Thursday, 23 February 2012

Unreliable Sources

Title: Unreliable Sources

Author: John Simpson

Number of pages: 562

Started: 14 February 2012

Finished: 23 February 2012

Opening words:

Reporting is an art form which has sometimes been mistaken for a science. People who read the news in the paper or on a website, who listen to a radio bulletin or watch television news, usually imagine they are getting something close to the truth. Instead, they are merely getting something approaching the truth. Anybody who has witnessed an event, and then come across a news report of it afterwards, knows how inaccurate the reporting can be. There are mistakes of fact, of understanding, of interpretation. Journalists are like portrait painters: their work will be accurate and fair, or inaccurate and distorted, according to their individual capability.

Plot summary:

Through many decades of groundbreaking journalism, John Simpson has become not only one of the most recognisable and trusted British personalities, but has transferred his skill to books with multiple bestselling success. With his new book he turns his eye to how Great Britain has been transformed by its free press down the years. He shows how, while the press likes to pretend it's independent, they have enjoyed the power they have over the events they report and have at times exercised it irresponsibly. He examines how it changed the world and changed itself over the course of the last hundred years, from the creation of the Daily Mail and the first stokings of anti-German sentiment in the years leading up to the First World War, to the Sun's propping up of the Thatcher government, and beyond. In this self-analysis from one of the pillars of modern journalism some searching questions are asked, including whether the press can ever be truly free and whether we would desire it to be so.

What I thought:

When I started this book, I struggled a bit to get into it. I think it was in part because I wasn’t necessarily that familiar with some of the people John Simpson was referring to. However, I soon warmed to it and found it really interesting to see how the press has evolved (or not…).

I particularly started to enjoy the book when it moved on to the Wallace Simpson era, perhaps because this is a period of history I am more familiar with. The whole book was a really interesting insight though, and gave a rather concerning sense of how sceptical we should be about what we read in the papers – some things are just made up, others are misreported and others are given as seemingly first hand accounts from people who weren’t even there.

The papers that came out the best were the Guardian and the Telegraph, and it has certainly confirmed my thinking about some of the daily offerings. It was a good, although not entirely easy read that gave a really informative view of how the media shapes us and the world around us.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Don't Look Back

Title: Don’t Look Back

Author: Karin Fossum

Number of pages: 421

Started: 6 February 2012

Finished: 13 February 2012

Opening words:

Ragnhild opened the door cautiously and peered out. Up on the road everything was quiet, and a breeze that had been playing among the buildings during the night had finally died down. She turned and pulled the doll's carriage over the threshold.
"We haven't even eaten yet," Marthe complained.
She helped push the carriage.
"I have to go home. We're going out shopping," Ragnhild said.
"Shall I come over later?"
"You can if you like. After we've done the shopping."
She was on the gravel now and began to push the carriage toward the front gate. It was heavy going, so she turned it around and pulled it instead.
"See you later, Ragnhild."

Plot summary:

The setting is a small, idyllic village at the foot of Norway's Kollen Mountain, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town's tranquillity is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong? Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town's seemingly perfect facade.

What I thought:

I thought Don’t Look Back started really well. It used a clever plot twist right at the beginning and then built on that. The book developed well and held my attention. But I felt it gave too much away throughout the book and I worked out the end before the final conclusion. I think these books have potential, and this is the first in the Inspector Sejer series (in English, the second in Norwegian). I’d like to try another to see where it goes, and I hope there is a bit more character development of the inspector himself.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

When I Forgot

Title: When I Forgot

Author: Elina Hirvonen

Number of pages: 180

Started: 3 February 2012

Finished: 5 February 2012

Opening words:

Why I’m happy

I’m happy because I have a steam engine (that works).

I’m happy because I have Daddy Mommy Sister Grandma and got a Stiiga bike for Christmas.

I’m happy because I’m in the science club and when I grow up I’m going to be an inventor and win the Nobel Prize.

I’m happy because I get to live my whole life in free and independent Finland and because my Heavenly Father loves me and takes care of me.

Joona Louhiniitty 3A

Read a longer excerpt here.

Plot summary:

While on her way to the hospital where her brother is institutionalized, Anna experiences a moment of recollection so arresting it shatters her world -- a recollection of searing pain and madness. Exploring psychological trauma, the boundaries of memory, and the political ramifications of September 11, 2001, "When I Forgot" offers gripping insights into the universal themes of suppressed pain and, above all, retaining a sense of hope in an increasingly grim world.

What I thought:

When I Forgot is a very slim novel. It is 180 pages long, but that is in part due to some generous line spacing. That said, it was a brief insight into the heartache of life. I thought I had some merits to it, but I did not find it the hypnotic read that reviewers seem to find. It was a decent enough read, but one that will not stay long in the memory.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Yes Man

Title: Yes Man

Author: Danny Wallace

Number of pages: 416

Started: 25 January 2012

Finished: 2 February 2012

Opening words:

In twenty minutes it would be midnight. I was standing in the rain outside the house of a rich banker in Las Vegas.

I checked my pockets. I had everything I needed. The photos. They keys to the car. The silver pocket watch.

Most importantly, I had the gun.

Because I had been asked to kill a man.

And I had said “yes”

Plot summary:

The amazing tale of what happens when you decide to say... YES

What I thought:

This book was one man’s attempt to say “yes” to life. Danny Wallace is someone that I like and I have enjoyed his TV programmes. However, I had mixed feelings about this book. I accept that for this new way of living to work, he had to say yes to everything, but I found it somewhat frustrating that he showed no discernment and embraced any scam offered to him. There is having a hopeful outlook on life, and being a bit of an idiot. This book walked that fine line.

Ultimately, I thought a willingness to say yes won through as showing that life has more opportunities, the more open to them we are, and ultimately he won much more than he lost. I am not sure it is a life that should be embraced quite to whole-heartedly as this though – or perhaps I just need to say yes more.