Thursday, 22 December 2016

Leonard by William Shatner with David Fisher

"It actually took me some time to fully understand Leonard's total commitment Spock, and that led to our first real fight."

Don't tell Dad, but I read this quickly before I wrapped it up for him for Christmas. Star Trek  always makes me think of quality time spent with my Dad as a kid, and the same goes for Star Wars. I think Dad fancied himself as a bit of a James T Kirk and yet I was always transfixed by the strange otherness of the alien, Spock. With Leonard Nimoy's death comes this memoir from his co-star written with assistance.

It makes for an easy read, although doesn't really provide too much insight. As one might imagine from the strange pauses of William Shatner, the ebb and flow is a little off. The first half of the book is very much about Shatner and what aspects of his youth he might have had in common with Nimoy.

That being said, there is some real warmth here and its always nice to look back at Spock with that sense of child like wonder, and discover his alter-ego was a hard worker who had his demons, but overcame them.

3 out of 5 star ships have greater ethnic diversity than the tv shows of today.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

First Test by Tamora Pierce

"The butt of Joren's staff caught the big muscle in her left thigh"

This follows on from the Song of the Lioness  quartet and a new female warrior is coming to the fore. Kel is taking advantage of the hard fought freedom for females to train for knighthood and as such, the tale of Book 1 of the Protector of the Small  quartet begins.
While i wasn't quite as on board with this one as the Alanna series, I'm sure that has more to do with this being part 1 and very much the beginning of a longer story.

4 out of 5 beginnings are just the start.

World Mythology in Bite Sized Chunks by Mark Daniels

"The name Wacah Chan means 'erect serpent', and it  describes the bright,straight line of the Milky Way as it emerged from the horizon at certain times of the year"

I love fairytales and mythology and this little offering, as the title suggests, shines a little light on intriguing myths from around the world. The book is somewhat like crib notes for the world's mythical beasties. Is Global Warming, aptly described by Ragnarok?
Actually, the norse gods are particularly entertaining, take Odin swapping an eye for a drink.
There's even a Wiley Coyote courtesy of the ancient American Indian tribe of the Lakota. If only there was a little more detail provided on some of these engaging tales.

3 out of 5 creation stories feature feuding parents.

Le Voyage de Chichi Volume 1 by Hayao Miyazaki

"N'aie pas peur, je suis avec toi"

I absolutely love the animated movie Spirited Away  and Manga style artwork. When a close friend travelled to Japan he brought me back a few examples which were most appreciated. One was a Manga version of the movie, well the first volume of it in any case. He may have failed to notice that this copy was in French. As luck would have it, I speak French - happy days.

The artwork is glorious, just as you would expect from such a beautifully realised film. This first volume begins with the beginning of the movie and then ends where Chichi gets attacked by some pesky paper planes on her way to the bathhouse.

This is definitely a volume I will revisit and will certainly leave me with a smile on my face. A book is the best kind of souvenir, even if you weren't there for the holiday.

5 out of 5 parents that turn into pigs at a buffet is always embarrassing.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Shadow Line by Joseph Conrad

"It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection"

In the past I've read some other Conrad novels and been relatively unmoved. This one, however, really struck a chord. Perhaps it is my love of boats and the sea or the age I am now which grants the perspective of being stuck in a listless ocean where prospects are increasingly diminished. This is a tale about the harshness of maturity and the understanding that the world is not all hope and fairy tales. That tenacity can deliver survival and yet survival can be another form of punishment. With such economy of verbiage it delivers with clinical precision and I would happily re-read this. Something, that is not typical for me.
Turning 40 is a little like being stuck in a becalmed sea with a crew riddled with Malaria. Ahead lie treacherous waters where things will never be the same and one can only look back on the aspirations of youth with nostalgia for times and hopes past.
Every time a little ray of hope dares to raise its head in the novel, something darker lurks and yet certain members of the crew draw everything out of their compatriots in a desperate attempt to reach their destination and survival against the odds.

I could almost taste the salt in the air and the smell of desperation below deck.

5 out of 5 definitely my favourite Joseph Conrad tale.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

"She couldn't look at the baby for weeks, this boy who had killed her daughter"

In a post Downton Abbey  malaise, I was excited to procure a copy of its creator's latest novel and found myself a little wistful in the process. This is somewhat a pale imitation of the rather addictive television series which I may have binge watched at every opportunity.
The grand estates and questionable birth rights combined with troubled matrimonial match ups are all there, yet here it took me a good two hundred pages to even care about the characters. This novel lacked the juxtaposition of the upstairs/downstairs machinations that made the tv show such compulsive viewing.
Belgravia share's some magnificent society and grand surrounds but somewhere it lacks heart and enough exposition to hook the reader. It does so eventually, but only after perseverance.
It is the glimmers of what might have been that still guild the lily and are perhaps reflected in my estimation of it,

4 out of 5 scandals need more scandal, more servants and just a hint of more intrigue.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

"The problem wasn't that he smelled of ferrets. Well that was a problem, but compared to the big  problem it wasn't much of one"

As always, the delightful Nicki has lent me another fabulous instalment of the Discworld canon and I couldn't be happier. This particular novel is a direct sequel to the vastly entertaining The Wee Free Men  and just as delightful.
In what can only be described as an annus horribilis (2016) - seriously readers, mind out of the gutter - that saw the passing of the wunderkind that was Mr Terry Pratchett, it is somewhat reassuring to note that there is still ample opportunity to bask in the brilliant worlds he created and escape from the horrors of the 24 hour news cycle to a place where hats are important and witches face all the usual problems of peer pressure.
Tiffany is such an engaging character, an outsider with talent that not everyone can appreciate. Transported from her island home (away from the sheep), she faces her biggest challenges in the form of a scary demon and kids her own age - not quite sure which is the more off-putting.
This is laugh out loud entertainment and if only there was more of that in the world. Thankfully I have many more volumes of Mr Pratchett's work to devour and I will do so with the delight they are due.

5 out of 5 times you should listen to your Granny.

My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

"Get a cat to lick your finger some time and you will see exactly what I mean"

I was always an avid Roald Dahl fan as a child and thought I'd covered all his works, but this little adult story had not yet crossed my path. It is so delightfully dark and naughty. Mostly naughty, only really slightly risqué, but gorgeously suggestive. What is not to love here?
This is a tale of Spanish flies and sperm as a business proposition. It is tongue in cheek, so to speak, and hilarious. Dahl's descriptions of overly excited royalty and the odd musical or literary genius in full tumescence is ridiculously entertaining. While there are some quaint and somewhat old-fashioned gender roles at play, the general wickedness makes this as appealing as Belgian chocolate.

I particularly love the way literary giants are portrayed as sexually messed up but with hidden talents unleashed by the magic of the Sudanese Blister Beetle. The George Bernard Shaw denigration leaves one with an image that is particularly indelible. Similarly, who could resist a man like Puccini. Yasmin Homecomely is such an intriguing character, as her part in the business venture sets the wheels in motion regarding who is doing the using and who is being used. If you've read Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected,  you will know his ability to twist and turn a story in uncharted directions.
Who knew that a crushed up beetle could cause so much reckless abandon and where do I find some?

 5 out of 5 royal sofas have hidden contraptions.