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Gerry Mac "Gerry" (SALTCOATS, AYRSHIRE United Kingdom)

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Standing in Another Man's Grave
Standing in Another Man's Grave
by Ian Rankin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.19

11 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor's New Clothes..., 1 Dec 2012
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..or is it me? "Unsurpassed among living British crime writers". "Simply awesome." "Taut and compulsive." "Powerful and well-paced." Just some of the blurb accolades on the cover.(Incidentally, one of the most truly dreadfully garish covers imaginable!) Beats me! To be fair, this was my first Rankin/Rebus outing so perhaps his others are 'better'. However, unless you're something of a 'roads' anorak, this tale was as tedious and uninspiring as the A9 Rebus so frequently travels in its pages. Literarily, it's no great shakes either: the archaic word, "heft" is utilised twice in the space of around 2 pages and a few pages again after that. Similarly, I have to wonder if Rebus would talk about "the amount of" things, rather than the correct, "number" of things. Perhaps he would! Just the same, in general, the writing's not great. Then there's the 'research'. God preserve us! What matter that the /town/village/pub/road/street/house/etc is called the exactly proper name/place/etc if it has no bearing on the narrative. The number of people for whom it might matter ie locals, must pale into insignificance when set aside the number of languages into which Rankin's books are, apparently translated, and the people from those countries who read them. Just don't get it. Verisimilitude is one thing...this is obsessive and pedantic. One example (from many) will have to suffice here:"As far as he knew, the road led only to Cromarty. He checked the map and saw that it was the A832. With his finger he traced the route back to the A9, and from there all the way south to Perth.Then back up again, this time staying on the A9 until the Dornoch Firth, heading inland towards Tongue." What's all that about...if not pure and simple padding?!

As others have mentioned earlier, I, too, watched the Yentob Arts documentary on Rankin and the writing processes which led to this book. In that programme, Mr Rankin said he'd never watched a single episode of the tv 'Rebus' as he didn't want to to end up writing for the actor who plays Rebus, Ken Stott. Well, he's either very good or very disingenuous in saying that because the book virtually IS A CHARACTER STUDY OF REBUS AS PLAYED BY KEN STOTT. Then there's the made-for-tv element to the book. It's soap-opera writing: chapters of only 2 or three pages long...almost entirely full of dialogue! It might actually BE a screenplay!

So,in the end, what to make of it! Literature? A big no-no! Interesting? Mildly. Page-turner? Only if squashed into economy seats or on a deserted beach. Original? 'fraid not. Money spinner? Probably...and this is where I came in. I don't get it. Won't be rushing to read any more...and wish Ian Rankin all the best spending his self-admitted £250,000 a year!
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2013 8:05 AM BST


The Silver Violin
The Silver Violin
Price: £9.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thousand thanks, Nicola!, 23 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Silver Violin (Audio CD)
Roll over Beethoven! Shove off Shostakovic! Move aside Mahler! Rethink Rachmaninov! Be off, Bruch!
Miss Beneditti's musical raison d'etre...to bring classical music to as many people as she can, world-wide... moves into the easy-listening category with this lovely CD. All-in-all, it is perfectly, pleasurable, classical populism. However, the "thousand thanks" of my title refer to her introduction of me...and many others, I suspect... to the glory of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (May 29, 1897 - November 29, 1957) an Austrian film and romantic music composer. A rich, chromatic late Romantic style is sheer joy in two tracks of 'The Silver Violin':track 2;'Tanzlied Des Pierrot, and track 15; 'Marietta's Lied'. For bringing him to my/our attention, and for the aforementioned tracks alone, the cd is worth its weight in gold...never mind 'Silver'! Go treat yourself! As ever, of course, Nicola's playing throughout is also a joy!


In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire
In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire
by Tom Holland
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going for the mildly curious!, 7 Sep 2012
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"Here...lay the very essence of how the Muslim people saw the origins of their faith. Origins that were to be interpreted not merely as a matter of historical record, but as indubitable and irrefutable proof of the shaping hand of God Himself." Not for the casual reader, or those with a less-than-well-developed reading age (!), the foregoing is a brief synopsis of this 500+ page book. It is fascinating and difficult in equal measure, although after a while one begins to realise that its very erudition can be a drawback in terms of its 'enjoyability-factor.' Best to go with the flow, get the very general gist of things and let his forensic analysis of people, places and events be your guide to the eventual conclusion(s) he reaches. His narrative...and it is, indeed, written as a novel, not a dissertation... stretches from early antiquity to the present day. It is peopled with fabulous stories and characters...the names of whom are mostly unpronounceable and instantly forgettable, but nonetheless, convey a vivid picture of what emerges in the round. The blurb talks of a "highly original book...(that) proposes a very different interpretation of Islam's evolution"...I guess from the generally accepted one of the Prophet Muhammad's rise to prominence and the subsequent authority of his teachings. His recent tv appearance did little, I suspect, to increase sales of this book but it was always going to be virtually impossible to do it justice in a compressed hour-long format when it obviously cries out for a series a la a Bettany Hughes or Mary Beard-type presenter. Difficult to recommend but thought-provoking just the same. Glad I read it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2014 10:43 AM BST


The Sisters Brothers
The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick deWitt
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diff. strokes for diff. folks!, 3 April 2012
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This review is from: The Sisters Brothers (Paperback)
Wow! Been quite some time since I've come across such a diverse range of opinions! Mind you, in terms of lit. analysis, in my humble opinion, much of what's been written comes into the cliched, not to say blinkered, category of "There're only two types of book/film/wine/cooking, etc,; the kind I like and the kind I don't like"!

For me, this picaresque novel sets out ('scuse the pun!) on a mission and (just about) successfully completes that mission, which is to lay bare the realities of a universe that is completely indifferent to our human travails such that virtual amorality rules. Both brothers, to differing degrees, 'get' this, consciously or subconsciously and in that particular sense it is quite nihilistic, a concept one has to 'accept' or, indeed, the book does becomes essentially facile. Yet, for all its indifferent violence, and some terrifically black humour, it reminded me a good deal of the underlying theme inherent in the (old) film 'Paint Your Wagon' which, at its very core, has nothing good to say about so-called 'civilisation'. Listen again to the lyrics of 'Wandering Star'and here echoes of Lee Marvin's "melancholy" in the very loneliness, materialism and sense of isolation from the rest of humanity, not only of the Sisters Brothers themselves, but of many of the characters they meet (and often beat up or simply kill!)on their trip.

The "just about" comment,above, is a reference to the, indeed, rather sentimental and far-too-neatly-organised denouement mentioned by several reviewers. Pity

However, for what it's worth, I thoroughly enjoyed it!


Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt
Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt
by Richard Holloway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.58

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Religion? You wouldn't buy it if it was on sale!, 3 April 2012
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No 'bad' reviews, then! Quite right, too; although I often wonder if 'spoiler alert' shouldn't be prefaced in some reviews!

As usual, the 'parts of its sum' have been well documented here already and I can only concur with the vast majority of what's been written.

One (extremely) slight caveat, however,...I know! I know! You saw it coming!...the concept (not the substance) of his 'doubt' can be just a wee bit repetitive. At times I found myself thinking, particularly at the 3/4 thru' stage of the book, 'I get it; I get it'. Having said that, I may be being a might pedantic. The book in its totality is a genuine delight for the mind as well as the heart and 'soul' (whatever that is!) and his imaginative and creative way with imagery is peerless. A wonderfully absorbing, humane and compassionate man leaps out at the reader. We are fortunate, indeed, to have his ilk in our midst. More power to his pen!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 18, 2012 11:25 AM BST


The Sense of an Ending
The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.39

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flattering to deceive?, 14 Dec 2011
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This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
There's a theory that Crosswords were invented so that clever people wouldn't realise they were wasting their time! I was reminded of this by the time (mercifully short!) I'd reached the end of this book. Either it's way too 'clever' for me or it's a case of 'the emperor's new clothes': modestly, I think it's the latter. Other reviewers have outlined the plot...such as it is...and up to a point it's fairly interesting. But, I'm afraid "fairly" is the objective word here. "The story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past" ...as the blurb would have it...is all very well, but, at its heart, Barnes' contemplations, observations and theses are essentially ambiguous...too many ifs and buts. He seems, also, to be fixated on masturbation or, as he appears to prefer calling it, 'wanking'. Can't quite figure out the thematic symbolism of this...if, indeed, symbolic it's intended to be. The book is a novella and can easily be read from cover to cover in a couple of hours but it's fair to say that had it been a full-sized novel I'd have given up on it long before the end. "One of the world's most distinguished writers" ? Despite some worthwhile flashes, not on this evidence: strange people these Man/Booker judges!


A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival
A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival
by Caroline Moorhead
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.03

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignantly, despairingly wonderful., 28 Nov 2011
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Perhaps it's me but, looking at other reviews, I find it strange and not-a-little disconcerting that anyone could begin to write of this book; "OK its a bit slow to start but good ending" or "This was a great read" or "Great book to handle in terms of size, font size and the fact it's a hardcover": as if they were somehow reviewing a fictional novel! However, one reviewer seems to 'get it' in saying: "This is one of those books that you don't actually enjoy reading, but you feel the better for having read."

Earlier reviewers have gone into detail re the book's content and narrative drive but essentially, this second world war-time factual account of 'man's desperate inhumanity to man/woman' is effective on several levels. In both quality and quantity, the research is faultless. The depiction, too, of people and events is impeccable if soul-searing. Indeed, when you read of the extremes of brutality and privation that these woman survived it's not impossible to see, when eventually the small minority made it back to their towns and villages, family and friends, how their stories were initially disbelieved. Indeed, one brief quote (from many similarly terrifying incidents) is enough to exemplify this: "One night, Marie-Claude heard terrible cries; next morning she learnt that because the gas chambers had run out of Zyklon B Pellets, the smaller children had been thrown directly on to the flames. 'When we tell people,' she said to the others, 'who will believe us?' "

From this, too, you will realise that if you're in any way of a less-than-robust mental constitution, shall we say, this book, the second 'part' particularly, is not really for you. It's just too much to bear, at times. The so-called 'good ending' (!) referred to earlier by one reviewer, is actually 'Appendix: the women': 17 pages concisely and unemotionally detailing the deaths and manner of such of not only those who perished but of their wives, husbands and children left bereft and orphaned.

Read this book at your discretion...but read it!

PS I intend no real disrespect to those reviewers I mention, above, sorry...I'm just a little incredulous.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 15, 2012 5:08 PM GMT


But What Comes After?
But What Comes After?
by Ruth Leon
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd...self-importance in spades!, 2 Aug 2011
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This review is from: But What Comes After? (Hardcover)
What emerges most from this biography, I believe, is the extremely narrow...often silly...lives led by many within its pages. Their absorptions and importances are the stuff of an outmoded class...the effete, theatre-going, chattering-class, pseudo-intellectuals whose dealings with the 'real' world are from behind a smokescreen of self-importance and privilege. I eventually grew weary of their insular world; dinners at 'the Ivy', smart, clever, acerbic critical reviews, trans-Atlantic crossings and the other-worldliness of a man who, literally, did not know how to change a light bulb and wanted to hire an electrician to do it. Sheridan's life of depression apart...and I readily admit that it must have been horrendous for him and his wife...the fact that his favourite millieu was the theatrical era of J.Gielguid, Noel Coward, et al, is not at all surprising and clearly where he and Ruth 'lived' in their own, often trite, little world.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2014 9:10 PM BST


Island Beneath the Sea
Island Beneath the Sea
by Isabel Allende
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Typical Allende ie Wonderful !!, 20 Jun 2011
This review is from: Island Beneath the Sea (Paperback)
Yet another wonderful saga from Isabel Allende, though I often wonder how much credit should go to the translator of all her novels, Margaret Sayers Peden. Her thoughtfully descriptive prose and insightful imagery are both seductively woven into the driving narrative of Allende's works. 'Island Beneath the Sea' exemplifies the great strengths of both women in this novel of 18th century slave cruelty and revolution, while still capturing the essence of what makes us human...love, longing, loss, liberation. Go treat yourself!


The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War
The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War
by Juliet Nicolson
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should be re-titled: "Middle/Upper class Living in ...", 13 Jan 2010
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As the blurb says, this is indeed a novel-type page turner. It's also extremely interesting, well written, erudite yet accessible, too. However, it's much too disingenuous in its supposed coverage of British society as a whole.

If you're something of a pedant and/or Scottish, Welsh or Irish be prepared for the ubiquitous, insulting indifference when "England/English" is written but clearly intended to be "Britain/British". Particularly repugnant when recounting war wounded and dead. Then, too, the 'upstairs' is many times more written of than the 'downstairs', while the actual establishment and aristocracy feature even more often. Another reviewer talks of the author's 'name dropping' and although this may be stretching the author's intention too far, he/she has a point! Still, all-in-all, an enjoyable read but with several provisos, I'm afraid. Pity.


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