Saturday, 29 March 2014

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

“I feel half faded away like some figure in the background of an old picture.”

This is my first Murdoch book and happily another tick off the 1001 book list. In some ways it reads like a sort of Noel Coward-esque bedroom farce and yet there is something compellingly real in the descriptions of self deception and the notion that its okay to misbehave as long as no one finds out. Its not all flinging of clothes onto the bedroom floor there are deeper emotional issues dealt with - ironically it seems Georgie, the youngest and notionally least mature, has to deal with the brunt of bad choices, from abortion to suicide to dating members of the same family.

Martin seems a lot older than his 41 years in many ways and yet is immature enough to think that his affair with Georgie has little or no bearing to his wife's leaving him for another man. Initially he plays the innocent victim to the hilt, but truth will out and his dirty laundry is eventually hung out for all to see.

As the drama plays out, everyone manages to be sleeping with everyone and romantic entanglements get progressively more intertwined. All the characters appeared a little ridiculous and unlikeable, perhaps love makes fools of us all and these people seemed to be rather silly and petty. Having said that, as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do and sleeping with your half brother seems a bit weird.

This certainly won't go down as my favourite book of all time nevertheless it was interesting and I look forward to comparing it with the author's other works which, if the writing is anything to go by, are certain to peak my interest.

4 out of 5 men should query if their wife is spending all their time with their best friend the psychoanalyst.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

All That Is by James Salter

What the joys of music were to others, words on a page were to him.”

I have been looking longingly at my 'to-read' pile, anxiously anticipating the moment when I could tear open the pages of Mr Salter's latest work.  A Sport and a Pastime  is one of my favourite novels of late and prompted my digits to feverishly hit the keyboard and order this latest novel on line.

His prose is beautiful as always, and yet I felt a little lost with the narrative here. Certainly, he continues to deliver the sexiest bedrooms scenes in literature and I think of him somewhat as a kind of contemporary Hemingway bursting with pure masculinity.

Perhaps my reticence to award top marks, in my estimation, stems from the storyline and the futile relationships we , as a reader, are party to. An old man carrying on with his ex girlfriend's daughter - I think that was the point when I kind of flinched at circumstances that seemed sad and cliched.

The ending comes about quite abruptly, leaving me still wanting more and finally able to go to sleep.

4 out of 5 ex navy officers are popular with the girls

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

"He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book."

As you might expect from Richard Flanagan, this is a really amazing book and as the subject matter might suggest, it is nothing less than harrowing. At first I thought the juxtaposition of love story and Thai-Burma railway gruesomeness might off set one another. No, this is as rough going as you might expect had you heard anything about the cholera ravaged POWs that carved out a rail way under unfathomable conditions.

Dorrigo is an imperfect, yet engaging protagonist, you could understand why all the women love him and as a reader you are drawn into his torments and trials with an incessant hunger. The makeshift surgery scenes will haunt your nightmares - not to mention when he recounts some of the horrific ablutions.

At the same time that we trample through the physical torments of the line, we're transported to a love affair that can never be and is all the more raw for its circumstances. i feel it would be unkind to let you know too much about this book before reading it, it would be far more interesting to explore it unbiased by too much fore knowledge.

5 out of 5 unhappy marriages are another kind of prison.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Horns by Joe Hill

"Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things".

Ig has had a really rough night and instead of a hangover, he appears to have grown horns. Well that gives horny a whole new spin.
His girlfriend was brutally raped and murdered and he is still, in the minds of the world, the prime suspect. Lack of evidence has left him free, but a broken man.  The world sees him as guilty and the world is getting particularly loose lipped around his new head gear.

There is something particularly compelling about this little tale - its a devil of a story.

I don't want to tell you too much more about it. Check it out for your self.

5 out of 5 broken crosses lead to trouble.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Giver by Lois Lowry

“He remembered that  upon waking, he had wanted to feel the Stirrings again.”

Relinquishing all your feelings to a society under complete control with no concept of what they are missing makes for an intriguing premise. When first the reader is introduced to Jonas, life seems  perfect yet sterile and as the Receiver learns the true state of things from the Giver, so our journey of discovery casts light on the insidious nature of perfect control and blind faith.

The world Jonas lives in has relegated war and suffering to the deep dark recesses of forgotten memory, yet someone has to bear those memories and that someone is the Giver, who will pass them on to the Receiver.

I started off a little disinterested in this novel, having done young adult dystopia to death of late, but  it slowly grew on me until I understood why this is regarded so highly by so many readers. There is something beautiful and dark in the telling and it is destined to draw you in.
I'm not sure how this will translate to a film adaptation and frankly, having read it, I'm not too optimistic about the upcoming release. When you think about the way the word release is used in the novel, it makes even more sense.

 5 out of 5 clever kids question everything.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

"It is impossible to erase my choices. Especially these."

I couldn’t sleep last night. The final instalment of the Divergent trilogy was calling me to push back the veil of tiredness and press on with the final chapters. The shocking dénouement (and I’m trying not to give anything away here) was not conducive to a much required rest, however it did make me reflect on the series as a whole.

Buying the triple pack released just in time for the film was an unexpected bonus, it meant I didn’t have to wait the interminable time between releases to find out what happened next. This also had its own down side. There was a lot of drama in a 3 day read – oh yes, gentle reader, I pretty much finished one novel a day, such was the momentum and build-up of suspense that I could only relent and snatch odd moments of my day to keep reading – who am I kidding they were less of the day and more the wee hours of the night.

My time spent with Tris and Four has been a thrill ride etched with a sense of gloom and doom. Ultimately, I think Ms Roth has really delivered an adventure coloured with an exploration of ethics and the potential for conflict that selective genetic engineering has the potential to invoke. The fact that it has been insanely popular with both kids and adults alike is a testament to good writing, strong characters and a somewhat dauntless attitude to their wellbeing. **SPOILER** People die in this one. Not saying who mind you.

As the novel floated to the floor after the final word was read and my eyes grew heavy and my head yearned for the pillow, I was vacillating between scores, but finally decided, this was moving and fast paced and surprising – a combination that occurs ever less frequently these days.

5 out of 5 memory serums could erase that walk of shame permanently.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

"The  Candor  sing  the  praises  of  the  truth,  but  they  never  tell  you  how  much  it  costs"

I literally tore open the pages of this highly anticipated sequel. When I say highly anticipated, I mean, I probably waited half an hour between finishing the first book and continuing on with the sequel. Had to leave time to post my review after all!

Anyway, back to the sequel I'm generally no fan of sequels - except for Empire Strikes Back - I thought they smelled bad from the outside - but perhaps that means a trilogy is an entirely different beast ( or  tauntaun). I don't really know why I'm off on a Star Wars tangent, best not to diverge from the subject!

The world that Tris lives in has changed considerably and the air smells like war. Will she discover the truth behind everyone's factional machinations? Will her love for four/Tobias trump all and what is the truth about her divergent status?

Not everything will be revealed in this instalment, however the scene is definitely set for the final outcome and now I'm just itching to launch into the 3rd book. I'm eyeing it up as we speak!

5 out of 5  simulations can really mess with your head.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

"Never in my life did I expect to hold a gun, let alone fire 


I know I am a little slow to jump (not exactly dauntless) on the Veronica Roth bandwagon, but I was compelled to check this one out by the countless great reviews and the fact that the movie is coming out soon. If, by chance, you have read my previous reviews, you will recall I am a little obsessed with checking out the source material before seeing the movie version. I am sure the talented Shailene Woodley will do just fine as Tris, I just like to form my own imaginary version first. Also, holy cow, did they pick a stunning looking Four or what - Theo is very easy on the eye - but let's wait until you too can check out the book first!

My initial thoughts were, hmm some publisher has said " I reckon a cross between Harry Potter and Hunger Games would sell well" and a helpful author has willingly complied, but this first impression does the book a massive disservice. Somewhere between the Aptitude Tests ( I dare you not to think of the sorting hat) and the segregated dystopian society ( hello districts), the story ensnares the reader and does not let up with a compelling mix of action and emotions.  It is a testament to just how good this novel is, how gripping the story gets, that I picked up the sequel just as soon as I completed the last page.

Perhaps some of its charm lies in the main character of Tris. Here we see a tough, realistic heroine who suffers from moral dilemmas, who is facing the challenges of growing up and living a markedly different life from that of her childhood and all under a shroud of fear and mystery. The romantic perspective is slow and awkward and has at its core a sense of reality that is interesting given the fantastical surrounds. Nothing feels dumbed down, there is something beautifully raw and acute about everything that Tris experiences that really cements your presence as a reader in her world.

Now, heck, I just can't wait for the movie! The trailer is out and I allowed myself a peek after finishing the book - check it out yourself ( if you've read the book already) it looks pretty bang on!

5 out of 5 readers now want a tattoo of 3 crows

Friday, 7 March 2014

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

"At least, that's what the wizards say, which is why they charge such swingeingly huge fees for getting involved with the bloody stuff."

Of all the weeks to read this tenth instalment of the Discworld, Oscar week seemed ridiculously appropriate.I mean who would have thought Ellen would "break the internet"? Prepare yourself for a journey to the strange and transformative realm of Holy Wood. 

Former student wizard, Victor Tugelbend finds himself a job acting  with Theda Withel in strange moving pictures that seem to disappear in a haze and leave their protagonists a little confused as to what happened. Did I  also mention there's a talking dog? He gives Lassie tribute "Laddie" a run for his money.

How can I not love a book that references (amongst countless other gems of the silver screen), Gone with the wind - "Tomorrow is another day" , Casablanca - "Play it again, Sham",  and Star Trek, "This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier." ? After all they are some of my all time favourite moving pictures.

5 out of 5 best picture winners get bigger box offices.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

"On certain days, driving into Santa Monica was like having hallucinations without going to all the trouble of acquiring and then taking a particular drug, although some days, for sure, any  drug was preferable to driving in Santa Monica."

Oh Mr Pynchon, you had me at a trippy, messed up noir detective novel. I am, for once, grateful to Hollywood, for bringing this little gem to my attention. Sure it sparks up well, but then things get a little hazy, but come on, I mean, how appropriate! I cannot wait to see what Paul Thomas Anderson makes of this one, and it sounds like I'll find out before the year is through.
Doc, the protagonist, is a little rough around the edges. I get the impression he isn't that attractive, but some how he seems to do okay with the ladies - a combination of catching them in their weak drug addled moments and his sheer front.
His ex-girlfriend, Shasta is begging for help and let's face it, most of his clients aren't exactly of the paying variety. Chaos ensues, strap yourself in for a cracked up potboiler.
4 out of 5, because how can you be afraid of a boat?