Reaper Man

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

Today I am going to be reviewing The Reaper Man. This is the second book of the “Death Collection” which comprises of four books within the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. If you would like to read about the first book of the death collection, or about the Discworld series in general, please see my review of Mort.

In this collection, the main character is Death himself, a skeletal figure, adorned with scythe and black hood who sends people on their way from this dimension to whatever comes next.

The premise of this fantasy novel is that Death is inexplicably given the sack, plunging the Discworld into chaos as the dead refuse to… well… die. Meanwhile for Death, he is given a chance to experience human life for the first time, as his immortal status is revoked and he is to face his own demise as soon as a new Death is hired.

 

This is the second book I’ve read of the Terry Pratchett series and Reaper Man has certainly reinforced my desire to read through all 41 of the series. If you enjoy fantasy, quirky humour, and interesting characters, then Terry Pratchett is for you.

Of course, at the beginning of the novel, Death is largely absent (which is the whole point) and the story focuses on a wizard, Windle, and his group of friends. The wizards are an enjoyable bunch of characters, who make a great parody of stuffy professors who have spent their lives locked away in learning establishments, having very little to do with the real world. This makes them both knowledgeable, but lacking in common sense, and their buffoonery (there’s a word you don’t get to say very often!) makes for an enjoyable read. I found that I did miss the character of Death though in these first sections. It’s a bit like watching your favourite television show, in an episode where they focus on one of the supporting characters. It’s still enjoyable, but you’re really just waiting for everyone to reunite and the main character to get back into the story.

However, I would say the second half of the book supersedes Mort in terms of action, pace, and building towards a suspenseful showdown of an ending. The last third of the book is full of excitement as it leads to the climactic scenes that will leave you unable to put it down. It features touching moments too, as Death goes through his own journey as to what being mortal is all about. This book will make you reflect on life and death, but it’s all approached in a lighthearted way that may leave you feeling a bit better about your own mortality!

One of my favourite parts of these books is when Pratchett will put a little asterix * amongst the text which will guide you to some extra information on the bottom of the pages. The “information” is almost always a quirky bit of Discworld trivia, history or fact which is sometimes insightful, but always funny. It is like Pratchett is prodding you with his elbow and winking, an extra little joke for you. Throughout the whole book Pratchett’s humour and love of oddness and nonsense come twinkling through the pages.

Whilst Mort has a protagonist who is young (16 years old), the main protagonist of this novel is Windle, who is very, very old. Pratchett therefore shakes up the formula and steers away from making these novels for any particular age group. Anyone of any age can enjoy these books! Also, I would say it is not necessary to have read any of the Discworld books beforehand, as both this and Mort were completely self-contained stories. However, I would recommend reading Mort first if you can, as it gives a bit of background into the Death character which will make this read more enjoyable.

I hope you enjoy reading this book, I’ll be reviewing my next Pratchett in two weeks time, called Soul Music!

 

Next week we’ll be taking a break from Pratchett and reviewing a classic, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

 

Until then, happy reading and take care, and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Feel free to comment below on your thoughts of Pratchett, The Discworld Series, or any recommendations of what to review next!

 

 

 

Life Story

Hello Everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I am going to review a beautiful book called Life Story, which is an accompaniment to the BBC television series of the same name. This is a visually impressive book that will make an excellent gift for any animal lover (or for your good self of course!)

The television series this book is based on is a large-scale nature documentary. The filming of Life Story was certainly an impressive fete, it took over two and a half years to film across 29 countries, and during that time the BBC was able to capture over 1,800 hours of footage. Needless to say, they were able to capture some amazing photographs, and the still photography is what features largely in this book.

The concept behind the book and series is to show the journey of various animals, from birth to reproduction of the next generation, and every struggle, conflict, decision and journey in between. The chapters in this book are named as such: First Steps, Growing Up, Home, Power, Courtship, and Parenthood, with a final chapter dedicated to the making of the series.

Did you know that when a male lion takes over a pride they will often kill all the cubs from any previous males? And that only approximately 20% of cubs make it beyond 2 years old? Or that the females synchronize their reproduction so they all produce a litter at the same time? Maybe you’re a lot smarter than me and already knew that, but I sure didn’t. Now look at me go!

There are over 50 different animals featured in this book. Each animal gets between a 2 and 6 page write up, with lots of beautiful photographs (usually including a double page spread) for each one. The information is interesting and easy to digest. I read the book by focusing on an animal a day, which was easily achievable in 5- 10 minutes of reading a night. However, I can see some nature lovers easily pouring hours into this book and reading it all in one go. They will also be pleased to see a foreword by the great naturalist himself, David Attenborough. If you have seen the series, the ‘making of’chapter provides some fascinating insights into the challenges of capturing wildlife behaviour.

The greatest strength of this book for me is that it demonstrates how life is a struggle for all species on earth. It throws into light the fight for survival, the elaborate lengths animals go to in order to find a mate or protect their young, the ingenious and difficult things animals go through to better their chances at continuing their bloodline. It makes you appreciate the wide and diverse world out there and reminds you that humans aren’t the only ones with daily obstacles to overcome. The study of nature helps us take the focus away from ourselves and appreciate what else is happening in the world, and this book, with it’s beautiful photographs and variety of experience, makes it a wonderful journey.

 

Happy Reading and welcome to The Boss Book Club!

 

Got an interesting animal fact? Read any other great nature books? Let me know in the comments below!

Mort

Hello Everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be starting my reviews of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The Discworld fantasy series consists of a total of 40 books: the first which was released in 1983 called The Colour of Magic. The 41st book of the series, titled The Shepherd’s Crown is due for release in late August/ early September and, as Mr Pratchett passed away in March of this year, will be the final book of the series. 41 books over a period of 30 years is an incredible achievement, and I know Terry Pratchett has a lot of fans. As someone who is completely new to the series and the author, I am excited to give him a read.

The first thing you have to decide when jumping into the Discworld series is where you want to begin. The books are divided into different sections including: Rincewind novels, young adult novels, science novels, ancient civilisations, death novels, watch novels and industrial revolution novels. You can choose to either read from the order in which they were published and read through to the present, or alternatively jump to the theme which interests you the most and read all the books in that section first. To help explain, here’s a website that has a nice flow chart of all the books, and the order in which you can read them by interest: http://io9.com/how-to-read-terry-pratchetts-discworld-series-in-one-h-1567312812.

I have a bit of a morbid personality so I decided to jump into the “Death” novels, which consist of four books, the first of which is called Mort. I opted to buy the hardcover edition which is beautiful. It’s hard to glean from the picture but the scythe and stars are silver foil so the cover has a nice shine when you move it in the light. It contains a little cloth page placeholder in dark blue which is great if you’re constantly losing your bookmarks, as I tend to do!

The story itself is fun: good old fashioned, giggle out loud, adventurous fun, which is enjoyable from beginning to end. The story revolves around an awkward 16 year old, red- haired, gangly teenager named Mort, who is looking for a job. He is hired by the grim reaper as his personal assistant. This book follows Mort’s adventures as he acts as Death’s apprentice and the various people he meets through this rather interesting line of work! The story is light hearted, and full of comedy and vibrant characters. It never takes itself too seriously, and the story moves at an excellent pace. It reflects on life and death, and leaves you feeling a bit better about the whole death business as it takes aware the fear and replaces it with a sense of humour and adventure.

An interesting feature of Pratchett’s work is that he does not divide the book into chapters, so you leave off on the adventure whenever you like (and that little blue cloth placeholder really does come in handy!). This book’s primary audience is probably aimed at young adult, but at 27 years old I still greatly enjoyed myself. At the end of it I immediately went out to buy the next one- sometimes it’s good to be late to the literary party, I now have the other 39 at my disposal without having to wait for any releases! I am greatly looking forward to reading the next one…

Have you read Terry Pratchett? Are you interested in the Discworld series? Please leave your comments below.

My next Terry Pratchett review will be up next Sunday night, and we’ll be looking at Reaper Man, the follow on to Mort. If you’ve ever considered reading or re-reading the series, feel free to read along with us!

Until next week, happy reading and welcome to The Boss book club!

 

The Life of a Stupid Man

Are you poor? Love to read the best classical literature but you’re a little bit stingy?

Well I have the perfect solution for you! The good people at publishing house Penguin are printing 80 “Little Black Classics” books to celebrate their 80th anniversary. There are many wonderful things about these little black classics: they fit in the pocket of your coat, don’t take up much space in your bookshelf, and they are packed with great short stories by some of literature’s biggest names… for just $2 each! That’s less than most chocolate bars nowadays (heck, you could get both for less than $5 and have a swell afternoon!)

The little black classic I’m reviewing today is a beautiful piece of work by the Japanese author Ryunosuke Akatagawa and is called “The Life of a Stupid Man.” The books themselves are incredibly thin but you would be surprised at the amount of content they fit. This book features a short story, and two autobiographical pieces by Akatagawa. The short story, titled In a Bamboo Grove is set in a courthouse: a man has been murdered and the mystery behind who is his killer is unraveled as a variety of characters take the stand.  The storytelling is concise and masterful, and the story itself is intriguing.

It is in the next two sections where I believe the book has it’s greatest strength. Death Register and The Life of a Stupid Man are both autobiographical pieces. Death Register is Akatagawa reflecting upon his family life in the context of how all his closest relatives passed away. Sound morbid? It is. Akatagawa is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest short story authors and poets, however it is evident throughout his writing that he suffered from depression terribly.

The Life of a Stupid Man consists of 51 short reflections on various memories in his life. I’ve never seen an autobiography written this way and I thought it was outstanding. Instead of writing long, extensive accounts of every important aspect of his life, Akatagawa expertly condenses all the emotion, all the fine details of his most important memories into just a few lines. You instantly are transported to that time and place, if only for a moment, and see the world the way that he saw it then- then you move on to the next memory. Across the 51 snapshots there are some repetitions, callbacks and themes, so the piece as a whole flows beautifully, almost like a poem. When I reached the end I was overwhelmed by the wisdom Akatagawa seemed to possess, and was very surprised to find that he died by suicide at the age of just 35, which of course meant he wrote the autobiography of his short life also in his 30s. His exploration of  life and the nature of sadness ultimately lead to his death, but also influences his incredible work.

This book serves as a beautiful introduction to the work of Akatagawa that will make you want to read his other works, and is stunning and reflective in it’s own right.

 

Not bad at all for $2!

 

Thank you for reading, and welcome to The Boss Book Club!

 

Have you read other works by Akatagawa? Can you recommend any of the other Penguin Little Black Classics? Let me know in the comments below.

It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me

Hi Everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book club!

Today I’m going to talk about a thoroughly funny and enjoyable autobiography from one of the world’s late, great comedians, Rodney Dangerfield.

If you don’t know who Rodney Dangerfield is by name, chances are you will know his voice, or recognize him as that poor schmuck who gets “no respect, no respect at all!” A quick Youtube search may make you an instant fan!

If you already know Rodney and enjoyed his comedy, or his appearances in movies such as Caddyshack or Back to School then you will find this autobiography a fascinating and of course, very funny read. On every single page of this relatively short autobiography, Rodney has included one of his famous quips, so you’re guaranteed at least a smile, if not a giggle every page. Some classics include:

“l tell ya, my wife was never nice to me. On our first date, I asked her if I could give her a good-night kiss on the cheek. She bent over.”

And….

“I tell ya, my family were always big drinkers. When I was a kid, I was missing. They put my picture on a bottle of Scotch.”

Ah, one more won’t hurt…

“I asked my wife, “Last night, were you faking it?” She said, “No, I was really sleeping.”

One of those little gems on every single page! Your ongoing entertainment is virtually guaranteed. Rodney of course discusses his whole life in this book, from his childhood, to the running of his nightclub and all the celebrities he’s met in between. If you’re a fan of comedy, show business, and the Las Vegas scene then let Rodney tell you all about it. The book does have a serious side though, and Rodney doesn’t flinch away from talking about the difficult points of his life, including his troubled relationship with his mother, his health problems and his lifelong battle with depression. One of the most impactful moments of the book for me was discovering that Rodney gave up comedy when he was 28 years old, and for 12 years worked as a labourer. It was only when he turned 40 that he decided to give comedy another crack and ended up becoming a comedy superstar. I found this fact to be inspiring as I think today there’s a certain pressure to have your entire life sorted out before you turn 30 years old! He showed that you can follow your dreams and passions at any age and be successful.

A nice addition to this book is a foreword by Jim Carrey and afterword by Roseanne Barr. These little segments nicely bookend Rodney’s story and highlight how much Rodney did to support other comedians and their acts. After this book you will experience a greater appreciation for Rodney Dangerfield, relive some of his best jokes, and realize the hard work that goes behind the scenes to what looks like effortless comedy.

And who knows, you might even respect him a little.

 

 

Thank you for joining the Boss Book Club, feel free to tell me your favourite Dangerfield joke in the comments below! Happy Reading.

 

 

 

 

 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Howdy folks and welcome to the first book review from The Boss Book Club!

Today I’m going to convince you to go ahead and get yourself a copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a novel for adults, written by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan.

This book is incredible. It won The Man Booker Prize in 2014, so I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so. The story is based on an Australian man named Dorrigo, who becomes a Prisoner of War under the guard of the Japanese military, being held captive in Thailand, forced to take part in the building of the Thai- Burma death railway. If you are interested in the war experience or in this particular part of military history (around the close of World War Two) then you will be automatically fascinated by this story. You get to experience every gritty detail as told through the eyes of Dorrigo, and Richard does an incredible job at pulling the reader into a first- hand experience of this dark chapter in history.

If, like me, you have not read much war-related material and your knowledge of the railway is limited, don’t run away! You will come away from reading this with a whole new perspective on life in wartime, and this book is about a lot more things than war alone.

From the description it may sound like a basic war story, but this book covers the whole of Dorrigo’s life, as well as the lives of his fellow soldiers, and even the fates of his Japanese enemies. It covers a variety of themes, from love and romance, to death and loss, illness, family, mateship, suffering and the burdens of everyday life. The language used throughout is poetic and beautiful. It took me probably the first 40 or so pages to find the rhythm in Richard’s writing but once I had, I enjoyed the book from beginning to end. The story is not told sequentially (if you know that from the start it helps- you’re welcome!) but rather jumps throughout Dorrigo’s history and timeline.

This book is definitely aimed at an adult audience, and I feel that it deserves multiple readings throughout your own lifespan. The book covers Dorrigo’s life from a teenager, to an elderly man, and if you read this book in your 30’s it would read different to your experience of it in your 50’s or 60’s as I believe you would relate to Dorrigo and the themes of this book on a different level. It talks about the very human things: the disappointments we experience, the mistakes we make, the joys we find (even if they last only a little while!) and talks about a man who might seem like he has it all together, but doesn’t at all. I think we can all relate to that sometimes.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions of it!

 

Thank you and welcome to the boss club!

 

Hello world!

Hello and welcome to The Boss Book Club! This is a community for anyone and everyone who loves to hide away with a great book! This blog will feature a weekly review on what’s good to pick up next time you’re looking for a good read.

My first challenge is going to be reading the entire DiscWorld series by Terry Pratchett. I am completely new to Pratchett and am really excited to dig into what I know is a very popular and well loved series.

My name is Bec and I will be your companion on this journey! If you have any questions or suggestions for what should be reviewed next, please contact me on thebossbookclub@gmail.com

Happy reading, and remember, you’re the boss!