I like Chuck Klosterman, I like his books, I like the way he writes. This book didn't "speak" to me. Normally I enj...more
Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
I like Chuck Klosterman, I like his books, I like the way he writes. This book didn't "speak" to me. Normally I enjoy his writing because I understand where he is coming from, I know what he is talking about. This book is mainly about "hair" metal bands and growing up in North Dakota. Unfortunately, "hair" metal bands didn't have that much effect on my life. To be honest, the majority of bands he talks about I had never heard of - much to Maria's amazement. Although it was interesting, it wasn't engaging. Sort of like, one of those documentaries on VH1 that you end up sitting through because there is nothing else on. At the end of the book I knew a bit more but had no interest in finding out anything else.
It was still an enjoyable read but only scores an "OK" on my list. (less)
[The following review was written three years ago, when I read the book the first time. I expected to change my opinion of the book, and at least take...more[The following review was written three years ago, when I read the book the first time. I expected to change my opinion of the book, and at least take one star off my rating. However, it is a good book, and was not damaged by a second reading. Therefore, I'll let the review and the rating stand.]
Before I start I must say that I enjoy Robert Harris books. I picked up Fatherland in one of those "buy three books get the fourth free" promotions. I had no intention of getting it but you know how it is, you can never find the right amount of books on the promotion table, so I picked it up. I was hooked. I then read Archangel and loved it. Since then I've managed to read through all his other books and haven't been disappointed. Thus it was that, when I read on neil h.'s blog, there was a new Harris book out I immediately added it to my mental "to buy" list. However, that was six (?) months ago and somehow I failed to get - mainly because of the cost, it was only available in hardback and when the choice comes down to buying one hardback or two paperbacks the latter always wins. Imagine my disappointment when I arrived in Borders with money to spend to discover that they didn't have a copy of it - it was immense. We left Borders with a box of books and I mentioned that I had picked up the new Roddy Doyle book - that was a sequel to a previous book he had written. Maria left me to put the books in the car and immediately went back into the shop to by "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors". I put the books in the car, lit a cigarette and hung around outside the shop waiting for her to re-emerge. As I stood waiting my eyes travelled across the bargain bins outside Borders and there, waving at me, was a copy of Imperium. I was sorted!
Recently we have watched the excellent Rome - both series - and we loved it. Here is a book that fleshes out some of the story. It is basically a telling of Cicero's life, his rise through the political machinations, starting as a simple senator until arriving at the point of Consul (or Imperium). Robert Harris manages to tell a fascinating story full of intrigue. I like history and one of the reasons I like the subject so much is that it is possible to see parallels in the modern day. Is Cicero a Tony Blair? Full of promises and offers of salvation to the common people who eventually sells out to the old order - does the "new man" end up becoming the type of man who he despised? Is it possible to seek power and still remain "honest"? Honest to your beliefs and just honest?
I really enjoyed the book. It is one of those books that you put down and wish that the author is now working on a sequel. Oh, I know what happened to Julius Caesar but I want him to tell me how he thinks it all went on. Considering that Mr. Harris's last book before this was Pompeii, I can but hope that he is stuck in that era (except that having checked Amazon it appears he already has a new book out - and it is set in the present day. Bum!) (less)
A roller-coaster of a book - and not in a good way.
I like Robert Harris books and I loved his last one - Imperium. I loved...more
The Ghost by Robert Harris.
A roller-coaster of a book - and not in a good way.
I like Robert Harris books and I loved his last one - Imperium. I loved it so much that I was really looking forward to the next in the series (neil h. informed me that it was part of a trilogy). Therefore I was a little meh about the fact he had taken time out to write The Ghost. Damn writers and their need to write a story instead of the one I wanted to read! However, there was branch of Borders shutting down t'other day and they were offering 40% off all books. They had a copy of The Ghost on the shelves and I picked it up - I knew that I would read it eventually, I just didn't want to pay full price for something I might not enjoy. And, it was with that mentality (I'm not going to enjoy it) that I started the book.
But it is a Robert Harris book and, as I've stated, I like his books. It didn't take long for me to start enjoying it. Oh sure, there was the usual cringe moments - this man cannot write a sex scene to save his life. In fact, he can't even write a "sexy" scene to save his life:
She crossed her legs at the ankles, leaned forward to read, and I found myself staring into the surprisingly deep and shadowy valley of her cleavage.
But there are the usual page-turning chapters - those moments when you really should put the book down and get on with your life but you just need to find out what happened next.
The story is about a man who is called in to ghost the memoires of a former British Prime Minister, Adam Lang. The Lang character is clearly supposed to be Tony Blair and the author (Harris) displays a great hatred of Mr. Blair. It is that hatred of a spurned lover, an emotion I can understand. When Blair was elected, I was so excited, so positive - I sang along to "Things Can Only Get Better" for the several hours it played, as we waited for him to arrive in London. But it all went wrong. All the dreams, all the hopes, all the beliefs turned out to false. He wasn't the saviour we all thought. He leaves a legacy that is dominated by a war in Iraq. And, it is the reason why we went to war, that forms the cornerstone to this novel.
At first Mr. Harris builds his usual story web. He introduces the characters, he sets scenes wonderfully, he leaves enough clues scattered about to make you feel clever for spotting them. However the ending is rushed. It is trite. The denouement is contrived and a bit insulting. A true roller-coaster ride. I started of not liking the book, learned to love it, ended up disliking it. Of coursem ,y disappointment is mainly because it is a Robert Harris book and I expect better of him (except for the sex scenes). If this had been written by Dan Brown I would be announcing to the world that it is his finest piece of work. But, if it had been written by Mr. Brown, I wouldn't have picked it up. Over at goodreads.com I have given it three stars - I liked it - rather than two - it was OK - because it was a Robert Harris book. But, not his best. To finish on a quote from this book:
All good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same.[..] And what they have in common, these bad books, be they novels or memoirs, is this: they don't ring true. I'm not saying that a good book is true necessarily, just that it feels true for the time you are reading it.
Unfortunately, Mr. Harris, although your book feels true for a good solid part of it, it falls short at the end. It verges towards being a bad book. (less)
If you like my blog you'll love Slam. It's just a verbal ramble. It reads like one of my blog posts. I suppose there is a story in t...more Slam by Nick Horby
If you like my blog you'll love Slam. It's just a verbal ramble. It reads like one of my blog posts. I suppose there is a story in there but, when you finish, you won't be a better person nor will your life have improved. I will make you nod with acceptance (yeah, that happens to me),it will probably make you recognise similarities in your life. But it ain't anything that will change your world (a bit like this blog).
I really enjoy Nick Hornby books but this isn't up there as one of his best. That said, though, it is still a better book than many on our bookshelf.
Oh, a review? There is a bit of skateboarding, a lot of teenage pregnancy, and several laughs along the way.
Did I get anything from it? Yes. But in a totally unexpected way. Maria and I had an argument the other day. Big screaming argument, started with tears, moved on to shouting, ended with hugging. It turns out that I am crap at arguing, don't do it very well. In the middle of the book I read about an argument from one of the character's point of view. Suddenly it all comes clear to me. I don't argue very well but, thanks to the book, I understand why. We sit on the balcony, we talk, I promise to argue better (in a more constructive way rather than destructive). Suddenly, a book that is only three-quarters good becomes a life saver.
So, get this book! Nah. Get this book if you love Nick Hornby, get this book if you like reading 300+ pages that go nowhere, get this book if you are a 46 year old bloke who needs to learn how to argue from a 16 year old.
The simple fact is: I love Nick Hornby novels. When asked to rate them I always give them an eleven! I enjoy the way he...more
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
The simple fact is: I love Nick Hornby novels. When asked to rate them I always give them an eleven! I enjoy the way he writes, I enjoy the things that his characters say, how they behave. Me, I just love a Nick Hornby book.
So, with that out of the way and we accept the fact that I really liked this book I need to invent a "Nick Hornby" scale. A scale where I can rate just his books against other books he has written. If we agree that A Long Way Down scores eleven when compared to every other book in the world, when compared to just Hornby books it only gets an 8 out of ten. Not one of his best but a fantastic way to spend a couple of days.
The premise of the book is based around four disparate people who meet at a local "suicide spot". They decide (after much bickering) not to kill themselves and instead form a "gang" to help each other through the next ninety days. There are no particular happy endings, no decent friendships are formed (they spend the whole time not really liking each other) and the basic trend of the book is "not being happy with life".
However, one of the reasons that I like Hornby's books is that I can see many familiarities between his characters' lives and mine. Don't panic, I'm not about to do anything silly because it is looking at how one person deals with a situation (or in this case four people) and realising that you wouldn't take their option. In fact, they don't take the final option. And (without being to "up myself") my life is far better than most of theirs and if they aren't ending theirs then I'm nowhere near ending mine!
Somehow a book that makes you feel good without being a "feel good" book.
You either like Hornby or you don't. If you do, you've probably read this: if you don't, don't read it. And if you've never read any Nick Hornby go grab "About a Boy" or "High Fidelity". (less)
As long time readers know (or maybe you don't) Maria and I read to each other. One of the joys of "naked Sunday" is the fact that we don...morehow to be good
As long time readers know (or maybe you don't) Maria and I read to each other. One of the joys of "naked Sunday" is the fact that we don't have to get up, spend the day wandering around the flat in our pyjamas (just 'cos it is called "naked Sunday" doesn't necessarily mean that we spend the day nekkid!), basically just slob about.
This Sunday we spent the whole morning (and a bit of the afternoon) in bed. We ate cereal, we drank cokes and we ate our way through a huge box of Runts. While we were doing this I read to Maria.
I love Nick Hornby. A lot of what he writes speaks to me directly. I can understand everything he goes through in "Fever Pitch" - hell, replace the word Arsenal for Sheffield United and it is probably my story. I know the characters in "High Fidelity", really know. But in this case I was reading "How to be Good".
I am a bleeding-heart, yoghurt-eating, tree-hugging, grauniad-reading liberal (I draw the line at sandal-wearing). The book is very funny, the book is very clever, the book points out all those little problems that we b-h, y-e, t-h, g-r liberals have to face. How in the 21st century do I come to terms with driving a car, owning property, earning more than the minimum wage when there are starving people in Africa? Well, the fact is I give the odd 50p (peso) to a homeless person, I phone in my credit card donation to Live Aid, some of my best friends are not white. The book asks the hard questions - what if you actually did become a fully-fledged b-h, y-e, t-h, g-r liberal - what if you actually took a homeless person in - what if you tried to solve all the big/global problems but in a small/personal way. Many of the ideas made me cringe - but in that way that "The Office" makes you cringe.
'Twas a jolly good read. Gotta lurve Nick Hornby. (less)