Monday, 10 January 2022

Top 5 books of 2021

 Books of the year 2021


Happy new year . For all sorts of reasons I read less in 2021 than I'd have liked. But I did read enough to cobble together a top 5 plus a handful of honorable mentions. Not all of these were released in 2021 by the way.



  1. No Time To Die : The making of the film by Mark Salisbury

Shocker. My book of the year isn't a Jack Reacher book. (Don't worry there's one on this list)


I never normally buy these behind the scenes books but since no time to die has been such a long time coming ( thanks covid) this was a must buy and it wasn't cheap. It

Is however one of the best produced books i've ever seen .Dont worry. Theres little in the way of spoilers but its probably best to watch the film before you get stuck into this. 

  1. Diddly Squat A Year On The Farm by Jeremy Clarkson


Clarkson's farm was probably the biggest hit of 2021, so this collection of newspaper columns from the Sunday times was a must have . Like all of clarksons writing it's hilarious. The column about the lamborghini tractor might be the funniest thing he's ever written. If you can get through the whole thing without laughing I will give you a fiver. 

  1. Better off dead by lee and andrew child


No list of mine would be complete without a reacher boook in there somewhere. Lee and Andrew's second novel together feels more like a classic reacher book than the sentinel, which very much felt like Andrew was getting his bearings. In fairness there's still some of that with Better Off Dead but taking on one of the most popular characters…….. in the world is bound to take some getting used to.

The first chapter is a bit of a shocker but as with all reacher books things are never as simple as they seem…… 

That's all I'll say for now since there's a full review coming soon


  1. The Drifter by Nick Petrie

The first book in the Peter Ash series by Nick Petrie . Think Jack Reacher but with a few more demons and you're about there. Ash is a hugely likeable character . Lots of characters get described as the next Reacher but Ash gets closer than most.


  1. Cradle To Grave by Rachel Amphlett


One of these lists wouldn't be complete without my old mate Kay Hunter. This is book 8 in the series and it's brilliant as you'd expect from these books. No spoilers , just go read it.

I've fallen behind with the series on purpose so I can binge them . 


Honorable mentions


Box 88 by Charles Cumming 

Not Dark Yet by Peter Robinson

The Holiday by T.M Logan

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Boring Car Trivia by Sniff Petrol

Man With  A Van by Drew Pritchard

How Not To Be A Professional Racing Driver by Jason Plato (fucking hilarious)

Lazy Bones by Mark Billingham

The Sanction By Mark Sennen


Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Book Review: The Holiday by T.M Logan

 Book Review : The Holiday By T.M Logan



The holiday is one of those books I’ve heard almost nothing but universal praise for and despite a few negative reviews here and there it seemed like something that was worth a go.


As ever I’ve copied the plot below to save you googling it , 

Seven days. Three families. One killer. It was supposed to be the perfect holiday, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence. But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one? As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined. Because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden. 


If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know where this review is going because I’m afraid The Holiday is a little bit of a disappointment, none of the characters are particularly likeable and I found that I didn’t really give a shit about any of them after 100 pages or so. 


So you’re probably wondering why I carried on with it. It's simple really, despite not caring much about the main characters I couldn’t help wondering what happens to them , or when the book would finally cut to the bloody chase and bump someone off. 


The chapters are short and snappy and end on cliffhangers which means you have to keep reading, I found myself carrying on to see if anything interesting happens, but like the first season of the sopranos there’s several chapters where bugger all happens . 


I like a slow burn thriller, but the holiday takes that concept to the extreme, the paperback version I read came in at 430 pages or so. In my opinion it’s a 370ish page story. 

 The thing that bugged me the most however is the fact that all the action comes in at once about 70 pages from the end making it the only book I’ve ever read to suffer from turbo lag.



Overall the holiday is one of the most frustrating books I’ve read in a long time, it’s well written for sure but it feels like it could be 50 pages shorter and it wouldn’t suffer. The characters are nearly all wankers apart from the kids , who get themselves into enough trouble to stop the whole thing getting bogged down over who shagged who, my guess on that one was completely wrong by the way. It’s not immediately obvious. 


Don’t let me put you off the holiday though, it’s a decent beach read , who knows? Maybe it’d be better if I was actually on holiday when I read it . 

 The holiday hasn’t put me of T.M Logan either . I’ve got his other books in paperback already so his stuff will be making an appearance in here at some point.


Verdict : Good 



Thursday, 4 March 2021

Book Review : Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning."

On the 13th of April 1953 the world changed forever. One of the most important characters in fiction arrived in the world's bookshops, that secret agent? Bond. James Bond.
Doubtless you all know what the plot of Casino Royale is but if by some miracle you don't know here's a synopsis that amazon wrote earlier 
Le Chiffre is a businessman with expensive tastes, and SMERSH's chief operative in France. But as his dissolute lifestyle threatens to ruin him, his only hope is to risk his paymasters' money at the card table.

James Bond, the finest gambler in the service, has a deadly new mission: to outplay Le Chiffre and shatter his Soviet cell.

Amidst the opulence of Casino Royale, the two men face each other for a game with the highest stakes of all.


Ian Fleming had long harboured an a desire to write a spy thriller, his experiences during World War 2 and his amazing imagination gave him ample material to work with. The card game which forms the main event of the book is based on something that happened to Fleming during the war. 
Fleming wrote Casino Royale with two aims in mind, firstly to take his mind off his forthcoming marriage and secondly to create what he called " the spy thriller to end all spy thrillers". 
It goes without saying that he managed it. In its near 70 years of existence Bond has not only spawned the greatest film franchise of all time but also comic books, continuation novels and radio dramas and just about anything you can fit a 007 logo onto. 
Did Fleming know Bond would thrive for so long when he sat down and wrote that icoic first line? I think he did, for a first time author he exuded confidence and that's what makes readers even after nearly 70 years want to come along for the ride. 
 Apart from some slightly dodgy language by today's standard's (don't write in saying I didn't warn you) there isn't much wrong with Casino  Royale, at 250 or so pages it's not very long but it also feels like it's exactly the right length.  You can easily blow through it in a day or two like I did.

Casino Royale is an absolute riot, I still have little idea of how any card game that isn't 21 works but Fleming explains everything so well even an idiot can't help but plough through the casino sequences. 

Like the film though the most memorable, and if you're a bloke, nightmare inducing part of the book is the torture sequence. I'm actually breaking into a cold sweat thinking about it. If anything the film toned it down but it still ends the same way, Bond's life being saved by the organisation that would go on to be his long term enemy. SMERSH. 
Not so memorable however is the love story between Bond and  double agent  Vesper Lynd, its OK but its nothing like as absorbing or heartbreaking as what Bond later goes through in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. That's one aspect where the film gets one over on the book. Maybe it's something to do with that amazing Venice stunt, by comparison Vesper swallowing a bottle of pills and leaving Bond a note is a bit anticlimactic. 

In the same way that Harry Potter defines my generation Bond defines the 50's and 60's, after Casino Royale the bookshops were awash with authors trying to capture the magic of Ian Fleming. A few managed it  Of course  but nearly all of them are lost to history and yet Bond is still with us. If you've yet to read the bond books I can't recommend it highly enough, why not do something useful in lockdown and scratch the itch? 
 
Casino Royale really does transcend my ratings system. I don't have a ranking higher than "Cracker" so that'll have to do.
Verdict : Cracker 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Book review : The Sentinel by Lee and Andrew Child

 

Book Review : The Sentinel By Lee And Andrew Child

Taking the mantle of one of the biggest brands in fiction can’t be easy, a bit like a contemporary author taking over the bond books. Some times it's a disaster, sometimes it works brilliantly. 

Happily however Andrew Grant (now Child) is a successful author in his own right with some fab detective series under his belt , and you no doubt already know , he’s Lee Child’s younger brother . They’ve co-written the 25th Reacher adventure together and will team up for a few more before Andrew flies solo.  

The Sentinel is the 25th Reacher adventure  and for those of you who cant be bothered to go on amazon the plot’s below

Jack Reacher gets off the bus in a sleepy no-name town outside Nashville, Tennessee. He plans to grab a cup of coffee and move right along.
Not going to happen.

The town has been shut down by a cyber attack. At the center of it all, whether
he likes it or not, is Rusty Rutherford. He's an average IT guy, but he knows more than he thinks.
As the bad guys move in on Rusty, Reacher moves in on them . . .
And now Rusty knows he's protected, he's never going to leave the big man's side.

That little synopsis really is the most I can tell you about the sentinel without spoiling it but if you were worried about the changing of the Reacher guard, don’t be.  This is classic Jack Reacher from start to finish. Reacher doesn’t take any shit in the sentinel, he’s calmed down a bit since Blue Moon , there’s only a handful of brutal murders . But he does hang a guy from a bar ceiling , a contender for the funniest Reacher moment ever.

The sentinel is everything a Jack Reacher adventure should be , it’s violent, it’s funny ,the villains are complete bastards and everything gets wrapped up nicely and leaves you eager to tear into the next one. Or in my case dig out the Killing Floor paperback and start from the beginning .  if you’re new to the world of Reacher then, welcome and enjoy catching up.

Verdict : Cracker


Also a big thank you to Transworld for the proof copy

Friday, 27 November 2020

Book Review ; The Darkest Evening By Anne Cleeves

 Lockdown hasn’t had many plus points has it? Like many others reading books and watching telly for hours on end stopped me from going completely insane .  Revisiting old favourites and discovering new characters  and taking a punt on authors I’ve never read before Has been a joy. 

One of those authors is Anne Cleeves creator of the critically acclaimed Shetland books , the Mathew Venn series and of course, the living legend Vera .

The darkest evening is the ninth book in the series and it begins with Vera trying to get home during an epic snowstorm . After spotting an abandoned car at the side of the road and finding a young toddler inside with his mother nowehere to be seen Vera takes him to Broxburn. A run down mansion where her father grew up. When the body of a young woman is found nearby Vera knows she's got rather more than a missing persons case on her hands and along with it all sorts of secrets come tumbling out, some of them involving Vera's family. 


That's about as much as I can tell you without having to issue a spoiler warning, but what I can tell you is that there are definitely traces of Agatha Christie in the darkest evening, every time you think you know where it's going it goes in another direction all together.

 It's great fun if like me you enjoy trying to work out who did it. I almost always get it wrong and I'm pleased to report I got it wrong this time as well. 

 The thing I liked most about the darkest evening is that we get to see Vera interacting with her family, given that she never mentions them much it's nice to see a little glimpse into the private side of Vera. 

Like all good detectives Vera isn't afraid of getting herself into a little danger to help snare a killer  even if it means almost becoming a murder statistic herself. 

This is the ninth book in the series and it seems to be as good a place to start as any of the others. If you've seen the Vera TV show I'll garuntee you'll love the books. Hopefully it won't be too long before we get to see this one on screen.

Verdict : Cracker 


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Q+A with Andrew Child

Author Q+A  Andrew Child. 



Unless  you've  been living under a very large rock or you're a martian in which case, run while you can. You'll have heard that lee child is handing over the keys to the Jack Reacher series to his brother Andrew and to celebrate the new Jack Reacher novel, the sentinel here's an interview with the man entrusted with the biggest thriller series..... In the world. Andrew Child 

It's been a tough year for everyone, how's 2020 been for you?


For me, it’s been mixed. I’ve had a wonderful time working with my brother on The Sentinel, the first of the Jack Reacher thrillers we’re writing together. But due to all the travel restrictions I haven’t been able to visit my daughters in the UK for many months, which has been totally miserable.


Were you nervous about taking over the reacher books  given how well loved they are?


Extremely nervous! But in the end I decided to do it anyway because I’m a Reacher fan too – in fact the oldest Reacher fan – and I just couldn’t stand the idea of there not being any more of the books.


What was your reaction when Lee asked you to take over?


First shocked, that he would trust me with his amazing creation. Then nervous, wondering if I was up to the task. Then excited, thinking about all the stories I’d have the chance to tell.


You and Lee both have your names on the cover, how does the actual writing process work? do you send chapters and forth to each other?


Working together was something we both had to adapt to as neither of us had collaborated with anyone on a full length novel before. We started out hanging out at my place – we live about three miles apart – and kicking ideas around which I’d put down on paper for him to review. Then the pandemic took hold so we shifted more into ‘virtual’ mode, talking and plotting and revising over text and email and zoom. It was an interesting process, and we were both very happy with how everything turned out.


Lee said in an interview recently that you were the first person to read Killing Floor, what was your reaction to it at the time?


I was absolutely terrified before I started reading in case it was no good. Lee was out of work and his whole future was on the line. But within a single line I was hooked. The book was magnificent in every way and I remember thinking, long before we learned Reacher’s name, I know this guy…


Which is your favourite Reacher book?


There are two that particularly stand out for me. Killing Floor, because it was the first and I will never forget how I felt after reading the manuscript. The other book I think is particularly special is Make Me. It has all the ingredients that make us love Reacher – the captivating location, the pervading sense of mystery, the fabulous characters, the intriguing (and particularly disturbing) plot, the propulsive prose, the action, the sense of justice done – but I feel that this time out, the language was even more lyrical and aesthetically satisfying.


Reacher hasn't changed much over the years, how important do you think that is to the appeal of the books?


I think the sense of consistency is crucial, particularly now when the times are so uncertain and chaotic and people are looking for stability and security in their lives.


Where did the idea for the sentinel come from?


I was looking for a way to take Reacher – who’s famous for his lack of familiarity with technology – out of his comfort zone, and when I remembered some things I’d read about ransomware I thought it would provide the perfect environment.


What can long time readers expect from the new book?


I hope they will find everything about Reacher books that they’ve always loved, plus perhaps a little extra energy, with slightly more current themes.


What did you make of the movies with Tom Cruise?


If we put the issue of size aside, I thought Tom Cruise actually did a great job of capturing Reacher’s world-weary attitude. There’s a good example in the first movie where Reacher is eating alone in a diner when a woman approaches and sets him up for a fight with a bunch of local thugs. Cruise displays exactly the right sense of not looking to start any trouble, but equally being more than happy to finish any that comes his way. I think the problem with the movies is really that the format is just not very suitable. One of the reasons Lee’s novels are so satisfying to read is that you can ‘think along’ with Reacher as he reasons and deduces his way through several, in-depth steps toward solving each puzzle. There simply isn’t time for this in a ninety minute movie, so the good stuff is inevitably rushed if not lost altogether. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the switch to TV. I think the upcoming series will be able to do the books much more justice.


There's a Reacher TV series coming, would you like to see The Sentinel on screen at some point?


I would love it! I really hope that happens, one day.


We've all had a lot more time to read this year because of obvious reasons. What were the best books you read in lockdown?


Having extra time to read is the lockdown’s silver lining. A few great books spring to mind, such as Blacktop Wasteland by Shawn Cosby; Agent Sonya by Ben McIntyre; and Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich.




What can you say (if anything) about reacher 26?


We started it on September 1st, in keeping with Lee’s long-standing tradition, and we’re very happy with how it’s going…


Frances Neagley is a firm favourite with Reacher fans, do you think she could feature in a future book?


Absolutely. I love Neagley, and could definitely see her coming back.


What do you think Reacher's brother Joe would be doing if he were still alive?


I think he’d be hunting down financial criminals, often meaning to get in touch with his brother Jack, but never quite making it happen.


Lee's mentioned the idea of Reacher coming across a stray dog and taking it on his adventures with him. Could we ever see that?


It’s an intriguing idea. Never say never…


Big thanks to Andrew for doing this. 

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Film Review :Tenet

Film Review. Tenet 


After being delayed at least 4 times (it might be more, 8 lost count) tenet hit the big screens, in England at least about a week ago. I went to see it with a mate today, I'd have gone sooner but I've been away. Anyhoo let's dive in to the latest  mind fuck from Christopher Nolan 

 synopsis

A secret agent embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War. That's as much about the plot as I can tell you without unleashing a shit tonne of spoilers. 

Some people have criticised tenet for being too confusing but let's be honest. This is Christopher Nolan we're talking about. He rarely does  simple. I admit it is fairly easy to lose track of what the fuck is going on but I managed to follow it okay. 

I don't want to give too many spoilers away so I'll just run through what I did and didn't like. 

I loved the action stuff. John David Washington and Robert Pattinson kick ass, usually their own because y'know time travel. (don't ask). The scene where they pilot a cargo plane into an aircraft hanger is straight out of the bond manual of ridiculousness but it works. The time inverted fight scenes must have been a complete pain to film but they work so well it's worth it. 

 Kenneth Brannagh is the main bad guy in tenet and boy is he a nasty bastard, an arms dealer holding the world to ransom. He steals every scene he's in and if I were directing the next Bond he'd be my first choice fo the villain. 

There aren't really any bad performances in Tenet, everyone in the film brings their A game and then some. However, Michael Caine is unforgivably under used. On screen for literally 2 minutes. 

For me though the biggest surprise of the movie has to be Robert Pattinson, he's certainly going to be one to watch when it comes to action movies. 

 Some people have complained that they couldn't hear some of the dialogue and that is true, I didn't struggle as much as some did but if you can get to a showing that has subtitles I'd recommend it. The musi is so loud in places you can't hear what the fuck they're saying. 

Despite my reservations Tenet was a lovely surprise, well acted, well directed and less confusing than Inception. It's a mind fuck, don't get me wrong but you won't leave the cinema with a headache. Most importantly though its given me the confidence to get back to the movies. 

 

Verdict: Good but not as good as Dunkirk. 





Top 5 books of 2021

  Books of the year 2021 Happy new year . For all sorts of reasons I read less in 2021 than I'd have liked. But I did read enough to cob...