Book review: Water Shall Refuse Them

Water Shall Refuse Them.Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Heading to a drought-stricken Wales in 1976 seems like a shitty holiday idea. It’s even shittier when you’re a 16-year-old girl accompanied by your family – a needy toddler, a sculptor father and a grieving, wasting mother – and eaten up by a dedication to something called The Creed.

You can tell things aren’t going to go well, and that’s before the village turns out to be, uh, none too friendly to outsiders.
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Book review: Game Changers

Game Changers.Game Changers by Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

This is a neat read from two writer-academics who’ve built careers in the gaming sphere. They’re passionate about what the form can be, and have both had buckets of shit tipped on them for daring to disagree with Gamergaters or – in van Deventer’s case – for daring to be a woman online.

It’s a tag-team affair, with both authors taking a shot at a selection of topics revolving around representation in gaming, and the entrenched mindset of producers and consumers alike. It’s written from a position of deep love for games, and a respect for gamers as something other than the basement-dwelling – and fallacious – stereotype. And it’s most importantly a work that realises that games are something that can bring us closer together while allowing voices other than those of cisgender white men to have a say.
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Book review: Burnt Island

Burnt Island.Burnt Island by Alice Thompson.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’d read the blurb for this book – writer applies for a fellowship on a Scottish island and mysteries ensue – and noted the price (three bucks on Kindle!) and took the plunge. I mean, I’ve spent more on bad coffee, let alone good spookiness.

Imagination is a terrible thing, Max. It perverts reality. You can lose yourself in it. Not realise what’s really happening to you.

This is good spookiness. (more…)

Book review: North Face of Soho

North Face of Soho.North Face of Soho by Clive James.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

My plan to read all of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs volumes continues apace. It’s been a while since I read the first three, so this fourth is like an unexpected visit from an old mate.

In this volume, Clive is – in the polyester-and-beard ’70s – married and attempting to shift towards a more stable income. However, that’s not as simple as one would expect, and the pages detail epic poems, poet-bashing, too-smart songwriting and a dinner (with surprise trumpet interlude) with Spike Milligan.
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Book review: The Roo

The Roo.The Roo by Alan Baxter.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Photoshop is responsible for a lot of things. Most of them are bad, but in the case of this novella – written in response to the image which ended up as its cover – Adobe should be profusely thanked.

The world has a serious lack of stories about rampaging kangaroos. Even fewer of those involve exploding heads, multiple appearances of the phrase “shit cunt”, and can be read in about an hour. Alan Baxter has filled the void pretty well, here.

Also, there’s this in the introduction:

If you’re not too familiar with the anatomy of kangaroos, may I also suggest you Google ‘kangaroo feet’ before you start reading. Seriously, you might think you know, but have another look. They’re insane.

That they are. (more…)

Book review: Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends

Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends: Tales from a Colonial Coroner's Court.Murder, Misadventure and Miserable Ends: Tales from a Colonial Coroner’s Court by Catie Gilchrist.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Life in the nineteenth century, it seems, sucked.

That’s what I glean from Catie Gilchrist’s presentation of life through the coroner’s lens. Sydney, while not exactly a prison colony at the time, was still not really that cosmopolitan a place. With medicine and policing both rough and ready, corpses, violence and things taken care of in a how’s-yer-father manner, there was a distinct seat-of-one’s-pants approach to life and the grim reaper.
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Book review: Too Much and Never Enough

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Like everyone else, I was intrigued. I mean, here’s a member of the Trump family, vocally shit-talking her powerful relative. A relative so thin-skinned that any criticism is anathema, and OH LOOK, THE BOOK MIGHT BE BANNED BY THE COURTS… until it wasn’t.

I was in. And oh lord, was it popcorn heaven.
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Book review: In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove

In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove.In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Slowly, slowly. That’s how things go when you’re two books deep in Proust. Soporific, even – though given that a lot of the action in the second volume occurs beachside, where sex and surf combine.

Well, it’s not all thoughts of boning and brine.
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Book review: Get Carter

Get Carter.Get Carter by Ted Lewis.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Well now.

As the saying goes, it’s grim up north. The grimness undoubtedly is multiplied when you’re hired crime muscle normally found in London, and you’re only headed back to your northern home town because your brother has died.

Do I look happy to bloody be here?

Sorry, “died”.

This is how we find Jack Carter: a cool mix of suspicion, grief and nice suits paid for with ill-gotten gains, training it north to find out what the fuck’s gone on with his brother, and – most importantly – who’s to blame. (more…)

Book review: The Gallows Pole

The Gallows Pole.The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’m a bit behind in my reviews, but I knew as soon as I finished this novel I’d have to bang one out. It’s ridiculously good – an historical novel rooted in truth that also manages to be a psychogeographical, folk-horror wonder. And features the following threat:

I’ll stitch your scut hole shut and feed you moldy parsnips all day long

How could I not give it a rave-up? (more…)