Killers of the Flower Moon

This was a phenomenal non-fiction book well worth all the praise it gets. I avoided the film (as I did with Lost City of Z, his previous excellent effort) as I didn’t want any preconceptions – the book for me is the main event.
Just a fantastically well paced, concise and thrilling account of an extraordinary and terrifying conspiracy and scandal from the American West in the 1920s.

Although non-fiction, he manages to arrange events in a way that constantly creates suspense – chapters end with shocks or twists in the same way a thriller would. But not in a cheesey cliched way. Clearly Grann has a huge talent for this sort of thing and I can’t wait to read his next one (The Wager).

Perfume

This literary and mildly fantastical novel is all about a wretched soul, born in Paris in the 1700s with a seemingly superhuman ability to smell. He also turns out to be a bit of a pyschopath.

Not quite sure whether there is some sort of allegorical element to things but if nothing else, it impresses due to the sheer variety and eloquence with which it conveys fragrance. It also manages to paint a vivid and abrupt picture of the grotesque and macabre. Perhaps it is a comment on the sheer variance of humanity from sheer beauty to utter repulsiveness. I think they made a film starring Ben Wishaw. I won’t lie, I’ll probably give it a miss. Enjoyble read though and not too long so if you don’t like it, no harm done.

Words of Radiance part 2

Next book in this still enjoyable and maturely written fantasy book. As soon as you begin reading, Sanderson has a knack of keeping you completely engaged. Page turning stuff which, considering it is a pretty slow moving epic, is an incredible feat of writing in my opinion.

More of the same and it is fortunate that the same is just really good stuff.

Colditz

I saw Ben Macintyre present this book at Hay festival last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Having heard a lot about it however, I thought I’d delay reading it so it was a bit more fresh. I needn’t have worried as there is so much detail and wonder in this book that his talk on it barely touched the surface. 

I often wonder about how many incredible untold stories that there surely must be surrounding the events of the second world war. Macintyre has already proven himself an expert on sifting out the best ones and creating hugely enjoyable and assured accounts of them. It seems odd that this sort of Macintyre-esque account of Colditz has not happened before. Thankfully it’s the man himself who has tackled it and it just gets more and more interesting as it goes along. Just when you think you’ve heard it all – crazy escape attempts, class clashes between prisoners and guards alike and even the building of an escape glider right under the Germans’ noses – it shifts to the end of the war and the logistics of getting out unharmed by the SS and Gestapo who start descending like flies as their war is falling away from them. 

Can’t recommend this enough. Plus, with the last Colditz film being made before, as far as I’m aware, I was born, I’ll be blown away if there isn’t another film before long.

Last Murder at the End of the World

I am a big fan of Stuart Turton after reading his previous two excellent books. While excellently plotted, written, paced and imagined, I also liked the settings of his two previous books.

This one begins in a sort of dystopian, post apocalyptic world which is at odds with the cosy country mansion or the closed environment of a sailing ship that made for such good reading last time.

It gave off a vibe reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake which I didn’t get on with. However, Turton’s expert imagination and execution brought me back, perhaps not to where I was with his previous works but still to the point where I would still say this is a strong novel.
Mystery surrounds the characters who live on this island, each with the same voice in their head, speaking to and guiding them. All the while a strange mist of plague like insects begins to close in on them, triggering a race against time to get to the bottom of the complex mystery behind it all.

Often with this sort of thing, the end point to which everything races can feel anti-climactic when the reader gets there but this is not the case here I don’t think. Well worth a read, but not his best. 

NB – Very cool ‘post credits’ bit at the end that’s worth reading for Turton fans.

The Cold War

I picked this up at Dover castle with all the historical enthusiasm of the day still racing through my veins. Since then, it has sat on my book shelf with a foreboding air about it. Before I read it, I worried that I’d gone and picked a stuffy inaccesible and out of date and therefore obselete tome. 

This was written in 2005 and rather than detract from the experience, it actually gave an excellent and unbiased history of the cold war up until its supposed end without the potentially altering context of recent history. The declaration in the prologue that all its troubles were long gone was particularly eye opening and interesting. While the author got that wrong, the rest of it is exceptionally well written. I had braced myself for a rather boring and overly detailed account. Quite the opposite. It is not too long and gives some excellent concise insights into the main events of the cold war, along with some more far reaching observations about how we deal with significant events that we live through.

If you know nothing about the cold war, probably not for you, but if you know the basics, then it builds and adds depth to the whole debacle. A really good read.

Die Trying

This is the second Reacher novel. Having resisted for a long time, I think I’m sold on this franchise now. Its a ridiculous romp that reads like a no nonsense 90s action thriller. Yes in places it is far fetched and the Jack Reacher worship is a bit over the top, but then again, that’s part of the fun. This guy is just perfect and invincible and that’s fine. After a certain point, I found myself just smashing through it (like Reacher smashes through bad guys or mental arithmatic) until I finished it. If this is not the definition of a page turner, then I don’t know what is.

Tomb Raider

While the picture I’ve got here suggests I’m writing about the original version of Tomb Raider, the one I’ve just played was the remastered version on the PS5. In essence though, it is the same game. You can even press the start button and the graphics immediately shift into the more pixelated world of the original.

I played this game back in the day, and playing it now evokes a strange sort of nostalgia. Even though Tomb Raider has become an enormous story telling franchise, the game really doesn’t tell much of a story at all. It is all gameplay.

Even though now it can seem a bit tedious and clunky compared to the slicker, more conveniently set up games we play now, it is still a cracking game. The puzzles are decent, though not a hair on the ones from games like resident evil. Without this, we wouldn’t have games like Uncharted. 

It’s just a mindless, meditation of a game that carries a huge amount of nostalgia with it and although I was happy to finish it by the end, I had fun. And that’s the whole point at the end of the day.

White Bicycles

I dived into this without any prior knowledge of  Joe Boyd. I quickly learnt that he variously promoted and produced an intersting mix of music, managed bands and ran a popular club in London during the 60s and 70s. The book itself is his account of his movements throughout that period. It is written in a sort of quick fire, matter of fact style reminiscent of Jack Carouac. I have found that sort of thing hard to get into in the past. It isn’t helped in this case by an avalanche of name drops, most of whom I have never heard of. This did make things a little confusing and at times it felt as if he just started to refer random individuals who he had not previously mentioned, as if that person and the reader were old mates.

While paragraphs could often be open-ended and not necessarily flowing from one to the next, the prose within is clearly written by an intelligent individual. His wisdom and experience shine through and more to the point, by the end, he was able to paint a picture of an era long before my time that gives me perspective on music as a whole. It was an era that really was revolutionary and although the Beatles are not front and centre in this book, it does make me realise more and more just how important their influence was.

But it is the smaller artists surrounding the main stream that shine through here and give the reader an insight into the old guard of deep southern blues and jazz and their influence on the cultural and musical changes that began to emerge around that time. In doing so, it makes one thing about how different our current music is changing and evolving – for better or for worse.

A book that would be an absolute gem for someone that lived through that era and the hippy scene of the 60s. For others, an interesting read that gets better as it goes on.

 

Hogwarts Legacy

This is a big game. It’s a game built upon a franchise that weilds tremendous power. And the concept of the game is ambitious – an open world Harry Potter RPG. And yet, I have heard relatively little talk over it. Hence the reason I was tentative in giving it a go in case it bitterly disappointed.

It did not disappoint. In fact I was genuinely surprised at how good it is. One of my main concerns was that it would be too cosmetic, without much depth. In fact it is incredibly varied and thoughtful with huge detail and practical texture to the world in which your character moves about. For example, the various puzzle side quests are fun and provide a distraction from the main quests that are just far removed enough to provide something interesting.

The combat is fun although my only criticisms would be the fact it can get a tad repetitive and is a bit easy. I had to set it to hard mode quite early which I pretty much never do!

I liked the way they used the spells and the broomstick is fun to pilot around the well-realised Hogwarts area. Hogwarts itself is the real highlight and it is vast, with nooks and crannies that still pop up on you even late in the game.

This is a really good solid game. If I had to put my finger on why it isn’t shouted from the rooftops ad finitum, I would struggle to be specific. Only that the story and the characters within just don’t quite hit the mark. The story is alright but nothing special. As such, the world just doesn’t seem quite as magical and enthralling as it might do. In retrospect, the developers might have opted for a set main character rather than a customisable one. I called mine Twisty McNobbins, so perhaps some of the fault lies with me, but still.