Wednesday, 30 June 2010

June Book Review

Apologies to those of you who dread these massive long blog posts about the books I’ve read each month. I’ve tried to leave them in the past, I really have but the truth is I made a promise to myself to make a record of each and every book I read this year and damnit I’m going to do it!

So I’m afraid you’re just going to have to grin and bear it when the end of the month comes round.

And you never know, there might just be something in here for you.

This month is ridiculously long. I think along with burying my head in my wool and furiously crocheting, I also found solace in books and this month has been the best yet, a whopping SIX books in one month. Oh how I wish I could read this much every month....

Wetlands – Charlotte Roche

Sometimes curiosity can get the better of you and this would be one of those times. I’d heard reviews about this book which had said it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Hell I even read The Curious Cat’s review (In fact there is one comment on that post and it’s from me. I knew I’d end up buying it in the end! And it took me almost exactly a year.) I should have listened to her, I did listen to her, but still I couldn’t reign the curiosity in.

So really I deserve everything I got.

I’ll make no bones about it. This book is shocking. It is shocking from page 1. It is most certainly not for those of a nervous disposition and definitely not for those who are easily offended. It’s pure filth.

And I just didn’t really get it. Maybe there was some message on a higher level that I wasn’t quite reaching, but for me it just seemed to be an exercise in writing just the most foul book ever written. Maybe that was the higher message? Maybe I shouldn’t be so revulsed when all she’s talking about are bodily fluids and parts of the body that we all (well the female portion of the world) have? I don’t know.

I made the huge mistake of starting to read this at the bus stop. Half way to my destination I realised I was sat with my hand clapped over my mouth and my eyes bulging out of my head. I cannot wait to see someone else in public reading it because I will give them a knowing smile that says “I know. I should have known better too mate.”

Dead Famous – Ben Elton

I would like to say I was being a clever clogs and decided to read this the same month that the last ever Big Brother came on to our screens, but unfortunately I’m not that suave. This was pure coincidence, I didn’t really know what the book was about.

The story surrounds the contestants of a reality TV show called House Arrest. On Day 27 (I can’t say that without a Geordie accent you know, oh how you have entered my inner psyche Big Brother!) one of the housemates is killed and you follow the police on the outside and the housemates on the inside as they try to unravel who the murderer is.

It’s pretty clever. Even though you know from the outset that someone has been killed, you don’t find out who until halfway through the book as Elton employs the ever glorious flashback technique as we begin to build a picture of the housemates.

Yeah it was good. Yeah I guessed who had done it and how. But it was still a good read.

And yes I think we all wonder how far reality television is going to go to pull in the ratings. Does anyone remember Fight Night from BB5? Epic. But I think the fact that this is the last series of Big Brother shows that we public are a fickle lot, it was yesterday’s news thank you very much and good night.

A Debt to Pleasure – John Lanchester

Oh John Lanchester you are a funny man. I’ve read three of your books now, one quite recently, and you have achieved something remarkable...every single one of them has been completely different. You sir, are a legend.

This is the toughest of the three though (the best? Fragrant Harbour in my humble opinion). Luckily I had geared myself up for a challenge as this book came my way via Gill (give everyone a wave Gill) who couldn’t get into it and noticed that I’d read some of his other work.

It. Is. Weird.

The book is narrated by Tarquin, a rather pompous bloke who appears to regaling you with the contents of a cookbook. He waxes lyrical about how to make aioli, he bangs on about curry. In short it is food food food. Too much food. You’re reading it and thinking to yourself, “Whaaaaaaaaat is he on about?!”

And then suddenly you catch something in the text. In the middle of his soliloquy about cheese you realise that he’s mentioned that he’s had to duck in to a shop to escape someone’s attention. Then he mentions that he’s wearing wigs. Then you realise he’s bugging someone’s hotel room.

As the book progresses, Tarquin becomes ever more dangerous and sinister, this book really reminded me of Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby in that respect. I can’t say more without giving away the premise of the book, but it is bizarre.

To be honest some of the food rants I began skim reading, blah blah blah, as they are a little bit much, but I see that they are kind of essential. You need this kind of intense prose on food because you know what? Tarquin is kind of an intense guy.

Good – but you will need to make the effort with this book, it’s not an easy read.

Unchained America – Dave Gorman

I missed out on the whole Dave Gorman Googlewhack adventures here. I’ve never seen any of the programmes he’s made or read any of his other books but I caught a glimpse of the film he made of this journey and knew I had to buy it.

The premise is simple. Gorman planned to travel coast to coast through America without giving any money to The Man i.e. chains. So petrol couldn’t come from Shell, they couldn’t sleep in a Best Great Western motel, couldn’t eat at MacDonalds – get the drift?

This book is the story of that adventure. And it’s hilarious. Dave Gorman has the most brilliant writing style, as you’re reading you feel as if he’s in the room with you, just telling you about what happened, it’s pure genius.

To tell you more would be to spoil it. To tell you if he actually made it would spoil it even more. You should read this, it will make you laugh, probably out loud in public which will be embarrassing. I really want to see the film now.

Brixton Beach – Roma Tearne

I wanted this to be good. I really really did. And the thing is it was good at the beginning. For the first half I was absolutely revelling in it, it was a beautifully told story and Tearne did a fantastic job of transporting me to Sri Lanka. It felt very vivd, I could see all the colours and felt I was living there with them, it was just brilliant story-telling.

And then it just all got weird. And boring. And there were ginormous huge gaps in time which left me feeling a little bit cheated, hang on, what about character development? It seemed a shame, the first half of the book focused on this tiny amount of time in the main protagonist’s life and the next half of the book dealt with the next 30/40-odd years. It was so disappointing. At the end I found myself not really caring anymore, it was like she’d given up. Or starting telling a story and then realised half way through “Oh my goodness this is going to be too long” and just missed massive chunks out of it.

Not terrible and I would recommend it, if only for the first half but I did finish it and feel a little confused about what the message was supposed to be.

A Good Yarn – Debbie Macomber

Someone sent this to me while I was in hospital in May. I wish I’d read it then because it could have stayed there.

It’s just poor, crappy chick lit. The kind of chick lit that gives chick lit a bad name. Hastily and scrappily drawn up characters, two-dimensional, sort of tries to deal with hard-hitting issues but only in an incredibly superficial way.

Just. Bad really.

But if you were in hospital this book wouldn’t be a bad way of getting through the time. But then that doesn’t say much to be honest.


This month's winner? Has to be Unchained America. Man that book was funny.

Yeah I do know that the photos only show the first 4 books but I took those photos BB (before break-up) I haven't had the time to gather all six together for a group shot. Try and not be disappointed.


  1. A Debt to Pleasure sounds interesting, although perhaps not a book I want to take on holiday with me! In fact I will be taking 'The Angel's Game' which follows on, but is also a stand alone novel, from the highly recommendable 'The Shadow of the Wind'.

  2. I like the sound of the Ben Elton book, will add that to my list.

    It's interesting your comments on the Debbie Macomber book, I've had one of hers on my wishlist for a while but reading the reviews I removed it as I just didn't think it was for me.

    Victoria x

  3. I really enjoy your book posts. Please keep 'em coming.

    Like the new digs too. Very... summery... :)

  4. Books are useful for finding solace. I've been reading a lot, lately.

  5. I read Dead Famous a few years ago. It's pretty good. Shortly after, Chuck Palahniuk did a similar story but not as well. A Debt to Pleasure sounds interesting - a bit like American Psycho with the in-depth rants that you soon start skimming past. And I'm glad the Dave Gorman was good but would it stand re-reading? Because I watched his first two shows live and then tried reading the books and found there was no point once you knew the end.

  6. I read Dead Famous a few years back when it first came out and loved it. In fact, I actually got a copy for my ex for christmas one year as i had enjoyed it so much!

  7. I'm waving - can you see me???

    It's nice to hear that someone else found The Debt to Pleasure alittle hard to get into. I was beginning to wonder that it was just me.

  8. Lady, you are a readaholic! I get through that many books in like 6 months - not one! I did warn you about Wetlands though...I've got the copy here actually...pondering if I should give it to someone as a present...though they might end up throwing it back at me and terminating our friendship...?! xxx


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