April 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Another month of reading done, another 14 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: I’ve decided to read all my graphic novels. Currently working my chronological way through Star Wars. Annoyingly, I don’t have Emissaries to Malastare so this is a small jump from Outlander. I have read this one before.
What is it about?: Jedi Master Quinlan Vos wakes up to find himself in a burning building. He has no idea where he is and has no memory of who he is. Aided by a devious Devaronian, he must retrace his steps to find an apprentice he can’t recall and complete an investigation he doesn’t know he’s on.
Thoughts: From the very first panel this book had me hooked. The story is told in two parts, the first where he wakes up on Nar Shaddar with no memory only to find that there have been bets made as to how long he survives. This is followed by the investigation where he retraces his steps.
Although the survival segment didn’t have all that much ‘action’ in it, the threat levels were masterfully maintained making for a thrilling read. The duplicitous nature of Villie certainly aided in this.
The story slowed a little with the investigation, but that was a good thing. Investigations are not supposed to be fast-paced. It allowed time for Quinlan Vos to develop his new character and find out what sort of Jedi he is.
It was great seeing a little bit of Ryloth and learning about the Twi’leks. Nar Shaddar could have been anywhere, but the sense that it’s a bad place was certainly reinforced.
I find Quinlan Vos one of the more interesting Jedi in the Star Wars universe, I even named my cat after him. It was interesting how they explored how a gifted Jedi reacts when they have the power, but not the morality and ethics that give him the responsibility for it. Without his memory, he doesn’t know what a Jedi does, or doesn’t do.
Villie is also one of my favourite ‘sidekicks’. His devilish visage instantly makes him hard to estimate and know where his loyalties lie (mainly to himself). Basically you can trust that he’s untrustworthy, until he is.
This book also introduces Aayla Secura, a character so popular she briefly got some screen time in episodes II and III as well as a larger roll in the Clone Wars series. Nice.
The artwork is superb as should be expected with Ostrander at the helm.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: For the last three book of the months, I’ve read this series as highly recommended by JessetheReader. I liked the sound of it and bought the trilogy.
What is it about?: Jacob and Emma must travel to the darker worlds of peculiardom to try to rescue their friends.
Thoughts: This book takes up the story at the cliffhanger Hollow City left off at and it does not let up for quite a while. When it eventually slowed down, I was grateful for the breather. Not that it lasted long before it all kicked off again. There were some interesting new characters who thankfully remained part of the story for longer than in the last book. This is the book with most of the answers, which blended well with the story. Again the photos were masterfully interwoven and gave the book its unique feel. My only issue was that most of the photos were ‘normal’ scenes and people so were marginally less interesting when flipping through the book to look at them. When put in context with the story, they did evolve into something more, however.
The finale was satisfying with many very cool moments leading up to it. The ending was perhaps a little too drawn out but did end well…with the possibility for further books not entirely being ruled out. I found this to be the strongest book in the trilogy.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Pecuilar Children, Hollow City
Why I read it: The only Chris Wooding books I’d read were the four books of the Ketty Jay series so was interested to know what else he’d done. Spotted this in the library.
What is it about?: At a remote boarding school children and staff are coming down with an illness that seems to turn the skin into metal.
Thoughts: I’ve used SPOILERS here, highlight the blank areas to reveal SPOILERS.
The is essentially the kick-off to a zombie apocalypse. Based at a boarding school, the majority of victims are children. Usually, where children are placed in situations of threat, their safety is pretty much guaranteed. Even when something really, really terminally bad has happened, there’s often something that negates it all at the last second. This is not the case here. Kids die, en masse. For the majority of the book I had that expectant feeling that, somehow, a cure is found and all is made well again. As fewer and fewer pages remained, I was looking for that last-minute salvation. Nope. They’re dead.
I found the main characters okay, there was some attempt at the dreaded love-triangle which thankfully dissipated when it all went down. The little amount of back-story and inter-character antagonisms made them a little less two-dimensional than the other kids that were just there to die, but not by much. The nano-virus looks to be pretty much the Zomborgs from Infinity War’s the Sleepers Of Avarrach deck. Go check it out, it’s free to play on Steam. They made a decent monster.
My main, albeit personal, gripe was that this story just ended. I know not every story has to be wrapped up in a neat little bow and they all lived happily ever after but this ending is particularly open-ended. I even looked to see what the sequel’s called – and there’s no sequel. Okay, I expect it would have been a post-apocalyptic/Walking Dead/Survivors type tale, but c’mon, Zomborgs!
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The Tale Of The Ketty Jay:-Retribution Falls, -The Black Lung Captain, -The Iron Jackal, -Ace Of Skulls
Why I read it: I’ve been reading this series to my youngest who’s been picking them up from the local library.
What is it about?: The evil lady Morgana’s up to it again, this time by tricking young Sam into accidentally freezing Camelot into a block of ice. Can Max, Olivia, Ferocious and Adolphus unfreeze Camelot before it’s too late?
Thoughts: I’d say this is on par for the first two books, this time with a bread-obsessed duck. A little bit of travel, some old friends and enemies, some new. Having Sam being the cause of the problem was a nice twist. My son is enjoying these and was delighted to discover that there is a fourth book in the series.
Score: Worth reading…to a child
I’ve also read: Frogspell, Cauldron Spells
Why I read it: Having grown up on my father’s collection of mid-20th century sci-fi paperbacks, I greatly appreciate these old stories and their fantastic to bizarre covers.
What is it about?: A colony of underwater-dwelling humans who have never seen land find their world is suddenly changing with the introduction of a strong, downward flowing current.
Thoughts: To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into here. I’ve enjoyed Bob Shaw in the past which is why I picked this one up. I found this story full of surprises, particularly as it doesn’t do anything I expected it do. My best description of the book would be something along the lines of The Little Mermaid meets The Puppet Masters meets Pacific Rim. Except it’s not really any of them either.
Initially the story chapters alternate between Myrah in the water world and Hal, in his boat in a future degenerating Earth. Initially, I had not idea what was going on with Myrah’s alien world and wondered if this book was worth finishing. Hal’s story was okay but because it was more relatable, I was happy when I got to his chapters. I’m glad I persevered as, once things started making sense to me, this really picked up. By the end, I was hooked.
The only bad thing I have to say about this book is that this particular edition had some outrageous editing errors. There were a couple of typos, but the first major problem was where some lines were jumbled like 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 5, 6. And on two other occasions a paragraph was repeated halfway through its first run, so you’d get 3 lines, then the same 3 lines again followed by the rest of the paragraph.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The Ceres Solution, Killer Planet, Night Walk, Who Goes Here?, A Wreath Of Stars
Why I read it: Going through the horror stories in the house. I’ve finished the James Herbert, Goosebumps is next. Rereading this one for the first time in about 10 years.
What is it about?: A family inherit a house from an unheard-of great uncle. Nothing could possibly go wrong here.
Thoughts: I must say, despite the change in target audience from James Herbert to R. L. Stine, this is still pretty creepy. As you may have guessed, this is indeed a ghost story and it follows a brother and sister as they try to adjust to life in a creepy old house. Their parents are quickly relegated to the role of most adults in stories featuring children and rarely feature in the story.
The standard ghost story tropes are there, the jump-scares at the end of almost each chapter that often turn out to be something benign, the apparitions that are dismissed by the parents and the family pet that no one listens to but really should be listened to. However, they’re done well enough to keep the story flowing as the children find themselves getting deeper into the unknown.
The final twist was seen a mile away (yes this was a reread, but I’d pretty much forgotten all of it), but not on the scale expected and it was nice to have a little explanation as to why – not that it really made any difference to anything.
These books often end with a ..or were they? final shot. These are often the very last line or mini scene of the book to make the resolution less reassuring. In this case, it was a little ambiguous and even if it was, it wasn’t going to affect the characters in the story.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give Yourself Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Progressing through our Goosebumps collection. I tried to do them chronologically. Looks like I’ve already mucked that up. Rereading this one for the first time in about 10 years.
What is it about?: A special camera is found that seems to take pictures of the near future. Only the pictures never show anything good.
Thoughts: I remembered this one a bit more than Welcome to Dead House but not by very much.
The tension was felt less is this story as it was more of a series of misadventures than a culminating thing to overcome. The mysterious Spidey helped to keep things off kilter a little but not by a lot.
The interaction between the four friends felt authentic and they made a good team.
I liked this edition that shows the photos taken on the front cover, which are out of context until the relevant bits read in the book. Having just read the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs I felt they should have been inserted into the book in the same way the photos are used in the trilogy.
The …or were they? scene certainly looks to set up the follow-up (which I’ve not read but presumably follows how the group copes with the bullies now with the camera).
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Aiming for five Goosebumps books this month, so over halfway now. Again, this is a reread and is the first Goosebumps book I ever read.
What is it about?: Having lost his job, plant-scientist dad spends a lot of time doing something in the basement. Then he starts behaving odd.
Thoughts: Unlike the majority of the Goosebumps stories, this one’s more sci-fi than paranormal/supernatural. I certainly found this story more impactful than many of the other Goosebumps, I’m not sure if it’s because it’s grounded in a more realistic setting or because of the body-horror elements in it.
The story follows a brother and sister as they are practically orphaned with their mum going off to be with her sister during an unspecified medical procedure and their dad who’s locked himself in the basement playing mad scientist. The experiments get out of control and it’s up to the kids to save…their parents’ marriage, I guess.
There are a couple of issues I have with this one. Firstly, if the children are that concerned for or about their father they could have phoned a number of organisations from the CDC to Social Services (the level of neglect they receive is almost total). My other is the …or were they? ending. I’ve had over ten years to dwell on that ending, and it still irritates me. My conclusion about it is that the flower isn’t, but thinks it is.
Score: Worth reading, just don’t dwell on it for decades.
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Reading the Goosebumps series that we have in the house. Aiming for 5 books, this is the fourth. Another reread.
What is it about?: Evil silly putty.
Thoughts: Yup, forgotten this one. Vaguely remembered the shop. The story follows a young lad as he’s abandoned with a crazy deaf great-aunt he can’t remember as his parents go house-hunting…is that even a thing?
Anyway, he quickly befriends a local girl and naturally go to the local creepy-ass shop to buy some dodgy silly putty called Monster Blood that the owner’s not into selling…never mind.
As it happens these two middle-school children can’t wait to play with this stuff which is apparently so amazing even the great-aunt needs to see it…I’m obviously not recalling the virtues of the silly putty from my childhood.
It’s not long before the stuff starts acting all weird, growing, being eaten by the dog, growing, changing properties, growing…did I mention the growing?
Of course, it can’t be a Goosebumps book if there isn’t the local bully, this time they’re twins and are more juvenile criminals than big, mean kids.
The final act and revelation is totally out of the left field. One could argue that there were a few hints along the way but…I certainly didn’t see it coming and I’ve read this before. I had a bit of trouble with the dimensions at the end too. Either the room they were in was incredibly immense, or the timing had been slowed down, it took a long time for the giant ball of gloop to complete its charge bearing in mind that it had already moved fast enough to catch the fleeing bullies and shoot up the steps into the house.
The …or were they? ‘twist’ of it having disappeared made no sense as it was inert by this point. However there are 3 sequels…one of which I’ve read and also have no recollection of – no wait, that’s the one with the guinea pig…
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
I’ve also read: Stay Out of the Basement, Welcome To Dead House, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Chronologically this is the fifth Goosebumps book in the house. Also the first one I’ve not read before.
What is it about?: Emotional clumsy girl gets given three wishes. They suck.
Thoughts: The Goosebumps bully gets the limelight from the first to last page of this story. The protagonists are not allowed to only be scared of the spookies in these stories, they have to be miserable too.
The story follows Samantha, an over-tall 12-year old who’s about as clumsy as she could possibly be and the torment she suffers from Judith, the bully. For some reason she’s even encouraged to overexpose her ineptness by competing in inter-school basketball matches.
For reasons that are never explained she guides some random woman to a particular street and in return is given three wishes.
Anybody who’s seen anything to do with wish granting knows that for them to be effective, wishes need to be anally specific. Otherwise… chaos. An emotional 12-year old who had just tried to throttle the life out of her tormentor isn’t going to be the best at making rationally thought-out wishes. Clarissa, the ‘Genie’ is either some chaos-loving bitch or is just plain bonkers.
The first wish, spoken to Clarissa’s face, is taken literally, which is as expected. Everyone cocks up their first wish.
The second wish was randomly said in natural conversation with Samantha’s brother and nothing happened.
The third wish was randomly shouted in exasperation and was granted by Clarissa, who just happened to be there. The logic on the execution of this wish was non-existent and is proof that Clarissa is just not all there. It also cancelled the first wish, even though the two wishes didn’t conflict with each other.
The fourth wish (third executed) was to undo the previous one…except that the rule here seems to be that each new wish cancels out the previous one…and also had a tacked on wish which was also granted.
Because the wishes all sucked Samantha got to have another wish. An opportunity to make a better wish. Well, that’s one way to make a crap wish. The …or were they ending wasn’t really a twist ending but did finish in an unfortunate situation. However, due to the temporary nature of these so-called wishes, it’ll be all fine again soon.
I must have been spoiled by shows like the X-Files who explored the wish-making genre really well. This story felt a bit lacking in that the wishes were stupid and their executions were illogical.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My
Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: My wife picked this trilogy up a while ago now. Decided to read it to her.
What is it about?: A warband of find themselves on a quest that makes them an enemy of all.
Thoughts: This classic-style fantasy adventure has the interesting twist of having the main protagonists as Orcs (and a dwarf). It reads a bit like a TV series as it has a very episodal feel to it as the orcs move from one thing to the next. The evil queen is suitably evil and dispatches her underlings at a greater rate than Darth Vader and Blofeld combined. The battle scenes are intense and violent and the Queen gets up to some pretty gnarly stuff.
As the end of the book drew near it was clear that it was setting up for a cliffhanger ending. Yup, it did.
My main issue with this book was with the two rivalries that look to be going somewhere interesting and then just come to nothing at all.
There was enough in there to encourage me to read book 2. The dream sequences are clearly more than they appear and it’ll be nice to know what the stars are all about. That I’m not bothered that much by leaving it on a cliffhanger shows how little invested I am in the characters. I think it’s less to do with the fact that they non-human but more to do with that I still don’t really know them. At least Jup had a couple of chapters almost to himself with his spy mission.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: Trying to read one graphic novel a week. Falling behind a bit.
What is it about?: Aurra Sing’s been hunting Jedi. Ki-Adi-Mundi leads a team of Jedi to stop her.
Thoughts: It was nice to get a bit more Aurra Sing, though short of being a little crazy and a brief flashback as her as a padawan, we don’t find out much more about her. I particularly like the confrontation between A’sharad Hett and Aurra Sing and Hett’s first feelings of the dark side.
The artwork was good enough to not detract from the story, though I was a little distracted by the way Aurra’s extra long fingers were depicted.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: If I forget to bring a book to work, or finish it before the end of the day, it’s good to have a back-up in case. Fancied giving this one a go.
What is it about?: While investigating a series of unusual murders, a detective discovers that the killers are not human. Unfortunately, now he’s gotten too close, the minions of Hell are targeting his children.
Thoughts: The story falls into two distinctive halves. The first half follows the detective as he investigates the murders, he’s already come to a Mulder-esk conclusion but needs to convince his partner to at least consider the idea. It isn’t really anything that’s not been done a hundred times before but the characters are well developed. The occasionally creepy moment involving the children holds the tone of the book.
The second half is a straight-up thriller with the ‘Goblins’ chasing the detective and his children across snow swept New York while they desperately try to survive.
It was a shame that the creatures were described in great detail because I just couldn’t shake the creatures from Gremlins and Gremlins 2 from look from my mind.
What I found refreshing about this story was that it worked on pure threat, rather than being a straight-up slasher gore-fest. Usually in such hunter vs. hunted stories, the myriad passers by and good Samaritans that the prey comes into contact with have a very short life-span. They’re there purely to die horribly as a reminder of what’ll happen to the hapless heroes if they stumble in their flight. With the exception of the crime scene victims at the beginning of the book, the rest is left to the imagination.
I can’t not mention the X-Files hallmarks this story has. From the Mulder and Scully approach to the unexplained to the vent screws that are undone from inside the vent, this could have been a decent X-Files episode.
Score: Worth buying
I’ve also read: The Face; Lightning; Twilight Eyes; Velocity
Why I read it: Rereading the Stainless Steel Rat series from my dad’s collection.
What is it about?: Interplanetary crook and scoundrel Slipper Jim DiGriz has been given a new assignment by his handlers, the Special Corps. This time he’s to stop an invasion force, from the inside.
Thoughts: This enjoyable infiltration and sabotage story of one man against an entire world is very reminiscent of Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp. It has a nice satirical look at the military and warmongery in general. Jim’s new wife Angelina features a little in this one, but mainly is just Jim.
The only negative about this book, and the series as a whole, is the James Bond level of survivability of the titular character. Yes, he finds himself in bleak situations but you know he’s always going to get out of them somehow. Sometimes though, it’s nice to just read an enjoyable romp without any stress.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Bill The Galactic Hero; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Bottled Brains; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Robot Slaves; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Tasteless Pleasure; Captive Universe; Galactic Dreams; In Our Hands, The Stars; Invasion: Earth; The Lifeship; The Men From P.I.G. And R.O.B.O.T.; Planet Of No Return; Planet Of The Damned; Planet Story; Rebel In Time; The Stainless Steel Rat; The Stainless Steel Rat For President; The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted; The Stainless Steel Rat Goes To Hell; A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born; The Stainless Steel Rat Joins The Circus; The Stainless Steel Rat Returns; The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World; The Stainless Steel Rat Sings The Blues; The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You; Stainless Steel Visions; The Technicolour Time Machine; To The Stars: -Homeworld, -Wheelworld, -Starworld; The Turing Option; West Of Eden, -Winter In Eden, -Return To Eden

And that was April.

What do I have coming up in May?
I intend to –
Finish:
1. My library book – A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
2. Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures by Laura M. Hamilton
3. Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall by Spike Milligan

Read completely:
4. My book of the month – Aliens: Bug Hunt
5. The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
6. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
7. Matilda by Roald Dahl (reading to my eldest).
8-10. Star Wars Graphic Novels starting with Darkness.

A 50ish page bite out of:
Intervention by Julian May
The Willows and Beyond by William Horwood
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Encyclopaedia
Quantum Leap: Search And Rescue by Melissa Crandall

As much as I can of:
The BFG by Roald Dahl (reading to my youngest)
Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin (My A Song Of Ice A Fire Friday Lunchtime Read)
Ancestral Vices by Tom Sharpe

If you check out my Currently Reading page, you’ll find out more about my reading style and even monitor my progress.

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