re:View – The 2015 Bookshelf
June + July: It’s been a slow summer

Here’s a confession you won’t hear a lot from me: I haven’t been reading a lot lately.

The reasons are plenty – I’ve started some new workout classes, I’ve been busy with my food blog, I took in a pregnant cat that just had kittens…and somehow the books just didn’t pick themselves up. It may also have to do with the fact that I got stuck on Tom Holt’s J.W. Wells series, loving it at first and then getting bored very quickly. I hate to ditch books halfway through so I soldiered on through three volumes, but it took me an absolute age.

So here are the contents of this summer’s very slim (so far at least) bookshelf. I can’t wait for long autumn evenings on the sofa with a book and a tea…


The Portable Door (J.W. Wells #1) by Tom Holt
Loser graduate Paul Carpenter gets a mysterious job in a mysterious London City firm where goblins come out to play at night and magic, elves and a rearranging architecture are just part of your average day at the office. Without having the faintest clue what’s going on, Paul gets drawn into this strange world and when a magic door that can take you anywhere falls into his hands, the real adventure begins. While the story takes a while to get off the ground and Holt probably over plays Paul’s loser-dom a little too much, this is a really entertaining and fun story and a very promising portal into what’s shaping up to be a seriously good fantasy series.
Pens: 3 out of 5

In Your Dreams (J.W. Wells #2) by Tom Holt
Having mastered a few fantastic adventures as junior clerk, Paul gets assigned to the pest control department – except in the world of J.W. Wells that means you’re a hero by profession and the pest you’re controlling may well turn out to be a dragon nesting in the vaults of a city bank. While Paul comes to terms with all this, the firm’s senior partner for public relations – who just happens to also be the Queen of the Fey – is leading a fey invasion into the human realm which cold end life as we know it. Of course, it’s up t Paul to save the world…and it he wants to stay alive he can never go to sleep again. Part two stays strong, mainly thanks to the truly terrifying fey folk, but again the story needs a long time to take off and a lot of things are starting to feel very repetitive.
Pens: 3 out of 5

Earth, Air, Fire and Custard (J.W. Wells #3) by Tom Holt
It started so well, but it went downhill quickly. Holt’s third volume is basically the same story warmed over again with a different flavour of magic. Without giving away too many spoilers, the story follows the template of the first to books, putting you at serious risk of death by boredom. Paul is still the ever-reluctant hero, the firm is still dodgy as hell, Paul’s disastrous relationship with his colleague Sophie goes into the third painful round, and as Paul learns more about his origins the story just goes from incoherent to downright silly. Sorry Holt, you’ve lost me there. I really, really wanted to read part four – mainly because it’s titled You Don’t Have to Be Evil to Work Here, But it Helps – but I can’t possibly put myself through another round of the same old.
Pens: 1 out of 5

Sin City, Vol. 2: A Dame to Kill For by Frank Miller
What can I say…I just love Sin City. I’m a sucker for the drama and the stereotypes and the big, bad macho men and the perfectly shaped badass girls. The story of the second volume isn’t one of my favourites and I don’t particularly like Dwight or Ava (so it’s a bit unfortunate that the whole story centres around them, really) but Miller’s style is flawless as ever and the artwork is just gorgeous. So this was still a perfectly enjoyable quick read for a gloomy Sunday afternoon, and it’s left me itching to get stuck into the other volumes.
Pens: 2 out of 5

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
One of these books I wouldn’t have picked for myself, this found me as a present and I’m so glad it did. My knowledge of Middle Eastern history is shamefully slim, and while reading one graphic novel memoir about a childhood in Iran won’t right this wrong, Satrapi’s book is both a compelling history and social lesson and a gorgeously illustrated coming of age story. Both funnier and more moving than I thought it could be, Persepolis left me ranting and crying – that’s a first for a comic book. Luckily my edition came as both volumes combined in one, because I can’t wait to read the second part.
Pens: 4 out of 5

Glitch In the Machine by Edgar Swamp
It sounds like the latest dystopian cult novel: In the near future of an America gone very wrong, the social system has collapsed and 99% of people are living in poverty with no human rights. In this terrifyingly plausible scenario, we meet a health insurance claims investigator whose job it is to terminate more than just the insurance policy of clients who have fallen behind with their payments. But what starts out like cross between American Psycho and something penned by Irvine Welsh, promising a brutal ride through the mind of a raging psychopath, quickly goes downhill: the plot disappears in a tangle of too many possible outcomes, the characters are flat and lack credibility, the ending is a complete cop-out, and the whole effort is infused with so much misogyny it made me want to throw up repeatedly. In the end I only stuck with it because I was reviewing the book for work, but it wasn’t enjoyable at all. It’s a shame, really, because the underlying idea is very good and shines a chilling light on the future of our society. (I’ve also lowered my initial rating further after finding out that the author is being a complete dick on Goodreads and has a go at everyone who reviews he book badly. That’s both unprofessional and morally wrong.)
Pens: 0 out of 5

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