Category Archives: Matthew Quick

Rounding Up The Reviews #1; Graves, Shadows, Peacocks and Raindrops

Both in preparation and as a teaser for the change in Savidge Reads next week, I thought I would start a new occasional series of posts (occasional is such a lazy sounding word isn’t it, I have never understood what an occasional table is when it’s not being a table, sorry I digress) where I round up the books that be they good, bad or ugly I can’t quite get an 800+ post out of or, in some cases, don’t deserve such efforts. Yes that is right, finally after almost seven years blogging I am going to start telling you about some of the books that I have read which were average, bad or even downright awful. So I don’t come across a complete old grump there will also be some very good books in the mix, I might just not have oodles to say about them. We all have books like that don’t we? Anyway, I am in danger of falling into my usual waffle territory so let us start with the first four victims books…

Three Graves Full – Jamie Mason

ONE Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 336 pages, bought by my good self

Jason Getty has killed a man and buried him in his garden. This haunts him daily, but even more so when he has the gardeners in landscaping his lawn because he is so paranoid that someone might suspect from its unkempt state that he has buried someone there. What he, and the gardeners, are soon shocked to discover is that there are actually two other bodies buried in the Jason’s garden. If he didn’t kill them who did? And just who on earth are they? The farce begins…

I use the word farce above because in essence this is not a dark crime, it is not a cosy crime, I think it is trying to be a comic crime. From the synopsis I was sold and had no doubt that this would easily be in my top ten books of the year, alas I didn’t really like it. When the police detectives’ dog started to talk to itself a la Lassie and I was surprised and quite interested I knew all was lost – I don’t like talking animals in books, you know this. The book starts off with too much going on, confusion not being a good move early on in a book with too many characters introduced and random back stories. Then as it petered out, before going AWOL again later, I just coasted along with it. Sorry. Great idea just not crafted in a way that worked for me. You can hear me talking about it here.

Dreams and Shadows – C. Robert Cargill

Gollancz Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 416 pages, bought by my good self

Now you will have to bear with me on this one. Ewan is kidnapped when he is a young boy by some fairies who swap him for one of theirs, who drives its new mother to suicide. He is brought up as one of their own but it isn’t done for the love, there is a purpose – which I am obviously not going to tell you for spoilers sake and some of you will love this. Meanwhile a young boy Colby meets a Djinn in the woods Ewan has been stolen into, who grants him a wish (because he has to, he’s a Djinn) to see all things supernatural, which is actually more of a curse. Lovely so far isn’t it? Well it gets lovelier as Ewan and Colby meet and become friends. But, yes you guessed it there is a but, when Colby discovers Ewan’s fate he uses his new powers unselfishly and not only does this backfire, pretty much opening hell, but Ewan is rescued but ends up in care, rather disturbed and not in a good way to start out his life… And that is pretty much just the start; after all I did say hell is unleashed.

I loved the first half of this book. Cargill interweaves Ewan and Colby’s tales with snippets from Folklore Encyclopaedia’s and has some wonderful urban legends and spooky/grim stories interweaved. The second half of the book, and this will sound bonkers coming from me, almost gets too real and bogged down in the miseries of the real world and soon enough I lost interest. Liked the writing, would have preferred a tale firmly set in the ‘other’ or collection of spooky and horrific tales set in the now, for some reason this didn’t quite master either. You can hear me talking more about it here.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Headline Publishing, paperback, 2014, fiction, 288 pages, borrowed from the library

Right! The gloves are coming off with this one. There are some authors who everyone loves and who can clearly write brilliantly but I just don’t get. David Mitchell, Jennifer Egan, Martin Amis, etc. Then there are those authors who loads and loads of people love who can either write okay or badly or write in a way that makes me want to scream. Matthew Quick has become one of those. I read The Silver Linings Playbook and unlike everyone else not only did I get bored of my own eyes rolling as I read it I also questioned how Quick writes about people with mental health issues. It felt like the joke was on them and he was off running to the bank on the proceeds.

Well, for me at least, he has done it again with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock… Only this time it is at the expense of any teenager who has been suicidal or any teenager who has been shot at school. I actually don’t want to give the book any more airtime than that. Note – I talked about it a lot on Hear…Read This if you need more. But sorry Mr Quick, I cannot forgive you for this one.

A Necklace of Raindrops – Joan Aiken & Jan Pienkowski

Jonathan Cape, hardback, 1968 (2009 edition), fiction, 108 pages, , bought by my good self

Aaah!  A book to lighten any mood if ever there was one! This was actually a re-read for me and of a book that I had completely forgotten about until Kate chose it for Hear… Read This. It was a book I used to read way back decades ago when me and Polly, formerly of Novel Insights, were tiny little things and I used to dress up in her princess dresses refusing to be the prince. Back to the book though which is one of Aiken’s collections of short stories that also verges on picture book, thanks to Pienkowski who yes did all the amazing Meg and Mog books from your (or your children’s) childhood, the illustrations inside are as stunning as the cover.

This is a book that can be enjoyed and treasured by adults and children alike with its tales of genies, necklaces that can change the weather, cats that grant wishes and best of all the elves who come out of your books and bring them too life. Occasionally the tales got a little far out, yet that really is all part of the fun as like her readers it seems Joan Aiken had a limitless imagination. Virago are publishing her adult novels again I believe, someone needs to bring this and its follow up back into the mainstream as they are just wonderful and for me proved a real nostalgic trip.

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So that is your lot for now. I realised as I was going along that all these books were Hear… Read This choices. Now initially I was pondering if we just choose some dodgy books, I don’t think that is the case I think we all just experiment with choosing slightly random books which can be duds occasionally but overall when brilliant are really brilliant. I do wonder if it is actually a case of having discussed them so much with Gav, Rob and Kate I then feel like I have explored them enough and so don’t feel I can review them as well. Who knows? Anyway, more over the next few days meanwhile have you read any of these and if so what did you make of them? What are your thoughts on occasional review round up posts like this, and indeed what are your thoughts on occasional tables?

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Filed under C. Robert Cargill, Hear... Read This, Jamie Mason, Jan Pienkowski, Joan Aiken, Matthew Quick, Review, Rounding Up The Reviews

The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I came to finally reading Matthew Quick’s ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ a rather unusual way. When the book came out a few years ago and was placed on the (now defunct I believe) TV Book Club choices it just wasn’t a book I fancied reading. The title seemed a little bit saccharine and I just had the feeling it might be a real schmaltz fest that I simply wouldn’t get. However at the cinema a few weeks ago (to see Breaking Dawn Part 2, a film that was really only good for 20 minutes which turned out to be a ‘vision’ and hadn’t actually happened) I saw the trailer for new Hollywood adaptation of ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ and took a shine to it. I thought it looked like it would have you laughing and crying the whole way through and so I decided to ignore my previous thoughts on the book and give it a whirl before I saw the movie.

Picador Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 289 pages, kindly sent by the publisher (so sorry!)

Picador Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 289 pages, kindly sent by the publisher (so sorry!)

Patrick Peoples, our narrator and protagonist, has just been released from a psychiatric hospital as ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ opens. Many, including some of the doctors there, don’t feel that he is ready to go out into the world yet his mother, and her lawyers, have persuaded people otherwise. Patrick, or Pat, is determined to get his life back on track. He understands that he wasn’t the best husband, initially you think this is because he feels he put on weight during his marriage and is obsessed with losing it, to his wife Nikki and wants to make amends no matter how many times people clearly state to him that this will never happen. As he starts life again his friends introduce him to Tiffany, a widow who has become something of a nymphomaniac, who it seems is just as much of an emotional wreck as he is. Can this unlikely duo and their friendship help each other sort themselves out?

At first I was really quite charmed with the story that Matthew Quick was unfolding, I liked Pat’s rather direct and sometimes blunt outlook on life quite funny and found the story of his initial steps after leaving the clinic and moving home interesting. Sadly however slowly but surely the book started to fall apart for me, and I found myself picking it to pieces, before wishing it would all be over. Here is why…

First of all whilst I liked Pat he remains throughout a rather two dimensional character, I never felt (despite all we go through with him) that emotionally connected to his story. I did want to know the mystery of what happened between him and Nikki and why his father didn’t really speak to him but I never fully cared. This sounds awfully harsh I know, I think the problem was that in having the HUGE ‘what happened?’ over the whole of the book and the mystery behind it you couldn’t know him and while I was interested it was only in the mystery, not about him and what happened to him.

I actually thought that Tiffany and her story, which we get at the very end not long before one of the most saccharine and clichéd of final chapters I have read in a long time, was much more interesting and yet she wasn’t really in the book that much and when she was you might as well have had plot device tattooed on her forehead. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but as the book goes on it appears Tiffany could be a link to Pat meeting Nikki again, let’s just say it was preposterous and the twist that Quick uses was easy to spot a mile off, though maybe that was the idea? Either way it completely jarred with me and the world was broken, but to be fair to Quick I did carry on to find out what happened, I just didn’t believe in any of it.

I did overall like Quick’s writing, well its style, I found some of the set pieces quite funny but as I mentioned before I never quite had an emotional attachment. I also thought the book tried to pack too much in and didn’t know who it was aimed at, something an editor should have sorted out. One minute it had that ‘love story’ quality and the ‘man who went mad and made good’ aspect, oh and the dancing competition (I am rolling my eyes) all which seemed to state this was a book for women. Then there was the never ending (well it seemed never ending) football stuff, American football I should add – the Eagles of Philadelphia to be precise, a storyline which I think was to try and make Pat bond with his brother and father again who have completely ignored him for the years he was away. When his new therapist was also a fan and they met at the game my eyes almost rolled so much that I thought they might never stop like an arcade machine that needs fixing – and no not in a ‘jackpot’ sense. Oh, and don’t get me started on how the book  has ruined, with all its spoilers as Pat reads them, most of the American classics that I have yet to read.

It looks like I really disliked ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ doesn’t it? I think it’s fairer to say I was just very disappointed in it, I had high hopes because the premise looked so could it just didn’t deliver for me personally. I won’t give the book the ‘debut author’ excuse that some might as a) it is patronising to the author and b) I read Emma Henderson’s ‘Grace Williams Says It Out Loud’ last year which does all of this so, so much better and is a debut too. It simply isn’t a ‘me’ book and that is really no one’s fault but mine. I should have stuck to my initial feelings and left the book alone, damn you trailer! Speaking of which I am now unsure I want to see the movie. That said though sometimes, no matter how much it pains me to say so, the films can actually be better than the books which brings us full circle to me mentioning Breaking Dawn Part 2 again ironically.

I am sure I am a part of a very small minority here though and that many people love or will love ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’? Maybe the cold weather has frozen my heart and feelings? Have you read it and if so what did you think? Have any of you seen the movie yet, thoughts?

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Filed under Books To Film, Matthew Quick, Picador Books, Review