Posted in books, Uncategorized

Goals Bingo Card

 

Read one book from an author residing in the commonwealth Read one author who identifies as black European or black British Read one book from an author identifying themselves as Black/African American
Read one book from a member of the LGBT+ community. Read one book from an author who ide identifies as a disabled person Read a highlighted author
Read a book from an author originating from an indigenous/first nation community Read one book from my TBR shelve. Read one book from a Kindle sample
Read one book from a Kindle sample Read an arc Read a book published before 2010.
Read a book from 1001 books to read before you die Read one book of literary theory Read one book of literary theory/ criticim

 

Posted in arc, books, reviews

Bear and Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

 

I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.    A family grows in rural Russia.  Their lives are in constant struggle with the natural world which is beyond their control.  They find comfort in a mixture of old ‘pagan’ beliefs and the newer beliefs of the Christian church.   A young woman fights outside pressures to find a path in an ever-changing world.    This world is made up of Vasilisa and her family.  Vasilisa is a young girl who loves folk tales and lives one. Her empathy with the natural and spiritual world makes her the apex of the conflict between old and new beliefs. This book shares the Fairy-tale feel of Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless and the Brothers Karamazov’s (by Dostoyevsky) questioning of spirituality, magic, and religion.  I highly recommend this book.

 

Posted in Book review, Booker prize 2011, books, Uncategorized

Janet Mock Realising Realnes

 

redefining-realness-janet-mock-memoir-available-formats 

A young boy is born to a poor disjointed, displaced black American family. Charles/Janet was moved around, living with different family members at different times of their lives. Janet outlines; their childhood, the abuse that they suffered at the hands of a trusted adult, and the effects of feeling alienated from their own body; its bodily gender and the roles that society ascribes to that male body.  The book explores the effects of several interconnecting, socially defined, identities on a young body.  Mock explores the intersecting effects of; racism, poverty, family breakup/abuse, rigidly prescribed gender norms, and a disconnection between biological and actual gender identity on a person’s body and their understanding of that body. This book explores the life of a troubled child through the mature, experienced eyes of a woman, containing both; the pained innocence of childhood, and the critical understanding of an adult; with neither lens diluting the power of the other.  The childhood trauma/pain is tempered by an adult understanding; without ever being diminished by it.   Even in it’s painful moments, this book is infused with a sort of warmth.  Well worth a read.

 

 

 

 

Posted in arc, Ausralian women writers challenge 2013, Uncategorized

between a wolf and a dog

Between a Wolf and a9781925321111 Dog

Georgia Blain

I am on Scribe’s mailing list.  The book’s intriguing cover made me want to read it. So, I requested a copy from the publisher.  Scribe UK sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This book centres on the life of an extended family. It explores the secrets that one family can contain and the tragedies that occur when those secrets come to the surface.  Through the life of the family matriarch Hilary, the writer explores experiences of loss and  the  consequences of  living through the pain that old age can bring,  exploring the themes of loss, aging and pain.   Her daughter’s, April and Ester, lives allow us to explore the consequences of deception on their sibling relationship and their relationships with the other people within their lives.   Through other characters we see the consequences of white collar crime and distortion.   This book explores the lives of middle class people living lives of quiet desperation and hope.

 

The characters are well drawn and believable.   They live in a thoroughly realistic and credible world.  It is easy to emphasise with their small dramas.   The writing is lyrical.  The descriptions of the terrible weather that the characters are enduring are evocative.   This is an engrossing read which will be the perfect companion on a cold autumnal afternoon by the fire.

Posted in Book review, Uncategorized

solar bones

Solar Bones

Mike McCormacksolar-bones-cropped-cover

Tramp Press

 

The book opens abstractly with a lyrical passage, set out like a poem, describing the location in which the main character lives.  The book opens with a wide camera shot of rural landscape and rural community, doing its thing on an afternoon.  The camera is sent spiralling through this setting, settling for a moment to observe, to focus, before spinning out into a wider focus and moving on to observe another aspect of this world; spinning, spiralling, contracting and expanding until it seemingly comes to rest in a kitchen with our main protagonist, seemingly narrowing it’s focus on his life.  In fact, the camera keeps contracting and expanding its focus; an observation on his own life, leading to an observation concerning the life of his family, before widening focus to explore the world.  Or, on the other hand, beginning with a wide focus lens, our character comments on a thing that has happened in the world before turning the lens back on his own life, his inner thoughts and the life of his family.  The camera continually narrowing and widening its focus, showing connections between the experiences of the humanist individual subject and the wider society.  This means that the book gives the reader a clear picture of both the internal and external world of the 1990s/2000s. This book presents the connection between the inner psychological lives and external social worlds, showing the web of interconnections that connect us to each other and the wider world.  I highly recommend this book.

 

 

 

 

 

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 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, reviews, Uncategorized

Railhead by Philip Reeve Review

Railhead

Philip Reeve

railheadsmall

 

In my last review, I mentioned that one of the positive things about reading the award shortlists was that they encouraged you to read outside of your comfort zone. This is definitely true in the case of the Locus Recommended Reading list.  This is the second book that I would never have read if I hadn’t been reading that list.  I don’t generally read Children’s fiction or YA.  This is especially true if I haven’t heard of the author, or if the author hasn’t written an adult novel.  I would have never read this book. I would have missed out on an extremely enjoyable read.

 

Zen Starling is a Railhead who travels on world crossing trains and steals to survive.  He lives with his sister and disturbed mother in a deprived area of the city. One day when he is carrying out a theft at a high end Jewellers, he finds that he is being followed by a young girl and shadowy older figure. He dodges, trying to avoid them both but is eventually caught by one and rescued by another. I won’t say much more because I then get into spoiler territory and I want you to read this book.

 

This book has all my favourite elements. The work centres on the lives of Railheads that travel these trains often conducting low level crime to survive. It has sentient trains that cross worlds who help those for who they feel sorry and act as graffiti curators keeping the art work that they like while destroying the rest.  It has androids, hive minds made out of bugs, and a shadowy government. What’s more it’s set in a really interesting urban, almost cyberpunk landscape. It deals with the discrepancy between the worlds of rich and poor.  It looks at identity, asking what does it mean to be me and can we ever become someone else.  It asks the questions ‘what does it mean to be human’ and who can we really trust?

 

This book was a really fun, well written read.  It will engross you from the first to last page. The characters are, at once, likeable and nuanced.  The world is wonderfully drawn. For me, it was a five star read.  It’s too early to say yet but I am betting that it will be one of my favourite books of 2016.

Posted in award lists, my awards read, reviews

Deathly moon; second awards review

Seveneves

Neal Stephenson

seven eves

 

The good thing about reading the short/long lists is that it forces you to read books that you wouldn’t normally go anywhere near. Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves is a good example of this.     Neal Stephenson is one of those authors who I would normally avoid.  Firstly, he is a popular author and that always puts me off a writer.  Secondly, because his books are so long. But, it’s on the Locus recommended reading list and so I had to read Seveneves.   I am glad that I did.

 

This is the plot. Earth is going on its own merry way when the moon splinters into several pieces.  Gradually, they notice that the pieces are smashing into pieces and getting very near to Earth orbit.  Scientists begin to fear that one day one piece will hit the earth and send earth into a destructive spiral.  The planet’s leaders join forces to send an arc into space, a group of people who will live on a space station and wait out the dark rain, returning to Earth when it is once again habitable.  The work traces; the preparation for take-off, the political spats that surround that take-off, their life on the station, the splits that emerge, and their final return to earth.

The station prepares.  Its inhabitants are chosen.  They are sent into space.  They quarrel.  Factions emerge.  They battle on social media.  Leaders are chosen and then toppled.  They fight cosmic debris.  The book’s well drawn, believable, characters must fight the Universe and each other to survive.

 

This book is a fun read.  The world is immersive and believable.  It is a world of social media.  It is a world of bloggers.  It is a world of tribes and factions.  It is a world of conspiracies.  It is a world in which people form tribes around strong leaders or strong ideas, creating vicious online battles pitting one tribe against the other in increasingly vicious social media wars. But, it is, also, a world of exposition.    Stephenson spends a lot of time, and pages, explaining the science behind every part of the space station, the universe and the fate of earth. Despite, or perhaps because, of this, Seveneves is an immersive, enjoyable, read.