Books Read Last Month (and a bit)

Books Read Last Month (and a bit)

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One of the key things a writer should do is read plenty, read far and wide, read and learn. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever. As long as you’re reading then you’re absorbing information.

I’ve extolled the virtues of reading and how it is perfect research for your own writing elsewhere, so I won’t bore you with that here. Instead, here is the first in a regular run of posts listing and quickly reviewing books I’ve read between 17 July and today.

Future updates will be just for that month, this one’s to get me up to date from when I first started drafting this post!

And yes, before you say anything, I do read quite a lot. That said, my update for the end of September may not be quite as impressive!

The Lost Temple – Nick Harper (read 17 July)

A random book I picked up in The Works’ 3 for £5 deal. The blurb oversells this one, a Da Vinci Code style romp across post WW2 Europe, complete with lots of shooting, running and intrigue.

The final product turns out fine,, although I would have preferred it if the characters had driven the plot more rather than the other way around. Apart from that, it does end up being an enjoyable romp, even if the villain of the piece is obvious from the start.

3/5
(Link to the book)

The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick (read 19 July)

This one didn’t take very long to read at all. In fact I finished it in a couple of hours over two days. I’d previously watched the film and enjoyed it, but that made a few changes that significantly improved the film over the novel.

Pat’s father is much more sympathetic in the film, whereas here he only accepts his son when their football team (American football, that is) are doing well.

The core relationship between Pat and Tiffany remains the same in both the book and the film, two messed up people who are perfect for each other. The finale here also differs from the film. In the film it made the point that it doesn’t matter if you win, it’s the taking part. In the book, the dance competition isn’t the resolution, but it ends with an equally important scene.

3/5
(Link to the book)

The Deep – Nick Cutter (read 29 July)

Another random book I picked up in The Works in their 3 for £5 offer. An enjoyable ocean floor thriller, if a bit overly reliant on flashbacks to pad out the story. The blurb says that everybody is getting a disease like Alzheimers (called “The ‘Gets”), so I was expecting something with a vague zombie apocalypse tone. It turns out that this is just the starting point for the story.

Instead it becomes The Abyss meets Sphere and a dash of The Shining, with a dysfunctional brotherly relationship at its core. There were a couple of moments that stood out – Luke, our lead character, squeezing his way down to the lower portion of the base, his relationship with the dog – but it relies on his flashbacks and the loss of his son to push events forward.

I did enjoy the setting, his descriptions and the characters, I just feel that the story could have used more focus.

3/5
(Link to the book)

Hitler’s War – Harry Turtledove (read 01 August)

Back in the 90s I discovered and enjoyed Turtledove’s Worldwar series, where an alien invasion takes place during World War 2. I went on to read the follow-up series, Colonization, and an alt-World War 1 series where the United States remained divided after the civil war (The Great War, I think). Since then I haven’t read a single book of his.

It turns out I haven’t been missing much.

Turtledove uses a huge cast of characters, but none of them stand out. Most are front line troops, all of whom have a dislike for their superiors and furiously dig holes when the shelling begins. Their names quickly became irrelevant. The only time the story picks up is when real historical figures, like Hitler, make an appearance. Otherwise this is one where you enjoy the alt-history more than the characters involved in it.

3/5
(Link to the book)

Dad’s Army: The Story of a Classic Television Show – Graham McCann (read 06 August)

Another reasonably quick read. It turns out most of the content of this book featured in the BBC’s dramatisation of the series’ beginnings, so I knew most of the story already.

Despite the obvious lack of first hand comments on the show (McCann does pilfer the archives for what he can), and the history of one of our best loved sitcoms is explored in enough detail to justify reading this. Those looking for an element of scandal or backstage tension will be disappointed.

I didn’t go through it in any detail, , but there is a full episode guide provided at the back of the book. It’s an all-encompassing piece that even includes the radio sequel, It Sticks Out Half A Mile (nowhere near as good as the TV series, for what it’s worth).

Overall, a warm, fuzzy recollection of a great sitcom.

4/5
(Link to the book)

The Enigma Strain – Nick Thacker (read 08 August)

This book was a freebie on Kindle. Set in and around Yellowstone Park, a bomb goes off and releases a virus into the atmosphere. Park ranger Harvey Bennett joins forces with a member of the CDC to work out who did it and why.

For a freebie this was enjoyable. It’s something I might have read anyway if I’d seen it elsewhere, but wouldn’t have gone out of my way for. The characters had enough definition to make them stand out from one another, and the plot moves along at a logical pace. There are a couple of interesting twists and turns dotted throughout, and there is enough here for me to consider reading the next book in the series.

3/5
(Link to the book)

Carrie – Stephen King (read 13 August)

I had never read a Stephen King story until this point. I figured if I was going to do it I might as well go back to the start and work my way forwards.

I’ve seen the film remake (sadly, not the original yet), so I kind of knew the plot going in. King uses a mixture of traditional third person storytelling mixed with interviews and news pieces about the prom tragedy and its survivors.

While this isn’t common from start to finish (in particular the third person narrative sections), King seems to be a writer compiling a book on Carrie White and the events both leading up to and after the prom. I enjoyed this mixture of styles and it built up a nice picture without the need to dwell too much on specific detail.

4/5
(Link to the book)

Doctor Who: Vampire Science – Jonathan Blum (read 15 August)

In the absence of a TV series starring Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor, I’ve started reading the original novels starring his version of the Time Lord. Three books in, and the quality is variable to say the least.

This story takes place in modern day Earth, where a coven of vampires find themselves up against The Doctor.

This one didn’t do much for me. The characterisation was fine, but with a couple of minor exceptions the plot didn’t have the feel of a Doctor Who story. In many respects it felt like one of the old serials that the series used to do, dropping a few random cliffhangers in here and there to push the plot along. In isolation this is fine, but it doesn’t lend itself to a coherent novel.

2/5
(Link to the book)

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