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2011 Review of Books…Review…Part 2

January 3, 2012

Review of Books continued…

  1. A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks This is the first time I have read anything by Mr Faulks. AWID is about a bunch of disparate individuals that are slices of modern, London life: a hedge fund trader, a book reviewer, a tube driver (you get the idea) and a snapshot of a week…in December. Faulks weaves their lives together somehow (shit, it sounds like bloody Love Actually…) and it ends in a climatic finish…blah-de-blah. Some of the stories are a bit weak but what staggered me was the sheer amount of research required for this book – each person’s life is presented in exquisite detail and in some ways this book is like a modern day mash-up of McEwan’s Saturday and Amis’ MoneyOverall: Beautifully written, compelling and sometimes brilliant 9/10
  2. Solar – Ian McEwan Ian McEwan must be one of my favouritest writer people. So I was looking forward to Solar because the Mail said that it is: ‘…a novel that is both profoundly serious and hilariously funny.‘ The Independent also said that: ‘...Ian McEwan is not generally known as a write of laugh-out-loud fiction, but Solar – inspired by the uncomic subject of climate change – is just that.’ The Sunday Times said that Solar is: ‘…entertaining – and often very funny.’ So I practically ripped the pages open to read McEwan givin’ it some. Oh. Deary. Me. Solar is a lame, dull book about…ah, I can’t be arsed. Overall: Unfunny, predictable and painful 0/10
  3. The Passage – Juston Cronin I love a good vampire book and this is a cracker. Set in the future (sometime), it chronicles the lives of a group of survivors of a battle between vampires and humans as they struggle to maintain the life of their batteries and keep the dark at bay. The vampires in The Passage are possibly the scariest vampires in literature and make The Lost Boys look like Boyzone. Overall: Twilight it ain’t. Dark, addictive and brilliant 8/10
  4. Life – Keith Richards Me too, I thought he was dead as well. Turns out he isn’t and is still cranking out dodgy albums with The Stones. I like the early Stones music but the later stuff I find to be MOR dirge barely worthy of being muzak in Top Man. He has lived an mental life and his utterly brutal honesty is a breath of fresh air when compared to other autobiographies and some of the stuff you cannot believe he has admitted. His failings as a father, his animosity towards Mick Jagger and his spiral into drugs – are all tackled frankly, without ego and with total candour. It is also written beautifully (I think it might be ghost written) and the only thing he doesn’t admit is the musical slide of The Stones…but he very much implies it. Overall: Honest, brutal and sometimes very funny. An excellent musical memoir. 9/10
  5. Slow Motion – Dani Shapiro This is the tale of how a well-to-do jewish girl in New York has a long affair with her friends’ dad, slides into addiction and then eventually loses everything. I kind of liked this. She comes across as a little bit of a narcissist but she writes so, so well that I was willing to forgive her. Her gradual slide is well described and some of the scenes she recalls are hugely evocative and very moving. Overall: a bit of a slow burner but it has it’s moments 6/10
Some honourable and dishonourable mentions

Desperation – Stephen King I just don’t know why I bother with Stephen King anymore. This is like reading someone trying to write like Stephen King but who has no ideas whatsoever. Overall: Desperate by name, desperate by nature. Didn’t finish it. 0/10

Lee Child – Killing Floor I have seen so many of his books at the airport that I thought: I have to read one of them. Again, lad-lit, but I found it was well paced and easy reading. This is not high-art, the plot is a bit Melrose Place (maybe even sub-Melrose Place) and the lead character is a bit of a lug…but I enjoyed it! Overall: Like M&Ms; not that nutritious but you just can’t stop once you start. 5/10

The Radleys – Matt Haig Another vampire book, this time about vampires trying to live a normal life with the aid of intricate lies and factor 50 sunscreen. It reads a little bit like a channel 4 mini series but has it’s moments. Overall: Easier to read than a comic but with less depth 5/10

Sister – Rosamund Lupton Sister tells a story about how a sister tries to discover the cause of her sisters death. Set in a pretty dourly described London the sister in question (who is about as annoying as a sweaty wedgie) keeps plugging away Sarah Lund style until she uncovers the truth. Overall: tense, dark and quite unpredictable. 6/10

October Skies – Alex Scarrow A time shift novel (again) about a wagon train heading over the rockies in the 19th century that meets disaster. Told through the diaries of a doctor I found myself totally absorbed by this. Overall: creepy, compulsive but a silly ending 7/10

Full Dark No Stars – Stephen King I read this later in the year and it has four short stories that vary in quality. A couple are awesome and really are like vintage King…but then a couple are pants and read like other stories he has written before. Overall: glimpses of greatness, but a little derivative 4/10

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Trilogy) – Stieg Larsson Everyone has read this lot. I am on the last one at the moment and the reason why they are so good is that Larsson writes with no real style at all. It’s like a journalistic record of something that happened. Also, in Lisbeth Salander he has created one of the greatest anti-heroes in literature. Overall: The detail and breadth of the writing make it all worth the effort 8/10

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2012 4:20 pm

    They are making a movie of a Lee Child book – and it stars Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

    Can you think of a worse actor to cast in that role? I can’t.

    • January 3, 2012 4:54 pm

      Tom Cruise? Really? You’re not pulling my leg are you? Jack Reacher is, like, 6’8” or something like that and built like a barn.

      Tom Cruise really does have short man syndrome…

  2. Maria L permalink
    January 8, 2012 11:57 am

    I have just managed to get A Week in December from the library, so after reading your review I am looking forward to reading it! I also loved The Passage and struggled with Wolf Hall, so can see where you are coming from.

    For Christmas I got Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher – I read his first book on Africa and loved it so hopefully it will be good. I also got Game Change, which is an account of the last US presidential race and comes highly recommended by friends. I have just finished Shaped by War, Don McCuillin’s collection of photographs and biography. Absolutely amazing, but not an easy read in terms of content, and some of the pictures of children are quite difficult to see.

    We both read October Skies and quite enjoyed it. Very easy reading, but well written.

  3. January 9, 2012 8:38 pm

    Looking forward to the Sebastian Faulks having adored Birdsong but been a bit underwhelmed by his novels since. Can’t completely agree with you about Solar. Yes, the main character is mainly repellent, but in an almost endearing way. I found the insight into the academic world interesting and amusing, and it was rather a relief to read a novel about the environment without feeling I had to live in a mud hut for the rest of my days in order to save the planet. Life- Keith Richards sounds a cracking (no pun intended…) and I know just the person to buy it for as well as for myself. That’s a 40th birthday present sorted, thank you novel blog person you. And Happy New Year!

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