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Ronan Smith "LordoftheRams.com" (Ireland)
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Masters Of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture
Masters Of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture
by David Kushner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Master of Story-Telling, 23 Feb 2011
Masters of Doom tells the story of two Johns -- Carmack and Romero -- who pioneered first-person shooter computer games in the early 1990s. Like chalk and cheese, but sharing a die-hard interest in programming, the pair masterminded iconic classics such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.

Kushner does a marvellous job of telling this roughly decade-long tale. In fact he spent six years researching the book, and it shows. No stone is left unturned as Kushner delves into everything about the two Johns -- their troubled childhoods, their first job together at software company Softdisk, their mutual die-hard approach to programming, their formation of ID Software, their quick rise to fame and fortune, and the eventual disintegration of their relationship.

Few books have gripped me like Masters of Doom. An expertly told rags-to-riches tale of big ideas, bigger egos and office politics, it may not appeal if you have no interest in computer games or business in general. But for everybody else, this comes highly recommended!


Shantaram
Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Never-Ending Story, 27 Oct 2010
This review is from: Shantaram (Paperback)
Shantaram opens with a memorable and captivating chapter that made me think it would live up to my high expectations. The book has been cleverly marketed as a true-live story (although much of it is fiction), received glowing reviews and bears all the hallmarks of a contemporary classic.

It tells the story of Gregory David Roberts who escapes from jail in Australia and flees to Mumbai in India. Over the course of a number of years, he works as a doctor in a slum, gets tortured in an Indian prison, joins the Indian mafia, goes to war in Afghanistan and even finds time for love.

Whilst Shantaram is undoubtedly epic in scale, the book's 900+ pages are at times painstakingly wordy and philosophical--to the detriment of the otherwise engaging story. Roberts introduces some incredibly memorable characters, weaves a mostly wonderful tale, can write with real flair, and paints India so vividly that the reader feels they are in Mumbai. But, in my view, the book could have been cut down to 500+ pages without harming the actual story. As it stands, Shantaram fluctuates from exciting to downright boring, and it took me several months to get to the end of it all.

Shantaram may try your patience at times, but it is a good book that falls a little short of "classic" status.


We All Live in a Perry Groves World
We All Live in a Perry Groves World
by Perry Groves
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.89

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a Read, 21 July 2010
Perry Groves, a bit-part player with Arsenal in the late eighties and early nineties, retired a few years before I began supporting the Gunners. So his autobiography served as my first proper introduction to the man.

Groves is the first to admit that he wasn't the most talented player to don a pair of football boots. And it is his refreshing honesty that makes for a good, page-turner of a book.

Unfortunately, Groves's honesty means that he doesn't always come across as a particularly likeable character. He speaks of purposely injuring a fellow player and admits that said player was never the same again, and he quietly seeks revenge on a diabetic man by "accidentally" spilling a cup of tea intended for the man after he collapses on the training pitch. He doesn't seem particularly regretful looking back on these incidents years later. Furthermore, his laddish sense of humour also serves as an irritant at times throughout the book.

But some of his stories are undeniably entertaining. He provides fascinating insights into legendary names like George Graham, Tony Adams and Paul Merson. He speaks at length about the drinking, the women and, yes, more drinking.

And despite some of the aforementioned unlikeable traits that are prevalent throughout the book, Groves partially redeems himself somewhat with a sentimental and thoroughly satisfactory ending to his story.

"I've always taken what I do very seriously ... But I've never taken myself too seriously."

Touché.


The Anniversary Man
The Anniversary Man
by R.J. Ellory
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.78

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keeps You Guessing, 21 July 2010
This review is from: The Anniversary Man (Paperback)
I read a lot of crime/thriller novels--Deaver, Coben, Brown, Koontz, Barclay, etc.--but RJ Ellory's fifth novel, A Quiet Belief in Angels, still ranks as my favourite (by some distance) in the genre some two years after I first read it. So The Anniversary Man, Ellory's seventh novel and second since the aforementioned best seller was released--had a lot to live up to.

It starts very well. Ellory sets the scene in 1984, introduces John Costello, a young lad of 16 who begins dating a girl named Nadia only to tragically lose her at the hands of a deranged serial killer. From this promising beginning, Ellory skips to 2006. Ray Irvine, a New York detective, finds himself on the trail of a serial killer who is duplicating the crimes of some of America's most infamous serial killers. Fate brings Irving into contact with John Costello who is now working as a crime researcher for a newspaper and has a fascinating, and odd, ability to remember dates and details relating to past serial killers. Together Irving and Costello try to second guess the serial killer as the body count reaches saturation point. But can they even trust each other?

The Anniversary Man is a solid read albeit not in the same league as A Quiet Belief in Angels. The plot occasionally plods along for a few chapters without much happening, but this book is never less than entertaining and a fine page-turner. Ellory does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing right up to the closing pages. The inclusion of information about real-life serial killers is a welcome addition, and the characters are well developed throughout the 452 pages. Recommended.


The Average American Male
The Average American Male
by Chad Kultgen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.17

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended, 5 July 2010
What do us men really think about women, relationships and sex? If you're a woman reading The Average American Male, you might afterwards decide to take thee to a nunnery and vow never to set sight on the male form again. True, Chad Kultgen's debut novel from 2007 doesn't paint man with the brightest of colours but, for me, his book is one of the most addictive, outlandish and hilarious reads to cross my path.

The unnamed narrator of The Average American Male is in his late-twenties, is in a relationship with a girl he no longer likes, and spends almost every spare minute thinking about sex and getting friendly with himself. He also plays a lot of video games and hangs out with his friends at bars and parties.

This might not sound like much of a premise, but Kultgen has created a work that will resonate with men worldwide.

His observations about relationships are at times both accurate and very funny. On one occasion, he's driving his girlfriend to the airport. She's doing his head in with incessant chatter about trivial matters.

"She keeps talking about things as I stare down the road trying to imagine what the couple in the car in front of us is talking about. I can see the silhouette of the woman in the passenger seat. She's kind of flailing her arms around and every once in a while pointing at the guy driving, who's completely motionless, staring straight ahead and probably looking at the car in front of him wondering what the woman in that car's passenger seat is saying to the guy driving."

Some people will read The Average American Male and not "get it". They will say that the main character is a man of no values with few redeemable qualities, that the book's other main characters aren't properly fleshed out, and that the novel presents a one-dimensional and pitiful view of men who see women as mere sex objects.

But these people are only partly correct. Although a novel, The Average American Male is saturated with the sort of frank honesty that should be applauded. Kultgen has produced the sort of book that few people would have the balls (no pun intended) to write. He has written on paper--albeit in a somewhat exaggerated and tongue in cheek fashion--exactly what men often think but don't say. He also succeeds, from a man's perspective, in delivering an ending that speaks volumes about relationships and how they evolve--or dissolve--after time.

Sexually explicit (and by no means intended for a young audience), extremely funny and vile, this is a book that will mainly appeal to young men who have "loved" and lost and "loved" again. If you've read the factual I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, note that this has a similar style except that it is a novel, and is infinitely more funny, intelligent and addictive. Highly recommended.


Dead Drunk
Dead Drunk
by Paul Garrigan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.72

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, 28 Jun 2010
This review is from: Dead Drunk (Paperback)
Dead Drunk is a heart-warming story about Irish man Paul Garrigan's long battle with alcohol and his eventual salvation in Thailand's Thamkrabok temple. Writing with unflinching honesty and humility, Garrigan brings us on a journey from Dublin to London, Oxford and Saudi Arabia before ending up on the other side of the world in a last-ditch effort to quit the booze.

Short, approachable chapters and simple yet effective writing help keep the pages turning on what is an at times sad and poignant tale. Garrigan always dreamt of being a writer; with Dead Drunk he has successfully realised his dreams whilst simultaneously serving as an inspiration to others.


The Internet Is a Playground
The Internet Is a Playground
by David Thorne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comedy Gem, 9 Jun 2010
If you've never visited David Thorne's website 27b/6, don't go there just yet. Buy The Internet is a Playground, and then visit the site once you've consumed every page of this hilarious book.

The Internet is a Playground comprises "the complete collection of articles and emails" from Thorne's infamous site. So there's little here that you can't already get for free on the website, but Thorne's material really does deserve a place on your coffee table.

Thorne shot to fame in late 2008 when he tried to settle a bill with a drawing of a spider. The resulting email correspondences were posted on his website, and word quickly spread around the internet.

The book consists of the spider piece along with a number of similar--and no less hilarious--emails. Thorne invites himself to his neighbour's party, turns the tables on a strict teacher and weasels his way out of paying a late fee for some rented DVDs. But summarising these emails could never do them justice. You just have to read them yourself. Read one and I guarantee you will be hooked.

Unfortunately, the "articles", which feature on Thorne's website and form a large part of the book (much more so than the emails), aren't anywhere near as funny or engaging as the emails. Many of these articles see Thorne writing in the name of people he knows--such as colleagues--and essentially parodying them to the utmost of his ingenious abilities. These articles have their moments, but generally I found myself racing through them in order to get to the next email piece.

Make no mistake about it, the emails featured in this book are comedy masterpieces. Like hidden camera TV shows, half the fun is seeing how people react to Thorne's absurd emails. And Thorne never fails to reply to each email with clever arguments, witty observations and downright off-the-wall logorrhea .

If you like the writing of Maddox, then you'll love The Internet is a Playground.


Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues - a Fan's Story
Red Mist: Roy Keane and the Irish World Cup Blues - a Fan's Story
by Conor O'Callaghan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.60

3.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Saipan, 9 Jun 2010
It was Ireland's 9/11. Nobody died, but the entire country was in mourning. Roy Keane sent home from the 2002 World Cup, and a nation up in arms over who was to blame for the catastrophe - Keane or the Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.

Connor O'Callaghan provides an account of the Saipan saga whilst interweaving stories from his own life during the tumultuous events. Red Mist is a solid read and serves as a great reminder of just how divisive the Keane/McCarthy debate was. Neighbours and families throughout the country became embroiled in the argument, and some even stopped speaking to each other completely as they took sides and held firmly on their convictions. In fact the most entertaining parts of Red Mist centre on the effects of the debacle on O'Callaghan, his son and the community.

The telling of the Saipan story itself doesn't offer anything new. It would have been great if O'Callaghan interviewed some of the Irish players under a veil of anonymity. Did Keane really call McCarthy an "English c**t" ? O'Callaghan quotes the newspaper reports aplenty, but it would have been great if he had spoken to a number of people who were actually there. Also, the numerous side-stories at times take from the telling of the Saipan incident itself.

Furthermore, O'Callaghan writes in the present tense and constantly refers to dates in the book as "last Friday" and similar. That would be fine if Red Mist was written in a diary format and the reader could easily keep track of the days/dates to which he is referring. But O'Callaghan often moves the action on a few days or weeks and then again refers to "last Thursday" or "last Friday", making it difficult for the reader to know on what dates things actually happened.

As a retelling of the Saipan saga, Red Mist isn't entirely successful. But then again, that doesn't seem to be O'Callaghan's primary objective. As a memoir based on the months after Saipan, and as a case study of how it affected the ordinary man on the street, Red Mist is a triumphant success. Worth a read!


No Time For Goodbye
No Time For Goodbye
by Linwood Barclay
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.27

4.0 out of 5 stars A great page-turner, 22 May 2010
This review is from: No Time For Goodbye (Paperback)
Cynthia Bigge wakes up one morning to find her whole family--mother, father and brother--have disappeared. So begins Canadian Linwood Barclay's thriller--an engrossing, easy read that moves along at a great pace. 25 years have passed by and Cynthia is still none the wiser as to what became of her family. Then the jigsaw pieces begin falling into place, leading Cynthia and her husband, Terry, on a thrilling quest to solve the mystery. If you like Harlen Coben, give Linwood Barclay a try. An enjoyable page-turner!

No Time For Goodbye


Chasing the Eighties: The Ultimate North American Roadtrip
Chasing the Eighties: The Ultimate North American Roadtrip
by Spencer Austin
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remembering the Eighties, 20 May 2010
Spencer Austin travels the width and breath of North America, reliving his childhood in the ultimate eighties roadtrip. At times Austin displays a nice turn of phrase as he visits the locations, and meets the people, behind some of the most legendary movies and TV shows of that decade, including Back to the Future, The Goonies, Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas.

However, the book is let down badly by a plethora of spelling and grammar mistakes - by far the worst I have ever encountered in a published book. Spencer is at his best when he's interviewing movie stars and getting some hot Hollywood gossip, or when he gives a rare insight into what him and his friends get up to at night time (stories of his friend Luke's fleeting romantic liaisons are hilarious) but the book suffers somewhat from a tiresome side-story about a long-lost girlfriend, and it never quite lives up to the high pedigree of the fascinating subject matter.


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