801

Re: Last Book Read...

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.

802

Re: Last Book Read...

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.

803

Re: Last Book Read...

CoolHandBond wrote:

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.

804

Re: Last Book Read...

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.

805

Re: Last Book Read...

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.

806

Re: Last Book Read...

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...

Spoiler...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.

807

Re: Last Book Read...

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.

808

Re: Last Book Read...

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...

809

Re: Last Book Read...

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!

810

Re: Last Book Read...

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.