Camino Winds – John Grisham

When Hurricane Leo threatens Florida’s Camino Island, the Governor is quick to issue an evacuation order. Most residents flee but a small group of diehards decide to ride it out. Amongst them is Bruce Cable, proprietor of Bay Books in downtown Santa Rosa.

The hurricane is devastating: homes and condos are levelled, hotels and storefronts ruined, streets flooded, and a dozen people are killed. One of the victims is Nelson Kerr, a friend of Bruce’s who wrote timely political thrillers. But evidence suggests that the storm wasn’t the cause of Nelson’s death – he had received several mysterious blows to the head.

Who would want Nelson dead? The local police are overwhelmed with the aftermath of the storm and in no condition to handle the case. Bruce begins to wonder if the shady characters in Nelson’s novels were more fact than fiction. And somewhere on Nelson’s computer is the manuscript of his new novel – could the key to the case be right there, in black and white? Bruce starts to look into it and what he finds between the lines is more shocking than any of Nelson’s plot twists – and far more dangerous.

Seeing the sequel to Camino Island out in paperback, I decided to grab it despite my friend Maxine’s brutally honest assessment about her reading of it – “it’s shit” –  when it first came out in hardback.  This almost stopped me but curiosity is a powerful thing and I had just been paid.

It’s hard not to agree with Maxine’s assessment of the novel, and I won’t even bother trying.   It was a big letdown, aside from the beginning which retained the feel of the first book with familiar characters and their bookish banter.

Camino Winds quickly gets rid of most of the established characters, and with them goes a lot of what made the first book so enjoyable;  the talk of books, publishing, buying, and the opinions of other writers, that was bliss. There is a lot less of all of the above in Camino Winds, and the only noteworthy character addition was student Nick, who wasn’t particularly interesting or likeable. Continue reading “Camino Winds – John Grisham”

As good As It Gets – Romesh Ranganathan

Confronted by the realities of adulthood, Romesh Ranganathan must face an uncomfortable truth: this is not quite how he imagined it.

Watching his friends descend into middle age, his waistline thicken and his finances dwindle to fund his family’s middle class aspirations, Romesh reflects on the demands of daily life and the challenges of adulting in the modern world.

As he reluctantly concludes that he is indeed a grown man, Rom wrestles with the greater questions that threaten his being: Could I save my family in a crisis? Do I possess the skills to assemble flatpack furniture? Am I too old for streetwear? Is it alright to parent my kids through the medium of Fortnite? Is celibacy the secret to a passionate marriage?

I pick up books for many reasona; references in other literature, a cover with books on it, blogger recommendations, and so forth but never (at least as far as I can recall) have I picked up a book because it ‘spoke to me’ and the present situation I find myself in – that being the reluctant adult bit.

Romesh Ranganathan is the reluctant adult here, supporting a family and keeping them happy, trying not to break his children, be a good role model and encourage them in their interests (as long as they are appreciated by their father, of course). It’s life, and its hard yet has plenty of scope to be funny along with it.

There was a lot in this light-hearted book that made me laugh, which is handy as the author is a stand-up comedian. Whether it’s an incisive observation or just the turn of phrase employed to convey a point.  The inherent Britishness in the articulation had me laughing more than the stories themselves in most cases, and that was very much the highlight of the book for me.  Continue reading “As good As It Gets – Romesh Ranganathan”

Camino Island – John Grisham

The most daring and devastating heist in literary history targets a high security vault located deep beneath Princeton University.

Valued at $25 million (though some would say priceless) the five manuscripts of F Scott Fitzgerald’s only novels are amongst the most valuable in the world. After an initial flurry of arrests, both they and the ruthless gang of thieves who took them have vanished without trace.

Now it falls to struggling writer Mercer Mann to crack a case that has thwarted the FBI’s finest minds.

I’m not a big thriller reader, but I love books about books so I bit the bullet and decided to pick up for Camino Island, even despite the wildly inaccurate Think The Da Vinci Code (the capital D always bothers me, as does the book itself) meets Sherlock Holmes, which was claim of The Sun, a paper not known for anything worthwhile.

This novel has no doubt split his loyal readers, as it has little of the legal side of things and is slowly paced for the majority of the book, but I couldn’t help but have fun reading it.  This is a beach read of the best kind, and it probably helps that I’m not a staunch Grisham fan.

Strangely there were a fair amount of things that would usually annoy me in this book, yet they didn’t: a certain event from one of the characters past being alluded to way too much, perhaps that is an idea for a future book but it didn’t need to be quite as laboured here. Grisham writing for a female character didn’t always convince, the pacing was slow in the main which was fine but perhaps thriller is the wrong term for the book, and the characters were all one dimensional with no development to speak of.  Yet with all that in mind I still enjoyed the book. Continue reading “Camino Island – John Grisham”

In Which, Bestsellers are Discussed, and Cowardly Actions Take Place

With a heavy heart I dragged my feet, which is hard to do whilst also pushing a pushchair, towards ASDA, the local supermarket.  Inevitably the usual torturous shopping trip loomed.  The routine is usually something like this; we have a list, then wander aimlessly around the store, before settling on said original items.

This time though a plan was forming in my devious mind.  It involved volunteering to take Amelia to the books, so she wasn’t bored and joining up somewhere in store later, which actually in reality meant hiding in a cowardly fashion near the books until the shopping was completed.

The books on offer were not exactly thrilling. As you would expect there were an array of bestsellers, you know the type, a book with Clive Cussler’s name emblazoned on it when the other co-author (in much smaller print) wrote most of it, yet another book about someone doing a job in Auschwitz, and some grim true crime, etc.  Admittedly I once saw a copy of To Kill a mockingbird hanging around on the bottom shelf so since then I have been keeping a keen eye out. Continue reading “In Which, Bestsellers are Discussed, and Cowardly Actions Take Place”

A Suitable Quote

This quote sums up so much of what it is to be a reader, and to explore and attempt to make sense of the puzzles that books give us.  To learn and better ourselves through the chronicles of accomplishments of those before us.

“She paused by the science shelves, not because she understood much science, but, rather because she did not. Whenever she opened a scientific book and saw whole paragraphs of incomprehensible words and symbols, she felt a sense of wonder at the great territories of learning that lay beyond her – the sum of so many noble and purposive attempts to make objective sense of the world.”

Modern Art an the Death of Culture – H. R. Rookmaaker

This illuminating, disturbing, highly original book shows how modern art reflects a wholeculture – a dying culture. Dr Rookmaaker outlines the various steps, the decisive choices that have been made, which have led to the modern movement. But the steps have not been made in isolation from socety generally. They depend on a worldview, particualrly on the values and presuppositions of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, which have made our culture what it is today.

With his analysis of both well-known and lesser-known works of art, his broad understanding of contemporary cultures and sub-cultures, pop and op, happenings and hippies, jazz and beat, protest and revolution, Dr Rookmaaker builds up a message for our times which may be devestating, but is also profoundly helpful and positive. He sees above all the tremendous potential and relevence of Christian attitudes, to man, to society, to freedom, to the whole of reality, as the basis for a way ahead in the future.

It is always a pleasure to get a particular insight into art, and especially paintings that have passed my ignorant self by. Reflecting on this book, parts of it are dated yet it is an intriguing read, especially if you have your internet browser of choice handy for referencing the artwork mentioned but not shown.

Like the proverbial game of football, this is a book of two halves.  I really enjoyed the exploration of art through the ages, the way it was framed, and the stories the paintings tell, as well as those of the artists.  On the downside, there were plenty of bones of contention I had with some of Rookmaaker’s assertions when it came to religion and science.The book was first published in the 70’s, and it has dated to varying degrees.  Mainly though I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the bit about Émile Zola, which was promised in a chapter and never appeared, which was a disappointment.

My main gripe with the author’s arguments were the plentiful attacks on science, Rookmaaker bizarrely complains that science has reduced reality to the things we can see and leaving out explanations that lack a naturalistic or rationalistic reason.  No offer of how one would test for those explanations is forthcoming, unsurprisingly. Continue reading “Modern Art an the Death of Culture – H. R. Rookmaaker”

Smugglers’ Cove – Pat Coleman

Seb, Mike, Peter, and Fiona are a successful team for exploring.  But will they succeed in tackling a problem which seems too big for them – How to help Peter escape from his past and find a new future.

I picked this book up purely for the nostalgia trip.  I remember owning a pristine copy decades ago, and looking again front cover before reading commenced, there was a faint recollection of a child on a swing.

After more study of the front cover, appreciating the details my young eyes studied so long ago, I have to ask, is anyone bothered by the placement of the apostrophe?

This is a flimsy book at only 96 pages, which was somewhat surprising but as memory is not what it used to be, not altogether shocking.  The appeal of the book, as I recall, was more to do with the idea of secrets and smuggling.

Finishing this in one sitting, there is little in the way of illicit goods and the secrets are fairly standard, in fact the whole story doesn’t have much impact at all, which is a shame as the setting has plenty of scope for adventure and mystery. Continue reading “Smugglers’ Cove – Pat Coleman”

Duly Noted

Picking up my – then – latest read, Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books, it soon became clear that I needed a new notebook to scrawl my thoughts in, such were the number.  Thankfully the missus had just such a book ready for me, she knows my needs.

After the mini trauma of filling my last notebook it feels good to be able to be expansive again, as opposed to clumsily noting down phrases on a phone whose keyboard is ill suited to my fat fingers.  Sadly, the joy of writing is one often marginalised in the modern technology orientated world.

Enjoying the pristine whiteness of the pages, there was just one thing I had to do first, before inking any of them.  On the inside front cover the words ‘I have a dream’ were printed, so below them I added ‘this book belongs to Martin Luther King, Jr.’.

Hilarity thus achieved I left the first page – I always allow myself this small luxury in case appropriate words come to mind to place there – and the second became the start of my copious note taking.

Ploughing through book lover Manguel’s words with a happy heart, I’ve already made  a page of notes, some of which will probably be left out of the review for another post – or several –  musing on books.  With twenty-two drafts started just this morning, words are begetting words in the best possible way.

Force of Habit by James Scott Bell – A book Review

It’s been a while since Lyn last posted, and as it’s about books, a reblog is definitely in order.

The Call of the Pen

“A vigilante nun cleans up the streets of Los Angeles. Sinners beware.” So says the description of the first of the Force of Habit series.

James Scott Bell has written four Force of Habit tales and each one of them will have you choking on your coffee (or your Fritos.)
Force of Habit
Force of Habit 2 – And Then There Were Nuns
Force of Habit 3 – Nun the Wiser
Force of Habit 4 – The Nun also Rises

Larger than life people need to have a proper introduction, and you need to know Sister Justicia Marie – or Sister J as she is affectionately known by those outside of the Benedictine Order she belongs to. Force of Habit is a book you’ll read in one sitting. I did, and promptly downloaded the rest.

Sister J is former child star Brooke Bailey — who went the way of many child…

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Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum

As we all know, odd little facts about a story can stay with the reader for years, so after last week’s team success in finding a book I had sought for years, I thought I would throw another wider ranging mystery your way to capture your imaginations.

I touched on this a few years ago in another aged post, along with some other various things. It comes from the book Inca Gold, a book of action, adventure, and a lost treasure, which always adds something thrilling to a story.

Towards the end of the book, protagonist Dirk Pitt comes across the grave of 10-year-old girl, Patty Lou Cutting, in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico, upon which the are the words:

The dark night some stars shine through.

The dullest morn a radiant brew.

And where dusk comes, God’s hand to you.

The significance of which is never expanded upon, it just hangs there cryptically, tantalisingly challenging the reader with its nebulous presence. Continue reading “Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum”