Thursday, 5 September 2019

#LetsExploreDiabetesWithOwls by David Sedaris mini spoiler free book review

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsLet's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone new to David Sedaris might be a little bewildered with the bizarre collection of essays from his eerie, wonderful and eclectic life.

From making friends with alcoholics on long distance trains, to seeking a rare stuffed owl and being introduced instead to stuffed human body parts and finishing on his delightful experience of a colonoscopy, Sedaris has a unique ability to make even the most surreal into witty musings, his insights often deep and unexpected. His talent for putting pen to paper makes these short stories typically easy to read and my only complaint is that there are not more of them.

Maybe not a good start for someone new to his weirdness, but definitely a great read for someone who knows a little more of what to expect...

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Friday, 2 August 2019

#Heroes by Stephen Fry Spoiler free mini review

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and AdventuresHeroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures by Stephen Fry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephen Fry does a superb job at retelling the myths of the ancient Greeks in this sequel to Mythos; Heroes.

Always accessible, never condescending, Fry acknowledges himself multiple times how difficult it is to retain the vast intricacies of names and family trees, and he's right, but his inclusion of the useful bits of back story and relationships is always welcome and helps set the scenes marvellously.

It's clear Fry has a real love for the subject matter. This combined with his elegant writing and natural wit make the book a joy to read from start to finish. Some of the humour felt as if it had been plucked from a Fry and Laurie or Monty Python sketch.

Littered with factual information, I still felt the narrative took centre stage and I became empathetic with many of the characters, especially Heracles and Orpheus.

I've not read Mythos but definitely will now. The hardback copy of Heroes I have is stunning presented, with some excellent photograph editions and a lovely sleeve. I also had the joy of reading this whilst on holiday in actual Greece, which was fantastic. Definitely recommended for anybody with a remote interest in the Ancient Greeks or Hero Mythology.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

#MyGraveRitual by G.S.Denning Warlock Holmes spoiler free mini review

Warlock Holmes - My Grave RitualWarlock Holmes - My Grave Ritual by G.S. Denning

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having really enjoyed the first book in the Warlock Holmes series by G.S.Denning, I bought this thinking it was the second in the series, however this is a departure from the main canon of books and follows on with a series of shorter, small story investigations ranging from murderous Christmas Gooses, searching for artefacts without being allowed to know what they are, electricity demons and a cult of red heads!

Firstly, I love a good book of short stories, it's challenging to write a fully formed story in such a space, and Denning doesn't disappoint and each are just as original as the entire first book. Warlock and Watson's relationship is just as love hate and hilarious as before. but in parts genuinely quite moving. Warlock as the bumbling but brilliant wizard, and Watson the accomplished Doctor and self proclaimed detective definitely have a firm friendship and love for one another.

The stories do have interlinking ideas asking the whole thing feel a little like the TV series Sherlock or Doctor Who, and despite the ludicrous magical elements throughout it still somehow feels like a legitimate homage to the genuine Sherlock Holmes stories.

Reading this on holiday I found myself laughing out loud multiple times and would long for our next stint lounging by the pool so I could carry on reading this absolute gem. Wholly recommended, especially for fans of Sherlock, Doctor Who, Rivers of London, Red Dwarf and other comedy Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Truly excellent!

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#TheBigSleep by Raymond Chandler, mini spoiler free review

The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1)The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first of the series of books by Raymond Chandler starring Philip Marlowe, a private investigator in 1930s LA which is portrayed by Chandler not as the expected sunny and shiny place you might expect, but a dark, grimy and seedy place where everyone is out to make a quick buck however they can. Through Chandler's knack for descriptive writing, my minds eye pictured a city such like the underworld in Bladerunner, only of course not futuristic.

It's Chandler's knack for description that make the story so gripping, even if sometimes it becomes confusing through interweaving plots, the characters, locations and crime scenes are always really easy to clearly imagine.

One enlisted by wealthy and dilapidated General Sternwood to investigate a blackmail attempt, Marlowe's own desire to tie up the loose ends see him going of on tangents to try and garner a complete picture of events that have lead to this point, often getting involved in nail-biting scenarios when he could just back off.

Despite the sometimes confusing nature of the granular story, the voice of Marlowe and the accomplished writing style mean it's still a joy to read from beginning to end and I would sincerely recommend to anyone who might like detective fiction and want to experience a true Sleuth in the world of LA Noir.

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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

#TheMusicShop by Rachel Joyce spoiler free mini review

The Music ShopThe Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Music Shop is an easy to read, nice story about a Vinyl record shop. Set in the 80s with the emergence of the compact disc and chain retailers like Woolworth's peddling the top 40.

Frank is a real music lover with an unusual upbringing and a firm belief and love for the Vinyl format, refusing to accommodate CDs in his little record store. He may not sell you what you want but he has an uncanny need to sell you what you need. The entire community driven street on which Frank's records resides, with it's little shops all struggling to stay in business, is slowly being bought up by a development company and things don't look good for the neighbourhood.

Then, Frank meets Ilse Brauchmann who insists Frank teach her about music. He delivers are crash course in music appreciation rather than music theory, talking about what he sees, feels and imagines when listening to different music, from Vivaldi's Four Seasons to Arethra Franklin with more in between. Ilse is besotted by Frank's passion in how he talks about music.

As things progress, Frank's life takes a dark turn and he goes out of his way to expunge music from his life. Can Ilse and his old friends rescue Frank from his spiralling depression and reignite his love of music?

This is a really nice love story set in a small community with a really likeable and diverse cast of characters. Frank's attitude at times can be downright frustrating but I imagine this is what Joyce intended. There are definitely a few "Oh Frank, just do it!!" moments where you wish he'd pull is finger out.

It's an easy read and not something I'd normally go for, but easy to drop in and out of and it's a really (eventually) feel good story.

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Sunday, 26 May 2019

#TheBookOfTheYear by No Such Thing As A Fish spoiler free mini review

The Book of the YearThe Book of the Year by James Harkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the creative minds behind the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast which in turn comes from the brains behind the facts that go into the panel show QI, comes a compendium of unusual, funny, intellectual, daft and downright weird facts from throughout the year of 2017.

There's no prolonged prose throughout the book and instead we are presented with a list of facts from A through to Z with a description of each with interesting insights. Each fact stands out for it's unusual nature, as much like the facts in QI they all seem surprising in their own unique and bizarre way.

Breaking up the book are transcripts of conversations from the podcast, where the team discuss the facts that they've discovered. These are witty interludes and have on occasion made me chuckle out loud. The groups personalities really come through and I can remember listening to some of the facts on the actual podcast.

I did find the book a struggle, not because it's bad but just because I personally found it difficult to digest in the form it's presented. It's really a coffee table or loo time book, to read a few short facts every so often, where as every time I picked it up it was with the intention of finishing it, so I'd do a chunk and then leave it for months whilst I worked through a piece of fiction on the side. This is my own fault and for somebody more into non fiction reading I imagine this would score higher.

That being said, everything is well researched, well written and above all, entertaining! I won't spoil the book by relaying any specific facts, but there's not an entry that didn't interest me somewhat in the entire book.

Definitely recommended for fans of QI, the podcast or for people who just want something to dip in and out of which has some truly interesting, funny and unusual facts from 2017.

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Thursday, 23 May 2019

#HappyFat by Sofie Hagen spoiler free mini review

Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink YouHappy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You by Sofie Hagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Happy Fat is a stunning book about body image, self worth, societal oppression and above all, about fat. About being fat; what it's like to be fat; the problems, issues and discrimination that fat people endure on a daily basis. It's about learning to love the fat. To tell yourself if you are fat that it's okay to be that way. It's about becoming a better friend to the fat people in your life. It's about changing the world we live in, controlled by corporations intent on selling dieting products to a fat world by encouraging active Fatphobia among society. Fatphobia is real and just another form of discrimination, only encouraged by how fat is portrayed in the media when actually in this day and age we should be striving for an inclusive society where everyone is catered for and accepted for being who they are.

Easier said than done, perhaps, but Sofie Hagen does a superb job of explaining how we can start to change our own perspectives around fat and how to improve the world around us. Of course, being Sofie Hagen, this is done in an extremely likeable and often hilarious fashion.

Not only is the writing style excellent, but it's well researched. This isn't just one persons view on being fat and the problems that the world imposes on this, but everything is referenced and looked in to. The science speaks for itself when discussing specialised diets designed to fail. The popular belief that fat automatically equals unwell, dismissed by credible sources through Sofie's entertaining, charming and truthful dialogue.

Sofie is honest, drawing on her own life experiences throughout the story. I related heavily to this from my own experiences with body image issues and being overweight and was able to pinpoint exact events that Sofie talked about that I had experienced. I'm not sure I'm in the frame of mind to grab what's left of my stomach and be genuinely okay with it, but reading this felt like a good step in the right direction.

Peppered throughout are interviews with fellow fat people; fat activists and more, and with Sofie's detailed and well thought out questioning, these provide a variety of insights into different peoples perspectives on fatness in modern society.

I really recommend this book to anybody who may have been or is fat, or have had body image issues but I'd also recommend to anybody interested in another perspective on the fat situation in the world at the moment. The tone of voice is so well informed, likeable and funny that you could do a lot worse when expanding your horizons.

Finally, the physical book is really pretty, from the bright hardback cover to the pretty illustrations throughout. Go and buy this book, now. Thanks.

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