Monthly Archives: October 2015

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments #3)

by Cassandra Claire

This is the third book in the Mortal Instruments series and continues the story of a group of teenage “Shadowhunters”.

Reviewing a book like this is always a little odd. If you have read the first two books you will already know what to expect will probably read this regardless of what I have to say. If you haven’t read any of these books and don’t know what a Shadowhunter is then you really need to grab a copy of City of Bones and get started.

Having said all of that, with the characters and plot well established, City of Glass just gets on with the job in hand – brining the story to a dramatic mid-season climax. For me this is the best book of the series so far. It has much more pace than the first two, with plenty of action and intrigue. Relationships are settled and back stories become much clearer. City of Glass also moves the action out of New York to the Shadowhunters’ home city if Alicante.

One of the problems faced by many writers is how to keep up the pace throughout a series. Quite often there is a kind of lull around the mid-point, but not here. Cassandra Claire writes with a real pace and passion. There is no letting up once the actions begins.

I enjoyed the book immensely, being caught up with the lives of the teenagers as they come face-to-face with their enemies, whilst at the same time, trying to come to terms with their emotions and sexuality.

At the half way point of the 6 book sequence I can’t help wondering what on Earth can happen to them next. I do have an idea where the next book might lead but that will have to wait until I get myself a copy. City of Fallen Angels, here is come…

The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistThe blurb on the back of this edition claims that The Alchemist is one of those books that has changed the lives of people who have read it. A  proud claim indeed, but is it justified?

Maybe, but to be honest, I am still the same person I was before reading it!

The plot and story are both very simple.

The story follows a young Andalusian shepherd as he seeks to fulfil his destiny and realise his dreams. After a meeting with a gypsy and a mysterious fellow traveller, the shepherd boy gives up everything and heads across the Mediterranean to begin his journey.

He meets several people on his journey, all of whom bring him a little closer to his final destination, including the Alchemist himself. Are the events and the people he meets random, or is there some mysterious force leading him to fulfil his destiny? Whether you believe in the idea of a universal force guiding our lives, or that we are the sole arbiters of our own destiny, The Alchemist raises some interesting points and questions.

There is very little in the way of physical descriptions of either the characters or their surroundings. In many ways it reminded me of Bible stories I read as a child. The main driving force is the message. It is also unclear exactly when the book is set, but in some ways this is an advantage making it almost timeless.

The Alchemist is a quick and easy read that may well give you something to think about. Whilst I question the life changing claims of the publishers, it is certainly an intriguing book that benefits from its simplicity and directness.

I Should Be So Lucky

by Judy Astley

I Should Be So LuckySome books you read for pleasure, some to educate and some because you feel you should. Judy Astley’s books are very much a pleasure, albeit a guilty one. Her style of romantic fiction is just right for those occasions when you need something that won’t tax the mind and can be dipped in and out of easily. This is not to say they are not well written, because they are.

This kind of fiction is formulaic and predictable. But it’s that very predictability that I find so appealing at times. Almost from the word go, you know how the story will end. But it has never been about the destination, more about the journey. Judy Astley takes her readers with her on a journey through almost ordinary lives, but ones that have just enough of a twist and turn to make them interesting

In “I should be so Lucky”, the main character, Viola fights to some independence for herself and her 14-year-old daughter, one year after the death of her second husband. But as is often the case, her biggest problem seems to be her own brother and sister who for reasons of their own, want her to sell her property and continue to live with their mother.

Viola and her teenage daughter Rachael return to their old home and begin to rebuild their lives. Viola has a new man in her life (sort of) but he may not be all he seems.

This is actually the perfect summer read. It is light and frivolous, packed with humour. The twists and turns of the plot are predictable but no less enjoyable for being so. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but am ready now for something a little more challenging.

Vulcan’s Hammer

by Philip K Dick

I first read Vulcan’s Hammer back the mid-1970s, at the tender age of 11. It was in fact the first real Sci-Fi novel I ever read, having up until then contented myself with short stories and comics. Re-reading it now, the science is very dated, it being first published in 1960, but the story has a timelessness that over rides this.

In the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war, mankind turns to large computer systems – Vulcan – to make all the decisions and manage a global society. The idea is, apparently, to put an end to war. But by the start of the book, some people are turning their backs on the structure and lies of Unity (the global authority) and turning to a new group, the Healers, to bring about change.

Philip K Dick is a good storyteller who just happens to write science fiction. Vulcan’s Hammer has elements of a thriller with plenty of action and intrigue. But it also poses questions about artificial intelligence in a rational and thought provoking way.

Even in an age when commuters and the internet are all around us embedded in our everyday lives, the thought of handing over the mechanisms of government to machines is frightening. Imaging how that would have felt to readers in the 1960s and 70s!

I am so glad I tracked this book down again after all those years. Now I have it, I won’t be so quick to let it go again.