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Books I read in 2018

In 2018 I read 37 (or so) books. Some of which were graphic novels which arguably I wouldn't include if I were talking about "novels read" and there was at least one very, very short book (26 pages 😱), still, as a previous "non-reader", I'll happy with my reading cadence, and I hope to keep it up in 2019.


The Power by Naomi Alderman

★★★★★

Loved this book. For me, it puts a magnifying glass on the grotesque behaviours that men have and still do, inflict on women, simply because of gender, this warped idea that one is stronger than the other. As a man this book is a huge insight into the reality of the power struggle, along with being a great page turner and great thriller.

Read: 2-Jan 2018

Saga, Vol. 8 (Saga, #8) by Brian K. Vaughan

★★★★★

Another superb Saga volume. The artwork is so incredible, subtle and respectful - as in the writing.

This volume deals with some topics extremely close to my heart (baby loss) and made for some hard reading, but again, this is done in such a respectful way.

Absolutely love it, and will be chomping at the bit to get hold of volume 9!

Read: 3-Jan 2018
Read in: 10 hours
Pages: 146

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

★★★☆☆

Very easy and quick read (for me). The writing is extremely conversational (which makes for a nice change).

It does occasionally feels a bit here and there, rather than centred, but I kept reminding myself that the book started as a one woman stand up, so it's understandable.

None the less, the book is littered with (genuinely) laugh out loud moments (took me a good few minutes to stop laughing at the hearing-aid anecdote), and beautiful insights as well as kind words for those (of us) with mental illness.

Read: 4-Jan 2018
Read in: 1 day

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North

★★★★☆

Nice alternative to the super heroes I've read in the past. A very strong young woman (that I'd want to share with my kids), and surprisingly doesn't kick butts as often as she alludes to, but uses sensible discussion and compassion to bypass her foes.

Read: 7-Jan 2018
Pages: 128

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu

★★☆☆☆

The story was interesting enough, but I ended up getting frustrated with both the author's portrayal of women throughout the book (always using physical traits to describe them, like beautiful, or soft skin), and then there's an entire chapter dedicated to sexist undertones of "how women are past their prime by 30s".

Then there was Toa himself. From what I understand from the book, he was the one who imprisoned his fellow kind in turtles and the like. So why he was surprised when Zoras (name might be wrong) was utterly pissed off and wanted revenge - is…confusing at best. From what I gathered, Toa started the war himself directly by starting to enslave the other alien beings that annoyed him. So ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Read: 22-Jan 2018
Read in: 14 days

The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor

★★★★★

Beautiful. Inspiring. Amazing. I loved this third installment of Binti's adventure. What an amazing world and collection of characters Nnedi Okorafor has made.

Throughout reading this book, I'd often forget I was reading a sci-fi novel as I was so utterly consumed by Binti's story, travels, adventure and emotional journey.

This entire series is so fresh and so original it's moved my expectations for all other stories.

Loved it.

Read: 31-Jan 2018
Read in: 9 days
Pages: 205

Who Sent Clement? (Clement #1) by Keith A. Pearson

★★★★☆

Really enjoyed it, and after reading Pearson's '86 fix and the sequel, I'm pretty certain I'll continue to read his books.

The book was a solid page turner, nothing too taxing and a great pairing of characters: Beth (our protagonist) and Clement the deuteragonist. They go on an adventure to find some gold to pay off a local gangster for a debt that Beth doesn't owe.

I just enjoyed the journey of following these two as trapiese through London, test their awkward boundaries and continue to question exactly where did Clement come from.

Hoping to read the sequel - Wrong'un - right away!

Read: 11-Feb 2018
Read in: 10 days

Wrong'un (Clement #2) by Keith A. Pearson

★★★★☆

Read: 24-Feb 2018
Pages: 440

Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell

★★★★☆

Proper page turner thriller that seemed to get faster and more intense as the book worked it's way to its ending.

Some very serious and dark topics add to the backdrop of the story too, eating disorders, mental health, grooming and sexual abuse. A heavy and good read.

Read: 3-Mar 2018
Read in: 7 days
Pages: 325

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (Adrian Mole, #8) by Sue Townsend

★★★☆☆

I had a hard time reading this book, took me a long time as I found Mole and the surrounding characters extremely…sad or pathetic or selfish. It continued on like this until about 80% where I started to enjoy the book a little more and the characters finally start to bloom and become more complex, and endearing.

It ends on a hopeful note, and after realising this was the last Mole story that Sue Townsend wrote before passing away, leaves me a little sad that this life sort of vanishes with her. I had read The Secret Diary when I was a teenager back in the 80s so Mole has always existed for me, almost like a character from a reality show.

So even though I struggled with this book, I'm glad to have read Mole's final chapters, and hope that he's happy somewhere in his literary universe.

Read: 31-Mar 2018
Read in: 22 days

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

★★★☆☆

Spoiler

Wow this book was a slow read given that it was only 198 pages. It took me 4 weeks, which, isn't a huge amount of time, but the first 80% of the book felt like an age that just wouldn't end.

I was originally going to rate this book 1 star but it changed toward the end (the last 20% as I'll explain).

Holden Caulfield, as read by myself a near 40 year old man, is a bit of a whingebag, if put subtly. He's self centred and believes the world owes him something - god knows what though. The 1950s language doesn't really pose much of a problem (as I read it), and I appreciate that lives were very different to that of 70 years later in ~2018. Not being a teenager myself, I'm not pissed off at everyone for existing so I had trouble connecting to a large part of the story that Holden shares with me during the book.

The book is also fairly heavy with 1950s sexism, and it isn't uncommon to come across lines like "the trouble with girls is…". It's hard to read and I can imagine how it perpetuates the image of men being above women for the following decades. Either it's reflecting how men thought at the time, or it re-enforces how they were supposed to think.

Also, the trouble with Holden was that his (teenage) exaggeration made it hard to tell what was real and what was imagined and what was him simply trying to be older to his peers. Sometimes I was just confused as to what was real and what wasn't. But then he'd share his feelings about his family, sister and deceased brother Allie…

When Holden did talk about his family, it seems like you're able to see the real Holden under all the complexities of being a teenager. Then finally, around the 85% mark, Holden shares with his younger (adored) sister, that if he could be anything he would be:

"I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start going over the cliff–I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."

I think, this is to say, he feels this unbearable responsibility to save his lost brother, and protect his family (and those around him) from the inevitable end.

Although Holden meets and (rightly) flees from a questionable encounter with an old teacher, moments before that teacher shares what I think what has been eating away at Holden all this time…and possibly for future years to come:

"The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that wants to live humbly for one."

Something I realise that Holden struggles with, even at the early age of 16/17, and that he and many others, struggle with for year to come.


So, after what was a fairly painful experience over 4 weeks of listening to Holden's complaining and poor view of life, I've come to soften my view of the poor soul and realise that he's just tortured and struggling and that it just took a whole lot of pages to get to what's really important to him.

Read: 22-Apr 2018
Read in: 12 days
Pages: 277

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

★★★★★

I absolutely loved this collection of stories. Inspiring, beautiful, not-so-sci-fi that it was disconnected from our world.

What I also loved about these stories is that they made me think about my own world and and I wanted to share these conversations and thoughts with those around me.

I think my favourite story was 'Story of Your Life' (made in to the film The Arrival) closely followed by 'Tower of Babylon'. But even the _short short_, 'The Evolution of Human Science' was superb, right down to the very first opening paragraph!

Read: 6-May 2018
Read in: 11 days
Pages: 281

1984 by George Orwell

★★★★★

Spoiler

A future in my past written in a distant past. What an amazing book. Orwell's writing has lasted near perfectly (i.e. modern and in context) some 70 years later (which frankly blows my mind).

The story breaks into three parts as we make our way into Winston's mind. Part 1 reads like I'm learning around his world and how he experiences it. The mundane work, the acceptance of his role, whilst he secretly scratches his mind back.

In part 2, I feel like I'm taking into Winston's heart as he re-experiences the world and the life and love that still exists in it. I loved some of the expressions and sadness that came with those expressions. Such as Winston knowing that what he was doing was against the "rules", and that it was simply an inevitability of being caught and tortured.

He believes that he's given up his body already to the world of 1984, and when the Thought Police catch him, they'll take his mind, and so long as he protects his heart, he'll live on.

Part 3 is mostly from inside of Winston's mind, as O'Brian works firstly to break Winston's mind, but then puts it back together in The Party's form. The place that O'Brian (and thusly The Party) comes from is entirely bleak and worse, believable in my own reality today.

O'Brian utters phrases like:

Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.

Bleak.

Eventually, there's no winning. There's no happy ending. There never could be. Winston's heart is pierced, he's made to love Big Brother, and only then, when he's fully remade in The Party's eyes, does it end. For him, and for us.

Read: 21-May 2018
Read in: 14 days
Pages: 322

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2) by J.K. Rowling

★★★★☆

Read aloud to the 6 year old. A little scary for him at times, and frankly I'm amazed that he can follow the story whilst I read and he (sometimes) plays with Lego!

Read: 9-Jun 2018
Read in: 2 months
Pages: 341

Jessica Jones, Vol. 2: The Secrets of Maria Hill by Brian Michael Bendis

★★★★☆

Always great stuff from Bendis and Gaydos.

Read: 10-Jun 2018
Pages: 136

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

★★★★☆

Spoiler

(warning: not really a review, more of a thing to remind me of the book)

Overall, a fairly cinematic story akin to the genre I'd expect The Matrix to fall into. If I'm completely honest, I did occasionally lose track of what was going on through the story (it took me a good few weeks to read it), but the story and two main characters managed to carry me along.

I also have to admit that it took me a little while to get past the corny named main character "Hiro Protagonist" and the overly macho techno all black, motorcycles and swords. Of course, Hiro is the world's best swordsman…obviously. Though when I just went with it, it was pretty good fun.

Neal Stephenson writing was extremely good at visualising a scene and the objects in the world the characters live in (in reading the acknowledgement I learnt that the book was intended as a graphic novel and I wonder if there was graphic work he was describing). All the same, it was very easy to read and see the world as we moved from reality, to the metaverse (virtual world), to vehicles and different landscapes.

There's a tonne of historical and religious background to the story too, most of which I understand to be based on real research (from our universe) and the depth of which was incredible.

The Snow Crash is (supposed to be) a virus that exists in both the digital world and the real world. The story creates (perhaps tenuous?) links between computer/digital ideas and pre-biblical times explaining that the story of Babel was the first instance of the virus, transmitted through verbal programming, affecting humankind.

The two other main-ish characters were Y.T (a young women/teenager who we follow in parallel with Hiro) and Raven. Y.T. is really fun, and perhaps more relatable since she's a little more "regular" (compared with Hiro) - just kitted out with lots of tricks in her suit.

Raven is the uber baddie, throwing glass spears, cutting through bulletproof suits and generally being invisible. He definitely plays the "main henchman" really well, and we even get to understand his motives which I love for a "proper" baddie.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, left a little confused about the motivation about some of the connections in the book (like what really motivates Y.T. to join forces with Hiro, or how Hiro was one of the first creators of the metaverse, yet he's somehow a promotor for his roommate's band…).

Sorry, not much of a review, more a prompt for my own memory in years to come!

Read: 15-Jun 2018
Read in: 24 days
Pages: 482

Postcards From the Edge (Suzanne Vale, #1) by Carrie Fisher

★★★★☆

I've now read two Carrie Fisher books and I've loved them both. She is…was such a superb author chock full of quotable lines.

This novel is structured differently to anything I've read so far (which isn't saying a great deal) starting as postcards, then as a she says/he says diary, then as "typical" third person. The book itself is also split into parts that remind me of an indie movie from the 90s (which I think it actually became) whose style is very much a monologue of the protagonist.

I really enjoyed following along the character of Suzanne Vale. The only chapter/part I struggled a little with was Dysphoria, which felt much more like a gossip paper about Hollywood - it's not that it wasn't good, just that some of the reference and lifestyle was a little beyond my being able to connect.

All in all though, I love Fishers prose and I love that reading on the Kindle lets me highlight as I go along (37 highlights from this book!).

Read: 21-Jun 2018
Read in: 5 days

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

★★★★★

Spoiler

Oh wow. Where do I begin with my review? I'm always amazed at how current a book written in 1931 can be so current and readable nearly a century later in 2018.

The Brave New World is set in a future some centuries away where happiness is society's key. Religion, art, science and truth have been sacrificed to archive global sustainable happiness.

People are engineered from embryo though constant tweaking at the fertilisation process and growth, then though as children conditioned using Pavlovian techniques: you read a book, you get zapped - aged 18 months. Aged 6 the children engage in "erotic play". Sleep hypnosis with rhymes that the individuals will live inside society with. Each individual is predestined for a class in society: alphas, betas, down to the "epsilon semi-morons" - button pushers.

All seemingly pretty grotesque, but much later in the book, the benefits of this new world are argued, and it's a fairly convincing argument. Everything is for the sake of happiness.

Ignorance is bliss. The less truth there is to be sought, the more content you are with your reality. And thus, a stable, sustainable, healthy society.


It seems as through there's three protagonist with increasing complexity to break the orthodox rules of the New World.

Lenina allows herself to romanticise being with one person, and feeling love, but this is surface-deep and she's still very much a slave to her conditioning and unable to see beyond these walls.

Bernard Marx, an Alpha plus who appears visibly as a Delta, with nasty rumours that alcohol had been slipped into his fertilisation process. He is able to think and speak outside of his orthodox conditioning but when it comes to acting, he falls short, and in fact proves himself more of a coward (or in fact probably as most would act: though inaction).

John (the) Savage is different. He has a mother. He's learnt of God, learned to read and reads Shakespeare. He was born an outcast in The Old World (The Savage Reserve), and brought into the New World when Bernard and Lenina stumble upon him and his mother (originally from the new world but became injured and lost in the reservation some 20 years prior).

John is the only one who questions and tries to change the new world that he now lives, and, obviously fails. The new world is centuries in the making.

John is relatable because he comes from our time. And this is why he's a man out of time.

There's nothing he can do to change society in an impactful way, and even if he did, it would be at the sacrifice of happiness of others.

It's almost an inevitability that he goes mad. That he doesn't survive this brave new world. He can't. He can't escape it, and so, in the end, like any good Shakespeare tragedy, he tries and fails to extract himself from society, as it's impossible, in a rage of madness, goes on to kill the woman he loves, and then himself.

An amazing, and maddening tale. Wow.

Read: 30-Jun 2018
Read in: 7 days
Pages: 288

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells

★★★★★

Love it. Witty, humourous, original and fresh.

The title of "Murderbot Diaries" is what caught my curiosity. The story is told directly from the point of view of the murderbot which makes for a utterly new take on the alien-type stories where shit (always) goes bad.

The murderbot itself is an really refreshing take on the future of bots, who through first "person" storytelling, mostly wants to be by itself, avoids talking about it's feelings, dislikes any eye contact and general doesn't really give two hoots about anything except for their TV binge watching.

I really enjoyed this short story, reading it in (about) one sitting on holiday. Now the only downside is that it is a short, I finished it so quickly and I don't get to enjoy more of the murderbot protagonist. I guess I'll be buying the other three books (though for anyone considering this book, this short book stands alone and you don't need to invest in the full series).

Read: 1-Jul 2018
Read in: 22 hours
Pages: 149

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig

★★★☆☆

The story of an 11 year old boy after his father dies. The story uses a unique story telling device where it's told from the boys mind (or imagined diary), but the result is a stream of consciousness, littered with rule-breaking authoring techniques.

I can imagine this method coming off as forced or trite. But Haig's book manages to execute really well.

There's some vivid scenes of loss that touch my own personal childhood, remembering my own mother in the early chapters.

The boy himself believes he's being visited by his deceased father who asks him to enact revenge for his recent death.

The boy, Philip, struggles with his own confused feelings of being a boy, being 11 and starting to see more of the world, and being thrown into a new family structure. It's all too much for him.

Being inside his head you can understand his actions, and it makes me wonder about how we judge someone from the outside who behaves so oddly or "badly".

Ultimately we're left to decide for ourselves whether the boy is really seeing ghosts, though one thing is clear by the end: he'll need counselling to get through the next 15 years.

A good, fast, little read, perfect for holiday reading.

Read: 3-Jul 2018
Read in: 1 day

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett

★★★★★

Such good fun. I think my favourite character was actually Dog. I loved the inner monologue that went with the Hell Hound!

I don't think I've read a story with so many characters intertwining throughout a story (though, truth be told: I've not read many stories!) - and this book did a superb job of keeping all the characters unique, interesting and coherent.

The story (for me), started fairly light (in heart) and towards the last quarter it goes rather dark - although this may be to be expected as the Armageddon is at hand. This also did wonders for my nightmares (I had three consecutive nights dreaming about my own End Of The World dreams).

I'm also really impressed that two different authors created the story in a way that feels completely unified (and this edition included a Q&A chapter at the end where Pratchett and Gaiman share their process and thoughts on each other).

Really fun stuff and included some real laugh out loud moments. The entire last chapter could have been highlighted too - beautiful closing message.

Read: 9-Jul 2018
Read in: 4 days
Pages: 382

The Obesity Code: unlocking the secrets of weight loss by Jason Fung

★★★★★

I read this book based on a recommendation regarding eating fats. On the title alone, I probably would have ignored this book, but the contents is absolutely superb.

If you're interested in nutrition and how the human body works (and obesity/fat and type 2 diabetes) then this book is a superb match.

The majority of the book is dedicated to understanding the problems of food consumption and how it affects our bodies.

Importantly, the pages are chock full of references to real scientific studies that support the claims.

The last part of the book is dedicated to long term maintenance and long term change (since all diets eventually fail due to the body adjusting it's energy expenditure for the calories being consumed). This is where the studies are a little thinner on the ground, bug Fung uses logic to argue his case (there are some studies, but not as such high frequency as the rest of the book).

All in all, this book has changed my views on dietary fats, helped me understand why we get fat and finally shown me why fasting works.

Highly recommended.

Read: 12-Jul 2018
Read in: 9 months

Neuromancer by William Gibson

★★★☆☆

Unsure. I have to admit that reading this book I often felt a little lost as to what was happening and why, but just carried on to enjoy the ride.

Reading a book that so significantly influenced modern cinema such as The Matrix and the like, it's interesting to read the descriptions of movement in and out of the matrix (little-m).

I'm also not entirely sure how the book ended, and without the final chapter which tidied up a few things, I would have been rather lost and confused!!!

Good ride. Not sure I'm too bothered about the trilogy, but I would try another William Gibson book in future.

Read: 30-Jul 2018
Read in: 11 days

Past Mortem by Ben Elton

★★★★☆

My hospital read! I spent a day and night in hospital for tonsillitis, and managed to read through this book (though there's not a whole lot to do in hospital!).

Originally this book was destined for a 3 star, but the last 5th of the book started to really pull the story together and made for quite a fun and gripping ending.


I selected this book to read because it was Ben Elton, and I'd read a few of his books before and was expecting satirical, witty and possibly funny. I did not expect this book! The characters are certainly witty, but there's no comedy to be found. This is a dark detective story.

The story did feel a little crowded for the first half, it follows the protagonist Edward Newson, a detective inspector and a good one to boot. Newson is extremely well centred with respect to his work, and it makes him a good detective.

In his personal life, he's off centre, but as the reader, I found his judgement quite questionable - and I'm not 100% sure if his character arc leaves him any better at the end.

At the surface of the story, we have a murder mystery. A pretty graphically gruesome murder. Then there's some very strong elements of sex - and very graphic hardcore sex (which, I didn't really realise I was signing up to). Then there's a heavy bullying theme: how if affects an individual decades on, how the bullies continue to live, if they can move past it, whether it's rooted to their soul or not. Then there's unrequited love. Then there's nostalgia and reaching into the past and trying to rekindle feelings of hope and love and happiness.

So…yeah, it felt a little crowded.

Thankfully the last quarter somehow manages to pull a lot of the themes together (and drops a few on the way).

In the end, I enjoyed the story and enjoyed the gripping ending. It did all tie up a little too nicely, but then it's a story, so why shouldn't it?! :)

Read: 2-Aug 2018
Read in: 1 day

Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

★★★★★

Wow. I loved this book. I'm not entirely sure how I found it - I suspect Amazon randomly recommended it to me, and it was definitely a random purchase - but so glad I did.

I'd just finished reading Snow Crash which has a small character which is an enhanced dog (called a Rat), and a few years back I'd read We3 which has animals who escape a tyranny of human kind…so I think I was expecting something like that. I was wrong!

The book opens from the point of view of Rex, a "bioform" dog - part machine, part dog, part human DNA. The first few pages read as a little trite "I am Rex. I am Good Dog" etc - but this quickly falls away as I realised the darkness of what was being described from Rex's point of view.

Then each chapter is told from different individuals point of view, including Hart - the engineer/carer for the bioforms, Honey - a bioform Bear and many other characters.

The story is split over 5 parts that, I can assume, is covering several years. It starts in a war torn country, but once this part is over, the story goes on to raise the question of the bioform's rights, and whether a human-made thing can be human if it can feel for itself. By human, we mean the condition rather than the species.

The story is a mix of the future of AI and augmented lifeforms, fear of different, corporations and their relationship with slavery - and through it, somehow, the protagonist is a dog that I can actually relate to as he even evolves through the book (the author does a brilliant job of evolving Rex's language and vocabulary as Rex is exposed to more of the world and the story moves on).

Other thoughts that this book brought up for me:

  • If humankind make a thing and a thing can think for itself, should it have rights? What does that process look like - and how long does it take?
  • Can and should humankind survive in it's current state. Is an augmented human less or more human?
  • A fully autonomous intelligence is effectively immortal, so it can also outlive generations of humankind until the generations come to accept it?

If you're interested in how technology can evolve in our future with AI, singularities, and the like, then I'd definitely recommend this book.

I loved this story, really great stuff!

Read: 12-Aug 2018
Read in: 9 days

Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls by Robert Rankin

★★★★☆

Fun stuff. I didn't realise this was the sixth novel of a series, but it really didn't matter - and almost added more depth since the characters had a lot more backstory.

Robert Rankin's writing is really fun too. Lots of quick wit throughout the book, the kind that I wish I could come up with in my daily life!

The story is a kind of comical farce whereby history has somehow shifted and things aren't quite what they're supposed to be.

I'm not quite sure if the story is supposed to have a single protagonist or whether it's more of an ensemble. It certainly mostly follows Jim, John and Soap (great…weird, name!). Then there's multiple side characters that I half suspect might have more story in other Brentwood books.

All the same, it was really fun to read a book that clearly had a wide range of characters with more stories to tell.

Read: 20-Aug 2018
Read in: 4 days
Pages: 237

Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

★★★★★

Spoiler

I read this aloud to my son at bedtime (6 turning 7 in a month). It took a chunk of time, and making the voices distinct was fun and tricky!

I asked him to give me the review, so the 5 stars is his (I'd have given it 4, but the book was for him).


Boy called Darkus found a beetle and had 2 friends, blew up the emporium, and got his dad back and Lauretta Cutter got away.

I liked them building Basecamp.


❤️

Read: 6-Sep 2018
Read in: 2 months
Pages: 336

War with the Newts by Karel Čapek

★★★★★

Quite brilliant.

The books I've read previously create pockets of world's to tell a story in. The War with the Newts, Capek create an all encompassing story that not only covers the entire planet earth, but also allows for economical, sociological, financial and political effects of the tale being told.

The book can sometimes come across as a quite dry historical account of how the world, and indeed, mankind came to exist with the Newts. But then throughout the book we follow a very small number of characters and eventually returning to the butler who burdened himself with the guilt of introducing the newts to the world, which leads to the inevitable near-end of mankind.

I found the story telling quite brilliant in the ability to describe, in such believable detail, the impact of these newts being on earth, the changes to their environment that allowed for their growth and the world wide impact of this ecological change.

But it was the last two chapters that really won the story for me. The penultimate chapter has us revisiting the butler in his 70s taking a rowing trip with his son, and where he so confidently tells his son that they're safe in Prague. His son isn't so sure, and in a turn towards the end of the chapter, we see that the butler has been carrying the torment of "what if…", what if he had made a different decision: would the world's fate be in safe hands now?

Then the final chapter was (again, sorry) quite brilliant. A discussion between the author and himself as the writer, trying to determine if mankind's fate is truly doomed. Whether humankind has any way to save itself from its own inevitable self destruction through greed and fear. Or whether the newts are inevitably prone to the same failings as humankind too…

A tough, and sometime dry read, but really quite excellent!

Read: 7-Sep 2018
Read in: 17 days
Pages: 231

The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson

★★★★☆

Really enjoyed this thriller. An easy read and natural page turner (with nice short chapters). I was also drawn to this book because I know Brighton (UK) very very well, and I love reading stories located in places that are familiar to me.

The story is a solid thriller and paced really well, and a great read for a holiday (I powered through it over 2 days).

I really loved how (somehow, I'm not sure quite how), the author, Koomson managed to take the character Macy and make me firstly dislike her and get annoyed with the character, then whilst getting frustrated with her, start to understand her and feel compassion towards her, and by the end see strength in her that was always there, just revealed perfectly at the pace the story needed. Surprising stuff 👍

Read: 10-Sep 2018
Read in: 2 days

Tin Man: The Book of the Year, Tender, Moving and Beautiful by Sarah Winman

★★★★☆

Really quite beautiful. I found myself drawing out my reading time for this book, and almost wanting to find a tree to sit under and slowly soak up this story.

It's a story of love, loss and loneliness (or so I read), and it's was beautifully paced dropping back and forth from different points in time for the two main characters. Describing emotions and the tiniest moments in such a loving and tender way. It truly made me want to slow down and just watch the love that moves around us every day.

I want to give this a 4.5 but the stars apparently must be whole or not at all. I just found the ending a little abrupt. But that may have also been confused by the fact that the last 6% (10-ish minutes) of the book was an interview with the author (which was interesting enough), it just threw me when the tale was finished.

All the same, quite beautiful.

Read: 18-Sep 2018
Read in: 7 days

The End Specialist by Drew Magary

★★☆☆☆

The two stars are for: fairly decent writing, it wasn't a rabib page turner, but it was relatively easy going for the most part.

The second star is for such an interesting idea: a cure for death - or more specifically, a genetic cure for the aging of cells.

The story leaps right into this concept and the mental struggle the protagonist, John, faces with the prospect of living forever (or until something else kills him).

The possibilities of this concept are endless…but it felt like this book struggled to grapple with these ideas and, for me, just failed to follow through.

For instance, there's a key character (you'd be lead to think) that appears right at the start, that captures John's intrigue (and frankly I thought they were related to "thriller", but apparently not). This character then isn't mentioned at all for the majority of the book, and then around 85% of the way through when they suddenly reappear and John suddenly declares his undying love.

She sighed. “I told you. I’m tired of men falling in love with me.” “I don’t give a shit.” I moved to her and began kissing her.

Oh for heaven's sake. She just suddenly does a 180 on her own feelings and goes for a full shag before leaping off to a nuclear winter.

The story spends a solid half of the book on John and his family and surrounding and the (local) effect of the cure. No thriller in sight, and certainly no End Specialists. I can't tell if this was more of a drama or just a lot of character building, but it really didn't feel like I got into the meat of the book until much, much further along.

This book comes with an alternative title of "Postmortals" (I read The End Specialist), which would frankly makes a lot more sense. As for being a thriller - I don't think so.

Also with this kind of massive change in humanity, the worldwide ramifications would be huge, and though John does try to portray these in his documentary-like updates (a blog?), it really feels quite local to Amuricka.

Sadly the book deals with an excellent concept, but fails to deliver.

Read: 9-Oct 2018
Read in: 21 days
Pages: 435

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2) by Martha Wells

★★★★☆

Uh! I love this character! This is the 2nd book in the murderbot books and the main character, who I realise now doesn't have a name (nor gender as it's a bot) is so fun to read.

The murderbot is so dry and grumpy and so different from previous characters I've read in sci-fi.

The first book definitely works as a stand alone, and although there's a self contained story in this second book, it definitely carries through a decent number of references to the earlier story that I'd not recommend reading this on it's own.

Since the books are only around 160 pages, I'm moving right on to the next installment and looking forward to it already.

Read: 17-Oct 2018
Read in: 6 days

Saga, Vol. 9 (Saga, #9) by Brian K. Vaughan

★★★★★

Loved it. As always. Heart wrenching too.

Read: 28-Oct 2018
Pages: 152

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3) by Martha Wells

★★★★☆

As usual from the MurderBot series: excellent, fresh and entertaining.

I felt like the story dug deeper into MurderBot's character, anxiety and it's attempt to understand it's feelings.

Definitely feels like this third book is pulling together an overarching story that will be concluded in book four - which I can't wait to read!

Read: 4-Nov 2018
Read in: 17 days
Pages: 160

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4) by Martha Wells

★★★★★

I read the first installment of the Murderbot a few months back (as an Amazon single), but after reading it, I decided I was going to pony up the £8 for the following 3 books - although probably the most I've spent on a single book, let alone 3 books - absolutely totally worth it. I loved this series.

The series follows Murderbot, a rouge security unit, mostly good at killing but who would rather just watch TV and be left alone. The first book reads easily as a stand alone, and I'd say the second book does too.

The third and fourth pull together all the previous adventures into an overarching story that we see Murderbot learning about itself and struggling with the the concepts of emotions and desires.

In fact, the Murderbot ends with that huge question of: what do you want.

There's so many things I enjoyed about this series: it's a sci-fi that doesn't really require you to understand all the ins and outs of the political systems that exist in the world. I've read a few sci-fi books that really struggle to make the world believable because there's often so much to take in - the Murderbot diaries does this in a way that reads easily and lightly.

The action sequences are really well written and fairly easy to follow - another thing I've struggled with in other books.

Even though we know that the Murderbot is a construct, it exists in a time that emotions can be simulated - and therefore felt - by the Murderbot, which, just like any one of us, they don't relish having to process those emotions, and they'd much rather just shun away and hide away escaping with TV.

Finally the characters are refreshing. As a white man myself, I'm too quick to assume the gender and race of the characters I reading about, Martha Wells does a really good job of keeping me in check, reminding me that Murderbot doesn't have a gender, there's people in the universe that don't identify as one gender, and that not everyone is white. I love this, and I appreciate it in the books I read (in the hope that it shifts my mindset).

Loved it.

Read: 29-Nov 2018
Read in: 22 days
Pages: 176

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

★★★☆☆

Spoiler

I didn't quite expect the book (read on my Kindle) to be quite that short.

It's more of a scene than a book - which is fine, but exceptional short!

As the synopsis says, it's a story of a couple that want to share Christmas gifts but it comes at the cost of the possessions that are most valued to them.

In that, it's a tale of kindness and sacrifice. Except that the possessions they sell for the funds are spent on the one thing that complements the other's valuable possession, ie. Beautiful brushes for beautiful hair (that was sold to raise funds).

And in that this is a warning that possessions and gifts do not make one happy. Love does that, and it can't be bought.

The story also smacks of "older" times from New York (though I can't remember whether it was based there or not), and as such, even though both the man and woman make the same mistake, it seems that the woman is somehow left to blame and the man gets away with lounging back on the sofa.

Sure, those are words from the time, but I've really no idea how people are reading this book today and leaving reviews saying they're left with a year in their eye, etc. Left me feeling sorry for the poor sods.

Read: 16-Dec 2018
Read in: 28 minutes
Pages: 26

The Truth Pixie (Christmas Series, #3.5) by Matt Haig

★★★★☆

Spoiler

Good to read aloud to the kids (took about 15-20 minutes), and a beautiful message in the story, whereby the adult reading...me...might have caught a frog in their throat!

The truth pixie lives a life of loneliness because she always tells the truth, and that truth can get her in to trouble. She decides to leave home and during her adventure meets a girl who is sad because she's going to be moving home away from friends and everything she knows.

The truth pixie tells her that it will be sad, and there will be times in life that she'll be lonely, but that life is full of wonderful moments and love and warmth. A good message to remind ourselves of during the day to day grind of life.

Also beautifully illustrated.

Read: 17-Dec 2018
Pages: 119

Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

★★★☆☆

A sweet tale of kindness. I asked for recommendations for Christmas–feelings books, and this is one that came up, and it does indeed do a good job of getting those feel–good vibes going.

The story is a little sickly sweet, but that's okay. I particularly liked the first 1/4 of the story that follows Louise, an unexpected adopted mother to Hope. This part is particularly tender and gentle.

The book definitely left me with the desire to follow the Christmas traditions that's created in the story, which as the book ends, it's followed by real life stories of individuals who did just that.

I have the kindle version that, unbeknownst to me, included some twenty-odd true stories at the end, making up around 20% of the kindle edition. I read a few of these, but they did follow the same pattern, and eventually skipped over a few feeling it was similar to reading an appendix of a book (and yes, this makes me a little bit of a terrible person!!!).

Overall: does the job I had hoped it would do: get me in the mood for Christmas by reminding me of the "gift of giving (love)".

Read: 22-Dec 2018
Read in: 4 days
Pages: 240