Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ern's Monthly Page Turners (July 2010)


I'm still playing catch up with my book and movie reviews. Yesterday, I finally got around to writing my reviews for the books I read in July. By the time I work on my reviews for the month of September, this month will probably be over and I will still be behind schedule. Oh well. My reading pace drops drastically for August and September so I should be back on my normal schedule soon (not that I really have a schedule to begin with). I'm fortunate enough to have friends who actually enjoy my book and movie reviews. This month features a couple of James Bond related items, a galley (which is book talk for uncorrected proofs of a forthcoming title), a subject dear to my heart and a cute little horror/fantasy story by Neil Gaiman.

THE BOOD OF BOND by Alastair Dougall - "The name is Bond. James Bond." Any James Bond fan would love to have this book in their collection. It's a short history of every Bond film from "Dr. No" to last year's "Quantum of Solace", every actor who played Bond from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and they didn't leave out George Lazenby either! I enjoyed the Roger Moore Bond as well. Pierce Brosnan? Timothy Dalton? Well, I’m sure they have their fans as well. Each page has a short synopsis of the movie along with quotes from the films as well and is filled with black and white and color photos throughout the book. All encompassed in a moderately sized cloth binding.

BOND CARS & VEHICLES by Alastair Dougall - And with every Bond movie, you cannot forget the cars and other vehicles that are part of the movie franchise. Every cool car or vehicle is featured from all the films, once again from "Dr. No" to "Quantum of Solace". Some of the featured models are the Aston Martin DB5 (the most famous of which I have a miniature of, unfortunately collecting dust at home in the States). The BMW 750iL which could also be remote controlled from “Tomorrow Never Dies”. The Lotus Esprit S1 which can turn into a submarine from “The Spy Who Loved Me”. Some of the other vehicles used in Bond movies and featured in this book are the moon buggy from “Diamonds Are Forever”, the ultra-light or rather the gyroplane from “You Only Live Twice”, and the book even adds the Bell Rocket Belt which was featured in “Thunderball”. Published at the same time with the above mentioned title in the same format.

LIGHTS OUT IN WONDERLAND by DBC Pierre - Beware of book reps bearing false praise for writers in their stable. Recently, a book rep had given me a galley to the forthcoming release of DBC Pierre's new book, scheduled for release on September 2. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Pierre's debut novel, "Vernon God Little" and had recommended it to many friends as well, I was totally disappointed with his sophomore work "Ludmilla's Broken English". Perhaps it was due to the pressure of his publisher or agents wanting him to crank out another mind-boggling bestseller. Alas, that was not to happen. So when said rep who admitted that his sophomore work wasn't that great but had great praise for this, his third book, even saying "It might even be better than "Vernon God Little"! So hoping that Pierre is cured of his sophomore slump, with delight and anticipation did I dwell into this tome. What's this? Much better than "Ludmilla's Broken English?" Even better than "Vernon God Little"? I think not!! No no no no. In fact, I can tell you right now, this is even worse than his sophomore effort. I don't know what to make of it, except perhaps that first book wasn't really written by him. Can it be so? I haven't read anything so atrocious since Wendy Holden! It’s as if some drugged out college student had too much time on his hands and thought he wrote the masterpiece of the 21st century! And the amount of footnotes in a fictitious story does not add to the mystery, it only adds to the aggravation of reading this piece of drivel. This slice of garbage, this waste of trees. Need I go on? The protagonist is unlikable and you cannot sympathize with him. The story had such promise with "There isn't a name for my situation. Firstly, because I decided to kill myself". Alas, he not only ruins his life, but seems intent on ruining the lives of others. You might want to kill him yourself before the end of the story. Not even the setting at such locales as London, Tokyo, or Berlin are enough to save this piece of fecal matter.

STEAK : ONE MAN’S SEARCH FOR THE WORLD’S TASTIEST PIECE OF BEER by Mark Schatzker – Here’s a book you can sink your teeth into. A subject that’s dear to my heart as well! How can you not agree with the short blurb written on the inside sleeve of the book – [While Scotch lovers have long had their tasting clubs, cigar aficionados their magazines and specialty shops, and oenophiles and elaborate culture of wine appreciation, the same degree of serious attention has yet to be devoted to a cultural cornerstone that is centuries older and stirs yet greater passion : steak.] By the way, oenophiles are lovers of wine (yes, I had to look it up as well). But according to the author and other steak enthusiasts, believe that the flavor of beef has waned in recent years. To get to the root of the problem, Schatzker travels the world in search of steak in all its forms – rib eye, flank, porterhouse, strips, sirloin, prepared in all kinds of different ways. Starting with the big beef business in Texas, then heading across the Atlantic to France, Scotland, and Italy. And since he is writing about beef, he cannot leave out the Kobe and Matsuzaka brands of Japan, or the meat-loving country of Argentina. By the time he reaches South America, he has “crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean three times, the Pacific Ocean once, and logged more than forty-five thousand miles, consuming somewhere on the order of fifty pounds of steak. Some of it was lean, and some was jubilantly fatty. Some of it was rare, most was medium, and the odd steak was well done.” It’s kind of sad that the United States rated the lowest in taste from all the countries he visited, saying it probably has more to do with making the cows bigger for more profit. In the end, Schatzker decides to make his own steak from scratch as well by purchasing a couple of cows and raising them on his own. He would also take responsibility for “finishing” them (getting the cows fat and ready to be slaughtered), will do the slaughtering on his own as well. As a lover of steak, I found it fascinating to read about, but I don’t see myself going to that extreme. Just take me to the nearest Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus or even the Outback!

CORALINE by Neil Gaiman – As I had been looking forward to watching the film adaption but not yet being available for rental at the time, I decided to read the original story. Actually I’m one of those people who like to read the original works before seeing the film version anyway, so that perhaps it was a good thing that I hadn’t watched the movie yet. Some people have compared the story to Louis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” which you cannot blame them as Coraline does find her way into another world through a small door that had been wallpapered over in her new home. Being a bit lazy (as I’m writing this at 2:30am), I’ve decided to borrow from Wikipedia – [Coraline Jones and her parents move into an old Queen Anne style house that has been subdivided into four flats. The other tenants include Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two elderly women retired from the stage, and the Crazy Old Man Upstairs (later, he is revealed to be named Mr. Bobo), an eccentric acrobat who is training a jumping mouse circus. During a rainy day, in which Coraline is not permitted to explore outside (her favorite pastime), she discovers a locked door in the drawing room, which has been bricked up. As she goes to visit her neighbors, the Crazy Old Man Upstairs relates to her a message from the mice: do not go through the door.] Of course she pays him no mind and unlocks the door when she’s at home alone and finds that brick wall is no longer there. There is a long corridor that leads to an apartment that’s just like hers with her “Other Mother” and “Other Father” – the difference being they have black buttons for eyes. She has such a great time in the “Other World” that when the Other Mother suggests to Coraline that she stay forever, Coraline gives it some thought; however, there is one catch…she would have to have buttons sewn into her eyes!!

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