Tom’s girlfriend has left, but she hasn’t left him. At least that’s what the note she leaves behind for him says. Feeling confused and angry, Tom sets...moreTom’s girlfriend has left, but she hasn’t left him. At least that’s what the note she leaves behind for him says. Feeling confused and angry, Tom sets out to find out where she’s gone. His path leads him to a Holiday Inn Express and a group of people with an odd way of life.
I’ve loved Danny Wallace’s previous books, including his debut novel Charlotte Street, however I struggled to get into Who is Tom Ditto? There’s lots of wonderful little observations throughout the pages and trademark Wallace charm but the story was slow and maybe a bit too surreal for the realistic setting.
At times, it does sort of feel like something Danny might have done in real life, like his Join Me book. The group of people Tom finds like to follow people, to experience the lives of strangers. Some take it a bit too far, others just spend evenings eating and drinking the same things as their chosen target. It’s a way to break free from the routine of everyday life and add some spontaneity.
Tom’s story is broken up by snippets of what seems like a newspaper interview, with the man behind the following movement. These didn’t add much at all and just slowed the pace down. Tom is also a radio newsreader and a lot of the time is spent in the studio. His job actually provided some of the funnier moments but it just didn’t quite all mesh together. I did really like the escape of Binky though.
On a positive note, it’s refreshing to see a character suffering from depression where it’s not the main focus. He gets on with his life, even if he’s not fulfilled, he’s coping. Although it could be argued that the whole following thing was a symptom, a way of deflecting but I don’t think Tom got that into it. The distractions of new people did seem to help him.
The Müller family are fictional, but implanted into real events. The events of the putsch did happen and people were killed on both sides. What’s real...moreThe Müller family are fictional, but implanted into real events. The events of the putsch did happen and people were killed on both sides. What’s really interesting about this, is the plot could so easily be that of our modern day dystopian YA fiction but this stuff actually happened. It’s really quite scary and I hope a few Daily Mail readers will pick this up and take note. In a time of financial hardship, it’s easy to blame people that aren’t like yourselves but that way leads to persecution and to the horrors seen in WWII. Not many people would openly agree with what the Nazi’s did but some of their early propaganda is certainly mirrored in some of the right wing views aired today. It's just different groups of people being blamed.
How much you get out of this book might depend on how much of the history you know. Most of my knowledge of WWII is more around the later years, so I found the early politics quite interesting. I did know what happened to Geli though, which might have been a bit of a spoiler, even though she isn’t a main character.
Reinhard’s character is representative of the sociopathic nature of those who supported Hitler’s plans and indeed, helped carry them out. There was plenty of pressure for people to appear supportive or to go along with everyone else, but those who really revelled in other’s suffering would have been the most dangerous. It did seem a bit tenuous for Gretchen to use her brother’s behaviour as a way to research Hitler’s mental state.
It might be surprising to some readers how Hitler starts off portrayed as just a man, not a beast. Gretchen has always seen him as the man who cared for her family after her father died, he’s her honorary uncle. But she has never done anything to defy him or be subject to his anger. As her perception of Hitler begins to change, his behaviour appears to worsen.
The mystery aspect wasn’t really needed and I found the threads of Gretchen’s story meandered a bit. She could have just befriended a Jewish boy and get into trouble for that without all the pretence at intrigue and piecing together things that seem a bit too obvious for a modern reader. I would be interested in reading the second book to see where their journey takes them. It does work entirely as a standalone novel fortunately.
No Harm Can Come to a Good Man is another bleak vision of the near future from Mr Smythe, this time told through one man’s family. It’s a slow burn, t...moreNo Harm Can Come to a Good Man is another bleak vision of the near future from Mr Smythe, this time told through one man’s family. It’s a slow burn, the tension growing with one small event that snowballs out of control. The writing draws you in and I honestly started to feel anxious about these people. That’s a sign of good writing, when the characters become real enough to affect your emotions. So, maybe don’t read it when you’re feeling down, but do read it.
It just goes to show how much I love James Smythe’s style that I read this. Let’s face it, a political thriller isn’t really my thing. But like many of his books, it’s intimate and claustrophobic. The campaign for presidential candidate is a vehicle for what happens to Laurence and justifies the media interest. Laurence might not have started out as a character I would have empathised with but I felt for him by the end. There’s no justice or sympathy.
The story highlights the media circus surrounding presidential candidates and the incredible invasion of privacy they must face. Where do you draw the line between knowing the candidate is a good enough man to run the country and intruding on personal life?
There is a small science fiction aspect to this of course. The science of predictions; which is already a big thing in the US. How reliable are they and when does a prediction shape the future? The Walker family suffer a loss they are unlikely to recover from, but they can carry on their lives; can a computer really differentiate between those kinds of subtleties?
OK, Ruby's a bit annoying, but her attitude and unpreparedness for the situation is kinda realistic. She's only 15 after all. We can't all be able to...moreOK, Ruby's a bit annoying, but her attitude and unpreparedness for the situation is kinda realistic. She's only 15 after all. We can't all be able to save the world and be mature at that age ;) Full review to follow.(less)
Landline is a story about growing apart and the compromises of marriage. It’s easy to relate to the characters, although which such a large YA audienc...moreLandline is a story about growing apart and the compromises of marriage. It’s easy to relate to the characters, although which such a large YA audience, I wonder if all her fans will feel the same. It is a much older feeling book. It’s about an established relationship with its wobbles and balancing work life and home life. And if there’s one thing Rainbow does well, it’s realistic relationships.
The time travel landline was perhaps a bit gimmicky; it’s a bit hard to believe Neal didn’t ask more questions. Unlike Eleanor & Park and Attachments, there wasn’t a sense of nostalgia connected to the past. Instead the past represents a time without baggage, a chance for Georgie to remember the good times and maybe fix what’s gone wrong since.
I felt a bit sorry for Seth. He seems like such an amazing friend and Neal gives him a hard time, not to mention Georgie starting to flake out on him workwise. They had such a huge opportunity and I understand her choices. They’ll have loads of Christmases together in future, there’s just one where she needs to work, to make a difference. I though Neal was a tad selfish but there is clearly a whole load of backstory there and I became a little more accepting of his decision later on.
All Petri’s friends are on Glaze but she’s got to wait for her sixteenth birthday to get the chip. Her mother’s an ex-hacker genius who works for her...moreAll Petri’s friends are on Glaze but she’s got to wait for her sixteenth birthday to get the chip. Her mother’s an ex-hacker genius who works for her “uncle” Max’s company; the very company who created and run the mega social network. She counting down the days until she matters as far as her peers are concerned. When a peaceful protest turns sour, Petri is identified as inciting violence, (she was just being sarcastic). Instead of a trial, she’s given a blank chip, a ban from accessing Glaze for another 5 years. In her eyes her life is over before it even began. But there is another option, one which means delving into the dangerous and illegal world of hackers.
Glaze is an action packed social commentary on both the positive and negative aspects of social media. So interesting to see some of our current behaviour brought out into the open and examined in this fictional world. The wealth of knowledge and support we have at our fingertips is amazing when you compare it to 20 years ago, imagine if it was all in your head, accessible with just a thought. Is limiting access to individual impeding on their civil rights? Are our happy social circles shielding us from other viewpoints, for better or for worse?
Not to mention the scary thought of what giant corporations could be doing with our data. At what point do you draw the line, especially if all you can see are personal benefits? In Glaze there is only one social network that matters, there isn’t any choice in the matter other than not joining. And not joining means being excluded, something many people already feel about Facebook today.
The hackers that Petri meets seems harmless at first. As the story progresses, it follows the fine line between doing something for the greater good and doing more harm than good. There are always two sides to the coin. Some have noble causes but others can threaten the systems we rely on so much. Sometimes it’s a bit of both.
One thing Petri cares about is her right to vote, to make sure there is a future for her generation. Her naivety is something that slowly wears off throughout the book. There’s a quote, that I have lost, which is about the true meaning of privilege, which struck a chord. I don’t think we are too far away from her world, which is frightening stuff. I loved every page.
A lot of people have misconceptions about what OCD is. Often, they are confusing it with OCPD, where we think of people being overly clean and keeping...moreA lot of people have misconceptions about what OCD is. Often, they are confusing it with OCPD, where we think of people being overly clean and keeping everything in order. Those with OCPD don't see it as irrational behaviour. OCD on the other hand is obsessing over intrusive thoughts and using compulsions to counteract them. Sometimes those compulsions are cleaning or order, but often not. The book goes into the difference and similarities between anxiety and OCD, which helps put it into context. However awful anxiety gets, there’s a logic to it, an immediate threat that our fight or flight instincts respond to. OCD is usually completely illogical, the sufferer’s obsessing over thoughts that contradict who they are.
Picking this up, I thought it was going to be more of a memoir than it actually is. David does cover his own story in part, but there’s a lot of science and history of OCD. It’s the kind of non-fiction book I am drawn to and enjoy. The book shows varied cases of OCD throughout history and many of the treatments used, some which did more harm than good. Freud is rather amusingly dismissed on several occasions.
The stuff about intrusive thoughts was really interesting. You know when something pops into your head and you’re horrified by it? How on earth could I think that and does it make me a bad person? Well, if you don’t get them, the chances are you’re a psychopath or lying. Most people manage to shake these thoughts free, but OCD sufferers latch onto them and can’t get them out of their heads.
David is both a science journalist and an OCD sufferer. He knows what he’s talking about both from personal experience and the research mentality his work gives him. He isn’t judgemental but he sets everything out straight. It’s a very accessible book to read too. His obsessive thoughts were focused on catching HIV, not through risky behaviour but just through everyday contact. He couldn’t shake the thought that there could be infected blood lying around. No matter how slim the chances, his brain wouldn’t be at peace. This was apparently a common OCD obsession in the 90s, when HIV was considered a horrible death sentence.
There’s some repetition in the first half but somehow it feels appropriate for the subject matter. I found the section on the history of lobotomies morbidly fascinating. Then there’s a great part that explains how drugs gets into your brain after taking a pill. Overall an enlightening and entertaining read.
Jean is a dancer in the corps. She knows she’ll never be good enough for principle, but she has her career ahead of her. She was the one who helped th...moreJean is a dancer in the corps. She knows she’ll never be good enough for principle, but she has her career ahead of her. She was the one who helped the great Arslan Rusakov defect from Russia, she loves him but she’s not good enough for him. Not a good enough dancer. There has always been one man who loved her, a man who will wait for her. Is it time to leave the ballet behind? And is she capable of turning her back on her life’s obsession?
Astonish Me is a tale of obsession and sacrifice told through evocative and expressive writing. The narrative flits back and forth between Joan’s time as a dancer and her time as a mother. But does she ever really leave her obsession behind? She teaches ballet and moulds a future generation of dancers. Is she just living her life through them?
At times it feels like it’s been written by a dancer. There is a lot of focus on the body, as a machine, a tool to dance with, separate from emotional needs. The characters feel quite distanced from reality, ballet and their bodies being the most important thing of all. It’s a tough choice for female dancers who wish for children but do not want to give up their passion. For these dancers, ballet is a passion, their life, and to give it up is to give up breathing. Although Joan appears to voluntarily step back, as the story unfolds, you see just how much hold ballet really has on her.
Perhaps this means the books will not appeal to those with no interest in ballet. The selfish drive of the characters is only put into context through the extremes of their world. The part about Russian defectors was an interesting piece of social history. They were driven so hard to be the best in the world but they wanted their freedom and they had to be smuggled out to the free world, given homes amongst the ballet companies.
The more I think about it, the more I like the book, although it feels very intense at the time. Harry’s path appears to be following his father’s and then veers off. It touches on the prejudice against male dancers but also on the hardships of all dancers going through puberty and not knowing if their bodies will be kind to them.
Elaine is held up as an example of what could have been for Joan. Although it is inferred that Elaine is the better dancer, had more potential, but she stays in the world whilst Joan is apart. Her story isn’t without sadness though but I liked her, more than the other characters. I felt she was more personable that a lot of the people in the industry would really be. The other characters are probably the norm.