Tag Archives: Book Review

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – Audio Book Review

Read by James Franco

I had no idea what this book was about, just that I’ve been meaning to read it for years. I knew it was a classic, and I knew it was about war. I did not expect time travelling or aliens or… well, any of that. And wow. It’s pretty hard to describe this book succinctly, but it’s about the bombing of Dresden, about a group of American soldiers who were prisoners of ware and were there for the aftermath, about a man trying to write about it and then… yes, aliens and time travel and etc. etc.

Initially, I was disappointed that it was read by James Franco. He’s okay, but I found his voice a bit monotonous. But, as it went, I found that his voice was prefect for this text – it had the resigned tone of someone who has lived through hell and needs to tell of it, but also kind of can’t. The only issue I had with it as an audio book was I couldn’t get a strong sense of the structure of the story, but I still really loved it.

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Audio Book Review

Read by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell

I’ve avoided audio books for the longest time, because when I drive or walk or whatever, I tend to listen to podcasts on my tiny little old iPod nano. But recently when about to leave work for my usually forty minutes drive home and heard that there were accidents everywhere and it was likely to take me a lot longer to get home, and my iPod nano was flat. Boo. But, thanks to a lot of advertising my audible on many of the podcasts, I knew what to do. I downloaded the app and headed to the audible store. Just because it came up early on and I’ve been meaning to read it for ages. One thing I have found in general about audio books is that listening to them is quite different to listening to podcasts, for some reason. Often, I’ll be listening to podcasts and find myself drifting in and out of concentration, and have to flick to music. But audiobooks hold my attention for much longer. Interesting.

So, The Help. The book is written from several perspectives – from Skeeter, the white woman who wants to be a writer, who sees the society and the segregation around her differently to her peers and family, who starts to write a book telling the stories of the African American women who take care of the houses and children of the rich, white woman; then there are a couple of the maids, Aibileen and Minny, who are faced with these horrible women who are happy to let black women raise their children but refuse to share a toilet. I recall that I found the film of The Help to be quite light – yes, it was dealing with serious issues, but it was kind of fun and entertaining. I found the book far more intense, giving a greater sense of how potentially dangerous the actions of these women could potentially be. The reading was wonderful, especially having different voices for the different characters. It was certainly a great introduction to audio books.

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Avalanche by Julia Leigh – Book Review

Like many women, Julia Leigh found she was unable to conceive in the conventional manner, and so needed IVF treatment. That part of the book was interesting, to a point. Leigh outlines the treatment she had, how she felt, what happened when things went right and when things went wrong. A big part of the story was the relationship that worked, and then didn’t and then did and when things went bad, we knew all about it.

I felt like this was an important book for Leigh to write, but I found it quite unpleasant to read. I think that she tried to be quite honest about her relationship (and certainly, she doesn’t come out all that well in many parts), but I felt like her ex doesn’t have the opportunity to have a right of reply, and he’s stuck with all that she has said just being out there. I just didn’t really enjoy reading it.

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Ghost River by Tony Birch – Book Review

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It’s the late 60s, working class Collingwood in Melbourne. Ren’s life is changed when he becomes mates with Sonny next door – a rough kid with a drunk, violent dad and no fear. Ren and Sonny start hanging out at the river, a dangerous, fast place that Ren has been told to avoid. There they have adventures, they jump into the water from heights and they befriend a group of vagrants who tell them stories. But the joy of freedom and youth cannot remain the same.

The writing captures a world now gone with nostalgia, but also with honesty. The kids have the freedom to escape and be free when they are at the river, but they also have adults who bully both verbally and physically. Ren and Sonny are both innocent and world-weary, with much in their lives that they are trying to figure out without getting in to too deep. It’s a beautiful read, and I highly recommend it.

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As You Wish – Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden and a foreward by Rob Reiner – Book Review

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If you are like me, you grew up with The Princess Bride on VHS and watched it a lot. It has fabulous characters, great lines and you love it. You may have even read the book, and been lead to do online searches to try to figure out if it is real or not. You may be happy to watch the film over and over again, and are happy to ignore the dagginess of it – ridiculous ROUS or the obviously fake sets.

If you are like this, then this book is for you. It’s not some freaky reveal of secrets that will ruin the film for you – it’s just a whole bunch of stories from Carey Elwes punctuated by little stories from other cast and crew members. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s nice. And it is definitely for the fans.

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Q&A vs Slumdog Millionaire

Q & A by Vikas Swarup – Book Review

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Just fabulous. If you don’t remember Slumdog Millionaire (the award-winning film based on this book) from a few years ago, the premise is pretty straight-forward. A Ram Mohammad Thomas from the poorest parts of India manages to get on to their equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and wins the whole way. But given that he has very limited education, the producers are suspicious and have Ram arrested and tortured. But, as he tells his story to a lawyer who appears to defend him, he doesn’t know very much, but events in his life have led him to know the answers to the questions which he is asked.

I can see how appealing it was to make a film from this – the story is simple but beautifully told, with a cinematic eye for detail, not too many characters, and it really is a great tale. It’s fun, at times tragic, at times hilarious. Absolutely worth getting your hands on.

 

Slumdog Millionaire – Film Review

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This is a really enjoyable film. The actors are great, especially the delightful children who play the youngest versions of the characters. The story from the book was written so perfectly for adaptation, and even though there was a lot of detail from the book that was lost or changed to ensure a film that lasted 90 minutes rather than 500 minutes.

There were just a couple of tiny things that I found somewhat disappointing. The key one was that, in the book, the lawyer who helps the poor boy when he is arrested and being tortured is a woman, and this is significant in the book. Yet, for no really clear good reason, in the film, this is a man. I am always going on about women in films and wondering why there are not more women in many roles – and here was a perfect role for a woman and it’s given to some guy. Ok, not just some guy, Irrfan Kahn, a well known and respected actor. Still. Disappointing.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Direction  (Danny Boyle) Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Score, Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (Jai Ho) and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (O Saya).

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Me Before You vs Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

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Lou Clark is a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit useless. She’s stuck in a relationship with a guy she doesn’t really like that much, living at home and the café where she’s been working for several years has just closed. Her family is barely coping financially and so Lou is forced to take and remain in a caring job – being a companion for the grumpy and rude Will Traynor – ex high-flying CEO who is now paraplegic after a car accident.

I knew that this was going to be a tear-jerker. I also suspected that it might be somewhat offensive, in that there is a huge issue with representing disabled people as preferring to be dead than disabled. However I felt that Moyes represented things well in this book. It was clear that this is how this character feels, and clear that many other disabled people do not feel this way. I thought it was very clever the way it represented the way many able-bodied people treat people with disabilities – embarrassment, condescension, confusion, even anger. And I like that it might make people think about how they treat people around them.

 

Me Before You (2016) Film Review

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The story is the same – quirky girl meets depressed and recently disabled man and they find a connection. And it was great – great in exactly the way the book was. Of course, it didn’t get into the depths of the book, and having read the book, I was slightly disappointed that some of the back story and motivation was missing, but I think had I seen the film first, I wouldn’t have missed it. But one thing I have to get out of the way – it was Khaleesi! I was stuck on who the actress was playing Lou, and was stunned to learn that it is Emilia Clarke who is also Khaleesi in Game of Thrones – such extremely different characters! My only real complaint was that I didn’t feel much chemistry between the two of them, which I think was really needed.

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