Showing posts with label armchair travels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label armchair travels. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ian Rankin's Black and Blue Book Review

Eighth in the series, Black and Blue: is An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin. Find my review here.
Interesting the number of covers Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue has had. I am surprised though I know that different book formats come with different covers. This book, however, seems to have had a lot of different looks. I suppose that is what happens to a successful book as it gains some age.

Of course, once you have a book in your hand, it matters not a whit what the cover looks like though the cover may have helped that book find its way into your hands in the first place. In this case, what it looks like did not matter because this book is one of the books that will be discussed in the late fall class I am taking in Ottawa through Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program called Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today.

Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue is a fictional detective story, written  in 1997 and based firmly in the Scotland of the 1990s. In her class notes, our instructor Stefani Nielson calls the book “post-Christie,” “British realism noir” and she says that it features a “working class anti-hero.”

I did not know what was meant by that last term, anti-hero, so I googled it and Wikipedia shares that “An antihero is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality.” Inspector Rebus is a hard-working, hardened police officer and former SAS officer now coping in self-destruct mode with what life has thrown at him. He is anti-social and struggles with relationships. He is a drinking man with sometimes questionable scruples who is determined to get the job done regardless of who is in the way.

The Story


Black and Blue finds our anti-hero unofficially working four cases at the same time. Among the four, two stand out. He is searching for a mass murderer nicknamed Bible John on a cold case from the 1960s and 1970s and he is searching for a copycat murderer who has been nicknamed Bible Johnny. Set in Scotland, the author helps us visit his Scotland from the comfort of our arm chairs. Our travels will include time in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Shetland and even the oilfields in the North Sea.

It is a long book at more than 550 pages but it is action packed so if you love to read, that should cause you no issues. If you read the book, you will become heavily invested in the main character and consumed by the desire to know who is responsible for the crimes committed and if and how they are all connected.

Is this a good time to tell you that Black and Blue is the eighth in a series of books about Inspector Rebus? It is my first Ian Rankin novel because I am reading it in preparation for my class. In normal circumstances, I would have picked book one as a starting point.

Who Will Like This Book?


Anyone who likes a well-crafted detective novel and does not mind the world that a police officer travels in. This book definitely has violence but it is far from the worst I have ever read and, of course, it has a police officer who drinks, smokes and cuts corners.

Reviews


Goodreads says, “Written with Ian Rankin's signature wit, style and intricacy, Black and Blue is a novel of uncommon and unforgettable intrigue.” The readers who write the reviews on the website rate this book 4.08 out of 5. One of those readers says, “Now this is how you write a really good crime novel!

On his blog, Simon McDonald says, “…this book is one of the author’s best… more than awhodunit, it is a searing commentary on mid-nineties Scotland, told so palatably, so relentlessly…

Personally, I have really enjoyed this novel and meeting Inspector Rebus. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy crime detective fiction. I will definitely have to go back to the start of the series, which is where, I imagine, you will start if you decide you would like to travel in Inspector Rebus's world. You can find all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels on Amazon quickly by clicking right here.

Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection

Interesting Facts


This book is considered an important story in Tartan Noir, which is genre in crime fiction written by Scottish writers and set in Scotland. Wikipedia says that Tartan Noir has roots in Scottish literature but adapts elements from other writers like era-specific American crime writers and European crime writers.

The title of the book, Black and Blue, relates to the Rolling Stones album of the same name, it relates to the state we often find our anti-hero in and it relates to the oil fields and the policeman of this story.

The Dancing Pigs, the successful punk music band featured in this book, were recreated from an unsuccessful band that the author played in for a year as a 19-year old. Rankin enjoyed making the band successful in his book. Who could resist? I think I would have done the same.

You may also have seen a mini-series called Ian Rankin's Rebus about the character that aired in 2000. Find it on Amazon here.

Be sure to come back and let us know how you enjoy any of Ian Rankin's books and, if you have seen the mini-series, we would love to hear that, too.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Black and Blue on Amazon.
Find Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection on Amazon.








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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review
Another trip! This time my armchair travels took me to colonial Kenya, Africa via Paula McLain's historical biography Circling the Sun. Set in the 1920s, it is totally engaging, a fictional account of the real Beryl Markham's life. Beryl lived in what is now known as settler-era Africa. She was definitely a woman before her time and her story is very interesting. 

It starts in England but is mostly set in Kenya where Beryl's mother abandons her with her father. Beryl embraces the local African culture and in the long run becomes a record-setting aviator. That is, after a a life spent conquering the male-dominated equestrian world and loving a man she could never have.

Do I Recommend Circling the Sun?


I do. I highly recommend Circling the Sun if you enjoy historical fiction and are intrigued with the idea of visiting Africa. This book sheds light on the life of a woman and a country that we have not heard much about.
I thought it was an enjoyable read but New York Times' writer Alexandra Fuller found it a bit fluffy. However, in her review she agrees that "the settlers who used Kenya as their hapless playground did so at catastrophic expense to those who called Kenya home long before the whites arrived." It is an interesting peek into the history of Africa.

As Julie McDowall said when she reviewed the book for the Independent, it it is filled with "vigorous, swift, and spangled with spectacular imagery." I came away wanting to visit Africa though of course I wanted to visit that country before I read this book. I also agree with McDowall when she said the story quickens near the end and that not enough time is spent on the one thing Beryl is famed for, her flying. If you want to read this book for the aviation, prepare to be disappointed.

The Boston Globe said, "McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail — though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi."  Exactly.

Circling the Sun follows Paula McLain's hugely successful novel The Paris Wife, which I can also highly recommend. That book is set in jazz age Paris and follows the life of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife.

Are you intrigued by the idea of visiting Africa? Will you visit via McLain's book? You can find Circling the Sun on Amazon by following this link.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Circling the Sun on Amazon.




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Monday, May 7, 2018

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS, A Book Review (1988)

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS Book ReviewI have just returned from a trip around the world. A few of the more exotic countries that I visited were Thailand, Maylaysia, Bonaire, Ireland, England, Tanzania, Jamaica, New Guinea and Pakistan. On these travels, I climbed mountains, swam in the seas and slept with fleas. I mingled with elephants, felt the breath of gorillas on my face and swam among the sharks. I travelled off the beaten path and in some very rough conditions.

This trip was another armchair travels trip that I took via Michael Crichton's nonfiction book, Travels. It was a book club book that I recommended to the group. Fortunately, most of the group enjoyed the book more than I did.

I did enjoy parts of the book though I expected something different than I received from within the pages of the covers. It turned out that the title Travels was a little more general than I took it to be. It was meant to encompass Crichton's life adventures, which included literal travel but also spiritual adventures and medical training.

eNotes.com called Travels a "patchwork of pieces salvaged from a writer’s bottom drawer" and that is certainly how I felt about the book and why I was not keen on it. It does a good job of sharing Crichton's experiences individually but I would have appreciated it more if it had flowed as a single story rather than a series of short stories. In terms of writings, I suppose one might consider it a journal or diary of sorts.

On Crichton's website, it says that the book started as a series of travel pieces though he never intended to write about his travels thinking of them as just "something he did for himself that wasn’t work-related and wasn’t supposed to amount to anything." I understand how an author would not always want to chronicle everything in his life. Anyway, when Crichton discovered that some of his most important experiences happened on his trips this book was born and, when the book became autobiographical, he added the medical stories.

I am sure you have heard of Michael Crichton. He was a very successful novelist, screenwriter and film director. It is interesting that he wrote and sold books while he was studying to become a medical doctor though perhaps odd that he made it through the entire training program before he decided he did not actually want to be a doctor. In his 66 years, he wrote eleven books and more than 200 million copies of them have been sold in the science fiction, thriller and medical genres. In 1994, he had an unbelievable trifecta that included a number one movie, a book and a television show. Namely, Jurassic Park, Disclosure and ER. I am sure you will have heard of a couple of those, too.

Do I recommend Travels?

I guess so, reservedly. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a page turner or an engaging novel. This book is as I have said before, a group of stories.

If you like to travel, you might enjoy the unusual destinations in this book whether or not you would choose them yourself. If you do not travel, you might enjoy visiting these places via the pages of a book.

Whether or not you believe in psychic phenomenons like aura reading, spoon bending, out-of-body trips and exorcism, you might enjoy learning about them and the various experiences Crichton had in the metaphysical world.

If you are interested in the human body or in being a medical doctor, you might appreciate the first chapters more than I did. If you red the book, you will discover how medical students are assigned cadavers and what follows.

But do not let my lukewarm recommendation be the deciding factor about whether or not you read this book for I have read many reviews by people who really enjoyed it and the majority of my book club members found Crichton's adventures interesting.

Reviewer Patricia Bosworth said in a 1988 New York Times book review, "I was ultimately swept away (by this book), not just by Crichton's richly informed mind, but his driving curiosity. Satisfying your curiosity takes guts."

Shangri-La anyone? The Shangri-La Michael Crichton visited is not the one you might have in your mind's eye. I thought of Shangri-La as an earthly paradise of sorts. Apparently the version I was picturing comes from a 1933 book called Lost Horizon. The real Shangri-La, as experienced in Travels, is quite different from that pleasant image in my mind and a good example of the unusual destinations in this book.

You can learn more about Michael Crichton's Travels on Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read the book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think of it. You might also let us know what your perception of Shangri-La was before you read this post.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Travels from amazon.
More armchair travel book reviews.
Travel with these movies.








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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Paths of Glory Book Review

Jeffrey Archer Paths of Glory Book Review
My first Jeffrey Archer novel, Paths of Glory, came highly recommended recently by my husband.  I asked him for a good book to read and he presented me with five or six choices from his own collection and this is the one that I chose. 

Interestingly, this book recommendation came as I was working my way through my next book club assignment, Travels by Michael Crichton, which also includes a great deal of adventure travel and mountain climbing. Unfortunately, I was struggling with Travels, which though interesting is less of a novel and more of a series of short stories, so I set it aside and picked up Paths of Glory.

Paths of Glory turned out to be a real page turner. Set in the early 1900s in England and on various mountains, it details the life of George Mallory who was born to climb. From the youngest age, he climbed everything that he possibly could including a few things that he should not and it was also at a young age that he set his sights on conquering Mount Everest, an obsession that he lived with throughout his life and that eventually would cost him his life.

The story is a novel but is based on the true story of Mallory's life and his two loves, his wife Ruth and Mount Everest. A period drama, it is interesting and intriguing and of interest to even those of us who have no aspirations to climb a mountain.

George Mallory was a smart student though perhaps not studious. He studied history, served in World War 1 and eventually became a school teacher though he never gave up his obsession with mountain climbing. He was born in 1886 and lived until 1924 when he perished on Mount Everest.  It is still unclear whether he actually accomplished his goal and made it to the top and therefore, whether it is he or Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to conquer Mount Everest. According to Wikipedia, this book was  or is somewhat controversial because of the fact that it challenges who conquered Mount Everest first and because of some factual errors.

Here's a short video clip of author Jeffrey Archer discussing the book:


I believe that Paths of Glory is a great read for anyone who likes a well done adventure story. A mystery story. A period drama. For world travellers who like adventure or for armchair travellers, who just like to read of adventures set in other parts of the world.

Yes, Paths of Glory is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.  You can order your copy of the book in various formats from Amazon here.  I think the book begs to be made into a movie. However, according to Life Spectator, this book was being turned into a movie until another movie called Everest emerged and this one was shelved.

Have you read Paths of Glory? Are you interested? Would you like to climb a mountain or maybe you already have?

See you at the 
top of the mountain!
(Well, maybe not but
definitely at the book store.)

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of Paths of Glory from Amazon.








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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dan Brown ORIGIN Book Review

I was intrigued when I read in Dan Brown’s newest book Origin that the book includes only “Art, architecture, locations, science and religious organisations that are real.” I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the heart of Italy with Dan Brown in Inferno and then with my husband in real life and one day I hope to visit Brown’s Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville in person after having enjoyed my visit with him in this novel.

I’m not quite sure why I picked up Origin but it was at least in part because of the memories and discussions that my entire family had after we all read the first two books in the series, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I know that not all of the books in the series were quite as well received by my family and I have to admit to wondering how many times poor Robert Langdon could be called out to save the day.

Well, as it turns out, at least one more time. In this, the latest book, we are armchair travellers to Spain where Langdon is solving a murder mystery and focuses on the origin of man. It involves the art work, symbols, architecture, locations and religions of Spain. This time, the debate includes some interesting familiar and unfamiliar high-level technology and even a super computer. You will find yourself wondering is that really true and find yourself thankful for Brown’s statement that everything in the book is real.

Origin is the first Dan Brown book to feature modern art since Robert Langdon is not much of a fan of that genre and it focuses on the work of Joan Miró. I recommend googling her to have a feeling for her artwork. It really is different from the masters that Langdon normally prefers.  The book also features literary references to William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche, authors whom I was not particularly knowledgeable of.

The effort required to put this book together with real details and facts is mind boggling. Apparently, Brown employs a team of fact checkers to make sure he is accurately presenting all of that history and science.

Is Origin recommended?


Yes, Origin is recommended by me. Is it highly recommended? I am undecided. I found the novel a bit heavier on religion than I care for and I can honestly say I have never thought about where I came from or where I am going to in such depth. Of course, thinking about our creation and destiny is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was, however, totally fascinated by the high-tech science in this book that includes quantum computing, artificial intelligence in the form of a thinking computer and a self-driving Tesla Model X. The conspiracy website is a nice link between our current online world and the book.

Barcelona Super Computing Center exterior

Barcelona Super Computing Center Interior
Barcelona Super Computing Center
Finally, I liked the glimpse into Spain. Yes, there is really a super computer built inside the walls of a church in Barcelona in this book and the pictures shown here are from the website of the real Barcelona Super Computer Center.

I expect that if you enjoyed Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code, you will likely enjoy Origin.

Origin was published on October 3, 2017 and was number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in that same month and it remains on that list in the number eight position as I write this post in February, 2018. It is also currently number 2 on Amazon’s bestseller list of the top 20 most sold and read books of the week. Is there a movie? Not yet but maybe.

The New York Times finds fault and praise for the book but concludes: ”…for all their high-minded philosophizing, these books’ geeky humor remains a big part of their appeal. Not for nothing does Kirsch’s Tesla have a license plate frame reading: “THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” Brown continues to do everything in his playful power to ensure that will happen.”

Here's an exciting peek at Dan Brown, his books, and Origin. Warning: It will make you want to go to Spain with me.


Origin is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. You can find it here on Amazon. If you decide to read it, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. If you have already done so, have you figured out where we come from and where we are going and, more on point, would you recommend this book to your friends and family?

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

ORDER OF DAN BROWN’S ROBERT LANGDON BOOKS:

Angels & Demons (2000)
The Da Vinci Code (2003)
The Lost Symbol (2009)
Inferno (2013)
Origin (2017)

QUICK LINKS:

Buy Origin on Amazon.
Check out Dan Brown's author page on Amazon.
Read my review of Inferno.






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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Inferno Book Review

Dan Brown Inferno Book Review

A page turner. A real thriller. I absolutely could not put it down. Obviously, I was not alone in my appreciation for this book as it was number one on the New York Times bestseller list for eleven weeks.

Dan Brown InfernoDan Brown's Inferno is the fourth book in the Da Vinci Code series following The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol and Angels and Demons.  In the latest volume, character Robert Langdon awakens in hospital suffering from amnesia. He remembers nothing of the previous days but memory or not, the book erupts into chaos fairly quickly. Langdon is in possession of a special code and discovers hidden parts of Florence and ancient secrets as well as a scientific situation that may improve or devastate life on earth.

Inferno is set mostly in Florence with some time spent in Venice and Istanbul. The jacket says that it "is a sumptuously entertaining read - a novel that will captivate readers with the beauty of classical Italian art, history and literature while also posing provocative questions about the role of cutting edge science in our future." I agree.

If you are up for an exciting adventure, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book. If you are going to Florence, Italy, there is simply no choice. You HAVE to read this book. Inferno was but one of the Italy-themed books we read before we had the opportunity to travel to Italy in October and I am glad that we did read it. If you cannot travel to Italy in person, you can do some armchair travelling with the book, which brilliantly explores Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens and the Duomo.

Personally, I would love to own the special edition book shown above, which is illustrated and includes more than 200 color images. It is the version that I would choose if I were gifting this book to a mystery reader, a Da Vinci Code fan or to someone travelling to Italy.  Here's a video peek at what to expect in the special edition version of the book:


Just watching the video makes me want to read the book again and, of course, go back to Italy! If you are interested, you can find all of the versions of Inferno on Amazon here.

On a final note, the movie version of Inferno was fine.  It was interesting to visit Italy again through the eyes of the movie camera but be warned that it paled in comparison to the book. I also found myself wondering how much one would enjoy the movie if they did not have the knowledge of the story that reading the book gave. This is definitely a situation where the book far surpassed the movie.

Please stay tuned for more Italy-themed book reviews.

Happy Reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy Dan Brown's Inferno on Amazon.







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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Steve Berry's The Amber Room Book Review

Steve Berry's The Amber Room Book Review If you love thrillers like Ian Fletcher's James Bond stories, you will likely enjoy Steve Berry's books. If you have been to St. Petersburg, Russia, or you are going there, you will definitely want to check out his first book as shown here, The Amber Room. If you are going to Russia and you have the chance, I would definitely recommend reading the book before your trip.

Steve Berry's fictional work The Amber Room is especially fascinating because it is based on the existence of a man made marvel and World War II mystery the site of which you can actually visit in Russia. The book is a mystery thriller, set in the world of art and based loosely on the true story of the Amber Room, which legend says the Nazis took when they invaded the Soviet Union.

I was particularly interested in The Amber Room because I had the opportunity to visit the port of St. Petersburg, Russia, for two days on a cruise. St. Petersburg was my favorite port and it was while on a cruise ship excursion to the truly resplendent Catherine's Palace in Tsarkskoe Selo that I learned of the existence and saw first hand The Amber Room.

The Amber Room that we visited that day in Catherine's Palace is actually a replica of the original Amber Room, recreated by Russia and Germany after the war because the original room is still missing. However, even this replica of the original room was beautiful as I suppose it should be since it cost $6 million dollars to create.

This book was interesting and entertaining but be warned that it also contained violence, sex and profanity. With regard to  profanity, Berry has since said that this is his only book that has excessive profanity. He said, "It was an experiment, as there's a character in that story who says just about anything. He was fun to write but I learned that excessive profanity is not all that necessary." In any case, I am sure that this book would be rated R, if they rated books in the same way that they rate movies. If it had been a movie, it would have probably been too violent for me although the idea of this book as a movie is actually intriguing.

If you can tolerate the issues, I do recommend this book. I have since enjoyed many more Steve Berry novels. If you are a reader and looking for a new author to 'consume,' do check him out.  The Amber Room and his other novels are available in all formats from hardcover through to Kindle. You can click here to order your copy of The Amber Room from Amazon.

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Action & Adventure Reading:

Which Is the Best True Grit Movie?
What do you think? Which of the True Grit movies is better?

Clint Eastwood Gran Torino Blu-ray Movie Review
I enjoyed Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino and yes, the car was great, too.






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