Book Review: Carter Beats the Devil (Glen David Gold)

And as if by magic, I finished this at about half 12 last night. What an excellent book! Thanks to the last-minute vote on my experiment and to James for recommending it in the first place.

Where to start?

I suppose I should say (as I should have said for Hudson’s The Dazzle) that Charles Carter and various other characters were real live people. There’s even a cameo by Houdini. Houdini! I have to say I find magicians much more interesting than the interwar fast set, if just because of the sheer brio you must have to spend a life on stage deceiving people. As usual, in these cases, I wonder how much of the story was true and how much a fabrication. Certainly, you can perform more outrageous magic tricks on paper than you can on stage, except that, I read in the notes that the tricks were all based on those that were performed at the time. Well…

I like this book because I was fooled into forgetting that Carter was a real person. The story has so many twists and turns that fit so incredibly well together, I was never bored (the book is over 500 pages long). In fact, I did something I haven’t done for a long time, I actually savoured reading it. It’s a romance, a who-dun-it, a coming of age story, a comedy, a tragedy but mainly an adventure. And it’s a debut book!

I had to wait until near the end to find my favourite line though, then two came along at once (discounting “Paddock’s Storage House” for obvious reasons), oh, and I learned a new word: Horripilation (Goose bumps!).

In short, I loved it and was, quite frankly, impressed. It gave me horripilations (see!).

Read it. Don’t delay. Read it now.

I’ve been waiting to read the next book since my A Level Physics teacher mentioned it 12 years ago…

Celestial Matters (Rickard Garfinkle).

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Happy New Year! And the first book review of 2013!

I hope 2013 it is a good year for all.

As I sit here surrounded by all the mod-cons, a new TV, a Nexus 7, iPhone and full house insurance, I have cracked out the old laptop to write my first post in 2013. I can think of no better way to start the year than by reviewing a new book. By deft combination of espionage and extortion I managed to get my hands on a review copy from the excellent and very astute people at Jonathan Cape.

The chances of my return to the audience at Tall Tales are, for various reasons, remote so I think I am safe to be honest…

 

The Dazzle (Robert Hudson)

“Sex, drugs and tuna” is The Dazzle’s tagline and it pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, which for a delicate wallflower like myself was a little off-putting at the start, however, the prologue had already hooked me in (and it is inevitable that, without even trying, every other word written in this review will now have fishing connotations) so I wasn’t going to give up on the book.

It took me a little while to work out who all the characters  were and what their relationship to other characters might be. Being honest, I had to go back and check that the character involved in the reveal at the end was actually mentioned earlier in the book, which, of course, they were at great length. Weirdly, having looked back, it all suddenly made sense as the excellently organised story that it was.

Some of The Dazzle was written in letter format (which shouldn’t have surprised me). Personally, I find it takes a special sort of book written in that style to keep my interest (Warhorses of Letters, picking a completely random example) and I have to admit I lost the plot somewhere near the centre. In contrast though, when nearing the end, the style of plot reveal changes and it is bloody clever. I enjoyed that the most.

The book uses some words even Google itself won’t shed any light on. I liked that and am, in a strange way, kind of happy that I still have no idea what the words mean because I can guess and my wallflower is already wilting.  That was not an intentional euphemism. The author obviously had fun with boat names as well which was enjoyable. Having finished the book, I found myself hoping that the little team of characters might be written in to a sequel.

Anyway, I maintain that any book that mentions giant squid has to be a good book by default and this doesn’t buck the trend.

The Dazzle by Robert Hudson is released next month and I really do think you should give it try.

Book Review: The Year of the Hare (Arto Paasilinna)

Weird book but then it is Finnish. Recommendation taken from a blog that I follow.

The translation was OK. I can’t say I’ve read worse because this is the only Finnish book translation I have ever read. It had a beginning, a middle and an (happy) end. And I don’t blame the protagonist for his actions.

I think I should like to move to Scandinavia.

6/10 – worth a shot.

And finally, book 52: Joined-Up Thinking (Stevyn Colgan)

My mind is befuddled by all the facts in this book. But I like a book full of facts. Facts and the odd innuendo. It’s the sort of book you’d read a chapter of here or there (maybe but not exclusively on the loo) and then have to read it again every other day to try to learn then regurgitate in the pub.

Why not take the book to the pub? You’ve obviously not met my friends. If they knew I got most of my facts from a book they’d be very disappointed. Where they think I get my facts from is another debate entirely.

8/10 – It’s just like those conversations you (I) had as a kid which start off with yesterday’s botched chemistry experiment, to clouds and tennis then end up with Henry III and pickled onions. Really interesting.

Book 42: A Scanner Darkly (Philip K Dick)

“Entering the phone booth, he did a phone thing.”

Is the best line of any book I’ve ever read. I also enjoyed (for very different reasons):

“If I knew it was harmless, I’d have killed it myself.”

I did like this. If there ever was an advert against drugs, this is it! It was really freaky how we know a lot more than the main character does about his motives and actions.

Of course, any book containing random German has to be excellent.

7/10 – enjoyed it, freaked me out a bit, but I found it a little difficult to understand the phrases used.

Book 41: Back Story (David Mitchell)

The comedian.

Mitchell still comes across as a nice enough guy. There’s a sweet chapter about Victoria. I like his bit on agnosticism.

And it made my laugh.

I’m not going to give an autobiography marks out of 10 because that would be silly. I had to read it so quickly because I’ve already sold the thing (for a profit).

In other news, still reading The Quincunx – although, hilariously, I’ve almost finished it (this does not mean that I am not still counting it as 5 books!). This just goes to show that it’s not necessarily that I read slowly…