List Five: September Reads

August and September seem to be bumper months for new books. There are loads of books I’ve been looking forward to for ages being released so I thought I’d use this weeks list five to explain why I will have my nose stuck in a series of books for the next few weeks. Don’t expect any conversation from me but I would appreciate it if you could occasionally drop off food so I don’t forget to eat while I’m reading the following books.

1. 3.34am by Nick Pirog.

4eeb71_645180236b6445189a2f02d3bd318730.jpg_srz_p_262_419_75_22_0.50_1.20_0I love all of Nick Pirog’s books but the Henry Bins series is definitely my favourite. Henry Bins has Henry Bins syndrome a condition that means he is awake for only one hour a day from 3am to 4am. He manages to cram a heck of a lot into his hour including eating, exercising, watching Game of Thrones, earning a living, chatting with cat Lassie and occasionally solving murders or helping the President of the United States. You know, the usual stuff but in a limited timescale.

3.34am is the third book in the series and is advertised as being “Twice the length, Twice the fun and Twice the Lassie”. As I absolutely love and adore Lassie I’m sold and it’s sitting waiting on my kindle for me to get a chance to read it. I’m hoping this one will answer the big question of why he’s only awake one hour a day.

2. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor

51iqvRSqojL._SL160_Another continuation of a series by an author I love. This time it’s Jodi Taylor and book number 6 in the St Mary’s series.

The St Mary’s series follows a group of time travelling historians as they visit and document events in different time periods. I hated history at school but these books really bring it to life particularly as the historians tend to be disaster magnets and you can more or less guarantee that rather than being objective observers they almost always get dragged into the action. In previous books they’ve visited Troy, Pompei and met some very famous people so I’m very excited to see where this one will take them. Jodi’s books are always very funny and are riddled with great one liners and some very eccentric characters.

I just need to make sure I have enough tea in before I get started.

3. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

18006496I’ve just finished the third book in the Throne of Glass series but had book number 4 pre-ordered before I started. I love these books so much. It’s very difficult to describe them without spoilers but it’s full of action, romance, magic, terrifying creatures, witches, fae, and warring kingdoms. I hate comparing books to other but have seen it described as a young adult Game of Thrones which is probably not far off. Expect a review of Heir of Fire soon but in the meantime isn’t this a great opening for the fourth book:

There was a thing waiting in the darkness.

It was ancient, and cruel, and paced in the shadows leashing his mind. It was not of this world, and had been brought here to fill him with primordial cold.”

I’m hooked already. I’m expecting bigger battles than ever from this one.

4. After You by Jojo Moyes

thumbThis is one of those books that could go either way. The author herself said she hadn’t planned a sequel to Me Before You but I think came under quite a bit of pressure to reveal what happens next.

I do love Jojo Moyes and have read pretty much all of her books but I’m a little bit wary of this one. Me Before You was one of my all time favourites and I’m scared this book could ruin it all. I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to resist reading it as, like everyone else, I want to know what happens next.

I just really and truly hope it’s great.

5. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

SoC_3D_CvrThe final book on the list is not part of a series but a spin off. I read the Grisha trilogy at the start of this year and loved it. This book is set in the same world of magic and monsters but has a completely different set of characters. This time we have a group of six outcasts brought together to commit an impossible heist with some pretty serious consequences if they fail.

What I loved about the Grisha series is that it felt very unique. There were some fantastic characters and great dialogue. The writing style and world Leigh creates is so different from any other that I’m hoping this will be a great start to a new series.

List Five : Scottish Authors

This week I’ve taken my inspiration from the kilt wearing bagpipe player outside the supermarket this morning and have gone for a list of five Scottish authors. There have of course been many great authors born and bred in Scotland (I blame it on the bad weather forcing people to stay indoors) so it’s a bit of a challenge to limit it to just three but I’ve gone for some of my favourites. I should say, these are in no particular order as their books are so different it is impossible to compare them.

1. Ian Rankin

First on the list and arguably one of the most famous current Scottish authors Ian Rankin. It was my Dad who started me on Ian Rankin’s books as he was a big fan and at that point I was going through a bit of a crime phase (reading wise not mugging little old ladies).

He is probably best known for the Detective Rebus series which is set in his home town of Edinburgh (capital city of Scotland). It’s your standard grumpy, middle aged detective and his younger female partner who work in the homicide department investigating murders. Despite some of the clichéd characters they are enjoyable reads. There have been a couple of attempts to turn them into a TV series but in my opinion these were not particularly successful. I much prefer the books but then I usually do.

2. Christopher Brookmyre

Another mystery and thriller writer whose books have been turned into a TV series. The most well known of his books is Quite Ugly One Morning which was the first in the Jack Parlabane series and the one turned into a TV series starring James Nesbitt as the reporter who is dragged into a murder investigation. As well as the Jack Parlabane series, he has a couple of other series as well as quite a few standalone works.

What I love about his books are the fantastic titles, “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks” springs to mind, as well as the generally incompetent villains who are often more of a danger to themselves than anyone else in the book. The other thing I really like is that they are for the most part set in west central Scotland which is where I live and work. Books feel so much more real when you can visualise a particular place.

Occasionally there is a bit too much social or political commentary for my tastes and they can be a bit blokey with big long sections on computer games, football or music but that can be forgiven as he is the author of one of my all time favourite books The Sacred Art of Stealing.

3. Jenny Colgan

Just to prove that it’s not all crime and murder in Scottish books I thought I’d better include Jenny Colgan chic lit author extraordinaire. Currently lives mostly in France but was born in Prestwick on the west coast of Scotland.

I’ve been reading Jenny’s books ever since I first picked up Looking for Andrew McCarthy many years ago. Her books are funny, quirky, occasionally sad and have an interesting mix of characters. Most of the latest ones have had some sort of food related theme (sweetshop of dreams, beachfront bakery, cupcake café etc) which is great because who doesn’t love reading about cakes and sweets. What makes them even better is that they tend to include a selection of recipes to try at home. I still use the cupcake recipe as it never fails despite how incompetent I am in the kitchen. (she also posts them on her blog which you can find here)

As a random fact, she recently wrote an episode of Doctor Who which is one of my favourite TV shows.

4. Stuart MacBride

…and it’s back to crime and murder. This time mostly in the Aberdeen area (north east of Scotland).

Stuart MacBride books tend to get compared with Ian Rankin but I actually kind of prefer them in some ways. His most famous series features police detective Logan McRae who seems to end up investigating an inordinate number of serial killers. What makes the stories so great is how real the characters feel. They avoid a lot (although not all) of the clichés such as the alcohol problem and the ex wife and all of the characters develop and change over the course of the series.

There is quite a bit of humour, mostly dark, a lot of bad language, usually some pretty gruesome deaths and some violence. Main character Logan is pretty likeable, doesn’t want to be a hero just wants to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, but the big draw for me is the cast of supporting dysfunctional characters who tend to make me laugh. I also love the constant commentary on the miserable weather. It is almost always raining which to be honest is pretty true to life in Scotland. The running joke here is that you know it’s summer because the rain’s warm.

5. Lewis Grassic Gibbon

I have to admit I’ve only read one Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel, Sunset Song, but it had such a big influence on me I had to include him in the list. He was born in Aberdeenshire in 1901 and passed away in 1935 but I think his books will remain classics forever.

Sunset Song is the first in the Scots Quair trilogy and was a set text when I was in secondary school meaning I was essentially forced to read it, or at least that’s how it felt at the time. At the start I absolutely hated it. It’s a very difficult book to read as the language includes a lot of words local to the area and the time which I had no idea of the meaning of. I spent probably the first quarter of the book flicking to the back pages where there were translations for some of the terms. It’s very difficult to get into a book when you have to keep looking words up.

However once I started to pick up the language I found I really loved it. It was one of the first books I had to really think about and which raised a lot of issues about the impact of the war. The characters were so real and the story captivating. It broke my heart in places.

Anyway, that’s my list for this week. What do you think? It’s got me thinking about how many crime writers there are in Scotland which is a bit of a worry but I promise it’s not all crime and death.

List Five : Bookish Pet Peeves

Another week and another list of five things. This time as I’ve had a bit of a rubbish week I thought a bit of a moan would help me get everything out of my system so I’m going for five book related pet peeves.

It’s actually quite difficult to limit myself to just the five but I’ll try.

1. The Weak Female Protagonist

The weak female protagonist is completely dependant on everyone around her. She can’t do anything for herself and spends most of the time cowering in fear or crying. Her main mission in life is to find a man who will look after her and solve all of her problems. The most important thing is what said man does, thinks or feels about her. I’m all for a romance and an alpha male but I like to see the female character as an even match with a strong personality and belief in her own abilities. It drives me nuts when she doesn’t even try to do things for herself. It’s ok to ask for help but not to expect someone else to solve all of your problems. Please just try.

2. The Never Ending Love Triangle

As a general rule I don’t have anything against love triangles in books. Even though they’ve been done a lot if they are well written they keep you hooked to the story as you try to work out which way the central character will go. Quite often it’s obvious how things will turn out and you will generally be rooting for that couple who seem to be the perfect match. What does drive me crazy though is when the person at the centre won’t make a decision and the triangle seems to drag on forever.

The Selection series was the perfect example of this. The main protagonist America wouldn’t make a decision between two guys so kept them both dangling. She would run hot and cold with both. Push them away, then get jealous if it looked like they were actually going to go. This continued for three books and frustrated the hell out of me. If I had been either of the guys I would have been long gone but they just seemed to hang in there waiting to see if she’d choose them.

3. Complaining about super powers

Come on, you have super powers, what are you moaning about? Embrace it, enjoy it, have some fun already.

Super powers equals awesome.

This one isn’t even limited to just super powers, which are pretty cool, but also those who complain about things a lot of people wish would happen to them. For example, “my boyfriend is really rich but I hate all the expensive presents he buys me”. Really? If you don’t want them I’ll take them. Going back to the love triangle, “there are two gorgeous, wonderful guys who say they love me and I’m stuck in the middle”, boo hoo there are a lot of people on their own and lonely. Stop hogging all the good ones.

It’s very possible I’m just jealous but get a grip what are you complaining about.

4. The Pointless Sequel/Prequel

The first book was great, it sold millions of copies and the critics loved it. Stop right there. Unless you can write a book that moves the story on, takes it in a unique new direction and builds on the original don’t write a sequel or prequel or even a spin off. You’re milking it and ripping off your loyal fans. What makes it worse is when it’s just a rehash of the previous book. No, just no. If your readers disappear it’s your own fault.

5. The Bad Ending that Ruins the Whole Book/Series

You’ve found that book or series that you absolutely love and you can’t wait to find out how it will all end. You’re so caught up in the story you forget to eat, you ignore everyone around you and stay up all night and then you get to the end and it’s awful. It’s so bad it ruins the whole thing for you. All that time and emotion you put in and that’s how it ends?

By a bad ending I don’t necessarily mean an unhappy one or in some cases a non ending where things are left open. They can be the right thing for the story. What I mean is the rushed ending or the cop out. It’s like the author didn’t know how to finish it so just resolved everything in the last chapter so they could all live happily ever after. I would much rather an unhappy ending that fits the story than the happy one that was probably down to pressure from fans and just doesn’t fit.

Anyway, that’s my list, what’s yours?

List Five: Kick Ass Heroines

As it’s the weekend I thought I’d start a new feature. List Five, basically my top five something or others. This week I have been completely addicted to the Crown of Glass series so I thought what better for my first List Five than top five kick ass fictional heroines.

These are the women and girls who fight for what they want. They break the rules and don’t care about convention. They don’t depend on anyone and will go it alone if they have to. They are smart, funny, kind and loyal and aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Basically they are awesome.

It was very difficult to narrow my list down to just five as there are so many fantastic female characters in books at the moment so I’ve gone with some of my most recent finds as well as a few classic choices.

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