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2011 Review of Books…Review…Part 1

December 27, 2011

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again, I hear you moan whinge sigh for MrShev’s bumper, party-time, Hogmanay-tastic review of books. Okay, so I am over-egging the pudding a little, but I just cannot review books for a whole post so I am reduced to writing them as little paragraphs. I just don’t know how reviewers prattle on for so long in The Times and The Guardian – just tell us if it’s any bloody good or not, why don’t ya? I want to actually read the book not read about you reading the book you gormless morons. So, I am just going to tell you if they’re shit or not.

  1. Margrave of the Marshes – John Peel et al John Peel was my musical lighthouse, steering me away from the ship-wreckin’ headland of MOR, Bon Jovi and Bros. He introduced me to grunge, hip-hop and The Fall. But, more than that, he seemed to have a genuine love of the music; you always got the feeling that he enjoyed everything he played. Also, he did a show on Radio 4 called Home Truths that was…funny, irreverent and genuine. I felt that I practically grew up with his family. Anyway – he started his autobiography and died about a 100 pages in which is a shame as those 100 pages are also funny, irreverent and genuine. After that his wife takes over (and a couple of his children pitch in as well) and it turns into a biography-by-numbers and was a bit of a grind to finish (to be perfectly frank) – his family obviously loved him very much but they can’t write for toffee. Overall:  Fans only, but a charity shop purchase for everybody else 5/10
  2. The Hunger Games (Pt 1) – Suzanne Collins YA lit is what this is called. Yeah, I had to look that up as well: Young Adult Literature is the proper name. I bloody hate acronyms used pointlessly. Anyway, The Hunger Games is about a gladiatorial contest – to the death! – that is fought entirely by children…which is a future TV format that Simon Cowell is hoping to exploit after he has wrung-dry the X-Factor. There is a whole backstory behind why it’s called The Hunger Games and why some kids are picked over others but it would be a bit like me explaining the National Lottery Thunderball Game – most of you will glaze over by the second sentence and still not understand it…as if anyone does. Anyway, muchos high-jinks ensues blah-de-blah-de-blah. You can read The Hunger Games whilst watching Friends – it’s that light – and I imagine most ‘Young Adults’ (what the hell is wrong with the word teenager? Eh?) won’t find it that challenging either. Finally my over-arching thought when reading it was: isn’t this Battle Royale re-written for the American market? Overall: Like an Aero – it’s light, quick to consume and makes you want more. Not too bad at all…but Battle Royale it ain’t 6/10
  3. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner I have touched upon this book in another post. But this is a book about statistics. I know that’s not a sentence to give you literary wood, but there you are – this is what this is about. What is great, though, is that it takes a crazy premise like ‘Why do drug dealers always live with their mothers?’ and tries to find the statistical reason behind it. The reason why most drug dealers live with their mothers is that drug dealing  (and drug dealing gangs) are organised like any other corporation and the people at the bottom rarely get paid well and are only doing it because of an invented kudos (most dealers on the bottom rung barely make minimum wage.) Yeah, granted, some make big bucks – but isn’t that true of Starbucks or Tesco? So…they live at their Mum’s because they haven’t got the liquidity…dawg. Overall: Interesting, accessible and sometimes genuinely surprising 9/10
  4. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall is factionalised account of the story of Cromwell – chief advisor to Cardinal Wolsey and then Cardinal himself – under Henry VIII. It won the Booker prize in 2009, so it must be a belter? Right? Errr…no. My problem with it is threefold. Firstly, it does that whole flashing backwards and forwards through time (rather than telling it in a linear fashion) that is just utterly confusing and wholly unnecessary – it’s a history book! History, last time I checked, works in a linear fashion because of that other linear constant…what is it? Oh yeah, time. Secondly, there is a huge cast of characters; some feel important…but turn out not to be…and some just blend together. It’s just too much. Lastly, the Booker Prize. Is it just me or do they give it to a shit book every other year? My feeling with Wolf Hall is that she shouldn’t have won it because the plot, you know, ain’t her creation – you know what I’m saying? So you’d think that the rest should be tip-bloody-top. I think she fucked up big style here, IMHO. Overall: want the lowdown on The Tudors? Watch Blackadder, it’s funnier  1/10
  5. Weapons of Choice: World War 2.1 – John Birmingham This is Lad-Lit. So, it starts with a simple premise which is: what would happen if a 2025 battle group went back to the middle of World War 2? Obviously, they initially put down some wuppin’ but after a while the contemporary officers have to deal with some other issues such as: How do you deal with racism when a fair proportion of your crew and half your officers are non-white? How do you deal with sexism? How do you control access to modern technology when it is so powerful? Do you share history? How do we change the course of the war? Should we intervene? So, what starts out as a pretty daft What If? novel ends up as a complicated political and strategic dissection of what would happen. Sure there are some right barmy sections and the characters are a bit Trumpton – but it is madly compelling. Overall: Sometimes bonkers, always interesting and could have been really shit…but isn’t 9/10

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2011 10:24 pm

    We read Wolf Hall for my church book club and almost everyone – of about 30 members – hated it. I couldn’t even finish it. I only went to book club that night to see if other people hated it as much as I did or if I was the only moron on earth who didn’t get it and couldn’t follow the horrible narrative style.

    • December 29, 2011 7:21 pm

      Good, I am glad that I am not the only one who struggled with it.

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