First published 19/06/12
One of the inevitable things of going on holiday is that you have a little bit of reading time on your hands. Due to the incessant heat (over 40 degrees on some days – Well, I’m a delicate flower… Who shouted out “A Cactus!!!”?), I had to spend a lot of time under cover reading. As a result, I completed five books over the two weeks – a feat for me.
Anyways, when I thought of writing up about the books I was in two minds – do I do full reviews or bite size reviews?
I decided upon the latter, simply because to post up five full reviews from memory would have gaps within them and it would also be very boring for you, dear readers.
So, without further ado, here I go:
“The Descendants” by Kaui Hart Hemmings
I had already seen the film adaptation earlier this year, but Cino over at Spiffingly Books recommended that I give Kaui Hart Hemmings’s novel a try.
The plot of the book matches the film very well with no glaring differences, as such, apart from the difference in Matt’s wife’s name. In the film, she’s known as Elizabeth or Liz whilst in the book she’s called Joanie. (I imagine this is to help the audience through the scene at Liz’s/Joanie’s parent’s house where her mother says that she’s going to see the Queen in the film whilst references the TV series “Joanie Loves Chachi” in the book due to the effects of her Alzheimer’s condition – after all, how many people remember “Joanie Loves Chachi”).
What the book does is give depth to the three main supporting characters of Alex, Scottie and Sid.
Alex is given more emotional strength following her drunken introduction as she not only supports her father in his quest to find out who his wife’s lover is and plays the role of “big sister” to Scottie, she also supports Sid through a family crisis of his own, which is not raised in the film, despite her own problems with dealing with her mother’s imminent passing in spite of her infidelity.
Scottie is more screwed up in the book as in the film. In my review for the film, I referred to the fact that Scottie was a ten year old within an early onset of emotional puberty. In addition to this, Scottie is given a trait of what could almost be seen as self harming to seek attention as seen in the fact that she has previously stood on a sea urchin to get the attention of a life guard and later she deliberately swims with Man’o’wars to get stung.
However, it’s Sid who gets the most development. In the film, he’s a bit of a loveable stoner who also has some wise insights into Matt’s character whilst having a serious case of “foot in mouth” at Liz’s/Joanie’s parents house. In the book this is built upon as he not only has these characteristics but he is given a back story that could be seen as similar to the journey of the King family.
If you’ve seen the film, please give this book a try as it’ll enhance the story as seen in the film.
“Moneyball” by Michael Lewis
This is the book that was the framework for the film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Basically, it follows the Oakland A’s baseball team, more specifically General Manager Billy Beane and his assistant Paul DePodesta, to build a team which can compete against the big boys, such as the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox, on a limited budget by moving away from the traditional scouting system and using player statistics as an indicator as to how they will develop and how their offensive capabilities can assist the team.
For those who are expecting a book in similar tone to the film may be disappointed as there as although it’s not a completely dry book full of statistics, there are some dry chapters which, necessarily, provides the background to the “Moneyball” system, especially the chapter regarding Bill James, the father of the theory which eventually became “Moneyball” – this was glossed over very briefly in the film.
On the upside, there are chapters that talk about some of the people affected by the system, not only Beane and DePodesta, but players such as Scott Hatteberg who is signed by the A’s following a career threatening injury which leads him to change his fielding position from Catcher to First Baseman or the pitcher Chad Bradford who has to battle with his self-belief that he is a good pitcher despite his unconventional pitching style.
“Moneyball” isn’t a bad book, but if you are a casual fan of the sport or sports in general, you may have problems maintaining momentum with the flow of this book. More for baseball purists.
“Geekhood” by Andy Robb
This book came to my attention due to a blog tour that passed through the Sisterspooky blog. I’ll make no apologies now, I loved this book.
The story follows self confessed “Geek” Archie with an obsession in adventure gaming who, by chance, meets the girl of his dreams in Sarah at his local gaming store, The Hovel. From this meeting, Archie seeks to build a relationship with Sarah in the face of a hostile reaction from his fellow Geeks and persecution from one of the school bullies.
Through the lead character Archie, Andy Robb has captured what it’s like to feel different as a teenager through the frame of the character being a geek. It’s also about that transition period in our lives where we seek to grow up and change our relationships from childhood to adulthood – whether it be our relationships between friends, children and parents or potential romantic partners.
The narrative reminded me a little of 80s television series “The Wonder Years” as Archie debates his actions with his Inner Monologue, which later gives way to his “Psychic Self”, along with the geek culture of “The Big Bang Theory” and a dash of the bawdy teenage humour of “The Inbetweeners”.
It certainly satisfied my inner geek.
“Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick” by Joe Schreiber
This book follows student Perry who takes Lithunian exchange student Gobi to his high school prom before going to college, only to find out that she is, in fact, an assassin with a mission to kill five men during the course of one night in New York City.
This is a pacy action/thriller/comedy whose strength is also its Achilles Heel in that you get little opportunity to see character development, especially for the leads of Perry and, to some extent, Gobi who are likeable characters.
Without wishing to spoil the book for anyone who wishes to read it, an additional problem for me was that the main plot point which explains Gobi’s motivation for his mission isn’t given enough emotional depth that it deserves, especially given the weighty and currently topical nature of the revelation. This also lead to the action feeling meaningless as it speeds towards its climax.
I hope that there’s a sequel to this book as there is some mileage to the characters who remain at the end for a story to be told, as long as there’s more character exploration than in this book.
“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This was a book that was recommended to me by Sonya over at the A Lover of Books blog recommended after I saw the beautiful cover for the UK edition.
This is a beautifully haunting story which follows the lead character Victoria Jones at two points in her life – at aged nine when she is placed with a prospective adoptive parent, Elizabeth, on a “last chance” basis, and at aged eighteen following her emancipation from social care and has raised emotional barriers against the world her due to her experiences which become apparent throughout the course of the book as they unfurl in a narrative style of a chapter written in the style of eighteen year old Victoria followed by a chapter written from the point of view of the nine year old Victoria.
The themes of the story include how the mistakes and secrets of the past can poison the present and threaten the happiness for the future.
The title of the book relates to the secret Victorian language of the flowers which communicated feelings, emotions and intentions between people and throughout the course of the book, you find that this is the one true way that Victoria can communicate with people without letting her defenses down.
It’s an emotionally beautiful book and one that I’d recommend to people who like reading books about families and the power that secrets hold to either destroy or to heal.