Thursday 15 January 2015

Holy Cow - David Duchovny

So now both X-Filers are in on the writing biz. Scully has her own sci-fi novel, although hers was written with a little help it would seem and Mulder has this.... An escape artist dairy cow, a newly converted Jewish pig, and an anorexic turkey.
This is a very strange read, very strange indeed. It's funny, the bizarre story ensures that. Unfortunately this is not really enough to carry the whole book; thankfully it is a short book so the basic concept can be maintained just about. Overall I enjoyed this but am  not 100% sure I know quite what I have just read. a deeply bizarre take on Mankind's interaction with each other and with the natural world? Or simply a Dairy tale? 

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Golden Son - Pierce Brown

Anyone who has read my earlier post about Red Rising will know just how much of a fan of this series I am, the first book blew me away with it's intricate plotting, great characters and with the fabulous combination of SciFi, Fantasy and the Roman pantheon. Needless to say I was uber-excited about the second instalment coming out, as well as very pleased that there was only a year in between the two. A year is a reasonable and acceptable wait, just long enough for the excitement to build and for me to spend a sane amount of my time raving about the series to people on the shop floor.
As soon as book two started to loom on the horizon I got requesting copies from anyone who I thought might be nice enough to send me one; when it did arrive then wow isn't it just so pretty!! Book one came with a map of the training area that would feature so prominently in the story, book two has a visual breakdown of the strata of society. Understanding this caste system is integral to the whole concept after all. So I settled down to read... only slightly feverishly ;).

All I can say is.......

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!!!

Having just finished this second instalment of the Red Rising trilogy, I am now jumping up and down with excitement..... At least a year to wait before Morning Star is released.... How can authors do this to us? Write incredible, game changing stories and leave us hanging for the final part?? As Brown is apparently involved in the Red Rising film, we just have to hope he doesn't go down the GRRM route of making us wait..... and wait..... and wait some more before Morning Star comes out.

Right so the book; as you may have gathered I absolutely loved this book, just as much as I loved the first one. Where book one saw Darrow undergo the changes that made it possible to infiltrate The Institute, here we watch him as he is firmly embedded in Gold society. Formulating a civil war that will rip that society to shreds. The scheming, twists and turns from his various allies, enemies and friends again rival anything found in Graves's 'Claudius' books, and provide plenty of excitement. Some of the new characters introduced here are really something special, loads of potential for growth and further expansion all around, just so long as they avoid being murdered! Brown's ability to murder key characters major and minor rivals that of GRRM;  I advise you not to form any strong attachments to anyone, except maybe Darrow himself. I suspect that killing off the main character and POV of the series may prove tricky even for Mr Brown, so hopefully Darrow is safe.... ish.
Unlike the first books, where most of the action took place in a semi medieval/dark age setting with the students of 'the Institute' rushing around playing a live action version of Conqueror, this book involves lots of political scheming, as well as some pretty epic space battles, and attacks on citadels. While plenty of detail is included in each of these, you never get bogged down in the minutiae of the 'science' of anything, which keeps the action flowing nicely. 

The writing rips though you, urging you to skip ahead to find out who will survive. Any temptation to do this though is dangerous as Brown can turn the whole tale around in a single line. Every single word is precious here. Without giving too much away There isn't much I can say about the innumerable plot twists that tear through the story leaving hopes, plans and people in shreds on the floor left, right and centre; what I will say is that the ending will floor you. As in, absolutely, totally and utterly floor you. Jeez, how much more can anyone involved take? This is one of those books where the ending simply leaves you gasping for more, it's also one where not only have I had a wonderful time suggesting the series to customers, but where I have literally had a jumping up and down with excitement discussion about the book with a fellow fan.

I really don't think I can fault this series in any way, except for the wait I now have for part 3, and if you are only ever going to read one sci-fi series in your life time I urge you to make it this one, as it blows pretty much everything else out of the water. Forget Hunger Games, this is the real deal. Incredible!

Wednesday 7 January 2015

A good week's reading......

Three rather enjoyable books this week, all quite dark and all confronting issues of mental illness in one way or another. Part of me thinks I really need to dig out some books that don't deal with mental illness, but there you go.

So I started my week by reading I RememberYou by the wonderful Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Her books have always been somewhat more bloody than your average bit of Scandi crime, but they have also been getting increasingly spooky as they have moved through the group. This is her first proper horror/spooky book, one that you will find in the Horror section. Ignoring the 'Don't read after dark' tagline I read this alone, after dark and was suitably freaked out by the disturbing story of haunted islands, dead children and malevolent spirits. I think I enjoyed it and as a spook-fest it certainly works VERY well.  

My next read was The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf, I'd been keen to read it for a while. I love a good bit of Gothic noir and that's what I was expecting. Having read it I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it is a wonderfully gothic story of madness, murder and 18th century medicine. It has a feeling of 'Perfume' or 'De Sade's Valet' about it, in it's descriptions of Sado-Masochistic and Sadistic sexual preferences, half imagined supernatural beings and medical teachings of the period. As a depiction of the 18th Century through the eyes of a Manic and probably Psychotic gentleman medical student it works brilliantly. However at times the descriptions of the world, as seen through the eyes of Tristan Hart, become simply too bizarre to deal with. His 'meetings' with demons and faeries while suffering from his bouts of madness, make the distinction between fantasy and fact difficult to make and hampered my reading of this at times. This is also a book that contains some very dark sexual practises, often graphically depicted. 50 Shades has nothing on this novel which evidently owes much to Jack Wolf having presumably read and reread the writings of De Sade. There were moments here which seemed to have been drawn almost directly from De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. The style is wonderfully authentic in it's 18th century, gothic debauchery, however this really does not necessarily make it an easy book to read. It's certainly not one for the squeamish or prudish.

Now Alice and the Fly by bookseller James Rice. A friend of mine had been so freaked out by the start of this book that he had been unable to finish it, so it was with some trepidation that I started to read. This is a very dark and disturbing book. 'Fly' is the weird kid at school, the one who mutters away to himself, the one who stares at other kids, the one who has a fit if confronted with a spider (real or imaginary). Fly is messed up; but then so is his family, and his neighbourhood, and in fact the whole town where he lives. Then again we can't be 100% confident that anything is as it seems as he does not make a very reliable narrator for this story of his break from reality. The novel's suspense builds towards a very disturbing and horrible conclusion.
Having now read three books about mental illness of one kind or another this year, I'm off to find something a little more cheerful....

Friday 2 January 2015

Plague - C.C. Humphreys

Rather a good read here that reminded me of the Edward Marston Nick Bracewell crime mysteries. It's 1665 in London, a city that is still only starting to recover after decades of civil war and religious extremism during the Commonwealth. Many are still suffering from the trauma caused by their experiences and losses. As outbreaks of plague start to appear accross the city, death is stalking in an even more disturbing way as a series of horrific murders are committed.
 This novel has some really well written, convincing characters who help bring the novel to life. We have a handful of historic figures, King Charles assorted mistresses, and a young John Wilmot, feature alongside the central cast and these well known characters are also brilliantly done. The central storyline is satisfyingly mysterious and deeply grusome at times, with plenty of twists and turns. It's unusual for a 'cosy' period murder mystery to provide so much gore; with a damaged and psychotic murderer on the loose in London there really is a lot of blood and guts about here. The murderer is driven by a religious mania and a belief that the end of days in almost upon the world, a belief that is given added weight as plague breaks out across the city of London. The depiction of the damage done to society and to the mental state of individuals by the turmoil of the Civil War, is very well done indeed. Highly believable and interesting characters add depth to the story. The twist as to the identity of the murderer is nicely timed to add to the story. It was also nice to see a few famous faces thrown into the character list, each of these is nicely written in a believable way, and their interaction with the other, purely fictional characters is written seamlessly. It was nice to read a restoration crime mystery that managed to combine some disturbing murders with the usual restoration sex scenes.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Mirror World of Melody Black - Gavin Extence

My first read of the new year is the second book from Gavin Extence. Having really enjoyed Alex Woods I was expecting great things from Extence's second book, and he did not disappoint.

The story follows the 'madness' of freelance journalist Abby, as she experiences a manic episode and the fallout that follows. The story is told from her point of view so we are given her perceptions of events and left to wonder how reliable a witness she can have been at times. Throughout the book there are moments of black humour that help make the painful and difficult subject matter more palatable.

This is obviously a very personal novel for Extence, the details are well drawn and sharply illustrate the loss of reality that Abby is going through. The postscript illustrates just how personal the whole story is to the author and adds depth to the reading experience.

This is not a cosy, 'Curious Incident' style look at it's subject matter, and I would say it has much more in common with Costa Prize winning 'Shock of the Fall' You can expect a stark look at mental illness here.

Happy 2015!

So that's another year all done and dusted.... quite an eventful one for me ending in me getting married in December. :) Hence the big ole gap in my reviews from June onwards... lots to update on here I promise.

2015 promises to be another great year, especially in the book world. I'm looking forward to some great reading over the next twelve months and to suggesting some of my fave books to people as often as I can.
The new Waterstones bookclub has some particularly amazing titles, several of which I reviewed on here in 2014. The Beggar and the Hare is my particular recommend here, seriously people, just read that book; it's wonderful!

As for books I'm looking out for this year, right now it's mainly second in series books that are getting me excited this year (along with the prospect of making a dent in my heap, obviously). Sally Green's Half Wild should be really good, and I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to get a copy of Pierce Brown's Golden Son and get reading..... :D

Happy reading everyone.