Wednesday, 31 August 2011

China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh

Title: China Mountain Zhang
Author: Maureen F. McHugh
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1992
Formats: Hardback/Paperback

Available at:
Amazon UK
Alibris UK

China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh was chosen as the August read for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club and I almost never read it. The synopsis just didn't grab my attention and as it was getting to the end of August I didn't even know if I had the time to read it. However, in the end I just took the plunge and managed to finish the book with 2 days to spare.

The book is set in a future world where China has become the dominant world power and the US had become a poorer communist nation. The majority of the novel is set around the ordinary life of Zhang, a gay half-Chinese American, as he navigates a world in which his sexuality and American identity make him less than perfect in the eyes of the current world order. In addition the novel breaks away from Zhang on several occasions to give us a glimpse into kite flying, Martian settlers, and an "ugly" Chinese girl who is trying to make her way in New York.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that there isn't much of a plot and what we do get is very slow. Instead the book more came across to me as being a collection of loosely interlinked stories that served to create and showcase both the world and it's various characters. What the author has created is realistic and very well built; I just wish there had been more of a defined story to really draw me in as a reader. What I found was that whilst I was reading the book I found it interesting, however once I put it down, I didn't feel any huge drive to pick it back up again. I suspect that if I didn't have the deadline for the book club this may have been one of those books that I just read the odd sections here and there.

However, what Maureen F. McHugh has done well is create some really believable and interesting characters. They are just getting by in life, doing ordinary things and the author really captures the emotions and struggles of their everyday life. It is these characters and the way they face ordinary issues in this extra-ordinary world that ensure the book is a good read despite the lack of any substantial plot. I have to say that I specifically enjoyed reading about the various people living on Mars and would have loved to see a spin off novel really expanding of their lives.

In summary, this book is not an ordinary Sci-Fi novel as the author hasn't made the protagonists major political rebels, defenders of freedom, etc. Instead, it is an intimate portrayal of ordinary people trying to survive is a slightly dystopian future world. Because of this, the plot is rather weak which means it is really not a leisurely read in my opinion as the book can drag. Therefore, I don't think that China Mountain Zhang will appeal to everyone, however it was an interesting read and if you are after something thoughtful and cerebral then you might want to give this book a try.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Plague (Gone Series Book 4) - Michael Grant

Title: Plague (Gone Series Book 4)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2011
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Alibris UKicon

“Plague” by Michael Grant is the 4th Book in the Gone series and this is the first book in this series that I am going to write a review for. I have to admit that I was desperate to read this book as I have found all the previous Gone books to some of the best dark, dystopian novels available to read. I am always surprised that I actually don’t see them being discussed on many other blogs, in my opinion they deserve all the accolades they can get.

This book basically follows on from the previous one in the series, the teenagers and children are still trapped inside a impenetrable bubble, cut off from their parents and the overall outside world. So far many of children have survived all that has been thrown at them, from an evil creature known as the Darkness, to hunger, sickness and in fighting. It now seems like things are going to get better as the Darkness is sealed in a mine, whip handed Drake is imprisoned, Caine and Diana are exiled to an island and the violent “Human Crew” have been dispersed. However, as always, things won’t go right for the kids, Sam and Astrid’s relationship is in trouble, the entire community is running out of water and a fatal flu is now spreading throughout the population. In addition, the Darkness is trying to escape and is calling new and more dangerous servants to it’s cause.

I loved this book, I think it has to be the darkest of the novels so far with the brutality of life now really testing the core principles of all the characters. There is also a lot of different things going on, but it is told in a speedy fast paced manner that brings the whole thing together in really interesting finish. As always the author manages to capture the characters brilliantly, with them still acting as teenagers such as drinking, grappling with themselves and each other and of course thinking about sex even as they try and just survive the dangers being thrown at them.

There some new things introduced to us that we haven’t seen before which is nice. For example there is a new character called Toto who seems to have been used to add a little bit of humour into the story as he has the ability to tell if someone is telling the truth. This a good foil to the real feeling of tension, danger and fear that infuse the majority of the story. We also get to see a new part of the area surrounded by the bubble and witness some of the main characters seemingly being at real risk of death.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book and think anyone who has been following the series will love this. The book had adventure, horror, emotion and drama all mixed together in a very dark and brutal manner that really packed a punch. In addition we actually get to see some real growth in the characters and find out some real clues about a bigger picture regarding the powers that some of the children have developed.

Now that I have finished “Plague” I am desperately awaiting the penultimate book in the series titled “Fear”.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Blogger Hop #5

Book Blogger Hop Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books

This week’s question is;

“Non-book-related this week!! Do you have pets?”

This is a rather easy answer for me because I don't have any pets. I think having a 9 week old and a 2 year old is more than enough stress without adding any pets into the mixture! I would like to have some pet tropical fish in the future when the children are older but the boss (wife) is against the idea. She thinks that any pets we get would end up being looked after by her, in all honesty she is probably correct as I remember all the pets my sister and I had when we were younger ended up being cared for by my mother.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Where's Unimportant - Daniel Shortell

Title: Where's Unimportant
Author: Daniel Shortell
Genre: General Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Alibris UK

I have to admit that "Where's Unimportant" by Daniel Shortell isn't normally the type of book that I would personally read. In fact the first person I thought about when I received a copy to read was my wife as it looked like something she might enjoy. In fact she started reading it before I managed to sneak it back off her so I could read it and write a review.

The book is an enjoyable, interesting and satirical look at a day in the life of a regular guy named Jake who is trying to make a living and survive in the rather cut-throat world of corporate America. As we follow his day, we get snapshots of his many enjoyable past adventures around the world and how what he saw and experienced there compares to the various events he is now encountering. I did find that the novel can get quite confusing as we jump between Jack's current life and his past experiences but this didn't detract too much from the overall flow of the story.

As I read the novel I really felt like I was following the downward spiral of a very depressed person. The stark differences between the boring, miserable, drudgery of his current life and the fun, exciting, hopeful memories of his past were quite powerful and you could see how this type of change in life could really affect someone's state of mind. Many of his issues of course are linked to the materialistic, almost "Big Brother" society we currently live in and the book does delve into this in a smart and rather sarcastic way.

I did note that the nature of the story did mean that it got quite slow at times and could come across as being a little boring when dealing with some of Jack's day to day activities. However, the writing itself was very clever and the author's use of the English language really helped create a vivid and enjoyable picture. In addition though, the ending could be described as being almost explosive with Jack's eventual breakdown leading to a rather interesting and ambiguous finish that actually leaves you questioning both the story itself and some aspects of your own life.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book which turned out to be a very thought-provoking, yet at times amusingly sarcastic book. However, I do have to say that it isn't something you would want to or expect to read to just pass the time whilst travelling or on the beach. It is a book that I think most people would read over an extended period, slowly digesting and questioning the various points the novel makes. Specifically I think the book is something I would recommend to be read as part of a book club where you can actually discuss and debate the novel's various aspects with other people.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Death By Honeymoon (Caribbean Murder Series Book 1) - Jaden Skye

Title: Death by Honeymoon (Caribbean Murder Series Book 1)
Author: Jaden Skye
Genre: Romance/Mystery
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK
Alibris UK

When I was asked to read this novel I wasn't very sure if I should as it was described as a Romance novel and this is probably the one genre I usually try to avoid. However, the description also implied that a little bit of mystery was involved and therefore I decided to bite the bullet and give this novel a try. After reading it, I have decided that I still have no actual intention of searching out books like this to read but I won't just disregard them out of some sort of misguided principle.

The story itself follows a young woman named Cindy who has married a man she truly loves and is on her honeymoon in the Caribbean when tragedy strikes. Her husband seemingly dies in a terrible accident whilst out surfing although she doesn't believe that it really was an accident. She therefore undertakes her own grief stricken investigation into the death, all the time trying to deal with her husband's now uncovered secrets and his family who blame her for his death.

It is quite a short story and has therefore been written in a rather quick and pacey which had both advantages and disadvantages. The quick pace did help to keep me reading as there was no place to get bogged down in any excessive detail. However it also meant that some of the red herrings and mystery aspects of the story were dealt with within a few pages after being introduced, therefore any intrigue and suspense built up was rather limited in my opinion and the novel became a little bit predictable.

I was actually happy to see that the novel actually had romance in it and was not just about sex or eroticism as I have seen in many other books, especially paranormal romance. It is just a shame that the various characters that the romance and the other relationships were based around seemed rather one dimensional. It just meant that I didn't really feel any attachment to the characters.

The main issue I actually had though is that I found it too obvious regarding what had actually happened to Cindy's husband. I couldn't work out the full mechanics straight away or why it had happened but I think it was too obvious who the "bad" guys actually were as I worked it out within only a few chapters of the husband's death. Then, due to the short nature of the novel, none of the twists and turns were able to maintain enough suspicion to actually distract me from that initial viewpoint.

To be honest, I don't really know how this novel compares to other romance mysteries out there but I did find it to be a reasonably enjoyable read if you are after something just to divert your attention for a while. It is quite a light read so don't expect it to tax your mind or leave you thinking about it for weeks after you finish. In all honesty, I think it is the type of pulpy novel you can just quickly skim through for a fast and easy read during travel or on the beach etc.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Book Blogger Hop #4

Book Blogger Hop Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books

This week’s question is;

“What is the one ARC you would love to get your hands on right now?”

It would have to be "Initiate's Trial" by Janny Wurtz, which is the 9th book in her "The Wars of Light and Shadow" saga and is due to be released in October. It was 2007 that the last book was published and I actually thought it would be the end of the saga which was probably foolish of me! Either way, I am looking forward hugely to reading this book as it has been a long time since I visited that world.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Xannu - The Prophecy (The Southern Lands Book 1) - Paul Dorset

Title: Xannu - The Prophecy (The Southern Lands Book 1)
Author: Paul Dorset
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2003
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK

This book was actually first released back in 2003, however the author decided to release it in ebook format this year and it is due to this that I received a copy to review for my blog. The book itself has an interesting premise with a story that is spread across two very different realities. One of these realities is set in the typical epic fantasy world where Teern, an immortal warrior searches for the fabled Xannu and then there is our own reality, where a schoolboy called Terry is trying to live a normal life in England whilst receiving visions of Teern's life in the other reality.

After finishing the story I can happily state that this book is an excellent fast paced fantasy adventure story that both young adults & those of us who are a bit older will enjoy. The world created by the author is full of intrigue, thrills and excitement that I think should appeal to most. The differing realities do throw a little bit of complication into the storyline but the author has managed to write the novel in a manner that enables the story to flow very well between the two distinct worlds in an understandable way.

There is quite a large cast of interesting and different characters in the novel, but they are introduced in a well structured manner so that readers shouldn't get lost or confused. The various feelings and motivations of the characters were also well developed so that I found most of them to be believable. In addition I felt that most young adult readers should be able to relate well to the two main characters in our own reality, which hopefully will help any readers new to the fantasy genre relate more to the overall story as well.

In summary, this book was an enjoyable and well paced manner that didn't get bogged down by technicalities or unnecessary waffle. I think it will make a superb book for any families trying to introduce their younger members to the wider world of fantasy as the book covers both our own world and the more fantastical one. I know it is something that I would have recommended to my own children if they were old enough to actually read! Either way, I am going to make sure I pick up the sequel at some point soon as I can't wait to find out what happens next in the stories of Teern, Terry & all their companions.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Trends I'd Like To See More/Less Of

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

The Top Ten Tuesday this week is about Trends I would like to see more of or less of. I have therefore decided to split the top ten up into five trends I want more of and five trends I want less of.


I love dystopian novels, alternate history, sci-fi, fantasy, it really doesn't matter to me. The more of them the better as it gives me a nice big selection to choose from.

I have limited space in my home due to a 2 year old and a 6 week old so ebooks are a life saver. I just hope that more and more books get digitized and released at the same time as the dead tree versions!

I can't remember the last time I picked up a good horror book! I want more authors out there to come forward and actually scare me a little.

Stand Alone StoriesI do enjoy trilogies and other series but I also like well written stand alone stories. It seems almost impossible these days to pick up a book now and know that I can read it from start to finish and actually complete a story.

Non Native English BooksI have read several non native English books and loved them, I just wish publishers would convert more of them. I think there is a world of literature unread by the English speaking world and we deserve to get it.


Paranormal Romance
I just can't be bothered with them, so many book blogs seem to be littered with review after review of these books and it annoys me. They just seem to be so alike and usually full of erotic sex disguised as romance!

Instant Love
If you read some of my book reviews you will probably my unhidden annoyance at these love at first sight style plotlines. Is it that hard for authors to build up a realistic relationship these days? It isn't like this instant love thing actually makes me sit back and go; "Wow! I wasn't expecting that." Instead it makes me want to throw the book in the bin!

Celeb Autobiographies
Honestly, why a celebratory feels the need to write their life story when they are only 18 or so really drives me nuts. Especially when they bring out there next one 2 years later or so.

Love Triangles
It was annoying in Twilight and it annoys me even more now that they seem to be littered around the literary world. Honestly, why do we always have to see one irritating selfish girl who can't make up her mind and two annoying guys that seem to blame everyone for the love triangle rather than the girl herself???

Crap Covers
Publishers and Authors should stop ruining the chance of people buying their books by using terrible covers. In addition, have some originality! You don't need to copy Twilight or whatever the current cover trend is, just create something attractive and interesting and people will buy the books.