Posts Tagged ‘2012’

Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back

In Book Reviews on September 21, 2014 at 10:39 am
Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

Nutshell blurb: The zombie apocalypse is in full swing because of an excavation in an old churchyard in Kent. In this book we learn a bit more about how it started as well as what our plans are for the future.

This is the second instalment of the Zombie Apocalypse series. If you want to read my thoughts on the first book, please feel free to go ahead.

In case you don’t feel like reading it, I’ll let you know that I loved the first one. I thought that the style was fantastic. I loved the minute by minute accounts of what was happening to various people in London.

Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back has the same sort of format but flashes back from time to time in order to give us an idea of how the whole thing started. We finally get to meet the Thomas Moreby that was talked about so much in the first book.

He’s not a very nice person.

We were told about him in journal format by a young woman who gets to know him quite well. I think that that was my favourite part of this book. There are so many stories that one can’t help but pick favourites.

We also learn more about the quirks of the infection. Some of the zombies are sentient and memories are passed to them from the people that they eat. That actually creeped me out quite a bit. One of zombies ate a man and was able to find out where the man’s wife and children were hiding because he then possessed the man’s memories. The gore factor in this book was definitely cranked up a few levels.

I enjoyed this book a lot but I found that I didn’t devour it as quickly as I did the first one. I’m not really sure why it didn’t grab me as much as the first one did. Perhaps the first one was novel and the second one was more of the same.

I suspect that it’s more likely that I just didn’t really connect with many of the characters in the second one.

I saw another Zombie Apocalypse book in the shop (I think that it has to do with an insane asylum, but I don’t want to look it up for fear of spoilers) but I might leave it alone for now. I’ll probably read it one day in the future, but not today.


Whispers Underground

In Book Reviews on July 13, 2014 at 6:00 am
Gollancz 2012

Gollancz 2012

Practically the whole point of being police is that you don’t gather information covertly. You’re supposed to turn up on people’s doorsteps, terrify them with the sheer majesty of your authority, and keep asking questions until they tell you what you want to know.

If these books had been around when I was a teenager, I would have totally wanted to be a cop in London. I would have been super disappointed in my career aspirations to find out that there was no supernatural department of the Metropolitan Police Department, so it’s probably best that these books only came out a few years ago.

Nutshell blurb: Peter Grant is back for another adventure. This time he’s investigating the murder of the son of an American diplomat which means that the FBI gets involved. Hijinx and hilarity ensue.

I read The Rivers of London back before I started this blog, so I haven’t done a write-up on that but if you would like to read my thoughts on Moon Over Soho, please feel free to do so.

I loved this book as much (but maybe a teensy bit more because I adore Lesley) as the last one. They actually do seem to get better as you go along. The characters are all so unique and well thought out. They could be real people for all I know. They certainly seem like it.

I want to read them all again, one after the other because sometimes I forget events or names of people from previous books if I’ve left too much time in between them.

Also, Mr. Aaronovitch has such an engaging style of writing that I get so caught up in the narration that I don’t concentrate on what’s actually happening.

Does that even make sense? Maybe not, but it happens, people. It’s probably not the best thing when reading a crime novel as you need to pay attention to the details in order to keep up with plot twists and such.

It doesn’t really matter, though. The sheer enjoyment I’ve gotten from reading these books so far is worth it. And I’m sure that I’ll pay more attention to the facts during my second pass.

I said it in my post for Moon Over Soho and I’ll say it again now: Ben Aaronovitch is a genius. I hope that he keeps on writing these books forever.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

In Book Reviews on November 10, 2013 at 6:00 am
Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

Constable & Robinson Ltd 2012

‘If you don’t mind my asking, Sir Wind,’ said September after a respectable time had passed, ‘how does one get to Fairyland? After a while, we shall certainly pass India and Japan and California and simply come round to my house again.’

The Green Wind Chuckled. ‘I suppose that would be true if the earth were round.’

‘I’m reasonably sure it is…’

‘You’re going to have to stop that sort of backward, old-fashioned thinking, you know. Conservatism is not an attractive trait. Fairyland is a very Scientifick place. We subscribe to all the best journals.’

This book has been on my tbr list for quite some time now. I saw in the online catalogue that the Barbican Library had it so I looked for it every time I went but could never find it. I looked in all of the children’s sections, even the 10+ section, cringing as I did so. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if people see me perusing the children’s section. There are some really good children’s books that adults can enjoy. However, for obvious reasons, they become a lot simpler by the time you get to the 10+ section and I was wondering if I would consider a book to be good that is written for that young of an audience.

Because I’ve been looking for it for such a long time, I decided to ask the librarian in the children’s section if he could please help me find it. ‘Oh yes,’ said he. ‘It’s in the 5+ section.’

Me: ‘…’

Now things were just getting silly. Am I open-minded enough to read books from the 5+ section? I tried to ignore his amused look. He got the book for me and, thankfully, declared that it shouldn’t have been filed in that section.

I walked out of the children’s library and immediately picked up a Stephen King novel to balance out the awkwardness.

Nutshell blurb: 12 year-old September catches a ride with the Green Wind to Fairyland. There she has many adventures because she decides to meddle in other people’s affairs. It’s helpful, well-meaning meddling, but meddling all the same.

For those of you who are well past the age where you would consider looking for books in the children’s section, don’t let this deter you from reading this book. It’s a trippy, charming, mental story that enchanted me from the first few pages. It’s quite similar to Alice in Wonderland in that nothing makes sense, yet at the same time it does. There were so many strange and wonderful things that happened to our heroine and her companions. She befriended a Wyverary (a wyvern whose father was a library) and a marid whom she rescued from enslavement. There was an island of antique household items who were bitter about not being treasured and a herd of wild bicycles.

There was no way to even begin to predict the things that would happen to September. The book takes us from one mad situation to another with no way of knowing how she’s going to handle it.

The cover is gorgeous and that is part of the reason I was drawn to it. Yes, I do judge books by their covers.

There’s not much else I can say about this book without spoiling it. If you enjoyed reading Alice and Wonderland, this might just be the book for you. If you have read it, I would love to know what you think about it.

I shall definitely make my way to the children’s section to get the next one.


In Book Reviews on September 4, 2013 at 6:00 am

RedshirtsGollancz 2012

John Scalzi had me at his dedication to Wil Wheaton.

To Wil Wheaton, whom I heart with all the hearty heartness a heart can heart.

Thus began an entire novel of complete silliness and whimsy. Right up my alley.

As the title suggests, this book follows the plight of the Redshirts. For those of you who haven’t watched any Star Trek at all (shame on you, for one thing), the Redshirts are the throw away characters who accompany the main characters on away missions and always die. You can always tell who it’s going to be. You’ll have the captain, the science officer, maybe the chief engineer and then there’s Ensign Bob Smith and you know right away that Ensign Smith won’t be making it back to the ship.

Actually, Eddie Murphy explains it much better in Boomerang:

You get the idea. And just so we’re clear, this book does not take place in the Star Trek universe.

So the premise of this book is that the demise of Redshirts aboard the Intrepid has gotten out of hand to the point where they start noticing that something is wrong. And then they start comparing notes and realise that assignment on any away mission is a death sentence. A handful of them set out to figure out why and to see what they can do to stop it.

Frankly, I can’t tell you more than that without spoiling it.

I will give you this quote, however, which might be slightly spoilerfic but it’s from the pov of one of the Redshirts so we kind of expect it anyway.

Ensign Davis thought, Screw this, I want to live, and swerved to avoid the landworms. But then he tripped and one of the landworms ate his face and he died anyway.

I literally laughed out loud. Reading it still makes me giggle a bit.

I gave this five out of five stars on Goodreads because of the sheer enjoyment I got from it. It was fast-paced with constant action (always a plus for me) and it didn’t take itself very seriously at all. The dialogue was a bit clunky and some of the characters weren’t well rounded, but I attributed that to the subject matter. These guys are the extras with minimal back-stories and the writing style reflected that.

The one thing that I didn’t really like about this book was the end. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it for you.) After the main story is a set of three codas which wrap up the stories of some of the characters from the main story. I felt that this book could have stood on its own without the codas. I thought that the ending was really quirky and cool, but was then dragged out by this additional information which I could have survived without.

Overall, I loved it. It satisfied my need for action and had the added bonus of complete and utter silliness. A total win in my book.

The Martian War

In Book Reviews on September 1, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Martian War

Titan Books 2012

Hello, my friends. Guess what! I’ve got a book to talk about. Wooooooooooooooo! It’s about time. It took me 10 days to read it, which is unheard of for me. I can usually read two books in that time. I say this because I’ve noticed that it’s a much different experience when a book is spread out over time rather than reading it all within a few days. This book features a lot of action, so spreading out over almost two weeks meant that my experience was a bit choppy.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. I picked this up at the library because of the cover. (Yes, I’m one of those people.) I brought it home without realising that I already own a book by Kevin J Anderson called Captain Nemo: The Adventures of a Dark Genius. Once I figured this out, I became even more excited about this book. He’s a fantastic author!

He certainly didn’t disappoint.

Nutshell blurb: The year is 1884 and a martian crash lands in the Sahara desert and is intercepted by Dr. Moreau and Professor Lowell. H.G. Wells, his girlfriend and his professor must try to stop a martian invasion. 

This takes place before The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. What I loved about this book was that it felt like old-school pulp science fiction. I also loved that it paid almost no attention to the science part of sci-fi. People could walk on the moon and Mars without wearing space gear and there were magic crystals owned by the Martians which allowed the holder to see the red planet whilst they were on Earth and allowed the Martians to spy on Earth from Mars to gauge our defences. The moon is inhabited by a race of Selenites who have been kidnapped by the Martians and pressed into service on Mars as slaves.

The characters were fantastic. Wells’ girlfriend, Jane, was a pretty awesome 19th century chick. She jumped into the action with gusto and often took the lead when combating the Martians. Dr. Moreau was creepy as hell, as is to be expected, but his actions were prompted by a need to further scientific study, which made him pretty interesting.

I loved this book. It was so much fun. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a woman of action. I love to read about how people get through conflict and I especially love it when mild-mannered, bookish types end up kicking butt and saving the world. Perhaps it’s a bit of insight into my own personality and the type of person I would want to be in such a situation.

Also, the book has dialogue like this:

“Don’t lose our advantage, Mr. Wells,” Huxley said. “Move forward with the proper balance of caution and panicked haste.”

I have so much love for this book. And yes, I realise how many times I’ve said ‘love’ in this post. I regret nothing.

On a personal note, many of you know that I’ve been studying for an exam for work all month. Well, I took it yesterday morning and tanked it big time. It was really disappointing as I studied really hard for it (and gave up so much reading to do so!). But I have a newfound sense of freedom and am back to reading two books at a time and will hopefully be back on track soon.

Also, we’ve found a new flat and are moving into it on Tuesday so there might be a slight gap in my posts, but I’ll do my best to catch up soon. Thank you so much for reading!

Alif the Unseen

In Book Reviews on August 14, 2013 at 7:18 am

Alif the UnseenGrove Press 2012

I’m pleased to tell you that I have a book to talk about today. Wooo! It means that I blew off studying last night to finish this book, but considering how tremendously craptacular my day was yesterday, I chose to read instead of study. So there.

Anyway, on to the book.

Nutshell blurb: Alif is a computer geek who is given a mystical book that takes him in between two worlds. He has to fight forces seen and unseen as he tries to get his life back and get the girl.

Overall, I loved this book. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. It was enchanting and well worth blowing off studying for.

There were a few things I didn’t like so I’ll start with those.

“These are not the banu adam you’re looking for,” he said.

I’m totally ok with references to other works (as long as they’re nice) and I feel that it’s ok to give djinn the power to perform Jedi mind tricks. However, I feel that if one is going to do that, one should do it with a hint of irony and at least reference the source. When I read that line, I acknowledged that it was there and read on to see if the characters would. One of them giggled, but it was unclear if it was at the Star Wars reference or the silliness of the situation.

This is a small thing, but I am always very aware of the authorial voice as it has the power to rip me out of my immersion. If I think for a moment that the author is taking him/herself too seriously, it jars me right out of the story.

Consider this excerpt:

“…I mean, look at all the eastern writers who’ve written great western literature. Kazuo Ishiguro. You’d never guess that The Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go were written by a Japanese guy. But I can’t think of anyone who’s ever done the reverse – any westerner who’s written great eastern literature. Well, maybe if we count Lawrence Durrell – does the Alexandria Quartet qualify as eastern literature?”

“There’s a very simple test,” said Vikram. “Is it about bored, tired people having sex?”

“Yes,” said the convert, surprised.

“Then it’s western.”

This little conversation made me stop reading the book in order to sort out my feelings here. The characters in this exchange are basically saying that people aren’t meant to be adaptable and shift from one culture to another, but that people from the east do it better than people from the west. I read in the front that Ms. Wilson is a westerner, from New Jersey, but she’s writing a book that takes place in the Middle East.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but what is she saying about her own work? Is she being incredibly humble and self-deprecating and including her work into the category of not being adaptable and well-written or is her ego soaring into the heights and she’s trying to let us know that she’s the one western writer who has accomplished what others haven’t? Perhaps this is something that my mind fixated on and that I’ve made something out of nothing. The point is: I stopped reading the book to think about it. 

So, on to the things I loved about it.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that it’s a tricky thing when an author writes a main character who is the opposite sex. It’s very noticeable when it’s wrong, not to mention extremely offensive. There are a few writers whom I have in my sights because of their shocking portrayal of women. I’ve read a few horrible portrayals of men at the hands of female authors as well, so ladies, you aren’t exempt.

In this book, I felt like the author was spot on with the main character, Alif. The mistake that women seem to make when writing men is that they idealise them; they make them either flawless or horribly evil and there doesn’t seem to be much in between. Alif is definitely flawed and not always brave, but he’s loyal and determined to fix his mistakes. I found him to be quite likeable and sympathetic.

My inherent femaleness prevents me from being the best judge of whether or not he’s an authentic character. But I liked him, so that’s good enough for me.

The female characters were interesting as well. My knowledge of Middle Eastern women is pretty much non-existent so I have to believe that Ms. Wilson has done her research in this department. I know that we westerners tend to have a view of Middle Eastern women as being meek, submissive and without voices. That they are forced to cover themselves in veils by domineering men. Living in a multi-cultural city with a huge Middle Eastern population, I’m learning that a lot of what I thought about people from that part of the world is wrong. It was nice to see strong women who weren’t being pushed around by men, but who were culturally different from me. I always seem read about the bad parts of Middle Eastern culture, but rarely have I seen anything that celebrates it.

One thing that I didn’t like was that there is a character in the book, known as ‘the convert’ and that is how she is referred to throughout the book. I was a bit annoyed that she was never given a name. It wouldn’t have been bad if she had been a throw away character that had a small part, but she was in a large part of the book and played a pivotal role.

I like that this book made me think about so many different things. I had actually read a review about it on someone else’s blog and she didn’t like it. I almost took it back to the library (twice) because of the things she said about it. I’m really glad that I didn’t and that I decided to read it because it was different from anything else I’ve ever read.

Have you read this book? If so, please tell me what you thought of it. I would love to know!

Sadie Walker is Stranded

In Book Reviews on August 7, 2013 at 6:00 am

Sadie Walker is Stranded

Headline Publishing Group 2012

This is the follow-up to Allison Hewitt is Trapped. It takes place after the initial zombie outbreak and it features a different cast of characters.

Nutshell blurb: The city of Seattle has been walled up to protect the inhabitants from the zombies that roam outside. The wall becomes breached, forcing Sadie, her nephew and her friend to flee.

I absolutely loved the first book but this one fell flat for me. I didn’t like Sadie AT ALL and I found that there were far too many references to other books, films, tv shows and various aspects of popular culture. I understood most of them but the generations after me are unlikely to know what the heck she’s talking about. It’s pretty annoying and gets old after a while.

The action is fantastic and it’s an exciting story but characterisation is everything to me. It’s not good to wish for the main character to get eaten by zombies.

The main character continuously makes stupid decisions but tells herself that she’ll never make the same mistakes again. But she does. She makes the stupidest decision at the very end (which I won’t spoil for you) and nobody calls her on it. If I lived in a zombie-filled world and one of my camp-mates made this decision, I would consider killing him/her if I ever saw him/her again. But no one seems to care that she did what she did. It’s incredibly frustrating to read things like this.

She’s also very helpless and relies on others to continually save her.

I would not normally do a blog post about a book when I don’t have many nice things to say about it, but I will in this case. The author has committed a cardinal sin in my eyes and I feel compelled to point it out in the hopes of convincing my writerly friends to not commit this crime.

Please repeat after me: We DO NOT talk trash about another author’s writing in our own work.

Of what do you speak, you might ask?

Well, I’ll tell you. There’s an entire conversation where the characters discuss (and bash) Twilight.

Now, I know that it’s super-cool to not like Twilight or anything by Stephanie Meyer and that there have been flame wars all over the internet as to whether or not it’s “good”. But does that really matter? Are we all not entitled to like or dislike a book according to our own personal tastes?

There’s a pettiness and arrogance to immortalising your hatred of someone else’s work in your own novel. You’re pretty much letting the world know that you think that you’re more talented and that your story is better than that of the person you’re slating. That’s not cool or edgy. It’s just kind of mean.

I was really disappointed when I got to that section. I feel that Ms. Roux’s writing is quirky and fun and that it can stand on its own without needing to bash another author’s work.

Why did you do it, Madeleine? Why????

It completely coloured my perception of this book. From that point on I felt that I was reading the work of a bully; someone who tears others down to make herself look better. Is she really that kind of person? I don’t know, but it really struck a chord with me. I’m not sure if I will read the next one when it comes out.

Therefore I urge you, my friends, don’t do this in your writing. Be supportive of other people, be constructive in your criticism and be nice. Most importantly, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

The Red Chamber

In Book Reviews on June 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Red ChamberVirago Press 2012

This book was fantastic. I loved it so much. It was a retelling of Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xuequin which, according to the author, is an “18th century novel widely considered to be the most important work of fiction in the Chinese literary tradition”. I haven’t read the original (and I probably won’t as it’s a daunting 2500 pages long) but apparently Ms. Chen took a bit of artistic license to make the story a bit more concise. The result is a beautiful story which focuses on a few of the people who live in the same house.

Nutshell blurb: Two families live in a rather sizeable house and the story follows several people as they try to cope with the problems that result when people with different personalities live under one roof. The lives of these people are governed by a shrewd and domineering matriarch who puts the future of the family above the desires of the individuals.

Please note that there will be some spoilers below.

For some reason I could really identify with Xifeng (although I’ve certainly never experienced what she did) and her story moved me the most. She was smart, numerate, literate and oversaw the day-to-day running of the household. She was exceptionally good with the finances but she was somewhat feared by the other females in the house. In three years of marriage she could not produce a living child for her husband (after miscarrying once) so her man decides to take a concubine. The woman he takes happens to be Xifeng’s maid. These ladies have spent their entire lives together and it was incredibly humiliating for Xifeng. To make matters worse, the other woman ends up pregnant almost immediately. Xifeng must endure the disinterest of a husband who now has someone new whom he prefers and have the pregnancy flaunted in her face. It was really painful to read. I really wanted her to find some kind of happy ending which, of course, she doesn’t.

Another situation in the book that really made me sad was that two of the characters fell in love but were not allowed to marry. The guy really wanted to marry a certain girl, but the old bat of a matriarch refused and had him married off to someone else within the family. What made it moving was that there were no teary-eyed declarations of love or plots to run away together; just a calm acceptance of the inevitable. That’s the kind of thing that makes my heart ache.

At several points when I was reading this book, I would stop to tell my husband what was happening and he would ask me why I would want to read a book that made me so sad. (You might be asking the same thing.) The answer is that I love to wallow in emotion. When I’m angry, sad or happy (or any emotion in between)  I really like to channel it, savour it and, essentially, marinate in it until I’m well and truly pickled. It’s a delicious feeling and it makes me so happy when a book (or film) can make me feel this way. Even when it’s something that makes me sad.

The one negative thing that I would say about this book is that I really and truly hate a narrative that is in the present tense. I find it really jarring and it took me about a quarter of the book to actually get into it. Once I was able to forget about it, I really got into the book and was able to appreciate it for the beautiful story that it is.

School’s Out Forever

In Book Reviews on June 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

School's Out Forever

Abaddon Books

Omnibus published in 2012

“I celebrated my fifteenth birthday by burying my headmaster and emptying my bladder in the freshly turned earth.”

How’s that for a first sentence? This book. Holy wow. I had a serious book hangover after finishing it. (For those of you who don’t know what a book hangover is, it’s the inability to start a new book because you can’t stop thinking about the previous one.)

Nutshell blurb: A virus has swept across the globe killing everyone who does not have O-negative blood type. This is the story of the survivors who take shelter at a private boy’s school in Kent.

I feel that I need to start of by saying that even though this book is mainly about children and teenagers, it’s definitely not a YA book. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

So, why would anyone want to read a book that features children who must kill in order to survive? There’s an interview with the author at the end of the book and he’s asked the question of why he features children in the post apocalyptic tale of survival. His response:

“Because they’re far more vicious than adults. Crueller, nastier, less predictable and more morally flexible…kids are not fully formed personalities yet, they’re still pushing the boundaries of social conventions and trying to define themselves, so they do the most awful things sometimes. And the most wonderful, of course.”

This omnibus is made up of three short novels and a short story. The first book is from the point of view of a fifteen year old boy named Lee. The second and third books toggle back and forth between various characters.

There were a few times when I had to suspend my disbelief a bit more than I’m comfortable with, such as when one of the teenagers flies a plane from Kent to Iraq by himself, refueling at various military bases along the way. I also felt as though Lee’s voice/thoughts were a bit more mature than a fifteen year old’s would be. It’s been way more than fifteen years since I was fifteen years old, so I can honestly say that I don’t remember what my thought processes were like back then. I’m willing to push my belief to the boundaries if the writing is good, and the writing in this book is excellent. The characters are engaging and realistic and the action was non-stop.

No one is safe in this book, which gave me the thrilling feeling of fear for the characters I liked as well as the desire for the villains to get their comeuppance, which sometimes didn’t happen. It was difficult to predict and that made it stressful, heart-rending and fun at the same time.

I seldom recommend books to people as we all have different tastes and I don’t want the responsibility of my recommendation if you don’t like it, so I will refrain from doing so now. What I will say, however, is that this book was brutal and it took my breath away.

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