Friday, 29 July 2016

The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When browsing through NetGalley, I occasionally come across a book that a lot of people are giving fantastic reviews. I often check up on Goodreads about it, see other reviews before making a decision on a new writer. The Devil's Prayer was one such book. A lot of people were giving it 5 stars and rave reviews, so I thought I would give it a try.

When a nun commits suicide in public, her daughter, Siobhan, sets out to find out why. What she discovers is a notebook, detailing the last 20 years of her mother's life. A betrayal, a demonic deal and then a quest ensue as Siobhan reads this confession, whilst avoiding the mysterious yet deadly red cassocked monks.

At first, I found this book to be quite simplistic in its language and the plot seemed quite uninteresting, until we join Siobhan in reading her mother's confession. It speeds up and becomes really quite a tense read with action and drama all the way. The language remains simplistic, and I admit that I found the characters to be a little 2 dimensional at times, but I did enjoy this book. It's a bit like The Da Vinci Code meets Kill Bill meets The Omen.

The book is open-ended, meaning a sequel is certainly a possibility. I, for one, would read it, but it wouldn't be a priority for me.

Star rating: 4 from 5
This book will be published on 8th August 2016

Monday, 25 July 2016

The Dark Portal by Robert Jarvis

Many thanks go to Net Galley and the publisher, Lawsome Books, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I remember reading The Dark Portal when I was 10 or 11. It terrified me then! Getting the opportunity to reread it was wonderful and I jumped at the chance to see if it still held up. I didn't remember much about the plot at all, but now all the terrors and fears are back in my's wonderful!

The story follows the Browns, a family of mice, and their friends. After Albert Brown goes missing and is captured by rats, the some of the younger mice decide to try to find him, then each other. Meanwhile, Jupiter, the all-powerful god of the rats, is hunting for something of his own through the rats. The mice must also try to stop Jupiter from getting what he seeks.

Looking back, I remember being terrified of Jupiter. As a ten year old, something hiding in the dark with glowing red eyes is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Now, although I remembered before the end who Jupiter was, I still felt very anxious for the mice. The story holds up well over time and could really be based at anytime in the past or future, as long as there are gas pipes around.

I wouldn't advise this book for anyone under the age of 10, in fact maybe older would be better. The violence of the rats and the fears presented might be shocking for some. However, the book is full of wonderful characters and a plot which is moved along very smoothly by some wonderful story-telling. All in all then, a great book to reread...and there are two more in the Deptford Mice series as well! I think I may have to get those as well!

Star rating: 4 from 5

Friday, 22 July 2016

Wildlife Spectacles by Vladimir Dinets

I want to thank Timber Press and Net Galley for allowing me access to the advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by the natural world. I grew up watching David Attenborough on TV every week, following his programmes carefully and with great interest. I also read many of his books as well. And, even though Dinets is not Attenborough, receiving this wildlife book made me quite excited. 

Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors tracks the spectacular displays of wildlife throughout North America, from mating to feeding rituals and migrations in every element. He briefly covers a lot of different species and their habits, as well as detailing at the end of each chapter where you can see such spectacles. This is a very nice touch, giving people the chance to find out for them selves just how magnificent nature can be. Also, the photographs throughout the book are beautiful.

However, I feel that there was too little information about too many species. If Dinets had focused more of his attention on a few unusual things but with lots of detail, I would have enjoyed it more. That's not to say the book is bad. It really isn't. If anything, it is a good starter guide for the people of North America to find out what they can see on their doorsteps. What I would like to see now from Dinets are books about other parts of the world, or for more detailed books about certain species in this one.

Overall, a good starter book for new nature lovers, but more is definitely needed!

Star rating: 3 from 5

Wildlife Spectacles will be released on 19th October 2016

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind

Those of you who have been reading my blog regularly over the last year will know that I recently discovered the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. This was a truly wonderful discovery and I can't believe I waited this long before opening Stone of Tears, the second book in this epic fantasy series.

I really enjoyed this book. It has a lot of action, magic, danger, a little love, some comedy and heartache, as well as dragons, gars and a hell of a lot more! The story follows swiftly on from Wizards First Rule, the first book in the series, with Darken Rahl defeated. However, things are not as they seem. The Stone of Tears has entered the world which is a sign that the veil had been torn and the Keeper is close to breaking free. It's up to Richard and Kahlan, yet again, to try to save the world before it's too late.

The plot is excellent, the characters developing nicely, and I love the writing style. This is no small book. The kindle version is 1014 pages long, but those pages fly past once you get into the story. I admit there were moments in the first half of the book where I though "how much further to go?", but they were few and far between with the "do I have time for another chapter?" parts being much more prominent. I must have driven my wife crazy but I tried very hard not to give her any spoilers...something I am prone to doing normally!

All in all, I really loved Stone of Tears. You need to read Wizards First Rule first, but it is worth it!

Star rating: 5 from 5

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Brazilian Sketches by Rudyard Kipling

My thanks go to Net Galley and the publisher, Canelo, for sending me an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a pleasant surprise to find! I loved The Jungle Book when I was a child so to have to chance to read some of Kipling's travelogues was an amazing opportunity. South America is also a bit of a mystery to me so it was really great to read this collection of travel essays which he wrote for the newspapers of the UK and the US.

Firstly, the writing style is so typical of the period he was writing in, with some amazingly descriptive passages which allow the reader to feel like he is riding along with the writer. The basic premise is that Kipling has been sent to Brazil for his health, and while there he travelled a lot around the country, especially around Sao Paulo and the final chapter based mostly in Rio.

I would have liked this book to much longer (it's under 100 pages), including some voyages up the Amazon, which was billed in the blurb but didn't materialise in the book itself. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the read and would read it again.

Star rating: 4.5 from 5
This book will be released on July 18th 2016

Monday, 4 July 2016

Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Huge thanks go to Guy and to his publishers, Urbane Publications, for sending me this review copy in exchange for an honest review.

This was the first book I requested directly from the publisher, although strangely it all happened via Twitter. I received a notification saying that I had been mentioned in a tweet and, when I opened it, I discovered the cover of this book. I found it on GoodReads and decided to see if I could request it. The author himself passed my request to the publisher and the rest is history.

I must say, from the outset, that I haven't read many modern police procedural novels, preferring to read books more from the golden age of crime writing. This book proved to be an homage to that period, the writer even having some of the characters being played by his own. This was wonderful and helped blend the two very different styles of writing needed to pull it off.

The characters are great, although I would have liked them to be a bit more cut-throat, if you'll excuse the pun! The plot was full of the usual twists and turns, and, despite a really quick beginning, really stood out to me. I was a little disappointed in the reveal, if I am totally honest, but it was a clever twist which was a little unexpected.

Overall then, I would recommend this book to any crime fiction fan, especially of the golden age. I hope to see a sequel one day soon!

Star rating: 4 from 5

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency: A Spoon Too Short

Many thanks go to NetGalley and the publisher, IDW Publishing, for sending me an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing to make very clear: A Spoon Too Short is not written by Douglas Adams, but it is instead based on one of his most popular characters, Dirk Gently. Also, it is a graphic novel, another one for my collection! The graphics are extremely colourful and bright, some are so bright they hurt the eyes a little. The plot is, as with all Dirk Gently books, a little hard to follow, especially Dirk's train of thought.

Here, the holistic detective is following the interconnectedness of a family who have lost their voice, a village in Africa where nobody talks, and a game warden with a major poaching problem. The journey takes him to Kenya where he must find out what is causing the problems and end it once and for all.

I enjoyed this graphic novel, but it  wasn't special for me. In fact, it proved hard to rate. I guess it would be like a new graphic novel based on Lord of the Rings, but a brand new story, being published. Familiar characters, new story, but not the original.

Star rating: 3.5 from 5
This graphic novel will be published on 29th September 2016

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins

Over the whole of June (literally!) I read The Blind Watchmaker. For those of you who don't know, Richard Dawkins is an Evolutionary Biologist, and this book is along the natural selection line, the Dawkinian train of thought. This is a very complicated subject but the theory is so elegant, there can be know real competition to it.

I've never read any books on evolution before, so this was a new experience for me. I know the writing style, having read The God Delusion, and I can tell you honestly that this book reads like a dream. Some aspects are, I admit, a little challenging to understand but Dawkins does an excellent job in piecing it together in a well-organised, well-thought out way that the layman can grasp. It is popular science at it's very best. I particularly liked the chapter comparing the development of RADAR and SONAR with the echolocation of bats, and the birds tail feather lengths was also a delight to read.

I feel that I learned a huge amount from this book. I think it will take a reread to let it all sink in fully and, maybe, to clear up one or two of the bits I didn't fully understand, but the book is such a pleasure to read. Anyone with any interest in evolution should read this, and I truly think it should be a required reading for all evolution students in the future too.

Evolution is not a theory, it is a fact, and one we should all respect, even if we disagree with the vast amount of evidence on hand. The book may be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but it is still true!

Star rating: 5 from 5

Friday, 1 July 2016

Millennium by Ben Bova

Many thanks to Endeavor Press and NetGalley for sending me an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reading a sci-fi novel set during my own lifetime is a strange thing. Millennium is based in December 1999 and follows a group of American and Soviet people living in Selene, a moonbase split in two on the Moon. With the cold war threatening to heat up after an incident in Antarctica, the commander of Selene wants to declare independence from all countries of the Earth. Naturally, they face opposition from their own governments.

This book had me hooked to the story like a fish on a line. There were moments when it tried to shake me off, but then it rehooked me quickly and easily. The plot is quite straightforward, which is nice in a sci-fi novel, and moves along and just the right pace. The characters are complex but understandably so, and there are enough twists to keep an F1 driver happy! The writing, likewise, is very pleasant to read, if not a bit dark.

What I would say is that people right now on Earth could do with a dose of this book. The sheer insanity of the major governments is clearly shown here and some of the things happening all around our pale blue dot have happened in the build up to this novel. Maybe our leaders should all read it and do everything to avoid a similar fate. Sure, there is no Soviet Union now, but tell that to the respective governments.

Star rating: 4 from 5