2019 Reading Challenge

So, in an effort to a) expand my reading and b) prompt me to write more about the books I read, I decided at the start of the year to sign up and actually use the Good Reads site – ok, i’ve been on there for 7 years apparently but this year is the year i’m really challenging myself to be better.

I’ve set myself a challenge to read 40 books this year. To be honest, that isn’t that many, so longs as I get the time to read and have the impetus. Those who have read previous blogs know that I have many issues with writers block so I wanted to do a total I could hit, as opposed to setting myself up for failure.

I think for this blog, I’ll list the books I’ve read so far and a little bit about each one, I am aiming to properly blog about some books which have specifically stuck with me but for now, simply as it’s been so long since I did any consistent blogging.

I decided that the easiest way to break myself in would be to write about what I’ve read so far and give a basic idea of what I thought:

  • Googlewhack Adventure –  not a new read for me, but still a good one, especially when suffering from insomnia as I need books I know well to be able to drop off – reading a new book whilst not being able to sleep is a definite no no for me, the yearning to find out what happens would mean I’d never sleep! Following on from Too Much Information, this shows the comic genius of Dave Gorman and also makes me feel that my stupid challenges to myself are really not that bad!
  • The Librarian of Auschwitz – This was a really wonderful book. As a book lover, the fight people put in to make sure such wondrous items were available in such a dark place in our history, made me feel quite emotional. I know that there is a certain amount of creative license in this book but the story was engaging, deep, emotional and affirming.
  • The Fifth Elephant – another classic from my collection. Pratchett holds a very special place in my heart and there are so many themes he has hit on and managed to put things into a story which actually reflect well the world around us, but with a bit of Terry’s special magic.
  • The Shepherds Crown – The last Discworld novel, so one I had been putting off for years. A good read and despite the sadness that the book itself carries, it has some wonderful storylines, views and is quintessentially Pratchett.
  • LA candy – a book by Lauren Conrad. Ok, I’ll admit it, this was bought for a quid in the local poundland when I was looking for something to read on a bus journey. Turns out, didn’t even take that long! I quite enjoyed this, despite it basically being her writing about her time on “The Hills” with new character names thrown in.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole – a memoir by Holly Madison. Another guilty not guilty pleasure! I came to the Girls Next Door series relatively late (6 months off work and pretty much unable to walk will do that to a woman!!) so to read a book by one of the main characters really appealed to me. I’ll be honest, I think a lot of cleansing has gone on (that or the author is trying to sell her side as much less sleazy then it was) but for me, I found the book interesting. I know that there are a lot of negative reviews out there about this, but I will do my best to not just rip it to pieces.
  • Jingo – ok, I’m seeing a pattern developing here. I always have a Pratchett on the go, no matter what else I’m reading as sometimes I just want to slip into a comfy read and then just let the familiar comfort wash all over me! Yet another excellent example of Terry taking a common theme here on Earth and applying it to the Disc. Here, racism and war is looked at through the Turtle shaped lens.
  • I am Pilgrim – I first read this book a few years ago and it is a great thriller. I feel it’s one of the “Da Vinci Code”-esque style of books, terrorism, science, religion and a lot of contrasting views each of which has good and bad points. I would recommend this to anyone who is after a book to read on the beach somewhere. There’s enough there to get you through a week and plenty of drama to keep you hooked – I even found upon multiple reads that the story has so many different things to take in, each read gives you something new to think about.
  • Meg – When this film came out last year it automatically ticked a lot of my boxes – massive animals, Jason Statham punching stuff, drama, thrills etc. I still haven’t actually seen the film but when I saw this book in a charity shop, I just had to grab it. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be, some science which seems to make sense and some interesting facts that make me go “oooooh” whilst reading. I’m not going to say the story is the most believable but it was a good old romp of a book that once I’d finished it did make me want to hunt out the rest of the series!
  • I shall wear Midnight – I decided before Xmas that I would read the final Tiffany series from the Discworld. I’d been putting them off for a long time so these books were a long time coming but I feel glad to have done so, they were kept for their rightful time.
  • Chavs – I’ve been a fan of Owen Jones for a really long time and have wanted to read this book for years, for whatever reason I haven’t been able to find it and when I tried to read non – fiction before, my short term memory wouldn’t allow it – nothing more frustrating than starting a book and having to re read each page about 4 times before it went in! – anyway, I have finally read it and it made some really good points as to the state of the world we are currently living in! I know not everyone would agree but there were a lot of points he had used which makes sense to me and I feel this helps me formulate and cultivate my own ideas and views and gives me more reason to fight for the things I do.
  • Wintersmith – A really special Terry Pratchett book, probably my favourite of the newer books I hadn’t previously read. A very interesting and compelling story and another book where Terry showed what a brilliant story teller he was. In “Wintersmith” Tiffany makes a mistake that draws the attention of the elemental who controls winter. The beauty in this is that it’s not the sort of plot motivating accidents and serendipity guiding series like Harry Potter, where characters are essentially powerless and shuttled through circumstances beyond their control. This entire story comes about because Tiffany screws up and must deal with the consequences. I would heartily recommend this book to a fan of Pratchett, maybe not as a starter story but definitely they’re heading in a new direction.
  • A Hat full of sky – This is more of the same for this subseries – which is a good thing! More adolescent witch adventures, more growing up too fast, more dry humour with teeth underneath.
  • The Shakespeare Secret – A book in the Da Vinci Code style of writing, but set in the Uk (mostly) and chasing up the lost plays of Shakespeare. I’d say this is a book that came about simply due to the popularity of the DVC, it’s a good thriller, with some interesting historical parts and it does bring up points that make me think more about the authors named within the story itself. Another possible beach page turner I think.
  • The Antipope – Robert Rankin is one of those authors I discovered around the same time as Pratchett, but Rankin is odder, more random and dryly funny, more humour is found in his style of writing as opposed to puns and observational humour. I find his writing tickles me in silly ways, and his use of language is amazing.  It is Rankin’s first novel, and the first book in the Brentford Trilogy (which, as of July 2010, consists of 9 novels – see what I mean? Mad a box of frogs!! but brilliant fun too) and a book I am happy to go back to and restart the madness again and agin.

So there you have it, a little bit about what I’ve read thus far in 2019. Not as many as I would normally have read but as |’ve previously said, the reading is the easy part about having a book blog!

Have you got any reading challenges this year? Let me know how you’re doing and how you’re finding it, we can all spur each other on!

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Write about a book you love, and one you don’t really like……

This is a toughie because all books I’ve read i’ve been able to find something positive, even for those books that my brain tried to stop me reading.

I adore books, in general I’ve always had a better relationship with books than with humans so this is actually going to be tough to think about just one book that I love and just one that I dislike, or at least, like less.

I think for once I’m going to write about books that aren’t Pratchett – more than anything to prove I can haha – so the book I will write about as one I love is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (ok, sorry, I tried!)

good omens

I found this book brilliant, I was obsessed with Pratchett and this just introduced me to another one of my (now) favourite authors.

The subject of the end of days shouldn’t be funny, but the way this story comes together, there is humour, pathos, satire and it is remarkably easy to read. I’ve met a couple of people who read and didn’t like or enjoy the telling but most people i’ve lent this to tend to spend time giggling or snorting out loud in public (seriously, don’t read this on a bus unless you don’t care what people think) and then buying me a new copy as they keep it or pass on to other people.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it and for those who are saving themselves for the TV series but for me, this is a book I can finish, and then just start again. I find if very difficult not to like a book about how plans for Armageddon hit a snag when a scatterbrained Satanic nun misplaces the Antichrist and about a clairvoyant witch of the Nutter family.
The characters of Aziraphale and Crowley are a brilliant dynamic and I’d like to think that if there were such things as Angels and Demons, this is how they would be, stuck on a planet together for thousands of years, thrown together and after so many years, of course they find something in common – even if that’s just fine dining and feeding ducks. It’s even a book where Kids don’t irritate me, the Them as they are known should be in some kind of Norman Rockwell world but are still brilliant, fun and makes me yearn for that kind of youth – unfortunately now long gone.

I would recommend this book to anyone, i’ve gone through 4 or 5 copies of this by doing that but am pleased to be passing this info on and hopefully igniting new passions in my friends.

Ok, a book I didn’t like as much, hmmm, I could write about a few different books here, for example, Harry Potter. Ok, before you all shout me down about how “they’re the best books ever” they “introduced reading to a whole new generation” blah blah blah I know that’s what a lot of people think but the first 3 books in the series (which were the only ones I could force myself to finish) were written for children, so when I get adults preaching at me about the quality of writing etc, it tends to rub me the wrong way. Whilst I do appreciate a new generation of readers, I don’t think that the writing was of sufficient quality to rave about as an adult……but then, saying that, a lot of people I know read and seemed to actually enjoy the writing in 50 Shades of Grey (and if you haven’t spent loads of time reading the negative reviews of this on Amazon, you’re missing out!) but anyway, I digress.

A book I like less, would be Stephen King’s IT.

IT COVER.JPG

This is a great book, a brilliant story, but for me, a common problem I have had with Stephen King is that he seems to lose steam halfway through the story. It’s a real shame because I want a thrilling book, which I can absorb, become part of but the last third of this is like he’s run out of ideas and is just scratching the bottom of the barrel to reach the required word count. It’s a real shame as the premise of this speaks to my soul (clowns terrify me) and it’s one of those books that I do enjoy but get tired of.

Some parts were truly creepy at first and initially, as often happens with King, I couldn’t put it down. But then, as also often happens with King, it hits a brick wall and becomes so over-long and has so many unnecessary elements that get in the way of the main story that it becomes a bloated, endless chore to finish. People often say they hate the ending of this book…I did not hate it or love it. I had checked out at that point and simply wanted it to be over no matter who lived or died or whether they defeated It or not.

This book is at least 300 pages too long and that is the least that could have been completely cut out without hurting the story in the slightest. Included in those 300+ pages are some particularly disturbing sequences and elements which were just sickening, unnecessary and, to me, actually took away from the main story.

So, what do you guys say? Have a book you love (or one you hate) that you HAVE to tell people about? What’s the first book you would lend out of your library? Or of course, if you hated Good Omens or love IT, why not try and sway my thoughts? I’m always happy to talk about books with people and have different views to my own.

Upcoming reads

I’ve started (as those who’ve read my previous posts) a reading challenge for the year but until I managed to actually get my ass down to the local library I’m going to read as much as possible and try to push me out of my standard reading comfort zone.

My mum and dad bought me for Christmas a copy of one of the Terry Pratchett books I hadn’t actually read yet, the Long Earth series is amazing but very different to the Disc and to be honest, silly though it may sound I’ve always been a bit worried to read it. I love the Disc for it’s whimsy, for the way he looked at the world and held up a mirror to the world and for the way it ALWAYS felt comfortable, and safe. I’m not sure the Long Earth is like that as the writing was shared with Stephen Baxter (someone I have never read) but I’m quite looking forward to the challenge and also to have some Pratchett I’ve never read.

I (in the same vein) also have bitten the bullet and started reading the last 5 books in the Discworld (the Tiffany Aching series) which until now has always brought me to tears to even consider actually reading. I always put it off because I feel I’d have no more Terry, ever again and that thought really scared me, I mean, I KNOW that sounds foolish but that’s the truth, I feel scared to not have that kind of safety coming ever again. But after enough time – and being told by enough people that reading the books are the point of it all. He would be happy to know i’m still reading which I suppose does make sense but we shall see how long they take me!! I’ve read the first two now but will have a bit of a gap before cracking on with the third, I am aiming that this blog isn’t totally Terry centric…….wish me luck!

I popped back into my office today to run a report and to find that someone had left a book on my desk for me to read and see if I liked, I’m not sure about it yet but I’m very much looking forward to amending my reading habits abit over the year and seeing what other Genres I find which might consume me as much.

I will read and then spend some time thinking about my views but I will do my best to do as many reviews as possible. Probably not ridiculously in depth but definitely I’m always up for new books, new challenges and if there’s things you’ve always wanted to know about a book and I read it (or you suggest it) please, drop me a line.

Genuinely, if people have suggestions, let me know in the comments and who knows, if you send me interesting ideas, you might pass on a new love to me 🙂

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Fire & Fury: Michael Wolff

I wrote this back in 2018, as one of the first random books that I’d read and wanted to talk about. I had hoped to find people who also had read or even those who had views which were different to mine but sadly, no-one stepped forward so I’m going to assume that this will be the same. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts, if only to expand on my views.

I’ll be honest, the thought of a President Trump both terrifies me and saddens me, the loss of what was one of the most “grown – up” positions on this planet and the lowering of standards to his level for me is a real disappointment.

So, when I heard that this book was coming out, and the furore 45 had over it and it’s publication, I actually rushed out to buy it.

I should say that as UK citizen, I really should have no opinion over who or what is happening elsewhere but a few years ago I fell into the West Wing TV show, and although I know it’s a drama series, I fell in love with both the writing, the cast and the way the Americans do things. I set about trying to educate myself about the way that their Politics works and have often had to call a (republican) friend of mine to have things explained to me. But I do believe that from my reading and the views/morals I have, I would say, if asked, that I was a Democrat.

I’ve never really seen such vitriol as I saw in 2016, I am lucky that on various travels I have met both Dems and Republicans and unfortunately, every time, the Republicans I have met have, not necessarily, offended me, but they have given across viewpoints/arguments which I just do not understand. Things like “Guns should be available for everyone” seem ok, but then when there’s no regulation/background checks or that kind of thing, it baffles me. Or Roe v Wade (which I always thought was decent and fair) is now being chipped away at so that a woman no longer has the choice of what happens to her body. I love my American friends but unfortunately, I don’t understand them.

Anyway, in the run up to 2016’s election, I was most obviously on the side of the Dems. I don’t think Hillary would have been the best choice, but then, I didn’t think Trump had a chance in HELL of getting in, I mean, people wouldn’t vote for an orange, offensive, rude, unkind, uncaring, trigger happy Tv personality, would they? Being woken up by my love with the words “The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Orange” brought my certainty crashing down and to be honest, I’ve been in an ever increasing downwards spiral of disbelief ever since.

With that in mind, when I read about the book coming out, I think I already knew what it would be like, I wouldn’t know the ins and outs but I would get the general feeling from it about the man and his family and his Presidency which I felt I knew.

I’ve tried to write this with no spoilers, so there isn’t going to be quotes, passages or snippets from the book itself, this is just going to be an overview, and from my point of view.

A few things that occured to me whilst reading this book, which I sort of knew before but have had clarified:

He isn’t a man for the people -I mean, look at the attacks made on disabled people, women, gays, Mexicans – we should all be able to see he doesn’t care but despite that, I know some people who are in this group who DID vote for him (another thing that baffles me and still she has not explained what made her do what she did – I should add she has since renounced that vote but still). I suppose what I would like, ideally, is to understand “why?” Was it a rebellion vote, to try and break the cycle of Politician after Politician, was it that people thought despite the way he acted, the staff around him would be able to control him or was it just buying in to what they got told?

**In the above, I GENUINELY do not want to start fights, but if anyone reading this is a Trump voter, I’d love to hear from you, so longs as it’s adult, non offensive and an airing of both points of view. I’ve been contacted enough by Trolls and people who just want to be abusive but that’s not what i’m after, clarification is what I need.. **

I suppose for me, the most disappointing thing was that the hype surrounding the book’s subject matter means that the author doesn’t really need to work hard to create this story. I mean, if he knows everyone hates the subject matter, to make the subject deplorable isn’t that hard. I did want to glean some info about those around him, to see and hopefully build hope that this madness can be contained, and that the people around him understand the seriousness of the role they have been given.

Overall this book was boring for me to read. I’m not kidding, I read like Johnny 5 and this book, well, I got about 3/4 way through and then it took me 8 weeks to pick the book up again and finish it. I think in that 8 weeks I read 6 (or 7) other books and I actively had to make myself pick up Fire and Fury and continue it. Just to get it done.

I suppose that the hype around the book was what drew me to it, I did learn things from the book which surprised me but I think the overall depression I see every day on the news and social media and the fact that this nightmare doesn’t seem to be ending and I didn’t want that in my reading as well as every part of my life.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, there are characters within this who have now been fired/quit and therefore it’d be fascinating to hear their sides of the same story. In much the same way as I want to speak with republicans and Trump voters, I’d love to be able to hear from those who worked for him, who supported him, who though Team Trump was a good idea. Mostly to try and understand but also to see if they still feel the same way as they did before this all started.

So, I’m sorry if my thoughts and views offended anyone, if you are, please, contact me and let us have a chat, i’m always open to others views and would love to speak with people who live there and deal with this every single day.

Hogfather: Sir Terry Pratchett

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“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers?”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

I love the above lines, they are possibly some of my favourite everyday and most definitely from my favourite Christmas themed novel. I re read this book every year and love it!

I think it’s a great story, even for those who are not into either Christmas or Kids things (so, pretty much me then!) it’s festive, fun and once again STP has managed to catch the mood and idea and weave it through the story, so you start of reading about 1 thing, which leads you to another, which segues into another and then finally, you understand what’s going on – plus I also spend a lot of time being sent off to the dictionary, or some kind of encyclopedia so I actually learn a lot when reading his stories too.

This book in typical Disc fashion, zooms from one place to another & one time to another at a sometimes breathless speed, calling in on favourite characters and also fleshing out some other minor characters. It both deeply respects but also makes a mockery of the Christmas that everyone knows and loves and as far as i’m concerned, shines a light on some of the flaws we all have.

I know it’s now after the festive period that i’m updating this but if you haven’t read it, I’d suggest popping to your local library and seeing if you can get it. Well worth it.

I also have the DVD but I honestly would recommend reading the book first, as this has a lot more information and nuance which is missed out (probably inevitably) within the film. – plus, all books are better than the film versions * If you disagree, tell me your thoughts in the comments, am always happy to have a new book/film to watch! Anyway, I digress…..

My favourite character in this book is DEATH, a 7 foot tall anthropomorphic skeleton who is fascinated with humanity, fascinated yet confused and trying to make sense of us all. His exploration into the minds of humans always makes me think and if there is such a thing as Death (the Grim reaper or whatever you would rather call him), Sir Terry has taken a lot of my fear of him away.

In Hogfather, Pratchett has finally achieved what I have sometimes found lacking in the other books written around this time: a perfect balance between the storylines. There is just the right amount of wizard comedy, lots of  time dedicated to Death and Susan grappling with what it means to be human and normal respectively, truly stellar worldbuilding, and big questions on the nature of belief and the holiday spirit that will stay with me for a very long time. I have mentioned in my other Discworld reviews that Pratchett is a philosopher and a humanist, and this is where all his views and ideas come together to form a book that is both light and heavy at the same time. Not an easy feat, and making it look effortless is the sign of a truly gifted writer. Whether you’re looking for a fun romp or a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to have faith, Pratchett’s got you covered.

There are so many great moments in this book, I don’t even know where to start. Every time you think to yourself, “wow, this is my favourite part,” Pratchett fires something new at you and raises the bar a little bit higher again (“no, wait, this is the best part”). Pascal’s Wager jokes! Susan making her way through a children’s drawing! The Death of Rats hiding on top of a Hogswatch tree! Hex writing out a letter to the Hogfather! Alfred throwing snowballs at two grumpy angels! Death saves the little match girl!

Hogfather is an incredibly fun ride and I can’t wait to reread and relive it all over again next year. And the year after, and the year after……ad infinitum.

The Journey Begins

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Well Hello & Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Books have always been an escape for me, a freedom from the world which isn’t always particularly nice and a good way to hide from responsibility! I think i’ve always been obsessed with the written word, the way people can form ideas, descriptions, pictures and simply transport me away from the real world is a real talent – one I don’t have but one I am very willing to learn from. I can remember my mum talking about me as a child being so into reading that I would read everything, ingredient lists, the paper, her books and novels – ok so Stephen King at 8 or 9 may not have been the best, but at least neither of them every told me I couldn’t read something so I’ve never held with “reading ages” or specific genre snobbery. I’m just happy to be able to read and relish.

I decided to start this as I’ve started blogging more (see my other page – halfbakedproductions.blog for more random non book related stuff) and given my obsession with reading, this seemed like a logical leap to take.

I’m starting with a reading challenge (see below) but am also looking for suggestions, inspiration and introductions to new authors so if you see something or have someone in mind that you’re burning to share, please do – EVERY suggestion welcome.

So yes, thank you for joining me and welcome to this new adventure, I’m hoping that 2019 will be fun, cozy and book filled.

READING CHALLENGE 2019