Category Archives: Books

Choke by Chuck Palahnuik (2001)

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Synopsis

Vincent Mancini has a lot of problems. He has a crap job, a sick mother, and is a sex addict. Throw in some crazy friends, and an inventive way of making money, and you get one bizarre story.

Review

This is another of my “book stockpile” books. I’ve had it for probably about a year and half at this stage, but only recently dove into into. Again, this book had the honour of being my commuting book.

I’ve been using the same method of commuting to the city centre since I first moved to Dublin. I ALWAYS have a book with me, and I’ve never had any issues with anybody. However, that was about to change.

My shift in the past couple of weeks allowed me to finish work around 5.30 and weary from a long week of work, I shuffled onto the train and stood, wedged in between sweaty busniess men and women with huge bags. I fished this out of my bag and quickly got lost in the story. A few minutes later, I heard the almost stereotypical “ahem” and a bony finger poking me in the arm. A woman in her late 50’s/ early 60s was staring at me like she was expecting me to burst into flame. “Do you mind not reading that? I find it offensive.”, she said, pointing at “Choke”. I just gaped at her. I didn’t know what to say. The guys that I was standing next to looked at me, I looked at them, and went back to reading, ignoring Mrs. Prissy Pants’ sighs and mutterings.

What the actual fuck.

Anyway. This book is an odd one. The story is hard to get in to. It’s almost impenetrable. I didn’t feel any empathy towards Vincent at all. I suppose he isn’t really an empathic character and is just a tough cookie to crack also. You can almost chart Vincent’s coming off the rails and are aware of plot turns and twists before he is. In a way, it’s like car crash tv. You know what’s happening, and what’s about to happen before Vince does, but you can’t look away.

The sex described in the book is not pleasant. It’s not romantic. It’s Vincent’s addiction and is treated as such. He hates himself as much as everyone else. He doesn’t know how to interact with others, and has a very limited range of emotions.

Would I recommend it? It’s difficult to know. I would recommend it to people who have read Palahnuik’s other works, but it’s not my favourite by him.

TL:DR – Let’s not forget Jesus’ foreskin.

All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland (2001)

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Synopsis

The Drummond family are extraordinary, in the fact that they are a normal family. The book focuses primarily on their lives in the lead up to Sarah Drummond’s launch into space. We also find out details of how their lives led to the events which unfold in this book.

Review

I picked this book up on a whim. I had actually confused Mr. Coupland with another author in my head, and was delighted when I saw this book on sale. It then sat on my “reserve book stack”. I generally have anything from 10 – 20 books in this stack, which tides me over when I have no spare money to spend on books. Having started a new job recently, and feeling the pinch as the tax man eat into my pay cheque, this was the perfect time to get stuck into this pile. And that is how this book became my “handbag book”.

“All Families are Psychotic” is a strange book. It flits between the past and the present in such a fluid way. Often-times  I had to re-read certain paragraphs as suddenly it was 1973 and there was no mention of it. I enjoyed this. It helped keep me focused on what I was reading. 

The best way to describe this book is akin to a black hole. It sucked me in and spat me out faster than I realised. Took me less than a week to read it, at 20 minutes at a time, but in saying that, the story told. The once fractured family has something of a redemption and they fall back together as best they can.

The story, as I have mentioned, takes place in the run up to Sarah Drummond’s space launch. Janet, her mother, and Ted, her father, are divorced and haven’t spoken to each other in years. Wade is a HIV positive con man who’s wife has recently found God, and Bryan, bless his socks, is utterly depressed and has a girlfriend who doesn’t believe in vowels. A heist, imprisonment and a robbery follow, along with miracles and disbelief.

Worth the read, absolutely. Even if it is a bit mental at times.

TL: DR Review – The space launch is about the most normal every day thing that happens…

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts (1996)

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Synopsis

Mara is 17. She is bound for a safe, religious life, deep within the walls of the convent of Lashima, but fate does not always run smoothly. In an instant, her life changes and she is fighting to just stay alive, and to honour her family name.

Review

Oh yes. I love this book. This and its two sequels form some of the best fantasy writing I’ve ever read. Seriously. I reread this series at least once a year. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mara is a marked girl. Being the Ruling Lady of a great family is enough of an oddity in Kelewan, but Mara’s enemies are many and lurk behind every door. The delicate and complicated system of honour prevents her from doing much, but also allows her to bend her will in many interesting and often slightly blasphemous.

This book really has everything.  Its got political intrigue coming out of every orifice and every victory Mara earns, you feel her sense of relief and truimph. Every painful thing you feel too.

It’s masterfully written and the descriptions of the foreign world make it come to life. The richness of the world is almost meaty in their details.

If you are a fan of fantasy and haven’t read this series, do yourself a favour and check it out. You won’t regret it.

TL; DR – ACOMA!!

Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne (1997)


Absolution by Murder

 

Synopsis

Sister Fidelma is on her way to a meeting of influential religious people, in an abbey in present day Whitby. Two equally passionate and opposing sides will meet to debate the correct points within the Christian faith. The year is 664 A.D. and something awful befalls those that reside within the abbey walls.

Second Half Review

Right. I know, I know. I haven’t lost the plot completely, but stay with me on this one.

I visited my parents this week in small town Ireland. Whilst there, I ventured with my mam to the local library as she is a big fan of crime novels and murder mysteries. Jokingly, I suggested the titular book as it ticks all of the boxes.

Historical? Check.
Fiesty female lead with a slightly inept partner? Check.
Bloody, bloody murder? Check.

And its a 7th century nun who SOLVES CRIMES. whats not to like?

So, I guffawed as mam checked the book out, and I teased her the entire way home. I even giggled about it to my sister. Then I realised that I had left my book at home. In Dublin.

Sigh.

I picked up this one, preparing to have a little laugh at the expense of this rather unusual crime novel, and I was hooked! Sure, the writing can be a little cringey at times, and the copious amount of old Irish and Saxon names can be a tad confusnig, but overall, its a neat little book. It’s definitely a filler novel but a pretty unusual one for what it is. I would definitely recommend the series anyway!

TL:DR – Murder She Wrote, Christ Edition

Twilight (2005)

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Synopsis

Book review time!

Bella Swan moves to dreary Forks, where it rains about as often as she mopes. And she mopes a lot. There she meets an interesting boy called Edward, and they do things. Yep. That’s the plot of this book. Oh, also werewolves.

Review

This is one of those books that I always knew was going to be kind of poor. Part of me wanted to read this because I had seen the first movie a couple of years ago and figured that it was the kind of thing that I might have enjoyed as a teenager. I actually picked this book up at my mother’s house. She is a sucker for supernatural stories and told me that “Twilight was the worst thing I have ever read.”

Where to start with this? The main character, Bella, is about as likeable as moss. You don’t dislike it, you don’t like it, it’s just…. there. She cries about 8 times in the first 25 pages, because she has to live somewhere rainy. Inexplicably, everyone in the tiny town of Forks knows who she is and becomes instantly popular overnight. However, she is so indifferent to her “friends” that she genuinely forgets their names at various points. Boys are all lining up to have a shot at asking her out, but Bella is instantly drawn to a complete and utter psycho, Edward Cullen.

In their first encounter, he reacts visibly to her presence and then ignores her completely. Rather than just ignoring this and moving the FUCK on, Bella OBSESSES about this. EVERY SINGLE DAY for months, wondering what she did, and why he had reacted to her so weirdly.Eventually, he rescues her from random rapists, (I’m not joking) and rather than see if she is ok, he berates her for putting herself in danger! Victim blaming much? Edward’s controlling and odd behaviour continues.Forcing Bella to eat, telling her what to eat, watching her sleep(!), taking her to secluded woodlands and essentially telling her that he would kill her in a heartbeat if he wasn’t so intoxicated by her. Oh, and he’s also a vampire.

So, this fact makes Edward seem like he is looking out for Bella, but frankly, reading this book made me uncomfortable. Bella and Edward entered into a “lifelong” relationship after speaking for about (in total) 7 hours. They tell each other that they are in love with each other constantly, and there are pages and pages of descriptions about how Edward’s breath felt on her neck. Icy, if you’re wondering.

The whole time I was reading this, I wondered what sort of relationship kids reading it would envision. Removing the vampiric aspect, it is not normal for a boy in your high school class to break into your room at night to watch you while you sleep. It’s not normal for him to insist on watching you eat and it’s certainly not normal for him to shout at you for putting yourself in danger  when you were almost beaten/raped.

The book has a weird, creepy vibe and left me feeling uneasy the entire time.

Avoid.

TL: DR – Sparkle, sparkle bitches!

“Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

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Synopsis

Three people’s stories intertwine as the book chronicles their lives from the early 1960’s in Nigeria, and the ensuing Nigerian – Biafra War. This book is written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Second Half Review

Another book review, so it’s just me today. This was one of those books that came highly recommended from a college professor, and I picked up at the time for next to nothing. Its not the kind of book that I normally read, and so it remained on my “to read in case of emergency” pile for at least 3 years. This year, I decided to plough through that pile as it contains a lot of such books.

The book tells the story of a simple village boy called Ugwu, who very fortunately becomes the servant of a college lecturer called Odenigbo. Odenigbo is a very educated man and Ugwu is very impressed by him. Odenigbo then moves his lover, Olanna, into his home. Olanna and Odenigbo are very much in love and the story then focuses on Olanna’s story. She is also very well educated and well spoken. The third character that the story focuses on, is Englishman Richard, who is infatuated with Olanna’s twin sister, Kainene. The book shows how their lives intermingle and how they are torn apart by the horrors of war, and how they slowly come back together as best they can.

I’l admit that I do not know a lot about Nigeria, and especially about the horrendous war that took place there, so this book not only introduced me to wonderfully thought out characters, but also to an event that I had little to no knowledge about.

The book took a little while to grab my attention, but then the cracks in society begin to show, and slow rumblings of discord begin to seep into the pages, and by the time you know whats happening, you are already hooked and have to keep reading. I think I read this book in about 2 sittings, as it just keeps drawing you in.

Even the end, and I won’t say much about it, is the same. I turned several pages after the end, hoping to find more answers, more closure, but to no avail. I suppose it’s better that way; it shows that war leaves many, many unanswered questions, and the absence of those who we wish were still here.

 

TL: DR: Learning about history and an awesome story to boot, whats not to like?

The Fault in Our Stars (2012)

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Synopsis 

Hazel is 16 years old, and she knows she is going to die. Terminal cancer will do that to a girl. But this isn’t a story about a courageous battle against cancer, this is the story of Hazel’s meeting a boy.

Second Half Review 

So, it’s just me reviewing today. Its the first book review! And my dear other half doesn’t read as much as I do. Anyway, I digress. I picked this book in a bus station not that long ago. I had left my mp3 player at home and I had just finished my other book (I always have a book with me). I faced a long boring 3 hour return trip with nothing to occupy my time.

I’m a big fan of John Green. I have followed his, and his brother Hank’s, youtube channel, Vlogbrothers, right from the beginning. I think the work he does for charity is inspring, but I was not the biggest fan of his writing. Perhaps I am too old for a lot of his work. Mostly they are aimed at Young Adults, or teenagers. Having read his previous works, I felt it only proper to read this one. I know it’s almost a year since The Fault in Our Stars was published, but I had managed to avoid spoilers and almost any knowledge of the plot since then,

And was I in for a treat! this is a great book. It’s easy to read, and you quickly become absorbed in the story of a girl who’s trying to be normal but has given up any hope of that. I’m not going to spoil anything more than that. This is one of those books that you should go into knowing almost nothing about, and be be swept away by the writing and the story.

John Green’s writing style is almost beautiful in its simplicity. Certain turns of phrase and descriptions stay with you long after you finish this book.The way he describes falling in love “I fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly then all at once”, is just so perfect.

This is a sad one though; sad and beautiful. I finished it and cried the whole way from Gorey to Dublin. It hits you the way all good books do, leaving you bereft at sadness and glowing at happiness. Go read it, do yourself a favour. It’l only take a few hours. Trust me.

TL: DR Second Half: Cancer is a bitch