Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is another great novel by Neil Gaiman. The whole book is interesting, the world is intriguing and the characters vivid in their strangeness and with a new world so strange and yet familiar how could I not be hooked?

Amazon's Book Description says this about Neverwhere: "Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart -- and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed -- a dark subculture flourish in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city -- a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known..."

Let's deal with the blazingly obvious first. Gaiman has developed a theme that runs through some of his work. You take a normal guy living his normal life and put him in a magical world and see how it goes.      I don't see this as a negative thing, each main character was very different and I felt an affinity for both of them for different reasons. I will admit I will not be reading Stardust next, but that is mostly because I saw the movie and didn't like it. I don't believe Gaiman should be tarred with a 'one trick pony' brush, he writes too well for that.

This book reminds me of a book I read for the bfbs book club. It goes by the name of The Anubis Gates by Tim Power. Neverwhere reminds me of this book for a few reasons. The search for truth is a main plot line in both and the prevalence of people knowing the underground sewers. The Anubis Gates was the first time I had come across a society of people living underneath a bustling city and so it seems right that I associate Neverwhere's underground London with it. I guess that is why reading about London Below felt familiar. I wanted to know what Gaiman's underground world felt like, compared to the one created by Power.

The setting of Neverwhere is mostly in London Below. Gaiman paints a pretty engaging picture of who the society is made up of and gives us a decently detailed look into a few of its prominent figures. I really enjoyed reading about the man with his birds, he was such a cool guy. Gaiman gives the reader glimpses into the social structure and make up of London Below. The rat people where interesting as were the sewer people and the floating market was a both a challenge and a treat to imagine.

Final say, the book is really good. It didn't leave me with the same awe as American Gods. That might have something to do with it being the first of Gaiman's books I have read, or that I felt Neverwhere was similar to The Anubis Gates in a few key ways. Regardless, a really interesting read!

3.5 out of 5 doors randomly opening.

Oh and btw this is ALSO a tv series, although already completed. Crazy I know right!

Friday, 25 January 2013

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I hit a bit of a lull after finishing the last two books i was reading. I was at a loss when it came to picking a new book. Red Country was recommended again but I wanted to take a break from 'dark and gritty', because if you read too much at once, I find it is no longer 'dark and gritty'. So I headed on over to stand alone list on the Best Fantasy Book's site. American Gods took my fancy, I'd heard good things from a few trusted forum members and I have been meaning to give it a go.

I have never read anything by Neil Gaiman before. I didn't even know what kind of books he wrote. I'd seen Stardust and didn't like it but that doesn't mean anything really. So with no reservations, just curiosity I started American Gods. And once I had started. I couldn't put it down.

The basic premise is that Shadow, a normal guy is thrust into this world of Gods. The Gods exist as you and I do in the real world, some of them have jobs and some are not happy. They are not happy because the came into existence when people believed in them. When people no longer believed in them they no longer held any kind of power, they were stuck. There are new Gods now too, Gods of the internet, and television and all of the things we humans devote our time and attentions to. Shadow is hired as a body guard, of sorts, by one of the Gods and then we tumble along with him into this world and the craziness of it.

Shadow's story is sharp and quick. In a very few chapters Gaiman sets up his character and we get the gist of this main that is our main character. After that we learn more about Shadow from what happens TO him rather then what has happened before him (there is a difference I swear it). I really liked this story line and I loved Shadow as a character. He is the kind of guy I would like to have my back. The stability of this character hold the story together I feel. I think, and this is going to sound a little crazy, that by creating a main character who was able to be so calm in his dealings with the Gods, I too just accepted what was going on around me.

The Gods themselves were really interestingly done. It was really fascinating to see all different manner of Gods mixed together, talking to one another. I also found out some pretty cool stuff about the origins of some of the things people believe in. I am not well educated in the Gods of religions outside my basic understanding of Native American, Norse, Greek and Roman so I didn't do well in my guesses of who each God was. Maybe you will do better.

There was not a part of this book I didn't like. It was so different to the fantasy I had been reading and it was nice to encounter something set in the modern day. The stand alone list is a great way to broaden your reading bookshelf and I will definitely be back there later on. I want to read Neverwhere next!

American Gods gets 4.5 out of 5 Gods wasting into obscurity. 

Oh and btw - It is being made into a TV series! HBO is going all out on the fantasy books ey?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Cold Days - Jim Butcher

I have loved this series since I started reading it. It didn't start off too deep and it was not particularly hard to tell where the story is going, now though, holy moly has that changed!  Harry Dresden is a wizard and has run afoul of many things bigger, stronger and more powerful then he is, many a times. Cold Days is the 14th books in the Dresden Files. I am conscious of people hyper aware of spoilers so I'll walk carefully.

Harry Dresden is a bad arse, wise cracking, female form loving bad day for the evil things in his city and the things that threaten it. It helps that the books are all written in first person, you feel like you really get to know Harry. He is a such a great character, he has an iron will and a willingness to help everyone that I find so appealing. I think most people like to think there could be someone like him out to protect us from the things we can't handle or don't see.

The magic system and the use of magic is really fun and Harry does some pretty kick arse things with it. If you think magic wielding cowboy, you kind of get the gist. There is so much magic used constantly that it does mean a bit of 'lesson time' in each of the books. I can tell you how a locator spell works in the Dresden universe and why another wizard having the shavings from your beard is ok, but a hair from your head is not. I don't mind the sort trips down lesson lane, as long as they are that, short. In Cold Days, Harry is using a different kind of magic, and it is very different. The readers are learning along with Dresden what it can and can't do, and what kind of damage and havoc he can cause wielding it. I had just as much fun reading about it as Dresden had heart pounding moments creating it.

Butcher did really well with this novel. There were surprises, things I didn't see coming. For the last few books there has been an over arching big bad messing with Dresden and all he holds dear and in this book there is another. So once again Butcher is amping the series up and just keeps piling on things for Harry to eventually deal with.  There are new power players and people around Dresden have been called on to do some 'didn't see that coming' kind of jobs. It leaves me with so much hope for this series. Butcher just keeps writing really good Dresden novels, and so I eagerly await the next one!

On a final note, Cold Days was fast paced, action packed and funny as hell. Everything you have come to expect from a Dresden Files novel. The constant admiring of the 'female form' was there too and as a female myself it still managed to make me a little annoyed and self conscious. It was a really great book and for those of you who have followed Dresden's adventure it is a must read, but i'm sure you have already read it. For those of you who have yet to experience this world, go get on it!

Cold Days - 4 out of 5 kick arse cold chills :P

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Why Abercrombie is not Best Served Cold

I am reading Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie at the moment after having finished Cold Days (yea, review is coming).  I read some of it but I stopped to pick up something else (I can't remember what book that was, it was too long ago). 

When I loaded it to read on my tablet, Moon+Reader  kindly loaded a chapter table for me and I picked what I thought I was up to. I had stopped reading on my Kindle but as it is now deceased (who would of thought the screen can't handle 60kgs of weight distributed on the small surface of my foot?) I didn't really know where I was. I did re-read a little last night but you see, I just didn't care anymore.

Then I remembered why I was able to put it down in the first place, It wasn't holding my attention. Monza and her quest for vengeance just doesn't matter that much to me anymore. I am 90% of the way through and I feel no sense of urgency, no desperate need to find out if she succeeds. Abercrombie will or will not end this book in his usual dark, twisted way, meh /shrugs. 

Biggest problem is that I don't really care about Monza. She was wronged, yep I get that and so she starts off down a road on a quest for revenge. She wants all the people who messed up her life dead, kinda scary but again, that's her deal. She enlists the help of some nefarious companions and they set about to kill and wreak havoc. I can't find anything to love/like/dislike/hate about Monza. She is this empty shell of a person. The companions aren't very different, some were interesting at first, but now I find it hard to care what they are doing. The heart of the problem I guess is that instead of the morally ambiguously 'grey' characters with deeply held convictions that Abercrombie normally writes about, in Best Served Cold I got empty shells of those characters, and man is that boring to read about. 

The fights and the battles aren't engaging me either. I am desensitised to the brutal bashing of a character's head into the ground several times. I am not inspired or excited by a character's war cry or the cries and begging of the victims in the heat of the battle. Please be aware this is no small matter for me. I am ALWAYS super emotionally involved in books. It is very strange that I feel so far removed from a character's journey. 

There is one thing that really stop out to me while I was reading this book, and I was again impressed as I re-read it. In one particular scene there are adults who are doing some adult 'things'. Abercrombie puts onto paper something I've only ever seen able to work in a movie, his ability to write this scene in an incredibly creative way was pretty awesome. I can't tell you anymore it'll spoil it for everyone, you'll get it if you read the book though.

I am not saying don't read the book because I said I didn't like it and I still have a huge author crush on Abercrombie. The First Law trilogy was awesome and you should definitely all read those books! Maybe just try to read this particular book in one go, so you know ... to keep it hot.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The King of Thorns - Mark Lawrence

It took me the upside of a month to read this book. It wasn't that I was super busy, but because at first, I found it stupid.

The series so far: This little kid called Jorg had something terrible happen to him. He grew up into crazy killing machine and swore revenge because of it. He traipses around the country side with a band of merry (NOT) followers he calls brothers. They pretty much just go with Jorg on his random travels in Jorg's quest for ... well if you want to read the titles of the all the books in the series, I'm not spoiling anything really. It's a dark, gritty book full of death and determination.

Characterisation is the big draw card in this book. This is where Lawrence becomes a master in his own right, his ability to write a first person character that clearly evolves because of the experiences he put Jorg through in the book was mind blowing. I think it is such a great feat for 2 reasons. Firstly if you wanted to draw up an action and reaction grid for all the major plot points you would be able to see a direct link between Jorg's action and how he then perceives himself and the world. Secondly it makes it a compelling read, in a very insightful way. If u asked me to give a character description of Jorg, I could write you an essay and them some. I can talk to you about his childhood, his dreams and goals, his motivations, his loves and hates, his relationship with his family and all in a pretty large amount of detail. There is not a single character I could do that for in any other books, even from the books by authors I consider to be master's of characterisation.

The biggest problem I had was I found the start of the book really difficult to read. The story line was complicated and jumped time so much that for the first part of the book you had very little idea what was going on in present time or what had happened in the past. It took so long for me to grasp the story line it was only in the last 200-ish pages I got into the book and finished it in a night. Please note, the book is 464 pages by amazon's account, so it took me a month plus to get through the first 200 ish. The most frustrating thing was waiting for it to make sense, it wasn't even an enjoyable suspense ride when battles were occurring. When Lawrence wrote about Jorg and his brothers getting caught up in trouble 'four years ago' I knew he was going to be fine anyway!

While Lawrence hasn't blown me away with this series and left me gobsmacked for years at his awesomeness, I will be pressing that kindle edition button when it is released. I am hoping he has a new or more efficient way to catch me up on the year's in between King of Thorns and the next instalment Emperor of Thorns.

If you want to read the longer version of the review, it'll be up at bfb's blog.

3 out of 5 - little boys stuck in thorn bushes

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I need to be a better fantasy book reader

Why you may ask? Especially those who know me from the forums over at Best Fantasy Books.

1. I skim read EVERYTHING and then I forget it all as soon as I read another book. After a few months I don't even remember what books I've read! I even forget what happens in my favourite books.

2. I treat my books like crap, my friend and I wrote a post about it. Then everyone was mean to me because I am a terrible person for treating my books so awfully. :(

3. I need to read more widely. I not that I am too picky (I swear I'm not!) it's just that I don't make enough time for reading. I also tend to stick to authors I know and love, and with Brandon Sanderson writing so prolifically, it's a little hard to branch out.

So here are my goals!

1. Blog short reviews about the books I read.

2. Download everything I read on my tablet, so there is no need to worry about mistreating books and then don't step on it like I did to my kindle (I know, I am an idiot).

3. Randomly pick one stand alone when I finish ever series from here or read a fantasy anthology to broaden my reading horizons.

This is what happened when I googled 'nerd'


  1. A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious: "one of those nerds who never asked a girl to dance".
  2. An intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical discipline or profession.

I wonder at how both intelligent and foolish or contemptible are even allowed to be in the same definition.

It's no wonder however that I subscribe to the second. The main problem is, I am not single-minded in ANY of my the particular disciplines I involve myself in and I am not even close the being expert.

I spend my spare time  I read. I am a regular contributor over at Best Fantasy Books forum and I write for their blog too, I also read, a lot. This is the closest I come to 'expert'. 

This blog is going to be a way for me to make my bother proud I am going to become a SUPER NERD! I will need your help though, I get distracted and I lack the ability to be single minded in my pursuit for expert status. So comment and keep me on track, I'll thank you for it!