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2019 50 Book Challenge

California Dreamer

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This is a thread where we share brief reviews of books that we read during the year. The general idea is that members aim to read 50 books for the year, but there's no obligation to do so. We're interested in your opinions on whatever you're reading; there's always a chance that it will be the next book on our t-read list.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies

Bob Zmuda was Andy Kaufman's collaborator and writer for many years. As such he is a lifetime practitioner of absurdist humour and practical jokes. Anybody who reads a book subtitled "The Truth, Finally" by such an unreliable narrator needs to take it with a huge pinch of salt.

The book gives out very little information that people acquainted with Kaufman's story wouldn't already know. Much of it is taken up with the making of the film Man on the Moon, and people who have seen that film aren't going to learn much about Kaufman from this. The bulk of the rest of the book is Zmuda laboriously trying to sell the idea that Kaufman isn't dead and is coming back. Occasionally Lynne Margulies gets to contribute a snippet where she comments on something Zmuda wrote. It's pretty clear from what he writes here that Zmuda is trying to have a lend of the reader; just one more lame attempt at a practical joke.
 

California Dreamer

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2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco

Illustrado is essentially a look at the elite of Phillipines society; politicians, writers, political activists and business moguls. The corruption, unrest and personal failure of these people is laid bare.

Syjuco's story starts with the drowning of expat literary lion Crispin Salvador in the Hudson River. His student, Miguel Syjuco, takes it upon himself to research Salvador in order to track down Salvador's missing and controversial final manuscript, while also seeking an answer as to why Salvador would have reached such an end. The story is told via interleaved snippets from Syjuco's biograpy-in-progress, from Salvador's own work and from a third-person narrator. This seems to be pretty effective; apparently many readers have become convinced that Salvador is a real writer.

The construction of this book is clever and the denouement is well done; you can see why it is admired. Unfortunately there was not a single character in this book that I warmed to, empathised with, or cared about. I guess when a first novel wins a prestigious literary award, one approaches it with high expectations, and this book did not live up to that.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco

3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven

* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

Steven Stelfox is a music industry mogul who has made a fortune producing pop talent shows and girl bands. He is now properly rich, or at least he thinks he is until David Geffen's yacht pulls in next to his. Stelfox realises that he is still really only small change and not a real player, so he becomes determined to make that happen.

His opportunity arises when his old mate James summons him to help with a crisis. James runs a record label whose star signing is Lucius du Pre, a childlike superstar who lives in a secluded ranch called Narnia surrounded by animals and hosting parties for little boys. One of those little boys has some compromising footage, and hence the crisis. Stelfox pulls no punches and brings all his resources to bear to both resolve the crisis and ensure that he enriches himself further in the process.

This novel is just a romp, but a hugely enjoyable one. Stelfox is a splendidly contemptuous and sardonic narrator; his continual put-downs of people less fortunate than himself and his idolisation of Donald Trump make him an appealing anti-hero for our times. The book is populated with a myriad of grotesque and exaggerated supporting characters, much in the style of Tom Sharpe. I would say that anybody who likes Sharpe would enjoy this.
 

Harold falcon

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I just finished


1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

The goings on of people from a small town and a nefarious cliff which seems to attract suicidal women.

I rather enjoyed it. It’s told from the point of view of a dozen or so characters. It took me half the book to get straight who was who but once I did I slid right into the narrative. Enjoyable for that kind of thing. 3/5.
 

LonerMatt

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1. The Broken Kingdoms

2nd part in a trilogy, protagonist shifts and story is fairly interesting with new dynamics involved.

2. The Kingdom of Gods

3rd part in a trilogy, protagonist shifts and story is fairly interesting with new dynamics involved. A bit of a limb to write a narrative driven series of books but shift the protagonist each time. Not sure whether this worked or didn't, not as strong as her most recent work, but a lot of the roots and narrative stylings are being hashed out and fine tuned in this earlier work

3. Semiosis

A group of humans leave Earth to create a new society called Pax. On the planet there is a sentient plant that, initially, the humans are scared of. However, the next generation realises that without pairing with this plant they will die out, they are just not suited to life on the planet. They pair and a lot of the novel plays with the grey area between mutual working and control. However, the ending was super weak and all of that tension and ambiguity that was well done ends in some sort of 'tra la la we are all better if we get along'.

I know that, but I wanted to read about sinister plant intelligently manipulating people.
 

LonerMatt

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People who are hoping that if we all just get along the future won't be so bleak.

IOW, my Mum.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven

4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman

This graphic novel is a noirish thriller about a secret society of banking families around the world who exert great powers through the influence of the ancient god that they worship: Mammon. In Hickman's world, massive crashes in the stock market are due to Mammon claiming his due, and the occasional gruesome death of a wealthy banker is a necessary sacrifice.

Inspector Dumas is investigating such a gruesome death: the slaughter of the young Daniel Rothschild. Some arcane symbols were written on the wall in the victim's blood, and Dumas is determined to find out what they mean. This leads him to an abyss that he may not be able to resile from.

I really enjoyed this and will certainly be reading the next instalment, but I do admit to being baffled at times. I had a lot of trouble keeping track of who was who and often found myself flipping back to the start and refreshing my memory. I felt that I wasn't quite getting the symbols used, making me feel like I was missing something a lot of the time. I also didn't understand why the Rothschilds, alone among the banking families, have a familiar that follows them wherever they go. Perhaps these things get explained in future instalments.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven
[
4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman

5. Bad News, by Edward St. Aubyn

Bad News is the second of the Patrick Melrose novels. As with Never Mind, this book is a vignette from Patrick's life. The first novel showed him as an abused child, whereas he is now a twentysomething with massive drug addictions to deal with.

Patrick's abusive father has died and he is required to go to New York and collect his ashes. The feelings stirred up by this event derail him from his avowed intentions to go clean, and he embarks on a weekend of compulsive drug-taking, drinking and vain attempts to hide them from people who are attempting to sooth his grief by praising the father that he hated.

The book is dominated by detailed scenes of Patrick shooting up or otherwise ingesting drugs in a variety of seedy locations. There is the occasional laugh to be had, but overall this is a pretty dire Lost Weekend kind of story. Patrick is a pretty unattractive character in both books, the situations that the author puts him in are unappealing and the actions that he takes are repellent. I don't find a lot to like about the Melrose novels.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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1 Radical Technologies:The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield

There is no doubt the smart phone has changed the way we live. It ha been integrated into our lives to the point where its nigh on impossible to function effectively in society, some may want to debate this fact.

Greenfield explores the impact and potential that new technologies are having upon our lives. Good example is UBER, this morning the ABC RN ran a program about the destructive impact of it on the Taxi industry and its human toll.

Thought provoking journalistic examination of the current technological state of play in society and the potential for either positive or negative change and its impact upon the world as we know it.
 
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Geoffrey Firmin

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Thanks Malcolm and Co, its now cheaper to buy from Dymocks store than to buy from Bookdepository.:brick::brick::cloud::censored:
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven
[
4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman
5. Bad News, by Edward St. Aubyn

6. Education, by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was raised in a remote Idaho community ruled by her extremist Mormon father. She never went to school and was told all her life that her future was to become the wife of some Mormon husband just like her father and be subservient to him. This memoir is about how Westover broke the shackles of her upbringing and went on to obtain an education at some of the most prestigious centres of learning in the world, and what it cost her to get there.

This book is beautiful in parts, there is suspense and a lot of it is frankly hair-raising. Westover's family reminded me a lot of the Mormons living under the iron rule of Harry Dean Stanton in the TV series Big Love; largely separated from modern society and unable to function within it. Westover's attempts to both escape from her sheltered life and to remain in touch with her roots are gripping to read.

This is easily the best book I've read this year so far, and I'll be surprised if anything tops it.
 
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Geoffrey Firmin

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2.LEFT BANK: Art Passion and the Rebirth of Paris 1940-1950 by Agnes Poirier

This is a book about Paris. A city and its intellectual class, its artistic class its ideas and their lives, their loves and their creative achievements. Its also about politics. A study in culture. Of identity, of the idea of identity of literary and artistic figures of impressive statue. Hemingway on his way to the Scribe Hotel during the liberation of Paris stops at Picasso’s studio. Picasso is not home. Would Monsieur like to leave a note? Hemingway runs back to the jeep grabs a box of grenades and writes, “To Picasso from Hemingway.” Then departs.

The book is full of anecdotes and characters and while a history it has the pace and style of solid narrative fiction.

Of Jazz, art and above all Existentialism and its principals Sartre, de Beauvior, Camus. The intellectual literary giants behind it all.

One of the best books I have ever read on the subject full of insight, charm and genuine warmth for all concerned. Except the stupid Communists and Capitalists and lets not forget the insufferable bourgeoisie.

Reminded me why I read Nausea and wore a Victor Mature, I was a teenage existentialist tshirt back in the late 70’s. Highly recommended.
 

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