Having just missed one hundred books in the first year of The Book Challenge, in 2010, I made the full tonne. Still reading, but without the challenge, take a look at the reviews for the books that I have read this year.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Book 50 - Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

Book - Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian
Author - Rick Riordan
Year - 2009
Genre - Fantasy

Well as I reach the end of the Percy Jackson series, I also reach the halfway mark of The Book Challenge 2010 - and three and a half days ahead of schedule as well!  And what a great book to reach the landmark on.

If you have read the reviews of the other books in the Percy Jackson series - two of which I only posted in the past fifteen minutes so I suppose it depends if you are reading this blog in chronological order - then you will know that I have been enjoying them, and appreciating how they are improving over the past few books.  Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian is the best book in the series.  It ties things up beautifuly, it has exciting set pieces, and plenty of fan service the whole way through.  A great ending to a great series.

Just to make things even better, the ending sets us up a little for a follow up series should Riordan wish to do so (since confirmed that, yes there will be another series in the same universe, but with different lead characters coming out in October).  This is great news, as I feel there is a million miles of scope to sort this out.

In the past ten years or so we have seen a few new series designed for for children become must reads for everyone - Harry Potter and His Dark Materials spring straight to mind - and I would be happy to suggest that Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series is added straight to the list.

10/10

Book 49 - Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth

Book - Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth
Author - Rick Riordan
Year - 2008
Genre - Fantasy

After the dip for the second book of the Percy Jackson series, Sea of Monsters, things really start to pick up.  The danger increases, and we have a backlog of characters that can appear as time goes on.  The third book was better than the second, and in turn Battle of the Labyrinth is even better than it's predecessor.

There are a couple of notable Greek myths that are woven together in this one - considering the title I shan't think it is a spoiler to say that the myth of the Labyrinth is one of them - and it all comes together with what is probably the best quest story of the series.  Some of the twists and turns are lovely, and again, similar to the last book, if you see them all coming then you have a better eye for this thing than me.

It is difficult to give more than this without repeating the previous books reviews or giving away big chunks of the story.  Just be assured that this is a great book, and the fourth reason to read this series.  The fifth reason is ust coming up...

9/10

Book 48 - Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse

Book - Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse
Author - Rick Riordan
Year - 2007
Genre - Fantasy

For the first time this year I have gotten myself carried away in a series and starting from here I read the final three books of this series in quick sucession - no other books in between, and not even starting to write the blogs about them - so fingers crossed I won't get the three of them mixed up.

The Percy Jackson series has been one that I had been enjoying up until now.  The first book was a wonderful concept - bringing Greek legend into the 21st century - that left me wanting more.  The second book was not quite as good as the first, but I was still quite enjoying it.  In my review of this second book I hoped that there would be an upswing for the rest of the series.

In The Titan's Curse I was not to be disappointed.  Starting from here, a real sense of danger is injected into the series.  This is something that is lacking from quite a bit of children's fantasy, but you need to know that there is real peril for your heroes in order to care enough for them to get through.  I won't spoil what happens for you, but this is the time that this change happens.

It was also nice to be thrown off track.  After fifty or so pages, I thought I had worked out every twist that was coming.  It is lovely to be thrown now and then, so whilst I got some of it correct, it was nice that a fair bit was still a surprise.

9/10

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Book 47 - Gods Behaving Badly

Book - Gods Behaving Badly
Author - Marie Phillips
Year - 2007
Genre - Fiction

Following on from Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - a novel in which we find out what would happen if the Gods of Greek mythology lived today - we have Gods Behaving Badly - a novel in which we find out what would happen if the Gods of Greek mythology lived today.  However with incestuous sex scenes and a depiciton of Aphrodite as a sex line worker, the latter is probably the one you would be less likely to give to your kids.

The premise for this book is that the Greek gods all live in a run down house in London and are thoroughly bored with each other.  Centuries of being piled together under one roof with ever diminishing powers has made them all petty and mean to one another, and this causes problems when Aphrodite tries to get her revenge on Apollo by making him look silly.  From there, everything goes horribly wrong.

The book starts out looking like it is going to be very silly girly rubbish.  There is a big dosage of Sex In The City style sex between Aphrodite and Apollo, and then we are introduced to two 'mortals' Alice and Neil - both timid and shy - who are very obviously in love, but too nervous to tell each other.  At this point I was starting to think that I was in for a few hundred pages of chick-lit - not necessarily a terrible thing, but really not quite my cup of tea.

Luckily, I perservered and found that it wasn't quite as chick-lit as expected, but instead became pretty much a fantasy novel.  And whilst I don't think anyone will try and claim that it is Tolkein in his pomp, it is actually pretty good fun.  The characters all become more and more likable as the story goes on, and whilst there is never a real sense of danger, the events that happen are pretty cool and I really enjoyed it more and more the longer that it went on.

7/10

You can read the blog of Marie Phillips here.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Book 46 - Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

Book - Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
Author - Rick Riordan
Year - 2006
Genre - Fantasy

This is the second in the Percy Jackson series, and as the year sixes at my school start to whizz through the series, I thought I'd better make sure that I am keeping apace.  Eleven year olds have no problem with giving out spoilers whenever they fancy, and there's nothing I hate like a spoiler.

I was pretty impressed with the first book which I read back in May.  Whilst looking like a Harry Potter rip off, it is actually a pretty good premise with a boy finding that he is half Greek God.  This book carries on with a similar vein but a new adventure for our hero.  Unfortunately, it's not quite as absorbing as the first one.

The story is, like the first book, in a similar style to an epic Greek myth with them journeying from place to place and meeting legends from Greek mythology.  Each of these events are cool enough, but there are so many of them crammed into the book that they start to mean less and less.  There were events that happened in the first book which have had no further importance to the series, and there were plenty of them in this book as well.  Their meetings with some of the characters would make no difference whatsover if they were not included, and this started to get a little frustrating.  Not turning it into a bad book by any means, and it is quite an enjoyable read, but still a little wasteful.

However, the end is promising, especially the last couple of pages which set up the third book perfectly.  Extending the inevitable Harry Potter comparisons yet again, maybe this is a case of a slight dip in quality for the second book, before a storm back to form for the next in the series?  That third book currently sits in my To Be Read pile, so fingers crossed.

7/10

Book 45 - Running With Scissors

Book - Running With Scissors
Author - Augusten Burroughs
Year - 2002
Genre - Memoir

Well this is a very strange book.  It is a memoir of the childhood of author Augusten Burroughs, yet it is written in prose.  It is a ridiculous culmination of events, not one of which sounds even remotely plausible, yet all completely true - as a failed court case by some of the featured characters showed.  If I used up every ounce of creativity I had, I am not sure that I could ever make up the situation of the author.

A fastidious and overly clean child, his parents have an explosive relationship.  His mother then starts to see a shrink, Dr Finch, a rather unorthadox psychiatrist who encourages the mad behaviour of his patients.  Augusten then starts to live with this doctor and his family of children and patients who endulge in such games as destroying a ceiling to see what is up there and analysing poo in case it is a sign from God.

This is only scratching the surface of the weirdness of some of the stuff that happens in the book.  But please don't let any of that put you off, becuase this is one of the most charming and beautifully written books I have read in a long time.  There are subtle knowing refences to how things will turn out for the author the whole way through.  There is some shockingly honest revelations about himself, all done in a way that makes him massively likable and a hugely sympathetic figure.  It is difficult to describe as I have never come across a book such as this, where an autobiographical account is delivered like a novel, but the overall effect is so charming, that I fail to see that anyone could not like it.

And this is reflected by the sheer number of superlatives that are all over the covers.  Everyone and their dog has something nice to say about the book.  And they are all right.  It doens't quite topple How To Talk To A Widower as the best new book that I have read this year, but it pushes it pretty hard.

10/10

Friday, 18 June 2010

Book 44 - Longitude

Book - Longitude - The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time
Author - Dava Sobel
Year - 1995
Genre - Popular Science
Leant to me by Faye Braggins

A couple of years back, my good friend Faye lent me several books.  To my utter shame, I didn't read any of them very quickly.  This was silly for Faye has impecable taste, and I should habve realised that the books would be very good.

In time I read the Mitch Albom book, Five People You Meet In Heaven and it was a brilliant read.  Nothing like what I was expecting, but brilliant.  At the beginning of last year's challenge I read a book of hers called Fallen which again was brilliant.  Nothing like what I was expecting, but brilliant.  And finally I have gotten around to reading one of the other books she lent me, Longitude.  And it was definitely not what I was expecting.

I thought that it was a novel - most likely a seafaring novel considering the name.  After a few pages, I realised that it was not suddenly going to burst into prose and got myself prepared to have a slog.  The reason for this assumption is the rough outline of the book which is sketched out in the opening chapter.

It is basicly a book chartering the search to discover a reliable method of measuring longitude at sea.  It follows the life of the master clock maker, John Harrison, as he takes on many people's opinions of the best way to do this, including the Royal Astromoner , and and battles to prove that the chronometer is a superior method to tracking lunar distances.  Not the kind of thing that would generally spring to mind as page turning stuff.

Yet somehow it is.  There is plenty of political intrigue, sabotage, and neat coincidences to keep the tale interesting, and the whole thing is written very tightly.  Despite having literally no background knowledge on any of this - I didn't even realise that there had ever been an issue with finding longitude, despite it having once been one of science's greatest mysteries - I got quite absorbed into the book and really enjoyed it.

The one thing I will say, is that there are still massive gaps in my knowledge.  I am not sure whether this is due to me being a bit dim and not picking up on the ideas that are explained well enough, or if I am being a bit of a geek and bemoaning the fact that there is not adequate expansion on certain things, but either way, I would like to know more than is given about some things which are almost brushed away with a 'this was a problem at the time, but they solved it in a way that is too difficult to explain so we won't'.  A small gripe really as it is still crammed with good info. 

All in all, andother hit from Faye.  And definitely not what I was expecting, but brilliant.

8/10

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Lots Of People Reading

When I started this blog, I didn't realise just how much I was going to enjoy it.  I am often surprised by how excited I am to finish a book quite simply so that I can got online and write a little review of it.  And it is difficult to explain how much of a thrill it gives me to speak to anyone who has read this blog.  There are some people who I see quite regularly who are always happy to chat about the latest book I have read.  Some people I have bumped into and they have commented that they keep an eye on it.  And just as nice are the occasional messages I have had from facebook friends who I haven't seen for ages - in the case of one person who has commented on it, I believe eight years - who have still taken the time to read the nonsense I spout.  Thank you guys!

The other thing that I like is that a few people have been inspired to read more.  Bob of Bob's blog has been my constant rival this year in The Book Challenge (well, constant rival in the sense that he is constantly trying to catch up with me) and I absolutely love reading his new blogs on books he has read (read them, you will like them).  And as we reach halfway in the year more and more people are talking of taking up the challenge.

Well, I was going to start spreading The Book Challenge even further at the end of the year, but if people are interested now, then who am I to stop them!  So joining Bob and myself - as well as my Mum who is doing a fifty book challenge, but not blogging - we will have some newcomers at the halfway point joining for fifty books in a half year.  The Challenge follows the same rules as mine - namely, not an awful lot - so they will read the books then blog, and when they have set them up, I will put the blog links here on mine.

And if anyone else is serious about wanting to join in, then please let me know.  It is good fun, very rewarding, and you will be joining in with other people who are doing the same challenge as you.  I doubt there is a large number of people reading this blog who are not on facebook with me, so let me know if you fancy it either there, or here on blogger.

On a similar note, if anyone ever fancies borrowing any of the books that I review here, then please let me know.  I keep all of my books handy - even the crap ones - so it shouldn't be too much trouble to do so.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Book 43 - Jurassic Park

Book - Jurassic Park
Author - Michael Crichton
Year - 1991
Genre - Biopunk Thriller

When I think of all of the massive films that have come out in my lifetime, Jurassic Park is one that I often miss out.  I remember Titanic being huge, and the release of Toy Story, the first feature length computer animated film.  I remember the Lord of the Rings films coming out, and I'm sure that in years to come will remember the Avatar hype as a similar thing.  But Jurassic Park is one that I often forget, and that you never see on lists of films that changed the world.

But at the time it was massive!  Dinosaurs were, for a summer, the most in vogue thing in the world.  Everyone suddenly knew what a velociraptor was, and at the time people could even name the ones with the frilly ruffle type things round their necks.  It even prompted a rare trip to the cinema for my Mum, such was the hype.  And now it feels somewhat forgotten amoungst the myriad of other big budget special effects films that come out each year.

With these thoughts of injustice in mind - and a complete mind blank over any of the events in the film other that an vague awareness that there might have been some dinosaurs in it - I was pretty excited to read this novel.  I am aware that Crichton's books are held in some regard, and thought that this, as the biggest of them all, must be a great place to start.

I won't lie, it is tough to get into the book.  There is a lot of emphasis placed on pretty technical stuff at the beginning, looking at cloning techniques, genetics, chaos theory and a million other sciency things.  You soon realise that it is not essential that you understand all of it though, and you start to get into the story.  This is all good until about halfway through, when all of a sudden the book moves from being a pretty good story to one of the most exciting things I have ever read.

The point of view shifts every half page or so.  New things happen every few seconds.  A sense of real danger and tension is built beautifuly, and if it was ever possible to jump with surprise at something that happens in a book, then this would be the one to do it.  I am not trying to claim that it is the single best thing I have ever read, but rarely do I ever remember being so excited about what was happening in a novel that I have been so nose down as this.

All in all, Jurassic Park is a brilliant book, and has instantly made me want to read more by Michael Crichton - handy as the book is a two novel set with Congo as well.  If his other books can be has as absorbing as this then I will be massively impressed.

9/10

And as a post script, here are some interesting things about Michael Crichton.  He wrote ER.  You probably knew that, but I didn't.  This means that he is the only person to have simultaniously the best selling book, most watched TV show and highest grossing films ever.  He was also 6'9" tall.  This is taller than me, which is odd, as I didn't think people existed who are taller than me.

Book 42 - The Life Shop

Book - The Life Shop
Author - Margaret McAllister
Year - 2004
Genre - Children's

I grabbed this book as the third in a three for a pound deal at a charity shop (no expense spared in The Book Challenge) and my expectations were not high.  I thought it was a bit of a trashy girly novel, which considering I had bought a couple of books on the Iraq war and British history, seemed a nice balance.  Upon getting up on Sunday morning feeling not one hundred percent (I know you won't believe me, but I actually wasn't hung over) it seemed a nice one to whip through.

And then I was all the more disappointed the whole way through.  For one, it isn't a trashy girly novel like I thought, it is a trashy kids novel.  Now, I have no problem with reading kids books, and I have proudly written up on many 'children's literature' books in this challenge.  However, this was just a rubbishy bit of fluff.  The basic premise is that a catalogue is released which is massively addictive and everyone spends all of their time buying things from it and losing their identities.  Except for one girl, who braves everything to sort out the company.  Add to this a missing father and an disabled brother, plus the obligitory friends older brother/potential love interest and they had covered all bases.  The whole thing gets more and more far fetched until a random supernatural element is introduced, and then not examined further than then acceptance that it is there.

Very little - such as the missing father or disabled brother - is done in enough depth to make it worthy.  The whole thing reminded me of the Goosebumps books that were massively popular when I was about ten.  Something happens which doesn't make sense, it is revealed it was a ghost or something, but there is no further development that leaving you going 'Wow.  Ghosts are cool' and then you are on to the next one.

I am being slightly harsh - this is a book aimed probably at thirteen or fourteen year olds, but unfortunately, I have managed to read about a dozen or so books that would be suitable for that age this year which are far more impressive.

5/10

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Book 41 - Of Mice And Men

Book - Of Mice And Men
Author - John Steinbeck
Year - 1937
Genre - Fiction

I first read Of Mice And Men about twelve years ago when I was at school, and I loved it completely.  A true classic book, it tells the story of two farm hands, George and Lennie, as they start work at a new farm.  George, small and shrewd, looks after his friend, the massive Lennie, dispite him having learning difficulties that result in his often getting into trouble.  The set-up between them is unusual as very few farm hands travel together or even seem to care for each other.

As a book I studied at school, I could spend ages describing different themes that crop up in the book - loneliness, the American Dream, friendship - but it is easy to hide behind the 'classic' tag that it has quite rightfully earned, and miss the fact that this is a wonderful moving story.  The relationship between the lead characters is beautiful, and it is impossible to read the book without feeling a massive warmth towards the big Lennie who idolises George so, and has not a bad bone in his body.

Of Mice and Men has long been a favourite of mine, and I am always pleased by how many of my friends express their love of it too when I mention it to them.  If you are not one of those people then I sugegst that you grab yourself a copy and have a read, because it is definitley up there on a list of 'Books You Should Have Read'.

9/10

Book 40 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Book - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Author - JK Rowling
Year - 2007
Genre - Fantasy

So my first big series reread of the challenge comes to a close with HP7, and the book that I have most been looking forward to reading again.  Like so many of you out there, I went to the shops at midnight on the day of release of this book and queued for two hours to have the chance to read it straight away.  Unlike probably all of you out there, I went by myself, but the point isn't how sad that is, but more that I was massively excited to read the final installment of the series of books most akin to Beatlemania.

And once I had it I whizzed through it.  One of my most hated things in the world is spoilers.  I hate knowing what is going to happen before it does - note the lack of important story information I put in these blogs - and I was aware that until I had read this book I was going to have to avoid the internet, television, radio, friends, newspapers and any other source that might ruin what happened.  To that end, I had read all six hundred pages before the end of the day it came out.

I didn't read it much slower this time, but I certainly absorbed more, and it was nice to see that what I thought was probably one of the best books in the series, actually was one of the best books in the series.  Everything is tied up beautifully, and as though I was a little kid I found myself wanting to jump up and cheer when something good happened, and burst into tears when something bad happened.

Along with the credit Rowling quite rightly recieves for making reading cool again, she gets a lot of stick for the simplicity of her writing, or the idea that her writing is derivitive, but she never gains the credit that she so massively deserves for creating characters that you care about.  I can see what people mean - although I disagree completely - that there can be a one dimension-ness about her characters, but when all is said and done I find myself truly caring about Harry and Ron and Hermione and Neville and Luna and pretty much all of the wonderful characters in the series, and there can be surely no greater compliment upon a series writer than the fact that upon reading the last book I felt truly sad that we were leaving everyone behind forever.

The impact that Rowling has had upon the literary world is undeniable, and I sadly doubt that we will ever see the hysteria behind another series of books as we have with the Potter series, but people must remember that behind the hype, and the sales, and the films, and the midnight launches, seven brilliant books were written and stand up by themselves as excellent reading.

10/10

Friday, 11 June 2010

Book 39 - Heroes

Book - Heroes
Author - Robert Cormier
Year - 1998
Genre - Fiction

As Bob prepares to leave for his holiday with a pile of books in tow, I noticed the other day that I only hold a slender lead of about five books over him.  With that thought in my head, I decided to perservere with Heroes, a book that I have put aside a couple of times whilst reading, in order to read books that were more exciting.

It's not that Heroes is a terrible book - in fact as the story came to a conclusion I found myself reading ahead of myself in order to take it in as quickly as I could; always a sign of a good book - but instead it is one of the most depressing that I have read in a while.  The basic premise of the story is that a young man, Francis, returns from duty in the Second World War with ideas of revenge on his mind over someone from his childhood days.  Whilst at war he has been deemed a hero for throwing himself over a grenade that would have killed his company.  In the process of doing this he lost his face, and the book begins with a description of his burnt raw cheeks, cavelike nostrils where his face used to be, and his lingering depression.

It is dark and grim - a trait which I have since learnt is typical of Cormier - and for me, an affectionado of fantasy, comedy and children's literature, I didn't enjoy particularly at all.  Thus the constant leaving of this book on the side while I picked up something more to my liking.  However, it is not a bad book, and if you like depressing novels but want a more blokey version of things than Picoult, then give this a whirl.

6/10

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Book 38 - The Great Gatsby


Book - The Great Gatsby
Author - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Year - 1925
Genre - Classic

I often feel that I haven't read enough of 'the classics'.  And there is good reason for this.  The thought of reading Austen or Dickens or the like leaves me cold.  As undoubtably great as they may be, I think they seem boring and can't get past that concept.  Probably a bad admission from someone who preaches to everyone he knows about the joys of reading, but nevertheless true.  However, I am using this challenge to persue more of the said classics - ably helped by Penguin's £2 range of books - and where better to go than to the epitome of an American classic, The Great Gatsby.

It is tough going at first, and for the first fifty or so pages I felt that I had picked up another boring one.  Plodding along with no semblance of connection between events, it was getting a tad dull, no matter how beautiful some fo the writing was.  Then the title character turned up and it all improved drastically.  Gatsby is a brilliant character, and with the American early twentieth century setting I was reminded of the other great character book I have read this year, Breakfast at Tiffany's.  As soon as he enters the scene things start to make sense, and despite him being complex and not necessarily a one hundred percent likable character, Fitzgerald's writing about him is wonderful, with whole paragraphs dedicated to the meaning behind each smile.

Fitzgerald's writing style is easily one of the biggest highlights of the book.  His turn of phrase is beautiful.  As well as the aforementioned descriptions of Gatsby's smile - truly inspired writing, look it up - I have a vivid recollection of him describing the music at a party as 'very yellow'.  However I have just scanned the book to try and find it and can't so if it turns out to not be there then expect it in my debut novel.

All of this writing leads to a quite wonderful story.  As it was written as a book for the time, I don't understand all of the setting - just as a book written now needs not explain how life is at the moment, so a book written in the 1920's needs not explain life in the 1920's, no matter how little I know of it - but aside from that the romance of the novel remains massively poignant even today.

In summary, this isn't my favourite book that I have ever read, but it is a bonafide classic, and very accessible once you get beyond the first couple of chapters.  If you want to read a book that makes you feel cultured but isn't dull as dishwater, then you could do much worse than this.

8/10

Friday, 4 June 2010

Book 37 - Anthropology

Book - Anthropology
Author - Dan Rhodes
Year - 2000
Genre - Micro Stories/Humour

I always worry a little as to what constitutes an acceptable book for this challenge.  I blogged before about rereads and how acceptable they are (very acceptable was the decision), but the length of a book is always a worry with me.  Books like the last Harry Potter book I read at 610 pages was obviously fine, as are books auch as - for example - The Great Gatsby which I will be soon reading at 181 pages.  However my slightly tongue in cheek review of Mr Tall was part of the blog, but obviously not part of the challenge.

I suppose all of this is really just a precursor to saying that this book was really short.  I was through it in a couple of hours.  Should I include it as another book?  Well, I decided I only would if I could do it without feeling guilty and as though I was cheating.  It's brilliant , I don't, so it's in.

It is effectively a book of 101 page long stories about love.  And they are ridiculous.  And pretty dark.  Maybe the best way to describe it is to put one down.

'My girlfriend enjoys showing off in front of foreigners, and when we met a Greek ub a restaurant she swung from a ceiling fan.  Amused, he increased its speed and she flew off, cracking her head on the floor.  The Greek felt he should accept responsibility for her passing, and tries hard to compensate for my having lost such a lovely girl.  Every month he sends drachmas or gold.  My new wife feels funny about it, but that doesn't stop her spending it all on pretty dresses and paint for her face.  She calls it her dead girl money.'

Many of them are along these lines, so pretty dark as I say, but several times I laughed out loud nonetheless.  From the back of this is would be massively interested in reading more of Dan Rhodes' work.

9/10

Book 36 - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Book - Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Author - JK Rowling
Year - 2005
Genre - Fantasy

Having spent a little time fitting in very little reading due to our production of Rent (It went very well thank you very much) I decided to get back on the wagon by following up on the next in the Harry Potter series.  The books are so readable that even at a little over six hundred pages it is possible to devour it in just over a day.

I don't want to write a detailed review of the plot of the book - there is very little I could say that most people won't have already heard a hundred times over - but suffice to say if you haven't read the books, and are someone who reads my blog so must have seen the past five reviews I have done on the series where I prompted you to do so, then you are very silly and need to contact me so that I can start lending them to you.

The one thing I do want to mention with regards to HP6 (oh yes, I know the lingo) is that it is not quite the book I thought it was.  I have always regarded it as one of the best books in the series, but before reading I was hard pressed to remember anything of note that happened during the bulk of the story.  Upon rereading, I noticed that actually, this is because not a lot happens.  I have always thought of Order of the Phoenix as being the book which is made up primarily of explainations of why things are as they are, and lengthy conversations about history, but it turns out that this book is stuffed full of them too.  Admittedly, they are all massively interesting revelations, and the book does not suffer for it - Rowling evidently improved off the back of what is widely agreed as the weakest book of the series in book five in time for this one - but it is interesting to note.

In summary, if you haven't read Harry Potter, read Harry Potter.  If you have read Harry Potter, read Harry Potter again.

9/10

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Book 35 - Steel Rain

Book - Steel Rain
Author - Tom Neale (pen name of Robert Ryan)
Year - 2005
Genre - Crime Thriller

I am not very good at working out 'whodunnit' in crime books or thrillers.  I know a great many people who say 'Oh, I knew it was the butler all along.  I worked out that all of the obscure little hints that we are given throughout the book had pointed towards him, so it left no other choice'.  I however am usually completely shocked when I find out who the culprit was.  Of course, they were definitely someone I suspected, because generally I suspect every single character we have ever met, including usually the lead character, the victim, the author and occasionaly characters from other books with absolutely no relevence to the story.  Suffice to say, I am good as suspending disbelief and crap at deduction.

This makes it all the more disappointing to read a book like Steel Rain and be positive who the bad guy is from about page fifty.  Not just 'I have my suspicions about this character', but a full blown 'Well this is obvoius who is behind everything, and not just that, but I can also see exactly what is going to happen in the final scene, how it will be uncovered and what will happen to everyone'.  And then be proven one hundred percent right.  The writing is not awful aside from that - except for the fact that the main characters are also not particularly likable, and despite the author being British, there is a virulent strain of 'I love America, I hate Britain, Guns are great, Boo the liberals, Yay for conservitism' - but the point of reading a thriller is completely nulled by knowing what will happen.

I should probably mark this lower, but with easy reading dross like this, it is impossible to be too hateful towards it because it is standard magazine like pap that is churned out to simply be bought, read and instantly disregarded.  It doens't matter, and hopefuly noone will expect it to become a classic.  Which it won't be.  Because it's rubbish.

4/10