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Book Review

Book review: <i>Mangrove Mama... And Other Tropical Tales Of Terror</i> by Janwillem Van de Wetering



This eclectic little collection of short stories is very Janwillem Van de Wetering - and I feel qualified to say that even though I've only read a total of two of his books now. His personality permeates every corner of his writing, and he has an intriguing style combined with a taste for the bizarre that combines very happily. Having read his bio, I could sort of tell why he was heading in those directions, but it certainly didn't detract from the reading experience.

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Book review: <i>Non-Fiction</i> by Chuck Palahniuk



If this was an autobiography, it would be effing awesome, but I’d also like to imagine that Chuck will always be too busy out there doing stuff to pen his own memoirs.

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Book review: <i>Perfect Match</i> by Jodi Picoult



Firstly, I’ll qualify this review with a confession that I didn’t quite go into this reading experience feeling impartial. I have read a couple of Jodi Picoult’s other novels (she’s a prolific best seller with millions drooling over her writing capability; she’s pretty difficult to avoid) and I didn’t think they were that great. So I wasn’t overly open minded about this latest reading experience, and she certainly didn’t manage to change my mind with Perfect Match. Although, to be fair, apparently lots of people hated this one, even her fans. So what chance did I have?

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Book review: <i>The Russia House</i> by John Le Carré



If you want a good spy novel, you really can't beat the master of spy; John Le Carré. He's been around for some time, writing prolifically on the topic of the British secret service, and he was apparently in the British secret service himself in his youth. So not only is he in the know, but he's also a great writer with a cynicism for organisations and governments, and a staunch belief in human nature. The Russia House is no exception in his achievements.

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Book review: <i>It’s What He Would’ve Wanted</i> by Sean Hughes



If this was a drink, it would be the fifth afternoon pint by yourself in a pub when the endorphin buzz has been well and truly supplanted by fatigue and you suddenly realise you’d rather be nearly anywhere else, if you had anywhere else to be, but you don’t, and on the other hand you’ve just paid for this beer, haven’t you?

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Book review: <i>El Infierno</i> by Carlos Martinez Moreno



Stopped

Okay, so I didn't get through this one. It's not because it isn't good. It could be because too many mainstream thrillers have desicated my brain like a coconut. It could be that I just can't face this brand of highbrow literature in the heat. Or it could be that I just don't feel like finishing it right now. Whatever the case, I have a feeling that "It's not you, it's me" would be the correct thing to say to El Infierno, and one day I might pick it up again and have another go. When I'm feeling more intellectual, and the weather is cooler and more conducive to thought, perhaps.

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Book review: <i>Naked Pictures Of Famous People</i> by Jon Stewart



If this was a sandwich, it would be some delicious overpriced kosher thing from a snazzy New York deli that goes down like a greased oyster but won’t spoil your appetite.

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Book review: <i>The Return Of The Dancing Master</i> by Henning Mankell



I was pleasantly surprised by The Return Of The Dancing Master. I guess from the cover I was expecting a pulp thriller of the most noxious and basic kind, with a name selected for whimsy and to sucker in people like me. What I DIDN’T look at was the author’s name... Henning Mankell. Turns out he’s Swedish. Who knew? Anyway, more to the point, the book was actually originally written in Swedish, and then translated into English. Which gives the whole experience less of a thriller feeling and more of a smugly-reading-foreign-text feeling. Which was nice.

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Book review: <i>Sex And Drugs And Cocoa Puffs</i> by Chuck Klosterman



If this was the first meal of the day, if would be a bowl brimming with your favourite guilty breakfast cereal pleasure and ice cold milk (unless you prefer hot). And you’d be hungry. For a while, at least.

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Book review: <i>American Tabloid</i> by James Ellroy



I don’t think the thrill of a good conspiracy can be underestimated. And, while the Kennedy era and the surrounding assassination, drugs, mafia, CIA/FBI, Cuba and, a bit later, Vietnam aren’t quite the dinner party circuit agenda, they were not so long ago and they still hold a spark of interest for a good couple of generations of people. Take me as an example, for instance. I was born in 1980, well after the whole malarkey. But, I still know the names of the Kennedy brothers and their assassins, and Jimmy Hoffa, and an entire selection of corrupt government officials. I’ve heard the speculation. I’ve seen the movies. And nothing has grabbed me quite so much as James Ellroy’s take on the whole thing. I know it’s fictitious speculation. That doesn’t stop it from being a dirty, rollicking thrill of a read with a cast of duplicitous double agents and their complex juggling of events. In fact, one of the most admirable traits of the book is how much behind the scenes action occurs in concert with the facts.

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Book review: <i>Hell’s Kitchen</i> by Chris Niles



If this was a TV program it would be the newest TV show taking America by storm with controversy and characters and more swearing and nudity and violence than last week and a huge budget and great music, but which is, one cannot help noticing quite quickly, STILL ACTUALLY some bullshit about policepersons edging through apartment doorways etc.

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Book review: <i>Starter For Ten</i> by David Nicholls



Ah, to be a young man at university. The challenges, the girls, the fumbling relationships and difficult friendships. I wasn’t ever one myself, but I think that, while I was at university, I may have met a couple of young men very similar to the main character, and I certainly met some of the peripheral characters! And as an added bonus, while I had only ever heard of “University Challenge” on The Young Ones, and seen the spoof with Ben Elton et al, I have now been formally introduced to the phenomena thanks to Starter for Ten. While the book definitely had me reminiscing about Adrian Mole, it was very much its own story and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole excruciating business.

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Book review: <i>Snow Flower And The Secret Fan</i> by Lisa See



I can’t say I ever thought that much about the tradition of foot-binding, which in some places in China was still happening at the beginning of the twentieth century. Whenever I previously heard it mentioned, it was always in a context that suggested the practice was barbaric and cruel, but I don’t think I every fully conceptualised the idea. Thanks to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I am now somewhat better informed on the subject of footbinding, as well as other traditions and lifestyle practices in nineteenth century China. Ouch.

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Book review: <i>Fragile Things</i> by Neil Gaiman



If this was a night out, it would be an invitation to a party full of people with better clothes and more interesting jobs than yours, who, after your initial awkwardness dissolves, turns out to be great fun and highly accepting, and even if you still can’t really figure out what you’re doing there you have some great fun, get high, and even start to suspect that in a different life you could be even cooler than they are.

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Book review: <i>Dirty Tricks</i> by Michael Dibdin



As I have stated unequivocally in many a previous review, I do love British novels. The crime thriller ones have a sort of depth and an element of class to them that is undiscovered to all but the best of American authors. Maybe it’s because mysteries seem like things that should happen in the rain and fog and gloom and these things all happen naturally in the United Kingdom. I think it’s also that sly, dry wit that British authors seem born with. That ability to make fun of oneself and the world. Australians have it too, but the Americans are just all a bit too serious. With these profound thoughts in mind, Dirty Tricks is no exception to an excellent display of British wit, and once again proves the rule—those Brits know what they’re on about when they write a good suspense yarn.

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Book review: <i>Killing Yourself To Live</i> by Chuck Klosterman



If this was a stage act, it would be an obviously talented juggler who does nine balls in time with music for twenty minutes, then cocks and elbows over the mic stand and spends two hours talking about why his wife left him in a self-deprecating manner.

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Book review: <i>Bad Boy Brawly Brown</i> by Walter Mosley



When a man has lived the way Easy Rawlins has—flirting with the wrong side of the law his whole life (or at least in the six previous Easy Rawlins books)—it’s time for him to settle down. He has responsibilities: Bonnie, his beautiful girlfriend. Jesus and Feather, his adopted kids. Even Frenchie, Feather’s little yellow dog who hates him, is a kind of responsibility. He has a good job and a good home and his best friend’s death on his conscience. And... Walter Mosley’s done it again.

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Book review: <i>Gould’s Book of Fish</i> by Richard Flanagan



If this was a painting, it would be a gorgeous watercolour painting of a fish, seemingly untouched by time, found in a deceased elder relative’s attic, which, when investigated, turns out to be: A- created by a known convict using the bodily excretions of his rotting cell-mate’s corpse, and B- worth buckets of money.

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Book review: <i>The Black Dahlia</i> by James Ellroy



The Black Dahlia and the last book I reviewed, Eureka, have some interesting superficial similarities. Firstly, they are both set, for at least part of the time, in the mid 1940s. They are both set in Los Angeles during that time. The protaganist in both is a police officer (both are written mainly in the first person) and the plot line in both focuses on the death of a woman which the protaganist gets a bit obsessive about and is willing to go above and beyond to solve the mystery. However, for all the similarities, Eureka and The Black Dahlia couldn't be more different when it comes to the crunch. Why? Because that would be like comparing a dry cracker to a three course meal.

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Book review: <i>Hellfire Club</i> by Daniel P Mannix



If this was a church, it would be the still-extant Wycombe chapel in High Wycombe, built by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hellfire Club. Look it up on Google, go on! (That golden ball on the spire where a cross normally goes is big enough for six people to get drunk inside, believe it or not!)

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