With a review of a 1999 copyrighted book I've obviously come across it in a second-hand shop. As a writer, I know this does the author out of a royalt...moreWith a review of a 1999 copyrighted book I've obviously come across it in a second-hand shop. As a writer, I know this does the author out of a royalty (and regret that) but it's the best I can afford. And second-hand sales at least get an author additional readers. It's also a fact that I find myself more comfortable with traditional fiction writing from last century than some of its more modern forms.
One way to judge a book is by how well it measures up to its cover blurbs.
I agree with the "Guardian" reviewer that "Turow succeeds in bringing his characters to life and in exquisite and moving detail". They are a colourful lot, though I found the narrator, who appears occasionally in the first person, rather unnecessary to the story.
However, I would not have used the superlatives of other reviewers quoted on the back cover. I did not find it "spectacular" (though I appreciate the amount of effort the author put into research), nor all that much of "a humdinger of a plot", nor particularly "gripping".
For me, judged against other thrillers I've read, it was not a page-turner, so I read it doggedly in small doses. The very small font size of this edition also made it more difficult to read easily.
I rarely read historical fiction but the ancient Romans have always fascinated me - and my copy of this book came cheaply in a book sale.
I expected it...moreI rarely read historical fiction but the ancient Romans have always fascinated me - and my copy of this book came cheaply in a book sale.
I expected it to be bloodthirsty, with horrible deeds, and it did fulfil that expectation, of course; the reason I put off reading it at first.
The violence could have been less graphically described and would have left an entertaining tale that spoke less of man's inhumanity to man, and the horrors of war and conquest, no matter what the epoch.
Both Roman and British motivation in slaughtering each other are well brought out in the book and the fate of the British hero, King Caratacus, is left slightly in doubt in the last few lines.
The trouble with historical novels, with real historical figures in them, is that you can resolve any dilemma about what happened. Two websites I checked confirm that Caratacus was pardoned by Claudius and left to wander Rome.
The records I searched do not mention what happened to him after that.
Rufus is an engaging minnow among characters in the story but is frequently at the forefront of the plot and is most likely to get the sympathy vote from a reader.
The epic story is masterfully told, living up the book blurb.
Skilfully combines travelogue (USA) and autobiography with anecdotes about the life of Jack Kerouac. The author has great powers of description that b...moreSkilfully combines travelogue (USA) and autobiography with anecdotes about the life of Jack Kerouac. The author has great powers of description that bring to life each place she visits and each person she meets.
The only background information she gives in "about the author" is about having a recent MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington. She appears justly proud of her skill as a writer. She is no young student though, not with the colourful life the book reveals she has lived.
If I knew as much about Kerouac in my teenage age years as I know after reading this book he would never have become an author I idolised in my youth.
I read the book at a leisurely pace as a time-filler (I don't read much non-fiction) and was always happy to pick it up again and continue to the end.
The choice of dark cover & mountain photo (not shown here) are unfortunate - a more attractive one might be less off-putting. The cover did not turn out to match the narrative, which was not all dark or sombre.(less)
Lead character Malin Fors certainly frustrates the reader with her mindless alcoholism (not really explained in the book) and her inability to follow-...moreLead character Malin Fors certainly frustrates the reader with her mindless alcoholism (not really explained in the book) and her inability to follow-through on her feelings towards her teenage daughter. At the same time it makes you want to keep reading to find out if she will deal with her devils or not. In some ways her going into rehab at the end of the book is an anti-climax, much as you hope it will be her salvation.
All in all, she became a character I cared about.
The most unusual feature of the book (apart from its Swedish setting) is that the murder victims continue to be POV characters after their deaths.
The book has a lot of characters for a reader to handle & I sometimes lost track of where they fitted into the story.
Slim leads to the perpetrator of the murders develop very slowly in a very tentative spread-wide net, with no obvious suspect until very late in the story. That keeps the reader's interest while as frustrating for the detectives as for the reader.
A long book which I might have passed over reading if it had not been loaned to me by a friend.(less)
I read a lot of thrillers and, in my experience, this one has considerable originality, most of all for its first-person narrative bu...moreItems from a Book
I read a lot of thrillers and, in my experience, this one has considerable originality, most of all for its first-person narrative built on the lead protagonist’s internal dialogue which fills most of the book.
Koontz has created an interesting, possibly unique, character in “Odd Thomas” with his paranormal faculties. The book hints at darker things being possible though my imagination could not fill the gaps.
This thriller also stood out for little sayings I thought were memorable. They were:
“The joys of life can be found anywhere. Far places only offer exotic ways to suffer.” I wonder how many travellers can relate to that? It’s always nice to return home, though sometimes to daydream about living elsewhere.
“...spent his life killing himself with food ... without the solace and refuge of food, he would have been dead long ago ... books and excess poundage are his insulation against pain”. It says a lot about how many of us use food as a harbour from the difficulties of life and become obese as a result. At least book-reading doesn’t add on any fat.
“threnody” – a new word to me, meaning a lamentation, especially of a person’s death.
“She says that what holds their marriage together is that she feels too damn sorry for him to ask for a divorce.” Rather clever and amusing, I thought, and a reminder that there are so many reasons why marriages last.
I also liked Koontz’s ideal of marriage, expressed by his character, “Odd Thomas”, as: “What really holds their marriage together are mutual respect of an awesome depth, a shared sense of humour, faith that they were brought together by a force greater than themselves, and a love so unwavering and pure that it is sacred.” I can’t help thinking that this so beautifully describes the marital holy grail that a couple should pursue. (less)
These days, I usually read thrillers but picked this novel up for an insight into how a woman author wrote about women. It's crammed with mundande det...moreThese days, I usually read thrillers but picked this novel up for an insight into how a woman author wrote about women. It's crammed with mundande detail but still fascinating,easy to read and quality writing.
As a father I wanted to reach out and protect the three daughters in the story (sometimes from themselves) but as every father knows from experience you can't do that even with your own - not absolutely. As for the mother, I wanted to shake some sense into her, as the saying goes. I suppose that all says what a good job Fairbairns made of her characterization.
The father in the story cheats on his wife and hits his teenager daughters but is not portrayed as a total villain.
In an "Afterword", Fairbairns, says that while the book was "to some extent inspired by events which occured in [her] own family it is not an account of them". She even outlines the significant similarities. I suspect she had a better relationship with her father than her characters did with theirs.
The book has sexual references that I'm sure a male author would not get away with portraying as natural and ungratuitous.(less)
As a bestseller, the 1984 Corgi edition of this novel retailed at NZ$9.95. I found this gem in a second-hand book sale for NZ$3. It would have been wo...moreAs a bestseller, the 1984 Corgi edition of this novel retailed at NZ$9.95. I found this gem in a second-hand book sale for NZ$3. It would have been worth full price if it had been sold as a current bestseller. The copy I now hold belonged at some stage to one L. de Groot. It’s a book I’ll add to my hoard because even though I may never read it again, I treasure it. I read a few of Michener’s sagas many years ago and he is the master of blending fact and fiction in fascinating stories. In a miniscule way, by comparison, I’m providing a little snapshot of the history of NZ’s Campbell Island in my next novel “Island of Regrets”. That aside, I had to recommend “Poland” to readers, who have not yet discovered it, as a great read that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. With such a history, it is amazing that any Poles survived let alone, as the book blurb says, with an “unconquered heart”. The novel “reveals this spirit in all its drama and tragedy”. The novel is rightly described in the blurb as “spectacular” and few novels better justify that tag. In the first external examination I ever took as a young person I failed in the subject “history” but, after reading Michener, the essence of Poland’s history is imprinted in my brain. (less)
I've read a dozen or so books since my last review but have been too busy to do reviews because of producing 2 novels & a second-edition of my own...moreI've read a dozen or so books since my last review but have been too busy to do reviews because of producing 2 novels & a second-edition of my own.
"The Secret" is a family saga covering two generations, the story told from the point of view of father and son. It does not miss a beat in lightly covering a range of pornographic cliches but is still an interesting and entertaining read - in parts hard to put down.
This is the first of Robbins' books I've ever read. All I know about the author is that he wrote "The Carpetbaggers" which was turned into a film I saw many years ago. On the back cover of "The Secret" he is described as "the bestselling author is back" and his having led "a colourful life" He's certainly used it to create colourful characters and situations in this book.
Worth having read but I wouldn't describe myself as having become a committed Robbins fan. (less)
A UK literary agent, after seeing my first novel, kindly described me as "a more dynamic Custler". After reading Clive and Dirk Cuttler's "Crescent Da...moreA UK literary agent, after seeing my first novel, kindly described me as "a more dynamic Custler". After reading Clive and Dirk Cuttler's "Crescent Dawn" I certainly don't think I deserve that honour.
A big book (548 pages in hardback) it has a complex plot and sub-plots. The characters are many but mostly clearly defined enough to be memorable - quite a feat for any writer.
I've not followed all Custler's works, but found it interesting having the saga's lead character, Dirk Pitt's, grown up son and daughter added to the mix. Somehow they made it a more enjoyable read than previous Dirt Pitt books I've read.
I found the action more believable than in some thrillers I've read, and the restraint from constant killings was a relief. [In the last thriller I wrote, "Relinquished", only one crook died, and that was by accident - not that others escaped retribution.](less)
Picked this book up at a book sale and noticed afterwards that it was published in New Zealand in 2004 with a different cover. It was good to find a t...morePicked this book up at a book sale and noticed afterwards that it was published in New Zealand in 2004 with a different cover. It was good to find a thriller published locally where the publishing scene seems mostly literary and children's works.
Maybe if I'd read the prequel, Janec, the villain, might have seemed a less superficial character. Still, the plot has you sympathise with the hero(?) Phillip Hamnet (difficult surname)and gets you hoping he can save his wife, then himself, then his newborn children. Left wondering though if Hamnet would not have ended up in jail in real life, but that's thrillers for you.
Good tension & up there with the better run-of-the mill thriller in an exotic location.
Not easy to put down - recommended as a worthwhile read.(less)
Lustbader is no Ludlum. The book is easy to read but Bourne acts like one of Pavlov's dogs. The constant repetition of graphic violence forfeits impac...moreLustbader is no Ludlum. The book is easy to read but Bourne acts like one of Pavlov's dogs. The constant repetition of graphic violence forfeits impact, and Bourne's ability to always come out on top strained my credulity so often. The final surprise, coming in the Epilogue, is too late to be effective.
The Boris Karpov role and sub-plot was really surplus. A smaller volume with fewer key characters might have better carried off this story.(less)
More of a crime/suspense novel than a pure thriller. Chrichton continues to surprise with his versatility. So skillfully written in the first person t...moreMore of a crime/suspense novel than a pure thriller. Chrichton continues to surprise with his versatility. So skillfully written in the first person that you hardly notice. The narrator (lead character)is a bit of a victim and his side-kicks are more interesting, I found. The deceased young woman is brought to life as a character and you always feel on the verge of sympathy for her. An intricate plot with some interesting forensics.(less)
An oldie but a goldie. I got so addicted to the obtacles the heroines kept facing in this thriller that, by the end, I didn't want them to stop. Never...moreAn oldie but a goldie. I got so addicted to the obtacles the heroines kept facing in this thriller that, by the end, I didn't want them to stop. Never a dull moment after the heroines watch their husbands get murdered. Some clever, and sometimes ruthless, surprises along the way.
The male characters tended to be sterotypical but you expect an author to have greater insight into characters of the same gender. Conran delivered on the female side, and I got very attached to the five fictitious women she created.
Conran managed to build in one lesbian scene, no doubt for the pleasure of the voyeurs among her readers. I wouldn't have missed it if it hadn't been there.
Words from that scene,like the ones that follow, made me wonder just how less they applied to a heterosexual encounter: " Above all, because of each woman's [read: person's] intimate knowledge of the female [read: and male] anatomy, their unspoken feelings were gently recognised and shared..."
I'm sure there will be women who'll want to set me straight.
And, yes, it was the cover that caught my attention at a second-hand book sale. Conran handled the frequent female nudity in the book as simply a matter of fact, and did not over-play it.(less)
Alien horror. Amazingly imaginative. The chase within a chase at the end was totally gripping, the tension so strong that I just had to put the book d...moreAlien horror. Amazingly imaginative. The chase within a chase at the end was totally gripping, the tension so strong that I just had to put the book down occasionally to rest my nerves. The characters were engaging and skilfully differentiated. About a third of the way through, you think the book has to be almost over, then King brilliantly extends it. A giant of a writer!
You likely don't want to know, but I got a bad case of flatulence and constipation towards the end of reading this book - I was starting to think something alien had jumped off the page. LOL. If you've read the book you'll understand. If you haven't, here's a little teaser quoted from the book to get you started: 'Get away from me!' McCarthy screamed back in a thin, distracted voice. 'I have to shit, that's all, I HAVE TO SHIT! If I can shit I'll be all right!'(less)