Saturday, May 24, 2008

Towel Day: May 25th

Just a short reminder:

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I am currently reading the children's book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

The first three books make up the story of the film Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events which has hooked me on these books.

The story revolves around Violet, Klaus and Sunny, three children whose parents die and are taken in by their relatives. This in itself would lead to a series of unfortunate events, but this is toppled by a villain, Count Olaf who has made it his mission to get the fortune of the orphans. To achieve his plan he is not afraid to resort to murder and other heinous crimes, but the children of course defeat his evil ploy at the end of each book, just to be escorted to their next foster home where Count Olaf always strikes again.

I have so far read the first two books of the series and just started reading the 3rd of the six I have as a box set. I have to say, the quality of the books in itself is remarkable, and I haven't seen attention like this before: these hardcover books have pages cut individually, on the first page of the book there is an ex libris page with blank space for the kid's name.

Being quite older than the intended audience I find these books as light and entertaining reads. The book is apparently written in a style to convey some basic etiquette to the readers, and has many explanation of the harder words used (like "brummagem"), but not being a native I find these quite useful.

Deaths feature as main plot elements in the books, and the overall tone of the books is quite gloomy, so one might think they are not appropriate for children, but in fact its to the contrary. I believe that after reading some of the later Harry Potter books, there's nothing new in these elements, and on the other hand this series offer advice and ways for children to deal with the issues raised, so I would certainly read them to my kids.

Neil Gaiman

I just finished reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I found it to be a very enjoyable fairy tale, with loveable characters and a very nice world. It was especially interesting to me, because it was set in the 19th century England (the Fearie World being embedded into the real one, the link between them being a gap in a wall in the village of Wall).
I got interested in the writings of Neil Gaiman after I have read Good Omens, which was co-written with Terry Pratchett, which is a good recipe for a hilarious book which it is. I think it is the funniest yet that I have read of either Pratchett, or Gaiman. It is thus a very good starting point for these two authors.
After I finish reading my current batch of books, and make or get some money, provided that the dollar remains weak I will be sure to order some of his other books as well. So far I can say that I like his humour and his way of creating an imaginary universe, I have no idea whether I would like his thrillers or serious writing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Color of Magic

This book of Terry Pratchett has received mixed reviews, some praise it as the best of the Discworld series, some say it's the worst. Personally I am one of those who didn't like it, but that's okay. It had its funny moments, but if your not a fan of the main character of an individual Discworld book, you won't enjoy the book so much. In other words, if you like Rincewind, you will love this book too and will want to reread the whole series of his books so that everything stays in context. if you don't like the false Wizard's stories so much, I'd put of reading this book until there are no more Pratchett books left to read.

For readers new to the world of Discworld I have to say this an ideal starting point in the series, just bear in mind that if you don't like it do not give up on the series until you've read at least one other book of the author with a different protagonist. Reading order is not that important so in choosing the first book to read pay attention to the back covers and buy the one which grabs your imagination the most.

One note on the American edition by HarperTorch: I bought this edition as it was half the price as the Corgi edition, but the Americanization has taken away from the genuineness of the book. I don't have anything against American spelling, but it is my opinion that a publisher should respect the spelling of the author unless it creates difficulties in understanding, and even than the fact that changes have been made should be noted.

Invitation to a Beheading

I have published the following short review of Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading on Librarything:
It is quite an absurd situation the protagonist Cincinattus finds himself in this book; it does remind me of Kafka, even though Nabokov states in the foreword that at the time of writing, he didn't have read him at the time.
The communication barrier between Cincinnattus, the protagonist and his captors gives much of the suspense of the book, but it also makes it a harder read as we are left with the same questions as C. and we don't really get any concrete answers.
For me this book wasn't as entertaining or interesting as the other books of Nabokov, I only read till the end because it was short and I have already paid for the whole book. I would reccommend this to the fans of Kafkian literature, but otherwise leave it at the end of your to-be-read list.