Books read 2017

Books read in 2017

 

End of year summary: 2017 consisted of a total of 39 books read, plus 2 meaty graphic novel sets. Just shy of my target of 40 books which I had thought possible at the start of 2017. The low points were Ice Forged, Lairs Key, and Killing Floor.. truly awful novels and a waste of my precious time.

The high points were The Northern Lights trilogy and Assassins Fate. True masterpieces. For 2018 I have a different plan. I’m going to plan all the books in advance, so I have a clear reading list, and then see if I can consume all those books during that year. I think 30 books is probably achievable. Less than this years 39 but the books I intend will be meatier so will be slower going.

 

DEC:

 – “Accidental Warrior” – Jamie Davis

thoughts: A conditionation from the previous story, sadly.. not as interesting.  Rating 3/10

 – “Ice Forged” – Gail Z Martin

thoughts: Wow, what a steaming pile of utter turd! Ending the year badly there with this selection.  Rating 1/10

NOV:

– “La Belle Sauvage” – Phillip Pullman

thoughts: Having recently smashed my way through The Northern Lights, I just had to pick this one up also. Excellent. I can only best describe it as a sort of Homers Odyssey aimed at teens, perhaps not as deep theologically as his previous attempts by a good yarn regardless.  Rating 9/10

– “Accidental Thief” – Jamie Davis

thoughts: A self published litrpg book, tonnes of grammatical errors in it etc etc but cheap to purchase! In all honesty, its not great, it doesn’t really go into the main characters psyche, a series of weak set-pieces and just repetition, in the hands of a good editor (and perhaps better author) this really could have been a stunning piece of work. Distracted me however!  Rating 5/10

OCT:

– “Jack the Rippers streets of terror” – John Stewart

thoughts: A good light touch intro, a rehash of old myths and quick reproduction of some ‘facts’ which have been recently debunked,  so for a hardened specialist like me , not good but a good start for a newbie. Rating 5/10

 – “Remains of the Day” – Kazuo Ishiguro

thoughts: What a beautiful, sobering and heart breaking novel this is. I’d never read Ish’s stuff before but I can understand why now he’s held in such esteem. Rating: 8/10

SEPT:

 – “A-Z of Curious Suffolk” – Sarah Doig

thoughts: As my new adopted home, I got this book and it has been clearly written by an amateur local author, this book had potential but sadly the bulk of the articles therein lacked the sort of detail I was after, and it was very high-fly. So for me, it became akin to a hardcopy of various Wikipedia type entries.  Rating 4/10

 – “Reality is not what it seems” – Carlo Rovelli

thoughts: A fantastic book on quantum mechanics. Possibly the best I’ve ever read, fantastically well put together and on the whole clear presentation of complex theories. Rating 10/10

 – “The Bank Holiday Murders” – Tom Westcott

thoughts: Continuing with my Jack the Ripper theme across this year, this is a worthy addition with some excellent research and new ideas. For hardcores only. Rating 8/10

 – “Weird Fantasy EC archives volume 2” – EC Comics

thoughts: A collection of 6 editions of the pulp 1950’s EC comics editions of Weird Fantasy. I used to purchase these (once again, reprints but on very low quality paper) back in the 1980’s as a 9 year old and I utterly loved them. Whilst the first volume was great, some of the stories in this 2nd volume seemed a bit plodding. The cleaned up art work on high quality paper is a real joy to look at however. Rating 6/10

 – “My Absolute Darling” – Gabriel Tellent

thoughts: A lot of hype over this one! Sadly, it never lived up to it. Great first 40 pages then an disappointing 300 pages afterwards. Rating 6/10

 – “Ripper Confidential” – Tom Wescott

thoughts:  Possibly the greatest Ripper writer on the scene, this is a great work, excellently made arguments and research.  Rating 9/10

 

AUGUST:

 – “Northern Lights” by Philip Pullman

thoughts: Surprisingly deep! Some important concepts like God, freewill, organized religion etc all covered. Its meant to be a teens book but theres stuff in there that made me really think. Rating 8/10

– “Jack the Ripper CSI: Whitechapel” by Paul Begg

thoughts: didn’t learn anything new. Some nice diagrams but I’m a bit of an clued up person on this topic nowadays so this didn’t quite meet the bill. Good for an entry level investigator however as a primer.  Rating 4/10

 – “Subtle Knife” by Philip Pullman

thoughts: After the reading the 1st book I just had to continue! Its bloody good stuff this, best young persons book around I think. I used to think The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper was the pinnacle but this series spanks it. Rating 7/10

– “Amber Spyglass” by Philip Pullman

thoughts: Lovely ending. Great read. Such a shame it came to an end. Rating 8/10

– “Swift Cookbook” by Yanis Zafiropulos

thoughts: Great reference resource. Allows you to quickly grok whatever bit of syntax you are struggling with. Rating 8/10

– “Mastering Swift 3” by Jon Hoffman

thoughts: Fantastic book, should be everyones first stop if they are learning Swift. Rating 9/10

JULY:

 – “Istanbul” by Bethany Hughes

thoughts: Tough going sometimes this one! But excellently researched and well written. Rating 8/10

JUNE:

– “Killing Floor” by Lee Childs

thoughts: The first Jack Reacher novel, by God, what a load of old rubbish. Never again!  Rating 3/10

MAY:

– “Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper” by Maxim Jakubowski

thoughts: Basically a collection of 20 essays by various authors offering their own differing opinions. Sometimes interesting, but sadly a dated volume. Rating 5/10

– “Assassins Fate” by Robin Hobb.

thoughts: Probably the very last book in a very long series, and it ended brilliantly! A really excellent well written bit of closure to a 20+ year running set of books and the writing was just immense. Perfect. Rating 10/10

– “Liar’s Key” by Mark Lawrence

thoughts: utter rubbish. It’s like a Carry On movie and there’s no sense of danger nor want to invest in the protagonists whom are several shades of dull. Rating 2/10.

– “The London of Jack the Ripper Then and Now”: by Clack and Hutchinson

thoughts: Mostly a photo book documenting how London looked back in 1988 compared to now, with some blurb about the case notes. Rating 4/10.

– “Taines Notes on England” by H Taine

thoughts: These are a series of essays by a French man in the 1860s visiting England and traveling around and making observations. 150 years on and some of his findings are as relevant today as they were then. A really interesting read and brilliantly written/translated. Rating 7/10.

– “Mostly Harmless” by Douglas Adams

thoughts: The last of the Hitchhikers books written by Adams, and it’s the best one after the first in the series. Rating 7/10.

APRIL:

– “They All Love Jack” by Bruce Robinson

thoughts: Another very interesting Jack the Ripper read and great rant against Victorian England, some excellent research has been done buy the author , but I just don’t buy into his final conclusions, there are some glaring issues that are glossed over . Whilst I agree he stitched up his sister in law for a murder she didn’t commit, I find it hard to accept he was Saucy Jack given there’s no evidence regarding his alleged regular lodgings in Toynbee Hall and the fact that he was 6 foot tall. 6 foot in Victorian England would have stuck out, and all the witnesses state somewhere between 5″4′ and 5″7.  These are all blithely ignored to press his case, great read though. Rating 7/10

-“So long and thanks for all the fish” by Douglas Adams

thoughts: Continuing with my Hitchhikers gig, this one was better than the last one and yet.. I feel that its particular silliness is very dated and stuck in the 1980s, and also Adams was a lazy writer and appears to get bored in all the second halves of his books. I will struggle on! Rating 6/10

MARCH:

– “Jack the Ripper: The definitive casebook” by Richard Whittingham-Egan

thoughts: Having now working near Whitechapel/Aldgate, I realized it was Ripper country and i wandered around some of the older streets (most of the area is super slick so you have to find the listed area locations) and there are some very moody streets around there still, so I decided to get a book and learn more about it, not just the gruesome murders but more the socio-politico scene at the time, the history, how people lived etc. This book is more a book that reviews all the other Ripper books, so it picks holes, or highlights discrepancies in the many books on the subject, and its quite witty and dry writing. I found it an interesting (and somewhat grisly) read. Rating 6/10

 – “Life, the Universe and Everything” by Douglas Adams

thoughts: I read this when I was perhaps aged 17 or so and I think I had lost interest in the 2nd half of the book as it got too weird, so almost 30years later I thought I’d re-try it. I made more sense of it this time but the writing whilst distinctly Mr Adams, does get a bit repetitive, for example the over-use of terms like “mind boggling”. It was an okay read but not earth shattering.  Rating 6/10

 – “Waterloo 1815 part 1” by John Franklin

thoughts: This is the first of a 3 part series of books going into detail regarding the Battle of Waterloo. This book deals with the Quatre Bras battle just prior to Waterloo, it was a smaller scale battle (approx 40K men on each side) and there was an opportunity there for both sides to strike with a crushing blow and thus really control the following battle but as it was it was a bit of a chaotic event and a stalemate without either side doing much. Definitely a lot opportunity for the French as it meant they got walloped a few days later at Waterloo. The book sadly, no doubt because of the chaos and disorganisation on the actual day doesn’t read well, hoping the other books are more enjoyable. Rating 2/10

 – “Victorian Slang” by Patrick Chapman

thoughts: A somewhat slim lexicon that goes into the vernacular used by the Victorians. Lots of words for swearing etc! Quite fun to dip into, I read it cover it cover during a particularly dull train journey so it passed the time well for me. Rating 5/10

 – “Learn Game Programming with Ruby” by Mark Sobkowicz

thoughts: This is the only book out there for game programming with Ruby. Its good too and covers the basics of basics of 2D games, its well written but the more you read it the more you realise that Ruby and the Gosu GEM just isn’t adequate when compared to other game maker stuff out there. Rating 6/10

FEBRUARY:

– “Old Man Logan” volumes 0 to 4 by Various

thoughts: started so well with Mark Millars writing, did okay with Bendis, and then dipped badly there after. Bad writing, bad art work, just bad.  Rating 3/10

 – “Dottings of a Dosser” by Howard Goldsmid

thoughts: a sort of documentary before it was even invented, this is the anecdotes and experiences of a Victorian chap a couple of years prior to the start of the Ripper murders in London and how he made himself look poor and spent time around the improvised East End.  Sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing. It makes you feel blessed for the era you are in. 7/10

 – “Ask me if i’m Happy” by Peter Bowles

thoughts: Actor Peter Bowles autobiography. A few interesting anecdotes but not really enough to keep you gripped. Still much better than Frank Muirs autobiography however! Rating 5/10

 – “The Dragonbone Chair” by Tad Williams

thoughts: This book was apparently the template for George RR Martin with his Game of Thrones, it has the same sorts of elements, an endless winter, dragons, special swords etc but its simpler and more aimed at a younger crowd I think, so no swearing etc. It’s actually a very gripping story and a great read, I can’t believe I missed out of this back in the 1990s. Rating 8/10

 – “Mountain Man” by Keith Blackmore

thoughts: Interesting plot, its about an alcoholic holed up in a post-apocalypse zombie world. Its got a few laughs amongst the drama but on the whole it lacked depth. 5/10

JANUARY:

– “Batman All-New-52”  entire 10 volume run by Scott Snyder.

thoughts: Wow. Synder did something wonderful here and rewrote a lot of the Batman mythos. The series got off to a great start but I felt it was fizzling out by volume 6. The final volume wasn’t good at all. Nevertheless, it’s all worth reading for any Batman fan and it appears it’s going to dovetail nicely into the Rebirth series. It probably will remain the most erudite of any Batman series and Synder’s credentials as a university lecturer shine through in every page.  Rating 7/10.

– “Sharp Ends” by Joe Abercrombie

thoughts: I used to be a big fan of Mr.Abercrombie, but this collection of short stories is yet more evidence of his decline over the past decade. There’s one or two good ones, but on the whole it lacks cohesion, I wish he’d go back to his earlier type of writing. Rating 4/10.

– “DEUS EX MACHINA – The best game you never played in your life” by Mel Croucher

thoughts: This is a fun and thoughtful little biography by the granddaddy of computer game designers, reminiscing about his early experiences in the fledgling gaming scene of the 1980’s.  Rating 6/10.