Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: Tricks of The Mind by Derren Brown

Tricks of The Mind is an insight into the sleight of hand, distractive, memory and psychological techniques employed, so effectively in his performances, by the British mentalist and showman, Derren Brown. Whilst this book examines the way in which people's perceptions, attention and beliefs can be manipulated for magical effect, it is not, however, a instructive manual on how to perform such tricks as predictions, disappearances and feats of memory.

In Tricks of The Mind, Derren Brown very skillfully and often humorously examines psychology, illusion and how people can be made to believe things that are not real in a way that hints at how these techniques are used in his shows. This book effectively lets us into the realm of Derren Brown and shows us what a wide range of ideas, techniques and fields of expertise are required to perform such acts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Books to be Reviewed: Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Thanks to Robert Kroese for sending me a copy of his book, Mercury Falls, for reviewing. This is a comic novel about the adventures of a rogue angel at the brink of the apocalypse.

"Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine, have left Christine Temetri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice. That is, until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who's frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting his ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist. Now, to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist."

A review will soon appear here, until then readers can order a copy here - Mercury Falls.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review: Thoughts, Life of a Suicide by Dillan Kane

This self-published book, by author Dillan Kane, is an attempt to look at understanding suicide and how those that are left behind deal with the issue. The author is the brother of someone who committed suicide at a young age and someone who has worked in the mental health system with those who have suicidal tendencies.

Whilst this book is written from the heart, I found that the author focuses only on his own feelings and does not really provide an insight into how suicidal people feel or what makes them feel that way. While this publication is about dealing with the aftermath of suicide some understanding of what causes it is relevant. Disappointingly, the story of the author's brother is not really explored properly and I feel that if it had, a more interesting and meaningful book would have been the result.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: French Revolutions by Tim Moore

French Revolutions is the true and humorous tale of Tim Moore's attempt to cycle around France following the route of the 2000 Tour De France. Whilst this attempt is largely successful, the author does resort to cheating on a number of occasions, something he justifies by outlining the history (tradition?) of cheating in the real Tour. This interesting take on the race is interspersed with a wide variety of factual anecdotes about the Tour De France which gives the book another dimension and making it more than just a jokey travelogue.

This is a well-written and interesting story which takes the reader through the French countryside and the superhuman effort it takes to complete the Tour even at a slow pace, imparting something of the author's emotional journey as he becomes a more accomplished cyclist.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Books to be Reviewed: Thoughts - Life of a Suicide by Dillan Kane

Thanks to Greg Shelangoski for sending me a copy of Thoughts: Life of a Suicide by Dillan Kane for reviewing. This book aims to provoke thoughts on what makes people commit suicide and what happens afterwards in an attempt to prevent further suicides; the book is authored by the brother of a suicide and is self-published through Author House.

"My brother committed suicide in 1999 at the age of 16. Like any suicide it didn't seem to need to have to happen,but it did. This is my attempt to try to understand the impulses of suicide and heal from the aftermath. It is also my attempt to define what death is and what it means to me,interwined with what life means. "

A review will soon appear here but until then readers can order a copy from Amazon: Thoughts: Life of a Suicide.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: The Case of The Missing Books by Ian Sansom

The Case of the Missing Library Books is the first in Ian Sansom's series of comedic novels featuring the librarian Israel Armstrong who, in this first outing, becomes an unlikely detective. Israel arrives, from London, in small and obscure Irish town where outsiders are made to feel less than welcome. He quickly finds that he has been downgraded to mobile librarian and that he must locate all 14000 missing books.

This is an interesting yarn which draws heavily on Israel's discomfort and inability to fit in with the locals for sources of humour but there is a lot of situational amusement to be derived from this book too. Cultural stereotypes are used a lot in this story but they are not over-relied upon and largely occur because of Israel's lack of social skills and preconceived ideas.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: The Guv'nor by Lenny Mclean & Peter Gerrard

The Guv'nor is the nickname and biography of Lenny McLean and this book catalogues his violent progress in the east end of London from abused child to petty thief, hard man, minder, bare-knuckle boxer to bit-part actor; a truly astonishing and, at times, disturbing tale.

Although this is a biography it has the feel of an autobiography due to its first person narrative and use of colloquial English, giving it a really authentic feel and making it as if The Guv'nor is telling his story directly to the reader and makes for unusual and interesting reading. Indeed the litany of misdeeds and violence which are described in Lenny McLean's life would sound ridiculous if told in any other way and are only believable when hearing it from a first person perspective. This is the story of one of London's old-fashioned monsters but told in a way that reveals the good qualities of his character.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: Hit List by Lawrence Block

Hit List, by Lawrence Block, is a story of a professional hitman, John Keller, for whom things gradually begin to go wrong. Whereas most of his contracts have run smoothly, a few begin to take a strange twist whereby people loosely connected to Keller die and he begins to doubt that these are coincidences. After a few close incidents he realizes that someone is out to get him and he is eventually forced to go on the trail of the hitman who is trying to assassinate him.

Whilst the premise of this story is interesting and is engaging for parts of the book it largely misses the opportunity for some rather dark humour. Although the plot is fairly interesting the book is woefully padded out with a large amount of barely relevant incidents such as Keller doing jury duty and an unacceptable amount of banal dialogue which becomes very irritating after a while.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by J. H. Patterson

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, by J H Patterson, is the classic, true, story of how an English engineer tracked and killed two man eating lions that had been preying upon the workers attempting to construct a railway in Kenya. Over one hundred Indian labourers were eaten by the pair of lions and having arrived to build a bridge, the author was obliged to hunt down the two man-eaters while at the same time trying to protect an increasingly mutinous workforce.

Whilst the story of dealing with the man eaters is quite an amazing one, the author does not seem to have the gift of being a storyteller, and the facts, which would have made for a riveting tale had they been relayed in style, are simply retold in a brief, descriptive fashion typical of a Victorian civil servant. In other words this reads as an administrative report rather then the ripping yarn that it should be.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Books to be Reviewed: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi

Thanks again to Julia Pidduck for sending me a copy of The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi for reviewing. This book documents the true story of Italy's very own "Jack The Ripper"; a serial killer who has gone unpunished despite over 20 years of police work.

"Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved with his family to a villa in Florence. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double murder committed by one of the most infamous figures in Italian history. A serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers, he has never been caught. He is known as the Monster of Florence.

Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city’s bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a bizarre police investigation."

I have recently finished this excellent book and will review it soon. Those who are interested can purchase a copy from The Monster of Florence.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne

Birdwatchingwatching documents the year-long foray into birdwatching by Alex Horne, an investigation into a hobby that his father has long had and that Alex has never understood. In an attempt to understand his father's passion Alex challenges him to a "Big Year", a year in which the person who sees the most species is declared the winner with the level of competition bringing father and son closer together.

Over the course of a year Alex's growing enthusiasm for birds is obvious and the way in which he delves into all the mysterious aspects of birdwatching is very amusing indeed. The style of this book is one of a naive newby to the hobby of birdwatching, almost birdwatching through the eyes of a child, making great reading for anyone who loves birds, from those with just a casual interest to the hard core "twitcher".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Review: Married Lovers by Jackie Collins

Cameron Paradise escapes a violent marriage, but not a cliched name, and heads to Los Angeles where she finds a job in an exclusive fitness club and rubs shoulders with rich, powerful and attractive people. Falling for a rich, married movie mogul there ensues lust, sex and adultery leading to murder.

As with all of Jackie Collins's books one should not expect the literary style of the classics but she makes up for this with a high level of readability, and Married Lovers turns out to be something of a page-turner, perhaps not of plot-driven enthusiasm but for pages packed with smut. In fact it is well known that this author prides herself in giving her readers huge mounds of sex with knobs on, and whilst the story is rather predictable and not particularly memorable, she certainly provides well for her fan base.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Would be King and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling, is a short tale of two rogues who decide to head into a legendary country, "Kafiristan" and seduce the indigenous population into accepting them as Kings. The story is very well told and conjures up a vivid picture of the hostility of the lands entered by "Peachy" Carnehan and Daniel Dravot and the characters they meet along the way.

The Man Who Would be King contains some intriguing references to the Masonic order, and indeed it is the local people's familiarity with the rituals of this sect that give the two main characters a foot in their palatial door, but which also ultimately seals their dreadful fate. This is an excellent short story which was made into a superb movie starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

Books to be Reviewed: Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne

Thank you to Julia Pidduck for sending me a copy of the strangely titled Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne for reviewing. This is the story of Alex's year-long foray into birdwatching and "big year" competition with his father; a lifelong birder. As a birdwatcher myself, this book is of great interest and will be reviewed very soon.

"Alex Horne’s dad has always been a birdwatcher. Alex wasn’t so sure. But, determined to get to know his father better, Alex challenged him to a competitive Big Year: from January 1st to December 31st 2006, they would each attempt to see as many species of bird as possible, governed by the basic rules of birdwatching, plus a couple of their own: the birds had to be wild, free and alive; they had to actually see the birds; and they could travel anywhere in the world to do it. The one who saw the most birds over the course of 365 days would be declared the winner."

Currently I am part the way through this book and can't put it down and think it will appeal to birdwatchers, birders, ornithologists and robin-strokers alike.

A review will soon appear here but until then readers can order a copy here: Birdwatchingwatching.