An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Hank Green

The first novel from the younger Vlogbrother is a fast-paced & whip smart Science Fiction thriller and also a deeply considered meditation on the nature of fame - especially fame gained through a carefully constructed persona on the Internet.
Recently graduated from college struggling graphic designer April May stumbles across what she initially assumes is a temporary art project in the streets of Manhattan. On a whim April and her friend Andy put up a Youtube video about the giant robot statue and she accidentally finds herself famous & at the centre of a huge worldwide story.
The central characters are well drawn and the feel of April's world feels completely natural even when weird things happen.
It's great fun to read and also seriously thought provoking. I'm just blown away by how good it is for a debut novel.
This is another book that I part read and part listened to. The narrator of the audiobook does great work and if you're an audiobook person it's definitely work checking out.

Rating: A



Good Night and Good Riddance

David Cavanagh

good night and good riddanceCavanagh is a music writer famed for his extensive research (and how much of it ends up on the page).
I read his authoritative book on Creation records a few years back. That book went into so much depth that it basically covers the entirety of the UK indie music business in the UK from the 70s to the turn of the millenium.
This book is a look at the career of the much missed BBC DJ John Peel. Rather than write a traditional biography Cavanagh has listened to hundreds of Peel shows from across his thirty-odd year UK broadcasting career.
He uses the context of a few shows each year to draw a picture of what was happening in the news, what music Peel was playing and goes into certain aspects of the DJ's behind the scenes life - both personally and professionally.
It's a startling piece of work revealing not only Peel's impact on UK cultural life but also how much has changed (and indeed not changed) in Britain since the late 1960s.
If you're at all interested in Peel, pop history, pop radio or UK society in general during the time period covered then this is a must-read.
Very highly recommended.

Rating: A




Naomi Novik

UprootedThis is not only easily the most enjoyable Fantasy novel I've read in years but also one of the best written.
Agnieszka is a wood cutter's daughter and one of the unfortunate girls to come of in age in the year when the local Lord, the wizard "Dragon", takes one girl away from her family to live in his tower for ten years.
I don't want to spoil any of it but suffice it to say that this not a book that always goes where you expect it to or at least not when you think it will.
Heavily influenced by Eastern European folk myth there's something that just feels right about this tale.
I highly recommend checking this one out if you're a fan of Fantasy novels.

Rating: A


2015 Audiobooks

This year I discovered downloadable library audiobooks and I also had an Audible membership that helped to expand my audiobook listening.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller narrated by Trevor White Rated A
An award winning satire of World War II this classic picaresque novel is superbly read by Trevor White. I've read this book twice previously and I got very different things from it each time. This time I really started to feel overwhelmed by the horror it all. The war, the insane bureaucracy, the corruption, and the abuse of civilians are all portrayed with vicious black humour but that doesn't rob it of any of it's power.

Dead Girl Walking by Chris Brookmyre narrated by Angus King and Kate Bracken rated A
Solid Jack Parlabane novel with the narration lifting it to greater levels. Bracken in particular is just brilliant narrating the diary entries of a naive Shetland violist thrust into the spotlight when she becomes a member of an upcoming band on their European tour.

Agent To The Stars by John Scalzi narrated by Wil Wheaton.
Reviewed before

Redshirts by John Scalzi narrated by Wil Wheaton
Reviewed before

The following titles were borrowed from the library. I've got some more promising titles to try out in 2016 than these less than impressive efforts.

The CEO's Accidental Bride by Barbara Dunlop narrated by Laurence Bouvard rated C-
While the narration is decent (and the lead male sounds uncannily like Ashley Clement's Darcy voice from The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet) the book is just awful.

Billionaire's Contract Engagement by Maya Banks narrated by Harry Berkeley rated C-
I love "Fake Married" stories (this being a fake fiancee tale) but this is just painful.

Bride, Bought And Paid For by Helen Bianchin narrated by Susan Lyons rated D
Author can't write for toffee. Also the happy ending makes no sense given the messed up forced marriage

The Tycoon Takes A Wife by Catherine Mann narrated by Harry Berkeley rated C-
It's a terribly weak story with utterly forgettable narration doing nothing to help matters.

Bossman's Baby Scandal by Catherine Mann narrated by Harry Berkeley rated C-
Again it's a terribly weak story with utterly forgettable narration doing nothing to help matters.



The Girl With All The Gifts

M.R. Carey

the girl with all the giftsThis is an extremely good post apocalyptic novel.
I don't want to spoil the book in any way but I will say that it's about a very gifted young girl, a teacher, a soldier and a scientist.
The world building is magnificent, the main characters are very well drawn and the plot is utterly involving.
It's horror and it's science fiction all at once.
I strongly recommend this book.

Rating: A



The Martian

Andy Weir

the martianThe hype finally got to me. I've been avoiding this book for a long time because my limited knowledge of the plot made it sound like another depressing space exploration book.
I finally get round to reading this to discover that it's one of the most solidly written and life affirming pieces of traditional Science Fiction I've read in years.
I enjoyed so much I'm keen to see the film and might even download the audiobook.
Highly recommended if you have any interest in human space exploration.

Rating: A




Rainbow Rowell


Rating: A



Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh

hyperbole and a halfREAD BEFORE

Rating: A




Rainbow Rowell

fangirlCath hates new places, new people and new things. Which is a bit of a problem when she's just moved away from home to study at college. Doubly so when she's forced to share a room with someone other than her identical twin sister for the first time in her life.
Escaping into writing her popular serial fanfic she struggles to adjust to her new life and to deal with the problems that life throws at her.
This is easily the best YA book I've read since The Fault In Our Stars. I really enjoyed spending time in Cath's head. I've read a ton of fanfic in the past year after going crazy for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I really empathized with her, while recognizing that she's young and frequently mistaken about how other people thnk and how the world works.
In fact I devoured the book in less than a day.
I recommend this to anyone but especially to those with an interest in YA books or the world of fanfic.

Rating: A



Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh

hyperbole and a halfThis collection of posts and drawings from Brosh's blog is the second funniest thing I've read all year (see Jenny Lawson's biography for that).
It is also occasionally rather profound about the experience of being depressed and other mental health issues.
Highly recommended, especially if you love stories about stupid dogs.

Rating: A