Saturday, 5 August 2017

[ recommended reading lost ]

No, that's not a typo. Yes, I did mean lost. It's a play on words, see? You've heard of those right; where something can have a double meaning, be a pun, or is supposed to be funny? Because you want to get lost in a book and on that front, I've got a good list of them...

(Sorry. Really, I am).

Anyway. Back to the reading.

The Winter weather is super chilly this year and most like to curl up with a good book instead of going out. Fair call, I'm with you there. So on that note, I've compiled a menu of some truly great reads for the last little spell of frostiness to intersperse between Netflix marathons. I promise they're not all from the geek section. Mainly...


The Great Zoo of China - Matthew Reilly

Starting with a good, old action adventure, Reilly does his usual best and gives us a cracking good read. The Chinese have discovered a creature long thought mythical, and now they've created a zoo full of them. How could anything go wrong?

It's not a spoiler to tell you it's dragons, and they are AWESOME. Ok, so the protagonist is pretty spunky and intelligent; a reptile expert with National Geographic. But the dragons steal the story, and it's well worth it.

If haven't started your cold weather reading yet, this is a great one to sink you teeth into and you don't need to get too involved in it. Settles you for something more meaty later on.


Whether you want to go for darkly epic romance or just darkly epic, the next two can be swapped in order of reading depending on your preference.  Personally, I'd go them in the order I have them, but see how you feel...

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

This fantasy novel was originally written for NaNoWriMo and shared over three of them. It's a glorious story of a travelling circus that only operates from dusk until dawn. Under the guise of the performance, two magicians have been rivals for such a long time, and groom their proteges to compete on their behalf.

It is a dangerous game these two old competitors play; each opponent must continue playing until a winner is decided, and that may not mean a triumph.

But our two protagonists are like none before them and quickly develop a connection no one foresaw.

Without spoiling the story or the glittering ending, I hope this is enough to reel you in. If not, the first few pages, the beautiful descriptions Morgenstern lays out, will surely draw you in like nothing else.


Mister B. Gone - Clive Barker

Stepping away from the fact that they call this a metafiction, recall the wonderful little film that is Fallen and you get close to this book. Creepy, weird, a little bit intriguing. Read this one with candles on and the wind howling through the trees.


Brooklyn - Colm Toibin

"Don't look for a happy ending. It's not an American story. It's an Irish one" - The Devil's Own 

Irish stories always have this beautiful, bittersweet thing going on, and this one is no exception. The amazingly resilient heroine, Eilis, will give you hope and break your heart, then put it back together again, all at once.

If you haven't had a wee cry in a while, or just need to remember that yours is not the only life that turns out differently than expected, this is the book for you.


The Consolations of Philosophy - Alain de Botton

Alain is a modern philosopher that I first encountered watching The Project one night. He was touting his newest book (not this one), and I became intrigued. 

Whether it was his way of speaking, his dry humour, or perhaps his easy, evolved manner, I was hooked. He speaks of love, life, and our relationships to one another with thoughtfulness and care, and explores the various states of the human condition, engaging in a way I hadn't encountered until now.

Consolations isn't his first book, but it is the one I was most drawn to. For a man whom I thought was on the opposite side of my beliefs, there's a startlingly large amount in common, and this book was a brilliant read. 

Both depressing and comforting, this is a great read when even dark humour can't pull you out of moments of existential despair. Also, it's intelligently funny; bonus!

Is It Just Me? - Miranda Hart

In the same vein as above, but infinitely funnier, I give you the inimitable Miranda Hart. 

This glorious, Amazonian comedian, of self-confessed awkwardness and possessed of such wit only the beloved British have, this is the book that speaks to us all; the one we wish our teenage selves had read, but were obviously too busy drinking, snogging, and getting into trouble to do so. 

Why are chopsticks so hard to use? Why are barstools designed only for those born with a natural elegance the rest of us only imagine? Aren't pedicures a little bit...odd, a little bit...wrong? 

If you've ever asked yourself these questions and more as an adult, and wondered why being a grown up is so undeniably weird and horrifying, this is the book for you. 

You'll laugh, you'll snort, you'll nod your head sagely in agreement. No need to thank me now, just enjoy. 


For those of us who like a long, drawn-out tale, crossing over various characters, places, and sometimes timelines, I have two rather different collections for you. Both are in the fantasy genre, but one is set in the modern world, a storyline in a parallel universe, and the other is a set of books that retell your favourite fairy tales, but not as you know them. Read both or just one, depending on your mood...

The Business of Death (omnibus) - Trent Jamieson 

Steven de Selby is a psychopomp, and he's had a hard day at the office. He's hungover, his boss has gone missing, and he's trying to plan out the big romantic gesture. He is not keen on bright lights, exercise, or avoiding being shot at. 

When your job means helping the restless dead to the afterlife, you can expect things to get a little hectic sometimes. But Steven's day is about to get as hectic as you can imagine, now that a very old, very pissed off god is stirring, and means to destroy life as we know it.

Steven has to stop the End of Days, find his boss - Death, that is - and deal with the madness of the Hungry Dead within himself. 

If he doesn't, his world as he knows it will end. Which would pretty much sour any chance of ever getting married really.


Poison - Charm - Beauty (Tales from the Kingdoms)- Sarah Pinborough

What if the Prince was a bit of an idiot, not all the Princesses were sweetness and light, and the villain wasn't always full of dark intent, just really, really frustrated with life?

Pinborough spins these traditional fairy tales along the lines we thought we remembered, but in glittering new light. See characters in a way you've never considered before, hear stories told from the other side of the fence, and fall in love all over again - but this time, happily ever after is a matter of perception.

Some of my favourite retellings of all time; relive your childhood in a grown up way and find that the past can be changed if only you look at it a different way.

For those who like their fairy tales a little fractured.


The Witches of New York - Ami McKay

Should the epics above have not sated your desire for a world out of this world, then Witches is for you. 

In 1880 Manhattan, two women open a tea-shop together, quietly feeling safe enough to call themselves witches and cater to the high society of New York. Both of a very different breed, Adelaide and Eleanor's unusual friendship creates a wonderful little world of practical magic, mystery, and lots and lots of good tea.

One afternoon, an intriguing young woman enters their shop and instantly becomes interwoven into their lives as an apprentice and a friend. When Beatrice goes missing, the two women are frantic and suspect more is at work here.

Confronted by spectres from their past as well as in the present, our Adelaide and Eleanor must battle not only with what they can see but also what they know.

A stunning tale of resilience, sisterhood, magic, and the enduring legacy one can create if only you are brave enough.


Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin

Long, long before Game of Thrones, Martin wrote one of my favourite vampire tales to this day. 

A steamboat captain is lured into taking on a strange partner in traversing the mighty Mississippi. Abner Marsh should have asked more questions, should have taken more care. But when he meets Joshua York and hears his proposal - so much gold, a bonny new ship - he discovers this is an offer he can't refuse. 

A dark and sinister story, with secrets seething just below the surface. Characters of depth and imagination. A journey you'll never forget. 

Long before the White Walkers, there was Joshua York and his mesmerising gaze. Abner Marsh and his dreams of immortality. And the ancient, undying length of one of the greatest rivers in the world. 

Fevre Dream is a grandly menacing legend that will stay with you, long after the Winter nights have faded away.


Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

Seeing as we are still feeling all creepy and threatening, here's an old favourite that I reread every few years or so. 

A southern Gothic set in the deep south, the narrative is actually based on real-life events from the 1980's, but reads like a novel and rearranges the sequence of events.

Whether you have seen the movie of the same name or not, this is a dazzling story of eccentric personalities in Savannah, Georgia, and how this tight-knit community unwinds around a murder mystery.

To be honest, even if you have seen the movie and not read the book yet, you'll enjoy southern gentleman Jim Williams, and his old-world charm. A charm that hides a more insidious and unnerving personality.

Let yourself get involved with an array of quirky characters in a seductive setting, and settle back for a riveting story you can keep coming back to. Perfect cold-weather reading.  


Transmetropolitan - Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Garth Ennis

Lest we fall too far down the rabbit hole of dark and sinister tales, here is something completely different.

Well. Sort of.

Goodreads do much better justice in describing this series than I can, so here's a taste of what you're in for;

After years of self-imposed exile from a civilisation rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd century surroundings. Combining black humour, life-threatening situations, and (loads) of moral ambiguity, this is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy. 

If Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs went on a bender on Jupiter, with a shitload of cash, an unnerving amount of cocaine, and their usual desire to expose the seedier side of the human condition, Spider and his exploits would probably be what you ended up with.

Alternately disturbing and hilarious, and sometimes both, the Transmetropolitan series of graphic novels (this is the first of ten) will leave you feeling just a little bit fucked up, but in that oh-so-pleasant way.


Sandman Slim (Sandman #1) - Richard Kadrey

If you took a real shine to Spider, then you'll fall in love with James Stark.

Would-be magician, Hell's own hitman, and recent escapee back to LA, Stark is ready for revenge and absolution. He wants to carve his way from the past into the present, and he's got a list as long as his arm of people to get through.

Keep up with the violent, often darkly comic antics, and join the mis-adventures of our anti-hero as he finds his way in a world he hasn't seen for 11 years. There's blood, there's gore, there's beer. And maybe even a little romance, if he doesn't get screwed over first.

Resurrection sucks, but Hell was worse. Probably.


The Outsorcerers Apprentice - Tom Holt

Bringing it down a touch, we have some Tom Holt. Less fantastical than Gaiman, more mature (comparatively) than Pratchett, another male protagonist on a weird adventure, a la Arthur Dent-style, but somewhat less ridiculous. Kind of. 

What if the best way to a happy, productive workforce was to outsource? The Wizard's got it nailed with unlimited resources, some sound financial planning, and blissfully unaware workers. Perfectly good business model. High chance of success and profit. 

Except for the irritated goblins. The professional dragonslayer. And the young woman who thinks things are not-quite-right, but can't put her finger on exactly why...

Oh. And one young man with absolutely no idea what's going on, and the slight risk that the fabric of reality could be torn to shreds. 

Honestly, there's no pleasing some people. 


As a final farewell to the cold grey and wintery shadows, I thought I'd go with a book that surprised and inspired me in equal measure, turning out not to be what I expected at all, but in such a good way...

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Inspired by the ancient mythology of the Norse, all-time treasured storyteller, Neil Gaiman, retells these northern tales with his unique flavour.

Travel through the nine worlds, meet gods and dwarfs and giants, and feast in the halls of the Vikings. 

Follow Odin, the all-father; wise, daring, and cunning. Adventure with his son Thor, strong but not always as clever as he could be, and Loki; trickster, manipulator, and much more complicated besides. 

Through Gaiman's wondrous accounts, discover all over again the fierceness, the passion, and the bloodlust, of a breathtaking tribe of beings and a world from long ago. 

Told in an entirely new way, you can put this one on your reference shelf, but you'll want to come back to reread it like a cherished novel.


This is not even half of what I've read these last few months, but I hope you've enjoyed the dip into my personal library!

Feel free to share any good books you've read recently or even in the past, I'm always on the hunt to fill the To Read shelf...


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