Sunday, July 4, 2010

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

Those readers might think that this is a children's book and can only be appreciated by the very young or those with children think again! I read "Oh The Thinks You Can Think" for the first time just a few weeks ago and enjoyed it immensely.

Those who know Dr Seuss will know what to expect, word play, made-up creatures with silly names, amusing rhyming text and 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.

Oh The Thinks You Can Think has no plot, it has no central character and it is about nothing other than thinking about anything you can imagine; essentially it is a book that encourages children and parents to use their imaginations together, but it also tempts older readers to free their minds of preconceived ideas and imagine like they haven't imagined since childhood.

The writing and wordplay by Dr Seuss are wonderful features and I particularly like the silly creatures, "Snuvs wearing gloves", "Guffs" and "Befts that go left" all brought to life with delightful pictures. Oh The Thinks You Can Think is a wonderful book that is only hampered by the fact that it is probably too short; instead of just relying on the text parents need to encourage thought, interaction and conversation to get the most out of this book with their kids.

Oh The Thinks You Can Think is highly recommended to those parents of small children who want to read simple, but imaginative, well-illustrated books together and talk about them together. I would also recommend this title to Dr Seuss fans who have never come across this book before and to those free-thinking readers who like a trip back to childhood.

Score: 9/10

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: Life on Air by David Attenborough

Life on Air is Sir David Attenborough's autobiography covering his life from his first days at the 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 the reader gets to the end and feels that there are far more interesting and amusing stories to tell.

Whilst the chapters surrounding David's time creating wildlife documentaries is probably the most anticipated reading by his fans, the parts of the book dealing with his time in the highest echelons of the BBC are also very good reading and slightly surprising even to those most familiar with David Attenborough's work.

Naturally, with so much travel behind him and such a distinguished career, there are many revealing photographs to accompany the text; if only there had been more room for more photos, perhaps in another book to come?


This is one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I have ever read and it is to be highly recommended to fans of Sir David and anyone who has enjoyed many of his wildlife documentaries with the BBC over the years.

Oh yes, my copy has a dedication to me from Sir David Attenborough in the front cover. Thanks mum for queuing!

Score: 10/10

If you are a fan of David Attenborough you can read a review of another of his books here - The Life of Birds.

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 purchase a copy now, orders can be placed 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 That Came To Earth by John Mellor

The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth is a set of seven allegorical stories linked by the story of a boy being tutored by an angel for the purpose of delivering seven gifts that have been bestowed upon earth.

This highly unusual tale delivers seven thought-provoking stories, laced with a large collection of some of the most bizarre and memorable characters that have ever appeared in a book. However, the linking narrative of the boy and angel make this far more than a collection of short stories and provide a clearer picture as to the meaning of each tale.

One of the wonders of this book is the strange set of characters and peculiar events set in an unusual juxtaposition; a medieval queen hosting a rock concert, a space-exploring bee and a philosopher that talks to a stone are all central to their own tales. At times, these quite incredible characters and events begin to strike the reader as insanity on the part of the author. However, if insanity it is, this is the type that gives birth to great achievements and in examining so many themes such as society, religion and environment, this book can be considered a great achievement by its author.

The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth is not a normal book with a normal story; it must be approached with an open mind and no preconceived ideas of how books should be written. If readers are looking for something original and thought-provoking, this offering from John Mellor nearly perfect - my only disappointment with the book was that it was over too quickly.

I would recommend The Seven Gifts That Came To Earth to a wide variety of open-minded and adventurous readers. Fans of the absurd and philosophy would particularly enjoy it and students of religion and the environment will find some useful themes here too.

Score: 9.5/10

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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

When the Sax Man Plays is a story about a young music tutor who finds himself forced to put together a band in order to compete in a talent contest. He puts together a group of unlikely characters and they find out that they can perform surprisingly well.

The strength of this book is its readability, written in a flowing style with always enough hint of what is to come to ensure the reader quickly progresses through the book, there is a constant temptation to take a quick peek at the last page to see what will happen.

The characters here are very distinct too and quite likeable, enough to want to read more about them in Part 2, however, for readers who enjoy richly developed characters this book falls a little short as what we discover about them is conveyed in rather too brief a fashion. Similarly, although the plot is engaging it is only the bare bones that are relayed to the reader and certain incidents are described in a slightly hackneyed style.

Even taking into account its faults, When The Sax Man Plays has a certain appeal that is difficult to put one's finger on; maybe it is a certain raw talent from this first-time author which mirrors the fresh, unsophisticated style of her character's music.


I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy an easy read with a good story. I would also encourage readers who like something a little different from the best-seller style to try this book and support the author so that Part 2 materialises.

Score: 6/10

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 a semi-fictional history of Adolf Hitler's family and upbringing, narrated by a minor devil 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 quite early on. However, at some, hard-to-pinpoint, stage the tale loses its way, as if the author lost his train of thought.

At two points the fanciful fiction of how Adolf Hitler became evil digresses to the point of irrelevance; once when the narrator rambles on about his role in Russia and for a second time where over 100 pages are devoted to Adolf's father's bee-keeping activities which draw the reader to create parallels with concentration camps but is then told that this is far to simple and explanation - why then make such a point of it?

These failing aside, Norman Mailer succeeds in weaving a picture of a child inherently evil, an evil nurtured by devils and his father's behaviour, with acts of coprophelia, sexual deviance, carelessness and domination to give the reader what they expect. What the reader does not expect, though, is such a weak ending whereby the story is wrapped up in a hurry, just at the point where Hitler is about to exhibit the results of his upbringing; a very unsatisfying conclusion that seemed to result from the author losing interest in the tale.

Whilst The Castle in the Forest is a very readable book and contains some interesting ideas, ultimately it is a real disappointment. Those interested in Adolf Hitler will certainly find something of interest here and anyone who enjoys thought-provoking stories will find some interesting ideas on the nature of evil, but those who wish to read a well-rounded tale will need to look elsewhere.

Score: 6/10

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 police incompetence.

This story, told by two reporters who covered the case and became involved in the investigation, has all the characters that could be dreamt up by a best-selling author; corrupt policemen, a mysterious killer, false suspects, interfering polititians and the mafia, however, in this case they are all real.

The author's background as journalsists allow them to avoid the chronological style of a scholar or police investigator and the result is an extremely well-told story using a set of facts that are fascinating on their own. The quality of the author's style is such that at times the reader forgets that it is a work of non-fiction rather than a novel and is absorbed into the tale. Personally, I could not put this book down.

This is a well-written account of a fasciniating serial killer and the authors skillfully reveal that the investigation itself is a story of its own; a story of a completely bungled investigationoy and the book is of interest on both accounts for students of crime and readers who enjoy strange plot twists

I highly recommend the Monster of Florence to all readers, particularly those who enjoy crime stories, either finctional or non-fictional; this will be one of the most memorable tales you have read.

Score: 10/10

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review: The Book With No Name by Anonymous

The Book With No Name 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, 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 somehow manages to combine those into an extremely enthralling book. The Book With No Name begins with a massacre and provides a litany of similar violence throughout but builds an intriguing mystery from the start which makes the reader turn the pages fiercely.

One of the strengths of The Book With No Name is the huge number of very memorable and over-the-top characters that either come from or would fit straight into a movie; Rodeo Rex, Elvis, The Bourbon Kid, El Santino, Sanchez The Barman, Jefe The Bountyhunter and many others are among some of the most colourful, amusing and, amazingly, likable characters of any book I have ever read.

Although some of the dialogue is fairly cliched and the themes quite unoriginal, the author manages to weave a compelling plot, one which revolves around a magical jewel, a book which once read results in death and mysterious monks.

The Book With No Name is a literary smorgasbord of memorable characters, violence, swearing, plot themes and even the obligatory vampires, but one of the most enjoyable and memorable books I have read in a long time.

I would recommend The Book With No Name to readers who enjoy riotous and action-packed stories full of interesting and exaggerated characters. Don't expect a literary masterpiece but do expect a lot of fun.

Score: 9/10

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 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 beaurocracy 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 imaginitive, with angels and demons resembling employees of large corporatations 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.

Whilst the story of Mercury Falls is quite compelling, with an amusing and recurring parody of people's obsession with a very well-known series of children's books featuring an adolescent wizard, at times it becomes quite complicated and begins to resemble the beaurocracy it draws its humour from. However, a fine ending draws the reader in and made me laugh right up the conclusion where the main characters make a deal with the devil and come out on top.

This novel is very well-written, with a wonderful vocabulary and is clearly written by a mind that sees deeply into all sorts of situations and creates a book as surreal as a painting by Dali.

This is a very clever bookwith a good story and a lot of humour. However, it is way off the main stream and requires a similar imagination to the one that the author uses in order to appreciate it. I would recommend this book to readers who like the surreal, anything anti-establishment and irreverent. I would not recommend this book to religious fundamentalists who would probably take great offence to the almost certain delight of the author.

Score: 8.5/10