Friday, February 22, 2013

First Chapter, First Paragraphs

Advent by James Treadwell


A December night 1537

   On a wild night in deep winter in the year 1537, the greatest magus in the world gathered together and dismissed his household servants, wrapped himself in his travelling cloak, took his staff in one hand and in the other a small wooden box sealed with pitch and clasped with silver, and stepped out into the whirling sleet, bound for the harbour and - so he expected - immortality.
   All but the city's most utterly forlorn inhabitants had been driven from the streets by the bitter weather.  The reamining beggars and strays were fully occupied with their struggle to survive until dawn, so the magus walked uninterrupted through alleys of filthy slush.  Nobody so much as saw him; any lifted eyes would have been stung by the icy rain, which felt as if it blew from every direction at once.  Nobody but one.

I'm reading on, would you?

Book Club Meeting

I'm sure I shant be blogging about every book club, but this was an interesting one.

The location - The largest (only?) inhabited roundabout in the UK.  The Shepherd and Flock pub in Farnham, Surrey.  Though half the group must have driven past it many times they didn't know it was there, apparently they drove a complete circuit around the roundabout once before realising how to get on it.  So was the Fire Engine that nearly drove through the side of the pub trying to turn around in a space not much bigger than itself.  It reminded me of my favourite scene in the first Austin Powers film...

A Dark-Adapted Eye had been reasonably well received.  There was a lot of puzzled discussion, and even talk of whether or not Vera was Eden's mother (I thought not, but who knows).  We all hated Francis.  I'd prepared some discussion questions, but totally forgot to take them.

Next months book is Animal Farm by George Orwell.  That's rather a small volume, and what I've read so far it's an easy read, though I may have to read a little more around the Russian Revolution to make sure I get all the references.  Maybe even get something like the York Notes or other study guide for Animal Farm.

As Animal Farm is such a short book we decided to read something a little longer next time, and chose for April's meeting The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  Having already started it I don't think that will take long to read.  It's a much bigger book than Animal Farm, but it's so entertaining and funny I think that will only take a few days to get through.

So I have put it to one side and will read after Animal Farm.  But as I can't just read one book at a time )I have a book for bathtime, a book in the desk drawer at work, a book (well, a stack and a shelf actually) in my bedroom and one in my bag, I have picked up Advent by James Treadwell.  This was one of my Christmas presents.  The first few pages look very promising.  I'll have to make it my next First Paragraph's post.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

Publisher - The edition I read had previously been published free with Country Living magazine, and was bought from Green Metropolis for £3.75.  It's widely available through Green Metropolis, ebay and Amazon to name but a few.

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell, and A Dark-Adapted Eye was assigned as February's book club book.  The title refers to how the narrator recalls events from earlier decades and slowly the picture becomes clearer the more she remembers, much like you might observe in a dark room, as your eye adapts to the dark you are able to see more.

We have our book club meeting tomorrow night, and I finished the story this morning.  I must admit I speed-read through the last 50-100 or so pages, partly because I was afraid I wouldn't finish it in time, and partly because I'd read that there were twists at the end that it was worth reading for.

Part of me was expecting the twist to be that Vera was not guilty, even though it's clearly stated from the start that she was guilty and there had been several witnesses.  It's not so much a whodunit as a whydidshedoit.

Every review was glowing, and while I can see that technically it's very good, extremely well crafted and keeps you guessing til the end (and beyond), I can't say that I enjoyed it.  I don't think it's a book that you 'enjoy'.  I think it's meant to puzzle you, and intrigue you, and make you want to keep reading to find out why Vera was hanged, what could have gone so wrong for a woman who so strictly lived to a decent moral code.  I didn't get that feeling either.  I wasn't thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, I could easily have put it down and not picked it up for a week, and if something had happened to the book and I lost it, I would not have bought/borrowed another copy to find out what happened.

What was brilliant about it was the teasing and slow drip-feed of information, and realising how your perception of characters and events changes over the time.  For instance I interpreted the opening paragraphs as though the narrator is planning a murder.  It soon became clear what was really going on, but you need to read the whole story to understand the whys and wherefores.  I pretty much detested Vera and Eden at the beginning, but by the end I was desperately sorry for them both.

Occasionally I watch the soaps, and when we discuss what's happening in the storyline it can feel like we're discussing it as though it were real.  That's kind of how I feel when I think about this.  I feel quite sad when I think of all the times that the narrator, Faith, points out how things could have worked out differently.  I have to remind myself that it's not real.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, despite everything I've said above I would recommend it.

Questions I want to raise tonight... (I've left one or two out as they're spoilers in themselves, but if you read the book you'll be asking those questions yourself).

How could things have been different?

Is anyone who they seem at first?

What about Francis?

Can you trust Faith?  Were Vera and Eden as bad as she remembers, especially her earlier memories?

What was Daniel Stewarts aim in writing Vera’s story?

Would you re-read this?

First Chapter - First Paragraphs

I saw this on Bibliophile by the Sea's blog here:

I'm not sure if it's something I would do as regularly as once a week, but here's the first paragraphs of the book I'm reading at the moment.

I'm reading The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.

Monday, 2nd May 2005

You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to tell the others of his decision.  But Allan Karlsson had never been given to pondering things too long.
So the idea had barely taken hold in the old man’s head before he opened the window of his room on the ground floor of the Old People’s Home in the town of Malmk√∂ping, and stepped out – into the flowerbed.

Would you read on?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Publisher: Gollancz
£FREE  (Christmas Present)
ISBN 0575079673

What can I say? Scott Lynch is fast becoming a favourite author.

This is the second instalment of the Gentlemen Bastards sequence, and our favourite anti-heroes are yet again embroiled in an increasingly convoluted series of misadventures. This time they get to be pirates, and while the novelty of Locke's world has worn off a little and Tal Verrar is not so interesting a place Camorr, it is just as entertaining. There's plenty of laughs, and lots of action to be had.

If I gave Lies 5 stars, then this would get 4 and a half. The difference being that you never really feared for Locke and Jean's lives like you did in Lies. In Lies I felt that truly anything could happen, but in this instalment I felt that Locke and Jean would probably survive together. I was intrigued by the teaser of Jean turning on Locke, and I spent most of the novel thinking about how what I was reading at that point in time might lead to that situation.

There is a prequel or two due for release, as well as Book 3, and I am eager to get my hands on them. Watch this space.

What more can I say?

A friend sent me this on facebook and I absolutely love it and couldn't agree more.  Unfortunately I can't make out the signature in the top left to give the artist proper acknowledgement.