Peter Temple first came to my attention when I heard Guy Pearce give an interview on the radio about playing Jack Irish. It sounded like an interestinPeter Temple first came to my attention when I heard Guy Pearce give an interview on the radio about playing Jack Irish. It sounded like an interesting character and I filed it away as something for later. Then Temple came to my attention again last week when I watched a film adaptation of another of his novels, 'The Broken Shore'. That jogged my memory so I loaded up a couple of Jack Irish novels on my Kindle.
The writing is quite good. Several turns of phrase and some keen observations on the human condition. Some nice metaphors, too. The book seems to skirt the edge of noir without descending into the grit of the gutter. And funny in several places. This helps keep the tone light.
Irish is an interesting character in that he's a lawyer/furniture maker. So he's got a keen intellect but at heart he's a blue collar kind of guy. So in his capacity as a lawyer, he's a knight-errant defending the little guy. Yet because of his past as a top-flight criminal defense lawyer, he's known in more rarefied circles. (Part of this is conjecture on my part since 'Dead Point' is Jack Irish #3 and I got the distinct feeling that there were events referenced in this book that took place in the other Irish novels.)
In his capacity as a furniture maker, he's an apprentice to a skilled craftsman who makes custom pieces for the elite of Melbourne society. The art of the craft is therapy for Irish, but again, it gives him entree to the upper echelons of society.
As far as plot goes, Temple doesn't spoon feed you. There's a fair amount of working things out for yourself to be done. There were a couple of points where I had to stop and think, Ok, how did he get there?
Still, as I have said in my other mystery reviews, Temple gives me the sense that I can almost - but never quite do - work things out before Irish does....more
This is the first book by Malcolm Gladwell that I have read and it was quite enjoyable. It was a quick read. I had a four hour train ride so I managedThis is the first book by Malcolm Gladwell that I have read and it was quite enjoyable. It was a quick read. I had a four hour train ride so I managed to finish it in a day.
The book shows why snap judgments are often valid. It also shows why too much information can often hamper decision-making. It shows the limitations of making judgments on intuition and how we can work to mitigate those limitations.
Gladwell demonstrates his hypotheses with interesting and disparate examples ranging from the world of art to sports to the military and medicine. At various times his theories seem like common sense or counter-intuitive but he always is able to back them up with some very convincing examples.
As far as writing style goes, I found him easy to read. He takes what can sometimes appear to be dry or uninteresting material and makes it compelling....more
Ok. Let's get this out of the way. I like George W. Bush. A lot.
That being said, it will come as no surprise to you that I enjoyed his memoir. I thougOk. Let's get this out of the way. I like George W. Bush. A lot.
That being said, it will come as no surprise to you that I enjoyed his memoir. I thought he had an easygoing, clear and easy-to-read style. I liked the format. Rather than give a chronological recounting of his life and presidency, he framed the narrative as issues in his presidency (stem cells, Iraq, Katrina, etc.) and then used it to tell his story. I thought it worked nicely.
What I most liked about this was the amount of restraint and graciousness Mr. Bush displayed. I felt that the man was the subject of eight years of the most vile, scurrilous and unfair attacks. It would have been simple human nature and totally understandable to want to strike back at the critics who called him evil, stupid, war criminal, terrorist, you name it. But he didn't. He took the high road. Kudos to you, sir.
If you didn't like him before, you probably won't like him now and probably won't agree with his decisions. Still, I think he did a very good job of explaining why he made the choices he did....more
As you can tell from my review, I didn't care very much for this book. Let me start by saying that while I was never in the military, I did spend fiveAs you can tell from my review, I didn't care very much for this book. Let me start by saying that while I was never in the military, I did spend five years working in Iraq and Afghanistan (two-and-a-half years in each place). I worked at several different location ranging from small FOBs to larger COBs. So I know what living and working in these places is like.
I grant Mr. Abrams his license to depart from reality to make his point. But, please believe me when I say that what he describes bears no relation to my experience. I worked in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2008 - 2013, while Mr. Abrams was in Iraq in 2005. From reading his biography, it seems like he did a single tour. So it's possible conditions had changed in the interim.
Mostly I worked with decent, hard-working Americans just trying to do their best to fight the war, stay safe, and get back home to their families. So, again, I will have to grant Mr. Abrams license to invent characters to make his point.
My question then becomes, what is his point? In this book, with the possible exception of LTC Duret and SSG Lumley (with whom we spend the least amount of time), none of his characters are sympathetic or praiseworthy. SGT Gooding is a coward who seems overwhelmed by his job of typing press releases. His superior, LTC Harkleroad is an incompetent momma's boy with visions of grandeur who is bullied by all around him. CPT Shrinkle is the junior officer, infantry version of Harkleroad: a screw up par excellence.
There is one gross error that I feel like I have to point out. After an incident in which he accidentally kills an Iraqi civilian, CPT Shrinkle is relieved of his company command and reassigned to a Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility. While this is plausible, the idea of an Army captain cleaning towels and mopping floors is ridiculous. In Iraq and Afghanistan, these jobs were done by Third Country Nationals TCNs, what Abrams calls Third World Employees, or TWEs, in the book - a term I never heard. While I am at it, I never once heard anyone use the term 'fobbit' either. In fact after finishing the book, I wrote some friends that worked over there with me (guys who worked there longer than I did) and none of them ever heard that term either.
If Abrams means to criticize the purpose of the war (and from reading the book it's far from clear he does) then he has missed his mark - badly. He seems to want to impugn the Army and its men. But, if he does, it raises the question, what kind of man serves 20 years in that same Army, retires, presumably collects (or will collect) his pension and then turns around and stabs his fellow soldiers in the back? To ask the question is to answer it.
Also, the consensus seems to be that this book is satire. The jacket says that it's in the tradition of 'M*A*S*H' and 'Catch-22' but I found 'Fobbit' to be lacking in humor. Perhaps it's because I found the book so inaccurate and unfair, but I just didn't find myself laughing at all.
I really should learn to obey my own instincts and stop believing the hype about critically-acclaimed novels. Clearly my tastes don't run the same as the book reviewers at the New York Times and the Washington Post. I fell for it with Kevin Powers' 'The Yellow Birds' and now, again, with 'Fobbit'....more
This was a quick read. It's my first Hornby. Unfortunately, I'd seen the movie already. The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book, just locaThis was a quick read. It's my first Hornby. Unfortunately, I'd seen the movie already. The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book, just localized for American audiences. So, for example, when John Cusack, Jack Black and Todd Louiso are making their top 5 lists, the artists, albums, and songs are different.
The book is a funny and frank examination of the life and relationships of a slacker record store owner (Rob) and how he finally embraces the love in his life through a process of reflection on his past relationships. He also comes to terms with his seeming lack of traditional ambition.
As far as characters go, Rob isn't particularly likeable, nor is he any kind of villain. He's just sort of...there. He is capable of almost superhuman levels of honesty and self examination, though. The supporting characters aren't as entertaining as they are in the movie either. It's probably because the movie has such a great supporting cast (Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Lily Taylor).
All in all, it's an enjoyable read. Hornby is funny enough and honest and insightful enough about human nature. I just wish I had read it before I saw the movie. This is one of those rare cases where I would say the movie is the equal of the book. In addition to a great cast, there's actual music to support the film rather than a catalog of song titles....more
This was a can't miss for me. I am a huge Pattison fan and an absolute sucker for anything post-Apocalyptic.
The setting was interesting in that ratherThis was a can't miss for me. I am a huge Pattison fan and an absolute sucker for anything post-Apocalyptic.
The setting was interesting in that rather than the immediate aftermath of the destruction of society, it takes place some 25 years after. So, you have the beginnings of a society and the re-emergence of mainly 19th century mechanical technology. You also have a single pre-Apocalypse generation that remembers the old world and a younger, post-Apocalypse generation that can only imagine it.
Pattison makes what I think is a wise decision to not dwell on the past. When the older characters speak of or reflect on old world, they do so fleetingly and vaguely. The location of the colony of Carthage is without a doubt sited on one of the Great Lakes but we never learn which one. It doesn't matter. The old world is shrouded in the mists of memory and will be lost once the old generation passes.
Instead, Pattison concentrates on doing what he does best: crafting a multi-layered mystery with themes of freedom and repression. I think I have mentioned this in previous reviews of some of the mysteries I have read, but for me, the best mysteries are those that give you that tantalizing feeling that the author has given you all the pieces to solve the mystery but you can't quite piece it together. I got that feeling from Crichton's books and also from Pattison's books.
I did feel that his protagonist, Hadrian Boone, was the same character as Inspector Shan and Duncan MacCallum but in a different skin. Disgraced, tormented, questioning his identity and beliefs. A lost soul in search of a mentor. But it's a minor complaint and not one that got in the way of my enjoyment of the book....more
This is the second volume of a trilogy co-authored by a pair of writers. I quite enjoyed the first installment but was much less keen on this one. PerThis is the second volume of a trilogy co-authored by a pair of writers. I quite enjoyed the first installment but was much less keen on this one. Perhaps that is why I have put off reading the final installment.
The second volume continues following the adventures of Captain Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante through a burgeoning war between Earth / Mars (the Inner Planers) and the outer colonies of Ganymede, Titan and other Jovian moons and asteroids (the Belt) against the backdrop of the spread of the dreaded alien bio-weapon, the Protomolecule.
While the authors kept the action pretty fast and easy-to-follow, I felt they made a mistake in how they chose to continue the narrative. In volume one, the narration was confined to two viewpoint characters: Holden and police detective Miller. In this book, they made the mistake of adding three new viewpoint characters. While that, in and of itself, isn't a mistake, it is if you don't like the new characters. The marine, Roberta (aka Bobby) was pretty cool (even though the idea of a 2+m tall, yoked Samoan chick - that dudes fall all over - was a bit ridiculous), the other two were just plain annoying.
You have Avasarala and Prax. Avasarala is a grandmotherly yet foul-mouthed UN executive (who is about as believable as Dan Brown's Inouye Sato in 'The Lost Symbol') and Prax, a plant geneticist whose missing daughter, Mei, is the focus of much of the plot of 'Caliban's War'. Both are just flat out irritating. Avasarala waxes eloquent about the game of politics in a thoroughly unoriginal and improbably profane way. Prax is just too one-dimensional. It's all: Mei! Mei! Mei! Mei!
The action and astropolitics of the war are good enough but we really don't learn anything more about the Protomolecule and who sent it and that's the more interesting portion of the plot, in my opinion.
Also, I don't understand the Shakespeare reference in the title. ...more
I quite enjoyed this first volume in Corey's Expanse series. (Thanks, Amazon's adaptive marketing!) James S.A. Corey is the pen name of collaboratingI quite enjoyed this first volume in Corey's Expanse series. (Thanks, Amazon's adaptive marketing!) James S.A. Corey is the pen name of collaborating authors Daniel Abraham (who also works with George R.R. Martin) and Ty Franck.
It's a blend of different genres. A lot of space opera, some noir detective fiction, some military sci-fi, some hard sci-fi, and some horror fiction. Throw them all in together and hit frappe. As I was paging through the table of contents I was a bit apprehensive when I saw that each chapter was told from a different view point. I am not a fan of shifting perspectives. In my opinion they have to be handled very carefully. In this case, Corey pulls it off by limiting the perspective to two viewpoint characters and keeping the narration in the third person. There's enough action yet it's not too intricate and doesn't slow down the overall narrative.
Looking forward to the next two installments....more
This was the second Sterling book I read. Prior to reading 'Islands in the Net', I read 'The Artificial Kid'. I didn't care for it at all. OriginallyThis was the second Sterling book I read. Prior to reading 'Islands in the Net', I read 'The Artificial Kid'. I didn't care for it at all. Originally I had this one at three stars and 'TAK' at 2 but I have deducted a point from each.
This one is better than 'TAK' but since I basically thought that book sucked, that's not saying a whole lot.
It's set in a fairly near future Earth. The lines between corporations and government have almost blurred into nothingness in the US. The protagonist, Laura Webster, is an employee/citizen of an economic democracy/company called Rizome. In this future Earth, Third World nations play host to hacker cabals that pirate data of any and all sorts. Rizome is one of the first companies to start negotiating with the data pirates by hosting a meeting between Rizome and representatives of some of the larger groups. When one of the pirates is assassinated on Rizome soil, Webster is embroiled in a low intensity, Third World War between Grenada, Singapore and Mali.
The post-Cold War multipolar world posited and depicted by Sterling is mildly interesting. The characters with the exception of 'Sticky' (Nesta Stubbs) and Jonathan Gresham are fairly bland, including Webster herself. (Stubbs as a one-man guerilla voodoo army is by far the most interesting character.) The plot is convoluted and doesn't really lead to anything resembling a satisfactory resolution. Nothing is really changed in the world as a result of Webster being at the center of what Sterling clearly wants us to think are Momentous Events.
After finishing the book, I was surprised to find that this book won the Campbell Award and was nominated for the Hugo. I suppose I would have liked it a lot more if I had read it when it was first published in 1988. However, that being said, it doesn't hold up nearly as well as 'Neuromancer'. I don't think I will be in a hurry to read more Sterling....more
At first I had this rated as two stars but a month after finishing it I decided to drop a star. I just didn't like this book.
I had heard a lot of goodAt first I had this rated as two stars but a month after finishing it I decided to drop a star. I just didn't like this book.
I had heard a lot of good things about Bruce Sterling. So I ordered this and 'Islands in the Net' sort of at random.
I could tell you what happened in this book but I honestly have no idea what Sterling meant to say with it. I will give Sterling big points for correctly forecasting the narcissism of today's society that accompanies the ubiquity of cameras that look always at the subject rather than away. Other than that, there's not much here....more
Started off well with a good premise. It's a rebuttal to 'Eat, Pray, Love' and the pseudo-spirituality that seems to infect so many Americans. In theStarted off well with a good premise. It's a rebuttal to 'Eat, Pray, Love' and the pseudo-spirituality that seems to infect so many Americans. In the early going, I found myself laughing out loud often.
The book is divided into sections dedicated to some aspect of pleasure. I think I was expecting it to be a realistic series of adventures that the narrator had in each location but as you get further and further into the narrative, the sense of verisimilitude is totally lost and it just ends up corny....more