Wednesday, September 24

Book: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn Click for more info

Yes fine, I'll admit it - I only read this book because of the upcoming film release. I guess it's a kind of bandwagon jumping, although I did resist reading when most of the London Underground was so there's a bit of a moral victory there. But of course I had already decided it for what it was: a trashy populist thriller aimed at the common denominator of readers - the type who feel clever because they're reading something off a paper page and not an iPhone screen.

But what's this? I was... wrong? Well let's start at the beginning. Gone Girl has some pretty decent levels of the stuff I look for in a book - characterisation - it's almost even a bit too much as the main protagonists exceed reality and become a little caricature at times. But still I have to applaud the author for creating character so refreshingly deep and multilayered, and in fact it's the depth of character that the book rides on for the most part; the plot is a little shifty, although the writing standard itself is sound.

But toward the middle of the book it all starts going terribly wrong. As genius as the "method writing" of the author is (I actually reckon she might be a little unhinged in real life), the cracks do start to show as the plot fails to keep up with the people portraying it. In fact it all reduces to something a bit feminist and propaganda-ry by the end of it, and that's not even mentioning the ending which by all measures was just a cheat.

It's a shame actually because for me it was just enough to spoil the book. It was great while it lasted, but ultimately the prophecy came to pass and Gone Girl did turn out to be just another trashy page turner designed to please the masses. Ironically though I do think it'll make a better film.

Wednesday, September 17

Food: JRC Global Buffet Click for more info

In a town full of generic identikit all you can eat buffets, anything different can immediately be seen as something really special. Take JRC Global Buffet for instance - it's huge for one, quite well done up for another, and at first glance has a pretty decent range of food to pick from. There were Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Continental kitchens, each with the staple, if not comprehensive, dishes that you would expect to find.

But looks can be deceiving, and things start unravelling a little for a Muslim visitor when they realise that not everything is halal - the Chinese in particular appeared off limits. But still there was plenty to compensate; in particular I don't think I've been to a buffet that has sushi and teppanyaki - I think I saw staff walking around with a stick of BBQ too at one point. The quality of food was more decent than otherwise - surprisingly the beef lasagne was worth the entry price alone. Desserts were also of a decent nick and range, although I was a little rushed for time so didn't get to investigate as much as I'd like to.

Otherwise this was pretty standard stuff, albeit if a little above average. At £15.99 it was priced on par, and even the drinks were of a decentish value.

I'd definitely like to visit again at some point, at which point I'd hope there would be slightly more of a choice. As it stand though JRC is a good effort in a sea of mediocrity.

Saturday, September 13

Burq Off Click for more info

On paper Burq Off didn't stand a chance - an autobiographical one woman play telling the story of her repressed upbringing in a Pakistani family home and her coming of age rebellion as she discovered her sexuality (amongst other things) while living away for uni. Sigh etc. And yes if I'm honest I really didn't have much more than contempt for the cliché (and I guess by implication Nadia) itself.

And yet I came away having really enjoyed the show. The reason? Well it turns out that Nadia Manzoor is actually good - really good - at what she does now: theatre. Putting aside the genius and talent that comes with a one actor show (the final character count was 21 which is pretty impressive), she was brilliant at taking on the disparate roles and evoking emotion in us, the audience. In fact it went so far that at times it was quite confusing - we were supposed to feel bad for her when she was laughing? Laugh at her when she was crying? It was a bit of a roller coaster at time, and I found myself mentally tripping up quite a few times. I think intense was the word I immediately used when talking about the show afterwards.

So I guess for me Burq Off was just another example of raw talent shining through bad content. I'm perfectly fine with that - after all, it's not like Manzoor's next show will be telling the same story.

Tuesday, September 2

Film: Lucy

I really enjoyed Limitless, the film agaisnt which Lucy will always be compared. And for a while it fared pretty well - the only thing better than watching an everyday Joe gain superpowers is watching an attractive Jane do the same.

However the Besson craziness does kick in pretty soon (at under 90 minutes, it has to), and by around two thirds of the way through the film embraces the abstract and goes a little nuts. That's not fundamentally a bad thing and I'm sure the arty types will love that, but I personally preferred the plot led approach of Cooper's version.

Still, that's not to say Lucy was a bad film and I have no qualms in recommending it.

Monday, September 1

Book: The Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan Click for more info

And yet another chapter closes in the saga that is The Wheel of Time. Characters have levelled up, geographies have transformed and plots developed. TFoH was a comfortable read: it's come to the point where I was successfully guessing the themes and pages to come - but don't get me wrong, that isn't to say that the book was formulaic or predictable either.

One of the downsides of cramming on a saga like this is that you don't get a chance to absorb and develop as the characters do - they have been written to unfold and develop over years rather than months and so the transformations they have gone though can be jarring for someone like me who is reading them back to back. But that's a minor, almost tenuous complaint really, although I have to say I was vastly irritated by one of the lead characters (I'm almost certain that was by design).

A cracking book and series, I'm left looking forward to six.