I wasn't crazy about the dip into romance and the trick with the structure of the mystery felt a little cheap. The secondary villains, witnesses and fI wasn't crazy about the dip into romance and the trick with the structure of the mystery felt a little cheap. The secondary villains, witnesses and friends and family also felt a little less developed and sharply drawn then I'm used to - and always enjoy - in Rowling's book, and the parade of horrific men and battered women grew a bit nauseating and indistinguishable by the end. All that said, still thoroughly enjoyable. When's the next one? ...more
The problem is, I'm just not a Beatles fan. I like the songs, they've been playing along in the background all of my life. I find the history interestThe problem is, I'm just not a Beatles fan. I like the songs, they've been playing along in the background all of my life. I find the history interesting, as a phenomenon...but i'm not a fan. I don't care about the provenance of each song or the controversial historiography of minor events. Now, as history, this is enjoyable. A nice view into a time, place and industry, particularly the Liverpool of the 40s and 50s and Hamburg of the early 60s. But Lewisohn is a fan, a fanatic, an admirer. He cares about their minutiae, their personalities, their narrative. He's impressed by the Beatles, forgiving, fond. There's just something too incongruous for me when Lewisohns fairly dry, meticulous, adult view slides into unflinching admiration for these rowdy teenagers, almost unsettling. One doesn't know whether to question his judgement or just join in. After all, they're the Beatles, right?...more
Very weak. I picked this up because I really enjoy Melvin Bragg's radio show "In Our Time," because he seems to have a knack for asking the interestinVery weak. I picked this up because I really enjoy Melvin Bragg's radio show "In Our Time," because he seems to have a knack for asking the interesting, but still rigorous, questions. This is just plodding and cutesy though. Not any particularly interesting angles on the language or on linguistics in general - yes, English has a lot of loan words - and not very compelling as history. It did make me want to find out more about the Reformation though. I guess that's something. ...more
"In the Indian shops you can buy a narrow selection of curtain materials and chair covers which startle and amaze, but few which uplift the soul."
This"In the Indian shops you can buy a narrow selection of curtain materials and chair covers which startle and amaze, but few which uplift the soul."
This is basically a blog from 1952. Ommanney was stationed in Zanzibar in the early 50's, doing something about improving fishing. The one chapter he dedicates to this gives a very strong impression that no one involved had the faintest idea what they were doing. It involves statements like "but the French had made it seem very easy." There's some history, but someone rather emphatically wrote "this is untrue" in the margin of my copy on page 20, so so much for that. The rest is pretty much notes from the life of an expat in Zanzibar.
It's casually racist and kind of smug in general, and nothing ever happens, but still not a terribly unpleasant read. Ommanney is occassionaly kind of funny, though i'm still not sure if it's always on purpose. He often seems to be going for a kind of plummy, unflappable, stiff-upper-lip Brit-abroad mild eccentric etc. Very Victorian, tolerantly gazing over the odd habits of the natives and all that. Alas he seems a couple of generations late and maybe a personality shy.
There's often a rather fussy, almost hysterical undercurrent to it all, even if his main subject matter, by simple volume, wasn't the inadequacies of his interior decor and the habits of his servants. It's too hot and cars go too fast and the kids these days with their cinemas and parted hair. The dancing is too inscrutable, the music is too loud - everything from American showtunes to Arab wailing to endless African drums that are always beating through the night, somewhere, is groused about in one hilarious passage. (A while later - complaints about the eeriness of the primordial African silence.)
Mostly, he comes across as a somewhat duffy, largely affable and possibly rather lonely guy, very much of his time. There's a lengthy sort of sub-Bill-Brysonesque imagined-conversation comic passage of the horrors of taking one's wife and kids on holiday, which begins to be a bit weird and sad the longer it goes on, coming from someone living alone with a cat in a nine-room house.
I'm not sure why I started this and i'm not entirely sure why I finished. Recommended for no one at all, unless you have a burning need to know about the mental states and material conditions of British colonial personnel in Zanzibar in the early 50's.
Meatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concernedMeatier than the first one, and a little nastier. Enjoyed thoroughly.
So far it seems to me like the two Cormoran Strike books are intensely concerned with appearances. Vanity, perception and presentation of self. Celebrity and reputation in the main mystery plot, yes, but also in more insidious, more prosaic ways in the background subplots that I actually found myself enjoying more by the end. Strike is terribly perceptive about people, about the way they like to show themselves, but he seems almost an unreliable narrator when it comes to himself.
He stands out, effortlessly cool, masculine, authentic compared to the suburban, social climbing mileu he spends so much being contemptous of. But the text itself has just a little more sympathy for these characters - his fussy, well-meaning sister and self-awarely spoiled brother, Robin's jealous fiancee, the p3ublisher he takes up with and dumps - and the gap gets interesting.
Strike makes more sense to me here, with that context. He's proudly aloof of his famous father, but there's a jealousy there too. His willingness to use people and throw them out of his life when he's done. The shade of longing for his old army life - discipline and his own authority, rather than cameraderie or sense of purpose of whatever. His ex - who seemed like a bit of a drama queen in the first book, but basically ok - is revealed here as an utter piece of work, thoroughly selfish, gratuitously cruel and snobby to boot. It rather raises the question - what kind of man would have that as the grand, torrid love afair of his life? ...more
I can honestly say that this is the first audiobook i've ever managed to listen to all the way through. Winchesters kinda wry, kinda snobby, not veryI can honestly say that this is the first audiobook i've ever managed to listen to all the way through. Winchesters kinda wry, kinda snobby, not very dense storytelling is just perfect for not completely missing the plot while walking or swimming or whatever.
It's a bit dated, but that adds a few touches of anachronistic cold war exotica here and there. One also has to assume that a lot of the more esoteric weirdnesses of living in some of these places has been ameliorated a lot in the years since by technology, but there's still a lot of fun details. ...more
I can't come up with a damn thing to say about this book. It was good! I liked it! It's enjoyable, immersive and page-turney. They mystery is mysterioI can't come up with a damn thing to say about this book. It was good! I liked it! It's enjoyable, immersive and page-turney. They mystery is mysterious and the characters are fun to hang out with and have decently compelling arcs. Um, so, read it if you want to?...more
Not going to finish this - a shame, because trains! Meticulously detailed trains and train labour in the late Victorian period, which is delightful. UNot going to finish this - a shame, because trains! Meticulously detailed trains and train labour in the late Victorian period, which is delightful. Unfortunately, that's it. It's just totally incoherent otherwise. I haven't the foggiest clue what is going on, how our totally boring hero suddenly decided he needs to find a killer, who's been killed, what the factions are, who he's working for, etc, etc. I mean, seriously, I just don't know what is happening, even as I am reading it, and not in a good way. So, life's too short. I will find other books about trains. ...more
I keep reading and reasonably enjoying Ken MacLeod's books, and i'm not entirely sure why. This one starts out with a really intriguing social-sf quesI keep reading and reasonably enjoying Ken MacLeod's books, and i'm not entirely sure why. This one starts out with a really intriguing social-sf question - should a woman have to take a simple pill, with no side effects, to make sure her unborn child is healthy - and degenerates into (totally unrelated to the question) silly science subplots, ideological wankery and lame thriller-lite evil-government shenanigans. That said, I still think it's a step up from his recent books - the characterization is better, the pace is spot on and and it doesn't completely dissolve in terms of plot and theme.
Unfortunately, theres just too many...potshots. The "opposition" are ridiculous caricatures and the whole thing appears to be based on a slippery slope argument, (laws against smoking in pubs>get hauled in by the police for going into a building someone smoked in once while pregnant.) The ideological questions get explained instead of actually being expressed in the book (characters sit around telling each other about Foucalt,) and everything has to be an extension of a current political process in a neat way "...her mother's generation, in a moment of frivolity, had surrendered feminism..." THIS IS YOU, LADY, YOU FOLLOW?!) And theres that now frankly disturbing fetish for the Labour Party again, (you should get that looked at, Mr. MacLeod), though at least they're evil in this one.
It's a shame, as theres a really, really interesting book buried somewhere in here, about the tug between individual freedom and social contract, about women and women's bodies, about the construction of religion and ideology and the way individuals function and make decisions in that...it just got lost somewhere, to wander amongst the tachyons, time travelers and torturers of the Outer Hebrides instead.
Oh, and it's not actually clear if Scotland is independent. ...more
Pretty good, plays interesting games with the notion of genre, the act of immersion in fantasy and the purposes of it. Brushes up against the fourth wPretty good, plays interesting games with the notion of genre, the act of immersion in fantasy and the purposes of it. Brushes up against the fourth wall, with one strand of the story analyzing and explaining another even as Ursula Le Guin and John Clute are being quoted.
There still manages to be a good, sad story at the heart of it, with well drawn, sympathetic characters at war with themselves. I'm not quite sure how to take the main character - admirable or bratty or both, all teenaged self importance or genuinely profound, and how to regard the muggle reality of everyone else brushing up against her. (I thought the ending was a touch too neat as well, all the unbelievers shamed and the faithful rewarded, but it's a quibble.)
The writing is very...blunt. It breaks a lot of those show-don't-tell rules sometimes, but the effect is to make the story very intense and vivid rather than distant, so it worked.
More interesting historically than a mystery, I guess. Given Lord Peter being oft mentioned as something of a romantic hero, it's a bit of a surpriseMore interesting historically than a mystery, I guess. Given Lord Peter being oft mentioned as something of a romantic hero, it's a bit of a surprise that he strikes me as rather streotypically and almost flamingly gay for much of the book. Appearance of WW1 PTSD also interesting. Slightly creepy prescient bit with slight implication that a Jewish guy's murder was partially motivated by anti-semitism and by desire to dissect corpse for science....more
I liked this book, and the hell with the naysayers. It's not great literature, and it's not Harry Potter either, but it's just so goddamned honest aboI liked this book, and the hell with the naysayers. It's not great literature, and it's not Harry Potter either, but it's just so goddamned honest about what it's trying to say that I couldn't help but like it. (It's also extremely well crafted and readable, but that's almost a given with Rowling.) She clearly utterly, totally, uncompromisingly loathes these people and their snobbishness, parochialism and racism and all the rest, (or whoever these fictional people are a stand in for,) and would really like to beat them all to death with a hammer. That, however, being illegal, she wrote this book instead. ...more