Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

"Let me tell you, the first thing you do when you shit your pants for real is tell nobody.Nobody"

This was the perfect antidote to waiting around in a hospital to have the insides of my nose meddled with. That probably sounds like a strange recommendation. This is the blackest of black comedy. Raymond Gunt (yes that isn't a typo) is a rather shitty human being, shouting at the world and kicking homeless people.

When his hated ex-wife lands him a job as a cameraman on a survivor style show in remote Kirabati with an assistant, life seems to be on the up and up. Taking on said homeless guy as his assistant leads to some unexpected results.

Throw in an atom bomb and you will find life gets very complicated and darkly funny. In any case it was just the pre-anaesthesia antidote I needed.

 4 out of 5 male makeovers are successful.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

"Alanna kissed the immortal's hand, feeling weird energy jolt through her body."

It might be strange that I'm giving the same rating for the second tome of this series as the first, I preferred this outing to the first. The story has really come along and the pacing is great. I guess the only drawback for me, was the size of this novel; I wanted more.
Alanna really comes into her own in this story, dealing with the unique worries of pretending to be a man, progressing her career and dealing with her burgeoning romantic feelings.
Dark, mysterious magic surrounds Alanna and she must discover what strange enemies are about to come to the fore. With her talking cat, her would be amorous cousin and dare we forget the delectable Jonathan, war, intrigue and mystery are about to make life very interesting.

My friend Nicki who lent me both novels must have been on to something. I'm going to need to borrow the rest of the series.

 4 out of 5 talking cats know more than they miaow.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The Echoing Grove by Rosamond Lehmann

"Considering how different men are, it seems so curious that it is always women who have to face it.One never hears, does one, of a man facing his difference?"

I fear that the poor reception this book received from me was due in no major part to the week I was having. When someone is on an emotional roller coaster, fearful that the something great they have discovered may be a mirage that will soon disappear and transform into sordid reality; the last thing she wants to read is a dark, twisted tale of messed up relationships. Enter this novel and I have to say the attractive cover hid the poor typeface within - it was a little blurry this novel.

Time moves back and forth at whim in this tale of two sisters and one man. Personally, I couldn't see what they saw in him - but that is merely my opinion. Perhaps if I was not distracted by my own dramas ( i detest dramas) and the fuzzy print, then my review would be more complimentary. As it stands, not so much.

Gents, if you plan on an affair, don't do your wife's sister - poor form and if this book has taught me anything, don't leave your cufflinks at the wrong house. Unless things have changed since this tale's publication in 1953.

At least I got to tick off one of the Guardian's 1000 best (really?) novels.

2 out of 5 romantic dramas are a drain.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin

“To kill sixty-five-year-old civil servants. A few of them are sixty-four and sixty-six”

A plot to kill ageing civil servants, Nazis on the run and cloning, yes The Boys from Brazil must have been just the ticket back in 1976 when it was published. The central premise of a diabolical Mengele on the loose with an evil plan to flood the world with Hitler's clones makes for an interesting read. I imagine, at the time it was written, when the notion of cloning was more in the realm of science fiction,  the idea of some tailor made future mad men at large due to scientific advances might really have chilled the blood.

Add in scary dobermans and a touch of assumed identity and you have an entertaining thriller that perhaps suffers a little from the passage of time.

I still finished it quickly.

4 out of 5 clones are a scary thought. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

"The alien's chemistry was subtly different from the human but not wildly so, as anyone might have expected from previous extraterrestrial biology."

Okay, so if, like me, a surprise announcement about Mars from NASA last week was a little disappointing for the lack of little green men, then perhaps this is your kind of book. What would happen if humans were to encounter a developed other life form. The Mote in God's Eye brings some food for thought in an entertaining and engaging manner.
That, for me, is what good sci-fi is all about.

When you consider this was written before I was born, it speaks to the level of excellence of the writing. There is still a sense of the future and potential, that makes the story easy to get lost in.
Prejudices, jealousy and fear are emotions that do not age and as such convey the likely response of humans to such strange circumstances. Together, Niven and Pournelle, craft an intriguing tale that is sure to delight those that dream of the stars and beyond.
Perhaps the only dated aspects of the novel were around the marriage scenario. That being said, I think it is crucial to draw comparisons between the mating and procreative impetus of both humans and aliens alike and the tensions inherent in competitive population growth. I think that's an entirely likely scenario were we to encounter sentient beings out there in space.

Notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this trip back to a a 1974 vision of the future and first contact. I didn't perhaps love it as much as Ringworld  but that is a very minor quibble. Don't be discouraged by the blase cover art.

 5 out of 5 engineers re-build things.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse

"No sense of anything strange or untoward about the situation came to mar the perfect joy of Mr. Pett, the overmastering joy of the baseball fan who in a strange land unexpectedly encounters a brother. "

I have been in a bit of a literary funk of late, due no doubt to lack of sleep and work stress -  deadlines are not my friend! Luckily, I recalled the perfect tonic for any reading dilemma is to gorge on a little Wodehouse. Note to self - Wodehouse cures all woes. Naturally I am completely enamoured with Wooster and Jeeves, however it is a delight to delve into some of his other characters - enter Piccadilly Jim.

It seems fitting that I began reading this in the hairdresser's chair, white wine in one hand, book in other; and covered in enough foils to make contact with outer space. Now that I've set the scene, let us return to the novel. I say it seems fitting, as if that setting seems a little busy, just wait to you get to the convoluted plot of this delightful little read.

Bingley, an upwardly mobile American financier, well that is if his wife has anything to do with it, is living in London and missing baseball with a passion. The comparison between baseball and cricket in the book had me in stitches and I'm not a particular fan of either sport. I've been to one game of each - does that count?
His playboy son, the eponymous Piccadilly Jim, has a tendency to over-indulge and cause scandal, and then there's the world's worst kid, Ogden, his nephew who some people would like to kidnap and send to dog training school to rid him of his insolence.

What follows is a delightful concoction of bad poetry, mistaken identities, would be criminal activities and just plain good fun

 5 out of 5 fake aristocrats have multiple names.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Invisible by Paul Auster

"Back in the dark ages of our youth, Walker and I had been friends."

This started off promisingly and then somewhere between the incest and the other story detours, I just completely lost interest.
Can  I really use lack of sleep as an excuse again? I'm not entirely sure, What was with all the weird incest anyway?

2 out of 5  - Disturbing and boring all in one package.

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

"Frozen by shock, he took a jerky breath. The air was thin and smelled of metal, of dryness."

I had been counting down the days til the latest Long Earth saga arrived in my post box. Yes, I'm an avid - some might say too avid - internet shopper, particularly when it comes to books.Adding to my "to read pile", I had to make this one a priority, particularly with the recent passing of Terry Pratchett.
Where the earlier novels had really engaged my imagination, this one - while starting strong - kind of fizzled. I liked the notion of the change of direction - not only outwards into space but down and up and within time. That being said, the execution of the idea just really wasn't there. 

3 out of 5 flashes burn out.

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

"He held out his hand to Esca for the flint and steel which he always carried on him"

I thought this one would be a slam dunk and I would totally be on board with a historical novel; even if it had been re-imagined with Channing Tatum.
Maybe it was my tired mind - it has been a long, long, long working week... but I just have nothing to say on this one... yes, I was even a tad bored.

1 out of 5 centurions go on for centuries.