GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2016

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I started 2016 with a goal of reading more books than 2015’s thirteen titles but unfortunately an early year back injury meant I wasn’t able to carry a book with me on my commute to work each day and seriously impacted my reading time. I did still read some great titles though and here’s a recap of books I’d recommend.

I can always rely on Lee Child‘s ‘Jack Reacher’ series for a great page-turning read and with his latest novel ‘Make Me‘ I genuinely felt he changed up the formula for the better. As a writer you have to be careful not to alienate your existing fan base but Child straddles the line superbly here. As a bonus, the accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ look at Child’s writing method for the book – ‘Reacher Said Nothing‘ was fascinating to a Reacher nerd like me.

In the non-fiction stakes I found Naomi Klein‘s climate change missive;’This Changes Everything‘ to be an interesting yet thoroughly depressing book, especially now that it seems both the UK and US have people shaping the environmental discussion that don’t seem to have a clue about what is actually going on in, and around, our fragile planet. I’m a big believer in the methodology of Shawn Acher (if you haven’t seen it check out his amazing TED talk here) and his book ‘The Happiness Advantage‘ gives a great insight into the world of positivity and how creating a more positive environment for yourself can really make a difference to your day to day life.

 

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I’ve never really been one for poetry but after hearing this On Being interview with Mary Oliver I took the plunge and ordered one of her books. ‘Selected Poems‘, as the title suggests, is a collection of her work spanning many years. I loved her work on life and nature, it was a pleasure to grab this from the shelf, make a coffee and lose myself for half an hour here and there throughout the year.

Kenneth Calhoun’s ‘Black Moon’ was an interesting take on the post apocalyptic/zombie style genre, with the inability to sleep causing most of the human race to turn into slobbering masses of meat. I really liked the first character we met and was a little disappointed when it turned out we wouldn’t be staying with him throughout. Nevertheless, I liked this one and it’s well worth a read.

Isaac Asimov is world-renowned for a good reason. This year I finally got around to reading ‘Foundation‘ and really enjoyed it. It’s tale of political unrest set far into the future was great fun to get to grips with. Another book I started that I’m approaching the end of is Brent Weeks ‘The Black Prism’. I was a big fan of Weeks’ previous series (The Night Angel Trilogy) and although the characters here don’t quite hit the same heights, it’s an interesting world and the use of colour as magic is certainly something different. This isn’t one for a light read though, clocking in at over 700 pages!

 

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So there you go, hopefully you might pick some of those up at some stage if you think they are of interest. I think my favourite book this year was Lee Child’s ‘Make Me’, mainly because it was such a thrill, as a long time fan, to see Child switch things up and make Reacher unpredictable again. On a more peaceful note the Mary Oliver collection was also a highlight.

 


 

GregHorrorShow – The Books of 2015

GHS Books 2015 Main

I’m opening this piece with a confession – I have read a lot less books in 2015 than in previous years but there have still been some standout stories that I loved and a fair bit of non-fiction that caught my eye. So the list is a little shorter but there’s plenty to recommend!

I’ve mentioned Hugh Howey before and after thoroughly enjoying his Wool trilogy I was a little hesitant as to whether his new book ‘Sand’ could deliver. I’ll be honest, for the opening few chapters I wasn’t entirely sold but as things developed the story gripped me and I had a great time reading this one.

GHS Books 2015 Misery

A friend suggested reading an old sci-fi classic, Joe Haldeman’s ‘The Forever War’ which I also really enjoyed. Telling the story of William Mandella as he fights in the ongoing war between Man and a race called the Taurans. As time passes differently in space, the four years Mandella spends fighting is the equivalent of several centuries back on Earth. Seeing how he deals with that, as well as several other war related issues, was pretty interesting.

Another older book that I’d never read previously but have now caught up on was Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, which I thought was amazing. It was tough to read at times as Paul Sheldon lived through a nightmare scenario, some of the things that happen during the course of the story are horrific but it was a great read and I couldn’t put it down.

GHS Books 2015 You Hero

On the non-fiction front the highlight of the year for me has been Jonathan Green’s ‘You Are The Hero’, which tells the behind the scenes story of the rise of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in the 1980’s. Crammed with interviews with writers and artists, alongside awesome artwork, this is definitely recommended for fans of the book series. I also found the anonymous tell-all football book ‘I Am The Secret Footballer’ very interesting. Written by a professional player, it gives a glimpse into the murky world of football and the cash that runs through it all.

Oliver Sacks is a well-respected writer for a good reason – he is excellent at shaping real life stories and bringing a deft touch to sensitive subjects. ‘Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain’ is a glorious but poignant look at people affected by music in debilitating ways. It really is fascinating and well worth checking out. Another non-fiction title I really enjoyed this year was ‘Console Wars’ by Blake Harris, which tells the story of Sega’s rise with the Genesis/Mega Drive in the early 90’s. As a big Sega fan back in the day it was amazing to get a look into the process of how the console came to be such a success and the internal struggles that the company faced. If you were a gamer at the time this is well worth a read.

GHS Books 2015 Masked

Speaking of games I was fortunate enough to be gifted ‘Dragon Age: The Masked Empire’ for my birthday which I thought was fantastic – it also did a great job of fleshing out one of the main story missions in the Dragon Age: Inquisition game. It was fun to see the characters from the book in game form and be able to interact with them in the course of the game’s story as well. Keeping on the game theme I also enjoyed ‘Armada’ by Ernest Cline, not quite as much as his previous novel, Ready Player One, but then my expectations were much, much higher this time. Armada tells the story of a game obsessed school kid who gets recruited by the real life government to fight an alien invasion. It has Cline’s trademark geek style all over it and it was a fun read.

Robin Sloan’s ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore’ is a bit of a mouthful of a title but was a book I had a good time with. Clay Jannon takes a job in a small bookstore and discovers a secret that sends him on a wild adventure around the globe. It’s a great book for a bit of escapism. Another novel that should’ve been perfect for escapism was Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’. However, while I did enjoy the book, I just didn’t think it warranted the praise it got from all quarters. In fact, in a rare turn of events, I actually preferred the film to the book!

GHS Books 2015 Bookstore

Lee Child always almost delivers with his Jack Reacher novels and ‘Personal’ was another good instalment in the series. While the plots do at times become a little formulaic, I felt moving Reacher to different European locations was a smart move that helped freshen things up. Probably my favourite novel of the year was ‘The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August’ by Claire North, which I felt took the concepts of last year’s Life After Life to another level. A gripping story, another that I couldn’t put down, as Harry August comes to terms with living over and over… and everything that entails.

Here’s the full list:

Joe Haldeman – The Forever War
Lee Child – Personal
Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Robin Sloan – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Patrick Weekes – Dragon Age: The Masked Empire
Hugh Howey – Sand
Blake Harris – Console Wars
Stephen King – Misery
Claire North – The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August
Anonymous – I Am The Secret Footballer
Ernest Cline – Armada
Jonathan Green – You Are The Hero
Andy Weir – The Martian

What have you guys been reading this year – any recommendations?

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2014

Books 2104 Main

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already almost the end of 2014 – having said that, looking at the long list of books I’ve made it through this year at least makes me feel like I’ve experienced a lot of great stories.

I’ll get straight to business – if you like sci-fi and you haven’t read the Wool trilogy (Wool/Shift/Dust) by Hugh Howey then you are in for a absolute treat! These books were the best I read this year with a gripping story and wonderfully written characters.

I caught up with an old title by another of my favourite writers, Aimee Bender, with ‘An Invisible Sign Of My Own‘. Telling the story of Mona Gray, a young woman who finds solace in mathematics before taking up teaching, it continues Bender’s surreal slant to stories and I really enjoyed it. I also read ‘Gone Girl‘ which, despite being pretty depressing and containing no likeable characters, I just couldn’t put down. It’s well written and strings the reader along throughout. Great fun.

Books 2104 Invisible

I loved David Glen Gold‘s ‘Carter Beats The Devil‘ so I was keen to check out ‘Sunnyside‘, his fictionalised account of the Charlie Chaplin based mass hysteria in the US during the early 1900’s. ‘Never Go Back‘ continued Lee Child‘s return to form, if you like Jack Reacher you’ll love this story. I can’t wait to check out the next installment in the Reacher series.

I’d been meaning to check out ‘The Quantum Thief‘ by Hannu Rajaniemi for a while and it didn’t disappoint, with a story that was at times both confusing and inspired. Ranjaniemi has created a fascinating look at an alternate universe with some ideas that may even find themselves into our world at some stage. I found myself a little disappointed with ‘Metro 2033‘ by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Actually let me re-phrase that as it was more of a post-apocalyptic burnout than genuine disappointment. It was a fairly enjoyable read but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d experienced most of it before, whether that was in other books or TV or films etc.

Running With The Firm‘ by James Bannon wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea but being so firmly rooted in the world of Millwall and set at the time I just started attended matches, it managed to pull me in. The first ‘Game Of Thrones‘ novel by George R Martin really sucked me in and I was amazed I could retain so many character, place and family names all at once! I’ll definitely read more of the books in the series.

Books 2104 Fatherland

I read a few older titles as well this year, many of which I enjoyed. ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s‘ by Truman Capote wasn’t really what I was expecting at all. It was better than I thought it would be, with some interesting themes. I found ‘Fatherland‘ by Robert Harris thoroughly gripping – I’ve seen the idea that the Nazis won the second world war done many times but this was a really well fleshed out and believable world, with great characters. A classic novel that I just couldn’t get into was ‘100 Years Of Solitude‘ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn’t enjoy it at all, which is a shame as it’s so highly regarded by so many people.

Hyperion‘ by Dan Simmons was also a bit of a strange one – I really enjoyed the story but had no idea there was more than one book in the series. So I was getting into the final third of the book wondering how they would tie it all together, only to discover they weren’t going to and that the next set of events would occur in a later novel! Naomi Klein‘s hard hitting look at corporate culture in ‘No Logo‘ is a must read for everyone in the 21st century. Despite being over 10 years old it’s still as relevant today as it was then. Another book I enjoyed was ‘The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie‘ by Muriel Spark which I wasn’t sure if I’d like but the characters are so well written it wasn’t hard to get sucked in by them.

You‘ by Austin Grossman was an interesting look at game development and the toll it takes on people’s health and relationships. Kate Atkinson‘s ‘Life After Life‘ has a great premise and I’m a sucker for anything time travel/alternate universe related so it was no surprise I enjoyed it. ‘The Girl With All The Gifts‘ by M.R Carey managed to turn me around as I was initially disappointed because I felt I’d heard this story before. But it soon shifted gear and delivered a great story that had me hooked until the very last page.

Books 2104 Girl Gifts

So there you go, here’s the full list of titles for 2014:

An Invisible Sign Of My Own – Aimee Bender
Sunnyside – David Glen Gold
Wool – Hugh Howey
Killshot – Elmore Leonard
No Logo – Naomi Klein
The Quantum Thief – Hannu Rajaniemi
Fatherland – Robert Harris
Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Never Go Back – Lee Child
Game Of Thrones (1) – George R Martin
100 Yrs Of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Shift – Hugh Howey
Metro 2033 – Dmitry Glukhovsky
Running With The Firm – James Bannon
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Don’t Point That Thing At Me – Kyril Bonfiglioli
Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
Dust – Hugh Howey
You – Austin Grossman
The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R Carey
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

What have you guys been reading this year? Any recommendations?

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2013

Farenheit 451

I’ve managed to read quite a lot of books this year, across both new works and some that are considered classics.

Unfortunately there were a few titles that I just couldn’t get into. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster was one such book, as was Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Neither really did anything for me, which I feel is a shame as they are obviously well respected works.

From current writing I was disappointed with Hitman: Damnation by Raymond Benson. I’ve read some really interesting books based on game worlds in recent years and this one turned out to be a bit of a bust. Not terrible, just pretty average.

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Here are the books I’d recommend checking out from those I read during 2013 (in no order):

  • The Affair – Lee Child
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndam
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • The Way It Is – George Pelecanos
  • Rainbow Six – Tom Clancy
  • Hallucinating Focault – Patricia Dunker
  • Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger
  • Consider Pheblas – Iain Banks
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • Dead Space: Catalyst – BK Evenson
  • Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
  • The Fall – Guillermo Del Toro/Chuck Hogan
  • The Wanted Man – Lee Child

Lee Child delivered as always and I found John Wyndam’s The Chrysalids to be a haunting book that had a real impact.

BK Evenson delivered a very good game-based novel with Dead Space: Catalyst and The Fall by Chuck Hogan/Guillermo Del Toro was a great way to round out the Strain trilogy.

KillAMockingbird

However my two favourite books this year (I can’t pick between them!) were To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Both superbly written and with gripping plots.

What have you guys been reading this year? I’m always on the lookout for new books so feel free to shout out in the comments below if you have any recommendations (old or new!)

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‘The Chrysalids’ by John Wyndam – Review (Book)

Chrysalids

Written in 1955, The Chrysalids is a story set in a post apocalyptic world where it appears a nuclear war several thousand years ago has seen whatever people survived living a more rural life.

Because such a long time has passed the people now believe the nuclear event was God punishing the ‘Old People.’ Exposure to radiation has meant that occasionally animals or people are born with ‘defects’ and seen as ‘blasphemies’ from the devil.

Anything with a defect is killed as a sacrifice or (for people) cast out of the land and into an area the locals call the ‘Fringes’ and left to fend for themselves against the other desperate people out there.

David Strorm is only ten years old and has been bought up with a strict religious upbringing because his father is one of the town’s respected senior members. It is always refreshing to read a book written from the perspective of a child when it’s done right, and Wyndam does it right.

After befriending a girl that has a small physical defect (six toes on each foot), David begins to question the rigidity of the environment he has been raised in. Coupled with vivid dreams of technologically advanced cities and the discovery that he may also have a ‘blasphemy’, it’s enough to put him on a path that clashes with his upbringing.

It brought to mind the recent stories of Megan Phelps, who left the infamous Westboro Church movement. When all you’ve known growing up is the hatred fed to you why would you question it? You can find more info on that HERE.

The Chrysalids is an interesting book that deals with some interesting aspects of society and religion. The characters are well written and Wyndam does a good job of fleshing out the world into a believable place. It stumbles here and there with some pacing issues, the ending in particular felt a little rushed but this is a book well worth checking out.

Rating: 8/10

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2012

LemonCake

So the awards season kicks into gear for 2012 and first up it’s books.

I’ve read some really great books this year. I admit my reading time did take a bit of a battering when my Vita arrived in February… for about a month I didn’t read on the commute to and from work, as I was too engrossed in my new shiny handheld toy 🙂

So as usual in no particular order, here are the books I’ve read in 2012 that I’d recommend checking out:

  • ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ – Edmund De Waal
  • ‘Beyond The Shadows’ – Brent Weeks
  • ‘I Am Ozzy’ – Ozzy Osbourne
  • ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest’ – Stieg Larsson
  • ‘Battle Royale’ – Koushun Takami
  • ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’ – Ben H Winters
  • ‘Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect’ – James Swallow
  • ‘The Odyssey’ – Homer
  • ‘Neuromancer’ – William Gibson
  • ‘Ready Player One’ – Ernest Cline
  • ‘Listen To This’ – Alex Ross
  • ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake’ – Aimee Bender

BeyondShadows

I kicked off 2012 with ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’, Edmund De Waal‘s interesting look at the history of a collection of Netsuke that has been in his family for hundreds of years. While I did feel the book dragged a little in the middle I thought overall it was an entertaining read.

I rounded out the Night Angel trilogy with Brent Weeks‘ ‘Beyond The Shadows‘ which was thoroughly excellent and while on the subject of closing trilogies I also wrapped up the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson with ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest‘. Dark and gritty doesn’t really cover it but it truly is one of the best set of books I’ve ever read. Seriously, if you haven’t read them check them out!

I Am Ozzy‘ is Ozzy Osbourne’s hazy attempt to piece together what has happened in his life 😆 and was interesting from various viewpoints. Of course the band history and music side were entertaining but it also gives you a good insight into how much the music scene changed people’s lives in the UK in the 60’s.

BattleRoyale

Koushun Takami‘s ‘Battle Royale‘ took up a big chunk of my time, it’s a long book but well worth the effort. I haven’t seen the film so I went in cold and absolutely loved it. An intricate and clever story with plenty of mistrust and betrayal, it’s the tale of a class of school mates essentially dumped on a secluded island and told to fight to the death.

After enjoying ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies‘ a while back, I was intrigued to check out ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters‘ by Ben H Winter and (of course) Jane Austen. Unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the heights of the zombie romp but it was enjoyable and gave me a (somewhat distorted) idea of the plot of the ‘real’ Sense And Sensibility. I actually saw Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect in a second hand book shop for the princely sum of £2.00. I couldn’t resist at that price and I’m glad I picked it up. Expanding the universe of the game from last year it really showcases the strong point of the fiction, with lots of augmentations and cyborg parts.

I always like to try and read one ‘classic’ a year and I was most impressed with ‘The Odyssey‘, Homer‘s tale of Odysseus’ journey to try and get back to his family. Of course reading something this old does take a bit of patience but I would say it is definitely worth reading. You can see bits of lots of other stories that have ‘borrowed’ from this classic work over the years. Another older novel I read was ‘Neuromancer‘ by William Gibson, which is set in a cyberpunk universe and tells the story of a ‘crippled’ hacker who ends up fighting for his life to turn the tables on the corporation that has set him up.

ReadyPlayerOne

As a big gamer ‘Ready Player One‘ by Ernest Cline was right up my alley. The quote on the front of the book sums it up best ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’. A challenge is set for gamers everywhere – the person that solves the puzzles will inherit a global powerhouse of a computer company – with all the cash benefits that would bring. Well written and really engaging, if you’re into games (especially retro games) then check it out. Alex Ross walks you through some of the different figures in music through the ages in ‘Listen To This‘. From Mozart to Radiohead, there is good reason to delve into this and find out some more about music and it’s makers.

But my favourite book this year has to be ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake‘ by Aimee Bender. This beautifully written story is about a girl who suddenly discovers that her food no longer tastes of food – she can instead taste the feelings of the person who made it. Tragic and heart-breaking in places, warm and funny in others, this was a book I read in one day. I literally couldn’t put it down. So good and very much recommended.

So there you go – what have you guys been reading? Anything you’d recommend checking out?

The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler: Review (Book)

BigSleep

I’d heard how great this book was and that the film version was also supposed to be really good. So when scanning our bookshelves for something to read I thought I’d give it a shot.

Turns out that was a very wise move.

The Big Sleep is the story of gumshoe private detective Philip Marlowe. Available for 25 bucks a day (+ expenses) he’s the man to turn to if you have a problem you need investigated.

Written in 1939 the book still stands up today as a brilliant work of fiction – a short, sharp, concise story that flows throughout.

It’s the original from which most of our ideas of private detectives come and has certainly been a huge influence on scores of story-tellers and film makers.

Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich, elderly gentleman who has been blackmailed regarding some debts his daughter has run up.

This starts a chain of events leaving some dead, some in prison and some with their hands very dirty indeed.

The Big Sleep is written with a great sense of it’s characters – Marlowe of course shines but the supporting cast are also well formed and believable characters.

I found it amazing that Raymond Chandler had managed to squeeze so much into a story that spans only 250 pages!

I suspect The Big Sleep wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste but if you like a good mystery or enjoy a good gumshoe story (Louie Knight is always a favourite of mine) then you should most definitely check this one out.

Rating: 9/10