Books / Year 2002
Date: 2002-12-30 (permlink)
Author: Kari Hotakainen
Name: Sydänkohtauksia
Rating: 3 stars

Not nearly the same level as some of his other work. The plot is absurd, the characters uninteresting and unbelievable, and the whole "let's skip the language problem totally and assume an unemployed janitor from the 1970's speaks perfect English, as does everybody else" was idiotic.

Date: 2002-12-28 (permlink)
Author: Kari Hotakainen
Name: Klassikko
Rating: 5 stars

As the title says, it's a classic. Well, enough of bad puns. I had my doubts about the book because of the movie made from it (which I haven't seen) which seemed somewhat stupid, but the book is nothing short of brilliant. I especially liked the fake diary sections in the middle, which obviously would have been completely absent from the movie, so I'm beginning to understand why the movie (probably) sucked.

Date: 2002-12-26 (permlink)
Author: Kari Hotakainen
Name: Juoksuhaudantie
Rating: 5 stars

I'll have to agree with the people claiming that Hotakainen is the knight in shining white armor, riding in to rescue the Finnish book-writing business from itself. I also agree that it's about time somebody wrote a book about the search for the perfect house, which is the main occupation of most people at some point in their lives. When you couple Hotakainen's writing skills with this fertile subject matter just waiting to be mined, it's no wonder the result is this good. Highly recommended for just about everyone.

Date: 2002-12-25 (permlink)
Author: Kari Hotakainen
Name: Elämä Ja Muita Juttuja
Rating: 3 stars

A slightly amusing collection of columns that made for excellent light Christmas reading.

Date: 2002-12-24 (permlink)
Author: Harry Harrison
Name: A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!
Rating: 3 stars

The name alone is a dead giveaway that this book is not to be taken seriously. Judging by that standard, it succeeds in its mission to entertain for a couple of hours reasonably well, though 30 year old alternate history books face a curious dilemma: the atomic train in the book is really old-fashioned and slow by today's standards, but I'm not sure if it was meant to be that when the book was written or if it was meant to be a shining example of progress in that alternate universe.

Date: 2002-12-16 (permlink)
Author: John H. Holland
Name: Emergence - From Chaos To Order
Rating: 1.5 stars

Useless, boring drivel. I learned absolutely nothing from the book and was bored throughout it. To illustrate my point, here's a quote from the beginning of chapter 9: "[This chapter's] ... lessons are repeated later on, so the reader can jump over without an impaired ability to understand later chapters ...". I rest my case.

Date: 2002-12-05 (permlink)
Author: Jennifer Edstrom, Marlin Eller
Name: Barbarians Led By Bill Gates: Microsoft From The Inside
Rating: 3 stars

Interesting reading, but I wouldn't bet on the truthfulness of any of it. Eller portrays himself as a genius that was always right and how Microsoft would have been 10 times bigger had he been listened to. Does that sound believable to anyone? Not to me, by a long shot. Just his claim that Microsoft could have "owned" the Internet had they started paying attention in 1992 is ludicrous. What exactly could Microsoft have done? If anyone thinks people would have started using Windows 3.1 to run their mail servers...

Date: 2002-12-01 (permlink)
Author: Frederick P. Brooks
Name: The Mythical Man Month
Rating: 3.5 stars

Pretty much as I expected: the interesting things I've already heard over the years and the uninteresting things would've been better left unread. Who cares how much money microfiche saved IBM 40 years ago? I certainly don't. Even less I want to know about Brooks' god-fetish and its strange results. Still, it's required reading for anyone wanting to claim themselves literate about the software industry.

Date: 2002-11-29 (permlink)
Author: Richard Russo
Name: Empire Falls
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Entertaining reading, and some unpredictable plot points. I'm not talking about the true identity of Charlie Mayne, which I guessed from the start, but rather the direction the John Voss character was taken. First he's introduced in a way that suggests he's a genius waiting to blossom, then he turns into a homicidal maniac. That, or I'm too predisposed to think good of characters like Voss, which is a scary thought.

Date: 2002-11-24 (permlink)
Author: T.H. White
Name: The Once And Future King
Rating: 3.5 stars

Not really sure what to say about this book. It goes against most traditional forms of storytelling, frequently goes away from the real events of the book to discussing "deeper issues" for a couple of pages, jumps forward dozens of years between sections, leaves the ending open, etc. Still, it has a weird fascination to it, and Lancelot and Arthur and Guinevere make an unforgettable triangle.

Date: 2002-11-06 (permlink)
Author: Anne Tyler
Name: Earthly Possessions
Rating: 4 stars

Very good writing, but I have a very hard time treating a book that clocks in at exactly 200 pages as a real book, not as a lengthy novella. Especially since in concrete terms, nothing much happens in this book, and most of what happens is told in flashback. Also the fact that the events take place 40-60 years ago doesn't do much for my interest, since the world is totally different now and most of the events described in the book couldn't happen in today's world. So, nothing earth-shattering, but recommended reading for a light snack.

Date: 2002-11-03 (permlink)
Author: Bruce I. Jacobs
Name: Capital Ideas And Market Realities
Rating: 2.5 stars

Long-winded yarn about portfolio insurance and how it failed in the 1987 crash. Recommended only for the numerous advertisements shown in the book from financial institutions, which all have outrageous claims in them. Shows you how much to trust advertisements once and for all.

Date: 2002-11-03 (permlink)
Author: John Dunning
Name: Murderous Women
Rating: 2 stars

This is the kind of book that the term 'pulp fiction' was invented for. What makes it even funnier is that the cover claims that these are true stories, which I find very unlikely. The constant swipes at "New Morality" alone make this book worth reading, once you've changed mental gears and treat the book as humor.

Date: 2002-10-28 (permlink)
Author: Elmore Leonard
Name: Bandits
Rating: 3.5 stars

I didn't connect with the characters at all. They all seemed unrealistic, like the 30-year old breathtakingly beautiful virgin ex-nun for starters. But it's a fast read if you've got nothing better to do.

Date: 2002-10-26 (permlink)
Author: Elmore Leonard
Name: Rum Punch
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

I can see while Tarantino was attracted to this story. I also approve of the changes he did for the film version, they really helped solidify the story. Jackie Brown is a much better name than Jackie Burke, and making her the main character was a smart move. Though I'm not entirely sure why Tarantino had to change the ending so that Max and Jackie don't end up together.

Date: 2002-10-10 (permlink)
Author: George Orwell
Name: Nineteen Eighty-four
Rating: Reread

Unlike some people, I think this book is more relevant now than ever before. Newspeak is hard at work in the hands of nations and corporations, for one thing. You only have to look at the fervor the media companies are putting into redefining the concepts of "theft" and "stealing" to include copying. Then there's the idiotic president and government of USA which are instituting the "spy on everyone you know, it's your patriotic duty!" program.

Of course, as important the book is in its message, it doesn't hide the fact that it's a hard book to read. Long passages where nothing happens, lots of repetition, and other things make it very hard to keep interested.

Date: 2002-10-02 (permlink)
Author: Margaret Atwood
Name: The Blind Assassin
Rating: 4.5 stars

A good book, even though I don't usually like passive characters, even less ones situated in past times. On the other hand, if we don't know how bad things were in the past, it's all too easy to dismiss how far things have progressed since then. Of course, people do that anyway, so what's the use...

Date: 2002-09-25 (permlink)
Author: Steven Levy
Name: Hackers
Rating: 4 stars

Fascinating read about the early hackers. Even more interesting is the pessimistic feeling of hackerism having died, as summarized by callling Stallman "The Last True Hacker". Of course nobody could have predicted the rise of the free software movement in the nineties, but in 1994 it was very clearly visible, so I don't understand why the afterword doesn't address that issue at all. It's also funny how Apple is worshipped for its openness and IBM portrayed as closed, when in fact, after 1984, the exact opposite has been true. However, the book is essential reading for anyone wanting to call themselves civilized.

Date: 2002-09-21 (permlink)
Author: Iain M. Banks
Name: Against A Dark Background
Rating: 4.5 stars

A slight change of pace from the Culture world I'm used to seeing from Banks. It's a strange mixture of high-tech and low-tech, and I could've really used some maps to figure out some of the action, but it's a good read all in all.

Date: 2002-09-19 (permlink)
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Name: Fight Club
Rating: Reread

I cringe when I read the comments I wrote about this book 3 years ago when I first read it, after seeing the movie. Of course I knew nothing about screenwriting then, but still... Now I noticed all the various changes as clearly as daylight, and most importantly, I could even come up with the reasons for them most of the time. The dialogue was shortened to make it snappier, some lines were juggled between Tyler and the voice-over, narrative was changed slightly to cut unnecessary characters and make it more linear, etc. And yes, I still like the movie better than the book.

Date: 2002-09-14 (permlink)
Author: John Wooden with Steve Jamison
Name: Wooden - A Lifetime Of Observations And Reflections On And Off The Court
Rating: 2.5 stars

Some good advice about trying your best etc, but most of it is self-evident and preachy.

Date: 2002-09-14 (permlink)
Author: Seppo Saario
Name: Miten Sijoitan Pörssiosakkeisiin
Rating: 3.5 stars

A good basic guide about things you need to know when investing in stocks.

Date: 2002-09-09 (permlink)
Author: Joel Engel
Name: Oscar-winning Screenwriters On Screenwriting
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really liked the format of this book. Freeflowing "essays" rather than mini-answers to mini-questions make for much better reading. You also get much more into each person when you read 20+ pages continuously about just him, and they're not all mixed into one big mess so you have to check who did what all the time. The persons selected were a good mix too, with both youngsters and the older generation represented.

Date: 2002-09-09 (permlink)
Author: Karl Iglesias
Name: The 101 Habits Of Highly Successful Screenwriters
Rating: 3.5 stars

Lots of interesting information, but it's draining work reading a whole book that consists of independent paragraphs. You have to start all over every 10 seconds, and that really kills your energy.

Date: 2002-09-07 (permlink)
Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki
Name: Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money - That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not!
Rating: 3.5 stars

An interesting introduction to the world of financial intelligence. Though short on details, it hammers home the basic fact that if you want to be rich, buy assets, not liabilities.

Date: 2002-09-04 (permlink)
Author: Glyn Moody
Name: Rebel Code
Rating: 3 stars

Entertaining account of the history of free software. I even learned a thing or two, like where the name Debian comes from.

Date: 2002-08-25 (permlink)
Author: Steven Levy
Name: Artificial Life
Rating: 4 stars

A good introduction to the field of artificial life. Regrettably it's 10 years out of date by now, but what can you do.

Date: 2002-08-24 (permlink)
Author: Donald A. Norman
Name: The Design Of Everyday Things
Rating: 3 stars

Some good stuff, but not as much as I expected. The computer stuff in particular rings false. As Norman points out, the things we use most have to be most efficient, so it shouldn't be a surprise that computers need some learning for optimum efficiency.

Date: 2002-08-17 (permlink)
Author: Dave Eggers
Name: A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius
Rating: 3.5 stars

The start of the book was excellent, with all the "how to read this book" stuff and so on. The actual start of the book was sluggish, spending too much time on his parents' death, which was of no interest to me at all, at least the way he portrayed it. The middle of the book was quite good, as he told stories of how he and his little brother got by on their own, but then it got sluggish again in the end as he preoccupied himself once more with his parents, this time with his mother's ashes. Also, his job, if you can call it that, throughout the period described in the book, was really strange, which affected the whole atmosphere. I would have had more sympathy if he actually had had a normal job and was running out of money and so on, but since he can apparently waste his life doing whatever he feels like, it's very hard for me to feel sympathetic about any of his so-called problems. So his parents died when he was over twenty years old? Big fucking deal. Welcome to the real world, kiddo.

Date: 2002-08-12 (permlink)
Author: John Irving
Name: My Movie Business
Rating: 3 stars

Probably the shortest book I've ever read. 170 pages, small pages, huge font, huge linespacing, lots of empty space because of the constant chapter breaks, etc. The photograph on the cover is a very good summary of what I had come to think of Irving after reading the book. He's over sixty, says himself that he hasn't watched movies in 20 years, didn't go to the wrap party, etc etc etc, and hasn't written a decent book in almost 15 years. So no wonder he's kinda grim nowadays.

Date: 2002-08-11 (permlink)
Author: Robert Rodriguez
Name: Rebel Without A Crew
Rating: 4 stars

Very inspiring reading. Hollywood sure seems like ripe for taking.

Date: 2002-08-08 (permlink)
Author: Max Adams
Name: The Sreenwriter's Survival Guide - Or, Guerrilla Meeting Tactics And Other Acts Of War
Rating: 3.5 stars

Some very good stuff in there, and entertaining all the way through. The backcover hypes her way too much, though, making it sound like she's the first person ever to break in from the outside. Newsflash: she's not.

Date: 2002-08-05 (permlink)
Author: Samuel P. Huntington
Name: The Clash Of Civilizations And The Remaking Of World Order
Rating: 5 stars

I've been reading this book for the last six months. Dunno why really, because it's quite interesting when you get into it. One explanation could be the somewhat low start the book has. There's repeated stuff and stuff anybody with half a mind already knows, and it gets a while to get into the good stuff. Once I finally got to the really interesting parts, though, the rest of the book went fast.

I have to say that my anti-Islam views were greatly strengthened by this book. As the book (almost) points out, Islam really is incompatible with the modern lifestyle, and nothing is going to change that fact. Hopefully no terrorists are reading this, I wouldn't want to get killed. Then again, I've offended most other religions by now too, so why let Islam alone? So, join me in shouting "Death to all religions!". Now, didn't that make you feel better? Thought so.

Date: 2002-08-03 (permlink)
Author: James Blish
Name: A Case Of Conscience
Rating: 3 stars

Weird book. A very much product of its times, for all its portrayal of the year 2050. Shows you how wrong you can go blindly extrapolating current trends into the far future. Trends rarely last long enough for those predictions to come true, as has been the case here.

Once you strip out all that, I'm not sure how much remains. The theme of religion versus science has been handled much more interestingly in the Hyperion/Endymion series by Simmons, so once you strip that out too, the one thing you're left with is basically huge bees. Not a bad thing, but hardly enough to win a Hugo by. Then again, we've seen in recent years how worthless these awards are (Harry Potter, anyone?).

Date: 2002-07-28 (permlink)
Author: John Irving
Name: The Hotel New Hampshire
Rating: Reread

Considering that the very first entry in this catalog is a book by John Irving, it's somehow sad that I've now come to consider that his only lasting work is 'A Prayer For Owen Meany'. Other books of his, like this, are too repetitive and unbelievable to take seriously. His obsession with Vienna, for example, is too obvious to ignore. In most of his books, the characters by some means always end up spending years in Vienna, which is hardly what typical americans do. About this book especially, I hated the self sacrifice rampant in the characters' behavior. You must be pretty stupid to do some of the things they do.

Date: 2002-07-24 (permlink)
Author: Steve Grand
Name: Creation: Life And How To Make It
Rating: 2.5 stars

I bought this book expecting it to offer valuable insight gained from creating the most widely used artificial life currently in existence, but what I got was very little substance and lots of the author's irrelevant personal opinions on the nature of intelligence. Most of which I vehemently disagreed with. The only good thing about the book was the couple of books mentioned in the bibliography which I added to my todo-list.

Date: 2002-07-20 (permlink)
Author: Roland Huntford
Name: The Last Place On Earth
Rating: 5 stars

Picked it up on a whim at the bookstore ages ago, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. Then the heatwave came, and suddenly Antarctic exploration was just the thing to lose oneself in. And lose myself I did, carrying the book with me everywhere and reading it at every opportunity. The quest for the South Pole and the differences between Amundsen and Scott make for fascinating reading. I shall put "Visit Antarctica" on my todo-list...

Date: 2002-07-09 (permlink)
Author: Stephen Fry
Name: The Liar
Rating: 4.5 stars

Amusing story about one person's growing up, made more amusing by his constant lying.

Date: 2002-07-07 (permlink)
Author: Stephen Fry
Name: The Stars' Tennis Balls
Rating: 5 stars

Like the blurb says, "A Count of Monte Cristo for the dot.com generation". Hugely enjoyable tale of revenge, best served cold. The pages just fly by. I was especially impressed when Fry started talking about newsgroups and internet service providers and web-cams and through it all, never made a single technical error. That's a better track record than Neal Stephenson right there. Sure, later on, he has a character disable another one's computer remotely in a way that's not realistic, but that was a very minor thing.

I just added everything that Fry has ever written to my todo-list, so that should tell you all you need to know.

Date: 2002-07-04 (permlink)
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Name: Choke
Rating: 3.5 stars

I'm beginning to doubt Palahniuk's versatility. After 4 books, he's really carving himself a niche portraying alienated loners protesting against the current society. That can be fun, but when it's combined with his unending fetish with "surprising" twists in the end that throw everything that's happened into a whole new light, the result is not unlike his characters: emotionally distant. Reading Palahniuk is more like solving a puzzle than reading a normal book.

Date: 2002-06-30 (permlink)
Author: Douglas Coupland
Name: Microserfs
Rating: Reread

Excellent, if slightly dated by now, portrayal of life at the beginning of the tech-bubble in Microsoft and at a small startup. About the only thing I found unrealistic was the absurdly high concentration of female coders, which I guess Coupland did to get more action into the book.

Date: 2002-06-28 (permlink)
Author: Michael Chabon
Name: The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay
Rating: 4 stars

Finally got around to reading this. So many books, so little time...I wonder if it's a bad thing to be looking forward to your retirement when you're 25?

The book wasn't entirely what I expected. There was less wordplay for wordplay's sake and much more focus on plot than I've come to expect from Chabon. I'm still not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, but it's certainly different. Overall, the book is good, but it's not of the "have to keep reading this no matter what" type of book. I'm on a holiday so I was planning to read it in a single day, but I kept taking any excuse I could invent to stop reading it after a while, so it took 4 days. I don't know if there's such a thing as a great book that has to be read slowly, but I can't give more than four stars to a book that loses to such boring activities as sleeping in the priority game.

Date: 2002-06-22 (permlink)
Author: Clive Barker
Name: Coldheart Canyon
Rating: 3.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Looking back, it's amazing how Barker could spend 750 pages on this material. There really isn't all that much happening, and the exact same story could be told in 300 pages. Only Barker's substantial literary talents keep the book from being unreadable, and manage to turn into a page-turner. Some fascinating descriptions of events, but overall, a slightly campy feeling came over me reading this. This is material that cries out to be taken less seriously, and it loses some of its potential as Barker treats it almost with reverence. I thought the conversion of Tammy from a fat lunatic to a reasonable human being wasn't believable, and I found it hard to sympathize with Todd's problems, too. "Gee, I'm only making couple of millions per films now, however will I survive?" may be a truthful portrayal of ex-stars' mindsets, but it doesn't make for likable characters.

Barker's description of his own life at the beginning of the book was funnier than anything else of the book. I couldn't help but laugh out loud when he complained how his demanding job had taken his health, and even better was when he extended thanks to his housekeepers. How spoiled can you get?

Date: 2002-06-20 (permlink)
Author: Russell Taylor
Name: Going For Broke - The Confessions Of A Merchant Banker
Rating: 3 stars

Interesting information on banking history and the junk loans they gathered in the eighties, but overall the effect is greatly diminished because the book is 10 years old and not only predicts, but is sure of, that the nineties will be a decade of recession, only question being how severe. Taking in the fact that the nineties turned out to be an incredible growth period, it's hard accepting anything else said in the book at face value. Still, very entertaining reading.

Date: 2002-06-16 (permlink)
Author: Nick Hornby
Name: Fever Pitch
Rating: 4 stars

Not at all the kind of book I was expecting. I'd seen the movie years ago, and obviously I thought this would be a piece of fiction about this bloke who's into football way too seriously and is about to lose his girlfriend because of it, but then escapes his obsession in the end 'to become a better person'.

The book actually turns out to non-fiction and catalogues Hornby's obsession with Arsenal throughout the decades, with plenty of general football thoughts thrown in. Once I'd gotten over the initial shock, I quite enjoyed the book, and think this is preferable to a book version of the movie.

I wonder how many Arsenal home games Hornby has been forced to miss in the last 10 years, now that he's a famous writer, and several of his books have been made into Hollywood films. Such is the price to pay for success.

Date: 2002-06-14 (permlink)
Author: Kate Saunders
Name: The Marrying Game
Rating: 2 stars

I fail to grasp how this one-small-step-above-Harlequin book got such quotes from respectable magazines. Maybe they have a special 'Romance' section in addition to the normal book review section; that's the only way I can figure it out.

One third through the book, almost everything is in order, and I was quite mystified what the remainder of the book was going to be about. Of course I knew it all along, but I was hoping with all my might I would be wrong.

People behave like idiots, inventing ways to be unhappy when nothing stands between them and their happiness but their own refusal to act sensibly. That's what the rest of the book consists of, and it's agonizing seeing them go through the motions ever so slowly.

I'm beginning to form a theory that any book which spends a lot of time describing the characters' looks is bound to be bad. Especially if it's done again every few pages when they've changed clothes and/or hairstyles. Extra points if all the main characters are magically beautiful, as is the case in this book. You can only read so much about steel-gray beards and piercing eyes and luxurious hair and...I've got to stop before I get sick.

The only reason I ever got this book was because it was the least worst looking amid all the boring thrillers available at the kiosk in the Florence train station, and I absolutely had to get something to read for the train. In hindsight, I'd probably have been better off with one of those cheap Clancy clones.

Date: 2002-06-11 (permlink)
Author: Helen Fielding
Name: Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason
Rating: 3 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

I had no idea Fielding was trying to turn Bridget into a series. The original concept B.J. (interesting initials...) was good, but it's not one you can repeat. Fielding has ignored this basic fact and produced a book, that while eminently readable, offers nothing new. The diary format with the weight, cigarettes, and alcohol use, was interesting in the first book, but entirely useless in this one.

To make matters worse, the entire plot is straight from "Screenwriting for Dummies". There's the initial sense of security, the crisis (entirely false as everybody with a brain notices immediately), post-crisis conflicts, a more severe crisis, and the happy ending.

The separation of Mark and Bridget is so unbelievable that no wonder Fielding hurries over it, a second's thinking about it would reveal the absurdity. Real people don't get separated unless at least one of them wants to...By the time we get to the cliched mishandled note we're beyong caring.

The whole Mark Darcy character seems false. A man who doesn't know which door is which in his own kitchen, while living alone, is nothing but bad imagination from Fielding. If she wanted to express that Darcy doesn't feel comfortable in his big house there are a million better ways to do it. Also, his dashing off to Dubai and somehow capturing an international drug smuggler is just way over the top.

If they make a movie out of this, who will Bridget interview as Colin Firth is already cast Darcy?

Date: 2002-06-09 (permlink)
Author: Frank McCourt
Name: 'Tis
Rating: 3.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Continues on in the same style as its predecessor, but as you read on differences appear. Angela's Ashes (which name, btw, finally gets its description in this book) covered a period of some 19 years, and didn't have any big holes. This one covers 36 years by my count and there are gaping holes everywhere. Years fly by with hardly a mention, things appear out of nowhere because we weren't told about the things leading up to them, and so on.

For example, I was very surprised when suddenly Emer is waiting for his return anxiously, as they'd only met once, briefly, before this in the book. So whole sections of his life are missing, and that detracts severely from the ambience.

Another thing is I don't think I'd like him very much. His approach to basically anything is "let's get drunk", he misses dates with his girlfriends all the time, can't say no to anything, and for some unexplained reason doesn't get his high school equivalency degree which would seem like the logical first thing to do.

It's entertaining reading, but nowhere near as good as Angela's Ashes.

Date: 2002-06-08 (permlink)
Author: Frank McCourt
Name: Angela's Ashes
Rating: 4.5 stars

I haven't read that many memoirs but I've always thought I'd like them. Part of the difficulty is finding people whose lives have been interesting enough to read about, and there's also the fact that most people would never reveal their true life stories because there are things in there they don't want anyone to know. Maybe it's different when you're approaching 70, something you did 50 years ago, however terrible, isn't such a big deal any more.

It's a very good book, but I'm not entirely sure of its truthfulness in every detail. How could someone remember things in absolute clarity from when he was three years old? I can't remember things from last week with that kind of detail...

If you don't worry too much about its truthfulness and just concentrate on the time and place depicted in the book, and the things happening to the McCourt family, it's an enlightening experience. Next time you're out of milk because you forgot to buy any and you're thinking that's the worst thing that could have happened, maybe you'll get a flashback to Ireland in the 1930's and your troubles aqcuire some much needed relativity.

The sex scenes were suspicious. They read way too much as wish fulfillment rather than reality, especially the "coming to/in America" scene.

Date: 2002-06-04 (permlink)
Author: John Irving
Name: The Cider House Rules
Rating: Reread

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Turned out to be an entirely different book than I remembered. I thought Homer and Candy had several children, and everyone thought Wally was the father, except Wally, who knew he was sterile. I also thought Olive and Ray would get married, so when they both suddenly dropped dead, it was quite a shock. Obviously I was thinking of some other book, but I have no idea which one.

It's a good book, but as is often the case with rereads, you take the good stuff for granted and are particularly picky with the bad points. For example, the whole orphanage in the middle of nowhere with a 90-year old doctor and 60-year old nurses, and orphans living there until their mid-twenties, is just too unrealistic. But, overall, it's still one of Irving's better works.

I didn't go see the movie when it came out, but I'm kind of curious how you can make a movie out of material that stretches almost 50 years. Obviously they've chosen to concentrate on some part of Homer's life, his early twenties judging by the book cover featuring young-looking Tobey Maguire, but if they've done that, it's an entirely different story.

Date: 2002-05-29 (permlink)
Author: Charles Dickens
Name: Oliver Twist
Rating: 3.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

It's always very difficult to judge classics, and it's even harder when they're almost 200 years old. The line between reality and satire blurs because you can't distinguish one from the other, and so many things have changed in the world that an innocent comment back then is transformed into pure evil in this day and time.

For example, Dickens' use of the phrase "The Jew" and the stereotypical behavior of that character would never be accepted in a modern book. What most rattled me, however, was the fact that Dickens thinks Agnes, Oliver's mother, and his father, did something inherently wrong when they had sex before marriage. In the modern world, each and every character in the book seems very chaste, for sex is never mentioned in any context, even though it would seem two of the characters are prostitutes.

But disregarding all of the above, what did I think of the book? I thought it was too unlikely, to put it shortly. Everything falls into place too neatly in the end. Also, Nancy's stupid refusal of escape and subsequent slaughter were all too clear indications of Dickens' warped worldview when it came to women.

The characters' ages were handled badly. I have no idea how old Nancy was, for example. But the story progresses fast enough, at least after several false starts, so it's fairly enjoyable reading.

Date: 2002-05-16 (permlink)
Author: Jari Tervo
Name: Tuulikaappimaa
Rating: 3 stars

It was fun at the beginning but now it's getting boring reading about scum of the earth who happen to live in Rovaniemi or whatever. You can only read so much about stupid people before you need a break.

Date: 2002-05-12 (permlink)
Author: Nick Hornby
Name: How To Be Good
Rating: 4 stars

Not quite as good as his other books I've read, but very entertaining still. The major flaw is that the characters don't feel real, they're a bit too flaky to believe in. For example, Stephen's behavior is so weird that it actively disables your emotional investment in the book at that point. I also didn't like the whole faith healing part of the book, it just reinforces the feeling that we're not dealing with the real world here, which has been the major thing Hornby has done so well in previous books.

Date: 2002-05-09 (permlink)
Author: Nick Hornby
Name: High Fidelity
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

First I saw the movie, then I read the script, and now I've read the book, which is in a nice reverse chronological order. It also provides an opportunity to contemplate upon the differences between the movie and the book.

First of all I'd like to make it clear that I enjoyed the movie when it came out and thought it was great. I thought it was remarkably free of Hollywood cliches at the time. But now that I know what was changed from the book I see they made all the usual changes. These include changing all the fat women to non-fat women, changing all the normal-looking women into sexsymbols, and instead of a dignified ending in the book with just a hint of Rob getting his life together, he's running his own record label in the movie. So, all the usual cliches. Not all changes were for the worse, however. Dick meeting his girlfriend in the movie fit the character perfectly and was way more enjoyable than the "Oh I met her through some friends" letdown in the book.

Date: 2002-05-09 (permlink)
Author: Peter Moore
Name: No Shitting In The Toilet
Rating: 3 stars

Amusing little book of travel miscellanies (or should that be singular, I don't know and I don't care). Too much repetition though, he recycles the same incidents over and over again in different sections. The Zaire boat trip features in "10 worst boat trips", "10 worst meals", etc etc etc. I also dislike his critique of Scandinavia being expensive. It's the rest of the world that is poor, that's all :)

Date: 2002-05-07 (permlink)
Author: Jari Tervo
Name: Minun Sukuni Tarina
Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Excellent book with an enormously intricate plot. I'm still not entirely sure of everything. For example, did Kuukkeli kill himself or the writer at the end, and was Kuukkeli the father of the writer's child, and so on. I did guess who Jatta was very early, though, so some points for me. Did she kill her husband, and if so, what was in it for her? Money, I guess... Anyway, highly recommended reading.

Date: 2002-05-03 (permlink)
Author: Jari Tervo
Name: Poliisin Poika
Rating: 3.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

An amusing little story about pathetic lowlives, with crackling dialogue. I was however more than a little confused by the end of the book. Who was the rapist, why did Marjaana shoot Tuomas, did Marjaana remember who the rapist was or not, if she didn't, how could she entertain thoughts about revenge, etc.

Date: 2002-04-28 (permlink)
Author: Elmore Leonard
Name: Pagan Babies
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Very different from Carl Hiaasen. In Hiaasen's books, there are good guys and there are bad guys. In this book, the good guys turn on each other in the end just like the bad guys, and show no moral qualms throughout the book while doing very nasty things to innocent bystanders, so it's a refreshingly cynical viewpoint on life. I wonder if anybody's making a film of this yet? It certainly has the plot and dialogue to fit one.

Date: 2002-04-26 (permlink)
Author: Jari Tervo
Name: Siat Ja Naudat
Rating: 3 stars

Some interesting stories, but most are just weird.

Date: 2002-04-21 (permlink)
Author: Anna-Leena Härkönen
Name: Häräntappoase
Rating: Reread

I first read this book as required reading in school, something like 10 years ago, and if I remember correctly, I thought it was hilarious, especially the condom-buying scene. "Mää otan paketin tyrnimarjoja" still cracks me up. It's a rare thing for an 18-year old to write a book of this quality. However, I just did some research on the matter, and it seems that Härkönen spent a summer in her teens pretty much like Alpo does in the book, out in the countryside meeting strange people, so that explains a lot how she came up with the material.

I like the book, but I don't like the people in it. That's not surprising perhaps since they're 15 years old and teenagers don't act rationally, but it still annoys the hell out of me. And their parents... This book is a prime example of why I'm so in favor of urbanization and if anyone tries to claim that "life in the countryside is so idyllic" just tell them to read this book, if they don't change their minds they're clearly lunatic. As are people in the countryside...

Date: 2002-04-19 (permlink)
Author: Candace Bushnell
Name: Sex And The City
Rating: 3 stars

About what I expected after several years of watching the TV series. I think the word "shallow" is the only way to describe these people.

Date: 2002-04-18 (permlink)
Author: Harry Turtledove
Name: Colonization - Aftershocks
Rating: 4 stars

It's nice to know there are some things in life you can trust. The yearly release of another 600-page part of the epic being created by Turtledove is fast becoming a sign of spring to me. He doesn't disappoint this time either. The book picks up, unsurprisingly, where the previous one left off, and before you know it you're 661 pages deeper into the saga. A nice touch this time around is a long part discussing Finland, with even Kekkonen making an appearance. The only thing I didn't like was the slightly annoying habit Turtledove has of trying to implicate we humans are inherently superior to the lizards, which is displayed in the way he has the lizards slowly changing to resemble humans more and more. I don't mind them getting more clever in dealing with the humans, that's expected, but when the lizards start forming life-long partnerships with one another that's just unrealistic.

Date: 2002-04-05 (permlink)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Name: The Truth
Rating: 2 stars

Once upon a time I had a fantasy about rereading all the Discworld books through in the proper order once I'd read them through in random order first. I now realize I'm never going to do that, since I've lost all motivation for it. I'm beginning to wonder if the first, oh, couple of dozen or so, Discworld books were actually ever good or if we all suffered from some kind of group hypnosis, since I can tell you this 25th book in the discworld series is so not funny it's not funny. And it's been like that for a long time. He really should stop writing them and make an announcement that he was abducted and the last 10 books have been written by someone else masquerading as him, to save his reputation in the minds of future generations.

Date: 2002-03-28 (permlink)
Author: David G. Hartwell (editor)
Name: Year's Best SF 6
Rating: 3 stars

Short story collections are extremely hard to read, since just when you're getting oriented with a story's setting and characters, it ends and you have to start all over again. So it's taken me a while to read this, but it provided enough good stories to be worth it.

Date: 2002-03-16 (permlink)
Author: James Ford Cooper
Name: Asemamaana Suomi (On The Finland Watch)
Rating: 2.5 stars

First comment about this book absolutely has to be: "Oh, those wacky hairstyles of the seventies!". Glad I didn't live back then (well, I did, but you know what I mean).

Cooper believes his own propaganda too much to be a very good writer. His outrage when Finland does otherwise even when "supplied with material from the highest ranks of American diplomats..." is funny, but scary at the same time if this is truly how the mind of an American diplomat works in practise. His detachment from reality is also evident, as can be seen when he lists the basic tenets of USA's politics: supporting the United Nations, worldwide free trade, human rights influencing foreign policy, and so on. Considering none of these is by any stretch imaginable true in any way, you really have to wonder if Cooper was off his medication when he wrote this book.

Date: 2002-03-13 (permlink)
Author: J.D. Salinger
Name: The Catcher In The Rye
Rating: Reread

I first read this years and years ago. It's entirely possible I did it when I was about the same age as Holden Caulfield, which should have produced some kind of feeling, I think. However, I have absolutely no memories of what I thought about the book at that time. Strange. At my current advanced age, the book seems so vivid and memorable that I can't understand why it didn't leave a stronger mark on my adolescent brain. One thing this book does wonderfully is to help expose the inherent braindeadism of the american mindset, that swear words are somehow bad. To ban a book because it contains "Fuck you" couple of times would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

Date: 2002-03-09 (permlink)
Author: Anne Tyler
Name: The Accidental Tourist
Rating: 5 stars

A very rare occurrence. A book and a movie that are both great in almost the same way. Nothing essential was changed in the movie, only some minor characters cut, which is understandable. And William Hurt is just as I imagined Macon Leary to be. I don't understand why he didn't win an Oscar, but then, we all know that Oscar nominations aren't reliable measures of anything. Kathleen Turner is perfect as Sarah Leary, too. Geena Davis won an Oscar, funnily enough, though she doesn't fit the image I have of Muriel Pritchett. She's too pretty, for one thing.

Enough about the movie/book comparisons, and on to the real thing. Someone compared Anne Tyler to John Irving, and I can see some similarity, but plenty of differences too. Whereas Irving's books are usually full of characters you don't particularly like, Tyler has characters you can't help but like. And there's less bizarre happenings, which, though cute at first, loses its appeal if it's repeated through 10 books. Overall, a first-rate book. Only problem is that this is her 10th book and the reviews say this is "indisputably her best book so far", which is kind of depressing if you think about it. Who wants to read 9 inferior books after a superior experience like this?

Date: 2002-03-06 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: The Dead Zone
Rating: 2.5 stars

King clearly has advanced as a writer, judging by how bad this early book is. The plot is moderately interesting, but the characters aren't. Here we have a real-life psychic and what does he do? Refuses to use his talent for monetary gain. How stupid is that, especially considering he has a huge hospital bill to pay.

Date: 2002-02-23 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: Misery
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Excellent book. Majority of it takes place in one house, mostly in one room, with only two characters. Amazing how much intensity you can derive from such basic ingredients. I dimly recall seeing the movie, and if I recall correctly, in it Annie didn't cut off his foot, only smashed his ankles. In the book, cutting off the foot and then cauterizing it with a blowtorch is a scene I won't forget any time soon, if ever.

Date: 2002-02-17 (permlink)
Author: Michael Chabon
Name: The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh
Rating: 3 stars

All style, no substance. Why am I not surprised? The characters are anything but real, I couldn't connect with them on any level. The mafia connection is woefully inadequate compared to anything. Sopranos, for example, has a thousand times better portrayal of the troubles you can get into if your father is a mafia leader.

Date: 2002-02-10 (permlink)
Author: Katja Kallio
Name: Kuutamolla
Rating: 3.5 stars

Better than the movie. I don't understand why they had to change anything for the movie, yet they tell us they went through 14 script revisions or something. The rejections from men when she offers them sex which were inserted into the beginning of the movie were laughably unrealistic, and the other changes suck too.

Date: 2002-02-07 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Skin Tight
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

One thing you can say about Hiaasen's books: they aren't very realistic. How often in one's life does it happen that you live in a hut in the middle of the ocean, and when you come home, a naked 19-year old model is waiting there begging you to have sex with her? A woman who just happened to come there. If you can swallow the unlikely happenings, there's a lot to like in this book, however. I just wonder how long Hiaasen can keep producing essentially the same plot, over and over again. "Lone stranger, who just happens to be irresistible to women, and never loses in a fight even to guys twice his size, serves out guerrilla justice to spoilers of Florida's nature/inhabitants."

Date: 2002-02-05 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Strip Tease
Rating: 4.5 stars

My quest for complete Hiaasen coverage is almost over. Too bad, though, I've spent my time far worse than by reading books of this standard. I agree with whoever reviewer of the movie said that Demi Moore, or Erin I should say, was changed for the worse in the movie compared to the book. She isn't above all the trash, she's not a helpless victim, she's just as deep in it as everyone else.

Date: 2002-02-02 (permlink)
Author: Michael Chabon
Name: Werewolves In Their Youth
Rating: 3 stars

I freely admit his language skills are all they're hyped up to be, however, his stories aren't "all that". They're lacking that certain something which would make you actually care about the happenings in the story. Still, it's worth reading just to hear phrases like "Imperial Formic Highway".

They should make a law against dedicating more than one of your books to the same person. Especially if it's your wife, which I assume Ayelet is. It's quite pathetic really.

Date: 2002-01-30 (permlink)
Author: Michael Chabon
Name: Wonder Boys
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

I like both the book and the movie, but for different reasons. I tried watching the movie again just after finishing the book but I couldn't do it, it was too confusing. I think the movie is a bit more optimistic in its outlook on the characters' future lives. For example, the scene where Walter announces James's publishing deal is completely different in tone in the movie and the book. I can't decide which approach I like more.

One thing the movie got right was cutting the extended stay at Emily's parents totally away. It doesn't really fit with the rest of the stuff.

Chabon uses fancy language tricks often, but sometimes they don't work. How can you describe a person's feet as "intelligent"?

Date: 2002-01-26 (permlink)
Author: Nick Hornby
Name: About A Boy
Rating: 5 stars

Fantastic book. I should start reading more English fiction, it has several advantages over its American cousin. For one thing, characters in English books use public transportation as part of their daily lives, which is unbelievably refreshing after USA's car-centric existence.

One quote should suffice to demonstrate the hilarious nature of the book and its dry witticism: 'God, you're a selfish bastard.' 'But I'm on my own. There's just me. I'm not putting myself first, because there isn't anybody else.'

Date: 2002-01-25 (permlink)
Author: Helen Fielding
Name: Bridget Jones's Diary
Rating: 4 stars

Much better than the movie. I just wish I'd read the book before seeing the movie, the effect would have been that much greater. Almost none of the annoying things in the movie are in the book, they were added just to satisfy movie cliches. Anyway, how could one not like a book that has pictures of Renee Zellweger?

Date: 2002-01-22 (permlink)
Author: Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins
Name: It's Not About The Bike
Rating: 4 stars

Hyped through the roof, I waited for a long time for this to appear in paperback. In the meantime, Lance had gone on and won his third Tour de France in a row. Too bad they didn't add a new chapter about it to the book.

It's a good book, but not all I expected. For one thing, I don't think I would get along with Lance all that well. He brags about how he drives at insane speeds in his car whenever he's in a hurry. In real life, that kind of behaviour leads to dead people, sooner or later. Then he admits that he didn't read any books before, and doesn't say he now does either, so he comes across as a typical athlete who knows nothing about nothing. For more stereotyping, there's a "confession" that he used to sleep around a lot in his younger days. You can all guess what comes next, right? He meets his current wife and is instantly transformed as a person. I found the whole Lisa-situation under explained. Oh yeah, and his belief that a ghost of his dead teammate helped him win a stage...Still, it was a fun and easy book to read.

Date: 2002-01-21 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: On Writing
Rating: 4.5 stars

I missed several hours of sleep because I couldn't stop until I'd finished the book, which is as good an indicator as you can get that something is right with a book. I didn't know anything about King's background before, and to discover he came from a lower middle class family, was an alcoholic, a drug user, wrote his first two books while living in a trailer, makes you realize the only thing stopping you from achieving success is yourself. When you think about it that's a pretty negative thing to believe in, as most of use are not quite as huge successes as King is, but it's still way better than the usual "well of course I would succeed if I had this and that and blah blah blah". Only thing that irked me was that first he spends ages telling us how we shouldn't plot the story before writing it, and then couple of pages later tells us how he carefully mulled over a new plot twist he'd invented for a few days to make sure it had no holes in it.

Date: 2002-01-10 (permlink)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Name: Taru Sormusten Herrasta (The Lord Of The Rings)
Rating: Reread

Started reading some chosen bits after seeing the movie, that expanded a bit, and eventually I more or less read the whole book again. Initially I thought the movie wasn't as bad as I feared it might be, but the more I read, the more the movie started to slide down. Now, I think the movie is simply an unacceptable conversion of the story and will tarnish Tolkien in the minds of the unwashed masses who haven't read the book. "Tolkien? Oh, you mean that swashbuckling adventure with the creatures that scurry up vertical pillars?"

I'm not going to start listing out the flaws of the movie, since I only have 50 MB of space available on this account...Let's just say there are too many to list and any sane human being should read the books and avoid the movie.