The Amulet Of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) (Jonathan Stroud)

This novel is set in a modern-day London that is ruled by Magicians. It is written from the perspective of a djinni (demon) and an undervalued magician’s apprentice. It’s tempting to compare the book to the Harry Potter series. Young boy. Magic. Sneaking around. Breaking the rules. Stern teachers. But the similarities really end there. What’s obvious is that Stroud can write about a complex world (and one I want to know more about) and making it interesting and funny. I’m used to slow beginnings in fantasy but this one started with a bang.
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The Making Of John Lennon (Francis Kenny)

Lennon’s legacy is a warm, fuzzy pacifism, a hedonistic refusal to commit yourself to anything. He’s the icon of escapism. There are millions of decrepit baby boomers who subscribe to his ethos (most of them Cosmopolitan readers), but he’s definitely not an icon for 2017. The ’causes’ he once espoused, planted in his head by a whispering Japanese con artistè: peace (in our time?), lurve (yucky orgies) & ball-busting feminism have mostly been discredited since Mark David Chapman bust a nut that night in front of the Dakota. I say it’s not “too soon” to take a pop at this champ: John lies on the slag heap of 20th century history. [Read more…]

A Voyage To Arcturus (David Lindsay)

“You may be sure that a question which requires music for an answer can’t be put into words.” Wish I’d written that! The Scottish writer David Lindsay died in 1945. He is usually regarded as a fantasy writer. While he wrote a great deal, most of his works have been hard to find, out-of-print, neglected. Voyage to Arcturus is the exception, having become a bit of a cult classic and reprinted again and again in paperback editions. Everything follows a dream-logic, which is to say no recognizable logic at all, but one that nevertheless begins to feel internally consistent. More than a parable, the entire novel feels like a transcribed dream.
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Falconer (John Cheever)

So here, then, is a John Cheever’s great penal novel. Or should I say, penile novel. Yes, yes, the pun is too obvious to be anything but unfunny. But it’s just shouting from the eaves to be thrust into the spotlight. This is primarily because one cannot turn a page without finding cocks, balls, erections, ejaculations, peckers, dicks, tumescences, foreskins, pissings, and yes, at least one anal intrusion by a phallic object. What would I expect, I suppose, from a prison novel. I’ve heard that song by Tool. I’ve seen Oz. I know what goes on there (or so I’ve heard). [Read more…]

The Wine-Dark Sea (Robert Aickman)

Dipped into this short story collection as the mood struck me. Each story was 30-40 pages of horror, called more exactly supernatural or “strange”. Each concerns a character or characters who meet with a strange, otherworldly person, thing or events and their reactions to what they come upon. Endings are open-ended, not neatly tied up. The horror is subtle and creeps up on you. Aickman is a master in this genre; not for him the bloodfests of recent horror literature and movies. The writing conveys just the right amount of creepiness. [Read more…]

The Passenger (Lisa Lutz)

book cA fun 304 page romp. Tanya Pitts husband is dead at the bottom of the stairs. She assumes he fell down them, because she had nothing to do with his death. Instead of calling the police, she decides to “cut and run” as the Americans say. She packs a bag, grabs what money she can find and takes off into the night. It becomes apparent early on that this isn’t the first time Tanya has had to run. After making a phone call to a mysterious man, she requests a new name with credentials and some cash. Hair coloured, disposable phones in hand, Amelia Keen is born and off to find a new back roads town to start over in. The big question is why?
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The Dark Room (Minette Walters)

This book gave my brain cells a real work out. The first page is an attention grabber – two children having underage sex, the girl sullenly pulling up her knickers while taunting the boy’s inability to last more than three minutes. But this fun opening is not the real plot dynamic: a woman wakes up in a hospital with amnesia and is told she tried to kill herself. Also, her friend and her fiance are dead. Did she kill them, or is she being framed? You have to be very alert reading this book, as events are presented out of sequence, and times and dates of actions are important. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? It kept me guessing right up until the end. This is a psychological thriller, where you are invited to be a] the protagonist b] the police inspector and c] the protagonist’s psychiatrist. Got it? [Read more…]

4:50 From Paddington (Agatha Christie)

One of the major joys of Christie’s books is that they manage the difficult feat of being full of corpses and yet free of angst – a trick the Golden Age authors excelled in and modern authors seem to have forgotten. Miss Marple (our “old pussy” as she’s referred to in the book) is at the absolute top of her game. She gives us some nice village parallels to shed light on the characters of the suspects; she twinkles affectionately at both young Inspector Craddock and Lucy; she does a bit of gentle match-making; and she gives us some very ambiguous pronouncements that leave the reader as beautifully baffled as the other characters. [Read more…]

Revenge Of The Manitou (Graham Masterton)

The 71 year old Edinburgh-born author has an unusual pedigree. He used to write sex books like How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – 3 million copies of that one sold. He was also heavily involved as an editor for porn mags like Mayfair and Penthouse too. Then he became a prolifically successful horror novel writer. Interesting…anyway, this follow up to his earlier The Manitou is much more entertaining. At first I was leery as the book opened with the focus on an eight-year old protagonist, but I quickly warmed-up to Toby and the Fenner clan.  [Read more…]

A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days. [Read more…]

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