Two Brothers by Ben Elton – simply fantastic
I read this book in just a few days – it’s difficult to put down. I don’t like reviews where the reader is told the entire plot of the book so I certainly don’t want to say too much. The book is extremely well written, with interesting characters who are easy to get invested in and a very believable story taking place during truly horrific times.
Although there are lots of books that have been written about the holocaust, I haven’t read many that spend most of their time discussing the years before the actual WWII and Ben Elton manages to describe growing up as a Jew during those times very well. It’s in many ways a story about relationships but no less a story about how such terrible experiences affect different people, and how it affects people differently.
I saw that someone had written that this book should be part of school curriculum and I tend to agree. It manages to give us a large amount of historical information without the reader ever feeling they’re sitting in a history lesson. It’s always about the characters.
In short, I recommend you buy this book today!
The President Is Missing
I don’t remember having read lots of Patterson’s books before but I am sure that I will in the future considering how much I enjoyed this one. This book, while in many ways a typical thriller, is fast-paced (a lot of people criticize Patterson for his short chapters but it didn’t bother me) and unusual in the way that you definitely hear Clinton’s voice through. Sure, the president character is very idealistic and for us non-Americans the book sometimes veers too much into “America – we’re number one!”, but it certainly shouldn’t be a surprise that a book told in first person by “the president” would be very America-centric.
I found both the cybercrime and political aspects very believable and there were enough plot twists (although some were a bit predictable) to keep the story interesting.
Read: June 2018
Recommended: yes, if you like thrillers.
Buy The President is Missing here
Secret Lives of Great Composers: What Your Teachers Never Told You about the World’s Musical Masters
Although this book doesn’t quite live up to its promise of “outrageous anecdotes”, it’s really quite entertaining and I certainly learned a lot about many of the world’s favorite composers. The book includes stories about everyone’s favorites: Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, Verdi, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Elgar, Puccini, Mahler, Debussy, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Schoenberg, Ives, Ravel, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Copland, Shostakovich, Barber, Cage, Bernstein and Glass, all in convenient chronological order.
I was aware of some of the stories beforehand, but there’s still incredibly interesting stuff in there. My favorite strange stories were about Berlioz (clearly a certifiable nutcase) and Puccini (clearly a full-blown criminal in his youth). The fungus story about Cage and Elgar’s explosive back-yard shed were also very interesting.
The illustrations are beautiful (and unusual) – you might want to read this book on a colour device, as opposed to the black-and-white Kindle that I read the first half on. I actually switched to an iPad half-way through so that I could properly enjoy the illustrations.
Read: June 2018
Buy Secret Lives of Great Composers here
The Ben Hope Collection (Ben Hope #1- #6)
Book series are quite an interesting phenomenon in that if the author manages to make you care about the characters in the first book, you will want to continue to the next one to see how the characters and their relationships develop.
In January 2018 my wife bought me a book called “The Bach Manuscript”, knowing I’d find the historical connection interesting. When I was a few pages in, I realized that this was part of a series (as The Bach Manuscript was clearly referencing something from the character’s past) and decided that it was interesting enough that I should first check out the rest of the series. I found out that The Bach Manuscript was actually book number 16 in this series but still decided to go back to the beginning to see if I would find it interesting enough. I started with this pack that I am linking to here, which conveniently contains the first six books in the series.
It’s now June and I’ve made it through books 1-15 in the series so the next one to read is finally The Bach Manuscript – at least now I’ll know the back story!
Ben Hope is an ex SAS specialist and as such basically knows how to kill a man with only a toothpick and some tabasco sauce. He’s a specialist in finding missing people and throughout the series ends up in battles with some pretty serious characters, often at the cost of his personal relationships with family, friends and the ladies.
The underlying mysteries in each book are quite well researched, whether it’s ancient Babylonian treasures or mysterious letters from Mozart. Sometimes the books veer a little too much into shootouts and car chases but at least Mariani writes those very well. The characters, Ben and his friends, are interesting enough to keep you coming back to follow along in their lives.
It also helps that each book is quite inexpensive, so you can read an entire series for what a high-profile book or two would have cost you.
Read: Jan-June 2018
Recommended: Yes, if you like manly action stuff with a historical twist
Buy The Ben Hope Collection (first six books) here
A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman seems to have a special knack for getting into the minds of characters who are different from most others, both in this book and also Britt-Marie Was Here.
Ove somehow manages to be both at times an incredibly annoying character and an incredibly charming and likable one. His life-long feud with his neighbour about what would seem to most of us as complete nonsense also keeps them together as friends. His love for his wife, now recently passed away, drives him and his actions and is a beautiful part of the story. This is a very unusual story with very unique characters. Ove is one of those characters you simply won’t forget.
Read: March 2017
Buy Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove here
I had read several rather scathing reviews of this book before I read it. I don’t agree at all. Maybe it’s because Weir’s first book, The Martian, was so universally liked that people expected his next one to be more of the same – I don’t know. I felt that his near-future scenario was believable enough and I actually liked the main character (although several female reviewers have pointed out that Weir should get assistance with writing his female characters as they are apparently very unbelievable to female readers) and the bit of science (much less than in The Martian) also was logical enough for me to believe in it. Definitely a much “lighter” read than The Martian but still very enjoyable for me.
Read: November 2017
Buy Andy Weir’s Artemis here
I thought I had read all the Michael Chrichton books and then my wife discovered this one. As is the case with all his books, this one seems to be very well researched. In addition, this one is in large part based on a true story. The storyline and characters are very interesting and the setting in some ways familiar (Wild West) and other ways unusual (archeological digs in hostile Native-American territory). I’d say “one of his best stories” but then again I’ve loved all his books.
Read: January 2018
Buy Michael Chrichton’s Dragon Teeth here
I loved this book. Lev Termen (Léon Theremin in the USA) was one of the 20th century’s most important inventors, especially for electronic music but also for various other categories, including ingenious Soviet spying equipment. To say that he had a difficult life would be an understatement and although this novel certainly takes some liberties with the truth, it’s a great way to learn more about this fascinating man.
My wife and I actually own one of Termen’s most famous inventions, the Theremin instrument. It’s devilishly difficult to play but a wonderful challenge.
Read: December 2017
Buy Sean Michaels’ Us Conductors here
The Quality of Silence
My wife strongly recommended this book to me, as she read it earlier this year and told me is was a very unusual and interesting book. I couldn’t agree more. The main storyteller is a young deaf girl who finds a communication outlet through Twitter, describing to the world what words she cannot hear feel like to her. Most of the story revolves around her and her mother traveling through Alaska and dealing with its incredibly harsh winters, the people they meet on the way, and the girl’s relationship with her parents. A beautiful story, beautifully told, including an unusual “who-dunnit” aspect.
Read: May 2018
Buy Rosamund Lupton’s The Quality of Silence here
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death
I heard about this unusual book on the radio the other day and the short description caught my interest enough to want to read it. O’Farrell has certainly had an unusual life and has found quite a unique way to tell her life story. I am not sure why she chose to tell the different stories out of chronological order, but it doesn’t distract too much from the story. The book is well-written and never goes into the “I feel sorry for myself” category, even though this woman certainly has overcome challenges many of us wouldn’t even dream of.
Read: June 2018
Buy Maggie O’Farrell’s I am I am I am here
I downloaded this book on a recommendation from a friend. Not exactly the biggest page-turner, it took me a few days to finish and it was… ok. Many of the characters are quite over-the-top but still reasonably believable. I do like that one of them is a bit of a nature-terrorist, in that he terrorizes people who, in his opinion, have damaged nature in some way. Completely unstable and a bit scary, but somehow also likeable because he’s doing it all for a good cause. I mean, who of you doesn’t occasionally want to follow someone home who threw their McDonalds box out the car window and torch their house?
I for one didn’t know that there are also major lobbyists working in local government in the USA – I always thought it was just a Washington thing, so I got educated on that front. One thing I did absolutely love about the book is that (and I didn’t know this before I started reading) most of it takes place in and around Tallahassee, where I lived from 2002 to 2004, so most of the locations are quite familiar to me.
This is apparently the fourth book in a series but that made no negative impact on my reading experience.
Read: June 2018
Recommended: Yes, if you like slightly weird light reading.
Buy Carl Hiaasen’s Sick Puppy here