Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

I've had Lies on my bookshelf for a while now and in a way, I regret not reading it sooner...but having said that, I'm pleased that I've taken my time to get to it.

It is luscious. Full bloodied. High adventure and thrilling.

One criticism though: dammit, write the other books!

The main character Locke Lamora is a well thought out, independent, and intriguing character. He leads the band of Gentleman Bastards. He also happens to be the Thorn of Camorr. Against his will. But this is not the end of his problems. It is only just beginning.

It is so very easy to see how this set of books can be turned into a very lucrative movie. Several, in fact. But I sincerely hope it doesn't, because no one but Johnny Depp will be able to play Locke and we definitely don't want things to hark back to Capt. Jack Sparrow. Locke is vastly different. And much more fun.

It smacks of daring-do and excitement, of crime-lords and vile deaths, poisons, bondsmages. In fact, I think Mr. Lynch sat at his desk with an entire set of characters drawn up from several RPG games and threw them into the mix to make the story work. And ye gods, it does. Hearteningly so.

If you've read either Robin Hobb, Fiona McIntosh, James R R Martin's books, the Bastard sequence of books will be for you. It's new, it's exciting, it's being written by a very talented chap who deserves all the medals and honours that can be heaped on him for rejuvenating a slightly flagging genre.

Go. Go buy it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Belshazzar's Daughter, Barbara Nadel

I have had this one sitting on my bookshelf for a little while now, since before the trip to Greece back in August. I regret not reading it before now. It is incredibly well written, tightly plotted with memorable characters and a gripping storyline. And the fact that it is set in Turkey, Istanbul and deals very interestingly with the murder of an elderly Jewish man in a less than savoury area of the city, is but one part that gripped me. Overtures of Nazi-ism ran amock through the book, it focussed on destructive relationships, obsession, love and strong willed people doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I surprised myself by enjoying this book so much that I didn't want it to end. I dragged it out, re-reading certain descriptions over again, and googling the places mentioned.

I think this will translate fantastically well into a Indie movie as it is a close, personal and very private sort of book with characters that enchant and repulse in equal measure. It also revels in the fact that you should not pigeon hole people, especially slightly drunk bad tempered policemen. Barbara Nadel did a sterling job with this one - I've just stuck her details into Amazon and am genuinely pleased that there a few more novels of hers to read.

Definitely...ten out of ten!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blood is the new Black,Valerie Stivers

If you've read The Devil Wear's Prada, or seen the movie adaptation thereof, or watched Mean Girls and loved Buffy, then you'll like this. It is a good, fun and a quick read. For something that was brainstormed in a few hours and then given to Valerie Stivers to write, it is a fun romp through the unusual world of the world of magazine-life, through the eyes of the main character.
She very soon discovers that the people who run the magazine are all vampires and that they can move around during the day, can cope with sunlight, and that they all ove "product."
Yes, you can only be a vampire if you are tall, skinny, pretty and enjoy shopping. This is the people they choose to "turn." The more you shop, the Tasty-er you are. It is a ridiculous spin on the old vampire stories. I am pleased I did not pay full-price for this, as it certainly isn't worth the £6.99 it is retailing for.
Think carefully, when buying this. It is cashing in on the new chick/horror/supernatural lit genre that is happening...and it is a sad imitation of all of these individual genres.
3 out of 5.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Random Decision

I have decided, besides all the studying that I will be doing next year to complete the first part of my Diploma in Surveying Practice, I am about to set a challenge to myself. One that will have FG groan in his soul and the people at Waterstones and Amazon giggle and clap with glee.

I will be listing down every single book I am reading - be they reviewed on here or not - for the year 2008. I would like to see exactly how many books I go through. Even if they are books for studying.

It will be an interesting exercise and one I am keen on fulfilling.

I will be using this site to keep a track of them - and have in fact already set up an extra bit of space for it.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sacrifice by SJ Bolton

I have to say one thing about this novel: it is gripping! Thanks to a lovely young lady at Transworld I got a bookproof to read through in advance of the book being published. And I am really pleased that I had. I will be buying copies to give to friends to read, it is that compelling and utterly un-put-downable.

Set in the mysterious and far-away Shetlands the story follows the discovery of a body in the peat by a young woman - what follows is a detective, forensic thriller along with some anthropological bits thrown in, an ancient legend to boot - it has all the makings of a best seller and I cannot wait for the book to go "live" to see it on the best sellers lists.

The author's worked hard on this novel, by all accounts, and it shows. It's polished and an accomplished thriller. Definitely five out or five for this one.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dead Men's Boots, Mike Carey

What an incredibly ripping yarn. I became a fan because of the Constantine novels...and then picked up the first Felix Castor novel which was fun, scary and introduced a very real and fun character, full of problems and past failures.
I think what makes this works is the fact that it is set in London, the slightly unsavoury side of things, which makes it real - there's a court case with a dodgy judge, there are immortal spirits who have found a way to live is involved and intense and in the end, quite a bit of a bite in the tale - getit?
Before he died, Castor's fellow exorcist John Gittings made several calls asking for help and if Castor had answered them, John might still be alive. So when a smooth-talking lawyer comes out of nowhere to claim the remains, Castor owes it to John's unhappy ghost and even more unhappy widow to help out. If only life were that simple. A brutal murder in King's Cross bears all the hallmarks of an American serial killer supposedly forty years dead, and it takes more good sense than Castor possesses not to get involved. He's also fighting a legal battle over the body - if not the soul - of his possessed friend, Rafi, and can't shake the feeling that his three problems are related. With the help of the succubus Juliet, paranoid zombie data-fence Nicky Heath and a little judicious digging, Castor just might have a chance of fitting the pieces together before someone drops him down a lift shaft or rips his throat out. Or not...

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Religion by Tm Willocks

I started on this about 2 days ago and am utterly enchanted. It is so well written by someone who clearly loves what he is doing. His research shows in suble ways and I have yet to find an information dump so blatant and boring it wants to make you pluck out his hair.
The main character, Mattias, reminds me strongly of the character created by Louis L'Amour in The Walking Drum. In fact, if there was to be a follow up novel for the Walking Drum, I would suggest Tim Willocks should apply. He writes with an easy and engaging grace. His characters are palpable and real and funny and genuinely surprising.
I really look forward to reading the rest of the book and will report back!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wanna be a writer?

I have got a large bookshelf stocked with writing reference books, from Stephen King to Terry Brooks to various Writers Digest books, Orson Scott Card and Lisa Tuttle. On various subjects - middles, ends, characters, dialogue, structure - and so on.

But none of them are as funny and rib-crackingly hilarious as Wanna be a writer by Jane Wenham Jones. I picked this up a few weeks ago and am planning to buy it for all and sundry - even those friends of mine who do not write.

If you've ever wondered, as a non-writer / non-potential writer, what it takes to sit down behind a laptop or desktop computer, or if there are pitfalls to being a writer (such as writers butt), or why some potential or existing writers tend to be able to sit for ages, staring off into the distance with a vapid expressions, then this is the book to solve all those mysteries and then some.

Packed from cover to cover with clever advice, intelligent and pertinent comments for modern writers, this is a true treasure of a book. It inspired me to pack myself off to my local Waterstones' cafe to sit and write, which I did. Several short stories were born in due course.
Ms. Wenham Jones uses her skill as talented writer and humourist to bring reality to the profession sometimes seen as monotonous and dreary. It lifts the lid on our insecurities, our paranoia and what we would do to get our books published. But it is done with such style and good humour I am sure it would find a cross-over market for those who like reading books, i.e. everyone then!
I have several writerly friends who will be getting a copy for this as "random present" very shortly.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

City of Bones, Cassandra Clare

If you are a fan of Holly Black, Lilith Saintcrow, Jim Butcher and other urban / modern fantasy writers, this will be right up your street. The book is a YA novel and circles around a young girl, Clarissa Fray, who sees things that really should not be there. A teenager gets killed infront of her, in a nightclub and disappears/evaporates...and it isn't long before she disappears down the rabbit hole herself. Her mother disappears, she discovers some nasty things about her family and that there is a an age old war being fought between forces of light and dark, which humans are unaware of.
The novel started off, a bit self-consciously, with Clary struggling to find her voice - does that make sense? - but once the author manages to get a hold of the protagonist, it is a roller-coaster ride of rollicking goodness. Complete over the top dialogue, if you liked Buffy or Angel, you would love the one-liners in this, set pieces that sizzle and make you gasp in sheer delight. I think, it would film fantastically well. I can imagine Guilermo del Toro directing it though, as he did an excellent job with Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth. The supporting cast to Clary's adventure is a mixed bunch - the beautiful and deadly Isabella, her brother Alec who is the one to watch for spectacular revelations and then there is Jace who is partly modelled on every bad boy you can dream of. Beautiful, deadly and oh so very funny and complete aware of how over the top and seemingly self-centered he is.
I really am looking forward to the second novel, due out next year only. Tsk. But I can wait.

The Thirteenth Apostle, MIchel Benoit

I recently bought a copy of this book, purely on the name and the cover. I skimmed the back and definitely didn't read the author's bio at the back of the page. I am a sucker for books like this and am a huge Umberto Eco fan, so when I saw it was recommended as being in the similar vein as The Name of the Rose, I was sold.

I only today started reading it. I have great hopes for it. You can tell, from the word "go" that it is on a vastly different level than Dan Brown's work, Sam Bourne or Mr. Sussman's. This is written by a scholar, for people who enjoy reading, words, thought and mystery.

This from the publisher's website, an interview with Mr. Benoit:

Michel Benoît on The Thirteenth Apostle

In 1975, having returned safe and sound from Rome, where I had spent four and a half years in a pontifical university close to the Vatican, I began to study the sources of Christianity, only to uncover a scoop: Jesus was a Jew! I had never heard this before.

If Jesus was a Jew, he lived, behaved, taught, breathed like a Jew. If Jesus was a Jew, his teachings are those of a Jew, and not of a “Christian”.

He was transformed into a God shortly after his death: where? when? how? by whom? and above all, for what reasons?

That is when I discovered the origins of a 2,000-year-old deception, the creation of an immense edifice of power (the Church) in the name of a man who had become God despite himself.
And I discovered that I was not the only one: for fifty years scholar upon scholar – Jewish, Protestant, Catholic – had been working towards the same goal – the rediscovery of the historical Jesus. They were highlevel academics, operating in complex disciplines: history, exegesis, archeology, linguistics, epigraphy…

Along the way I discovered in relation to Jesus a thirteenth apostle, who appears sporadically in religious texts. This man really existed, he presents himself in the Gospel according to St John as a close friend of Jesus.

He plays a crucial role in the final weeks of the life of the man from Galilea. However his existence and even his name have been erased from all the texts and from western memory.
Why? Did he know something that must be hidden at all costs? Was he that dangerous?

I have been on his trail, as a scholar interested in historical truth. He seems to have been linked to the Essenians, and his legacy has begotten a movement which has persisted throughout the centuries up to our times: gnosticism.

This had all the elements of a thriller. As opposed to Dan Brown, mine is solidly based on historical research. I have drawn on this material to imagine what would have gone happened if this man had left behind an epistle in which he revealed the truth about Jesus.

This letter does not exist, but could have existed. Fiction completes history, as long as it respects probability: sè non è vero, è ben trovato – if it is not true, it is well imagined.

The only thing that was left to do was to let the bombshell detonate. It places the Vatican in a perilous position, as its power derives from the foundation myths of Christianity. It is also worrying for the established Jewish and Muslim faiths, for whom Jesus is a troublesome figure. As for my description of the behaviour inside the Vatican (plots, lies, manipulations, sex and money), it is actually an understatement of the reality that I have encountered.

For Roman Catholics, this book is dangerous because it tells what must be silenced. For Muslims it is unacceptable because it describes (briefly) the true birth of the Koran.

For those who are seeking clarity after centuries of lies, it is enlightening. For those who enjoy juicy stories, it is refreshing.The author does not yet wear a bulletproof vest, but he is seriously considering renting one.

I have come to notice a new refrain in books like this now - gone is the whole Jesus was married to Magdalene and they had a child and it that is what the grail is all about. The more - how can I put this? - levelheaded thinking is: Jesus was just a man. A talented man, like many other miracle workers of his day. He had a following, he had disciples, but so did Simon the Magus. One of two things happened: someone decided to give the Jewish people their Messiah. They turned this man Jesus into their saviour, they bound people together in faith, so that they could be controlled. Which, if you think about it, is the way religion has always acted - as a control to its subjects - don't read that, it is evil, don't think that, it is blasphemy. It is what countless wars have been fought over. It is alarming to think about. A new line of thought - that he was just a man who had gained enough popularity among the already troublesome populace that someone like the Roman emperor / one of the "messiah's" followers thought that this was a good way to bind people together - give them their martyr, give them a miracle so astounding, that they would follow and fall into line.

So. As a hobbyist theologian and a studier of all things interesting and mindblowing, I am really looking forward to see how the book develops. It sounds amazing and I will probably sit up all night reading it. Because I am a nerd and I like a mystery.

I am happy to give this eight out ten stars so far. It opens as scenic as you could wish a luscious epic could.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Innocent Mage, Karen Miller

Firstly, this is real fantasy. Secondly, the author, Karen Miller is absolutely brilliant at what she does. Thirdly, contrary to a lot of other fantasy stories, this is very much a character driven novel. You intimately get to know Asher, the main character, what makes him tick, his hang ups (which are hilarious, sometimes) and his rise to becoming Gar, the Prince's man. Then we get to learn more about Gar, the royal family, their tribulations, hopes and dreams. It has the idea of epicness behind it, but because the writing is so tight, you don't really get to drift in a sea of political nonsense and a huge cast. You get to know this bunch of characters, their motivations quite well and you sit back and think to the blazes is she going to sort it all out in the second book...because there will only be a second book, not a third. Which is also a refreshing change.
I must say, I didn't actually pick it up to buy and read, hubby did. I was astounded. He rarely does that, preferring to read whatever I pick up. So he felt pressured, I think, in enjoying Innocent Mage. And he did, but he kept it quiet, only chuckling to himself now and again, then handed it to me with strict instructions to read. And I did, during my spell at home whilst struggling with godawful flu. And it swept me away. I really felt like I got to know the world, the characters, and what made them tick. One amazing thing though - she has the knack of showing, not telling - there was maybe a bit of telling, but the showing was clear and concise and you caught up on a lot of the finer aspects of the world the characters lived in.
Very vivid and a rollickingly good yarn. A warning though: if you do not like cliff-hangers. Don't buy it. Or rather, buy it, but don't read until the final book comes out, because it will make you want to pluck at your hair and scream at her. Devious author. But a very good one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dry Spell

I am struggling to stick with any books at the moment. Nothing has that edge to keep me reading. I have an entire bookshelf full of unread books. Maybe thirty books, and as I look at them, I think: "Nah, not that one, too much like (insert random book) and I don't feel in the mood to read about that..."
What I have been doing is picking up some of my older reference books on writing. It is amazing how inspired I am feeling. Phew. But hopefully the dry spell will end by the end of this week - I can't stand it otherwise!
Madness, I know.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Moonshine, Rob Thurman

The very talented Ms. Thurman is back with her second instalment of the brothers Caliban and Niko. And boy, do they get worked over in this one. All the characters introduced in Nightlife reappear, they get fleshed out, we learn a bit more about everyone, but the main character is still Caliban and he shines in his brilliant sulkiness and dark gloomy gothicness. Yes, that's a word. Because I say so.
The excerpt from the author's site:
After saving the world from his fiendish father's side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half-brother Niko have settled down with a new apartment and a new gig-bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings stalk the streets just like normal folk, business is good.

Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin-the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him up for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine-a gambling club for non-humans. Cal thinks it's a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.
Cal and Niko are being set up themselves-and the people behind it have a bite much worse than their bark...
Genuinely a book I would reccommend - completely. I hear the third installment is due next year only. A very very long wait. But it will be worth it.

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

I bought this book from Waterstones on Wednesday and finished it last night.
It is a hugely annoying book. It's awful. I am deadly jealous.
No one, should be allowed to have this much talent. It's obscene. Sigh.
Okay, so I was lying when I said it's awful. That was me being jealous, greenly jealous. Ms. Meyer has an incredible talent and Bella Swann is a fantastic character, her inner life vividly drawn and the vampire she falls in love with will no doubt beat up the self-absorbed Lestat with one hand tied behind his back - both literally and figuratively. I am not a big fan of vampire stories - thank you for destroying that genre, LKH and AR, but this, this is something vastly different.
The storytelling is vivid, you can picture the town of Forks in your mind, the wet forest, the cold, the slowness of it all, the rare days when the sun does shine...and then the myths of the vampires. It sort of gets turned on its head a bit, but in a totally believable way.
Bella, as the MC, is a believable seventeen year old, with her feet planted firmly in the real world. She has her issues, and her hang ups, and is very innocent but very wise at the same time, having looked after a bit of a ditzy mother all her young life, until she decides to move to Forks and live with her father, Chief Swann of the local police force. Charlie is a cool dad, not very verbose, like Bella, so they get along perfectly fine. And it is an interesting relationship - very little trust issues.
It is a very personal and personable novel. I don't want to tell too much about the storyline because, hey, its more than girl meets boy, boy is a vampire, girl doesn't care, girl is in danger...much more.
I am struggling to get into anything else at the moment. Mainly because the writing style of Ms Meyer was just so beautiful. I think I need quite a break from reading, just to get Bella and Edward exorcised from my mind, a bit. The good news is, the follow-up novel will be out soon in paperback - it's in hardback at the moment. Waits impatiently by the clock.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sleeping with the Fishes

I genuinely cannot remember the last time I laughed as much, out loud, to the disturbance of other commuters, as I did reading this book.

The author, the incredibly talented Mary Janice Davidson, has managed to create one of the best female "paranormal" characters I've had the honour to meet.

This is the blurb from Amazon:

Fredericka Bimm - Fred - is a mermaid. But she is not the stuff of legends. A marine biologist, she knows what's in the water so chooses not to expose herself to those toxins. She's allergic to shellfish. The sea creatures she can communicate with won't do her bidding. She doesn't have long blonde hair or a perfect body. And she's definitely not perky! Fred's life is mostly spent trying to conceal her origins - and lately she's been trying to figure out just why there are weird levels of toxins in the local seawater. Then two strangers come into her life. Her new colleague is a sexy - if over-curious - hunk with a mermaid fixation. The other claims he is Artur, the high prince of the black seas - and Fred's rightful ruler!

If, just reading that doesn't crack you up, your heart is stone. Fred is tough, funny, kick-ass and has a very interesting time fending off the advances of the two unexpected men in her life. It is written in a light and engaging way, the dialogue genuinely works very well, is never put upon and is rilly, rilly, cool.

Fred is an engaging main character because she doubts herself, she worries constantly about being found out, about flying under the radar. Importantly she tries to hide herself from everyone, whilst trying to find out exactly what she is, as she is a hybrid. As at home in the sea as she is on land and this is where her identity crisis comes in - she gives Artur a stern telling off, and it resonates with truth. It deals with pollution in a non-preachy way, and with human / Sea Folk relationships in a very direct manner. And please, this is at least an 18 rating book - the language is tough, but funny, the situations real and hilarious.

I will definitely find the other books by the author to read. Thanks Piatkus for sending this along.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I looked through last week's The Bookseller and fell back in astonishment when I saw a double page advert for Piatkus - they publish, among other things, a bit of paranormal literature - chick lit, vampire fiction and werewolf paranormal slant fiction - and I am thrilled to the bone. So I emailed them and received a copy of a book to review - between trying to make potatoe rostis and feeding the dog, I've read the first few pages and I laughed out loud with such gusto I set the dog off on a barking fit. Result!

It is going to be a good read - Sleeping with the Fishes by MaryJanice Davidson. I will report back but am just so incredibly thrilled to a) receive a freebie and b) to see the type of fiction I so love "urban modern fantasy" being advertised in a solid magazine such as The Bookseller. And for adults too - no YA here, thank you very much.

So, to prove how thrilled I am, up goes the Piatkus website on the linky section.


Barb & JC Hendee

JC and Barb have got a winning streak going - they write exceedingly well in a fantasy genre that can so easily become dull, boring and disillusioning.

They have chosen to portray the vampire myth in a fantasy setting - two things which shouldn't go together, yet they do, very successfully.

I enjoy the characterisation - the interplay, the quests, the fact that there is an overall story and that each book deals with each chapter of the overall story in complete parts - so that, eventhough you are waiting to read the next book, you are satisfied enough with the story you've just completed.

Magiere and her ways is a very strong, moody female character which is the prefect foil for the Elvish rogue Leesil who on the surface appears to be the nice guy...yet he harbours a darker side which the authors seem to relish in describing and hinting at.

But mostly, this is written for a genre of readers who enjoy intelligent writing. They have gone out of their way to create a tangible world, with actual politics, wars, people and dirty grubby peasants. I would recommend the entire range of books from them, naturally start with the first, Dhampir.

Their site is:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Age of Misrule

Mammoth book. Huge. Vast. Bigger than Dr Strange and Mr. Norrell.
It did worry me and I had to get a separate little book bag from Paperchase to carry it in as it would not fit into my handbag. I could use it to weight lift. And I did. I also accidentally dropped it on a rude man's foot when he decided to try and squish me into my seat by really opening his legs wide to accommodate his bits (like there was anything) - and I think I might have done some serious damage to his foot.
Mwaah aaah.
Right. Onto the actual book review of Age of Misrule by his majesty Mark Chadbourn. When I grow up, I want to write as well as he does. The amount of pure research that went into writing AoM is staggering - oh, I hasten to add that this is actually an omnibus of a series of books and these are as follows:
World's End
Darkest Hour
Always Forever
This from the Amazon website:
All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic mythology are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: the Fabulous Beasts, shape-shifters and Night Walkers, and other, less wholesome beings. As they grow in power, so technology is swept away. It is myth and magic that now rule supreme in this new Dark Age: The Age of Misrule. The Eternal Conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danann, golden-skinned and beautiful; on the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. But in times of trouble, come heroes. Five flawed humans, Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, are drawn together to search for the magical talismans which which to fight the powers of old. But time draws short and humanity looks set to be swept away ...
AoM has really restored my faith in modern reworkings of old myths and legends. How tired are you of the trite stories of Arthur and his band of men? I have come to steer clear of these books entirely as they have just become so incredibly dull - here, you are shown to look past the trite stories worked to satisfy a people keen for diversion. You learn to ignore the "Sunday School" version of many stories, of faeries, the Fay, The Misty Isle, of heroes and you find the grittier versions of them, the dirty mucky ones with real guts and very little glory.
I particularly liked the main character, eventhough there are five (well, six of you include Thomas the Rhymer who acts as the guide to the hapless 5) very diverse and annoying characters who do NOT want to do what needs to be done, the correct way, or the way you would assume it has to be done. Church, the main character, is a tortured soul, a lost soul, someone NO ONE would thought to be the hero of the future. He goes through his life in a shamble, having lost his true love to a senseless murder. He wants to die. He hates life, wonders about the meaning. Then, he sees something truly extraordinary, and meets Ruth who had shared the same experience, and together they start looking for answers and set the bowl rolling for the rest of the adventure. And no matter how you think things will turn out, you're wrong.
Mark just doesn't give you something on the platter. You work with the characters, feeling their joys and failures deeply. Which makes the ending even more poignant. It's not a Hollywood ending, its the ending the book needed.
I bow to the pen of a master - go visit his site, read his book and do enjoy his work as he is genuinely good at what he does.