Sunday, 19 July 2020

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S.Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr 14)

"Sebastian wasn't prepared to take anything Princess Ivanna Gagarin told him at face value."
The long awaited next instalment of the adventures of a certain Sebastian St. Cyr was happily provided by my fantastic partner in literary admiration, book buddy Nicki. This latest mystery starts with violence, and the gore continues. It is hard to be concerned about who done it, when the victim is a thoroughly unlikeable guy, but as the body count rises, the plot thickens.

If I had any quibbles they would probably only be that there wasn't enough Hero for my liking. While the plot meanders with increasing complexity, it is nonetheless, another engaging story from C.S. Harris.

5 out of 5 everybody dies eventually.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

"Sources were scared. Many refused to talk. But others seemed willing."

I was rather late to the party in reading this book but was compelled to when I listened to the Ronan Farrow's rather excellent podcast on the same topic. He brings a sensitivity, tenacity and intellect to a difficult topic which makes for a compelling listen ( in relation to the podcast) and is equally engaging in the written form.

Perhaps what is the most intriguing aspect of the story, since most people are familiar with the unacceptable behaviour of a certain Mr Weinstein, is the machinations that go on behind the scenes. The threats, the spying, the constant sense of danger and the horrid ability for powerful people to silence their victims.

With the continuing demise of standards in journalism, it is reassuring to hear there are some voices prepared to do the work and do it with excellence.

5 out of 5, some frogs no girl should kiss.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

"Colonial Australia sought to forget the advanced nature of the Aboriginal society  and economy,  and this amnesia was entrenched when settlers who arrived after the depopulation of whole districts found no structure more substantial than a windbreak, and no population that was not humiliated, debased, and diseased."
A work colleague commented upon seeing me with this book in the lunchroom that it was a "book all Australians should read" and I'm inclined to agree. Certainly putting paid to the fiction of terra nullius in a well-researched and fascinating way. When you consider all the challenges that this wide, brown land of Australia poses due to most of the country being considered arid and inhospitable, its instructive to hear about the different methods of farming and cultivation that provided sustenance for its original inhabitants.

There's nothing new under the sun and we could learn a lot for the future by revisiting the past. Pascoe does a great job of doing just that. So add this to your home library, give it to your kids and gain a better understanding of the importance of the traditional owners of the land on which we live today.

5 out of 5 new crops could rise from these tales of yore. 

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

"It wasn't that I forgot Hanna. But at a certain point the memory of her stopped accompanying me wherever I went."

It has been quite a few years since Kate Winslet took out the Academy Award for her performance in the movie adaptation of this novel. I've managed not to read the book until now and this was one of those instances where my perceptions were very much coloured by the movie and I think I preferred the film. That rarely happens, but in this instance, I think perhaps it stems from the fact that the novel is a rather slim volume where much is up for interpretation and perhaps the movie instils more room for contemplation through its choices. Kate Winslet's performance gave so much more depth to her character, whereas in the book she is both an object of desire and then a figure to be judged and I think the movie was kinder in this regard from memory ( I watched it a long time ago).

The narrator's voice had a maturity that the movie version lacked in my mind.The central tenant that stems across both iterations is the power of literacy and the corrupting power of war, both interesting notions taken to the extreme.

4 out of 5, how do you reconcile your emotions when you loved a monster?

To Catch a Thief by David Dodge

"Good muscular control had always been his most valuable asset."

As part of my mission to read the source materials for Hitchcock films ( of which I'm a huge fan), I've been searching for a copy of this book for quite a few years. Thank goodness for Kobo! So it took me a little longer to read than it would in paperback, since I was reading it on my phone at lunchtimes, but it was certainly worth it.

I think perhaps the best mark of a good adaptation is when there is a clear connection between the tone of the book and the subsequent film and this one certainly has that.
While it is quasi impossible to extract from my brain the images of the cast of the movie - the ever suave Cary Grant, the luminous Grace Kelly and the cheeky Brigitte Auber (Danielle), that did nothing to detract from my love of both iterations.

Definitely an enjoyable romp of a novel.

5 out of 5 diamonds are a girl's best friend.

Providence by Max Barry

"All you know is that when the video finally, mercifully stops, you want to kill salamanders, as many as you can"
 The release of a new Max Barry book had me chomping at the bit and this was no exception. I hurried out and preordered a copy. I wasn't disappointed and yet, I didn't love this quite as much as some of his other novels such as Syrup and Jennifer Government. This lacks the black humour of those other works. 
I think that is reflective of the times we live in, where dark humour feels a little hollow. Rather this novel brings a sense of the potential downside of AI mixed with the claustrophobia of deep space and the insidious power of media control.
Who is the villain? Are the aliens the real enemy? What is really going on? Well you will just have to read it I guess. I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed.

5 out of 5 - beam me up.

Friday, 17 July 2020

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

“P.S. Owls are fascinating creatures, but its harder than I thought to convince them to take food. Maybe this one didn’t trust me.”

A love story across time is a trope I’ve always enjoyed and yet this new novel injects life into a well-used conceit. Time consists of strands of endless possibilities and an ongoing war between opposing forces that shift and shake the continuum in never-ending and bloody ways.

Opponents Red and Blue have an inexplicable connection that challenges the status quo. Through their letters they develop a bond that shifts their very being. The love they bear is so much more than a physical longing. It transcends time and space. Written in collaboration by two authors, the fact that each one voiced one of the characters provided additional depth of voice that was compelling to read.

There is a sense of the vague and obtuse to begin with, but as the relationship grows between the two opponents, so does the reader’s appreciation for the ‘world’ in which the book is set.

A book that was equal parts novel and delightful. The cover will make a beautiful addition to any bookshelf and I am totally enamoured by the joint author photoshoot on the flap jacket.


 5 out of 5 strands of love that springs eternal.