Friday, 19 January 2018

Review: Good Omens

Good Omens Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a bit of a epiphany reading Good Omen (pun intended). While I do enjoy the comic fantasy style of both Pratchett and Gaiman (despite what Goodreads suggests, they both wrote this book), I don't enjoy it enough to want to read a book of this size (about 400 pages).

Plus, there were several jokes about one of the characters coming across as "gay" because he was "effeminate" etc. Shockingly, someone even call him a word that I won't repeat here, but it's one that's now deemed to be extremely offensive to the LGBTQ plus community. The book was written nearly 30 years ago, so you do have to judge it by the standards of the day. I certainly don't think Gaiman would make such jokes now.

Overall, though, I did enjoy reading this book. I just think the next time I read something by Gaiman, I'll stick to one of his shorter books.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction

The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction by Pink Dandelion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having "officially" been a Quaker for two years now (I became a "member" of a Meeting House in 2016, but had been attending meetings before then), I decided it was high time that I found out more about my faith. Therefore, I decided to read this brilliant overview.

Pink Dandelion - the book is surely worth reading for that name alone - provides a well-researched, concise report of the beginnings of the Quakers, how they faced the challenges of having different viewpoints from each other (they did what all people of religion do when they disagree; essentially, they go off in a huff and start their own version), and the face of Quakers today.

While I knew (vaguely) that I was a Liberal Quaker, I was surprised to find that - on the global scale of things - Liberal Quakers are in the minority. In fact, everything points to Liberal Quakers dying out by the time I am in my 50s (2030s) - more than a little depressing! Though Pink Dandelion (his name is so epic, I will always use it in full) does stress that there has been a resurgence of late & the cinema didn't die out in the 1960s as predicted. Certainly, my meeting (admittedly, one of the biggest in London) is busy enough to warrant three meetings a week and its own newsletter (edited by someone fabulous*)

I think this book is an excellent read for anyone who is either a Quaker, interested in attending Quaker meeting, or simply wants to know more about the faith. Though, in true Liberal Quaker fashion, I'd advise anyone interested in the Quakers to come to a meeting because the experience is the most important thing.

* = Who just happens to be moi.

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Review: One Summer: America 1927

One Summer: America 1927 One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a compelling account of the year, or rather summer, that America came of age. It truly is extraordinary that so many world-changing events happened in such a brief period. Bryson, as always, writes in a roundabout way; continually going off on a tangent just so that he can throw in another random (but fascinating) fact.

The reason I am giving it only three stars is because I had two issues with it. First, while achievements of Charles Lindbergh were amazing and had a massive impact on the world of aviation, I don't think his exploits after his flight (a tour of the country and always getting mobbed by fans) warranted quite as much attention as they have in the book. Second, Bryson is really rather judgemental about the people he writes about. They are either charasmatic but out of control (Babe Ruth) or they're personality-free oddballs (Herbert Hoover). Admittedly Bryson has done a substantial amount of research on these people, but can he really claim to know what they were like when he never actually met them?

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Friday, 29 December 2017

Review: Whose Body?

Whose Body? Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable detective romp that has exactly all of the things you would expect from a murder mystery that has a Lord as the sleuth - a dimwit detective, a dastardly villain, and plenty of "what ohs" and "Yes, sirs" (from the ever-present butlers). There are moments, however, of uncomfortable reading with the odd bit of antisemitism banded about is if it's not remotely problematic. But, as always, you do have to judge a book by the time it was written (1920s) and the antisemitism is more about stereotypes than anything hateful.

What I was surprised by was how well-rounded Lord Wimsy is - he's described as having "nervous problems" because of WWI and these are described with sympathy. I was particularly impressed by a speech he gives in which he recognises that what is a "jolly jape" to him (i.e. finding the murderer) will have a dramatic effect on people's lives (i.e. someone will be convicted and hanged).

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Review: The Power

The Power The Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely brilliant book.

I was put off reading The Power because I thought it'd be about women - having suddenly developed the power to give off electric shocks - going on murderous rampage against men. But, having read so many good things about it, I decided to give it an go; and I'm really glad I did.

It's not about women going on a murderous rampage at all. It's literally about power and what happens when people traditionally without power suddenly get power over those who have traditionally held it. There is a multitude of terrible things that happen to men in the book after they become the "weaker sex" and it's sickening because you realise these things are happening right now to women all over the world. Things that are allowed to happen because men are taught to believe that they must be powerful, strong, and dominant and women are taught to believe that they must be powerless, weak, and passive. OK, so it's not as clear cut as that but, in subtle ways, that's exactly what culture historically would have us think.

For me, this is a must read. If you aren't a feminist (whether you're male or female) before reading this book, you will certainly be afterwards.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Review: Visitation

Visitation Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautifully written tale of a house and its occupants, ranging from start of the 20th Century (I think) to the reunification of Germany. All of the stories of the occupants are poignant, particularly those relating to Jewish residents during WW2 (one is actually quite devastating).

To be honest, though, I am not really a fan of this style book in which individual stories are linked by a common thread (ie the house). So while I objectively would say it's a very good novel, I didn't particularly enjoy reading it.

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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Review: Peggy and Me

Peggy and Me Peggy and Me by Miranda Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Feel quite mean giving this book three stars.

It's a bit waffly and not the best written thing in the world, but Hart doesn't pretend it's anything other than a sweet (often genuinely touching) book about how falling in love with her dog Peggy helped her to find hope again. And, in fairness, she warns you pretty early on that it's not going to be a literary masterpiece.

I think that this is probably the perfect stock filler book. It's not going to tax anyone's brain too much and probably won't make it anyone's best book of the year list, but it's endearing. There are so many books out there looking at all the horrible things in life, it's comforting to read something that focuses on the more positive things.

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