This is my review of the book Praetorian by Simon Scarrow – book 52 and the final book in this current list. It was actually finished a few days ago, but I am a bit behind in my reviews.
This is the continuing saga of our heroes Cato and Macro and their undercover exploits working for Narcissus to save Emperor Claudius from all would be assassins.
The tale starts with a massive bullion robbery, and then migrates to corruption, at the highest levels. To keep the emperor safe and to infiltrate the liberators Cato and Marco are sent undercover as lowly legionaries in the Praetorian guard. These are the special soldiers tasked with guarding the emperor and his family. They also have the best perks.
The story then migrates to a grain shortage and hunger riots in the Roman streets, as they try and root out the traitors.
It is an enjoyable tale of fiction and fact intermingled together, and Simon manages to paint a very realistic picture of life in the Rome during AD51.
This was book 52 fiction 48 (14 on audio) non fiction 4 and the final book on this list.
This is my review of the book Micro posthumously published by Michael Crichton.
Sadly I would say that this is a book that should have been left unpublished. The idea was good, but I felt the execution was not up so some of Michael's other books.
So what was the idea – A group of up and coming graduate students are offered, seemingly the job of a life time, by a company in Hawaii. The firm is doing cutting edge Microbiology. The brother of one of the group is a vice president of the company.
He them mysteriously seemingly dies in a boat accident, and they start to investigate. Very soon they find out that there is an arch enemy around who uses the companies new technology to zap them with magnetic waves, which shrinks them to a micro size.
They think they are safe in this Micro world, but they have forgotten about nature, inspects, birds etc. that all look on them as food. The story them becomes a chase across the micro world to see if they can get out alive.
Running parallel to this is an investigation by the police into unsolved murders, and a secret government contract for killer robots. These micro-drones are programmed to attack and do this by getting inside the blood stream and chop the person up from the inside out. So potentially they could kill any leader on the earth.
The text goes into great detail describing the insect world and how it attacks the heroes and kills them off one by one. I love the bit where one of them is eaten alive and then spat back out again still alive, but the trouble is I was not left with any regret when one of them died. The characters just lacked any real personality. If the same number of words had been used to describe the people as was used to describe the world they were inhabiting then it would probably have had a bit more depth to the story line.
If this is your first Michael Crichton book, then do go on and look for others as he has written some very good thrillers with original plots. Sadly I did not think that this book was quite so good.
This was book 51 week 33 fiction 47 (14 on audio) non fiction 4
This is my review of Captain Corellis Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres, which I listened to as an audio book whilst travelling over the Christmas-New Year Period.
I thought I knew the story as had seen the film a few years ago, but to my surprise I found that the original, was fairly different to the film in so much as the film sort of stopped half way through the book and then cut to the end, which was rewritten anyway.
The level of descriptive language was fantastic, and perfect as an audio book as one could imagine the Greek island of Cephallonia in all its glory.
Anyway I am jumping the gun a little, the story is set on the Greek island of Cephallonia, and is invaded by the Italians in 1941. To ensure that the local doctor - Dr Iannis, can get supplies he agrees with the Italian quartermaster to have an Italian Captain billeted with them, in return for whatever he needs.
Captain Corelli is the person chosen. Though a captain in the local Italian Artillery, his main love is music, especially playing the mandolin. Dr Iannis has a daughter Pelagia, who of course falls for Captain Corelli.
There are some shocking events described as the island changes hands to the Germans, which I wont go into here. The end of the war comes and in the film this is near then end, but in the book, this is only about halfway.
The book then goes on to describe Pelagia's life till she is in her seventies and a grandmother. It is a lovely tale of love, war, humour, sadness and optimism. The book manages to tug at all the emotions. Quite a fitting book for the end of the year, and the start of a new one.
This was book 50 week 33 fiction 46 (14 on audio) non fiction 4
I am not very good at recording non fiction in this book list. They tend to be books, or ebooks in this case, that I have open and read alongside other fiction books, but I thought I would record this book in my list as I have been reading it over the last few months.
I worked out the other day that I have been computer programming for almost 39 years, and as such in some respects feel a bit like a grandmother being told how to suck eggs, when I read some programming books.
This was not the case with this book. For whatever reason Python seemed to have passed me by until earlier on in the year, when I got my Raspberry Pi. Having got that the next challenge was to run my usb robotic arm from the Raspberry Pi, and I decided to do that in Python.
Rather than just did in there and get it working I thought it would be good to spend a bit of time learning some basics about the language. I looked/tried several tutorials and got very frustrated as either are so condescending, or simple as to not to be worth their time. I nearly gave up, but saw this tutorial mentioned on the Raspberry Pi forum http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/index.php
The book is well structured and easy to follow, allowing one to skip through bits that you already know. The examples are reasonably interesting, and the challenges are not immediately answerable, in so much as they make one think.
It is a book that is well worth spending time on if one wants to learn about Python and object oriented programming, though other may disagree as it does not immediately tell you how to program a game but takes one through the fundamentals of the language first.
Of course the real question is – how did I get on with programming the robotic arm. Well friends you will have to wait for another post for that.
This was this was book 49 week 33 fiction 45 (13 on audio) non fiction 4
This is my review of The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo, and is the third book that I have read following the saga of Harry Hole.
This book continues straight on from where the last “Nemesis” finished. Poor Harry is on the way out. He is under threat of the sack for alcoholism, and everyone seems to be against him. He just needs to prove that his long time adversary Tom Waaler is guilty, and not the shining star that all seem to think he is.
Harry is given a last case to solve before leaving the force, a serial killer who is making the sign of the Devil with murders. A young woman is murdered in her flat and the murderer leaves a red diamond in the shape of a five pointed star behind her eyelid.
From there onward more murders follow, but is all it seems or is it too perfect? The story taking a surprising couple of major twists and keeps one guessing to the end. Jo manages to leave enough threads dangling so one wants to read the next book to see if they are then answered then.
An enjoyable read - this was book 48 week 32 fiction 45 (13 on audio) non fiction 3
This is my review of the Book Separation of Power by Vince Flynn.
Evidently one of my friends had looked at my reviews as I had read my first Vince Flynn book a few months ago, and ended the review saying that “if I see another Vince Flynn book I will read it”, as they have given me three new Vince Flynn books to read.Well I have now read another book.
This book was set in time before the book mentioned above, and is probably the start of the series about Mitch Rapp.
The book is different though to normal action thrillers. Yes Mitch was given a task to do – get some parts of a nuclear bomb behind enemy lines. But that was just the sub plot.
The main plot of the book was all about Political double crossing, deceit and murder in the corridors of power in America. It does seem ironic to a non American, that the whole process of government and enquiry/hearings into appointments is meant to stop corruption, but the main thrust of the book is how this process is being subverted on two fronts. One to avoid public scrutiny and the other to use it as a weapon of embarrassment, ultimately against the President, as it is the president who makes the choice of person for the Office being considered.
Of course the other interest in the book was that as it was written in 2001, Saddam had not been conquered, and his “Weapons of Mass Destruction” were perceived as a real threat, which fictional characters in books can try to destroy.
An enjoyable read - this was book 47 week 32 fiction 44 (13 on audio) non fiction 3
This is my review of The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse.
This book continues the crazy antic of Bertie Wooster and his “man” Jeeves. Bertie thinking he is doing a good turn to Gussie Fink-Nottle by impersonating him, turns up at Deverill Hall and idyllic Tudoe manor in the picture perfect village of Kings Deverill.
Bertie is doing this because he thinks Gussie has been sentenced to fourteen days without the option for wading in the fountain at Trafalgar Square.
But Gussie does not end up in prison and leans of Berties plans so turns up in the guise of Bertram Wooster, with Jeeves in toe.
Then various relations, fiancées and other characters who either know the real person of who they are of the fake person as who they are, leading to a complex that only one person can put right.
Fortunately Jeeves was at hand, ready with counsel and aid. The scheme he evolved to extricate Wooster from one of the worst spots of his chequered career must be counted as the most brilliant his master-mind had yet devised.
This book is so off the wall as to be very funny. Maybe Christmas festivity helped. This was book 46 week 32 fiction 43 (13 on audio) non fiction 3
This is my review of the Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, which was listened to a few weeks ago.
This year being able to enjoy Christmas and New Year a bit more than last has meant that they have not been a good time for writing, but have been a good time for sitting in front of the fire and reading. This does mean that I currently have a back log of four more reviews to do.
We listened to the Constant Gardener as an audio book, whilst travelling in the car. I do not know if it was because we listened to it rather than reading it but the level of description used is truly amazing. John was able to paint perfect pictures of the African landscape, just as if one had a picture in front of you.
This was a slight departure form the normal cloak and dagger spy world, to that of industrial and pharmaceutical skulduggery for a quick buck. All about using the poor African as a guinea pig to test a new drug, but it turned out it had terrible side effects.
I have properly already spoilt the plot, but just to give a hint of the outline - Justin Quayle, a British diplomat in Nairobi, Kenya, is told that his activist wife, Tessa, was killed while travelling with a doctor friend in a desolate region of Africa. Investigating on his own, Quayle discovers that her murder, reportedly done by her friend, may have had more sinister roots.
And from there on wards Justin tries to uncover the truth, going all over the world as part of the process.
An enjoyable audio book - This was book 45 week 32 fiction 42 (13 on audio) non fiction 3
This is my review of the book Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.
I have had this book on my shelf waiting to read for around 6 months, and I have been keeping it for a holiday time so I have plenty of time to take in what I am reading.
The historical context of how the book came about is very relevant. Originally C S Lewis was asked by the BBC to give a series of lectures/talks which were broadcast. During the second world war. The talks were to help give some meaning and understanding to the lives of adults as they coped with the war around them.
One of the biggest shocks on reading this was how people regarded life at that time. Life expectancy for a lot of people was not high especially if you were just about to fly off and fight the enemy (I think a 1 in 13 chance of survival) or to be posted abroad somewhere. So people thought about the afterlife and what is to come next.
Today for most people this is a totally alien thought. People get up and go about their work and assume that they will be around tomorrow. At the time of these talks that was not the case. This was made all the more real to me when sorting out my brother's estate, he evidently had no idea when he got up in the morning that he would never be coming home again. I think if we assume that things are permanent then we do not appreciate them so much. Maybe even taking them for granted.
Anyway moving back to the book, as the book is based on the transcripts of the talks, the chapters are short and concise. He also makes sure that each chapter is a distinct and understandable in its own right, accepting that people may not have heard the preceding talk, or may not be able to hear the next one.
To achieve this he breaks down his ideas into everyday concepts that people can understand and get their head round. He then uses these concepts to present a clear and precise argument about some aspect of belief, or everyday life.
His skill is using these ideas and words in a way that you would chat over a cup of tea (or coffee) and not as a lecture or sermon that goes over ones head and sends you to sleep.
It is certainly a book that will make you think about life and the future. It presents a number of profound challenges, and I think it is a book I will read again as it has far more in it than I could take in at one go. A good choice of book for Christmas. This was book 44 week 31 fiction 41 (12 on audio) non fiction 3
This is my review of the book Caught in the Light by Robert Goddard, which I have read recently.
To date I have always enjoyed reading Robert's books and choose to read this book for that reason. Fortunately this did not disappoint, but rather increase my appreciation for Roberts skill in writing.
The cover of the book has the quote “This is his best book yet” and I would not disagree. It seems as if every chapter revealed a set of facts only to be overturned completely in the next chapter. I am not sure how Robert manages to do it, but he does and produces an exciting credible enjoyable story at the same time.
Anyway enough of that down to some “so called” facts about the story. Our hero is one Ian Jarrett, who is a professional photographer on assignment in Vienna. Where he meets as if by chance a beautiful lady Marian Esguard and falls for her. So much so that he decides to leave his wife, who is back in England and live with Marian.
But from then on things do not go quite as planned nor are they as they seem. It is not giving away too much to say that Marian does not turn up when she should and in fact vanishes. Ian then starts to search for her and the mystery unfolds.
A great book to read, quite hard to put down. This was book 43 week 30 fiction 41 (12 on audio) non fiction 2
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.