Saturday, 27 October 2012

Book review: The Damned United by David Peace

The Damned UtdThe Damned Utd by David Peace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a lover of David Peace, but I've not read many (if any!) football novels.
I'd heard of the film, The Damned United, and I knew Michael Sheen played Brian Clough, but I knew nothing about the actual man himself. I wasn't born until 1992, so most of the references to footballers went straight over my head, apart from Kevin Keegan, George Best and Peter Shilton.
The story follows Brian Clough during two periods of time, simultaneously. The first part covers his managing of Hartlepools, then Derby, then Brighton, before meeting up with Leeds. While the second part covers just Leeds.
David Peace is an extraordinary writer, when you start reading it feels like you're taking a deep breath and going underwater. You're submerged in his world, and it's amazing. The pace just zips along.
With this book it's quite hard to explain why I gave it four stars. To be honest, my expectations were high, so I started with five. I think if I'd been around at the time of Brian Clough, been aware of what he was like as a man and a manager, and his teams I would have given this five. For me, I got a bit confused as to what section we were in sometimes, and there are so many football players' names to remember.
As I was reading the book I spoke to my parents about Brian Clough. They're old enough to remember him and from the book I gather he was hardly off the TV in his heyday. They didn't particularly like the man, but from reading this, I kind of did.
I know it's not written by Brian Clough, but despite his arrogance and his penchant for speaking his mind, no matter who it hurts, the character came across as a man trying to do his best.

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Book review: The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan

The Istanbul PuzzleThe Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O'Bryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For ages I've been searching for an Indiana Jones style book, with plenty of puzzles, action, likeable characters and a quick pace. Unfortunately this is not the book.
The Istanbul Puzzle may be called so, but there is no puzzle involved. The characters spend a great deal of time looking for a mosaic, but it's not dwelt on much.
Action there is plenty of! Bullets flying, people dying left, right and centre, explosions! My particular favourite bit is when Sean and Isabel get stuck in a drain below the city. The tension is excellent, I was literally on the edge of my bed. O'Bryan does a great job of setting the scene and creating great atmosphere.
Generally, the characters are on the likeable, realistic side, but they are quite clichéd. The main character is called Sean Ryan (because all action heroes have to have a short first and last name!) and he works for a company in London. His wife has died fairly recently, which takes up half of his thoughts in the book. He's generally a nice guy, but can be quite predictable and as always it's just a coincidence that our heroes have all the skills required to get themselves out of dangerous situations. His counterpart, Isabel, is quite similar, her partner let her down etc. etc.
The pace is quick, I raced through this book as the characters raced around Istanbul, and I got a short history, geography and religious studies lesson at the same time. It's clear that the author adores Istanbul and he makes the city sound gorgeous. I would love to go there.
Overall, it's a solid book, that could be improved on. I wouldn't say no to another book by O'Bryan, but I'm still going to keep on hunting for that perfect Indiana Jones mystery!

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Book review: The Redbreast (Harry Hole 3) by Jo Nesbo

The Redbreast (Harry Hole book 3)The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jo Nesbo has been recommended to me several times, mostly by my local independent book store and I'd picked up The Redbreast in a supermarket. So for N, in my A-Z of authors, I chose to read it, jumping in with no preconceptions.
I must say, I would not have known that this was originally in a foreign language as it's translated flawlessly. Unlike other Nordic reads, I had no problems with the names of the main characters, Harry Hole is easy to remember.
The storyline is exciting and intriguing, skipping from the front lines in WWII to Norway at the turn of the century. We're introduced to various suspects and victims and one by one, everything slots into place, with Hole eventually piecing it together. There's a surprise twist halfway through the novel that I definitely didn't see coming and if I'd read books 1 and 2 I would have been more shocked and saddened.
It was interesting to read a book centred around the war in a different country. Everything I'd read or seen was about the British or American points of view, so reading it from the Norwegian point of view was enlightening.
I suppose my only down side was near the end, all of the names did become quite overwhelming and not everything was wrapped up neatly as I like it to be. However, I suppose that's what makes people want to read the next one in the series, I know I will.

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