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ian

Ian's reading list 2018

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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

 

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Good review Ian.  I'm a big Ian Rankin fan.  Have you read any of the ones originally written under the Jack Harvey pseudonym.  I've got them all (all 3) but only read one recently.  Quite different to Rebus, but still got Rankin's excellent writing.  I agree about the Fox books.  I reread those recently, too, and really enjoyed them.  It's a shame Rankin hasn't written more of them.

 

Will you be getting the next Rebus when it comes out later this year?  I've been dropping hints to my kids since it was announced last year.

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On ‎18‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 10:07 PM, bookmonkey said:

Good review Ian.  I'm a big Ian Rankin fan.  Have you read any of the ones originally written under the Jack Harvey pseudonym.  I've got them all (all 3) but only read one recently.  Quite different to Rebus, but still got Rankin's excellent writing.  I agree about the Fox books.  I reread those recently, too, and really enjoyed them.  It's a shame Rankin hasn't written more of them.

 

Will you be getting the next Rebus when it comes out later this year?  I've been dropping hints to my kids since it was announced last year.

 

Thank you!

I know I've read at least one of the Jack Harvey books, but at this point, I couldn't tell you which.  I do remember that I enjoyed it. Like you say, good writing.

I'll definitely be reading the new book. Good or bad, I'm too invested in the series now: I have to know what happens next! 

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Book 12: The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

 

In Police—the last novel featuring Jo Nesbø's hard-bitten, maverick Oslo detective—a killer wreaking revenge on the police had Harry Hole fighting for the safety of the people closest to him. Now, in The Thirst, the story continues as Harry is inextricably drawn back into the Oslo police force. A serial murderer has begun targeting Tinder daters—a murderer whose MO reignites Harry's hunt for a nemesis of his past.

 

My Thoughts

 

I almost gave this 5 stars - my first of the year; but I was just slightly let down by the ending. Anyway...

 

What I really needed to have done was read the previous couple of books. I've read these all out of order, not helped by the fact that the first book (The Bat) wasn't released in English till quite recently. There is a lot going on that clearly was explained in the previous book, but I haven't read the last 3 or so. Still, after a few pages, I was able to get the jist of what was going on, so I won't say that it's essential to read these in order, just a better idea than how I'm reading them!

Reading this straight after a Rebus book, I can see the parallels. Both good cops, but not such good people. Consumed not so much with justice as needing to know.  There are a few misdirection's and twists too. Not in Jeffrey Deaver league perhaps, but satisfying anyway.

But the ending did have this misstep. I won't say what, as it would be very spoilery, but it was something that just made me stop reading and think " I don't see that happening in real life". It was too convenient.  What I need to do now however, is go back and read them all, in order this time. 4/5.

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Book 13: No Middle Name by Lee Child

 

Get ready for the ultimate Jack Reacher reading experience. No Middle Name includes eleven previously published stories and a thrilling new novella. This pulse-pounding collection marks the first time that all of Lee Child’s short fiction starring Reacher has been available in the same place at the same time.

 

My Thoughts

It was a  bit of a mixture this. Some of the stories were very good, but a few seemed to go nowhere.  It felt almost as if some of them were ideas for whole books that ran out of steam after a few pages. Enjoyable, but not essential reading. 3/5

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Book 14: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

 

My Thoughts

 

No synopsis copied from Goodreads on this - beware; it gives too much of the story away for my liking.

 

I really did enjoy this. Judas Coyne is a self-obsessed ageing rock-star who has a collection of macabre things: The Cannibal Cookbook, sketches by serial killers. So when he finds a ghost for sale on the internet, he can't resist. But it seems he's got more than he bargained for.

My edition of this book came with a foreword by the author. He explains how this should have been a short story, but he didn't understand why Judas was so angry. And, if he was an angry, descendant rock star; why did he love his dogs so much?

This was good to know, as the first part of the book seems to happen very quickly, with minimal character development, just as you might expect from a short story. As it continues however, I got more and more into it. The ending is very neat - some people may find it a bit too pat, but I enjoyed it. And the dogs are awesome in this book as well!  5/5

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One more thing about Heart-shaped Box - something I read in a newspaper review after I'd  finished it. It's like Stephen King (Joe Hill's father of course) wrote a book with Neil Gaiman. I couldn't agree more or think of a better recommendation

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Book 15: Slam by Nick Hornby

 

For 16-year-old Sam, life is about to get extremely complicated. He and his girlfriend—make that ex-girlfriend— Alicia have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble. Sam is suddenly forced to grow up and struggle with the familiar fears and inclinations that haunt us all.
Nick Hornby’s poignant and witty novel shows a rare and impressive understanding of human relationships and what it really means to be a man. (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

I really couldn't get into this. My main problem was that Sam is irritatingly stupid. I mean, he is obviously meant to be that way, but he has been created so stupid, that it goes beyond  a parody. Instead of finding him funny, I just found him irritating. 2/5

 

Book 16: How to be good by Nick Hornby

 

In Nick Hornby's How to Be Good, Katie Carr is certainly trying to be. That's why she became a GP. That's why she cares about Third World debt and homelessness, and struggles to raise her children with a conscience. It's also why she puts up with her husband David, the self-styled Angriest Man in Holloway. But one fateful day, she finds herself in a Leeds parking lot, having just slept with another man. What Katie doesn't yet realize is that her fall from grace is just the first step on a spiritual journey more torturous than the interstate at rush hour. Because, prompted by his wife's actions, David is about to stop being angry. He's about to become good--not politically correct, organic-food-eating good, but good in the fashion of the Gospels. And that's no easier in modern-day Holloway than it was in ancient Israel.

Hornby means us to take his title literally: How can we be good, and what does that mean? However, quite apart from demanding that his readers scrub their souls with the nearest available Brillo pad, he also mesmerizes us with that cocktail of wit and compassion that has become his trademark. The result is a multifaceted jewel of a book: a hilarious romp, a painstaking dissection of middle-class mores, and a powerfully sympathetic portrait of a marriage in its death throes. It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry as we watch David forcing his kids to give away their computers, drawing up schemes for the mass redistribution of wealth, and inviting his wife's most desolate patients round for a Sunday roast. But that's because How to Be Good manages to be both brutally truthful and full of hope. It won't outsell the Bible, but it's a lot funnier.

 

My thoughts

I've read  "About a boy" and "High Fidelity". Both of those were funny. This isn't. Mostly. Katie's husband, David  is, at the start of this, so vile, that how she hasn't killed him before now is a true mystery. Then he meets DJ Goodnews, a spiritual healer, and he's no longer angry. And if anything, he becomes more irritating. And that's it. From that point on, the book goes absolutely nowhere. There is the occasional funny bit  - the two page rant of people David regards as "talentless, overrated or just plain w**kers" is very funny, but it isn't enough to sustain 240 odd pages of interest. And it just ends, with nothing resolved  other than Isn't it difficult to be a good person. 2/5

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What a shame these two books were disappointments. I am happy to hear though that you liked About a Boy and High Fidelity (both of which have been on my wishlist for years but I never got around to buying them. I love the About a Boy film and we recently bought the DVD of the High Fidelity film).

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On ‎19‎/‎05‎/‎2018 at 9:28 AM, Athena said:

What a shame these two books were disappointments. I am happy to hear though that you liked About a Boy and High Fidelity (both of which have been on my wishlist for years but I never got around to buying them. I love the About a Boy film and we recently bought the DVD of the High Fidelity film).

 

Be prepared - the book of About a boy is very different from the film. Naturally, I prefer the book!

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Book 17: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

 

Dark allegory describes the narrator's journey up the Congo River and his meeting with, and fascination by, Mr. Kurtz, a mysterious personage who dominates the unruly inhabitants of the region. Masterly blend of adventure, character development, psychological penetration. Considered by many Conrad's finest, most enigmatic story.

 

My Thoughts

This is difficult for me to review. On the one hand the language used to describe the journey up the river is absolutely beautiful, and is very full of dark imagery. But on the other, the story is thin to the point of vanishing. I realise that this is meant to be the point, but a book that is all sub-text and very little text seems very odd to me. Maybe I just need to read more books like this, as I did feel when I'd finished that I was missing the point. I'll admit, I read up on it immediately afterwards: I'd picked up on some of the allegory's, but not all.

All in all, I wonder if I needed to let this one stew in my brain a little more before reviewing it. I'll admit, some of the imagery has stuck.

It's probably worth pointing out that, as a book written in the Victorian era and set in Africa - there is a fair bit of racially offensive language, so avoid if that is something you don't like reading. 3/5  

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10 hours ago, ian said:

Be prepared - the book of About a boy is very different from the film. Naturally, I prefer the book!

 

Thanks, that's good to know :).

 

10 hours ago, ian said:

It's probably worth pointing out that, as a book written in the Victorian era and set in Africa - there is a fair bit of racially offensive language, so avoid if that is something you don't like reading. 3/5  

 

I didn't know this, but I like that you pointed it out.

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Book 18:Xenocide (Ender's Game book 3) by Orson Scott Card

Book 19 Children of the mind (Ender's Game book 4) by Orson Scott Card.

 

My Thoughts

 

It made sense to me to review both books at the same time. 

There is so much going on in these books. The author throws pretty much every science, pseudo-science, religion and pseudo-religion at this story. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure. 

So - plot. Humans have a colony on a planet that has a native, sentient species. These species have an unusual life-cycle that is controlled by a virus, without which they will die. The problem - the same virus nearly wiped out the human settler's and without regular doses of the antidote, it will kill them all. If any of the population want to leave, they risk infecting and killing all of humanity.  The rest of humanity, meanwhile, have launched a taskforce to do exactly that - exterminate all life on the planet. So, it's a race against time to either learn how to beat or coexist with the virus. Oh yes, the virus itself might be sentient.

 

The majority of the book grapples with the question - is it morally acceptable to exterminate an entire species to save another?  I love it when sci-fi tackles big moral issues like this, so this was great. There's a sub-plot involving another human colony. The most revered people on this planet are the "Godspoken". But are their religious rituals caused by something more down to earth? (no spoilers!).  Xenocide edges it for me as the better book. COTM is good, but I felt that the ending was slightly rushed - I would have preferred an extra chapter or two.

 

Xenocide - 5/5

COTM - 4/5

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I wasn't keen on How To Be Good either. It was just annoying, and seemed to miss the point. I liked High Fidelity and loved About A Boy but I haven't read any Hornby since The Long Way Down which I also didn't rate much. You're right though, About A Boy is different to the film, and a lot better (even though the film is pretty good).

 

I read and enjoyed Ender's Game but for some reason never got to any of the sequels.

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Book 20.

Missing You by Harlen Coben

 

It's a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable. 

As the body count mounts and Kat's hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

 

My  Thoughts

 

I started off not liking this very much, and very nearly gave up on it. I didn't, however, and I'm glad I did...just. My main problem with the first half of the book is that it concentrates more on Kat's ex-fiancé. I'll be honest, I didn't find that part of the story that riveting. Then there are the host of minor characters that seem to be there solely to be colourful, but add nothing much to the plot.

Admittedly, after the focus of the book shifts to the crimes that are being perpetrated, it became much more interesting (to me at least).  The reason for some of those colourful people becomes clear and the pace shifts up a couple of gears. I enjoyed it from them on, but I have say that I found the denouement  a bit rushed. At that point, a chapter or two similar to the slower-paced start of the book would have made more sense.  So overall - 3/5

 

 

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Book 21

The City & the City by China Mieville

Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds deadly conspiracies beneath a seemingly routine murder. From the decaying Beszel, he joins detective Qussim Dhatt in rich vibrant Ul Qoma, and both are enmeshed in a sordid underworld. Rabid nationalists are intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists dream of dissolving the two into one.

 

My Thoughts

This book, and indeed the author, only came to my attention because of the recent BBC adaptation.  That TV show is significantly different from the book, but I'm glad I saw it first.

Imagine two city states existing within one actual city. Like Berlin before the wall came down. Or Jerusalem, or perhaps Belfast to some extent.  But instead of a physical wall or barrier keeping the two populations apart, there is nothing. Even the border is tenuous: some parts of the city are in Beszel, others are in Ul Qoma. Some are actually in both. And so the populations of both have to live ignoring the presence of the other: to do otherwise is a crime, called Breaching.

 

No of which is explicitly explained in the book; it becomes apparent eventually. Which is why I was glad to have seen the TV show - I felt it gave me a heads up.  Beneath all this strangeness, is a noir crime story. A good one. But it's that strangeness of the situation that drives the story. The ending I felt was a little confusing, and a little un-satisfying, but it certainly left me wanting more. 4/5 

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I started to watch the The City and the City on BBC2, and it's very good. However I missed 80% of episode one so I was a little confused and still haven't finished watching it. I'd be intrigued to read the book.

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It's good to be back!

 

Just before this site was temporarily down, I seem to have got out of the habit of posting reviews for the books I had read. Not just here, but also on Goodreads, which I was using just as a log of books read. As usual for me, that was fine while I knew that I could always come back, but once it looked like the site was closing, I was gutted!

 

Now would be a good point for me to thank Michelle for all of her hard work on the forum up to this point, and to Hayley for taking over. And of course, for all the other Admins & moderators who keep this running.

 

I won't bother trying to review all the books I've read since the last one I posted, but here's a list;

 

The Venetian Game - Phillip Gywne Glass - 4/5

Life after Life - Kate Atkinson 4/5

The Fix - David Baldacci - 4/5

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell 4/5

Demon Dentist - David Walliams 4/5

Jamaica Inn Daphne Du Maurier 5/5

Gone - Michael Grant 5/5

Hunger - Michael Grant 4/5

Lies - Michael Grant 5/5

Plague - Michael Grant 5/5

Fear - Michael Grant 5/5

Light - Michael Grant 5/5

Monster - Michael Grant 4/5

Bleak House - Charles Dickens 5/5

 

 

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One more thing I forgot to say - I'm pleased that I can again post here. I discovered that I didn't want to post book reviews on Facebook. Although everyone who knows me, knows that I'm always reading... well, I work in a factory and some people do look at me like I'm a bit strange, especially when they see me reading Austen. Reading is something women do , in their view. I can take all those type of comments in person (which I know are mostly light-heartedly meant - there is a rich vein of mickey-taking in our factory, which I wouldn't want to stop), but the possibility of reading them at home was something I wasn't prepared to ley myself open to. I'll be honest, that reaction surprised me. I thought I was beyond caring what other people thought or said. Clearly not!

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12 hours ago, ian said:

Although everyone who knows me, knows that I'm always reading... well, I work in a factory and some people do look at me like I'm a bit strange, especially when they see me reading Austen. Reading is something women do , in their view.

 

Once upon a time, sharing a car on the way to work, I was discussing Jane Austen (amongst others) with a good, female, friend of mine (an ex-journalist, so steeped in reading and writing).  At one point she exclaimed "You know, Will, you're a really girly reader!"  It was meant, and I took it, as a compliment!  It certainly helped later as a primary teacher (rather different, I suspect, in terms of attitudes to reading amongst the workforce, but surprising how few were actually regular readers themselves).  Austen remains a favourite!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 

The plot centres round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in  Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he's away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle's vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven't heard, spiking Mary's curiosity. (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

I find myself in two minds about this book. On the one hand, it's an uplifting tale about the restorative power of positive thinking and of nature, and also a warning perhaps to parents to treat their children with love and attention. It's an easy read and a light read, and its positivity can't but help to make you smile. But... how many chapters can you fill with descriptions of flowers growing? I did occasionally get impatient and want the story to get to the point and move on. Still, overall I did enjoy this book. 4/5

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In a House of Lies - Ian Rankin

 

Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still - both for his family and the police - is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.
Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now - after a decade without answers - it's time for the truth.
Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead - and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus. (Taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

I found this book to be a bit of a slow starter, but once it does get going, it had its hooks into me. I've read enough of these books now that John Rebus, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox feel like old friends. Initially, I thought it might by unbelievable - Rebus has been retired some years now: how is he still able to walk into current investigations?  Malcolm Fox, who at first looked to be Ian Rankin's choice of new lead has taken a more supporting character role. Siobhan Clarke seems the obvious choice as the new lead character - (perhaps Rankin doesn't feel he can write a female lead successfully?). But, apart perhaps from the final interview that Rebus gate-crashes - this felt utterly believable to me.

All that aside, I found this to be an excellent read, and one that I was quite happy to stay up till after midnight last night to finish. 5/5

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Great reviews Ian! I've wanted to read The Secret Garden for a while so I'm glad you enjoyed it. I loved the film as a child, so my knowledge of the story is purely based on that and I get the impression there may be quite a few differences (I'm sure, for example, that Mary's parents die in an earthquake in the film)! 

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14 hours ago, Hayley said:

 I loved the film as a child, so my knowledge of the story is purely based on that and I get the impression there may be quite a few differences (I'm sure, for example, that Mary's parents die in an earthquake in the film)! 

 

Having read the book and seen the film, my recollections are that the differences are pretty trivial - the film retains the spirit of the book and sticks pretty close to the story.  I enjoyed both (and used both in my teaching!).

 

What I didn't realise until recently was that the garden is based on a real one, although it's not in Yorkshire!  Burnett rented and lived at Great Maytham Hall in Rolvenden close to the Kent-Sussex border at the turn of the 19th-20th century.  Apparently, just as in the story, a robin alerted her to a hidden doorway into a concealed walled garden, which she then set about restoring. The house was rebuilt and the grounds largely relandscaped in the early 1900s; the walled garden itself was retained and, after some deterioration, has been restored (again!).  The building has been converted into flats, but the garden can be visited - don't know whether it's open regularly but it's part of the National Garden Scheme.

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@willoyd that’s amazing! I had no idea the garden was based on a real place!

I’m glad the spirit of the film and book are similar, I really want to read the book now! 

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