Posts Tagged ‘3.5/5’

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

This is a book I’ve had my eye on, on and off, for a while now. The title and cover grabbed me initially, and it sounded like the kind of twisted humour I quite like, but for some reason I’d never got round to it. Recently it became part of the Library Backlog (which has become large enough to warrant being a proper noun I feel).

It took me a while to get into this book, possibly because I’m having concentration issues at the moment. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would but it certainly wasn’t a bad start to a series, and by the end I was convinced to look for the others.

This is the start of a series about Lucifer Box, a British spy at the end of the last century. He’s certainly and interesting character – vain, arrogant, a bit of a cad but fairly heroic despite himself. In this adventure (and it’s definitely an adventure) he finds himself investigating the murders of a number of professors of vulcanology.

You do need a particular type of sense of humour to appreciate the book I think, but luckily mine is a bit warped. It doesn’t just rely on the humour though – you do end up quite liking Lucifer, and the actual mystery is well written and, if not quite believable, coherent enough to draw you in and work well in the context of this particular character. It’s a fun read, and I’m looking forward to Lucifer’s further adventures.


Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe is another young adult book and again is about a teenage girl who can see faeries. I suspect the recommendations for this and Wicked Lovely probably came from the same place.

Sixteen year-old Kaye has spent her life moving from town to town with her mother’s band. When her mother is attached by her boyfriend they return to Kaye’s childhood home to live with her grandmother, a place were Kaye used to see faeries. She finds herself drawn back into their world and, as with Wicked Lovely, we see that the faerie world isn’t all (or even mostly) sweetness and light.

Though there are obvious similarities with Wicked Lovely the tone is quite different, and Kaye’s story is very different from Aislinn’s. Many elements of Kaye’s real life are as seedy as the faerie world, it’s quite gritty in comparison to Aislinn’s and I’m clearly become very shockable in my old age as I was surprised to read of a sixteen year-old smoking (quite why I don’t know, apparently you really do forget what being a teenager is actually like. This is probably a good thing). She is drawn to the faerie world rather than resisting, being a more willing participant in her adventures, although she does get more than she bargained for.

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Wicked Lovely – I warmed to the characters in the latter a lot more and felt like I knew them better by the end of it. However it’s still a very good book – I enjoyed it a lot and will be seeking out the sequel.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philips

This book is about the Greek gods who are still around, and living in London, but are growing increasingly weak, and what happens when two perfectly ordinary mortals manage to change things for them.

I immediately liked the premise of this book and wasn’t disappointed when I read it. It’s a fairly light, fluffy read, and Neil Gaiman covers a similar topic in a much meatier way in American Gods. Having said that I don’t think this novel was meant to be similar and I enjoyed it for what it was, plus I’m much more familiar with the mythology surrounding these gods than I was with those Gaiman wrote about so I got more of a kick out some of the jokes and references.

The gods are painted well I think – they’re very spoiled and childish in some ways, as most of us probably would be if we’d had to share the same house with the same people for thousands of years. The love story is very chick-lit, but I’m quite partial to that. The book is fun and enjoyable, great weekend reading when your week has been as busy as mine was!

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

I’m running out of Sookie Stackhouse books so have been looking for a similar series for a bit of light reading, and this came up on Amazon’s recommendations.

Rachel Morgan works for Inderland Security, Inderlanders being the supernatural beings that live alongside humans (vampires, witches,werewolves etc) and always have, but humans haven’t known for that long and are a bit twitchy about it. One day she quits, but it’s not the kind of organisation you can quite and they soon have their people after her. So Rachel is starting up her own company, trying to avoid the assassins and working on a scheme to pay off her IS contract. She’s a busy lady.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series, I think because Sookie is basically an ordinary girl in an ordinary small town. This book focussed very much on the Inderland community. That said it was a good, enjoyably read. The characters are likeable, Rachel kicks ass (obviously) but there are a number of interesting supporting characters. The story moves along nicely, and I particularly like some of the little touches that demonstrate how different Rachel’s world is (she wears amulets for pain relief, and at one point is given Aspirin which she’s a bit suspicious of…) I’ll be looking out for the rest of the series.

The Naked Jape by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves

Another non-fiction book so I’m not doing too badly with that goal.

This book is an exploration of humour and, specifically, jokes. It’s a good overview of a subject that I don’t think anyone’s ever really got to grips with and covers history, psychology and contemporary politics, among other things. Each chapter follows a particular theme, and at the end there are a few pages of jokes illustrating that theme. A nice touch is that there’s also a joke at the bottom of each page.

This is kind of a short review, which is no reflection on the quality of the book. As my degree was in psychology it did cover some familiar ground but nevertheless kept me interested (and amused), and I learned some new stuff too which is always good! Recommended.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This was a book I knew nothing about but was recommended by several people on LibraryThing. It’s a collection of letters between the author in New York and a second-hand book shop based at 84 Charing Cross Road. It’s really short, so this review is too, but it’s perfect Sunday afternoon reading – witty and gentle, and it gives you a healthy dose of the warm fuzzies. The backbone is that Helene Hanff requests books and they are sent to her as and when the shop acquires them but there’s so much personality in the letters, and they obviously captured the imagination of the staff.

The edition I read also included The Duchess of Bloomsbury, a diary about the author’s long-awaited trip to London after the publication of 84 Charing Cross Road. This is also a lovely, gentle read, and makes me think I should finally organise that tourist trip to London (I’ve been so many times but rarely see more than the inside of a conference centre). I preferred the letters, but the whole book was very good and I’ll be looking out for her other books.

Knife by R J Anderson

This caught my eye about a week before I bought it on account of its shiny cover (I’ve been compared to a magpie on several occasions). Not only was it shiny, but the shiny was different colours when you held it up to the light at different angles. Book sold.

It’s the story of a fairy (of the occasionally prickly, too curious for her own good variety) in  a dwindling group living in The Oak. They no longer have much magic and, with the exception of a select few, are banned from leaving The Oak due to the dangers lurking outside, with humans among the greatest of these. She is curious about the outside world, and particularly the people – to describe it any further would be giving the plot away so I won’t.

It is very obviously a kids’ book, and is therefore a fairly simple and short read. The characters and story do have depth to them but it wasn’t as satisfying as an adult book would be in some ways. That said it was an enjoyable read, was always going to suffer a bit from being read directly after Temeraire but I liked the characters and the story, while a bit predictable in some places, kept me wanting to read more.

Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life by Neil Gaiman

I’d have enjoyed these more if I’d read them the right way round… They were both still very good though.

I’ve been looking at graphic novels more this year and have read the first collection in the Sandman Library. In the last story Death turns up and I think I preferred her character. I went back to the library for more Sandman but the next book wasn’t there, so I picked up these instead, and I still think I like her more.

The High Cost of Living tells the story of her day as a mortal, takinggreat delight in simple things like eating, going to a nightclub etc while also searching for a 250 year-old mad woman’s heart. The Time of Your Life concentrates more on some characters who pop up briefly in the first one (which made more sense once I’d realised that). I didn’t like this as much, but it was still very good.

Definitely looking forward to more Sandman now 🙂

Gold by Dan Rhodes

After Henry VIII, which was huge, I was after something shorter and lighter. This book was both, coming in at just under 200 pages, and had been recommended by Dave Gorman on his blog, after which I’d picked it up from the library.

I mostly loved it, and I’ll come back and qualify that in a bit.

On the surface not a lot happens in the book. It’s the story of Miyuki who his on her annual holiday to a small Welsh coastal village. The book is divided into days rather than chapters and follows what she does which is mostly pretty mundane – joining in the pub quiz, eating the kind of rubbish she doesn’t eat at home, going for walks and reading. You don’t learn much about any of the characters but you feel like you know them anyway, and they definitely have memorable names (Tall Mr Hughes, Short Mr Hughes and Mr Puw being among them). The book has a fairytale feel, almost like the film Amelie. It’s the perfect book for snuggling up under a blanket with a hot chocolate and I loved being lost in the first 197(ish) pages.

The last page managed to shatter all that with an ending that was very ambiguous, but at the same time didn’t seem to be a happy one. I don’t like my books to end ambiguously, and ideally I like them to end happily. It pulled me right out of the happy fluffy mood and made me feel distinctly uneasy. I suspect that was the point, and it appears that isn’t unusual for Dan Rhodes’ writing, but it did spoil the book for me.

I’d still recommend it, but I’m in two minds as to whether I’ll explore his work further.

Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

I have “read more graphic novels” as a rather vague goal for this year and, as I like Neil Gaiman’s books, I thought this would be a good place to start.

It took me a while to get into the swing of reading it – I’ve never read a graphic novel/comic book before and I didn’t get my head round it straight away. I enjoyed it a lot though, and I particularly liked the last story in the book which featured Death. I understand there’s a series featuring her so I’ll be looking that up too.

The basic story is about Morpheus (the sandman) who is captured and imprisoned for 60 years. He manages to escape and this series of stories is about him regrouping and regaining his power. I’m looking forward to reading more of this now that the groundwork has been laid.

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