Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox

Under The Paw: Confessions Of A Cat Man by Tom Cox

First I’ve got to start by saying that until about twelve years ago I was firmly a dog person. Cats were OK but my family were and mostly still are dog people. After some traumatic family events I decided that we needed something positive to focus on. A dog was out of the question as we both worked full time and could not commit to the amount of time and effort it would take. To cut a long story short we ended up getting two kittens (we only went for one but they were too cute spooning) that changed our lives. The kittens had an amazing impact on our lives. They made us laugh and helped placate us in less happy times. Our cat overlords can be a pain in the backside but we love them to bits.

Yes I am a cat man now. I’ll stop in the street and try to fuss cats that are clearly upset that I am not one of their nominated feeders. I’d like to say that’s why I read this book but it isn’t. When I’m playing games in the lounge late at night I normally hear very little in the way of noise. A few weeks ago I kept hearing giggling coming from our bedroom. My wife is not a particularly giggly person so I put down my controller and went to investigate. I couldn’t really ignore a recommendation like that so I decided to give it a go.

My wife was right. This book was hilarious and scary at the same time. I have now determined for sure that I am now a crazy cat man. I’m no longer in denial. Most of the things that I could not directly relate to I could easily pick out in several of my friends. If you want to understand cat people (as opposed to cat-people which are completely different) then this book will give you an interesting insight in to the peculiar affliction that is a cat obsession. If you have a cat yourself then you will probably spend most of the book giggling to yourself about one behaviour or another that you thought was yours alone.

This book is funny and insightful. I whole-heartedly recommend it.

The Lawyer: The Retributioners by Wayne D. Dundee

The Retributioners by Wayne D. Dundee

I have been struggling to read recently for various reasons. What I needed was a simple and easy to read book. This hardboiled western was exactly what I needed. Although easy to read it is a deceptively good book. There is no wastage. Everything in this book is there for a reason. I could almost see the action unfolding in front of me on a 1970s TV screen.

J.D. Miller was an upstanding atornee before the slaughter of his family at the hands of a vicious gang. He left his life behind and became the vigilante known as The Lawyer to track down and kill each and every one of the men responsible for the death of his family. This installment sees an unlikely team-up with a jilted deputy so that both can achieve the retribution they desire. Although clearly wrong it was hard not to empathize with the need to avenge the death of loved ones and that creates an extra level of tension for the reader.

This story is short but in no way sweet. It is however a great distraction and thoroughly enjoyable read.

Satan’s Sorority by Graham Wynd

Satan's Sorority by Graham Wynd

When I started reading this I thought it was going to be a little too erotica for my tastes. Whilst there are wild lesbian orgies in this book they are there for a reason. It was a refreshing change for me. I have read plenty of horror stories about marginalized outsiders coming together in Greek row to find themselves through each other (this may be a little literal in this story) but usually end up with them becoming popular once people discover their inner beauty. That doesn’t happen here. If  anything Sigma Tau Nu are shunned even more at the end.

For those more learned than me there are plenty of literary and occult references in this story.  Putting a twist on Goethe’s famous character by making it female was interesting and also made the ending more surprising for me.  I enjoyed the ending, even if it was more of a beginning than an ending.

Sometimes when I read a book I find a single line sums it up perfectly. The poets often claimed that death wore a mask, but they never said it wore a sorority pin. Not yet anyway.

Dream Book Unikirja by K.A. Laity

Dream Book by K.A. Laity

Kate Laity is the literary Les Dawson. It takes great skill to play a piece of classical music perfectly every time. It takes a special kind of mind to understand exactly what the most dischordant and out of place note to hit would be. The intelligence and humour required made Dawson a fondly remembered entertainer. Kate Laity manages to do a similar thing with Finnish folk tales. To produce this book shows a deep understanding not just of the literature itself but an abiding passion in learning about the culture that created the tales.

Before each story is a quick introduction to say what tale the story is based on and how it has been subverted. Some twists seem quite subtle in terms of how we see things in our culture today but the more you think about it the more they rock some of the fundamental perceived views of that and any society at the time. If you have never read anything about Finnish folk stories this is a great modern twist that opens up a lot of possible more traditional views. This book was intellectually stimulating as well as being thoroughly entertaining.

How the West Was Written: Glossary by Ron Scheer

How The West Was Written: Glossary

Just in case the title is not clear enough THIS BOOK IS A GLOSSARY OF TERMS. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is what I call a Ronseal title. It does what it says on the tin. There were two questions that I struggle with. Why would any sane person buy a glossary? How on earth do you write a sensible review of a glossary. I hope to answer at least one of those.

This book contains a list of words and phrases. Some were new ways of using existing words and some were the beginning of the etymology for words and phrases. All of the entries in this tome can be found in the vast array of fiction written about this era. I had no idea that some of the phrases I use today had their roots in The Old West. I read this book from start to finish but a more useful and entertaining use for it would be to pick a page at random and read a few entries. This book gives the reader access to so colourful and interesting turns of phrase. I challenge you to use at least one term from this book at work over the next week.

I found this book really interesting. Like a thesaurus it is something to use when you are having trouble expressing yourself and I will certainly be doing so.

Sequence by Wearmouth & Barnes

Sequence by Wearmouth & Barnes

I liked this cover. The elements of this book that lay the foundations for how a cyberpunk world could be created are subtly portrayed without taking away from the fact that this is first and foremost a thriller. This book starts out slowly. I expected a bit more of a bang. Stick with it though. Everything at the beginning is there for a reason. The pace picks up and doesn’t let up until the inevitable climax.

Jacob Miller is a conspiracy theorist obsessed with the theory that a prominent scientist is doing something shady and illegal. Of course the scientist in question has plans that would be shunned by any ethical committee in the west. I really enjoyed how the personal morals of the NSA director allowed him to completely ignore ethics to trial genetically enhanced soldiers. After all it would be for the greater good. At what cost though? That was where things start to get interesting. A genetically altered human is one thing but what about a cloned and programmed from scratched autonomous shell?

Colin Barnes has a real gift for taking complex technical concepts and presenting them in a way that a layman can understand them without somebody more technical feeling patronized. This really came through well in this book. I do wonder if Wearmouth and Barnes are starting to think alike as there was only one voice in this story and it was loud and clear.

There is always a twist at the end of a thriller like this. As usual I saw the obvious foreshadowing way before the end of the book. Oh hang on, that wasn’t the twist. Oh crap. I didn’t see that coming. Well played chaps that was subtle and unexpected without seeming contrived. I will be looking out for the second book in this series.


D&D Player’s Handbook 5th Edition

D&D Player's Handbook Cover

I finally got round to buying this book. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. Words fail me when trying to express just how disappointed I’ve been with every iteration of D&D since Second Edition. This was partly because I was so used to it that even the foibles were either loved or replaced with house rules. I took part in the beta for Fifth edition and I thought the mechanics worked really well. In short I was looking forward to reading this book but at the same time in my head I was repeating the mantra “Please don’t be crap”.

I may have grinned liked a super-villain as I read this book. I remember when I read Pathfinder that they seemed to have taken the essence of D&D and improved the system. This game feels like they looked at what Pathfinder did to improve D&D and they improved on that. The system works. Combat is fast and brutal. The spell system works. There are a lot less similar spells to choose from and the ability to cast spells at a higher level made perfect sense especially for healers.

What’s new? Tieflings for one. The infernal race don’t just look fun but there are built in plot hooks too. Family feuds are nasty but imagine the fun you could have dragging mortals in to an infernal civil war. The same with Dragonkin. What could possibly go wrong with looking like a dragon? Probably the biggest change for me is that there are now multiple reasons to have charisma as a double digit stat. There are plenty more fun new things but they are for you to discover.

Probably the biggest change for me was the book itself. Character creation seem to flow nicely. I had issues with the backgrounds section but that was trivial. The look and feel of the book is very different from previous offerings. D&D books have always had some cool artwork but always in isolation. This book feels more like a work of art rather than a list of rules with some artwork added to break up the text. I found myself turning a page and looking at the entire vista before I started to read. This edition is by far the most visually appealing D&D so far and hopefully it has inspired me to find some fun new ways to try and kill my players.

Still not sure? Here’s the really awesome thing – Wizards have a FREE downloadable basic version of the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. There is enough information to learn the mechanics and see if you will enjoy the game. It was like meth for geeks. How could we resist buying the holy trinity (PHB, DMG and MM) after trying it out. We couldn’t and neither should you.