Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Revenant, by Michael Punke

14/100 My husband bought me The Revenant, by Michael Punke, because I didn't really want to see the movie. And after reading this book, I still don't. If that sounds like I didn't like the book, I'm afraid you've been misled, because it was one hell of a story. Man gets severely mauled by grizzly, his companions leave him behind to die, man refuses to oblige - and the rest of the story is about how he overcomes fearsome odds to survive and track down the two men who abandoned him. You'd expect this to end in sweet revenge, and I admit I was rooting for Hugh Glass all the way, but things don't end like they should - in the words of one of the characters: "Lots of loose ends don't ever get tied up. Play the hand you're dealt. Move on." Good advice, true words. The fact that Hugh Glass was a real person, and this book is based on true events is, for me, the icing on the cake. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sign of the times

I think may have been reading too many books on my Kindle in the last few weeks. You ask why? Because I was reading a real paperback yesterday when I tried to turn the page by tapping it and was left puzzled for a fleeting moment when the page remained very much the same. I'm going to read real books until the urge to tap pages goes away.

Fevre Dream, by George R R Martin

13/100 I picked up George R R Martin's "Fevre Dream" out of curiosity, just to see what sort of book it was, whether he could hold my interest aside from "Game of Thrones". Somewhat to my initial disappointment, it turned out to be a vampire novel, but luckily it was not a run-of-the-mill story. The year is 1857, the place is St-Louis. Abner Marsh, a riverboat captain on the Mississippi, is offered a partnership by a mysterious aristocrat, and the chance to turn his luck for the better by building the best and fastest steamboat to run the great river. Abner is a bit doubtful about the deal, because the stranger, Joshua York, has some very odd conditions to make - mainly that Abner should never, ever question what Joshua does, no matter how odd or bizarre. The lure of gold and the opportunity to captain the best steamboat overcome Abner's doubts. He names the boat "Fevre Dream". 

The maiden voyage of the Fevre Dream does not turn out like Abner ever dreamt of even in his chequered career which has seen plenty of violence and bloodshed. What I liked very much about this book was the period setting, with the Civil War, slavery and other historical events woven in with great skill and to excellent effect without taking away from the story itself. You'll have to take my word for it that this is a vampire horror novel unlike any other I've come across. There are vampires and then there are vampires...and both kinds are to be found here. Be warned, you'll come across the "N-word" a few times here, used in the interests of authenticity in language and the mores of those days - those were not PC times, after all. ‪#‎100bookpact‬

Sunday, March 20, 2016

House of Thieves, by Charles Belfoure

12/100 This is a repeat author - Charles Belfoure, who wrote "The Paris Architect" that I liked so much. The book I finished today was "House of Thieves". As with the previous book I wrote about, the main character is an architect, but the story is set in New York of the late 1880s (well allright, 1886, to be precise). The architect is John Cross, who belongs to the rich and privileged section of society.

All seems well in his life, until his son George racks up a huge debt because of his uncontrolled - and uncontrollable - gambling addiction. The notorious gang to whom George owes the money is Kent's Gents. Kent meets John Cross and tells him that if he doesn't help pay off his son's debt (by helping Kent's Gents to rob the mansions of the rich), his son would die. Not having any choice, he starts helping the gang and, quite quickly, due to his connections in high society and the fact that he can get the building plans for the mansions, he becomes invaluable to Kent in planning and executing the robberies.

 Meanwhile, his daughter Julia, an aspiring Dickensian-style novelist, gets friendly with a handsome pickpocket and starts to explore the seamy underbelly of New York. Even his youngest son, 10-year-old Charlie, acquires a secret life in low society, making friends with an older newsboy who saves him from being robbed by a couple of young street thugs. All this takes place without his knowledge. 

Then John Cross is forced to confess his involvement with Kent's Gents to his wife, Helen, a beautiful society butterfly. Oddly enough, this confession results in a new lease of life for their marriage, because Helen, to his surprise, enthusiastically helps him by getting him information on which of their wealthy friends and acquaintances to rob next. However, there is a tragedy waiting to happen... which I will let you discover on your own.

 While I did enjoy this book, I thought "The Paris Architect" was the better read. I will be trying out a couple more books by Charles Belfoure to give myself a chance to make up my mind about whether it was a one-off good'un or if there are others I will like as much or more.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

The White Road, by John Connolly

When I find an author whose books I like, I tend to track down as many of them as I can get and have myself a reading glut. That's what I've been doing for a few weeks now - reading everything I can get of John Connolly. I REALLY like his books - they're addictive. While they have the same main character - Charlie Parker, a somewhat reluctant detective with a very tragic past - and his associates, every book has a solid and different story. These are not just your regular crime stories, however - they contain some supernatural elements, a lot of truly evil villains (both human and non), a bit of horror, a lot of philosophising on the nature of good and evil and human failings, a good dollop of (American) history, a good deal of black humour... all of which I really, really like because put together, they make for addictive reading. Did I say I find them addictive?
I thought about reviewing each book as I finished it, but I was just so caught up with just reading them I couldn't bear to take the time out to write about them. In any case I didn't get to them in serial order, but that didn't really matter. They can be standalone books, or you can read them in the order they were written. So, in short, I've not yet come across a book I've disliked. But, if you want a recommendation, I would say that "The White Road" is a great book to start with. It's set in the Deep South and of course racial tensions feature strongly... and it's a gripping story, too. It's not Connolly's first book, but it's the one I read first. It's the one that hooked me. #100bookpact