32 Before 32 ~ Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode

 

It’s been over three weeks since I read Hatchet Job, and I have somehow completely neglected to write a post about it. As I’m writing a post for each and every book I read as part of my non-fiction goal, I have to do it, but as it’s been so long, please forgive how vague it may turn out to be!

Hatchet Job was the final Mark Kermode book that I had to read. I am obsessive about reading everything by someone I love, but I can’t read what he has written on The Exorcist, because I am yet to see the film. I have enjoyed everything of his that I have read thus far – I understand that he has a particular way of writing that mirrors his way of broadcasting; he tends not to stick to the point and rambles off on a tangent at every given opportunity. But that’s one of the reasons that I love him, so there’s no way that would put me off.

His previous books, It’s Only a Movie and The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex have been about his own movie-watching life and all that’s wrong with modern cinema, respectively. This one tackles movie reviewing, and the place that film journalists have in an internet age, where everyone (myself included, up to a point) can be a movie reviewer. Although, of course, being Mark Kermode, he digresses all the time, so much of the book is made up of stories and anecdotes that, if you consider yourself a Wittertainee, you’ve probably heard before.

One of the things that I hear and read about Mark Kermode most is that people don’t always agree with what he has to say, but they respect him nonetheless. Sometimes I find myself saying something about a particular film, and I think “That’s not my opinion, that’s what Mark says.” It’s almost completely unintentional; he’s just so passionate about what he thinks that it seeps into your brain and you regurgitate it without really knowing. Then there are the times when I hear him espouse a particular opinion and I think “No. You’re wrong.” One of his favourite sayings is “Other opinions are available” and he doesn’t even always follow that with “Even if they are wrong.”

Perhaps the most irritating thing about the book is how often he slips in a self-deprecating comment, but I understand it’s a difficult position to straddle. To even suggest that you agree with the general consensus (in my head anyway) that he’s one of the best and most respected critics in the country comes across as arrogant, yet to constantly suggest that you don’t think you’re worth anything compared to other critics seems to suggest a faux modesty. Maybe just a little less self-deprecation would have satisfied me.

Seven down, three to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.

 

April 2014 Books

Here we are again at the end of another month (technically the start of another, but I’m never very good at getting these posts up on time), and I managed seven books in April! This keeps me squarely on track as far as my target of 75 goes, but it does play havoc with my little graphic that I make each month. They are already pretty unprofessional, and now this month I had an uneven number of covers to play with.

Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode

When I was updating my books page earlier, I suddenly realised that I had never written a post about Hatchet Job, and as it’s one of the ten non-fiction books I am trying to read as part of my 32 Before 32 list, I really should have done. So I put together a hasty post that is not very good, and you should see that later on today! The fact that I finished it three weeks ago and forgot to write about it means that I can’t think of an awful lot to say, apart from the fact that it marks the end of my journey with Mark Kermode’s writings, because I have run out of books to read now. I can’t imagine that if you aren’t a fan of his, you will find anything particularly interesting here, but if you are a fellow Wittertainee, you’ve probably already read it.

The Summer I Gave Up Boys by Kassandra Kush

I think I ended up reading this book because it was a free Kindle download. In fact it must have been, because there’s no way I would have paid for it. I read Young Adult books from time to time, because I enjoy them, and even if they are bad, they tend to be short, and so it’s not a waste of too much time. The Summer I Gave Up Boys was one such book: bad, but very short. It was so bad; there was no dramatic tension whatsoever, because I knew from the first page what was going to happen. It was totally unrealistic; even as a thirty year old, I know a little bit about what the younger generation are up to, and it seems to me that the author had very little idea. It was just awful, but it took me no more than an hour or so to read, so I can just give it up as a bad choice and remember never to read anything by this particular author again.

 All The Things You Are by Clemency Burton-Hill

I received All The Things You Are as a review copy from Headline through Bookbridgr, and I really enjoyed it. It was a really intelligent look at a romance between two people from the same city but with completely different family histories, and this conflict comes to the fore when they take a trip to Jerusalem together. I wrote a review on it here, and I gave it four stars on Goodreads. I feel as though most of the books that I have read lately have been distinctly average, so it was a pleasure to read something that made me think, and that presented a love story with a bit of a difference.

 This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is What Happy Looks Like is another Young Adult book that didn’t take me very long to read, but luckily it was a lot more enjoyable than The Summer I Gave Up Boys. There’s a formula to these type of Young Adult books – it’s always summer, the heroine always lives in town on the beach, a boy usually arrives from elsewhere, there’s a reason why they shouldn’t be together, they end up together. It’s not great literature, but sometimes it’s entertaining and it appeals to me on a level that says something about me, I think. This book tells the story of a young movie star who accidentally emails a teenager in the aforementioned beach town, getting the email address of his friend wrong. They start up a relationship through these emails, without her realising who he is. When they finally meet, it all seems as though it won’t work out, because she has certain family issues, but in the tradition of Young Adult stories, all turns out well. Perfectly enjoyable, but nothing special.

 Six Years by Harlen Coben

I had never read any Harlen Coben before, because I’m not a huge fan of American crime novels. They just aren’t my sort of thing. But when I read about the premise of this novel online, I thought it sounded promising. Jake and Natalie are a young couple very much in love, when Natalie breaks Jake’s heart by marrying another man in front of him. Years later, having promised to have no contact with the couple, Jake sees an obituary for the man Natalie married, and decides to go to the funeral to pay his respects. Whilst there, he finds that the widow is not Natalie, and nobody has any knowledge of her. This leads Jake to begin to investigate what is going on, and the plot takes many twists and turns. Sadly, whilst the premise was promising, the execution and writing wasn’t great, and I found myself sighing over clichés and plot contrivances. I think I’ll be steering clear of Harlen Coben in the future.

 Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

I was lucky enough to receive Precious Thing as a review copy, again from Bookbridgr, and I finished it a couple of days ago. I still need to write a proper review on it, which should be up in the next couple of days, so I don’t want to pre-empt that too much! Talking around it, rather than about it, I enjoyed it up to a certain point, but I was unfortunate enough to read a small spoiler before I had really got into it, and I think that probably affected my enjoyment of it. It tells the story of Rachel, a television news correspondent who finds herself as part of the story when it emerges that her childhood best friend, Clara, has gone missing, and police suspect she has been abducted. It has many twists and turns, and nothing is quite as it seems, but I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I expected to. Stay tuned for a full review, coming soon!

 Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley

I rushed to finish Conditional Love, because I thought that I was only on five books for the month, and then by the time I had almost finished, I realised that I was actually on six. It was one that was a free Kindle download that I spied on Twitter, and while I knew it wasn’t going to blow me away, sometimes it’s nice to just read a book that is enjoyable. Conditional Love was enjoyable, but it was really hard to get on board with the heroine, Sophie, because she was so clueless when it came to her boyfriend. Her sexist, arrogant, money-chasing boyfriend, who demeans her and dumps her, and yet she comes back for more. It’s obvious who she is meant to be with, but she doesn’t get there quickly enough because she’s too busy apologising for and defending this idiot. It’s not essential to like the heroine of a book, but it’s important for me to understand where they are coming from and respect them, and I couldn’t connect with Sophie because I just didn’t believe she would be that stupid.

 

25 books down, 50 to go in my aim to read 75 books by the end of 2014. Follow me on Goodreads to keep up with my progress.

Book Review ~ All the Things You Are by Clemency Burton-Hill

All the Things You Are tells the story of Natasha, a young Jewish woman living in New York. Following a broken engagement, she falls in love with Rafi, an architect working on her grandmother’s social club, who also just happens to be from a Palestinian family.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Jewish faith, and for a while I’ve been looking for a non-fiction book that will help me understand all the customs, traditions and history that come with being a Jew. Having read All the Things You Are, I’ve realised that the best way to understand the faith may be to read books like this, novels that are focused on Jewish families. I certainly do not know as much as I should about the historical conflicts surrounding Israel, and even though this novel hasn’t made everything clear, it has certainly encouraged me to seek out more information and read more about it.

As much as I enjoy standard chick-lit books, sometimes I find myself looking for something more in a book. All the Things You Are has, at its heart, a romance, and yet it is so much more than just a boy-meets-girl kind of a story. Natasha and Rafi fall in love in New York, where, at first, she assumes that he must be Jewish. It’s not clear why she assumes this; maybe it’s just because her Holocaust-surviving grandmother has employed him as an architect, or maybe it’s the way he looks. When she finds out that his grandparents were forcibly removed from Jerusalem as children, it doesn’t affect her feelings for him, but she does feel a sense of guilt at the way that he is treated in Jerusalem, when, as a Jew, she is able to visit the city without anyone questioning why she is there.

The title speaks to the fact that who you are is made up of so many things; Rafi spends a lot of time telling Natasha that he doesn’t want to try and take on any of the resentment that she seems to want him to feel over the injustice that his parents suffered. For her part, she can’t help but feel a sense of guilt, just because she is Jewish, even though she of course had nothing to do with it.

When the action moves, halfway through the book, from New York to Jerusalem, these issues become even more heightened, with Natasha meeting Rafi’s family and friends, and the political and historical issues really come to the forefront.

For me, the most fascinating character in the book is Natasha’s grandmother, Esther, and it’s a shame that there isn’t really enough room within the story to focus more on her. She’s very much in the background, providing a reason for Natasha and Rafi to be brought together, and book-ending the novel with her work, but it would have been nice to learn more about her. Perhaps there’s a whole other novel waiting to be written about her tragic past. She says that New York saved her life, and I would love to read more about that.

Although I felt that things got tidied up almost a little too neatly at the end, I did enjoy All the Things You Are; it was an interesting story about a romance that has to transcend tribes, proving that even in this day and age, sometimes love has to try very hard before it is able to conquer all.

 

All the Things You Are by Clemency Burton-Hill
First Published: 2014
ISBN: 9780755358274
Publisher: Headline
Book provided in exchange for an honest review by bookbridgr

32 Before 32 ~ The Prodigal Daughter by Jeffrey Archer

I figured it was about time I started thinking about this 32 Before 32 goal (read ten books from 1982), because time is marching on, and before this one, I had only read one. I now have quite a few from the library, so I can crack on!

When I reserved The Prodigal Daughter at the library, I didn’t realise that it was actually the second book in a trilogy. In fact, I didn’t really know anything about it, I reserved it purely and simply because it was published in 1982. It wasn’t until I actually looked at the cover of the book that I realised that it had the United States presidential seal on it, and I realised then that it was probably more up my street than I had previously suspected.

It tells the story of Florentyna Rosnovski, the daughter of a Polish immigrant who has spent years building up a hotel empire, along with a grudge with a local banker. The story of the grudge, unbeknownst to me, is told in the first book in the trilogy, Kane and Abel. Florentyna is a precocious child with a talent for academia, and decides from an early age that she wants to be the president, following in the footsteps of her idol, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Somewhat predictably, she falls in love with the son of her father’s mortal enemy, and as a result, she is estranged from her father for many years.

i really enjoy a book that spans several decades, so reading about Florentyna’s life, from when she is born in Chicago in the 1920s, until she is challenging for the presidency in her sixties, was really appealing to me. Added to this is that half of the story is set against the backdrop of the American political system, something that is of particular interest to me, and I was always going to enjoy reading it. The depth of knowledge of the political system is very good, and if Jeffrey Archer wasn’t a famous (or infamous) name in British politics, I would have no trouble believing that the author was an American. As the book draws on, the real-life events that have provided the backdrop to the story have to become imagined, so we get a British Prime Minister in Neil Kinnock, and, somewhat bizarrely, Prince Charles marrying Diana in the early nineties.

None of this, nor the reputation of Jeffrey Archer himself, detracted from my enjoyment of the novel. It’s pretty well written, and the story is entertaining. Sometimes it feels a bit as though Florentyna can do no wrong, and then all of a sudden she has a reality check of some sort. These small hiccups in her political career and personal life can feel a bit shoehorned in, as though Archer has suddenly realised that readers might not warm to a lead character who leads a completely charmed life. But overall, I enjoyed reading about her life and following her as she attempts to achieve her ultimate ambition.

Although since reading the book I have realised that this is the middle story of a trilogy, I don’t see myself reading the other two books. While I enjoyed this one, I don’t think I need to read about the feud between the two men of the first book, nor do I necessarily want to read about Florentyna’s life after this book.

Two down, eight to go on number one of 32 Before 32 – read ten books from 1982.

32 Before 32 ~ Freudian Slips: All the Psychology You Need to Know by Joel Levy

I love my local library, and I’m a regular visitor, but I rely heavily on the reservation service, because the truth is that the library is tiny. I don’t spend an awful lot of time browsing the shelves there, because the selection isn’t great. So when I end up in a bigger library, I scour the shelves for something new and different. That’s how I came across this book, the cover jumped out at me and I picked it up to see what it was all about.

Freudian Slips Joel Levy

 

I’ve always been interested in psychology, I’ve mentioned already that given half the chance, I’d like to go back to university and study for a degree in the subject (that’s part of the Euromillions plan). So this was a really interesting read, because it took various different psychological terms, techniques and names, and explained them in brief. I was particularly interested in the Milgram Experiment, in which the willingness of participants to obey authority figures was tested, and Synaesthesia, the condition in which people experience two senses as the same thing. The idea of hearing a colour is just amazing, and I definitely want to read some more about it!

The subtitle of the book is All the Psychology You Need to Know, and there’s certainly a lot of information in there, but for me it’s more of a starting point; I want to learn more about these techniques and theories, so I now have a list of things to find out about!

 

Six down, four to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.