Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The idea of Jekyll and Hyde has been reused and rehashed so many times, in so many different ways, that you feel like you already know what the book will be like. However, let me stop you there. It seems that movies and hype have once again taken people away from the book itself.

We all know the basic premise of this novella; one good doctor who drinks a concoction in order to turn into his darker side but soon finds himself stuck in an unwanted position. However, what I didn't know before was the theory and premise behind WHY Dr Jekyll created this 'potion' (for I can't of what else to call this, really). Out of everything, the answer to this question is what really intrigued me.

I used to think that him having Hyde trapped in him was some sort of accidental side affect, but I was wrong. I'm not going to say why it really happened on here but I will tell you that the thought behind it intrigued me and was the bit I found the most thought provoking out of everything that happened in this book. What happened in the book was the result of these contemplations on the human mind and character and so I did want to focus more on that.

This book itself and the way it was set out did disappoint me in that it's based around diary entries, letters etc and so, therefore, seems a bit 'he said, she said' and seems to jump all over the place. An example of this jumping is the fact that the entire book is split into Middle, Beginning, End, Middle, or some other order that doesn't help draw you in as much as it could. On top of that it's all rather a civilised capture and end of Mr Hyde, don't expect it to be jumping from rooftops, harassing damsels in distress sort of things. It's more a mental sort of anguish than anything else. Granted there are one or two moments where Hyde gets out of control but it's definitely more a case of the unseen evil having the biggest hold on the story.

Having said all this, however, I was slightly disappointed in this book. Yes it's a classic, yes I know my 21st Century mind had a lot of expectations and yes I know that it's my fault, not the book's. I still wish something had REALLY happened at the end that was more visceral than intellectual.

This is a good read, especially if you know what you'll get from this era of books (I'm beginning to learn). A good quick read that should be read without the expectations from this century but imagining how it must have come across to the readers of the time.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I will start by saying that I have never read this book before or seen any films the whole way through either. Despite this, however, I still had some vague ideas of what I was expecting due to seeing film clips, hearing references and the book title itself (Invisible Man does give away the main idea).

The book starts with the arrival of a strange, nameless man in a small village inn. With his entire body, except his nose, covered in clothing or bandages he makes for great speculation amongst the locals. It doesn't take long for speculation to grow and withhis short temper, tendency to hide himself away and one or two minor mishaps it isn't long until it looks like his secret may be found out. When everything comes to a head the stranger moves on but the reports of him follow, although not necessarily believable.

What we then see happen is a story of hope and tragedy, we hear of who the strange man is and how he became invisible. The reader is shown, through this incident, of the dangers of scientific discovery gone wrong; of how one man's quest for something perceived as a gift can turn him and his achievement into a curse.

I was shocked at how short a book this was. I believed that, with all the spin offs and films that had been created because of it, there would have much more to it. Although this book only coves a short period of time (apart from the flashbacks to his becoming invisible) there was enough content within it to encourage me to read. It started almost straight away with the mystery of the nameless man at the Inn. With his strange appearance it's only natural that news of his appearance would spread. As the reader you are not given any clues as to his appearance, apart from the book's title, and as such could've been left wondering as well for a short while.

This book really picks up speed upon his sudden departure from Iping and we are suddenly given a glimpse into the downward spiral of his mind and how far he has fallen from his life previous to his being invisible.

Wells has made this an unbelievably good plot, focusing more on the human mind aspect when faced with outcomes like this rather than the actual invisibility itself. As much as you start to realise how it all must end, and it really is the only way, it still comes as a bit of a shock when the inevitable happens. Wells writes so well that there is never really any doubt as to how people would react when faced with such an impossible thing.

This a great short read for anyone really. It may not be uplifting but it does make you think and ask you to look at the human mind in a different, more open light.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Spreading Out The Reviews

Greetings all!

I have made a New Year's Resolution this year to read every book and eBook I have and haven't yet got round to reading before I buy any new books. This means that a lot of the books I am reading this year are going to be classics that I've put off for a while (Dickens, War & Peace, Crime & Punishment etc).

Some of these books are rather large and, as such, will take a while for me to read. This would mean that there'd be a large gap between each review and that's unfair on you, my followers. What I'm going to do, to try and stop this as much as possible, is to write my reviews once I've finished them but save them up and post one every Sunday as, at the moment, there are some shorter books at the top of the list.

I hope this doesn't upset anyone, but I'm trying to figure out a way to not leave you guys left waiting too long for a book review. Thank you for understanding.

Next review to be posted will be The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Flesh and Blood by Mark Peterson

I received this book after entering a Waterstones competition. This book has not yet been released and my Waterstones review can be found here.

This book is a new British crime novel set in Brighton. It follows a police operation aiming to bring down a large drugs ring.

The book opens with the death of an undercover police officer and the realisation that the operation may have been compromised. For DSI Tom Beckett, who has been leading this operation through his own personal grief, this looks like it could be the end of his career as he knows it. With the threat of budget cuts making itself evident and the potential leak, it seems that Operation Windmill is doomed to fail without having been completed.

DS Minter is the new guy on the team and has  a bit of a patchy relationship with the team as well as having his own past demons to deal with. With the higher-ups expecting him to do one thing and the new team members all being suspicious around him, Minter finds himself in a tricky situation as he tries to help Beckett find a way to save the operation and get their guy.

I'll admit that it's been a while since I've read a British crime novel, the last few crimes having been Nesbo and Larsson, however I found that this crime novel has found a lovely balance between the stereotypical Nordic 'thinking & politics' and American 'all-action & explosions' crime.

This book starts by dropping the reader into the middle of the action with catalyst happening within the first few pages. With a view that covers everyone - from police officers to the drug barons - you get to see all the points of view and their thoughts on the matter, no matter how small the character's part. I found this to add to the mystery instead of take away from it as it had you left with more questions and totally ruined any suspicions I was already forming.

The two main police officers, Minter and Beckett, did seem to have been stuck into a mold that has been used a few times before in various guises which I found to be slightly disappointing. However, this aside, I found the bit-parters to be more intriguing and their view on their lives were definitely eye opening.

I have the feeling that Peterson really did his research before writing this book - on politics as well as police work - and this came across well in many of the things that happened throughout the plot (I'm trying really hard to avoid spoilers).  Possibly someone with more background knowledge in this subject will be able to tell me how well researched this has been but to someone like me, who just knows what's told on the news and read about in papers and books, this does feel close to what could happen real life.

With such a lively backdrop as Brighton, Peterson has really brought the area to life, using it's vivid reputation to set the scenes and help move it along without having to go into too much unnecessary detail.

This is the first book in a series and I'm so happy I read it, I will be following Mark Peterson with eager anticipation for the next installment. If you're looking for a new british crime series to follow, or looking to get into this genre then might I suggest pre-ordering (or sitting on your hands and waiting) this book, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Emma by Jane Austen

Well, first off allow me to say that I hope everyone had a lovely holiday period. I spent my at home with my family and decided that I'd read Emma by Jane Austen.

Now, some of you may have noticed the lack of spoiler warning that I always put in the title of my post as a 'just in case'. This is because I think this book is old enough to not warrant one - you can find the entire plotline online anyway - and also due to me not thinking I'll really spoil it anyway. I'll do my best to stick to that.

Emma is a well off lady of leisure who enjoys nothing better than using her supposed 'match-making abilities' to ensure her friends end up with those she thinks would suit them. However, Emma herself doesn't believe she'll marry and would rather stay at home looking after her father. This all seems to unravel when her abilities seem to leave her and she is blind to someone who has his sights (and heart) set on her.

When Jane Austen said that she'd create "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." she hit the nail on the head for me. We are introduced to Emma and I quickly found myself seething at the way she acted, she wasn't what I expected from an Austen heroine! Rich, clever and so unbelievably spoilt that I had to take breaks to begin with because I started to loathe the woman's actions. However, after a slow start and some rather bad actions on Miss Woodhouse's part I found that it all started coming to a head and I wanted to keep reading. Suddenly the spoilt little girl showed more character, revealed vulnerabilities and even admitted to making mistakes.

Jane Austen knew just the point where it'd become too much for the reader and so added some light on matters and made us able to see what Emma couldn't. Austen turns her cynical view onto the shallow social etiquettes of the time so they become minefileds that have you cringing if anyone goes against them, which one or two do. Every character has a flaw that she is more than happy to point out - even handsome Mr Knightley - and makes them seem that little more approachable and likeable to the reader.

This book starts to follow the classic Austen way that leaves you feeling glad that you prevailed through the beginning and managed to follow the ups and downs in little Highbury all the way to the end.

I finished this book feeling glad that I had read it; if you have never read a classic before and want to know where to start then I suggest this as a good book for you. It'll give you an idea of what to expect from classics, is shorter than many of the others and will help you to understand the sentence structure and wider language that you'll find in the other books you will want to pick up afterwards.