Saturday, 27 December 2014

Them, Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson

"Yes,  Henrick had promised to leave the lizards out of the discussion, but these were desperate times, and they called for desperate measures."

My friend, Matt, introduced me to that fountain of delight which is the Kinokuniya bookstore in Sydney and it was in those luscious surrounds that I noticed this book winking temptingly with its heavily discounted price tag.

I had previously enjoyed Ronson's The Psychopath Test and was interested to explore his take on extremists.

This is a roller coaster ride that includes a KKK leader preoccupied with softening their media image, an Islamic extremist that collects funding in coca cola collection bottles whilst bemoaning the decadence of western society and a number of other interesting characters. 

The thread that joins most of the disparate characters is their conviction that the world is controlled by secret societies, one of which suggested that these masters of the universe were actually lizards... yes, you read that correctly.

An entertaining read that manages to make you laugh, while simultaneously making you just a tad scared. I'd certainly recommend it.

4 out of 5 secret societies rule the world over golf.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

"Don't you know girls have to fool people  every day  of their lives  if they want to get anywhere?

I absolutely loved this fairy tale by Salman Rushdie. It it gorgeous with snippets of tongue in cheek delight and vivid imagery that will enchant the reader. Haroun's father is a master story teller who has lost the ability to recount his previously miraculous tales. In order to bring back more stories, Haroun embarks on a magical adventure to the sea of stories. Throw in the odd Beatles reference, ooh look a walrus, and you will find yourself in an alien landscape chock full of fun.

5 out of 5 magical tales spun like gold.

Monday, 22 December 2014

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

"It wasn't his appointment, it was Paul Auster's."

Well, fancy that, a novel that is, in fact, novel. What a strange beastie this one is. Three separate tales drawn together, and meta to the hilt. Turning the hard boiled detective genre on its head in an intriguing manner, dropping literary allusions from Cervantes to locked room mysteries, this is a novel for readers and lovers of all things literary.

For what is reading but an entree into the lives and minds of others? The characters here either conducting surveillance or under surveillance, mimic our actions as readers and like us, they get carried away into the strange constructions of the author.

How can you not love a book with an opening as noir as "It was a wrong number that started it"? If you love Bored to Death  as much as I do, this is the book for you my friend.

5 out of 5 mistaken detectives might lose everything.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

It Had to Be Murder by Cornell Woolrich

" You’ve seen nothing. You know nothing. You only have the negative proof that you don’t see her any more."

This is the short (very short) story that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Certainly, one of my favourite films, the inspiration source is a far cry from the cinematic representation. For starters, there is no love interest - imagine the film without Grace Kelly? 

Our hero, is no James Stewart, there is no sign of a camera and the reason for his immobility is not explicitly described. The aspects that remain are the suspenseful interface with Mr Thorwald and the mysterious disappearance of the ailing Mrs Thorwald.

A speedy, tale of suspense that has lost some of its ability to thrill by virtue of familiarity with the cinematic interpretation.

3 out of 5 nosy neighbours might get into trouble.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

“What if today’s essentially irrelevant occurrence – what if  all this is only the beginning, only the first meteorite in a whole series of rumbling, burning rocks, spilling through infinity  toward our glass paradise?”

Every now and then, as a reader, you discover a perfect book. Something dangerous, something that makes you think, something that makes you feel; most importantly something that makes you question.This, is one of those books.

It is expertly crafted and tantalisingly develops its strange plot. Mathematics is the answer to everything and everyone is designated by a letter and a number. Sex is something that requires a pink ticket and zero emotion, imagination can be removed by surgery and the One State controls all.

A precursor to George Orwell's dystopian view, it is incredulous to me that this novel which seems so contemporary was written way back in 1921. Now that I've read it, I really want to re-read it - which is really unusual for me.

5 out of 5 totalitarian regimes end in revolution

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

“Ten Meg is a serious chunk of crackle to be using at short notice.”

The second volume of the Last Dragonslayer  series, sees sixteen year old Jennifer Strange as acting manager of Kazam, in the absence of  its boss the Great Zambini. As a non wizard, the more magically inclined personnel are a little hard on young Jen. That being said there are much bigger fish to fry with the competition,  headed by the scary Blix with the ever changing superlative name.

I cannot wait to begin the  next volume for a dose of the hilarious and entertaining Mr Fforde, demonstrating once again, that he can deliver as a writer for children as well as adults.

5 out of 5 quark.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Island of Adventure by Enid Blyton


“That interfering boy! Joe would certainly stop him doing anything if he could!”

Staying at Craggy-Tops, an old house opposite the mysterious Island of Gloom, friends Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Philip are bound for adventure replete with counterfeiters, kidnappers, talking parrots and abandoned copper mines.

It has been a very long time since I have read an Enid Blyton book and let’s just say, time has not been kind. I can very well understand how a novel that encourages young children to actively seek out subterranean dangers  would be frowned upon in today’s  cotton wool covered world and I found myself laughing out loud thinking, this would never be allowed today.

I enjoyed the novelty of this little tale, yet, ultimately that wasn't enough to sustain my interest. Clearly I am no longer the target demographic.

2 out of 5 adventures could be lethal.

Alfred Hitchcock & The Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

“Janet, who was a terrific sport and a wonderful professional throughout, was never nude."

If , like me you have had the pleasure of watching the recent movie, Hitchcock, with the always divine Helen Mirren, you might also wish to explore the source material. Exploring the background, behind the movie, makes for an easy and enjoyable read.

Some of the meatier moments deal with the struggles with censorship, the difficulties of filming the infamous shower scene and the foibles of one of the most memorable and effective movie marketing campaigns ever.

As always, Hitch is the real story. In particular, his love/ hate relationships with his work colleagues. Something memorably portrayed in the film adaptation of this novel by the current Mrs Timberlake , Jessica Biel, in her portrayal of the put upon Vera Miles.

Rebello knows how to craft an engaging non-fiction work with the requisite finesse required to discuss the work of this master of suspense.

4 out of 5 times the colour of a girl’s bra tells a visual tale.