Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende.

The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende. 1972.  I am a fan of Allende’s work, even her early books.  This is fiction based on fact around the intertwined fates of two families in an unnamed Latin country.  I saw similarities to Argentia, Venezuela, El Salvador history.  One family has beautiful, spiritual but tragic daughters and another has the rags to riches story of a son.  This is all bound up in a showdown between capitalism and socialism, leading to a fascist state. The lives, love and eventual deaths of many protagonists are clearly laid out. Allende has a rich descriptive sensual style reminiscent of DH Lawrence.  Easy to read and skillfully done.

The Edge of Eternity. Ken Follett.

The Edge of Eternity. Ken Follett. 2020.  Following two fictional families, one in East Germany and one in USA ( black) from building the Wall, the Kennedy years, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Bush, the fall of the Wall, Europe Spring.  The families, their contacts, their enemies are intertwined with these events in history.  If you lived through some or all of this, you may not be able to put the book down.   Leaders are not always shown in a kindly light, with JFK taking quite a hit on his morals ( or lack of).  Worth the read as it is recent enough to ring true.

Simon Scarrow. Cato and Macro series (1-17)

Simon Scarrow. Cato and Macro series (1-17).  Scarrow is a prolific writer on the Roman expansion era ranging from the invasion of Britannia, in the Med., and the Middle East, and Rome all the way to the wars with Persia.  His two heroes, Cato and Macro are regular Roman fighters who get in and out of many deadly scrapes. The author’s research gives you an on-ground view of the life of a Roman soldier.  His writing is fast-paced, but with enough detail to keep you intrigued. Very enjoyable if you are a historical fiction buff.

A Long Petal of the Sea. Isabel Allende

A Long Petal of the Sea. Isabel Allende. 2020. ISBN 9781984820167. I am a long time fan of Allende’s work.  She weaves feeling. the human condition and history into a seamless tapestry.  This book starts with the  Spanish war between Republicans and Fascists that was a warm-up to WWII. We follow the hero ( a medical student)  through being on the desperate Republican side, what happens to his family and then fleeing to France. After they flee to Chiulem, build a life and then after Allende is killed, fleeing again to Argentina and starting over. The protagonist is jailed and tortured several times. Yet the characters survive the harshness and scarcities of war and repressions.  A great read that will stay with you for quite some time.

Master and Commander series. Patrick O’Brian.

Master and Commander series. Patrick O’Brian.   These books ( 21)  were written from 1969 to 2004.  The author focussed on the topics of Royal Navy sailing man of war during the era of the Napoleonic and US independence wars.    The series follows the career of Jack Aubrey – captain and his friend Stephen Maturin – Physician, naturalist and secret agent.   The details of sailing from England around the world, exploring, fighting and surviving are fascinating.  These sailors were intrepid, rugged and aggressive. One has to admire their abilities to overcome so much.  The author did a lot of research to align this series with real events.  Great tales, intrigues, plots and lots of action, with a major focus on men and their attitudes.  The books in the series are:

Master and Commander (1969)
Post Captain (1972)
HMS Surprise (1973)
The Mauritius Command (1977)
Desolation Island (1978)
The Fortune of War (1979)
The Surgeon’s Mate (1980)
The Ionian Mission (1981)
Treason’s Harbour (1983)
The Far Side of the World (1984)
The Reverse of the Medal (1986)
The Letter of Marque (1988)
The Thirteen-Gun Salute (1989)
The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)
Clarissa Oakes (1992) – (The Truelove in the US)
The Wine-Dark Sea (1993)
The Commodore (1995)
The Yellow Admiral (1996)
The Hundred Days (1998)
Blue at the Mizzen (1999)
The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (2004).

The Robert Hunter series. Chris Carter

The Robert Hunter series. Chris Carter. 2013-2019.  Robert Hunter is the lead detective in the Ultra violent Crimes Homicide Unit in LA police.  The stories involve the sickest of the sick killers.  Hunter  is a genius at solving these things, But make no mistake, non of these stories will feature in a episode of Criminal Minds.   Carter has no delusions about the venality and cruelty of the general public and he exposes it relentlessly.   Despite the vivid portrayals of gruesome subject matter the stories are very fast paced and well constructed.  This makes each novel hard to put down.

I read:

  • The Hunter
  • The Crucifix Killer
  • Executioner
  • The Night Stalker
  • The Death Sculpter
  • One by One
  • An Evil Mind
  • The Caller


The Witcher series. Andrzej Sapkowski,

The Witcher series ( 1-7) . Andrzej Sapkowski.  A Polish writer of sword and sorcery books, Sapkowski paints intense word pictures of other worlds that gently touch on ours.  There is a overriding arc to the stories which allows all the series to be brought together at the very end. Recurring characters, embedded stories and myths make the total more than each individual title. The titles are;   The last Wish, The Sword of Destiny, Blood of Elves, The Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of Swallows, Lady of the Lake .

The books are full of action, and sympathetic characters.   Netflix has a TV series The Witcher.  There is a set of Witcher video games.

The End of October. Lawrence Wright

The End of October. Lawrence Wright. 2020.  A New York Times bestseller, this is a pandemic novel.  Closely paralleling the Covid-19 pandemic, this book offers a cataclysmic  view of when things all go wrong.  Take a pandemic with a 70% death rate, add in a Russian hack of all American power stations along with a major war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  Makes for quite a doomsday novel.  Fast paced and timely its makes for an interesting albeit fatalistic read.

Karin Slaughter (fiction) novels.

I have been working through most of the Karin Slaughter books.  This includes  the  Will Trent series, Grant County series , Good Daughter series and a selection of different novels and short stories many of which are placed in the South.  These are very good crime novels with very strong female characters.  Her male main characters can have a flaw/disability.  The writing is crisp and flows  well. These are  “can’t put them down” type of reads.  I especially appreciate her insights into police minds and the struggles of female officers to gain respect.

I recommend this author

On Leopard Rock. A life of adventures. Wilbur Smith

On Leopard Rock. A life of adventures . Wilbur Smith. 2018. ISBN 9781499861280.  You can get lost in a Wilbur Smith adventure.  Full of swagger, adventure, lusty men and women, political intrigues and wildlife with the backdrop of Africa always there.  I have read my way through the The Courteney Series (16), The Ballantyne Series (5), The Egyptian Series ( 6), Hector Cross (3),  and his standalones (11). So it makes sense to read this, his autobiography. An early editor told him write what you know. Over 50 years, Smith writes what he and  his several generations of family have lived through and done growing up from early African colonization , the Boer War,  WW1 and 2,  Ian Smiths’s Rhodesia, Apartheid and Mandala, and now present day Africa.  He does painstaking research on all his stories and weaves in great backstories and histories.  He loves books and what they do for his readers.  And he has been wildly successful , yet he still continues to write.  This is very enjoyable and gives you even more background into his stories.