Monday, 29 July 2013

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

"Then he stepped back to the pine forest, disappearing with a soap-bubble pop."

Picking this deliciously addictive novel up was certainly a good idea. Unfortunately it means being drawn into yet another series - I seem to be midway through quite a number.

I'm a big fan of Terry Pratchett's humorous other worlds and placing them in this science fiction context really makes for a fresh new experience. This collaboration with Stephen Baxter is a real gem and both authors have apparently signed up for more to come which can only be a good thing.

Skipping across parallel Earths with a potato powered contraption might sound like a tall tale to spin, yet this is a tale which will draw you in and elicit a few giggles on the way. The Star Trek reference in particular made me laugh and Lobsang is delightful.

You too will want to give stepping a try after this.  5 out of 5 hop, skip and a jump to another world pronto.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Past Never Ends by Jackson Burnett


"Chester Morgan believed in hunches. All good trial attorneys do, or at least used to, until procedural manoeuvring and endless discovery made litigation a contest of attrition to be won by wealth and endurance."

Don't be put off by the less than sexy cover - it reminds me of the Young and the Restless and certainly doesn't do this fantastic read justice - although I'm probably wearing my marketing hat at this point.

Chester Morgan is a delight - he mixes hard boiled noir detective with good hearted attorney for a winning and engaging combination. You are rooting for him to triumph and lord knows you want him to do more roller skating with strippers. Read the book for more information.

I loved the mix of the procedural limitations of the law and the notion of justice being reliant on having the pockets to sustain a trial. I'm currently studying law in the common law system and it is interesting to compare the two systems and see such similarities. It is even more dumbfounding to think that these notions are derived from a hard boiled crime novel. That in itself is a testament to the fantastic writing.

I took a considerably longer time than usual to read this novel. Perhaps, that is attributable to reading it as an epub on my phone, or, more likely, it is because I was reticent to leave the company of one Chester Morgan.

It would be remiss to end this review without mentioning the delightful supporting cast and in particular the ever resourceful office manager  slash investigator Shawn - here is a woman who gets things done!

5 out of 5, dead strippers still tell tales apparently.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Rope, a play by Patrick Hamilton


"And here is a chest, from which we're going to feed, the table having been commandeered for books."

Okay, so this is the play that formed the basis for Alfred Hitchcock's movie of the same name. I'm counting a play as a book for the purposes of my attempts to reach 250 books this year - a measly 70 pages to be sure, but a book of sorts none the less.
There are two major differences between the original play and the screenplay. In the play the murder has already taken place before the action commences and the play is structured around a number of acts, unlike the seamless shooting of the movie. That aside, it is an intriguing piece and one which I would love to see performed. Although first performed in 1929, apart from the references to dressing for dinner and musical choices, there is a somewhat timeless aspect to the dialogue.
Quick, thought provoking, thrilling and like a fine wine, it has aged well. 5 out of 5 beware of creepy guys selling old books.

Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis

"On the third morning I woke to find the sheets were dry."

How to review this one? John Self is a dirty wreck of a man lost in a sea of paranoia, drug and alcohol abuse and overloading on porn consumption. He is beyond sleazy and almost impossible to like. When the blurb talks of excess, it is certainly on point. Listed as a must read on a number of top lists, I guess it just isn't my cup of tea.

Is this well written, yes, I guess. Was it an enjoyable read, no, not at all.  3 out of 5, I feel like I need a shower after finishing this.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle Arsan


What’s beautiful is the moment that was nothing and that you have made unforgettable.”

Well what to say here? The dodgy cover should have given me a bit of an inclination, if not the fact that it was a Perennial Forbidden classic. Yes it is racy, our girl E is pretty keen on getting down and dirty with just about anyone, but the structure of the novel is odd to say the least. It begins with classic porn style scenarios, light on logical detail, heavy on descriptions of arousal. I've never flown on a plane where you could do so much in front of so many people - not to mention the presence of the children being a little disturbing.
Landing in Bangkok, Emmanuelle avails herself of all sorts of diversions, one minute she thinks she's a Lesbian, but she's married and faithful because she's only ever cheated on her husband with a man when airborne - yes tis a little scattered. Inside her hormonal brain, the story loses any semblance of time or reality. She vacillates between being out of and in control; she just doesn't seem like a really realised person. Then, horror of horrors she smokes opium and gets all philosophical for pages on end. While some of the writing in this section is rather lovely, it just seems like a massive mood shift and all a bit strange, fear not the ending is suitably debaucherous.
My reason for picking this book up was its inclusion in Helena Frith Powell's top 10 sexy French books list which has certainly provided some eye opening works to date and this would probably rate at the end of the spectrum from my perspective. Moments of delicate prose, but mostly the purple kind.  2 out of 5, you'll never look at tuk tuk drivers the same way again.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Don't Move by Margaret Mazzantini


"New lovers are full of fears, Angela; they have no place in the world; they're travelling to no destination."

This is not a novel for the feint hearted as the saying goes. It is packed to the hilt with lust, grief, disgust, passion, terror, love, fear and countless other heightened emotions. The never-ending violent assault of it is hard to describe and yet so amazingly crafted that one can't help heaping praise in its direction, despite some ghastly behaviours.
Gritty, real, graphic; this is very much an adult novel. It's confessional style draws the reader in inescapably, to the point where I almost cried on public transport - embarrassing. I recommend you read this when you're having a good day so that you can appreciate its brilliance without getting dragged too far down in the mire. 5 out of 5 with added horizontal hokey pokery.

Friday, 12 July 2013

1974 by David Peace

"I grabbed my notebook and bolted out of the car, scrambling up the embankment at the side of the motorway, crawling through the mud and bushes towards the fire and the noise; the noise, revving engines and the thunderous, continuous, banging of time itself being beaten out."

Unrelenting is the word that first comes to mind to describe this grim but amazingly paced crime novel. The tension is palpable as the reader is transported into a world of paranoia, murder, torture and one sordid event after another. The driving pace and mounting danger to the protagonist leaves you gripping the pages in anticipation and the litany of scatological references and sex crimes deepens the uneasy feeling in your stomach.

I feel somewhat wrong recommending such a violent and loveless book - the sex scenes alone are so devoid of any hope and quite miserable. That being said this is an amazing example of the genre and I'm certainly interested in exploring the rest of the Red Riding series, hopefully with some comedic relief in between.  5 out of 5 raw, grim, realism can be hard to swallow.

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge


"She was like a ballroom dancer moving in time to some slow waltz, pointing her feet delicately as she advanced, swaying from side to side  in her purple cloak, one hand raised swiftly with wrist arched, as if she dangled a fan."

I'm a little lost for words on this one, it is particularly short but dense. The characters are hilariously flawed and the novel reeks of that sheer bitchiness that only exists between single women vying for male attention.
The plot has to involve one of the worst picnic style outings I can remember reading, it made me think catch ups outside of work are a bad idea. The prose is beautiful, albeit a little confusing at times due to the similarity in voice between the two main characters. 4 out of 5 factory workers escape.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Gameboard Of The Gods by Richelle Mead

"He disappeared down a hallway, and Mae sat down at the bench. She played a few lines of Danse Macabre  and then let her hand drop as it began to shake from the implant's metabolism."

Vampire Academy author Richelle Mead is back with a new series set in the future, a strange future plagued by religious persecution and genetic machinations. I have been eagerly anticipating this new series, as I am a bit of a fan of the usual Mead escapist fantasies. Starting out, however, I was a little underwhelmed. The voices in Justin's head were a little distracting to begin with and it took quite some time to get to grips with this new world.

I have read some less than favourable reviews, however, my advice would be to take a deep breath and acclimatise because the pace finally picks up just over midway through and being the first of a series the high level of exposition is pretty much a necessity before the action starts. I'm certainly looking forward to the sequel. I find her series often start slowly but really kick things up a notch as the series progresses, once the reader has grown to know and love the characters. It is in that spirit that I look forward to the next volume. Sexy, smart, strong female characters are Mead's speciality - for other examples see especially Georgina Kincaid, my favourite succubus.

 4 out of 5 - this could be the start of something.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

"And when I finished the painting & looked at that poor leatherjacket which now lay dead on the table I began to wonder whether, as each fish died, the world was reduced in the amount of love that you might know for such a creature."

Richard Flanagan's 2001 novel has a title which would not normally tempt me and not being tempted by it would have been a great shame. A beautiful creation with a poetic bent, who knew fish could be so delightful when not served piping hot?
The main character, William Buelow Gould actually existed and was the artist responsible for the beautiful fish portraits contained within the book. Flanagan transforms this historical figure to create sketches of life through fish. While some of the depictions verge on the grotesque, there is something utterly compelling about this novel and rather difficult to describe. So, I think I'll leave this one to you to discover for yourself.  5 out of 5, reel this one in.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Lexicon by Max Barry


"She didn't know. She had no idea. She was just curious."

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but what if words could kill? This latest offering from Max Barry infuses reading with additional powers and makes for compelling reading. Non stop action abounds, hand in hand with more cerebral musings, particularly on the insidious nature of data capture over social networks.
While I have read another one of this author's novels before, Syrup,  and loved it, I was prompted to invest in this story after reading a glowing recommendation from comedian Wil Anderson. Quite amusing when one of the characters is, funnily enough, called Wil.
I don't know how much more I can add to the wealth of glowing reviews out there for this novel, but I read it pretty much in one sitting and loved it. Suspense, conspiracy, mind altering words and Broken Hill - buckle in for just about anything goes!  5 out of 5 - what's your favourite colour?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Liar by Stephen Fry

"Adrian had received a decent and broad English education in the area of his loins."

I had thought that my love and respect for the author of this novel knew no bounds. His velvety tones usually transform the English language into something sublime and I loved the non-fiction account of his life. Having said that, this story just lost me. There are passages of beautiful writing, yet the plot left me with the distinct impression of being stuck in a washing machine on heavy duty mode. It bounces around time frames and locales and lost this reader in the process.
Perhaps the life of a hormonally infused young man in an English public school  is too foreign for this girl to comprehend. Perhaps my hatred of cricket over rules all? I'm really not sure.  3 out of 5, sorry darlings, just not really my cup of tea.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

"My sleeve was  in his early forties, Protectorate standard, with a swimmer's build and what felt like some military custom-carved onto his nervous system."


This is one sexy, thrilling, chunk of sci-fi excellence. Talk about extreme makeover, inhabiting new bodies or 'sleeves', ex-military hard man Takeshi Kovacs goes from bad situation to worse and you'll be captivated every step of the way. Things are grim in the future, particularly with the rich potentially living forever through the use of clone sleeves and backups of their minds stored for safe keeping. Known as 'Meths', like Methuselah, these powerful types have an eternity before them, which may skew their world view somewhat.

Takeshi is pulled out of storage to discover the truth around the apparent suicide of a Meth, employed by the same Meth who has been downloaded to a new clone but is lacking crucial moments since the last back up. Herein begins our adventure, hold on tight, it is part noir, part action, part conspiracy and all kinds of awesome.

First published in 2002, this novel won the Phillip K Dick award for best novel in 2003. I was prompted to check it out by its appearance in a number of must read scifi lists. I'm obsessed with list completion, they certainly amp up my to-read pile, while also exposing me to gems such as this. 5 out of 5, smash and grab yourself a copy.