Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the category “Reading”

Book review: The Time Machine by HG Wells

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wonder if vegans object to the Morlocks’ diet?

In what is now a classic of the Science Fiction genre, an un-named narrator has local dignitaries over to his place once a week to tell tall tales and show off his latest inventions to. On one of these evenings he limps in the worse for wear, in desperate need of a steak, and discusses his pocket flower collection.

When I was a kid I read a lot of the classic science fiction stories from the likes of HG Wells and Jules Verne. It has been so long since I’ve read them that I thought it was time to revisit these classics. While I can still fondly remember the 1960 movie – let us not ever speak of the 2002 adaptation – the book felt unfamiliar and akin to virgin reading material.

Whilst The Time Machine does deserve its place in history for influencing/creating Science Fiction as we know it (fantastical ideas explored, social issues analogised), as a novel it is lacking. One example of this is the lack of tension in scenes that are literally life or death struggles. Instead of fearing for the narrator’s life and wondering how he’ll survive, we are treated to a recounting of the events that could have instead been describing someone having a cup of tea while watching the rain out of the dining room window. A wondrous adventure told as though it was just another day at the office.

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Book review: The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Scam (Fox and O'Hare, #4)The Scam by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When someone launders your money do they also iron and starch it? Why yes, I am a dad, why do you ask?

Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare are once again using Nick’s talents as a conman to take down criminals on the FBI’s list of bad guys. This time they are after a casino owner who is helping launder money for anyone from mobsters to terrorists. Given the company he keeps, is it any surprise he has a tank of piranha in his office for ‘negotiations’.

After being disappointed in the second instalment in this series, The Chase, I was unsure if I would read any more of the Evanovich and Goldberg series. I already had The Scam on loan from the library, so I decided to chance it. This was a rewarding decision as The Scam delivers an entertaining read.

I was disappointed with The Chase because it felt like an episode from one of those will-they-won’t-they crime shows – such as Castle or Bones – during their declining years. You know, just as they are lining up the ramp over the shark cage. But The Scam felt like an early episode at the beginning of the series when Castle or Bones are still awesome, even though there are plot elements here that set this firmly later in the series (can’t say more without major spoilers).

So skip The Chase and read The Scam.

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Book to Movie: Lord of the Rings – What’s the Difference?

This month’s What’s the Difference? from CineFix covers the Fellowship of the Ring section of Lord of the Rings.

Let’s be honest here, the movies were better.

Whilst I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings in both movie and book form, to call the books waffly and slow-moving is an understatement. As pointed out in the CineFix video, huge passages of time elapse before anything actually happens in the book. The adventure Frodo sets out upon literally takes decades to start, such that you forget what the inciting call to adventure is.

The movie also establishes the stakes and opposing forces better. This not only sets the clock ticking but raises tension and consequence. Meanwhile the book has plenty of pipe smoking and walking. In fairness, Tom Bombadil is a highlight that is sorely missing from the movie – although I doubt that the lyricism of his presence would translate to the screen from the page.

In all, this is one of the few examples where the movie was superior. And shorter. Much shorter.

Book review: The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Chase (Fox and O'Hare, #2)The Chase by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is no con you can pull on a politician, given that they invented them all.

Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare are once again teamed up as the will-they-won’t-they odd couple. This time their mission is to recover a stolen artefact of national significance to the Chinese government. They have to steal it from the people who stole it before someone realises it was stol….. You get the idea.

I’ve read many Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich novels and have always found them humorous and entertaining. But The Chase felt like a by-the-numbers follow up to The Heist, a book that established a potentially good series. This was like an episode from a TV crime show like Castle, or Bones, or any of the dozens of those similarly constructed dramedies. And not an episode from the start of the series when it was good, but in those later episodes when they are lining up the ramp over the shark tank.

That isn’t to say that The Chase fails to entertain, quite the contrary. This is a fun novel and series, but could feel a bit too formulaic.

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Book review: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9)Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who knew trolls were brightly coloured down there. Something to keep in mind during your next internet argument.

Adam and Mercy’s pack is quickly becoming the go-to problem solving group. Vampire dispute: call the pack. Wayward fae: call the pack. Troll rampaging on a bridge in town and threatening to kill everyone: call the pack. Since that isn’t happening anywhere else, Mercy claims the Tri-cities as their territory and any and all are under their protection. Only took a few seconds for someone to take up the protection offer and give them another headache in the form of a fire-touched human hunted by the fae.

This instalment in the Mercy Thompson series sees some of the older conflicts resolved, only to be replaced by new conflicts as the importance of the Columbia Basin pack in the wider world grows. The way Patricia Briggs has gradually grown the Mercy’s world, and the characters who live within it, has felt natural, whilst upping the stakes. Of course now that I’m up-to-date with the series, I have a fortnight to wait for the next instalment to be published.

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Book Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are dyed blue are you at risk of being abducted by Smurfs?

Mercy and Adam have an unwelcome house guest, Christy, Adam’s ex-wife. She is fleeing a stalker who has killed at least one person and burned down a condo. Oh, and he might be a volcano god. Even more reason for Christy to try to manipulate her way back into Adam and the pack’s life.

This instalment of the Mercy Thompson series is filled with tension. The injection of Christy back into the werewolf pack politics, the new enemy, the need to protect people who are trying to hurt you, and the suspicion of the werewolves being responsible for a rash of murders, could induce reader anxiety. Patricia Briggs has certainly left no obstacle out of Mercy’s way in Night Broken.

Needless to say, the review of the next instalment, Fire Touched, will be coming soon.

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Book vs Movie: Shawshank Redemption – What’s the Difference?

Nothing quite like comparing one of the best movies of all time with its source material. This month CineFix do with What’s the Difference? on The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s odd that I have read Stephen King’s The Body but haven’t read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, given that they shared space in the same collection. But then I don’t often read novellas and short stories, as I prefer novels. I often think that shorter stories make for easier movie adaptations as the filmmakers don’t have to trim material the same way. Of course there are two problems with that thinking:

  1. It assumes that filmmakers actually read the source material (see here, here, herehere….)
  2. It assumes that filmmakers aren’t quite content to stretch source material out to fill as much cinema time as possible, no matter how bad an idea that is. *cough* The Hobbit *cough*

I recently saw a listicle that suggested Shawshank was one of the movies you should have in your collection. That is clearly wrong. If you can’t turn on the TV and catch it on rerun then your TV is broken or you have found Die Hard on instead. Why own it? Which brings me to possibly the only real gripe there is to be had with Shawshank, and that is its over-popularity. Exactly how many times can it play on TV before people start becoming annoyed? At what point does the audience start to groan at what was once a great movie? Can great art remain timeless if you beat everyone over the head with it? I fear the answers.

Book review: Rick and Morty Volume 4 by Kyle Starks

Rick and Morty, Volume 4Rick and Morty, Volume 4 by Kyle Starks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“If I’m being too vague, I’m talking about your penis here.”

Are you missing Rick and Morty? Can you believe it has been 1 year, 4 months, and 9 days since the cliffhanger of Season 2? Can you believe we still have a month to wait for Season 3?

Well this collection of short adventures will tide you over. So many of these stories feel like lost episodes that we missed out on. It’s a Ricklicious fix. Rick and Morty fans will enjoy this collection no end.

I received a digital copy of this collection ahead of release in exchange for an honest review, focussed on science.

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Book Reviews: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1)Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m confused: are gods meant to wear flowing robes or leggings and cloaks?

Corwin awakes in a hospital after a car crash. Not everything is on the up and up, as the staff are keeping him overly sedated and aside from a lack of memory he appears to be healthy. He sets out on a quest to find out how he ended up in hospital and why all roads lead to Amber, whatever that is.

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny is a series that kept popping up in recommendations of awesome fantasy. So I found a copy of the first in the Corwin cycle to see what the fuss was about. Quite frankly, I’m still trying to figure out whether I understand what the fuss was about.

On the one hand this tale of gods roaming parallel worlds and fighting for the throne of the empire (Amber) has a lot of interesting and novel fantasy elements. On the other hand things just tend to happen without much in the way of tension. We are presented with the tyrant who has usurped the throne via a “hero” who sounds just as bad. This novel raises so many conflicting aspects that you could almost mistake it for a first draft of something that will be great. Maybe.

I’m not sure I’ll read any more of the series despite how interesting the fantasy world on offer is.

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Book Review: Slipping by Lauren Beukes

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other WritingSlipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Could zombies be a viable replacement for slave labour? Asking for a certain electronics company. And most clothing manufacturers.

Slipping is an interesting collection of writing from the brain of Lauren Beukes. From enhanced athletes to bored ghosts, these stories display Lauren’s spec-fic interests. There are also a few essays at the end of the collection, one of which explains the personal inspiration behind The Shining Girls; an essay well worth reading.

I met Lauren at a writers’ festival where she was running a workshop on, surprise surprise, writing. I really enjoyed reading the aforementioned The Shining Girls as it was a highly enjoyable mix of crime and spec-fic. So I was looking forward to reading this collection. As with any collection of previously published works, there are highs and lows. For me the highs outweighed the lows, with Slipping, The Green, and Ghost Girl being amongst my favourites. I think the strengths of this collection come from the South African cultural influence to Lauren’s writing, which gives far more grittiness to the bleak sci-fi stories than you usually see.

If you’re a spec-fic fan, or a fan of Lauren’s writing – and how could you not be? – then you will find some compelling stories in this collection.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7)Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is the correct term for the abduction of shapeshifters werenapping?

Our favourite coyote is back, the rest of her pack less so. Some mad fool has decided to abduct Adam and the rest of the Tri-Cities werewolves. They also come after Mercy and all of her friends. That’s one way to invite yourself to be dinner I suppose.

Halfway through the novel I was reminded why I’ve been enjoying the Mercy Thompson series so much. Patricia Briggs sets a plot in motion but doesn’t follow the standard path you would expect. Without spoiling things, we get more plot and a different endpoint than you were initially expecting. Most authors would set that initial plot in motion and try to make the ride enjoyable. Briggs makes the ride to the shops enjoyable but also changes the destination for somewhere with ocean views.

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Book review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, #6)River Marked by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are times when you really need a bigger boat.

Mercy and Adam have decided to get married and go on a honeymoon. Of course, everyone else has plans on their time, including a few odd jobs they could do. Such as figure out why so many people are disappearing near the river… At least Mercy isn’t repairing cars on her honeymoon.

In River Marked we have some reveals about Mercy’s real father. This hints at things to come as well as explaining why she seems to have been attracting trouble. As always, Patricia Briggs has progressed the series and characters, filling in the gaps in a natural and satisfying way. We never get all the answers, but Briggs is revealing them without it feeling like she has been obstinately hiding details or making them up on the fly.

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Book review: Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, #5)Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Returning overdue books has never been quite this dangerous.

Mercy borrowed a book to help her understand the fae. But when she tries to return it she finds the bookstore owner has disappeared and several nasty foes who wouldn’t mind eating her. If only Samuel was feeling himself and someone wasn’t trying to sabotage date night with Adam she could deal with this situation.

Despite their standalone nature, the plot of the books in this series overlap a lot. While you could jump into the series with Silver Borne and enjoy it without any problems, the significance and development of the plots would be a little incomplete if you hadn’t read the previous instalments. That said, this novel feels like a turning point in the series, with Mercy starting to come into her own. Hard to comment without spoilers, and it really is just easier to read and enjoy.

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Book review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me (Jack Reacher, #20)Make Me by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does Reacher leave enough people alive to have criminals warning one another on the Deep Web about not messing with him?

Jack Reacher decided to catch a train to a small town for a change and by walking around as per usual he managed to piss off the local criminals. This will end well for the criminals.

Lee Child is a master of not wasting words. If there is exposition then it is important to the plot. Make Me is no exception. The twist for this thriller is revealed in little details throughout the story. It comes through as no less shocking.

While I have grown a little tired of the formula for the Reacher novels, they still remain entertaining reads.

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Book review: Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vampire ghosts: the undead undead?

A few weeks earlier, Mercy killed one vampire too many, and now Marsilia and her vampire seethe have found out. Out of the blue pops her old out-of-state college friend with a ghost problem that she hopes Mercy can help with. What convenient timing.

It is refreshing to read a fantasy series that doesn’t get bogged down in world building waffle. Aside from being written as though they are standalone novels – whilst being a continuing adventure – there isn’t any fat on this lean series. And as the series has progressed it hasn’t fallen into a rut, nor become formulaic. I’m already halfway through the next in the series and enjoying each Mercy Thompson outing as much as the first.

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Happily Ever After…

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Book review: Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, #3)Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A walking stick that follows you around is surely a sign to slow down, right?

Mercy is asked to help investigate a series of Fae murders, because mechanics are great at that sort of thing. That goes so well that her friend and former boss, Zee, ends up on the hook for a murder he didn’t commit. Of course, what happens on the rez stays on the rez, so the Fae are quite happy for Zee to take the fall. Mercy isn’t happy for Zee to take the fall.

Patricia Briggs keeps upping the ante with this series. Mercy may have some devoted friends but there is quickly becoming very few groups in the Tri-Cities area that aren’t pissed at her. Whether it be the vampires, the Grey Lords of the Fae, her two competing suitors, elements within the wolf pack, or the local anti-magical beings hate groups, Briggs has made Mercy’s life tough. This makes for compelling reading. Some people won’t like the climatic scene for how far it goes, but what is a decent protagonist without deep psychological scars? <— not a spoiler… kinda.

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Book vs Movie: Die Hard – What’s the Difference?

die-hard-is-the-best-christmas-movie-of-all-time

What better time of year for CineFix to do a What’s the Difference? episode on the best Xmas movie of all time!

While I have gotten my grubby hands on the Roderick Thorp novel (Nothing Last Forever), I must confess to not having read it as yet. It is probably a good thing I don’t mind spoilers. Hope you don’t mind either, because, you know, spoiler alert.

The differences between the two endings is interesting. Having the watch moment with McClane’s wife/daughter play out differently, and Dwayne Robinson’s sacrifice, would not have made this a classic Xmas movie. So it makes sense that the movie’s creative team changed those things to make this a more upbeat ending.

Enjoy the season rewatching all the the Die Hard movies… except A Good Day to Die Hard: that is an abomination and an offence against not only cinema, but the good name of Die Hard.

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Book review: The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello

The Jekyll RevelationThe Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When life imitates art, which was imitating life, which goes on to inspire art, do you have to still underline meaningful phrases in a book for when you’re caught? Asking for a friend…

Rafe is your average underpaid civil servant scientist living in Topanga Canyon, California. As long as he avoids the local bikies and their meth lab, two local petty criminals, and his landlady’s boyfriend, he should be able to study his coyote pack in peace. Yeah, doesn’t happen. When he discovers a trunk which belonged to Robert Louis Stevenson things go sideways, and he uncovers the truth about Jack the Ripper.

The Jekyll Revelation is an interesting novel that combines historical fiction with a modern day tale. Leveraging an intriguing factoid suggesting Robert Louis Stevenson was a person of interest in the Jack the Ripper murders – due to the play based upon his novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – made this story compelling. Masello manages to emulate Stevenson’s style* for the found-diary passages interspersed between the chapters of Rafe’s modern adventures. And the twist. I thought I had figured it out early on. I was wrong.

As a kid I was a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson’s, so this was an enjoyable read. I’m not normally a fan of stories that co-opt famous historical figures – unless it is done in the style of a James Rollins or Steve Berry historical McGuffin adventure – as it can feel like shoehorning. But I enjoyed the melding of two timelines to tell a tale of Jack the Ripper. It worked well, with this feeling like Stevenson’s final tale.

* I’ll admit it has been decades since I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s oeuvre as a kid, so my memory of his style could be muddled.

NB: I received a review copy ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review.

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Too many books? Nope.

ralph-and-chuck-cartoon

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