Lost and Found – Orson Scott Card

lost and found cover

“Ezekiel Blast liked to walk to school alone.”

Ezekiel Bliss has an unusual ‘gift’: he is aware of lost objects around him, and has an urge to return them to their owners. Sounds useful, right? But who wants a stranger approaching them with a muddy scrunchie? And if someone approaches you with a valuable, lost item, how else could they have known it was yours unless they’d been the one to take it, right?

Shunned and mistrustful, Ezekiel plods through life as best he can, until the day a girl decides she’s going to walk to school with him. Soon they pair are caught up in a kidnapping case, and part of a research group looking into ‘micropowers’ – things like Ezekiel’s finding ability.

I’ll start by saying this: Lost and Found has nothing in common with OSC’s most famous work, Ender’s Game. The sci-fi element is as low-key as the micropowers being used and investigated, with the plot being centred more around the group – Ezekiel, Beth, FBI Agent Shank, and Mr Bliss – being pulled into the search for a missing child. However, the story is probably more about relationships and loss, and navigating life when you’re a bit too different.

I didn’t really know what to expect, and overall I wasn’t entirely blown away by the mystery or world-building – micropowers are interesting, but they aren’t really explained or deeply explored beyond being the central plot device. But I was sucked into the story almost from the get-go, mainly by the dialogue-driven character interactions. I liked that the grown ups are pulled into the quest, it’s not just the kids. And those kids are smart and self-deprecating, very not-annoying!

Overall, a decent read – nothing earth-shattering, but held my interest despite feeling vaguely familiar, either plot-wise or maybe just in tone – I couldn’t put my finger on it. But while I’m not branding it a ‘must-read’, it won’t disappoint if you do find yourself picking it up.

NetGalley eARC: 288 pages / 21 chapters
First published: 10th September 2019
Series: none
Read from 27th-31st August 2019

My rating: 7/10

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Buried in the Stacks – Allison Brook

buried in the stacks cover

“‘The blue-cheese burger and fries are calling to me, but I’m going with a small salad, no bread,’ Angela said, looking up from the lunch menu with a sigh.”

Librarian Carrie Singleton is once more caught up in a murder mystery, following the events in Death Overdue and Read and Gone. This time, though, she might also get to the bottom of what happened to Evelyn, the library’s ghost.

The homeless of the town have started to use the library as a warm shelter during the cold days. When this causes troubles with other patrons, Carrie finds herself helping out with an ambitious project to refurbish an old house as a refuge. But is the project as above-board as it seems? Could the death of a local resident be connected? And can Carrie curb her sleuthing ways long enough to stay out of danger?

The answer to that last question is a resounding no, and that’s maybe the big irritation here. If someone had broken into my house and left threatening messages, I might be looking to take a holiday – not still poking my nose into shady situations!

Still, plot needs must, I suppose, and Carrie continues to investigate while otherwise leading her normal life: planning library events, eating a lot of avocado, getting her boyfriend to move back to town, and helping her best friend plan her wedding. And looking after a cat, of course! The charming normality is layered on quite thick, but that’s what makes a cosy mystery.

Points off, however, that the mystery is wrapped up rather abruptly and in a very trope-y confession scene. So, enjoy the pleasant meander through Carrie’s life again, but don’t expect too much of a thriller.

NetGalley eARC: 316 pages / 38 chapters
First published: 10th September 2019
Series: Haunted Library Mystery book 3
Read from 3rd-10th September 2019

My rating: 6.5/10

Blade Runner – Vangelis

blade runner OST cover

If you’re talking about film scores, the name Vangelis really should come up eventually, and nowhere better than his ground-breaking work for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner.

The movie has *the* sci-fi noir (practically-invented-the-genre) feel going on, and the score captures and enhances that perfectly. It includes dialog from the movie, heavy use of synthesizers (from when electronica was still rather new), clever ‘alternative’ percussion, but an underlying orchestral feel, too. And a random 1920s-esque ragtime jazz song, actually written for the movie, but totally jarring with of the rest of the mood – and yet somehow fitting perfectly because of that.

Different tracks conjure different moods. Blade Runner Blues is appropriately wistful and lonely, as is the nostalgic Memories of Green. Tales of the Future, however, has Arabesque-chanting that brings an exotic flavour married with unsettling windchimes and minor chords that just oozes atmosphere. The End Titles are sci-fi action series, dun-dun-dun-dun and everything, almost at odds with the delicacy of the rest.

Rachel’s Song, for instance, features an ethereal voice, plinky almost water drip electronica, and I’d swear I’ve heard meditation music that sounds 90% the same. It’s one of my favourites on the album, full of pathos and very otherworldly, in a mystical kind of a way. It’s followed by the much warmer (bar a few chillingly electronica chords in the middle…!), more contemporary (saxophones, really?) Love Theme – but, when you remember the awkward ickiness of one particular scene of the movie, the sleazy lounge room vibe is all the more appropriate.

Oddly, most of the score doesn’t actually conjure up scenes from the movie for me – not surprisingly, I find, as it was written somewhat independently of the visuals (but not the themes and mood). But then the dialog inclusions tie it wholly back again, particularly at the end with the futuristic electronica rebuffed with the poignant Tears in the Rain speech; a gentle, uplifting finale.

It took 12 years for an official release of the score to appear after the movie came out. There are now more special releases than I’ve counted, perhaps fittingly for a movie that also has so many versions. It still sounds futuristic, still utterly atmospheric, and still very worth a listen.

My rating: 9/10

Genre: sci-fi noir
Released: 1982 (movie) / 1994 (official score release)
Length: 57:53
Number of tracks: 12

Track listing:

  1. Main Titles
  2. Blush Response
  3. Wait for Me
  4. Rachel’s Song
  5. Love Theme
  6. One More Kiss Dear
  7. Blade Runner Blues
  8. Memories of Green
  9. Tales of the Future
  10. Damask Rose
  11. End Titles
  12. Tears in the Rain

Mythologica – Stephen P Kershaw

An Encyclopedia of Gods, Monsters and Mortals from Ancient Greece.

“Myths are important. Greek myths are much more than children’s stories… They might, or might not, be true, but this doesn’t take away their power. They are traditional tales that are incredibly important to the people who tell them. But they are also free-flowing, adaptable, and very good for us to think about. They help us to understand the world.”

I absolutely adore Greek mythology, so even though this is marketed as a kids’ book, it still caught my eye. And how would it not – have you seen the artwork!?

mythologica_argosThe modern, abstract style is beyond eye-catching. It’s not something I’d associate with a book for children, but hey – what do I know? I loved it myself, although I did wonder if some – like the picture of Argos covered in eyes would perhaps be a little scary for younger kids.

I don’t think this is for too young an audience, to be honest, although that’s more to do with the myths than the language. The latter is fairly dumbed-down – I was particularly unimpressed with Athena being “totally awesome in battle” *eye roll* – but you might struggle to explain why Zeus married his sister, for instance.

The text was a bit of a let down after the art, with the briefest of bios on fifty various characters from the Greek pantheon and myths. Each gets just one page, meaning they are often quite ‘busy’. There’s perhaps an overdose of different fonts used trying to separate out various snippets of text, but again, perhaps this would be ‘exciting’ to a childish eye?

But, back to that artwork. It’s so refreshing, so challenging from any other Greek myth artwork I’ve seen. I’m feeling very inspired – and I’d grab a ‘coffee table book’ version of this for that alone!

NetGalley eARC: 112 pages
First published: 3rd September 2019
Series: none
Finished reading: 1st September 2019

My rating: 7/10

The Muse in You – Lynn Newman

The Muse in You cover

“Over a period of only a few years, my parents both died of cancer, I had four miscarriages, my husband and I divorced after seven years of marriage, and my dog, Lita, of sixteen years, died too.”

It took me quite a while to get into this book, and while I grew to rather like it almost despite itself, overall that shaky start and general tone still left me just a little ‘hmm’.

What I liked: the holistic, all-life-is-creative approach; the lists of ‘what if’ questions to shake you out of your mindset (e.g. “What if you delighted in the uncertainty?”, “Could you still better yourself without any pressure?”); the honesty and friendliness of the author; the gentle, musing tone (as a memoir).

Not quite so keen on the personal therapy session that a lot of the narrative felt like, especially to begin with, as the author detailed deaths and marriage break ups and failure to have children. Now, this is entirely personal: for some, this raw honesty is going to be a huge selling point. But I felt that it crossed the line just a little – it was a fascinating read as a memoir, but didn’t add to my experience with the book as a self-help, rediscovering my creativity aid, which is more what I was looking for. In fact, picking out the advice from the life stories isn’t always easy, and I was a good chunk of the way through the book before I hit a bit and thought “Finally! A chapter actually on creativity!”

Part-way through I finally realised that this reads a great deal like a Julia Cameron book, e.g. The Artists Way. It’s very readable, flowing very well. I did enjoy it, but almost despite itself as it wasn’t what I was expecting, really. There is a message: creativity is life, and hard times don’t have to stop you, or perhaps even that life is short and full of difficult things so take joy in creating.

NetGalley eARC: 176 pages
First published: 2019
Series: none
Read from 9th July – 27th August 2019

My rating: 7/10

The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

Trials of Morrigan Crow cover

“The journalists arrived before the coffin did.”

Morrigan Crow has a miserable childhood. She’s a ‘cursed child’, doomed to die on her eleventh birthday and bringing dreadful luck to those around her until that day. Her family keep their distance, leaving her feeling more than a little unloved.

Events transpire, however, to save her – hardly a spoiler, that the main character doesn’t die at the start, even if we do begin with a funeral! – and she finds herself in the strange land of Nevermoor. She’s entered into the annual competition to join the Wundrous Society – except, the lucky few must pass four trials, the last of which is to display a ‘knack’, a gift better than anyone else’s. And Morrigan does not have a knack…

I know I’m older than the target audience for this book, and yet it perfectly hits the sweet spot of whimsical but not talking down to the audience, making it perfect for grown ups, too. In fact, I loved it. There are nods to all sorts of possible inspirations – from Narnia to Doctor Who – but it’s brought together very nicely. Nevermoor is somewhere I’d like to visit, and sign me up for a room that alters itself to match moods.

The story of Morrigan’s trials (not quite Hunger Games level, don’t worry!) is perhaps less original than it could be, but again it’s told well. The mystery of her missing ‘knack’ is maintained throughout, keeping you guessing. The rivalry with the nasty girl is a bit of a cliche, but y’know what? It’s overall sweet and uplifting and entertaining, and well worth the read by kids of any age!

NetGalley eARC: 513 pages / 26 chapters
First published: 2017
Series: Nevermoor book 1
Read from 17th-26th August 2019

My rating: 9/10

Avatar – James Horner

avatar ost cover

James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) received mixed reviews. 3D had never been used so well, it all looked amazing, but was the story a cliche – or worse? Whatever your opinion on the film, the score fits perfectly – in my opinion – with the look and feel of the piece, becoming a regular in my listening rotation.

There’s an expansive, eerie sound to the opening that fits perfectly with the distance travelled across the emptiness of space, and can send a tingle up my spine. The second track includes the first use of a motif of major chords in ascension, that convey a swelling of joy, or hope, that again fits well. It then picks up an action pace with a tinge of other-worldliness that I don’t even have to read the title to know is Jake taking his first steps in his ‘avatar’, and into the world of the Na’vi.

Pure spirits of the forest introduces an ethereal quality, as the name sort of suggests. Can’t you just picture the scene of the light-fantastic creatures floating around Jake and Neytiri? The horns then come in and everything gets a bit more majestic, and bit more fierce.

If there are complaints to be made, it might include the fact that James Horner has a recognisable not just style, but set of sounds. I wasn’t quite as familiar with his work 10 years ago when this came out, but I have since listened to a lot of his other work and yes, there are bits that seem ‘lifted’ wholesale. Still, that doesn’t matter if you only listen to this one, and even otherwise the re-used sounds still ‘fit’ well where they are here.

I like this score when I’m in the mood for something uplifting, a little bit other-worldly, and somewhere between sci-fi and wild nature – in other words, exactly what the movie represented.

As a weird aside, I was standing at the train station not so long ago, and the noise of the incoming train sounded almost exactly like the long ‘aaaaahhh’ vocalisation used throughout this soundtrack. Weird!

My rating: 8/10

Genre: sci-fi
Released: 2009
Length: 1:18:52
Number of tracks: 14

Track listing:

  1. You don’t dream in cryo
  2. Jake enters his avatar world
  3. Pure spirits of the forest
  4. The bioluminescence of the night
  5. Becoming one of ‘The People’, Becoming one with Neytiri
  6. Climing up Iknimaya – the Path to Heaven
  7. Jake’s first flight
  8. Scorched earth
  9. Quaritch
  10. The destruction of Hometree
  11. Shutting down Grace’s lab
  12. Gathering all the Na’vi clans for battle
  13. War
  14. I See You (Theme from Avatar)