August 26

Adventures With The Wife In Space: Living With Doctor Who – Neil Perryman

Love the cover on this one.
Love the cover on this one.

As previously disclosed I have been a Doctor Who fan for around 35 of my 40 years. During this time I have soaked up all the facts, stories and trivia I could get my hands on and I fully understand that this is not a pastime that everyone embraces. My wife has *mainly* tolerated my Gallifreyan distractions but does tend to voice disapproval when collections (VHS tapes, DVDs , books etc) start to take up too much room.

Since the TV show has come back she will sometimes sit and watch new episodes with me and has even expressed an opinion or asked questions on some occasions. After 20 years I seem to be wearing down her resistance.

Converting a non-Who fan to enjoying the show is tricky, especially when we recognise that the first 26 years of source material is not as slick as the post reboot shows. Hats off to Neil Perryman who managed to persuade his wife Sue to sit through every episode broadcast between 1963 and 1989.

As they watched the shows together Neil, as a lifelong fan, watched Sue’s reactions and recorded them on his blog. He now presents the whole experience in his highly entertaining book Adventures With The Wife In Space. Adventures is possibly the most fun reading experience I have had for many a month and being a fan of the show is not a pre-requisite to enjoying the book.

For a fan of the show it is a fascinating insight into what a non-fan picks out from an episode when they are not hung up on continuity or plot threads. One such example is Sue’s outrage when The Doctor steals Jo’s cup of tea…how very dare he?

Neil’s narrative around persuading Sue to watch all the shows is hilarious. Highlights were exaggerating the length of time it may take to watch Jon Pertwee’s run, horror at Sue’s lack of respect for a fan-favourite ‘Classic’ episode and the internet response to Neil and Sue’s family members joining in the experience.

It is a book about two people watching television and it is wonderful. Not convinced? Think Gogglebox in a paperback*

While the focus is around watching the classic Doctor Who shows we also get to spend time with Neil and Sue as they contend with day to day life and how they juggle this around watching Doctor Who. This book is as much about the writers as it is about the TV show.

A family tale about a family, heart-warming and fun to read.

*Disclaimer – I have never (nor will I ever) watch Gogglebox. I am told that it is a show that records people watching television. The comparison seemed apt.

 

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July 17

In Progress…

I am trying to divide my reading time between too many books this week!

After a weekend trip to Englandshire I forgot to bring my Kindle home. Fortunately my family were continuing the holiday without me (work commitments) so the Kindle and I will soon be reunited – but it left me on paperbacks for the week.

As it turns out this has been a bit of a blessing as I got to catch up on a Stephanie Plum novel (from Janet Evanovich). Although the series has now reached the 21st book, I am dragging my heels and have only just finished Smokin’ Seventeen.

The lovely people at my local library kept me going in Evanovich novels for a few weeks last year and I romped through the first 14 books in record time. Cracking, entertainment with humour and excitement in equal doses. However, I didn’t want to catch up with all the books in one run as I liked the idea of still having a few books left to read so I took an enforced break for several months.  That period of self denial is over and am loving reading about Stephanie Plum again.

When the Evanovich book was not within reach I have also been using the Kindle App on my ‘phone to read Digital Circumstances by BRM Stewart. What a joy that has been!  I will post a review once I get through the final 10% but it is fair to say I will be recommending it to everyone – especially those who know Glasgow.

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July 12

Friday was a catching up day

A good day as I managed to finish two books from the reading pile. Will post up full reviews of each in the very near future, however, tonight I have the fun problem of what to read next.

Busy day ahead so I may sneak in a quick read of a Batman graphic novel – one of the books I finished today made me want to read one Batman’s The Long Halloween (one of my favourites).

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July 4

Doctor Who: Tales of Trenzalore

Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris
Richards, Mann, Finch, Morris

As it had been foretold, the armies of the Universe gathered at Trenzalore. Only one thing stood between the planet and destruction – the Doctor. For nine hundred years, he defended the planet, and the tiny town of Christmas, against the forces that would destroy it.
He never knew how long he could keep the peace. He never knew what creatures would emerge from the snowy night to threaten him next. He knew only that at the end he would die on Trenzalore.

Some of what happened during those terrible years is well documented. But most of it remains shrouded in mystery and darkness.

Until now.

This is a glimpse of just some of the terrors the people faced, the monstrous threats the Doctor defeated. These are the tales of the monsters who found themselves afraid – and of the one man who was not.
(Tales of Trenzalore documents four of the Doctor’s adventures from different periods during the Siege of Trenzalore and the ensuing battle:

Let it Snow – by Justin Richards
An Apple a Day – by George Mann
Strangers in the Outland – by Paul Finch
The Dreaming – by Mark Morris)

A review copy was kindly provided by Netgalley.

 

It needs to be made clear from outset that I am a long-standing Doctor Who fan and have been for around 35 of my 40 years. Love it, followed it, collected it and kept the faith from 1989 to the full resurrection when Rose aired. I collected the Virgin New Adventures, The Missing Adventures, the BBC collections of 8th and Past Doctors. I listen to Big Finish audio adventures and read the fantastic Doctor Who Monthly. I am a fan!

One thing that should also be known is that I found the concept of The Doctor being stuck for years on Trenzalore at the end of Matt Smith’s regeneration a bit….sad. All the buzz and energy he showed only to have his wings clipped and be made to ride out his time in the odd town of Christmas – this was an unexpected twist.

Fortunately, it appears his time was not too dull as evidenced within the 4 stories captured in Tales of Trenzalore. For fans of the classic stories there are some returning foes that will bring a nostalgic smile to your face. Newer fans can enjoy familiarity too as the Ice Warriors feature in the first story (no more reveals though, read to see who else appears!)

Each of the 4 stories are well paced and capture the essence of Smith’s Doctor. I have read several of Justin Richards previous Who novels and know he is very adept at crafting a strong adventure. No change here I was pleased to find. The introductory story in the collection whetted the appetite and made me crave the next tale.

I found An Apple a Day to be the most emotive story – classic enemy and Mann also showed the impact that the Doctor’s ongoing peril has upon the other citizens of Christmas.

Scroll down my Blog and you will see my newfound love of Paul Finch stories. Imagine my delight when I find Mr Finch’s name on the author’s list of a Doctor Who story! Strangers in the Outland un-nerved me most as this was the enemy I found the most threatening and the author really captured my attention with an isolated Doctor being relentlessly chased down. Strangers in the Outland ended all too soon for this reader!

Finally the Doctor reaching the end of his life faces another ‘classic’ enemy in The Dreaming. A strong story with a more frail Doctor than I like to contemplate but a Doctor who remains resolute and as ingenious as we would expect.

As a collection of stories I found Tales of Trenzalore to be a delight. I am shunning unread books to re-visit some Doctor Who stories and have dug out a couple of Doctor Who DVD’s to feed my inner fan.

5/5 for this collection – Grab this Book!

 

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June 19

Stalkers – a great book crept up on me

stalkersSTALKERS – PAUL FINCH

Time’s up. You’re Next.

“All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.”

Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called ‘Nice Guys Club’ they hit a brick wall. They’re the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want. Provided you pay the price…

 

Having spent some time hanging round Twitter and getting a feel for what fellow readers were spending time with there was one name which cropped up more than once…Paul Finch.

Stalkers seemed the ideal jumping on point as it introduced Mark Heckenburg, a recurring central figure for Finch’s books. Promising start from my point of view – I love when an author establishes a character and builds on their story over a few books.

From the outset I was drawn into the story the Stalker element was unsettling when described  from the victim’s (limited) viewpoint. The scale of the true horror that was to follow was skillfully revealed and kept me hooked. There were some very disturbing concepts brought out and the author really put his characters through the wringer.

I read a lot of Michael Slade books when I was younger. Murder stories featuring the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but with nasty ‘shlock horror’ undertones.  This is the closest UK equivalent that I have read for many years but Stalkers was better – much, much better than anything Slade ever wrote.

I have no hesitation in calling Stalkers the best book that I have read this year – GRAB THIS BOOK  I give it an A+.

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June 16

New Find – Paul Finch

The best thing about this blogging lark is when fellow bloggers give you a heads-up on authors that you may not have read yet.  Over the last two weeks I have read the name Paul Finch many times on my Twitter feed.

Time for a bit of an investigation and I discover he writes thrillers, set in the UK and that (best of all) there is a recurring hero as the lead character in his ‘Heck’ books.

On the train to work this morning I began Chapter One of Stalkers.  I was immediately drawn into the story and 40 mins later left the train in very grumpy mood as work was about to interrupt a great story.

Lunch was too short but I squeezed in a few more chapters and the journey home meant another 40 minutes of uninterrupted reading. The true test of how good this story is – I turned off the World Cup commentary on my radio to read Mr Finch’s book.  Probably the most telling sign as to just how good it is!

Full review soon but writing it now would only slow me down from finishing the story.

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June 3

Ash – I finished it (and it nearly finished me)

Scroll down my pages and you will see that I was reading James Herbert’s Ash. Having been a James Herbert fan since my teenage years I had held back reading Ash for many, many months – mainly because Mr Herbert sadly passed away not long after publication and I knew that this was the last of his books I would ever get to read.

ash The book started with great potential and I really liked the plot threads that seemed to be developing. The central character had featured in two previous novels and I always enjoy when a familiar face is re-introduced. I made a point to re-read Haunted (where the titular David Ash was first introduced) before turning to Ash so I would be fresh on the character’s back story.

Sadly about half way through this book it all started to go wrong. I appreciate that horror stories can be prone to dramatic excesses for the sake of a plot device, however, this was off the wall.  Translucent children, spawn of Hitler, a secret royal baby, incestuous millionaire siblings – any one of these would defy credibility in most books – to chuck them all in to a single novel makes a farce. Oh, forgot to mention Lord Lucan alive and well and hiding in a remote Scottish castle.

I wondered if Mr Herbert’s editor was just so relieved to finally get a manuscript (there had been a significant gap between Ash and the previous novel) that the thought of further delays while edits were made was just too horrific to contemplate?

I started Ash in April, this review will go live in June. It did not take me 3 months to get to the end of a 400 page book, it has taken me 3 months to research lots of new words that I could use to explain to friends just how terrible Ash is. It really is awful. Abysmal. Dire. This could well be the worst book I have read since High School (20+ years ago).

I started blogging so that I could share news of books I enjoyed – I had not expected that I would also use these pages as a vehicle to tell people to avoid a story by one of my favourite authors.

Grab this book – put it somewhere safe, ideally out of the reach of others. If you want to read a James Herbert novel then I recommend The Magic Cottage or The Rats.

Any of these are better than Ash.
Any of these are recommended before reading Ash.
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April 7

Ash – from the pending pile…

After clearing the Agatha Christie collection I was ready to embrace a new author – it was Summer 1990, I was 15 and I was ready to read a HORROR story.  Stephen King seemed the obvious choice but one of the benefits of working in a bookshop was that people are always keen to discuss books they enjoy. Sadly I cannot remember the customer who put me onto James Herbert’s books but I still thank them to this day. The Rats/Lair/Domain trilogy remains a favourite.

Sadly Mr Herbert passed away last year just after the publication of Ash. I bought the book on the week of release (aided by a crazy 20p Kindle offer) and have waited for months to read it. It had been several years since I read a James Herbert novel, this was to be the last one: I couldn’t rush it.

Today my resolve finally broke. I wanted a new book, plenty to choose from but nothing was taking my fancy. Click through the Kindle library….ASH. Bingo!

Not a full write up today as I am still enjoying the read – but I have to say the wait has been worth it. Spooky Scottish castle, strange and unexplained occurrences and a recurring hero in the titular David Ash. Loving the anticipation of what is to come, more to follow.

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March 27

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

While I am aware that my ‘to read’ pile is extensive (happy days) I would like to assure you that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has not been on hold since 1926 waiting for me to find time to get around to it.  Sometimes when I finish reading a book I just want the comfort of an old favourite  before I start something new. Part of this is driven by the sheer volume opoirotf books I get through – I read quickly, I skim read and I recognise that I sometimes miss things. By reading some books more than once I will pick up on things I may have missed (or forgotten) from my first read through.

The books of Agatha Christie were my transitional reads from what I perceived to be ‘kids books’ towards stories written for adults. I was twice blessed in this regard – my Aunt had an extensive collection of Dame Agatha’s works which I was able to plunder when we visited. Then, when I was 14, I was lucky enough to gain weekend/summer work in my local bookshop – say ‘Hello’ to the Staff Discount and goodbye to my wages.

For 12 months I could not get enough of Poirot and Marple, always feeling a little disappointed if the story I chose was Tommy and Tuppence or (worse) had no recognisable characters. Then suddenly they were all gone and I had read the entire Agatha Christie back catalogue. Next up was Stephen King but that is for another day…

25 years later I have found that I can return to the world of Marple and Poirot and rediscover the magic that Ms Christie wove. In the case of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd I remember the shock I experienced when I first read the story and how my jaw dropped when the murderer was revealed. For that reason alone it remains one of my favourite Agatha Christie books.

On a second read through I can now appreciate the story in a new light. I know how it ends so I can spot the clues that are left for me, yet I could not remember the circumstances of the murder or the supporting characters so it was almost like reading a new book. Almost.

To those who may not have read this book I would implore you to do so. For everyone else, grab a copy and retreat into familiar comfort of Poirot at his finest.

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March 24

Natural Causes – James Oswald

Inspector McLean - Book 1
First Inspector McLean Novel

One of the main reasons I set about putting together my site was to force myself to read new books and discover new authors. Not necessarily new authors who were publishing their debut novels, but authors that are new to me.

Leaving the office last week I saw a large poster advertising James Oswald’s Inspector McLean series. There appeared to be 3 books in the collection and when the poster name checked Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and Peter James I was sold.

Two days later I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with Natural Causes and it will not be long before I seek out the next book. I found Oswald’s style very easy to read, the characters were engaging and memorable and the story took plenty of twists and turns to hold my attention.

The story unfolded well covering a spate of burglaries in the well to do areas of Edinburgh. There were MANY nasty murders amongst the ranks of high profile city gentlemen. Then throw in an unusual discovery of a young girl’s body who had been murdered some 60 years previously.   In the midst of the carnage was Inspector McLean, dealing with the chaos of multiple murders, hostile suspects, equally hostile colleagues and his own personal tragedy when there is a death in his family.

Oswald builds a supporting cast who are immediately likeable and put me in mind of the team ‘assembled’ by Stuart MacBride in the Logan McRae series (helped in no small part by the fact Oswald has named one of the team Stuart MacBride).  MacBride himself is named and thanked in the author acknowledgements.

Woven through the story are hints of former misfortunes which befell McLean and also the promise of more pain to follow. The author nicely setting up future books, clearly he has a plan as to where he wants to take his characters.

On finishing Natural Causes I fully understood the reason why the advert I saw named Peter James. There is an other-worldly twist to this tale which may not please all the readers, however, fans of Mr James and of John Connelly’s Charlie Parker books should be seeking out Natural Causes to add to their library.

No qualms in advising that you – Grab This Book.

 

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