Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

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Books you could never not own!

August 8, 2011

I have been sorting through my bookshelves recently, trying to trim down the number of books that I own. Mostly because the number of books I own was dramatically more than the number of shelves that I own and the floor was beginning to get a bit cluttered.

Mostly I was removing books that I knew I would never read again but while I was doing this I realised that there was a small selection of books that I would always have a copy of on my bookshelves, no matter how small they get.

The first of these is ‘On the Beach’ by Nevil Shute. It is the story of a post atomic society, dying from nuclear radiation. I read as a teenager and haven’t read it again since. It was the first book that I read that made me cry, and I always mean to re-read it, but I can still remember too much about the story to read it again. I think the reason I keep it is to remind myself that books can be moving as well as entertaining.

The second is ‘Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkien. This is my most well travelled book. If I am going somewhere for a couple of weeks and I only have space for one book, it is always this one. Mostly because I always find something new in the language or descriptions or story that I didn’t pay attention to last time I read it. It is one of those books that I can dip in and out of and feel like I am catching up with old familiar friends.

The third is the complete Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, although strictly speaking it isn’t one book, more of a collection of books and I have two different versions of the stories. One is the Annotated Sherlock Holmes – large hardback books, full of footnotes and annotations, beautifully illustrated throughout. They are lovely to read for the background information, but I do find it distracts me away from the story slightly (and they are slightly too large to carry around anywhere). So for reading the actual stories I have a smaller paperback version which doesn’t look as good but at least will fit in my handbag. Again these are books I dip in and out of when I feel like it. Again it is that feeling of catching up with friends when I read them. Often I can remember what is going to happen – but it is the journey that is important.

There are a lot more books that I own that I wouldn’t want to get rid of, but these are three of the books that have stuck on my shelves since I was a teenager and I would never part with them.

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Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

July 27, 2011

This is the third book by Tom Rob Smith, about Leo Demidov, a former MGB agent in Soviet Russia. It starts with a flashback to 1950s Russia, where Leo Demidov is taking part in a visit by Jesse Austin, an American. The action then shifts to America fifteen years later, where Leo’s wife is leading a group of Russian school children to the United States where a dreadful tragedy takes place. The action then switches to Afghanistan where Leo Demidov is now based.
The novel is a tense thriller, and Smith is very good at ratcheting up the tension so you have to find out what happens next. The political intrigues of the Cold War are focused through the characters that are affected by them, which works well to humanise these events. I also like the way that the characters lives collided through the different time periods. A gripping read!

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The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag – Alan Bradley

February 25, 2011

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is a entertaining detective story which grips the readers attention from the very first line. Full of gentle humour, and children being smarter than adults, it is an engaging story full of twists and turns right through to the end.

Set in the 1950s the author has created a vivid sense of village life at the time with a cast of memorable characters, all seen through the eyes of Flavia de Luce, a charming and precocious eleven year with a morbid interest in death and a fascination with chemistry, especially when it comes to creating poisons. It appears only natural to her (and to the reader) that when a dead body appears she is the one who should be investigating it.

The mystery moves along at a decent pace and held my interest all the way through. Although it was the second book in the series I haven’t yet read the first, but this didn’t prove a problem as it stands alone well.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their detectives quirky and charming, and obsessed with poisons.

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The Detective Branch – Andrew Pepper

December 2, 2010

The Detective Branch by Andrew Pepper is a gripping detective story which held my attention well through out. I liked how all the twists and turns and subplots which at first appeared unrelated tied together neatly at the end.

Set in London in the 1840s, the story has a wealth of detail which works well to form a vivid picture of the time. The main character, Pyke is in the head of the newly formed Detective branch and in the best traditions of maverick detectives is battling his bosses and struggling in his personal life while trying to find a brutal murder.

Although this is the fourth book in the series and I have not read any of the previous ones it didn’t matter as there was a good introduction to the characters and the setting, although I now want to catch up with the ones I have missed.

A thoroughly engaging read which I would recommend to anyone who likes period crime.