Saturday, 30 October 2010

Led Zeppelin IV - Black Dog... the perfect cure

Relearned a lesson from my past recently: loud, head-banging music is a great cure for frustration (particularly when a bank introduces new fees for services never rendered).

Directions: Take one Led Zeppelin album (or similar), crank up the volume and sing and dance like crazy.  Repeat as required.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Recent reads: the odd dud

Every now and then, you come across a real dud of a book.  Even when I know I'm not going to follow a book like that through to its bitter end, I like to stick with it for a while so  I know what it is that doesn't work for me. This one (and no, I won't name it, because that's not important) was one of those books that had been heavily promoted because it won a BIG literary prize - heaps of publicity, glowing words, big cheque... you know the deal.  Suffice to say, almost every writers' dream.

SB splashed out thirty-odd bucks on this book, but couldn't stand it, so flicked it over to me.  I thought it looked okay, but after a few pages was ready to dump it too.  Stayed with it to try and find out what the judges saw in it and why I didn't like it - to try and avoid ever doing the same thing.  It came down to style, I think.  It was so over-stylised (like a badly-written eighties cop show, from SB's and my point of view) that it was painful to read and the characters seemed stillborn.  I just couldn't give a stuff about them. As for the story... well, it hadn't engaged me by page 79 so I gave it the flick too.

Win some, lose some.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Reviewing The Taste of Apple by James Laidler

I've recently been working on a review of a verse novel, The Taste of Apple by James Laidler.  Published by Interactive Press, it comes as a written text, with a soundtrack, or as an ebook with enhanced multimedia, and will be released on 15th November 2010.  The review should be appearing in the print and digital edition of The View From Here before very long.  Will let you know when it's available.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Recent reads: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Although I'm not one to jump at buying door-stop bestsellers just because they're bestsellers, I couldn't resist buying this when I was on my hols in Tasmania.  I'd heard nothing but very good things about Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy and, besides, was really drawn by book one's title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The shop assistant in Hobart's Angus & Robertson raved about it too and promised me that I'd quickly get caught up in the lives of some very interesting characters and that I wouldn't be disappointed.  Prophetic words, because I did and I haven't been.  It's a fast-paced book and a lovely read, and I was glad of the lazy holidays so that I could spend more hours hooked into it than might otherwise have been possible.

Also like the fact - I read somewhere - that because it's considered hard by marketing departments (!) to sell books if the author has a foreign-sounding name (!!), Quercus decided to get word-of-mouth recommendations happening by handing out a phenomenal number of freebies.  It's an approach that seems to have worked.  Over 26 million copies have been sold around the world.

Only heard good things about the films too, but am going to resist seeing them until I've read books two and three.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Listening to: The Roots of The White Stripes

This album was bought for me a while back  - it was my birthday or something and I quite like The White Stripes.  Even though The White Stripes don't play a single track on the album, it features the songs they've covered and which have helped shape their own music: "The country, folk and blues compendium that inspired them."

My favourite though, by a long chalk, is Son House singing what I guess is a piece of Gospel Blues: John the Revelator.  The only instrument is his voice.  Powerful.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Recent reads: Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

When asked which is my all-time favourite novel - a tricky question - I often end up pointing to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.  It's a powerful piece of writing which experiments with the novel form and, apart from being very entertaining, highlights the stupidity of war.  I won't rave on too much here, because I probably have in the past and, besides, whatever I say wouldn't do justice to it.

Anyway, having recently re-read it, I thought it was high time I picked up something else by Vonnegut and so plumped for Cat's Cradle.  It's a quick and enjoyable read.  Doesn't knock Slaughterhouse-Five from its lofty position, but certainly shares some of its wonderful quirkiness.  And will bounce me towards reading another Vonnegut.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Time out in Tassie

Took a week's R & R in Tasmania recently.  4 nights in Hobart, the state's capital, and 3 nights in the Freycinet National Park, overlooking Oyster Bay and Moulting Lagoon.  Time to be lazy: reading, walking, dining, drinking, sleeping. (Loved the restaurant at The Edge of the Bay in particular.)

It was our first time in Tassie and we found it to be a spectacularly beautiful island.  Apparently, it's roughly the same size as West Virginia or Scotland, but only has a population of 500,000 (compared to West Virginia's 1,800,000 and Scotland's 5,168,500).  There's a lot of unspoiled countryside there and beaches that seriously compete with those in my neck of the woods.

However, the road signs suggested that their kangaroos were forces to be reckoned with and I'm glad I didn't go head-to-head with one in our little hire car. In Victoria, our roos will stand at six foot and can do serious damage if a person or a dog is silly enough to corner them, but apparently a Tasmanian roo will not only stop a car in its tracks, but will lift it up too!

The wallabies weren't too scarey though.  While on the Freycinet peninsula, we were visited by a couple. (Shortly after taking the above photo, a pod of several dolphins swam across the bay, leaping through the water, so it all got very Disney-esque for a minute or two... but no Bambi.)

And just to prove how friendly the beaches are, the second pic is of yours truly enjoying the aptly named Friendly Beach.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Back in business

The hard drive is dead!  Long live the hard drive!

I've taken a bruising the last couple of weeks in terms of time spent trying to recover files from my backup drive and reinstall them, to say nothing of the dollars spent on a new hard drive and the like, but I think I'm just about there now.  Have lost a few documents, but not too much.  On the scale of things, it's not that important, but it is good to be able to put the time back into the things that matter.

Across the next couple of blogs, I'll try and catch up on some of the more interesting things that have been happening.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Jane Austen does it again!

I love the way language is always changing - morphing, developing, growing.  Sometimes the way it changes turns the meaning of a word or phrase on its head.

Having noted this from Jane Austen's Mansfied Park a few months back:
"If Fanny would be more regular in her exercise, she would not be knocked up so soon."
I was childishly delighted to come across the following from Emma (p.52) recently:
"where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity..."
No further comment needed.  My apologies to Ms Austen.
And, yep, I like toilet humour too.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Magdalena Ball reviews The Grease Monkey's Tale

Magdalena Ball (author of Repulsion Thrust, Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup and other titles) has published a tremendous review of The Grease Monkey's Tale on Blogcritics, The Compulsive Reader, Goodreads and Amazon.com.  Magdalena also hosts a regular spot on BlogTalkRadio and has her own blog, where there's always plenty happening.

Thanks for such an insightful and finely written review, Maggie.

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Grease Monkey's Tale involved with The Reading Agency

I was excited to learn that The Grease Monkey's Tale is one of five Legend Press/PaperBooks titles that will be distributed as part of The Reading Partners initiative.  The Legend Press website describes the initiative:
Legend Press has agreed to give away up to 1,000 copies of five novels to library reading groups signed up by The Reading Agency.

The aim of the campaign is to demonstrate the power of word-of-mouth and highlight the high level of new fiction available in the UK ... The power of word-of-mouth on book sales is undisputable, the growth of reading groups phenomenal, and the value of libraries vital to the creative industries. Therefore, to bring all together into a single campaign is hugely exciting. All in publishing are, or should be aware, of the difficulty of finding room for independently published fiction on the high-street, meaning that books that would have been a huge sales success are missed. This campaign presents a very interesting new route to getting the books to the people that matter the most – the reader.

Sandeep Mahal at The Reading Agency says: “Our aim is always to work collaboratively and flexibly, whilst being committed to creativity and innovation. We’re delighted to be using our connections with libraries to promote Legend Press and to spread the pleasure reading can bring to our lives to more readers.”

The Reading Agency is an independent charity working to inspire more people to read more. It is funded by the Arts Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. (www.readingagency.org.uk)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Jane Turley interviews and reviews

Have been across the Bass Strait in Tasmania recently, but am back now and trying to catch up on all that's been happening.  The process has been hindered somewhat by Trend Micro's Titanium 2011 anti-virus software.  My current subscription was running out and so I purchased the new program... and it immediately killed my PC's hard drive! More effectively than any virus could.  I spent 8 hours unsuccessfully trying to boot up and even Trend Micro's technicians couldn't help.  They blamed Microsoft, but Microsoft weren't interested in  the slightest - and I'm not sure that I blame them because it was working fine before I installed the Trend Micro software.  Anyway, I've politely suggested they might like to keep their program and refund my money, and this preamble is by way of providing a Buyer Beware!

It's not all bad though.  That's a minor hiccough and there's excellent stuff happening too.  What I really want to draw attention to here is the wondeful interview that Jane Turley put together on her blog The Witty Ways of a Wayward Wife.  Jane interviewed me a couple of weeks back and has been kind enough to not only give this a big splash on her blog, but to also write a glowing review of The Grease Monkey's Tale for The View From Here literary zine.  An interview and a review on one day.  That's very generous, Mrs T.  Thanks.