- Non Fiction
Reviews by Stephen Found
For amiable City trader Jimmy Corby money was the new Rock n' Roll. His whole life was a party, adrenalin charged and cocaine fuelled. If he hadn't met Monica he would probably have ended up either dead or in rehab. But Jimmy was as lucky in love as he was at betting on dodgy derivatives, so instead of burning out, his star just burned brighter.
No character empathy
Meltdown is the story of 6 friends Jimmy, Henry, Rupert, David, Robbo and Lizzie who all shared a house together in their university days and become very successful in their own rights. Jimmy is a trader in the futures market, Henry is a politician, Rupert is the CEO of a bank, David is an architect, Lizzie runs her own business and Robbo is an affable, loveable insanely rich guy who is married to Lizzie and spends his time doing nothing much at all. The story charts how Britains financial meltdown affects them all.
The way the story is told is by switching between the present and the past in alternating chapters. The present mainly focuses on Jimmy, his wife Monica and their 3 children struggling with impossible amounts of debt and having to come to terms with life in the real world. The past is told through tales of the friends meeting annually and the conversations they have all have on their way to fortune and power. This works well as it gives a stark contrast to the way things were and the way things now are.
The problem for me is that I felt absolutely no sympathy for any of them. Jimmy is portrayed as a guy that just rode his luck to get where he was and was not above doing illegal things to make more money with Monica playing the role of his conscience. After the crash however he becomes just a normal, likeble guy looking in bewilderment at how he got into the debt he was in and trying to deal with it in a sane, calm manner. It just did not work for me, Jimmy is supposed to be one of the money grabbing villains of the 21st century responsible for the economic disaster not a grounded, likeable family man struggling with his own debt in sensible ways.
As a piece of modern social history however, the book really does work.
There are things in the book that really do work well and it's contemporary theme and astute, witty observations make it well worth a read.
Follow along, dear reader, as I open the swinging, creaky gate to gorror (that's gore/horror for the uninitiated.) Is that just mist in the air, or exploded ghosts? Watch your step; you're liable to accidentally get TERROR on your shoes. I am pleased to present the first in this soon-to-be Fear-ies of stories, which is sure to-- RAISE YOUR HACKLES. A shocking twist in every chapter! Chock full of references to things you probably have heard of! Brimming over with stereotyped minority characters who are just like you! Our first story: The Vampire Witch From Outer Space!!! Tagline: Look out! This story sucks!
The books tagline says it all.
I love a good comedy.
Punchlines that you cannot see coming, long running subtle jokes that resurface throughout the course of a book, gentle humour, witty comments from the books characters and well crafted, laugh out loud plots are some of the ingredients of excellent comedies.
Unfortunately, this book has none of these. Well, to be fair it may have had them all by the boat load after page 5, but I did not get that far. The humour seemed to be that of a 12 year old even down to the name the author gives his main character. Every paragraph was a lame joke and by the end of page 5, I could think of more than one funnier tips to the dentist I have had.
Maybe it was just not my sense of humour, if it's yours then please review it and let people know what it was about since I neither know or intend to find out for myself.
Set in the Canadian North White Fang is told from the point of view of a young wolf as he struggles to survive in a harsh world.
Nicely told story of a Wolf accepted by man which does not get sentimental.
White Fang is primarily an Arctic Wolf. His mother is half wolf, half dog who escaped from her indian tribe to run with her wolf pack which is where the story starts before White Fangs birth.White Fang is therefore 25% dog but he looks like a pure wolf.
White Fangs father is a Wolf from the pack and he is truly born in the wild where he has to endure hardship and famine. White Fang and his mother are captured by the Indians that his mother escaped from and it is here that White Fang is named. This is the start of a long, harsh and very cruel life at the hands of man.
The story is told from what I would call a Documentary point of view, which is unusual. We are given very frequent insights into the world from the Wolfs point of view and his thought and reasoning processes. The same goes for his parents, people in his life and his many animal enemies with White Fang firmly taking centre stage from his birth.
Prior to this we have a brilliant introduction to his mother and how she uses the skills she has inherited by being both a dog and a wolf. These skills will save White Fangs life on many, many occasions.
I really wish I had read this story years ago as it is wonderful. It has tender moments that are neither slushy or sentimental and it does an excellent job of explaining White Fangs behaviour in a believable, matter of fact way.
It also has moments when White Fang is treated in a disgusting manner by his owners so perhaps one to give a miss if the cruelty shown is going to affect you greatly.
YOUR FEAR IS THEIR ENTERTAINMENT... Andrew’s life is one of bored contentedness: a teenage daughter, a faithful wife, and a middle-class job. He even has a Mercedes. His life is without drama, and the comfort of middle-age is setting in. That all changes when he refuses to buy a pack of cigarettes for the local gang of youths. Led by the emotionally unstable, and sadistic, Frankie, the gang target Andrew and his family in an escalating campaign of terror and violence that threatens their very lives. It isn’t long before Andrew starts to wish that he’d just brought those damn cigarettes.
I got this for my new Kindle touch because it was free and it had a 5 star rating. I wonder if I accidently downloaded the wrong book ?
Think of every cliche you can with todays youth and council estate hysteria. Out of control, single parent family, alcohol and drug soaked mother unable to cope with her two sons, out of control psychotic eldest son who was repeatedly raped in prison, not so out out of control but easily led younger son who worships his brother. Add these together and you get the family of the bad guy. Make him a drug dealer and add in his equally psychotic girlfriend and coloured twin henchmen who all hang around him for the drugs and we have the perfect council estate gang who spend their entire existance running around being evil.
Next we have the cliche'd family who are the target of the gangs, more specifically the gang leader Frankie's, evil. Andrew who is middle class, has a new pride and joy Mercedes car, doting charity working wife and perfect, beautiful daughter.
The two worlds collide when Andrew goes to the chip shop and is threatened, by Frankie, to buy him a packet of cigarettes. Andrew refuses and everything escalates to absurd proportions which I will not detail in case you can suspend your disbelief for long enough to finish the story.
The story was OK when it was not being unnecessarily extreme but the anomalies in the story line were irritating to the point of annoyance. As an example, an unconscious girl with a broken wrist regains consciousness and is instantly, understandably shrieking in pain from her injury. Three pages later, the same girl with the same injury is having her wrists bound together with gaffa tape and managing not to make a sound. Another example is someone waking in a car boot whilst the car in being doused in petrol, later when the car is revisited the engine is running and the car is idling. Was the car really doused in petrol whilst the engine was running ?
There are far too many of these anomalies for me and it totally ruined the story, it was almost as if parts were added as afterthoughts to make the story more horrific with little regard to how they affected the latter parts of the story.
Not a book I would recommend.
An urgent, devastating novel of childhood and escape. The story of four boys' attempt to deal with growing up and overcome the past. Glenroy, Bullett, Curvis and Carlton -- the best of friends, as tight as blood brothers. They all live in Pinewood Oaks, a home for orphans and children in care, besides the great forest named after the legend of the Seven Sisters. At the home they are looked after by 'Uncles' and 'Aunts', go to the local school and try to live like normal children. But, of course, they're not. When the four decide to run away from the home they head to the neighbouring forest. Freedom comes like a rush -- away from the overbearing eye of authority; for the first time, they feel the exhilaration of adolescence. They are able, for the first time, to dream their future. Yet the forest slowly asserts its own power as the story of the Seven Sisters impact on the four. Finally, the past collides with the present and forces them to face the brutal truths of their lives, the cruel theft of innocence and drives them to a final act that destroys their childhood for ever. In The Seven Sisters, award-winning author Alex Wheatle unveils a shocking portrait of how a society treats its children. Like 'Lord of the Flies' and 'Once in a House on Fire', the stains of childhood have dramatic effects, as Carlton, Bullet, Glenroy and Curvis finally have to deal with the past. The story of how four boys attempt to deal with growing up and overcoming the past. As close as brothers, each has an inner demon, and a hatred of the home they live in. Escaping to the forest they feel a rush of freedom, but this forest has a story of its own, one that will impact on their lives.
Didn't really work unfortunately
This book was a well written and researched novel and brought back floods of memories from my childhood as it was set in the early 80's. The finale of the story was, for me, too much of a leap. I felt that a part of the story was missing to drive the four boys to what they eventually do. Each boy does have their own finale but in all instances, except for Bullet, I felt that each was somehow out of character and maybe a step too far.
This aside however, the book was beautifully written and draws you in very well indeed to the mind of young teenage boys and their thought processes, or more often, lack of them and maybe the lives they endured could indeed lead to these acts.
Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where 'sharing' is valued above all, and privacy is considered a dangerous perversion. Trafford wouldn't call himself a rebel, but he's daring to be different, to stand out from the crowd. In his own small ways, he wants to push against the system.
Deep and thought provoking
This is a book about many things. It is primarily about the relationship between religion, science and of course people and what it is to be human.
London has been flooded through global warming and people have turned their back on science, the theory of evolution in particular and a new religion is now firmly in control of the people of Britain. But science is still used since it is illegal not to share every aspect of your life on the internet and make public declarations of your blind faith at every available opertunity. Some people are not convinced about the truth of this religion however and the story focuses on one mans realisation that there are others in the country that feel the same as he does.
I did love this book, it is by far my favorite Ben Elton title and it has a superb balance of comedy, thought provocation and wisdom. The future described is close enough to the present and especially current trends with reported addictions to sites such as facebook and peoples need to share every thing they do with everyone else to leave you thinking that this is a possible future in reality.
I have read this book twice now and I shall be reading it again. I suggest you add it to your reading lists also.
Young Anna Travis has been assigned to her first murder case - a series of killings that has shocked even the most hardened of detectives. They started eight years ago - now the body count is up to six. The method of killing is identical, the backgrounds of the girls identical - all drug-users and prostitutes. Then a seventh body is found. The modus operandi is the same - but the victim is a young student with the 'face of an angel'. The profile of the murderer has changed dramatically. Determined to earn the respect of her male colleagues, Anna stumbles on a vital piece of information which links one man to the killings, a much-loved actor on the brink of international stardom. His arrest would create a media frenzy. But if he were found innocent, his wouldn't be the only career over - Anna's hard fought for reputation would be destroyed once and for all ...
Written for TV ?
To my mind, this story was written for TV. There were plenty of characters introduced just brimming over with literary stereotypes including a wheelchair bound, bitter ex-policeman now turned porn producer and of course Anna, the rookie detective who just happens to have a crush on her boss in a love/hate relationship that the book spends the majority of its time exploring. To me, the plot seemed secondary and the entire purpose of the book appeared to be to introduce a new character for a new series.
Not one I would recommend.
Using the methods of her character Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell's forensic investigation has pointed the bloody finger of guilt at a figure who has long figured prominently in the Ripper files. The investigation here is an intriguing mix of the personal and the professional: as well as orchestrating a Scarpetta-like search for the identity of the Ripper, Cornwell involves several very personal connections with the task she has set herself, and this is no dry thesis. Needless to say, the more gruesome aspects of this famously grisly case give no pause to a woman who has taken us into the grimmer aspects of forensics with her unsqueamish protagonist, and we are spared no details here (but who would purchase Portrait of a Killer if they had delicate sensibilities?). The arguments here are intelligently marshalled, and laid out with the precision and attention to detail of Cornwell's novels.
Fascinating but far from case closed
A very well written book which Patricia Cornwell spent a reported $6 million of her own money researching.
The case centres on the letters sent by Jack the Ripper to the police during his reign of terror. Most scholars and researchers have dismissed the majority of these letters as hoaxes but Cornwell is of the opinion that a high percentage of the letters are actually genuine and that the identity of the ripper is proven by extraction of mtDNA from one of the letters, handwriting analysis and the watermark on the paper from which the DNA was extracted from.
The history presented in the book was rather startling. Details on the Victorian views of prostitutes and sex were very enlightening and did a lot to explain why the ripper was never caught. It left you feeling that if this man was committing these murders today, he would almost certainly have been caught.
So does the book close the case ? No, I do not believe it does. At best, it may show that the man she accuses could have written one or more of the ripper letters and it certainly raises the mans profile as a suspect in the murders. As the letters are widely regarded as hoaxes however, even by the police at the time, then I do not feel that that is enough to point the finger at someone and say "It was him".
But this is my opinion only, read the book for yourself and decide whether you believe that the evidence is enough to prove the identity of one of the most famous murderers in history.
With old friends like these, who needs enemies ? It's a question detective Edward Newson is forced to ask himself when he logs on to the Friends Reunited website in search of girlfriends from his youth. Ed is not the only person who has been raking over the ashes of the past. As his old class begin to reassemble in cyberspace, old feuds and passions begin to burn fiercely once more. Meanwhile, back in the present, Newson's life is no less complicated. He is secretly in love with his sergeant, Natasha and failing comprehensively to solve a series of baffling and gruesome murders. A class reunion is planned and history begins to repeat itself as the past crashes headlong into the present. Neither will ever be the same again.
Predictable but enjoyable none the less.
I did enjoy this book but it was very predictable. I had worked out who the killer was 140 pages before the end of the book and I was right which left me feeling a little disappointed. Maybe I am just getting used to Ben Elton's style of writing or maybe it was just too obvious. There are some great one-liners in the book and some of them are from the authors days as a stand up comic which was great as Ben Elton has been one of my favourite comedians since that time.
The love life aspect of the book was excellent. Ed Newson is no hunky detective inspector that all the women fancy, he is a short ginger haired man who has to show his warrant card to everyone, including other policemen, before they will believe that he is actually a policeman. Newsons unrequited love for sergeant Natasha Wilkes, who is undoubtedly very in love with her boyfriend, is both touching and rather sad and it is this that leads him to look for old girlfriends on Friends Reunited.
I think the reason that I worked out who the killer was so early on was the fact that the Friends Reunited part was telegraphed so obviously as the key to the key to the murders. I am giving nothing away here as the description on the back of the book tells you this too. Had the author kept the website and Newsons current life separate for longer with no obvious ties between the two then I think it would have taken much longer to crack. I do not mind working out who did it 10 pages before the end of the story, which is about when the killers identity is revealed, but 140 pages in did rather spoil it for me.
Christopher Berry-Dee interviews several serial killers within their prisons having gained their trust. Their remorseless pursuit of horror and violence is described in their own words from unique audio and video taped interviews. Christopher has collated these interviews into this amazing and disturbing book. Not only does he interview some of the worlds most evil men and women, he also reproduces their own stories as they describe their crimes and often their alarming lack of remorse.
You could know these people.
The most unsettling part of these stories is that you could actually know the monsters they describe. The accounts of the upbringing of these killers are neither obscure or, if we are to believe the media scare stories, that unusual. This is the most unsettling aspect of the book, our society could be producing more and more of these people.
The book covers the childhood, upbringing and murderous lives of 9 serial killers each culminating with details of their interviews. The 9 include Aileen Carol Wuornos the subject of the film Monster where she is played by Charlize Theron and Ronald D'Foe the killer on whom the Amityville horror films were base.
An interesting read but I found it best to space out the reading of each account as the subject matter is quite disturbing.