Kindling #1

This post is from a series of review posts - for the whole list, see my Kindling page.

My posts of late have mostly been about cities around the world, and I have one coming up about Australian cities, but I thought I'd take a temporary break from that to update you on what I've been doing most recently - reading. I have a few friends that are bibliophiles, but since high-school, during my Maths/CS degree and the first few years of work, I slowed to almost nothing read.

...but then I discovered e-books! More at the end, but in short, I was using Apple's reader on my original iPad for a friend's fanfic and some old scifi classics; Sadly that was stolen, but after realising that's mostly what I used it for (plus Tiny Wings and Angry Birds), I opted for a Kindle instead, and am now 14 books through, averaging probably 30min-1hr each day! So without further ado, because it's what bloggers do (it seems) and because it might help someone, some time, who is stuck picking what to read next (as I am) - a summary of some recent books:

Finished recently:
Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
The main driving force behind my current reading frenzy - I like Sci Fi and Psychology, and this mixed them wonderfully. Paced well, you could follow each character's decisions in a believable way, in the foreign world it was set it. A definite recommendation for anyone who hasn't read it!

Slaughterhouse Five / Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
So, I've heard quite a bit about how good Vonnegut is, maybe due to his hipster resurgence, but I also ran into one of this books on the SciFi top-100 flowchart, so I figured I'd give them a shot. Partially as they're so short, so not a huge setback even if they're bad. And it's not as though they were terrible...I just couldn't really get into them. Too much topic-shifting I think, I don't know if I'm supposed to supply the analysis of the topics myself, but I prefer it when an author makes a clear point, so I can decide which parts I agree/disagree with and why. But as a said, not too long, so not bad if you have a bit of spare time and can borrow someone's copy.

Micro (Michael Crichton with Richard Preston)
I'm a big fan of Crichton, and was sad to read about his death in 2008, so you can imagine my surprise at seeing him release a book. After reading the Pirate Latitudes, I was even then more surprised at seeing another of his published. I think it suffered a bit from the Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Kids-style premise being not as interesting to me as previous books of his I'd read (Timeline, Prey) but well researched as always, and I was a fan of how the plot unfolded.

1984 (George Orwell)
Another of my to-do list of classic SciFi that I needed to read - it was clear to see why this has the reputation it does, and it's certainly deserved. Not the fastest read, but very well told, and amazing for something written when it was. I'm not sure, but I'd like to think Orwell was just very observant and good at warning people (successfully, too) against what can happen if we live in certain ways. Definitely worth a read if you haven't yet - as an added bonus, I understand a lot more references now.

Curse of the Spellmans / Revenge of the Spellmans (Lisa Lutz)
To avoid reading only dark SciFi, I broke those up with this light-weight detective series about an erratic PI and her family - not the most thought-provoking, but fast to get through and good character writing. I'd definitely put this in the Airport-fiction category, good for winding down at the end of a day, especially if you're borrowing a friend's book.

Currently reading:
Blue Monday (Nicci French)
Continuing my SciFi break, I searched for psychological thriller recommendations and found a list from the Guardian I think, and eventually picked this one off it. Pretty standard psychoanalyst-helps-the-police-solve-a-case story set in London, it took a while to get going but I'm enjoying the atmosphere, and the depth of characters makes me feel that all the threads will start intertwining with each other into one epic mess to unravel, so this has the promise to be entertaining, but I'll have to wait and see...

So that's it for now, I hope this has helped someone, at some point, pick a book to read/buy. Additionally, if you have any recommendations for me based on my thoughts above, please do add them in the comments below! I'm always looking for more to add to my kindle To-Buy list (there with Philip Kerr, Iain M Banks, A Fraction of the Whole and a few others...).

As a brief epilogue, I'm impressed with the number of eBook stores / services popping up. Even though eBooks are the simplest thing to pirate (I mean, everyone can access 1Mb text files...) I still find myself buying $10 books because it's so easy, and I get good recommendations. A double win as self-publishing an eBook so easy, hopefully more will be written, and the extra buying data will provide good personal recommendations - and maybe even the good ones will turn into physical books, so that industry can grow too. What I'd like to see next is data sharing - so you can buy from multiple retailers / genre-specific 'publishers', and read them on whatever device you have; but also periodicals, so popular writers (i.e. bloggers) can deliver their content straight to eBook readers.


  1. I love this post! You write good reviews of books. I don't think our reading tastes overlap that much (if at all), but I would suggest adding Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier to your to-read list. It's a classic with psychological elements - an unusual love story, I think. You don't need to buy it, though, you can borrow my copy.

    Also, I said this the other night, but I highly recommend In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The Suspicions of Mr Which by Kate Summerscale is good too (which I can also lend you if you'd like to read it).

  2. Given that list I'd highly recommend Charles Stross. If you want to taste his work before buying, see Accelerando:

    He has written in a range of different styles so you might not find all of his work to your liking, but from your post I definitely think Glasshouse and Halting State would suit. He also has some interesting discussion of ebooks and what the world looks like from a working author's point of view on his blog (just mentioning it because of your final paragraph).

  3. I've noticed that I tend to read fluff these days (aka pulpy murder mysteries). It's been ages since I read any hard SF. Ender's Game is still one of my faves but later OSC seems more written by committee than the earlier books and doesn't feel as "honest."

  4. Pat, I gave you my recommendation the other day for the Philip Kerr "Bernie Gunther" series of 1930-1950s detective stories - brilliant. They are the spiritual successors to, say, Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye", which is also well worth a read.
    Beyond that, if you're wanting to give some espionage fiction a go - and I say this because I went to see "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" yesterday, which rekindled by always-smouldering love for John le Carré - then I would, John le Carré. The aforementioned "Tinker, Tailor", and "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold", redefined the spy genre, and introduced new words to the espionage vocabulary; "mole", for instance, meaning a double agent, was a term invented by le Carré and adopted by the intelligence services, as was "Moscow Centre", his term for the epicentre of Soviet intelligence. "A Small Town In Germany" is also fantastic, and continuing the "Tinker, Tailor" series is "The Honourable Schoolboy" and "Smiley's People" ... the latter of which is quite exquisite. Be warned: le Carré's trademark is labyrinthine plots that proceed glacially, to give the reader a sense of the *real* life of a spy. His books are not the sort you just pick up for ten pages here and there before bed. But you should absolutely give them your attention!

  5. Excellent! Thanks all for the suggestions, my to-read list has now also In Cold Blood, Halting State, Rebecca, A Quiet Flame, Consider Phlebas and Speaker for the Dead on it. Now, to find time to work my way through the list then blog about it again ... :)

  6. Okay, completely unrelatedto books but am now on IE7 and commenting - not seeing any problems yet, what do I need to look out for?

    1. Nothing in particular, just if you can't comment. A whole bunch of fixes came out last week so hopefully you won't run into any, but let me know if you do! :)

    2. Well that published fine... (you can delete these, btw)

    3. I'm signed into my Google account to comment, why is my avatar not mine and the blogger one?

    4. Blogger accounts allow you to set your profile differently - we take the one you set in your profile ( [hence being called jennigan too]

      Alternatively, at we give you the option to use your G+ profile instead, but not everyone wants to do that.


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