Already Dead – Charlie Huston

Title: Already Dead alreadydead
Author
: Charlie Huston
Published by: Orbit
Publication date: 1 Feb. 2007
Genre: Science Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection

Buy the Book: Amazon.

Buy the Book: Amazon.

Already Dead isn’t your run of the mill Vampire story; there’s no lace trim on Victoria era vestments, there’s no sweet seduction of young women thirsty for their first touch of romance from a mysterious, exotic stranger and there’s no french accents either. Just the grit of nightly life in Manhatten with added bite! We follow the story of Joe Pitt, a vampire trying to survive on only the Vyrus of his making, but the complicated politics that go on behind the scenes in Vampire life in the big city.

The first book in a series of five – you’d expect it to ease you in gently and set the scene. No such luck. Joe Pitt is already up to his pits in trouble as a group of shamblers (zombies) have turned up to make a huge mess of the supernatural world. Throw into the mix the missing 14 year old daughter of some very rich (but completely mess up) parents and the attention the whole fiasco is getting from the ‘higher up’s’ from different sections of Vampyre politics. This book throws you in right at the deep end of the pool with Joe Pitt as your unwitting host. Joe himself as a character fits firmly into the picture as the ‘loveable rogue’ even if he does push the term ‘loveable’ right to the boundaries – he is a cocky sort of chap, with a flair for doing exactly what he wants, when he wants too; yet somehow I found myself still rooting for him and because of his general attitude, it was fun to see him fail every now and again. I mean, what’s better than seeing a cocky-shit head being brought down to earth a few times?

The supporting characters are just as wonderful and seeing their different opinions and political stand points coming out in the book are what help elevate this book to that elusive ‘next level’ that so many other novels seem to miss out on. The world building has been so well done it’s believable – I mean, why can’t there be an underground network of Vampyres trying to survive in New York? And why can’t these Vampyres touch on political issues that we mere mortals can’t seem to resolve? Equal rights for Shamblers/Zombies (Or as they’re called by some in the book ‘Victims of Zombification) and it’s how these supporting characters, and their politics, have an impact (or not) on the main character that make Joe that little bit more interesting – especially Daniel and his clan called the Enclave; which really gripped me as a story arc.

I admit, I love this book and I have read the entire series more than once, but that doesn’t make them perfect. I mean, the writing style, if you’re looking for everything to be grammatically correct then please, just move on, because you’re going want to burn the book within an inch of its existence and no one wants to deal with the amount of rage it would cause. I especially point out speak-craft and chapters (Or lack there-of)

But, if you can get passed the fact that Charlie Huston has taken the ‘guide to book writing’ and torn it asunder, than you’re in for a compulsive read – a page turner that keeps you on your toes. You don’t get any breaks with this book; mostly due to the fact that you’re waiting for a chapter end to give you one, but whoops, there aren’t any, chapters that is. The whole story is slammed right into your face with no let up; which in this case is wonderful because the story is captivating and the reader really does want to know what happens next – and maybe get some more delight in the main character getting his face pummelled in. Again.

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Never far from Nowhere – Andrea Levy

Title: Never far from Nowhereneverfarfromnowhere
Author
: Andrea Levy
Published by: Headline Review
Publication date: Aug 8th 1996
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bury Library

Buy the Book: Amazon.

This was one of my ‘my son is playing up, grab the first book I can’ visits to the local library – I know there is a huge thing of judging a book by it’s cover, but does that carry over to book spines as well? I was honestly attracted to the colour pink of this book and by the time I had checked out of the library I hadn’t even read the blurb on the back to see what it was about. That had to wait until I had gotten home and settled for the evening. In all honesty, I rolled my eyes and sighed about what I had picked up. For some reason, I try to avoid books that have won some sort of award, I think that has something to do with then setting my expectations to high and being disappointed.

Disappointed, I was not. Never far from Nowhere tells is the coming-of-age story of two sisters, Olive and Vivien and how vastly different their lives are based on the simple fact that one sister has a darker shade of skin than the other. I found it utterly fascinating, if not horrible, how the lives of these first English-born generation immigrants; their parents having moved over from Jamaica, are effected by their desires to retain (or reject) their own cultural identity. An identity that their mother herself has rejected, having never seen herself as ‘black’ which gives across a very mixed message to her daughters. The crunch of the story is about prejudice, something that Olive, the elder of the two daughters and having darker skin and frizzier hair, encounters much more readily than her younger sister; who didn’t inherit the African genes quite as much as her sister.

In a time where now we might be getting a little fed up of having political correctness shoved down our throats, this story might feel as if it is going ‘one step to far’ at times in regards to what happens to the main characters and their individual stories, but I can only imagine that this extreme level of prejudice was rampant during the 1970’s when the story was set. Each chapter gives us a change in perspective between the two sisters and we follow them on a gripping narrative of their lives as they grow and make their life choices – as a reader, I felt a vast array of emotions for what each of the girls chose, elation, anger, frustration; a sign of a good author!

As the title suggests though, the book is somewhat depressing. There is no escaping the life that these girls lead, and even though one of the sisters manages to get to University and away from the Council Estate London setting of her younger years, there is still a  forlorn feeling of hopelessness. Now, I am actually a bit of a fan of the dreary, so I found this added to the story for me, but I know it’s not for everyone. So, if you’re looking for a happy ending, then this probably won’t make you feel fulfilled. Also, I found that the ending came a bit too soon; I would have loved to have seen what choices the sisters came up with and if the ideas they came out with part way through (The idea to return ‘home’ to Jamaica) came to fruition. I think as a snapshot into the younger lives of the family and the contrast of their choices, this story is brilliant and captivating (I read the book in two days, which is record-time for me!) but the lack of any real resolution is a bit of a down-side.

Overall, I found the tale wonderful and insightful. It is tastefully and sensitively written, allowing us to see into the lives and never really reached dreams of an immigrant family during a time when immigration was heavily frowned upon – to put it lightly. It’s an interesting read and I am pleased to have been able to judge this book by the shade of (ironically) pink of the books spine.

The Bookstore – Deborah Meyler

18751485Title: The Bookstore
Author: Deborah Meyler
Published by
: Gallery Books.
Publication date: Aug 20th 2013
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Bury Library

Buy the Book: Amazon.

A whimsical story about Esme Garland, an educated young woman studying for a PhD in Art History miles away from her English home in New York City. Or a 352 page book about stupidity!

This is one of those novels that I really cannot make my mind up about. On the one hand the story is fleetingly enchanting; the main character falls head over heels in love with Mitchell – a man so ‘out of her league’ that she puts up with his flaws and decides to keep their unplanned baby. I wish the story carried that romantic notion well, but it doesn’t. The love of Esmes life is a pathetic, abusive man-child! At times I wanted to scream at Esme for being so blindly in love with such an absolute buffoon, the rest of the time I wanted to scream at her to grow a spine and slap the irritating bastard! Their relationship is one of those, on again, off again ones that get you reeling and hoping that either party involved would change for the better – but sadly the story is really lacking in the character development department and towards the end of the novel it’s no surprise that this ‘amazing’ man ends up ditching Esme because they cannot talk about anotherwomans boobs and she won’t indulge him in a threesome with said woman. I wish that were the lowest actions of this man, but he seems content to humiliate his fiancee at every turn and goes so far to push her out of bed when she is 6 months pregnant.

Honestly, the guy is a bag of dicks, but more surprising is that Esme, a woman with a Cambridge degree, seems more concerned about when this waste of space will message her back than the implications of having a baby.

Yet, I found myself forgiving of Esme and her blind love for her man, because she is well written as a young and naive character. What 23 year old is world wise and hasn’t fallen for the wrong person?

There is another aspect to The Bookstore, which is, the bookstore The Owl, where Esme finds work; here we are introduced to more characters who add a bit more ‘life’ to Esmes world. Her boss, co-workers and regulars, are the family that have replaced Esme’s real family – not that her family has abandoned her, but they aren’t mentioned that much in the novel – each one having their own quirks and qualities. Amongst them are a collection of homeless people who help out in the quirky, independent bookstore when they can and how offer Esme little tales an insights into their own lives. Each of the characters are lovable in their own ways and I personally find that I can relate to thoughts of the co-workers about their regulars having worked in a retail environment myself. With the exception of one of her co-workers that she becomes the most ‘friendly’ with; I found her friendship with Luke somewhat stale and a bit hollow.

There is a fair amount of reflection and ‘internal monologue’ from Esme in the book. She spends a great deal of time wondering if she can and should have a baby at such a young age in the middle of her PhD and as well at the end of the book when she finds herself coping with her choices.

There was an instance where I felt like putting the book down completely, but by this point I had read over half and I always feel invested to read a book to conclusion after a certain point. It was where Esme goes to meet rich-boy Mitchells family. Queue the cliche scenes of posh houses, family that still loves their sons previous lover and extravagant parties that the main character feels out of place at. While all this seems forgivable, it seems a little far fetched to believe that the family would try to pay someone off and have them abort their baby. More so that when they fail in this offer, they pass it all off as ‘a test.’ For me, it just felt as though the story was dipping into the realm of ‘too silly.’

I still can’t say as if I recommend this book or not. It’s not my usual cup of tea when it comes to reading and maybe I am missing something with the ‘romance’ genre? Maybe they are all like this, a little naive and ‘all men are jerks’ but I don’t feel like I want to give up on the genre just yet. I think it’s one of those books where, if you’re stuck indoors on a horrible rainy day and don’t have anything else to read, then you won’t be doing yourself a disservice, but if you have it in your pile of books, then maybe put it on the bottom.

It’s Great to Create – Review

Title: It’s great to createimg_0557
Author
: Jon Burgerman
Published by
: Chronicle Books
Publication date: 1 Aug. 2017
Genre: Art & Creativity
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon

Buy the Book – Amazon

Buy the Book – Kobo

I think the first thing I am going to say about this book is my concern for those who are using older black and white ereaders – this is a visual book and I don’t know how well it would translate to the more basic technological offerings. You’d also miss out on getting a cut out of your own alien space-ship!

That being said, I think the best format for any visual books is in paperback/hardback/physical form as there is something a lot more enjoyable about getting your own pen marks all over a book that is teaching you how to create with pens – which is encouraged in the sleeves of the book. To hold it’s also wonderful quality, so you’re really getting your monies worth when you buy a physical copy.

To sum up this book in a single word. Fun. It is packed full of ideas and games to play while you create your own doodles. It’s not a guidebook per-say, it’s a book that shows you that art doesn’t have to be high brow paintings and overloaded meanings. It eases the reader into believing that they can draw (Which I highly believe that anyone can) and embrace creativity into their lives in such simple and fun ways. Honestly, anyone can do the ‘tasks’ in this book – which is actually a great selling point. This book is for everyone; almost. I think with adult supervision most children will enjoy the tasks too, though you might want to gloss over the nudles (nude doodles)

My favourite part of the book though is the manner in which Jon Burgerman talks – this book just oozes personality and it feels like there is this quirky cheerleader behind you reminding you to keep it all fun and care-free.
There are a couple of ideas that are a bit far fetched and could land the artist in trouble though; like doing a large painting outside somewhere – I’d be a bit cautious of being arrested for criminal damage if you’re caught doodling without permission!

It’s not all fun and games though – at the back of the book there is a very handy section called “Resources.” Telling you all about the different sorts of materials and mediums that the author recommends, from paper to pens to paint and brushes. It’s written in the wonderfully casual way that you’d expect from Jon Burgerman at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to trying out a few of the challenges in the book and sharing them with you when I am done.

 

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Tdownloaditle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: September, 2013
Genre: Romance
Pages: 399
Format: eBook
Source: Kobo

Buy the Book – Amazon

Buy the Book – Kobo

This is the second book in a row I have read called Fangirl – read about the previous book here.

I don’t even know where to really begin when it comes to reviewing this book – I guess I should start by saying that this book is about Cath, a fangirl for the fictional series’Book of Mages’ (Which while in the process of writing this review I have discovered that the author has written the book ‘Carry on’ which is about the characters from the fictional books featured in this novel) and how she obsesses over these fictional characters and cannot leave them behind even as she is starting a new live at University – something that her twin sister Wren seems to have done with ease. It’s not that she can’t leave them behind, it’s that she doesn’t want too; she wants to keep writing fan fiction about the Book of Mages characters forever. That’s fair. Who in this world really wants to grow up?

I guess this brings me to the first point of the story that I had deep issues with. Cath, doesn’t change. Everything that happens in the book is through the fault of someone or something else. Cath never seems to accept the blame for what she does. She submits some fanfiction for a creative-writing assignment and gets failed for it (Obviously) but the whole issue of plagerism that causes her failure just seems to ‘go away’ it’s like a slap on the wrist and done. Rather than learn from this, Cath just goes back to obsessing over the characters like there was no cause and effect. And, it’s this breezy way that Cath goes about everything that irritated me the most – more than the cliche aspect of her being a Fangirl that sits in her room alone without any real friends – she, as a character doesn’t change or really develop throughout the story. Unlike the supporting character of her twin sister Wren; who if this book was actually about would have been a much more interesting character to read about.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading Fangirl because I did. Even if some of it was at the expense of some self reflection in hindsight! At one point in my life, I was Cath. Everything I did centred around Fangirling and attaching myself to my fandoms – writing fanfiction until the small hours of the morning at the sake and expense of my school life! So, I was really interested in seeing how Cath would change when she got to college, but see the above comments on that. And she can’t take criticism for toffee – everyone thinks she is brilliant from her Professor at college to her thousands upon thousands of internet fanfiction readers.

The whole plot really centres around how Cath and Levi meet and get along and the relationship that develops between them and for the most part they’re a nice couple, but I find it strange that any guy would be interested in reading any Fangirls yaoi/slash/gay romance fanfiction, let alone have their girlfriend read it out loud to them while cuddled up together. Because of the nature of Cath – her extremely naive way of thinking and her inability to grow up – I actually found their relationship a little bit hard to swallow. Sure, for whatever reason, Levi really likes Cath (Even though she’s pretty mean and demanding) but Caths unwillingness to drop the fanfiction stuff and pay any interest to him and his life, is a little bit weird; and he’s not exactly sticking around cause they’re having hot, wild passionate sex, either! If anything, their relationship barely progresses beyond holding hands and the big romance scene is just a bit odd.

Another downfall of the book, is that the series that Cath fangirls over, is made up by the author, but it’s essentially a rip-off of Harry Potter called Simon Snow and that didn’t sit to comfortably – seeing as there are scene from both the official rip-off and the fan fiction interjected between chapters of the actual book; they didn’t really add anything to the story either. Fine, it’s there, it’s what Cath fangirls over. I can understand there had to be something for Cath to Fangirl over and it’s can’t be actual Harry Potter because of copyright and all that fancy legal stuff. Then Harry Potter gets mentioned. I found that extremely jarring. Almost as jarring as having to read stuff about the character Simon Snow and his partner in crime Baz – and when I say partner in crime, I mean in a Harry/Draco way. Only, you care about Harry and Draco, because the book you’re reading about them in is… about them. In Fangirl, I gave no shits about Simon and Baz, because the book wasn’t about them. It’s meant to be about Cath and Levi!

I mostly found this book entertaining because the position of the main character is one that I can related to.Many a time, I had lamented that all the ‘best guys in the world are fictional’ and looking back on it through Cath, I was cringing and thinking ‘was I really that bad.’ So I think, if you’re looking to read a book where you can relate to a Fangirl main character then give the book a go. But if you’re looking for a book that will stick with you or you’re looking for a book that will end in some profound manner then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Fangirl – Jill Robi

Ttumblr_inline_om5hdx73Tr1rpxqd0_500itle: Fangirl
Author: Jill Robi
Published by:CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication date: August 17, 2012
Genre: Romance
Pages: 194
Format: eBook
Source: Kobo

Buy the Book – Amazon

Buy the Book – Kobo

I stumbled upon this book completely by accident. I have had a voucher for WH Smiths/Kobo for over a year now and on my reading list was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – but I’ve heard mixed thoughts on that particular book so was hesitant to read it first among my recent purchases – but in the search for fangirl on Kobo popped out this little gem of a book. Firstly, I would like to say that romance isn’t a genre that I am overly familiar with and it isn’t something that I generally have a leaning for and despite the name of the blog, I am not overly connected with the realm of fangirling anymore. That being said, I loved this little novel! It was an absolute delight to read, even though it felt like something of a dirty little secret, or a guilty pleasure. A bit like the idea of actually liking 50 Shades of Grey!

The book centres around Khloe, a die-hard fangirl of the fictional character Weston Moore, and her adventures/obsession relating to him. She takes herself to a large scale convention for the first time in a far-away city where she meets other like-minded individuals and manages to capture the eye of her obsession and because this is the world of fiction romance and complications follow!

One of my favourite things about the book was actually Khloe herself and how she was written. Yes, she is relatively young and this comes across in the way she has been written. There are references to the world of her online fandoming and how she has used her fandom to express herself and grow as a person. Which is something that I could very much relate too! Especially the part of not have any ‘real life’ friends to share in her fandoming lifestyle. I may not be as active as I once was in the realm of fandom, but that part of me has never completely died, but it’s all online! Because she is such a relatable character I found that I could easily root for her and her dreams and share her concerns and fears too. I felt that both Khloe and the book developed along a nice story without it seeming to be ‘This author just wants to write erotica,’ which has made some books in this genre feel more like a slog than a pleasure.

Even Weston, the object of her fandom desires, was a decent character to read about. He added the right about of complications to the plot and there was a lot about him I was rather taken with myself!

As always, it isn’t sunshine and lollipops and there were a few things that just felt a little contrived about the whole affair. For example, the reality of it all! I’ve spent some time at conventions myself and there is no way that some of what happens in the book could actually have happened. Getting to spend so much time with a star, for example! And the fact that Khloe can even managed to spend the amount of days going to cons… can that happen while she is holding down a Full-Time job? I don’t know. Everything goes a little too wishy-washy as well. It’s a magical little tale that has to be taken with a pinch of salt really! It’s a good novel to escape into and I am intrigued to read further stories by Jill Robi, as I enjoyed her writing style immensely and I believe she has written in other genres which might be more ‘up my street’

Fangirl is by no means a perfect book, but it is a good introductory novel to a very promising author.

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

broken-monsters-lauren-beukes-harpercollins-coverTitle: Broken Monsters
Author: Lauren Beukes
Published by:HarperCollins
Publication date: 31 July 2014
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Pages: 528
Format: Hardback
Source: Bury Library

Buy the Book – Amazon

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This is the first book that I have checked out of the library and been able to finish without having to renew it two or three times, which in itself should speak volumes. Normally I get part way through a book before I have to head to the council website and have to renew it so I don’t get a 20 pence fine for a late return. So to be able to finish a book in such a short space of time is almost unheard of.

The plot of the book itself is pretty standard to most Thrillers. A detective on a case, chasing down some sicko bad-guy; in this case an artist with a very warped sense of vision. There are also the standard plot elements of the thriller genre as well, and if you’ve read enough you’ll already know what they are. Detective makes a blunder, gets booted off the case but manages to redeem themselves and solve the mystery anyway. Although how that happens exactly I won’t spoil. The detective in this example is Gabi Versado, a strong and believable female lead riddled with trying to solve her own family problems, in the form of her daughter Layla, as well as the problems of the city of Detroit.

Speaking of Layla, she is a teenage girl going through the traumas of teenage life at school and I was actually as interested in her sub-plot as I was the main case and the two blended to one another rather well, even if they were a little far fetched at times. One way they combined was through the use of social media and various popular culture which might go over the top of some older readers heads, which may or may not add to the success of understanding the teenage Layla or alienating her. Personally, I understood most of the internet-y references, but that’s mostly because I have lived a lot of my life online. Ask people over a certain age what Nyancat is and they might be left scratching their heads in confusion.

Other characters involve a struggling blogger and his hip and happening DJ Girlfriend, a homeless black guy and the rookie cop. All well written characters to the point I felt some frustration and irritation whenever one of them opened their mouths! It’s been said that to write a character that’s likeable is easy, to write one that irritates is more difficult. So, once again kudos are due to Lauren Beukes for achieving that sentiment.

Sadly, it can’t all be praise, praise, praise. There is one element to the book that just left me feeling somewhat flat. That was the supernatural element that, although is touched upon in earlier chapters, comes to a peak about 85% through the book. I like a story to have a good plot, likeable characters and a strong, conclusive ending. And that ending sadly didn’t feel like it was on offer here. Instead of a bringing the narrative to a climatic conclusion I was left with a bit of a ‘Wait, what?’ feeling, which unfortunately just left me confused and a bit dazed – especially after the tension that had been expertly building up to this point. It makes the genre of the book seem to be as confused as I was. Was this a thriller as I had been led to believe? For the most part, yes. Then the ending happened and it turned from what I thought I was reading to something else. It was unfortunate, because for me, it ruined a perfectly good book.