My Reading and Writing

Personal reviews, writing and appreciation of literature.

Leave a comment

Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe by Amy Pascale

JossWhedonPascale’s biography starts off with a very brief foreword by Nathan Fillion, star of Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, however it’s hardly worth the mention on the book’s cover given its length and lack of expression. Once the story kicks off though, we are given a history of Whedon and his creative family, along with the seeds of his love of film, comics and musicals. Joss’s own experiences are likened to later scenes in his writing, showing how he draws on these in the creation of his work.

Joss is shown to have an aura of self-assurance in his craft throughout this biography, even if he wasn’t as confident in other facets of his life, such as his romantic encounters, although he finds a wife and soulmate in Kai Cole who supports his endeavours wholeheartedly. The bonds with the women in his life such as his mother, wife and mentor Jeanine Basinger of Wesleyan College are featured strongly throughout the narrative, along with the familial ties he forms with the cast and crew who work with him over the years.

Given her passion toward her subject and his work, Pascale does provide a somewhat biased account of Whedon and doesn’t particularly portray him as taking responsibility for his failures and the not so successful start to his career, pinpointing difficulties on other parties. Perhaps I am being cynical, but it seems that Whedon can do no wrong and no one has a negative opinion of him. That being said, this is undoubtedly not a book you would read if not a fan of Whedon’s work so this is not of significant concern.

Most notably known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon was a forerunner in utilising the internet to connect with his very loyal and devoted fan base. Pascale charts his popularity along with the highs and lows of his career, from his early days writing for Roseanne, through to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She also encompasses his forays in writing, directing and producing. I enjoyed reading how some of his signature programs, episodes and movies came about and the additional insight Pascale afforded these. The book also provides a fascinating insight into the art of screenwriting and the film industry.

Publisher Synopsis
“Joss Whedon is a male writer whose most famous creation is a girl-power icon; a geek who deals in classic themes of love, betrayal and redemption; and one of the first people in the entertainment industry to have harnessed the power of the internet to engage directly with his fans.

Amy Pascale became one of those fans when Buffy Summers enrolled at Sunnydale High in 1997. She has followed Whedon’s career ever since, marvelling at his ability to reimagine seemingly hackneyed genres as heartfelt human drama.

In this revealing biography she seeks out the source of that imagination, exploring his artistic liberal upbringing in New York and teenage years at an elite English public school, before tracing his journey from a bruising start in television to his status today as a blockbuster writer and director whose every new project is pored over online by millions of loyal geeks.

Using extensive original interviews with many of Whedon’s key collaborators – as well as Joss himself – Amy presents candid behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of ground-breaking shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, and considers Whedon’s distinctive contribution to cinema through movies such as Toy Story, Serenity and superhero epic The Avengers.

The result is an intimate portrait of the man who re-wrote popular culture and gave it a heart.”

ISBN: 9781845137199

Leave a comment

The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour

IntimateAdventuresOver the eight month period of her journal, de Jour (nom de plume of Brooke Magnanti) provides an insight into her career as a high-class call girl, working through an agency to source clients whom she most often meets in hotels. She shares details of her various encounters, the dos and don’ts of the escort world, her preening rituals and obsessions with lingerie, whilst also delving into her relationships and social life.

I personally found Belle comes off a little conceited and judgemental. She turns her nose up at administrative work, of which I have made quite a reasonable living out of. At twenty-seven years of age (which is the age to which she alludes herself being) she primarily socialises with men (most of whom are ex-boyfriends) – make of that what you will. Whilst it’s refreshing that she doesn’t have any qualms about her choice of employment and often promotes safety, she doesn’t elaborate on what I imagine is the seedier side of the business nor any dangerous situations she may have found herself in, which led me to feel that she was perhaps not being totally honest or wanted to portray her role as more glamorous than it was. I expected a grittier novel than the one that I found.

To me the book was a bit of fun but I won’t be rushing to read her subsequent work. De Jour delivers wit and entertainment, even with the lingering doubts as to the credibility of her tale. If you think you’d like reading a raunchier version of Bridget Jones’s Diary then this book is for you.

Publisher Synopsis
“Belle de Jour is the nom de plume of a high-class call girl working in London. This is her story.

From the summer of 2003 to the autumn of 2004 Belle charted her day-to-day adventures on and off the field in a frank, funny and award-winning web diary. Now, in her Intimate Adventures, Belle elaborates on those diary entries, revealing (among other things), how she became a working girl, what it feels like to do it for money, and where to buy the best knickers for the job. From debating the literary merits of Martin Amis with naked clients to smuggling whips into luxury hotels, this is a no-holds-barred account of the high-class sex-trade, and an insight into the secret life of an ordinary woman.”

ISBN: 9780753819234

Leave a comment

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

HappiestRefugeeThe Happiest Refugee is Anh Do’s story from his childhood years, through to his foray into comedy and beyond. His memoir begins with his harrowing escape from Vietnam, with forty family members and friends on a small fishing boat. Surviving five days at sea where they battled death, pirates and the elements, his family were rescued and sent to a Malaysian refugee camp where they spent three months before arriving in Australia in 1980.

On arrival in Australia, Do expresses his family’s delight at the welcome they received and it is uplifting to read that he experienced little racism during his life in Australia. Do upholds his Vietnamese culture which is embraced by the many friends in his life. Throughout the book, he expresses his admiration and respect for his hardworking, resourceful and entrepreneurial family, who make their way in their new home through a series of endeavours such as sewing and duck farming. Do touchingly describes his father’s decent into grief and alcoholism following a failed venture, their years of estrangement and eventual reconciliation.

Do writes in a matter of fact style, with a series of short narratives compiled together to make up his colourful life. Scattered throughout is his adorable trademark humour, whilst the reader is also privy to his down to earth, genuine attitude whilst sharing in his gratitude for those who have made an impact on his life. Throughout his life Do and his family experienced financial hardship, yet he relentlessly pursued his dreams whilst working hard to support his mother, brother and sister without complaint. His story is inspiring and a delight to read.

ISBN: 9781742372389

Leave a comment

Birth School Metallica Death Volume 1 by Paul Branigan & Ian Winwood

BirthSchoolMetallicaDeathI must preface this review by admitting that I am a fan of Metallica and I don’t imagine anyone who isn’t would want to read this biography.

As noted in the title, this is a review on Volume 1, with Volume 2 now also released. Volume 1 covers the conception of the band and its founding members through to the eve of the release of their self titled ‘Black Album’ in 1991, detailing changes in line-up along their journey. The book covers Metallica’s beginnings in LA, to San Francisco, New York and the wider world, and their musical influences including the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’. A short biography on each band member is included, along with their individual idiosyncrasies, and interesting and humorous anecdotes are peppered throughout.

Whilst some of the many details of concerts and recording can become a little monotonous, along with the quotes of Lars Ulrich in particular, and the volume contains the odd spelling and grammatical errors, this is still a fascinating and enlightening read.

The authors of the biography are both respected music journalists having written for Rolling Stone and Kerrang! magazines, to name a few.

The egos of the band members, along with their music, may not be to everyone’s taste but you can’t discredit Metallica’s longevity and business decisions. I am looking forward to reading the next instalment.

Publisher Synopsis
“Metallica are one of the biggest bands of all time. The California quartet have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, won nine Grammy Awards and had five consecutive albums hit number one on the US Billboard chart.

But theirs is a tale about much more than just sales figures and critical acclaim – and their journey from scuzzy Los Angeles garages to the world’s most famous stadiums has been both dramatic and painful.

Birth School Metallica Death is the definitive account of the ‘Led Zeppelin of their generation’. It’s a story about family, community, self-belief and the pursuit of dreams, which unfolds through first-hand interviews with the band and those closest to it.

Piece by piece, Paul Brannigal and Ian Winwood reveal just how Metallica have stayed ahead of the competition for so many years, and in Volume 1 – the first half of this epic story – they detail the band’s rise to international fame right up until the eve of the release of their seminal ‘Black Album’.”

ISBN: 9780571294145