Just a quick note first before I discuss what I’ve been reading: I’m not much into social networking, perhaps being too old to “get it”. I tried Facebook but found it pointless, and I’ve tried Twitter and I can’t see why on earth anyone would want to use it. Clearly I’m in the minority here!
However, I have been having fun recently with a book-oriented social network site called Shelfari, which is owned by Amazon.
It enables you to catalog all your books in a really easy manner, and to join in discussions about them. I rather like it. Mind you, I’ve so far only catalogued about 10% of my collection of around 3,000 books (!) but I’ve found it far easier than with comparable sites like LibraryThing, and the Shelfari site is more fun to use.
Anyway, on to the recent books!
World Without End by Ken Follett
Ebook on my iPad
I have to say that I was disappointed by this. I rather enjoyed the previous book in this series, Pillars of the Earth, but World Without End seems to lack something that the earlier book had going for it.
Several things annoyed me about the book.
One of the things I expressed a concern about after reading Pillars of the Earth was that I felt that the thought-patterns of the 12th Century characters seemed far too modern. I could accept that Follett has translated how people would speak but I couldn’t quite accept that he had accurately depicted how people thought and felt back then.
This concern becomes much stronger in reading World Without End. The characters just seem way too modern in their attitudes. For example, the heavy emphasis on sex in this book. Now I’m sure that mediaeval people enjoyed sex just as much as we do, but I’m not convinced that in those times they would treat and speak of sex quite as casually as we do now. The dismissive attitude of the main characters to the aristocracy, to religion and the church seems also to be a very modern, rather than a credible mediaeval view.
The other problem is with the plot. It’s a long book, but it seems to be filled out with repetitions of the same set of events with minor variations. Merthin and Caris come up with an idea; the prior of the cathedral blocks them; they come up with a way to work around the block. And it happens again, and again. Richard, the stupid bully, carries out some vile act; he comes close to punishment; he escapes punishment. Again and again. Gwenda and her husband suffer at Richard’s hands; they suffer some more; and then some more. It all becomes very predictable; and Richard is just a replay of the character of William Hamleigh in the earlier book.
And there are some just plain silly parts to the plot. The unlikely journey of Caris and Mair to France seems there just so that Follett can eventually place them at the Battle of Crecy for no good reason other than that he wants to talk about the battle. (A much better treatment of this battle is to be found in Bernard Cornwell’s book The Archer’s Tale (Harlequin), by the way).
Another is the supposed breakthrough that Caris makes in dealing with victims of the Black Death. Wearing a facemask and washing your hands makes all the difference, apparently, in preventing you getting infected. Except that it is generally agreed that the Black Death was caused by bubonic plague. Which is spread by infected fleas. A facemask would make no difference whatsoever.
So, although the book isn’t exactly bad, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, and it was a struggle to finish.
Running from the Law by Lisa Scottoline
Audiobook on my iPhone
Pleasant enough thriller, lifted out of the ruck by the smart, sassy character of the narrator, Rita Morrone, and the sly humour of her interactions with her extended family (her father, uncle, and a bunch of his poker-playing cronies)
A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane
Ebook on my iPad
I bought this because I had enjoyed Shutter Island by the same author so much. This is a thriller set in modern Boston, and the first of a series starring the two main characters, who have a private investigations agency. I enjoyed it a lot, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Dark Matter by Philip Kerr
Ebook on my iPad
Ho-hum mystery set in the 17th Century, with Sir Isaac Newton as the Sherlock Holmes of the time. While it’s true that Newton did carry out investigations into coining while he was at the Mint, I didn’t find this novel rang true. What turned me off immediately was the almost obligatory little scene along the lines of “Oh ho, I see that you are a good man with a rapier and a keen shot besides!” “My goodness
Holmes Sir Isaac, however did you guess that?”…. you know the kind of thing. And the big slabs of familiar Newton quotes delivered as speech.
The one good thing about the novel is that it has been handsomely treated in its ebook conversion and looks really good, with nice chapter illustrations.
Starcross by Philip Reeve
Hardcover, my collection
More fun in the sequel to Larklight. Steampunk SF for teens.