Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Over the past decade the interest in Sherlock Holmes has grown, mainly due to the release of several films and TV series. Robert Downey Jr. donned the (unquestionably wrong) cap in the 2009 film that seemed to spark a new interest in the detective for a new generation. The exceedingly popular BBC series staring Benedict Cumberbatch gained great reviews and the third series was the most watched drama on the BBC since 2001. Those that have read the blog for a while will know that as well as books I also use audiobooks and an e-reader on my phone. After reading War of the Worlds on the Aldiko app e-reader on my phone last summer, I opted to delve into The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.
Fast forward 6 months and I have finally finished. Let me first say why it took so long. Reading on Aldiko is very easy for me. I use it when it waiting rooms and when my son falls asleep on me and any little bits here and there, rather than my primary book, as I usually have at least 2 on the go (4 at the moment). Round about the time I started reading this we managed to (sort of) transfer my son from sleeping on me in the day, to somewhere else. This reading time was more or less evaporated in one go. Second, I started my book club and had other books on the go too. Both of these things do not detract from the fact that I really enjoyed my first foray into Baker Street.
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, unbeknownst to me before reading, were the first Sherlock stories and are actually 12 short stories collected together. For reading on the e-reader this was perfect. In quick bursts of reading I could gain a whole short story. Some of the stories and characters I recognised from the TV and Film adaptations, including the first in the collection called A Scandal in Bohemia. Each story is told from the perspective of Watson, not Holmes, and often in hindsight and I loved this. The techniques and thought process of Sherlock is astounding and the majority of stories are cleared up pretty sharpish after only an interview or two, with maybe Sherlock investigating one crime-scene. They range from dark and perilous (my favourite The Five Orange Pips) to the ridiculous (The Adventure of the Red-Headed League) but all are satisfactorily resolved. In the later stories Sherlock seems to become a little more drawn-in and resentful rather than the jolly one we start the collection off with but still manages to be likeable.
I'd recommend it to anyone yet to dip into Sherlock literature. There are thousands of free classics on the Aldiko e-reader and also other readers too (Kindle, Nook etc) but I always encourage a BOOK. I just like to read as many things as I can and on the Aldiko it's literally in the palm of my hand. It's hard to give this book a score on the comfometer as some stories were a 9 yet some a 5, so I've gone for a 7.



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman caught my eye a few years ago as the front cover and title stood out. I had no idea who she was yet the Gothic font, ballsy title and hair like a badger drew me in. I bought it for my wife (secretly me) for Christmas. Since then it's sat unread by me and Caitlin Moran's profile has soared stratospherically. I thought it was about time I picked it up.
Part biography and part opinion piece, Moran is by trade a journalist with a long standing column, writing for the Times. Her childhood is not what I would call normal, as from the start we're thrown head first into her world of several siblings sprawling in the tiny house in Wolverhampton she grew up in. She writes with warmth and humour and never strays into self-deprecation, in fact quite the opposite, the fact she's brought up in a large family and with no friends at all is the catalyst for many warm reminiscences. Chapter titles hit you hard with exclamation marks on each one, with no ambiguity at all, such as 'I Am Fat!' and 'I Need A Bra!' which she then recounts her experience of. She continues to extend on these topics, dissecting questions that she's happened upon due to being female. The struggle and differences between the two sexes are at the heart of the book with her ideals of feminism the leading focus. 'Are you a feminist?' she asks. Many think it's a dirty word, but Moran and I have the same opinion in that if you think woman and men should be treated equal then yes, you are a feminist. Moran's life itself is quite a ride taking in her first job in journalism at the excellent (now defunct) music magazine Melody Maker and her time presenting a late night music show on channel 4 called Naked City.
I am a man, not a woman. Am I then allowed to read and enjoy it? According to some forum posts apparently not, and this is where the 'feminism' 'debate rears it's head in a demeaning manor. Feminism is, as written above, a means to make men and woman equal, not getting women to overthrow men, and it's a point Moran makes well.
I did enjoy this book a lot. Often she uses metaphors to add humour and it works but sometimes she uses just one too many to say the same thing, albeit they are enjoyable. I've read Moran in her column several times and also seen and heard a few interviews (one from Hay Festival was excellent) and she talks how she writes; frantic! 7 cushions on the comfometer.


PS. I've just noticed she's on tour in the summer and I may well go and see her. 

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Meltdown by Ben Elton

Meltdown is the thirteenth novel from one of Britain's most well-known writers Ben Elton. Included in his repertoire is the hugely successful musical We Will Rock You, plus the classic British comedies Blackadder and The Young Ones. His early novels gained overall good reviews and whenever a new book appears penned by him it'll enter the top ten. Meltdown was released in 2010 and revolves around a set of friends and their meteoric rise, and the subsequent fall due to the 'credit crunch'.
I've only ever read one Ben Elton book before, Chart Throb, and I never finished it. It wasn't bad but just forgettable. Meltdown had been sitting on my wife's bedside table for ages so one night I picked it up. The story revolves around a group of friends, with Jimmy taking the lead. This group of friends all met at University and the chapters flit back and forth between their time there and all the important bits in between until the current day. The five men who met at Uni have all in one way or another become successful and some ridiculously rich. Jimmy is in the Stock Market, Rupert is the head of a bank, David is a famous architect, Henry is an up and coming politician and Robbo, who is slightly different to the others, simply enjoys life and has found a successful wife. Jimmy has a beautiful wife with three children and a live-in nanny, then, the money disappears. The credit crunch arrives.
Ben Elton has written Rupert as an elitist snob, Henry as a bumbling politician and Jimmy as a Jack-the-lad. The problem is, they are all really irritating. Throughout, Rupert and Henry annoyed me and not once did I like being in their company. The worst part though was that Jimmy, the protagonist, is just as exasperating. He make's stupid decisions throughout. Several times I almost left the book but I persevered, with little gained at the finale. Robbo is the only one in the group who I could relate to as although I've said he's found a successful wife, he didn't go out searching for one and doesn't really live off of her. The wives of the group are a little better. Jimmy's wife Monica struggles with raising her kids once she can no longer afford the nanny and being a dad myself to a 2 year old, several of the scenes rung very true to me; toys splayed out everywhere, getting them to sleep at the proper time and enjoying the hour or two before your own bedtime approaches, only to be woken 5 minutes later by a screaming baby.
Ben Elton
As the book approaches the end it starts to feel like Elton is trying to cram as many ideas into it as possible. Insider Trading, Arson, Murder, Suicide, it all gets a bit silly. The book is light hearted but it seemed to me to drag a very thin plot to the end of it's considerable 382 pages. I simply didn't care when everything went tits up for Jimmy and I thought he got what he deserved, and when more misery was piled on top of him such as his young son having to leave private school to go to public school, I wanted to reach into the pages and punch Jimmy for being a snob. Although that's what the entire book is all about, realising life is more than money, being made to sit through page on page of a supercilious arse was literary agony. There were two stand out paragraphs that I thought were excellent regarding getting his daughter to sleep, again due to my recent addition to the parent club, but those alone failed to save the book.
I enjoyed Chart Throb a hundred times more so I won't be writing Ben Elton off as yet but Meltdown still gets a lowly 3 from me on the comfometer.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know below in the comments or tweet me @BigComfyBooks.