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Old 08-07-2005, 05:53 PM   #1
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Location: Oxford, England
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Read any good books lately?

The Prisoner of Zenda (Anthony Hope) - picked it up in a charity shop for 90 of my English pence (where I do all my shopping) based on the cover alone - two men with crossed swords over a drawbridge. The story was excellent too - a ginger haired man travels to Ruritania (a made-up European country) where he meets the soon to be coronated King who, to his suprise, looks exactly like the protagonist. The King ends up getting kidnapped so the main character takes his place and rules thye country whilst trying to rescue the real King from the evil Duke (who's also his brother). That, and he falls in love with the King's wife (who's also his cousin). Incest aside, it's a great book. A good fantasy adventure should fill you with inexplicable nostalgia which is exactly what this one does. The only other book I've read from this genre is The Princess Bride, which is funnier but less... effective than Zenda. Less effective in what? I couldn't say exactly... but Zenda has some ineffable quality to it that rises it above a lot of books. 4/5

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception (Eoin Colfer) - I honestly can't recomend the Artemis Fowl books enough. Here's a brief (and rubbish) synopsis of them: Artemis Fowl is a young teenage crime lord genius who runs his dead fathers empire with the help of a huge Eurasian butler called Butler. Artemis uncovers an underground civilsation of Fairies, Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins, Pixies and in the first book he attempts to exploit them for money. In the later books he is sort of on the same side. The fairies are technologically superior to the "mud people" (us humans) having been forced deep underground thousands of years ago after we populated the earth too fast and threatened their extinctions. Holly Short is an Elf armed with a blaster, robotic wings and camoflage armour as part of the LEP-recon (get it?) unit, with Commander Root (who smokes a fungi cigar) and Folly (a computing genius who's also a Centaur). In the middle is Mulch Duggums, a dwarf who digs by chewing earth with jaws he can unhinge, whereupon it passes through his system and comes out through a bum-flap in his trousers. The books themselves are written with a very quick, cinematic pace that's both hillarious and gripping. If you're looking for something that's a bit like Harry Potter but better, try this. 5/5

The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) - I've seen the movie, read the play and now read the book - and all are fantastic, but the book is the best. Very chilling ghost story about a lawyer who has to set a dead woman's affairs in order, which means he has to travel to her house where she lived in issolation for decades in the middle of marshland (which is tidal, meaning that it's cut off from the mainland for most of the day). Dripping with atmosphere and brilliantly written, this is a book for a cold winters night (or a hot Cretan day in my case, but whatever)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carol) - I was suprised by how funny and philosophical this book was, and how quickly it moves (Alice is in Wonderland on barely the second page). It grips you like a drowing sailor and doesn't let go until the very last word. 5/5

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J K Rowling) - a very fun to read book with some excellent pacing and loveable characters. Can't wait for the next one. 4/5

Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) - anyone who's starting to read this will say it's difficult to get into and a little dull. My advice is to stick with it - after the first 100 pages or so the pace picks up and the next 400 pages are excellence right down to their core. What's more, once you're in the midst of First World War trench life the first 100 pages of peace-time description take on new significance and you apreciate the horrors of war in context, something that few books manage to achieve. And then when it suddenly changes to the present day the effect is increased even more as you apreciate just how much we take for granted. I read half a dozen Great War novels and almost all the Great War poetry and this book was the best and most moving of the lot. This is a book that everyone must read. 5/5

Mostly Harmless (Douglas Adamns) - another utterly brillaint book from the late Douglas Adams that you can't help but marvel at for its wit and intelect. Everyone should at least try the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (though it helps if you like Sci-Fi) and if you liked the previous books then you'll like this one too. The ending has come to a lot of criticism, but, eh, I kinda like it. 4/5

So that's pretty much everything I've read in the past month. What about you?
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