re:View – The 2013 Bookshelf I

Well, I’m finally done reviewing all the books from last year and this year’s reads are already piling up. Time for the first Bookshelf of 2013!

The usual health and safety warning: May contain spoilers.

Be Cool by Elmore Leonard
The Get Shorty sequel sees Chili Palmer, by now well established Hollywood producer, taking on the music industry in his usual, smooth and sexy gangster style. This book has everything – authentic characters, snappy dialogue, a plot that’ll keep you turning the pages, rock stars, and a whole load of cool. (Shame the adaptation is such a pile of poo.)
Pens: 5 out of 5

Best American Noir Of The Century edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler
OMG. If you enjoy noir (or crime, or mystery), you MUST read this collection. It’s massive, it’s daunting. It is so dark that you have to stop every couple hundred pages to read a funny book to keep yourself out of depression, but it’s so, so good. Ellroy – himself a master of the genre – and Penzler have put together an epic anthology of brilliant noir writing, one that is not only a damn fine read, but also highly educational. Every story comes with an author bio offering a wealth of further reading suggestions and worthwhile movie adaptations. This really is the key to the world of noir.

Pens: 5 out of 5
A Tourist Guide to Lancre: A Discworld Mapp by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs
Bit of a wasted effort. The map isn’t half as exciting or beautiful as it could have been, and the booklet that comes with it is largely regurgitated material from the Discworld books. And you actually get a much better feel for Lancre – as well as endlessly more enjoyment and entertainment – if you just read the books of the witches’ story line.
Pens: 2 out of 5

Death’s Domain: A Discworld Mapp by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs
Much like the Lancre guide, this map feels a little bit thin and – if you’re already read most of the Discworld books – has little new to offer. It looks pretty though, and Death is one of my favourite characters, so I still got half an hour’s worth of good entertainment out of it.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Kill Your Friends by John Niven
It’s a bit like British Psycho meets X Factor. A cocaine- and rage-fuelled joyride through the underbelly of the music industry. Rude, violent and delightfully funny. I think this is the first time I ever found myself rooting for the psycho killer. And I didn’t even feel guilty about it. Just massively entertained.
Pens: 5 out of 5

The Amateurs by John Niven
After reading The Second Coming and Kill Your Friends, I was convinced that John Niven could turn any topic into a cool, entertaining book – even golf. But I guess golf is so boring that a story about golf, even if it is laced with sex, crimes and Scottish accents, will still be painfully boring. To be fair, The Amateurs has its funny moments, but largely this book is just the author indulging in (obviously) his favourite hobby, and after pages over pages of golf techniques and tournament history, you’re ready to bash your head in with a 5-iron must to make it stop.
Pens: 2 out of 5

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams
Ok, WTF happened here? How can this book be so mind-blowingly boring when the first three Hitchhiker’s Guides were so brilliant?! I guess it’s kind of a guy-meets-girl story, except that the guy spends the first 100 pages meeting the girl, while nothing much happens, and then a bit more of nothing happens and by the time you have finished the book you’re still wondering what it’s going to be about. I hope #5 will be better, otherwise my memory of the genius original trilogy will be massively tainted.
Pens: 1 out of 5

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
What can I say about the legend that is Sherlock Holmes? Well, I’d say, even though he’s kind of all around these days – Hollywood, TV productions both sides of the Atlantic, new books – still, go back and read the originals. It’s all about style, and the world’s favourite detective will never has as much style as he had in Doyle’s stories.
Pens: 5 out of 5

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The legendary Gatsby. Amazing how such a small book can have such an impact. It breezes past you, throws you into a whole different world for a day (or however long it takes you to read 100 pages), and leaves you with a huge sense of loss. And angry. It’s the kind of book that will always be relevant, because people will always be rich and selfish, and other people will always ruin themselves aspiring to be part of their world. Gatsby struck me as a kind of male version of my favourite book ever, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Very different in style, but largely the same meaning.
Pens: 5 out of 5

A Good American by Alex George
I ditched this book after two thirds. And let’s not even dwell on how much it has been mis-sold by the publisher if you go by the description on the sleeve. What could have been a good story quickly degrades into a pop fiction cheesefest of predictable plots played out by shallow characters – all written in a language so sentimental and riddled with cliché that it makes you cringe at least once every page. Life’s too short to waste it on bad writing.
Pens: 1 out of 5

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