Books of 2011 # 8 – Meet The Dogs of Bedlam Farm

The only children’s book to make the list, but of course it is also a doggy book!

Meet the Dogs of Bedlam FarmMeet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Jon Katz’s first children’s book, and is a tale of his four dogs; Rose, Izzy, Frieda and Lenore, who live with him on Bedlam Farm.

A relatively short book it is beautifully illustrated with Jon’s own photographs. Recommended for dog lovers and children of all ages 😉

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Books of 2011 # 9 – An Angel With Fur by Russell Blake

Russell Blake is an author that I have only come across this year, and this was a book he sent me for a review. Readers of my blog will know I am a sucker for Dog Stories, and this one is no exception. Great to see it in the Top Ten!

An Angel With FurAn Angel With Fur by Russell Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Angel With Fur is no ordinary doggy tale, and it’s star ’Lobo’, is no ordinary dog.

Russell Blake narrates the story of how he came to own Lobo and some of the adventures that they had together. Starting from when Russell went ’just to have a look around’ the animal shelter. This true story unfolds and shows the development of the relationship between Lobo and Russell and some of their other canine companions.

I’m sure that many dog owners will recognise aspects of their relationships with their own dogs in this story, and see how incredible the relationship between Russell and Lobo becomes.

This short book packs much within it’s pages, and as the story unfolds and the chapters pass, the very engaging prose, bring smiles, tears and laugh-out loud moments by turn. The book is well illustrated with the authors own photographs, and there are links to the authors website where there is a dedicated “Lobo” page, with more photographs and video links.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I read many a ’dog’ book, and I rate this amongst the best of them. Russell Blake is a master storyteller, and Lobo the perfect dog tale to tell.

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Books of 2011 # 10 – Field Notes on Science and Nature (edited by) Michael R Canfield

When I read this originally I knew that it would be one of my top books of the year, even then when I had many more books still to read during the year.

Field Notes on Science and NatureField Notes on Science and Nature by Michael R. Canfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of my most memorable books of 2011, both in terms of the book itself, but also the memories it evoked of field work that I have been involved in, and the field notebooks that I still have to this day, although I think many of them are still in an attic somewhere.

This book covers all sorts of field “journals” from the traditional paper and pen/cil to digital and computerised. It includes insights, including reproductions of the journals themselves, from some very famous and eminent naturalists, many of whom are heroes of mine.

This probably won’t be everyone’s cup-of-tea, because it is quite a dry subject, but I’d recommend to any budding naturalist or anyone who wants a deeper insight into natural history.

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Books of 2011 # 11 – A Troubled Man by Henning Mankell

Another one that in some ways could easily have been more highly placed. The top Scandanavian writer in my view, and one of the top fictional detectives in Kurt Wallander. A shame that the series has come to an end, in many ways prematurely in my opinion, but then I am not the author and it is not my place to say whether a character should continue or not. At least the series went out strongly.

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mystery)The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now right up front I need to say that I love the character of Kurt Wallander, and in many ways I am disappointed to see this series come to an end.

Having said that I felt there was much more that could have been done with the character, and although I think I know and understand the reasons behind why Henning Mankell has made the ending of this book (and the fact that there is unlikely to be any further Linda Wallander stories) the way he has, I was disappointed with the end of this book.

It needed to have the epilogue to wrap up some of the loose plot threads, but I feel that this could have been done in later books. The main plot overall was OK. Not one of the best mysteries that has been written, and perhaps if you live outside of Sweden not something that will be immediately familiar to the reader but it is carried through well and there is an unexpected twist towards the end that I hadn’t seen coming.

Only four stars because of the way Mankell dealt with the ending and the epilogue, it left me feeling disappointed. After all the intervening years between Before The Frost and The Troubled Man I would rather that there had not been another Wallander tale, rather than the way this one ended. Perhaps if you read this, do so without reading the epilogue!

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Books of 2011 # 12 – Concrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri

This was a tough choice for this not to make it into the top 10, as it is a cracking good read, but others just have the edge on it.

Concrete PearlConcrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vincent Zandri is one hell of a writer. He’s the author of other thrillers such as The Innocent, Godchild and The Remains (my review of The Remains is here), but Vincent scares me, he makes me wonder where he gets his inspiration, if it’s as true to life as it seems; I’m worried!

Concrete Pearl twists and shocks from the first page to the last. The main character, Ava “Spike” Harrison, she got her name from impaling her foot on a six-penny nail on the first construction site she worked on, is about to have a very bad day.

She’s the boss of Harrison Construction, the company that was originally her beloved fathers, and now Spike’s the boss. She’s a tough, no nonsense character who will never give up, never roll-over. Harrison Construction already has a number of health and safety convictions, accidents that weren’t Spike’s fault but corporately the company takes the hit. Today it’s going to get a lot worse. Today asbestos is going to be found on the current work site. That work site’s a school. Worse; that work site is a school that still has children in it while the work carries on around them. Asbestos contamination might equal sick kids. Cancer. Dead. Kids.

The authorities shut the site down, Spike’s company is under suspicion of negligence, but Spike’s company sub-contracted the asbestos removal and now the removal company and the lab that verified their test results, have shut-down, they’ve vanished. Spike needs to find them and settle what’s happened and clear her name.

The characters are lifelike and believable, some are so believable that you’ll hate them, want to take them out yourself. You’ll feel for others, want to help them. All the characters make this book the more believable page, after page, to the last page.

Zandri winds the plot tighter and tighter, he squeezes his lead character to incredible levels. You wonder if she will ever sort out her problems as with each page a new issue raises its ugly head. As accusations of negligence move to accusations of murder, the author redefines the term “thriller”.

As you think Spike is buried deep, Zandri turns the plot in her favour, revelation follows revelation. You start to wonder just who you can trust. Is anyone innocent? Some are. Zandri manages to tie up a plot and leave the reader very satisfied. What happens to Spike? Well you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself.

At the start of this review, I questioned the author’s inspiration, why? Well simply because I did a little reading around, his blog, other reviews before I read this book. Vincent Zandri appears to borrow from his own life as part of his books. A character in the books’ son is born on Halloween, I understand that Zandri’s son is too, and Spike’s family name, Zandris son’s name. So then what is it that Vincent Zandri knows about the construction industry, it’s claimed that this a fictional story based on real events?

Whether this is true or not it doesn’t really matter, because Zandri is one hell of an author, and although he is well published and sells books, he’s probably not the household name of the likes of Patterson or Brown; Clancy or Child; but he deserves to be. Zandri deserves to be the author I see in the window of Waterstones as I walk down the high street; to be in the 3 for 2’s. The one that everyone is talking about, the one that is on bigger blogs than mine. That’s what he deserves, I hope he gets it, but either way I’m buying his next book, and probably the one after that. It’s rare to find an author that you want to read book after book, but Vincent Zandri is in that league.

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Books of 2011 # 14 – Savage Run by C J Box

Another entry for C J Box in my top thirty-one of 2011.

Savage RunSavage Run by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Joe Pickett novel and the series is getting stronger.

The series is set in some amazing scenic backcountry, and Joe Pickett is a pleasantly flawed lead character. Unlike many flawed heroes in crime novels, Joe is just human. He’s mucked up a few times, but he believes in what he does.

Although I enjoyed the story, there was an element of predictability about it, but not so much that the overall story suffered, I think I would just rather have known a little less about what was going on in the background and therefore the way the story unfolded would have been a little less obvious.

The strengths of this series; the backcountry and Joe Pickett mean that I’ll be returning to it again soon, for the third instalment

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