Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category
Technical difficulties stink.
Though, I could certainly be in worse straights, unlike my friend Shah Wharton. Her blog-migration issues are being well documented here on her old blog: Words in Sync. Let’s hope she soon has her place here in WordPress-land.
And for me, I’ll just be happy to grumble a second and apologize for delaying your Book Review Monday
Today I had a review of four Torchwood books scheduled. However I couldn’t get the books in time: my local bookstore claimed they could not order them, and I had lost half a week before finding that out. I am delaying that post until next week.
Sorry. I know how hard it can be to wait for Captain Jack (although Ianto is actually my favorite of the group–don’t get me started on how sad I was to see he died in Children of Earth, even if it was a really cool mini-series).
Hope those tide you over. Me? I think I’ll be rewatching Season 1 on DVD until my books come.
Have a great week, and I hope to see you next Monday.
Trying to resume a regular pattern for this page, I have one of my “semi-regular” features for the day: Book Review Monday, which as you my remember, alternates weeks with Your Inspirations, a feature that highlights those creative sparks that “work” for people in the world.
Continuing on a regular feature here at the Garden of Delights, welcome to Book Review Monday which alternates with Your Inspirations twice a month. Last time Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War was the feature piece. Today, let’s enjoy something a bit lighter.
Knees Up, Mother Earth by Robert Rankin
If you’re like me, living across The Pond, you may have heard news stories about European “football” (rugby) teams and how violent and reactionary their fans can get. And if you’re like me (or even if you actually enjoy sports), you have to wonder what all the fuss is about.
I mean, it isn’t as if seeing your favorite team lose a game once in a while is the end of the world!
Or is it?
Enter the Brentford United FA (Football Association) whose members have been contracted to win every single game of their season and achieve the coveted FA Cup, lest their football field be sold off to a land developer. Since the team’s plummeting streak has held solid since the 1920’s, there seems to be little chance of saving their beloved club. But the stakes end up being far more dire. And even as the team acquires a new captain empowered to propel them to victory, member begin falling by the wayside, only to be replaced with members of a traveling circus. Still, Brentford United must win, because the alternative is the end of the world.
Knees Up, Mother Earth came to my home by accident almost two years ago. And once I realized what I’d bought, Borders refused returns on anything because they were closing all their brick & motor stores. So I shoved it into a pile of ‘not dealing with this now’ books and magazines that monopolize the little bookshelf in our bedroom. And there it sat, gathering dust while I worked through other books in my list. Finally this January, I picked it up for my (failed) attempt at the Fifty/Fifty/Me challenge (I still haven’t watched another movie since V for Vendetta). Oh, and yes, I’ve sat on writing this review for nearly two months now.
So let me first say that my initial reaction to this book was just above ‘negative’. I’d perhaps heard Rankin’s name somewhere on a random webpage or in conversation somewhere, but it had meant nothing. And the cover art, as you can see (although my copy has a different cover), didn’t give a real sense of its fantasy genre. Indeed, neither the blurb on the back nor the Wikipedia description of the storyline nor even most of the characters recommended this book to me. It was about sports (rugby no less, which I only know a pittance about) and hanging out in taverns, boozing… Heck, the heroes are the town drunks!
I had trouble putting the book down. I think I could have married Old Pete, wonderful curmudgeon that he was.
Oh, there were lulls, and it wasn’t really a matter of the super suspenseful story arc that held me…. Knees Up made me laugh. I’m sure I missed over a hundred of the little side jokes Rankin included simply because I wasn’t familiar with his “world”, but that didn’t matter. It is hilarious. The writing was wonderful too. Through Rankin’s writing, each character, each place in the story came alive and breathed with believability. The details not only popped, but were beautifully written (Rankin KNOWS his stuff with words). As frustrated as the characters made me with their total …humanity! I couldn’t “hate them”; in fact, I began rooting for them right from the beginning. I even cried a bit when The Campbell died (though he wanted to, so I must respect that).
I would happily read another book by Robert Rankin–particularly when it’s noted that most do not consider Knees Up, Mother Earth to be one of his best works. Perhaps next time, I’ll pick up a copy of The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. Seems fitting for just after Easter.
And just as a side note: Rankin based his book (and according to the Wiki most of his others) in Brentford, UK (and on their very real football team, the Brentford F.C.) Looking over online details make Brentford out as a very interesting place too, though nowhere as intimate as Rankin makes it in his book. I do get the phenomena from my brief time in the UK. There is a very different feel to towns in the UK to town in the US., and I don’t mean this in criticism to either place. But I remember sensing much more intimacy and awareness of community in most places in the UK, even larger “towns” which could be easily compared to small cities in the U.S.. (my closest example would be obviously Solihul since that’s where we stayed during our time in England. Located just south eat of Birmingham, Solihul would easily be comparable to a small city size and population-wise here, but it felt more like a hamlet than anything more.)
Oh, and one other last note… I have to add a “Thank you” here to Mr. Rankin, for had I not read his book and inspired to look up what inspired him, I would never have found out about the Syon
Abbey Monastery. Now little more than a ruin that is being slowly excavated, it was once the largest monastery in England. I eventually must return to England just so I can visit Brentford. I love this sort of thing.
And yes, I would recommend this book to a friend.
With many apologies to our guest, Janet Parfitt, for being a week late with posting this piece, I wish to offer her a warm welcome to the Garden of Delights as she shares one of her writing inspirations with us. I especially enjoy reading things that Janet posts, because (barring becoming a rock star), we share so many common interests. It always fascinates me to see the differences that occur even among common threads.
So, without further ado, please welcome, Janet Parfitt:
You only have to look in your local bookshop or go to Amazon to see that there are thousands, if not millions, of books about creative writing. An amazing amount of people have written on the subject with a lot of conflicting advice. There are those who tell you basically to just sit down and start writing and then there are those who say you should plan out every scene, character, setting and plot twist before you start.
You might wonder who all these people are and what makes them qualified to give you advice on writing. But there is one guy who I don’t think anyone in their right mind would question because he is the best-selling writer in the entire universe and his name is Steven King.
King’s book entitled “On Writing” is the best book ever written about the process of creative writing. I mean, what he doesn’t know can’t be worth knowing, right? And, as you would expect, it’s very well written; part biography and part writing manual, it’s all good. My favourite bit is the first sentence of the second foreword which goes “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.” You got to love the man for writing that!
He goes on to say that “If you want to be a writer, then you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” This is not a book padded out with lists or the same writing tips given out over and over, just phrased slightly differently. And it doesn’t have that school-marm slightly superior tone that says ‘I know better than you do.’ What he does is tell it to you straight; here’s another excerpt to show you what I mean. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.”
Thank you Steven!
Now in her late 40’s, Janet Parfitt has filled her creative reservoirs with the labors of many crafts. Diverse jobs such as filing clerk in a tax office, chamber maid in a hotel, vending machine maintenance in the (now closed) Kodak factory in Harrow and Wealdstone (UK) and sous chef in a restaurant supplemented her reading to inspire stories, poems, songs and dreams of becoming a rock star. Led Zeppelin, animal welfare, words of beauty, the mysteries of the occult stir her passions almost as much as her family and lovely husband. Raised in North London, she has a degree in history. She runs a writing related magazine Writing With Fire, a blog Mrs. Bongle, and can be found on Twitter at @MrsBongle. She is a practising witch.
First off, let me say a very warm welcome to everyone who chose to click that little “Follow” button–old friends and new: Evan at The Better Man Project, Coral Russel at the Alchemy of Scrawl, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell at Leavekeeping, Shan Jeniah Burton, Janeen at Words By Design, Natasha Guadalupe at My Novel Writing Adventures & Other Words, Miss Elsie at bowerdiaries, and Studio Brow. Thank you!
Today I’m mostly in the mood to talk about books. I just started one you see–Knees Up, Mother Earth by Robert Rankin. I’m not sure why…I think it was because it was the only thing on my immediate shelves that called itself fiction, at least without me having to get out the key for my paperback collection. (I use and old VHS tape cabinet for most of my paperbacks; CDs go in the doors; it’s an odd system, but it works for me). I don’t have a lot of fiction anymore. When we moved to our present house, I weeded down my book collection to my few favorites and the books I assumed I would need for research. I thought I would use the local library more than I have. I used University of Albany‘s library and the Albany Public Library regularly when I lived there. It didn’t work out, and that’s a long story in itself. Suffice it to say, I understand the passion books can incite in one, but a librarian should be more welcoming of the idea that people may want to actually taken them off your shelves and look at them; and the library should be open more hours than two days a week for three hours in the afternoon (that actually has changed in the ten years we’ve been here, but habits have become what they are, and I tend to get my books from other places now). Read the rest of this entry »
What makes someone an underachiever?
It’s not as simple as throwing a few descriptive terms into the pot and stirring; I know that much. In this recipe everyone has his or her own specialty, a seasoning blend that stands out, marking one as a true “master of the craft”.
Problem is…it gives everyone who tries it indigestion.
This is the first in what may be a series of posts on paths: the ones we choose and the ones we end up on despite all our intentions. Nothing here is meant as a criticism to those who were involved in deciding my own path and/or helped direct me to where I am now. If anything, it’s a living testimony that the things that often seem so very terrible when they occur are the exact things we need. Read the rest of this entry »