Top 5 Books I Read In 2015

10 08 2016

The Ask And The Answer (Patrick Ness - 2009)

2014 was a good year for reading, at least for me, and in total I read 25 books. In 2015 I did not read as many, but it was not a bad year for reading neither. Yes there were some books that I read and just did not get, while many others I consider amongst some of the best books I have read in my reading life. I know it’s a bit late in the year to be doing Top 5 of the previous year posts, but I really have been meaning to get round to this one. Yes, much like I did last year, this is the time for the books I read last year to shine. I did read quite a few books as it happened, but quite a few I thought were not so good and really did put a downer on my reading time, the one standing out more than most being The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was a good idea and a really well devised, interesting and enjoyable setting, but for the most part I simply did not understand it all that well, nor enjoy it all that much.

The Young Elites (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers - 2014)

Unlike last year, this year’s selection of books are not entirely dominated by two people called Michael, although one of them does return to this year’s list (see number 4). This year however one author dominates with two entries: as for a good period of time last year I read 4 Patrick Ness novels of which my favourite 2 are in this list. The main part of that reading was in the form of his Chaos Walking Trilogy. While I did enjoy all the books in that series, only one gets a part here, this is because I felt that I had read a few things better than The Ask and the Answer, and that while I really did enjoy The Knife of Never Letting Go, as I had read a good part of the beginning in late 2014, I thought I would allow another book the place of Number 5 in this list. All things considered though, I had a really good reading year last year, and am enjoying another fun-filled one this year having already read some other books which right now I am certain will get featured in next year’s list too, hopefully though that one won’t be so late in the year. Anyway, hope you enjoy this retrospective look at the Top 5 Books I read in 2015.

Darkmouth (Harper Collins - 2015)

5. Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty – This one I just found staring at me in 2 branches of Waterstones. In the end I did buy it along with The Enemy (see number 3). Funny thing is, is that apparently when my Dad was in town that same day; he almost bought a copy of it too. Darkmouth as a book is quite an interesting idea, as it revolves around a town called Darkmouth, where every now and then a portal opens up releasing a legendary creature into the town to cause havoc. Keeping these ‘Legends’ in check is a young boy in training to become a legend hunter from his dad who is something of a legendary legend hunter. In the meantime the boy has got other worries; he actually wants to be a vet not a Legend Hunter, he still has homework to do, and there is this mysterious new girl in town that is strangely attracted to him. It’s a very nice well thought out book that is also very lengthy, but also very easy. It does not keep you held down with difficult mumbo-jumbo nor does it bore you with the details, there is actually something always happening from one chapter to the next and it does well to keep you involved. It’s also very fun and has its own style of humour which goes from laugh out loud moments to a quirky giggle; fun from start to finish, but also very tense at times.

Eve & Adam (Egmont - 2012)

4. Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate – Yes, Michael Grant is back, however I can’t help but feel that this book is more Applegate than Grant. A young girl has got herself into a real horrid accident, and is taken to the private hospital run by her multi-millionaire Mum, who runs a giant corporation in the same building. While she is recuperating, the girl tries out a brand new piece of software, one that will allow her to create her ultimate boyfriend, but it’s all just a game…right? Eve and Adam is a nice punchy but easy read that is also laced with ideas including romance, love to the misuse of genetics and creation. Each chapter centres around a certain character, of which there are mainly two, but every now and then another is introduced. It has a strange pace as it goes from an accident, to recovery, to the software, to an ex-boyfriend, to a new being, to a giant conspiracy to the big finale. It’s relatively a simpler read in comparison to the Gone books and is a nice thing to read when you have a spare minute; for instance I read it after getting my new bed. I really enjoyed it, it was just really interesting and was less about action, more an intelligent read to get you thinking and really see where things can lead, especially when several spanners are thrown into the mix, I also thought it was very similar in ideas to Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

The Enemy (Penguin - 2009)

3. The Enemy by Charlie Higson – Since reading the Gone books; I have found it progressively difficult to find a book that just grabbed me from the first page and one that I did not want to stop reading. Then I read The Enemy, and I was hooked from start to finish. Set in London, a group of kids survive on the edge inside a branch of Waitrose, while the world’s adults have all turned into Zombies. It’s a very simple premise, but the level of detail is excellent, because as soon as it begins, kids start dying, and they don’t stop. The level of violence is unprecedented, and the rivalry between the kid gangs of London and those whose stories are also explored tell a tale of a once great city crumbling in on itself, as Kids have to grow up, while the grownups go one a killing spree in their search for food. It’s very well detailed and goes into locations all over the Capital, but most of all, it tells a genuinely realistic story of the fight for survival, and how resourceful kids can be when given the chance to prove it, but also show what lengths they will have to go to in order to survive, even if it means killing those that they once loved.

Monsters Of Men (Patrick Ness - 2010)

2. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – The Chaos Walking trilogy began with a young boy living in a world where everyone could hear each other’s thoughts, who then stumbles upon a spot where he can’t hear anything. As the first two books developed, they told the story of a world that lied to the boy, and who has to conform to a new world order in order to survive. As Monsters of Men starts though, the young boy named Todd is standing in the middle of a town on the brink of war from not one but 3 sides, as an old native species to the planet has returned from extinction. Monsters of Men is a power house of a read, it goes into great lengths the horrors of war, what people will do to achieve victory and the importance of attaining Peace sooner rather than later. It is a pretty big book, but in comparison to the previous two instalments (which were both un-put-down-able), this one is one you just can’t stop reading, other than to do the things you need to do to stay alive so you can finish it. It comes with twists and turns and a whole load of action, while also following on from lessons learned, and from the point of views from not one but 3 people inside the conflict. There are also a lot of surprises and returns, ones that will grip you and began from the first book. Overall though the book goes into a real truth: a great horror not just set in a fictional world, but one existent in ours; and this is just a taster of that.

A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd - 2011)

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay and Siobhan Dowd – I spotted this one in Waterstones when reading Chaos Walking but did not take much notice; until I realised that a film (due for release in October) was being made of it, so I gave it another look, and asked for the book for Christmas. I read it quite quickly, because for one it was quite a short read, and two, because I couldn’t get enough of it. From day one, I read a few chapters but then needed to go to bed, the same for day 2, and day 3 when I finished it, after which I had a good long and emotional cry. The story revolves around young boy Connor whose Mum gets Cancer. At school, Connor is treated as like he was invisible, because everybody knows and does not understand, but he is made the target of a group of bullies. While all this is going on however, Connor is visited by a tree monster who tells him stories, and in return, the Monster wants The Truth. It is a very chilling book with lots of fiendishly chilling artwork on every page; however the books key characteristic is how real it is: Connor not having much of a father because he left and the grandma who does not get on well with him. But the real battlefield is the playground, as day-to-day it’s a matter of walking through school invisible to everyone, keeping secretive from supposed friends and having to keep his head low from the bullies. In the meantime, The Monster tells some really chilling stories which in turn bring out the worst in Connor, who himself is holding in a dark secret, one that he fears more than anything else. The book is also very emotional and really strikes a chord with your emotional strings, one that is so powerful, that from simply reading this book I felt like I was there, and was experiencing the emotional turmoil that Connor goes through, especially the anger at old friends and the emotion of the key plot line. In turn this book had another effect on me, as this was the first time a book has ever made me physically cry, to which I did nearly before the book ended, to at least half an hour afterwards. It’s not just a brilliant read, but also a very powerful book, one whose experience will remain with you forever.

GENEPOOL





Book Review – Prey

13 01 2016

Prey (Michael Crichton - 2002)

Title: Prey

Author: Michael Crichton

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0007796420

I remember back in the early 2000’s first hearing about Nanobots. It was the very early 2000’s and Robot Wars and its spin-off Techno Games were at their height, and I even collected the magazine Real Robots. There was no better time to be a fan of robots, and I was one, it was great. Well; my dad was looking through the newspaper and showed me the article on Nanobots, and the only thing I really knew about them was how small they were. Sometime later, about a couple of years I think, I remember watching and seeing something on Have I Got News For You about Nanobots and how such a thing would be a threat to society as Nanobots could reshape an Atom into anything theoretically, but at the moment only really Grey Goo…or something like that. Since then Nanobots are something which has come up every now and then, but surprisingly not in a very big way, or from what I have seen. Yes, they have had appearances in Video Games, TV, Movies and Books; but have somewhat never really stood out among the pack, and whose appearance since the mid-noughties sort of disappeared. I just find it odd that in the technology driven world of today, the subject of Nanobots doesn’t come up all that often. Put the subject of Nanobots in the right hands however, and you can easily end up with something very realistic, very terrifying and very believable.

Originally released in 2002 by Harper Collins; Prey is a Techno-thriller written by bestselling author Michael Crichton, whose previous works include The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Jurassic Park, Airframe and Next. Much like many of Crichton’s works, Prey is a very science driven book that deals with the themes and ideas of it subject matter, backed up with tons of research and planning to not only produce a stunning piece of fiction, but also create the suggestion that such things are possible and are happening right now.

Unlike previous works of Crichton that I have read, Prey is told in the first person, whereas books like Jurassic Park and Micro are both third person. Prey follows the seven-day story of computer scientist Jack. He has been made redundant and is now working as a full-time father, looking after his children at home. His wife meanwhile is the Vice President of Xymos; a company based somewhere out in the Nevada Desert. Jack is beginning to find his wife rather hard to live with as she is starting to have a go at him for spending more time with their kids than she is. Meanwhile his family have started talking about strange men coming around the house. While all this is going on, out in the desert at the plant where his wife works, Jack is called in to help out when a swarm of Nanoparticles gets loose and every attempt to recover and destroy them has failed. As things begin to ramp up, Jack begins to learn the horrifying truths about both the Swarm and those around him, and soon is fighting for both his, and possibly humanities survival.

Prey deals with the subject of Nanobots, but not in the grey goo form. No, this story deals with the idea of using the latest technological discoveries to create new technologies and devices to better help mankind, and then what happens when such technology breaks loose from its programming and sets about becoming the new alpha predators. Prey is very different to the past experience I have had with Crichton. Just like Prey; Jurassic Park and Micro were very much about advancements in science and technology and what people will go to, to maintain control when they begin to lose it. Both of those books were focussed on a biological form of science, whereas Prey focusses more on the technological side than the biological side of scientific advancement. There is a lot more talk in this book about computer science than any form of biological standing. While it is certainly different in that aspect, much like Park still though, it goes into how easy it is to lose that control, but don’t think of that as some kind of Crichton Cliché, because the book does more than that. It starts out from the sane and believable world of a pressuring family life, to the in-depth loss of control in a hectic situation, to the near insane ending that just jumps off leaps and bounds until there is practically no-where else to go.

Prey is a big book, and follows the story of just one person, remaining entirely in first person all the way through. For a protagonist, Jack is a really connectable person. He starts off the book shopping for table placemats, and just grows from there. Much like his other books, the narrative is split into about three or four sections, each one highlighting a certain point. These get quicker as it goes along, but to begin with it’s just the story of a man who has lost his job and is trying to look after his family the best way he possibly can. As the early story develops, the issues between him and his wife grow, and you are brought into something of a domestic conspiracy as the book’s first bit builds to a crescendo that brings our hero into the real situation. This sets-up our hero and gives him something to live for and worry about while he’s away. Soon after though, he gets involved with the runaway swarm. Why is he brought into it? Because, ironically he has something to do with their creation in the first place. As a computer scientist; he worked on a program which becomes the main basis for the nanoparticle swarm. To begin with he tries to understand it best he can, but with issues all around him from several people it leads to him going from a consultant to a man of reasoning and action, but is then restricted on all sides, not just from the abilities of the Swarm, but the people he is working with. Eventually it leads him into the discovery of several horrible truths that lead to the action packed conclusion; along with some trademark Crichton clearing up of the facts, just to cover all the ground bases.

Prey is a really terrific read. I managed to obtain a copy of this in a book bundle from The Works for £5 (which included Next and Micro, although I already had Micro). It came at an interesting point for me as I was struggling with my current reads at the time, plus the obtaining of Prey got me all excited as to wanting to read another Michael Crichton book. I started with this one out of the two I hadn’t read in the bundle because this one had an essay at the front, and reading the point of view of Crichton in such a well written form as to the themes and ideas of the technology that inspired the book, is a great way to begin reading a book. Prey has been something of a breath of fresh air to me, as it is something very different to most other books I read all last year. Out of all the books (about 4 at the time) that I was reading, Prey was the book I most looked forward to reading a bit more of. It is a hard thing to describe, but the enjoyment I received from reading this book was unlike anything I have read in quite a while. Prey has a lot of personal issues and a background that is very easy to understand. It puts you in the situation that Jack is going through with impeccable description. It puts you in scenes from personal issues, to heightened moments of action. It also takes you on a journey of discovery and unleashes moments of mystery that make you want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next.

My feelings aside, Prey is a wonderful read. It has all the hallmarks of a Michael Crichton science fiction novel, while also delivering a constant punch of twists and turns as the book builds to its epic conclusion. While the book and its technology could be seen as a bit dated now, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. It makes the ideas of Nanobots a very serious and terrifying prospect, and one that should not be taken lightly to this day. It is very much a story of today, a world covered in people with electronic gadgets from iPod‘s and iPhone’s to Kindle‘s and even technology in devices that weren’t computerized before (like coffee machines). While it is not necessarily a story about the rise of neither machines nor computers, it is still a story about a serious threat; one that could easily lead from something found in our world today, and make humanity – not technology – obsolete.

GENEPOOL





What Book To Read Next?

22 04 2015

The Young Elites (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers - 2014)

When you are reading a book and begin to see the end in sight (which mainly involves counting how many pages there are left) one question instantly pops into your head that requires an answer, and soon. What book am I going to read next? It’s a big question for a big reader and unless you get a new book soon, you could find yourself in a spot where you may end up not reading at all. Now if it’s the case that you are reading a book in a series, and that you are enjoying it well enough to keep reading it, then you are pretty much sorted, until the series ends and have to go out and find either a new book or a new series to read. What book to read next is a question that has been plaguing me recently, as it’s the case that I have nearly finished a book, and need a new one to begin reading, and soon. Recently I have been getting back into reading at bed time again thanks to the recent acquisition of a new bed. Reading at bed time is actually quite enjoyable and something I have enjoyed in the past, such as when I read The Hunger Games. More recently though I have been reading Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant.

Eve & Adam (Egmont - 2012)

Eve & Adam has been a lot of fun to read and I consider it one of the best books I have read this year so far (along with A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness). But with just a few chapters left to read, I needed to start thinking about which book I was going to try next. Now while I am currently reading Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men, that has still some time to go until I have completed that, so I don’t need to worry about what after that just yet. Luckily though, I do visit Waterstones a lot and keep an eye out for books. Also, any books I have spotted either online, personal research or seen in Waterstone’s  I catalogue onto my wish list on Goodreads and put them in some sort of order as to which I most want to read next. This I find useful more as a guide though of things to look out for, especially as I know some of the titles in the list off by heart, usually the ones quite near the top. This however presents the issue of having to actually choose which one to read. My excitement for one book at a time (such as Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson) might not much be the case later on and I really need find a real way to choose one.

Steelheart (Orion Books - 2013)

Sometimes though it can be the case that my choosing of a book may depend on the books word formatting. I can find it a real struggle sometimes to read a book that has short words and not a lot of spacing, which can lead to my eyes hurting/straining. A lot of the books I read I do find give me plenty of this, and when I buy a book I do like to have a look at it to see how the words are spaced out. Sometimes I am able to read shorter text but as a result can find it harder to really get into it. This is one of the reasons that Michael Crichton’s Micro really appealed to me when I saw it on shelves in Waterstone’s. Another thing on my mind when choosing which book to read next includes considering my collection of as yet unread books. The collection is mostly made up of books I really wanted to read but did not get round to reading them as planned. The Spook’s Secret by Joseph Delaney was a case of me buying it at the same time as The Spook’s Curse, but having had Michael Grant’s GONE on my shelf for many months, I decided to give it a go, and then did not get round to reading Secret. Other books like Battle Royale by Koushun Takami are ones that I have yet to get round to reading, although I am considering reading Battle Royale after I have read Monsters of Men.

Battle Royale (VIZ Media, LLC - 2009)

As to what to the decision of choosing what my next bed time read would be however, I have had my eyes on a few things and have chosen what to read next. Roughly this time last week I was chasing up a book by Jeremy Robinson called Project Nemesis. A book which involves Giant Monsters or Kaiju trashing a city, the sort of thing I like, especially with my high interest in Godzilla films. I had once heard about the book many months ago but did not think much about it. I decide to chase it up and after having a glance at it and the other books in the series, I really wanted to read them, so when I was in Waterstone’s yesterday I asked if they had a copy of it in. They didn’t. It turned out that the book may not have been released in the UK (either yet or at all) and while I could order one, due to it not being released in the UK, it would be pricey. So with my hopes of reading it so far dashed, I had to have a think.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

Another book I considered reading recently is a book called The Deadly 7 by Garth Jennings, a story about a group of monsters, each one representing one of the Seven Deadly Sins make friends with a boy. From the books cover it looks rather fun, however, it is not the book I asked about in Waterstone’s.

The Deadly 7 (Macmillan Children's Books - 2015)

The book I asked about was one I voted for in the Goodreads awards; The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Yes, I have not read it, but have voted for it, the reason was due to  both its cover and premise. It came to mind just as I stepped into the shop, and as it was a passing thought, I decided to ask about it. I checked the book cover and it was the one, and so it is now on order for me. So The Young Elites is to be my next bed time reading and I am really excited to read it. It’s also the first in a series, so that might cover me for a while, even though the third one may be a year or so before it is released, however, this could lead to other things. Because I did not remember the author’s name when I asked about The Young Elites, I did not realise that she had also written another book (Prodigy) in my goodreads wish list, one that’s been there for about year now (I think). More strangely though; it’s the second book in a series: The Legend series, of which I don’t know much about.

Prodigy (Putnam Juvenile - 2013)

GENEPOOL





Messenger Of Fear Cover Art

16 07 2014

Messenger of Fear 2

A couple of weeks ago, Goodreads had a sort of online event to reveal the cover art of the new book by Michael Grant. For those of you who don’t know who Michael Grant is, he is the author of both my Favourite Book and my Favourite Book Series, those being the book Light and the Gone Series, of which Light is the final book. Over the course of about 8-9 months between June 2013 and February 2014 I read all six gone books, and loved every minute of it. Since then though I have had to look for new books to read, but during the time I read them, I began to look into other books and have since read quite a lot with particular note going to The Last Dragonslayer books by Jasper Fforde and the works of Michael Crichton with me reading Jurassic Park earlier this year and am currently reading Micro (co-authored by Richard Preston). But despite all that, I have not really read anything since Light that really gripped me as much as the Gone series did. While my number 1 want to read at the moment (once I have finished my current reading and series there of) is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, (the first in the Chaos Walking series) which was suggested to me by one of my tutors, I really do look forward to reading another Michael Grant book. While he has released other books including the BZRK series, I was pleased to hear about his newest book, Messenger of Fear, but I am not too sure about the cover art.

Messenger of Fear 1

The picture above is the supposed cover for the UK release, and the one at the top of the post, is the supposed cover art for the US release, and I would much rather have the US release cover. The UK cover looks sort of, well a bit bland, the pink/red cover just looks sort of off-putting, but more than anything, it doesn’t really stand out. The thing that grabbed me when I first saw Fear and made me want to read the Gone Series was the cover art which was black but with a chilling purple title and purple binding around the pages.

FEAR

It got my attention and got me interested. The cover for Messenger of Fear does not, really, grab my attention and it probably wouldn’t have caught my eye if I saw it on the book shelves and it is only having read Gone that I know about it and want to read it. I would much rather have the US release cover art as A) it stands out and B) would look better on my bookshelves. It overall makes me want to try and order a copy with the US release cover instead of the UK one. While it is overall annoying (at least to me) how the UK cover has turned out, in the end it is the enjoyment the reader gets out of reading the book, and given the track record the author has for Young Adult fiction, this is a book I am really excited about.

BZRK

GENEPOOL





My Second Blog

2 09 2013

Second Blog

Over the course of the past year I have written many different things. I have written pieces of work for my University Course as well as pieces written in my spare time including (obviously) Blog Posts as well as several poems and short stories. More recently I have sent off some of these Stories (and one poem) to Story Competitions. To date though, I have been unsuccessful with most (I have yet to hear from Bridport). Recently though I decided to publish these stories, as was once suggested by my Creative Writing Tutor. While they may not appear on the shelves, or in papers or short listed/long listed entries in competitions, I decided to post them online. While I could do this on this blog and maybe make a second page, I decided to start-up a second blog just for my short stories.

So, with the blog now up and running I thought I would let you know where you can find it and take a look. The Web Address is: http://samstoriesblog.wordpress.com/ 

So please go and take a look and have a read of my stories. Click on the thumbs up/thumbs down buttons if you liked or disliked the stories and feel free to leave any comments that you wish to make. Don’t worry, this is not the end of this blog, my primary blog. This will continue to be updated weekly so please check back regularly for more posts.

GENEPOOL








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