Wyrd Sisters

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

 

Today we’re continuing on with the Terry Pratchett Discworld Series by jumping into one of the books from the Witches Collection: Wyrd Sisters.

 

Wyrd Sisters tells the tale of three witches: the strict and foreboding Granny Weatherwax, the fun drunkard and eccentric Nanny Ogg and the enthusiastic but inexperienced newcomer Magrat. When the King of the Kingdom is murdered and the baby prince thrust unexpectedly into their care, it is the job of the witches to find the prince a new home. Many years later, with the kingdom thrown into turmoil under the dictatorship of a madman (the replacement King, the poor bugger) and a psychopath (that would be the Queen- think Lady Macbeth on steroids), it again falls to the witches to reinstate the proper order of things and, hopefully, save the kingdom.

 

This book is filled with the wonderful sense of adventure and humour that is instilled in all of Terry Pratchett’s novels. This book sees a return of Granny Weatherwax, who featured in the previous witches novel, Equal Rites. Her no-nonsense, cut the rubbish attitude will remind you of that teacher you had in high school, but you can’t help but like her all the same. The comraderie and humour shared between the witches is the highlight of the story; they are all loveable in their own right and make for great leading characters.

 

As always there is an element of satire in the book as well- this time the world of the theatre gets a serve. There is a parody on the famous globe theatre, as well as the crafts of acting and scriptwriting getting some attention. If you are a person who has acted in a play before, or would like to, then you will find these parts of the book funny and endearing.

 

What I love about the Discworld Series is that you can easily digest one of these books over a lazy weekend, they are easy to read and you’re guaranteed a laugh no matter what age you are. Terry Pratchett’s writing style is warm and welcoming, like being read a bedtime story by an eccentric uncle. Enjoy!

 

Please join us tomorrow for a review of Huruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Purity

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

This week, to celebrate the return from hiatus, we’re doing a book a day for five days (this is Day 2!). Today we’ll take a look at Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Purity.

 

This is the first book I’ve read by the modern American novelist and I was very impressed by the scope of this book. At the start of the drama is a woman named Pip Tyler, an individual who’s struggling with life due to a large University debt; a less than ideal living situation squatting with some housemates, a job she doesn’t enjoy and a friction filled relationship with her mother. There are certainly relatable moments for just about anyone in the opening chapter, however the novel rapidly expands and opens out to cover a large range of characters, and a broad array of themes.

 

This is as much a political thriller as it is a personal drama. The political side comes into play through the character of Andreas Wolfe, a Julian Assange type figure who was raised in Germany and is now leaking anything and everything political he can find on the internet. When Pip is hired by this man she is pulled into a world of journalism, of secrets, of information and intrigue.

 

Before this novel my knowledge of Berlin’s history was somewhat limited but through the character of Andreas, Franzen does an excellent job at painting a picture of what it was like to grow up in a very politically and socially unstable time. Also, Andreas’ character is very interesting psychologically, and if you enjoy your characters complex and working out why people think the way they do, you will find him incredibly fascinating.

 

On a smaller scale, this book is also about relationships, between parents and children, between husbands and wives, and between friends. It’s about what pulls people together and drives them apart. The book is written in third person viewpoint, but the chapters alternate focus between the characters, so each main character gets a chapter of their own. Franzen does an incredible job at putting together a story that includes the relatable, everyday relationship issues that we can all relate to, as well as tell a tale that’s big enough to cover themes about freedom, the right to information and….

 

Murder.

 

Yes, somebody gets killed but you’ll get no spoilers here!

 

All in all, this is an interesting book with a broad scope: personal drama, intrigue, politics, the information age, love, reunion, family and death all mix together to create a great story by Franzen.

 

Thank you for joining us on The Boss Book Club!

 

Please stop by tomorrow for a review of Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moby Dick

Hello Everyone!

Thanks for joining us today at The Boss Book Club!

The Boss Book Club has been in hiatus over the past few months, but a lot of reading has been done in that time. To celebrate the return, over the next five days will be five book reviews- to catch up on what we’ve missed!

Today, the classic American novel Moby Dick.

I’ve attempted to read Moby Dick approximately 4 times over the past five years, each time giving up after the first 50 pages, overwhelmed by the old-style language or the sheer size of the thing. This time I persisted and pushed on, and I’m very grateful I did.

If you’re yet to read the classic but have been tempted to, it’s certainly worth your time. Written by Herman Melville in 1851, the story gives you an immersive look at the life of a whaleman in the 1800s, where great ships would head out to find and slaughter the sperm whale in order to collect and harvest the oil- which was predominantly used to light lamps across the country.

The story is told in first person narrative by Ishmael, a somewhat experienced seaman (don’t you giggle) but a first time whaler. This book shows you the perils and dangers of whaling from his point of view, as well as captures the sense of excitement and comradery that goes along with voyages that could last years.

The other central character is that of Ahab, the ship’s captain, a psychologically tormented man, whose motives in the voyage are entirely centred around the capture of one particular whale- the legendary Moby Dick.

There are many reasons why this book has been given its rightful status as a classic. For me, it shows me everything there is to know about what the whaling life was like. Herman explains everything about the experience in amazing detail, from what the ships were like, to the customs and traditions shipmen had, to the type of equipment they used- even how they would rig and cut the whale. It shows me a life I would never have known about- being a landlubber myself. It does, however, go into lengthy details of what a whale looks like, which I’m sure in its time would have been wonderfully informative, but can be a little dry in the reading now.

The other thoroughly enjoyable element of this book is Ahab, the dark, brooding Captain, and the book explores many religious, philosophical and psychological themes regarding his and Ishmael’s journey as characters.

Many schools and Universities over the years have included this book on the read list as the book is rich in religious and social metaphors and analogies. It reflects the development of America and man’s relationship with himself and God. You can read as much or as little into this novel as you like and I’m sure repeat readings would offer something new each time.

On a final note, if like me you struggle somewhat to get through classic novels, I have a good tip. Each time you start a reading session, start with one chapter of a classic, followed by whatever other novel you like. I found this helped me focus on the chapter I was reading, and after you’re half way through you’ll find it much easier to plough through and finish it!

 

Happy Reading everyone, see you tomorrow for a review of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

 

 

 

The Wind- Up Bird Chronicle

Hello Everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, the next book for review by Haruki Murakami. The book was initially published in three volumes in 1994 and 1995 in Japanese. The translation I read, printed by Vintage in 2003, also includes two chapters that were printed in 1995 and 1997 that were written as short stories, but fit within the novel.

I’ve read and reviewed a few books now by this thoughtful author, after being impressed with his laid back style of writing, so naturalistic that there was scarcely any plot, and so relaxing it was like taking an afternoon stroll with a friend.

This book is very, very different.

The story starts out plain enough, and  focuses around the main character, Toru Okada, who is currently unemployed, but happily so, and is spending his days completing the household chores whilst his wife goes to work. Then his wife goes missing. Don’t be fooled, this is not a straightforward missing person crime novel.

After his wife disappears Toru starts to try and find out where she is, and in the process encounters a variety of characters that tell him their stories, including a spiritual medium who is lost, a young girl skipping school who may or may not have good intentions, and an ex-military man who feels he cannot die.

This book is not written naturalistically. At all.  It is full of metaphor and symbolism. The chapters are many and divided into small sections that you have to piece together. In this book there are alternate dimensions, dark, surreal moments, and even a sex scene that occurs between two people that aren’t in the same room (yes, I know, I told you it was weird!)

All of these bizarre, interlinking stories and characters do come together in some way, and the ending pieces it together in a way that is thought provoking and satisfying. As strange as it is, this book was a very interesting read, and presents a mystery that is greatly enjoyable. All of the bizareness is cleverly interwoven with the mundane, and the everyday activities of life. Toru will take himself down into a water well to think for four hours (why? you’ll see..) but then afterwards does the grocery shopping. There is a strong spiritual element to this story.

This is a very well written book that, if you choose to delve into it, will have you thinking about the bigger questions in life, and the nature of light, darkness, good and evil. It is greatly enjoyable, as long as you expect it to be strange, and are willing to go along with the journey. It marks a definite shift in Haruki Murakami’s writing style that certainly has me interested in what comes next.

 

This book contains mature themes and is suitable for an adult audience.

 

Thanks for joining us and happy reading!

 

 

Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve been, Where I’m going, and Where the hell are my keys?

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Billy Crystal’s autobiography called Still Foolin’ ‘Em.  It is a look at the life and career of one of American’s greatest comedians.

This book has a focus on ageing and growing old. Billy was 65 years old when he wrote this in 2013, and the book opens with a hilarious chapter that had me laughing out loud as he reflects on what being 65 looks like- and how terrifying that is!

The book follows a standard autobiography format- the chapters are separated by decade so Billy talks us through his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. These chapters are interspersed with small, funny chapters that work off the ‘growing old’ theme. These are comedic chapters that serve to provide some laughs in between the more ‘serious’ chapters where he talks about growing up, and his life in show business; they include such topics as: the five stages of forgetting things, sex when you’re old, and why you should take care of your teeth. These funny interludes were a delight to read every time.

The book has strong points and weak points. Firstly, the not so good. If you’re not a baseball fan, or don’t know much about the sport, then this book will have large, large sections that won’t appeal to you. Billy, as it turns out, is a big baseball fan, and he talks about his experiences with Mickey Mantle and his time spent with the Yankees a lot. And I mean that, it’s not just one chapter you can skim over, it’s interspersed throughout the entire thing. This may be a really strong point if you are a baseball fan- if you love Billy and Baseball- then definitely get this book, you will love it!

Secondly, this book is edited a little oddly at times. There are sections where he talks about his first daughter a lot, and you can tell he’s a very proud father to both of them, but his second daughter gets only briefly mentioned, and often in the context of other projects or stories. It reads a little bit strangely.

Lastly, and this isn’t necessarily a negative point but is something you should be aware of, the book is quite factual and detailed throughout- a serious account of his life, with funny chapters about ageing placed in between. Some people might expect a comedian’s autobiography to be funny throughout, but that ‘s not what Billy aims to do here. This book is better suited to big fans of his work; it doesn’t suit the casual reader. Some of the chapters about his growing up years read a little dry after the initial funny chapter.

Now, the good points, and there are plenty! Billy has many interesting stories that give people background info into the making of City Slickers, 61, Analyze This and When Harry Met Sally. He tells great stories about the Oscars, and living in New York. One of the most wonderful parts of this book is when Billy talks about his family. He grew up in a big showbiz family, with many musicians and talented artists. He really paints a picture of an amazing upbringing, full of music and laughter, which will make you smile by proxy. However…

I was very surprised to find myself in tears at the end of his book. A book about ageing has to mention death and dying in there somewhere, and whilst he discusses it throughout the book with laughter and jokes, the final chapters of the book talk about the losses of his loved ones, and the difficulty of having to say goodbye to all the wonderful people he introduced us to in the opening chapters. It makes for heartfelt reading which has a real emotional impact.

I would recommend this book for big Billy Crystal fans, fans of baseball, and it would make a great gift for anyone that’s hit the grand mark of 65 years of age or older, there’s a laugh or two to be had here.

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Equal Rites, the first book of the witches collection that makes up the wonderful Discworld series.

For those that have been following along, I’m reading my way through all 41 books of the Discworld fantasy series. They can be read in chronological order, or you can read them in terms of their themed groupings, or “collections.” I’m reading them by collection, according to whatever interests me. I’ve just gotten through the death series, now onto witches!

Equal Rites was published in 1987. It is the third book of the overall Discworld series, and the first of the witches collection.

This book is tightly focused on two main characters, Esk, a young girl from modest beginnings who’s life’s ambition is to become a wizard, and her guardian and friend Granny Weatherwax, a traditional witch who tries to teach her the ways of witchery, but eventually, if not begrudgingly, ends up helping her travel to the Unseen University, to help her reach her wizarding destiny.

The book is filled with satire and humour about gender. In this world it is traditional for girls to be witches, and specialize in the magics that involve herbs, animals and curing potions, and for boys to be wizards, who do more ‘serious’ magic, geometry and star- gazing. Esk is a rebel by nature, upsetting the status quo by demanding to know exactly why a girl can’t be a wizard.

This book is different to those of the Death Collection; it focuses mostly on the relationship, friendship and adventure of the two main characters,. It is a more intimate story, and it is filled with rich descriptions of the towns and lands through which they travel, along with Pratchett’s wonderful humour. In the Death Collection there is more action and more characters, there are various stories intertwined and very few descriptions of landscapes. It’s a matter of personal taste as to which you will like better: this story has two very likeable, funny and inspirational lead characters and the story moves at a slower pace, which is a good thing as it gives you the time to get to know them, and enjoy their journey.

This is a wonderful book for all to enjoy, but is particularly inspiring for young ladies to pursue their dreams and not let anyone tell them what girls should and shouldn’t do!

 

Happy Reading, see you next time on The Boss Book Club!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Hello Everyone and Welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Norwegian Wood, a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1987.

After reading (and reviewing!) Murakami’s recent English releases of Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing I was itching to read more from this author, as the unique, laid back writing style provided one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had. This story did not disappoint, and for those yet to give him a try, Murakami may be one of the best authors you try all year. Norwegian Wood is the novel that pushed him into mainstream fame in Japan, so may be the perfect one to start with.

The story is told in first person viewpoint from our lead character Toru Watanabe. It is 1969 and he is studying at a University in Tokyo. The book provides a casual picture of what student life was like in Japan in the 60s. The story details Toru’s daily student life and his friendships at University. However, Toru is a solitary, somewhat lonely character so it often details how he spends his day, occupying himself with books, music (including the Beatles of course!) and cafes.

There is more of a plot shape in this book compared to Pinball, 1973 which gives the book a nice direction and will make this book more appealing to those who appreciate a destination. Plot is not the point in this book however. It is more focused on the relationships between the characters, and what our lead character is contemplating in his daily life.

The central character of Toru doesn’t read like a character at all, it certainly seems like the author is just writing about his life in the 60s. It is so casually written you feel like you’re walking alongside Toru through Tokyo and spending a University year alongside him.

The book centers around Toru reflecting on his first love, an emotionally troubled woman named Naoko, and the connection they share over the suicide of a mutual friend from their high school years. Also in Toru’s life is a new friendship with a girl named Midori- hip, free thinking and spontaneous, who shares his lectures. The book centers around themes of friendship, love, sexuality, grief, suicide, loneliness and ultimately, the nature of human connection.

Where Murukami really shines is the emotional depth with which he writes. He writes with an emotional intelligence that is truly special, and casually incorporates the seasons, the five senses, memories, thoughts and music all into a picture that seems to require no work at all.

Don’t expect big dramatic moments, expect deep ones and enjoy the journey.

 

5 out of 5 stars- give Murukami a try!

 

Thanks for joining us and Happy Reading!

The Boss Book Club

 

Hogfather

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be reviewing the last book of four in the Death collection of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series.

Hogfather is a delightful book that I recommend reading at Christmas time. The story centers around Hogswatch, the Discworld’s version of Christmas, where a jolly man in red visits the towns and delivers presents, sausages and assorted meats to the people, with his sleigh of wild, slobbering hogs. What happens though when the Hogfather goes mysteriously missing?

It is a fun adventure that brings together many of the characters from the three previous Death books. There is Death himself of course and his granddaughter Susan, who are both trying in their own way to restore order to the universe; there are our bumbling, wise but somewhat- lacking- common sense wizards, an assortment of new Gods that keep popping up out of nowhere, and a creepy introduction to some members of the assassin’s guild. Other mystical characters including the Tooth Fairy, Boogey-man and Jack Frost get featured as well.

As in his other books, Pratchett does an excellent job at parody and humour. In this book Christmas itself is pulled apart and rearranged in Pratchett’s imaginative image. Also, there is a hilarious interpretation of the computer that is created by the wizards.

The scope of this story is big, and there is a diverse array of subplots, characters and little stories that interweave beautifully to come together at the end. It is an epic tale that celebrates the joy of Christmas, in a weird but wonderful way.

 

This book would be wonderful to curl up with and read in the week leading up to Christmas.

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

 

The 65- Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

Hello Everyone and Welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

I hope you’re having a wonderful day. We’ve got a total change of pace today in the form of an excellent children’s book by Australian author Andy Griffiths and his best friend, illustrator Terry Denton! If you’re looking for a gift for anyone in the 8-12 year age group, or are a big kid yourself, then this may be the book for you!

This book  features Andy and Terry themselves as the main characters of the storey (get it, haha! Sorry.)

In this book they add thirteen storeys to their ever-expanding treehouse, and this time they’ve added: a pet grooming salon, a room of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a time machine, a birthday room and an ant farm.

Did I mention a time machine? Well this time machine (which is unfortunately concealed in a wheelie bin) leads to a tale of time travelling adventure. Together with their new friend Safety Inspector Bubblewrap the trio go to the prehistoric era to find out how the dinosaurs became extinct, visit some cavemen, escape mummies in Egypt, and enter a chariot race in Ancient Rome. They also travel into the future and see what is in store for humanity (warning: it involves angry crabs!)

This adventure packed book contains an average of 2- 10 lines of writing per page. The rest of the page is filled with Terry Denton’s cartoon scribbles. They are drawn in what looks like simple black pen, cartoon squiggles fill and surround the pages in a similar style to which kids doodle on their notepads or sketchbooks. These cartoons add a great sense of fun to the story and you’ll spend time poring over the detail in each cartoon, and reading all the miniature speech bubbles!

The Andy Griffiths website cites the books as being ideal for reluctant readers and this is certainly so. If your child isn’t interested in reading traditionally, or has a short attention span, then the cartoons help to break up the challenge.

The 65 Storey Treehouse is the latest book in a series by the duo. Others include: The 13- Storey Treehouse, The 26- Storey Treehouse, The 39- Storey Treehouse and The 52- Storey Treehouse. They add 13- Storeys for every book! You certainly don’t have to have read the others to enjoy this one.

I thoroughly recommend this book as a gift to read with a child, or for them to enjoy on their own. Cartoons, time travel, and the occasional gross exploding eyeball. And dinosaurs! What more could you want?

 

Happy Reading Bosses, and thanks for joining us!

 

Know of any other great children’s books? Let us know in the comments below!

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be reviewing Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects. Gillian Flynn is the novelist behind the book/movie Gone Girl.

Before I go any further the first thing I will say is this book will not be for everyone. It is definitely an adult novel, which I would pitch at an 18+ age group. It is a thriller with dark content, including: child murder, self- harm, sexual assault and acts of violence. If you want a feel good story then please come back next time.

For those of you wanting to know if this thriller is for you, then read on…

This novel is told from first person view by our leading lady Camille Preaker, a reporter from Chicago who is sent to her home town of Wind Gap after a local girl is found murdered, and another is missing. She is given the task of covering the story of a small town under the threat of a potential serial killer. This will be the first time in eight years that Camille has returned home, and faced her mother Adora, and a stepsister Amma whom she barely knows.

This story can be read in two layers. The first is the mystery of what has happened to the girls and the suspense of finding out who the killer is.  The second layer is learning about our main character Camilla, a troubled woman who is struggling to connect with a family she had left behind.

I think this story has its weaknesses in the first layer: the mystery of what has happened to the girls. There are not many credible options as to who the killer could be, or attention paid to minor characters to pique the readers attention or keep them guessing. When the killer is revealed it makes a lot of sense, rather than leaves you surprised.

Where it has its great strength is the psychological depth of Camilla’s character and the others within her family. Adora the mother, Amma the step-sister and Alan, her step-father share a complex relationship that is thrilling, interesting and at times, disturbing. Camilla’s attitudes and thoughts on life are skewed and her sense of self is oddly affected by her upbringing, and the reader watches as Camilla slowly falters due to being back in the environment she grew up in, and tried to escape.

If you have read or watched Gone Girl then you will find some similarities here: psychologically disturbed characters and deeply flawed relationships between damaged people. If you enjoyed Gone Girl then you will likely enjoy this too.

I thought, three quarters of the way through the book, that in my review I would say I didn’t it. However, when I had reached the ending, I was satisfied. This is a thriller which did have me in suspense until the end, but it was a bit of a journey to get there. The closing chapters were great, and would make a wonderful finale… on the big screen! Which leads me to…

My overall recommendation is to wait for the movie. This is a thriller that thrills, but this can be achieved in three hours or less- I wouldn’t consider it worth spending 12+ hours reading. Apparently a TV movie has been announced so you probably won’t have to wait long! Also, because the book is written in the first person, the story fits tightly around Camilla, and her thoughts and perceptions on everything. The objectivity of a movie may give more focus to other characters, which will hopefully build the suspense of who the killer is a little better.

Thank you for joining us, next time we will be heading into lighter territory with a wonderful children’s book!

 

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!