Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wolfsangel by M. D Lachlan: Toothless

Boredom is Coming
Recently I've found it tough to read fantasy novels. Game of Thrones seemed derivative and boring. Sexually perverse bad guys that dress in gold; Stoic and stern heroes; A random girl that gets some dragons; A stupid  girl who dreams of being a fairy tale princess; A sword with a daft name; Regular bad descriptions of sex; Implausible buildings that make no sense...

I could go on.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm just not interested in reading about people whose character is illustrated through a description of their armour rather than their thoughts, words and actions. So maybe everything bad I say about Wolfsangel is down to me seemingly not liking fantasy books any more...though character isn't developed in Wolfsangel through armour descriptions.

Wolfsangel is a fantasy story about VIKINGS! How can this go wrong? The cover has a picture of a wolf and some VIKINGS! It's a great cover, it makes me want to pillage.

Unfortunately the first 60 pages of Wolfsangel are weird and confusing. There's head jumping galore, usually to someone who is about to die, there are some weird turns of phrase, 'patrolling witch' was the one I found particularly funny.  I just imagined a bunch of witches on patrol in Vietnam. Why would a witch go on patrol? WHY? There's so much back-story it's shoved into every one of your biblio-orifices. I was on the cusp of chucking the book away.
VIKINGS!

But then it got better. The story jumped to the main characters at a much more interesting point in their lives. One is the adopted son of a king who loves a farm girl. The other is a wild wolf man who spends a lot of the time saying, "I am a wolf" and loves the same farm girl. Ohhhh, tension.

The farm girl gets kidnapped, they both go after her, one of them turns into a werewolf...

It's got an interesting premise. But its major (though not the only problem) is that it suffers from a similar malady to A Game of Thrones. The point of view that the story is told from is so remote and jumps around so much you never make a real emotional attachment to the characters. When they die I just go, 'meh'. If I cared for the characters I could have forgiven it.

But I didn't care for any of them. The finale lacked any kind of tension. Actually the finale wanders back into the same sort of weirdness the the book begins with. It feels like it was a single story that's been fiddled with to make a series.

So if you're a fan of werewolves or weird fantasy that's weird you might want to give Wolfsangel ago. Otherwise I'd try something else.

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Dark Parties by Sara Grant: It's Like Centre Parcs but You can't go on Bike Rides

In the future everyone
gets a lovely frock.
Dark Parties is a dystopian story set some time at the end of this century (I think, I should probably make notes on books as I read them). It follows Neva who lives with her parents in the sinister if oddly named Protectosphere, a ginormous dome that was built after The Terror to protect the people inside. It does this by electrocuting anyone that goes near it.

Neva isn't really happy about her life and is all set to rebel with her friends. Unfortunately snogging her best mate's boyfriend at a 'dark party' (it's a party in the dark) complicates matters. Who'd be a teenage freedom fighter?

Neva is pulled deeper and deeper into the fight by people who want to escape the Protectosphere. She's torn between behaving to stay safe and finding out the truth about the Protectosphere. Things escalate. People betray each other, via snogging and informing. Sinister policemen stalk about in black uniforms and the story generally gets exciting.

And it is an exciting story. But I did wonder about a few things in it like the size of the Protectoshere, population inbreeding, food supplies, and the time setting. Would such a seemingly large population gets genetic convergence/inbreeding in the time period suggested in the book? Though this question has been probably been caused by reading too many books about genetics on my part.

The characters are believable/interesting/likable/horrible, as humans should be. Neva is complex, her best friend is annoying, her dad tries to protect her and make her conform and her torn mum is torn. It also has a good gender balance for the goodies and baddies. Yes, some of the baddies are women! Not many but you know, some is better than none.

The ending was a bit annoying as it didn't answer most of the questions I had and lumped a good few more on top. So I hope there is sequel in the offing as I want answers! And seeing as I care and want answers I'm going to conclude it was quite good. I've started reading quite a few YA books in a similar vein recently and most of them I didn't get past the 100 page. The characters or story bored me. But I liked the characters in Dark Parties and liking them helped me keep my disbelief about the big dome suspended. And I really want to know the crazy idea behind building that big dome.

Dark Parties is out in about a month for about £7.

Cheers,

Mark


Friday, 11 November 2011

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall by Paul Torday: In Which Posh People's Lives Change

What's it all about?
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall is a book I don't understand. I don't mean it's in French, I just don't get it. I think there's some point it might be trying to make but, to me, it just boils down to some posh people, the kind that call their parents mummy and daddy even though they're middle aged, having to alter their lives.

I suppose my main problem with it is that happens in the book doesn't really match the blurb. I feel hoodwinked! The blurb says,

"Ed Hartlepool has been living in self-imposed exile...he must return to his ancestral seat, Hartlepool Hall...But can Ed save his inheritance without such a drastic move[selling the hall]?"


So, the first part happens, Ed returns to his ancestral home but the second part, nothing like that happens. Ed just wanders about worrying, reading the paper, looking at lots of food and not trying to save his home. Maybe its about his inability as a posh bloke to cope with modern ways and how you don't need an enormous house and cash to be happy. Or something.


It's written well enough, but I just didn't get it.


The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall is out on the 5th of January 2012!


Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Politics of Down Syndrome, by Kieron Smith

Disclaimer: Kieron Smith is my uber-boss at work! I'll try to keep the sycophancy to a minimum.

 So The Politics of Down Syndrome is a non-fiction book looking at how down syndrome is addressed throughout society. I'll admit I got the book because my boss wrote it, but you could have probably guessed that by the sparsity of reviews of other non-fiction books on here.

The opening chapter jumps around a little as if the author is trying to get a handle on the subject. After that it breaks down into five chapters that are well written, with the right amount of detail to make a point but not bog you down. There isn't reams of technical or medical details just a well thought our discussion on down syndrome.

The public health and education policy chapters are particularly illuminating and left me both quite depressed and angry. I was left with the feeling that the major problem anyone with down syndrome suffers from is one forced on them by government and society.

This is an interesting, thought provoking read for anyone, particularly prospective parents.

The Politics of Down Syndrome is available now for about £7.

Cheers,

Mark

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier: Airy

Mmmm, dreamy
The Floating Islands has a beautiful cover, an elegant island floating above the sea, all soft and lovely. That's pretty much why I bought it, I've been obsessed with floating islands since I watched the Studio Gihbli film 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky' as a kid.


The story inside matches the cover well. The pace is slow and it feels quite dreamy, none of the action feels really threatening not even when a war kicks off. The protagonists, Trei and Araene (obligatory weird names in fantasy book, probably not enough apostrophes to be honest), are believable and interesting characters who experience quite a lot of hardship in a short space of time but none of it really disadvantages them too badly and some of it is quite beneficial.


Both have their dreams, Trei to become a Kajurai, a flying man with a lovely pair of wings and Araene a cook. Ok, so maybe becoming a cook isn't that exciting but she doesn't become a cook. But there is lots of talk about food and spices. Lots. Reading this made me endlessly hungry. I put on 2 stone.


There are dragons and wizards and things but they are nicely different to your normal fantasy goblin-o-rama book. There's a war for no apparent reason and the bad guys are probably the most stereotypical and disappointing part of the story. Honourable soldiers that are honourable no matter what, even when hundreds or thousands of their own innocent citizens are slaughtered. None of them go a bit venegance crazy.


So if you're looking for a dreamy fantasy story with lots of descriptions about food, some dragons and grumpy masters and disobedient pupils this book is for you.


The Floating Islands has been around for ages and costs about a tenner.


Cheers,


Mark

Sunday, 25 September 2011

How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee: He Deconstructs Himself

How I Escaped My Certain Fate is a must read for anyone with an interest in:


  1. Stand up comedy.
  2. Stewart Lee.
  3. Wool.
It's sort of autobiographical walk-through of  3 stand-up routines Stewart Lee toured after the Jerry Springer Opera got choked to death by religious controversy and gits. Each routine is prefaced with a description of what was going on in Stewart's life before and during the tour so that you can see how these events influenced his material. 

Then the gig is transcribed. And with the transcription comes the footnotes. 70%+ of this book is footnotes. Stewart (I like writing Stewart, it's like I know him...(STALKER)) goes into great detail explaining jokes, influences, what he's trying to achieve and any other thing that occurred to him while writing out the gig text. It gives an amazing insight into the work that goes into stand-up comedy (some of it anyway).

At the end of the book there's a section of small apendices that cover some random, interesting things. Even a poem!

How I escaped My Certain Fate is an interesting, funny read. It costs about £12.



Cheers,

Mark 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Exodus, by Julie Bertagna: Sea Change

I've missed the boat on this one.
Exodus is an end of the world environmental adventure, think The Road with a girl, more boats and less no cannibalism. It follows the adventures of Mara Bell who lives with her parents and younger brother in a village on an island in the sea. And that's all they know. Their island and the sea, all the other land has been flooded as global warming ravages the world.

The the sea hasn't stopped rising. It is threatening to wipe them all out.

Mara persuades the islanders that they need to leave the island before it is washed away. They set off looking for  a futuristic city and refuge. Things go wrong, the future isn't as bright as it seems and Mara is left struggling to find her why through the flooding world and remnants of humanity.

Exodus is an exciting and thought provoking read. As a main character Mara is interesting and believable though I'm not sure I really liked the working in of a kind of prophesy around her. Men in the story generally get a hard time, basically we're to blame for everything wrong and only strong women and nice to everyone. But maybe I'm just a paranoid misogynist.

The pace is a little slow to begin with but the story picks up and leads to some interesting scenes and characters. The refugee boat village is particularly horrific. There's a slightly strange love story worked in which seemed a bit like it was stuffed in to keep someone happy. As the climax is reached it does start to feel a bit hurried. There is one incident with Mara where she does something pretty terrible, especially for a girl that has lived a fairly idyllic life on an island for the most part, after a bit of shock she fine. There's emotional toughness for you. It ends in a slightly unsatisfactory 'we're going for the series' ending that left me a bit flat.

But also wanting to read the next one. So I guess it works. The review reads a bit negative but the book is very enjoyable and the niggles I've listed are only minor.

Exodus is around for about £4. It's been out for literally years.

Cheers,

Mark

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mortlock, Jon Mayhew: It had my Guts for Garters

Full of guts.
Sorry for the long break, we moved house, as you might know if you read our blog about writing. So here is the next book review, there should be quite a few coming up as even though we haven't been reviewing we've been reading!

Mortlock is the spooky horror tale, the first book by Jon Mayhew (the second is The Demon Collector that I reviewed down below). To be honest when I say the word Mortlock I think or Grandpa Simpson. But that's Matlock. Matlock Mortlock; Mortlock Matlock. I'm not sure what I'm going on about either.

It follows the adventures of two orphaned twin children, Josie and Alfie, left a message by Josie's dying guardian to find the Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Chased by three ghuls, hideous women/giant crows that enjoy tearing out people's guts when not chasing the children, Josie and Alfie find their list of allies shrinking and their enemies growing.

Josie and Alfie are great characters to follow. Josie is a dead-eye knife thrower from her time working as a magicians assistant and Alfie can raise the dead for reasons that are revealed in the book (I'm not going to tell you. Stop asking!). But their enemies, the ghuls, really make the book. You'll never look at a crow in the same way again. Those beady eyes watching you.

Waiting.

Waiting to eat your guts.

Mortlock is an exciting, scary, gory read. Kids'll love it.

Mortlock can be found for about a fiver.

Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 8 July 2011

Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch: Beware the Magical Copper when the Moon is Fat

At one point the main characters bare
bottom is exposed over Soho...
Moon Over Soho is the follow-up to Rivers of London, continuing the adventures of Peter the Magical copper. After vanquishing a magical puppet he's all set to learn something more impressive than making a small glowing light from his old but young master Nightingale. Unfortunately something evil stalks the streets of Soho and it isn't one of those blokes painted silver. It's a jazz monster. That's jazz monster. With an 'a'.

Moon Over Soho fits in nicely after Rivers of London, the information needed for any new reader who didn't read the first book is worked in fairly unobtrusively to the story. Peter has learnt a few more magical tricks that make him slightly more dangerous to the things that go bump in the night. A strange thing I did spot was that the beginning was quite Apple (as in the evil tech company) heavy in products. But after haranguing the poor author on twitter about it he admitted to not using Apple and promised to destroy 2 apple products in the next book. You can't say fairer than that. What really interested me about all the i-products being used was how it (probably) inadvertently fixed the story in a certain time period.

The story rolls along (like old man river, is that jazz? Probably not...) just as well as the first book, as Peter operating fairly independently tries to track down the jazz monster that is killing musicians. Unfortunately the expose to so much jazz gives him the horn, distracting him from his job and towards voluptuous Simone who spends a lot of time eating cakes.

The only real problem I had with the book was the ending which seems to set the story up to be continued as a series (which isn't a bad thing in itself) and lacked a nice copperly justice conclusion. But if it did have a copperly justice conclusion I'd have probably complained it was derivative. So in conclusion, I liked the continuation of the tales of a magical copper.

Moon over Soho costs about £7 for the hardback.

Cheers,

Mark

Friday, 1 July 2011

A Tangle of Magicks: First Chapter Preview

You can see the first chapter of A Tangle of Magicks here in a try before you buy styleeeee! check it out then preorder the book.

I COMMAND YOU!

Mark

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire by Andy Stanton: There's Only One thing You want to Know...

Ban this mad lunacy!
Is it funny?

I laughed so hard my eyes exploded.

Well if you want to know more, it's a daft nonsense of a plot weaved around insane characters with the kind of voice that should be locked up or burnt as a witch.

Get a Mr Gum book for your kids. They'll love it.

Cheers,

Mark

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Truth About Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne: It isn't that She's Ginger

Ok, she is ginger.
How much can I say about 'The Truth About Celia Frost'? It's a tricky one as the story does take some unexpected twists. Celia has a rare blood disorder which means her blood won't clot. Or at least that's what she thinks. After getting cut at school it soon becomes apparent that Celia isn't bleeding to death and the next thing she knows she's on the run with her mum.

Celia is left with lots of questions and a mum that won't answer them. Their relationship starts to deteriorate and Celia spends all her time with a new friend, Sol. But people are looking for Celia and her mum and they aren't going to help make her all better.

'The Truth about Celia Frost' is an interesting mix of several genres. I really didn't expect it to take the turn that it which was a good surprise. Celia and her mum are really well drawn and their relationship is interesting, funny and sad. The other characters, from Celia's friend Sol to the gangs that rove the streets are all well done.

The only little complaints I had was that a couple of times there was an a event that didn't ring true. The first one involves a landlord and so tiny it probably doesn't really matter and is more to do with my pickiness. So I'm not going to explain unless people really want me to.

The second one is the ending didn't really tie up some of the deeper underlying issues to do with the story. Where as Celia and her mum come out of the story in a better place some of the things that happened around their life are forgotten at the end and I'd have liked there to have been some resolution to them.

Overall a book with an unexpected story that was enjoyable, funny and exciting.

'The Truth About Celia Frost' is out on 1st of August and you can get it for about £5.24

Cheers,

Mark

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Grey Wolves by Robert Muchamore: Good Idea, but Poor Execution.

Maybe should have been called 'Concrete Pourers'
I was really looking forward to Grey Wolves. When I was young I read lots of Commando comics and and had a great book called 'Adventure Stories for Boys' that was pretty much crazy war stories. Grey Wolves looked set to take me back to that awesome part of my childhood. But this time it would be a bunch of young teenage spies taking on the unstoppable march of the Nazis, how could it go wrong?

Well it's a bit dull and the characters aren't really likeable. There's nothing like infiltrating Nazi occupied France just so you can build submarine pens and sit about in bars getting drunk. Booze leads to inevitable fights but happily all the teenagers have been trained by some Japanese bloke and are invincible in unarmed combat.

The final nail in the 'I didn't enjoy this' coffin was the amount of mistakes. Nonsensical sentences and spelling mistakes litter the book. At one point two communists enter a room but three leave.It all gave it the feel of being rushed out to meet a deadline rather than been given the attention it needed.

Which is a real shame because I'd have loved a good war time spy romp and I expect kids would too.

If I haven't put you off you can get Grey Wolves here for a few quid.

Cheers,

Mark

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A Tangle of Magicks, by Stephanie Burgis: Don Your Pelises! Propriety is About to Take a Magical Beating

Kat's Back!
Kat Stephenson is back in 'A Tangle of Magicks', going where all non-magical 12 year Regency period girls fear to tread! Not only does she has to contend with an older sister who is chasing the biggest cad in the country but something is brewing at the Roman Baths in, er, Bath and I don't mean a sneaky fart.

Propriety be damned!

Usually I find the second book in a series a bit like a film sequel. It's just not as good. But this time things are better. Kat's getting into more trouble due to her unladylike ways, there are some great new characters and the setting is intriguingly weird and weirdly intriguing. What dark powers luck in the Roman Baths and why do they make the water smelly like sulphur?*

There's a great finish that'll satisfy all jingoistic Englishmen and a bit of soppy romance for the girls.

Hurrah!

'A Tangle of Magicks' is out on the 1st of August and will cost about £7-ish.

Cheers,

Mark

*It's not people farting. Honest.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Private Affair, Lesley Lotto: Guest Review by Becky D

The story focuses on army lives and army wives (please excuse the rhyming I just couldn’t resist!) and the narrative jumps from the present day to the characters’ pasts. The book revolves around four main female characters and their various spouses and friends, most are married or involved with British army officers and the action takes place around the world following the women and their husbands as they go on tour.

Each lead; Abby, Sam, Megan and Dani, is given a background story by the author which is revealed over the progression of the book which gripped me and the sudden change in character being written about did pull me in to keep reading to find out the fate character. Although I did enjoy the almost mystery-book quality this gave the book because of the number of characters it did make for a bit of a long windy book and parts of the back story seemed to be put in for no reason and some events lacked explanation with the reader left to guess at what happened and why. This is an interesting way to tell a story to use your own imagination and not have every detail spelt out for you. However, I felt that it left me simply hungry for answers and feeling a bit let down by the author.

The book follows each of the women to show how they came to be involved with their army husband or boyfriend and the impact on their lives, and eventually how they come together in one place with the exception of Dani. Her storyline although connected by another character at one point in the book seems to have been added as something of a separate to the rest and could in all honest be lifted out without affecting the book.

From the start of the book you feel the author is building to some sort of head and through viewing the lives of these women I did begin to get invested in what the event would be and what would happen to the characters. Which is why I was slightly disappointed by the sudden and rather swift end that almost seem to come out of nowhere and ended a bit too abruptly with only a short final chapter to tie up a few loose ends.
All in all a pretty good read and one I would recommend for a holiday read for the beach but I would have liked a less rushed ending.


You can get it here.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves, Helen Moss: The Famous Five get Modernised and Rationalised

The seagull did it.
The Mystery of the Whistling Caves. Even the cover looks famous five-y. But in this story the ginger beer and 'Gosh!'s have been done away with along with one of the the girls. The dead weight's been cut! The kid's are a slightly grumpy teenage boy with floppy hair and a band, Scott; his younger, annoying brother, Jack and the adventurous tomboy, love interest girl, Emily and her dog Drift.

Soon they are on an adventure trying to find out who's stolen Saxon treasure from the local museum and why the amazing local landmark, the whistling caves, have stopped whistling. They sleuth it out by talking to obligatory gossipy lady, old fisherman bloke and a bunch of other suspicious characters.

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves is good, especially if you like a mystery/adventure style book. It grates a few times with the 'cool' references it contains, like the Bohemian Rhapsody playing curate of the local church. But it's enjoyable, fun and funny story.

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves is available to preorder and out in July

cheers,

Mark

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Demon Collector, Jon Mayhew: The Reading of Which Gave Me Riddle Envy

Something about the cover says EVIL
Firstly, The Demon Collector is a great looking book. I've got the hardback, all that's available at the moment also available as an eBook, and it has an evil grinning demon skull on the fiery front and has black-edged pages. It seems to be bursting with demonic power.

The Demon Collector follows the adventures of Edgy Taylor, a boy whose first job is collecting dog poo. But Edgy is no normal dog poo collector, he can see demons. He draws the attention of the Society of Daemonologie and in particular Envry Janus.

Soon they are investigating the whereabouts of a particular arch-demon, while Edgy is stalked by other demons, only keeping ahead due to his prowess at answering riddles. Riddles are like 'the force' for demons.

The Demon Collector rattles along at a good pace and things get a lot more complicated as it develops, much more than you'd think given the black and white slant the world is given at the start. It's good to read a book like this where things aren't so easily divided into good and evil.

I just wish I could come up with a riddle...

What has an ear but is as deaf as a post,
Can be found on your feet when you've walked the most?

See, I'm rubbish at making up riddles.

The Demon Collector is available now for about £7.

cheers,

Mark

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro: Damn it We're So Evil!

Never Let Me Go is such a good book it left me depressed for one whole day. Damn you Kazuo Ishiguro for making me feel emotions about people that don't exist! It's about a group of children, three in particular, growing up in a strange school in slightly alternative UK and their lives in the years afterwards.

The main story follows these three kids and the relationship between them but what it really made me think about was justification. How people are sometimes willing to justify anything if it suits there own ends. And that's what got me depressed. But I'm fine now and on to 'The Demon Collector' by Jon Mayhew and 'The Mystery of the Whistling Caves' by Helen Moss. Nothing depressing in kids' books. Apart from 'My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece'...sniff.

Never Let Me Go has been out for ages, they've made a film of it and everything, but if you haven't read it you can get it for a just over 3 quid here. Or just borrow it from a library.

Lauren will probably make me watch the film now so she can laugh when I get some 'grit in my eye'. Damn it!

Cheers,

Mark

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Death's Shadow, Darren Shan: More Rancid, Bubbling Flesh than a Kebab Shop

I don't fancy yours much.
Death's Shadow is the 7th book in Darren Shan's Demonata series. I didn't know this when I ordered it, I just thought, "People keep talking about how gory these kid's books are, I'd better check one out." so when I got it and noticed that it was the 7th, I thought I wouldn't understand what the hell was going on. But I read it anyway as I wanted to see if anyone gets peeled by a demon in it. There should be more demons peeling people in books.

Fortunately it seems that the series isn't weighed down by an over complicated back story. In fact it's basically a bunch of magical people fight demons, hoping to stop them destroying the world. In particular it is told from the viewpoint of a druidess, Bec,  who died in a cave yonks ago and has just recently (probably the last book if I'm any judge) inhabited the body of a boy who more recently died in the cave. She starts hanging around with the cool magical people and then stuff happens.

But Dazzler's (as his Essex mates call him, if he has any)  simple formula is effective when married with the skips of gore and violence he throws at the reader. Just 50 pages of back-story and exposition, then the werewolves turn up. From then on it's demons, zombies, werewolves...etc trying to eat as many eyes and thighs as they can. They really like going for the eyes.

The gore aside I found it a bit (woolly liberal mode on) worrying that the good guys spend a lot of time torturing demons trying to find out about their new and mysterious enemy. Fair enough you've been saving the world for the last few millennia this way but maybe if you changed tactics and tried to get the weaker, bullied demons on your side you could gain the final victory. Or maybe that is tried in one of the earlier books and didn't go well.

Anyway, ignoring my conscience, Death's Shadow is an enjoyable gory romp through a horde of demons and is so bloody you'll need to wrap yourself in plastic before opening it. You might want to read the first six first though.

You can get Death's Shadow for about £4. The Other books in the series are:


  1. Lord Loss
  2. Demon Thief
  3. Slawter
  4. Bec
  5. Blood Beast
  6. Demon Apocalypse
And  some others that come after Death's Shadow I guess. All can probably be found here.

Cheers,

Mark

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney: Oops, Forgot the Funny Title

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is about a kid trying to cope with being at school. Easy to read, funny and punctuated with cartoons this is a great light read for kids. There are lots of little sub-plots from hallow'en to chasing kids with worms, all woven around the relationship of the protagonist and his odd, odd best mate.

The rest of the review will be a cartoon in it's honour:


Diary of a Wimpy Kid is everything my cartoon is not. You can get it for about £4.

Cheers,

Mark

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason: Not The Rejects

The Lost Books of The Odyssey is a series of 'missing' sections from the original, brilliant, story. They are a mix of extra little adventures that Odysseus goes on, different tellings of parts of the story and revelations into how the Odyssey actually came about.

The stories range from introspective suffering of Odysseus, to funny twists as he outwits someone, to how the Odyssey is a complete invention by someone featured in it. These are the ones I really love, particularly one called Fragment which doesn't fill a page but is a intriguing idea and Blindness which made me consider the story in a completely different way.

The author has a knack of coming up with interesting twists to stories and it is quite amazing how many variations he comes up from just one base story.

If you like the Odyssey you'll love this book.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey is out now for about £11

Cheers,

Mark

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

P-p-p-p-p-p-pancake Day: A History and Demonstration

Pancake Day is celebrated across the UK at the beginning of March. It always falls on a Tuesday but the exact day is decided by the High Lord Viking of York, which, sadly, is just a ceremonial title these days.

Vikings duel for the right to flip the first pancake.
Pancake Day dates back to the 'Time of Vikings'. The vikings, once they had pillaged a monastery for its sugar and lemons, would celebrate with crazy amounts of mead and pancakes. Eventually the vikings stopped pillaging and settled in parts of the British Isles. They showed the locals the method of making their pancakes and since then the day has been celebrated every year.

Some people believe pancakes were the secret to the vikings formidable fighting prowess. There are several accounts, including one by the Venerable Bede, have viking warriors going berserk and slaying dozens of enemies just to recover their pancake batter.

Today I made pancakes for the first time since I was a boy. Back then I used bread instead of flour and they were disgusting. since that time I have felt the shame of all vikings looking down on me from Valhalla and laughing.

But today I tried again!

Welcome to Valhalla!
They were OK but the batter was a bit thick so they were closer to American pancakes (the history of which can be traced to the first Vikings to Land in North America). But never-the-less I think I have pleased the viking gods.

Now I can no longer move and am desperately trying not to fall asleep. Just like a true viking.

I didn't follow this pancake recipe closely enough. A full photographic record of my pancakes can be found here.

Enjoy your pancakes.

Mark

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Double Life of Cora Parry by Angela McAllister: Feminist Oliver Twist with an Absinthe Finish

Pity Cora Parry, her adopted-mother is struck by lightning and turned to ash (Really? I mean I'll suspend my disbelief and kept reading but, really? Has this ever happened?). Cora ends up in London and is adopted as a thief's apprentice.
Cora is torn between what is right and surviving. unable to tell her new friends, a boy and his monkey, who work in a pawnshop the truth about her life Cora invents Carrie, an alter ego who is responsible for all the bad things she does.
The invention of Carrie puts a strain on Cora's mental state culminating in a rather strange final six chapters which makes me wonder if I drank some absinthe before reading them. It is weird.
But if I ignore the lightning strike of doom and weird ending  'The Double Life of Cora Parry" is lively and well paced with some really well drawn characters. The feeling of desperation and collapsing mental state the author develops in Cora are done very well. Maybe this is why the ending is so strange, Cora was just too deep into her problems to escape them in a happy ever after way that wasn't odd.

The double life of Corra Parry is out now for about a fiver.

Mark

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Grudge: Scotland vs. England by Tom English: A Story About Scotland Winning

Doesn't Will Carling look smug?
I like rugby. I like watching little men running around big men and making them look silly. I like watching big men running over the top of little men in revenge. I like wondering about all the unseen cheating and nasty things that are said in the scrum. Rugby is good. This book is all about rugby, in particular the 1990 5 Nations match between Scotland and England. And a bit about poll tax and Margaret Thatcher (horrible woman).

It is a very good book, Tom English has spent a lot of time with all the players and coaches involved and covers their history and what made them the people they are. It then establishes the scene the match is played against, with a Tory government (booooooo!) using Scotland as a testing ground for  the Poll Tax. You even get a little bit about the ref. It's all very interesting especially if you are like me and old enough to remember the match but didn't realise the importance it gained in the media at the time.

The Grudge is for sale now for about £7.

cheers,

Mark

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Wasted by Nicola Morgan: Not as Many Drunks as I Expected

Wasted, a book about luck and fate. Two teenagers meet and the course of their life together is decided on the flip of a coin. At each spin something good or bad can happen, for all but one flip the choice is made for the reader. But for that final flip, the one with everything hanging on it, you'll need a coin.

Wasted is an enjoyable read. Pretty much every character in it is well drawn, from the teenagers Jess and Jack to the cat Spike. Though I felt Jess's dad was a bit 2D, but he's not in it much so it could have been from lack of text time (I just made that up).

Jess is a 17 year old girl trying to decide what to do with her future, wanting to go to music college but feeling held back by her mum. Jack is 18, plays in a band and needs a lead singer urgently and so their worlds collide.

Around them are various other characters, the rest of the band, Jess's alcoholic mother, Jack's tolerant dad, a gang of evil slappers. Each of them have a role to play in influencing Jess and Jack's life directly and indirectly. That is one of the great strengths of the book, how it shows things can indirectly affect you. For all the worry that Jack, Jess and everyone else does the events that have the most affect on them are the ones they couldn't compensate for.

As I said it is an enjoyable read. the story moves along nicely though there were a couple of points were it went on a little too much about the difficulty with making a decision/guessing an outcome or how dangerous Jack was.

Definitely worth a read though. And the band in it has a great name. The cat is the most realistic cat in literature I've read about as well. There should be some kind of prize for that.

Wasted by Nicola Morgan is a YA (if you are into categories) and costs about a fiver.

You will really need a coin before the end of it.

cheers,

Mark

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Most Evil Characters Ever?

Having finished Blood Meridian over the weekend I spent a bit of time thinking about it. I spoke to my brother who has also read it and he said the character, Judge Holden, is one of the most (if not most) evil character he has read about.

A violent murderer and child killer, probably paedophile and guilty of lots of other heinous acts the judge is despicably evil. The worst in a group of bad men.
Who challenges him for sheer evilness? Who are the most evil characters in fiction (The League of Extraordinary Cads!)?

Judge Holden on Wikipedia

Blood Meridian if you want to read the gruesome rapes and murderings!

Cheers,

Mark

Monday, 10 January 2011

A Poor Record of Posting

There doesn't seem to be much time to post anything at the moment. Lauren has some library job interviews coming up before going away to Singapore. I'm, er, not sure where my time is going. Probably sleep and the work Christmas party. But here is a lovely couple of pages to see the most popular books on The Book Depository in 2009 and 2010.


At the work Christmas party I danced badly and managed to fit a pickled egg into my mouth and eat it in one go. That was my first ever pickled egg. And probably last.