Monday, 24 February 2014

Links for the next meeting - I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Wikipedia is good on the themes and influence of the book, including 3 adaptations:

The Last Man on Earth

The Omega Man

I Am Legend

I Am Omega

A 30 minute discussion of the book on the excellent Science Fiction Book Review Podcast

A four star review on Amazon

"The Millenennium SF series is a bit of mixed bag of so called 'classic' and seminal sci-fi of the 20th century. 'I Am Legend' rightly deserves it's place in that list but not necessarily as a sci-fi novel. But it's a bit of a curate's egg. In fact it's not even a horror novel per se. There's a blend of sci-fi, post-apocalyptical musings ( more so in the movie based loosely on the book), some horror of course. But this novella is more a psychological examination of what it's like to be the last man alive. Matheson is an expert at leading us into the mind of a man without the companionship of his fellows. I won't spoil the plot as there are some brilliant and unexpected twists but the chapters concerned with Neville's discovery of a dog, company he has craved for for three years, is stunning and I defy anyone not to be moved to tears. I love the film, which is why I bought the book initially, but after reading it I'm afraid Heston et al missed out on a better adaptation. Near perfect."

 & a two star review

"I Am Legend isn't really all that an impressive horror story nor a good sci-fi. The story-line was okay, the descriptive writing fair but it lacked something which I can't really put my fingers on. I've read a lot of horror and sci-fis (they're the only things I read), but this book is somewhat bland. I've only put the book down last night and already I've forgotten all the stories in it. So I guess it wasn't that worthy of remembering. As for the rest of the short stories.....well, they were also so-so. Maybe it's me, maybe I didn't picture the hard enough as I followed it through, maybe I didn't really understand what Richard Matheson was trying to write about. I don't know. I'm not impressed and a little disappointed that I found this book weary against the others who've reviewed it and have given it 5 stars."

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Links for the Next Meeting - 4 Celebrity Autobiographies

The group meets on the last Wednesday of each month.  Since this isn't convenient in December, we have a double meeting in January, around several books in a theme.  This year the theme was Celebrity Autobiographies, and we read any or all of a list of four books. 

Do the books work as books?  If you knew nothing about the life of the person, did it still stand up?  These are the sorts of things to discuss:

In alphabetical order we have:

Russell Brand - My Booky Wook

Russell & his Dad

Five Stars
"I must say I was really moved by his story. Why? He has told his story beautifully, in a vivid language. In this autobiography Russell is having an ironic distance to really horrible events in his life. This ironic distance is what makes the book so good because it really shows how much it has affected him and that makes it extremely personal. I think his defence mechanism is his humour and using humour describing situations that are anything but humorous really gives you an insight into his bruised past. The pages are filled with humour, but the story is full of sorrow."

Three Stars
"Although Russell is always keen to apologise for his past indiscretions, one thing that irritated me slightly is his lack of insight into his actions (or at the very least his unwillingness to share any insight). He will casually mention (for instance) that he started smoking cannabis at the tender age of 16 and continued to do so every single day of his life thereafter until he was almost 30 - but why? Surely not just for simple enjoyment, or am I being naive? Similarly, his attitude towards women is really very odd - but why? He has apparently been diagnosed as bipolar (the posh new name for manic depressive) by more than one medical professional. Yet Russell simply skirts over all this with "and I came out of rehab and lived happily ever after"

Tina Fey - Bossypants

Early Improv Sketch

Five Stars
"It's written absolutely brilliantly, hilariously funny and easy to read, even for a dutch speaker like me. Tina Fey is an inspiration for a lot of people, aspiring screenwriters, actors, and moms-to-be. I really felt like reading a letter from a good friend, describing what a week he/she had, she will reveal things that seem pretty intimate and make you think about things in your own life.

Three Stars
"There were some definite highlights in the book but overall you'd have to be a rabid fan to like everything in the book. For the more casual fan like me, I'd say skip to the 30 Rock/Sarah Palin sections for an interesting read as the rest doesn't hold up to the same interest level."  

Anthony Kiedis - Scar Tissue

The band interviewed in 1988 - Flea, Hillel, Anthony and Jack

Five Stars
"Scar Tissue is a cracking read. How Mr. Kiedis is still alive is a miracle. The huge amount of drugs, the accidents (bad accidents), the women, the band, the highs and lows are all honestly recounted in this oustanding autobiography.
A.K. gives an insight into the mind and behaviour of an addict with refreshing honesty; there's no preaching here. He recounts his childhood and writes much about the Chili Peppers themselves, detailing their ups and downs (there's a lot of both), their creative processes and the meaning behind some of their songs."

Three Stars
"A book of two halves for me.The first half dragged a little bit but was improved by a much better second half.
Basically this is Sex n Drugs n rehab with some rock n'roll thrown in.Kiedis is very candid and never tries to make any excuses for his drug taking or his promiscuity.He just delivers it pretty straight although If you want major insights into what the Chilis are all about you will probably need to go elsewhere."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - I am Zlatan Ibrahamovic

Top 50 Goals

Five Stars
"As a massive fan of Zlatan i was worried this book might change my opinion of him. However in actual fact it made me even more of a fan. This controversial but truthful insight into his life provides surprise at every turn of a page. Even if your not a fan, this book will hook you in for a rolla coaster ride of admiration and controversy!"

Three Stars
"A football bio that certainly has a certain charm. Not sure how ghostwritten it is, but you do get a feel of the real guy. Occasionally rambling, the books most interesting aspects are about his failed relationships with Pep Guardiola and Rafeal Van De Vaart.
Sadly, whilst he does have an interesting rags to riches tale, it's hard to get too excited about repeated tales of arguments only heard from one side and nights in with his xbox.
It also ends rather abruptly, during his season with AC Milan, so you can't help feeling there's much more to this story."

Links for Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks

 (Rather late on this one, but in the spirit of helping other people who may be reading this book...)

Use of Weapons is part of Banks' The Culture series, a collection of largely unrelated books set in an alternative universe.

There's a good guide to the series on Wikipedia here

The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast also has an episode dedicated to the series.

& a specific episode on 'Use of Weapons'

Wikipedia on Use of Weapons

A 5 Star Review
"I've read enough of Iain Banks' other work to be able to say that Use of Weapons is almost certainly his masterpiece, which is really saying something compared to the high quality of his other novels. In this book everything just works. The characters are sublimely handled, with Banks immersing you in their lives to the point where you stop thinking of them as characters and instead accept them as people. The structure of the story is inventive without over-relishing its own cleverness."

& A 3 Star Review
"Ultimately, Banks uses this inventive structure to create a poignant and shocking climax to the book. However, to me this comes at the expense of an involving story. Essentially, I don't feel that the plot of the forward-time strand is consistently strong enough to generate interest in and sympathy with the protagonist - towards the end of the book, I was only really interested in the resolution of the backwards-in-time strand."

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Links for the next book - Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Bernard Hare

You can see Bernie, Frank, Trudi and - yes - Urban in this video made for The Culture Show at the time of publication.  Urban is 21 at the time of filming.

Bernie Hare and The Shed Crew from andy robbins on Vimeo.

You can see what Bernard Hare is doing now on his own site here

Wikipedia on the East End Park area

A news report on the Angela Pearce murder

For a bit of contrast, here is police blogger Nightjack on 'The Evil Poor'

A discussion of the book on the East Leeds Memories site - the writers tend to be older people who don't still live in Leeds

A very good 5 star review from Amazon: "This is an extraordinarily well written book and cleverly depicts how hard it is for those on the outside to get in"

& a very dismissive 2 star review: "Let's face it, your life is pretty screwed up. But none of this is your fault, at least not according to Bernard Hare; you see this is the fault of Society, which has failed you and your whole community"

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Links for the next meeting - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Below are some reviews and some discussion questions. They're quite wordy but might be a good start.

also - The Alchemist summarised and more on Wikipedia

It's been said that The Alchemist is essentially the same story as one of the tales in The Arabian Nights - The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through A Dream