Tag Archives: Book reviews

Free stuff for the rest of the month!

Available NOW at Amazon!

“My Cosplay Disasters” is the first of several free e-books available this month.

August seems to be galloping past, and before long it’ll be my birthday again. Instead of demanding shiny things and an outrageous party, I thought this year I would give away a bunch of e-books, one each week, and only ask people to leave reviews on Amazon in return.

To be clear, I’m not asking only for GOOD reviews – I would like honesty. If you hated the book, or thought it was childish, then say so. Actually, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.

From Monday the 17th, “My Cosplay Disasters” will be free from Amazon. Next week, I think it’s “Tribute”, my awkward attempt to turn a stage musical I never finished writing into a YA novel. Then the week after that there’s another one, but I did all this late at night two days ago, and I can’t remember what the plan was.

Leaving a review can be a pain, but it really, really matters to authors. If you’ve read a book recently, try leaving a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or your own blog or wherever. It’s ok to be honest, as long as you’re talking about the book and not taking potshots at the author’s personality or life choices. Your words could influence someone else, maybe help them discover a book they will love for the rest of their lives. Or maybe save them from a literary disaster.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the thank you letter I would have to write for the presents you would send:

Dear ________,

Thanks so much for the review you left for me for my birthday. It was a lovely surprise to see the notification pop up in my email and then the live review on Amazon.

I had a lovely birthday, with a late start and then a pleasant walk in the sunshine with dog and family, followed by lunch out and an afternoon movie back at home. It turns out forty three is a lot like forty two, but with less literary connections.

Hope you are well, and that we get to see you soon,

love,

Dim

The Books of November

I’m posting this a couple of days early, since I seem to have burnt out on books this month – the latest one is sat on my bedside table and I have no inclination to pick it up. It’ll go back to the library unread.

Part of the reason for that is that I’ve read a lot of good books this month and a lot that I didn’t enjoy at all. Well, maybe not a lot of those, but enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Mrs Dim often pokes fun at me for not challenging myself more with my reading, but I’ve never seen it as something that was supposed to be a chore: Reading is entertainment, and one of the oldest entertainments at that. “Tell me a story!”. This month I’ve read stories that were well-told, certainly crafted, but were unsatisfactory, or even not worth the telling. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, of course. Some of them won awards, for Heaven’s sake! I’m sure they’re wonderful examples of the Great American Novel, or a superb tranche of the zeitgeist that permeates the literary underbelly of the modern pluralistic society. I just didn’t think they were much fun to read.

One of the issues that gets raised when people say that reviews and word of mouth are the ways to sell books these days, to tell which books are good, is the fact that every review is subjective. Some people are reviewing because they loved the book, because it touched something within them. That may not be true for the next person who reads the books. Some people review because they want to show other people how erudite and knowledgeable they are. Some people review because it’s a good way to get your name all over Amazon.

Just lately, I’ve found I’ve been leaving reviews on books I’ve read more to let the authors know I enjoyed their book, than to recommend them to others. Certainly the presence of a positive review is likely to help sales, but it’s mostly because I’ve experience the frisson of delight when a good review of my book is posted. Writers are a terribly insecure bunch of people, perpetually plagued by self-doubt. Having someone write positive things about your work on the internet is brilliantly reassuring.

Star Wars: Crucible – Troy Denning

I said last month I was going to have more fun reading this month. To start off the right way, I snagged the latest Star Wars offering as it crossed my desk at the library. With our heroes starting to show their age, this book feels a lot like a last hurrah for the original trio. After a chase across the galaxy and numerous fights, plus some deeply spiritual shenannigans at the end, there’s a speech that essentially says “Hey you kids, we’re going to take a back seat from now on, why don’t you guys go off and do the adventuring?” Since each book in the series features a timeline from the original movies and includes all the boooks along the way, you can calculate how old these characters are. If I was still flying a spaceship when I reached Han’s age in this book, I’d be well satisfied.

The 100 Year-Old man who climbed out of the window – Jonas Jonasson

There are some books with intriguing titles where the book doesn’t match the advertising. This one does. The story is brilliant, starting with the man in an Old Folks’ Home climbing out of his ground-floor window to avoid the dreadful 100th birthday party the place has organised for him. He encounters a young man at the bus stop who wants someone to mind a suitcase while he uses the toilet (which is too small to admit man and case) so the old man minds the case, but takes it with him when his bus arrives. The case is full of money.

That’s just the beginning of the fun, and that’s just the current day storyline. As the book continues, we learn about the old man’s past, and it’s as exciting and adventure filled as his modern day life dodging gangsters in pursuit of their money and police and elephants… Great fun.

Star Wars: Force Heretic 3 Reunion – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I started reading this trilogy a while back and felt I ought to see it through to the end. The story is one of the building blocks of the end of the war with the Yuzhong Vong, as Executor Nom Anor builds a new power base against Shimra, and Luke and friends find the sentient planet Zonama Sekot. Best of all, Tahiri Veila manages to consolidate her divided mind, combining her Vong self and her human half into one personality. Which is nice.

WARP The Reluctant Assassin – Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer seems to be on something good. Having rounded off the Artemis Fowl series in fine style (finishing the last book with the opening lines from the first…) he churned out two adult adventures with blood, gore and mayhem in them, and now has introduced a new partnership who travel the timelines to foil villains. It’s a complex YA tale, with multiple betrayals and about turns, but features a cameo from the Battering Rams, originally mentioned in “Airman“. It’s got a great lead in teen FBI agent Chevron Savano and her new partner, Victorian thief and the Reluctant Assassin of the title, Riley.

No One noticed the cat – Anne McCaffrey

I’d never heard of this little book, despite being a fan of Anne MacCaffrey for twenty years. It’s a short tale about a Prince having to take the reins of his domain after the death of his wise and kindly Regent. The Prince is assisted by the cat his Regent left behind, a creature that doesn’t speak, or write messages, but nonetheless inspires the Prince to be better than he thinks he is, and to remember the lessons he was taught. It’s gentle but engaging.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy – Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown became famous for his “Vader and Son” books, but this wonderfully illustrated story is more than just a send-up. It tells the story of Roan, who desperately wants to go to the Starfighter Pilot Academy like his Dad and older brother, but he is rejected. Lucky for him, he’s invited to the Jedi Academy instead, but it’s not what he wants, he’s older than the other kids there, and he’s not sure he’s got what it takes to be a Jedi.

This is, in fact, a story about going to a new school, and it’s done with charm, humour and compassion. And excellent drawings.

Shift – Hugh Howey

I wrote recently about how much I had enjoyed listening to “Wool“, the first in the Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey. Although that first volume comes to an end at an appropriate point, the story is far from over, and I had no doubt that I would get hold of the next in the series. “Shift” fills in some of the back story of the Silo, as well as moving on the current plot in a significant way. It answers a lot of questions about what Juliet finds in Silo 17 and the voices Bernard speaks to on the radio in the Server Room. Mrs Dim is currently working her way through the first book, and though she finds it compelling, the grim atmosphere is not helping to lighten her daily commute. I may have erred in recommending it to her…

Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi

I had heard that this book simply mirrored the events of “The Last Colony” by showing them from Zoe’s point of view (Zoe is a character in the other book, but she isn’t the narrator, as she is in this one). While I did find several events familiar, it was interesting to follow the course of the story from another angle, and Zoe’s adventure does depart significantly from the other characters’ at one point. Also, her first love being killed (Ooops! Spoilers, sorry!) has more impact in this book than in the other, as here we view it first hand, just like we watched their affection grow into love.

It still didn’t bring the overall story to the point talked about in “The Human Division”, which I found a little confusing. If any hardcore Scalzi fans out there who can tell me what I’m missing (When does John bring a Conclave fleet into Earth orbit? Which book?) it would be appreciated.

Dust – Hugh Howey

The trilogy continues and rounds off with Dust, but it’s not any happier or easier going than the other books. I remember reading these three books as you might remember swimming under water. There’s pressure and the terrible need to hold your breath and finally the relief as you break the surface. The last book is a flat out race to the finish and I was glad it ended satisfactorily. I’m not going to say more than that. It’s worth reading, just not pretty.

Gone Tomorrow – Lee Child

I wanted to give Jack Reacher another shot, since I found the last book gripping but alarming. He’s not much better in this one – a good detective, grim soldier and one man killing machine. In this book he ends up wading through gore to murder two people responsible for…well, other murders. So that’s all right then….

Many Bloody Return – Charlaine Harris et Al

A nice collection of short Urban Fantasy stories, all linked by a birthday theme. As ever, some worked better than others, and some struggled to qualify on the birthday theme or story theme. Some, I suspect, were simply adverts for longer series. I’m still not inspired to dive back into Urban Fantasy, though I did make an exception, as you’ll see in my next choice….

Bad Blood – Chuck Wendig

Bad Blood is the sequel to “Double Dead“, the first Chuck Wendig book I ever bought. Mixing up zombies and vampires still feels novel to me, and the fact that the vampire in the book is responsible for the zombie outbreak (or rather, some irresponsible humans who took his blood and experimented with it…) is even better. In this book our anti-hero is continuing his quest to find a lab with a cure, but instead encounters another vampire and some human children survivors. It’s a lot of blood, howling and fighting, but it’s Chuck Wendig, so it’s done with style.

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

This is an award-winning novel. Many, many people liked it. I was not one of them. It’s like the film “Dead Man” without the crowd pleasing comedy. It’s a funeral without the laughs. It’s less enjoyable than stabbing yourself in the leg with a fork.

Well, maybe that’s not fair. Like I said, all reviews are subjective, but I was annoyed by this book. It shows the life of a gunfighter who’s basically been browbeaten into the job by his older brother. They’re on a job that will turn out to be their last. I think I was annoyed by the passive nature of the narrator, his inability to act in any portion of the book, and , ultimately, the downbeat nature of the whole thing. I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Mrs Dim and I have been to Barcelona. It’s lovely, and well worth visiting. This book is set there, but ranges in time from the late fifties to the late thirties, and references politics in Spain during that time, something I’m not familiar with. However, the adventures are gripping, tense and ULTIMATELY REDEEMING. Did you hear that, deWitt? ULTIMATELY REDEEMING! I liked it.

Nothing O ‘Clock – Neil Gaiman

Can’t go wrong with Neil Gaiman writing Doctor Who. I read this the same week I went to see the 50th anniversary show. Seemed appropriate that this one featured Amy when the Ponds naturally couldn’t appear in the 50th (Because they’re time-locked back in 1940’s Manhattan, duh….)

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks

I was interested to see this book, having read “Imaginary Menot so long ago. This book, too, is written from the point of view of an imaginary friend, but this one is partner to a boy who is “on the spectrum”. Max has lots of difficulty with school, because of the noise, the physical contact and other things, but nothing prepares his friend Budo for the day when Max goes missing from school. Budo thinks he knows what happened to Max, but he can’t tell anyone, because no one but Max can hear him.

It’s a great story, carefully told, and turns out to be about more than just a kidnapping. It talks about life and death and sacrifice, as well as growing up and what that means. It was quite a book.

Finally, the other book I’ve been reading and editing isEddie and the Kingdom“. There’s no link to that yet, because it isn’t going to be published for another week or so. If you’d like a sneak peek, you can find the first draft of the first couple of chapters inTroubled Souls“, still on sale for the bargain price of $1.99. If you’ve already readTroubled Souls“, why not put up your own review on Amazon.com? If you do, ask me for an advance copy ofEddie and the Kingdomfor FREE!

Books of October

I've read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month...

I’ve read a frightening number of Doctor Who books this month…

The actual number of books this month looks more impressive than it really is – several titles are individual Doctor Who stories in the Anniversary series, but they’re not really whole books – just short stories. However, since they’re packaged individually and written by different authors, I’ve given them a slot each.

The Meek – Brad Poynter

I mentioned Brad Poynter’s book in a previous post, and intended to give it a solo review. It’s a fun piece, a type of sci-fi that people don’t often attempt anymore. One day, everyone around the world (as far as we know) gets shrunk to miniscule size. Household pets become deadly predators, and getting from one room to another – or even getting up or down furniture – is a major expedition. Our protagonist is a teenage boy, trapped at home with his mother and desperately worried about his girlfriend who lives next door.

The story races along at tremendous pace. There’s no let up for the characters as everything is hard and dangerous as they search for a place that’s safe from animals, but presents food and water accessible to tiny people. The “Why?” isn’t considered for a long time, but that’s fine because you only get philosophical about things when you know where your next meal is coming from.

I was sorry this was the only the first in a series because I wanted to get all the answers, but I’ll be buying the next one as soon as it appears.

Halo: The Thursday War – Karen Traviss

A resurgence of Halo playing on my PC (Eldest Weasel decided to try it out, which meant I started playing again too…) got me curious about this new release. I like Karen’s books, being a fan of the Star Wars Commandos and Clones books she’s produced. However, I got the impression that I had missed the volume that comes before this one – I didn’t know most of the characters, and the situation was already half-developed. If I can find the one that comes first, I may go back and try it out.

Emerald City Blues – Peter Smalley

This was an e-book I’ve been promising myself for a while. Part PI novella, part spellcaster book, it’s all action and hard-boiled dialogue. Once again, it’s the introduction to a series, but it’s nicely written with good internal logic and interesting characters. I’ll be back for more.

The Last Colony – John Scalzi

One of my favourite audio books is “Old Man’s War”. I have it on Kindle too, as well as  the sequel “Ghost Brigades”, but I’d never picked up this third in the series. It was nice to hear from the protagonist John Perry again, along with his unusual wife, ex-special forces soldier Jane, and their adopted daughter. As before, the politics of living in a multi-species galaxy drives a complex plot, but the essence of the book is that John and Jane are given command of a colony world and have to make it work despite indigenous life forms, intransigent colonists and, ultimately, alien invasion.

Unless I’m completely mistaken, I still don’t think that this book quite brings the reader up to the point where the latest book “The Human Division” opens, so maybe I’ll look up “Zoe’s Tale”, which purports to be the daughter’s view of events. It may go further….

Dr Who: Tip of the Tongue – Patrick Ness

I’m really enjoying this series of stories, giving each incarnation of The Doctor a new adventure. This story – about an alien race existing on Earth and being sold as fashion accessories that only speak the truth – had a real Whovian feel to it.

The Map of Time – Felix J Palmer

I’ve read a few books on Jack the Ripper, so his inclusion in this book that was supposedly about Time Travel was intriguing. However, overall I was a little disappointed. The book can be divided into three parts, each section dealing with a different (but connected) main character and situation. Each involves time travel, and each one used the same gimmick. I don’t want to give too much away, but halfway through the second section, I was thinking “If this works out like the first one, I’ll be really annoyed…”

I was really annoyed.

Dr Who: Something Borrowed – Richelle Mead

Despite him being on TV when I was growing up, I don’t remember much about the sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) but this story was entertaining and fit the Whovian universe nicely, drawing in old characters and putting them in feasible (in a Doctor Who sense) situations.

Dr Who: The Ripple Effect – Malorie Blackman

I haven’t read the award winning “Noughts and Crosses”, so I was looking forward to this short as an introduction to Malorie Blackman’s writing. Sadly, days later, I can’t remember anything about it. Even looking at the cover in front of me, I can’t for the life of me think what “The Ripple Effect” was about.

Dr Who: Spore – Alex Scarrow

I can remember this one alright – Spore was grim sci-fi, with invasion and destruction and soldiers sent in to investigate getting digested in the streets. However, the realisation that Alex Scarrow was also responsible for the Halo Jones knock-off “The Legend of Ellie Quinn” took some of the shine off for me…

The Purloined Number – Jenn Thorson

I was glad to finally get my hands on the second in Jenn’s trilogy of GCU sci-fi comedies. In a world of hard sci-fi, Jenn is taking a much more human and imaginative approach, making her Greater Communicating Universe more about the characters in it, than about the physics that allows them to travel between the stars. Better yet, her Earthman snatched from his home and dumped amongst the madness in the first book has found his feet and is starting to be a proactive protagonist. After years of watching poor old Arthur Dent wander bewildered through a wonderful Galaxy, it’s great to see Betram decide to go sightseeing, to cash in his fame for real money and use it to buy his own ship – to make the most of his opportunity now he’s offplanet. Of course, there’s also the little matter of the theft of the number three and his erstwhile friend and captor Rollie Tsmorlood to “help out”… But that’s life in the good old GCU.

Dr Who: The Beast of Babylon – Charlie Higson

I’m really glad that Charlie Higson is having so much success as a novelist. Taking on Young James Bond right out of the gate must have been daunting, even for a seasoned comedy writer, but his quartet (quintet?) of zombie novels set in England are particularly good. This adventure featuring the Ninth Doctor has the right blend of humour, horror and lesson-learning, and has the nice touch of being set between the Tardis dematerialising after Rose has decided not to travel with the Doctor at the end of the first episode, and then rematerialising for him to say “Did I mention I can travel in time too?”. The whole book takes place in the space of two seconds of screen time….

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

This book has slid over my desk at the library several times, and the picture on the front was enticing. However, it was a while before I got hold of a copy not being held for someone else, and discovered that the author used found photographs to illustrate his bizarre tale. Be warned – this is a magical tale of time loops and VERY peculiar children, and there are monsters. It’s also the first in a series that promises to be very engaging, but who knows how long we have to wait for book two? (Edit: Book 2 comes out in January 2014 – “Hollow City”)

Live and Let Drood – Simon R Green

There are some books that you keep reading because you just can’t believe they are the way they are. This was one of those. By page five I was heartily sick of the word “Drood”, which is a shame because it is mentioned on every page. Every. Single. Page. The lead character is Edwin Drood, and his entire family has either been killed or transported to another dimension. He’s not sure which, but someone is going to pay. Because he’s a Drood. And his family were Droods. And now he’s the last Drood. And vengeance is something that Droods do. Can you see how annoying it is?

Add in the fact that there are so many shadowy, magical and mystical organisations and rogues, that it makes you wonder if anyone in the whole world is actually NORMAL. Not werewolf, sorceror, half angel, witch, wizard, warlock or whatever, just a regular person….Anyway, after this, there’s another book. It doesn’t have the word Drood in the title, but I’m willing to bet that’s the only page that doesn’t have it.

Devil May Care – Sebastian Faulks

I read the original Bond books at the behest of Mrs Dim, many, many years ago. They were good, in a grim, 1960’s way, and I much preferred the lighter and less complex Modesty Blaise series. However, Faulks has captured the tone and pace of the original books and combined them with a convincing and gripping Cold War plot that works well.

Dr Who: The Mystery of the Haunted Cottage – Derek Landy

Although I’m a huge fan of the Tenth Doctor, and Landy caught his mannerisms well, I didn’t take to the story. It was a good decision to pair the Doctor with Martha, rather than the more ratings-grabbing Rose or Donna, but the “falling-into-a-story” plotline was hard work to explain and escape from. Fun for the dialogue and well-written, but not my favourite of the series.

And of course, I’ve also read my own book several times this month – “Tribute”.

The story of a teenage girl trying to find her own way to grow as a songwriter while coping with the death of the man she thought of as her father and come to terms with a man who might be her biological father. It’s more fun than it sounds. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the death and stuff?

Available now from Amazon stores around the world, you can find it on Amazon US HERE , Amazon Canada HERE, and Amazon UK HERE .

I think next month I’ll be balancing out all this Doctor Who with some good old fashioned Star Wars books, and I’ll be recovering from Halloween with some comedies and fun stuff. or maybe some cerebral non-fiction again. Coming up soon, I intend to take a whole month to investigate the appeal of the Harlequin-style romance novels (Mills and Boon, to you UK readers…) and then try and write my own within a month. Title suggestions below, please….

Books of September

Fall seems an appropriate time to leaf through some new books…

Ok, maybe I’ll start that again.

Kate and Lily in leaves

This Fall image comes pre-loaded with cute – but has nothing to do with books. Sorry.

Now the long days of summer have passed, there actually seems to be less time for reading. I blame this more on the fact that I started the month with huge brick of a book by George R R someone-or-other which took up quite a bit of time, as well as sapping enthusiasm for fantasy epics. Well, let’s get to the list:

A Feast For Crows – George RR Martin

I really wasn’t going to get into the Game of Thrones. Really. Honestly didn’t want to. But then there was all the flap over the Red Wedding, so I wanted to catch up with that. And then Tyrion goes and…well, I won’t drop THAT bombshell if you haven’t got there yet, but suffice to say I wanted to know what happened next.

But Feast For Crows is a bit mean. GRRM says (at the end, helpfully) that he was a long way into it when he realised it was too much for one book, and rather than only tell half the story for everyone, he decided to tell the whole story for half the characters. Thus it was that, halfway through the book, I was wondering why we hadn’t heard from so-and-so, or thingummy. Because they were in the next book, that’s why.

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Star Wars : Force Heretic Remnant – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I thought this might be one of the many Star Wars Yuzhong Vong War books I had on audio but failed to listen to all the way through. It turns out it isn’t. None of this stuff is familiar, but it has got more of the story of Tahiri Veila between the death of Anakin Solo and the rise of Darth Cadeus. And if you don’t know what any of that means, then you have lots and lots to read before you can pick up this book.

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A Dance With Dragons – George RR Martin

Like “Feast for Crows”, but the other half. And then a bit more, and just when you think you’re sure who’s going to come out on top, there’s another brutal stabbing. Not HIM…. I swear, I’m not reading the next one, just flipping to the last page in the bookstore.

How to tame an out of control writing project in 20 steps – R. Lynn Cole

I picked this book up because of a piece of self-promotion on G+ and it was well-worth it. R.Lynn Cole has some great ideas about getting the harder aspects of writing done. Editing is the thing I hate most, and because of that I avoid it, or do it badly. It’s like my weasels and math homework. Anyway, her method sounds good, and it’s something I haven’t tried before, so I’ll be giving it a go on the next book I’m going to publish (My YA book, that was called “Tribute” but now needs a new title along with everything else. I hear one word titles are big this year. Any suggestions? The heroine is a singer songwriter with parental issues. Something about harmony would be ACE…) I seriously recommend this book if you’ve reached the end of your first draft and you’re facing the long uphill slog of editing.

Surfacing – Jim McGregor and Natasha Jones

I gave Surfacing its own blog post here.

The Last Jedi – Michael Reeves and Maaya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

This is a neat Star Wars book. It springs from a series that’s almost Star Wars PI, with an ex-Jedi trying to hide out from Darth Vader just after Order 66, but doing it on Coruscant, while still doing the kind of things that Jedi do – help the helpless, uphold the good and the right etc etc. The characters are interesting and the plot fits into the SW universe, as you’d expect. Have a look at the first in the series : Jedi Twilight, Coruscant Nights Vol.1

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Star Wars: Force Heretic Refugee – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I’m just going to say “Yuzhong Vong” again, only this time I also get to mention the Srri Ruuk and Bakura. Honestly, I’m not making this stuff up. I’m looking forward to getting through the third book to fill in the gaps in my own memory about the search for Zonama Sekot and Tahiri’s journey from Jedi apprentice to knight, to Vong, to Jedi and then to Sith. And then back to Jedi. Sort of.

What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite – David DiSalvo

I don’t read as many non-fic books as I’d like to, but working at the library means I see a lot of great-looking ones, most of which promise to improve things, or reduce things, or increase things. This one tells you a lot about why your brains prompts you to do or like things that aren’t always the best for you, and why there’s nothing you can do about them. For example, our brains “like” the feeling of being right, so they will add weight to your certainty on something because it “feels” right. Doesn’t mean it is right.

There were some interesting points. One chapter showed that people will quickly follow on if one person in an office environment starts to point the finger of blame at someone else. However, if all the people in the office are invited to write down (ie, express) their own values, then they are far less likely to act in such a negative way – we want to live up to the ideals we’ve expressed, but only because we’ve expressed them. There’s some great content here, written in a very accessible style. Just not a lot of practical help, or not enough to balance the bad news.

I’ve also been reading “The Meek” by Brad Poynter, another previous post subject. Unfortunately, due to some technical glitch, the book isn’t showing up on my Kindle, and I’m having to read it on my phone. That seems ironic, since the story deals with everyone in the world suddenly shrinking, and I’m having to read it on a tiny screen…. Full review next month, I promise.

August reads: Summer distractions

It’s funny to think that two thirds of the year has gone by since I began recording my reading habits. I may have mentioned before, this is something I’ve done from time to time to see if I re-read as often as I think I do, but working at the library has skewed the results a little – I now see and have access to books every day, whereas before I was dropping into the library once or twice a week.

This month included some of the hottest weather we’ve had since coming to Canada, and also a trip to Osoyoos, where there was a good deal of sitting around on beaches and reading. It was supposed to be sitting around on beaches and writing, but it was sunny and relaxing and…..

Anyway, what books did I read this month?

The Blue BlazesChuck Wendig

This year Chuck Wendig has been producing books like some magicians produce doves or those weird sponge balls. By which I mean prolifically, and without pause or seeming effort. This is one I got my hands on, and it’s….Well, look: Chuck doesn’t write the same thing twice. His “Double Dead” vampire/zombies book is not like his “Blackbirds” paranormal/psychic horror, or his gritty realism “Shotgun Gravy”, and I suspect that none of those will be like his Dystopian Sci-fi piece “Under the Empyrean Sky”. The Blue Blazes is one of those “Hidden in your city is another side of life” books, but done in a unique Chuck Wendig style. Hell is a real place, unexpectedly encountered by city workers digging water tunnels, and, to some extent, now policed by a secret cabal of those workers. Except our protagonist is no longer part of that, but working for some bad guys. I’m explaining badly, because the best thing to do with this book is take it on faith, jump right in and keep reading, because everything is explained, everything becomes clear and the ride to get to that point is SOOOOOOO worth it.

The Affair – Lee Child

I loved the outrage of Reacher fans over the casting of Tom Hanks…excuse me, Tom CRUISE as their hero, but I hadn’t actually encountered the books before. This one slid across the library desk, and I saw it was about early Reacher adventures, though it’s number 16 in the series. I enjoyed it, but found the actual murder of several characters hard to take. Reacher is in Military Intelligence, from what I can gather, but does that give him carte blanche to execute individuals, rather than gather evidence and bring them to trial? Not sure I’ll be trying more of these…

The Android’s Dream – John Scalzi

It’s no secret I’m a big Scalzi fan, and I was delighted to find this book. It’s a little hard-going at times, since the plot isn’t straightforward, but it’s another story of Earth finding its place in the universe amongst bigger and badder races. There’s some bizarre genetic twists in the story too, and a couple of truly unexpected moments, but the resolution is typically Scalzi and very satisfying.

Screwed – Eoin Colfer

After reading (and mostly enjoying) “Plugged” last month, I was delighted to find the sequel is already available. This novel follows the continued adventures of Daniel McEvoy, now owner of his club, but still butting heads with the local mob. Worse still, the hold he had over the mob boss has just died of natural causes (well, lightning…) and now to stay alive he has to do just one little job and everything is fine. Yeah, right. As before there’s a pile of bodies and a lot of wrecked cars and knuckles before the end of the book. It’s bloody stuff, but worth the read.

Chicks Kick Butt – Rachel Caine and Kerry L Hughes

My reading list wouldn’t be complete without at least one short story collection. These were all stories with strong female protagonists, but also all belonged in the Urban Fantasy genre. As a result, many of the opening lines had me rolling my eyes, as I think I’m pretty much done with shapeshifters, half-angels, demon hunters etc etc. Until the next really good story comes along, of course. But if you like Urban Fantasy, there’s plenty to enjoy in this collection. And plenty of butt gets kicked.

The Gravity Pilot – MM Buckner

For a Sci-Fi fan, I don’t do a lot of “hard” sci fi. This book was hard going at times, but it was interesting and very different, as well as being futuristic without being too far removed from the world we live in. A kid who loves skydiving pulls off a particularly impressive dive, filming it all the way. The video hits the net and goes viral and he’s picked up by a firm that makes the equipment he uses. They are going to pay him to jump, his dream come true. But there’s a more sinister side to the parent company, and they’re using the new trend for skydiving vids to feed a more insidious tech habit. The boy has to become more than just a skydiver to rescue the girl he loves from a horrible fate.

Fighting to Survive – Rihannon Frater

The second in the series “As the World Dies”, the first of which was part of last month’s reading (The First Days). The group inside the Fort are trying to take control of the big hotel, to give themselves living space, but it’s still infested with zombies. Clearing out the hotel will cost them lives, but give them a chance to start living, not just surviving. Which leads on to….

Siege – Rihannon Frater

…The third book! The discovery of another major group of survivors should be a good thing, but the leaders of the other group are flat-out insane, talking about turning the womenfolk into breeders and trying to tell Texans that Big Government is the only solution to the Zombie Apocalypse. Might as well try and take their guns away. Be prepared for more death and undead moaning, as the Good Guys in the Fort have to defend themselves against the largest Zombie Horde ever, as well as rescue old friends and new from the doomed Shopping Mall group.

The Fault in our stars – John Green

In case you don’t know, or in case your library doesn’t do this, at BPL we have the “Speed Reads”. These are new, popular books that cannot be reserved, can only be taken out for one week and cannot be renewed. There’s a dollar a day fine for being overdue. This means that some books (Like “The Cuckoo’s Calling”, which has 157 holds on 25 copies – at 28 days per person…) can be found on the shelf, read and returned before the hold on the regular copy would ever reach the top of the list.

I mention this because that’s where I found this book. I might never have considered it otherwise. It’s a strange book to recommend, because it’s the story of a girl with cancer, who meets a boy who had cancer in a cancer support group. They fall in love and travel to meet an author the girl has idolised for years. That sounds lovely, but this book will not just tug on your heartstrings, it attaches your heartstrings to a moving truck, then invites a family of gorillas to play on your heartstrings like a jungle gym. I was a complete mess by the end of it, but very glad I read it.

The Redemption of Althalus – David and Leigh Eddings

I’m skipping the picture, because The Redemption of Althalus got its own mini-review in the previous post. If you loved “The Belgariad” and read all of “The Mallorean”, then “Belgarath” and “Polgara” and STILL didn’t feel like you’d had enough, try this book. It’s in the same style, has a central character who could be Belgarath and covers much of the same ground.

Only Superhuman – Christopher L Bennett

I saw this book go by twice at work before I got hold of it. Yes, I judge a book by its cover, that’s what they’re FOR. This one does exactly what it says on the tin, regaling the reader with the adventures (and origin story) of a superhuman flame-haired temptress who does everything with passion and strength. Everything.

There’s a lot of political stuff, and lots of space-habitat physics, which are all nicely explained in the appendices at the end, which I didn’t notice until I had finished reading the story. To be fair, I understood enough to follow the track of events and know who to cheer for, and I was satisfied with the way the story played out. I wish I’d paid more attention to the tiny dateline at the start of each chapter, though, because the first time we plunged into history to explore the central character’s backstory, I was completely non-plussed. Maybe I’m just stupid.*

So, that’s my reading for August. As ever, I’ve skipped over the audio books I’m enjoying, though one of those was JK Rowling’s…excuse me, ROBERT GALBRAITH’S “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. It’s an excellent detective story, and worth checking out whatever your opinion of the author, the story behind the release or whatever. Next month the kids are back to school, I have more library shifts and I have to finish writing my own novella. It’s nearly done now, which means it’s nearly time to do the editing and design the cover etc etc.  I’ll also be on the lookout for beta-readers, so any volunteers, either email me or leave contact details in the comments below.

As usual, I’ve stolen all the illustrations for this piece from Amazon, but on the other hand, I’ve also supplied links for all the books mentioned, so it’s all free publicity for them. I’m nice that way. If you’d rather I used YOUR pictures for something, leave your contact details in the comments below.

*This is a popular theory in my house.