Category Archives: Books

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy (1875)

The novel was published in serial installments from 1875 to 1877 in the periodical ‘The Russian Messenger’. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment therefore, the novel’s first complete appearance was in book form in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Anna Karenina recounts St. Petersburg aristocrat Anna Karenina’s life story at the backdrop of the late-19th-century feudal Russian society. Having considered War and Peace not a novel, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it “flawless as a work of art.” His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style,” and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written.” The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 poll of 125 contemporary authors in Time, which declared that Anna Karenina is the “greatest book ever written.”

After reading ‘War and Peace’ on a Palm Pilot over the 2008 winter, I had anticipated also reading this novel. However the public broadcast of the 2012 film by Joe Wright was an alternative and shorter means of absorbing the story.

A lot of the story takes place on in a theatre, with actors changing the scenery between each scene. It’s a device not seen before and at first is a novelty but soon becomes distracting.

The best part of the film is the production design, costumes and score. The music really takes over at times, making the film a visual and audio feast for the senses. However the main problem is the story. This is surprising given the screenplay by Tom Stoppard. There is never a sense of involvement with characters. Their backgrounds and motivations are not clear and the result is that the story comes across as a cheap melodrama.

Having red War and Peace, I know that Tolstoy put more into his books than this. Maybe the story would be better told as a miniseries. There have already been seven TV adaptions, so maybe one of these is better than the film.

In the end this film it was a case of style over substance and after an hour it became boring and I gave up.

Recommendation: Read ‘War and Peace’

The Dark Lord

The Dark Lord’s Handbook (2008)
The Dark Lord’s Handbook #2: Conquest (2014)

by Paul Dale

It’s not easy being evil. To become a Dark Lord is hard. The simple ambition to hold dominion over the world and bend all to your will sounds straightforward but it’s not. There are armies to raise, fortresses to build, heroes to defeat, battles to be fought, hours of endless soliloquy in front of the mirror – it’s a never ending job.

So starts this two book story of Morden’s rise to dominate all. It’s all from the point of view that ‘evil’ is just another valid point of view. Having someone in charge is the natural way of things. The only question is – who will that be.

There was a great deal of wit and sarcasm in this story, and the author uses many of the classic fantasy swords and sorcery cliches. At 161,000 words the second book is long, but worth the length (5/5 evil laughs).

Quotes from ‘The Dark Lord’s Handbook’
The enemy of my enemy is also my enemy. A dark lord has no friends.
Keep your friends close and your enemies dead.



Fancy a spot of sword fighting, rescuing maidens and defeating evil warlords. All this (and more) doesn’t happen in Elvenquest, a comic fantasy audiodrama from the BBC.

Written by by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, and starring Stephen Mangan, Alistair McGowan, Darren Boyd, Kevin Eldon, Sophie Winkleman and Dave Lamb.

This is a parody of Middle-earth and just about all fantasy stories.
In Lower Earth, a band of warriors go forth to search for a mythical sword to save Lower Earth from the evil Lord Darkness. In order to do so, they must find “The Chosen One” who will save Lower Earth. The Chosen One is Amis, a dog in the real world which belongs to a fantasy novelist called Sam Porter.

There are four series, broadcast from 29 March to 3 June 2009 to the last on 12 February 2013.

Very funny, very recommended, very silly.




The D’Karon Apprentice
By Joseph R. Lallo

In the months following The Battle of Verril, great strides have been made to heal the rift between the Northern Alliance and Tressor. The peace between the nations, however, is a fragile one, and the awakening of an ancient enemy threatens to spark a new conflict that could undo all that the Chosen have achieved.


I have read The Book of Deacon Trilogy (2010-2011) and Jade (2011). These I rated highly, especially Jade that I regarded as one of the best fantasy stories in recent years.

However this book has issues. But first, the good things. His writing has improved since Deacon, where there were problems with large battle scenes making sense. In this book the best aspect was the action scenes. These come across clearly and with a good sense of excitement. Secondly, despite being a long book (169,000) words it has good pacing. The story was always moving along and things happening.

Now, the problems.
First, it’s best to read this book immediately after the Deacon Trilogy. I read this three years ago and was having trouble remembering all the characters and their motivations. These could have been explained better at the start.

Then there is the magic. Is there method here, or is it just all plotonium ?

Things happen that make little sense. Where does all this energy that can destroy buildings come from and why can a supposedly human character survive all this destruction.

The story is very simple: Our heroes have to stop an evil wizard.
It’s a bit like the fighting scene where our hero takes on a dozen Ninjas, with each one coming at him (or her) separately. If they could just co-ordinate their attack he wouldn’t stand a change. And with this book there is never a sense of co-ordination. Shouldn’t someone be trying to discover the weaknesses of their opponent. Rallying the forces, defending the walls and finding secrets. Everyone seems to be reacting to events, not making thing happen. There are a lot of missed opportunities here.

It would have been better if the ‘evil one’ was dealt with in the first half of the story and the second half dealt with the unforeseen consequences.

It’s not that it’s a bad book, just a disappointment after the Deacon Trilogy and Jade.


by Steven Savile (2014)

A man awakens in a filthy bedroom with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. Seeing an old Gideon bible on a nightstand, he finds a name to call his own – Temple. Immortal is the story of Temple’s quest for identity and purpose in a dying, decaying world. He is no romantic knight, no Sir Gawain, he has no sword and no armour, and in this broken world no one he can trust. He turns his back on everyone and everything as he embarks upon the quest for his own Holy Grail, and tempted by demons and gods every step of the way, he must confront the terrible truth about who he is and how he came to wake up in that damned hotel room.

I’m giving this book 4/5 but I’m not sure why.

First, it’s post-apocalyptic horror, not a genre I have read much of. I am not a fan of horror fiction, however this story was strangely compelling. The character of Temple is uncertain. Is he a terrorist, saint, soldier or just a normal guy. It’s not clear until the end. Then there is the vivid but horrific world he wakes to. It’s very detailed but sick, mutated and scary. I certainly wouldn’t want to be there. But ultimately it’s the journey the character takes  that pulls you through the story.



The Winds of Khalakovo
(Lays of Anuskaya #1)
by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2011)

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo’s eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo’s future.

When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo.

Firstly, this is long.. how long ?
The first book of this trilogy is 180,000 words. The second is 233,000 and the third is 204,000. Second, it’s very Russian. People and places have Russian styles names. How do you pronounce them ? Who Knows ?

So it better be good……. well…….. it’s not badly written. But after 20% of the first novel I have given up. The problem is partly all those Russian names (the main protagonist has two !). Then there is the slow pace and all that talking (and no action) that goes on. The only noteworthy action I read of was a hanging. But ultimately it doesn’t grip or intrigue the reader. It’s just flat and after a while it feels like work rather than pleasure.



Linda’s Memory

By Linda Nagata (2010)

A quest, a puzzle, and multiple lives: On an artificial world with a forgotten past, floods of “silver” rise in the night like fog, rewriting the landscape and consuming those caught in its cold mists. Seventeen-year-old Jubilee knows that no one ever returns from the silver–but then a forbidding stranger appears, asking after her beloved brother, lost long ago to a silver flood. Could he still be alive? And why does the silver rise ever higher, threatening to drown the world? Jubilee pursues the truth on a quest to unlock the memory of a past reaching back farther than she ever imagined.

This was  a strange  experience to read. The plot can be exceedingly slow, normally I would abandon such a book. But somehow it just kept drawing me on. Essentially it’s a long road movie, a quest to understand what’s happening to a world. Having read the ‘Red’ series; this is like a completely different author. Maybe it’s an early book (it could do with a good edit as it’s about 130,000 words long) with a different voice. I would only recommend this to someone who  has read and enjoyed other Linda Nagata novels.

2015 Nebulas



Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
My Review

Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Started the first book, never finished it

The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)

Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Read it, would recommend it

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)

Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)

Wings of Sorrow and Bone, Beth Cato (Harper Voyager Impulse)
“The Bone Swans of Amandale,” C.S.E. Cooney (Bone Swans)
“The New Mother,” Eugene Fischer (Asimov’s 4-5/15)
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman T. Malik ( 4/22/15)
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor (
“Waters of Versailles,” Kelly Robson ( 6/10/15)


“Rattlesnakes and Men,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s 2/15)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed 2/15)
“Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/11/15)
“The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society,” Henry Lien (Asimov’s 6/15)
“The Deepwater Bride,” Tamsyn Muir (F&SF 7-8/15)
“Our Lady of the Open Road,” Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15)

Short Story

“Madeleine,” Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed 6/15)
“Cat Pictures Please,” Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/15)
“Damage,” David D. Levine ( 1/21/15)
“When Your Child Strays From God,” Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld 7/15)
“Today I Am Paul,” Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld 8/15)
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15)


And the Winners Are:


  • Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)


  • Binti, Nnedi Okorafor (


  • ‘‘Our Lady of the Open Road’’, Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15)

Short Story


2015 Hugos

Best Novel

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie 
  • The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky (
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson
  • Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

Best Novelette

  • “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
  • “Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  • “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
  • “Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
  • “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)

Best Short Story

  • “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
  • “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
  • “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (, Jun 2015)
  • “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  • Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

100 Top Female Books

From Book Riot – 100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels by Female Authors

(with comments from me)

1. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

2. The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Have read a few of her short stories

3. Among Others by Jo Walton

Tried it, gave up half-way through

4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Couldn’t get into it.

5. Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam

6. The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

7. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Tried to read two of her books, gave up early.

8. Ash by Malinda Lo

9. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

One of my top-rated books

10. The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Wright

11. Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee

12. The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish

13. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

14. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Another good read

15. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

16. Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

17. China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh

18. Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto

19. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

First in a series. Recommended.

20. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

21. The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

22. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

23. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

24. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

25. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

26. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

27. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

28. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

29. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

30. Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara

31. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Tried reading it – not very interesting

32. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

33. The Etched City by K.J. Bishop

34. The Female Man by Joanna Russ

35. Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg

36. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

37. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

38. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

39. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

40. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

41. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

42. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

43. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr.

44. Hild by Nicola Griffith

45. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

First of another good series.

46. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

47. The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferré

48. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

49. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

50. Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

51. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

52. The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano

53. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Now a TV series

54. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

55. The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

56. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Started, gave up due to boredom.

57. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling

58. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

59. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

60. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

61. Moving the Mountain by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

62. Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

63. My Christina & Other Stories by Mercè Rodoreda

64. My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

65. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

66. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

67. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

68. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

69. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

70. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

71. The Red by Linda Nagata

Just Read – see review

72. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

73. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

74. Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai

75. The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

76. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Read it – very average

77. Shikasta by Doris Lessing

78. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Read this in 1990 – recommended

79. Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

80. So Far from God by Ana Castillo

81. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

82. Soulless by Gail Carriger

83. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

84. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

85. Spirits of the Ordinary by Kathleen Alcala

86. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

87. A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

88. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

89. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

90. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

91. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

92. Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

93. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

94. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

95. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

96. Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson

97. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

98. The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

99. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

100. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle