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Everything posted by ian

  1. "My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but distrubingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins." I picked this up at my local library. This book is a great deal of fun, well written in an easy, page-turning style, with a good mix of action and humour. Anything with a wizard in it is obviously going to be compared to HP, but this manages to tackle that problem early on (in fact on the cover), so once that's out the way, you can just enjoy. The themes are more adult than HP, so beware of giving this to younger teens. The story starts as outlined in the sleeve notes I copied above and from then progresses as Peter attempts to simultaneously train as a wizard/police officer, track a murderer and solve a problem between warring river spirits. My only criticism is that the inital chapters where Peter goes from an ordinary PC to being told that not only does magic really exist, but that he is a trainee wizard, go a little too quickly. I would have liked a bit more disbelief to make it more beleivable! But all in all, I would give this 4 out of 5, and will now need to find the second book in the series " Moon over Soho" Ian
  2. Ian's reading 2021

    Greenmantle by John Buchan A few years ago I read The 39 Steps and only then did I find out that there are a number of sequels. This is the first. It's set in the middle of world war 1, and written I believe at the start of ww2. So, while this is a good read , probably what would have been called a "ripping yarn" there are quite a number of outdated views expressed. Still, an enjoyable, easy read. 4/5
  3. Ian's reading 2021

    Happy 2021 everyone! It's been a long time since I was last here... and I've missed it. So, I'm back, trying to write this on a tablet rather than a laptop as I used to, so please excuse the inevitable spelling mistakes and probably very short book reviews. So far, I have only read 2 books this year. Dead Water by Ann Cleeve I have very slowly been collecting the Shetland novels so I can read them in order. I read a lot of crime novels, and these are definitely at the cosy crime end of the spectrum, but also have bleakness about them, reflecting the landscape of the islands they are based in. I enjoyed the writing and it was an easy, comforting first read of the year. 5/5. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. This was the exact opposite on the comfort scale. Reading a post apocalyptic novel where 99% of the population has been wiped out by the flu, in today's climate was never going to be easy, but the author manages to instill such a sense of dread and loss without being graphic I think I would have felt that way anyway. Very understated and beautifully written. But I found myself sometimes reluctant to read on because I genuinely dreaded what was coming. The ending surprised me as I thought I knew where it was going. I think this book will live me long afterwards and definitely deserves a second read. 5/5
  4. Ian's reading 2021

    Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell I think this is one of Gaskell's earlier books. I felt it didn't have the distinctive voice of the other books of hers I've read. Still, very enjoyable and it has an interesting take on earlier trades union activity. From a modern perspective, Mary Barton herself seems frustratingly passive with her lot. All in all, an enjoyable read, with a satisfying ending 4/5.
  5. Ian's reading 2021

    Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe This is a book I tried to read a long time ago, but only ever got a few chapters into it. I thought it about time to fully read it. It's difficult to review a book like this. On the one hand, it was written specifically to further the cause of emancipation of black slaves in America, which is obviously a great thing, but, with the knowledge that the things that befall the slaves in this book are based on real events, and that they are probably only a shadow of some of what went on, means that this is an impossible book to enjoy reading. Rating 4/5
  6. After my recent failure with Ulysses, I decided to read something I had previously failed to finish. So I picked up Uncle Tom's Cabin. I checked it out of the library years ago along with 2 other books, so ran out of time to finish it before it had to be returned. I'm about three quarters through it now and enjoying it.
  7. Andrea in 2021

    It's interesting as I didn't read so many classic children's books growing up. Only last year I read The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables. I don't think either would have impressed me much as a boy, but, as an adult I loved them. My 2 absolute favourites growing up were The Hobbit and Wind in the Willows. I still love WITW to this day and reread it regularly, but I do find The Hobbit a bit annoying in parts based on my last reread
  8. Ian's reading 2021

    Thanks Luna, that's worth knowing.
  9. Ian's reading 2021

    I would recommend both, but particularly the Strike novel. It really ticked all the boxes for me
  10. Ian's reading 2021

    Ulysses by James Joyce I always said to myself that I wouldn't attempt to read this. Everything I had heard about this was that it was, at best "difficult" and at worst "incomprehensible". Well, lockdown does funny things to you, I guess. Anyway, I decided to give it a go... OK, so I managed 15% until I gave up. That was 5 chapters. Some chapters were ok, but honestly? Those streams of consciousness were just exhausting to me! At least I can say I tried. Rating: DNF
  11. Ian's reading 2021

    The Awakening and other stories by Kate Chopin I only heard of this writer recently, watching a you tube video of lesser known Victoria era writers. Kate Chopin was from the New Orleans area and her writing is now considered to be an early example of feminist writing. The main story (The Awakening) was her only novel. Poor reviews at the time discouraged her from writing more and she concentrated on short fiction after that I enjoyed it. I can see why it shocked the sensibilities of contemporary readers and critics. A woman described as having similar sexual desires to a man. Some of the other short stories didn't always hit the mark for me, but the writing is beautiful and you get a real sense of both the beauty of the New Orleon area and her attachment to it. The story Desiree's baby is particularly good. Of course, given the age and locale of these stories there Are some outdated racial words throughout. Over all 4 out of 5
  12. Ian's reading 2021

    Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith This is the 4th book in the series following private investigator Cormoron Strike and his now business partner Robin Ellacott. The main story concerns a case of a woman that went missing in 1974, presumed to have been murdered by a serial killer that preyed that area of London at the time. As well as this, there are sub-plots involving a couple of other cases the agency have, Robin's issues with a sexist sub-contractor, and her ongoing divorce. Strike himself is also dealing with a close family member who has terminal cancer. And both of them are separately starting to question their real feeling for each other. So, a lot going on, which in part probably explains the +900 page count for this book. However, not one sentence feels wasted. Galbraith weaves the sub-plots and scenes effortlessly. Few thriller writers are able to do both the main plot successfully, and still make the characters feel human and sympathetic (I would say only Michael Connelly & Ian Rankin do this as well). I really didn't want this book to finish, as I was enjoying being immersed in this world. Absolutely great stuff. 5/5
  13. Ian's reading 2021

    Do it! I really can't recommend this book enough, and I haven't even finished.
  14. Apocalyptic genre

    Maybe Station Eleven would fit into this?
  15. John Wyndham

    I really need to go back and try The Kraken Wakes again. Tried to read it as a teenager in the 80s after The Triffids and couldn't get into it.
  16. Andrea in 2021

    I have to agree, and I'm really glad someone else thinks so: I didn't really like A tale of two cities. I'll be honest, it makes me fell that there is something slightly wrong with me, but I love most other Dickens. (Not overly keen on The Pickwick Papers or Barnaby Rudge) Recently read Our Mutual Friend, and I think that's my absolute favourite. Long though.
  17. Ian's reading 2021

    No more reviews to post yet, as I'm reading Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith. It's over 900 pages so I'll be awhile. But...Nice book problems to have: on the one hand, I'm really engrossed in the whole story so I always want to read the next chapter. But, on the other hand:I never want this book to finish!
  18. I've just finished this book, and as I couldn't see a thread on it, I thought I'd start one. I'd not read any Sebastian Faulks before, and after several disappointing attemptsin the past at reading "serious" fiction, I approached this book with some trepidation. Would I like it? Would I understand it? It's also worth mentioning that I didn't see the recent BBC adaptation of the story, so I knew almost nothing about the book prior to starting it. The story follows the life of Stephen Wraysford. Beginning in 1910 when he is sent by his employer to Amiens, in northern France to study french textile manufacture. He stays with the family of the factory's owner, Azaire, and begins an affair with Azaire's wife, Isabelle. The narrative then jumps forward to 1916, where Stephen has joined the army and is fighting in the trenches of the Somme. The story then alternates occasionally between this and 1979, where Elizabeth Benson, curious about her grandfather, who she never knew, starts to dig into his past. That's as much of the story as I feel I can tell without spoiling it for someone who hasn't read it. I needn't have worried about enjoying this book. Although I found the initial section, set in 1910 a little slow, the rest of the book is both compelling and incredibly moving. The scenes describing the battle of the somme are very realistic and really bring home the horrors of war. Although the book occasionally jumps from 1916 to 1979, you never discover what happens to any of the characters till the very end of the book. This just makes you want to read "just one more page". I loved this book and would have no hesitation of giving it 5 out of 5. I'd be interested to here other people's views
  19. Ian's reading 2021

    Well, that's one of the advantages of a Kindle or similar - all the books weigh the same! I was initially unconvinced of Kindles and e-books in general, but my mother-in-law got one when she developed neck problems and had difficulty in both holding a book, and reading smaller print. Seeing her use one convinced me, although I still read more physical books. The real advantage, for me anyway, is that Victorian books and older are out of copyright, so can be downloaded and read for nothing from various websites. I'm currently reading Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith as a "real" book. It's 900+ pages long, and lugging it to work and back is a bit of a chore.
  20. Ian's reading 2021

    The Farm - Tom Rob Smith This one was a charity shop purchase. I picked this up because I have read his other books - Child 44 and the 2 sequels. I thought Child 44 was excellent, but the 2 sequels were a bit disappointing. I almost gave up on this one. I didn't really like the narration style initially, which is based around a mother telling her son about a crime she believes has been committed while living on a remote farm in Sweden. However, her husband, also contacts the son and tells him that his mother is very ill and she shouldn't be believed. After I got through the first third or so of the book however, something clicked for me and I ended up really enjoying it. Who to believe? The mother - who thinks that a serious crime has been committed and a conspiracy to cover it up has occurred, including her own husband? Or the father - who states that his wife is mentally ill and is imaging things? Ultimately, this book doesn't go where I expected it would, which lifted it for me above the level of the majority of the thrillers I read. 4/5
  21. Ian's reading 2021

    The Sentinel - Lee Child & Andy Child This one was a Christmas present, and actually I didn't ask for it. I've read all of the Reacher books as they've come out, but I was a bit unsure about this, seeing as Lee Child has made the decision to stop writing them. He will co-author the next 2 or 3 with his brother. I wasn't sure that they would be the same. OK, let's be honest - If reading books is like eating a meal, then these books would be fast food rather than a gourmet meal. But, sometimes you just fancy a greasy burger from a van! These books are like this and, to be fair, I can't see a great deal of difference between this one and the earlier books. They are pretty formulaic; Reacher drifts into a town, he gets caught up in a situation where some underdog needs help. Reacher helps, usually with his fists, and bad guys get their backsides kicked. I really enjoyed it. 4/5
  22. Ian's reading 2021

    I do understand - long books can be off-putting. You just look at them, if you are reading a physical book anyway, and you know they are going to require a lot of your attention. And I always find with Dickens, whether it's his longer books or not, those first couple of chapters take some patience to get through. He takes a long time to come to the point! Having said that, long books have plenty of scope for character development, sub-plots and backstory. Always a winner for me.
  23. I've not heard of these books, or the author, but I have to agree; that cover would draw me in. I also agree with the YA thing. I don't understand the snobbery. As you say, good writing is good writing.
  24. Ian's reading 2021

    I set myself the challenge of reading all of Dickens novels a few years back. I think it was the 200th anniversary of his birth?(2012), so I've really took my time! I think I only have Martin chuzzlewit left. I'm not currently considering Edwin android as it wasn't finished.
  25. Ian's reading 2021

    Thank you all for your kind welcome and your patience with my overposting! 2020 was a pretty good year for reading, although as I get most of my books from charity shops, that source of new reading was closed for the majority of the year. So, I turned to my kindle and read or re read a lot of classics. Also, really long books became a feature, although not intentionally. So, Dune by Frank Herbert, It by Stephen king were both re reads. I also read 2 Charles Dickens for the first time: Our Mutual Friend, and Nicholas Nickleby. All were 5/5.