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


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.


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


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.


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]


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.

Monthly Reads – September 2017


So September was a bit of a cleanup month literary-wise. As much as I wanted to get stuck into I Robot, I had one book to finish, one I started reading several months ago, but put on hiatus to read other things; namely Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. As I wasn’t needing the I Robot text until the second half of my robotics block, I figured I had time to finish off Harry Potter.

I’ve read all the Harry Potter novels before, but had begun re-reading them in the light of knowledge that having read them all before brings (i.e., being able to pick up on foreshadowing events and other little titbits). They’re standing the test of time, but dear gods I regularly want to give Harry a slap. He’s rather self-absorbed, and extremely slow on the uptake. Definitely not Ravenclaw material!

I think the reason I put this book down for so long is that I knew what was coming, i.e. the senseless death of Cedric (no spoiler alert! If you haven’t read the books or seen the movies yet it’s your fault for living under a stone!). It breaks my heart that a good-hearted Hufflepuff should meet his end like that. Thank you JK for the brutal feels! Still, I cracked on…. My chapter reading getting decidedly slower as I neared the inevitable betrayal. But I persevered and reached the end. But for now, I think I’ll leave the Order of the Phoenix for a while. I haven’t the strength to deal with Umbridge just yet.

Still, with The Goblet of Fire done and dusted, I can start cracking on (finally!) with I Robot.

Monthly Reads – August 2017

Bit of a late posting for this one as the last book I read took me into September….


August kicked off with me reading the novella Social Engineer (Brody Taylor Thrillers #1). I got it free for signing up to the author’s (Ian Sutherland) newsletter, mainly because, as an ICT student and social media fan, I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and who doesn’t love a freebie?

As a novella, it’s a short read, but that being said, it was a very good read. My reading of it happened to coincide nicely with the section in my Open University studies covering online security, and several times I nodded in understanding at the narrative.

The Novella is a pre-cursor to the main Brody Taylor Thrillers series, and introduces the main hero/protagonist; white hat hacker Brody Taylor, who uses a combination of hacking and social engineering to gain entry to companies as a means to ‘pentest*’ them. Ian Sutherland (himself an IT man) name drops the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn, and how important information can be gleaned from them for nefarious (or in the case of Brody, slightly more honourable) purposes. There are certainly some ideas included in the story to bear in mind next time you’re casually making those holiday snapshots public!

Overall, I found the story to be well written, enjoyable, and there was a good twist in it that I didn’t see coming. As an introductory novella, it’s certainly done its job, and I’m seriously considering reading the rest of the series in the future.

*”Penetration testing (also called pen testing) is the practice of testing a computer system, network or Web application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker could exploit.” [Definition via]

Although I had my eye on some other cyberpunk novels, I decided to save some cash this month. Also, allegedly, I get a copy of I Robot with my Open University module on robotics, so I have that to look forward to in September. In the intervening time, I decided to work through my Kindle backlog and read some of the free fantasy books I’d downloaded onto my old 3G.

17696116Using a random number generator gave me Bubba and the Beast (Maven’s Fractured Fairy Tales, #2). I had not read the first book. Turns out, this was even shorter than Social Engineer, and I polished it off in two nights. To be honest, it wasn’t that great. The story basically revolved around a disgraced fairy having to find a troll a boyfriend. The writing was chaotic, I had a hard time following the narrative at times, and it ended rather abruptly. I will not be bothering to read any more of the series.

17406473Next up, the Fates gave me Earthchild, by Allie Bates. This was a full-length novel, and it kept me occupied for the rest of the month and then some. It was fair to say that I didn’t know what I was about to read (again, I had downloaded years ago when it had been free). What I found myself reading was akin to a novel-length wet dream whose every other sentence seemed to focus on hyped-up sexuality and eroticism, specifically with a focus on the two main characters. There was some plot in there, something to do with Scotland, missing lairds, and castles, but the rest was pretty much erotica, and TBH a little bit rapey at times. That being said, it was an ok read, and it kept me gripped enough to finish it, but I’ll be glad when I get my copy of I Robot.