Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Reads of 2018

I thought 2017 was a tough year, but 2018 raised the bar and turned out to be a year where things just went from bad to worse. My PC died, work stress went through the roof and the world, well we all know the state of the world... Thankfully the year is finally at an end, and I will be glad at its demise.

I hoped to get to 40 books this year, but it soon became clear that there would be no way that I'd reach that, so I had to adjust my goal downwards to 25 books. I barely managed to scrape past that number and ended up reading 21 novels, 2 novellas and 2 graphic novels.

Here, in no particular order, are my best reads for 2018.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

I loved the Prince of Thorns series, but Mark Lawrence has definitely grown in the craft since his debut and Red Sister must be his best work so far. I loved the fantasy setting with hints of a long forgotten technological age. Plus nothing beats deadly assassin nuns!

The Soldier by Neal Asher

Neal Asher never disappoints and The Soldier is a mind-blowing start to a new trilogy set in the Polity universe. He manages to weave the most awe-inspiring elements of his universe together into an amazing narrative brimming with awesome technology, vast space battles, gigantic explosions and intricate machinations that are terrifying in their scope. This simply tops everything that has come before.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell

An amazing space opera where the sentient warship just steals the show. Trouble Dog has attitude in spades and her quest for redemption is just plain heartwarming. Add a diverse crew of feisty, flawed characters and you have the groundwork for something special.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

I'm very late to this party, but I've finally started reading Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. The first two books in the series, The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, were simply amazing. I fell in love with the vast, intricate world-building and how Sanderson manages to slowly unveil new facets to an already fascinating world. While their length can seem daunting these are tomes you can become completely lost in. Time just slips away and before you know it, you are at the last page craving more.

Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Dark Orbit is a fascinating exploration of how our limited sensory perceptions shape how we perceive each other, the world and the universe at large. A cast of captivating characters and a truly remarkable premise makes this a must-read. The story is dizzying in both scope and implication and will have you re-evaluating how you look at the world. My only regret is that it was far too short.

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

A magical coming of age story. A Boy's Life is beautifully written; funny, sad, and profound, with keen observations about what it means to grow up. There's a touch of the supernatural thrown in, but it just adds an extra bit of magic to a story that will have you yearning for your own lost childhood.

Super Sons Vol 1: When I Grow Up by Peter J. Tomasi

This year I've started delving into comics and Super Sons just blew me away. It's an absolute blast of wholesome fun featuring Superboy (aka Jonathan Kent) and Robin (aka Damian Wayne) as they try to follow in their superhero fathers' footsteps while trying not to kill each other. The rivalry and banter between the two boys are bound to put a smile on your face. Best of all you can jump straight in without having to know anything about the Superman or Batman universe.


Here's to a wonderful 2019. May we all find enough time to read and take care of ourselves!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 132
ISBN: 9781473691520
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 30 October 2018
Genre: Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Castle Rock is a small town, where word gets around quickly. That's why Scott Carey wants to confide only in his friend Doctor Bob Ellis about his strange condition: he's losing weight, without getting thinner, and the scales register the same when he is in his clothes or out of them, however heavy they are.

Scott also has new neighbours, who have opened a 'fine dining experience' in town, although it's an experience being shunned by the locals; Deidre McComb and her wife Missy Donaldson don't exactly fit in with the community's expectations. And now Scott seems trapped in a feud with the couple over their dogs dropping their business on his lawn. Missy may be friendly, but Deidre is cold as ice.

As the town prepares for its annual Thanksgiving 12k run, Scott starts to understand the prejudices his neighbours face and he tries to help. Unlikely alliances form and the mystery of Scott's affliction brings out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others

Elevation, Stephen King's newest novella, is not a tale filled with monsters and horror. While the premise might be reminiscent of Thinner, there are no gypsy curses to be found here. Instead what you will find is an uplifting story centered around one man's otherworldly affliction and how his actions manage to challenge small-town bigotry and the prejudices that divide and isolate.

King excels at portraying small-town life. His characters spring to life from the very first page and you can't help but be invested in their welfare. Since this is a novella there is not a whole lot of world-building that takes place and to be honest, it's not really needed. Most Stephen King fans will be well acquainted with the setting of Castle Rock and newcomers will feel right at home.

Scott's mysterious affliction is never truly explained. While it sets everything in motion, it soon becomes a secondary matter. The main focus is the relationship between Scott and his lesbian neighbours, Deidre and her wife Missy, and how that relationship evolves. Scott becomes a bridge between the newcomers and the community, showing that a small act of compassion can have a far reaching impact.

The ending is touching in so many ways. It shows that all of us can leave this world a slightly better place, even if we don't all go out with a bang. The fact that there is no explanation given for Scott's illness makes its unresolved mystery all the sweeter.

The Verdict:
Elevation is a very enjoyable read. It carries a strong message about tolerance, about rising above ourselves and our beliefs, and leaves a heartwarming afterglow in its wake. If you are looking for horror then Elevation is definitely not for you. There are no monsters lurking in the drains, no frights and scares, just the hard reality of everyday life filled with intolerance and prejudice. When Stephen King feels it necessary to start writing uplifting stories you know the world is a dark place. And perhaps that should be scary enough for us all.

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Movie Trailer: Men In Black: International

Normally I don't get all that excited for new movie releases, but the trailer for MIB: International looks really, really good. It's a pity that it doesn't feature cameos from Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones. The voiceover would've been so much better if Tommy Lee Jones did it.

That being said I'm glad to see a return to the MIB universe. I loved the original movies when they first came out and this looks like it could be a worthy successor.

What do you guys think?

Monday, December 17, 2018

New Arrivals: The Early Christmas Edition

I haven't had much reading time over the past month, but that hasn't stopped me from acquiring more books. I guess that's the way it goes....

First up I took advantage of some black Friday sales. Who could say no to 20% off already low prices?

This is an eclectic collection of books, mostly fantasy, due to the fact that I had to grab anything that grabbed my attention to get a large enough order for free shipping from Reader's Warehouse.

The titles I ended up with were:
Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan, The High Druid's Blade and The Fall of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente, Sword of Destiny and The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey and The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson.

Two other titles I ordered earlier also arrived at around the same time. Blackwing by Ed McDonald and Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey.

For Review

I've saved the best for last. Christmas seems to have come early with a true plethora of books arriving for review.

From the awesome folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers I received an amazing haul:
Edgedancer, Snapshot and Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, Elevation by Stephen King, Thin Air by Richard Morgan, Angels in the Trenches by Dr Leo Ruickbie, War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell, Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness, Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley and Assassin's Creed Infographics by Guillaume Delalande.

Tor Books sent me The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen. It seems to have been delayed in the post, but I'm glad it got here.

I'm excited to dive into these. Now if someone can give me a pocket of portable time I'd be golden!