Sunday, October 22, 2017

Book Review: The Religion by Tim Willocks

The Religion, by author Tim Willocks, is set upon the island of Malta in 1565 and follows the exploits of Mathias Tannhauser, an adventurer and mercenary who embarks on a mission to locate a Maltese Noblewoman's estranged son. This quest is set during the time and true events of the great siege of Malta, which pitched the Knight's Hospitaller and people of Malta against the combined forces of the Ottoman Empire and its allies, one of the last great crusader battles.

The Religion is an extremely well-researched and equally well-written novel but whilst large parts of the book are devoted to battle scenes, the prose does not adopt a descriptive, repetitive or hackneyed style; in fact the descriptions of combat are brutal, gory, poetic and written in a gripping style full of suspense with larger than life heroes and villains as the combatants.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

 The Hunchback of Notre Dame available on
It is interesting to note that Victor Hugo never wrote a novel called "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", this is an English translation of the original title which would better be named "Notre Dame of Paris". This title far better introduces the reader to the content of the book which focuses on a narrative around the cathedral rather than Quasimodo, the hunchback; in essence the book is driven by the location, not by the characters.

This, then, highlights the main drawback, for me, of this famous work of fiction, in that it dwells far too long upon creating the atmosphere of the cathedral and its surroundings in neglect of the plot of the book. It will have been said that this is a masterpiece of literature in the way it paints a portrait of life in this part of Paris at that point in its history but in my opinion the author takes far, far too long to get to the point and becomes very boring, a chore to read rather than a pleasure, a literary battle to even get to the point at which the Hunchback is introduced.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book Review: So Shall We Reap by Colin Tudge

Food continues to become cheaper and accessible through supermarkets, but is it getting better, and is the current supply sustainable? In "So Shall We Reap" author Colin Tudge deals with such questions by linking gastronomy, the hunter gatherer and the rural economy to oil production, health, animal welfare and cut-throat business practices. In this book the reader learns about the global food industry and how it has changed throughout the last century and how these changes have resulted in the call for Genetically Modified Organisms by parties set to benefit economically by their introduction.

Although written by a scientist, who is able to rely on a wide variety of disciplines from which he provides evidence for his arguments, this book is an enjoyable and informative read, linking from one topic to another with great skill in something of a revelationary, but not preachy, style.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: Mogadishu Diaries, Bloodlines by Eddie Clay Thomkins III

"Mogadishu Diaries, Bloodlines" follows the exploits of a group of US Marines, between 1992-1993, taking part in the conflict in Somalia in which time local warlords were targeted by the US and UN in an attempt to restore stability to this East African country. In this book Eddie Clay Thomkins III provides a narrative account of the events in Somalia that preceded those which were made famous in the book and resultant movie, "Blackhawk Down".

In Bloodlines the author has created a book which is both interesting and easy-to-read, not getting bogged down in long, superfluous, background story but just getting straight into the action. Indeed, so easy it is to read that it actually feels a bit light for the subject matter and it is testament to the way that the events are described, in a reader-friendly way, that the end is reached so quickly that readers may feel a little short-changed in terms of the amount of content here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Review: Slam by Nick Hornby

"Slam" is an amusing insight into the life of a teenager who is cruising through life, happy with his lot, until a small mistake changes his life forever. Nick Hornby is well-known for his books in which he writes about the feelings and emotions of the characters dealing with the type of situations that effect every day people and in Slam he does an incredible job of writing in the narrative of a teenager obsessed with skate-boarding.

This story is about how the main character, Sam, has to deal with the consequences of his actions as he is dealt with the problems of a man while still a teenager - the increasingly familiar issue of teenage pregnancy. What is interesting in this book is how Sam's perception of living with the consequences of his actions contrast with an alternative version of what could happen and how Sam, in the absence of a father figure, turns for life advice to the unlikely guru-like figure of the skater Tony Hawk.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Review: Whatever Loves Means by David Baddiel

Author, David Baddiel, sets his novel, "Whatever Love Means", during the hysteria surrounding the death of Princess Diana, in 1997, where a difference of opinion on how this historical event affects people's everyday lives drives the initial wedge between a married couple that begins a process in which, ultimately, several close relationships are utterly destroyed.

Played out to the backdrop of a national event in which many people try their best to turn into their own personal tragedy, a real rupture occurs in the life of Joe and his family as his wife dies in mysterious circumstances leaving him with their small child to look after. Not prepared to accept the official account of the circumstances of his wife's death Joe delves further into the tragedy only to find that he has been terribly let down by all of those who were closest to him.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review: The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith

The "44 Scotland Street" novels are one of the series of books that Alexander McCall Smith is known for and this is the fourth installment. Set in Edinburgh the reader follows a snapshot of the lives of the inhabitants of Scotland Street, with the young Bertie as a central character, a boy who is unfortunate enough to have an over-protective and over-ambitious mother pushing him into music classes and yoga lessons when all he wants to do is be a normal little boy.

The strength of this book lies in the characters. Seldom have I read a book with so many interesting and unusual characters that quickly make the reader want to know more about them and find out where their story is going to end up; the art dealer and his new girlfriend the teacher, the Jacobites, the woman whose father "buys" her a husband and little Bertie himself. Unfortunately, this leads to the major weakness of this book; the reader never gets very deep into any of the characters lives, they are spread rather thinly through the book and not one of them has their narrative concluded. In other words there is no plot at all.