Sunday, 31 March 2013

Artemis Fowl and The Eternity Code - Eoin Colfer

"The sonic blast from Butler's grenade had crashed through the kitchen door, sweeping aside stainless-steel implements like stalks of grass."

Child criminal genius Artemis Fowl is back for adventure number three. He has mellowed slightly under the positive influence of the LEP and due to the return of his much changed father. The family credo of "Gold is power" is called into question and the more broader question of whether Artemis will become a hero is posed.

A delightfully evil villain in the form of Jon Spiro and his evil kiwi bodyguard are about to stir things up for the tween protagonist on his "one last" jaunt in the world of crime.

Colfer transforms mythical creatures into kick-ass ones as fairies and dwarfs take on hit men and hi-tech security systems. 

As always, these little adventures prove entertaining and like a good chocolate bar - leave you wanting another bite.  5 out of 5  and thankfully more volumes to explore.

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

"Granny Trill and Granny Wallon were rival ancients and lived on each other's nerves, and their perpetual enmity was like mice in the walls and absorbed much of my early days."

My favourite chapter of this book was the one about the two grandmothers' perpetual dislike of each other. It was so delightfully realised. There were portions of the book that were a little strange to say the least - the planned and failed rape of Lizzy was particularly odd. There is, however, much to delight within this little novel that chronicles village life in the Cotswolds for a growing young boy.  4 out of 5.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Female Man - Joanna Russ

“Underneath you keep saying pleasantly but firmly No no no no no no. But its necessary to my job and I like my job.”

The battle of the sexes becomes out and out warfare in The Female Man.  While the narrative drifts all over the place making the story a little hard to follow there are passages of this science fiction feminist piece which certainly still resonate today which is quite sad given the original publication date of 1975.

Perhaps working in male dominated industries for years confirms, for me at least, the notion that Joanna has of becoming a “female man” to get ahead in her career. To be considered on merit rather than for one’s expanse of chest. There are, however, other passages of the novel that seem quite dated.

In any case, it makes for an interesting read and something quite different from most science fiction I’ve read. Based on some key insights I’m giving this one 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ubik by Philip K Dick

"The best way to ask for beer is to sing out Ubik. Made from select hops, choice water, slow-aged for perfect flavor Ubik is the nation's number-one choice in beer. Made only in Cleveland."

Is he dead or alive and does the answer lie in the ubiquitous can whose advertisements lead each chapter? Life, death and half-life get very confusing within the world of Ubik. Having just completed my first reading, I feel the need to revisit in one uninterrupted session to further comprehend what exactly just happened.

Encompassing a strange future world where people can be placed in "cold pac"after death (a half-life state) and accessed at any time for basic communication. Each access swallows up what little half-life is left until their end finally comes around. Strange things happen when Glen Runciter accesses his wife Ella's half life. Throw in psychic powers, a lunar explosion and a spray can that does wonders and you too will be hooked on the strange, yet enticing world of Ubik.

I am a massive fan of Philip K Dick - I really had to be careful how I typed that one! This 1969 novel certainly doesn't disappoint. Michel Gondry has been working on a film adaptation for some time and it would certainly suit his dreamy aesthetic, I hope it comes to pass. 5 out of 5 squirts of Ubik from your local pharmacy.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Circus of the Damned - Laurell K Hamilton


"Loving the monsters always ends badly for the humans. It's a rule."

My voracious appetite for the adventures of Anita Blake required sating and as such it was on to volume 3. When last we left our intrepid adventuress, Jean Claude was the city's master vampire and Anita was overworked after dealing with killer zombies and her awakening as a necromancer.
This instalment kicks off with a gruesome vampire pack killing and an increase in tensions in the vampire hierarchy. Ancient vampires, a date with a cute, nice guy and a whole lot of silver bullet laden gunfights ensue.
This circus is full of action, but this reader is still disappointed at Anita's ability to keep Jean-Claude at arm's length. These two have to get together and soon, Richard just seems like a pale imitation.Caving? Really? Okay, rant over. I need to put Anita back on the shelf for a bit and get some work done, but she keeps calling to me. This might get a little repetitive but I'm still giving it  5 out of 5 vampire kisses.


The Laughing Corpse - Laurell K Hamilton

"It was like having a degree in ancient Greek or the Romantic Poets, interesting, enjoyable, but then what the hell can you do with it?"

I have a bit of a confession to make. I should be reading my university notes, I really should be. I have been distracted by my growing crush on master vampire, Jean-Claude. He is a cool drink of icy cold vampire hotness - that doesn't even make sense! So, after completing the first Anita Blake novel, I greedily sped on to volume 2 and was not disappointed.

While the first novel is all about the slaying of vampires, Anita turns voodoo scary in book two as her re-animation powers take flight. We learn that dead zombie bits don't mix with penguin toys and that some of the scariest creatures in town are actually human.
Throw in a wheelchair bound prostitute, a ruthless and powerful potential client for Anita and a mysteriously murderous zombie and there is action aplenty.While there is not nearly enough Jean-Claude to go around, this entertaining novel is certain not to disappoint.  5 out of 5 supernatural points.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Nemesis by Phillip Roth


"Escaping the city's heat entirely and being sent off to a summer camp in the mountains or the countryside was considered a child's best protection against catching polio."

This book saved me from being stressed about my taxi running late and possibly missing a flight back to Australia - for that I will be eternally grateful. How to describe this moving look into a summer in polio stricken Newark?

The disastrous impact of a polio outbreak on the local neighbourhood,  its playground director, Bucky Cantor and his girlfriend, Marcia, makes for a story that is destined to elicit the odd tear.

The writing is beautiful and given the depressing subject matter, it elevates the reading experience from the purely disconsolate to something far more intriguing. Growing up in an era where polio is almost eradicated lends an air of distance and mystery to the story. Not knowing how it was transmitted, I felt in a similar position to Bucky, struggling to understand how and why the events played out. Yes, I had to Google the disease after reading the book and am delighted that vaccination has saved us from undergoing a similarly torturous experience to Bucky.Given the brevity of the story, it is probably best not to give too much away. You won't regret discovering this tale for yourself. 5 out of 5

Monday, 18 March 2013

Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K Hamilton

"I kept waiting for Bela Lugosi to sweep around the corner in his cape"

I know you are shaking your head at me dear reader, wondering when I will be over my paranormal reading obsession. It is true, I find it hard to back away from a vampire novel. Fortunately for me, this is an excellent one and now I'm destined to launch headfirst into another lengthy series.

It feels weird to be writing this review from my hotel room in New Zealand after a day in some serious sunshine, tasting some delightful wines and enjoying the scenery of Waiheke Island. Yes, I'm just rubbing that in - I will stop now!

Guilty Pleasures, as the name suggests, is indeed a tasty morsel worth savouring and worth the blush that might stain the reader's face as the cover is judged by those overlooking it. It is the tale of feisty vampire hunter Anita Blake and her efforts to solve the puzzling murders of vampires within her city. Apparently this is the first in a series and I am eager to get my hands on more. Did I mention that Anita can raise the dead - albeit briefly? I am not going to spoil it for you any further, just check it out, you can say fangs later.  5 out of 5 vampire bites later.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Regeneration by Pat Barker

“I looked back and the ground was covered with wounded. Lying on top of each other, writhing. Like fish in a pond that’s drying out."

War is a horrid, mentally challenging event from all accounts and participation can alter a person immeasurably. It makes sense that actively disregarding some of  the most normal social mores is destined to mess with your head. We are brought up from a young age not to harm or kill and then soldiers are sent to war to do just that , yes, war is a strange beast of a thing. One thing it is not, is my favourite subject to read about.

Stuck in a broken down car for 3 hours, I found my copy of this book nestled within my bag and attempted to make some progress – in between watching the battery bars on my phone hopelessly dwindle. Ergo, I was a little distracted!
Despite those extenuating circumstances, I could appreciate that this is an interestingly written and harrowing novel. My reticence to endorse it wholeheartedly stems not only from the circumstances under which I read it. Such a bleak, miserable topic made my skin crawl. Perhaps that is the ultimate testament to the author, yet it leaves me cold.

The first in a trilogy of novels set in world war one, Regeneration deals with shell shock and the fall out for soldiers of active combat. Barker employs actual historical figures within her work which lends a sort of gravitas.  Weirdly, I have little to say on this book, I finished it the way you eat something you don’t  like when you have to be polite.  3 out of 5 – not in the right frame of mind for this, thank goodness the tow truck driver rescued me.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Honorary Consul by Graham Greene


“There was something clinical in a brothel that appealed to Doctor Plarr. It was as though he were watching a surgeon accompanying a new patient to the operating theatre – the previous operation had been successful and was already out of mind.”

There may be spoilers ahead….
First published in 1973, Graham Greene’s The Honorary Consul is a captivating read that resonates through its character development.
Doctor Eduardo Plarr radiates cold detachment through his loveless affairs and clinical observations of the world around him. This masks the emotional upheaval of his true state of affairs. The impact of his father’s imprisonment and the cuckolding and kidnap of  his English friend, Fortnum.
As always Greene’s writing drops you right in the middle of the mixed emotions and action. Charley Fortnum, the titular Honorary Consul is an older, whiskey loving gent who is overreaching in his position to provide for his ex-prostitute wife, Clara. Rescuing her from the brothel of Senora Sanchez has given his life meaning and the possibility of a child. Utilising his largely impotent diplomatic position to import foreign cars and make some money for the future is his way of ensuring  a better life for his beloved and their family.
To Dr Plarr, Fortnum begins as somewhat of a joke figure.  Someone not to be taken too seriously. When Fortnum is kidnapped by mistake instead of the American Ambassador Plarr is drawn into real intrigue and is torn between his desire to save his father versus his friend. Things, however, are not all as they seem.
South America plays a rather small role here. This is a novel about borders, transgressions and ultimately about love. Love it I did!  5 out of 5, kidnap a copy now!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Lodger by Marie Adelaide Lowndes

"When people are living near that deep pit which divides the secure from the insecure- when they see themselves creeping closer and closer to its dead edge - they are apt, however loquacious by nature, to fall into long silences."

Written in 1913, I chose to read this Jack The Ripper inspired novel as it formed the basis of the 1927 Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. Cards on the table, I am a massive Hitchcock fan and I find it fascinating to compare the source document with the movie. Today, however, we are talking about the book, so let's get back to that.

Delightfully copyright free for many countries, I was able to access an  easy to read epub format from feedbooks, but I'm sure there are other free sources should you wish to check this out.

Mr and Mrs Bunting have hit hard times and their financial woes seem miraculously rescued by the appearance of an unusual gentlemen prepared to pay a considerable sum for privacy and lodgings. Mr Sleuth (okay so that made me laugh) appears at a time where the city is whipped into a frenzy over the continuing murders which plague the early hours of the night.

Mrs Bunting's increasing obsession with Sleuth is interestingly played out.Her relationship with her husband deteriorates and the reader is drawn into her confused emotional state. A counterpoint to the growing distance between the previously poor but happy couple is the nascent love story of Mrs Bunting's step daughter, Daisy and policeman Joe Chandler.

The central characters are a delight and while the action takes place in a limited locale - almost like a play - the reader is buffeted along in an entertaining fashion.
To return momentarily to the film version, would be to note that while it captures the increasing tension and the creepiness of Mr Sleuth, the fact that the film is silent means it lacks the in-depth character studies that the book provides. Should you wish to compare both mediums, below is a clip of the silent film.

I've removed one point because there was quite a bit of repetition that could have been excised, but other wise this is 4 out of 5 crazy rippers can't be wrong.

Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville

“I can dig my claws into the rim of  a building’s crown and spread my arms and feel the buffets and gouts of boisterous air and I can close my eyes and remember, for a moment, what it is to fly.”

How have I not read this novel before?  To open its pages is to be transplanted into an entirely other world that both assaults and delights the senses. A summary of the plot would be a disservice to its intriguing action. The prose is almost poetic at times, often grotesque and entirely compelling.

Isaac's quest to aid the mysterious Garuda ignites far broader concerns that shake the very foundations of New Crobuzon. All roads lead to Perdido Street Station, at the centre of this unusual city. 

Strap yourself in for an amazing adventure that will keep you reading well into the night. 5 out of 5 creepy remades would certainly agree with me.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Venus in Furs - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

"As the slave of Mme. von Dunajew he is to bear the name Gregor, and he is unconditionally to comply with every one of her wishes, and to obey every one of her commands; he is always to be submissive to his mistress, and is to consider her every sign of favor as an extraordinary mercy."

When you sign away all your rights to your lover and agree to change your name and do anything for them including commit suicide, it seems you might be in a little too deep. Such is the situation Severin finds himself in when he gives in to his fantasies of complete domination by the beautiful fur clad Wanda, the personification of 'Venus in Furs'.

For anyone actually enjoyed that infamous bestseller of last year which I can't even deign to name, this is a far superior read and is clearly the inspiration. There's a contract and some whipping and about the only difference, apart from better writing, is that the woman is the one in control of dispensing the punishments.

As with all things taken to their extreme, Severin finds  the adage  "be careful what you wish for" applies. While a Gregor might come in handy for carrying your bags, it is hard to find the appeal in a man so emasculated. An intriguing and genre defining novel, I'd say 4 out of 5 lashes.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

"But it's traditional that young heirs seeking their destiny get help from mysterious old women gathering wood, and she wasn't about to buck tradition."

A mixed up Macbeth style plot gives Pratchett plenty of meat to grind his teeth into. The usual froth and frolic of Discworld shenanigans ensues. Funny one liners, death's back in capitals and a big smile remains on my face.
I vaguely remember reading this book a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but have since revisited it in line with trying to get through all the Discworld books. If I was grading them so far this would not be my favourite, yet it is entertaining stuff and nonsense, so no complaints.
Perhaps I'm just a little Macbeth'd out - I've seen the Scottish play around 5 times in the past 2 years - or so it seems.

In any case its a  4 out of 5 bubble toil and troubles from me.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Indigo Spell By Richelle Mead

"He was the same Adrian as ever, annoyingly good looking with his tousled brown hair and sculpted face."

On a miserable, grey, Sydney day, what could be a better antidote to the depressing realities of job seeking than an escape to the world of young adult paranormal romance? While might not be providing the goods today,  Richelle Mead has certainly delivered another delightful dalliance in the third bloodlines novel.

I'm probably stating the obvious by saying I am well out of the target demographic to be enjoying the adventures of a virginal alchemist and her would be boyfriend, that ever delectable vampire bad boy, Adrian Ivashkov. Adrian is everything you could wish for in a paperback romance - good looking, erudite, artistic, prone to bad behaviour and able to interact with you in your dreams. Then there's Sydney the protagonist - she is one can do kinda girl. Not only can she handle a weapon or master magic - she can even achieve wonders aided only by a rather tight fitting dress.

Throw rebel Marcus Finch into the mix and a possible Alchemist conspiracy and it is game on for action and adventure. Having just torn through the book at a cracking pace, Richelle Mead is at her entertaining best  and reconfirms the crush on Adrian I developed in book one ( or perhaps in the Vampire Academy series - no I was more of a Dimitri fan).

I liked this so much that even the review is coming out like the effervescent ramblings of a sixteen year old! Before I start understanding the current obsession kids have with one direction,  I had better move on to reading something a little more adult. The good news for me is that the next instalment in this series The Fiery Heart (check out the cover at bookish) is due out November 19! With a Vampire Academy movie in the works as well this could well be the author's year, and I'm sure she doesn't need my vote of confidence but here's  5 out of 5 just for kicks.