Friday, September 21, 2007

The Small Assassin by Ray Bradbury

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1976
Number of pages: 174
ISBN: 0586042288

Started: 17 September 2007
Finished: 20 September 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):
Here is a fantastic journey into a world of terror with thirteen of Bradbury's very best. A baby born with the urge to kill...the couple who leave for a honeymoon - in a cemetery...a husband and wife who have an unpleasant experience with some mummified Mexican corpses...the tombstone in the bedroom...a little boy who examines the macabre entrails of the man upstairs...

A chilling collection that will linger in the dark vaults of your mind long after you have finished reading it.

The Small Assassin is an excellent collection of 13 horror stories. I didn't find them too gory at all, but I was very disturbed by some of them. Ray Bradbury is an excellent writer and really has the ability to put you in the situation, almost as though you're watching a movie. His descriptive writing is really something to behold.

There are a complete variety of stories here, and they generally keep you guessing right till the end. One story was written in the 2nd-person, which isn't something I've really come across before, but I thought Bradbury did it really well.

There are some things I will never look at the same way again...Highly recommended!

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1988
Number of pages: 233
ISBN: 0141311363

Started: 13 September 2007
Finished: 14 September 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

Matilda's parents have called her some terrible things. The truth is, she's a genius and they're the stupid ones. Find out how she gets the better of them and her spiteful headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, as well as discovering that she has a very special power.

Matilda is another delightful read from Roald Dahl. A clever girl who loves reading uses her intelligence and powers to seek justice in her life and the life of her schoolteacher, Miss Honey.

Matilda is a favourite Roald Dahl book of mine. In fact, I'd forgotten how good it was. Sweet and funny, with lashings of books and chocolate cake throughout (what more could you want in a book?!) Highly recommended!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Recently Acquired Books

Went to a huge book fair today and came away with 38 books! Oh well, most people there were buying about the same amount as me, if not more. I got some really good bargains; most books were priced between 20c and $2, and if I had bought 2 of those books in shops, it would have cost me more than it did for all 38 books! And they're in pretty good condition. Let's see now...

Jean M Auel: The Clan of the Cave Bear
Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
Dan Brown: Angels and Demons (read before, but wanted my own copy)
Dan Brown: Digital Fortress
John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps
Isobelle Carmody: Obernewtyn
Agatha Christie: The Secret Adversary
Arthur C Clarke: Against the Fall of Night
Arthur C Clarke: Expedition to Earth
Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Roald Dahl: Fantastic Mr Fox
Iris Rainer Dart: Beaches
Ian Fleming: Casino Royale
Ian Fleming: Goldfinger
Ian Fleming: Moonraker
Ian Fleming: You Only Live Twice
Anne Frank: The Diary of Anne Frank
Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows
Thomas Hardy: The Woodlanders
Frank Herbert: Children of Dune
Carolyn Keene: Nancy Drew and the Clue of the Dancing Puppet
Robin Klein: Hating Alison Ashley
John Marsden: So Much to Tell You
Yann Martel: Life of Pi
Ann M Martin: 3 BSC Books (including the last one of the series; I haven't read any of these in ages, but I always wanted to read the last book)
Robert O'Brien: Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Ruth Park: Playing Beatie Bow
Terry Pratchett: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)
Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites (Discworld #3)
Terry Pratchett: The Light Fantastic (Discworld #2)
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens
JRR Tolkien: The Silmarillion
Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain: Huckleberry Finn
Lew Wallace: Ben-Hur

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Twits by Roald Dahl

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1980
Number of pages: 87
ISBN: 014131138X

Started: 12 September 2007
Finished: 12 September 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

Mr and Mrs Twit play some horrible tricks on each other. I bet you have never met two people more revolting. They never wash, they trap birds for Bird Pie and they hate children. Find out what brilliant trick the Roly-Poly Bird and the Muggle-Wump monkeys think up for them.

A short but very enjoyable read. There's not too much I can say about this book without giving the plot away, but what I can say is that I love the Roly-Poly Bird and the monkeys, and the ending is terrific! There are also some lovely words of wisdom imparted ('a person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly'). And what would a Roald Dahl book be without Quentin Blake's illustrations?

I believe this particular Roald Dahl story is aimed at younger readers than some of his other books (such as Matilda), but it's just as wonderful a read and has always been one of my personal favourites.

Danny The Champion Of The World by Roald Dahl

Rating: 8/10

Published: 1975
Number of pages: 214
ISBN: 0141311320

Started: 11 September 2007
Finished: 12 September 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

Danny thinks the world of his father, but imagine his surprise when he finds out he's been breaking the law! Even grown-ups bend the rules sometimes, but Danny knows his father is still good, kind and clever and full of exciting ideas.

Join them in this thrilling adventure as they hope to pull off the most daring and dangerous plan ever.

Danny the Champion of the World is one of the few books of Roald Dahl's that I never got around to reading when I was a kid. Something about it never really appealed to me. Happily, that terrible oversight has now been rectified (if only I had read it 20 years ago!)

The love between Danny and his father is so strong and so sweet. You don't see that very often in books nowadays. I love Dahl's imaginative writing; it's so vivid and it's easy to picture everything that's happening. I thought it was a lovely story and another piece of brilliance from Roald Dahl. (Happy Birthday for 13 September Roald Dahl!) Highly recommended!

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Rating: 7/10

Published: 2004
Number of pages: 529
ISBN: 0340822783

Started: 1 September 2007
Finished: 11 September 2007

Summary (taken from blurb):

'Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies...' Six interlocking lives - one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity's will to power, and where it will lead us.

I don't think I fell in love with this book as a lot of other people seem to have, but it was a good read and I'm glad I read it. I definitely enjoyed some sections more than others (I guess that's always going to be a problem in a book that's made up of such completely different stories), but I enjoyed picking up on the little 'clues' linking the stories together. I also really liked the closing comments of Adam Ewing's Journal/the book.

One part I had trouble getting into was the first part of Adam Ewing's Journal. It was a difficult section to lead into the book with, but once I got past that it picked up, particularly with the second story, Letters from Zedelghem. This was the most enjoyable section for me; Robert Frobisher's character was probably the least likable but his letters were so witty and enjoyable to read that I could look past all that.

I struggled a bit with The First Luisa Rey Mystery because it was so terribly cliched. The entire thing reminded me of a bad movie. The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish didn't really affect me one way or another. I quite enjoyed The Orison of Sonmi-451. I love dystopian literature and comparing different futures. This one gave me more food for thought. I also had trouble with Sloosha's Crossing, mostly because of the colloquial style of the language, and because it was the middle section, it was unbroken so I didn't even get a break from it!

There were a few major themes running throughout all of the stories: reincarnation (the comet-shaped birthmark), betrayal, inequality, imprisonment, and the progress of mankind through the ages and the struggles of minorities to gain acceptance and freedom.

I know I've said a few bad things about this book and I think ultimately that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, but overall it was an enjoyable experience,. It's definitely a very ambitious novel for anyone to undertake, and I think David Mitchell did really well linking the various stories together. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Best 100 Novels

On the Book Club Forum a while ago, someone did a survey of the members' top 10 books and the results were collected together with other results to form a list of the Best 100 Novels of All Time. I thought I'd post the list here and indicate the following:

Books I've read (29 so far, with 8 of them being read this year!)
Books I've currently got on my TBR pile (20)
*Books I'd like to read one day (38)

Most of the books with an * (that I'd like to read one day), I actually already have in ebook format but didn't think it right to include in my current TBR pile.

1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
3. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
10. *Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
13. *Ulysses by James Joyce
14. Animal Farm by George Orwell
15. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
16. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
17. *The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
18. *Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
19. *The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
20. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
21. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
22. *Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
23. *Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
24. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
25. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
26. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
27. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
28. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
29. *Life of Pi by Yann Martel
30. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
31. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
32. *One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
33. *War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
34. *The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
35. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
36. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
37. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
38. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
39. *Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
40. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
41. *The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
42. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
43. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
44. *His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
45. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
46. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
47. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
48. *The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
49. The Stand by Stephen King
50. *A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
51. *Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
52. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
53. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
54. *The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
55. Watership Down by Richard Adams
56. Dracula by Bram Stoker
57. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham
58. *Moby Dick by Herman Melville
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
60. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
61. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
62. *The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
63. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
64. Dune by Frank Herbert
65. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
66. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
67. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
68. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
69. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
70. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
71. *Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
72. The Trial by Franz Kafka
73. *I, Claudius by Robert Graves
74. *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
75. *Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
76. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
78. *The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
79. *To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
80. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
81. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
82. *The Stranger by Albert Camus
83. *The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
84. *The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
85. *The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux
86. *For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
87. *Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
88. *Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
89. *The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. Persuasion by Jane Austen
91. Light in August by William Faulkner
92. *Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
93. Call of the Wild by Jack London
94. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
95. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
96. *Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
97. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
98. *The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
99. *The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
100. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Sunday, September 2, 2007

September Reading List

August was a pretty good reading month for me. Not only did I manage to get through Carmilla, Peter Pan, Lady Chatterley's Lover and Peter Pan, but I also had time to read Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham and Emma by Jane Austen. A good month!

This month, I'll be reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell for the September Reading Circle at the Book Club Forum. I'm only a few pages in and having trouble committing myself to it, but I'm hoping to sit down and get a good bit of reading in today. I've read so many rave reviews about this book; I hope it lives up to the hype! Being a fairly chunky book, I expect it will take me a couple of weeks to read, so I won't have expectations for such a prolific reading month this time 'round.

After Cloud Atlas, I intend reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods (something tells me I'll need a light read after Cloud Atlas), and then I may follow it up with either The Small Assassin by Ray Bradbury, or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (or both if I have time!).

Update 9 September: I recently found out that September 13 is Roald Dahl Day, so I have decided to honour his birthday and his life by reading one of his books on that day. I'll probably go for Danny, The Champion Of The World. I have this on my shelf but have never read it before! Maybe I'll try to squeeze in The Twits or George's Marvellous Medicine before that. Then again, I haven't read Matilda or The BFG in ages. So many wonderful books to choose from!