Last Book Read...

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  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    I set myself a challenge at the start of the year to read 100 books.
    Just finished number 81:
    THOSE IN PERIL by Wilbur Smith.
    Absolute garbage. I used to read loads of his books in the 80s & 90s; good actioneers I thought at the time. But this was dismal all-round. Ugly characters who spoke as if they were still entrenched in the Boer War, turgid action, plot holes and a worrying authorial emphasis on soft porn and racist attitudes. Horrible book.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,408Chief of Staff
    Number24 wrote:
    A shame really. How will Lee spend his days?

    In retirement, although he could help his brother with the next couple of books...
    YNWA 97
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,408Chief of Staff
    I recently finished the first Jack Reacher book, Killing Floor. I enjoy the Reacher books but I found some of the violence, in this one, too graphic for my taste.

    Yes, the earlier Reacher novels are more ‘raw’ in approach...
    YNWA 97
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    Haynes car manual for Nissan Micra (2003 - 2010)
    Not much of a story but full of facts ;)
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    I’m taking the time to reread my 10 favourite books, in no particular order.

    The first is, The Rats by James Herbert. This was Herbert’s first novel and a very exciting and thrilling, raw, read it is. Set in London, it is about a plague of dog size rats, whose bite is lethal. There are lots of genuinely scary scenes, with the invasion of a school particularly brilliant.

    There is no doubt that Herbert’s writing improved in later novels, but this first novel remains my favourite of his.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    Agreed, I got the "Rats" Trilogy on Kindle hadn't read then since I was a teen. -{
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    You’re a man of impeccable taste, TP {[]
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 25,408Chief of Staff
    I’m taking the time to reread my 10 favourite books, in no particular order.

    The first is, The Rats by James Herbert. This was Herbert’s first novel and a very exciting and thrilling, raw, read it is. Set in London, it is about a plague of dog size rats, whose bite is lethal. There are lots of genuinely scary scenes, with the invasion of a school particularly brilliant.

    There is no doubt that Herbert’s writing improved in later novels, but this first novel remains my favourite of his.

    I remember reading this and enjoying it…even though it was many years ago :# :))
    YNWA 97
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    edited November 2020
    Chronicle of a Death Foretold & No One Writed to the Colonel.

    I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Two great novellas. I thought I had a copy of Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores, but I can't find it. Next up ' Sad Wind from the Sea' by Jack Higgins
  • 00730073 COPPosts: 864MI6 Agent
    I just yesterday started Erebus, by Michael Palin. I'll let you know if the crew engages on to the sport of fish slapping....
    "I mean, she almost kills bond...with her ass."
    -Mr Arlington Beech
  • The Domino EffectThe Domino Effect Posts: 3,331MI6 Agent
    0073 wrote:
    I just yesterday started Erebus, by Michael Palin. I'll let you know if the crew engages on to the sport of fish slapping....


    An excellent read, and, at risk of a spoiler, it was indeed the fish slapping that caused them to lose their way.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    chrisno1 wrote:
    Next up ' Sad Wind from the Sea' by Jack Higgins

    And I rather enjoyed this. Its Higgins' first ever novel - from 1959 - and published under the author's real name Harry (Henry) Patterson. Set in Macao and featuring ex-US Navy Commander Mark Hagen, the novel follows his attempts to retrieve a sunken cache of gold bullion from under the noses if Red Chinese agents. Suspense, action, a tad of romance, occasionally quite nasty; a brief thriller with a laconic hero in the Humphrey Bogart style - as I read it I imagined him visually as Hagen even if the description wouldn't fit.

    It's made me want to read more of Higgins' output.
    Any recommendations??
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,628MI6 Agent
    edited December 2020
    A Study in Scarlet
    Doyle, 1887
    this was the first Sherlock Holmes adventure.
    I had reread the Sidney Paget illustrated stories a couple years back (there is a common hardcover edition that compiles four volumes of short stories with Hound of the Baskervilles) but had not read this one since I was a lad.

    ArthurConanDoyle_AStudyInScarlet_annual.jpg
    Here is the original cover, as found in wikipedia.
    No, its not the edition I read. I suspect the original is mighty rare, as I don't think the novel was successful until republication a few years later.


    Novel is neatly divided into two parts.
    The first two chapters are the origin of the Holmes/Watson team: Watson returning from Afghanistan needs a roommate to afford living in London on a military pension, and is introduced to an eccentric character hanging round the chemistry labs at the hospital, who has found a flat on Baker St he cannot afford by himself.
    Holmes shows off his reasoning skills to Watson in a series of minor displays while Watson argues his new roommate cannot possibly know these things, it must be a trick of some sort.

    Remaining chapters of Part 1 relate the first mystery Watson witnesses Holmes solve, and introduce official police detectives Lestrade and Gregson. A corpse with no signs of injury, some clues only Holmes seems able to see but does not explain, and two highly competitive police detectives who each rush off to arrest the wrong person while Homes chuckles smugly.
    Part 1 concludes with Holmes capturing the real murderer right in his Baker St flat, as witnessed by Watson Lestrade and Gregson. So far we have no clue as to Holmes's reasoning except from his own cryptic braggadocio, yet the captured man confesses. What the heck has been going on?

    Part 2 suddenly becomes something altogether different, seemingly an unrelated novel told in the third person, and a distinctly different narrative voice from Watsons precise observational style. We watch the travels of the Mormons to Salt Lake City, similar to Moses' journey in Exodus, followed by a tale of rivalry for a young ladies hand in marriage in a community of polygamists, religiously ordained murder and vows of revenge.
    Doyle sure makes the Mormons look bad in these sections, and I gather he apologised years later. Yet til this day there are still occasional news stories about not too different atrocities taking place in the various closed religious communities hidden up in the mountains of the west coast.

    Story returns to London for the final two chapters, and back to Watson's first person narrative voice. The murderer does not repeat the backstory we have just read (so I wonder "who" is writing the first five chapters of Part 2?) but does precisely explain how he carried out the murders.
    In the final chapter we get to the usual bit where Holmes explains his reasoning to Watson, and because he is jealous of Lestrade and Gregson receiving public credit for his own genius, he encourages his new roommate to write and publish what really happened.


    A while back I watched the first episode of the Moffatt/Cumberbatch/Freeman version of Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day. The scenes where Holmes and Watson first meet and move in together are almost exactly adapted from this book, except for period trappings. It's an impressive bit of temporal transposition: Not only is the British army back in Afghanistan, but big city rent is even less affordable to a bachelor living alone than in 1887! so that all makes sense.
    The mystery Homes solves in the teevee episode shares some key elements...
    murderer is a London cabbie, and offers his victims a choice of one poisoned pill or an identical placebo
    ...but otherwise not similar, in particular there is no Salt Lake City backstory.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (Eric Blair), published 1949.

    This was one of the books I studied for my O-level exam in 1973 and is the second on the list of my 10 favourite books I am re-reading.

    This is probably the the most predictive novel ever written. In fact it is staggering how relevant it is from how the world has been over the last few years.

    Thought crime, curtail of freedom of expression, history being rewritten or cancelled, repressive state regimentation and surveillance, are all in the book and is happening today.

    The hero is Winston Smith who’s job is to rewrite historical records to whatever the totalitarian government stance is on that day, so enemies become friends and vice-versa. He begins an illegal love affair with Julia and they are caught and he is re-educated in Room 101.

    Tragically, he is broken down by the system and finally accepts his place in society.

    This book is a stunning read and slowly but surely is coming true :#
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,655MI6 Agent
    Everything you write is correct, but Orwell didn't predict one thing: the power and surveilance of private companies. Imagine everything Facebook and Apple knows about us :o
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    That’s true, but with Facebook and Apple force-feeding left wing propaganda as news, it seems they are under control of the Democrats anyway :D
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy Behind you !Posts: 63,697MI6 Agent
    :)) :)) :))
    That will have to be fact checked :p
    "I've been informed that there ARE a couple of QAnon supporters who are fairly regular posters in AJB."
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    edited December 2020
    I AM MALALA by Malala Yousafzal

    Very popular a few years back, the biography of the young women's rights campaigner and Nobel Prize winner, victim of the Taliban and survivor. The story is most interesting before the author's transfer to London when she reminisces on life in Pakistan's Swat Valley pre- & post- Taliban, the hopelessness and incompetence of the authorities, the indifference of the general population, the sheer backwardness of religious clerics, who ought to be enlightened. Nor does her story reflect particularly well on her family: I find it odd the father, who is very progressive, still does not encourage his wife to read & write. The issue is barely addressed and I think this hints at an inherent misogyny molding Pashtun society. Nonetheless, Malala's fortitude is breathtaking. I'd not realised how significant a figure she was BEFORE a rogue assassin wounded her. The depiction of that hellish moment was harrowingly visceral. Thereafter, the book tailed off a little into medical territory. The fact Malala isnt conscious for 5 days ensures the ghostwriter Christina Lamb has plenty to say but these sections share less of an authentic voice.

    Still, a worthy read.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,655MI6 Agent
    "Traverse of the Gods" by Bob Langley

    This is a WWII thriller in the style of "The Guns of Navarone". But it's different in two important ways: with the exeption of the Swiss female character all the main characters are German. There are Americans in the story, but they are supporting characters.
    The second difference is that this novel is more a mountain climbing story than a war story. A soldier named Sprengler is asigned to a secretive mountain climber unit in the gebirgsjägers by Hitler's special forces commander Otto Scorzeny. Their mission is to climb the famous Eiger in the Alps for some hidden purpose. Just to be clear: the main character s are German soldiers, but the tone is absolutely anti-nazi. I liked the novel in spite of a poor translation.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    ME - ELTON JOHN

    No surprises excepting the fact this autobiography is a lot funnier than I anticipated. Fairly standard life story of tough upbringing, struggle, sudden success, self indulgence & eventual epiphany. Despite myself, I rather enjoyed it.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    The third of my top 10 favourite books is A Fall Of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke, first published in 1961. This is about a tourist moon cruiser which gets buried in a desert of very fine moondust which flows almost like water. The book then relates the tale of the rescue attempt and life on board the cruiser while several potential catastrophe’s await the passengers.

    I first read this when I was 12 and have loved it ever since, Clarke details a host of good characters and the events are very real to the situation. Thoroughly recommended.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,162MI6 Agent
    The third of my top 10 favourite books is A Fall Of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke, first published in 1961. This is about a tourist moon cruiser which gets buried in a desert of very fine moondust which flows almost like water. The book then relates the tale of the rescue attempt and life on board the cruiser while several potential catastrophe’s await the passengers.

    I first read this when I was 12 and have loved it ever since, Clarke details a host of good characters and the events are very real to the situation. Thoroughly recommended.

    Always great to find another Arthur C. Clarke fan; he has always been my favorite author and I've read and re-read his novels and short stories countless times. Fall of Moondust was a great read but I've always had a particular fondness for The City and The Stars (a reworking of his earlier novel Against The Fall of Night, which in turn was inspired by the John W. Campbell short story Twilight); it's one that I will go back to again and again.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    I haven’t read City And The Stars since schooldays, I don’t have it but will see if it’s available on Kindle, wouldn’t mind rereading it as I’ve forgotten everything in it!
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,526MI6 Agent
    10 MINUTES 38 SECONDS IN THIS STRANGE WORLD
    By Elif Shafak

    Shafak comes highly regarded and with a strong portfolio. A few years back I read her book 'The Bastard of Istanbul' - it was okay, if formulaic. This novel traces the life of a dying, murdered prostitute from childhood in rural Van to an existence of sorts among Istanbul's Street of Brothels.

    It is at turns affecting, harrowing and humourous. Leila, the heroine, escapes her domineering father and her family of lies on the day of her arranged marriage - an event chosen to cover the shame of her uncle's abuse. In Istanbul, she is trafficked, sold and abused again by a series of madams and clients. Hers is not a happy existence. Yet Leila clings to the goodness of a handful of friendships and forges a world beyond that if a prostitute.

    The prose is deft, delicate and eloquent. I believed wholly in Leila's personality and situation. Her thoughts both as child and adult are lucid and provocative. The sensory memories and the images and moments they conjure are beautifully described. Thankfully Shafak steers clear of the deliberately exploitative.

    The novel tails off badly in the second act when the narrative focus turns on Leila's group of hapless friends, who attempt to exhume her body. These passage verge on slapstick and sit awkwardly next to the passionate, elegant first half. The best of this second section could easily have been weaved into the first, for they represent the structure of Turkish society, how the unusual, the un-National and un-Islamic are vilified by a contemptuous hypocritical populous. Leila becomes as ostracized from the world in death as she had been in life; her body is sent to the Cemetery of the Companionless where a numbered plot has been allocated.

    The novel is rich in texture and refined in the telling, but the final coda and the sixty or so pages which precede it feel out of place. It's a bad misstep. The author is well known for supporting LGBT+ rights. I applaud her for that, but she pushes an unnecessary agenda here. The book isnt about the peripheral characters, it is about Leila and it is about Istanbul and how the two characters, whore and city, intertwine and rush and revel in each others sorrow and pity and joy.

    For the first 200 pages this is a stunning read. For the rest, a lingering sense of disappointment.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 2,628MI6 Agent
    The Sign of the Four
    A. Conan Doyle, 1890
    The second Sherlock Holmes novel
    As with A Study in Scarlet, I don't believe this was popular until the short stories began a couple years later.


    The client is Mary Morstan. Her father mysteriously disappeared some years ago, after working for decades overseas as a prison guard on an island south of India. Once a year since then, she has received in the mail a single pearl, with no return address.
    Now she has received an actual invitation to learn all, and she should bring two friends who are not police, hence she brings the famous consulting detective and his roommate.
    What they find is a corpse in a locked room, rumours of treasure, and clues the murder was done by a one legged man and a midget.
    There is a Gothic horror vibe that reaches its peak in the murder scene, as there would be again in Hound of the Baskervilles.

    Slightly shorter than the first novel, this one does not have the lengthy third person backstory the first one did. Instead the long final chapter is mostly the murderer explaining how and why of it. This time round, Holmes has been nicely explaining the clues to Watson as he finds them, so no need for a chapter just for that. Instead there is much more running about in pursuit of the killer, several changes of scene. Holmes hires a dog to pursue the scent, then there is a boat chase down the Thames to finish things off.


    Introduced is Holmes' cocaine habit, needed to stimulate his brain when there are no unsolved murders demanding his talents. Literally the first and last sentence of this story are both Holmes shooting up. No wonder Holmes is such a loudtalking egotist!
    Also introduced through a bit of dialog is the factoid that Holmes is a respectable amateur boxer. Those ads for the Downey movies always annoyed the hell outta me, because they suggested to a modern audience that Sherlock Holmes solved mysteries with his fists rather than his brain. So at least there is canonical source material for that image.

    Most important in terms of continuity...
    ...the client Mary Morstan is to become Watson's wife. Quick mover that he is, he declares his love after they have known each other no more than two days at most and she immediately agrees to marry him.
    In the short stories, Watson is in fact not Holmes' roommate, he has moved in with his bride, but still pops round regularly to watch his old roommate solve mysteries.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    A Christmas Carol (1843). The fourth in my top 10 favourite books is the perennial Christmas novel by Charles Dickens. A short but uplifting tale of the miser, Scrooge, who is shown the errors of his ways and becomes the embodiment of the Christmas spirit. This classic from Dickens never fails to captivate me and I usually read this in the run up to Christmas.
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 18,655MI6 Agent
    I'm reading Lee Child's "Past Tense", a Jack Reacher novel. The plot is good enough, we follow Reacher's attempts at finding the place his grand father grew up and a couple at a remote and mysterious motel. I expect the two plots to meet up at some point. I' m slightly worried that I'm past page 130 and so far Reacher has only beaten up one guy! I'm sceptical of violence in real life, but I expect Reacher to beat up lots of people where ever he goes. Let's wait and see...
  • Sir Hillary BraySir Hillary Bray College of ArmsPosts: 2,172MI6 Agent
    Beneath A Scarlett Sky
    by Mark Sullivan

    As the author writes in the preface, this is "a novel of biographical and historical fiction that hews closely to what happened to Pino Lella between June 1943 and May 1945."

    Pino Lella, still alive today at age 92, is 17 when this book commences. He was from a family of merchants in Milan, and the story covers the last two years of WWII, which were dark times indeed. I won't spoil his exploits other than to say that, if this account is true, Pino was possessed with uncommon drive and courage, and has lived a very full life. With the horrors of war all around him, he maintains a dignity throughout.

    The author learned of Pino by accident, then began a 10-year odyssey of research that resulted in this book. Pino had never told his story before, and certain parts of it were gut-wrenching for him to recall (there are many events of such trauma in the book). No doubt liberties have been taken for the sake of narrative convenience, but the core of the story rings true. Sullivan's style is quite bland, but Pino is a compelling enough figure to overcome the pedestrian writing.
    Hilly...you old devil!
  • Golrush007Golrush007 South AfricaPosts: 3,172Quartermasters
    I just finished The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming.

    Among fans of spy fiction in the more down to earth and serious style of the Len Deighton et al, Charles Cumming is reputed to be one of the best of the modern generation and I've now that I've read two of his books I have to agree that he is a writer well worth checking out for spy fiction fans.

    The protagonist of The Trinity Six is a writer and academic who finds himself investigating the identity of a sixth member of the famous Cambridge spies, in the hope that the resulting book will get him out of financial trouble. Unsurprisingly he lands himself in all sorts of trouble of another kind. A real page-turner of a novel, well written but nonetheless light enough to feel like a relatively easy read. I'd recommend both this book and Cumming's Typhoon which I've read previously. His new novel is called Box 88 and I'm eager to give that one a read as soon as I get my hands on a copy.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,160MI6 Agent
    THE SENTINEL by Lee Child and Andrew Child.

    The latest Jack Reacher and the first co-written with Lee Child’s brother. The story is in small town America (my favourite Reacher setting) and begins when Reacher stops an attempted kidnapping. It all revolves around a super computer which could alter the result of an upcoming election. Very apt considering what has happened recently!

    I enjoyed it, the narrative flows nicely and even though it’s nothing new I do enjoy my annual dose of Reacher dishing it out to the thugs :)
    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
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