Fabulous 


Neil Gaiman is not only brilliant, he is consistently and fabulously brilliant.

This is a book which has its roots in fairy tales and Gaiman shows us that he has the ability to weave a tale which has, at its heart, that thing which all the best fairy tales have; a deep connection to human nature and all that is interesting about that.

On the face of it and without taking anything further, this is a simple tale of reminiscence of an event in one mans life. This event was so significant that it changed the landscape forever but during the actual event it is the landscape of his mind which is most altered via his interactions with forces from another dimension.

I put this under my ‘horror’ group as well as there are some fairly disturbing passages which encroach on that genre much as in any good fable or fairytale and that is why I titled the post ‘fabulous’

It’s just great. Trust me

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Reet good


Once again, a great book from Kate Atkinson, continuing their series featuring her troubled private detective: Jackson Brodie. 

Here we find a tale stretching back to a carefully written 1970s Yorkshire at the time of the Ripper but dragged forward into the present day with some very engaging characters and a sideways look at adoption and social services. 

There’s also a cute dog who kind of steals the show. 

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Country noir


Once again Stephen Booth delivers a tale centred on his Detective Ben Cooper of Easedale character. This one is a tightly woven story involving a small hamlet of houses and the mysterious disappearance of a lorry driver who is simply missing after his lorry becomes stuck under a railway bridge. Ben is soon delving into the dark heart of Derbyshire once again and we are drawn this way and that exploring the possibilities. I was left guessing right the way through and I have yet to be disappointed in his storytelling. Yes, they are straightforward procedurals but they are well done and so far stack up really well. They are a bit richer and deeper than Peter Robinson’s books and have much more of a social commentary. There is a nice aside about political correctness and inverse racism regarding an Asian officer which is nicely  handled without resort to clumsy stereotypes. There are, as ever, some descriptions of places that I’d love to visit as well! 

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Blood lust

Well who would have thought that there was yet another nuance to vampire fiction. 

Matt Haig introduces us to the confluence of the supernatural with the mundane by inviting us into the world of the Radleys; a seemingly normal middle class family with average middle class issues and angst but who are vampires. 

In reality the book is only using vampires to explore something more fundamental about human relationships and how our perceptions of each other can be altered by a shift in our viewpoint. 

On the whole it is not quite as acutely observed as ‘the humans’ but it is excellent. I began to tire of the vampire trope and felt that ran out of steam extremely quickly but I think that says much more about me and my perception of anything related to vampire fiction. I’m afraid I have to declare a bias and state that I cannot abide anything to do with the Twiglet saga but that is based on nothing more than preconception (I’ve never read it and nor have I seen the films). Unfortunately therefore, the Radleys was never going to score highly with me once it invoked the vampire clause.

Does it have redeeming features. Yes, and that is what kept me reading on. The unraveling of unrequited love and expression of feelings just made up for the universe in which it was set. 

I also thought there was something deeper lurking in there. This book has all the hallmarks of a tale where family dynamics have been upset by traumatic events and Matt Haig deftly weaves a few of these in to explore some deep cracks in the seemingly normal facade of the families in question. 

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Ethically speaking

Oh my.

This book is incredible.

I only wonder just how much impact I let it have on my life.

This non-fiction book is vitally important and comes at a time when these issues really do matter.

So. Some words of introduction:

Virtually any comment or review will be met by a simultaneous barrage of those in absolute agreement and those who vehemently disagree. 

I view this as the ‘shit and opulence’ philosophy. This thinking has become pervasive and is a significant cognitive distortion practised by those who inhabit any social media comments section or who critique others work. The world appears to have moved to the point where everyone is a critic and most of those people expect that their voice will be heard and who do not take any other viewpoint as ‘valid’. The Internet has fed this black-and-White thinking and we are now at the point where if you do not score 9 or 10/10 on net-promoter-score scales then that is counted as a ‘negative’. Nuance has been lost in a black and white world. It’s either ‘shit’ or ‘brilliant’. 

The reason for my diatribe is this: it is almost impossible for ethically complex topics to be explored and debated when black-and-white thinking is the prevailing environment. 

So. With that in mind, I ask you to ‘leave it at the door’

Owning pets is an ethically complex issue. It is not a right, nor is it essential. 

This book explores those issues and right from the start it digs into some serious stuff. There is a very interesting exploration of the reasons why people choose to keep a pet and why they choose not to keep a pet. Rather curiously it appears that desire to keep a pet is rather selfish on behalf of the person wishing to keep a pet but a decision not to keep a pet is largely based on reasons which are based on thought for the animal.

I do not have pets. This is a conscious decision based on the fact that I could not offer a pet a suitably enriching life (pet centred). I would like a pet but I also see the tide of despair which is left behind by much pet-ownership and I no longer wish to be a part of that.

I will continue to work to the very best of my ability to make the lives of those pets with which I interact, the very best they can be. However, should I allow owners to fail to take action just because their budget does not allow it? Every day I face challenge in this regard. It is tough to convince pet owners to do the best for their pets health and nowhere is this more obvious in the commoditisation of pet health. 

This book is US centred but that is only because the author is based in the US. Much of what is written is universal. 

There is a particularly challenging chapter on animal-human sexual relations and if nothing else convinced you that the pet-industry is somewhat immoral then this should help. Zoophilia is nasty and I’m not about to find out just how bad. It may well be that it is the human side of this which is at fault but without a normalising pet industry, this wouldn’t exist. Having seen suspect non-accidental sexual injury in animals, I can attest to the suffering involved.

Want another fact? There are more pet tigers in the state of Texas than there are in the wild. Let that sink in and tell me that pet keeping is just fine and dandy.

Please also tell  me that it is fine to keep your pet rabbit in a hutch in the back corner of the yard and let it sit in its own urine to the point where the skin is so damaged that flies lay their eggs. Those eggs become maggots and the rest is history. It may be an ’emergency’ when you finally notice but neglect is neglect. Are you really any better than someone who has sex with animals? The suffering can be just as bad. 

Should we keep pets? Is it ok ? Probably. However I think it is something which requires a lot more discussion and exploration. Start with this book.

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Finally 


Its a Robert  Goddard, what are you going to expect? It is the conclusion of the trilogy and it is every bit as predictable as you would expect but a page-turner nonetheless. The hapless James Maxted is back in this one (spoiler). 

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On a (solo) mission


This is the best book I have read in ages. The lone voice of Mark Watney, delivered in his diary entries is captivating. This is edge-of-the-seat stuff and I don’t care if the ‘science’ doesn’t stack up or not but I’m more interested in the character development which is indeed second to none. 

I’m going to avoid the film for all the obvious reasons. 

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