Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Review: French Revolutions by Tim Moore

French Revolutions is the true and humourous tale of one man'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. The take is interspersed with such factual anecdotes about the Tour De France which gives it another dimension.

This is a well-written and interesting story which takes the reader through the French countryside and the 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.

Whilst the details of French Revolutions are interesting the humour falls short of anything but mildly amusing, although it is sufficient to add an element to the book. However, I found myself turning the pages wanting to know the progress of Tim Moore as he, bit by bit, improves as a cyclist and manages ever-increasing feats of bicycling endurance.

This is a very enjoyable book but I didn't really understand why the author resorted to cutting out parts of the route - if he wanted to cycle the route of the Tour De France why didn't he do just that rather than truncate the journey? For me, this slightly detracted from the tale.

For readers who enjoy travel literature this is a good choice with an engaging story, amusing anecdotes and fun facts about the Tour De France. I recommend this book to a wide range of readers.

Score: 9/10

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 a series of comedic novels featuring the librarian Israel Armstrong who becomes an unlikely detective. Israel arrives, from London, in small and obsure Irish town where outsiders are made to feel as such. 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 flogged and largely occur because of Israel's lack of social skills and preconceived ideas.

Israel is an unconventional hero both because of his physical limitations and unwillingness to engage the situation, and this is refreshing in a literary world of so many cliched lead characters. Unfortunately, many of the large number of characters that are introduced are intriguingly interesting but not expanded upon; one gets the impresion that the author is saving many of them for subsequent novels.

This book is also appealing due to the way that Israel gradually becomes part of the community and that turns out to be central to solving the mystery of the missing books.

I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone as its easy-to-read style, amusing style and interesting story will engage almost any level and age of reader.

Score: 8.5/10

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 catalogues his violent progress in the east end of London from abused child to petty thief, hard man, minder, bare-knuckle boxer to actor.

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.

Whilst this is the story of a man who earned his living through violence or the threats of violence this book in no way glorifies it and the reader very quickly becomes aware of a code of honour which is religiously adhered to among these characters of the underworld; the author does exceedingly well to introduce the reader to other aspects of the Guv'nor's personality.

As well as giving an insight into the lives of such characters, this book gives the reader a glimpse of the British judicial system and reveals that it is far from perfect, indeed the final chapters of this story describe how McLean spends one year in prison before even receiving a trial.

Whilst this is a surprisingly interesting and captivating read much of the book has the same theme and rythym, recalling bare-knuckle boxing matches, fights and other violent interludes and toward the last third of the book this becomes a little repetitive. However, the ending is engaging enough to wrest the book away from becoming dull and I think most readers will be left feeling like the Guv'nor is someone they could have got on with.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy biographies and tales of misadventure, particularly those of gandland violence in London in the 60s to the 90s. This is a surprisingly interesting story and I think many readers would enjoy it.

Score: 7.5/10