Saturday, 30 March 2013

A World Between Us by Lydia Syson: ¡No pasarĂ¡n!

A country is torn apart by civil war as a young woman serving as a nurse is torn apart by her conflicting feelings for two young men. As the battles rage around her Felix has to make her choices in this passionate historical adventure set in Spain.

I'll admit historical romance books aren't the first ones I reach for when I'm choosing something to read but I've always had an interest in the Spanish Civil War which I've never got around to sating. A World Between Us is another book that'll go in my 'Great Cover' hall of fame with its Spanish Civil War poster style.

I really loved this book. The stories of Felix, Nat and George, as they all start out hopeful and idealistic in their own different ways. The Spanish Civil War changes them as much as it changes itself. The historical detail is fantastic and worked seamlessly into the story. It never drags and I missed a fair few hours of needed sleep, I found it so gripping. It probably helped that I was in Barcelona at the time!

Not much else needs saying apart from read it!

You can get A World Between Us for about a fiver.

Cheers,

Mark





 

Song Quest by Katherine Roberts: Does it have the X-Factor?

On their first journey away from the safety of their island home, two novice Singers learn important lessons when they must confront an evil Khizpriest and stop him from stealing the power of their life-controlling Songs.

Song Quest is an enjoyable fantasy adventure following Rialle, who is sensitive to the singing of the merlee (mermaid people), and Kherron who is angry and independent (he gets into a lot of trouble). There's a strong cast of support characters, from older Singers to crazy pirate-vikings called karchholders.

Rialle is sent along with an older Singer on an important mission to stop the murder of the merlee's children. Kherron just legs it from their home island as he's sick of the Singers' rules. I had a lot of time for Kherron, though he is a bit of a numpty.

The plot develops nice and logically with nothing daft happening for an unexplained reason. It culminates in the traditional final battle that's just a little bit flat for a finale.

The world of Song Quest is intriguing. From the power of the songs the Singers use to the strange creatures of the merlee and quetzal. Some parts, like the society of the karchholders is a little glossed over but any more detail would have bogged down the pace of the story.

All in all it's good exciting fun!

You can get Song Quest for about a fiver.

Cheers,

Mark

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Call Me Drog by Sue Cowing: A Puppet Learns How to Let Go

Call Me Drog is all about a boy called Parker who gets a dancing girl obsessed puppet stuck on his hand. It's as weird as it sounds. But it's also brilliant. Parker (I kept thinking about Thunderbirds too) comes from a broken home, his best friends a girl and he likes drawing. Things aren't looking good for him.

But then he gets a talking puppet stuck to his hand...

Call Me Drog is brilliant, original and funny. Drog is fascinating as a character, is he a magic evil puppet? Is Parker just a bit mental? You'll have to read the book to find out cos I ain't telling. But his relationship with Parker is great. Sometimes I wished he'd be a bit more hardcore nasty but it's a minor quibble.

Parker's perfect for his character. Nothing more to say there.

There's a good range of supporting characters around Drog and Parker and they're all quite believable and interesting. the plot unfolds at a good pace and stuff keeps happening to keep you interested. I ended up reading about a lot of the things mentioned in the book because they were interesting* (not that you have to, to get the book) which is certainly something in favour of it too.

But yeah, weird, original and brilliant!

Call me Drog's out now for about a fiver.

Cheers,

Mark

*I'm not just talking about the dancing girls.

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Bonehill Curse by Jon Mayhew: Just the Djinn and Tonic I Needed

The Bonehill Curse is the third (and supposedly final?) book from the horrific world of Mortlock and The Demon Collector. It follows Necessity Bonehill, fearless tomboy bully, as she sets about unleashing and then trying to rebottle a fearsome Djinni. She romps (in a good way!) across the world on boats and magic carpets, fighting and arguing with annoying boys and the Djinns relentless minions. Eventually she's forced to confronts her true destiny and turns into a nice girl.

Here you'll find Jon Mayhew's usual mix of action, fun and horror. There's also the usual cameos from some of the characters that appeared in Mortlock and The Demon Collector. The story rattles on at just the right pace and for me this was the most enjoyable of the three books; it really captures the essence of a lot of the olden day films that Jon says influenced it.

The only thing I didn't like is that it came in paperback so doesn't match my copies of Mortlock and The Demon Collector.

Go read it.

The Bonehill Curse is available now for about £6.

Cheers,

Mark

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Inferior by Peadar O' Guilin: Superior

The inferior tells the story of Stopmouth a stuttering teenager who belongs to a tribe humans caught in an endless struggle with several alien tribes. Stopmouth is mocked for his stutter by his tribe and his older brother set to marry the girl he loves. Things aren't great for him but he has grown to accept his place in the trivbe. Then things get crazy!

As the human tribe fights with the alien tribes around them giant silver globes float above, serenely. Suddenly the globes start to fight one another, and a beautiful woman falls from one of them. Stopmouth is left having to choose between her and his tribe...while several of the alien tribes form an alliance, somehow they've learned each others language, and they want to kill and eat the humans.

Stopmouth is an engaging character. He does a lot of horrific things throughout the story but so much of it is driven by the culture and environment he lives in you end up liking him despite of it. As the story progresses more and more parts of the puzzle of this culture and environment are provided, more and more hints are given to the true nature of the world he lives in. A world that is horrific. But for all the terrible violent and disturbing things that happen, from the strangest aliens and how they kill you to how Stopmouth's tribe trade the old and weak humans for meat with the alien tribes, each has a point and isn't just there to keep you reading, wondering who dies next.

Though you might wonder that.

The Inferior is a brilliantly imagined horrible world that'll keep you reading for the right reasons. The only drawback I had with it is that I didn't know it was the first in a trilogy so I was quite annoyed by the cliff hanger ending.

The Inferior is out now for about £6.

Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Knife of Never Letting go by Patrick Ness: Sharp

The Knife of Never Letting Go follows Todd as he nears his last birthday before coming a man. Todd is a colonist on a strange world, in a town populated only by men. in this town everyone can hear each others thoughts, it is near impossible to keep something hidden. But Todd finds something that turns his world up-side down and forces him to flee for his life...

I loved this book, Todd is a great character with a fantastic voice. He reads like a space cowboy (not the Steve Miller Band kind). He's fearful, angry and inquisitive and has a sidekick dog that mentions poo a lot.

The general thrust of the story is about discovery and making choices which comes with adulthood. As Todd progresses through it he learns more and more about the world and how he's been misled. How Todd reacts through the book is perfect and completely believable. There's never a point in it where Patrick Ness has been forced to make him or any other character do something out of character to progress the plot. The writing is all good but some of the scenes are brilliantly done, every characters action and emotion is perfect.

It's just brilliant. Read it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go has been around for a while and costs about six quid.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Susanne Collins: Call Me Mr. Picky but...

The Hunger Games books are a real mixed bag for me, so much so that I've struggled to write this review. So I'm going to just list the Good, the Bad and the Ugly things as I see them:

The Good
The Panem World - Generally it's quite good, probably based on Rome I guess. It works well though it has some illogical parts...
Haymitch - Haymitch is the most complicated, interesting and believable character in the books. It's a shame he's usually stuck in a room on his own, away from the action for most of them.
Buttercup - Buttercup is a cat and is probably the next most believable character in the story.
The build up to the first game - it's suspenseful and introduces us to the characters and combatants really well.
Rue - I liked Rue and her big, quiet mate.

The Bad
The second half of book two and all of book three - they descend into illogical weirdness and ever more gratuitous/ridiculous deaths. While reading I spent most of my time wondering why no one built a tank - instant war winner!
Book Three - Katniss barely makes a decision in it. She spends most of it drugged or hysterical. At the end she has a bit of a wander about but ends up shooting a civilian. Should have kept her drugged I guess...
A stripped away atmosphere - in no way was this so planes had to fly low so Katniss could shoot them down with her magic bow of doom.
The magic bow of doom - Katniss gets a magic bow of doom that is awesome. Some other bloke gets a trident that returns to his hand. He dies, he'd have lived if he had been given a tank...
District 2 - It's a really important district as its where they quarry stone. As we all know, stone is vitally important in making planes, guns and highly advanced technology.
The Capitol - Hey! Instead of defending your city with a ridiculous array of traps that might randomly pick off a few people why not build some big flipping guns? Or tanks...
President Snow - Mainly because his breath smelling of blood made me laugh out loud. I just assumed he had really bad gum disease.
Katniss - The only thing Katniss learns in these books is how to weave a net. She's a horrible character who spends her time murdering people and not really caring. Supposedly she has nightmares but I'm not convinced.
The Fat Baker Kid - Annoying.
Handsome Hunting Miner - Annoying.
Prim - how I wished they'd stuck her in the arena.
A tank - better at winning wars than stupid traps.


The Ugly
Katniss - nothing like shooting a civilian and then making a flippant remark about how you're now shooting civilians.
Katniss - for not caring or challenging District 13 for being just as bad as the Capitol. Pretty much everyone on the rebels side is guilty of this. Could have been a really interesting part of the book but might have got in the way of some people getting dissolved in acid while children whipped them with frogs or something. All she seems to care about is her annoying sister and which boy she might end up snogging.
Killing a bunch of kids - killing a bunch of kids at the end for no logical reason. It's the kind of plan a 8 year old would think would work, if he gave it 30 seconds thought...

So from that you'd think I hated it and I sort of did at the end. It's like a cheap takeaway meal, seems to taste good at the time but when you think about it you just regret it and vow never to go back.

I'm not going to link to them because you've probably already read them.

Cheers,

Mark