From Welsh to Gaiman: Great Reads of 2018 (so far…)

This is my first year of being self-employed, being my own boss, and it’s resulted in more reading time! Here are my favourite reads of 2018 so far…


by Irvine Welsh

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I read a few Irvine Welsh books years ago and loved them all. In December, I finally got round to watching Trainspotting 2, having been putting it off for ages expecting it to be rubbish. It turned out to be bloody brilliant, so I put Skagboys on my Xmas list and my Mum delivered. I highly enjoyed spending so many pages of tiny type with the boys and girls of Leith.

Art Forms in Nature

by Ernst Haeckel


I’ve had this book for ages and I often leaf through it, wondering which drawings would be best as tattoos, which ones would make great wallpaper, etc… This year, I read the introduction and other writings included in the copy. Some of it is a bit dry, but I really love going through all the beautiful images.

Starter Zone (The Revelation Chronicles, #1)

by Chris Pavesic


I reviewed this book back when I read it in March. Chris also wrote a great guest post on Hodags!

Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt

by in60Learning


This was a quick and easy way to learn about a subject I was interested in but knew almost nothing about! The book is short enough to try, without the commitment of a more traditional historical text. In60Learning also has short books on numerous other figures and events. Hatshepsut (1478-1458 BC) was an important figure who helped to reunite a broken Egypt.

Have a go if Cleopatra is the only female figure of Ancient Egypt that you’re familiar with! It’s worth it for an interesting and very easy read. Take a look at my original review here.

Indigo Glow and The Tree Outside My Window

by Israfel Sivad


Read my original review of these two poetry collections here. I also reviewed a novel by Israfel last year and you can read one of his poems here. Oh, and there’s an author interview too – great guy!

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

by Thich Nhat Hanh

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This was actually a re-read. I find I can go back and read Thich Nhat Hanh’s words again and again, and this is probably my favourite of his books.

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

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This was another re-read, as I was teaching the text to a student this year. I must admit to not really being a fan of Dickens, but I find A Christmas Carol very heart-warming and enjoyable. Of course, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Blackadder’s Christmas Carol are both far superior to the book!


by William McIlvanney

Docherty by William McIlvanney
Docherty by William McIlvanney

I hadn’t heard of William McIlvanney, but following another emotional adventure with Renton and co, I needed more tartan noir. This was an excellent book and I found it both funny and moving. It’s set in a small pit village in Scotland at the time of the First World War and revolves around one family.

The Big Man

by William McIlvanney

The Big Man by William McIlvanney
The Big Man by William McIlvanney

I decided to read this after reading McIlvanney’s Docherty. I preferred Docherty, probably because it’s a bit of a coming-of-age story and I like that, but this was still a great book. I’m looking forward to trying his other novels.

Counterfeit World

by Daniel F. Galouye

Counterfeit World by Daniel F. Galouye
Counterfeit World by Daniel F. Galouye

My Mum gave my other half a big stack of old Science Fiction Book Club books a few years ago, which she was lucky enough to pick up at a local auction. This is the first one I’ve got round to reading and it was great fun.

I only realised afterwards that I’ve seen a film based on the novel called The Thirteenth Floor. I can’t say I’d recommend the film, but the book was way ahead of its time. It was published in the 1960s and it really reads like it comes from that era.

The Man in the High Castle

by Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

This instantly became one of my favourite books of all time. At least in the top three! I haven’t seen the TV series, but I have a feeling that all that I love from the book would be missing, so I don’t think I’m going to try.

A Scanner Darkly

by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

After reading The Man in the High Castle, I needed more Dick! This wasn’t quite as good but it really was still fantastic. Surreal fiction at its best. I saw the film when it came out at the cinema and I disliked it. Quite a lot. If you felt the same, don’t let it stop you from reading this great book!

It’s so easy to get behind the main character and follow him on his devastating journey. I’ve read reviews which say this book is hard to get in to, but I really was hooked from the start. It’s also an excellent portrayal of drug use, or how people get into the world of addiction and can’t escape. Who’s who in this world?

The only other novel I’ve read by Philip K. Dick is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, so I’m really looking forward to trying more.

Strange Secrets

by Mike Russell

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It was great to have another dose of Mike Russell’s entertaining, yet unsettling surreal fiction this year! Highly recommended for fans of The Twilight Zone, Philip K. Dick and strange things in general.

Each story is easy to read, yet a puzzle to digest. It includes mysterious wardrobes, a little boy with a troubling map, and a couple who can’t agree on the species of tree in a forest. Who’s really the puppeteer? Can the truth survive? You can read one of Mike’s stories here. Strange means strange.

Dark Alchemy

by Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Mary Rosenblum and others

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This was also a re-read and you can view my original review here. It’s a perfect collection for cold nights or rainy days.

The Unity Game

by Leonora Meriel

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Check out my original review of this great book and also of Leonora’s earlier novel, The Woman Behind the Waterfall. She also took part in a great interview. The Unity Game really is an enthralling book. It’s got an excellent unlikable protagonist, something I really enjoy in a novel.

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Next up: I’m currently having a great time reading One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre. He’s new to me – another discovery on my quest for tartan noir. I’m also planning to delve into Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.



Starter Zone: The Revelation Chronicles by Chris Pavesic

Review: Starter Zone – The Revelation Chronicles by Chris Pavesic

I really enjoyed this book. It definitely feels like the beginning of a series, so hopefully there will be further Revelation Chronicles. This was my first time reading a LitRPG novel and it wasn’t what I expected.

The story begins with two sisters attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The setting is dangerous, with scary people and killer-rain. The novel then takes a turn and becomes more of a fantasy, science fiction adventure. The rich have found refuge in a game-like world and it’s here that Cami and Alby find themselves. I was a bit of a gamer in my late teens and early twenties and I think this helped me to get sucked in to the world of this story.

I’m sure there are many similar books out there, but so far, to me, this is a unique story. It’s easy to relate to the two sisters and I think girls of similar ages (mid-teens) would really enjoy reading about them. This book is also suitable for fans of YA dystopian fiction and young gamers in general.

Check out Chris Pavesic’s earlier guest post!

Hodags: Creatures from the North Woods – Guest Post from Chris Pavesic

Today we have a guest post from Chris Pavesic 🙂

Hodags: Creatures from the North Woods


Different types of creatures appear in fantasy novels. Some spring directly from the mind of the creator, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits, some are inspired by mythology, like J.K. Rowling’s centaurs, and some come from history, like James Gurney’s dinosaurs. Hodags are fictional creatures that fit in all three categories and are second-to-none in terms of fantasy.


Growing up in the Mid-Western United States, I heard tales of the hodag and its exploits since childhood. I have visited Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where the hodag is the official symbol of the city. I even have my own little hodag that sits near my computer when I am writing. Is it any wonder that this fierce (but cute) creature became part of my fantasy novel, Starter Zone?

Starter Zone by Chris Pavesic
Starter Zone by Chris Pavesic

The tale of the hodag began in 1893, when newspapers reported the discovery of a new type of creature in Rhinelander. It had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end” (Kearney, 1928). Eugene Shepard, who later claimed to have captured another hodag alive, filed the reports.

Shepard stated that he captured the hodag by using a ten-foot bamboo pole with a sponge soaked in chloroform tied to the end. He located its den and used this contraption to put it to sleep. He later displayed it at the Oneida County fair, charging fair-goers a dime per view, and made several hundred dollars—a lot of money for that day-and-age.

There are hundreds of stories about the hodag. It even makes an appearance in several Paul Bunyan tales. Drawings, paintings, and statues of the hodag can be found all throughout Rhinelander. It is the official mascot of Rhinelander High School and the namesake of the Hodag Country Music Festival (now celebrating its 41st year).

Is it a real creature? Most people tend to think Shepard’s hodag was a hoax. The black-and-white photograph from the late 1890s is not convincing. Still, the climate and geography of Rhinelander lends itself to this type of creature. The deep woods around Rhinelander are not easy to search. Bears, wolves, and bobcats present one type of danger. The marshy areas present dangerous footings (as well as mosquitos) for adventurers. The hodag could have remained hidden for all this time. (At least it is fun to think so!)


In Starter Zone Cami and her sister, Alby, have escaped from a dark, dystopian world into a fantasy realm designed like a massive multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG). There are all types of fantastic creatures, such as centaurs, fae, and, of course, hodags.

The sisters meet L.G. Hodag while exploring a tunnel filled with sentient spiders. They rescue him from a web and he becomes their companion. Although he is an infant in Starter Zone, he will grow and develop throughout the series into a formidable fighter worthy of his North Woods heritage.

Starter Zone

Escape from darkness into a realm filled with adventure and magic.

When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail.  Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.
Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.
But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world.
Time to play the game.

Available Now At:
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Kearney, L.S. (1928) The Hodag and other tales of the logging camps. Madison, WI: Democrat Printing Company.