Wednesday, 27 December 2017

On the 3rd day of Christmas...

... this blogger gave to thee...
... three books for reading...
... two felted tooties...
... and a day Binging with Babish.

I am not a big reader. I never have been. My sisters, my mum, my grandparents, they are all big readers, they always have been, and little sister is particularly voracious, her bedroom is more book than anything else these days. They like to read about all sorts, they like to talk about what they’ve read (in this situation I sit in the corner and feel dumb) and they genuinely love reading.

But not me. I knit, I sew, I draw, I do crafts in my spare time because that’s what I enjoy, that’s what I find relaxing… that and TV, but you get frowned at if you admit you enjoy watching television more than reading books, even if I can be knitting, sewing, drawing etc in front of the TV quite happily without being distracted or overly entranced by the ‘idiot box’ for hours. Truth is more recently I’ve been sitting up at night, until two or three in the morning drawing on my iPad rather than sleeping, because I find it more distracting and hard to put down until there’s a definitive end point. This is the same problem I have with reading, I like a definitive end point, I like to finish a chapter before I put the book down and though I am dyslexic, which doesn’t help, I don’t find reading relaxing, I find it stressful… I’ll be lucky to have finished three books this year, and half the time I listen to them on tape through Audible, which I find infinitely more pleasurable.

So, why am I choosing to suggest three books for you this Christmas time? One, I actually have three books to share this year, two each of which have been adapted for film and television relatively recently and one is currently in production and, they’re three books I’ve really enjoyed reading and listening too via Audible.

I’m going to start with the oldest offering, mostly because that makes sense but also because it’s a book I have been being told I should read for years, it’s a book which is not only one of my mums’ favourites, but one of my big sisters… and my little sisters… and I think my uncles. Generally anything by this author is beloved by the members of my family and now it is by me.

Now, I promise to try and not give away the plots or spoil anyone and hopefully, if you’ve not read the books, you may give them a try and if you’ve not seen the film/series, you might give it a go too…

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Joe McLaren Illustrated Edition)

Good Omens is a collaborative novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the birth of the Antichrist and the coming of the End Days. With the four horsemen on their way to a small Oxfordshire village, to aid this child Anti-Christ named Adam in the apocalypse, Adam must choose between Good and Evil… without really realising he has too. All of this because of a cock up at the hospital he was born in.

A cock up which has gone unnoticed for eleven years by Heaven and Hell’s representatives (and friends) on Earth, the Angel Aziraphale and Demon Crowley, who have been supposedly keeping an eye on the young anti-christ and who have both become a little too accustomed to the trappings and comforts of humanity. So accustomed that they don’t actually want the apocalypse to happen, which would enable them to go home and therefore decide to try and postpone the end of the world. All of which has been prophesied by Agnes Nutter, a 17th century witch and author of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, a cryptic, unspectacular and yet always accurate collection of prophecies. Burnt at the stake, Agnes’s copy of the book has now made it down the family tree to her great, great, great, great… granddaughter, Anathema Device, who as the world begins to go to hell, teams up with Newton Pulsifer, one of the last remaining members of the Witchfinders Army and begins to decipher it as they head to Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire, where everyone is now congregating in an attempt to sway Adam in one direction, or the other.

Good or evil, and whether or not to orchestrate the apocalypse in the hands of an eleven year old boy, who really just wants to play with his friends.

Initially I listened to this as the BBC’s 2014 radio adaptation of the novel staring Mark Heap and Peter Serafinowicz, it took me an afternoon of moving furniture to listen to the six episodes and I was sold on the story. I’ve avoided Terry Pratchett for years, despite my family’s love for him and assurance I’d love his writing, simply because of one thing… chapters. His books don’t have chapters and I, as someone who struggles with reading for enjoyment, relies on Chapters to a) locate where exactly I stopped on a page and b) to actually make me stop reading! I hate stopping mid page because I can never find my way back and I use chapters as goals to spur me on while I’m reading. Not a great reason to not read books but the reason never the less.

That said, I read the physical book after that, which luckily has chapters. Sometimes I find after listening to a book on tape or seeing a film, I have the key players, voices and plot sorted out enough in my head that reading the book physically is easier. Good Omen’s didn’t disappoint… which is why I’m scared about the Amazon Prime Video six part adaptation by Gaiman staring Michael Sheen, David Tennant and Jack Whitehall which we will probably be seeing in 2019. I really like all three of these actors, Michael Sheen (Aziraphale) and David Tennant (Crowley) are very talented, they’re great actors and generally I enjoy their films and TV shows, but I saw the stills of them in their costumes and it’s not how I imagined them, but I’m also scared of them overacting, which both can do. Then there’s Jack Whitehall who makes me laugh harder than a lot of other comedians do these days, and while my big sister is totally against this casting, I’m actually okay with him as Pulsifer. But only time will tell on whether the TV adaptation will be good and I will have to keep myself open to it as more images and accounts appear, for another two year!!

The Martian by Andy Weir (Dorian Danielsen Concept Design)

In 2035, the crew of the NASA Ares 3 Mission to Mars must do an emergency evacuation from the surface of the red planet, due to a dust storm which threatens to topple their launch vehicle and strand them on Mars. Mark Watney, the crews botanist and engineer is impaled by and antenna, which is torn from the vehicle, blown far from the rest of the crew by the increasing winds and believed dead when the readings from his life monitor stop working. The crew are ordered by Commander Lewis to launch and abandon their fellow crew member.

Watney, however is not dead, he’s injured, his life support monitor broken and was left unconscious whilst the rest of the crew launched amidst the dust storm. They had no reason to believe he was alive, they did exactly as they should do in such a dire situation, but now he’s stranded on Mars, with shelter, in the for of the Hab (Habitat) which survived the dust storm, but with food rations running low and no means of communication with NASA or the crew to alert them to his existence. Now all he has to do is survive the four years it will be until the next mission to Mars, Ares 4 lands, make his way to the landing site, make contact with NASA and become the first person to farm on Mars. Luckily, when it comes to food at least, he’s the crew’s Botanist.

Okay, not the best synopsis, I’m not good at writing synopsis-es, but I really enjoyed this book, which I listened to on Audible after watching the 2015 Ridley Scott adaptation, eponymously named, The Martian, which stared Matt Damon as Watney. And I think I can say that this was a really well done and faithful adaptation of the book. They removed some of the science from it but in 141 minute long film, there is need for some brevity and given Damon’s conversational interaction for the most part in the film, is through vlog style running conversation with the Hab’s cameras, there’s only so much internal monologue he could deliver and it still seem natural.

This film has become one of my recent favourites, and pretty much all of the main cast, including Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, Kristen Wigg, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara… are actor who I really enjoy watching. It is a great cast for a quietly dramatic movie. There is one moment with Donald Glover, an outtake which they left in the main cut of the film, which I find particularly enjoyable and adds life to that character.

Definitely worth watching, reading or listening too.

Also, I love this cover design by Dorian Danielsen, it's almost impossible to find a copy of this book without the associated film cover, which I hate, so if Danielsen's cover ever becomes a reality, this one I shall purchase.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Folio Society Edition)

Gods and mythological beings exist. This seems appropriate at Christmas and much like St. Nick, they exist because people believe in them. Immigrants, both self-seeding and enslaved, brought their gods and deities on the boats with them to the United States. And though our belief in some of them has waned over the years, some new Gods have appeared to reflect societies current beliefs, they still exist.

This is a world that Shadow Moon, is being thrown back into after being released from prison early following the sudden death of his wife, Laura, in a car accident. Grieving, Shadow takes a job as a bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, a mysterious con man who knows more about Shadow than he will admit, but wants him to travel across America, accompanying him as he visits colleges and acquaintances, recruiting for a battle between the old Gods and the new, including Mad Sweeney, a leprechaun, who inadvertent helps Shadow resurrect Laura…

A resurrection… I think we’re a few months too early for that, depending on which of the old gods you believe in, but Easter’s there too, as an old God who’s meaning has been somewhat changed over the years.

We’re starting and ending with Neil Gaiman, because this is the book I’m currently listening too and enjoying, but I have already watched the Amazon Prime TV series, which is why decided to listen to the book.  The series, staring Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Gillian Anderson, Emily Browning, Orlando Jones, Pablo Schreiber and Kristin Chenoweth, was good, it was really enjoyable and Bryan Fuller makes some of the most beautiful (and generally short lived) series on television…  there is something that man does when he films slow motion rain that is just phenomenal to look at. It is a beautiful looking show, which makes his departure for season two even sadder.

If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman or Bryan Fuller I would give both the book and the series a chance, I’m not that far through the audio book, but I’m going to try and get it finished before the end of the year.

Just so you know, I’m not by any way shape of from advertising for Audible, I know they sponsor a lot of people online to rave about them, but like they’d ever, ever ask me! I’m just a genuine user, though admittedly I have been cheeky and listening to books through my sisters account, but if she’s reading the same books I’m wanting to read (listen too) then what is the difference between that and sharing book? The nice thing about doing this for me, is I get to enjoy the books my family love in a manner that doesn’t make my eyes go funny or head explode into a migraine.

Would I recommend it? Yeah, because I’ve liked books on tape* since I was a kid and we used to put them on to help my sisters and I get to sleep when we all shared a bedroom. They’re comforting and accurate and unless you get a truly appalling reader with an incredibly irritating voice, they’re enjoyable. I can listen to them in the car, in bed, while I’m working or doing chores and while I still feel like people may see this as a cop out, this is still the book, verbatim and unabridged so long as you choose wisely. It’s not the same as claiming you read the book when you just watched the movie.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you read physical books or listen to audio books, a book is a book, enjoy it in the format you find the easiest and most enjoyable and never let anyone make you feel like you’re not smart or that you’re lazy just because you don’t constantly nose pressed within the pages of a book. Lots doesn’t always equate to good and good doesn’t always equate to intelligence. Read what you want, as much as you want and how you want, lowbrow, highbrow, chick lit, Y.A., fan fic, fantasy or classic, reading should be for enjoyment as well as education.
Audio books are just a horse of a different colour.

* I still occasionally buy books on tape, including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo… this was a mistake, I couldn’t follow it any better on tape than on the page, I kept losing where I was, couldn’t grasp the names. I know this is a good book, but as hard a listen as it is a read.

Merry Christmas! Part four tomorrow…

Link || Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman | Audible
Link || Good Omens BBC Radio 4 Adaptation via BBC Radio 4 | Audible
Link || Good Omens (2019) via IMDb
Link || Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman Cover Design by Joe McLaren via Waterstones
Link || Joe McLaren Illustrations
Link || The Martian by Andy Weir | Audible
Link || The Martian (2015) via IMDb 
Link || The Martian by Andy Weir Cover Design by Dorian Danielsen (Danielsen Book Covers)
Link || American Gods by Neil Gaiman | Audible
Link || American Gods (2017) via IMDb
Link || American Gods by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Dave McKean from The Folio Society
Link || Audible

Listening: Wonderful Christmastime - The Shins

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