I am reviewing the teen fiction fantasy Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is part of the Harper Connolly series about a teenage  girl who can see dead people after being struck by lightning at the age of 15. Very few people ever survive the devastation of being struck by lightning as there is an absolutely huge amount of current involved. This book is I think aimed at a similar audience probably girls in there late teens like the other series by this author, True Blood. Both series have a female protagnist and are set in the wilds of the USA. In real life Charlaine lives in Arkansas so this is little surprise. In this book there are mainly 3 murders and Harper has to get to the root of it. It is the kind of case where the police have little clue and Harper has to rely on herself. There is an affair regarding one character and his wife that comes to light. One of the victims came from Nashville in Tennesse and was abducted. There is also a grave that has to be exhumed. As with any book aimed at a younger audience there is a happy ending and although the heroine faces peril nothing really dangerous happens to her.

 

I am reviewing the thriller Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This is part of the Rebus series that has also spawned a TV series of the same name. This book is also around 380 so is a reasonably long novel. It is a gritty serial thriller set in Edinburgh. Despite be a glorious city and the capital of Scotland it does have a deep gloomy side tourists often miss. In more recent years there has a bigger and bigger influx of foreigners into Britain and this novel takes that theme. The case Rebus investigates is that of an illegal immigrant gruesomely murdered in Knoxland, a shall we say less desirable part of the city. Siobhan who is a deputy in the police to him and has to face some personal problems in addition to working on the case. Ian does in real life live in or near Edinburgh which inspires his work and I can tell is very proud of it. Fleshmarket Close is an actual road in that city. You generally don’t see that many procedural thrillers in particular about cities like this and I think it is quite refreshing. I live in Birmingham in the West Midlands  which isn’t hugely different to Edinburgh in a lot of ways. This book was published in 2005 and there has been a lot of controversy over immigration. One thing in particular is when someone on the council’s list for accommodation there have been instances where people over a period have actually moved further down the list such has the wave of people like this going into the big cities.

The book I read to research this post was My World by Luciano Pavarotti which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book is around 320 pages so is a decent length. It is also the 2nd in a series of 3 autobiographical about the singer’s life. luciano is a famous opera singer who died some years ago and this book covers the early to mid part of his singing career. He made his debut in 1961 in San Francisco and was a sensation in the part he played and achieved almost immediate fame. He has worked with many of the best people in the opera world. He talks of working with Tonini in the doing the opera La Scala because he felt for that job he was the best in the world. He is very much a kind of jolly person with an infectitious sense of humor. He writes about his family life a little and how he has 3 devoted daughters all obviously grown up by now. He is probably most famous for the 3 Tenors Concert which as if he wasn’t famous enough before that made him even more famous. The concert was Domingo and Carreras with the latter having just recovered from a bad illness and it being down as almost a kind act to cheer him up. As it was the concert was an absolute smash. I very much enjoyed this book and do recommend it.

I am reviewing the novel Ghost Ship by Clive Cussler et al which is a very good novel that I bought from a local bookstore. This book is part of the Kurt Austin series about an adventurer who works for an organisation called NUMA and has lots of adventures mostly with a slightly nautical flavour. Clive in real life searches for shipwrecks and their organisation is called NUMA after the books. He also leads a bit of a life inspired by his novels like he has a collection of classic cars and often spends time in places like log cabins in the American wilderness. This book is a bit formulaic and not one of his best although I think he is still a great adventure writer almost in the mold of people like H Rider Haggard and books like She and King Solomon’s Mines. He usually starts his books with a fictitious episode from the past in this case 1909 and the sinking of a cruise ship with over 200 on board.Then we move to the present day and a yacht sinks almost with Kurt along with it. There is a love element in the form of 2 characters Sienna and Calista vying for Kurt. There is also as with almost any of these books a big showdown involving an all enveloping fire and them having to take cover in an olympic size swimming pool. The action does take place in exotic locations like Madagascar and South Korea. It does also involve a group releasing a computer virus which at one point is compared to the notorious stuxnet virus. This book is around 450 pages so is a formidable length. It is an enjoyable read and I would probably recommend it but would probably reading one of the other installments in the series if you are new to these novels.

The Berlitz Pocket Guide To Zakynthos & Kefalonia which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. This book is around 160 pages so is fairly long. I did quite enjoy reading this book and would recommend it although I did find some of the location names a bit of a tongue twister and difficult to pronounce. These are 2 islands that are part of the Southern Ionian group and are probably not an obvious tourist destination especially to people unfamilar with the various Greek locations. The capital of Zakynthos is Zakynthos Town which is the major settlement between the 2 islands. There is a Zakynthos Museum with some interesting local historic artefacts. There is a cave with a lake and the roof of the cave collapsed some 5,000 years ago. The water in the lake is very clear blue and at the 2 extremities it becomes deeper. When the Syriza Party which later won the election in Greece outright recently, early on they won seats on these 2 islands in 2012. Captain Correlli’s Mandolin the best seller and major film was set and filmed on these islands. As part of the deal to get it filmed a lot of the political aspects had to be done away which spoilt the film.

I am reviewing the Pixar film Inside Out which is a very good movie. This film verges on psychological territory and is about 5 cartoon character emotions and the effect each has on a young child. The creator of the film in real life had a problem with shyness and being withdrawn when young. Apparently when he grew up and his daughter was born he noticed she had similar problems. This inspired this film as he was then to learn about psychology and thought would it be nice to do a film based on these experiences. I definitely don’t think this is the best film to be made by Pixar but is pretty good nonetheless. I read somewhere some professors from the University in Berkely in California advised the makers on getting this film to be genuinely helpful to shy children in particular. The plot essentially is about this young girl and they store her memories on ball shaped and there is a mix up between happy and sad memories and where they are stored. It is an interesting premise but I thought the story is a little weak. It made a healthy profit at the box office worldwide. The voice cast are fairly well known but maybe not as star studded as some animated although in that regard they just wanted authentic voices. I think I do recommend this movie and enjoyed watching it.

I am reviewing the novel Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris which is a very good novel  that I bought from a local secondhand store. This novel is part of the Harper Connolly series about a youngster who can sense things and communicate with the dead. Charlaine also writes the hugely successful True Blood series which has been made into a popular television series that ran for 7 seasons. This series Harper Connolly isn’t quite as good. This novel is approximately 270 pages so is a decent length.  It was published in 2005 so is getting on a bit in age. The plot to this novel centres around an innapropriate relationship between a sheriff and a lady and assorted murders. The action mostly happens in the Ozarks which I think are a wilderness region in montana. The author Charlaine does in real life live in Arkansas so the location isn’t probably that far removed from what she knows. Harper uses her abilities to solve the serial killings. This book is aimed at teenagers and shares certain fantasy elements with the True Blood series mainly that that series was about vampires and in this particular series it is a bit like the dead aren’t really dead. I quite enjoyed this book and do recommend it.