« July 2008 | Main | September 2008 »

August 30, 2008

Disgrace - J.M. Coetze

Disgrace by J.M. Coetze

Book 35 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

On my shelf for quite some time - another Booker prize winner. One of my rare adventures into non English/American authors too, as Coetze is South African.

And unsurprisingly, this is a novel about apartheid, or more particularly, the end of apartheid, in South Africa. It would be nice if a foreign author could write an award winning book that wasn't quite so predictably parocial.

The narrative follows an educated middle-aged white man, David, working as a lecturer. He seduces a young student and when caught, is asked to apologise or lose his job. For no real discernable reason he decides to be difficult about this, and ends up on a road trip to visit his single daughter who is working a small farm miles from the city.

While staying with the daughter, David gets to experience the violence and despair of his country, and to understand more about the state of the races and their pecking order in the new South Africa.

OK, doesn't sound too bad from that synopsis, but it's depressing and frustrating. I couldn't realte to any of the people, who reacted differently to any normal person might expect to the situations they were in. Maybe this is really how people are, but Coetze did not make me believe in them.

I hated this book. I hated all the characters in it. I hated it's worthiness. I hated its inconclusive ending. I hated that the characters did things without any clear motivation. Even though it's short, I was still glad to finish this book.

Posted by se71 at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2008

Stormrider - David Gemmell

Stormrider - David Gemmell

Book 34 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

The final book in the Rigante series of epic fantasies. Though it starts well and is as full of the excellent characters Gemmell is known for creating, I found myself wishing it was over by about 2/3 through. Why? Well it was all to do with the interminable battles. I like a good battle as much as, in fact more than, the next man. But if they go on too long, I lose sight of the intricacies of the logistics and tactics that only a real war general could be expected to follow. So I got lost. But the fighting continued.

It was a bit of a shame for me, as I have loved all the books - even this one up to about the middle of it.

Worth reading only if you've read the other three. Actually, you could get away with just reading "Ravenheart" and "Stormrider", and missing out the first books, "Sword in the Storm" and "Midnight Falcon" - but you'd be a fool to do that.

Posted by se71 at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2008

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane

Mystic River - Dennis Lehane

Book 33 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

I like a good thriller once in a while - not too many, but when my mind is chock full of lightspeed spaceships genetically enhanced mutants, sometimes I need a break, and I find these kinds of books light relief.

This one hit the spot nicely and was another of my beach reads on my annual holiday. I chose it because I have seen Lehane's name around the bookshops for years, because I've heard good things about the Clint Eastwood movie it was made into, and because it was very cheap in a secondhand bookshop.

"One of the finest novels I've read in ages" says the blurb on the back. Well, let's not get carried away shall we - that reviewer obviously has poor judgement or has made some very unlucky choices in books lately. It's a competent thriller, no more, no less. It tries to be more, tries very hard, and almost succeeds. Maybe the film managed to distil the best parts. Don't get me wrong - it is a good book and I enjoyed reading it a lot. At over 500 pages it isn't short but it kept me going with no flagging.

The story is about three men, who suffered a trauma as boys, and drifted apart. But as adults living in the same neighbourhood, they are all still connected, and become more so when a murder is committed. One man is a cop, another a criminal, both want to solve the crime their way.

It's tense stuff, and you'll be kept guessing what really happened all the way. So enjoyable definitely, like an episode of CSI or Law and Order, but it's no Godfather.

Posted by se71 at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2008

Ravenheart - David Gemmell

Ravenheart - David Gemmell

Book 32 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

This is book three in the Rigante series. I read the first two earlier in the year, and finished off the series with Stormrider right after this one. Both these were read by a beach in the Caribbean, not that that matters, but it helps explain how I got through them so quickly.

Set a few hundred years after the previous adventures, the heroes tales are almost legend to the people of the Rigante. we're still in a feudal setting, with warriors and a bit of magic. We get a brand new hero in Jaim Grymauch who is almost a match for Druss himself.

As usual, Gemmell delivers. Unfortunately, the connections to the previous books are a bit too thin to make it a proper series in my eyes - but that is a very small criticism.

Posted by se71 at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2008

PPP - Perfect Printer Position

I've just been doing book reviews here recently, and mostly these are for my benefit. I haven't stopped having ideas for other bits and bobs, but kinda lost the mojo to write them up due to a complete lack of apparent readership.

But, I'm bored, so here's my idea for today.

In an office, you need to print things occasionally. For me, it's usually just one or two pages (etickets for flights, timesheets, invoices etc). The nearest printer may be right across the room, or only a few steps away. When you click "Print" on the computer there is a bit of processing, then the page gets sent across the network, and the printer wakes up and eventually spits out the page you want.

What you don't want is to walk over to the printer, and then have to wait there ages for the page to come out. You also don't want private information coming out too quickdy so that it can be intercepted by another party before you can reach it. You want to get there just as it's ejected.

So for every desk/office/network/computer/printer configuration, there is a PPP (perfect printer position) which means that the length of time it takes you to walk over to the printer, is exactly the same time as the time it takes for the page to get printed.

Why bring this up today? My desk at my new office is at the exact perfect PPP :-)

Posted by se71 at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - July 2008

Only 3 books this month. The Kingsolver was recommended by a friend, and I loved the first 2/3 a lot - really worthwhile. It waned a bit after that, but was a very good read overall. Steinbeck I've had on my list forever, and it was good to finally tackle this giant - a very interesting and well written book. Alice Munro is on pretty depressing form, always good with her short stories, but it would be nice if she would lighten up occasionally.

August might be better, two weeks on the beach to read, but what to take? If I take War And Peace, I'll probably not finish it. Decisions, Decisions.

28 The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
29 Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
30 The Love Of A Good Woman by Alice Munro

Posted by se71 at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)

Quake - Richard Laymon

Quake - Richard Laymon

Book 31 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

I read a fantastically funny/creepy/perverted horror book by Richard Laymon called "Island" many years ago. I've tried a few others over the intervening years, but nothing has ever come close to that first one.

Laymon is a great writer and gives plenty of suspense and adrenalin pumping prose, but a novel needs more than that. There is a great big hole in the center of "Quake" which never gets filled in. Why would an earthquake cause people to suddenly turn into murdering savages? A certain amount of looting and pillaging might be expected when it's first realised that the police are far too busy to chase down and catch everyone. In this story, the quake causes masses of people go completely homicidally crazy. But not all of them - many are unaffected.

It is left to the reader to speculate on the causes of this frenzy, but we just do not have enough information. even when you get to the end, and I won't give that away, you haven't enough to go on give any kind of closure to the story. I found this aspect very frustrating.

Some of the action is pretty good, Laymon can build tension and excitement. But a lot of the situations are very contrived and unrealistic. As in the famous comic strip 'Jane' from years ago - the girls seem to lose their clothes for no good reason quite a lot of the time.

Definitely an 'X' rated book, and unfortunately, not a great read.

Posted by se71 at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)