The Handmaid’s Tale Review (Spoiler Free!)

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The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is this week’s book. With this novel being adapted into a T.V. show I decided to reread it, to see if it was as good as I remembered. The first time I read it was because it was a book i got assigned in high school english class. Normally those books were boring, or unmemorable. Something about being forced to read sucked the fun away, made it a chore.

 The Handmaids Tale was different. It drew me in, my fascination being as deep as I was disturbed. The novel stuck with me throughout the years, springing into my mind in odd times. Rereading it the effect was the same, I was emotionally effected, more so that usual. That I read it on my breaks at work only enhanced this feeling. Having to go back and talk to customers after reading about Offred was a strange experience to say the least!

In terms of the novel itself, there is a reason for its popularity and resurgence, especially with gender and religious politics being as hot button a topic today. This novel reads almost as a cautionary tale. As a imagining of the culmination of a dark timeline where everything goes wrong. When reading there is a dull sense of horror and loss that pervades each page. Even when little is happening it still feels like Offred is being victimized.

As the reader learns more and more about her story and how she was transformed into a Handmaid this sense of unease and disgust grows. The loss of freedom and agency over ones body is particularly horrifying To kill someone is one thing but to take them and twist them into something else seems almost worse.

As usual I don’t’ want to get into any spoilers because this is a book you want to go into fresh. It’s morbidly fascinating, despite being soul crushing at times. It’s an experience that will stick with you for a while after you turn the last page. I would recommend it to pretty much anyone. If your looking for a light enjoyable read I would give it a pass but otherwise pick it up ASAP!

You can follow me on twitter at @jameslikesbooks

And you can buy my novels on Amazon here

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Good Omens Review (Spoiler Free)

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With my first novel coming out and the struggle to get the next one ready, my blog writing has taken a hit. However, I’m coming back strong with one of my favourite books, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. For those of you who don’t know this novel was a collaboration between the two authors when they were still in the earlyish days of their careers. Theres an adaptation coming so i figured i better get at it.

My love of Terry Pratchett is well documented, I looked at my Goodreads list for this year and half of it is Pratchett. I’m more lukewarm of Gaiman, some of his books I really like and others don’t grab me as hard.

This novel however, is a masterpiece. That’s really the only way that I can describe it. It’s hilarious, both in the prose and in the plot. The characters are good and there is enough interesting concepts and plot points to keep you interested throughout. Overall it’s just an extremely pleasant and comforting book. It’s like the novel version of chicken noodle soup, for me at least.

However, it’s also extremely thought provoking, with some pretty cool thoughts on humanity and the difference between good and evil. Religion, mainly christianity is skewered and spoofed to within an inch of it’s life. Pratchett and Gaiman bring both of their skills and they created something special.

It’s just one of those books that you know that you’ll always love and is easy to recommend to others, no matter their taste in books. Honestly, I like it so much that I don’t want to write that much about it here. I want people to go into it blind, so they can enjoy it like I did. I cannot recommend this novel enough, so if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and go out and grab a copy! Do it now!

You can follow me on twitter @jameslikesbooks

and you can buy my novels on amazon here

Debut Novel Released!

I’m happy to say that my first ever novel has released this week! It’s been a long journey to get to this point but it’s all been worth it!

No good deed goes unpunished.
Gerald is a bastard, born to a Queen who despises him. Tasked with investigating a suspicious death, Gerald is sent far from his home in the Capital. However, when he arrives at the village Redstone, he finds unexpected dangers waiting for him. Now Gerald is isolated, outnumbered, and far from the life that he knew. Yet he must succeed, no matter the odds, if those under his protection are to survive. Packed with mystery, politics and pulse quickening action, A Burden Given is a fast paced read that pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

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This novel is available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback!

US

CANADA

The Count of Monte Cristo (No Spoilers)

 

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This week’s book is The count of Monte Cristo. This might by my favourite book of all time. One of those rare stories that is stunning in its scope and execution, almost to perfection. It is a classic for a very good reason.

The book is a powerhouse of plot. It is the quintessential revenge story. It has spawned countless others, though few can hold a candle to the original. Like all good revenge tales, the Count is justified in his actions. More than justified really. No one could see what was done to him and think that they would have not done the same, or worse.

The book is a web of plots and intrigues but the reader never gets too lost in them to follow what is happening. And when the reveals happen they are breathtaking. The novel is at times very challenging but the engagement than Dumas manages to attain, keeps the reader hooked at all times.

The Count as a character has an ocean of depth. We get to see him changed from a hopeful young man to the formidable Count that he becomes. Dumas only allows you to catch glimpses of what is going on inside of his head, just enough to smell what it is that he’s cooking. Extremely complicated and nuanced, at times a walking talking contradiction. He is driven by hate, love, compassion, and vengeance all at once. In his essence, he is a man consumed.

I don’t want to get too deep into the nuts and bolts as to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. Even though it came out in 1845! Though this is very interesting as is it gives a very authentic snapshot into the time.

Overall the book is amazing. Cover to cover it reads quickly and will blow your mind as it does mind every time I pick it up. I cannot recommend this book enough. The Count of Monte Cristo is a must read for anyone who loves plot, engaging characters, and enough intrigue to drown in.

 

Prince of Thorns Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s book is Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. This was a reread for me. Mark Lawrence is one of my favourite authors, and this was the book that hooked me on his writing. I remember hearing all the hype about PoT and being blown away when I finally got my hands on a copy.

Fantasy, and largely all fiction, is about making something that has already been done seem new and fresh. Broken Empire trilogy does this marvellously. It takes place is a Post apocalypse fantasy world. In this world there are numerous warring empires vying for the one throne. This is nothing new, and yet Lawrence pulls both off extremely well.

Yet Jorg as a character is where i fell in love with the book. Simply put he’s a jerk. He’s violent, kills and maims without remorse. Yet you find yourself rooting for him. The reader makes excuses for his actions and doesn’t hold him up to the same standard as other protagonists. He’s not a hero. but he’s my hero.

He’s like a forest fire that burns away deadwood. You wouldn’t want to come in contact with it but it’s good for the world in the long run.

Lawrence’s prose is very solid, engaging and at many times poetic. The book is a quick read, especially by fantasy standards, around 300 pages. The plot races ahead, easy to follow and extremely engaging.

I would recommend it to anyone that likes dark fantasy. There is a large amount of violence and other disturbing content, which may put some people off but if you can get through that then you are in for a seriously good read.

You can follow me on twitter at  JamesBee

Interesting Times Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s novel is Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times. Lately, I’ve been on a run of books that I didn’t particularly enjoy, so I went back to the Pratchett section on my to be read shelf. Interesting Times was great. Theres not much else I can say about it than that. That could be my whole critique and it would pretty much sum up my feelings.

The plot was engaging and easier to follow than some other disc world ones have been in the past. Pratchett tends to be ruthless in his parodying of cultures and civilizations and this book is no different. It takes place on the counterweight continent, the disc world analog for Asia. It’s full of funny little critiques and commentaries on their past ways of life.Throw the worst wizard on the and a band of the oldest barbarians on the disc world there and you have yourself a good time.

The jokes were plentiful and funny. The story zipped along quite quickly. There were also many moments to genuine emotion, that made me feel feels that I wasn’t ready for.

Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about this book that I haven’t already said in previous disc world novels. Interesting times is a very fine example of what makes people love Terry Pratchett’s work. This book is very much a standalone, though it does have call-backs to previous works. In fact, it would be a great introduction to someone looking to get into Pratchett.

 

The Last Wish Review (No Spoilers)

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This week’s book is The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the that introduces Geralt, the Witcher. The very popular Witcher video games are based off of these novels. I’ve played these games and really enjoyed them. Thus I was extremely excited to dive into this novel and delve further into the world.

Unfortunately I just couldn’t manage to like this novel. I suspect that many of it’s charms were lost in translation. This novel was translated from Polish to English. To my knowledge, I’ve never read a Polish novel before so perhaps my issues are a result of cultural difference. Certainly these books are very popular.

First off, I found the dialogue to be awkward and limited. It felt more like characters from a video game speaking at each other than true conversation. The plot line’s were also all over the place, with the Geralt flitting from place to place with no through line that really grabbed my attention. This combined with repeated clear info dumps constantly made reading a bit of a chore for me.

There were good aspects of course. The world building was extensive and interesting. Much of it I already was interested in, having already explored it in the video games. The character building was good, if not very straightforward. Certainly reading about Geralt dealing with the various monsters and such was the highlight of the novel.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into the story and hardly even bothered to finish. I can’t say that I would recommend it to anyone, even someone who is a fan of the games.

Blood Song Review (No Spoilers)

 

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Today’s novel is Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. Blood Song is epic fantasy, the first instalment of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. Sadly, this book was one that I really wanted to like but found myself struggling with throughout. Ultimately I finished and found that I was done, that I had no desire to seek out the rest of the series.

The main factor that put me off was how much was happening. The sheer amount of different plot lines that were weaved and introduced, some at very advanced stages of the novel, left me somewhat lost or apathetic. There was so many little things happening but I felt that the overall plot lacked.

The pacing was also problematic for me. The novel is often painstakingly slow at parts, describing days at a time, but then jumps in time. By the end, whole months of the final conflict are flying by.

This brought me to my final gripe, is that I found the ending to be extremely unsatisfying. I won’t get into spoilers but i found that all of the build up and tension came to very little. The characters, which were very interesting and well brought up. Weren’t given much to do by the end. Ultimately, Ryan did not deliver on a premise that is built up throughout the story. For a novel that is over 600 pages, this was disappointing.

However, that is not to say that it was all bad. As I mentioned, the characters are very good. The world is well developed and full. The writing itself is read able. Likely many people would, and do, really enjoy this novel. It’s just not for me. For people who enjoy dense novels, who like to reared or are looking for another epic fantasy series to get lost in. Blood Song would certainly be for you. 

You can follow me on Twitter at James Bee

The Fifth Elephant (No Spoilers)

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This week’s novel is the The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett. This is a Sam Vimes story. Vimesis one of my favourite characters from the Discworld and I’m always excited to read one of his books. This novel stands apart from the other’s because it takes Sam Vimes outside of Ankh-Morpork.

This is intriguing, because Vimes is Ankh-Morpork. The city is the core of his being. He’s comfortable in it, nearly unstoppable. He’s spent his whole life within it’s walls and he knows the streets like the soles of his feet. It’s always interesting to see a character taken out of their depth and put into an unfamiliar and unfriendly environment. That Vimes has to travel to a place that is as alien as the moon to him only makes things more interesting.

The novel is takes place largely in Uberwald where dwarves, vampires, werewolves and Igor’s all live together in uneasy harmony. Pratchett uses this to make some interesting points on race relations and traditions. Drawing parallels between the Discworld and our own is not difficult, and is relevant even to this day.  As usual, he hides his rather vicious deconstruction of society behind comedy.

The plot is intricate and engaging, with a number of clues and mysteries to solve. All the characters you would hope show up show up and grow and evolve. The novel hums along nicely with each chapter pushing the towards to the conclusion.

Overall the Fifth Elephant had all of the elements that lend the Discworld novels it’s charms without having some of the pitfalls that sometimes show up. The novel was well plotted, charming, and in many parts, hilarious. I would fully recommend this novel to any fantasy lover, even someone who hasn’t read much or any of Terry Pratchett’s novels before.

You can follow my writing adventures on Twitter At JamesBee

Stuff Matters Review

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Today’s book was Stuff Matters by Mark Midownik. This one was different that what I normally read. t’s a book about everyday materials and their stories of how they came to be and how they have evolved. materials such as paper, concrete, chocolate amongst others are explored.

Midownik masterfully blends history with science. It takes a special writer to keep me as engaged as he managed to. He skillfully keeps the reader interested mainly through the strength and colourfulness of his anecdotes. In today’s world effective science communicators are worth their weight in gold

While most of the information entered one ear and left through the other some stuck which is all I can ask for. The biggest take away was a different way of looking at the world around me. Everything has a story and can be interesting, if looked at the right way.

Not too much more to say about the book, other than it was interesting read. If you enjoy science then you should pick it up! If not you should still give it a go, you might find it interesting!