Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook, Mathew Quick - The Review

I do see why Nikki likes the novel, as it’s written so well. But her liking it makes me worry now that Nikki doesn’t really believe in silver linings, because she says The Great Gatsby is the greatest novel ever written by an American, and yet it ends so sadly. One thing’s for sure, Nikki is going to be very proud of me when I tell her I finally read her favorite book.

A walk through the mind and life of Pat Peoples - a recent graduate, out of a mental
institution - as he works with a single-minded purpose to improve himself physically
and intellectually in order to win back his wife.

The Concept
How is a genuinely optimistic guy, who has spent the last four years - most of which
he doesn't remember - in a mental institution, supposed to deal with his unbelievably
pessimistic family, friends and even therapist who seem to think that the movie which
is his life won't end up with him getting the girl?

The Writing
A quick and easy read all through. Lighthearted and very funny most of the time. Sad
and emotional some of the time.

Pat seems to be relating his experiences as they occur - in a diary format - so deep
into the book when it is clear he's only retelling the movie after it has played, I can't
help but feel betrayed. Possible explanation: he stopped writing the 'dairy' when he
gave it away and added the other bits later. Doesn't convince.

The Story
Pat's mum manages to convince his therapist, by way of a court order, to check him
out of the 'bad place', and he moves back home to live with his parents and straight
away gets on with the business of sculpting his body and enlightening his mind so he
can be a better husband once 'apart time' is over and the time for his inevitable reunion
with Nikki arrives.

In the meantime he has to deal with his father, whose moods seem to be determined
by the results of an American football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, with his brother,
who in the short time that Pat has been away at the 'bad place' seems to have built for
himself a completely new life, but would still make time to take him to Eagles games,
with a new therapist, who is his therapist only when he's sitting in the therapist chair,
and the rest of the time, just a fellow Eagles fan, with his former best friend and his
wife who now have a baby girl and are trying it seems to set him up with the recently
bereaved, and similarly crazy sister of the wife, with this Tiffany who after getting her
offer of sex on the first date rejected, starts showing up, and shadowing him when he
goes for his daily runs, and with all the other little things the a person who is not fully
well in the mind has to deal with.

Yeah, little things like the imaginary but monstrous jazz saxophonist Kenny G, and

The Resolution
Maybe God isn't such a bad script writer after all, and his movie would have the
happily ever after ending he knows he deserves.

It can't be any other way, can it?

The Verdict
It is a fun read with enough moments when the book plays emotional football with
your heart. It is funny to read, very well written, and allows you a walk through the
mind of a sometimes mentally challenged, but mostly normal individual.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway - The Review

“Consider … by how much might the lot of man be improved, in a world where truth was ubiquitous? One per cent? Five? How much positive adjustment is necessary to pass the tipping point and enable the spontaneous formation of a utopia?” Frankie beams. Then her face falls. “Oh. Although too much truth could create problems on a physical level. And one most definitely would not wish to create a determining cascade …”

Joe Spork having rejected the gangster kingdom his father left him for the quiet
clockworker business of his grandfather, is inadvertently lured into activating an
Apprehension Engine and now has to stop God-wannabes from destroying the
world with too much truth.

The Concept
So here's this Apprehension Engine that could bring the world as we know it to
its end, here's this  super villain who is going to make sure that it does, and who
do we have here? A nice thirty five year old teenager who repairs clocks, and a
ninety year old super spy? They're going to stop him?

So when you read, what sort of books do you generally read? Sci-Fi, historical
fiction, satire, fantasy, erotic romance, a thriller, a comedy? Well let me present
to you, .... Angelmaker. It is all of those things! And more.

The Writing
Sometimes it is a quick thrilling easy read and you can't turn the pages fast enough,
and sometimes it is a deep philosophical puzzle which if you ever manage to finish,
you imagine the author will pat you on the back and say something like "congrats,
you are now officially really, very, very not a dimwit".

All through the book, Mr. Harkaway tries to do to the reader what Brother
Sheamus does to the Ruskinites; feed us a lot of plausible illogical male cattle
dropping passing itself off as science, immediately before or after bamboozling
us with important beauty which we can't help but be captivated by.

The Story
Joe Sporks has escaped the life of crime his upbringing ensured he was destined
for, by occupying himself with the running of the antique clockwork shop his grandpa
used to run, and he means to live out the rest of his days as invisible as his six foot
three frame will allow.

Edie Banister has spent the bulk of her life as a super spy in the service of good, but 
in the twilight of her life she realizes evil is stronger than ever, showing no signs of
slipping into graceful retirement, so she decides to put into play a plan hatched by
the genius who was her one true love, to spread the absolute truth of things through
out the world and thereby change the world for the better.

Edie successfully seduces Joe Sporks with the  intricateness of the Book of Hakote,
and gets him to activate the truth machine.

Joe is branded a terrorist, removed from the scene of a murder by the authorities, and
is only just rescued from being sent to some sort of Ruskinite 'Guantanamo bay' by his
superstar defense lawyer.

Crazy Joe must escape capture, torture or death, and manage to prevent the bad guys
from misappropriating the Apprehension Engine into the extinction of intelligent life.

And oh, by the way, Joe isn't just some random guy. Let me tell you this historical tale of
international espionage that will show you how closely related he is to the Apprehension
Engine, by blood even!

The Resolution
We are treated to a thriller at the end, but it didn't seem enough to justify the length of
the book. It also fails to live up to the expectations of either consistent brain stimulation
or regular outbursts of laughter, that the early parts of the book promise.

The Verdict
Mr. Harkaway has perfectly mixed the correct proportion of ingredients required for a
masterpiece, but has only managed to come away with a good book.

Monday, 6 May 2013

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin - The Review

Ged saw in it for an instant Skiorh’s white face, and then a pair of clouded, staring eyes, and then suddenly a fearful face he did not know, man or monster, with writhing lips and eyes that were like pits going back into black emptiness.                         6.7

A wizard destined for greatness must first come to terms with his frightful

The Concept
What better to challenge an extremely talented and pride-full young wizard
with, than an opponent he can not find, catch, fight or defeat?

The Writing
It reads like a poem, with long periods of what a non-poetry enthusiast like
me considers as lulls, where we are invited to just relax and enjoy language.

It is a book of flat lines interspersed at regular intervals with sudden spikes.
A spike just when the flat lines are about to become boring and then more
flat lines to cushion your descent from the spike.

A lot like watching the heart rate monitor of a patient whose survival is
not only a matter of professional acclaim, but also of personal redemption.

The Story
The book traces the journey of a young wizard, whose early promise
suggests that he is destined for greatness, but whose pride and arrogance
lead him to unleash a great evil (so evil that nobody even knows its name),
into the world.

We follow him across vast lands and the mighty oceans, as he takes turns,
to pursue or be pursued by this unfathomable evil.

The Resolution
It is not at all unlikely that you'll figure out the general manner of the end
before you get there, but the message behind Ged's unconventional fight
with the shadow he creates, is powerful enough that you wouldn't want it
any other way.

The Verdict
Perfect for an easy read where you are not interested in stressing your mind
beyond the grasp of the geography of an ancient Archipelagos.