The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

The True Deceiver

 
The True Deceiver - Tove Jansson, Thomas Teal, Ali Smith

bookshelves: winter20092010, fraudio, published-1982, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, translation, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, next

Read in December, 2009


Publisher description:
Deception—the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we tell others—is the subject of this, Tove Jansson’s most unnerving and unpredictable novel. Here Jansson takes a darker look at the subjects that animate the best of her work, from her sensitive tale of island life, The Summer Book, to her famous Moomin stories: solitude and community, art and life, love and hate.

Snow has been falling on the village all winter long. It covers windows and piles up in front of doors. The sun rises late and sets early, and even during the day there is little to do but trade tales. This year everybody’s talking about Katri Kling and Anna Aemelin. Katri is a yellow-eyed outcast who lives with her simpleminded brother and a dog she refuses to name. She has no use for the white lies that smooth social intercourse, and she can see straight to the core of any problem. Anna, an elderly children’s book illustrator, appears to be Katri’s opposite: a respected member of the village, if an aloof one. Anna lives in a large empty house, venturing out in the spring to paint exquisitely detailed forest scenes. But Anna has something Katri wants, and to get it Katri will take control of Anna’s life and livelihood. By the time spring arrives, the two women are caught in a conflict of ideals that threatens to strip them of their most cherished illusions.

BBC description: Winter settles over the Swedish fishing village of Västerby. Katri offers to run errands for the ageing artist who lives on the outskirts. But what does this strange young woman want in return from Anna Aemelin?

Indira Varma reads from the novel by Tove Jansson. Abridged by Jeremy Osborne.

On her very first visit to the rabbit house, Katri identifies just which window will be the window of Mats’ new bedroom. The manipulative skills of the sociopath are very cleverly displayed by Jansson and one cannot help but feel sorry for Anna at the halfway mark.

Didn’t like this one at all.

3* Finn Family Moomintroll (The Moomins, #3)
5* Moominland Midwinter (The Moomins, #6)
3* Moominvalley in November (The Moomins, #9)

4* The Summer Book
3* Travelling Light
1* The True Deceiver
CR The Listener

Research by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Dedication:

For Harry Armfield

Description: If you want to write a murder mystery, you have to do some research… In a luxury flat in Monaco, John Houston’s supermodel wife lies in bed, a bullet in her skull. Houston is the world’s most successful novelist, the playboy head of a literary empire that produces far more books than he could ever actually write. Now the man who has invented hundreds of best-selling killings is wanted for a real murder and on the run from the police, his life transformed into something out of one of his books. And in London, the ghostwriter who is really behind those books has some questions for him too…

Opening: It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once said that in writing you must kill all your darlings; it was Mike Munns – another writer, but like me, not half as good as Faulkner – who made a joke out of this quote when he telephoned my flat in Putney that Tuesday morning.

Ironical it is that this story is published ~ nine months after Prayer. The blurb for ‘Research’ includes this: a book factory publishing many bestsellers a year – so many that he can’t possibly write them himself. Heh.

‘Research’ is a standalone book with unsympathetic, two-dimensional characters and the ugliest cynicism towards the written word and mentality of readers I have ever encountered. I can’t work out if it is full-on satire or just partial but the outcome is the same, readers will be insulted.

Every behaviour has its impact.

Mainly this is an attack on all those combo authorships of test-tosh thrillers that churn out many books a year, yet Kerr is in his own firing line, two crap books in a year.

I took time out half way through just to pick up other stories to reassure myself that some authors still feel passionate about writing and care for their readers; what a breath of fresh air.

Although technically this is marginally a better book than ‘Prayer’ purely because it doesn’t bring Old Scratch out to play, ‘Research’ flat-lined out of any enjoyment factor. There wasn’t enough good stuff to make a feedback sandwich so I’ll just deliver the line: cynicism, snark, distain for readers, and authorial career suicide is not a pretty thing to witness.

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
1* Research

A Song for Issy Bradley

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d8dvt

Description: This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies.

It is the story of Ian – husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop – and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire’s lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what’s happened.

It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley’s first love, the story of Alma Bradley’s cynicism and reluctant bravery, and it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. But mostly it’s the story of a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has fallen apart.

Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and sharply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley, explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith. Author Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her debut short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel.

1/10 It is little Jacob’s birthday, and he wants all the family to have breakfast together.

2/10 Claire is trying to keep control of Jacob’s birthday party, and Issy says she feels unwell

3/10 Issy has been rushed to hospital suffering from meningitis. She is in critical condition.

4/10 It is Issy’s funeral, but little Jacob is hatching a plan to make everything better.

It wouldn’t be the first time that my reticence would be proven unfounded and it was that reasoning that I embarked upon this Book at Bedtime insert. Unfortunately it was as dismal as the description makes out, a real playing on the heart-strings. It is fair to say I am not the target audience here. Abandoned at 40%

NEXT!

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2008, surrey, britain-england, radio-4, period-piece, abandoned, next, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost

Read from August 02 to 11, 2014

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009fsnr

Description: 1957, and Lewis Aldridge is travelling back to his home in the South of England. He is straight out of jail and nineteen years old. His return will trigger the implosion not just of his family, but of a whole community.

A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming casts a different shape. The war is over and Gilbert has recently been demobbed. He reverts easily to suburban life – cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays – but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.

Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she has been dealt by her own father’s hand. Lewis’s grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to predict the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.

As menacing as it is beautiful, The Outcast is a devastating portrait of small-town hypocrisy from an astonishing new voice.

Even with the lovely Emma Fielding reading and the Surrey location, I just could not warm to this at all. NEXT

The Merchant’s House (Wesley Peterson, #1) by Kate Ellis

 

Read by Graham Roberts. 9 hours 15 mins

Synopsis: A black policeman from the Met might expect to meet some resistance, when he’s transferred to a West Country seaside town. But, for Detective Sergeant Wesley Peterson, it’s like coming home. Not only was he at university in the area, one of the first people he bumps into is an old friend. Neil is now heading an archaeological dig at a Tudor merchant’s house, and Wes has to tear himself away to meet the rest of his new team. It’s all friendly faces here too – except one. But DC Steve Carstairs has “pillock” written all over him; there’ll be no problem dealing with him. And, there’s no time for trouble to brew, as Wes is immediately involved in a major search for a missing child. The tension is mounting when a body is found – but to Wes’s relief it’s turned up at the dig, and is over four hundred years old. It seems to be a tragic murder nonetheless, for the bones turn out to be of a strangled young woman and a newborn baby. But, until little Jonathan Berrisford is found, Wes has no time for distractions. But as another, more recent body is found, and the circumstances surrounding the Berrisford child’s disappearance become more complex, Wes is more and more convinced that the age-old motives of jealousy, sexual obsession and desperate longing for a child are behind the crimes, ancient and modern, that he must solve soon if further tragedy is to be averted. One thing is for sure – The Met is beginning to look like a rest cure in comparison with sleepy old Devon…

 photo cal.gifPedestrian 2.5* NEXT!

2.5* – The Merchant’s House (Wesley Peterson, #1)
2* – The Shining Skull (Wesley Peterson, #11)

The Miniaturist

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, historical-fiction, dutch, art-forms, fradio, glbt, arch, overwrought, empty, next

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 11 to August 02, 2014

 

Lookedinto-decidedagainst: ‘This has to be one over the most over-hyped debut novels I have ever read’: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

Well, the above was written before Laura gave the heads up that it is BABT next week so I will give it a whirl. Will my initial verdict be the correct one? Emilia Fox narrating is one enormous plus point!

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04b3tyw

Description: On a cold autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of the Dutch East India Company’s most successful merchant trader : Johannes Brandt. But her lavishly furnished new home is not welcoming, and its inhabitants seem preoccupied with their own secrets. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office which leaves Nella isolated in the grand house on the canal with his sister, the sharp-tongued Marin and Otto and Cornelia their servants as company.

Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny and intricate creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

But as she starts to receive unexpected and unasked for items for her ‘toy house’ Nella becomes aware that the Brandt household contains unusual secrets and she begins to understand – and fear- the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society conformity is all. Neighbours are encouraged to spy on each other, excavating ‘the canker’ of sin. The packages from the mysterious miniaturist begin to reveal chillingly prophetic objects but Nella remains at a loss as to what they all mean.

Dutch dollhouse from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

1/10 Amsterdam, 1686: Nella is welcomed into married life with a strange and lavish present.

2/10 Nella continues to wonder when her husband is going to consummate their marriage.

3/10 The unlooked for package from the miniaturist has unnerved Nella, but she can’t help but be seduced by the intricate craftsmanship.

4/10 Rejected by her husband, Nella continues to feel alone in the city.

5/10 Nella decides to pay a visit to her husband at the offices of the Dutch East India Company

6/10 While Johannes is in Venice, an unwelcome visitor arrives at the Brandt household.

7/10 Nella discovers Marin’s secret, but does she fully understand its implications?

8/10 With Johannes under arrest, Nella must do what she can to sell the sugar before it rots.

9/10 The burgomasters of Amsterdam are determined to uphold their city’s god-fearing reputation

10/10 Nella bids her husband farewell and welcomes the new arrival.

my musical interpretation

Couldn’t for one minute buy into this, however it made pleasant listening and I’m sure that is not how Ms Burton wanted it. C’est la vie, cher sucre!

Ooo – only the two doll’s houses and both of those are for this production and narrator.

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon

 

Narrated by Carrington McDuffy

Description: “Miss Manners with Fangs.” —LA Weekly We live in a world that’s very different from the one in which Emily Post came of age. Many of us who are nice (but who also sometimes say “f*ck”) are frequently at a loss for guidelines about how to be a good person who deals effectively with the increasing onslaught of rudeness we all encounter.
To lead us out of the miasma of modern mannerlessness, science-based and bitingly funny syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon rips the doily off the manners genre and gives us a new set of rules for our twenty-first century lives.
With wit, style, and a dash of snark, Alkon explains that we now live in societies too big for our brains, lacking the constraints on bad behavior that we had in the small bands we evolved in. Alkon shows us how we can reimpose those constraints, how we can avoid being one of the rude, and how to stand up to those who are.
Foregoing prissy advice on which utensil to use, Alkon answers the twenty-first century’s most burning questions about manners, including: * Why do many people, especially those under forty, now find spontaneous phone calls rude? * What can you tape to your mailbox to stop dog walkers from letting their pooch violate your lawn? * How do you shut up the guy in the pharmacy line with his cellphone on speaker? * What small gift to your new neighbors might make them think twice about playing Metallica at 3 a.m.? Combining science with more than a touch of humor, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is destined to give good old Emily a shove off the etiquette shelf (if that’s not too rude to say).

Twenty odd minutes into this and I can tell this is not for me at this time.

Eyrie by Tim Winton

bookshelves: published-2013, lit-richer, fraudio, contemporary, australia, midlife-crisis, teh-demon-booze, next, abandoned

Read from March 03 to 05, 2014

 

rosado mp3. Read by Michael Veech (sp?)

Description: Eyrie is beautifully written and wonderfully funny and marks the return of master storyteller Tim Winton. Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who’s lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with. He’s cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way that he doesn’t understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in. What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting – populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Zikes, the opening tips one straight into an overblown thesaurus session voiced by a whiny middle-aged self indulgent waster. Surely I must have to give it more than 10 minutes to be fair :O/

[not much later] I think this is where Winton and I agree that we are wanting to go to different horizons.

2* Land’s Edge
AB Eyrie

The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms: How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century But Didn’t Mean To by Ian Thornton

2 of 5 stars bookshelves: summer-2014, e-book, net-galley, wwi, published-2013, next

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Ellinor
Read from July 07 to 10, 2014


HarperCollins UK. The Friday Project.

Description: Johan Thoms (pronounced Yo-han Tomes) was born in Argona, a small town twenty-three miles south of Sarajevo, during the hellish depths of winter 1894.

Little did he know that his inability to reverse a car would change the course of 20th Century History forever…

Johan Thoms is poised for greatness. A promising student at the University of Sarajevo, he is young, brilliant, and in love with the beautiful Lorelei Ribeiro. He can outwit chess masters, quote the Kama Sutra, and converse with dukes and drunkards alike. But he cannot drive a car in reverse. And as with so much in the life of Johan Thoms, this seemingly insignificant detail will prove to be much more than it appears. On the morning of June 28, 1914, Johan takes his place as the chauffeur to Franz Ferdinand and the royal entourage and, with one wrong turn, he forever alters the course of history.

Opening to the prologue: 2009, Northern England: I sat with my grandfather Ernest in a very comfortable, spacious ward in the hospital in Goole. The doctors had said he would not live for longer than a week.

Goole is as Goole sounds, a dirty-grey inland port in Yorkshire not far from England’s east coast. More than one hundred years earlier Count Dracula might well have grimaced on his way through, en route from Whitby to Carfax Abbey.

The idea behind this story is a feasible up to a point; I couldn’t buy into the whole quilt trip that Johan took upon himself and which subsumed the rest of his life.

The modern flippant tone does not help immerse the reader into the period, and one-liners akin to a Friday night Workingman’s Club stand-up comedian completely ruined the spell for me.

Timely publication to cash in on the hundred year anniversary, and that cover is splendid, however that strapline ‘How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century But Didn’t Mean To’ is clunky isn’t it.

In the interests of honest reviewing I can only give two black pawns as a rating.

Book trailer