Saturday, January 30, 2010

R.I.P - J.D Salinger

The literary world has been in mourning this week, due to the death of author J.D Salinger at the age of 91. He is best known for his cult classic 'Catcher in the Rye' and the news of his demise has made me want to revisit this book. My prediction is that the sales of 'Catcher in the Rye' will soar now, as it seems like whenever an artist or writer dies, they have more success than when they were alive. Take Michael Jackson for example. Since his death last year, sales of his albums have rocketed and the younger generation are now just discovering and appreciating his music. It's probably because of society's strange fascination with death, which makes a person more illusive.

In general, I very rarely re-read books. Not only do I have an endless list of new books and authors that I want to experience, but also it worries me that if I re-read a book that I had previously enjoyed, the second time I may not feel the same about it, therefore tarnishing my reading experience. However, there are a small select list of books which I have re-read in the past.

For example when I was a child, I was so obsessed with Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', that I would read the book and immediately after I had finished, would return to the beginning and start the book again. It was in some way a comfort blanket, something familiar and I did enjoy it over and over again.

So I am hoping that my re-discovery of J.D Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' will be an enjoyable experience, so check back on the blog for my review of this book.

Friday, January 29, 2010

'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'- Review

Vintage Fiction

ISBN: 0-7493-9754-3

Length: 533 Pages

Opening Line:
'Dr. Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.'


Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of posts on this blog. I hadn't forgotten that it existed, quite the contrary. However it has taken me this long to get through the novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'......and I'm afraid to say that I failed.

I hate unfinished books. No matter how boring or difficult a book is I try and finish it, because I hate the idea that I have left words and characters undiscovered. On rare occasions however, I have to admit defeat and this is one of them.

I had previously bought Louis de Bernieres' novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' last summer, after enjoying the film starring Penelope Cruz and Nicholas Cage (I could even forgive his appalling accent). Whether that instilled an unbiased opinion about the film being better than the book I don't know, maybe that discussion should be saved for a future blog post.

One thing I do know though, is that reading the book seemed very unfamiliar, even though I was aware of the plot. One of the reasons that I didn't enjoy the book, was the way in which it switched and changed between characters and even styles of writing so that I didn't know what was going on. I would read a section of the book, for example about the relationship between the doctor's daughter Pelagia and her fiance Mandras and then without explanation, it would cut to a strand of narrative about an Italian soldier, hiding his homosexuality. You could argue that if I had stuck with the book until the end, I may have figured out how the different strands of narrative were connected with each other. I just felt that the story wasn't strong enough to keep my interest for that long.

As for the style of writing, I felt that Louis de Bernieres couldn't keep to one particular style, because he was in some way showing off to the reader that he could do more than one. I think though that it is important for a writer to stick to a set style, so that the reader knows where they are in the story and where it is going and that is where the flaw partly laid during the story. Also his choice of vocabulary wasn't really used effectively in my opinion. I got the feeling that he was using 'fancy' words just because he could, not because they were needed.

There were glimmers of hope for the book however, which made me attempt to read the book 3 times before I finally gave up. For example, scenes near the beginning book set in the village, where Dr Iannis cures a local villager Stamatis of his seemingly incurable deafness by pulling out a dried up pea from his ear, only to be told to put it back because he can hear his wife's constant nagging, projected warmth and humour. However, it shifted and changed so much, that couldn't really get into the book at all.

So unfortunately 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' is going onto my very small pile of unfinished books, I'm just hoping that the next book will be better!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

'Last Chance to See' Review

Publisher: HarperCollins


Length: 320 Pages

Opening Line:
'No one believed me when I said I was going to the Amazon with Stephen Fry.'


To start off the reviews, I'm going to talk about a book that I received as a Christmas seems like a good place to start!

In the 1980's, the Zoologist/Conservationist Mark Carwardine and the late Douglas Adams, the late author of 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' decided to embark on a journey around the world, seeking out some of the most endangered and unusual species of animals and birds that the world has to offer. Their adventures were made into a radio series and subsequentally a bestselling book.

20 years on, Mark Carwardine and the actor, writer and all round clever bloke Stephen Fry undertook a similiar journey, rediscovering some of the same species of animal in the original expedition, plus some new ones. This has resulted in a reinvention of the 'Last Chance to see' book and a programme, which was recently shown on the BBC.

Having seen the programme, I was interested to read the accompaning book and I wasn't disappointed. From seeking the Amazonian Manatees, rescuing Black Rhinos in Kenya, to meeting the Aye-Aye,possibly one of the most bizarre but endearing creatures in Madagascar, Mark takes the reader on a journey to discover these weird and wonderful animals and the people who are trying to save them from extinction.

Using his chatty, approachable style of writing, this book is enjoyable to read, the book also highlights how and why so many of the world's wildlife are being wiped off the face of the planet. A special mention should be given to Sirocco the Kakapo, a large, flightless bird from Codfish Island in New Zealand, who not only thinks that he is human, but has a tendancy to be rather amorous to researchers and unsuspecting writers!

Packed full of facts and information, I found that this was a informative, but entertaining read and it certainly gave me more insight than the programme did. However, I found that it was lacking something that the programme provided. I think that you could enjoy this book as something separate from the television programme, but the programme adds to the enjoyment of the book in my opinion.

Another slight problem that I had with the book was that on occasions, I found that Mark Carwardine gave interesting facts, but he would veer off from what he was initally talking about.However,that's just me being picky!

Overall, 'Last Chance to See' was an enjoyable but sobering insight into wildlfe's fight for survival.

Similar titles you may enjoy:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Coming Soon!

The first book review of the year (and this blog!), will be:

However I have to the book first, so watch this space!!