Thursday, 20 December 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club

Title: The End of Your Life Book Club

Author: Will Schwalbe

Number of pages: 352

Started: 11 December 2012

Finished: 20 December 2012

Opening words:

We were nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering's outpatient care center. The coffee isn't so good, and the hot chocolate is worse. But if, as Mom and I discovered, you push the "mocha" button, you see how two not-very-good things can come together to make something quite delicious. The graham crackers aren't bad either.  

Plot summary:

Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she's reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. Their choices range from classic (Howards End) to popular (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), from fantastic (The Hobbit) to spiritual (Jon Kabat-Zinn), with many in between. We hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.

What I thought:

This non-fiction book chronicled the relationship between a mother and her son as they attended her hospital appointments following her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.  They used that time to discuss books and it developed into a book club - consisting of the two of them.

It was a touching read and a tribute of sorts to Mary Anne Schwalbe, although I suspect it is down to the individual reader to decide whether she was a saint, a control freak or something in between.  I enjoyed the book recommendations and the insight into the mother-son relationship.  This could have been somewhat of a depressing book, but actually it was rather heart-warming and provided food for thought and book inspiration.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rivers of London

Title: Rivers of London

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Number of pages: 432

Started: 30 November 2012

Finished: 10 December 2012

Opening words:

It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St Paul’s at Covent Garden. Martin, who was none too sober himself, at first thought the body was that of one of the many celebrants who had chosen the Piazza as a convenient outdoor toilet and dormitory. Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the ‘London once-over’ – a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport – like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling. Martin, noting the good-quality coat and shoes, had just pegged the body as a drunk when he noticed that it was in fact missing its head.

Read a longer extract here

Plot summary:

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

What I thought:

This was a decent book, and as a Londoner it was good to read a book set somewhere that I know well.  Except for the magic, of course.  I haven’t seen a lot of that about.  The book started at a decent pace and quickly developed.  It was readable and quite humorous, although by the end I thought it was slightly running out of originality, which was perhaps the result of it being a slightly unusual take on the Metropolitan Police and that it wasn’t delivering the same “new-ness” by the end.  I have the next book in the series and will probably read that at some point soon.