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review 2020-04-16 12:50
Artful - Peter David

by Peter David


There seems to have been an explosion of stories about the Artful Dodger between 2010-2014. Some of them stay true to the characters and events depicted in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist and others fall somewhat short of the mark, but this one is pure fantasy and clearly intends to be so.


The thing is, it's done fairly well. The writing starts out really good and the author's explanation in the introduction makes perfect sense; of course Fagin was a vampire all along! The facts fit all too convincingly. The story flows quickly and has some moments where I can clearly visualize a movie version with some great comedy moments, although it slows down in the middle.


Jack has some definite ideas of how a gentleman behaves. In this, the author has painted a charming character, though sometimes he doesn't ring quite true. The attempt to create a lower class English accent gave away the author's American origins. It got to where every time I saw "ya" I was being pulled out and grumbling about Americans who try to sound English and getting it wrong. There were a couple of other niggles, like alternating references to a dog as either a German Shepherd or a Mastiff, two very different breeds.


The plot takes a turn for the cliché vampire story, but that I can forgive as it is obviously the intent of the storyteller to go into the fantastical on this one. It is often predictable, but nevertheless well told and there is a great diatribe on right and wrong that fits into the story very well. The one thing that put me off was trying to convince me that vampires age. Vampires don't sparkle, they don't produce children, and they don't age!


Overall I enjoyed it, though the last few chapters really strained credulity even in a world with vampires, and although the author seems to have been aware of the events in Oliver Twist generally, his artistic licence with Charley Bates pushed my Dickens purism a little too far.


Not great literature, but an amusing read.

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review 2020-03-18 11:43
Artful - Martin Lake

by Martin Lake


As books about the Artful Dodger go, this is probably the best one that takes him into his exile in Australia. It is more true to Dodger's personality when boarding the ship to Oz than some others I've read or sampled.


It holds interest pretty well, although it does slow down in the middle. The later part of the book gets increasingly difficult to assimilate into believability but the first part was really good, so it deserves points for that. I got the feeling that the author found an old dictionary of redundant Victorian words and decided to slip them all in at once just a little past halfway through.


Without giving too much away, it gets interesting again when Jack finds himself back in his natural element. but after that I got the feeling that the author was struggling for plot. The ending was far too wimpy and I got the impression that another book will be forthcoming to continue the adventure, but the last 15% was a real slog so I'm not likely to look out for it.

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review 2020-03-18 10:55
Apprenticed to the Artful Dodger
Apprenticed to the Artful Dodger - Charlton Daines

by Charlton Daines


This is a combined volume that includes Jack Dawkins and A Christmas with the Dodger.


Jack Dawkins is the story of the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist as an adult returning to England. I've read several books that borrow this character from Dickens and this one is definitely the best done of them.


Jack finds London very changed over the years he's been gone, though the criminal element still thrives. He's gone through changes of his own and has learned to fade into polite company, which puts him in a position of having to make a choice whether to carry on life as a gentleman thief or to actually lead a straight and narrow life. Falling in love just might have some influence over that decision.


During the course of the story, we are introduced to a character named Reg whom Daines can claim as totally his own. Reg is a child thief who crosses paths with the Dodger and finds in him a kindred spirit. He's a fascinating character and I'm glad he got a book of his own.


Roll on to A Christmas with the Dodger and Reg has grown into a young man, facing his own dilemma about how to live his life. His adopted mother, whom he adores, is an honest woman and Reg looks for a balance between his early upbringing and the desire to be a deserving son to Lily. He works in a toy shop, putting his nimble fingers to good use.


Jack plays a secondary role in this sequel, but the two of them together find temptation at every turn despite their respectable veneer.


I'm hoping there will be more books with this character. He's clever, resourceful and easy to like. I have no hesitation in giving this one 5 stars.

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review 2019-09-15 17:11
Catnip: Artful Felines from The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Chronicle Books

If you like art and cats, this book is for you!

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text 2019-06-18 22:18
Re Moonlight Reader's Essential Reading List
Gilded Needles (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Christopher Fowler,Michael McDowell,Mike Mignola
The Day Of The Jackal - Frederick Forsyth
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë,Peter Merchant
Howards End - E.M. Forster
Forbidden Journey - Ella Maillart
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
The Comedians - Graham Greene,Paul Theroux
Artful - Ali Smith
Embers - Sándor Márai,Carol Brown Janeway

Ok, a lot of the titles that are special to me have already been listed, so these are the ones that I would add (listed in no particular order - I love them all equally):


1. Gilded Needles - Michael McDowell

This book blew my socks off. I'm not a horror reader but McDowell has changed my entire outlook on that genre and I consider Gilded Needles to be his best work for me.


2. The Day of the Jackal - Frederick Forsyth

The short explanation for this pick is that it set a standard for me about what a thriller should be. I seriously love this book. It has action but also makes one think. Note - The Bourne Identity did cross my mind as a potential contender but it would be like like bringing a knife to a gun fight. LoL. 


3. The Tennant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte

This is the book that tipped Jane Eyre of its pedestal for me. Anne was a badass.


4. Howards End - E.M. Forster

This is a conventional choice. I get it. It's a book that is on many lists already. However, this is Forster's best work and it is a shame that it is on any "Best of List" because that kind of hype usually backfires. At least it does for me. It's one book that also should never be forced on high school students because this book is deeply personal and no one should be forced to discuss how this book makes sense to them. I don't know. 

So, yes, this is a "classic" by a dead white guy, I am not going to hold that against the book. 


5. A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood

Where compilers of Best of Lists like to include Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, I'd usually like to substitute their entries with Isherwood. Yup. I know. Dead White Guy. But still one of the best books I've read. There is especially one part where I always think that the Bell Jar can bugger off - For me "I am. I am. I am." has nothing on "Waking up begins with saying am and now."


6. The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

I love this book for so many reasons: it literally has no plot and yet Tey managed to turn this into a suspenseful murder mystery, showing that actual history is thrilling. Tey challenged the accepted view of historical fact and basically had the guts to challenge Shakespeare and every school history book being taught at the time of writing. Moreover, she made me look at historical paintings in a more enlightened way. I love Tey - as you are sick of hearing by now, I'm sure - and this one started that that journey.


7. Forbidden Journey - Ella K. Maillart

I am listing this because this is the seminal book of Maillart's that established her firmly as my favourite badass travel writer and explorer. She's usually overshadowed by her two-time travel companion (and brother of Bond creator) Peter Fleming, whose books are really shallow and short-sighted in comparison to Maillart's. She's one author that may not have the stylistic skills of her peers, but she's one that has more things to say than most of the travel writers I have read.


8. The Comedians - Graham Greene

Yup. Greene. I cannot leave Greene off a list and I still consider The Comedians his best book. There is no wallowing in Catholic guilt in this one like there is in what is usually listed as his best work. This one faces and exposes the inhumanities of a violent regime gripping Haiti at the time Greene wrote this and pokes it with a very pointy stick. 


9. Artful - Ali Smith

Ok. Smith. Artful is not a novel. It's a lecture that is presented as a part-fictional narrative. What is important to me about this one is that it encapsulates how language works and how an author can make language work in a multitude of ways. If I were to compare this another work about a different art - John Berger's Ways of Seeing had a similar effect on me. (But he is usually listed on a Best Of list somewhere and I wanted to pick a book about language and literature.)


10. Embers - Sandor Marai

Maybe an odd choice but this is a book that I read decades ago and it is still with me. It is one of the books that set a standard for other books to follow with respect to creating atmosphere because even thinking about Embers I can smell the wood burning in the fireplace and the pine trees outside. 


So, one of the things I noted with some regret while compiling this list is that there aren't many titles on here that originated in languages other than English. There are a lot of authors I adore who did not write in English but the ones I would have picked usually also appear in the Best of Lists - which I take as a sign that I need to make more of an effort to read diversely. 


Of those I would have picked, these are my top 5 (again in no particular order):


- Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf & Unterm Rad (tr. Beneath the Wheel)

- Klaus Mann: Treffpunkt im Unendlichen (no idea if this was translated into English)

- Kurt Tucholsky: any of the satirical works

- Jules Verne: Journey to the Centre of the World

- Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo


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