Film Review: The Kissing Booth

I love a good teen rom com.

This isn’t one.

The central conceit here is that there are two best friends, Elle and Lee (Joey King and Joel Courtney), who have been friends since they were little kids. Now high schoolers their friendship endures thanks to a series of rules they follow. However, one of the rules is that Lee’s older brother is off limits. Of course, Elle falls for Noah (Jacob Elordi) and he for her. Cue much sneaking around and inevitable drama when it all comes to light.

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The title refers to the fundraiser that Elle and Lee set up for their dance club, where Elle kisses Noah for the first time.

The problem with this movie is that the character of Noah is underwritten to the point that aside from being a hot guy, you never understand why Elle falls for him. He’s set up as a big man on campus, a popular jock who regularly gets into fights, but that’s it. You keep thinking that the film will add a second layer, but nothing develops. I mean, he’s going to Harvard, which I assume means he’s smart, but we see no evidence of this. He’s a slightly aggressive meathead at the start, and he pretty much continues to be the same aside from occasionally professing his love for Elle.

The whole movie feels old fashioned. This extends to the soundtrack, which features some old tracks. In the early stages of the movie it’s found out that Noah has warned guys off Elle and protects her, but this feels a bit of a cliche and like something from an ’80s teen movie. And a bad one at that, not a John Hughes movie. Elle is slightly annoyed by this but very quickly starts viewing it as a sign that he cares for her and that it’s kinda sweet. What?!

Similarly, after another jock slaps her arse while wearing a short skirt, Elle then dates said jock and Noah actually uses the phrase “asking for it”, which the film does flag but quickly moves on from. The whole episode is handled extremely poorly.

The love story is painfully flat throughout, which is a shame, because Joey King is quite charming as Elle in the other scenes of the movie. She shares genuine chemistry with Joel Courtney, who is the standout as Lee. Unfortunately, with them being separated by her sneaking around and the following fallout the strongest part of the film vanishes for a long period of the movie.

It’s also kinda lame that Elle gets to deliver this speech about how being a best friend doesn’t give Lee the right to tell her who to love. I’m firmly Team Lee here, as the major issue is that she snuck around and lied to him about it. Also, we get one scene where Lee reveals why he is so upset and it’s another missed opportunity. He says that Noah gets everything, and that Elle was the one thing that was his, which is a bit possessive and less interesting. They could have talked about how Lee felt like he was always in Noah’s shadow, that he feels like a lamer version of him or that people use him to get close to Noah. All of these would have had a bit more resonance than the poor reason we get in the end.

There are a few funny moments and, as I said, Courtney and King are on fine form, but the rest of the movie is a mess. Supporting characters are distinctly one note,

I know some may feel I was expecting too much from a teen movie, but that’s unfair. The genre has produced far superior fare, and this falls far short of previous movies. And it feels like a step backwards, the teen genre has had some quite clever, witty films over the years including Clueless and Easy A, this lacks their intelligence and humour.

Oh, and the adult roles are lacking too. I’m a firm believer that quite often the adult characters bring a lot to teen movies, but here the parents and teachers are poorly written too, Molly Ringwald turns up as Lee and Noah’s mum but gets a couple of scenes.

While Netflix has succeeded with it’s shows, I’m massively unimpressed with their movie output. Avoid.

Verdict: Poorly written and with a male love interest who is painfully undeveloped, this film falls flat and is rather forgettable. The two leads have chemistry but are let down by a mediocre script which feels outdated, overly simple and shallow. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow

The second of George A. Romero’s zombie movies, Dawn of the Dead, is where my obsession with the undead began. Not a direct sequel to the earlier Night of the Living Dead it works as a companion piece, another story from the same world. Just as dawn follows night, the film takes place a little further along down the zombie apocalypse. I saw it first and as much as I love Night, I probably prefer Dawn.  This makes it even more annoying that I haven’t seen the movie in years. It’s never on telly, I can’t find it on Netflix and tracking down a DVD is proving tricky too.

My old copy, taped off BBC2, is long gone now. And yet a lot of the movie is still fresh in my head, whole scenes are clear to me and I remember the tone well, a mix of dark comedy, grim tension and subtle satire of our commercialised world. Driven by instinct the living dead are drawn to places that were important to them, in this case a mall.

The novelisation of the movie caught my eye on the shelf in a book shop, and I had to grab it.

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And I am so glad I did.  As Simon Pegg states in his introduction a book provides a different perspective to a film, and here we get to see more of the inner lives of our four survivors as they hole up at the Monroeville Mall. Fran, who works for a Philadelphia television studio is watching the world go to hell and decides to flee in the station’s traffic chopper with her boyfriend Stephen. Joining them is Stephen’s friend a SWAT tropper named Roger and his comrade in arms, Peter, who he meets during a disastrous raid.

The mall, despite having plenty of zombies around, makes an attractive proposition and despite originally having planned to load up before moving on to Canada, the group linger there, enjoying all the cool stuff they find there. But is it as safe as they think it is?

I really dug this book because like the movie it captures a sense of constantly simmering tension, even when the guys are living it up, there’s an artificial joviality to things, and the dead are never far away. The characters are more fleshed out here, particularly Peter, who is developed slightly more than the tough badass he is in the movie and the tensions between him and Stephen are better explained. Similarly, Fran and Stephen’s relationship makes a bit more sense.

The action is written in a fast paced, engaging way and Romero, with co-writer Sparrow succeeds in making it incredibly tense in places. The story is simple but involving, and it moves along at a good speed, while still letting the story breathe in places. I really loved this book, but it’s just made me want to rewatch the original movie again.

Verdict: A gripping and entertaining story, much like the movie it is based off. The characters are slightly more detailed here, and it captures the vibe of the survivors fraying under the pressure of the civilised world ending. A must for zombie fans. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

I think I got this book on offer. It’s the only reason I can think of why I downloaded it, because while I’m vaguely familiar with Penny Marshall’s work and love a couple of her movies (Big and A League of Their Own), I’d not given much thought to what her personal life was like. Well, thanks for that offer.

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Like her friend Carrie Fisher, Marshall has been in and around Hollywood for most of her life. She moved out to LA in her twenties at the end of the sixties to join her successful writer brother Garry, and soon started picking up acting gigs, becoming a star thanks to the Happy Days spin off Laverne and Shirley, which I’ve never seen. While Happy Days and it’s other spin off Mork and Mindy were shows I watched as a kid, Laverne and Shirley didn’t seem to get repeated here.

Married to actor, writer and director Rob Reiner she became part of a group of Hollywood friends. Later she would move into directing, and with Big become the first woman to direct a film that made over $100m.

And also, like Fisher, she tells her stories with energy and humour, albeit in a slightly less scatterbrained and meandering fashion. She talks about on set difficulties, of her past excesses and indiscretions, her loves and losses.

It’s a wonderfully entertaining read, the supporting players a cast of big names like Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Drew Barrymore and Whitney Houston. But she’s also at home with the crews of her film, the firemen she meets after 9/11 and the old friends from her neighbourhood in the Bronx who she remains close to.

Marshall writes in an easy, unpolished manner which draws you in and gives you a sense of her personality and humour. She’s funny and warm, honest and introspective. She admits to her failings but fights her corner too.

There are moving passages as she details the loved ones lost along the way. Yet her own battle with cancer is handled with humour and a lack of moping. Marshall is a force to be reckoned with, full of life and spirit. She says early on that she always liked to play, but while there is playfulness there’s something else at work, a constant driving energy that leads her to throw herself into what comes her way. An energy that helps her succeed and opens new doors for her. It’s a life well lived, and a life well written about.

I dipped in and out of this book, but whenever I did it left me warmed and amused.

Verdict: A life story told in a warm and unpretentious manner, Marshall’s energy and charm infuses the entire book. It made me smile numerous times, but also tugs the heartstrings. There’s some interesting showbiz gossip, a look into the private lives of big name stars, but at it’s heart it’s Marshall’s story. The story of a woman of humour and boundless energy, who throws herself into the opportunities and challenges that appear in her path, and succeeds. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


Book Review: Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Never travel with Hercule Poirot. Boats, trains and planes, none are safe when the Belgian detective is aboard. Here he’s flying from Paris to Croydon when one of the other passengers is bumped off. The first class passengers are all suspects but none seem to have much motive. And as the victim was seemingly killed with a poisoned dart shot from a blowpipe somebody would have seen something, surely?

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An inquest leans towards Poirot being the guilty man as the blowpipe was found under his seat, but this is dismissed due to his history of working with the police. Which is kinda dodgy that the judge overrules the jury, but I guess it’s not what you know but who you know.

Partly due to his being suspected, but also due to the elaborate murder weapon and the mystery, Poirot sets out to solve the case. Also looking into it are two of the other passengers, who have developed a strong attraction to one another. They team up with the detective, and slowly begin to look into who might gain from the murder.

The victim turns out to be a French money lender who would loan cash out and then get it back because she would collect blackmail material on the people who owed her. So, someone with a long list of potential enemies.

I was a little disappointed with this book, as why there is some humour and clever red herring plots, the finale feels weak and Christie does that thing of revealing a bunch of stuff right at the end which stops the reader from having had a chance of guessing what happened. I did pick up on one clue which is dropped in, but then a bunch of stuff is just trotted out.

It’s nowhere near as gripping as Murder on the Orient Express which had a much clearer plot and claustrophobic setting, even if the same trick of a few last minute secrets is similar.

It’s a decent read but not being able to solve it is frustrating. Still, an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Verdict: Amusing in places and generally involving, Christie holds too much hidden and the twists seem to come from nowhere. A decent read despite that. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Ocean’s 8

If we’re being totally honest, none of the Ocean’s movies are that great. Don’t get me wrong, they’re quite good fun, but there’s definitely more style than substance and a lot of it is carried off due to the natural charisma of the leads George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts. The bar for the all female reboot/spin-off/sequel is pretty low, it just has to be fun.

Unfortunately, this movie limbos under the bar.

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We’re introduced to Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock, who is up for probation and delivers a pathetically obvious, crocodile tears speech to get released. In this speech we learn that her brother, Danny, is dead. Which is a bit of a crappy way to write out Clooney’s character, really.

Anyway, Debbie has a plan to steal some jewels. The plan is to get the jewels out of the vault by having Hollywood star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), where them to the Met Gala and pinching them off her there. To do this Debbie puts together a team to do the heist-

  • Right hand woman and old friend Lou, played by Cate Blanchett
  • Rihanna’s hacker, Nine Ball
  • Rose Weil, a faded fashion designer facing bankruptcy who they manage to get Kluger to hire to design her dress, played with a so-so Irish accent by Helena Bonham Carter
  • Mindy Kaling as Amita, a jewellery maker
  • Constance, a pickpocket played by rapper Awkwafina
  • Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a former fence who has worked with Lou and Debbie before but has since retired to suburbia

And so the plot is in motion. The heist itself is the centrepiece of the film, and is quite slick, but I found myself struggling to care.

The moment when I really lost this movie, however, comes earlier. While the gang are getting ready for the job there’s a last minute fly in the ointment as they discover the necklace can only be undone thanks to a special magnet. Oooh, a bit of last minute drama, a need for the plan to be changed? Will there be friction from the group as they realise their cut will be smaller? Could they introduce an expert that Debbie or Lou have history with, adding tension to the crew?

Nope, it turns out that Rihanna’s previously unmentioned little sister is a tech genius and can work out and build a gizmo to stop it on a single subway ride.

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If the other films lived by their casts, this one dies by it’s one. Rihanna shows that Battleship wasn’t a blip and acting isn’t for her. Blanchett, Paulson and Kaling are underused and wasted. What’s worse is that Kaling, who I’m a big fan of has now been in two of the weakest movies of the year so far.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a slightly more restrained version of her usual eccentric and Awkwafina is passable as the pickpocket.

It’s only Hathaway’s turn as the slightly vapid and bratty starlet that works well, making the character absurd without going too far and stealing many of her scenes.

The real weakness is Bullock, which is disappointing as I’m a fan of hers. However, here she’s never really likeable or wins you over. In comparison with her cinematic brother she looks brittle and cagey, lacking Clooney’s easy charm and suave delivery. Danny wins people other with smooth charisma, Debbie just wins them over because the plot calls for it.

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Bullock and Blanchett, looking as bored as I felt

With a heroine it’s hard to root for the film adds a revenge subplot with Debbie out to get former lover Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) who got her banged up. But it’s hard to view this as too much of a bastard move in a film about con artists, and it seems to be Debbie holding a grudge because someone did to her what she does to countless others.

There are a few laughs and it looks great,  but there’s nothing underneath and the characters are so underwritten it’s hard to give a damn. Also, it’s 2018, having a scene where someone has to explain Tinder to Kaling seems out of place, almost like the app had paid to be included?

But by far the film’s worst offence is to be utterly, utterly dull. I gave up giving a damn pretty early on in the movie, and after the heist there are some rather silly twists and turns thrown in for seemingly no good reason.

Verdict: Dull, charmless and lacking warmth. It looks good, and Hathaway is kinda fun, but on the whole it’s all rather flat. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

2015’s Jurassic World was an enjoyable adventure which rebooted a franchise that had been dead for over a decade. Part of the appeal was that it went back to the theme park roots, upped the dinosaurs and ensuing carnage, and featured a likeable lead performance from Chris Pratt.

Of course, the success meant that we would be seeing more of Pratt’s Owen Grady and the dinosaurs. But with the park closed down, and the island having become the land that time forgot, what would be the story.

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Well, we kinda go down the same route as the very first sequel, 1997’s The Lost World. Reluctant hero returning to dino country? Check. Dodgy hunters? Check. Dinosaurs running wild in the US? Check.

Owen is drawn back to Isla Nubar by his ex Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former manager of Jurassic World who wants to save all the giant lizards (I’m getting sick of typing “dinosaurs”, okay?) before the island’s volcano Pompeiis them all. She’s been trying to win over influential people, but the US government has decided not to intervene. This is because someone has finally realised that the best course of action in a Jurassic movie is to just listen to Dr Ian Malcolm (a returning, if underused Jeff Goldblum). He argues that as mankind subverted natural law they should just let Mother Nature sort it all out with sweet lava justice.

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Goldblum’s back. Unfortunately he doesn’t do much

Unfortunately, while common sense is prevailing elsewhere, Claire gleefully accepts the offer of help from Rafe Spall’s Eli Mills, a slick business man who’s employer was involved in setting up the original park before falling out with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). They travel to the island to rescue 11 species, with Owen needed to bring in Blue, the Velociraptor he trained from birth.

At the island they meet Ted Levine’s mercenary who may as well be named Dodgy McJudas because as soon as he rocks up you know he’s a wrong ‘un. Owen finds Blue, but holy double cross, Batman! The mercenaries take the raptor, leaving Owen, Claire and the comic relief behind. They leg it from the exploding island, and discover that Eli Mills is planning to sell Barney and friends in order to fund their experiments in creating hybrids, having forgotten how badly that went down last time.

Can Owen save Blue? Can they free the dinos and get them a new home? And what exactly have those mad scientists cooked up this time?

Here’s the thing, some of this movie is rather good fun, and kudos has to go to Pratt and BDH, who do well as our plucky heroes and have good chemistry once more. Unfortunately, BDH’s Claire seems a little confused here, motivation wise. She’s massively invested in the dinosaurs and as the villain points out, she exploited the lizards firsts, so her outrage is odd.

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Personally, I was with Malcolm and felt they should have let the lava take care of these abominations, but there’s no movie there.

There are very few surprises here, apart from a couple of moments when logic jumps ship. You can see a lot of the plot points coming, and one of the big reveals was so obvious that I clicked what was happening in the first scene it looms up.

It delivers a few decent action sequences, but the new Big Bad is a little underwhelming. Compared to the raptors of the first two movies, or the Indominus Rex in the second movie, this new dinosaur doesn’t chill the blood or exude an aura of danger. In fact, it’s the sequences elsewhere in the movie that are more enjoyable, which is not good. The big villain is supposed to be the main event, and here it’s overshadowed by supporting players.

This is fun enough, and is okay to pass the time, and a few sequences are quite gripping, but this is definitely a weaker addition to the series. The trouble is they’ve still hooked me in for the next movie, as this ends hinting at a far more enjoyable story. It passes the time, but it feels a tad underwhelming.

Verdict: Pratt and Howard are decent enough, but the story is uninspired and easy to predict. A few decent action sequences aren’t enough, and it doesn’t deliver on its promise. Meh. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: “Rommel?” “Gunner who?”: A Confrontation in the Desert by Spike Milligan

Having really enjoyed the first instalment of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, I was keen to get on with the rest of the series. So, when I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday, this was one of the first things I downloaded onto my Kindle.

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Picking up where the first ends, this sees Milligan and 19th Battery in Algeria, pushing on for Tunisia as the war starts to heat up. Whereas in the first book the conflict seemed almost a world away from his training on England’s South coast, here he is closer to the danger and actually comes under fire. This means that despite Milligan’s sense of humour there is a darker edge. One particularly dark moment has Milligan taking a watch from a recently killed Italian soldier and sending it back to his father.

The humour of the men changes, there’s more gallows humour and at times Milligan admits that the wisecracks feel forced, or repetitive. The men are clearly rattled, but trying to carry on as normal, to put on a brave face, but the cracks do show. There’s a particularly moving sequence when one of Milligan’s friends, a Lieutenant, is killed.

There are other moments when death looms large, but Milligan is also well aware of the ridiculous moments of war and the quirks of the men he serves with. There is a feeling of not taking life too seriously which flows through everything he does, with even his more introspective moments undercut with quips and gags.

The gags come thick and fast and it made me laugh many times, but there is a darkness and sense of consequence here that makes it less fun and carefree than the first part. That being said it is an entertaining and involving read about one man’s war, and thankfully a man of humour and intelligence.

Verdict: Very entertaining but the horrors of war close in and make this slightly less fun than the first. Luckily, Milligan is still a hugely entertaining writer with a keen eye for the absurdities of war and a knack of capturing characters and place well. A good read. 8/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Week Of

I liked the look of this Netflix Original and despite his hit-and-miss output, I still find Adam Sandler quite a funny on screen presence (Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and The Longest Yard being favourites of mine). Throw in Chris Rock and the premise of a large, chaotic family wedding, and I thought this might be a decent watch.

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The premise is simple, dealing with the week of the wedding of Kenny Lustig’s (Sandler) daughter to the son of Kirby Cordice (Rock). Kenny is financially strapped, but determined to deliver the best wedding he can for his daughter, what he sees as his last proper action as a parent and his responsibility. However, this causes problems such as the fact that the venue they have chosen is beset by problems due to the cost cutting decisions of the manager, who ignored all of Kenny’s recommendations when renovating.

This leads to Kenny having to put up a massive number of guests in his own house, which becomes full and cramped with a colourful, eccentric band of family members from both sides. Kenny is the patriarch of the family, and constantly having to put out fires and being asked to solve issues.

Kirby, meanwhile, is not the centre of his family, indeed he is slightly ostracised. A successful and ambitious surgeon, he sacrificed his family life for his career and was a poor husband and father in the past. He is clearly troubled by this and his relationship with his children is distant and awkward, despite his best efforts.

Where the film works is in ramping up the farcical elements, from a diabetes effected uncle who is mistaken for a war hero, to an unhinged nephew constantly at risk of snapping, to attempts to save money by ridiculous schemes, the overwhelming family is constructed well, with Kenny constantly under pressure. Sandler does very well here as the regular Joe and nice guy placed under massive stress, doing his shtick of barely suppressed rage rather well. Rock is likeable too, as the normal man thrust into this mad situation.

While there are plenty of decent lines and some big laughs, the whole movie feels lacking in some way. It took me a while to figure out why, but I finally put my finger on it. There’s a massive lack of conflict or resolution here.

Kenny’s rage, slowly bubbling away, never boils over. It deprives the film of a big emotional blow out, and some crowd pleasing ranting from Sandler. He doesn’t lose it with his irritating relatives, the hotel manager who jeopardises the wedding or anyone else along the way.

Similarly, while Kirby scores a minor victory over his judgemental former mother-in-law, the rest of the family are still dismissive of him and despite him loosening up we don’t see much sign of his relationship with his family softening. One dance with his estranged daughter doesn’t feel enough.

And there are other factors that never pay off- the maid of honour is painted as insecure and nervous, but doesn’t get a moment of triumph over the critical bridesmaids. The troubled teen doesn’t get any saving grace other than being shown dancing at the wedding.

One area that may have saved it is a bit more drama on the daughter front. While there are glimpses that Kenny’s daughter is angry at his refusal to allow Kirby to help or embarrassed by the wedding he is putting on it never comes to much. It means that when Kenny talks about his fear of losing her it feels less powerful than had it been delivered following a heated argument.

The central couple are massively forgettable. In fact, I can’t credit the actors here as I’ve forgotten their character names so don’t want to put the wrong people here. They get one scene alone together that I remember, which is rather sweet as they joke about barely seeing each other due to the manic preparations, and the groom is shown to be a decent chap in his interactions with other family members, but they barely feature. It’s a massive shame as this could have strengthened the film and provided a nice contrast to the unending farce and OTT-ness of the rest of the movie.

Chaos is fine, but better with small, sweeter moments to break it up. And also, had they been fleshed out more we may have cared more about how the wedding turned out. But of course, the story here is really about the fathers of the bride and groom.

It’ll make you laugh, but it won’t really stick with you and it feels like some zealous editing might have helped. In order to keep the laughs flowing, the filmmakers have sacrificed story and heart, which are the things which make the best comedies work. As it is, this is merely alright.

Verdict: It delivers on plenty of laughs, but lacks focus and chooses silliness over emotion far too often. This means the attempts to add feeling seem rushed and it doesn’t resonate as much as it should. It’ll pass the time, but it’s hit and miss. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

You gotta love a good deal on books. On a recent trip to town I visited HMV where they had a two for a fiver offer, I picked up Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic which had been on my radar for a while, and decided to take a punt on this book as the blurb told me this had inspired the movie Cabaret and the setting of Germany as the Nazis begin to get a foothold sounded interesting.

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I’m glad I took a gamble as it made for quite an entertaining read, with Isherwood a keen observer of people and he creates vivid, believable characters, all clearly based on people he knew. The writing is clever and witty, with insight and provides little snapshots of life in the city. The political factions are largely in the background as the semi-autobiographical vignettes unfold. It begins with a few SA members on the street, debates in cafes and then builds to the final stages with mass rallies, assaults and the Nazis seizing power.

Isherwood, as a gay man, is perilously placed and a great number of those he encounters are similarly in danger as the Nazis grow in influence. There are the family friends the Landauers, a Jewish family who find themselves subject to boycotts and threats, actress Sally Bowles who thrives in the decadent society that the Nazis will seek to suppress and then there are the Communists he talks to in cafes. Their talk of revolution and civil war has a feel of adolescent posturing to it, yet the real thing is coming and many find themselves in trouble for the things they’ve said.

The early stages of the book are slow and meandering, but not without charm due to Isherwood’s wry observations and knack of sketching characters well. There is a lack of incident which hurts the book slightly as it stops it from being the book you rush back to, eager to know what happens next. But in the closing stages there is a pervading tension and a few episodes which show just how much the city has changed. The decadent, free spirited Berlin has become claustrophobic, tense and dangerous. Isherwood ends the book preparing to leave the city, and the reader knows that worse is to come.

I’d recommend this book as the writing is wonderful, and the sense of place, character and mood is brilliantly realised. A great read.

Verdict: A well written piece that may lack for drama and incident in places, but impresses due to the characters and tone that Isherwood captures. An interesting snapshot of pre-Nazi Germany. The building tension and sense of dread bubbling beneath the surface is captivating. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Sum of My Parts by James Sanford

I’m not usually a fan of misery memoirs or cancer survivor stories. In fact before this the only book about having cancer I can remember reading is Lance Armstrong’s. That book inspired me, leaving me slightly disappointed by his subsequent fall from grace.

I only picked this because I have Kindle Unlimited and I decided to branch out a bit with my reading. I’m glad I did as Sanford is a talented writer and thankfully avoids mawkishness or cliche.

Sanford wakes up one morning to a strange feeling down there and when he finally sees a doctor discovers that it is testicular cancer. Sanford details his treatment and the impact on his personal life.

One of the interesting aspects of this book is that Sanford talks about how the treatment reawakens old body image issues and his slow route to some form of body acceptance and newfound confidence.

The writing is polished and engaging enough, albeit with a lack of flair. It’s a decent reading but at times Sanford appears to be holding himself back. You get the feeling that more may have gone on but he chooses to leave it out. Which is fair enough, it’s his choice after all but it does leave this feeling rather muted. This detachment stopped me from being able to really connect with the book at times.

Verdict: A decent read that avoids self pity but feels too guarded to fully engage. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.