Thursday, May 28, 2009

Britain's Got Talent?

I have been prompted to write this post by a column in the Telegraph today written by Bryony Gordon. I have enjoyed watching Britain's Got Talent but not for any potential talent but the entertaining comments spoken by Simon Cowell. Simon has his finger on the pulse and his comments are well judged. The other two judges are tame and are too busy bottom licking.

To call these auditions talent is stretching it a bit. Someone sings a song they have not written or played an instrument on and we are supposed to clap and vote for them. A group of people bop around dancing and we are supposed to whoop with delight. No, I think Bryony has pitched her column right, Britain's Got Talent is nothing more than karoke and people showing off with a bit of dancing. If it was not for the witty and informed comments from Simon Cowell this programme would not be worth watching. Ant and Dec are nice presenters but reading an autocue is not rocket science. Is adult literacy a talent?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Enigma by Robert Harris .

When I was on holiday at Agadir in Morocco, I took 3 books with me to read. When I had finished reading them, which are reviewed below in this blog, I donated them to the stall next to the hotel swimming pool. The simple idea is bring your own books on holiday and then enable them to be picked up by other guests. I then looked to see what books other guests had donated.

Enigma by Robert Harris aroused some interest within me, so I took it away to give it a try. Well, it is not a new book, Robert wrote it in 1995. The tale goes back to the Second World War when government staff at Bletchley Park were busy trying to break German radio transmissions that were encrypted with a machine called an Enigma. This book is a novel rather than a history book and features a central character called Tom Jericho. I could not engage with this book and I developed no empathy for Tom Jericho. I found Robert's writing style drab and this book an absolute slog to read. There is no bite, depth or attitude to this novel and I suggest bloggers do not waste their time or money on this book. I was glad that I had not paid for this book and even as a free-read I gave it up after reading 78 pages of this 387 page rubbish of a book. I was happy to put this book back on the stall and listen to my personal radio instead!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My holiday review is now on the web.

Oh yes, Stephen has finished typing and his holiday review is now on the web. I have posted my holiday opinion on my stand-alone blog that is appropriately titled where has stephen gone ? I set up this blog to keep my holiday opinions separate from natural yogurt, my everyday soap box!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ritual by Mo Hayder .

Nine feet under water in Bristol Harbour, a police diver finds a human hand. This is the start to a 547 page crime thriller that is written in a similar voice to the last book I had read, Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid . These 2 authors are very similar and I cannot praise one higher than the other. This book is set in and around Bristol where I had lived for 20 happy years, so I found this novel very easy to relate to. This story is very moody and dark, just like those written by Harlan Coben and R. J. Ellory but they are a joy to read.

There is a good structure to this novel, a little creepy but it has the appeal of darkness, the mystery of the night. You feel as though you have been on a journey, a journey where you understand and learn. You think about diving, 2 types of diving, regular water and then into the mysteries of our urban and rural landscapes. You then wonder where the Tokoloshe may be lurking, stroking and looking your way.

I vote this book a HIT. There is a lovely explanation from the author that runs from pages 553 to 559. Then you understand fully what this story means to Mo Hayder and why after the copyright information on page 6, it simply states...

To 'Adam'

Friday, May 22, 2009

Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid .

This book is a 484 page crime thriller of the Dr Tony Hill profiler series, which became the Wire in the Blood television programme. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel which was such a joy because it is so full of detail. There is so much going on around the main body of the plot. The depth of this story is so great that it makes this book such a page-turner. Val has a very good writing style that is rich in content and shows she has a good understanding of life and society. To illustrate this understanding on page 177 she explains "pegging" and on page 354 she explains the choices terrorists make when selecting a target. This book is more than just a police procedural story!

This story also shows how people think and it is great for the armchair psychologist. I like the quality of the plot, the writing, the steady pace, the degree of background and the perspective that is developed for the reader. The general feeling you get is that you have a full book rather than a novella with froth on the top. I vote this book a HIT and I can see why Val has had another 21 books published. I would be happy to buy another of her books.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shock and Awe by David Isaak.

This novel has 472 pages and it is not really a thriller as it just plods along. It presents a feasible fantasy that could just work. It involves just one simple idea, to fight terror with terror. Some Americans plan a terror attack on Mecca and this book is not about Shock and Awe but Shock and Bore! It is an action story written in a James Bond style and is rather puerile. This is a poor book with very little attitude. It does not have a deep plot, just plenty of shoot, shoot and bang. It is a story of soldiers at play for the benefit of the armchair army. It does however show just how arrogant Americans can be! I vote this book a MISS as it does not meet my quality threshold. I have taken nothing away after reading this book and I will not buy another of David's books. This novel did not inspire or greatly entertain me. His writing is okay but the content is shallow and all his characters appear distant.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back from my holidays.

Okay readers, normal blogging will shortly be resumed as I have arrived back from my holidays to Agadir in Morocco. What a surprise arriving back in the UK from such a refreshing holiday. Rain was lashing against my car windscreen this morning, what a surprise as I had not seen any rain for over 14 days! We watched television in our hotel room and laughed out loud at the dreadful weather you were suffering as we were bathing in the sun with daytime temperatures greater than 30C.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Body of Lies by David Ignatius .

CIA agent Roger Ferris is on the verge of penetrating the network of the master terrorist known only as 'Suleiman'. Weaving a daring web of lies and deception, he hopes to trick the enemy into believing a CIA operative has infiltrated their ranks...

...This 418 page novel is a thriller based on the "War on Terror". This book is written by David Ignatius who is an Op-ED Columnist for the Washington Post. In his columns David writes about the Middle East and the CIA. In this novel he writes about the Middle East and the CIA. Because of his day-job this novel is spot-on and David shows that he has his finger on the pulse. It is a joy to read this story as it is told with such local colour that you get a great feeling for the Arab culture. Another nice touch is where Arabic phrases are included in the dialogue which gives you the feeling of being there.

This story is about spreading lies and the mechanics of deception. David explains the history of this deception as part of the story when on page 133 he writes...

'I know what you have been doing. We have an expression for it in Arabic, called taqiyya . It comes from the time of the Prophet. It is the lie you tell to protect yourself from the unbelievers. They are the ignorant ones, so you can tell them any lie you want. That is what you and Ed Hoffman have been doing to me with your deceptions. Taqiyya . But you have made a very bad mistake.'

...David continues on page 140...

In the drowsy stump of the long flight, Ferris pondered what Hani had said about taqiyya , the necessary lie. In the Islamic texts he had studied back at Columbia, the term usually applied to Shiites, who were taught to dissimulate when necessary to avoid danger. Indeed, this slipperiness wass one reason Sunnis viewed them as inveterate liars. But there was a deeper meaning that went back to the Koran. It concerned a companion of the prophet named Ammar bin Yasir, who was imprisioned in Mecca with his family after the Prophet fled to Medina in the hijrah . Bin Yasir's parents were tortured and killed for their allegiance to Islam. Bin Yasir was more devious: He tricked the infidels by pretending to worship their idols, and then escaped to Medina, where he rejoined Muhammad. When he asked the Prophet if he had done the right thing by lying, Muhammad assured him that he had done his duty. Bin Yasir had surrounded the truth with a bodyguard of lies, as the British put it many centuries later. He had treated the infidels with the contempt they deserved. He had gone into the heart of their encampment and deceived them, so that he could fight another day.

...So the story develops and the CIA builds their Body of Lies. It is an enjoyable plot and everything is spot on. Everything is believable and by observing current affairs through the press you understand that this is how things happen in the ongoing War on Terror. Everything makes sense until you get to page 378...

Suleiman cocked his head suddenly, like an animal that has heard a noise he doesn't like. 'I am sorry. What are you saying? Who is Alice?'

...And then the reader thinks - WOW! what the hell is going on? I do not understand, this does not add-up. You are confused and you do not know what to think. This is a big and very clever twist in the plot. The story moves on from here and everything works out. You then realise that the ending is right and it makes far more sense than the direction this novel was taking before page 378. Towards the ending of this novel you are nodding in agreement with the dialogue between the leading characters.

I vote this book a HIT and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It gave plenty of room for thought into what happens behind the scenes in the War on Terror.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Springing a leak.

Oh, it has not rained for a while and I got a shock on Thursday when I walked our dog along wet pavements. My toes felt cold in both feet. This seemed an odd sensation and I wondered why? When I slipped off my Padders , which I have only worn since February, I found that both shoes were taking in water below my toes. Both soles had become porous and I could not see any cracks. This is a poor show and I am disappointed. These shoes look good but they are of little use to me if I cannot walk along wet pavement without getting wet socks and toes. Shoes should remain dry for longer than 3 months and I shall never in my lifetime buy another pair of Padders. Once bitten, twice shy! Thankfully I have other waterproof shoes in my wardrobe and I have gone back to wearing my Blue Harbour shoes to work.

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