Monday, 14 April 2014

Nagasaki - Éric Faye


'There comes a time when nothing happens any more.'

This is a tiny little book. A novella. It has a nice cover. It has been translated by the good people at Gallic Books from the French. They are ever so good at doing that.

It is about a man who discovers that there is less orange juice in the fridge when he returns home from work than there was when he left the house in the morning. (How does he know? He checks it with a straw, obvs, and he lives alone so he knows the contents of his own fucking fridge, innit).

Cos this lad's completely normal, he sets up a selection of recording equipment so that he can see exactly what is going on when he's out of the house.

The tale is based on a story that appeared in Japanese newspapers in 2008. It's a good story. It's written with some good words and some good stuff happens. It's good. What is bad, is that with books of this length it's fucking difficult to tell you anything for fear that I'll accidentally be a big spoil-y cunt, and I just sit here tapping out 'it's good, I'm fucking telling you, it's good'. And then I hat myself a bit.

A lot of it is written down as the thoughts that are going through your man's mind. A stream. Not just about the missing juice and how the fuck he is going to find out what is going on and whether he is mad, but all of his wonderings and desires and regrets. It is a lovely piece of writing.

Recommended if you'd like to read a little book with a bloody great big bit of reflection.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sleeping People Lie - Jae De Wylde


'You can tell a lot about a person from their bottom.'

We're in Paris. Sloane (young and fit and English) meets Nicholas (older and a writer and American). They immediately want to bang each other, which must be cos they're in Paris or whatever and end up embarking on a whirlwind relationship, but, as you can probably guess, there is shit going on behind the scenes in both of their minds and lives which makes things difficult.

The whole romance thing was a bit twee for me. I didn't like how desperately these pair of twats were 'in love'. It didn't feel natural or fun, it was kind of embarrassing and cringe-y. And this romantic longing for each other shit went on for way more of the book than it should have done. I felt like the first half of the book could have probably been reduced in length drastically. They are a pair of soppy mad cunts. I get it.

However, just when I was about to sack the fucker off, shit got good. The story is narrated by letters from each character to 'Em', which made for a great build up and ending to this love story which was a constnt struggle for both of the characters.

It's chick lit with a bit of a kick. A fair amount of banging (although some of it is all swoon-y and definitely not wank-worthy) and a twist that makes the long shit at the start worth ploughing through, I enjoyed this a lot.

Recommended if you are a mum or a nan and you like all that romantic toss, with a good dollop of drama at the end.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Bhalla Strand - Sarah Maine


'The first bone he'd dismissed as a dead sheep.'

Harriet Devereux moves into Bhalla House after her parents die and leave it to her. While Harriet and some lads are poking around and deciding what to do with the old place they comes across some human remains. Then, as you'd probably expect, the mysteries start to unravel.

Told mostly through Harriet, but with quite a few letters from the past transcribed in to the text as well, this is the story of a modern day woman alongside the story of an aristocrat from the 1900s who is having some troubles of her own.

Right, so this book was too fucking long. Nearly 400 pages. I wish that books would stop fucking doing that to me. We're all fucking dying, after all.

Anyway.

There is a lot of clever stuff in this book. You can tell that the author knows her shit, but the knowing of the shit was a bit too much for me and took away from the enjoyment of the story. It just made it much longer, and as we've already established (above) it's too fucking long.

I like a story with a duel narrative and I love shit about The Struggles in the Hearts of Women but this one just didn't do it for me. It's perfectly fine, but a bit slow on the uptake, and when it did take up it didn't blow my mind.

Recommended if you like Edwardians, archaeology, and women taking it upon themselves to drag up the past in the name of justice.

Friday, 4 April 2014

In Bloom - Matthew Crow


'When my headaches started Mum took me to the optician's.'

Francis Wooton is fifteen years old. He's got leukaemia. He hangs out on the cancer ward of his local hospital cos of said leukaemia and he has some pals there. The one he likes best is Amber.

I like Francis. He's a bit weird. He's a very thoughtful young lad and he thinks about some great stuff and I think he's probably right in thinking that he is an unrecognised genius. I think that he gets this from his mum, who is really fucking funny and an absolute babe. In fact, all of his family are fantastic characters.

Francis and Amber, although being very like-minded, are also complete opposites. Amber is confident and cocky whereas Francis is nervous and a worrier. These two are wonderful together.

This is a story about being a teenager in love and making discoveries and being a normal young person but with the added burden of a disease that can sometimes completely consume you and make you someone else. There have been comparisons between this book and John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. This is nothing like The Fault in Our Stars and if you ask me it's a fucking lazy comparison. Oh, there's two teenagers with cancer? CHUCK IT IN THE YA LITERARY CANCER BAG. Cunts.

The Fault in Our Stars is fucking bullshit. In Bloom is a fucking triumph.

This is a book that deals with a subject that frankly, I'm a little bored of, but that kept me reading until the early hours because it is so fucking well pieced together - the characters are funny and awkward and English. The story shows real ups and downs and not fucking romanticised, ridiculous twattery and 'oopsie!' shit and it just feels so fucking honest and raw.

The end surprised me into doing quite a big cry, and once I'd finished doing that and berated myself enough I was quiet and thoughtful for a long time. It flicked a switch inside me that suddenly made me feel very humble and grateful.

Look what you've done to me, Matthew Crow, you fucking prick.

Recommended if you want to read a proper hearfelt story, with proper English characters, and get a proper big wallop in the gut. It's fantastic.


Monday, 31 March 2014

The Truth Will Out - Jane Isaac


'Eva Carradine's foot tapped a staccato rhythm as she sat back in her chair and waited for her computer to connect.'

Eva and her pal Naomi are having a pow wow on Skype when Naomi is whisked off by a black-gloved intruder leaving Eva not knowing what the fuck has gone on.

DCI Helen Lavery is heading up the investigation in to who the attacker is, and why they have a problem with Eva and Naomi.

As well as the story about the investigation, you're treated to the back story of Detective Lavery while she deals with her own shit and family and love life and all that kind of shit, as well as a murder investigation. Top notch living, Lavery. 

This is a standard bit of crime fiction with no real thrills. The writing itself is good and engaging, but the story, for me, lacked any real excitement. It's not a bad book, it's fine. It's a page turner for the writing and easy reading rather than cos you give a fuck about anyone in the story or because it's blowing your fucking mind.

Recommended if you fancy a  nice, friendly little bit of fiction. It's perfectly enjoyable and made for a lovely Sunday afternoon read.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Why Are Animals Funny? - EDA Collective


'Everyday Analysis, or EDA, is a collective project, based primarily in Manchester and London ...

... that takes everyday objects, items, adverts, signs, art, music, and anything else, and offers analysis of them.'

I'd never heard of EDA before, but here they are, sending me a book to review. The internet, eh. Incredible.

So what you've got here is a collection of essays on various subjects in popular culture that give one perspective of how to think about that certain subject. Essay titles include: The Email Sign-Off and Politeness, The Politics of 'Friend Zone', Does it Really Make a Difference Whether it was James Gandolfini or Tony Soprano who Died, and Fear and Anxiety in The Gruffalo, as well as the one that became the title of the book - Why Are Animals Funny?

It's an interesting collection, full of little philosophical snippets from The Big Boys to show you why even stuff that happened yesterday draws parallels with shit from years ago and days gone by, and cross-referencing with other bits and pieces to make sure you've understood their point. The writers have obviously thought about what they're telling you, and very much want you to believe their interpretations.

I think that people who read this book will be split in to two camps: you'll have the people who lap it all up, love a philosophical debate and fucking love this; and the people who find it interesting and take bits of it away with them but ultimately don't appreciate that kind of depth of thinking cos it's fucking long and they'd rather be reading a bit of fiction. I am in the latter group.

Recommended if you need a new book for the bog. It's easy to dip in and out of and contains some very considered writing.

Monday, 24 March 2014

When Mr Dog Bites - Brian Conaghan


'When Back To School Day came on 12th August I knew it would be a mighty problemo for me.'

I don't read press releases or blurbs before I read books because I like being surprised and, quite often, angry and confused.

I was angry at the start of this book, cos without reading the packaging you don't know that this lad Dylan Mint has Tourettes and is going to one of those special schools. I just thought he was an annoying little cunt. Oh well.

Because of Dylan's condition he speaks and thinks in a bit of a strange way. It took me a while to get used to, but once I did and managed to settle in to the story everything was plain sailing.

So Dylan is creating a bucket list cos he's poorly. He pops some nice things on there for his own personal development as well as stuff to make his pals happy, and in trying to achieve these things ends up learning a lot about the people in his life.

This book is lovely. It's pitched at children but I think that it can also sit neatly into an adult market, the same way that The Curious Incident did. Reading it is to observe the perils that surround a teenage boy with a brain wired differently to others, and it is a stark examination of how people with their brain not wired up in this way perceive this shit, and in cases of being close to that person, cope. I can't vouch for the authenticity of Dylan Mint's Tourettes, but it felt honest and clear in the presentation of it to a person like me who knows fuck all, and that made me properly attached to him.

Recommended if you want to read a story about a lad with a heart of gold who says cunt and fuck and has a pretty fucking spectacular way of viewing the world he's a part of.