Tom the Bookwyrm
Book reviews from an unqualified source. Me!

Thursday, July 15, 2004
Master and CommanderThe Far Side of the WorldI read the two books -- Master and Commander, and The Far Side of the World -- while we were on our honeymoon. (I'd taken the first one over with me and couldn't find books 2-9 in the series in any of the bookstores we checked.) Excellent books, rather too full of rich detail to be condensed in a truly satisfying way into a feature movie. I've been catching up on book 2, Post Captain, since I got back. Truly excellent books.

Friday, August 01, 2003
EmpireBook City is a very dangerous store, which cleverly and prominently displays books like Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power where innocent browsers like me will see them. I couldn't resist. Niall Ferguson is apparently the new prodigy in the British historican field, and Empire is a beautiful and extremely well-written book. It drips with detail but is far fresher and more interesting to read than any textbook. The maps, photos and paintings included are well-chosen and do a lot to support the narrative. Only the conclusion section seems weak and under-cooked: there's no modern detail included to support his theory that the American empire is similar in many ways to the British Empire, so the "lessons for global power" fall flat. Still a great book, well worth the read. 4 out of 5.

Sunday, July 06, 2003
Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixLong awaited by, well, practically the whole planet, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out a couple of weeks ago and Anne and I picked up a copy. While she read through it I re-read book 4 of the series. By the time she was finished I was picking the book up to read a few pages every time she had her back turned. The new one is right on form and J.K. continues to make Harry and his school a highly entertaining and engrossing world. Suffice it to say I haven't been sucked in by a book in a while but it took less than a week to make it through the Order of the Phoenix. But what am I telling you for? You've already read it, too. 5 out of 5.

Saturday, June 28, 2003
Working Class ZeroWith the new Harry Potter book out, it's time to clear up a few others that have been sitting partially read on the bedside table for a while. First up is Working Class Zero by Toronto author Rob Payne, which I picked up at Book City a few weeks ago. It's a light book about a guy stuck working in a dumb job at a mutual fund company in Toronto, who's having an early midlife crisis. Essentially, it's a CanLit version of a Nick Hornby book, but unfortunately not as funny. 2 1/2 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
StalingradNot a fun read, but my history kick recently took me through Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor. I started off by re-reading Barbara Tuckman's The Guns of August to get into the mood -- Tuckman's remains the premier book in this genre -- and in comparison, I found Stalingrad to be slower and to be missing some of the rich character detail Tuckman managed to include. Still, Stalingrad is a gripping book, thick with the awful story of one of the worst campaigns in modern history. Beevor doesn't spare the reader, and the horror of the struggle, from both sides, is made stunningly clear. It's content makes it a difficult book to read, but no less important for that. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Dead AirJust finished speed reading through Iain Bank's new book Dead Air last night. (I only read a little bit during the work day... ;-)) Iain's back to form!! I was disappointed by his last "conventional" novel, The Business, which was not up to his usual standard, but Dead Air was great. Most similar to another favorite of mine, Espedair Street, Dead Air stars a popular radio DJ who's bad habit of sleeping around has led to an especially dangerous affair with the wife of a mob boss. The end is pretty predictable, but it's a lot of fun getting there and Banks hasn't lost his flair for setting dramatic scenes. 4 1/2 out of 5.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Me Me MeI forgot to write a review of Me Me Me, by David Huggins. This was a strange mystery novel set in Hollywood, with the protagonist a young failing playwright, Ralph Tait, whose grandfather was a major movie star and whose family is still warped by the pressures of fame. When his grandfather disappears, Ralph seems to be the only one who's seriously concerned. Was it murder, or a childish whim on his grandfather's part? Not a gripping book, but it has some entertaining parts. 3 out of 5.