Don Winslow’s THE CARTEL

9780434023554Ten years ago Don Winslow wrote the thriller of the decade. The Power of the Dog was an epic thriller that detailed America’s thirty year war on drugs on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Ten years later he has done it again. Winslow blows The Power of the Dog away detailing the next ten years of the so-called “war” on drugs taking everything that was groundbreaking, epic and mind-blowing to a whole new level.

Art Keller and Adán Barrera square off again, only this time the stakes are much higher. There is a price on both their heads and Adán’s time in prison created a power vacuum in Mexico which has filled by a number of new drug cartels. Art is determined to track Adán down and won’t make the same mistake as last time. Art has learned the hard way that justice can only be delivered in person as corruption’s taint stretches far and wide, and across borders.

Adán meanwhile is slowly, and at times reluctantly, rebuilding his empire. But the drug trade has changed in Mexico. All the rules there supposedly were are being eroded, body by body. The cartels fighting for territory and power have militarised. They have also become media savvy which takes the violence and terror to unimaginable levels. Levels that are too sadly real as Winslow once again rips his story straight from the awful truth.

Like with The Power of the Dog Winslow slowly builds up the characters of the novel focusing solely on Art and Adán for much of the first half of the book. Not that there is anything slow about the cat and mouse game Art and Adán are playing. Characters are slowly brought in from the periphery. We are introduced to The Zetas – a force in the drug trade that is truly terrifying, we meet Crazy Eddie Ruiz aka Narco Polo and Jesus the Kid – whose nightmares will give you nightmares. When a series of betrayals occur the war on drugs becomes a true war and Mexico is literally and tragically torn apart. All the while it is business across the border, where the actual drugs are sold, used and abused.

Winslow dedicates the novel to all the journalists killed in Mexico in the last ten years. The dedication page is two full pages of names. We are introduced to the journalists in Mexico who cover the drug war through the battle of the Juarez Valley, the most heartbreaking point of the novel. We have already seen how law enforcement in Mexico at every level  is corrupted by the drug cartels now we witness how they systematically destroy the media and a population. And the violence goes up another awful level.

Bloody, brutal and at times barbaric Don Winslow shines a harsh light on the true war on drugs. A war that the west has ignored and has been complicit in. A war where tens of thousand of people have died, where hundreds of thousands have been displaced, all for the sale of a product into another country where nothing is down to address or curtail the soaring demand for a product that has torn another country to shreds. We have seen what drugs and the war on drugs has done to western cities and politics through brilliant shows like The Wire but we have no comprehension of the true horror being reaped in getting those drugs into western cities. (Both Winslow’s books should be made in to TV series rather than movies)

Don Winslow has again written a thriller that is impossible to put down and impossible to forget.

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ISBN: 9780434023554
Classification:
Format: Paperback Pages: 640
Imprint: William Heinemann
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: 01-Jul-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE REMAINS OF THE DAY

9780571322732I have not seen the film based on this book and after all the guffaw over Ishiguro’s “departure” with The Buried Giant I wanted to read the novel most people seem to consider his best work. (Or at least their favourite Ishiguro novel).

And I can see why. This is marvellously written. Not only is it a great exploration of the art of and dying days of servitude in England, it is also an allegory for the decline of Great Britain in the world following the two World Wars.

The story is narrated by Mr Stevens, the head butler of the once great Darlington Hall. Following the end of the Second World War Lord Darlington has sold his estate and the new owner has kept on a small staff including Mr Stevens. The book is told on a road trip Mr Stevens takes to visit the former Housekeeper of Darlington Hall in the hope of convincing her to re-establish her employment at the house.

Over the course of his trip Mr Stevens reflects on his years of service and some of the key moments that have occurred in that time. Mr Stevens is the perfect gentleman, a butler who strived for dignity in his work at all times often at the expense of any form of relationship with others around him, including his own father who taught him everything he knows. Mr Stevens contemplates what dignity means and how being in the service of a “great” gentleman instructs and enhances this dignity. As Stevens’ considers his years of service he comes to the realization that his was probably the last generation to which service was an aspiration but he also begins to question what his dignified service truly cost him.

Anyone who says The Buried Giant was a departure from Ishiguro’s other works needs to have a re-read of his books. Memory is a strong running theme throughout the three books I have read as is a nostalgia for what is being lost or left behind. What makes Ishiguro a great writer is that he can tell such different stories, across different settings and times, while exploring similar themes.

PS
The audiobook read by Dominic West is sublime

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ISBN: 9780571322732
ISBN-10: 0571322735
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Faber & Faber Fiction
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publish Date: 2-Apr-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Diets (Not Diet Books)

90d933e043c27d31f100af45bf05e185_biggerOriginally posted on Boomerang Books:

2832-popular_diet_booksBook Diets (Not Diet Books)

There has been a lot of controversy recently about different diet books out on the market and while eating healthy is very important we also mustn’t forget to feed out minds. So I’ve come up with a few Book Diets based on popular fad diet books:  […]

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John Birmingham’s ASCENDANCE

9781742614069The final instalment in the Dave Hooper trilogy brings events to an epic crescendo.

Not for the first time John Birmingham lays waste to the streets of New York. The Dave, who has been struggling to come to terms with his recently acquired hero status, has learnt he may not be the special and unique snowflake he led himself to believe. Meanwhile the monsters, who have been unleashed upon the world, are starting to learn and adapt to human technology and tactics with the aid of a few brains.

The Dave and his new-found companion are almost overwhelmed by the new and numerous attacks in New York. Their task is made more difficult as Dave’s newly acquired powers come up against some unwanted interference from some of the more empathetic demons. As they cut and hammer their way through swathes of orcs and demons Dave soon finds he is making some very tough choices about who will survive each onslaught. Decisions he is not ready or comfortable to make. Being a hero is not the party The Dave had hoped for and as the tide continues to turn in the monsters’ favour the strain is beginning to show leaving him even more vulnerable.

This maybe the conclusion to the Dave Hooper trilogy but John Birmingham is far from finished with this new universe he has created and is in the process of tearing down. I can’t wait for the ebook spin offs he has got planned and the next epic chapter whatever and whenever that will be.

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ISBN: 9781742614069
ISBN-10: 174261406X
Classification: Thriller / suspense , Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (233mm x 154mm x mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Macmillan Australia
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 01-May-2015
Country of Publication: Australia

Michael Herr’s DISPATCHES

9781447275060This is one of the best pieces of war writing I have ever read, fiction or nonfiction and is an outstanding and terrifying piece of journalism. Michael Herr captures, distills and transmits to the reader the pure essence of the Vietnam War. It’s hypocrisy, it’s insanity, it’s music, it’s soul. The complete and utter, unadulterated complicated mess.

This is not a combat story nor it is a history book but manages to convey both. It is gonzo journalism at its finest showing a war that was covered, managed, hidden and mismanaged unlike any war before it or after it. It is non-linear, unstructured and narrow in scope yet manages to convey the experience of the war. It is the tonal base for other seminal works of the Vietnam War including Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. It shows a war fueled by drugs and rock’n’roll where all the lines were fuzzy; the truth, the enemy, the whole point of it all. All of this is pinpointed by Michael Herr’s exceptional writing.

The glamour and horror, the courage and cowardice, the humour and sadness, the bravery and stupidity and the complete underlying tragedy is all exposed in a war that was full of contradictions from start to finish, and still is.

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ISBN: 9781447275060
ISBN-10: 1447275063
Classification: Vietnam War , Asian history , Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x 19mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Picador
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 1-Jan-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Monthly Blog Round up – March

My blog posts from March

9780571315048Kazuo Ishiguro’s THE BURIED GIANT

This is only my second Kazuo Ishiguro book following on fromNever Let Me Go. For me, coming off a novel about cloning, I had no expectations about where he would go next. Much has been made about this novel being a “departure” for Ishiguro but I would argue that he has gone back to something far more traditional. Read more…

9781847923622Jill Leovy’s GHETTOSIDE

True crime books get a bad rap, usually deservedly so. They are often sensationally or salacious written, pandering to a voyeuristic nature that plays up the monster angle of those who have perpetuated horrific acts of violence. Those books that look into the real impacts of crime on the victims, perpetrators and investigators, or examine the cause and effect that social policies have on these crimes or examine and question our attitudes to crime and punishment are few and far between. Read more…

9781472119735Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST

An Untamed State was an unforgettable novel that was brutally honest, confronting and powerfully written. In this brilliant collection of essays Roxane Gay applies this same style to the modern world in essays that cover everything from gender, race, politics and popular mainstream culture. Read more…

9780575132481Ben Aaronovitch’s BROKEN HOMES

The fourth instalment in the Peter Grant books continues the upward trajectory for this fantastic series, figuratively and somewhat literally. This time the case involves a repository for possible magic truly terrifying; London’s architecture. Read more…

9781783780877Catherine Lacey’s NOBODY IS EVER MISSING

I grabbed this book solely on the back of a tweet from Joss Whedon but it then languished in my TBR pile for months. With the book finally being released in Australia I thought it was time to pick it up and was immediately sucked in. Read more…

9781473208971Ben Aaronovitch’s FOXGLOVE SUMMER

After the cliffhanger ending toBroken HomesBen Aaronovitch changes things up for the next book and takes us away from London and its history and magic to the countryside, which it turns out is of course an even richer source of history and magic. Read more…

Ben Aaronovitch’s FOXGLOVE SUMMER

9781473208971After the cliffhanger ending to Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch changes things up for the next book and takes us away from London and its history and magic to the countryside, which it turns out is of course an even richer source of history and magic.

Peter Grant is still trying to come to the terms with the betrayal he experienced at the end of Broken Homes. When two children go missing in rural Herefordshire Nightingale sends Peter on an errand to interview some former practitioners just to make sure none of them are involved. Peter, needing a distraction, jumps at the task and when there doesn’t appear to be any leads volunteers to help with the case.

The two eleven year old girls have been missing four days and the local police have no leads. They are so desperate they ask Peter to go over the case to see if he can find anything “supernatural”. What Peter discovers is almost unbelievable, even for an apprentice wizard. Peter discovers that the boundaries between our world and the magical world are far more porous out here than in London which also means far more dangerous. Peter must find the missing children, work out what is at play and keep himself in one piece all while trying to navigate two foreign environments; the countryside and what maybe some kind of fairy land.

Aaronovitch takes the series to another level in this book. The fact that he leaves the cliffhanger still hovering on a precipice is inconsequential because he opens up a whole other realm of the magical world for Peter to get his head around. We do get some answers to some other burning questions, in particular Ettersburg and some sexual tension that has been building up finally snaps.

I have binged on this series this year and don’t know what I’m going to do while I await the next installment in this brilliant series. Probably just pester as many people as I can to read the books too!

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ISBN: 9781473208971
ISBN-10: 1473208971
Classification: Fantasy
Format: Paperback (179mm x 116mm x 27mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Gollancz
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 8-Jan-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom