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robtwinem

runner

I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Currently reading

Childgrave
Ken Greenhall
Progress: 55 %
Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain
George Mahood
Progress: 15 %
The Outsider
Stephen King
Progress: 530/576 pages
Professional Reader 50 Book Reviews 80% Reviews Published

Sorry mate...........

The Lost Man - Jane Harper

Two years ago I read the debut novel The Dry by Jane Harper and I thought it was fresh, intelligent with the great rugged Australian outback forming a beautiful backdrop. Force of Nature was the second book featuring Federal Police agent Aaron Falk and although not quite as outstanding as The Dry it was still an excellent read. So with some excitement the good people of Little Brown via netgalley sent me a gratis copy of The Lost Man in exchange for an honest review and I began to read..........Do you remember in the early 80's the adventure of the Ewing family in the long running series Dallas which in reality was an American soap series analyzing the never ending feuds of a wealthy oil dynasty. The Lost Man reminds me so much of this series a family torn apart by its past having to cope with sudden unexpected death. The body of Cameron is discovered one morning by his brothers Nathan and Bud under the relenting sun and brutal Australian outback...unfortunately that's about as good as this story gets. We spend the best part of nearly 400 pages listening to tedious family squabbles as old hatreds and secrets come to the surface. This was a monotonous piece of storytelling with little or no excitement that rambled forever until the final pages when Cameron's murderer is revealed. A story that was monotonous in the extreme with its constant use of the word "mate" (yes I know it is Australia  but there is such a thing as overkill) a story that I found contained little merit and a story that I most certainly would not recommend. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Reading progress update: I've read 90 out of 576 pages.

The Outsider - Stephen King

It's only when I return to King that I realize how wonderful he is...he's as fresh in his writing from Carrie to the present. An amazing author who makes his stories so exciting and his characters so real..

Reading progress update: I've read 50%.

The Lost Man - Jane Harper

What a let down this book is proving to be...I loved The Dry but The Lost Man reads like a soap opera :(

Short, sharp, brilliant!

The Collini Case - Ferdinand von Schirach

Fabrizio Collini enters a hotel room in downtown Munich and commits a foul act namely the brutal murder of well known and respected industrialist Hans Meyer. Why should an elderly man with no previous record of assault select at random a victim and deal with in the most horrendous way. Young, newly qualified, attorney Caspar Leinen is assigned the case and he must attempt the impossible defend a man who seemingly has no defence as he happily admits to implementing the murder. This is a short read instantly grabbing the reader's attention with crisp, precise prose and a most unexpected yet perfectly executed conclusion. To say much more would spoil the delights that wait the intuitive reader as we try to unravel the legislation pertaining to a seemingly random crime. Highly recommended

 

 

What a wonderful setting

Rainsongs - Sue Hubbard

A wonderfully lyrical walk through the untamed south west coast of Ireland at the daily mercy of the wild unpredictable Atlantic ocean. Martha Cassidy has returned to the cottage that she and her deceased husband Brendan owned and spent many happy years. She is trying to finalize Brendan's affairs before deciding if she wishes to stay or sell the cottage. Through her eyes we meet unscrupulous property dealer Eugene Riordan eager to woo Martha as he is hoping to acquire her property for his future development plans.

 

Sue Hubbard uses the landscape as a descriptive backdrop to her flowing narrative style...."This is the end of the world with nothing between her and America except the cold sea"....."She's not religious. For her death is the end A soundless dark beyond time and sleep"....."Our lives are so hectic that not to be busy is considered a modern vice, evidence of inadequacy, proof that we're no longer important."......"to find a landscape to fit our dreams and disappointments. When there's nothing left there's still the ocean and the sky"....."Were they too, running from intimacy in order to avoid love's vulnerability"......There are a number of surprises that unfold as we delve deeper into Martha's regretful past, and a new acquaintance that she unexpectedly meets during her stay. Will she decide to remain or return to her old life in London. In the quiet moments of this breathtakingly beautiful location old memories return and with them a great sadness...A very enjoyable read that brought the beautiful location of Southern Ireland to life. Highly recommended.

A rock legend

Rory Gallagher The Man Behind the Guitar - Julian Vignoles

Rory Gallagher was one of the greatest Irish rock musicians of the mid 70's. A shy impressionable young man who was only truly happy when he stood centre stage and performed as only he could in front of his adoring and worshiping fans. However underneath that sensitive persona was a man uneasy in his own company, restless, unable to settle preferring to tour endlessly. In the quiet dark moments he consumed an increasingly dangerous amount of alcohol and prescription drugs (prescribed for him to combat his fear of flying) Julian Vignoles has written a sympathetic moving biography complete with many pictures of Rory the musician at ease and on stage. Everyone who spoke about Gallagher had nothing to offer but the highest praise; his professionalism, his approach and dedication is all the more poignant when we realize how disillusioned he became in later years, his drug and alcohol dependency leading sadly to his premature death. A wonderful read that for me personally held many memories and a great tribute to a quiet gentle musician.

Gritty Scottish noir fiction

The Missing and the Dead - Stuart MacBride

The usual great fun, multi layered, gritty Scottish detective story. Sergeant Logan McRae as always ever troubled and hindered by the sarcastic often witty comments from the politically incorrect DI Roberta Steel.The body of a little girl washes up on a sleepy coastal town and it is this case that forms the central story in The Missing and the Dead. As well as unravelling the mystery of the child Sgt McRae still needs to deal with a multitude of incidents and petty crime that form the day to day case load of Police Scotland.

 

Stuart MacBride is unique in crime fiction. He has the ability to hold his readers attention by layering his narrative with colourful incidents and shady characters that are the backbone of everyday modern police work.There is great humour and warmth in MacBride's writing and yet he manages to deal eloquently and sympathetically with the search for the killer of a precious young girl resulting in a surprising and yet equally sad conclusion. Long may Stuart MacBride reign as the king of Scottish noir.

Could not finish...

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel - Amor Towles

One of the few books this year I have attempted to read but just could not finish. The writing was good but I felt the claustrophobic setting of the Metropol Hotel in Moscow and the adventures of disgraced Count Alexander Rostov soon lost my attention. It would therefore be very unfair of me to rate this book unfairly as I could not fault the literary style and flow of the writing of Amor Towles....maybe later in the year I will attempt to read again :)

 

Good writing as always

Now We Are Dead - Stuart MacBride

Being a great fan of DCI Logan McRea I was curious to see how the author would handle (handle is probably the appropriate word as DS Steel is a bit of a rogue to curtail) setting one of the main characters and indeed one of the much loved characters into her very own book! The now newly demoted Detective Sergeant Roberta Steel is still determined to bring to justice pedophile Jack Wallace even though she has been warned to stay away from him and if she disobeys runs the risk of being thrown of the force for good. It is not so much the plot that I love in Stuart MacBrides books but his larger than life characters and none are more electric than Roberta Steel. In Now we are Dead two things struck me as worthy of mention. Roberta's long suffering partner Susan, taking away all the joking and bravado these two ladies love eachother and this love brings a great stability to Roberta's life. The second thing worthy of note is that once all the cursing and bad language has faded Steel has a heart of gold and will fight with her life where she sees injustice...."Roberta gave Beatrice's hand another gentle squeeze. It gets better. I know it doesn't seem like it but it does. There comes a time when you won't flinch if someone touches you. When your heart doesn't feel like you're going to die if you feel footsteps coming up behind you. When the darkness doesn't make you want to scream. She stood leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead."....( Could this really be the Roberta Steel we all love to laugh at the lady who is always scratching shifting and re positioning her knickers and bra!)

 

Setting Steel in her own adventure has it seems allowed MacBride to add some very human observations and gentle touches...."Oh to be five again. When the only things you had to worry about was how many marbles you could fit up your nose and how dinosaurs brushed their teeth with those stubby wee arms of theirs. When the scariest thing in the world was running out of chocolate biscuits and the monster that lived under the bed".....Having said that the trademark dur Celtic humour is still very much present..."Ten to four on a Wednesday and the regulars were well into their fourth or fifth pint- the empties littering their tables. Some hadn't even bothered changing out of their overalls before coming in to quench the demon thirst"....."She killed the engine. You got a girlfriend, Tufty? Or boyfriend? Or favourite sheep?"......

 

Having paid the above compliments I need to be more convinced that Steel is worthy of a second outing? She simply flouts the rules (ok we all know this happens) to an extent that any police force would have discharged her a long time ago. I think she is more suited to a secondary role acting as a buffer or comical aside for Logan McRae. So not a bad book, enjoyable with limitations....

Flawless writing

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki has four best friends at school and one day for some reason they all refuse to speak to him or indeed have anything further to do with him....why? That is really all that you need to know about this wonderful book and apart from an unexpected conclusion, which not everyone might find acceptable (however I did) the book is up to the very high standards that is the watchword of Murakami. The writing is flawless and flows effortlessly..."She were gently peeling back, one after another, the layers that covered a person's heart, a very sensual feeling"...."Because everyone's seeking the same thing; an imaginary place, their own castle in the air, and their very own special corner of it"....."Things that have form will disappear. But certain feelings stay with us for ever"......."Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I'm gazing at a distant star"....Highly Recommended

Harrowing

Aberfan - Gaynor Madgwick

A recent visit to Big Pit national coal museum in Blaenavon South Wales had such an impact on me that I decided to read Aberfan a story of a community and how it survived one of the worst mining disasters in history. 144 people lost their lives of which 116 were children when tons of coal tip waste slipped down a mountainside destroying and burying everything in its path. Gaynor Madgwick was one of the survivors and as the 50th anniversary for the tragedy approached she decided to put to print not only her thoughts but those of many friends and families torn apart. Gaynor herself lost a brother and sister and so the writing of Aberfan could be viewed as a form of atonement, as painful memories were revisited. Through all the pain and suffering that unfolded in this essential book two facts stood out; The first being the inability of both the government and the National Coal Board (NCP) to accept responsibility for the disaster and the NCP's attempt to use 150,000 pounds from the money donated to the survivors and families to clean up coal tip waste. The second fact more probably an image were young soldiers recruited to help with uncovering bodies from the deluge and waste. They washed the bodies of young children and laid them peacefully side by side for grieving families to identify. The young men who did this never forgot or recovered from such a sad undertaking.

 

My visit to Big Pit was made more poignant when I realized that those people involved in the tour and introducing us to the tough unforgiving dangerous lives of miners, were none other than ex miners themselves. Due to the fact that coal nowadays is cheaper to import from abroad the last 30+ years has seen the mining industry in the UK virtually disappear and once proud miners left adrift with little hope of future employment. Each one of those ex miners told me that irrespective of the dangers and the poor and sometimes brutal working conditions, they would all happily return underground to their old way of life. I was astounded to hear this...why I asked? why work in such dangerous unforgiving conditions? The comradeship they said, they were a band of brothers and would happily live and die for each other. I came away extremely humbled knowing that those in government who choose to destroy the mines and therefore the livelihoods of these proud men did not realize that by doing so they destroyed communities and the heart of the noble Welsh men, women and children that lived therein. Aberfan is a tough read but it is a story that should be understood and the memories of those who lost their lives and the families that still grieve should never be forgotten.

 

 

Beautiful lyrical writing

South of the Border, West of the Sun - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

Hajime is a self made man. He owns two piano jazz bars has an adoring wife and two wonderful children. But Hajime has a problem he cannot get the image of his close childhood friend Shimamoto from his mind. One day many years later a beautiful elegant lady sits drinking in one of his bars. As he closely scrutinizes this lone customer he suddenly realizes that this is none other than Shimamoto. From that moment on Hajime is totally besotted with her and realizes even though he is happily married, Shimamoto is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with...So what happens when you have it all and temptation not only arrives but welcomes you openly with warm and loving arms.....

 

Haruki Murakami in his addictive writing style shows a deep understanding of the human condition, the relationships that we form and the allurements that entice us. He shows a world that is deceptively simple and introduces characters that are always slightly flawed (but surely we are all flawed) . It is therefore very easy for the reader to associate with the players in this wonderfully readable novel...."We were the two of us, still fragmentary beings, just beginning to sense the presence of an unexpected, to- be- acquired reality that would fill us and make us whole"......"Because everyone's seeking the same thing: an imaginary place, their own castle in the air, and their very own special corner of it."....."Things that have form will disappear. But certain feelings stay with us forever."...."Sometimes when I look at you I feel I'm gazing at a distant star"......"The special something I'd found ages ago in that melody was no longer there. It was still a beautiful tune, but nothing more. And I had no intention of lingering over the corpse of a beautiful song.".......

 

Beautiful lyrical writing and highly recommended.

Reading progress update: I've read 25%.

South of the Border, West of the Sun - Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami

More beautiful writing and elegant prose from Haruki Murakami...

Ancient History comes alive

The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker

So to start a quick recap of Ancient History... Agamemnon and Achilles come from different backgrounds, but the war in Troy brings them together. ... Without Achilles, Agamemnon is losing. It isn't until Achilles' companion and best friend Patroclus is killed that Achilles rejoins the Trojan War. And Agamemnon, realizing that Achilles is needed, returns Briseis to him. What was all the fighting about? here is a synopsis According to classical sources, the war began after the abduction (or elopement) of Queen Helen of Sparta  by the Trojan prince Paris. Helen’s jilted husband Menelaus convinced his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to lead an expedition to retrieve her. Agamemnon was joined by the Greek heroes Achilles, Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax, and accompanied by a fleet of more than a thousand ships from throughout the Hellenic world. They crossed the Aegean Sea to Asia Minor to lay siege to Troy and demand Helen’s return by Priam, the Trojan king.

 

So a beautiful telling of an ancient story woven expertly into The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. However if we delve deeper this is more a novel about the women of those ancient times and how they were (mis) treated sold to the highest bidder to be abused, raped, discarded when their bodies and not their minds were of no further use. The narrator is Briseis who herself becomes involved in a love triangle/struggle between Agamemmon and Achilles. Through her eyes Barker strips away the hero qualities that have often been laid at the feet of Achilles and shows him for what she believes he is an intolerant butchering brute...."I'd been afraid ever since the cities of the Trojan plain started falling to Achilles; every burning, every sacking brought the war closer. But my fear that night was of an altogether different order, more sharply focused than it had ever been before. I knew my presence in the compound no longer reflected well on Amamemmon. Rather the opposite, in fact I was a constant reminder of the quarrel that had brought the Greek army to the brink of defeat. My only potential use, my only value to him- since he certainly didn't want me in his bed- had been as a possible bargaining chip in future negotiations with Achilles...."...."Achilles kept his word, everyone he promised Patroclus he did. He cut the throats of twelve Trojan youths, dragging their heads back by the hair and pulling his knife across their throats as quickly and cleanly as if they'd been goats".......

 

A lively colourful short novel with a profound message makes The Silence of the Girls a very enjoyable read that could possibly take the author in a different direction leaving the way open for many sequels. Recommended.

Simply sublime

Norwegian Wood - Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami

A few years ago I read "What I talk about when I talk about running" which was an introduction to the wonderful world and easy writing style of Haruki Murakami. Why it has taken me so long to read more of his works I do not understand but having just finished the astounding Norwegian Wood I plan to read everything that this truly wonderful author has ever written. Norwegian Wood takes place at the end of the 60's and early 70's and follows the adventure and student life of Toru Watanabe and his love and torn loyalties for two women :Naoko (girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki who committed suicide by hanging) and an impulsive young woman called Midori, one representing the future and one the past.

 

This story is a celebration of life at a time when free love was the norm and the songs of the Beatles were changing the face of popular music and culture as we knew it. Through Watanabe we enter a world of easy friendships and relationships, a world of casual sex and untimely death mixed with pain and suffering loss and desire. I loved the easy manner that Murakami told his story a simple style yet with every sentence having a deep impact on the reader as we are taken on a memorable journey following the highs and lows of a group of young people at an impressionable time in their lives and in an ever changing world...simply wonderful and inspiring. Highly Recommended.

Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 296 pages.

Norwegian Wood - Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami

This is superb writing the only other book I have read by Haruki Murakami is What I talk about when I talk about running. In Norwegian Wood the writing is effortless and just flows the pages pass by I so look forward to reading more by this literary genius...