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Dr. Robert A. Josey "mystery lover" (Scottish Highlands)

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Asklepion Dream
Asklepion Dream
Price: £7.44

5.0 out of 5 stars a time and a place, 16 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Asklepion Dream (Kindle Edition)
Syd Lark's first novel is a cult classic in the making. Original, philosophical and rooted in the experiences of the 'hippy' generation - whose dream never quite blossomed in the way they thought it would.

'Asklepion Dream' is a kind of folk history, brilliantly recorded and observed. Lark's style of writing brings to mind that of the great John Steinbeck. Just the right side of 'journalistic'. Nuanced. Bare. But not stark.

The novel depicts an era of social change - but also the lives of people searching for love, for knowledge, for their 'place'. It has many levels and repays repeated readings. It is 'unclassifiable' in the way of 'Stone Junction', 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'' and Kerouac's work.

Lark is the real deal as a writer. And I am looking forward with anticipation to his next.

Title: Down here Strega Blue Belle Hard candy
Title: Down here Strega Blue Belle Hard candy
by Andrew Vachss
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars the man who kicked the hornets nest, 19 Dec. 2012
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Burke novels. Originally published in the late '80s.

Andrew Vachss broke the mold for the hard-boiled crime genre. He introduced a psychologically-damaged, criminal anti-hero - Burke. A man who has no connections with the world of the 'citizen'. Unless he is stinging or scamming them. A highly intelligent survivor. A skilled interrogator who senses truth instinctively.

Because of the horrors Burke has endured growing up in orphanages, vicious foster homes, reformatories, and eventually, prison, he has no qualms about delivering justice to those he hates. Child abusers in particular.

He may be a different gender and of a different generation. Another culture even? But I believe Burke has many similarities with Lisbeth Salander. Even in some ways an original prototype of Stieg Larsson's anti-heroine.

Whatever the case may be there, certainly Andrew Vachss was one of the first writers to really document and explore the heinous conspiracies and organisations which victimise children and young people. He opened the field by courageously -fuelled by anger and venom - using his fiction to make the public aware of what was going on.

These three novels are urgent and dark-edged. Laying the foundation for an incredible series.

Down in the Zero
Down in the Zero
by Andrew Vachss
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surgery on the soul, 4 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Down in the Zero (Paperback)
The 7th Burke novel. In which the narrative moves out from the Big Bad Apple to Connecticut and Bret Easton Ellis territory.

Teenagers in a small affluent town are mysteriously committing suicide. Through a deep connection to his past Burke becomes involved.

This is perhaps a 'lighter' entry in the series - but a Lord Peter Wimsey 'Busman's Holiday' it ain't.

Burke is still raw and psychologically devastated by events at the close of 'Sacrifice'. And in this novel he confronts the Zero of Oblivion.

His relationship with a young, damaged woman - and how he helps her see her true self/identity - is core to the book. Burke as a 'healer'.

Nothing is quite what it seems and Andrew Vachss' spins a twisting, sinewy story. As always. A master of the craft.

Underneath, in the sub-texts, are the unerring acuities and insights which make him such an important writer. 'Noir' may be an effective vehicle for his message. But there is so much more in the substance and style than just a hard-boiled thriller. Andrew Vachss performs surgery on the soul.

by Andrew Vachss
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars standing on the edge, 8 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Sacrifice (Mass Market Paperback)
The 6th in the Burke series. Sharp, relentlessly focused, dark and absolutely/genuinely terrifying.

I have been privileged in being able to read the 18 book sequence in chronological order. I can only say that these novels represent one of the greatest achievements in late 20th/early 21st century literature. And will be recognised as such. Incomparable and unique. With a great purpose of spirit, honour and determination behind them. Confronting one of the greatest horrors we have to face as a species. What so-called 'humans' inflict upon the young of their race.

From 'Flood' to 'Another Life' has been an unforgettable trip. Harrowing and difficult in many places - but it has to rank as the reading experience of my life. I would urge anyone reading this not to miss out.

With each book you learn more about Burke. A bit of information carefully added. A further piece in the puzzle. And this makes for a compelling journey.

'Sacrifice' has the lean/clean prose style. The ratcheting up of tension. The quirky and often moving relationships between Burke's 'family of choice'. Andrew Vachss's stark depictions of reality. The quiet but terrible rage. All the potent elements of the series.

I really don't think there is any modern American crime writer who can touch him. Connelly/Crais/Coben et al are fair enough within their mainstream milieux - but I find them totally pedestrian and faux in comparison with Andrew Vachss. In crime writing he is in another league. Another place. I don't think anyone else has the sheer guts and righteous anger to go there.

'Sacrifice' is as powerful and disturbing as it gets. And a wonderful urban thriller to boot.

Offered by crucialmusic
Price: £20.99

5.0 out of 5 stars unchained melody, 29 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Wanderlust (Audio CD)
'Wanderlust' is a great album. Some beautiful songs. My favourite being 'The Trouble I'm In'. Can see why this shifted 1.7 million copies.

It has been intruiging to follow Gavin Rossdale's journey/trajectory - album by album. Institute's 'Distort Yourself' totally extended the template, and deserved far more attention than it got. And the latest Bush record, 'The Sea Of Memories', takes that even further. A songwriter and sonic experimenter who gets better and better every time.

Rossdale's oblique and minimalist lyrics have always fascinated me. When combined with the mutated rock motifs/riffs and off-beat time signatures he likes to use they really seem to belong to an alternative reality. I can listen to 'The Science Of Things' and find new angles every time.

I can't find fault with the lyrics here. Yeah, he borrows phrases and pays homage to rock's great treasures - but these are part of the vision. Rossdale's songs remain unique. Coupling 'fire' with 'desire' is probably a cliche too far, but I think/hope he does this with some deliberate irony! And it is interesting to see many of the preoccupations from 'Distort Yourself' further explored here. Personal identity; alienation; social collapse; the need to escape.

What I liked most about 'Wanderlust' was the unchaining and revealing of melody. Rossdale very often restrains, torments, suppresses and hints at full-on melody. Which has been a large part of Bush's charm. Because great tunes are always there. 'Headful Of Ghosts' from 'Golden State' is perhaps the closest to 'letting go' of emotions previously. Though that is a personal opinion.

Here melody and emotion/feeling have been given more of a chance to shine. Like an ecstatic release in places. And it is a wonderful thing to hear. I was blown away when I first listened to the album. 'Wanderlust' proves just what a great musician and song-writer Gavin Rossdale is.

Future Sound Of Egypt
Future Sound Of Egypt

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful trance, 9 July 2011
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This review is from: Future Sound Of Egypt (Audio CD)
This one of the best trance albums I have. There is not much to say really about it - except the music goes straight to the heart.

Both CDs are exceptional. Very powerful emotionally. You know from the first synth chords/beats that this is special/quality.

I've got 'Sunrise' and their 'Trance World 2' CDs. Wish there was more of their work available on CD. (Lots of stuff on pod cast/mp3, etc.)

And looking forward to 'FSOG Vol.2' and the 'Sunrise' remix album.

There is something so beautiful about this record - the intensity never stops. It is in a class of its own. Love it.

Rising Sun
Rising Sun
Price: £26.93

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trance - One Love, One Race, 26 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Rising Sun (Audio CD)
This is an excellent album. Aly and Fila are on the same level as the 'Above and Beyond' guys. They seem to be blessed with an amazing gift for intuiting beats/melody/emotion, and pushing them up to 11/10.

I would agree with the previous reviewer though - the tracks are too short (a quite usual failing in 'DJ Artist' albums). The tracks are just not given the space to breathe properly. But they are 'blueprints' for bigger mixes, of course. And the material here is 'muy fuerte'/very strong - the main thing.

I would have loved for there to be a bonus disc. Aly and Fila are masters of the incredible re-mix. Tunes they have worked their magick on - like Deems' 'Tears of Hope'. That would have been sweet. (The rare 'Tears of Hope' A+F re-mix is one of the best tracks in the Trance universe - indescribably beautiful. A masterpiece.)

To me 'Love Life - Love Trance' has become more than just a saying.

Armin Van B. is talking about how Trance is uniting young people. He has played shows in Beirut AND Tel Aviv AND Cairo. 'Trance-cending' all the political boundaries of hate, fear and the bleak lostness of racial/cultural/religious/deep historical prejudice.

And Aly and Fila broadcasting on 'The Future Sound of Egypt' radio show, out there from Cairo - with the whole miracle/trauma of the 'Arab Spring' happening... Music speaks so loud in people's hearts. I guess it is a 'hippy'/Utopian dream for 'One Love, One Race.' The world is maybe too screwed/out of control for that. Triste/sad...But, still a hope...

Trance is one defining force for Love. It is such a beautiful, emotional, loving, joyful, sensitive, powerful, true music. The best music I know. (And I love all sorts of 'intense' music too, outside Trance - Metallica, The Fall, Oldfield, Slayer, Pink Floyd, Joy Division/New Order, and so on and on.) If Trance even helps to create peace/unity in some small but significant sense - which it does - then it is of the greatest value. (There is just no 'Hate' in it.)

All that 'global' stuff aside - this album is just one brilliant track after the other.

Aly and Fila have that facility (which is also a part of the traditional Arabic musical sensibility) to move out into the 'unknown' - to push melodic boundaries to pure ecstatic levels. They are a revelation.'Sunrise' is a great album.

by Mischa Berlinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rice, 21 April 2011
This review is from: Fieldwork (Paperback)
I can see why Hilary Mantel and Stephen King rate this book so highly. (Though - like many good novels - it was not what I at first expected it to be.)

I have just read an original review copy from 2008 - and the first impression I got was of a supernatural/horror thriller set in Thailand.

The first few chapters seemed to compound that premise - a murder mystery; hints of 'jungle terrors'; a bemused journalist as the central protagonist, becoming obsessed by a sinister story.

But as the book 'unfolded' - an apt description for its many layers - I realised 'Fieldwork' was a much deeper/richer novel than I had anticipated.

Mischa Berlinski (the main character shares the same name) goes deep into the heart of Anthropology itself. As a Science and also as an instrument of personal change.

Also, it is a brave author who enters so fully into the world of Evangelical Christian missionaries, and makes them so sympathetic and very human. (At times I felt I was reading a slightly-trippy biography of Gladys Alward.)

But as the book progressed I became more and more fascinated by the journey the author leads us on. The layers of story begin to take elusive shape, then shift into mountain mist, to take shape again.

By the end I saw that there was a real structure here - the story loops into a tragic but unavoidable conclusion. 'Fieldwork' is definitely one of those rare books which benefit from a re-reading.

There are many treasures hidden within its pages/chapters - insights, ideas and revelations (within the realms of the Natural and Supernatural worlds). It is certainly - by itself - an excellent introduction to the intricacies, problems and subtleties of Anthropology.

It is quite an achievement for a first time writer to juggle all these elements of plot, character and academic substance into a satisfying and successfully original novel. (Original it certainly is.)

A Good and Happy Child
A Good and Happy Child
by Justin Evans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable, 14 April 2011
This review is from: A Good and Happy Child (Paperback)
I have just finished this novel. I didn't want it to end. It was one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Gripping. Compelling. Terrifying. Without a false note. Brilliantly written

'A Good and Happy Child' is one of those original, powerful, thought-provoking (and exceptionally literate) suspense novels which sometimes arrive out of the blue. And deserve the term 'instant classic'.

I found it within a pile of review copies, in an author's house - and soon as I picked it up I knew I wasn't going to stop reading it. (Was allowed to borrow it, thankfully.)

I can't reccomend it highly enough. Those of you who haven't read it are in for a treat.

But the old hoary thriller cliche - 'You won't want to switch the lights off'? It is true - for once - here.

A Room Swept White (Culver Valley Crime)
A Room Swept White (Culver Valley Crime)
by Sophie Hannah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Ray Hines, 8 April 2011
I'd never read any of Sophie Hannah's books before - and was looking forward to this. All the rapturous reviews.

I was really intruiged throughout two thirds of the story. Fascinated by the way the author was dealing with quite harrowing subject matter.

But the main characters began to be more than annoying - they became unreal/stupid. A lot of their actions weren't making any sense. And the plot didn't seem to 'coalesce' - not the 'mystery' I hoped it would be - it became so many blank holes and undefined motivations.

If the book had been structured more along Ray Hines as a main protagonist - in a Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell-style narrative - I think the author could have pulled the construct off. Ray Hines was the only character I cared about. Her and Simon Waterhouse deserved the novel to themselves.

But the ending was - more or less - preposterous nonsense, for lack of a better description. Very disappointing really.

Still, I read it right through. And was hooked a lot of the time - it's true. And thought it raised many disturbing elements/questions about SIDS/vaccination which are of great relevance.

I think that Sophie Hannah was probably under a huge deadline, and caught up in getting that done. (Not being patronising - it just feels 'hurried' at the end.) With just a few alterations 'A Room Swept White' could/would have become the book all the plaudits pointed towards.

Minnette Walters seems to have suffered the same problems. I remember being at a conference where her agent referred to her almost as some kind of race horse in a stables - 'Oh, she has been in Amsterdam too long - got to get Minnette back to work'.

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