Thursday 31 December 2015

Goodbye 2015, you rocked!

Oh wow. What an amazing year!

I moved to the US and settled in a little town called Seattle. It is the home of Amazon (work), Microsoft, Boeing, REI, T-Mobile, Theo Chocolate, Nordstrom and many other countries.

Awesome things happen here and yes they did.

This year brought me some brilliant new friends.
This year brought me my centre.
This year brought me love and then heartbreak.

It is a wonderful and successful year.

I don't even know how to thank everyone. How often do you live a year with no regrets? Let's do that again.

Thank you to all my friends.


Tuesday 29 December 2015

Six-Gun Snow White

Book 72 of 2015 is Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente.

This is a very modern retelling of a famous fairy tale, set in the Wild West.

Everyone is rewriting fairy tales these days and it is is enjoyable to see the more Grimm versions emerging over the happy saved-by-a-prince Disney versions.  In fact, this Snow White is so far from Disney that I immediately gave her a chance.

With a horse called Charming, a jewel mine and seven more interesting allies than singing dwarfs, she lives a story that made me sad but hopeful.

This is a short book that I would recommend all self-rescuing princesses and their supporters read.

4 of the fairest and most kickass stars out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are willing to part with the world Disney gave you then yes.
What did I learn? Don't expect your Prince to come and save you. Save yourself. Actually, I already knew that,

Friday 25 December 2015

The Hanged Man

Book 71 of 2015 is The Hanged Man which is book 1 of the Her Majesty's Psychic Service series  by P. N. Elrod.

This book took me a while to read because it felt predictable and my guess is that it was written for women who are new to the fantasy genre. Yes, it is very much aimed at women and that is absolutely not a fault.

The book starts in the style of Sherlock Holmes but goes on to include the intrigue of British India and the painfully dysfunctional world of the British aristocracy. This is something I could see happening, minus the magic.

The writing is simple and in the language of the late 1800 and early 1900s and soaks the world of that time in to your mind as you read. That was quite enjoyable.

4 pairs of tough walking pants out of 5.

Should I read this? An easy and enjoyable read with a touch of fantasy..
What did I learn? The world changed when women had the right to wear clothes that didn't totally restrict their movements.

A Christmas Carol

Book 70 of 2015 is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

This was the free audio book for Christmas from Audible. It was read by the always brilliant Tim Curry, who has given me another version of this book to love.

It took less than three hours to listen to and I shared it with my sister. It made Christmas Eve quite lovely.

For those who care, it is not an interpretation but a very accurate reading of this classic tale that we have all heard many times. You will love this edition.

4 humbugs out of 5.

Should I read this? Oh yes, at Christmas.
What did I learn? Some books make brilliant audio books.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

A Brief History of Holiday Music

Book 69 of 2015 is an audible book called A Brief History of Holiday Music by Professor Robert Greenberg.

I am starting on the Audible Great Courses and decided to start with this. The narrator is enthusiastic to the point of obnoxious but he kept me engaged the whole time.

This was only 45 minutes and was in the form of my dreaded audio book but it was worth the listen. Christmas music may never be quite the same again.

4 carols out of 5.

Should I read this? Listen away. This is not a waste of 45 minutes.
What did I learn? There is much more depth to Christmas carols and chants than I realised.


Book 68 of 2015 is Beauty by Robin McKinley.

McKinley wrote one of my favourite fantasy books of all time, Sunshine. She refused to write a sequel probably because she knew it was so good. This has resulted in to reading a whole bunch of mediocre books she has penned.

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite Disney movies but not my favourite fairy tales. I've read and watched quite a few incarnations of this famous story and have been delighted along the way. This was not one of them. It was a boring version. No, seriously. Imagine making this so British that nothing happened and then take steroids. That was this book.

3 reboots out of 5.

Should I read this? No. Read it if like me you love Beauty and the Beast stories.
What did I learn? It is hard to justify giving your daughter to a beast just to save your life. There are no real grounds.

Monday 14 December 2015

A Princess of Mars

Book 67 of 2015 is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The first book in the John Carter series is much better than the movie. Considering it was written in the early 1900s, this is a very good book. Much better than War of the Worlds in writing, that I often rant about with much dislike and was written in a similar era.

Written in the first person from Carter's point of view, the read was easy and not as predictable as I was expecting.

The world created will draw me back at some stage but not soon.

3 giant leaps forward for mankind out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you like sci-fi. If not, do not bother starting here.
What did I learn? Tom Cruise does no justice to anything and anyone. Don't watch the John Cater movie.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Dear Mr. You

Book 66 of 2015 is Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker.

This is an original and well-written autobiography from an actor I have enjoyed and respected since watching Fried Green Tomatoes. Weeds is still one of my favourite TV shows of all time and she my favourite suburban sociopath.

She writes this as a series of letters to the people who were important in changing her life. Sometimes it is overly wordy and feels like she is trying too hard to write a good book and then she writes a chapter that leaves you crying and telling those around you that you are ok and not to worry.

Even if you don't know Mary-Louise Parker, you should read this. This is my second favourite memoir of 2015 after Not My Father's Son.

4 letters to my dearest loved ones out of 5.

Should I read this? Totally. Absolutely. Yeah, like now.
What did I learn? I need to rewrite my whole book.

Thursday 3 December 2015

How to Run with a Naked Werewolf

Book 65 of 2015 is How to Run with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper.

I can truly recommend reading an electoral pamphlet over this. Maybe a street sign. Just do not read this tripe.

Let's not spent more time on this than anyone should.

1 badly implemented heroine out of 5.

Should I read this?  No.
What did I learn? I do love vampire chick lit but this stuff is shite.

Saturday 28 November 2015

A Letter to a Hindu

Book 64 of 2015 is A Letter to a Hindu by Leo Tolstoy.

This isn't a book. It is 24 pages long and takes a few minutes to read but if it looks like a book and I paid money for the paperback then I'm counting it.

I am not religious but I do believe in compassion. Tolstoy was saying that there are ways to control the masses that they do not question, be it religion or science.

This enforces my view that critical thought is what gives us power. Power over ourselves, power over the ruling majority and power over our destiny.

4 words of not so common sense out of 5.

Should I read this?  Everyone should. So, yes.
What did I learn? Tolstoy writes streams of letters like I write emails on a rant.

Friday 27 November 2015

Helter Skelter

Book 63 of 2015 is Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.

This is the hardest book to put down that I have read this year. That is rare for me when it comes to non-fiction but this held my attention. This felt a lot like watching a train wreck but one happening to a bunch of dysfunctional jerks.

The writing is engagingly simple and this has to be one of the best told stories of a criminal trial since To Kill a Mockingbird.

4 cult members out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you have a stomach for psycho cult murders.
What did I learn? People can be convinced by insane charismatic psychos to do their bidding. Usually, very broken people already.

Saturday 21 November 2015

The Atlantis Gene

Book 62 of 2015 is The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle.

This was one of those free Amazon Kindle Unlimited books and it was worth joining up just for this.

This is one of those cool science fiction books that are set in the now but with a little bit of quasi science. That does mean that people with actual science degrees who aren't as chill as me may take offence and maybe find the religious Nazi angle a little challenging but I enjoyed it.

Yes, it is an airport book which means you can consume it during a long-haul flight with little mental effort and they sure do have their place.

3 easy reads out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you enjoy Indiana Jones type adventure.
What did I learn? Science can be twisted for entertainment and still be fun.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Have you ever lost someone you love

“Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” -- Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Thursday 5 November 2015

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Book 61 of 2015 is A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.

This is the first time that I have read a Man Booker Prize winner as soon as it won and I don't think I'll be doing that ever again.

This book was written in an interesting way. The voices were distinct and I've not see that done this well in a while.

The problem is that I was sick of the rape and killings in the fifth chapter. The rest was awful.

Was I supposed to me shocked and challenged by that? If so, I was just bored.

Just because the words are strung together well, does not mean this is a good book to read.

3 confronting black references out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like literature for the sake of it then maybe.
What did I learn? Literature should still offer something to people who aren't snobby book types.

Monday 2 November 2015

Writing Again

The writing stopped when the reading started. The chaotic reading that consumed every alternative hour. The balance was lost. The loss was missed.

And so it paused and was parked and was mute. I was mute.

It is odd that we have a finite amount of time. Some days that hits me and other days it feels like we have forever. It seems only to be a hard limit when the wall appears in my face while I'm moving at light speed.

It is time for more balance. For some damn balance. For a semblance of balance at the very least.

Lets do that then.

Love, only love

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The Mermaid's Sister

Book 58 of 2015 is The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble.

These are the kinds of fantasy books that make me remember why I used to dislike fantasy.

Instead of there being an exciting adventure with magical creatures and fantastical characters, this book gave me a pathetic little girl in love with her sister's boyfriend and all the childish rubbish that goes with this.

Having discovered after reading this that this is a children's book, I'm still unimpressed. Can we teach young women to respect strong female characters and not just love boys?

3 pearl tears out of 5.

Should I read this? No.
What did I learn? Mermaids tears turn in to pearls.

Friday 9 October 2015

Daring Greatly

Book 57 of 2015 is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.

I can't say enough positive things about book. It could be because it validates the opinions I have on vulnerability or because Brown articulates those opinions better than I am able to.

This sums it up for me:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
  2. Cultivating Self‐Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self‐Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self‐Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

5 bouts of shame resilience out of 5.

Should I read this? If you respect vulnerability in others and are working on your own authenticity then yes..
What did I learn? I'm on the right path. Now I have more tools.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

The Gone-Away World

Book 56 of 2015 is The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.

Harkaway is the son of John le Carré so no pressure. I didn't find this out until more than half way through the book but then it made a lot of sense. Some online critic described this Le Carré with ninjas but that is unfair and overly simplistic. Harkaway is a great writer independently of his great writer father.

This is an original story which I'd say is closest to Fight Club than most other books I can compare to.

I can't talk too much about the story because there are too many spoilers and you must take the journey yourself.

5 ninjas out of 5.

Should I read this? Without a doubt, yes.

What did I learn? There are very few writers who write this well. This is an adventure in writing and is so well executed that I sometimes felt dirty.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living

Book 55 of 2015 is Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins.

One of the better biographies of Poe. He doesn't condemn him, celebrate him nor pretend to understand him. These are the kind of books about authors I like. A story. A context. A human being.
presented as they are without influence,

Unfortunately, as a short book, this felt too long and I wanted more of Poe's great quotes written in context. Give me context!

3 ravens out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like Edgar Allen Poe then yes.
What did I learn? I need to read more about authors.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Quote - It's all messy


Book 54 of 2015 is Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall.

When I started this book, I wasn't expecting too much from it. I was pleasantly surprised and cried at the appropriate moments when Sugar's journey mirrored mine.

My childhood was not as bad as hers because I had a good family but the self image and emotional bruises are very familiar.

4 sugary treats out of 5.

Should I read this? Fat people should read this book. It means a lot to me.
What did I learn? Fat people are people too.

Friday 18 September 2015

World After

Book 53 of 2015 is World After by Susan Ee.

Oops, I hate when I read a second book in a series by accident. Now I understand why the world isn't well explained.  Still, you gotta love Angels and Demons at war.  I'll keep going and read book one later.

I do like the dynamic between the female protagonist and her complicated overly macho angel love interest but it is much enhanced by the writing and mythology that backs this.

I shall go back and read the first with interest but I do not recommend you start with this one. There is obviously a void a la Jaba the Hutt's sand monster.

3 fallen angels with wing grafts out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe after the first.
What did I learn? Angels are only human.

Tuesday 15 September 2015


Book 52 of 2015 is Swarm by Frank Schatzing.

There is a lot of sci-fi out there in the newly published books. This is a lot more traditional in that it is aimed at pimply teenage boys. The thing is, it is written well but I wish he'd used his talent to write something less macho and cliche.

3 nanites out of 5.

Should I read this? Nah. Go wash your hair.

What did I learn? Geek boys need a girlfriend.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Horses Never Lie

Book 51 of 2015 is Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid.

I have never felt an interest in horses until I read this book. The amazing thing is that this book applies to people as much as it does to our four legged friends.

This should be a must read book for people who manage people. The passive leader is the best leader of all.

4 truths out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you understand that human beings are animals in the end.

What did I learn? I need to connect with some horses and some humans.

Wednesday 9 September 2015


Book 50 of 2015 is book 1 of the Wayward Pines series, Pines by Blake Crouch.

Think M. Night Shyamalan and you'll at least be prepared for the oddness and twists of this book.

Not knowing this was a TV series, I picked this book up because it was free on Kindle Unlimited. I'm glad it was free because the premis might have put me off and I'd not have read it. I am glad that I did.

This is worth the read but I can not fathom how they will make a TV show out of it. That should be interesting. Hopefully, not as bad as The Dome.

3.5 twists out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, if you like mysteries.
What did I learn? I don't like books that don't let you solve the mystery along with the story teller.

The Paper Magician

Book 49 of 2015 is The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg.

The idea behind this series of books is pretty cool but it was too whiny for me. The main character could be strong but she always flies back to girly and in need of a man to love her every few chapters. Painful.

This must be for teenagers. I need to check these things more thoroughly and not just read the popular stuff. Yes, I've said this before.

3 elements that aren't elemental out of 5

Should I read this? No, this is a bit too whiny for me.
What did I learn? Magical fantasy is so formulaic. 

Monday 31 August 2015

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

Book 48 of 2015 is A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley.

This is supposed to be about basic maths and helping you find ways to enjoy it if you haven't in the past. It is written by a maths professor. It is absolutely chaotic and I can only assume there is some bigger system at play.

Yeah, yeah, I'm a mathematician and will find it simple but the reason I read it was to find new ways of thinking about maths. There were a few suggestion but it jumped around all over the place. I can't imagine someone who already dislikes maths liking it after this.

Apart from the pondering on diffused thinking, this didn't hold much for me.

2 random thoughts out of 5.

Should I read this? No. Read another maths book.
What did I learn? A smart person does not a good teacher make and a good teacher does not a good writer make.

A Long Walk To Water

Book 47 of 2015 is A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.

It tells the story of a young boy who went through the ethic cleansing of South Sudan and the lost boys who walked east to a safe haven in Africa. It also tells the story of a young girl and the joy of a water well.

This is quite heartbreaking but also uplifting. We can not hide from the fact that this happens now while we live comfortably in the first world.

4 wells out of 5.

Should I read this? We all should. People think the last atrocities happened in the WWII but they happen now.
What did I learn? The terror of a child is something you can not imagine. You can only read through it and wish it never happened.

Friday 28 August 2015

Wool Omnibus

Book 46 of 2015 is the first book of the Silo series, Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey.

This is a great world and the characters are more realistic than the usual post apocalyptic type. The women come across like actual people and tended to remind me of strong female characters in the Star Trek world.

The writing is simple but interesting. I listened to the audio book and it kept me engaged most of the time, which isn't usually the case.

5 silos out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like post apocalyptic fiction then this is one for you.
What did I learn? People don't like being cooped up in finite places.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

Book 45 of 2015 is Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by @thebloggess (AKA Jenny Lawson).

I've been following @thebloggess on twitter for many years. There are twitter moments she talks about in her autobiography that I remember seeing on her twitter stream and that is always a cool experience.

My recent foray in to the autobiography scene was never enthusiastic but I have been pleasantly surprised again by this book and can call it one of the best books I've read this year.

I literally laughed out loud through every chapter of this book, even the ones I also cried through.

She is a crazy lady who makes those of us who aren't quite conventional feel a little less alone. I've always liked her for that and this book concreted that for me.

5 taxidermied Hamlet mice out of 5.

Should I read this? Without a doubt, yes.
What did I learn? The broken people are my favourite kind of people.

Saturday 15 August 2015

Maisie Dobbs

Book 44 of 2015 is Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear.

I've missed the BBC for a while now since leaving Australia and reading this was like reconnecting with a BBC crime drama.

This is well written and engaging. Maisie is loveable and tough. You can respect her and relate to her. At least as a woman.

I can't wait to read the rest of the series but it won't be straight away. I will wait a while to read this in a decent and considered way, just like Maisie would.

4 proper considerations out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, it is worth the time if you like British drama.
What did I learn? I don't have to miss the BBC if I can read British fiction.

Thursday 13 August 2015


Book 43 of 2015 is Room by Emma Donoghue.

Another disturbing psychological thriller. This may be my new obsession to replace post apocalyptic fiction. Maybe.

This book is a unique idea based on recent events in the news. This book is good. It would have been brilliant if it had stopped half way through. You'll know where I mean once it happens.

This is a writing experiment and it is mostly executed well. It needed to stop earlier and didn't. Too much of a good thing and all.

3 rooms of 5.

Should I read this? For the writing, yes. For the predictable story, no.

What did I learn? Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a neat red ribbon. Psychological thrillers certainly fit in to that group.

Sloppy Firsts

Book 42 of 2015 is Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty.

This is the first book of the Jessica Darling series. It reminds me a lot of the pre-teen books I read in primary school. These are a little more grown up but the ideas are the same. Teenage girl is friends with the cool kids and a very good student. She falls for the bad boy and all that.

This is well written though and not as cookie cutter as it could have been.

I think I'd have enjoyed this more if I had grown up in the US as it is very American and I'm pretty sure I missed some of the sentimentality that was meant to be evoked.

3.5 cheerleaders of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you like teen drama.
What did I learn? This reminded me of how difficult it was to be an individual as a teenager. Your brain forces you to comply with your peer's needs. I'm sure there is an evolutionary advantage to that but I'm yet to work it out.

Wednesday 12 August 2015


Book 41 of 2015 is Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.

The movie Interstellar has done for science fiction books what Hunger Games did for teenage post-apocalyptic fiction. Everyone is writing variations of it. Like The Fold, Spin is another sci-fi tale with temporal challenges.

This book is too slow and not for any good reason. The character development is sloppy and I felt most sad when an alien die than a human.

3.5 million billion years of 5.

Should I read this? No. There are better books in this genre.
What did I learn? We all fall and we all land somewhere.

Monday 10 August 2015

Graduation Day

Book 40 of 2015 is Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau.

The third in The Testing trilogy is a good ending book. It still has a Hollywood ending and may become one of those post apocalyptic teeny bopper books but I hope not. There are better Utopian tragedies.

There are some original ideas in this but they are built of memes from better books in this genre.

3 sacrifices of 5.

Should I read this? Read all the other ones first - Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner. This shouldn't be too high in that list. It's an easy read though.
What did I learn? Female heroes need a good support network.

Tuesday 4 August 2015


I see you everywhere.

Every bike rider who sweeps passed on the street turns my head. The confident ones, no matter their colour, make me double take to see if it is you.

When my apartment is buzzed, I answer and wait to hear that it is you. It never is. There is a gasp of hope and anticipation and then a thump as my heart is bitch slapped by reality.

You are gone.

That is OK.

I'd rather you be happy.

I lie in bed and close my eyes and imagine you sleeping next to me. With my insomnia, I used to watch you sleep. Your eyelids would flutter and you'd sigh at whatever you were dreaming. I'd kiss you and like the kissing ninja you are, you'd kiss me back mid-sleep as if you saw me coming every time. Those were the moments I spent with you that you didn't spend with me, consciously.

For all the drama and the pain that you caused, I will confirm that it was worth it.

Thank you for the ride of my life. Thank you for the first true love of my life.

I'd change nothing. Nothing.

Now, go do amazing things and know I love you.

Stoopid immune system.

What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology

Book 39 of 2015 is What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology by Addy Pross.

Someone recently called my understanding of science unsophisticated. When I probed deeper in to what was meant by this, I found that he saw my acceptance of scientific facts as me lacking the ability to challenge an idea.

I thought about this for a while and dispute his perception of this because facts are facts. And facts determined using the scientific method are solid in my world. Damn us rational people.

What I think he thought was that I accepted scientific philosophy and hypothesis as facts when they were not yet proven. That isn't something I do. To prove that to myself, I choose a few books and have started reading the more interesting ideas in current scientific thinking.

This book is about Systems Chemistry which I hoped would help me extend my Systems Thinking views as well. Unfortunately, it did not.

Firstly, I should state that I haven't touched the wet sciences (Chem and Biology) since final year high school and my science is the most theoretical it gets in computer science and discrete maths. Maybe that meant I was lacking the basic knowledge required to call bullshit on this book or not.

The book is actually quite good and encourages you to think about micro systems in a macro systems fashion. In this case, the author tries to think about the essence of life in a chemical way using biological concepts like Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The problem I had with this book is that the first half is spent on ideas like Teleonomy and on discussions that seemed to be heading towards Intelligent Design. Still, I continued.

The second problem I had with it is that if you look for patterns you will find them but that doesn't mean they are confirmation of your theory. Scientific method will make it fact. THEN I will buy in more.

What the final half of the book did do was try to extrapolate out from biological fact to philosophise on what is the clinching factor that brought molecules together to attain a spark of life. It isn't about god and thank the flying spaghetti monster for that.

As a book, it is easy to read although it does maintain a condescending overtone. You need at least high school biology, chemistry and physics to start this book. A critical and open thinker will enjoy this.

3 RNA strands out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you care about thinking about thinking about science. Yes, I meant both "think about"s.
What did I learn? My understanding of science is not unsophisticated. In fact, I'm pretty well rounded but I do need to read more philosophical thought in general.

Monday 3 August 2015

Losing Myself

Tonight, I was triggered by an email and I truly lost sight of myself. In the Uber on the way home from my desperate and pathetic attempt to correct what I viewed as a wrong, I shockingly demanded of myself "What the fuck is wrong with you?!"

It was an emotional response to the rawness of losing an intimate connection.

To say I'm disappointed in myself is an understatement. I am an idiot of the highest degree and must shape up.

Now, I must re-centre and not let what has injured me, control me. I must not self destruct.

With art and writing, I have calmed myself. This is what I will continue. All will be cool again and sad Daman

Onwards and upwards.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Ready Player One

Book 38 of 2015 is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

This is another book that I was pushed to read before the movie comes out and like The Martian, I love it! I am not even a fan of reading science fiction novels so this leaves me readjusting my view of the world.

The retro pop culture references are so amazingly brilliant and fun that I enjoyed every single subtle and smashing tribute paid to the joy of my childhood.

This is a much better version of Ender's Game, which I also liked. Read this instead.

5 avatars out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. YES. Yeah.
What did I learn? I didn't miss out in my childhood and I look back fondly on these memories.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2

Book 37 is Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau. This is the second book of The Testing series.

I am enjoying this series but this is a second book. It drags on and tries to pivot on the already complicated plot several times in order to leave the reader unsure of what will happen next. The result of that is frustration. At this point, I am not sure I'll bother finishing the trilogy. That's a first.

2 recovered memories out of 5.

Should I read this? No. This series isn't holding my attention. Only read this if you absolutely loved the first book in the series.

What did I learn? It is time to read more non-fiction.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol

Book 36 of 2015 is Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston.

My good friend Bruce and his wife read this book last year and he shared this with all the women who he knew who drink.

This book is the current book of the moment around female drinking. It talks of the difference between alcoholism, regular drinking and binge drinking and how that impacts on the life of different women.

One thing it has achieved is to make me realise that drinking is the new smoking.

I don't want to be a smoker and I don't want to be a drinker.

5 sparkling mineral waters with lime out of 5.

Should I read this? Read this book if you drink or know someone that does. That makes pretty much everyone an audience for this view altering book.

What did I learn? That for all my failings, I am not an alcoholic but I do want to remove vices from my life that will shorten it and may have negative effects. 

Monday 27 July 2015

The Testing

Book 35 of 2015 is The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.

Another teenager post apocalyptic book. I really have to read what the book is about rather than just picking it up based on its GoodReads raiting.

This wasn't so bad. Better than Maze Runner but too much of a blend of the Hunger Games and and Maze Runner combined.

It gets a little teenage lovely dovey but I did enjoy the graphic brutality that countered it. The female character is the typical naive girl at the start but has a self awareness similar to Katniss in the Hunger Games.

I have started the second book in the series and will most likely complete it. This is a slightly more challenging read than most teeny bopper books because of how descriptive and graphic it is and I enjoy that style of writing when done well. This is executed well. Much better than a lot of books in this genre like Divergent and Maze Runner.

Don't expect this to change your life but it might make a good Hollywood blockbuster.

I will let you know how the second book goes.

3 tests out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe. It is less predictable than most in this genre and the writing is above average but in the end, how many times can teenagers change the world before we have heard that story before?

What did I learn? I need more adult post apocalyptic utopian fiction.

Monday 20 July 2015

You: A Novel

Book 34 of 2015 is You by Caroline Kepnes.

I read this 432 page book in around 28 hours. Not on a weekend. I started on Sunday night and had to work a full day of work on the Monday. My obsessiveness can only be likened to that of the main character.

It is hard to describe why I couldn't put this book down but I really couldn't. It is a page turner. That could be it's references to all sorts of reading material or the awful references to Dan Brown being good. Who knows? I simply couldn't stop looking at the train wreck.

As someone who has had a stalker break in to my house and take the clothes I'd last slept in, I am a little more alarmed than I ever was. It is hard not to see the world through the eyes of a mostly sane person. This shows you what a stalker is really thinking and oh my gawd, I'm alarmed and not just alert now.

The writing is good. The plot is understandable and crazy as hell. Having fallen deeply in love recently meant that I had felt strong emotions that he echoed. I hope my love isn't that insane. Erotomania is a problem that we dismiss but with the amount of violence against women, we have to take the obsession mixed with entitlement a lot more seriously.

4 delusional assumptions out of 5.

Should I read this? Humans with vaginas should read this.
What did I learn? You have no idea what is in the mind of the person trying to seduce you. Get Mace.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

The Tao of Pooh

Book 33 of 2015 is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

There is nothing to not like about this book. I am even now considering if I'm an existentialist, as I once thought or a Taoist. I do know that I am part Pooh, part Tigger and part Eyore. That's not a bad thing.

5 honey pots out of 5.

Should I read this? You should read this if you like learning about new ways of thinking or you like Winnie the Pooh.
What did I learn? You will learn not to sweat the small things.

Monday 13 July 2015

Secrets She Left Behind

Book 32 of 2015 is Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberliain.

The funniest thing about reading this book is that I didn't realise it was the second in the Before the Storm series. It stands alone and I didn't even suspect I'd missed a thing starting here. That is a well written series book.

If I'd bothered to read the back of this book rather than go purely off the ratings, I'd not have read it at all. It sounds very dramatic and incestuous and girly but I'd have missed a very good story and one that is written well.

If you want a little teen angst and lioness mothers protecting their young then this is the book. The men who cause all the trouble are sidelined characters and it is more about the way the amazing women and their involuntarily strong children handle the outcome of their lust and bad behaviour. That in itself is a good plot.

This is a good read but don't break it up as much as I did. Read it faster and without three other books going at the same time.

4 half-siblings out of 5.

Should I read this?  You should read this is you feel like your family isn't complex enough to burn down a church.
What did I learn? We all mean well, even if we do things that seem selfish and crazy at the time.

Monday 6 July 2015

The Fold

Book 31 of 2015 is The Fold by Peter Clines.

This one was an audio book and was narrated by a gentleman called Ray Porter, who has changed my mind about audio books which I am not a huge fan of. He read this so well that I know I would have found it different if I had read it myself. Different and not as good.

Since getting back in to science fiction, I am wondering why I haven't spent more of my life reading it when I obviously love sci-fi TV and movies. This is another one of those books that makes me slap myself for not reading more. This is good on almost every level. There is mystery, science, fantastical creatures and great suspense wrapped in action.

4 space time continua out of 5.

Should I read this? If you like sci-fi then yes.
What did I learn? Sometimes everyone just feels a little out of place in their lives and maybe there is a reason for that.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Looking For Alaska

Book 30 of 2015 is Looking for Alaska by John Green.

He is one of those best selling authors that you always intend to read but are not sure what to expect. This was what I expected. A book written for young adults with the pretense of depth and a whole lot of quotes strung together.

There are audiences for this book, I am sure. They are just not me.

The characters are predictable. The plot is obvious. It is something John Hughes would direct.

This is for young people. Hey you kids, get off my lawn!

3 teenage crushes out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you are between the ages of 13 and 16 years and haven't embraced the good books your English teachers keep pushing on you.
What did I learn? The trauma experienced by white middle class American kids cannot hold my attention for more than about... oh look, a castle!

Friday 26 June 2015

The Dragons of Dorcastle

Book 29 of 2015 is The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell.

It is the first book in the Pillars of Reality series which I am no considering reading.

It is your typical female engineer not respected in a man's world meets a sensitive boy with no social skills. Yes, I related to that part a little too much.

The writing is simple and effective. The read was not challenging and the story was engaging.

Jack Campbell does not write the in workings of the female mind well and the main female protagonist comes across in a Bella Swan way a few times but she is redeemed by her actions and overall character.

Going back to reading fantasy is always a pleasure but it also reminds me that a lot of fantasy is just Mills & Boon for guys.

3.5 guild wars out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. I will at least read the next book. If you like fantasy and don't mind a but of a love story with dragons then this is for you.
What did I learn? Geeks and geek dysfunction is so mainstream these days that every day books are portraying that life. I think that is an all-around good thing.

Monday 22 June 2015

Thief's Magic

Book 28 of 2015 is Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan.

Ok, this woman is one of my favourite Aussie writers. I loved The Black Magician trilogy. Far too much fantasy is written by men and often feels like a bad porno mixed with Mills & Boon in another dimension where people don't shower often.

Fantasy written by female authors has more dimensions. I'm not being sexist! It really does.

The thing that disappointed me about this is that she is writing a trilogy and not a story. She is doing a Wheel of Time set up that obviously sucks you in but doesn't actually satisfy anything. What I loved about Black Magician was that the story held strong the whole time. You didn't have to finish the journey. You wanted to.

I won't be reading the rest of the books despite my loyalty. It just wasn't good enough. Cut the complexity and got back to good story writing.

Three colliding destinies out of five.

Should I read this? No. There are MUCH better series to get suck in to. This is not even close to one of them.
What did I learn? Your favourite writer can sell out to get richer and that sucks.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Book 27 of 2015 is Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling.

Another memoir by a celebrity that I have never heard of until picking up this book.

She is endearing and funny but in the same way she says that she doesn't like women infantilizing themselves, she goes right ahead and does it anyway. That kind of sums up the entire book. She comes across as having self awareness and then demonstrates a lack of it.

Yes, she is successful and brilliant but she comes across in writing as a clueless spoiled little rich Indian girl brought up in the US to parents who are doctors.

Her trials are trials or she isn't honest about any pain. There is next to nothing that made this worth the read. Maybe she needs to live a little longer and not write a teeny memoir with no interesting events at age 30 something.

2 spoiled little rich girls out of 5.

Should I read this? No. Try Tina Fey or Amy Poehler's autobiographies first. This women needs to live a little more before trying to write another book. I'm sure she writes comedy well but this doesn't make me want to watch anything she writes. Such a shame because I had high hopes.
What did I learn? You can't make up having had a challenging life when you haven't at all.

Friday 12 June 2015

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Book 26 of 2015 is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

You can't read this book and not feel immense love for Oscar. He is the 9 year old boy whose story you follow after his father dies in the terrorist attacks for September 11 in New York.

I laughed out loud through this book. I cried while reading this book. I changed a little for having read it.

5 inventions out of 5.

Should I read this? Read this now. Now!
What did I learn? The world is a much more beautiful place through the eyes of a child or an adult in love.

Sunday 7 June 2015

The Girl With All The Gifts

Book 25 of 2015 is The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey.

This was recommended to me by pretty much everyone I know who reads.

Although this is a genre I like to watch in movies and on TV, it is not one that I really enjoy reading. It usually depresses me. This isn't the cheeriest book but the pace is perfect and the plot twists enough that I was often surprised.

It is hard to talk about this book without ruining it for those who have not read it so I won't.

4 post apocalyptic children out of 5.

Should I read this? Yep, without a doubt.
What did I learn? When the end of civilisation comes, I'd like to end with it.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Book 24 of 2015 is Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James.

I attempted to read this when it first came out and was a big deal. My attempted failed about 50 pages in when I couldn't stand the overly simplistic immature female character bored me. As I passed page 50 this time, I felt the same but pushed through it because a couple of my friends insisted that I shouldn't write off a book as rubbish if I had never read the whole thing.

So, I read it.

The writing is still rubbish and the story is predictable. I've read better erotic fiction. Think Delta of Venus. This is not a series I will continue.

To counter that though, there were a few things I liked. I liked the way it ended. It is the first time in the entire book that I had any respect for the main character and that is tragic in itself.

The understanding of BDSM is also simplistic. The word simplistic describes this book in all its dimensions and it doesn't have that many dimensions. The implication that an abused child becomes a BDSM enthusiast is a correlation that I openly challenge.

In the end, I will put this in the group of at least people are reading something books. It is entertaining enough but not a book I would recommend or a series I will pursue. Now my criticism is based on having read more than 50 pages. It was an easy read. Simplistic.

1 stinging red welt out of 5.

Should I read this? There are better examples from this genre so, no.
What did I learn? Reading the first 50 pages of a book is enough to write it off.