Saturday, 30 May 2015

What happened when?

One of the things I want to do now that I am reading Agatha Christie's novels is to read a biography. But a quick visit to Wikipedia threw up some basic information:

She was born in Devon in 1890
She was 85 by the time she died in 1976
In her lifetime she wrote 66 detective novels 
During the First World War she worked in a hospital
In 1926 she mysteriously disappeared for 10 days and no one really knows where she was during that time.
As well as detective novels she also wrote 14 collections of short stories and 6 romances.

I feel she provided the world with a lot of reading and some good reading too as she has sold in the region of 2 billion copies of her novels. They must be good. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015


I'm reading The Murder at the Vicarage, which is my first experience of Agatha Christie. Well first experience of reading Christie. I grew up watching David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple so I know the dramatised versions of the stories. I have to say that Poirot and Marple were my favourite detectives, although Sherlock Holmes wasn't far behind. I once spent a summer reading all the Sherlock Holmes stories and it was a happy summer.

Reading a story with Miss Marple in it I have found that Miss Marple is not how I imagined her to be. For a start she hasn't been in they story as much as I thought she would be. And although I suspect that this could be a ploy, she doesn't seem to be completely accurate with her observations. But I've only read about 100 pages so my opinion on that could completely change. 

The Murder at the Vicarage was one of my favourites to watch, mainly because Miss Marple seemed to spend so much time in her garden on sunny days. Which I thought was a rather nice way to spend time. Although, I know that because this is Britain those sunny days would have been few and far between.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

What do you do with a song?

On of the features of The Jungle Books is that interspersed between the stories are poems and songs that relate to the stories. But my question is, what do you do when you find a song in the story that you are reading? I'm not talking just about The Jungle Books because there are other books out there that have songs in them.

What do you think about them?

I have to admit that I quite often get confused by them. My problem is that I don't know how they are meant to sound. Not being a huge fan of poetry I find them hard going, and kind of an interruption into the flow of the story. Although I don't like them, I do want to like them and so I don't just skip them when I come across them. It might take me longer to read the book but I hope that one day I will enjoy the poetry side of it. 

What do you do when confronted with a song or poem in a book? Do you skip it and carry on with the story without it or do you persevere and read them. Or do you love them and wish that there were more books with songs and poetry? What do you do with them?

Let me know what you think. I'd like to know what you do when two genres sort of collide like this. Or if you have any tips for how I might enjoy them more I'd like to hear them.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

No Pies with Kipling

The name Kipling makes me instantly think of Kipling Pies. I know very little about Rudyard Kipling or his work. I have recently read Captains Courageous and I liked it. So much so that I've picked up The Jungle Books. 

Still I want to know more about Kipling, so Wikipedia told me:

He was born in Bombay in 1865
He died in London in 1936 
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature - the first English language writer to receive it
On more than one occasion he declined a knighthood

It doesn't give me a lot and I can see that soon I will be tracking down a biography. I like that he was from India, and it partly explains why the Jungle Books are so believable. What I've found in the book so far is that his stories carry a lot of flavour and I'm looking forward to seeing another culture through his eyes. 

Another little fact I found out about Kipling, this time from the front of the book I'm reading, is that Kipling was at one time a journalist. Seems that I have accidentally found another book written by an author who has experience as a journalist. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Jungle Books

It has to be said that one of the things that convinced me to buy this book was the cover. It has a big picture of the face of a tiger. I can also say that what nearly put me off buying this book were my memories of the Disney version. I cannot tell you how much I hate that version. Annoyingly when I told EG that I was reading The Jungle Books she started singing the songs from Disney.

But I'm now 116 pages in and if life didn't get in the way I wouldn't have ever put it down. 

The title gives it away that there is more than one book in this book, there are in fact two. What I didn't realise when I started was that it was a selection of short stories. In fact I was three stories in before I realised that this was the case. Sometimes I feel I would help myself if I didn't just pick up a book and start reading it without reading the blurb or just anything that would give me an idea of what was inside the book. 

Anyway I'm merrily reading away about Mowgli and his adventures in the jungle with Baloo and friends, I love Kaa by the way, he is my favourite if not a little sinister, thinking that this is what the entire book will be about, when all of a sudden I find I'm reading a story completely unreleated to the previous three. If I hadn't been on a train I might have made my feelings verbal but I didn't want to draw unwanted attention to myself. Having discovered I was reading short stories I adapted to what I was reading, and I still like it so it's ok. But it was a shock.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Eyewitness

The first couple of chapters of The Case for Christ are made up of an interview with Dr Craig Blomberg. Together they look at the evidence of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus. I had no idea who Dr Craig Blomberg was so I had a sneaky look on Wikipedia to find out. Then I found out that if you read the chapter before wandering off to do your own research you would find out quicker because Strobel actually tells you who he is.

Anyway when Strobel wrote this Dr Craig Blomberg was professer of New Testament at Denver Seminary. He also has a doctorate in New Testament from Aberdeen University, so someone who knows their stuff

Some of the evidence in this chapter wasn't new to me, but all the same it was an interesting read. If you've ever wondered how reliable the accounts of Jesus in the New Testament are this is the chapter to read. Strobel doesn't shy away from any of the tough questions. He raises issues such as perceived contradictions, and the distance between the events that happened and when they were written about. 

What I've found so far in this book is that the experts don't try and make the evidence prove things that it cannot prove. They accept its limitations and show what it does help to prove. Strobel also asks them how the research and studying has affected their personal faith, their answers to that question were brilliant, but you have to read the book to find out what they were.

Monday, 18 May 2015

What's evidence got to do with it?

Different people have different ideas about what faith is. Some see it as weak thing that isn't based on reality, but for Christians if what we believe isn't grounded in reality then we are wasting our lives. The Bible says that if Jesus and His resurrection isn't for real then we are to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19) So there is something to be said for having proof for what we believe in.

This is why I think Lee Strobel is a smart guy. He went after the evidence to see if what is wife believed in was real and if it was something he should believe too. There are stories about how different kinds of evidence can affect a case, scattered throughout the book. Apart from being interesting, Strobel covered some dramatic cases, they show that the man who wrote this book knew the value of evidence and knew how to get to the heart of an issue. 

So Strobel is smart. Because he didn't jump blindly into something without checking it out first. Both sides have had to prove their case and I think invesigating what people say about Jesus is worth the effort. What if you accept what someone says about Jesus as true and it turns out to be wrong? Given the claims that Jesus made about Himself, that could be a dangerous thing to do if He was telling the truth. 

I'm not saying that you necessarily should read this book, but I am saying that looking into the claims of Christianity is something you should do. Read the Bible for yourself before you form an opinion on it, you might think it's not true but at least you can have an informed opinion. My question is, what have you got to lose? 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus

That's the tag line for The Christ for Christ by Lee Strobel. This isn't a new book, my edition is from 1998, which I'm guessing is when it was published, but I've never read it before even though I've heard a lot about it. It's not my first encounter with Lee Strobel, I've read another of his books and I found it rather hard going.

Anyway before I tell you anymore about this book that I'm reading (196 pages in - very pleased with that in just over a week) here are some things about Lee Strobel that I found out from that most reliable of sources Wikipedia:
He was born in 1952
Has a Journalism degree from the University of Missori 
Has a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale
Was a journalist for The Chicago Tribune 
Has 14 years experience as a journalist

The blurb of The Case for Christ explains that Strobel wrote the book to explore his journey from atheism to following Christ. Part of that journey was to visit 13 experts and interview each of them about their area of expertise and what light they can shed on the evidence for Jesus. Each chapter follows the interviews and the evidence that is put forward.

There are three parts to the book: 
Examining the Record
Analysing Jesus
Researching the Resurrection

So far it's made interesting reading. Will keep you posted.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

What I've Been Watching

To round off the awful adventure that was reading Les Mis I decided that I would give watching it another go. And this time maybe I wouldn't fall asleep. It didn't work though - I still don't like it. In fairness when I watched it I was full of a cold and maybe watching a musical - a genre I am not a great fan of was not the best way to make me feel better. But still I have watched it and I feel that I can say that I gave the story a fair trial. I still don't like it.

Friday, 8 May 2015

What's on the Shelf?

Racing Through the Dark - The Fall and Rise of David Millar

A Life's Ambition - Alexandre Dumas

The Journal of Madame Giovanni - Alexandre Dumas

The Prince of Thieves - Alexandre Dumas

Le Tour - Geoffrey Wheatcroft

On Looking - Alexandra Horowitz

Time Warped - Claudia Hammond

The Neapolitan Lovers - Alexandre Dumas

How to find Fulfilling Work - Roman Krznaric

Intuition Pumps and Other Thinking Tools - Daniel C. Dennett

Mastermind - Maria Konnikova

How Children Succeed - Paul Tough

Thinking - edited by John Brockman

Manage Your Day-to Day - edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

Give and Take - Adam Grant

The Examined Life - Stephen Grosz

The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

The Jungle Books - Rudyard Kipling

The Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie

Criminal Stitching

So while the literary crime wave continues on the shelf I have been merrily stitching away at my projects. You can see how I have progressed below. But I have also been enjoying my reading. I'm discovering that Lee Strobel was worth giving another chance and The Case for Christ has caught my interest. The Jungle Books have so far been brilliant, possibly competing to be my favourite stories and certainly better than Disney's version. I want to give The Murder at the Vicarage more of a chance before I give my opinion as I feel it could go either way.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sofa Shelf - A Jungle Case

It's been a while since I have entered three books onto the shelf in one week but here they are:

The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

I have reservations as I've read Stobel before and found it hard going, but maybe this will be different. There's only one way to find out!

The Jungle Books - Rudyard Kipling

Given how much I enjoyed Captains Courageous I'm looking forward to reading these short stories. My one fear is that I didn't like Disney's version so let's hope the book is better.

The Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie 

Because I've always wanted to read Agatha Christie and I have aquired a taste for crime fiction ever since The Cuckoo's Calling. Hope it doesn't disappoint. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Sofa Spotlight - In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

I finished it in a coffee shop in Hastings with a milkshake. A pleasent way to finish a book on an unpleasent subject. As this was my second reading I knew what to expect but somehow I appreciated the writing more this time round. If one thing disappointed me it was the knowledge that Capote didn't always stick to exactly what happened and embellished a few things. But it was still worth the read.

The story follows the investigation of the murder of the Clutter family in 1950s America.  Both the culprits are caught and subsequently executed. What makes the book more chilling is how human both the killers are. In some ways they are almost likeable - maybe not Hickock, but certainly Perry Smith. Something that got me thinking was the  part of the book that looks at the psychology of the crime and the mental state of the perpetrators. I'm not sure where I stand on the subject, but I do like that one of those present at the trial states that the killers were not the only people with sob stories but not everyone goes onto commit crime. Fair point.

It's a gripping read and thought provoking too. Just don't read last thing at night.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Book of the Month - April '15

It's not really a contest if I've only read one book this month, but I think it is a worthy winner all the same. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling was a good gentle read to ease me back into reading classics after the mammoth effort to read Les Mis - a book I am truly glad to see the back of.

I didn't imagine that I would find Captains Courageous too inspiring, but I was pleasently surprised. Apart from not being drawn to books about fishing, or those that use a significant amount of dialect in the dialogue, there wasn't much that attracted me to it. What I did like was the size - 127 pages is an easy accomplishment and the storyline was well paced.

If you are after something with intrigue and tension then this might not be the book for you. It does have its dramatic moments, but you know pretty much from the start how the story is going to pan out in the end. But sometimes I like the security of knowing that it is going to be a happy ending.

I also discovered they made a film of it in 1937, might give it a go!