Friday, 26 February 2010

Review:- Ann GRANGER – “A Rare Interest in Corpses”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7553 2042 5
Pages: - 310pp
Genre: - Historical Crime
Location:- Victorian London
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- A Rare Interest in Corpses is the first in a series of Victorian crime novels by established author Ann. Granger.

Also published as ‘The Companion’

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
It is 1864 when Lizzie Martin from Derbyshire takes up the post of companion to a wealthy London woman – the widow of her godfather. Lizzie is intrigued to learn that her predecessor as companion disappeared, supposedly having run off with an unknown man. But the girl's body is found in the rubble of one of the recently demolished slums around the prestigious new railway station at St Pancras. Lizzie has re-made the acquaintance of a childhood friend, now Inspector Benjamin Ross. The pair of them go their largely separate ways to track down the person responsible.

General comments:- The atmosphere of Victorian London is brilliantly evoked on the first few pages and continues throughout the book. The plot is gripping and the various candidates for villain are paraded before the reader who would be hard pressed to identify them before the end. All in all an excellent book and i’m looking forward to the next ones in the series - 2. A Mortal Curiosity (2008) and 3. A Better Quality of Murder (2010)

“I am an old-fashioned fellow who believes that woman is the greatest ornament to her sex when she realises the boundaries nature has set for her. Perhaps your hero Darwin should have given some thought to that when he was drawing up his ideas on natural selection.” (Which just goes to show there can be villains of various sorts in a book!)

AUTHOR Notes:- Ann Granger, born 1939, held various jobs in the diplomatic service and now lives near Oxford.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Review:- Alec GUINNESS – “A Commonplace Book”

Year Published: - 2001
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7540 4779 2
Pages: - 182pp (Large Print)
Genre: - Literature
Location:- -
How I came across it: - Library book sale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A mélange of literary snippets and memories from Sir Alec Guinness.

General comments:- A delightful mixture compiled from extracts of his journals.

AUTHOR Notes:-
Sir Alec Guinness died in 2000 at the age of 86. He was an English actor and featured in several of the Ealing Comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets in which he played eight different characters. He later won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai. His most prominent role in his later career was as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Review – Richard DOYLE – “Flood”

Year Published: - 2002
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7126 1477 X
Pages: - 373pp
Genre: - Disaster thriller
Location:- London
How I came across it: - Library book sale
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- My first ten star book of the year being a brilliantly researched and written chiller about what could happen when a few emergencies come together.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
A tidal surge combines with a storm to create a one in a thousand year surge that threatens the Thames Barrier. Shipping problems and potential fires add to the problems as the situation worsens.

General comments:-
One of my roles at one time included Emergency Planning for the local authority and I quite anticipated this being yet another of those unrealistic emergency / disaster books. It turned out to be brilliantly (and I use that word advisedly) researched. If you want to know how the authorities respond to an emergency this is the book to read. and if you think the scenario is unlikely it is the very unlikeliness that makes a disaster.

AUTHOR Notes:-

Richard Doyle lives with his wife and child in Oxford, having formerly lived on Dartmoor. His previous novels include Imperial 109 and Executive Action.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Old Review:- Jeremy PASCALL - "GOD The Ultimate Autobiography"

Year Published: - 1987
Where the book was from:- Walton Library
ISBN: - 0852236573
Pages: - -
Genre: - Non-fiction - humour
How I came across it: - Browsing
Rating: - ***** ***

General comments:-
A little juvenile and probably considered by some to be blasphemous but when I read it in 1991 this 827.914 from Jeremy Pascall kept me entertained for a few hours and certainly had me chuckling at times. I may be biased but I automatically have a soft spot for anyone who uses plenty of zeds - as in realize, civilize  and apologize. So many people nowadays think the letter only appears in the ward zoo. To ignore it at other tines seems such a waste of a good letter to me.


What most people don't realize is that I have a highly developed sense of humour. Why else do you think I created the Belgians?

That's the trouble with you anthropoids, you're so impatient..  Sometimes I wonder why I bother with creatures who consider the peak of their civilization to be the bedside radio alarm with snooze button facility.

Consequently, I'd invented the most intelligent creature in the entire fifteen universes - the dolphin. However, dolphins are so intelligent they quickly realized that running the planet would lead to such evils as tension, stress, ulcers, war and polyester leisure suits and refused to waste their intellect on such trivia.

Within that one day I had created Adam and Eve, man and woman, and before long they were doing what man and woman would do throughout history. They were arguing.

I do object to being treated like some cosmic insurance policy - you don't like paying your premiums but you're quick enough to call on Me when something goes seriously wrong.

I do apologize for teeth, they are so unreliable, I'll look again at their design when - I mean if - I ever think of scrapping you anthropoids and starting anew.

In the meantime one word for any atheists among you: wrong.

(Footnote:- The question of the Virgin Birth has taxed the finest theological minds - and some bishops of the church - for two millennia. Recent debates about surrogacy have largely ignored the fact that The Author employed not only a surrogate mother but a surrogate father - the Holy Ghost - as well. Atheists have frequently cited the Virgin Mary as an argument against The Author, one recently declaring, 'Even if there was a God, would you trust, a man who got an unmarried girl pregnant and then cried to blame it on someone else?')

AUTHOR Notes:-
Jeremy Pascall (? - 30 Aug 2001) was an English screenwriter, broadcaster, journalist and author. He specialized in writing about humour and rock music, starting his career at the magazine New Musical Express. At 26 he moved on to be a producer at London's Capital Radio. He died on 30 August 2001 from throat cancer

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “The Waxman Murders”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 2882 6
Pages: - 314pp
Genre: - Historical Crime
Location:- Kent / Essex 1303
How I came across it: - Seeking Doherty novels
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:-
A rollicking good tale of Edwardian crime in Canterbury.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Sir Hugh Corbett is sent by Edward I to collect a map showing the location of a hidden treasure but a few murders get in the way.   Sir Hugh and his staff arrive at Canterbury to find that the owner of the map – and his family - have been hanged. A tangled web of deceit seems to point to the murderer harking back thirty years to an attack on a manor during riots in 1272.

AUTHOR Notes:- see Paul Doherty

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Review:- M C BEATON - “Death of an Outsider”

Year Published: - 1988
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978-1-84529-668-1
Pages: - 206pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Highlands of Scotland
How I came across it: - Gradually reading the series
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:-
Constable MacBeth likes a quiet life but there’s not much chance of him getting it when he is seconded to a local town to ‘mind the shop’ while the sergeant is away, especially when an offcomer dies in a most unusual way.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Nobody in the cloistered Highlands town of Cnothan, where Constable Macbeth is on temporary duty, likes the abrasive Englishman, William Mainwaring. Will he be the outsider who dies?

General comments:-
The third book in the Hamish MacBeth series)

The sun rose shortly after nine in the morning, where it sulked along the horizon for a few hours before disappearing around two in the afternoon.
(My friends in the Western Isles will recognize that concept of the sun skulking around the horizon at this time of year!!!)

AUTHOR Notes:- M C Beaton

Review – Alys CLARE – “Fortune like the Moon”

Year Published: - 1999
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 9780340739310
Pages: - 242pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- Kent, 1189
How I came across it: - charity shop
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:-
When a young nun is found murdered, the new king of England - King Richard - employs an old playmate, Josse d'Acquin, to find the killer.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

Josse meets the unusual abbess of Hawkenlye Abbey from which the murdered nun had strayed. Together he and Abbess Helewise set out to solve the mystery and the subsequent events that occur. . This is the first title in a series of medieval mysteries, set around the Great Forest in the Weald of Kent.

General comments:-

I’ve read a couple in this series to it was great to read the one in which Josse and Helewise meet.

AUTHOR Notes:- Alys Clare

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “Nightshade”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 3839 9
Pages: - 295pp
Genre: - Historical Crime
Location:- Essex - 1304
How I came across it: - Chasing Paul Doherty books as he is my current ‘fad’
Rating: - ***** ***


One sentence summary:- Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal and devoted emissary of Edward I has been charged with collecting a cross that an unscrupulous manor lord has promised to hand over to the king but a few bodies get in the way.

General comments:- Although this is the first Hugh Corbett novel I’ve read it is around the 16th in the series. I’m looking forward to reading more.

AUTHOR Notes:- see Templar

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Review – J L CARRELL – “The Shakespeare Secret”

(Also published as "Interred with Their Bones")
Year Published: - 2007
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978 0 7515 4035 2
Pages: - 479pp
Genre: - Thriller; Shakespeare
Location:- Across the globe
How I came across it: - I’ve forgotten
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A first class, globe-trotting thriller which uses Carrell’s extensive research to put forward theories about whether Shakespeare wrote the plays that are in his name.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- A Shakespearian researcher who has altered her career to direct a Shakespearean play gets caught up in a deadly hunt to identify whether Shakespeare wrote the plays with which he is credited. Corpses are left behind left, right and centre as the action wanders across the globe. This is well worth reading for the arguments about the various potential authors. Add a clever and non-stop thriller with a background mystery as to who is the serial killer and you have a first class story.

General comments:-
The big book at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair - with rights now sold in seventeen countries. Jennifer Lee Carrell's Shakespearean thriller (also sold under the title "Interred with Their Bones") was the most eagerly anticipated debut thriller of 2007.
Here are some of the reviews :-
'Plot twists worthy of The Da Vinci Code dominate this agile first novel from Carrell...this spirited and action-packed novel delivers constant excitement.' Publishers Weekly ;
"A gripping page-turner, an erudite account of contemporary Bard scholarship and the plays and poems that made Mr Shakespeare, whoever he was, the man he is today. Perfect" Daily Express;
"A hide-and-seek chase of murder and mayhem...Carrell omits [Dan Brown's] ridiculous howlers but follows his penchant for twists, turns and incessant violence" The Times;
"Her extensive research is both accurate and impressive" RTE Guide

JENNIFER LEE CARRELL (born 1962) holds her Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Harvard University, as well as other degrees in English Literature from Oxford and Stanford Universities. She won three awards for distinction in undergraduate teaching at Harvard, where she taught in the History and Literature Program and directed Shakespeare for the Hyperion Theatre Company. Jennifer is the author of The Speckled Monster, a work of historical nonfiction about battling smallpox at the beginning of the eighteenth century, which USA Today praised as being written "in a compelling, almost novelistic voice." She has also written a number of articles for Smithsonian magazine. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Review – E D H JOHNSON – “The Poetry of Earth”

Year Published: - 1966
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - -
Pages: - 423pp
Genre: - Natural History; Diaries;
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Bought in a library sale years ago
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A wonderful collection of English Nature Writings from Gilbert White of Selborne to Richard Jefferies; illustrated by their contemporaries.

General Comments:
An ideal source for my nature diary researches and a great read. I have dipped into it frequently in the past but this is the first time I have read it cover to cover. Among the diarists quoted in this work are Gilbert White; Thomas Gray; Dorothy Wordsworth; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; William Cobbett; John Clare; Gerard Manley Hopkins; and Francis Kilvert.

The illustrations range from Constable sto some little known artists but all are ideally suited to matching the text.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Review – Alan GARNER – “The Stone Book Quartet”

Year Published: - 1983
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 00 184282 X
Pages: - 224pp
Genre: - Children’s stories;
Location:- Cheshire, England
How I came across it: - Bought in a library sale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A combination of four previously published books which together make up a wonderful dialect-laden story of crafts people and their roots in the earth.

General Comments:
“It is a miniature masterpiece and, like all great miniatures, is staggering in what its limits contain.” Signal.
The quartet of books that make up this anthology are The Stone Book; Granny Reardun; The Aimer Gate; and Tom Fobble’s Day. They were originally published between 1976 and 1978. I first came across Alan Garner when working in Page Moss library in 1974 – at which time I worked my way through a number of children’s authors. By the time these four came out I had moved on – in more ways than one – but am delighted to have rediscovered him. The language and style are unique, bringing a combination of earthy dialect and a succinctness of language that compresses many thoughts and ideas into brief phrases.

was born in Congleton in Cheshire in October 1934. He was brought up on Alderley and now lives with his wife and family in a mediaeval timber-framed house near the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, between Congleton and Alderley. He went to Magdalen College, Oxford.

Cheshire and its mythology have had a profound effect on Garner's writing. His interest in history and archaeology, and his own local discoveries, have been the seed of many ideas he has worked out in his books. His first three books, The Wierdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath and Elidor have become children's favourites. But it was his fourth book, 'The Owl Service' that undoubtedly brought Alan Garner to everyone's attention. It won the Guardian Award and the Carnegie Medal . In 1995 'The Stone Book' was awarded the Phoenix Award by the Children's Literature Association in the USA.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Review - Wilson, D M & Wilson C J “Edward Wilson’s Nature Notebooks”

Year Published: -2004
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 1-873877-70-6
Pages: - 168pp
Genre: - Natural History
Location:- Mostly British natural history
How I came across it: - Second hand shop years ago
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- A series of brilliant natural history illustrations and a brief but fascinating biography of Edward Wilson

General comments:- For anyone who enjoys natural history (and landscape) paintings this is a must. Every page has at least one illustration that will keep you captivated.

Dr Edward Adrian Wilson ("Uncle Bill") (23 July 1872 – 29 March 1912) was a notable English polar explorer, physician, naturalist, painter and ornithologist. He died with Scott on the ill-fated Antarctic expedition of 1912.

More Quotations about Books

"There are only a finite amount of books you can read in one lifetime, so spending time with one that you know within 50 pages is going to stink like two-day-old roadkill in the sun seems counter-intuitive. It makes far more sense to put it down and pick up something else from the ever-increasing to-read pile. Yet I feel somehow incapable of doing so." - Stuart Evers

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.”

“Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.”
- Alan Bennett “The Uncommon Reader”

"All their deeds are in their books: every action, small or great, is noted down. The righteous shall dwell in gardens watered by running brooks, honourably seated in the presence of the Mighty King. " (The Qur'an, s54-the-moon)

"All good books are different but all bad books are exactly the same.” Robert Harris