is a young autistic gentleman. He likes dogs and is distressed when he finds his neighbour's dog dead. He decides to solve the mystery and write a book about it at the same time. This is his book. Along the way he has to do things that he doesn't like doing - for example, talking to strangers (and I really don't blame him, strangers are weird). Then, a few things happen and he finds out that his father lied to him. About something big. And if there is one thing that he does not like it's lies. So then Christopher has to be extremely brave and not only talk to people he doesn't know, but go to places he doesn't know where there are too many people and some of them might touch him.

It's beautifully written and exceedingly clear on how he sees things. His logic is wonderful, though the story is rather sad. This is highly recommended.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Skeleton Man

This is a book that was picked up at random at an EB sale. Bum suggested it because he knows how much I enjoy murder mysteries. This was a good one. It had some irritating features and some blazingly obvious 'twists', but there was an awful lot of good writing and it was very enjoyable. Not, however, enjoyable enough for me to look out for other Philip Dryden mysteries. The main reason for that is that the man in question is some sort of journalist or something and I really prefer my main characters to be either detectives of some sort. I do not like journalistic detectives who find their mysteries while researching something else. I don't know why, but I very rarely enjoy those. If you do enjoy that sort of thing, though, then you should look out for others in this series because Kelly is a good writer.

The Secret of Chimneys

Another Agatha Christie one-off. There are some characters that are known from other books of hers, I'm thinking principally of Superintendent Battle. Apparently the place and some of the characters feature in another book of hers, which I've not yet read. This is a great fun mystery with a couple of murders thrown in for good measure (after all, it doesn't seem quite like an Agatha Christie without at least one murder). The main character is Anthony Cade, a man with almost no past. From early in the book I was convinced he was working for the British Secret Service or some such, simply because I've read a fair number of Christie's books in my time. The plot is slightly too political for my tastes, but otherwise one of her best.

The Dana Girls

I'm behind for this month, so I need to catch up. Of course, the reason that I'm behind is that I spend all my time reading (and the best part is that the universe listened and I'm actually being paid for it). I feel very sad some days that I haven't had a chance to buy more books. Well, I'll get some on Saturday, but it seems so long to wait.

Now the Dana Girls books are by the same people that did Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I personally like the Dana Girls more than the others, but that's probably just because I used to read them when I was at Plumstead Prep. Anyway, I've started collecting them in my old age and have discovered that there are two series which sort of overlap. Also, it appears that finding decent images of covers is impossible. I shall have to take some pictures of my pretty covers (including The Haunted Lagoon, which I accidentally stole from Karen Jennings back in Std 1 and still have).

Anyway, these books are about Louise and Jean Dana, two sisters that are teenagers. Jean's the blonde and slightly younger. I've always preferred Louise, probably because she's somewhat less impetuous than her sister. Naturally they have boyfriends and many friends that occasionally show up. They are orphans and attend boarding school, where some of their mysteries are based, or at least start. When they're not at school, they spend time with friends and their aunt and uncle, a sea captain on the Balaska.

These are fun books in the style of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys without being nearly as irritating. I imagine that most of my likely for them is due to some form of nostalgia and a memory of loving them as a little girl.

CS Lewis: The Man Behind Narnia

I picked this book up at Bargain Books the other day. I really am completely hopeless when faced with books that are cheaper than usual. Though, it's always worth it to check, 'cause I once saw a book at an EB sale where the sale price was higher than the normal price! Anyway, I picked this up because it looked interesting and I needed a third for my '3 for R99' bunch.

This is a biography that's really aimed at American children. I can tell this from the style of writing and the way that they keep choosing to explain what I feel are fairly self-explanatory words. I guess that they're words that most non-British children wouldn't be familiar with (what that says about me, I'm not sure, but probably has something to do with my large accumulation of books by British authors through my life).

It's well-written and informative. I had no idea about much of Lewis's life story (I didn't even know he was actually Irish!) and this was a very interesting introduction to it. It did, of course, focus mainly on his writing, but that's to be expected, since it's aimed at children who enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia. But as someone who did not enjoy them, it's still a good introduction to the author. Apparently I have the same objection to Narnia as Tolkien did - it's just a mish-mash of myths that don't (or shouldn't) go together. It drove me nuts and apparently did the same to Tolkien.

This is a good introductory book and I'll certainly be looking out for others - both by this author and on this topic.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Fellowship of the Ring

I just finished rereading FotR in my annual(ish) reread of LotR. I finished it in the bath, actually, an incredible feat given that our water was mysteriously switched off this afternoon and was disgustingly muddy when it finally came back on.

I must say that this is, in many ways, my favourite volume in the series (though I'll probably say that about them all). While I'm all for considering the entire work as a whole, as I understand Tolkien did, they are divided into the three volumes and I've already considered the work as a whole.

I love this volume. I love the descriptions of the landscapes. I love the hobbits. I am a hobbit in many ways (though I do wish I could enjoy both cooking and gardening in a slightly more balanced, continuous way, rather than the off-and-on way I do now). I would probably fit in very well at Rivendell as well, devouring all those stories (I sometimes see myself as Sam, being tutored by Bilbo and getting completely wrapped up in tales), though no one would ever mistake me for an elf.

I find many parts of the book beautiful, occasionally sad and frequently wistful. There's an autumnal quality to this first volume, particularly as you enter into Book II with the death of Gandalf, the twilight nature of Lothlorien (don't ask me to explain that, because I can't) and the eventual breaking of the fellowship. It really does seem to be the ending of an Age (and, really, it is the beginning of the end of the Third Age of Middle Earth) and that is probably why I always turn back to it in Autumn.

This is probably the volume I reread most, particularly the beginning (except for the Tom Bombadil chapters, which I frequently thoroughly despise and skip without reservation) with the apparently idyllic Shire (how I'd love to live there) and the adventure and excitement of setting out - both on a perfectly lovely walking trip and on an Adventure. It appeals to me in every respect. If only dear old Carolyn Stewart (whatever happened to her?) had given me this instead of The Hobbit, I'd have been happier and Tolkienified (I just made that up, can you tell?) much earlier. I particularly enjoy rereading this after watching the movie (definitely my favourite of the three, almost without comparison [I'm very attached to the sections on Rohan in TTT movie]) as the depth and intricacy is so much clearer after that pale reflection.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Harry Potter

Ah, Harry Potter. It had to happen eventually. I own all seven books, I have read them all and I occasionally reread them. The first one I read was Goblet of Fire, the fourth book. I was working/volunteering at a convent school in England. The book was lying in the senior common room, so I picked it up and read it. It was a good book. When I came home, I went about purchasing and reading the rest of them.

This is a good series. It's fun, mostly well-written and full of glorious details. The books centre around Harry Potter, the Boy who Lived, and his experiences at wizarding school. Though, really, if any of you don't actually know this I'd be very surprised.

The earlier books are much better than the later ones, in my personal opinion. The earlier books are very much school stories with, of course, the obligatory adventure at the end. My favourite of these is Prisoner of Azkaban, though I am very fond of Chamber of Secrets as well. The later books are far more action-oriented - they are far more in the adventure style than in the school style. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the books lengthen and the plots suffer for it. It's hard to pick a favourite here, but I'd go for either Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix. Phoenix does have the problem of making me cringe, but then Goblet of Fire has the problem of Hermione looking drastically different in the same way that no-one recognises Superman when he puts on different clothes and glasses. It's ridiculous. There are increasing plot-holes and bad characterisation as the series goes on.

I'm not going to detail my every objection to the series, but Rowling needs some practice at writing believable teenage romance and angst. She could also have used a better, less star-struck editor who was capable of spotting the glaring errors and fixing them. I cannot complain too much though, given the horrific editing of some of my favourite books (here including Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, but not Tolkien). I will, however, complain about the way that she 'develops' her characters. They not only grow, they regress. Now, while I grant that there is some cause for some of this, occasionally she just takes a character and disregards their entire personality and turns them into someone else with the same name (and yes, I'm thinking particularly of Cho here). I also think that a few of her supporting characters are a little too two-dimensional and could have been far better developed, considering the length of time she had to develop them in all the enormous tomes she wrote.

I don't think very much of the movies, but that's mostly because of the way that they deviate from the books. The errors that the books make are bad enough - there is no need to compound them by making even worse errors in the movies. They did, in my opinion, have very good casting for the most part.

And, a word about the covers. I for one like the majority of the covers. There is only one I object to and that's the one for Deathly Hallows. The artwork seems out of character with the rest in the sequence. I would have much preferred for all the artwork to have been done by one artist, preferably one of the ones that did Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. I do not like the covers by the artist who did the ones in the Afrikaans translation (and possibly the books that were published in the States? It's hard to tell). There are also the 'adult' covers. Entirely unnecessary in my opinion, but some people are weird about their book covers. I personally don't usually care too much about the cover (except when it comes to my Enid Blytons' - I don't want the covers to be too modern 'cause those covers tend to be awful).

Anyway, if you haven't read these, you probably should.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Intracortical remodeling during human bone development – a histomorphometric study

This is a fascinating paper about bone remodeling. Essentially, it sampled a bunch of people's bone to find out what the bone looks like when the people are growing. It's very interesting to me, because I care about things like this (hello, corrections!). It's probably not very interesting to you if you don't. I have a .pdf if you want a copy.

Anyway, the point of this article is mostly to do with cortical porosity, which I'm not particularly interested in. It gives a pretty good outline of the process of remodeling and much of what it talks about is very interesting, if completely useless for my thesis.

The full citation:
Rauch, F; Travers, R & Glorieux, FH. 2007. Intracortical remodeling during human bone development - a histomorphometric study. Bone 40:274-280.

Tuesdays With Morrie

It has been forever! This is because I have been sick and huddled underneath the duvet reading piles of books. It was fun, although I really do prefer being either not sick or properly sick. I do not like any sort of general malaise characterised by an inability to use my brain.

This is not the sort of book I would normally choose for myself, I don't think. I went and got this one out of the library purely by chance. I'm doing a writing job for some woman who wants summaries of certain books. This was the first one on the list that I spotted, so I took it home with me and began reading and summarising it.

It's a sad story, yet heartwarming at the same time. It's also rather repetitive and badly organised, though that is part of it's charm. It makes me wish I'd met Morrie and glad that I'm nothing like Mitch, the author. It's certainly a book that I'd recommend. It's a quick, easy read that is likely to stay with you for a long time.

Friday, 07 May 2010

Inspector Morse

My Grandma Baggins (I have a picture of her where she looks just like Ian Holm's portrayal of Bilbo - more evidence for my being a hobbit!) used to love watching this on tv. I never really understood it. Who wants to watch some crotchety old man going around bungling up police procedure, which is helpfully dealt with by his faithful by-the-book sidekick, and solving crimes. Then, in the library the other day I picked up The Riddle of the Third Mile. It was fantastic. So, on my recent foray to CAFDA (which was very disappointing, I'm sorry to say), I picked up The Daughters of Cain, which I'm busy working my way through. I had intended to read it yesterday, but I was sick and so slept most of the day.

Anyway, I'm very intrigued by the title, which suggests to me that women are (or a woman is, at the very least) responsible for the death(s) that take place. I don't know for sure, because I haven't gotten very far - it's hard to read when you have to do actual work. I really would like to have more money than I knew what to do with so that I could (a) build my library house (I discovered a flaw in the plans yesterday - I need some sort of laundry area) and (b) not have to work when I don't feel like it.

But, back on topic. I'm now interested in seeing some of the Inspector Morse episodes, because I have some understanding of the character now. It's one thing to watch someone acting in a certain way - you understand certain things, depending on the script, direction and acting, but not others. To have read about the character and seen into his mind, as it were, makes your understanding of him so much deeper. I'd love to see some of the episodes. Also, some of the Agatha Christie's would be nice. I've only seen one or two (though, not the ones with Angela Lansbury [who I see is just over a year younger than my Grandma Baggins and going to be 85 this year! Hard to believe it] as Miss Marple, I would keep thinking I was watching Murder, She Wrote!).

Anyway, Inspector Morse is a detective series that I recommend highly! Well worth reading and quite possibly worth watching as well.

Monday, 03 May 2010

The Four Loves

Ah, CS Lewis. I'm just going to come right out and say it. I cannot stand the Narnia books. I will never review them here (or anywhere else, for that matter) because, despite repeated attempts throughout childhood and adulthood, I have never finished the things. Lewis's non-fiction, however, is another story. I've already discussed Mere Christianity, which attempts (sort of) to move from non-belief to belief. This book presupposes a Christian belief. It is, however, possible to substitute most of the Christian bits for whatever it is that you believe or, even better, to just ignore them altogether. When you do, what you're left with is an interesting discussion of the nature of love and the four different aspects that love can take.

It's definitely worth reading, regardless of the fundamentally Christian nature.

(For those of you who're interested, I picked this up at what seemed to be a mostly Christian/Religious book stall at Greenmarket Square on Sunday).

The Legend of the Seventh Virgin

I have to admit myself rather unimpressed by this book. It was a good story, but rather too much of one of those wandering romances than what it should've been. The main character is a narcissist with a god-complex and just plain irritating to boot (and there's a funny expression - my dictionary of idioms gives an explanation but no etymology unfortunately). What I think was meant to be a twist at the end was blazingly obvious and the final couple of chapters were just plain anticlimatic.

SPOILER ALERT:
Frankly, the book would've been far better if the nutcase had managed to wall her up and we'd been able to witness her last suffocating moments. Possibly that's not very nice, but it would've made for a better book!

Anyway, this is one that I don't regret reading, but won't bother to recommend because it's just not that good.

Monday's Kitten is Eight Months OId!

Look at my little darling! I can't believe he's 8 months old already. He's certainly getting to be enormous. I remember when he was just a tiny little thing. He's still got his very long legs and tail though. How much growing does he still have to do?

Sunday, 02 May 2010

Murder is Easy

To me, this is one of Christie's stand-alone books. The wikipedia page I've linked to tells me that it features one of her recurring detectives, Superintendent Battle. While I'm sure that's true, I don't recall his presence at all strongly. He's the policeman that turned up right at the end, I think. I would, however, like to know why there are a number of pictures associating this title with Miss Marple. To tell the truth, it would fit very well with a Miss Marple, originating as it does in the suspicions of a very Marpleish character.

I will admit to finding the main character of this book amusing in his complete inability to detect his way out of a paper bag. I do rather deplore Christie's almost universal insistence on some sort of romance or pseudo-romance in all her novels. I do think that it would have been a more enjoyable story if my original suspicion of the romantic interest as the murderer had been right. As it was, this was not a particularly difficult one to figure out. If you're having trouble and want a hint: pay attention to the cat, he knows more than he's letting on. Aside from the characters, I really did enjoy the plot and the fact that almost all the murders were in the past and had to be reconstructed through various memories. I particularly enjoyed the dichotomy of the Major's view of his wife and marriage and the view commonly held by the rest of the village.

A fun murder mystery with no real ties to any sort of series. I do not consider the small part of Superintendent Battle at the end of the book to have any sort of power to link this book to any other in anyone's mind except the author's.

The Name of the Rose

I got this book out of the library because Bum recommended it to me. He said that given how much I enjoyed the monastic mystery solving in the Cadfael Chronicles, I would probably enjoy this as well.

I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. The plot is good. The characters are wonderful. The style, however, annoys me. I don't mind the fact that the book is written from the point of view of one of the characters when he's grown old. I do object to the first section that sets up the whole "OMG! I found a really old manuscript!" thing that so many books seem to do. Sometimes it works, most of the time it just irritates (me). There are long ponderous sections that drag on and seem uninteresting. Was the heretic/inquisition side-plot necessary? All it did was increase my ire towards organised religion. Was the 'all women are evil' dialogue really necessary? I understand that many religious people in the Middle Ages may have felt that way, but this book was written in a time when attitudes are supposed to have changed. There's no need to have the attitudes of the Middle Ages changed, but there's really no need to explicitly state their views on the worthlessness and iniquity of women.

Like I said, I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. But you should probably read it anyway.