Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini **possible spoilers ahead**

First published in 1922 I am shocked I somehow missed this great book up until now. I've always been a big lover of the swashbuckling pirate tales and this book is definitely swashbuckling!

Set in 1600s we are first introduced to Peter Blood as a doctor tending his geraniums whilst he watches the rest of the town head off to support the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth. Whilst not wanting to get involved in the rebellion he finds he has no choice after being caught tending a wounded rebel and sent as a slave to Barbados.

Now this is where it all starts to kick off - with a horrid man buying him, a lovely lady keeping him interested and a deep anger and hatred burning for the injustice of it all - Blood is shown to be opportunistic and falls back on his previous careers as a soldier & sailor when presented with the chance to escape slavery and take up the life of piracy.

This book is full of everything one would expect from a pirate tale: pieces of eight, sword fights, archetypal villains, damsels in distress and, of course, good triumphing over evil! Where Sabatini really excels, however, are the sea battles. You are dragged in to a point where you can almost hear the ship timbers creaking as Blood creates some spectacular ship maneuvers and has you giggling in glee (in a packed hospital waiting room) as his ship appears out of the cannon smoke to take down the bad guy! With more than one enemy out to get him Blood still remains a cool character, with his own sense of honour that he fights to uphold in his position as pirate captain.

This has a few twists in the tale as Blood tries to escape piracy when given the opportunity but is thrown into a 'civilised' society still filled with injustice and underhanded dealings that even a pirate wouldn't agree with. Leading him back to life as a pirate and all the more tainted for his experiences, you do feel sympathy for Blood as he was, essentially, forced into being a pirate.

Due to the time this was written there are some racist views and words used that made me grit my teeth, however this is quite tame for other books at the time - and you must keep reminding yourself that this is not a modern book and those views/words did, sadly, exist in mainstream.

Other than that, this is a gripping pirate tale that I wish I'd found sooner. It will now stay on my eReader as  my 'fall back book'. If you enjoyed Treasure Island when you were younger and wish for a more grown up book based around adult characters then I recommend this book for you. It is for all adventurers, romanticists and people who love pirates with honour!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo **possible spoilers ahead**

Nesbo's third Harry Hole book, first of them to be translated into English, starts off with an American President's visit to Norway and Hole's blunder that needs to be covered up by those higher up.

This faux pas cover up involves Hole being transferred to another section in the police force and being given a 'promotion' by name alone - to begin with - where he ends up monitoring the activities of neo-Nazi groups. It is here where he starts to piece together not-so-random pieces of a case that takes the reader back to WWII and one of the groups of pro-Nazi, Norwegian soldiers that were fighting on the eastern front.

This case does the traditional 'Nordic Noir' thing that I'm quite sure every policeman in Scandinavia dreads the idea of and reveals twist after twist until it's no longer a skin-head surveillance case but one that is complicated, decade spanning and needs the detective to rely more on gut instinct than anything. On top of that it branches out into a different case that's only slightly related to it - those poor policemen!

To begin with this book does skip between present day and the 1940s, which I usually find hard to keep up with, but after about halfway through the book this does stop. The history and the light it paints the young soldiers at the time in (not all were necessarily fascist sympathisers, some were hungry, non-political country boys) is rather interesting and thought provoking and not something I recall reading before. Even so, I was still rather happy when the flashbacks ended.

The turning point for the book and the reader is about halfway in when you realise that there's something rather more malevolent than normal hiding between the lines, this was the moment I found myself eager to pick the book up and try to figure it out for myself - unfortunately (or fortunately) Nesbo is far better than I am and there's a reason he's a celebrated crime-writer and I'm not - I just didn't figure it all out until the last few pages, as intended.

The character of Harry Hole himself seems to stick to the cliche of an embittered, loner detective that fights his flaws throughout the book - but I actually rather enjoyed him. As damaged as he is, and becomes, you still feel like giving the occasional cheer for him and his dark humour does add to the whole atmosphere.

This is a rather enjoyable read and I'm glad that I bought the next few in the series, but the intensity means I may take breaks between each book. Now if only the first two Harry Hole books had been translated - there are still some unanswered questions!

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Thanks To The English Teacher

I am currently reading Jo Nesbo’s first translated book of the Harry Hole series, “The Redbreast”, in a decent enough time for me to then go on and review it on here for you lovely followers :D

However I feel that I must warn you all that it may be a longer wait than would be normal or acceptable for the very simple fact that I am also reading Don Quixote on my eReader. Yes folks, I’m afraid that 25 year old me is slowly being dragged into the classics that teen me turned my nose up at for ‘not being exciting enough’. I originally thought the same thing about Don Quixote (having never actually started reading it, mind) and am totally sucked in now. 

Having found a beautiful site known as Project Gutenberg I have added the likes of Persuasion, Emma, Don Juan, Lorna Doone & more to my eReader, Mimi, and my teenage self is slouched in a corner consoling herself with the fact that at least I still have ‘interesting’ books on my bookshelf. Even worse for her is that I admit, and I never thought I’d say this, my teachers were right. There are some great classics out there that I should’ve opened myself up to before and resent that I’m only now getting round to them. Although I still hold Kate Chopin & Ian McEwan as big black marks against you lot so don’t start looking too smug any English teachers reading this! 

Another hand in this is my mum who didn’t stop me from reading Dracula when I was very young and who then thrust ‘A Brave New World’ at me when I was looking for something to read (was that floating round the house already or did you buy that with me in mind?) We have books all over the house and, despite our different tastes in books, growing up around them opened my mind slightly more than it would’ve been.

I really do think that, unfortunately, the style of writing can be enough to put a person, teenage or otherwise, off reading some of the classics. I’m not saying by any means that they should all be updated with modern language though, as that would cause many of the books to lose some of their magic that helped them to become ‘classics’, what I hope is that the English teachers just continue to do the best they can with whatever the syllabus gives them in school (and lord I hope there’s at least some Shakespeare in there!) so that the student isn’t as daunted when they finally get round to opening one of these books. If it weren't for Hamlet (still my favourite) and other works like it I may have felt a bit more scared about tackling some of the 'biggies'.

In all I would just like to say ‘Thank you’ to all my English teachers and to every teacher out there trying to keep that spark in a student alive until they are capable of carrying it themselves.Forget the syllabus and teach them the good stuff *cough* The Duchess of Malfi *cough*.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bob Moore: Desperate Times by Tom Andry **possible spoilers ahead**

The second of Tom Andry's Bob Moore series definitely starts off with a bang.

We find ourselves in a world that relies upon 'Supers' to keep the peace and fight crime suddenly facing the prospect of a life without Supers.  The first chapter kicks off with a catastrophic event that introduces us to the Big Bad that it seems no one can stop (no kiddies, not even our own Superman - scary, huh?) and has every Super dying or running scared, which in turn will have the 'Tippys' (that's us non-superpowered folk) even more scared as it seems there is no one to save them.

This book starts off with a tragic event  that has everyone on high alert and rioting in the street and our favourite PI trying not to be thrust into the middle of it all, despite his ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are introduced to new characters (along with some old) that will either annoy you or have you hoping for something that could happen. It isn't until about halfway through that things become more personal and Bob takes more of an interest in stopping the Big Bad whilst finding out answers of his own.

Ever since the first book - Bob Moore: No Hero - I enjoyed the idea of his world where Supers first started appearing in the 70s, changing the way their world and, more subtly, the technology available to tippys works. It's close enough to us to be believable but at the same time is a giant enough step away to draw you in to a fantastical world.

Andry has created a 'real' PI with all his flaws, his dislike for stereotypes and his damaged past that encourages the reader to empathise with him. This second book focused even more on Bob's friendship and his broken marriage and lost child. I found myself really hoping that everything would have a 'Hollywood ending' and turn out for the better in this case, but with so many twists and turns on the way (and such an amazing revelation!) I feel that this was definitely the better way to end this book.

With a non-stop, action packed storyline I found it rather difficult to put this book down to go to work - once it picked up speed it didn't stop until the end. In Bob Moore Andry has created a character who could go on for a long time yet, and in this world he has created it almost seems to the reader that the possibilities really are endless. The characters, even the supers, are fleshed out and made real with their certain flaws (a love for drink, a superiority complex) and this makes for great reading when you have a PI who knows all the different angles to use on them. Now if only I could get the job as his next assistant!

I will say one thing - Tom Andry is a meanie... and he knows why ;D (you will to once you read this book!)