What have I been reading lately?

I haven’t done this in a while (I think the last one I did was back in April!), so I thought I would fill you in on what books I have been reading lately. You can of course check out my Goodreads profile, which you can find on the side, to check out what I’m reading, and where I’m up to, as well as ratings, and ‘reviews’ on the stories I have read. I did say that this would come yesterday, and I was going to do that, but then I realised that I didn’t think I would have time to write a post for today as well, so you get this instead! The Stone Key will begin (with an introduction, analysis of cover, etc) tomorrow!

So I think there is quite a list, so I don’t know how much I’ll talk about each one

The Without Warning Series by John Birmingham. This includes Without Warning, After America and Angels of Vengeance (and no matter how many times I write this or read it, I immediately think Angles of Vengeance, those would be some nasty angles!). As you can tell by the second title, something has happened in America. This isn’t a spoiler since it happens pretty much straight away. Everyone within America (basically) vanishes. They seem to liquefy. This is alternative history, so it happens just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now as you can imagine this has huge consequences on the world, some of which are devastating. The point of view changes, and it encompasses a whole range of people who are struggling to come to terms with the events. All three books follow the perspective of pretty much the same people, and even once things have ‘settled down’, there are still huge issues, which are left unresolved. I haven’t finished Angels of Vengeance so I can’t tell you how it ends. But there are plenty of shocks and action along the way. Now all three books are formidable, as they look like huge tomes. They are lengthy, but their detail is one of its strengths. Well worth a read, maybe if you live in America, it would be too shocking to comprehend an event like that, but alternative history is a genre I haven’t gotten into, but is very interesting.

I’ve recently finished a book titled: “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” written by blogger Beth Terry. Now as the title suggests, this is a non-fiction, environmental book. About how to reduce the amount of plastic you use, come into contact with, and throw away. There are more than just environmental reasons for following this book, including health, economic and even spiritual. It really makes you think just what plastics might be doing to our bodies, through the chemicals they leach into our food and drink. To some people it might be alarmist thinking, but if you go with an open mind, you’ll pick up some really good tips on how to avoid plastic. And in the process you can save money, and get out of the consumerism cycle. Beth has been trying to live plastic free since 2007, so she knows what works and what to do. If you don’t want to read the book, take a look at her blog, where you can find more great tips, and stories of her journey (be warned there are a LOT of posts to get through!). You can find Beth here: http://myplasticfreelife.com/

I finished off the Kane Chronicles with The Serpent’s Shadow, written by the great myth writer, Rick Riordan. I’ve spoken about Rick and The Kane Chronicles (as well as The Heroes of Olympus and Percy Jackson) previously, and nothing has changed. He is still an amazing writer, who can do mythology and fantasy so well. I was gripped from the first word, and the action is continuous and there are so many twists, turns, shocks to keep you entertained. Rick’s work is always worth a read, they are pretty light-hearted, as they are intended for ‘youth’ but don’t let that stop you! I mean how light-hearted can you be when you are facing off against the God of Chaos (Egyptian in case you were lost)!

Another book series intended for youth is The Billionaire’s Trilogy, by Richard Newsome, now, I re-read the first two books in preparation for the final book. The series consists of The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket and The Mask of Destiny. They are a very interesting idea. What would you do if you inherited Billions? Okay it is a little like a fantasy, but they are enjoyable, as there is clearly something more going on than meets the eye. Again quite light-hearted. Plenty of action, though, honestly, definitely for younger readers. It doesn’t pull off as well as Rick’s work, but still give it a go. The trilogy has actually become a quadrilogy (?) or quartet (apparently tetralogy) of novels, with The Crystal Code released this year. I haven’t read it, and if I can find it and I have time, I might give it a go.

The final book to mention is Good Omens, a collaboration between two literary greats, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (who has written more books, that several authors combined!). This is yet again, light hearted. But how strange is that, when we are facing The Apocalypse! Yes, The Apocalypse! Seriously hilarious, with great references, and a fantastic pace. Has a lot of great footnotes, and it is just perfection! Seriously, find a copy, and prepare yourself for the end of the world! Best standalone book I have read!

I did also read Macbeth, but that is such a well known book, it needs no explanation. You either love Shakespeare or you loathe him. Especially if you hated studying him in High School. I quite happen to like his work, but I’m definitely not fantastically inspired in his work, as some English teacher seem to be…

That’s all for now! I do seem to be on a borrowing frenzy from my local library (get behind them, they are amazing!). I actually have Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank on loan, and I cannot wait to read it. Such a well known story, I am looking forward to seeing just what it is all about. I’ll let you know about more books, next time!

Green Monkey Dreams – Isobelle Carmody

Green Monkey Dreams by Isobelle Carmody

EDIT: Though you may not be able to find the book in stores anymore, you can find the book on Allen & Unwin’s website: here Currently it costs $19.99 Australia Dollars, and there is free shipping to Australia and New Zealand. For international shipping, it will cost you $10 for the first book, and $5 for every additional book thereafter (with faster shipping costing $25 for the first book and $10 thereafter). You may find it elsewhere, so check around!

This is the 1996 original cover

Now this book was first published back in 1996, and is actually a collection of 14 short stories, and I guarantee you that these are definitely some of the best, if not the best, short stories you will ever read (if I am wrong, I really want to know which short stories top them!)! It was republished this year, and I have been informed that it is now out of print, so if you are going to snap up a copy, you need to do so quickly. I am lucky enough to have just received a signed copy of the book from Isobelle Carmody herself for my contributions to the ‘Great E-Book debate‘ as part of her relaunch of another of her books ‘Greylands’ which is now available as an ebook and will be available later this year as a paperback (that site is now ‘closed’, as it was only up for just over a month but the site still exists). Some stores would have already run out of the print of ‘Green Monkey Dreams’ so you may have to do some hunting around to find a copy, but it is well worth the effort. (It is not available/no copies left on Amazon or the Book Depository at the moment, but is available at ‘Dymocks‘ in Australia). Or of course, a friend might have a copy or a local library (if you are lucky enough to have access to one with a copy)!

I am going to start spoiling a bit, so if you intend to read the book/buy your own copy, and don’t want to be spoiled at all (I won’t be doing too much though), stop reading now!!!, otherwise I’ll start by describing the book.

The 14 short stories would be amazing on their own (and in fact some of them were published in various places) but together they are fantastic. They aren’t majorly connected to one another, but there is recurring themes and little things (you’ll see if you read it) that appear over a couple of the stories. Now they are all fantasy, some are more out there than others, whereas some are definitely more real life but have a fantastical element to them. I won’t go into too much detail because I really don’t want to ruin anyone’s experience for them, because it is really a book you need to experience yourself. But I will say that some of the stories are haunting and sometimes shocking. They are all food for thought, and really do leave you thinking and wondering.

The ebook cover on the left, and the Ford Street paperback cover on the right
The ebook cover on the left, and the Ford Street paperback cover on the right

One thing I cannot stress enough is that Isobelle Carmody is an amazing, fantastic, awesome, inspirational fantasy writer. She creates such detailed worlds (14 of them in this book, that is an achievement in itself) over and over again, and they are all different. I cannot even imagine how she came up with these ideas and how she was able to put them together so well. Now I have to warn you that you may need an open mind to read this book, the first short story is quite out there (maybe a more real world one could have been put, but I don’t think that would have worked, because those were saved for some really powerful moments) and it may force some readers to walk away from the test, which would be really sad. Don’t get me wrong, it is a brilliant short story, but for those not familiar with Isobelle Carmody, and not really enjoying ‘full on’ fantasy, it might be confronting to have such an new and unfamiliar world thrust upon you (and there is only limited time to introduce a world, as these are short stories, with a combined page total just over 300). You may be slightly confused at first, but for me I was able to get into the worlds quickly and enjoy them. There are many surprises along the way (which I will not spoil) which blew me away, and I had not expected them to happen. It is not a kid’s book, I’m calling that now, and it deals with some mature themes (though there is no real swearing or sexual content or graphic scenes, some things a child or even young teen might be too confronted by to read) and I think it highlights that fantasy is not just for children, and Isobelle Carmody is the prime example of that.

I also think that it is a book that you should not be rushing through, you need to take your time, and split up the short stories, so you can have some time to ponder and digest each one. I think it is also of great benefit to re-read the stories, because there are surely going to be things you have missed. I have to say that this is my favourite collection of short stories, and I am so glad to have been able to read it, and I urge you to find a copy and enjoy.

There is another collection of short stories by Isobelle Carmody called ‘Metro Winds’ and this is much more easy to get a copy of as this year was the first publication. I have not read it yet, but if it is anything like Green Monkey Dreams, it will be amazing, I have a copy, and will report back once I have got a chance to read it all. In other literary news, I am currently reading ‘Without Warning’ by John Birmingham (another Australian author, I swear I don’t just read Australian books!) which is part of a trilogy of books, it is swet back in 2002-3 just before the start of the Iraq war/invasion and something big happens (if you want an idea, find the book/google it and read the blurb, or even just find out what the second book is called) and that event causes huge shock-waves around the world. It is a dense, detailed novel, but well worth a read!

“The Keeping Place’ starts tomorrow!!!