Tag Archives: Book Review

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

A Little Blog of Books

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusI enjoyed ‘The Circle‘ by Dave Eggers earlier this year but it has to be said that the core message about the evils of the Internet was pretty overdone. However, what Eggers lacks in subtlety, he makes up for in irony and it’s therefore unsurprising that he gave his memoir the title ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. First published in 2000, this was Eggers’ first book which is a loose account of his life following the deaths of his parents from cancer in the early 1990s within six weeks of each other. At the age of twenty-one, Eggers found himself to be the unofficial guardian of his eight-year-old brother Christopher known as Toph. They moved from the suburbs of Chicago to California where Eggers later co-founded the satirical magazine ‘Might’.

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Nightmare Movies by Kim Newman

Tom Girard

Nightmare Movies by Kim NewmanI first discovered Kim Newman through his excellent Video Dungeon columns in Empire magazine, which, along with his more mainstream reviews for the magazine, demonstrated a man with a great knowledge for the fringes of cinema. So, when I saw his 1989 work, Nightmare Movies, had been reversioned and rereleased I picked it up as soon as I could.

It is an initially daunting tome, clocking in at 500 pages it is undeniably an in-depth look at horror cinema since (roughly) 1960. The first half is the original book reprinted with extra footnotes and it lives up to all the good I’d heard about it taking us through the 30 years after Psycho in fairly extreme detail.

Each chapter takes on, loosely speaking, a different sub-genre by focusing on a few of the well-known classics and referencing their connections to lesser known films while both critically exploring what, in…

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Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Of Books and Reading

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang Title: Boxers and Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 9781596439245
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 512
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had heard a lot about this graphic novel. Almost every book haul had it; almost everyone was talking about it online and offline (to some extent). I knew I had to pick this one up and I did and let me tell you that this one just did not disappoint at all. I had read, “American Born Chinese” as well, so I sort of knew what I was expecting from this one.

“Boxers & Saints” are two individual graphic novels, but can only be read as one, for them to make sense to the reader. The book is set in the late 1800s and at the beginning of 1900. The year is 1898. The place: China. The foreign missionaries are here to stay and not only…

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The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson

Blogging for a Good Book

disappearedWith a life like Allan Karlsson’s, who wouldn’t want to live to be 100 years old? Befriended by Francisco Franco and Robert Oppenheimer, creator of both the American and Soviet atomic bombs, drinking buddies with Harry S. Truman, consultant to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and rescuer of Mao Tse-Tung’s wife, smuggled in a Russian submarine, imprisoned in both the Soviet gulag and a North Korean prison, Bali beach bum, translator for an ambassador to France… All this because Allan had that most 20th Century of skills – blowing stuff up.

Now, at the age of 100 (having blown up his home) Allan is in a nursing home. He’s not finished with life, so an hour or so before the local dignitaries are coming to begrudgingly celebrate his centenary, Allan goes AWOL. Not that he has anyplace in particular to go –  although that’s never been a problem – but he doesn’t…

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Top Shelf in July: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki

BookPeople's Blog

california display

Y’all might recognize this month’s Top Shelf pick from The Colbert Report (and from recent posts right here on this very blog). California by Edan Lepucki is a debut post-apocalyptic novel coming out this month from Hachette Book Group, a publisher locked in a highly publicized struggle with an online retailer that has resulted in restricted access to Hachette’s titles. Stephen Colbert is having none of it and has used the power of his pulpit to not only champion California, but to also urge readers to purchase a copy from an independent bookstore and make this new post-apocalyptic novel a bestseller.

In the wake of Colbert’s support, and to show our own support for Edan, we shared Alex’s Top Shelf review of the book earlier in June. Here’s an excerpt:

“Lepucki manages to craft a rather low-key resolution that somehow feels more solid and pertinent than it could have in other hands. It…

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Five Fascinating Facts about George Orwell’s 1984

Interesting Literature

1. George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on this day, 8 June, in 1949. But this wasn’t the original title of the novel. According to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Orwell initially planned to set the novel in 1980; this then became 1982, and finally 1984 (or Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the title is usually rendered).

Orwell12. Orwell named Room 101 after a conference room in BBC Broadcasting House. In this room, during the Second World War, he had to sit through tedious meetings when he worked for the Ministry of Information. Indeed, the Ministry also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth, where the novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works. ‘Room 101’ has, of course, entered wider linguistic use as a term for something containing one’s pet hates or worst fears. Although the novel also popularised the terms ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘thought police’, these…

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FLASH BOYS: The Unforgiving Hand of Truth

BookPeople's Blog

flash boys
Flash Boys
by Michael Lewis

review by Andrew H.

Flash Boys, the latest from the ever prolific Michael Lewis, is a fantastic eye-opening account of the inherent corruption of the financial system. Not only the corruption, but Lewis exposes the fact that most bankers were too ignorant of the complex systems that ran the stock market to even realize what was happening. If you thought that after the Great Recession of 2009 the banks were forced to act more responsibly… this book will slap you in the face with the unforgiving hand of truth.

Luckily, the banks are run by humans, some of which have a moral compass and a sense of doing right by those whose interests they are supposed to protect. Flash Boys is their story. It’s common in populist rhetoric to believe the financial system is a well thought out machine, designed on purpose to…

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William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central | A Short Riff on a Long Book

Biblioklept

Kilian Eng Kilian Eng

1. William T. Vollmann’s Europe Central,  811 pages in my Penguin trade paperback edition (including end notes), is a virtuoso attempt to describe or measure or assess or explain or analyze the Eastern front of WWII, a part of the war that in my American ignorance I know, or knew (no, know) so little about.

2. The book covers 1914-1975, most of the composer Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich’s life. If Europe Central has a hero, it is Shostakovich.

From the book’s last end note, “An Imaginary Love Triangle: Shostakovich, Karmen, Konstantinovaskya”:

When I think of Shostakovich, and when I listen to his music, I imagine a person consumed by fear and regret, a person who (like Kurt Gerstein) did what little he could to uphold the good—in this case, freedom of artistic creation, and the mitigation of other people’s emergencies. He became progressively more beaten down, and certainly experienced…

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Review: I Want to Show You More, by Jamie Quatro, Grove Press 2013, 206 pp.

Purchased / Reading With: The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermott, Summer Reading edition of Tin House

Type of Book: Loosely linked short stories / story cycle

My Research Interest: For entertainment

Structure: 15 stores of varying length, set around Lookout Mountain on the border of Georgia and Tennessee

Impression: I knew these stories would be “good” and “competent” short stories, because I trusted the recommendations. However, I was not prepared for the aching psychological depth of these stories. Quatro’s characters and narratives are not superficial, and anything but slight. This impression was solidified when the fourth story, “Here,” made me cry. I do not cry often when reading, yet this book made me tear up at least three times. Quatro demands the reader consider the mysteries, pains, and joys of parenting, marriage, illness, death, fear, and faith. The stories are intimate, visceral, and very much for today—but also timeless. The book is dark and light at once, challenging the reader to reconcile the two.

Readability: Everyone should read this book. This is one of those books that, if read with an open heart, will make the reader a better person.

Book review: Midnight’s Children

Book of words

When I finally completed Salman Rushdie’s bestselling novel “Midnight’s Children,” I was truly, truly relieved that I persevered till the very last page for it truly is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that left me marveled and humbled by his ability to blur the lines between magic and history.

Set in the postcolonial era, this novel is as much the autobiography of protagonist Saleem Sinai as well as the story of India. Saleem, who was born at the stroke of midnight on India’s independence, inexplicably shared his life’s triumphs and disasters with the fate of his nation. This coincidence also endowed him magical powers in his large cucumber nose to sniff out danger when others were unable to and telepathic powers to connect with other children like him who were born in the early hours of independence, a group which he called “midnight’s children.’

“It is the privilege and the curse of…

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