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Peter Skelton (UK)

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Shotgun Lovesongs
Shotgun Lovesongs
by Nickolas Butler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars A book about love and home, 16 May 2014
This review is from: Shotgun Lovesongs (Hardcover)
Shutgun Lovesongs is a book about relationships, and predominantly about relationships between men and their sense of place in the world. The central characters are all friends from a small town.The book is as much about that relationship,with the town and the land as it is about their relationships with each other. The descriptions of the landscape are one of the best bits of the book, they are beautifully written and worked into the story-line. The male characters feel very authentic and very truthful about the way men think and act around each other and around women.

On the whole the book is very well written. I have given it 4 stars rather than 5 as each chapter of the book is from the voice of a different one of the central characters. While this is an engaging device I did not always find the way in which Butler tried to alter the language to suit the voice of the characters convincing. However this is a relatively minor quibble and should not put anyone off reading this very good book.


Flash Boys
Flash Boys
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.88

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shows there are good guys on Wall Street, 6 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Flash Boys (Hardcover)
Flash Boys is not as balls out funny as some of Lewis's other books like Boomerang but it is still incredibly well written and engaging. Part of the reason for the lack of funny is that this isn't really an amusing subject.

Most of Flash Boys is about how a large number of stock brokers and investors on Wall Street simply did not understand what had happened to the market after the 2008 crash. The book focuses on a Royal Bank of Canada employee who gradually worked out not only that the market was being distorted by High Frequency Traders (HFT) but also uncovered the ways in which the major banks and the stock markets were aiding the HFTs in ripping off ordinary people.

While many people will already be aware that HFT existed (think Robert Harris's novel The Fear Index) what is shocking about the story told in Flash Boys is the way that HFTs were allowed and encouraged to distort the stock market in a way that served no purpose other than to generate money for HFT. You can feel the anger that Lewis feels about this and the anger that many of the people on Wall Street felt. It does have hopeful moments towards the end but overall this is a pretty depressing story about how Wall Street and the regulators of Wall Street fail to act in the interests of a free and open market.


Kimberly's Capital Punishment
Kimberly's Capital Punishment
by Richard Milward
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but rapidly looses its way, 11 Feb 2014
The first 100 pages or so of Kimberly's Capital Punishment are funny and engaging. There are some nice stylistic twists and we get to know the story of Kimberly and how her boyfriend Stevie died. After his death Kimberly tries to make amends by 'doing good'. This is where Milward started to loose me. The way that Kimberly does good is by having sex with various undesirable men which leads to her life starting to spiral downhill. Things become a little distasteful at this point but there is at least a narrative.

About halfway through the book Milward makes the decision to turn this into a 'choose your own adventure' style book where you have to turn to page 340 if you want Kimberly to do X or turn to page 249 if you want her to do Y. This is where Milward completely lost me and, despite ploughing through another 50 or so pages, I stopped reading shortly thereafter.


Boomerang: The Biggest Bust
Boomerang: The Biggest Bust
by Michael Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and engagingly written, 21 Jan 2014
This is the first one of Michael Lewis's books that I read and I am now working my way through his back catalogue. In Boomerang Lewis travels around the economies (mainly in Europe) which have been hardest hit by the credit crunch and recent economic downturn. There are chapters on Iceland, Greece, Germany and Iceland. Lewis looks at how each of these countries messed up and what they are doing to try and fix things. It is full of amazing, funny and barely believable tales of stupidity and hubris, of people who thought they knew the secret to making vast riches, why they were wrong and how they have wrecked their own economies.

Lewis does engage in some very broad national stereotyping (particularly about the Germans) but he makes some hard core economic issues easily understandable and very entertaining.


Lexicon
Lexicon
by Max Barry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Barry's best book since Syrup, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: Lexicon (Hardcover)
Max Barry's first book Syrup is a personal favorite. I have read a couple of his other books but this is the first that one that, for me, comes close to the promise of Syrup.

Lexicon is sci-fi in the vein of William Gibson's recent books. It is set in a very near but altered future. In the future of Lexicon a group of individuals known as poets (with names like Byron and Shelly) have the power to influence people through re-programming their brains with combinations of words and phrases. This gives them the ability to make people do whatever they want, or at least most people.

The book centers around a teenage runaway who is in training to become a poet and an amnesiac who seems to be immune to the Poets. They are linked by an event in a small town in the middle of the Australian outback with the story line in the book taking place before during and after the event. Max Barry skilfully weaves his story, revealing bits a time as he weaves backwards and forwards through the characters.


Hawthorn and Child
Hawthorn and Child
by Keith Ridgway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylistically brilliant, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: Hawthorn and Child (Paperback)
Reviews of this book seem to be pretty divided. Several parts of it were originally published as short stories and that does kind of come through. The book is a loosely connected set of stories which have some shared characters and events. Although it does have detectives, crimes and criminals it is not a standard crime or detective thriller in any way.

While it does not have a conventional plot, Hawthorn and Child does have some of the best writing I have read in years. It is challenging and obtuse in places but it is beautifully written throughout and left a lasting impression. I am keen to read some more of Keith Ridgway's work.


Istanbul Passage
Istanbul Passage
by Joseph Kanon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting setting but oddly paced, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: Istanbul Passage (Paperback)
I am quite a fan of Alan Furst's thrillers which are set in Europe at the start of WW2. This book reminded me of them. It is set in Istanbul just after the war has ended and as the Cold War is beginning. The central character is an American, Leon Bauer, who was working as a low level spy in Istanbul during the war. Early in the book he is involved in a botched extraction and finds himself trying to play off Mossad, the KGB, Turkish intelligence and various people trying to escape from any and all of them.

The premise and setting of the book are interesting and engaging. My problem with it was the pacing. The dialogue is rapid and effective but the plot that sits around it is not. Whenever the lead character is talking to someone the book rips along. When he stops talking the book slows to a crawl. Whether this is a deliberate stylistic ploy or just a feature of Kanon's writing style I am not sure but it didn't really work for me.


Kitchen Confidential
Kitchen Confidential
by Anthony Bourdain
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Hard edged and slickly written, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: Kitchen Confidential (Paperback)
I came to Kitchen Confidential having seen some of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations travel shows. The book is written in the same style as he presents. (It also reminded me a lot of Hunter S Thompson and of Michael Lewis).

The book basically gives a potted history of Bourdain's culinary career. It is full of stories of the people he has worked with along the way and there are a lot of references to the drinking, drug taking and general hard living that went along with it.

He is very honest about life in the kitchen as he has experienced it but also makes it clear in one of the later chapters that his experience may not be typical. It is very much his view and his life. While the book may not be representative of the modern restaurant business it is a great read and well worth it for anyone who is interested in food or eating out.


Timex Expediton Fullsize Quartz Watch with Black Dial Analogue Display and Black Leather Strap T49877SU
Timex Expediton Fullsize Quartz Watch with Black Dial Analogue Display and Black Leather Strap T49877SU
Price: 35.20

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's green not black, 21 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First off this watch is green rather than black. It was quite nice looking but the crown fell off mine the first time I tried to ride a bike while wearing it. It got sent back for a refund.


Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (P.S.)
Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (P.S.)
by Warren Ellis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Filthy, Weird, Hilarious, 21 Jan 2014
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This gem of a little book is filthy and weird and hilarious. Big parts of it read like a standard noir detective story with the downbeat PI being forced to take a job he does not want. However, the job our PI takes is to recover the alternative (and maybe magic) constitution of the United States and all the people that he meets along the way are all perverts and degenerates.

There is quite a sweet little love story winding through the book and some great characters but a couple of scenes in particular stick in the mind. As a couple of other reviewers have mentioned one involved Godzilla films and the other involves saline injections. Both had me reading out bits of the book to friends. I would very heartily recommend it.


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