December 17th, 2012

doctor who

Book 166: The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Book 166: The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.
Author: Jonas Jonasson, 2009. Translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury, 2012.
Genre: Picaresque Novel. Black Comedy. Crime Fiction. Period Fiction.
Other Details: Paperback. 396 pages.

On his hundredth birthday, just as the celebrations are about to begin out in the lounge in the old people's home, Allan Karlsson hastily decides that he wants nothing to do with the party. He climbs through his window and disappears - and soon he has turned the whole nation on its head. He does have some experience in these matters. He has previously done the same thing with the world. - synopsis from author's website.

This Swedish novel was a delight from start to finish. Its narrative alternates between Allan's adventures in the present after he climbs out of the window and his history from boyhood onward. While the novel is a world removed from the gloomy Nordic Noir that I adore, a common thread is an engagement with social issues and politics; here presented as Allan's encounter with various political figures of the 20th Century.

The novel has been chosen by two of my reading groups this winter. At the first meeting it proved an unqualified hit with everyone present for its quirkiness, its often absurd humour, its warmth and general readability. I have every confidence that it will also be well received by the other group in January 2013. I came to the novel with no preconceptions and just adored it.

Jonas Jonasson's page on 'The Centenarian Who Climbed....' - includes interactive map of Allan Karlsson's adventures through the world of the 20th century and list of notable historical figures he encounters (spoilers!)
50bookchallenge2012

The final home stretch

44. White Fang by Jack London
45. On the Decay of the Art of Lying by Mark Twain
46. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss read by Walter Matthau

How I've managed to never read White Fang until now is beyond me. What a fantastic book! For me, a dog lover, I found myself captivated from start to finish. With the exception of the first part, the story was told entirely from the perspectives of the wolves and dogs. I loved it! London explained things from how a wolf or dog would perceive them and not through the emotions and intellect of a human. I loved it! If you get a chance, read it. You won't be disappointed.

As for the Grinch, this was a free offer from Audible.com that I claimed via Facebook. It was a wonderful short Christmas listen, and Walter Matthau (isn't he just wonderful!) did a fantastic job narrating the curmudgeonly tale. I definitely recommend grabbing this one!


Books completed: 46/100

once upon a time

Books 167-168: Fables Deluxe Editions 2 & 3 by Bill Willingham

Book 167: Fables: Deluxe Edition #2.
Author: Bill Willingham, 2010.
Genre: Graphic Novel. Re-told Fairy Tales. Myth and Legend. Romance. War.
Other Details: Hardcover. 264 pages.

Given that I am borrowing these from our library, I wasn't able to continue with the same editions. This deluxe edition contains the comics #11-18 (Storybook Love and Barleycorn Brides) along with the one-off special The Last Castle and A Wolf in the Fold, which I had previously read in the first collection.

Storybook Love (#11-17) opens with Snow White slowly recovering from her injuries sustained during the rebellion at Animal Farm. When she and Bigby (the Big Bad Wolf) announce that they are going on vacation together residents of Fabletown are surprised as Snow has never taken a holiday before and the animosity between the two is well known. However, all parties are unaware that a prominent member of Fabletown has placed them under an enchantment. Camping in the backwoods they face an old enemy bent on eliminating them. Meanwhile, Prince Charming decides to make a bid to become Mayor of Fabletown. Barleycorn Brides (#18) is a charming tale of a Smalltown tradition. In The Last Castle Boy Blue tells Snow White about the last stand against the Adversary in the Homelands.

This combined edition gave a degree of background on various characters and how the last group of Fables crossed over to our world. It demonstrates what a rich story-telling vein that Willingham has tapped. There was a lot more graphic violence in some sections and I felt sad to learn of the demise of certain characters in the past.

Book 168: Fables Deluxe Edition #3.
Author: Bill Willingham, 2011.
Genre: Graphic Novel. Re-told Fairy Tales. Myth and Legend. War
Other Details: Hardcover. 232 pages.

This third deluxe collection contains comics #22 (Cinderella Libertine) and #19-21, 23-27 (March of the Wooden Soldiers).

Cinderella Libertine opens with the amusing scene of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White lunching together and complaining about the behaviour of their mutual ex-husband, Prince Charming. It provides insight into Cinderella's current life some background on the marriages of all three to the caddish Prince Charming.

In The Last Castle the fate of Red Riding Hood was left uncertain yet in the opening of March of the Wooden Soldiers, she comes through the gate from the lost Homelands and is welcomed as a miraculous survivor by everyone - except for her old nemesis, Bigby, who is suspicious. Meanwhile, Prince Charming's campaign to replace King Cole as Mayor of Fabletown continues and the Adversary begins his first assault upon Fabletown.

This series just gets better and better and Willingham and his artistic team just do a terrific job. After many years of exile the inhabitants of Fabletown face the threat of invasion from the Adversary. This marked a change of direction to a much higher threat level than the earlier stories and I felt it was handled very well. I found myself on the edge of my seat during the final pages.
Read or Die

Books 42-52, December 17, 2012

42) The Last Hero by Terry Prachett Illustrated by Paul Kirby. 2002 It was an OK book with an interesting twist on the whole "What makes a hero?" question. The illustrations are lovely and the dragons are plain cute.

43) Circle of the Crone, Source book for Vampire the Requiem. david Chart, Ray Fawkes, Greg Stolze, and Chuck Wendig with Will Hindmarch. Vampire created by Mark Rein-Hagen. 2006  This is a book for mature players of the table top RPG game system put out by White Wolf Books. It's to inspire a bit more depth into creating vampires who are old style pagan and gives some flavour text and story ideas for players and storytellers.

44) The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett revised edition 1992. Typical Pratchett adventure but on the microscopic scale. It's his debut novel and you get an inkiling of future amusements in this book.

45) The Innkeepers Song by Peter S. Beagle. 1993I usually love Beagle's books but this one did very little for me. I am not sure if it's the style or the characters just don't appeal to me but this book fell flat with me. And this was a re-read.

46) Buddha Karen Armstrong. 2001. a "biography" of a man who made sure his message was more important than himself. Not an easy task but you do get a better sense of the huge shift in humanity's perception of itself during Buddha's lifetime.

47) World War Z by Max Brooks. 2006. I liked this book. It is about the world and the horrible aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. No corner of the world is left unchanged after the zombies spread even worse that the plague. Thank you Max Brooks.

48) Sabriel by Garth Nix. 1995. Undead of a different sort. Well developed world with a believable heroine. The contrast between the Old Kingdom (Magical Medieval Northern Europe) and Ancelstierre (early 20th Century Europe) is very apparent in the descriptions of the people, places, and things in either country.

49) Lirael by Garth Nix.2001. Sequel to Sabriel, it delvel deeper into the Old Kingdom, The future seeing Clayrs and how dark haired fair skinned Lirael does not fir in with her tan blond cousins and aunts. She does find a place for herself and improves certain abilities to make herself useful in the Clayr libraries, which don't just have books in them and not every place is safe. We also follow Sam, Sabriel's son, whose journey into adulthood is marked with some painful realizations.

50) Abhorsen by Garth Nix. 2003. The conclusion to Lirael. Both Lirael and Sam must stop an old powerful force from freeing itself from it's prison after it's been uncovered under horrible circumstances.

51) Across the Wall by Garth Nix. 2005. A collection of short stories, a novella, and a pick your own adventure game.

52) Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. 2006 reissue. What could go wrong when Death and Albert fill in for the Hogfather? Hmmmm! Read and find out. This a holiday re-read because in these dark times you need a few laughs to make to Christmas. Or Hogwatch.
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chalk

#37

ImagineWell, here's a bit better pop psychology book than my last pick.  In Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer takes a look at several disparate case studies  -  the invention of the Swiffer; Bob Dylan's changeover to electric instruments; Pixar's recent run of hits  -  to examine how creative ideas are spawned and whether creativity is a learnable trait.  Each case study examines one possible contributor to creativity: 3M, for example, allots employees a certain part of their day to work on personal projects, which has yielded products like Post-It Notes; the origins of Barbie, meanwhile, illustrate how crucial framing a problem is to creativity  -  something produced in one context might have unconsidered wide-ranging applications to another.  (Barbie's creator modeled her on a risque doll for adults she found in a German shop; having no knowledge of German, she was unaware of its original purpose and saw only its potential (with modifications, of course) for a child market.)  Lehrer argues that Elizabethan England was in a unique position needed to produce a Shakespeare, with the newfound popularity of the theater, relative freedom of speech (which encouraged satire), and nearly nonexistent copyright laws (which enabled playwrights to steal and hone storylines, as Shakespeare often did)  -  not only the right kind of person but the right setting is needed to produce a certain kind of genius.  (And, hey, the lack of domestic violence laws couldn't have hurt when it came to "The Taming of the Shrew."  Sorry.)   

Lehrer examines the "Q factor", which quantifies how well the members of a group know each other; if the coworkers are complete strangers, they'll have trouble with synergy, but if they're too buddy-buddy, they'll withhold needed criticism and fall into a comfortable rut, producing no challenging, breakthrough work.  (Think the past few years of Tim Burton-Johnny Depp.)  Lehrer is also a big fan of cross-pollination; he asserts that cities foster creativity far better than the countryside because one is exposed to a far wider range of influences in the former setting.  I can see that to a great extent, but as an introvert, I find the peace and isolation of the countryside essential to productivity.  See, I'm not sure I agree with of all of Lehrer's conclusions  -  he asserts that group free-for-alls are the best way to winnow and adapt ideas, but my experience has taught me that people listen to the strongest personalities, not the strongest ideas.  And his conclusions are, at times, contradictory, as the lead review on Amazon states  -  he'll go back and forth on whether you need to continually work on a problem for success or step away for a bit and wait for the Muses.  But his formatting is strong and lucid, he tells engaging stories with each chapter, and his curiosity is refreshing.  You can't swallow it hook, line, and sinker, but it's a neat conversation-starter.