Book Spines at a site for book reviews and reading ideas for adults
The Book Gnome
The Book Gnome, a site for book reviews and reading ideas for adults

Time And Time Again by Ben Elton
reviewed by Jude Hanlon, 12 March 2017

Unlike previous novels from Ben Elton, I found this to be well written, with an intriguing story that kept me turning the page right to the end. Compared to Elton's screen work, this feels more considered and intricate. It's not a new trope that going back in time to change a single point to prevent bad things, may make things worse in the long run. I liked the alternative posed here.

The hero, ex-SAS widower Hugh Stanton is alone in the world and so is an ideal candidate for the "loop in time" that Newton discovered. He is trained, equipped, and sent back to prevent the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

Although I guessed who a supposed "mystery figure" was, the plot didn't feel predictable, and I was as un-nerved and taken aback by the ending. I liked that the baddies and goodies weren't necessarily fixed as either one or the other, but that most of the characters that are introduced have layers and depending on your point of view could be either good or bad.

Even though I was left feeling a little lacking optimism generally, this is well worth a read in my opinion.

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker
reviewed by Jude Hanlon, 26 February 2017

The premise is that a well-known author who is struggling to create his second novel goes to spend time with his college tutor, Harry Quebert. While there, the "Affair" explodes around him - the body of a girl who went missing 33 years ago is dug up in Harry's garden, making him the chief suspect.

Our hero knows (in his heart) that Harry cannot have abducted and killed the girl, despite the mounting evidence. It starts to look like this should be the material for his difficult second novel. Indeed, the implication is that the book in your hands is this second novel (which I found to be quite clever).

The story doesn't move quickly, and there are quite a few threads to track. The writing conveys the characters' motivation really well, and the twists and turns of the story are well revealed when the time comes - it was rare that I felt "there's a twist coming". The ending was satisfying - too often when I finish a novel, I think "meh, is that it?" - not so this time.

Also, by the time I had read to the end, I was surprised to be reminded that this was a translation. The language felt natural and well-constructed throughout.

Alice by Christina Henry
reviewed by Jude Hanlon, 25 February 2017

The blurb for this book tells the reader that the story is inspired by "Alice in Wonderland". All this does, is lull you into a false sense of security.

The fact that some of the characters in this book are inspired by and named after Lewis Carroll's characters is pretty much where the similarity ends. This novel is much darker and more visceral than its leaping off point. Alice starts in a mental asylum, having recovered from an encounter with the white rabbit ten years earlier. You sense very early on, the encounter was not good.

Alice escapes with her friend, Hacker, when the asylum burns down, and they embark on an adventure involving monsters, exploration, underground tunnels, gang lords and the mysterious Jabberwocky. It's also a journey of Alice and Hacker getting to know each other - in the asylum they communicated through a hole in the wall between them. With the wall removed, Alice learns who her friend is, was, and who he becomes with each new danger they encounter.

This is not a book for the squeamish - the main characters are attacked in a variety of inventive and messy ways. I'm very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

Adventures of a No Name Actor by Marco Perella
reviewed by Jude Hanlon, 23 January 2017

Marco, the no-name actor of the title of this book, is an actor who you will probably recognise, but be unable to name. He's been 'cop at roadblock' or 'baddie #2' in many films & TV shows, enough to earn the cash to qualify for the health insurance that comes with his Screen Actors Guild membership.

This series of entertaining anecdotes gives a witty, dry and unpretentious insight into the world of a man trying to make a living in a frankly ludicrous industry. We learn that a hard days work can consist of waiting most of the day in an un-air-conditioned 7-11 for your big scene which involves lying on the floor and growling threats at the Hollywood Star, or it can result in trying to pick leaves and twigs out of impossible places after spending 5 hours battling the forces of pretend nature in a simulated hurricane.

Still, it's better than spending 8 hours a day at a desk. Allegedly.

Highly recommended for pure entertainment value, even if you have no dreams of the silver screen.

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa
reviewed by Jude Hanlon, 21 January 2017

This book is a collection of essays by comedian Sara Benincasa. She covers mental illness, career choices, animal adoption and more. There isn't a narrative thread through the essays, so it would be as enjoyable to dip as it would be to plough through from start to finish, in fact, it may be better to read an essay, and let the ideas "settle" before reading another.

No revolutions will be started as a result of reading this book, unless being excellent to yourself and others is revolutionary. There are some ideas I will apply and some I will respectfully leave where they are. However, there are some strategies for improving life in general, and allowing your creative self to flourish (but not in the classic hippie-way that sentence makes it sound).

I found Sara's style very accessible, and the essays to be consistently enjoyable to read. She does not use a formulaic style that I was able to detect, which meant that I wasn't distracted by style over substance. Some of the content is reasonably "adult" so not appropriate for younger readers, but I'd say this collection has something educational to say to over-18s of any gender.

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

Coming Soon reviewed by Jude Hanlon

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Visit KS Learning for notes and articles on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë to assist with A level English Literature revision, essays and coursework.

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