Thursday, 1 July 2010

I Wish I Was a Book is moving...

I wish I was a book is moving home to - Come visit our new home, but please be kind as it is a work in progress!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Web of Air by Philip Reeve

A Web of Air is the latest outing by Brighton born author Philip Reeve. The book is the sequel to Fever Crumb and as such is a prequel to the Mortal Engines quartet.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I was fairly disappointed with Fever Crumb. Not because it was a bad book, in fact it was a highly enjoyable one, but simply because it did not live up to the truly superb Mortal Engines quartet. Compared to the first four books it was limited in characters, lacking in depth and had nowhere near the scope of the others. So, needless to say I was apprehensive about this one, but optimistic at the same time...

A Web of Air starts well, you are introduced to a number of new and interesting characters, and we meet a more developed lead character than previously. Fever Crumb has taken on the role of guardian for two children from the first novel and because of this has had to evolve, if only slightly, into a more rounded human being. We are then taken to a new city, Mayda, where buildings rise and fall on runners and Angels fly through the sky (at least birds called angels do), where we meet even more new, and often shady, characters. It has scope. It has depth. It has most of the things that Fever Crumb lacked. Plus Reeve stays true to the dark, sinister and treacherous plot lines that make his stories stand out from the crowd. And yet it still does not live up to the quartet, but I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe the characters aren't as believable, nor likeable. Maybe it's due to the lack of the big, dirty, exciting traction cities. It is hard to say, but something is lacking.

Another point that needs to be made is the similarities to Airman by Eoin Colfer. Although I would never suggest that Reeve would steal ideas, he really does not seem the type and has plenty of his own ideas - in fact, judging by his blog, he has probably never heard of Eoin Colfer – but the similarities are there. Mainly it is the plot centring around flight that does it, along with the lead male character that has gone through a great deal of hardship that has left him with an obsession with flight, and then the finale with the protagonists flighting for their lives defending a keep that holds their flying machine whilst the baddies try to break their way in with superior force. Even so, there plenty of original ideas within A Web of Air that more than make up for this slight tarring.

A Web of Air is a good book, a really good book. As a stand alone book, or even as a sequel to Fever Crumb, it's great. As a prequel to Mortal Engines it remains a mild disappointment. Reeve has suggested that the next outing will be on a broader scope, with more in common with the originals – let's hope so!

Highly Recommended – but read the Mortal Engines Quartet first!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Grandville: A Graphic Novel by Bryan Talbot

Grandville: A Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific-Romance Thriller, is the latest graphic novel by Bryan Talbot. Inspired by nineteenth-century French illustrator Gerard, who worked under the nom de plum J.J. Greandville, the novel is the story of DI LeBrock on the hunt for the ruthless killers of a British diplomat. All fairly standard so far, but that is all that is standard in this graphic novel...

The first stand out point of the book is the characters themselves. Talbot has substituted the majority of the characters with animals instead of humans, whilst humans in the book are referred to as under-developed 'dough-faces', who are little better than slaves and have no citizens rights. The use of anthropomorphous animals is done excellently, with some hilarious results such as the drug dealing horse and the poodle hooker!

Another key part of the book is it's setting. Based mainly in France, Grandville is an alternate history story, set in a world where Napoleon won the war and Britain is little more than a colony that has just won independence. Alternate histories are a real favourite of mine, if done well, and Grandville does is perfectly. You are made aware of the worlds history early on, and the plot is largely based around the politics of this alternate timeline, but you are not smothered by it, which is something that has blighted many other books. If an author keeps emphasising the differences of their world to ours, it somehow looses it's sense of reality. The same can be said of the fact that this graphic novel falls into the category of 'steampunk', but Talbot understates this fact and it almost becomes unnoticeable, whilst managing to be an integral part of the story.

I was originally unimpressed by the artwork in Grandville, in fact it almost put me off completely, but whilst reading the book I realised how engrossing and beautifully detailed it is, with deep, rich colours and a great sense of pace. I particularly like both the blood and the movement effects, which are done perfectly. Talbot is clearly a masterful artist.

All in all I loved Grandville. It is a graphic novel I have been wanting to read for a long while and I am so glad I finally have. If anything, my only gripe is with the length of the book, I feel it could have been fleshed out more, it could have gone deeper into the heart of the story and we could have learnt more about the brilliant Detective-Inspector LeBrock. Fingers crossed that this is not a one off, as I can't wait for more Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard Scientific-Romance Thrillers!

Highly Recommended.

P.S. I love the front cover of this book!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova's second novel, is a difficult book to sum up. This mystery-romance-historical novel is the story of a psychiatrist's life that is turned upside down when an artist with a mysterious past becomes his patient. It is an intriguing, involving and hugely flawed giant of a novel which is wholly enjoyable yet mildly dull.

Before I reel off a large number of complaints that I have about the book, I want to point out that I did actually like it. I really did. It was enjoyable and extremely well written in some ways, whilst the plot is an interesting love tangle, which the author deals with well. Kostova is a master of descriptive prose and has a unique style that is highly floral yet often engaging.

But there are so many flaws...

I think by far my biggest issue with the book are the characters. Despite being largely likeable, each of the characters begin to grate very quickly. This is due to the fact that Kostova only has one voice. Each character, whether male or female; old or young(ish); psychiatrist or housewife; uses the exact same tone coupled with some incredibly pretentious vocabulary. They are all so mind-achingly middle-class you start to wonder if Elizabeth Kostova has ever left the country-club. Also, it seems that in Kostova's world people are more than happy to spill their most intimate and private memories to anyone off the street who claims to be a psychiatrist. I mean really, do these people have no decency?!

One last little flaw (ok, maybe not that little), which in fact could also be applicable to The Historian, is the ending. I can only guess that Kostova was so involved in writing The Swan Thieves that she got to page 500 and then realised that she really should finish it soon, so threw together a few pages which in a matter of paragraphs managed to simultaneously consolidate a relationship that had only started to bloom a couple of chapters ago; cure a psychiatric patient of an illness that had plagued him for years; and solve a 300 year old mystery. Impressive in a way and yet frustrating and unsatisfying in a literary sense.

Once again I must say that despite its many, many flaws, I really did enjoy The Swan Thieves. Although not as exciting or enjoyable as The Historian, it really does draw you in to the world of art, history and romance that Kostova has created – although looking back I find it hard to see how! In all honesty I'm not a fan of classical art, historical fiction or romance, so to have held my attention so well it must have been doing something right.

Recommended – but you have been warned!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Stories Front Cover

It would seem that the English edition of the new book edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio is going to have a different cover design to the American version. This is a real shame as I have loved the American version since I first saw it a number of months ago.

American edition:

UK cover:

The UK cover is growing on me, but I really hope the original cover becomes available in the UK soon.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cracking Quote no.1

"On more than one occasion David, in his urge to explore the darker corners of the bookshelves, had found himself wearing strands of spider silk in his face and hair, causing the web's creator to scuttle into a corner and crouch balefully, lost in thoughts of arachnoid revenge."

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Friday, 26 March 2010

We get it - you don't like God...

Philip Pullman's latest book, The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ, is due for publication in the very near future, and I have to say that I am disappointed. I have been nervously looking forward to The Book of Dust, the follow up to the phenomenal His Dark Materials trilogy, but we will have to wait even longer for that one. Instead, it would seem, of writing good, honest fiction, Pullman has decided to make his latest work a self-righteous dig at Christianity.

What is the need for it?

Everyone is aware of Pullman's views on God and he showed this in His Dark Materials. But that was different, it was incorporated into the story and worked perfectly – the fact that it upset the church was just a bonus! The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ seems to be designed entirely to shock and outrage Christians and it is petty and pathetic.

If you don't know, the book is a re-telling of the life of Jesus, claiming that Jesus was just a man, not the son of God. Blah blah blah...

I don't know, maybe I will be proved wrong, maybe it will be an excellent book and the fact that it is about Jesus will just be a side point – I guess we will just have to wait and see.

The Good Man Jesus & The Scoundrel Christ is published by Canongate Books Ltd. and is due for release on the 29th March 2010. On a positive note, the book comes in a choice of covers, one black and one white, which look pretty good!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The End of Publishing

Congratulations to the DK imprint at Penguin Group, I really think this is an amazing video and a great message to all

Nation - the play

Nation by Terry Pratchett was the first non-Discworld book that the author has written in quite a long time, so I was fairly worried when I first picked up my copy. I really shouldn't have worried, it was excellent.

Nation, the play adapted by Mark Ravenhill from the book of the same name was the first play based on a Terry Pratchett book, Discworld or otherwise, I have seen, and I was most certainly worried. Maybe this was due to iffy reviews I had read, maybe it was because I tend to find novels turned into plays can be disasters (Note: seeing The Hobbit at the Eastbourne Congress next month – Nervous!), either way I was worried.

The first couple of scenes did little to alleviate my fears, with slightly wooden acting and, shock-horror, singing. Fortunately, my initial misconceptions were lifted as I found myself drawn into the world of Mau – a native of the Nation, the largest of the Islands – and Daphne, an aristocratic 13 year-old whose father is 139th in line to the throne, who has been ship wrecked on the Nation. Mau's people have been wiped out by the same storm that destroyed Daphne's ship, and together they must build a new Nation.

The play deviates from the book in a few ways. For instance Cox, the evil mutineer from the book has been transformed into a butler who is sent off the rails by the death of his son. This change, like most of the others, is welcome enough and does not effect the overall feel of the story. Another large difference is the ship's parrot, Milton, who in the book is a minor character who occasionally shouts “dirty knickers!” before disappearing for a few chapters. In the play Milton is transformed into the main supporting character, used for both comic relief and every once in a while for moving the plot on a little. The human-dressed-as-parrot aspect of the play was one of my biggest apprehensions – I really can't stand actors dressed up as animals (possibly brought on from being forced to sit through a truly awful adaptation of Orwell's Animal Farm when I was at school...) - but turned he out to be a likeable addition.

The first few scenes were a low point, the singing put me off and it took a bit of time to grasp what was happening, even though I had read the book and heard the excellent BBC audio play, but as it got into it and I realised there wasn't much singing I really came to love this adaptation of Nation – so much so that I found myself humming along to the song (one song repeated a few times throughout the play, by the way). The other low point of the play, I'm afraid to say, was the end. I felt everything that involved characters not on the Nation (namely Daphne's family) was not executed that well and the closing of the story felt very rushed. Fortunately this did not diminish from the overall excellence of Nation.

Highly Recommended.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I shall start as I plan to go on: The Book Thief is one the most beautifully told, enjoyable and moving books I have read in ever such a long time.

The book starts by introducing us to our narrator, the brilliant Death - a quirky, observant and kind anthropomorphic personification – who tells the story of Lisel Meminger, a child in Nazi German sent to live with foster parents in a poor area of a poor town.

The Book Thief is not the happiest book I've ever read, but it is by no means depressing. Markus Zusak tackles tough issues in a sympathetic manner, helping you to relate to each of the characters in turn. The day to day life of Lisel and her foster parents – the hilariously angry Rosa and the quiet and sweet Hans – gives us an insight into the everyday life in poor suburbs of Nazi Germany. The story really starts with the introduction of Max, a Jewish fist-fighter on the run, who takes up residence in the family basement. Max's character never really develops, but his introduction brings with it a host of new problems for Lisel and her family.

There is not a lot else I want to say about The Book Thief, but I must urge you to pop down to your local bookshop, or library, and pick up a copy of this uplifting, if heart wrenching, story.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

The publication of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is, in itself, a tragedy – Stieg Larsson died suddenly shortly after delivering the manuscript for the book, and its two sequels, to his publisher, leaving behind the unfinished plot outlines for a further 3 books featuring the main characters, a fact that has helped his sales along the way. Because the Millennium Trilogy are all that will be published by Stieg Larsson, so there is no risk of the series being marred by further, weaker books, something that has afflicted a great deal of authors.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced Journalist who is hired by an ageing industrialist to solve a mystery that has haunted him for decades. Whilst this storyline unfolds, we are gradually introduced to a socially inept computer hacker by the name of Lisbeth Salander – declared legally incompetent and yet incredibly gifted. As the story progresses, Salander and Blomkvist find themselves thrown together to try and solve the almost unsolvable mystery, whilst someone else will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

The plot plods along at an amicable and gentle pace for the first third of the book, which is surprising, but at the same time works very well. At this point, the friendly pace of the book is interrupted by some brutal and fairly distressing scenes of a violent nature, before slowing back down again. This up and down feeling to the novel does continue throughout and it is an excellent plot device. The characters are likeable, although both of the main two have some annoying personality traits, and the large cast of other characters are varied, and make for a tough time trying to guess the culprit.

All in all, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great read and it is easy to see why it has become such a massive success, both in its native Sweden and across Europe. Can't wait for the Swedish made film which is released shortly, although dreading the inevitable American remake...

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes

In Little Hands Clapping, we delve into the weird and darkly wonderful world of Dan Rhodes, where Museums are dedicated to suicide and their curators eat little more than crackers, cake and spiders; Doctors are - at least in one instance – cannibals; and love can conquer, or destroy, all.

The story follows various seemingly unconnected stories, some of which span the entire novel, eventually gravitating towards the previously mentioned Museum of Suicide; and some that pop up almost randomly throughout the novel, like windows into the bizarre world of Rhodes.

As with Gold, a previous Dan Rhodes novel I reviewed, Little Hands Clapping is fairly lacking in the plot department. The blurb tells us that the characters of the book will be caught up in a crime that will shock the world... OK, so it is a pretty bad crime, but one that becomes apparent very early on in the novel and there is never a real shock involved. The most important aspect of the book is the highly descriptive and downright beautiful prose. Without Rhodes' exemplary way with words, Little Hands Clapping would be a dull and wholly pointless little book, but instead it is transformed into a sweet, funny and mildly macabre novel, which was a real treat to read.

Dan Rhodes' style of writing has often been called 'lad lit', but I don't see it that way. I think its whimsical, plodding nature would make it more a choice for the art/drama student, rather than your typical Bravo Two-Zero 'lad'. Either way, Little Hands Clapping is a bizarre, sometimes melancholy, but thoroughly enjoyable, if unconventional, novel.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Art of Tim Burton

I'm a fan of Tim Burton, not a massive fan, but a fair sized fan. I suppose it is his quirky darkness that I like. A collection of illustrations, drawings & paintings by Tim was published this month and it shows off the darkest corners of his vivid imagination, and it looks like a real treat.

The book does have a fair down side though, as the cheaper version of the book is £49.99, whilst the deluxe edition is over the hundred mark! But surely, if you are a big fan of Burton, this is a must buy.

Not sure how much you like Burton? Why not try The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy - a collection of short stories, written & illustrated by Tim Burton and priced at around £5, it's a massive amount cheaper!

--Update 26/02/2010--

I have, just today, found out that Tim Burton started his career as an illustrator for Disney, which I suppose would explain his amazing artistic ability and the reason the book works. You may have already known that. I didn't.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Special Editions

The 21st of Feb was my birthday, and for it I received 2 books - 2 special books!

A numbered special edition of the latest Terry Practchett novel, Unseen Academincals, and a numbered & signed special edition of Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve:

As well of these wonderful books, I also received the Fuji Finepix S1500 on which these photo's were taken.

Thanks Jenny!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Gold by Dan Rhodes

Set in the idyllic Welsh countryside, Gold is the story of Miyuki Woodward, a half-Japanese/half-Welsh interior designer who takes her two weeks vacation alone in the same village, in the same cottage, every year, away from her partner Grindle, in order to consolidate their love through separation. The novel takes place during the two weeks vacation and is set mainly in the village pub, The Anchor, and the surrounding countryside.

The story is fairly minimalistic – the biggest thing to happen in the village for a long time is Miyuki painting a rock gold... – but this matters not as the book is driven forward by the characters. The village locals are quirky, with tall Mr Hughes, short Mr Hughes and Mr Puw on one side of the pub, and Septic Barry & the Children from Previous Relationships on the other, and Miyuki is a really likeable lead. The star character, however, is the owner of the pub in which the novel is largely based – Mr Edwards. Mr Edwards is perfect, not used too much nor too little, and throughout the book barely says more than his favourite saying “Holy Mackerel!”.

This is my first Dan Rhodes novel, and it is clear that he is a gem of an author who chooses his words carefully. Descriptively speaking, Gold is a beautiful novel, but on a small scale. When describing (repeatedly) how Miyuki's contact lenses dance across the stove, his ability with words really shines through, but then when describing the sun sparkling on the golden rocks, I found it hard to picture, it didn't really jump out.

All in all, this little novel is a treat, I'm so glad to have found Dan Rhodes and I'm thoroughly looking forward to his latest book, Little Hands Clapping.

A beautiful, sweet and very funny book. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Who is Dan Rhodes?

Author of 6 novels, one of Granta's Best Young Novelists of 2003 and winner of several obscure literary awards... and I have never heard of him.

His novels include the best selling Timoleon Vieta Come Home, The Little White Car (under a pen name) and Gold.

Well, now I have heard of him, and I am currently reading Gold.

So far, I like. In fact, so far I love.

I will review when finished.

Dan Rhodes' new novel, Little Hands Clapping, was published this month and I am awaiting my copy.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Prequel Sequel

The latest book in the mortal engines hexology is a prequel to the original quadrilogy, but it's the sequel in the prequel duology, so that must make it a prequel sequel... I think...


Definitely looking forward to this latest outing by Phillip Reeve, just hope it is back to the glory of the original 4 Mortal Engines books as Fever Crumb was an enjoyable dissapointment.

A Web Of Air by Phillip Reeve is published by Scholastic & due for release on April 5th '10

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman is Hoffman's first fantasy novel and a huge leap from his previous outings – The Wisdom Of Crocodiles an odd and harsh look at modern life, and The Golden Age of Censorship, a black comedy based on Hoffman's experiences as a film censor – it follows Thomas Cale, an acolyte from the barren and vicious land of The Sanctuary of Redeemers, and his friends on a journey as they escape their torturous existence at the hands of the brutal and zealous Redeemers, through to a blissful life of sinful pleasure in the city of Memphis, but the Redeemers will not give them up easily.

The book is soon off at a blistering pace and rarely slows down to catch its breath. Hoffman brings in new characters, gives them a beating and then kills them off almost without warning. If you like your novels violent in a fun kind of way, you can't go wrong with The Left Hand of God. It does, however, have a softer side, introducing love interests for some of the main characters, even though they are often treated by the author as badly as the Redeemers treat their unfortunate acolytes – torturing them with miscommunication, misunderstandings and wrongly assumed hostility.

The pace of the book is one of its best qualities, but it is also where it falls down slightly. Because of this urgency to get to the next fight scene, some of the sections that deal with the politics of the land are built up to seem important only to be forgotten about straight after and not really mentioned again. As well as this, some of the characters are slightly underused (such as the great Kitty Hare), but the ones that survive the book will hopefully be brought back in the sequels (which, by the way, are planned).

Well worth a look!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

I wish I was a book...

I've started I Wish I Was a Book with the plan to write book reviews, previews and news for myself and anyone else who finds it. I hope you enjoy it and that you find it helpful in your search for good books!

A word of warning: This blog may also include film review, television programme reviews and random posts regarding life.