Reading Occasionally

The Burning Wheel — Aldous Huxley

Aldous started his writing as a poet and this is his first book.

It’s a bit heavy, so i’m taking it a bit at a time.

Aldous’ Page

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The Discovery of Socket Greeny — Tony Bertauski

So after a good start with ‘The Making of Socket Greeny’ this book continues in very much the same high paced, action packed way.

All super good fun, with young people creating lots of chaos while saving humanity from the evil things.   Well written and enjoyable — even for a 54 year old — so i’m just gonna dive straight into ‘The Training of Socket Greeny’ and find out what happens next.

Tony’s Page

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The Making of Socket Greeny — Tony Bertauski

As a short prequel to the main trilogy it sets the stage quite well.

We’re definitely dealing with teenagers running amok in full immersion virtual reality environments.   It’s got aspects of ‘Ready Player One’ and Anthea Sharp’s ‘Feyland’ series, so if you enjoyed those Socket Greeny may just be your thing.

At the end of the day, a prequel should serve one purpose and that’s to get you wanting to read the rest of the series, and this has definitely served it’s purpose as i dove straight into ‘The Discovery of Socket Greeny’.   It could have used a little editing to get rid of a few typos, but other than that it’s well written with a fast flowing narrative.

Tony’s Page

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The Monarch of the Glen — Neil Gaiman

An ‘American Gods’ spin off novella which has Shadow getting mixed up in an ageless fight between Scottish monsters and those who want to keep them in their place.

All the usual Neil Gaiman excellence.

Available as a stand alone novella, as part of the ‘Fragile Things’ collection and also included in the Kindle edition of ‘American Gods’.

Neil’s Page

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Melting Shlemiel — Jason Werbeloff

An interesting allegorical novella that has as a good metaphorical dig at those who build walls of exclusion around themselves.

Set in a very pious Jewish area of Jerusalem, during 2054, it’s pretty obvious who the author is pointing at and why.   The Jewish state first build walls to separate and defend their country, then it’s walls to separate and defend each town, then each district, then each house, until each person has their very own impregnable, permanent second skin.

Can also be read as a fun little dystopian/cyberpunk thing if you don’t want to think too much.

Currently only available in the anthology, ‘2054’.

Jason’s Page

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She Did It — JT Lawrence

A really good short story about a murder, through the mind of the detective investigating it.

It’s written in a kind of freeze frame style, like each paragraph is describing an image, a feeling, a thought.   Each a separate entity, pieces in the puzzle.   A little strange at first as it’s different from the normal narrative flow we get so used to expecting, but once you get used to it it really works.

This is my first read of Janita’s work and i have to say that i like it and i’m looking forward to reading more.

Janita’s Page

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Bella’s Journey — Joseph R. Lallo

Sometimes a writer makes you feel that you should read everything they write, including the children’s stories — and hey, why not.

If you’ve got a young child, or an old one, especially one who likes unicorns, then this is a lovely little read.   Joseph does writes nice children’s stories.

Currently only available to Joseph’s Patreon supporters.

Joseph’s Page

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Castaway — Lucy Irvine

A very well written book that’s let down completely by whoever converted it into Kindle format.

As Lucy tells the story of her year on Tuin with G, she intersperses it with excerpts from the diary she wrote while on the island.   For some reason, the person who converted this book decided that the diary excerpts would be published in a print size that is so small it’s illegible, so one has to keep stopping and greatly increasing the font size for the diary excerpts and then reducing it back to normal for the rest of the writing.   You spend the whole book yoyoing font sizes in this way.   I have no idea why anyone would publish a book in this way, it isn’t clever, it isn’t artistic, it’s crass and completely ruins a good flowing read.

Ok, rant over, all the yoyoing aside, the writing is incredibly candid and Lucy really does bare it all.

Anyone familiar with Chris McCandless’ story from ‘Into the Wild’ will be aware of how much negativity and lambasting that Chris received posthumously for his stupidity and unpreparedness.   The only difference between Chris in Alaska and Lucy and G on Tuin is that Lucy and G were lucky enough to be rescued by the kindness and generosity of their Torres Straight Island neighbours, and that the poisonous beans that Lucy stupidly ate just made here incredibly sick for a couple of days and didn’t kill her.   Yet those who survive against the odds, purely by the miracles that appear when least expected, are labelled as successful, applauded and celebrated while those whose miracle fails to show are labelled as idiots, lambasted and possibly given a Darwin Award.   But hey, at least both kind get films made about them.

I could get into a full on judgemental view of Lucy and G’s behaviour, attitude and outlook, both positive and negative, but i won’t.   Some might read this book and side with Lucy, some might side with G, and some might think both are as bad as each other.

All that aside, if you enjoyed ‘Into the Wild’, then you may find this just your cup of tea.

Lucy’s Page

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Wolf Country — Tunde Farrand

I’m surprised that this book has got so many good reviews, it really doesn’t deserve them.

The whole world is changed overnight into a dystopian caste system that virtually everyone seems to accept without much question simply because they get a free house and a job.   Even though they all know that as soon as they can’t do their job they’re either euthanised or thrown into the walled off lawless slums to be at the mercy of cruel and evil, gangs.

It basically takes a bunch of dystopian themes and throws them together for the sake of a story, but it doesn’t really hold together as a story.   There just seems to be this acceptance that everyone in the whole world just accepted this system and goes along with it because they all clamour to be high spenders.   Like everyone would just give up social care, social security, pensions, etc., just so they can have a free house, be a slave and strive to be a high spender.

The book spends most of its time telling us how horrible and cruel the new system is with our protagonist and her husband not doing very well, only for the last small part of the book to find a bizarre way to allow them and their few friends to live happily ever after — The End!

Basically, it’s just about passable, and it’s just about readable, but not much else can be said.   If you’re looking for a good dystopian story then your time and money will be better spent on something else.

Tunde’s Page

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae — Stephanie Butland

Having really enjoyed ‘Lost For Words’, i soon added this, Stephanie’s second book, to ‘The Pile’ — and i’m really glad i did.

A great story about a heart transplant patient who spent the first 28 years of her life dying while first waiting to get onto the transplant queue and then having to wait for a suitable heart, all the while knowing that someone else has to die in order for her to survive.   And then, once she has her new, second hand heart, she then has to learn to live — not live again, but live for the first time.   How does one live a normal life when they’ve never had a normal life?

Mixed into this is the missing father thing, who did a runner when he found out his new born daughter was dying from a defective heart.   Then there’s the ex-boyfriend, dying from liver failure due to hepatitis, also needing for a transplant to save his life; the celebrity actor who needs a cornea transplant to save his eye; and plenty more besides, crammed perfectly into this little book.

What’s also good about this book is how Stephanie has brought the world of blogging into the story.   The story is half told through Ailsa’s blog posts which are interspersed throughout, which gives Ailsa’s character a much more genuine feel.

Here we are in a world crammed with social media, blogs, vlogs, posts, comments, polls, flame bait, click bait, trolls, likes, dislikes, etc., and i’m surprised to not find more books using these styles of communication within their narratives.   I think a lot of writers are a little worried to jump into this new way that humans have found expressing themselves, but Stephanie certainly got it right with Ailsa, and i hope to read more of this kind of story telling in the future.

And, just like ‘Lost For Words’, Stephanie throws in a nice little romance thing, and just like ‘Lost For Words’, i felt it was just the right amount for the story and never overdone.

So, my final view is that Stephanie is a really good writer and this book is really good.   Stephanie jumps bravely into the deep end of transplant issues and swims amazingly well bringing out the real issues being faced by all sides, donors, recipients, families, friends, life before, life after and other things besides.   And Stephanie manages to package all this into a really good, well written story.   It’s well worth a read.

I find Stephanie’s writing similar to Ruth Hogan’s, so if you like Ruth’s books then i’m sure you’ll enjoy Stephanie’s just as much, and vice versa too.

Stephanie’s Page

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American Gods — Neil Gaiman

I had a quick look at the TV show and very quickly decided that i wanted to read the book instead, and i’m rather glad i did.   I absolutely, totally enjoyed ‘Stardust’, which was the only one of Neil’s books i’d read before, so i was hoping i was in for another super reading treat with this.

So, suffice it to say, i still have no idea what the TV show was like, and having read the book i really have no interest because the book is so good i just don’t want to spoil the memory of a great story.   But i’ll most certainly be reading more of Neil’s books though.

This book really has just about everything going on in it.   There’s a dark satirical edge to it, a murder mystery thing, a love story, folklore, lots of action, lots of gods and goddesses and other mythical creatures, and many other things besides.   How Neil managed to tie it all up into one complete story is outstanding writing to say the least.

What struck me most about it was the dark satirical edge that i found within it.   How so many modern countries are turning their backs upon the old ways and enslaving themselves to modern ideas and ideologies.   The continuous tension between those that would hold us back and those who would drive us forward, and the battles that happen when one or both push it too far.   Yes, we all see it played out in the political realm every day, conservatives v modernisers, but underlying all of that are the beliefs and ideals of everyone in society and who gets to control and dictate them.

And in the middle of it all is our protagonist, Shadow.   What a character.   He’s thrown into this world of gods and goddesses as each side attempts to attract him to their school of thought.   Just like the political classes, the corporatocracy and religions as they all attempt to enslave us into their ideologies and use us in their battles for ultimate power.

So yeah, super duper read.   It’s a big, big book but well worth the time.

Neil’s Page

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