Saturday, 18 March 2017

Worlds Fantastic, Worlds Familiar by Bonnie J. Buratti

Many thanks go to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest review.

I've always had a passing interest in the field of Astrophysics, regularly looking out for big news items like the discovery of evidence pointing to running water on Mars and the more recent haul of exoplanets around the dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Getting the chance to read a book about how humankind has observed planets and moons in the past and present, as well as a look to the future, was a really exciting prospect for me.

And this popular science book is very informative, it describes a lot about the discoveries of features on the planets and moons, as well as going into a bit of detail as to why Pluto isn't a planet. It was a really fascinating read and was certainly not a complicated read. There is only one mathematical equation, near the end, which Buratti helps break down so it is more understandable.

On a negative note, she comes across as being slightly obsessed with herself, especially the repeated fact that Carl Sagan, the great physicist, was her mentor. Why it was necessary to tell the reader in almost every chapter is beyond my comprehension. Also, mostly in the beginning, and a little later one, she does keep referencing the point that she is a female scientist, as if it's so hard to believe. I understand that the sciences have been portrayed a lot as a male dominated area, and maybe it was hard for her at first to break through, but it only needed a little mention.

That said, it takes nothing away from what is a truly fascinating and engaging read which I would recommend to you if you have any interest in our solar system and beyond!

Star rating: 4/5
This book is due to be published on 27th March 2017

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Manga Classics Double Bill

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me access to a review copy of these two books in exchange for honest reviews.

This month, I have returned to the world of the graphic novel. This time, I have been reading some classic tales from literature lovingly represented in the Manga style. Both books are ones that I have either never read or never finished for whatever reason so I was glad to have the chance to read these.

Great Expectations

This was a beautiful book to read. The art beautifully depicted what life must have been like in England during the 19th Century and the characterisation was fantastic. I read this book with a lot of pleasure, through both the happy and sad times. Pip is one of those characters who you never forget and his love for Estella shines out through the images and speech clearly.

The difficulty with this was the lack of Dickens' feel of the text, from his novels that I have read, but the adaptors have tried their best to get across the style, however hard that may be. I can say that I was not disappointed, however, and it has also made me want to read the original text, maybe later this year, as a full comparison.

Star rating: 4 from 5 - Difficult Dickens made easy


Les Miserables

When I tried to read this book last year, I couldn't get beyond the convent scene. For those who read my early reviews last year will know that I found 50 pages of background to be a little too much like hard work! However, this version seemed to skip the background and concentrated on the story at hand, much to my delight. 

Again, the art is stunning, and the feel of the story is one of building to a crescendo, which of course it does. Seeing the emotions on the characters faces in certain situations certainly helped with that, and I also found characters to love, some to absolutely hate. Would I now reread the novel? I don't know, to be honest. I really enjoyed the Manga form, but could I sit through Hugo waffling on about how to open the door, or something else like that? We will see. I won't say I won't try it again, because the story itself is wonderful, as this book showed.

Star rating: 4 from 5 - Heavy Hugo lightened


Both of these books are available now!

Monday, 13 February 2017

The End Of The Day by Claire North

Many thanks to Net Galley and to the publisher for allowing me to read an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed my previous meeting with Claire North's writing when I read The Fifteen Lives Of Harry August, so much that I remember saying I would look out for more books by her in the future. Recently, I came across The End Of The Day and the blurb peaked my curiosity...a book about a human working as the Harbinger of Death. What's not to like?!

Unfortunately, quite a lot, it turns out. The story follows Charlie as he fulfills his responsibility of going before death as a courtesy or a warning, as he regularly reminds us. He travels the world, meeting all kinds of people from different walks of life and honours life. But there is no discernible plot, and it seems to be an homage to SJWs in many places.

I understand what North was trying, and maybe, in principle, it is a novel idea, but it just doesn't read well. To be honest, I was relieved to finish it. The predictable predicaments that Charlie gets into are just lame and, often, pointless.

On a positive, I did feel for Charlie a lot, and the writing was alright, and I'm sure some people will love this book but, at the end of the day, The End Of The Day was not for me.

Star rating: 2 from 5
This book is due to be published on 4th April 2017

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Dark Matters: Betrayal by Michael Dow

Many thanks to the author, Michael Dow, for sending me an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Back in December 2015, I had the good fortune to discover Dark Matters on NetGalley (review here). I really enjoyed it and was immediately excited when I knew it was the first in a new trilogy. Now, the sequel has arrived and I have just read it...

Dark Matters: Betrayal begins straight after the events of Dark Matters, maybe only a few minutes different. It follows the same group of characters Monique Durrand, Pax, Jonas Hansson, etc.) as well as introducing two or three new ones. The plot has more twists than a corkscrew as it leads are characters on a chase to find one village in Iran while trying to stay one step ahead of the Consortium, a group of wealthy, influential business men who want to save the world,even at the expense of others. As time passes, Monique's powers grow, surprising herself and her friends. Only in the village will they find any answers to their questions...what is dark matter? Why do they have these strange powers? Just who is the Chairman?

I absolutely loved this book. The action,twists and turns all contribute to a fine piece of sci-fi which leaves us hanging, yet again, as we must wait for book 3. The characters appear more developed and you really start to feel for them. The new characters, as well, add something to the plot as their lives are changed dramatically by the Consortium. The style of writing is perfect for this book as it isn't heavy, but at the same time is full of drama. It reminded me a bit of the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum in that sense.

All in all, this is a great sequel, better than the first book in my opinion. I highly recommend reading the series and can't wait for book 3!

Star rating: 5 from 5

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Miss Christie Regrets by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Many thanks go to Guy Fraser-Sampson and the good people at urbane for inviting me to read this advanced readers copy of Miss Christie Regrets.

Last year, I had the good fortune to request a copy of Death In Profile by the same author and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially as I had just got into reading Golden age crime novels. So, when he wrote and asked if I would like to be considered to read the sequel, I jumped at the chance.

As with Death In Profile, Miss Christie Regrets follows the murder investigation team at Hampstead police station. An old man is found murdered in his apartment in a trust run property. The front door had been left unmanned and open, while none of the staff or visitors saw or heard anything. It's up to Bob Metcalfe, Simon Collison and the rest of the team to solve this, and a 70 year old murder which might have a connection.

The plot is really good. The author has pushed the investigator team into many dead ends and red herrings that it seems unlikely that they will solve the cases, both of which appear to be challenging to begin with. However, I really loved the way they got to the end. Sometimes, the simplest murders are the hardest to solve, especially in detective fiction. As for the writing, it helps the story along beautifully, even the odd moment of humour thrown in to break up the tension at the right moments. The characters are really engaging and I took an instant dislike to one of the suspects. On a very positive note, I found it to be a tough but to crack. I love trying to solve the mystery before the police or detectives, but I failed here!

Overall, a good plot, excellent twists and blocks, and fantastic characters all wonderfully produced in a tale Miss Christie would be proud to be involved with.

Star rating: 4 from 5

Miss Christie Regrets will be published on 12th January 2017

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

End of Year Review 2016

Well, another fantastic year for reading, despite the politics going on in the world. Yes, there have been a few failures, but also some huge successes for me, and some very big books read! As with last year, I've read over 100 books and 40,000 pages, and I met most of my reading resolutions set at the beginning of the year. Below is this year's list of books and statistics, for those of you who are interested, up to 27th December 2016.

Books read: 133
Pages read: 44846
Longest book: It by Stephen King (1396 pages)
Shortest book: Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside by Christopher Fowler (16 pages)
Average No. pages: 337

This year's highlights include finishing reading all of Robin Hobb's and Megan Lindholm's books, discovering Patrick Rothfuss and reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. My wife also has her first novel, The Dragon Under My House on Amazon for kindle, which is a massive achievement for someone who only learnt English a few years ago! Finally, I also delved further into the world of Golden Age crime novels, which have become one of my favourite genres.

Disappointingly, two of my attempts at classics have failed miserably. Very early in the year, I started Les Miserables, but gave up after about 300 pages, and the Don Quixote after 100 or so. I was very frustrated with this, but the a lot of the rest of the books made up for this in some style!

Just as an addition to this, I have also been taking part in a Dickensian style read-along of Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, organised by Katie Lumsden through her Goodreads page and her YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/thesilverscribe). This involves reading three or four chapters of the book each month in the same way as the Victorians would have had access to. I'm finding it really fantastic and I think I will be sad when that finishes late in 2017.

Well, that's it for this year. Have a safe time over the rest of the holiday season, and I hope to see more of your comments and messages in 2017.

Happy New Year everyone!