Review: The Burning Room (Harry Bosch #17) by Michael Connelly

I just don’t know…I loved Harry Bosch years ago before he became a household name. Now, I just don’t have strong feelings for him. I don’t hate the books, but I certainly don’t love them. I’m oftentimes bored. I also feel that it all just fits in together too nicely at times. The detail to the crimes and the whole solving of them just isn’t the same as it used to be. I felt more involved and more present step by step. Now I just feel like an outsider that is watching everything fall into place in a nice neat pattern. It just doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe it’s because it’s cold cases now? I don’t know. I only know that although I will probably eventually get caught up in the series, that I am no great rush to hurry up and start the next book. I’m perfectly fine waiting a year or two to start the next one…and in the past I was always chomping at the bits waiting for release dates.

Harry Bosch used to be a very complex man who fought his inner demons. Now he’s just a mellow guy that’s biding his time…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Review copy provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

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Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I’ve had this novel forever and although my friends kept going on about how marvellous it was, I was still hesitant. Because I don’t read many blurbs (or reviews) for novels I was left thinking that this would be a story about a talking rat. Well, all I will say is it’s not! I also had no idea it was first written as a short story in 1959 and expanded on and published in the mid 1960’s. I thought it was written in the early 2000’s. Nor did I know anything about a movie (but I am not a telly type person). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not dated at all…except perhaps some terminology. I never considered me a real stickler for PC terms, but by golly, I sure felt like some Pollyanna type after reading this and being offended time and time again at times in this book when people referred to mentally challenged individuals.

I really loved this book. However, I find it difficult to find it inspirational and inspiring as many others did. I wonder if that is a flaw in me or if I am just stuck with being a pessimist and a realist.

AAMOF, not only was I not inspired I was a bit pissed off that people really couldn’t see Charlie’s worth until he became more intelligent and then started to decline in intelligence.

Sometimes I don’t mind feeling conflicted over books. On the contrary, I love books that challenge me and leave me struggling to come to terms with my feelings. This one however really bothered me. It wasn’t the story, it was society in general. It was for the Charlie’s of the world that never gain that intelligence and never realise how many of the world look at them. How worth is often weighed by that intelligence. How people are often afraid of people that are mental challenged. And the whole PC of all of it. I wonder if a book like this could even be written today just in case it upsets someone’s sensibilities.

I’m angry for Charlie. More angry than he ever was. I’m angry at so many characters in the novel. I’m angry at those that can only find amusement at other’s expense. At people that tear other’s down in order to only look out for their own interests.

I’m angry at a society that still, today, in many ways, refuses to find a place 0f acceptance for all people, regardless of where they fall in the intelligence spectrum.

Yea…I’m really conflicted. Charlie was a good person. Even before the “new and improved” Charlie showed up at the scene. That acceptance I speak of could have made a world of difference in his life before his operation. Instead the book ends with him felling even less worth as a person than he did at the beginning, which was too damned low to start with. I loved the book, but I find it near impossible to take away just good from this story. Or be inspired by it…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Review: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

This was a truly fascinating read. I’m not much of a science person. Never have been. It was perhaps my least favourite subject in school. I even liked maths more…and I HATE maths…but regardless, I found this novel fascinating.

Two points, as I am sure you don’t need me to summarize this novel and tell you what it’s about…that’s what the blurb on the cover is for!

First point, whilst I loved this novel it was a bit off-putting after a while to be so obsessed with needing to know what was fact and what was fiction. The author does a decent job helping separate the fact from fiction in the notes in the back of the novel…however, I didn’t know this whilst reading it! Ha! I kept putting the novel down and searching out different incidents to see if they really happened. This was wonderful at the start…but it soon became hard work!!! It was distracting me time and time again from actually enjoying this novel as much as I think I could have.

This novel probably educated me more about history and inventions than school ever did. I couldn’t help but to wonder what it must have been like. To live in the an era that was changed so much by new inventions. How lives were forever changed by such men as were in this novel. Yes, there will always be new inventions…but I can’t imagine any that change so many lives in such a huge fashion.

Now, second thing, history is shaped just as much by the people who write it as it is shaped by the actual events that happen. Simplified, imagine all those times in primary school when your parents told you to ignore something and it would go away. That if you keep on fighting with someone and giving them attention it wold never stop. Well history is the same. If the media, or schools or whatever, never talk about xy&z, well it’s not very long before xy&z just completely disappears in the history books…but on the other hand, the things that the media choose to report, or the schools decide to teach…well they remain the history that future generations start to believe. It doesn’t matter if huge chunks are missing…or even if they aren’t all exactly true…they *become* true over time as more and more people hear and repeat it.

It really makes one wonder…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Review: A Game of Ghosts (Charlie Parker #15) by John Connolly

What I love most about Connolly’s Charlie Parker Books is that they are becoming more and more supernatural…or maybe it’s just that Connolly has done such a great job of making these books real that I no longer question the veracity of them. They are just as believable to me as the sun in the sky…and that is also why they are more and more terrifying as the series goes on…Connolly has managed to mesh the very ordinary world of former policeman Charlie Parker with the spectral world where some things just can’t be explained until suddenly they are all one and the same…but he does so in a way that keeps the real world the focus and the paranormal in the shadows. This isn’t some attempt by an author to create an alternative world or universe or future time period. Connolly isn’t asking the reader to suspend what they know…only that you open your mind to the possibilities…and with your own imagination the possibilities are infinite…which explains the vast amount of fear I experience whilst reading them…

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a few different spots in my heart…the first is that he writes brilliantly and beautifully as so few can do. His style is both unique and refreshing. The second thing is the sound of his voice. It makes me near swoon. I could listen to him speak all day. I never get tired of it. Finally, he is one of the only writers that I actually enjoy a great deal of his short stories. I’m not a short story person really. However, I really do find myself enjoying some of his tales. I also love that he takes the time to explain where the stories come from. Sometimes those super short blurbs are more interesting than the actual story! They certainly almost always add to the story as well. If I had a complaint about the formatting of this novel it would only be I wish the blurbs came right before each story (or perhaps the end). Instead they are all in the start of the book so you have to go back and forth…or if you read the book from start to finish, you forget what little blurb inspired the story in the first place. Yes I know you can go flip back and forth…however, if you’re trying to listen to the audiobook (AGAIN! The second thing! HIS VOICE!!!) it’s not as easy to do.

Some of my all time favourite short stories can be found in this collection. I shall only mention one…”The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”. If you can find a copy or a recording of Neil reading it PLEASE DO!!! (it’s also on the An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer cd, which is where I first heard it)

Finally Trigger Warnings…The term. I find it hard to express how I feel about trigger warnings and how silly it has sometimes became in social media. I’ve seen trigger warnings posted such as “dog”, “fat”, “diet”, really this list is endless. And no these were not instances of someone trying to be funny…these were honest to goodness trigger warnings….I’m no one to judge….however, I don’t believe we do ourselves or anyone else living in a censored world of padded rooms full of insulated words…

Again, I’m not a judge or an expert…and I’m not a writer, but my friend, Mr Gaiman is…I found his introduction was spot on for me. It’s exactly how I wish I could explain how I fell about “trigger warnings”…yeah, it might be a bit of an overkill, and you might not want to read it, but I am going to include it anyways…hahaha…if you decided to read it, I hope you’re lucky enough to be able to imagine Neil reading it (I pretty much do his voice inside my head ANYTIME I read one of his books now). Here it is…the introduction of the book:

There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

I first encountered the phrase Trigger Warning on the Internet, where it existed primarily to warn people of links to images or ideas that could upset them and trigger flashbacks or anxiety or terror, in order that the images or ideas could be filtered out of a feed, or that the person reading could be mentally prepared before encountering them.

I was fascinated when I learned that trigger warnings had crossed the divide from the internet to the world of things you could touch. Several colleges, it was announced, were considering putting trigger warnings on works of literature, art or film, to warn students of what was waiting for them, an idea that I found myself simultaneously warming to (of course you want to let people who may be distressed that this might distress them) while at the same time being deeply troubled by it: when I wrote Sandman and it was being published as a monthly comic, it had a warning on each issue, telling the world it was Suggested for Mature Readers, which I thought was wise. It told potential readers that this was not a children’s comic and it might contain images or ideas that could be troubling, and also suggests that if you are mature (whatever that happens to means) you are on your own. As for what they would find that might disturb them, or shake them, or make them think something they had never thought before, I felt that that was their own look out. We are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.

But so much of what we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: we need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.

We build the stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what they see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.

There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.

I wondered, reading about the college discussions, whether, one day, people would put a trigger warning on my fiction. I wondered whether or not they would be justified in doing it. And then I decided to do it first.

There are things in this book, as in life, that might upset you. There is death and pain in here, tears and discomfort, violence of all kinds, cruelty, even abuse. There is kindness, too, I hope, sometimes. Even a handful of happy endings. (Few stories end unhappily for all participants, after all.) And there’s more than that: I know a lady called Rocky who is upset by tentacles, and who genuinely needs warnings for things that have tentacles in them, especially tentacles with suckers, and who, confronted with an unexpected squid or octopus, will dive, shaking, behind the nearest sofa. There is an enormous tentacle somewhere in these pages.

Many of those stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned.

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Review: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

If you can put the “gross factor” out of your mind this is absolutely fascinating. I liked it so much more than “Stiff”. I loved “Stiff” at the start but soon found myself loosing interest and felt it a bit long drawn. With Gulp I was sad to see it end. I wanted more! All I will say is that having read this I am sure I shall never ever ever use another tablet of alka seltzer.

As in the past, Mary Roach proves herself to be very funny and her curiosity knows no bounds. She doesn’t hesitate to show and share her excitement no matter the subject. No question she can dream up is too embarrassing for her to ask. I can’t imagine what a nightmare she was to her mother growing up (hahahaha, I mean that in the best way possible).

Just keep in mind that they book is aptly named “Gulp” but what goes in must come out as well (or else there are lots of problems!) and this book goes into great detail on both processes! Having said that, don’t let that put you off…this really was fascinating, and quite funny at times as well…and I bet you have at least one jaw dropping “Whoaaaaaa” moment as well!

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Review: Stoner by John Williams

Bollocks!!!!

That’s all I can think of about this book. Yet I give it 5 stars! Ha!

I know people like Stoner exist. You have a young man who is, if not happy to work on his family’s farm, he is at least not unhappy. There’s not much doubt that his parents are the same. That their parents were the same as well. Hard workers and not much for complaining. Then Stoner goes off to college and a simple reading of literature changes everything. I found it a bit sad that Stoner couldn’t even imagine a new life until someone said it out loud first.

That’s due to my own personal experience. Books have always been what sparked my imagination and desires. Then there is Stoner. Moved as much as he can be and still left for someone else to imagine a different future for him.

Then there is his wife. Eyy eyy eyy. How I did not like this woman. But yet again, you see Stoner, more or less resigned to his fate…until once again, someone imagines a different life for him and he suddenly moves ahead and makes a change.

The entire novel is like this. Who am I to feel sorry for Stoner? Any disappointment he meets in life he just gets on with it. He doesn’t dwell on it time and time again. He is just resigned to his fate. He doesn’t shake his fist and yell at the Gods.

He proves a man strong in his convictions. He doesn’t back down. But nor does he make waves.

What makes this book such a compelling read? Was it my desire to finally see Stoner stand up and wave his fists in defiance?

Well I certainly hope not, or else I would be well disappointed.

I listened to this book on audio, and the narrator did a superb job with the reading. However, John Williams is an amazing writer. How the hell do you evoke so much emotion from what you do not write as compared to what you do write. Somehow, Williams does exactly this. That is why the narrator is so brilliant as well. Stoner, the narrator and Williams himself leave it to the reader to be outraged and to wave their fists at the Gods, whilst all three of them just simply carry on. If anything we are like the hare, flighty and weaving all about, whilst they are the tortoise that just plods along steady as they go.

I have wanted to read this book for about 5 years now. All the while I was angry at myself for not being motivated to actually start it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m even more angry at myself for not having started it sooner. And yet….

I am disappointed that I’ve finally read it. It really is something to be savoured. It’s such a difficult book to pin down. It’s difficult to explain. It’s difficult in so many ways…

But it’s not difficult to love…even though it might be very difficult to explain just why…

As you’ve always heard, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for…Stoner is that quiet one sat in the corner. That person whose story is bigger than they let on…

This story is one that is so much bigger on the inside of your mind than it appears on the pages of the book…and isn’t that the very best kind?

Don’t put it off…read this one…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Stoner by John Williams