Monday, December 29, 2014
This is a chilling tale set in the future where mass sterility has necessitated fertile women being used as brood mares by the elites.
I have read reviews where Atwood states she dislikes this work being described as 'science fiction' and prefers it to be described as possible fiction. I agree, we have seen over the last century several totalitarian regimes and how easy it is for them to rise to power, Germany being the prime example. It only takes many doing nothing as rights are eroded with others appeasing rather than opposing violently.
Offred, the Handmaid of our tale relates her current life interwoven with her life prior to the totalitarian state she is now in being created. This is a state of fear violence and of course mass hypocrisy, all things that go with these regimes.
This is a great read, chilling because it is so easy to imagine this occurring but it is also uplifting because the human desire for freedom cannot not be extinguished, forced into hiding, but not got rid of.
Described as 'southern gothic' it is the tale of Hazel Motes, recently discharged from the army as he sets outs to set up a 'anti' religious church- the "Church Without Christ" and from this we follow his descent into madness.
This novel is on several "best of lists" about the place but I struggle to see this. This is a re-write of several interwoven stories that were originally short stories. After the re-write it was published as this novel and unsurprisingly was a commercial flop. Over the years it has gathered some traction but in my opinion this has had more to do with her later work and premature death. This was her first novel , the first chapter being the "basis of her masters thesis". (Wiki)
Reading this it stills feels like several separate short stories. Its funny in places with some disturbing imagery but several character's just drift away with no explanation.
My highlight was the police's solution in solving Hazel driving without a driving licence, much laughing over this.
No doubt Ms O'Connor could write but this left me wondering about too much of the story to really enjoy it.
The world of T S Garp is different. Son of a reluctant feminist icon, a wrestler, novelist, father, husband whose best friend is a transgender ex-professional football player.
We follow Garp from his conception until late adulthood with all the triumphs and tragedies along the way. This is very funny and even the tragic parts are so over the top that I laughed. The penalty his wife's lover pays is a high point. He pays a terrible price!
Several good shots by Irving at modern society with his mad feminists who have cut out their tongues in a supposed show of "solidarity"with a young rape victim who suffers this fate.
Then there is the uni-cycling bear and short novels within a novel.
This is outstanding, I was entertained from start to finish.
Monday, December 15, 2014
Thirty Five years after it was published I have finally got around to reading this very funny book. I am not a science fiction fan but anyone who can read will laugh out loud at this.
Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect just manage to escape Earth prior to its destruction and have many adventure travelling through space.
One of the highlights for myself was at the beginning of the book with Arthur and then Ford dealing with the sad wee man from the Council. Its one of the funniest and most scathing indictments of petty officialdom you'll read anywhere.
Just a lovely book. Adams was a one man Monty Python team, sheer genius.
This is a compilation of 16 short stories originally published in 1953 featuring the Oxford Don Gervase Fen as the amateur detective who consistently makes the constabulary look good.
These are good solid detective tales without any particular one being a jaw dropper but they are well constructed and entertaining.
Crispin is not Conan Doyle,but like Conan Doyle a very interesting man in his own right , so if you like writing from this era like I do you'll get a lot of enjoyment from these stories.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
John Dortmunder is a thief who has just been released from prison and he is offered a chance for an 'easy" big score. So the scene is set for a Westlake caper. The gang just have to steal a large emerald, easy!
As usual the story is slightly or even hugely over the top but the characters are engaging and there is slick dialogue and humour throughout.
Never boring, always fun, the perfect beach book over summer.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
This treasure published in 1939 is an absolutely cracking thriller. An unnamed British aristocrat is captured in an unnamed European country attempting to assassinate its leader. From here he manages to escape and make his way back to England where the adventure really starts.
There is a similarity to "The 39 Steps" but this is much darker with our hero willing to do anything to survive, he does not hamper himself with the British rules of fair play, he has a reason for his actions and he will not be at peace until he has completed what he sets out to do.
This is very very good, I found it on a list of "The best of ..." and I am wondering why it has not endured like others from its era as it deserves to. Brilliant writing and not at all dated.
A 13 year old girl attending a birthday party mentions to all that she had witnessed a murder 2 years previously. A short time later another murder occurs, a short time later M.Poirot and his little grey cells become involved.
This is the third to last full length Poirot story, (actually the second last given "Curtain" was written in 1940 and put in a safe,) and the author is getting tired. This is not one of the best in this series by any stretch but although you can identify the killer early in proceedings the author hasn't cheated too much and all the information is available to the reader to solve it.
Unless you've read all these stories I'd leave this one until the end.
Monday, November 24, 2014
This is a continuation of "The Twelve" and is set 3 months after the first book.
There are several new characters introduced as there was some violence in the first story but the writing is as brutal and extreme.
The language is not for the faint hearted but its the language of "cops and robbers" and the story would be weaker if toned down.
A very strong sequel but you really need to read "The Twelve" first because it would be ruined if you read this story first.
Its brilliant when you find a new author who is just a bit different in a pretty crowded field when it comes to crime writing.
This novel is set in Belfast after "The Troubles" and centers on Gerry Fegan a IRA hitman who is starting to drink himself to death because the 12 people he has killed are haunting him. He decides the only way he can rid himself of the images is to take revenge for them on those that ordered the killings in the first place. So he sets out and that's when the trouble starts.
This is brutal, there is not a likable character in the entire book, apart from a six year old girl. The language and violence is extreme and it is excellent.
Great writing, great characters and it should be read by lots of people.
The latest ' Harry Bosch' and I'm afraid its the end of the line for this series for me.
Harry is still attached to the Cold case Unit in L.A when he and his new partner are given a file on the 10 year old murder of a Mexican street musician whose death became a "cause celebre" for local politicians.
This case segues into a second file where several children died in a fire.
The story just got so cute with amazing leaps of "logic" that it got silly.
Not one to remember which is a shame because several in this series have been outstanding.
Authorized by the Doyle Estate, Horowitz has written a novel containing Doyle's characters but from a different perspective.
Its very hard to describe the mystery without spoiling it , so I won't even try.
There several written like this lately, Ian Fleming's estate has been getting guest writers in, some good and some bad, The trouble with this is not the style of writing but its the story. Its a weak story and anyone with an IQ above room temperature will solve the crime very early and from there its just a matter of how long it will be drawn.
Horowitz first Holmes story " The House of Silk" was very good and disturbing, this just doesn't work.
The first Bond and one of the first I read where as a teenager I struggled to understand the card games that this novel revolves around. I've read it 3-4 times now and its a great Sunday book.
As always not great literature but who cares, Fleming is for reading on a boat, a train or a couch not for long tedious discussion by even more tedious types on a Sunday morning TV slot.
A brief biography of four talented actors and how alcohol destroyed them.
There are some amusing anecdotes but like all drunks they all get sad towards the end. Harris in particular was a nasty drunk, very cruel and very selfish.
The writing itself is more like that of a Sunday paper expose rather than the language of a professional biographer, the repeated slang and colloquialism jars.
Not for the series theater buff who will know of these tales from these four.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Part the third of these diaries, the standard remains high and interesting.
The best part about reading reasonably contemporary diaries is you are reminded of recent history, tragedies, deaths and uplifting moments that take you back in time.
As with the previous two editions, Mr Palin has had remarkable success and I suppose the monetary success to go with it but he deserves it because he works so hard- he is always working, planning, looking ahead. His work ethic is inspirational.
Love diaries ,love Palin and I assume we will get another two editions which will be great.
This is fantastic, rolls along, candid, humorous and informative.
This autobiography starts at the beginning, his relationship with his parents through to 2014. What its doesn't do is have much on the Pythons, this is about Cleese and what a full life he has had.
Reading this taught me that he was very, very successful prior to Python; he and colleagues were just churning out the comedy for UK TV, The output was prodigious and to maintain the quality, remarkable. The negative was in 1967 he earn't 1400 pounds and paid a staggering 83% income tax!
Recommended if a fan or a fan of the UK entertainment scene or just like a read that will make you smile a lot.
Its 1941 and Britain has surrendered, Churchill has been executed and a puppet government is in place. London and most of Britain is under Nazi rule apart from small pockets of resistance.
A routine murder attended by the Scotland Yard Murder Squad ends up as anything but routine when high ranking Nazi's arrive from Berlin to oversea the investigation headed by Detective Archer.
This alternative history type story is the first I can remember although Robert Harris and others have used the method recently. This is a very good spy story, Deighton is historically accurate and anything he writes is always very readable. I first read this 30 odd years ago and it was just as enjoyable this time around.
This is the supposed story of William Stephenson,a Canadian who headed up the intelligence sector that liaised between Britain and the United Stated prior to and in the early years of the Second World War.
Although Stephenson is nothing but an out and out hero, this book is more about how President Roosevelt assisted Britain in the early war years with the risks he took, with disregard regard for his own political future; without these risks Britain would more than likely have been over run by 1941. He has to fight off appeasers , Joe Kennedy, and outright Nazi sympathisers,Charles Lindberg.
The work that was done in secret enabled supply lines to be maintained and to keep Britain in the war.
The majority of those used as agents by the intelligence services were amateurs who sacrificed everything and suffered horrid deaths just for their beliefs. Stephenson, Churchill and Roosevelt knew they were sending these men and women to their deaths but the greater good was the plan and the agents themselves realised this.
This is a great read and another reminder why revisionist history should not be countenanced at all. The Nazis were pure evil and the world must never be allowed to forget this.
Cordelia Gray inherits a detective agency after the owner after he has a bad day.
Her first case is to investigate the suicide of a young student. This investigation becomes more dangerous as she keeps uncovering information.
Apart from the beginning of the story as to how Ms Gray is hired, which is a bit contrived, this is a great little mystery full of suitably unlikeable people and rolls along nicely.
Baroness James is a superstar and you can never be disappointed by anything she writes. She is a lady who has not wasted one moment of her time on the planet and continues to contribute.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Paul Pennyfather has a rather bad run of luck, gets sent down from Oxford and ends up teaching at a 5th level public school. From here disaster follows disaster.
This is very very funny along with Waugh's ability to be absolutely caustic sticking it to the British upper class at the same time.
This is Waugh's first novel, published in 1928 and for a first effort it is remarkable.
Waugh didn't write a bad word as far as I'm concerned, he is accessible to any level of reader and I just love his stuff.
The second installment in the "Doctor"series. Our hero signs on as ships surgeon in the merchant marine and travels to South America on a tramp steamer.
I enjoyed this more than the first book. This was interesting in how a tramp steamer functioned in pre-containerization days. The characters that make up a crew are equally fascinating.
Again no belly laughs but very amusing and interesting.
The novel which resulted in films and TV series. The story of a young doctor training in a London teaching hospital.
This is an amusing read, no belly laughs but light hearted and entertaining with enough serious information regarding medical practices in the 1940's to make it interesting. Its nothing like the British TV series that was very good but bears no resemblance to the novel.
The author, real name Gordon Ostlere is still alive and kicking aged 93. This is the first of a series that continued until the late 1980's.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Volume two of the adventures of Lieutenant Dick Coward. This time he is parachuted into "The Bridge Too Far" because he has to win a V.C to ensure he inherits the family pile and wins the girl.
Historically accurate regarding Operation Market Garden it is also very funny and well worth the effort of reading.
Delingpole makes no apology regarding the similarity in style and method of story telling to the "Flashman" series of George McDonald Fraser. Its a style that works, educates a bit and entertains a lot.
Delingpole upsets a lot on the left of the political spectrum with his columns and non-fiction but he can write very well and you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't read him just because of your political views.
If it wasn't for the death and tragedy the Spanish Civil War was a over long Monty Python sketch.
It was farcical with the splinter groups, all with their own agenda's.
There were groups that were genuine and weren't taking instructions from foreign government but this was rare, just amazing.
This is a very good over view if a tad dry with the facts just hammering you.
What does astound that Franco held power until 1975;,the entire world interferes in each others business but Franco was allowed to carry on for 36 years.
Not a light read but if you need a bit of education or lot of education on the Spanish Civil Way like myself, this is a good place to start.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Over long and although you have to suspend belief lots for this type of book, having a recently widowed wife of a murdered American diplomat step into the world of espionage in the Middle East is too much.
The link below from the Sunday Book Review is exactly how I felt about this effort.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
This is based on the true story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji.
Edalji is a small town solicitor who is wrongly convicted of a series of crimes involving animal mutilation and is sentenced to 7 years imprisonment.
Doyle takes up the case which results in the conviction being quashed but not until Edalji has served 3 years.
Reading this you can understand why the Holmes stories portray the constabulary as dolts. I had to wonder how many people went to he gallows because of the ignorance and prejudices of those involved in the convicting process, scary indeed.
The novel contains a large amount of biographical detail regarding Doyle; his up bringing, his marriages which is very interesting, he is a very interesting man.
Barnes knows how to write a crime story as he has written several as 'Dan Kavanagh' featuring Duffy his gay private investigator which are great fun.
I enjoyed this and its well worth the time.
A Peter Wimsey mystery when he's very rarely in the book. This features his love interest Harriet Vane mostly who is attempting to deal with a series of malicious letters and damage at her old Oxford College.
The mystery is solid, not shattering but it does give scope to Sayers feminist writing and she continually makes good points regarding how women were treated and perceived in the 20's and 30's especially if they had a 'brain'.
Perhaps overly long for its subject matter but Sayers is good all the time, sometimes outstanding.
Cristian Ferrer a Spanish lawyer based in Paris is drawn in to assisting the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War in a Europe on the brink of WWII.
He becomes involved in the procurement of weapons, dealing with arms dealers across the Continent.
There are incidents of random violence but this is not a 'spy novel' but a historical novel with spies. Like all of Furst's books the history is compelling. After a life time of reading I am still shocked and amazed at what people endured during this time.
The Spanish Civil War is something I know nothing about so this has been a catalyst in getting me started doing some reading on it.
This is three stories loosely tied together, all set out as a detective tales but they are not detective tales. This took me a bit of reading before I figured it out.
The three stories are about the art of writing, they are all concerned with observation , obsession and dedication to a task.
I very nearly stopped half way through the first story but the writing has a cadence to it that was very relaxing, it just wandered along. I assume those that really know call this experimental writing stream of consciousness stuff.
I'm struggling to describe what it is but I enjoyed it in the end even if I haven't fully understood it all.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Evidently this is the first PI mystery where the investigator is openly gay. Written in 1970 Dave Brandsetter is sent to investigate the disappearance of radio personality Fox Olsen.
Along the way he uncovers a series of damaged individuals before solving several murders.
This is a good hard boiled mystery in the Lew Archer mold. Its a bit dated with some of its 70's slang but this shouldn't put you off, very enjoyable and it is a series with several more to read.
Monday, July 21, 2014
This is not for the faint hearted, it is brutal. Little girls have been going missing and some have been found and some have not.
Local crime reporter Eddie Dunford believes these crimes are connected and starts digging, he digs people die. He is soon off side with his employers, his girlfriend and the people he is trying to help. He is especially offside with the Police.
This is very very violent, close to pornographic in its violence, the language is appalling, Eddie is a train wreck but he is driven to solve the mystery and in doing so lots of his life gets destroyed.
Its a good read and was David Peace's first novel and as such is fantastic but I exaggerate not about the content.
Another series of essays which attack what Mr Dalrymple calls the cult of sentimentality. His main target is the media , he asks why does a wealthy handsome victim of a serious crime deserve the public sympathy by having their story told over and over in the media when an alcoholic homeless man suffering the same fate hardly merits a mention. This is over simplifying what he says but I believe I have expressed the point he is trying to make.
Another very valid point he made is that if you behave like Madeleine McCann's parents and face the media stoically without screaming and spitting and rolling around on the ground you in these enlightened times get accused of not caring enough. With the result that very soon it is being suggested that you have murdered your daughter because you didn't scream and spit and roll about on the tiles. Again a over simplification of what he is expressing but the point is the same.
Again a very good collection by a man who has worked in the fields he writes about, recommended.
This is a comic without the pictures, great fun, read it in two long baths, a guilty secret.
Matt Helm is an agent for a US Government Department, he's a killer , a lady killer, someone who is ever resourceful and always gets the job done.
The formula through 20 odd book is identical with the locations and a few name changes but they are a guilty secret better written than the Bond books but the same style.
This is written 37 years after " Little Big Man" and it shows. The hero Jack Crabb is alive and again interviewed by a reporter: he again sets about setting the record straight on events from the west.
Crabb was the only white survivor of The Battle at Little Big Horn, he was there when Wild Bill Hickok died with his hand of eights and aces. He was an integral part of Buffalo Bills Wild West Show.
Again we get the history as we did with the first book but its not as funny, doesn't flow as well and has a tried too hard feel about it. Berger was 75 years of age when he wrote this and while its a good effort I believe he should have left Jack Crabb in 1964 and left his quiet amazing body of work since speak for him.
Its an interesting read with good history and interesting facts but I have been spoilt by the original.
This in my opinion is the second best of the Bond's just behind Goldfinger. Two nuclear missiles are stolen by SPECTRE and Bond is tasked to locate them before a major US city is destroyed.
This is the book that introduces Blofeld as head of SPECTRE. The movie follows this book fairly faithfully and it is one of my favourites in the movie franchise.
Again the Bond books never going to win a Man Booker but that's because they are readable. Great escapism and uttering un-politically correct.
Monday, June 30, 2014
This is the third or fourth time I've read this and it remains as fresh as the first time; even knowing who the 'mole' in MI6 is takes nothing away from this superb spy story.
George Smiley master spy, has been put out to pasture after new boys come in and take over the "Circus' due to a covert operation going sour in Czechoslovakia. This operation had been run by 'Control", Smileys boss and friend, who believed there was a Soviet spy in the upper echelons of British Intelligence.
Due to lingering doubts Smiley is brought in by the Government in an unofficial covert capacity to uncover the 'mole'. No James Bond heroics here, our hero is a tubby wee nearsighted man with the worlds most unfaithful wife but he is exceptionally clever. Smiley is one of fictions best characters.
Solving this mystery sounds simple but how its done is fascinating and I rate this as Le Carre's best; ahead of the 'Spy Who Came In From The Cold' solely because there is a bit more humanity in this one.
Anyway, read , put it away for a few years and then re-read and then repeat.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
How I've missed this book for the last 37 years is beyond me. This will be one of my books of the year. Set in L.A. in the 1940's post WWII a woman is found cut in two and drained of blood.
One of the investigating officers is Detective Thomas Spellacy , who has a brother Monsignor Desmond Spellacy. Their lives cross during the investigation due to business and personal involvement with the Irish Catholic business men, criminals and both who are their friends and enemies.
This is the best written example I've seen of Irish Catholic families,( we are the same everywhere) and having spent half my life in the police I have rarely seen the black humour and infighting set out so well.
The interaction between the two brothers and their demons is so compelling that the solving of the murder is something that happens but its not whats drove me as a reader.
This is a very good novel and deserves to be to read as such not just a murder mystery which is a genre that the snobs tend to ignore. Fantastic and I was sorry it finished.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The very first Nero Wolfe along with his legman Archie Baldwin. Wolfe, the Orchid growing genius Sherlock Holmes type who never leaves the house and Baldwin the Phillip Marlowe type who does all the hard work.
I got introduced to Stout way back in high school by a teacher who let me read in class rather than be disruptive and its one of the best things that St Patricks High School Timaru did for me.
These stories are timeless, the characters never change, this one written in 1935 will be no different in the way the characters are than one written in 1975. There are 46 stories in the series and they are all gems.
"When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can."
With an introduction like that I thought I was in for something startling but instead got a tale of obsession that moved rather slowly and then faded away to nothing. It was very strange, its got some good descriptive writing but as a thriller it was a disappointment. Weird.
Philip St. Ives is a go between, he recovers property for people; generally when these people don't want officialdom involved.
In this tale he goes to London to recover a sword worth several million pounds.
Its a typical Thomas story, double cross on double cross, with great humour and characters that most authors would die for to be able to create. That is why Ross Thomas is the master.
The worlds best selling mystery story. Over 100 million copies sold, a staggering total for one book. Its been filmed three or four times and made into a play but this book has the original and best ending.
Its not a Poirot or Marple but one of her best.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
A lazy Sunday read, not taxing but enjoyable. Its a major shame that the movie did not use this story instead of the one they did. Its not literature but who cares, Bond beating the killer of his wife.
I do shed a tear when I think back that my grandmother had the 1st editions of these stories and they probably went to the dump.!!!!
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
A series of essays by retired prison doctor Anthony Daniels covering the gamut of modern society. It is obvious why the "its always someone else's fault" brigade dislike him. He has worked at the bottom of the pile in the UK and Africa and refuses to bow to the Lefts idea that only big government can right the ills of the world.
He writes very well being the only contributor that Charles Moore hired while Editor at The Spectator from unsolicited articles.
Very funny writing and very true, money well spent.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
A series of essays on Orwell,covering Orwell and the Left, Orwell and The Right, Orwell and America and several other topics.
Hitchens is a huge fan and takes on all comers who criticize his man, and there are plenty that do, but in normal Hitchens style he bats them off with his arguments, and like or loath him Hitchens can argue.
Very entertaining, much more so than Orwell's novels which I find a bit depressing. Hitchens makes his arguments for Orwell on his essays not on the novels. Hitchens does not think Orwell a saint, more a candidate for beatification,which incidentally neither of them believed in anyway.
The best thing for me was reading this on a Kindle with the dictionary function. When you have a vocabulary that is rather bare when compared with the author it is a very handy tool.
Friday, May 16, 2014
It would take someone pretty bloody minded to defend Clinton after they have read this book. Hitchens takes him to task again,then again and then some more.
Clinton was not a good President and he's certainly not a good person.
I shudder to think that he and his equally manipulative wife could get near the seat of power again.
I love Hitchens and I don't think he's ever been sharper than in this essay.
The story of the five Hollywood directors listed on the cover who served in WWII. It tells the stories of the movies they made the problems they caused and faced.
Interesting, but not riveting. Its gold for film buffs but a bit slow for the casual reader.