20 September 2013

Soulless - Gail Carriger

Soulless was my introduction to Steampunk, a genre which has held me hook, line and sinker. After reading this book, which was loaned to me by a friend, I would definitely like to make further explorations into the genre.

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)Alexia Tarabotti was a character I found frankly hilarious, I don’t know if she was designed as such or if she became so accidentally, but I couldn’t help giggling at her quirks. I loved her mannerisms as she did her level best to fit into a Victorian London not so different than our own, but with some quirks of its own.

The only fault I could find with Alexia was the emphasis placed on her British-ness. It was a bit like a part of her had been written using soaps as the only guide and it became a bit caricature-ish. The supposed culture of ‘Oh he’s been shot, but maybe if we give him some tea he’ll get up and be hunky dory again’.

I loved Lord Maccon, his completely bewildered aggressiveness was fascinating to watch unfold. And pairing him with Professor Lyall was pure genius. They’re a lot like a more balanced, but more hot headed, Sherlock and Watson duo. Brilliant!

The story was as compelling as the characters who it revolved around. Artificially created Vampires, who’d have thought it? It’s a take on Vampires I’d never have thought of, even after watching the alternate reality episode of Buffy where she never came to Sunnydale and the Harvest went ahead leading to the building of a machine which basically milked human blood.

I was really content with the ending, although some of the reasoning behind it I found aggravating. I think if it had been a stand-alone novel I would have been more than happy, but I’m very glad the series is continuing. I particularly liked the part where Ivy blushed.

All in all a brilliant story!


18 September 2013

Last week of Scouting

Yesterday night was my last night at Beavers until Christmas, or possibly later, tonight is my last at Explorers and next Monday is my last at Cubs. Fortunately I still get to come back to Scouts on a Friday night while I'm at Uni or I'm not sure what I'd do with myself. 

Being a Scout Leader is a very strange situation in some ways, I imagine it's a bit like being a teacher, except you spend your downtime with the kids, you camp with them and you play games with them. I like to think that they see you more as a friend than a boss, and whilst you obviously have responsibility your job is to make sure they have fun, not that they learn. Hopefully they learn something at the same time, but if not at least they've enjoyed themselves. 

From my perspective, helping out at each section within our group it feels a bit like I have 40 odd children. I have definitely developed emotional attachments to them all. I get to see them excited when they've achieved something they didn't think they could, or when they get to try something they never would elsewhere. I get to see them growing as individuals when I've reprimanded them and they can tell me what they've done wrong and why they won't be doing it again. 

Honestly I can say it breaks my heart a little to say goodbye to these little people. I can't wait to see them again, and it was made all the worse by the Beavers being disappointed it was my last night for a while last night. 

I'll miss them all!


13 September 2013

Strata –Terry Pratchett

If you think of Terry Pratchett then as a rule you think of Discworld, but a relatively small part of the large selection of books that he’s written has nothing to do with the disc. Strata quite literally straddles this border.

It was written before he had fully developed the concept of the disc but at the same time it is an early exploration of it. Centering on Kin Arad it is about her discoveries regarding the creation of the universe. She is over 200 years old and has been creating planets for much of her life. Nothing fazes her.

That is until she is brought the news of a planet which is a disc, situated in uncharted space. She sets out to explore it, in the company of two unlikely and unexpected companions. Marco the legally human Kung, a species of highly warlike, four-armed, giant frogs. And silver, the gentle Shand, a linguist and historian who has to eat the synthetic flesh of her own species or she will transform into a ravening monster.

This book is stock full of Terry Pratchett’s legendary wit and is satisfying in the completeness of it’s storyline. The three discover the secrets of the disc, it’s utter wrongness and inevitably decide upon a course of action which will solve all of their problems.

I’d never heard of this book, unlike most of his books which you can see everywhere. If you get the chance then I’d recommend you read it.


11 September 2013

Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)In looking for something to read whilst on holiday I searched for the ’10 best fantasy series’ and came across a list entitled 10 fantasy series to read while waiting for George R. R. Martin. The list gave me confidence because at the very top of the list was the Kingkiller Chronicles; a series which although incomplete has entrenched itself firmly in my heart.

So I read the list and I found five series which appealed to my sense of taste, some of which weren’t yet complete. Others, apparently, were, although there are too many cases of authors going back to series and adding to them for this necessarily to hold true. Coming top of this list, from my perspective, was Steven Erikson’s Malazan book of the fallen series. It was complete, always nice when you’re planning on reading the books back to back, and it was long, something which generally holds appeal for me since it gives me a chance to know the characters. So with no further ado I purchased the entire ten books for my kindle, all the while wondering if this was in actual fact a good investment of my money.

Book one, Gardens of the the Moon, was brilliant. Erikson span several threads which started out wholly unconnected but progressively ran closer together. From that reasoning alone this book could be compared to a work by Martin. Not only that but he has no compunctions about killing off major, even central, characters to the story. More than one character I held great belief, was killed during the course of this book, although with the nature of true fantasy there are illusions that a characters death will necessarily stick.

And that is where the book differs greatly from Martin’s. In ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ the magic is a subtle, almost non-existent, undercurrent to the main story. In Malazan book of the fallen the story would not progress without it. In many ways it is a story of how a game of the gods affects their mortal pawns.

The biggest issue I had with this book was how the first few chapters jumped from time to character and I struggled to find a foothold. Once it had settled down however pure brilliance emerged. It rang true as well to the preface the author had written seven books on, He said something to the effect of either a reader will not like my style and I will lose them in the first third of the first book or they will be fully on board and riding the waves with me seven books later.

I’m glad I persevered, the story is worth it.


9 September 2013

10 Things I didn't Realise before spending a Fortnight in Porto Santo

  1. An island about the same size as my home town could have a desert.
  2. Places really do exist where you can see the sea-bed through metres of water.
  3. Skeleton crosswords aren’t as hard as they sound, it’s just a case of doing the beginning right.
  4. A place would put roundabouts in just for the excuse of ‘planting gardens in the road’.
  5. I would feel uncomfortable having someone come and make my bed – I tried making it myself once but she just unmade it.
  6. That it would feel depressing to come somewhere that I expected to be warm and sunny and to find some heat, but mostly a lot of cloud and wind. Fortunately it cleared up towards the end of the holiday.
  7. A place still exists where crime is virtually non-existant. Ever seen ‘The Bozeman Reaction’? Sheldon would love it here!
  8. It could take me soooo long to read a book I’m enjoying. Seriously around 12 hours a day for around 5 or 6 days, that’s a long time for me to be reading a book on holiday.
  9. King Kong really does exist, he’s swimming in the sea just off shore.
  10. I have a boyfriend who will willingly and actively eat fruit. Who knew?!


6 September 2013

Bedknob and Broomstick – Mary Norton

Bedknob and Broomstick is I guess a fairly classic children’s story. Pretty much everyone’s heard of it and some have seen the film. Personally I always thought that both words were plurals but having read the book it makes a lot more sense that they’re not.

It is the story of three children who’re sent to stay with their elderly aunt for the summer. While there one of them notices Ms Price crashing a broomstick. This turns into a spiral of adventure for them involving trips to unchartered territory and visits to the past.

I can’t help but wonder if Dr Who originally had a basis linking it to this book because there’re a lot of similarities between the enchanted bedknob and the TARDIS.

All in all it’s a good story which has a a number of morals but also a slight thrill factor. I think it would appeal to preteens if it wasn’t written in a way which has dated.


4 September 2013

His Casual Vacancy – J.K.Rowling

His Casual Vacancy I have mixed opinions on. I pre-ordered a copy of it, at least in part because it halved the cost of the book, but also because I, like everyone else, wanted to know what J K Rowling had managed to come up with next. I was very much a part of the ‘Potter-generation’, Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone was the first ‘real’ book I ever read, and a friend commented that the release of the final film was like the end of our childhood.

Having brought it home it sat on my bookcase untouched for a couple of months. I couldn’t quite bring myself to read it, what if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Quite honestly I can say that it didn’t, I don’t know what my expectations were but it didn’t meet them. I can’t help but feel this has more to do with a cultural attitude towards J K Rowling and Harry Potter than it does to do with the book itself.

When I first finished the book I would have told you don’t read it, it’s a waste of your time. I found a lot of the characters unlikeable, I thought she’d downplayed some pretty major themes. And there were some moments within, reminiscent of the later Harry Potter books, which were frankly cringe worthy, the sex scenes.

These scenes made sense within the context of the book as a whole and yet the writing style which delivered them brought me back overwhelmingly to Hogwarts and Childhood innocence.
Having read this far you would be entitled to assume I had only negative reactions to the book. This isn’t true. I found it a breeze to read, quite happily sitting down and losing hours to it. The ending was fantastic, there weren’t any fireworks but it certainly made me stop and think. It made me cry…

And this brings me back to my mixed opinions. Several months after reading this book it has stayed with me, whilst my brain has lost hold of stories which amazed me while I was reading them. I’ll be doing any number of things and my thoughts will dart back to this book and the situations its characters faced. By downplaying the heavy stuff J K Rowling has ensured that it is ever present in my mind. That I find pretty cool.

Would I recommend that you read this book? I still don’t know. I would certainly say don’t rush out and buy a brand new copy, as you can probably find any number of them abandoned in charity shops. At the same time though I no longer feel that by reading it you’d be wasting your time.

In view of this I’m glad I had time to reflect before I wrote my review.