Tag Archives: books

Read a Book: One Day by David Nicholls

8 Mar

I’m not usually one for ‘Rom-Com’ type books. Along with ‘Chik-Lit’ and anything to do with Harry Potter – I’m in high level avoidance.

 

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls

 

However – as the person who lent me this one has never been wrong with her recommendations, and with a cover drenched in plaudits from the likes of Nick Hornby

Big, Absorbing, Smart, fantastically readable… brilliant on the details of the last decades of British cultural and political life” and  Marian Keyes

“Incredibly Moving”

I thought I’d give it a go.

Set up to tell the story of Dexter and Emma – starting with a drunken night together at the end of University on July 15 1988 – each chapter is one year later. Throughout the next twenty years we follow Dex and Em as they find love, loose it, struggle with jobs, life and more.

With such a simple formula, this When Harry Met Sally type story could have easily fallen in a heap of clichés, or recalled any movie with Sandra Bullock. Instead Nicholls skirts around the predictable, peppering only when necessary, the bulk of the book an often funny, sometimes painful but always enjoyable exploration of friendship set against the backdrop of British life. 

Robot Rating: 7.5/10

Book #12#50bookchallenge

Links

Amazon Link

Book Depository Link

Heard about the #50bookchallenge? (Books 1-10)

5 Mar

Neither had I until I started getting tweeted to about joining in. A popular hashtag for those out there who are avid reader – the aim is to read 50 books over 12 months and tweet the book number and details once you’ve finished another tome.

Some recent examples include:

@FelixFelicisXX books #3finished… #50bookchallenge … so far this has been a fail

@loveisalwaysnew Now #reading @ashwinsanghi ‘Chankya Chant’, published by Westland publications #Book13 #50bookchallenge

and my own first post:
@chloerobot Finished The Lacuna No. 10 in the #50bookchallenge – contender for Top Read of 2011 – review here: #books http://bit.ly/…

 

Unlike the Project365 communities (where people take a photo a day over a year and blog their snaps) the 50BookChallenge seems to have far fewer involved.

Nonetheless – as a big reader and even bigger list maker – this appeals to me on so many levels.

So to start the list off – here are Books #1 – #10 I’ve read so far in 2011.

#1 After America – John Birmingham (Robot Rating 6.5/10)

#2 The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson (Robot Rating 7/10)

#3 Life – Keith Richards (Robot Rating 7.5/10)

#4 Skippy Dies – Paul Murray (Robot Rating 8/10)

#5 No Time To Think – Howard Rosenburg & Charles S Feldman (Robot Rating 6.5/10)

#6 How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe – Charles Yu (Robot Rating 7/10)

#7 Chocolate Wars – Deborah Cadbury (Robot Rating 7/10)

#8 The Gone Away World – Nick Harkaway (Robot Rating 8.5/10)

#9 The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman (Robot Rating 8/10)

#10 The Lancuna -Barbara Kingsolver (Robot Rating 9/10)

 

Now I’m addicted – so hoping that I can keep up the average of 4.16666 books a month needed to complete the #50bookchallenge.

 

 

 

 

Churnalism: Now on the Web

28 Feb

For those of you who have read Nick Davies brilliant – if not frightening book Flat Earth News – or for those who consume more than one news article a week – will be aware of the concept of Churnalism.

That is “a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking…”

As the amount of media on and offline continues to grow – and the reduction in ad revenue continues to drop (resulting in less journalists) – there’s no argument that this practice will continue to flourish.

To give some more transparency into this – the UK’s Media Standards Trust has just launched Churnalism.com – which it describes as the “Churn Engine to distinguish journalism from churnalism”.

Churnalism.com

Churnalism.com

The concept is simple – paste in a selection of text from a news article and the site will determine how many other times this text has been reproduced in other publications (indicating a re-hashed press release).

Attempting to use this on our Aussie publications (so far) has put them in safe ground. None of the articles selected from the SMH, News.com.au  or the Daily Telegraph suggested Churnalism at work. Whether this is because the Churnalism site is more UK centric, or our local journalists are more skilled at rehashing press releases (that the John Galliano story wasn’t a re-hashed press release surprises me) – I’m not sure.

However – looking at some of the suggested examples on the site, it’s clear that there is a lot of re-writing rather than investigating going on in our world’s media.

Surprised? Me neither.

** Find an example of an Australian publication that returns Churn – contact me or respond in the Comments Section **

Read a Book: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

28 Feb
To be honest, I was a bit hesitant about taking on Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel. Weighing in at over 600 pages, I had flashbacks to the late Nineties as a ploughed through her previous novel The Poisonwood Bible. While I remember enjoying the book – I did find it a test of endurance. 

Her latest novel also threw up early hurdles that I had to consider – mainly that I knew next to nothing about Mexico (where the first half of the novel is set) and even less about the artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera (who are pivotal characters throughout the novel).

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Over the first 100 pages, I felt myself loosing the struggle to understand, as the various dated entries noted by a still to be identified narrator skips across a montage of Mexican happenings, and slowly we learn that we are following the novel’s central character Harrison Shephard and his man-hunting mother.

But then in an instant, as Shepherd meets Diego Rivera for the first time, and his relationship with him and Frida unfolds, The Lacuna quickly becomes an addictive, fascinating read – so much so that you’re more than happy to have hundreds of pages to get through.

Plot-wise, the novel follows Harrison Shepherd from 1929 to 1951 from his childhood in Mexico through to his adulthood in the US. The first half of the novel focuses on his time in the Kahlo / Rivera household, and his interactions with the exiled Communist Lev (Leon) Trotsky.

From there we head to the US as Shepherd embarks on a journey as a writer, set against an historical backdrop of WW2, McCarthyism and Communist Paranoia that gripped the US after the War.

While only the keenest of history and art buffs will recognise where fact ends and fiction begins, for the rest of us, even those with virtually no prior knowledge of the period or of the Mexican artists, this should be a fascinating, exhilarating while also an informative read.

Robot Rating: 9/10 (and contender for Top 5 Books of the Year)

Links

Read a Book: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

19 Feb

Ahhh the News. So controversial, so fascinating, so now. From the satiric novel Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, to Gonzo writings of Hunter S Thomspon, through to the numerous Murdoch inspired tales, the story of the people behind the stories has always provided for a good plot, mixed with some racy politics. Add to that the incessant chattering about the Death of the Newspaper and the Threat of the Internet on Journalism, and you’ve got a book waiting to happen.

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists

For London journalist Tom Rachman, it’s these themes, combined with his own journalism background, that has lead to the creation of The Imperfectionists. Set in the newsroom of a small, flailing Italian Newspaper, and flitting between the past (from the 1950s) to the present (2007), the story builds on the standalone stories of each of the people that make up the newspaper.

It’s these characters that make the novel; from the fastidious copy editor, to the green young stringer, the loveless financial officer to the obsessive, slightly manic reader. As each story plays out themes of day to day human suffering (infidelity, broken friendships, lies and loss), the constant sub plot is the incessant demand for deadlines and headlines, and the pressure that falling readership and increasing online competition eventually has on the paper.

More gratifying than gritty or gripping, Rachman’s skills is balancing the stories of human foibles against a world where Saddam Hussein is on a rampage, unrest in Cairo, devastation in Rwanda, and where Britney has shaved her head. With a cracker of a revelation at the end of each chapter, the novel is a blend of newsroom satire and Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch.

Robot Rating: 8/10

Links