This was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the chara...moreThis was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the characters and cast were enormously interesting, but I think the book was hampered by Ruditis' selection of principal interviewees. Of the cast members, only DeMunn, Yeun and Riggs have a voice here. The crew are by far the most predominant, and while, yes, it is interesting to read about Nicotero creating zombies, I'm just not sure I was ever this interested in the scoring, visual effects, post-production process etc. It's the insights into the characters' psyches, the development of the comic and the transition into the TV series that really interested me, and compared to the bulk of the book - which focusses on the technical process - they're a bit lacking. Still, it was enjoyable enough to dip into here and there before bed each night, if not a compelling can't-put-down read. I'm sure there's something to relish here for most avid fans, if not the casual viewer. I'd like to read something similar on season two, but given the veil of secrecy that descended over Darabont's departure, it's sadly hard to imagine that working.(less)
This was okay. I read it for a research project, so I was really hoping for a lot more behind-the-scenes information than there was. The majority of t...moreThis was okay. I read it for a research project, so I was really hoping for a lot more behind-the-scenes information than there was. The majority of the book consists of year-by-year recounts of storylines, interspersed with sections on short character profiles. It might make a nice coffee table book for an uber fan, but there's not a great deal of depth. Even in the longest backstage section, the focus is on obvious details like how little time off the actors have, and how all their wardrobes and make-up are from the high street... not Earth-shattering stuff. Still, my disappointment is based on my erroneous preconception of what this book was about. If I'd come to it wanting to read twenty years worth of EastEnders plots (not sure why I would have, but still...) it would have been perfectly serviceable. (less)
There isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of ye...moreThere isn't a single person I wouldn't recommend this book to. Barbara Demick is a journalist for the LA Times, assigned to Korea. Over a number of years, she's interviewed a hundred people who have defected from North to South Korea. Nothing to Envy tells six of their stories, accompanied by a history of North Korea from the country's split to present day. This book is immensely readable, and those unaccustomed to non-fiction shouldn't be deterred. Given how little about North Korea is taught in our schools or reported on our news, this was an absolute eye-opener for me, and there were places where it almost read like fiction, because it was so hard to accept that this is really happening now.
My only criticisms are trivial - Demick repeats herself on minor points from time to time, and some of the biographies are more fleshed out than others. Mi-ran and Jun-sang, sweethearts who defect separately and reunite too late to have a future together are very well represented, as is Mrs Song, a housewife who for many years is loyal to the regime. Her rebellious daughter Oak-Hee receives considerably less page time, as do Dr. Kim, a doctor who eventually makes the heartbreaking discovery that Chinese dogs are fed better than North Korean doctors, and Kim Hyuck, whose father places him in an orphanage as a teenager because he can no longer care for him. The stories told here are immensely powerful and haunting. Although these people all eventually escape to South Korea, most find it difficult to adjust, and must live with the guilt of knowing that their defections have led their families to hardships or even labour camps. This has been an absolute eye-opener for me, and I hope it will only be the start of my reading on North Korea.(less)
I liked this just a touch more than The Writer's Tale. No scripts are included in full, so it feels less unbalanced, and RTD isn't quite as irritating...moreI liked this just a touch more than The Writer's Tale. No scripts are included in full, so it feels less unbalanced, and RTD isn't quite as irritating, and doesn't salivate over Russell Tovey quite as much. I really liked the insight into the development of Tennant's final episodes, particularly the plots and casting that could have been. A good read for any fan, if you can tune out RTD's background whining.(less)
I read this for a research project, expecting it to be dull and dry. I'm not really an autobiography person - I'm just not interested in most celebrit...moreI read this for a research project, expecting it to be dull and dry. I'm not really an autobiography person - I'm just not interested in most celebrities, though I do make rare exceptions for comedians, like Peter Kay and Frankie Boyle. So I was really pleasantly surprised by 50 Years.
Bill Roache doesn't go into much detail on his family life or the pre-Coronation Street years, but I'm willing to bet that it's Corrie most readers are interested in. What unfolds is a warm, affectionate memoir, told by the one man best placed to chronicle the Street. There's not much in the way of salacious gossip or on-set scandal, but honestly, I don't know that I'd be too keen on reading this man's dirty secrets, when he's clearly ashamed of and repentant for his mistakes in the 1960s. The closest to real drama is probably when he recounts how Pat Phoenix stopped speaking to him for two years over a scripting dispute. Blimey!
There are also tragic interludes - the death of his daughter at just 18 months old, and later the loss of his beloved second wife. I really felt for him. Though he does repeat himself from time to time, there's plenty to hold interest. I'm probably a touch too young to remember the time he sued The Sun for libel, but what an interesting story that made! For those more interested in his personal life and spiritual beliefs, he also wrote a 2008 autobiography, Soul on the Street. I have a copy of that, too, but I think this was the tome for me.
I got some funny looks from my family while reading this, but honestly, I really did enjoy it. Quite delightful. 8/10.(less)
Although Screen Burn did contain a decent number of laugh-out-loud moments, the sheer volume of it - spanning five years of Brooker's Guardian columns...moreAlthough Screen Burn did contain a decent number of laugh-out-loud moments, the sheer volume of it - spanning five years of Brooker's Guardian columns - meant that the end product was sadly mediocre. By and large, his columns are all pretty much the same. TV spews out a ludicrous show, and Brooker angrily criticises it at length, employing a staggering range of metaphors and similies that eventually become meaningless through sheer number. Rinse, wash, repeat. These are not bad columns in and of themselves, but crowded together here, they all blend into one hazy, forgettable rant. Yes, there's a lot of crap on TV. Yes, we should all have better things to do than submit to it. But I spent quite a lot of Screen Burn musing on the fact that I really had better things to do than read it, which is pretty damning. I'd recommend this as a bathroom book more than anything - something to dip into for a few minutes, then put down for a few days, so the overall effect is more diluted and enjoyable as a result. Because it definitely is funny in places... it just suffers from the transition to book format.(less)
I was pretty disappointed with this. The parts about development and storylining of Doctor Who were really interesting - exactly the sort of behind-th...moreI was pretty disappointed with this. The parts about development and storylining of Doctor Who were really interesting - exactly the sort of behind-the-scenes insights I'd been hoping for. Sadly, they were few and far between. The vast bulk of the book comprised Russell T Davies moaning about how hard it is being a writer, and salivating over Russell Tovey. It's actually pretty weird how much he goes on and on about the incidental character Midshipman Frame, who had, what, four minutes of screen time? Just because he fancied the actor. I did enjoy Benjamin Cook's replies to his emails, which were couched in nicer language, but essentially asking throughout '"Russell, why are you being such a prick?".
The book felt really padded out, too. Four scripts were included in full, though two of Russell's scripts from the series were missed out entirely, with the emails just alluding to them. It made the content feel really unbalanced. If they'd just included the pertinent parts of each script, the size of the book would have been much less monstrous. Russell's little illustrations were very amusing - I didn't know he was an artist, too - but on the whole I felt let down. 5/10.(less)
This book was a joy to listen to. I'd heard from a lot of people that it's unrelentingly depressing, and I remember my mother having a copy in her bed...moreThis book was a joy to listen to. I'd heard from a lot of people that it's unrelentingly depressing, and I remember my mother having a copy in her bedroom when I was young, which I'd try to avoid because the poor mite on the cover looked so glum! So I was expecting 18 hours of solid bleakness, but that's not how it went at all. If anything, I found it uplifting that the narrator, Frank McCourt, had such a dismal start in life, but was able to look back on it with such a cheerful slant. Yes, the McCourts had a terrible time of it, but they encountered a lot of goodness along the way too.
Many of his anecdotes were outright hilarious. I think the sombre but amusing nature of the book was best encapsulated in one about a school friend who had the other boys pray that his sister would live until at least September, so he could miss school for her funeral. He bribed them with a promise that they could attend her wake for free food and drink, and when he reneged on the deal, McCourt noted with a hint of relish that the boy himself died the following summer, when there was no school to be missed, which served him right.
The "growing up" portion of Frank's life seemed to come about very suddenly, but I suppose that was how it went when you were turfed out of the education system and expected to find full time work at 14. The last 3 or 4 hours did rather linger over his masturbatory habits, which wasn't entirely delightful, but all in all it was easily amongst the 3 or 4 best books I've read this year so far, and the top audiobook I've listened to to date.
Narrated by Frank himself, the tales and songs really came alive, and I was sorry when it all ended. I didn't realise until I was a good way in that the text is quite stylised - almost lyrical. Maybe I missed out by listening instead of reading, but books lacking punctuation for stylistic reasons have driven me barmy in the past, so perhaps not! I may get hold of the follow-up memoirs in time, but whether I do or don't, I'm glad to have read Angela's Ashes.(less)
I enjoyed On Writing much more than I expected to, and certainly more than the last couple of King's fiction stories I read (Secret Window, Secret Ga...moreI enjoyed On Writing much more than I expected to, and certainly more than the last couple of King's fiction stories I read (Secret Window, Secret Garden and The Library Policeman). I always like his introductions for their conversational tone, and this book was like that throughout. It was hardly reading at all, more sitting down with an old friend as he chatted about his formative years, then doled out some pearls of wisdom.
The first section of the book is a potted autobiography. It's not comprehensive and doesn't try to be, but it's interesting throughout, whether he's recounting wiping himself down with poison ivy as a kid, or facing an intervention for his drug addiction as an adult. Then we get to the writing advice, which is given in the broadest strokes, for which I'm glad. My eyes started to glaze over at the start of the grammar section, but for the most part he leaves out the nitty gritty - there are reference books for that. His tips are fairly standard fare - write with the door closed, edit with it open; avoid adverbs; be truthful with your dialogue; keep things active active active. The only part I strongly disagreed with was when he gave this as an example of being "admirably graphic without resorting to vulgarity":
She straddled him and prepared to make the necessary port connections, male and female adaptors ready, I/O enabled, server/client, master/slave. Just a couple of high-end biological machines, preparing to hot-dock with cable modems and access each other's front-end processors.
I'm sorry, but there's a stinker of a Literary Review Bad Sex Award-winner if ever there was one.
The final part of the book is a recount of the accident that nearly killed him. It would be a sombre place to leave things, but he closes by talking about finding his way back to writing in the aftermath, so it goes out on an optimistic note. As an appendix, he includes an extract from his story "1408", part of the Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales collection - as it was first written, and then edited, with an explanation of his cuts. Although it might seem simplistic, its as good an exercise as I've seen in years, and I'm sure I'll be coming back to it the next time I'm editing.
All-in-all, one I'd happily recommend to budding writers, or just readers interested in King's memoirs.(less)