June 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Another month of reading done, another 12 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Having taken the kids to see Home at the cinema and everyone enjoying it (despite the general consensus) I thought my eldest might be interested in the book it was based off of. He’s not read it yet but I spotted it while deciding on my book of the month.
What is it about?: After a mostly peaceful alien invasion humanity has been relocated to reservations and the Boov move in to the empty cities. A girl called Gratuity (Tip) is missed and has to make her way to Florida to find her mum. She befriends an outcast Boov along the way.
Thoughts: You’d be mistaken if you thought Home was the film of the book. Particularly as the front cover of the book is of the film. However, the label in the corner does mention ‘Inspired’ rather than ‘Based’. Very little that happens in the book happens in the film, and vice versa. They are almost two completely different stories. Still heard Jim Parson’s voice though.
Anyway, now that’s out of the way:
The story is told as a post-invasion letter for a time casual complete with photos taken by Trip on her adventure as well as graphic novel style entries by J-Lo (the name of the Boov known as Oh in the movie). I appreciated these as they added a lot to the story and also helped to disassociate from the film. The graphic novel segments also gave further insight into the Boov and the Gorg.
The story itself was fairly amusing, and a lot more profound than I was expecting for a book aimed for the younger reader.
I can see why those who enjoyed the book didn’t think much of the film which is a much emptier vessel in comparison.
I had fun with it and would be interested in reading the sequel.
Score: Worth reading
What’s the next book of the month? Not decided yet.
Why I read it: This is one of my favourite Star Wars series, but I only have the first three books. Was quite pleased to spot this one in the library.
What is it about?: As the net closes on Zayne, he discovers the true threat behind the conspiracy.
Thoughts: So…that was that then. That was quite a long story arc and quite the explosive finale. Zayne, Gryph and Jareal all have excellent scenes with another reveal regarding Jareal…
Can’t say more than that without giving away more.
I did read the small arc of Vector that slotted in between volumes 4 and 6, but only the chronologically relevant bit.
The artwork again was a bit all over the place as different artists gave their own flairs. On the whole, though, it was better overall than most of the previous volumes.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read (KOTOR): Commencement; Flashpoint; Days Of Fear, Nights Of Anger; Daze Of Hate, Knights Of Suffering
What’s next? N/A – this was a one-off extra from the library
Why I read it: I spotted this in the library and, being a fan of Independence Day, thought I’d try it.
What is it about?: Directly after the successfully destruction of the invaders, one ship crashes into the ocean. A team is sent to ensure it is disabled.
Thoughts: I haven’t seen the new Independence Day film yet. I was really excited for it, then heard the lacklustre reviews and so am waiting for it to come out on Amazon or something. I gather this features one of the characters from the film (Joshua Adams played by William Fichtner).
This does have quite the X-COM: Terror From The Deep vibe to it, in fact in one of the supplementals at the back the phrase “Terror From The Deep” is mentioned.
I enjoyed the supplementals which added to the feel of the book and explained why Adams was so bothered by the water. They really felt like a bunch of extras on a Blu-Ray.
The story itself focused mainly on the team, without any of that heads-of-chief-of-posturing that feature prominently in this type of story, which was a nice change. I also enjoyed seeing inside the craft.
Most of the characters were little more than alien-bait but Adams certainly owned every scene.
The artwork was pretty decent, with the aliens looking the part and Fichtner’s likeness being identifiable more often than not.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read:
What’s next? N/A – this was a one-off extra from the library
Why I read it: Last month my wife chose this book for me to read to her. She’s read it before but thought I might like it too. I’d recently read a short story featuring Anita Blake and enjoyed that.
What is it about?: Unimposing, self-doubting animator (one who raises zombies) is hired to find out who’s murdering vampires.
Thoughts: This possibly has the worst world-building introduction I’ve ever read. In this world, being dead is just something to put on your CV, it’s not necessarily something that’s going to get in the way of everyday life. Unfortunately, no explanation as to how or why or when is given, it just is and here’s the story. Except it isn’t. Instead, the first several chapters focus on Anita and her ‘friends’ going on a hen night to some vampire ‘stripper’ club called Guilty Pleasures (and apart from being a non-pivotal location in the book there’s no reason why the title should be this). I stuck with it because I was reading it to my wife, but that’s the only reason. Even she mentioned that it was taking a long time to get going.
Eventually, finally and with great relief that awful scene shambled to a close and Anita eventually goes to work and gets given the assignment and thus the story actually starts. You can forget about the friends, Anita certainly does (except for one who is such a friend we don’t even see her for the rest of the story). Another couple of friends pop up, one who’s got a personality this time and able to provide assistance and Edward, who’s possibly the most interesting character in a book about vampires, and he’s an emotionless bounty hunter.
Once the story actually starts following a plot, it’s not that bad. Her relationship with Philip is certainly an interesting one with neither really all that comfortable with the other. The investigation sort of progresses until Anita and Philip go to a ‘party’ and again it’s a relief when that’s finally over and she ends up raising the dead on a whim.
I figured out who it was about this point, but Anita takes until the guy practically tells her during the final showdown.
The finale was pretty neat with an ending that actually made me be fine with reading the next book in the series.
Score: Worth reading, just skip the first act completely.
I’ve also read: Those Who Seek Forgiveness (Anita Blake short story)
What’s being read to the wife next? Skulduggery Pleasant.
Why I read it: I had a bout of insomnia, so rather than lying there staring at the ceiling, I read this.
What is it about?: Police officer Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to find the Zombie Apocalypse in full swing. He goes on a quest to find his wife and son.
Thoughts: Having already watched the first 5 seasons of the TV show (working my way through season 6 now) I can’t help but compare the two. However, I’ll talk about the book first. I’ll start with my primary gripe: that the artwork is in black and white. I almost didn’t read them purely on that merit alone. My love of the TV show did help me overcome this, but only just. It’s not that I want full-spectrum gore necessarily but I did find it a little difficult to identify between some of the characters: Carol, Amy and Andrea and Rick and Shane. The use of colour would have helped differentiate the characters further.
Besides that, the story and characterisations were compelling and I did like how it dealt with some big questions.

This book coincides with season 1 of the show. It was really interesting as to where they were the same and where they differed. There’s some characters here I’ve never come across and some characters are either not here or are very different. I do feel that Season 1 is better than Volume 1 in that the characters were better developed and there were more events even in only six episodes.

Score: Buy it
What’s next? The Walking Dead II: Miles Behind Us
Why I read it: Couldn’t sleep, randomly decided The Walking Dead might help pass the time.
What is it about?: Survivors in the Zombie apocalypse are trying to continue to survive.
Thoughts: As before, the black and white artwork really detracts from the enjoyment of the story. When they get to the farm I found it very difficult to differentiate between the characters, old and new, particularly Carol and Andrea. Even Hershel, Rick and Otis were tricky to tell apart at times. I enjoyed the visit to the housing estate, something that didn’t happen in the TV show (unless you count Shane and Andrea’s little excursion) with all that entailed.

I can now see why the detractors of Season 2 are so vocal. Compared to Volume 2, there’s not much more on screen than in the book and its got a full season of episodes. Having seen the show first, I did enjoy it. I’m not put off by the ‘slow-burn’ storyline. I would agree though, that Volume 2 is better than Season 2.

Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye
What’s next? The Walking Dead III: Safety Behind Bars
Why I read it: Discworld is one of my all-time favourite series. I’m just on a permanent loop with them.
What is it about?: After training as an assassin, Teppic returns to his kingdom of Djelibeybi to become Pharaoh. He soon learns what pyramids are for and why they should not be over a certain size.
Thoughts: Set in a pseudo-Egyptian dynasty, with a number of biblical references (my favourite being the Plague of Frog) this doesn’t make fun of Egyptian culture, but at the ceremonial traditions that a people do with no real understanding as to why. Looking at the whole Egyptian burial rituals through the lens of logic was inspired and very, very funny.
The opening segment following Teppic’s education in the assassin’s guild was largely unnecessary to the plot, but does add a good helping of depth the the growing Discworld lore. We rarely see inside the Assassin’s guild again.
I also enjoy the little mix of other ancient tales and thought processes that sees philosophers shooting tortoises with arrows and opposing armies building a plethora of hollow giant wooden horses.
This book also has merit in that it is the first of only a few stand-alone books than can be read on its own even if you’ve never read another Discworld book before. With the exception of Death, who features in almost every book, none of the characters feature in any of the other books and I think there’s only a passing reference to Djelibeybi itself.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: A Blink Of The Screen; The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers/Diggers/Wings; The Carpet People; The Dark Side Of The Sun; Discworld: The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents/Carpe Jugulum/The Colour Of Magic/The Discworld Companion/The Discworld Mapp/Death’s Domain/Equal Rites/Eric/Feet Of Clay/The Fifth Elephant/Going Postal/Guards! Guards!/A Hat Full Of Sky/Hogfather/Interesting Times/I Shall Wear Midnight/Jingo/The Last Continent/The Last Hero/The Light Fantastic/Lords And Ladies/Making Money/Masquerade/Men At Arms/Monstrous Regiment/Mort/Moving Pictures/Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook/Night Watch/Pyramids/Raising Steam/Reaper Man/The Science Of Discworld/The Science Of Discworld II: The Globe/The Science Of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch/The Shepherd’s Crown/Small Gods/Snuff/Sorcery/Soul Music/The Streets Of Ankh Morpork/Thief Of Time/A Tourist Guide To Lancre/The Truth/Thud!/Unseen Academicals/The Wee Free Men/Where’s My Cow?/Wintersmith/The Wit And Wisdom Of Discworld/Witches Abroad/Wyrd Sisters; Dodger; Dragons And Crumbling Castle; Good Omens (With Neil Gaiman); Johnny Maxwell: Only You Can Save Mankind/Johnny And The Dead/Johnny And The Bomb; The Long Earth (with Stephen Baxter): The Long Earth/The Long War/The Long Mars/The Long Utopia; Nation; The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner
What’s next for Discworld? A reread of Guards! Guards!
Why I read it: Can’t sleep, read Walking Dead, thought I’d read the last one I own so I can justify getting the next one.
What is it about?: Rick and the group come across a prison. With its high fences and secure structure, this could be a viable home for them.
Thoughts: In a world of decomposing flesh-eating zombies, the most disturbing stuff is done by the living. How’s that for a commentary on the human condition? So far there’s only been a spot of murderous rivalry with Shane and that’s about it. Here we have a suicide pact as well as gruesome serial killer murder. Events are clearly taking their toll on the group with a number of emotional breakdowns determining actions. There’s also some interesting romantic entanglements.

Volume 3 seems to coincide with the first half of Season 3 with no hint of Woodbury or the Governor or Michonne (Andrea never gets separated from the group). This is purely clearing out the prison, and meeting the living inmates who are already there.
In terms of content, I think both Volume 3 and the relevant part of Season 3 are about the same, but I think the characters are more fleshed out in the show.

Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: The Walking Dead: Days Gone Byes; Miles Behind Us
What’s next? That was all of them, better get back to reading Star Wars: Rite Of Passage
Why I read it: I’ve been looking to read some Peter F. Hamilton for some time, but the library only seems to hold a gargantuan book 3 or some-such. Luckily, the library also had this collection of short stories.
What is it about?: Seven stories based in the universe of the Night’s Dawn trilogy chronicling events leading up to the first book. There’s particular focus on affinity, a genetic implant that allows users to control linked animals as well as communicate with other users.
Thoughts: Being unfamiliar of the world of the Night’s Dawn trilogy has not left me feeling like I’m missing out at all. These stories are pretty good in their own right, without the back-story to go with them. With most of the stories not being too lengthy, this collection was easy to read. Even the novella-sized story was intriguing enough to be worth it.
It wouldn’t be fair to review a short story book without looking at the stories themselves so here goes:

Story Name: Sonnie’s Edge
What is it about? Robot Wars meets cock fighting. Affinity controlled creatures are made to fight. We learn why Sonnie is practically unbeatable.
Thoughts: A strong start to a story collection. Being new to this universe, I didn’t feel left out having not read the books (yet) and at the same time got a good introductory understanding of affinity and humanity.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: A Second Chance At Eden
What is it about? In an enclosed habitat orbiting Jupiter, a woman is murdered. It’s left to a newly arrived detective to solve the case.
Thoughts: This is more of a novella than a short story. Based during the early days of Eden, home to the Edenists, this is a pretty decent detective story in its own right. It also explores the ethics of affinity as well as the differing religious views towards it.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: New Days Old Times
What is it about? On a planet in a different system, in an orchard of genetically engineered apple trees, humans are still humans.
Thoughts: It was nice having a much shorter story after the last one. This story shows a pretty depressing viewpoint that no matter how far humanity goes, if people can be prejudiced to others, they will do so. This exact story could have been told at any time of our history and barely a word needs to be changed.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Candy Bud
What is it about? A ruthless tycoon spots a rival entrepreneur and attempts to gain the new technology.
Thoughts: This one left me quite conflicted. I certainly enjoyed the premise of this unscrupulous guy taking in these young kids in order to steal their technology and exploit them. Having it interspersed with short ‘dreams’ giving examples of what this candy buds can do, also worked well. However, I found the ending both very abrupt and a little unclear as to what just happened. I was beginning to suspect the kids were hustling the guy but then I began doubting most of what happened as having happened.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Death Day
What is it about? A man hunts a native creature but there’s more to it than he first thought.
Thoughts: Not much can be said about this one without giving too much away. It is a story that goes in a different direction than expected. Certainly an interesting premise.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: The Lives And Loves Of Tiarella Rosa
What is it about? A man looking to disappear finds work on a remote archipelago, a place he was destined to go to, but not for the reason he thought.
Thoughts: The lead character, Easson, is a bit of an arse which made him a little difficult to relate to or like very much. However, the story flowed pretty well and had an interesting twist. I’d guessed a bit of it, but was a little out. I enjoyed the “base under siege” segment but was a little disappointed that there were no further attempts. The final scene can leave you thinking.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Escape Route
What is it about? A ship’s captain and his crew are hired to pick up some easily acquired precious metals from an area in space, only they find something else.
Thoughts: The story started off quite dry and I feared this would be a bit of a slog. However, once the crew reach their destination the story takes on a compelling The Sphere quality and made a top read.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Final Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read Manhatten In Reverse
What’s the next library book? The Map to Everywhere
Why I read it: Still working my way through my graphic novels.
What is it about?: Jedi Master Tholme has taken on Aayla’Secura as his padawan. Together they travel to her home-world of Ryloth for Aayla’s final test.
Thoughts: This book has great characterisation, which is both its strength and weakness. The development of these characters is done really well, but the story flounders a bit. It was apparent when I tried to sum up what this book is about. There is a plot in there, but that doesn’t drive the story. The first segment in the book is very choppy and doesn’t work all that well. Once the story’s told without the flashbacks to Aayla and Quinlan’s childhood, the story does pick up a bit. There’s a very satisfying conclusion to the story which does just about make up for the weak beginning.
Quinlan Vos and Villie are also in this giving it the right amount of Jedi and humour.
Once again the artwork is first rate.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read:
What’s next graphic novel? Star Wars: Knight Errant: Aflame (I’ve only just picked this up, hence reading it out of chronological order)
Why I read it: My wife has the collection of these. Thought I’d give them a go.
What is it about?: Sam finds himself in the body of a man on his way to join a search for a downed aeroplane. In an interesting twist, Al finds himself in the body of a man in the aeroplane.
Thoughts: This is not a Quantum Leap novel. Yes it has Sam and Al and has Quantum Leap on the cover, but if you removed the Quantum Leap elements from this book, it would be the exact same book. At no point do either character do anything that wouldn’t have been done had they not jumped into the situation.
Having said that, it is a very strong story as it is. The plight of Al and the survivors in the Canadian wilderness as they deal with the shock and loss in different ways was by far the most interesting aspect. Sam’s story was less compelling, but it did deal with some heavy issues as his companion is the estranged father to one of the survivors (not that they know that she survived) and is dying of leukaemia.
I found the whole ‘spirit animals’ bits a little jarring in that they didn’t fit in to the rest of the story, or the series as I remember it (not that I’ve seen many episodes). I haven’t got an issue with the mythology of it, just the random use of it here.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read – Quantum Leap: Carny Knowledge; Knights Of The Morningstar; Prelude; Too Close For Comfort; The Wall
What’s next for Quantum Leap? Quantum Leap: Random Measures
Why I read it: My eldest has a phobia about bees and things that might be bees. I thought reading this to him might help overcome this.
What is it about?: Delphine Cooper has a super-intelligent friend. This comes in handy when the town is overwhelmed by a billion bumble bees.
Thoughts: I hadn’t read the first book in this series but, apart from a couple of throw-away references, this wasn’t an issue. If this were made for TV, it would be a cartoon, and so this story should be treated as such. Nate is so overly intelligent and his inventions are so far-fetched and the villains are so over-the-top that you need to view the story as a cartoon, otherwise your belief suspense ability implodes, then explodes before hiding behind the sofa.
The story moves along at a steady pace, from one unlikely scenario to the next with a lot of humour injected into each scene. For the majority of the time the humour works at many levels and my son and I enjoyed the story together.
As far as my son was concerned, Nate’s dog, Bosper, was his favourite and he particularly enjoyed the opening argument about Pie Vs Cake (though how much of that was down to my yelling CAKE!!! and PIE!!! I can’t say). He’s certainly interested in reading the first book in the series and would probably be delighted to learn that there are five books planned for this series.
As for his fear of bees… I think Melville the pet bee may have helped a bit.
Score: Worth reading…to a child (particularly if you yell in all the right places and had a goofy voice for Bosper)
What’s next? He’s not decided yet. If he doesn’t, I’m thinking How To Train Your Dragon.

And that was June.

What do I have coming up in July?
I intend to –
Finish:
1. My library book – The Map to Everywhere
2. Skulduggery Pleasant
3. Star Wars: Knight Errant: Aflame
4. The Golden Child film novelization by George C. Chesbro
5. My Neighbour Totoro (reading to my youngest)

Read completely:
6. My book of the month – Reborn by Alex Scarrow
7-9. Star Wars Graphic Novels starting with the second Knight Errant book.

Read a 50ish page bite out of:
Gone 6: Light by Michael Grant
The Cult of Osiris by Andrew McDermott
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
Soul Harvest by Tim LaHay & Jerry B. Jenkins
Phase Space by Stephen Baxter
Incompetence by Rob Grant

As much as I can of:
Whatever my youngest wants reading after we finish My Neighbour Totoro
Whatever my eldest wants reading having finished How To Outsmart A Billion Robot Bees
Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin (My A Song Of Ice A Fire Friday Lunchtime Read)
By The Light Of The Moon by Dean Koontz
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter
Robin Hood According To Spike Milligan
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World
The Massacre Of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

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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