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.

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Emerald Sea (The Glittering Court #3) by Richelle Mead

“The Temptation was overwhelming. I wanted to tell her and Mira both, to let out all the pent-up emotion that had tormented me these long months. And I wanted to clear the space between us.”

Finally the third instalment of the Glittering Court trilogy has found its way into my hands, thanks to my favourite book lender, the amazing Nicki. I think I should preface her name with “the amazing” from now on. Anyway, I had been counting down until this fictional fantasy flew my way and I wasn’t disappointed. I stayed up til 1:30am to finish it. It was cold and I was feeling a little lonely and so it seemed perfectly reasonable to lose myself in the world of Tamsin, Mira and Adelaide.

This final novel is from the perspective of, the possibly too good to be true, Tamsin. While she works super diligently she hides a scandalous personal secret that could bring her Glittering Court efforts to naught. Her desire to finish on top also has the potential to alienate.

Off she travels, after a bit of a stoush with Mira and Adelaide, on a separate boat to secure a proposal and the weather, it seems, has different ideas. Shipwrecked in foreign lands, Tamsin’s dreams of providing for Merry seem untenable. Despite the worst that one local woman threatens her with, her new formed friendships with the saintly Gideon Stewart and the rough and tumble, Jago Robinson will provide new sources of adventure.

Join Tamsin on her journey out of the wilderness and into….well, now, that would be telling wouldn’t it. Someone just has to buy the film rights to this series. The opportunity for three gorgeous and interesting female leads should be investigated.

5 out of 5 emerald really is the only green I can wear.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

"Taking down the target is easy; it's doing so swiftly, silently and without collateral damage that's difficult."

If you loved the tv series Killing Eve as much as I did, then you are going to love the source material. This rather slim volume contains non-stop action and a welcome return to the intense world of female assassin, Oxana, otherwise known as Villanelle.

Whether she's executing her kills with a hair clip or kitchen equipment, Villanelle is one scary lady and a particularly effective assassin. Who she works for is more of a mystery and one that serves to drive the novel into the territory of potential sequels.

While the story is far more developed in the small screen version, this novel more than holds its own. I wonder if I would feel the same about the book, had I not seen the tv series. I guess I'll never know.

This was the perfect remedy for my post races hangover - it turns out one can really have to much french champagne.. just ask my stomach. 

I see that a sequel is in the works and due for publication next year.

5 out of 5 dangerous women can do anything.

Snap by Belinda Bauer

"Jack didn't want to play. But he also didn't have the words to tell her that their mother was dead."

I'm one of those people who want to read all the potential Booker prize winners before the announcement, just so that I can make my own mind up. With that in mind, I eagerly secured a copy of this novel, due to its inclusion in the longest, and got cracking reading it. I finished it in under a weekend and it makes for a thrilling and easy read. That being said, I have notes.

The writing has great pace, and yet seems like predictable, crime-thriller, beach-read in substance. It is procedural in nature and the cops are the least well rounded characters in the story.

The climate of fear is well established and the character of Jack, the child whose pregnant mother is killed, is perhaps the most intriguing character. In any case, the action maintained my interest as I sped through the pages.

So if you are a fan of crime thrillers you will undoubtedly enjoy this one. Just don't expect prose that will completely rock your world.

4 out of 5 custom made knives should serve as a red flag.