Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin

"The fear on her face destroyed her beauty, but it was nothing to what this maniac might do to her"

Take a trip back to the age of steam trains and deadly murders on an express train courtesy of  The Necropolis Railway. The Protagonist, Jim Stringer, is inordinately excited about trains to the point where his attractive landlady is bored senseless by his continuous chatter. He reminds me of my brother when he was little and obsessed by a different thing every year, be it dogs or fighter planes or guitars. 

Jim grows up, gets more interesting, solves a crime and improves his non existent love life in an entertaining fashion. The author has a knack for transporting the reader back in time in a completely believable fashion. The interplay between Jim and the landlady was a delight. The characters really grew on me as the novel progressed, although I'm not sure I would rush out to read the next in the series. I think I've overdosed on steam trains  - well for this year at least. 4 out of 5 toot-toot.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Arson Plus by Samuel Dashiell Hammett

"On the way up I had planned a lot of innocent-sounding questions that would get her all snarled up; but after taking a good look at this woman sitting in front of me, leaning comfortably back in her chair, coolly waiting for me to speak my piece, I discarded the trick stuff and came out cold-turkey.”

I have been rather a big fan of some of the other Dashiell Hammett, yet this short story left me a little cold. Which is quite amusing when you consider the title and subject matter. Still, it was particularly brief, so I cannot complain. Clearly, I don't have a lot to say on this front.1 out of 5 detective snores.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

“Erica’s family lived in an impressive building with a blue canopy  and an elderly doorman, who adopted a coldly disapproving expression that would not have been out of place on the face of the gatekeeper at one of Lahore’s larger mansions  had I driven up in a small and rusted automobile”.

Settle back while I tell you about my latest read. Certainly, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. While the ending can somewhat colour the reader's appreciation, its engaging conversational tone and fish out of water feel makes for a speedy read.

Changez is seduced by the American dream with  a Princeton education and well to do friends, but rejection from his American lover and the events of 9/11 highlight how much of  an outsider he still is. His is a seductive voice, which entices the reader to continue at a cracking pace.

Sure to provoke strong opinions in many, I'd recommend this intriguing read. 5 out of 5.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

They Shoot Horses Don’t They? - Horace McCoy

“One hundred and forty-four couples entered the marathon dance but sixty-one dropped out for the first week.”

This is one of those instances where I have read the book after watching the movie. Perhaps it is a mark of a great work where neither medium impedes on appreciation on the other.

There is something so immediate about the novel. The short clipped chapters are as full of momentum as the dance competition which will seemingly never end. The suffering of the unemployed in the depression era is played upon for its entertainment value, where rich people flaunt their wealth and enjoy watching poor dancers over exert themselves in an effort to win money. This is no easy money solution.

The shifts in time mean the tragic ending is known from the beginning, and yet this does nothing to alter its impact. The reader is carried along in such a fashion, so as to understand why Robert Syverten, would-be director, might commit murder as a way to release Gloria from her trials. Not the kind of book to read for a great time, clearly. That said, being currently between jobs, it is somewhat reassuring to think that things are not as bad as all that - no need for dancing shoes just yet.  5 out of 5 - despite a pregnant woman running a marathon in a tracksuit.

Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene

“Her conversation was rather like an American magazine where you have to pursue a story, skipping from page twenty to page ninety-eight and turning over all kinds of subjects in between; childhood delinquency, some novel cocktail recipes, the love life of a film star, and even quite a different fiction to the one so abruptly interrupted”.

The funeral of Henry Pulling’s mother is the catalyst for life-changing adventures for the dahlia loving ex-banker. Meeting his Aunt Augusta not only tears him away from the monotony of his life, but adds colour, adventure and more than one brush with the law.

Proving that age is no barrier for a lust for life. Augusta, her more than 75 years do little to hold her back from enjoying world travel, law bending activities and the attentions of more than one lover. Her mysterious past is unveiled in a piecemeal fashion and highly at odds with the puritanical viewpoint of her nephew.

I really loved this book. Augusta is a delightfully engaging wicked, wanton woman whose diary would have made for an enticing read. Henry's re-birth into the world  in his fifties and realisation that everything he held to be true could be challenged makes for a particularly enjoyable journey. Pot in a funeral urn, and chases by Interpol are just a taste of the adventures that befall Henry upon meeting and travelling with his aunt. Such fun!  5 out of 5.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Terry Pratchett's Sourcery

“By the way, the thing on the pole isn’t a sign. When they decided to call the place the Troll’s Head, they didn’t mess about.”

The fifth Discworld novel is another delightful romp in the mystical realm that always provides, excitement, adventure and a walking piece  of luggage full of giggles.

The birth of the "EIGHTH SON OF AN EIGHTH SON OF AN EIGHTH SON" of a wizard - spells one thing - trouble! That trouble comes in the form of a "SOURCERER".
Wizards tend to frown on these guys as they may bring about the end of the world or the "Aprocralypse" with its attendant four horsemen and terrifying giant ice men.

I loved all the main characters in this, none more so than Conina the barbarian thief who would prefer to do hair. Rincewind is a delightful anti-hero and of course there's the librarian with his bananas and Death still shouting in capital letters.

Will our no-hopers save the Discworld from Coin and his talking staff? Can books fly? Will you be swept up in a magic carpet ride of delight by opening the pages of Sourcery? Well of course you will silly!  Don't delay, read it today - every life needs a little magic.  5 out of 5.