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P. Griffin "Griff" (UK)

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Twenty Years A-Growing (Oxford Paperbacks)
Twenty Years A-Growing (Oxford Paperbacks)
by Maurice O'Sullivan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unearthed gem of rare beauty., 22 July 2011
Sometimes you pick up a book, blow the dust from it and find inside not just words, but a living account of vanished lives. O'Sullivan documents his childhood on the mainland, his growth amongst the Islands and easy acceptance into a way of life that is no longer with us. The joy of bird hunting, the terror of the cliffs and the scree. His superstition and musha, his turn of phrase all combine in this delicate translation to reveal a rich peat-steeped tradition, where coin meant little and family was everything.
His book is a valuable glimpse of an Ireland that is gone, an old Ireland; one that will no longer open its doors to the casual observer. One that has gone the way of the turf and the curragh. Ireland's literary tradition is without peer, more so when one considers the few that called her home; and this is yet another wonderful work brimming with beauty and humour.
Inside is the raw uncut Ireland, long before tourism tainted her waters, and politicians ruined her clothes. Every page inspires with its simplicity yet delightful prose and warmth.
A gem, that gleams long in the memory, well after the last page has whispered to a close.

The Essential Tales of Chekhov
The Essential Tales of Chekhov
by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful collection, 21 July 2011
Chekov reminds me of the realist movement of artists that formed in the early part of the twentieth century America. He has a gift for stunning technique clothed within a simple subject. And the closer you look the more wonderful his detail becomes apparent. Kafka had this ability, though he tended to focus on the less mundane subjects that Chekov did.
In this collection Chekov presents various stories of Russian life. His words and subjects still retain their vibrancy today, still as relevant as when they first appeared. He deals with faithfulness and vows, tradition and its decay and responsibility. In this he was similar to Fyodor Dostoevsky and indeed quite a few of his stories show some parallels to those slightly earlier works. Chekov had a rare gift for short stories and the ones gathered in this collection are some of his finest.

A wonderful read, my favourite being "Enemies." I would also advise any lover of fine writing and short stories to look at William Trevor, who has doubtless taken up Chekov's mantle and appears exceedingly comfortable with its fitment. Enjoy.

Post Office
Post Office
by Charles Bukowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chaotic, mad and wonderful, 19 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Post Office (Paperback)
Bukowski is Chinaski. His opinions leap off the page, his visceral stench slaps you in the face, but you come back for more regardless.
I have some of Bukowski's poetry. All I can say is thank God he wrote novels as well.

Post office, as others have pointed out, is a shadow of Bukowski's life. It is a reflection, just as its protagonist Chinaski is of the writer. He is the rat in the race, he is the horse on the track and yet he bucks this label once or twice and refuses to obey, to work. He is the unhealthy side of America that no one hears about. He is the nightmare to its dream.

Bukowski writes in a raw, slap dash, grammatically incorrect, wonderful way. He prefers shock tactics and the reader either hangs on or falls off. Chinaski teters from being unemployable to downright loathsome, but- and here is a big but, like a middle aged aunt who's eaten too much- the genius of Bukowski is that he manages to make Chinaski loveable in some way. I felt like he was Yossarian from Heller's Catch 22, only on amphetamines. That dry, who gives a damn, attitude dripped from each page.

A tour de force with more emphasis placed on the force. This is beat generation at its finest, and Bukowski the conductor. Read it before you touch his poetry however.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Thornton Wilder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and poignant, 19 Jun. 2011
The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a delightful series of vignettes charting the doomed lives of five people in Peru. Wilder reaches dizzying heights of superlative telling in this book. His characters are lessons on how to write. His tragic backgrounds do not tear jerk nor offer crass emotional hooks, he designs as a master craftsman, easing each figure into the narrative with heart, warmth and skill.

Such colourful people inhabit these pages. The brilliance of Wilder's writing shines from every page. This is how writing should be done.

Get this book, read it and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Peruvian life that Wilder offers here. Tragic, heartfelt and ultimately doomed, yet uplifting for all that. Worth more than five stars, see for yourself.

The Hill Bachelors
The Hill Bachelors
by William Trevor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trevor is a delight, 30 May 2011
This review is from: The Hill Bachelors (Paperback)
William Trevor: a writer I am only recently acquainted with, is a delight. His simple dialogue is deliciously deceptive, like a dark forest pool that with one step plunges you into the deep unknown. He is able to say in a few words what many struggle to with pages of dialogue. Hints and slivers are his forte. He teases the reader with just enough to keep you guessing.

Trevor is an unquestionable master of his medium and I would agree with many critics who state that he is the finest living short story writer. He deals with simple people and Like Anton Chekov presents his characters with a gentle honesty that is refreshing in todays cliched world of terrible writers. If only more authors had his ability, but then he would not remain as special. If you love fine writing and short stories then I urge you spend an afternoon or two with the Hill Bachelors. You won't be disappointed.

My only regret is that he is not spoken about more. With this standard of writing available it seems a shame to pass him by in favour of Brown or Patterson. Still a diamond only excites when it is cut and polished. And Trevor is a diamond.

The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative- The way a novel should be, 30 May 2011
This review is from: The Grapes of Wrath (Paperback)
Many attempt but few succeed. Steinbeck succeeds on so many levels. His wonderful prose and obvious love of the characters shines on every page. He is the master of the written form and certainly my favourite writer. In The Grapes of Wrath he charts the painful progress of shattered dreams in the hard depression era of America. Each character is deep, heartfelt and raw. The truth of the Joad's predicament is clear throughout. Steinbeck felt strongly about the immigrant workers condition, and- like all great authors- communicated the age he lived in with this wonderful novel. Truth can take many forms. And like a great composer Steinbeck takes the reader through the hurt and sense of displacement that many farmers and workers felt at that time. The faceless government and manipulative banks, the heartless opportunists that took so much and returned so little. The narrow minded locals who saw only strange dusty faces and not countrymen. The poor, the dispossessed; here in this book we read, and in reading we understand: we are not far from them. Our banks are just like theirs, our government as deceitful and our countrymen as hard.

Truly great books resonate beyond their setting. And that is true of The Grapes of Wrath. When this kind of novel is available why would anyone settle for less. Read this at least once in your life. And you will count the hours spent as fruitful indeed. What this book teaches us can change us for the better, more so when we realise that what Steinbeck wrote about nearly eighty years ago is still happening today.

Here is a writer who is intimate with his medium, who understands the language he uses and revels in it. Where so many produce tripe he distills into purity, where so many settle for mediocrity, Steinbeck challenges with excellence. This book will inspire you (and once used to the dialect of the Joad family, it will delight even further.) Read this and never settle for second best in all that you do.

In Their Footsteps
In Their Footsteps
by Tess Gerritsen
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrendous and vacuous., 30 May 2011
This review is from: In Their Footsteps (Paperback)
Oh for the option to select zero stars. To start let me say that I could not read much of this. It is bad. Here's why: Gerritsen is a lazy writer. Her prose is poor, she has no feel for rhythm or metre. I cannot comment on her previous novels, nor will I, for this effort is too much to contemplate willingly exposing myself to more dross. Examples of her terrible writing abound from page to page (I admit that was the only reason I kept turning the pages after a while.) Her incessant adverbs and weak cliched telling destroy what is a medicre plot at the best of times.
Her publisher should bear some responsibilty for allowing this lazt effort to get to print. If you seek to write, seek to write well- not add to the pile of trash that sits rotting on airport shelves. If only authors would turn their back on the fast buck and embrace the harder path of excellence. All too often this is not the case, as we can see with 'In their Footsteps'. Gerritsen introduces so many cliches and horrendous two dimensional characters that one feels when reading this that it ought to be part of a snide parody. Alas it is not. I did not finish it. And I suggest you do not start it. Leave writing to authors like Steinbeck and Trevor and those of us who seek to excell not churn the butter of mediocrity. Consign this effort to the bin.

Perdido Street Station
Perdido Street Station
by China Mieville
Edition: Paperback

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressed, 18 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
I'm not sure why people feel Mieville's prose is worthy of mention. His frequent use of adverbs alone is enough to debunk any assertion to the contrary. A wonderful worldbuilder, as others have commented upon, is not enough to overshadow schoolboy errors in his writing...thought nervously, grinned fleetingly, wrinkled suddenly and more all on one random page. Passive voice creeps into some of the first hundred pages, and he has a worrying tendency to over describe (both background and foregrounds). He is also guilty of telling not showing, especially with regards to pubs and shops. (The Moon's Daughters springs to mind on page 81) He hurries out descriptions like a child projectile vomiting. Sometimes it is good to let the reader guess for themselves.

To write is human to edit is divine. Obviously the author has paid no heed to the basic tenets of his craft. Elmore Leonard would have conniptions reading this. The narrative is ruined, for me at least, by his incessant use of pauses in dialogue... etc. Again judicious editing would sort these bad habits out, as long as the author is amenable, and that as all editor's know only too well, is the key.

I'm afraid I like others only lasted about 150 pages in. If a book does nothing in that time, the prospect of another 700 pages won't lure me to read on. I can only conclude that any awards given were not done so for prose or craft but merely for worldbuilding. If this is where writing is going God help us readers. The worldbuilding is the only reason I give this two stars instead of one.

Once again the onus is on publishers and editors to set the standard. This isn't well enough written or engaging enough as a story (remember, isn't that what we are supposed to be creating?) to harvest the reviews or the rewards. Of course opinion is exactly that. But I do wish that books in general be treated with more pruning and less fawning and marketing. Still an admirable imagination is good to see, if only it were more disciplined in delivery. Great books are like treasures and great imagination should be prized, but sometime truly great imagination is found in the little things secreted away in the page. After all, an orchestra can play a symphony to perfection, but put your head in the timpani drum and you would come away with a very different opinion of it.

Ultimately the world is such a mixed bag of opinion that mine will count for very little. But if it may help some decide then so be it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2013 4:42 PM GMT

Kell's Legend (Clockwork Vampire, Book 1) (Clockwork Vampire Chronicles)
Kell's Legend (Clockwork Vampire, Book 1) (Clockwork Vampire Chronicles)
by Andy Remic
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire, 18 Jun. 2010
If you are an aspiring author you will be sick to death of publishing comapnies and agents informing you that you require real stand out talent to get your books published. The dichotomy between their statements and the practice of so much within the fantasy genre glares alarmingly with this book. Original? no, well written? no and is it a feast for those hungry for deep dialogue, personal cost and depth of plot? no. I will not admit to finishing it, as after the first hundred pages I just could not face picking it up again. Legend has to be compared with this book due to the very obvious attempts at copying the characters and dialogue(the term homage can be often confused with rip off). Therefore this novel should not be viewed as a separate entity. No novel is of course entirely original, but the issue is that this two dimensional pastiche will turn you off from reading any further(which is in my opinion a cardinal sin in fantasy).
That this was even gifted a series shows just how bizarre the publishing world is. High standard novels should be the norm. The ability the genre has to , when at its best, stretch and captivate the reader is wonderful to behold. Unfortunately this novel falls into the crevice of anonymity, or should do. If as an author Mr Remic cannot discipline himself enough to bar such attempts from seeing the harsh light of day then perhaps his publisher should step up. Alas you have to eat, however some of us prefer richer fare.
I can only surmise that the 5 star reviews of the book are the friends or employees associated with this. Avoid.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2011 4:29 PM GMT

The War of the Dwarves
The War of the Dwarves
by Markus Heitz
Edition: Paperback

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Feels like a boardgame, 25 May 2010
This review is from: The War of the Dwarves (Paperback)
Let me start by saying that I thought this book was passable. It has a believable enough cast, with only some minor quibbles. Yet the book plot could have been written on a postage stamp. Instant travel and standard battles with little description gave me the impression that this was a rather extended warhammer board game written down as a book. The plot as I have mentioned is devoid of any real subtlety and lacks punch. Despite the vapid enjoyment this book does grant ( you can read without really being challenged, rather like a Hollywood action flick) I still came to the end thinking that it could have been so much better. Lost opportunities abound within its pages. Far deeper character development, more subtle political and tactical manoueverings and greater world building would have brought this novel to a far loftier height. Alas it lacks these fundamental depths. It promises but ultimately offers another hackneyed stereotyped glimpse at the many races that inhabit the genre.
Still each to their own, no doubt some will find this to their taste and I'm all for fantasy being read by as many as possible. Markus missed an opportunity here however, one that I hope he will rectify for te next book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2010 4:56 PM BST

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