micro book review

Micro  Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

This unfinished novel was found on Michael Crichton’s computer after his death and was completed by Richard Preston.  Michael Crichton had described the book as ‘an adventure story  like Jurassic Park’ and Richard Preston stayed true to that vision. It is the story of a graduate student trying to solve the mystery of his brother’s death whilst visiting the pioneering microbiology company where he worked, as part of a group of grad students, unaware of the danger he is putting himself and his companions in.

I have read a number of Michael Crichton’s  novels. They provoke strong reactions – I either love them or hate them. For me there was too much Boy’s Own fighting for survival in the jungle  with a cast of unappealing characters and not enough of the far more interesting thriller/detective elements.



The Song of Achilles

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The Song of Achilles    Madeline Miller

A view of the familiar world of Greek myths and legends as seen through the unfamiliar eyes of Patroclus, a minor character of the Iliad.  Patroculs tells his version of the story of Achilles, his companion and friend since childhood. A world away from the version of I was told at school!  This beautifully written the book is overflowing with history, romance, superstition, passion, sex and violence.  Patroclus, a healer and man of peace, sensitively recounts their life together culminating in the years of the Siege of Troy.

I am so glad I didn’t give up with the tales of boyhood exploits at the beginning because I became totally engrossed in the book and  felt a haunting sadness and loss as I read the end.  A worthy winner of the Orange Prize.


River of Destiny

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River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine

Beautifully written, as ever, and full of well researched historical details this novel is set on the banks of the River Debden in Suffolk. As you would expect from Barbara Erskine it skilfully interweaves the lives of Zoe, Ken and Leo in modern day Suffolk and Eric, Edith, Emily and Dan who lived there centuries ago.

I am a great fan of Barbara Erskine. I have read most, if not all, of her novels over the years. This if the first one I can remember in which the story moves between two different periods in the past and which does not seem to have a direct link between the main protagonist in each time period.  As a result this novel lacks intensity. The characters are formed with broader strokes so the reader can’t empathise with them very easily.  To me it felt more like watching a distant film rather than living through events and emotions with the heroine, particularly with the historical characters.  Perhaps this was a deliberate attempt to move away from the slightly supernatural feel of the connections between characters in different time periods of the previous books. If so, it didn’t work for me.

Still an interesting read but if you are expecting something similar to previous books you may be disappointed.


Broken Homes

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Broken Homes     Ben Aaronovich

I raced through Broken Homes, the fourth book in Ben Aaronovich’s compelling crime series which follows the adventures of PC Peter Grant of the Met.  Again the books is full of police procedure, detailed descriptions of London and Londoners and, of course, magic as  apprentice wizards Peter and  Lesley  investigate a series of supernatural murders.  They end up in Elephant and Castle trying to avert disaster.  Written with his usual wit and humour, characters from previous books reappear, the history of English wizardry continues to unfold and there’s a shocking twist at the end. I couldn’t put it down!

I see the series is to be adapted for TV. I look forward to watching the final result.


More great books

My New Year’s resolution of reading at least one book a month is still on track.  I was about to write about  the last one when I found these two lurking in my drafts folder waiting to be finished.

 Prophecy by S J Parris

Prophecy by S.J. Parris

I didn’t realise until I’d started this book that it’s actually the second in the series about the Elizabethan spy Giordano Bruno,  but it made no difference to my enjoyment.  I was drawn in by the fast paced, intricate plot involving murders, conspiracies and political intrigue. There were a couple of low points  when  Bruno escaped  from dangerous situations with the help of hitherto unmentioned characters who turned up in the nick of time – annoying but not enough to spoil a good  read.

Bruno  an exiled ex-monk, philosopher, scientist, and spy  dabbles in magic while trying to earn a living in a world of religious bigotry.  Parris’s imagination brings dimly remembered classroom history  to life.

I enjoyed the small historical details, from descriptions of city streets to menus, “capons stuffed with fruit; venison; coneys in fragrant sauces, piled with thyme and rosemary; calves’ foot jellies and pies of larks and blackbirds with delicate latticed pastry”, which combined to evoke the atmosphere of the Elizabethan world.

 Whispers Underground by Ban Aaronovitch


Whispers Underground by Ben Arronovitch

The third book in this highly enjoyable series centres around London’s Underground. The book starts with the apparently ‘ordinary’ murder of a US senator’s son but when magical overtones are detected DC Peter Grant and DCI Thomas Nightingale are called in.  Further investigation  leads  them to a secret underground world underneath London.

The main characters are becoming more rounded,  DC Lesley May comes back after her injuries and the back stories of the returning  minor characters are developing.  The plot is fast paced, witty, funny and interspersed with modern police procedure and historical details about London and the Underground, I didn’t want to put it down.   I loved it. I’ve already ordered the next book in the series, due out in July.

 Sacrilege by S J Parris


Sacrilege by S.J.Parris

And I’ve just finished reading  this third book in the Giordano Bruno series. This book takes likeable Bruno to Canterbury to try to impress a lady by clearing her name of a murder charge. This is not as easy as he expects and he becomes embroiled in Canterbury’s local religious politics of the time.  Again the book is full of historical detail and the pacey, intricate plot is full of scheming, mystery and betrayal – no strangers turning up to get Bruno out of trouble this time.  A great twist at the end and hook for the  next book, which doesn’t seem to out until June. Again I really enjoyed it.



Moon Over Soho

Moon over soho

I started Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch the day I finished Rivers of Blood, the first book in the series, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The second book follows Peter Grant’s progress as an apprentice wizard and reveals more about his family background as he investigates a series of supernatural deaths of musicians.  We learn more about Chief Inspector Nightingale and the magic community in the UK and are treated to more nuggets of information about London and interesting snippets of jazz history. Despite being arrested himself, a mad cap chase through central London, almost being killed by a rogue magician and a surprisingly sad ending Peter retains his sense of humour and continues his quirky commentary on modern British life.

I preferred this book to the first because the supernatural elements, although equally bizarre, are more in keeping with the premise of the book that such supernatural activities have always taken place within society but not everyone has been aware of them. Whereas spirits inciting a riot outside the Royal Opera and destroying Covent Garden with fire and floods in the first book do not fit so well with this unobtrusive coexistence theory.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I have already started reading the third book in the series.

Again the cover has been taken from Stephen Walters ‘The Island’.


Rivers of London

rivers of London

One of my goals this year is to read more for pleasure.  This month I have really enjoyed Rivers of London by Ben Arronovitch.

I probably wouldn’t have picked it up  but for the bookshop’s ‘We recommend…’ card stuck to the shelf in front of it.  The book then languished on my to read pile for months but once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.

Peter Grant, a newly qualified PC in the Met, inadvertently takes a witness statement from a ghost.  In the following investigation he is transferred to little known police unit ESC9 which investigates magical crimes and unsanctioned wizards and becomes an apprentice to Inspector Nightingale, “the last wizard in England.”  He becomes immersed in a world of vengeful spirits, werewolves, river gods and nymphs which is woven through the fabric of modern London.

Rivers of London brings a refreshing approach to the magical genre. The book combines magic, science and modern police procedures with detailed descriptions of London streets and Londoners themselves. I particularly enjoyed the dry humour and comic asides of the narrator Peter, a mixed-race Londoner himself.

When I finished the book I felt that there were some parts of the story that seemed random and didn’t make sense.  As it turns out all was made clear in the second book of the series.

I must also mention the beautiful map illustration on the cover of the  British edition taken from Stephen Walter’s The Island London Series.   You can find more of his work here.