Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

I thought this would be quite a good one. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan. the concept was great – what the elements of the periodic table do and how they affect us day to day, practically and culturally. 

I was expecting loads of useful anecdotes and concise and interesting histories of the elements involved. Not so. It reads rather like an a-level English lit essay, (albeit an accomplished one) complete with tediously detailed accounts of various chemistry experiments mixed in with assorted quotes from various historical literary works – in fact almost drowned in them. He references all sorts of obscure authors and artists (to me at least) and uses a lot of subjective waffling that is of really no great interest. 

It may be to some people’s taste, but I’m afraid this chap is not for me. He is probably the sort of guy that you would try and avoid sitting next to at a dinner party. Needless to say I won’t be reading his newer book on tides!

His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman

I have been meaning to read these 3 books at one time or other for a long time. I think I started the first one when I was at school but somehow didn’t get on with it and stopped reading very quickly, which is unlike me. 

I went back to them as they ahve garnered so muhc hype that I thought I must give them a read and they were quick reads anyway if I didn’t like them. 

The story is certainly very in depth and incredibly imaginative. It is quite deep at times. They are however, nothing more than ok in my eyes. There are better books for young adults out there. No doubt Pullman is a brilliant writer and brilliantly descriptive but it was all just a bit too wacky for my liking. 

For Esme – with love and squalor

This was a bit of a different one – a collection of short stories by J.D Salinger of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ fame. 

In general, I liked it. I would highlight three of the stories, the rest being perhaps a bit odd, a bit rubbish, or a bit over my head maybe. 

The three of note were, For Esme – with Love and Squalor, (the ‘title track’ and genuinely quite moving), The Laughing Man, (a whacky story within a story that also has a poingent twist at the end) and Teddy (about a child genius who gets all philosophical while on a boat.)

You could polish it off in an afternoon if you wanted to check it out. 

Musings in Quarantine

With such nice weather, I hope you’re all staying inside! Quarantine is a funny old thing and through something like this we get to see both the best and worst of humanity. (It’s just unfortunate that, in a situation such as this, we are only as good as the worst of us). It’s gearing up to be a rocky few weeks with the day job so it’s nice to catch up with this sort of stuff in the downtime. 

So, while the covidiots rush out to their barbecues, the sensible people stay indoors and the Americans head out to buy loads of guns, I thought I’d update on the book. 

A couple of rejections thus far but most agents I have carefully selected have not yet got back. It’s worth saying that, having researched exactly what getting an agent represents to a fairly extensive degree, I have been selective in who I have gone for. It’s a given that I am looking for agents who have interests in books such as mine, but I am also going for those with non-fiction interests as well, not least because I have ambition to write in both arenas. Of course, when someone is recommended to you, that’s even better.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know if anyone else does the same (and even if they don’t admit it, I suspect they do) but I have been placing a significant emphasis on selecting those with whom I think I would work best based on how they look in their photographs. Where I can find interviews with them, even better. Call me superficial but I feel like I am a fairly good judge of character and so can usually gain a good idea of whether I would click with someone based on their appearance alone. 

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I’ve never heard anyone say that about agents so I’m going with it. I only hope they will adopt a similar approach when assessing my material. The whole process feels a bit like online dating and if history has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not very good at online dating. Time will tell. 

 

 

 

 

The Deep

This was written by one of the scientific advisers on the TV series Blue Planet. Alex Rogers is an esteemed marine biologist and, although he’s not the best writer out there, this is an engaging and interesting book. If I’m honest, some of the descriptive passages of the underwater reefs in extreme detail did get a little bit tedious, but when he starts talking about the environmental aspects, he really hits home. This is an important book and towards the end, he gets into the real nitty gritty. 

The impact we are having on the oceans is shocking, something only surpassed with our complicit lack of action. The conclusion is sensible and important and gives the reader a list of things they can do to help change things. Ultimately only time will tell if this is enough. 

Middle England

This was another that I bought on a whim. The first third reads a bit like a cheesey Radio 4 afternoon play (not that I listen to those but it’s how I imagine them to be). 

However, as it goes on, it actually becomes a genuinely thought provoking and therapeutic piece of writing. It is nothing we haven’t already heard but putting brexit and its build-up into the context of people’s lives gives the whole sorry state of affairs a bit of flesh. 

It doesn’t hold any answers necessarily but it is certainly an interesting read. Like many similar documentations however, the people that really need to read this sort of thing probably won’t. 

Early Riser

I had bought this book a while ago on a whim and it had been gathering dust on my shelf as I was concerned that, from its zany blurb, I would not like it. It was the sort of book I thought I would just get out of the way and move on. 

Turns out, it is actually one of my favourite books of the last few years. Seriously, it’s awesome. The plot is tight and keeps you guessing all the way through. Yes it’s zany and mad but that doesn’t matter because the alternate world is so imaginative and Fforde seems to have painted it just right somehow.

For me, it’s as if it all just aligned perfectly. A bit like a more sophisticated, adult oriented Roald Dahl book. Funny. Clever. Cool. 

I’m Travelling Alone

I have a huge to read list at the moment. Every time I walk into Waterstones, there is very real danger of further purchases. Despite that, and having just read another Scandinavian thriller, I had a taste for it and didn’t feel like launching into anything I would have to think about too much.

This one got the nod. My verdict… average. It did the job and bridged that gap. The story was ok, the characters alright. I almost certainly will not be reading any more of the series though. There are far better books out there.

Red Snow

I really enjoyed the previous one in this series and so sought this one out to read again. The snowy setting meant I targeted it for the festive season. I liked this book but didn’t love it. Didn’t quite match the first one for me. The setting was a bit dreary and the actual story was quite limited and shallow when looking back on it. 

Still, a decent read and I certainly didn’t hate it. I’ll read the next one. 

Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

This is one of those epics that stick with you. I had been told about this on the grapevine repeatedly by different people so I knew I’d end up reading it. It could stop a few doors such is its page count so it took a while but not once did it feel like it was dragging. A deeply philosophical piece or work that just keeps going and is the sort of book that could only be written by someone with some years behind them (although I think he may have been reasonably young when he wrote it?)

Either way, one of the real classics. Thoroughly recommend.