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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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Aaron Eckhart is Nick Naylor, spokesman and spin doctor for a big tobacco company, who has to balance his career with trying to be a good example for his young son. Naturally his job causes a lot of bad feeling towards him, with some surprising repercussions.

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Year of release: 2006 (UK)

Director: Jason Reitman

Writers: Christopher Buckley (novel), Jason Reitman

Main cast: Aaron Eckhart, J K Simmons, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello, David Koechner

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Genre: Comedy, satire

Highlights: The comedy parts are REALLY funny. Aaron Eckhart is perfect in the role

Lowlights: Um…none?

Overall: Great satirical movie, which doesn’t take sides on the non-smoking argument. Really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it

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This is an epistolary novel, told by the main character Balram (who calls himself the White Tiger) to the prime minister of China, who is coming to India for a visit. Balram was born in an extremely poor part of India and was destined to live a life of labour or servitude, but as we find out at the beginning of the story he is a successful business. We also find out right at the beginning that he also murdered his killed his former master Ashok. The book tells Balram’s story and explains why he did what he did.

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I definitely enjoyed it, in that it was written well and I liked it’s very descriptive chronicle of life in India. (Note: this book does not romanticise India in ANY way, shape or form). It was often witty, and the writing flowed well. I found it an undemanding read that kept me interested – but for all that, I never felt fully engaged with the characters and always felt a slight detachment from Balram.

Nonetheless if this is a genre you like, I would recommend this book and if it is different kind of novel to what you would normally choose, you might like this change of scene.

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The Campaign is a satirical (although satire is fast becoming reality with Trump as President) political comedy. Will Ferrell is Cam Brady, a Democratic Congressmen who is running unopposed for his fifth term. His campaign is damaged by a mistaken phone call, and the corrupt businessmen, the Kotch brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Ackroyd) seize the opportunity to persuade Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) – an honest but somewhat naive local tourism director – to run against Cam as a Republican candidate.

What follows is a campaign that gets progressively nastier and more violent as both men are determined to win. It’s very funny and not as ridiculous as it would have been ten years ago, given that we now have a man in the White House, who knows no limits whatsoever regarding what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Both leads are excellent even if Galifianakis reminded me of Nick Offerman throughout, and the supporting cast also do an excellent job. Highly recommended if you fancy a good belly laugh, or something to take your mind off how screwed up the American presidency is right at the moment. Great fun.

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As the back of the book states, in this story, “A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant demagogue runs for President of the United States … and wins.” If that sounds horribly familiar to today, pause for a moment and realise that this book was written in 1935.

In an alternative timeline to what happened in real life, Buzz Windrip wins the Democratic nomination for president over FDR, and runs a campaign claiming that he will make America great again, appealing mainly to angry Americans who have suffered from the Great Depression. To Doremus Jessup, mild-mannered newspaper editor, the thought of Windrip as President is bemusing, but even as they hear reports of fascists like Hitler and Mussolini rising to power in Europe, he and like minded friends tell themselves and each other, “It can’t happen here.” And then it does.

When Windrip takes power, bemusement turns to anger and horror as innocent people have their jobs and homes taken away, and people are put into prison or tortured – or worse – for daring to disagree with the regime.

The writing style doesn’t always flow easily, and the book did take a few chapters to get going, but despite this I found myself absorbed, and I urge others to read this book. It makes for uncomfortable and extremely thought-provoking reading, even if afterwards I found I needed, in fact craved, something more light-hearted.

Definitely recommended, especially in light of today’s political climate.

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Just a short review for my final book of this year…it’s a look back at the crazy events of 2016, focussing a lot on two huge shock decisions – the Brexit Vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the USA.

Read it and weep…and laugh! It’s very funny and very scathing – but it does take a chapter to remind us that there have been far worse years in the past, and some good things around the world did take place this year.

One word of warning – if you don’t like bad language, this is a book to avoid. It is peppered with swearing and lot of very inventive insults!

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In this enchanting true story, Tom Michell relates how in the 1970s, when he was in his early 20s and teaching in an Agentinian boys boarding school, he encountered a penguin who became his best friend. He saw the penguin on a beach covered in oil and near death as the result of a recent oil slick and on an impulse decided to rescue him and clean him up, with the intention of then releasing him back into the wild. However, the penguin refused to leave his side, and so after naming him Juan Salvador, Michell became the proud adopter (or adoptee?) of his new feathered friend.

Juan Salvador soon becomes a favourite among staff and students alike at the boarding school and brings a little magic into all of their lives. Through his and Tom Michell’s story, the reader also learns a little about the Argentinian political situation at the time, and how badly inflation was affecting the poorest in the country, and there is also some insight into life in the boarding school.

Mostly though, this is Juan Salvador’s story; it is he who is the true focus of the book, and what a delight he is. Michell describes the penguin’s own little personality and quirks and really brings him to life on the page.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it’s a quick read, both because it is only just over 200 pages, and also because I didn’t want to put it down. Highly recommended.

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This sprawling, shocking novel revolves (mainly) around three fictional characters, but is rooted in the time of the Kennedy family’s rise to success – it features JFK campaigning for and winning the election and his brother Bobby becoming Attorney General. The events of the novel take us right up to that fateful date of 22nd November 1963.

The main characters are Pete Bondurant, bodyguard for the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes as well as a terrifyingly effective Mob associate; Kemper Boyd, an FBI Agent who at the request of J Edgar Hoover infiltrates the Kennedy organisation and finds his loyalties (such as they are) split many ways; and Ward Littell, another FBI Agent and anti-Mob crusader. Lets be clear here – none of these men are particularly nice, but they are interesting. In fact, none of the characters in this book – real or fictional – come off particularly well, least of all John F Kennedy.

The story describes the machinations of the Kennedy family and their associates in making sure that JFK wins the election, and covers such historical events as the Bay of Pigs invasion, and attempts to bring down Fidel Castro. There’s so much story here that it was sometimes hard to take in everything that happens – whether you are familiar with the events upon which the book is based or not, this is a book that really demands your attention.

The writing is visceral and brutal and the story is fast paced, with loyalties of all characters constantly being questioned both by the readers and by other people in the story. Despite the concentration required, it’s actually a pretty easy read with mainly short, choppy chapters, which tend to show events from alternating points of view.

Overall, if you are interested at all in what happened to John F Kennedy and who killed him – this book offers a fictionalised theory – then I would definitely recommend this, but be aware that it is not a cosy afternoon read!

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