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Jumping the Shark

20 October, 2013 at 10:17 pm by belgianwaffle

I emailed herself a link to an article about Malala Yousafzai. She emailed back, type “what does the fox say” into google. It took me a couple of moments to work this out but let me spare you that mental effort: this has nothing to do with the girl from Pakistan. It leads to a youtube cult Norwegian video. Finally, I know what the young people are looking at, although the fact that I know this means that pop culture has moved on.

This is the first time I have written the expression “jumping the shark”. I see it’s been around since 1977. I guess it’s jumped the shark.

The Rake’s Progress

18 August, 2013 at 10:04 pm by belgianwaffle

On July 11, I saw this post about candy crush. Normally, that kind of thing wouldn’t be for me but I was on holidays with the children and I had time and I thought, why not? Why not? I will tell you why not. That wretched game has taken over my summer; I’ve hardly read a book. The only saving grace is that I refuse to pay money to buy more lives so I have to stop occasionally. Otherwise I would never stop. And I understand that there are 395 levels with more added all the time. I am doomed.


2 August, 2013 at 5:08 pm by belgianwaffle

Privileged Lives, a social history of middle-class Ireland 1882-1989” by Tony Farmar

I enjoyed this very much although it’s more of a book to dip into than read straight through. It tries to give an overview of middle class lives in various years: 1882;1907;1932;1963 and 1989. I kept poking my husband and reading him out interesting bits. It is full of detail and incident entertainingly retold but the focus is almost entirely Dublin and it fails to give a larger picture of what is happening in the country. That limitation aside, there were parts of this book that were really entertaining. In ways, the format worked well, giving a sweeping view of what was happening at various points but it didn’t really allow for a narrative so you did feel as though you were jumping about with no over-arching theme (other than lives of the middle classes and that is a bit too broad to do the trick). Still, well worth a read.

TJ and the Hat Trick” by Theo Walcott with Paul May

Daniel was so entranced by this that I had to try reading it. Herself was quite sarky saying “With Paul May what, if anything, did Theo Walcott add?” But, you know, ghostwritten or no, I thought it was a grand little story for the seven year old football lover in your life. Maybe not so engaging for the 44 year old mother of three but it’s a big ask to engage both. Although, Dan is really enjoying “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” so it is possible to appeal across a wide spectrum of ages.

Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

When I reserved this in the library, they said that I was 28th on the list. When I eventually got it, I was bitterly disappointed. It’s a detective story about a guy whose wife disappears. It’s dull. It’s a bit like “Rebecca” without any of the atmosphere or clever parts. Alas.

Death of a Gossip” by MC Beaton

Last time I read one of these, I swore I would never bother with another but I picked this up in my parents’ house as I needed something very undemanding. It worked. It is very undemanding. It’s the story of a local policeman in a small Scottish town where the murder rate is through the roof [one per book]. I am sure that people from the Highlands actually feel faintly ill when they read these books. However, they are written to a formula and we all know what we are getting into before we start and, in that way, they are rather calming. I might try another.

The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable” by Terry Pratchett, Paul Kidby (Illustrator)

Yes, I am now reading picture books, your point? Actually, I found the pictures a bit distracting; they didn’t do it for me. And neither, regrettably, did the book. I am a big Terry Pratchett fan but this is not one of his happier works. Even if does have pictures.

High Rising” by Angela Thirkell

These is a social comedy written and set in the 1930s. I found it great fun – nicely written and gently amusing. Did I welcome the fact that the character known as “the incubus” was Irish and had a mother stashed away in County Cork? Not entirely perhaps but I rose above it. She reminds me a bit of Stella Gibbons and Barbara Pym but not as sharp as either; a much more restful read though. Delighted to see that there are 28 of these books in the series (this is book 1). I intend to read them all. How wonderful to find a new writer to enjoy and see that she has a hefty back catalogue.

Wild Strawberries” by Angela Thirkell

Not as good as the first one, I fear, but still very funny in parts. The characters are, I think less good, except for the saintly Lady Emily who is hilarious. Still looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo

Found this on one of the children’s bookshelves and decided to give it a go. It’s about a horse that takes part in the first world war told from the horse’s perspective. It’s a bit sentimental; at least one tear for every chapter. I think that you really need to be a child – or possibly a film director – to appreciate it.

Sign of the Times

18 July, 2013 at 11:24 pm by belgianwaffle

Mr. Waffle is reading Trollope. He was working his way through some 1980s edition of “Framley Parsonage” with learned notes by a professor of literature from somewhere distinguished. A note referred to a line quoted in the text stating “I have not been able to find the source of this quotation”. Total time taken by Mr. Waffle to find the source of the quotation on the internet: 30 seconds. We’re all experts now.

Not Topical

21 May, 2013 at 10:08 pm by belgianwaffle

A colleague was telling me the other day how she got stuck in New York with the ash cloud a couple of years ago. As she arrived into her hotel there, she asked whether they had WiFi and all the other things she might need. “Ma’am,” said the receptionist, “there’s a man running Norway from the top floor.” It appears that the Norwegian prime minister and his officials were stranded there also. That is all.


20 May, 2013 at 9:30 pm by belgianwaffle

An Infamous Army” by Georgette Heyer

I don’t know why I read this, I know when Georgette Heyer does history it’s dire. This was dire but if you want a blow by blow account of the Battle of Waterloo and a very annoying heroine, this is the book for you.

Letters to a Young Mathematician” by Ian Stewart

This was foisted on me by a colleague who loves maths and I found it very interesting although the tone is a bit patronising (but the maths examples baffling in places) – it’s written as career advice to a young mathematician so, to be fair, I’m not exactly the target audience. I was particularly pleased to have an explanation of axioms, never having been satisfied with the one my maths teacher gave me at 15: “It’s something that is so obvious it has to be true”. This is both insulting and unhelpful and I’ve been resentful ever since. Until now, anyhow, thank you, Mr. Stewart, for helping me to let go.

Isn’t It Well For Ye?: The Book of Irish Mammies” by Colm O’Regan

Somebody was bound to give me this at some point. It’s mildly funny. I can sort of identify with the Irish Mammy but at least I’ve never taken the Sunday Independent.

Six at the Table” by Sheila Maher

I really enjoyed this. It is an account of a girl growing up in Dublin in the 70s told through her love of food. Although each individual chapter is slight the cumulative effect is quite appealing. Herself read it also and enjoyed it. I recommended it to my book club but too many of them knew the author or her husband [welcome to Ireland, we're a small country] and couldn’t face it. One of the chapters had been read out on Sunday Miscellany on the radio and two of our number had heard it and pronounced it dull. I argued hard that it did the book an injustice to take a chapter alone but in vain. If you grew up in Ireland in the 1970s you might like this. Go on, give it a go.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson

This is Forrest Gump for Swedes. The hero experienced all the great events of the 20th century and met all the most important people. It’s all written in a rather whimsical tone. I loathed it but I am in a minority.

“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua

This is about a very ambitious mother and her very bright daughters and the contrast between the Western and Chinese ways of doing things. I found it very entertaining. As did the Princess and Mr. Waffle. Recommended all round.

Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier

I’m almost positive I have read this before. I don’t remember being so very annoyed by the narrator in the past though. Nor do I remember thinking that Maxim was a bit of a creep and that, all in all, Rebecca may have been the best of the bunch. Mrs. Danvers was a looper alright though. That remained consistent. Still, despite all the caveats, a great story. The best part for me are the beautiful descriptions of the house and surrounding countryside which, if I had read it before, made no impression on me then.

Life after Life” by Kate Atkinson

I have read all of Kate Atkinson’s books and I think that she is a terrific writer. That said, this got off to a slow start. It’s about getting a chance to live your life again and again and doing things differently to make it better next time. It’s a clever premise and it’s very well done. While this is still a very good book, it’s my least favourite of her books after “Not the End of the World” [short stories] and “Emotionally Weird”.

Ghosts and Gadgets” by Marcus Sedgwick

This is part of my ongoing efforts to find out what my children are reading. This is about the Otherhand Family who live in Castle Otherhand and are very odd. I found it spectacularly dull but it appeals to the children in my life. I quite liked the illustrations but that was by far the best thing about it for my money.

Unsafe System of Work

6 April, 2013 at 11:03 pm by belgianwaffle

Have you ever filled a hot water bottle with boiling water while reading a book (which you are holding in one hand) and holding the bottle against the work surface with your mid-riff? I advise strongly against.

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