Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Luck of the Wheels by Megan Lindholm, AKA Robin Hobb

What a brilliant way for the series to finish! I seriously loved this book. The only annoyance was having to put it down for work. I wish the series could have been bigger, but everything has to end sooner or later.

As with the other books in the Ki and Vandian/Windsingers series, this book follows Ki and Vandian as they go about their not-so-ordinary lives, following on fairly swiftly from the events in The Limbreth Gate. Having replaced Ki's wagon with one more suitable for people than cargo, the two heroes of the series take on a passenger, who is not all he seems, and are then joined by a girl who hates him with a passion. The delicate balance of Ki's life seems to be shattered by this temporary interuption to their lives.

Goat and Willow are the most annoying teenagers you can possibly imagine, and the wishful-thinking of something bad happening to them is quite shameful to admit, but I did enjoy their very different characters. I almost hoped that Ki and Vandian would just throw them out of the wagon, but I knew their feeling were more likely to kill them!
The other point, probably the more satisfying one, is that the unmentioned love between the two characters finally comes to a head, especially when a choice had to be made whether they should live or die.

The power in these books, for me, is not as strong as that in Robin Hobb's books, but they are mightily enjoyable none-the-less. Finally, in Luck of the Wheels, we see what the future bestseller was really made of. This book had a lot of positives, and the negatives were so slight they really aren't worth mentioning now. They are different from other fantasy books, but who cares? They are wonderful, funny, emotional and quirky. If you don't try the series at least once, you really are missing out.

Star rating: 5 from 5 - a fitting conclusion to a wonderful series

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams & Mark Carwardine



I knew I would like this book long before I read it. Firstly, I have a real love for animals and am interested in what people do to help conserve wildlife around the world. Secondly, it's Douglas Adams! The greatest Sci-Fi comedy writer the world has ever known wrote a book about animals? Yes! And it's really hard to find, like the animals in the book.

The book begins when Douglas first meets Mark Carwardine, a British naturalist, on Madagascar and together they decide to make a radio show about severely endangered animals. A few years later, they start their journey, looking for everything from the Baiji River Dolphin (now extinct, unfortunately) to the wonderful Kakapo (a flightless parrot which has forgotten that it can't fly!). Some species proved very hard to find, or even impossible, in the wild, and yet others have started to recover.

As I read, I laughed and I was shocked. These are all species which we, human beings, have pushed to the very brink of disappearance and the way Douglas Adams describes them is with his typical humour.

On a more serious not, this book has made me want to do something to help. My wife and I have both decided to help as much as we can, for now with donations, to the Kakapo, a species which has endeared itself to us both. In the book, I found out that their population on islands near New Zealand, their last refuge, was just 40 birds. When Mark visited them again with Stephen Fry, (see here) they were up to 90, and then to 124. It is a real positive thing to have help, especially as they would otherwise go the same way as the Baiji and the Dodo. Long may they last!

You can find out more about the Kakapo here, where you can also donate money or apply to volunteer.

The sad thing is, we will never have a last chance to see Douglas Adams again. Perhaps his greatest achievement was introducing these amazing yet sad creatures to the world.


Star rating: 5 from 5, but how can anyone put a lower rating on life!


To find out more about this amazing book, please follow the link for more information: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6950172-last-chance-to-see

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Slade House by David Mitchell

I was sent an advanced readers copy of this book by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. It will be available to buy from October 27th 2015.

I have been curious to read more of David Mitchell’s work ever since I first read Cloud Atlas. Although with that book I found myself getting lost in the different styles of writing, I was amazed at the ingenuity of it and wondered what else he could come up with. And now I know…and it is superb!

The moment I opened this book, I was hooked. It is dark, creepy and full of intrigue. The plot develops at a good, natural pace and the writing is perfect for this story. You can’t escape this story once you open the door and consume what David Mitchell has offered you

The story is written from in the first person from five different people’s view of events, every 9 years, between October 27th 1979 and October 31st 2015. Each chapter tells of the creepy goings on surrounding the mysterious Slade House and, in particular, Jonah and Norah Grayer. I loved the interaction between these two characters with each other, and with the other people throughout the story. To a certain extent, they remind me of my sister and I - bickering among ourselves, but loving each other all the same.

Star rating: 5 from 5 - a clever, creepy, tension building wonder!

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For more information about this book, please click this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24499258-slade-house?ac=1

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Martian by Andy Weir

The hype surrounding this book and the new movie is incredible. Especially since NASA announced 2 weeks ago that they had found evidence of running water on Mars (if you don't know about it, click HERE). As such, I decided to finally read The Martian, just to see what all the fuss is about.

LOVED IT! What an amazing book! I don't want to give anything away here, so I am trying to make this post spoiler free...and it won't be easy! I want to tell everyone everything abut it, every detail, but I do not want to ruin the story for you. All I will say is that you really ought to read this incredibly believable book!

The main character, Mark Watney, is a botanist and engineer who has been sent to Mars, but ends up being left behind (NOT a spoiler...you can see it from the back page of the book, on the GoodReads description and on the first page of the book!). The story is centred around his survival, and that of the people who care about him - his crew, NASA, and all the "little people" there who are trying to help save him. As a character, I found him to be incredibly funny. We learn that it is one of the reasons he was chosen to go to Mars in the first place, to help keep morale up.

I really had to try to contain my emotions when reading this, but Mark really brings us through them all. Sadness, loneliness, despair, joy, confusion, shock...you name it, this book has it. It truly has everything you could want. It is now one of my favourite books and I cannot wait to see the movie...pity I have to wait for so long!

Star rating: 5 from 5 - a real must-read adventure of a lifetime!

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18007564-the-martian

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Atlas of Cursed Places by Olivier Le Carrer

I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher, Black Dog and Leventhal, in return for an honest review.

The full title of this book is Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations. It tries to describe a number of places which have some form of mystery or shocking history about them, as well as some places with natural features which are seen as dangerous. Throughout this book are a series of beautiful, old maps and some illustrations of navigational reference.

However, the book leaves me wondering why there was so little information about some things. In my opinion, it gives a very brief outline of the situations and occasionally some speculation, but it just isn't enough for the curious of mind. Also, the title isn't very accurate. Places like Nuremberg, Germany have a bad history, but it doesn't mean they are "cursed". On top of this, it isn't exactly a travel guide either. It only talks about what happened in general and barely describes the places, with one or two exceptions.

On the plus side, the maps truly are beautiful, and very colourful. I suppose that, for an introduction to the mysteries it is also fairly good, but if you know something about the places, it is just a bit...boring, to be honest. 

I wish I could say more positive things about this book. As a concept it is great, but in its execution it is lacking something.

Star rating: 3 from 5 - interesting, but not enough.

Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful  Destinations

You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25210817-atlas-of-cursed-places The information is in French, so for an English version, see here: http://www.blackdogandleventhal.com/atlas-cursed/?rq=atlas%20of%20cursed%20

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Limbreth Gate by Megan Lindholm

The Limbreth Gate is the third book in the Windsingers/ Ki and Vandien series by Megan Lindholm, AKA Robin Hobb. I have previously read five of Robin Hobb's series and the first two books in this one. There is definitely a different feel about the books, but different in this case does not mean bad.

Following on from The Windsingers, book two in the series, The Limbreth Gate continues to follow Ki and Vandien, two Gypsy-like characters, and the problems themselves into, or other beings cause them. These are two characters I enjoy reading about. There is clearly a sexual chemistry between the two but their feelings often go unsaid. Vandien is a strong, tough guy in my mind who thinks clearly before he acts or speaks, and yet loves being relatively impulsive. Ki, on the other hand, is a bit of a hot-headed personality. She doesn't take risks if she can avoid it and is the opposite of impulsive, which is something Vandien continually tries to change.

In this book, the plot is fairly strong and the characters are well written, although maybe that is due to the familiarity of the characters in the series. I read this in less than 3 days as I was hooked to the storyline like a fish on a hook.

If you have read and enjoyed books by Robin Hobb, I would say read this series, but remember that it was written earlier than her other series and also it has a different style and feel to it. Where the Liveship series and the Farseer series are much more epic in their style, these feel more like a series you can dip into when you want to read some lighter fantasy. But don't be fooled! To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, “It's a dangerous business, reader, picking up these books. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Star rating: 4 from 5 - Go through this gate into a wonderful world where you will follow the path left by the author!

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You can find out more information about this book by following this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19161996-the-limbreth-gate