June 26th, 2010

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38. Awkward Situations for Men by Danny Wallace

I usually love Danny Wallace's books as they usually make me laugh out loud loads of times, but I only laughed twice whilst reading this book. This one is a collection of a little stories from his time at the magazine Shortlist involving him arguing with a bishop online or commenting that his friend's baby looks "just like Hitler".

The stories are told in typical Danny-style: very British, blunt, simple and emphasised, but for some reason (as other people seem to have found this book hilarious) it just did not make me laugh. I still love you Danny, but unfortunately, I did not love this book. I'll still be interested in watching the US sitcom based on the book though.

My Rating: 2/5
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

39. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

I really enjoyed this book from the moment I started reading it. I see the main themes of the book as being: love, life and music. As a music fan, it's interesting to read about others who understand the importance of music: relate it to every aspect of their life, search for old demos or new acoustics, constantly recommend people music, and shake their heads at people who just don't get it. The main character is Rob: Rob Fleming is a London record store owner in his 30s whose girlfriend, Laura, has just left him. At the record shop — named Championship Vinyl — Rob and his employees Dick and Barry spend their free moments discussing mix-tape aesthetics and constructing "top-five" lists of anything that demonstrates their knowledge of music (Wiki).

I found this novel to be relatable (even though I really wanted to slap Rob sometimes) and funny and I definitely recommend it. I also have two of his other books: About a Boy & How To Be Good, so I'm interested in reading those too.

"People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobodies worries about kids listening to thousands - literally thousands - of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss."

My Rating: 4/5
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5

40. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer


I used to be an actual Twilight fan girl. No, really. Two and a half years ago I was obsessed with the series. I did gradually get bored of all the hype though and so I'm probably indifferent to it now. However, I'm not going to start saying "Twilight's rubbish!" etc etc because I would probably still really enjoy the books if I re-read them again and I clearly I still like the books if I preordered this one, and I'll definitely be going to see the Eclipse movie! I think the most important thing is that "young people" are reading, regardless of what it is. It's great to see people excited about books.

Anyway, this book was okay. It was always going to be too short anyway to be a really gripping story, but I was curious. Bree is a newborn vampire who gets killed in Eclipse - you literally only hear about/from her for a few pages. (Random note: I remembered who she was even though loads of Twilight fans couldn't recall her because the "Bree" is one of the main characters in another book series I loved as a young teenager, Sweep/Wicca by Cate Tiernan!). In this book, you find out a bit more about the background to Bree's story and the battle that occured in Eclipse. However, I am now curious about Diego (a vampire that Bree becomes close to) and Fred (a "freak" vampire whose special ability is to, well, produce an awful deterrent smell...clearly Stephenie has run out of ideas, but he's a curious vampire nonetheless). I'm giving it 2.5 out of 5 because although it gets interesting during a few parts of the book, I feel as if it might as well have been a "Bree information pamphlet" on Stephenie's website rather than its own story as a lot of it could have been summed up pretty easily without the filler pages and a few things were cringe-worthy (e.g. vampire kissing).

I did enjoy the book but I still feel that it opened up even more unanswered questions: the other vampires; what about their backgrounds? Where did Riley go? Why weren't they meant to know they could go out during the day? I can't remember if these were answered in Eclipse as it's been about two years since I read it, but I will be reading it soon again so I guess I'll find out then!

Overall, it's probably good for "hard core" Twilight fans but no use to anyone else.

My Rating: 2.5/5
Amazon Rating: 2.5/5

41. The Twins at St Clare's by Enid Blyton

I'm re-reading the St Clare's series (I bought the 1970s boxset as opposed to the new ones because they're just too...modern!). I first read the series when I was in infant and primary school (so about 6-9 years old most likely) and I remember loving them. Re-reading this book, it's interesting how I still remember bits of the storyline and the characters.

This is the first book in the series where Pat and Isabel O'Sullivan join St Clare's at 14 years old. I love how everyone says "ought" and "shan't", and they're just so posh. I love it! Why doesn't anyone use ointment anymore?

My Rating: 5/5
Amazon Rating: 5/5

41 / 50 books since ~June 2009. 82% done!

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Book #42 for 2010

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1963, 304 pages.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree way back in the day, Slaughterhouse Five was on the assigned reading list for one of my courses and I thought that it was one of the most brilliant works of literature I’d ever encountered. I stand by my opinion to this day. I loved it so much that my father bought me two or three other Vonnegut novels for my birthday that year but I couldn’t get into any of them; after downloading and reading Cat’s Cradle I remember why.

I don’t know what to say about this book. There were times when the brilliance of Vonnegut’s story-telling shone bright and clear and I remembered why I loved him as I did. There were other times where I wondered about his sanity or access to street drugs as parts of the book seemed like utter nonsense, with loose ends flying freely and messily.

The novel, narrated by [perhaps] Vonnegut, or by an unnamed man, tells of a journey taken while writing about the events of the day that the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima, and the strange meetings and side trips along the way. I give Vonnegut every credit for imagination, yet the inclusion of the fictional religion of Bokononism brings an oddity and sense of creative insanity to the book that I don’t think is redeemable by the excellence of the rest of the writing.

My thoughts about a rating for this book are still pending.
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Book 39 for 2010

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. 427 pages

I like Heyer's Regency romances rather a lot. That said, if this had been the first one I'd read I'm not sure I would have gone on to read any more of them.

The trouble is, this book tries to be both a Regency romance and a detailed fictional depiction of the battle of Waterloo and falls squarely between two stools in doing so. I enjoyed much of the romance itself, but felt it could have been carried off without quite such a detailed account of the battle, which seemed shoehorned in to some extent. And if it was an account of the battle she wanted to write, it might have been better to do it without the romance appended. The whole thing seemed like two books which had had a head=on collision and inelegantly merged their contents.

Not a horrendously bad book - the writing itself is still eminently readable -  but not Heyer's best by any means.