Top 5 Books I Read In 2014

20 05 2015

Icefire (Orchard Books - 2004)

During 2014, I took part in a reading challenge on Goodreads where I read 25 books in a year. Originally I had set the challenge to read 10 books in the year as I am something of a slow reader, but due to reading a selection of picture books, a comic and a couple of small ones, I was quick to surpass this target. So I kept on expanding it by another 5 books and by the end of the year, with a little bit of a struggle, I had read all 25 books.

Avengers vs. X-Men (Marvel - 2013)

The books I read last year were some of the best books I have read my whole life (so far) and for several months now I have been wanting to do a post about them. So here are my Top 5  favourite books that I read in 2014.

The Last Dragonslayer (Hodder and Stoughton - 2011)

5: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde – I had not heard of nor read the works of Jasper Fforde until one of my lecturers at University posted an email about him coming to do a talk at the Uni. I did not think much more of it, but then my Lecturer suggested that I read The Last Dragonslayer as it would help with my assignment. I bought a copy of it, which was rather hard as it was not available on the shelves in Waterstones, though thankfully, I was able to order it through them. The first half of the first chapter just went by like a blur and I could not remember anything about it. The rest of the book though, I remember fondly. The story is about Jennifer Strange who is the acting head of Kazam, which is an employment agency for wizards. Times are tough for Magic and there is a lot more paperwork than there used to be, and things are going to get much harder for Jennifer, as she is destined to slay the last Great Dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms. The Last Dragonslayer is a book aimed at a teenage, possibly Young Adult audience, but I was able to just get engrossed in it. It is such a funny book, I just wanted to continuously burst out laughing as I got closer and closer to finishing it. I can’t stretch out enough how funny it was. It had references to the modern contemporary world, with the mentions of cars, business, employment and paperwork, but also had a deeply rooted world of magic and science. It’s also quite an easy read. I just loved this book throughout, such an enjoyable read.

FEAR (Egmont Books - 2012)

4: FEAR by Michael Grant – I worked out it took me somewhere between 8 and 10 months to read Michael Grant’s GONE series, but today, even after reading so many other books and other series, it is still my favourite series of books. In December 2013 I started reading FEAR, the penultimate book in the series, and at long last; it was the cover of FEAR that got me interested in the series in the first place. FEAR is the fifth book in the series and takes place after the events of PLAGUE, and things could not be worse for the boys and girls of The FAYZ. With the town and other areas they have lived been almost completely destroyed by both themselves, and the unnatural forces that reside in The FAYZ, they have finally begun to settle down, but there are dark forces both inside the dome, and outside. Inside, the town is about to rebel against its leaders and outside, a sinister plot is underway which could spell the end of those inside. But amidst all this, there is something much more powerful growing. The thing I found with the GONE series is how it is written to make you feel something more as you read it, not just affection or a connection to the characters, but makes you see or feel something more at work. I have referenced FEAR as the calm before the storm. The final book in the series has a lot of chaos and anarchy, but so does the first 4 books, but that grows more gradually. By the time you finish PLAGUE, you sort of feel rather paranoid as things get worse for the characters and the world. In FEAR though, there is a lot of times for peace and reflection, and while things do get chaotic, it’s more in a building form which saves the rest for the last instalment. FEAR also does one thing the other books have not done yet, which is explore the world outside the FAYZ; How the families of the children are doing, what the news coverage is reporting, but also what has happened to those who have escaped, and the armies Interest. FEAR then is not so much a rampaging assault on the characters inside like the first four books, but more of a supernatural conspiracy which sets everything up, for the final chapter. Due though also to its more natural calm pace, FEAR is such a beautiful but also calm read, that it becomes not just one of the best books in the series, but also, a lovely standalone book in its own right.

Jurassic Park (Arrow Books - 2006)

3: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – I had known for many years that Jurassic Park was originally a book, but I had not once considered reading it. It was only due to me wanting to do an adaptation of it for my University Degree that I decided to read it (the adaptation piece was the story re-told from the point of view of the Tyrannosaur). I went into it figuring that it would be a lot like the film, however it wasn’t; it was a lot better. I am a big fan of the film, but the book does things a lot differently. It begins in a way that starts with minor characters and some that are only heard from in no more than 1 chapter, but then it develops into something more recognisable. The characters though appear to be a lot different than they are in the film, but there are more developments and there is a real sense of who you want to boo and cheer for. Jurassic Park also has a great vision for its dinosaurs and even has a level of science in them. This science feature takes up a lot of the books dialogue, however, it is at no point; boring. It is actually written in a very interesting style that reads more like someone talking to you, instead of either lecturing you, or being written down in a text-book. It was really interesting, but in comparison, there is also a lot of mathematics as well as business, investing and corruption. It is not just a science book with the added treat of dinosaurs; it is also an insight into what lengths people will go to, to get what they want. Let’s not forget though, that at its core, Jurassic Park is an adventure, an adventure into a lost forgotten world as dinosaurs are brought back to life, and terrorise the lives of those, who have never encountered them alive. Yep, it sounds just like the film, but the book is more than a film, and is better for it.

Micro (Harper Collins - 2012)

2: Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston – While reading Jurassic Park, I got interested into reading more works by Crichton. One I found in Waterstones was Micro. I did not know anything about it, was the first time I had seen it. I took a look and liked the sizing of the letters and line spacing. I looked into it, and decided to read that after I finished Jurassic Park; which I did, and liked it more than Jurassic Park. Micro is the last book to be written by Crichton who sadly passed away after finishing only a third of it, to which Preston was brought on board to complete. Micro follows a group of students as they are brought to Hawaii as part of an exciting opportunity to work for a new start-up company. Things take an ugly turn however and soon they find themselves in a world they know, but have never studied so close up before. They now have only a few days left to undo the damage done to themselves, but first have to survive a dangerous new world, that up till now, most people have taken for granted. Micro is a lot like Jurassic Park in the sense that it is very scientific but also a great adventure. It is filled with multiple perils and dangerous moments, and just like a great adventure, not everyone survives. In this we also have a selection of interesting characters, weird science and both a level of state of the art technology and; as far as I am aware, biotechnology that does not exist (yet) but appears so real. The stories biggest shock though comes in its first few chapters as while your mind is thinking one thing, you don’t see the other thing coming. In what I think is a book far better than Jurassic Park, Micro is such an enjoyable, yet both intriguing and interesting book.

LIGHT (Egmont Books - 2013)

1: LIGHT by Michael Grant – What is easily both; my favourite instalment in the GONE Series but also My Favourite Book. When I started reading it, with in just a few minutes of starting, I could not stop. Basically, everything comes to a head as those inside the FAYZ are in great danger as the Darkness has been reborn. As things get worse on the inside of the dome, things are advancing outside also and it appears that simply escaping the FAYZ, might not be such a great idea for some of the book’s main players. LIGHT is a non-stop, pulse pounding action thriller. It begins rather simply, but within a few chapters, there is chaos everywhere leading key players to meet their fate and untimely ends as they take on one of the most powerful entities in existence. Behind all this though there is still time for emotion, compassion and experience the lives of those who you have become attached to and fond of for six whole books. There are moments of regret and redemption for former villains as well as moments of great powers and raw destruction from others, and when the end comes, it is not really the end, as the book then delves into what happens to the lives of those who are still alive as some face uncertain futures. I really love this book, there was just great moments in it and it quickened the pace as it went along as the final battle approached. But the death of a certain character, a really good one, slowed it down enough for me to reflect. And then, as it reached its ultimate conclusion, came judgement day as some characters face a hard struggle, as some are made scapegoats and face criminal charges. But the story wraps it up beautifully and ends in a really nice way. It ends just the right way, with a finished, completed story, and one that I so far have not read anything like since.

The Song of the Quarkbeast (Hodder and Stoughton - 2012)

GENEPOOL (My Goodreads challenge for this year is to read 15 books in a year).

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Book Review – MICRO by Michael Crichton

10 09 2014

Micro by Michael Crichton (HarperCollins - 2011)

Title: Micro

Author: Michael Crichton, Richard Preston

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 000735007

There are many frontiers in the world today. Space is a possibility of course, but if you want to keep your feet on planet earth there are many regions you could explore. You could climb the highest mountain, dive to the bottom of the deepest ocean, cross vast inhospitable deserts or discover new landmasses just waiting to be discovered. But what about the areas of the world that we know about but are yet to truly discover? What if you could put yourself in a position to discover more of the world we already know? What if you could make discoveries about Insects on their level………just a thought.

Released in 2011, Micro is the final book by best-selling author Michael Crichton whose previous work includes Jurassic Park, Disclosure, The Andromeda Strain, Timeline and State of Fear. Crichton had begun writing Micro and had finished a third of the book by the time of his death in 2008. The book was discovered on his computer sometime later and Science Writer Richard Preston; the author of The Hot Zone and The Wild Trees (and the only person not to be a medical practitioner to receive the ‘Centers for Disease Control’s Champion of Prevention Award for public health‘) was asked to complete it. This does not mean in any way though that the book loses anything from the loss of Crichton as Preston has done an amazing job in keeping the writing style the same from the moment he picks it up till the very end. The book also features an introduction into the world the book explores written by Crichton himself but was also sadly unfinished.

Micro, much like many great books starts with an event which for the most part has characters which do not have a major story in the book but is a great way to lure the writer in. The event ends with three men dead in a locked Honolulu Office with razor-sharp cuts all over their bodies. In Cambridge, seven bright students are encouraged to visit Hawaii based start-up company Nanigen who are making increasing discoveries into the world of microbiology. Wanting to learn more the students go to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu where things begin to take a mysterious twist as a death at sea occurs with the presumed death of the company’s vice president who is also a relation of one of the students. The students begin to marvel at the how the company operates and make the discoveries, but when one student goes to talk about the incident out at sea, things take a dramatic twist as all seven students are instantly thrown into a world which is far beyond their wildest nightmares. It’s now a struggle for survival as the students have to contend with the cruel natural world and harness the abilities they each have as they struggle to survive in the rainforests of Hawaii and battle nature that only a few days ago was smaller than them.

I first spotted Micro a few months ago when I started reading Jurassic Park. Within a few chapters I wanted to read more work from Michael Crichton. When I spotted Micro, the first thing that drew me to it was the size and spacing of the letters, it had plenty and it was nice and big for me to read without causing too much strain, something that I find hard to avoid with smaller writing and spacing. The books cover also got my attention and when I read the blurb on the bag, it was a book I wanted to read, and read then. Several Months later I bought it and started reading. One thing I sometimes do is that when I read a the books blurb, I try to picture what the book might be about, and more often than not I get the right idea, but not in the right direction. When you see the word Micro on the books cover you know the book is going to be about something Small or tiny and over reading the first few chapters I was waiting to see what would happen but I thought it was going to be about Nanorobotics and Nanotechnology. By the end of Chapter Nine you discover what the book title really means and then you get more of a clear perspective of what is going to happen to a group of students whose main form of research is the study of Insects.

The book is written in the third person but does not break to move from the thoughts and actions of a single character but just does it. This at first can seem regularly annoying, but as the book keeps going and more and more characters start appearing and of course, disappearing, it becomes more part of the flow of the book. The only time the book does use breaks are the points the narrative changes location. One thing the book does which at first appears to be overlooked is the way the chapter beginnings are formatted, with the current Narrative Location as well as the time and date. This method is a terrific way to show the passage of time but also shows the progression of specific ailments that the characters begin to feel and suffer from as time goes on, something that the book continually reminds you of and makes you wonder how long the characters have left until the proverbial end. The book though is not quick and there is a real sense of real-time going through the entire story without much need for skipping except for moments of large amounts of time passing.

The books characters are a mixed bunch of good, bad, annoying and sinister. For the most part the book takes the narrative of one of the students with tiny points of narrative coming off of him here and there, this being the character of Peter Jansen. For the most part, the tertiary characters only have short points here and there with only little bits of introduction for each one but highly detailed sections of narrative for when they are the main spotlight, the secondary characters though are a main spotlight in the story throughout with characters like Rick Hutter and Karen King standing out and eventually taking top spot in the story. In terms of other major characters, the story focuses on those who are not in the group including the sinister head of Nanigen Vincent Drake, his Security chief and the interested policeman who begins to unravel the huge plot going on as things begin to get weirder and weirder. As the story goes on more and more characters are introduced but whose appearances are not major and usually don’t last, but a nice little twist is added later on. As for the other students, real characterization begins to unfold when you discover what they are actually like in the current situation with some becoming strong and fearless, while one of them just becomes plain annoying and is the kind of character who is mostly interested in his own survival and as a result the one member of the group you probably wouldn’t mind leaving behind.

One of Micro’s key points is that it is believable due to it being set in a real world location. If a book is set on a distant planet or in a different universe, a lot of imagination is required to make the story work, and if it is not done properly, it is easy to confuse the reader. Micro though, being set on Hawaii instantly rings through the head of the reader, even if they have not actually been there they can get an idea of where it is and a partial idea of what it might look like. It’s a lot like the setting and introduction to Jurassic Park where the introduction talks like an essay being written in the here and now but then talks about the company and location as if they’re real and this sets up the story for you. by putting the story in the real world it makes the story seem real as if something like what is happening in Micro could be happening right here and now without us even knowing it and this is one of the brilliant things you begin to realize when reading a book by Michael Crichton, and it’s that he has written something entirely fictional, but is also incredibly plausible at the same time.

That is one thing reason why Micro is so enjoyable, it’s believable, but on that point you get something else which is also a sort of key trademark of works by Michael Crichton in that the world and setting is so finely and minutely detailed in a way that is not boring. When you read Micro, there is a lot of gaps and moments of detail of the world that the characters are experiencing, moments where it talks about certain smells of the rainforest, and the types of species and relations to each other there in. Crichton details everything and talks about everything that the characters are dealing with from complex names of species to how venom and poison from insects work to even how well detailed creatures nests are to pheromones that creatures give off; and it’s not just prohibited to the insect world, but also the technological world with devices which as far as we know don’t currently exist but gives a detailed look into the experience such machines do. This level of detail may sound rather boring, but instead it is much the opposite, it’s incredibly interesting and while such moments may slow down elements of thrills or action, they are very much required in order for the player to experience the world that they are trying to engross when reading (there’s even a bibliography after the story showing points of reading that was undertaken in order to write the book).

Micro is an incredible book, one which I find possibly better than Jurassic Park as the story dives into a world that we can only dream of experiencing yet one that we see every day and it’s only thanks to the true visionary of author Michael Crichton that we get to both experience and enjoy it. While there are moments here and there of high levels of violence as well as moments that I found revolting in a very disgusting way when visualizing, it’s also a book of peril, thrills, action, discovery, corruption, love, romance, death and beauty and one that continues to push levels of discovery and hardship as the book continues and as a result becomes a read that you will find hard to put down.  While I find it sad that Michael Crichton sadly passed away before he could finish it, I do feel that Richard Preston has done an excellent job completing it. From Start to finish, Micro is one intense ride and one that is enjoyable from start to finish and is in itself a brilliant ending and a terrific tribute to the Amazing career of one of the world’s Best and Greatest writers.

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








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