Travels With My Aunt

By Graham Greene

Rating: 3 stars

At his mother’s funeral, retired banker Henry Pulling meets his aunt Augusta and his world is turned upside down as he ends up travelling the world with her.

I quite enjoyed this book. It felt like a genteel road movie (or book) and the main character is quite sympathetic, although the titular aunt isn’t, particularly. She does spin some cracking yarns, though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140032215
Publisher: Penguin
Year of publication: 1969

The Darwin Awards II: Unnatural Selection (Darwin Awards, #2)

By Wendy Northcutt

Rating: 2 stars

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I guess most of the stories were just generally stupid and not in a hugely funny way. It was fairly short anyway and there were some interesting little mini-essays to start off each section.

Book details

ISBN: 9780452284012
Publisher: Plume
Year of publication: 2001

Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (Santiago #1)

By Mike Resnick

Rating: 3 stars

On the galactic frontier, the name of Santiago strikes fear into the hearts of men. The bounty hunter Sebastian Cain decides to finally go after the most wanted man in the galaxy. This is his story.

I picked this up purely because I’ve loved the Resnick stories that I’ve heard on Escape Pod. This seems to be an older work and is more light-hearted than the stuff I’ve encountered before. It was easy to read and not too taxing. The ending also wasn’t too much of a surprise.

Not the Resnick standard that I’m used to, but enjoyable.

Book details

ISBN: 9780812522563
Publisher: Tor Books
Year of publication: 1986

The Chrysalids

By John Wyndham

Rating: 4 stars

In a post-apocalyptic world, all deviations from the norm are abhorred. When David and a couple of others discover emerging telepathic powers they must hide them in fear for their lives.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s creepy and often has logic that’s all too plausible, taking you to very uncomfortable places and yet is also optimistic, taking a line on the future of humanity that reminded me of some of Theodore Sturgeon’s work. It’s also a cracking adventure story that’s very readable.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140013085
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year of publication: 1955

The Hollow (Hercule Poirot, #26)

By Agatha Christie

Rating: 3 stars

I must admit that I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for M. Hercule Poirot and I enjoyed this mystery. I’ve never been very good at guessing whodunit and I was completely deceived in this case. A good story with interesting characterisation, although painted with broad brush strokes.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007121021
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of publication: 1946

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (Flying Dutchman, #1)

By Brian Jacques

Rating: 2 stars

When the Flying Dutchman is cursed, a pure-hearted boy and his dog are also touched by the angel: they gain eternal youth and telepathic communication and are told to go out into the world and do good. 300 years later, they turn up in a village in England which they have to save from being turned into a limestone quarry.

This is Brian Jacques’ first book outside the Redwall series and it was okay. Nothing more or less, I’m afraid. It was a standard kids-save-the-day book but with a talking dog (although only his master can hear him). You also get the impression that it’s a setup book for a series, since the format is certainly there for it (in a Quantum Leap/Littlest Hobo sort of way).

Book details

ISBN: 9780142501184
Publisher: Firebird
Year of publication: 2001

The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures

By Louis Theroux

Rating: 2 stars

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Following on from his TV show (Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends), Theroux goes back to meet some of the people he talked to for his TV show several years on. I think the main problem I had was the people that he met: UFO nuts, porn stars, neo-nazis, cultists etc. They were weird, sometimes grotesque, sad and sometimes pathetic, but what they weren’t was sympathetic. I didn’t really feel any sympathy or anything in common at all, despite Theroux’s fondness for them (well, mostly).

It made for an interesting road trip book though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780306815034
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Year of publication: 2005

Chocolat (Chocolat, #1)

By Joanne Harris

Rating: 4 stars

Within a few chapters of the start of this book a word came into my head to describe it: beguiling. It’s a wonderful word (although one that I would never usually use) to describe a wonderful book. Harris’ language is deft and incredibly evocative, and the descriptions of the chocolate are wonderfully rich.

The book feels timeless, only the odd mention of radio or laser surgery giving any indication of when it’s set. The other thing that surprised me about Chocolat was its fantasy leanings. I believe that the film tones this down, but the book hints quite heavily that the protagonist, Vianne, has supernatural powers.

The antagonism between her and the parish priest, Father Reynaud, form the core of the novel, her fleeing from the Black Man in her past and he hiding a dark secret under his puritanism.

Sensual and beguiling, a wonderful book for anybody with a love of language and chocolate.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552998482
Publisher: Black Swan
Year of publication: 1999

Nightfall Two

By Isaac Asimov

Rating: 4 stars

This is a collection of Asimov’s stories chosen by the good doctor himself, with a little introduction talking about the antecedence of the story. The stories themselves are all good ones and classic Asimov. This is a two-edged sword, so if you’re not generally an Asimov fan, this collection probably won’t convert you.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586036570
Publisher: Panther
Year of publication: 1969

The Three Musketeers (The D’Artagnan Romances, #1)

By Alexandre Dumas

Rating: 2 stars

I didn’t hugely enjoy this adventure tale of a lad who goes to Paris to make his fortune in the King’s Musketeers. The style of the writing failed to grab me enormously and the characters were mostly just sketches, especially the female ones. And it didn’t help that I kept picturing d’Artagnan as the dog from the cartoon!

Book details

Publisher: Modern Library
Year of publication: 1844

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