Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: Crazy Town by Robyn Doolittle

Crazy Town Rob FordCrazy Town is a fast-paced narration of how we got to where we are today under Toronto’s most divisive mayor since the last one. With more detail than can be afforded by the numerous but space-limited newspaper articles about Rob Ford, there are a few more revelations here and everything is helpfully brought more clearly into focus by the background information and chronological presentation.

Crazy Town is sensible and journalistic and, thankfully, lacking in rhetoric and hyperbole. Although the bulk of the content relates to the well-known new coverage, there is room for praise and empathy.

I consider myself fairly up-to-date on the politics of the City of Toronto, but there were details here that I had either missed or never heard, particularly in relation to the history of the Ford family. Information throughout is sourced (only rarely sourced anonymously, but often backed up by others or in one case recently dismissed by Doug Ford, backed up by an audio recording), and cannot be dismissed.

Book Review: Hunger Games

Mockingjay PinAll the kids are reading it, but the popularity of this book has been late arriving when you consider its September 2008 hardcover release. Perhaps The Hunger Games was a victim of those pages of pant wetting, hormone lathering excitement known as Twilight – the best selling book of that year.

Dystopia is the new ‘vampires’ and so freed from the shadow of Bella and Edward, Katniss Everdeen is our sultry, anti-social hero from Panem, a world of fragmented districts. Every year, two young citizens, one male and one female, will represent each of the 12 districts in a fight to the death presented by a charismatic host and aired on televisions across the world. It might be too much credit to suggest that this is a nod and a wink to our X-Factor obsessed culture.

The narrative moves along at a reasonable pace and, although occasionally cheap, there are  plot twists and devices to keep you guessing. There is occasional gory content that probably makes the book less suitable for the target audience, but on the other hand, many children will likely associate with Katniss Everdeen (or the boy from her district, Peeta). Most of the inevitable kills made by Katniss have a convenient moral context to make them more palatable.  And it’s not like most parents bother to check what their children are reading, anyway. Right, kids?

Unfortunately, the book suffers from occasionally weak writing, both stylistically and in terms of sentence structure. Although Katniss is supposed to be a brooding character and the book is written in the first person perspective, there is a lot of internal dialogue of the “woe is me” variety and not much actual dialogue. This is a shame, because some of the exchanges between Katniss and Peeta, further into the book, are quite amusing and the whining can become tiresome. Unless you are a teenager.

Perhaps I just don’t read enough “YA” (young adult) fiction and I’m being picky. Afterall, Stephenie Meyer said “The Hunger Games is amazing”, and with her level of prose, she should know. Sarcasm aside, Stephen King also enjoyed The Hunger Games. But maybe he was back on cocaine.

The occasional jarring sentence wasn’t enough to prevent me from finishing the book and, oddly, I thought the book suffered less in the latter stages. It also should not be enough to stop you from reading it. Based on the fact that this is a young adult book and not a work of literary fiction, I give it 4/5.

[xrr rating=4/5]

Book Review: The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits…

That full book title? “The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin”.

Well, it is what it is. It’s a book full of tweets, and a small one at that. A pocket bible for the twitterati, in size but certainly not in scope. The 112 pages containing three or four tweets on each, along with the occasional doodle, won’t take you long to read. Perhaps one washroom visit.

Steve Martin is a funny man, and there are some laugh out loud moments. A running theme is that his wife is long suffering in the face of his comical stupidity. While it takes the imagination of Steve Martin to set-up the the context of the mirth, it is often the replies from other Twitter users that are funnier. To demonstrate, “Just saw a duck in the shape of a cloud” is met with the response, “a shotgun will generally have that effect at sufficiently close range”.

[xrr rating=3/5]

Boomerang by Michael Lewis – Book Review

Boomerang is a continuation of the financial crisis story laid-out in The Big Short. But while The Big Short was, for the most part, told from the perspective of those within the borders of The United States, Boomerang covers those counties hurting most: Ireland, Greece, Germany and Iceland.

Calling himself a Financial Disaster Tourist, Lewis visits these countries and speaks to members of government, workers and citizens. As with The Big Short, his writing style, the way he recalls events and conversations, causes the book to almost read like a novel, a work of fiction.

But there is no fiction and, as such, there are many ‘woah’ moments.

Responsibility for the $100 billion in Icelandic banking losses spread across the population equates “to roughly $330,000 for every man, woman and child”.

Anglo Irish Bank lost HALF of EVERY dollar that it invested.

In parts of Dublin, “rents had fallen to less than 1% or the purchase price; that is, you could rent a million-dollar home for less than $833 a month”.

Lewis, by writing in his narrative style, seems to struggle to link the events in these four countries to the national character. He may have a point, or he may simply be stereotyping – his coverage of Germany and their supposed schiesse obsession feels like a bit of a strain, pun excusing.

Nevertheless, the book is easy to follow, informative, quick-paced and, at times, mind-blowing.

[xrr rating=4/5]