Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Review: Oh The Thinks You Can Think by Dr Seuss

Some readers might think that this is a children's book and as such it can only be appreciated by the very young or those with children; well think again! I read "Oh The Thinks You Can Think" for the first time just a few weeks ago and enjoyed it immensely, not only because of my ongoing appreciation of silliness and child-like charm, but because the book works on a number of levels.

Those who know Dr Seuss's work will know what to expect, word play, made-up creatures with silly names, amusing rhyming text and colourful, surreal illustrations. Those who don't know Dr Seuss will find a world that the imaginative can immerse themselves in; obviously children have the most fertile imaginations, but anyone who has a philosophical mind and/or enjoys childish silliness will appreciate this book for either or both reasons.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Life on Air by David Attenborough

Life on Air is Sir David Attenborough's autobiography covering the period of his life from his first days at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and focusing upon his work in making wildlife documentaries but also dealing with his time in the senior administration of the BBC.

As one would expect from Sir David Attenborough, this is an extremely skillfully written book using language that draws the reader in as though they become part of each anecdote. Of course, with such a long career in pioneering wildlife documentaries, there is no lack of interesting, insightful and often, amusing anecdotes to read. In fact by the time the reader gets to the end they might feel that there are far more interesting and amusing stories the author has yet to tell. Essentially this book is a celebration of the public life of one of Britain's most well-loved personalities.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books to be Reviewed: Against The Flow by Tom Fort

Thanks to Natalie Higgins for sending me a copy of Against the Flow by Tom Fort for reviewing. This is a travel book about one man's travels and angling adventures around Eastern Europe on two trips, one just after the collapse of Communism and one more recent.

"Twenty years ago, Tom Fort drove his little red car onto the ferry at Felixstowe, bound for all points east. Eastern Europe was still a faraway place, just emerging from its half-century of waking nightmare, blinking, injured, full of fears but importantly full of hope too. Things were different then. Czechoslovakia was still Czechoslovakia, Russia was the USSR and the Warsaw Pact had not formally dissolved. But what did exist then, as they do now, were the rivers: the nations' lifeblood. It was along and by these rivers that Fort travelled around Eastern Europe meeting its people and immersing himself in its culture. Since that trip though, much has changed and in more recent years around one million Poles have settled in Britain. Fort's local paper has a Polish edition, his supermarket has a full range of Polish bread, sausage and beer and an influx of Polish businesses opened in his town centre. And it's not just the Poles, his gym has a Lithuanian trainer and the woman who cuts his hair is from Hungary. As a tide of people began to leave Eastern Europe and settle in the UK, Tom Fort started to wonder about what they were leaving behind and whether the friends he had made all those years ago remained. And so he decided to make the journey again."

A review will soon appear here. For those that want to read it for themselves now, it is available here: Against the Flow.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Books to be Reviewed: The Missing by Jane Casey

Thanks to Caroline Newbury for sending me a copy of The Missing by Jane Casey for reviewing, this is her first novel and deals with the investigation of a missing child.

"Jenny Shepherd is twelve years old and missing...Her teacher, Sarah Finch, knows better than most that the chances of finding her alive are diminishing with every day she is gone. As a little girl her older brother had gone out to play one day and never returned. The strain of never knowing what has happened to Charlie had ripped Sarah's family apart. Now in her early twenties, she is back living at home, trapped with a mother who drinks too much and keeps her brother's bedroom as a shrine to his memory. Then, horrifically, it is Sarah who finds Jenny's body, beaten and abandoned in the woods near her home. As she's drawn into the police investigation and the heart of a media storm, Sarah's presence arouses suspicion too. But it not just the police who are watching her... "

A review will soon appear here. For those that want to purchase a copy now, orders can be placed here: The Missing.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: The Seven Gifts by John Mellor

The Seven Gifts, by John Mellor, is small volume that contains a set of seven delightfully bizarre, short allegorical tales linked together by the story of a boy who is in the process of being tutored by an angel for the purpose of delivering seven gifts that have been bestowed upon earth.

This highly unusual book delivers seven thought-provoking stories, laced with a large collection of some of the most strange and memorable characters that have ever appeared together in a book. Each tale can be read and enjoyed in isolation from the others, however, the linking narrative of the boy and angel make this far more than just a collection of short stories and provides a clearer picture as to the meaning of each tale. So original and full of potential are these stories that readers are sure to examine, at least some of them, several times even though they are easy to read.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: When the Sax Man Plays: Part 1 - Making It by Yvonne Marrs

When the Sax Man Plays, by Yvonne Marrs, is a story about a young music tutor, Jason Bottelli, who finds himself obliged to put together a band in order to compete in a talent contest. A group of very unlikely characters put themselves forward as candidates and as the band is assembled they surprise themselves to find out that they can perform surprisingly well together.

The strength of this book is its readability, written in a flowing style with always enough hinting as to what is to come ensuring that the reader quickly progresses through the book. There are episodic levels of suspense associated with the band going through the rounds which leads to a constant temptation to take a quick peek at the last page to see what will happen to the group.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Books to be Reviewed: The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth by John Mellor

Thanks to John Mellor for sending me a copy of his book, The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth, for reviewing. This is a story of a boy, charged by an Angel, to deliver seven gifts to earth, but first he must discover what they are.

"Seven precious gifts are bestowed on the Earth but not revealed. A young boy is charged with finding them."

"The singer emerged and his music raged across the land, a wild, swirling cloud of chords, laying waste like locusts to all that was soulless before it."

"I come not to bring peace, he said."

A review will soon follow here, until then readers can order a copy on John's website; The Seven Gifts.

Book Review: The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer

The Castle in the Forest is the final fictional work by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer. It is a semi-fictional history of Adolf Hitler's family and upbringing, narrated by a mysterious being who had the responsibility of influencing events to bring out the worst in the young Adolf to mold him into an instrument of evil.

The premise of the story is intriguing and the early chapters draw the reader into a fascinating, but sordid history of the Hitler family with a literary, but readable style which, together with the innate fascination of the subject, turn this into something of a page-turner in its early stages. However, at some hard-to-pinpoint stage the tale seems to lose its way, as if the author lost his train of thought, and it becomes a very different sort of book indeed, becoming more mysterious and allegorical but losing something of its readability for that; in fact it becomes less enjoyable.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi

The Monster of Florence is the true story of Italy's most infamous serial killer; a killer who murdered fourteen young lovers and has never been caught due to a combination of lack of evidence and a great deal of police incompetence.

Both Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi, two reporters who covered the case through the years and became involved in the investigation, tell this story and it has all the characters that could be invented by a best-selling author; corrupt policemen, a mysterious killer, false suspects, interfering politicians and the mafia, however, in this case they are all real and readers must keep reminding themselves that this is a true story. The book also contains conflicting information to the official version as to the identity of  "The Monster" so from that perspective it is a controversial piece of work and is likely to stimulate further reading for those who will inevitably enjoy this account.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: The Book With No Name by Anonymous

The Book With No Name, by Anonymous, is a dark story about a town where mysterious murders occur regularly but are infrequently solved by the police. This is a tale of dastardly characters, black humour, extreme violence and a compelling mystery which will excite some readers and appall others.

This tale is full of cliched characters, hackneyed themes and obviously steals from many other books and movies but the author somehow manages to combine all of those into an extremely enthralling and amusing book. The Book With No Name starts as it means to continue, beginning with a massacre in a bar and then providing a litany of similar violence throughout but at the same time building an intriguing mystery from the start which makes the reader turn the pages at a ferocious pace which matches that of the rate at which characters are introduced and then killed off.

Books to be Reviewed: When the Sax Man Plays: Part 1 Making It by Yvonne Marrs

Thanks to Yvonne Marrs for sending me a copy of her book, When the Sax Man Plays, for reviewing. This is her debut novel and it follows the life of a young musician trying to make a name for himself.

"Jason Bottelli is a young and extraordinarily gifted saxophonist who takes up a post as Head of Music at London's Impervious College. By night he plays at a jazz club; by day he teaches and wows the students with his talent. It seems he can do nothing wrong.

But Jason comes up against a difficult challenge when he is commanded to mentor a band to win the Annual talent Contest, for his very capable protegees have been dissuaded from entering. Jason finds that he has his work cut out for him in more ways than one: with only four weeks to the qualifying rounds he has to put a band together, choose material and rehearse."

A review will soon appear here, but until then copies can be ordered here: When the Sax Man Plays: Part 1 - Making It.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book Review: Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Mercury Falls, by Rob Kroese, is a comic novel about the approach of the Apocalypse and how preparations for it by the managements of heaven and hell become compromised by over-complicated bureaucracy and underhand deals.

This amusing story tells how a reporter, an indolent angel and a nerd end up having pivotal roles in the approaching Apocalypse, a world-ending deal that has been forged by heaven and hell after many thousands of years of legal wrangling. The writing here is extremely imaginative, with angels and demons resembling employees of large corporations and heaven and hell appearing like competing companies. Whilst the author creates humour from turning the divine into the banal and poking fun alternately at creationism and modern science, at times the humour is rather esoteric and this may prevent this novel from appealing to a wide range of readers.