Category: reading

Ray Bradbury – weirdness in many sizes

Ray Bradbury – weirdness in many sizes

In which I show off my patchy Ray Bradbury collection, gush a little over Dandelion Wine (and a lot over Zen in the Art of Writing), and admit I have DNF’d one of his books, despite the fact that I name him as one of my all-time favourite writers.

I adore his short story collections for being so varied, and having such a range of wonderful weirdness in them, and of course Fahrenheit 411 is spectacularly unsettling, but I think it was Dandelion Wine when I really fell in love with his writing. It’s so rich and immersive that you fall into this idyllic, small town America world with no effort at all. It’s one of those books where you can feel the heat of the summer, smell the dust and baking tarmac, where you know how the water feels when it hits you. But nothing is quite right, either – although not in a bad way. There are just odd inhabitants and strange occurrences,  all told from a young boy’s perspective, so they seem to be quite the expected part of life in this mythical place, no different to the magic of fireflies.

Dandelion Wine isn’t a big book. It’s not packed with action, or full of suspense. But it’s full of beauty and magic and a very gentle weirdness, and to me it’s just very Bradbury. I haven’t read all his work, by any stretch of the imagination, but this is the book where I hear his voice clearest, the way I do in the essays in Zen in the Art of Writing (I gushed over that one in a blog here and a video here, so I won’t do it again. Much). And I think it’s a most wonderful voice indeed.

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Are you a Bradbury fan? Do you have any favourites of his you’d recommend to me? And have you DNF’d a favourite author? Or been put off by starting a new author on the wrong book? Let me know below!

Cosy Mysteries & Easy Reads for Bus Stops

Cosy Mysteries & Easy Reads for Bus Stops

In which I discuss the fact that I love having books on my phone so I don’t have to lug an enormous tome with me everywhere I go, and also admit that what I’m reading on my phone is likely not what I’m reading at home. Hence the joys of the easy reads, which I can dip in and out of and come back to three months later still knowing what’s going on.

Which brings me to the cosy mysteries of M.C. Beaton, and the fact that I’ve discovered that her Hamish MacBeth series ticks all the boxes for my occasional reading. Interesting (and not entirely above board, for a village policeman) main character? Check! A whole host of potential murder suspects, all with possible dastardly motives? Check! Meddlesome superior policemen coming from the big city to mess with Hamish’s investigation and try to kick him off the case? Check! Gorgeous Scottish countryside as a backdrop to murderous goings-on? Check! Love interest that isn’t readily available? Well, that’s not on the checklist, but it didn’t seem too intrusive in the stories I’ve read so far, so we’ll check it off anyway.

With all of this, you’d think I’d read more of it, but for whatever reason these have really become my go-to books for reading when I don’t have time to pay a lot of attention, or something to grab when I’m in a waiting room or the pick-up area at the airport. I can put it down mid-sentence and come back to it at any time, even months later, and I still have the characters and storyline in my head. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I think it’s really rather handy.

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Do you have go-to books for easy reading, or for dipping in and out of? Do you have any cosy mysteries you’d recommend? Let me know below!

 

Inspector Hobbes & Fun Reads (The Unhuman Bundle)

Inspector Hobbes & Fun Reads (The Unhuman Bundle)

In which I talk about the reasons I don’t read much contemporary literary fiction, and why funny, goofy stories appeal to me so much. (Hint: it has a lot to do with why I try to write books that could be classed as fun reads – because the world can be quite an unpleasant sort of place at times.)

Having discussed why I’m not really reviewing literary fiction, I spend the rest of the video explaining my love of hapless heroes – those wonderful characters that never quite live up to their potential. I mean, they try, but – oh dear. Not everyone is cut out to be a hero, and those are absolutely my favourite kinds of hero.

And all this rambling is to do with the Unhuman bundle by Wilkie Martin. I’ve read the first book, Inspector Hobbes & the Blood, and so far so good. The only reason I haven’t read the rest, I think, is that I was distracted by paper books and forgot to go back to my Kindle. This happens a lot. But, Inspector Hobbes & the Blood has a reassuringly hapless hero, a housekeeper who collects teeth, a grimy pub where the beer can kill you, and the mysterious (certainly to our hero, anyway) Inspector Hobbes. It’s a fun murder mystery, with some satisfyingly supernatural elements threaded through the more everyday life of the Cotswolds. I won’t say it’s the best example of mystery/supernatural that I’ve read, but I’m certainly going to go back and read the rest of the bundle now that I’ve rediscovered my Kindle TBR (there’s so much in there. So, so much. I must stop buying books. Must. *twitches*).

 

 

PS I say something really quickly at the end, and I don’t know what it was. I’m sorry. I’m not getting any better at this talking thing.

Now, how about you, lovely people? Do you like non-heroic heroes, or supernatural/mystery cross-overs? Let me know some of your favourites below! (And I’m also open to any literary fiction that doesn’t make me despair of the human race…)

 

Frisco Pigeon Mambo, or What Did I Just Read?

Frisco Pigeon Mambo, or What Did I Just Read?

In which I talk about C.D. Payne’s Frisco Pigeon Mambo, which is so perfectly, wonderfully absurd and silly. And that’s a fine line to tread – there is such a thing as too silly, and too absurd, but this book manages it. There’s just enough gravitas to balance the hijinks, just enough pathos to counter the goofiness. It’s no secret that I love odd books. And this is wonderfully odd.

A friend of mine discovered Frisco Pigeon Mambo years ago, when we were both working in the Caribbean, and it made its way around all the bookworms in the local area. I think we all agreed that we’d never read anything like it before, and I don’t think one of us could say anything against it. How could you? It has hard-drinking, heavy-smoking pigeons with a junk food obsession, who get sprung from a research lab by well-meaning animal rights activists. The pigeons are not impressed, as they’re reduced to smoking discarded cigarette butts and cosying up to local pub owners for alcohol access (and that’s before the liquor store heist and the stolen cats). This is neither life as they know it, nor as they want it.

It’s a short, fun read about identity, love, and misguided birds on the rampage – and probably best added to the Not For Reading In Public list, due to high likelihood of giggling.

 

 

Are you a fan of books about anthropomorphic animals (or birds)? What are your favourites that you’ve come across? Let me know below – I’m always looking for more weirdness in my life! (Of the fun sort. Not the scary weird sort. Just so we’re clear.)

 

Footrot Flats & Books That Bring Back Childhood

Footrot Flats & Books That Bring Back Childhood

In which I show off my admittedly terribly puny collection of Footrot Flats books, and admit that my childhood had some terribly stereotypical Kiwi elements. I’m still getting used to the idea that not everyone had pet lambs growing up, or had to help with the docking.

I haven’t really re-read Footrot Flats for a while, despite carting these few books around with me for ages (and my little Dog toy is now so old that his head falls off from time to time, and he’s blue rather than black). It always feels to me that it’s a very Kiwi sort of comic. That a lot gets lost in translation if you’re not used to farms that run down to the sea, and eels living in creeks and wild pigs in the hills among the punga and manuka, and the problems of rugby season coinciding with lambing season. I think every country has their own quirks and familiarities, things that you’re so used to as you grow up that you just sort of assume everyone else is, too. For me, reading about small town America is still a strangely exotic thing.

And childhood is such a curious thing to re-encounter. I can re-read books I read as a kid, and I go back into the book’s world very easily. It’s fun and beautiful and wonderful, but it’s also not my childhood. That’s a very rare thing to find again, but somehow Footrot Flats does that for me. It takes me back to collecting mussels from the rocks on the pebbly beach below the house, and the chooks that laid everywhere but the hen house, and the smell of the damp dark manuka wood after rain, when you’re straggling through the bush in your jandals for some unknown reason (probably either trying to find the pet lamb that the dog used to lead away into the hills when we were out, or because I was Adventuring). It’s all snippets – we left New Zealand on the boat when I was seven, and I’m not one of those I-can-remember-what-we-had-for-lunch-on-my-fifth-birthday type people. But even snippets are precious.

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Where did you grow up? What books or comics or movies bring that back to you, the scents and sounds and feel of it? Let me know below – I’d love to know more about you!

Janet Evanovitch & Easy Reads (AKA Popcorn for the Brain)

Janet Evanovitch & Easy Reads (AKA Popcorn for the Brain)

In which I talk about the necessity of hanging up your brain sometimes, and how for me the only way to do that is with easy reads, as TV and movies still leave too much of my brain running around like a ferret in a sock factory. (Please note that I’ve never seen a ferret in a sock factory, so they may in fact be very calm, but I’m assuming they would run about the place tearing socks up, abandoning them, and racing off to find some more.)

I also talk about going through phases with my easy read preferences, and how at the moment Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series is pretty much perfect, as it involves an inept bounty hunter, exploding cars, and gun-happy senior citizens. What more do you need?

Plus I manage to muddle up Dirk Pitt and Dirk Gently, which will surprise no one.

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Do you like a little reading popcorn, or do you prefer TV, games, movies…? Let me know your preferences and recommendations below!

 

Book Recommendations & Terry Pratchett

Book Recommendations & Terry Pratchett

In which I admit (once again) just how terrible I am at making book recommendations, and apologise to my lovely friend Lynda (whose blog you should really check out for lovely humour and fab editing tips) for basically suggesting she start reading Terry Pratchett by choosing any book at random. I then attempt to refine that recommendation a little, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work.

Yeah, I’m entirely rubbish at book recommendations. Entirely.

I try to make up for it by waffling on about the different ways in which his books are good, and how re-reading them is an entirely different experience as an adult, choose my favourite character (sort of), and call the Stepper from the Long Earth series a time machine. Sigh.

 

 

So, help Lynda out here, lovely people – are you a Pratchett fan? What book would you recommend to a Discworld novice? Who’s your favourite character? let me know below!

 

The Little Furry Muse Recommends A Book About Cats

The Little Furry Muse Recommends A Book About Cats

In which The Little Furry Muse proves, once again, that she really is the star of this particular roadshow. Or sideshow. Yeah, sideshow might be a slightly more accurate description. With great disdain for my terrible record of book recommending abilities, she also makes it very clear that she approves of this particular book about cats. Although maybe not my reading so much.

With her able assistance supervision, I get into my reading aloud groove once again, although not in pyjamas this time. I’ve already shown off my Mercaticorn nightie, after all, so I’m not sure I can top that one.

I also get slightly horrified by the idea that it’s been twenty years since I saw Cats in London, and sort out everyone’s birthday presents for the cat lovers in their life.

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Have you read Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats, or seen Cats? Did you enjoy it? And what are your favourite pieces of fun verse? let me know below!

 

The Sadness of Being Let Down by a Book

The Sadness of Being Let Down by a Book

In which I express my deep disappointment that the science book I thought might clear up my general scientific confusion proved to be written rather confusingly.

Although that may all be down to taste. But I’m not at all clear on why the outfits of the scientists interviewed were given almost as much page space as the science they were talking about.

Okay, that’s not fair, but still – there were lots of words in this book, and most of them didn’t help me understand anything. There were a few that did, but it took too long to wade through all the padding to find them. Which I’m really disappointed by, because the author can write, and I was really excited by the concept. I thought I might come out of it with a good grasp on the basics of science.

Instead I was bored and upset because I hate DNF-ing. 🙁

 

 

How about you, lovely people? Have you been let down by a book you were excited to read? Or do you have any book suggestions for the scientifically challenged, like me? Let me know below!

Accidental Book Discoveries & Deserted Islands

Accidental Book Discoveries & Deserted Islands

In which I admit the horrible extent of my Kindle book hoarding, and how little I actually get around to reading them. And the fact that I am starting to suffer from pretty cover syndrome, especially as it’s led me right twice now, first with Philip Pullman, now with Scarlett Thomas.

I did my magpie thing with this book (pretty! Gimme!) in the local English secondhand bookshop, and if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have discovered Scarlett Thomas until at least the next long flight, which is when I’ll start digging into the depths of my Kindle TBR again. But Bright Young Things was certainly pretty, and sounded intriguing, so… I love accidental book discoveries 🙂

And, as yet another example of being behind the times, I seem to have read the less well-known book before the famous one, and now want to read all her books. Good thing I have the well-known one in my Kindle. Which I really should charge…

 

 

How about you, lovely people? What have your accidental book discoveries been? Have you read any Scarlett Thomas? Do you have any favourites? Let me know below!

 

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