Clfisha's 100 Books in 2013

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Clfisha's 100 Books in 2013

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Jan 6, 2013, 12:58 pm

Well I am a bit sluggish this year to start but what the heck :) I was 4 short last year & I have no idea with some long reads ahead of me if I would make it this year but its fun trying is it not?!

As per last year ratings will not be stars but: Bad, Average, Good, Excellent and Amazing.

Editado: Dez 30, 2013, 3:03 pm

This years list, in reverse order:

100. Why Are You Doing This? by Jason (excellent)
99. Incidents in the Night by David B. (good)
98. The Man Who Laughs (average)
97. Bristol Unbuilt by Eugene Byrne (Excellent)
96. Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green (Excellent)
95. The Fat Man by Ken Harmon (awful)
94. Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos (Excellent)
93. A Farewell to Arnms by Ernest Hemingway (awful)
92. The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine edited Lynne Thomas
91. Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner
90.Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings by Sydney Schanberg
89. Johannes Cabal, the necromancer Jonathan L. Howard (Excellent November)
88. Suburnt Faces by Shmon Adaf (Excellent November)
87. Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren (Excellent November)
86. Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith (Good October)
85. Daytripper by by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (Good October)
84. Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle (Ok October)
83. Passport to Peril Good by Robert B. Parker (Good October)
82. King Death by Toby Litt (Good October)
81. De bewaker The Guard by Peter Terrin (Good October)
80. Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Good September)
79. The Fictional Man by Al Ewing (Excellent September)
78. Detective Story by Imre Kertesz (Good September)
77. We by Jevgeni Zamjatin (ok September)
76. QueenPin by Megan Abbott (Good September)
75. The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson (excellent September)
74. The Cockfighter by Frank Manley (Good September)
73. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan (ok August)
72. I play the drums in a band called Okay by Toby Litt (Excellent August)
71. Poetry in (e)motion: The Illustrated Words of Scroobius Pip by Scroobius Pip (Good August)
70. Fairest; The Hidden Kingdom by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda (Good August)
69. The Black Project by Gareth Brookes (Good August)
68. Old Man's War by John Scalzi (Good August)
67. XKCD Volume 0 by Randall Munroe (Excellent August)
66. Infernal Devices by K W Jeter (poor August)
65. Immobility by Brian Evenson (good August)
64. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (Excellent August)
63. Paintwork by Tim Maughan (Excellent August)
62. The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes (Excellent August)
61. The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtrosson (good August)
60. Die Wand (The Wall) by Marlen Haushofer (Brilliant July)
59. The Slynx by Татьяна Толстая (ok, July)
58. The Break by Pietro Grossi (good July)
57. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (excellent July)
56. Digger Volumes 1-6 by Ursula Vernon (excellent June)
55. Dangerous Gifts: A Babylon Steel Novel (Good June)
54. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent ?)
53. The Grass-cutting Sword by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent June)
52. Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord (OK June)
51. Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck (Excellent June)
50. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman Excellent June
49. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine (amazing June)
48. Pastoralia by Goerge Saunders (Excellent June)
47. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Amazing June)
46. Losing the Head of Philip K Dick by David Duffy (Excellent May)
45. Science Tales by Darryl Cunningham (ok May)
44. Walking Dead: Volume 17 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. Tag: iconoclasm
43. Ubik by Philip K Dick (ok May)
42. Raylan by Elmore Leonard (ok May)
41. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman (amazing May)
40. The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar (Good, 15/5)
39. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld (Excellent 14/5)
38. The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness (poor, may)
37. The Circle: The Engelsfors Trilogy--Book 1 by Elgren & Strandberg (Good, 14/4)
36. Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powel (ok 12/4)
35. Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman and various
34. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson (Amazing 6/4)
33. Gulp by Mary Roach (Excellent 4/4)
32. Three to See The King by Magnus Mills (excellent 29/3)
31. The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman & Various artists
30. How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (Excellent 28/3)
29. Covet by J R Ward (ok, 24/3)
28. The Half-Made World (Amazing 21/3)
27. Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar (Excellent 18/3)
26. The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover (Excellent 16/3)
25 Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman & various (ok 10/3)
24. Mad Night by Richard Sala (Good 10/3)
23. Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason & Fabien Vehlmann (Excellent 10/3)
22. The Mall by S.Al Grey (ok 10/3)
21. The Blackbirder by Dorothy B Hughes (Good 9/3)
20. They Shoot Horses Don't They by Horace McCoy (good 6/3)
19.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Distoyevsky (excellent 5/3)
18. The Hidden by Richard Sala (excellent 16/2)
17. I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond (good, 16/2)
16. The Collector by John Fowles (poor 12/2)
15. Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (ok, 8/2)
14. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Well's Tower (good 3/2)
13. The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space, Inner Lands by Ursula K. Le Guin (excellent 27/1)
12.Swamplandia by Karen Russell (Excellent 25/1)
11. Hartmann the Anarchist: The Doom of the Great City by Edward Douglas Fawcett (ok 22/1)
10. Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale (good 20/1)
9. Sandman: The Dolls' House by Neil Gaiman and various artists (Amazing 18/1)
8. Gun Machine by Warren Ellis (good 14/1)
7. Redshirts by John Scalzi (Excellent 12/1)
6. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman and various artists (9/1)
5. The Coming by Andrej Nikolaidis (Excellent 8/1)
4. A Flight of Angels by many (good 5/1)
3. The Unwritten Vol 6 Tommy Taylor and the War of Worlds by Mike Carey and Pete Gross (Excellent, 5/1)
2. Delphine by Richard Sala (good, 5/1)
1. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass (amazing, 4/1)

Jan 6, 2013, 1:41 pm

Glad you made it here. Happy New Year!

Jan 6, 2013, 7:03 pm

Good to see you again. Good reading!

Jan 6, 2013, 7:10 pm

Glad you're back! Looking forward to your reading this year.

Although can I say I've tried and failed twice with The Tin Drum?

Jan 6, 2013, 10:34 pm

Great to see you here ! I must agree with you on The Tin Drum !

Jan 7, 2013, 7:25 am

Thanks. I think that whilst The Tin Drum is an acquired taste it also maybe the translation... see below.

1. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Addictive and utterly original German classic

A lyrical and captivating, humorous, beautiful and grotesque German classic with a new English translation (2010 see below) that makes the original shine.

Oskar, our unreliable narrator, recounts his life from his bed in the mental hospital. And oh what a life. A life where he decided to stop growing at 3 and only ever to drum. A life where he could singshatter glass. A life of love, death, blasphemy and sex. Where he was a stone cutter, a jazz musician, a nude model, the head of a deviant gang.

It is a book that encompasses life, a book that gently takes you by the hand and wraps its beautiful language, its musical beat around you and never lets go. It could be seen to be shocking but it is never dull. Political and allegorical it maybe, a social commentary on Germany during and after the war (WWII) but it's also a superb story and I enjoyed it as such. Theme's hover gently, connections draw together the text, long sentences flow and crash into short ones. The characters dance in Oskar's story too, fully alive. There is never a dull moment, even for the tiny degenerations into insanity.

I've also been told it makes a good impression to begin modestly by asserting that novels no longer have heroes because individuals have ceased to exist, that individualism is a thing of the past, that all human beings are lonely, all equally lonely, with no claim to individual loneliness, that they all form some nameless mass devoid of heroes. All that may be true. But as far as I and my keeper Bruno are concerned, I beg to state that we are both heroes, quite different heroes, he behind his peep hole, I in front of it; and that when he opens the door, the two of us, for all our friendship and loneliness, are still far from being some nameless mass devoid of heroes.

One of the better books I have read and if your are in the mood for long immersement in deep waters may I highly
recommend this but please go for the new English translation.

Comment on the new translation
The translators afterword is fascinating on the trade of a translator but also sheds to light the difference they can make, on the aims of a translator: "Do we owe our allegiance to the reader or to the author?" I.e. do they make it more accessible in language or culture to target audience. I know my preference but it's an interesting point.

Here he has worked very closely with the author to bring the text in line with the original. Long sentences, originally were broken up for easy digestion and these were restored, as was the rhythm and certain themes (i.e. left handiness). I really can't imagine this book being as good with an earlier translation so I urge you to seek it out.

Jan 9, 2013, 6:04 am

Damn. I may have to give The Tin Drum a third go, I guess...

Jan 12, 2013, 9:25 am

The Tin Drum sounds fascinating, and looks like it will fit perfectly in to reading challenges and like. Thanks for the great review!

Jan 12, 2013, 2:26 pm

8 ..cue evil laugh..

9 No worries

2. Delphine by Richard Sala
Enigmatic, unsettling fairy tale

Sala's art is perfect for this deliciously creepy atmospheric modern fairy tale; inspired by snow white and seen from the Prince's view. Much is left unsaid, for it's a book that revels in mystery as we follow our hero in his search for the girl of dreams. we follow as he descends into dark nightmarish places, as the townsfolk mislead bewilder and confuse. Forget 7 dwarves happily singing songs this is haunting, sinister and fun, a comic that leaves a strong taste too and makes you want to revisit again soon.

Recommended and I can't wait to check out more from Sala

3. A Flight of Angels by Various Authors and illustrated by Rebecca Guay

An angel falls into a place of fairy tales and magic. Lying unconscious, unaware of fate he draws the denizens of the wood; witches and fawns, dryads and elves and all with their own view what to do. But this being a place of stories, well they take turns to tell who he is and what he has done and so decide his fate,

Each story is written by different people, with a framing story to keep tight reign on the plot. This proves to be a mixed bag of mostly good stories:The 1st story is the weakest; a retelling of Adam & Eve and man's shallowness (maybe I am just fed up with this being retold). The rest are more interesting though; a edgy tale of duty and murder or a beautiful story of romance. My favourite is the last, more a vignette, a twisting idea but one I was very taken with. In fact I might be more enthusiastic but the ending was tad lacklustre to this jaded reader, fresh eyes may find it shocking and intriguing in equal measure..

Of course the real reason you want to pick up a copy, is the gorgeous dreamy artwork by Guay and its displayed to such good effect, with different style to match the story.

Recommended for lovers of fairy tales and beautiful art

Jan 12, 2013, 7:10 pm

They both sound good, but I think I'll try and find Delphine which sounds very good!

Jan 12, 2013, 8:49 pm

I agree, both sound worth reading, but I'll probably be hunting Delphine!

Jan 13, 2013, 7:04 am

Amazon has the beginning of Delphine for you try. Hope you enjoy it!

Jan 15, 2013, 4:40 pm

4. Unwritten Volume 6: Tommy Taylor War of Words by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Amazing ongoing meta fictional fantastical comic series

Series Review (no spoiler)
Imagine the worlds best selling fantasy series (yes with a boy wizard) was never finished, that the author disappears into thin air. Now imagine that was your father and that character is based on you and your life is now one monotonous round of signings, interviews and fantasy conventions talks. Bad enough until you realise your childhood was a lie and someone is out to kill you.

One of the best comic series out there. Beautifully drawn, expertly plotted and with an intelligent and gripping tale. The playful merging of reality, or literature and storytelling makes a great base for a plot. There is myriad of styles from nods to classics of Moby Dick and Winnie the Pooh, to Nazi Propaganda and USA pulp fiction. Blend that in with cults, conspiracies, magic and the modern world (blogging, celebrity fandom) you get a tale of huge breath and potential and Carey is an author that can pull this off.

Volume 6 Review

A whole sheer volume of plot; intricacies, sudden twists and imminent disasters, dramatic fights and double crossings, new discoveries, endings and new beginnings.

It wasn't my favourite of the series and it really depends what happens next. Its a volume that's needs the others to really make sense, probably cos its not a direction I am sure about. More of a pathway than a climatic tale. Still I will be there avidly waiting for the next one, its such a good series.

Editado: Jan 15, 2013, 4:41 pm

5. The Coming by Andrej Nikolaidis
Eclectic, wonderfully odd noir

Snow falls in Summer, a library burns and a gruesome murder takes place. A PI who keeps the clients satisfied with lies, is on the case but then his long lost insane son, starts helping from afar with tales of blasphemy and religion.

Its a rich, fulfilling and refreshingly different story. The medieval history of cults and false messiahs is fascinating itself yet weaves itself against unreliable unfurling of his sons life story. The detectives cynical thoughts ooze off the page, with environmental apocalypse and shocking case as his background.Backgrounds that add tensions and also a sense of unreality to the plot. No part overwhelms the other, everything only adds the whole and its amazing what has been achieved in this short (126 page) novella.

A word of warning though don't expect firm resolution, take the truth you want. There are no gripping car chases or complicated whodunnits, more a dreamy open ended inevitability that hits hard against its Noir roots. The mystery is the book itself. That it comes from Montenegro a different culture and view which I have never tried is just the sprinkles on the icing of this bite sized cake.

Highly recommended. A truly delicious mix and if you want something different and like Noir this is for you.

Editado: Jan 16, 2013, 6:57 am

6. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (author) and various artists
Astounding, iconic, fantastical comic series

A truly descriptive title, a preface for one of greatest comic series out there. It is a dark taste for what is to come, an ensemble for the darkest of nights where we meet Dream a mysterious helmeted figure (and brother to Death) who though escapes an earthly magicians clutches must regain his power and for that he needs his tools. And so a quest that to takes him to fight the most insane, to find the most lost and to face Hell itself.

"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realised the real problem with stories - if keep them going long enough, they always end in death"

Gaiman is playing here and finding his style, trying out different ones, and introducing us to the world and some of the characters. It's a good and enjoyable read it with a promise of much to come. Gaiman is still interlocked with the DC universe and I find that it doesn't really work (I am not very familiar or interested). It's still a fun read and contains one of my favourite ever horror shorts "24 Hours" plus the touching, iconic "The Sound of Her Wings", a soft epilogue to the dramatic and scarier stories before.

To be honest, though, this is the spring board to the rest and you must start here. The Sandman collection is an epic tale that interweaves so many memorable characters lives, visits so many worlds, contains so many cool ideas, explores a myriad of myths and religions and looks at what its like to be human. It is one of my favourite things out there period and still feels fresh in a repeated reread. But if my gushing doesn't intrigue you, then know that is hard to state how much influence, how iconic and important this comic is and how much you miss if you haven't tried it.

So yes start here, see the promising beginnings and maybe, just maybe, try another. For this is a prelude to a truly great experience and deserves all of my praise.


There is a year long Sandman group read over at:

Come join us if you haven't!

Jan 20, 2013, 12:03 am

The Sandman series just seems to skate too close to horror for my comfort level, from what I've seen. Especially with the visuals.

Jan 20, 2013, 5:50 am

Yeah the 1st one is definitely horror, I think rest skirt that genre a bit. The older printed volumes the art and printing are pretty dire so you would from that point of you!

Jan 21, 2013, 3:47 pm

7. RedShirts by John Scalzi
Intelligent, very amusing, head hurtingly good, fun sci-fi

“So the captain, the first officer and the ship's doctor and sometimes the engineer all beam down to a planet. Together."
"The entire complement of the senior officers?"
Billy nodded
"And who has the command of the ship?"
"I don't know. Junior officers I guess."
"If they worked for me I would have them court-martialed. That sounds like a dereliction of duty."
"I know. I know. I always thought it odd myself. But that's not the point."
"What is the point?"
"They're usually accompanied by a guy in the red shirt. Always a crew member you've never seen before.
And as soon as you see the shirt, you know he's going to die.”

Do you get a kick out of old sci fi? Love watching those expendable cast members die in a variety of completely idiotic ways by aliens in silly outfits who ignore the laws of physics? No? Actually it doesn't matter either way because this book will be funny, gripping and interesting even if you think Spock is a misspelling of Spork.

Scalzi is a very clever writer, his takes up gentle parody and extreme tongue in cheek silliness and turns it into a gem of story. What starts out pure fun warps into something serious, something you care about and cannot really second guess. I laughed, I wallowed in the bad TV tropes, I gasped at a plot misdirection and went "ooo" when he actually did go there and PLOT SPOILER REDACTED. It is a satisfying short novel with extra coda's to round it all out, initially I thought "yuk Padding!" but I really appreciated as I progressed. Its possible the book has faults but um., nope the plot answers all that.

Recommend for lovers of a damn fine plot, Galaxy Quest fans, bad TV and everyone who knows/thinks all Star Trek that doesn't involve Kirk DOES NOT EXIST.

Jan 21, 2013, 5:22 pm

That sounds too good to pass up. Wishlisted.

Jan 21, 2013, 10:21 pm

I saw someone in a red t-shirt that said "EXPENDABLE" in Star Trek font one day. I wanted.

Jan 21, 2013, 10:49 pm

Ah, Redshirts IS a good one, Claire. I really enjoyed it too.

Jan 22, 2013, 7:22 am

Thanks Judy & I want a t-shirt like that as well now!

Roni, I must try more Scalzi any recs? I was thinking if picking up Old Man's War.

Jan 23, 2013, 7:32 am

8. Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
Interesting premise, standard thriller

From the blurb
This morning Detective John Tallow was bored with his job. Then there was this naked guy with a shotgun, and his partner getting killed, and now Tallow has a real problem: an apartment full of guns. Old guns. Modified guns. Arranged in rows and spirals on the floor and walls. Hundreds of them.
Each weapon is tied to a single unsolved murder.

It is an evocative premise and interesting entwining of history: Pre-settled New York and modern buildings swirl together to create a fantastic backdrop and unsettling atmosphere. The characters get to you to, the main lead in usual "on the edge" cop territory gets you to care about the plot & his 2 colleagues are wacky and funny enough to add spice without going over the top. It is funny, dark and I do I like Ellis's style. However the plot endears me less, but then I am not really a fan of thrillers or cop procedurals, I just start nit picking even if undeserved but it did keep me entertained and become quite gripping towards the end.

It's not as dark as his first book, but it is a gritty crime thriller so you know, it's not nice. I think fans of the genre will really find something to enjoy here and I personally can't wait for the film (it's very visual). However if you can stomach a bit of darkness go for the much more fun and OTT Crooked Little Vein which has the opening line "I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug." Yes it's that kind of book.

Recommended to lovers of crime fiction, look it hit the NY best seller list and it has this very cool book trailer (art by Ben Templesmith):

Jan 23, 2013, 1:49 pm

I put Delphine on my wishlist. I've been meaning to pick up Unwritten!

Looking forward to following your thread this year.

Jan 24, 2013, 6:49 am

Nice trailer! I may have to pick up Gun Machine now! Oh, I am so weak...

Jan 28, 2013, 8:12 am

25 Thanks, hope you enjoy them!

26 cue evil book bullet laugh -> mwahahaha

Jan 28, 2013, 3:47 pm

9. Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman (author) and various artists
Second of this unique, compelling, fantastical comic series

This is the volume where you can start to see and feel the genius of Sandman. The world starts to unfurl and let you in, we meet more of the Endless; the fabulous Desire and the beautifully, ugly Despair. Iconic ideas and fantastic shorts lace through the overarching tale of Rose, a young women who whilst searching for her lost brother unwittingly threatens Dreams realm. You can already see links forming, causality and future echo's. It is a multi layered feast of stories, a glut of riches.

It starts* with a wonderful rhythmic pastiche of African aural storytelling not only heartfelt but questioning the nature of stories and their tellers before introducing us to a mystery created without you noticing in the 1st volume. The art is much better here too, take the tale of Hob Gadling as he lives through the ages, each time beautifully drawn and lovingly researched or take Desires unimaginable large fortress or the Corinthians nightmarish eyes. This is a comic brimming with ideas in both words and images. It is a joy to read and to whet the appetite in anticipation.

Highly recommend.

*depending on printing

Jan 29, 2013, 5:54 am

10. Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R Lansdale

Opening with a dramatic start; our heroine, Sunset, shoots the Sheriff (her husband) in the head as he tries to rape and beat her. Events which leave Sunset, homeless, husbandless and in need of a job. So in slightly implausible circumstances through support of her powerful mother in law (who pretty much owns the only company in the town) she gets her husband’s job.. and gets thrust into a solving some brutal murders.

This is a whodunit with a lot of darkness but a lot of heart. Set in Texas during the Great Depression we get drifters, low life’s, lost souls, Ku Klux Klan, hard workers and firm friends. Once I got over the implausible premise this was a fun read, the murders are secondary really to Sunset and her daughter struggling to come up for air. The highs and lows of the peripheral characters. The story twists enough to keep you entertained and Lansdale is very good at strong female characters, satisfying endings, visually arresting fights and tense drama. It's not gratuitous by any means but the darkness ramps up the tension. You never know who is going to make it.

It may not be my favourite of Lansdale’s (try Edge of Dark Water) but lovers of crime and Lansdale fans will lap this up.

Jan 31, 2013, 8:17 am

11. Hartmann the Anarchist: The Doom of the Great City by Edward Douglas Fawcett
Interestingly flawed very old Steampunk

Written in 1892, this is an interesting, short and flawed early science fiction novel. Why Interesting? well it imagines a future of aerial bombing, gets a tad over-excited with its dreams of flying (airships), has a wonderful old fashioned style and exudes the social and political background of the time.

It does have a very iffy plot and a be-musingly relaxed protagonist (who seems to go along just to allow the plot to have a narrator). It does turn into an exercise in of too much description and sometimes the author is snobbish but really I think in this case the flaws make it interesting too. For you read this because of its age as its fun and crazy and weirdly over the top (that body count!). It does have a few illustrations by Stanley Donwood too (check out that funky cover) but not enough to make it the reason for buying the book.

Recommend to lovers of very early Steampunk

Jan 31, 2013, 5:48 pm

Sounds interesting.

Editado: Fev 5, 2013, 6:50 am

Definitely interesting, depends how mileage you have. Its not a brilliant story with the context.

12. Swamplandia by Karen Russell
Chaotic, evocative, utterly flawed, funny, shocking coming of age.

Swamplandia! A Floridian Gator park is in trouble, its star Hilola Bigtree champion alligator-wrestler has died. Ava, her 13 year old daughter, is determined to make it work but her father is AWOL, her brother defects to another theme park and her sister is besotted with a ghost.

“If you're short on time, that would be the two-word version of our story: we fell.

There is so much to love about this book but so much to make you wince. It's funny and dark (very dark in places) it captures the magic of life and also its hard, dreary cruelties. The language is superb. Yet it's deeply uneven, the pacing askew as after a slow yet entertaining start it splits into two ill-matched tales that kick you out so hard out of one into the other that you have to reset your head to immerse your self again (that narration shift!). It has too many ideas, promises too many things and tries to actually be a few but really all it does is lock you in, hard, to just one; a roller-coaster ride of a plot that is too late to get off once you find out its heart.

“I didn’t realize that one tragedy can beget another, and another — bright-eyed disasters flooding out of a death hole like bats out of a cave.”

The sets are evocative and touching on surreal; the superb Kafkaesque theme park of hell, the cloying, dank beauty of mosquito ridden swamp life. The characters are either lovable or irritating. The father makes me want to slap him, Kiwi's odd quirks and sudden maturity left me cold but then you get the complexity of Ava, Osceola's yearning, the mother's unearthly presence. The depiction of all that teenage naivety and human frailty is wonderful.

“No, I don’t have to tell a soul about this, I promised myself. When you are a kid, you don’t know yet that a secret, like an animal, can evolve. Like an animal, a secret can develop a self-preserving intelligence. Shaglike, mute and thick, a knowledge with a fur: your secret.”

For all its flaws I fell in love: I liked that the story allowed the reader an adults knowing, to read between childish thoughts, I loved the chills I got when the Birdman appeared, I laughed at the description of tourists, I even loved the abrupt ending.

It's like an old battered, much loved armchair with spilling stuffing, a broken spring and a weird smell. I cannot imagine it without these flaws, so inherent are they to what the book is. This is never the book you want it to be but there is nothing wrong in that.


Fev 5, 2013, 6:14 am

I've seen this book a few times, but never gave it much thought, but your review does have me intrigued

Editado: Fev 7, 2013, 10:55 am

It's got mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it.

13. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
Brilliantly written slices of life.

"Not long after the affair had run its course, Bob and his wife were driving to town when Vicky looked up and saw the phantom outline of a woman's footprint on the windshield over the glove box. She slipped her sandal off, saw that the print did not match her own, and told Bob that he was no longer welcome in their home.”

Tower has an arresting style and an eye for character. He takes a sharp scalpel to a life and throws us a short glimpse, a Polaroid snapshot where there are more questions than answers. Mundane lives and everyday darkness’s, made interestingly ominous. There is a strong theme of familial rivalries and relationship break ups here from the sibling rivalry and middle aged fear in The Retreat to Down Through the Valley where our narrator views his ex-wives husband with jealously and dislike.

"I can't explain why I did these things, except to say that I carry a little imp inside me whose ambrosia is my brother's wrath.”

Some stories don't work: one has follows multiple people around a pivotal dark moment and loses focus and my interest. The other is a tale of Vikings and quite frankly Tower's humour and arresting style just fell flat to my English ears.

"He crossed the cockeyed patio. Tiny lizards scattered from his path. He followed the sound of waves to the end of the yard, through a stand of pine trees, limbless and spectral. He stepped from the pines onto a road paved with oyster shells whose brightness in the morning light made his eyes clench up."

Worth a look to just dip your imagination into a raw, wry masculine style. Recommended to short story lovers & fans of USA fiction

Fev 7, 2013, 6:59 pm

That one has been on my wishlist for ages. I do enjoy a good set of short stories. Your comments make it sound even better!

Fev 7, 2013, 9:02 pm

Sounds great, thanks for the review !

Fev 7, 2013, 9:28 pm

Hello, hello, sounds like some interesting reading so far.

6, 28> One of these days... I will get all the sandman books now that they are collected again into large collections, I used to read my friends comics as he collected them, dark indeed in spots but still brilliant.

19> I believe i have some Scalzi on my shelf, or have read some, Redshirts does sound intriguing,and fun. Ah I have one at least The Sagan Diary in my bookcase of rare/collectors books (another bookcase I haven't finished cataloging)

> Your and everyones' much more thorough reviews, make me humble, but I am hard pressed to spend too much time reviewing a book, plus it's tough for me to know what exactly to say without ruining the story. I should try to get more detailed than my usual 1 -2 line comment on the books with a wider appeal perhaps though.

Fev 8, 2013, 12:22 am

Claire, I can't believe it's been so long since I've been by! Sorry! My favorite Scalzi is The Android's Dream. It's Scalzi at his way out there hilarious best in a science fiction setting.

Fev 8, 2013, 6:22 am

Judy/Bryan hope you enjoy it.

Zefariath: It's amazing what you pick up in Sandman when you reread them, even after all these years on my 4th/5th time round! Please feel free to come and hang out in this years group read too.
Oh and don't worry about length detail. I love having variety and I am jealous of those who can be succinct! Just some comments whether you like a book is fine.

Roni, I really find it hard to keep up on LT and finding time to comment is even worse! So no need to apologise, especially since you came with a book recommendation :-)

RE: Scalzi, I read his tweets but Redshirts was my 1st book so I am eager to try others!

Fev 10, 2013, 11:14 pm

Swamplandia has been hovering on the edge of my wishlist for a while, I think you may have just given it the nudge to put it firmly on there. :)

Fev 13, 2013, 8:37 am

Well we just had a group read over in the category challenge and I am one of the few people who like it.. so be warned!

14. The Unreal and the Real: Outer Space, Inner Lands by Ursula K. Le Guin
Fabulous fantastical shorts

Second volume in this collection of shorts which opens with one of her famous stories "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas". I won't spoil it but it’s a stunningly good story wrapped around a simple, shocking question. It would overshadow most collections but Le Guin can write and tell engrossing stories and has ideas that still feel fresh and interesting. The societies she creates, the characters; the fantastical reflected back, full of imagination and familiarity these thoughts can stay with you months after.

There are fascinating tales of a planet of introverts, of alien races that never speak, of a place where those that fly are outcasts. Then there are human stories of love and forgiveness, twisted fables and old fashioned quests. Gender is humorously and seriously tweaked as societies segregate or aliens land on earth. Although I am doing Le Guin a disservice, no story is about one thing. "Mazes" maybe about language but as she states in the introduction it comes from not being allowed a chance to speak."The Shobies Story" maybe a cute science fiction tale of an experiment with instantaneous travel but it’s also about how we use stories to define ourselves.

This is a stunning collection, although fans will already have them anyone else who loves fantasy and science fiction, short stories, beautiful writing and refreshing look at gender will really enjoy. I have only ever read The Earthsea Trilogy which I was never truly enamoured with but now I am desperate for more.

Highly recommended.

Fev 13, 2013, 9:34 am

Just getting caught up on your thread - lots of interesting new (to me) books here!

Editado: Fev 14, 2013, 8:31 am

Hi Jennifer, I love LT for all the new books I find. Daunting though :)

I got this next book free when I joined the extremely important Open Rights Group, so if you live in the UK and believe in a more thoughtful approach to internet freedom look at

15. Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross
zany science fiction.

Tech Jury Service: a place where normal people access the potentially disastrous technologies the post-humans of the metaconsciousness spew out. Those humans that didn't emigrate after the singularity that is.

"Giant letters march across the dome of the sky: HOME NOT FOUND. Huw, who knows Comic Sans when she sees it, winces in mild disgust.”

It’s a problem when the humour in a book doesn't match your own, doesn't make it a bad book just an unlikable one and makes reviewing almost impossible. I do have to say I wonder what I missed, I have a certain level of technical understanding but who knows? I can say I thought that it had a certain aimlessness in the plot, some overly done stereotypes (American religious fundamentalists anyone?), no characters to hook you in (girl who is good at everything and lusts after the hero, hero follows Luddite 'everyman' shtick) and ideas which whilst fun and interesting were not mind blowing. Although these things are probably intentional if you don't find sending up a stereotype funny it’s just a stereotype.

It's a shame but to be honest it’s just not a book for me and I have no idea if it would be a book for you. I did however like this one line:
"These days, tales of what Facebook did with its users during the singularity are commonly used to scare naughty children in Wales.”
I need a short story about that.

There's an excerpt here to help you make up your mind

Fev 15, 2013, 10:08 am

16. The Collector by John Fowles
Weird and dated horror

Frederick is obsessed by Miranda, when he wins a lot of money he buys an isolated house in the country, one with a large cellar, one that could accommodate a guest... someone to add to his collection.

An infamous book, shocking when published in 1963 and notoriously cited by some serial killers as inspiration so carrying that kind of baggage I guess it is kind of interesting to read even though I didn't think it was very good or has aged well. Let me explain why..

Subtlety is not Fowles strength which works at the beginning as we see our fledging serial killer grow, he is suitably creepy and brings a terrible foreshadowing which keeps the book alive against minor issues of a too old fashioned feel and mistakes such as that chloroform myth. Fowles then cleverly switches to the diary of doomed Miranda. Who can be a wonderful vibrant juxtaposition, a fantastic character who feelings and thoughts can be heartbreaking and this effect is especially horrific when she tries to sleep with him .

But (and it’s a big but) it's not enough to save the book. The diary technique traps her view in too tight constraints, I never really felt the relentless horror. It also rewinds the story and adds very little to what has gone before; character building (check), minor differences in events (check) but honestly since nothing much happens anyway its a bit dull the second time around. Then (and these two are the bigger faults) we get a long discourse on art, education and class which I found boring, dated and somehow just wrong (for the story being told and just also incorrect). Even worse Miranda seems only to be defined by men, her mentor who shapes her and her kidnapper, I can see why this comparison is done but I think it is a huge mistake in the context of the story, a story that needs less sexism to survive. Of course my last complaint is again with its age and that was, for me, the ending is just a cop out.

So I don't recommend it, not really even out of interest.

Fev 16, 2013, 10:44 am

Okay, you're the second person to read the book recently and very different impressions of it. It isn't a group read is it?

Fev 21, 2013, 11:55 am

Sorry delayed response! We are having a Fowle's reading month over in the Category Challenge.

Please come over and join/lurk etc..

Fev 21, 2013, 12:01 pm

17. I Was Dora Suarez by Derek Raymond
Odd, compelling, brutal, iconic Noir

Her sprawling limbs admitted only one image. They were what they could only be–joints of chilling, upset meat–and her bloodstained grin, the fixed, yet slack absence of her dark eyes were the worst of all sentences, the one that condemned a killer by looking past him. Yes, something had gone wrong this time.

Opening with one of the best starts I have seen, this forceful, flawed book takes the lid of those salacious tabloid headlines to the reality of evil underneath. A tale of a serial killer, a dying prostitute and an unnamed detective spiralling downwards in the tragedy of his loneliness. It is a book made for impact, a book that veers from haunting description, ugly detail, harsh and ill fitting dialogue. It could easily be accused of being overwrought or of pushing the boundaries too far but as whole, as a messy whole it's much more that these failings. It bleeds honesty, a book that the author couldn't see clearly enough to write writing the book I definitely underwent an experience that I can only describe as cathartic; the writing of Suarez, though plunging me into evil, became the cause of my seeking to purge what was evil in myself. It was only after I had finished the book that I realized this; I was far too deeply involved in the battle with evil that the book became to think any further than that at the time … Suarez was my atonement for fifty years’ indifference to the miserable state of this world; it was a terrible journey through my own guilt, and through the guilt of others. from The Hidden Files

A warning though whilst standalone it is 4th in the iconic Factory series. It is also not a book for those who live for the puzzle as our narrator doesn't detect (no time) he swears, bullies and threatens his way to the truth and who needs a forensics team with this method? The book’s faults could drive people crazy but it's not about a perfect crime take. It doesn't matter that peripheral characters are thin, not that the dialogue is lopsided you wonder if he is talking to himself in his insanity or that his constant rudeness is seriously over the top.

Flawed though it maybe, it deserves its iconic status and is a must for noir lovers but also for anyone who is interested in the writing craft (bring strong stomach). Recommended

I thought as I drove that even though I was too late to save her, if I could solve her death, I might make some contribution to the coming of a time when such a horror would no longer be possible, a time when society would no longer throw up monsters.

Fev 22, 2013, 7:02 am

Oh no! I thought The Collector was fascinating (and very creepy) when I read it. Now I'm wondering if I'm a serial killer underneath my normal exterior... ;)

Mar 3, 2013, 5:14 am

As long as you dont start looking for house with basements you should be ok! It's a book that seems to encourage drastically opposing views.

Since I am still reading Crime and Punishment (which is very good btw) I have no reviews so thought I would fill out this... It's hard when all you read is mostly noir!

Describe yourself: The Bookman
Describe how you feel: Amoung Others
Describe where you currently live: Grandville
If you could go anywhere, where would you go? In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Your favourite form of transportation: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making
Your best friend is: The Last Werewolf
You and your friends are: Secret Circle
What's the Weather Like: Edge of Dark Water
You fear: This Book Is Full Of Spiders
What is the best advice you have to give? Three Messages and a Warning
Thought for the Day: Blankets
How I would like to die: The Walking Dead
My Soul's Present Condition: The Alienist

Mar 13, 2013, 11:21 am

18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Surprisingly brilliant literary crime classic

"Brother, brother, what are you saying? Why, you have shed blood?" cried Dunya in despair.
"Which all men shed," he put in almost frantically, "which flows and has always flowed in streams, which is spilt like champagne, and for which men are crowned in the Capitol and are called afterwards benefactors of mankind... If I had succeeded I should have been crowned with glory, but now I'm trapped."

A surprising book. A book whose reputation overshadows it with those dreaded words "a worthy classic". A book of social commentary, a discussion of philosophy, of morality and justice, a plea for the Christian faith. But it’s also a playful crime novel, a crime of The Why, a wry look at art of catching criminals and with the number one genre attribute: a gripping plot. It is also beautifully written; discussion and descriptions slip of the page and their gems lurk in your brain. It is far too easy a read for such a chewy book.

“It would be interesting to know what it is men are most afraid of. Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what they fear most.”

Of course it's not without its faults, personally (and though open to interpretation) the epilogue with its religion as a panacea felt a like a let down to the topics explored, a simplistic choice God or Nihilsm. Sexism is endemic, although female characters abound they all lean towards self sacrificing end of the spectrum (yes Sonia is the embodiment of self sacrifice but every female character?) Racism is littered throughout too with throw away anti Semitic comments and for some reason a dislike of Germans. I can ignore these things, there is too much good stuff to take away but it depends on your sensitivity.

Where is it?" thought Raskolnikov. "Where is it I've read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he'd only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once! Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!... How true it is! Good God, how true! Man is a vile creature!... And vile is he who calls him vile for that," he added a moment later.

Overall highly recommended. Ignore the overly academic introductions and essays and dive right it, take away what you will and most of all wallow and enjoy (unless you’re a Nihilist)

Mar 14, 2013, 11:34 am

19 Hidden, The by Richard Sala

Another delicious blend of Salas evocative, wry horror graphic novels this time a short, satisfying, apocalyptic riff off Frankenstein/Zombie mythology. Quiet amusement rub against B movie schlock horror, a mad cap idea of a plot beautifully layered to ramp up to the only ending that does the story justice. Sala's art is of course fantastic and my only complaint is it’s a bit short.

Highly recommended to comic fans, horror lovers.

Mar 15, 2013, 4:30 am

#50 have to agree with you about Crime and Punishment, a wonderful, intelligent, classic novel !
I next read his The Idiot and enjoyed it as much.

Mar 15, 2013, 5:36 am

I was so surprised, will add The Idiot to my wishlist, as well as The Brothers Karamozov

Mar 16, 2013, 8:40 pm

The Brothers Karamozov is rated as one of the greatest literate works by many, I preferred The Idiot (can't remember why ?), so am interested to see what you think, no pressure !

Mar 17, 2013, 5:29 am

Wow, I'd decided to put in the name of a classic for my upcoming bookgroup read (we all put in two titles, and then draw one name out of a hat, literally). Wasn't quite sure what title to choose (Mansfield Park, the only Austen I haven't read? Great Gatsby with the movie coming up? A Dickens...?) I think I might go with Crime and Punishment now... (I hope the woman who suggested Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't hate me for that.)

Mar 17, 2013, 12:14 pm

The Idiot is absolutely wonderful. I haven't managed to finish TBK yet, but if I remember correctly The Idiot was actually pretty funny. I may be misremembering, though.

Mar 18, 2013, 6:13 am

#55 wookie, I think she will :-)

Mar 18, 2013, 7:31 am

Whilst it is gripping it does also have a lot of monologues and angst, depends on your mileage :)

and now The Idiot is climbing higher and higher! thanks :)

Mar 18, 2013, 8:14 am

Well, Crime and Punishment went into the hat, but Orhan Pamuk's Snow came out. Looking forward to it, I've been meaning to read him for quite some time. And C&P can try again next meeting, :)

Mar 18, 2013, 10:40 am

I have to say I think I preferred C&P to Snow :)

20. They Shoot Horses Don't They? by Horace McCoy

Marathon dancing and Nihilism, this is a novella that packs a punch. A young man recounts how he ended up in court and each chapter is framed with a snippet of the judges sentence. Short and shocking at first then gradually layering on detail as we hurtle towards the fatalistic ending. The setting is fascinating within itself, a surreal never-ending endurance dance off, full of rivalries and dubious showmanship. Couples are offered money to marry, fights start over cheating, collapses and prudish protesters abound.

A page turning story that offers so much but in the end fails slightly because of the nihilistic doom laden simplicity. A personal taste sure, but also affects Gloria's fatalistic character. There is no substance behind her, no reasons given, Her character and Robert's response just feels stupid, a let down to the richness that came before.

Still I do recommended it. It’s a fantastic, rich novella for all that.

Mar 19, 2013, 5:42 am

21. The Mall by S.L.Grey

Dan is an Emo loser who works in a giant bland mall in Johannesburg and Rhoda (a strung out junky) is about to seriously ruin his day, dragging him through back corridors searching for the lost kid she was babysitting. Which is bad enough, but then they get lost, some psycho keeps sending text messages and the power goes. Then something starts chasing them in the dark...

I don't usually like horror novels, grotesque but dull is my usual impression and this proved no exception (use the fact that I also thought this about Dawn of the Dead as your gauge). However I can see it has positives for fans of the genre. It is a refreshing new take on the consumerism/horror melding and it does have some nice set pieces, particularly the descent into hellish mall. Darkness and mannequins sure, but also blinding mirrors and dark water and the lost dregs of society. The other mall with its amusing slogans and grotesque inhabitants, are suitably twisted and eerie.

What I can't forgive is it commits the cardinal sin of the genre: characters that are far too stupid to live. Seriously I nearly threw the book at the wall. They are also unlikeable and, I admit I might be picking holes here, but I didn't find them particularly believable either. Talk about twisting to fit the predictable ending. I could rant on but I won't, I don’t think it’s a terrible book but just a very bad fit for me

I can't recommend it but horror fans might want to check out other reviews.

Mar 21, 2013, 9:55 am

22. The Blackbirder by Dorothy B Hughes

Julie Gill used to be a pretty little rich girl in Paris, but then the Nazi's came and she had to flee, through Europe to Cuba and illegally into North America. Heir to a fortune she hides from Nazi agents and the FBI, until a murder forces her to flee, to get out of the country fast. But only the mysterious Blackbirder can help and the cost is going to be high.

Written in 1943 this is a page turner spy thriller and a fine piece of war time propaganda unusually with a heroine at the fore front of the action. Julie is a believable everywoman too, easy to root for and it is so refreshing not to have a character that survives against ridiculous odds and never gets scared. Ok so the plot may not hold too many surprises these days but the atmosphere of loneliness and paranoia is superb. I also have to say my copy, part of the femme fatales series holds a deeply fascinating afterword on Hughes technique and it’s almost worth getting for that alone!

Recommend for lovers of spy genre, feminists and any new aspiring writers.

Mar 22, 2013, 7:58 am

23. Isle of 100,000 Graves by Fabien Vehlmann (author) & Jason (artist)

Darkly funny and hugely entertaining, this a gripping adventure on the high seas as young Gwenny swears to find her father who went in search lost treasure and instead finds a secret school for torturers that lures pirates for practical sessions. It's a genius idea and while I was unsure if the art at first it works sublimely well with story and its deadpan humour and pitch perfect comedic timing. It’s absurd and lovable and absolutely delicious.

Highly recommend. I am off to seek more works from the both of them.

Mar 22, 2013, 7:59 am

24. Mad Night by Richard Sala

Category 8. Hellish temptations. Tag iconoclasm, murder

Sala's take on the murder ,with perky foul mouthed investigator Judy Drood, is of course a darkly, gothic, bonkers romp through the genre. It all starts with a series of nasty murders n the University campus and soon different people are trying to get the secret of immortality. This being Sala means as well as a multitude of murders and shadowy figures galore we get beautiful grotesque group of professors, an all female pirate crew led by the evil hand puppet Auntie, a giant octopus, a lecturing owl, an ex war criminal and a priestly interrogator (sans nuns) with a penchant for axing people.

It's a vibrant chaotic mix that doesn't quite come off. I admit I found the beginning slightly bewildering (and I do wonder if you are meant to be familiar with Judy Drood) but in end I still had a lot of fun, over the top, amusing and horrible with a nice line in running jokes. It is in black and white and I did miss Sala's fab colouring but really his art suits it just as well.


Mar 22, 2013, 7:59 am

25. Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman & various

4 separate stories all flowing into the themes and feeding the rich story world of Sandman. This is third in the series and it’s time for a fabulous intermission. A tale of the power of dreams and the dreams that cats want, a horrible tale of rape and the grasp for ideas and for fame, a amusing and clever tale of Shakespeare, playing a tale of fairies to the Fae and a lost lonely tale of a superhero who has give up hope.

It may be one of the my least favourites, Calliope's brutal tale personally turns me off the whole thing and Facade I feel was clumsy but I admire the dark cuteness of A Dream of a Thousand Cats and enjoy the cleverness and humour in the retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Facade pleases me less, I feel a longer story hidden there, a better character portrayal. Still it’s a short intermission and an interesting one. I am very glad Gaiman wanted to break away and tell other stories, its partly what makes Sandman great.

Mar 23, 2013, 3:53 am

Oh yes, I'd forgotten about A Dream of a Thousand Cats! I did like that one particularly.

The Blackbirder sounds good, must rustle up a copy...

Mar 25, 2013, 12:22 pm

Hope you enjoy your Hughes :) and we all know cats want to take over the world!

26. The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover

1785 and Britain is at war with France, an invasion with Bonny Prince Charlie is rumoured. Daniel Quare, is an ambitious member of the secretive guild “The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers” and he is been sent after a much sought after innovative watch. A watch that everyone wants, even as they fear it and Daniel is going to be dragged into a nightmarish world of intrigue and murder, of dragons and gods.

A strange, wayward book. A book that holds the idea of genre trope of fast paced fantasy action adventure with huge contempt. This is a book that stops what it's doing to let a minor character (at that point) to tell his story and only then do you begin to grasp how fantastic this duology(?) is going to be.

It is a book that starts off seemingly happy to play with the urban fantasy/clockworkpunk genre within Georgian British empire and it's secret society stockpiling the latest time technology. It has a female master thief and clueless everyman, political machinations and sword fights, doomsday devices and flying machines. It is all good fun if a tad genteel but when that character takes our hero and spins a tale, oh boy do you start to see its riches. The slow unfurling of magic in the world, the power that Time has and the shifting hidden meaning of the "other" world. Although at no point is the book completely honest with you, it’s a hidden nefarious, lying book and well that is part of the fun

Whilst it is layered it does follow a relatively simple plot arc and luckily this holds the weight of the complex, mutable world. It helps too, that its hugely visual with some evocative moments: the dark labyrinth streets of a snowed in mountain top village, a chase through the dark canyons of underground London under the mesmerising rain of glowing mushrooms.

Of course it will not be to everyone's taste, those with more prudish sensibilities be warned, the humans reaction to the "other" is sexual. Witcover’s style is rich and it took me a page or so to get into the flow. I think I have put off already, anyone who dislikes complexity or confusion, who needs a rollicking ride but again be warned. It could be said to be overblown and too full of, well everything but to be honest I would disagree. The main protagonists is a passive idiot too but oddly this didn't drive me mad.. Lastly it is part of a series and does end mysteriously on a cliff hanger that makes you go "what the?".

But look it does become gripping. No really. Plus it has dragons and ninja monks, well I think it does at least, and the creepiest town clock ever.

Recommend, although whether you wait for the sequel is up to you, it’s a rich experience in itself

Mar 25, 2013, 2:16 pm

That does sound like fun - great review. I've never even heard of it.

Mar 25, 2013, 9:51 pm

Bother. I shouldn't come visiting here, I've just added another book to the wishlist. Sigh.

Mar 25, 2013, 10:38 pm

A book bullet--onto the wishlist it goes.

Mar 26, 2013, 6:51 am

cue evil laugh.. ;)

Mar 28, 2013, 11:27 am

27. Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
Rich, rollicking, Litpunk Adventure

Meet Lady De Winter, agent to France’s quiet council of intelligent automatons who is called to a locked room mystery and as is the way of things is soon involved in a grasp for a bizarre zombie creating alien artefact which will drive her to underground labs, terrifying asylums, beautiful world fairs fighting against the British giant space lizards and a multitude of Chinese factions.

Utterly fabulous, totally silly and quite, quite serious; this a mad cap, magpie of an adventure story. It’s very hard to encapsulate every delight here, it’s an over-packed gem but a hugely satisfying one. An adventure romp with a meaty almost meandering plot that is packed to the rafters with literature references and neat ideas. The characters are superb (look women in fantasy!) De Winter is a perfect example of anti-authority cop and all the minor
characters seem to be spot on whether it’s the repulsive Marquis De Sade, or tragic Kai Lun.

All genres are pretty much mashed here but never overwhelm and the plot is a page turner but maybe not for those who prefer threads tight and few and tied up at the end. It is the 2nd in the Bookman trilogy but is pretty much standalone and um I can't think of many faults to be honest. I did have a niggling need to know more about French literature but it didn't affect the story just my pride and I had much fun with Google.

Recommended for all horror, crime, sci fi, fantasy and adventure fans. Plus everyone else

Mar 28, 2013, 7:30 pm


Mar 28, 2013, 8:09 pm

Camera Obscura sounds fantastic, straight onto the TBR pile that is to be read before the other TBR piles, thanks !

Mar 29, 2013, 7:03 am

Bother, I was hoping I could ignore Lavie Tidhar. Obviously not.

Editado: Abr 10, 2013, 10:41 am

Hope you all enjoy :)

28. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
A slow burning fantastical wonder

Poised deliciously between wonderful world building and fantastic characterisation this 1st in a dulogy(?) slowly built but the by end left me quite breathless.

The world? Well it's a A wild west frontier torn between the logical, industriousness of the Line and their giant locomotives ripping through the landscape, consuming and twisting all to their needs. Their armies full of grey men, with their mind shattering bombs. Humanities last gasp, the Red Army was defeated long ago and The Guns, chaotic beings who love to possess outlaws cannot hold them back. No one thinks much about the natives who sulk on the edge of reality or are enslaved by the thundering progress of The Line. Into all this, looking for an adventurous new start is psychologist Liv. From the staid East to a home for the war broken. A home that contains an old general who in his broken mind may hold the secret to ending the war.

It’s a wonderful premise, that as you can tell is hard to summarise. The characters that form it grow to be delicious, the pitch perfect tone of the demonic gun, wheedling and cruel in equal measure or the terribly fragile humanity of Liv (one of my favourite characters period). Liv's journey West and the drawing together of all forces keeps you entertained whilst furiously building the story and then goes in unexpected places. Be warned I don't think it hits the wow factor for a while and it always refuses to fall into easy plot tropes of epic battles and glorious romance; passivity with chaos and sudden, very real bravery against familiar cowardice. It maybe a page turner but it’s not nonstop action.

It is the first book is in a series, but the ending is satisfying whilst leaving it wide open for the next. Yet I think whether this books really shines is going to rest on the next book.. I have much invested in this now.

Abr 5, 2013, 5:50 pm

You had me at "Poised deliciously. ...".

Abr 7, 2013, 6:17 am

50> I'm hoping to take Crime and Punishment this year also, am unfortunately bogged down in Paved with Good Intentions at the moment though, it's good, but can't seem to read it for long.

Abr 7, 2013, 9:03 am

Bryan :-)

Henri, I do hope you get to it & that translation is one I would recommend. No Review of Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience in Iran so be interesting to see how you find it! I admit I am terrible with non fiction books

Abr 7, 2013, 6:38 pm

My C&P is the 1945 edition, not sure what translation it is without getting up and digging it out.

Will throw up a review when finished, it's certainly interesting, for example I was unaware that Iran was neutral in ww2 and we invaded them then split the country in half with Russia, then post ww2 Russia didn't want to leave.

Abr 10, 2013, 10:42 am

I think that translation was more recent

29. Covet by J R Ward
So so paranormal romance.

I do like the racy Dark Brotherhood series but somehow wasn't enamoured by this tale. The setup is ancient war between hell and heaven. God’s getting bored and so bets the devil for the best of seven souls. A "neutral" human is chosen to push them either way. Of course both sides cheat.. Very silly and slightly banal, which is fine but also not much fun, no over the top characters, or great bad guys and the dull romance is left to the sidelines. Ok its only setting up the series and I can see potential but I’m far too apathetic to try another.

Caveat: I usually steer clear from romance books so I don't know this may float genre lovers boats. Non genre lovers should probably avoid

Abr 10, 2013, 10:43 am

30. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Exciting, fascinating experimentation

A pastiche on the self help novel, a sharp social commentary on modern day Pakistan and a story of the rise and fall of one unnamed man. In fact that man is "You", this novel is written in the 2nd person.

"Is getting filthy rich still your goal above all goals, your be-all and end-all, the mist shrouded high-altitude spawning pond to your salmon?
In your case, fortunately, it seems to be. Because you have spent the last few years taking the essential next step, learning from a master"

There are some truly delicious moments in this book, some stunning craft and sly manoeuvres. It is a book that deftly instructs “You” the reader and “You” the character separately from different points and often the author wryly comments. It’s a book where all characters have no name and makes their descriptors work through them; "the pretty girl" brings sweet reminiscences in her dotage. It is a book where the entirety of a person’s life is written in the modern day but manages never to be jarring. It’s language is not fluid, but beautifully twists and makes interesting patterns in your head. It is also for me a book let down by the plot; the unrequited young love, the empty marriage, the struggle for work. An extraordinary ordinary life that personally doesn't interest me, although I found the end so beautiful I was in tears.. go figure. Yes the 2nd person is hard initially to get on with (especially as the character is male and I think he missed a trick there), but the separation of character and reader helps greatly.

It is a fascinating, heart breaking and joyful flawed experiment, dull in places and delightful in others. Anyone interested in technique, or a thirst for the different should try this. Anyone jaded by too much Western fair should take a peak and of course there will be a multitude who will love the story just fine. I do highly recommend it, I think it will shine in a reread.

We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.”

Abr 15, 2013, 9:04 am

31. Sandman: Seasons of Mists by Neil Gaiman & various

An Endless family meeting descends quickly into accusation and argument, yet serves its purpose to make Dream rethink his actions and free his former lover from hell. Hell where Lucifer is waiting and has sworn revenge.

The slow unfurling universe of the Sandman universe takes centre stage, spinning to take in to unusual and unexpected directions, scattering pure gems of self contained shorts. This is why think this volume showcase the delights of Sandman so well, even if it’s not my favourite it's a wonderful story with its grab bag of myths and wonderful short story "Charles Rowland Concludes His Education". Sadly whilst the arts better the colouring is still pretty awful

Editado: Abr 18, 2013, 7:35 am

32. Three to See the King by Magnus Mills
Low key, quirky, ominous perfection

"Existing in a house of tin was an end unto itself, a particular state of being, and time didn't come into it/ "

A happy curmudgeon lives in a tin house in a featureless, undisclosed desert until an old acquaintance turns up on with a suitcase and rumours of a messianic tin house builder far away to draw him out of his

As sparse as its setting, this is a pared down story, almost a parable, with dead pan humour and a deftly wry look at humanity. Solitude and mob mentality, neighboured politics, urbanisation and false prophets. Funny, thoughtful and nightmarish. Mills is pretty much one of a kind, the everyday made ominous, societies unwritten rules looming large as cruel crisis and his books are an experience in themselves. I really would urge everyone to try him at least once, maybe not to start here (try Restraint of Beasts ).

Recommended, unless you need a fast paced adventure tale. It may not be my favourite of his work but fans will enjoy this hugely.

Abr 22, 2013, 8:30 pm

I always like a happy curmudgeon!

Editado: Maio 12, 2013, 6:31 am

33. Gulp by Mary Roach
Fab popular science

A hugely fascinating and highly entertaining look at our digestive system. Roach’s skill is managing to ferret out
those interesting facts and explain simply so a layman can understand. She has a deep love of science and oddity,
and manages to find and bring to life the hidden eccentrics

So we learn about extreme chewing fads, creepy historical experiments on stomach acid, the real myth behind the fire breathing dragon, what really happens to drug smugglers and the amazing amount of research that goes into food science.

“I don’t want you to say, ‘This is gross,’ ” she writes. “I want you to say, ‘I thought this would be gross,
but it’s really interesting.’

and it really is, I really wish biology was this much fun at school.

I have seen her style irritate the more serious expert or those that like a less eclectic magpie mix and more
in-depth look but for everyone else no problem. My only problem is I don't care what scientists wear and also that takes a while to really grip, becoming increasingly interesting as it goes on down the canal.

If you haven't read Roach before start with Stiff but this I think is one her better books. Highly recommended

Maio 18, 2013, 11:40 pm

Oh, Mary Roach is a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to this one! Wonder if the library has it yet....

Maio 31, 2013, 12:46 pm

34. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Stunningly brilliant dystopia

Prepare for a gushing review.. I may have read this over a month ago but the joy of reading it still lingers.

“The key to fighting in the dark is to perceive your opponent, sense him, and never use your imagination. The darkness inside your head is something your imagination fills with stories that have nothing to do with the real darkness around you.”

This is on one level a very gripping adventure tale of Pak Jun Do, an orphan who survives the horrific famine () to be become a tunnel fighter, a kidnapper and a spy. It also a love story of a Commander Ga and his wife, a torturers story of dissolution and loss, a mad cap caper of diplomatic one-upmanship and the winning tale of the Best North Korean Story.

It’s a very scary, horrific, hugely funny, utterly gripping, heartfelt and bonkers tale of a very real dystopia. It is a story that carries a stark warning on the evil and power of stories; an anti story in two parts, with different narrators (1st person and third) that create a loving chaotic jumble that works solely as a damn fine story at the same time whetting your intellectual taste buds. Did I mention that is very very well written?

“Where we are from, he said, stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he'd be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change....But in America, people's stories change all the time. In America, it is the man who matters.”

Its trick, for me, is to overcome all the faults I have with dystopian fiction and grab the reader’s imagination and thrust it so deeply into a different culture that when you meet Americans for the 1st time your head explodes with the oddity. Johnson draws an amazing sense of place then fleshes it out with tiny details like the shock of a blank wall (sans Dear Leader photo) and imbues it with characters that fit just so. It hooks you in and never lets you rest as it’s so packed with plot. It will make you complicit in the lies of the anti-story because we know so much more.. the orphan master's son? sure he is, and then lie to you and twist your expectations (but never cruelly)

Of course it depends on what you want from the book. It doesn't have a linear narrative nor is it a factual account of North Korea, research was done and liberties taken. It is at once very dark and insane but not nearly as dark or insane as the reality and if that doesn't give you pause for thought I don't know what will. I guess it could be said to be too clever for its own good but I think that’s a matter of taste.

I loved this book and I highly recommend it. Literature and story lovers, adventure fiends and Dystopia fans will find something of interest here. Without a doubt one of the best books I have read all year.

"Jun Do never looked. He knew the televisions were huge and there was all the rice you could eat. Yet he wanted no part of it - he was scared that if he saw it with
his own eyes, his entire life would mean nothing. Stealing turnips from an old man who'd gone blind from hunger? That would have been for nothing."

Maio 31, 2013, 6:18 pm

88> That one sounds really good.

Maio 31, 2013, 9:51 pm

Great review of a very good read !

Jun 1, 2013, 3:21 am

Fab review, and I loved that one too!

Jun 1, 2013, 5:28 am

Yes, a great review of a wonderful book!

Editado: Jun 4, 2013, 4:37 am

Thanks guys.

35. The Sandman: A Game of You

Volume 5 in the iconic Sandman and we return to a single(ish) story. A story of identity and inner worlds. The right to exist on your terms and sometimes the cost. Dream hovers at the edges, his realm is after all where most of the actions lies; a typical fantasy dream world fighting for survival against its all-consuming impostor the mysterious Cuckoo. Playing with tropes & myths, weaving in past and future plot strands are all here as expected and whilst story is good the stars of the show though are the characters. Barbie (who we have met before), the fantastic full of life Wanda and the deliciously hard ball witch Thessaly. It's a refreshing overtly female cast too (yes I include transgender Wanda in that) and whilst the some of what Gaiman was trying to say doesn't quite work but the story and its ideas still work very well. The artwork/printing still is sadly still below par though.

36. Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell

Take one wise cracking monkey fighting off the evil Nazi regime, add a series of diabolical gruesome murders and mix in the heir to the throne on the run after a break-in at the most popular AI Gaming company . Then top it off with a sprinkles of ninjas, androids and airships to get an appealing Sci Fi adventure romp

Not a book for me. Although I bought into (and quite liked) the star of the show I think I have a bit of Steampunk adventure fatigue, so the airships and gun fights, mad scientists and evil corporations washed over me without feeling. There are some nice moments and ideas, the soul catchers to back up our personalities, the cigar chewing sarcastic monkey and the amusing portrayal of online gaming (with added ninjas). The pacing seems slightly off to me for an adventure romp but if you are not into a book it’s always going to be slow and some of the peripheral characters could have been drawn out too. However nothing cements my active dislike than a female character solely designed (AI copy of lead) to be sexually assaulted (off screen) by the evil bad guy and then, of course, has to die because she can't cope with what happened. Um no. That’s a throw at the wall moment.

Recommendation is hard but I would say it to Sci fi/Steampunk adventure fans may want to check this out, could a series to watch out for as I suspect the 2nd one will be a tighter more monkey concentrated affair which is only a good thing. I did really enjoyed the authors short story they added to show the novels beginnings.

Jun 4, 2013, 8:42 am

37. The Circle: The Engelsfors Trilogy--Book 1 by Elgren & Strandberg

A derelict fairground and an ancient prophecy, a shocking and suspicious suicide at school and six girls drawn together one dark and stormy night.

Such a familiar (if enticing) setup means it's all down to the execution and rest assured that's all good. It's not a quick, fast paced flash bang of a story though. It’s meaty and rich, with multiple flawed characters you will need to get to grips with and then fall for. A slow burner of a story that gently draws you then builds and builds until tension oozes off the page. It's dark enough for teenagers to lap this up but may give some adults pause. Ok I didn't love it (not a fan of YA) but I still had a lot of fun reading it.

It does have some faults, I think the translation Americanised it so to my (UK) ears I struggled for a while to get a sense of place and one of the girls (Ida the bully) barely makes it to two dimensions as do some of the adults but the rest is all good. It is the 1st in an unfinished trilogy too but it manages to have a great plot and be cool piece of world building. Plus I think the 3rd is due out Sweden this year.

Strongly recommended for YA lovers and anyone else who wants an engaging fantastical read.

Jun 5, 2013, 7:48 am

At least #36 has a great title, up there with Magilla Gorilla. :)

Jun 6, 2013, 4:09 am


Jun 6, 2013, 4:31 am

curse you I know want to watch Magilla Gorilla. Although on the cover of Ack-Ack Macaque they have a chimpanzee not a macaque, I cannot tell you how much this irritated me.

Jun 8, 2013, 11:12 pm

LOL! It's the "little" things sometimes that get on our nerves the most, isn't it.

Jun 10, 2013, 7:17 am

98 oh yes :)

38: The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

Based on a Japanese story that entwines the mystical in the every day. As a 50 yr old divorcee George rescues a crane in his back garden and falls in love with a mysterious women all in the same week.

I loved the exploration of the myth, the wonderful descriptions of the art and its impact. I loved the blurring of reality and leaving the truth carefully unsaid. The romance at its heart was ok and the everyday "nice guy" lead and mysterious women worked well within the story.

However I really didn't get on with some of the other characters. Mostly Amanda who I never understood and couldn't empathise with. Some of things she said or did just seemed weird. Why would anyone would socialise with work colleagues they don't like and I was infuriated that they were all female in a work place that was overwhelmingly male. Nor did I buy that her character would say things like
"But as she watched Rachel's unfeasibly shapely bottom shuffle off in defeat, Amanda found herself feeling an emotion so unassociated with her that it took her a minute to identify it properly. It was pity."
Of course the HR women hating harpy, or backstabbing work "friend" and her insipid sidekick might say it but not her. Oh did I mention sexist stereotypes? Which is the other glaring problem with the book.

I don't think Ness is sexist but this book is, sometimes purely because I felt what he was trying to do just back fired
Who the volcano incorporates is nicely inverted (gender wise) but then by turning back stabbing friend into relationship destroying harridan and you are starting to free fall into female stereotypes.
End spoiler

So in the end I can't recommend this book. The moments I enjoyed equaled the moments I wanted to throw this book at the wall. Even if you don't care about gender issues or think all women are actually like that (sigh) I still think that Amanda is going to take some getting used to.

Editado: Jun 10, 2013, 7:33 am

39. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld

A really quite amusing collection of singe page comics on literature, popular culture and of course human foibles. All delightfully prodded with irreverent whimsy and because its so hard to describe humour have some examples

You can see loads more over at

Jun 11, 2013, 8:35 am

40. The Great Game by Lavie Tidhar
Pure eclectic litpunk fun

Empires rise and fall playing the greatest game, the quest for power and control. Yet the lizard run British empire is losing ground, Frances rebellious Quiet Council of automatons nipping at its heels, a multitude of Chinese infiltrating every where and upstart Vespuccia daring to dream. But there is a new player, the mysterious murderous figure who collects them all, precursor to the long feared alien invasion. An invasion that will rule them all.

Conclusion(?) to the Bookman trilogy, satisfyingly tying together the earlier disparate novels. Although this time its gently riffing of the spy novel its pretty much more of the same: a kaleidoscope, fizzing with ideas, full of action and adventure, a huge host of characters, a slightly meandering plot that is lots of fun whether you enjoy spotting those references or not.

Explosions, chases and mad escapes, fights in the dark and a glut of fabulously mad scientists (my favourite being Pavlov), ancient artefacts and odd futuristic machines.
It's intelligent exuberant mad-cap fun and I heartedly recommend it. The 2nd book may be the best but this is a satisfying conclusion none the less.

Jun 11, 2013, 8:58 am

Didn't know this was published, thanks !

Jun 11, 2013, 10:52 am

Oh no... another tumblr to suck me in and never let me go...

Jun 20, 2013, 6:10 am

Bryan: No problem & Jennifer its addictive isn't it!

41. The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman
Exquisite slow burning wild west kind of fantasy.

Note: A sequel to wonderful The Half-Made World, my review here

This is ”Professor” Harry Ransom's own story, a story of magic on the edge of the known, of creating mysterious machines for the sheer love of them. It’s hope against greed and invention against destruction. It’s the bad things we all do, and the good things we want to do. It’s story of a man who gets caught up in a war that he has no want for or stake in and well... that would be telling. For Ransom is known as a traitor or a visionary (depending on your politics) in the war between the Sentient trains of The Line and the maverick demons of the Gun.

This is a blissfully wonderful sequel, at a sidewise slant to 1st. It is not the story you expect and that's going to annoy some, but for me it is a blinder of a move. How else could Gilman follow the 1st? How can the explanation of the mystery be worth its destruction?

Gilman's world building continues to be superb, this is exciting place to be. But he has other strengths, he is knows how to create a very human character and a very human tale. Ransom has a seductive storyteller’s voice and for all his salesmanship tells a tale so honest it sometimes hurts. Then there is Gilman’s masterful layering. This book coyly and slowly unfurls its secrets. It knows when to tease and mislead, when to build and when to whack you between the eyes. But it’s not slow and grabs your heart much quicker than the 1st.

It's going to annoy that it’s not a direct sequel and for those seeking fast paced, non stop action adventure with neat resolution should avoid (oh gosh the ending is divine). But look, there are so many books out there like that and who cling fast to their hero that makes this one a special, unusual book. A book to savour, to find a quiet place and do it justice. It is a book for western fans and fantasy lovers, those who are searching for something to wallow in, something different. Word of warning I really would read them in order for the full effect but you can just dive straight in here.

Highly recommended

I would not presume to call myself a man of greatness, but as it happens there were a few moments back there when it was my hand that seized the reins of History and Fortune, if only by accident or because nobody else wanted to or while I thought I was doing something else.

1st chapter can be found here:

Jun 20, 2013, 6:17 am

42. Raylan by Elmore Leonard

Raylan Given's is (either drop ‘s or is?) a level headed US Marshall, with a dead pan humour and a cool, calm style but is never shy about going for his gun. something that has got him into trouble and now he is back to his old hunting ground, shifted out of Florida for not playing nice and back amongst the coal dust of Kentucky.

It’s a bit of a chaotic, episodic book that seems to feature multi crimes, which are only vaguely linked. We kick off with a kidney harvesting racket, move over into evil corporate shenanigans with the powerful Coal company and sidestep into tracking a young runaway & poker fiend. The book is great at evoking the Southern USA setting, some great characters carrying on that cool, wry dialogue Leonard is good at. Raylan is a lot of fun but it's too uneven to be really satisfying.

Of course knowing it's a tie-in to the TV might explain things and be warned it's also a part of a series where Raylan plays a minor role (I think I haven’t read them).

Recommended for fans only, its not a bad book but there are better places to start.

Jun 20, 2013, 6:19 am

43. Ubik by Philip K Dick

Anti-physics consultancy is a lucrative but dangerous business (physic spies play dirty). Runciter runs the business with his dead wife (suspended in half life) but when his team are ambushed things start getting really weird, technologies regressing and everything else deteriorating fast, including the food. The weird product Ubik is the only thing which might save them

Dick seems to be an ideas man, characters and tight plotting aren’t the point. In fact main character’s stupidity to get the plot started set my teeth on edge. Do you think this could be an ambush guys? Do you? Sigh. It also doesn't help that Ubik is a bit light on the idea front and full of humour that I don't find funny. It's not a horrible read by any means, the regression of technologies and the eras they evoke is a lot of fun. The mystery of who is the bad guy and they how to get out of it is enjoyable even if the ending is bit too signposted for a modern reader.

I picked Ubik at random after a bad experience trying to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? when I was a teenager so maybe there is no hope for me but I think he deserves one more try.

Not recommending this one, has to be a better Dick out there

Jun 21, 2013, 8:32 am

Oh, #41 sounds brilliant. Knew I shouldn't have popped in here...

And I've only read one Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and I found it a struggle. I do have The Man in the High Castle somewhere, hopefully it'll be a better read.

Jun 21, 2013, 8:39 pm

I am a mad fan of Justified - the TV series which features Raylan Givens - so looks like I really should grab that book.

Jun 25, 2013, 7:27 am

@107 I have a collection of 5 of his books so I guess I do need to try another.. but maybe an alternative fiction one would be better!

108 They do show it in the UK, must catch it ;)

44. Walking Dead: Volume 17 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

This is the volume that made me realise I had serious series fatigue.

It's been great so far, a sprawling epic of what happens to a band of survivors after the zombie apocalypse hits. It’s played a bit with the zombie mythos, explored what happens to people and the morality in the aftermath, it’s had mind blowing dramatic set pieces and small heart breaking drama.

I do recommend the series (15+ volumes of quality) but now I am done. It’s the monotony of always having just one story strand with no single issue look at other things or people. It’s the shock and awe tactics of the latest volume which requires a too obvious plot contrivance to make it happen and only seems to happen to wake you up. It’s the fact that it echoes too much a better, earlier plot when what it really needs is a fresh injection. It’s Rick. I am so fed up of Rick and the fact he is still the central focus and quickly becoming narrow in definition. And whilst this volume maybe addresses the issue of what the character has become it’s too late for me.

It probably doesn't help I just played Last of Us on the PS3. Stunning story, with deft use of character view points & far better at the morality question & playing with tropes.

Editado: Jun 25, 2013, 7:28 am

45. Science Tales by Darryl Cunningham

Cunningham is superb at explaining the essence of an idea, in this collection he tackles the big scientific issues such as climate change, the moon landings, MMR, homeopathy & chiropractors, evolution and general science denialism.

Cunningham is great not only at the salient points but providing context and history, so you will pick up some interesting new titbits (background of chiropractors for me) as well as helping consolidate your thoughts. It’s great for kids, or those who are interested but unsure or those who need to hone their arguments. It’s a must for people who don’t vaccinate their kids. Anyone who knows about these things probably won’t find anything new here and diehard science denialists probably won't listen (although they should at least so they can counteract the arguments).

It’s not evangelistic but a measured and interesting summary of the facts. Recommended & his more personal look at different mental illnesses in Psychiatric tales too.

Jun 25, 2013, 8:59 am

I will certainly be looking for those Darryl Cunningham books.

Jun 26, 2013, 9:13 am

111 Hope you fund and enjoy cunningham!

46. Losing the Head of Philip K Dick by David Duffy
A wonderful title for a wonderful book.

Philip K Dick was an iconic Sci Fi author. Think Bladerunner, think total recall. Think of identity crisis and paranoia and ponder the question he raised; In the future how will you tell if you are human? If you a building a cutting edge robotic head who else could you choose?

This is a story of its conception and creation of the robot that captured everyone’s imagination and then in a delicious fit of irony, disappeared forever.

It is a heady and compelling mix. No previous knowledge is required of the science or the author, both are beautifully described and deftly interwoven into the tale. In fact even if you do know something his descriptions are a delight. The late nights, the excitement of creation and tense resolution of last minute issues all keep your interest and even more fascinating the odd glimpse of actual conversations held with the head.

I highly recommend it to popular science fans, sci fi lovers and anyone who wishes to see a quirky story and ask themselves, how do you know you're you?

There is an excerpt here (and one a video)

Note: Sold in the USA under the really dull title:
"How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection"

Editado: Jun 28, 2013, 11:00 am

47. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
A beautifully crafted, page turning, tempestuous thriller

“It’s not my fault. It’s yours. You shouldn’t shine. You shouldn’t make me do this.”

From the blurb
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.

So tightly wound, so beautifully constructed, two ideas so perfectly joined. This is not a book for bleary eyed 5 minute snatches, this is gripping page turner, a nested doll horror, an Ouroboros of gripping drama, that you are going to want to pay some attention to.

But fear not, it’s not over complicated nor just a clinical puzzle. It's bursting with wonderful characters especially Kirby, a survivor of one of the brutal (and I mean seriously brutal) attacks who manages to be our superb heroine and believable victim and that's before you get a soft spot for Dan or learn not to loathe Kirby's flaky mother. That's before you learn about the shining girls.

For Beukes goes beyond the static horror of murder victim and introduces us to Harper’s victims. Some we merely see glimpses of (Misha the lab tech) and some we walk with for a while and then mourn: for Margo fighting for a women’s right to choose and Alice who is fighting to be a women. And this is the other thing the Shining girls brings, a bracing sweep of history and a strong sense of place. Beukes is as great at describing depression era slums or dusty office blocks as bringing these women bring it alive. Time is a character here as much as place.

Of course it will not please all. It’s fast paced and very tightly wrought so for those who like to meander in a world are going to be as annoyed as those who want explanations. Beukes serial killer is firmly with the genre too, don't expect an in-depth look at what drives a killer or how a tired, overworked and ancient cop catches him. There are tropes here but not tired ones. Don't expect a Zoo City or Moxyland either, this is a slightly different animal and I have to admit I don’t know if it all adds up as I read it too fast but to be honest that’s a good thing too.

I really do recommend this book to anyone who wants a smart thriller, a twist to the tired crime genre & anyone who loves historical fictions or is just fed up with yet another male cop trying to catch a male murderer whilst a blonde women lies dead and unknown.

Jul 1, 2013, 9:15 am

48. Pastoralia by George Saunders
Surreal, funny, bitingly sharp and touchingly redemptive shorts

“Down in the city are the nice houses and the so-so houses and the lovers making out in dark yards and the babies crying for their moms, and I wonder if, other than Jesus, has this ever happened before. Maybe it happens all the time. Maybe there's angry dead all over, hiding in rooms, covered with blankets, bossing around their scared, embarrassed relatives. Because how would we know?”

I really loved this collection of off the wall shorts that seem to capture humanity’s foibles so perfectly. It could be depressing if it wasn't so funny. It would be easy to review except none of this is simplistic. On one level I solely adored the humour and surreal edge of the slightly twisting tale of “Sea Oak” where a self-sacrificing doormat of an aunt comes back from the grave to kick her lazy, unambitious family up the backside and let her hair down. Then there are the ones where meaning rewrites itself, where grotesque losers twist into something recognisable; Take “The Fall” where neurotic dad berates himself as he sits on the precipice of doing something fatally heroic juxtaposed against the useless overly dramatic, unrecognised ‘genius’ who hovers nearby or “Winky” where a sad loser goes to a (hilarious) self help seminar to get rid of his more insane sister and then.. well read it find out. There is redemption and forgiveness against the sharp bite of satire.

All in all highly recommended, need I say the dialogue is superb, the characters spot on and the ideas

“Times are hard, entire Units are being eliminated, the Staff Remixing continues … please, only remember that we are a family, and you are the children, not that we’re saying you’re immature, only that you do most of the chores while we do all the thinking, and also that we, in our own way, love you.”

An excerpt of the 1st short Pastoralia is here. a terrifyingly mundane and surreal Kafkaesque theme world,,9781573228725,00.html?sym=...

Jul 5, 2013, 5:35 am

49. Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
A wondrous, unique and Steampunk tale.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she calls.

Her voice fills the air. It feels as if the tent grows to accommodate the words, the circle of benches pushing out and out, the tinny Panadrome swelling to an orchestra, the light softening and curling around the shadows, until all at once you are perched in a tiny wooden seat above a vast and a glorious stage.

The woman’s arms are still thrown wide, and you realize she has not paused, that her voice alone has changed the air, and when she goes on, “Welcome to the Circus Tresaulti!” you applaud like your life depends on it, without knowing why.

A tale of a world ravaged by war and a very very old travelling circus; with its musician and acrobats, its aerialists (and once upon a time its winged man), Its creations made from brass and copper and bone. A, joyous, ever-lasting spectacle in the darkness but one soon to be under threat, from stewing obsessions within and jealous aspirations without.

This is a simply stunning debut. It's not your every day tale of adventure but a book to read for the characters, to wallow in its gorgeous prose. Oh the plot and drama are there (and tense) but this a book to feel. To feel the circuses timelessness and fragility, to understand the patchwork of its characters; cruel Elena, cold and broken (and terrifying) Bird, endearing everyman George and of course the stoic Boss who rules them and whose strength, when threatened, shakes you

This is what Elena sees the first time she meets Bird;


Elena sees the darkness of the tent; the darkness of the grave; the shiver of the wings as Alec trembled under her hands, his feathers an armour that would not hold.

"She won't last", Elena says.
Alex didn't.

It is a brave book, with a strong style that could irritate some. Short chapters and stripteases with the truth, an unseen seductive storyteller that gives way to 1st and 2nd narratives. Nor is it a lighted hearted whimsical book, the shadow of costs given and hard truths learnt are entwined in familial belonging, with love and hope. I loved spending time in the world, watching the characters grow, learning the stories mysteries and hopping against hope it works out in the end.

“Then Tresaulti departs, and the life of the city tries to follow and cannot; even the buildings stumble and fall, become lost. When a city has no greatness, its will is done; then a city is nothing but a maze of shells that are only stone and steel and -soon enough- dust.

Never read a book like it, cannot believe how much it succeeds. Highly recommended.

Early chapters here.. I just want to quote the whole thing at you!

Jul 5, 2013, 5:38 am

Sounds great, thanks for the review !

Editado: Jul 10, 2013, 6:10 am

No problem!

50. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A bite sized book of memory and magic and adventure

“I saw the world I had walked since my birth and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

A beautifully drawn slip of a book. A book designed to carry you away one dreary afternoon, back to your childhood and days of adventure. Where life was full of potential magic, where a pond could be an ocean and where an old lady can remember the Big Bang. Where a tragic suicide of a lodger brings dark magic to a young boy.

“I do not miss childhood, but I do miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from the things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

He captures perfectly the wonder and terror of childhood, the aching vulnerability (cue some truly creepy moments) as much as captures adult nostalgia and all the normal worries we carry with us. The story skips along and there are characters to love here, the 3 generations of Hempstocks, our stalwart narrator, even the baddie. He also captures the landscape of growing up in England during a certain time, I suspect though he makes his experience familiar to all and that’s his genius. It's his genius to exude such a love of humanity off the page, it is a creepy and sometimes sad read, but ultimately this is a comfort blanket of a read.

“Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”

Although its almost too pure distilled Gaiman for my taste, too rich and cloying with knowing (yet beautiful) wisdom stamped all over the story. Too strong a taste for me, it’s also quite short and in a way simple I prefer his more sprawling works such as American Gods or Sandman and oddly even though I was truly gripped when I read it, it is a story which has faded quickly.

Good yet sadly forgettable, Still its getting rave reviews across the board so I am in the minority. I do recommend it though, fantasy & YA lovers and all wistful adults who want to remember a time when they were young. It's not a bad place to try Gaiman either

Jul 17, 2013, 10:32 am

51. Jagannath by Karen Tidbeck (Excellent June)

A gem of a short story collection, bursting with imagination. These satisfying and seemingly simple tales unfurl their complexity and challenge your expectations.

There are beautiful, whimsical ideas that have a dark human heart, like the wonderful opening story of a man who romances an airship. There are delightfully odd stories such as a player of violent croquet in the land of the Fae who discovers time and other evocative tales. I can smell the stink of dark cramped tunnels of the mothership as she births the last remnants of humanity or a starkly, beautiful mountain where old tales say the nature spirits called the Vittra live. Characters come alive briefly and connect to us, whether growing their own child to love to a pair of sisters dealing with their Vittra and their heritage. There is heartbreak and love and the aftermath of how we feel when we touch, however fleeting, the other.

"Cilla could neither name nor explain. It was like a longing, worse than anything she had ever experienced, but for what she had no idea. Something tremendous waited out there. Something wonderful was going to happen, and she was terrified that she would miss it."

Don't be Cilla, buy this book. Highly recommended

Oh and have a taster of story here:

Jul 17, 2013, 10:32 am

52. Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord
Simple, Enchanting and whimsical

"A rival of mine once complained that my stories begin awkwardly and end untidily. I am willing to admit to many faults, but I will not burden my conscience with that one. All my tales are true, drawn from life, and a life story is not a tidy thing. It is a halftamed horse that you seize on the run and ride with knees and teeth clenched, and then you regretfully slip off as gently and safely as you can, always wondering if you could have gone a few metres more."

It's a tale of redemption (of course), of a Jaded undying one Chance who has lost of all love of humanity, of Paama who is chosen to take his some of his power by unwittingly being gifted Chaos Stick. A retelling of a Senegalese folk-tale with a cadence and charm all of its own, evocative in its African setting. Gentle and uplifting in feel, not a hard good vs evil feel but full of human nuance.

However I am not overly a fan of moral fables, nor of quite simple, extremely passive tales. Purposefully designed perhaps and charming to some but for me failed to really engage. Of course it had other issues.. there is the narrator, a far too intrusive voice who's wry authorial commentary just overwhelms the tale and starts to irritate as well as intrude. This may work better as an audio book of course and I would be interesting in a live telling. Otherwise refutations (like the quote above) stop being amusing and start feeling like being lectured from afar. Then of course when the simplicity of style bleeds into characterisation there goes yet another possibility to hook the reader, I really didn't give a jot what happened especially because I suspected how it would all work out.

I guess you know whether this could be a story for you. It's got rave reviews but taste is taste and this one wasn't for me.

Jul 20, 2013, 7:52 pm

Some great reviews here! I think I'l pass on the Beukes--thrillers aren't my style--but you've zinged me with Mechanique.

Jul 23, 2013, 10:02 am

Oh I hope you find a copy of Mechanique & enjoy it!

53. The Grass-cutting Sword by Catherynne M Valente (Excellent June)
Betwitching, harsh, chaotic and cluttered novella

You were utterly like your sisters in everyway. {Yes, I suppose we taste the same in the end, but to our mother we were distinct, you know, at least as distinct as plum from cherry blossom} Which is to say slightly more purple than pink, but still a mute, speechless flower, indistinct only from mice or spoons, but not, my love, not from other flowers.

Not exactly a retelling of the Japanese myth of trickster god Susanoo-no-Mikoto's slaying of the eight headed serpent, more of a Frankenstinian re-creation. A beautiful bewitching prose poem with loose interlinking tales; the story of why the trickster fell to earth, the story of his mother and his birth, and the story of the serpent and the 8 maidens eaten.

:: Please, it is cold out here, and I am alone. I taste of cinnamon, and I will lie soft on your tongue. Let me touch your skin - it flames blue and sere! - but let me touch it, let me pry open your lips. It is cold, I want my sisters, I want my eight-in-one, I have heard them whispering and I know they want me.

It's this last part that stands out. The story the eight sisters tell, the strange conversation between snake head and eaten sister as they are consumed. It's effectively playful as it is beautiful. The harshness of the creation myth and the total unpleasantness of Susanoo-no-Mikoto lower my enjoyment of the rest but stll it has some evocative images: a lonely house surrounded by waves of suicidal jelly fish, the bright beauty of sun god Ame-terasu blooming chrysanthemums in her footsteps.

Lonely little leech, I don't want the soup of eyes. I don't want the birth story, the cassia or the persimmon, the plum or the cherry, the weeds or the eyes. I will be your Onogoro, and you will be my Heaven-spanning bridge, and I never will leave you. ::

Ok it's going to be an acquired taste, sought more for the language than for the story. Anybody who loves Valente’s work, or is interested in playing with myths this is a no-brainer, anyone else who needs a short, deep and powerful story to immerse themselves will find something here. Anyone else who is less tolerant of experiment may want to steer clear

Kusinada, where will I go, when you are all inside me?
/Hush, no we are infinitely tractable/
(Don't you know how far women stretch)
*There is room, there is room, always room for our sister, our jewel, our little cinnamon suckling babe*
:: Let me in::
::Oh,let me ::

Ago 2, 2013, 5:46 am

54. Deathless by Catherynne M Valente
Flawed yet extraordinary novel.

“That's how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you'd have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

This is a dark, passionate retelling of Russian folklore tale: The Death of Koschei the Deathless, but this being Valente forget heroic Ivan rescuing his beautiful princess Morena from the evil Koschei. No we get Morena's and Koschei passionate, tempestuous and sometimes cruel marriage with Ivan a mere fated blip of an affair. We get power plays and war, quests and heartfelt temporary peace, we get knowing young girls and hard quests to best Baba Yaga. Russian folklore characters entwined with the horrific reality of 20th century Russia with a whirlwind of themes and of course playful storytelling. All this is beautifully written too and littered with vibrant, heartfelt characters.

“How I adore you, Marya. How well I chose. Scold me; deny me. Tell me you want what you want and damn me forever. But don’t leave me.”

It is a seemingly dense book, packed with story and has very crazy pacing and the ending... well it's an ending that deserves a reread. I may have missed things not knowing much about its source material, it may be easier to get into the story but I don't think it matters too much.

“The rapt pupil will be forgiven for assuming the Tsar of Death to be wicked and the Tsar of Life to be virtuous. Let the truth be told: There is no virtue anywhere. Life is sly and unscrupulous, a blackguard, wolfish, severe. In service to itself, it will commit any offence. So, too, is Death possessed of infinite strategies and a gaunt nature- but also mercy, also grace and tenderness. In his own country, Death can be kind.”

Heartedly recommended to loves of folklore and rich, evocative fantasy. It's dark and sometimes bleak, but never gratuitous and always very human. Valente's skill is to twist the morals and bigotry of old tales, to make them spin and shine.

Who could resist?

Ago 6, 2013, 8:25 am

Oh, I liked The Shining Girls very much too. Great idea, plot, and characters. I did find being in the killer's mind very disturbing however, and some of the deaths were very upsetting. I'm not much of a thriller reader, but I thought this was well worth a read.

Editado: Ago 6, 2013, 11:35 am

123 Yeah the attacks were er. visceral weren't they? I didn't mind too much, I think she was trying to distance herself from the glamour end of the killer market.. (hello silence of the lambs!)

55. Dangerous Gifts: A Babylon Steel Novel By Gaie Sebold
Rollicking good fantasy

Babylon Steel, tough ex-mercenary and owner of the exclusive Scarlet Lantern brothel is tempted away to a city on the verge of civil war to act as a bodyguard/spy for the most explosive local candidate who is just trying to being peace.

Sequel in the fantastic fantasy adventure series with the hugely engaging, refreshingly modern, kick-ass Babylon Steel whose money troubles drag her into fun adventure, this time outside her home portal city of Scalatine. The pacing is spot on and this time round the plot fits together very nicely and since Sebold's characters are superb I had a lot of fun.

It does take place away so lack of the old cast but the world of portals is fun to explore and nicely linked to the previous book, whilst managing to standalone. I do recommend you read them in order though, for full effect.

I am really looking forward to next one, future plots have been teasingly displayed and I love spending time there. Recommended to all lovers of fantasy and adventure.

Editado: Ago 6, 2013, 11:40 am

56. Digger Volumes 1-6 by Ursula Vernon
Fabulous, endearing wombat heroics

Seriously endearing. This story of a dead God and a lost wombat is beautiful, amusing and very touching.

Digger (of Unnecessarily Complex Tunnels), our stalwart heroine, steals the show, as a very down to earth, very funny and caring wombat who doesn't usually hold with Gods but is dragged into an adventure through a bit of devious magic. She is an utterly fab character who’s attitude makes it a sheer joy to spend time and bounces off an excellent supporting cast from warrior Hyenas, an orphan demon, Buddhist monks and some seriously cute trolls.

The black & white art is perfect & quickly grows more confident too. I don't need to mention that dialogue is spot on but I have neglected to say the plot is great and there is some lovely world building too (love those wombat curses).

Hugely recommended and not just to comic lovers. I think this is an adventure most people will enjoy and you can try online too:

Ago 6, 2013, 11:54 am

57. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

This is a heady mix of chemistry, history and true crime as Blum deftly explores, well as it says on the title,early forensics in the time of poisons and prohibition.

It’s a fascinating mix, organised into chapters of poisons such as wood alcohol and arsenic, radium and monoxide and linked together by history. Not only in actual crimes but also charting the lives of chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler who together help change the face of forensics in North America.

This eclectic approach could appear disconnected and dull but Blum is skilful enough to weave a story littered with interesting facts. The chapter on what Radium was used for legally (face cream anyone?) is horrifically mesmerising as are the lengths people would go to find an alcoholic drink. It’s as much of a dip into humanity as science and it’s simply frightening how badly prohibition failed and how deaf people were to the issues.

The only issue I can see with it, is as it has so much breath someone who wishes a more detailed look may be disappointed.

Highly recommended, history buffs and crime lovers will find much here. Would be poisoners maybe disappointed unless they need a what not to do guide.

Ago 7, 2013, 9:57 am

58. The Break by Pietro Grossi

Sparse and gentle, a short tale of Italian Billiards, inertia, poverty and the prisons we make ourselves.

Dino follows in his fathers footsteps as a stone layer, a repetitive task that makes him ask "How many stones do you think it takes to make a person? " he obsessively plays Italian Billiards and talks dreamily with his wife about packing up and leaving to seek adventure. Of course things are about to change, social unrest and redundancy being only 2.

It could be seen to be too sparse for some, and sometimes a bit formulaic (that ending!) but I found it a quiet and at heart charming book, the fragility and ennui of every day life, our self centred blindness. Characters are carefully constructed brush strokes, just enough there to paint the tale and somehow this fits and is in no way frustrating. They mimic the large dramatic events in Dino's life, rendered background against the small intense moments of life. It's the size that ensures none of this gets tiresome 220 pages of an understated, packed life story.

“I can’t do it. I can’t spend every day in that black shit. It was different before. Before, everything seemed the way it ought to be. Before, I didn’t ask myself any questions"

Recommended to lovers of understated novellas and fans of Italian tales.

Ago 8, 2013, 11:21 am

59. The Slynx by Татьяна Толстая

"Ah, what a day! The night’s storm had passed, the snow gleamed all white and fancy, the sky was turning blue, and the high elfir trees stood still. Black rabbits flitted from treetop to treetop."

Fyodor- Kuzmichsk (Moscow) after the blast, freethinking is banned and books are transcribed and sold as the beloved leader’s own words. Benedikt, has a pretty nice job as a scribe, but still has to trudge home to his hovel to have watery mouse soup.

This is a book that didn't really fit its reader. It’s a rich satire and fine dystopian world building. The plot, well this is not an adventure novel. Split in a way into two parts, the 1st enjoyable world building and tale of the proles, the second X shifts into wealth and power and becomes obsessed with reading and taking books with (off) the poor

It’s just that after an exuberant start my interest started to wane. It is very clearly not a book for me, not only
because I am unfamiliar with Russian literature/politics, nor because though the translation works hard I suspect all those word puns are better in the original. No really it’s that the absurdist humour is not my own and it just grated.

But I must stress I think is still hugely accessible to anyone, even if like me you are ignorant of Pushkin. It’s well sign posted I suspect most of the time and all readers will enjoy the insatiable hunger for books or be amused by the books highly that are highly prized, yes the detritus and trash of the pot boiler left unloved and un-transcribed.

So I can't recommend it but I am aware I am probably not doing it justice. Go seek out other reviews

Benedikt coughed politely to interrupt.
“My life is spiritual”
“In what sense”
“I don’t eat mice”

Ago 8, 2013, 11:25 am

60. The wall (Die Wand) by Marlen Haushofer

Beautiful, claustrophobic, haunting apocalyptic tale of the self.

Our unnamed narrator wakes to an unusually deserted house and, worried, she walks to the village, except she can't. There is a wall, invisible but solid and beyond is silence. Oh there is a man there, but he is unmoving,
and there are birds, fallen stiff to the ground and glassy eyed. The wall is all encompassing, a prison and a saviour and it makes her the last human alive.

Utterly bewitching, a book to read in a summers day by a babbling brook to truly chill you to the core. Oh it’s not frightening, this is not a tale of action of horror nor is it a book of science or survival. No it is a haunting story of one women who learns to live with who she is, a story of humanity when there is only 1 of us left. Her psychological struggle to survive and to relearn how to live. Not that she is not alone, she has her animals; the dog Lynx and the cats and Bella the cow, personalities to fill the pages and keep her afloat.

Of course not liking the protagonist is going to kill the enjoyment of the book and so is the fact that you may not agree with all her choices. However I would suppress that and let her personality dictate the believability, for me the choices felt like hers, they felt real. Her fear of truly exploring, her need to make a secure home. The need to write a diary during the long winter hours that no one will read. The way she understates huge things and the constant repetitive foreshadowing of one horrible event and the harsh, unsentimental description that follows. The story exudes her very being.

Hugely recommended. This is a story that stays with me. It may not be as powerful for you but anyone interested in tales of what makes us human or apocalyptic events should seek it out.

Ago 8, 2013, 12:59 pm

Such interesting reviews to read, because you are reading such interesting books and writing so well about them. You got me with The Poisoner's Handbook--it went on the wishlist!

Ago 8, 2013, 8:33 pm

#56. Love a good wombat story!

Ago 9, 2013, 5:28 am

@130 Thanks! Hope you enjoy it, it is horribly fascinating

131. I know seriously cute.

61 The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtrosson (good August)
Rollicking Viking Saga

The Story of Red Orm who lives an eventful life to say the least: a marauding Viking, galley slave, royal bodyguard, treasure hunter and rich family man ensures this epic book keeps up the pace and entertains all the way. Although it’s not just a rollicking good adventure it’s also quite funny, told in a knowing fashion so you can pretty much hear the audiences sniggering as the storyteller lampoons a "lucky" leader or makes a wry innuendo.

Orm and his fellow cast members are great too from Toke Greygullson who always stirs up trouble when drunk or Willibald a righteous priest whose diatribes are most amusing and then of course to the fiery love of his life Ylva. It is a long if, packed, book (my edition has tiny print) so whilst it flows along it felt like it took a while! Still great for long trips.

Of course it has problems due to the setting (990s). You wouldn't want to be a women in that time,
rape as much as pillage is pretty standard all the way through the book. I kind of tried to ignore it as our main character manages to avoid and it’s always “off screen” but it’s still icky. There is a bit too much religious fervour as the Christian God sweeps every onwards and much conversion occurs but apart from having to skim a few paragraphs it didn’t bother me much.

Recommend to all adventure and history lovers. A epic truly worth sinking your teeth into. Now let’s all go and invade England for its gold.. oh wait.

Editado: Ago 9, 2013, 5:40 am

62. The Expendable man by Dorothy B. Hughes

Dr. Hugh Densmore, a U.C.L.A. medical intern is on his way to his nieces wedding, when against his better judgement (and his creepy paranoia) he picks up a young girl hitch hiking in the dessert. It's not going to go well is it?

It may have been a trope even then, the innocent(?) man fighting to clear his name, but Hughes twists it then imbues it with quiet menace that simply and insidiously oozes of the page. You may see the girls fate but what Densmore actually fears, his paranoia and his nods to his past are kept hidden and then hook you in before.. well that would a spoiler. This tenseness is kept up pretty much throughout the entirety of the book. It’s gripping because you care and because of the stakes. It’s not a why or whodunit it’s a subversion of thought and touched with social commentary and excitement as the best crime novels are.

The trap might be sprung by his picking up the girl; they might swing about and come after him. Only when the car had disappeared from sight, did he relax and immediately feel the fool. It was surprising what old experiences remembered could do to a presumably educated, civilized man.

It's a shame I am not going to discuss that spoiler because this is where Hughes writing really shines. This is why you want to read the book, this tenacious look at a different very real kind of evil. Still if a review or intro does spoil it is still worth seeking out, certainly not a one trick pony.

I can't really fault it. Or rather its faults don't matter to me. Sometimes heavy handed; a repetitive under current of jealously say or slightly too much goodness to shadow the dark. Also the bad elements only occasional break out of stock character but I suspect this is probably intentional, the relentless repetitiveness of crimes is just one theme of the book.

Highly recommended to crime lovers. Hughes is an author I am going collect; I liked the patriotic The Blackbirder and I really enjoyed this!

Ago 13, 2013, 12:04 pm

63. Paintwork By Tim Maughan
Near future sci-fi shorts

Three shorts collected, full of energy and near future tech. Full of artists struggling from or succumbing to the cynical global corporate machine. Augmented reality graffiti and virtual reality games writ large and all round you.

My favourite is the 1st and is the tale of graffiti and sabotage and selling out. The 2nd story is weaker and a mere taster to the third, which moves from the UK to Cuba and contains the evocative augmented reality game idea of players who use their city as a background to battle huge personalised robots. This imagery is partly why the stories are so good, but they also contain a lot of energy and vibrancy to make them appealing.

if you are fan of Sci Fi its definitely worth seeking but even if you have no idea what augmented reality or MMORPG are then you should be able to pick it up. Recommended.

Part of the short has been turn into a stunning video.. go check out

Ago 28, 2013, 9:59 am

64. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (NOS4A2 in the USA)
Gripping horror

Manx spirits children away to his secret inner world of Christmas Land. Vic can find things, crossing an old and rickety bridge (and time and space) to their location. But these talents have a terrible cost and when Vic goes looking “for trouble” she finds Manx and her whole life is twisted and spun unalterably out of control.

Set firmly in the supernatural horror bracket this is a gripping, sweeping epic of book. Suitably horrible rather than quietly creepy and for its length has superb pacing as we follow our protagonist from childhood to messed up adult hood. Vic is a great character to root for, and sympathy easily bought even though deeply flawed as we see her grow. She tends to over shadow the others but they are still vivid - Maggie, the librarian who can see truths in her scrabble tiles and Lou the love of her life. The baddies are suitably very bad, yes that even includes the wonderful car and the fantastically nightmarish Christmas Land that drip atmosphere and personality.

I don't need to say it’s violent but I should warn that rape is referenced, not involving kids & always off screen but still there. The plot is tight although may not be surprising I found it still gripping and for someone who finds supernatural horror a bit silly I can honestly I enjoyed it immensely.

The hardback is a lovingly put together, check those cute graphics: the odd Rolls Royce separator prose or a copy of a scribbled note. I really hope the paperback carries these over to make it a book to buy and cherish.

Obviously horror fans will lap this up but others may find this their perfect Christmas read. Ho Ho Ho

Ago 28, 2013, 10:18 am

Re 43: I've been on the fence about that book Rapture of the Nerds and your thoughts tell me I think i probably would be disappointed, I think I shall put it on the pass list for now.

re: 72 Camera Obsura sounds interesting, I may have to investigate that book.

Such a wide variety of books, and helpful reviews (make mine so anemic looking)

Ago 28, 2013, 12:15 pm

Thanks! I do tend to get verbose, but I like reading short reviews. Variety is what's good about LT.

Lavie Tidhar is becoming an author to watch, it's not perfect but it is good fun.

65. Infernal Devices by K W Jeter
Failed, early, Steampunkery

George's father has left him his watchmakers shop full of weird and complex machinery that he can never understand and then comes a mysterious figure wanting him to fix a device and intrigued he digs further into a world of the anti-science brigade, of strange creatures and dastardly machines, heathen religions and futuristic deprivations.

A story that should have worked: fantastic machines, check, Lovecraftian sinister overtones, check, tongue in cheek Victoriana, check, raucous adventure story, check. However I soon fell out of love with it and positively skimmed when towards the end when characters starting explaining the plot in large chunks. I did try to ignore that fact that two characters spoke in modern day (?) Americanisms, yes with an in-character reason but explained at the end and that doesn't make sense anyway). I could grit my teeth and bear the fact that out of three female characters two were lust driven nymphos who wanted to have sex with the main character right there and then. And the play on Victorian racism, um wince! I understand (and sometimes enjoy) the passive, bumbling hero trope but its only endearing if you are enjoying the book and to be honest I stopped 3/4 of the way through.

This is an example of the burgeoning Steampunk genre in the 80's by the guy who coined the term Steampunk himself. It does have an afterword by Jeff Vandermeer who obviously liked it more than I but unless you are not sensitive to sexism or clumsy plotting and are non British so that the lingo doesn't make you cry I really can't recommend it's worth it.

Ago 29, 2013, 10:24 am

66. XKCD Volume 0 by Randall Monroe

Are you a huge fan of the hugely funny, highly intelligent and sometime breathtaking web comic XKCD? Do you want support the website? or perhaps just have a hard copy of some of cartoons (with extra commentary for the books, oh yes) Then this is the book for you. Otherwise well I had to question your taste. XKCD is the best thing on the web; pop culture, science and of course life are all skewered...

Sadly the mouse over captions are missing from these tasters so just go and spend an hour clicking random on

Ago 29, 2013, 10:25 am

67. Immobility by Brain Evenson
Unsettling, unreliable, haunting post-apocalyptic ouroboros.

A men wakes from stasis, memory gone and paralysed from the waist down. His wakers say its a disease, that he is stored waiting for a cure, but now, in spite of his immobility he can help them. It could speed up his cure. He must travel, carried into the wasteland by “mules” to take back something stolen, something needed for the community to survive.

Evenson’s haunting imagery and sparse style make a perfect psychological horror. This story is unsettling, the questions it raises roll through you and chill you. The world filtered through a muddled memory is fantastic: desolate scenery saturated in radiation, pockmarks of hope, sudden terror. There are the "mules" who take him, those who hide humanities secrets in their underground bunker and those who loop their lives never-ending. Optimist or pessimist the philosophy cannot be ignored and overshadows all and gives an intriguing story a delicious dark weight.

The only issues seem to be that Evenson tries to make the story into a twisting thing, when (as its not unobvious) it would deepen the atmosphere to underline and foreshadow it. An issue with 1st person narrative perhaps? We know what he doesn't, but then shouldn't he suspect?

Recommended. Fans of post-apocalyptic futures and quiet horror will find something here but so too will those for those who like thoughtful fare.

“We say no to torture, and then we find a reason to torture in the name of democracy. . . . We say no to eight million dead in camps, and then we do it again, twelve million dead in gulags. Humans are poison. Perhaps it would be better if we did not exist at all.”

"What we have here is the history of the human race, a record of births and deaths for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
“Why?” asked Horkai.
“What do you mean, why?” Mahonri responded. “Humanity is important. All these things must be preserved so that, when the time comes, humanity shall know what it has been, is, and will be.”

Ago 29, 2013, 10:25 am

Oh I have that, It is very good, I ought to keep up with the website. It would be nice if they printed move volumes. :)

Ago 29, 2013, 1:55 pm

There is an XKCD BOOK!?!?!?!? Oh my. I need that.

Ago 29, 2013, 2:19 pm

Does the book have the mouse-overs printed in it?

Ago 30, 2013, 4:38 am

Yes it has the mouse-over printed ;-) it is a bit slim though so one for fans.

I agree lets hope a 2nd volume gets published!

Ago 30, 2013, 12:18 pm

68. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Sweeping and fun military Sci Fi

When widower, John Perry, turns 75 he joins the army that protects Earth's colony's from .. well.. he doesn't know. He doesn't why they take the old or how they can turn him into a soldier but he wants to be young again and anyway who wants to live forever?

World building is where this tale really shines, from the insular naive view of earth to the vastness of space and the dramatic fight for survival. The mechanics are unfurled and explored, oh it’s not full of detail just the joy of ideas. Scalzi has huge amounts of fun with the aliens, there is a raft of cool cultures and creatures that we meet.. well and then massacre (Go Humans!). It can be funny and tragic and basically just sweeps you along in one epic tale of war.

The main character is hugely enjoyable but irritatingly always good at things. Lucky that. His fellow cast support the plot, if little else, but do it with such aplomb its almost churlish to mention it. I was a bit disappointed (this being Scalzi) this doesn't quite overcome the genre’s innate sexism but there are actually women in it, woo hoo! Racism, well it seems to duck the question, I think every speaking part was American (& all skin colour was changed).

You know I am not sure why I wasn't more engaged, I guess world building stories aren't really my thing. Still recommended, it has much LT love too.

Editado: Set 2, 2013, 10:59 am

69. The Black Project by Gareth Brookes
Endearingly creepy graphic novel.

Made of embroidery and lino cut marks this beautiful graphic novel stands out as something odd and intriguing. The story could make you run for hills but don’t. Stop. It may be about a socially awkward, lonely kid whose desire for a friend.. a girlfriend .. leads him to make girls out of households objects but Brooke's genius makes that kid, Richard, likeable and understandable. The aching loneliness and frustration, the banality of suburbia, the harsh cruelties of other kids and well meaning parents. It’s also quite funny. And whilst it may be over the top, misguided adolescence is probably something that strikes a chord.

Understated, weird and very human this book took 4 years to make and you can see why. Once you have read it you will also see why it won the First Graphic Novel Competition (judged by luminaries Ian Rankin, Bryan Talbot & Hannah Berry)


Set 3, 2013, 9:21 am

70. Poetry in (e)motion: The Illustrated Words of Scroobius Pip

Poems/lyrics merged with art, myriad styles to fit many topics. It is a heady eclectic mix and should be was drawn from a plea for artists on myspace. Such was the response a book appeared

Scroobius Pip writes, well "everyman polemics", as it says on his site. I like that. He can be dark; a letter from an angry God, plea to a suicide and err.. slightly less dark; dead end jobs, noir like dreams of sage advice, urban violence. Ok he can be funny too and this shines through. He is one half of a hip hop outfit as well as spoken word artist (or performance poet). I am not a fan of hip hop nor poetry but I love his stuff, I love his delivery and enjoyed this even whilst missing his voice, his superb delivery. I don't feel qualified to discuss the merit of his poems/lyrics but I still would recommend it. Its accessible and intense and charming.

Love comics or poetry? Well this is something to check out. Fans of Scroobius Pip this is a no brainer.

My fav song/poem: "Waiting for the beat to kick in"
Thou shalt always kill track that made them famous:

Set 8, 2013, 1:35 am

#67 is wishlisted. Sounds like my cup of tea!

Set 25, 2013, 6:59 am

71. Fairest; The Hidden Kingdom by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda

Rapunzel’s past catches up with her and draws her to Japan in search of her children. A hidden Kingdom where myths ?, split into two, hide from the world and are ready for war. All they need is a catalyst. This is Rapunzel as Japanese horror, of course it’s the hair.

It’s the visual ideas and the art that make this worth seeking out. There are some amazing spreads and arresting individual panels littered amongst sometimes over cluttered neon delights. The nest created of tangled chaotic hair, the J-Horror images bleeding strikingly on the page, the nods to Miyazaki.

The story is ok but gets lost and mired in being a fables story as the 1st story must explain the world and last story must smooth it all away (oh look a potion to remove memory!). Characters are seemingly crowbarred in, Bigby makes an appearance & Jack too, author choice or not its skews the story into near bland hodge-podge. This comic needed more time and space to explore.

Ok I am not a fan of fables, but I like what Beukes was try to do. It's refreshing, violence is treated with more of an edge (the graphic layout underlining it is quite stunning), the balance of female characters and a nod to the original slut shaming story of Rapunzel. It's all good but not captivating and does nothing to change my mind about Fables.

There is also a story tacked onto the end, that quite frankly is so bad I am astounded. I guess because it has a fox in it and a romance story with some women someone thought it would fit the Japan/fairest slot. I gave up when someone told a dryad to put on some clothes for a date as to retain some "mystery". Yes a dryad. I presume it was meant to be funny, alongside the toilet humour and chirpy monologue. Still it had a piece of plot dropped into it, so that's nice.

Out 3, 2013, 11:42 am

72. I play the drums in a band called okay by Toby Litt
Brilliant, pitch perfect mocku-memoir

Every wanted to be in a famous rock band? Clap did and he made it too as drummer in Okay, a Mid-level Canadian indie rock band. Touring in far flung places, littered with groupies and drugs. Anyone’s dream right? Hedonism 101.This is his memoir, his middle aged self-spewing his life forth.

It’s very funny and tragic. It's a glimmer into the moments between the rock n roll after parties and shows. It can be immature and shallow and very human. Its pitch is perfect. It never falls into stereotypes it manages to mix wonderful over the top moments we expect with quiet thoughts. The small moment when he stands outside his rock idols house? (famous himself) but is too self conscious and shy to say hello. The hilariously scary part when lead singer Syph calls everyone to his house to declare the aliens are coming and has wrapped it in tin foil. It's the clichés of fame at its most corrosive and then the bits that never get said.

The tale is cut up, the fits and starts of life in vignette form. A narrative structure that manages to flow beautifully whilst still unsettling the reader, the choppy emptiness of a life spent touring. Part of the intrigue is what story will emerges, what is the picture of the life led. As is the slow unfurling of the supporting cast as his band members (Syph, Mono, and Crab. Yes its that kind of band) become (slid?). Of course most of the charm is Clap himself, his character just exudes off the page. Litt knows how to capture someone’s soul and pour it out on a page.

It has obvious comparisons with Spinal Tap mockumentary or that wonderful, painfully truthful, Metallica documentary Monster (which I hugely recommend fan or not). I could spend most of the review listing out my favourite bits, spoilers at how the book joyfully blocks expectations.

Look did I mention it's very funny?

Litt fans, this is yet again very good and yet again entirely different from anything else I had read. It is dark and humorous, it’s less crazy than some and you have no excuse not to read it.

Highly recommended.

Out 3, 2013, 10:56 pm

I have had my hands on that one many times at the library, but something always made me put it back. Perhaps I'll hold onto it next time it crosses the desk.

Out 9, 2013, 4:40 am

I hope you enjoy it!

73. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

The devil has been offered a shot at redemption. Live a (reasonably) sin free life on earth as a human and he will get a shot at heaven. Of course the Devil doesn’t believe a word of it but he’s sure going to have fun in his hosts body, washed up author Declan Gunn. Although he doesn't realise it's going to give him a penchant for storytelling. This book then is his story.

I have mixed feelings about this book. There are some gems here, Lucifer is the King of unreliable narrators and I loved his flowing duplicity sometimes switching "truths" mid-sentence. I enjoyed his asides into history, his rants, his arrogance and smugness (oh you can see why he fell). He could be accused of rambling (lovers of tight action plots beware) but I thought it was great and elevated the novel from the ordinary.

I didn't like the character he "jumped” into, the failed author, an arrogant loser whose life and legacy added nothing particularly to the story. I also didn't like the fact that Lucifer seems to be misogynistic it was annoying and jarring, I mean surely he hates everyone. In fact I jarred with his personality but it’s matter of taste, I have my own opinion on what Lucifer should be (I blame Neil Gaiman)

Recommended. I will be reading more from Duncan (I really enjoyed The last Werewolf)

Editado: Out 9, 2013, 6:09 am

74. CockFighter by Charles Willeford
A compelling, fascinating and repellent quest

“..the only sport that can’t be fixed, perhaps the only fair contest in left in America”

Frank Mansfield has an obsession to become Cocker of the Year. Years ago he swore a vow of silence until he wins that elusive Prize and now that he has lost everything he is more determined than ever that this is the year it’s going to be his.

Loosley based on Homer odyssey Willieford paints a picture of a "sport" and lifestyle you probably know nothing about, one fascinating and repellent in equal measure. A bit like the narrator, a obsessed figure whose entire being revolves around this chosen career. He compares everyone to his work ethic and chosen field, he doesn't grow or change, his quest consumes him. He is a horrible person but you can't hate him (much) nor you can't stop reading. His drive is utterly compelling. His inner monologue pins you down and forces you to turn the page.

"The man who is unable to talk back is at the mercy of these people. He is like an inexperienced priest who listens tolerantly to the first simple confessions of impure thoughts, and then listens with increasing horror as the sins mount, one outdoing the other until he is shocked into dumbness"

It's a deceptively simple book and writing style. We may see the world through Franks "frank" world view (yes intentionally named) but others’ reactions can be telling. The author’s moral compass could be anywhere but his fascination and research burns into the story and carries you with him. Yes it is graphic, the point later in the book when he trains chickens .. is really.. um.. horrific but it’s not just us who thinks so, Frank’s partner think so too. You don't need to lend your empathy just witness, take the devils bargain you will be rewarded.

Of course it helps that the writing is smooth and straight and engaging. It helps that the pace keeps up even when you are getting instruction. Anyone writing a 1st person should look to this as a lesson, how to comment on your commentator.

"There is no such thing as a passive interest in cockfighting. Beginning as a casual onlooker, a man soon finds the action of two game cocks battling to the death a fascinating spectacle. He either likes it or he doesn't.

Highly recommended if you can overcome your distaste. A unique book that shouldn't be missed. I can't say I am ever going to watch the film though.

Out 10, 2013, 4:51 am

75. The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson
Damn scary, damn fine book.

Enjoy getting lost in a good book? Well getting lost in this one could prove fatal.

Jeremy Dyson has been asked to fictionalise true accounts of the supernatural and so we are introduced to a book of deliciously creepy stories, personally introduced by Dyson. A homage (as he says in the intro) to the scary books of his childhood. There are unsettling modern hauntings and hidden crimes, disappearances, terrifying meetings with other selves, desolate moors and secret government bunkers. Then of course they start to bleed their themes into the authors reality and then .. and then they .. well um.. hmm.. lets just say this is not a book to take to bed it is a book to be constrained in a locked bookcase in case it gets out.

It's wonderfully written, with a lovely mix of tales and almost, but not quite, too clever for its own good. It incorporates good old fashioned horror with a modern spin and it knows its genre. Knows exactly how to worm its way into your head. I couldn't put the book down and this is while I was truly, utterly freaked out (note to self: do not read this alone in the house & never visit Library basements).

If you are not a sensitive soul like me there is still much to like here, much to appreciate not just the stories themselves but the unusual, fun narrative. Horror aficionados as much as meta fiction fans will lap this up. If there is anything else out there like it I would love to know.

Highly recommended.

Out 10, 2013, 4:51 am

76. QueenPin by Meg Abbott
Modern, gripping pulp

“Because she was solid gold, fourteen-carat, barely burnished despite twenty years of hard molling. But beneath it, I knew, beneath that gold and stardust, she was all grit and sharp teeth gnashing, head twisting, talons out, tearing flesh. She was all open mouth, tunneling into an awful nothing.”

In the golden era of mobsters a young secretary escapes her stultifying existence when infamous Gloria Denton offers her a job. A world of big money rackets, freedom and excitement and lust among the casinos and racetracks. A violent, addictive world where there is no one you can trust.

The language is delicious full-on gangster, but full of passion; the greed and ambition, the desire, the twisting paranoia of the criminal act. There is love here but it’s not healthy, it’s a power play of teacher and protege. Whilst you don't exactly root for either, our young narrator draws you in and you don't want to let go.

It is a modern nod to pulps and refreshingly a Noir that does not revolve wholly around men, although sadly (and rather boringly) the pivotal drama does. Reversing the femme fatale back fires into a yet more tired trope (the bad boyfriend) and makes the book lag badly in the middle. Still I adored the rest.


Out 11, 2013, 8:35 am

77. Detective Story by Imre Kertesz
Chilling novella of barbaric bureaucracy

A prisoners story. The last protest of a condemned man is to tell his version of events, to let the world understand what led him to a cell. It is the story of the Salinas family, an infamous case that rocked the unnamed totalitarian state and this story is one of a"regular" policeman who was just doing his job.

Chilling and detached. This is a story full of mist, with acts happening off screen. Culpable deniability and throw away statements that leave you to shudder. Martens story is partly one of fate, of Kafkaesque bureaucracy that lets evil in and turns a blind eye. It is a horror of errors (nothing comedic about it), a comment on the evil humanity will stoop to. It is an intriguing detective story in which no one can win and is full of reliability. It is also a mini exploration of blame, Martens is the scapegoat after all, low ranking officer whose superiors have escaped.

“Our records had already identified that Enrique was going to perpetuate something sooner or later. As far as we were concerned, his fate was sealed, even if he himself had not yet made up his mind.”

It is not in any way gratuitous, something that enhances the horror in throw away lines. In references to chummy chats between the interrogations, the dead pan descriptions of mechanics of building a case and of diary excerpts from dead men.

Written in 1977 by Novel prize winner Kertesz it feels in a way timeless (if you ignore the technology), it may not be the his most famous book but it certainly packs a punch.

If this sort of thing is your bag, recommended.

Dez 30, 2013, 3:06 pm

Well and that's a 100 books read... although not a 100 books reviewed. I am solo behind on LT and this challenge its embarrassing. Still wishing you all a belated Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

I am going to concentrate on the 2014 Category Challenge for a bit and recharge my LT batteries but good luck to everyone next year!

Dez 30, 2013, 4:30 pm

Congrats on reaching 100!

Editado: Dez 30, 2013, 5:36 pm

Great work Claire, I know how you feel about reviews. Happy to see we agree on the classics The Tin Drum, Crime and Punishment, and A Farewell to Arms, and thanks for bringing some great reads like Camera Obscura to our attention.
Liked your rating system, hope you consider it a compliment if I adopt it, happy reading in 2014 !

Dez 31, 2013, 6:19 am

Congratulations on reaching 100! Happy new year, and I'm glad we'll be seeing you in 2014 as well.