Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat – Becky Albertalli

In Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda, the only thing worse than the title was the character of Leah. Leah got angry at Simon for no reason on more than one occasion, and her motivations were entirely shadowy from start to finish. She was the least defined of the entire Simon crew and the least worthy of the reader’s attention. Leah existed to make Simon feel bad, and he had enough to feel bad about in the first place.

A book is the crystallisation of a moment in time. To add anything to that runs the risk of disturbing the balance of the original story. In Leah on the Offbeat, Becky Albertalli, answering the call of “the readers who knew something was up, even when I didn’t”, has written a novel solely to pander to fans of an obscure “ship”. The balance has been disturbed.

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

Ten years in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is finally here. The first Avengers film entirely free of Joss Whedon’s influence, Infinity War continues the Russo brothers’ streak while effortlessly incorporating the best of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Thor: Ragnarok. This is a big undertaking, and it’s amazing how few missteps Marvel has made along the way. The overt shift to explicit science-fiction and mysticism, and away from the tech-worship of early installments is both welcome and effective, and if you give a damn about any of the characters across the 18 movies that lead to this, it’s difficult not to feel consistently impacted by this two and a half hour barrage of event.

 

Read my full review on Trespass.

 

 

Book Review: Less – Andrew Sean Greer

No book exists in a vacuum, even if you try to pick your reading schedule relatively blindly. It is hard to pick up Less now without knowing that it won the Pulitzer this year – even if you had meant to read it before you knew that it was in the running. The knowledge of a win hangs over a book: it bolsters sales and raises awareness, but it also raises expectations, and allows the dreaded word “overrated” to be floated.

Andrew Sean Greer’s Less won a Pulitzer. If it hadn’t, it would still be a good novel, but you can see how some of its preoccupations might have attracted the attention of an awards committee.

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara

Some readers, though eclectic in their tastes, have areas that they don’t tend to stray into. True Crime is the sort of genre that attracts people who are really into true crime. What satisfies them may not hit the spot for your average Joe who doesn’t stray onto that side of the non-fiction tracks. Crimes aren’t always solved, and facts aren’t always known; those who are looking for neat packages may be discouraged.

This is the case for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which is about an unsolved string of rapes and murders, written by an author who herself passed away in the process of compiling the book. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has become a blind alley in a blind alley, a doubly unsolved mystery which can never deliver on its promise. Is it satisfying to True Crime afficionados, or is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark a book published solely on the strength of its authorial cachet?

Book Review: The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

There is a closing paragraph that has only worked once, and that was back in 1985*. All variations on it – and there have been more than a few – should really see the books that feature it either pulped, or at the very least sent back for a slight edit before being released on a public hungry for the opposite of the cliché. Such is the case with The Woman in the Window, a The Girl on the Train-cum-Rear Window-cum-entire Golden Age of Cinema pastiche: it has an ending that is unforgivable.

But how did we get here, to this imperfect conclusion? The Woman in the Window is touted as “the thriller of 2018”, and it is easy to see how it will capture the imagination of a reading public that devoured The Girl on the Train and tore through Gone Girl – although it does not distinguish itself as well as either of those. One could be forgiven, simply from looking at the covers and blurbs of the recent spate of unreliable narrator led thrillers, that there is a definite trend in publishing. But they’d be right: there is a definite trend.

Book Review: Artemis – Andy Weir

Andy Weir is his own worst enemy. In Artemis he offers his readers a 26 year old Saudi-born Moon woman named Jazz, but one could be forgiven for confusing her voice with that of 42 year old American born Martian Mark Watney. Their sarcasm and their approach to problem solving are both very similar, despite their wildly different backgrounds. For the most part this is okay, but occasionally Weir will throw an absolute clunker of a line onto the page and hope that it will land; often it will not, and will go on bouncing indefinitely until it splats against the farthest reaches of your mind.

Book Review: Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow – Richard Gray

Double disclosure: the author is a friend of mine, and my name is in the acknowledgements of this book.

Moving Target: The History and Evolution of Green Arrow represents an incredibly deeply researched history of one of DC’s most enduring but often under-utilised heroes.

Gray offers both fact and analysis and pairs them with far-reaching interviews with a wide variety of people tied to the history of Green Arrow, many of whom reveal far more than one might expect. The people who have worked on Green Arrow have obviously been passionate about the character, and that passion is reflected in both their own words, the work itself and Gray’s analysis.

Gray is not afraid to illustrate that Green Arrow’s catalogue has not always been a a cavalcade of quality, and his asides about the history of DC itself in relation to the character are invaluable.

If you want to know what primary colours combine to form Green Arrow, you likely cannot do better than Moving Target. Moving Target fills a niche you may not have known existed, but if you’re an Oliver Queen diehard or a fresh recruit to the cause of the Emerald Archer, this is a more than worthy addition to your quiver.