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November 30, 2008

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Book 38 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

Bored of the usual kids books, this promised to be a bit more exciting, and possibly scary, so I chose it to read to my daughter. It also helped that I knew a full length feature film is coming up very soon.

It's quite a spooky story, about a bored little girl who finds a doorway to another world where cats speak, and she has another mother and father who promise to make her life more fun if she stays with them.

There are some nice images, particularly the other mother's black button eyes. There is also a small cast of very colourful characters. Like the Wizard of Oz, these characters have their real and other world equivalents.

I liked it more than I thought I would, and remember it better than I expected to. It is quite insidious in the way it tunnels into your mind, clever. The storytelling was a big success too. Looking forward to the film.

Posted by se71 at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2008

Rating Albums

How much do you like a particular album in your collection?

Surprisingly, it might be less than you think.

First of all, you have to rate all the songs individually. I've decided to use the most basic system included in Apple's iTunes, which allows you to give the track a number of stars, between one and five. Five is the best.

I've made up some simple rules to make it easy and quick to assign the star rating:

three stars

This is where I start. The vast majority of songs in my collection, ones which I neither like nor dislike, get three stars.

one star

There are surprisingly few of these in my collection, but there are some. These are songs that if you were relaxing in a warm bath, and they came on the radio, you would get out, and walk across a cold bathroom floor just to turn off.

five star

These are songs that when you hear them, you get a 'stop the clocks' moment, where you can't work, or concentrate on anything else. You just have to stop everything and listen.

two and four star.

One and five star songs are very easy to classify. Twos and fours are more tricky, but still fairly easy. A two will be slightly annoying and you might skip it on the iPod, but wouldn't walk across a room to switch it off. A four has moments of beauty, maybe a tiny hook you love in the chorus, but the whole thing doesn't hold together enough to make it a five.

Now, fire up your favourite music player, load an album. I'd advise only to try this with albums where you can identify each and every song by listening to only a few seconds of the intro. If you don't know the album that well, how can you fairly rate it. Now quickly flick through giving each song a star rating according to the criteria above. Just how much do you like it?

I was very surprised to find that whole albums that I own and have listened to over decades sometimes do not have any songs that get more than a three star rating. Hardly any albums get more than a single five star. Some albums get several 2 stars and nothing over a three, and I thought I liked them.

The point to all this?

My ever increasing collection of music, and my ever decreasing time, means I have to pare out the deadwood, and, as I think I've mentioned before, stop listening to crap. There are more subtleties to this [*], but broadly speaking, if an album doesn't have a few four or five star songs, should it even be in my song rotation at all.

[*] a whole album of three star songs may work well as background music while you're working, or jogging, or driving in your car. A five star song may need to be rationed so that you do not become bored with it, or it may make you feel really emotional due to associations, and so you also only play it at special times. In fact, and album of three and four star songs is probably the best compromise.

Posted by se71 at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2008

No Time For Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

No Time For Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

Book 36 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

Sometimes a book is so heavily promoted it's almost impossible for me to resist reading it. This thriller is a Richard and Judy book club pick. High literature it is not, but it was easy to read at my desk.

Some of the online reviews you might see, like the ones at the top of this page on Amazon are way over the top. The reader reviews are a lot more realistic however.

The plot has a great hook - a teenage girl (Cynthia) has a row with her parents and goes to bed, then in the morning her whole family have disappeared, never to return. Did she kill them? Were they murdered by someone else for some unknown reason? Did they just leave - and if so, why did they not take her?

Move on 25 years, and now Cynthia is married with a family, and starts to try and hunt down the truth herself. Lots of ideas, and it is quite fun for a while. But at the same time, it's also quite annoying. The logic is a bit silly. There are a couple of scenes with a medium who Cynthia thinks might help, but this is pointless for her and for us. Her husband seems clever sometimes, yet at others is very dim, all for the sake of the story - if he worked out the answer too quickly what would we do? This is bad, he should be more consistent.

The final chapters wrap things up quite well, and it's not a bad solution. but this is a holiday book, a bit of distraction for an airport lounge, not a great seat-of-the pants thriller.

Posted by se71 at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - October 2008

Marginally better than last month, I finished one solitary book in October 2008

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton

It was quite good, though not as good as a half hour skim read I had a few years back suggested it might be.

Posted by se71 at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)