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Normally to be found in South Wales or Ireland. An unhealthy obsession with literature & the musicals of Stephen Sondheim has led to a very happy 33 years on this planet.

Currently reading

I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan
Alan Partridge, Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan
Progress: 35 %
Pride and Prejudice
James Kinsley, Fiona Stafford, Jane Austen
Bad Science
Ben Goldacre
The Earth Hums in B Flat - Mari Strachan Just couldn't get on with this at all. Abandoned after about 30 pages (possibly a record for me).
Transition - Iain Banks Wow. Right where does one start with a book like this? Transition is only the second Iain Banks book I have read (The Wasp Factory being the other) and I’m happy and terrified to say this messed with mind in just the same way. So what’s it all about? Well having read it, it’s still quite difficult to explain. The plot is based on a rather complicated multiverse theory wherein (if I’ve got it remotely right) there are as many versions of Earth as we choose to imagine. The story unfolds through many different narrators including a self-serving city trader, a state contracted torturer who refers to himself as ‘the philosopher’, and a world hopping assassin. Following so far? The sections of the book told from the point of view of ‘The Philosopher’, generally made me retch and I mean that most literally. Banks is an author that has the power to make me physically react to what’s on the page. Then we have the sections of book told from Adrian’s point of view (the self-serving city trader). These made me laugh, a lot, and normally out loud on the bus. I was confused, amused, repulsed, but always enthralled by this book.Full review here
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nina Baym, Thomas E. Connolly Hmm. I either missed something here or this simply wasn't that good. Will write a proper review soon.
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry - Jon Ronson Fun, off beat and interesting, this (as I expected) is a lot more about Ronson’s journey than an insight into what goes on in the mind of a psychopath but it’s none the less wonderful for that. All in all this is more enjoyable than informative but it does have a few interesting tidbits into the world of psychiatry both past and present. One for people interested in the mind but without wanting to actually tax their own too much. Full review here
Stories We Tell Ourselves: "Dream Life" and "Seeing Things" - Michelle Herman A short review for a short little book. This is a quietly beautiful and quirky little book. Divided into two distinct sections these are pretty much extended essays that read in a somewhat 'stream of consciousness' manner (Dreamlife in particular). Herman has produced something completely different than the norm and managed to make it charming in the process.Full review here
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - David Mitchell Set in 1799 Japan this book has all the markings of an epic and yet we, quite intimately, follow the lives of two people who don't quite fit into the worlds they have found themselves in.Funny, touching and rather gruesome in parts this book is really does have it all. It's rather wonderful in fact.Full review here
Angels and Insects - A.S. Byatt There are very few authors in my mind that even come close to having the command of language Byatt has and, rarer still, she is an author that credits her reader with as much intelligence as she herself possesses.That being said, "Angels and Insects" just didn't deliver for me. It's wonderfully written (of course) but it didn't quite enrapture me the way Byatt's other novels and short stories, in particular, have.There are two novellas within the book which explore, in turn, the Victorian fascination with the rather conflicting ideas of science and spiritualism. Full review here
Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm Oh Philip.Pullman is an author that has enraged me with every book of his I've read (this is number 3) yet I keep going back to him. I love Fairy Tales. Fairy tales are a little crazy and very messy and Pullman, in his wisdom, has decided that this simply wont do. In my opinion he has removed any heart from the stories and left in their place 50 well formed yet vacuous works of fiction. It's not all bad though. It has a beautiful cover ;-) Full review here
Fringe Science: Parallel Universes, White Tulips, and Mad Scientists - Mike Brotherton, Jovana Grbic, Stephen Cass, Brendan Allison, Kevin R. Grazier, Jacob Clifton, Garth Sundem, Paul Levinson, Nick Mamatas, Bruce Bethke, Amy Berner, Amy H. Sturgis, David Thomas As a series of essays on various areas within the show Fringe, this is a very interesting book but just not what I was looking for.Some of the essays where, of course, better than others and some very interesting parallels are drawn between the main characters (especially Walter Bishop) and great literary investigators or science fiction greats.Obviously one for fans only!Full review here
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks Agh. Will need a day or two to process this one I think!
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne The likelihood is you've heard of, if not read this book already. I'm a little late to the party on this one. While I'd heard numerous good things about it, I felt it may be a little too emotive for me. A children's book about the Holocaust told from the point of view of a 9 year old has the potential to be so! While what happens is not surprising, it makes it no less moving. However, I do have one quite big issue with it. I didn't actually find it believable. If Bruno is remotely as intelligent as he seems to be then surely he would have sensed something was going on. Ultimately though, Bruno's convenient naivety doesn't really impact the narrative. The ending of this little book was always going to be same. There would be no point to it otherwise.Full review here
Briefs Encountered - Julian Clary Oh dear. I was actually quite looking forward to this. It's clear what Clary is aiming for,a humorous homage to Coward and his like. However, this ends up far more like a Carry On "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" film than a clever, wry look at society. It's not all bad. There were moments that were amusing, but all in all this just didn't work for me.
How Music Works - David Byrne This really was a joy to read. Touching on all aspects (and genres) of music, from how technology shapes our perceptions of what music should be, to what to expect from a recording contract, this book really does cover it all.David Byrne (frontman from Talking Heads), is engaging, funny, insightful, immensely knowledgeable and more importantly, enthusiastic about a subject he has dedicated his life too.The one thing that stopped this book rating higher for me is that it sometimes reads slightly more like an autobiography than a celebration of music. Byrne obviously uses his own experience in the music business but, just occasionally, he seems to lose the subject.Full review here
Frances and Bernard - Carlene Bauer A novel, in letter form, that follows the life of two fictitious writers (inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell), their love affair with each other and with God. The main love story was very engaging. Bernard, a poet and Frances an aspiring writer, meet at an artists colony. Drawn to her talent Bernard begins a correspondence with Frances that will last through their lifetime. Through, faith and art they form a love that will either support them or break them.Touching, and intriguing, I enjoyed the novel and would probably read more from Bauer.Full review here
I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon - Touré I really enjoyed this. The book takes on the conflicting (and conflicted) reports of Prince’s life and tries to decipher just how (and why) he became, and remains, an icon for Generation X.This wider, social approach to the biography was very appealing. There are a plethora of biographies out there about Prince, so to look at why society decided to embrace him as they did, is a clever move and Touré does it very well.The book also takes on Prince’s seemingly odd juxtaposing of religion and sex in a lot of his music. Sex and religion on a par in Prince’s world and Touré does a great job examining both. All in all an interesting, knowledgable, look at not only Prince, but Generation X as a whole.Review here
The Lighthouse - Alison Moore Oh dear. This little Booker Prize shortlisted novel really is quite disappointing. Let's start with the positives though (and it's a biggy). The writing is brilliant. Short, sharp and clear. Moore really is accomplished. Unfortunately, with this particular story, the style leaves the reader slightly removed and shines a light (no pun intended) on just how dull the main characters are.I found myself uninterested and even irritated by the main characters, Futh, who is on a walking holiday in Germany and Ester, the hotel owner seeking solace with anyone that passes through her hotel.Ultimately this is a case of (lack of) substance over style. As a writer, Moore is one to watch. As a storyteller? Well, we'll see.Review here