Just a quick reminder!

RCL524

There will be no postings on the following dates:

27th to 31st March

Unfortunately my cunning plan to be able to have something scheduled for posting has fallen through, so by posting this reminder I am just letting you know that I am not abandoning my book reviews and other tidbits I share with you.

Thank you, once again for the time you take to read the blog and the comments you frequently make.  Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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Review: The Reality Dysfunction (Night’s Dawn #1) ~ Peter F. Hamilton

The reality dysfunctionIn AD 2600 the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature’s boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. Huge fleets of sentient trader starships thrive on the wealth created by the industrialization of entire star systems. And throughout inhabited space the Confederation Navy keeps the peace. A true golden age is within our grasp.

But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal’s chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it “The Reality Dysfunction.” It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.

4 Thumbs-UpWhen most people think of English sci-fi writers the one that usually comes to mind is Douglas Adams as author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  However, after reading this first in an epic space trilogy that may all change.

To say this is not easy reading would be an accurate statement, but to say it is well worth reading would also be an accurate statement; this is a novel that demands a reader’s full attention and time so that they will fully appreciate all the layers and undercurrents that feature within its pages, of which there are over 1200.

In this book, and I have read the whole trilogy more than once, the Author takes the time to start developing the characters that will feature throughout the entire series.  With great attention to detail he places certain personality traits in the storyline at key points.  There is the evil genius, rebellious teenager and a bad boy turned good, which unfortunately make them appear like cookie cutter characters that one might read about in any book in this genre.  However, the main problem with this that I found was that it was very difficult to discover who, out of all the characters introduced, was the main protagonist.  Once discovered, he turns out to be the kind of character you will either instantly like or want him to be dealt a killing blow as quickly as possible.  I quite liked the quirkiness I found to be part of his personality and, rather than the cookie cutter I imagined he was destined to be for the remainder of the novel, he actually turned out to be quite fun.  What makes him fun may not be every reader’s ideal, but there was just something about his character that made him hard to dislike.

When it comes to the plot line some of the happenings may seem to hit a nerve, or give a feeling of déjà vu.  This is not because the Author has transplanted the idea from somewhere else, but rather that something else has borrowed an idea found in this book and adapted it to their use; think Farscape, Moya and Pilot  when reading this book and you will see to what I refer.  As with all sci-fi fantasy novels, this one provides a landscape in which the reader can let their imagination run riot; it doesn’t matter if at first glance some of the plot lines may appear unbelievable, put them in whatever context your imagination sees fit, and you will find they become believable.

For those readers who are offended by sex scenes in their reading material, there are some included in this book, but they are of such a nature that you could easily skim over them without losing the thread of the plot at all.  In fact, I felt that if these unnecessary scenes had been cut from the original book, not only would it have cut down the number of pages but also helped the flow of the storyline a little.  The main reason for my 4 thumbs rating, as much as I enjoyed this book, is that rather than space out some of the more brutal parts of this beginning epic, the Author crammed in as much torture and general exploitation in to the first half of the book as they possibly could and this was rather overwhelming at times.  There is so much more I want to bring to the attention of anyone who might be considering reading this book, but not only would it result in my revealing some pretty spectacular pieces of writing, but it would probably mean that this review would extend way beyond the usual space I allocate to these things.

With that said I would highly recommend this book, and the following two, to anyone who enjoys a great sci-fi epic and who may not have already read this.

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Review: The Unquiet Bones (The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon #1) ~ Mel Starr

The Unquiet BonesHugh of Singleton, fourth son of a minor knight, has been educated as a clerk, usually a prelude to taking holy orders. However, he feels no real calling—despite his lively faith—and he turns to the profession of surgeon, training in Paris, and then hanging his sign in Oxford.

Soon after, a local lord asks Hugh de Singleton to track the killer of a young woman whose bones have been found in the castle cesspool. Through his medical knowledge, Singleton identifies her as the impetuous missing daughter of a local blacksmith.

The young man she loved—whom she had provoked very publicly—is quickly arrested and sentenced at Oxford. But this is just the beginning of the tale.

The story of Singleton’s adventure unfolds with realistic medical procedures, droll medieval wit, romantic distractions, and a consistent underlying sense of Christian compassion.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first in a series, The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon, and if this one is anything to judge the rest by it promises to be an intriguing and interesting set of books.

Unlike most cozy mysteries that are set in Bake Shops, Quilting Clubs or just centred around folks that enjoy unravelling a good mystery, this one is set in medieval England.  The main protagonist is a four son, and as befitting the times is having to make his own way in the world, with death of his three older brothers being the only way he will inherit. The way he finds is the path of the surgeon, although given the condition of 14th century medicine I feel that the title ‘surgeon’ should be loosely interpreted.  With a skillful hand the Author paints perfectly the lot of a younger son, and the reader is transported into the time period to suffer the cold and hunger that the main character experiences.  Despite all his hardships, this character is very likeable, and is very well aware of the holes in his knowledge and goes to great lengths to make sure that those around him understand his skills only go so far.  As the novel progresses so we see our main character grow and begin to find out who he really is; this is done with humility on the part of our ‘hero’ which only serves to endear him to the reader even more.

This is not a fast paced murder mystery but rather it ambles along at pace that reflects the era it was set in.  It is a simpler time, but this simpler time is laced with a darkness and cruelty that was redolent in the 14th century.  Although the story itself is simple, that is a good thing, the Authors descriptions are not weighed down with too much description, but not too little that the reader loses interest in what is happening.  The book does have a lot of references to Christianity and the Church, but this is not because it is a Christian fiction novelist, again this is just a reflection of a time when the Church played a very large role in the everyday lives of the people it touched.  Again this added to the overall feel of the novel, and did not detract from it in any way.  Through tight writing and keeping on track with the plot, this novel is more than just another medieval tale.

I would highly recommend reading this series, and those readers who enjoy a cozy mystery but are looking for something away from the normal setting might especially enjoy this along with lovers of historical fiction.  I will definitely be reading the remainder of the series as, and when they are published.

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Review: Whistling In the Dark ~ Lesley Kagen

Whistling in the darkIt was the summer on Vliet Street when we all started locking our doors…

Sally O’Malley made a promise to her daddy before he died. She swore she’d look after her sister, Troo. Keep her safe. But like her Granny always said-actions speak louder than words. Now, during the summer of 1959, the girls’ mother is hospitalized, their stepfather has abandoned them for a six pack, and their big sister, Nell, is too busy making out with her boyfriend to notice that Sally and Troo are on the Loose. And so is a murderer and molester.

Highly imaginative Sally is pretty sure of two things. Who the killer is. And that she’s next on his list. Now she has no choice but to protect herself and Troo as best she can, relying on her own courage and the kindness of her neighbors.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – Wisconsin.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a great little read packed full of things that are part of life in small town USA; or is it?  At times this book had so much going on in it, the town seemed crowded.  This is also a debut novel from this Author

The book is told through the words of a child narrator who has seen more than her fair share of troubles and hardship so early on in life.  I found the way in which this character provided the dialogue to be fairly believable of someone her age who had experienced the things she had, as at times her words changed from that of a child to those of someone so much older; to me this revealed the inner conflict in her as she battled within herself to be the child she was, or the adult that was expected of her, and I thought that the Author was able to portray this side of her personality very well.  Like the child she is though, she often misinterprets ‘adult’ conversations, and after a while this became rather tiring.  The main problem I found with all the characters in this book were that they were not very deeply developed and struggled to maintain their two-dimensional persona, and it was this lack of the development of what could have been some very interesting characters in this book that made me rate it a three thumbs.

Although this book is a little slow at first, it soon picks up and is an ideal book for a wet day when there is nothing else to take your fancy.  It is full of 1950’s nostalgia, childhood innocence and also darkly disturbing scenes.  For those who are offended by same-sex relationships, there is one featured in this book and this may mean you want to give the book a miss.  However, it is not overplayed to the point where it dominates, and is not dealt with in an insensitive manner, so readers may be able to skim over this portion if they are otherwise enjoying this book.

I would recommend this book to those who are looking for their next book club read, as it is sure to be the stepping off point for some interesting discussion, and I will be reading more by this Author in the future to see how their character development evolves as they become more confident.

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Questing ~ Annie Marion Fox

creation

Questing

In reaches, limitless of space, confined,
The flaming worlds in rhythmic order swing,
As thrice a million stars forever cling,
To the roof of the sky their daily round assigned.
Far distant realms, born of Eternal Mind,-
Ordained when Time’s first fitful pulses stirred,
Creation’s dawn beheld with vision blurred,
Those worlds from Chaos merge defined.

O worlds on worlds! Our beggared phrases fail,
Man mutely stands before your regnant power,
Pursues his quest to pierce beyond the veil,
Whence is your force unseen and whence your hour?
We groping scan unanswering skies in vain,
But he who seeks will yet the answer gain.

Annie Marion Fox

Review: Riddle in Stone (The Riddle in Stone #1) ~ Robert Evert

RiddleLong after the last of the great heroes of old has died, the Undead King is stirring again, amassing a goblin horde ready to sweep out of the mountains and destroy all of humanity. The only thing preventing utter annihilation is Edmund—a stuttering librarian who knows a secret, a secret that every thief, assassin, and king would kill to have. Fleeing from relentless peril, Edmund wages a solitary battle against an ancient evil. But how can one man succeed when so many before him have failed?

3 Thumbs-UpYet another book I’m not sure why I decided to read, but again I’m glad I found in my dying Kindle library.  This is a debut novel from this Author and is the start of a trilogy.

If you could see me writing this review, you would see me shaking my head over the main protagonist and, upon first meeting this character in the book you are as sure as night follows day that no good will come of anything he turns his hand to.  For starters, how the Author can have chosen such a boring person as their main character and, no offense against those with a speech impediment, he stutters to boot!  He’s arrogant and so full of his own self-importance that I was at a loss to find any redeeming qualities in him whatsoever, and really took an instant dislike to him.  Fortunately, I decided to continue reading and not let this nitwit of a character put me off, and I am so glad I did.  The story of this person’s transformation into a likeable and honourable character was wonderful, and his personal growth as it took place was actually one of favourite parts of this book.  The Author also wrote the real villains of this storyline well too, they were not the usual one –dimensional people that are often found to play the role of villain, they were fleshed out enough to claim their own place in the plot.

This book is a fun read, apart from the growth of the main character, the dire situations and events all the characters found themselves in and faced with made me chuckle to myself; and by this stage in the novel even the nitwit, who was turning into the hero was easy to cheer on.  Some readers may recognise a tip of the hat to certain geek culture icons as they read, but to find out who these are you would have to climb in your police box and go pick up a copy of this book.  My reasoning for rating a book I so obviously enjoyed at only three thumbs was that missing ingredient; with a title of this sort I expected a little more mystery and epic questing to be found within its pages, the cover even alluded to this, and I didn’t get it in my copy.

I will recommend this book though to anyone wanting an entertaining read with a very unlikely hero as its central character, and I will be reading the remainder of the trilogy to see if I get my quests and mysteries.

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Review: Fissures ~ D.L. Hodges

FissuresAndrew (Drew) Parsons, the product of an abusive upbringing by his adoptive father, has spent 7 years in jail for a crime he committed in his teens. While in the penitentiary he befriends an older inmate, John, a seasoned veteran of the prison system, who mentors Drew, teaching him the path he has chosen isn’t the one he should continue on. Returning home, after his prison release, with the desire to change his life, Drew steps back into a world fraught with conflict and misery; but also to a mother who has always been there to protect him. Soon, however, he realizes he must break away from that environment if he is to have any chance of success. Escaping his parents’ house, Drew sets out on a journey of discovery; to make a new future for himself, but also to learn the mystery of his past, to find his birth parents. As Drew begins to uncover his history he is swept into a world of lies, abandonment and violence, and the truths he finds are far from the ones he sought.

3 Thumbs-UpI doubt very much of anything will prepare the reader for what they find within the covers of this book.  Many may be put off by the title, which does seem to indicate that the contents maybe all over the pace and depressing; but once I started reading this I had to admit it was not engrossing, but a book I didn’t mind picking up when I had a few minutes.

The novel is definitely character driven, and in writing their character the Author has done a skilful job.  The main protagonist is one who realises that they have made mistakes throughout their lives and has now decided things have to change.  Through the emotions and difficult decisions this character has to make, the reader is sometimes unwillingly caught up in the emotions that seem to pour out of the character and, although this can be a good way to identify with a character in certain situations, at times I found it to be emotionally draining on myself and had to put the book down and walk away.  It is the journey to redemption of the main character that is the driving force in this book, and the reader travels every inch of this journey with them.

The storyline itself is tight and well written mystery, with some very good edge of your seats moments.  However, I did feel at times that the Author had referred too many times to his thesaurus to find the exact word they needed, but this didn’t always hit the mark and slowed the pace of the novel down considerably; this is the reasoning behind my three thumbs rating.  Some of the scenes of abuse written in this novel may upset some people, and well it should, as it serves to remind us what fragile lives we all lead and hold in our hands to mould and shape as we will.  This Author does an outstanding job of showing the reader the lives of those less fortunate; those you could almost call the lost children of society who end up in the same situation as the main character in this novel.

However, this book is definitely an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to those readers who enjoy a “bad boy turned good” tale.

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eBooks have lovers too.

Book fight
The continuing debate over which is better, the eBook or the good old-fashioned print copy (and I know most people who read my postings know where I stand in this argument), continues without any sign of letting up.

 To show I’m not 100% on the side of the “lets smash all eReaders” group, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what the reading public in the states I’ve covered so far in my ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge are downloading to their electronic devices.  I’ve included WI as I am currently reading this, and the review will be posted within the next week.

Hawaii: 

The devil's StarTitle – The Devil’s Star: A Novel
Author – Jo Nesbø
ASIN: – B006IY9FEY

Description – A young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat. One finger has been severed from her left hand, and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star – a pentagram, the devil’s star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it. But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

A wave of similar murders is on the horizon. An emerging pattern suggests that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands, and the five-pointed devil’s star is key to solving the riddle.

 Illinois:

American GodsTitle – American Gods
Author – Neil Gaiman
ASIN: – B004YW4L5K

Description – Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, AMERICAN GODS takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what and who it finds there…

Minnesota:

Labor dayTitle – Labor Day
Author – Joyce Maynard
ASIN: – B002HPRBZS

Description – With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly’s with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his “Husband for a Day” coupon, he still can’t make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life’s most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

New York:

The BedwetterTitle – The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee
Author – Sarah Silverman
ASIN: – B003F1WMAW

Description – From the outrageously filthy and oddly innocent comedienne Sarah Silverman comes a memoir—her first book—that is at once shockingly personal, surprisingly poignant, and still pee-in-your-pants funny. If you like Sarah’s television show The Sarah Silverman Program, or memoirs such as Chelsea Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea and Artie Lange’s Too Fat to Fish, you’ll love The Bedwetter.

Tennessee:

I hope they serve beerTitle – I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Author – Tucker Max
ASIN: – B002MBD5V6

Description – My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world. —from the Introduction.

Wisconsin:

NeverwhereTitle – Neverwhere
Author – Neil Gaiman
ASIN: – B000FC130E

Description – Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

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Review: The Face in the Mirror: a transhuman identity crisis (Reflections #1) ~ T.R. Brown

The Face in the mirrorWhat does it mean to be human?

Imagine you’re in a tragic accident.
You expect to die!
Instead you awaken in a body that is not yours.
Not even your own species!
Not even your own gender.

In a desperate attempt to save your life your brain has been transplanted into the only body available, the body of a genetically engineered slave.

Everyone is quick to assure you that you are still “legally human,” but you know that when any stranger sees you they see property or perhaps a Frankenstenian abomination.

It is a transformation that forces Todd Hershel to reevaluate his sense of self, his gender identity, her sexual orientation and how humanity relates to its biological creations.

If your brain is in a new body whose soul do you have?

3 Thumbs-UpThere is an old saying “never judge a book by its cover”, and that is especially true in the case of this book.  If I had picked this up in a store, the cover alone would have made me put this back on the shelf, without even reading the synopsis and, by doing that I would have missed out on interesting read.  However, for those who are made uncomfortable by gender identity issues I would recommend giving this book as miss as they are a strong theme here.

This is the second book I’ve read in about a week that has really made me re-evaluate the world we live in, and what exactly it means to be “human”, and what happens when elements of our own “personality” clash with those of the donor of any organs we may have.  This book brings with it a whole slew of questions, many of which it manages to answer through its main protagonist.  This character is being pulled six ways from Sunday, not only by the confusion they feel within themselves and their dreams, but from also from the futuristic society that they live in.  Through the emotional trials and tribulations this character encounters, the reader is also made to address issues that are the forefront in many circles today, and without giving away any spoilers, it is hard to indicate what these are.  It was easy for me to feel sympathy for the main as they went through their growing pains from denial to acceptance, and the way in which the Author portrays this transition makes the journey feel real and not far-fetched as one might think.

Despite this being a very constructed and detailed plot line that makes this kind of future plausible, it felt at times as if the Author own technical knowledge took over the plot at the times when more action or drama would have been suitable.  There has obviously been a lot of research in the fields covered in this novel; such as ethics, and psychology, but again this seemed to dominate in places where it just didn’t seem appropriate and this, I feel, will make the book a rather ponderous read for some people.  What made me give the rating I did to this book was the lack of background on some of the players mentioned within its pages, I’m not sure if this is going to covered in more detail in future books in the series, but the omission of it in the first book left me feeling that the book was definitely lacking something that would have taken it up a notch.

If you are a reader looking for something a little different, that will make you think outside the box, and actually take notice of the world we live in, and on, then this is a read of you.  Despite my 3 thumbs rating I will be reading others in the series to see how it develops.

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Review: Children of Fire ~ Mary Fonvielle

Children of fire“An entire race no one has seen in hundreds of years.”

Born to a people reduced to legend and superstition, Ankenar was ready to live out his life as the overlooked middle child, but when his family and race are threatened he must reach out to a world that has forgotten him.

 

4 Thumbs-UpWarning: read this book at your own peril.  This short will draw you in hook, line and sinker and leave you frustrated at the end with the words “To be continued”

At only 90 pages long, this short sets the groundwork for some extremely believable characters that will have you fully connecting to them by the time those dreaded words above appear on the page.  This was the perfect start to a series; not too long that the reader would wonder whether they would be able to carry on the journey with the characters, but also not too short to have them thinking I really don’t care what happens to them.  The only way I can accurately write my opinions on the main protagonist is to liken them to someone you meet at either a dinner or conference, do not get to spend too much time getting to know them, but learn just enough to make you want more.

The Author manages, with great skill and use of words to pack a dynamic storyline into a very small amount of pages; and it’s this plot that will have the reader fully exercising their imagination and creativity as they read about the world the Author has created.  There were many things that brought to mind for me the possibility that this short was the stepping off point into an epic not dissimilar to The Lord of the Rings, which not a bad thing at all, as the plot line is not similar and, therefore, leaves lot of room for expansion into a new and equally enveloping realm.

The reason I gave this book 4 thumbs was its length; it left me wanting more, and this means I will definitely be reading the remainder of books in this series as fast as the Author can publish.  I would, therefore, highly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy epics, but would strongly advise them to have book 2 in the series on hand for when they reach the end of this one.

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