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

Bad Boy by Peter Robinson


Description: Banks’ old neighbour Juliet Doyle comes to tell him that found a gun, wrapped up, in her daughter Erin’s bedroom. Helen leads a raid on the house, resulting in Erin’s father Peter being tasered and ending up in hospital. Consequently Annie is asked to head an investigation into Helen’s decision. Erin tells the police she was given a parcel, unaware that it contained a gun, by older boy-friend Jaff Kitson. The gun was used to kill DJ Richard Martin and Banks makes a connection with villainous local businessman Al Jenkins. However Jenkins tells him that he sacked Kitson before the murder. A further interview with Erin reveals that Banks’ daughter Tracy has left town with Kitson – and she has told him that her father is a policeman.

Suspenseful episode. Two Smith and Wessons, and one and a half heart-attack inducing tasers.

3* Gallows View (Inspector Banks, #1)
3* A Dedicated Man (Inspector Banks, #2)
3* A Necessary End (Inspector Banks, #3)
TR The Hanging Valley (Inspector Banks, #4)
TR Past Reason Hated (Inspector Banks, #5)
3* Wednesday’s Child (Inspector Banks, #6)
3* Dry Bones That Dream (Inspector Banks, #7)
3* Innocent Graves (Inspector Banks, #8)
TR Blood At The Root (Inspector Banks, #9)
TR In A Dry Season (Inspector Banks, #10)
3* Cold Is The Grave (Inspector Banks, #11)
4* Aftermath (Inspector Banks, #12)
TR Close To Home (Inspector Banks, #13)
3* Playing With Fire (Inspector Banks, #14)
3* Strange Affair (Inspector Banks, #15)
3* Piece Of My Heart (Inspector Banks, #16)
3* Friend Of The Devil (Inspector Banks, #17)
TR All The Colours Of Darkness (Inspector Banks, #18)
3.5* Bad Boy (Inspector Banks, #19)

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

bookshelves: e-book, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, summer-2014, historical-fiction, love, published-2010, nutty-nuut, italy, debut, newtome-author

Recommended for: Laura, Wanda, Dagny, Karen Legge, Joy, Susanna
Read from March 03 to August 05, 2014


Description: An iridescent jewel of a novel that proves love is the mother of invention
In the early 1800s, a young Italian contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is going blind shortly before she marries the town’s most sought-after bachelor. Her parents don’t believe her, nor does her fiancé. The only one who understands is the eccentric local inventor and her longtime companion, Turri.

When her eyesight dims forever, Carolina can no longer see her beloved lake or the rich hues of her own dresses. But as darkness erases her world, she discovers one place she can still see-in her dreams. Carolina creates a vivid dreaming life, in which she can not only see, but also fly, exploring lands she had never known.

Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri invents a peculiar machine for her: the world’s first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will change both of their lives forever.


  for my mother: your trip to Italy

Opening quote:

‘Until morning comes say of the blind bird: His feet are netted with darkness, or he flies His heart’s distance in the darkness of his eyes.’

 — Wendell Berry, “Elegy”

Opening: ON THE DAY Contessa Carolina Fantoni was married, only one other living person knew that she was going blind, and he was not her groom.
This was not because she had failed to warn them.
“I am going blind,” she had blurted to her mother, in the welcome dimness of the family coach, her eyes still bright with tears from the searing winter sun. By this time, her peripheral vision was already gone. Carolina could feel her mother take her hand, but she had to turn to see her face. When she did, her mother kissed her, her own eyes full of pity.
“I have been in love, too,” she said, and looked away.

A tale as pure as the driven snow, and do you know what is even better? – The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is a fictionalised account of a real breakthrough in the printed word. From A Brief History of Typewriters:

‘But the first typewriter proven to have worked was built by the Italian Pellegrino Turri in 1808 for his blind friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano; unfortunately, we do not know what the machine looked like, but we do have specimens of letters written by the Countess on it. (For details, see Michael Adler’s excellent 1973 book The Writing Machine. Carey Wallace’s 2010 novel The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is based on the relationship between the Countess and Turri.)’

Loc 24/129: ‘The summer that Turri began to visit her lake, when she was sixteen, Carolina had no reason to believe that she was a favorite with Pietro. But she had several well-worn bits of hope.’

Charmingly envisaged without playing to heavy romantic conjecture, this is a lovely short read. Three prototype typewriters that aid the blind.

The Last Matchmaker: The Heart-Warming True Story of the Man Who Brought Love to Ireland by Willie Daly

bookshelves: autobiography-memoir, fradio, love, nonfiction, published-2010, summer-2014, amusing

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 20 to 27, 2014

Dermot Crowley reads from the memoir by traditional Irish matchmaker Willie Daly. Telling tall tales of true love, this is a fascinating journey through modern rural Ireland and its recent past.

Abridged by David Jackson Young.

Episode 1: A star added just for the Waterboys theme tune

Episode 2: Willie is inducted into the family business by his grandfather.

Episode 3: How the cultural and social changes of the 1960s began to impact on life in rural Ireland.

Episode 4: Willie’s father made his last match a month before he died – finding a wife for his son.

Episode 5: A salutary tale warning against messing with the path of true love.

Murder on Lexington Avenue (Gaslight Mystery, #12) by Victoria Thompson

Murder on Lexington Avenue - Victoria Thompson

bookshelves: published-2010, tbr-busting-2014, series, newtome-author, new-york, mystery-thriller, north-americas, cosy, period-piece

Read from June 10 to 11, 2014


Narrated by Susanna Torran

Description: When a wealthy businessman is murdered, Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy is assigned to investigate, even though the crime is out of his jurisdiction. The reason he soon realizes, is that the man has a deaf daughter—and it is well known that Malloy’s own son attends the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.

The victim sent the girl to a rival institution, with different views on the deaf, and was an influential supporter of their program. So it is possible that the killer might be affiliated with his son’s school. Or it might be a family member. Or a business rival. It’s a difficult case—but one that Malloy is sure will not involve Sarah Brandt. Until the new widow goes into labor while he is interviewing her, and refuses to send for her own physician…

So Malloy calls upon Sarah. Finding herself in an unfamiliar world, where those who can hear refuse to listen to those who cannot, she must determine who is right and who is innocent before she and Malloy can ever hope to find the killer.

Starting: Here I go again, jumping into the middle of a series. Sarah Brandt is a midwife set in turn-of-the-century New York City.

At the end: The line up looked good: 3.89* covered by 1,281 ratings, however I had little to no interest in the story. So whilst this is a series, the crime in this book was a standalone and as such it was micturation poor. Could be it is the over-arching personal details that keeps the readers of this series happy and I have missed out on all the social gleedom *shrug*

Istanbul: City of Two Continents

bookshelves: turkish-and-or-ottoman-root, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, summer-2014, istanbul, published-2010

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 29 to June 04, 2014


Series of short stories marking Istanbul’s tenure as European Capital of Culture in 2010.

Episode 1: The Byzantine Passage. A young girl’s life changes forever when she glimpses the man to whom she is betrothed. By Jenny White, read by Melody Grove.

Episode 2: The Abyss as Viewed from Istanbul on 27th October 1962. One resident negotiates the fears and preoccupations of the locals. By Maureen Freely.

Episode 3: True Turk. A wise gypsy wrestler helps a couple whose relationship is threatened. Moris Farhi.

Pirates of Barbary: Corsairs, Conquests and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century

bookshelves: african-continent, nonfiction, pirates-smugglers-wreckers, autumn-2012, published-2010, turkish-and-or-ottoman-root, afr-morocco, afr-tunisia, afr-algeria, war

Read from September 09 to October 23, 2012


Read by Clive Chafer

Overview –
The true story that’s “bloody good entertainment” (New York Times) about the colorful and legendary pirates of the 17th century.

If not for today’s news stories about piracy on the high seas, it’d be easy to think of pirating as a romantic way of life long gone. But nothing is further from the truth. Pirates have existed since the invention of commerce itself, and they reached the zenith of their power during the 1600s, when the Mediterranean was the crossroads of the world and pirates were the scourge of Europe. Historian and author Adrian Tinniswood brings this exciting and surprising chapter in history alive, revealing that the history of piracy is also the history that has shaped our modern world.

Starts off with the modern day Somali Pirates and there is nothing pretty to report.

The Rainbow (left) unsuccessfully engaging John Ward’s flagship

Issouf Reis of Tunis, fervent in his devotion to Islam, was so wealthy that that by 1615 he had built himself a ‘faire Palace, beautified with rich Marble and Alabaster stones’. His household was so big that when he had guests for dinner, it was served not by a demure maidservant but by 15 male waiters. Very short, white-haired but nearly bald, he had a swarthy complexion.

A typical North African, you might think. Only he wasn’t. He had been born and bred in Faversham, and his real name was John Ward. The exact date of his birth isn’t yet known, but it was around 1553. Maybe he was the John Ward who is recorded as living on the west side of Preston Street on 31 December 1573 and 31 May 1574 and by 22 December 1574 had moved to Court Street – and then disappears from view. Source:…

Europeans enslaved by North African captors – two mosques in the background.

John Ward (aka Yusuf Reis): Arch Pirate Of Tunis; in 1608, feeling insecure in Tunis, Ward offered James I of England £40,000 for a royal pardon, but this was refused, so he returned to Tunis, where Uthman Dey kept his word and he remained for the rest his days.

Sir Francis Verney (1584 – 6 September 1615) was an English adventurer, soldier of fortune, and pirate. A nobleman by birth, he left England after the House of Commons sided with his stepmother in a legal dispute over his inheritance, and became a mercenary in Morocco and later a Barbary corsair. Source:…

Peter Easton (c. 1570 – 1620 or after) was a pirate in the early 17th century who operated along the Newfoundland coastline between Harbour Grace and Ferryland from 1611 to 1614. Perhaps one of the most successful of all pirates he controlled such seapower that no sovereign or state could afford to ignore him and he was never overtaken or captured by any fleet commissioned to hunt him down. However, he is not as well known as some of the pirates from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The Last Days of Richard III by John Ashdown-Hill

bookshelves: spring-2014, e-book, nutty-nuut, newtome-author, nonfiction, biography, lifestyles-deathstyles, medieval5c-16c, published-2010, sciences, wars-of-the-roses, war, plantagenet-1154-1485

Read from April 06 to 15, 2014


Description: A new and uniquely detailed exploration of Richard’s last 150 days explores these events from the standpoint of Richard himself and his contemporaries. By deliberately avoiding the hindsight knowledge that he will lose the Battle of Bosworth Field, this book presents a new Richard—no passive victim, awaiting defeat and death, but a king actively pursuing his own policies and agenda. It also reexamines the aftermath of Bosworth—the treatment of Richard’s body, his burial, and the construction of his tomb. Based on newly discovered evidence and wider insights it explores the motives underlying these events. And there is the fascinating story of why and how Richard III’s DNA was rediscovered, alive and well, and living in Canada. This is a stimulating and thought-provoking account of the end of Richard’s life—even readers very familiar with his short life will discover a new and fascinating picture of him.

The opening gives us Anne Neville coughing in her bed, each period of illness is a little worse than the time before and those sugared sweets are just not cutting the mustard.

The strap line here is: ‘The Book that inspired the dig.’

Initially, it looked as if there would be some author ego to climb over, however that was not the case at all; I can’t say that Ashdown-Hill is particularly endearing but does that matter? not a jot.

TRIVIA: It has just been announced that Benedict Cumberbatch will play Dickon in a new BBC2 production. The news comes just two days after it emerged that Freeman would play the title role in Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios in London’s West End later this year.

The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

bookshelves: published-2010, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, finland, spring-2014, translation, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, historical-fiction, under-100-ratings, war, cover-love

Read from April 13 to 16, 2014


Description: Finland, 1809. Henrik and Erik are brothers who fought on opposite sides in the war between Sweden and Russia. With peace declared, they both return to their snowed-in farm. But who is the master? Sexual tensions, old grudges, family secrets: all come to a head in this dark and gripping saga.

Opening: I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming. Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly, as is his wont, grinding his feet into the earth. The brothers are so different. Erik walks fast, with light steps; he is always in a hurry and then he is gone.

It all began with a horse, a stallion, or rather, a colt: an unruly colt…

Having spent most* of the last weekend finishing up open reads that had laid on the currently reading shelf for too long I was looking for a short snappy paper read that fits into my jacket as palate cleanser and walking companion.

This fitted the bill splendidly, set at the end of the Russian, Swedish war, the brothers Henrik and Erik, who had fought on opposing sides, were united back at the ranch. Let me tell yah, things did not bode well.

* also watched films on youtube: love that films of books via ipad are available no matter where I am ♥ ♥ ♥

Asko Sahlberg (born 1964) is a Finnish novelist.

I can’t praise this series of European shorties highly enough, just look at the covers, scrumptious.

Peirene Press series:

4* The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg
4* The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul
WL Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

bookshelves: history, ancient-history, roman-civilisation, winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, war, tunisia, published-2010, newtome-author, italy, fraudio

Read from October 20, 2013 to January 19, 2014


Blurberoonies: Other battles are perhaps just as famous as Thermopylae, Waterloo, Gettysburg, but the aura of Cannae, where Hannibal obliterated the largest army the Roman Republic had ever put into the field, is unmatched. The battle is unparalleled for its carnage, with more men from a single army killed on that one day, Aug. 2, 216 B.C., than on any other day on any other European battlefield: something like 50,000 Romans died, two and a half times the number of British soldiers who fell on the first day of the Somme.

Pure Military History, so this is a tacticians wet dream. The strategies on display at Cannae have been emulated down the ages.