Books I’ve read recently… (Fiction)

For those that don’t know, I came to reading Fiction rather late. In September of 2006, at the age of about 37 I decided to start reading. Up until that point I had pretty much avoided reading wherever possible for most of my life. I did what I had to for my degree, PhD and job, but I was a minimum effort reader. 🙂 The first series of books I read was The Vampire Chronicles and I just carried on.

It’s been almost a year since I last read a novel. I think I got so preoccupied with other stuff I just kind-of stopped and it was a mistake. It’s not like I used the extra time wisely. I just spent longer procrastinating and thinking of what I should be doing. 🙂 On a recent trip to Bulgaria I found myself with several hours to spare on planes and in airports with not much to do, so I opened the Kindle app on my phone and decided to read. I had no internet connection, but I had one book already downloaded and ready to go.

The Trouble with Henry and Zoe is like a rom-com written from a guys perspective. I normally hate rom-coms. They are filled with sickening slush that make me want to vomit and long for the end of the human race. The great thing about this book is it’s not like that at all. It has the normal mix of happy, sad, funny and serious, but none of the cheese. I finished the book hoping for a sequel. I really want to know what happens to these people!

For the sake of full disclosure I must mention I know the author. I went to university with Andy Jones and we were housemates for 5 years during our degrees and PhDs. That probably makes me a bit biased, but I still think it was a great book. When I finished reading it I immediately messaged him saying, “You talented bastard!” 🙂

Fresh off the back of that I downloaded The Two of Us by the same author. This is the sequel to Girl 99, which I read quite a while ago. Girl 99 was also in the “rom-com from a guys perspective” vein, but The Two of Us is a lot more serious. It picks up from the point we left the characters and documents the next period of their lives. As I said, a lot more serious and quite emotionally taxing at times, but still in the rom-com genre. It was really great to learn more about the characters. It would be really interesting to see how different people relate to the central characters. I would guess it would be quite polarising, based on gender, but I might be wrong. 🙂

From there I kind-of came full circle and read Prince Lestat : The Vampire Chronicles. It was a welcome return to the series that got me reading 10 years ago. Lestat is a great character and the story brought together lots of characters and elements from the previous books. By the end of it I was sucked (no pun intended) right back into the world of the Dark Gift.

This morning I finished Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis: The Vampire Chronicles. It had all the trademarks of Anne Rice and The Vampire Chronicles, but I felt at times it was a little over-indulgent. There were several sections of the book where the pacing was just off. I wouldn’t go as far as to say boring, but it needed to be snappier. Having said that, it was really good to see more character development of Amel, the spirit that animates the whole vampire tribe. It felt almost like a new end to The Vampire Chronicles, but maybe it’s a new beginning?

So there you have it. What I’ve read since mid November. I’m not sure where I’m going next…



Raising Steam

Raising Steam is the 40th book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

I waited a long time before starting this book because I heard from several sources that it wasn’t very good and I didn’t want to ruin what has been an awesome 39 book series. I finally bit the bullet and I’m really glad I did because I really enjoyed it. Maybe some literary types can argue some difference between the earlier books and this one, but as far as I can see it’s the same Discworld stuff I’ve enjoyed all along.

Steam trains have come to Discword and most of the world has fallen under their spell. I used to love toy trains as a kid, so I could relate to this. 🙂



Skin Game

Skin Game by Jim Butcher is the 15th book in The Dresden Files series.

For a quick recap, Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire. Look him up in the Chicago Yellow Pages. Magic is real. Ghosts are real. Fairies are tall, so beautiful it’s almost painful to look at them, and are so divorced from mortals that they seem evil. All the gods you’ve ever heard of are real. All the things that go bump in the night are real too…

In this book Harry is forced to work with some of his enemies to pull a bank job with a difference!

I love Harry Dresden and I love The Dresden Files. The books are always fast and furious, sometimes a little predictable, but in a good way, and ultimately really fun. I think every book has also had moments that have been genuinely emotional and inspirational.

If you liked the previous books you will love this. If Harry Dresden is not your kind of guy, there is something wrong with you… 🙂



Inspirational Quotes : Skin Game

I’m reading Skin Game by Jim Butcher and a couple of things jumped out at me last night. First, one about interpreting facts.

“You have an array of facts in front of you that can fit any of several truths. You have to choose what you’re going to allow to drive your decisions about how to deal with those facts.”

The next one is about fear.

“… fear is a terrible, insidious thing… It taints and stains everything it touches. If you let fear start driving some of your decisions, sooner or later it will drive them all. I decided that I’m not going to be the kind of person who lives her life in fear…”

Nothing really new here, but occasionally your hear the right words at the right time and they hit you with extra meaning…



The Wolves of Midwinter (The Wolf Gift Chronicles)

The Wolves of Midwinter is the second book in The Wolf Gift Chronicles by Anne Rice.

After my enthusiasm for The Wolf Gift, I jumped straight into The Wolves of Midwinter, then kind-of got distracted and took about 3 months to finish it. The long breaks during reading this book made it feel more disjointed than it probably would have done if I had read it in a shorter time frame. The book was divided into several distinct story lines, which in some ways made it easier to take breaks. With the exception of a few scenes of werewolf-on-werewolf love action, which I could have lived without, it was a pretty cool book.

I’m looking forward to the next one!



The Wolf Gift

The Wolf Gift is the first in The Wolf Gift Chronicles by Anne Rice.

Followers of the blog will know that I made a conscious attempt to get into reading a few years ago, having made it to my late 30’s (at the time) having only read a handful of books in my life. Having made the decision to begin reading, the first series of books I chose were The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I loved The Vampire Chronicles. I loved New Tales of the Vampires. I loved Lives of the Mayfair Witches. I couldn’t face any of the religious or romance novels by Anne Rice, so once I had finished these three series, I thought that was the end of the line for me.

Fast forward a few years and Anne Rice has returned to her roots and started a new series called The Wolf Gift Chronicles, which is not surprisingly about Werewolves. For me, this is like coming home. I like the way Anne Rice writes. I find it very easy to read and typically the pace of her stories suites me perfectly. The Wolf Gift is no exception.

If you’ve been suffering from Anne Rice withdrawal symptoms, you really need to read The Wolf Gift. I don’t think you will be disappointed.




Untogether Lives

A little over a year ago, I wrote a review of a book called Girl 99 by Andrew P. Jones. I got an email from the author a few days ago to say his latest book, Untogether Lives, was released on Kindle, so I downloaded it straight away. Here’s what it’s all about.

Untogether Lives is a collection of fourteen stories that peek through the curtains of an eclectic cast, struggling to keep mind, body and the world around them together. From an amputee shoe thief, to an unlikely arsonist, to a sexually frustrated quadriplegic.

Predominantly dark and occasionally disturbing, these stories are not for the faint-hearted, but neither are they without humour. Not everyone in Untogether Lives gets a happy ending, and not everyone survives – but, hey, that’s life for you.

I loved it! It seems strange saying that when the subject matter is so dark, but it’s true. The writing style works really well for me. The content is very different to what I normally read, but it was good being taken out of my comfort zone. What really amazes me is the amount of connection I felt to some of the characters, even in the shorter stories. Despite the darkness, there is humour in there too. This book is definitely not for the sensitive souls out there, but I think it is a great collection of stories. I’m looking forward to the next book from the author!



The Rise of Endymion

The Rise of Endymion is the fourth book in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons.

The Hyperion Cantos is essentially two stories. The first one split over the first two books and the second split over books three and four. The two stories are separated by about 300 years, but there are some links and even common characters. Throughout the books the characters and scenarios were consistently interesting, but the books themselves were not always so consistently good to read. The Rise of Endymion is a good example of that. There are some totally excellent sections of the book and some that could just do with being cut completely. There was a section describing the mountain ranges of a planet and I just found myself thinking, “WTF is the author expecting readers to think here? It’s a string of made up names for mountains that don’t exist. What a waste of words…”

Despite the issues, I was extremely interested to see how things turned out. Who lived, who died, did the Pax/Church get exposed and overthrown… In that sense, the book delivered very well.

On reflection, the series reminds me a lot of the Dune series. A combination of exceptional high points and some rather lacklustre sections that test your loyalty. 🙂 Both series are well worth the effort though…




Endymion is the third book in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons.

After finding the last book a little patchy at times, this one returned to the same sort of pacing and thrust that made me love the first book. This story picks up nearly 300 years after the last one ends. The daughter of one of the characters from the previous book entered one of the time tombs and appeared in Hyperion 274 years later. Since then things have changed throughout the former web worlds and the church has a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. The last thing they need is a little girl, with the power to topple their stronghold on the galaxy, messing things up for them.

The timeline does jump around a little and there are always a couple of stories happening at the same time, but it is a lot more direct and easier to follow than the last book. I think this was helped by the fact I was able to read is in relatively few sittings. OK, they were spread over the best part of a month, but at least each time I picked it up I got through quite a few pages.

I’m really looking forward to the last book in the series. Fingers crossed it ends strongly…



The Fall of Hyperion

The Fall of Hyperion is the second book in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons.

I’m not really sure what to say about The Fall of Hyperion. On the one hand, I was very interested to see what happened to the characters from the previous book. On the other hand, this book was much less focussed and quite disjointed at times. It didn’t help that it took me a long time to get through it, reading it in small snippets, rather than a few long sittings.

Despite my minor misgivings, I’ve already started the next book in the series and I’m keen to see how this plays out.



PS. I’ve just checked the dates between this post and the one from the proceeding book. It took about 2 months to get through it. I’m sure that has a big factor on my perception of it.