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text 2016-12-01 21:34
2017 Reading Goals

My reading goals for 2017 is going to be much simpler than last year's goals.

 

1. Read 100 books.

    This will be tracked at Good Reads. I dropped the number from 2016 because I plan on reading a lot more non-fiction which slows my reading pace.

 

2. Read 15 non-fiction books (Diseases and Disasters).

    The non-fiction books sitting on my TBR since forever all deal with diseases (small pox, influenza, etc) or disasters (natural and man-made). I'm going to focus on my physical TBR, but there will be a few books I put on my OverDrive wish list I want to get to as well.

 

3. Physical TBR Read Down

    We 18 months left here in England and I don't want to pack up my physical fiction TBR again (we had six boxes of books just between me and hubby). So I am going to try to knock out the reading, then donate to local charity shops.

 

4. 2017 Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge.

    I have some books attached to appropriate prompts, but keeping most open so that I can attached books I am already reading to those open prompts. I see only two prompts that are going to be problems - 1) 800+ page book (all the chunky books I have are 650-700 pages) and 2) audiobook (I have issues with paying attention).

 

5. Continue to volunteer at the library on a regular basis.

     I have been volunteering at the base since October and it is very rewarding to give back to my military community. I have learned a lot about the library business and the librarians who work in public libraries! It is hard not to add to the TBR pile while I am straightening out shelves (looking at you YA section!).

 

7. Bookish travel.

    I'm registered for RT in May and have all my travel/hotel arrangements set. I also hope to make it to the British Library this year.

 

A mil-spouse friend of mine is leaving to go back to the U.S., so another friend and I are going to take her to London for an overnight Girls' Night Out that includes a B+B/boutique hotel that is decorated/themed in all things Harry Potter. We plan on taking her on a Harry Potter walking tour and going to the movies to see Beauty and the Beast (and drinking ALL the Beer/Cider/Wine/Shots of liquor). 

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text 2016-09-20 14:42
Meh
The Darkside War (The Icarus Corps) - Zachary Brown

Dark side war by Zachery Brown

 

So, I promised you a review of this book and here it is.   First, a caveat, I read this book as part of my awards read.   The good thing about this reading method is that you occasionally find books that really surprise you, surpassing your expectations.  The down side is, that you are just as likely to come across books that simply weren’t written for you.  Books that are written in a writing style/voice that leaves you cold or a genre that you just don’t get on with.   This book falls into the latter camp.   If you like what I call ‘mainstream genre” fiction you will like this book.  But, I prefer books that have a more experimental structure and/or lyrical language style.   So, this book is not for me.

Synopsis

 

“Aliens have conquered Earth, but they haven’t conquered humanity—yet. A young army conscript battles for survival in this action-packed futuristic thriller that will appeal to fans of Halo and Inglorious Bastards.

People used to wonder if we were alone in the universe. Well, we’re not. Not by a long shot. Aliens come in all shapes and sizes, and even the good guys are likely to haunt your nightmares. And oh, you’ll have nightmares, even after you leave the service. If you leave the service.

Devin is a reluctant conscript to an alien-run army: when the Accordance conquered Earth, they said it was to prepare against the incoming alien Conglomeration forces. But as Devin travels to the dark side of the moon for boot camp and better acquaints himself with his so-called allies, his loyalties are increasingly tested. Because the enemy of the enemy is not always a friend. Sometimes...” http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Darkside-War/Zachary-Brown/The-Icarus-Corps/9781481430357

 

Sample Quotes

“I stood at attention. My boots dug into the sad, scraggly patch of open field that was all that remained of what had once been called Central Park, and I remembered standing in the middle of a baseball field here, once. A long time ago.”  Page  1.

 

This book had a diverse range of characters.   The characters represented different ethnic groups.  There were interesting girl/women characters.  The characters had different levels of power/privilege.   They came from different political perspectives and had very different views on how to deal with their alien conquerors.   

 

To me, this novel felt disjointed.   It felt like it was divided into 3 distinct sections; each of which opened questions that weren’t satisfactory answered.    The first section, a rebellion narrative, was an interesting look at how earthlings would deal with an alien invasion, asking how many would rebel and who would acquiesce; for what reasons? It would have been interesting to explore these sections further.  But, then we and Devin are whizzed into space and intro the second section of the novel which is set in a kind of boot camp; where earthlings are tested, trained and killed by their alien overlords.  This could have been an interesting look at conquest and how people can fight for their overlords.  It could have been an interesting look at the differing earthlings and how they survive this environment and the social conditions that they found there.  To a limited extent it was. But, that was short.  Since, then we were catapulted into section three and into a tradition alien shoot out; which, I found really boring. 

 

As you see from the quote at the beginning of this review, the writing was workaday/mainstream.  Which, while did work as first person narration from a teenage boy and made the work easy to scan, made the text feel boring to a reader who prefers a more lyrical/ experimental form of prose.   To me the professionalism of the writing wasn’t exciting and didn’t feel like the speech of a young boy under stress. Surely, Devin’s speech would have been more fragmented, and less structured.  So, if you like YA type books with fairly diverse characters, set in a dark space landscape, then this book is for you.  But, this book was not for me.

 

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review 2016-08-10 16:00
Clade - James Bradley

Clade

James Bradbury

Published January 28th 2015 by Hamish Hamilton

Sample quote

 

“It is quiet out here today, the only sounds that disturb the silence those of the wind, the occasional squalling cry of the birds. Down by the water an elephant seal lies on the rocks, its vast bulk mottled and   sluglike; around it tracks of human activity scar the snow like rust, turning it grey and red and dirty.”  Loc 34- 35

 

Well, at long last, I am back to my award list reading/reviewing.  Clade was on the Locus Recommended Reading list.  But, unfortunately, it didn’t reach the final ballot.   I disagree with this omission.  I really liked this novel. In fact, I predict that it will be one of my books of 2016.  The work is a written evocation of a well-drawn, depressingly, beautiful world, peopled by great characters.    This work, which I am going to call a work of mosaic fiction, is formed of several, interrelated, independent, and interdependent pieces. Each section of the novel follows a different character/s (either; Ellie, Adam, Summer or Noah) tracing the various strata of their shared history.

This work deals with environmental decay, and destruction.  It is an attempt to understand, change and stop that destruction.  It starts with a young Adam surveying the ice fields and noticing the damage that humanity is doing to this setting.  In later sections of the novel, we follow; Adam, Summer, and Noah, racing to escape a storm, in an attempt to escape from the effects of global warming.   In addition, this work focuses on the collapse of bee colonies throughout the globe.  You could say that the destruction of the bee hives foretells the destruction of the human colony.  

So, this book looks head on at the damage that we are inflicting on the environment.  But, it is more than; a call to arms, a diatribe, a polemical piece of writing, or depressing mournful cry for humanity.  In fact, it is all of those things and more.  We see that human lives continue, despite the harshness of the times.    The characters aren’t simply signifiers in a political argument.  They are more than place holders, puppets in the authors argumentative polemic.  They are themselves, concerned with their own messy lives.  The characters do live in an Anthropocene world and have to cope with the effects of environmental damage. But, that doesn’t stop them from living.  These characters still; go through the problems of childhood and adolescence, get jobs, get married, have children, quarrel, get divorced and age.   In other words, these characters live full and messy lives.

 

Bradley shows the characters interacting with the world and its inhabitants.  Amir is one of the interesting individuals that we meet along the way.  Ellie meets him when she is exploring the possibility of creating an art instillation around his bees. We learn that Amir is an ‘illegal immigrant’.  Through him we see the horrors, and inhumanity, of the immigration system, both; in our world, and the world presented in the book.

 

As you may be aware, I am disabled.  Therefore, I am always interested when a book includes characters with disabilities.   Noah has Autism.   It is interesting to see how Noah, and his need for uniformity and stability, reacts to an ever changing world.  It is great that, while Bradbury doesn’t shrink from the pain that Autism inflicts on Noah and his family, he doesn’t portray Noah as a victim of this pain.  He gives Noah a narrative arc and a future, even in a world where the cards seems stacked against him.

 

This is a brilliant evocation of a world in decline.  But, it is, also, a world which is full of life, life which is struggling to survive.    It is a beautifully drawn picture of a decaying hopeless, and hopeful, world.  I highly recommend this work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: vikzwrites.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/review-james-bradley-clade
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review 2016-04-05 15:01
Third book from the list
Foxglove Summer: A Rivers of London Novel - Ben Aaronovitch

Two girls go missing from a rural English town.  Peter Grant is sent to that town on a  routine mission  to check up on individuals  with magic powers,  living in the area.   Initially,  his inquiries go no where, finding no connection between these individuals and the missing girls.  But he does  not return to London. Instead, he decides to stay on and help the local police. He gradually gets drawn further and further into the investigation,  finding that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. I won’t go any further than that.  Since, this is a  mystery story and,  therefore,  is easily spoilt.



I have mentioned, in the previous reviews, that reading along with awards encourages you to read outside of your comfort zone. Apologising for  repetition, I have to say that,  I  would have never had  read this book if it hadn’t been for the Locus Recommended long list. I don’t know why, but, I never felt any incentive to read this book. I now have to admit that i was missing out.. This book is a fun read.

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text 2016-04-04 17:02
I've read another from my awards list, Hooray
Railhead - Philip Reeve

In my last review, I mentioned that one of the positive things about reading the award shortlists was that they encouraged you to read outside of your comfort zone. This is definitely true in the case of the Locus Recommended Reading list.  This is the second book that I would never have read if I hadn’t been reading that list.  I don’t generally read Children’s fiction or YA.  This is especially true if I haven’t heard of the author, or if the author hasn’t written an adult novel.  I would have never read this book. I would have missed out on an extremely enjoyable read.

 

Zen Starling is a Railhead who travels on world crossing trains and steals to survive.  He lives with his sister and disturbed mother in a deprived area of the city. One day when he is carrying out a theft at a high end Jewellers, he finds that he is being followed by a young girl and shadowy older figure. He dodges, trying to avoid them both but is eventually caught by one and rescued by another. I won’t say much more because I then get into spoiler territory and I want you to read this book. 

 

This book has all my favourite elements. The work centres on the lives of Railheads that travel these trains often conducting low level crime to survive. It has sentient trains that cross worlds who help those for who they feel sorry and act as graffiti curators keeping the art work that they like while destroying the rest.  It has androids, hive minds made out of bugs, and a shadowy government. What’s more it’s set in a really interesting urban, almost cyberpunk landscape. It deals with the discrepancy between the worlds of rich and poor.  It looks at identity, asking what does it mean to be me and can we ever become someone else.  It asks the questions ‘what does it mean to be human’ and who can we really trust?

 

This book was a really fun, well written read.  It will engross you from the first to last page. The characters are, at once, likeable and nuanced.  The world is wonderfully drawn. For me, it was a five star read.  It’s too early to say yet but I am betting that it will be one of my favourite books of 2016.

Source: vikzwrites.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/railhead-by-philip-reeve-review
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