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Brian.

Brian's Book Log - Ongoing

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17 hours ago, Hayley said:

I would also like to throw that book across the room and I haven’t even read it. How did that get published!?

 

He has quite a large back catalogue of books so publishers must like him. Perhaps his other books are better than this one.

 

Across an Angry Sea by Cedric Delves (3/5)

This was my most recent Audible listen and it wasn't really what I was expecting. I wrongly assumed that there would be a lot of details about the on the ground missions undertaken by D squadron of 22 SAS. Instead I got a really detailed account of the sea crossing, time spent in boats, logisitics, and the burdens of command. There is some detail about the nuts and bolts fighting on the ground, probably just enough for me, but I would have preferred more. The blurb kind of proclaims that it is a tale of derring-do but it really isn't. Delves talks a lot about how things were planned and does give a rare insight as to what goes on behind the scenes. Refreshingly he also details the kinds of pressure that commanders face during times of conflict. I do have two criticisms regarding the audiobook specifically. Firstly, the narrator has quite a plummy accent which I found grating at times. Secondly, there are a lof of military abbreviations throughout which the narrator mis-pronounces, he really should have been given some guidance here.

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Crazy House by James Patterson (2/5)

Recently I was given a large bag of pre-loved books by a friend of my wife's as she knows I'm a reader and the charity shops are closed. I had a good root around and found some that looked like they may be of interest. Crazy House was one of them. I haven't read any other books by Patterson but I was aware that he is well known and quite prolific. The book starts with the disappearance of Becca Greenfield from her small town. She isn't the first kid to suddenly disappear and none have ever come back after vanishing. Becca's sister frantically starts hunting for her but the odds are stacked against her. Becca is under arrest and being held in the Crazy House, a secret place where no one gets out alive.

After two chapters I quickly realised that this was aimed at the YA audience, especially those with an interest in dystopian novels. Although this isn't the kind of book I would normally go for I decided to stick with it and see where it went. I think the best way I can sum up my feelings about this book is, meh! I didn't particularly like any of the characters but they were ok. The plot is pretty interesting but isn't properly explored. There are twists and turns but they are largely telegraphed and so become fairly obvious.

It was a little disappointing to find out that Patterson is basically a book conveyor belt these days who values quantity over all else. It was ok but I won't be rushing to read the next book any time soon.

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Time for a bit of a catch up.

 

Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin (4/5)

I picked this up from a local charity shop between lockdowns. The bright cover initially grabbed my attention and the synopsis sounded like fun so I decided it was worth a shot. Set in the mid 90's, the book follows the fortunes Vinny, a young man who spends his time either working in the local takeaway or in the pub with his mates. He knows he is unhappy with the way his life is going and he know he wants to change it but he doesn't know how. As a further issue, he lives in Northern Ireland along with all the complications that brings.A chance encounter with the other side (Vinny is nominally a Catholic) brings him a chance to potentially change things for the better, but can he make it work?

I really enjoyed this book and it probably made me laugh more than any other book ever has. The humour mainly based around Vinny's observations which are often crude and while I understand this will put some people off, it really resonated with me. I wouldn't say Vinny is someone I would get on with in real life, he's too much of a liability, but he is a great character. The time setting works well with me as I remember that period of my life well and did some of the things Vinny does. I could well see this being made into a movie along the lines of an Irving Welsh adaptation.

 

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury (3/5)

This wasn't recommended to me by anyone, I just picked it up on a whim. The book follows Juliette who lives a quiet understated life in Paris which is pretty boring in its monotony. Something is missing from her life as she has no friends, doesn't really like her job, and doesn't really like people. On her Metro journey everyday she observes the books and people that are reading them during their journey. One morning, deciding she wants to avoid the office for as long as possible, Juliette finds herself in a new area and is drawn to a place where the gate is held open by a book. In the property she meet Soliman and eventually agrees to become a passeur, a bookseller hired to take stacks of used books out into the world, using their imagination and intuition to match books with readers.

I thought this was ok but its probably 2.5 instead of 3 truth be told. The writing was solid and the characters pretty engaging, especially Soliman, but I felt it lacked something. The idea is good but it felt a bit disjointed to me and never really drew me in as much as I hoped it would. In particular, Juliette's rapid switch from a comfortable if uninspiring life to leaving it all behind to become a passeur is too quick. More time should have been spent exploring her motivations and doing a bit of soul searching. The other things which is really odd is the setting. The story is set in Paris but you only know this because of the place names. The setting isn't really built up or described and to be honest could have been set pretty much anywhere.

In conclusion, this book was a decent enough read but felt like a missed opportunity.

 

Inside the Maze by Chris Ryder (3/5)

This is another charity shop purchase. For those who don't know, the Maze was a notorious prison in Northern Ireland which was used to hold terrorists during the troubles. This book explores the history of the Maze, the people it held, and the Northern Ireland Prison Service as a whole. The first thing I should say about this book is that it really helps that it is written by someone who is a journalist. Ryder manages to deal with the tricky subject matter in a balanced way and keeps things ticking along without it getting too repetitive. An area of particular interest for me was the chapters dealing with the protests inside the Maze, in particular the period of hunger strikes. Unlike the Steve McQueen movie on the subject, Hunger, Ryder addresses the issues from all sides and also details the reasons why these people were in prison. It makes deservedly harrowing reading and pulls no punches at all. Another good aspect of the book is that Ryder discusses the lives of the prison staff and the immense pressure and danger they were under every day. Officers were killed both inside and outside the prison doing an almost impossible job.

 

 

I have some more finished books to review but these will have to wait until later.

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What a shame The Girl Who Reads on the Metro was not great for you :(. I hope you will have a 5/5 star read to review / to read too.

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Ok, time for part two.

 

The Arabian Nights by Anonymous (3/5)

I'll admit right from the start that I read this purely as its in the '1001 books' list. I wasn't sure about what edition to go for as there are many different translations and collections. From what I understand, most of the editions you can read will have selected stories and not the entire works as its so large. The Everyman's Library edition I chose contains 23 main stories but many of these are broken up into 4 or 5 related tales. For example, the tales of The Fisherman and the Jinni contains one main story and four sub stories. What tends to happen is a story is being told which contains a character, and then we are told the story of that character before coming back to the main tale. This is repeated several times before the main overarching story is completed. We start with Sheherazade who convinces king Shahryar to let her tell him a story before he kills her. To preserve her life for as long as possible these stories seemingly never end and go on night after night. I found it hard to rate this as its so historic it feels wrong for a mere mortal like me to pass judgement on it. Some of the writing is a bit difficult to get on with as tends to happen with 'old' language but the stories are engaging and you soon realise where a lot of the story archetypes we know today originate from. My favourite stories were those of Sinbad the Sailor as they encompass many different settings over many years. Overall I enjoyed my time with this book.

 

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (3/5)

As I've recently finished the TV series Vikings I felt like I wanted to read something along the same lines and found my way to The Last Kingdom series. This was my first Cornwell book despite him being quite a popular writer. The book, and I'm assuming the series follows Uthred, the son of the lord of Bebbanburg, a title he stands to inherit. His father dies and as a orphan Uthred is quicky captured by the Danes and learns their ways. I was familiar with some of the Danish characters like Ragnar, Ubba, Ivar the Boneless, etc but here we see them in a slightly different way to the TV series which is a good thing in my opinion. Overall I found the book well paced and the plot moves along at the right times to maintain a good level of interest. I have to say that although I liked it, I didn't love it. I can't quite put my finger on what was missing for me but I expected to like it more than I did. All that said, I will definitely be reading the next book in the series when I get a copy of it and I can see myself reading the whole lot in the future.

 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (4/5)

I came across this book in an unusual way for me, the audiobook was recommended by someone I work with. My audiobook consumption tends to be mainly non-fiction as I find fiction hard to get on with unless the naration is really top notch. The person who recommended this to me assured me that it would be the best audiobook I've ever listened to so I decided despite the 43 hour length to give it a shot. Lin (not his real name) does a runner from prison in Australia and makes it to India where he meets a street tout called Prabakar and agrees to let him show him to a hotel. From there a friendship develops which sees Lin get involved in everyday Indian and Bombay life like a local. He tends to gravitate towards to poor people living in the slum for a number of reasons but chiefly because he doesn't have much money and he needs the anonymity. Eventually he finds himself involved with one of the organised crime groups in Bombay and soon finds himself way out of his depth.

I really enjoyed listening to this and would go for long 3 hour walks just so I could continue with the story. The narration by Humprhey Bower is really, really good. So good in fact that I find it hard to believe he did all the character voices himself as they are so distinct from each other. Reading a little about Roberts afterward I assume that some of this story is autobiographical and it is his way of justifying to himself some of the choices he made during this period of his life. My only real complaint is that I could have done without the cod-philosophy which occurs often in the book. After a while it gets too much and is often delivered in rambling soliloquies that I could have done without.

So was this the best fiction audiobook I've listened to? No, that remains the Red Dwarf series read by Chris Barrie, but this is good and I really enjoyed it.

 

Tony 10 by Declan Lynch & Tony O'Reilly (5/5)

One of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis is Football Weeky. One of the regular guests is an Irish sports journalist called Barry Glendenning. He comes across as your typical loveable Irish rogue who likes to have a drink, a cigarette, and a bet. Despite these vices he is very vocal about the pernicious influence sports betting companies have and their constant advertising during sporting events. He is not alone in calling for gambling sponsorship in sports to be banned in the UK and Ireland in the same way that tobacco sponsorship is. During one of these podcast conversations about the subject he mentioned this book which tells the true story of Tony O'Reilly, a postman from Gorey who gambled 10m euros and lost it all. Obviously 10m is a lot and so he had to start stealing from his employers to fund his addiction. When he was finally caught he has stolen 1.7m euros with nothing so show for it.

I loved this book and read it in less than a day as it was so engaging. The story itself is crazy and it beggars belief that he managed to get away with his crime on scale he did despite numerous opportunities for An Post to catch him out. It is fair to say that gambling completely consumed his life and you get the sense that he was almost relieved to get caught. One heart breaking part comes early in the book when he has something like 8000 euros in debt and wins 9000 euros, enough to cover his debt and take his wife on holiday with the extra. He decides that he will call it quits and walk away from gambling. Unfortunately it is also the weekend of the Galway Festival and he just can't avoid the temptation and loses it all and then more very quickly. By the end of his gambling run he is betting on any sport, anywhere in the world for tens of thousands a go. At one point he manages to win 480,000 euros in four days and then gambles it away in the space of 12 hours. At no point does Paddy Power, the company he has his online betting account with ever look at how he is affording the huge amounts he wagers. They also never refuse a bet from him, even going to the extent of phoning him up and giving him a direct number for Paddy Power himself when the online system goes down so that he can place bets. Reading this book it is very clear that despite the gambling industry's claims that they have safeguarding for their customers, this is just lip service and all they care about is taking your money.

This is a superbly written book and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to people who may be interested in the subject.

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I'm glad Shantaram was a good read :). I was gifted it, but I hadn't heard any reviews from anyone I know (I had just read general reviews on GoodReads).

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On 08/02/2021 at 6:43 AM, Athena said:

I'm glad Shantaram was a good read :). I was gifted it, but I hadn't heard any reviews from anyone I know (I had just read general reviews on GoodReads).

 

The reviews on Goodreads would indicate it is a bit of a love it or hate it kind of book. I do wonder how much I would have enjoyed it had I read a physical copy rather than an audiobook but I guess I'll never know for sure.

 

 

On 08/02/2021 at 10:24 AM, johnmorgan said:

Hi, I have heard about The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell (3/5) so many times, I think it is time to read it. Thanks 

 

I've got the series in 'My List' on Netflix but I want to try and read the books before I watch the series if possible.

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I didn't think I have been reading particularly often recently but somehow I have finished 3 books in the last week. I've had some time off work and the weather has been cold and inclement so that always helps.

 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (4/5)

I very rarely buy hardback books unless its something I really want to read when it is published, or its a special edition (Folio Society for example) of a book I really love. As this has only recently been published I knew that I could either buy Kindle version or the hardback. For some reason the Kindle version was the more expensive option so I reluctantly went the hardback. The story is set in and around a retirement complex in Kent. To help pass the time a group of 4 retirees who live at the complex get together once a week to go through unsolved murders and see if they can add anything more to the case. The retirement complex is owned and developed by a shady guy called Ian Ventham who has become very rich off the back of this property. He is trying to convince a local farmer to sell his land so that another complex can be built. It is obvious that Venthan is a nasty piece of work with quite a few enemies, so when he is murdered there are many suspects. The Thursday Murder Club swing into action to try and solve the murder without stepping on the police's toes too much.

This was a fun read with a great collection of characters. You do have to suspend your beliefs during the course of the story. In particular one of the club, Elizabeth, used to be some kind of spy and manages to convince people to do whatever she wants regardless of how illegal it may be. I can see why publishers wanted this book so much as it's a perfect read during the pandemic, something cozy and fun to relax with. I would be very surprised if this isn't soon turned into a movie or TV mini-series staring the likes of Jim Broadbent, Maggie Smith, and Miriam Margolyes (well they would be my choice anyway).

 

Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami (3/5)

The first book I ever read by Murakami was Norwegian Wood back in 2012. It remains one of my favourite books and came at a time in my life when a lot was changing for me so I will always have an emotional bond with it. There is something about Murakami's writing which always envokes a kind of melancholia in me. For some people this would be disconcerting but I find it comforting in a wierd kind of way. I guess it helps to remind me that I'm not the only one who doesn't feel like they have life sorted out. I have read most of Murakami's shorter books and liked all of them but I hadn't read his earliest books so I felt like it was time to revisit his writing.

Our narrator tells us the story of his life during the summer of 1970. He is a university student who is home for the summer and spends his time hanging out at J's bar with a friend known only as Rat. Along with way we learn about the troubles the narrator has with writing, his ex girlfriends - one of who commited suicide, and a new girl he meets. In common with Murakami's other shorter books, not a huge amount happens but the way he observes life really vibes with me. I could tell this was one of this very early stories because while there are hints of his style they aren't full there yet. I think I will read the rest of his shorter books this year before finally reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

 

Logical Chess by Irving Chernev (4/5)

I like chess. The biggest problem I have with playing it however is that I am not very good. Over the years I have tried to improve by using online sources, and while some has stuck I wouldn't say it has been a productive experience. I decided it would be good to pick up a book which looks a previous games and this book is widely recommended to beginners. This was written in 1957 so a lot of the accepted knowledge at the Grandmaster level has changed with the invention of computer based chess engines. For this reason the book gets some criticism for being out of date but I think at the beginner and intermediate level this criticism is unwarranted. I really enjoyed going through the games in this book and playing them out. Chernev explains why each move is played and what other options could have been considered and why they were dismissed. A very niche book for this forum admittedly, but reviewed for completeness.

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Fun is exactly the word to describe the Thursday Murder Club. Not deep or meaningful but thoroughly enjoyable. I do hope they don't turn it into a TV series, light hearted books seem to become leaden when translated to the screen.

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Apparently Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights to Thursday Murder Club.

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On 13/02/2021 at 6:05 PM, Madeleine said:

Apparently Steven Spielberg has bought the film rights to Thursday Murder Club.


I listened to Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast yesterday with Richard Osman on as guest and he confirmed that the rights have been bought by Spielberg’s company, Amblin. Someone is working on a script already.

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Vox by Christina Dalcher (2/5)

I will quote directly from the synposis on the back of the book.

"Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins. Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you're a woman. Almost overnight, bakn accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write. For herself, her daughter, and for ebery woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning..."

 

I bought this book as I just kept seeing it everywhere. It appeared in my Amazon suggested books feed, it was prominently displayed in bookshops I went into, and the charity bookshops I visit almost always had a copy. The cover is bright red and dark black which makes it really stand out. It instantly reminded me of The Power by Naomi Alderman as that book also had a bright red cover and is also what I guess you could term feminist-lit. They come from different publishers but I do wonder if there was a common cover designer. One thing that did concern me was the sources used for the attention grabbing promotional quotes. They all came from the likes of Heat, Prima, Bella, and the Daily Mail. In general I try not to be too sniffy about books but there were no recommendations from any source I would consider trustworthy when it comes to books. Or anything in the case of the Daily Mail. Anyway, onwards.

 

The premise sounded very promising to me and there is a lot that could be done with it so I jumped in without reading anything about it beforehand. As you would expect, the book starts off by pretty much laying out the situation in the America detailed in the synopsis. We find out that Jean was a hugely talented scientist who specializes in aphasia experience by people who have suffered some form of brain injury like a stroke. All that changed with a political change in the USA and she now spends her time at home and limited to 100 words a day. She feels her husband is a coward for not standing up when the current situation was developing and in his general attitude towards how thing are. This comes across are a double standard as Jean readily admits that she didn't get involved either despite being encouraged to by one of her college friends. She seems to hate her eldest son because he is becoming someone who disregards women due to his teaching at school. There is also a barely disguised attack on Christianity as a whole. The political leaders are kept in power by one of these crazy TV preachers we see from time to time (think Kenneth Copeland). So Christianity is an evil force in the book but somehow this has only affected America as the Christians in every other country are the same as we know them to be today, a mixed bunch just like any other demographic. I have no real issue with questioning religion, even in a forceful way at times, but Dalcher uses such a broad brush every Christian is condemned.

 

This attitude towards Christianity also applies to every single man in the book apart from two, one of who is a hunky Italian that she is having an affair with. Her husband Patrick is a particular target throughout. She hates him because he didn't try to change the political change that was happening. He is a governmental scientific specialist so I would imagine that to keep his position he would need to toe the line but this doesn't seem to occur to Jean. She also hates the fact that he is the kind of guy who would ignore provocation instead of 'beating the s**t out of someone'. Yeah, I'm going to judge you if that is your outlook on life. If more people learned to turn the other cheek when violence clearly isn't the solution, the world would be a better place.

 

All of the above had me seriously conflicted while I was reading the book. Dalcher can clearly write good prose as I flew through the book in no time at all and I kept wanted to know what happened next. The ending feels very rushed compared to the rest of the book which is a shame. The conclusion feels like she didn't know where to go with it and as a result, its messy and far too convienient. The arc of one of the main characters at the end of the book is so different to the rest of the book that it really undermines what I think Dalcher was going for from the start (I'm trying to explain without spoilers and its difficult, hopefully those who have read the book will understand). Due to premise and the quality of the writing I think that 2/5 is about right despite the huge flaws. As Mark Kermode would say, it is not without merit. In the end I think Dalcher's biggest problem is that there is no nuance in her arguments. It's all black and white when shades of grey should have been present from the very beginning.

 

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On 21/01/2021 at 3:22 PM, Brian. said:

The plot is pretty interesting but isn't properly explored. There are twists and turns but they are largely telegraphed and so become fairly obvious.

It was a little disappointing to find out that Patterson is basically a book conveyor belt these days who values quantity over all else. It was ok but I won't be rushing to read the next book any time soon.

I'm a bit late with this but I missed it when you first posted. This is exactly how I felt about the one James Patterson book I read, like it had come from a book conveyor belt.

 

I'm really glad you reviewed Vox because I've been tempted to try it a couple of times. Like you, I saw it everywhere. I do think it's an interesting concept but I know, from your review, that I would hate the main character. I thought it would be about a woman fighting back, finding new ways to get her voice heard in the face of this sexist new law, but it sounds like she's mainly just angry that nobody else saved her. There's definitely irony (intentional, perhaps?) in the fact that she wants her husband to be more violent and aggressive in order to protect her. Looking down on a man for not being violent is toxic masculinity at its finest. 

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On 2/12/2021 at 8:57 AM, Brian. said:

 

Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami (3/5)

The first book I ever read by Murakami was Norwegian Wood back in 2012. It remains one of my favourite books and came at a time in my life when a lot was changing for me so I will always have an emotional bond with it. There is something about Murakami's writing which always envokes a kind of melancholia in me. For some people this would be disconcerting but I find it comforting in a wierd kind of way. I guess it helps to remind me that I'm not the only one who doesn't feel like they have life sorted out. I have read most of Murakami's shorter books and liked all of them but I hadn't read his earliest books so I felt like it was time to revisit his writing.

Our narrator tells us the story of his life during the summer of 1970. He is a university student who is home for the summer and spends his time hanging out at J's bar with a friend known only as Rat. Along with way we learn about the troubles the narrator has with writing, his ex girlfriends - one of who commited suicide, and a new girl he meets. In common with Murakami's other shorter books, not a huge amount happens but the way he observes life really vibes with me. I could tell this was one of this very early stories because while there are hints of his style they aren't full there yet. I think I will read the rest of his shorter books this year before finally reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

 

 

I'd go with that; Murakami's books often invoke a sense of melancholy in me as well, and I also don't view that in a negative way.   

 

I enjoyed Norwegian Wood, but it is very different beast from most of his novels and is certainly his most main stream and accessible.  I prefer his stories that have a more surreal bent, and a degree of mystery to them (A Wild Sheep Chase is pretty good on that score!)

 

I've read pretty much all of his short stories now, and a couple of his longer novels, but I still have the really long ones to go.

 

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20 hours ago, Raven said:

I enjoyed Norwegian Wood, but it is very different beast from most of his novels and is certainly his most main stream and accessible.  I prefer his stories that have a more surreal bent, and a degree of mystery to them (A Wild Sheep Chase is pretty good on that score!)

 

 

Because it was my first Murakami and I liked it so much I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't like his others as much but I need not have worried, I've liked everything so far. If I had to pick a favourite aside from Norwegian Wood it would be South of the Border, West of the Sun.

 

 

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6 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

Because it was my first Murakami and I liked it so much I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't like his others as much but I need not have worried, I've liked everything so far. 

 

 

I'm the same with After Dark, which was the first one I read.

 

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Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz (4/5)

I was browsing the Audible store to decide what to use my next credit on when I spotted this. I have read all the Ian Fleming James Bond books but I think this is the first 'extended' Bond series book I have read. Apparently it is number 48 in the series but as it deals with James Bond first becoming a double 0 agent it can be read anytime. It also claims to use some of the original Fleming material that was never published which is a good thing in my eyes. I really enjoyed this one and it's nice to remind yourself that originally James Bond was 'ex military' strong and not the quasi superhero that is portrayed in the modern movies. The set-up for the book is that an agent is discovered dead in the French Riviera and a newly promoted Bond is dispatched to find out what has happened. We get a bit of background, some great characters, and an insight into where things like 'shaken not stirred' come from. Specifically to the audiobook, the narration is perfect, they picked just the right accent for the job.

 

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (4/5)

This is the second book in the ever growing 'Rivers of London' series. I'm not a big reader of fantasy or paranormal fiction but this series so far manages to balance fantasy and reality just right for me. This time, London based police constable and apprentice magician Peter Grant has to uncover why Jazz musicians are dropping dead suddenly after playing a gig. Aaronovitch mixes magic, London, Jazz, social commentary, and intrigue really well and I just wanted to keep reading. The plot isn't massively complicated but you do need to keep on your toes or risk getting left behind as the story develops. Being set in modern day London works really well and its easy to see how much Aaronovitch loves the city through his writing.

 

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer (2/5)

Certain books constantly pop up as spiritual classics and this is one of those. The idea behind the book is that we are essentially trapped by our own neuroses and if we could learn to look at things in a different way we would be free from the limitations we put on ourselves. Ok, so I go along with the first part of that but the second, not so much. Either way, I cast my doubts aside and gave the book a chance to convince me. The initial chapters start promisingly. Singer talks about the internal dialogue we all have and how that has a big impact on how we see the world. After that however it goes down hill for me. Singer then starts to talk about how emotion distress of any kind, regardless of how minor, will block the energy flow in your body unless you confront it straight away (more on this at the end of my thoughts). He presents a set of rules including the ridiculous idea that if you want to do something, don't wait just do it. I would love to own a Nissan GTR but buying it would be extremely foolish of me, Singer says I should though, go figure that one out. The rest of the book meanders along similar lines until at the end he suddenly starts to talk about god in all his/her religious forms. This is a really bizarre turn when taken in context of the rest of the book. There is no hint of 'religious' belief throughout the preceeding chapters so it feels really out of place.

I am not a religious person, I have always based my beliefs in science but if pushed it would fair to describe me as an atheist with leanings towards Buddhist philosophy. What I mean by this is that as long as something isn't over mystical, such as miracles, I am a willing listener. I find consciousness fascinating and I really enjoy reading and discussing religion of any kind with people but I draw the line at things like chi and magic. This is where this book falls down for me. It promises the former, and then delivers a lot of the later at the same time.

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Due to some stellar recommendations here I checked out Haruki Murakami on our North Carolina Digital library and lo-and-behold they have 8 of his books. I downloaded Norwegian Wood to my kindle and will give it a try. It is so nice to have a library where you can download books so easily (not to mention they are free :) )

 

Oh btw, I watched the entire Vikings series. I enjoyed it although the series was quite long. I have read the entire Last Kingdom series but haven' watched any of the TV series yet as I currently don't subscribe to Netflix.

Edited by muggle not

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8 hours ago, muggle not said:

Due to some stellar recommendations here I checked out Haruki Murakami on our North Carolina Digital library and lo-and-behold they have 8 of his books. I downloaded Norwegian Wood to my kindle and will give it a try. It is so nice to have a library where you can download books so easily (not to mention they are free :) )

 

Oh btw, I watched the entire Vikings series. I enjoyed it although the series was quite long. I have read the entire Last Kingdom series but haven' watched any of the TV series yet as I currently don't subscribe to Netflix.

 

I hope you enjoy the Murakami books. Your library download scheme sounds like a great idea, a few libraries here do a similar thing but the selection can be quite limited.

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Update time.

 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (5/5)

The book begins in June 1922 where we see Count Alexander Rostov escorted out of the Kremlin and into the Hotel Metropol after a trail. He is found guilty of being an aristocrat in a Bolshevik but instead of prison of death he is put under house arrest in the hotel. Instead of being returned to his plush suite he is put in an attic room which is very small in comparison. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, the Count decides to get on with life and the trials that await him.

This is another one of those strange books in which not a huge amount happens but it is captivating all the same. The characters are all really well written, none more so than the Count who you just can't help but love. The Hotel Metropol also becomes a kind of character which changes over the course of the book and reflects the world around it.

 

Battle Ready by Ollie Ollerton (2/5)

This is part self-help book, part life story, of former special forces operative Ollie Ollerton who is best known in the UK for his part in the TV show SAS: Are You Tough Enough. I haven't read his earlier book but it is well reviewed and focuses solely on his life in the special forces, I should have read that instead. Battle Ready isn't a bad book and most of the advice is backed by solid psychology and proven exercises but I just couldn't get on with how it was written. This one wasn't for me.

 

The Plant-Based Diet Revolution by Dr Alan Desmond (4/5)

I've been interested in trying out a plant based diet for a few years and although I've had a few half-hearted attempts I've never given it a fair shot. I decided to give it another go and chose this book as my guide because it has a 4 week meal plan along with recipes which sounded nice. The first half of the book looks into the modern western diet and the benefits we could all gain by eating more plants. The second half contains the recipes and meal plans along with advice for each week.

This book has been a game changer for me and made the attempt both successful and easy. Over the course of February when I followed the meal plans I lost 5 kilos and it completely changed my old belief than I need to eat a form of animal based protein with almost every meal. I always feared that I would be hungry and feel tired on a plant based diet but these fears were wrong. At the start of March I decided to stick with eating mainly plant based foods and only consume eggs, meat, fish, or dairy 2-3 times a week. I've done this and the weight is still coming off so all in all for me it has been a great experience. I don't believe that certain diets work for everyone. I think we should all experiment and see what works best for each of us personally and this just happens to be mine.

 

Next Stop Execution by Oleg Gordievsky (4/5)

I decided to read this book after reading The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre which is about Oleg Gordievsky. I really enjoyed that book and felt that it would be interesting to read the story from the point of view of the man who it was about. I was slightly worried that it would be the same story as told by Macintyre but felt it was worth a shot. Gordievsky starts with his escape from the Soviet Union and then circles back to his life and how we ended up in the KGB. I generally don't like it when autobiographies of famous people do this as I want to read about the thing that made them famous not a dreary childhood. However, this book is the exception because the whole back story is a great insight into how life was for someone growing up on the privileged side of Soviet life. We get a really detailed look into how the atmosphere of fear and suspicion of life was created and how is affected everyone regardless of where they sat in the hierarchy of society.

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Update time.

 

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg (2/5)

After the funeral of her parents, Erica Falck returns to her home town  to tie up some loose ends and attempt to finish writing her recent book. On arrival she finds out that her childhood friend Alex has been found dead. Initially a suicide is suspected but things are rarely as them seem.

I've had this on my wishlist for a while and I do love some good Scandi crime so I was looking forward to getting into this. Sadly I found the whole thing a bit slow going and quite a plod. I didn't really care for the characters and found the mysteries that were uncovered rather cliched.

 

A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto (3/5)

In Japan, cleanliness is next to enlightenment. In this book a Zen Buddhist monk draws on ancient traditions and experience to show you how to your daily habits. These range from cleaning to preparing food and everything else inbetween. 

I picked this up on a whim as I liked the cover and the fact that its quite a small book. I read through it in an evening and although I wouldn't say that it inspired me to change any of my habits I did enjoy it. The explanations behind the monk's methodologies were interesting and the book is well written.

 

Colonel Sun by Kingsley Amis (2/5)

James Bond expanded series number 15. M is kidnapped from his home and spirited out of the country by a mysterious group. Bond is dispatched to find out why even though it seems like he is also a target for the group. After enjoying Forever and Day, written by Anthony Horowitz I was looking forward to this. Ultimately I found this book very disappointing when I reached the end. The bad guys are very stereotyped, especially Colonel Sun. The interplay between the bad guy groups are over convoluted and easy to get lost in. I hope the next in the series is better.

 

Amistad by David Pesci (4/5)

This book tells a dramatised version of the story of fifty-three African slaves staged a bloody mutiny on board the Amistad, a Spanish slave ship from Cuba. I had never heard of this story before reading the book which is a shame as it's utterly fascinating. The story is really well told and I felt like I got to know the people behind the characters the further I read. The blend of history is mixed perfectly with the drama and when I finished the book I felt satisfied that I had enjoyed the experience and learned something new at the same time. This is highly recommended.

 

Better than Life by Grant Naylor (3/5)

I love the Red Dwarf audiobooks and have listened to them numerous times. Or at least I thought I had. I recently found out that there are two versions of Better Than Life, one abridged and one not. Somehow this fact had slipped by me and as a result I had never listened to the unabridged version. Expectedly the story remains the same but with extended scenes and set peices. The extra information was welcome but I can see why there were trimmed for the abridged version. The shorter version feels much tighter and the comedy works better but I'm glad I listened to this nonetheless. As ever, Chris Barrie is superb in the role of narrator.

 

Churchill's Secret Warriors by Damien Lewis (4/5)

In late 1939, following some bad outcomes in Europe, Winston Churchill wanted the creation of small lightning quick attack troops which would pave the way for modern special forces. The people recruited for these missions were not your usual military soldiers, often being unsuitable for normal regiments. This book focuses in particular on the activities of Anders Lassen and his men who operated in secret, often attacking much larger forces while pretending to be fisherman or farmers. This enraged Hitler so much that he created a rule than any special commando captured was to be considered a spy and executed.

This book was really interesting and while I knew about David Sterling and the LRDG I had never heard of Ander Lassen. It focuses on areas of Europe often missed in other books, areas such as the Greek and Italian islands. Lewis writes in an engaing manner than kept me interested throughout.

 

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (2.5/5)

I find religion fascinating and being from England I had assumed that my school lessons about Christianity had given me a solid foundation of knowledge on the subject. As a result I have read about many of the other major religions in the world but had neglected to read further on Christianity. The synopsis for this book had me intrigued as it promised to present an evidence based exploration on the existence of Jesus.

Strobel starts off by explaining he was a crime reporter and had attended many court cases over the years as part of his job. He stated that he wanted to investigate Jesus by looking and the evidence on both sides just as they do in court. This is the first failure on his part as he only speaks to experts who support the existence of Jesus. At no point does he interview sceptics and this hurts the book in a big way in my opinion. It's not all bad though. I found the evidence presented well thought out and has inspired me to read deeper on the subject. The writing is simple enough for a layman like me to understand what is going on without it feeling too dumbed down. After finishing the book I read a rebuttal online and it revealed to me that there is a lot more to scholarly Christan knowledge than I had ever imagined. Someone with little knowledge of the minutiae (like me) could be easily swayed by many of the arguements in the book without realising there is a strong counterpoint to be made by others. I really wish this had been a more balanced book as it would have improved it greatly in my opinion.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Brian. said:

 

Better than Life by Grant Naylor (3/5)

I love the Red Dwarf audiobooks and have listened to them numerous times. Or at least I thought I had. I recently found out that there are two versions of Better Than Life, one abridged and one not. Somehow this fact had slipped by me and as a result I had never listened to the unabridged version. Expectedly the story remains the same but with extended scenes and set peices. The extra information was welcome but I can see why there were trimmed for the abridged version. The shorter version feels much tighter and the comedy works better but I'm glad I listened to this nonetheless. As ever, Chris Barrie is superb in the role of narrator.

 

 

I think I have a print copy of this somewhere.  Or possibly the first book, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.  No idea where it is though!

 

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On 27/03/2021 at 1:18 AM, Brian. said:

Update time.

 

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg (2/5)

After the funeral of her parents, Erica Falck returns to her home town  to tie up some loose ends and attempt to finish writing her recent book. On arrival she finds out that her childhood friend Alex has been found dead. Initially a suicide is suspected but things are rarely as them seem.

I've had this on my wishlist for a while and I do love some good Scandi crime so I was looking forward to getting into this. Sadly I found the whole thing a bit slow going and quite a plod. I didn't really care for the characters and found the mysteries that were uncovered rather cliched.

 

 

 

You're not missing much if you don't read any more of this series.  It became very formulaic.

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On 3/10/2021 at 6:31 AM, Brian. said:

Update time.

 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (5/5)

The book begins in June 1922 where we see Count Alexander Rostov escorted out of the Kremlin and into the Hotel Metropol after a trail. He is found guilty of being an aristocrat in a Bolshevik but instead of prison of death he is put under house arrest in the hotel. Instead of being returned to his plush suite he is put in an attic room which is very small in comparison. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, the Count decides to get on with life and the trials that await him.

This is another one of those strange books in which not a huge amount happens but it is captivating all the same. The characters are all really well written, none more so than the Count who you just can't help but love. The Hotel Metropol also becomes a kind of character which changes over the course of the book and reflects the world around it.

 

 

I am glad you enjoyed A Gentleman In Moscow. It is definitely a 5/5 in my opinion. At some point I will probably go back and reread the book.

 

I enjoyed The Last Kingdom maybe a little more than you did, or maybe not. There are, I believe, 16 books in the series and I have read them all and so it is hard to remember the ones I enjoyed the most of the group.

I also read the other book written by Towles.....Rules of Civility. Entirely different type of book but i gave it a 4.5/5.

 

I read Norwegian Wood and somewhat enjoyed the book but have not decided it I will venture into any more of Murakami's books.

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