20. Trap, by Lilja Sigurdardottir.

Trap is part 2 in the trilogy which begins with Snare.  I think it is best read as the second act in a three act drama.

It continues the story of Sonja and Agla well, building up to the third part, Cage – due out in October 2019.  The blurb on Cage will no doubt describe it as the ‘explosive’ conclusion, they always do, and I hope it will live up to that billing.

I am not sure how well this book works as a stand-alone work, and not as part 2 of 3.

I gave Snare 8/10, so Trap gets the same.  When I read Cage, I will give the series an overall rating.


19. The Run-Out Groove, by Andrew Cartmel

The difficult second novel?

I have returned to the Vinyl Detective series for the second instalment.  In this one our hero investigates the mysteries surrounding death of Valerian, a 1960s rock singer who died – as the best deceased rock stars do – age 27.  Twists and turns, danger from unknown adversaries, a lot like the first book, as is to be expected.

I found this less satisfying than the first novel, Written In Dead Wax, for two reasons. First, there is no longer any mystery about Nevada: she is now the girlfriend, and does nothing particularly surprising. Second, the ending is totally rushed.

So, 4 out of 10.

That said, I have read good things about the third in the series, so I shall probably come back to that one. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Half-way through the year – a quick review

6 months into this blog, half way through the year, it is a good time for a little round up.

When I started, I thought that maybe I read/listen to 20 books a year. At the half-way point I have completed 18 books, and am mid way through two more.

The books I have read/listened to are probably typical of my reading/listening.

14 have been given ratings of 7/10 or higher, and only 4 are rated 5 or below.  The most frequent mark is 8/10, and there is only one book that I saw no point in persevering with.

The two most challenging books, Underworld and Don Quixote I listened to as audiobooks. As I said in writing about Don Quixote, “one of the great things about audiobooks is that I can listen to long descriptive passages, paying attention and often appreciating the writing, whereas with a book in my hand I would have raced through to the next bit of ‘action’.”  I find it a lot easier nowadays to listen to the classics as audiobooks than to read them.

In a similar way, some years ago I struggled reading the long slow first part of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, but listening to the audiobook I made it all the way through, and found it very rewarding.

I suspect that there is a lot about the modern way of life that shortens the attention span.

18. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

I picked up this book in Waterstones’ cafe last year. The beginning intrigued me.

The premise is that Harry August is re-born each time he dies.  He lives his life over again, albeit never in the same way.  He accumulates knowledge and experience across his lifetimes, as do others of his rare kind.

The story becomes something of a time travelling thriller, a cat and mouse chase over several repeated lifetimes.  I am sorry to say that the characters lacked credibility and depth. I would say a good idea that needed a better writer. Sorry. 3 out of 10.

17. Scattered Ghosts, by Nick Barlay

Nick Barlay is the son of Hungarian Jewish refugees.  His parents left Hungary for the UK in 1956, in the aftermath of the uprising against the oppressive Soviet rule.  That is when my parents left Hungary.

In this book, Nick Barlay tells the stories of his family members going back several generations.  Those who made something of themselves in the times of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Those who fought in the Great War. And those who were sent to Auschwitz.

The detail becomes greater as he tells the stories of those in living memory, as is only to be expected.  But clearly the book has been very carefully researched.

As the son of Hungarian emigres, I found a lot in this book that I could relate to, and I will be passing it on to my daughter and my mother.  Not being Jewish, however, no one in our family died at Auschwitz.  I visited that place a few weeks ago. Just horrible. I would have found it hard to cope had I lost family there.

A very interesting book, bringing all the characters in Nick’s family to life.  No doubt about it – 10 out of 10.


16. Snare, by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Another Icelandic crime story, set in the aftermath of the banking crash and the Eyjafallajokull volcano that closed down air traffic in (I think) 2010.

Sonja is divorced. She has no money. She becomes a drugs courier, bringing cocaine into Iceland. She is in an on-off relationship with Agla, who is facing criminal investigation for her role in financial scandals. For a large part of the book, the story is about Sonja and Customs officer Bragi, who is sure she is up to no good.  But then the twists and turns happen…

This is the promising first in a trilogy.  More soon. 8 out of 10.

15. Paper Towns, by John Green

At first I thought I was 40 years or so too old for this book. All the characters are American teenagers, about to graduate high school.

Quentin and Margo have known each others since they were very young. They live next door to each other. The story starts with their adventures one night, as Margo gets Quentin to help her in a series of revenge actions on various of their contemporaries.  So far, so very teenage.

Then Margo disappears. Quentin follows the clues she has left, and the story follows as with some help from his friends he works through them, reading Walt Whitman and Moby Dick on the way.  This was when I got into the story. I worked out the meaning of ‘paper towns’ before it was revealed.

Yes, this was a fun audiobook. 8 out of 10.