Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reading onward... books 21-30 for 2015

Time to take my nose out of my current book (briefly) and let you know what I've been reading. Forgive me the huge post!

21 - What makes us tick? - Hugh Mackay

I bought this book at Writers' Week during the Adelaide Festival of the Arts. Although I didn't know much about Hugh Mackay's writing his talk sounded interesting, and I had time - although he mostly spoke about a different book I decided to try this one.

In this book, Hugh Mackay explains ten drivers of behaviour and decision-making beyond the basic needs of food, water, air and such. Throughout the book a variety of situations are given and the interaction of these drivers is explained. I started to think of similar situations I've seen, and began to see the behaviour of others I've met with a fresh perspective.

This is a book that really made me think - it gave me a lens to look through when thinking about my own choices and actions and those of others. I plan to revisit it again in future as it's knowledge well worth keeping active in my mind. Along with other books I'm currently reading or have read in the recent past I'm finding that I'm developing a new way of looking at things and learning from them. This can only be a good thing.

22 - Chew, Vol. 1: Taster's Choice - John Layman & Rob Guillory

Tony Chu is cibopathic - he gets psychic impressions from what he eats. In a world where poultry was banned after an outbreak of avian flu killed millions this is a very useful detective skill in the FDA - combating the black market for chicken is serious work. But this skill is not always a good thing. Sometimes it's best not to know the details...and some of the things Tony has to eat in the line of duty are not exactly food.

The story is crazy and fun, the characters are wonderfully fun. I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to seeing where it goes - looks like a lot of shades of grey are developing.

You might not to read this one while eating though.

23 - Poisoned Apples: poems for you, my pretty - Christine Hepperman

This book of poetry mixes issues teenage girls frequently face with fairytales and feminism. I found about half of the poems in the book very enjoyable and cleverly written, but didn't really find much for me in the rest, especially the fairly substantial number of them tackling eating disorders. This might well be a reflection of personal experience, so others might find something more in those.

24 - Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8) - Terry Pratchett

A mysterious cult, a fire-breating dragon, a collection of unlikely guardsmen and (gasp!) a stolen library book. This book was my introduction to the wonderful and hilarious Discworld. I'd attempted to read The Colour of Magic before but hadn't got far. This book did the trick. When I heard that Sir Terry Pratchett had died I wanted to re-visit the Discworld, and I thought that the book that got me into it was the right place to go back to. I was sad to hear of Sir Terry's passing, but I was soon laughing along with this book. It's sad that he's gone, but the books he's left behind will bring many hours of laughter and good cheer to people for many years to come.

25 - The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe, #2)- Ambelin Kwaymullina

I really don't want to spoiler this series - and it's almost impossible to introduce this book without spoilering the first so I'll skip right onward.

Once again we're given the idea we know what's going on - but we're proven wrong repeatedly as secrets, some buried for many years, are revealed. It takes fantastic storytelling skill on the part of the author to do this so well, too often twists can be spotted a mile off - but not in this series. There are plenty of surprises here to keep you hooked and reading far later than is entirely responsible (*cough*). 

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf was a great book, but the second in the series is much stronger. The story has gained complexity and moral grey areas of varying degrees abound. My challenge now, is to wait patiently for the third book. That will be difficult.

26 - Hinterkind, Vol. 1: The Waking World - Ian Edginton and Francesco Trifogli

After the blight, little of humanity remains. Cities are overgrown and life as we know it is long gone. Fantastic creatures and people have returned to the world, and they're not exactly friendly...

Even by my standards, I'll keep this one brief. This book wasn't bad, but I just wasn't inspired or compelled by it. I did continue to Vol. 2, but I'm not sure I would have if I hadn't already borrowed it from the library. I'm sure some people enjoyed it... but this wasn't my cup of tea.

27 - Into the Grey - Celine Kiernan

After a fire destroys their Home Patrick, his twin Dom and their family move into a seaside cottage that was once the family's summer getaway. Now, changed by the fire, they attract sinister attentions. Patrick can see that Dom is changed - perhaps dying- but nobody else seems to notice. As things worsen and history is gradually revealed Patrick will have to deal with the situation to the best of his ability in trying circumstances. 

A good spooky read that drew me in so well that time seemed to disappear within its pages. The supernatural is here, but this is proper spooky stuff, not the more amiable and flashy paranormal that has become so popular. While I really detest gender categorising books, in YA I can't help but notice the dominance of books primarily targeted at girls. When looking for books to recommend to teen boys when they visit the library it can be tough to find newer titles. This book will be great for recommending in that situation.

28 - Hinterkind, Vol. 2: Written in Blood - Ian Edginton, Francesco Trifolgi and Cris Peter

According to my notes, I enjoyed this a little more than Vol. 1 (book 26, higher up in this review). That said, now that I come to write a review not much comes to mind to write about it. The characters are stronger, there are some interesting developments, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series. There are too many out there that I'd rather read first.

29 - Pride of Baghdad - Brian K Vaughan, Niko Henrichon

Inspired by the real life escape and eventual re-discovery of lions from Baghdad's view, this emotionally powerful story imagines what might have happened and mixes it with a great deal of musing on the meaning, value and costs of freedom and captivity.

I was drawn to this book as I've enjoyed some of Brian K Vaughan's other work, especially Saga. I can't really draw a comparison between that book and this because there's not a lot of common ground. The philosophy was a bit heavy-handed at times but the ideas were interesting and I found myself quite attached to the characters.

If you're looking for a happy ending, you won't find one here. It's an interesting read though.

30 - Faking it (The Intern, #2) - Gabrielle Tozer

Things are going well for Josie. She's found a job as a writer and things are working out well with her boyfriend. But the pressure's building with new responsibilities and expectations and she's developing a shocking case of impostor syndrome...

As with the first book in the series, the characters are wonderfully written. Josie's awkwardness is believable and the distinct personalities of the other characters are really well written. I really only had one gripe - there's a scene with a librarian, she's a horrible, vicious stereotype (ultra-authoritarian, uptight, angry, moralist) who behaves in a manner totally unbelievable to a person who's worked in libraries. Given how well other characters are written it was quite disappointing. I had to put the book down and walk away for a bit. Thankfully that character didn't recur and the book is very, very good otherwise.

I've been enjoying reading some newer Australian YA authors and Gabrielle Tozer and the earlier mentioned Amberlin Kwaymullina have been the standouts.

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