Book: “Vengeance: Mystery Writers of America Presents”

March 10, 2015

I’ve said it before but since this is a longish post I’ll start it by saying that I don’t know why anyone would be interested in this… this blog for me is mostly to help me remember things like which book I’ve read, film I’ve seen and places I’ve visited.  Occasionally I’ll post an opinion piece but that is very rare.  This post for example is not a review of this collection of short stories, nor is it a review of any or all of the stories in the collection.  It is a reminder to myself that I read this and that I might be interested in reading more by some of the authors if I ever get the time to do so.

bookThis collection of short stories has Lee Child’s name on the cover and a forward by him about how the collection was drawn together.  There is also one ‘new story from Lee Child’ but really it isn’t his best so that is no reason to go for this book.

However, if you are looking for 21 short stories that need little investment in time or energy this might be a good read.  Indeed, I read most of these during a 20min commute with very little effort.  Overall I wasn’t blown away by the standard.  There were a few that stood out Michael Connelly, Anne Swardson and Darrell James, for example but far too many ‘misses’.

Here is what I thought as I finished each story:

THE FOURTEENTH JUROR BY TWIST PHELAN
Two detectives taking to a judge, the older one seemingly writing out that the judge murdered our victim while hit rookie colleague tries to keep up. But the twists towards the end turn everything around. Well structured writing in what could have been the claustrophobic environment of an interview in judge chambers. (Follow this author)

THE MOTHER BY ALAFAIR BURKE
A lawyer in a child welfare case who is more involved in the case than she should be. After a failed prosecution a girl is to be returned to her father unless she can do something about it. When she can’t…   A disturbing but gripping story with several twists – good read.

LOST AND FOUND BY ZOË SHARP
A peodophile priest ‘s past catches up with him, but as he lies dying there is one last chance for redemption and forgiveness.

BLIND JUSTICE BY JIM FUSILLI
Story of two New York Italian gangsters that was so full of New York Italian gangster slang and jargon that I couldn’t follow the plot and gave up. Rubbish!

THE CONSUMERS BY DENNIS LEHANE
Great short story with intriguing ending based around an abused woman hiring a someone to kill her husband. (Follow this author)

MOONSHINER’S LAMENT BY RICK McMAHAN
Wow, very well paced starting slow but quickly building. I felt drawn in to the characters and surprised by the ending very well put together ‘tight’ writing style made this a great short story. (Follow this author)

RIVER SECRET BY ANNE SWARDSON
Another good read, a sad tale of a busker in Paris going about his business watching the people who watch him. He builds an unspoken relationship with a little girl… (Follow this author)

HOT SUGAR BLUES BY STEVE LISKOW
OK story a sort of internal monologue mostly, didn’t really grab me and I spotted the ending too quickly. To be fair I was distracted so didn’t get to read this in one go.

THE FINAL BALLOT BY BRENDAN DuBOIS
Really enjoyed this story of a political fixer with eyes on the Whitehouse making a problem go away, or does he?
(Follow this author)

AFRICA ALWAYS NEEDS GUNS BY MICHAEL NIEMANN
A powerless UN Investigator looking for arms in a corrupt system… Finds justice. Well put together little story.

THE UNREMARKABLE HEART BY KARIN SLAUGHTER
After the first few pages about a woman dying of cancer I decided not to read this one. Not for me.

IT AIN’T RIGHT BY MICHELLE GAGNON
Too short, nothing happens.

SILENT JUSTICE BY C. E. LAWRENCE
A well crafted central character is at the heart of this story. A priest who hears a confession he can’t deal with. It didn’t feel original but not cleched, a good read.

EVEN A BLIND MAN BY DARRELL JAMES
Short story of a blind black man in the south. After receiving let’s from a granddaughter he didn’t know he had then one just asking for ‘help’ an old man makes his way to a seedy southern city. Well told story, good read.

THE GENERAL BY JANICE LAW
Ok, but a buy laboured and predictable.

A FINE MIST OF BLOOD BY MICHAEL CONNELLY
Great short story with a character I am slightly failure with. Good to read in the right format.
(Follow this author)

LEVERAGE BY MIKE COOPER
In stead of “who done it” this is a “will he do it” as a man layer of by the company with his pension ‘stolen’ goes after the boss to ask him some questions.

THE HOTLINE BY DREDA SAY MITCHELL
clever little revenge story, based in London for a change – most of these are very US focused. Good read. (follow this author)

BLOOD AND SUNSHINE BY ADAM MEYER
About an ‘evil’ five year old.. at that point I stopped reading because I believe in the innocence of youth.

IN PERSONA CHRISTI BY OREST STELMACH
Well told story of a priest in a bad neighbourhood protecting his flock.

THE HOLLYWOOD I REMEMBER BY LEE CHILD
OK, but too short.


Books: Richard Grady “One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure”

February 26, 2015

This is a story (almost) about the 2012 Tour de France and (almost) about a pleasant trip around France.  But it is more about a slightly grumpy man having a terrible time in a motorhome.

bookRichard is asked to drive support for his friend taking on the route of one of the toughest cycle races in the world.  The plan is to ride each stage of the tour one day ahead of the race coming.  The roads are still open but the route markings are in place and each town is getting ready for the circus.

This plan soon grows to four cyclists with two motorhomes in support driving them to the start of each days ride, meeting the riders for food stops and getting camp ready for them at night.  A full time job – which the girlfriends in motorhome 2 aren’t  fully aware of.  The tension between the motorhomes, keeping everything on schedule and completing the daily millage keeps the book moving and entertaining.

There are enough background and history of the Tour to add interest without becoming a text book.  Each day also has a recap of what is happening in the real race just one day behind our group.  A nice little book, very easy to dip into and with lots of humour.


Books: Peter May “The Lewis Man”

January 8, 2015

This is the second in Peter May‘s Lewis Trilogy, following up shortly after the end of The Blackhouse. Finn MacLeod is divorced, leaving the Police force and moving his life back to his birthplace on the Isle of Lewis with plans restore his parents croft house.  Meanwhile the well preserved body of a murder victim is found in a peat bog and DNA test show him to be related to Tormond MacDonald the father of Finn’s childhood sweetheart Marsaili.  However, Tormond now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child.

book The story unfolds in multiple ways through the inner thoughts of Tormond trapped in his dementia not knowing what is going on when he is in a nursing home but thinks he is a young man.  Memories and flashbacks to his childhood in a nightmare of orphanages and servitude, and his own childhood sweetheart.  Meanwhile Finn is trying to put the pieces together to discover who the body in the bog is and due to that who Tormond really is.

I did find the middle part of this book a little slow but towards the end the momentum really built up again to an ending that was both dramatic and thrilling.  This would make a great little TV mini series, and I look forward to reading the last in the trilogy.

 


Review of 2014

January 3, 2015

Previously: 200920102011, 2012, 2013.  Now for the summary of my blog posts for 2014 (there weren’t many)… as ever please note this is only to help me remember things I really don’t know why anyone else would be interested:

MOVIES (cinema)

Gigs, Events & Theater

  • May: Wicked
  • Nov: Glasgow City Council Civic Reception for St Silas 150 year anniversary.

BOOKS read this year….

  • June: Lee Child “Never Go Back”
  • that appears to be it!  In my defense I have started a few and decided they weren’t worth the effort and I currently have three on the go but still only one book completed and blogged about all year is shameful! Must do better next year!

Holidays

  • March: Crieff Hydro
  • May: Seahouses, Northumberland
  • Aug: Isle of Lewis
  • Nov: Crieff Hydro

Other Highlights:

  • April: Son turned 1, walks, had chicken pox, is great fun!
  • July: Commonwealth Games were in Glasgow
  • July: 1 Year of Cycling to Work
  • Sept: Got a new bike through cycle to work scheme
  • Sept: Started working condensed 4 day week to have Monday’s with Lewis
  • Nov: Civic Reception and other celebrations for St Silas 150 year anniversary.

Running Totals:

  • 2009 – 23 books – 6 Movies – 4 gigs/events
  • 2010 – 33 books – 13 Movies – 10 gigs/events – 6 meals – 4 holidays
  • 2011 – 18 books – 2 Movies – 3 gigs/events – 1 meals – 3 holidays
  • 2012 – 16 books – 7 Movies – 3 gigs/events – 3 meals – 4 holidays
  • 2013 – 8 books – 2 Movies – 0 gigs/events – 1 meals – 2 holidays – 1 Son
  • 2014 – 1 books – 3 Movies – 2 gigs/events – 0 meals – 4 holidays – 1 Son

Movie: Paddington

December 3, 2014

moviesVery simple to review this movie – it’s great!

It doesn’t spoil anything you already know and love about Paddington and adds a great deal.  The animation with live action is excellent making the movie believable and all the acting just on the edge of being over the top but holding it together.

Having grown up with the 5min cartoons it was great to see this as a full length movie.  Will be fine on the small screen eventually, but worth watching on a big one.

 


Movie: What We Did on Our Holiday

October 8, 2014

We got to the cinema!!

Son away overnight so a lot of pressure to have a good time, in this case to choose a good film.  Without a great deal of research we choose to see What We Did on Our Holiday, based on the cast and team behind it..  Billy Connoly, David Tennant, Ben Millar, Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkins.  All I knew about this was a soundbite from Andy Hamilton saying that the film is what they might do with Outnumbered given the pace of a movie.

movieThis is a lovely little film showing family life – how the grown ups talk in front of children and when they think they aren’t listening, how the children react and their understanding of what is going on.  For example, the ‘grown ups’ hide from the children that the grandfather (Connoly) is dying, but when he simply tells them they understand and accept what it means.

I have to admit I was expecting a fairly formulaic movie but with these stars it would still be worth watching.  However, it took an unexpected turn which threw things in a different direction and made it far from formulaic.  The cast are as you would expect fantastic.  The unscripted scenes with the children are fantastic not just because of what they say and do but also the adult actors reaction to what is happening.

This is a really nice film that covers some difficult topics it was nice to watch it on the big screen (Scotland always looks great on a big screen) but I don’t think you would be missing out if you waited to see it on a TV.

PS I can also recommend Empire Cinema in Clydebank for their “Saverday Tuesday” (£3.60 each) but also for the excellent staff who sorted out the row of 8 loudly chatting, phone using, over excited teens.  Have they not heard of the Code of Conduct!


Books: Lee Child “Never Go Back”

June 16, 2014

A long time fan of Lee Child I’ve read all the Jack Reacher stories, when on form there is no better thriller writer.  There have been a couple of books that were a bit dud (in my opinion) and I’m afraid that’s how this one ended up for me.

bookIt started really strong with all the features we look for in a Reacher story plus the twist of him going back to his old command.  In fact the story is really strong for at least half the book with the usual pace and cliffhanger or twist at each chapter change, but as the book draws in there really isn’t any substance to the plot.  He is on the run (or chasing down leads) but with no real reason to anything.  When the final reveal happens and we find out what has been going on all this time – who the bad guys are and what they are up to – it is fairly week and I just thought ‘oh is that all’

In the end it felt like a bit of a waste of time, which is a shame when the first part of the book was ok but the pay-off wasn’t very interesting or as clever as I’ve come to expect from Lee Child.  Still a great character and worth a read but not his best story.


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