Tuesday 31 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Should Be In A Beach Bag

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

To be honest I don't treat reading on the beach any different that I treat reading on the train, at home or at any other location. I don't really do beaches anyway as I much prefer sitting in a shaded bar with a beer in one hand and a book in the other. However, I think that what I am going to do here is cover my top ten quick and easy reads that wouldn't tax my mind to much whilst lying on the beach.

1. Various Star Trek Novels
It could be any Star Trek Novel really, I am a bit of a Star Trek geek and I always find the books easy to read. I know the characters very well from the TV and the science is always kept light.

2. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I think most people are aware of the Harry Potter novels and know that they are fun and fast paced. I actually read one of these once while on holiday, it was a good way to un-wind after a busy day out seeing the sights.

3. Sci-Fi Short Story Collections
I am not actually going to specify any actual collection here but I always find these types of thing are a good. The individual stories are usually quick and don't tend to get bogged down or overly complex unlike some of the normal Sci-Fi novels. You can easily just sit and read one of the stories to completion before heading to the sea for a swim.

4. Various Christopher Pike Novels
These books tend to be short, fun and sometimes completely ridiculous but even now I can imagine sitting down on the beach and reading a few of them. They do tend to be more horror focussed which can be quite an interesting difference to the sunny surroundings of a beach.

5. Various Roald Dahl Novels
Quirky, funny and a breeze to read over, these books always remind me of my childhood and I could read them over and over again.

6 Spellsinger Series by Alan Dean Foster
A lot of the fantasy novels I read tend to be heavy epic things that can take an eternity to read through. The Spellsinger series however were light natured, humorous and easy to read. I keep meaning to try and buy then again as I never actually read some of the later books.

7. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
The Hobbit is a magical novel and is so much lighter and easier to read The Lord of The Rings.

8. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Funny, witty and plain entertaining, this book I think epitomises the type of beach read than you can lay back and enjoy without to much brain power being utilised.

9. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
The first of the terrifically funny Discworld novels and one of the shortest, this would be a good introduction to the world of Terry Pratchett whilst you relax on the beach.

10. Twlight by Stephenie Meyer
This book is here only because if you read it on the beach then you can throw it in the sea when Bella gets more annoying than you can handle. But in all honesty, it is an easy read than can be picked up and put down as required, provided you can deal with the characters.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Invisible Dawn (Altered Realities Book 1) - Weston Kincade

Title: Invisible Dawn (Altered Realities Book 1)
Author: Weston Kincade
Genre: Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook / Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

"Invisible Dawn" by Weston Kincade has perplexed me in that I struggled to decide if I would class this story as being Sci-Fi or Fantasy. For example, on the Sci-Fi front it touches on alternative universes, with most of the protagonists and antagonists coming from a world which has technology ahead of what we currently utilise. But on the Urban Fantasy front we seem to have people showing psychic talents and in one alternate word we actually meet some Vampires. It was the use of Vampires that finally pushed me into describing this as a Fantasy novel when I discuss it with people, although I am sure others may disagree!

On the topic of Vampires, I hope to god that someday soon people stop the current obsession; they seem to pop up in stories everywhere! I can imagine if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes novels in today's world we would somehow find out that Professor Moriarty was actually a Vampire as well. The use of Vampires in this novel wasn't terrible, but some stories really seem to try and shoe horn them in just to attract a certain type of reader.

Anyway, this novel is the first in a new series of books titled "Altered Realities". It follows a computer programmer, Jedd Altran who has given up everything in his life in an attempt to save his god-daughter Madelin from a covert government organisation named PASTOR. Basically, Madeline appears to have some psychic abilities and this is the reason that PASTOR had detained her.

Very early in the story Jedd manages to help Madeline escape from PASTOR and use her psychic ability to open rifts between alternate worlds which she then flees through. The story then pretty much follows Jedd and Madeline trying to evade PASTOR through these worlds, some of which are very similar to their own whilst others are completely different. As they travel across these worlds they pick up some allies; an ex Mercenary in search of redemption, a broke gambler and a rebellious vampire.

One thing I did not is that you do get dropped into the story straight away without much of a build up and I wasn't 100% sure what was going on exactly. Luckily the story was written in an engaging and exciting manner and I was happy to read on in the knowledge that an explanation would probably be teased out as the story progressed; which did occur as expected. The story progresses at a decent rate with periods of action being interspersed with thoughtful interludes as the characters discuss what it is occurring. The ending however was a little bit of a let down as I didn't really feel like anything had really been concluded. I know that this can be a common problem with books in a series but it still always leaves me a little bit disappointed.

The characters involved are all fairly likeable and very varied; I especially liked the ex mercenary who truly comes across as a man haunted by his past. The way he helps someone he knows nothing about is actually believable as you see the image of a man seeking redemption being built up within the story. The only slight issue I had was the way in which some of the characters seemed to just accept alternative worlds etc. without any real issue. I really would have expected to see a little bit more denial from some of them. It didn't detract from the novel but it made the characters feel a little bit fake in my opinion. Especially considering the way that two of the characters seemed to team up due to a random meeting.

Overall, I found this book to be an enjoyable mix of Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi and at it's heart it is a fun action novel with a hint of adventure that is hard to put down. I note that whilst I was rather disappointed in how the book ended, I will still be picking up the sequel so that I can continue the story.

Friday 27 May 2011

Family Forever Friday (2)

Family Forever Friday

One of the blogs I follow, E&K Family Book Review have is running a Meme and I have decided to take part.  It’s called “Forever Family Friday” and each week KW will post a question for us to answer that will hopefully tell everyone a little bit more about the bloggers taking part.

This week’s question is:
Either as an adult or a child, What has been your favorite Family Vacation?

I have to admit that I love visiting Orlando, from going as a child to going as an adult now, every visit seems to be great fun. So whilst I have loved every trip there, the first one currently has to be best as I was just gob-smacked as a young child about how amazing it was to have all these theme parks and restaurants everywhere. There is so much to do there and at times I wonder what it would be like to go now as a young child again considering it is even bigger than it was when I first went.

As a note though my wife and I now have plans to go there for our tenth wedding anniversary and making it the first time our own children (assuming the 2nd one ever decides to pop out my wife and say hello) will get to go. Therefore, I expect the future trip with my own wife and children may one day become my favourite family vacation as I will love seeing the faces on my children. Especially considering I remember how I felt when I first went and visited all the places there.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Seer of Mars (Vallar Book 1) - Cindy Borgne


Title: Seer of Mars (Vallar Book 1)
Author: Cindy Borgne
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook/Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK

The first thing that crossed my mind when I looked at the novel "Vallar" which is now entitled "Seer of Mars" was "Why on earth is there a stealth bomber flying over Mars?". Luckily for me, plenty of other people had asked the same question and the answer was quickly found online in that this was an image of a specific type of craft that was within the book. Funnily enough it is a stealth craft itself, which explained why the shape would look similar to a current Stealth Bomber. Once I got over this initial query I started reading and was introduced to an enjoyable Sci-Fi adventure story. As a note there is now a new cover to go with the title change and therefore no one else is likely to suffer the same curiosity that affected me.

The story is set on Mars which has been colonized by various different corporations who now fight for control of the planet and its resources. It follows Ian Connors, a young psychic who works for Marscorp, a corporation being run by a dictatorial admiral. He has been trained to use his talents from early childhood to help ensure that Marscorp has an advantage over all it's rivals. However, when his visions result in a terrible battle that he witnesses personally he begins to question his role at Marscorp and searches for a way to escape. It is at this point that the story really picks up as we watch him start rejecting the Admiral's wishes and trying to save a girl from a rival corporation whom he has had visions of being with in the future.

In the beginning I felt that the story felt rather slow and it took me a little bit to really get a feel for the characters. However, within a couple of chapters it was in full flow and I was hooked. The plot progresses at a nice pace, keeping you interested and wanting to turn the page to find out what happens next. This was enjoyable light Sci-Fi, with the emphasis more on being an enjoyable adventure in a futuristic setting than filling pages with techno-speak and heavy scientific explanations. The only thing missing in my opinion was some more detail on the history of why Mars has become the way it is and why some of the Corporations act the way they do.

The characters in the story pleased me hugely, in part because the main protagonist, Ian Connors, was someone I found that I actually liked. He is well-developed and comes across as a regular teenager struggling with the normal feelings of love, trust and hope against the backdrop of war and a Corporation determined to use him for its own gain. You can't help but support him as he tries to exert his own independence against Marscorp.

Overall, I loved the story and can't wait for Cindy Borgne to write the sequel which is surely coming. The novel is fun, adventurous and doesn't end with Ian automatically getting together in love with the girl he sees in his visions. This pleased me hugely as I felt that based on what happens in the story any relationship would require work beyond the scope of just this novel. If you like trying out Indie authors and Sci-Fi adventures are something you enjoy then I am sure you will like Vallar/Seer of Mars.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books You Lied About

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

The topic this week is Top Ten Books You Lied About, this seems to cover books I may have lied about reading, lied about not reading or lied about liking/disliking it.

To be honest I struggled quite a bit with this list, I have always tried to be honest in my opinions on books and I don't see the need to lie about reading or not reading something. None of the people I know really care one way or another about what I have or have not read.

In the end I have had to think back to things I did when I was in my early teen years as that was probably the only time I may have been a little bit more willing to bend to peer pressure.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I was young and one of my friends was trying to show off that he had read some "classical" piece of fiction. I therefore decided to show him up by saying that I had read War and Peace. It was childish I know but I couldn't help myself, I have still never read the book but I suspect it is nothing like the novel I described to my friend involving wolves eating children and Russian peasants leading an invasion of China.

The Lifeguard by Richie Tankerlsey Cusick
My friends and sister had all read this book and told me how great it was. Therefore I decided to read it and found it boring. It was nothing compared to the Christopher Pike books I had been reading, but I just played along with my friends and agreed that it was really good. Luckily I used this to get a few of them onto Christopher Pike and away from Point Horror books like this.

I have to be honest and say this is pretty much all I can think of. As I said earlier, I tend to be honest about books I read nowadays and I learnt very quickly when I was young not to bother about what other people read. I mean some people I knew back then looked at me like I was an idiot for even reading at all!

Saturday 21 May 2011

The Trip: A True Karmal Korn Adventure - Jeffrey Koconis

Title: The Trip - A True Karmal Korn Adventure
Author: Jeffrey Koconis
Genre: Biography
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

"The Trip - A True Karmal Korn Adventure" is a true story set in the early seventies about two teenagers who decide to hitchhike from the US heartlands to California so that they can experience more of the hippie phenomenon that they have embraced. The story follows them as they encounter both good natured kindness and harsh hatred from a variety of people and establishments along their travels.

As a child of the 80's I have to admit that I know very little about the seventies and hippie culture beyond what I have seen on the television and in movies so I went into this book not really knowing what I would find. What I did find was a short story showing a snapshot of the era as seen by the two teenagers that I thoroughly enjoyed. Seeing the differences between those who were just helpful and kind people, to those who understood the hippie mantra and finally to those who didn't want "their kind" around was eye opening. I can actually imagine that some of this treatment is probably similar to how many differing groups of people can be treated today.

Beyond some of the insight into society, the story also showed the enthusiasm of youth and the journey into adulthood in a true coming of age style that could probably apply to many other eras beyond just the seventies. I think people will enjoy this story no matter what generation they belong to, although they may enjoy it for slightly different reasons.

Overall, I felt that the story was told in a compelling manner with instances of kindness and humour being blended cleverly with fear and hatred. I actually wish that their journey had gone on longer as the story kept me entertained throughout, but I guess all journeys have to end and the book length did give the story a good punch. Basically, anyone after a quick and enjoyable true life adventure that shows you both the optimism of youth and the varied attitudes of society should pick this book up and give it a whirl.

Friday 20 May 2011

Family Forever Friday (1)

Family Forever Friday

One of the blogs I follow, E&K Family Book Review have started a new Meme and I have decided to take part.  It’s called “Forever Family Friday” and each week KW will post a question for us to answer that will hopefully tell everyone a little bit more about the bloggers taking part.

This week’s question is:
What is your most embarassing moment as a kid?

I have to admit that at first I found this hard to answer, I have probably tried to block any embarassing moments from my memory for obvious reasons! However, the one that still remains lodged in my memory is a little bit disgusting;

I must have been around 14 and was at school during a Design & Technology class. I had been feeling pretty bad all day and had actually followed through earlier in the day when I passed some gas. So I was standing there with toilet paper down my underwear praying that no one could smell anything. Then my body just decided it had enough and I managed to throw up all over the floor & work bench. So I was standing there throwing up in front of the entire class whilst also trying to stop my bowels from moving. The school ended up having to get my mother to come home from work and I had to explain to her the accident in my underwear, which for a 14 year old was embarrassing in its self. Upon my return to school several days later, I then had to face embarrassment due to the vomiting, I am just glad that this was all my class mates were aware of.

If you want to find out who else is sharing an embarrassing moments go to:

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Mappa Mundi - Justina Robson

Title: Mappa Mundi
Author: Justina Robson
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2001
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

Mappa Mundi by Justina Robson was a novel I had never heard of before, I read it because it is the May read for Dreams and Speculation's Women of Science Fiction Book Club . After reading the synopsis I hoped that I would like this book, as the premise regarding mind control and government conspiracy did appeal.

The story follows the development of new technology in the near-future that its creators hope will enable them to directly control some aspects of human thought processes and possibly repair various levels of brain damage. However, various governments can see other potential in the technology, which leads to illegal testing and other such nefarious activities as they look to "weaponise" it. The novel takes us through these government activities as well as the attempts of people to uncover the conspiracy going on.

The first thing I noticed when reading the book was that Justina Robson must have put a lot of research into the novel as I could imagine that some of the technologies detailed may really just be around the corner. However, I found that at times it did get quite deep into some of the technicalities and science involved and this felt a little bit to heavy at times. I have to admit that I actually began to skim over some of the psychological and technical speak. I think it all caused the story to move along at quite a slow pace which was a shame as I felt there was an intriguing and thoughtful conspiracy story underneath trying to get out.

I also found that none of the characters within the novel really appealed to me. I know that some of this was due to the characterisation being weak and inconsistent at times, especially in regards to the supporting characters. However, even the characters that were well rounded and consistent couldn't keep me interested in their predicament. I suspect this was because none of the motives on show by these characters were either completely admirable or despicable; all the characters had reached their own conclusions based on individual reasoning. Whilst I actually found this more realistic than some basic good and bad characters, it meant that I didn't really feel like cheering on any of them to try and succeed in their endeavours.

Overall, I have to say that this was not a book I enjoyed hugely. The parts of the book that should have had me on the edge of my seat just didn't work due to both the overall slow pace of the novel and the characterisation. I did finish the book because I was curious to know where the espionage plotline was going, but even that ending left me a bit disappointed, especially when there was a time-travel paradox section thrown in. I suspect some people will really like this book, especially those who would enjoy a deep philosophical dive into psychology, personal freedoms, etc. in the near future but it just wasn't for me.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Minor Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

There are plenty definitions out there of what a minor character is, but I have decided to just assume that if it isn't one of the few "major" protagonists or antagonists in a novel then they are fair game for this listing. Anyway, please read over my list below and post any comments, either agreeing or disagreeing with my choices.

Neville Longbottom - Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I just can't help myself when it comes to listing Harry Potter characters; I guess they have just left quite a deep mark in my memory. Anyway, I just love the way we see Neville grow throughout the collection of novels.

Ozzie Issacs - Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton
This man always came across as a bit of a hippie, however he is a scientific genius who helped create the Human Inter-stellar Commonwealth. Throughout the books he always seemed to keep his sense of humour and strived to do anything he could to improve the lives of people.

Albert - Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Death's longstanding butler who always seems to make sure his "boss" stays on the right track. I always enjoyed some of his rather sarcastic comments to Death.

Marvin - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series by Douglas Adams
I think Marvin is involved in some of the funniest parts of this series and was probably be my favourite character.

The Librarian - Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Another Terry Pratchett character and one that seems to pop up in some amusing ways in nearly every novel. The Librarian was turned into an Orang-utan during a magical accident and now tends to eat bananas and say "ook" a lot whilst trying to stop people actually reading the books.

Seth - Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
I didn't really like many of the characters that much in the Twilight Saga but Seth was that one diamond in the rough. He seemed to have a good soul and his determination to help the Cullens was nice to see.

S'Brydion Family - Wars of Light & Shadows Series by Janny Wurtz
I love the differences between the brothers in this family; they all complemented each other so well and added some gentle humour to the story.

Dog - Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
I think Terry Pratchett is one of the best in creating minor characters and that is why I have another one of his creations here. I read Good Omens recently and just found Dog superb, he starts out as a vicious Hellhound and then upon arriving on Earth he slowly changes into a loveable friendly terrier no matter how hard he tries to resist.

Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler - Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Apologies for my lack of variation and originality but I have another Discworld character here. Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler introduces us the world of commerce in Discworld and his antics always bring a smile to my face.

Otho - Deverry Cycle by Katherine Kerr
This grumpy, miserable dwarf popped up at various times throughout the series and whilst he tried to hide it, his heart was always in the right place.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Secrets - S.L. Pierce

Title: Secrets
Author: S.L. Pierce
Genre: Thriller
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

This book is a fairly standard thriller that follows Gwen Michaels, a woman who moved to California for a fresh start and the hope that her past would stay secret forever, even from her husband. However, after a hired assassin turns up to try and kill her, she assumes that her cover is blown. It turns out though that the assassin had no idea who she was and therefore a search for the truth begins which uncovers deception, betrayal, industrial espionage and an unhealthy collection of secrets.

The first thing I noticed about this novel was the large amount of chapters; it wasn't a very long story but had in excess of 70 chapters. I felt that this interrupted the flow of the novel quite severely, especially when there were multiple times when I didn't think a new chapter was actually needed. It just made the entire novel feel very stop-start at times, which was a shame as I think the author was trying to create a fast paced thriller.

The next thing I want to note in the review is that S.L. Pierce has written a novel which is very light on "filler" material. There is no excessive detail here, the story moves along quickly and there is no distractions from the overall storyline. I think that this is all part of the author's attempt to keep the novel fast paced and it works well outside of the issues caused by the excessive chapter issue I mentioned earlier.

In regards to the characters, we get a basic background throughout the story for both the main antagonists and the many side characters. There was just enough detail to gain and understanding of the characters without diverging from the story being told. I have to be honest and say I wasn't very fond of the main character, Gwen. I just found her to be emotionless at times and the simple black and white view she had on people made her seem cold. All of this makes sense due to her background, but it made it hard for me to really like her. I also had an issue was with the police officer character, although this was more to do with the story around him than the character himself. I was hoping to see some aspect of the plot being created around him lead somewhere exciting. However, it kind of just fizzled out and I am not sure what it actually added to the overall story.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and despite the issues I had with the amount of chapters, it was a fast paced and enjoyable read. The manner in which S.L. Pierce manages to wrap all the various events together at the end was rather satisfying, with the small exception of the plot lines regarding the police officer. If you are after a quick, standard thriller to read then you won't go wrong with this novel.

Friday 13 May 2011

Last Pict - Rick Boven

Title: Last Pict
Author: Rick Boven
Genre: Graphic Novel - General Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

I don't normally read Graphic Novels but when I got an email from the publisher Nan Bu Nan Publishing to consider reviewing "Last Pict" I decided to give it a go. This was mainly because I was curious to see how well a graphic novel would work on my Kindle as I had never tried one on it previously. As I read it, I was happy to see that it looked great on a Kindle, and for this story I think the greyscale nature of the images worked well.

Last Pict is basically a short story in graphic form about the troubles of a young boy named Evan who just doesn't fit in at school. The story covers the discussion between the principle and the boy's father after he has been beaten up at school for drawing portraits of his class mates. We see through this discussion how a child's love and interest in something can be destroyed by the unthinking remarks of a parent in an instant.

I believe that this story will reach the hearts of most people, especially parents and I myself felt deeply for Evan as the story progressed. The images created by Rick Boven really do justice to the story and you can really see the Evan's dejection as he listens to what his father is saying to the principle. He has basically managed to put across a big and important message in a subtle and memorable way with this novel.

On a personal level, after reading this I am going to make sure that I am always there to do creative and art related things with my daughter if that is what she enjoys. I would never want to make my child feel the way that Evan appears to feel in this story. This was made even more definite after my wife read the book and basically called the father in the story an "arse".

Overall, this is very thoughtful story that is told with some clever drawings. For anyone like myself who thinks graphic novels are all just sci-fi, supernatural, etc. then you should read this and see how wrong you can be. I know it has changed some of my opinions on this form of storytelling and I suspect I will read others in the future.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Jerks In Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

Bella Swan - Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
Bella was also in my top ten mean girls listing, but I also think she classes as a jerk! She was shallow, obnoxious and self-centered and I still can't believe the manner if which she manipulates and messes around both Jacob and Edward. I think she will forever be in any listing of characters that annoy me in someway.

Dudley Dursley - Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I had planned on not using any Harry Potter characters in this listing as they seem to pop up everywhere but I just couldn't stop myself with this one. Dudley is just plain irritating, he does get a little better as the series progresses but at the beginning he is the epitomy of every spoiled brat you will ever meet.

Aunt Gertrude - The Hardy Boys Series by Franklin W. Dixon
I have only read one of these books but this woman came across as being a right pain in the backside. She was nosy, interfering and just plain rude! I didn't particularly like the Hardy Boys themselves, but no one deserves this woman for an Aunt.

Daniel Cleaver - Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
It has been a long time since I read this book, but Daniel Cleaver remains in my memory as being the epitome of everything jerk like!

Tybalt - Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
This guy is a plain jerk, his attempts to get Romeo to fight him are at times almost unbelievable. To be honest, plenty of the other male characters in Romeo & Juliet could easily fall into the jerk category.

Saruman - Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
This guy should be a great wizard helping defeat evil, instead he decides to turn against everything he has known for a little bit of power.

Jim Rennie - Under The Dome by Stephen King
A disaster befalls a small community and this self-serving townsman puts everyone's lives at risk for his own power and safety. I really couldn't stand this guy when I read the book.

Zil Sperry - Gone Series by Michael Grant
This leader of the "Human Crew" is pretty much a stereotypical racist who hates all the people in the town who have shown mutations and are therefore different. Instead of joining together to fight against the real enemies, he manages to split everyone into different groups.

The Queen of Hearts - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
This character is quick to rage and gives people the death sentence for the smallest issue. She is a cruel and nasty piece of work.

Jacob - Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
I am still not sure why I read this series at times as I seem to hate so many characters in it. Anyway Jacob just won't take no for an answer, I know Bella leads him on and messes him around a lot but the way he acts isn't much better.

Saturday 7 May 2011

The Scarab - Scott Rhine

Title: The Scarab
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

I am going to start this post with a confession, when I was first asked to review "The Scarab" by Scott Rhine I wasn't sure about it. Basically, I found the short synopsis I was provided with a little bit confused, and it actually put me off the book. Maybe I am just being overly harsh but I have referenced the passage below;

"Hemophiliac and ace mechanic Ethan Hayes had risen to the top of the computer gaming circuit as the Scarab. When he invented a new device that made him rich over night, he and Mary Ann were able to enter SimCon, the simulated European road race, like Cinderella at the ball. After he stumbles across a cyber-criminal ring, they kidnap Mary Ann to silence him. Now, it's up to the Scarab to save her."

The first thoughts that went through my head were as follows;
1. Haemophilia must have an important part to play in the book somewhere as it seems rather randomly included in the synopsis.
2. Who the heck is this Mary Ann person who is also going to SimCon with Ethan as she just seems to be mentioned with no explanation?
3. The synopsis just seems very bitty, like someone cut up a longer blurb and patched it together.

Anyway, I decided to follow the link to Smashwords and read the extended synopsis which I once again reference below;

"There are very few problems that can't be solved with a little help from your friends and the proper application of high explosives. Hemophiliac and ace mechanic Ethan Hayes had risen to the top of the computer gaming circuit as the Scarab. When he invented a device that made him rich over night, he and ex-girlfriend, Mary Ann, were able to enter SimCon, the simulated European road race.

When Ground Effect Vehicles became common, prototypes were too dangerous and expensive to build outright. Instead, each year, major designers competed in the Super Bowl of virtual races – SimCon. The vehicles needed speed, skill, and weapons to get ahead. The winners in each class got millions in production contracts and advertizing.

Ethan made a lot of enemies in his first professional race, including a cyber-criminal named Kali. The challenges of a week-long trek across Europe are nothing compared to the dirty tricks, murder, and kidnapping that tok place off the track. Being a severe hemophiliac meant Ethan had to keep his temper under control, and think. When someone kidnapped Mary Ann, it was up to the Scarab to save her."

After reading this I was now actually interested in the book, it was obvious that the shorter synopsis was, in my opinion a badly edited version up of this one.  This extended synopsis actually made  sense to me, seemed well thought out and was better written. So I popped the ebook onto my kindle and read a book that at it's heart was an enjoyable car chase romp that reminded of a mix of so many "classic" and not so "classic" car race movies; Deathrace 2000, The Great Race, Speed Racer, etc.

I think you can gather the basic premise of the novel from my earlier discussion on the synopsis, so I won't go over that again and I will get straight into my opinions on the book itself. I have to admit that I almost felt a little lost at the beginning, we quickly get thrown into the world of "Ground Effect Vehicles" with all it's associated technology and science. I had to keep my concentration levels up high to ensure that I could follow it all. I suspect some people could find it quite a heavy introduction into what soon becomes a fun adventure, where I am happy to say the amount of techno-speak reduces. I suppose that in order to understand most of the novel we need to understand some basic science/technology and Scott Rhine just got it out the way right at the beginning.

Outside the initial technological introduction, we get a basic set-up and premise behind why Ethan is going to enter the SimCon event. I have to admit I would this all a little bit too easy, especially in regards to a superhero of a lawer who assisted Ethan beyond belief. Once past this section though, I ended up getting to the meat of the story which had me hooked very quickly. The simulated race that he takes part in is superb fun, with ambushes, amazing maneuvers, clever alliances and many other exciting events. Quite simply, I loved this simulated race across Europe, and wish such an event really existed so that I could watch it.

In regards to the non race portions, it is during these sections that we get to meet various other supporting characters and a whole new sub-plot beyond the race itself is revealed. Again, like with the initial set-up, I felt that some of the various problems are solved a little bit too easily. However, these non-race sections were still fun and kept to the overall feeling of adventure within the novel. Although, I have to admit that I did at times want to just skip these portions of the book as I wanted to see where the race went next, but in the end these sections did add to the overall excitement of the race itself.

The final thing I am going to mention here is another little grumble, again nothing to do with the story itself, but with the presentation. Like when I read the initial synopsis, I was also rather bemused by the book's cover. At first, I thought something was wrong and this was some sort of Maths text book, but after double checking I confirmed that this really was the cover. Even now, I am still not sure what the cover is trying to portray, but I am glad to say that from what I have read on the author's blog, the cover is going to be changed. I hope that this change will at least help sell more copies of the novel.

Overall, this was a fun and light hearted read, the SimCon race elements in particular were entertaining and I was always looking forward to the next race stage to come up. The few issues I had with the non-race elements of the novel being "solved" a little bit too easily were minor and the cover/synopsis issues are more a problem for the author in selling the book than for someone reading it. I would therefore recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, near future adventure along the lines of the movies; Deathrace 2000 or Speed Racer.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Motorworld - Jeremy Clarkson

Title: Motorworld
Author: Jeremy Clarkson
Genre: Humour
Published: 1996
Formats: Ebook/Hardback/Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK
Barnes & Nobel

For anyone who doesn't know, Jeremy Clarkson is a presenter on the popular BBC programme "Top Gear". He is opinionated, arrogant and doesn't hold back; indeed there are many people out there who can't stand him at all. However I have always found him to also be rather funny and I like the fact that he doesn't pretend to be something different, you always get what you see.

In regards to the book itself, from what I can ascertain, Motorworld was his first published book and is based upon the 1995 BBC television series of the same name. It is basically a collection of his opinions on the driving habits and car cultures of a few different places around the world. As always, he doesn't pull any punches and is sometimes so politically incorrect that it is unbelievable he actually got it published when you consider the PC times we now live in.

I will admit that at times it seemed a little bit too exaggerated and some of the comments did come across as being rather misinformed. The chapter about Australia is the section I think about the most in regards to this, it just seemed so outlandish and ridiculous. This type of thing is why I never class anything by Jeremy Clarkson as strictly Non-Fiction, some aspects are factual but there is so much that it basically just embelishment. However, this is the way that Clarkson always seems to write and it is probably part of the reason why so many people find him amusing.

I want to add here that I think the book will be a good read if you are someone who has little time to read and just wants something to pick up and read in short bursts when you can. This is because each chapter is independent of each other and you therefore won't feel like you are interupting the flow of the novel when you put it down. This seems to be common for Jeremy Clarkson books and it is probably why they always seem to be on sale in UK airports.

Overall, I found this collection to be funny and laughed out loud several times, although I do think that it is probably my least favourite of his books that I have read. To be honest, I am not sure why exactly, but I think it may be due to the age of the collection as some of the comments he makes about various places no longer match what I think the places are actually like now. Either way though, if you like Jeremy Clarkson then you will find this collection funny and if you don't like him then you will hate it.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Came Recommended

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist
This book has actually been in several of my lists for various different reasons, but it gets into this list because it properly introduced me to the wider world of Epic Fantasy Fiction. Prior to this, I was limited to various "classic" Epic Fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, I basically stuck to what I knew. Once a friend mentioned this to me and even loaned me the book, I began to expand into trying out lots of other Epic Fantasy authors.

Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling
I kept on refusing to read this as it was a "Kids" book, in the end though my father read it and his recommendation was enough. This book made me realise that various books aimed at YA/Kids could actually still be fun and entertaining to an adult.

Mort by Terry Pratchett
I was very basic in my early reading days and only read Christopher Pike. That man had so many novels out that I never saw the reason to pick up anything else. However, a friend at school was always raving on about a book called Mort and I finally asked my parents to pick me up a book by someone different from Christopher Pike. Now after reading nearly every Terry Pratchett story in existence, I have to thank that school friend for introducing me to the world of Terry Pratchett.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
A book that I thought was just a basic YA Fantasy book was recommended to me by my sister and I was shocked at the enjoyment I got as the story evolved throughout the trilogy into so much more.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Prior to my father recommending this to me as a teenager my Sci-Fi experience was limited to various Movies, TV shows and a couple of Sci-Fi related Christopher Pike books. I had never opened the door to Sci-Fi literature prior to this book. After this hugely enjoyable adventure I was hooked for life.

Gone by Michael Grant
Another YA recommendation from my sister and something else I am now hooked on, I have been sitting waiting for each new release with baited breath.

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
The first ever adult Thriller novel I read and another departure from my usual reading preferences. This story about a Soviet invasion into Western Europe is superb, although I still think the ending sucked.

Sahara by Clive Cussler
To be honest I thought it sounded to me like a cheap Indiana Jones so I pretty much only read after much pestering when I ran out of books to read one holiday. In the end this novel was much more than Indiana Jones and I now love to read about Dirk Pitt adventures.

Blood, Sweat & Tea by Tom Reynolds
This collection of Blog posts didn't really appeal to me, however, once I finally read it, I found it heart-warming, funny and at times just downright sad. It is probably this book that got me into writing my own blog.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I had seen the film and didn't see the point in reading the book, however, in the end I read it and found it to be so much "bigger" than the film. No more would I just watch movies and assume there was no point in reading the book.