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Book 27 - 2019

Book 27: The Umbrella Academy: Volume 1 - Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba - 184 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-three extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world." These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.


Thoughts:
So I'd never heard of the Umbrella Academy until I stumbled upon the show not long after it was released on Netflix. I gave it a go and loved it - I think I watched it twice in quick succession. I've been trying to get the graphic novel off Book Depository for months, but as quick as it would come in, it would sell out. So while in a book shop in Canada recently, I found this volume and had to purchase it! For those who haven't seen/read it, basically the idea is that a strange wealthy man adopts seven supposedly super powered children in order to train them to save the world. Twenty years later, the death of their adoptive father brings the now adults back together but they each struggle with their powers and the ramifications of their childhood in different, often destructive (or self-destructive) ways. I think the premise, particularly the start with the babies, got me interested, and the graphic novel certainly mimics that (or the TV show mimicked the graphic novel!). From there, there are some relatively significant differences between the TV show and the graphic novel (though without reading the second volume, I don't know how much was brought forward to pad out the TV show). This suite feels like a skimmed down version of the TV show, and I must admit I like the additional characterisation that happens in the show. Not to say the graphic novel isn't good - lots of interesting ideas and things to explore. The relationships between the siblings, how they came to exist, Hargreeves' motives in the first place, what happened to Ben, are all intriguing. But in some way, cause I'd seen the show, the graphic novel felt a little light on. No matter, I will be pursuing the next volume (and I believe the third volume comes out soon), hoping for answers! Recommended for anyone who liked X-Men.


27 / 50 books. 54% done!


7489 / 15000 pages. 50% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
by Ian Watson & Ian Whates - 497 pages
The Glovemaker
by Ann Weisgarber - 287 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
The Sandman: Volume 2 - The Doll’s House
by Neil Gaiman - 232 pages
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Book 26 - 2019

Book 26: Security Studies: An Introduction edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Comprehensively revised for the new edition including new chapters on Polarity, Culture, Intelligence, and the Academic and Policy Worlds, it continues to give students a detailed overview of the major theoretical approaches, key themes and most significant issues within security studies.

Part 1 explores the main theoretical approaches currently used within the field from realism to international political sociology.
Part 2 explains the central concepts underpinning contemporary debates from the security dilemma to terrorism.
Part 3 presents an overview of the institutional security architecture currently influencing world politics using international, regional and global levels of analysis.
Part 4 examines some of the key contemporary challenges to global security from the arms trade to energy security.
Part 5 discusses the future of security.

Security Studies provides a valuable teaching tool for undergraduates and MA students by collecting these related strands of the field together into a single coherent textbook.


Thoughts:
The book was the required text for a Security Studies subject I did as part of International Relations Masters last year. I read the first three chapters before I started the course, and then only made it through a few more chapters before the end of the course - its busy work studying and holding down a full time job. Nonetheless, despite my limited progress during semester, I actually found this to be quite interesting for a text book. It comprehensively covers over thirty topics within the security studies discipline, including environmental and energy security, as well as the future of the discipline and the challenges of academia versus policy. The text never gets too academic, so its easily readable by anyone who grasps the basics of the humanities. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone studying in the security studies discipline.


26 / 50 books. 52% done!


7305 / 15000 pages. 49% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
by Ian Watson & Ian Whates - 497 pages
The Umbrella Academy: Volume 1 - Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba - 184 pages
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(no subject)

51.C.McCarthy - Outer Dark (245 pages)
52.Hardy - Under The Greenwood Tree (220 pages)
53.Sharma - The Anger Of Aubergines (152 pages)
54.Shaffer & Barrows - The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (247 pages)
55.Herrera - Signs Preceding The End Of The World (89 pages)
56.Nguyên - The Song Of Kieu (211 pages)
57.Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting (145 pages)
58.Kawakami - Strange Weather In Tokyo (174 pages)
59.A.Breton - Nadja (118 pages)
60.Leiris - You Will Not Have My Hate (89 pages)
61.Rhys - After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (143 pages)
62.Sapphire - Precious (176 pages) Collapse )

Total of pages this year: 24 643 pages.
*rewinding noises*
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Book 25 - 2019

Book 25: Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich - 319 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In the heart of Trenton, N.J., a killer is out to make sure someone gets his just desserts. Larry Virgil skipped out on his latest court date after he was arrested for hijacking an eighteen-wheeler full of premium bourbon. Fortunately for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Larry is just stupid enough to attempt almost the exact same crime again. Only this time he flees the scene, leaving behind a freezer truck loaded with Bogart ice cream and a dead body--frozen solid and covered in chocolate and chopped pecans. As fate would have it, Stephanie's mentor and occasional employer, Ranger, needs her to go undercover at the Bogart factory to find out who's putting their employees on ice and sabotaging the business. It's going to be hard for Stephanie to keep her hands off all that ice cream, and even harder for her to keep her hands off Ranger. It's also going to be hard to explain to Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, why she is spending late nights with Ranger, late nights with Lula and Randy Briggs--who are naked and afraid--and late nights keeping tabs on Grandma Mazur and her new fella. Stephanie Plum has a lot on her plate, but for a girl who claims to have "virtually no marketable skills," these are the kinds of sweet assignments she does best.


Thoughts:
Another Stephanie Plum novel - this one features murder victims dressed up as ice creams, Stephanie working under cover (how is that even possible when everyone in town seems to know her?), and Ranger finally breaking Stephanie's resolve and getting some hanky panky (why oh why?). Beyond that, its fairly standard Evanovich fare - a little less grandma than normal, but otherwise, same old, same old. I read somewhere that Evanovich doesn't plan on evolving the characters because the story is a fantasy. I've got three to go (including the 26th to come out in November) and to be honest as irreverent and light as these books are, I'll be happy to be done with them.


25 / 50 books. 50% done!


6685 / 15000 pages. 45% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
by Ian Watson & Ian Whates - 497 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
The Umbrella Academy: Volume 1 - Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba - 184 pages
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Book 24 - 2019

Book 24: The Sandman: Volume 1 - Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman - 240 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman's transcendent series THE SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision. In PRELUDES and NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman. This book also includes the story The Sound of Her Wings, which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.


Thoughts:
After reading American Gods a few years ago, and loving Good Omens so much, I decided to take on the first of Gaiman's original masterpiece, The Sandman. Graphic novels are not my usual reading choice, but I've gotten into them over the last six months after reading Saga. Sandman is a rather different style, art wise, but though its set in the real world as opposed to the alien worlds of Saga, there are some similarities in the fantastical elements. The first volume really just sets up who Sandman is, and sends him on a quest of sorts, recovering three lost tokens after many years of imprisonment. At times, the stories feel a little disjointed, and as Gaiman comments himself, there is an element of awkwardness to the overall volume. However, the ideas and characters are intriguing, and as I'm a big fan of the show Lucifer, which was born out of Sandman, I definitely intend to continue.


24 / 50 books. 48% done!


6366 / 15000 pages. 42% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
Turbo Twenty-Three
by Janet Evanovich - 319 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
The Mammoth Book of SF Wars
by Ian Watson & Ian Whates - 497 pages
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Book 23 - 2019

Book 23: Circe by Madeline Miller - 333 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child - not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long - and among her island's guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss - the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man's world.


Thoughts:
I love everything Greek mythology, so when this book kept popping up on bestseller and Top Ten lists, I thought I needed to get on board. It tells the story of Circe, the daughter of the Titan Helios, who appears in Homer's The Odyssey. Miller has fleshed out the Circe character, giving her definition, motives and morals not often seen in mythology. Her defining attribute in mythology, being the transformation of men into animals, is given a justifiable purpose here that made me go 'yeah, probably would have done the same'. And while her relationships with two male characters feels a little weird, it works in line with the Greek tradition and the notion of Circe's mortality. I will say that the first 80 or so pages move rather slowly, and I struggled to get interested, but something changed at the 80 page point and after that, I flew through it. A worthy addition to the score of books retelling the myths.


23 / 50 books. 46% done!


6126 / 15000 pages. 41% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
The Sandman: Volume 1 - Preludes and Nocturnes
by Neil Gaiman - 240 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
Turbo Twenty-Three
by Janet Evanovich - 319 pages
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Book 22 - 2019

Book 22: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman - 405 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon--both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle--are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .


Thoughts:
I don’t remember if I’d heard of this book before I saw an ad for the TV show, but I’ve read other Neil Gaiman books, and I’ve had Terry Pratchett’s Discworld on my list of books to read since forever, though I’ve never got around to actually reading them. But my interest was piqued by clips of David Tennant and Michael Sheen being downright hilarious and adorable, and as I had an upcoming overseas trip (which included 15+ hours of flight), I decided I need a copy of the book and the show to take with me. So two points before I get started:

This review is as much of the show as it is of the book. I watched/read them co-currently, so they are forever linked in my brain
I did end up finishing the show before the book, so that has undoubtedly influenced my opinions

Okay, so I loved both the book and the TV show immensely. I think I love the TV show slightly more because the two leads are just amazing. I want to hang out with them forever, and I wish there was more, but at the same time, I’m glad Gaiman and Pratchett wrote one great book, rather than two or three less great ones (not that I think they would have written less great sequels). I’m also glad Gaiman has put his foot down on TV sequels (from what I’ve seen online); not everything needs a sequel, and sometimes a story is better for not having one.

Still, despite loving the TV show more, there are certain things that I feel worked better in the book than they did in the TV show, or background information was given that added context (I was confused by the holy water thing when I saw it in the TV show, but it made more sense once I’d read the book). There are differences, with some additions to the show that I really liked, and some omissions that didn’t affect the story in any way. The show focuses more heavily on Crowley and Aziraphale, and adds to the airbase scenes in ways I liked, but the last scenes of the book with Adam work better in the written medium. Ultimately, the two complement each other beautifully.

The very best thing of the story is Crowley and Aziraphale. I choose to interpret their relationship as a deep platonic love born out of millennia of being the only two of their kind, and the mutual love they share for the Earth and humanity. I just can’t come at them as being sexual - their supernatural beings so having sexual urges doesn’t necessarily make sense to me, and their relationship didn’t read as physical to me anyway (but hey, if you feel otherwise, more power to you). David Tennant and Michael Sheen now are those characters for me, and I don’t think I could imagine anyone else in the respective roles (David’s ever changing hairstyles and sunglasses are fabulous in more ways than I can describe). I could talk for hours about how fabulously they play their parts. But the relationship shines in the book too; two people who alone understand each other’s experiences, have worked out that nothing is as black and white as their head offices might claim, and that have built a funny, silly little life together (in a manner of speaking) while the fundamentalists carry on with their nonsense. Their relationship, along with the book/show itself, says some really powerful things about choice, religion (particularly fundamentalism), good vs evil, people, decisions, friendship, childhood, love, destiny etc, etc. It’s the kind of book I hope to be able to write one day, a book that makes you ponder great and wonderful things, whilst revelling in the small inconsequential silliness at the same time.

I also never picked up changes in style despite the book being written by two people. I know Gaiman has said that both men could write passably in each other’s style, but it truly feels like a book written by a single person. In many ways to me, it further reflects the beautiful symmetry that is the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale.

Another thing I really loved was the Britishness of the book. It actually temporarily made me long for being back in London (I lived there for three months in 2012). Even more so than Harry Potter, this book is unashamedly British, and never shies away from this by over-explaining to the audience. I loved this - I love books that basically encourage a reader to go away and look up a slang word or google ‘why is the M25 so terrible?’. With our cultures increasingly converging in the West, it is more important than ever to celebrate the things that still make them unique. Good Omens could never be American, and I am so happy about that! (Don’t get me wrong, I love America - I’m literally in America right now!).

There are so many other wonderful things about this book, and I will be re-watching, re-reading and talking about it for some time. I encourage everyone to give it a go!


22 / 50 books. 44% done!


5793 / 15000 pages. 39% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
Circe
by Madeline Miller - 333 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
The Sandman: Volume 1 - Preludes and Nocturnes
by Neil Gaiman - 240 pages
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Book 21 - 2019

Book 21: The Glow of Fallen Stars by Kate Ling - 359 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Love brought them together - life is pulling them apart ... Seren and Dom's epic love story is the perfect read for fans of Beth Revis and Meg Rosoff.

'I longed so hard for all the things that make life life, and I never thought they'd be mine. But now ... now they are. Now I have something to lose.'

Seren and Dom have fled their old lives on board spaceship Ventura in order to be together. They crash-land on a beautiful, uninhabited planet, which at first seems like paradise.

There is no one to answer to ... but no one to ask for help. And with each new day comes the realisation of how vulnerable they truly are.

This planet has secrets - lots of them. Uncovering them could be the key to survival, but at what cost?

The follow-up to The Loneliness of Distant Beings, Kate Ling's second book takes us on an incredible journey through love, loss and the strength of the human spirit.


Thoughts:
Erring on the side of caution once again, with a 4 rather than a 3. There is so much this book could have been that it wasn't, wasting good ideas and intriguing characters to instead focus on the melodrama of a teenage romance. So my 4 is for the ideas, my 3 for the teenage nonsense. Seren finally works out that abandoning everything you've ever known, and throwing yourself into an insanely unsafe situation for a boy you've known a few months might not be the best idea. She also realises that said boy might not be as amazing as she thought. Meanwhile, Ezra, one of the few interesting characters, gets severely under explored, as he finds himself (and Seren, but she's really annoying about it) infected by a strange coral that starts displacing them in space/time. This thread should have been explored more fully, as should have all sorts of things about the planet they landed on, the signal all the ships were chasing etc. Instead, we just hear about Dom and Seren and the girl that is trying to muscle in on Dom for 100+ pages. So ultimately, some really cool science/space ideas left unexplored because of teenagers. Probably should have expected it from the start!


21 / 50 books. 42% done!


5388 / 15000 pages. 36% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman - 405 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
Circe
by Madeline Miller - 333 pages
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Books 41 - 50.

41. Lin-Liu - Serve The People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China (335 pages)
42. Handke - The Left-Handed Woman (67 pages)
43. Schiff - Cleopatra: A Life (384 pages)
44. J.Wray - Godsend (227 pages)
45. Dante - Vita Nuova (95 pages)
46. Tan - The Joy Luck Club (316 pages)
47. Moshfegh - Eileen (260 pages)
48. Murata - Convenience Store Woman (163 pages)
49. Rijneveld - The Discomfort Of Evening (278 pages)
50. K.Walker - The Age Of Miracles (262 pages)

Total so far: 14 819 pages.
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Book 20 - 2019

Book 20: Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich - 280 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Something big is brewing in Trenton, N.J., and it could blow at any minute. Stephanie Plum might not be the world's greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she's being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren't adding up, and Stephanie can't shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college--and it's not just Zeta fraternity pranks. As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it's good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken's killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.


Thoughts:
Again, I'm going to err on the side of caution and give this a 4 but its more a 3/5 stars. The last half saves the first half. The first half did not hold my attention and it took me three times longer to read a hundred pages than normal. After that, it picks up. The mystery of the week this time features a college fraternity, a crazy Dean, an even crazier professor, the bubonic plague and a colonoscopy. Some of the college stuff is either plain wrong, or reflective of the differences between Australian and US universities (I work in administration at a University in Australia!). The bubonic plague stuff was interesting, as was the link to World War II. The colonoscopy stuff was pretty accurate based on my own experiences (gluten sensitivity and a family history of bowel cancer necessitates such procedures!). Overall, a couple of chapters at the start could have been cut and this would have been a far superior story.


20 / 50 books. 40% done!


5029 / 15000 pages. 34% done!

Currently reading:
Journey to the West
by Cheng-En Wu - 673 pages
Security Studies: An Introduction
edited by Paul D. Williams - 620 pages
The Glow of Fallen Stars
by Kate Ling - 359 pages

And coming up:
The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder
by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
The Odyssey
by Homer – 324 pages
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman - 405 pages
  • Current Music
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