dimanche 11 janvier 2015

New on the Library Shelves 11 01 15

AKA Showcase Sunday

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.
Well, welcome to the first New on the Library Shelves of 2015!! How is everyone? Did you all have a nice holiday season? I'm back at work and the holidays seem very far away already. Still, 2015 promises to be a great year for reading, so yay! 

Here are my books read, received and bought this week: 


L'Exil des Anges by Gilles Legardinier

Edgar Allan Poe by Paul Collins

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Vines by Christopher Rice

1913: The Year Before the Storm by Florian Illies

The Line by J D Horn


Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Golden Son by Pierce Brown


Signal to Noise by Silva Moreno-Garcia (netgalley)

Something Coming Through by Paul McAuley (netgalley)
Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter (netgalley)

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran (netgalley)
What books have you read, received or purchased this week?

samedi 10 janvier 2015

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

Looming large in the popular imagination as a serious poet and lively drunk who died in penury, Edgar Allan Poe was also the most celebrated and notorious writer of his day. He died broke and alone at the age of forty, but not before he had written some of the greatest works in the English language, from the chilling “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—the first modern detective story—to the iconic poem “The Raven.”

Poe’s life was one of unremitting hardship. His father abandoned the family, and his mother died when he was three. Poe was thrown out of West Point, and married his beloved thirteen-year-old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at twenty-four. He was so poor that he burned furniture to stay warm. He was a scourge to other poets, but more so to himself.

In the hands of Paul Collins, one of our liveliest historians, this mysteriously conflicted figure emerges as a genius both driven and undone by his artistic ambitions. Collins illuminates Poe’s huge successes and greatest flop (a 143-page prose poem titled Eureka), and even tracks down what may be Poe’s first published fiction, long hidden under an enigmatic byline. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Edgar Allan Poe is a spellbinding story about the man once hailed as “the Shakespeare of America.”

The combination of the life of one of the most intriguing Victorian writers in the hands of one of the best narrative history writers around at the moment meant that Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living an immediate addition to my TBR list. Collins has done a great job in the past with The Murder of the Century and Duel with the Devil, and I included both in my list of top ten books to get someone started on narrative history. Here, he has a much smaller canvas than usual – this is a streamlined biography, but one that works extremely well.

In a few short chapters (according to my Kindle, the dead tree version has 132 pages), Collins manages to paint a clear portrait of a man whose genius was in constant battle with his demons. From the death of his parents, the difficult relationship with the man who raised him but refused to adopt him, to his struggle with poverty and alcoholism, Poe did not have an easy life. Yet throughout, Collins shows that he continued to try and find his way out through his writing. Calling particular attention to the genre-changing creation of Dupin (the proto Holmes) and the writing of the Raven, Collins points out the huge impact that Poe had on modern literature. All in all a great, if short, biography that should be accessible to all.

I gave Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living 4 stars.

vendredi 9 janvier 2015

L'Exil des Anges by Gilles Legardinier


A new favourite discovered in 2014, Gilles Legardinier is a French writer now known for writing humourous, touching novels, many of them dealing with love stories, most of them with incredibly funny situations reminiscent of the best rom-and-sitcoms. I devoured his four books last year at the suggestion of my wife and loved every single one of them. Before those humouristic books, though, Legardinier had made a name for himself writing thrillers. L’Exil des Anges is one of the better known, an award winner the year it came out. 

Following a small cast of characters caught up in a government conspiracy and dealing with fringe science and reincarnation, L’Exil des Anges was a bit of a disappointment. A world away from the sort of story he tells in his more recent books, L’Exil des Anges also failed to coalesce when it comes to the characters – I didn’t feel particularly interested or invested in either of the three leads. The plotline itself meanders, starting out with the story of two scientists before jumping forward in time. Legardinier’s trademark wit is also lacking and the writing was ponderous, long paragraphs that left the story dragging along. It is probably a good thing that I didn’t start with this or I am not at all sure I would have gone on to read his later, much better works. I’ll probably still have a look at some of his other thrillers, but I am much more interested to see what he writes next instead ! 

I gave L’Exil des Anges two stars.

jeudi 8 janvier 2015

A Call to Duty by David Weber & Timothy Zahn

Growing up, Travis Uriah Long yearned for order and discipline in his life . . . the two things his neglectful mother couldn't or wouldn't provide. So when Travis enlisted in the Royal Manticoran Navy, he thought he'd finally found the structure he'd always wanted so desperately.

But life in the RMN isn't exactly what he expected. Boot camp is rough and frustrating; his first ship assignment lax and disorderly; and with the Star Kingdom of Manticore still recovering from a devastating plague, the Navy is possibly on the edge of extinction.

The Star Kingdom is a minor nation among the worlds of the Diaspora, its closest neighbors weeks or months away, with little in the way of resources. With only modest interstellar trade, no foreign contacts to speak of, a plague-ravaged economy to rebuild, and no enemies looming at the hyper limit, there are factions in Parliament who want nothing more than to scrap the Navy and shift its resources and manpower elsewhere.

But those factions are mistaken. The universe is not a safe place.

Travis Long is about to find that out.

There are a few writers who I will read without fail when they release a new book and David Weber is one of them. A Call to Duty, co-written with the legendary Timothy Zahn, was a nice departure, taking his Honorverse universe back in time slightly to the early years of Manticore and showing a Royal Navy dealing with very different problems – a lack of enemies means that internal pressures are about to see the RMN fold completely, left with only a small number of ships to protect its borders. 

As usual, A Call to Duty has a large cast of characters, but the main storyline centers around Travis Long, a young enlisted whose out of the box thinking brings him both opportunities and major problems. Your reaction to A Call to Duty is likely to depend entirely on how you feel about the rest of Weber’s work – the book has the same long descriptions of hardware, political intrigue, space battles and lack of aliens. I for one love the universe Weber has created and Long is a worthy successor (predecessor ?) of Honor Harrington. The ending has all of the trademark action and tension as one expects from David Weber and sets things up nicely for the sequel whenever that may be.

I gave A Call to Duty 4 stars. 

mercredi 7 janvier 2015

US Presidents Series: The Roosevelt Trilogy by Edmund Morris


A vast and sprawling exploration of one of the most interesting presidents to ever serve in the White House, Edmund Morris’ trilogy of books (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex and Colonel Roosevelt) explore Roosevelt’s life before, during and after his tenure as leader of the free world, from his childhood struggling with ill health, to his youth and travels around the world with his parents, and beyond to the tragedies of his adulthood that led him down the path to the White House. Throughout, Morris gives a very rounded portrayal of the man behind the legends, as well as providing the proper context of the world in which Roosevelt lived and how both it affected him and he affected it.

Morris’ writing is never dry and he has the descriptive eye of a novelist – some of the passages following Roosevelt into the wild or through the Amazonian jungles are fantastic. Roosevelt himself comes across as a flawed, brilliant man, able to command great loyalty but whose reluctance to release his hold on the Presidency forced a breach in his own party. It was amazing to realise how much Roosevelt did after he left the big chair – his subsequent runs ended up creating the Progressive Party and saw the Democrats win the presidency for the first time in decades.

All in all, Morris’ trilogy is the ultimate exploration of a president, full of wonderful writing worthy of the larger than life Roosevelt.

I gave all three books 4 stars.

mardi 6 janvier 2015

No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill


Darkness lives within ...

Cash-strapped, working for agencies and living in shared accommodation, Stephanie Booth feels she can fall no further. So when she takes a new room at the right price, she believes her luck has finally turned. But 82 Edgware Road is not what it appears to be. It's not only the eerie atmosphere of the vast, neglected house, or the disturbing attitude of her new landlord, Knacker McGuire, that makes her uneasy - it's the whispers behind the fireplace, the scratching beneath floors, the footsteps in the dark, and the young women weeping in neighbouring rooms. And when Knacker's cousin Fergal arrives, the danger goes vertical. 

But this is merely a beginning, a gateway to horrors beyond Stephanie's worst nightmares. And in a house where no one listens to the screams, will she ever get out alive?

Although not my main reading genre, I do enjoy a good horror story. Unfortunately, I have found those difficult to find. Many horror novels either do not scare me or they are just excuses for descriptions of lots of blood and gore. Finding a story that is actually chilling is one of my pet peeves when it comes to reading and few writers have lived up to it. One of the few who does is Adam Nevill.

In his latest, Nevill takes on the haunted house, through the eyes of a young woman, Stephanie, who finds herself forced into taking a room in a decrepit old house in Birmingham. What Nevill does extremely well here is to make the very real situation Stephanie finds herself in just as horrific as the paranormal goings on – alone, friendless and broke, she must put up with the interest of her landlord, a horrific and yet very human man who serves to create much of the tension in the first part of the novel. 

Things take a surprising turn half way through, descending into more classical paranomal territory, but Nevill hands this very well, keeping the stress levels high. I have seen others compare much of this second part to Silent Hill, which is definitely apt. All in all, No One Gets Out Alive succeeds as a horror story, but also as a thriller that delves into some dark truths about the society we live in. 

I gave No One Gets Out Alive 4 stars.