Category Archives: Books

At Last, Sir Terry, We Must Walk Together Book Notes 03 APR 2015

I read ferociously as a child, going through whatever my local library could throw at me at incredible pace. As a teenager I continued to read, though not quite at the same pace, and by my twenties this frequency had dropped even further. In my thirties, I read even less, maybe one book every year and a half – if that.

However, without fail, you can be guaranteed that that one book is without a doubt something written by Sir Terry Pratchett, a lifelong favourite of mine – indeed a man whose books I read at every twist and turn of my life, and whose books I’ll probably continue to read until the day that I die. (His is also the only author whose books I could actually be bothered to own!)

Sadly though, going forward there won’t be much more of that.

On the 12th of March 2015, at the young age of 66, following a long and drawn out battle against a particularly vicious early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Sir Terry Pratchett passed away.

terry pratchett inside every old person quote

His passing was announced on his official Twitter account in the most apt way possible (in his books, Death always speaks in capitals):

AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.

Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.

The End.

Taken from the official press release: “Terry passed away in his home, with his cat sleeping on his bed surrounded by his family on 12th March 2015. Diagnosed with PCA1 in 2007, he battled the progressive disease with his trademark determination and creativity, and continued to write. He completed his last book, a new Discworld novel, in the summer of 2014, before succumbing to the final stages of the disease.”

For those of you who are perhaps not so familiar with the name, a quick grab off Wikipedia yields the following:

“Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, Kt, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English author of fantasy novels, especially comical works. He is best known for his Discworld series of about 40 volumes. Pratchett’s first novel, The Carpet People, was published in 1971, and since his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983, he wrote two books a year on average. His 2011 Discworld novel Snuff was at the time of its release the third-fastest-selling hardback adult-audience novel since records began in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days.

Pratchett, who has sold more than 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages, was the UK’s best-selling author of the 1990s.

Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998 and was knighted for services to literature in the 2009 New Year Honours. In 2001 he won the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, the first Discworld book marketed for children. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.”

josh kirby rincewind terry pratchett illustration

A comical literary legend indeed.

So that’s that then. I’m pleased that I can say that I actually met the man in real life, way back when I was still in school (i.e. sometime back in the 90’s), when good friend Terrance Brown dragged me off with him to Middle Campus at the University of Cape Town for a seminar (where I remember Terry spoke quite a bit on the topic of orangutans) and book signing stint (I remember taking a picture of Terrance and Terry together).

In fact, it was that very meeting that got me started on Pratchett’s books in the first place!

I’ll miss the the clever wit, excellent storytelling, fantastic settings, and colourful characters that Terry dreamed up over the years, but that said, thanks to his prolific writing nature, there will always be such a big backlog to devour over and over again that I doubt he and his contribution to the literary world will ever quite be forgotten!

Well certainly not by me, that’s for sure. Rest in peace Sir Terry Pratchett.

sir terry pratchett walking with deathRelated Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Pratchett

Packt Publishing: Instant Fancybox – Why, oh why? Books | My Reviews 25 FEB 2014

packt publishing logoA while ago I was approached via e-mail and asked to review (and thus publicize) an e-book via my site by a representative (Dyson D’Souza) of Packt Publishing. (Packt is apparently a UK based publishing company specializing in focused IT books.)

The title in question was Instant Fancybox, authored by a Kyle Diedrick.

Now I’m particularly fond of the fantastic Fancybox jQuery plugin developed by Janis Skarnelis, and have of course mentioned it on numerous occasions in my code-related posts, which is why I guess I was asked to provide a review in the first place.

First of all, I have to say that I was rather surprised to learn that someone had actually bothered writing a book covering the usage of a single jQuery plugin. Sadly this thought rang true as I quickly flipped through the downloaded e-book and realized that my initial reaction had been correct – there really isn’t much point in writing a book about how to use the fancyBox plugin, as all you are really doing is rehashing all the usage/implementation documentation already present on the plugin’s primary download page.

So a pointless exercise then in other words.

Sadly this wasn’t actually the thing that left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. FancyBox is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license. It is still essentially free to use for personal, non-commercial projects as long as you correctly attribute the plugin back to fancyApps, i.e. Janis Skarnelis.

Now for decency’s sake, shouldn’t an e-book that is essentially attempting to make money off Skarnelis’ work at least acknowledge him somewhere in the text?

I would have thought it good manners to do so. (Because of this, I’ve decided not to physically link back to Packt – seems fair to me.)

So in summary, (and while I’m sure Kyle Diedrick is a great guy) this e-book really isn’t worth paying for – and it’s 7.99 UK pounds for 72 pages mind you. The reason? Well, you require familiarity with HTML and jQuery to get something out of this title, but the reality is that if you are familiar with HTML and jQuery, then the existing documentation and usage guides on the primary FancyBox download page is actually more than enough for you to achieve what you need to achieve.

My recommendation: skip in favour of a something more advanced like an in-depth guide to jQuery.

Kiddie Reads: Quacky Quack-Quack! by Ian Whybrow Books 10 OCT 2013

quacky quack-quack children's book by ian whybrow and russell aytoThe book I’m currently tasked with reading to Jessica each and every night before bed is a cute kiddie’s tale entitled Quacky Quack-Quack! by children’s writer Ian Whybrow, the same guy who brought us all those Harry and the Dinosaurs titles.

Originally released back in 1991, Quacky Quack-Quack! tells the rhyming tale of a little baby whose mommy had given him some bread to feed to the ducks. However, he opted to eat the bread instead, thereby causing a right proper rumpus to ensue!

It’s a silly little story that encourages the kids to make all kinds of animal noises, like the quacks of ducks, the honks of geese, the eeauw of donkeys, and of course, the roar of lions in the zoo!

Artist Russell Ayto provides the visuals for this rhyming tale, and unfortunately I have to say, I’m not particularly keen on the visuals. The art is slightly too abstract for my liking and not polished enough, though that said Jess doesn’t appear to have too much difficulty in identifying her favourite animals!

Jess loves it enough to make me read it to her every night, meaning that it must be good enough then to recommend to you! :)

Related Link: http://www.goodreads.com

Kiddie Reads: Cock-a-Doodle Quack Quack by Ivor Baddiel Books 30 AUG 2013

cock a doodle quack quack children book cover ivor baddielWithout a doubt Jessica’s favourite book in her ever expanding collection of kiddie books is the cute little Cock-a-Doodle Quack! Quack!, written by Ivor Baddiel with help from Sophie Jubb.

Basically it tells the story of a baby rooster whose job it is to wake all the animals up in the morning, but unfortunately he has no idea what to say in order to get them all out of bed. He turns to the various farm animals asking for their advice, but discovers in turn that none of their sounds are quite right for waking everybody up!

It’s cute, it’s fun, and there are a lot of farm animal noises to be made, meaning it’s a guaranteed hit.

The painted illustrations by Ailie Busby are very simple and exaggerated in terms of shapes and detail, but the colours are very vibrant, and the animal characters exceedingly cute and ‘happy’, meaning that it’s an absolute visual treat for Jessica to watch as I flip through the pages.

In summary, no wonder this is Jessie’s favourite book!

Related Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/671009.Cock_A_Doodle_Quack_Quack