Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Top Ten: Autumn TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I've read about half of what I put on my most anticipated spring TBR, but here I am again with ten books I have good intentions of reading soon.



Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman



Saga Volume 9 by Brian K Vaughan + Fiona Staples
Monstress Volume 3 by Marjorie M. Liu + Sana Takeda



The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas



East of Croydon by Sue Perkins
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri



Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Monday, 17 September 2018

Neverworld Wake

Bea wants to get to the bottom of how her boyfriend died. After a year of grieving she's given the opportunity to meet up with the friends she's drifted apart from. They will be the key to finding out what happened to Jim. But that night, the five friends are involved in a car crash and find themselves re-living the same day. They are in the Neverworld, and only one them can return to the land of the living.

Time does not travel in a straight line. It bends and barrels across tunnels and bridges. It speeds up. Slows down. It even derails.

Neverworld Wake was one of those books I had on my wishlist but wasn't quite sure why. Then Hanna @ Booking in Heels read it, compared it to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and I suddenly wanted to read it again. I don't think the cover blurb does it any justice, which is maybe why I had no idea what it was really like. It has vibes of E. Lockhart and would be a great atmospheric Halloween read.

In order to end the cycle, they must vote unanimously on who gets to live. Actually, the Keeper says unanimous but one, which they all seem to forget about. The repeating day goes on for years, at one point Bea mentions it's been a century. It's always raining. For a time, they find ways to pass the time, living with no consequences, but Bea thinks the mystery behind Jim's death is the key to ending it.

It's so easy to hate the pretty one, worship the genius, love the rock star, trust the good girl. That's never their only story. We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will ever read.

The Keeper is an ominous presence. A mysterious figure there to remind them that they must vote. There were a few things that didn't make sense, but most things could be forgiven by the strain of reliving the same day over and over. Memories are fallible, especially after trauma and it was absorbing enough for me not to mind.

The writing is excellent, despite the continuity errors, and I'm tempted to pick up Night Film, another book by the same author that was demoted off my wishlist at some point.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rosewater

Rosewater is a Nigerian town grown up around a mysterious alien dome. Kaaro is a sensitive who was there from the start, the dome sending out spores which give people like him a telepathic gift. No one knows what the aliens want, but once a year the dome opens briefly, healing anyone in the vicinity. As word gets out, more and more people make the pilgrimage to Rosewater.

The story is split between 2066 and Kaaro’s past. His gift meant he could always find people’s valuables and led to his life of crime as a thief. In 2066, he is a government agent, helping a mysterious organisation with interrogations, with a part time job at a bank being part of their firewall.

From a lay person's perspective, psychics were once unreliable and have been more reliable since 2012 or thereabouts.

It took me a while to get into, it spends time world-building before the meaty plot starts, but the reward is worth it. I liked the Nigerian setting, it felt like a not-too-distant future with the country finding their place in the new world, one where Britain has shot itself in the foot with Brexit and America has isolated itself completely. It had a unique take on alien invasions, but you’ll just have to read it to find out exactly what.

The spores released by the dome allow sensitives like Kaaro to enter the xenosphere. Here they are exposed to the images inside the heads of people nearby, to protect themselves, they appear as an avatar. When they would like to switch off they use anti-fungal creams to dampen their skills. But sensitives are starting to get ill. Is someone targeting them and their work?

Luckily lying in the psyche is part of my training. Thieves must lie well to survive. Government agents must lie even better.

Random thought, I wonder if the town’s name came from Outkast’s Roses, because there is a passage talking about how the town was named and it mentioned how terrible it smelled because of all the sewerage...

I’m super happy that this is the start of a trilogy, because Tade Thompson has really drawn me in and I want to know more. It does work as a standalone too, so you can read it without worrying about a lot of unanswered questions.

Nobody should be able to do what you do. The mind is supposed to be the last sanctuary of a free human.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Other Minds

Peter Godfrey-Smith is an Australian philosopher and diving enthusiast, with particular interest in cephalopods, which goes someway to explaining this book. I did find it quite hard to absorb and switched to an audiobook part way through. I possibly missed something important but it seemed to drift from topic to topic and not really explain how the octopus can show us how human intelligence evolved.

When you dive into the sea, you are diving into the origin of us all.

You have to go a long way back the evolutionary tree to find a common ancestor between humans and octopus; our intelligence evolved in parallel. The book starts out explaining how single cell organised evolved into more complex creatures, how eyes might have coming into being and most importantly, the development of the nervous system. There was plenty of interesting bits but it was hard to just sit down and read it for long periods of time. It is a little dry in the delivery.

Godfrey-Smith recounts some of his experiences diving with cephalopods, including quite a moving scene where he sees cuttlefish at the ends of their lives; slowing decaying into the water. These creatures only live a couple of years and he ponders why they are as intelligent as they are in such a short lifetime. I loved the fact that Octopolis exists, a community of, usually anti-social, octopus living together off the coast of Australia.

Some of the experiments documented will be distressing to animal lovers, and octopus have only fairly recently been granted honorary invertebrate status to help protect them from cruelty.

It's not all about cephlapods though. There is a chapter about inner voice, how it's an important part of our intelligence. However it's not something scientists think octopus have, so I can only guess it was put in to show how we evolved differently.

The chemistry of life is an aquatic chemistry. We can get by on land only by carrying a huge amount of salt water around with us.

If you are particularly interested in marine biology, I would say it's worth reading but it wasn't a very engaging "popular science" type book.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 8A. A microhistory

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Jinxed

Lacey Chu wants to be a companioneer at MONCHA, one of the engineers responsible for creating the robotic pets called baku. First she needs to get into Profectus and get a level 3 baku. Her dreams seem to be at an end when she receives a rejection letter and has to settle for a level 1 beetle, until she discovers a broken baku at the bottom of a ravine. But Jinx isn't just any baku...

As it syncs, my nose begins to tingle, and I sneeze. At almost the exact same time, the baku's whiskers judder, the first sign of potential life.

Ahh this was such a fun, lovely book with a career in STEM at the heart of the character's desires. It has a similar feeling to Amy's Potion Diaries books, although published under different names. The setting is reminiscent of the campuses in Silicon Valley, massive tech companies in control and keeping their employees close, whilst providing what looks like a dream from the outside.

Set in the near future, baku are replacements for mobile phones, providing connection to the world without having to worry about charging. They can be seen as status symbols, with level 1 insect bakus being the cheapest but least impressive. Kids still have phones but when they are 15 they get their first baku and celebrate by destroying their old phones in various creative ways.

It opens with a chase and a lost baku, which leaves it pretty obvious to the reader that it was Jinx but Lacey does not know that. After fixing the mangled cat baku, Lacey gets a message from Profectus confirming her admission and showing her registered baku as Jinx. Something's not right but to question it might jeopardise her future.

You two chose each other. That's what true friendship is. That's what life it. Being presented with options and choosing your own path.

Jinx has typical cat attitude, not obeying commands and running off at the worst moments. Something's not right, bakus aren't meant to act like that. Is it possible that Jinx is thinking for himself?

Part of the book follows the baku battles at her new school, a bit like Pokemon battles! I wasn't too keen on this aspect but I liked the fact that they could win points for fixing baku as well as destroying them. The skills are equally important.

Things are just getting really interesting when the first instalment ends. So I will be eagerly awaiting book two.

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo: This is Totally Going to Happen One Day

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Kindred

I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.

Each time Rufus puts his life at risk, Dana is sucked back through time to save him. The trouble is, Rufus is the son of a slave-owner in the ante-bellum south and Dana is a black woman. What must she do to survive and return home?

I felt super anxious for Dana throughout, knowing the risks for her. At one point early on Kevin says that it doesn't seem that bad, and I must admit I felt the same at that time in the story. Of course Kevin is a white man which lends him a lot of privilege and Dana challenges him. It doesn't take long for the violence to escalate and for Dana to see the reality of her removal of rights.

It also shows how through fear, someone can become a compliant slave. Many wonder why slaves didn't band together to overthrow their captors, and Kindred tries to show why that might be. The master uses children as bargaining chips, the love of others to keep slaves in their place. And once Dana has experienced the pain and humiliation of a whipping, she is much more cautious about her actions.

The ease. Us, the children . . . I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.

She's also in the awkward position of needing to protect Rufus or be erased from existence. She has to basically endorse rape in order to exist. It's difficult to read in places.

First published in 1979 it must have had such an impact on readers who had probably not been exposed to much about slavery, especially from the slaves' point of view.

Slavery was a long slow process of dulling.

It doesn't really tackle any of the paradoxes of time travel, and there are no implications of the modern day items she takes back with her. I felt her a very sensible woman to take some of the things she did. You just kind of have to accept what happens, happens.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 23. A book about time travel
Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo: Wibbly Wobbly Time Travel

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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

You Will Know Me

I've been meaning to try Megan Abbott's books for years and finally the Popsugar challenge gave me a push to pick one up. Devon Knox is a rising gymnast star, introduced to the sport when she lost two toes to a mower as a toddler. Katie and Eric Knox would do anything for their daughter taking long hours at the gym and debt in their stride.

That was what gymnastics did, though. It aged girls and kept them young forever at the same time.

You Will Know Me explores the obsession and drive to succeed in the competitive world of gymnastics and the parents who steer their children's paths in life. Devon has real chance at the Olympics and her parents push the local gym to improve, Eric schmoozing the "booster moms" to get what he wants. They all love Devon. She raises them all up. But a shadow is cast over the tight-knit gymnast community when a young man is killed in a hit and run.

Ryan, boyfriend of the gym owner's niece, all round nice guy who all the moms and gymnasts love. Suspicion is cast, threatening the training schedule at a crucial time.

Devon is portrayed as the perfect daughter, innocent and compliant, only interested in gymnastics. The incident with her toe is crucial, her parents have an underlying guilt over it and it is also her Achilles heel. She has an innate natural talent though, and not all the girls will be as good as her, no matter how much they train, this is the reality of sport at the top level.

But things aren't perfect, as as the story progresses, you realise there were things missing from her life. Gymnastics is all consuming and she's not getting the same life experiences as others her age. I really liked that it was told from the mother's perspective, showing how parents often don't know much about what's going on in their children's heads. It felt like a young adult story but told from a parental point of view.

The things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they're not what you thought they'd be. But you'd still do anything to keep them. Because you'd wanted them for so long.

My heart broke for Drew, Devon's little brother. He is so smart and kind, but he takes a back seat to his sister at all times. He's not treated badly per se, but he is overlooked repeatedly.

I think the reader is supposed to suspect Devon from the start, she's just too perfect. There are hints and then doubts are introduced. The joy is in the journey to find out what really happened, and I'm still not sure you really get to know the true Devon by the end. You would get a lot more out of it if you're a fan of gymnastics. I recognised most the terms but it's just not particularly interesting to me. I would read another of her books though.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 19. A book about or involving a sport

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 3 September 2018

August Book Haul

I seem to have avoided buying too many ebooks last month! I also got my first 2019 review copies, it feels too soon but I know the rest of the year will fly by. I missed a book out my photo again, I don't know why it's so hard to round them all up. Did you get any new books in August? Feel free to leave a link to your haul in the comments and I'll drop by.



Review Books:

Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit)
The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Bonnier Zaffre)
The Last by Hanna Jameson (Viking)

Physical Books Purchased:

By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne
Jinxed by Amy McCulloch
Sealed by Naomi Booth
Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley
The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire

Sub Box Books:

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J Maas (Illumicrate)

Audiobooks Purchased:

Affinity by Sarah Waters
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Ebooks Purchased:

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Month That Was... August 2018

+ International Giveaway

This month's reading stats have been kept afloat by audiobooks, although I did a big batch of quickie reviews so there are plenty of books to choose from in the giveaway. Stardew Valley added co-op to the game recently so I've spent a few too many hours playing that (and sending Josh down the mines).

Here's what made it onto the blog...

Book of the Month:
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Reviews:








Challenges

I've made great progress on Popsugar this month and I'll feel I'll finish it well before the end of the year. I also hit my target for Beat the Backlist!

POPSUGAR (42/50)
13. A book that is also a stage play or musical: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
15. A book about feminism: Inferior by Angela Saini
19. A book about or involving a sport: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
23. A book about time travel: Kindred by Octavia Butler
32. A book from a celebrity book club: After the Fire by Will Hill
39. A book that involves a bookstore or library: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
1A. A bestseller from the year you graduated high school: Affinity by Sarah Waters
4A. A book tied to your ancestry: Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
5A. A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo (15/25)
Wibbly Wobbly Time Travel: Kindred by Octavia Butler
Bite Me: Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

Read Harder (16/24)
A book published posthumously: Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
A book about nature: The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury
A book of social science: Inferior by Angela Saini

Beat the Backlist: 30/30
Goodreads: 82/100