- Books, Literature, and Writing
Book Reviews - Ten Quick Reviews
I have enjoyed reading since I was a child of about 6 years old, encouraged by my mother, and have amassed a very large collection as I find it difficult to part with books.
In August 2007 I began a project that had been in my mind for a long time; to write short book reviews for my whole collection - an ambitious project but hopefully one that will be appreciated by other book lovers.
On this page I have written ten short reviews as an introduction to bookreviewblog.co.uk. Please visit the site and browse the ever-growing collection of book reviews and you may find some new reading material.
The Twits by Roald Dahl
This short story for children aged 6-10 is full of mischievous tricks, cruel practical jokes and abuse that goes on between the revolting Mr and Mrs Twit. Mr Twit has a beard full of disgusting scraps of food and Mrs Twit has a glass eye that she takes out to scare Mr Twit with. This appalling couple delight in catching birds to make pies with and abusing a family of monkeys. Eventually, the Mugglewump monkey family gets its own back on the Twits.
This is one of Dahl most hilarious books and must have been written when he was in a particularly mischievous mood. Although it is aimed and young children I would highly recommend it to adults who haven't yet read it. The illustrations add enormously to this story and really capture the vile character of the Twits.
Read more about The Twits on my lens about the book: The Twits.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dan Brown's grail quest is a highly debated novel and consists of a trail of clues stretching from Paris to Scotland that eventually unravel an inconvenient secret about Jesus' life.
Whilst the pace of this novel makes it a real page turner, the intricate puzzles are all too easily solved by the main characters and the conspiracy theory is far too quickly accepted. The writing style employed is quite formulaic and by the end I was tiring of the overuse of a number of phrases.
The real proof of the quality of The Da Vinci Code is in the ending, and it comes out seriously wanting with a truly pathetic finish.
A page-turner with a terrible ending.
Gridlock by Ben Elton
The hilarious tale of Geoffrey Spazmo and friends attempting to save his invention of a clean engine from the destructive clutches of Oil and Automobile companies who will do anything to get their oily hands on it.
This is one of Elton's earliest and funniest novels, satirising governmental and industrial reluctance to investigate clean energy and the inability to cope with traffic congestion. In addition to this are some superbly amusing characters and the author makes the bold move of making a paraplegic the hero of the story and the butt of many jokes.
Very funny and some thought provoking ideas.
Congo by Michael Crighton
Archaeologists unearthing an ancient ruin in the Congo are stalked by a previously undiscovered species of gorilla. A weak beginning is followed by a weaker middle and anyone who bothers to get to the end will find this the weakest part of all. With a severley restricted vocabulary Crighton tries to keep readers interested in a hackneyed plot but after a few chapters readers will feel as if they are marking a sixteen year-old's exam paper - and a poor one at that.
This is one of the worst books I have ever read in my life and I can only imagine that it sold on the back of the success of Jurassic Park. With a pathetic plot, characters from the pulp fiction writers' handbook and ludicrous gorillas this is a must read for all authors who want to know not how to write.
The Life Of Pi by Yann Martel
The Life of Pi is the superb story of Piscine Patel who is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The events which happen upon the lifeboat and, for a period, upon a floating island inhabited by meerkats are gripping and wonderfully described. Surviving this dreadful situation is an ordeal for Pi and a brilliant twist at the end suggests that the whole story is an allegory for something much more sinister.
With such an original story and brilliant character developments of both Pi and Richard Parker this book is a real gem and proof that winners of the Booker prize can be accessible to a wide range of readers.
One of my favourite novels.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm is a fantastic story with a very obvious and relevant message about a group of animals that stage a revolution in a farm, ousting the farmer, his family and the workers in the name of equal rights for all the animals. Unfortunately the pigs take charge of running the farm and power corrupts them, eventually treating the other animals with contempt.
This novel works on two levels; it is an interesting and amusing tale about animals taking over a farm but the underlying satire of governmental arrogance is excellent and as valid for democratically elected governments with their spin doctors and manipulation of statitstics as for the more obvious comparison with dictatorial regimes.
One read good, two reads better!
Obelix And Co. by Goscinny & Uderzo
This is one of the best in the Asterix series with its satirical look at marketing, capitalism and greed. The Romans are determined to rid themselves of their Gaulish problem and employ Caius Preposterus to corrupt the Gauls by creating huge demand for the useless menhir. Demand causes large numbers of Gauls to become menhir merchants and the competition leads to infighting and the breaking up of the village.
This is a very funny tale with discipline in the Roman camp becoming lax as they get used to a procession of flamboyant Gauls entering their garrison and the absurd clothes the Gauls wear when they become rich are hilarious.
Read about all the Asterix books on my Asterix Books lens.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Credited as the first work of fiction to be written in the English language this is a collection of stories told by pilgrims on the road to Canterbury. Written in prose form and in an ancient form of English this is no easy read but for good readers some of the tales here are complex farces and quite hilarious.
The Miller's tale and the Reeve's tale a particularly funny and there is a surprising amount of sex, swearing and general bawdiness here. My favourite moment is in the Miller's tale when one serenading lover puckers up for a kiss and finds himself embracing something unexpected: "a woman hath no beard. He felt a thing all rough, and long y-hair'd".
The Miller's Tale can be read in its entirity in old English here: Miller's Tale.
Green Eggs And Ham by Dr Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham is one of my favourite Dr Suess books along with The Sneetches. In this brilliantly illustrated tale the annoying Sam-I-am tempts his victim with the offer of a meal of Green Eggs and Ham. The sceptical diner refuses this invitation but Sam-I-am employs a variety of marketing techniques to force the Green Eggs and Ham upon the sceptic.
The poetry in this story is simple but amusing and the situations in which the Green Eggs and Ham are offered get ever more bizarre as the story progresses. This is a great book and the expressions of the characters as the Green Eggs and Ham are finally tried are brilliant.
Try it, try it, read this book. Try it, go on, take a look.
Take a look at my Green Eggs and Ham lens for videos based on the story including a clip of President Obama reading the tale: Green Eggs and Ham Video Clips.
Earth In The Balance by Al Gore
Earth in the Balance is a superb book which deals, in a holistic fashion, topics such as climate change, pollution, third world debt, agriculture and oil and other related topics. Published in 1992 Gore showed an understanding of environmental and economic issues that few politicians demonstrate and this well written book is an excellent choice for anyone wishing to improve their knowledge of the environmental challenges and possible solutions that we face.
Gore does an excellent job of putting over a vast amount of scientific information on a wide variety of subjects concisely, in an interesting fashion and most importantly in a logically argued way. One can only feel a sense of despair that Gore "lost" the presidential election after reading this.
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