vendredi 7 novembre 2014

Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 - Round One

Ah November! Autumn is here, the leaves are turning, the weather is perfect for staying at home and curling up with a good book or three. 

And the Goodreads Choice Awards are here! 

Announced on Monday, the Awards are one of the main reader-based book awards on the net. I won't go into the rules etc here, but I always enjoy participating, whether that be by voting or binge-reading as many of the nominated books as possible before the final round at the end of the month. 

Last year I encountered some great reads thanks to the Awards: The Lowland by Lahiri Jhumpa, One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson and Night Film by Marisha Pessl to name a few.

Here are my current nominations in the various categories where I have read enough to be able to cast a vote: 

Fiction

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Mystery & Thriller

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Fantasy

The Goblin Emperor by Katherin Addison

Science Fiction

The Martian by Andy Weir

Horror

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Non-Fiction

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

Memoir & Autobiography

Life, Animated by Ron Suskind

History & Biography

The Good Spy by Kai Bird

Business Books

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis

Food

Delancey by Molly Wizenberg

Debut

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Looking forward to Monday when the top 5 write-in votes are added to the whole! I'll update then to see whether my nominations change. 

What about everyone else? Are you participating / reading / voting in this year's Awards? Share your nominations below!

jeudi 6 novembre 2014

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss




"Release the Doctor — or the killing will start."

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat — unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die.

Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...


A very strange Doctor Who story, The Blood Cell is told entirely through the eyes of a secondary character – the Governor – who encounters the Doctor and Clara when a strange old man is incarcerated in the prison he runs. As strange things begin to happen and the prison turns against the inmates and the guards, the Governor is forced to turn to the Doctor for help…

As a Doctor Who story told through the eyes of a secondary character, The Blood Cell works. As a science fiction story disassociated from the Doctor Who franchise, The Blood Cell works even better.  The Governor is an interesting narrator, full of contradictions and secrets that beg to be revealed. The situation - an inescapable prison where prisoners are disappearing - dealt cleverly with some basic sci-fi tropes. As the story progresses and the stakes mount, I for one found the story gripping, wondering who was behind the prison's problems, who the Governor really was and how the whole thing was going to resolve itself. 

Unfortunately, as a Twelfth Doctor story, The Blood Cell fails at one vital hurdle – the Doctor himself. While I could definitely see the Eleventh or Tenth Doctors acting in the way this Doctor does, what we have seen of Capaldi so far just does not gel with this wise-cracking, pop-culture spouting character. This Doctor does not have the darkness that Capaldi has brought to the role and while his relationship with Clara does share some of the antagonism of the on-screen partners, there was definitely something essential missing. If you can tell yourself that this is a lost Matt Smith story, great. If not, you may have the same problems with The Blood Cell that I did.
 
I gave The Blood Cell 3 stars. 

mercredi 5 novembre 2014

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett




EDGE OF ETERNITY is the sweeping, passionate conclusion to Ken Follett’s extraordinary historical epic, The Century Trilogy.

Throughout these books, Follett has followed the fortunes of five intertwined families – American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh – as they make their way through the twentieth century. Now they come to one of the most tumultuous eras of all: the enormous social, political, and economic turmoil of the 1960s through the 1980s, from civil rights, assassinations, mass political movements and Vietnam to the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution – and rock and roll.

East German teacher Rebecca Hoffman discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and commits an impulsive act that will affect her family for the rest of their lives.…George Jakes, the child of a mixed-race couple, bypasses a corporate law career to join Robert F. Kennedy’s Justice Department, and finds himself in the middle not only of the seminal events of the civil rights battle, but a much more personal battle of his own.…Cameron Dewar, the grandson of a senator, jumps at the chance to do some official and unofficial espionage for a cause he believes in, only to discover that the world is a much more dangerous place than he’d imagined.…Dimka Dvorkin, a young aide to Nikita Khrushchev, becomes a prime agent both for good and for ill as the United States and the Soviet Union race to the brink of nuclear war, while his twin sister, Tania, carves out a role that will take her from Moscow to Cuba to Prague to Warsaw – and into history.

As always with Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. With the hand of a master, he brings us into a world we thought we knew but now will never seem the same again.


Ken Follett’s sweeping Century trilogy has been a must read for me ever since the first book came out a few years ago. A hugely ambitious undertaking (telling the story of the 20th century through the eyes of a handful of families), the trilogy has been a potent mixture of historical fiction, thriller, romance, saga and coming-of-age tale. I’ve loved the other two books and had been waiting impatiently for the final instalment to be released. So I was delighted to hear that Edge of Eternity was being released at the end of this year and it was placed firmly at the top of my TBR. 

Edge of Eternity does a great job of wrapping up the threads laid down in the last books, as the first generation explored in Fall of Giants give way to the younger. For many of those characters, we see them shuffle off the stage, while their children, grand-children and even great grand-children step up and shoulder the burden. Although a large part of the book centres on the Cold War, especially the effect the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall has on the families, Follett also explores the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, the Civil Rights movement and the rise of the liberal agenda (gay rights being one of the themes explored). Through a couple of his characters, he also delves into an integral part of society in the second part of the 20th century – the rock star. 

Once again, Follett manages to juggle a huge number of characters with aplomb, giving each of them distinct personalities, stories and lives, though the huge canvas does stop him from giving them as much depth as he might have otherwise. I loved it from beginning to end, especially enjoying his portrayal of Kennedy and Johnson – Follett makes it clear that Kennedy was much less interested in civil rights at the beginning than he would later be considered to have been and that Johnson, despite his numerous mistakes, did a lot for the movement in his first few months in office. A great, sweeping portrayal of a tumultuous few decades, Edge of Eternity is great historical fiction done well.

I gave Edge of Eternity 4 stars.

mardi 4 novembre 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want To Reread



This week's theme: Top Ten Books I Want To Reread (or if you don't reread...would reread in an ideal world). I do reread, though not as much as I would like to (time, time, time). Here are a few books or series that I am either rereading at the moment or will be rereading hopefully in the near future (if the bad shiny new books would stop glinting at me... stop it! Stop glinting!)




The Malazan Book of the Fallen

I am rereading these at the moment and have just finished the first, Gardens of the Moon. I’m aiming to read one book every two or three months and am reading along with the Tor.com reread at the same time. Great stuff! 

The Wheel of Time

One of the rare series that I have read and reread at least four times, I have just started a new reread although I’m doing it very slowly, following along with the Reread of the Reread over at Tor.com. The ultimate epic fantasy series for our times, IMHO, I love returning to WOT!

The Count of Monte Cristo

My all time favourite book, this is the one I am most likely to actually reread, probably sometime next year. I try and read it once every two years.

The Lord of the Rings

Another great book, one that I am ashamed to say I have only read a couple of times. I keep on meaning to pick it up again but get sidetracked by all those shiny new books. Damn them! Damn them all! J

The Shannara Saga

Another likely reread sometime next year, I would love to reread all the Shannara books in chronological order, starting with Running with the Demon through to the latest book released this year. If I do, I’ll probably try and blog about it, something along the lines of the Malazan and Wheel of Time rereads done over on Tor.com.

Clive Barker

It has been years since I have read any Clive Barker, although I devoured all of his books in one fell swoop a few years ago. I would like to go back and reexplore these dark and twisted words sometime in the future.

Harry Potter

I recently did a rewatch of the films with my wife (we watch them once a year) and as usual got the urge to go back and reread the books. Hopefully another project I’ll get around to at some point.

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

One I would love to reread but doubt I will ever get around to it. Perdido Street Station blew my mind when I first read it about a decade ago and I would love to see if it stands up all these years later.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A definite reread at some point, probably before the last book in the series comes out (whenever that will be). My second favourite book of all time, Shadow of the Wind is a pure joy and I cannot wait to take another crack at it.

His Dark Materials Trilogy

This trilogy had a huge effect on me when I first read almost ten years ago, so this is another one I am really looking forward to reexploring. I’ve planned a reread a few times over the past few years but never got around to it. Hopefully in the next couple of years...



What about you guys? What books would you like or hope to reread?
Please share in the comments! :) 

lundi 3 novembre 2014

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin




In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.


A historical romance, The Fortune Hunter is not really my usual fare. The main thing that caught my attention in the blurb was the mention of Sisi, Empress of Austria. Here in France, Sisi is quite popular and well-known because of a trilogy of movies that trace her life, released in the 1950s and regularly shown on French television. I’ve never watched the movies and knew very little about her, so when this showed up on an upcoming releases post on a friendly blog, I decided to pick it up.

I actually enjoyed The Fortune Hunter a lot more than I had expected. The characters are well-drawn, especially Charlotte who is much more of a central figure than the blurb would have you believe. It is actually Sisi who takes a back seat, acting more as an obstacle in the way of Charlotte and Bay’s love story than a heroic figure in and of herself. Goodwin does a great job of bringing all three characters to life, taking liberties with timelines and lifestories in order to create an intriguing and surprisingly gripping story of love, desire and society. I loved the character of Charlotte and enjoyed the fact that in the end she is able to maintain her liberty and interests without giving up her romantic life. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a historical romance with some great characters.
 
I gave The Fortune Hunter 4 stars.