Tag Archives: book review

4.19pm

American_Psycho_by_Bret_Easton_Ellis_first_US_paperback_edition_1991Regular readers will know that I am an avid consumer of movies and books, and I really like reading books from which movies have been made. A favourite movie in our house is American Psycho, and I have had the book that this is based on loaded on my eBook reader for a long time. I finally got around to reading it and goddam what a weird book.

Weird in a good way.

This won’t be for everyone as its constant lists and descriptions of what people are wearing or eating, and Huey Lewis and the News deconstruction, and straight up brutal and graphically described murder might turn some people off. As a snapshot, however, of a broken mind, nostalgic places in time, and the briefest glimpses of vulnerability, it absolutely shines. It is skilfully written and easy to read, and will simultaneously horrify you and intrigue you.

There is not much more to say really. Pick it up and read it, you’ll know within about 40 pages if its for you or not…

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5.05pm

rogue-one-novelizationIt is no secret that I am a long time Star Wars fan, and the arrival last year of the first spin off story was welcome news. The movie was fantastic, but it was with some trepidation that I approached the novelisation. The reason for that was the absolutely awful books that were written to fill the gap between Return of the Jedi  and The Force Awakens namely Aftermath and Aftermath: Life Debt.

I needn’t have worried, I can honestly say that this is the best Star Wars book I’ve ever read. Alexander Freed has done a great job, and it really makes me wonder “what could have been” if he had been the author of the Aftermath books.

While the novelisation does not add a huge amount extra to the story presented in the movie, it is a action packed ride the whole way through, and a real page turner. What it does add to the movie is an increased level of detail of how at this stage of the timeline, the galaxy is in a state of great unrest. The final scenes on Scarif are brutal and hold nothing back. I guess having seen the movie I was able to visualise things in my head, but Freed did a great job of making it all come alive again. The descriptions of the tactics used in the battle above Scarif by Admiral Raddus were also excellent.

Another area where Freed excelled was on the human relationships front. The ongoing frustrations that Krennic had with Tarkin were tangible, and Mon Mothma’s backing of Jyn Erso while on Yavin 4 added a nice layer to their characters.

You don’t need to be familiar with Star Wars lore in order to enjoy this, and even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan, it’s a bloody good sci-fi book. Read it.

 

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6.20pm

Following my tradition of reading books on which movies have been based, I recently completed Atonement by Ian McEwan. I watched the movie long enough ago that I could not remember much of the story, so reading the book was like getting to know the story afresh.

It is written well, and before long I was well into the swing of things. There are quite a few characters at the start, but each is written in a way that allow you to recognise who they are and begin building your opinion of them.

The story revolves around three main characters, two of whom are in love and are slowly coming to that realisation, and one who is younger than the other two and who completely misinterprets their actions towards each other. This leads to a huge rift and the need for the title of the book.

I wasn’t overly fussed with the story over all, but in amongst it all there some very well written parts. In particular, McEwan’s description of the British withdrawal in World War Two was excellent. I felt the book really fell down with its ending though as it tries a little too hard to be too clever. I think if it had been a straight narrative of the events as they unfolded that would have been great. But at the end it tries to get all meta and become a book within a book. As such, when it ended I was kinda like “huh?”

In fact now that I am writing this out and saying it out loud, that meta ending could have worked if it was explained more clearly. My “huh?” was probably borne more from a feeling of “Was that actually supposed to be a story within the story? Where does one end and the other start?”. I dunno, maybe I’m too stupid to ‘get’ it.

Its not a bad read, and like I said earlier, there are some parts that are well written. I think for me though, I would feel more comfortable recommending the movie.

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10.08am

lolita-cover-6It’s no use, he sees her

He starts to shake and cough

Just like the old man in

That book by Nabokov

I never really understood that line in the song until I read the name of the author of this book. Yes, that is how much of a sheltered childhood I had.

I’m sure you have heard of this book, or if not, at least are familiar with the name, or even one of the movie adaptations that have been made. The subject is well known – a grown man falls in love with a 12 year old girl. Certainly a controversial topic, and such has been the history of the novel. Despite the controversy, it is widely read and considered a literary classic.

Now, like many other ‘classics’ that I have read, I have no idea why this is considered to be such. It is poorly written, has unmarked time jumps, and is filled with pages and pages of rambling that have nothing to do with the main plot. I suspect that the only reason this is famous is because its about a pedophile. There are times where Nabokov has his characters go on and on about other people and their descriptions of them, even though they have absolutely no relevance to the plot. The ramblings add nothing at all. If you removed them the book might even be a third (or more) shorter.

This led me to thinking many times “Why am I reading this? What does this have to do with anything?” and in fact often when a ramble had ended and we got back to the here and now, I had look back to when the ramble started to remind myself of the context now that we had returned to the main story.

All this is a shame because at times the rest of the story makes great use of the Unreliable Narrator style. Humbert talks completely normally about his desires and intimacy with Dolores, so much so that you have to stop and go “wait a minute, this is a child!” Nabokov does a good job of lulling you into Humbert’s world view. Was it indeed a consensual situation as is presented? Or was Dolores an unwilling participant all along? We will never know the answers because we only ever see things from Humbert’s point of view.

Can I recommend the book? Definitely. Everyone should read books that are a challenge, both in subject matter and in style. There is no finer way to sharpen ones brain than by tackling a difficult read.

Will it be for everyone? Certainly not.

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10.00am

51PiLdOBSCL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Last year for Birthmas my Big Sis bought me The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. She bought it based on a Vlog I had made called In Search of Bill Bryson. If you’ve seen the video, you will know that I had been unsuccessful in trying to track down books by Bryson at my local library. She had watched this and decided to fill my Bryson shaped hole with a Birthmas present.

Bryson is fun to read, and his observations on even the most mundane things are very entertaining to read. This book is full of witticisms and brutally straight commentary on life in general. The skeleton of the book is Bryson travelling from one end of England to the other, and the meat is his discussion of everything he sees, feels, and experiences along the way.

One of the best things about this book is that it is easy to pick up and put down. The stories and anecdotes are short, and while he may spend nine or ten pages in one place, those pages are broken down into smaller parts that you can read in a few minutes. There are laugh out loud moments, sobering discussions on how government works, and pervasive dry wit throughout.

Pick it up and read it all in one go, or make the most of the shorter sections and read it bit by bit. Either way, you’ll definitely have a good time.

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2.57pm

If you have read my Star Wars related book reviews in the past, you will know that I have been less than impressed with the latest book trilogy (Aftermath) that aims to fill the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. I won’t dwell on them here, but needless to say, after reading them I felt the need to go back to the old books of the Expanded Universe, the books that they now refer to as Legends. I had read the Thrawn trilogy many years ago, and re-reading it again reminded me of just how good Star Wars books can be.

thrawn_trilogy

This series recalls the rollicking adventure styling of the original trilogy movies, and effortlessly and smoothly adds to the stories of the core characters. One of my biggest gripes with the Aftermath books is that the core characters are almost unrecognisable (like Leia saying rubbish like “by the blood of Alderaan!”, yet across this trio of books, everything seems familiar and harmonious.

Thrawn is a formidable enemy, albeit with a sometimes eyerolling ability for getting things right, who has our heroes traveling all over the galaxy in an effort to bring him down. I like how the books spend an equal time with both sides so that you get an understanding of their motivations and operations. There are some needless side stories (Ackbar), and some annoying plot lines (C’baoth), but overall the trilogy is a fun read full of action, nostalgia, and good ol’ sci-fi fantasy fun.

I might need to mine the EU for some more good stuff.

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10.01am

If you’ve seen the movie Zero Dark Thirty you might have some idea of how the mission to kill Osama bin Laden unfolded, at least from the perspective of the CIA. The book No Easy Day covers the mission from the point of view of one of the SEALs who was on the ground as it happened.

I have read a couple of other books by SEALs (American Sniper and Lone Survivor) and what set No Easy Day apart from these is that the author doesn’t spend a lot of time going over his training as a SEAL. I recall both of the other books spending a long time describing the SEAL training process, to the point where I wondered when we would get to the meat of the story (we get it, it’s hard!). In No Easy Day however, Owen touches on his entry into the SEALS briefly and then focus turns to the mission to eliminate bin Laden. It was interesting to learn about the preparation that was done, the intelligence that went into it, and just how much they knew about the compound and its occupants.

The mission itself takes up a good chunk of the book and is riveting from beginning to end. Owen has a methodical approach to walking us through what happened, as opposed to the “America, f**k yeah!” tone of American Sniper. The businesslike just-getting-the-job-done attitude was evident throughout the book, none more so than when describing the reaction that he had his team had to seeing bin Laden’s dead body compared to that of the investigative staff:

“We saw dead bodies all the time. It was the ugly we lived with, and we spent no time thinking about once it was finished.”

This book is easy to read, and would be perfect for a flight or holiday.

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8.49am

the_call_of_the_wild_classic_comicsA while back I read a great book called Into the Wild, about a man by the name of Christopher McCandless who broke away from mainstream life and wandered the Alaskan wilderness where he was later found dead. Among his inspirations for heading into the wilderness were the writings of Jack London, famed adventure author of the early 1900s.

By chance I came across The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and having become vaguely familiar with the name through McCandless, I decided to read it. I grew up reading old books (Biggles, James Bond etc) and so reading a book written in 1903 was taking me to a familiar place. Straightaway, I noticed that the writing style didn’t have that old timey feel to it that you often get with books from around that time, but rather it read more like a modern tome. And then, to my delight, I was a few paragraphs in before I realised that the story was written from the perspective of Buck, a dog and the main character.

What follows the opening pages is a high adventure written in such a way that would no doubt have caught the imagination of readers at the time. In fact its rather timeless in this aspect as, had I not known who the author was and when it was published, I never could have guessed, and therefore it is just as entertaining today.

This was thoroughly enjoyable to read and I am now on the hunt for more Jack London works.

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10.47am

Surely it must be a sign of a good book when you read it in less than a week, and then you give it to your wife, and she then smashes through it in a matter of days while on holiday.

Yes?

Yes.

Stranglehold is the second Jack Ketchum book I have read, and for a second time he found a way to worm into my brain and set up camp. I have never been a fan of family and courtroom drama, but there is something about Ketchum’s writing and style that make you want to keep reading and not put the book down.

The story revolves around the Danse family, and from the opening scene where a mother tries to drown her son in a toilet, you go down the rabbit hole with this family and the events that befall them over a number of decades.

This book has characters you will hate, characters you will sympathise with, and characters that you will see make bad decisions – all the while asking yourself “What would I have done in the same situation?” Maybe that question is the key to what makes Ketchum so good to read. That question is always lurking in the background and adds a whole ‘nother level to things.

Chuck this one on your list for 2017!

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9.01am

All good things must come to an end, and I had a really good run on books, and then I read The Road. 

Pulitzer Prize? Number 1 National Bestseller? A masterpiece?

This book sucks.

As you would have guessed by this post, I was prepared for, and even anticipating a dark and depressing story. It wasn’t that which bothered me, I’ve read books that are much darker (I’m looking at you The Girl Next Door), it’s just that nothing happens. The characters are cardboard thin, and there are way too many plot conveniences to make it believable. And don’t get me started on the complete absence of speech marks in a dialogue heavy story.

McCarthy does a great job of describing the world that the characters find themselves in (the book never gives names to the man and the boy), but there are too many incongruous inclusions to fully suspend disbelief. For example he devotes many lines of prose emphasising how the land is burned and ruined and that there is no food anywhere, in fact its so bad that some people have turned to cannibalism. Yet every time the main characters get low on food or run out of it, they always end up finding more – and not just scraps and remains mind you, no, on one occasion they found apples that were somehow still edible, and in a worse example, they find a whole underground shelter stacked with food, and sit down to eat….eggs and butter, two very perishable items that somehow survived the long distant apocalypse.

I really really wanted to enjoy this book, but the reality is, I couldn’t wait to finish it and get it over with.

 

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