jeudi 28 août 2014

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows by Tim Siedell



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When Hock, a former clone trooper left for dead during the Clone Wars, hears of a great warrior, he decides to seek him out and enter his service. Motivated by a powerful hatred for the Jedi he feels abandoned him, Hock wants nothing more than to come to the attention of the Emperor’s lieutenant, Darth Vader. Called into battle during a mission against a group of remnant Separatists, Hock finds himself fighting side by side with the dark warrior, a battle that will finally lay his own ghosts to rest…

A small graphic novel, Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows is a bit of a dull dud as far as I was concerned. Focused on a former clone trooper, disillusioned and broken by the events of the Clone Wars, the comic mini-series follows Hock as he fights his way back into the imperial army, determined to place himself in Vader’s service. As such – and despite the graphic novel’s title – Darth Vader is only seen in brief glimpses: the majority of the storyline is devoted to flashbacks of Hock’s time in the clone army and what brought him to his hatred of the Jedi and the separatists. Unfortunately, Hock’s story just wasn’t that interesting. Beyond a nice twist to the separatist/rebel idea, the novel did not bring anything new to the Star Wars universe. While the artwork was ok, there were no moments that stood out. A quick read, Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows was far away from being a must read.

I gave Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows 2 stars.

mercredi 27 août 2014

Completement cramé by Gilles Legardinier




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When widower Andrew Blake realises that he no longer feels comfortable in his old life, he abandons the company he owns and starts a new life… as a butler in France, the country where he met his wife. Hiding his true identity from his new boss, the wealthy widow Nathalie, and the other members of staff on the Beauvillier estate, Blake tries to recapture some of the taste for life he feels as though he has lost. But his new life will force him to turn away from thoughts of the past to embrace a future he had not at all expected…

The second of the French books by Gilles Legardinier that my wife convinced me to read, Completement Cramé is a very different beast to Demain j’arrete. The main character changes from a twenty-something woman to a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis, one that pushes him to change his life completely, abandoning the company he has built to start afresh as a butler on a French estate. Not as funny as Demain j’arrete, Completement Cramé (translated as Completely Insane, basically) is a deeper, more rounded book that packs more of a punch than the first one. The characters are more developed, the plot stronger, but the writing remains as glorious as in the first one. The dialogue sparkles, playing on Blake’s Englishness, a fact that gives an extra kick to an Englishman living in France and reading the book. Though less crazy than Julie, Blake is not a man to be trifled with, willing to go to some impressive extremes to protect the new family he has built for himself (the scene with the two estate agents is especially funny in this regard!) Throughout, Legardinier ponders the importance of the past, the pain of growing old and reminds us that it is never too late to make a fresh start. Although it didn’t make me laugh as much as Demain j’arrete, I loved Completement Cramé just as much, for very different reasons.

I gave Completement Cramé 5 stars.

dimanche 24 août 2014

New on the Library Shelves 24 08 14

AKA Showcase Sunday

A new segment here, participating in the Showcase Sunday meme over at Books, Biscuits & Tea.

 
The most exciting book to arrive on the Library Shelves this week: the new Star Wars novel, A New Dawn, setting up the new canon and leading in to the Rebels tv series due in October. Very excited!




For review:
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley (fantasy)
Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller (sf)
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (literary)
The Hunger of the Wolf by Stephen Marche (thriller)






Bought:
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford (biography)
One Kick by Chelsea Cain (thriller)
The King in the North by Max Adams (non-fiction)
 

So, what's new on your shelves this week?

samedi 23 août 2014

Demain j'arrete by Gilles Legardinier




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Let me tell you about the stupidest thing I ever did…

So begins the story of Julie, a young woman in a dead end job, whose chance encounter with her new neighbour’s name on his post box pushes her into taking more and more insane risks in an attempt to meet him. From spending days pressed to her peephole to organising a heist, Julie’s insane imagination will lead her into more and more extreme situations. All in the order to answer the one question we all wish we could find the answer to: for whom would you do the stupidest thing in your entire life?

Over my summer holidays, I often looked up to find my wife laughing hysterically, her nose lost behind her Kindle, as she read three books by a French author I had never heard of. Over the week’s holiday, I watched as she alternately laughed, cried and then laughed again, constantly looking up to tell me: “You have to read these.” Now I’m not a big fan of reading in French (I am bilingual so it isn’t a question of not being able to) mainly because I don’t like the way French books are laid out and also because reading in French reminds me too much of school! Still, considering my wife’s reaction and how rare it is for her to suggest a book to me, I decided to make an exception. And boy I’m glad I did! The first of those three novels, Demain j’arrete (I’ll Stop Tomorrow), turned out to be a hilarious, touching novel about how far we are willing to go for the people we fall in love with. Told in first person by the eponymous Julie, the novel is one of those rare beasts: a real laugh-out-loud affair, dangerous to read on public transport unless you want to be taken for a mad man! I read it partly at my inlaws and partly on the train back to my home and I got quite a few glances from people as I snorted my way through the story. Julie is a fantastic character, completely crazy in an incredibly touching way, who I defy anyone not to fall in love with as the story progresses. With a cast of fantastic secondary characters and a mystery to boot, Demain j’arrete has something for everyone… As long as you can read French! Unfortunately, as of writing, neither of these novels have been translated into English, which is really a shame for the English-reading world. These are great!

I gave Demain j’arrete 5 stars.

vendredi 22 août 2014

Le Roi de Fer (The Iron King) by Maurice Druon




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When Philip the Fair, King of France, sentences the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay to be burned at the stake, he thinks he is removing an obstacle from his path. When the Grand Master curses him, though, Philip discovers that he may have placed his entire dynasty on a dark and dangerous path to destruction. While he continues to rule the realm with an iron hand, his family begins to fall apart: his sons are weak and their wives adulterous, his cousins fight and conspire to gain power. As a web of scandal and murder weave around him, though, it is the Templar curse that may signal his ruin…

I had heard about Les Rois Maudits a few years ago when French television released a mini-series adaptation. It wasn’t until I saw this review on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist that I discovered the link between the series of novels and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I decided to go and dig out the novels in French and found a good Kindle version. Starting on the first volume, I quickly found myself dragged into the story of Philip the Fair and his family. Full of the same vast cast of characters as Martin’s fantasy epic, Le Roi de Fer (or The Iron King) begins the tale of the downfall of the Capetian line, rulers of France since the 10th century. Weaving together adultery, intrigue, conspiracy and a dark curse, Maurice Druon sets up his series with aplomb, painting a picture of a different time with great skill. The characters are fantastic creatures, full of honour and malice and dark desires, and the Starks, the Lannisters and the Targaryens are their worthy successors. It is a well paced book that truly brings history to life. Definitely worth checking out!

I gave Le Roi de Fer 4 stars.

jeudi 21 août 2014

The Heist by Daniel Silva

 
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When one of Gabriel Allon’s long-term allies stumbles upon a murder, the Israeli spy is roped in to investigating the murder by the Italian art police. The victim, it seems, was not only a former British spy – he was also involved in the theft, forgery and sale of stolen artwork. And he may hold the key to the holy grail of the stolen art world: a Caravaggio that vanished decades before. But as he tracks down the movements of the dead spy, Allon begins to uncover a conspiracy that hits much closer to home, one that has allowed a brutal Syrian dictator to continue to kill his own people with near impunity. So begins a new game of cat and mouse as the legendary spy gathers friends, allies and former enemies to pull off what could well be the heist of the century…

Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series is one of the best thriller/spy series out there at the moment. Already clocking in at a hefty 14 volumes, our spy/assassin/art restorer hero does not show any signs of flagging, and neither does the man who has brought his adventures to life. In this latest novel, Allon once again finds two worlds colliding: that of the art theft world he has often been involved with in the past with the deadly world of international terrorism he lives in daily. What begins as an attempt to recover a lost masterpiece quickly becomes much more complicated, as Allon discovers ties between a worldwide criminal art ring and an unnamed Syrian dictator whose identity is very loosely hidden in Silva’s novel. Once again, Silva manages to create an exciting, tense thriller that crosses countries and continents, painting fantastic pictures of every city his hero visits and peopling them with both the good and the sinister. At the same time, Silva continues to force his character to grow and change – having accepted the post of head of the Israeli secret service, Allon begins to use his newfound position to great effect, pulling together a team of allies that begin to plan the sort of theft only Gabriel Allon could manage. Resonating even more due to the current events in Israel and Gaza, Silva’s novel gives us a hero for our age, one we wish was out there somewhere protecting us from the shadows.

I gave The Heist 5 stars.

mercredi 20 août 2014

Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky





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The new world had undone the follies of the old... 

The world is coming to an end… In the aftermath of the Wasp Empire’s final victory and the fall of Collegium, all seems lost. In Capitas, Empress Seda stands victorious, her archnemesis cast down into a dark underworld from which there is no escape. But her victory has come at a price – in her pride, the Empress has shattered the Seal and unleashed the Worm on the world once again. As it stirs, entire villages and city districts vanish. As Seda attempts to find a way to undo her mistake – willing to go to inhuman lengths to achieve her goal – Che and her companions struggle to survive in the Worm’s lair. While their fight for their lives turns into a war for the very world itself, unexpected allies and old friends gather in the shadow of shattered Collegium, prepared for one last roll of the dice to end the Empire’s threat once and for all…

Ten books later and we come to the end of the Shadows of the Apt series. One of the most inventive, mind-bending, action-packed epic fantasy series of recent years, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s story of human nations who share abilities with the insectine kinden they have adopted has been a rollercoaster of a ride. Constantly surprising, the Shadows of the Apt has seen the rise and fall of empires, while each and every one of the characters has been dragged through the wringer to become someone completely different. Seal of the Worm is a fantastic ending to this series, tying together all of the disparate story threads and themes that have been present from the beginning, providing closure to the characters, the all amidst an action-packed, thrilling story that shatters everything. The best word to sum up Seal of the Worm is post-apocalyptic and that feeling emanates from every part of the novel. Tchaikovsky does a great job inventing an entirely new world beneath the surface, the lair of the Worm, full of dark, nightmarish, horrific imagery that will stick with me for a long time! He never loses sight of the heart of his series, though, a fact made more than clear in the quote you can find above. A wonderful ending to one of my favourite modern fantasy series, one that definitely establishes Tchaikovsky as a leading star in the epic fantasy firmament. I for one cannot wait to see what he does next!

I gave Seal of the Worm 5 stars.

Bout of Books Day 2


Tuesday

Number of books I’ve read today: 1
Total number of books I’ve read: 1
Books: The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler


A great continuation of the Shadow Campaigns series, some fantastic world building, interesting characters and nice use of the magic system. Definitely enjoyed this one!

Bout of Books Day 1

Well, wouldn't you know it, instead of a bout of Books I came down with a bout of flu... So instead of posting this last night as planned, went straight to bed when I got home and slept through til this morning... Still, did get some reading done! :) 

Monday

Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Total number of books I’ve read: 0
Books:


My first book this week is a relatively long one so didn't finish it until Tuesday. So at the moment, not much to post! 

mardi 19 août 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet




This week's theme: Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don't Own Yet. Not sure if this is in the spirit of the theme, but I've gone with books that haven't been released yet that I'm looking forward to. Most of them, I wish were out already!!!

Ten Books I Really Want But Don't Own Yet


The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

One of the few débuts on the list, this one looks like a Harry-Potter-esque novel, though not sure if it is a hidden history or an alternate universe. Still, looks good!

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell


I've never read any of David Mitchell's novels, but I read his translation of Japanese book The Reason I Jump. Talk of a "fued played out in the shadows and margins of our world" definitely caught my attention!

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett


Although I never read Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, I have devoured every one of his Century trilogy released so far. So cannot wait for Edge of Eternity, which will take the families introduced in Fall of Giants through the 1960s and 1980s.

Unholy War by David Hair


One of the best fantasy series' out at the moment, Unholy War sees the war between east and west heat up as the search for the Scytale becomes Deadly.

Clariel by Garth Nix


OMG! OMG! OMG! Ok, fanboy squealing over. But Garth Nix has a new novel released in his Abhorsen series! Can. Not. Wait!

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin


Not sure exactly when this is going to be released, but it needs to be quick! Unfortunately, at the moment, it looks like it's not going to be until October next year. If you haven't picked up the first books of the trilogy, do so. Now!

Revival by Stephen King


As much as I enjoyed Mr Mercedes, I'm glad to see that Mr King is also releasing a more classic horror novel at the end of the year. A truly epic battle between good and evil spanning five décades, this could be a true Stephen King classic!

The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley


A wonderful fantasy debut at the beginning of the year, Staveley's The Emperor's Blades had it all. The Providence of Fire is Staveley's follow-up. Not much news yet but OMG, that cover!

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole


Anyone disappointed to see Myke Cole's Shadow Ops series come to an end earlier this year will be delighted with the release of this new novel, a prequel to the main series with new heroes and a new enemy.

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan


Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign were a fantastic one-two punch that set up some amazing situations for The Powder Mage series. With the capital in enemy hands, all three main characters find themselves in deadly danger with the fate of the world at stake...


So, what books are you waiting to read?
Share in the comments below

lundi 18 août 2014

The Mantle of Command by Nigel Hamilton


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Taking a look at a seminal period of time in FDR’s presidency, The Mantle of Command is a masterful account of President Roosevelt’s handling of military command in the early moments of the War. Thanks to archives and interviews, we are given a glimpse into the Oval and into secret meetings with Churchill, his own generals and his secretary of war. Showing how Roosevelt stuck to his guns and was proven right countless times, the book gives a brand new vision of the war years, one in which Roosevelt was forced to fight against his allies and his own advisors in order to keep the war effort on track and away from catastrophic decisions that could have seen the Allies invade France too early, or lost the European arena completely. In a sweeping look at this president, his genius for psychology and military affairs is made clear.

WW2 in general, and FDR in particular, have been covered endlessly over the years, but in The Mantle of Command Nigel Hamilton manages to do the unthinkable: find a new way of looking at crucial period of history. Providing a good overview of the years 1941 to 1942 – as America is dragged into war and then takes its first steps into the Pacific and Atlantic arenas – the book explores a relatively virgin perspective centering on FDR’s leadership of the military aspects of American policy, to an extent rarely seen before in American Commanders-in-Chief. While this is often done at the detriment of others (Winston Churchill especially comes across negatively), Hamilton makes a good argument for his proposal. Through archives and interviews, we see how Roosevelt was forced to battle MacArthur, Marshall, and Secretary of Defence Stimson in order to steer the American war machine away from a Japan First policy and towards a true attempt to turn the tide in French Africa. In doing so, the book provides an interesting spin on certain decisions, notably that decision to invade North Africa, as military choices rather than political ones. Sticking to the example of the invasion of North Africa, Hamilton presents it as providing the American military with experience before an assault on France, rather than as a way for Roosevelt to turn attention away from his own political failings. However, the author’s lionizing of FDR lets the book down a tad, making it difficult to know how much of what is offered as fact is based on the author’s analysis, though he does substantiate most of his claims with quotations from FDR and those around him. All in all, The Mantle of Command is an interesting glimpse of an unsung aspect of the Second World War, one that is done in a fresh and intriguing way thanks to Hamilton’s stellar prose.

I gave The Mantle of Command 4 stars.

dimanche 17 août 2014

New on the Library Shelves 17 08 14

AKA Showcase Sunday

A new segment here, participating in the Showcase Sunday meme over at Books, Biscuits & Tea.




No major books received or bought this week, but am excited about getting stuck into Conn Iggulden's two series'. I read the first of his War of the Roses novels at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it a lot. His take on Caesar (combined with his relationship with the man who would go on to kill him) should be fun!
 

 
For review:
A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin (sf)
Lincoln and the Power of the Press by Harold Holzer (non-fic)
The Cutting Room ed. Ellen Datlow (horror)
Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard (sf)
The Real Food Revolution by Tim Ryan (non-fic)




Bought:
The Khan Series Omnibus by Conn Iggulden (historical adventure)
The Emperor Series Omnibus by Conn Iggulden (historical adventure)
The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson (sf)
The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero (fantasy)

So, what's new on your shelves this week?

samedi 16 août 2014

Bout of Books 11

Bout of Books


Thought I would try my hand at a reading challenge and lo and behold, Bout of Books comes along!

What is Bout of Books? Here is the description as provided by the official website:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team.
My goals:
  • Finish six books: A minimum considering the extra reading I hope to get in. But we'll see...
  • Meet new friends on the blogosphere: My main goal from this - find new friends!

Looking forward to lots of reading, blogging and commenting over the next week!

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon


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In a small village deep in the Soviet Union, the inhabitants wake one morning to find the sky has been changed to the deepest crimson. Animals are dripping blood. And ten miles away, the government races to cover up the extent of a disaster that will shake an empire and destroy lives... From Moscow to Pripyat, the events of that years of 1986 will shake up the existence of a handful of people: a nine-year old boy forced to play silent piano in a run-down apartment block, his aunt who must hide her dissident past in the monotonous work of a car factory, her ex-husband whose life as a surgeon will be transformed when he is sent to deal with the aftermath of an unimaginable accident, and a young teenage boy whose family will be torn apart by what has happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant...

Like anyone born in the 1980s, the Chernobyl disaster has been a constant in my life, something that is talked about, taught in school and whose effects are still not completely understood. Despite that presence, I have to admit to not knowing much about what happened in the aftermath and the role it played in the fall of the Soviet Union. So I was intrigued to read this novel set in just before, during and after the disaster, following the first rumbles in the fall of an empire through the eyes of a few characters. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is a fantastic novel, heart wrenching and hopeful at the same time, whose characters lives shift and change over a short period, their entire existences overwhelmed by the tragedy. McKeon does a fantastic job of describing this post-Fall Soviet Union, from the constant fear and paranoia to the glimpses of hope amidst the darkness. A lot of this hope in the novel is provided through the character of Yevgeni. His story remains at the heart of the novel, though for a lot of it he is almost more of a secondary character, but it is his journey that starts the book and caps it off in an epilogue that takes us into the characters’ future (and our past) to show just what came from the events that took place in 1986. Always bittersweet, never going for the easy answer, this book manages to evoke a different place and time not so distant from our own, through McKeon’s wonderful prose. One of the best books I have read all year, without a doubt.

I gave All That Is Solid Melts Into Air 5 stars.

vendredi 15 août 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman




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Tooly Zylberberg, an American with one of the most unlikely names in fiction, owns a tiny bookshop in a tiny Welsh village, where she can avoid humans and hide among books. Still mystified by the events of her youth, which saw her spirited away from Asia to Europe to the US by a group of strange misfits, she tries to avoid thinking about her past. But when a former boyfriend from New York contacts her about Humphrey, the old Russian man who once took her under her wing, Tooly finds herself forced to return to a world she has left behind, a world still full of mysteries. For somewhere in the wild existence she once shared with Humphrey, the chaotic and temptuous Sarah and the charismatic, mysterious Venn, lies the truth about herself…
 

Held together by one of the most interesting narrative structures I have ever seen – the book cycles constantly through three separate time periods – The Rise and Fall of Great Powers is Tom Rachman’s sophmore effort, his first book since 2010’s The Imperfectionists. It is a great read, full of interesting, quirky characters, whom we follow through three different incarnations. Held together by the central figure of Tooly, we see each of these people in the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s, with each time period clearly defined and described, without ever falling into period cliches. A clera love of books and reading is present throughout – most of the characters are readers, and Tooly especially carries her love of the written world throughout her adventures (she is described as someone who won’t finish a book because she doesn’t want the people she meets in books to end with “a blank space at the bottom of the final page”). A mind-twisting mystery is teased throughout the novel, bringing all of the storylines full circle by the end of it, and setting up some great revelations in the final pages. I loved The Rise and Fall of Great Powers almost as much as The Imperfectionists, and hope we get a new Tom Rachman novel before too long!
 

I gave The Rise and Fall of Great Powers 4 stars.

jeudi 14 août 2014

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King


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Of all the cases that haunt Bill Hodges after he retires as a cop, none haunt him more than the lone driver who plowed into a crowd of job seekers in a stolen Mercedes. Known as Mr Mercedes, the perpetrator was never found. So when Hodges gets a letter from someone identifying themselves as the escaped killer, he enlists the help of an unlikely group of allies in order to track him down before he causes another tragedy. What starts as an obsession, though, soon turns into a race against time as Mr Mercedes prepares to strike again, this time with an attack that will kill or maim thousands...
 

Announced as Stephen King’s first entry in the ‘hard-boiled’ genre, Mr Mercedes is a cracking story, full of some of the most unexpected and original heroes he has ever created, going up against a truly twisted villain with some major mommy issues. While the echoes of Norman Bates are obvious, King manages to freshen the archetype, partly through a truly sickening opening scene that left me breathless. After a classic Stephen King slow start, the book picks up following the cremation scene and from then on it is almost impossible to put down – I for one stayed up way too late to finish it, especially considering some of the gut punch events building to the gripping finale! There are a few elements that might turn you off. If you’re looking for a non-King Stephen King book here, you’ll be disappointed: his inimitable style of writing is ever present, which you will either love or hate depending on your personal taste. As with most of his work, it is a book of its time: there are lots of references throughout to reality TV, terrorism and the Internet. And one character who is pivotable to the resolution of the plot only appears half way through. For me, though, this is a great King novel, written with all the skill the master can bring to the page. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy – I will be queuing up to get the sequel.
 

I gave Mr Mercedes 5 stars.

mercredi 13 août 2014

Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey




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When a fatal illness begins affecting dragons just before the latest cycle of Thread begins to fall, the young dragonrider Lorana must try to find a way to stop the disease before it decimates their ranks. When her efforts fail to bring about the necessary healing, she and her friends turn to the lyrics of an ancient song that may point to an answer five hundred years in their past, in the early years after the arrival of mankind on Pern. In those long-ago days, Wind Blossom, daughter of the woman who bred the fire-lizards ino dragons, struggles to live up to her mother’s shadow while the technology so central to their lives fails around them. These two women, separated by hundred of years, must find a way of communicating across the gulf separating them, in a race to save the entire dragon race…
 

In the first Pern book written exclusively by Anne McCaffrey’s son Todd, we are treated to an adventure across the ages that takes place partly in the era of the Third Fall first introduced in the McCaffreys first jointly written novel, Dragon’s Kin, and partly back in the earliest days of the Pern timeline, fifty years after the arrival of mankind on the planet. Todd McCaffrey does a great job of juggling these twin timelines, telling contained stories in both that interweave and combine in clever ways as the storylines progress. It was really nice to return back to the early days of Pern, seeing some of the characters introduced in Dragonsdawn again, and continuing the fall of the old world of technology and its influence on how society develops in its absence. At the same time, McCaffrey creates an intriguing cast of new characters (some of whom return from Dragon’s Kin in secondary roles) and a tense situation – as Fall approaches, the dragons have begun to die off. Dealing with a disease forces the new characters to struggle to find a way to heal them, using what little skills they have. The only hope seems to be a message from the past, one that is revealed slowly through the course of the book and which has a very clever resolution at the end. Todd McCaffrey does a nice job of playing with the time travelling elements and rules introduced in the earlier books, the consequences of which are central to a lot of the characters (one extremely unpleasant character in particular has a redemption thanks to these effects). The characters are classic McCaffrey – if you’re looking for complex grimdark characterisation, this is probably not the series for you. But as part of a long-running, much loved series, Dragonsblood is a fine addition and an exciting novel in its own right. I would definitely say that the Pern series is in good hands with McCaffrey’s second son at the helm.
 

I gave Dragonsblood 4 stars.

mardi 12 août 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read





This week's theme: Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view) I couldn't come up with ten. So this list will be made up of eight books I'm not sure I want to read, followed by two I wasn't sure of but am glad I did!


Eight Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel – Although I enjoyed the first book a lot, the second one was a bit of a let down that I had to force myself to finish. While I’m still looking forward to seeing how the trilogy wraps itself up… Not a hundred percent sure.

Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan – I thoroughly enjoyed her first series and have heard good things about the follow up (notably from my Dad). But I have heard mixed messages about this one.

Augustus by Adrian Goldsworthy – The subject matter is a definite must-read, but the last two books I read by Goldsworthy were quite dry, so worried this one may be a bit of a slog. May end up being the kind of book I dip in and out of over a few weeks instead of reading it all through in one.

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi – I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, but they are nowhere near being “easy” reads. The reviews I have read say that this one is even less easy on the reader than the first two, so…

The Kills by Richard House – Mainly worried about this one because of the sheer size of the thing. I mean I read big books but this one… Still, I have heard good things about it so far!

Italian Venice by R J B Bosworth – I love Venice and was quite excited about this one, but the subject matter – dealing more with modern Venice than the city of the Doges, may not be what I’m hoping.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie – Leckie’s first book was so hugely hyped all across the blogging world, but I was not as huge a fan as all that. I enjoyed it, but not as much as others have. So although I have added the second one to my TBR, not in a huge hurry to get to it.

The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis – This one is on the list mainly because of Tregillis’ last book, Something More Than Night, which I was not hugely in love with. So this is a toss up: it will either be as good as his Milkweed series, or more like Something More… in which case it might not be great. 


Eight Books I Wasn't Sure I Wanted to Read (But Am Glad I Did!)

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson – I had read some extremely mixed reviews about this one before I read it, but am glad I didn’t pay attention to them. I loved this book and it is probably the debut of the year so far for me.

The Happier Dead by Ivo Stourton – I wasn’t convinced by the cover or blurb of this one, but the book itself was a fantastic near future SF thriller. 


So, what books are you not sure about in your TBR list? 
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lundi 11 août 2014

Hell Before Breakfast by Robert H Patton

 
Amazon
Goodreads

The Gilded Age. A time of advancing technology that gave rise to the modern world we know. Thanks to the creation of the electric telegraph and the transatlantic cable, for the first time it was possible for foreign correspondents to share their dispatches with the general public days and sometimes even hours after the events. Out of this came the first war correspondents, Americans sent to cover twenty years of conflict in Europe and Central Asia. Pushed by bitter competition but brought together by a brotherhood born of common experience, these men drove public opinion and fuelled passions that would not come to rest until World War I. Hell Before Breakfast tells their story, through the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the Russian conflicts in Central Asia and through to the sinking of the Titanic.

I have a thing about history books set in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, so Hell Before Breakfast was right up my alley. As such it jumped out at me from the Amazon Monthly Editors’ Choices and went straight on to my TBR list as a book I was definitely looking forward to getting to. In the end, the book was an enjoyable read, though not as much as I had been expecting. After all, a non-fiction book dealing with journalism at a time when the profession was truly a cut-throat one, could only be exciting, right? Well, yes and no. While the book has its moments, especially when the correspondents become directly involved in battles, there is also a lack of flow in the narrative – you sometimes get the feeling that the book would have worked better with a different chapter concentrating on each correspondent or newspaper, rather than on a simple linear story. The journalists themselves, though, are truly the stars of the book: every single one of them comes across as a real character, complete with extravagant foibles and – for some of them – extremely dramatic lives (and deaths!). The theme that remains omnipresent throughout is the fact that these men were responsible for providing us with an important glimpse of the world of the time, putting everything on the line in order to do so. Overall, I enjoyed Hell Before Breakfast, though I can see ways in which it could have been improved. 


I gave Hell Before Breakfast 3 stars.

dimanche 10 août 2014

New on the Library Shelves 10 08 14

AKA Showcase Sunday

A new segment here, participating in the Showcase Sunday meme over at Books, Biscuits & Tea.


A slow couple of weeks for review copies, but I brought a couple of books I've been looking forward to, including Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters which I've been hearing good things about. If it is anywhere as good as The Shining Girls, I should be in a for a nice treat.
 
 
For review:
A.D. 30 by Ted Dekker
Empire of Sin by Gary Krist
The Gods of War by Graham Brown and Spencer J Andrews


Bought:
The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr Weigl by Arthur Allen

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Dead Line by Chris Ewan
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce
The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham
Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon
A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Frostborn by Lou Anders
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

samedi 9 août 2014

Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy




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Goodreads

When a group of terrorists carry out a brutal terrorist attacks on mainstreet America, three rookie operatives of a secret organization established off the books by former President Jack Ryan are set on the trail of the men who organized the attack. While two of them, the Caruso brothers, are trained killers (an FBI agent and a marine), the other, Jack Ryan Jr, is nothing but an analyst. As the scope of the conspiracy becomes clear, however, all three men realize that nothing they have been through up until now has prepared them for the reality of the new world order… and that their lives are about to become far more dangerous.

A follow-up to Tom Clancy’s beloved Jack Ryan series, this first book follows three members of Ryan’s family – his two nephews, Dominic and Brian Caruso, and his son, Jack Ryan Jr – as they become involved in a black ops organization that Ryan set up just before leaving office. Although Ryan himself does not appear, he is omnipresent throughout the book, his own actions leading directly to the situation the three younger men find themselves in. Clancy spends as much time as usual on technical description of the world of espionage, and he creates a very realistic situation here for his characters to encounter – an alliance between Columbian drug cartels and Muslim terrorists, leading to an attack on a series of malls. Clancy’s conservative politics and pro-espionage stance are once again obvious here, a fact that sometimes detracts from the likeability of his main characters. While there seems to be an effort to show both sides of the story, the Caruso brothers especially seem to be two-tone cowboy type characters, with a hint of racism and misogynism thrown in. The book moves at a fair pace, however, and the pages turn almost by themselves. I look forward to the follow-ups which bring the original hero of the series back to the forefront. 


I gave The Teeth of the Tiger 3 stars.

vendredi 8 août 2014

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson




Amazon
Goodreads

Sedition seethes beneath the streets of Caeli-Amur, while the three Houses fight a hidden war to gain control… In an ancient city full of ancient technology and dark mysteries, the time of the Festival of the Sun brings the minotaurs and sets a female assassin on an unexpected path. Meanwhile, strikes in the factory district provide a minor functionary with an opportunity to scale the heights of power, but the deals he will make with the city’s overlords will change him beyond all belief. And down below the streets, a young seditionist seizes control of his group and begins to gather numbers and weapons, preparing to find a way to overthrow the Houses of Arbor, Technis and Marin in order to return the power to the people. All three come together in the search for access to Amur’s sister city, a city of deadly knowledge and unimaginable power, a city lost beneath the waves…

Every so often, I read a fantasy novel that reminds me why I love this genre. Unwrapped Sky is one of those! Full of imaginative concepts, flawed and multidimensional characters and some fantastic prose, Rjurik Davidson’s debut is a fantastic opening to a new series, reminiscent of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, while not quite reaching the heights of that masterpiece. A true entry in the Weird genre, Unwrapped Sky follows three POV characters through the upheavals in Caeli-Amur, bringing their paths into collision and then spinning them off again, changing each and every one of them along the way. Davidson’s true skill is in the world he has created – a world that feels lived in, full of weird technology and weirder magic. The line between the two is kept blurred, combining at one point gods and space travel and satellites in orbit. The characters are all well drawn – none of them are true heroes, but all of them have their moments. The only negative would be the plot, which is slightly meandering and does not have a true resolution at the end. Everything is left very much up in the air, in preparation for the follow-up, expected in the first half of next year. 


I gave Unwrapped Sky 4 stars.

jeudi 7 août 2014

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose





Paris, the 1920s. A place of excitement, dissolution and liberty. A place of ambitions, passions, art in every form, where the discontented of the world over come to find freedom. In the centre of this world lies the Chameleon Club, where expats, artists and libertines rub shoulders with extraordinary athletes, journalists and cross dressers. Into this world come a group of people whose lives will come together for a time before breaking apart in the horror of the Second World War. Centered on Lou Villars, a former runner and racecar driver who becomes a Nazi interrogator, these sometimes lovers, sometimes friends, sometimes enemies see their fortunes rise and fall. From the Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, to the America writer Lionel Maine, these characters live and breathe through the heights of the 20s, the despairs of the 30s and the darkness of the Occupation.

Told through a kaleidoscope of voices – letters, diaries, memoirs and a non-fiction work – Lovers at the Chameleon Club is a truly epic work, providing a sweeping vision of a city and a world that came to an end in the fires of the Second World War. While the plot comes to revolve around the character of Lou Villars, who begins her life as an athlete before becoming a racecar driver, a mechanic, a spy and finally a torturer, all of the characters have their own stories and lives. Showing the effect that one person can have on so many lives, Lovers at the Chameleon Club also deals with the unreliability of narrators, as each and every one is shown at some point to have exaggerated, hidden or even outright lied about the truth. Where the book truly excels, though, is in the creation of the Paris of the 20s and 30s, and especially the portrayal of the Chameleon Club itself. Prose does a fantastic job of describing this world on the cusp of such brutal change. She also manages to give each narrator their own individual voice, passing the story from one to the other with aplomb. Though far from being an action-packed thriller, the pages turn by themselves, and I got to the end of it before I had realized it. With a surprise twist in the final chapter, which puts everything else into a new light, the novel is a triumphant depiction of an intriguing period of history, told through the eyes of some fantastically drawn characters. 

I gave Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 4,5 stars.  

mercredi 6 août 2014

Collecting Shakespeare by Stephen H. Grant



When the Folger Shakespeare Library opened in Washington D.C. in 1932 (on the Bard’s birthday) it housed an amazing number of First Folios, even more books and manuscripts, and even included an Elizabethan Theatre. All of this came together thanks to the tireless, almost obsessive collecting of an American couple – Henry and Emily Folger. The purchase, collection and storage of all sorts of items about Shakespeare and his era became the centre piece of their marriage, financed with the fortune Henry accumulated as president of the Standard Oil Company, where he worked with John D. Rockefeller Sr. In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H Grant recounts the story of this amazing couple, whose love for Shakespeare was only eclipsed by their love for one another…

I really wanted to like Collecting Shakespeare. A non-fiction book about book collecting at the turn of the century? Revolving around the collection of works about and by William Shakespeare? Collected by a man who lived and worked with one of the business moguls of the period? It seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment. Stephen Grant lets the subject matter down with unexciting, ponderous prose, which leaches all of the fun out of what could have been an intriguing slice of turn of the century history. Considering the world of book collecting and the rivalries that Grant gets into, as well as Folger’s place in a world of oil and corruption that caused him to be brought up on charges more than once, this could have been great, exciting narrative history if in the hands of an Erik Larson or a Paul Collins. Unfortunately, in Collecting Shakespeare we get a simple, dry enumeration of events, one that at times follows a linear timeline and at other times jumps about in a more thematic view. This makes for a messy narrative that is not easy to follow. All in all, a disappointing treatment of an interesting subject. 


I gave Collecting Shakespeare 2 stars.

mardi 5 août 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Narrative History




Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Narrative History

Narrative History is defined by Wikipedia as the practice of writing history in a story-based form. For me, it has always been making history interesting, relevant and exciting. For anyone who has never read a narrative history book, here is my list of top ten books to interest you: 

The Fall of the House of Walworth by Geoffrey O’Brien

Opening with patricide and then turning back to look at the rise and fall of a New York aristocratic family
 

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

A double narrative following President Garfield, the man who assassinated him and the man who could have saved him – Alexander Graham Bell


The Lost City of Z by David Grann


A true adventure story, this book follows a British explorer who vanished in the Amazon during his search for a lost, mythical city
 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The narrative history book par excellence, the Devil is a serial killer masquerading as a doctor during the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Best little tidbit? The serial killer’s last name? Holmes! :)
 

The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

Any book about people throughout the New York area finding parts of the same dead body has to be enthralling, right? Set amongst the newspaper battles between Joseph Pullitzer and William Randolph Hearst.
 

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

A great book chronicling the career and most famous case of the detective who lies at the origin of every police detective in literature, Inspector Jonathan Wincher.
 

Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins

Another entry for Paul Collins, this time about a trial that pitted two of the Founding Fathers against one another – Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
 

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

From the back cover copy:
Two harrowing crashes . . . A vanished rescue plane . . . A desperate fight for life in a frozen, hostile land . . . The quest to solve a seventy-year-old mystery
Need I say more ? :)
 

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

A slightly more epic entry, tracing an entire summer in America, which saw Charles Lindbergh cross the Atlantic, Babe Ruth break the home run record, Al Capone tighten his grip on Chicago and the first ‘talkie’ be released.
 

50 Children by Steven Pressman

The most recent narrative history I read, 50 Children is the touching story of one couple’s attempts to save 50 Jewish children from the Holocaust just before WW2.

Any books you would add to this list? What type of books would you choose to introduce a genre or a writer to someone?