Monthly Reads – June 2018

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June’s been a bit of a chill month reading-wise. No long, grandiose novels, but rather two more instalments of the Death Note series, an X-Men comic, and a Marine Conservation Society magazine (which, in all honesty, I skipped through the majority of).

I’ve noticed that with the new storylines on the offing, the Essential X-Men comics have been reformatted, and are now 51p dearer. That extra few pence does, however, get me a marginally longer read (75pgs vs 69pgs) and a thicker spine with the volume info written on it (making it easier to find these instalments amongst my 100s of other volumes).
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Part 5 and 6 of Death Note has Light relinquishing his Death Note, and with it, all memory of Ryuk and his past as Kira, allowing him to help L track down a new Kira who’s appeared and is systematically killing of businessmen. I’m still enjoying this manga series very much. Book 6 also marks the half-way point in this novel series (there are 12 books altogether) so I’ve still got some way to go till I reach its conclusion.

The rest of the month has seen me go back to my DVLA books, as I’ve got my first driving lesson scheduled for the beginning of July (eep!) and I need to take my theory before then (or at least after the first couple of lessons), and I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I learnt from last month’s read-a-thon (stupid brain!). So back to learning I go!

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Monthly Reads – May 2018

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It took a bit of going, but I finally managed to finish reading Golden Age, by James Maxwell. Not because it was in any way bad, merely because I was only reading one or two short chapters a night before bed.

This is the first of a series of four, setting the scene with the kidnapping of a princess, the coming of war, and the completion of a prophecy. The princess in question is, thankfully, not a typical fantasy ‘damsel in distress’, and is more than capable of thinking critically, and looking after herself. The narrative takes place in a fantasy land that is clearly based around ancient Greece and Egypt, with the protagonists living in the ‘Greek’ region, with agoras, columned temples, and the inhabitants clothed in chitons, whilst the antagonist of the story is building a giant pyramid tomb to appease his sun god. Oh, and there are some shape-shifter type creatures thrown into the mix.

As I said previously, I got this novel as a freebie from being a member of the Holiday Inn’s Club. Overall, it was a well-written an enjoyable story, albeit a bit brutal in places, but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing any further instalments. Yes, it was good, but the narrative wasn’t such that I felt invested enough in the characters to want to continue following their story arcs, not like with my other Holiday Inn freebieCrimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) by Steve McHugh.

With this recent novel done and dusted, it’s back to the Death Note series, and volumes 5 and 6.

Monthly Reads – March 2018

20180315_112716.jpgDespite it being a busy month getting my novels prepped to turn them into paperbacks, and getting slightly addicted to playing the SIMS 4 Mobile, I managed to do some reading.

It took (literally) an entire month, but I eventually got through the coffee-table book Blue Planet II. It was a good read, certainly not the usual action-packed fiction fare I’m used to, but it was an interesting one nonetheless. As you may have guessed from the title, it covers the recent Blue Planet II TV series, and the book is full of glossy images of marine life, with short pieces on their intriguing behaviours.

There were new snippets of information provided too, at least I think they’re new, as I don’t remember hearing them being mentioned on the show. If that is the case, this book both compliments and expands on the aired shows, so it’s definitely worth getting if you were a fan of the series.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be reading next, but as it happened, I got my next Kindle freebie from IHG Rewards Club. Disappointingly, they hadn’t changed their book line-up, so I had to choose the fantasy novel I didn’t choose last time, namely Golden Age (The Shifting Tides Book 1) by James Maxwell. If the IHG Rewards Club is going to carry on sticking to the limited choice of books, come next time, I’ll either have to pick something out of my usual go-to genre, or give it a miss. Time will tell.

Anyway, the rest of the month has/will be me catching up on graphic novels and magazines. Yep, I’m one of these people who buys a magazine, flips through it, but never really reads the articles. So to save waste, I’m making sure I don’t leave them collecting dust on my floor. And once I’ve made a space, I can start on Golden Age.

Monthly Reads – February 2018

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I found something dangerous out the other day, which is, Amazon’s ComiXology app is free!

1398542416For the uninitiated, ComiXology lets you read comics and graphic novels on your smartphone/tablet. I vaguely knew about the app a while ago, but for some reason I thought it was a paid-for app. Turns out, no (though you do have to pay for the comics you want to read using it).

This could be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can get comics cheaper on my tablet than in physical form, and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga. Conversely, it could lead me to buy more comics…and I’m already eyeing up some Ghost in the Shell Manga!

Indeed, I’ve already downloaded an X-man comic I just had to have. As you may know, I read the Essential X-Men comics, which bring together a collection of various X-men storylines into one distribution, but I had missed out on the very first comic in this most recent series. A lightbulb moment, and a quick search, and I found it on Amazon, and subsequently downloaded it. However, I don’t think I’ll be doing that for all the Essential X-Men stories from now on, as buying them in the collection magazine works out a hell of a lot cheaper. I did, however, download some free Doctor Who comics that were released during the previous years’ Free Comic Book days. Roll on May 5th when hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on some more goodies!

I also finished off What A Fish Knows, by Jonathan Balcombe, this month, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite providing a wealth of information on fish behaviour, it wasn’t at all ‘text-booky’, and Balcombe writes about fishy facts and anecdotes in a conversational manner that’s easy to take in, and more importantly, interesting to read. To quote some of the book blurb:

“What a Fish Knows draws on the latest science to present a fresh look at these remarkable creatures in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty. Fishes conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoalmates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, curry favor, deceive one another, and punish wrongdoers. We may imagine that fishes lead simple, fleeting lives—a mode of existence that boils down to a place on the food chain, rote spawning, and lots of aimless swimming. But, as Balcombe demonstrates, the truth is far richer and more complex, worthy of the grandest social novel.”

Really, the lives of fish are way more complex and deep than perhaps a lot of people realise. If you’re one of the many people who unthinkingly wolfs down fish on a regular basis, then you should read this book to find out more about the WHO you’re eating…and the pain they suffered to get on to your dinner plate. For those who forgo fish, then you too should read this, as it’ll confirm why you’re right not to eat fish, and maybe arm you with some more knowledge on the mental and physical complexity of these animals.

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Just a heads-up; blog posts are going to be a bit thin on the ground for the next month or so as I’m working on something important to do with my novel. All will be revealed at a later date!

Monthly Reads – January 2018

20180118_123659.jpgSo I managed to finish off Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) just before the New Year, and I have to say, I enjoyed it immensely. The narrative switches between early fifteenth-century France and modern-day London as we learn about warlock Nathan Garrett’s past, as he tries to remember it in the present to save the lives of himself, and his friends, after a job he takes to steal a scientist’s laptop goes monumentally awry.

The story itself is full of action, is well written, and the characters are all fleshed out. The genre is urban fantasy, but even though it contains vampires, werewolves and gargoyles, they don’t seem at odds with the setting of today’s London.

Steve McHugh’s Hellequin Chronicles has quite a few more books to it, so I may well read more of them in the future. I hope there’s more on Thomas the werewolf, as out of all of the side characters, he seemed the most interesting to me.

That done, I worked on my comic and manga backlog. I’m still enjoying the Deathnote series, although L’s asides do leave me a little lost as he second guesses second guesses that second guess second guesses. But confusion aside, I’ll continue to buy instalments anytime I need to make up a free delivery on Amazon.

January now sees me doing a complete change of pace, thanks to one of the books I got for Xmas, namely ‘What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins
by Jonathan Balcombe. It’s all about intelligence and behaviour in fish, and why they’re not just dumb, unfeeling things only suitable for being overfished for the dinner table (vegan rant over). Interestingly, the author is on the advisory panel of one of the charities I volunteer for; The Aquarium Welfare Association. Given that it’s quite long, it’ll probably take me at least until the middle of next month to read, but just a couple of chapters in and I’m already enjoying it, so that bodes well.

Monthly Reads – November & December 2017

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Apologies for the lack of a post in November, but the book I started at the tail end of October took me until the beginning of December to finish off. What took me nearly two months to wade through was Pax of Wildly Women, by V.C. Bestor. It was part of my old mass free e-book download, and in all honesty, it wasn’t good. The story’s general premise is that a group of women have come together under the moniker ‘Fanged Wilds and Women Program’ to protect the world’s predators in a bid to repair its ecosystem. The overarching premise itself is believable: more predators means fewer grazers (and those that survive are healthier), leading to the equalisation of habitats. It was the way the story was written that made it hard going.

First off were the play-on names of some of the more ‘famous’ characters. Politician Hillary Clintown, billionaire Richard Brimstone, media mogul Murdrech, celebrity Lady Gagg, fashion designer Stella McPaul…you get the idea. I found this very distracting, and personally, I would have been okay with entirely fictitious names with no bearing in today’s news, after all, this story is set in the future (climate change has caused the sea levels to rise, and there are Dick-Chainey clones!).

Secondly, the sheer wealth of side characters became a problem. It ended up getting more confusing than a Game of Thrones novel, and as the narrative jumped from India to Texas to England to Oregon to a dozen other places, I completely lost who was who, and when one guy sacrificed himself to a tiger, I had absolutely no idea why, as I couldn’t remember what, if anything, he’d done.

Then there was the author’s habit of having the characters try and say something insightful about the state of womanhood and the environment. Unfortunately, it often was out of place with the characters and scenes and ended up sounding disjointed, and truth be told, it wasn’t often clear what the point was the writer was trying to make. They tended to be just clipped abstract sentences that no person would really say in a conversation.

The story ended with the women doing stuff with Chernobyl radiation. What they did and why was again lost on me, as the narrative tended to go off on a tangent. Plus there were several story lines that seemed to go unfinished. What happened to Vimvole? What happened regarding the juicy information the journalist just happened to find lying on the ground? Too many questions left unanswered, or if they had been, it wasn’t entirely clear. In the end, I found this story chaotic, and at time nonsensical, which is a shame, as like I said, the premise itself sounded good.

Anyway, that finally done, I got to catch up with a couple of outstanding comics before starting another novel in December (and which I’m still reading as I write this). This was another freebie, but of a different kind, and of a considerably different quality.

Over a year ago I stayed at a Holiday Inn, to attend yet another interview that bore no fruit. But because of that, I was enrolled in the company’s IHG Rewards club, who began offering two free kindle books per year back in November. Of course, this here bookworm couldn’t say no to such an offer. Unsurprisingly, given that it was a free offer, the book choices were slim, but in the fantasy genre Crimes Against Magic (Hellequin Chronicles, #1) by Steve McHugh had good reviews, so I picked that. Thankfully, I haven’t been disappointed by this one, and I’ll give it a review in the New Year (jeez it’s nearly 2018!)

These last two months have been the months of the freebie books, as I got myself a further freebie in December, but this one was a ‘coffee table’ book, which I came into possession of in a different way to the two novels. Basically, I filled out a survey for the job website Countryside Careers, mainly as my name would go into a draw for this book. Amazingly, my name got picked, thanks to a random number generator, and a copy of British Wildlife Photography Awards: Collection 7 winged its way to me. They’re great pictures, and the book is cool to have around for the occasional flip-through.

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So that’s it for 2017. However, I’ve got plenty to read in the New Year thanks to a backlog of comics, manga, and some Xmas presents. So see you all the other side in 2018. Hope you had a great festive holiday, and have a Happy New Year!

Monthly Reads – October 2017

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

[The Three Laws of Robotics: Issac Asimov]

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I’ve finally read I, Robot! And none too soon, as I’ve been breezing ahead with my Open University material, and I’m now several weeks ahead in my TM129 studies.

I have to say, the way the book is structured is completely different to what I was expecting, having only ever seen the movie. I’d read that it was laid out in a series of short stories, but I didn’t realise the stories had no real bearing on the movie of the same name.

In reality, the book revolves around an unknown interviewer, and his questioning of Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist at US Robots. She relates, through these short stories, the evolution of robots and robotics through the mid 21st Century. Simultaneously, the actual writer of the stories, Isaac Asimov, explores his three laws of robotics, and how they interplay with each other in unusual situations, or if their precedent with respect to each other is changed.

Still, despite the stories being completely different to the movie, I found I, Robot to be very interesting, and in places gripping. It gives the reader an idea of what the future of human and robotic/artificial intelligence (AI) interactions could be like, with family companions, superintelligent robots, mind-reading robots, anti-robot laws, and humanity-controlling ‘machines’ being considered through its chapters.

The narrative does come across as a bit aged in places, with characters smoking in buildings, and robots saying “golly”, but even so, Asimov’s view of the AI of the future is pretty believable. However, in reality, we’re a long way off in terms of the types of AI Asimov conjures up in his book. For example, Google’s AI is apparently no smarter than a 6-year-old. Further, there’s unlikely to be a ‘positronic brain’ in the offing anytime soon, to help speed up AI advancement. So, despite the AI scare stories that have been thrown about of late, we’re not heading towards a robot uprising anytime soon.

As well as I, Robot, I read my monthly Essential X-Men magazine, and a Garfield book I had to tag on to an Amazon order to get free posting. But with I, Robot finished, it’s back to my Kindle backlog of free fantasy novels. I’ve started on Pax of Wildly Women, by V.C. Bestor, so stay tuned for its review in November’s Monthly Reads post.