Category Archives: authors

I give up!

I’ve agonised over this, but I’m just not enjoying this book!  So I’m giving up on it.  In my earlier life I would never have done this, I used to have to read a book to the end no matter what.  Now, for some reason, it seems unnecessary to put myself through something I’m just not enjoying (I’ve got the dentist and performance related pay for that kind of thing).

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How did I arrive at this decision?  It’s not a bad book, it’s a bit quirky and interesting.  It seems to be going somewhere in a meandering kind of way.  If I continued, and this is what kept me going this long, it might be a great book, but I don’t hold out much hope.  The final reason, and probably the single most common reason why I give up reading a book, is I just don’t like any of the characters.  Which is surprising, because I will quite happily read novels about murders and terrible acts by one person to another, but the author normally includes one person who you like, or have sympathy for, or identify with.  I wonder if you have to like at least one character in a book to enjoy it?  In this book I’m not sure I found the characters particularly believable and certainly not likeable.  I didn’t dislike them, I am just indifferent to them.   Or perhaps you don’t have to like them but you have to feel strongly about them, like or dislike, you want to see them win or lose, to get a reward or their comeuppance.

“So what?” I found myself thinking as I was trying to concentrate and failing.

I’d describe the book as Forest Gump meets Thelma and Louise meets The Old Devils.  That sounds quite interesting but  it’s told in a kind of Grimms Fairy Tale style.

Other books I can remember bailing out on for this reason are Before They Are HangedJoe Abercrombie, and Catch 22Joseph Heller.  Both are well regarded books, but not for me.  There are others, but I’ve forgotten them.

Catch-22

Catch-22 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover of "Before They are Hanged (First L...

Cover of Before They are Hanged (First Law)

Anyway, I’m off now to read Gone GirlGillian Flynn, which I am assured is fantastic.  Not a BIB I’m afraid, I chose it.  But so far I seem to be enjoying BIBs more than my chosen books.

I’m also considering treating myself to the entire current list from Richard and Judy’s Book Club, as a Christmas present as I have found some fantastic books on there in the past, in preparation as BIBs I’m avoiding them in book shops!

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

100man

I’m 19% of the way through this book that I chose in complete awareness.

I chose it because I thought it sounded unusual, with my recent interest in older people, it’s certainly unique to find a main character who is a centenarian.  It was also a bestseller and I like the quirky cover.  The blurb seemed promising.

At this point however I am a bit indifferent to the book, I’d give it a rating of 50%.  The style of the narrative is a bit sing-song and as yet I am constantly asking myself “Why?”  I’m hoping that the author, Jonas Jonasson, has something up their sleeves.

This is the first book I’ve chosen and read since starting this blog, and having greatly enjoyed the BIBs, I don’t want to find out that my ability to choose a book is pants!

Looking this up on Amazon, I’m very intrigued by this book! 100 Facts about the 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared That Even the CIA Doesn’t Know – Christian Hacker.  Perhaps there is more to this book after all, or a new genre of pseudo conspiracy theory books about popular fiction a ploy to gain a wider audience.  What next?  Pride & Prejudice and the plot to Assassinate Kennedy, A Tale of Two Cities and the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Da Vinci Code and… oh no that is one isn’t it?  It’s a spoof about reviews of this book apparently, how disappointing.

I Am Pilgrim – completed.

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I’ve finished this excellent book.  I highly recommend it.  Either as a BIB or go and read all about it, but read it anyway.

I would have finished this sooner, but life got in the way.  I had hit my tipping point (about 80% of the way through) about a week ago, but there were things that needed doing and I just couldn’t get back to the book.  I knew that if I found some time it would have to be significant enough for me to finish it.  It was there in the back of my mind ticking away, building up my anticipation, and prolonging the agony and ecstacy of finishing a good book.

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Did it live up to all my expectations.  I would say yes mostly.  As you can see from the Bibliograph, it took a little dive at the end, but then it’s difficult to maintain a book this good.  In no way was the end disappointing, just not as great as the rest.  The story was so well thought out that most of the trail of breadcrumbs were gathered in, and even though the book is 700 dead tree pages long, it had the feel of a very well edited book.  Not much is wasted in there.

Interestingly I like the main character.  Which given surprises me as I haven’t normally found this kind of character sympathetic.  He has the feeling of being a whole person (even if not with your average life story).  His protagonist too (as I have mentioned before) has depth and I found myself having some sympathy with him too.

Where does this book belong in my top 10?  Definitely in there.  I’m not sure if I’m damning this book with this but..  I’d put it alongside and above “The Da Vinci Code”.  Definitely better because it’s more relevant.  It was very believable (mostly) and topical.  I’d almost be able to find a news story a day that was relevant to it.

You can also see from the bibliograph that my enjoyment of the book was high all the way through, and the pace of progress was pretty constant.  I think Terry Hayes will have a hard job coming up with a follow up to the same standard, but I for one am a convert and will eagerly await his next novel.  (I hope he’s going to write one, I’ll have to go and look him up now).

Friends gone to Iceland?

Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Ey...

Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. Lónið is the lake visible in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bjork (I just thought I’d get the obligatory mention out of the way in anything you read about Iceland. It was hard to find a picture without her in it!)

This is interesting Iceland: Where one in 10 people will publish a book on the BBC website.  What an amazing statistic,   I originally thought they’d all be reading each other’s, as naively I imagine everyone in Iceland knows each other (it practically says that in the article too so I am not alone in this).

So I thought if this ratio was applied to my friends how many books would I be obliged to read (being polite).  I think I’m pretty average so I discovered that there is a figure called Dunbar’s number which is the number of stable relationships the human brain can maintain, about 150.  So that would be 15 books.  (I don’t think I have anywhere near 150 stable relationships).

With all these books coming out of Iceland I wondered if I’d read any.  I did a search and found a whole genre I knew nothing about.   Icelandic Crime Fiction looks worth perusing.  I might have to acquire one and read it as a BIB.  Any recommendations welcome.   I think the nearest I got was Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow – Peter Hoeg.  Which was a book I can recommend and made me think I should find out some of his other works.  He’s Danish though I think.

Why Iceland though?  Is it really as cultural as it appears?  Does the seismic energy of the place infuse the inhabitants?  Mind you there’s a lot of murder and crime in the books, so what does that tell us?  I must admit to just really thinking there isn’t too much to do in Iceland when the winter sets in and the light levels are low so do they get depressed and plan how to kill each other?  I feel like I’ve trooped out a whole psychiatrist’s sessions worth prejudices and misconceptions there!

Is this a case of quantity not quality?  I think I’m going to have to find out.

Pilgrim171013I am Pilgrim is still continuing to knock my socks off as a BIB, I keep yoyo-ing around as to what I think the books is really about.  Still lots of questions, and the promise of answers.  I strongly recommend it.

 

Does the e in ebook stand for error?

The Pitt Building, headquarters of the Cambrid...

The Pitt Building, headquarters of the Cambridge University Press, on Trumpington Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a whinge, really it’s not.

I’ve had my beloved ereader for several years now and am having to stop myself upgrading (there’s nothing wrong with mine, I just need…)  So I am keen on ebooks.  I’ve read quite a few…(I’ll have to work that out sometime).  And it seems to me that they are prone to errors.  Is it just me?

This post Just How Bad Is It? doesn’t think so, but it is quite old, so I’m not sure if things have improved.

Here is a page that details how to report an issue, it does suggest that you’ll get a refund (but you have to return the book) but isn’t hopeful on you getting a corrected replacement.

I do know a little about publishing processes (and the rest I can guess convincingly).  So I am very surprised at this, if indeed errors are more prevalent in ebooks.  Imagine the following scenarios.

In A Perfect Book Publishing World

Author writes book, this ends up in computer file of some type.

Publisher receives file.

Publisher edits, proof reads and corrects file.

Publisher sends file to printer   and…

Publisher sends file to be converted (tarted up a bit) to an ebook.

Books and ebooks are distributed.  They come from the same source so should be the same.

Book lover buys book in a lovely book shop.  Oh dear perfect world is ruined by formatting/spelling or use of the wrong “their”.

Book lover writes letter of complaint to publisher.

Publisher can do nothing about the 1000s of books out in the lovely book shops, but can correct the original file and run through the publishing process again,  Then the next run of print copies would be correct too.

IBM 305 RAMAC

IBM 305 RAMAC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In An Imperfect Book Publishing World

Author writes book, this ends up in computer file of some type.

Publisher receives file.

Publisher edits file.

Publisher sends file to printer for proofs

Publisher sends file to be converted (tarted up a bit) to an ebook.

Publisher proof reads proof and sends printer corrections.

Printer prints books

Publisher ignores ebook.

Books and ebooks are distributed.  They now come from different sources and are not the same.

Book lover downloads lovely ebook online.  Oh dear imperfect world is shown to continue to be imperfect by formatting/spelling or use of the wrong “their”.

Book lover sends email report of error to publisher.

Book lover loses book and is refunded.

Publisher can do nothing about the 1000s of books out in the lovely book shops, but can correct the original file and run through the publishing process again, but they don’t always it seems,  Then the next ebook sold would  be correct too.

So which is it?  I expect, like most things in life, it’s somewhere between the two and some publishing houses value their ebooks and others don’t.  I expect as well that some publishing houses have more stringent requirements for the files supplied that have to adhere to properly structured books so that they can be converted correctly (e.g. Titles and headings are correctly marked up as such and not just achieved by changing the font size, interestingly WordPress enables you to produce very shoddily structured content, whereby you can pick any level of heading because it looks nice – I might have done this here as I’ve used heading2, but I’m hoping the post title is heading1.  Picky I know, if you want to know more about it you need to understand semantic structure of documents – fancy term for structure implying meaning.  That all sounds a bit technical, don’t worry I won’t do it again).

I’d be interested to know if anyone has any examples of ebook errors, and also whether these same errors are present in the printed form.

Pilgrim091013– It just keeps getting better and better.  Yes rating of 100%.

Unleash your creativity?

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“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

In the spirit of the quote above (better than the old George Bernard Shaw quote about everyone having a novel inside them ) I came across this the other day

National Novel Writing Month – http://nanowrimo.org/

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

What a fantastic idea.  It’s run by a charity (The Office of Letters and Light http://www.lettersandlight.org/) which aims to unlock people’s creative potential – The Office of Letters and Light organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential.

They’ve had quite a lot of success, with loads of novels being published.  I wonder if I’ve read any or any have made it really big?  So far this year 52,697 authors have signed up.

I know from my own experience that creative acts bring me the most pleasure in life.

Compare this to the feeling I sometimes get in my work life where there are constant initiatives, rounds of annual appraisal with objectives, target setting and improvement plans which are supposed to make be better year on year, to develop my career. This approach is ultimately flawed.  We can’t all be ambitious, grappling for promotion and “success”.  There’s only so much room at the top.  I do, however, know that we can all always improve.

So what are we here for?  For some of us this is the a creative act; we can’t all be ambitious and strive for the “success” measured by wealth and status, but the act of knitting a jumper, resolving a dispute, painting a picture or writing a novel (creating order and beauty out of chaos) is life affirming, satisfying and I feel ultimately what we are here for, to create a bit of order and see others appreciate it.

It’s a shame this isn’t happening in the UK.  (Or perhaps it is).  I’d love to have a go, but at the moment…

I have an idea, I think I’d have to do quite a lot of research to make it worthwhile.  I think I’d need to take the month off work!  I’m not sure my family would cooperate with this either.  Maybe another year.  But creating ideas is still creating, so I’m enjoying contemplating it.

Pilgrim081013I am pilgrim – still delivering as an excellent BIB

I Am Pilgrim – Early thoughts as a BIB

So far I’ve been unable to do much of a book review about a BIB (Blissfully Ignorant Book) and keeping within The Rules, without robbing you of the chance of reading it Blissfully Ignorantly too.

However, with I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes I do have something I can say.

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As you can see I’ve been busy, for me anyway, reading.  This is a big book (700 paper pages apparently – I’m reading the e-book version).  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Not just as a book, but as a BIB.

It starts well.  I thought I had it pegged, a good book of its genre.  But it quickly changed into something else.  I think that is the key to a good BIB; surprise,  changing genre, unexpectedly finding yourself in a situation alongside the characters and wondering how you’re going to get back.

Now 15% of the way through I’m not sure what I’m reading!  Brilliant! The author is laying out a series of questions like a trail of breadcrumbs for me, which I hope lead along a path where they are all answered or consumed!  The books I love best are like that as I’ve blogged about before.  There’s plenty of swapping between story lines, not sure how they are going to come together, but it looks pretty massive in scope from here.  Can the author pull it off I wonder?

I would probably have ignored this book in a bookshop as too serious.  I’m very glad I was recommended this book.  I wonder if the author will sustain my interest and recommendation as a BIB.  This is the first BIB since starting this blog that I would highly recommend.

Why not try it?  Read along with me.  But don’t look at reviews etc.  I can tell you that Amazon has lots of ratings and they’re all around 4-5 stars!

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What do you say to someone when they’ve finished a book?

I’ve just finished my latest BIB – The Collaborator (see below for  BiblioGraph and general comment).  I told my wife, because I’d stayed up late to finish it.  She seemed a bit non-plussed at what to say.  Should she say “Well done”, “Oh dear” or something else?  I think she settled on “Oh dear”, because I said I’d really enjoyed it.

I normally have quite a sense of achievement when I finish a book, so I suppose I was looking for some approval and congratulations.  I expect this is a hangover from first learning to read where success is measured by progress rather than quality (I remember children racing through the reading scheme, way ahead of me, and even at that time I remember feeling unimpressed and quite happy with my more sedate path through).  I also think I feel a sense of achievement because that’s one more book read, only 129,864,879 to go (am I really going to read every book ?  I think subconsciously that’s my plan, so please stop writing them whilst I catch up).

She wasn’t sure whether to commiserate or congratulate.  I know that sinking feeling too when a book is so good you almost don’t want it to end but you have to find out what happens. (Literary having your cake and eating it!)

So what do you say?

I suppose the best ones are

“Would you recommend it?”

“Was it good?”

“Have you got another one lined up?”

Collaborator140913

The Collaborator – Gerald Seymour.  Overall good.  I’m not needing a recovery period though (see Do you have a recovery period?).  I’d definitely read another book by Seymour, a well crafted book, it was quite a page turner at the end, hence the rapid upturn in the graph.  I’d never have picked this book up if it hadn’t been a BIB, but I’m glad I did.

What next?  Well uncharacteristically I’ve started reading a non-fiction book about body language.  I’ve also noticed that I’m writing this instead of reading.  So I’m making an effort to read more!

Does reading run in families?

Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking through your blogs out there, and very interesting they are, I’m struck by all the

I borrowed this from my brother

I gave this to my Dad

It made me wonder whether the nature or nurture question applies to reading.  It certainly would appear so.  That if your parents read then you are likely to.  We’re given tons of advice from schools as parents that we should model reading behaviour to our children, particularly Dads for boys! (Does that mean more women read than men?  I’ll see if I can find out for a later post).

I have aimed hard to read to my children every day (mostly succeeded and have thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve included a few gems to read to/with your children, particularly boys that you may not have come across) and this has only recently stopped.  They’re now 12 and 10.  I stopped because they were not becoming independent readers, seemingly preferring to hear me read rather than read themselves.  They are evolving now into more independent readers (a phase for graphic novels/comics at the moment).  My wife is a keen reader and we do have everyone reading in the house on occasions.  But I would say on balance that all this has not had the desired result.

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my parents reading the paper and flicking through magazines.  But never reading a book.  We weren’t taken to the library, but books were around, it was an unusual extravagance of my parents to buy books for us.  I was also encouraged to buy books.  But all in all not a literary household and in fact neither of my brothers is a reader.  Apart from school I don’t think they’ve read a book at all!  My Mum always says she doesn’t like books.  So those of you who swap books in the family count yourselves lucky!

I can still remember when it all changed.  A school friend read The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeC.S.Lewis aloud to us and did a good job of it.  I remember thinking to myself I want to be able to do that and it all changed from that point on.  So a big thank you to Guy Picken, who read wonderfully all those years ago in his Mum and Dad’s back room.  If I ever see him I must tell him personally.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my sons continue to develop as readers, and that one day we’ll be exchanging books saying You must read this.  I’ll try not to be disappointed it I don’t and enjoy whatever it is they do bring and exchange things with them that they will enjoy.  (I’ll expect whatever happens I’ll always recommend books to them)

So to answer the question.  I’d have to say no.  There are no guarantees whatever you do.  But I suppose if you didn’t show some enthusiasm for reading then it’s unlikely you children will.  I’ve certainly achieved that with football!

Recommended Read with older children…

The Seven Professors of the Far North, The Flight of the Silver Turtle and The Secret of the Black Moon MothJohn Fardell

The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn – Henry Chancellor (The Museum’s Secret, The Hidden World, The Forgotten Echo)

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The Collaborator – I couldn’t put it down today,  I just had to find out what was going to happen.

Listless? Not I #4 Completed

The finished list in the spirit of #1 nine is enough.

English: Six year old boy reading "Diary ...

English: Six year old boy reading “Diary of a wimpy kid” License on Flickr (2011-01-07): CC-BY-2.0 Flickr tags: diary, wimpy, kid, book, read, bed, boy, hold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.  Don’t impose too many rules on yourself!

2.  Read widely.  Books are about expanding your view of the world so don’t give yourself too small a window.

3.  Read the classics when you’re younger.  Then you’ll know about them.

4.  If you’re not enjoying it then stop.  It’s okay to give up on books, you don’t have to like them all.

5.  Don’t skip bits.  That poor author thought it was important, so read it, my friend skipped a whole section of Holes – Loius Sacher and to my mind missed the symmetrical beauty of the book!

6.  Think about what you are reading.  It’s not wallpaper you know.  Take notice of the books that stay with you, think about why.  These are important and tell you something about yourself.

7.  Don’t be a snob.  Classics, popular, pulp fiction – so what?  If you enjoyed it then good, don’t be afraid to own up to it.

8.  Stockpile books, but don’t be afraid to ignore them for something that catches your attention.  I always have a pile of books in waiting, but I never read them all.

9.  Take recommendations of books, take notice of where you got a good recommendation from and go back there for more.  Seek out more obscure book awards as recommendations (e.g.  Commonwealth Book Prize is a favourite of mine discovered from an early BIB GaloreMichael Crummey)

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Going well – The threads of the story are coming together in a predictable but not obvious way.