Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

"I set my empty cup inside the tea flask, and knelt  on the floor before the icon, hip protesting slightly, and began to pray."

This is science fiction with a whole lot of tea drinking. If the book was a movie with a drinking game (ha, see what I did there), and tea drinking was reason for a shot, let's just say you would be on the floor early on. 

I was super eager to discover this winner of multiple science fiction awards, and yet it took me up until the final day of the year to finish it. The narrative is a little confusing, or perhaps that is just me. Conceptually it is decidedly novel and I guess that is one of its fortes.

How can a being be a singular human and yet have been a huge starship at one point? Open up the pages and eventually this conceit begins to gain traction.

4 out of 5 situations call for a cuppa.

Blood Money by Dashiell Hammett

"For the next six hours I was busier than a flea on a fat woman."

I love a bit of hard boiled detective fiction and who better to deliver than Dashiell Hammett. I just love his tone of voice, it is delightful and so evocative of the genre that has been so mimicked and transformed over the years.
A quick read, that might just help me reach my target before year's end.
4 out of 5 shady characters prevail.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

"Every left­over had to be dumped, and the re­frig­er­a­tor shelves had to be emp­tied and wiped down."

I really wanted to enjoy this more. It is a family story where the house plays a particularly large role. The pages ran by quickly, it is an easy read. There is something small and pedestrian about it that may appeal to some.
It left me a little cold.

 3 out of 5 threadbare couches need replacing.

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer

"He might not be much to look at above the neck, but..."

A Neanderthal man appears from nowhere and trust me, you are going to be hooked on this fantastic read from Mr Sawyer. The first in a series, this is not a mere set up, it is a thought provoking and enticing read.

Broader themes about how primitive our civilisation abound and add a level of gravitas to the action. Best of all there's more (as the extract at the end of my copy demonstrates). Don't just take my word for how good this is, it apparently won the Hugo award, and yes I'm clearly a little late to the party.

I'm delving into Robert J. Sawyer's back catalogue with relish, after enjoying his WWW series oh so much. It seemed weird to be reading about Ponter Boddit, neanderthal physicist lying on the sand at Freshwater beach on a glorious Sydney summer day, but it was superb. 

The pages flew by, so did my sunburn. This one was totally worth it! Thriller, sci-fi, what's not to love!

5 out of 5 alternate universes have things more together than we do.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

How The Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman

"And then he walked away, thinking about a man holding a crook"

Let me preface this review with an explanation. It has been quite some time, and a heck of a lot of books read, since I finished Neverwhere, and as such my recollections have grown somewhat hazy. It is for this reason, I believe, my appreciation of this rather short story was a little diminished.

3 out of 5 - one for the real fans

The Bear Who Went Boo! by David Walliams

"The little cub had learned a big lesson"

So I have a confession to make, I had a quick read of this while wrapping it for a Christmas present and it was delightful. Sure, it is mostly pictures. Yes, the average audience is probably a little ( okay a lot) younger than yours truly. Nevertheless it was almost as cute as the intended recipient.

It seems the talented David Walliams can do no wrong in the kid's writing department and this re-telling of the boy who cried wolf definitely fits the bill. The illustrations by Tony Ross are super cute and that just adds to its charm.

4 out of 5 naughty bears are fun.

The NIght Watch by Sarah Waters

"She forgot her father, her brother, the war; she felt pressed out of herself, released."

Another unusual historical romance that draws you in from the get go and reveals all in reverse chronological order so as to continually surprise. This intriguing tale was well received upon publication in 2006 with, as its cover suggests, shortlisting in both the Man Booker and Orange prizes.

A tale of the ravages of war, love and secrets that is to be devoured and enjoyed. I know I finished it rather quickly and would not want to ruin it for any prospective reader.Now that I've read it, I'd be particularly keen to see and compare it with the BBC adaptation. Waters beautifully delivers a tale which illustrates that love is love; just as keen felt and pained, regardless of the gender of its subjects.

There were certain passages that reduced me to a wreck, mostly about Viv's issues, but discover for yourself.

5 out of 5 for the beauty amid the bombings

Dead Ice by Laurell K Hamilton

“Do you let all your friends put their heads in your lap when you’re nude?”

As the countdown to her multi-party wedding continues, questions are raised as to who will form the wedding party in Anita Blake's arsenal of supernaturals. Which of the hot looking crew will wed Anita and Jean-Claude in their polyamorous, S&M loving hi jinks for life? Apparently another Tiger is what is required; meantime that irresistible siren, Anita Blake, the executioner, has work to do. 
After not even realising her own strength by almost bringing back a way too life like zombie, with a thing for Dennys, Anita is tasked with tracking down zombie pornographers and ending their wicked ways. Naturally things get icky.
Power struggles continue in the supernatural world, as she notes 
“Would you un­der­stand if I said pol­i­tics makes strange bed­fel­lows?”.
Things, as usual get weirder. Always so awkward when your boyfriend transforms into a tiger in the sack - quite literally.
Sometimes I don't know what it says about me that I am still reading this series, but book 23 and I'm still on board, waiting for the latest crazy antics. I'm not advocating this as exemplary literature, more like an entertaining distraction.

3 out of 5 zombie sex slaves leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

"She had to have men at her feet; that was, as it were, the price of her - purely social - daily bread as it was the price of the daily bread of her intimates."

This is an interminably lengthy novel that has taken me the better part of the year to finish, admittedly while consuming a vast array of other stories 'on the side' as it were. Quite appropriate really given the subject matter of the bulky tale. War, adultery, self-sacrifice, honour, doing the right thing and suffering for it; there is a lot going on within its many pages.

Thankfully, the sight of Mr Cumberbatch on the cover aided my perseverance some what and I was therefore able to finally complete all 906 pages. Having enjoyed Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, I had eagerly anticipated reading his other novel for quite some time and yet a busy schedule and the thought of such a heavy tome often dissuaded me from beginning it. Nevertheless, its inclusion on every must read list meant I was destined to tackle it eventually.

Now I can tick this one off from quite a few must read lists. On reflection, it is beautifully written with some gorgeous prose. Yet it is melancholy and difficult in subject matter and did I mention that there is just so much of it? I had even traipsed around overseas with it, hoping to make a dent during a plane trip or two. That never happened and my luggage merely remained heavy thanks to its presence. I'm sure, had I been stranded on a beautiful tropical island, I might have finished it a little sooner and had a more favourable impression.

4 out of 5 times when you have lots of time you can read an epic.

All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

“The silence was so immense and unbelievable that you felt your ears had been stuffed or you had lost your hearing altogether.”

A particularly short story and yet it is a testament to the author’s skill how four short pages can evoke such intriguing imagery. Demonstrating the way in which science fiction uses the language and understanding of our world and contorts it to imagine another.

I am really trying to reach my target of books to read by the end of the year, so stay tuned for more quick snippet reads like this one!

4 out of 5 kids like a day in sunshine

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

“As a thirteen-year-old, my big celebrity crush was Pierce Brosnan”

Mindy Kaling and I share, among other things, a healthy appreciation for the impressively hirsute chest of peak Bond era Pierce Brosnan. I admit to being a little late to the Mindy party and am disappointed I didn't discover her earlier - spoiler - she is  a hoot.

Whether querying the time it takes for a man to put on his shoes,  the joys of not being a sample size (except with the help of a tailor and some additional fabric), or the etiquette of karaoke, Mindy comes across a little bit like the hilarious best buddy you didn't even know you had.

Some little snippets cut way too close to the bone, let's not mention the narcissistic photos section. Let's hope we do see her soon, as the final chapter closes, and ooh it looks like I'll have to get a copy of Why Not Me?  her next offering.

5 out of 5 times a comedienne has made me think, yep, we could hang out.

The Confidential Agent by Graham Greene

“You couldn’t escape a war by changing your country; you only changed the technique – fists instead of bombs, the sneak thief instead of the artillery bombardment”

It is unusual for an introduction to wax lyrical about drug use and yet that is exactly what happens here. Greene (according to the introduction) credited his impressive productivity, a complete work in six weeks with his daily intake of Benzedrine (speed) and the frenetic pace of the novel reflects the drug fuelled pace.

The mysterious figure of D is heading to Dover on board a ship en-route to transact a secret coal deal to benefit his war torn country. This is no easy assignment, it comes with a body count and some significant bashing and bruising. Not everyone is so keen for D to make his transaction, is Rose Cullen a friend or foe? Crack open those pages for a super fuelled, fast paced thriller - you won't be disappointed.

5 out of 5 shady deals can be intriguing.