Russia yesterday

13 01 2017

Archangel by Robert Harris

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A number one bestseller from the award-winning master of the literary and historical thriller genre: Robert Harris. A gripping, thrilling explosion into Russia’s mysterious history…

When historian Fluke Kelso learns of the existence of a secret notebook belonging to Josef Stalin he is determined to track it down, whatever the consequences. From the violent political intrigue and decadence of modern Moscow he heads north – to the vast forests surrounding the White Sea port of Archangel, and a terrifying encounter with Russia’s unburied past.

 

Can’t go wrong with a Robert Harris – a terrific, fast-paced thriller with an academic at the centre of things uncovering hidden Russian history. Highly entertaining and thoroughly gripping, this really is a great yarn.

stars-4-0._V5268001_





Helpful advice: approximation of a playlist §68

11 01 2017

Songs concerned with providing helpful advice

 

Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing – Incognito
You Can’t Hurry Love  – Diana Ross & The Supremes
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones
Don’t Marry Her – The Beautiful South
Honey Be Good – The Bible
Don’t look back in anger  – Oasis
Your Mother Should Know – The Beatles
Don’t Sleep In The Subway – Petula Clark
Treat Her Like A Lady – The Temptations
Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington – Vic Reeves
Drive Safely Darlin’  – Tony Christie

 

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Handle with Care – Travelling Wilburys
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Your Mother Should Know – The Beatles
Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time – Nancy Sinatra
White Lines (Don’t Do It) – Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel
Don’t cry for me Argentina  – Julie Covington
You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
Billy Don’t Be A Hero – Paper Lace
Don’t talk – 10,000 Maniacs

 
Wise words indeed.





First in the chart

10 01 2017

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks

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The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they’ve made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations, though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted – dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.

It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.

Bit of a guilty pleasure this for me. Always been a fan of Iain Banks both with and without the ‘M’ (the  former were his science fiction writings) and this Culture novel really didn’t disappoint. The totality of the universe Banks created here and in the earlier Culture books is really hugely impressive (as well as being extremely cool) and the storytelling excellent.

four stars





Secrets and lies

6 01 2017

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

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Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture – leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin’s successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that are unable to forgive or forget Stalin’s tyranny so easily, that demand revenge of the most appalling nature.

Meanwhile, former MGB officer Leo Demidov is facing his own turmoil. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his involvement in the murder of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa and their family are in grave danger from someone with a grudge against Leo. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.

A cracking tale and really entertaining. Lots of twists and turns in a very uncertain world. Strongly recommended follow up to Child 44.

 

four stars

 





Truly, a nomad

2 01 2017

I, Nomad by Alan Partridge

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The deeply personal follow-up to Alan Partridge’s deeply personal autobiography, I, PARTRIDGE, charting the highs, lows and mediums of his one-man walking tour around (certain parts of) Britain. Alan Partridge presents Mid Morning Matters on North Norfolk Digital. Broadcaster, writer, motivational speaker, sports fan, thought-leader, businessman and consummate professional, Alan enjoys bitter shandy, shandied lager, high-end knitwear and personal success. He is currently doing very well.

It is, as the blurb says, deeply personal as Alan follows in his father’s footsteps in walking from Norwich to Dungeness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder what you are doing reading yet another autobiographical piece from a fictional broadcaster and thought leader. Very funny in places though.

stars-3-5.





Ruined

1 01 2017

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

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A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the twentieth century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.

Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd’s adored younger brother – but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own. Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the most exceptional novelists of our age.

I do think Atkinson is a very good writer indeed and this is another really impressive novel. It’s clever, witty, poignant in places and a really good read. Just struggle a little to match the book to the hype of some of the reviews. But not really ruined…

stars-3-5

 





Is that a code?

31 12 2016

Enigma by Robert Harris

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A gripping World War II mystery novel with a cryptographic twist, Enigma‘s hero is Tom Jericho, a brilliant British mathematician working as a member of the team struggling to crack the Nazi Enigma code. Jericho’s own struggles include nerve-wracking mental labour, the mysterious disappearance of a former girlfriend, the suspicions of his coworkers within the paranoid high-security project, and the certainty that someone close to him, perhaps the missing girl, is a Nazi spy. The plot is pure fiction but the historical background, Alan Turing’s famous wartime computing project that cracked the German U-boat communications code, is real and accurately portrayed. Enigma is convincingly plotted, forcefully written, and filled with well-drawn characters; in short, it’s everything a good techno-mystery should be.

Not quite sure about the “techno-mystery” categorisation but it is a classic Robert Harris tale with plenty of historical detail around what is now a well-known operation. Perhaps not Harris’s best but still a gripping yarn.

stars-3-5








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