Category Archives: Reading

The Hunger Games – a comment

Now for those of you who have been living in some kind of bookless filmless world, you may not know the general basis of the Hunger Games. In which case, essentially its a reality show where the winner is the last one standing. A kind of souped up big brother where they win by killing the others (which actually sounds quite a good idea based on the bits of big brother I’ve seen) The two main protagonists are Katniss and Peeta who are both from district 12 and get chosen to be the tributes in that years hunger games. There are 2 tributes from each district and the winner is whoever is still alive at the end of the games.

Now I hesitate to call this post a review, because I’m afraid I am completely in a minority of one here, in that I did not think it was the best thing I have ever read. I realise that people have been raving about it, and I thought it was ok but nothing special. I should point out here that this is a book for teenagers, and I am not one, therefore I am not the target audience by any means. I had the same issue with the Twilight series, I’ve read them and they were ok but I prefer a good Charlaine Harris for my vampire fix.

I think it was reasonably well written, especially when compared to some of the other most popular books of last year but alongside 50 shades of grey, and the twilight series I think this is probably a book loved by non readers. As I’ve often said before, anything that gets people reading is a good thing, 50 shades of grey whilst I’ve not read it myself is a phemonenon that has got people (women mostly I imagine) out buying books, but I’d love to know how many of those actually bought anything else? I have no problem with adults reading either ‘mummy porn’ or childrens books, but I just hope these people venture outside of that bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Hunger Games, it was a quick read on a train and I will no doubt read the rest of the trilogy if I saw them on offer, but I wouldn’t rush to read them. I also think that when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have wanted the adults taking over all my good teenage reads so maybe we should just let them have it. There are after all a few billion good adult books ready to be picked up. As I saw on a shop front in Brighton a few weeks ago, the most avid reader can never get to the end of a good bookshop.

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Cue the Easter Bunny

The eagle eyed amongst you may have realised that the blog has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Sadly life does often have a habit of getting in the way of the blog and with so many other pressures on us things that you really enjoy doing sometimes have to be put on the back burner. In my case those pressures involved two weeks on all inclusive in the Caribbean with friends, and then a rather extended birthday celebration (I sense I may have lost any vague sympathy I was garnering at this point)

Whilst the writing may have been rather quiet, the same certainly can’t be said for the reading. In fact on the two week holiday I managed to get through 13 and a half books (yes I’m annoyed I didn’t make it a complete 14. I blame being introduced to electronic Sudoku on my phone which became highly addictive)

It just goes to show that if there is a desire to read then the time will always be found.  It wasn’t as though there wasn’t a lot of swimming, kayaking, chatting, eating and drinking to be done. Not to mention the nightly rounds of tequila shots, vodka and cocktails. Still I somehow went through a book a day almost. Of course sitting on a beach is much different to real life, it’s the first time I’ve ever spent Easter Sunday on a beach reading a book, drinking champagne surrounded by men dressed in easter bunny suits, but as I’ve said before if you want to find the time to read then you will do.

Holidays are often the only time that people do read and this is where the kindle really does come into its own. The luggage allowance on our flights was tiny. There was barely enough allowed to carry my shoes and sun tan lotion (plus cardigans) so had I had to include 13 books I would have needed to buy an extra seat just to be allowed to take them with me.

It is not just the weight or the space, having to have picked just 13 books to take with me would have been impossible. At the last count my kindle had around 60 books I’ve read and another 50 waiting to be read, the only way to carry them would have been to travel round in my own mobile library. Whilst I think that would have been great fun it wouldn’t be quite so easy to get the Caribbean in.

This does obviously now mean that I am very behind in my review writing, and to top it all off I’ve just heard that the full programme for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2013 is being released on Friday. So although the blog may have been a bit quiet whilst I was topping up my tan (yes ok hiding under an umbrella covered in factor 50) It’s about to get a lot noisier, with the start of the TOPCWFC 2013!

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The Children of Men

Apparently only one in eight men are the main reader to their children according to a survey by Booktrust (a great organisation dedicated to getting people to read) so they have started a campaign to try and get men reading to their children more.

I think that the ability to read for enjoyment is one of the most important life skills that can be passed on, and anything that encourages this is a great initiative. However I think that making it a gender issue is not necessarily the right way to go about it and takes the focus off the real problem which is that some parents don’t read with children full stop.

Apparently people site a lack of time as a key reason people don’t read but I bet all those parents find time to check their emails every five minutes and update their social media status. My Mum would have been the one to read to us, mainly because as soon as we moved on from Jack and Jill frankly Dad would just have been slowing us down. We were lucky, Mum read with us, Dad built rabbit hutches and took us swimming and every night at 5.10 on the dot we all sat down for tea and pretended to have a conversation whilst secretly just trying to watch Grange Hill.

When me and my sister were young, computers were not common place and we had to make our own entertainment. We only had tv in very short bursts (as according to my mother the tv would blow up if it was left on for longer than 30 minutes) and shock horror there was only 4 channels. Kids nowadays have more distractions than ever and the idea of sitting down and reading is an alien concept. Equally if they don’t see their parents sit down and read for enjoyment, they will sadly never do it themselves. The problem with making it a gender issue is that Dad’s will feel forced to do something that they might not actually enjoy, and therefore that pressure is going to be passed onto the children. Who remembers the BT commercial with the Dad who passed the phone straight to the Mum when the kid rang? That commercial is solely responsible for hundreds of hours of conversations about the weather and latest council tax bills as Dads are forced into keeping children talking until a suitable length of time has passed (as dictated by Maureen Lipman) and they can pass the phone on.

The same thing will happen with reading, Men will force themselves to read two pages of Harry Potter and kids will grow up believing that reading is a chore rather than a pleasure. I was in a primary school yesterday listening to kids read and was amazed not only by the range of abilities but also by the enthusiasm they all had for reading to me. Reading is one of the best, cheapest and fun hobbies there is, and we should all be encouraging children to enjoy it, not just men!

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Winter Frost

Those of you have read any of my previous blogs know my love of a jiffy bag arriving. This week it has been jiffy bag galore around us. You could tell it had been pay day as it seemed every house had been ordering things. Of course down our street all parcels end up being delivered to Hilda 1. It’s nothing to do with the size of either the parcel or the letterbox, mainly it’s the fact that Pete the postie gets intercepted with the offer of help as soon as he turns into the street. On the odd occasion I’m actually in at lunchtime, watching him is great fun. You can see the look of fear on his face as he creeps round the houses trying desperately not to make any sound that might alert the Hilda’s to his presence. Sadly for him Hilda 1 has the hearing of an Owl (seriously, this is the woman who once told me she had heard a rat climbing into my hanging basket) so most days he is unable to avoid her.

This week the street has had a whole range of items delivered, from vitamins to clothing to a new frying pan. Of course mine were jiffy bags of knowledge containing books as always. This week they were even better from my point of view, as they were both books I’d been sent from America to review, so I’m very excited.

The slight problem with getting things delivered to Hilda 1 is that as she goes to bed at 4.30pm you always have to wait until the next morning to get the parcel. Although handily it’s always delivered with the 7am weather forecast and her top tip of the day. Friday’s tip for those of you interested was that you should always use lard when making pastry not butter, helpful to know at 7am.

Of course the fact that I know what everyone else down the street has bought also means that they all know my purchasing habits too. This led to the women over the road, we’ll call her Marina, commenting how she can’t believe I have so much time to read. This is the kind of comment that annoys me, in my experience everyone has the time to read if they want to. For some people checking their email is such an addiction there is barely time in their lives for anything else, similarly those who put constant updates on facebook are often those complaining of lack of time.

Marina is a classic example of a woman who spends hours doing non necessary (in my view) tasks. Putting aside the stream of male visitors that appear as soon as her husband turns her back, just friends obviously, this is the woman that seems to be obsessed with saving the street from the dangers of winter weather.

At the first sign of a morning frost she’s outside with her bucket and trowel throwing sand around until even the seagulls get confused and start circling overhead looking for the sea. When it was snowing, you’d think it was about to be the end of the world. Every time I looked out the window she was out with her shovel moving the snow, only for it to be completely covered again within an hour. Not that it deterred her or the Hilda’s who joined her in the fight against snow. . It was truly one of the most pointless tasks I’ve ever seen, especially as it all disappeared overnight anyway. This is the problem with a lack of reading I think, maybe if she’d read more books she would have known that snow is only temporary and does eventually melt! I think I need to introduce her to the joys of amazon and she might start getting the jiffy bags of knowledge too.

 

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Bad friends

I spent a lovely evening out on Tuesday with some friends. A few glasses of wine and the conversation turned, as it tends to with me, to books and my favourite authors. I was asked to recommend some new authors which you would think I’d be happy to do.
However despite my obsession with all things crime literary, I find it is one of those questions that sends me into a state of panic. Mark Billingham of course is one of the first names that always slips willingly off the tongue but I find after that I get stuck. There are so many authors I love that having to pick one or two is like having to choose between chocolate or biscuits.
There is of course also the fact that I have a shocking memory, so the first author that always springs to mind is the one I’m currently reading. That’s fine at the moment for example as I’m reading Val McDermid therefore that’s would be a very good recommendation for anyone wishing to try crime novels. However sometimes I can be reading something not quite so good or something that just doesn’t go with my image of me. The crime reading heavy metal fan admitting to reading a Mills and Boon would just ruin my street cred (not that I have ever read Mills and Boon of course and to be honest I suspect I’ve always had very little street cred anyway!)
The other problem with recommending books is that I think it’s a huge responsibility. If you tell someone they should read a book and they don’t like it, well it is an awful situation for everyone. They have to tell you they don’t like the book, and that’s like a personal criticism. You then feel bad for putting them in that situation, its a vicious circle. A bad recomendation can suddenly create bad friends!
I think books are even harder to recommend for people than films. A film is usually quite short so even if it’s awful its only two hours of your life thats been taken up. Often the popcorn is worth the outing alone. Whereas books take much more effort. To read a book can take hours and hours (or in my Dad’s case years and still counting) so you have to really invest the time and energy into it. Often people don’t want to spend time doing something like reading a book, when they can get the same story in a two hour sitting.
So it means that the pressure when recommending books really is a serious business and not to be taken lightly. Fingers crossed my friends on Tuesday enjoy Mark!

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Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich – a review

I’m a big fan of Janet Evan17coverpaperovich novels, and have read most of the series (this is the seventeenth, the clues in the title!)

For those who don’t know, Stephanie Plum is the main character. She works as a bail bonds officer, tracking down people who fail to appear in court, which in this instance included a 72 year old vampire, and an escaped bear. Stephanie is helped along the way by Lulu the wearer of ridiculous outfits, and Mooner the stoner.

This was an easy enjoyable read. All the books follow the same paint by numbers formula. Cars get blown up, Stephanie continues to be unable to choose between detective Morelli, and private security man Ranger, bodies are found, and people want to try and kill Stephanie. In between that Grandma Mazur continues to cause havoc at a funeral home, her mother continues to iron, and Stephanie gets set up with single men (despite having both Morelli and Ranger, some women are just too lucky!)

The actual story was the same as always, I guessed the killer as soon as the character came in, however that didn’t spoil it. These novels are just pure escapist fun. The story being the same is just  part of the charm. Reading a Stephanie Plum novel is a bit like meeting up with old friends, you may not have seen them for months but when you do its like you saw them the day before. You know that someone is going to try and kill her, you know her car (or cars) will get blown up, and you know that Rex the worlds longest living hamster will still be running round on his wheel.

Janet Evanovich has written a large amount of novels, and looking at her website I was surprised to see she had also written a number of non-plum books which I look forward to picking up. Her first novel ‘One for the Money’ is one of my favourite books, and if you like a witty ‘chick thriller’ (I think that’s a category they should start using in Waterstones) then I would definitely recommend Janet Evanovich.

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Lazy Bones

Happy New Year to all, I hope you have had a good festive break.

As always the start of another New Year brings with it the inevitable question of ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Personally I don’t make them, mainly as I don’t believe in them. Just because the year is one number higher, why does that suddenly mean you are going to stop being lazy and actually do the things you’ve talked about?

I’m a great procrastinator (at work anyway), and nowadays blame the internet. I suspect that there is a direct correlation between people who say they don’t have enough time to do things, and those who spend the most time surfing the net and playing on facebook. Maybe everyone should make a New Year’s resolution to go cold turkey and give up the internet one day a week for 2013. If we all did that, and then spent that time buying and reading books, we would make James Daunt and Waterstones very happy!

Apparently (well according to Wikipedia, the font of most of my knowledge) resolutions originally stem from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Well that sounds like a silly resolution to me, returning all the books I’ve borrowed and accidently forgotten to give back would take me til 2015 to do.

Of course sometimes resolutions do have their place. Take the Hilda’s for example (for new readers this should explain them) Hilda1 is having teeth implants next week to straighten her wonky teeth. After this she is going full out for a makeover with a new hair style and some new clothes. Whilst Hilda2 was talking about going on holiday to somewhere snowy so she could go bottom boarding whatever that is. Never mind that 1 is in their 80s and 2 is in their 60s, its a new year and they are going do something. As  Du Plessis says in Wild at Heart ‘Its how you live your life, not how long you live it for that counts’ which the Hilda’s would obviously agree with (although they seem to be going for both how and how long).

Whilst I don’t do resolutions, I do like ‘to do’ lists which I suppose in a way are mini resolutions. Lists of things to do over the holiday, lists of housework that needs doing, lists of tv programmes I’d like to watch. My favourite list is my list of books to read, which is a list I’ve never yet completed. For every one I finish I usually add four more. Maybe I should make a New Year’s resolution to actually finish one reading list before starting another. But thats the thing with resolutions apparently 88% of them fail anyway, so why waste time making them!

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