Tuesday, 29 May 2012

52.143 A year in Books – Books 6–10

Better late than never here’s a run down of books 6-10 in my trying to read 52 books in a year extravaganza.

As always there may be some slight spoilers (I have tried to be careful), so if you’ve not read any of the books tread carefully curious reader.

6 Susan Hill – The Woman in Black 

I’m on a self imposed cinema embargo this year (with the exception of super hero films - naturally) so instead of seeing this at the cinema I read the book. This is a very creepy novel; I confess that I don’t scare easily when reading books, a lack of imagination? But I found this book to be very persuasive. The house dominates proceedings and the chills build steadily as Arthur camps out at Eel Marsh House. The ending is brilliantly downbeat and stayed with me for a good while after I finished reading.

7 Terry Brooks - Magic Kingdom for Sale Sold!

Terry Brooks is a funny one for me, The Sword of Shannara was one of the first ‘proper’ fantasy books I read so I tend to give him a fair bit of leeway. I tried and failed with this book about 20 years ago, so whilst going through my pile of unread books I decided to take another bash at it. The book won’t win any awards for doing things differently and the twist is pretty easy to work out but despite its flaws I found myself enjoying the book. I think there was just enough there to bring me back to the series at a later time. As a new sub genre of fantasy I would class this as MA (Middle Age) Fantasy.  

8 Phil Rickman – A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins Book 3)

I am sure that there are some of you who are not familiar with Phil Rickman’s excellent Merrily Watkins books. Merrily Watkins is the main protagonist in Rickman’s run of 11 novels and is to quote Wikipidea  “a down-to-earth female priest of the Church of England employed as an exorcist “.
Now I’m going to say it – don’t let that put you off, these books are very good indeed. Rickman creates a brilliant sense of place (the books play out on the Wales/England Boarder), Merrily is a vivid, likeable character and the God/Church stuff doesn’t ever take over proceedings.

If you’ve not read any of these why not give the first book a go, The Wine of Angels, especially if you’re a fan of A) cider and B) Nick Drake or C) Female Vicars – highly recommended.

9 Dan Simmons – Hyperion

Sci-fi is not a genre I am particularly well read in so as part of my challenge I thought I’d throw in some of the books regarded as sci-fi classics into the mix. This is a real highlight of the list so far for me, the book itself is made up of six short stories held together under the premise that the main characters are on a pilgrimage to Hyperion (planet) and the Shrike (the mysterious spiky alien). I enjoyed all of the pilgrim’s tales, in particular The Priest’s Tale and The Consul’s Tale but for me the standout story is The Scholar’s Tale which is a truly heartbreaking tale of parents love for their daughter – simply stunning, a story that I’m sure I will come back to and read again.

10 David Gemmell – Wolf in Shadow (Jon Shannow Book 1)

As a Gemmell fan (that’s me) you know exactly what you’re going to get when you pick up one of his books, great characters, loads of kick ass action and bucket loads of heroics and the Jon Shannow books deliver these is spades.
It is three hundred years since the world toppled on its axis, and civilisation was destroyed. In this savagely reshaped world ruled by brigands and war-makers, a rider seeks a lost city. Pursuing a dream to calm the violence in his soul, Jon Shannow, the brigand slayer, desires only peace. But from the Plague Lands emerges a fresh terror. The Lord of the Pit and his hellborn army seek to plunge mankind into a new satanic era. Seemingly invincible, they make a fatal mistake. They take Shannow's woman for blood sacrifice. And find themselves facing the deadliest warrior of the new age. Jon Shannow - The Jerusalem Man

Yes I know it’s lazy to cut in the cover blurb but it sums up the book perfectly and if you’re not swayed by that then frankly you’re dead inside.
If you’re not a fan of Gemmell or haven’t read any of his books finish reading this and go and get a copy of his debut novel Legend – I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

I am Writing

Lately I’ve been bitten by the writing bug thanks in no small part to the excellent Predication run by Lily Childs, which after its untimely demise has been picked up by Phil Ambler over on his blog. The Prediction is devastatingly simple in its idea but fiendish in its addictiveness. Quite simply each Friday you get given three random words chosen by the host and a maximum of one hundred words to tell a story, be it in the genre of horror, sci fi, fantasy or day to day tales of everyday life which need to be posted on the site by the following Thursday. You get lovely feed back from the other entrants and you can also leave your own comments on the other stories. Then on Friday the winner is announced. There’s no prize on offer for the winner just a hell of a lot of satisfaction from taking part.
I’ve been joining in with the Prediction for about three months and I have found it a brilliant way of firing up my enthusiasm and it’s also an excellent motivator for actually sitting down and writing. As the months have slipped by I have found that the actual process of writing has become incredibly important to me. I relish each Friday when the new words appear so I can unleash my imagination and see where the words take me.

For me there’s always an ‘in’ word which gives me with the hook into the story and tells me where to go. Then it’s just down to me and the laptop left to wrestle out the story. This is the fun part for me, the one hundred word limit means you have to be concise with your story telling but you also need to be able to get over what the story is trying to say, which is not always easy.
I wont post any of my entries here as I think that’s knd of a bit self-serving, I’m happy with what I’ve written and I get some truly kind words as feedback.

If you want to check out any of the stories that have been written for the Prediction you can check out Lily’s site here

Or alternatively why not join in with the Prediction at its new home here

 I can assure you of a warm welcome and some great fun along the way.   

Sunday, 13 May 2012

52.143 A Year in Books Part 1

Last July I turned the big 4-0 and was lucky enough to be bought a Kindle. As a result of this my book reading exploded to the detriment of everything else if I’m quite honest, this is probably the main reason for not having updated this blog. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on download and was amazed (and continue to be amazed) just how easy and quick it is to read on a Kindle. So in light of my new found enthusiasm for reading and thinking of something to do to challenge myself in 2012 I came up with the idea of 52.143 A Year in Books, which is basically reading a book a week throughout the coming year.


Hopefully – yes, we are now in mid May and five months in to the challenge and I remain pretty much on track. Obviously I need to be mindful of what I’m reading one thick book (500 plus pages) means that the follow on book needs to be a little thinner to give me a fighting chance but so far I’ve been able to read what I want. I’m also reading my weekly dose of 2000ad and graphic novels along the way which also needs to be taken in consideration.

I’m not planning on doing in depth reviews of any of the books but I thought I’d share with you what I’ve read and some of my thoughts on each of the books (Yes I keep a spread sheet to keep track of what I read – it’s the accountant in me).
There may be slight spoilers ahead so reader beware.

Here are numbers 1-5

1 Philip Reeve – Infernal Devices (Book 3 Mortal Engines Quartet)

Another great instalment in the Mortal Engines Quartet that introduces Wren, Tom and Hester’s daughter. The book moves the story along nicely and I'm looking forward to the last part.

2 Philip Reeve – A Darkling Plain (Book 4 Mortal Engines Quartet)

Picks up a year after the last book and Hester has turned all Terminator, with Shrike striking the moral balance between the two of them, in all honesty this book takes a while to get going. Reeve takes up half the book trying to get his characters into position to gear up for the finale. Tom and Hester’s reunion is very bitter sweet and very sad at the end.

3 Suzzane Collins – The Hunger Games Book 1

A nice little amoral adventure tale, I'd imagine that if you are a sulky, the worlds against me teenager this book would be the best thing you've ever read, not sure if it lives up to the hype but then I am way outside the target market for this. Twin 2 read it (she’s 12) and still raves about it.

4 Jim Butcher – Blood Rites (Dresden Files Book 6)

Yet another excellent instalment of The Dresden Files, some big family secrets come to light and Harry’s face off with the big bad at the end it genuinely thrilling. 

5 Jim Butcher – Dead Beat (Dresden Files Book 7)

More Dresden awesomeness with a giant T-rex rampaging through downtown Chicago. On a serious note though Butchers world building is flipping brilliant.

Hopefully this will be the kick I need to update the blog more often, thanks for taking the time to read and part 2 should be posted within the next week.