Tuesday, 30 September 2008

UEA Literary Festival - Cherie Blair

This is my first post from the "THE ARTHUR MILLER CENTRE INTERNATIONAL LITERARY FESTIVAL, AUTUMN 2008 " line-up. In the future, I shall be referring to this event as the UEA LitFest as that's much easier on the fingers.

As I was sitting on the front row, in my full black tie glory, I decided not to whip out my battered notebook and jot notes during the conversation that Cherie had with UEA Professor Chris Bigsby however I did scribble some pretty indecipherable thoughts as soon as they'd finished as we were queuing to leave the Lecture Theatre.

My scrawled comments include the following:

  • Has Sony e-reader.
  • Lifelong love of books.
  • Great shoes!
  • Has future plans to write biography on "strong women".

All very insightful, I am sure you will agree... I've not read her autobiography, Speaking for Myself, however the interview took the form of a gentle conversation that covered her life history to date. I left, after an hour, feeling that I don't actually have an insight into what this, clearly very clever, woman is actually doing and what makes her tick. I feel that it's a shame that she didn't use this as a platform to explain what she's been up to in a context other than being an ex-PM's wife although I am sure that's what sells the book.

Her website is happy to give me glimpses of what the event could have been about (the many causes she supports, her views on human and women's rights, cases she's been involved in...). An example is that when she was asked for her views, as a practicing catholic, on women working as priests, she replied that she would soon be giving a speech at the Vatican on this very topic. But we never found out what her stance is. Why not? I do, however, appreciate that this is a Literary festival so perhaps that was out of scope.

The event was followed by a very lovely gala dinner, which I attended as my father's guest, at The Sainsbury's Centre to celebrate the University's 45th Birthday and announce the appointment of four Jubilee Professors to help to steer the University in the right direction as it approaches its 50th Birthday. Present at the dinner were the great and the good of Norfolk (and me!) and I had a really delicious meal that included a scrumptious pan-fried quail breast on a wild mushroom fricassee and spiced monkfish on sweet potato bombay. I gather Mr B ordered in pizza. :)

Monday, 29 September 2008

R.I.P Read Three - The End of Mr Y

This is my third read for the R.I.P. Challenge.

I remember seeing The End Of Mr. Y on a book pile in Waterstones when it came out in hardback last year and that I just had to stop and admire it as it was so gorgeously different to everything else on the tables. I think that the designer, Gray318, did a great job! I could kick myself for not buying this book then as my paperback copy is not nearly as beautiful, although I am pleased that they retained the black trim on the pages and thankfully the slightly different cover, although very simple, is still arresting. Enough of aesthetics - what's the book about? Well, from the blurb:

"When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can't believe her eyes. She knows enough about its author, the outlandish Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And, some say, cursed.With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself thrust into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel."

The premise of "The End of Mr. Y" in the book of the same name (confused?) is that the author has bought a secret recipe that enables him to flit between people's minds and enter the "Troposphere". Unfortunately for Ariel, sinister people get wind that she's located a copy of the book and that's where the pace of the book starts to pick up.

I'm not sure what I was expecting this book to be about... A mystery, a curse, a hint of Victoriana along with a whiff of romance?
All of which I got but, and this is a big but, this is a far cleverer book than I anticipated and covers way more ground than expected. It succeeds in being a hybrid thriller that includes elements of philosophical thought, theology, time travel and hard science. Ariel is clearly a complex, and mostly unhappy, young woman and the characters she interacts with are all very real and generally somehow damaged.

I thought that the book-within-a-book sections, where Ariel reads Mr Y, were not at all intrusive and they felt very authentic in terms of style and language. The story never seemed to get sidelined in favour of "thinking" as Ariel works to understand the laws that govern the
Troposphere and I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of failing utterly to keep up with her thought process! I console myself with the thought that I didn't need to understand it all to enjoy the story!

I found this to be a very imaginative, well written, intelligent and entertaining book to read. It was not at all what I expected (thankfully way better than anticipated) and I'll definitely be digging out some of her earlier books.

Scarlett Thomas was born in London in 1972, has written seven books and currently teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent. I feel so inadequate! She does have a website however it doesn't seem to be very well at the moment but there's an interview with her from last year on Bookslut you can read instead!

Friday, 26 September 2008

The pile grows yet taller

Oh dear. Having just read Cornflower's post about out of control To Be Read piles, and the comments it attracted, I found myself utterly unable to resist the lure of charity shop books! My friend and I did the "Magdalene Street Charity Shop Crawl" this morning and I came back with this little stash of thirteen extra books. Most were priced at 50p although the prices did reach a giddy £1 when I got to Scope - not a bad haul for well under a tenner though.

A friend of mine recently bought a box of twenty Georgette Heyer books for £2 but sadly I didn't have that luck today. I am told that I have to head to "out of town" charity shops for that scale of bargain which has been duly noted as I think this could become a bit of an addiction...

Did I really need thirteen more books? Of course not but I do love a bargain! I'm really pleased about the four David Lodge books I found as I will be seeing him speak at the UEA Literary Festival in a couple of weeks and this will enable me to refresh myself on his work. I also found a Toni Morrison I don't have and I've had both Margaret Drabble and Margaret Foster on my "authors to read" list for ages so I can make a start on them now. That's my excuse, and I am sticking to it!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Word and the Void Trilogy - Terry Brooks

The Shannara books by Terry Brooks were early fantasy reads for me and could well be one of the reasons that I have stayed with SFF books over the years. I read them all several times and loved the magical world that they took me into. I've not read anything by him for several years though and, with the publication of his most recent book The Gypsy Morph, I thought it might be time to catch up on what I've been missing.

I found out that the Word and the Void Trilogy was the first of two prequel series to the Shannara books themselves. Essentially this series and the following trilogy, Genesis of Shannara, explain what happened to create that world and I've added the book synopsis for each one at the bottom of this post. So avoid them if you plan to read the series and don't want to get ahead.

I managed to get hold of the second two Word and the Void books in the library but I could not resist buying a second hand hardback copy of the first book as the cover, as illustrated here, is mind-boggling. But not in a good way! The re-issue editions are definitely easier on the eye if not as amusing.

The Word and the Void trilogy spans 15 years and follows the lead characters of Nest Freemark and John Ross. In each book, John Ross dreams versions of an apocalyptic future and tries to alter the present to prevent these dreams from becoming reality. John and Nest, with others, represent The Word (good) and have to battle various demons sent by The Void (bad). Their stories are placed in an alternate north-western USA setting that uses recognisable cities and locations as well as a, presumably fictional, main town.

So I guess that makes it an Urban Fantasy book. Which is a bit unfortunate as I don't really like that sub-genre. I like alternate history, I love books in the vein of Neverwhere which is also set in our world, I like books with magic in them but I have no interest whatsoever in demons (or vampires, etc) roaming among humans. Unless they're in a "proper" magical world that's not ours of course! Which is a bit of a bother if you have just started a trilogy and may be why I'm not as enthused about the series as I expected to be.

There are a couple of things I want to pick up on about the series when taken as a whole. Firstly, they are very easy to read and I whipped though all three books in a couple of days. This is neither a good or a bad thing but this accessibility no doubt contributes to why Brooks is as popular as he is. I didn't feel that the story line was ever stretching and I no doubt at any point that Nest and John would be successful (although not without cost) and that was a shame.

I found the practice of summarising events from previous books (and even chapters) distracting and, once I'd noticed the habit, really irritating too. I don't see why the third book, in particular, needed to spend so much time explaining what had already happened to these characters when most people would have presumably already read the previous two. Although I am probably wrong, it felt like a trick to increase the overall word count at the expense of the storyline.

So - after this rant, will I be reading the Genesis of Shannara? Yes. But with my fingers crossed that they'll have less filler and a bit more magic.

RUNNING WITH THE DEMON: One Fourth of July weekend, two men come to Hopewell, Illinois. One is a demon, a dark servant of the Void, who will feed off the anger and frustration of the community to achieve a terrible goal. Whilst families picnic and fireworks explode only John Ross, a Knight of the Word, can change the fate of humanity and save the soul of fourteen-year-old Nest Freemark.

A KNIGHT OF THE WORD: The years spent saving mankind from the horrors of the Void have taken their toll on John Ross. He's lost his spirit, his belief, and now, it seems his magic. When Nest is once again drawn into the mythic world of the Void and the Word she must warn John to take up his staff of magic once again, or the battle may be lost forever.

ANGEL FIRE EAST: For twenty five years, Ross has single-handedly battled against the legion of demons of the Void. But now he learns of a gypsy morph, whose power and wild magics will be an invaluable weapon against the Void - who know this too and will not rest until the creature has been corrupted - or destroyed.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

R.I.P. Book Two - Little, Big

This is my second read for the R.I.P. Challenge which I had to borrow from the library as it seems to be out of print. I have to confess that having read the book I am not sure that it qualifies as an R.I.P. read so please accept my sincere apologies however I will press on.

The synopsis from amazon: "Edgewood is many houses, all put inside each other, or across each other. It's filled with and surrounded by mystery and enchantment: the further in you go, the bigger it gets. Smoky Barnable, who has fallen in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, comes to Edgewood, her family home, where he finds himself drawn into a world of magical strangeness."

I chose Little, Big by John Crowley because I kept seeing it mentioned in interviews with authors citing it either as an influence on their work or the book they would tell people to go out and read. As I said, it turned out not to be a "readers in peril" read but I am really not sure how to describe it. A fairytale? A fable? It's certainly a modern fantasy whose story threads weaving in and out as we follow several generations of the Drinkwater Family.

I can not believe how long this book took me to read - it is quite a thick book with very small type but I don' think that's why it took so long. I think it was because there is just so much going on and I will definitely need to re-read it at some point as I am quite sure that I missed bits as I was not sure what would turn out to be important and kept losing track of who was who in the early stages. This was partly because I forgot to refer to the family tree provided until I'd nearly reached the end!

Smokey is very much the outsider looking in at the Drinkwater family and you can't help but feel that he shares the readers bafflement at times. The book itself has a very meandering pace as it moves between the generations of Drinkwaters. This suits the tone set by their idyllic rural home, Edgewood, especially in the later stages when nearby "the City" is a pretty dark place to live.

John Crowley has a blog and there is plenty of biographical information on him over here. On his blog, there is a link to what looks like a fantastic limited edition hardcover print run which is in production here to celebrate the book's 25th anniversary. They've provided a sample of the first chapter to wet taste buds. Oh dear. This could well enter my "I need" list as it looks like it's going to be stunning.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT:

Autumn is starting (here in the US, anyway), and kids are heading back to school – does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

I live in the UK and as the nights draw in, the appeal of snuggling up with a good book definitely increases! In my head, I have a vision of a brightly burning fire, an engrossing read, a comfy chair and perhaps a blanket... I really must get around to buying that fireside chair!

In the summer (assuming it's ever actually sunny here, of course!) I do often take my book out into the garden but there's always distractions such as pulling a few weeds, snipping back new growth, getting out the trowel, small (hot) dogs sitting as close to me as they can or even hogging my rug... I find warmth very soporific and that doesn't often bode well for a concerted stint of reading in the sun, so I tend to listen to an audio book or short story on my nano and leave the book in the shade. Or enjoy a little snooze instead.

I always feel as if I should "make the most" of any sunshine we get as well and try to head out to a park/woods/beach with the dogs (and Mr B!) to enjoy a walk where you don't realise (yet again) why it's a bad idea to mix spaniels with moisture or plant growth. Looking out of the window now, this could well be one of those days.

Getting back to the actual question asked though, I don't think that the change of season alters what I would choose to read in any way. I have my teetering stacks of TBR books growing steadily throughout the year and plough through them in whatever order takes my fancy.

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Sound of Splinters

A little post about a lovely blog that I can't remember how I found but did. It's called The Sound of Splinters and it's about. Umm. I'll let Jem explain:

" In June 2006 I carried a matchbox in my pocket for one week. Into it I collected careless sentences and trapped thoughts liable to escape.

This is a continuation of that matchbox - a virtual place to mount all the little thoughts we lose - the ideas, the promises, the doodles. The things that break apart and the insistent pieces that wedge under our skin. "

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The Affinity Bridge - George Mann

I know I have mentioned previously that I think the cover for The Affinity Bridge from Snowbooks is just lovely so I was very pleased when I could admire it from the close up view of a book in my hands rather than as an object on the interweb thanks to the kindness of Mr B.

I should give credit where it's due, Mr B had attempted to buy me this edition however didn't realise that he'd clicked on the wrong paypal link until the softback version arrived. He looked so sad when it dawned on him that I forgave and thanked him muchly. Even though my copy isn't the full on fabby one, it's clear that there has been some really careful attention to detail applied to this book which feels like really good quality. I loved the two fonts used for chapter and first letter styling and must dig them both out to use in my own retro projects.

Anyway - on to the book! Our lead characters are Sir Maurice Newbury, who works for the Crown as a gentleman investigator, and his very capable assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes. This book is described as the first in the series of Newbury and Hobbes investigations so I would suspect that we'll meet these two again. There is the hint of a possible romance in this book but I hope that it remains unfulfilled as that's always so much more fun!

The story is set in an alternate London from the very early 1900s where there are airships, ground trains and new fangled clockwork automations. There are also bodies being found in the poor revenant infested alleyways of Whitechapel and then an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances - killing everyone on board...

All I really knew about this book before I started reading it was that 1) I loved the cover and 2) It featured Victorian steampunk. I did have a little wobble when reading the prologue as I was a bit worried that the book might end up being too scary for me but thankfully once I started the actual book my concerns evaporated. It should be stressed at this point that I am unusually sensitive to anything with even a whiff of horror. I enjoyed the gentle development of a relationship between Sir Maurice and Miss Hobbes and the plot itself was fun once I had got over the scary bits. Lots of detecting, chasing and attention to period detail with a twist.

I'll head off on a slight tangent now. Snowbooks gave away a few preview copies over at Bookrabbit a while ago and that kicked off a bit of a stink. I avoided entering the furore at the time but utterly empathised with Emma's post shortly afterwards (which I realise was not 100% to do with this). In my view, I don't think it's on to take a free book just because it's free. You should have the courtesy to read up about it, see if it's something you're likely to enjoy and then say yes. You might not like it, and if that's the case then it's fair to say so, but it struck me that some of the readers who nabbed copies here were never going to enjoy this book - so why bother?

I shall now dismount from my high horse and offer you a bonus feature as compensation... Here's an article by George Mann titled "Steampunk and the Return of Wonder" for Matrix Online.

Edit: There's a review of this book over at Fantasy Book Critic that's worth checking out if you're interested in reading more.

Black Box

Removed from the sidebar as it kept creeping into my text. Still fun though!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

UEA Autumn Literary Festival Lineup

The line up for the University of East Anglia's Autumn 2008 Literary Festival has now been released and I'm having trouble working out who to go and see.  

Of course, I could just go and see everyone but where's the fun in that?  As I have never attended any kind of LitFest events, I don't want to miss out on known good speakers or on an author who I might not have heard of but I should.

I already know that I'm off to see Cherie (an aside, I thought she went by Booth) Blair open the series on the 29th September because my Dad's taking me.  I'm under very, very strict instruction not to gesticulate wildly at the black tie dinner afterwards however...*  

I am toying with my final shortlist being Cherie Blair, David Lodge, David Guterson, Toni Morrison, Richard Holmes and possibly Sebastian Barry.  Am I missing out if I restrict myself to just those six?  Should I be going to Geraldine Brooks, David Hare and Jung Chang too?  I suspect that I should have heard of and read something by Geraldine Brooks, based on her write-up on the UEA site, and I did read Wild Swans a few years ago and thought it was very interesting so perhaps I should add in those two as well.  But then that would leave David Hare out. Which would be very tragic.

Bother - half of me just thinks that I might as well go to them all at this rate!  Suggestions and recommendations very welcome.

*The scene: A posh restaurant.
The Occasion: Dad's 60th Birthday celebration dinner.
The Incident: I am talking to people my left, gesticulate and to my right, a large glass of red wine appears on Dad's lap via suit jacket...  Eep.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Last Colony - John Scalzi

Thanks to my incredibly subtle hints last week, I was able to get my hands on a copy of The Last Colony courtesy of the ever-lovely Mr B. My post about reading John Scalzi's other books is here and I posted some short story links earlier in the month here.

The Last Colony follows the story of John Perry and Jane Sagan who come out of retirement as civil administrators to lead a party of settlers in colonising a new world. They take along with their adopted daughter Zoe, with her two Obin protectors, as well as settlers drawn from ten other human colonised worlds. The planned settlement does not go as expected and John and Jane find themselves fighting to the survival of the planets new inhabitants...

Before I write down my thoughts, I need to reference Aidan Moher's excellent review of this book here to explain why I am not going to write a real one myself. He, yet again, explains the appeal of these books way better than I could!

Although I enjoyed this book, I didn't feel that The Last Colony was as well written, or exciting, as Old Man's War but it is still great fun and a continuation of the same overall story. Which is more than enough to meet my needs! It can be read as a stand-alone book but I would strongly recommend reading the series in order.

It was meant to be the last book in the series but I see that Zoe's Tale revisits the same characters.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Lyonesse - Jack Vance

This is the first book I've read by Jack Vance who is an author I gather I should really have read by now! I was actually looking for his Dying Earth series when I stumbled onto this one in the library instead. I later realised that Lyonesse is book one of Vance's Lyonesse Trilogy but it can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone book however there were a number of very tantalising story threads referred to in the epilogue that have me intrigued!

The synopsis: "The Elder Isles are made up of ten contending kingdoms, all vying with each other for control. At the centre of much of the intrigue is Casmir, the ruthless and ambitious king of Lyonnesse. His beautiful but otherworldly daughter, Suldrun, is part of his plans. He intends to cement an alliance or two by marrying her well. But Suldrun is as determined as he and defies him. Casmir coldly confines her to the overgrown garden that she loves to frequent, and it is here that meets her love and her tragedy unfolds. Political intrigue, magic, war, adventure and romance are interwoven in a rich and sweeping tale set in a brilliantly realized fabled land."

The Elder Isles (sited somewhere south of Ireland and west of France) is a mythical country where both humans and faerie live and it's divided into kingdoms ruled by a variety of interpretations on medieval European society. It's a kind of alternative history location featuring myths and legends which makes it hard to explain! In this book there's a love story, a quest of sorts, battles between good and evil, magicians, whimsical faerie folk, an Arthurian backdrop and a host of very plausible characters who are fun to be around. Even the naughty ones.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the sheer variety and inventiveness of the world-building. There is a lot of information to absorb and it's really clear that Vance has put a lot of thought into it. This did have the effect of making the book a bit on the slow side to begin with however as events started unfolding the pace soon picked up and the story threads started to come together.

I left this novel quite sure that I need to read more of Jack Vance's work and I will make sure that I locate a copy of the Dying Earth omnibus. Over on fantastic fiction there is a complete list of his work including some pretty funky cover pictures. I want!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Hurting Distance - Sophie Hannah

Last month I read, and enjoyed, Sophie Hannah's The Point of Rescue so I thought I'd give one of her earlier two books a go when my sister unearthed Hurting Distance for me when we did a bookshelf sort at her place.

The synopsis: "Three years ago, something terrible happened to Naomi Jenkins -- so terrible that she never told anybody.Now Naomi has another secret -- the man she has fallen passionately in love with, unhappily married Robert Haworth. When Robert vanishes without trace, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert's wife insists he is not missing.In desperation, Naomi has a crazy idea. If she can't persuade the police that Robert is in danger, perhaps she can convince them that he is a danger to others. Then they will have to look for him -- urgently. Naomi knows how describe in detail the actions of a psychopath. All she needs to do is dig up her own troubled past ..."

I'm really not too sure about this one and for me, that's because of the plot's subject matter - is it weird that I find that a story about fratricide (The Point of Rescue) more palatable than one about abduction and rape?

I won't go into details but I was unconvinced by the motivation of some of the key characters and felt that some actions were pretty implausible although I concede that the book whizzed on at a fair pace. I felt that the dealing with the emotional impact of rape on the women involved, which I accept it needs to be to write a fast paced thriller, was just too insensitive for me and I never got the impression that anyone really cared how the women were bearing up.

An aside. I'm working backwards in this series so I found the sometimes unexplained emotional antics of Sgt Charlie and DC Waterhouse more irritating and less forgiveable than I did last time. They seem to be the same "issues" as they had in the third book which was a bit odd. As far as I cab see, they don't appear to be central characters to these books and I can't see that the thread following their relationship is required to make the book any more exciting so my vote would be to either ditch them entirely or make them as equally important as the crimes they are investigating. I can't help comparing them to the police staff in Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler books and reflecting on the very different approach the authors have taken. Rant over.

In summary - every other review I have read for this book is very positive so I suspect it's a case of "not for me".

John Scalzi - Short Story Links!

A quick little post to link to a couple of John Scalzi's short stories:

From Subterranean Press comes Denise Jones, Super Booker and over on Tor is After the Coup which is placed in an "Old Man's War" setting.

I'm looking forward to reading The Last Colony soon as Mr B succumbed to my "hint" that he should invest in a copy for me and ordered one last night. He really is a very good sort of fellow.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

R.I.P. Book One - Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey was my first R.I.P. read for my first ever first reading challenge. I'm afraid that I am not going to do a "proper" write up on this book as so many people have already written many, many excellent essays on the topic. I will, however, try to capture some of my thoughts on re-reading a book that I've not touched for at least 15 years.

Firstly, I should state that I am I am definitely what I believe is called a Janeite. I would easily count Pride and Prejudice in my Top 5 books of all time and suspect that I could find room for at least one of her other books in the Top 10. Depending, of course, if I was ever to be decisive enough to finally decide on the candidates for the longlist, shortlist and then finally the order!

I'd forgotten, or was perhaps too young to appreciate, just how clever this book actually is. Although I knew when I first read it that it was written as a parody of the populist genre of Gothic romance, I don't think I realised until this read just how many tongue-in-cheek references there are. From the outset, Catherine Moreland is clearly described as being not a typical heroine of a romance novel and gentle fun is poked throughout the book.

I had totally forgotten that Jane's portrayal of Isabella Thorpe is so very, very cruel. She is, from the outset, painted so very clearly as a shallow, manipulative creature who spares no thoughts for the feelings of those around her and is out to get what she can in terms of a financially secure marriage. That Catherine fails to see her beloved friend's true colours perhaps says more about Catherine's innocence of character than it does of Isabella's ability to conceal.

Oh dear - I am straying and in danger of writing an essay. All I really meant to say in this post is that re-reading Northanger Abbey was great fun and I enjoyed myself very much.

After finishing, I dipped into Deirdre Le Faye's Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels and had a very pleasant time reading up on some of the details about life in those times. I skipped the biography section as I felt sufficiently informed by Claire Tomalin's excellent work but this is a gentle introduction to Jane Austen and her work.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Old Man's War & The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi

I've just finished reading Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi and I have to say that I have had a wonderful time with these two. I've not read any of Scalzi's books before but I have read posts over on Tor's site and he also runs a personal blog over here.

I've been aware of his work for a while but didn't think it was my cup of tea, being perhaps a bit too "boys and guns" for me, however two things changed that. The first was that Tor were giving away e-books and one of these was Old Man's War. This meant that I could have a quick flick through it (in an electronic way). To be honest, the first sentence* had me intrigued enough to carry on. As I don't have an e-reader I stopped there knowing that it was a dead cert for my "To Buy" list.

Then I stumbled upon these books in my library by accident and decided it was fate so whisked them home with me. It's a pity that I only borrowed these books though as I am clearly going to have to go out and buy them at some stage (why do I feel the need to hoard?) along with the "next" book The Last Colony and the recently released Zoe's Tale. I've already checked my library catalogue online and they don't currently own either of those books but Mr B did look at me in a kindly fashion when I was whining this morning about it not being fair that I can't buy my own books at the moment so fingers crossed.

Over at Dribble of Ink, Aidan has written three far better reviews (one, two & three) that I can so I won't get too carried away with reviewing these myself. If you are intrigued, head over and read his! In his words "I’ve run out of superlatives. I’ve run out of ways to convince you to buy the novels. I’m at my wits end to come up with an original way to say, “John Scalzi is just that damn good.” "

I agree - these books are great fun, featuring delightful characters who are witty and amusing. I thought that there were some interesting ideas about the form that future combat and interraction with alien nations could take and really enjoyed the exciting and fast-paced plots in both books. I was slightly thrown at one point to see two members of a platoon called Gaiman and McKean but it did make me laugh out loud.

Reading about these books online, and as mentioned in the acknowledgements, apparently they owe a debt to Robert Heinman (him what wrote Starship Troopers) and if that's the case I need to get my hands on some of Heinman's work!

In summary. Read them.

*“I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the Army.”

Monday, 1 September 2008

August Reading List

I am slightly surprised to discover that I have read 91 books so far this year. Go me! Although I should remind myself that this is about quality not quantity but I think I've had a nice balance.

Choosing my Bookling POTM for August was a toughie but I think it has to be Claire Tomlin's Jane Austen: A Life. A wonderful piece of work and a must for anyone who wants to understand her influences better. I watched the BBC film Miss Austen Regrets a couple of weeks ago and definitely enjoyed the film more for having read this first. Part of the fun was recognising quotes from her letters and then there was the added enjoyment of disliking her niece, Fanny, as much on screen as I had decided I did from reading about her. That could just be me though...

So, this month's reading list was:
*I'll review Old Man's War in the next couple of days, when I've finished reading the sort-of-sequel Ghost Brigades.