Things are a little quiet around here while I'm in Wales, but to keep things ticking over, here's another book review.
The first of today's two books is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This is one of those books which I've had sitting on my bookcase for years and years. It regularly gets bumped up the bookshelf, only to be overlooked or bumped back down again a few months later. When the Reading Challenge called for a book set in another country, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to crack out Cold Mountain.
This is set during the American Civil War and tells the story of Inman, a man who must go away to war, and Ada, a well-off minister's daughter. Inman is wounded in the war and decides to journey home to Cold Mountain to the woman he met shortly before he left. Meanwhile Ada's father has died and she is left with a farm to run and no means to do it; until Ruby shows up on the scene and helps her set everything to rights. But for some of them, there will be no happily ever after.
I saw the film many years ago in the cinema and actually quite like it. I've got it on DVD but it's been a while since I last watched it but my one overwhelming memory of it is the change in Ada as she is forced to abandon her former way of life and accept the harder one after her father's death. Considering how much I'd enjoyed the film I was expecting to really enjoy this book.
Unfortunately I didn't really.
For one thing, I found Ada and Inman really hard to like for most of the book. I'm not entirely sure exactly what it was that I found so unlikable about them, they just didn't appeal to me. According to the notes I left in my book journal, my opinion of them changed in the last quarter of the book, but it wasn't really enjoy to redeem them for the first three-quarters.
On the other hand, the character of Ruby was really interesting. She'd had a really hard life, basically raised herself, but knew all the life skills that she needed to survive. To be honest, I'd have rather read a book all about her instead!
One thing that did kind of bug me about this book was the total lack of quotation marks. I have no idea why they weren't used but it made it really hard for me to keep track of who was speaking during stretches of dialogue.
Probably the main thing I liked about this book was the descriptions of the scenery. Frazier did a good job of painting a vivid picture. That's the other thing that I remember from the film; the beautiful scenery, so I'm glad that the inspiration for some of those shots obviously came direct from the book. All the same, the film remains my first choice over the book, and I don't say that very often!
I followed this up with a book my Mum got Mr Click for Christmas, Sherlock Chronicles by Steve Tribe. It's a behind the scenes look into the BBC TV series and ticked another Reading Challenge box as I needed to read a non-fiction book.
It gives an overview of the first three series of the TV show, beginning with the inspiration behind it through the making of each episode, script excerpts, interviews and loads and loads of photos. It's not a portable book by any means, but it's a lovely book to sit in bed with and pore over, especially if you're a bit of a fan of all things Sherlock (like my husband).
This was a really interesting read. I love behind the scenes stuff about films and TV series so this was right up my street. I especially liked that rather than just jumping into how episodes are shot or actors prepare for big scenes, they went right back to the beginning, looking at the inception of Sherlock.
It was interesting to see how they were influenced by the old Sherlock Holmes TV series. I never made the link before about how the old Basil Rathbone versions of the Sherlock stories from the 1940s were basically doing the same thing as the modern BBC Sherlock; taking an old Victorian character, putting him into a modern setting, and seeing how he interacts with new stories based on the old ones. We're rewatching the Basil Rathbone Sherlock films at the moment and it's funny to think that without them, there might never have been a BBC Sherlock.
I also liked reading about the little things that make the Sherlock series Sherlock, like the on screen text which shows us text messages or what Holmes is thinking. It's one of the features that I love about the show but I hadn't thought about how complex an idea it was to execute well and make it gel with everything else you see on the screen.
I really liked all the pictures. There were a lot of posed shots and stills from episodes, but there were plenty of behind the scenes ones too. I like things like that because it gives you a glimpse into just what goes on when a programme like this is being made.
The book is also filled with funny little quotes and interesting facts. It was perfect for whetting my appetite for rewatching the series. I hope that they bring out a similar or updated volume once a few more series have been made.