Posted in award lists, Book review, books, Uncategorized

It was OK

Dark side war by Zachery Brownthe-darkside-war-9781481430357_lg

 

So, I promised you a review of this book and here it is.   First, a caveat, I read this book as part of my awards read.   The good thing about this reading method is that you occasionally find books that really surprise you, surpassing your expectations.  The down side is, that you are just as likely to come across books that simply weren’t written for you.  Books that are written in a writing style/voice that leaves you cold or a genre that you just don’t get on with.   This book falls into the latter camp.   If you like what I call ‘mainstream genre” fiction you will like this book.  But, I prefer books that have a more experimental structure and/or lyrical language style.   So, this book is not for me.

Synopsis

 

“Aliens have conquered Earth, but they haven’t conquered humanity—yet. A young army conscript battles for survival in this action-packed futuristic thriller that will appeal to fans of Halo and Inglorious Bastards.

People used to wonder if we were alone in the universe. Well, we’re not. Not by a long shot. Aliens come in all shapes and sizes, and even the good guys are likely to haunt your nightmares. And oh, you’ll have nightmares, even after you leave the service. If you leave the service.

Devin is a reluctant conscript to an alien-run army: when the Accordance conquered Earth, they said it was to prepare against the incoming alien Conglomeration forces. But as Devin travels to the dark side of the moon for boot camp and better acquaints himself with his so-called allies, his loyalties are increasingly tested. Because the enemy of the enemy is not always a friend. Sometimes…” http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Darkside-War/Zachary-Brown/The-Icarus-Corps/9781481430357

 

Sample Quotes

“I stood at attention. My boots dug into the sad, scraggly patch of open field that was all that remained of what had once been called Central Park, and I remembered standing in the middle of a baseball field here, once. A long time ago.”  Page  1.

 

This book had a diverse range of characters.   The characters represented different ethnic groups.  There were interesting girl/women characters.  The characters had different levels of power/privilege.   They came from different political perspectives and had very different views on how to deal with their alien conquerors.

 

To me, this novel felt disjointed.   It felt like it was divided into 3 distinct sections; each of which opened questions that weren’t satisfactory answered.    The first section, a rebellion narrative, was an interesting look at how earthlings would deal with an alien invasion, asking how many would rebel and who would acquiesce; for what reasons? It would have been interesting to explore these sections further.  But, then we and Devin are whizzed into space and intro the second section of the novel which is set in a kind of boot camp; where earthlings are tested, trained and killed by their alien overlords.  This could have been an interesting look at conquest and how people can fight for their overlords.  It could have been an interesting look at the differing earthlings and how they survive this environment and the social conditions that they found there.  To a limited extent it was. But, that was short.  Since, then we were catapulted into section three and into a tradition alien shoot out; which, I found really boring.

 

As you see from the quote at the beginning of this review, the writing was workaday/mainstream.  Which, while did work as first person narration from a teenage boy and made the work easy to scan, made the text feel boring to a reader who prefers a more lyrical/ experimental form of prose.   To me the professionalism of the writing wasn’t exciting and didn’t feel like the speech of a young boy under stress. Surely, Devin’s speech would have been more fragmented, and less structured.  So, if you like YA type books with fairly diverse characters, set in a dark space landscape, then this book is for you.  But, this book was not for me.

 

Posted in update

The Books left untraveled

 

Well, I’ve been quiet for quite some time.   Blame the heat. Blame a wasp sting that wouldn’t heal up.  Blame Brexit.  Blame my beloved Labour party, currently, breaking my heart on a daily basis.  Blame books that were OK, but nothing to write home about. Blame me for being lazy.  But, now I’m back and have several ideas simmering away in the back ground.  In addition, I have several reviews to write.   But, now the books that I didn’t finish.

 

Firstly, an apology, I was supposed to have posted a review this week.  It was supposed to have been part of the Ravenswood Tours series.  I was supposed to read and review the book “The Best Sunset in Venice” by Julian Padowicz. But, lethargy and idleness, stopped me even thinking about reading it.   In other words, despite all the reminders that I set, I forgot that I had promised to read the book. So, I am going to insert info about it here.

“SYNOPSIS After a prolonged sojourn in Europe, the sixty-something newlyweds, Kip and Amanda return to the coastal village of Venice, Massachusetts.  Kip is accustomed to his bread always landing jam side down, so the retired literature professor is ambivalent about the unexpected success of his new book.  On one hand, he is thrilled more than he dares admit, even to himself.  On the other, he is afraid that it’s all a dream from which he will awake up in bitter disappointment. However, what awaits him on his return are adventures as diverse as being befriended by a thrill-seeking former Green Beret, getting analyzed by a group of partying psychologists, massaged by an outspoken woman colonel in the Israeli Army, and meeting his wife’s very deadly real husband.” (from publisher promo sheet) Find  more at http://ravenswoodpublishing.com/bookpages/bestsunsetinvenice.html or buy  at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Best-Sunset-Venice-Julian-Padowicz-ebook/dp/B01INFY806/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473444254&sr=8-1&keywords=the+best+sunset+in+venice

 

Now to awards reading.  I have read, or attempted to read, several books from the locus recommended reading list over the last few months.  The first book I read was weighing shadows by Lisa Goldstein;

 

“Ann Decker fixes computers for a living and in the evenings she passes the time sharpening her hacking skills. It’s not a very interesting life, but she gets by — until one day she’s contacted with a job offer for a company called Transformations Incorporated. None of her coworkers have ever heard of it before, and when Ann is finally told what the company does she can hardly believe it: TI has invented technology to travel in time.

Soon Ann is visiting a matriarchy in ancient Crete, and then a woman mathematician at the Library of Alexandria. But Transformations Incorporated remains shrouded in mystery, and when Ann finally catches her breath, there are too many troubling questions still unanswered. Who are Transformations Incorporated, and what will they use this technology to gain? What ill effects might going back in time have on the present day? Is it really as harmless as TI says?

 

When a coworker turns up dead, Ann’s superiors warn her about a covert group called Core out to sabotage the company. Something just isn’t right, but before she has time to investigate, Ann is sent to a castle in the south of France nearly a thousand years in the past. As the armies of the Crusade arrive to lay siege and intrigue grows among the viscount’s family, Ann will discover the startling truth — not just about the company that sent her there, but also about her own past.” Back copy blurb  weighing shadows by Lisa Goldstein

This book was interesting but it really failed to grab my attention.  Ann is exactly my sort of character; Geeky, savvy, flawed and insecure.  The start of the novel began well, setting us up for a really gritty cyber punk gem.  But, as the novel progresses, it turns into a time travel novel, reminiscent of Connie Willis. Since, I am not a fan of Connie Willis or time travel stories, I knew that this was going to be a no go for me.  So, we parted company.

 

Well, I am back. So, that’s a good start.  But, I am afraid that It’s not a very positive post.  After all, I am talking about books which I didn’t finish.  But, in the next few weeks, I will talk about books that I did finish and that I have some feelings about.    The next review will be of a book that I finished but didn’t like very much Darkside War by Zachery Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in award lists, awards, Book review, books, Uncategorized

Review- James Bradley- Clade

Clade

James Bradbury

Published January 28th 2015 by Hamish Hamilton

Sample quote

 

“It is quiet out here today, the only sounds that disturb the silence those of the wind, the occasional squalling cry of the birds. Down by the water an elephant seal lies on the rocks, its vast bulk mottled and   sluglike; around it tracks of human activity scar the snow like rust, turning it grey and red and dirty.”  Loc 34- 35

 

Well, at long last, I am back to my award list reading/reviewing.  Clade was on the Locus Recommended Reading list.  But, unfortunately, it didn’t reach the final ballot.   I disagree with this omission.  I really liked this novel. In fact, I predict that it will be one of my books of 2016.  The work is a written evocation of a well-drawn, depressingly, beautiful world, peopled by great characters.    This work, which I am going to call a work of mosaic fiction, is formed of several, interrelated, independent, and interdependent pieces. Each section of the novel follows a different character/s (either; Ellie, Adam, Summer or Noah) tracing the various strata of their shared history.

This work deals with environmental decay, and destruction.  It is an attempt to understand, change and stop that destruction.  It starts with a young Adam surveying the ice fields and noticing the damage that humanity is doing to this setting.  In later sections of the novel, we follow; Adam, Summer, and Noah, racing to escape a storm, in an attempt to escape from the effects of global warming.   In addition, this work focuses on the collapse of bee colonies throughout the globe.  You could say that the destruction of the bee hives foretells the destruction of the human colony.

So, this book looks head on at the damage that we are inflicting on the environment.  But, it is more than; a call to arms, a diatribe, a polemical piece of writing, or depressing mournful cry for humanity.  In fact, it is all of those things and more.  We see that human lives continue, despite the harshness of the times.    The characters aren’t simply signifiers in a political argument.  They are more than place holders, puppets in the authors argumentative polemic.  They are themselves, concerned with their own messy lives.  The characters do live in an Anthropocene world and have to cope with the effects of environmental damage. But, that doesn’t stop them from living.  These characters still; go through the problems of childhood and adolescence, get jobs, get married, have children, quarrel, get divorced and age.   In other words, these characters live full and messy lives.

 

Bradley shows the characters interacting with the world and its inhabitants.  Amir is one of the interesting individuals that we meet along the way.  Ellie meets him when she is exploring the possibility of creating an art instillation around his bees. We learn that Amir is an ‘illegal immigrant’.  Through him we see the horrors, and inhumanity, of the immigration system, both; in our world, and the world presented in the book.

 

As you may be aware, I am disabled.  Therefore, I am always interested when a book includes characters with disabilities.   Noah has Autism.   It is interesting to see how Noah, and his need for uniformity and stability, reacts to an ever changing world.  It is great that, while Bradbury doesn’t shrink from the pain that Autism inflicts on Noah and his family, he doesn’t portray Noah as a victim of this pain.  He gives Noah a narrative arc and a future, even in a world where the cards seems stacked against him.

 

This is a brilliant evocation of a world in decline.  But, it is, also, a world which is full of life, life which is struggling to survive.    It is a beautifully drawn picture of a decaying hopeless, and hopeful, world.  I highly recommend this work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book review, Uncategorized

Review; ALONG THE WHEEL OF TIME SACRED STORIES FOR NATURE LOVERS REV. JUDITH LAXER

 

alongt the wheel4

Extract  from  publishers info

A young woman follows her lover and finds her spiritual calling in the
Autumn realm of the dead; a first-time mother gives birth on the Winter
solstice; a daughter’s grief heals in a Spring garden; a joyous ceremony of mature sexuality celebrates the peak of Summer: these stories and more explore magickal realism in ordinary life. Following the Pagan Wheel of the Year through the experience of the characters,this collection of stories demonstrates how the changing of the seasons is a spiritual model for the soul.

 

The publisher kindly gave me a  copy of  this book  in exchange for an honest review.   This post is part of this books  blog tour.  I  don’t really have a lot to say about this work.  The stories were pleasant reads.  They had a diverse cast of characters.  Many forms of relationships and sexualities  were highlighted.  They were a pleasant heartwarming read. They had a strong message.  But, as stories,  they felt rather insubstantial. In the preface to the work the author says that  this book was written for a specific reason;  

 

“For years, students, congregants and friends have been asking me when I was going to write a book. However, by now so many books on magick-making are available. Does the world need another how-to book on the subject? I didn’t think so. But then it occurred to me I knew of no books of fictional stories that depicted everyday people engaged with nature in a magickal way. .. stories that could enhance sabbat rituals, or help readers connect to nature spiritually. So I began to write them.” (preface)   

 

I  think that may have been the problem.  These stories were slight because  they weren’t stories they were parables.  The characters at times felt like plot points in the narrative rather than fully fleshed out people.  In addition, there was very little jeopardy involved.  Since,  you knew that the character would take the prescribed spiritual path,  The language was workaday and good but you couldn’t call it poetic or lyrical. As you can see from the following extract;

“The blankets were too warm, her pregnant belly too heavy, and its pulling and tugging kept her awake for most of the night. And now, late morning, this spasm in her sacrum told her that her baby was on its way. As she had done a million times before, she imagined her birth canal to be smooth and wide, open and relaxed, but it didn’t seem to ease the tension in her body..” (loc. 112)

 

The author made no attempt to play with form. It reminded me of one of those books that I was given as a Sunday School prize.  Books where the spiritual message came before story or writing.  

 

But,  to be fair,  this book was not written as a literary masterpiece.  As the quote above tells  us, the author intended it to be an introduction to her faith.  So,  let’s  look at it from that perspective. It does offer a fairly useful introduction to paganism, as it operates today.  Each story has an informative introduction. The stories work to illustrate the points made in the introductory text   Therefore, if you want a literary work,  or even a good fantasy,  this is not for you.  But, if you want a spiritual, life affirming introduction to paganism, then you should reach for this book.  It would make a great morning meditational reading.

Posted in award lists, awards

Fox Glove Summer (Ben Aaronovitch) review

Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)

Ben Denis Aaronovitch 

20499240

Two girls go missing from a rural English town.  Peter Grant is sent to that town on a  routine mission  to check up on individuals  with magic powers,  living in the area.   Initially,  his inquiries go no where, finding no connection between these individuals and the missing girls.  But he does  not return to London. Instead, he decides to stay on and help the local police. He gradually gets drawn further and further into the investigation,  finding that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. I won’t go any further than that.  Since, this is a  mystery story and,  therefore,  is easily spoilt.

I have mentioned, in the previous reviews, that reading along with awards encourages you to read outside of your comfort zone. Apologising for  repetition, I have to say that,  I  would have never had  read this book if it hadn’t been for the Locus Recommended long list. I don’t know why, but, I never felt any incentive to read this book. I now have to admit that i was missing out.. This book is a fun read..