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.

 


 

‘The Affair’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

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As long term readers of this blog might know, I am a huge fan of Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ novels. With ‘The Affair’ being the 16th in the series, I often wonder whether Child will eventually run out of steam.

Thankfully he shows no signs of doing so based on this tale of corruption, small town gossip and murder.

Set 6 months before ‘Killing Floor’, the first Reacher novel, this book serves as a prequel and finds Reacher still serving in the military police.

A woman is found murdered in a back alley with her throat cut. No-one seems to have any idea who it was but local suspicion points to the local military base.

One of Reacher’s colleagues is sent to the base, Fort Kelham, to investigate in an official capacity and Reacher is instructed to follow close behind – posing as a civilian while poking around undercover.

Child’s easy to read style is as good as ever. He gives you just enough description without bogging things down and the book is well paced.

There is sometimes a concern with prequels that they might end up falling short because they are bound by what’s to follow and whatever background may have already been revealed in the other novels.

That definitely isn’t the case with ‘The Affair’, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and for fans of the series it is great to see more of Reacher’s past. Even if you haven’t read any of the previous books this is certainly one I’d recommend.

Rating:9/10

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’61 Hours’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

Jack Reacher returns in Lee Child’s 14th novel in the Reacher series, finding trouble like no-one else can. 😎

After an icy bus accident leaves him (and some senior citizens) stranded in the town of Bolton, Reacher helps the local police deal with the injured, as he has first aid training from his Army days.

However he suddenly finds himself embroiled in a sticky situation as a murder occurs and as the new guy in town he has to be a suspect, even though he’s helping the cops.

Lee Child has the Reacher formula down to a ‘t’ at this stage and his novels feel familiar but different enough that they don’t become boring or repetitive.

Reacher does his best to assist the local police but some tense moments mean the partnership is fragile at times.

Of course it’s fairly doubtful many people in real life would find themselves consistently in trouble wherever they go, nor would they have Reacher’s expertise and skills to fall back on, but that isn’t the point of the Reacher novels.

These are fun, easy to read stories that are thoroughly entertaining.

’61 Hours’ shows that Child, and Reacher, have no plans to slow down anytime soon. And that’s a good thing in my book.

Rating: 9/10

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2010

I decided to structure things a little differently this year with regards to my end of year round ups.

Games and TV will be getting the full awards treatment but for Books, Films and Music I think an overall list of my favourites would be better suited as, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to dedicate to them as much as I’d have liked.

So to kick off the awards season here are ten books, in no particular order, I’d recommend that I read this year:

Zombie Survival Guide – Max Brooks

Max Brooks brings us this handbook to help out in the event of a Zombie apocalypse. It’s written as a serious guide, which lends it a surreal but fairly scary feel.

Playing through Dead Nation and watching The Walking Dead have made me glad I own a copy of this… y’know just in case 😉

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Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers is the latest book from New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell here puts forward a compelling argument for children born at the ‘wrong’ time of year being overlooked as less intelligent than their counterparts, when really it’s a lack of maturity that is the problem.

He discusses the knock on effect this can have. Interesting stuff.

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Homicide: A Year On The Streets – David Simon

This is one hell of a book, both in terms of size and tone.

The ficitonalised account of a real life journalist’s year as part of the Baltimore Police Department’s homicide unit. Harrowing and depressing at times – the life of a murder detective has never been so laid bare. One of the best books I’ve ever read. A must read.

FULL REVIEW

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The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro

The book begins with a plane landing at JFK Airport then shutting down completely on the runway and this is a novel that doesn’t let up from the start.

Upon investigation every passenger is dead with no sign of struggle. Creepy much?

The book follows Dr. Eph Goodweather of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) as he tries to work out what the hell is going on.

FULL REVIEW

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Gentlemen Of The Road – Michael Chabon

The story of an African and a German, both Jewish, who are road travelling bandits around the year 950AD stands alone in both tone and good old fashioned story telling.

Gentlemen Of The Road is the kind of book I’d expect my father or grandfather to have read as a child – it’s written in a very traditional style and this certainly lends some character to the proceedings.

FULL REVIEW

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

Set in Sweden and telling the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a publisher at Millenium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a great piece of storytelling.

The pacing is superb and Stieg Larsson creates some wonderfully believable characters. Not just the main characters either – the entire supporting cast seems to be very well thought out.

There is plenty going on here alongside the good old fashioned murder mystery. Once this book got going I could not put it down.

FULL REVIEW

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Gone Tomorrow – Lee Child

Lee Child’s writing style is wonderfully laid back and easy to read – I always find his books a great experience and ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is no different.

Telling the story of Reacher’s direct involvement in a political/government plot, ‘Gone Tomorrow’ opens in spectacular style and rarely lets up.

FULL REVIEW

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By The Light Of The Moon – Dean Koontz

I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz and for me this supernatural thriller is up there with his best work.

Telling the story of Dylan O’Conner and his brother Shep, Koontz explores an interesting path of deception and intrigue. The characters are thrown in at the deep end along with the reader and it’s great to be along for the ride.

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Dead Space Martyr – B.K Evenson

A prequel to the video game Dead Space was something I was always likely to pick up having loved the game.

This didn’t disappoint as Evenson immersed us in the world of Dead Space and created a great set of characters around an existing universe. In fact some of the characters come direct from the game’s folklore.

If you liked the game you should pick this up, definitely a great read and Evenson does a brilliant job of giving everything that Dead Space ‘feel.’

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The Way Of Shadows – Brent Weeks

I stumbled across this in the bookstore and thought it looked quite cool. I think it helped that I was fresh off the back of playing Assassin’s Creed II so was in the right frame of mind.

I finally got round to reading it earlier in the year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The origin story of a young street rat who is desperate to train as an assassin and the tale of what happens when he gets what he wished for.

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So there you go – a few recommendations for you.

Let me know what you’ve read this year in the comments, I’m always looking for new books to read!

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‘Gone Tomorrow’ by Lee Child – Review (Book)

 

The Jack Reacher novels are a series of books that follow the exploits of a former US Army Major.

Reacher’s experience in the Military Police is invaluable in helping him deal with the various scrapes he gets himself into.

The last few Reacher novels haven’t quite matched some of the superb early ones but ‘Nothing To Lose’ and now ‘Gone Tomorrow’ are a return to form.

Lee Child’s writing style is wonderfully laid back and easy to read – I always find his books a great experience and ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is no different.

Telling the story of Reacher’s direct involvement in a political/government plot, ‘Gone Tomorrow’ opens in spectacular style and rarely lets up.

One of the major plot reveals is a little cheesy and unnecessary but in the context of the story makes some sense and while Child’s writing is formulaic in these novels it doesn’t take away from the overall experience.

The only problem is how long Child can sustain this formula without his readers becoming bored. Apparently the next book, ’61 Hours’ may be a bit of a departure and something new which would be welcome in my opinion.

Overall ‘Gone Tomorrow’ is an enjoyable read but one that feels familiar and ticks off the Jack Reacher checklist as it goes along.

Rating: 7/10

Nothing To Lose – Lee Child (Book Review)

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Quick confession, Lee Child is one of my favourite contemporary writers. The Jack Reacher series of books have kept me entertained for years and I was eagerly awaiting the latest instalment; ‘Nothing To Lose.’

Although I enjoyed the previous novel ‘Bad Luck and Trouble’ I actually thought it was the weakest one so far. I was hoping ‘Nothing To Lose’ would be a return to form.

And it certainly is.

Despite having a slightly unbelievable climax the book is a classic Reacher tale.

Jack Reacher is a forty-something former Major in the military police. I must stress that these novels aren’t hardcore military books. I’m not really interested in military things but the references are understandable and explained in laymans terms so don’t let that put you off.

Reacher is a drifter, moving from town to town – no possessions, just the clothes on his back – living on the money he saved while in the army.

He always seems to find himself in a situation where he can lend his considerable expertise to help someone out.

In ‘Nothing To Lose’ Reacher is travelling across America, seeing where each day takes him as he attempts to get from one side of the US to the other.

He stops off in a small town called Hope and upon discovering the neighbouring town is called Despair, Reacher can’t resist visiting it.

When he gets to the diner in Despair the locals refuse to serve him and attempt to run him out of town.

After a confrontation that sees Reacher beat a couple of the guys up, he finds out they are deputies to the Sheriff.

Reacher is escorted to the edge of town and told if he returns he’ll be arrested.

What are the people of Despair hiding? Why don’t they allow people to travel through their town?

Reacher has a lot of questions and there’s only one way to answer them… so he heads back to Despair.

‘Nothing To Lose’ is a well crafted tale with several interlocking plotlines that will keep you guessing until the end.

It isn’t one of the strongest in the series but it’s certainly a return to form for Jack Reacher.

Rating: 8/10

The Ghost by Robert Harris – Review (Book)

I was intrigued by the cover to this book when I picked it up in the book shop. I read the first page (I don’t read the blurb on the back anymore – anyone else notice it often gives away plot points that don’t occur until halfway through the book :angry: ) and liked the writing style so got a copy.

Being honest I was expecting a Lee Child-esque, possibly military style story. However what I got was a well crafted and unexpected tale of a ghost-writer who is hired to write the former PM’s memoirs following on from the death of the original ghost-writer.

Adam Lang, based on former Prime Minister Tony Blair, is a charming, powerful man. After leaving government he is still moving in political circles and preparing to release his memoirs.

The main narrator, whose name we never learn, is just settling in to making a start on re-drafting the memoirs and interviewing Lang when a bombshell drops: Adam Lang is to be investigated by The ICC (International Criminal Court) after a leaked memorandum reveals that he secretly approved the transfer of UK citizens to Guantanamo Bay to face interrogation and possible torture.

As the story progresses the narrator begins to realise there is more to set up of the former PM’s team than meets the eye and whilst researching for the memoirs comes across evidence of events so unbelievably huge he struggles with what to do with the information.

The Ghost was a really good political thriller and as someone who has little or no interest in politics I can safely say a lack of political knowledge will not hinder your enjoyment.

The ending was brilliant in my opinion as I didn’t see it coming and I would recommend anyone who fancies something a bit different to give this a try.

Rating: 7/10