Words and Worlds

I read books. Books of magic, books of mystery, books of terror, books of fun. I love books.

The Paper Magician - Charlie N. Holmberg

This was a good read, I picked it from the list of Kindle Unlimited books and I'm not disappointed! 


It's set in an alternate Victorian age, where there are magicians who can work magic with any manmade material - metal, glass, plastic... and paper, hence the title. Magicians bond with their chosen element and once bonded, they can't change their mind.


Ceony has always wanted to become a Smelter, a metal magician, but at the last minute she is informed that due to the dearth of magicians going into Folding she must bond with paper, which she sees as weak and useless. She is incredibly disappointed but her choice is paper or nothing, and so she becomes the apprentice to Emery Thane, the preeminent Folder in England.


Initially she believes that folding is good for nothing but entertaining children, but Magician Thane soon shows her there is much more to being a paper magician, and her skills are quickly put to the test when she encounters an Excisioner - a magician who uses human flesh and blood.


It's a bit of a mixed bag - the prose is a little juvenile but it's engaging, lots of description of what Ceony is seeing and experiencing, everything is so new to her and by extension the reader. It's a bit like a souped up Harry Potter - she's learning magic, but there's a horror element provided by the gore associated with practicing Excision. 


It's not a particularly long book, and it's part of a series, so most of my questions are not answered. We don't know the full history of some of the main characters, and I expect that to unfold in the next book, which is ready and waiting on my Kindle!

Path of Needles - Alison Littlewood

This book had an interesting premise - a killer posing his victims to represent the girls from fairy tales, but these are the old versions, "red in tooth and claw". No happy endings here!


A young policewoman eager for her first big case tracks down a local expert (how convenient!) who can point out the tiny discrepancies in the staging, which may or may not be deliberate clues.


Some of the characters were well written, but sadly most of the interesting stuff happens to people on the periphery. The motive for the killings is a bit woolly but then the killer isn't exactly sane so we'll let that one slide.


The real problem is the climactic scene, though. It's a bit... dull.


Not a bad read, but don't expect to be enchanted!

The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison

The Witch with No Name - Kim Harrison

What a fantastic finale to a series that I've really enjoyed!


This was the 13th book in the series about an unlikely trio of bounty hunters set in an alternate world where witches, vampires and demons are real and have to be policed and sometimes hunted down by "runners".


I can't not compare it to Kelley Amstrong's Women of the Otherworld series which also had 13 books. I really loved that series, but the last one was a bit of a let-down for me, and part of it was the narrator - there are a few different main characters throughout the series, and I didn't particularly like Savannah, who ended the series.


Thirteen (Kelley Armstrong's finale) brought all the major players from the previous books together for a battle with the bad guys, but Kim Harrison didn't have to do that - her characters have been together the whole way through.


This book in particular is almost a microcosm of the series - Rachel starts off at odds with the vampires and with a little help from her friends saves the world. Actually, that's pretty much how most of the books go. But they're still worth a look!


I actually didn't love the very early books quite so much, but I was interested enough to keep going and the characters really developed well, even if those developments were often glaringly obvious. Sometimes obvious is good - it feels right. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Rachel and Al, and the way she gradually won him round. It was clear from pretty much the beginning that it was going to happen, but even so it was lovely to see him humanised.


The exhilarating climax was a natural development given where Rachel's powers have been heading, but with a twist I didn't quite see coming to keep it interesting. The last chapter was actually more of an epilogue, rounding off the story and giving us some closure.


A satisfying end to a really enjoyable series. Can't wait to see what Kim Harrison does next.

The Circle

The Circle - Dave Eggers

This is kind of like an updated version of 1984, written with all the finesse and delicacy of a horse carving a radish rose with a whisk while wearing boxing gloves. It's about as subtle as a hen party.


A young woman named Mae gets a job at The Circle, a technology company which is a mishmash of Google, Facebook and Apple - innovative (expensive) hardware, a pervasive social network, and an incredible campus with every conceivable amenity an employee could desire. We soon find out that The Circle is very interested in every aspect of their employees' lives, and Mae struggles to handle that.


It started well, the introduction to the company was intriguing, and some of the peripheral characters are clearly anxious to be liked by Mae, terrified of accidentally upsetting her, hinting at something off-kilter. But very quickly Mae settles in and doesn't do anything interesting or believable for the rest of the book. She is a limp non-person, with no redeeming qualities. A two dimensional vessel for the message the author is trying to drum home.


The story follows her journey from a newbie to playing a pivotal role in The Circle's dastardly plan for world domination. Yes, main characters usually have pivotal roles in books, but in this case, the reason she is brought into The Circle's inner sanctum is bloody ridiculous and frankly the transition from low-ranking drone to centre of The Circle is jarring.


I think the book is supposed to show us where we're headed with every moment of our lives documented via iPhones on Facebook, but it doesn't do a great job of showing us the alternative. Mercer, Mae's ex, is portrayed as a thoroughly dislikable lummox. You'd think that the technophobic offline-living anti-hero would at least be charming or capable, but all we see is Mae's negative point of view. Even his letters to Mae, which would be a perfect opportunity for us to see Mercer clearly, untarnished by her filter, but they're boring and preachy. If we were supposed to side with Mercer, he should've had a much bigger role in the book. Maybe he was just supposed to show a counterpoint to Mae, but it didn't feel adequate to me if that's the case.


It could be argued that this book is intended as a cautionary tale about giving away our privacy in return for shiny gadgets, and not doing things just because everyone else is doing them, but in the end I found it kind of offensive as someone who uses and enjoys services like Twitter and Instagram. With every blunt jab at Apple and Facebook with product launches for incredibly invasive services, my eyeballs rolled and I found myself getting annoyed. I'm not defending those companies, certainly our data is important to them - Facebook is free because they make money from our personal information; anyone who has any intelligence knows this. But we're not stupid, we just like to interact with people!


I suppose it's kind of ironic that I'm posting this negative review of a critique of social media on social media.

The Last Watch

The Last Watch (Watch, #4) - Sergei Lukyanenko, Andrew Bromfield

I'm really enjoying these books. In case you're not familiar, the series is (mostly) set in Moscow, and follows the struggle between the Night Watch, who are magic users on the side of the light, and the Day Watch, who are on the side of darkness. They're full of intrigue, twists and turns as the machinations of those in power blur the lines between the light and the dark. There's no black and white, just shades of grey.


They're good stories set in a fully realised and well thought out world, and I think the main protagonist is what draws me in. Anton isn't perfect but he's self-aware, self-deprecating and a Nice Guy. He's a bit of a dork. Maybe I identify with him.


Another thing I really like is the format of each book - three individual tales, each with a prologue featuring obscure events that the narrator will be investigating. We're given some insight before the protagonist gets involved. The tales are separate but related, although just how they're related isn't always clear until the end of the third story.


Although I did enjoy it, this book in particular veers between the blatantly obvious and maddening deus ex machina - this character definitely can't be involved in this impossibly difficult situation, they're far too weak, you may as well totally discount them from your logical thinking. Oh, wait, now they're SUPERPOWERED!


Generally though, a good instalment in the series, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

Another good read from Gillian Flynn. This was her first novel, but it doesn't show.


Camille is a reporter, sent to her home town after years of self-imposed exile to cover the disappearance of a little girl just months after another girl was murdered - found strangled, teeth removed post-mortem. We quickly learn that Camille has a difficult relationship with her mother, Adora (made me think of She-Ra!), who is a strange blend of iron-willed matriarch and demure, fainting débutante. We also discover the meaning of the title fairly early on - Camille is a self-harmer struggling to curb her own destructive behaviour.


We follow the story from Camille's point of view as she interviews "friends" from her past about the missing girl, learning about her own family along the way - particularly Amma, the thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows.


There seems to be a common theme in Gillian Flynn's books - unlikeable protagonists. They're not perfect people, they're flawed, damaged, and entirely up-front about that in their internal dialogue even if, like Gone Girl's Nick, they attempt to hide it from other characters. Camille has low self-worth and mommy issues which, coupled with her self-harm, could easily be cliché, but the way her particular type of cutting is referred to throughout the book is interesting 


All in all, I enjoyed the growing sense of unease that the author evokes; it's a slow-burner with lots of dark little details that give you a little shudder every now and then. The hypersexualised kids in this book made for uncomfortable reading at times, but it's all too believable in today's world of child beauty pageants and "grown up" clothing for pre-teens.


There are some great plot elements here that are barely touched upon; for example, I'd like to have had more insight into Alan and Adora's relationship, but I suppose that not knowing what went on behind closed doors adds to the overall air of mystery. As it is though, Alan could have been entirely omitted from the book, and it wouldn't have made much difference.


Regardless, I'm moving straight on to Flynn's other novel, Dark Places. I hope I enjoy it as much!

Gone Girl

Gone Girl: A Novel - Gillian Flynn

Well! Fairly early on I thought I knew what was gonna happen in this book, and then halfway through my theory got blown so far out of the water it ended up in a tree. In the middle of a desert. On Mars.


I don't want to go into too much detail and ruin things, but basically a guy's wife goes missing on their anniversary, and despite us reading from his perspective, we aren't entirely sure he's not involved. We read things as they happen, and now and then he lets us know that he has lied to the police, but we never know what exactly he's lied about.


The chapters are interspersed with his wife's diary entries, which provide a pretty damning window into their relationship and leaves us fearing the worst.


All in all, this was a great read. Enough intrigue to keep me interested, and I think it was well written. Took half a star off because I wasn't overly happy with the ending, but I can't really say any more without giving it away.

Slow start, gross middle, predictable end.

Gravity - Tess Gerritsen

Picked this up after my friend's dad read it, interesting premise - outbreak of some ooky disease in the confines of the ISS, limited resources and no hope of rescue. The initial build-up took a long time, but character development was a bit lacklustre.


Once we get into space the fun starts, and there are soon various bodily fluids floating around in zero gravity, the effects of which I think were described well. Definitely made me cringe at times, anyway. The stuff on the ground is less interesting but necessary, I suppose.


And then the end kid of let it down a bit - it was all a bit paint-by-numbers. It was like one of those jigsaws for kids, with 6 pieces that will only fit together one way.


Not the worst book I've read lately, but not the best either.

The Uninvited - Liz Jensen

Holy crap this was creepy. If you have anything to do with small kids, this book will make uncomfortable reading. The story is about a global outbreak of violence against adults, perpetrated by children. The children have no memory of the incidents once they're over, and they feel no remorse.


The protagonist is Hesketh Locke, an anthropologist with Asperger's. Locke's quirks and coping mechanisms make for an interesting character who you don't pity because he clearly doesn't see himself as disadvantaged by his different way of viewing the world.


It's well worth a look, but be warned that's this is not strictly a horror story - it's more of a cautionary tale than anything. Some people were disappointed by the ending and I can see why, but I enjoyed it.

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy - Helen Fielding A pleasant return visit with an old friend, but not a patch on the first book. I had a few giggling-out-loud moments, but it was bittersweet.

The Third Kingdom (Richard and Kahlan, #2)

The Third Kingdom - Terry Goodkind Oh dear. I'm not sure why I'm putting myself through reading these later Terry Goodkind books. The magic has gone, they have become boring, repetitive, preachy drivel. This book was not enjoyable in the least.

I guess I keep hoping he'll write something good again. I won't be in any rush to pick up the next one, anyway.

Omens: A Cainsville Novel (Omens and Shadows)

Omens - Kelley Armstrong A good start to a new series, really looking forward to seeing how things develop. Love the celtic/Welsh influence.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities - Amy Stewart Really interesting book, full of surprising and sometimes nasty tidbits about plants you might have in your garden.

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger A little obvious but I enjoyed it, up until the slightly disappointing end.

Inferno: A Novel (Robert Langdon)

Inferno - Dan Brown Typical Dan Brown, not amazingly well written but readable.

The First Confessor (The Legend of Magda Searus)

The First Confessor - Terry Goodkind Formulaic, repetitive and ultimately disappointing. I'll read the next one but, I'm not looking forward to it.

Currently reading

Bound (An Alex Verus Novel)
Benedict Jacka
Progress: 5 %