GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2016

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I started 2016 with a goal of reading more books than 2015’s thirteen titles but unfortunately an early year back injury meant I wasn’t able to carry a book with me on my commute to work each day and seriously impacted my reading time. I did still read some great titles though and here’s a recap of books I’d recommend.

I can always rely on Lee Child‘s ‘Jack Reacher’ series for a great page-turning read and with his latest novel ‘Make Me‘ I genuinely felt he changed up the formula for the better. As a writer you have to be careful not to alienate your existing fan base but Child straddles the line superbly here. As a bonus, the accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ look at Child’s writing method for the book – ‘Reacher Said Nothing‘ was fascinating to a Reacher nerd like me.

In the non-fiction stakes I found Naomi Klein‘s climate change missive;’This Changes Everything‘ to be an interesting yet thoroughly depressing book, especially now that it seems both the UK and US have people shaping the environmental discussion that don’t seem to have a clue about what is actually going on in, and around, our fragile planet. I’m a big believer in the methodology of Shawn Acher (if you haven’t seen it check out his amazing TED talk here) and his book ‘The Happiness Advantage‘ gives a great insight into the world of positivity and how creating a more positive environment for yourself can really make a difference to your day to day life.

 

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I’ve never really been one for poetry but after hearing this On Being interview with Mary Oliver I took the plunge and ordered one of her books. ‘Selected Poems‘, as the title suggests, is a collection of her work spanning many years. I loved her work on life and nature, it was a pleasure to grab this from the shelf, make a coffee and lose myself for half an hour here and there throughout the year.

Kenneth Calhoun’sĀ ‘Black Moon’ was an interesting take on the post apocalyptic/zombie style genre, with the inability to sleep causing most of the human race to turn into slobbering masses of meat. I really liked the first character we met and was a little disappointed when it turned out we wouldn’t be staying with him throughout. Nevertheless, I liked this one and it’s well worth a read.

Isaac Asimov is world-renowned for a good reason. This year I finally got around to reading ‘Foundation‘ and really enjoyed it. It’s tale of political unrest set far into the future was great fun to get to grips with. Another book I started that I’m approaching the end of is Brent Weeks ‘The Black Prism’. I was a big fan of Weeks’ previous series (The Night Angel Trilogy) and although the characters here don’t quite hit the same heights, it’s an interesting world and the use of colour as magic is certainly something different. This isn’t one for a light read though, clocking in at over 700 pages!

 

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So there you go, hopefully you might pick some of those up at some stage if you think they are of interest. I think my favourite book this year was Lee Child’s ‘Make Me’, mainly because it was such a thrill, as a long time fan, to see Child switch things up and make Reacher unpredictable again. On a more peaceful note the Mary Oliver collection was also a highlight.

 


 

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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2013

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I have been fortunate enough to see some fantastic films this year, so I have plenty of movies to shout about šŸ™‚

I thoroughly enjoyed Haywire, which I thought was a great action flick with some awesome fight scenes. Hanna and Skyfall also impressed me, although I’m not sure Daniel Craig will ever top Casino Royale as Bond.

I saw some wonderful documentary films, namely Senna, King Of Kong, Indie Game: The Movie and Grounded: The Making Of ‘The Last Of Us’. Senna was a great piece of film-making, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Of course I love games so the others were always going to be on interest to me but King Of Kong was brilliant. And to see what the actors went through to nail some parts of ‘The Last Of Us‘? Wow!

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Jeff Bridges never lets me down and True Grit was no exception. Along with Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin he gave a great performance to make this a must watch. I absolutely loved Wreck It Ralph and this is one of my children’s favourite films of the last few years.

Django Unchained was a fun ride and I enjoyed Jack Reacher, despite Tom Cruise being *nothing* like the character from the books. Reacher stands on it’s own two feet though and Child’s writing proves that it can still work without the character’s imposing stature.

My favourite film of the year was a total surprise to me, as I hadn’t really enjoyed any other Richard Curtis films. About Time really struck a chord with me though and I love anything time travel related so that probably helped as well. It’s a great rom-com with a few neat twists on the time travel mechanic.

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I finally got around to seeing Super 8 which I thought was great and reminded me of The Goonies, which is never a bad thing. Another contender for film of the year was Rush, which had stellar performances from its cast and an unbelievable (but true) story of two warring F1 drivers back in the 1970’s. Top stuff.

So here is the full list of films that I’d recommend from those I saw in 2013:

  • Haywire
  • True Grit
  • Senna
  • Hanna
  • Wreck It Ralph
  • King Of Kong
  • Indie Game: The Movie
  • The Raid
  • About Time
  • The World’s End
  • 300
  • Dead Space: Downfall
  • Grounded: The Making Of ‘The Last Of Us’
  • The Other Guys
  • Dark Knight Rises
  • Super 8
  • Skyfall
  • Rush
  • Jack Reacher
  • Django Unchained

What have you guys seen that stood out? Anything you’d recommend checking out?

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‘The Affair’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

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As long term readers of this blog might know, I am a huge fan of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ novels. With ‘The Affair’ being the 16th in the series, I often wonder whether Child will eventually run out of steam.

Thankfully he shows no signs of doing so based on this tale of corruption, small town gossip and murder.

Set 6 months before ‘Killing Floor’, the first Reacher novel, this book serves as a prequel and finds Reacher still serving in the military police.

A woman is found murdered in a back alley with her throat cut. No-one seems to have any idea who it was but local suspicion points to the local military base.

One of Reacher’s colleagues is sent to the base, Fort Kelham, to investigate in an official capacity and Reacher is instructed to follow close behind – posing as a civilian while poking around undercover.

Child’s easy to read style is as good as ever. He gives you just enough description without bogging things down and the book is well paced.

There is sometimes a concern with prequels that they might end up falling short because they are bound by what’s to follow and whatever background may have already been revealed in the other novels.

That definitely isn’t the case with ‘The Affair’, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and for fans of the series it is great to see more of Reacher’s past. Even if you haven’t read any of the previous books this is certainly one I’d recommend.

Rating:9/10

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’61 Hours’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

Jack Reacher returns in Lee Child’s 14th novel in the Reacher series, finding trouble like no-one else can. šŸ˜Ž

After an icy bus accident leaves him (and some senior citizens) stranded in the town of Bolton, Reacher helps the local police deal with the injured, as he has first aid training from his Army days.

However he suddenly finds himself embroiled in a sticky situation as a murder occurs and as the new guy in town he has to be a suspect, even though he’s helping the cops.

Lee Child has the Reacher formula down to a ‘t’ at this stage and his novels feel familiar but different enough that they don’t become boring or repetitive.

Reacher does his best to assist the local police but some tense moments mean the partnership is fragile at times.

Of course it’s fairly doubtful many people in real life would find themselves consistently in trouble wherever they go, nor would they have Reacher’s expertise and skills to fall back on, but that isn’t the point of the Reacher novels.

These are fun, easy to read stories that are thoroughly entertaining.

’61 Hours’ shows that Child, and Reacher, have no plans to slow down anytime soon. And that’s a good thing in my book.

Rating: 9/10

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‘Gone Tomorrow’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

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The Jack Reacher novels are a series of books that follow the exploits of a former US Army Major.

Reacher’s experience in the Military Police is invaluable in helping him deal with the various scrapes he gets himself into.

The last few Reacher novels haven’t quite matched some of the superb early ones but ‘Nothing To Lose’ and now ‘Gone Tomorrow’ are a return to form.

Lee Child’s writing style is wonderfully laid back and easy to read – I always find his books a great experience and ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is no different.

Telling the story of Reacher’s direct involvement in a political/government plot, ‘Gone Tomorrow’ opens in spectacular style and rarely lets up.

One of the major plot reveals is a little cheesy and unnecessary but in the context of the story makes some sense and while Child’s writing is formulaic in these novels it doesn’t take away from the overall experience.

The only problem is how long Child can sustain this formula without his readers becoming bored. Apparently the next book, ’61 Hours’ may be a bit of a departure and something new which would be welcome in my opinion.

Overall ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is an enjoyable read but one that feels familiar and ticks off the Jack Reacher checklist as it goes along.

Rating: 7/10

Nothing To Lose – Lee Child (Book Review)

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Quick confession, Lee Child is one of my favourite contemporary writers. The Jack Reacher series of books have kept me entertained for years and I was eagerly awaiting the latest instalment; ‘Nothing To Lose.’

Although I enjoyed the previous novel ‘Bad Luck and Trouble’ I actually thought it was the weakest one so far. I was hoping ‘Nothing To Lose’ would be a return to form.

And it certainly is.

Despite having a slightly unbelievable climax the book is a classic Reacher tale.

Jack Reacher is a forty-something former Major in the military police. I must stress that these novels aren’t hardcore military books. I’m not really interested in military things but the references are understandable and explained in laymans terms so don’t let that put you off.

Reacher is a drifter, moving from town to town – no possessions, just the clothes on his back – living on the money he saved while in the army.

He always seems to find himself in a situation where he can lend his considerable expertise to help someone out.

In ‘Nothing To Lose’ Reacher is travelling across America, seeing where each day takes him as he attempts to get from one side of the US to the other.

He stops off in a small town called Hope and upon discovering the neighbouring town is called Despair, Reacher can’t resist visiting it.

When he gets to the diner in Despair the locals refuse to serve him and attempt to run him out of town.

After a confrontation that sees Reacher beat a couple of the guys up, he finds out they are deputies to the Sheriff.

Reacher is escorted to the edge of town and told if he returns he’ll be arrested.

What are the people of Despair hiding? Why don’t they allow people to travel through their town?

Reacher has a lot of questions and there’s only one way to answer them… so he heads back to Despair.

‘Nothing To Lose’ is a well crafted tale with several interlocking plotlines that will keep you guessing until the end.

It isn’t one of the strongest in the series but it’s certainly a return to form for Jack Reacher.

Rating: 8/10