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Dario McGeachy (Exeter, England)

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Doctor Sleep (Shining Book 2)
Doctor Sleep (Shining Book 2)
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dr Sleep, 16 Aug. 2014
Before Dr Sleep I hadn't read a Stephen King novel in a fair few years. In my teenage years I read and loved (and was terrified by) Salem's Lot, IT and of course the Shining. I also loved the film, but for completely different reasons. So when a friend asked if I wanted to borrow Dr Sleep I was excited and intrigued, I asked him if he'd read the original and if this sequel was any good. He hadn't read the original and Dr Sleep was only alright, effortless reading but unremarkable. I was still hopeful though, maybe he wasn't a fan, maybe not having read the Shining coloured his judgement, maybe he was just wrong.

Damn shame is, I've just turned the last page and I think he's right. It is only quite good; King is too skilled a story teller for it to be bad, it's just that it all feels a bit underwhelming. The first few chapters, when Danny is still Danny and not yet the adult Dan, crackle with menace as we revisit the characters from the Shining we know so well, but then the book changes course and turns into more of a character study wrapped in a supernatural thriller. We catch up with Dan as he struggles to deal with the demons of his past and the alcoholism he inherits from his father. He finds Abra, a companion who shares his gift and he helps her to face demons of her own. On the whole it's a very nice book, there is a lot of focus on AA and well meaning people helping each other out and it has to be said that Dan's journey is heartfelt and gratifying for fans who love and care about the character. King clearly puts a lot of faith in Alcoholics Anonymous and quotes freely and often from the Big Book, as a recovering alcoholic you can't blame the author for this and AA obviously helps thousands of people, but as an atheist I would have to say that their instance that you hand your life over to God (as you understand him) means that the program is not for everyone. Not too much of a problem, other treatment is available. However King, like so many AA converts, offers AA as the best and only solution and then frames the program thought the eyes of a character who has absolute proof of other plains of existence, well not all of us have that luxury Stephen! Like I say, not a huge problem, it just jarred with me a little.

It seems like a very deliberate choice from the author to not attempt to match the fear factor of the original book and it should be stressed that Dr Sleep is not scary in the slightest; if you're looking for that sort of thing then you will be disappointed. The little tension and suspense there is comes from the True Knot, a group who have been travelling the country for hundreds of years living of the `Steam' that kids who shine give off when they die. They've also noticed Abra and are eagerly awaiting an all you can eat buffet. They do sound promising as bad guys go but on the page they just seemed a little naff and pathetic, a sad band of vultures barely surviving. They have twee names like Rose the Hat, Barry the Chink and Snakebite Annie, they subscribe to a half baked mythology `We are the True Knot and we endure' and come nowhere close to matching the power and resonance of King's classic horror creations. They crucially never seem like a match for Dan and the prodigiously powerful Abra and moments of danger seem to come from her naivety and over confidence rather than any of the True Knot's actions. Their general rubbishness doesn't affect the pleasure of Dan's journey, however it does mean that Abra's tale is only worth telling because we care so much about the young Danny Torrance who suffered so much at the Overlook hotel. If you hadn't read the shining, and had just read Dr Sleep I think you'd consider the book to be deeply average, as my friend said, effortless reading but unremarkable. For fans of the original it has worth and they should find the closure they were looking for but I think that they would be kidding themselves if they thought that, as a novel in its own right, Dr Sleep is worthy of touching the hem of the Shining's garments.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars My review of..., 2 Aug. 2014
I remember seeing this book around alot when it first came out, whomever was reading it would always have fun with the ironic title. What are you reading I would ask? A heart breaking work of staggering genius they would reply. Err okay, enough with the hyperbole, what's it called? Oh right I get it. Clever. Clever and slightly annoying. What's it about then? Umm, I'm not really sure yet, was the usual reply. Is it any good? Yeah it's pretty good, they'd say.

So what's it about? Well it's being young; the drive, passion, conviction and the uncertainty. It's also a memoire of the author's young life framed by the tragic deaths of his mother and father, both from cancer, within a year of each other, which left Dave Eggers, just 21 at the time, caring for his younger brother Toph (Christopher). And yeah it's pretty good.

I enjoyed the book, it's an assured, confident debut and the announcement of an important and energetic new voice but it is not without its faults. Eggers writes with enough skill and speed to keep things interesting but it's equally true that he has a talent for producing large amounts of words which don't actually say an awful lot. That the author admits as much in the lengthy post modern, self referencing introduction to the book does off set this somewhat, he gets to have his cake and eat it too. Eggers tells us quite directly that we shouldn't be reading the waffling intro, should skip straight to the start of the book proper and would probably be best advised to stop reading at page 130 or so. What to make of the fact that he is half right? That those first 100 odd pages are the better part of the book and that what comes after, while still worthwhile in my opinion, is at times rambling, self indulgent and even a little annoying? I don't really know. It's a curious balancing act. From the authors point of view he is clearly having great fun playing with these literary conventions. From the reader's side we have to decide if the writing is good enough and we like him enough to allow ourselves to enjoy this trickery, this joshing with our expectations. There is a sense that Eggers is being completely open and honest, he probably does think that large parts of the book are self indulgent rubbish, but then he also thought enough of it to plough through 400 plus pages and hock it to publishers.

It seems to me that the author's youth is the book's biggest problem and its greatest strength, again Eggers addresses this in the introduction. He writes of telling someone about his intention to write the very book we are reading and is asked why the hell he is writing a book about being a 20 something. No one cares about people in their twenties. They have nothing to say, people hate them, they have all that youth and vitality to waste and no wisdom, no life experience, nothing to tell us. I know, I've been twenty and like everyone else I was an idiot at the time. All you have is that fury, that impotent desire to make a difference, and no idea how to use it, and that fittingly enough is where the book excels. Eggers, as is clear from his quite staggering productivity in the 10-15 year since this book was first published, has more fury, energy and impotent rage than most. Driven by the death of his parents, especially his mother, who had so much more to give, was not ready to be taken and fought to her last breath; Eggers wants to do more, to fix everything that is broken, and to make a difference god damn it. It is a rousing call to arms, a somewhat self aggrandising display of all the things which are possible. I closed the final page of the book feeling invigorated and despite its faults I think that's pretty good reason to read it yourself.


Only God Forgives [DVD] [2013]
Only God Forgives [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.99

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only Geachatron Forgives, 24 Sept. 2013
My friends and I sat down to watch Only God Forgives with a group sense of foreboding. We did not realise however, exactly just how big of a pile of arse we were about to put ourselves through. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight the warning signs were there, we just chose to ignore them.

It seems obvious now that Drive was the perfect storm of A-list actor, B movie script and art house director. I think it was just blind hope that convinced us to dedicate an evening to Nicholas Winding-Refn and Ryan Gosling's follow up. They were never going to even attempt to replicate that muscular mix of style, substance, thrills and sudden violence which made their original collaboration such a (in my opinion) treat for the intelligent film fan who still values being entertained as the most important aspect of the viewing experience. Seemingly given carte blanche following the commercial and critical success of Drive the director and his collaborator have left coherence at the door and turned the obscurity up to eleven.

I'm a massive fan of Gosling, and not just for those good looks which leave the ladies weak at the knees. He has a presence and a charisma that the movie world has lacked since the days of Newman and McQueen. Like those guys he has a stillness; you put the camera on him and he just looks cool. It's a quality which suited Drive perfectly, but Only God Forgives lingers to the point of absurdity. The characters move like zombies through the (admittedly gorgeous looking) backstreets and bars of Bangkok. It's fair to say that awkward silences do not concern our protagonists and unless you've drunk the kool-aid the near mute way the characters interact with each just comes across as deeply silly with whole scenes passing in which characters just stare at each other. It is no exaggeration to say that Gosling utters less than 30 words in the whole film. Now of course I'm being a little facetious, I get that there are issues here, themes of redemption, revenge, innocence and the relationship between a mother and her sons which are being explored. There's a character who's supposed to represent God and he's intent on demonstrating exactly what happens when you pick a fight with your creator and it ain't gonna be pretty. If that sounds like your cup of tea then this maybe the film for you. After all reviewers for Empire and Little White Lies both gave it 5 stars and they've probably forgotten more about movies than I'll ever know, what I can tell you though, is that me and my friends thought it was utter art house tosh.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2013 12:53 PM BST


Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic
by Alfred Lansing
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A humbling experience, 1 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Put simply, reading this book is an utterly humbling experience. In an age of epic heroism, of bravery incomparable to our modern day experience, the men of Shackleton's Trans-antarctic Expedition have provided us with perhaps the greatest example of the limits of human endurance in our history. `Endurance' tells their story with clarity, restraint and a deep respect for all involved and their incredible achievements.

I read this book on the back of a few extremely enthusiastic recommendations. Initially I wasn't so keen. I knew little of Shackleton and his story, plus recreations of real events tend to leave me cold. In my experience they can seem little more than long lists of stuff that happened. `So we went there, then we did this, then this happened, so he did that and I did this' etc etc. I'm not saying that there are not moments like this in Endurance, it's just that the events themselves are so awe inspiring, the stakes so high and the odds so stacked that in the words of my friend, `the book infects your mind'. It's as though every time you put the book down you've left the men stranded and the only way to get them out is to read and to keep reading. I was up late the night I finished it and even then it took 30 minutes of staring at the ceiling to shake the effect of the final few chapters.

The author Alfred Lansing, as well creating an important historical account, has written a real page turner by pairing the story down to just what is necessary to tell the tale. I have read reviews which bemoan the lack of context as a missed opportunity, that the events would have more weight if they were contrasted with the war in Europe and the sufferings of the young men in the fields of France. For me this would have dampened the profound feeling of isolation which was perhaps the most affecting aspect of the story. The men spent months marooned, camping on ice. They sailed in tiny boats at the mercy of the elements in the most hostile seas on the planet. All the while knowing nothing of the outside world and dealing constantly with the knowledge that nobody, not a single soul, knew where they were or that they were even alive. I get anxious if I misplace my iPhone. To Shackleton and his men there was no context save for the ice, the sea and their survival. Anything else would have only served to distract, to muddy the focus of events which need no embellishment. The author does allow himself some moments of florid prose but it's always just enough, never over the top and always justified.

I've chosen to give this book five stars for the simple reason that any other rating would require me to suggest improvements and I cannot. It is an incredible story told with clarity and an authority which comes from unprecedented access to the survivors and their diaries. It's a real and important achievement, a testament to those involved and a startling reality check for everybody in our mollycoddled society, the reading of which, if I had any say in the matter, would be mandatory.


A Visit From the Goon Squad
A Visit From the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Burn out and fade away, 1 May 2013
Reading A Visit from the Goon squad is like going to an incredibly cool party, meeting someone you feel an instant connection with, talking all night, then realising they are leaving the country the next day and you will never ever see them again.

If you had asked me about `A Visit from the Goon Squad' while I was halfway through reading it, I'd have told you that I was reading a book which is truly exceptional. It was so wise and truthful, so effortlessly cool and so utterly of its time. I was sucked in by its tricky postmodern structure which seemed to turn every chapter in to something profound. Like finding an old photograph which perfectly captures a certain time in your life and a feeling you thought you'd lost. It brilliantly exposes the joys and the folly of our younger selves and illustrates with a brutal and powerful clarity how time makes goons of us all. I was telling people about it, how each chapter was a snap shot of one of the main characters, that you only got one chapter for each of them and it made the time you spent in their company feel incredibly special.

All the above was still true at the end of the book but I'd lost that special relationship with it. I have to blame that tricky structure. The very thing that had drawn me in at the start pushed me away by the end. I'd grown so interested and attached to the characters that I longed to find out more about their fate. Egan does try and tie up the loose ends but the novel shifts from wisened hindsight to a stab a prescience which in my opinion doesn't really come off. I felt that this diversion took away from the feeling of authenticity which was so strong in the rest of the book. That it was one reach too far.
So a book I thought was a nailed on five stars burnt itself out before the end, kind of fitting really.


Jack Reacher [DVD]
Jack Reacher [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Cruise
Price: £2.99

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deeply average and terribly cast, 1 May 2013
This review is from: Jack Reacher [DVD] (DVD)
Tom Cruise is a small man. You know it, I know it and I'm fairly sure he knows it (never underestimate the power of denial). So can we just get past it? Nope, because he's decided to play a character whose sole defining physical characteristic is his imposing height and now we all have to talk about it. Sigh.

Lee Child has a deliberately sparse descriptive style when it comes to his most famous creation. Reacher's face is never mentioned, he comes to life on the page only as a looming, towering, menacing void. I like Cruise, he's made some great movies with a few great performances (Magnolia, for one) littered amongst the blockbusters, but looming is not his forte, towering is not in his locker and menacing? Little Tom? No, just no. So the casting is a massive fail. Brimming over with wrongability. But then Cruise is possibly the biggest movie star in the world so he gets to do what he wants, can we move on? Good, so what about the rest of the movie?

Well it's just deeply average. The opening scene is as good as it gets, a tense and shocking POV shot through a sniper rifle sights. The introduction of Reacher is similarly well handled; playfully nudging cliché with a knowing wink but the film soon loses purpose and descends into typical airport thriller territory. The whole thing feels like an adaptation of an a wholly unremarkable book and I was not surprised to learn that One Shot, the novel in question, is something like the 9th in a 17 (and still growing) book series. The author comfortable in an easy rut, churning them out like a production line and getting very rich in the process. He probably held some good ideas back for the inevitable sequels, how could you not? It would be stupid to blow your wad in the one book when there's the long haul to think about. There is no character development to speak of but then how could there be? When there are 17 books to chose from a reader needs to be able to jump in to the series at any point and still make sense of things, like an episode of the Simpson's designed for syndication, by the end everything needs to return to how it was in the beginning. This maybe fine for a schlocky thriller but it is surely bad for a big budget movie. I was trying to think of another movie franchise which plays this particular game successfully and the only one I could think of would like a vodka martini and is definitely a special case.

Add to this the terrible dialogue. `Hi `I'm Sandy, can I share your table' Reacher - `I was Sandy, last week, on a beach in Florida' and an overly long running time and you have a recipe for boredom lightened by moments of the slightly ridiculous that you can only laugh at. Werner Hertzog at least brings the dark edge so sorely lacking in the rest of the film but he is used very sparingly.

Overall then just a really forgettable film. I came into it hoping for a solid nuts and bolts thriller but what I got was so much less than that, there might have been a film in there somewhere to satisfy Reacher's fans but this has been hampered by poor casting, crappy writing and high expectations. One to catch on tele in a few years, maybe.


The Second Coming
The Second Coming
by John Niven
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The second coming of Steven Stelfox, 26 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: The Second Coming (Paperback)
It's not often that I pre-order a book but while reading the preview of `The Second Coming', one name stuck out and made me wet with anticipation. Steve Stelfox. `Kill your friends' may just be my favourite book, it's certainly the funniest and Stelfox is its black beating heart.

I've read everything Niven has written since, even the little novella `the Big Pink'. `The Amateurs' was alright, Niven still made me laugh out loud a good few times but it didn't have the edge of his first book. I bought a copy for my Dad, cause he's old, Scottish and loves golf, If I'd have given him `Kill your friends' it would have probably have killed him. The return of Stelfox made me hopeful that Niven would abandon this more populist approach and get back to being a hilarious dark twisted misanthropic bastard. But he hasn't. Oh well, guess it wasn't to be.

Considering this book struggled get a publisher in America due to its religious content, it's probably a good thing that it's not more insulting. It's definitely a fun read, not funny exactly, guess there is less comedy potential in `being nice' than in being Scottish. It certainly has some good ideas, Stelfox hasn't been completely neutered and gets all the best lines, It's well written and when taking aim at the X-Factor style game show which provides the books structure it is cutting and insightful. I thought it was less successful when deconstructing organised religion but then it's such a well worn subject it would be hard to say anything new. Overall I quite liked Niven's treatment of God and Heaven (having Mohammed appear by speaker phone is a stroke of genius) and largely agreed with his liberal philosophy.

I did however, have a fair few problems with the book. Some ideas are really shoved down your throat. Everyone in heaven smokes copious amounts of Weed. Now being of a certain age and inclination I've smoked more than my fair share but I've also seen a few mates go over the edge into dependency and paranoia and in a few cases proper madness. I don't think it should be a criminal offence or anything but it's not a benign substance and I'm not naive enough to think so but according to Niven, God is. He also takes a little too much satisfaction in the punishment melted out to sinners in hell. I thought that while fun, it jarred a little with the whole `be nice' thing. You can't really claim infinite compassion and the moral high ground while joyously torturing the people you don't like until the end of time, or maybe that's just me.

Overall then good fun, I finished it in a week because it's so easy to read and when you realise how the story is going to conclude it's a moment of `ahh i see, very clever' but i can't really say anything nicer than that. I just hope that Niven gets these nicer books out of the way and then, when he's good and established, goes back and does what he does best, and it's not being nice.


Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Emily Browning
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.74

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sucker Punch, 26 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
What the hell? First of all, there are two films here. One deals with a girl in a mental institution escaping to a fantasy world to cope with a harsh reality and the other deals with hot chicks kicking ass. You can't do both! One requires depth and subtlety, the other requires hot chicks kicking ass. The two couldn't be further apart emotionally. I'm trying to think of a director who could pull off this particular mash up, maybe a horny Del Toro? Definitely not Zack (300) Synder.

The tricky thing is i kinda enjoyed it. When the action scenes were in full flow the film had a Beavis and Butthead effect on me. Brain off, eyes wide, hot girls, stuff blowing up. Yes! Awesomeness. It's just when the action sequences ended i found i couldn't care less. It's all just so pointless and weird and it doesn't make any sense. Thing is, you get the distinct impression that the director doesn't care either. Like he's thinking `Oghh these annoying characters and their emotions and damn reasons for doing things. When can i get back to making stuff look cool and then blowing it up?' If that's all he wanted then why not make that film, why reach for all the mental institution stuff? Why is a young girls fantasy basically the same as an old Motorhead fan's? Why is she thinking about helicopters and samorai swords, steam powered Nazis and fire breathing dragons? That's a tattoo, an album cover, not the inside of a girls consciousness. It makes no sense! But then again, why am i complaining? The girls are indeed hot, the Nazis are indeed steam powered and ass is indeed kicked in some style. It's a feast for the eyes and nothing else, it's an hour and a half long music video, a video game and on that level it succeeds. Just try not to think too hard about it.


Thor [DVD]
Thor [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Offered by Sent2u
Price: £8.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thor, 26 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Thor [DVD] (DVD)
I remember watching the trailors and placing this film directly in the `download only in case of absolute emergency' category. I was shocked when a friend said he'd watched it with his girlfriend and really liked it. That she'd really liked it. And that it was really entertaining and fun. Fun? Really? With Kenneth Branagh directling? Sir Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard and some meathead no one's heard of starring? Gods and Norse mythology? I'd though this was a film which could only take itself seriously. A film which could only be really bad. How wrong was I? Very.

I really really liked this film, it is damn good fun and kudos to Branagh and all involved cause they have absolutely nailed the tone. This is a movie which knows exactly what it wants to be. It's like they've identified everything that could ruin the film, pomposity, oparatic stuffiness and over the top hammy acting and have found a way to make it work for them rather than against. There's the epic action sequences, over the top acting and grand locations to be expected. But there are also moments when the film holds up a mirror to itself and winks knowingly at the audience. Portman's apathetic sister is the comic relief and good for a few chuckles but most of the comedy comes from Thor himself. Other reviews have said that the movie sagged when it came down to Earth. No way! The Asengard stuff is played totally straight, Sir chewing up the scenery, Thor and his brother Loki locked in a Shakespearean rivalry. So far so yawn. When Thor is banished to earth and continues to act in exactly the same way he did back home the jutaposition works perfectly and i warmed to the film emmensely. The performance from Chris Helmslegh as Thor deserves special mention because the job he's been asked to do is much harder than it looks. He's got to be by turns heroic, noble, arrogant, entitled, stubborn, a douche, warm and funny. The films tone rests on his performance, it's essential that you like him as character and i'm pleased to say he gets it very right. Natalie Portman once again shows there is nothing she can't do and do well. Skarsgard grounds the proceeding with a quiet dignity and all the support do what's asked of them perfectly.

So then, for an evenings entertainment i really can't fault it. Sure the SHIELD stuff is a little over done, but it's nothing like as intrusive as in Iron Man 2 (they're seriously putting the pressure on this Avengers movie). You can say that it is not as ambitious as the Dark Knight but that's pretty harsh on a film which succeeds so well on its own terms. You only have to look at the Fantastic Four to see how badly wrong a film can go if the makers are unsure of the movie they want to make. Overall? A welcome surprise. A breath of fresh air which doesn't take itself too seriously but which is still seriously entertaining.


The Devotion Of Suspect X
The Devotion Of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars My The Devotion of Suspect X review, 11 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I saw i guy on the street the other day with a t shirt which bared the slogan 'I love thinking'. Now if this seems like an alien concept i'd recommend you stay well clear of 'The Devotion of Suspect X'. A book which demands we stop, examine, consider, reflect, basically just hold on, take a moment and think about it.

It's a sedoku puzzle of a book (to use a blindingly obvious metaphor). Rigid and restrained it never shouts and never allows the pace to quicken. It's voice is calm and rational, gently assessing the situation and stating the facts. I really enjoyed the clear unfussy prose. It's low on description and low on exposition with dialogue which is sparse and uncluttered. The author doesn't waste a sentence. All of which makes the book sound cold and calculating but the effect is strangely intimate. It's not long but I came to care deeply for the characters. The mathmatician and the physicist locked in a battle of wits while each cultivating a deep respect for each other. The books surprisingly human element gave the shocking end an emotional punch i was not expecting when i started the book.

If i was being harsh i'd say that 'The Devotion of Suspect X' relies a little too heavily on withholding information from the reader. I'd thought that the author would present all the information, lay down the guantlet and say solve this if you think you're smart enough. In the end this isn't what the book is about. It's about the characters and what people will do for each other if they are given the proper motivation. This is what will stick in your mind long after the tricky mystery has faded and ultimately, what raises this book above the average thriller and makes it an achievement i can thoroughly recommend.


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