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psutto 13 categories part 3

This is a continuation of the topic psutto 13 categories part 2.

2013 Category Challenge

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Jul 29, 2013, 5:53am Top

Books will be rated:

Unfinished - self explanatory really, it was so bad I couldn't finish it

Average - an OK book but one I wouldn't really recommend

Good - a good example of the genre, one I'd recommend

Brilliant- books that everyone should read, really outstanding and memorable

About half way through this year I became aware of 12 books that changed the world and wished I'd based my 12/12 on it - so I'm going to base the 13/13 on it instead :-) I may try to read some of the books that changed the world but wont read all of them. Each of my categories is about one of the 12 books but I'll be using tags to inspire a reading list.

my basic aim this year is to do a minimum of 6 books per category (which would make a total of 78) but have no maximum in any category - my categories this year are a bit more open than previously and the challenge this time round will be time rather than number related - everything I read between finishing the 12/12 in December on 12/12/2012 and New Years Eve 2013 will be included - the challenge is fit them into a category.

Jul 29, 2013, 5:55am Top

Category 1 – 12 books that changed the world

Books about books/Reading – books about other books, books about reading, books about writing

I’ll be reading 12 books that changed the world by Melvyn Bragg

What I’ll definitely be doing is following Alberto Manguel’s reading year in A year of favourite books Will be reading the book and following the books he does:

Month 1 – the invention of morel by Adolfo Bioy Cesares (as I read this in 2012 and my first challenge month is a short one I'll miss this one out)
Month 2 – the island of Dr. Moreau – H.G.Wells
Month 3 – Kim – Rudyard Kipling
Month 4 – Memoirs from beyond the grave – Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand
Month 5 – The Sign of Four – Arthur Conan Doyle
Month 6 – Elective Affinities – Goethe
Month 7 – Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Month 8&9 – Don Quixote – Cervantes (not sure I can read this in a single month so am allowing 2 months)
Month 10 – The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati
Month 11 – The Pillow Book – Sei Shonagon
Month 12 – Surfacing – Margaret Atwood
Month 13 – The posthumous memoirs of Bras Cubas – Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

Whilst looking at reading years I came across the following books – which I may also read some of them as part of the challenge

Howard’s end is on the landing – Susan Hill
So many books, so little time – Sara Nelson
A reader on reading – Alberto Manguel
Second Readings Battersby – Eileen Battersby
A year of reading dangerously – Andy Miller
Tolstoy and the purple chair – Nima Sankovitch
On re-reading – Patricia Meyer Spacks
Fact and Fiction – Bertrand Russell
why read the classics Italo Calvino

Jul 29, 2013, 5:55am Top

Category 2 - Principia Mathematica (1687)

Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Latin for "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy", often referred to as simply the Principia, is a work in three books by Sir Isaac Newton. Newton composed Principia Mathematica during 1685 and 1686, and it was published in a first edition on July 5th, 1687 and began changing the world. Widely regarded as one of the most important works in both the science of physics and in applied mathematics during the Scientific revolution, the work underlies much of the technological and scientific advances from the Industrial Revolution (usually dated from 1750) which its tools helped to create

13 is interesting mathematically being the smallest emirp, one of only 3 known Wilson primes & a happy prime

Gravity – heavy books
Latin – Books from Latin America
Mathematics – Books about mathematics, mathematicians, or with a number in the title
Random numbers – my baker’s dozen category books that I just have to read but can’t fit anywhere else

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 3 - Married Love (1918)

Married Love or Love in Marriage is a book written by Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes, first published in March 1918 by a small publisher, after many other larger publishers turned her down because of the content. Some time around the start of her divorce proceedings, Stopes began to write a book about how she thought a marriage should work.

Banned Books – the naughty list
It’s all about Sex – "It's the old, old story - droid meets droid, droid becomes chameleon, droid loses chameleon, chameleon turns into blob, droid gets blob back again. Blob meets blob, blob goes off with blob and droid loses blob, chameleon and droid. How many times have we seen that story?" Kryten Red Dwarf (S4 – Camille) – books with a strong element of romance
I wish I’d never been born – the darker side of birth control - Eugenics
Children – I’m not a huge fan of YA but I’m guessing that I may read one or two eventually!

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 4 - Magna Carta (1215)

Magna Carta, also called Magna Carta Libertatum or The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, is an English charter, originally issued in Latin in the year 1215, it required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no "freeman" (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.

“Who’s Queen?” – Monarchy
Collected authorship – books written by more than 1 author
Manifesto - It’s a bit political
Dear old Blighty – books about England, the English language or by English authors
Feudalism – Serfs and Knights and all that stuff
Collectives – Group Reads and sub-challenges

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 5 - Book of Rules of Association Football (1863)

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, is a sport played between two teams of eleven players with a spherical ball. At the turn of the 21st century, the game was played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport. The Laws of the Game are the codified rules that help define association football.

wide world of Sports – books about sport
Its a funny old Game – seems that I read a couple of books about games per year
a bit of bovver at the match- Seems football, at least in England, is associated with hooliganism so books about violence
lets play Fantasy football – more about the fantasy than the football

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 6 - On the Origin of Species (1859)

On the Origin of Species, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology.

Darwin – books about him and by him as well as books about evolution
Science - you may have noticed I’m a bit of a science geek
Beards – Face fuzz you could hide chimps in – authors with beards
Rereads – since I read this in 2012 I won’t be reading it again but may re-read some different books

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 7 - On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789)

William Wilberforce's famous abolition speech, delivered in the House of Commons on Tuesday 12 May 1789

Slavery – books about slaves
Shiver me timbers - books about Pirates
Caribbean – Books about the Caribbean or by Caribbean authors
Africa – Books about Africa or by African authors

Jul 29, 2013, 5:56am Top

Category 8 - A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society and then proceeds to redefine that position, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.

All Woman– books written by women, books with women in that pass the Bechdel test, books with women as the protagonist

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57am Top

Category 9 - Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855)

Faraday described his numerous experiments in electricity and electromagnetism in three volumes entitled Experimental Researches in Electricity (1839, 1844, 1855). Faraday's research into electricity and electrolysis was guided by the belief that electricity is only one of the many manifestations of the unified forces of nature, which included heat, light, magnetism, and chemical affinity. Although this idea was erroneous, it led him into the field of electromagnetism, which was still in its infancy.

The electric age – books about the modern world
lets make an Experiment – experimental fiction
Pioneers – people that blaze the trail
Great scientists – books about the greatest scientists, Einstein kept a picture of Faraday in his office

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57am Top

Category 10 - Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769)

In 1769 English inventor and entrepreneur Richard Arkwright of Nottingham received British patent No. 931 for "A new Piece of Machinery never before found out, practised, or used, for the Making of Weft or Yarn from Cotton, Flax, and Wool, which would be of great Utility to a great many Manufacturers in this His Kingdom of England, as well as to His Subjects in general, by Employing a Number of Poor People in Working the said Machinery, and Making the said Weft or Yarn much Superior in Quality to any ever heretofore Manufactured or Made."

Dark Satanic Mills – books about the environment and our very flawed management of it

Luddites - The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, that replaced them with less-skilled, low-wage labour, leaving them without work and changing their way of life. Books about political movements, grass roots and revolutions

Industrial age - books with industrial settings, steampunk

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57am Top

Category 11 - The King James Bible (1611)

The Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version, King James Bible, KJB, or KJV, is an English translation of the Christian Bible by the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611.

I Don't believe it – books about religion and atheism
Translation – translated books or books about translation

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57am Top

Category 12 - An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. First published in 1776, it is a reflection on economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and argues that free market economies are more productive and beneficial to their societies. The book is a fundamental work in classical economics.

Money is the root of all Evil – books about capitalism, money, poverty
Money makes the world go around – books about travel
Money, it’s a crime – noir and crime novels
Get a job, have a career – Author's careers – selected or completed works of selected authors

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57am Top

Category 13 - The First Folio (1623)

Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio.

Comedies – funny books
Histories – history books
Tragedies – tragic books
Theatre – plays, playwrights and all things luvvie
Shakespeare – Books about the Bard, by the Bard or inspired by the Bard
Poetry - Books of poetry

Jul 29, 2013, 5:58am Top

Dec 13th to Jan 13th round up:

Books read = 20
Unfinished = 3
Average = 8
Good = 7
Brilliant = 2
unreviewed as yet = 3

stand out reads - Redshirts and gun machine
worst reads - dirty havana trilogy - imagine being stuck on a beach with only 1 book and it was this one, luckily I managed to pick up the humorist later on and that became my beach read

Jul 29, 2013, 5:58am Top

Jan-Feb catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - 51 books read - 5 ebook, 4 audio, 17 GN
7 by Women, 3 by various, 41 by Men
Category 1 - 2
Category 2 - 4
Category 3 - 0
Category 4 - 5
Category 5 - 10
Category 6 - 2
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 3
Category 9 - 2
Category 10 - 0
Category 11 - 1
Category 12 - 8
Category 13 - 7
Unfinished - 4
Average - 17
Good - 24
Brilliant - 6

Stand out reads this month

the good
Fun Home, Slowly Downward, Swamplandia, The Poet's Corner
the bad

Looks like I should get some Cat 3 and Cat 10 books read!

Jul 29, 2013, 5:58am Top

Feb-Mar catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - 73 books read - 7 ebook, 6 audio, 20 GN
12 by Women, 3 by various, 58 by Men
Category 1 - 7
Category 2 - 6
Category 3 - 0
Category 4 - 6
Category 5 - 15
Category 6 - 3
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 3
Category 9 - 2
Category 10 - 0
Category 11 - 6
Category 12 - 10
Category 13 - 8
Unfinished - 6
Average - 17
Good - 39
Brilliant - 11

good to see most books this last month were Good or Brilliant :-)

in the 12/12 I had read 35 books in the same period
in the 11/11 I had read 20 (but started in January so in less time)

Jul 29, 2013, 5:58am Top

Mar-APR catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 91 - 7 ebook, 6 audio, 26 GN
14 by Women, 4 by various, 73 by Men
18 ROOT (no ROOT this month - thats poor!)
Category 1 - 8
Category 2 - 8
Category 3 - 0
Category 4 - 9
Category 5 - 20
Category 6 - 7
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 3
Category 9 - 3
Category 10 - 0
Category 11 - 7
Category 12 - 10
Category 13 - 9
Unfinished - 6
Average - 17
Good - 53
Brilliant - 16

considering I read 68 books in total for my 10/10 challenge (although i wasn't counting GNs for that challenge) I think i'm doing quite well this year

Jul 29, 2013, 5:59am Top

Apr-May catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 106 - 8 ebook, 6 audio, 30 GN
14 by Women, 5 by various, 86 by Men
23 ROOT (5 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 8
Category 2 - 9
Category 3 - 1
Category 4 - 9
Category 5 - 24
Category 6 - 9
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 3
Category 9 - 4
Category 10 - 1
Category 11 - 7
Category 12 - 12
Category 13 - 10
Unfinished - 8
Average - 19
Good - 62
Brilliant - 17

Jul 29, 2013, 5:59am Top

May-June catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 123 - 8 ebook, 6 audio, 35 GN
15 by Women, 5 by various, 102 by Men
30 ROOT (5 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 8
Category 2 - 9
Category 3 - 2
Category 4 - 10
Category 5 - 33
Category 6 - 10
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 4
Category 9 - 4
Category 10 - 2
Category 11 - 8
Category 12 - 13
Category 13 - 10
Unfinished - 10
Average - 20
Good - 71
Brilliant - 22

Jul 29, 2013, 5:59am Top

June-July late catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 135 - 8 ebook, 8 audio, 37 GN
21 by Women, 6 by various, 107 by Men
33 ROOT (3 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 8
Category 2 - 9
Category 3 - 2
Category 4 - 11
Category 5 - 37
Category 6 - 11
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 5
Category 9 - 4
Category 10 - 2
Category 11 - 8
Category 12 - 14
Category 13 - 10
Unfinished - 11
Average - 21
Good - 79
Brilliant - 24

Edited: Jul 29, 2013, 6:06am Top

At the weekend I went to a librarian event (even though I'm not a librarian) called librarycamp SW (I blogged about it here: http://brsbkblog.blogspot.co.uk/) which was very interesting. I've fallen way behind on reviews again so will try and catch up this week. I'm currently seeing out July with the golden notebook a classic in the "battle of the sexes" apparently..

re-reading my aims and summaries I need to read more from Cat 3, 7, 8, 9 & 10

Jul 29, 2013, 9:41am Top

I read The golden notebook many years ago and vaguely remember liking it. I've thought about reading some other Doris Lessing, but her other titles always sound strange or intimidating.

Jul 29, 2013, 1:54pm Top

Migrating over to your new thread Pete. Librarycamp sounds like fun!

Jul 29, 2013, 5:57pm Top

Happy new thread! It's nice to see all of your categories again :) I'll be reading a book soon that would fit into your Category 7: Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup -- it's being made into a movie so have to read the book first.

Jul 29, 2013, 7:14pm Top

Looking forward to seeing what your thoughts are on Golden Notebook. I've only read The Good Terrorist of hers, but wouldn't mind giving something else a try. Or I could just reread The Good Terrorist since that was a Uni book, and, thus, read a long, long time ago. :)

Jul 30, 2013, 6:20am Top

>24 lkernagh: - Librarycamp was fun

>25 rabbitprincess: - will await your review

>26 -Eva-: - I'm less than 100 pages in, it seems a little dated but readable at the moment

Jul 30, 2013, 6:20am Top

lost at sea Jon Ronson

Category 12


I listened to this, narrated by the author. This is a collection of Ronson’s articles on many diverse subjects from the boxes of Stanley Kubrick to investigations into a suicide. Ronson explores the weird side of life most often, being fascinated by extremes of human behaviour. He spends time with cults and psychics, speaks to euthanasia advocates, follows the trial of Jonathan King, investigates the rise of real superheroes (the film super is not so far off the mark! Check this out http://www.reallifesuperheroes.com/) and does so with a wry sense of humour and a keen eye for the absurd. If you’re a fan of his longer works or of his newspaper or TV work then you’ll enjoy this collection. The only issue is that although there is some commonality due to the author’s interests he does cast his net wide and the book does feel a bit eclectic, not an issue for me as I dipped in occasionally on bus journeys and walks.

Overall – An interesting but eclectic collection of short articles.

Jul 30, 2013, 11:00am Top

There is going to be another great reading adventure in Bristol in 2014 and they are looking for ideas for what book(s) to recommend, that are Great War themed - there's already a fairly comprehensive list but if anyone can think of any more that'd be great - have a look (and comment) here:


Jul 30, 2013, 5:21pm Top

Bookmarking that list for future reference! Glad to see The General on there. I'd probably choose that one or All Quiet on the Western Front. And I didn't realize that Remarque had written more books.

Jul 30, 2013, 11:14pm Top

->28 psutto:
I was just rewatching old TED talks and watched his from last year about the psychopath test - recommended if you haven't seen it (although, which TED talks aren't??). link over here

Jul 31, 2013, 3:34am Top

>28 psutto: The thing is, once you've heard Jon Ronson speak, you can't help by read his books with his voice inside your head. I recently read Them and every single word was in Ronson's voice. It does explain why so many extremists are willing to speak openly with him, though. He is the least threatening person alive.

Jul 31, 2013, 4:11am Top

>30 rabbitprincess: - mine would be All quiet too

>31 -Eva-: - not seen it, going to go have a look later today, thanks for the link

>32 RidgewayGirl: - that's why I didn't mind listening to this one

Jul 31, 2013, 12:02pm Top

Just seen this: http://www.ideasfestival.co.uk/2013/events/jared-diamond-2/ folks who remember my review of this book - shall I go along and ask him some questions? ;-)

Aug 1, 2013, 5:04am Top

Die Wand (The Wall) by Marlen Haushofer

Category 8 – Woman writer/woman protagonist


A middle aged woman is staying at a holiday villa with relations when one morning she wakes to find that her relations have not returned from town and there is a mysterious invisible wall cutting her off from the rest of the world. Her only companions are a few farm animals and the book is a memoir of the first few years of isolation. We know she is writing about the past and she writes with plenty of foreshadowing. This is a quiet, understated little book that stays with you and makes you think. It isn’t an action filled book and concentrates more on how she feels and how she copes with isolation, feeding herself, keeping warm and looking after her animals. Her constant references to what was going to happen meant that when it finally did happen, and was very abrupt, you are left wanting more. I think this means that the book will reward a re-read. Looking at the other reviews on LT I am wondering about the expectations of the people who read it. This is post-apocalyptic but not dystopic and definitely not an action story, however it is a great read.

Overall – A quiet contemplative read, recommended

Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

Category 8 – Woman writer


I was aware of Capa before reading the book, but didn’t know much about the story. The book starts in mid-30’s Paris when Endre Friedmann (Robert Capa) meets Gerta Pohorylle (Gerda Taro) and Gerta agrees to be Friedmann’s manager. After a distasteful stint as photographer to a German paper (both Friedmann and Pohorylle are Jews) in Spain Friedmann returns to Paris and the two start an affair. When Gerta realizes that Friedmann would have more luck as an “American” photographer they both change their names. They then both go to cover the Spanish civil war where Taro, the first woman war photojournalist, loses her life. Fortes states at the beginning of the book that Spain owes Capa a book and this is it, originally written in Spanish. I don’t know if it was the translation, or if the original book had the same problem, but the writing is alternatively grandiose and banal, the characters fail to come to life and I wasn’t overjoyed to find it was a historical romance with many sex scenes. In the end this book just wasn’t for me, there is a great story here, Capa’s life and Taro’s life are fascinating and so is the historical period. Fortes sadly isn’t a good enough writer to bring it alive though.

More info on Capa here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Capa and Taro here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerda_Taro which will tell you much more than reading this book

Overall – disappointing and boring

Aug 1, 2013, 5:30am Top

I felt the same about Waiting for Capa. I read Steinbeck's A Russian Journal about his trip to Russia with Capa and that was quite interesting.

Aug 1, 2013, 7:38am Top

>36 avatiakh: - the steinbeck book is definitely firmly on my WL already but nice to hear that you found it interesting :-)

Ffor all Fforde ffans - http://www.hodderscape.co.uk/announcing-the-first-review-project-title/

Aug 5, 2013, 5:14am Top

I think I would find the Diamond talk really interesting if I happened to be in your neck of the woods, and given I do remember your review of Guns I think I would also find it really interesting to hear his answers to some of your questions!

Edited: Aug 5, 2013, 5:28am Top

>23 Bjace: I have the same experience with Lessing. I read and liked The good terrorist several years ago, and picked up a few more of hers when she got the Nobel. But haven't piucked them up for some reason. The golden notebook stands on my shelves. Hm, maybe next year.

>35 psutto: This sounds lovely, definitely jotting it down! Is there a reason the title is in german even in english?

Aug 5, 2013, 8:09am Top

Nice reviews of Lost at Sea and Die Wand. More to put on my list ....

I also enjoyed your blog post about library camp. I'm not a librarian either, but I've been a lifelong supporter and user of libraries. The talks sounded interesting.

Edited: Aug 5, 2013, 10:29am Top

>38 SouthernKiwi: - I think attending a talk to ask "why was your book so full of asinine assumptions" would be in poor taste (although I did once hear an audience member barrack an author for not getting things right about WW1 at Cheltenham festival which seemed a bit rude)

>39 GingerbreadMan: - I gave up, a lot of the reviews say it's a hard book but worth it, I got to a very dull bit and was avoiding it so decided to paerl rule it and get on with more interesting reading

I think it's just the touchstone, the version I have is called The Wall

>40 mathgirl40: - I help run the Bristol Festival of Literature (BFL - see below!) and so work quite closely with the local libraries which is what made me go, glad I did though it was a lot of fun

COMPETITION - (or in fact 2 competitions, but one of them you need to come to Bristol for) - I'm running a creative writing competition for BFL this year which will be a 1 day event (deatils on the BFL facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/1405784389637998/) the winning stories will be published by Angry Robot which is pretty exciting :-D which leads to the second competition which is to design the book cover for the resulting book and that competition is open worldwide and open now so if you're artistic get doodling! (if you want more details or don't have a FB account then mail trail AT unputdownable.org)

Aug 5, 2013, 10:24pm Top

"attending a talk to ask "why was your book so full of asinine assumptions" would be in poor taste"
Yes, agreed, but it would also be funny, which is appealing to me. :)

Aug 6, 2013, 2:48am Top

Heh. An episode from the first book of the unwritten springs to mind :)

Aug 6, 2013, 5:37am Top

Agents talk about book openings - agree or disagree?


Aug 6, 2013, 10:14am Top

This weekend I'll be attending the new "geek" con 9 worlds (https://nineworlds.co.uk/) who's schedule just looks manic! I may come back with some books...

Edited: Aug 6, 2013, 11:48am Top

@ 44 -- Interesting link! I totally agree with most of the agents' comments. I hate books that start with dream sequences, and I also don't generally see the need for prologues. Also laughed at: “The (adjective) (adjective) sun rose in the (adjective) (adjective) sky, shedding its (adjective) light across the (adjective) (adjective) (adjective) land.”

Edited: Aug 6, 2013, 12:26pm Top

->44 psutto:
Urgh, ‘laundry list’ character descriptions are the worst! I don't even have to know what the character looks like at all, unless it has a bearing on the story. I don't mind prologues, but it depends on the genre of novel and what its purpose is.

I do, however, wonder about the one that said she didn't like when the main character dies in the first chapter. Unless they're resurrected supernaturally, I'm thinking that's probably not the main character. Or am I picturing this wrong? Can anyone think of a book where this happens so that I get what she means?

"A rape scene in a Christian novel in the first chapter."
Eh?! I hadn't expected that sentence! Is that common in Christian fiction?!

Aug 6, 2013, 12:24pm Top

I agreed with the literary agents' comments as well, although I remain unconvinced that dream sequences are ever appropriate in a novel. Dreams are things that are only ever interesting to the dreamer.

Aug 6, 2013, 6:41pm Top

OOOOOOOOOOOOOO Syrio Forel! "Boy, girl. You are a sword and that is all!"

Aug 7, 2013, 4:30am Top

@47 yeah that threw me Eva!

and death in the 1st chapter.. can't think of anything I vaguely remember horror books like The Rats used to spend too time setting up a character only to kill they very quickly.

I quite like a good prologue personally but I think that there are many bad ones.

Aug 7, 2013, 8:29am Top

As a reader I not only don't mind a prologue, if done well, but also feel it may add a huge amount to the theme and feel of a book. Look at Tigana (which breaks two of the "rules" discussed) - minor spoiler in next paragraph

There is a prologue, a damn fine prologue in my opinion, and Kay kills of several characters in the first chapter (can't remember if it's a "false beginning" as such though?!) Tigana is a fine book which happens to have several structural faults. If it were Kay's first book would it have been published? Would he have got an agent because of it's faults?

Exposition/description in the first chapter? would Gormenghast make the grade nowadays?

Don't like the opening line being "My name is..."? "Call me Ishmael" is a famous opening line

Are there any book openings that immediately put you off reading something?

In other news the restrictions placed on Apple are really quite stringent - a lot can happen in 5 years: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2013/08/doj-proposes-punishments-for-apple/?utm_sou...

Aug 7, 2013, 8:53pm Top

> 51 - Agreed, a lot can happen in 5 years. While Apple colluded with the publishers, I don't see why Apple is the one to bear the brunt of this. The publishers knew what they were doing from the get-go. Apple was just the conduit to try and make their dreams come true. *shakes head*

Aug 8, 2013, 6:53am Top

>51 psutto: Well, rules are made to be broken, as long as it's a conscious decision. The problem lies more in the author's not thinking it through. And Guy Gavriel Kay can open a book with a prologue featuring long, adjective heavy descriptions of landscapes and Christian rape that ends up being a dream sequence by the main character, who then dies. He's that good.

Aug 8, 2013, 7:07am Top

Eat him if you like Jean Teule

Category 12 - Translation


Based on a historic incident from the summer of 1870 this small but powerful book tells the tale of an incident when a town seemed to lose its mind and become a howling bloodthirsty mob. Alain de Moneys, a well-liked young nobleman visits the local fair before he goes off to fight in the Franco-Prussian war. An overheard comment about the war, badly misconstrued leads to de Moneys being targeted by an angry mob. If you don’t like graphic descriptions of violence and torture then this book is really not for you even though the unremitting darkness is sometimes tinged with ghoulish humour. This is a car crash of a book, it makes you wince, it may even turn your stomach but a sense of grim fascination draws you ever on.

Overall – powerful, sad, gory, horrific yet compelling reading

Edited: Aug 16, 2013, 5:17am Top

The last banquet Jonathan Grimwood

Category - 13 history


The book begins with Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumont as a penniless orphan eating dung beetles and when a passing noble takes pity on him and gives him Roquefort his future, as a creature of taste as the ultimate sense, is born. The book follows his life from this inauspicious start through his school years, his training to be a soldier, his friendship with a couple of nobles and his later career as master of the menagerie at Versailles. His life rushes along, with lifelong friendships made and loves found and lost, towards the 1790’s and the advent of revolutionary France. He corresponds with Voltaire and meets Benjamin Franklin and always throughout all his experiences he explores the world of taste. Peppered through the book are recipes, my favourite being the one for Wolf’s Heart (although, of course, I haven’t had the chance to try it). It is a large stage and our players have some difficulty filling it, there is a lack of dramatic exploration of the historic backdrop as our narrator remains firmly on the sidelines. However it does have lots of drama at a human scale and throughout it is Jean-Marie’s quest for taste that makes the book. Grimwood, through Jean-Marie, looks dispassionately at pre-revolutionary France seeing both the good and the bad and Jean-Marie's dislike of Versailles comes through in his often graphic descriptions of e.g. people defecating in the flower beds or urinating in the corridors.

Overall – A fantastic idea competently executed but didn’t have that extra spark to make it great, yet is still a tasty treat.

Aug 8, 2013, 7:55am Top

very happy to win not one but two book related competitions this week - first off I won an Angry Robot pre-competition competition to guess what RFAD stood for (Robot for a day) for which I'll receive a goody bag :-)

Secondly I won a short story competition on Hodderscape here: http://www.hodderscape.co.uk/dodo-fiction-competition-2/

which I'll also receive a goody bag for :-)

Aug 8, 2013, 4:20pm Top

LOVE the Dodo-story! Congratuwelldone!!!

Aug 9, 2013, 4:29am Top

>57 -Eva-: - thanks! I am, as you can probably guess, well chuffed to win a short story competition run by such a well known publisher

Edited: Aug 9, 2013, 11:04am Top

am off to Nine worlds now - will report back on Monday (apparenlty there's another goody bag waiting for me there)

getting books via goody bags shouldn't count as a bad thing right? right?

Aug 9, 2013, 11:10am Top

Congratulations! What's in the goody bag besides books? If I were in charge, I'd go old school and include Wite-Out, fountain pens, absinthe and an apidistra.

Aug 9, 2013, 11:21am Top

Not sure what's in any of the goody bags apart from books but will be sure to post pics when I get them

Aug 9, 2013, 1:01pm Top

Goody bags are inherently good. It's right there in the name. :)

Aug 9, 2013, 7:25pm Top

Congrats on the book competition wins! Oooohh.... goody bags are great, and fantastic when they contain books! Have a great time at Nine worlds.

Aug 9, 2013, 8:01pm Top

>62 -Eva-: What Eva said. Congrats on your wins!

Aug 10, 2013, 3:20am Top

Congrats on winning both competitions! An Angry Robot goody bag would be something to look forward to I would suspect.

Aug 11, 2013, 6:45pm Top

I love your Dodo story, Pete, it sure makes you think about Dodos differently! (Cue Twilight Zone music)

Edited: Aug 12, 2013, 4:34am Top

Had a great time at Nineworlds - later (today hopefully - after work) I'll put together a post of what I got up to but here is a pic of the book haul - 2 of these books were freebies in the welcome pack...

control point by Myke Cole - not my usual fare but may be worth a shot
Theft of swords by Michael J Sullivan - even less my usual bag, may rot on the shelf or go to a friend

2nd hand (from a really good 2nd hand stall):
the house on the borderlands by William Hope Hodgson
the web between the worlds by Charles Sheffield (a childhood favourite author and a book by him I've not read)

Signed books:
London falling by Paul Cornell - strangely there was only 1 other person getting a book signed at the same time, I would have assumed that Cornell would have been huge...
The alchemist of souls by Anne Lyle - we spoke to Anne and she said that her signing was before most people arrived and so hardly anyone turned up, so we bought a copy
Alice on Mars by Robert Rankin - Rankin was hidden away with the Steampunkers in the basement, I managed to have a long chat with him whilst he signed my book, I was the only person in the room, apart from the other stallholders at the time

Random purchases:
And God created zombies by Andrew Hook
Myth-understandings Edited by Ian Whates
Shoes, ships and cadavers Edited by Ian Whates (he was running a store and we got chatting and then bought some books)
A glass of shadow by Liz Williams (A recommendation by ian Whates)

Aug 12, 2013, 11:25pm Top

Great loot! I, like you, am surprised you got both Cornell and Rankin to yourself, but nice timing!!

Aug 13, 2013, 4:52am Top

I've blogged about the con here: http://brsbkblog.blogspot.co.uk/ but to sum up - we did lots of interesting talks and panels, chatted with old friends I don't see very often and made some new friends and generally had a great time. One of the best cons I've been to.

>68 -Eva-: - I was espcially happy to have the chance to chat with Rankin, apparently he's going to reprint some of his old books via his own publishing company, seems his journey in publishing has been quite interesting!

Aug 13, 2013, 7:11am Top

Good haul, glad you enjoyed the con.

Aug 13, 2013, 6:16pm Top

See, that's what I like about smaller cons - you actually get some time with the people! I've stopped going to SDCC because it just got too huge.

Edited: Aug 14, 2013, 8:04am Top

Got my book package from Hodderscape for winning their dodo competition :-D

under the dome by Stephen King
the return man by VM Zito
the shining by Stephen King
Carrie by Stephen King
Cooking with bones Jess Richards
The violent century by Lavie Tidhar
Terminus by Adam Baker
Red moon by Benjamin Percy

Edited: Aug 27, 2013, 7:52am Top

and just got my Angry Robot prize:

the corpse-rat king by Lee Battersby
mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
the lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
nexus by Ramirez Naam
sixty-one nails by Mike Shevdon

Edited: Aug 14, 2013, 5:50pm Top

Holy cow, how many pages are in Under the Dome? That is one big book.

Love the Easter Egg! I took a picture outside that very police box last year :)

Aug 14, 2013, 11:01pm Top

Oooh, The Corpse-Rat King looks good and what a fun Easter Egg, one my brain stopped confusing the issue. ;-)

Aug 15, 2013, 4:10pm Top

That Easter Egg is such a great one! Don't miss the reviews people have written - some are hilarious.

Aug 16, 2013, 3:40am Top

>75 rabbitprincess: under the dome is 880 pages and was apparently "much longer" according to King! Until it was edited

Edited: Aug 16, 2013, 5:25am Top

July-Aug catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 144 - 8 ebook, 9 audio, 37 GN
25 by Women, 6 by various, 112 by Men
35 ROOT (2 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 8
Category 2 - 10
Category 3 - 2
Category 4 - 11
Category 5 - 37
Category 6 - 11
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 10
Category 9 - 4
Category 10 - 2
Category 11 - 8
Category 12 - 16
Category 13 - 11
Unfinished - 12
Average - 23
Good - 84
Brilliant - 25

still to finish categories are - 3, 7, 9 & 10, left to complete challenge = minimum of 11 books

Aug 17, 2013, 1:07pm Top

Brother Kemal by Jakob Arjouni

Category 11 - Translation (German)


Kemal Kayankaya is a Turkish private eye working in Frankfurt. He is hired by the wife of an artist to find her missing 16 year old daughter who is alleged to be with an older man, a photographer. Whilst he is preparing for the missing person case, he is also hired for a body guarding gig for a Muslim author at Frankfurt Book Fair. The Muslim author has written a book about a homosexual Muslim and is apparently threatened with violence by religious extremists. Both cases are straightforward but once one bleeds into the other it leads to abduction and murder.

This is the 5th book in the Kemal series, I have not read any of the other books. Despite a couple of references to earlier cases and, I suspect, recurring characters I didn't feel it was necessary to have read the other books to follow the plot.

The book has been translated into many languages and has won awards including the German crime fiction prize. It is a very fast read being less than 200 pages long and in an easy reading style. It's not really my cup of tea so with that proviso take the following with a pinch of salt.

It felt as though the author was trying too hard in the first chapter, to establish Kemal as a Sam Spade/ Phillip Marlow style character. It's also heavy on the misogyny as he ogles the woman who is hiring him to find her daughter. I almost didn’t get past that first chapter but luckily the book settles down somewhat from that point for a fairly standard plot. Kemal is in his 50’s and he and his ex-prostitute girlfriend live together and there is a sub-plot of her trying to get pregnant and him wondering what fatherhood would be like. There were a few incongruities such as pretending to be a police officer but having no badge, or police car or convincing story and yet being believed. For me there was nothing to elevate this above the standard for the genre. It was competent and, although well written (a good translation) there was nothing to elevate it or convince me that I needed to spend any more time with Kemal. I won’t be getting the other books in the series.

Overall – Pretty standard PI tale

Aug 17, 2013, 5:29pm Top

Aug 17, 2013, 9:34pm Top

Great article - it makes me want to come visit. I wish they had had more photos.

Aug 18, 2013, 5:27am Top

@80, I read and enjoyed the 1st in the series enough to want to read more although I haven't picked up the 2nd as yet. Shame the 5th doesn't seem to have elevated the series any. Ah well! I'll pick up the next one sometime and see how it goes from there.

Aug 21, 2013, 10:13pm Top

Nice story! Congratulations on winning the contest. I'm also mightily impressed by all your book acquisitions in the past couple of weeks.

Aug 24, 2013, 5:25am Top

>82 -Eva-: there is a Facebook group for Upfest with plenty of photos and there's probably one for See no evil too. Local publisher Tangent have a selection of coffee table books http://www.tangentbooks.co.uk/ . You should come visit, Bristol is a great city and Bath is very close by too.

>83 AHS-Wolfy: apparently he wrote the 5th book whilst dying of cancer. There wasn't anything wrong with it, just not for me I think, not something I'd have picked up but it was an ARC sent to me

>84 mathgirl40: Thanks! You'd have thought I'd acquired enough books this month, but I still managed to buy a couple at Edinburgh book fest yesterday and where I'll be spending the whole day tomorrow so still possible there'll be more yet!

Aug 24, 2013, 5:32pm Top

Deadly as a dodo :D Neat!

Edited: Aug 25, 2013, 8:33am Top

Spent the morning (and quite a bit if cash) at a really cool pop up comic fair opposite Edinburgh book fest :-)

>86 GingerbreadMan: -thanks!

Aug 25, 2013, 8:49pm Top

->85 psutto:
That Facebook group had some fantastic photos. Alas, I have, like most travelers to your part of the world, been to Bath, but never made it to Bristol. :(

Envious of your bookfest visit - guessing you came away with some brilliant loot!

Edited: Aug 27, 2013, 7:55am Top

I'll do a blog about the Edinburgh book festival 9and summarise here) later but just thought I'd drop a pic of the book haul here

along with some indie comics I got:

the falling sky by Pippa Goldschmidt
the haunted book by Jeremy Dyson
strangers in the house by Raja Shehadeh
the lighthouse stevensons by Bella Bathurst
all the little animals by Walker Hamilton
the black project by Gareth Brookes
the words of scroobius pip by Scroobius Pip

Aug 27, 2013, 9:03am Top

The Words of Scroobius Pip - intersting.

I've been to Bristol, but not Bath, so I guess I am backwards :-)

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Aug 27, 2013, 9:26am Top

> 90 - backwards or enlightened?

This has been entertaining me today: http://www.buzzfeed.com/aarong31/three-bookshops-had-a-twitter-fightand-it-ruled...

Aug 27, 2013, 9:34am Top

I signed the contract today for my story "Artifice Perdu" to go into the anthology "Airship shape and Bristol fashion" (no touchstone - don't think it has an ISBN yet) - and it looks like it's going to be an October publication date for that :-D

Aug 27, 2013, 11:20am Top

Scottish Tardis photo from Edinburgh trip

The Scottish police boxes are different to the English ones, the ones used for the Tardis. Maybe now we have a Scottish Doctor we'll get a Scottish Tardis?

Most of them have been converted into small coffee places, including one that Inspector Rebus is supposed to drink at...

Edited: Aug 27, 2013, 12:24pm Top

Congratulations on "Artifice Perdu"!! And thank you for the beautiful Tardis picture. It would be nice if he got himself one of those, wouldn't it - at least word is Capaldi gets to keep his Scottish accent. Fingers Xed!

Aug 27, 2013, 2:26pm Top

Congratulations! That's exciting news!

Aug 27, 2013, 2:48pm Top

@ 91 -- LOL at that Twitter "fight." Even their snotty little remarks sound incredibly polite and dignified.

Aug 27, 2013, 7:01pm Top

Hurray, Scottish Tardis and book haul! Looks like a good trip :)

Aug 28, 2013, 12:33pm Top

Thanks all - I did a blog post on the trip to Scotland here: http://brsbkblog.blogspot.co.uk/ we went to Loch Ness, Orkney, Aviemore and Edinburgh and had a great time, whisky tasting, theatre, comedy and plenty of book realted stuff at the book fest, saw Hannah Berry, Paul Cornell, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes, ian Rankin, Ken Mcleod, Val Mcdiarmid, Bryan & Mary Talbot and so much more :-)

Aug 28, 2013, 1:05pm Top

I'm so happy for your wild success. How long before you're too fine to talk to us?

Aug 28, 2013, 2:15pm Top

Never happen :-)

Aug 28, 2013, 5:51pm Top

->98 psutto:
That's just brilliant! Words cannot convey how much I would have wanted to be at that tribute! And I wouldn't have turned down the trip to Orkney either... :)

Aug 28, 2013, 6:11pm Top

Pete, does Hannah Berry have anything new lined up?

Aug 28, 2013, 10:36pm Top

nice book haul, love the twitter fight and yay for signing the contract for your story!

> 93 - But, there's a padlock on the door. Is the Doctor the only one with the key? Oh.... is this a coffee shop? I am guessing not, but how cool!

Aug 29, 2013, 4:09am Top

>101 -Eva-: it was pretty special

>102 AHS-Wolfy: she's working on a book about the music industry but it won't be out for a while

>103 lkernagh: that one isn't a coffee shop but Claire did take a pic of the one Rebus is meant to drink in....

Aug 29, 2013, 4:47am Top

Oh I did.. it was an awful phone pic.. I seem to have concentrated on the bin ;)

Aug 29, 2013, 5:18am Top

There was a sign outside, that isn't in the photo, that said something like "Inspector Rebus buys his coffee from here"

Edited: Aug 29, 2013, 5:41am Top

The Violent century Lavie Tidhar

Category 5 – violence


They’d never meant to be heroes…

In the 1930’s a German scientist, called Vomacht, performs an experiment that accidentally(?) creates “The changed”. The changed are kind of like the X-Men and exist in most countries. Our story concentrates on two of the changed called Fogg and Oblivion but along the way we get to meet a good many of them, on all sides. The story here is chopped into many little pieces and thrown together in an enthralling jigsaw. We often swap between the past and the present and yet there is a solid narrative thread running throughout. I am in awe of Tidhar’s skill with the story here and the believable characters, even though they each have superpowers. It helps that he concentrates on the British as the Americans are full in your face superhero types and the Germans are also Ubermenschen (as well as, on the whole, super-creepy). Oblivion and Fogg work for the retirement bureau and act, mainly, behind the scenes.

The world is lovingly detailed and we get to see the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s with an alternative history. Tidhar is playing with structure, playing with narrative and playing with conventions such as how dialogue is usually represented. He pulls it all off admirably. This is a tale, at heart, about people, which is a brilliant achievement considering it is full of ubermenshen. Along the way we get Nazi’s we get noir undertones, we get WW2 re-imagined, we get cool powers, we get a British superhero called Mrs Tinkle, we get Dracul in Transylvania, we get Auschwitz and Mengele and a book packed from cover to cover with great reading.

And yet the eye is drawn to the pictures, the bright uniforms in pixelated garish four-colour. There’s Tigerman, framed dramatically on top of the Empire state building, holding on to a cowering criminal mastermind. There’s the Green Gunman chasing outlaws in the wilds of Texas. The Electric Twins in Detroit capturing Al Capone. Fogg is mesmerised by the images, their brashness, their colour. It is raining on the Charing Cross Road. A grey morning, people hurrying past with black umbrellas over their heads. You’re a good watcher, Fogg, the Old Man says, his voice is in Fogg’s ears. We need men like you. Do not be tempted by the Americans, the loudness, the colour. We are the grey men, we are the shadow men, we watch but are not seen

Overall - This is the first of a two book deal and I’m definitely impatient to be reading the second. Since this one isn’t actually published yet (I got it as part of my Hodderscape haul) I’m going to have to learn to be patient!

Aug 31, 2013, 10:29am Top

Love your new book hauls and Scotland tales!

Aug 31, 2013, 10:31pm Top

I've been meaning to read more Tidhar since I read Hebrewpunk, but just haven't gotten around to it. Is it a total of 2 for sure? Or can it expand to a looong series? If 2, I'll hold off until the other one comes out. :)

Sep 1, 2013, 8:58am Top

Not sure even if his 2nd book with Hodder is a follow in, this felt pretty stand alone tbh

Sep 1, 2013, 5:15pm Top

I still haven't gotten around to picking up any of his books as yet. Reviews like this just add to the incentive though.

Sep 2, 2013, 5:00am Top

Immobility Brian Evenson

Category 12


Josef Horkai is awoken from storage half paralysed. Those that wake him inform him that something has been stolen from them, that he is a fixer and that he must get it back. The world has been destroyed by catastrophe and only he can make the journey outside, carried by two men in hazard suits that they refer to as mules. What they tell him doesn’t quite add up but he sees little choice in believing and helping them. He has to get it back soon and hurry back so they can freeze him again before his own time runs out from a creeping paralysis that they can slow but not stop.

Evenson creates an atmospheric book from this premise, with a protagonist that knows very little and explores the world with nearly new eyes. The desolate blasted landscape is brought vividly to life and a selection of odd characters inhabit it, Evenson’s prose is stark and well suited to the subject matter and the book, as well as having a quest like structure meditates on some deep philosophical existensialisms. There are some issues, the protagonist seems a little too clueless perhaps and the twisted tale could have been straighter and had just as much, if not more, impact. However these are very minor niggles and on the whole this is a great book.

Overall – Stark, philosophical, apocalyptic. Not your run of the mill SF. A tale beautifully told.

All the little animals Walker Hamilton

Category 5


Bobby is 31 years old but has learning and emotional difficulties and is really a young boy trapped in a man’s body. His mother owns a large department store but when she takes up with a man that Bobby calls “The Fat” things go downhill for Bobby. When she dies he runs away. Written from Bobby’s perspective this is a powerful tale marred slightly by the moustache twirling Fat who felt a little too Eeeevil to be real. Bobby takes up with a Mr Summers who sees it as his job to bury all the small animals that are destroyed by cars in Cornwall and who takes Bobby under his wing. The book is divided into several sections and each section has an illustration of a small dead animal drawn by Seb Howell. This is a book that could probably be read in one sitting (I read it mostly in queues a little at a time) and it is an affecting story.

The opening lines are - I can remember the tune, not the name of it, because I’m no good at names, but the sound of it. I’ll never forget the sound of that tune. I can’t remember the driver man’s face though, and that’s funny really, because I watched him as he died and yet his face is just nothing under black hair in my memory. Poor driver man

Overall - Written in a simplistic style with a very individual voice it is an effective little story

Sep 2, 2013, 6:09am Top

whilst in town yesterday i spotted this book and thought it must be a joke! the female brain the author is an MD, this is a medical person's opinion?? seriously?

Edited: Sep 2, 2013, 1:56pm Top

> 113 - Well, that caught my eye. Like you, I find it difficult to think that there is a gender difference in the brain. She seems to take the position that hormones play a role in brain development, which kind of makes sense. As female hormones tend to change in as we age, I guess our brain partly changes due to the influence of the hormone activity in the body. If that is true, it kind of makes me wonder what hormone replacement therapy can do to our brains...... interesting.

Edited to Add: Of course, the same would have to hold true for the 'male brain', with hormones playing just as important a role in male brain development, unless the good doctor takes the position that only certain types of hormones, like estrogen, interact with brain development. ;-)

Sep 3, 2013, 9:24am Top

>115 lkernagh: - if it's how hormones make men & women act differently it really shouldn't be called "the female brain", "how women think" whilst just as sexist would be more accurate? looking at reviews she extrapolates how certain people act and apply to the whole population which doesn't strike me as overly rigorous thinking... it also makes me wonder about HRT - if hormones play a great role to make the brain "different" between the sexes then where does that leave Trans women who have made the transition post development?

Sep 3, 2013, 9:28am Top

the lighthouse Stevensons by Bella Bathurst

Category 8 – Women writers


The subject itself is interesting, such as how did the lighthouses around the coast of Scotland get built? The biography of the family that did it, including Robert Louis Stevenson is also of interest. The historical time period itself from the late 1700’s to the late 1800’s is also inherently interesting. A good non-fiction writer can grip you with a narrative of the subject but sadly Bathurst failed to grip me. Oh there’s lots to like in here, a discussion of lighthouse technology, architecture, the reasons for lighthouses, the struggle to build them in remote places but it just wasn’t brought alive enough for me. For a subject so soaked in the ocean waves she managed to make it a little dry.

Overall – Fascinating subject slightly too dry book for my tastes

the black project by Gareth Brookes

Category 3 – It’s all about sex


Richard is socially awkward and he has no real friends. He makes a succession of girlfriends out of household objects of increasing complexity and anatomical verisimilitude. His grandfather’s workshop, his mother’s clothes, pornographic magazines found in the woods are all used to further his obsession. The art is beautiful and idiosyncratic, made from lino cut and embroidery. Brookes brings you into Richard’s world and makes it seem normal and makes Richard a very sympathetic protagonist. The tale is set in an unspecified time, but one that is instantly recognisable as before computers, riding around on rubbish bicycles with crappy handlebar gears, penny for the guy, wanting your own private space but your mum still comes into your bedroom whenever she wants. This is an endearing and odd tale and highly recommended.

Overall – What could be a very dark and sordid tale is told with humour and is all the more human for that.

Sep 3, 2013, 10:02pm Top

> 116 - it also makes me wonder about HRT - if hormones play a great role to make the brain "different" between the sexes then where does that leave Trans women who have made the transition post development?


*Nods head in full agreement*

I have a huge issue when professionals take isolated examples and extrapolate those results to the general population at large. There is too much variance in the gene pool of the population - without even factoring in all the environmental, social and developmental factors - that I am half tempted to read the book just to see if she has even considered all the big picture questions in the computation of her theory.

Hum, just realized I am now considering reading a book I would other wise never read, and with the hopes finding flaws in someone's theories. That is a new twist on marketing!

Edited: Sep 4, 2013, 4:12am Top

@118 isn't that what most of the internet is for? "I can't believe X just said that" :-) Well that and cats.

Sep 4, 2013, 4:56am Top

>118 lkernagh: - I had exactly the same reaction - I was half-tempted to get it so I could rip it apart!!

Sep 4, 2013, 10:38am Top

I assume that's the reason for the controversial title of the book -- it gets people invested, even if they totally disagree with the author's ideas!

Sep 4, 2013, 12:41pm Top

"with the hopes finding flaws in someone's theories"
Funny, but it does fall under the "know your enemy" adage, doesn't it. :)

Sep 5, 2013, 10:12am Top

That's evil and manipulative marketing!

Edited: Sep 5, 2013, 11:59am Top

XKCD Vol 0 by Randall Munroe

Category -13 COMEDIES


http://xkcd.com/ is an online institution amongst the cognoscenti and now there is a book so that lubbers can catch up too. It also has a bunch of commentary from the author on his cartoons. If you’re not an XKCD fan then this book is not for you. If you don’t know XKCD and/or are a fan then this book is for you.

Overall – Intelligent and amusing

Fairest volume 2 by Lauren Beukes

Category 4 - collected authors


OK I ditched Fables a while ago as the world went in a direction I wasn’t very interested in. I have been tempted back to that world by the excellent Lauren Beukes and she does an admirable job with the source material. Rapunzel’s back story is explored by Beukes and it has a surprising Asian twist, well Asian horror does seem to be obsessed with hair doesn’t it? The art, by Inaki Miranda is lush and there are some stunning panels. But I was a little underwhelmed, the ending of the story arc seemed a bit rushed, a few things didn’t make sense (to me) at the end and there was a horrid HPD (Huge Plot Device) deployed to reset things. Perhaps it will be explored again at some point in the future but since I expected, and wanted, a standalone it felt like a bit of a cheat. There is an additional Willingham story at the end with Reynard the fox but the less said about that the better. I doubt I’ll be revisiting the world again, there is something I just don’t like about it despite having a lot of promise in the beginning.

Overall – Fans of Fables will probably love this, for me it was good but had a few issues

Edited: Sep 5, 2013, 9:42pm Top

Fables? Did someone mention Fables? I just might have to check out the Fairest series.

> 123 - LOL! Marketing folks can be very, very sneaky. ;-)

Sep 6, 2013, 4:48am Top

Fairest is still in my distant future. Trying to stay in publication order on all the Fables tie-ins. Didn't know that Lauren Beukes was the writer of Vol.2 though.

Sep 9, 2013, 10:09am Top

The weird fiction review are doing a giveaway of The Weird Compendium. If you followed my thread last year you'll know I loved it. Go on have a go it'll be worth it.


Sep 16, 2013, 6:50am Top

I'm so far behind, I only looked away briefly!

I was in London for a training course last week and a day in Paris and it all got a bit hectic. Good point was that I managed to go to a book event whilst in London to see Toby Litt as well as Hannah Berry, SJ Harris and William Goldsmith which was good fun, also picked up the latest Litt and got it signed as well as a copy of incidents in the night translated by Brian Evenson

as I travelled a lot last week I read several books (yaay) and am now even further behind on reviews (boo)

will try to catch up later tonight....

Edited: Sep 17, 2013, 4:53am Top

poetry in (e)motion: the words of Scroobius Pip Scroobius Pip

Category – 13 – Poetry


Scroobius Pip came to prominence with “Thou shalt always kill” as part of a hip hop duo but he startred as as spoken word artist turning up to entertain lines of people queuing for bands or poets. He put a call out for people to illustrate his poems and then chose the ones he liked best for the book. As it is a variety of styles there are some I liked a lot and some that were OK.

Overall – if you’re a fan of his work then you’ll love this, if you’re not a fan this is a pretty good introduction, however as with all poetry it’s better performed I feel

the rise of Ransom city Felix Gilman

Category 5 - fantasy


I really wish I’d managed to write a review right after reading this to do it justice. Gilman has followed up on the half-made world with a stunning sequel. Together they are definitely in my top 10 reads this year. To avoid spoilers I won’t sum up the plot except to say that although it follows, in time, the events of the first book it departs from it as well. This time round we follow Harry Ransom who has invented a process that he feels will change the world. We see a lot more of the world especially the world of the Line in this book and meet a whole host of complex and captivating characters. This is literary fantasy at its best, comparable to shriek: an afterword and cements my impression that Gilman is an author to watch. I will be revisiting Thunderer so I can read the gears of the city and await his next book eagerly. For those who have not read the half-made world I advise to read that first, although this could potentially standalone but you’d lose some of the effect I feel.

Overall – must read sequel but read the half made world first

the falling sky Pippa Goldschmidt

Category - 8 women writers


Jeanette is a young post-doctorate chasing a permanent position at university. She goes on a viewing trip to Chile and discovers an anomaly which, if not just an observational glitch, would throw much of modern astronomy in doubt (something that would make red shift unreliable). Her boss encourages her to publish hinting that it will aid her career and when she does she is not prepared for the consequences. On the home front she embarks on a new, intense relationship that goes in an unexpected direction. To top it off her sister died when she was young and she has never got over it and as both her professional and personal lives start to spiral the trauma of losing a sister makes itself felt again. This is an engaging and interesting read. It has mixed reviews elsewhere and reading some of the ones that give it a poor rating I feel it necessary to point out that not everything is wrapped up at the end so if you want your plots to all be resolved look elsewhere as this is the biggest gripe people seem to have. For me it was a bit more realistic and the way it’s written, to explain why would contain spoilers though. A nodding acquaintance with astrophysics would enhance the read but isn’t totally necessary, although I have read some reviews saying there was too much science in the book.

Overall – Engaging and interesting read

Comets: visitors from deep space David Eicher

Category 6 – science


The book has a foreword by David Levy of Levy-Shoemaker fame and Eicher himself is a comet finder. This book is simply everything you ever needed to know about comets, what they are, what they’re made from, where they come from, how they’ve been viewed throughout history, how to find them and even how to photograph them. As there will be a bright comet in the sky later this year http://www.cometison2013.co.uk/ it has been rushed out a bit but to honest the book doesn’t seem to suffer from it. The science is patiently and expertly explained so that it’s very accessible and if you have any interest in comets I highly recommend this book.

Overall – hugely enjoyable pop science. Look to the skies!

The fictional man Al Ewing

Category 9 - experimental


I was enjoying this book at the beginning: it has a nice premise, that it is possible to translate fictional characters into flesh and blood people, and a nice writing style. About half way through though I realised I was hooked and when I had to put it down to go to work I couldn’t wait to get back to pick it up again. As it develops it gets more and more interesting even if some of the twists could perhaps anticipated. The utterly flawed main character keeps us involved with the plot and as it becomes ever more deliciously meta the writing becomes ever more impressive. There is a lot to like here, the narrator with all his flaws always holds your attention, his self-narration You're a good Joe, Niles. You really are a good Joe the whole fictional idea and its execution, the supporting characters - especially the fictionals, the story within the story and the other story within that story, the creepy horror of peg boy, the crazytown feel of Ewing’s alternative LA and Niles’s attempt at getting into film. Well before I run into giving it all away I’ll stop, except to say that you should read this and I hope I haven’t over-egged the review!

Overall – Highly recommended especially if you like metafiction and stories about the creative process

Lupus Rex John Carter Cash

Category 3 - YA fantasy


The crow king is dead and as the Murder of crows gather in the Murder field to choose the next king they send away all the other animals that follow the Order including the badger, mice, rat and especially the quail. When some quail are discovered to be missing three turn back who become our main protagonists. When the hidden past begins to be revealed the forest becomes ever more dangerous as an ancient enemy returns. Told in an idiosyncratic voice this is comparable to watership down in its feel of a fable and anthropomorphism and I bet Cash will be fed up of that comparison very quickly! It also has a mythic, almost epic fantasy feel on occasion. As YA its simplicity could perhaps put some off but after a while I was drawn in and didn’t have my usual problems with that medium (YA is not a genre I believe as you can have YA horror or YA SF etc.). Cash drops you straight into the world with no expositionary run up and it takes a few pages to catch up. The characters are alternatively trope like and deep and at times the prose takes a weird turn but is always lyrical and readable and thoughtful.

Overall – Dare I say that this is YA for people who don’t like YA but also will fully satisfy those who like YA?

Sep 17, 2013, 11:07am Top

slightly less behind on reviews now - must catch up on people's threads now!

Sep 17, 2013, 3:30pm Top

Thanks for the reviews and for hitting me with a BB. Seeing the name, I had to look him up, and yes, John Carter Cash is the son of June Carter and Johnny Cash.

Sep 18, 2013, 1:04am Top

The premise for The Fictional Man does indeed sound like it could be brilliant - looking into that one, thanks!

Sep 18, 2013, 4:22am Top

>131 mstrust: - it is indeed, I din't know that when I started reading it

>132 -Eva-: - I think (hope) you'll enjoy it

Sep 18, 2013, 10:08am Top

Aug-Sep catch up

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 159 - 10 ebook, 9 audio, 39 GN
28 by Women, 6 by various, 125 by Men
36 ROOT (1 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 9
Category 2 - 10
Category 3 - 4
Category 4 - 12
Category 5 - 41
Category 6 - 13
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 11
Category 9 - 5
Category 10 - 2
Category 11 - 9
Category 12 - 17
Category 13 - 13
Unfinished - 12
Average - 23
Good - 97
Brilliant - 28

still to finish categories are - 3, 7, 9 & 10, left to complete challenge = minimum of 8 books

Sep 18, 2013, 5:54pm Top

The problems of you doing a catch-up post is that there's too much potential for BB's. I can avoid the Felix Gilman as he's already on the wishlist but you still catch me with The Fictional Man.

Sep 18, 2013, 10:22pm Top

The book on comets sounds interesting. Ever since reading Carl Sagan as a teenager, I've always enjoyed astronomy books written for non-experts.

Sep 19, 2013, 5:08am Top

>135 AHS-Wolfy: - I think you'll enjoy it

>136 mathgirl40: - Hope you like it when you get to it, I thought it was very informative & feel I can speak with some authority on Comets now :-)

I'm still a few reviews behind!

Was at a new book group last night & our first book was we which generated a lot of interesting discussion, I think most people read a better translation than ours (Vintage seems to be better than Penguin here). Our next book is ack-ack macaque from local author Gareth L Powell so that should be fun. Next time round it's my turn to suggest 3 books that the goup will vote on to read for the meeting after next - so I need to choose 3 SF books....

Am off to Cardiff tonight to see the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy radio show live which should be great fun

Sep 20, 2013, 9:12pm Top

Your review on Felix Gilman leads me to quite the conundrum - Kindle or paper? The kindle price is almost $9 and I can get a used paper copy for $4.00-$5 with shipping. I compromised and got his first book Thunderer for my kindle instead.

(Bruce'sevil twin :-))

Sep 23, 2013, 5:38am Top

Gormenghast trilogy Mervyn Peake

Category 5


Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.

A dusty tome languished on the shelves for many years, once dipped into but abandoned like an unwanted child, guiltily, stealthily. Then a chorus of voices called for it to return to the light, called for it to be given voice once more, demanded it be read. So read it he most assuredly did, studiously, laboriously, willingly, eventually. Such words, descriptions built upon description like a house made from massive blocks of granite like the abandoned building blocks of long dead gods. But wait, this tome is in three parts, three months assigned to its investigation. Three months were needed, as like a barium meal it is difficult to ingest but illuminating in effect. Part the first sees Titus Groan born into a family of such old and bizarre ritual that the very walls of his home and the life of the castle itself in its daily minutiae is the main character. Doctor and twins, sister and parents, servants of all stripes, and all physical types, thin and fat, old and young, and carvers of bright carvings are lesser characters, small actors upon a grand stage. All lovingly, minutely, richly, sometimes tediously detailed. A plot you ask, why yes there is the barest one but it is subsumed, servant to the description, kept in dark places and fed on worms and scraps. Part the second sees the child grown and the birds come home to roost, such birds, all manner of feathered kind, like unto the birds the countess Groan can call to her despite her carpet of cats. There is a flood, a biblical, catastrophic, all-encompassing flood which moves the second part to its denouement. This second part was the one most avidly consumed. Part the third sees Titus leave the castle and become lost in the larger world and is the weakest of the three, a product of sick bed and inadvisably abandoning the looming, brooding, ubiquitous castle. Young Groan comes close to losing his mind, is Gormenghast real? Taken together the three are less than excellent yet more than merely good but require a concerted effort to consume. The third is terribly flawed and the runt of the litter, one perhaps best left in the dark. Now that it sleeps once more upon the shelf would he recommend it, or leave it to slumber? Could he envisage another adventure within the dusty parchment in the future. All is unsure.

Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracks. Is all corroding? No. Through an avenue of spires a zephyr floats; a bird whistles; a freshet bears away from a choked river. Deep in a fist of stone a doll's hand wriggles, warm rebellious on the frozen palm. A shadow shifts its length. A spider stirs...
And darkness winds between the characters.

Overall – Like a whisper in a dream, disturbing, portentous, absorbing, infuriating, incomparable…

Sep 23, 2013, 5:39am Top

The tartar steppe Dino Buzzati

Category 1


Giovanni Drogo graduates from military academy and is assigned duty at Fort Bastiani on the border of the Tartar Steppe in the mountains, on the edge of a desert. It is an obscure posting and one he is not entirely happy with and one that several people try to dissuade him from. Wanting to leave immediately he is convinced to stay for 4 months by the commanding officer. This is Catch 22 as written by Magnus Mills as Drogo suffers the pointlessness of his posting, the solitude of being so far away from home, apathy combined with duty, insensitive rules poorly applied and an institutional lack of decisiveness taken to the heights of absurdity but held up as an ideal to aspire to. Highly recommended.

Overall – sparse yet beautifully told

Sep 23, 2013, 6:25am Top

I read Gormenghast a while ago and it has stayed with me, vividly.

Sep 23, 2013, 7:40am Top

I've got The Tartar Steppe waiting on the shelf. Sounds like I should move it nearer to the top of the TBR list.

Sep 23, 2013, 10:16am Top

That's an excellent review of Gormenghast - thumbing - I now know which type of voice to expect when I go to visit.

Sep 23, 2013, 11:54am Top

But wait, this tome is in three parts, three months assigned to its investigation. Three months were needed, as like a barium meal it is difficult to ingest but illuminating in effect.

LOL! I think, perchance, this reader is dissuaded from trodding slowly, heavily, persistently through this mire of words. The clarion call, "Too many books, too little time," resounds through hallowed halls.

Sep 23, 2013, 12:13pm Top

Oh, but it's such a great trilogy (although you can skip book three). It's like The Lord of the Rings or Anna Karenina -- daunting and requiring effort, but it will live with you afterwards.

Sep 23, 2013, 4:51pm Top

Like you, pete, I have loads of catching up right now. A lovely string of reviews here - The Gormenghast one gets a thumb so hard my keyboard is bouncing! That you loved Ransom City was only to be expected - man, whata great duology that was! Tartar steppe was a favorite during my angsty early twenties, I should reread it sometime. Oh, and The fictional man goes on the list as well...

Sep 24, 2013, 7:22am Top

Thanks for the thumbs!

I think skipping part three would actually be inadvisable, even though it is the weakest and least enjoyable as otherwise the first two would feel a little incomplete - I did enjoy them although it does take an effort to get into the right reading frame to tackle it

>146 GingerbreadMan: - Claire also enjoyed the fictional man so I think you will too

Sep 24, 2013, 11:00am Top

The Fictional man is very a cool idea well explored and doesn't do what you think it will. It is also very funny at the beginning. Well funny if, intentional excerpts, of terrible cliched writing is your thing. It is my thing.

Edited: Oct 11, 2013, 7:52am Top

Story substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting Robert McKee

Category - 13

Mckee has some strong views about films and he’s not going to let you learn about the nuts and bolts of story without beating you over the head with those views every chance he gets. European cinema? Load of rubbish, last 20 years of cinema? Load of rubbish, Hollywood & Asian cinema? The only people who can make “proper” films i.e. films that tell stories properly. The nuts and bolts are there and I didn’t pearl rule it but lost interest a little less than half way through. The examples he uses are mostly films I’ve not seen (Obviously I’ve been watching the rubbish films instead) and the style is both dry and overwrought. In the end this book goes onto the discard pile.

Overall – The style is not for me but there are useful things to glean

Sep 25, 2013, 9:42am Top

McKee sounds like an author who likes to use his book as his soapbox.... I am not a fan when writers do that. Too bad you had to wade through his viewpoint for the info of interest.

Sep 29, 2013, 2:44pm Top

Gormenghast Trilogy added to the ever growing kindle wishlist (The Fictional Man is already there). . . if it wasn't so much I would have gotten it.

Bringing up the ever asked question in our household - is a 'book' that will not take up valuable space (i.e. electronic) worth twice as much as the one that would sit on a shelf, could be loaned out or given away or be re-sold to a used bookstore?

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Sep 30, 2013, 7:58am Top

That I can't loan my ebooks to my Mom, or give them to a friend or donate them is a big reason I use my kindle primarily for library books and out of copyright books.

Edited: Sep 30, 2013, 5:16pm Top

My daughter, son, and I are all on the same Amazon account so we can read each other's books. Mainly, it's me offering them the books that I've bought, but my daughter has bought some books, too. I wish I had put my dad's Kindle on the account as well. I think you can have up to 7.

Sep 30, 2013, 6:10pm Top

I've lent a few of my Kindle-books, but not all publishers allow it, unfortunately. And, you can only lend them once. :(

Sep 30, 2013, 6:38pm Top

Unlike many of my actual books, I will never look at a my Kindle app and say, "I love this." So while e-books aren't worthless, to me, they are worth less.

Sep 30, 2013, 6:50pm Top

I must admit, I do fondle my Kindle at times... :)

Oct 1, 2013, 4:43am Top

Claire has a Nook, I will be buying a Nook too - not sure about lending possibilities but so far the stuff I have on epub is DRM free

Oct 1, 2013, 6:30am Top

Most of the books that I get for my kindle are books that I would normally loan out, what I consider 'fluff' - i.e. fiction. (Don't get me wrong, 'fluff' is very important, and relaxing.) So those authors are now getting read by fewer people. So fewer people are telling their friends and family about them.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Oct 2, 2013, 3:24am Top

I'm quite busy at the moment so falling behind on both reading and following people's threads - hopefully will be able to have a massive catch up soon....

Edited: Oct 4, 2013, 10:45am Top

cooking with bones Jess Richards

Category 9 - experimental


I wanted to like this book but had several issues with it that detracted from my enjoyment. The book is told from 3 different POV characters, Amber – a difficult and rebellious child, Maya - her sister who is a “formwanderer” (she subconsciously determines the desires of everyone she meets and then fulfils them as best she can) and Kip a child whose job it is to collect the “Fair”, a tithe given to “Old Kelp” the witch of the village. The same Old Kelp alternatively blesses and curses the small seaside village with cake based spells which Kip collects when dropping off the Fair.

Amber & Maya start the book living in the future utopian(?) society of Paradon and when they are assigned jobs which will split them up they decide to run away. They come to live in a cottage that seems to be waiting for them and Amber settles into the role of baking cakes using bone implements, that is how she becomes Old Kelp. This was a bit of head scratcher for me, and is never satisfactorily explained. Old Kelp existed before the sisters arrive, the sisters arrive and Amber becomes Old Kelp. The villagers notice no break in continuity. There is a scene where Amber finds graves, of previous Old Kelps, going back hundreds of years but the villagers stories of Old Kelp only go back to the grandparents of Kip’s parents. Time here is uncertain.

I never got a grip on the setting either, some sort of post collapse society? Kip’s village is within walking distance of a modern utopia (which has genetic engineering, nanotechnology and climate control), a utopia that some people leave for reasons that aren’t really explored (as well as the sisters there are a few other characters from Paradon in the village). The small village where the action takes place in has holiday homes to let, Kip’s mother looks after but are never let during the events of the story. There are telephones and cars, doctors and police and Paradon has its own climate control (causing Maya to spend a whole chapter trying to work out what weather is for) but there doesn’t seem to be any computer network and the society of the village seems more rural medieval.

I didn’t really get the whole concept of formwanderer either, Amber’s desire is for a twin so to her Maya is a twin, one of the villagers has always wanted a pet Grizzly bear so to him she’s a pet grizzly bear. OK so far so Red Dwarf Polymorph but Maya is a person, grown in a vat perhaps, but a living person created from Amber’s parents donated sperm & egg. It’s explained at the beginning, in a clumsy piece of exposition – Amber is watching a TV report on Formwanderers and seems to find the information a surprise, although she’s been living with one for an unknown period of time (but long enough for them to go to school together for some years it seems). The presentation says Our initial intention in genetically engineering these humans, using nanotechnology, was to enhance the development of their mirror neuron pathways and make them deeply empathic. With nanotechnology also causing their skin cells to be reflective, technically speaking they are astounding creations, able to mirror desired behaviours and appearances

Maya’s voice is unique also, often “jumbling” when anxious, her character and language are not fixed - Mysister grabbed my hand and said stop it, satellites send the sun in. They’re too strongThe sun shone into my eyes. I was dazzle blind. Our shrinking silhouettes danced with my laughing sound; clang clang! I brimmed yellow-joy. Every reflection that lives in infinityland was blanked out HAHAHAHA! and considering she is one of only 3 narrators it’s a little off putting.

When the book starts the sisters seem child-like and then they are removed from school and given jobs, causing them to run away. Later Amber remembers a distant past where she was treated badly by former lovers in Paradon, this didn’t really fit my perception of the character at the beginning of the book where I’d thought they were early teens. Nothing to say that early teens can’t be sexually precocious but it seemed like an inconsistency in character. I can only think the inconsistencies are deliberate, jumbling like Maya, the book formwandering itself. However the effect is such that the shifting sands are subliminal and make the story untrustworthy.

Throughout there are recipes to make different cakes which are also spells and whilst this is a potentially cool idea the outcome of any of these spells is never explicit, nor who they work upon (although sometimes hinted it is the villagers). However every day Amber leaves out the same old honey cakes for the villagers, who gladly take them, regardless of what the recipe says in her chapters.

Is Richards deliberately obfuscating or is she just poor at getting her meaning across? I really can’t tell. Is it SF? Fantasy? Magic realism? Modern fairy tale? Well yes it wanders back and forth from one to another of these creating an unhealthy chimera of all of them.

Overall – Very interesting but problematical, I never really got it YMMV

Oct 4, 2013, 11:57am Top

->160 psutto:
Got to admit, that title threw me off a bit. I've taken a class called "Cooking with Bones," but it was about how to make stocks and broths... :)

Edited: Oct 11, 2013, 7:53am Top

falling so far behind on everyone's threads - hope to get soem time soon to catch up!!

in the mean time here are some reviews:

wonderbook jeff vandermeer by Jeff Vandermeer

Category 9


Jeff Vandermeer knows a few things about writing fiction, especially fantasy fiction and has decided to share it via this stunning book with artwork by Jeremy Zerfoss. First of all this is a gorgeous book, lovingly illustrated and great for those who learn in a visual way (some pics from the book can be seen here)

in addition it's stuffed full of great writing advice. In addition to that addition it is has some really cool writing exercises and as if that wasn’t enough it has a whole gaggle of essays by other authors who each drop in bombs of inspiration and wisdom. There’s a website to go with the book too. I read this from cover to cover without meaning to, it really should be used throughout a writing project constantly referred to, re-read and revised. I will be doing that for sure. I think I’ll be referencing this book a lot. The deconstruction of the first page of finch was worth buying this book for by itself!

Overall – stunning & useful, what a great book!

Edited: Oct 11, 2013, 7:54am Top

exit wounds Rutu Modan

Category 2


This is the story of a young man who is persuaded by his father’s girlfriend to help her look for his father, who he has not seen for some time, against the backdrop of modern day Israel. It gently meanders along to its uninspiring finish and at the end of the book I was left wondering what the point was. The art is good but none of the characters really made much of an impression and the story kind of just stops.

Overall – Meh

Oct 9, 2013, 9:51am Top

Others of my kind by James Sallis

Category 12 - Crime


Jenny Rowan is an editor at a TV station in a very near future or alternative history USA. We see her at the beginning of the book meeting with a policeman who asks her to speak to an abductee survivor given the fact that she is also such a survivor. There is a understated horror in the book, very little detail is given as to either abductee’s ordeal but what little we do learn is very dark indeed. Jenny was kept in a box under her abductee’s bed for a considerable amount of time, and taken out to “lay” with every so often. This means the book is not for the faint hearted. Sallis’s style is minimal and sparse and yet he creates a small book with a lot of emotional depth. Rowan’s relationships don’t really go anywhere and she seems to sleepwalk through her job (although she is good at it she tends to do it whilst zoned out) and is emotionally an enigma. As the book is 1st person this style may not work for some people but I found it worked for me. The last act gets a bit unbelievable as the terrorist sub-plot plays out but it never lost my attention.

Overall – recommended

King Death Toby Litt

Category 12 - Crime


As usual Litt has taken a new turn with a new book as he continues to write a book for each letter of the alphabet. This is a tightly plotted mystery that starts with a Japanese artist, Kumiko, and her boyfriend, Skelton, seeing a human heart hit the roof of Borough Market in London, obviously thrown from the train. Kumiko and Skelton then investigate, mostly separately in their own ways, this mystery. In alternative chapters we get alternative POV from Kumiko and Skelton and sometimes see the same episodes from the different POVs and Litt plays with this technique a lot. This book is a little less gripping that the previous ones I’ve read by him but let’s face it a bad Litt is still head and shoulders above most other authors and even though it wasn’t my favourite of his I still devoured it and it kept me glued to the end.

Overall – Intriguing little mystery

the man who laughs David Hine, Mark Stafford & Victor Hugo

Category 11 Translation


This is one of Hugo’s less well known works that Hine has substantially revised for this graphic novel version. The story follows a boy who has been mutilated so that he can only grin like a loon (the book insired the character of the Joker in Batman apparently) who comes across a baby in a dead mother’s arms in a storm. He takes shelter with a travelling doctor and they have to make their living entertaining crowds. There is a lot here that is familiar – orphans, hidden identities, travelling entertainers etc but it is told with aplomb and the art is very good.

Overall – Classic with new life breathed into it.

Oct 9, 2013, 10:57am Top

Wonderbook looks amazing, even for a non-fantasy person. I have another of Sallis's books--I'll have to get to it soon.

Oct 9, 2013, 12:25pm Top

@ 163 -- Looks like Wonderbook is going on my TBR list!

Oct 9, 2013, 12:34pm Top

Yes, Wonderbook is going on the wishlist, absolutely. :)

Oct 9, 2013, 3:00pm Top

I've added The Man Who Laughs to the list. That's one I'd never heard of and I love the scary cover art.

>162 psutto: Very interesting article. I'm glad he was able to overcome his beginnings and any of us would envy his collection. I noticed that he also had graphic novels, so he clearly kept up on the latest!

Oct 9, 2013, 6:05pm Top

Wow, fantastic artwork in that book! Looks like good advice, too.

Oct 10, 2013, 6:36am Top

Thanks for the link!

Oct 11, 2013, 5:23am Top

Lighter than my shadow Katie Green



Katie is a friend so this may not be a totally unbiased review! However I am glad to say that I did love the book. Katie has struggled with an eating disorder and this is her autobiography showing her descent into anorexia and her recovery as well as the fact she was abused by a counsellor. As such it is a deeply personal journey and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s also a bit of a door stop of a book at 500ish pages but I was able to finish it in one sitting and it doesn’t feel long at all. Katie was a picky and slow eater as a child and had that struggle such children have with their parents, being made to eat cold food etc. From these beginnings we see her struggle with school, become anorexic and her long slow recovery. Her eating disorder is brilliantly portrayed as a black cloud of squiggles which grows or shrinks as the story progresses and what is clear is that the big black cloud doesn’t only affect Katie but also her whole family.

You can see a 24 page preview here: http://lighterthanmyshadow.com/book-excerpt/ and an interview with Katie in the Guardian here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/28/anorexia-affects-everyone-fa... This is the best sort of graphic novel where the words and pictures combine to make a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. I was gripped and left wanting more at the end which is the sign of a good book I feel.

Overall – Highly recommended autobiography

Oct 11, 2013, 6:41am Top

I love the artwork in Wonderbook! Lighter Than My Shadow sounds like a very interesting book also. I should mention it to our parent-child book club. All the younger members are now in their teens.

Edited: Oct 11, 2013, 8:02am Top

Thanks - getting book clubs to read it would be great :-)

October is a hugely busy month for me because of the book fest I help run but I am managing to read a few books too. My Sep-Oct catch up:

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 169 - 10 ebook, 9 audio, 42 GN
32 by Women, 6 by various, 131 by Men
36 ROOT (0 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 10
Category 2 - 10
Category 3 - 4
Category 4 - 13
Category 5 - 41
Category 6 - 13
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 13
Category 9 - 7
Category 10 - 2
Category 11 - 10
Category 12 - 19
Category 13 - 13
Unfinished - 13
Average - 25
Good - 101
Brilliant - 31

still to finish categories are - 3, 7 & 10, left to complete challenge = minimum of 7 books

Oct 12, 2013, 3:49am Top

Only 7 books left, nice going!

Oct 15, 2013, 10:51am Top

>176 SouthernKiwi: - I like the way I have completed categories without really noticing this year - I expect that I'll have to work hard at completion soon though

It's the Bristol Festival of Literature next week so I'm going to be busy doing fun book events, I may drop in from time to time here but if you're really interested I'll also be blogging about it here: http://brsbkblog.blogspot.co.uk/ got to say I'm really excited that I managed to get Toby Litt to come and am nervously excited about The Kraken Rises! as Angry Robot are going to publish the 10 best stories!

OK enough self promotion - back to Dave Gullen's chewy Shopocalypse - I think I'm missing a couple of reviews too...

Oct 15, 2013, 10:18pm Top

Sounds very cool - hope it all goes well! Kraken Rises! sounds like a fantastic event.

Oct 29, 2013, 10:46am Top

wow so far behind now - had a crazy busy week at the festival of literature and BristolCon and am off to world fantasy con in Brighton tomorrow - so very briefly popping in to say that I'll be back next week!

Nov 5, 2013, 11:55am Top

I'm so far behind on everyon's threads it's going to take me a seriously long time to catch up! In the mean time here are a couple of reviews:

Johannes Cabal the necromancer Jonathan L Howard

Category 10 - Steampunk (although it only slightly fits in this category)


Cabal has sold his soul in return for knowledge yet finds it tricky to perform some of his necromantic experiments without it. He therefore summons a demon, goes to hell and bargains with Satan to return his soul, the catch is that he has to collect a 100 souls on behalf of Satan in 1 year. To help him out Satan gives him a Hellish Carnival. This is a fun book and I loved that it is more than a comedy, although it is very amusing at times, it does pose some serious questions and there is clearly more to be explored, hence the fact there are several more books in the series. Cabal’s voice is pitch perfect and although he is fundamentally unlikable he is also a surprisingly sympathetic character. His relationship with his brother Horst is both real and poignant even if it is a comedic novel. I loved the idea of the carnival, and the individual rides within it, and some of the demonic interplay, especially the bureaucracy of how to enter Hell is very entertaining. There are a few wobbles, possibly due to this being a first book, that I expect will be ironed out as the writing develops in further books. It is obviously not stand alone, although like any good book in a series it has a satisfying story and yet not everything is answered.

Overall – Having read the first I obtained the next two and am really looking forward to reading them soon.

Shopocalypse David Gullen

Category 2 - Heavy Books


This is a big book with big ideas and lots of plot. It will take you some dedication to finish it. It’s not that it is badly written, quite the opposite in fact, it is that the breadth of plot is staggering and takes some getting used to. There are a lot of ideas in here and a lot of characters, most of whom have their arcs fully explored. It could be seen as rambling and incoherent but if you stick with it there is a point that you’ll suddenly go “aha” and get it. I’m guessing that the bad reviews on here from the early reviewers never reached that moment. Once you’ve had that moment though you’ll really want to get to the end and find out what happens to all of the many characters: from the president of the USA and her coterie of weirdos and warmongers to Novik our main protagonist and his friends who are trying to change the world, from “Mr Car” the talking super car, who gets all the best lines, to the richest man who has ever lived. There is a not so subtle allegory about consumerism but if you concentrate on this you miss out on all the other fun stuff that is much more subtle. There is an occasional Vonnegutian feel, there are certainly references to Douglas Adams but it is very much its own thing and introduces an interesting new voice to SF. There are issues with it, I’m not denying it, but not to the extent that it is not hugely enjoyable, even if it does take a bit of an effort to get there. There maybe a couple of character arcs too many, the story about the wife of the richest man seems a little indulgent and could have been cut without losing much and is also possibly the least satisfactory of the multiple storylines. However on the whole these are minor quibbles. If you try it stick with it, it’s worth it.

Overall – Very accomplished debut from an interesting new voice, looking forward to what he does next.

Nov 5, 2013, 7:06pm Top

Johannes Cabal is quite an interesting character, isn't he - he grew on me so much that at the end I loved him, despite his obvious personality flaws. :)

Nov 5, 2013, 8:58pm Top

Trying to dodge yet another great review for Johannes Cabal until I can finish clearing more books off my TBR pile, but making a note that I really do need to get around to reading it at some point.

> 181 - Flawed characters..... I love flawed characters. *considers taking a sneak peek into the library system to see if they have any copies available, TBR pile be darned*

Nov 6, 2013, 4:12am Top

>181 -Eva-: - I'm looking forward to getting to the 2nd, in a couple of books time most likely

>182 lkernagh: - go on, you know you want to!

Nov 6, 2013, 9:06am Top

I've not picked up wonderbook, despite loving VanderMeer, since "How to" books don't really interest me. But I might have to change my mind now.

I had no idea Toby Litt wrote one book for each letter of the alphabet! How Perec-esque!

Nov 6, 2013, 9:12am Top

Glad you enjoyed the Johannes Cabal book. I think the author does a very commendable job of making you care for such a flawed character. Anyone who enjoys the first in the series will more than likely enjoy the second also even though it takes a slightly different tack. The short story at the end of book two is also worthy of reading, if it's included in your copy that is.

Nov 6, 2013, 11:58am Top

>184 GingerbreadMan: - not quite Perec as it is merely that the titles follow alphabetically but it is a nice quirk

>185 AHS-Wolfy: - My copy doesn't seem to have a short at the end :-(

Nov 6, 2013, 4:44pm Top

@186, It's called The Tomb of Umtak Ktharl and pretty much follows on from the end of the main story of book two. Just checked my copy and I guess it's slightly misleading in calling it an additional story as it's referred to as an afterword (of sorts).

Nov 7, 2013, 4:41am Top

I'll have to check my copy

Nov 8, 2013, 5:37am Top

Hive Monkey Gareth L Powell



In Ack-Ack Macaque Gareth L Powell introduced us to the cigar chomping, Spitfire flying, foul talking uplifted Monkey who escaped from an artificial reality game to help save the world. In this sequel he is back, bigger, badder and with more explosions. Like a movie franchise the first book sets up the world and the tone and the second raises the stakes and cranks up the action. In this, the middle of a trilogy, we are introduced to a new enemy , the Gestalt, a hive mind hell bent on assimilating Ack-Ack’s world. With his friends from the first book – Victoria Valois and her dead husband Paul (who in this one has been upgraded to hologram status), the hacker K8, a cameo from Merovich who is now King, and introducing a new character William Cole, a SF writer, Ack-Ack sets out to save the world again. From about the halfway point this is all action and Powell does well to keep the wheels spinning, and like most action films you don’t want to stop and ask questions as the pages fly by. If you like the first book you’ll love this second one.

Overall - As with the first book there is a cinematic feel and I could totally see this as an anime film. It feel it’s too long to wait for the third book!

Edited: Nov 11, 2013, 11:15am Top

I'm aiming to wrap this challenge up by the 13th of next month so my last but one wrap ups:

Due to October being a stupidly busy month I actually had my lowest monthly total this year

rolling total (Started December 13th) - books read 173 - 10 ebook, 9 audio, 42 GN
33 by Women, 6 by various, 134 by Men
36 ROOT (0 ROOT this month)
Category 1 - 11
Category 2 - 11
Category 3 - 5
Category 4 - 13
Category 5 - 42
Category 6 - 13
Category 7 - 5
Category 8 - 13
Category 9 - 7
Category 10 - 4
Category 11 - 10
Category 12 - 19
Category 13 - 13
Unfinished - 13
Average - 25
Good - 105
Brilliant - 31

still to finish categories are - 3, 7 & 10, left to complete challenge = minimum of 4 books

Hmmm just 4 books to finish, time to get the crowbar out and look for books to fit - although am currently reading lives of Tao and set to read vurt next (for book club) so will be after those two...

Nov 11, 2013, 1:21pm Top

I don't know if that store would make me feel claustrophobic or thrilled.

Nov 11, 2013, 1:40pm Top

I'd be worried about book piles falling on my head! But wow, that is definitely impressive.

Nov 11, 2013, 3:14pm Top

Fascinating to see but I don't think I could spend much time in there, it's just a little too overcrowded for comfortable browsing.

Nov 11, 2013, 4:25pm Top

How would you find anything?

Book club reading of Vurt, hope it goes well. Kinda nervous as to how that will go. Hope you enjoy.

Nov 12, 2013, 12:04am Top

That's is one special bookstore, but what if you want a book that's at the bottom of a pile...?

Nov 12, 2013, 7:52am Top

...... or behind a stack (or two) of books? ;-)

Edited: Nov 12, 2013, 12:17pm Top

I've been in one similar in Preston UK, it's a fine line between 2nd hand bookshop and hoarding apparently

Nov 12, 2013, 12:03pm Top

I kind of feel like you have to weigh less than 120 lbs to fit inside that bookstore.

Nov 12, 2013, 5:00pm Top

And don't go in the winter! A puffy coat might be enough to knock things over.

Nov 12, 2013, 8:52pm Top

> 200 - On the bright side, the puffy coat might be good protection from an avalanche of books! ;-)

Nov 13, 2013, 12:26pm Top

There used to be a used book store in Berkeley that was huge but stacked to the gills like this one. I only visited once, was horrified by the prices they were asking, was nervous about being in earthquake country, and never went back again!

Edited: Nov 13, 2013, 5:55pm Top

The anthology I put together for the festival is available on amazon.com & .co.uk


I am interviewed about it here: http://hierath.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/the-kraken-rises/

All the proceeds go to the festival which is a not for profit organization

Nov 14, 2013, 4:44am Top

The art of forgetting: Rider Joanne Hall

Category 8 – women writers


Rhodri is a foundling and has a perfect memory. He clearly remembers his father but knows very little about his early childhood. This is an important plot point, which does raise a few questions, no spoilers but he had a pretty famous father who I just thought may have been mentioned once or twice in Rhodri’s hearing before the plot dictated the reveal. However this minor point didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book which is a - young lad joins the army, becomes a man -format but told in an engaging style which never gets dull. All the usual stuff happens, first battle, first love (with both sexes), first loss, friendships and enemies. Rhodri becomes a rider in the king’s third (As it’s fantasy and is about a cavalry officer there is a lot of horseyness in parts!) who patrol a city called Northpoint which was instrumental in a civil war that happened in the past but very much informs the events of the book. We see that healers and magic users exist but they don’t have much impact on the lives of the men of the King’s third and in one memorable incident there is a river demon. However it is mostly a low fantasy book concentrating on the lives and loves of Rhodri and his friends as he goes through training and on to a posting at the edge of the country which the second book will explore. This is very much the start of the story and the next instalment is coming soon in which the epic part of the fantasy will probably come more to the fore. The author explores some big themes in this part of the story around identity, gender and sexuality. She does make the characters come alive and I am keen to read the second book.

Overall – an engaging and fun read

Nov 14, 2013, 7:07am Top

Hi Pete, lots of catch-up to do since august. I look forward the different approach on the superheroes with the violent century, the fictional man seems unusual, wonder if it will be what I can imagine ? The Half-Made World is going on the BB list, not so sure about the western element ...

Nov 14, 2013, 10:54am Top

>205 electrice: - hope you enjoy them when you get to them :-)

Am loving this site at the moment with secret passageways and book nooks http://bookriot.com/2012/11/02/10-kick-ass-secret-passage-bookshelves/

Nov 14, 2013, 2:49pm Top

There aren't enough books on those shelves. If I had a secret bookshelf door, it would be unusable as there would be so many books on the shelf in question, it would be too heavy to open.

Nov 15, 2013, 6:23am Top

Check out http://authorsforphilippines.wordpress.com/ great book lover stuff to bid on & all for a good cause

Nov 15, 2013, 10:34am Top

The crystal mirror By Tim Malnick (author) & Katie Green (Illustrator)

Category – 3 Children


OK so I may be a little biased here, but it’s OK to review a book that your mentioned in the acknowledgements & had a small hand in helping to publish right? Right? Oh well I’m going to do it anyway. The Crystal Mirror came to life after Sarah Bird from Vala co-op read a set of stories written by Tim Malnick and learned that Katie Green wanted to illustrate them. Vala is a small independent publisher and couldn’t afford to pay Katie an advance for the book, but without an advance Katie wouldn’t have been able to dedicate the amount of time needed to create the amazing illustrations. So they decided to crowdfund and I got involved as both a supporter and as a “godparent” in order to support the process, help publicise the book etc. They raised a bundle of cash and the book got made. I am happy to say that it is gorgeous and a real treat for both adults and children. This book is going to be a favourite of some children I feel, lovely pictures and stories with enough mystery and excitement to spark the imagination. Katie’s illustrations are wonderful and really help to bring the book alive. The stories though are deceptively simple yet thematically complex and leave you with a sense of wonder. My favourite is the triumph of imagination in The master painter Where a painter paints a king and the king doesn’t like what he sees and locks up the painter, but you can’t lock up imagination. But it is very hard to choose a stand out story as they all have something good to offer. Whether it is hope and redemption in The cuddliest monster, or Identity in Polly the girl who was always changing and the story of Oswald Bat there is a hope inherent in each of the 5 stories. It would make a perfect Xmas gift too!

There's a page from each story here: http://www.valapublishers.coop/thecrystalmirror and excertpts here: http://www.thecrystalmirror.co.uk/home and if you're anywhere near Bristol on the 30th November there is an unusual book launch details here: http://www.thecrystalmirror.co.uk/launch-party

Overall - This is a seriously beautiful book

Nov 15, 2013, 3:26pm Top

I agree..... beautiful artwork and love how the story text has its own special area!

Nov 21, 2013, 6:39am Top

the pillow book Sei Shonogon

Category 1


Pleasing things: finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.

This is best viewed as a scrapbook of observations recorded as they occurred to the writer. There are a lot of lists, like the above one “Pleasing things” and thoughts on court life and the people of the court. I felt reading this that it is a book to occasionally flip open and read what comes up rather than reading it from cover to cover like a traditional book. Some of the writing is beautiful and it gives an interesting overview of the time and place.

Overall – an easy read, one to dip into

Carrie Stephen King


Pretty well known story with a couple of movie adaptations, including a new one due out soon. A girl is brought up by her very religious mother and has a telekinetic ability, she is bullied in high school and takes her revenge in a shocking manner (possibly less shocking now than it was in the 70’s). I am surprised at how much it is a Stephen King novel. That may sound strange but King's distinctive voice is in here, fully formed, some novelists take a few books to get into their stride, King hits the ground running. It also perfectly captures, what has become quite commonplace through film & TV, the horror of going to American high school and not fitting in. This is also one of the most heavily foreshadowed books, using interviews, news items and excerpts from a book of the tragedy, that I can remember reading. It works though, it keeps you turning the pages. King says in On writing that the family were broke when he got the call about Carrie and a massive advance, he expands a bit in the introduction to the Harper copy I have. I can't help but be jarred by the image of Carrie you get from the book and contrasting it against who they've chosen (both Sissy Spacek and Chloe Moretz in the remake)

Overall – still an entertaining read and a quick one

The Kraken Rises! Various

Category 4


After almost a year in the planning the good people of Bristol entered the world of The Kraken Rises! These are the stories that resulted. It is worth pointing out that this was writing under extreme pressure and in a very short amount of time. Many of the participants hadn’t written before or hadn’t written for a long time and it is amazing that we got any stories at all. Due to our self-imposed deadlines there hasn’t been time to ask for redrafts or to do much more than correct typos. The brief was written mostly by Jonathan L Howard and basically posited that Bristol is occasionally visited by weird events every time there is a great comet in the sky. These are called Kraken events & our writers were challenged to come up with a story about a Kraken event. Around 30 people took part, not all of them made the deadline for the anthology, these are the stories that made the grade. Although they’re not polished, as time didn’t allow, the standard is surprisingly good.

Overall – It was great fun making this anthology, and great fun reading it

the lives of Tao Wesley Chu

Category 2


The world’s history has been shaped by two opposing alien factions who cannot exist in our atmospheric conditions for long but can use animals and humans as hosts. The aliens use humans as secret agents in their war and Tao’s host Edward is one of the very best. However when the host dies in Chicago Tao has a very short time to find a new host and possesses Roen. Roen is not your obvious secret agent material, he is a low level programmer, he is overweight, has few social skills and poor hand eye co-ordination. The aliens are split into two factions both with a wish to go home, the Genjix believe that this is best achieved by pushing forward human evolution & technology via conflict, the Prophus believe that it is best achieved with peace. Tao is a high ranking Prophus and needs to keep Roen alive long enough to learn enough skills to be useful to the cause. The aliens cannot voluntarily leave their hosts, leaving only when the host dies. This is an entertaining read once you get past the set up. My main issue with this, and the modern vampire trope (and Von Daniken) is that they start with the premise that dumb old humans couldn’t possibly be responsible for all the wonderful things we are actually responsible for and aliens/vampires etc did it/are actually all the important people in history. Apart from that one niggling fact I did enjoy this book which follows the loser to hero trope and has a bunch of great action sequences and a lot of sly humour. Chu has written a follow up book called the deaths of Tao and I enjoyed this first enough to immediately seek out a copy and will be reading soon.

Overall – Entertaining alternative history SF

Vurt Jeff Noon

Category 9


Alice in Wonderland & psychedelic music references abound in this high action breakneck paced SF classic about a drug called Vurt which comes in the form of coloured feathers that you ingest that take you to a variety of virtual worlds. It is written in a heavy stylised way that takes a little getting used to but once you do it is a very fast read as it keeps you turning the pages. It is very much a book of its time and reminiscent (although very different) to Lawnmower man, snow crash and other cyberpunks. We follow the Stash Raiders and our hero Scribble (who is the narrator & writer) who has lost his sister in a Vurt. There are short interlude chapters by the “Game Cat” which are fairly heavy in exposition. There are dog/human hybrids. There are Shadow people (Empaths basically) & I think the book must have heavily influenced Shadowrun. It is not a book without problems, there is the stylistic writing, it occasionally slips to the wrong side of surreal, there are plenty of dream sequences and it does seem a little dated. However it is an imaginative tour de force and a quick an enjoyable read. There is a 20th anniversary edition and it is rightly held up to be a classic example of the genre.

Overall - An imaginative tour de force and a quick an enjoyable read

surfacing Margaret Atwood

Category 1


A woman is informed that her father, who lives on a remote island in Canada, has gone missing. She takes some friends with her as she goes to check on the property. The setup is good but let down by a rushed and slightly incoherent ending. I don’t have much to say about this book, it was just OK. It is very dated (published in 1972).

Overall – Meh - Forgettable

Edited: Nov 21, 2013, 11:42pm Top

I love that a few of the writers for The Kraken Rises were kids - they're really talented too!

Nov 22, 2013, 5:26am Top

Congrats on getting the anthology out and I'm glad you enjoyed reading Vurt.

Nov 22, 2013, 11:56am Top

>212 -Eva-: - yep they loved taking part too so are maybe writers of the future :-)

>213 AHS-Wolfy: - Am wondering where to go next with Noon - pollen perhaps?

Edited: Nov 22, 2013, 1:32pm Top

Pollen is a sequel to Vurt and expands on both the real and virtual worlds though there is a new cast of characters. Nymphomation goes back and fills in some blanks so probably best read after the other two. The rest of his work are all stand-alones though there is one short stories collection, Pixel Juice, which supposedly references moments from his other books. I've only read the 3 Vurt books but have a couple of the others sitting on the tbr shelves. Automated Alice will probably be the next of his that I get to.

Nov 22, 2013, 4:40pm Top

Thanks! I think I'll go for Pollen next then

Nov 22, 2013, 6:27pm Top

Thanks for the reminder of Vurt. Dave put that one on my list a few years ago. Love the picture book pages!

Edited: Dec 16, 2013, 8:06am Top

Just back from 3 weeks holiday in SE Asia and catching up

By the rules I set up at the beginning I have failed my challenge (it was supposed to be finished on the 13th) by 2 books! (a category 7 book and the posthumous memoirs of bras cubas) although having read 181 books (and I could probably re-assign one to cover cat 7) I feel Ok about failing...

I'll finish the 2 books before the end of the year so at least the challenge is complete before the next one starts

I will stick around till end of the year then jump on over to the 2014 challenge (I'll be doing the 2 random bits of that now so if you're interested in choosing me a blindfold book head on over there)

My final round up will come soon

I'll be reading un lun dun for the group read as soon as I've finished the book I'm reading now (purefinder)

I'll probably see out the year on a new thread but will update this one with the final few challenge reviews that are missing

Dec 16, 2013, 10:08am Top

Strange Chemistry (YA publishing arm of Angry Robot) have the best Christmas Tree http://strangechemistrybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Wes2013-12-13-19.15.471.jpg

Edited: Dec 16, 2013, 11:49am Top

kingdom of rarities by Eric Dinerstein

Category 10


Dinerstein is fascinated by rarity and what purpose/meaning it has in nature. Some creatures are "naturally" rare, others we have made rare and this book explores a number of such creatures and their habitats. I found that there was much repetitiion in here and found my attention wandering often. However the central question was interesting and was worth persisting with for me, but you’d have to be really interested in the subject to persevere.

Overall – slightly too dry and overly repetitive

Dec 16, 2013, 1:19pm Top

Wow, 181 is something to be proud of! I wouldn't think of that as a failure at all, so I'll say congratulations!

Dec 16, 2013, 3:03pm Top

181 books read is hugely impressive! I am still trying to reach 100..... ;-)

Dec 16, 2013, 5:04pm Top

Dec 18, 2013, 10:18pm Top

181 books! That doesn't sound like a "fail" to me. :)

Dec 19, 2013, 5:55am Top

I am currently reading Purefinder (no touchstone) and will read un lun dun after for the group read (am avoiding reading the group read thread until I have read the book) - thanks for all the congrats, I appreciate it

Dec 19, 2013, 6:01am Top

Even if you didn't quite reach your target, 181 books is a great achievement. Well done!

Dec 19, 2013, 12:17pm Top

In the shadow of the banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Category 10


Vaddey fictionalises her own story of being a child during the days of the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia from the fall of Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese liberation. This is the story of what happens to the country through the eyes of a child and the microcosm of what happens to her family. Obviously this is a powerful story and Ratner tells it well. At the heart of the book is her relationship with her father, a poet, and the power of words, especially stories.

Overall – Good fictional account of life under the Pol Pot regime

beyond the killing fields Sydney Schanberg

Category 10


Schanberg was a journalist for the New York Times covering the war in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took over the country. The Killing fields, as book & film, is a very powerful story of friendship and survival and is the story of Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist. Pran was left behind when all the foreigners were ejected from Cambodia and lived in the then closed Khmer Rouge regime as Pol Pot enacted his Year 0 social experiment on a grand scale. I finished this on the bus on the way to Phnom Penh and visiting S-21 and the Killing Fields with it so fresh in my mind was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. However it doesn’t need to be read in situ, it is a brilliant book full of stirring writing and if you haven’t seen the film I thoroughly recommend it as it is a very good adaptation. This book adds some of Schanberg’s other war journalism in Vietnam & Bangladesh as well as his coverage of MIA US servicemen left behind by the US government and his thoughts on the war in Iraq. The message of the book is that war is never clinical, that “collateral damage” is a sanitisation of murder and that the abstraction of making decisions way behind the front lines contributes to atrocity.

Overall – Powerfully intelligent writing on the subject of war. Highly recommended. Have a box of tissues to hand when reading though.

The deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu

Category 2


This sequel follows on from the first book after a few years have passed. It concentrates initially more on Roen’s wife Jill but soon expands and takes in much more of the world and the Genjix versus Prophus war. As all good sequels the action is more intense the stakes are higher and there are lots of great cameos from characters from the first book as well as interesting new characters introduced. My only gripe is that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I don’t know when the next instalment will come. This is a rollicking good read with all the same humour and gripping action of the first but cranked up even higher. This is panning out to be a great series, I am impatient for the next one.

Overall – if you like lives of Tao you’ll love Deaths of Tao

Dream London by Tony Ballantine

Category 2


A fantastic well imagined world where London has opened a door somehow into an alien, Fey realm and weirdness is commonplace. In Dream London the city changes a little every night and the people change a little every day. In a scene reminiscent of Burroughs the book opens with our “hero” being awoken by the sounds of psychedelic salamanders eating and is confronted with being poisoned by a rival pimp. Something is coming, the parks have hidden themselves away, no-one can escape, the trains bring new people in but don’t allow people to leave. Captain Jim Wedderburn is recruited by opposing forces, those that wish to expand the influence of the inimical forces and those that wish to free London. Captain Jim Wedderburn is out for himself though and is not a nice man, a pimp and criminal. All to the good but it is something that Ballantine squanders, in a place where it seems that anything can happen there appears to be no jeopardy, we don’t really care for the protagonist so putting him in danger, especially self-inflicted danger is not that interesting and Wedderburn is an oddly passive lead also. The denouement happens pretty much off screen after our protagonist is told “we’ll take it from here” and we don’t see the action of the climax having stayed with him. Yuk. And boy is it misogynist, Dream London forces women back into submissive roles, they’re not allowed real jobs (they can be sexy secretaries though it seems) and there appear to be a lot of prostitutes. A US agent come to investigate Dream London starts out sassy but is eventually willing to sell her body. Double yuk. All the women our hero meets, apart from said US Agent, Immediately fall head over heels in love with him, they are all, with one “crone” exception, incredibly beautiful and Ballantine spends many sentences extolling swelling bosoms, perfectly round bottoms, shapely legs etc. etc. you get the picture. There is a good story, and some nice imagery here but it is overshadowed by bad plotting, poor writing and disgusting misogyny. One to avoid I reckon. Oddly looking at the reviews on Amazon I seem to be in a minority, it gets universally good reviews. I am mystified why.

Overall – Some good stuff but very much outweighed by the bad.

Crash by Guy Haley

Category 2


In the future 0.01% of the population own the vast majority of the wealth and the market is rigged to keep it that way. This is not power in the hands of corporations it is power in the hands of a few families. These “Pointer” families have realised that Earth is ecologically doomed and have identified a number of planets that could support human life and build a fleet of arks to take key family members and personnel. Dariusz is a geo-engineer that has no chance of joining the ships until he receives an offer from a man in a bar to get him aboard one of the ships in return for a “small act of sabotage” which he readily agrees to so that he can take his son with him. The ship crashes on a planet that is not their target and is tidally locked to the star, one side eternal night, the other perpetual searing daylight. It is also already inhabited by a number of strange and dangerous lifeforms. The colonists have to build their own society from scratch whilst struggling to survive. This is a fantastic space opera that reminded me of my love for SF in my teens. The plot is interesting, the characters are well drawn, the action is well imagined and described. I didn’t really like the ending for which it drops a half star but I think it was a tonal shift that didn’t work for me.

Overall – good old fashioned (but not old) space opera, a great read if you’re into that sort of thing, which it appears I still am…

Dec 19, 2013, 2:15pm Top

The Killing Fields is, I think, one of the best films ever made. I'll have to find a copy of Beyond the Killing Fields. How amazing to have been to Cambodia (I'll get there someday).

Dec 27, 2013, 10:14am Top

>228 RidgewayGirl: - I really must re-watch it!

Hope everyone had a great Xmas!

My bonus books so far are Purefinder by Ben Gwalchmi & Hang Wire by Adam Christopher (neither of which have touchstones) The Christopher one is an ARC from Angry Robot. Next up is the haunted book which may just see the year out with me or I may be able to squeeze another tiny book in

I'll be over on the 2014 thread soon, but will be away for a few days after the new year break

This year we decided to ask people to not get us books, having not had some presents yet, and with a birthday beginning of the year I'll let you know how that goes on the 2014 thread!

Purefinder by Ben Gwalchmi

Bonus Book


Gwalchmi has created a phantasmagorical journey through 1858 London. Purefoy is a “Purefinder”, a collector of sh*t (called Pure in slang) which is sold to the tanners.

Though they called it mud, everyone in London knew what they were treading on. There were children who remained barefoot throughout the day so that they could get it between their toes. Their only sand was manure

A child is killed and Purefoy is collared by the enigmatic pseudonymous Murphy as the culprit to be taken to justice. The two then embark on a foot journey across the city which serves to explore 1850’s London through their eyes. It is not an easy book to read, Gwalchmi’s prose often needs for you to work at it to glean the meaning and occasionally was a little too obscure for this reader. There is not much in the way of plot, being more a development of the two men’s relationship and what has brought them both to this time and place. A smorgasboard of odd characters are encountered and interacted with, my favourites being the street gang known as the “Mighty Cabinet Group” because “if you cross them you’ll end up in a cabinet”. The book is full of cant and slang and language, most notably several dialogues in Welsh (translation is provided) and Gwalchmi is obviously enjoying himself digging in the rich soil of British language.

London has always been a polyglot. London is where we run to hear new, fantastical imaginings of language; where we wrap ourselves in foreign matter in the knowledge that a cocoon of experience will enable us to lose and warm ourselves until we’ve wings enough to take our newly communicative selves elsewhere. The City speaks only one language, London speaks with infinite variations.

The journey, highlighting as it does the London poor, is a juxtaposition with today’s austerity society, several times the characters speak of what it would be like in 150 years’ time. Through it all runs the river and the streets which serve as characters on their own.

The back reads Purefinder is a Gothic-horror historical thriller with a metaphysical edge; a circadian, Dantean exploration of London, loss, and fraternity; mystery, blood, mud, and guts combined; Rabelaisian relief; human tragedy; and the important questions at the heart of any time and that summation sentence is more in keeping with the text than any I could attempt. It isn’t a forgettable text as some of the imagery will stay with me, probably as I had to be wide awake and paying attention whenever I picked up the book.

Overall – A complex and sometimes difficult read but one that will be rewarding to the right reader.

Hang wire by Adam Christopher

Bonus Book


I was lucky enough to snag an ARC of this book from Angry Robot which is due to be published end of Jan/beginning of Feb 2014 (US/UK have different publication dates). Ted Hall works for a blog in San Francisco and on an evening out in a Chinese restaurant his fortune cookie explodes in his face. After that he starts to lose time, seems to be sleepwalking and is writing on his laptop in the middle of the night in Chinese. He’s worried as his night walking seems to coincide with a grisly set of murders committed by a new serial killer in town, nicknamed the “Hang Wire killer” by the media. Is it coincidence that a new circus is in town, one that has a new acrobatic star called Highwire? One where the vintage carousel has a monkey with ruby eyes at its centre? One where the manager wears an old fashioned stovepipe hat and has one completely grey eye. And who is the beach bum who teaches ballroom dancing really? And what’s the link to the big quake of 1906?

Christopher parcels his plot detail out in small increments as the story unfolds keeping you guessing at what is really going on for a goodly proportion of the book. For me this is an effective technique and one that can draw you slowly onwards. In a lesser writer’s hands this could be annoying or just confusing, but in Christopher’s capable hands it builds well and reaches a satisfactory conclusion in time for the action to really kick in in the last section of the book.

There were a few minor niggles for me, not enough to really throw me out of the story or hamper my enjoyment too much though. There is a bit of repetition of information , and the characters could have felt a little more real.

Overall - Being an Angry Robot book you expect it’ to be pacy and intelligent with good plotting and Christopher really delivers.

I tried to read Un Lun Dun but it was just the wrong book at the wrong time I think, I didn't get past the first 30 odd pages and I had to force myself to keep picking it up. I don't think it is badly written (probably) but I just wasn't grabbed by it so I'm admitting defeat and putting it back on the shelf to try again at a later date...

Dec 27, 2013, 10:58am Top

I promise I have brought you no books for your birthday. Oh wait a sec...

Dec 27, 2013, 8:45pm Top

Un Lun Dun is a bit of a struggle to settle into when one is used to the 'meatier' (for lack of a better term) stories. I did enjoy it, but it fits into a more lighter read like Westerfeld's Leviathan series as the closest comparison I can come up with as I wait for dinner to cook.

.... Oh, and good luck on the 'no books' gifting and receiving. ;-)

Dec 27, 2013, 8:47pm Top

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climat change

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 5:45am Top

>231 lkernagh: - yeah I do have a problem with some YA. I got mostly Graphic Novels for Xmas which although they count a bit I feel count less than books?

I am currently reading the haunted book but am in work today and tomorrow and off out for a meal with friends tonight and obviously out tomorrow night so I think it'll be the first review on my 2014 thread so see you over there....

Hope everyone had a great Xmas! I fell way behind on reading threads this year so will have to make an effort to keep up even when travelling..

Edited: Jan 4, 2014, 7:58am Top

Caught up with you here before moving on to the 2014 group. A real shame about Dream london, sounded like a great premise, but blatant sexism like that is something I have a very hard time overlooking. Beyond the killing fields sounds like something I need to read. Khmer Rouge is a topic that is discussed too little in Sweden overall - possible because a lot of the then Swedish intelligencia (many of whom are still prolific writers et cetera) were cheering for Pol Pot at the time. Admittedly before knowing the real horrors, but still.

Happy new year!

Jan 6, 2014, 5:38am Top

Happy New Year everyone!

>234 GingerbreadMan: - I thoroughly recommend the killing fields it's really powerful writing

I'm mostly going to be reading the 2014 challenge from this point & updating my thread there - see you over there...

Group: 2013 Category Challenge

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