A green robed monk named Samuel escapes from a mighty fortress of a monastery called the Citadel. He climbs high onto the pinnacle of the mountain aboA green robed monk named Samuel escapes from a mighty fortress of a monastery called the Citadel. He climbs high onto the pinnacle of the mountain above the monastery, shredding his hands and feet on the sharp rocks as he climbs through the night. The dawn breaks to reveal Samuel standing with arms outstretched on the summit high over the Turkish pilgrimage city of Ruin which lies below the Citadel. People below quickly notice the monk and his image is carried around the world by television. Then he falls, and Inspector Davud Arkadian is left with the bewildering puzzle of why the monk fell.
A good story in the religious conspiracy theory vein of Dan Brown and Kate Mosse. It was a good read but characterisation was weak and I often had to check back who each character was....more
Elizabeth Gray is drowning in grief. She mourns for her policeman husband Mike, drowned saving a teenage girl at the local pond. She grieves for theirElizabeth Gray is drowning in grief. She mourns for her policeman husband Mike, drowned saving a teenage girl at the local pond. She grieves for their lost future and their past devastatingly childless marriage. Elizabeth sets her feelings down in letters that ache with sadness but are not mawkish, elegaic rather than simply depressing, full of love and disbelief all wound up together. The days pass, Elizabeth stays at home, barely sleeping and barely eating. Those who love and cherish her come: Mike's best friends Andy, the local doctor; Blake, a police officer like Mike; Mike's mother Patricia, dealing with the loss of her son and remembering the too early death of her husband; and Elizabeth's sister Mel who flew in from their home country Australia as soon as she heard the news. They offer unstinting support and Elizabeth seems to be slowly recovering, until the revelation hits that the teenage girl Mike hauled from the pond was his lover and is carrying the child the couple so desperately tried for for so many years.
This was an uncomfortable book to read, I think in part because grief is undervalued today. We are expected to recover quickly and just get on with our lives. With searing honesty Butland traces the contours of an emotion so intense that it shatters the body as well as the mind. That time does not, as the saying goes, heal, but only introduces distance from the moment the pain started. Surrounded by Water is claustrophobic and tightly packed. Butland only takes us to two places, most of the book is set in the couple's home in the small English village of Throckton. But also, in flashback, there are brief passages about Elizabths childhood home with Mel and the loss of their mother when they were only children. In these flashbacks we see Elizabeth and Mike meeting when she was working as a hotel receptionist in a Sydney hotel and he was a tourist. Bright colours and heat are a vivid contrast to cold, pale skies and rain.
At over a thousand pages this was a daunting book but there isn't an ounce of padding. Reamde hurtles across continents, beginning in North America. SAt over a thousand pages this was a daunting book but there isn't an ounce of padding. Reamde hurtles across continents, beginning in North America. Super rich Richard Forthrast watches his extended fMily reunion target shoot on his survivalist brother Jake's homesteading. One time drug smuggler over the border Richard legitimised his wealth with a MMORG. As Richard makes links with his niece Zula in Seattle the REAMDE virus breaks, clashing together Russian gangsters, Chinese cyber terrorists, jihadist extremists, spies, guns and an adrenaline rich ride....more
It is the near future, Ruth Ardingly is under house arrest in a cottage on her farm The Well. As Ruth reflects on what has brought her to this point iIt is the near future, Ruth Ardingly is under house arrest in a cottage on her farm The Well. As Ruth reflects on what has brought her to this point in a series of flashbacks we learn that it is the near future. Ruth and her husband Mark moved to small farm The Well to start a new self sufficient life far from the strains of city life. But as they sow crops, raise lambs and pick apples the extraordinary character of their new home comes to light.
Nightly a soft rain falls on The Well followed by warm days, but the rest of the country is gripped by a desperate drought. From above the farm looks like an emerald set in a sea of brown dust.
The continuing fertility of the farm in such a landscape of blight engenders both resentment and wonder, drawing hundreds of curious people including a group of four itinerant nuns, the Sisters of the Rose, who want to worship Ruth. Soon the Ruth and Mark are unable to leave the farm because of the hostility they face.
Ruth is already riven with resentment about coming to The Well for Marks dream, and as the narrative unfolds she is driven further apart from sound mind by the sisters, estrangement with Mark, isolation, and worry for her drug addicted daughter Angie.
When Angie leaves her son Lucien with his grandparents the worst happens. Lucien is dead, but his killer cannot be found.
In the present day, alone at The Well, under the guard of 3 soldiers and banned from contact with the world outside, Ruth teeters between madness and sanity as she tries to make sense of the past, understand who killed Lucien and reconcile with her own culpability.
For me, this book was far too long and I was frankly depressed and bored by the end. I felt that all the same claustrophobic atmosphere and sense of a threatened and disturbed mind could have been expressed in a book a third of the length of this, and would have been better for the brutal editing. The characters are well drawn, interesting and moving, the plot is good, but I did not take to the execution....more
An incredibly powerful young adult novel that brings together the modern age of social media and the great era of Victorian Gothic fiction.
Sam is inAn incredibly powerful young adult novel that brings together the modern age of social media and the great era of Victorian Gothic fiction.
Sam is in pieces. After witnessing his violent dad finally go too far, to strike down and kill his mum, he is living on a sink estate with his aunt and uncle. His dad is securely in prison, but fear of being like him and a secret truth about how he feels about his dad tear at him. Roaming the streets he meets elusive Fire Girl Cassandra who inexplicably seems to know a great deal about him.
At Sam's new school Pendleton Grammar his English teacher Miss Crail invites him to take part in an experimental academic computer game based on RL Stevenson's book Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Sam finds himself part of an eccentric group: himself, the captain of the hockey team, a introvert with personal hygiene issues, and a high achieving future politician. They are presented with a mock discussion board on which people are writing shocking prejudiced things. All four are invited by an on screen avatar to attack the fictional fascists, in return they earn virtual golden keys that amass towards a testimonial certificate. All four become quickly addicted to the game but it's not what it seems. Cassandra reappears and opens Sam's eyes to the truth. Trolling, cyber bullying and horrific violence collide with evil magic. The pace of the narrative jacks up to breathtaking, the book is a great ride but also intelligently written.
I was particularly impressed with the author's understanding of the subtleties of Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde that are absent from the popular understanding that it is about good versus evil. There are elements of the best of Gothic fiction, of Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey, Stoker's Dracula and Shelley's Frankenstein. Hussy comes right up to date with the intolerable pressures placed on young adults to behave in a certain way from mass media, social media, peers, school and parents and shows clearly how it is not necessarily the Hydes of our world that are the monsters....more
My 11-year-old's opinion of this book was: 'very weird and very funny', that's a pretty good description of The Legend of Frog. The story is kind of aMy 11-year-old's opinion of this book was: 'very weird and very funny', that's a pretty good description of The Legend of Frog. The story is kind of a riff on the Grimms Brothers' fairy tale The Frog Prince, with aliens and Armageddon thrown in.
On a tiny isolated island we meet little Prince Frog and his protector, Buttercup. She raised him as she would her own child and he is safe far away from the blackened skies and scorched earth that are all that remains of mighty Kingdomland. So Buttercup tells him. But Prince Frog wants to go and see for himself, and so begins a magnificent adventure complete with fairytale castle, a 5 year old Princess Rainbow complete with hulking bodyguard, wizard Oldasdust, a wolf that is the last of his kind and handy with a lightning bolt, trusty sheep companion Sheriff Explosion, swords, rayguns, invading green skinned aliens, Catastrophe Pants and an epic battle of good and evil where our hero has to find his worth.
In general this was a greatly enjoyable if frankly bonkers fusion of science fiction, fantasy and fairytale, but I did have problems with the parts of the book that are created to be facsimiles of Prince Frog's own diary. There are a lot of misspellings which are quite obviously deliberate but as a parent I worry that this would give the impression to a child that there is no need to improve beyond phonetic spelling. Don't get me wrong, there is one passage where Prince Frog's inability to spell is used brilliantly: he tries twice, unsuccessfully, to spell 'camouflage' and crosses his attempts out and writes 'invisible' instead. This is a funny reflection on the struggle to master the English language. Elsewhere 'chilled' is struck out and replaced with 'child', but the implication of correcting this one word is that the rest of the words in the diary need no correcting. Some of the misspellings are close to disastrous, one example is 'Buttercup raized the prince...'. This appears to be a misspelling of 'raised' but 'razed' would also work in this context, with far darker meaning. I am very familiar with authors who write in phonetically rendered dialect and I do understand what the author was trying to do: create a text that looks like Prince Frog's own writings, that is child like and accessible to young readers, but I don't think it is successful....more
A short Odd Thomas novella designed to be read between Deeply Odd and Saint Odd but set in the past when Odd and his beloved Stormy went to the carnivA short Odd Thomas novella designed to be read between Deeply Odd and Saint Odd but set in the past when Odd and his beloved Stormy went to the carnival and a fortune telling machine told them they were destined to be together forever.
Odd has supernatural talents: he can see the dead who linger in our world because of unfinished business; he has sporadic precognition; and he is drawn by psychic magnetism to the situations that need his unique talents. So it is not surprising to find him and Stormy driving to the carnival accompanied by the ghost of Elvis Presley, a melancholy spirit who, like all the lingering dead, cannot speak and can only be seen by Odd.
As Stormy and Odd are driving to the carnival a man runs out in front of them. He has a cleaver embedded in his neck and Odd realises Stormy cannot see him so he must be witnessing the spirit of someone recently dead. Odd follows the ghost to a small house tucked away in the woods and he and Stormy tackle the horror that has unfolded in such a mundane location before continuing on to their date with destiny.
This was much too short and I kept waiting for a twist which did not come. On the positive side I'm glad I read it, it's satisfying to finally witness the night that gave Odd the motivation to fight through all the monstrosities the Odd Thomas series has thrown at him....more
The gift of being able to explain the byzantine twists of complex theory to the more mundane mind is rare, Cox, Fortey, Darwin, Dawkins, Hawking. du SThe gift of being able to explain the byzantine twists of complex theory to the more mundane mind is rare, Cox, Fortey, Darwin, Dawkins, Hawking. du Sautoy achieves the incredible task in a book I could not bear to come to an end.
Finding Moonshine is ultimately about the search by mathematicians to prove the existence of a geometric shape known as the Monster. This shape only exists in 196,883-dimensional space, a concept way beyond the usual three we exist in, but we are not thrown in at the deep end. du Sautoy ushers us towards an understanding of this beast by a series of steps that reassured me and made me able to follow him, even if there was some rereading and consultation with my more mathematically minded husband.
We begin chronologically and geometrically with the basics, back to the ancient Greeks and the platonic solids. These are the five 3d shapes where each face is the same regular polygon and the same number of polygons meet at each corner / vertex: the tetrahedron (triangle based pyramid), cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron). I remember these fondly from primary school. With skill du Sautoy weaves together the history of mathematicians and theories with increasingly complex theories about the concept of symmetry.
Finding Moonshine is packed full of practical applications of symmetry, these give the brain a break from theory and enlightened me that symmetry is not just cerebral gymnastics. In fact it can be seen as an expression of the laws that underpin our universe and are so pleasing to the human sensibility. du Sautoy covers myriad applications including symmetry in bell ringing, nature, human psychology, music, navigation, sexual attraction, chemistry, virology, cyphers, codes, space communication and architecture, from the tiles on the walls of the Alhambra to the pyramid at the Louvre.
Unusually for me this is a book I want and intend to reread over and over, I learned so much especially about the beauty of mathematics that is the substructure of our world....more
Odd Interlude is a charming shorter story in Koontz's Odd Thomas series and chronologically comes between the action of Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse.
OOdd Interlude is a charming shorter story in Koontz's Odd Thomas series and chronologically comes between the action of Odd Hours and Odd Apocalypse.
Odd Thomas is driving, just roaming without destination, with his companions, enigmatic Annamaria, ghost dog Boo and Labrador Raphael when he feels himself drawn towards Harmony Corner. The the diner, garage and motel are run by the extended Harmony family and it is Donny that Odd meets first. Donny is hideously disfigured but has a sweet nature and Odd is enjoying talking to him, but then something within Donny changes and the affable man becomes hostile.
Odd has stumbled into a wasp's nest, a thrilling story that brings together Koontz's Odd Thomas and Moonlight Bay series. Secret bases, science gone wrong, AI and aliens, innocence, fortitude, hubris and bravery, strong characterisation, these are themes common to many of Koontz's books but in Odd Interlude they are particularly satisfyingly brought together....more
This is a thought provoking set of essays by some of the leading atheists of our time. The essays address the dilemmas faced by atheists at Christmas,This is a thought provoking set of essays by some of the leading atheists of our time. The essays address the dilemmas faced by atheists at Christmas, fundamentally whether or not it is hypocritical to celebrate the season if you do not believe in a god or gods. The Atheist's Guide to Christmas naturally touches on the well worn grooves of the fact that most things to do with Christmas are very far from the Christian message of love, peace and tolerance. That setting aside the madness of Black Friday and rampant consumerism the festival we now know as Christmas has roots deep in the pagan light festivals of deep winter.
The book is divided into six sections: Stories; Science; How To; Philosophy; Arts and Events with seven essays in each section discussing the subject in relation to Christmas and being a non believer.
The message that comes over is that it's okay to celebrate Christmas, much as you can meditate and not be a Buddhist. Being an atheist does not mean you do not value and take joy from the coming together of family, carols, or even the Christmas story itself with its beautiful message of sacrifice, love and humility. It is simply that us atheists believe in what can be observed as opposed to what cannot, be that gods, fairies, ghosts or the afterlife.
I am an atheist and I adore the wonder of this time, the frosty streets and cold nights lit up with hopeful strings of light, the anticipation of seeing my family open the presents I've chosen so carefully, mulled wine and roast potatoes, love and a couple of days without work. Believing that this is all there is gives poignancy to the here and now, that we do not do things for anything in the next life but that we live as morally ethically as possible because this is all there is. And that is what Christmas is all about at heart....more
Matt Smith's 11th Doctor Who, Amy and Rory arrive in the strange settlement of Appletown, somewhere in the American desert. It is a community of suburMatt Smith's 11th Doctor Who, Amy and Rory arrive in the strange settlement of Appletown, somewhere in the American desert. It is a community of suburban houses with neat gardens and genteel people, incongruous with the harsh setting.
The Doctor and his companions quickly realise there is something wrong with the whole set up and the truth about the residents and the town emerges from a set of well juxtaposed chapters that move between the present and the past, where a brilliant scientist is challenging the boundaries of computing capability
The storyline quickly turns nasty and as the Doctor battles to use the TARDIS to avert Armageddon 'timely wimey' stuff happens and the Doctor finds himself moving backwards through time. His understanding of time, cause and effect and consequences really show him at his Time Lord best.
Amy and Rory as ever provide near escapes from peril and the gentle humour of their relationship, Amy striding forwards heedlessly into action, Rory desperately trying to save her.
I loved this story with its mind bending themes of time and relativity combined with fast paced action, skilful depiction of human characters and their motivations, and of course saving the world (again!) with comic timing....more
Luke Warren is the Wolf Man who left his wife and two young children to live in the northern Canadian forest with an pack of truly wild wolves. In theLuke Warren is the Wolf Man who left his wife and two young children to live in the northern Canadian forest with an pack of truly wild wolves. In the two years he was gone Luke lived and slept and ate as a wolf and found reintegration into human society in New Hampshire painfully difficult. Since then he has worked with captive wolves, teaching them to be wild in the hope that one day New Hampshire would change its laws and allow wolves to be reintroduced in the state. But now this vigorously alive man lies in a deep coma, a car crash and traumatic brain injury have taken way everything he was.
Luke's children, Edward, estranged from his father for many years, and Cara who lived with and idolised him, face the most difficult of choices, whether or not to turn off the respirator that is keeping him alive and let him go. Bitterly divided, the case comes to court before a judge faced with the decision as to which child should make a decision on Luke's behalf.
Picoult presents the story in chapters that are variously narrated by Luke, Cara, Edward, Luke's ex wife and the children's mother Georgie, her husband Joe and other characters. From these we come to understand both the wonder of what Luke did and the impact it had on his human family. The story brings together two strands, one about the true nature of wolves, and the other about the moral and painful dilemmas raised when trying to make life or death decisions for a loved one.
I found the characters fascinating, in Luke wonder and bravery are combined with irresponsibility and callousness towards his family, Cara is a headstrong passionate late teenager struggling to find her place in her mother's new family and new twin siblings. Edward is a conflicted young man torn between loving and despising the father he is rapidly coming to so closely resemble.
I personally loved the craft and subject matter of Lone Wolf....more
Paige is 18 when she runs away from the home she shares with her father, overwhelmed by the guilt she suffers when she has an abortion. A lifelong CatPaige is 18 when she runs away from the home she shares with her father, overwhelmed by the guilt she suffers when she has an abortion. A lifelong Catholic, her terror of the consequences of having sinned in having had premarital sex in the first place is tipped into headlong fleeing by her choice to do what her church perceives as murder.
Paige finds sanctuary and work at Mercy, a Chicago diner whose owner takes pity on her. And there she meets Nicholas, a high achieving medical student born of privelige and money. It doesn't take long for the chemistry to grow between them and for Nicholas to impulsively ask Paige to marry him.
Nicholas' parents are not impressed with their son's less than blue-blooded choice of wife and cut him off, so Paige gives up her dreams of art school to fund Nicholas through the remainder of medical school.
Nicholas becomes an elite cardiac surgeon and all seems well, until Paige falls pregnant. With the birth of their son Max things begin to unravel. Paige is tormented by the memories of the mother who abandoned her as a child and of her previous unborn child driving her to a damaging course of action
This was a book I was divided over. On the one hand Picoult's depiction of the dehumanising world shattering experience of new motherhood on both mother and relationships is skilful, moving and pretty close to the truth. However, I felt that her characterisation of Nicholas was a little villainous at times. Still very enjoyable...more