book reviews

Book review: The Return

The Return.The Return by Walter de la Mare.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Until this point, I’d only been familiar with de la Mare’s name, and not with his works. The Return has rectified that, but I’m left with some confusion about whether I actually liked the novel… and about whether I actually knew what was going on throughout.

So that’s a reasonable start, I guess: if both of those thorns haven’t put me off other authors, they shouldn’t put me off ol’ Walter, right? Right. (more…)

Book review: The Walking Dead Compendium 1

The Walking Dead Compendium 1.The Walking Dead Compendium 1 by Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

After last year’s surprise conclusion, I figured it was probably time to check out The Walking Dead. I mean, it’s the source material for the TV show of the same name (which seems to be no closer to ending than ever), and a bunch of video games.

A tale as old as time.

Luckily, the series’ publisher has released a number of compendiums – four in total – which collected huge chunks of the narrative in sequence, in 1100-page whoppers, echoing the Cerebus books in knee-breaking size.

Good job I’m reading on a tablet, then. (more…)

Book review: Seven Days In The Art World

Seven Days In The Art World.Seven Days In The Art World by Sarah Thornton.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

First things first. This book is presented almost as a travelogue – a kind of Contiki holiday through the upper-end of the art world. It takes the reader on a trip behind the velvet rope to check out several aspects of the art life – an auction; a crit session; an art fair; a magazine; a studio visit and a Biennale. It could, were I uncharitable, seem a bit on the nose – a bit of an obvious structure. I mean, it’s a pretty blatant conceit.

If you’ve gotta pick a schtick, make it a GREAT one.

But it’s about the art world. Isn’t that the point? 
(more…)

Book review: The Rich Man’s House

The Rich Man's House.The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Andrew McGahan is dead. And this is his last work. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work from Praise onwards – thanks to the excellent movie adaptation first, text later – and have appreciated the descriptive examination of the personal throughout his texts. The way he looked at lives that might be considered a failure by any measure, and shone tiny lights of relief on their struggles.

So naturally, his final book is a thriller, set on the edge of the world, in which degenerate wealth and animist revenge combine to paint a portrait of how fucked capitalism is, and how we’ve basically rooted the earth, to the point that it might smack us down for it.

Wait, what? (more…)

Book review: Empire of Imagination

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons.Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons by Michael Witwer.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’ve started 2020 as I mean to go on: as a big ole nerd. And what better way to begin than with a biography of the uber-nerd: the one who popularised a specific type of fantasy role-playing game, which would move beyond basements into the halls of power?

Looks like he rolled low for charisma.

No better, I guess.

(more…)

Book review: Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from Twin Peaks

Angelo Badalamenti's Soundtrack from Twin Peaks.Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from Twin Peaks by Clare Nina Norelli.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Obviously this is going to be a five-star review. From me? Given my love of Twin Peaks this can hardly be a surprise for anyone.

Though I’m inclined to go soft on anything vaguely Lynch-adjacent, there’s no need with Norelli’s excellent entry in the 33 1/3 series of works: it’s a solid entry, which offers thematic, technical and widescreen views of the sonic doings in that small town in the Pacific Northwest, where there’s always music in the air.

Not pictured: Douglas firs, midgets.

(more…)

Book review: Exercises in Style

Exercises in Style.Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau (tr. Barbara Wright).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So there’s this guy.

He’s riding a bus. During the ride, he sees a bit of space-based altercation between two dudes.

Later, he sees one of the dudes receiving advice about his jacket.

This is all that happens in this book. And it happens almost one hundred times. There, I’ve saved you the effort of reading it, right?

Let’s just say there’s a little more to this book than that. (more…)

Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 7

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 7.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 7 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So after a bit of a break – a couple of these in a row is more than enough candy popcorn for anyone – I’m back into the world of imprisoned, superpowered teens, and the creepy overlords that love [to experiment on] them.

As expected, it’s more of the same. By which I mean INCREDIBLE VIOLENCE and some creepy fan service for boob-focused shut-ins.

Subtle. 

Same same then, eh?
(more…)

Book review: The Way of Zen

The Way of Zen.The Way of Zen by Alan Watts.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I have, of late, decided that I need to spend a little more time working on meditation, on myself. I’ve carried out a fair bit of investigation, mostly in mindfulness, but I’ve decided that I need something a little more rigorous: something I can make a more concerted effort with.

So it was that I decided to read up a little more on Zen. And what better place to start than with Alan Watts? Known for his copious writing on religions and esoterica, his The Way of Zen is considered a landmark work, something that introduced Zen Buddhism and Eastern philosophy to younger, Western audiences. (more…)

Book review: Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams.Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

A book on the problems that problems sleeping could have. Does that sound good to you? I mean, the author has given TED talks, been hired by Google and has done the media rounds since this has been published, all on the strength of his scholarly interest in the effects of the Land of Nod.

A book on sleep. Written by a scientist. It’s pretty lucky that it isn’t a big snooze, then, isn’t it?

Any excuse.

*pause for laughter*

All right then. (more…)