Tag Archives: books

rules of civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

This post may contain spoilers.

I was a bit reluctant to read this book as it’s about as far out of my usual genres as its possible to go and reading the summary it sounded horribly similar to The Great Gatsby that I was forced to read for my English Inter Cert and detested. However, I’d already read The Lincoln Highway and loved it so I was prepared to give this a go. Guess what, I loved this too!

Katey is the daughter of Russian immigrants who was born and raised in New York and from a very working class background. The preface starts in the late 60s with Katey happily married and living a wealthy and contented life. At an art exhibition she spots two photos of an old friend and lover taken in 1938 and 1939. She is catapulted back to her first meeting with “Tinker” Grey and the events of 1938 that changed her life at 25.

The story focuses very much on Katey’s perspective but also tells the story of the many people she meets and befriends throughout 1938, the sometimes frivolous behaviour of the late 30s and how the paths are set for the rest of their lives.

The quality of the writing is superb and it’s hard to believe this is the author’s first book. I was surprised, not only by how much I enjoyed it, but also by how emotionally invested in the characters I became. This is a book of both highs and lows but I finished it with a sadly sweet nostalgia for a life that wasn’t my own.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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shadows of sounds

Shadows of Sounds (DCI Lorimer #3) by Alex Gray

This post may contain spoilers.

Definitely the best of the series so far. I really struggled with the first and although the second was better it still didn’t really grip me. This time the story focuses mostly on the detective side of the story and while Lorimer’s bizarre marriage situation is still in play, it complemented rather than detracted from the investigation.

The setting is an unusual one with a murder of the lead violin of Glasgow Royal Concert Orchestra just as a big performance is about to start. The victim has a complicated personal life and it eventually turns out that he’s also been involved in a criminal scheme involving expensive musical instruments. A second murder complicates things and it suddenly appears that the motives for both go way back and are much more personal than anyone could have guessed.

I enjoyed the novelty of the investigation focusing on the stories behind the murder instead of the processes and science of modern investigation. It seemed simpler somehow and reminded me of the one hour type of detective shows I grew up watching on TV – Columbo, Touch of Frost, etc.

I also enjoyed the introduction of Flynn. There was something very endearing about the hardened street boy and the cynical detective connecting and becoming friends. It’s probably totally unrealistic and did very little to move the plot along but it brought a very comforting tone to what otherwise could have been a very grim story.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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forty words for sorrow

Forty Words for Sorrow (John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery #1) by Giles Blunt

This post may contain spoilers.

This was brilliant! I have recently finished the TV series and was a little apprehensive about reading the books so soon but if anything it enhanced the books. The story was virtually unchanged for the TV production and going by the books was excellently cast. The only real change I noticed was that the senior officer was male in the book and female in the TV show as well as the reason Cardinal was under suspicion by senior officers.

The basis of the story is that John Cardinal has been demoted within the department for irrational focus on the case of a missing child, claiming that it was related to another written off as a runaway and that they were both the work of a serial killer. A body is discovered which appears to be the missing girl and Cardinal is brought back into the fold.

In the background Delorme is brought into the homicide department and partnered with Cardinal with an additional task of investigating him for supplying information to the head of a serious crime organisation. The two of them work together to identify and apprehend the psycho couple kidnapping and torturing victims.

This is one of the best detective stories I’ve read for a long time. The quality of the writing is superb and the characters are hugely interesting. I’m sure it was enhanced by the TV show but I could feel myself immersed completely in the situations being described and able to picture them clearly. The descriptions of the landscape and weather of a Canadian winter were so detailed. It was fab.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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the heretics of de’ath

The Heretics of De’Ath (The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage #1) by Howard of Warwick.

This post may contain spoilers.

This was recommended to me by my best friend who has read of number of the series and really enjoyed them. I really wanted to enjoy it too and tried really hard, especially as he recommended it, but I just couldn’t get it. If it hadn’t been for him I think I would have given up part way through and not have pushed through to the end.

The author has a very good style, reminiscent of Terry Pratchett and his humour. In fact I’ve seen this author compared to TP but there’s absolutely no comparison. TP created a rich world full of diverse characters and detailed storylines. This, unfortunately, was incredibly dull!

Hermitage is a monk in a very weird monastery in medieval England. During a long and pointlessly obscure theological debate another monk apparently drops dead. Suspected of murder, tasked to report to the Bishop and eventually marked for execution Hermitage finds himself embroiled in a bizarre plot of political corruption to swindle money from a building project. Befriended by Wat, a weaver and dealer of pornographic tapestries, they attempt to find the truth.

It sounds interesting but that’s about as deep as the story gets. The writing was humorous at times but infantile on many occasions. The lack of a story created a need for bizarre and incomprehensible situations to move the book along but it was ponderous with. When the cause of death is finally established and the political plot finally exposed it was simply ridiculous and I’ve actually forgotten what it was already.

A book with the potential to be very good and one I tried hard to enjoy but couldn’t. I will try the next one to see if this was just a poor start but I won’t be in any great hurry. There are 23 books in the series and the author has a loyal following so maybe I’m just missing something?

My Rating: ⭐⭐

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daylight

Daylight (Attlee Pine #3) by David Baldacci

This post may contain spoilers.

Not a bad book but just very formulaic and dull. This series is starting to feel like it should have been two maybe three books but has been stretched out to four.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of twists and turns and plenty of action with people getting shot, abducted, murdered and buildings blown up, there’s a massive blackmail scheme involving politicians, judges and cops but it’s still dull. I get the feeling that the author has a formula for writing by now but has no passion for it any longer.

To try and spice up the bizarre relationship between Pine and her grandmother style sidekick, Carol Blum, the author brings in the Pullers. John Puller’s investigation crosses Pine’s and they soon figure they need to work together. The second Puller brother, Robert, also gets pulled in and we have a sad scene between John and his father. Despite bringing these guys into the story it can’t seem to raise the excitement levels at all.

In the second book I found the character of Carol Blum to be very unrealistic. If anything she has become even more so in this one, following Pine around like a sad shadow of a mother and seemingly only useful as a sounding board for Pine to work through theories, come to conclusions and move the story ahead to the next step on the author’s plot list.

I will read the last installment but, as my only interest now lies in how they manage to complete Mercy’s story, I’m in no rush.

More on Goodreads and Amazon.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

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dragon keeper

Dragon Keeper (Rain Wilds Chronicles #1) by Robin Hobb

This post may contain spoilers.

I’m a fan of everything I’ve read from Robin Hobb but this is definitely one of the best fantasy books I’ve read for quite some time. The author takes elements from the three previous series Liveship Traders, Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies and focuses them all on the Rain Wilds. It’s also a perfect example of why you should take reviews by other people with a big pinch of salt as I’ve seen many reviewers pan this book.

The story is told from the point of view of three brand new characters and in a very pleasant change to the norm all three are female. The first is Alise, daughter of a lower status Trader family that catches the eye of a prestigious and wealthy Trader son. Her stroke of fortune soon becomes a marriage of loneliness and abuse but she manages to make an escape on an adventure to the Rain Wilds that looks like it will change her life for ever.

Thymara is a deformed child of the Rain Wilds that was saved at birth by her father. He went against all tradition by bringing her home when she had been left out to die because of her deformities. Unfortunately, she is shunned by the Rain Wilds community and has a very isolated and lonely life. She is given a suspiciously profitable chance to change her life when the Trader Council recruits a team of Rain Wilders to escort the new dragon population away from the ancient buried city of the Elderlings.

The third POV is one of the newly emerged dragons. Female dragon Sintara is the dragon form of serpent Sisquara from the earlier stories. Like the rest of the newly emerged dragons she spent much too long as a serpent, cocooned much too late in the year and emerged with deformities. Now abandoned by Tintaglia and unable to fly the dragons are stranded and have become a very unwelcome burden on the Rain Wilds.

Another dragon (Mercor who was Maulkin as a serpent) carries memories of the ancient city of Kelsingra (sounds very like the city Fitz visits via the travelling stones) and convinces the others to trick the Rain Wilds council into providing them assistance to reach there. This brings the three strands of the story together and we join them as they start the first part of their journey.

Most of the characters are new and the setting of the Rain Wilds is expanded much more than in previous books but there is a familiarity also that links the earlier stories. Add in cameo appearances by Althea, Brashan, Paragon and Malta and it creates a perfect mix of old and new. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this story develops further.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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white nights

White Nights (Shetlands #2) by Anne Cleeves

This post may contain spoilers.

We’re back on the Shetlands once again with DI Jimmy Perez thrown into the midst of an apparent suicide that quickly becomes a murder investigation. It’s set against the backdrop of Jimmy’s developing relationship with Fran and the complex relationships between the small community in an isolated area of Shetland called Biddista. The people living there include an eccentric, high flying but now reclusive artist, her nephew who is a celebrity fiddle player and a fantasy author.

The author does a great job of building a very enjoyable plot as Jimmy wends his way carefully through the complex and historical relationships in this small community discovering many long buried secrets along the way. I’ve seen one review describe this as more of a murder mystery than a detective thriller and I can see why.

The standout of this book is the wonderful depiction of the relationship between Kenny and Edith, how they started their relationship and how it developed over the years. I also particularly liked how she described how Kenny dealt with the grief of his long missing brother.

Roy Taylor, a senior detective from Inverness, also returns in this story. I thought he was a good addition to the first book but struggled to see how he fit in here. He didn’t add much to the story for me apart from a reason for Jimmy’s insecurity which I found jarring. Jimmy’s insecurity with Fran, a constant worry about how their relationship was developing, also felt wrong to me. It was these two elements that stopped me from giving it 5 stars.

Like all good murder mysteries there is a great final reveal. Many authors struggle to avoid a “Scooby Doo” type ending but Cleeves provides a fantastic surprise at the end of this story and one for me that I found very sad. There are no happy endings here but a wonderfully enjoyable book.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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the assassin

The Assassin (Ryan Kealey #2) by Andrew Britton

This post may contain spoilers.

This was the first book for quite a while that I was going to give up on. I still don’t know how I managed to get to the end! The story picks up one year after the events of The American. Ryan Kealey has become a loose cannon acting outside the law in Iraq supposedly under the control of the CIA. He starts by placing a Special Forces team in great jeopardy during an operation where he goes rogue and pretty much gets black carded by everyone from the FBI to the President.

His arch enemy is back, he falls head over heels in love again and Vanderveen tries to kill her. This time though he also tries to wipe out half the population of New York with a huge bomb in Times Square aimed at destroying a key Iraqi alliance and causing Civil War in Iraq as the US try to withdraw. Kealey battles against the system to save America, beat Vanderveen and rescue his love. Good plot but badly written.

I just found the whole thing way too complicated and far fetched. I couldn’t keep track of all the players, way too many names on both the Arab and US sides and a plot that switched around far too much.

However, what really ragged me was how stupid Kealey and Vanderveen were at times. They’re both highly trained special forces operatives who are supposedly at the top of their game. However, the author constantly inserted idiotic, emotional or novice errors in their decisions and behaviours that were simply wrong for their characters. Lazy writing to force the story to where he needed it to be. A typical example is when Kealey leaves Naomi handcuffed in the warehouse simply so Vanderveen can capture her again. Only that I was so close to the end I would have stopped here.

Some good bits that were eclipsed by the bad and although the next book is supposed to be much better I don’t know if I’ll bother.

⭐⭐

Goodreads

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the great hunt

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) by Robert Jordan

From Amazon:

Rand al’Thor and his companions set out to retrieve a powerful magical artifact from The Dark One’s Shadowspawn.

For centuries, gleemen have told the tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn. So many tales about each of the Hunters, and so many Hunters to tell of…

Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.

In pursuit of the thieves, Rand al’Thor is determined to keep the Horn out of the grasp of The Dark One. But he has also learned that he is The Dragon Reborn—the Champion of Light destined to stand against the Shadow time and again. It is a duty and a destiny that requires Rand to uncover and master magical capabilities he never imagined he possessed.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The second instalment is described as following on directly from the first but some time has obviously passed. The story starts with Rand and company reasonably settled in Fal Dara and Rand having enough instruction from Lan to become at least a competent swordsman. Overall with all the characters there is a feeling that they have all grown up a bit since the last time we saw them.

***SPOILERS AHEAD*** A lot happens in this book. The main focus is Rand coming to terms with his destiny, accepting that he can channel and that he is the Dragon Reborn. How he goes from denial and rejecting this to giving in to the forces of the Pattern and finally accepting his fate is really well done with a powerful ending that sets the scene for the next book.

Another important strand gives us our first insights into Aes Sedai society and politics both within Tar Valon and outside, how the different Ajahs work together while still striving to be in control. This is just a first glimpse of what is to come. We also get first impressions of the process whereby girls in training pass through the different stages and the trials this involves.

Finally we meet The Seanchan. They seem like the real wild card with nobody in the Westlands knowing anything about them or that they even existed. They come with strange customs, armour and beasts and with a determination to reclaim the world of Artur Hawkwing for the Seanchan Empire. Part of this strategy is to capture and enslave all women who can channel thereby threatening the entire social structure of the Westlands just as it appears The Last Battle is approaching.

Overall this book widens the scope of the story tremendously with many new strands introduced. When I first read this series the first book intrigued me but it was this one that really hooked me and returning to it now I can see why.

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the general’s daughter

The General’s Daughter (Paul Brenner #1) by Nelson deMille

From Goodreads:

Captain Ann Campbell is a West Point graduate, the daughter of legendary General “Fighting Joe” Campbell. She is the pride of Fort Hadley until, one morning, her body is found, naked and bound, on the firing range.

Paul Brenner is a member of the Army’s elite undercover investigative unit and the man in charge of this politically explosive case. Teamed with rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill, with whom he once had a tempestuous, doomed affair, Brenner is about to learn just how many people were sexually, emotionally, and dangerously involved with the Army’s “golden girl.” And how the neatly pressed uniforms and honor codes of the military hide a corruption as rank as Ann Campbell’s shocking secret life.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Overall a very good story and well written. It’s a difficult task to take on with two topics you don’t see much of in books – murder/rape on a military base and the impact of introducing women into the armed services. I thought that they were both handled pretty well.

The difference between crime investigation and procedure in the army versus civilian life was intriguing and Brenner is an interesting character with a surprisingly cavalier attitude towards the army and procedures, not what you would expect from a long serving soldier.

I did enjoy the book very much but found the use of leaps of intuition and guesswork to solve the case frustrating. Too much of it came out of nowhere. Maybe that’s the result of years of experience as an investigator but I found it to be lazy writing.

The book has also been made into a film. Reading the synopsis on Wikipedia it seems they have made some interesting plot changes. I’m not usually a fan of John Travolta but might be tempted to watch it.

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