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Mother Night
Mother Night
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, Witty, Concise, Perfect, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: Mother Night (Paperback)
I was shocked to find, having loved every page-turning minute of this book, that Mother Night was only Kurt Vonnegut's third novel. An amazingly compact and concise telling of a story that other authors may make 500 page + doorstops from is told nonetheless completely in just a short volume packed with all the brilliant pace and wickedly sharp wit that is to be expected from Mr Vonnegut.

The novel is a sparse yet original story line that - despite the seemingly far-fetched nature of it's plot - remains grounded in a distinct reality, making use of numerous literary devices as it romps through to its conclusion, shot through with gallows humour.

A cracking little book and one which I will wholeheartedly be recommending at every opportunity.


Dominion
Dominion
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2.0 out of 5 stars Plodding, meandering and not much of a point when it does get there..., 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: Dominion (Paperback)
This book is far too long. I have nothing against a good long novel but this isn't a good long novel. It took me two attempts to get going with this book when, after 200 plus pages of nothing interesting happening and page after page of plodding, I felt the need to put it down. The only reason I persevered was the feeling that I owed it to myself to finish.

There is far too much detail given to the incidental. Far too many adjectives and far too awkward dialogue being used to deliver the alterna-history elements of the story. Sansom has clearly not heard the phrase "show don't tell" which is a shame as under all the heavy-handed descriptions and scene setting there's a good little story to be found in Dominion, just not a 600 page one.


Pereira Maintains
Pereira Maintains
by Antonio Tabucchi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Little Book, 9 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Pereira Maintains (Paperback)
I picked this book up as part of my current interest in reading novels based in those cities / areas I've visited. The Lisbon that comes to life in Pereira Maintains is dramatically different in many ways to that which I've known on the occasions I've been fortunate enough to visit it - but then, given that it's set in the late 1930s, you'd expect that.

Tabucchi does a wonderful job of bringing the city to life yet his expertise lies not in bringing a postcard to his readers but in creating an eerily vivid impression of life in a beautiful city during not so beautiful times.

The story covers a surprising amount given its brevity yet within its couple-of-hundred pages. Pereira Maintains slowly and dramatically builds up a story of intrigue and complexity before exploding in a dramatic climax that will leave you wondering "what just happened?" and just how you'd managed to get so entrenched in the story despite so few pages.

The characters are superbly created and this book is great for those looking for a quick read with a bit of bite - though be prepared to fancy an omelet at least once. A fantastic little novel of a big story.


God Bless You, Mr Rosewater
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Short, precise and bloody funny, 9 Jun 2014
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Another great, satirical romp by the mighty Kurt Vonnegut. If, like me, your starting point for KV was Slaughterhouse 5 and you're on a mission to read as much of his output as possible, this is a must. If this is your starting point, it's still a must.

Its short page count is stuffed full of Vonnegut's typical quirky characters, razor-sharp wit and deft prose. A darkly humorous swipe at High Society and the wealth gap that works just as well today as it did, no doubt, at time of writing.


A Young Doctor's Notebook
A Young Doctor's Notebook
by Mikhail Bulgakov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars All Too Short, 9 Jun 2014
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A brilliant read.

Bulgakov is a writer who's name should be mentioned in the same tones as other hallowed Russian greats.

This short collection of stories are perfectly crafted, romp along with a passion and skill and plenty of humour. Not to mention the occasional satirical or even direct swipe at the then-state-of-affairs in Russia.

This translation brings life to the work in a way which others I've picked up have failed to do and is well worth seeking out - it really shouldn't be hard - as some can render the prose flat and cold, robbing it of the vitality that it was a) undoubtedly written with and b) wholeheartedly deserves.


Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels)
Raising Steam: (Discworld novel 40) (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite But Almost, 9 Jun 2014
This one is a good 3 1/2 stars but not quite a 4.

Raising Steam is the Fortieth, four-zero, Discworld novel. A hugely impressive fact especially when you consider that Terry Pratchett only published the first in 1983 and didn't decide to take a full-time swing at it and follow that up until 1986 AND found time to complete a further dozen plus non-Discworld books (not to mention the numerous Science of Discworld and other such accompanying works).

As with any series of work, fans are prone to point to different entries as "the best" or "not as good as..." while reminiscing about the days when the Witches weren't resigned to the 'for young readers' books and Rincewind would make an appearance in anything other than footnotes (that being said, any fan will tell you that Pratchett's footnotes are the stuff of legend). There is a distinctive difference between the style of recent Discworld novels and those of, say, pre- Fifth Elephant. With a few notable exceptions (Last Hero, Nightwatch, Monstrous Regiment - the 'Vimes' books it seems are the last bastion of 'grit'), the books have certainly referenced previous novels and hinted at the past yet seemed less involved, lighter.

Raising Steam is just such a book. It nods toward Discworld novels past and depth (the darkness of the Grags and the friction among generations of dwarfs and Dirk Simnel is the son of Reaper Man's Ned Simnel) yet uses brush strokes far too wide to fill in too much detail and just as it appears that we may be reaching a thrilling, involving plot, it's all over but for a medal ceremony.

It's impossible to read a Terry Pratchett book these days (especially the 40th Discworld novel) without two factors clouding judgement - the legacy of brilliance of earlier Discworld novels and the impact (or looking for clues of it) of his Alzheimer's disease. This is a shame but those elements which prevent Raising Steam scoring higher reviews are likely drawn from the consequences of just such factors.

I'd love to see Pratchett approach a story across more than the one book again, to not feel the need to wrap everything up into a neat little, Patrician-knew-everything-all-along entry, really let something occur that took more than one novel to resolve. But then, it's not my Discworld it's his.

For all it's could-ofs and should-haves, any Discworld novel is full of humour and wordplay and Raising Steam is no exception. While not quite the romp of previous entries into the Discworld series, the fortieth (I do hope we get to fiftieth) is an enjoyable read that at the very least opens avenues for further novels to explore with a few chuckles along the way.


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