Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Wives of Bath

(When I read this book, I assumed it to be a debut, because of the uneven unpolished writing style. So imagine my surprise when I searched amazon.co.uk and discovered 5 other books by Wendy Holden.)

Yes, here I am again, discussing chick lit. But honestly, chick lit is not all bad. Sometimes you feel like a spot of Joyce (as if!), sometimes you want the magical seduction of Anne Rice's earlier books... and there are times when the tumble dryer is broken beyond repair, the credit card is groaning, the kids are grumpy and the only way you can stay sane is by eating junk food and reading junk books.

As junk books go, this is a good one, because it keeps you reading. It also makes you smile and nod in places, and even read bits to the husband with the interlude of "see, this sounds exactly like you".

As books go, this is not a great one. Don't we have copy editors anymore to spot blunders such as a five month baby crawling?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is this my cow?

What I loved most about the latest Discworld book (Thud! for the uninitiated), were the bits where "the world went soft and pink". Every time Sam Vimes interacts with his son, I know that Pratchett is a truly great writer. And every time Sam Vimes fears for his son's safety, I know that Pratchett is seriously overdue for the Booker.

However, there is a however. For example, I found too many superflous characters in this book. Also, the plot is too complex (even though the theme is certainly topical and important) and it relies on too many external elements for both micro- and macro-resolution (as opposed to some of Pratchett's better books, where resolutions come from within the plot).

A good book, but not a good Pratchett.

All in all, that is not my cup of cow.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sex (Goddess) and Murder Mysteries

Sex certainly sells. To a certain niche market, I grant you that, but it sells. Combine it with another market, that of murder mysteries, add some innovative marketing (in this case, publishing via email) and you get "The Daughters of Freya".

The premise is simple: a cult worshipping Freya, the Norse goddess of sex, is giving away sex as a means to get rid of all the negative energy in the world. Enter a journalist who is trying to save a friend's daughter swallowed up by the cult, solve a murder, save her own marriage and be there for numorous family crises.

I don't know how good the book is, because I'm forced to read it in drips and drabs: the publisher sends daily emails (about 3-5) in which the story unfolds. This creates natural cliffhangers, not to mention frustration when you want to page over, but can't. The style is typical email style, with no elaborations or descriptions, with the typical shortcuts and typos. All very realistic.

And I can't wait for my next instalment.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Single malt whisky

(because it's time to live up to the teasers scattered around my website)

Ask any non-whisky drinker to name a really good whisky, single malt - not blended, and they will probably come up with Glenfiddich. Go to an average bar, and that's what you'll find on the shelf. Sniff it, and you'll know what cockroach poison smelled like in the communist Poland of 1975. I'm not kidding. Glenfiddich is not good enough to cook with, let alone drink it.

So, what do I like? Lagavulin is my first love, a somewhat rough introduction into the bed of single malts. Oban would have been a gentler teacher, sweeter on the tongue, more understanding. Lagavulin grabbed me by the hair and made me pay attention. Smoky in the extreme, its first kiss was arrogance itself before it suddenly melted into honey.

Laphroiag is my second choice. If blindfolded, I might initially confuse its touch for Lagavulin. The impression never lasts. Although excellent, Laphroiag is not as intense a lay in the long run.

I'll always say "yes please" to the unassuming innocence of Oban, Scapa or Dalwhinnie. They alre welcome to whisper sweet nothings into my throat all night.

Talisker and I are not compatible, though. It does offer a rough ride that rivals that of Lagavulin, but it lacks Lagavulin's caressing finesse. There is no sugar pot at the end of a mouthful of Talisker, and you'll have to tie me up to make me swallow it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Two Serious Ladies

Would anybody please please please tell me why Two Serious Ladies (Jane Bowles) is considered a modern classic? The writing style is atrocious, the characters ill-defined and the plot jumps from one non-event to another. Frankly, the only thing that's making me plough on past Chapter One is the blurb (how sad is that) with its promise of the dull heroine turning into a high class call girl. Can't wait.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The School Run

3 years ago I would have walked past this book without a second glance. "What? A book about boring old people with children? Nah. Not for me." That was 3 years ago. This is my bit of shallow philosophy for the week.

Now, to the book itself. Even though my children are too small for school, I could really identify with the characters from Sophie King's The School Run. That's what I look for in a book first and foremost: characters. Hers are natural and believable. The book deals with life's complext problems (affairs, divorce, death) but the light style and perfect pace make it easier to swallow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Harlan Coben

If you're into thrillers or murder mysteries, or if you've been watching the New York Times bestseller lists, Harlan Coben needs no introduction. But, for the uninitiated, here is the Master in a nutshell: snappy dialogue, brilliant pacing, believable characters, twisty plot. Start with one of his stand-alone thrillers, my favourites being, in that order: Just One Look, Gone For Good, Tell No One.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pratchett or Fforde?

I remember when I asked this question in its original form, I phrased it thus: "Pratchett or Adams "? At the time, Terry was 4 deep into Dicsworld and Douglas was 4 deep into his trilogy, so it was a fair question. I mean, hey, we are talking the early 1990s here.

To many, it is still a fair question. Once a Hitchhiker fan, you can never quite throw in the towel. But right now, I'm interested in an updated version of the question: what do you guys think of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series as compared to pterry's Thud! and Going Postal?

All comments eagerly awaited.

(Oh, and when I asked that question all those years ago, my answer was Adams. It took a few more years and "Small Gods" to change my mind."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My favourite read this week

Ok, you can laugh at me all you like. Go on. Don't pull punches. I'm not usually like this, you know. I read Literature. Poetry. Modern classics. But every now and then, I crave a fast junk read, something with a lot of saturated plots, greasy dialogues and love scenes coated with refined sugar.

So, this week, my vote goes to "The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella. Yes, she of the "Shopaholic" series fame, although some of you may know her as Madeleine Wickham ("Cocktails for Three", "The Gatecrasher", "Sleeping Arrangements").

If you don't know her, take her to bed with you tonight!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Newsworthy news

The first post should be momentous and memorable. Mine will be a shameless advert: if you buy my murder mystery novel "Murder @ Work" from www.echelonpress.com as a download, 50% from the sale will be donated to the Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Please consider buying my novel or any other title.

The book is good.

I know this, because all my friends say so (*grin* ). I know this, because the sales lady in the South African Kaffee says so... in fact her summary of the book is as follows: "Yes, it's South African. Yes, it's fiction. No, it's not about racism or politics. And it has a nice chewy bit of a plot".

Now, what more can you possibly want from a book? Oh yeah, witty dialogue, fresh perspective onto South Africa, a muder mystery and all that - it's all there.

So buy it already. A lovely Christmas gift for anybody who likes to read.