Sunday, 29 December 2013

Meek J The heart broke in

Dreadful title! It comes midway through the book in an odd little anecdote. Neither anecdote not title work for me. Get past that: it's a book worth reading. But set aside a few weeks. It's a hefty commitment. If I were this book's editor it would lose none if its length and complexity. But it would have a new title. I'd call it: A Moral Foundation. That's better. If publishing houses want exclusive rights to  my natural talents feel free to get in touch. Money talks.

What's the book about? It's about morality (hence: better title). There is much immorality in this book. It's also about family, love, and posterity. Please note: this book contains scientists doing science. They are also portrayed as people, with lives and everything. How novel!

First line
The story doing the rounds at Ritchie Shepherd's production company was accurate when it appeared inside the staff's heads, when they hardly sensed it, let alone spoke it.
last line
After all, had her father fought his way back to her, she wouldn't have begrudged him the longing for his own freedom, the longing to feel the wind and sun on his own skin again, if only it  had helped him get home.

Barry B The lace reader

***As endorsed by the Daily Express***

Do not be put off by the company this book keeps, or by the dreadfully written blurb. It's not disposable crap about the supernatural. It's a very readable, but thoughtful, novel of women and lives torn apart by male violence. Several of the characters are broken, but there's hope.

I really enjoyed reading this one. I also learned something of the geography and history of Salem and its coastline: a town we all 'know' and which is a distinct character of the book.


First line:
My name is Towner Whiney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.

Last line:
The words I say back to her are the same words she said to me that day so long ago: The spell is broken. You are free.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Scott Card O, Ender's Game

Picked this up on impulse in the library, after hearing lots about the current film that, let's face it, I'll probably not bother going to see. An odd little novel, where the threat of global destruction makes an all powerful government reliant on the abilities of children. Ender is six when his adventures start. You can't tell from the characterisation,  so occasionally the author clunkily reminds you.

Readable. Disposable.

First line
I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get.
last line (spoilerish, but this book is nearly as old as I am, so fair game, I reckon)
 And always Ender carried with him a dry white cocoon, looking for the world where the hive-queen could awaken and thrive in peace. He looked a long time.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Block L 2008 Hit and run

Our hero is a hit man on the verge of retirement. This is from the 'one last job' genre. It's a hell of a read, and if life hadn't intervened Id have read it in one sitting. It's very much a - What Happens Next? I must know! - type of book.

On reflection though, there are questions to be asked about the love interest. Appearing about a third of the way through the book this sensible, kind, middle aged teacher / carer is a bit too accepting of her mister's habit of shooting strangers for money. Seriously? She's very decent. Not one wobble about shacking up with a mass murderer? No concerns at all about moving in with a mobster? Perhaps my standards are higher than most women's, but Id like to think that this is a back-story that would make me think quite hard about a new boyfriend.

Fun read.

First line
Keller drew his pair of tongs from his breast pocket and carefully lifted a stamp from its glassine envelope.

Last line:
"Bifocals, and I have to tell you I can see the improvement when I work on my stamps"
"Well," she said, "that's important."

Monday, 4 November 2013

Rusch KK 2004 Consequences: A Retrieval Artist novel

I like this series, which is good because there are plenty of them and they're dirt cheap on Kindle. There have been some after-midnight impulse buys when I've finished one book and need to carry on reading. Once upon a time I fought the e-reader thing...

The premise is fascinating. In a universe where many alien cultures are interacting with each other whose morals, and whose justice system prevails? Rusch's answer is that justice is relative, and her protagonist Miles Flint struggles hard with the morality of that.

Flint is obscenely super-wealthy. That's unusual in a detective story. Everything else about him, though, follows detective-story expectations: he's an ex-cop; he's got a prickly relationship with a cop in high places upon which a plot point will turn; he's a computer genius and hacks something unhackable regularly; he has a Tragic Back Story and is Damaged (but not irreparably). I sound sarcastic and I'm not: I have a real love of Rusch's writing. The books are fun, the plots are internally consistent and satisfying things happen at the end. Also - aliens!

First line:
Kovacs huddled against the edge of the crevasse. Below him, the massive rip in the glacier extended several hundred meters, narrowing as it deepened. He had no idea how deep the crevasse was, but he knew that a fall would kill him.
Last line:
Unquotable. Despite the aliens these are private eye stories. The last line is always a spoiler.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Empire & enlightenment

The Enlightenment is a search for an objective, universal understanding of the world, not driven by divinity. The systemic search for knowledge starts in the eighteenth century.

"Thinking like a global historian is considering connections", says Prof, who takes his time talking about tea in the mid 1700s. Why? Because tea houses became meeting places for gentlemen of leisure, who use the public sphere to think about politics and science and feed their radical thinking with caffeine and sugar. Just like we do today.

Here's a fact I should've known. Captain James Cook - Mr Science - died in Hawaii after locals thought  that actually they wouldn't like to be collected and shipped back to England. These specimens fought back.

Oo! OO!! Prof mentions women. Imagine that! He talks about the Wealth of Nations and says the relations between men and women "are going to be an important part of the story". Of course I acknowledge that for much of history and in much of the world 'people' were men and women weren't considered as a category. But hey, we're modern historians. We can analyse the past using categories - like gender - that maybe our ancestors didn't use. I am excited! Women are going to be part of the story! An important part! Let's find out more...

Mary Wollstonecraft - women are creatures of reason too. If the newly proclaimed laws of Enlightenment thinking don't apply to women then - d'oh! - they are not objective and universal. Atta girl.

Sadly, today that was all we had to learn about women. Prof moves onto the way the Enlightenment created categorisations of race, and shows us Casta Paintings: images of mixed race couples with their children. At least, that's what he sees. I see European men with native women (Indian, Mexican, Moorish, African) and their children. I don't see paintings of Native men with European women. I don't hear any discussion of power and priviledge. Prof, I know you're not a sociologist, but seriously mate this is beginners observation. You can do better than this.

Two important eighteenth century books I've never read and probably never will.

  • Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations 
  • Mary Wollstonecraft - A Vindication of the Rights of Women. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Richard Parkes Bonnington 1802 - 1828

Poor Richard. Died aged just 25 from TB, with the first 16 years of his life spent in Arnold, Notts. Luckily, after moving to Paris in 1818 (where Dad used Nottingham-know-how to set up a lace factory) Richard discovered Travel and went off to see, and paint, the sights of Europe.

If you know anything about nineteenth century French art history then you'll be impressed by the impressiveness of Richard's tutors, peers and pals. I know very little about this, so I'm assuming Wikipedia has got this right. The National Gallery - which definately knows - says:
Bonington was one of the most important artists of the early nineteenth century, vital to the understanding of French and British art of the Romantic period. His range included history and subject paintings, and landscapes, highly-finished works and sketches, all imbued with a brilliance and sureness of touch which was greatly admired both during and after his lifetime.
So there! Arnold boy made good.

Where did this information come from? The National Gallery and the great BBC website 'Your paintings'