Category Archives: Book Reviews

I remember long ago my grandmother (now dead) once challenged me to keep a record of all the books I have read. I’m an avid reader and I have a few books that I’ve recorded this. Nowadays I get really irritated with my diaries, because they take up too much space. So I figured I might just as well put them on my blog. The “Books I’ve Read” category will depict mostly the back covers or excerpts from the books and a personal rating I’ve given the all over reading experience.

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

In between trying to figure out my story this month, I also read and tried to understand Stephen Hawking’s book.

So, did I understand it? No, not really.

But I did learn some things. I learnt about space-time (4D space/events) and that black holes are formed when a star starts to shrink and the gravitational forces are so strong that not even light can escape it.

I always thought a black hole is this weird phenomena you usually find in cartoons where the cartoon can walk into another time dimension.

Now it turns out if you ever find yourself in space and come across a black hole (which you’ll probably only realize when it’s too late) you’re that joke in the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon says he’s screwed.

“A brief History of Time” is briefly about how scientists or theoretical psysicists (i.e. Stephen Hawking and Sheldon from the TV series) try to contemplate the universe through science and maths.

Just like how Sheldon tries to explain to Penny what Leonard does, Hawking starts at the very beginning (the Greeks and Aristotle) and works his way up to where they were when he wrote the book.

It’s very interesting to see how man’s thought processes developed through time and the different theories each one came up with.

Also, if it weren’t for Hawking’s brilliant examples, I wouldn’t even have understood this much (see above). And the joke on page 1 is hilarious.

Back cover: Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece [their words, not mine] which begins by reviewing the great theories of the cosmos from Newton to Einstein, before delving into the secrets which still lie at the heart of space and time.

First published: 1988

Rating: 3/5 (Mostly because I didn’t really understand what I was reading).

In an unrelated note, the thing which I found most surprising was this:

“In October 1981, I went to Moscow for a conference on quantum gravity… In the audience was a young Russian, Andrei Linde, from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow…” He came up with the idea of “the new inflationery model “A better model, called the chaotic inflationery model, was put forward by Linde in 1983.”

Now, for you it might seem like useless information, I mean who cares who this Linde guy is, but as a person who shares the same surname I find it fascinating that he knew Stephen Hawking and that Hawking actually mentions him in his book.

I would love to know his family history, because as far as I know is that our forefather Hans Jurgen Linder came to South Africa about 1753 and it was through the Dutch East Indian company (VOC) that our surname was changed to Linde without the letter ‘r’.

From what I gathered the inflationery model is a theory on how to explain how and why the universe is expanding.

briefhistorytime

 

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Martin Rattler – R.M. Ballantyne

More than a year ago I’ve started the tradition of lending books to read to our security guard at work. His name is John and he loves to read – mostly about religion and education. He has even started a library back at home in Zimbabwe. We’ve collected books to give to him and he sends them along.

This is the first book he’s lending me to read.

There is no back cover on this book, so I’m going to have to rely on my memory. This book revolves around the main character called Martin Rattler. It kind of reminds me of Tom Sawyer – a very naughty youth who ends up going on an adventure and grows up along the way.

Most of it takes place in Brazil where we learn about the natives and the different animals in the forest.

I think what appealed to John about this book is that it is both about religion and education.

First published: 1858

Rating: 5/5

The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer

canterburytales

Note: I read David Wright’s modern prose rendering of The Canterbury Tales.

I’m confused. I read the book, but still can’t say what the actual plot is. Yes, it’s a bunch of people each telling a tale, but to what end?

Turns out each character was supposed to tell four stories each, but Chaucer only wrote 24 stories and some of those aren’t even complete.

Backcover:
Chaucer’s masterpiece is one of the most astonishing productions of the Middle Ages. Completely original in concept and method, its range and variety have never been surpassed within the confines of a single work. Believing that much has been lost (and not only the poetry) in the many verse translations that have been attempted, David Wright has produced this brilliant rendering of The Canterbury Tales in contemporary English prose in order that the general reader and the student may gain a more immediate awareness of their freshness and of the skill, humour, irony and pathos of Chaucer’s narrative art.

What I liked:
There is in fact a wide variety of stories, but only one tale that still lingers with me. It’s the story told by the “Sergeant-in-law”. It’s a tale of a woman, taken away from her homeland and almost lost everything.

Even though some of the stories are very vulgar and women are portrayed as two-timing hussies, there is also truth in these pages:

“The Lord on high chose to live a life of voluntary poverty… Poverty is honourable when it’s cheerfully accepted… He who covets is a poor man, because he wants what he cannot get; but he who has nothing and covets nothing is rich… Though it may seem hard to bear, poverty is a kind of riches, one which no one will try to take away from you.” (p.189, The wife of Bath’s tale)

“Eternal God, that through Thy providence guidest the world with such control, it is said that Thou hast made nothing in vain. But, Lord, these fiendish, black, forbidding rocks that seem rather the work of a foul chaos than any fair creation of a God so perfect, wise and unchangeable – why hast Thou made so irrational a creation? For neither man nor bird nor beast is benefited by them in any quarter of the world; they do no good that I know of, nothing but harm…” (p.268, The Franklin’s tale).

“The guilty suppose themselves the subject of every conversation.” (p.293, The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue).

And comedy:
The host’s reaction to Chaucer’s tale; and
The Franklin talking about one of the characters in his story: “I shall leave the unhappy creature lying there in this desperate torment and distress of mind; he can live or die as he chooses, for all I care” (p.271)

First published: 1476. This book/rendition was published in 1965.

Rating: 3/5

Homer “The Odyssey”

odyssey

I enjoyed The Odyssey more than The Iliad. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what was going to happen and perhaps also because there aren’t as many fighting and death scenes in this book.

I was a little disappointed in the ending though. It felt rushed. One moment they’re fighting and the next they’re making peace… The End! Huh?

Anyway, so the book is based on the character Odysseus, one of the brave warriors who went to fight the Trojan war in The Iliad. It tells of his journey of the aftermath when he tried to return home, but was prevented by several characters.

First published: This book was published in 1946 but was written in the 8th century BC.

Rating: 4/5

 

Homer “The Iliad”

Homer Iliad

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found the translations of Homer’s “The Iliad”and “The Odyssey” at a bargain price at our church bazaar. The saleslady was very disappointed that she didn’t laid hands on it first. Score!

If you’ve ever seen the movie Troy, it was based on the book “The Iliad”. You know that classic line of the movie: “Helen of Troy, the face who launched a 1000 ships”? Well, it starts where Helen’s husband, Menelaus, and the Achaeans reach Troy and prepare themselves for a fight. Helen ran away with one of King Priam’s sons, Paris. These two are the real reason “The Iliad” is called a tragedy, because if someone just took some responsibility and reprimanded Paris, none of the destruction and death would have happened. Then again, there wouldn’t be much of a story.

We also meet Achilles, the famed fighter who the Trojans all fear. In “The Iliad” Achilles is in disagreement with the Achaeans’ King, Agamemnon. Achilles refuses to help the Achaeans and a lot of bloodshed follows.

Odysseus, the main character of “The Odyssey”, also features.

Two things that really annoyed me:

Most of “The Iliad” involves the fighting which can become very tedious. See, with everyone being killed, Homer has to tell us their name and history. It’s never ending. If that isn’t bad enough each side has this long speech before they start fighting each other. It makes the story somewhat unbelievable: how can you in all that chaos and noise not die of a stray spear?

Secondly, why does Paris feel no remorse when his brother is killed because of his actions? It’s like his character disappeared, we don’t hear or see his reaction to the tragic news.

First published: This book was published in 1950 but Homer wrote the two epic poems during the 8th or 7th century BC.

Rating: 3/5

Interesting facts:

  • According to Homer, the Lesbians are from the country Lesbos.
  • What is an Iliad? The city of Troy was also known as Ilios or Ilium thus “Iliad” is the epic poem or song of Ilium.

 

Dearly Depotted – Kate Collins

Dearly depotted

 

It’s funny, I read this book years ago but when I saw they made a film adaptation I couldn’t remember what happens in the story. I read it again and none of it felt familiar. Such a shame, because it’s really a fun story.

Back cover:
It looks like Abby Knight’s cousin Jillian is heading for the altar again, and guess which bridesmaid is doing the flowers? Yes, it’s Abby – law school dropout, owner of Bloomers, and ex-fiancée to the best man! Abby has her hands full at the wedding, doing triple duty as florist, bridesmaid, and grandma-sitter, all while wearing a floral print that makes her look like a clown. But the real trouble starts when the groom’s ninety-year-old grandma disappears. While hunting for her, Abby discovers the body of Jack Snyder, one of the guests, behind the minister’s platform in the gazebo. When her assistant’s new boyfriend becomes a suspect, Abby decides she’d better find out who killed Jack in the pulpit.

First published: 2005

Rating: 3/5

 

Winnie the who?

3 Cheers for Pooh!
(For who?)
For Pooh
(Why what did he do?)… 
Winnie-the-Pooh: Chapter 10

I feel I missed a part of my childhood not growing up with the stories of Winnie the Pooh. Of course I knew of him, but I only read the books now.

Winnie-the-Pooh
Rating: 5/5

poohcover

I adored the introduction:

‘And now all the others are saying, “What about Us?” So perhaps the best thing to do is to stop writing Introductions and get on with the book.’

and chapter 2 especially “Pooh goes visiting and gets into a tight place”.

 

The House at Pooh corner
Rating: 3/5

220px-HouseAtPoohCorner

I love the way A.A. Milne introduces each character in the books. I love his way of stating things which sounds both profound and simple for children to understand.

“But it isn’t Easy,” said Pooh to himself… “Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.” (Chapter 9).

Also, the almost heartbreaking last chapter when Christopher Robin tries to explain to Pooh that he is growing up and going to change.

 

Sookie Stackhouse series

If you don’t know who Sookie Stackhouse is… have you ever heard of the HBO TV-series True Blood ? 

Do I have your attention now? Good. Because True Blood is based on the Sookie Stackhouse series written by Charlaine Harris. Sookie Stackhouse is also the main character of both, btw.

For the past few months, this was my guilty pleasure.

I’m not going to go into everything that happens in every book. It would take too long as there are 13 books in the main series and then a few short stories for extras.

What I am going to point out though are the differences in the book and TV series. For example: the books aren’t nearly so violent and racy as HBO portrayed it.

In the books, more are said about the werepanthers whereas in the TV-series we are introduced to them, but then it sorta just dies down. In fact, there aren’t just werewolves and werepanthers… And they also make an announcement to the world. Sookie also doesn’t date Alcide.

We also learn more about Sookie’s fairy relatives.

In the book series, Lafayette dies in the first book, Tara gets a happy ending and Pam and Sookie are actually friends!

The only thing I didn’t like, is that baby vamp Jessica doesn’t exist in the books!

jessicacrying

  1. Dead until Dark
  2. Living dead in Dallas
  3. Club Dead
  4. Dead to the world
  5. Dead as a doornail
  6. Definitely Dead
  7. Altogether Dead
  8. From Dead to worse
  9. Dead and gone
  10. Dead in the family
  11. Dead reckoning
  12. Dead locked
  13. Dead ever after*

I love the way Charlaine Harris took the word “Dead” and made it a theme for every book title. (I once did that with a short story using the phrase “hide and seek”).

I dreaded reading the last book. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. How am I going to face the world? With what am I going to fill the void?

Do you know that feeling when you enjoy something so much you don’t want it to end? When you live and breathe with the characters that the story actually becomes real?

I literally couldn’t put it down. There were some nights my hands actually grew numb for holding onto the Kindle for dear life.

So, what’s the verdict?

Rating: Guilty

Sookiestackhouse

Anne of Green Gables series

anneofgreengablesseries

 

I’ve been rereading the Anne series the past month or two. I’ve read till the sixth book once before and stopped, because our local library didn’t have the last two books in the series.

Now I’m borrowing my mom’s Kindle and reading it in e-book format.

I love L.M. Montgomery’s writing: it’s comfortable, cosy and homey. You can relate to her characters.

One thing I do wish though: is to read a nice thriller or murder mystery after all this sweetness.

  1. Anne of Green Gables – 5/5
    Back cover: People are surprised when Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, both very set in their ways, decide to adopt an orphan boy. But no-one was more astonished than Marilla and Matthew themselves when the boy they are expecting turns out to be a very talkative, very imaginative, very red-headed, very female girl. Anne has arrived at Green Gables. Her adventures, dreams, sorrows and joys are set down here in one of the most popular books ever written.Characters: Diane Barry, Gilbert Blythe, Miss Barry (Diane’s grandmother), Miss Rachel Lynde, MIss Stacey (teacher), Josie Pye, Mrs Allan, Ruby Gillis, Jane.

Fav part in book: 

‘Dropping her precious carpet-bag she sprang forward a step and clasped her hands.
“You don’t want me!” she cried. “You don’t want me because I’m not a boy! I might have expected it. Nobody ever did want me. I might have known it was all too beautiful to last. I might have known nobody really did want me. Oh, what shall I do? I’m going to burst into tears!”
Burst into tears she did.’
First published: 1908

2. Anne of Avonlea – 5/5
Back cover: Anne of Green Gables is now half-past sixteen, but is still the strongheaded and romantic heroine of the earlier book. Uncle Matthew has died (spoiler alert!), and Anne goes back to Avonlea to teach at her old school.
As romantic as ever, Anne’s new dream is the improvement of Avonlea, but this grownup ambition does not prevent her from falling into scrapes that seem to befall her in spite of best intentions. Every reader who enjoyed “Anne of Green Gables” will want to follow our heroine as she encounters new friends – the irascible old bachelor Mr Harrison, the impish twins Davy and Dora as well as the Lovely Lavendar Lewis

Other characters: Charlotta the Fourth, Mr Harrison’s pet parrot Ginger.

Some truths learned from the book: 
Miss Lavendar to Anne: “Sometimes, I think it is no use to make friends. They only go out of your life after a while and leave a hurt that is worse that the emptiness before they came.”

“This was succeeded by a queer, little lonely feeling… as if somehow Diana had gone forward into a new world, shutting a gate behind her leaving Anne on the outside.”

First published: 1909

3. Anne of the Island – 5/5
Back cover: Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1874. She spent her childhood living with her grandmother in an old farmhouse, and began writing poems and stories at an early age. Many years later, her work came to be published regularly in numerous American periodicals. However, the worldwide success of “Anne of Green Gables”, first published in America in 1908, took her by surprise. She received thousands of readers’ letters, which inspired her to continue the stories of Anne, subsequently translated into many languages. L.M. Montgomery died in 1942.

Characters: Gog and Magog

Some truths from the book: 
“It’s never pleasant to have our old shrines desecrated, even when we have outgrown them.”

“Our friendship will be spoiled – if he goes on with this nonsense. It mustn’t be spoiled – I won’t let it. Oh, why can’t boys just be sensible!”

Ruby: “I’ll be homesick. Heaven must be very beautiful, of course, the Bible says so, but, Anne, it won’t be what I’m used to.”

Fav parts from the book: Chapter XVII A letter from Davy
‘It’s snowing some to-day and Marilla says the old woman in the sky is shaking her featherbeds. Is the old woman in the sky God’s wife, Anne? I want to know.
Mrs Lynde was awful mad the other day because I asked her if she was alive in Noah’s time. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. I just wanted to know. Was he Anne?
Why can ministers do what boys can’t? I want to know. I haven’t any more news.
Here are six kisses xxxxxx Dora send’s one. Here’s hers x
PS. Anne, who was the devil’s father? I want to know.’

And… Gilbert’s proposal (spoiler alert!)

First published: 1915

4. Anne of Windy Willows: 3/5
This must be the most boring of the all the books. It’s mostly about Anne being the principal at a school while she waits for Gilbert to finish studying for a doctor.

Characters: Elizabeth, Dusty Miller, Rebecca Dew, Aunt Chatty, Aunt Kate, The Pringles.

First published: 1936

5. Anne’s House of Dreams – 5/5
I remember reading this book in my final year of university. I was absolutely in love with the story – as was the second time.

Characters: Miss Cornelia Bryant, Captain Jim, Lost Margaret, Susan Baker: ‘Mrs Doctor, dear’, Leslie, Owen Ford

First published: 1917

6. Anne of Ingleside
Still busy rereading this book. Anne is married and has six children: Jem, Walter, twins Di and Nan, Shirley and Rilla. The stories are not so much about Anne any more but the trials and tribulations of her children.

First published: 1939

7. Rainbow Valley
The story of how Anne’s children grows up continues. Very sweet and funny. 

Characters: Mary Vance, The Meredith children.

Fav quote: “A faint blue haze rested on the eastern hill, over which a great, pale, round moon was just floating up like a silver bubble.”

First published: 1919

8. Rilla of Ingleside
This was definitely my favourite book of the series. Anne’s children are all grown up and the First World War breaks out. Some of her boys go away to war and some don’t return. The story revolves around what her youngest, Rilla, experiences.

Characters: Dog Monday, Walter “Rilla-my-Rilla”, mention of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination.

Fav quotes: “her soul was like being tied to the stake because of the suffering of the world around her.”

“When we forget God, He remembers us.”

“Everybody believed that the next thing he would say, church or no church, would be something that would be spelt with asteriks…”

First published:  1921

 

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

It felt like forever trying to finish this book. But I daresay it’s my own fault. The only time I give myself to read is just before I go to bed every night.

With these classics I find it harder to keep an attention span. Have you ever noticed how these writers never can seem to get to the point? Blah, blah, blah I would read two pages and end up falling asleep and the next night I would do it all over again. Except, that I couldn’t remember what I read the previous night!

And no, I did not watch the film first so I didn’t really have a clue what the book was going to be about.

What I did like: This book has some wonderful ideas of which I’m not going to go into right now seeing as I do not want to spoil anything except… I wonder if the website Yahoo got it’s name from the book?

I’m not really sure why though, but this book kind of reminded me of “The Phantom Tollbooth”.

Back cover:
When a kindly ship’s surgeon, Lemuel Gulliver, sets on several voyages from England, he has no idea of the fantastic adventures – and misadventures – he will have. Violent storms, shipwrecks, mutiny and pirate attacks lead him to remote places populated by strange and amazing beings.

During his travels, Gulliver discovers that these incredible creatures are very different from anyone he has met before. He soon wonders whether he’ll fit in or feel at home in any of these astonishing places.

Join Gulliver in Lilliput, where he finds himself held captive by a race of miniature people; in Brobdingnag, a country populated by giants; in the little island of Glubbdubdrib, where historic figures like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar talk to him; and in an unknown land that’s ruled by the Houyhnhnms, a breed of superior horses who find humanlike creatures repulsive.

By turns funny and frightening, Gulliver’s Travels will introduce you to some of the most outlandish and memorable creatures ever invented.

First published: 1726

Rating: 4/5