Full review can be found on my blog here : http://killie-booktalk.blogspot.com/2011/05/scarab-scott-rhine.html
Overall, this was a fun and light hearted read, the SimCon race elements in particular were entertaining and I was always looking forward to the next race stage to come up. The few issues I had with the non-race elements of the novel being "solved" a little bit too easily were minor. I would therefore recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, near future adventure along the lines of the movies; Deathrace 2000 or Speed Racer.
Full review can be found one my blog : http://killie-booktalk.blogspot.com/2011/05/invisible-dawn-altered-realities-book-1.html
Invisible Dawn progresses at a decent rate with periods of action being interspersed with thoughtful interludes as the characters discuss what it is occurring. The ending however was a little bit of a let down as I didn't really feel like anything had really been concluded. I know that this can be a common problem with books in a series but it still always leaves me a little bit disappointed.
The characters involved are all fairly likeable and very varied; I especially liked the ex mercenary who truly comes across as a man haunted by his past. The way he helps someone he knows nothing about is actually believable as you see the image of a man seeking redemption being built up within the story. The only slight issue I had was the way in which some of the characters seemed to just accept alternative worlds etc. without any real issue.
Overall, I found this book to be an enjoyable mix of Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi and at it's heart it is a fun action novel with a hint of adventure that is hard to put down.
My full review can be found at my blog : http://killie-booktalk.blogspot.com
I actually won this book in a competition and it sounded rather interesting as this was the first paranormal novel I had seen that was about dragons and not vampires, zombies or werewolves. What I discovered was an okay paranormal romance novel with some decent action thrown in. However, in my opinion the fact he was a dragon didn't really feel much different than if he had been a werewolf or any other type of shape shifter but it was style nice to see something a bit more original in idea.
The elements of action throughout the novel were fast paced and enjoyable. Edie Ramer also does seem to have a rather clear and concise writing style and she doesn't resort to overly flowery descriptions and waffle.
In regards to the characters, Lila came across as being stubborn and was rather irritating which made it hard for me to like her even if I could understand why she acted the way she did. Noah, however was completely different, he was actually someone you could feel for. The sense of loneliness he felt was palpable and it was obvious he had a good heart.
In conclusion, I suspect this will appeal to most Paranormal Romance fans, especially those who like shifter novels and want to see something a little different in regards to the main character being a dragon.
Full review can be found on my blog : http://killie-booktalk.blogspot.com/2011/07/tumbler-brand-gamblin.html
Brand Gamblin's "Tumbler" is an enjoyable light Sci-Fi adventure that is fundamentally about a young character facing struggles as she attempts to find her place in the Universe.
The first thing that came to mind as I read this book was the Sci-Fi TV series called "Firefly". Not because of the space ships or anything like that, but because this book really grabbed that "western in space" and "life on the frontier" vibe that also was present in "Firefly". Overall, I think it gave the story a different feel from some of the standard war, aliens & weapons type Sci-Fi that exists in bulk.
In regards to the science in the novel, it did come across as being believable, with some good development of the mining systems, habitats and transportation. The author actually uses the fact the Libby is an outsider to enable the reader to learn and understand some of the aspects of the environment and technology whilst she learns about it herself.
The story itself is told in an entertaining and fast paced manner with various problems and issues thrown up in Libby's path as she tries to survive in a hostile environment. Whilst the plot isn't anything amazing, it did keep me engrossed from beginning to end and I actually completed the book over one weekend. The story did seem to deviate at times from what I deemed as the overall plot, but I think this was the author trying to expand and develop the environment and society that I was reading about so I was happy enough to accept it
There are a few small issues I have with the novel, but I don't think any of them would stop me recommending it to someone. First of all, the main character Libby seemed somewhat undeveloped. For example, aside from the fact that she plays the odd poker game I have no idea about her history, what hobbies she has or if she has any real defining personality traits.
The other issue I have is the ending, the way that everything just falls into Libby's lap and she more or less ends up with enough power to do almost anything she wants was a little bit of a let down. Up until that point, I was rather happy with the overall story and direction, the ending just felt and out of sync with the rest of the novel and seemed to be tacked on just to give an almost fairy tale ending.
Overall, I think that "Tumbler" is an enjoyable light hearted read that could be picked up by most readers. It doesn't have the most in-depth character development or plot but it is fun and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick read, especially any young readers that are looking for a way to explore some Sci-Fi literature.
Review originally posted on my blog - http://killie-booktalk.blogspot.com/2011/10/jaguars-heart-james-morgan-ayres.html
When I first started reading this book I really wasn't sure what genre to describe it as: at times I would have said thriller, then I would think it was more fantasy. Finally though I have settled on describing it as a fast paced exciting adventure story that reminded me of the Indiana Jones franchise. For example, the book is set in an historical setting and there are exotic locations, archaeological discoveries, political intrigue, occult sorcery & some really enjoyable action scenes.
The story itself follows Jesse J. Rideout, a former covert operative who is hiding in Mexico after an altercation with his US governmental employer. His amateur interest in archaeology leads him to uncover a secret society full of politicians and criminals who believe in the sorcery once practised by the pre-Columbian natives in Central America. The reader then gets taken on an enjoyable journey across Mexico as Jesse attempts to get revenge for the death of a close friend and understand what this secret group are really up to and why they seem determined to get a hold of an artefact he has uncovered.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book; it was delivered brilliantly with a superb mix of thrills, mystery, fantasy, action and drama. More importantly though, it had a gripping plot that was fun to read: I struggled to put it down several times and found that it really was a page-turner. In addition, it really felt like the author knew Mexico, it was wonderfully detailed and there was a love and warmth for the country that really came through in the novel.
The characters were well defined and quite memorable with Jesse himself really coming across like a mix of Indiana Jones and James Bond. But it was more than just him, all the characters seemed to have clear motivations that made sense with everyone having a purpose and specific drive. There were no ornamental characters; the female characters especially were strong, independent women who knew what they wanted and how to achieve it which was nice to see as sometimes I have seen adventure books use the women screaming, moaning side-kicks.
In summary, this book was an enjoyable, entertaining, fast paced adventure story that has me turning the pages with anticipation. In addition, the writing itself was decent and the author has crafted some superb characters. Simply put, if you like adventure stories then I think you would love this book and should therefore pick it up for a read.
"Reboot" by Carl Rauscher is an entertaining post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel that I managed to complete within a couple of days. The basic premise of the story is that an electromagnetic event known as "The Pulse" was set off in order to wipe out a dangerous computer virus. The result of this was that all micro-processors were destroyed, from those in high end super computers right down to those that were running elevators and doing other mundane task. Now, several years later the majority of America is utilising very low levels of technology and there is barely any communication between different areas of the country. Into this world is thrown Oscar, a man who has been sent out by the government to try and inject some more technology into various communities in an attempt help improve the lives of the people there. However, when Oscar arrives at a small town after being beaten and shot, he spends the winter trying to both help the there and deal with those who had attacked him.
I will start by saying that I really enjoyed the novel and I found the reason for the demise of civilization to be a little bit more original than some other post-apocalyptic stories. In a genre that can become a bit "samey" it was nice to read something that didn't head down in the usual dictatorial government or zombie route. The author has also put a lot of consideration into the story and has detailed quite thoroughly the issues and problems that would face people when the basic items we take for granted today are no longer available.
The plot itself moves at a reasonable pace and there is ample adventure, mystery, humour and drama to keep most readers entertained. The characters all seemed to be believable and well developed which meant that I actually found myself caring what would happen to them all as the story progressed. The only weak character would probably be the "bad guy" of the story who seems to hide and avoid the townspeople even though he could easily do what he wanted without being stopped. I still don't really understand what he was doing or why he was doing it, considering the position of importance and safety he found himself.
One negative aspect I did observe is that the plot became distracted by the fact that a fair bit of the novel is told from the perspective of a young girl called Rabbit instead of Oscar himself. In my opinion, it just meant that parts of the story become bogged down in rather mundane and uninteresting aspects like how much she liked a toy that Oscar had made for her. I just felt that there was so much more I would have loved to know about Oscar and his past but there was little time to investigate this in the novel due to the elements involving Rabbit and other side characters.
In summary, I really enjoyed this book and it was actually nice to read a post-apocalyptic novel that ended up with some real hope and a government that was trying to actually do the right thing. I read this book very quickly once I started and I really hope that there is more novels in the future that will continue Oscar's journey. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic novels that don't go into mutations, magic powers or zombies then go ahead and pick this up as it is an interesting read.
"Hexult" by Perry Aylen is an enjoyable adventure story with the shadings of a post-apocalyptic and dystopian tone. It is firmly aimed at the earlier end of the young adults market although I believe that even younger children will also enjoy having this light and easy going story read to them. The genre of this story was am interesting aspect as I had to decide on if I would call this Science-Fiction or Fantasy. However, as the premise appears to imply the story is set in the Earth at an undefined future date I decided just to lean towards classing this as a Science-Fiction novel.
The story is set on a world where the temperature has dropped substantially and is now mainly covered in ice and people now use boats adapted to slide across the ice rather than sail upon water. On this world there is the land of Hexult which is a collection of islands that poke out of the ice, the islands are kept habitable thanks to the heating effects of various elements of geothermal activity.
When, Aulf a mailman and his crew member, Ingar discover a wreck on the ice they find two survivors, mysterious twins named Jacob and Elya who claim to have come from a land far across the frozen wasteland. These two youngsters have an understanding of science far beyond that of those on the islands and this science is soon mistaken for magic by a people who have forgotten much of the knowledge that may have been known in the past. Very soon, the twins find themselves the centre of fearsome prophecy and their attempts to save both their lives and reputation leads them on an adventure across the frozen wastes to all corners of the Hexult island chain.
I have to admit that I am well past the target age group for this novel but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it as the plot was engaging and moved at a decent rate. The world that has been created by the author is imaginative and exciting although I will say that it was a shame that it felt like the surface has only just been scratched. I now hope that in the proposed sequel we get to uncover even more about this interesting place and the people who live there.
One element I really appreciated was the various utilisations of knowledge and technology thrown into the book regarding things such as compasses, steel, ice lenses, mirrors, etc. I can actually envision children reading this novel and then asking their parents or teachers more about the interesting elements contained. I myself actually went and read up a little bit more on steel production and its history after reading "Hexult". Any book that can inspire the search for more information and knowledge in either me or others is a great thing in my opinion.
I found the main characters to all be rather endearing and there was an innocence present that was quite nice to behold. It really helps to draws you in so that you actually care about them and wish them on to succeed in their various endeavours. However, it did feel like there was something lacking a little in the characters to make them feel fully rounded. Basically, the large amount of innocence present within the various people in the story meant that it was hard to see any other elements personality, especially in regards to charisma. Even some of the various leaders in the isles just seemed to be missing a spark that I would have expected to see. It doesn't spoil the story but it just meant that the characters feel slightly unreal to me.
Overall, this was an enjoyable and interesting adventure story that should appeal to most young readers. I fully intend to read it with my own children when they are old enough to understand it and hopefully it will inspire some interest in the science and technology utilised in the novel. If you are a younger reader who wants to read something different form the current trend in vampires, zombies, etc. then you should give this a try.
"Gamers" by Thomas K. Carpenter is a fun and enjoyable adventure through a world littered with references to video gaming, both modern and classic. As someone who grew up playing video games, I couldn't help but smile throughout the story as I recognised the various references.
The story itself follows the antics of a High School girl named Gabby. High School is this world is based around taking part in LifeGame which is a virtual augmented reality where students receive points based on various actions they may perform throughout the day. The student's score in LifeGame at graduation is then used to decide if they can go on to University or if they are demoted into taking on a "lesser" job. However, Gabby soon discovers there is more to her augmented reality than she ever knew and so begins her adventure to learn the truth whilst still trying to ensure a successful graduation.
I found the novel comprise of two parts, the first part basically set up the world, characters and overall series plot in a relatively slow and detailed manner that had me rather intrigued and interested. Then, the second part develops into an action-packed fast paced adventure through Gabby's graduation test, which takes the form of a Role Play Game (RPG) where she encounters, giants, dragons and many other fantasy related clichés. Both sections of the novel entertained me for rather different reasons. The first part got me hooked into the overall story and the opportunities that may appear in the remaining books of the series, whilst the second part just basically took me on an enjoyable ride through a virtual fantasy world that reminded me strongly of my own online RPG playing days.
One of the warnings I need to make about the book though is in relation to the language used. The story is infused with quite a lot of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Game (MMORPG) terminology that could be very confusing to someone who has not been involved in some of the more hardcore online RPG games. I managed to understand most of it but if for example the word "Debuff" means very little to you then you are probably going to struggle a little to follow the story. Personally, I enjoyed this use of online slang, but my wife constantly tells me I am gaming geek so that could be why.
The only issue I personally had with the novel was probably in relation to the characters themselves. They all just felt a little bit flat and un-developed, even Gabby herself didn't mean much more to me that being an intelligent hacker caricature. Some of the issue here is that the characters can change their appearance, roles and so much more based on which aspect of LifeGame there are in, therefore it is hard to really find a core personality beneath it all. I just hope that in the sequel we get to see more of the "real world" and gain a better understanding of the characters themselves.
Overall, I found this to be a fun, light hearted adventure story that offers the opportunity of a deeper and more dystopian outlook in future novels. If you are someone who has been involved in playing MMORPG over the years then I suspect you will find aspects of this book to be highly entertaining and enjoyable. The whole thing felt a little bit different from many other dystopian books which I appreciated and I now look forward to reading the sequel.
"Fires of Alexandria" is the first book in an alternative history series by Thomas K. Carpenter known as the "Alexandrian Saga". I have to admit that I do have a soft spot for alternative history so I was looking forward to reading this book. This was especially so as it delved into a period in history that I have rarely read about in either standard historical fiction or alternative history fiction.
The story follows the adventures of Heron, a mathematician and inventor in Alexandria, Egypt during the Roman Occupation. Heron is actually a real historical figure; however Carpenter's first twist in the novel was to portray Heron as a woman who has taken up the identity and role of her dead twin brother. In the book Heron, is trying to overcome the various bad debts that her brother had built up. She therefore accepts a commission from a northern barbarian to create a mechanical army alongside another offer to investigate the mysteries that surround the fires that burned down the Great Library of Alexandria. These two objectives drive the story onwards with political intrigue aplenty until the satisfying and enjoyable finale.
I found the book to be thoroughly entertaining and I loved the way that Carpenter has managed to integrate real characters, both the well and lesser known into a coherent and believable story. The writing was clear, well-researched and paced in a manner that kept you hooked from start to finish. In addition, the entire novel was full of an enthusiasm that managed to infect me to the point that I was trawling the internet trying to learn more about the period and people involved. I really appreciated the interest that the book hatched inside me and it is times like this that I understand the power of a well written historical novel.
Overall, this really was an enjoyable book that has formed a solid beginning for a new series of novels. I found myself feeling sympathetic to the main characters and the story itself was a believable one that interpreted and altered history in an entertaining manner. It mixed action, mystery and intrigue well so that it was hard to put down at the end of the day. Without doubt, any future instalment will quickly appear on my reading lists.
"The Other Nereia" is the second novel in J.A. Clement's On Dark Shores series which follows on directly from the finale of the first novel entitled "The Lady" which I have previously read. As Nereia lies unconscious, recovering from the injuries inflicted by the nefarious Copeland, her mind is taken to another plane of existence where she meets a being that appears to looks exactly like her. This other Nereia wants help to restore the damage within her own world, but this help is based around taking control of Nereia's body. Whilst she tries to come to terms with this request, the other inhabitants of Scarlock are faced with their own choices as Copeland's increasingly violent fall into madness and the arrival of soldiers within the town threaten to end the lives they all had previously known.
I was happy to see that the Clement has tried to progress the development of Scarlock and the various characters that inhabit the town. I really found that both the town and characters to be interesting, believable and easy to imagine which really helped me relate to their troubles. Without doubt, the main push of this novel appears to be in developing the characters and their history which is good as it was lacking a little bit in the first novel due to its short length.
The only issue with this concentration on character development is that the plot suffers a little bit due to the novel's short length. The overall progress made is very limited and whilst we learn a lot more about the characters and how they think, it didn't really feel like any of their individual adventures moved forward much. Don't get me wrong, the story is still full of dark suspense and intriguing mystery to the point that it was still entertaining but just don't expect any real forward momentum.
One of my biggest issues with the previous novel was that it was rather unsatisfying as an individual story due to its sudden ending and concentration on developing an overarching plot. Whilst the ending this time does feel a little bit more refined in terms of the point reached in the story, I still think it struggled to stand as a satisfying novel in its own right. In fact, the first chapter in the novel is actually quoted as being "Seven" which follows on from "Six" which was the final chapter in "The Lady". This to me really shows me that the author had no real plan to make the book stand alone in some manner which disappointed me a little.
Overall, I found this to be a rather interesting, if rather short fantasy novel like its predecessor, however it once again didn't feel like a story in its own right. I do think that anyone who has read the previous novel should appreciate the character development even it did come at the expense of some of the plot's forward momentum. For those of you who haven't read the previous novel, then I have to warn you that if you are someone who dislikes unfinished stories, then it would maybe be best for you to wait on the series being completed first. However, if you are interested in following the progress of an intriguing and enjoyable fantasy world as it is developed then you should look at picking up this series now, but just be willing to accept that each novel is more like one chapter of some overarching story.
"Ooter's Place and Other Stories of Fear, Faith, and Love" is a collection of short stories written by Karl El-Koura that were written over a 12 year period. Whilst the title itself maybe a little bit of a mouthful, the stories themselves are all well paced, entertaining and incredibly varied. The collection really does cover a large range of genres, although the majority are speculative fiction such as Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I have to admit that as I had never heard of the author prior to reading this collection and due to it being self-published I was expecting to find a fair few turkeys alongside any gems in this collection. In hindsight, this was a rather blinkered view to take as what I found was an enjoyable range of well written and engaging short stories. Every single one of them had me thoroughly entertained no matter the genre or subject.
The collection itself is split into three sections under the headings of Fear, Faith and Love with four stories appearing in each. To be honest, I found the placement of the stories rather arbitrary and I think many of the stories could easily have fit into either section. However, El-Koura himself does actually realise this himself and freely admits it in his introduction. One element I really appreciated with this collection was the forewords written by El-Koura prior to every story. It gave a decent basis for the story itself and helped to ensure that the reader had some understanding about what the story was conveying.
The first section in the collection which covers stories about fear is probably the most self explanatory portion of the collection. The stories here range from an incredibly short and quirky piece entitled "Tom's Refrigerator" about a man's rather controlling computerised fridge to an engrossing story called "How You Die" that takes a look at how the imagination of two young brothers telling ghost stories can lead to a rather dangerous outcome.
The second section covering stories about faith was the one I wasn't looking forward to as I had visions of stories written around religious preaching etc. However, I was happy to see that there was no hidden intent behind these stories. In fact, whilst some of them did have elements on religion within them, some of them didn't and the stories were mainly focussed on faith as a concept and how it shapes our lives. These stories ranged from an enjoyable, poignant and slightly amusing look at a man who comes to believe he is a superhero that is entitled "The Man Who Mistook Himself for a Superhero" to a rather engaging journey of a man whose sub-conscious seems to give him one last adventure before his life ends in the story "Blink".
The final section includes stories about love and I was quite impressed to see that El-Koura didn't just take the easy route of concentrating only on romantic love. They also covered platonic love such as that between two friends as shown in the rather surreal alien invasion story "They Came From Ooter’s Place". These stories about love didn't just stop there however as the final story in the section entitled "The Curious Case of the Book Baron" follows the mysterious case of someone breaking into homes and leaving books and is based around the love of reading. I suspect, most people who read this collection will read that story with a big smile on my face as I did.
Overall, I found this to be a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable collection of stories, with some of them reaching me on an emotional level. I can't recommend this collection highly enough, especially if you are a fan of engaging speculative fiction in the short form. If you aren't sure then go and read the free sampler that includes three stories from the collection and is available on Smashwords.
"Mirror Shards: Volume 1" is an anthology of thirteen short science fiction stories, edited by Thomas K. Carpenter who also contributed one of the stories. The stories themselves have been written by a variety of authors and all of them included some aspect of Augmented Reality. For those of you that don't know, Augmented Reality is the process of utilising technology to enhance and expand upon what we see in the real world.
Whilst this common element is present in each story, the way in which the individual authors have used it does vary quite substantially. This means that the stories themselves are all very different in style and substance. For example, whilst one story may be a fast paced thrill ride, the next would be poignant and thoughtful. I felt that this ensured the reader would not get bored as they read through the stories. Quite simply, the collection really does provide an enjoyable taste of what Augmented Reality could be used for in the future, both the positive and negative.
The positive sides of Augmented Reality are specifically shown in the story, "Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials" which is an exciting and action packed look at a woman utilising the technology to try and survive an encounter with a Russian crime syndicate. Another story that touched on the more positive aspects is "Gift Horses" is an enjoyable journey that follows the attempts to overthrow a corporate dictatorship.
"Bellow the Bollocks Line" however really highlights some of the more negative aspects with a short but amusing look at advertisers hurtling constant commercials at people who are given no real way to avoid them. This is then supported by "The Sun is Real" which is one of my favourites in the collection and follows a prisoner of war who is subjected to unusual forms of torture and subterfuge that Augmented Reality could be used to inflict.
The story I enjoyed the most however in the collection has to be "The Cageless Zoo" by Carpenter himself which was very reminiscent of Jurassic Park. The story is based around a woman and her two children visiting a zoo which has utilised Augmented Reality in a rather novel way to ensure the various predators living there don't see the people and therefore won't try to attack them. Of course things quickly go wrong and a thrilling adventure unfolds as the family tries to escape the zoo.
Overall, Carpenter has pulled together an enjoyable and satisfying collection of science fiction stories that look at Augmented Reality from many different perspectives. The entertaining mix of styles, ideas and pacing kept me hooked and I am looking forward to further instalments in the series and reading other literature by the authors included. I highly recommend this to fans of speculative fiction and those interested in the future of Augmented Reality.
"Doodling" is a fun little novella by Jonathan Gould that has been influenced by the works of Douglas Adams and Lewis Carroll. It is a madcap, surreal adventure full of nonsense and rather insane characters that had me smiling multiple times. However, Gould also manages to make some deep reflections on our society in amongst this comedy which helped give the novella a sense of purpose.
The story itself follows Neville Lansdowne who one day discovers that he can’t keep up with the fast pace of the world and is flung into space. Luckily he lands in an asteroid belt where he begins to create his own world completely designed based on his ideas and dreams. Of course, he soon discovers that a life alone like this just wasn't for him and journeys to other asteroids where he meets many other travellers, with many of them being completely and utterly barking mad.
As mentioned earlier, there are a fair few wacky moments that should provide giggles and smiles aplenty alongside a sense of purpose that helps to drive the narrative along. Gould does a good job in making sure the story doesn't get lost in surreal mayhem and balances the need for contemplation and humour well.
An issue I did have with the novella though was the characters as whilst they were initially quite amusing and varied they could be a little bit cartoon like. Within two of three pages of a character being introduced I found that they got a little bit boring as there was no real depth to their strange behaviours and choices. As for Neville himself, whilst he does have a little bit of development as the story progresses I found that I didn't really know much about him so found it hard to empathise or relate to him fully.
Overall, this is an amusing novella full of imagination and fun that should keep most people entertained on some level. I actually think that it is the type of story that could be read to children who may really enjoy the short length, basic silly characters and the downright crazy almost illogical adventure.
“The Great Yellow Doom Bird” by Jon A. Hunt is a rather manic novel that blends science fiction, surreal fantasy, humour into an enjoyable and entertaining story. The story itself is set during the later years of World War II and follows the escapades of Patrick Digby, a young boy who lives in sleepy Florida retirement town with his great uncle. His rather subdued life is thrown upside down when a 7-foot tall, orange haired character called Stultus arrived on a flying sailboat. Stultus takes Patrick on an adventure where he encounters friendly sea monsters, terrible pirates, Eskimos, floating islands and many other strange and wonderful things, including the fabled Great Yellow Doom Bird.
The story is superbly imaginative with Hunt’s rather quirky writing style really adding to surreal and amusing elements. There is no doubt that this rather madcap adventure will appeal to children but I do think some of the finer detail of the plot could be lost on them. In addition its length may be off putting for some but I could still imagine reading it slowly over several weeks with both myself and children enjoying its entertaining charms.
I found the characters to be wonderful, Patrick in particular was charming, polite and I loved seeing his subtle confusion at times as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Stultus however does steal the show as his eccentric look is matched by an even more eccentric personality that just jumps off the page; he quite simply had my smiling throughout the novel. The minor characters are also diverse, interesting and detailed to ensure that I was happy no matter who the story was following at the time, be it Patrick’s slightly eccentric elderly neighbours or the cruel and vicious pirates.
Overall, this was a fantastic novel that should appeal to people of all ages with its surreal adventures and colourful characters. The book really did remind of some other eccentric children’s stories such as Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Lemony Snicket so if those types of books amused you then I think you will love this one. Personally, I can only hope that Hunt is planning to create a sequel as there are some open ended elements to this novel that I would love to see resolved in addition to just following the Stultus’ future adventures.
“Flidderbugs” by Jonathan Gould is an enjoyable novella that on the surface appears to be a fun little children’s story. However, underneath this there is a satirical element that should appeal to most adults as it pokes holes in both the democratic process and the rather arrogant ivory tower of academia. Without doubt, this really is a book that can be read to your children and enjoyed by them and yourself.
The story itself follows Kriffle, an insect who is heir to his father as potential leader of the Triplifer tribe. As leader of his tribe, his main job would be to debate with the leader of the Quadrigon tribe about if the leaves on the tree they inhabit have either three or four points. This is the fundamental question that governs their lives and decides who is in power via elections. Kriffle finds it hard to understand how the Quadrigons could disbelieve the evidence that is before their very eyes and therefore undertakes an adventure to investigate and prove that there really are only three points on a leaf.
The plot itself is simple, but the way in which Gould uses it to explore and satirise various elements of our society was highly entertaining and at times quite clever. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the political process in the novel at work as it really highlighted some of the rather “sad” aspects of our own democratic party based systems. In addition, here were various university professors that Kriffle meets on his journey who have spent years debating the philosophy of leaves etc. during their academic lives but couldn’t actually tell him any real facts.
The writing itself is concise, entertaining and incredibly well paced which was needed due to the story being contained within a novella rather than a full length novel. I was impressed to see that Gould managed to include a fair number of encounters and adventures as Kriffle explores his society without having to cut out any of the required detail. Don’t get me wrong, there are some elements of the society the reader learns very little amount but there is enough there to ensure it all makes sense and is believable on some level.
In regards to the characters, it was nice to see that the Flidderbugs all had such distinct and fleshed out personalities. I could understand very quickly what the various individuals were all about which was vitally important when the story is being told in the form of a novella.
Overall, I found this to a quick and fun political satire that provided me with a hopeful ending rather than the usual depressing finales seen in many other novels that touch on the same satirical subject matter. If you enjoy satire then I suspect you will like this novella, I know that I was happy to find myself laughing at myself when I realised that I had fallen into some of the same traps as the Flidderbugs.
“The Black-Eyed Susan” is a short story that serves as a prequel to JA Clement’s “On Dark Shores” series. I decided to read this short story as I have enjoyed the series so far and I did have some time to waste as I wait for the 3rd book in the series to be written.
The story is set ten years prior to the events contained within the first book in the series and it details the meeting between the Captain of a ship called the Black-Eyed Susan and a moneylender known as Copeland. Basically, Copeland has set up events to ensure that the Captain would be unable to repay his debts and would therefore forfeit the ship and this short story details the initial outcomes of this.
This really is a very short piece of fiction and therefore for someone new to the series I am not sure there is enough time to really detail the characters that will go on to influence the series of novels. However, the basics fundamental morals of the characters are there to see which should pique the interest of any reader. In addition, the writing is concise, descriptive and formatted well which is of course a good advert for the series as a whole.
To be honest, I believe that this book will appeal most to those who have already started reading the series and are familiar with the characters and rich setting. It really does fill out some of the key characters and further explains some of the motives for their future actions. However, there is still be enough here for new readers to gain a nice quick introduction to what is a varied and interesting world. So I can only advise that people go and pick this up, especially as it can usually be found for free on various websites.
“Soldier / Geek” is an edited version of Army Major Glenn Dean’s journal he wrote during his time spent out in Afghanistan in 2009. Dean’s job in Afghanistan was basically to go out and liaise with the soldiers out there and identify both new technologies and improvements that could help them fight the war. During his six month tour he travelled to remote bases, encountered various people and worked the Army bureaucracy to try and get things moving in a way that would help in getting equipment into the field.
I found this book to be a very interesting read, with Dean relating his time in Afghanistan via both his work related tasks and the more mundane day to day activities. Dean saw no combat during his tour so the book doesn’t go into any detailed military actions but at the same time it was still an eye opening experience to read about and understand some of the behind the scenes work that goes on in the military, especially during combat operations.
One thing I really appreciated with the journal were the various additional editorial comments that worked well in both helping to translate some of the military speak and giving the reader a little bit more information on the situation being detailed. It just ensured that the reader could understand the contexts of what was occurring and how things have changed or at times haven’t since then.
As someone that works in the defence industry I found various aspects of the story rather enlightening on a personal note. For example seeing the logistical maze that needed to be worked through to get equipment out to the field highlighted to me about why at times things seem to take so long for ourselves when dealing with the military/government. In addition, on a lighter note I couldn’t help but smile as I got to see the similarity between the company I work for and the military in regards to the truly ridiculous quantity of acronyms that are used. I am glad Dean included a reference section at the back of the novel as I did find myself having to use it quite a lot.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this journal and as someone who works in the defence industry I personally found it both interesting and informative but I don’t think its appeal will be limited to just people in my line of work. If you are interested in current affairs, technology or the military then there is probably something in this book that you will find enjoyable.
“Tastes Like Human: The Shark Guys’ Book of Bitingly Funny Lists” by Noel Boivin and Chris Lombardo is as the title implies a book that contains several amusing lists. The lists cover various things such as ATM Etiquette Guidelines, Jesus Spottings, People Who Should Not Win the Lottery, People who Married Animals & Karaoke-Inspired Acts of Violence. As you may be able to tell this is quite a random collection of topics that are based on things that the authors find interesting are range from the interesting to the downright crazy.
Reading list books like this can be an easy way to pass the time but to be really entertaining I have always felt that they need to be more than a list of things. This is why I was happy to see that with this book the authors tried to discuss each item in their lists. This commentary really added to the book and at times I found it more interesting and enjoyable to follow than the lists themselves.
In regards to the lists themselves, as you would expect with a book like this, people will prefer some lists more than others and I am no different. Whilst many lists had me grinning throughout such as “Top 15 Reasons Why Sharks Are Better Than Cats” there were others like “Top 5 Out of Control College Parties“ that just didn’t capture my interest. However, personally I felt that there was more positive than negative which ensured that overall I did enjoy the book.
One specific element of the listings that I did appreciate was the fact the various sources had been cited. Some of the stories are so unbelievable that without these sources I may have begun to believe that the entire book was plain fiction. It also helped when I decided to look up various things that had captured my interest.
One issue I did have with the book is that at times it felt like the authors were trying a little bit too hard with their commentary. They tried to cram so much into a sentence or paragraph that it began to unravel and the humour was lost. It actually reminded me of the way that people can ruin a joke by trying to give you too much information when they tell it. Personally, I think that some more editing may have helped clean this up a bit more and helped to enhance the overall humour of the book.
Overall, I did enjoy this book and found sections of it to be quite funny and entertaining but I came away from reading it with a feeling of it basically just being Okay and that’s about it. I am sure some people will love it more than me whilst others may hate it entirely depending on their sense of humour. I will therefore recommend it for people looking for a bit of amusing diversion but be warned that the level of amusement will vary depending on your own personal preferences.