thank you Helen for drawing this

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Welcome to Ali's blog. A blog that has absolutely nothing to do with juggling monkeys. It doesn't really have anything to do with much, just me rambling on about random things.

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Friday, January 10, 2003
You know, I had this really interesting dream last night, I woke up from it at about 3am and thought it was really funny and weird and would maybe make an entertaining story. I decided to remember it and share it with people through the medium of blogging. So? What was it? Well, I can't remember can I? I went back to sleep, I had 2 more dreams that were pretty vivid, I remember one of them, but it wasn't very good, so I won't bother sharing that. I should have known that I wouldn't remember the dream, but I was convinced, 'cos it was so clear in my head, that I'd be able to remember it and didn't need to go and find paper or anything. Maybe it wasn't very good anyway, maybe I just thought it was good in the middle of the night, or maybe I was still asleep when I thought it was good. I don't know. It's not a very exciting story now is it? It's kind of a let down, ahh well.

I reckon that I have quite a lot of interesting thoughts in the night that I subsequently forget, maybe I should keep paper by the bed, but then I'd have to turn the light on and that would really wake me up, which is always annoying. I wonder what it is about the half awake brain that means that you seem to come up with good plot ideas, or maybe it is just that they seem really good at the time, because you're half asleep, and if you did actually remember them they'd be rubbish. I don't know. I do know that at one point I did write my dreams down and they proved quite entertaining to Helen, there was one where I dreamt I was Teal'c and I was rollerblading around my old school. Maybe it's only entertaining because you have a laugh at how strange my subconscious mind is. Going now, 'cos I can't think of anything interesting to say and I'm bored.

Sunday, January 05, 2003
Well, I haven't been updating my blog very often and there's really not much text here, so just in case anyone particularly wanted a lot of text to wade through, I thought I'd give them some. This has nothing to do with the New Year really, yes it's a new year sinc I last blogged. If anyone cares I went to a chap party at a friend's house, we played Absolute Balderdash, ate food, wore chaplike clothes. Saw in the new year with champagne and singing, I quite liked that, we started the new year singing worship songs. Anyway, what I'm now going to bombard you with is a load of book reviews, hopefully this won't make the thing crash. Basically, since Jan 2002 I have been keeping a notebook of all the books I read, I thought I'd type up shortened versions of my reviews of them, I've started with the most recent book I read and then we go back in time through the books I've read this year back to the one I started at the beginning of January, date is date finished reading:

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (J.R.R. Tolkein) Monday 30th December 2002

A book which improves every time you read it. Reading it having just watched the DVD also reminds me how much better the book is than the film and just how much they had to miss out of the film. It's a very well written book, with such well thought out characters and plot, it deserves the label of a classic.

The Princess Bride (William Goldman) Saturday 21st December 2002

Very good book, I didn't like it as much as the film, but it came first, so I can't complain. It's interesting the way it contains 2 stories, the story of the Princess Bride and the story of the narrator. I quite like the use of the intrusive narrator, but I prefer the way it was done in the film rather than this kind of dysfunctional character.

Sex & Drugs and Sausage Rolls (Robert Rankin) Friday 20th December 2002

Wasn't that impressed with this book, it's quite funny, but I didn't really relate to the characters that well, I'm not really a fan of Rankin based on the few books I've read so far, I don't find him that funny.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K Dick) Tuesday 10th December 2002

Very odd book. Very different from the film (Blade Runner). It's good, but I felt that I wanted more, more detail or something. I don't know.

Night Watch (Terry Pratchett) Saturday 7th December 2002

I loved this novel, which is good 'cos I hadn't been enjoying the latest Pratchett novels. This one was different from a lot of Discworld novels in that what I really liked about it was the plot. It had a lot of action and elements of other genres. You probably have to be a fan of the Discworld novels to appreciate the book, but if you're a fan you might like this opportunity to see the evolution of many of the core characters as Vimes travels back in time and meets younger versions of many Ankh Morpork residents.

Out Of The Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis) Thursday 5th December 2002

A great Sci-fi book. I think what is so good about this book is the writing, the actual plot isn't necessarily that interesting, if I tell you what happens you wouldn't see anything special, but the way Lewis writes really draws you into the story.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell) Saturday 30th November 2002

I found this book to be quite similar to Huxley's "Brave New World" in its negative look at the future. Though I think I preferred "Brave New World". I found many interesting points in the book, the characters were good, the portrayal of such a bleak future seemed a little extreme, but I guess Orwell needed to do that to make his political points.

Are You Dave Gorman? (Dave Gorman & Danny Wallace)Wednesday 27th November 2002

Very funny true story in which as the result of a bet, two flatmates (the authors) try to find as many people called Dave Gorman as possible. The way the book is written is that each of the two writes in a different font, the Point of View the story is being told from switches from paragraph to paragraph, which is great, 'cos you read a really enthusiastic paragraph followed by one that's heaving with cynicism. The lack of organisation of the pair of them makes the story even funnier, in one case they get all the way to France to try to find a Dave Gorman, only to discover that he's in England.

Animal Farm (George Orwell)Friday 22nd November 2002

Definitely a political novel, but thankfully very short. The book tells of the animals in a farm who overthrow the farmers, only to gradually be oppressed by their own animal leaders, who become more and more like the farmers they replaced, twisting the ideals that they'd originally set up. It's very well written and quite a ood read, though the characters lack depth, but that's because it's more about the situation than the characters and in the short length not much more could really be done.

Round Ireland With a Fridge (Tony Hawks)Monday 4th November 2002

The true story of a drunken bet which results in Tony Hawks trying to hitch-hike around Ireland with a fridge. I was slightly disappointed in the task actually performed, since he got a lot of media coverage, so that a lot of people stopped to offer lifts because they'd heard of him. However, he did seem to get some lifts from people who hadn't heard about him and the task was still funny. It was quite amusing, but I didn't find the book particularly hysterical, the premise was good, but I think the writing could have been better and the actual goings on weren't that entertaining in the end.

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)Friday 18th October 2002

This is a children's book, but I took a week to read it, that can't be good. Basically I found reading Grudem's "Bible Doctrine" taking precedence, which is good spiritually, but possibly came about because I didn't find this book very interesting. It's all right, but it seems a little contrived. It seems quite focussed on getting kids to learn and has pretty lame play on words. The tasks for the character were never particularly tasking, seeming instead to rely on the play on words, maybe it's funnier for kids who are just getting into the double meaning of words and stuff like that.

I Am The Cheese (Robert Cormie) Friday 11th October 2002

Well, I would say that I read this book, except that that's a slight exaggeration. I read much of the book. I would have read the whole book, but when I got to page 154 I found that p92 followed it, in fact a repeat of that whole section followed. I guess I didn't miss much, just p154 to 187, but it was enough to leave me quite confused. What I did read of the book was quite confusing anyway, it seems that the boy is trying to remember that in his past he'd discovered that he wasn't who he thought he was and was in the witness relocation program. In the end you find that his parents are dead and he is not cycling to visit his Dad as he thinks at first, but that he is cycling round the grounds of a hospital. I can't help get the feeling that something in the 33 pages that I missed might have explained something. It's okay the book, but I'm left with many confusing unanswered questions.

Man And Boy (Tony Parsons) Thursday 10th October 2002

A modern day tale of family breakdown told from the man's perspective. I thought the book was all right, the ending surprised me, it was a lot better than I thought as not the stereotypical predicted ending, not the ending you thought you wanted either, but it was good and I think the best ending. I didn't find myself loving the book though. It was quite funny, but I just wasn't that into it.

Down Under (Bill Bryson) Wednesday 9th October 2002

I really enjoyed this book, I think it was one of the best Bryson boks that I've read. The only thing that I don't like about Bryson is how much he swears in his books, but I guess that's his nature. I found out quite a lot about Australia through reading this book and found it all really interesting. Bryson's humour is at its best here.

Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) Wednesday 2nd October 2002

This is one of those books that was probably ground-breaking at its time. It covers the subject of people forced from their land and treated badly by everyone as they attempt to relocate. The squalid conditions that they are forced to endure really make a point. However, these days seem so far removed from the days in which the book was written, I guess you could disagree and say that today we have many refugees, but the book is really arguing for human rights and hopefully we do have those, we know that treatment like this is unacceptable. This just isn't an enjoyable read, I guess it wasn't written to be, but now it doesn't really have the need to teach any more. Though, I guess you could say that it now exists as a reminder. I found it quite a depressing read, 'cos you just knew it was only going to get worse for them.

Lost in a Good Book (Jasper Fford) Sunday 22nd September 2002

This is the sequel to "The Eyre Affair". It was enjoyable, but I didn't find it as enthralling as the last book. The weirdness wasn't new anymore and the story didn't capture me, it seemed to lack coherance, which is an odd thing to say as the main reason I liked the first one was because it was so weird.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) Monday 16th September 2002

I hadn't read this before and was quite surprised at how early on the monster was made, I'd thought the book would be about making him, but it wasn't, it was about the aftermath. I found the narrative fairly interesting, particularly the almost archaic language that it was written in. However, I didn't particularly enjoy the book. The main character annoyed me, I guess I should appreciate the fact that he is so human, with major flaws in his logic and scruples, lacking the unrealistic heroism most fictional characters have. He created something and then buried his head in the sand, hoping it would go way. Ony when the monster killed did Frankenstein do anything and even then he acted cowardly initially. I was surprised by Frankenstein's lack of guilt, he said he felt guilt, but in actuality he didn't see that he had done anything worthy of guilt, he didn't see that playing God was wrong. However, I guess that's realistic too, people do justify their actions, they feel guilt, but they don't want to acknowledge guilt, they say it's not their fault, they pass the blame. I guess I'm arguing that in fact the book is very realistic and therefore good, which goes against what I just said. It doesn't really though, the book is realistic, it is well written, it is a "good" novel, but that doesn't mean I have to like it, it's not the kind of book that I'd read again.

The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fford) Saturday 14th September 2002

I really got into this book and read it quite quickly. I can't really put my finger on what it was that kept me hooked, but I really enjoyed it. The book is set in a world which is really into literaturem the main character investigates crimes involving literature, her Dad is a time traveller wanted by the officials. The story is quite surreal and involves an evil genius kidnapping figures from novels. There were some bits that weren't so great, but on the whole I really enjoyed the book, probably because it was odd.

The Carpet People (Terry Pratchett) Monday 9th September 2002

This was written by Pratchett when he was 17 and then re-edited when he was 43. It's quite good, it has some very funny dialogue. The plot isn't great, but that's rarely what's good about Pratchett, it's usually the characters and small ideas. This book has some great little ideas and comments in it that make it very entertaining.

Star Wars episode II: Attack of the clones (R.A Salvatore) Thursday 15th August 2002

Not a bad book, better than I anticipated. It added quite a few bits to the film so I didn't always think yes I've seen this. Plus the "annoying rolling in the fields ala the sound of Music" scene wasn't as bad without the visual. Okay, I didn't like the film much it's not a patch on the original Star Wars films, so I didn't expect much of the book, but this didn't do badly, the characters it has to work with aren't anything much, but the author has done quite a good job.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis) Thursday 8th August 2002

This is a great book, Lewis has come up with a fantastic idea here of writing letters from a demon. It's a very interesting look at spiritual warfare. You look at the letters and turn them around to seesome great advice for living as a Christian. At the end of the edition I got there is "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" which I didn't like much, mainly because it has the dodgy concept of limbo, I guess the book itself is all fictional so I shouldn't have a problem with that, but it just bugged me. Plus the writing just didn't seem to be as good.

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) Saturday 3rd August 2002

This is a very depressing look at a future society where the only important thing is stability and happiness of society. Families have been abolished, people are made in test tubes and conditioned to be happy in the job they're designed for. Into this world comes a misfit who's been born naturally and raised in a savage reservation. The books is rather bleak, but very good. It's well thought out and makes you think. On a completely off track note, the book actually used the word Octoroon, I never thought I'd come across that word again, I last came across it in a game of Absolute Balderdash.

The Father Heart of God (Ffloyd McClung) Saturday 3rd August 2002

A very well written book for Christians, with a lot of helpful points to do with the father heart of God. As well as putting forth biblical truths of the Father's love, it gives practical ideas of how to accept this.

See Yourself as God Sees You (Josh McDowell) Thursday 3rd August 2002

I didn't find this book particularly helpful, it was all right, but didn't seem to say anything new. I guess that's obvious, I mean everything important that God wanted to tell us is in the bible. However, books can help by shining a light onto things, or just putting things in a way you hadn't thought of or in context, but this just seemed to be rehashing old things.

Pale Saint (Eric Van Lustbader)

This is a story about a hunt for a serial killer. In order to catch him a detective and a genetic engineer create a clone of him. The story is really a lot more about their relationships with the hyper-aging clone than about the search for the killer. It seemed to contain quite a few logical flaws though, for example, if homicidal tendencies weren't genetic then why did they presume that other actions would be? I don't see why a clone would be able to predict where the killer would go, that would surely be more to do with nature than nurture. I didn't like the shaman stuff either, but it was an all right read overall.

The Salmon Of Doubt (Douglas Adams) Saturday 15th June 2002

This is the collected writings of Douglas Adams that hadn't been published before his death. There are short articles, letters and 10 chapters of a new novel. It's quite depressing reading to have the story stop so abruptly and also to realise that Adams wasn't happy with the chapters anyway. As it is I think that the story has some very good ideas, I like the start. Some of the other things in the book are really good, like the Zaphod story. The book captures a lot of good writing from Adams. One section that really got to me was a bit in which he talks about his atheism, in his speech he was very anti-Christian, downright offensive in his opinions, stating that all beliefs are irrational and that religious people lack intelligence. Oddly he quotes Darwin's work in the same breath as criticising Christians for their ignorance, demonstrating a great deal of ignorance himself as he was blatently ignoring the fact that Darwin was a Christian. It saddens me that he was so bitter towards Christians and clearly hadn't actually investigated it in any depth. Anyway, I've got into a rant on one small article of his, the book itself is very good.

The Golden Torc: Book Two in the saga of the Exiles (Julian May) Saturday 8th June 2002

I really like the story here, people have travelled through a portal to the Pliocene era because they were misfits in the 22nd century. However, back in the past they find themselves slaves of an alien race. The book doesn't necessarily stand up to scientific testing of its ideas. However, it's well written and has good characters, I find a problem with the pace of it, it seems to take a long time for things to happen. I'm not sure that the story justifies being spread over four books and I don't know if I can be bothered to read the next two, it's been nearly a year since I read the first.

Another Fine Myth (Robert Asprin) Friday 17th May 2002

The titles of the books in this seires led me to anticipate a kind of pun-filled, amusing fantasy seires. Sadly, the truth is that the blurb on the back of the book was better than the story inside. The story is about a magician's apprentice who ends up teamed with a demon who's lost his powers. They set off to try to get his powers back. The characterisation is quite good, but the plot is not interesting or well thought out. I didn't find it very funny either. I think it's probably suitable for young teenagers.

Buffy:The Book Of Fours (Nancy Holder) Tuesday 7th May 2002

Despite me complaining about the poor quality of Buffy novels, I immediately read another one. This one was all right, but nothing special. The plot involves dead slayers. It was a pretty mediocre storyline with mediocre writing. There was a side story about Xander's cousin needing bone marrow that didn't really seem to have much point, I thought it had been forgotten by the author for ages.

Unseen: Door To Alternity (Nancy Holder & Jeff Mariotte) Thursday 2nd May 2002

This is the second book in a Buffy/Angel Crossover, it didn't exactly grip me. In fact I started readin git in January when I finished the first book. It's not bad for a Buffy book, at least it's not completely teenified. The story seems to focus a lot more on Buffy than on Angel which is a shame, maybe that's rectified in the third part. There seem to be a lot of plot elements that don't fit together or tie up, some aren't interesint and I begin to wonder why they're there. Overall an okay book, but lacking in substance.

The Hobbit (J.R.R Tolkein) Thursday 2nd May 2002

Amazingly I had never read this before. I remember starting it when I was about 8 and not really liking it, so I stopped in the first chapter. Since then I have of course read Lord of The Rings but never gone back to The Hobbit somehow retaining the belief that it's not very good. How wrong was I? The Hobbit is very well written and immediately draws you into the adventure. The introduction of characters and build up of plot is done brilliantly and the story continuall holds your interest. There are a few points that I don't like as much, some weaker elements and it's not as good as Lord of the rings, but it is much shorter and therefore more accessible.

Thief Of Time (Terry Pratchett) Sunday 21st April 2002

A big improvement on some of the recent Discworld novels. It tells of the quest to create and accurate clock and a quest to prevent its creation because it will end all time. What happens doesn't always make sense, it doesn't need to, the book has great characters including the old favourite, Death. Lots of good ideas and it fits quite well together into an enjoyable story, not the greatest Discworld novel, but certainly not the worst.

Nothing But Blue Skies (Tom Holt) Friday 19th April 2002

I didn't find this book all that good to begin with, but as it progressed I began to enjoy it more. It's about dragons that control the rain, weathermen annoyed by it and mad government officials. It's quite silly and quite funny, though I didn't find it as funny as Falling Sideways.

Falling Sideways (Tom Holt) Monday 8th April 2002

This is a very bizarre totally confusing and immensely humorous book. It tells the story of a seemingly ordinary guy called Dave. He gets involved in some very odd stuff such as cloning and his whole world begins to fall apart. His perceptions are altered drastically as time progresses and every time he beings to accept something, some new even more implausible explanation takes its place, you're never quite sure what's going on. I enjoyed the book a lot, the confusion worked in its favour, the sheer stupidity of it all was great.

Dave Barry in Cyberspace (Dave Barry) Tuesday 2nd April 2002

A very funny look at the world of computers. Advice on how to install software which informs us that this will stop it working and that getting a 4 year old to do it is best, long tangents about electricity, squirrels and the 10 items or less queue being used to explain the workings of computers are great. This appeals to my rambly nature, sense of humour and geekness.

Bored of The Rings (The Harvard Lampoon) Monday 1st April

As suggested by the title this is a parody of Lord of The Rings. It's a pretty short book and I expected it to be amusing, however I found it very contrived and full of rather juvenile humour. Mostly it seemed to hinge on the distortion of names. I didn't really get gripped by it and found it a little purile.

American Gods (Neil Gaiman) Sunday 31st March 2002

I can't really fault the writing, this book is very well written and has plot twists, good characterisation, mystery, everything to make a good book. However, I didn't really like it, finishing it was more like a chore, not just because it was so long, but because I wasn't interested, I'm hard to please aren't I? Maybe it was the subject matter and I wasn't comfortable with its irreverance or something, I don't know. It had a lot of detail to keep straight in your mind too, can't really put my finger on it, just didn't like it much.

Unseen: The Burning [Part 1 of Buffy/Angel Crossover Trilogy] (Nancy Holder and Jeff Mariotte) Sunday 27th January 2002

Well, it's a Buffy novel, so it's hardly going to be deep and amazing, it's not too bad though. It sets up the various plots quite well and characterisation isn't bad. It probably doesn't need to be a trilogy though, I'm not gripped by it. The plot is a little unclear too, how the strands will tie together etc. The first book is basically a long introduction to the elements of the plot.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: A Story of Discworld (Terry Pratchett) Saturday 12th January 2002

Whilst technically a children's book this was set in Discworld and didn't differ drastically from the other novels, neither in lenth, nor content. The only real difference was in using animals instead of any established characters. I found this book quite enjoyable, it is better than some of his more recent Discworld novels, and also than his children's novels such as Truckers and Strata, but it's not that great, I don't really see the point of it being a Discworld novel when it's so separate from the other novels, but I guess it doesn't really matter.

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