January and February literary wanderings

Posted by admin on Apr 14, 2010 in books, lists |

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I’ve been so busy the last two months I’ve read a really low amount of books. Still, amongst the random ones I selected I did discover one or two amazing new authors, as well as some texts that felt like I was wasting my time-on purpose.  Read my mini reviews below. (And yes, I’m aware that it’s not April- the combined March/April version will be out soon.)

Martians Go Home, Frederic Brown

An alien invasion commonly sums up visions of explosions, violence and misery. The idea that aliens might invade and simply annoy had not really ever been dealt with before this quirky book. Aliens have appeared on earth and seem bent on frustrating people to death by invading their space with their presence and foulness, rather than with any weapons. Martians have landed, and they’re little green men who are insubstantial as they just zip from place to place and cause chaos by being inappropriate. Ridiculously entertaining and a very novel concept- this book was an accidental purchase that I haven’t regretted for a second.

Piers Anthony, Kill-o-byte

Two alienated characters meet inside a computer game and strangely find they have many things in common. This book was majorly ahead of its time as it was released before MMORPG’s existed and deals with the relationships that occur online, and the hackers that try to wreck and disrupt them, Paraplegic policeman and diabetic girl find  friendship, which is conflicted by the hacker Phoney Phreak tying them into the game world-which the girl needs to leave in order to inject insulin.. or die. The novel doesn’t really challenge any boundaries, but Anthony always excels in creating game scenario’s (his Phaze collection for example) and this is an easy to read romp through fantasy land.

Anne Enright, The Gathering

A family gather together to grieve the death of a sibling, but the grief lies much deeper than Liam’s death. Told through a series of flashback, the Hegarty family past is uncovered to reveal gaping holes where there should have been love and hints of abuse that lie buried in the past. The idea is that through reminiscing and revealing the bleakness of her childhood , the sister will  find a cathartic release, but the shifts in time seem rather clumsy and unnecessary whilst the characters are on the whole an unlikeable lot. The book is rather slow to read and whilst the narrative is not meant to have any particular point you feel that some extra guidance wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Lord of Silence by Mark Chadbourn

Vidar, commander of the guards is an unlikely hero, seeing that he is bound by a jewel that needs blood to stay alive. However when the king is murdered he is the only hope for the town of Idriss and needs to fight the dark forces that threaten to overturn the realm. Idriss has remained isolated for years due to the dark forest where evil lurks, with none able to pass through. Vidar himself is a survivor of that dark place, having stumbled out years earlier and granted sanctuary. His vampire jewel means that he needs a constant source of wrongdoers to stay alive, and the city has many of them, so he manages to appease his conscience somehow. Answers must be found however, and Vidar heads into the forest in search of them, despite the dangers. The books is about the quest for identity and understanding what really make someone belong, and is told in a very compelling manner. Tensions rise with every page turn, only broken occasionally by a loose love triangle and some banter between the cohorts. The battle scenes are particularly gruesome and the struggle for self is evident at all times.

Dragon Wing by Weiss and Hickman

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as the characters all had depth and the plot was fast and compelling, You’re thrown into a world that’s comprised of different elements and races, who all combine at certain junctures. We have the enslaved dwarves (called Gegs) who toil to keep a machine working, but one of them speaks out against their enslavement and tries to make the people recover their dignity. When a supposed ‘god’ crashes on his planet the dissenter Limbeck tries to use him to illustrate how they’re being taken advantage of. Add to this two ancient enemies- the Sartan and the Patryn who have suddenly reappeared and a child Prince with infinite power and it all starts to get a bit complex. This may sound confusing, but when you read the book it all flows naturally, and if you enjoy it (as I did) it’s the first of seven, so there’s plenty more to come

Robert V.S Redick The Rats and the Ruling Sea

Thasha is being forced to marry, but is saved from her wedding vows by a fainting spell that provides her with a Juliet style escape. Awakening on a boat she is on a quest to help thwart the evil sorcerer with her loyal companions at her side. With much of the action focused onboard the boat the Chathrand, we delve into a world where talking rats and spirits exist and conspire against the evil empire. Who can be trusted is thrown into question, as many people have different motives for aiding Thasha and her friends, and it’s hard to know what solution would work.

Wuntvor 01 and 02 by Craig Shaw Gardner

A wizard whose powers are hampered by a perilous sneezing malady means a hapless but semi-loveable apprentice needs to pick up the slack. With training out the window due to Ebenezer’s issues, Wuntvor must somehow save the kingdom, save the girl, and cure his acne to boot. Non- challenging fun, the science fiction equivalent of chick lit- easy to read and entertaining, if predictable. Book 2 pretty much follows an identical formula with slightly different storyline.

And Another thing, by Eoin Colfer

Douglas Adams death was a terrible blow, as the world lost one of its most innovative writers. Eoin Colfer, author of the entertaining Artemis Fowl kids books takes up where he left off with the latest Hitchhiker installment. Arthur is once again in danger, Zaphod Beeblebrox is s eminently distracted as ever and another planet is in danger of extinction. Enter some gods with YouTube scandals, Random Dent (Arthurs’ sperm created love child) with a major chip on her shoulder and you have a compendium of contrary characters. Colfer captures the tone so well that it’s almost spooky, like the book was written during a seance with Adams suggesting plotline and characters.

A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans

Konowa was exiled from the Iron Elves, his elite team of Elven outcasts, but is now summoned back to work for th monarch once more. This story involves heartache, violence and a long war campaign where we get to really experience his world. Deliciously dark writing and a great sense of perspective make this is one of the most refreshing elven tales I’ve read in a while. Evans first book suggests he has plenty more to offer and I eagerly await the second novel in this saga.

Magyk by Angie Sage

Falling strictly into the young section of the young adult fantasy genre this book follows the tale of the Heap family, a collection of wizards who adopted a baby girl rescued from an untimely death- who turns out to be the Queenling, and heir to the throne. Evil is after her however and so they run away from their home, the seven children separating and the parents fleeing for safety. Add in Boy 412 of the Young Army, Confidential Message rats who serve as messengers and an Extra-Ordinary wizard with a penchant for purple shoes and you have an amusing collection of characters. Nothing is ever to worrisome, but it speeds along nicely, and though the twists are fairly obvious- it is aimed for a young age group after all.

Thirteen Against the Bank by Norman Leigh

Can anyone ever really beat the system? Leigh thinks so, and tells us an account of his time spent beating French casinos on roulette due to a system he’d devised. It seems he was onto a winning system- till he got shut down, but its the personal intrigue and motley crew who made up his team who really provide interest, otherwise its just a lot of figures which go over my head.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a strangely heart warming tale of life in Communist Russia. Despite death and desolation all around her, plucky Lisel manages to overcome her parents death and brothers horrific passing to become the treasured adoptee of the Hubemann family. Her life revolves around childish pursuits such as Hitler’s Youth and improving her reading skills, though her talent for crime does not go unnoticed. She becomes an amateur thief, collecting books wherever she goes, and using them as a way to connect to people. Her situation gets more complicated when her family start sheltering a Jew, and you’ll find yourself tearing up at many of the passages.

Mike Gayle His’n'Hers

Gayle specializes in creating romantic comedies that appeal to both men and women, and his latest tale of confusion, entanglements and love that lasts despite circumstances is rather sweet to read. Deeply nostalgic and slightly unrealistic, a couple get together, divorce and then unexpectedly rekindle their flame. Told through a series of flashbacks, it’s a great look into 90′s nostalgia and the fact that all the characters are flawed makes them immensely likeable.

The Power of Five: Necropolis ,by Anthony Horowitz

This is the  fourth book in the Power of Five series, where  it seems the elusive member of their group has finally been located. The quest to find Scar takes the team through the underworld of Hong Kong, and the battle against the Old Ones heats up. Will Scar recognise her heritage in time, or is the world doomed? A well-paced read with a couple of shocking moments.

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley Archer

A nice intro into what looks to be a fun historic meets fantasy series. Two kids are catapulted back to the 18th century by an accidental anti gravity machine and have to find a way to return home. Semi narrated by Gideon, a denizen of that time, the tale flicks between the present and the past, with commentary from the worried parent and the children’s own adventures. The depiction of ye olde England is quite enjoyable, and the anti hero- the Tar Man- who survived hanging but has a crooked neck is as villainous a character as you’ll ever find. Accidentally educational, this is a fun book to read, but really aimed at the under 12′s.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Is using the word tosh to describe an acclaimed literary masterpiece a little harsh? I don’t think so. This has to be one of the dullest plays I’ve ever read, and yes, I accept that the theme is ennui and the way time revolves around nothing but even so. You might want to argue that  it’s a play and perhaps if I saw it performed I’d change my mind? Well I read this for my book club and we rented the film and equal dullness ensued. How they made a book that took thirty minutes to read into a two hour film I’ll never know. Two people wait for someone called Godot under a tree. How long they may have waited is uncertain, as is their situation in life. They are hopelessly despondent and stuck within their own microcosm of depression, but this recumbent line leads nowhere, and their conversation is inane at best. Two other equally odd characters enter, but there’s never a sense of connection and the lack of grounding or any type of background just makes it all sadly farcical. It is hailed as a tragi-comedy, and I would say it’s tragic I wasted my time reading it. Sure, if you’re a GCSE student I bet you could bash out a few thousand words on how the symbolism of the bowler hat exchange suggests we assume different personalities and play roles based on situation, but c’mon, that’s just creating waffle for the sake of it- but congrats on your A grade and astutely perceived points. Waste of time, waste of space, it’s rare that I’m this anti a book (other than the appalling London Fields by Amis) but it felt like Beckett was just having a practise run with characters and somehow we’re meant to applaud him for, well, nothing,

Superior Saturday and Lady Friday by Garth Nix

The latest installments in Garth Nix’s series continue to entertain and bewilder as the scope of Nix’s imagination is almost unfathomable. Arthur Penhaligon’s adventures to capture the keys and take over the House continues, as he struggles with unruly Denizens, his personal life and his worries that his quest is turning him into something inhumane.

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