Dec 31, 2010

2010 The year that was

Hmm what to say:

  1. It was the first full year in our new home, where we discovered the joys of living  in an 120 year old house.
  2. It marked my return to teaching, although only relief it felt like full time
  3. I struggled to come to terms with living on reduced income
  4. I rediscovered the joy of reading and using the library
  5. I was gifted an ereader by a friend, to whom I will be eternally grateful
  6. I finished an 18 month course in Freelance Journalism and decided I probably didn't want to be a journalist
  7. I resolved to write fiction and managed to get paid for two pieces.
  8. I came to the conclusion after reading some thoroughly awful fiction that self-published eBooks could actually be, while cheap, the onset of the apocalypse.
  9. I rediscovered my people, in the sense that I got in touch with Australians writing speculative fiction, good fiction, worlds best even.
  10. I began writing about books, reviewing, and am glad to say will keep doing it next year.
Books read since August
25 or 6085 pages which works out to a book and a bit a week

Best Novel
According to my ratings on Goodreads Cory Doctorow's Little Brother which I reviewed here

Best Short Fiction
Tansy Rayner Roberts with  Siren Beat, narrowly edging out Dirk Flinthart and Peter Ball

Oh and a big thanks to the Bookblogging community, followers and subscribers

eBook Review: Horn by Peter M Ball

Horn by Peter M Ball is another brilliant Australian novella from Twelfth Planet Press.  It's a paranormal detective story.

But be prepared, this ain't your little sisters ( unless you have a rather odd family) book about faeries and unicorns. This is a hard boiled detective novel, dark and probably a little confronting for some.

The Tale
Miriam Aster ain't no Nancy Drew, either, she's an undead freelance investigator on the trail of a murderous, horny unicorn- Oh did I mention she's a Lesbian.

To give away more, would I think ruin the novella.  Horn needs to be experienced on a personal level.

My Thoughts
Now for those not reading closely, I said undead, lesbian, and horny unicorn all in the same sentence.  No this isn't some paranormal erotica gone wrong.  It's possibly the best paranormal fiction I have read all year, possibly ever. It will be confronting, it will take some of you close to edge.  But I think Ball crafts a delightfully dark little tale, revealing a more honest portrayal of the Fae, the sex, lust and double edged devious nature.

If you grew up playing Faeries and Unicorns with 'My Little Pony' you might want to skip this one.  If you are looking for great noir fiction and a good angle on paranormal fiction, read it, possibly with stiff drink in hand.

Dec 29, 2010

Library Loot December 29 to January 04 - Vampires and Mark Twain

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the latest book from Seth Grahame-Smith of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I will read past the first chapter) fame.  I put down P&P&Z because I hadn't yet read the Austen original and wanted to get a sense of how well Seth had adapted the classic.  It was beginning to feel very clunky at the time. 

 So why am I bothering to pick this up?  Not sure.  Perhaps I am a victim of clever marketing.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1: The Complete and Authorized EditionAutobiography of Mark TwainVolume 1, the long awaited unplugged, uncensored thoughts of one of Americas greatest writers and social commentators.

Twain has been usually pretty upfront in his published writings so far, but these are the thoughts that he wished delayed until long after his death, so he could speak with his "whole frank mind".

Can't wait to read this one.

Dec 28, 2010

eBook Review: Inside Out by Barry Eisler

Inside Out: A NovelBarry Eisler is my favorite espionage/thriller writer and has been since I picked up my first book in the John Rain Series (which I think was Choke Point). But on with the review:

The Story
Inside Out is a continuation of the story begun in Fault Line.  While it's not necessary to have read the first book, (Inside Out is self contained) reading Fault Line and indeed the John Rain Series only adds depth and enjoyment.

The action kicks off with Ben Treven (a support character in Fault Line) being 'rescued' from a Manila prison by his old handler.  His skills are needed to track down a former member of his unit, believed dead, who has in his possession video evidence of torture carried out in ghost prisons.  These videos threaten to inconvenience a number of players and understandably a straight forward manhunt becomes a thrilling  game of cloak and dagger where Ben can never be quite sure of whose on what side.

The ending sets up a nice tie in for previous characters in the John Rain novels, if fans thought we'd seen the last of John Rain we are not going to be disappointed.

What I liked
This is pretty much classic Eisler, doing what he does best.  We share a similar view in terms of liberal politics and his views on American(and Australian for that matter) behavior in the "War on Terror' are similar to mine. His depiction of combat and violence are realistic, especially from a psychological standpoint.  Match this with a talent for writing well paced action and good dialogue and it's a non stop read for me.

What I didn't like
A glaring stuff up in the first chapter (one that Barry has admitted to on his website).  He refers to Australian naval personnel as marines and Royal Marines at that.  Barry's writing is good enough that it was shortly forgiven though.  Other than this I felt that the tale was bit short and hadn't quite resolved itself by the end of the book.  It's an open ending that leads obviously into a third book but I think I would have liked a more solid resolution.

Eisler at his best. Action, thrills and politics.  If you like Lee Childs try Barry Eisler, I think he's better.

Book Hunting - The Clare Valley

With my nearest physical bookshops just under an hour away, hunting for good books in local thrift shops and second hand stores has become somewhat of a hobby(if not a necessity) itself.

Hunting Grounds - 
Miss Gracie Taylor's Pre loved Books & Treasures
Located just off Main Street in Clare, South Australia, Miss Gracie's doesn't look like much.  A glass fronted rectangular room packed with books, a patchwork of different coloured and sized bookshelves, sandwhiched between a health shop on one side and a scrapbooking craftshop on the other.

Looks can be diecieving though and camouflaged in this seemingly plain looking shop lurked a number of sci-fi classics.

The Trophies
NeuromancerNeuromancer by William Gibson.  The father of cyberpunk?  Or at least its most recognised proponent.  I'd had this book before, lost somehwere in one of my previous moves.  At four dollars it was literally a steal.

The Left Hand of DarknessThe Left hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin.  I have only ever read the Earthsea novels and perhaps one shorty story involving monkeys by Leguin.  I heard mention of The Left hand of Darkness on the movie the Jane Austin Book Club of all things.  The book was in such good nick that I just couldn't resist - it was six dollars.

The Anubis GatesAnubis Gates by Tim Powers, an adventure novel with elements of fantasy, Victorian Science come magic.  It's often classed as a steampunk work(see discussion here).  Its been on my hunting list for a while, and this one was in Hardback no less. Snapped up at ten dollars.

The Dispossessed: A Novel (Perennial Classics)The Dispossesed by Ursula Leguin.  This title was given to me for a dollar, it was an ex-class text from the late 1990's and in bad repair.  

1610: A Sundial in a Grave (GollanczF.)1610 A Sundial in A Grave by  Mary Gentle.  I have been meaning to pick up a book by Mary Gentle science a read a review for Ash.  Afte reading the blurb I felt that 1610 woud tie in well with recent reads such as the swashbuckling novella Angel Rising and Anubis Gates above.

Short on time and with the sun setting I had to return to camp.  I spied many other science fiction icons though, Asimov, Wolfe and Bujold.  They would have to wait for another expedition.

Dec 27, 2010

eBook Review: Angel Rising by Dirk Flinthart

Angel Rising is a novella by Tasmanian writer Dirk Flinthart.  The story is set in the shared world of New Ceres a now defunct (or it just in haitus) Australian Speculative Fiction project.

The Story
The World of New Ceres is a planet isolated from the rest of space faring humanity by virtue of laws that preserve it as a replica of eighteenth century earth.  You will find examples of Enlightenment era Europe as well as, in this case Feudal Japan.  

Certain modern technologies are banned, there is only one spaceport on the planet, entry and departure from New Ceres is strictly controlled.

Our protagonist George Gordon is a Proctor, a genetically enhanced human who forms part of the Lady Governors network of secret protectors.  He and others are sent to weed out illegal off worlders and investigate those who threaten society and culture on New Ceres.

Gordon is sent to to the Sunrise Isles (New Ceres' Japan) to investigate a potential off world incursion. What follows is action and subterfuge aplenty involving samurai, ninja and nuns. 

And it's not as corny as that last sentence sounds.

What I liked
Angel Rising, and the New Ceres setting reminds me of the feel of Firefly - though with more swashbuckling.  Always a bonus in my opinion. Dirk Flinthart's writing is punchy, the action smoothly written and his characterization of George Gorden has left me wanting more stories with this protagonist.

What I didn't like
Not enough George Gordon.  Please write more.  I have had to hunt down all the other New Ceres works just to get my fill.

Where can I get it
Angel Rising can be purchased through Twelfth Planet Press as either a pBook or an eBook from Smashwords. There have been a few published works set in the New Ceres Universe
a webzine in pdf form called New Ceres (the first issue was free) available here - it made it to two issues.  Angel Rising and the anthology New Ceres Nights which I have also purchased, are the most substantial works so far.

A word on Twelfth Planet Press
I have only recently stumbled on this lovely publishing company. It showcases some of Australia's best speculative fiction and I have not been disappointed by any of the works that I have purchased from them so far.  I you enjoy good fiction, let alone, speculative fiction, check them out.

Angel Rising – Dirk Flinthart
Twelfth Planet Press, 2008
53 pages
RRP: AU$10 pBook, $US3.99 eBook
ISBN: 978-0-9804841-1-3

Dec 23, 2010

Library Loot December 22 to 28 - Barry Eisler and Margo Lanagan

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at The Captive Reader .

Believe it or not I have been to the library since I posted the last library loot, but simply have not had the time to post.  So this week my finds were:

Inside Out: A Novel Barry Eisler's Inside Out which finally arrived in eBook form at my sekrit online library.  I am a fan of Eisler's work, very enjoyable thriller writing with a hard action edge.  John Rain, the Assassin protagonist of his earlier books would I think kick Jack Reachers arse.  His action scenes are the most realistic I have seen described anywhere, especially from a psychological standpoint.  Inside Out is the continuation of his new series the first being Fault Line.

Tender MorselsThe second find was Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels.  Which I have heard very good things about, but have resolved to go into reading the book blind.  I have recently read one of Margo's short stories - a little dark, a little haunting.

To all who drop in to read, Merry Christmas.

Dec 20, 2010

Ebook Review: Torment by Jeremy Bishop

I came to this book blind, no inkling about what the book was about at all.  Receiving it as an ARC meant that there was no advance buzz about it either.

The Story
An American sniper is captured and a plot to assassinate the Russian President exposed.  World War 3 ensues and the world descends quite literally into hell.

The narrative focuses on a mixed group of survivors, including the President, his security detail, the fiancĂ©e of the American sniper and her niece as they attempt to survive a strangely intact post nuclear strike America.

They must battle hordes of regenerating zombies and determine how to escape becoming one them.  If I were to describe it in one line it would be Twenty Eight Days Later  meets Dante's Inferno, if that's not giving too much away.

The Good
The writing in the book is top notch thriller writing.  Until I was about three quarters of the way through the book I was eagerly wrapped up in the story, keen to find out what was happening. The book is well paced and the characterization ample for the techno-thriller genre, the gore and theological horror enough for the horror fan.

If I can compare it to another book with similar themes - Origin by JA Konrath, where Konrath leans to the Techno-thriller side Bishop is more religiously or theologically themed horror.

The Not So Good
As I mentioned above, it was full steam ahead for me until about 75 % through the book when I started to get a bit paranoid about what the book was saying and where it might be heading.  I had a fear that I might actually be reading some very well written and engaging "End-times" porn - evangelical Christian disaster fiction where the only way out is accepting Jesus.  Thankfully the ending of the book makes up for this, but only just.

My second gripe is with the treatment of women in the book.  Three out of four of the adult female characters are presented as adulterers and for that sin, the women are condemned to an eternity of rape, unless of course they figure out what it is that allows them to pass on to the next life.

Final thoughts
I'd read Jeremy Bishop again in a flash.  His writing is engaging and well paced.  If theological horror is not your thing ( being an atheist I find it terribly hard to suspend my disbelief) I would possibly skip it - the ending not being ambiguous enough.

Disclaimer:  This review is based upon ebook provided by the Author at no cost to myself.

Dec 18, 2010

Book Hunting

So this week has been busy.  Hence the dearth of posts.  I have about 3 book reviews to write and an assignment to do and there's this funny holiday called Christmas which everyone gets so excited about.  But I did manage to do some book hunting yesterday at the Christmas markets.

The Spoils
I managed to find a copy of Astropolis Book 2 - Earth Ascendant by Sean Williams.  The book was in mint condition, marked down from $4 to $2. It was a rather fortuitous find considering I have it on good authority that Santa is bringing me Book 1 for xmas.

My second find was an Arthur C Clarke omnibus published by Heinemann/Octopus in 1985.  It features 2001: A Space Odyssey, The City and the Stars, The Deep Range, A Fall of Moondust and Rendezvous with Rama all for the princely sum of $4.

Not a bad days hunting, hey what?

So have you participated in any book hunts lately?


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