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I can haz books? Reading log (started Nov 2015)

  • 15-11-2015 5:08pm
    Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Just discovered this section and thought it would be a great way to keep track of all the books!

    I'm going to start from now rather than reviewing previous books, and give each new book a new post. I usually come back to a book for a second or third read anyways. I guess I finish a book every 10 days or so. I'm an Irish girl in Germany so I am often limited by what appears in my local bookshop. That, and the fact that I love getting a big handful of books from charity shops, means that the books I read tend to be quite a varied selection!



  • Registered Users Posts: 362 ✭✭ wreade1872

    Well remember if you have any sort of ereader a large portion of all the worlds english writing is out of copyright and free on the net.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    wreade1872 wrote: »
    Well remember if you have any sort of ereader a large portion of all the worlds english writing is out of copyright and free on the net.
    This is true but I haven't quite managed to buy one yet. There's just something about having an actual book! :) Someday maybe!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    This is my second Gillian Flynn novel, having been introduced to her work via the aptly named "Dark Places". This was a charity shop find.

    I had seen the movie of Gone Girl before reading this book which was unfortunate as it took some of the suspense out of it for me. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this book. I'm a fan of books with alternating perspectives so that was a good start. It's quite well written and descriptive (even though a handful of these descriptions are best categorised as odd) and I got a lot more of the character nuances that weren't particularly obvious in the movie. The two main characters are layered with nice and bad traits, no-one in this book is really a "good guy". It's hard to tell though but if I hadn't know how the story would end before reading the book, it might have felt quite slow. I think for non-movie watchers this would really be a book of two halves.

    All in all, I did enjoy it even though I knew what the twist would be. I will keep an eye out for other Gillian Flynn novels.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Now, it has to be said that I am a fan of these sci-fi dystopian novels at the best of times but I really enjoyed through this. Ate through the book in fact! This was another charity shop buy, I had never heard of it before or done any research so I was really going in blind.

    The concept of the silo is great because it forces the idea of being the only ones which is something other dystopian societies struggle with usually. If you can see the boundary, someone will want to cross it. Not so here where there literally is nowhere to go and the dead bodies scattered remind you of that! The novel is well paced with some little niggles (like the lottery) that kept popping up in my mind a few days later.

    All in all, really enjoyable. Ordered the next two in the series from Amazon and in doing the research found out that this was initially a self-published book. How cool, quite inspired by that! The only niggle I would have is that at the end I didn't quite get the name. I don't remember any reference to Wool in the book? Maybe the next ones clear that up.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Where to even begin with this one? I guess I should have tried something light after Wool. Instead, I thought I'd continue down the rabbit hole. Now, I had a vague recollection that this was somehow associated with Hannibal Lector. I have seen Silence of the Lambs but it has been quite some time. I was not prepared for Red Dragon. I honestly felt like I needed a shower afterwards.

    Despite the easy introduction to the book, this book is psychologically unnerving, not least because this book doesn't spell everything out. A great example is that of the scissors, we are never explicitly told what happens which forces out minds to fill in the blanks. And isn't that more gruesome than words sometimes?

    I enjoyed the evolution of the Dragon and seeing the back story of how he came to be before he Became. The only thing I'd say here is the whole backstory thing and the teeth is just a little too obvious, too straightforward. That's nitpicking though. It does also make the characters of Graham and Hannibal (in his brief appearance) more interesting as there is more quirks in their psyches.

    The writing is a bit immature at times and the print on my book is actually quite large giving it that "young adult" novel look even though the subject matter is quite dark. The last few chapters felt "made for TV" for me though. Actually, I found out afterwards there was (is?) a TV show so I'll check that out.

    All in all, I enjoyed it but I'm not going to rush out and pick up The Silence of the Lambs for another while at least.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    This is a tiny little book but it packs an emotional punch. Cal tells the story of a Catholic lad growing up in a poor Protestant area during the troubles. I got this book during a book swap from a Scottish girl. It's on their reading list in school and she was surprised that I hadn't heard of it.

    This book is likely a love it or hate it book. The story is dark and depressing, mirroring the area at the time and that's the point. This isn't supposed to be a happy book with a rewarding character arc and a happy ending. The Troubles didn't have very many happy endings.

    The reason I imagine this book is on reading lists is that it's filled with imagery and very much open to interpretation, particularly the ending. While some imagery is blatant (the slaughterhouse) some is a bit more subtle. I particularly liked the turns of phrase used to talk about sex (with another or oneself) without sounding dirty. It's also been quite a while since I've read a book that ended like that. A lot of books are too worried about tying up all the loose ends before the finale.

    I can see why people would dislike this book. I felt a bit sad for the world after reading it, particularly with the current situation with ISIS. It's a great anti-war book but, like many other classics, I doubt that is much appreciated by kids forced to read it at school! I enjoyed it, but it will be some time before I attempt a re-read.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    Another charity shop book. This is my first book from Luke Delaney although this is the third DI Sean Corrigan book that he's written. And, barring another charity shop find, it'll likely be the last I'll read. This book focuses on a criminal that steals young children from their wealthy homes in the middle of the night.

    First thing first - this novel pays a lot of attention to the backstory. Although it could theoretically be read as a stand-alone, there are an annoying amount of references to the previous killers he has apprehended, his weird relationship with a co-worker and therapist and more. Sean Corrigan is a man haunted by the past so it appears that the novel must be too.

    I did finish the novel but it was tough to be honest. It felt very long. This feeling may have been enhanced by the sheer length of the chapters. In saying all that, it's not a *bad* book. If you love this type of detective novel then this may be the story for you. I personally found it drawn out, filled with clichés and essentially predictable. This may be a tad biased as I read "Red Dragon" recently (post 6) and loved it but there was just nothing special about this for me. It felt run-of-the-mill or the work of an author following a formula.

    A final complaint is that I found the narrative arc a bit confusing. The author goes to the effort to keep us in the dark for a while, even introducing some red herrings, then casually tells us who the killer is. It just took the thrill out of it for me! I've enjoyed stories where we don't know until the end, or where we know from the start but see the perspective of the two parties but I just didn't feel it added anything to the novel here. In fact, it made Sean even more annoying as we could clearly see the "clues" and it's infuriating to see him miss them as he's supposed to be "amazingly" intuitive.

    A big barrage for Christmas too including the two follow up books to Wool so January will be full of reading! :)

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    So this is the sequel to Wool which I really enjoyed. More so than this book if I'm honest! I really, really wanted to like this book. It's not that it's not enjoyable, it's a very interesting premise. It really fills out the history of how the occupants came to find themselves in this world and gives us claustrophobia and regret in place of the protagonists anger and quest for truth in the first book. It's just that sometimes I don't want to know every detail of how the sausage was made!

    So what was not to like? This book felt like a long flashback that really advanced the plot in no way. "Shift" is a period of time on-duty, but it could also describe the shift in quality between this book and the last. The three "shifts" read like separate books. Had they been peppered through the main story it might have been very interesting but I was too interested in the fate of Juliette and her silo to care that much about the back story. Especially not when the back story is longer than the *actual* story. In fact, if these three books were a movie trilogy, Shift would be the one you could skip and just read the synopsis to fill in the blanks.

    The other major problem with this book is that the plot is front and centre at the expense of everything else. The characters are very much caricatures of themselves and it's difficult to care about them. I also lacked clear image of the characters, not helped by the fact that they aren't described very well (or at all). There are no redeeming characters in this story. I think anyone could be cast in the movie version of this and I would accept it. The twists also felt very heavy handed throughout the novel and, even though I know it's sci-fi, some of the plot holes were hard to read through.

    In saying all that, there were some interesting concepts posed even though they weren't really explored. I will read Sand, the final book, but only because I have already bought it. I will also need to take a break and read something romantic or easy first to break this dark streak! :)

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    To ease me back into my first week of work after Christmas, I wanted an easy beach read. A chic flick in a book. I carried 10 books from my ma back to Germany for the boyfriends mum so I had a great selection to choose from.

    Artistic License does exactly what it says on the tin. (Yes, you can judge a book by it's cover!) I could ready this book at another time and hate it but at this point in time it was exactly what I needed. The story is one of a middle-aged lady who is kind of floating and being pushed on by life and her pushy friend and students. She spontaneously heads to Ireland to visit an artist she met and she falls in love... with his work. She then decides to open a gallery to show his work. A series of fortunate coincidences and unfortunate (but foreseeable) problems follow.

    The only issue I had with the book is that it's quite moralistic. There is a very definite undertone of not having one-night stands and the ending kind of cements that. Without spoiling anything, you read these books to see the guy get the girl at the end. But a kiss or a date or even a passionate romp would have sufficed. The ending was a tad OTT for me and even in a book filled with unrealistic situations, the ending stood out as being ridiculous.

    This book is a grand short read for when you don't really want to think. The twists in the story are a tad obvious (I'd hazard a guess that the writer follows a specific formula) but the book isn't meant to be very challenging. This really is escapism for middle aged women. It has a few clichés but it manages to not be too cringe-worthy. I probably wouldn't be rushing out to get other novels from Katie Fforde but you never know, maybe on my next beach holiday!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    This is a very embarrassing review for me. I read this book under the belief that it was the third book in the Wool trilogy. You may remember that I wasn't a massive fan of Shift so I was hoping the final book would get back on track with the story. Based on all of this, I went into Sand with an open mind. In fact, I really got into it after the first few chapters. Sand is set in an apocalyptical world where everything is covered in sand (unsurprisingly). People have technology that allows them to dive through the sand as if it's water and these sand divers scavenge for relics of the lost world. About half way through one of our main characters, Palmer, discovers a new massive underground structure...

    Any review I give this book right now isn't really going to be fair as I spent the time wondering when we were going to get back to our friends in the Silo and it wasn't until I had literally finished the book that I realised it was in fact the wrong book. Heaven only knows how I managed that! It turns out that Sand is actually a stand alone book that Howey is currently working on a sequel to. Yes, yes, I'm an idiot. I will have to re-read Sand with the knowledge that it's a standalone book but here are my first thoughts.

    The structure of 5 distinct sections is very similar to Shift and Wool. In many ways, the world depicted in Sand is the antithesis to Wool. Life in the silo is constrained by order and structure while in the world portrayed in Sand is defined by the struggles of characters to add some form of structure (both literally and socially) to their environment. The characters are sympathetic (a big step up from shift) and the book just feels a bit more mature. The language used in the book is a bit stronger and the sex scenes are more graphic.

    I can see why people would dislike this book. The author goes to a lot of effort to tell us about this desert world that the characters find themselves in, going so far as to give us a glossary of sand terms. However, then we have this amazing sand dive technology that's not really explained at all! In fact, somewhat ironically, there is a scene in the book where a character refers to technology that he doesn't understand that seems like magic to him. Another issue for some may be that we don't get any explanation as to the year, or what happened to the world. We just know that this is the world they are in now. None of these points really detracted from the book for me.

    The only thing that bugged me about this book is that it ends too suddenly. Everything kind of just... works out. It's almost like the author was working to a word count and suddenly realised they didn't have much room left. The end just left me a little unsatisfied I guess. Another thing I feel could have been fleshed out more is the day-to-day details of the world. I mean, we know water is scarce etc. but what do they do for food? There's mention of jerky and cannibalism once or twice but nothing really about the day-to-day.

    All in all, I'm undecided. I'll leave it on the bookshelf and come back to it in 6 months maybe. It definitely has some interesting ideas but I was looking for something else reading it. I will order Dust (the actual final book of the Wool trilogy) next time I am ordering on Amazon. :/

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    As an avid reader and an Irish citizen, it's pretty embarrassing to admit to having never read anything from Joyce. I'd obviously heard of "The Dubliners" before but I genuinely had no idea that it was a book of short stories! The book is comprised of 15 short stories to be exact. With the exception of the final tale, these were the perfect length to read on the bus; I was able to get through one short story in each journey.

    Each of these short stories captures a moment of human life. One almost feels as though you're spying on the characters; often you get a glimpse of a decision that they've made or an issue they're weighing up without the benefit of context or history and also without the satisfaction of knowing the result or consequences. You just get to experience that moment, and the misery of their Dublin lives, with them.

    As the stories are quite subtle, I can see how some would argue that the book itself is pointless. I feel that this would be a particularly grating read for school kids. It certainly wasn't on the syllabus when I was in school, but I know a younger me would have found it boring. I enjoyed a number of the stories but found my interest waning at points in others. Despite the fact that it's a relatively small book, it took me quite a while to get through.

    I think that I'll reserve judgement on "The Dubliners" for now. It feels like a book I'll appreciate more on the second read, particularly now that I know what I'm in for. It's also a book better read in a quiet room with a strong whiskey I think, rather than on a bus. I wasn't blown away by this book in the way that I was expecting to be but, as I've said, I'll reserve judgement until the second read.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    Ok, ok, I double checked that this is actually the correct book this time!!!

    "Dust" jumps back in right where both "Shift" and "Wool" left us off. Jules is now in charge of the silo and she knows a lot more about the world than anyone else (Silo 1 excluded.) I really wanted to like this book but I can't quite bring myself there.

    Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of positives. Firstly, the book was an easy read. I never struggled to pick it up. It also did a great job of raising the tension throughout and making the reader feel some of the panic, distrust and confusion of the silos.

    However, despite the above, the pacing was just a little off for me. There were passages that just felt "dragged" and that didn't really bring anything to the story. Then there were passages that I really wanted to see more of (e.g. that creepy wedding, the thing with the twins and the scars disappearing) that just kind of... fizzled out. There also seemed to be too many characters. In some books (Game of Thrones is a great example), characters bring conflict and complexity to the story. However, in this book many of the characters are interchangeable. This is particularly true for characters that we haven't met before this book. Even the main characters don't show much development.

    As for the ending itself, well it just seemed a tad convenient. Now I do believe that the author had written himself into a corner and had limited options at that stage. I said it about Shift and I'll say it again about Dust- it really felt like the author was working towards a word count. That would explain all the "filler" content that goes nowhere in the middle.

    I would have been much happier if the author had put some additional effort into rounding out the ending. We got an ending (of sorts) for silos 1, 17 and 18 but the fate of the remaining silos is just ignored. We also never learn anything more about the world.

    At the end of the day, I'm glad I read this book. It finished out the series for me, even if I wasn't entirely satisfied with how that was accomplished and left with unanswered questions. I probably wouldn't recommend this book to others though all the same for the reasons that I've mentioned above.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    The Stone Man is quite an unusual book. It has a pretty unique concept and it's shrouded in mystery but it never quite got me to where I wanted to go.

    It's important to note that I read a physical copy of this book. Judging from the author's note at the end of the book, the e-book editions of this book and previous books had not been proofread and contained a number of typos. The e-book of The Stone Man also had a slightly different ending. The font is quite small and the line spacing is also small which makes the book feel much denser than its 273 pages.

    Although the book is billed as a Sci-fi Horror, I thought it was more of a thriller than anything. It's quite tense throughout and I guess you could argue the implications of the thing are horrific but really I found nothing here that would even come close to keeping me up at night.

    It's also a tough read at the start and I can't really vocalise why. I'm not sure if it's the writing style of the author, the way we're bouncing back and forth in the narrative or the fact that the main character Andy just isn't very likeable at the beginning. Maybe it's a combination of all the above.

    The story itself was interesting once it got going. It's a bit of a slow burner but it's a tale that I could imagine seeing on the silver screen if the CGI was good enough. The basic story is that a giant Stone Man appears out of nowhere one day and starts to walk, destroying buildings and people's lives as it goes. We follow Andy and Paul as they work with the government to try to stop this thing.

    What I really enjoyed about this book was that it kept me guessing. I really never knew what to expect next. I also enjoyed the ending and the way that it was left open to interpretation. It's also great to see a strong female character.

    The main problem that I had with this book was that it was overly verbose. You could probably have cut 20-30% of the text without taking anything away from the story. One of my pet peeves is authors (or indeed screenwriters) that feel the need to over-explain to the audience. This really took the impact out of some scenes for me. On the other hand some areas of the story were really underdeveloped and could have used extra attention. Readers who like definite answers to questions will find this book frustrating as many of the big questions are left unanswered and the ending doesn't really bring closure.

    Despite my above criticism, I believe that Luke Smitherd has some interesting ideas and that once he hones his writing skills, he'll be a force to be reckoned with. I will defo check out one or two more of his books before I make up my mind on him.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    War is peace.
    Freedom is slavery.
    Ignorance is strength.

    First of all, I bloody LOVE the cover of this book! I mean, it's so fitting and yet so simple.

    This book is one of those classics that I had always meant to get around to. Boy, was it a mistake to wait so long. Although I knew the book from references and I had the general idea of Big Brother and constant surveillance, I was pleasantly surprised with how well-thought out this book was. 1984 itself has become shorthand for the surveillance state, the power of the media and totalitarianism. But the universe created in 1984 is so much more than that. Given the complexity of the messages in the book, it's going to need a second and maybe third read to appreciate all the nuances I think.

    The psychology and politics of this novel are at the heart of the story. The world created is so plausible that it's scary, particularly when you consider when the book was written. This novel is particularly apt when read against the backdrop of today's political climate and with the prevalence of social media.

    The manifesto itself takes up quite a chunk of the book. While this information is vital to really understanding the book, I can see how it might be difficult for readers to get through. This is particularly true for school-aged readers - teenage me would have found it an awful bore. However, I really believe that this is a book that everyone should read once, even if it's only to appreciate the impact it has had on pop culture!

    My favourite idea in the book, and the one that stuck with me afterwards, was the impact language can have on thought and emotion. The idea of doublethink and the concept that removing adjectives can reduce the range of human creativity and emotion is astonishing. It's a very unsettling read. I'm already looking forward to re-reading this and watching the movie!!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    I was expecting to hate this book. My mum gave me a handful of these soppy books last time I was home and they've been sitting unloved and unread on my shelf ever since. However, I needed something light after 1984!

    Cathy Kelly is a pretty well-known Irish author but this is the first of her novels that I've read. It's a nice little thrill to read a story set in Ireland, I must be getting old and soft! This book is an interconnected series of stories about women and the connections and relationships between them.

    I found this book to be an enjoyable read. It was exactly the kind of light relief I was looking for. It would be easy to just dismiss this as chick lit but it does have some depth. I do have to admit to finding it difficult to get into. The first few chapters really were a struggle, especially trying to keep up with who all the different characters were. However, by the time the stories had started weaving together, I was invested in the characters. I even found myself getting a bit emotional at times! :o The majority of the main characters were well written and engaging.

    Despite all that, there were some parts I didn't like. Many of the supporting characters were very 2 dimensional and interchangeable. The one thing that bugged me most though was Star and her "magic". It just felt so unnecessary to me and cheapened the story. For such a small group of women, there were a lot of dramatic themes too. I mean there's death, secret children, hidden affairs, child abuse and alcoholism. I think focusing on less of these would have been wiser and more realistic. It's also a touch long.

    Based on this book, I'm not sure if I'd pick up another novel from Cathy Kelly. It might be ok for a beach read but I don't think I'd pay for one!

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    Business books are really not my thing. I spend enough time working, I don't want to be thinking about business issues in my free time! This was one of a handful of books I got for free at a conference and it was in my bag when I finished my last novel so it's appearing on the list!

    The concept of this book is to debunk the good guys finish last mentality. That rather than being detrimental, it pays to be nice. It lists some principles of being nice and illustrates why you should try to embody that principle with an anecdote or two.

    I will say that I wasn't reading this book looking for life lessons. I've spent enough time in the business world to know that there are some people that should be forced to read a book like this. Honestly though, I found most of the principles outlined in this book to be common sense! I enjoyed the anecdotes but, for me, that's all they were. I'm lucky to work in an industry that's not exactly cut-throat but if I was in an industry like that and I was reading this book for reassurance that being nice wouldn't be a hindrance, I don't think I'd be convinced. I found it a bit simplistic, it deals with good or bad people but nothing in-between. I also find to difficult to believe that people are not familiar with the core concept of this book. They know taking the "nice" option is a possibility, they just don't see the benefit in doing that for them. I'm not sure this book can change that.

    I'm not saying that this book is useless. I know it's a top seller. It's also well written and engaging and it's great to hear from successful businesswomen. Maybe it's just a case of not being in the correct target market. I already judge people on how well they treat their inferiors, not their peers. I think this book is targeted wrong to be honest. It would be an interesting read for young teenagers (dare I say particularly girls?) but I feel it's a bit light to really be considered as a business book.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    Whoops, I've been very lazy about updating this log! I'll try and get it up to date before the weekend!

    Ok, so this was an Amazon buy. I bought it based on the strong reviews and the synopsis. However, this was not the book for me. The tagline of the story is "Some stories cannot be told in just one lifetime" and honestly, at one point I thought it would take me multiple lifetimes to finish it! Exaggeration aside, I really struggled with this book.

    This is a different take on time travel. Harry, the narrator, dies and is surprised to be reborn in the same place at the same time but with his memories of a previous life. The concept sounded interesting so I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly why I didn't like the book. I found the main character boring- he lives through many lives yet seems to miss out on developing a personality. I found the science and history a bit heavy handed too, and the pace was a little too slow for at least the first half of the book. I found myself entertaining myself by picking at the plot holes.

    I don't want to slate the book, in fact I really feel like maybe I missed something with this book. I mean, there are so many excellent reviews for this book. I just couldn't connect with it at all and it took a lot of self-discipline for me to finish it. I have it left on my shelf and maybe I'll retry it at some point in the future but, for now at least, it's looking unlikely.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    I picked up this book in a supermarket in London after mistakenly forgetting to pack a book for my few days away! This was literally a case of picking a book by its cover as I hadn't heard of the author, but it was a great choice.

    Now, this is one of those books where you spend the first 75% trying to figure out what's happening. I'm treading very carefully here as I really don't want to give anything away. This book is a psychological thriller with more twists and turns than the roads in West Kerry. Caleb, our protagonist, is on a downward spiral of depression laced with alcohol. He has a dark past, of which we learn little, that impacts on everything he does. Throw in some local murders and a mystery woman and you've got all the elements of a great story.

    I really enjoyed the novel but it's quiet dark. Disturbing even. I'm really glad I hadn't read any reviews before reading it so I was able to take it at face value and feel the tension build. I can imagine that this type of novel would not appeal to everyone, even fans of crime novels might find it a bit dark. There's a quote on the cover from Steven King that calls the book "terrifying" (which I personally think is a bit too strong) and compares it to Red Dragon. I can really get on board with that comparison actually, Red Dragon was the last book that really got under my skin. The prose at times is a tad heavy and almost suffocating but I think this adds to the anxiety of the reader.

    The Poison Artist really is a strange but compelling novel and I look forward to reading more from this author.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    Before I even get into this review, I should mention that I'm a big fan of Stephen King, particularly his earlier work. I also have seen the Kubrick movie, although that was a long time ago. I actually bought it for a re-watch after reading this book, but this review will focus solely on the book.

    Ok, so The Shining is an incredibly atmospheric book. It's probably King's most well-known story. The story follows Jack Torrance, who has just been hired as an off-season caretaker for the Overlook hotel, his wife Wendy and their son Danny. Even though my recollection of the movie is fuzzy at best, it was nigh on impossible for me to envision these characters as anyone other than Jack Nicholson and crew. Danny is psychic, referred to in the book as "having a shine", and this sparks the ghouls and ghosts in the hotel to life. I don't think I need to explain the plot any further, if you aren't familiar with it then stop reading right now and get the book!

    The Shining is a really gripping read- I think I finished it in 2 days! Despite that, I would be lying if I called the book terrifying. I can see how that creeping sense of dread could get under your skin while reading it but I have yet to have a novel keep me from sleeping. It is a very well written ghost story that touches on metaphysical, theological, spiritual and psychological aspects to envelope the reader in tension. From Jack's alcoholism and rage to Danny's astonishing abilities and insights, The Shining brings us the whole spectrum of human emotion.

    I already have the sequel "Doctor Sleep" on my shelf! :)

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad


    The Racketeer - John Grisham
    The Racketeer tells the story of Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer halfway through a ten year prison sentence for money laundering. He is the only person that knows why a federal judge was murdered and by whom, so he attempts to leverage Rule 35 to get a pardon.

    I am vaguely familiar with Grisham's work having read a few of his novels, but this story feels like a departure for him. It does begin in what one could call a formulaic way, it seems to be the story of a lawyer in trouble with the law, a man standing up to the system. However, the decision to make the lead character, Malcolm Bannister, unlikeable is an unusual one. It makes it hard to know who to root for while you're reading. Malcolm is cocky and a jerk with almost no redeeming qualities.

    In general, character development is overlooked in this novel. Outside of Bannister, most if not all other characters are two dimensional and interchangeable. His mysterious lover (whose name I can't even remember) is a great example of this. She turns up out of nowhere and is almost immediately inducted as an integral pieces of Malcolm's master plan. This lack of depth coupled with a focus on mundane details resulted in a lack of suspense. Plot development is also very heavy handed, particularly on the "twists" with some very strange and unbelievable decisions.

    The plot itself had good potential. I am not overly familiar with Grisham's novels so I can't comment on whether it's a rehash of other plots or if it follows a standard path. The novel felt a little flat for me, as if it was written quickly and rushed out. Perhaps Grisham's fans don't ask any more of him? It was an ok read for a flight, but I can't say that I'd be recommending it to others.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Lord of the Flies - William Golding

    I got this book in a charity shop. Actually, this was definitely a school copy of some description as it had that plastic book wrap around it and a student's name inside. Like many of the other classics reviewed so far on this thread, although I knew the name and that it had something to do with savages, I really had no idea of the plot.

    The Lord of the Flies tells the tale of a group of English boys marooned on a desert island. At first it all seems like great craic, but then the reality of the situation and the cost of survival come into play. As I thought that this was a book aimed at younger readers, I was amazed by how dark it was. At its heart, this book is about the conflicts and struggle between civilisation and savagery. It's the antithesis of novels such as Treasure Island.

    Although it was published back in 1954, the central themes feel more relevant today than ever. While some of the phrasing and opinions feel dated (the idea that only coloured people could be savages for example), the concept of a world in chaos still resonates. In reading this book you can see inspiration for modern stories such as The Hunger Games and The Purge. The book takes a very bleak view on humanity and how quickly society would fall apart, which means it's unlikely to appeal to everyone. There are also some pretty graphic passages and descriptions, which may upset more sensitive readers.

    What I really liked about this book was the sense of tension that it built. From the first chanting sequence onwards, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for a death to mark the completion of the descent into savagery. I'd imagine that this is a marmite book- it's an enjoyable read but I'd say that it's almost universally hated by children forced to study it. A double meaning can be perceived in most things and it would be very easy to over-analyse the novel. The symbolism is very strong and at times heavy-handed but I would expect no less from an English teacher.

    If I was to criticise one thing about the novel, it would be that the characters are almost secondary to what happens. The three main characters are essentially stereotypes. Ralph is the sensible leader, the voice of reason. Piggy is the underdog, although he is useful at times and intelligent, he mainly acts as a victim for the others to pick on. He would be the quintessential geek in today's stories. Finally we have Jack- the villain that's corrupted by power and that engineers the downfall of their little society. While it would be ludicrous to say that there's no character development (we go from posh English boys to murderous savages in a few short chapters), you get the impression that the psychological change is what's important rather than who they were before. Most of the other characters are pretty much interchangeable and I don't believe we even learn half the names.

    All in all, I would recommend this novel to anyone that hasn't read it. It's a quick read that forces you to ask philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and society.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Based on some excellent reviews, I ordered this book from Amazon. To call it a book would be overkill though. It only has about 50 pages in it and I finished in on my bus ride to work one morning! It's really an essay about gender and gender roles, told with a conversational tone.

    This book initially appealed to me as feminism is something that I struggle with. While I am firmly of the belief that women should not be discriminated against, I have a harder time with some of the more militant beliefs shared by leading feminists online today. In fact, for many people the word "feminism" is a negative, leading word. I found this book to be a refreshing take on the topic - there was a lot that I could identify with and it never felt preachy.

    A great little read, highly recommended.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    The Time Machine - H. G. Wells

    Another Amazon buy, this is one of those cult classics in the science fiction world. The Time Machine tells the story of a mans journey to a year around 800,000 years after his own. (800,000? Yes, you read that right!) It was published back in 1895 and is said to have been the book that launched H.G. Well's career and established him as the father of science fiction. This is another short read, clocking in at about 130 pages. Despite its brevity, this is a very influential book as it was one of the first to really expore time travel and it went much further with it than any other book I've ever read.

    It is very easy for the reader to envision this world of the future as Wells does a great job describing it. The language does feel a bit dated and stiff at times, but not overly so. The earth is dying and appears to be inhabited by two very different races - the Eloi and the Morlocks. Unlike many other books that followed, The Time Machine does not concern itself with the paradoxes and mechanics of time travel, in fact it almost feels used simply as a plot device to imagine what the world of 802,000 would be like. Instead, it focuses on the evolution of our civilisation and boy does it paint a bleak picture! It takes the divide between social classes to the extreme. The Eloi (the privileged) are hedonistic, infantile creatures that have become stupid and soft through their lives of leisure. The Morlocks, on the other hand, are an extrapolation of the working classes. They have been driven underground and still maintain the machinery that allows the Eloi to live. The parallels between our world and this imagined future world are a bit heavy-handed but Wells manages to get across the message that an extreme of either class would be a disaster.

    I'm glad I read this book but it's the kind of book that I would be wary of recommending to others. You really need to approach this with an open mind and without too many questions, otherwise I can see how people might find this novel work rather than entertainment.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Peter Pan - J. M. Barrie

    Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan. There are an extraordinary number of Broadway and silver screen versions and spin-offs including the recent Pan. As someone who grew up with Disney fairytales, I found the book much darker than I was expecting. This holds true for many old children's books, particularly anything written by the Brothers Grimm. Not only did I find this book dark, I found it very difficult to read. It is adapted from a play which makes the narrative seem bizarre at times and intrusive.

    The characters were the biggest surprise to me here. I had expected some Disneyfication of the characters but I genuinely had a hard time finding a character to like in this book. Peter is an arrogant, self-obsessed bully with strange mommy issues and what can only be described as a bipolar personality. There is a hint that he regularly murders the boys that have the audacity to grow up. Tinkerbell is both evil and jealous. Wendy is a weak stereotype, useful only for "womanly" chores like cleaning, sewing and rearing children. I know that this book was first published back in 1904 so the racial and gender stereotypes are somewhat explainable but, as they still form the spine of the story today, I would have a difficult time reading this to little children.

    All in all, pretty disappointed with this novel. The best thing about it is the Puffin Chalk cover! I'm sure many will disagree with me (otherwise it wouldn't have become a classic!) but I found it a tedious, choppy read and would not read again or recommend, especially to children. Still with the movies.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Asking for It - Louise O'Neill

    To say that this book deals with a delicate subject would be a gross understatement. In Ireland in particular, we have a strange relationship with sex, sexuality and consent. It's not too long since the days of dowries and arranged marriages, to say nothing of laundries and convents. So, despite the hype (particularly in feminist circles), I wanted to give this novel a chance.

    This book tells the tale of 18 year old Emma O Donovan and how her life goes downhill after she's gang-raped at a party. This is an incredibly controversial and emotive subject and I felt like O'Neill approached it with a sledgehammer. The protagonist is completely unlikeable - think Regina George in Mean Girls. She's gorgeous and privileged and she knows it. She's manipulates men for fun, she's jealous and she steals. Now, I know that this was a purposeful decision from the author as rape can happen to anyone despite their position, but Emma really had no redeeming features to make the audience care about her. The point that the author appears to be trying to make here is that Emma's previous behaviour could be used to say that she was "asking for" the attack. This isn't a particularly new viewpoint and I don't think it's well executed. I mean, her own parents didn't even appear to care about her, caring more about the views of their friends and neighbours than the daughter.

    One of the things that really annoyed people about this novel is the ending. I actually think that it was one of the few good decisions by the author. Rape is one of those issues that doesn't leave people expecting a happy ending but the reality of the situation is that sometimes there is no defined ending or closure. However, that aside, I didn't find it a particularly well-written novel. There were too many characters, the majority of whom were 2 dimensional at best. The actual rape itself is not actually given a lot of gravitas, the social media aspect is actually given more weight. It's not so much a novel about rape and victimhood but a novel about bullying in today's society.

    As Louise is an Irish author, I really wanted to like this book. I have seen hyped reviews in many of the big newspapers and rumours that the film rights were about to be purchased. If I had to guess why it's become so popular, I'd say that for many younger readers this is their first experience of insight into this heavy topic, similar to how 50 Shades of Grey became so popular despite being badly-written. I guess it's shocking if you know nothing about the topic. On that alone this book should be applauded and it would be a good read for young teenagers but for me it was nowhere near nuanced or insightful enough to really hold my interest. I do have "Only Ever Yours" on my shelf as it was a gift so I will give the author another chance but I would not recommend this for anyone over the age of 16.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Dress your family in corduroy and denim - David Sedaris

    Picked this book up from the reduced price section in San Francisco airport. Sedaris is apparently a well-known US author, I hadn't heard of him though and I'm not familiar with any of his other work. This book is a collection of stories from his life, with a focus on his childhood and adolescence. The stories are used to give us an insight into how his relationships with his quirky, dysfunctional family, particularly his parents, have shaped him.

    I found this book incredibly tedious. Short story collections generally tend not to appeal to me, but I did struggle to finish this book. It was amusing at times, but those fleeting moments made the rest of the drab stories feel even longer. I'm not sure if the humour went over my head or it just didn't appeal to me. Perhaps this type of writing is more appealing to people that relish watching reality shows like Big Brother? The whole thing felt very egotistical and self-indulgent. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone and will steer clear of this author in future.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Freakonomics - Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

    I randomly picked this book on Amazon based on its good reviews. I was a little dubious, especially as the Kilkenomics festival in Kilkenny is the only time I've considered Economics vaguely entertaining. I was very pleased to find the book both informative and entertaining. In Freakonomics, Levitt strays outside traditional economic theory to delve into more interesting problems usually tackled by the social sciences. By using economic theory as a tool to interrogate massive real-world datasets, Levitt comes up with some interesting (and sometimes controversial) answers. An example of one of these problems is "If drug dealers make so much money, why do most of them still live at home?"

    I think this book is a great entry point into the topic for casual readers. It's aimed at an audience with little or no prior understanding and dips a toe in the waters without ever going too deep. I imagine that an audience more well-versed in the topic would find this book over-simplified and patronising. It's a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously. I found it to be well written, despite the fact that the authors chose to refrain from defining an overriding theme. I will order the sequel as a bit of light reading. It has peaked my interest in more traditional economic theory and statistical analysis too so I will be looking into that a bit further for some more in-depth reads.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton

    Another movie book! I was in the Dominican Republic earlier this year and I visited the Amber Museum in Puerto Plata that provided all the amber for the Spielberg movie. A lot of the film is shot on the island too. On the way home, I saw this book at the airport, and I couldn't resist picking it up!

    Ok, so I have seen this movie a couple of times. Like many of the other reviews, although the setting and most of the general story line are the same between the movie and the book, I am reviewing the book alone.

    For those that only recently got Wifi coverage under the rock they've been hiding under, the basic premise is that a billionaire has created a technique to clone dinosaurs. He is planning to create a hybrid theme park cum safari in which visitors can see the animals. Unsurprisingly, it goes wrong. The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a CGI breakthrough which enthralled audiences.

    I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book, especially considering that most of the characters are unlikeable. While the movie is a family favourite, the book is definitely written for adults. There is a much heavier focus on science in the book: the practicalities, the ethics and the theory. I found it really rounded out my understanding of the world, but I can appreciate that it might be a bit heavy for some readers. The book is well written and engaging, as are most of the characters. I thought that I might find this book a bit boring as I was more familiar with the premise that the other movie-books I've read, but actually, the opposite was the case. The book is much darker, much cleverer and much more violent than the movie. The dinosaurs are more intelligent, more surprising and more deadly. Each page is laced with suspense and thrills.

    The only thing that I found a bit annoying was the general anti-science vibe that was ever-present. At the start, it did help to explain how the scientific community came to act the way it was portrayed in the book. The science-for-profit scenario is one of the underlying concepts that the book is built on. However, in saying that, the book tends to come down negatively on all science and no attempt is made to show science in a good light. That's only a small personal niggle though, I look forward to reading The Lost World. I would certainly recommend this book for people that loved the movie.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

    Whoops, I've managed to fall behind in my reviews again! So i mentioned previously that I had already picked up Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep is the sequel to one of King's most famous works, The Shining. It focuses on the kid from The Shining, Dan Torrance, who is now middle-aged and haunted by the ghosts of his past. Unsurprisingly, Dan has grown up to be a bit of an unpleasant character. He has seemingly inherited his father's penchant for violence and alcohol and has difficulty settling. His shining, now suppressed by booze, is used to help people peacefully pass over earning him the nickname Doctor Sleep.

    Dan, despite his flaws, is actually one of the good guys in this. If you found The Shining to be too supernatural, you'll absolutely hate Doctor Sleep. Once Dan has been established, we learn more about Abra and the True Knot. Abra, a local gifted child with a shine much stronger than Dan ever had, reaches out to Dan telepathically. Their connection is what joins the two stories in this book. Abra's shine has unknowingly put her on the radar of some pretty bad people - the True Knot. The True Knot are a roaming gang of monsters that torture children that shine so they can eat their "steam", thus sustaining their lives. The True Knot are not immortal, but with a good supply of steam they can endure forever. Abra would be a goldmine for the True Knot but, with the help of Dan, she doesn't plan to go easy.

    This is an interesting read overall but I do feel it lacks punch in the horror department. It's more of an interesting story with many interwoven parts. Although it has a central character (and later a location) in common, I did feel that many of the references from The Shining were tacked on in retrospect. The novel differs dramatically from the prequel in terms of scope, tone and atmosphere. This could have been a completely stand alone novel with completely different characters and I don't think it would have lost much. Anyone expecting the claustrophobia and scares of The Shining will be disappointed. I still really enjoyed it, I just wish I had came into it with a different mindset. This one is going back on the shelf to be re-read in a few months time.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,673 ✭✭✭ mahamageehad

    Only Ever Yours - Louise O'Neill

    I wasn't looking forward to reading this novel as I had found Asking for It overhyped and juvenile. However, I had received this novel as a gift so I gave O'Neill another chance.

    There really is no comparison between Asking For It and Only Ever Yours. While I found the former to be tedious and unimaginative, the latter is an interesting, nuanced story with underlying themes about the place of women in society. Both novels have a "Mean Girl" vibe and ambiguous endings, but Only Ever Yours is by far the better book.

    Only Ever Yours is set in a dystopian world where women can no longer be naturally conceived. Women in this world instead have a "design date". These girls are raised together in schools, where they are taught everything that they need to know to be a barbie doll. Original thought or academic inclination are seen as repugnant attributes. These women have one job and one job only - to look pretty, smile and do as they are told. They are constantly ranked on their beauty and behaviour and the dream job is to get a rich husband and pop out loads of babies.

    Our protagonist in this story is freida (not a typo, women don't deserve capital letters in this universe), a 16 year old who is preparing for The Ceremony. The Ceremony is a sorting ritual in which eligible bachelors (Inheritants) choose their partners. Once each man has chosen a wife (companion), the other women are divided into concubines (a polite way of calling them whores) or chastities (basically nuns who never leave the school). The majority of girls would do anything to be companions, with the exception of a few promiscuous ladies who want to be concubines. Chastities are looked down upon with pity by both groups.
    As places are limited, the ladies are encouraged and even taught from a young age to tear each other down. Bullying, gossiping and anorexia are seen as desirable traits. There are no real friendships, and there is no real privacy.

    The story focuses on freida's journey to The Ceremony, and her relationship with estranged friend isabel. isabel is presented as a mystery, she has a secret and that allows her to get away with things that no-one else can. She shows a number of dangerous thoughts including thoughts about bodily autonomy and women's rights. She holds herself distant to the other girls, although none of them seem to mind.

    It's difficult to rate and review this book. It's a page turner, particularly if you haven't read a novel like this before. It's thoroughly engaging, even though at times it's not particularly enjoyable. It's satirical and dystopian, yet has many parallels with contemporary society. However, that all said, I was left wanting more. The characters were completely two dimensional and vapid. While I understand that this was by design, at times the constant jibes about beauty and weight and status become tiring and repetitive. I wanted to know more about the early friendship between isabel and freida and how it had deteriorated. I wanted to see the women behind the masks, but I was left wanting. For a novel written by a feminist, there really are no strong female characters. In fact, none of the characters were particularly likeable, a problem echoed in Asking For It. All that said, I would still recommend this book to others.