George V. Reilly

Review: HMS Ulysses

Title: HMS Ulysses
Author: Alistair MacLean
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright: 1955
Pages: 480
Keywords: historical, WWII
Reading period: 21–24 March, 2015

The Arctic convoys, which took much needed supplies from North America and Britain to their besieged Russian ally in World War II, were brutally dangerous. Between the Arctic weather, the cold seas, and the German U-boats and bombers, many ships were lost. As HMS Ulysses opens, the crew are mutinous, having endured more than a year of such relentless conditions with far too little rest. They have to put to sea again, to escort one more convoy. This will be the worst trip of all, as bad weather, ill chance, and the continue.

Review: House of Cards Trilogy

Title: House of Cards Trilogy
Author: Michael Dobbs
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Source­books Landmark
Copyright: 1989, 1992, 1994
Pages: 1000
Keywords: fiction
Reading period: 15–20 March, 2015

The Netflix series House of Cards is based on a BBC series made in the early 1990s, which in turn are based on three novels—House of Cards, To Play the King, and The Final Cut—by Dobbs. In the first book, Francis Urquhart, tired of being overlooked for a Cabinet position, schemes and murders his way to becoming Prime Minister. In the second, the new PM feuds with the idealistic new king. In the final book, after ten years in office, Urquhart wants to secure his legacy and continue.

Review: The Way Home

Title: The Way Home
Author: George Pelecanos
Rating: $stars(4.5)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 323
Keywords: crime
Reading period: 11–15 March, 2015

Chris Flynn was an out-of-control teenager who spent time in a youth prison, but he's kept his nose clean since then. He's laying carpet one day when he finds $50,000 in cash under some floor­boards. He knows it's trouble and leaves it there–but someone else takes it. Then the original owners reappear and kill one of Chris's friends.

Pelecanos is known for both characters and plot, and examining how cir­cum­stances can lead flawed people to make decisions that cause events to spiral out of control. Chris and his father and his ex-con continue.

Review: The Snowman

Title: The Snowman
Author: Jo Nesbø
Rating: $stars(3.5)
Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 500
Keywords: crime, mystery
Reading period: 5–10 March, 2015

Every year when the snow first arrives in Norway, a woman disappears and there's a snowman in the vicinity. No one's noticed the pattern until now. Harry Hole, the alcoholic detective inspector, starts seeking the links between the cases.

Nesbø's novels are gripping but over the top.

Review: Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves

Title: Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves
Author: Dave Lowry
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Mariner
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 288
Keywords: crime, cooking, humor
Reading period: 26 February–7 March, 2015

Tucker may be a white guy but he's been cooking Chinese food since he was a child, and he's good at it—good enough to get a job at a Chinese restaurant as a cook. Then there's Corinne, trying to avoid the Chinese gangsters who are convinced she has their diamonds.

Lowry shows a light touch in this quirky and en­ter­tain­ing boy-meets-girl story.

Allergies

Allergies kick in strongly for me at this time of year. Usually a daily an­ti­his­t­a­mine is enough. This morning, I woke up from a poor night's sleep with crusty eyes, itchy nose, and explosive sneezes. I lasted at work until early afternoon, then came home to take to my bed.

Review: A Death in Summer

Title: A Death in Summer
Author: Benjamin Black
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Picador
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 275
Keywords: mystery, historical, Ireland
Reading period: 1–5 March, 2015

An Irish newspaper magnate has been found with his head blown off by a shotgun. Quirke, the pathol­o­gist, looks into it and realizes that it's not suicide but murder. As he digs deeper, he finds secrets that the wealthy elite of 1950s Dublin do not want revealed, and he finds himself drawn to the dead man's French widow.

Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) deftly recreates 1950s Ireland through the eyes of Quirke, who, though well placed, is more of an observer than an insider, and of his grown daughter, continue.

Review: Revenger

Title: Revenger: a John Shake­speare Mystery
Author: Rory Clements
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Bantam
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 448
Keywords: mystery, history
Reading period: 10–25 February, 2015

It's 1592 and Elizabeth I has ruled England for nearly 35 years. The Virgin Queen has never named her heir, creating both un­cer­tain­ty and op­por­tu­ni­ty. John Shake­speare used to be an "in­tel­li­gencer" for the late Sir Francis Walsingham, Eliz­a­beth's spymaster. With reluctance, Shake­speare is drawn back into that life when the Earl of Essex insists upon com­mi­sion­ing him to find a woman who should be dead—a survivor of the lost Roanoke settlement has been sighted in London. Essex wants her as does his mysterious ally, a dangerous Irishman called continue.

Review: Blood of Tyrants

Title: Blood of Tyrants
Author: Naomi Novik
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Del Rey
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 486
Keywords: alternate history, fantasy
Reading period: 22–24 February, 2015

Eighth and penul­ti­mate book in the Temeraire series, which began with His Majesty's Dragon. It's a delightful take on the Napoleonic wars with in­tel­li­gent dragons.

The book opens with William Laurence awaking ship­wrecked and amnesiac on the shores of Japan, where European foreigners are strictly forbidden. His dragon Temeraire fran­ti­cal­ly seeks him, while the rest of the crew think him dead. After being reunited in Nagasaki, they travel on to the Chinese court in Peking and enlist the help of the emperor's dragons in fighting Napoleon, who has marched into continue.

Review: River of Gods

Title: River of Gods
Author: Ian McDonald
Rating: $stars(4)
Publisher: Pyr
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 599
Keywords: sf
Reading period: February 14–23, 2015

India has split apart by 2047, into a dozen competing states desperate for the life-giving monsoon rains. New castes have appeared, as have the new gender of nutes. Aeais (artificial in­tel­li­gences) abound but are strictly proscribed from attaining full sentience. And an asteroid with seven-billion-year-old images of now-living people has been discovered.

McDonald draws together nine people from different walks of life, weaving their tales into one tapestry. India, ancient yet up-to-the-minute, is the vibrant backdrop for this explosion of ideas.

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