Tuesday, 19 February 2019

I Was Born For This

Angel is a superfan. Her life is all about The Ark, the band currently taking the world by storm. She is embarking on what will be the best week of her life, a meet and greet with her boys and socialising with others in her fandom. All Jimmy every really wanted was to be in a band with his best mates, Rowan and Lister. But with fame comes new pressures, and on the eve of signing a new contract, meaning even more of his time dedicated to the fans, Jimmy starts to have doubts.

They just want something to hold on to something that makes them feel good. Even if it's all a big lie.

I don't know how Alice Oseman does it but I adored this book and I generally don't enjoy books about music. I Was Born For This focuses on fandom, and it's not really about music appreciation, it's something more. For girls like Angel, the band is everything.

The band also consumes all of Jimmy's time, but he is starting to resent his lack of freedom. He is a trans man, suffering with anxiety and paranoia, under the magnifying glass of the media. Every little thing they do is scrutinised by the fans.

One faction of fans ships Jimmy and Rowan, reading into their Joan of Ark song that it's a combination of their names. Rowan has a girlfriend, one whose secret is slowly slipping as the media look for the next big story. It shows to tension that fame can add to relationships and questions the sense of ownership of famous people. The fans think The Ark belong to them, but in reality they are just regular boys with lives to lead.

I loved the friendship between the three boys. Whilst not perfect, they love each other and support each other. As always with Alice's books, this is not a romance.

Angel also discovers that friendship can be hard. She made friends with Juliet online, bonding over their love of The Ark. When Mac turns up, Angel is resentful of him. It was meant to be her week with Juliet and she suspects Mac doesn't even like The Ark, he keeps bring up Radiohead after all. But does Angel really know Juliet and is she giving her half a chance? There is more to life than fandom.

It's full of complex emotions and I was gripped. Cannot wait for more from Alice (and I won't wait so long to read it next time).

Listening Notes

Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter were a joy to listen to. So often audiobooks narrators do silly teenage voices, but they sounded like actual young people I hear in southern England. Even the accents in the dialogue were decent.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 9. A book you meant to read in 2018

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

All the Lonely People

Kat's whole life is online, so when she is targeted by trolls, she faces deleting her entire existence. Little does she know that feeling invisible to the world, is the first stage of the fade. Can she find a connection to stop her fading away for good? And does she want to?

Live for long enough without hope and you'll believe that nothing can ever change for you. Maybe then you make it true.

The concept behind this reminds me a little of a Buffy episode where a girl is ignored so much she turns invisible. But in All the Lonely People, the forgotten slowly fade from existence too. Kat meets another girl fading at the same time as her, someone who might be her first real offline friend.

This is the first book I've come across that has attempted to explore the reasons why young men start trolling. It's very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and say they are just bad people, but often they are lonely and vulnerable to the real bad guys. I think we all know there are ringleaders, who manipulate their followers whilst keeping plausible deniability when things goes wrong.

Loneliness could make you reach out for company in all the wrong places, or make it seem an impossibility, even if an outlet was staring you in the face. There was comfort in being alone, unable to disappoint or be disappointed by others. Tell yourself enough, and it's not hard to believe that's the best you're ever likely to get from the world.

Wes just wants somewhere to belong, unfortunately the only place he can find that is an online community harbouring women-hating trolls. His father and older brother abandoned his family, leaving his single mother scraping by, relying on handouts and the kindness of strangers. He thinks that his father left him because he wasn't man enough, and he is determined to look after his mum and sister. David Owen does not make excuses for Wes, and his actions aren't absolved, but it does show how society is failing young men, leaving them open to indoctrination.

This book gets a lot about loneliness right and it's kind of heartbreaking that this reflects a huge chunk of society.

ATY: 24. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #2 Something New

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 11 February 2019

Is it nearly spring yet?

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

The weather over the last week has been miserable, so wet, windy and gloomy. Roll on spring! It's nice that there are signs of life emerging now, snowdrops, daffodils and crocus have been sighted and the trees have fresh buds. I'll look forward to adding garden updates to these posts! We have a tiny garden but we do grow fruit and veg in it.

I got loads of book post last week, so stop by my instagram for a peek (on that subject I'd really love to get some more followers that aren't intent on unfollowing me after a day). I got a second proof package for A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, so keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway.

This Week I Finished:

Saturday, 9 February 2019

We Cast a Shadow

Set in a near future America, We Cast a Shadow explores what happens when a country accepts institutionalised racism, when even the black people accept it. The unnamed narrator thinks the worst thing his son can be is black, that he will succeed if only he can banish Nigel's birthmark for good. Nigel is mixed race, born with a dark birthmark on his face which is slowly getting bigger.

The narrator is working as a junior associate in a law firm, hoping to get promoted so he can afford to get the new demelanization technique for his son; a treatment which will make him white. Poor Nigel, he just wants to be a normal boy but his father pushes his self-hatred onto him. The scenes where he is forced to endure skin whitening cream are hard to stomach.

The world is a centrifuge that patiently waits to separate my Nigel from his basic human dignity. I don't have to tell you this is an unjust planet. A dark-skinned child can expect a life of diminished light. This is truth anywhere in the world and throughout most of history.

In this future, black people are allowed to do low paid jobs; working in restaurants, as cleaners or maintenance. The narrator allows himself to be humiliated at work, in the hope it will please his white bosses. They only give him a chance because they want to win a client by showing how good they are at diversity. He's working at a law firm because they have quotas, not because they see him as an equal.

This is political satire, but not of the amusing kind. There's not much in this that isn't happening, or hasn't happened, somewhere in the world, from the ghettoisation of black neighbourhoods to humiliation in the workplace and privatisation of prisons. Even the demelanization, which seems the most far-fetched, is reminiscent of the cosmetic surgery Michael Jackson became addicted to. In the current American climate, this is a very timely novel, highlighting the casual prejudice people are capable of and how is escalates.

Whilst the narrator isn't very likeable, it's easy to see how he formed this mindset, how the world might be against him but he chose to capitulate rather than stand up for what's right. He wanted the best for his son, but he didn't think to ask his son what he wanted.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 25. A debut novel

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Book Source: Borrowed from library

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Two Can Keep a Secret

The town of Echo Ridge has seen tragedy strike twice and neither mystery has ever been solved. In the nineties, a teenage girl went missing after homecoming and five years ago, the homecoming queen was murdered in the local theme park, aptly named Murderland. Twins Ellory and Ezra are sent to live with their grandmother, whilst their mother is in rehab, and soon after the threats start. Is Echo Ridge about to lose another homecoming queen?

Everything looks bad when you examine it too closely, right?

This wasn't quite as good as One of Us is Lying but I still enjoyed this YA murder mystery, set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Malcolm's older brother was a suspect in the previous homecoming murder, 5 years earlier, and the family have never been free from that suspicion. He now lives with his mother, stepsister and stepdad, the town's hotshot lawyer.

Ellory is a true crime fan. Her aunt went missing in Echo Ridge and she never got any answers, fuelling her passion for solving mysteries. After reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark, I had a bit more appreciation for these true crime communities and it felt believable that she would keep sticking her nose in, rather than just leaving it to the police.

I became Declan Kelly's brother before I got a chance to be anything else, and sometimes it feels like that's all I'll ever be.

It throws in so many suspects and red herrings, especially told from Ellory and Malcolm's perspectives. Their minds are eager to jump to conclusions and Ellory has the advantage of being an outsider looking in. This means they don't seek help when maybe they should. I did not guess who did it at all.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 19. A book told from multiple POVs
ATY: 16. A book told from multiple perspectives

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 4 February 2019

A Slightly Chilly Week

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

Compared to the rest of the northern hemisphere, we really didn't get much snow, but the light dusting we did get is pretty unusual for where I live. Scully enjoyed sniffing and eating it. I did not get a snow day.

I read an amazing 16 books in January but I can already feel the slow down. Maybe it's because I'm currently reading two books with quite depressing topics. I need something a bit lighter to get me through the meh months before spring.

This Week I Finished:

Saturday, 2 February 2019

January Book Haul

I'm trying very hard to only buy physical books if I'm going to read them promptly, so I've already read three and a half of those shown in the photo. Whilst I do want to read The Binding, I partly bought the hardback because it's so pretty naked.

Physical Books Purchased:

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
The Binding by Bridget Collins
From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon
Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
All the Lonely People by David Owen
In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

For Review:

The Migration by Helen Marshall (Titan Books)
The River by Peter Heller (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Ebooks Purchased:

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Slay on Tour by Kim Curran
Heartless by Melissa Meyer
Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė
Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson


Red Snow by Will Dean
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Gilded Wolves

Behind the doors of the lavish L'Eden hotel, hotelier Séverin is working towards claiming his true inheritance, denied to him but the patriarchs of the Houses of Paris. He's a treasure hunter, thief and orphan. The Order of Babel hoards artefacts, forged with magical properties, for themselves, and Séverin takes them from under their noses.

I seem to be drawn to alternate fantasy versions of Paris right now. I thought The Gilded Wolves was a great, fantasy heist romp told through an anti-colonialism lens. It's set in 1889 around the Exposition Universelle, which apart from celebrating scientific achievements also housed a human zoo, something that's hard to believe civilised people would go to look at for entertainment. The theme of colonialism rises its head throughout, but didn't feel heavy handed.

He couldn’t bring himself to look at the looming, salvaged piles. He might help Séverin steal, but the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects … They stole histories, swallowed cultures whole, smuggled evidence of illustrious antiquity onto large ships and spirited them into indifferent lands.

It has an ensemble cast, making up Séverin's team, who all have their own reasons for being there. When he was orphaned, Séverin was passed around seven homes (and he names his "fathers" after the seven deadly sins) with another boy, Tristan. He has made a promise to look after his adopted brother, who also has a great skill at forging beautiful gardens and a fondness for tarantulas.

Enrique is a Filipino who wishes to join the revolution. He knows a place in Séverin's house would grant him greater standing with the rebels his wishes to call friends. He's paler skinned and can pass in aristocratic circles, but this means he doesn't feel like he accepted by his fellow countrymen.

Laila had an intriguing back story. She was stillborn in India, and her mother made a deal to remake her. Laila believes she is unravelling and her time on Earth is limited. She knows the answers are in an ancient book, one that Séverin may be able to find. Her gift, or curse, is that she can read objects to see what happened to their owners. She is also a talented pastry chef and works in the hotel's kitchens.

Part of her wondered if the day she turned nineteen, she would split down the middle, unraveling into a pile of shining pelts and worn bones, the barest glimmer of an almost-girl vanishing into the air like smoke.

Then there's Polish Zofia, taken in by Séverin when she fled persecution. She loves mathematics and is socially awkward, preferring her own company.

I loved Hypnos, the heir of the House of Nyx. He's the one who sets them on the path of this particular heist, but he's so much more than a bad guy, holding a promise over Séverin's head. He has a bit of a puppylike need to be loved, and I felt, ultimately he was just lonely.

A fantastic additon to my fantasy shelves and I hope there will be more books to come.

ATY: 4. A book with a criminal character

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Origins: How the Earth Made Us

Humans are a product of the Earth we live on. In Lewis Dartnell's latest book, he explores human evolution out of the forests, into the savannah and across the globe. What made us the dominant species we are today?

The narrative threads of history and science will be intertwined throughout this book, making up the warp and weft of its fabric.

I was a huge fan of The Knowledge, but I felt Origins was a little unfocused. Human history is a huge topic to squash into one book, and the lens of of "how the Earth made us" is loosely interpreted to include many factors of the Earth. It probably didn't help that I've read a few things lately that had covered the same ground.

Areas on the same latitude as East Africa are heavily forested with tropical rainforest. This is where our ape ancestors started their long journey, and Lewis explains why this region became savannah, which forced apes to evolve to adapt to a treeless environment. Then, climate change pushed them to new lands.

I did enjoy the fact that I could link some of this to the Broken Earth series, the Rift in Africa is a real thing, and orogeny is actually a real word. I was kind of a bit sad it wasn't more about the geology and climate.

We are the children of plate tectonics.

It goes on to talk about the animals and plants we came to depend on, how ice ages work, how winds and ocean currents dictated later humans' paths around the globe. And of course, the impact of fossil fuels and how they were created. I loved the part explaining how the vast grasslands helped Mongolia become an empire, whilst the Americas hunted horses into extinction and crippled their progress.

Lewis has a habit of saying "we will get back to that in chapter x" or "as we saw in chapter y", which made it feel a bit textbooky. I did learn some interesting facts, and it would probably be a better introduction for someone with less knowledge on the subjects.

Of the 83 stable (non-radioactive) elements in existence, around 70 are used in making an everyday consumer device like a smartphone - which means you carry over 85 percent of the entire available terrain of the periodic table in your pocket.

Origins is published by Bodley Head and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st January 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

ATY: 40. A book you stumbled upon

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Germ Assisted Weekly Update

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

The seasonal viruses finally got me this week, I took a couple of days off work and having nothing better to do in bed, I read a bit more than usual. I'm feeling better now, although I've been left with a very annoying cough which can hurry up and bugger off!

This week I blogged about the audiobook services I've tried in How to Feed Your Audiobook Habit.

Since I've been reading lots and not emerging from my sick cocoon, I am pretty behind on writing proper reviews for things. I suppose that's why I'm doing these weekly updates, right?

This Week I Finished: