Book review entries

February 28, 2006

Ought to have been better

3 out of 5 stars

I found this book a bit weak. I googled Dean Koontz and expected to find that he'd been writing for a couple of years at the most. Instead it turns out that he's been writing for decades. Thus furthering my astonishment at the low quality of the writing.

The premise is hugely exciting: "If tyou don't take this note to the police, I will KILL a lovely, blonde school teacher. – If you do take this note to the police, I will instead KILL an elderly woman."
Now what would you do? You can't not take the note to the police, but then everyone would think that you just wanted to condemn the old woman to die, rather than the pretty woman. Sadly, that's where the exciting plot stops. The rest of the book is strung together strands of story, which seem to have no connection with each other.

The ending, I'll admit is surprising, but only, because it is based on the fact that something entirely unbelievable happened beforehand. I know that I'll be annoying a lot of Dean Koontz fans here, but I'm sorry, I just didn't like it. 3 stars.

May 16, 2005

2001 B.C.: A Time Odyssey

4 out of 5 stars

Time's Eye is the first novel in the Time Odyssey series. According to the authors, this series doesn't run parallel to the Space Odyssey, but rather orthogonal (at right-angles, for all non-mathematicians). Though I have yet to find any reference to HAL and Dave Bowman. However, the classic line "But he would think of something." is back and promises to lead us into a great series.

The book deals with a sudden congregation of earth's history. Mongols, Macedonians, Colonial British and 21st Century UN soldiers, all find themselves thrown together on a world renamed "MIR". if only that were all. Everywhere the book takes us, there are hovering "Eyes" that appear to be watching everything that these (involuntary) timetravellers do.

The book is filled with the latest ideas in science about the nature of the universe. Although it makes for an interesting read, the explanations are far too short to be understood by the casual reader and many will find themselves skipping over them. Not a problem, the book has far more to offer than just maths. It is a very detailed and (from what I've heard, read and seen) a very accurate account of the respective time periods. Much of the book is spent on explaining military routines and rituals and the book seems to focus on war, but then that's hardly surprising, given earth's history.

Though not exactly a compulsory page-turner, this book is very gripping. I'm not sure in what relationship the two authors wrote this book, but this "Odyssey" series will be a much more mainstream read. Where 2001 was very arty and thought-provoking, this book will certainly appeal to a wider range of readers.

The book is well written, with just enough descriptive imagery to bring the ancient worlds to life. The story is paced and gripping. The dialogue is quirky with a mix of modern and 19th century british slang.

All in all this is a very good book and I'm already eagerly anticipating the second book, which I hope will clear up a few of the mysteries with which the book leaves you. Recommended to everyone.

January 06, 2005

The Mayor of Casterbridge

4 out of 5 stars

I saw this book in the bookshop and thought that it looked quite interesting. The premise was somewhat unusual. Michael Henchard sells his wife and daughter to someone else whilst heavily inebriated. A few years later, he is the Mayor of Casterbridge (hence the title) when his wife and daughter return to him.

The book is wonderfully written, with lots of descriptive imagery, which, even towards the end of the book, does not get repetitive or boring. Many details are left for the reader to imagine for himself, whilst others are explained intricately.

The plot is extraordinary. Beginning with the premise described above, the book manages to convey the account of a man, who made a fatal mistake in his youth and how that mistake comes to haunt him later in life. One thing I found myself asking throughout Henchard's ordeal was, how life would have been different for him, had he not sold his wife and child.
The story manages to twist and turn again and again, throwing ever more problems at Henchard and every single one breaks him a little bit more. He's a man of conviction and emotion, which makes him unpredictable in the least.

Though the book focusses on Henchard's plight, it's not simply a narrative of his life, but rather manages to incorporate the story into a fascinating description of life in Casterbridge at the time of Thomas Hardy.

An excellent book that manages to surprise, delivered in a superb narrative.

November 30, 2004

Unlike anything you have read before!

5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book written by an autistic boy? Me neither, so this book is probably the closest we will ever come. Someone once described this book as being new-age childrens' literature, because it contains a lot of swearing and has no happy end. I would agree with that and hope that we will see a lot more of this genre and definitly by Haddon.

We follow the life of Christopher, an autistic child and see the world through his eyes. It's a marvellous story and one which makes you want to stand up and applaud Mark Haddon for his inspiring and deeply insightful book, which has the power to teach all of us a little about how society behaves towards those who are different. Seeing the world through Christopher's eyes also gives us an insight into how strange and surreal human behaviour is to anyone who is not accustomed to it. Don't expect this book to be happy and cutesy, it isn't; it's downright tearjerking at times.

This book successfully manages to combine a look at autism with the story of a little boy and his quest to solve the murder of his neighbour's dog. In a word: Brilliant.

Tight rope walking the Second Amendment

5 out of 5 stars

Watched Bowling for Columbine? Interested in the gun control debate? This book will answer all your questions and more. Richard North Patterson presents the second amendment to the american constitution from both sides in this action packed, political thriller.

The plot is well conceived and the twists and turns aren't always predictable, giving us an ever changing perspective on gun crime and American's freedom to carry guns. Balance of Power marries political intrigue in the American Senate with personal tragedy arising from gun violence.

If you find this book in Waterstone's, don't be put off by the 800 pages! It's a quick read and guaranteed to hook you right from the start. You find yourself drawn into the process of eradicating gun violence with all the characters, whether they are goodies or baddies.

The only negative comment I would make is that the gun debate, though presented from both sides, is not argued as strongly from the gun enthusiasts point. It may just be that they generally have weak arguments, but I think that Patterson was biased, which he admits in the post scriptum.

If you are at all interested in the Second Amendment debate, or in American politics or indeed in a good thriller then buy this book.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

4 out of 5 stars

I know the book is the german version, but that does not mean it's less funny!

Ok, so I'll admit, it's probably less funny than in the original, but that's because of translation difficulties, not because germans don't have a sense of humour.

I have to say that I found the Guide quite funny. However, that's where it stops for me. It's hilarious at the beginning and then manages to loose pace towards the end, when it just becomes strange. I found myself wondering more than once, where the hell the story was going. That's not necessarily always a bad thing, but in this case, I thought the humour didn't quite cover for the deteriorating story line.

I would rate it as funny, but certainly not funnier than Pratchett! I will, however, read the otherones in the series, hoping that Adams was just finding his feet on this one.

A good sequel

4 out of 5 stars

Well, what can I say about "Good Wives" that hasn't been said about "Little Women"? The two books are pretty much the same style and are, of course, about pretty much the same characters.

Good Wives is a good (pardon the pun) sequel to Little Women and that's about it. If you enjoyed the first one, you should read this one. If you didn't, spend the £1.50 elsewhere!

On the good side, however, the character development in Good Wives is excellent. While reading, you can literally see all of them evolving into more mature "ladies" rather than staying "girls". I won't summarise the plot (because I never do!) but I can say that the title suggests what will happen in the end.

A word of warning though! If you're a fan of "Friends", do not, I repeat, do not watch the episode where Joey and Rachel swap books. Rachel will spoil the end for you as well!

That said, the book deserves a shiny four stars, for not slacking off but not being better either! A good read.

October 28, 2004

Vivid, imaginative, thought–provoking

5 out of 5 stars

I doubt that I would ever have picked up this book in a shop. The premise of a young boy in a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orang-utan and a royal bengal tiger sounds interesting, but I just couldn't imagine it being any good.

Though I don't agree with the assertion at the beginning that "this story will make you believe in god by the end", I still found it to be such a good book that I could hardly put it down.

At first, I could hardly conceive reading a book about a castaway in a lifeboat (at least Robinson Crusoe had an island to live on!) but I discovered that being shipwrecked in a lifeboat with a tiger is not necesseraily over after a couple of hours. Indeed the whole story of how Pi survives his time on the lifeboat is both tragic and breathtaking.

The themes and ideas discussed in this book are engaging and thought-provoking. Especially when you reach the end of the book you understand that the story is not all it seems. Furthermore, I have never pondered the end of a book more than this one.

The book is imaginativly written, filled with vivid descriptions which bring everything to life and immerse you in the fate of young Pi. You could never otherwise imagine just how much there is to discover when you are alone in the Pacific with a tiger.

I look forward to the next book that Yann Martel writes, since I thoroughly enjoyed this one. If you're looking for an up and coming author, Yann Martel would be an excellent choice.

October 19, 2004

Great Adventure Story

4 out of 5 stars

Imagine the latest blockbuster action movie in book format. Add a dash of intelligent plot and a sprinkle of creative descriptions. Now set the whole thing in africa and have the main characters look for King Solomon's Diamond Mines, whose location is marked by a secret map.

Sound good? Then you'll love this book. Written at the end of the 19th Century it has retained its cult status with its fast-paced storytelling and vivid scenery. The story is imaginative with lovable characters, especially Allan Quatermain, the narrator. It struck me as funny and yet endearing that he, the main character (the star) is somewhat of a coward, thrust into the whole situation by the thing that drives us all: money!

The book is a very good read and very informative (you'll pick up a few Zulu words on the way). I felt though that sometimes, especially at the battle at the end, it was lacking in plot and I felt bored at times.

Verdict: Definitly worth a read and it's not too long either!

October 06, 2004

Good, but not good enough

4 out of 5 stars

So, if you know me, you will know that I have only the paperback editions of any Terry Pratchett book. This stems partly from the fact that buying them all in hardcover is expensive and partly from the fact that I like continuence.

The latest Discworl book is a sad continuation of, lately, at most mediocre books. Don't get me wrong, I love the Discworld series, but lately nothing he wrote has really thrilled me. It still makes you chuckle, but it almost seems as if Pratchett is making a point and uses the book to do it. That's fine by me, if only he wouldn't sacrifice the style and humour that has made his previous books in the series a hilarious roller coaster ride.

Some things that irritated me are the recurrence of the Watch in an otherwise independant Discworld Novel. What happened to books like Pyramids, which were completely seperate from the witches, the watch, Death or Rincewind? Why does everything have to revolve around the Watch, Vimes and Ankh-Morpork all of a sudden?
I didn't like the end either, it didn't have a nice finish, perhaps that was the poing Pratchett was trying to make, that not all stories have a happy end, but I still would have preferred one. Another thing that has disappointed me was the plot line. It seemed far-fetched at best and slightly 'assembled' from various things Pratchett wanted to tell us.

All in all it is a good book, but not a good Discworld book. I enjoyed then read, but I really hope that Going Postal will be better.

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