Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: How to Become a Celebrity by Charles Hopkins-Thyne

As the title suggests this "How to Become a Celebrity" a practical guide book that promises the reader to help him or her become a celebrity. The author seems to know the showbiz arena inside-out, and has a lot of advice to offer to the young people who are dreaming of making it big in the movie and music scene, and in the arts world in general.

“Anyone can be famous,” we read somewhere, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can be a celebrity. The celebrities, like it or not, seem to serve a purpose in our modern era: they feed our need for gossip, they make us bathe under their limelight and they kill our boredom. But how easy or how hard is it to become one yourself? The truth is that it’s very hard, but thanks to the author the reader gets to know all they have to do to make it happen.

Desire and persistence; these two are the basic elements that one should have in their character to achieve their goals. As we read Abraham Lincoln have fought hard and lost many battles in the process, in order to become the man that now everybody knows, and most people admire. What’s true for politics is also true for the showbiz. Don’t let the rejections and the stonewalling get you down, the author seems to suggest, and as Lincoln did, “Identify exactly what you are good at, exactly what your strengths are,” and work on them.

What makes this the useful book that it is though, is not only the author’s inside knowledge and wisdom, but also the appendix that provides the reader with dozens of names of organizations, links and addresses that can make a hopeful star’s first steps in the glittering world of showbiz much easier.

Thus, if you’re one of those people who dream big, then this is the book for you. Reading it will point you in the right direction; following the advice it offers will most likely lead you to your destination. This is a guide unlike any other out there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean and Other Poems by Claire Fitzpatrick

Poetry is not an easy beast to tame; it takes effort and time, and it does take a lot out of you if your abandon yourself in its vices. Claire Fitzpatrick has written a collection of poems that at times seem to be bleeding, and which at other times almost silently bathe in the sweet smelling waters of love. In these pages you’ll come face to face with a lot of emotion, with torrents of humanity and human frailty. Fitzpatrick doesn’t hide behind her words; she seems to wants to express herself in a raw manner, with words that convey their meaning in a straightforward and non-cryptic way.

“If I wipe my brain against sandpaper
And find the true artist in my soul
Will you see me as I am?
A dreamer, idolatrous, alone.”

she wonders somewhere, while someplace else she feels bitter about a precious yet painful gift she receives:

“…And yet you give me your heart:
A fortress encased with envy and hatred
And it burns me
Until my skin begins to peel away.”

This is a world of love and of hatred, of joy and of pain, that we live in, and the poet’s job is to talk all about that, to give voice to our feelings, to sooth our anger, but also to make us rebel against the injustices that we have to go through during our time here.

There’s always been an ongoing discussion on what makes poetry great, and on what makes someone a great poet. Some people say that it’s the technical part that’s more important, while others insist on the significance of the voice. However, apart from the great lyrical epics, not only of the western but also of the eastern world, it is mostly the shorter poems that talk about how people think and feel that win the day. Byron talked about a woman “Who walked in beauty”, Emily Dickinson found that beauty in the things and the people around her and so did Christina Rossetti. Even Poe, despite all the darkness that surrounded his being, talked about the struggles of the human soul and his love that was not destined to live for long. What is it that I’m trying to say? Simply that the beauty of this collection lies in its lyrics, in its soul…

“I have not felt your heart
For so long now
That I feel as though it's stopped beating
For me  
When I am near.”

How many of us have we felt that way over the years? I guess, most. How many of us did we put our thoughts, our feelings, onto paper? Not many.

While reading this collection I felt as if the poet was speaking directly to my psyche, and in more than one instances I caught myself thinking: “Yes! That’s it…”

Claire Fitzpatrick is a young poet, and as such she still has a long way to go, but if I were to judge by the poems at hand I’d say that her future looks promising and bright.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Newsflash - Crime Factory 13

This is just a short note to let you know that two of my book reviews have just appeared in the Australian crime fiction magazine Crime Factory. The books I wrote about were Donna Leon's The Golden Egg and Joe Clifford's Choice Cuts. For a future issue of the magazine I'll be reviewing Reckoning by R Thomas Brown, as well as Karin Slaughter's Unseen, which is coming out at the beginning of July.

If you want to buy a printed or Kindle edition of the magazine follow this link. If you're only interested in a pdf edition you can find it there as well for free.

If you are interested to know what I'm reading these days and what I'll be reviewing in the future for this blog and other outlets visit my page on GoodReads.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

I have to begin this review with an admission: I have never liked “Atonement”, the book that was a great success for the author, and which became a successful movie as well. I found it kind of boring and too long. On the other hand I did like his much shorter “On Chesil Beach”. That one was a pleasure to read, mainly because it told a story in a masterful way and in the right amount of words.

Sweet Tooth” I have loved as well, even though at the beginning I felt reluctant to dive into its world. I guess that had to do with my distrust of the big newspaper critics who are willing to hail every book as a masterpiece once its author is of McEwan’s fame and caliber. I’m so glad that I was proven wrong, and that I did get to read this novel. It is a masterpiece. I’m not saying that it’s the best fiction book I’ve ever read, but it is one of the best I have read this year.

This is a story of lovers and spies, and of writers and politicians, in a highly charged era of the European history. We meet the heroes in London in the early seventies. The cold war is going strong, the people feel insecure, and the propaganda, or mind games are at their peak. It is under these circumstances that a young and seemingly brilliant woman is recruited by the British secret service. At first she has nothing much to do, she’s a paper pusher, but one day her luck will change and she’ll be given a mission, to help an author promote her country’s interests.

What ensues is an adventure, with not too much action, but with a lot of ups and downs. As the reader will soon come to understand most of the actors in this drama are more or less sad, and they are mostly ignorant: “Everyone knew as much as they needed to know to be happy,” we read, but yet that happiness eluded them.

If it wasn’t for the author’s beautiful prose and the final twist that takes the reader by surprise this would be a brilliant but sad story, as we follow the footsteps of two people who are doomed to fail. However, things are not exactly the way they seem, and as McEwan seems to suggest, even if the whole world comes tumbling down, there’s still hope to be found.

I believe that anyone out there that likes literary fiction of the highest quality should read this novel, as it has a lot to offer: raw emotions, a great story, a beautiful background, and exquisite writing.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

While reading Wicked Business I felt like I was going through a Stephanie Plum novel that simply took place in a different world. Almost every main character in this book reminds me of someone else in the latter series. Lizzy is Stephanie in disguise, and Diesel looks and sounds so much like Ranger that it wouldn’t be too difficult for a reader to confuse the one with the other.

What saves this new series of becoming a simple copy of the old one is the author’s wicked sense of humor. When you read a Janet Evanovich novel you know that you’ll smile a lot, and every now and then laugh-out-loud, and that’s not something a reader could or should ignore. Her novels are not so much meant to intrigue the reader or give him food for thought; they are meant to entertain him.

Lizzy and Diesel are two people with supernatural powers and strong feelings for each other who, for some reason, can never be together. Their relationship is not strictly professional, but it can never become purely emotional either. They work together as investigators of sorts, in order to stop bad people from doing bad things, including Diesel’s cousin, Wulf, but at the same time they try to lead something like a normal life. However, these two and normalcy don’t go together, as they have too many enemies who are willing to do anything to hurt them. But, at the same time, they have a few friends as well; a master baker, a wise woman who owns an old bookshop and Glo, a sidekick who’s as colorful as they come: she dresses funny, loves going out on blind dates, and has a heart of gold; a heart that will make her help one of their enemies. Glo, reminds the reader, in more than one ways of Kenzi from Lost Girl, the TV series, something that makes her all the more interesting.

I believe that anyone who loves the Plum novels will like this book as well, as it does have a lot of action, a little bit of mystery, interesting characters, a… genius of a monkey called Carl, and a cat that goes by the name of Cat 7143. If you’re looking for an antidote to everyday boredom this might just be the book for you. 7/10

By the same author:

Smokin' Seventeen

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Resources Investment: Profit from Hot Commodities by Martin Li

The financial crisis is still growing strong in the western world and even though, no matter how hard we try, most of us don’t seem to understand what’s really going on, others see the opportunities arising from the current situation. The people who know best always say that one should invest when the markets are low. That sounds great, but invest in what? Commodities; this seems to be the answer to the question, according at least to Martin Li, the author of Resources Investment: Profit from Hot Commodities.

Li seems to know really well how the commodities market works, on which companies one should invest his or her money, and when. He goes at great lengths to explain how the financial crisis and the oil prices affect the society and why some stock prices skyrocket or fall with a bang, and he tries to solve the mystery of the eternal lust for gold.

If there’s one thing that someone could get from this book is that in the world of commodities, as well as in the marketplace, there’s no such thing as a certainty. You can buy and sell stocks, you can save your money in gold or play the exchange rate game, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to take calculated risks and don’t try too hard to make an easy profit.

There’s a lot of knowledge in these pages concerning everything that keeps this industrialist world of ours going around. The author tells us all we need to know about fuel and the precious metals, as well as for the companies that extract and distribute them to the world. He explains why things happen in one way or another, and points out the impact that China and India have as rising economies and consumer societies in today’s world. And he quotes experts in an effort to explain how our energy needs drive the prices up, along with the exhaustion of the “cheap” oil wells.

Before reading this book I was under the impression that I knew a lot about how things work in the oil and mining industry; well, I was wrong. The truth is that I knew too little, but now that has changed, since I, at last, have the full picture. You don’t have to be in finance or in one of the industries the book preoccupies itself with to read this; all you have to be is interested in the world around you, a world that changes by the day. This is a perfect guide to the turbulent economic waters of this modern era, which can easily be read and understood by one and all.

By the same author:

Inca Trails