Saturday, April 18, 2015

two why books for your consideration

hi there

at the end of the shenanigans involving certain specimen tests Spiros insisted i share with you i did, i believe, offer the promise of book reviews, or if you like review of books, look you see. to that end, then, and with nothing of significant consequence occurring to surpass the idea of reviews as the most interesting thing to hand to share with you, here you go.

the two books i read most recently had something of an accidental, unintended at point of selection thematic link. this is despite the fact that, as you shall see if you pursue reading, they are two very different types of books indeed. what is the thematic link? well, maybe have a look at them first.

what's the link? that they are whydunnit novels rather than whodunnit ones. the crime, the victim and the aggressor, or if you like criminal, are all there in the first two or three pages of each of these novels. the purpose of the stories that follow are to establish the why. quite a trick to pull off, when one thinks - if, after all, Titanic commenced with the boat sinking and that lad that looks like a 12 year old lesbian drowning, would anyone have stayed in the cinema to watch him gambling and drawing for three hours?

spoiler free reviews? Skinny Dip is one of the single funniest novels which i have read; as point of fact funniest of anything i have ever experienced. i would suggest it is damn well essential reading. Unravelling Oliver is somewhat dark, troubling yet strangely not too depressing. it is not quite the masterpiece many have hailed it or celebrated it as, but all the same, a distinctly impressive reading experience.

as usual, links are here for your convenience. they are not an endorsement or an affiliation, just a link to the easiest place for anyone anywhere in the world to get them. that said, i would really insist on reading Skinny Dip. although, as the novel is some 15 years old, i appreciate i may be late to this party.

i will do my best not to give too much of anything away, but for the sake of safety, be warned for from here on out *** POSSIBLE SPOILERS AWAIT YOU AHEAD ***

Skinny Dip, then. i had heard of Carl Hiaasen before, possibly via a means that will be revealed below, but i had not read anything by him. that has changed, and believe me will change even further, as i shall be getting more of his novels.

plot? a young and relatively recently married couple are on a cruise to celebrate their anniversary. for some reason the husband throws the wife overboard. the husband appears to have forgotten that his wife is a championship winner, and he also has a lack of understanding of which way currents run. which is impressive, considering his career. the novel, all brilliant 450+ pages of it, then, are comedy gold about trying to work out why he would have done this, and what she is going to do in response.

i have not laughed so hard at something as i have this book for a long, long time, dear reader. that might be a sign that my life is some sort of sad semblance of existence, bereft of humour, or it might be a sign of this novel being pure genius. those of you who have read it, or go on to read it, may well think ill of me, but the elements of the novel involving a bear - a background detail sub-plot - make me laugh out loud at just the thought of it. dear me, i really, really hope that bit was based on some bizarre true story.

the last time i can recall being in pain from laughter at a book is some 30 years ago. to my regret i cannot recall the name of the novels, but it was a series of books about the adventures of schoolchildren, one i seem to think was called Rufus. i wish i could remember the names of the books and get them again. those books i borrowed from Marton library. this one i purchased for a mere 50p from the library here in the village. easily the best return on investment of a 50p coin i have ever made.

where is it that i might have heard of Carl Hiaasen before? the dedication in the front of the book was one of those "oh yeah" moments.

yep, he was chums with the infamous, notorious, genius talent that was, and in mind is, Warren Zevon. i seem to recall their friendship, and fishing exploits, got covered in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.  and, looking at that link, i see he wrote the foreword to it. so i had read some of him before. ah.

can i say once more that if you are a reader, which is why you are presumably reading this, you should really go and get this book as soon as you can, if you haven't already had the pleasure of reading it?

can i, with the same enthusiasm, advise you to go off and get a copy of Unravelling Oliver too? no, not really. it's simply too dark and unsettling for many readers out there that have no wish to experience the horrors (in all senses) of the world, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to skip them.

plot? Oliver is a quiet, handsome and successful writer of books, generally liked. he comes home one day and, after a very brief conversation that we are not immediately privy to, punches his wife. he then goes off to drink, comes back, and beats her senseless, to the brink of death. this is considered very much indeed to be out of character. why, then, this barbaric brutality? we go on to explore and find out, through the medium of different narrators, as the past, future and present of Oliver is discussed by those who knew him at different points of his life.

at some 220 pages, this is taunt, tight and very careful with its words. the author has opted for edited clarity rather than the copious, padded out waffle with which this story could easily have been told. a debut novel, one would imagine, is one in which a writer would be keen to throw everything at for fear of not getting the chance of a second, so bravo.

whereas i found some of the plot developments and characterisations testing of the genuine plausibility intended, everything all the same had the effect intended. it is an emotionally manipulative novel, and with a turn of a page you go from feeling hugely sympathetic towards some characters to being reviled and disgusted by them. an impressive, as i said, trick

if the above is true, why then am i not joining the higher praise given to this book? the ending. i can't say too much more for fear of spoiler, but for me it just "wasn't right" or apt. could i suggest something better? no.

whilst Spiros is an avid reader, he has now gotten it into his head that he will only read books that have not only been reviewed by men called Tasos, but only those books that men called Tasos have declared to be ever so slightly above average. for the benefit of Spiros, then, here is such a review.

if Tasos has given some spoilers away there, my deepest and most profound apologies.

would i suggest or recommend Unravelling Oliver to anyone to read? why, yes. other than it being intriguing to discover the who, what, why, when and that of the characters in general, the quality of writing in the novel is superb. perfect reading provided by an unnerving story.

what will i be reading next? i am not at all sure. there is one book that i have here, by that bloke that did that The Farm business from earlier in the year. i am, however, inclined to spend a week or so on the bus rather listening to the vibes. i have a few select recordings i wish to catch up on, that recent live Robbie Williams one in particular. it could be only at some later stage of May that book reviews return here, but i am sure you are quite capable of finding some books all by yourself. you can use the internet, after all - you are clever.

so, go buy or borrow the Carl Hiaasen novel, i say.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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