Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #7

I do have full book reviews coming soon, but to fill the gap (again), here is another round-up of some pre-blog capsule reviews that I wrote back in 2006 for you.

Crucifix Lane by Kate Mosse

The world is just the same but also oh so different 11 years into the future in Kate Mosse’s future chiller, as clubber Annie finds out when she wakes up after a fall in Crucifix Lane. Adopted into a group of do-gooders who ostensibly help London’s ghettoized poor, she falls for their leader, Kellen. However he has other motives. At its heart the real star of this novel is the omnipresent river Thames – dyed blue to make it look good, but slowly creeping up in level waiting for its big chance to drown decadent London. The eco-science theme behind the main story gets its message across without ramming it down your throat. Intelligently written with believable characters – I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

[Yes, this is by that Kate Mosse, published in 1998 it’s been out of print for ages, and I wish I’d kept my copy – it’s now very collectable! – Ed]

The Time-Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This was a Book Group choice – and I was rather ambivalent about it before starting it. The first 50 pages or so were rather hard going, then a sense of the timeline kicked in and I was able to dissociate myself from the reality that time travel is impossible(?) and from thereon in I was hooked. The central love story between Clare and Henry was so wonderful, and I cried at the end!The time travel in this novel is so refreshingly different from all the science fiction norms. Niffenegger has managed to escape being labelled SF, getting a wide readership for this superb debut. I look forward to her next novel immensely. (Published 2004)

Ghosting by John Preston

This is the story of Dickie Chambers, who gets his lucky break to become a radio announcer which kick-starts his career into the new world of television in the 1950s. His suave and polished performances as a charming presenter however, hide a dark side to his personality, which eventually reveals itself leading to his fall from grace. The young Dick experienced the drowning of his father and subsequent destabilisation of his mother into mental illness, leaving him a loner and sexually inadequate, incapable of forming lasting relationships in his later life. Preston charts his descent into depression and schizophrenia with a sympathetic touch, giving us hope that Dickie will eventually manage to pull himself out of the darkness, while sparing no punches about its effects. A gripping and accomplished first novel.

The Cloud-Spotters Guide by Gavin Praetor-Pinney

This is a delightful book, written for enthusiasts, but containing enough good science to satisfy more expert readers. It does this and manages to be thoroughly entertaining too. The author’s text is eminently readable and the technobabble is negligible and is augmented by clear diagrams and photos. Interspersed throughout are digressions, discussions, cloud-lore and experiences relating to clouds, whether it be Turner’s paintings or the effects of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Some of these asides do tend to be somewhat whimsical, but fit in with the overall style of the book. The star anecdote has to be the experience of the jet fighter pilot who had to eject into the middle of a cumulonimbus thundercloud and lived to tell the tale. The only thing missing is loads more colour photos. A fun and informative read.

The Travelling Horn Player by Barbara Trapido

I’m not sure that I really liked this book while reading it, but I certainly couldn’t put it down! However with the benefit of hindsight I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her characterisation is very strong, and although we meet a lot of different people, we are not spared their flaws; each one having at least one weakness, infidelity, or individual tragedy and all different! Where the book succeeds is that each chapter and serial part of the story is seen through the eyes of one character, and this gives a real sense of interaction between plot and people. Trapido’s central premise of linking the whole to a Schubert song cycle about a Miller’s daughter may have given the inspiration for the story, but is too academic for the general reader – but you don’t need to know that to enjoy the book.

Have you read any of these books?

18 thoughts on “Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #7

  1. cath says:

    I had similar feelings to yours about The Time Traveller’s Wife, both before and during. As for after, it’s left behind indelible images. I find myself recalling moments from it on occasions that don’t seem to bear any obvious resemblance to the story.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I may well re-read it – I treated myself to a nice edition some time ago. I think my daughter would enjoy it too (when she has time to read).

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It was an early novel, before she became famous. Much better than her recent fare (IMHO). TTW was lovely – I’d like to re-read – one day.

  2. David Nolan (David73277) says:

    Thanks for reminding me that I have always wanted to read that book about clouds. I’ve just put it on hold at the library. In the course of doing so, I discovered that Pretor-Pinney has also co-written The Ukulele Handbook. It is perhaps not surprising that that one is out on loan as there is quite an active ukulele scene in my area.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    The Cloud-Spotters Guide is certainly whimsical but informative. I began it before a house move but never finished it, and now can’t locate it — I suspect it may have been discarded as I desperately tried to downsize before the move. 🙁

    • Calmgrove says:

      Oops, pressed ‘send’ before I meant to… Just read and have started to review The Dig, another novel by John Preston, from 2007. Hadn’t realised he wrote the book about Jeremy Thorpe, A Very British Scandal, which was on telly a year or so ago.

  4. Liz Dexter says:

    Some interesting books there. That is a departure from Mosse if it’s the same one who usually has some medieval horrors seeping into the modern day. I’m really enjoying The Last Testament of Loki, by the way!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It was from before she went historical and Orange – it’s never mentioned in her author bios now! Shame – it was good. Glad about the Loki – phew!

  5. chrisharding53 says:

    I love The Travelling Horn Player and the way it explores events from different perspectives. It’s part of what I suppose you could call a series, where you meet some of the same characters, and see how they are affected by some of the events. There are unexpected connections and co-incidences, with the various people all having a different view of things, and they are very witty, very clever, but with an element of tragedy there as well.

  6. AnnaBookBel says:

    I really must get around to reading some more Barbara Trapido. She did an event locally for her novel Sex and Stravinsky and she was simply wonderful to listen to.

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