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Everything posted by ian

  1. 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
  2. Great reviews! These both seem like just my kind of book. I've read the first Peter Grant book (Rivers of London?), but have just never got around to the others. I've not heard of L.J.Ross before; I shall have to look into that series.
  3. I think I had similar feeling for American Gods. It's good, but it seems to lack something to send it over into excellent. I couldn't put my finger on what. What I can recommend is Anansi Boys, which isn't a direct sequel, but shares the same universe - in that some of the characters are gods. That is excellent, in my opinion of course, probably because it is very funny (and maybe that's what's missing from American Gods; it's a bit lacking in humour, unusually for Neil Gaiman).
  4. Good review - I've read 3 or 4 of his books, but I've not picked one up for a while. This one sounds intriguing - I'll have to give it a go.
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Be prepared - the book of About a boy is very different from the film. Naturally, I prefer the book!
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. It's not something I would keep track of, but for me, debut novel is first published. Different genres wouldn't count for me (although I always like to know). The only fly in the ointment with this is when an author gets a previously unpublished work published. I think this happened to Harlen Coben. A previous unpublished book was released that he actually went on record as saying he was embarrassed about - he thought it was a bad book.
  13. 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.
  14. 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!
  15. 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
  16. 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!
  17. 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.
  18. 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
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
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