Book #45: Never Give Up by K.P. Yohannan

Number of pages: 225

The premise of this book is suffering as a Christian, and how believers should not cause it to turn away from their faith. Right at the start, he talks about how his mission organisation, GFA World, came under attack, through various allegations that were made against them, and what makes it more shocking was that it came from other Christians. At one point in the book, I even notices that he thinks about how he would have liked to have responded to the persecution through prayer, and imagines how God would have responded.

A lot of the book is based on the author's own experience, as are many Christian books that I have read, and this gave me a good insight into him; for example, I did not realise that he considered commiting suicide when he was younger. I found this book more readable and engaging than some of K.P. Yohannan's books, and he did reference some familiar source material. Not surprisingly, the book of Job from the Bible came up, and the works C.S. Lewis were mentioned several times.

I did enjoy most of this book, although some bits involving the notion that the apocalypse may be immenent felt a bit intense, as did his overly conservative views about why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and I would therefore not recommend this to others who are just looking into Christianity. It is definitely a book that I would read again, though.

Next book: Truth, Half-Truths and Little White Lies (Nick Frost)

Book #44: Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

Number of pages: 510

This book - the first in a trilogy - got my attention recently, and I found myself excited to read it.

In the book, "Rotherweird" is a town that has been cut off from the rest of society since the 1500s, after Queen Elizabeth II sentenced a group of people - believed to be the spawn of Satan - to be exiled there. So, as I understood it, the society was still based on Medieval rules. For me, the town, and its characters felt like a combination of Gormenghast and Discworld.

At the start of the book, a new teacher has been appointed - there is a whole mystery surrounding the disappearance of one of his predecessors, and the reason is possibly connected to the fact that the teaching of Rotherweird's history (or any history from before 1800) is banned. At the same time, the mysterious Sir Veronal Slickstone has taken over the manor, and is keen to learn about Rotherweird's history, despite this being banned.

I noticed that this book gradually turned into a sci-fi/fantasy adventure, mostly revolving around a place called Lost Acre, and the fact that it appeared to be the home to manimal-type creatures, and tiles that seemed to act as portals (I suspsected the black tile that the book mentioned a lot might have been a 2001: A Space Odyssey allusion).

I had mixed feelings about this book; at times, I wasn't sure if it was meant to be humorous or serious, as at times it was hilariously funny, and at other times it felt dark and sinister. For much of the time, I found the book enjoyable, but when the pace slowed down, it felt like a bit of a slog to get through, particularly the final chapter, which seemed to contain far too much exposition, so that it ended up feeling somewhat long-winded. My only other issue with this book was the constant flashbacks to the 1500s, when for some reason the narrative style changed to the present tense, which is a style that usually annoys me when I see it in a novel.

The next book in the trilogy is Wyntertide; I haven't decided if I will read it yet.

Next book: Never Give Up (K.P. Yohannan)
book collector

Book 44-45

A Calm Before Storm (Derrick Storm Graphic Novels, #3)A Calm Before Storm by Peter David

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll be honest one of the those stars is for the art. The art is very good. The story is mediocre. This is a tie-in with Castle. I have to think if Richard Castle was this blah, he wouldn't have afforded that home he had on the show.

I've not seen the first two Derrick Storm graphic novels nor do you have to. This one can best be summed up as Derrick's past is back to haunt him and kill him if it can. He finds out the truth about his ex-love interest, his mother's death and his father's real job.

It's utterly forgettable as in literally I just finished this and I can't even remember how it began or the point of it other than it can be summed up as 'Russian spy thriller.' Naturally Derrick and his dad are going to triumph in the end and the bad guys captured. It follows along just as you'd expect with no real twists.

The only memorable thing was they somehow get blamed for a shooting that they have to get out of even though they were with witnesses when the shooting happened and it made no sense. I mean literally, they were with the secretary when the shots were fired and yet they're blamed. I would have quit there but this is short so it wasn't worth stopping.

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The Mandalorian Armor (Star Wars: The Bounty Hunter Wars, #1)The Mandalorian Armor by K.W. Jeter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'll be honest I gave this one more star because I'm not sure if this was a case of its me not the book or not. Admittedly I have a love hate relationship with movie/tv tie in books (more on the hate side or maybe I just suck at picking) I wouldn't have bought this one if not for the author. I got to meet Mr. Jeter at a steampunk con and the bookseller there was out of everything but this book of his and I wanted his autograph...

Because while I do love the original Star Wars trilogy I'm not one of the big Boba Fett fans (which tells you how much I wanted that autograph) because this is all about Boba Fett. It tells the story in two parts, the present which is just after Boba Fett is fished out of the remains of the Sarlacc by Dengar, another bounty hunter, and Neelah, a mind-wiped dancing girl from Jabba's palace. (She is, hands down, the most compelling part of this story and we don't get nearly enough of her). The second part is in the past when Boba has been hired by a strange spider-like alien Kuat of Kuat to destroy the Bounty Hunters guild at the behest of an alien prince Xizor to serve in theory the Emperor but really is serving himself.

Honestly this whole thing felt overly long. Well written but too long. I had trouble caring about the what Prince Xizor wants as we see only a wee bit of him with the Emperor and Vader. We see far more of Boba Fett trying to infiltrate the guild to destroy it which brings him in conflict/contact with Bossk (and his father who runs the guild) and other bounty hunters like IG-88 and that whole storyline didn't interest me in the least because no matter how much trouble is thrown at them we know they have to make it through because it's pre-hunt for Han.

Neelah and who she is and what her connection is to Boba Fett and why anyone would mind wipe her and toss her to Jabba is the far more compelling storyline and one we don't nearly get enough of. Mostly we see her and Dengar trying to nurse Boba Fett back to life and get him off Tatoonie before anyone knows he's alive and kills them all.

I wish that had been the only storyline but I'm sure Jeter was hired to do a trilogy so we get all this unnecessary story padding to drag it out to three books and this one ended in the way I hate the most in a trilogy. I don't mind series. I love them in fact but i want book one to have an actual ending not just ramble to an end which this did. The only plot line that wraps up is getting off Tatoonie. Nothing else is resolved and I just didn't like this enough to go on to book two. Maybe I should have rated this a two star...

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Books 35 to 41 - July 2020

35. White Nights by Ann Cleeves
It’s mid-summer in Shetland, when the sun never really sets and islanders get a little loopy and decide to kill each other over old grievances. Nice continuation of the series and very atmospheric.
36. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson
A young woman’s coming out story in northern England. Well written debut novel.
37. Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
A social media influencer reluctantly agrees to be a bridesmaid for her estranged friend’s destination wedding on Cape Cod, and shenanigans ensue. The story was interesting and fun, but I found the audiobook narrator unsuitable and annoying.
38. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which Frodo Baggins is left his uncle’s ring and learns that is has to be destroyed. This is my fifth (I think?) time reading this book, this time with a group, which is a useful method for close reading and discussion points.
39. An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
A freed Black man and a mixed race woman from the South are partnered in the Loyal League during the Civil War in the last book of the spy-romance trilogy. I thought the premise was a little far-fetched, but the historical elements and the author’s end note were very thought provoking.
40. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
A woman moves from Bavaria to Sicily on her sixtieth birthday and later gets involved in investigating the disappearance of her young handyman. She’s a hoot, and the setting is very intriguing, but I thought the story was a little over the top in many ways.
41. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
A thorough exploration of many “I never thought about that” aspects of what astronauts encounter before and during their missions, including the effects of gravity, toilet design, and whether they have sex in space. Interesting and amusing, but perhaps better consumed in small doses.

Book 10 - 2019

Book 10: Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich - 295 pages

Description from
Stephanie Plum has her sights set on catching a notorious mob boss. If she doesn't take him down, he may take her out.

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum knows better than to mess with family. But when powerful mobster Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi goes on the lam in Trenton, it's up to Stephanie to find him. Uncle Sunny is charged with murder for running over a guy (twice), and nobody wants to turn him in--not his poker buddies, not his bimbo girlfriend, not his two right-hand men, Shorty and Moe. Even Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, has skin in the game, because--just Stephanie's luck--the godfather is his actual godfather. And while Morelli understands that the law is the law, his old-world grandmother, Bella, is doing everything she can to throw Stephanie off the trail. It's not just Uncle Sunny giving Stephanie the run-around. Security specialist Ranger needs her help to solve the bizarre death of a top client's mother, a woman who happened to play bingo with Stephanie's Grandma Mazur. Before Stephanie knows it, she's working side by side with Ranger and Grandma at the senior center, trying to catch a killer on the loose--and the bingo balls are not rolling in their favor. With bullet holes in her car, henchmen on her tail, and a giraffe named Kevin running wild in the streets of Trenton, Stephanie will have to up her game for the ultimate takedown.

I don't know if I just wasn't in the mood, or this one was worse than normal, but I really struggled with this Stephanie Plum novel. It dragged and dragged, and even though I had four long haul flights in which to read this book, I chose to do pretty much anything but read this book. It just felt like nothing happened, and then when the mystery was solved, Stephanie had nothing to do with it. Sometimes I find Stephanie's silliness really appealing and I can fly through them; other times, I want to smack her upside the head. I'm experiencing the later at the moment. Stephanie, grow up already!

10 / 50 books. 20% done!

2107 / 15000 pages. 14% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
Saga: Volume 6
by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples - 152 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
by Scott Kelly - 440 pages

Book #43: Sirens by Joseph Knox

Number of pages: 417

Joseph Knox's debut novel opens with its anti-hero character, Detective Aidan Waits, sprawled out on the pavement; narrating the whole book, he tells of how he's been missing for the last month.

Right from the start, I was able to see that Waits is a deeply flawed character, like all the best literary detectives; he is a drug addict, and - as I found out later in the book - he and his sister ended up in an orphanage when they were younger, because their mother didn't want them. This was only briefly touched upon in this book, but because this is the first in a series about Waits, I suspect it will be fleshed out in future titles.

This book has Waits being charged with finding Isabelle Rossiter, the daughter of a politician, who had gone missing; he finds her quite early on, at a party in the house of Zain Carver, a drug dealer who Waits has been forced to investigate. It turns out that Waits is undercover, attempting to weed out a corrupt police detective, who is in the pay of Carver. The whole sting operation is his last chance to save his career, after he stole cocaine from an evidence locker.

I found this to be a very gritty, noir-style novel, with adult themes from the start, including rape as well as drugs, and it turned unexpectedly into a murder mystery book in a way that I won't spoil here. I also appreciated how ambiguous the book's title was, in that it wasn't clear what type of "siren" it was referring to; police sirens, or some of the potential femme fatales who Waits finds himself attracted to. It didn't take me long to find myself gripped by this book, and wanting to find out what happened next, and I found Aidan Waits to be a fascinating, well-written character, and will definitely get the second book in the series, The Smiling Man.

Next book: Rotherweird (Andrew Caldecott)

Book #42: Kylie la la la by William Baker & Kylie Minogue

Number of pages: 212

Kylie's official biography was published in 2003, and I impulse bought it when it first came out; for whatever reason, I've only just opened it to read the text, rather than look at the pictures.

William Baker, who wrote most of this, is Kylie's creative director, and many of the stories he tells in this show that he knows her very well; he seems to identify with her a lot, describing the book at one point as "merely a tale - a fairy tale of two Cinderellas." I preferred the sections that Kylie wrote herself, which felt like too few, and like they had been snipped up and spread throughout the book. Baker's writing occasionally felt like a list of things Kylie did in her life, and focused mainly on her singing career, briefly touching on her acting role in Neighbours which very little on her before she was famous.

I think the main issue was that, while the book talked a lot about Kylie's songs and, not surprisingly, her status as an LGBTQ+ icon, it felt like there was far too much about fashion and clothes that were chosen for her videos, which didn't interest me particularly. I perhaps shouldn't have been too surprised, because when Kylie met William Baker, he was working in Vivienne Westwood's shop.

A cursory google search shows that Kylie hasn't yet self-written an autobiography yet (as I imagine she would do) but if this did come out, maybe I'd give that a try too. Unfortunately, I intend on keeping this particular book, only for the pictures.

Next book: Sirens (Joseph Knox)
book collector

Books 42 & 43

The Search for WondLa (The Search for WondLa, #1)The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting middle grade SF. DiTerlizzi also did the art for this which was a lot of fun. However the latter half of the book, the art was oddly placed being rather spoilery for the upcoming pages. Eva Nine is a 12 year old girl who has lived in an underground Sanctuary with Muthr, the robot who has raised her, training her to go above ground.

Then one day, a violent alien hunter breeches Sanctuary forcing Eva top side. However, not a single Earth creature or plant she's been taught about exists. There are countless of other dangers but she gets captured by the hunter, Besteel but escapes with two other aliens, the blue-skinned Rovendar and Otto the giant Tardigrade.

They, along with Muthr go off on an adventure, trying to figure out why this isn't Earth and where are the rest of the humans, all the while being dogged by Besteel.

I really liked Eva and her friends. The story was interesting and she handles the dangers well. I will say that there is some surprising violence for a story about a 12 year old and targeted to the same. WIthout much in the way of a spoiler, Besteel slaughters and eats what we know to be a sentient being on page in front of Eva so if you have young readers who are a bit sensitive keep that in mind.

In a bigger spoiler, there is major character death in this so again keep that in mind for the young readers

I would like to see the rest of the series. It did end this storyline and opened it for the rest of the series.

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Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, Volume 5Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, Volume 5 by Sean Weaver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun anthology of middle-grade, mostly female forward, short stories. They are mostly science fiction with a few steampunk and fantasy mixed in. As with any anthology there are stronger and weaker stories but most of them are quite good. I particularly liked the steampunk ones and the Lighthouse one at the end. I think the young readers would enjoy this.

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Book #41: One Forever by Rory Shiner

Number of pages: 88

This is a book that I previously reviewed briefly here.

Reading it again, I was careful to avoid any distractions - I recalled getting distracted on my last read through just by someone sat behind me in Starbucks - and I got more out of it. The purpose of the book is to explain what it means to be "In Christ", which is a phrase that a lot of people might not understand properly, and there is a lot of theology to absorb.

Rory Shiner does a good job here of writing this book in a way that anyone can relate to, with some humour, and a few pop culture references - it reminds me of the preaching I am used to in the church that I regularly attend. Thus, it is an easy book for people not that familar with Christianity to start with.

Next book: Kylie: la la la (William Baker & Kylie Minogue)

Book #40: The Wild Rover by Mike Parker

Number of pages: 323

Off all the things you least want to come face-to-face with on an early morning dog walk, your own hypocrisy comes quite high on the list.

This opening line is just one example of how Mike Parker's writing style made the otherwise potentially dull subject matter, involving the history of, and bureacracy related to, public footpaths, and access to the countryside made me want to keep reading more.

Earlier this year, I'd read his book, Map Addict so choosing to read this one too was an easy choice, and I could tell from this book that Mike Parker puts a lot of weight on the importance of the public being able to roam freely across the country, and is very scathing about landowners who object to having public rights of way through their property. Curiously, he also seems to be less than complimentary about the Ramblers' Association.

This book showed me that there are a lot of politics involved in the process of creating public footpaths (a lot more than I would have expected) and the book provides a comprehensive history of how this came about, including a mass trespass at Kinderscout Peak that occurred as an act of protest in the 1930s.

A large amount of this book was about Mike Parker's own experiences rambling in the British countryside, and this showed an occasionally self-deprecating, and humourous, writing style that put me in mind of Bill Bryson. I noticed that he mentioned the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, which resulted in the closure of all countryside footpaths for most of the year, citing it as a warning that we should take advantage of our right to roam while we can.

Next book: One Forever (Rory Shiner)