Monday, 25 March 2013

iBoy - Kevin Brooks

Title - iBoy
Author - Kevin Brooks
Blurb


What can he do with his new powers — and what are they doing to him? 

Before the attack, Tom Harvey was just an average teen. But a head-on collision with high technology has turned him into an actualized App. Fragments of a shattered iPhone are embedded in his brain. And they're having an extraordinary effect on his every thought. 

Because now Tom knows, sees, and can do more than any normal boy ever could. But with his new powers comes a choice: To avenge Lucy, the girl he loves, will he hunt down the vicious gangsters who hurt her? Will he take the law into his own electric hands and exterminate them from the South London housing projects where, by fear and violence, they rule? 

Not even his mental search engine can predict the shocking outcome of iBoy's actions.


Review

When I read the synopsis of this book I was hesitant in picking it up but not due to the sci-fi element, I am in fact a big fan of Science Fiction however having lived a lot of my life in London I assumed Tom would be a typical sixteen year old with an over inflated ego and superiority complex. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was quite wrong.


I have to say I really enjoyed exploring the potential benfits of having a computer inside the brain. The powers were written well and made me consider the true power of electricity in our lives however I was rather unconvinced with the electric shield. It felt as if it was written rather heistily to get a character out of trouble and served no other purposes.



A few pages into the book I realised that the book was going to be gritter than I had assumed, while it doesn't reach the same level of depravity as American Psycho, it contains frequent violence, drugs, gang culture and several mentions of rape.If you look past the obvious shroud of Tom's powers you realise that this story is not really about science fiction but rather an outlook into a typical if not rather terrible look into the infamous tower block of London. Having lived in London a long time I am aware of the reality that is hidden beneath the glitzy famous landmarks and tourists attraction.


This  book reflects the underlying need for a hero, someone who would swoop in and get you out of a mess whether that be protection from violence or simple money problems. Brooks also explored the loss of identity any masked man would face. Tom initially enjoys his power and who would not, I can't actually count the number of times I have wanted a computer in my brain however in replacing human instinct and morals with binary codes and circuits you end up lose apart of yourself, the part that makes you human, your emotions. This book also explores the short comings of the law especially in communities where fear and poverty rule the residents.


Wit didn't really teach me anything I didn't know I really enjoyed and even finished the book in one sitting. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.



Product Detail
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Language: English
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble




Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Alchemy of Forever [Incarnates #1] - Avery Williams


Title - The Alchemy of Forever
Author -  Avery Williams
Blurb

Seraphina has been alive since the Middle Ages, when her boyfriend, Cyrus, managed to perfect a method of alchemy that lets them swap bodies with any human being. Sera ran away from Cyrus years ago, when she realized that what they were doing—taking the lives of innocent people—was wrong. Yet she doesn’t want to die, so she finds young people who are on the brink of death, and inhabits their bodies.

Sera has just landed in the body of a girl named Kailey who was about to die in a car accident. For the first time, Sera falls in love with the life of the person she’s inhabiting. Sera also falls for the boy next door, Noah. And soon it’s clear the feelings are returned. But she can never kiss Noah, because for her to touch lips with a human would mean the human’s death. And she has even more to worry about: Cyrus is chasing her. If she stays in one place for long, she puts herself—and the people she’s grown to care for—in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?
 
Review

I stumbled onto this book sometime last year and while I found the title interesting, I did not have the resolve to read it especially since the summery made it sound like some sort of love Vampire Diaries-esk love triangle. Last night however I had a brief change of heart and decided to read it after all.     
As Ideas go it was a good one, more original than the now popular Vampires, werewolves, angles, witches excreta that fills the YA genre today. In hindsight it should have occurred to me that an original idea makes not a good writer since like many books I have read in the past have turned this way but I would like to think of myself as an optimist and so I delved into it wholeheartedly. 

Now I should have seen the problem from the word go, the prologue was too brief, rushed and underdeveloped. The relationship between Sera and Cyrus seems nothing more than barely acquainted neighbours, there was simply no fire between them. Williams didn’t even do the stereotypical ‘’I will save you speech!’’ while I am not a fan of stereotypes, I have to say it would have made the whole thing better.

Looking at Sera throughout the book I realised that I didn’t like her.  First she is a spineless, I mean seriously how the hell does she let a man rule her life for more than four hundred years without much of resistance. Second she is actually quite stupid, her escape plan which is really supposed to be noble and self-sacrificial is half thought out and just about as stupid as a four hundred year old woman can possibly be. Third she is a teenage girl, hundreds of body changes and four hundred year had not changed the narrative of the woman, Williams wrote Sera like she was a sixteen year old which is fitting enough for the body she incidentally takes but wholly unrealistic. No matter what the body looks like an Incarnate should at least reflect the number of years that they have lived.

Nothing actually happens in this book, at least nothing more than the bare minimum to keep the plot moving at an excruciating pace. More than half the book is dedicated to Sera trying to infiltrate Kailey’s family and friends including the boy next door.

The moment Noah and Sera kissed was the moment I had to momentarily pull the breaks on this book and think about the logistics. Let me walk you through it, Sera is more than four hundred years old and while Noah’s age is not specified he is her class mate in which case he could not be more than a year older than Kailey so he is seventeen. I’m the only one who sees a problem with this picture, seriously? Cradle robbing is not cool, no matter who does the robbing.

The only thing I liked about this book other than the cover is Cyrus and he was mediocre at best so all in all I wasted my time and that is okay because I don’t really have anything better to do with it anyway but I have to give Sera this badge just for the sake of it.


Overall I give this book 2 out of 5 stars

Product Detail
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Language: English

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Night Rise[The Gatekeepers #3] - Anthony Horowitz


Title - Night Rise
Author - Anthony Horowitz
Blurb

The world is in great danger and only five kids can save it. But to do that, they must face off against some of the most powerful people in the world. Two of the five, Scott and Jamie, have always known they were different. Twins whose birth is shrouded in mystery, they’ve always been able to communicate with each other telepathically. Their supernatural talent has landed them no farther than a gig in a Z-grade sideshow in Reno, Nevada...until they garner the attention of a very scary clientele. Soon their lives are in jeopardy, with one of them trapped and one of them on the run.

Review
Having delved through half of American Psycho I decided a new reading material in order to keep sane and Horowitz’s 3rd instalment of the Power of Five was indeed very enjoyable even if it is not quite restful.

This book introduces the Tyler boys, Scott and Jamie. Two out of the chosen five, the boys are endowed with psychic powers. At first presented as just telepathy between the twins it soon becomes more apparent that these boys have more than just parlour tricks up their sleeves.

Unfortunately for the boys they are attacked and Scott kidnapped by unknown assailants. This book is narrated in Jamie’s perspective as he tries to track down his brother even while he is being chased by the police for murders he did not commit. Lucky of Jamie he received an unexpected help from a strange woman by the name of Angela who is trying to track down her missing son. The book is fast paced and exhilarating with bursts of magic and fantasy weaved into a fantastic story.

I have always liked Horowitz’s world creation and this time he had really outdone himself by weaving Jamie through not just modern day Reno, Nevada  and the familiar dream world in which the five often mean but also an unfamiliar trip to the past, specifically speaking ten thousand years in the past. While I liked the rather odd and quirky seen change I have to say that I found the abrupt shift in location rather disorientating but probably no more than Jamie did. This scene change serves as more than just space filler, we finally get to meet the last person in the chosen five and it is a GIRL. From the brief meeting of the past Scarlett I am hoping that modern day Scarlett would be just as badass as the past Scar.

Overall I have to say I enjoyed this book, probably more than I did the previous instalment. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Product Detail
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Language: English
Author's Website: https://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/


Monday, 11 March 2013

Rendezvous With Rama [Rama #1] - Arthur C. Clarke


Rendezvous with Rama (Rama Series #1)Title - Rendezvous With Rama
Author- Arthur C. Clarke
Blurb
The citizens of the solar system send a ship to investigate before the enigmatic craft, called Rama, disappears. The astronauts given the task of exploring the hollow cylindrical ship are able to decipher some, but definitely not all, of the extraterrestrial vehicle's puzzles. From the ubiquitous trilateral symmetry of its structures to its cylindrical sea and machine-island, Rama's secrets are strange evidence of an advanced civilization. But who, and where, are the Ramans, and what do they want with humans? Perhaps the answer lies with the busily working biots, or the sealed-off buildings, or the inaccessible "southern" half of the enormous cylinder. Rama's unsolved mysteries are tantalizing indeed. 

Review 

I was recommended this a friend so I delved into it without much of a first impression. Soon enough however it occurred to me that this was not like any science fiction book I have ever read. Most of the passages of this book are dedicated to describing the most amazing and indeed the first alien spaceship humanity had every encountered, Rama.

While reading this book I realise that there is a real reason why Clarke was considered one of the big three of science fiction writing. This book unlike its more modern counterparts is more concerned with world building rather than characterisation and heroism of its protagonists. The book dedicates chapter after chapter to exploring the mind-bending structure of Rama with brief interludes to explore the emotions of the exploring crew and the politics involved in dealing with a possible alien existence.

Clark did an amazing job in creating Rama. The world of Rama while amazingly detailed was hard to comprehend, the planes of which the unseen Raman’s built defied the basic rule that governed most humans today, Gravity. Clarke defies all expectation in creating a world that is as vivid as it is incomprehensible however the building of the world was eased by the sheer amount of real science supporting this book which makes everything all the more real.

There are no real heroes or enemies in this book or at least in the conventional way. The biomechanical creatures that appear in this book is essentially harmless and the Raman’s who build this amazing world are never seen and the only obviously danger other than falling is the nuclear missile launched by humanity itself which as it happened could be defeated by a simple wire cutter.

I didn’t think I would enjoy a book where nothing really happens but enjoy it I did. I give it 4 out of 5 cupcakes.
Product Detail
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House Publishing
Language: English


While on the subject of science fiction I would like to wish Happy Birthday to the late Douglas Adams, he was an amazing writer who was taken before his time.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Movie Review: Oz, The Great and Powerful



Today I am going to expand my bloggosphere and write a review for a movie. I was inspired to this after I saw The Great and Wonderful Oz in the cinema. About a week ago I saw the trailer for this film while waiting for Hansel and Gretel to start which often makes you realise that you are at the awkward moment where the trailer for some other film is more awesome than the one you are about to see.

I can't say how I could possibly fault this film. The graphics were magnificent, the cast were brilliant although I have to say it was one hell of a weird experience watching Mila Kunez cackling like  a witch. 

I found this film to a refreshing trip to the land of OZ. While the wicked witch did finally take on the image we are very familiar with, the reasons behind which she arrived at the point she did was reinvented to show that the edge between good and evil is not as clear as it was previously thought.

The wicked witch was not always the wicked witch and while she had the choice to become good, she was forced into evilness by the very people we considered to be good. Oz in this film is a womanizer, in the worst scale possible and inadvertently breaks a good witches heart and makes her weak to evil forces.

By far my favourite character has to be little china girl who made you want to cry within the first ten seconds of meeting her and has you laughing within five minutes.

This film had me laughing and at time it didn't hesitate to break your heart which means I give it an absolute recommendation and 5 out of 5 stars.

 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

In My Mailbox #11



This week I got a couple of books, ebooks and some audiobooks. It was my birthday weekend so I got a lot of stuff which always makes me happy.


Books

Catch-22 by Joesph Heller
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The Plague by Albert Camus
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dhdin
The Colour of Magic by Terri Pratchett
The Pavillion on the links by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Man with the twisted lip by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Human Origins by Richard Leakey
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Ebooks
Warm bodies by Isaac Marion


Audiobooks

Sherlock Holmes complete collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Miss Marple complete collection by Agatha Christie
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov







Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Sign of Four [Sherlock Holmes #2] - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Title - The Sign of Four
Author - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
Blurb 


Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson.

Review

In reading this book I was prepared to learn the darker nature of Sherlock Holmes and indeed this book deliver. For the most part Sherlock remained an intellectual snob with a dash of narcissistic traits that demand attention. Indeed the BBC’s Sherlock did have a point when he said ‘’ the frailty of genius is it needs an audience’’ [paraphrased]. This book is much darker that A Study in Scarlet with Holmes, it starts with Cocaine and ends with Cocaine.

It occurred to me while I was reading it how similar Holmes’ character was to that of Greg House whom I have been a fan of for many years. Both men are arrogance, brilliant and can’t stand the mundanes of ordinary life. Despite the darker setting I found Holmes to be more humane in this book, at several points he even comforts other people and thing about the well-being of Mary Morstan, Watson’s future wife.

Turning my attention by to the narrator, I was once again struck by the resemblance between Watson and modern day Sherlock fan girls, that is to say gaze at Holmes with excessive admiration. That is not to say that Holmes is not a brilliant man however it feels like Watson has surpassed the normal limit of admiration and passed on to fandom. I am sure if there was internet in 1800s Watson would be the number one follower.

To be honest I can’t say I am a very big fan of Watson, apart from the morality he represents in their relationship, I find he is always so out staged by Holmes that he might as well be an automaton for all the academic contribution he provided. One more thing I disliked about him and continue to dislike in every Victorian book I have managed to read is his attraction to Mary Morstan, sure she held it together when she discovered bad news about her father however I fail to see what made her attractive to a man. For me she was the Victorian idealistic woman who has not been given much personality, I am not saying she lacks personality rather she hasn’t been given many chances to voice these personalities. As a somewhat literature feminist I find I feel strongly about this.

Overall I enjoyed the puzzle and give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Product Detail
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Language: English










Votex [Tempest #2] - Julie Cross


Title -  Vortex
Author -  Julie Cross
Blurb

Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, all that changes when Holly—the girl he altered history to save—re-enters his life. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents find themselves under attack and on the run.

Review

Time travel is a very complicated thought experiment. If we take Schrodinger’s cat as the simplest unit of a thought experiment then time travel is easily a hundred thousand times more complicated, we are simply not built to comprehend what would happen if you went back in time and killed your grandfather before he had the chance to have your parent or to present a case by Douglas Adams, end up being your own mother and father, hence the word paradox. With this in mind I was very curious as to how Julie Cross would overcome the subject especially since it was bound to appear sooner or later. Some how I doubted she would say ''One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can't cope with.''

I was very impressed by Cross creation of different timelines and while it took me a little while to wrap my head around the many different worlds it occurred to me that the importance of the ability to split reality into many different versions had not been stressed enough. Vortex is a lot more action orientated than Tempest and to be honest it did feel like a right move. Jackson needed to grow up a little and actually take control of the situation and I felt satisfied that for the most part he managed that perfectly. I also thought that the name of the new enemies, Eyewall, was a lot less cheese and a lot more believable that Enemies of Time.

This book no real chronological order, we meet two versions of almost everyone from Jackson, Jackson’s dad, little girl Emily and even Adam and Holly are entirely different people. Trying to sum up this book I am strongly reminded of a quote from the best time traveller in the universe, The Doctor who said that ‘'People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.’’ This is very true for this book. Sure everyone has their own separate timeline of birth to death but the future, the past and the indeed the many different presents have been entangled therefore it should not come as a surprise that this would rip a hole in the space time continuum, hence the creation of the vortex.

I am not sure if I am a fan of the apocalyptic future scenario, not because it doesn’t make sense rather it makes perfect sense but it feels like the doomed future card has been played by many depictions of time travel before however it must be said that it is a real credit to Cross’ mental ability to process all these separate timelines as well as the many versions of the world without having a mental breakdown.

One thing that confused me about this book and I am not sure whether this is a compliment or a criticism was that every time you thing you have a handle on the world around you it would through one curve ball after another, it would kill people and resurrect them just as easily. I felt like I had no idea who was the friend and who was the enemy.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It action packed from the word go to the last page, I felt like I was on a mission impossible marathon, if the mission was unclear and every other enemy had the ability to jump in time. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Product Detail
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Language: English
Author's Website: http://juliecrossbooks.com/
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sunday, 3 March 2013

Mini Review: On The Origin of Species - Charles Darwin



Title - On The Origin of Species
Author - Charles Darwin
Blurb

In the Origin of Species (1859) Darwin challenged many of the most deeply held beliefs of the Western world. Arguing for a material, not divine, origin of species, he showed that new species are achieved by 'natural selection'. Development, diversification, decay, extinction and absence of plan are all inherent to his theories. Darwin read prodigiously across many fields; he reflected on his experiences as a traveller, he experimented. His profoundly influential concept of 'natural selection' condenses materials from past and present, from the Galapagos Islands to rural Staffordshire, from English back gardens to colonial encounters. The Origin communicates the enthusiasm of original thinking in an open, descriptive style, and Darwin's emphasis on the value of diversity speaks more strongly now than ever.

Review

There have been a few works of non fiction that have been on my TBR pile for years and this year I finally read Charles Darwin's brilliant work. As I read the book I was constantly reminded of how amazing the mind of Mr Darwin really was. As a science enthusiast and hopefully a future scientist I had been brought up on the works of Darwin therefore the ideas he presented not only seemed practical however I am always startled to a stop when I was reminded that Darwin had come up with his deductions with no knowledge of the basic human building blocks, genetics. Despite this Darwin was startlingly close to the hidden secrets of genetic inheritance, I only wish that Darwin and Gregor Mendel had had met and maybe just maybe the future might have looked just that little bit different.

I am going to give this book 5 out of 5 starts and a recommendation for all science enthusiasts and anyone who wants to understand the thought process behind one of the most ground breaking and divisive scientific theories.
Product Detail
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Language: English