2Apr P Driving Force***** – Dick Francis. I love Francis’s books. The combination of the racing community and the inadvertent hero theme really appeals to me. (I grew up in a ‘racing’ town.) And the novels are gripping. All the characters, villains, heroes and supporting cast, are well developed and the plots/crimes are intriguing. This was set in the horsebox transport business and was a fascinating and exciting read.
2 Apr E Sharing***** – Philippe and Suzanne Aigrain. Subtitle: Culture and the eonomy in the internet age. A fascinating set of proposals for reform of copyright law, put forward by one of the founders of La Quadrature du Net, a French organisation dedicating to fighting the ACTA treaty in Europe. This was a hard book to read, as it relied a lot on statistics, which are not my favourite subject, but it had some incredibly good and fresh ideas about copyright, piracy, sharing, and creative commons.
3Apr E Write Good or Die*** – Scott Nicholson and others. A collection of essays/blog entries by known authors about how they achieved success with tips as to how other authors might emulate them. I didn’t learn anything but then I’ve read quite a lot of books like this. The overall advice was that everyone will find their own way, but that you must write the book you would like to read.
8Apr P The Little Paris Kitchen***** – Rachel Khoo. We started watching the TV series then a neighbour lent us the book. There are some great recipes and ideas, beautifully explained. The book is much better than the BBC website entries which fail, miserably, to enlighten the would-be cook about such things as which kind of flour or sugar to use. It’s an expensive book and I suspect the inflated price reflects the TV tie-in but we’re ordering it from Amazon which is quite a lot cheaper. There are instructions for such essentials as making your own fromage frais, something we will have to do in Portugal if we’re to have it at all.
10Apr E Cat’s Call**** – Natasha Duncan-Drake. YA fantasy about an eighteen-year-old who finds himself taken over by a cat spirit and thrust into leadership of a team that fights to save the universe. Engaging characters and some interesting magic. The book could do with a higher standard of proofreading but is otherwise delightful. Self published by the author, who is a ‘real life’ friend as well as someone whose blogs I follow. I only bought this to check out her writing but will definitely buy the sequel as the story is quite exciting and I like following other YA writers.
19Apr P Trick of the Dark***** – Val McDermid. Stand-alone thriller that is just as good as her series. A psychiatrist/profiler is dragged into a case involving some old murders and potential threats.
21Apr E King’s Conquest* – Valentina Heart. I bought this because the blurb said it was about an arranged m/m marriage in a fantasy kingdom so of course I wanted to check out the competition. I don’t think I need worry. The writing was poor – characterisation was sketchy and world building even more so. The protagonists were meant to be a different species and one type of male could bear children but this was not really explained and the whole ‘otherness’ of the people could have been so much better done. The actual writing was technically competent but the plot was so shallow and boring that I only finished the book in the name of research. This was published by Silver, who usually publish quite good novels. I’m surprised it made the grade.
24Apr E Set in Darkness**** – Ian Rankin. Rankin’s murder mysteries are good value because you get a whole novel, with well-developed characters, as well as a competent police procedural. This one, set just before the inauguration of the Scottish Parliament, was interesting and wide-ranging in its commentary on Edinburgh society. The way three deaths and a rape case were tied together after seeming to be totally unconnected was clever. It was also depressing, as the Rebus novels often are.
28Apr P Blue Skies and Black Olives** – John and Christopher Humphrys. The famous (in UK) TV presenter and journalist, and his musician son wrote a book about building a house in Greece. There are the occasional interesting or amusing anecdotes about life in Greece, which could probably be duplicated in a book about almost anywhere. The trouble is, a friend lent us this assuming we’d be agog to read about settling into and building in a new country. The book is more about the relationship between father and son and is largely boring though it did make me look more kindly on Portuguese bureaucracy. I had the niggling suspicion that it got written as a ‘lots-of-people-make-money-out-of-books-about-building-abroad-so-let’s-see-if-we-can-too’ kind of book. I only finished it because it was a loan. I sincerely hope we’ll be able to do better, but then we aren’t famous journalists so the readership won’t be as guaranteed.
30Apr E The Pauper Prince** – Sui Lynn. A shapeshifter romance. There was lots of repetition in the abortive attempts of the various characters to explain their powers to each other. The romance was too sentimental and too sudden to be likely. The plot was confusing and, once unravelled, not particularly interesting. I finished it because I like werewolves – but I’ve read much better!
A mixed bag this month, in terms of both subject matter and quality. I feel as if I’ve spent too much time on non-fiction but that’s maybe because the non-fiction titles took longer to read.
3Apr Sweeney Todd***** – the Tim Burton film with Johnny Depp and other famous names. Different. Horror done as an opera/musical with lyrics and music by Sondheim. Very interesting and dramatic – there were parts I could hardly bear to watch because the tension was so high. When murder is inevitable but is preceded by an aria… Depp was suitably insane with grief, Rickman and Spall were delightfully villainous, and Helena Bonham-Carter was sometimes unintelligible in her spoken parts but looked superb and sang like an angel. Burton created sets that echoed some of his darker cartoon backgrounds and turned into a kind of stage set appropriate to the music. The story was gruesome and predictable but strangely engrossing. An intriguing idea, beautifully executed.
9Apr Outlaw*** – Sean Bean plays an Iraqui War veteran who returns to a crime-ridden UK and gathers a team of ‘victims’ to fight the situation . Some good acting, especially from Bean, but the plot was a bit disjointed and confusing, and I strongly disliked the vigilante message.
14Apr Inspector Montalbano***** – Season 1. Italian cop show set in Sicily. (Subtitles.) Complex cases, fascinating scenery and a big helping of comedy in the background story about the police in the small town of Vigata. I’m looking forward to Season 2.
21Apr Rabbit-Proof-Fence***** I’d seen this before and in fact we have the DVD somewhere but when it came on TV I couldn’t help but watch again. It’s a powerful and enlightening film about the attitudes of early twentieth century Australians towards aborigines and ‘half-casts.’ Some stunning performances from previously unknown child actresses who outshine Kenneth Branagh, though he might have hoped that would happen, in order to get the film’s message across.
23Apr City of Ember* – A fantasy about a society deep underground after some kind of apocalypse where the infrastructure starts to fail and someone must find a way out. The events, the location and the social structure didn’t ring true and the eventual ‘adventure’ up into the light was almost cartoon-like in its unlikeliness. I got the distinct impression that even the actors didn’t believe in it. I think it was aimed at a YA audience but that doesn’t usually stop films being good or gripping.
26Apr Hawaii 5.0***** – Season 1 – new version. I love this. The plots are unbelievably trashy but the characters are charming and the team banter is sharp and funny. Season 1 ended in a cliff-hanger so no doubt I will try to beg or borrow Season 2 from someone or other. Fortunately, a number of my friends share my tastes.
27Apr Run Fatboy Run*** A romantic comedy (set around the London marathon) from the team who brought us Hot Fuzz (which I adore). It was OK but although there were some funny moments I was disappointed.
30Apr Blame it on the Bellboy***** Zany Brit farce with Dudley Moore and other well known Brit actors, set in Venice. Extremely funny with gorgeous photography of the location.
Some excellent viewing this month.
What have you been reading and watching?