Profile for Photocritic.org > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Photocritic.org
Top Reviewer Ranking: 171,645
Helpful Votes: 18

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Photocritic.org "- Haje" (London, UK)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2
pixel
The Crow Road
The Crow Road
by Iain Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Crow Road is not The Wasp Factory, and the “twist” in the plot is not all that unpredictable, 6 April 2014
This review is from: The Crow Road (Paperback)
The whole story, quite significantly, kicks off at a funeral – one of a series of funerals in the book. The title – “the crow road”, we learn, is from an expression meaning that somebody has died, or “gone down the crow road”.

The Crow Road is a fascinating book in many ways. It is the second Banks book I have read – I read Banks’ debut novel, The Wasp Factory a few weeks ago. I was shocked and horrified (but also intrigued) by the distinct difference in style between the two books.

Whereas The Wasp Factory is a horror-thriller with a “trashy” feel to it (although the trademark, copyright, patented Iain Banks twist saves The Wasp Factory from being your average trash novel), the Crow Road is completely different.

It took me a good 100 pages to get the hang of the style Banks uses in this book – I am not sure if this is because I am particularly daft, because I was expecting something else, or because it is supposed to be like that – but it has been a while since I have read books that were truly non-linear. This book – although it has complex and intricate developments in storyline throughout – is very non-linear.

Prentice McHoan – the narrator in this story – is basically the story of his life over a non-defined period of time. The whole story is narrated in past tense, but some of the sections are more past that others. Spread troughout the novel, with only sporadic references to what time perspective the different anecdotes have in relation to each other, Banks takes the reader on a frequently frustrating ride. Specifically, when the anecdotes are at their climax, the silly little asterisk1 warns you that there is another jump in time, and you have to plough through another 25 pages of other anecdotes (which, in turn, will keep you on edge), before continuing the story at the previous climax.

1) Be sure to watch out for the * marks. Every now and then I had to go back and re-read several pages because the story line stopped making sense, only to discover I had overlooked the little * signifying that something happens to the narrative

It might be worth noting that Prentice doesn’t have the entire narrative either – every now and then an undefined omniscent narrator steps in and tells you sections of the story that Prentice finds out about later – strange, but it works really well.

In a very clever way, Iain Banks has managed to write book with several parallel story lines about one persons’ life (and the people who – either directly or indirectly – affect him)

Granted – The Crow Road is not The Wasp Factory, and the “twist” in the plot is not all that unpredictable. However, the sheer readability and literary value of the book is definitely significantly higher in The Crow Road then many of the other books I have read the last few years.


The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming tale of death... And life, 6 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Lovely Bones (Paperback)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a very strange, yet powerful book. It touches on subjects that many more established writers know to leave alone, but does so with an amount of grace and respect that makes it all worth while.

The book tells the story of the young teenager Suzanne Salmon – or Suzy, as she is known. Within the first ten pages of the book, we discover that little miss Salmon has been murdered. Before the first chapter is over, we learn how she was murdered, when, why, and who|by whom. Which makes it a rubbish detective story, of course, but that isn’t the point.

Suzy is telling her own story in the book – the story of her death, and then of her story of her own Heaven. How she keeps tabs on her friends and family, and how she struggles with the unsettled business in her life. Her desires for her first love. Her love and care for her sister. Her observations of how her family all take different ways in tackling her death.

Not hindered by the limitations of regular narration, Sebold lets her main character move between the worlds, instantly seeing anything she wants to – for good and for bad. In a charmingly half-nonchalant half-whimsical way, the story is told in the words and ideas of a teenage girl: Badly structured, strangely paced, and overall unusual. I can say that – I’ve never been a teenage girl.

The Lovely Bones has its flaws, of course: the editor ought to be fired for letting Sebold draw the book to a conclusion, then add another several mock-endings that add nothing to the book. But one thing can be said for the novel – It is one of the very few books that has made me cry. It carries much of the same hope, poise and ambition as Philip Pullman’s work, but told in a very different way.


A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters
A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant & well worth reading!, 6 April 2014
The book is basically what it says on the cover: Ten-and-a-half short chapters, which together cover a lot of ground. It is not, as you may be led to believe, a book about history, however.

Rather, it is one of those books that somewhat reminds me of those Official Soundtrack albums they keep releasing: “Music composed for, and inspired by, X”. The stories are, in fact, all fiction. But rather than being history, they cleverly become part of history. Or they will do – for anyone who reads the book. It is also obviously inspired by history, in a way that no other book I have ever read is.

10.5 chapters is a strange book by many accounts. It uses very distinct narrative structures from chapter to chapter, and each chapter can be read as a short story – as it stands very well on itself. The clever bit is how the stories actually intertwine and play off each other.

The first chapter is about Noah’s Ark, seen from the perspective of a creature that managed to sneak on board – a highly blasphemous, but also thought-provoking and profound tale of survival, and the idiocy of religion in general.

Then, in rapid succession, Barnes covers some seriously deep issues. There is a story about a women who loses her mind and sets sail for the open sea, an in-depth analysis of GŽricault’s 1819 painting The Raft of the Medusa, a story about a group of jews trying to escape Germany just before the second world war, and a most profound philosophical work on the mechanics and philosophy of Love.

Throughout this eclectic mixture of profoundness, Julian Barnes manages to keep his readers on the edge of their chairs: Without getting overly pretentious and without ever getting heavy-handed, he illustrates several points: Proficiency in a handful of distinct styles, different narratives, inspiring and fresh thoughts on a handful of topics, a few giggles (both through content and through the cheekiness inherent in some of the writing styles).

All in all, A History of the world in 10.5 chapters has only one grievous flaw: The fact that it is not the history of the world in 99.5 chapters. I would have loved to read more stories. Follow the author through more explorations, and hear more of his ideas.

The only consolation is that Julian Barnes has written a handful of other novels, all of which have instantly been awarded a one-way ticket to the top of my “to read” list. And if you have any sense – move 10.5 chapters to near the top of yours as well. Trust me, it is worth it.


Icarus
Icarus
by Russell Andrews
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable, 6 April 2014
This review is from: Icarus (Paperback)
Icarus is a novel written by Russell Andrews (of Gideon fame). It was published in 2001, by Time Warner Books, Doubleday, and Little, Brown and Company publishing houses.

The story (no spoilers beyond what can be read on the book’s sleeve)

The story is basically the story of Jack Keller. At a very young age, he sees his mother getting killed and thrown out of a window of a high-rise building. Apart from leaving him scarred for life and with a violent fear of hights, it is the beginning of a very compelling and captivating story.

Jack is raised by Dom – the person who was about to propose to his mother before she was casually disposed of through the double glazing of the skyscraper – and the connection between the two of them is strong.

Jack marries Caroline around the same time as he starts opening upper-class steak restaurants. Being quite a capitalist entrepeneur, he soon has several restaurants. He thrives until – in what appears to be a hold-up – his wife gets killed and thrown out of a window (recognize a pattern yet?), and Jack barely escapes with his life.

In deep shock, unable to walk, and having lost the will to live, Kid re-enters Jack’s life, and offers to make Jack all right again. When Kid, after having firmly re-established his friendship with Jack, also plummets to his death, Jack has had quite enough, and decides to try and find out what is going on about all the deaths around him.

Review

At 580 pages, the book is quite a read. I purchased it yesterday at 15:00. It is now 22:30. Despite being an avid reader, it only happens rarely that I read anything in such a limited period of time, so the writer must have done something right.

But what?

For one thing, the story is exciting. Without going into detail, the revelations of Kid’s turbulent sexual life are colourful and thought-provoking. Combine that with the fact that Kid has some people in his past – people he has given nicknames such as “The Murdress”, “The Mistake”, “The Destination” and “The Mortician” – who would not at all mind seing him dead, and you got a good old-fashioned whodunnit on your hand.

With new facts being delivered every few pages – effectively aiming the suspicion at everyone in the book, and the fast, movie-like pace, this novel truly and honestly is a good example of your proverbial page-turner.

The characters are surprisingly lifelike and quite human, despite their quirks and anomalies. Finding some character or another to identify with is not difficult, and only seems to intensify the reading experience.

Make no mistake, however – Andrews is no Agatha Christie, and the ending of the book is a bit slow. During the last 50 pages or so, while being interesting and effectively round up all the loose thread|loose threads, you know who the killer is, losing some of the tension. Mind you, it would have worked perfectly as a film (and with Time Warner as the book’s publisher, I would not at all be surprised if we see this thing as a film soon).

All in all, I think I would give the book four stars out of five. It is worth reading as a thriller / detective novel. It has certainly got a strong plot and vivid characters. By no means an intelectual experience, but still enough entertainment to make it a book worth bringing to the beach. Unlike my Thomas Pyncheon book, which seems to be left in the picnic basket.


Making History
Making History
by Stephen Fry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth picking up for a few giggles, 6 April 2014
This review is from: Making History (Paperback)
Making History, first published in 1996, is a book written by Stephen Fry, and is essentially a long and thorough answer to the question If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?.

The book is a piece of fiction writing, 600-odd pages long, and is an unusual novel indeed. It interweaves a set of stories: A young history student’s doctoral thesis, a historical account from the trenches of the first world war, and the main story-line, set partially in New Jersey, and partially in Cambridge, England.

In Making History, Fry explores the implications of time travel in a surprisingly non-science-fiction type way: Whereas most time-travel stories require a significant amount of suspending disbelief, Making History is a far simpler story.

Making History is the account of Michael Young, the above-mentioned history student, who meets up with a physics professor who bears a white-hot hatred for everything related to the Nazi party. Throughout the story, it becomes clear that the professor’s father was in Auschwitz – his greatest wish is to rewrite history, to make sure that Adolf Hitler is never born. Young – who slowly grows to realise that a historian may come in quite handy when attempting to re-write history – joins the team, and together they modify a machine (invented by the professor, designed to be able to observe the past), into a time machine.

The story flows easily, occasionally (disobedient to the normal format of novels of this type) in film-script format, more frequently in the more familiar third person narrative. For people who are familiar with Fry’s other work – in particular his somewhat heteroclite sense of humour – the book will carry no great surprises.

Making History is well-written, with a few Ian Banks-esque twists in the plot, captivating dialogue, some stimulating thoughts on time travel. There are many better books in circulation, and while this one has its moments, it wouldn’t be at the top of my recommendations list. It is, however, worth picking up for a few giggles and to kill a few hours on a long flight, or curled up trying to will a cold winter day to pass by.


The Yes
The Yes
by Sarah Bee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely awesome, 5 April 2014
This review is from: The Yes (Hardcover)
The yes is one of these fantastic books that makes you think about your basic assumptions. Why is the world always so in favour of the 'no', and why does it take an awesome little three-legged orange monster to teach you the power of the yes?

It's a lovely and sweet book, highly recommended.


Anker® Astro2 8400mAh Dual USB Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank Pack with Built-In Flashlight for iPhone 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, iPad Air, mini, Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note 3, Nexus 4, HTC One, One 2 (M8), Motorola Droid, MOTO X, G, and most other USB-charged devices (Apple adapters - 30 pin and lightning, not included)
Anker® Astro2 8400mAh Dual USB Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank Pack with Built-In Flashlight for iPhone 5S, 5C, 5, 4S, iPad Air, mini, Galaxy S5, S4, S3, Note 3, Nexus 4, HTC One, One 2 (M8), Motorola Droid, MOTO X, G, and most other USB-charged devices (Apple adapters - 30 pin and lightning, not included)

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Woeful quality, 9 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The product itself is fair enough, but it isn't exactly what you'd call high quality. We used it 3 times, and the Micro USB socket came out in my hand when I tried to unplug it. Dreadful build quality - avoid!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2013 3:22 PM BST


Scuba Diving - 4th Edition
Scuba Diving - 4th Edition
Price: £11.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good book, best avoided on Kindle, 27 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was looking forward to reading this book, but it turns out that the Kindle version is completely unreadable. The book is completely littered with typographic mistakes (important things like "N2" for Nitrogen aren't correctly sub-scripted), and typos like missing spaces (stringing words together into anunreadablejumble), and the captions are all over the place. In the beginning of chapter 3, I reported half a dozen problems to Amazon on the same page, before deciding they'd better pay me for copyediting at this rate; I am now attempting to get a refund for the purchase from Amazon.

I'm sure the book itself is all right, but I really wouldn't bother with the Kindle version. A cursed shame, really, as it would be really useful for travel, but there you go.


Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second
Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second
by Bryan Peterson
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars True understanding is a rare gift - packaged nicely in this book, 11 July 2008
Peterson skips the basics and the theory behind exposure - for which I'll be forever grateful, because frankly, it's not that exciting. Instead, the whole book is filled with a vast number of breathtakingly gorgeous photographs (about 160 pages worth, which means around 150 photographs or so, I think), and a fair chunk of text.

What's unique about this book, though, is that the text largely shies away from the theory, and instead takes you along on a journey, explaining the what, why, and how in a language that anyone can understand easily.

Throughout the book, you'll get examples and suggestions about how you can use fast and slow shutter speeds to freeze action, imply motion, and capture photographs at night. It talks about panning, speed, and comes with some fanciful ideas about how you can capture great photos by fixing your camera to a moving object (a broom or a shopping trolly are but two examples of getting funky photos).

Pretty damn good, and highly recommended.


Page: 1 | 2