Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Emperor Mage, The Immortals III by Tamora Pierce


"This close, the reek of mush and dead made it hard for the girl to breathe."

The third instalment is where things get really exciting. I was sitting on the train seething that I hadn't brought the next book with me to continue the journey - such bad planning on my part. This one has battles, storm wings, rats, gods, goddesses , you name it, Pierce delivers.
Heading to the realm of the evil Emperor to broker peace might seem like a fool's errand. How bad can a guy be who really loves his birds? They are sick and need help from Daine. Is this just a ploy? Who is the hag? What is going on? Will all the furry friends survive? Is someone really crucial to the plot going to die? Oh my goodness, so much going on! This is an intense read and so good. I cannot wait for the next one but unfortunately started a different novel in the interim - awkward.

5 out of 5 storm wings smell rather hideously.

Wolf-Speaker, The Immortals Book II, by Tamora Pierce

"A wolf's nature is opposed to mine, but that does not make wolves evil."

I must admit to absolutely flying through this second instalment of the Immortals series. Daine is called upon by the wolf pack she met earlier. Something is amiss and they need her help. Mining opals has the potential to put everyone at risk and Daine and friends must take on the combined might of the Lord and Lady of Dunlaith who appear to want to use their magical powers to overthrow the King. Things are getting serious, such that the charming Maura, Lady Yolane's little sister, is prepared to run away to resist the evil plans of her sister and her husband.
There's a dragon, Daine finds some new powers, basically it is all very captivating and I suggest you start reading now, or when you have a spare moment.

5 out of 5 times at Chinese New Year, I'm glad I'm a Dragon.

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

"Her hand was locked around something — a large animal's claw, or a semblance of one."

Sometimes you crack the pages of a series and think, I"m totally not going to be on board for this one. I don't need another fantasy saga in my life. In this, quite deluded state, you persevere, disregarding your initial thoughts that someone that speaks to animals and isn't Dr Doolittle won't hold your interest. This is a mistake because you will fall victim to the powers of this saga.
I''ve not had a decent night's sleep in the three days that I've read the three books in the series.
As such, I'm struggling to recall which events sit within which novel, however, I will give it a red, hot go.

It took a while for me to warm to the character of Daine (or her full name Veralidaine Sarrasi), but once in, I was in for good.Being of questionable parentage and feeling different due to her ability to connect with animals, Daine lives very much in the fringes until she meets the master mage Numair and her adventures begin. Have I mentioned there's a badger god in the mix. I refuse to spoil it for you, hurry up and rustle up a copy, you won't be disappointed.

Yes, I know its young adult fiction, so what. We all remain young adults at heart.

5 out of 5 talking badgers are compelling.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Night Sessions by Ken Macleod

"Drew Warsaw was the man, the king of the silent scene. He stood in the pulpit of the Liquid Cosh dance club and looked over a couple of hundred bopping heads."

Sometimes you read a blurb and get rather excited that this book could be the one. By the one, I mean a book that will deliver on its promise of entertainment. Upon reading the synopsis for this book, I was rather intrigued to get my teeth into the novel, so to speak.

It begins promisingly with space elevators and such and somewhere along the line,  I just lost interest. At that point it just became an exercise in getting through the pages so that I could finish and move on to something more entertaining - don't you hate when you read like that? I certainly do. More rational beings would just set the book aside, but I, I like to finish.

Perhaps my issue stems from a surfeit of religious fundamentalists on the daily news, and suggesting that the need for fictional ones is lessened somehow. Certainly, I just had very little interest in the story post the first couple of chapters which posed some interesting questions about Artificial Intelligence taking on a belief system, which is an intriguing conceit.

At least I ticked off another  novel from the Guardian's 1000 novels  you must read list - you know my penchant for lists by now, surely.

3 out of 5 religious zealots can be rather tedious.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw

“It was thrilling to chat with people she barely knew, and she began to imagine what some of them might be like — rich, handsome, successful.”

A gorgeous rich tapestry of stories that was a delight. I don't know if its because I recently read all the Crazy Rich Asians  books, or that I just got back from Hong Kong, but I feel like there's something captivating about Asia as a literary setting and I'm actively seeking out novels from that continent at the moment.

I particularly liked this one because it brought people from various countries together in the fast-paced surrounds of Shanghai, all with a view to achieve wealth and success.
The characters are beautifully expressed and I was particularly unhappy when the novel ended as I just wanted to keep on reading about this lives.

A place of reinvention, high highs and low lows. That makes for entertaining drama. The depiction of Phoebe's dating experiences was written so eloquently- hence my selection of the quote affixed above.

It has taken a while for me to become acquainted with this tome, even though it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, and I look forward to reading more by Tash Aw.

5 out of 5, self help books sometimes pan out.

A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

"And the hawk, alert to every movement, returned their stares until they turned away and passed on."

Life is pretty grim for our poor protagonist, Billy Casper in a poor English mining village. His one joy is tending for the kestrel that he has stolen from its nest. School is hell, and home isn’t much better. This is not the kind of read that will cheer you up my friends. Thankfully it is a very quick read, as I am currently not in the mood for suffering of any kind. Right now I love fiction that transports me to other worlds or happier ones at any rate.

His mother is powerless, his father is absent, and his brother is a horror. In fact, reading about his brother just made me super angry. Not crazily so as I was sitting in the GP’s office and apparently my blood pressure is just fine thanks for asking.

I’m waffling, aren’t I? I think this novel brilliantly captures a torturous upbringing and a feeling of being without options. The sense of purpose and joy posed by a pet brings only momentary respite and as you might imagine, and the ending did not inspire further joy. Having done such a brilliant job of writing this novel, I probably owe the writer the full five star rating and yet, it left me so glum that I had to deduct a point.

4 out of 5 birds can sometimes make you soar.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

“Still, when you get to a certain age, and have created your own lifestyle and social standing, and only then start having grave doubts about your value as a human being.” 

My first thoughts upon closing this gorgeous book of seven stories were expressed on the Goodreads website thusly: “His stories speak to the hidden loss, struggles and longings that hide deep behind men’s eyes. A vulnerability that reminds us we’re all just troubled humans deep down.”

A touching selection of short stories that can't help but have an emotional impact. There's something about Murakami's writing that transports you to a more interesting world than the grey, boring, mundane one that we spend our working weeks in.

5 out of 5 - I just want more Murakami please.