Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Man Booker Prize - 2014 Longlist

Today the long list for the Man Book Prize was announced.  13 books were announced including 4 titles by American authors.  This is the first time works from authors outside the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth have been allowed on the prestigious list. 

The titles cover a wide range of styles and genre.  There are some that were expected to make the list and a few surprises thrown in as well.

Here is a closer look at the 13 titles:

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Paul O'Rourke, 40 year-old slightly curmudgeonly dentist, runs a thriving practice in New York. Yet he is discovering he needs more in his life than a steady income and the perfect mochaccino. But what?

As Paul tries to work out the meaning of life, a Facebook page and Twitter account appear in his name. What's at first an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something more frightening: the possibility that the online "Paul" might be a better version of the man in the flesh. Who is doing this and will it cost Paul his sanity?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary's young, just at college, and she's decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we're not going to tell you too much either: you'll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone - vanished from her life.

There's something unique about Rosemary's sister, Fern. So now she's telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

From the internationally bestselling author comes a brilliant, provocative novel about an artist, Harriet Burden, who after years of being ignored by the art world conducts an experiment: she conceals her female identity behind three male fronts.

Presented as a collection of texts, edited and introduced by a scholar years after the artist's death, the book unfolds through extracts from Burden's notebooks and conflicting accounts from others about her life and work. Even after she steps forward to reveal herself as the force behind three solo shows, there are those who doubt she is responsible for the last exhibition, initially credited to the acclaimed artist Rune. No one doubts the two artists were involved with each other. According to Burden's journals, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous psychological game that ended with the man's bizarre death. 

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next...Set in the three years after the Norman invasion, The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world. Written in what the author describes as 'a shadow tongue' - a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader - The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster's world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

One drowsy summer's day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for 'asylum'. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking...

The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly's life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland's Atlantic coast as Europe's oil supply dries up - a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes - daughter, sister, mother, guardian - is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.

The Lives of Others by Neal Mukherjee

Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note .

The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets, and the implosion of the family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change: the chasm between the generations, and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.

Us by David Nicholls
Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn't be worse. Hoping to encourage her son's artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world's greatest works of art as a family, and she can't bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

The Dog by Joseph O'Neil

In 2007, a New York attorney bumps into an old college buddy – and accepts his friend’s offer of a job in Dubai, as the overseer of an enormous family fortune. Haunted by the collapse of his relationship and hoping for a fresh start, our strange hero begins to suspect that he has exchanged one inferno for another.

Orfeo by Richard Powers

In Orfeo, Powers tells the story of a man journeying into his past as he desperately flees the present. Composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home microbiology lab the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to find music in surprising patterns has aroused the suspicions of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid, Els turns fugitive. As an Internet-fueled hysteria erupts, Els the "Bioterrorist Bach" pays a final visit to the people he loves, those who shaped his musical journey. Through the help of his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime collaborator, Els hatches a plan to turn this disastrous collision with the security state into a work of art that will reawaken its audience to the sounds all around them.

How to be Both by Ali Smith

How To Be Both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.

History of the Rain by Naill Williams

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains’ Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie’s still, small, strong, hopeful voice.

J by Howard Jacobson

Two people fall in love in a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited. As they discover where they came from and where they are going, a bigger, more shattering truth is revealed to them.

Kevern doesn't know why his father made him put two finger across his lips whenever he began a word with a J. It wasn't then, and isn't now, the time or place for asking questions. Ailinn, too, has grown up in the dark about who she was and where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn't ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren't sure whether they have fallen in love of their own accord or whether they've been pushed into each other's arms. But who would have pushed them, and why? 

By Kate Phillips

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Book Review: Barricade by Jon Wallace

Kenstibec was genetically engineered to build a new world, but the apocalypse forced a career change. These days he drives a taxi instead.
Kenstibec is a member of the 'Ficial' race, a breed of merciless super-humans. Their war on humanity has left Britain a wasteland, where Ficials hide in barricaded cities, besieged by tribes of human survivors. Originally optimised for construction, Kenstibec earns his keep as a taxi driver, running any Ficial who will pay from one surrounded city to another.

The trips are always eventful, but this will be his toughest yet. His fare is a narcissistic journalist who's touchy about her luggage. His human guide is constantly plotting to kill him. And that's just the start of his troubles.

On his journey he encounters ten-foot killer rats, a mutant King with a TV fixation, a drug-crazed army, and even the creator of the Ficial race. He also finds time to uncover a terrible plot to destroy his species for good - and humanity too

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Barricade, the science fiction debut by Jon Wallace. It sounded interesting but I wasn’t rushing to read it. I am glad I eventually picked it up and jumped in as Barricade ended up being pretty good.

One thing I noticed straight away was that Jon Wallace has a good way with words. His writing is descriptive and his world building well executed. He painted a picture of a grim world and I found it easy to envision the nuclear ravaged British Isles. Wallace is also great at writing action scenes, there was plenty going on in this book and he managed to keep me on track and. Where he fell down was in the background information. I felt like I needed more history and a clearer explanation of what had happened. What were the fiscals? Who were the religious people that dropped the bombs? Why was there a war? Who was in control etc, etc. Maybe I just wasn’t engaged enough to find these answers, or maybe they just weren’t there. Either way I wasn’t totally aware of what was going on.

Despite the lack of knowledge the story itself is great and I found the concept interesting. There are a million differences between the Fiscals and ‘reals’ but their goals are that same and they are probably more alike than they realise. The war between them was petty, as it often is in conflict and Kenstibec’s journey through this struggle is often thought provoking and relevant.

Where this book loses points for me is in the characters. This is not a character driven story which I think is a shame. I wanted to love Kenstibec but I couldn’t there was nothing I could connect to and in the end I felt a little indifferent towards him. Fatty, the human guide, was more interesting but again lacked any real personality. For some reason I would have preferred him to have been female, I think it would have come across better but that might be because I felt all the woman in this book weren’t given much to do or any personality. The best example of this is Starvie, a ‘pleasure model,’ who in her own way has the biggest part to play in this book. She has the power to swing things one way or another. Yet despite this the focus is one how beautiful she is and how men cannot control themselves in her presence.

Barricade is a strong debut from Jon Wallace and I am sure we will hear more from him in the future. It isn’t a perfect novel but it is a promising start to what will hopefully be a good career.

3 stars

Find out more:

Published June 19th 2014 by Gollancz, Paperback, 320 pages, book was provided free in exchange for review.

Review by Kate Phillips

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

From Video Games to the Internet – Top 10 Konami Codes on The Web

The Konami Code is a cheat code was created by Kazuhisa Hashimoto that originated in the 1986 release of Gradius and thereafter many Konami Video Games and then moving into non-Konami games. The cheat code works differently depending on the video game but it started out during the title screen before the game began and then the player press the following sequence of buttons to implement the cheat.

Punch in on your controller/keyboard: UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A.

Until very recently I believed the Code to be nothing more than a legendary cheat code that appeared in some of my favourite video games such as Metal Gear Solid, Assassins Creed and Half Life 2. I had no idea that it, in fact, had spread onto the internet with hundreds of websites installing the Konami Code as an ‘Easter egg’, for their users to discover new content or something completely out the ordinary.

It was only when I saw that the fashion magazine, Vogue, had installed it on their website did I come to the realisation that it had been around the internet for a while and I had to find the best ones. These are my top 10 websites with Konami Code secrets so don’t forget it’s ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a’

Anyone for a Spot of Rickrolling? - Digg

One of the first Konami Code Easter eggs that I found just had to include the biggest meme of the 21st century, Rickrolling. You’ve heard it right, even the Konami Code is hell-bent on Rickrolling you. You can’t help but chuckle though, even in 2014 Rick Astley is killing it!

Even Konami Code Can’t Escape the Internet Cats! –

If the internet and YouTube has taught us all one thing, people love anything to do with cats being funny and cute. Wired couldn’t resist the temptation to jump on the cat bandwagon, and by punching in the Konami Code you get the adorable Nyan Cat to run across your screen and brighten up your day!

Use the Konami Code to Escape Through Fantasy Doors – UK Oak Doors

There are hundreds of door companies out there and let’s be fair doors aren’t the most exciting of products, but by using the Konami Code you get to see three extraordinary doors that will take your mind to fantasy places far away.

BuzzFeed Just Can’t Get Enough of the Bieb’s  - BuzzFeed

Justin Bieber is a heartthrob for millions of teenage girls all over the globe, and an enemy for the rest. It seems that BuzzFeed is amongst his biggest fans and by putting in the Konami Code, everything turns to Bieber. I envision it’s the start of the new Rickrolling!

So Many Sharks! – Qiwi Web design

Over at Qiwi web design it seems they have a slight love for sharks as by putting in the code and then hitting any key repeatedly, you not only get the one shark but you end up releasing hundreds. Try it out….if you dare!

People Who Love the Konami Code are Geeks…Who Knew. –

And winner for most obvious statement of the week goes to Zeno Crivelli as he, quite rightly, points out that Konami Code is geek, which you can see after entering the Konami code. What I can’t work out though is whether this is meant to be an insult or just pointing to the truth. Whatever it is, it’s hard to disagree.

Ummmmm…Bacon – Soundclick

Bacon - just the very word can make people salivate at the mouth, but Soundclick go one better. Upon entering the Konami Code, a piece of bacon appears and then is slowly eaten, bite by bite. Not sure what it’s got to do with a music community website, but I love bacon!

Enter The Konami Code for a Treat! –

It’s always nice to be rewarded for your efforts. After trawling around the internet for Konami Code websites it was nice to stumble across one that rewarded you with a video from the website owner’s YouTube playlist. FYI, I got Madonna – Celebration, lucky me!

You Want a Raptor Dressed In a Suit? Of Course You Do –

Just like its sister site, Vogue, GQ takes on the dinosaur Konami look but this time with a lot more style as the raptor that pops up is dressed in the smartest of suits. I think you’re ready for your Jurassic Park 4 audition Mr Raptor.

Star Wars Penguins, Pirate Penguins and Ninja Penguins in The Same Place! – Kuppiya

I think it’s only a Konami code that could possibly get you a group a penguins dressed up as pirates, Star Wars characters and ninjas all in the same place. And that’s exactly what will happen if you type in the code whilst browsing Kuppiya. Penguins are awesome.

So those are my top 10 Konami Codes that I could find on the web. I imagine I’ve missed hundreds more that are infinitely more funny or clever, so I’m very excited to get back out there and keep looking!

by Alex Thomas

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Every year there are a handful of books released that have a serious amount of hype surrounding it. This year The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings is one of them. This hype can be both and good and bad thing. The good is that the book is almost guaranteed to do well as everyone is interested in it. The bad is that there is a risk that the expectation can be a little too high and the book might end up disappointing. With the Murder Complex I fell into the hype and I couldn’t wait to read it but unfortunately my expectations were too high and I ended up being disappointed.

This isn’t a terrible book and I didn’t hate it but I had numerous problems with it. The premise is good, I really liked the idea but despite being extremely brutal in parts it wasn’t all that different from other books in the genre. That itself is not a problem, there are always going to be overlapping themes and ideas in popular genres (in this case dystopia). The problem was the world building and explanations of everything that was going on. Simply put I found this book really hard to follow and towards the end I had no idea what was going on at all.

That was not the only issue. All in all I thought it lacked depth and I couldn’t relate to the story or the characters at all. Things seemed to happen for no real reason and all the chances to add some real depth and emotion were wasted. This was really evident towards the end in a moment between the main character and her mother. It had the potential to be really powerful instead it was borderline silly and lacked any substance.

The characters were alright but I didn’t really care about them too much. The chapters swapped between Meadow and Zephyr’s point of view but I found their voices far too similar and there were times when I forgot whose chapter was whose. Meadow lacks personality, she is great at kicking ass but doesn’t do much else apart from fall in love with Zephyr the moment she meets him.

Zephyr’s insta-love is even worse and he manages to fall for Meadow before he even meets her. He dreams about his ‘moonlit girl’ all the time. The speed at which he manages to fall in love with her is frankly astonishing. Zephyr is probably a little more interesting but his puppy dog, love struck obsession with Meadow is just off putting. Considering all the love floating around you would expect the romance to work. It didn’t. There was no chemistry, no building of feelings it was flat and boring and I didn’t care about it at all.

Add in some pointless character deaths and an ending I didn’t really get the point of and, well to be honest it was surprising I managed to get through this. It is obvious that this book wasn’t for me. I was so excited for it and I wanted to love it but there were just too many issues that I couldn’t let go of. I am sure there are many people who will really love this but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them.

2 stars

Find out more:
Expected publication: June 10th 2014 by Greenwillow Books, ebook ARC, 400 pages.

The Murder Complex book 1

A free copy was provided in exchange for review.

Review by Kate Phillips

Monday, 5 May 2014

Empower: Fight like a Girl cover reveal

I am really excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Empower: Fight Like A Girl.  This book isn't just any old book.  Not only does it feature some of the most well-known and talented woman writers in television at the moment, but most importantly it has been created to raise awareness of Lupus.  I cannot tell you how important something like this is.  Lupus is a terrible condition that can be deadly and mostly affects women who are of childbearing age.  A whopping 90% of all cases have been in women.  That is a shocking statistic and what is more distressing is that most of us don’t know what Lupus is.  Not only does this book raise awareness of the condition it also raises money.  All proceeds from this book will be donated to The Lupus Foundation of America. 

Without further ado here is the cover of Empower:  Fight Like A Girl:

 Here is a little more information about what to expect from this anthology.

Women of TV have united against lupus! Presenting Empower: Fight Like A Girl, a special collection of short stories by top women writers from some of your favorite shows, including: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Family Guy, Person of Interest, Grimm, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law & Order: SVU, Star Trek: Voyager, Eureka, Twisted, The 100, Malcolm in the Middle, Millennium, Being Human, The Shield, Castle, Chuck, Gilmore Girls, and Game of Thrones. In this anthology, you'll discover supernatural thrillers, crime mysteries, horror, comedies, and more.

Authors contributing stories to this volume include (Links to Twitter):  Amy Berg, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Akela Cooper, Liz Edwards, Jane Espenson, Shalisha Francis & Nadine KNight, Lisa Klink, Pang-Ni Landrum, Lauren LeFranc, Kam Miller, Jess Pineda, Jennifer Quintenz, Lisa Randolph, Kay Reindl, Kira Snyder, Jeane Wong.

Find out more: Amazon, Goodreads

This book is avalible to buy now.  If you can't buy this book but would like to do something to raise awareness tell your friends, or tweet about it, or write about it on your blogs.  The more people we make aware of this condition the more we can do to stop it.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

REVIEW: Silver Surfer #2

By Dan Slott, Michael Allred and Laura Allred

Who is the NEVER QUEEN? How is the entire future of the Marvel Universe tied into her very existence? And why is she trying to DESTROY the Silver Surfer?!  Are these questions important? Sure. But you know what’s just as important? Lunch. Because what Earth girl Dawn Greenwood has for lunch today could change the fate of EVERYTHING!  Not kidding here. This is a very important lunch.

I enjoyed the first issue of the new Silver Surfer series but it didn’t wow me.  It was a little too out there and I just couldn’t really connect.  I often struggle with the first issues in new series, there is never really any room for anything other than the ground work and that doesn’t always work for me.  So, I always make sure I check out the first three or four issues before I give up.  I am so glad I have that rule because the second Silver Surfer #2 improved on issue one tenfold.  It gave me something to invest in and it really started to tell a story that I know I am going to love.

In issue #1 we saw how The Silver Surfer came to be the champion of Impericon.   We were also introduced to Dawn Greenwood a human woman held against her will in order in ensure Norrin Radd’s help destroying the mysterious Never Queen.   The Silver Surfer has no idea who Dawn is but they are linked in a way he is yet to understand.

In Issue #2 we see that not everything is what it seems there are some twists and surprises that I really enjoyed.  We get to meet the Never Queen and see her motivation.  I am still not all that sure what she is but she looks amazing.  The art work especially where she is concerned is really great.  I also liked the Silver Surfer a lot more than I did in the first issue.

My favourite aspect of this comic has to be Dawn.  She is a great character who I find really interesting.  She is an important aspect of this story not because of her link to The Silver Surfer but in her own right.  She may not be an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D or a martial arts expert but she is still strong.  I can’t wait to see what happens next with her and how her relationship with The Silver Surfer evolves.  

4 stars

Varient Covers

Cover by Francesco Francavilla 

For more information about this title and others check out the Marvel website