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As part of my 101 things in 1001 days project, I'm reading 100 books. I've just finished the 10th, and have decided that it'd be fun to write a little something about each of them. (I got a little carried away with my summary for Hard Core Roadshow, and when I say "a little carried away", I mean "completely carried away and couldn't stop writing!").

1. Christian Lander - Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions

Like the website, this book is hilarious. It's a brutally honest satire on some rather absurd aspects of "white" culture. I can relate to more than just a few of them! This is one of those books that you'll pick up, planning to read only a couple of pages, but then, before you know it, you'll have finished the whole thing.



2. Orson Scott Card - Xenocide

This is the follow on from Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead and, unfortunately, it didn't live up to those books. I found some aspects of the story to be quite ... complicated, and some of the characters were quite ... frustrating and unlikeable. However, there were still some excellent aspects. It discussed a number of interesting ethical issues, and it's certainly worth reading (particularly if you enjoyed the first two). I certainly plan to read the next one in the series.



3. Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner - Freakonomics

Levitt is an economist and Dubner is a New York Times journalist. Together they've written a fascinating book looking at the "hidden side of everything". They've analysed available data in some interesting ways to explore some unexpected and controversial topics (e.g., cheating sumo wrestlers and teachers and the impact of legalized abortion on crime).

I'm a bit of a stats geek, so I do question the weight that they place on conclusions drawn from correlations rather than causation. However, it's still a very interesting and enjoyable book, and the authors' main point - question everything - is one that I strongly support.



4. Michael Turner - Hard Core Logo

I've already written about this book in another post, so I'm going to cheat, and just paste what I wrote previously in here:

I couldn't put it down, and read the whole thing in one sitting. I think that it took less time to read the book than it did to watch the movie! It's quite a fascinating read. It's written in verse, through things like lyrics, answering machine messages, and John's diary. It's an interesting method of story-telling, and it's surprisingly effective.

For some reason, I thought that more changes had been made for the movie, so I was surprised by the similarity between the book and the movie. It was, however, those few small changes that (I think) made the movie so effective. This is one of the rare occasions when the movie is better than the book.

I think that the characters in the book lacked depth, and it also lacked the complexity and ambiguity of the movie. The relationship between Joe and Billy was less interesting, and without the movie's ending, it lacked punch.

I must, however, repeat that I couldn't put it down and read the whole thing in one sitting, so contrary to what this review might suggest, I really did enjoy it! Basically, I think that Michael Turner created some interesting characters, and a great story, but the movie (and the brilliant acting of Hugh and Callum) took that to the next level.



5. Alexander McCall Smith - The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

My mum recommended this book to me, and I really enjoyed it. It's about Mma Ramotswe's struggle to set up the first detective agency in Botswana, Africa. If you're looking for a mystery, then this book is probably not for you.

This book is less a story of the mysteries solved, but is instead an engaging, humourous and enchanting story of life in Africa. The author's love for Africa is clear throughout the book, and he also presents some interesting insights into human nature. It's a nice, easy to read story with some likeable characters.



6. Rachel Vincent - Stray

The story is about werecats (like werewolves, but they shift into panther like cats rather than wolves). I must admit that I spent a lot of the book wanting to inflict violence on the main character. She makes some very selfish and narrow minded decisions, and often only sees things from her point of view. However, it was still a very entertaining book, and was worth reading, if only for the descriptions of the attractive male werecats (I never suggested that I wasn't shallow!)

Also, I must add that I do get where she's coming from with a lot of her complaints. She is one of only a handful of female werecats, so she has a lot of expectations placed upon her, and her desire for independence is completely understandable.



7. Rachel Vincent - Rogue

This book follows on from Stray. Although I did guess most of what was going to happen very early on, I enjoyed it a lot, and I think it's worth reading. However, the main character continues to frustrate me. She's still self-absorbed and she makes a lot of bad decisions. She does seem to be growing as the books continue though, so maybe I'll eventually like her!

Warning: if you're interested in reading this book, do not read the blurb for the third book (Pride) as it contains major spoilers for most of the plot details from this book.



8. Jason Moss - The Last Victim

This book was disturbing. It's a true story of a 18-year-old guy who took his interest in serial killers to the next level, and decided that it'd be a good idea to write to some of them.

I find the study of serial killers to be very interesting, and I almost did my Masters in Forensic Psychology. However, the extent that this guy went to (particularly considering his age) blows my mind.

He researched the killers, and then portrayed himself in a different way to each them, presenting himself as someone who he thought would appeal to them. He communicated with John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Charles Mason, Jeffery Dahmer and others, and to each of them he gave his real name and address. A lot of these killers still had great power both inside and outside of prison, so I found the fact that he gave his real information to be quite worrying.

Basically, this book not only provides a fascinating insight into the mind of some of the worst serial killers in history, but also provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the author. He is one of the most competitive and egotistical people I've ever come across. This guy was convinced that nothing could stop his project, regardless of the possible consequences.

I found his drive and competitive nature to be so fascinating that I googled him whilst reading to see what he had accomplished. Sadly, he killed himself a few years ago --- on the 6th of June 2006. It appears as though the title is frighteningly accurate.



9. Noel Baker - Hard Core Roadshow: A Screenwriter's Diary

A few months ago, I found some extracts of this book, and I was so amazed by Noel's ability to come across as a self-important jerk. However, the key obviously lies in reading it after reading a book by a serial-killer-obsessed egomaniac. When read after Jason Moss's The Last Victim, Noel's self-importance seemed much less blatant, and I found the book very funny and interesting.

That said, he did seem to have a sort of ... thinly veiled contempt towards Callum Keith Rennie. He seemed convinced that everything that Callum said and did was part of some sort of calculated goal to be cool and get rich and famous. For example, after the first script read-through, Noel described the actors' performances, and although he was impressed with Callum, it was still such a back-handed compliment:

"Callum has had ten months to think about the nuances of Billy, and he is very good, though he tends to change his lines in order to sound cooler in places"

So apparently Callum was only good because he had 10 months to think about it. And apparently Callum hadn't been thinking about the authenticity of the script. No, according to Noel, he was just thinking about how to sound "cool".

The thing is, in Noel's initial description of Callum, he seemed very taken with him, and he described him with far more admiration than what you'd expect of one man describing another. But then Noel's interpretation of Callum's behaviour seemed to drastically change. You have to wonder if he started identifying Callum as Billy, and started only focusing on the behaviours that reinforced that.

On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me if Noel's negativity towards Callum was either jealously towards the close relationship that he quickly developed with Hugh, or a result of Noel feeling that Callum didn't like him. *shakes head in disbelief* Analysing Noel is a lot like analysing a 12 year old boy.

Basically, throughout the book, Noel was simultaneously incredibly insecure and egotistical. He seemed very concerned with knowing (and getting approval from) the "right people", and although he clearly thought highly of himself, he needed others to think highly of him too. Noel came across as one those kids who wants nothing more than to be friends with the 'cool guys' (in this case, Callum and Hugh), and he was clearly envious of the close relationship that they developed.

The first time that Noel mentioned Callum and Hugh together, the entry reeked of jealously:

"I haven't met Hugh Dillon yet. Bruce has had him read for Joe Dick with Callum Rennie, without inviting me along. Guess he didn't want my negative energy tripping Hugh up. Bruce even sent Callum out on the road with Headstones so that he and Hugh could hang out and Callum could get a first-hand look at a rock band on tour."

Poor Noel obviously already felt left out, and then only a few days later (at a screening of one of Bruce's early films), Hugh and Callum already seemed like the best of friends, and Noel still sounded jealous:

"After the screening Callum and Hugh are at it again, insulting each other, playing little mind games, budding up to each other very comfortably. They've fenced off a large mysterious area in which to develop their friendship, a place where they alone can kick back, horde secrets, develop private jokes, laugh at others. Very exclusive patch of real estate by the looks of it. They'll let you in for a little visit, but they don't let you stay for long"

Noel certainly went out of his way to paint that relationship like it was more than just a friendship. As much as I appreciate the visuals that Noel provided, surely there is something unprofessional about the way that he presented their relationship? That said, I have so much love for this:

"Hugh and Callum lock themselves in the back room of the bus, leaving the rest of it to the rest of us. Their unabashed fascination with each other continues."

And there's another scene where he described Callum lying on the floor next to Hugh's bed, with the two of them whispering to each other. Seriously Noel, I love that you gave us this much material, but is it really your place to so obviously portray their relationship like something out of a Mills and Boon romance novel?

Anyway, regardless of whether or not Noel is a tool (he definitely is!), the book is very interesting. It's fascinating to read about how the script was changed and developed over the many drafts. It's also fascinating reading Noel's descriptions of the scenes that never made it into the movie. I can also relate to and understand some of Noel's defensiveness. After working on a script for so long, it makes sense for him to feel protective of his work, and to see changes to it as a personal attack against his abilities.

I must add, however, that I strongly disagree with Noel regarding the radio interview scene. Here's what Noel said about it:

"I'd intended to rewrite the scene last night, but went out and got drunk instead. ([/start sarcastic voice] Wow! Noel must be a really cool guy, because Noel got drunk instead of working. [/end sarcastic voice]) I arrive late on the set to find Bruce, Callum, and Dean Paras, the young actor playing the radio interviewer, already rehearsing the scene. The way they've worked it out, the interviewer asks Billy about the future of HCL on-air, but by way of answer Billy silently shows him a fax from L.A. renewing the Jenifur offer. The interviewer reads the fax and gets excited, wants to talk about it on air. Billy refuses to finish the interview, and he even asks Bruce the director if he'll be cool and not tell Joe. This suggests that Billy has not make up his mind about leaving Joe yet. But why show up for a radio interview, then refuse to talk? The scene doesn't make sense unless Billy drops the bomb on-air.

I discuss this for several minutes with Callum, who is dead-set against playing the scene as written, with Billy callously telling the world he's leaving HCL for good after tonight's show because he's got a better offer somewhere else. I suspect Callum doesn't want his character to openly betray Joe here for fear of looking like an asshole. Like any other movie star, he knows that he "is" his role in the eyes of the public.

When we shoot it, the point of the scene sort of comes across, but it could have come through stronger if Billy had stabbed Joe in the back on-air".


I disagree, and think this scene really works. In my opinion, it seems as though Billy has only just received the fax. He's clearly happy to have the offer, and is planning to leave. However, Billy cares for Joe; if that wasn't the case, he would never have agreed to the tour in the first place. He may not care enough to choose Joe over the success and fame that he craves, and he may not care enough to ignore the fact that Joe is often an asshole, but he does care for him. I just don't see him betraying Joe on-air like that.

And the thing is, even if you refuse to believe that Billy has any feelings towards Joe (or the other guys) that would stop him from callously abandoning them on-air, that behaviour just wouldn't make sense for Billy's character. If Billy was solely self-motivated, he wouldn't want people to see him as the jerk who ditched his band on-air (that would show him in a negative light, which could then jeopardise his future success).

I strongly disagree with Noel's assumption that Callum is purely concerned with how he looks to the public. Noel doesn't seem to even consider that maybe Callum's decisions are based on what his character would do.

I also much prefer the scene as it stands because (like so many other great scenes in the movie) it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, was Billy planning to tell Joe? Did Billy really believe that Bruce wouldn't tell Joe? Although I strongly believe that it wouldn't have been "in character" for Billy to reveal that news on-air, could he have really trusted Bruce? Maybe Billy orchestrated the scene with the radio interviewer, knowing that Bruce would then tell Joe. Or maybe Billy was naive enough to trust Bruce's word, and just wanted to have one last great concert with Joe, before then revealing his intentions to leave after the show.

Maybe I'm just really over-analysing this whole thing. Seriously, I can't believe that my "little something" about this book is that long! I could continue for a long time, but I think I should stop. (That said, if you've read the book or seen the movie and have theories or opinions, please discuss!)



10. Eleanor Coerr - Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

My nieces recently visited Japan, and they read this book before they left. I hadn't read it for years, and decided to see whether it was as sad as I remember. It was. I cry and cry every single time I read this book. It's based on a true story of a girl who lived in Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bomb. She developed leukemia from the radiation, and attempted to fold a thousand paper cranes, in the hope of receiving her wish to live. Although the book is very sad, I highly recommend it.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-02-23 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lavvyan.livejournal.com
Xenocide turned me off the entire series, so I'll be looking forward to finding out whether or not you think the next book is any better. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-02-24 01:03 am (UTC)
ext_19751: Due South: Fraser - white background (Default)
From: [identity profile] kaaatie.livejournal.com
It was a disappointment compared to the first two. It really sucks when that happens. I hope the next one is better.

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May 2009

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