In which I ramble…

1# I so called the result of the X-Factor on Sunday last week: Katie and Belle Amie in the bottom two with Belle Amie to leave.  I’ve pretty much called the results this year so far.  Is it psychic ability or just an ability to know what the public wants?  Hmmm.

2# The cat has appropriated my Dad’s chair in the last week except for when I sit in the living room in which case he appropriates my knee.  I love that he loves sitting on my lap and cuddling up but there is only so long I can sit still and do nothing.  Or watch TV.

3# Masterchef: The Professionals passed me by.  I did tune in for the final and thought Claire was a worthy winner but wasn’t overly engaged. 

4# Still watching Masterchef Australia although there are a couple of contestants that I would like to leave.

5# Read Lee Child’s Worth Dying For (the continuation but not really of 61 Hours).  Frankly, while it was good to see Reacher back to his usual stumble-into-town, kick-ass, move on again normality, I’m not seeing why the whole ‘to be continued’ thing at the end of 61 Hours unless it was to comfort and reassure the readers that Reacher wasn’t really dead, but in that case why end 61 Hours there at all?  Hmm.


Getting Rachel Organised Weekend – Day 2

So, a new day and more sorting out, this time in the study.

It was book day, really.  I went through all my books and stripped back the bookshelves.  The psychology books now have a shelf as do the coaching books.

I had several painful conversations with myself on why I was keeping this book or that book when I haven’t read it in over two years.  But I like it, I think defiantly.  I may buy more of this author and want the set.  And so on.

I now have 5 carrier bags of books which are bound for the charity shop except…my Dad has a bookcase on his floor packed with useless books (ie books I don’t like).  I’m hoping that I can convince him to sort through his books to make room for the whole Agatha Christie set that I have.  That would then open up space on my shelves and I can relook at some of the books I’m meant to be discarding again.

I was quite strict with myself about NO READING.  Because that’s usually my main problem when I start with the books is that one which I haven’t read in a while catches my eye and the next thing I know it’s chapter 5 and time has passed. 

Still, even with being very good as I started Getting Organised late today, (I was out for lunch with friends), I will need another Getting Rachel Organised Day tomorrow to sort out the files in the study.  So, it will be a long weekend… but progress is being made and my mind is progressively feeling tidier the more ordered the house becomes…

EDIT: And seriously – England lost 4-1 to Germany??!  As I wasn’t watching and heard only one roar for a long time I assumed England must have won 1-0.  Imagine my disappointment watching the news…

And Back to Mysteries…

Apparently, according to the assignment forum, everyone hated this assignment and thought it was the most complicated thing ever.  It’s made me feel so much better given I’ve spent most of the day trying to work out the analysis…


More holiday reading (why yes, I do read a LOT).

These two my sister bought for my birthday:

SJ Rozan’s: Bad Blood and Trail of Blood starring her duo detectives Bill Smith and Lydia Chin.  Rozan has won a heap of awards and rightly so.  I loved these books. 

Bad Blood is from Smith’s POV and is very gumshoe detective novel.  Smith is the quintessential American PI, brooding and strong type.  This is set in rural America, has American white collar thugs and blue collar heroes at the heart of it with an artist seeking redemption thrown in for good measure. It’s a great ride alongside Bill as he tries to work out who killed who and why, all the time getting more and more beat-up for his troubles. 

Trail of Blood is very different. Told from Chin’s POV and set in New York as she tries to track down a piece of jewellry lost in the Second World War, this is a wonderful retelling of history on one hand, and a fascinating insight into Chin’s own cultural roots via her relationship with her mother.  Chin is an interesting heroine: she’s tenacious, won’t give up but has strong female relationships with her friend and her mother.  Joy to read, frankly.

What is great in both books is just the quality of story-telling and prose.  Both sweep the reader along and are good mysteries – who killed the thug?  Who stole the necklace?

Again, another author who I’ll be reading again.  Obviously my sister knows me very well…

More Fantasy

I can honestly say that I started my study assignment today; I mean there is a document with words although not many of them have to do with the assignment as of yet…

Still, its been a weird day.  Mostly because I’m not sleeping well and I felt like I was hungover when I woke up without having had the pleasure of downing lots of alcohol the night before.  Hmmm. 

Anyways, the other two fantasy books I read on holiday were:

Patricia Briggs – Steal the Dragon: I found this fairly generic and, dare I say boring.  The heroine was nicely drawn but there is too much which is skimmed over – like her rape, the whole issue of slavery, the bond she has forced on by the hero who turns out to be a magical creature who believes she’s his soul mate and because she falls in love with him its OK.  There’s just not enough depth to me within the fic for the issues and events that she’s describing although her action pieces are good.  I believe this was one of her earlier works and she now has a very popular range of books based on werewolves.  Maybe I’ll give that series a try instead.

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora:  I loved this.  Beautifully rich fantasy world, fabulous characters that are the anti-heroes that you’d expect of conmen and thieves.  There are parts of the book where I was shocked by the turn of events; it was very well-plotted.  Locke himself is wonderful; flawed enough to make believable mistakes and yet good enough to be a believable hero.  My only criticisms really are that some of the back and forth from past to present story-telling is a little confusing at times and that the book feels like it has a complete dearth of female characters within Locke’s gang (one is mentioned in absentia) and so all the female characters even though strongly crafted just don’t make an impact in the same way Locke and the others in his gang do.  I will be picking up the sequel and looking for others in the series though so this was a good buy.

Fantasy Hour

Well, its been a nice couple of days just doing some writing, pottering about on the Internet and not doing very much at all.  Tomorrow, I dive back into the world of study as I tackle the delayed assignment for my second module.

But as I know I promised more holiday reading reviews…

The final set of books that I read were by Lisa Shearin and were a series of fantasy books about her heroine Elfen Seeker Raine Benares.  The books are a good read – I’d bought the first three in the series and I will go looking for the others.  There is a pattern to them but they are interesting as Raine’s power gets a boost from a magical rock which is at the centre of power struggles between goblins and elves with a host of conspiring politicians, wizards and Guardians.  There’s an interesting dynamic set up between Raine (who is a great kiss-ass kind of girl), the dark goblin Tam and the Elf Paladin, Mychael.  It’s not quite the straightforward vampires versus werewolves triangle created in Twilight – its much more complex than that.  Raine is also a better heroine than Bella Swann; usually out of her depth but doing her best to do right, and trying to deal with new powers gifted to her by the connection to the magical soul-sucking stone.  I will say there is a LOT of exposition and description in the world build in book one which was just OK but things get much more interesting in book two and by book three I was hooked.  Overall, I really enjoyed them and if you like fantasy I would recommend them.

Holiday Reading

Some of my holiday reading did involve perception and attention theories, not to mention psychoanalytics (specifically the work of Freud) which is what I covered today.  I have a whole day of revision planned tomorrow (I have such an exciting life) in the run-up to the actual exam on Monday morning.

I thought I’d also cover some more of my other holiday reading – specifically, the books I read on the way there:

Lee Child’s 61 Hours: I adore Jack Reacher.  I’d quite like to buy him a cup of coffee and if I was ever in serious people-are-trying-to-kill-me kind of trouble, (and obviously if he were real) he’d be the the first person I would want around to help out with that.  61 Hours follows the same format as pretty much all the other Jack Reacher novels: Reacher arrives in a non-descript part of backwater America, stumbles over a nefarious plot, pitches in to stop people from dying, saves the day, and disappears back on the next bus out of there.   61 Hours does play with the formula – there are a couple of surprises (which I won’t ruin) – one I expected, one I didn’t.  One death left me with my jaw hanging open that Child had actually killed that particular character.  The ending of the book with its lack of resolution over what happened to Jack and ‘to be continued’ was also something of a surprise.  It annoyed the heck out of my sister who felt it was a bit unsporting – we’re not really used to having ‘to be continued’ in a thriller or in Child’s books.  I was OK with it but then I’m OK with unresolved endings when they fit the flow of the narrative and I thought the unresolved element coming at the end of this particular novel was fitting and in some ways would have been an interesting last Reacher novel if that’s what Child had intended (of course the problem now is that he can’t use that particular un-resolution without it looking like repetition).  It’s a good read and a good addition to the series but if you’re like my sister I’d wait until the next book appears before reading.

Stephenie Meyer’s The Host: The adult fiction novel from the author of the Twilight series.  I thought this was a more original effort and an interesting concept with an apocalyptic-alien invasion-sci-fi setting.  There were elements that I thought were very similar to her Twilight books – a triangle of sorts emerges between the heroine Wan, and two men (although one could argue it was really a square).  There are also elements in terms of the host and parasite idea that resonated with me deeply as a fan of Stargate – and at times everything seemed a little too like the Goa’uld/Tokra concept used in Sg1.  I will say I enjoyed Wan, much more than I came to enjoy Bella Swann – maybe because the alienness of her excuses any issues with her emotional struggles at times.  The story for the most part was very interesting – especially once the action moved to the rebel humans but I don’t know…I think my problem is that despite the book not exactly being scintillating prior to the rebels, I think it needed more time and effort spent on it to really imbed down the relationship between Mel, the host and Wan, the parasite, how Wan effectively falls in love with the humans important to Mel.  One thing did bemuse me which was why the story is entitled The Host when actually it’s all about the parasite…still Meyer is a good storyteller and it did keep my interest until we landed in Mauritius.

The Long and the Short Of It

So, with my Uncle arriving back from Mauritius today I focused primarily on the short answers section of the exam and spent the day writing out paragraphs describing various psychological terms on the off chance that they may appear in the exam.  Needless to say I can’t remember any of it.  However, my Uncle coming back did remind of the reading he and I shared over the holiday: the long (very long) Millenium trilogy written by Steig Larsson.  Luckily (or bizarrely) I remember more of that.

I wasn’t overly impressed with book one, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” namely because its very much a run of the mill thriller; I worked out who did it fairly quickly and was fairly bemused by why the book had garnered so much critical acclaim.  It was a good story – dragged in places and had too much detail (not a fan of the way Larsson introduces a character by effectively sketching out a biography of them to explain their past and current motivations) but appreciated that some of the writing may have gone adrift in the English translation.

“The Girl who Played With Fire” on the other hand I thought was very good (and against the grain of second/middle books usually being  a little meh); it was interesting and fascinating at every turn – mainly because this book puts Lisbeth Salander, the primary female character front and centre in a way the first book did not (despite the title).  I thought this book was definitely worthy of the acclaim.  I’m not sure it needed a book of the size of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” to effectively act as its prologue but I could understand the reason behind the first book in terms of setting-up the relationships and the characters for book two.

The third book “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is another good read – not as good as the second, not as average as the first.  It builds the tension superbly and delivers a fantastic pay-off.  The last part of the book again seems a little meandering and unnecessary but it does act as a kind of epilogue wherein one of the final loose and dangling threads is nailed to the floor (literally).  The whole book effectively acts as an epilogue to the second.

While I appreciate the intricate plot weaved over the three books as a whole (which is one of the reasons for the critical acclaim), personally, I think the gem of the trilogy is the second book, and in fact you could probably get away with only reading it.   Certainly, reading the first might set it more in context and, if you’re the type that needs all the loose ends tied up neatly, you probably should read the third – but, for me, I would have been happy just reading the second.