Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Book of the Week 7 - you will understand why

Before I get to the book I have to admit one thing. I do not own it. I have not read it. I have not even seen a copy of this book in the flesh (or should that be page). I am making this judgment on one thing alone - the title.

Every year The Bookseller magazine awards a prize for the most bizarre book title of the previous year. They have just announced the short list for this year's award and my favourite of the six is "The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais" by Professor Philip M Parker. And so on the strength of the title alone this is my seventh book of the week.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Book of the Week 6 - vicariously

The sixth book on this list I have to admit I have not read. Nor do I have any real intention to do so. Not that I think it would suck. I wouldn't list it here if I did but for two real reasons. Firstly with all the books I keep buying and all the review copies that turn up at my door I don't think I will have time. And secondly because I don't think I need to.

My wife was not in the best of moods lately. The factory where she works is being closed down by the end of the year and she won't have a job. Don't know when it will happen but it's coming.

So I handed a book to her to read thinking it might be a pleasant diversion. This is not uncommon in our household. My wife reads incessantly - more than I do. And for the seventeen years we've been together the vast majority of the books she has read have been chosen by me. Not out of control I stress. If you met my wife you would know that is not exactly possible and I would not even dream of trying. But she likes the surprise. And she likes challenging me to find books that are a little bit different. An example of this is the book I handed to her just before starting this blog. It's called The Taste of Dreams: An Obsession with Russia and Caviar by Vanora Bennett.

That isn't this choice for book of the week but in case you want to check it out here're the links

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Anyway - that's a diversion. Back to the subject!

The book I handed over to lighten the mood was John Grisham's Playing for Pizza. It's a total change from his legal books and features and American Footballer playing in the Italian League. And it made my wife laugh at times, smile broadly most others. She enjoyed it, it brightened her day - it didn't take long to read. Although there were pauses to read passages aloud to me.

So here're the links to Book of the Week 6

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Book of the Week 5 (only slightly late now)

Fifth on my list was going to be Zoran Zivkovic's The Bridge. It arrived last week from PS Publishing, and I placed it to the top of my reading pile. It gave my reading of the book I was currently partway added impetus as I wanted to start The Bridge as soon as possible.

And I wasn't disappointed. Zivkovic's prose was as wonderful as ever. His plots as offbeat and seemingly almost directionless as ever, and everything was underpinned with the usual wonderful unselfconscious surreality. In short the book is superb and I do recommend you read it.

Here's the link in case you fancy taking a look.


But it's not my week's choice, because of the book that I picked up immediately afterwards. This, even better title, was Steps through the Mist - also be Zoran Zivkovic.

Steps through the Mist is a short story collection. It's not a long book, barely 100 pages, and you can't say that each page is overflowing with text - there is a lot of white space surrounding the words. But it is simply magickal.

There are just five stories in this short, very elegant book, each one featuring in some way mist. From dreams, through precognition and onwards Zivkovic tells his own unique and highly compelling brand fo fiction. There's whimsy, surreal sad acceptance and above all else, no feeling of needing to comply with accepted forms for fiction. He doesn't wrap things up neatly in the typical mainstream way. If he feel likes leaving something hanging in midstride he will - and does often.

But the stories are beautiful. Zivkovic is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers - one I cannot hesitate to recommend to anyone open to something a little different in their fiction.

Normal links

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book of the week 4 (slightly less belated)

Ok - choice four moves away from fiction and gets more into a phase of nostalgia for me

When I started listening to music all those years ago the very first band I fixated upon was The Who. I am still a fan. As I grew older and became a little more sophisticated I learned to distinguish those parts of the music I liked best. In terms of The Who (and many of the bands I like) it was the power of the bassline that did it for me. So John Entwistle became my first musical hero.

So much so I bought a bass guitar and determined to give it a go. Problems was I had absolutely no talent for it. True to my nature, once I had discovered that I would never be that good at it, I returned to being a fan only.

In the years that have followed I've listened to many, many other artists and bands

I've added Bruce Springsteen (his latest album Working on a Dream is playing as I type), Rush, Yes, Rolling Stones, King Crimson, Tom Waits, Metallica, Dream Theater, Nick Cave, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, AC/DC, REM, Suzanne Vega and so many others to the list over the years. But The Who have always been near the top of my favourites list. I still place Won't Get Fooled Again as my favourite ever song.

And so when I saw a book in the local book store covering John Entwistle's legendary guitar collection I knew I had to have it. It's everything I could want it to be. Lot's of glossy pictures of wonderful instruments including several favourites of . My absolute favourite guitar of all time is a Gretsch Red Falcon - total perfection that instrument.

And so book of the week for week for is Bass Culture by John Entwistle.

Here're the links on Amazon



Book of the Week 3 (Still Belated, More So I Guess)

Okay, I had meant to catch up on these on the day I started so I could get into the habit of posting one per week. Life however had its usual other ideas. There good interruptions though as we managed to sell the house my in-laws had been living in (we are hoping to get a bigger place for all four of us). So in the middle of one of the biggest housing market slumps we've managed to sell one - albeit at a reduced cost, 20% on the value original put on the house, but hey!

Anyway, book three. This is one that will not surprise anyone who know me. I am a lifelong science fiction and horror fan. And I have some favourite authors - Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Robert Charles Wilson and Mike Resnick are amongst them.

And it's the last of these that provides my third book of the week for 2009 with the fourth in his Starship Series - Starship: Rebel.

This series tells the story of Wilson Cole, the most decorated officer in the history of the Republic's Space Navy - much to the displeasure of his superiors who see him as a threat and an embarrassment.

Anyway - book one saw him be the hero once more but then court martialled for disobeying the order of his captain, only to see those loyal to him in the crew mutiny, break him out of prison and steal the ship the Teddy R (sort for Theodore Roosevelt) and head out of the Republic for the semi-lawless relam of the Inner Frontier.

Book two came and the crew were looking to find a way to make ends meet and so opted to become pirates - only they were to be ethical pirates. They stole from other pirates and returned the goods to the original owners or the insurance companies - for a fee of course.

Book three arrived and Cole has discovered that ethical piracy just will not pay, so the Teddy R (and its growing fleet) starts to hire out as a mercenary ship - taking only causes Cole believes are just.

And now I have book four in my hands. Or had I should say. I've never been able to hold onto a Resnick book for long without reading my way through it.

This book was everything I wanted it to be. Cole and the Teddy R have a cause. Upset by the callous disregard the Space Navy shows to the worlds of the Inner Frontier and their brutal murder of his closest friend, Cole determines that they will show the Navy that the Inner Frontier is off limits. Problem is Cole has forty ships, they have millions (literally).

Mike Resnick ALWAYS delivers fine fiction. He's not let me down yet. This is sf for anyone who likes good adventure tales and doesn't worry how the stardrive works.

Here's the link on Amazon if you want a look