Monday, 24 November 2014

Links for the next meeting - The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

"[Contains] a number of elements that were to become classic attributes of the twentieth-century detective story:
English country house robbery
An "inside job"
red herrings
A celebrated, skilled, professional investigator
Bungling local constabulary
Detective enquiries
Large number of false suspects
The "least likely suspect"
A rudimentary "locked room" mystery
A reconstruction of the crime
A final twist in the plot"

Spark's Notes has a useful plot synopsis

A four star review from Amazon
"All the loose ends are tied up neatly. The good people do well and the bad people get their comeuppence - very Victorian. It is a sweet read to savour. Set aside time to devote to it and it rewards."

& a two star review
"The plot - a beautiful precious stone, shrouded in mystery and believed to be cursed, goes missing at the house of Lady Verinder shortly after it is given to her daughter Rachel as an 18th birthday present - sounds intriguing and certainly sets things up for what should have been a brilliant detective story. But that's where it falls flat. Instead, pages are given over to the minutiae of people's everyday lives, and character assinations that seem to go on forever. The supposedly great Sergeant Cuff (a fictional character, but one of great literary merit) gets pretty much everything wrong and ends up looking like nothing more than an amateur detective. Instead it is left to Franklin Blake, the protagonist of the story, to discover what really happened and in so doing, clear his name. But Blake is not interesting and doesn't draw you in; he is flat and two-dimensional and it's hard to care what happens to a character if you feel no sympathy or connection with them."

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Links for the next meeting - The Circle by Dave Eggars

Wikipedia - the plot and more

A Q&A with Dave Eggars

"I wanted the Circle technology to seem logical and likely in the not-distant future. More than a few times, though, I had to make adjustments when I thought I’d invented some scary new product or feature, only to find it already existed or was on its way."

A review on the tech site Xeconomy

"At the Circle, one disillusioned character comments, there’s “enough money to make any dumb idea real.” The fictional company’s silly side projects, like counting every grain of sand in the Sahara, come off as valid parodies in a decade when Google has sunk untold sums into moonshot ideas like space elevators, jetpacks, hoverboards, teleportation, wireless Internet access via balloons, power from high-altitude kites, and, of course, Google Glass."

Some reasons why people should have privacy

"People hide many things from even their closest friends and family: the fact that they are gay, the fact that they are sick, the fact that they are pregnant, the fact that they are in love with someone else. Though your private life may be especially straightforward, that should not lead you to support policies that would intrude on the more complicated lives of others. There’s a reason we call it private life."

Want to see something really scary?  This is how Google tracks your movements (if you're logged in to a Google account on your smartphone)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Links for the next meeting - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Book group links - things to think about - for JK Rowling's first Cormoran Strike novel

Wikipedia - Lots on the plot, plus characters and more.  JK's fans are very committed!'s_Calling

A review published in April before the JK was revealed as the author
"The puzzle they had to solve developed in a great way. There are a lot of different characters involved in this suicide/murder mystery they need to solve and all have their own secrets to hide. There was a nice tension surrounding most of them making all of them suspects. Some of the quests Cormoran solved where not that clear for the puzzler though. Indications that he found something where not always clear making it hard in some situation to put the puzzle together. The end was a surprise which I liked a lot. "

& another one
"Just once in a while a new private detective emerges who captures the public imagination in a flash; and here is one who might well do that - Cormoran Strike, a bear-like ex-soldier with a prosthetic lower leg and a gloomy outlook, who also happens to be the son of a Seventies rock star.
The last time I remember one quite as interesting was the wonderful Eddie Ginley, nightclub-comedian and wannabe private eye, in director Stephen Frears’ debut film Gumshoe. Strike has exactly that dark fascination, just as he has debts, a home life so hopeless that he has to sleep in his office, and an unlikely temporary assistant he cannot afford."

A 4 star review
"For the plot alone I would give three stars. It became rather difficult to follow towards the end, thanks in no small part to the increasing withdrawal of the narrative from Cormoran Strike's deducting mind - something that I suppose was intended to keep the reader in suspense, but still affected my degree of immersion in the story. The big reveal at the end felt, if not contrived, then predictable in its total unpredictability, and relied on the staple monologue from the protagonist to explain how exactly the event that the book revolves around happened.
It's the characters that make The Cuckoo's Calling. Strike himself is sympathetic, but Robin, his secretary temp, is the easiest to warm to. They both feel real, and as a result the world they inhabit feels real (apart from said slightly-contrived thriller elements). It helps that JK Rowling writes about London like a long-time resident. Special mention should go to the prose as well. The balance is just right - not too florid, and vivid enough to elevate it above the usual gently-paced crime story."

A 2 star review
"I was greatly anticipating reading this book and it was given to me as a Christmas present. How disappointing then to discover a long series of suspect interviews and unnecessary descriptive prose.
I can now see why the author's identity was made known because if any other writer had put this together it would never have seen the "light of day".
A major disappointment of a book. J. K. Rowling stick to childrens' fiction!!."

Should be a good discussion!

Links for the meeting - A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Coming soon