Profile for M. J. Bourne > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by M. J. Bourne
Top Reviewer Ranking: 73,030
Helpful Votes: 113

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
M. J. Bourne "vandering" (Cumbria UK)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Berlin Song
Berlin Song
by Alan Gold
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Slow Burn, 14 Jan 2009
This review is from: Berlin Song (Paperback)
This is the third in a series concerning the modern-day adventures of a savvy Jewish-American lawyer. This time round Sarah Kaplan is searching for the truth behind an innocuous document that suggests her ancestry was not all she had imagined. Every time some new clue is uncovered we "flashback" to another set of characters in the thirties and forties, so the two stories build each other up. It's a clever technique.

The present day scenes do meander a little. The scenes set in the past are better. The portrayal of central European Jewish life in the depression is particularly excellent, the matter-of-fact descriptions augmenting the sinister nature of the events. Mr Gold also doesn't fall into the trap of overstating his case. His villains are repellent individuals rather than mere representatives of a villainous culture. For example: A Christian mob burns one of Kaplan's ancestors out of her house, but later she is taken in and shown enormous kindness by Christians.

Suspense is carefully maintained, and the ending is in doubt right to the end. Basically it's a very nicely crafted novel, although, for me, the plot unfolded a little too slowly. This is probably me being a casualty of our low attention-span society, and I certainly have no hesitation in recommending this book.


Mr. Fitton's Hurricane (A Lieutenant Michael Fitton adventure)
Mr. Fitton's Hurricane (A Lieutenant Michael Fitton adventure)
by Showell Styles F.R.G.S.
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good naval yarn, 14 Jan 2009
As the title suggests, we are in the Caribbean battling the elements in this book, the latest instalment in the career of the Royal Navy's Michael Fitton. To add to the complications, there's a slave uprising in Haiti and the French navy is on the prowl.
Unlike Forrester's "Hornblower", and other nautical literary heroes of the Napoleonic wars, Mr Fitton has not trodden a "rags to riches" path up the ladder of promotion. He is, and is happy to remain, a humble Lieutenant doing his duty. Or is he? The author very cleverly hints at his loneliness and lack of self-confidence in this, the tenth novel in the series.
Mr Styles is himself a naval veteran, so he knows his sails and his yardarms. The scenes are well set, and the story moves along at a good pace. Not a long book, (just 60,000 words) but that's not the reason why the last page appears so quickly. The good plot and the clarity of the writing are responsible for that.


Blitz Harvest
Blitz Harvest
by Peter Leslie
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars WW2 hokum, 14 Jan 2009
This review is from: Blitz Harvest (Hardcover)
Dear oh dear. The only reason I can think of for this book being on the shelves is that its release coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the start of World War II. Books on the subject must have been in demand.

The most damning criticism I have is that I found myself skipping pages. If a book can't hold your attention, the author has really failed. The problem is that Second World War stories are cursed with lots of clichés, and "Blitz Harvest" makes liberal use of practically all of them.

The plot is the tired one of the quiet innocuous officer who happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to a German master spy. He is promptly recruited for nefarious duties by a British agent who, like seemingly all British agents is typically unconventional but "gets the job done". Our hero is then involved in all the predicable mix-ups and misunderstandings that this situation causes. As it has caused, in innumerable stories before. Oh, and there's a few female agents/double agents thrown in to provide gratuitous sex.

To be fair to Mr Leslie he has put in a few twists. There are actually three people with an "uncanny resemblance", and a break into a prison camp rather than out of one, but these kinks do not generate any suspense. The situations are forced and you can tell exactly how they are going to work out pages before they do. It's a similar story with the research. Leslie has done some legwork, but you get the impression he is just trotting out a few interesting facts to impress the reader, rather than using them to actually further the story. It's not a particularly long novel either.

Mr Leslie has had five other wartime adventures published, so I can only assume they are better than this one.


Red Gold
Red Gold
by Alan Furst
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, accurate, deadly!, 11 Jan 2004
This review is from: Red Gold (Paperback)
I always knew, in an academic kind of way, that occupied France must have been a pretty unpleasant place to be. It was only after reading "Red Gold" by Alan Furst that I realised just exactly HOW bleak it must have been.
I have to say I found "Red Gold" a bit hard going. The whole novel reeks of the despair and shattered hope that is the lot of a proud nation in defeat. It is relentlessy dark, and very atmospheric and often very depressing. All the characters are described principally in terms of their negative traits. Even the sacrifice of some of the resistance fighters is described in a self-serving light.
But then this is espionage and double-dealing and the threat of instant "liquidation", is on every page. "Red Gold" is a cracking novel that really draws you into the seedy world of espionage and underground warfare. The historical side is well done, especially the social geography. Who would have thought that a New Yorker could write so convincingly about Paris street life?


On Desperate Seas
On Desperate Seas
by James Pattinson
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The publishers are the ones who are desperate, 11 Jan 2004
This review is from: On Desperate Seas (Hardcover)
This is the story of the world war two voyage of a fictional merchant ship with a dangerous cargo of industrial alcohol and six mysterious American passengers. The “Rosa Dartle” is not a happy ship. In fact it’s a positively dysfunctional one. Storms, U-boats and the Luftwaffe are the ingredients added to simmering internal dissention.
And yet, the pot never quite seems to come to the boil. There are too many characters, and at only about 75,000 words there isn’t enough space to fully develop all of them into people you can care about. The storylines are excellent, but most of them are very casually resolved.
The real story is why this simple tale, first published in 1961, should now suddenly be reprinted in 2000. It's not a dire story, but surely better new submissions must be coming in?


Hope
Hope
by Mary Ryan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea., 11 Jan 2004
This review is from: Hope (Paperback)
“Hope” is a kind of biography. It’s a tale of a poor Irish family making good in the American gold rush, and what happens to them afterwards. Mary Ryan is actually one of their descendants and she has obviously put a lot of work into the research. However she has also succeeded in filling in the gaps with some interesting fiction.
I can imagine many people liking it, but I got bored. It's overlong, and the irksome martyr complex that seems to bedevil most work by Irish authors about Ireland crops up.


Star and Stripes in Peril (Stars & Stripes Trilogy)
Star and Stripes in Peril (Stars & Stripes Trilogy)
by Harry Harrison
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Beyond belief, 11 Jan 2004
After roundly defeating the British and Canadians in book one of the series, in book two we get the inevitable British counterattack. As an entertainment vehicle “Stars and Stripes in Peril” is quite good. It’s reasonably well written and there is lots of fast-paced action. There is also a lot of detail on the technical innovations that were revolutionising life at the time.
What lets it down is the marrying of modern morality to nineteenth century politics, resulting in a triumph of patriotism over Human nature (and historical fact). If you’re an American, this is an affirming book that will make you feel good. If you’re not, then at the least you will find it pretentious. The USA, it’s institutions and allies, are all depicted as being wonderful. Their opponents and detractors are all made out to be proud, prejudiced, or just plain stupid. Frankly, you can tell after twenty pages that the “Stars and Stripes” isn’t going to be in any kind of peril at all.


Stars and Stripes Forever (Stars & Stripes)
Stars and Stripes Forever (Stars & Stripes)
by Harry Harrison
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just take this simple test..., 11 Jan 2004
The best examples of the "alternate history" genre use a small, feasible change to send history down another route. Harrison's choice is an Anglo-American diplomatic row during the American Civil war known as "the Trent incident". In real life this was settled by the personal intervention of Prince Albert. Harrison assumes the ailing Albert dies before he can take action, and Britain enters the war on the side of the rebels.

A promising premise. However, the first action of the British expeditionary force is to sail up the wrong inlet and towards a Confederate city rather a Federal one. They must have spectacularly bad maps. How does the foremost naval power of the time do something like that? They then procede to sack the city anyway, in spite of realising that it isn't their target. Keep with me here.

In response to this, North and South immediately kiss and make up. Abe Lincoln promptly recognises the Confederacy as an independent nation and the Rebels realise they were COMPLETELY wrong about this slavery thing after all and swiftly abolish the institution. The two then trounce perfidious Albion.

If you can swallow all the above, this is a great historical novel.


The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse
by Marcus Sedgwick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too dark and vague, 11 Jan 2004
This review is from: The Dark Horse (Paperback)
“The Dark Horse” caters to the modern taste for children’s horror stories. The historical period it is set in, which you can judge only by the names and technology, appears to be pre-Viking western Scandinavia. 184 pages, but a whopping 72 chapters (some only a paragraph long), plus an afterward. Each chapter is headed by a suitably symbolic charcoal type illustration (also by the author). A novel for a visually-orientated, low attention-span generation indeed!
It’s all traditionally dark and moody and I’m sure children will be entertained by it. I’m not sure what it teaches them - the mysterious atmosphere conveniently disguises a rather thin storyline. There’s also quite a lot of violence. Nice resolution at the end though.


Mohawk Valley
Mohawk Valley
by Ronald Welch
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old style in the New world, 11 Jan 2004
This review is from: Mohawk Valley (Hardcover)
One of the Ronald Welch "Carey" family novels. This time the scion of the family disgraces himself in England and has to flee to the American colonies, where he becomes a frontiersman, fights the French and their native allies, and redeems himself to his former associates (who now have commissions in the regular army).
Good tub-thumping old-fashioned adventure for boys. Lots of fighting, lots of underdogs making good, not too many social or moral comments on the consequences of all this violence! The historical detail is crammed in, as in all of Ronald Welch's novels, although he seemed more comfortable when describing his native Britain than he does here. Still, you do learn an awful lot about the times, as well as being very entertained.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5