Monday, January 26, 2009

Books to be Reviewed: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston & Mario Spezi

Thanks again to Julia Pidduck for sending me a copy of The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi for reviewing. This book documents the true story of Italy's very own "Jack The Ripper"; a serial killer who has gone unpunished despite over 20 years of police work.

"Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved with his family to a villa in Florence. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double murder committed by one of the most infamous figures in Italian history. A serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers, he has never been caught. He is known as the Monster of Florence.

Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city’s bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a bizarre police investigation."

I have recently finished this excellent book and will review it soon. Those who are interested can purchase a copy from The Monster of Florence.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne

Birdwatchingwatching documents the year-long foray into birdwatching by Alex Horne, an investigation into a hobby that his father has long had and that Alex has never understood. In an attempt to understand his father's passion Alex challenges him to a "Big Year", a year in which the person who sees the most species is declared the winner.

Over the course of a year Alex's growing enthusiasm for birds is obvious and the way in which he delves into all the mysterious aspects of birdwatching is very amusing indeed. The style of this book is one of a naive newby to the hobby of birdwatching, almost birdwatching through the eyes of a child, making great reading for anyone who loves birds, from those with just a casual interest to the hard core "twitcher". Indeed, in the course of a year Alex participates in all aspects of birdwatching, attempting to literally become a "robin-stroker" in his back yard and twitching (unsuccessfully) the UK's first Long-billed Murrelet as well as using a birdwatching guide in Africa to boost his yearly total.

The style that birdwatchingwatching is written in belies the fact that the author is a comedian and there are a lot of very amusing insights into the psyche of birdwatchers and comparisons with Alex's first love - football.

This is an excellent read for anyone who has even a passing interest in birds or for anyone who knows a birdwatcher. A highly entertaining book that I couldn't put down and it was with great dismay that I finished it so quickly - this has very quickly become one of my favourite books ever and I can't wait to read it again.

Score: 10/10

Monday, January 12, 2009

Book Review: Married Lovers by Jackie Collins

Cameron Paradise escapes a violent marriage, but not a cliched name, and heads to Los Angeles where she finds a job in an exclusive fitness club and rubs shoulders with rich, powerful and attractive people. Falling for a rich, married movie mogul there ensues lust, sex and adultery leading to murder.

As with all of Jackie Collins's books one should not expect the literary style of the classics but she makes up for this with a high level of readability, and Married Lovers turns out to be something of a page-turner, perhaps not of plot-driven enthusiasm but for pages packed with smut. In fact it is well known that this author prides herself in giving her readers huge mounds of sex with knobs on, and whilst the story is rather predictable and not particualrly memorable, she certainly provides well for her fan base.

Whilst the plot and literary style is perhaps the weakness of this book, the characters are more of a strength with sexy, egotistical and powerful characters pouring out of the pages; something one would expect from a sex-driven novel.

Miss Collins latest bonkbuster is most certainly not the usual genre of book that I would read, however, it is fast-paced and readable and fans of this style of book should enjoy this latest offering although they may not remember it for long . It can`t be denied that Jackie Collins's books are always in the bestseller charts, but not really my cup of tea; more of a glass of wine, sat on a sun lounger, on a beach, somewhere hot.

Not exactly Booker Prize material but as "light relief" this novel may tickle the right parts.

Score: 6/10

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Would be King and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would be King is a short tale of two rogues who decide to head into a legendary country, "Kafiristan" and seduce the indigenous population into accepting them as Kings. The story is very well told and conjures up a vivid picture of the hostility of the lands entered by "Peachy" Carnehan and Daniel Dravot and the characters they meet along the way.

The Man Who Would be King contains some intriguing references to the Masonic order, and indeed it is the local people's familiarity with the rituals of this sect that give the two main characters a foot in their palacial door, but which also ultimately seals their dreadful fate. This is an excellent short story which was made into a superb movie starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

Unfortunately, the "other stories" don't really compare very well with the title story of this book, in fact the reader would be excused for wondering why The Man Who Would be King was not developed into a much longer novel, surely it was not to create space for these often banal "other stories"?

Many of these other stories focus upon the lives of British subjects in Victorian India, and particularly upon the abundance of affairs and their sad outcomes. However, the similarity in tone and dullness of their meaning make them rather dreadful reading and one would be recommended to leave this book alone after reading the title story.

I would highly recommend The Man Who Would be King to readers but I would equally recommend not bothering with the boring "other stories".

Score: 8/10 for The Man Who Would be King, 5/10 for the book overall.

Books to be Reviewed: Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne

Thank you to Julia Pidduck for sending me a copy of the strangely titled Birdwatchingwatching by Alex Horne for reviewing. This is the story of Alex's year-long foray into birdwatching and "big year" competition with his father; a lifelong birder. As a birdwatcher myself, this book is of great interest and will be reviewed very soon.

"Alex Horne’s dad has always been a birdwatcher. Alex wasn’t so sure. But, determined to get to know his father better, Alex challenged him to a competitive Big Year: from January 1st to December 31st 2006, they would each attempt to see as many species of bird as possible, governed by the basic rules of birdwatching, plus a couple of their own: the birds had to be wild, free and alive; they had to actually see the birds; and they could travel anywhere in the world to do it. The one who saw the most birds over the course of 365 days would be declared the winner."

Currently I am part the way through this book and can't put it down and think it will appeal to birdwatchers, birders, ornithologists and robin-strokers alike.

A review will soon appear here but until then readers can pre-order a copy from Alex's website: Birdwatchingwatching and benefit from a 30% discount.