Friday, 27 May 2011

The Flood by Ian Rankin - Book Review






Publisher's write-up



Mary Miller has always been an outcast. As a child, she fell into the hot burn – a torrent of warm chemical run-off from the local coal mine – and her hair turned white. Tnitially she was treated with sympathy, but all that changed a few days later, when the young man who pushed her in died in an accident.



Now, many years later, Mary is a single mother caught up in a faltering affair. Her son, Sandy, has fallen in love with a strange homeless girl – and both mother and son are forced to come to terms with a dark secret from Mary's past”



The Flood is the first book of the British author Ian Rankin, known for writing crime novels and is the best-selling crime novel writer in the United Kingdom.



The Flood was my first published novel. It's not a crime novel, though it contains secrets and revelations. Nor is it a thriller. Fair warning : it's a young man's book, all about the perils and pitfalls of growing up.”

  • Ian Rankin



The main characters in this book are Mary Miller and Sandy, who is Mary's son. Mary is a single mother, who is around 30, but has white hair. This is because, she was pushed into the waste water from the coal mines known as “Hot Burn” and her hair turned white. Sandy is her son, who was born to her when she was fifteen. Sandy is hard-working, but may not be all that intelligent. It is mentioned that he had “rote answers” for his exam and he forgets those answers after the exam is over. He also liked English and was good at writing essays and poems.



The story happens in Carsden, a fictitious village in Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom. It was a coal mining village and people in the village were satisfied but all of a sudden, there was a bolt from the blue. The National Coal Board issued an order to stop mining at Carsden because “mining coal at Carsden is more expensive than a tonne of coal at the market price”. Thus, the whole village was ruined by economics, people lost their jobs, they had no other skills and the youngsters had to move out of Carsden. Mary's own brother, Tom, moved to Canada.



The Story has three parts - The Falling Time – 1963 – 1969 ; Sandy – 1985 ; The Flood – 1985.



Mary Miller was lured to the “hot burn” and was pushed into it and because of the shock, her hair had turned white. Initially, the people of the village had sympathy for her. Later, the man who had pushed her had died in a coal mine accident. Her father had committed suicide, presumably, ashamed of her pregnancy. Hence, the people of Carsden considered her to be someone who brought bad luck along with her and was considered a witch. She tries hard to make the people of the village accept Sandy and her, but Sandy has fallen in love with a gypsy girl, and Mary thinks that if people come to know of this, her work, of all these years, of making people trying to accept the two, would be destroyed. But Sandy is resilient.



The author has already mentioned it and I'm merely repeating, this book is neither a crime novel nor a thriller but it does have some secrets and revelations. The author has definitely managed to grip the reader's fingers to the pages of the book by making him / her read to find out what are those. The character of Sandy may have also been autobiographical and I'm coming to this conclusion just because Sandy likes English and writes well. There might have also been a philosophical angle, how an economist, with his / her scheme, can bring glory to the nation at the expense of the country's own people.



  The language was brilliant in this book, but it was expected, considering the author. I liked the usage of “double negatives” -  for example - “he couldn't not take one”. The village and characters were described so well. But for that, I'd say that there was nothing special in this book. This is a very ordinary narrative. To keep the book interesting, there are several things mentioned in this book but it is ignored thereby becoming a loose end. Moreover, I do not know if I'm wrong, but I find this to be a logical flaw – Mary's income. She is not working, according to the minister of the Kirk, and she doesn't use the money sent by her brother to her bank account. But, she had all the modern gadgets(modern gadgets of 1985) and said that she had enough money. The end was also a bit abrupt, as if the author had a target of 250 pages and he had to complete the story quickly. I tried, but I failed to find a relevance to the title considering the story.  



So, I'd say that this is a book with nothing special in it and one can choose to read this book if they have nothing else to read. It scores a four on ten only because of its language and the crooked skill of the author to somehow manage to make his reader's fingers gripped to the book which means that the reader never found the book to be too boring.



Rating : 4 / 10.




Have a nice day,

Andy

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman - Book Review








(Note : This is an independent review and hence certain things which are aforementioned in the review of The Ruby in the Smoke is repeated.)

Publisher's write-up



Jim Taylor, of Garland's Detective Agency, has tumbled into a whirl of high-society danger and deceit. Industrialist Axel Bellmann is about to be married into the aristocracy – he is the richest man in Europe, and his young bride looks as though she'd rather die... Meanwhile, Jim's associate Miss Sally Lockhart, is digging into things that a lot of people want to stay hidden. Together, their investigations are leading them to the heart of Bellmann's operation – and, eventually, to the terrifying secret of the Shadow in the North...”



  The Shadow in the North is a book written by the British author Philip Pullman, the author of the famous His Dark Materials Trilogy. It is the second book in the Sally Lockhart series and its prequel (The Ruby in the Smoke)'s review can be read here. This book has some amount of mystery, but it is more of a thriller unlike its prequel which was devoid of its thrill element. This would appeal to those who like mystery novels and those who like to read books that happen in the previous centuries.



The main characters in this book are Sally Lockhart, Frederick Garland, Jim Taylor, Alistair Mackinnon and Axel Bellmann. Sally Lockhart is a twenty two year old, is a financial consultant. She studied at Cambridge but didn't have a degree because at that time, women cannot obtain degrees from British universities. Her only companion in her office is a huge black dog named Chaka. She also has a stake in Frederick Garland's business. Unlike a woman of her time, she tried to earn her own living, use a pistol but over these six years, she has lost her assertiveness and she has started to depend on Frederick Garland, although she refuses to show it. Frederick Garland is a passionate photographer, who runs a business with his uncle, Webster. He is in love with Sally but she is not willing to accept his proposal yet. Jim Taylor had lost his job after The Ruby in the Smoke due to the liquidation of Lockhart and Selby.  He is currently a detective, working with Frederick Garland and also works in a theatre, helping the backstage activities. Alastair Mackinnon is a stage actor, a magician and also has some psychic powers. Axel Bellmann is the richest man in Europe, but he has achieved it only because of his cunning abilities. He is the main antagonist in this book.



The story happens in 1878, with Mrs Walsh, an old woman, a client of Sally, going to Sally's office. Sally had told her to invest in certain shares but those shares had crashed because of the sinking of a ship heading to the Baltic, Ingrid Linde. It was suspected by Sally that Axel Bellmann had a hand in this since he was the only beneficiary from this accident. Sally felt responsible for Mrs Walsh's loss and she took it up as her own responsibility to retrieve the money.



Alistair Mackinnon was going to be killed and he asked Jim to help him escape. Jim takes him to Garland and Lockhart's business place where he claims that he has psychic abilities and manages to convince Frederick and Webster Garland although Jim is not convinced. According to him, when he was in a theatre, through a matchbox, his psychic abilities made him see a man killing another man and there was snow all around. In the very next moment, he saw Axel Bellmann, the man whom Mackinnon had seen in his psychic vision. Bellmann knew that Mackinnon had found out something about him and had started chasing him.



Sally Lockhart is investigating all sorts of things about Bellmann and he threatens Sally Lockhart. Bellmann is going to marry Lady Mary, the daughter of Lord Wytham, a former minister of Her Majesty's Government. But she doesn't want to be married to Bellmann but Wytham is desperate because he has a lot of debts and Bellmann is willing to offer a lot of dowry.



During the course of the book and, Sally and her friends come across many ghastly incidents and revelations and if they have to win their battle against the spiteful Bellmann, they've to devise their own intelligent plot to pull him down.



Like its prequel, this book also scores well in the area – language and concept but the story, I feel there is a deterioration when it comes to story. There were digressions and also some loose ends. It didn't suffer any logical flaws. The book is getting these negative comments only because of its prequel but as a stand alone, this book is brilliant.



Overall, this is a very good book but because of its digressions and loose ends, this book doesn't score as high as its prequel and it gets an eight.



Rating – 8/10




Have a nice day,

Andy

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer - Book Review

(Sorry readers, since I couldn't find any proper Google Image, I had to scan my own two year old book)

Publisher's write-up

A CURIOUS YOUNG DETECTIVE

A NOTORIOUS CRIMINAL FAMILY

AND A PRETTY GIRL

IT ALL ADDS UP
TO JUST ONE THING . . .

TROUBLE
WITH A CAPITAL
T

Meet Fletcher Moon. Half-pint schoolboy and fully qualified private investigator. Since graduating online, he's solved all sorts of minor mysteries at home and at school. It was only a matter of time before things got serious.

These are strange days in the town of Lock. Something very special belonging to one April Devereux, has gone missing. Fletcher investigates – and the finger of suspicion is soon pointing firmly in the direction of the shady brothers Herod and Red Sharkey …”

The smallest detective in town on the biggest case of his life.”

Half Moon Investigations is a book written by Eoin Colfer, the author of the best-selling Artemis Fowl series. This book is still, a stand alone but I believe that it is likely to have a sequel considering the contents of the book's epilogue. This is a mystery novel, can be categorised under juvenile fiction. Unlike the other books of Eoin Colfer, this is not fantasy and for a change, he hasn't even tried bringing in any supernatural element.

Since this is a mystery novel, it won't be sensible to mention the protagonists and antagonists in the review. The main characters in this book are Fletcher Moon, Red Sharkey and the Devereux cousins (May and April). Fletcher Moon is a teenage (around twelve) investigator and is a qualified detective who is eligible to be a private detective in the United States as he successfully cleared the online tests set up by the legendary American detective, Bob Bernstein. Since he is a minor, he had to use his father's documents to take up the test and luckily, they share the same name. He is nicknamed “Half Moon” because he is short. Fletcher is a very formal person, his dress-code is different compared to his schoolmates, the way he speaks, his investigating procedures, etcetera. He is not physically strong or athletic. I think, Colfer has tried to make Fletcher a bit like Sherlock Holmes, trying to investigate every minute detail, trying to deduce everything from an empty piece of paper, etcetera. Although he is a qualified detective, he is only mocked by his classmates and not respected. Red Sharkey, is the son of the notorious criminal, Papa Sharkey and because of this background, he is the first suspect for any crime that happens. Unlike Fletcher, he is a very strong person, highly athletic and is also a very good singer. He is also not like his father, he is a bit more responsible and wanted his brother to stop following the footsteps of his father. The Devereux cousins (presumably, with a French descent) are popular, and are said to be pretty. April is a domineering person and she dominates her friends. May is the only one who defies April's orders and is also a dancer.

The story is based in the Irish town, Lock and Fletcher narrates the story. The story starts with a mystery in school, over a petty crime and Fletcher solves it. The objective of the author is maybe to just introduce Fletcher to his readers. The main plot begins very late, when Fletcher has been attacked, very brutally, and he lands up in the hospital with his face completely swollen. Unfortunately, he lands himself into more trouble. In his hand, he saw the impression “RED”(reversed) and immediately accused Red of attacking him with his club since in Red's club, the letters RED were carved. The impression would go off soon and he needed a camera to show his evidence. He knew that May had a camera and her house was very near to the hospital but by the time he reached there, he May's garden was on fire and since he was the only person around, he was accused of being the arsonist. Now, Fletcher had two tasks as a detective, one, finding the one who had assaulted Fletcher and he had assumed that the same person had set fire on May's garden. His second task was to clear himself off the charges and hence, he had to work undercover because the police are looking for him. The story also has a sub-plot which is also quite interesting.

I'd say that the ideal age for reading this book is between 8 – 14. Children in this age group may really find this book interesting but beyond that, people may find the plot to be too dull, even if not, suffers some logical flaws which an eight year old won't think of, such as, a twelve year old managing to deceive a “legendary” detective with his father's documents and getting himself certified, is not very logical (this is not the only one), but it is okay, for the ideal age group. The author managed to keep the book interesting nearly throughout the book and also managed to write a reasonably interesting sub-plot. The language, like any other Eoin Colfer book, has nothing special, but it is good, considering the fact that his target is not adults.

I'd conclude by saying that this book is not great, but it certainly is good. I may have felt this because the people whom I knew had said that this is Eoin Colfer's worst book but fortunately, I read this after reading “The Wish List” and I found this to be far better. Another reason why I liked this book is because every Eoin Colfer book is very similar, just like an old wine in a new bottle and therefore, he has made a decent attempt to expand his horizon. I feel that this is a good book and hence I'm awarding this book a 6/10.

Rating – 6 / 10


Have a nice day,

Andy

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer - Book Review




Publisher's write-up



MEG FINN IS IN TROUBLE. UNEARTHLY TROUBLE.



Meg's soul is up for grabs as Heaven and Hell try every sneaky trick imaginable to claim it. Helping a lonely old man complete tasks on his wish list is her only chance. But even if she takes that chance, will she really have enough points to face up to St. Peter?



An unforgettable and gritty tale of life, death and an unexpected hereafter by the bestselling author of Artemis Fowl”



The Wish List, is a novel written by the Irish author Eoin Colfer, who became famous after his success with Artemis Fowl. He writes fantasy and it is meant for children. Most of his books are categorised under “Young Fiction”.



So far, this book is a stand alone and I don't think that there is going to be a sequel. This book also falls into the usual Eoin Colfer categories,fantasy and juvenile fiction. This book also has occasional humour and doesn't have a sub-plot. This book will appeal to children aged 8 – 12.



Meg Finn, is just twelve, but her mother is dead and her step-father is useless and she hates him. She has a friend, Belch Brennan, who is a petty criminal. She asked him for a favour and in turn, she had to help him in his little thefts. The other character in this book is Lowrie McCall, a pensioner, on whose house there was a burglary attempt by Meg and Belch.



The story starts with Meg, Belch and Raptor(Belch's dog), breaking into Lowrie McCall's house. Lowrie's leg was attacked by Raptor and Meg insists on calling the ambulance, but Belch didn't want to draw attention and threatened Meg with his shotgun. He accidentally pulled the trigger and the bullet hits a gas tank. Raptor, Belch and Meg die, Lowrie becomes a cripple. Belch was directly sent to hell but since Meg good and evil side was in perfect balance, she was given another chance, as a ghost and she has to help out Lowrie McCall complete his Wish List. The wishes in his list include



  1. Kissy Sissy – Kiss Cicely Ward, a popular TV granny, who used to be Lowrie's lover, but he never managed to kiss her. Hence, he wanted to do it now.
  2. Kick a ball over the bar in Croke Park.
  3. Burst Ball – Brendan Ball has bullied Lowrie when they were in school. Now, Lowrie is seeking revenge and wanted to punch him on his face.
  4. Spit over the Cliffs of Moher. - Lowrie knew a rhyme where various tasks had been mentioned and he had accomplished all of them except this.

Meg is not unopposed in this. The lord of hell sends Belch to stop Meg from helping Lowrie complete his Wish List.



The story may not have has a good concept, but it certainly has a revolutionary concept. Afterlife was portrayed very differently in this book, it is also a place where things like computers exist. But for that, in my opinion, this book was terrible. There were several attempts made by the author to make this book interesting, where he mentions certain things, but forgets them after that and it just ends up becoming a loose end. Several things in this book had no logic, the wish list for example. Who would want to take revenge on a person after 40 years, just for bullying him in school. In fact, an old person would just be delighted to see an old schoolmate and of course, the other person also would not have any thoughts about bullying him at 60+. There was nothing special in the language. Despite that I'd say that it was good because the author's target is not adults, but children and considering that, he has written in simple English and occasionally, an elite word was used. This would also help them to improve their vocabulary and it is a better way of improving vocabulary instead of reading Charles Dickens' novels and referring the lexicon for every word.



To conclude, this is not a good book or maybe it is my mistake to have read it when I was sixteen. Even otherwise, I don't think that the plot would appeal that much to a 11 year old. For its revolutionary concept and writing according to the target, I'd not be giving this book a 1 / 10, but a 3 / 10.



Rating – 3 / 10




Have a nice day,

Andy

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman - Book Review







Publisher's write-up



Sally Lockhart is sixteen, an orphan and she's just struck a man dead. Not with a weapon, though she has a pistol, and probably the heart to use it. Sally killed Mr. Higgs with just three words – The Seven Blessings. Unfortunately, she still has no idea what they mean and why her father's colleague died of fear when he heard them. Sally only knows that she'll do anything, say anything, be anything to find out...”







The Ruby in the Smoke is a book written by the author of the author of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, Philip Pullman. This is the first book of the Sally Lockhart series, whose sequels are The Shadow in the North, Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess. This is a mystery novel and can be categorised under juvenile fiction.



The main character in this book is Sally Lockhart. She is around 16, and is more like a girl of today, unlike a girl of her time(late 18th century). She is brave, is willing to handle things on her own, knows to use a pistol , accounting and some Hindustani. The other protagonists in this book are Frederick Garland and Jim Taylor. Frederick Garland is a photographer and is a part of his uncle's business. He is highly passionate about his work and doesn't care about the profits that he makes. Jim Taylor is an office boy in Sally's father's office. Jim Taylor is a also a brave person, a good fighter and has a very good vocabulary.



The story happens in Victorian England, 1872 to be precise. Sally Lockhart's father, Captain Matthew Lockhart is dead. His ship had drowned in the East Indies. Sally's mother had died long ago, during the Sepoy mutiny in India, 1857. Sally is now an orphan, with no money and she is under the custody of an uncaring relative. Her father was in the army, and then, he had quit and started a partnership firm, with his friend Samuel Selby. Unfortunately, just before his expedition to the Far East, he had sold his partnership for 10,000 pounds and his lawyer doesn't know where the money is.



There is a ruby, which the British Forces had obtained, during the Mutiny from the Maharajah of Agrapur and the Ruby rightfully belongs to Sally, but she doesn't know where it is and there are several clues. She is not alone in this quest, she also makes a couple of friends. She didn't want to live with her relative and approached Garland, who gave her a room and she became an accountant in his firm. But, she does have an opposition. There is a woman named Mrs. Holland, who is willing to do anything to get the ruby. She has spies everywhere and doesn't care about killing people in order to get the ruby. If Sally has to win this battle, she has to defeat Mrs. Holland, which is not going to be an easy task.



The concept of this book is fantastic. It is not easy to write a story which happens in 1872 in the late 20th century. Along with the brilliant concept, the language, description of old London, characters, everything is just fantastic. The author has done a lot of research in the history of colonial Britain and has not made any factual error. The best thing about this book is it has only one theme, no digressions, no boring sub-plots, just 209 pages concentrating on this one theme.



This is an excellent book. I'm willing to suggest this book to anyone. Even if no one asks for a suggestion, I myself may suggest this book to someone. This book was so interesting that a slow reader like me could complete it over two days, four hours to be precise. Considering its concept, language, description, story, there is no reason for me to deny a 9 / 10 for this book.



Rating – 9 / 10




Have a nice day,

Andy

Day of Reckoning by Jack Higgins - Book Review






Publisher's Write-up



The incomparable Jack Higgins returns with a terrific new thriller, featuring his enigmatic hero Sean Dillon and a battle to defeat a Mafia don.



It's all action and suspense as Sean Dillon and his secret intelligence colleagues seek to help American White House security insider Blake Johnson avenge the death of his ex-wife, a reporter murdered for getting too close to a Mafia story.



In London, Beirut and Ireland, the daredevil friends are prepared to risk everything as they combine to thwart the ever more desperate ambition of Mafia frontman Jack Fox. But Fox has not become so powerful without learning a few tricks along the way. If Dillon and Johnson want to take him, they will have to face his personal brand of revenge. And it is a revenge every bit as deadly as their own.



Fast-paced and relentlessly gripping, Day of Reckoning is one of his finest works, destined to become yet another in a long line of international bestsellers.”



Day of Reckoning, is a book written by the British author, Jack Higgins and author who has written some best-selling books. This is Higgins' twenty-sixth novel and the eighth novel in the Sean Dillon series. According to the publisher, this book is supposedly a thriller, but I'd categorise this under the genre - “action”. It would appeal to people who like action movies.



This book features Sean Dillon, an ex-IRA person, who disliked killing innocent people in Ulster and hence, left IRA and decided to be a mercenary, who sold his services to various organisations, legal or illegal, he didn't care. In his life of crime, he was caught only once, at Bosnia by the Serbs and was sentenced to death. Brigadier Charles Ferguson, who was directly under the British Prime Minister decided to take him out of prison and in turn, Sean Dillon had to work for him. Sean Dillon says that he is a good actor and is also a good scuba diver. He is a person who doesn't care whether he lives or dies and hence, is an ideal mercenary.



The other main characters(protagonists) in this book are Blake Johnson, Charles Ferguson, Hannah Bernstein and Billy Salter and the only antagonist is Jack Fox, along with his aides.. Charles Ferguson is a Brigadier and he mainly wants to get his things done. He doesn't mind if his approach is unethical, for example, he doesn't mind hiring gangsters to take out gangsters. Hannah Bernstein is a Chief Superintendent in Scotland yard and she, on the other hand, gives respect to morals and values. She hesitates to do anything which is against the law and because of Sean Dillon's past, she is never willing t apologise him. Blake Johnson is an American, a friend of Dillon and Ferguson, is in charge of the President's personal force and is a close friend of the president and from what I could understand, for him, revenge is the priority. Billy Salter is petty criminal, nephew of an old fashioned criminal who runs a pub in London. Dillon hires him for his scuba diving abilities. Jack Fox, the main antagonist, is the frontman of the Solazzo family, a notorious mafia gang. He has a lot of illegal businesses and anyone who gets too close to him, is killed.



Coming to the plot, it starts when Blake Johnson's ex-wife, Kate Johnson is killed by Jack Fox's mafia gang for investigating into the businesses of the Solazzo family. Blake Johnson, who comes to know of this wants revenge. He gets the details about the businesses of the Solazzo family from the tapes that she had recorded and he didn't want to take revenge by killing him directly. He wanted to ruin him by destroying every business of his (this was Dillon's idea) and making him run out of cash and thereby, because of his failures, the old don of the Solazzo family, Don Marco Solazzo would take Fox out of the business. Most of the story takes place in London, but to destroy the mafia's businesses, the story also goes to Manhattan, Ireland, Cornwall and Lebanon. So to describe the plot in one line, “Fox attacks, Johnson and friends plan the counter-attack”. 



The language of the author was good although, in one place, he had written, “She was always chronically short of money”. When you say, “chronic”, you need not even supply the adjective “always”. But for that, the language was very good. I also believe, if you're not sure of something, it is better not to use it. The research work was good, in most cases, but what I'm particularly referring to here is in this book, there is a surgeon named “Daz”, who is supposed to be an Indian, but I've never heard of such a surname. The first name was never mentioned so, I assumed that he was an Indian Christian but, he also mentions that he is a Hindu. I've never heard of the Indian Hindu surname “Daz”. One thing to be appreciated is the author didn't digress from the main aim of the story. But, if you ask me, the “Publisher's write-up” is misleading. “Fox's own brand of revenge” - Yes, Fox did start very strongly, but as the story went on, he nearly became a forgotten character and made a cameo appearance in the end.



This book is not very boring, but there is nothing special in this. It may qualify for a Hollywood action movie and spending one and a half hours is not a problem but reading three 359 pages for such a book is certainly not worth it. It is as simple as this “Good fellows take out the bad fellows”. The appropriate age group for this book in my opinion is 15+.



I would not suggest anyone to buy this book but I feel it can be read once, by borrowing it from a library or a friend.



My rating – 4 / 10.




Have a nice day,

Andy

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