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Mike N (Sweden)

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The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable fantasy, 29 July 2015
I should first say that I've not really read any major works of fantasy since I was in my teens (way back in the 80s ...). I did re-read "Magician" a few years back, but that's about it. Basically I got tired of the genre and even though I enjoyed many of the books of the time it got a bit boring having the same stories, characters and tropes re-hashed in different ways.

Now I can't say that Pat Rothfuss has completely re-invented the genre. He hasn't, and many of the old tropes are still there (young orphan boy discovers powers, must contend with dark forces etc. etc.). That being said it feels a lot fresher than some of the older stuff (eg. David Eddings et al), and while I still have fond memories of a lot of fantasy from the 80s and earlier, I think this has the right feeling for millennium fantasy.

I won't go into the story itself, though unusually it's largely narrated by the main character. There are things happening in the present as well and I assume at some point that the story will catch up with present times. I wasn't sure about the narration aspect at first, it felt a little awkward, but I think it could work well when everything is tied together.

I won't compare it to GRRM, since I haven't read them, but I think it's less "gritty" than other fantasy. It still retains its sense of fun behind it all, which is a good thing (gritty can also be good, but it does seem like everything has to be "gritty" or "dark" these days). He also lifts female characters above mere supporting roles, something earlier fantasy authors (eg. Feist) were a bit guilty of - that's more a product of the times than anything else I think and not a criticism of Feist, whose works were based largely on a re-imagined medieval setting.

Anyway, long story short since I feel I'm rambling now ... I enjoyed this. I read it pretty quickly, and will now need to order the next book.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars An oversell with the title, but not by too much, 28 July 2015
Does this book live up to its title? Well, no, probably not. But then again the title is part of the whole joke.

Will it appeal to everybody? Certainly not. I'm guessing it's a marmite book (love it or hate it), and while I hate marmite I did love this.

The story is Eggers' autobiography through the blurry lens of his own memory and interpretations of events. It's the unreliable narrator talking about himself. I'm not sure if it's been done before (probably - there's nothing new under the sun), but it's certainly done well here. It is by turns funny, tragic, annoying, ire-inducing and yes, heartbreaking. It's many other things too, but you need to read it to find out for yourself.

In the end I think people will see themselves in this book, though everybody will see themselves in a different way, so comparisons are redundant. Just pick it up and if you don't like it by about page 40 or 50 then put it down, it's not for you.


Wolf: Jack Caffery series 7
Wolf: Jack Caffery series 7
by Mo Hayder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars My first Mo Hayder book ... there will be more, 28 July 2015
So this was the first Mo Hayder book I've read. I picked it up after seeing a recommendation of "The Treatment" as being one of the scariest books somebody had read. This was the only one the bookshop had in stock so I gave it a try.

Now I'm not sure about the treatment, but this one wasn't scary as such, though it built the suspense very well. Jack Caffrey is a good character, and there were enough little twists throughout to keep me on my toes (no ... I didn't see the final resolution coming, though it was there in the clues dropped by the author - always a good thing).

The basic story is that of a home invasion. Caffrey is actually investigating something different (connected with the disappearance of his brother many years ago), and the 2 stories are intertwined. In some ways it's a shame I read this first, though I don't imagine the spoilers I get about his story will spoil the early books too much.

I'm going to go back to book 1 and read from there ...


Neurocomic
Neurocomic
by Matteo Farinella
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A nice intro to the history and the subject of Neuroscience, 10 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Neurocomic (Hardcover)
This is a fun little book describing not only the history and the main players within Neurscience, but the workings of the brain itself, told from the perspective of a character trapped inside the brain.

As somebody who has read a bit of popular science in the Neuroscience area there wasn't a lot of new info here. The book can be easily read in less than 15 minutes, so don't expect an in-depth discussion on the subject. It's a nice way of presenting the topic though, and would serve as a good introduction to newcomers.

The book itself is certainly nicely presented and sits nicely on my shelf :) If you like discussions of science presented in graphic novel format might I also suggest Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth


Stranglehold
Stranglehold
Price: £3.27

5.0 out of 5 stars A dark and disturbing book! Recommended :), 9 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Stranglehold (Kindle Edition)
This 99p kindle special was my first taste of Jack Ketchum's somewhat dark mind ... and I had trouble putting it down! (Not that I needed to very often - it's actually pretty short).

The story revolves around a woman that's escaped one abusive husband only to get involved with another. I don't want to say too much because if I do it may give away the story, and I think you need to read that for yourself.

Suffice to say that I was sufficiently disturbed by the dark characters Ketchum creates. I found myself rooting for the "good" guys often - unsurprising you might say. True, but what was different here was that I genuinely didn't know who was going to come out on top. Ketchum could easily take you either way and it's only right at the end that the full truth of everything is revealed.

Always nice to find a new author!


Rubbernecker
Rubbernecker
by Belinda Bauer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad portrayal of Aspergers for once, 9 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Rubbernecker (Paperback)
I kept seeing this one around and thought it looked interesting, but at the same time I'm very wary about stories where the main character has Aspergers or is autistic in some way - they tend to be very badly handled (with a fer exceptions). The Rosie Project is a good example of a book where the author either knows very little about Aspergers or failed to apply what he did know to the main character. There seems to have been a bit of a rash of this sort of thing since Haddon's "Dog in the nighttime" ... unfortunately.

This one though was much better. I can't claim it's spot on, but I thought the depiction of Patrick was good enough to let me get on with enjoying the story without constantly mentally berating the author.

In brief: Patrick's father was killed by a hit and run driver when he was small, and he's spent a lot of his life wondering what happens after death as a result. This fascination has landed him at University studying anatomy. His mother is frustrated with him, if she doesn't actively dislike him, and of course he has no friends to speak of.

The action starts when Patrick can't identify the cause of death of the cadaver he is working on, and the suspicion that all is perhaps not as it seems. This leads him on a sort of quest to find the truth, presents a few problems for somebody with Aspergers, and also resolves a few very old personal questions.

All in all, a decent read!


The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
by Hugh Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.00

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, comprehensive wine guide, 25 May 2015
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I'm not sure I can add much that others haven't already commented on, so I'll just briefly list the qualities of this book:

- Extremely comprehensive
- Easy to read
- Well laid out
- Good for the beginner (and I would imagine, a good reference for the more experienced, though I'm not qualified to say that)

If you're interested in knowing more about wine and the different regions around the world then this is probably the book for you.


The Age of Miracles
The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story shown through an unusual lens, 25 May 2015
This review is from: The Age of Miracles (Paperback)
The premise of this book is simple: the rotation of the earth is slowing, the days are getting longer, and a number of consequences are hitting mankind.

This isn't really what the book is about though. I feel I should be clear about that as I've noticed that most of the criticism levelled against this book is based on the fact that the "science" is either dodgy in some way or simply not explained. This misses the point. The slowing of the Earth's rotation is largely a McGuffin - a plot device to get the story moving. It doesn't need to be explained, it needs to be accepted by the reader for what it is so that they can read the story in this context. In that sense it is no different from accepting the existence of Hobbits in order to read Tolkien, or of warp drive to enjoy Star Trek.

The story is actually about Julia, a young girl growing up in this "age of miracles". She is of course affected by "the slowing", though in many ways she is one of the least affected characters in the book. Everybody else seems to change around her in ways incomprehensible to her - whether because of "the slowing" or because that's just how life works is left as an exercise for the reader.

Yes, this book could have been written without the (somewhat unusual) plot device, but it probably wouldn't have been the same book. The slowing lends a slightly magical quality to what otherwise may be mundane events, and allows the reader to see them with fresh eyes.

The other criticism I've seen levelled at this book is that it's more YA, and not meant for adults. I could agree that it could well be classified as YA, though why this prohibits adults reading it I have no idea. At the end of the day it's an interesting story shown through an unusual lens - what more can we ask for from fiction?


Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars A book for bibliophiles, 17 May 2015
Are you a bibliophile? Do you like books about books? Did you really want to like "The DaVinci Code" but were ultimately disappointed?

Then this is the book for you ...

A mysterious bookshop, a secret society, hackers, google, a 500 year-old problem. As the cliché goes: "you'll laugh, you'll cry."

I don't want to give the plot away, though in reality I don't think it's the plot itself that makes this book. Most of the major plot points I'd guessed in advance of them coming anyway. It's the characters and the wonderful writing that keep you turning the pages. I've had this book on my shelves for about a year now, and if I'd known it was that good I'd have read it much sooner. On the plus side, I get to discover a wonderful book and a new author - that doesn't happen every day!

Right, off to check whether Robin Sloan has written anything else since this came out a couple of years back. Fingers crossed that she has, or that there's something coming soon ...


The Lottery and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Lottery and Other Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Shirley Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A sense of creeping unease, 22 April 2015
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I'm really torn with this review as I'm not sure which way to jump.

I can see the point of some reviewers who criticise because the stories seem to go nowhere. It's true, they don't, and in a more modern context (not that these stories are _that_ old!) I didn't feel that it always worked. There were times I was left feeling a bit out at sea as to what the point of the story was. I think this partly illustrates how story telling techniques have changed in such a short space of time.

On the other hand, many of the stories built up a sense of unease which stayed with me long after I'd finished the story. Several left me angry at the protagonists for being so close minded and/or bigoted, which is exactly what you want from good fiction - a sense that it feels so real that it elicits genuine emotion from the reader.

I confess that the only short I had read previously was "The Lottery", which I seemed to remember enjoying (all those years ago), and still retained some memory of what it was about at least (so there was no plot surprise there). It's also, I would say, the most obvious story in the collection. That is, it's the story with the most obvious start-middle-end plotline. Perhaps that's accounts for its enduring appeal.

I would say though, that if you're reading it on the basis of liking "The Lottery", that you should be a little wary. Not because you won't enjoy the other pieces, but because you may not be prepared for the form they come in, which - in some cases - might leave you feeling somewhat disappointed. I think this accounts for the low star reviews here.


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