Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Review - Things Go Wrong For Me, Rodney Lacroix

Things Go Wrong For Me… details Rodney’s unfortunate mishaps in life. From his childhood, through marriage, divorce, dating and a vasectomy. Described in pictures and words this is a humour book with a difference.

Things Go Wrong For Me… is an amalgamation of Rodney’s blog posts put into book form and I expect his long-term readers will be familiar with most or all of them. This book is pretty funny, very clearly Rodney does not take himself seriously. At all. He has an engaging voice and describes his embarrassing situations with verve. And very bluntly with down-to-earth language.
It is short, approaching 30,000 words, but is padded out (not in a negative way) by a plethora of drawings, diagrams, photo’s and text boxes to illustrate Rodney’s off the wall thinking, like his ‘Cyndi Loppers’, Lacroix’s idea for an improved tree trimming experience . It’s broadly broken into four sections – fat childhood, parenting crap, dating disasters, and the vasectomy diaries.
I particularly enjoyed the toboggan episode, the dating section, and a series of‘draw somethings.’
Very funny in parts, but not for me drop down hilarious. However, humour is a relative thing. I’m sure many people would spend most of the book laughing out loud. Well worth a look.
Rating? Four Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? Yes
Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Review - Possession, Obsession & A Diesel Compression Engine, Gerard Brennan

Possession… is a collection of six lightly interlinked short (mild) horror stories.
I’ve been lucky enough to be reading quite a lot of Gerard Brennan recently (for example the previously reviewed Fireproof). I’ve realized that Gerard likes to launch his stories with an eye-opening bang and none of these little gems disappoint. Each story is short (the entire book is under 11,000 words in length) so the author hits hard and hits fast.
For example there’s the opening short called Blood Bath which it literally is. The Devil likes to bathe in, yes, blood. He says:
The best bathing blood had to be extracted from frightened accountants. The easy part had always been scaring them; you just told them there was a problem with the bottom line or gave them a debit-heavy Balance Sheet. The tough part was catching them…

The other stories are about an obsession with rock ‘n’ roll, a possessed car (with a hilarious Thelma & Louise take), a ‘trip’ down memory lane, a deal with the devil and my personal favourite, An Irish Possession. The latter regards a boy possessed by an imp and his exorcism. This example describes the Irish priest carrying out the extraction process:
Aye, I know he had a mouth on him like a sailor. Well, compared to other priests, I mean. I never heard him say the F word, but he always said bastard and shite and all the not-so-bad curses. Plus I saw him hit wee Fra’ McGuinness from Dunville Street when he caught him smoking in the Chapel car park. It wasn’t a wee tap to embarrass him either. It was a right hook, and the wee fellah fell on his backside.
All the stories are based in Ireland with varying degrees of local dialect. This creates a strong sense of place. The dialogue is tight. The challenge in a good short is to use every word to its fullest effect. Gerard does this brilliantly.
Rating? Five Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? Yes
Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Review - Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven't Killed Yet, Ryan Bracha

Bodies are being found in Sheffield, England. The victims seem entirely unconnected except for the cause of death and their lack of clothes. The media are frantic, the population worried. But it’s really a deadly game of cat and mouse with terminal consequences for the losers.

Strangers… is not your typical thriller by any stretch of the imagination. It’s unlike any other book of its type I’ve read. The general premise of a group of desperate people selected by a calculating, underhand process to play a game whilst the dubious wealthy place bets is in itself unusual. However, what really sets Strangers…apart is the method by which the author portrays the action - via a multitude of characters. A highly unusual approach to storytelling that works very well.

The cast in the novel is large, from the game players to the manipulators, gamblers, by-standers and reporters to name a few. All of the players are damaged in their own way, all make decisions for personal gain.

As well as the perspective switch. there’s also a use of time to unfold the story elements in an intelligent fashion, adding tension and intrigue. However what really underlies Strangers… is a story of relationships. Two of the more main characters, Tom and Ada, find each other in the most difficult of circumstances. Just when I thought the story had been satisfactorily wrapped up Bracha opens an entirely new, but related episode to ensure everyone gets their just desserts.

The characters are well drawn, despite there being so many, and the multiple switches handled smoothly. The dialogue is sharp and gritty with the local accents and behaviours coming through strongly for colour. The location, Sheffield, is tack sharp in its definition. The writing style is in your face and uncompromising. An example of the ‘milder’ writing:
The mumbled hush of the room continued. Little Miss Impatient was pacing, her nicotine addiction grabbing her by the throat and not letting go, until a crackle then a hiss broke the suspense.
Overall a great read and entirely different.
Rating? Four Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? Yes
Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Review - JusThis, Curt Rude

Charles ‘Badge’ Pullet is a policeman in the small town of Normal. All his life he’s wanted to be on the force and to wear the badge. But Badge has a problem, the Urge, which affects his judgement, drawing him into deeper predicaments even as he rises through the ranks.

The Urge impacts others around him, his wife, his Deputy, and the women he targets, among others. For a small town Normal has some large personalities from which nothing good can come.
This was a seriously disappointing novel, a strange mix of bland ‘thriller’, police procedure ,and trashy erotic novel, although I suspect the latter was unintended.

The Urge is Badge’s sexual proclivity, he cannot help himself when it comes to satisfying his needs. Unfortunately, the author seems to delight in various descriptions of Badge’s penis and what he does with it. JusThis goes through the motions of attempting to bring the issues resulting from Badge’s activities to a justifiable conclusion. Ultimately, it was a depressing end.

A comparatively minor example of Badge’s ‘conquest’ description:

If a woman’s husband didn’t understand her, Badge found out what she needed, then gave it to her–and she did the same for him. She’d get wide-eyed as his pants hit the floor and would spend a wonderful night wrestling with his trouser python, but once it was over, Badge lost interest. Once he had defiled her, the thrill was gone. He’d move on to another man’s bride.

Periodically there would be some description of actual police work, although it tended to be a particularly gruesome car smash or a brush with a troubled personality, some of which had succumbed to ‘Mr. Intoxication’ or ‘Mr. Mental Illness’.

The characters were distinctly unpleasant, I didn’t warm to a single one of them. They all had huge flaws that ultimately made them weak-chinned individuals that I just wanted to shout at, kick in the pants, or both.

There was virtually no dialogue, vast swathes of text was dominated by internalized thought or long descriptions meaning there was little real action until the culmination of the story in the final chapters. What dialogue there was tended to be bland. The following example is supposed to be a light-hearted joke directed at Badge (I imagine it spoken in a high-pitched, Marilyn Monroe like tone):

You’re really the first policeman I’ve ever spent time with. You must be brave to do what you do. I’ve been a good girl all my life, so it’s not like I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket or been handcuffed.

Enough said, I think.
Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.
Rating? One Star
Would I add this to my bookshelf? No