Sunday, 12 July 2015

Long Time No See

So it's been over a year since my last post on here, and I think it's about hightime I rectified that. I'm in my second year of university now, so that eats up my time like no tomorrow, and in that time a great deal has happened for me personally in changes, and significant events in my life. But that isn't why I'm posting.

I have, now, a list of about 20-30 books I've read over the past 24 months and I'd really like to get some reviews written up, so I'll be writing them this summer and hopefully posting them all online over the course of a few months, around 1 or 2 a week.

Sorry for the silence, I'm working on it.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls


Starter for Ten

(Read 2013)

This is a book by the same author who wrote One Day (an excellent book whose review can be found here) and this was a birthday gift by someone who was sure I would like it, having never seen the film.

This is a book I put off for a while, and for good reason. The book itself wasn’t bad and enjoyed the general plot and setting. Nicholls has this talent which is used to good effect of writing books which exist in a very realistic setting and which are simultaneously mundane and interesting.

The film is a Rom-Com-esque affair, and the book is the same. Our main character is infinitely obsessed with his own self-appearance and finding a relationship with exactly the person he wants to be with while forgetting and ignoring more important aspects of his life. It’s a fairly typical coming of age story and the plot moves along nicely without plodding overly-much.

There’s very little I can say on the subject of the plot (beyond a typical synopsis) that can’t be said. It’s your average novel of a typical student and the things he gets up to in that and although it isn’t boring, it is infinitely mundane. The two things worth mentioning are the romance and the central event.

The latter is easier, so I’ll start there. The book is all about University Challenge- a British TV series which pits the teams of British Universities against one another in a competition of general knowledge, which is either very interesting and informative or dull and inane depending on which side of the fence you’re on. It’s essentially a daytime television so which is but more relevant. But the plot of the book is our protagonist wanting to be on this team and do well. He’s an intelligent lad and the entire thing is relevant mostly as a plot device, but in many ways I also felt it was a reflection of our MC himself because he obviously thought and ability to remember things meant he was intelligent and he concentrated on knowing facts. Maybe I’m just fundamentally different, but this irked me as a student myself because my degree (Maths) teaches that understanding supersedes just knowing facts because it is  way of thinking which they want to teach you and if all you do is memorise, then what have you learnt that you’ll actually remember? I find the whole things fairly bizarre, but then I have a poor memory for general knowledge. Maybe because I think of it as a little irrelevant.

The romance was...cringe-worthy. I won’t say too much on this because it reveals too much, but it was predictable and unsatisfying. It reminded me of One Day in that respect because Nicholls give you a (painfully realistic) non-perfect ending. It is a non-issue, but it makes the book weird and you can’t help but feel for the poor guy in his endeavours.

Not a bad book, but certainly not amazing. I think if you’re looking for an easy read over a period of time where you don’t have the hours to dedicate to reading, it’s easy going and not hard to follow. The downside of this is that I found it sometimes uninspiring thing to sit and read.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan


The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places

(Read 2013)

These are the next instalments in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. This is going to be a simultaneous review simply because I read both in such a short space of time that they aren’t really separate books in my head. (So if I say ‘this book’ I don’t distinguish between the two, although I know they are respective books!)

Firstly, wow.

A lot happens in these books. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is but a prequel to the events that go down. In many ways, it is that book that lets you see what the world is like before Carrie Ryan takes you on this amazing journey.

In general, the story and world are amazing. This is post-apocalyptic and it is completely understandable what is done even if we must disagree and not approve of everything. It makes it fascinating because you face moral dilemmas (from the safety of your armchair or bed!) that are almost worrying that you might think. I question who I agree with...and concluding that I agree with the idealist and the pragmatist/survivalist I don’t know where I stand. The plot nicely moves along and it never feels too centralised and dull- even without great movement (sometimes) there is always fantastic pace and Carrie Ryan uses her environment and world to great effect. Zombies are ever-present and this is taken full advantage of which makes both books engrossing and “unputdownable”.

The characters in both books are the same in terms of our main protagonists although obviously the cast of side characters differs between the two as befits the setting and progression of the story. But the characters...oh lord! There are circles within circles, triangles within triangles. It like trying to endless half a just goes into the infinity of numbers and it won’t end. Now imagine each of those halves is a part of the characters personality and they are built of these endless inconsistencies. Well now consider there are four main characters. Add in one or two important side characters who are similarly halved. You just have this huge amazing mess that creates this powerful, human characters. Now, I ain’t saying they’re perfect, but they are darn good...and they make for excellent reading.

So in general, I am very fond of these books. They were a huge improvement on the first and much more nitty-gritty. I’m taken along in this journey...I read these books over a two day period whilst on holiday and I was thrown into a rut after finishing (and after the first of the two books, the beach we were staying became infinitely eerie!). These come highly recommended.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Empire State by Adam Christopher


Empire State

(Read 2013)

This book was semi-steampunk, somewhat of a hero novel, a little bit of mystery and whole lot of crazy. I felt like I was reading in a stupor the entire time and I don’t think the entirety of the novel was even consistently interesting...but it was a unique read.

The beginning threw me through a loop because it is highly disjointed and where as multiple viewpoints can work when they exist in the same literary universe, here I felt like I was little lost because things didn’t seem to fit with what was said and I only really started to get used to it when I semi-convinced myself I was reading two books instead of one. It was definitely weird.

Moving onto the book wasn’t bad really. It isn’t the most amazing book I’ve read in my entire life or even in that year, but it was little astonishing. The story came together towards the end, and it reminds of those films that you just sort of suspend disbelief of and keep watching in hope that the end explains it all. In fairness, it did, but I guess I wasn’t wholly satisfied with the ending I got.

It is also fair to comment that this is the first book I’ve read which could be aptly described as being a mystery novel because it quite successfully left me lost and confused without being completely out of the loop. But I think the combination of everything made me a little bit overwhelmed at a time when I didn’t have the liberty of frequent or even intense reading so I’d often forget bits here and there.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad book. I bought it on a whim in waterstones, and I don’t regret that purchase because it was definitely different to anything I’ve read before...for better and for worse. I think I ever try another mystery novel I’ll try something more mystery based. I’d say this book was sold as a modern-day hero book (in NYC) but that wasn’t really what I got.

In a word, my sentiment is "confused". Even now, a good few months on, I’m not 100% sure what I think of it.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Dragon's Egg Tour

"Oh Frabjous day, Callooh Callay! It's here Resa Nelson stops today!" Welcome to the Blog Tour stop for the Final instalment in Resa's fantasy series, which includes a review then a mini-interview with Resa herself!
You can see all the blog tour stops here, some sample writing plus other stuff over here (seriously, y'all should read the mini-ebook here!), and you can buy it on Amazon, B&N and Mundania- the latter offering a discount with code MP10!

Book 4
Writing the last book in a series is always hard because you have to live up to the expectations created by what you have already written. You're expected to remain true to the story you've spent so long moulding and refining, and the end of a series and can make or break it in the long. Thankfully, and definitely not to my surprise, this is managed this with ease.

For someone coming from the other books in the series, it feels very much like the stage is set for the final showdown between Mandulane and the forces of the North, but after what happens at the very end of book three, you can only help but wonder what will happen. Astrid left herself in quite an inescapable situation and even though she must have escaped in order for this book to exist, it's really quite interesting to see how she escapes the sub-plot that exposes.

Where it all began...
(Book 1)
But even though the fight is coming, this book never wavers from the idea of a journey present in the previous books. It would feel wrong to see Astrid preparing for war, so instead she travels across the land in what is quite possibly a more important task to save who she can in ways only she is able. What is wonderful this time around though is that she simultaneously interacts with old and new characters. It makes a great point about there always being new things and people out there, and really flaunts Astrid for the gem she is.

Because she does make the series and the books. Her thoughts and her development are just so darn captivating to read! She's not perfect, which is cliché nowadays but is still interesting, and her imperfections are like a rash she can't shake. There is no time in these books when she just makes the decision to do something because she realises the repercussions and doesn't want something foul to happen. That's not to say she dilly-dallies, but she doesn't rush into the kind of rash decisions some protags make all the time. She's a blacksmith, who has to act carefully and considerately, even if she's under quite a bit of pressure. It's a debatable point, but the decision she makes at the very end of the book underpins a conflict of which she has been toeing the line for 4 books in total. And in my opinion, she makes the decision which is right for her. There are two choices available that would both be wrong in their own ways, so a new solution is created. It's a little heart-breaking, but it makes more sense than the other two (which as a reader leaves me very happy!).

The other main recurring characters, the dragons, also make an appearance and the question I asked Resa back in August is finally answered. We learn a lot more about the dragons in that what we learn is so much more significant. Their origins, their reasons for being, the importance of Tower Island, and the hereditary relationship with the Scaldings. It neatly ties off all those loose ends about the Dragons which were bugging me a while ago!

Book 2
Trep is back as well as the romantic interest, which poses its own kind of problem. I think she definitely loves him, but how does that tie in with her unusual relationship with DiStephan? It's very bizarre because she tries to give her all while holding back so much. And despite little actual interaction in this book, they resolve the situation in their own way.

The things I can't mention without ruining the book are all so...delectable too. This does include the namesake of the book, but that doesn't do justice to the magnitude of what egg or its origins signify. And then there's the bit with Killing-Crow which is a change of style to read (a bit like Michelle Paver's books for those who've read them!), and then the other side of the repercussions from the end of book three about whom my lips are sealed, except to say I think it was funny (I love the alchemists!) and once again true to the series.

I think that is the best way to describe this book. It was true to itself and the rest of the books and it was satisfying as an ending which can be so hard to do. And it does this without being a book about 'loose ends'- it has a genuinely interesting story and plot, with development and personal realisations! If you've read the books so far, you're sure to love this!


-You've answered this at least twice so far, but I need to ask how you feel finishing the series? To put a different spin on it, is there anything you're glad about? Any characters, stories or anything at all you're glad to see the back of or, at least, put to rest?

I'm happy the series is over in the sense that it's a sense of accomplishment to tell a story that spans more than one novel.  At first I thought I'd be happy to be done with the Dragonslayer world ... but now I'm planning to do a spinoff series that begins after The Dragon's Egg ends!  It happened because readers were talking about how they hated to see the series end, and I started to feel that way, too.  I'm realizing that there's a lot more of the world to explore and more stories I can tell.  I'll be writing a variety of standalone novels and new series, but I'm going to try to squeeze in writing a spinoff book later this year.

-Concerning Teatree, is there more to him than meets the eye? I found him very interesting as a character, and I wonder if you considered writing more about him or if there is anything you're willing to divulge about him?
Alex, that's a great idea!  I like Teatree.  I see him as the most sane and reasonable person in a crazy situation.  I think he doesn't agree with what goes on around him, but he has a very strong sense of survival.  He knows he lives in a world that is becoming more dangerous every day, and he works to figure out how to navigate his way through treacherous times.  He will do what he needs to do to stay alive and protect himself, preferably without causing harm to anyone else.  I think he also has a very strong sense of compassion.  He sees the good in everyone, even the worst kind of person.  I'd love to write more about him.
Book 3
-Kinda Dragon-related- what's your favourite pet and/or animal?
I adore lizards, which I think it why it's so appealing to write about dragons.  When I was a kid I'd sit on the concrete front step of my home to soak up the sun.  I'd close my eyes and relax.  When I'd open my eyes, I'd be surrounded by lizards basking in the sun with me!  Seriously, this happened all the time.  Also, sometimes lizards would get into the house and it was my job to catch them and set them free.  I've always joked that I'm part lizard because I feel such a strong connection with them!  :-)
-A bit off topic but...I read on Word Spelunking how you liked Lisbeth in the Millenium Trilogy and I wondered if you think you would write a book like this? Something that cross the line from talking about horrible things and subjects readers to actually visualising them?
Maybe.  I think being human is so peculiar.  On one hand, people can be incredibly wonderful and inspiring.  But then there are narcissists, pathological liars, sociopaths, psychopaths, and so on.  Life and people are pretty complex, and I want to write books that explore those kinds of complexities.  So if I think the best way to make my point is by writing something graphic, I'll do it, even if it means going to the extent of being as graphic as the books in the Millenium Trilogy.  There are some scenes in the Dragonslayer books that are graphically violent -- the scene with Mauri on top of Tower Island in The Dragonslayer's Sword, for instance, and the scene in The Iron Maiden when we first meet Margreet.  I'm a pacifist, and I include graphic violence in my books because I think many people have become desensitized to violence and my goal is to underline how horrible and disturbing violence is.  I think Larsoon explored the theme of misogyny in the Millenium Trilogy, and my opinion is that's why some of the scenes are so graphic -- I think he did it mindfully and as a way to underscore his point..

Resa Nelson’s first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series, which also includes The Iron Maiden (Book 2), The Stone of Darkness (Book 3), and The Dragon’s Egg (Book 4).

Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."

She has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.  Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Resa lives in Massachusetts.  Visit her website at