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ian

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About ian

  • Rank
    Constant Reader
  • Birthday 04/13/1970

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  • Reading now?
    keep forgetting to update this, but definitely something!
  • Gender
    Not Telling
  • Location:
    Birmingham, England
  • Interests
    Rock music, hiking, Sci-fi

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  1. Book 11: Better be the Devil by Ian Rankin Some cases never leave you. For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind. Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria's killer has never been found. Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs. A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position. Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking? (Taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts I'll admit that the latest couple in the Rebus series haven't been as memorable as the first ones. But they are still very good. This book has all the elements. An old case involving a murdered woman. A new one involving a beaten gangster and a missing banker. Rebus wants to solve both. And therein lies the problem that I have. Ian Rankin insisted on writing the series as real as possible, so time passed in real life is time passed in the world of Rebus. Rebus is retired, and it seems that the stand alone books for his replacement, Malcom Fox, haven't been as popular. That's a shame, because I do like the character of Fox. But Rebus being able to charm, bully or con his way into people's houses by pretending to still be a serving officer, and also being able to walk into any police station at will did stretch my credulity to almost breaking point. That's my only negative though. The series continues to throw light on what ails modern Scottish, and by extension, British society, while also delivering a good crime novel. 4/5
  2. Are you eating your own dog food?

    It is certainly popular over here; at least with a distinct demographic of people. Personally, while it's always nice to know that there is something positive that your country is known for; I sometimes wonder if folk from other countries think that's how we are now! I'll give an example. In one of Tom Clancy's books (I forget which), the American President meets Tony Blair (who was Prime Minister at the time). They have a conversation that ends with Blair saying " Very good, Old boy". Calling people "Old boy" in a posh British accent is something that that probably only happened in P.G.Wodehouse books! I love all those period dramas - it seems to be something that we get every winter. Some classic will be filmed. These days, I lap them up. But it wasn't always that way with me. Hopefully, we also have modern books that are popular outside of Britain!
  3. Top 5 (or 10) Wednesday

    There's a series of sci-fi/ fantasy books starting with The Many-Coloured Land, that includes a joker-type character called Aiken Drum. In amongst all the serious characters that are busy trying to kill each other and so rule the planet, Aiken Drum is stronger, more wily and more ruthless than any of them - but does it with a lot of humour and panache. Think a psychic Tyrion from the Game of Thrones series - which would be my other choice.
  4. Book 10: Middlemarch by George Elliot. In almost complete contrast to "Ruth", which I found very easy to read - I admit I did struggle at times with this. There were times when the books seems to go off at a tangent, and spend pages discussing various characters motives and inner monologues. In between those passages though is sparkling dialogue and very cleverly drawn characters. This is a very long book, so we have plenty of time to get invested in the various characters - and there are plenty of them! This was my first foray into any George Elliot. I won't say that I found it as easy to read as Jane Austen, but it was certainly an enjoyable read. I will read more, but I think I need a break from heavy reads like this - hopefully, the book jar will throw up something like that for me. 4/5
  5. Book 9: Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell In Ruth Elizabeth Gaskell set out to portray, not 'the Condition of England' already famously addressed in Mary Barton, but the nature and sensibility of a fallen woman. Her orphaned heroine Ruth, apprenticed to a dressmaker, is seduced and then abandoned by wealthy young Henry Bellingham. Shamed in the eyes of society by her illegitimate son, and yet rejecting the opportunity to marry her seducer, Ruth finds a path that affirms we are not bound to repeat our mistakes. When Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell's second novel, appeared in 1853 its first reviewers were less scandalized than moved and intrigued. In considering a 'fallen woman', Gaskell explores the worlds of nineteenth-century experience concerned with women and family, sexuality, love and religion. She declared of her critics: 'It has made them talk and think a little on a subject which is so painful it requires all one's bravery not to hide one's head like an ostrich.'. (Taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts. I'd not read any of Elisabeth Gaskell's books, and while I could have picked one of her more well-known novels, my reason for picking this was simple: Ruth is my wife's name. The first thing that struck me was how easy a read this was. The language isn't flowery at all - almost to the point that you it would have been easy to think you were reading a modern novel set in Victorian times rather than an actual Victorian novel. As it says above, it must have been quite a brave choice of subject for the times. I wonder how the characters were received at the time. With the exception of the titular character, all of the woman are strong, independent minded and, it has to be said, far more sensible than the majority of the men. Ruth herself comes across as too passive for my liking, but that's really my only criticism. Of course, this isn't a book that could be written now - thankfully. The idea of a "fallen woman" is one that just doesn't exist for us. And while Ruth is treated sympathetically by the book, I found it the real cleverness of the book in that the subsequent life of Mr Bellingham, the father of Ruth's child is shown to be completely without consequence whereas Ruth is shunned and shamed. This isn't done explicitly: it is just left for the reader to infer. All of which only leads me to wanting to read more by this author. Rating 4/5.
  6. A guy at work recommended that to me. I'm not much of a Motley Crue fan though, so I imagine a lot of it would pass me by. The whole genre of rock memoir is a new one to me, so I will have to investigate more. Yes, so did I! A real shame.
  7. Book 8: Watch me die by Erica Spindler. Before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, stained-glass restoration artist Mira Gallier had it all: a thriving business doing work she loved and an idyllic marriage to the perfect man. But the devastating storm stole her beloved husband – his body swept away by floodwaters, never to be found. Now, after years of pain and turmoil, it looks as if Mira is finally on the verge of peace and emotional stability. But her life, like the magnificent windows blown to bits by Hurricane Katrina, is about to be shattered once again. And this time, it’s not a killer storm she faces, but a psychopath who will stop at nothing until he possesses her, body and soul… My Thoughts It almost had the makings of a very good psychological drama, but was let down by a silly ending. There were moments when I really liked this book - the killer could have been any of the four or five people in the book - or even Mira Gallier herself. But unfortunately, a couple of chapters based around the killer gave too much away, so instead of a shocking reveal, it was easy to guess the killer long before that. In its favour, there were a few twists and enough interesting interplay to make me want to try other books in the series. (this was book 4 or 5 in a series, depending on how you count apparently). 3/5
  8. Book 7: Mustaine: A life in Metal - by Dave Mustaine Founding member, singer, and lead guitarist of Metallica and Megadeth shares the ultimate, unvarnished story behind his involvement in the rise of two of the world’s most influential heavy metal bands in history. (taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts This type of book is only ever going to be interesting to fans. Dave Mustaine started out as one of the founder members of Metallica, but was kicked out of the band just prior to them recording their first album. He's been bitter about it ever since, and the feud was played out publically in the 1980's. Supposedly, you had to be either a Metallica fan or a Megadeth fan - but for me, Heavy Metal is about not having rules, so I was a fan of both. What's good about this book is that he doesn't pull his punches. And most of those punches are aimed at himself. He was a drug dealer. He was an addict of both drugs and alcohol. He was unable to keep his temper and so fought constantly with fellow band-members (who became ex band members very quickly). Despite that, I found it hard not to like the man - he's honest about his short-comings, and there is no denying that he is one of the finest guitar players ever (well, that's my opinion anyway - these things are pretty subjective). Perhaps the only question left at the end of it is "How is this guy still alive"? If you like the music - it's well worth reading. 4/5
  9. Book 6: Going Solo by Roald Dahl The second part of Roald Dahl's extraordinary life story. Here he is grown up: first in Africa, then learning to be a wartime fighter pilot. It is a story that is funny, frightening and full of fantasy - as you would expect. (taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts I'd struggled with the last few books, so I was feeling a bit jaded. It was my daughter who recommended this to me - which just goes to show what good taste she has! Roald Dahl tells his own story much like his fiction: simply, but well. I really found myself invested in the story from the first page. It seems he had quite a life in Africa both before and during WW2, and he is able to go from funny to tragic in the blink of an eye. A really great read 5/5
  10. Book 5: The Children of Men by PD James Told with P. D. James's trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future. The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race. My Thoughts The apocalypse is here: It's English, middle-class and boring. Seriously, does everyone in this book wear tweed? I really struggled with this, and pretty much speed-read the last few pages just to finish it. It's well written enough, but the main character, Theo Faron, is so apathetic and that malaise permeates the whole narrative. 2/5
  11. Book 4: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo A powerful tale of war, redemption and a hero's journey. In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again? (Goodreads) My Thoughts. I'll be honest, I expected to enjoy this more. I recently read Private Peaceful and I thought that was amazing. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good story, but it didn't have, for me, the emotional impact that I expected. Perhaps it's me - not the book. I'm not sure if my reading mojo is what it was. 3/5
  12. Jane Eyre was one of the first "classics" I ever read. To be honest, I surprised myself as I expected to struggle with it, but actually devoured it in great chunks! I do understand though - it is very wordy when you compare it with modern fiction, a bit like Dickens. I suspect you need to be in the right frame of mind for books like this. Hope it gets easier for you.
  13. Book 3: Red Wolf by Liza Marklund A journalist is murdered in the frozen white landscape of a northern Swedish town. Annika Bengtzon, a reporter at a Stockholm-based tabloid, was planning to interview him about a long-ago attack against an isolated air base nearby, and now she suspects that his death is linked to that attack. Against the explicit orders of her boss, she begins to investigate the event, which is soon followed by a series of shocking murders. Annika knows the murders are connected. At the same time, she begins to suspect that her husband is hiding something, and nothing can counteract the loneliness that has crept into her life. Behind everything lurks the figure of the Red Wolf, a cold-blooded killer with the soul of a lover. In the end, she must discover the truth not only about the murders but also about the lies that are destroying her own family. (taken from Goodreads) My Thoughts Unfortunately, I've not been too well while reading this, and my reading mojo evaporated. So I really struggled to get through this until the last third or so. That isn't a reflection on the writing. Most times you pick up a book by any Scandinavian author, but especially a Swedish one, you can expect a reference somewhere on the the cover to " the next Steig Larsson". I've learned to ignore those, but I have to say: in terms of tone, this is the closest I've ever found. The parallels are obvious. Annika Bengtzon is a crusading journalist who seems to find herself on the wrong side of the newspaper article as often as writing them. I liked her. She's a complex character. And while the main plot about Maoist terrorism and their connections to a politician didn't exactly surprise me, there was a very nice sub-plot involving her husband's affair that I actually found more engaging. This is book 5 in a series, and while I may have benefitted from reading them in sequence, I didn't feel completely lost. Interesting enough to want to read more 3/5
  14. Book 2: What does this button do? An Autobiography - Bruce Dickinson A long-awaited memoir from the larger-than-life, multifaceted lead vocalist of Iron Maiden, one of the most successful, influential and enduring rock bands ever. Pioneers of Britain’s nascent Rock & Metal scene back in the late 1970s, Iron Maiden smashed its way to the top, thanks in no small part to the high-octane performances, operatic singing style, and stage presence of its second, but twice-longest-serving, lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden’s front man—first from 1981 to 1993, and then from 1999 to the present—Dickinson has been, and remains, a man of legend. My Thoughts When I was 16, I "discovered" heavy metal. Iron Maiden were the band that really set me off down that road, so for me this book was always going to be interesting. But it's a bit of an odd one. There is an epilogue at the end, where he admits to a conscious decision to not include anything about girlfriends, wives and divorces, and keeping the rock n roll anecdotes to a minimum. That's all fair enough, and it's a well written book, but it feels a bit lop-sided. For instance; we get a lot about how in his off-time from the band, and his own solo career, becoming a fencer and learning to become a airline pilot. But not so much about the recording of the albums. For instance: you get two pages about how he finds a fencing teacher, and the same number of pages about the recording of "The number of the Beast" - probably one of the most seminal heavy metal albums of all time. I wanted a bit more rock n roll! But, like I say, it is well-written - and you do get the story of his life - sort of. The chapters about the concert played in Sarajevo during the siege in the '90s and the final chapter about his diagnosis & treatment for cancer are easily the best. This is when the book comes to life. I would say it's a book for the fans only, but I guess a book like this always would be. 3/5
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