Book Reviews

Indifference by Kevin Berg


36317312What da cover says:  Nobody gives a shit anymore.

We are all selfish, greedy, impatient, uncaring, and ruthless – but maybe we can take a moment for a story.

With modern technology and the ease of interaction, we have become more confident and less concerned with anyone or anything that does not directly impact us. We have also become cruel. Desensitized to sex, violence, and death as a result, and stepping over any bodies that fall in our paths on the way to the end of another boring day.

An old man tries to find a reason to keep going. A cocky insurance adjuster looks to deny you everything, including your dignity. An IT rep does what he can to impress a dissatisfied mother. A morose fast food employee has to decide if she wants a promotion or a quick exit. A shady secretary uses the only assets she has to win the support of her boss, a dying fiancé, and the family she left at home. A lone nurse tries to provide help in a medical environment devoid of any care. A single mother learns too late that her children are her life.

Everyone for themselves. Everyone worthless.
Equal in death.

What I says:  I am one of those old fashioned people who can easily be swayed into reading a book by a good cover, so far this hasn’t let me down.  When I first saw this book I thought, nah, looks dull, then I looked a bit closer at what looked like writing in the background, a collection of quotes of reviews about the book?  One in particular caught my eye, “Had a cry and a wank at the same time.” Well that was me sold.

The book looks at the world and how it is filled with terrible, selfish people, the real dregs of society, gold-diggers, insurance guys, fast food managers and the worst of the worst….IT support.  From each character you come across you get a sense that they were never always like this, events in their life has led them to being like they are, it almost reads as a warning, there is still time to turn things around, little things might help, like treating one of the main characters with a little respect.  Michael is a homeless war vet trying to get by, suffering from PTSD.  Kevin Berg cleverly uses him to introduce each of the other characters in the book, how they treat him tells you how their life is going to play out.

There are some fantastic lines in this book, my favourite has to be the one used in the books blurb:

“Everyone for themselves. Everyone worthless.
Equal in death.”

I feel lucky that somebody had a cry-wank over this book because I probably wouldn’t have given it a go.


Book Reviews

Arabia Through the Looking Glass by Jonathan Raban


40226339What da cover says:  ARABIA is the story of Jonathan Raban’s magic carpet ride through Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan. Not only does it reveal the Arabs and their culture, it also introduces us to a series of memorable individuals.

Much of the book’s strength is the author’s gift for friendships. He brings us into markets and hotels to glamorous parties and seedy rooms, to a sheikh’s fortress and the home of a Bedu family. He opens up the world of the rich and the poor and gives us the feel, the smells, the sounds, the very texture of Arabia.

What I says:  I recently read my first ever Jonathan Raban book, Coasting, and thought that was one of the best books I’ve read, Arabia has just blown that book out of the water.

Arabia is nothing short of a masterpiece, incredible writing, powerful, funny and historically in-depth. Raban decides on travelling around the Arabian countries due to the number of Arabs moving in near where he lives, he tries to communicate with them but struggles to find a way in.  Instead he decides to visit their homelands to learn more about their history and culture.

He fully immerses himself to experience all levels of each country, from the rich to the poor.  When he decides to try qat for the first time, a narcotic plant you chew and gets you high, the writing becomes a lot like Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the back and forth between his sober self and the him that is going crazy on qat was pure brilliance.

One thing that stands out is his honesty, by the time he reaches the last country on his tour he is feeling homesick and isn’t afraid to say that he has had enough, the noise and madness, the bizarre censorship rules and the lack of art all start to get to him.

He gets to travel around countries at a time when they are just starting to evolve into the modern world, to see these changes happen must have been an incredible experience.  If you don’t read this book then you will be missing out on something truly special.


Book Reviews

The Library of Ice Readings from a Cold Climate by Nancy Campbell


40275410What da cover says:  A vivid and perceptive book combining memoir, scientific and cultural history with a bewitching account of landscape and place, which will appeal to readers of Robert Macfarlane, Roger Deakin and Olivia Laing.

Long captivated by the solid yet impermanent nature of ice, by its stark, rugged beauty, acclaimed poet and writer Nancy Campbell sets out from the world’s northernmost museum – at Upernavik in Greenland – to explore it in all its facets. From the Bodleian Library archives to the traces left by the great polar expeditions, from remote Arctic settlements to the ice houses of Calcutta, she examines the impact of ice on our lives at a time when it is itself under threat from climate change.

The Library of Ice is a fascinating and beautifully rendered evocation of the interplay of people and their environment on a fragile planet, and of a writer’s quest to define the value of her work in a disappearing landscape.

What I says:  This was quite a meandering book, Nancy Campbell would be writing about something and then suddenly move onto to something else, the book seems to behave like an iceberg in that it will go where it wants.  The writing is so interesting that I was left wondering if those tangents actually ended and the initial subject was returned too.  I honestly can’t remember, but it doesn’t matter because there is so much here that you don’t feel like you’ve missed out on anything.

The book starts off with Nancy giving up her job because she gets offered a place as resident artist in Upernavik, Greenland, she falls in love with the place and that becomes the start of a seven year obsession with ice.  The most amazing thing for me is how ice has managed to get itself involved in so many areas of life.  Art, books, music, film, science, adventure, history and myth, there is so much of it that I was impressed it was possible to fit it into one book.  I did spend a lot of time googling some of the more interesting facts.

If you want to read a comprehensive collection about ice then this is the place for you.  In fact the only important thing to be missed out of the book I could think of is:

Thanks go to Netgalley for a copy of this book.


Book Reviews

Symbiosis by Guy Portman

28465374What da cover says:  Identical twins Talulah and Taliah have never been apart. Viewed as curiosities by children and adults alike, they coexist in an insular world with their own secret language. But being identical doesn’t necessarily mean being equal…

Soon a series of momentous events will send Talulah and Taliah spiralling out of control, setting them on a collision course with a society that views them as two parts of a whole. Will their symbiotic relationship survive?

Perceptive and poignant, Symbiosis explores our enduring fascination with twins and the complexities of twinship.

What I says:  What’s one of the creepiest things in a horror movie? Kids that’s what! This book has girls, so doubly creepy! They are twins with a special connection so super creepy all round.

The writing is weird, not sure if it is first/second or third person, it’s like a documentary and the narrator is telling you what you are looking at, what is being thought and what has happened. For me this style made it very easy to settle down and get in to.

Guy has done a lot of drugs… I mean research into drugs, the twins get put onto a variety of meds and the book does a great job describing the effects they have on them including side effects.

The story is strong, moves along at a steady pace with an interesting conclusion, this reader is still left wondering though, was Dr. Singh’s diagnosis correct?

One thing this book needs is a glossary at the end, the twins have their own language which they talk in at lengths sometimes and I found it tough at times to figure out what was going on (especially in the final scene), a glossary would have made translating a bit more fun.  It’s a bit like A Clockwork Orange, the version I read had a helpful glossary.

This is definitely Guy’s strongest book to date, it really deserves to make a breakthrough and get read by millions, looking forward to what he writes next.


I’ve read another creepy twins book, review of which is HERE.


Book Reviews

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him The Pilgrimage Of Psychotherapy Patients by Sheldon B. Kopp

119390What da cover says:  Therapists do not and cannot give answers. Explore the true nature of the therapeutic relationship, and realize that the guru is no Buddha. He is just another human struggling. Understanding the shape of your own personal ills will lead you on your journey to recovery. Sheldon Kopp has a realistic approach to altering one’s destiny and accepting the responsibility that grows with freedom.

What I says:  I am one of the people to read this book because of it being mentioned in the TV series “The Fringe”. It was recommended reading to understand the relationship between Peter and Walter. I have never read a book on Psychology (the voices in my head had up until now convinced me I didn’t need to) and I didn’t expect to enjoy this or understand what was going on. Incredibly I did enjoy this, I think I even understand the reason it was mentioned in the TV series, the journey is not just for the patient it is for the psychologist too.

If Sheldon B. Kopp had been born 10 years later he would have fit right in with the beat generation, his general outlook on life fits right in with them. He comes across in this book as very honest, He talks about a breakdown he had after an operation, he writes about his early patients and the journey had to being able to help them better.

This book is about taking a journey/pilgrimage, doing something life changing, I would recommend this to anybody who has been on one or is planning too, it may give you a bit of insight.

My favourite part of the book is the section where he is talking about literature which features some kind of journey, from the Canterbury tales to Dante’s inferno it gives you a look at a side of these stories you might never have considered before. My only wish (and this is why it only gets 4*) is that he never covered anything by Jack Kerouac, the writer who has been on so many journeys, it would have been interesting to see what he thought of that.

I really enjoyed this book and glad I gave it a chance.


Book Reviews

Saxual Healing by Billy Medicine

25664171What da cover says:  How does friendship become obsession?
Why need any romantic love be forbidden?
Does there exist a sound more seductive than the reedy bray of a saxophone solo?

All these questions and more are posed by the diaries, emails and notebook scraps of Billy Medicine, finally made available by an object of Billy’s obsessions: Leo X. Robertson. The seedy, hysterical and unforgettable account presented herein tells of a lonely young man whose typical teen angst snowballed from mischievous trickery into the saxophone-related murders of two innocent men, and Billy’s disappearance. And yet, Billy’s efforts ultimately culminated in the production of the world’s most beautiful and unknowable artistic expression of homosexual love.

The creation of this stranger-than-fiction narrative was as much Leo’s personal journey to discover what it was about him that had so unbalanced a disturbed soul, how much of the fallout he was personally accountable for, and how it was that Billy’s unwanted persecution led Leo straight into the arms of his soulmate.

Now, for the first time ever, read Billy’s side of the story.

What I says:  I seem to have this ability to find books that are so dark there is a chance it may do some damage to your mind, this is one of them.  I have no idea what I have just read, it’s some kind of mesmerising monster of a book. It is both beautiful and disgusting. Billy Medicine is a teenager, coming to terms with being in love. He is a gross, vindictive and troubled young man. If you read this book be prepared to enter the mind of a teenage boy, once in you’ll have trouble getting out. I tried to escape and it broke my kindle so consider yourself warned.

This book has been cleverly written, there are diary entries, emails, msn conversations and lots of little notes from the editor.  This author loves to experiment with writing styles and it is amazing how often he is successful.  One of the most gripping books I’ve read… looking forward to what else Billy can produce.

Not sure what book to compare this too to give you an idea of what it is like.  If you take the violence from American Psycho and add it to the diaries of Adrian Mole then you’ll getting closer to what this book is about.


Book Reviews

The Father of Forensics by Colin Evans

386961What da cover says:  Before there was CSI, there was one man who saw beyond the crime-and into the future of forensic science.

His name was Bernard Spilsbury-and, through his use of cutting-edge science, he single-handedly brought criminal investigations into the modern age. Starting out as a young, charismatic physician in early twentieth-century Britain, Spilsbury hit the English justice system-and the front pages-like a cannonball, garnering a reputation as a real-life Sherlock Holmes. He uncovered evidence others missed, stood above his peers in the field of crime reconstruction, exposed discrepancies between witness testimony and factual evidence, and most importantly, convicted dozens of murderers with hard-nosed, scientific proof.

This is the fascinating story of the life and work of Bernard Spilsbury, history’s greatest medical detective-and of the cases that not only made him a celebrity, but also inspired the astonishing science of criminal investigation in our own time.

What I says:  A fascinating book about the Father of Forensics. Sir Bernard Spilsbury wasn’t in it for fame (Even though he got it) and he wasn’t in it for the money, in fact part of the reason he was used so much was because he charged so little, he did what he did because of his love of the job, the science and solving the old “whodunit” puzzle.

He drastically changed the face of forensics and the use of medical experts in court. He studied the scene, the body inside and out and the killer meticulously, all findings were documented on little white cards which could then be easily used in future cases. When it came to court he treated the Jury well, he explained things using words they would understand and at times did experiments to show what happened. When cross examined he kept his answers simple and didn’t falter in his answers. Because of all this his many cases were won on his words alone.

The book is well written, each chapter starts off giving you a bit of background on what was happening in the world at the time, this gives a nice timeframe of when the cases were being investigated. A few problems I had with the book, it focuses all the murders, all the high profile cases that resulted in a hanging, at the end a few of the many lives he saved by proving their innocence. Also there is too much worshipping by the author, anybody who disagreed with Spilsbury is made into a bad guy here. A bit more balance from the author and I’d have given a higher rating, still this is a great place to start to learn about a real life Sherlock Holmes.