Saturday, 7 February 2009

Paul Lawrence - The Sweet Smell of Decay

This is an extraordinary book and not for the squeamish. The main reason being is as the title states, Paul Lawrence, is so skilled in his writing that we can almost smell the decay of 1664. Cromwell is dead and Charles Stuart is on the throne, but do not be lulled into thinking this is a romantic historical novel. This is crime, wading though the richly textured, and smelly underbelly, of the city of London. Another surprise that among the sometimes gross elements of the book, (who can forget the descriptions of the first body?) - there is genuine humour, and social commentary. This has the makings of a very successful series, following our bumbling height challenged detective, Harry Lytle, - boggins!

Sue Monk Kidd - The Secret Life of Bees

This is an interesting book, in that it can be read on many levels and it is this that makes this sort of book so valuable to reading groups. This reads as a simple coming of age story, an easy read, not challenging but when you scratch the service, that is when the discussion can begin. Questions on the nature of grief. On the realism of the situations in the book? Is it believable in that political climate that Lily would have been allowed to live with the 3 sisters? Do we have a rosy glow of our childhood and block out unpleasantness. The human rights movement culminating in Barack Obama are just a few.
It is unfortunate that I had read To Kill a MockingBird recently,and this book is not in that league, but if you want a book that will keep the discussion in a book group going try this next.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

David Hewson - Dante's Numbers

These books are great. I just love this Nic Costa series. This is the seventh book in the series and when I saw that the action moved from Rome to San Francisco, I was rather worried, as a big plus for me is the Italian setting. I needn't have worried, David brings Rome to San francisco in the characters of our regular team, even Teresa Lupo gets to go with them......... I cannot give too much away without spoilers but David's deft plotting weaves the film Vertigo, with Dante and of course the Carabinieri get a drubbing. I especially like David's use of language I always learn something new, this book was a joy as it led ineluctably to the end!!
I was lucky enough to attend an author event lead by David Hewson, thank you W F Howes, David is an excellent speaker,and he did hint that Nic's future path might not be rosy, after the shocking death of his wife in The Garden of Evil, I guess we can expect more grief, I like the added tension and edge that this brings to the books, we now know nothing is sacred. Can a policeman have a happy homelife in reality? Can Nic take anymore??

Steven Saylor - The Triumph Of Caesar

This is the 11th book in the Gordianus series. These are mysteries set in Ancient Rome . What I like about these is that he always includes real people in his stories and cleverly weaves them into the latest case Gordianus the Finder has to solve. In this book he is hired by Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, no less. Our old favourite Cicero makes an appearance, as well as Cleopatra. As usual, Steven's superb story telling and research into the period leads us on an exciting journey through Ancient Rome. Caesar is having his triumphs now but we all know what happens, and I cannot wait for Steven's take on it. Keep writing!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Stephanie Meyer - The Twilight Saga

Where have I been , you may ask. Well I have been totally immersed in this excellent series that seems to have taken over the publishing world. Vampires, wherewolves, teenage romance? Not your type of thing? Well all I can say is try them. They are fantastic. Stephanie is a master at dialogue, creating sensual tension and above all creating realistic relationships. This in a sense is what these books are about, how we interact with the world, how we cope with fractured family relationships. Dealing with different people and races. She also captures so well the isolation that teenagers feel, the depth of their emotions, and the maturity that they can bring to the world if they are allowed to do so.
I also suspect that Edward appeals as he is a teenager from another time, that he is a gentleman with manners, ideals and morals. And he is sexy!
It is very difficult to describe these books without producing "howling" spoilers. So I will leave any discussion of the plots for you to explore. I just want to encourage you to read them, they are very, very, clever.
The film is great too, wonderful special effects and fabulous scenery!