Archive for November 2012

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Enter the life and world of the Lamberts, a Midwestern fairly average American family doing their absolute best to survive the 20th century. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is about a family who are dysfunctional as a unit but as individuals on the surface appear to be making the most of what an economically booming America throws at them.

The Corrections by Jonathan FranzenThis is an excellent read and one that I don’t think I will ever recover from! Famously, this is the book chosen for the Oprah Winfrey book club and withdrawn following some disagreeable comments from the author. I’m sure this didn’t do anything to harm book sales however, at least I hope not for it would be a great loss to the good book readers of the world!

This is a story about a family that doesn’t seem to function as a unit any more (if in fact it ever did). The chief characters are Alfred and Enid Lambert, the mother and father. Alfred was always something of a tyrannical figure – a railway engineer prior to his retirement – over the family but in the present is found succumbing to the debilitating Parkinson’s disease. It is over to Enid, his wife, to take control of household affairs and to deal with and overcome the changes happening in the house. And do it alone she appears to do. A tall order.

The ‘children’, in the present day, grown up, have lives and careers miles away from their family home in St Judes. As a result of the conflicts of a changing world and the old fashioned values bestowed upon them by their parents, each of the siblings felt compelled to get away as far as they could. They each have thriving careers as banker, chef and internet teacher until the apple cart is rocked and each of their lives begin to head for disaster.

Gary, the oldest of the Lambert offspring is married with kids and is an investment banker. He is being manipulated by his wife and drinks too much tending toward depression. Some misplaced investments send his world into meltdown.

Chip, the middle child, is a teacher of computers and technology but falls for a pupil and is suspended from his job forcing him to gain employment elsewhere working for the Lithuanian crime lord on his money making investment site Lithuania.com. With great rewards comes threats, violence and nightmare.

The youngest of the children is Denise who is a talented chef in a trendy restaurant. All is going well until she becomes involved with her boss and his wife – at the same time!

The book is called The Corrections because there’s a lot that’s gone wrong with their lives with misguided and misinformed life decisions being made.

That’s the bare bones of the novel but there’s much more. Enid their mother decides she would love to have her family with her spending a good old fashioned family Christmas at home in St Jude. Kicking and screaming, the children descend and as you would expect, it gets messy, but as Denise would tell you, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!

This is a fabulous book. I think I picked up the book in the first place because of the Norman Rockwell style artwork of a young family sitting down to family Christmas dinner on the book cover. I’m so glad that I did! If you like The Corrections, you might fancy a go at “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen too. Another excellent book! One of my all-time top ten!

Perfect People by Peter James

This is not an Inspector Roy Grace book but don’t hold it against it!

If you’re in the mood for a bit of escapism with some patches of reality combined with a fast paced thriller, you could do worse than to pick up a copy of “Perfect People” by Peter James. I’m new to his books and find they’re a lively read with great vividly described characters. Having devoured Perfect People I am now trying for size one of his Roy Grace novels “Looking Good Dead”. I have become a convert to this style of book and hungrily reading all about this sinister world packed with murder and psychopaths.

Perfect People - Peter James

In Perfect People you immediately find yourself along with the couple John and Naomi Klaesson aboard a boat off the coast of America. It soon becomes apparent that the couple are here not on holiday but with the intention in mind to design a baby along with the geneticist Dr Leo Dettore. The couple, finding that they were both carriers of the disease genes that were responsible for the terrible illness and death of their first born son have decided they need a son without the risk of dying an horrific death.

The genetics programme they are about to commence takes place offshore because it is considered immoral and not to mention illegal. The treatment is extremely expensive and they have borrowed considerable amounts of money from their friends and family.

The book takes a sinister turn when the couple meet with the geneticist to discuss the character trait they would like designed for their baby. A huge list is produced and the couple are shocked having to consider all the traits they would prefer of their child though they would just rather their child was healthy.

This was a book that took Peter James nearly 10 years to write and since starting to write it the fantasy of using genetics to create a specific make up of child has become a reality today. This raises questions like will genetic profiling lead to a Utopian society or will it be the downfall of the human race?

You can sympathise with the characters of Naomi and John, totally understanding their need to produce another child without the risks. But playing god with childbirth is something that comes with a number of risks which include threats of murder by religious cults.

Throughout Naomi’s pregnancy you fear for her life as it becomes obvious the religious group want to put an end to her life as they have done previously with other genetic profiling recipients. The suspense keeps coming even after childbirth. Watch out for the paranoia taking over as Peter James skilfully plays with your nerves. You’ll be hanging onto every word!

Ultimately and undeniably, this was an amazing read with a shocking ending, of which I will not spoil! Go read it folks! I can highly recommend it to you!

Looking Good Dead by Peter James

An adrenalin fuelled, rapid page turner Roy Grace police drama from the one of the best, Peter James, Looking Good Dead starts as it means to go on. Company owner Tom Bryce, like many of us, finds himself sat on a train to work distracted by a loud character sat opposite him, yelling at high volume into his mobile phone. At his stop, the larger than life character gets off leaving behind a CD. Tom Bryce considers running after him but doesn’t bother deciding he will hand it in to railway Lost Property (to serve the man right for annoying him with his loud phone conversation).

Looking Good DeadWhat follows is something unimaginable. Tom arrives home with the CD and decides to take a look at what is on it. He is shocked and horrified. The contents of the CD is that of a piece of film of a woman being killed in her flat. Though it is in fact a snuff movie Tom Bryce thinks the attractive girl in the CD bears more than a passing resemblance to Gwyneth Paltrow and, though disturbed by the imagery, decides the realistic footage must be acting. The next day he receives a terrifying warning from the film maker/killer.

As soon as you pick this book up you feel you can’t put it down. The characters are easily understand and as this is my first Roy Grace book I found this very well done by the author. From the creepy sadistic Albanian to the shipping forecast reciter oddball The Weatherman the bad guys do their job and send chills down your spine from the off.  The spiritualist visiting DS Roy Grace is a detective inspector in the Sussex CID with a team of interesting and very different police officers of varying abilities and character flaws. Branson was a particular favourite on his quest to bring his friend and DS Grace kicking and screaming into the modern day with fashion, music and dating advice. Grace, whose wife disappeared some time ago has just about resigned himself to never finding out what happened to her and is ready to fall in love again. In this book he decides to ask the Chief Mortician Cleo Morey out to find after hitting it off with her on their first date that just as in the case of his work, she isn’t all she seems either. Is anything straightforward in a Peter James novel?

The character Tom Bryce on the surface is a happily married man. He loves his wife Kellie despite her addiction to eBay and such like. She can’t help herself seeking out ‘bargains’ and the truth is that the funds are not as bottomless as she believes with Tom’s business suffering in the recession hit market.

What follows is some unimaginable horror as the snuff market continues to thrive undetected until Sussex CID get the break they need to put an end to it or dare I say, ‘snuff it out’.

This is an excellent read complete with total escapism and characters that you can follow in the other Roy Gace stories. What more could you ask for?