Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

"But he was also curious. And in Paul Spencer Wagoner there seemed to be  a lot to be curious about."

Number 3 is the book which has served to re-ignite the flame of my enthusiasm for this continuing series. Certainly the last book just felt like an expository blimp, a necessary back filler before things got interesting and didn’t they what! Talking beagles! Yes, you read that correctly.

How would you cope with a talking beagle?  Would you be species-ist?
Last book we saw the troubled trolls being beaten up by hideous human steppers, however in this book, they are more likely to be signing and that’s never a bad thing. **POTENTIAL SPOILERS**

Yellowstone has erupted, most of datum Earth have escaped across the Long Earth by stepping and a new species of wunderkind is emerging from happy landings. This is epic stuff and I was enthralled – so much so that I haven’t got enough sleep in the past few days trying to finish this delightful tome while burdened with the rest of life’s annoying responsibilities.

The Long Mars has crabs – and not just any crustaceans – these creatures are enormous and hold a grudge.

Sally’s continuing journey of exploration with her father provides drama, thrills and spills and let us not forget the billionaire Mr Black’s quest for eternal youth in the edges of the alternate universes. So much is going on here and yet it works, seamlessly and brilliantly. The tension, particularly generated by the fear of the Next, is building and horrifyingly, for this reader, she will just have to wait for the next release which just can’t come soon enough.

5 out of 5 steppers take a leap.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto


"For some reason I keep getting connected to men who have something to do with plants"

Yet again I am grateful to the 1001 books list for delivering another delightful literary gem. Short and tasty, featuring a kitchen loving protagonist there is something really unique about this tiny pink book's voice. Perhaps it is the translation from the Japanese which sets it apart.

Dreams,kitchen, death, love and confusion. This is a peek into a very different life. Bereft and lost after her grandmother's death the protagonist moves in with the Tanabe family - the boy who used to work in her grandmother's flower shop and his transsexual parent.

The book is rounded out with a final very short tale entitled 'moonlight shadow', a tale of love and bells.

5 out of 5 the kitchen is the best room in the house.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead

"Part of her wanted to believe she needed no more divine assistance"

I've been a fan of the work of Ms Mead for quite some time and was eager to devour the latest instalment of the Age of X series. My recollections of the first novel were a little hazy, diffused somewhat by the passage of time. This was, perhaps, the reason why it took so long to get into this latest iteration.

The first half of the novel took an absolute age for me to finish and I wonder if this was due to the long break between reads. The action certainly beefs up in the second half, which definitely re-ignited my interest in the story. Mae's mission, the impact of the gods and the pacts that are being established made for an intriguing tale which, unsurprisingly, sets the scene for more adventures to come. Did I mention I'm a fan of Mae?  Yes, bring on the next one - let's hope Richelle can finish it quickly.

4 out of 5 praetorian guards look good in black.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Look who's back by Timur Vermes

"It is a popular misconception that a F├╝hrer needs to know everything"

Adolph Hitler wakes up Rip Van Winkle style in 2011, cue political satire. It is a concept ripe with comic promise, and yet it leaves a rather nasty taste in one's mouth. There's something quite icky about almost feeling sorry for one of history's horrific characters. 
The tongue in cheek jokes wear thin after a while. Hitler, becomes a TV show celebutard through you tube exposure, It is black humour all the way, but I can't help feeling something got lost in translation from the German, as I was pretty much unimpressed.
There was the odd titter here and there, but not enough to keep me engaged for the entire novel.

I read this in time for its appearance on the First Tuesday Book Club tonight - it will be interesting to hear what their reviewers have to say. I wonder if they will be more effusive? I doubt it. There's still something, all a bit too soon about this.

3 out of 5 - let's not talk about the war.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

"So Joshua found himself sitting with Sister Agnes reincarnate, in a shabby coffee shop in Madison West 5."

It has been a long time between drinks, but I was compelled to move this sequel to the top of my “to read” pile due to the imminent arrival of the next edition of the saga. I had forgotten how entertaining the premise of multiple world stepping could be. It’s a brilliant mix with the satire and sci-fi and did I mention there are trolls – not the kind on the internet either!

Another reason to expedite my return to the land of the Long Earth for a bit of Long War, was the fact that my friend Nicki had just completed reading the first instalment and her enthusiasm was infectious.

My friend, Wikipedia, tells me that this is the 2nd in a series of 5 novels, the third of which was only just published and is probably somewhere en-route through the mail network, winding its way to my post box from book depository. I imagine there is some robotic evil overlord working for them that is compelling me to spend all my cash on new books ( stop it you!).

Now, back to the book. Well, I confess my memories of the first instalment, while positive, remain a little foggy by distance and so I’ve had to acclimatise with the characters once again. That done, it seems the destructive path of man is such that stepping all over the universe is done with a heavy boot and some damaging consequences. This is particularly highlighted when the Chinese research team is creating planets with genetically modified produce and strange anomalies like the Butterfly Planet – the reference to chaos theory suggesting that catastrophic events cannot be far away.

Ultimately, this just left me clamouring for a little more, lucky the sequel isn't too far away.

let me see you 1,2, step... 4 out of 5.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

As Luck Would have It by Derek Jacobi

"It was all a ghastly mistake."

I remember becoming a fan of Derek Jacobi in year 12, when we watched snippets of I, Claudius as part of our studies. I ran off to hire the entire series (probably in video at the time). That seems like, well it actually was, a long time ago, but my admiration for his acting has only increased. I am a massive fan of Vicious  which i find an acerbic delight.

Here, in his memoir, Jacobi begins with his early life, his entree into acting and some tasty little morsels from his life on the stage and screen. His manner is engaging, it is somewhat akin to sitting down to tea with an intriguing speaker who has lived and eventful life but remains somewhat self deprecatory.

Jacobi has worked with some absolute luminaries of the acting profession including Maggie Smith, Sir  Laurence Olivier, Peter O'Toole, and Ian McKellen to name just a few. This along with working around the world, acquiring knighthoods from his native England and from Denmark, makes for a deep well of interesting stories from which this book is drawn.

5 out of 5, I'd love to hang out with Derek and hear the stories that couldn't be printed.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Widow Clicquot The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J Mazzeo

"For more than 130 years, no woman would lead the champagne house that Barbe-Nicole had built from its origins as a family business to one of the world's great commercial legends."

How remiss of me, I forgot to tell you about this book I finished a few days ago. I'd been intrigued by the cover last year and had actually bought a copy for a friend for their birthday. It took time for me to pop the cork and see what unravelled, and it was an exploration I'm glad I took.

Certainly, this is not the most sexy, exciting or engaging non fiction book I have ever read, yet it delves into a compelling story - the woman behind the brand, the widow Clicquot whose handwriting graces the bottles that so many of us, myself included, have sampled.

French champagne is one of the delights in life and this book gets into the nitty gritty of the products commercial origins amid a sea of upheaval and the bloody French revolution and Napoleonic wars.
It is undoubtedly a tale well told, however, i felt the lack of closer personal insight, due in most part to the inaccessibility of first hand accounts of the time, particularly those of a woman, and what a woman she was.

Achieving unheard of success in a tumultuous industry such as that of the vigneron is one thing, but to do so as a woman at a time when their prospects relied solely on marriage is simply astounding. In that way, Barbe-Nicole inspires fervent admiration, however the manner in which she retreated to the more accepted social norms of the time, marrying her daughter off and passing on the reigns to the males of the family, left me a little sad.

4 out of 5 bubbles, the french stuff, the only ones I drink.