Friday, 27 April 2012

Book review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently, #1)Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Douglas Adams is a superb writer. That much is evident from whatever you read of his. I'd read Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy and absolutely adored it. Adams makes you laugh out loud and makes complicated ideas or stories simple and believable when they shouldn't be!
This was the problem I had with this book. I was on board for the ghost, the electric monk and his horse, even for the time travel, but the space ship for me was a step too far. I know that's a completely absurd thing to say, but I just think Adams took it too far to a stage where I was actually bored a didn't care. In fact I skipped quite a bit towards the end.
It took far to long for the reader to meet Dirk Gently as well. In fact, the book was really about Richard and his various problems. Richard was a brilliant loveable character who struggled with several things including wrapping his head around the whole concept. Dirk on the other hand was a bit of an arse. He spent the majority of the last third of the book sulking because someone beat him to an idea.
In the end I'm quite glad that I watched the series first because I loved it. Stephen Mangan is a fantastic Dirk Gently that can be an arse and loveable and Darren Boyd is a brilliant Richard MacDuff who bumbles through the case, trying to clear up Dirk's mistakes. I don't think I'll be reading another unfortunately.
Just a quick note. Adams is brilliant with dialogue and he has a wonderful sense of imagination.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It's time to begin, now count it in... 5, 6, 7, 8!

When I was a kid, Steps were one of the biggest groups in the UK. I knew all the dance moves, had all the music and the lyrics were burnt into my brain. When I heard they were touring again, I practically squealed like a little girl. Tickets were purchased, a hotel was booked and train tickets ordered and soon me and my friend Sophie were on our way to Birmingham.
After an uneventful train journey, an eventful journey around Birmingham trying to find the hotel, a quick dash to get changed and a speedy taxi ride to the LG Arena we discovered not only were we on time, we were early and had to sit through Kamaliya, who sounded like a dodgy entry on the Eurovision song contest. Before Steps came on stage, they played music videos by their favourite artists. It was a nice touch and I wish they'd had that instead of any support artists, rather than as well as. 
Then finally, they arrived. Steps used their background screen to full advantage and started off with a vault door, the numbers counting down until it exploded open, and five pod like tubes appeared on stage, inside each of them a member of Steps. The crowd went absolutely wild, seriously, screams of absolute joy and excitement. I'll admit, I was one of them. 
Just after You'll Be Sorry
After the first few songs with a distinctly science fiction theme, we moved on to the biggest dance game ever. Each part of steps took a part of the audience, which had a certain dance move to do. Then they performed some of their biggest dance hits, wrapping it up with 5, 6, 7, 8. Deeper Shade of Blue was amongst this lot, and I was proud to say that I remembered all of the moves (ish!) and had the best time of my life doing them. I was there with a load of Steps fans, doing the dance moves and for once, I was not cheesy! Seeing the whole crowd do the same moves all at the same time was brilliant. But Steps did cop out a bit, leaving us to watch YouTube like videos while they went to get ready for the next part. 
Following that was Better The Devil You Know, outfits were changed to red and sultry and frames were placed on the stage. The song was mashed up with Lady Gaga's Judas, which was a genius move. They're obviously a big fan of the woman in question and both songs worked brilliantly together. All this was rounded off with a bit of fire throwing, as you do before they moved on to the next stage of the so far exciting, but quite tiring night.
Claire's solo performance of I Surrender
Up next was the solo section. Each member took to the stage by themselves to give us something 'specially for you' as they said. It started off with Lee doing a mash up of Moves Like Jagger and S&M. He isn't the strongest vocalist, but every single woman in the crowd screamed like teenage girls when he appeared on stage, red shirt wide open. The mash up worked brilliantly as well. Following him was Faye, with Dreamgirls number, One Night Only. The backdrop was filled with beautiful images of her and she sang brilliantly, accompanied by some lovely looking lads in pink hot pants. Then there was H, he sang Don't Stop Believin', which I was a little worried about to start with, but the crowd adored it, singing along to every word. His performance very cleverly used the background, to make it appear that he was catching rain drops and being fired across it. Lisa followed him, and she did some dance tracks that I didn't recognise. I didn't enjoy it as much as the others, simply because that's not my kind of music, but at one point she wore some fantastic wings, that looked incredible. And as always, they really saved the best for last. Claire is by far the best singer, and her performance of I Surrender was simply stunning. It was just her, in a beautiful gown and sparks showering down. That was all she needed. 
One For Sorrow
Following the solo section, they sang a selection of slower songs, such as The Way You Make Me Feel and Heartbeat, rounding it up with One For Sorrow. To be honest, it was a welcome relief to sit down for a few minutes and just listen to them. Their harmonies were lovely and the slower songs are some of my favourites. 
The final part of the concert was basically Disco hits. There was a costume change into neon colours and sequins and they performed Chain Reaction, Dancing Queen, and finally for their epic encore, Tragedy. It really was epic. To see a whole crowd doing the whole dance routine. As the others, the moves came back in a flash and it was an absolute thrill to be in sync with the rest of the audience, singing out hearts out.
Steps were never well known for their touching song lyrics, or originality, but there is one thing they are the Kings and Queens of, and that is fun. Even if you're not a fan, you can't leave the arena without having had a fantastic time. They definitely know how to put on a show, and a smile on your face.
Chain Reaction

Friday, 20 April 2012

Book review: One Day by David Nicholls

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As usual, I'd seen the film before I'd read the book. One Day isn't the book I'd normally go for. I don't read romance novels but seeing the film, with the humour and characters and a recommendation from my friend Helen, I finally picked it up from my shelf.
I love the concept. The idea that the story is told through one day over several years is brilliant and is certainly unconventional. You go straight to the interesting parts without the waffle.
However, there were some downsides. Any of the early chapters where Emma and Dexter were together was annoying. All they did was argue. I know that it was supposed to be playful etc. but really it just got on my wick. It put me off both characters.
Even separately, they were a bit annoying. Emma was hypercritical, disapproving of Dexter's numerous girlfriends but banging the headmaster and Dexter blamed the majority of his problems on his mother's premature death. I just wanted to bang their heads together.
However, as they grew older, they became less annoying and finally the inevitable happened and the last chapters are lovely. I came to like Dexter more and more as he tried his best to be a good husband, father and manager. Emma meanwhile was still a bit childish. She still started arguments for the sake of it.
At the end, the characters got to me and by the final chapters I was bawling my eyes out. It is exceptionally well written, made me laugh out loud and is full of eccentric and eclectic characters.

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Book review: Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom

Dark FireDark Fire by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one hefty book. That was all I thought as I travelled halfway across the country reading it!
I loved Dissolution, the first in the Matthew Shardlake series, and although I didn't always agree with the main characters point of view, I was swept up with the medieval murder mystery and all it's characters. It was a bit like Agatha Christie, in that it was a limited number of suspects, yet a bit like a modern day thriller, where people died dramatically and there was tonnes of tension.
This was a different kind of story. We had two mysteries, one was a young boy's death and his supposed cousin who killed him. The other was Greek Fire, whether it existed and how to make it.
I'll be honest, I don't care about politics, or religion all that much, not when reading a murder mystery anyway, so the whole stuff about Greek Fire and whether Henry VIII was pleased or not with his wife was of no interest to me whatsoever. There were some exciting moments related to this, but I was generally on Guy's side throughout this book. I'll let you read it to find out what his opinions are!
The other murder mystery was good, but rather predictable. There's a young girl who has been imprisoned for murdering her spoilt brat of a cousin and who won't say a word about it. Reading about the different characters within the family are interesting, even if none of them are likeable. I must also add that the wrap up of their storyline is completely ridiculous. It seems like Sansom thought he'd just add that in there along with the fire, the rooftop chase and everything else that happens in the twelve days that Shardlake is investigating both cases.
This brings me nicely to his new assistant Jack Barak. A brilliant name to start with! He's appointed by Cromwell to help Shardlake with his investigations and to keep an eye on him. At first, I was a bit unsure whether I liked him or not. I liked Mark very much from the first book and was hoping he'd come back, but by the end I was smitten.
Sansom does write characters and events very well. There is a physical tension when reading the book and I found myself holding my breath several times as I read. But I was let down by the plot. It won't stop me reading this series though, and I look forward to the next in the series.
Just one added note. C.J. Sansom is obsessed with straight white teeth and mentions that pretty much every character has them. It's annoying and I'd imagine a bit unrealistic for the time period!

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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Book review: Miles Behind Us (The Walking Dead Vol. 2) by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind UsThe Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a massive fan of the TV series, and have read the first of The Walking Dead graphic novels, so I'm going in with a lot of preconceptions.
For a start, I love the characters, the idea (although not original, has been made fresh) and the story. However, I imagine a lot of that has come from the TV show. I imagine Rick in my head as Andrew Lincoln as I look at the pictures on the pages.
Miles Behind Us covers the second series of The Walking Dead, introduces us to Hershel, Maggie and Otis, and ends where they do. I won't say where in case you're catching up on the series. But for me, it's too quick a read. In the end, it always fall back on the same argument, that this would be brilliant if it was a normal book. It would also let my imagination run wild. There's no time scale in the graphic novel either, unless a character mentions that a couple of weeks have passed since a certain event.
Despite all my negativity, there are some good points. A section which revolves around a housing estate is particularly exciting, but I won't give it away. There are also relationships and characters that I wish were explored on the TV show.
This is still a brilliant, gripping book, that I read in less than an hour. You hold your breath all the time and feel for the characters and what they're going, wishing that you had this idea before Robert Kirkman. But my final note and possibly the most important as this is a graphic novel, is the illustrations. The drawings for Vol. 1 were clear, crisp and beautiful. Vol. 2 is a bit of a disappointment in comparison. Characters appear completely different and the drawings are slightly muddier and dirtier. Maybe I've been generous giving this four stars, but I can't wait to sink my teeth (in a zombie like manner) into Vol. 3.

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Friday, 6 April 2012

Book review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie Collection)And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into the legend that it Agatha Christie. I had heard a lot about this book before I started it and by chance I picked it up on a stall.
I knew the concept before I started, ten people on an island together and each of them gets picked off one by one. When I started, it was quite a lot to take on board. You're introduced to all the characters within the first chapter. It wasn't until they were all at the island that I started settling down with the characters. I had to turn back a few times to check I was reading about the right person. However, once the first few people start to die off, it makes it easier to keep track of everyone.
Not only is this an excellent murder mystery, with a well thought out plot, Agatha Christie is a brilliant writer. I must admit, having characters say 'by jove!' and one girl getting slapped to stop her being hysterical was something I loved as well. It was everything you expect from a murder mystery of the time period, and more.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Book review: Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace

Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding Quartet)Nineteen Seventy Seven by David Peace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the second in the riding quartet and after an exciting start in 1974, I couldn't wait for this.
Eddie Dunford is no longer on the scene, instead the reader follows Jack Whitehead, a burnt out reporter and Bob Fraser, a young policeman.
Anyone who's read 1974 will recognise these characters, but they're not overly familiar. However, having two narrators isn't necessarily a good things. Whitehead and Fraser sound similar and it can be confusing. Frequently I had to turn back to check and see who I was reading about.
I wasn't born at the time of the Yorkshire Ripper so I was going in more or less blind. David Peace doesn't shy away from violence, or bad language, which makes the book come alive, the characters and scenes leaping from the page.
It's a brilliant book and I can't wait to read the next installment. From the start to finish, I feel like I'm holding my breath, waiting to see what the next page will bring.

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