Books, JJ Reads, the memo pad

The Memo Pad: Book Reviews Dec 2016

It’s new years eve which means, among other things, my last monthly reviews post. It’s been an up and down month. Some books I was expecting to love and that started brilliantly let me down, I DNF’d a couple that I had been really looking forward to but other books far out did my expectations. Some of them might even make it onto my best books of the year post in a couple of weeks time.

READ: 4          DNF: 2mpdec2016

Nod by Adrian Barnes *****

Dawn breaks and no one in the world has slept the night before. Or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same mysterious dream. A handful of silent children can still sleep as well, but what they’re dreaming remains a mystery. Global panic ensues. A medical fact: after six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis sets in. After four weeks, the body dies. In the interim, a bizarre new world arises and swallows the old one whole. A world called Nod.

I feel like this was a bit like one of those interesting books you get at Christmas time (about random facts like the etymology of words and phrases) had a love child with a zombie book. The main character is an author of books like that and so he goes off on extremely interesting tangents about etymology and history and the way he describes things is great but there isn’t that much plot to the actual story. I enjoyed reading it, but then I’m the kind of person that really enjoys those Christmas stocking filler books. If you have zero interest in such things then you probably won’t like this. I’d have liked a bit more plot and a bit less of the crude scenes too as I really didn’t think they were necessary. It’s a very different book from most you’ll pick up purely from the main character being a wordy person and for that alone I’m glad I read it. It’s good to have a protagonist that sounds completely unique for once.


Rewinder by Brett Battles *****

Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it’s far from it. A Rewinder’s job is to observe history. In person. Embracing his new duties with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting as the adventures into the past are, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences. Life-altering consequences. Time, after all, is merely a reference point.

I absolutely loved the premise of this book. Time travel historians. Need I say more? The first part of the book lived up to my expectations. The world created was brilliant and interesting, the main character Denny was really easy to connect with. But due to something that happens in the story (minor spoilers here) things change and we end up in a much more mundane, ordinary setting. This section dragged, I already know about our world. I wanted to read something set in a different fantastical place. The story did eventually pick up in the last quarter making it a decent read overall but it had so much more promise at the start.

If you enjoy reading books set in an everyday modern world then you’ll probably love this book but if you were here for the really cool idea set in an interesting new world then you might be a bit peeved about where the story went. Unfortunately I’m in the ‘ bit peeved’ camp.


The Poison Eater  by Shanna Germain *****

Poison never lies.
Talia was once one of the twelve martyrs of the forgotten compass, a prisoner of the unhuman creatures known only as the vordcha. She barely escaped that life with her body and soul intact. Now she has a new life as a poison eater in the city of Enthait. Here she is hailed as one of the city s protectors. No one knows her history. No one has asked about her past. She s been here long enough that  Enthait is her home now, these are her people. She loves them and they her. But in the Ninth World, the past is a living, breathing thing. And when it hunts you down, you can run. You can fight. Or you can die.

I’m not really sure where to start on this one. I really enjoyed it. It is absolutely completely other worldly. There was so much different that I’m honestly amazed at how well it was written because not once was I confused about anything. I’ve read books half as complicated and been completely lost. The world and the characters and the merging of magic and science (or mech) is all brilliant. I’m not sure how much of the world I should be crediting to the author as I found out while I was reading that it’s based on a table top rpg. I’d never heard of it before so you absolutely don’t need to know anything about it to love this book. There are a host of great characters, and they all feel fully realised even though it’s a short book. All the relationships come across really well. The one thing I would say is there isn’t much plot? I don’t think the ‘action’ started until I was about 90% in. But this is an excellent example of a character lead book, I was fully invested in them and discovering the world around them and the lack of action didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the read. Considering it is so short though and seeing as it’s set up for a sequel I think maybe it could have been made into a longer book with the next part of the story to add to the plot.


A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet *****

In the icy North, where magic is might, an all-powerful elite ruthlessly guided by a glacial Queen have grown to dominate the world. Now rebellion is stirring in the rough, magic-poor South, where for the first time in memory a warlord has succeeded in uniting the tribal nations. Stuck in the middle is Cat – circus performer and soothsayer – safely hidden behind heavy make-up, bright colours and the harmless illusion of the circus. Until someone suspects she’s more than she seems . . .Captured by the Southern warlord Griffin, Cat’s careful camouflage is wearing thin. For how long can – or should – she conceal the true extent of her power? Faced with dragons, homicidal mages, rival Gods and the traitorous longings of her own heart, she must decide: is it time to claim her destiny and fight?

I really enjoyed this book. I mean REALLY enjoyed it. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did. It would have been five stars if not for the 10% of the book I skipped over because it was either annoyingly repetitive about whether or not two of the main characters should get together and how they feel about each other or excessively explicit about exactly how they were getting together (and 10% is being extremely generous). I don’t mind a bit of pinning in my books (I don’t like it but some I can handle) but there was just too much of it. After about half way every time they spoke, or saw each other or thought of each other it happened. Okay I get it. They have FEELINGS. But I wish it had stuck to the story more. The thing I don’t like about reading romance is that everything seems to pale in comparison to those feelings. And there were so many other things about the book that were more worthy of the time. The characters are brilliant, the “banter” was hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud at many of the snarky comments and conversations. The friendships in this book are lovely. And I haven’t even mentioned the Greek gods yet. Because I’m a fan of Greek gods. And the way they’ve been included in the story, so far, has been done really well. They’re not so much there as more just influencing events. It’s a little odd that the story uses Greek gods and yet it’s set in a completely made up fantasy world but it fits so I don’t have a problem with that. Have I mentioned magic or dragons yet? There’s too many good things about this book to list.

Also this cover is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve seen another cover (the one on goodreads) and seriously, if that had been the one I’d seen first then I wouldn’t have even bothered to click on it to find out what it was about so I’m glad they changed it.



Sister Sable by T. Mountebank

I’ve read books twice as complicated as this set up and not been confused but I had absolutely no idea what was going on and not in a good way. Yes there needs to be some mystery and tension in a book but I had no idea who these characters were, why I should or shouldn’t like them or any idea of a plot. I gave up at about 10%.


Dinosaurs and Prime Numbers by Tom Moran

So I was really looking forward to this book. It sounded like just the right amount of bizarre to good story, a la Douglas Adams. Well it wasn’t. To be fair I only managed to get to 25% before I have up so maybe it got better but I just felt so uncomfortable reading this book that I had to put it down. The character is, I guess, suppose to be autistic though it’s never stated. And most of the ‘humour’ is us supposedly laughing at how this guy doesn’t understand things or how he acts in certain situations. I don’t find that funny? That’s just mean. Maybe I’m being over sensitive but i just felt so uncomfortable reading this.

So that’s it. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Happy New Year Everybody. Here’s to another year of amazing books!

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