Archive for October, 2012

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Title: Macbeth

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 30/10/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Ah it feels so nice to be reading Shakespeare again.  Before this I had only read one play – Much Ado About Nothing (which I love) – last January and before that, I had only studied Macbeth at school in 2010.  I enjoyed Macbeth even more than when we read it in school and I can’t wait to get onto my next Shakespeare.

On my Classics Club list, there are (currently) 11 Shakespeare plays.  This is probably going to change soon as I am reshuffle my list after I have read 12 books (20% of the list) to reflect new books I have acquired/heard about since I came up with the original list.  But anyway, I am still looking forward to my next Shakespeare, which will probably be Romeo and Juliet.

The plot in Macbeth is definitely interesting.  The way events happen that you really don’t expect is sometimes spooky and often shocking.  Despite the fact that I studied it a couple of years ago, I still couldn’t remember more than the basic storyline, so it was good to see what was happening alongside the main events.  I think the trickery of the witches is very clever, especially the way their prophecies seem so ridiculous that Macbeth will always be safe but they come true in a very unexpected and sneaky way.

The characters were what I focussed on when I studied Macbeth, especially Lady Macbeth herself.  I wrote an essay titled ‘Lady Macbeth – “Fiend-like Queen”, how far do you agree?‘.  All my little highlightings and annotations are still in my copy which was nice and reminded me of some of the quotes I used.  Aside from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Duncan and Macduff, the characters in Macbeth aren’t particularly memorable and I sometimes got confused between all the lords/generals/noblemen etc.  However, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed so maybe I wouldn’t have got confused if I were watching it.

The setting in old Scotland is miserable and dreary, as intended and all the castles and battles just add to the quite ferocious nature of the story – there is so much murder involved.  Shakespeare’s language was not actually too difficult for me, which I found quite surprising, as many people struggle with it and I know when I have been to see Shakespeare I sometimes lose the meaning whilst trying to understand the words, if you know what I mean.  This was no problem so that’s encouraging and means I will read more Shakespeare in the future.  I have just ordered a copy of Richard III because I am going to see it next year.  I am also going to see Two Gentlemen of Verona which should be great.

Overall I would recommend Macbeth as a good Shakespeare to start out with as it’s not too complex or long but is a great story nevertheless.  I would definitely go and see it in the theatre if it was on near me.  A secure 4/5 but I can’t I see myself reading it for a third time for quite a while.

Title: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest

Author: Stieg Larsson

Date Finished: 30/10/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely fantastic

What a brilliant re-read!  I last read this book in July 2010 and thought it was amazing.  I had read the whole trilogy in quick succession and decided I would re-read them 18 months ish later.  I did read book 1, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in December 2011 but I decided to space out the other two – I read The Girl Who Played With Fire in May 2012 and then this one in October.  I am already thinking about when I will next re-read them all…probably not till at least 18 months from now.

I will be quite surprised if you have not read at least the first book of this trilogy or maybe seen the film, as they have been so popular over the past few years.  This is for a good reason – they really are amazing.  The plot is stunning and kept me hooked despite it being a re-read.  Larsson really knows how to tell a gripping story and can think up so many twists and turns that you just never expect.  This book focuses on Lisbeth’s time in hospital and her trial and so isn’t as action packed as the first and second books.  However, this isn’t a problem as Larsson manages to achieve lots of action through other characters anyway.

The characterisation is completely unique.  Lisbeth Salander has to be one of the most unforgettable and interesting characters ever created, indeed on the cover of my copy, Boyd Tonkin writes ‘the most original heroine to have emerged in crime fiction for many years‘.  I totally agree.  Blomkvist can be a bit annoying and seems quite unrealistic, but all the other characters are brilliant.  Larsson takes time to give context and a backstory to every single character and it definitely works, as I remembered even minor characters from my first reading.

The Swedish setting is another plus for me – I love reading all the Swedish names and roads/districts etc.  It’s really interesting for me, as I have never been to Scandinavia but I do fancy the idea of living there in the future.  Larsson (or Reg Keeland, the translator) has amazing prose, especially for a crime novel – this genre sometimes lacks a good overall writing style and focuses on plot.  It is easy to read but still sophisticated.  Powering through the majority 746 page book in 2 weeks shows it must be easy to read.

Overall I cannot recommend this trilogy enough.  I know many of you have read it anyway, but if not just get a copy of the first book and give it a go!  Happy Reading  🙂

Title: Fermat’s Last Theorem

Author: Simon Singh

Date Finished: 21/10/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely brilliant

This is the first major science book I have read and I really enjoyed it.  Now that I’ve started my a-levels and have started to think about university, a broad knowledge of the subjects that interest me is becoming expected.  This means (for me) reading around maths and chemistry and this book is almost mandatory for anyone interested in maths to read.  Indeed, I read somewhere ‘you would stand out only by not reading this book’!

However, do not be fooled…you do not need any mathematical background to enjoy this book.  Obviously if maths is abhorrent to you, it may not be the best story to go for, but anyone who has basic levels of mathematics won’t struggle at all, as anything complex (such as elliptic curves or modular forms!) is either explained very clearly so ‘normal’ people can understand, available in an appendix at the end for ‘mathsy’ people (a-level ish standard) to have a look at, or just ignored completely, as we don’t need to be able to comprehend the mathematics to understand the story.

The length of the book was perfect – enough to be a decent read but nothing was laboured over and at the end I felt like I had a really solid overview of the history of Fermat’s Last Theorem and also of number theory in general.  There were interesting chapters on ancient mathematicians such as Pythagoras and some of the attempted proofs of the theorem that I had no idea about.  It is even more compelling to read because you know everything is true!

Singh’s prose is exemplary: he tells a brilliant story and makes complex mathematical concepts easy to understand.  He is very skilled.  It is often the case that authors may possess one of these two important traits and brilliant stories are ruined by confusing calculations or very well-explained concepts are immersed in an awfully dull story.  Singh manages to be the best of both worlds. I will be reading another of his books, Big Bang, soon and I have already ordered another, The Code Book.  If you are interested in some not-too-heavy sciencey-reading, then Simon Singh is definitely a really good place to start.

I don’t think I will re-read this book particularly soon, despite enjoying it so much as there is not the same ‘re-experience’ of characters and a deep plot that you get with a novel.  Next up for normal reading is Macbeth by Shakespeare and I think after that I might start my next science book, E=mc² by David Bodanis.  I have still got The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson on the go as well, and I am really enjoying that too.

It has been a very long time since I did a Friday Quick Wrap-Up but nevertheless here I am back to usual.  I am itching to get back to blogging and reading lots…just a shame about life always getting in the way!

Anyway, in terms of reading, I have been trying really hard this week – I am slowly but surely making my way through The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson which is brilliant and one of my favourite books.  However, I am only a third of the way through so I may not be finished that soon.  I am also reading Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh, my first (of many) science/maths books and absolutely loving it.  Singh explains everything very well whilst telling a good story along the way too.  But more about that when I finish it (hopefully soon) and write up my post.

In other news, school has been going as normal – lots of work and not much time!  But so far I am enjoying all my subjects, so that’s good.  Next week it is RAG week (Raising and Giving) where all the sixth form dress up all week and host all sorts of events etc to raise lots of money for charity.  I need to get my costumes sorted asap!

I hope you’re all well and not too depressed about the imminent onset of winter!

I’m Still Here!

Wow it has been over a month since I last posted here!  This is due to several things: firstly, September saw me start back at school and, obviously this took over my life.  I am now settled into sixth form and my a-level courses, but at the beginning the workload and stress really took it out of me and I didn’t have time to do anything except watch the occasional minute of TV in the evenings.  Secondly, I haven’t posted since then because I haven’t read anything!  I had nothing book-related to say really 😦

This is not completely true – I have been reading, I just haven’t finished anything.  I have been reading lots of science magazines to try and get a good overall knowledge (I will be applying to university this time next year and I cannot decide between Chemistry and Maths) so that’s taken up most of my reading time.  Recently I picked up The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest again and I am slowly making some progress in that.  Also, I am reading Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh which is a great read, even if you are not particularly mathematically inclined.  I guess I have to mention that I’ve been reading The Highway Code (snore) too because I have started my driving lessons.

I have been keeping up (mostly) with what you’ve all been up to, even if I haven’t commented or shown much interaction, and I was surprised when Jillian came to the conclusion that she wasn’t happy at her blog and moved on.  I just want to say thank you to Jillian for all the inspiration she gave out and wish her luck in whatever she does next.  She was the main reason I took the big step of setting up my own book blog!

Hopefully I will be returning to my blog soon as I will have a bit more reading time at the end of October and I feel quite refreshed after my break.  The lists and spreadsheets etc are calling to me!

Oh, by the way, Middlemarch really didn’t last long – I tried but just couldn’t get into it and then school started a few days later so that has been shelved for the time being…I hope to come back to it sometime when I have enough time to give it the dedication it requires.

See you soon and thanks for always being around even when I’m not!

Adam 🙂