A Tale of Two Cities
The Complete Short Stories
Fahrenheit 451
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Navigators of Dune
End of Watch
The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
King Henry VI, Part 3
King Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 1
King Henry IV, Part Two
King Henry IV, Part 1
Richard II
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
The Rosie Effect
On the Nature of Things
So Anyway


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cuckoos Calling

The Cuckoos Calling
Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Little, Brown And Company
April 29, 2014

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0316206857
ISBN - 13: 9780316206853

From the Publisher
The Cuckoo's Calling Trade Paperback 

A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.  Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.
Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith

Smell The Book Review
9 out of 10
This novel came as a selection of one of the core members from the Ottawa Book Club. I knew going in to the book that it was published under a pseudonym by J. K. Rowling.

I had long ago promised myself to read any and all selections from anyone in the book club. With this in mind; I don't normally read mysteries, and I didn't like J. K. Rowling as I always found the Harry Potter series a little too cute and formulaic so I was a little resistant. But within a few pages of meeting Cormoran Strike I was hooked! I found the book well written, the flow of the story gripping and enjoyed it so much I purchased both the follow up to this book (Silkworm) and her first book from her post Harry Potter days, The Casual Vacancy.

It's hard to come across any mystery or "WhoDunnit" that doesn't follow a type of formula. I tend to think that every new character is the guilty party until I meet the next character and I shift my blame accordingly. It then, for me, comes down to the characters. As I mentioned earlier, I really liked Cormoran Strike. I like that he wasn't a cutout hero. He is flawed, has an artificial leg, is in too much debt, drinks to much and lives and sleeps in his office after a bad split from a girlfriend. Because of his rough appearance he tends to be underestimated by those he interviews and he uses this to his advantage. But he is also ex-military and when it counts he has keen powers of observation and knows how to ask the right questions and which information is worth recording.

I also found I was interested in Robin, Strike's new office assistant who also has a childish interest and glee in thinking of herself as a classic private detective. Or at least takes joy in working for one.

No spoilers here, but I did not see the ending coming. The book is well written, entertaining and a fun read with some likeable characters.

9 out of 10.




David Malouf
Random House UK
September, 2010
ISBN - 10: 0099539527
ISBN - 13: 9780099539520
From the Publisher
A brilliant Homeric fable in miniature for our times -- a lyrical and surprising reworking of the story of the Trojan war by an acclaimed international writer.

What happens when a young prince falls in battle and his body is spirited away to be desecrated and dishonoured? His death is the battle price of another young man''s death, but what price dishonour and a father''s grief?

In this exquisite gem of a novel, David Malouf shines new light on Homer''s Iliad, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant. His version opens with Achilles, maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son Hector being dragged behind Achilles'' chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body -- of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp. Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking, Malouf''s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature -- themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times.

Smell The Book Review

9 out of 10

David Malouf is a well-established author and I doubt he needs my help at this point, but I was so impressed with his book that I wanted to review it here for anyone else interested in books related to Homer's works.

I have always been a huge fan of "The Iliad" and all the books it inspired. As with other large "epics" like this there are sometimes short episodes or interactions between characters that are not always fully explained or obvious to the reader. Why does King Priam take such an ugly, simple cart and 2 asses to claim his son in such a humbling manner? Malouf delves into some of the empty spaces between chapters of the original and fleshes it out into a well written add-on. This last event (the request to ransom the body of Hector) is dealt with in a relatively brief manner in the Iliad and is the subject of this book as Malouf takes us behind the scenes to show us his interpretation of Priam's motivations.

I really enjoy when snippets of ancient text have been expanded into a larger story that stays loyal to the original work and fits so well into the larger epic. I personally think a work like The Iliad is a tough act to follow but Malouf stays true to the original and provides an entertaining and clever look into the reaction of Priam's wife and family, where they find the cart and the driver, and why he dresses like a commoner and felt free to wander through the Greek camp with a cart full of gold. This is a story about fatherhood, about forgiveness and, though a little cliché, what it means to be human amidst all of these immortal petulant gods interfering in our lives.

How far should a father go to reclaim the body of his slain son for a proper burial? Should Achilles have relented and surrendered the body of Hector? Or if he had kept the body and slain Priam outright wouldn't the war have ended right then with no more bloodshed?

Concise, well-written and a perfect fir with the original tale this is a highly recommended read. 

9 out of 10.



Friday, March 13, 2015

The Drive In

The Drive In
Douglas Gardham
December 9, 2014
ISBN - 10: 1491748141
ISBN - 13: 9781491748145
From the Publisher
Have you ever been intrigued by what mysteries lie behind the doors and windows of the places you pass by on your drive into work everyday? The Drive In takes you on Tom Johnson‘s commute. Unlike Tom, you’ll get to peek behind some of those closed doors. Remember going to the “Drive-In” theatre? Each story reveals what goes on like watching the “dusk ‘til dawn” features through your car’s windshield. Meet the people at the places Tom only passes by each day. Then discover how his drive in ends like no other.

Smell The Book Review
9 out of 10
I had the pleasure of meeting Douglas Gardham in 2014 when he met with the members of the Ottawa Book Club to discuss his first published book: The Actor. Regardless of anyone's opinion of his work (the majority enjoyed his first book) his clear passion for writing and books in general came through as he spoke to the group. I personally encouraged him to write more as I was anxious to read more from him so was pleased to see this collection of short stories.
"What would he do if he knew he
couldn't fail"   Tom Johnson p 20.
Probably one of my favorite lines from a book in the last several years, this line captures the feelings of our protagonist nicely. The driver, Tom Johnson, links the 6 short stories. Tom works for an uninspired and status-quo driven company that does not like to do things differently. Inspired perhaps by what he could and could not see behind the lives of the people and places he passes on his drive in to work one morning, Tom's experiences on the eponymous "Drive in" to work provide the framing structure for the book's stories with each major site or encounter leading in to the next short story. 
Cleverly constructed, sometimes sentimental, sometimes disturbing, always entertaining, I enjoy the short-story genre and Douglas Gardham's work rings very "Stephen-King-esque" in his range of subjects and his ability to make me squirm while still causing me to reflect on my own choices as compared to those of his characters. 
But not just used to connect the stories, Tom himself has his own experiences on the way in to work which make him question his decisions in life and his future with the most boring company imaginable.
The 6 stories (no spoilers) are summed up as follows: 
  • A bus passenger sits next to an unexpected person on the way to her job..
  • A man meets a woman with whom he could potentially start a new life, but his old life has not concluded yet.
  • A businessman considers faking his own death, but can he go through with his plan?
  • Terror and self sacrifice for a window-washer cum song-writer 40 stories above the street when a job goes as bad as it can go in "Devon Tower".
  • A boy and his Uncle share a huge secret involving a plane. Can you keep a secret?
  • A young teen falls in love/lust with a girl in a photograph and races to his reward.

My personal favorite is in Devon Tower, with the cringe-worthy description of a window-washer's plight on his scaffold. I always have similar thoughts when I see these maniacs out on a thin plywood platform outside of a skyscraper and am pleased to see someone put my questioning of these peoples vocation to paper.

A highly recommended read. The only down side I can see to this work, is that there were not more of these short stories as I'd like to see another longer work from this author.

9 out of 10.