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February 2018 Book Wrap-Up

Only 6 books this month.
What were they and what did I think of them?

I’ve also done a vlog for this on booktube:

Why I reread it: I’m currently reading book 7 to my wife and have watched the first two seasons and fancied going back to the beginning.
What is it about?: Even though humans have colonised the planets and moons of the solar system, they still find themselves embroiled in conspiracies. Ice Hauler EO James Holden finds himself in a system-wide conspiracy and Detective Miller, on a missing person’s case, soon crosses paths with Holden.
Thoughts: This was utterly amazing the first time I read it and is probably even better with the reread. I always find it interesting how much or little the actors’ faces replace my preconceived interpretations if I’ve seen the tv show or movie in between reads. It’s a testimony of the casting that has seen most of the characters being replaced by the actors.
As for the book, I had so much fun with it and am very impressed with how the series has maintained this high level of quality.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: I’ve been reading this series to my wife, as and when they become available. This is the latest in the series.
What is it about?: After a 30-year gap following book 6, both the Rocinante and her crew are feeling older and are preparing to move into a new chapter of their lives. Until something happens that once again threatens all of humanity.
Thoughts: Not wanting to mention too much here due to spoilers, I can say that this book is on par with the rest of the series. The stakes are as high as ever and the characters as so well developed they feel like family by this point. Need the next book!
Score: Booktastic
What’s next? Skulduggery Pleasant IV: Dark Days by Derek Landy
Why I read it: I’ve decided to tackle my unread Aliens and Predator books by making them my books foof the months. Kicking off this trilogy.
What is it about?: Set in the Alien universe after known contact with both the Xenomorph and Yaujta species has occurred, the sphere of humanity are suddenly experienced a greater number of Yaujta-related attacks.
Thoughts: After a slowish and uneven start, this book really picks up the pace and became very thrilling and exciting. The story follows three main characters (with the occasional view of another one or two) as they simultaneously find out the truth behind the increased Yaujta incursions. By the end of the book I was hooked and am eagerly waiting for March to read the next one.
Score: Worth buying.
What’s next? Alien Vs. Predator: The Rage War II: Alien: Invasion by Tim Lebbon
Why I read it: Went on a family trip to Disney World in Florida meaning an accumulated 16 hours of flight-time. Figured I could read the Maze Runner series in that time.
What is it about?: Set before the events of the original trilogy, this chronicles the events directly following the catastrophic solar flares.
Thoughts: To date, I’ve only read the original Maze Runner so cannot say how, if at all, it links to the main series. There are a couple of nods in the prologue and epilogue, but they’re so removed from the main story that I’m not sure if they were worth it.
The story itself follows a group of survivors after they are randomly attacked by a flare-dispensing group. It’s a mix of adventure and survival as they go on a trek for answers.
There’s a lot of intensive action that was exhausting enough to read, leading to the unlikelihood of the heroes being able to keep on going. It’s amazing they were able to even stand unaided, let alone get involved in yet another altercation.
It became quite apparent the direction the story was going and did indeed end along the lines that I feared it would leaving a somewhat bleak conclusion.
Score: Worth reading
What’s next? The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Why I reread it: It’s the next book in my graphic novel rereads.
What is it about?: As the Clone Wars nears the end, trouble Jedi Quinlan Vos needs to make a final decision regarding his loyalties.
Thoughts: This is told over two stories that link to each other so smoothly that they’re better described as two chapters. This story very much felt like the beginning of the end in that certain character arcs come to their conclusions as well as Quinlan finally realised just who he’s going to be.
I won’t say more than that, to avoid revealing spoilers. The artwork is first-rate again and I very much enjoyed the story. It was also fantastic to see one Jedi who done little more than sit about, show just what he can do.
Score: Booktastic!
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars IX: Endgame
Why I read it: My wife got this out of the library and I wanted to give it a go, so I did.
What is it about?: The ghostbusting team get kidnapped by a force and sent to another dimension leaving their positions to be filled by convenient stand-ins.
Thoughts: Released before the recent Ghostbusters remake/reboot, this story features the female-dominant ghostbusting team that the film should have perhaps gone for. I’d not read any of the other stories in this series, but the character introduction page at the beginning brilliantly and effectively brought me up to speed with who’s who and how they fit into the backstory.
The adventure itself was split between the original team’s attempt to return home and the new team’s attempt to function despite the sexist corporate management of them. This was funny, insightful and with a decent ghost to bust. My only gripe is more of a personal one in that I did find the artwork to all that to my liking.
Score: Buy it
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January 2018 Book Wrap-Up

10 books this month.
What were they and what did I think of them?

I’ve also done a vlog for this on booktube:

Why I read it: I spotted this in the local library and thought it gave off a suitably Buffy vibe, so I thought I’d give it a go.
What is it about?: Cryptids (non-human entities such as bogeymen, dragon princesses and other such beings) live among us in secret, but are they to be exterminated as abominations or left to live free as individuals? Something bad is happening to them and it’s left to reluctant Verity Price to save the day, even though it gets in the way of her passion of dancing.
Thoughts: This was a delight to read. Humorous without it being a comedy and with characters so appealing that the slow-moving plot doesn’t detract from the story. Each chapter is headed by an amusing quote from one of the elder Price’s as well as a brilliantly descripted location.
Highlights definitely include the Aeslin Mice, a tribe of sentient mice who religiously celebrate every mundane thing Verity does and whose likeness act as the page breaks throughout the book.
Score: Buy it.
What’s next? Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived
Why I read it: I’ve greatly enjoyed this series and so of course would like to finish it off.
What is it about?: Failed Jedi Zayne Carrick is drafted into the Republic military in the Mandalorian War. Chaos ensues for combatants in both sides.
Thoughts: As usual, Zayne ‘Forest Gumps’ his way through a number of otherwise lethal situations, often faring much better than those around him. However, by now, Zayne has gotten used to the bizarre levels of chance that his unique connection to the Force provides for him. This is mostly played straight with only a few comic relief moments where Zayne goes through a baptism of fire to truly discover his place in the universe.
A mostly satisfying read that had some nice cameos from Jarael and Gryph. The artwork was pretty decent, too.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: All of the Knights of the Old Republic series and many, many Star Wars books
Why I read it: I spotted this in the local library and had to read it.
What is it about?: After Order 66, the fall of the Jedi Order and the Republic and the rise of Palpatine’s Empire, Darth Vader is on a mission to seek out and exterminate any residual Jedi.
Thoughts: This volume actually contains four stories:
1. Purge – I’d previously read this as part of the Clone Wars: Endgame collection. Darth Vader is led into a trap by a group of Jedi resulting in magnifying his reputation when he walks out again. This is brilliantly illustrated with some very exciting action. There’s no doubt as to the end result, Vader does live to feature in the movies after all but, as this story features many of the significant Jedi from the Clone Wars graphic novels, each death was very impactful.
2. Seconds To Die – Chronicling the ‘life-flashing-as-she-died’ last few seconds of a Kel-Dor Jedi, looking back over her lifetime. A bittersweet look at a life lived and it’s sudden conclusion. Well told and with good artwork.
3. The Hidden Blade – Darth Vader is tasked with babysitting a factory, but is distracted by the Jedi leading insurrectionists attacking the facility. Can he stick to his task, or will he give in to his hate and seek out the Jedi? A pretty obvious question with some pretty ugly artwork.
4. The Tyrant’s Fist – An extended story that also has Jedi leading insurrectionist. Darth Vader explores the destruction of the Jedi by first killing their reputation, their image and the that the people have for them, before taking their actual lives, thereby not making martyrs of them. An interesting story that perhaps went on a bit too long.
Overall, this was okay though the first story is definitely the best of the bunch by a long way and I already have that in Endgame.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: So. Much. Star Wars.
Why I read it: I’ve been rereading all my Star Wars graphic novels chronologically. This one’s next on the pile.
What is it about?: More politics, intrigue, action, excitement and betrayal.
Thoughts: The volume actually contains five stories:
1. Dead Ends – Bail Organa and Finis Valorum explore the lies and corruption that surrounds the senate. If it weren’t for the fact that we all already know it’s Palpatine, this would have been quite interesting. Instead it was merely a thing.
2. Bloodlines – Upon the imminent death of a Jedi, we watch as his recent life flashes before his eyes and we see all the tricks and lies culminating at the end at the beginning of the sequence with his forming a friendship with Palpatine. Told in a way that kept the narrative interesting, this was a poignant story showcasing the damage that high-level corruption can do.
3. Hate And Fear – Obi-Wan Kenobi, presumed dead by the Jedi order, joins forces with fellow captive ARC clone trooper Alpha in a bid to escape the clutches of Asajj Ventress. Beautifully illustrated and very exciting, this story make reading this book so much more worth it.
4. No Mans’ Land – Sees Anakin Skywalker lead a rescue mission to rescue Obi-Wan Kenobi despite being told that he must already be dead. This is really more of the closing chapter to the previous story as Obi-Wan fights he way out, Anakin fights his way in. Not sure why this has a separate title, to be honest.
5. The Best Blades – Yoda visits an old friend in a bid to convince him not to split his planet from the Republic. Using more of a Manga style of artwork, this is very wordy and quite slow-paced with an almost inevitable conclusion.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Many, many Star Wars Books
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars VI: On The Fields Of Battle
Why I read it: I’ve enjoyed the films and the books, time for some short stories. This is also January’s book of the month.
What is it about?: A series of short stories following the Yaujta as they prey on different eras of humanity.
Thoughts: As a short story collection, it would only be fair to give thoughts on each story, so here goes:

Story Name: DevilDogs by Tim Lebbon
What is it about? A squad off colonial marines are tasked with a retrieval mission on a remote research station.
Thoughts: This one read very much like an aliens story. Right up to the appearance of the Yaujta. Actually, even then, the feeling remained. Mixed in with the violence and action is quite a hard look on the liberties humanity feels like it can take.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Stonewall’s Last Stand by Jeremy Robson
What is it about? A scouting mission during the American Civil War encounters a Devil in the woods.
Thoughts: This was an enjoyable reworking of the original film as if it were based in 1863 and with some of the hunting gear from Predator 2. It certainly felt as if it were inspired by the pistol given as a trophy at the end of Predator 2. A solid Predator story.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: Rematch by Steve Perry
What is it about? A Yaujta and her mate hunt down an ooman who had not only survived a previous encounter, but had also killed the hunter.
Thoughts: This is told in from two main perspectives, the humans’ and the predators’ and this does add a nice element with the predators’ interactions with one another. It’s interesting that Steve Perry has changed the lore he set down in his Aliens vs. Predator: Prey novel where the females dominate over the males and see the hunting is beneath them by having a female involved in this hunt.
It’s well paced with a hand bunch of useless oomans for the predators to butcher (literally as a stretching warm up exercise). The tension was well strung and the survival of any of the oomans we cared about was never certain, but then neither was it for the predators either.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: May Blood Pave My Way Home by Weston Ochse
What is it about? The story follows a band of Buffalo Soldiers based in Central Mexico during the 1916 Punitive Expedition. After an altercation with the native Comanches, four soldiers find themselves in a duelling match against four Ya-OOT-ja to the death.
Thoughts: Despite being based in a battle I’ve never heard of, I found myself quickly invested in this story. The link of the predators to the native Comanche’s was, perhaps, a little tenuous but still believable enough to make sense. The duel itself was refreshing in that I’d not seen predators in a straight-up one-on-one fair(ish) fight. (Unless you count the yakuza in the film Predators.) I also greatly appreciated the handy phonetic spelling of Yautja (I’ve always read it as Yowtcha).
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Storm Blood by Peter J. Wacks and David Boop
What is it about? Based in New Orleans during the height of Storm Catrina, a rescue team save an unconscious boy with some disturbing footage on his camera.
Thoughts: Even though there was no heist this had a resonant feeling of the film Hard Rain starring Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman. This story is a little bit different in that it’s not a Yaujta hunting the people. There’s something else, and the Yautja is hunting that. I can’t say more than that plot-wise, but I can say that the story was very enjoyable, and the creature is an interesting one. It started off using the found footage trope, but thankfully passed that and got on with telling the story properly. Exciting stuff.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Last Report From The KSS Psychopomp by Jennifer Brozek
What is it about? A salvage crew board a derelict scavenger ship, but they’re not alone on board.
Thoughts: This one probably was less impactful as it features in a compilation of Predator stories so you know exactly what’s in store for our hapless space crew. Indeed, this story does play out as expected and this could have had any alien nasty as the ‘monster’ in this one. I still found the action exciting and appreciated the uncertainty as to who, if anyone, would survive.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Skeld’s Keep by S. D. Perry
What is it about? In 820 AD a retired predator leads three newly blooded youngsters on a hunt for Viking oomans.
Thoughts: The story is told from two perspectives, the Vikings’ and the predators’. The Vikings are attempting to take the titular keep that has been ravaged by a mysterious disease. The action is understandably graphic and visceral with lots of bladed weapons encountering those fragile human bodies. The battle did have a certain A Song Of Ice And Fire feel to it. My only issue was that there was no real explanation as to what the illness was.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Indigenous Species by Kevin J. Anderson
What is it about? A colony on the brink of survival finds itself in the middle of a hunt between the planet’s top predator and the Yautja.
Thoughts: This was very reminiscent of Aliens Vs. Predator: Prey by Steve & Stephanie Perry in that the basic premise is the same. The only difference is that the gruzzlies are already native to the planet and the Yautja come specifically to hunt them. I enjoyed the
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: Blood And Sand by Mira Grant
What is it about? Two orphans who live with their abusive aunt and uncle find a change in fortune when a mysterious star lands nearby.
Thoughts: This was a satisfying tale that suggest that the Yautja are more aware of humanity’s shortcomings than we would have thought.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Tin Warrior by John Shirly
What is it about? A soldier who has stood up against a superior officer finds himself testing a reverse-engineered suit of Yaujta armour, against a captive Yaujta.
Thoughts: Anther interesting concept that doesn’t quite go in the expected directions. I found myself rooting for the Yaujta as much as I did the soldier.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Three Sparks by Larry Correia
What is it about? A rogue samurai is given the task of hunting down the Oni of Aokigahara, a forest demon that kills and skins it’s human victims.
Thoughts: A very compelling tale that feels like a retelling of Predator but with a forest instead of a jungle and samurai with swords instead of soldiers with guns. And no chopper, obviously. This was very enjoyable and highly satisfying.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: The Pilot by Andrew Mayne
What is it about? When a downed American pilot captured by the Russians attempts to escape his captors, he discovers that his fellow prisoner hails from a little further than China as he initially believed.
Thoughts: Easily the best story in this collection so far. The character’s plight was believable and felt authentic from the start. His escape was thrilling and when he joins forces with the otherworldly captive the action is exciting and so well realised through his eyes. I enjoyed this one immensely.
Score: Storytastic!
Story Name: Buffalo Jump by Wendy M. Wagner
What is it about? It’s the wild west and the local sheriff of a small town is approached by a gang from his past.
Thoughts: What happens when a standard Western story is suddenly hijacked by an alien influence. Well, apart from Coyboys and Aliens, this. The story develops naturally as a standard Western with the sheriff standing up to a gang, and then embarking on rescuing a child from a kidnap situation. Then blood starts happening. I enjoyed the unique method used to get the better of the Yautja and again there was an nice insight into how the predators view humanity.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Drug War by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Holly Roberds
What is it about? Twenty years after Predator 2 Harrigan and Garber find themselves facing a familiar threat.
Thoughts: I do appreciate it when a story can tie into established cannon. I like Predator 2 a lot and I thought it great that we had a return of Harrigan. Just like the film, this features a lot of explosive urban combat making this exciting and adrenalin-filled. The final twist was a delight.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: Recon by Dayron Ward
What is it about? A recon squad deep in the Vietnam jungle find that they’re up against not just the Vietnamese.
Thoughts: Another story heavily influenced by Predator. The characters were a little lacking in their characterisation and the story didn’t really play out much differently to how it does in Predator. It was enjoyable enough and still manages to stand out from the other stories in this collection.
Score: Worth reading.
Story Name: Gameworld by Jonathan Maberry
What is it about? Set in the future on a privately-owned world where an illegal fight arena pits combatants against enhanced dangerous animals. All goes well until a Yautja is made to fight.
Thoughts: This one had quite a bit of build-up, which again was undermined by featuring in a book with a Yautja on the front cover. However, even knowing that the lead character was going to be duelling against a Yautja, the action was still exciting with a Sherlock Holmes level of detail in the combat. The twist in this was very enjoyable, if a little anticipated.
Score: Worth reading.

Final thoughts:
Wow, this was a very enjoyable read were even the worst story was still worth reading. After the disappointing repetitiveness of the short story collection Aliens: Bug Hunt, this was a very pleasant surprise.

Score: Bookstastic
I’ve also read: Concrete Jungle; Cold War
What’s next? February’s book of the month: The Rage Wars I: Predator: Incursion
Why I read it: Because it’s Star Wars
What is it about?: Jedi-hunting bounty hunters, infiltration and Ventress riding a rancor.
Thoughts: Some stories in this one:
1. Show Of Force – A fantastic story following Mace Windu leading other top Jedi onto a space station to take down a band of Jedi-hunting bounty hunters. This is a brilliant showcase of how unstoppable a Jedi task force is, if they’re not being manipulated from the start and are free to just do their thing.
2. Forever Young – In attacking a citadel, Anakin Skywalker is shocked by how young his accompanying Jedi is. This was quite a short story where Anakin just had to learn not on ly the hardships of war itself, but what true dedication can mean.
3. Armour: Aayla Secura seeks to retrieve a maguffin only to find her wayward former master, Quinlan Vos is also after it. With Quinlan Vos going deep undercover into Count Dooku’s forces and having previously undertaken some decidedly unJedilike acts, the big question hanging over this story is: Is Quinlan now a Dark Jedi? This story keeps you guessing until the very end (and even then it’s not crystal clear). I really enjoy Aayla and Kit as characters and found this to be a great platform for them.
4. Dreadnaughts of Rendili – After being rescued by Obi-Wan Kenobi, the renegade Jedi Quinlan Vos rejoins the Jedi as they attempt to thwart the mutiny of a dreadnaught fleet. This was a fantastic story that had a little bit of everything worth having. Quinlan Vos’s loyalties forever remain in question and my thoughts on them almost panel to panel. Ventress has two thrilling duels against Obi-Wan and Anakin. All superbly illustrated too. This all made for a very entertaining read.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: Many, many Star Wars.
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars VII: When They Were Brothers
Why I read it: I enjoy short story collections and thought I’d try one on a genre I’ve not read that much on.
What is it about?: A series of short stories based on and around the concept of the living dead.
Thoughts: Ordinarily I’d do a quick review of each story, but with over 30 stories in the collection that would take a fair while. The quality of these stories vary quite dramatically from Storytastic! with some really interesting ideas on the zombie/living dead aspect to Toilet Paper with little to no relevance to collection of stories they’ve been grouped with. Some I really enjoyed, others, I greatly detested. For the most part, I think that the better stories do outweigh the weaker ones
Score: Worth reading – as long as you skip the rubbish ones.
What’s next? The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF
Why I read it: I’ve already read books 1 and 2 to my 9-year-old son and so this is the obvious choice here.
What is it about?: Honorary FBI agent Chevron Savano and Riley find themselves falling through time once more and facing off against and old and deadly enemy.
Thoughts: The first two books of the series had lots of great character development and good adventures. This one, unfortunately seemed to be a bit lacking in both. Overall, it was okay but is not as good as the others. There was also an overuse of the sci-fi gobbledegook that did stuff just because and was the get-out clause of many of the situations.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake.
I’ve also read W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin and The Hangman’s Revolution
What’s next? My son’s picked Amazon Adventure by Willard Price.
Why I read it: I’ve been going chronologically through my Star Wars collection. Sometimes I pick up a book I’ve already passed in the timeline and need to fill those gaps.
What is it about?: Han Solo’s rival smuggler Dash Rendar finds himself without a ship and needs work fast. His new job as a bodyguard to a popular singer proves to be a little more than we was led to expect.
Thoughts: This was an exciting, amusing and very entertaining read. There were a lot of interesting characters, particularly the sarcastic droid Leebo. The mystery as to who the threat was kept me guessing throughout the story. Han Solo also provided a nice cameo roll.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: A lot of Star Wars
What’s next? Going right to the beginning with: The Lost Tribe Of The Sith by John Jackson Miller
Why I read it: It’s the next Clone Wars in the series I’m reading, of course I’m going to read it.
What is it about?: Before Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi had their final duel on the Death Star, they were very close friends who constantly looked out for one another. These stories show their final adventures together as ‘brothers.’
Thoughts: The main story Obsession follows Obi-Wan’s obsession into finding the now-believed dead Ventress. This leads to an epic face-off against Durge, a significant battle that includes General Grevious and a final confrontation with a surprisingly moving conclusion. The artwork as a little odd but the story was first rate.
There’s also an untitled short story that showcases just how Obi-Wan and Anakin trust each other and rely upon one another. It’s a little unnecessary but quite poignant when knowing what is to come.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: A lot of Star Wars
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars 8: The Last Siege, The Final Truth

And that was January.

What will I be reading in February?
Check out my booktube video to find out:

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My Worst 10 Reads Of 2017

I managed to complete 130 books during 2017.
These 10 are the books I liked the least.

I also did a video on it:

The War Of The Worlds: The Massacre Of Mankind

Somewhat hampered by the rather lacklustre origional of The War Of The Worlds, this continuation of the story didn’t really go anywhere and the ending just fizzled out. I really had hoped for better. The only saving grace was that the chapters were quite short.

The Midden

Take the hilarous events that took place in Riotous Assembly, remove much of the content and have a long-winded and perambulating build-up to it. Unorigional and not all that funny.

A Song Of Ice And Fire: A Feast For Crows

Fron the series that just keeps on giving … drab and bleak settings with equally drab and bleak characters. Lacking any semblance of plot or direction, this is just a dull chronicle of a bunch of stuff that happens to a bunch of people you don’t give a hoot about. Not really sure why I’m reading this series to be honest.

Star Wars: Rogue One

The novelisation of an exciting film with interesting characters you know nothing much about. Read the book and learn…absolutely nothing new at all. This basically filled the void while I waited for the film to come out on blu-ray. This is not the supplemental read you’re looking for.

Goosebumps: Be Careful What You Wish For

We all seen examples of well-intended wishes that were not executed in the intended way. This is what happens when a complete idiot makes wishes that are bloody stupid at their conception. This only caused goosebumps of irritation at reading something so pointless.

Star Wars: Knight Errant: Aflame

I picked up book two of these graphic novels from a bargain bin and held on to it, unread, until I got my hands on book 1. Aflame is that book one and was only noteworthy due to the number of pecuilarly-angled nostril shots. The story was a complete mess and the artwork was so inconsistant that the main protagonist looks different in every panel. Deluge was actually pretty good and would have benefitted more from not having read book 1.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Blood Of The Empire

Oooh, a story about a Sith character, this ought to be good…or boring, I meant boring. Why is this so boring? Surely there must be some interesting characters at least? Not really, and don’t call me Shirly.

Goosebumps: You Can’t Scare Me!

In this story we follow some jealous delinquant and her equally jail-bait friends as they attempt to bully a hard-working and rightfully popular classmate. Only to fail at every sucky and depraved plan they have. This would have been better if their final endeavour ended up with them all being awarded the posthumerous Darwin Award.

Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures

I’ve heard that this is a popular series. It’s even got it’s own graphic novel adaptations. I really can’t see why though. This has to have one of the worst world-building openings ever. A lead character who has no relatability about her at all goes through a vague series of pointless events and encounters before not much of anything really happens and the book thankfully ends. Not a series I’m likely to work at anytime soon.

Lo’Life: Romeo Spikes

Marketed as a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer style adventure series. Instead, it introduces a series of interesting and compelling characters who are then just killed off and none of that affects whatever the plot was supposed to be about. Then there’s a really intense and exciting train scene. Now it’s all over, the end. Wait…what? Another series I’m in no hurry to get back to.

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My Top 10 Reads Of 2017

I managed to complete 130 books during 2017.
These 10 are the books I liked the most.

I also did a video on it:

By The Light Of The Moon

A straightforward story that takes some really interesting an unexptected turns. But it’s the spellbinding mastery of the words used to tell it that gives it a place on this list. A true delight to read, and the story’s very satisfying too.

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic: Commencement

The kick-off to an very enjoyable and fun adventure in the Star Wars universe. Based thousands of years before the events of A New Hope (and untouched by Disney) this tells the story of a bumbling Jedi padawan as he’s framed for the murder of his fellow students and is now on the run from his teachers and the murderes – who are one and the same. Filled with colourful characters, witty dialogue and exciting scenes, even the inconsistant artwork isn’t enough to spoil this fun read.

StarCraft II: Devil’s Due

The second half (read Heaven’s Devils first) to an excellent (if unasked for) origin story for James Raynor. Just how did Jim and Tychus become friends? How did Tychus end up behind bars? What made Jim become a marshall of a backwater planet? Exquisitly told and with some impactful moments, fans of StarCraft should definately give this a go.

The Map To Everywhere

Brilliant artwork that accompanies an imaginitive adventure with some original characters and locations. Brimming with refreshing novel ideas. The pure enjoyablility of this one surprised me.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

A powered-human story that takes a big step away from the plethora of superhero stories that have saturated the world recently. This novel kicks off a solid trilogy of books, but is probably the best of the three. The intriguing tale is beautifully puntucated by real-world photographs of what can only be described as odd people.

Skulduggery Pleasant

Being dead hasn’t stopped this sarcastic and wise-cracking detective from saving the world from the Faceless ones (what can only be described as Cthulhu and the Old Ones). Can’t say more due to spoilers. Go read it.

Revenger

It’s just like Firefly, isn’t it? Well, in a way yes, but in a much more accurate way, no. This certainly wasn’t the read I expected to be, but found myself enjoying it immensely and was hungry for more upon its conclusion. I literally went straight onto the internet to see if there is any sign of a sequel. Aparrently it’s in the works. Yes!

Babylon’s Ashes

Epic sci-fi on a scale and scope that shows up A Song Of Ice And Fire as the overhyped load of tosh it really is. As mankind reaches for the stars, there are those who will do anything to keep things as they are. The fight for the future of the human race has begun.

Ready Player One

Overhyped? Yes. But very much justified. If you dig this sort of thing, it’s pure gold…or at least golden oldies. Nostalgia mixed with a buch of epic VR stuff. Read it before I even knew they were making a movie of it.

Discworld: Guards! Guards!

Introducing the Night’s Watch of Ankh-Morpork at a time when the Discworld stories finish coeliescing into the world that the Discworld is now. Just such a fun book to read too. A dragon is terrorising the city and it’s left to a defunct police force to stop it.

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December 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Here is my reading wrap-up for December. I managed 10 books this month.
So what were they and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Our IT at work is wonderfully underwhelming. While it’s aresing about, I try to get some reading in. This is from the communal bring-and-share bookshelf.
What is it about?: Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist who finds herself investigating a series of murders linked to a cult.
Thoughts: This is the fifth Temperance Brennan book I have read and the two complaints I have about it is common with all of them:
Firstly. The author, Kathy Reichs, is a forensic anthropologist herself and can give greatly detailed accounts of the body examination using all the correct terminology (as far as I know, anyway). This is great stuff, if sometimes grisly, and really gives that CSI vibe. Unfortunately, there is also the same level of detailed minutiae when making a ham sandwich or when performing other everyday mundane tasks. Yes, tell me all about what you can about the body, by all means tell me what you ate for lunch, but I don’t need to know how you made it. Not every word has to be plot-related, but when there’s over half a page on getting dressed having already had the lowdown on lunch and feeding the cat I’m relieved when the phone rings or someone hurls a brick through the window.
Secondly, the French. I get that this is set in the French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada and there will be French names and places, but at times it almost feels like a French lesson. This particular book, isn’t as bad as some of the others, but it still brings me out of the story every time it comes up.
Anyway, enough of that. Setting past all of what I’ve just said, this is an engrossing read as Temperance follows the clues to reveal the deaths may be due to cult activity. There is also a commendable exploration as to what constitutes a cult and what makes a cult either benign or something far more sinister as well as the reasons why supposedly rational people can end up joining a cult. I certainly found it quite eye-opening. It was also surprisingly relevant as Charles Mansion happened to have died while I was reading this book and I had Googled him and what he was all about.
The ending felt a little rushed with maybe too many conveniences but it was otherwise satisfactory.
There was a sub-plot surrounding the bones of a nun that just felt like padding to me and this story would have probably been better without it.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Deadly Decisions, Deja Dead, Bones To Ashes, Crossbones
What’s next? Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
Why I read it: I get to read to my wife every day. In this way we discover many brilliant books. The Skulduggery series is one such discovery.
What is it about?: Once again Valkyrie Cain and Skulduggery Pleasant must stop the acolytes of the Faceless Ones from bringing their dark gods into the world, but this time they’re fugitives.
Thoughts: The obvious thing about the first three books of this series is that the plot’s basically the same in all three: Stop the Diablerie from opening a gateway to let in the Faceless Ones (think the Great Old Ones from the Cthulhu mythos). However, the plot really does take second place to the collection of fantastic characters (both dead and alive and not-quite-sure) along with their peculiar names.
Filled with sarcastic put-downs and snide comments, this adventure is a little more violent than the previous offerings with an Indiana Jones level of body horror. There are also plenty of twists and turns along with totally unexpected crazy stuff ensuring that this is an enjoyable and satisfying yarn.
Score: Buy it.
I’ve also read:
What’s next? The Expanse VII: Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey.
Why I read it: For my Book Of The Month in January I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I thought it fitting to finish the year in the same way.
What is it about?: An avid gamer finds that there’s more to his favourite game than he first thought.
Thoughts: This is a tough one to describe without giving too much of the plot away. Even the blurb on the back doesn’t really give you much to go on. All I’m going to tell you that it certainly has the hallmarks of a certain 80s movie and also a book by Terry Pratchett.
I’ve heard rom other reviews that this is not as good as Ready Player One and I would agree with that. Not that this is a bad book, by any means but it did take a while to get me invested in the story sufficiently to want to read it. With Ready Player One, I was hooked and thought about it incessantly when I wasn’t reading it. With the exception of pondering the why, this one is much more disposable. I also felt that the 80s pop culture references were a little forced and were thrown in just ‘because’. They were fun, but a bit gimmicky.
Once the plot finally got going, I found it exciting and sped through the pages. The ‘big reveal,’ such as it was, was along the lines of what I was expecting, which was a shame but was still rewarding.
I would certainly encourage people who are struggling with this one to keep with it. It’s not too long a story and the second half really picks up.
Score: Buy it.
I’ve also read: Ready Player One
What’s next? January’s Book Of The Month: Predator: If It Bleeds
Why I read it: I had previously read the base series and am giving it a second run-through, this time including the prequels and the sequel. This is the fourth book in the series.
What is it about?: Following a worldwide earthquake, our leading characters fight to survive the devastation and to find each other.
Thoughts: Much of this story is spent following only a few of the lead characters and their hunt for their missing loved ones. For it’s size, there’s surprisingly little actual content in this book with only the last quarter containing anything of substance. I found the character of Hattie terribly annoying last time I read this series and she’s just as irritating this time round. The whole sub-plot regarding Amanda is kicked off in this book and it really slows down the pace (particularly as I now know it doesn’t go anywhere). I did enjoy the scenes with Ken Ritz who drove the plot forward as much as he ferried the characters about.
There are a number of good moments here, it’s just a shame that most of this book (and the last two to be honest) felt like filler. Including the prequels and sequel, this is a 16-book series and I feel that it could have been so much shorter with much of the pointless filler removed.
Now this series is a Christian faith-related series that takes the Christian viewpoint of the Rapture and follows a theologically based logical timeline of events upon an interpretation of the bible (coupled with some artistic licence). As such, there are some Christian denominational viewpoints that may not gel with the sensibilities of some readers, Christian or otherwise. For me, I appreciate the unique post-apocalyptic setting of survival and the exploration of faith and why people choose to or choose not to enter into a belief system.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake.
I’ve also read: Apollyon; Armageddon; Assassins; Desecration; Glorious Appearing; The Indwelling; Left Behind; The Mark; Nicolae; The Rapture; The Regime; The Remnant; The Rising; Tribulation Force
What’s next? Left Behind: Apollyon
Why I read it: I’ve been keen to complete this series and managed to pick up the final three volumes from my local library.
What is it about?: Jarael’s past has finally caught up with her in more ways than one.
Thoughts: Once again, this is more a short story collection with our heroes bumbling from one thing to the next. This series seems to be lacking something now the main story-arc has ended.
There are three main story arcs:
Masks:
Malak and Rohlan face off and Revan’s motivation for wearing the mask is revealed.
This was a nice little story that finally had Revan in it. It also shows that Malak is on the slippery slope to the dark side. I’ve appreciated the evolution of Alec as he becomes Malak in this series.
The Reaping:
When attempting to scam a slaver organisation, Zayne attempts to rescue the slaves instead.
This one had some good character development for Zayne as he strives to remain true to his Jedi upbringing. Gryph is classic Gryph.
Destroyer:
Zayne learns, first-hand, about the Crucible.
This is one of the darker stories in the series as the true nature of the Crucible is revealed. There’s lots of spoilers here so I’ll zip it. Good stuff though.
On the whole, I think this volume is stronger than the previous one. The focus on Jarael’s back story and the meaning of her facial tattoos helped a lot. The discordant artwork was pretty good throughout.
Score: Buy it.
I’ve also read: 150+ Star Wars books.
What’s next? Knights Of The Old Republic IX: Demon
Why I read it: I’ve read the first three books in the series, so why not read the accompanying short story collection?
What is it about?: A series of short stories exploring life, the universe and everything
Thoughts: Usually I would review each individual short story in a collection such as this. However, I started this book before I had begun doing such things.
The stories in this book follow on from the three primary books in this series: Time, Space and Origin as well as exploring further Manifold ideas. Characters such as Malenfant, Cornelius and even Sheena-5 crop up from time to time in some stories.
Even though they are short stories, they are science heavy and it’s recommended that the reader should have more than a passing interest in science. There are very interesting explorations into the Fermi Paradox, Occam’s Razor, the big bang, life and the heat death.
Thinking back, I must confess that most of the stories have merged into an amorphous blob, but I do keenly recall The Fubar Suit and would recommend that story particularly. It follows two parallel storylines: An astronaught coming to terms with crash-landing on an asteroid with no hope of rescue; and a member of a group of beings who seeks to find some answers about their world.
This is certainly not a book that falls into the ‘light reading’ category. Prepare to do much thinking and, if you’re lucky, talking, about the ideas in here.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Time; Space; Origin; Voyage; The Time Ships; The Massacre Of Mankind
What’s next? Destiny’s Children I: Coalescent
Why I read it: I’d reread all my the Red Dwarf books and thought I’d carry on the trend and reread the Rob Grant books I have.
What is it about?: In the near future when the United States of Europe is a thing, and no one, regardless of suitability can be denied a job, a secret agent finds himself fighting to survive.
Thoughts: Like Red Dwarf, this is stuffed full of social commentary where, due to gross incompetence in others, Harry Salt struggles to achieve the most simplest things such as hire a car or board a train. In fact so much time and energy is spent on each mundane activity, that the book reads more like a series of episodes or sketches with a loose overriding arc over the whole thing. This is more of an observation than a criticism because each scene of jam-packed full of very funny moments – the priapismic waiter serving soup is particularly hilarious. We’ve all bought faulty goods or have received some manner of bad service. This book takes those incidents and blows them up to the extreme.
Now I last read this back in 2007 before Brexit was even a thing. Reading it now, the main crux of the plot (the big reveal, if you will) is actually quite alarming and you can’t help but wonder if there’s more fact than fiction here.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: Colony; Fat. With Doug Naylor: Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers; Red Dwarf: Backwards; Red Dwarf: Better Than Life
What’s next? I’m going to reread Fat by Rob Grant
Why I read it: My parents have a whole host of fun books like this. Thought I’d re-read this one.
What is it about?: By accidentally and stupidly killing themselves, some people have managed to improve the human gene pool by removing themselves from it. This is a collection of accounts of such incidents.
Thoughts: This reads as a collection of anecdotes collected into loosely themed chapters. Each chapter opens with a short essay that really got in the way of getting on with reading about stupid people. Having read all the essays I have no recollection of what any of them were about. Despite the essays, this is an entertaining, if sobering chronicle of humanity at its most terminally idiotic.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Darwin Awards 2; Darwin Awards 3
What’s next? If Only They Could Talk by James Herriot
Why I read it: I’ve enjoyed other books by Spike Milligan so thought to give this a go.
What is it about?: Ostensibly, it’s about Robin Hood, but it’s not really.
Thoughts: This is a collection of words written with only a passing resemblance of order. Almost unreadable, this gibberish is Spike Milligan at his most rambling. It starts off almost legible, but progressively devolves so much that by the end, I just wanted it to end. There was a scattering of lines that did make me laugh, but not enough to salvage the rest.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
I’ve also read: Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall; The Bedside Milligan; Monty: His Part In My Victory; Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall; Rommel? Gunner Who; Spike Milligan’s Transports Of Delight; William McGonnagle Meets George Gershwin A Scottish Fantasy
Why I read it: Loving this series and finally found this in my local library.
What is it about?: When the truth behind their Mandalorian companion is revealed, Zayne must right some wrongs and rescue Jarael.
Thoughts: This is the final story with the full ensemble and it was very fulfilling. I can’t give too much away, but this nicely ties up a lot from the whole series. The artwork was much more consistent too. A very satisfying conclusion.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: So much Star Wars!!!
What’s next? Star Wars: Knights Of The Olds Republic 10: War

And that was December.
I managed all of 130 books this year. Not bad at all.

What’s up for January 2018?
Here’s my TBR:

Read Completely:
1. Predator: If It Bleeds. A short story compilation and my book of the month.
2-5. Star Wars: Clone Wars x4 graphic novels
6. Star Wars: Shadow Games by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
7. Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole
8. Star Wars: Children Of The Jedi by Barbara Hambley
9-10. 2 Goosebumps Books

Finish:
11. Star Wars: Clone Wars V: The Best Blades (graphic novel)
12. The Expanse: Persepolis Rising (reading to my wife)
13. W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man by Eoin Coiffer (reading to my oldest).
14. Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe

50 Pages of:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopaedia
Shadowmancer II: The Curse Of Salamander Street by G.P. Taylor
The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams (short stories).

As much as I can of:
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter by James Goss
Dragon Orb I: Firestorm by Mark Robson (reading to my youngest)
A Song Of Ice And Fire: A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin
The Case-Book Of Sherlock Holmes

To see all the books I’m currently reading check out my Currently Reading page.

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November 2017 Book Wrap-Up

I managed to finish nine books in November. What were they and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Having already read and enjoyed book 1, I picked this up from the library when I spotted it.
What is it about?: A magical world-spanning ocean called the pirate stream once again touches the Earth and Marril, re-joins her friends once again this time in a bid to save the planet from getting torn apart.
Thoughts: In the first book, we travelled to a few interesting and imaginative places and I left that book looking forward to visiting more places in this one. With that expectancy, I was a little disappointed that we only visited a couple. However, they were indeed interesting and imaginative with the titular city being the setting for most of the story.
There was a lot of emphasis on want and need that drove many plot points and threats, which made for a different type of ‘engine’ running the story. Unlike most stories where this need is realised in the stealing of that gold or the murdering of that competition, this need is more of that unspent yearning which is spun into something tangible. It encompasses most of the characters and plot points as well as shines the first book in a more needy light. Fin’s need to be remembered, Marrill’s need for her mother’s recovery, the Naysayer’s need to look after the cat, Coll’s need to keep on sailing and Ardent’s need to find his lost love.
In a bid to keep this world ‘fresh’ they Marrill’s teenage babysitter was dragged along too and she played the fish-out-of-water character. Beyond that, there wasn’t really anything she added to the story or the plot, which was a wasted opportunity. In some scenes she may as well not even be there and it’s only when she finally speaks or reacts to something that I’m reminded that she’s even in the story.
As with book one, the story is accompanied by some fabulous pieces of artwork that feel like they’re stills from an animated TV series or film and accentuated the story beautifully.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: The Map To Everywhere.
What’s next? I’d like to read book 3: Shadows Of A Lost Sun, but I’ll have to wait until I find it in the library. So will be kicking off the InCryptid series with Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire which I spotted in the library and thought looked quite fun, not just because of the front cover.
Why I read it: I have so many graphic novels that I want to add to Goodreads. Rereading them and adding them as I go. Working my way through the Star Wars section chronologically.
What is it about?: The Clone Wars are in full swing and Quinlan Vos is going deep, deep undercover while Aayla Secura joins a team of Jedi investigating goings on on the planet Devaron.
Thoughts: Quinlan and Aayla are by far my favourite Jedi, so I really enjoyed rereading this. Quinlan’s dance with the dark side make him a really compelling character. In order to be convincing as a dark Jedi, he must do things a Jedi should never do and the effect it has on him and those who are close to him is dramatic.
Aayla’s confrontation with the bounty hunter Aurra Sing is also a delight. Both having had some training from the vampirish Anzati and carrying a lot of pain and confusion from their Jedi masters. In a genre where there are lightsaber clashes aplenty, this is one of the more memorable and satisfying ones.
The final story of Qunlan Vos’s assassination mission for Count Dooku is edgy and you’re left wondering if Quinlan is still succeeding with his internal battle against the dark side and is playing the part, or if he’s fallen to and merely deceiving himself.
Throughout, the artwork is impeccable and is probably the reason why Aayla is as popular as she is.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: A lot of Star Wars books
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars V: The Best Blades
Why I read it: For the last two books of the month I’ve read books 1 and 2 of this trilogy. It’s only fitting I finish the trilogy this month.
What is it about?: Now that Amber’s turned the tables on her parents, she’s now hunting them. Unfortunately, her new job keeps getting in the way.
Thoughts: A satisfying conclusion to a fun trilogy. Deliciously graphic and violent, this book directly follows on from the conclusion to book two, so I can’t say much without spoiling the other books in the series. Needless to say, the stakes are higher, the monsters are tougher and Amber is still useless in combat. I consider this a good thing because too many times the perfectly ordinary loser suddenly gets some super power and then can not only wield them proficiently but they also suddenly know Kung-Fu. Amber’s still the Amber she was, there’s just a new aspect of her life she has to deal with.
The story-arcs for the secondary characters are also satisfying or tragic. Again, no names can be mentioned here.
This still has that X-Files feel, particularly when they’re up against the clown but that style of adventure features less here. In fact, the books in the trilogy have got progressively shorter. A lot of the first book was attributed to Amber bouncing from one encounter to the next, to the next, and again, and again. Book 2 was more of one all-encompassing encounter. This time the encounters are directly linked to the plot, with Amber finally having a goal to aim for.
The only spoilerish thing I will reveal is that the ending does potentially have the set-up of further books in the series. I’m not saying there will be, but it’s left in a way that means there could be.
I did enjoy this series that’s full of interesting monsters and gadgets. I can see that Amber’s ineptitude could irritate some readers. Particularly that, despite that, she keeps surviving her encounters and usually due to interventions by others.
My only real gripe is that the plastic protective film has begun to unpeel from the covers making them look messy. I expect more from a brand new book that doesn’t give much change from a tenner.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Demon Road; Demon Road: Desolation; Skulduggery Pleasant; Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire
What’s next? I’m planning for this year’s last book of the month to match its first, with Ernest Cline and I’ll be reading Armada.
Why I read it: Before I joined Goodreads at the end of last year, I never added graphic novels to my books read list. Been rereading my graphic novels and adding them to the list that way. This was one I had out the library before and it’s the same battered copy this time.
What is it about?: After the death of Prince Xixor, his custom-built assassin/sex bot seeks to remove her assassin programming.
Thoughts: This is an interesting tale of how a programmed machine that can’t help but obey, seeks redemption for its actions. It seeks to overcome its obstacles with the single-minded determination of a terminator which is the irony in that it wishes to cease being that way. The story is interspersed with a near-farcical attempt by the surviving members of Black Sun to reacquire the dangerous droid to use for their own ends. That the heroes of the Rebellion and the New Republic are also thrown into the mix does perhaps feel a little over the top – particularly as they don’t really add anything further to the plot.
This is perhaps tonally all over the place with the seriousness of what Guri is trying to do and the conniving within Black Sun to Han and Leia’s interesting relationship particularly in regards to Han interacting with any female that’s not Leia. Lando’s there too, for some reason.
It’s an enjoyable read, though, with a satisfying conclusion. The artwork has that classic look about it making Guri particularly manikin-like in appearance, which disturbingly drives home her inhumanity despite her rather curvaceous figure.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Lots of Star Wars!
What’s next? Another library reread: Agent Of The Empire: Iron Eclipse.
Why I read it: I’m a big fan of the show and was able to pick up the novels when they were available. Giving them a reread.
What is it about?: After a research facility is burnt down, a surviving scientist afflicted with a deadly contagion is in a race against time to find a cure. Special Agents Mulder and Scully are left picking up the pieces in his wake.
Thoughts: You know this is an X-Files story because it has The X-Files on the front cover to remind you it is.
The story itself was interesting enough with some thought-provoking aspects of medical research ethics and the conspiracy to control public access to medical breakthroughs. The level of threat from the ‘monster’ was pretty high with a nicely disturbing fate for his victims. The scene with the vet was a particular highlight. Of the books, I would say this one is probably the least “X-Filesy” in that the great mystery is definitively explained and doesn’t fall under either the paranormal or supernatural headings. It’s definitely along the lines of one of the “Monster-Of-The-Week” episodes in that there’s very little to do with the franchise outside of this story. If you were to change out Mulder and Scully with two other characters and the FBI for some other investigative organisation or group, the story would be exactly the same, or might even have benefitted from not having the story-telling restrictions of tying it into a
franchise.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The X-Files: Darkness Falls; Goblins; Ground Zero; The Host; Humbug; Ruins; Shapes; Skin; Squeeze; Tiger, Tiger; Whirlwind; X Marks The Spot
What’s next? I’ll be rereading The X-Files: Skin
Why I read it: I’ve been adding graphic novels I’ve read to my reading lists, but I’m rereading them first. Happened to find this in the library.
What is it about?: Agent Cross, of the Imperial Security Bureau is the man they send to investigate suspected traitors of the Empire. His latest mission to investigate stolen droid technology turns out to be far more dangerous than expected.
Thoughts: So the Galactic Empire is full of evil xenophobic megalomaniacs who fill their days enslaving populations and crushing the weak underfoot, right? Well, no actually, at least no more so than any other civilization or governing body. This is a side to the Empire that Luke Skywalker never sees from the sands of Tatooine to the cockpit of his X-wing as he barrels down the Death Star trench.
The Empire, like any other organisation, is run on rules and is reliant on may parts. If those rules are broken and those parts don’t do their job, Agent Cross is the man to fix the problem. If Cross is guilty of anything, it’s that he believes the lies the Empire has fed him about the Jedi orchestrating the civil war in a bid to seize power. He views corruption as an act of treachery against the Empire.
This is a thrilling spy story with more than a subtle flavour of James Bond about it. The main plot of the story is entertaining enough, but is largely overshadowed by the charisma of Agent Cross. I actually had to go look up the main plot of the story just now, the telling was so enjoyable that what it was about didn’t matter. I loved that fact that if this were a traditions Star Wars story with Luke and co. Agent Cross would be the enemy (he would certainly view the rebellion with distaste) and one in which Luke would probably meet his match. Chronologically, this story is based when Luke’s still wanting to go to Toschi station to pick up power converters and other time-wasting activities with his friends.
If you like spy stories fully of action and intrigue with a lead character that can carry a story, then definitely give this one a go.
The artwork’s not bad either.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: 148 Star Wars books I’m not going to list here.
What’s next? I’ve found book 7 of the Knights of the Old Republic in the library! Yay!
Why I read it: There’s a whole bookcase of Buffy books in my house. So…
What is it about?: Buffy and the gang experience shared dreams of the Salem during the time of the witch trials. History is trying to repeat itself.
Thoughts: Set during season 1 of the TV show, this stand-alone story sees Buffy and the gang dream a lot. For such a small story, there are a lot of characters and a convoluted plot. There are some interesting moments, particularly Xander’s possession by the ghost of a witch (and walking as used to a different set of hips), but there’s an awful lot of not much really happening. Giles is ill, Willow sits at a computer, Buffy can’t kill (the baddies are possessed, not evil), Angel’s off brooding somewhere and…oh wait, it’s season one, that’s that whole gang. Conversely, adding the Master as the main evil behind the shenanigans actually made what plot there was, nonsensical. As with Coyote Moon, the whole big evil bad thing that could threaten life as we know it is…suddenly defeated and that’s it, the end.
This could almost be truncated to the sequence before the opening credits which would then lead into the real meat of the story.
Score: Boring – just plain dull
I’ve also read: Tales Of The Slayer (Volumes 1-3); Coyote Moon; Halloween Rain; Harvest; Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids All In A Row
What’s next? Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Angel Chronicles Volume I
Why I read it: I adore StarCraft and everything StarCrafty. Of course I’m going to read it.
What is it about?: After the Guild Wars, Jim Raynor and Tychus Findley are living a life of crime. However, an enemy from their past has set out to destroy them.
Thoughts: This is the continuation of the origin story nobody asked for as started in Heaven’s Devils. However, even though it was something that I never even considered as something worth finding out about, this was a very entertaining and fulfilling read. Here is the opportunity to get to know the real James Raynor and how deep his friendship with Tychus really was. The threat from the bounty hunter chasing them was palpable as was the feeling of loss when the other Devils fell into his hands. The action was exciting and well realised (no shaky cam here). Raynor’s return to the homestead was a little by the numbers, but still tugged the heartstrings effectively. Raynor’s final confrontation was actually quite moving. The story ended as expected, all ready for the original game to kick off. It also makes Raynor’s action at the end of Wings of Liberty all the more heart-breaking.
These may have had the glaring omission of Protoss or Zerg, but the larger than life characters, the action and adventure as well as a good dose of heart, made it so that I hardly noticed.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: Liberty’s Crusade; Shadow Of The Xel’Naga; Speed Of Darkness; I, Mengsk; The Dark Templar Saga (Firstborn; Shadow Hunters; Twilight); Heaven’s Devils.
What’s next? StarCraft: Evolution
Why I read it: I really enjoy this particular series but only have the first few volumes and read up to volume 6. Spotted this one in the library.
What is it about?: Now that Zayne has been cleared of murder he is now embarking on a life of opportunities. This volume contains 3 stories:
Profit Motive: The team try to scam an illegal stock exchange in planets. It doesn’t go as planned.
Execution: The team encounter a derelict ship, crew murdered and one Bimm survivor.
Duelling Ambitions:
Zayne enters a dangerous swoop competition only to find that under the exciting facade is a conspiracy of cruelty.
Thoughts: Now that the original story arc has concluded, the storyline has lost quite a bit of focus and has fallen into a more episodic format. The minor overarching theme of Jareal’s past and potential future barely gives enough to make a hook for more. Also, as before with this series, the artwork fluctuates wildly between each ‘episode’. The quality is pretty good, it’s just inconsistent.
Profit Motive featured a Chevin crime-boss and introduced the Chev slaves. I always found the Chevin a fascinating species and enjoyed seeing a bit more about them. The story itself was a little convoluted but was more amusing because of it. It features a pivotal scene with Jarael.
Score: Worth reading
Faithful Execution had what I would call a ‘messy’ art style that detracted initially, but as the chilling story unfolded, actually fit quite well. It made me think of the Firefly episode Bushwhacked.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Duelling Ambitions was also a little convoluted, but with a more serious plot, it didn’t work quite as well as in Profit Motive. Still, the action was exciting enough, but the whole thing did feel a bit of a set-up story for the next story-arc as revelations about Jarael’s past finally come to the surface.
Score: Worth reading
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Many, many Star Wars books.
What’s next? Volume 8 as and when (and if) I ever get my hands on a copy.

So, that was November.
What’s up for December?
Here’s my TBR:

Read Completely:
1. Armada by Ernest Cline (my book of the month)
2-5. Star Wars: Clone Wars x4 graphic novels
6. Star Wars: Shadow Games by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
7. Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole
8. Star Wars: Children Of The Jedi by Barbara Hambley
9-10. 2 Goosebumps Books

Finish:
11. Star Wars: Clone Wars V: The Best Blades (graphic novel)
12. Skulduggery Pleasant III: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy(reading to my wife)
13. W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man by Eoin Coiffer (reading to my oldest).
14. InCryptid I: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire (my library book)
15. Left Behind IV: Soul Harvest by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
16. Manifold IV: Phase Space by Stephen Baxter (short stories)
17. Temperance Brennan II: Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs

50 Pages of:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopaedia
Incompetence by Rob Grant
Shadowmancer II: The Curse Of Salamander Street by G.P. Taylor
The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams (short stories).

As much as I can of:
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison
Robin Hood According To Spike Milligan
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter by James Goss
Dragon Orb I: Firestorm by Mark Robson (reading to my youngest)
A Song Of Ice And Fire: A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin

To see all the books I’m currently reading check out my Currently Reading page.

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October 2017 Book Wrap-Up

I managed to finish eleven books in October. What were they and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: It was lying about the office, so why not?
What is it about?: After a director of violent films wins the Oscar for Best Director, he finds himself being confronted by a pair of serial killers seeking to hold him responsible for their actions.
Thoughts: This is a satirical story that looks at how people are able to shirk all responsibility for their actions by placing the blame on someone or something else. In this case how violence in movies is often blamed for the actions of violent people who watch them. It also deals with how the news channels cover acts of violence and how they pump it into our homes. This is a particularly poignant and reinforcing message about the way that the news has covered the current atrocity of the Las Vegas killings and is precisely what Ben Elton was writing about (checks publication date) twenty years ago.
The story itself gets a little lost behind the message but is reasonably thrilling.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Dead Famous; Stark
What’s next? The Midden by Tom Sharpe
Why I read it: I saw this minding its own business in the library and thought I’d try it.
What is it about?: Several years after the event of The War Of The Worlds, the Martians are at it again and this time they’ve all had their inoculations first.
Thoughts: This is the official sequel to The War Of The Worlds, and Stephen Baxter is pretty knowledgeable regarding the writing style of H. G. Wells. This does read like the direct sequel it is supposed to be. Unfortunately, this does mean that we go on another rambling narration, this time with another hapless survivor (the sister of the ex wife of the narrator from the first book).
The story was interesting enough, it just took a long time for anything to happen and quite often the thing that was being built up to, just didn’t. Towards the end of the book there’s a flood of different reports of the invasion from different areas and they just got a bit repetitive and prolonged an ending that left me a little unsatisfied. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad I didn’t buy it.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: From Stephen Baxter: Time; Space; Origin; Voyage; The Time Ships
From H. G. Wells: The Time Machine; The Invisible Man; The First Men In The Moon; The War Of The Worlds
What’s next? The Map to Everywhere II: City Of Thirst by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis
Why I read it: My 8 year-old chose this for his bedtime story.
What is it about?: One minute Joe is out walking Henry, his dog, the next he finds himself in the unlikely land of Muddle Earth to fulfill the role of a warrior hero.
Thoughts: This is a younger-readers parody on the world of Middle Earth found in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. A somewhat unusual decision as many younger readers (or those being read to) will not know much of Middle Earth. However, where some of the places (Mount Boom) and characters (Randalf the Wise) are parodies of their Middle Earth counterparts, this story is very much its own thing with a completely different series of adventures told in three ‘books’. Chris Riddell’s wonderful illustrations are found throughout and really complement the pictures painted by the words.
Filled with Ogres, Elves, Pink Stinky Hogs and roaming cutlery, this imaginative and silly book entertained my son greatly when I read it to him. He was delighted to hear that there is a second book out there. Although it lacks the depth of more adult books, I too enjoyed rereading it.
Score: Buy it
What’s next? Dragon Orb I: Firestorm by Mark Robson
Why I read it: Got a lot of graphic novels and am working my way through them.
What is it about?: The Clone Wars are in full swing, this is some of the stuff that happened.
Thoughts: As with the first volume, this is more of a collection of short stories.
The New Face Of War
Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi investigate strange goings on on one of Naboo’s moons and find themselves battling a mysterious bounty hunter going by the name of Durge as well as Asajj Ventress. The artwork of this one really reinforces the Jedis’ struggle in the poisoned air. The introduction of the Gen-Dai Durge to the franchise is brilliant, he’s a real tough opponent for the Jedi to face-off against. It also one of those rare instances where a new Jedi is introduced who is not bumped off by the end of the story. Great stuff.
Blast Radius
A badly injured Obi-Wan Kenobi recounts his mission to an installation in his search for the antidote to the poison featured in the previous story.
A different art style grates initially, but really goes on to accenuate the chaos of the scenery later. In some ways, this is a rehash of the preceding story with a bunch of Jedi facing off against Durge and Ventress, but the interesting characters and dynamic setting makes this an exciting and compelling read. Even though you only just meet them, the death of each Jedi is really poignant.
Shaak Ti
Another bonus Jedi story this time following Shaak Ti as she breaks into a secured prison facility and enlists the aid of some of those incarcerated to fulfill her mission. Excellent artwork and an intriguing story, particularly as one of the inmates was put there by Shaak Ti previously. We also meet up with Quinlan Vos as well as Sagoro Autum from Honor and Duty. A brilliant story.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: Loads of Star Wars.
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars III: Last Stand On Jabiim
Why I read it: Last month’s book of the month was book 1 of the series Demon Road. I liked that so much I thought I’d make book 2 this month’s book of the month.
What is it about?: Still on the run, Amber takes refuge in the town of Desolation Falls. Of course, there’s more to the town than expected.
Thoughts: Where book 1 was like a mini series of The X-Files, this book is more a feature-length episode. I did appreciate the change of style from road trip to mystery town. One interesting addition to this story in the inclusion of the Scooby Gang. Ok, not quite, but they are a bunch of young roaming do-gooders with their own van and a dog. They added a good dose of humour to an otherwise dark tale.
As before this story is deliciously graphic and gruesome but always relevant to the plot.
My only real issue was the wild-card element that only really surfaced as a convenience. I can’t say more due to SPOILERS.
The final thing that happened was quite the surprised, but does explain the front cover to American Monsters.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Demon Road; Skulduggery Pleasant; Playing With Fire
What’s next? Demon Road III: American Monsters will be November’s book of the month.
Why I read it: I’m a fan of the TV show and have put off reading these due to their lack of colour. Finally caved in and am giving them a go.
What is it about?: As if you don’t know…it’s the zombie apocalypse. In this volume we follow our band of survivors as they settle down in a prison. All is good-ish, until they stumble across a settlement called Woodbury.
Thoughts: And I thought David Morressy’s villain in the TV show was quite the bad man. He’s nothing compared to the Governor in the books. This version of the baddy is not for the faint hearted. Rape and severing are his modus operendi here, so head’s up for that.
While all that is going on, the character flaws in some of the other survivors are beginning to show, forcing cracks into the group. Something’s going to blow, and it’s not going to be good when it does.
I found it an interesting read, not necessarily enjoyable due to some of the subject matter. It doesn’t matter how you dress a rape scene or how relevant it is to the story, such a scene could (nor should) never be described as ‘enjoyable’. It certainly helps paint the Governor as a bad guy, though I’d already sussed that from his other actions. Anyway, that could be a whole discussion on its own, so moving on…
I found the character development in this one pretty weak, with the exception of Carol, who’s getting decidedly unhinged, no one really shines here, probably making the Governor’s scenes have greater impact as the only stuff that happens, happens because he’s doing it.
My usual issue again is it’s not always easy to tell who is who. It would be helpful to have a character reference sheet at the front or back just so I know who is who. There’s still one I don’t know who he is. I think he’s Hershell’s son, but I’m not sure.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read from The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye; Miles Behind Us; Safety Behind Bars; The Heart’s Desire
What’s next? Book 6, whenever I get my hands on it.
Why I read it: Gotta read all my graphic novels, because I want to. This one’s a reread.
What is it about?: There’s a civil war on the planet of Jabiim. There’s also a bit of that death stuff.
Thoughts: This story really hits home the futility and waste of war. The fact that it all takes place on a rain-spattered mudball with nothing really noteworthy adds to this feeling. After losing Obi-Wan Kenobi (we know he’s okay ‘cos he’s in A New Hope) Anakin Skywalker finds himself part of the now masterless Padawan Pack comprising of some new and familiar faces. The ‘story’ really is more of an endless series of skirmished where such-and-such dies and the named characters are whittled down.
With one of the highest death-counts in the series, I didn’t really get that engaged with most of the before they became one with the Force. Despite the intensive action, it’s quite a depressing read.
The follow-up story, Enemy Lines, was much more compelling. Anakin is paired up with the Jedi Tusken Raider A’Sharad Hett. This results in an interesting altercation between the two as all that Anakin sees is the face of his mother’s killers. A’Sharad also makes some interesting character developments and choices.
The artwork was solid throughout, its just a shame it worked a little to well on Jabiim in portraying the feeling of futility and hopelessness.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Soooo much Star Wars.
What’s next? Star Wars: Clone Wars: IV: Light And Dark
Why I read it: I had picked up the 9-book box set (back when it was only 9 books grrr!!!) and have been reading them to my wife. This is book 8.
What is it about?: Unwilling 14 year-old spy Alex Rider is done with spying and just wants to get on with his own life. Nope. Not going to happen.
Thoughts: Alex really does come across as the reluctant hero. Forced, in part, to do certain tasks but will also step up and do what is needed. This was less action adventure and more survival with Alex finding himself in situations out of his control and having to escape them. I think this also has Alex’s highest kill-count to date.
The villain in this story started off looking like they might be quite the memorable bad guy, but soon becomes another cardboard cut-out James Bond baddy to give Alex a hard time and have a evil and twisted plot.
Alex’s escape scenes were well developed with a good sense of threat and peril. As I’ve mentioned on previous Alex Rider books, the lad does seem to either be imbued with a Tintin level of luck or has been infected with the luck virus from Red Dwarf.
The more noticeable and surprising character development was with Alan Blunt, the indefatigable head of Special Operations. This was an enjoyable enough read, but I felt it lacked the depth matching the level of violence Alex was exposed to or threatened with.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Alex Rider books I – VII.
What’s next? Skulduggery Pleasant III: The Faceless Ones
Why I read it: Gotta do something while sitting here with a computer linked to such a shoddy network.
What is it about?: A disgraced yuppie is blackmailed into setting up a high-profile uncle. Nothing goes as planned.
Thoughts: I think I can best liken this book to an over-long and rambling joke whose eventual punchline is like one you’ve heard before only less funny. The lengthy set-up introduces a series of characters with their mildly amusing back-stories and peculiarities before completing the scene and then moving on to the next character. Timothy Bright, for example, is the pivotal character in all this and comes with a complete life-story. Unfortunately, once he’s set things in motion, he’s barely in the book at all.
The whole book does seem to be a build-up to the final showdown which has all the hallmarks of a Konstabel Els (Riotous Assembly) debacle. Yes it’s funny and over-the-top, but Konstabel Els did it so much better and it was one of a serious of hilarious and outrageous scenes in the book. Interestingly, the individuals who perpetrated the Middenhall Holocaust were secondary characters with only the briefest of introductions. So there’s pages and pages of back-story for non-relevant characters and very little provided on whose actually causing the mayhem.
Best give this one a miss.
Score: Boring – just plain dull
I’ve also read:
What’s next? Temperance Brennan II: Death Du Jour
Why I read it: I’ve already red the other four books of the series, makes sense to finish it.
What is it about?: It’s been a few decades since humanity has discovered how to ‘step’ over to alternate Earths. A mysterious invitation has come from the stars which could open up a lot more possibilities.
Thoughts: A satisfying conclusion to a deeply thought-provoking series. Not as strong as the first three books it is less of a story and more of a series of events and incidents. It showed in the Long Utopia and is clearly apparent here that Terry Pratchett’s failing health (and passing) left Stephen Baxter with the task of tying the various ideas into some sort of cohesive plot. If you’ve read any Stephen Baxter, you’d know that plot isn’t his strong suite.
Anyway, there are some fantastic scenes, particularly the giant tree forest of reaching wood which was simply amazing.
I was similarly delighted and disappointed that an anticipated trope following on from Utopia didn’t actually come up. It would have been nice to have seen that reunion, but I’m glad they avoided such an obvious return. Sorry to keep that vague, spoilers!
When I finished the book, I immediately tried looking up the meaning of the ending only to find a whole bunch of whining about the book and lamenting the lack of a sixth book. Not helpful. Having slept on it, I think I have worked it out making the ending quite impactfully epic and very clear as to why there is no need of the sixth installment.
Definitely a thinking reader’s book as well as series. If you don’t mind using those little grey cells, you’ll probably enjoy this.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Almost everything by Terry Pratchett and Time; Space; Origin; Voyage; The Time Ships; The Massacre Of Mankind; Time’s Eye, Sunstorm; The Light Of Other Days by Stephen Baxter
What’s next? Bromeliad I: Truckers
Why I read it: With the Discworld series spanning just about every genre and story, this is one of the best series to read over and over again.
What is it about?: The Night Watch of the city Ankh-Morpork is small (4 guardsmen) , incompetent (drunk, lazy, corrupt & naive) and the last thing the city wants. Until a dragon turns up.
Thoughts: This book introduces what is arguably the strongest character arcs of the whole series. I know of people who have only read the Night Watch books from the whole Discworld series. It has the hallmarks of a crime novel with a fantasy backdrop and dripping in satire and pop culture references.
What makes this novel particularly pivotal for the Discworld series is that it’s from this point onwards that the Discworld becomes a mappable and consistent realm. Up to now, each story has been largely unattached to the others in terms of setting and character. Here, the Ramtops, Ankh-Morpork, the Librarian, Lord Vetinary, the Mended Drum, Mrs Palm’s, the Night Watch (of course), Klatch and C.M.O.T. Dibbler are introduced to us or one another.
The story itself, follows a whodunnit-style mystery that is pretty solid even as just that. As a reread, knowing who dunnit in no way detracted from my enjoyment of this book.
This is possibly the fifth time I have read this and it’s still as fresh and funny as it was when I first read it.
Score: Booktastic!
I’ve also read: Pretty much every book that Terry Pratchett has ever written and got published.
What’s next? Discworld IX: Eric

So, that was October.
What’s up for November?

Read Completely:
1. American Monsters by Derek Landy (Book 3 of the Demon Road Trilogy & my book of the month)
2-5. Star Wars: 5 Clone Wars books
6. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull

Finish:
7. X-Files: Antibodies by Kevin J. Anderson
8. Skulduggery Pleasant III: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy (reading to my wife)
9. W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man by Eoin Coiffer (reading to my oldest).
10 The Map To Everywhere II: City Of Thirst by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis (my library book)

50 Pages of:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopaedia
Quantum Leap: Random Measures by Ashley McConnell
Redwall: Mariel Of Redwall by Brian Jacques

As much as I can of:
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison
Robin Hood According To Spike Milligan
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter by James Goss
Temperance Brennan II: Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs
Dragon Orb I: Firestorm by Mark Robson (reading to my youngest)
A Song Of Ice And Fire: A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin

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My top ten book peeves.

So I walk into a bookshop and a book catches my attention. I pick it up and have a quick leaf-through. Is it a book I’d like to buy? Below, in no particular order, are the top ten things that would make me reconsider and put the book back.

1. The new standard size paper back.
Once upon a time, a paperback under 500 pages could be conveniently put into a pocket. I spent most of my school life with a book in my inside-left jacket pocket and more recently in my trouser leg pocket. Since the new standard size, this is no longer the case, they’re now too big and they take up more room on the shelf as well as give books in a series an uneven shelf-line.

2. The story in the book not starting at page 1.
For some reason, the contents page, dedication, copyright page, quotation, other books by the same author/in the same series page, map, page of praise for the author, about the author, the page intentionally left blank, foreword, typeface used page and title page are counted (but not numbered) in the page count meaning that by the time you finally find the story it’s on a page numbered anything from 7 to 23. So if it’s a book 400 pages long, do you subtract the difference, or do you also have to count all the guff after the end of the story as well? Not all books do this, some actually do start at page 1 despite all the faff preceding it, which makes the fact that a lot don’t even more annoying.

3. Excerpts at the back at the book from other books.
With shelf space at a premium, I detest the space wasted by books being several pages thicker than they need to be by featuring the opening chapter or sampler from other books. I find this particularly irksome in trilogies, where if I didn’t enjoy the first book, I’m not likely to read the others, or even keep it, or if I did enjoy it, of course I’m going to read the next two so I really don’t need the first chapter duplicated if I choose to buy them. The older Star Wars books are particularly bad in that they have excerpts for about the same 6 books in almost every single book, including their own book.

4. Multiple pages of author praise (and none of it’s about the book you’re holding).
Apart from being misleading, all this tells me is that at least 20 people out of everyone that has read that author’s books consider them to be “Spellbinding”, “Unputdownable” or “a real page-turner” or other such guff that also tells me that these readers are barely literate or really struggling to say anything meaningful about the author’s works. Are they spellbinding because they have those hypnotic optical illusion covers? Are they unputdownable due to some sort of adhesive smeared over the cover? If it’s a real page-turner, did you read a physical copy where you have to really physically turn the actual real page to read the bloody thing?
If I’m going to have precious bookshelf space (and page count) dedicated to this drivel, at least make it: relevant to the particular book in which they lurk; written by someone who knows how to use those word things; original.

5. The sample page at the front of the book.
Thankfully not all books are burdened by this bit of nonsense. This is a page that you can read that is from the book itself (though is sometimes abridged) to give you an idea of how the book reads. Because you can’t just turn to any single page in the entire bloody book and do that anyway…oh wait, you can. Some books do have on the back cover a suggested page to try out, which works out a lot better and doesn’t waste space.

6. The page dedicated to telling you all about the font used in the book often in quite exquisite detail.
Whoop. De. Do.

7. The ‘about the author page’.
Let me be clear here, I don’t have a problem with the page itself, or even if it goes on over several pages. I find them interesting enough, though nothing I couldn’t have found out on the internet or in every other book by the same author. My issue with this is that there is an irritating inconsistency as to if it’s at the front of the book, or at the back. Why can’t they make up their minds?

8. Too much given away in the blurb.
This is the equivalent of a movie trailer that gives away most of the movie. After I’ve read the blurb, which is almost a short story in its own right, I often go on to discover that there’s little extra in the book except padding.

9. No blurb.
Just what is hidden between the covers of this book? I have to read it and find out? I have too many books on my TBR that I desperately want to read to be wanting to spend time reading…whatever that is.

10. Lack of chronology/book order.
I pick up a book and want to know if it’s the first book in the series, or if it’s a stand-alone. Inside the book in the ‘Books by the same author’ page are the all the books listed but in one of any number of orders but not including the book I’m currently holding. I find a second book by the same author with the list in a different order, and a different length and no mention of either book I’m holding. So these must both be later books then? Which book should I be starting with? Nope, you’ve lost my interest.

Honourable Mentions
Ugly book covers.
From a sea of special offer stickers, I want the one doesn’t have the sticker.
A book from a series not matching the publication of the books I’ve already got.
A book with a sticker you know will not come off.

And that was my top ten book peeves, I hope you enjoyed reading about them. I’d be interested to know if you share any of them or if not. What are your main issues when looking at a book to buy or read?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
If you like what you’ve seen here, check out the rest of my site, there might be something else you’ll enjoy.

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September 2017 Book Wrap-Up

I managed to finish eleven books in September. What were they and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Read this for my 9-year-old’s bedtime story, his choice.
What is it about?: Two brothers accompany their dad on an expidition to the Amazon to collect rare and unusual creatures for the world’s zoos.
Thoughts: Written and based at a time where terms like ‘animal cruelty’ and ‘animal conservation’ were not fully fledged, Willard Price’s Adventures may be a bit much for the sensibilities for some of today’s readers, young and less young. They are very much of their time which should be taken into consideration in regards to the portrayal of the native Amazonians.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way… This story was an enjoyable traipse down the Amazon river. The boys see many of the Amazon’s marvels and risk life and limb collecting them. You can tell that Willard Price had actually been to many of the places he wrote about by the almost David Attenborough level of natural history in these pages. Having grown up with these books myself, a lot of what I know about the natural world came from this series of books. It’s been at least 25 years since I last read this and I still remember the vamire bat scene vividly (I had forgotten most of the rest).
As usual with this type of adventure story, the luck level that the boys have is turned all the way up to that of Tintin in terms of being able to survive anything that’s thrown at them, be it poison arrows, waterfalls, jaguars, army ants and malaria, to name a few. I almost expected them to find Tintin on the floating island.
The bad guy in the story did feel a little tacked on, there were perils enough from the river and jungle without the need to add ‘Greedy evil white guy’.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: African Adventure, Diving Adventure, Elephant Adventure, Lion Adventure, Safari Adventure, South Sea Adventure, Underwater Adventure, Whale Adventure
What’s next? W.A.R.P: The Forever Man by Eoin Colfer
Why I read it: I had read book 1 to my wife and we both really enjoyed it. Decided to see how book 2 fared.
What is it about?: Newly named Valkyrie Cain and her skeletal detective find themselves on another case where someone is trying to bring the Faceless Ones back to Earth.
Thoughts: The elements that made us fall in love with the first book: the witty banter, the sarcasm, the excellent characters; are thankfully very much in this story too. It is very much a continuation of the adventures rather than a second story which gives a good sense on continuity. It’s clear not much time has passed since the events of the first book. Valkyrie is still learning what she can do and still mastering how to do it and her relationships with Skulduggery and Tanith are still developing.
Although the story is very enjoyable and the characters are most entertaining, the plot does have a recycled feeling in that it’s pretty much the same as the last one: Bad guy gets an all-powerful maguffin; he attempts to bring back the Faceless Ones (Cthulhu and the Old Ones); the heroes battle through hoards of minions and are finally victorious. This all forgiven in the fabulous telling of the story, but I just felt that I had to address that it’s the exact same plot as book one (and many other stories, for that matter).
Score: Buy it.
I’ve also read: Skulduggery Pleasant
What’s next? Alex Rider VIII: Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz
Why I read it: I spotted this in a book shop and, having enjoyed Skulduggery Pleasant, also by Derick Landy, I though I’d give it a go.
What is it about?: Sixteen year old Amber suddenly discovers that her heritage is a little more interesting that she was led to believe. Unfortunately, it means running from everything she knew in order to stay alive.
Thoughts: This is much darker and bloodier than Skulduggery and is aimed at slightly older readers. Landy’s wit is still here, though less prolific than in Skulduggery. This certainly has an interesting premise and I appreciate the fact that Amber is pretty useless in this new world she finds herself in. So many stories have our heroine thrust into a ‘world behind our world’ and within pages are doing battle against the big bad as if they’ve been trained from birth to wield whatever power they suddenly discover they’ve been imbued with. That being said, while it was indeed refreshing that Amber is going through a transnational period where she finds out who and what she is, her blatant stupidity did get on my nerves from time to time. There are certain decisions and responses she took which had me yelling inside my head “What are you doing?!”
It’s also interesting to note the switch that takes place from after she goes on the run until the final showdown. Outside of these points, the story is centred on Amber and her situation. In between these points there is almost a mini-series of X-Files-esk episodes. Amber and her companions go from one location to the next each time ultimately solving various supernatural issues. Lifting curses, destroying vampires and battling witches, to name a only few. A lot of this is due to the fact that they are driving along ‘The Demon Road’ where such things are more likely to occur. Each location does have an overarching plot point but the length of the book (507 pages) is mainly due to Amber arriving at yet another location and being faced with yet another fiend. The fact that she is being hounded by the same group who wants her dead is the only thing that helps move this story along with any sense of urgency. Personally, I was happy with the length of the book and the number of stoppages along the way, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some readers might find that it goes on a bit too long.
I certainly enjoyed this one, and picked up book two before I was even halfway through.
Score: Buy it.
I’ve also read: Skulduggery Pleasant; Playing With Fire
What’s next? October’s Book Of The Month: Demon Road 2: Desolation
Why I read it: Reading through all the horror in the house. Worked my way up from James Herbert to Goosebumps.
What is it about?: In a time before GPS and keeping a physical map in your car, a family gets lost driving to a zoo and find a creepy amusement park instead.
Thoughts: Despite the unbelievable premise of them actually going into the park after their car just explodes, this was actually a pretty decent story. The particularly dumb kids had amazingly cast-iron bladder control as they are repeatedly terrorised to their very limits on every ride they go one. The took a very lengthy car journey in the first place and at no time has anyone taken a bathroom brake. Despite being scared out of their wits, the kids keep trying out different rides and getting terrified all over again.
The big realisation was so in the face obvious that there wasn’t even a modicum of surprise and the final showdown was a bit silly. The “…or were they?” ending was wasted as a cheap joke.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: 26 other Goosebumps
What’s next? Goosebumps: Ghost Beach
Why I read it: See above
What is it about?: A brother and sister visit a couple of elderly relatives who live on a small island where everyone’s apparently descended from the same family who arrived there a few hundred years ago.
Thoughts: This is essentially the same plot from Welcome To Dead House but far less creepy. The jump scares are tired and overused, by this time we know that the main character can’t sneak anywhere without their sibling or friend following them and suddenly grabbing them from behind. I saw the big reveal a mile away and even the “…or where they?” ending was entirely predictable, though it does benefit from having a cliffhanger ending.
Score: Boring – just plain dull
I’ve also read: 27 other Goosebumps
What’s next? Revenge Of The Garden Gnomes
Why I read it: See above
What is it about?: In a world with no fences and dogs who eat vegetables, a gardening nut buys two garden gnomes for his garden. The horror!
Thoughts: This is a pretty standard story of inanimate objects coming alive during the night and causing havoc. By ‘havoc’ I mean eating vegetables and petty vandalism. Most of the story involves the kids taking their sweet time in putting two and two together and then doing something about it. The title of the story is misleading; there is no revenge to be had. With the exception of the basement scene at the end, there’s very little threat.
The “…or were they?” ending was a little predictable and fairly ludicrous.
Score: Boring – just plain dull
I’ve also read: 28 other Goosebumps
What’s next? A Shocker On Shock Street
Why I read it: Doing my best to read through my graphic novel collection.
What is it about?: While the Jedi protect a senator from assassination, a senate guard investigates the sources of the killers.
Thoughts: As much as I like reading about the Jedi, it was very refreshing to have the focus of someone else for a change. In this case, one of the blue senate guards, named Sagoro Autem. Here we learn about his work-life, his family life and his disdain for the Jedi. I also appreciated seeing the underground sport of Pit Racing first seen in the beginning of Greg Bear’s Rogue Planet that saw a young padawan Anakin Skywalker face off against a blood carver.
As with many ‘cop’ stories, the family did have the usual tropes of neglected wife and out of control children with nothing we haven’t seen many times before. The mystery of the whodunnit was revealed pretty early on leaving the reader to simply watch the guard discover the truth for himself.
The artwork was perfectly serviceable. The likenesses weren’t all that close, but was at least consistent and I could still tell who was who.
This volume concludes with a follow-up story, Loyalties, that follows Sagoro as an officer in the newly formed Empire. As the next round of purges takes place, he finds himself on the run from Darth Vader. This was a fairly standard hunted story with a twist that was pretty obvious. Nevertheless, it was a fitting conclusion to Sagoro’s story. The artwork is noticeably different here, less cartoony than the main story and did the story justice.
Score: Buy it/td>
I’ve also read: A lot of Star Wars
What’s next? Jango Fett
Why I read it: See above
What is it about?: Jango Fett is hired by a mysterious benefactor to steal an idol.
Thoughts: What I liked most about this story (and it’s follow-up) are the brief glimpses we get of Jango being a dad to his ‘son’ Boba. When they’re on screen in the films, Jango and Boba are both cold, calculating and mostly faceless. This was a great insight into the type of relationship they had.
The story itself was rather empty. There’s the botched job at the beginning then there’s an extensive showcase of quite impressive artwork as Jango makes his way through the jungle. The by-play with Zam Wesell worked well though.
My biggest complaint is the book’s length. I know it’s a duology with Zam Wesell, but I feel there was a missed opportunity to flesh out Jango’s character a little more.
As already mentioned, the artwork is quick impressive with an usual style for a graphic novel that worked quite well.
Score: Worth reading.
I’ve also read: Lots of Star Wars
What’s next? The follow-up book: Zam Wesell
Why I read it: See above
What is it about?: It turns out that the idol that Jango stole in Jango Fett was actually a maguffin capable of blowing up Coruscant. Some terrorists try to do exactly that.
Thoughts: Where Jango Fett’s book focused on Jango Fett, Zam Wesell’s book focuses on…Jango Fett, or the Jedi Council, or the terrorists, or a street kid getting bullied. Rest assured, Zam Wesell is actually in this book. She gets naked. So there’s that. You also get a couple of demonstrations of what she can do with her ability, which is good.
What drives this book is the frequently trodden story of a group of terrorists hell-bent on causing a lot of destruction by using the maguffin Jango provided in the first book. Now it’s a race against time for Zam and Jango to retrieve the thingummy before it’s too late. Jedi Master Yareal Poof is also on the case. As I’ve said it’s a well-used formula and, because of that, it works quite well. Coupled with that are the interesting relationship that forms between the two bounty hunters and further snippets of Jango Fett playing dad to Boba. This has plenty to add to the Star Wars universe.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Many, many Star Wars books
What’s next? Clone Wars Volume 1: The Defense Of Kamino
Why I read it: Something to read at my desk while the frequent IT issues leave me staring at an unresponsive screen. I’ve read this one before.
What is it about?: A publishing firm receives a manuscript for a high contraverisal, thus best selling book from an anonymous author. To sell it to America, they convince unpublished novelist Peter Piper to stand in as the author.
Thoughts: This is a satorical take on book writers, book publishers and book marketability. I get the impression that, as an author, Tom Sharpe had found the literaary world at the time to be full of contradictory barriors and other nonsense. He certainly comes across as knowledgeable (or at least well-reseached) about literarly greatness and penmanship. This is a somewhat dryer satire than some of his other works. Yes, there are some of the laugh-out-loud farcical moments his books are best know for, but they’re few and far between. It’s certainly a lot funnier than I remember it being the last time I read it however.
I think the main problem with the story is that there isn’t much of a plot. Once Peter gets to America and ‘dies’, the story just preambles about without much direction. A few humerous things happen but it all does just peter out towards the end.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Ancestral Vices; Indecent Exposure; Porterhouse Blue; Riotous Assembly; The Throwback; Vintage Stuff; Wilt; The Wilt Alternatice; Wilt On High.
What’s next? Popcorn by Ben Elton
Why I read it: Still working my way through those graphic novels of mine.
What is it about?: The Clone Wars have begun and the source of the Clones is a primary target. It needs defending.
Thoughts: This is more of a short-story collection that contains 3 stories: Sacrifice, The Defence Of Kamino and Mace Windu (the first of a Jedi series of stories).
Sacrifice follows Quinlan Vos and Aayla Secura tracking down some information regarding the CIS’s next focus for attack. It also introduces Quinlan’s love interest Khaleen Hentz. It’s another beautiful creation from John Ostrander and Jan Duursema. Bonus marks for having a Falleen antagonist which made for an intense conclusion to the story.
The Defence of Kamino is itself split into 3 smaller tales telling the story of the battle from three focus points. The first follows Obi-Wan Kenoby and newly-married and lovesick Anakin Skywalker as they engage the droid fighters over Tapoca City. The next follows Kit Fisto and Aayla Secura as they are joined by a very lippy ARC Trooper as they try to safeguard the facility from the inside. The final story segment follows a band of misled Mon Calamari as they try to destroy the facility. Each story has its own creative team but they do suffer from the very short lengths and the Mon Calamari story is a bit of a mess.
Mace Windu then gets a story in the first of a series of Jedi comics. He meets up with some dissident Jedi headed by Sora Bulq in an attempt to bring them back to the fold. Here we’re introduced to the first ever appearance of the excellent Asajj Ventress, who has other ideas. Another Ostrander/Duursema creation, so it looks beautiful and the story is very compelling.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Many, many Star Wars books.
What’s next? A reread of Star Wars: Clone Wars 2: Victories & Sacrifices

So, that was September.
What’s up for October?

Read Completely:
1. Desolation by Derek Landy (Book 2 of the Demon Road Trilogy & my book of the month)
2. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
3. Star Wars: Clone Wars 3-5
4. The Walking Dead 5: The Best Defence

Finish:
5. The Massacre Of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (as a matter of urgency)
6. The Long Cosmos by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett
7. Star Wars: Clone Wars 2: Victories And Sacrifices
8. Muddle Earth (Reading to my youngest)
9. X-Files: Antibodies by Kevin J. Anderson
10. Alex Rider: Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horrowitz (reading to my wife)
11. Popcorn by Ben Elton

50 Pages of:
Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopaedia
Quantum Leap: Random Measures by Ashley McConnell
Redwall: Mariel Of Redwall by Brian Jacques

As much as I can of:
W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man by Eoin Coiffer (reading to my oldest).
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World by Harry Harrison
Robin Hood According To Spike Milligan
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter by James Goss

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Book Tags – The Peculiar Book Tag

This is a tag created by Jesse The Reader celebrating his favourite book trilogy: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Q1: Abandoned house- A book that you once abandoned but then gave another chance and ended up enjoying.
A1:
I may have been a bit young for this one first time round. My father recommended to me but after the seventh chapter that introduced a seventh character, I’d lost all interest. Tried it again a few years later and I now consider this to be one of my top series of books.
Q2: Vintage photographs- A book you would have loved to see illustrations in.
A2:
There’s already some fantastic front and back cover art, as wells as some funky letter heading. Shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to give us some illustrations too.
Q3: Loop- A series that you wouldn’t mind reading on loop.
A3:
This series has a permanent place in my reading pile. Currently working on my first read-through now it’s complete…sniff.
Q4: Peculiar Children- A character’s ability that you desire to have for yourself.
A4:
Lana’s healing hands. Shouldn’t need to elaborate on that.
Q5: Miss Peregrine- Your favorite character that is a leader.
A5:
Good ‘ol Vimes. A natural leader who just gets on with what needs doing and is willing to change, despite himself.
Q6: Jacob- Your favorite story where a regular kid discovers an extraordinary world.
A6:
Just imagine that instead of being thrust into a world of stunning amazement, you find yourself in a world chock full of WTF creatures, landscapes and moments.
Q7: Emma- A fierce and fiery character.
A7:
Valkyrie Cain, despite her youth and inexperience, gives as good as she gets with her sharp tongue.
Q8: Millard- A book that seems to be invisible but needs to be read by more people.
A8:
No one talks about this fantastic series! It’s only four books long as so utterly brilliant. Go read it now!
Q9: Olive- A book you bought that floated to the top of your TBR.
A9:
This kicked off my revised reading scheme of reading a book of the month before I’m allowed to continue as normal.
Q10: Hugh- A book that stung and caused a lot of feelings.
A10:
The…last…sob…Discworld…sob…novel…boohoohoo…ever!
Q11: Enoch- Without spoiling, a book character that you would bring back to life.
A11:
SPOILERS! If you’ve read the book, you know who I mean!
Q12: Bronwyn- A physically strong character.
A12:
Only a man like Carrot can skewer a man with his sword and not notice he’s also skered the stone pillar behind him.
Q13: Hollowgasts- A book you read that felt like an experiment gone wrong.
A13:
Just what the hell? This was a mess.
Q14: Whites- A book that felt like it consumed tropes that you’ve seen done in other books
A14:
Not only is it full of standard jump-scare tropes, it’s full of the same standard jump-scare tropes used in