Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Race

Jenna’s world revolves around the racing of genetically engineered smartdogs. Christy escapes her life, and her brother, in her writing. Alex walked away from a woman who is now missing. Orphaned Maree embarks on a voyage to fulfil a destiny she has no choice in. Four people, four lives, four stories and a connection across time and realities.

The Race wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I was drawn to the idea of the smartdog racing against a backdrop of a Britain damaged by fracking. Honestly, the fracking part is of no consequence, and I can understand why some readers were disappointed, but this book actually turned out to be something quite clever instead.

There are five stories, and to some they might seem disjointed, but the connections are there. In fact all the things I felt weren’t that great in Jenna’s story, which comes first, were completely OK when I got to Christy’s story. As I saw it, Christy wrote Jenna’s portion, that’s why it’s not perfect and maybe has a few too many things in.

Yet when we return to the world of smartdogs later on in Maree’s story, there is an inkling to something else. The place names aren’t quite right and there are allusions to alternate worlds. Maybe it’s just another of Christy’s stories, and she’s not that great with continuity, but there is an element from Alex’s life which he never told Christy that appears, in a way, in Maree’s world, dismissing the idea that it is another book within a book.

Sapphire revealed itself to me only gradually, a town within a town, nestled into the shadows of my birthplace as the truth of a things lies concealed within its outward appearance.

There are parallels between Jenna’s story and Christy’s. Christy uses elements of her life to shape her story, from trips to the races as a child, to her brother Derek, clearly Del in Jenna’s tale. Christy chooses to leave a trauma out of her written world, perhaps rewriting the event as the way she would have wanted it.

The title could be taken quite literally, with the smartdog racing and a specific race of importance in one story. But each one refers to race in a different way; human evolution, discrimination, cultural folklore and hints at races unknown to us. In Maree’s story, language and our place in the world is explored, even questioned.

Words are what humans are, even more than flesh.

The final story, Brock Island, carries on from Maree’s story in a more traditional way, but many years later. It has left me ruminating for days after finishing… Thought-provoking and different, I’d recommend The Race if you’re not after a post-apocalyptic, genetically altered dog adventure!

The Race is published by Titan Books and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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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.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Lie Tree

Fleeing from scandal, Faith’s scientist father moves the family to a remote island where there is still work for him. His behaviour becomes more and more troubling to Faith until the day he is found dead. Whilst most assume suicide, Faith is convinced her father was murdered and her investigation leads her to an unusual specimen; a tree which feeds on lies.

Women and girls were so often unseen, forgotten, afterthoughts. Faith herself had used it to good effect, hiding in plain sight and living a double life.

I’m honestly a bit hesitant about reviewing The Lie Tree because so many people have been raving about it, people whose opinions I value, not just award panels, and it just didn’t hit the spot for me.

In premise, it sounded great. I love reading about the Victorian fossil hunters and especially around the injustice of the female scientists who were never given the credit in their lifetime. Faith is a girl who wishes she could follow in her father’s footsteps, but her mind is considered too small and delicate to do science, despite the evidence to the contrary. She’s female, so she can’t possible do anything other than marry and oversee a household. If she’s lucky.

The idea that Victorian women were overlooked is central to the whole plot. Faith isn’t to be suspected of anything because of her gender. And Faith is just as guilty of underestimating women too.

I’m not the biggest fan of main characters who lie. It’s quite obvious I should have thought about this going in, because of the title and the blurb and all that, but mostly I was going by recommendations. The plant must be fed lies to grow, the further reaching the lie the better, so Faith feeds it. And I couldn’t warm to her, I didn’t feel any regret that her father was dead, she seemed better off without him.

People were animals, and animals were nothing but teeth. You bit first, and you bit often. That was the only way to survive.

The behaviour of the locals towards a grieving family was awful. Honestly, I liked Faith’s mother much more than I probably should have. She is just as a much a prisoner of her gender as Faith is.

I can highly recommend Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier if you’re interested in reading a fictionalised account of the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, the women responsible for many important fossil finds.

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Wolf Road

The old 'uns called that day the Fall or the Reformation. Nana said some down in the far south called it Rapture. Nana was a babe when it happened, said her momma called it the Big Damn Stupid. Set everything back to zero.

Raised by a man she called Trapper, Elka grew up in the forests of BeeCee, learning how to trap and live off the land. He never says I love you, but he is the closest thing she has to a father. Kreagar Hallet is a wanted man and Magistrate Lyon will stop at nothing to bring him to justice. When Elka begins to suspect she’s been lied to, she runs, heading North where she believes she’ll find her real parents.

The Wolf Road is a powerful debut, beautifully describing the wilderness and the simplicity and hardships of living in it. Even in the good times, there is a constant edge to Elka’s existence, that one step behind her may be her death; be it from nature or the man she used to call daddy.

The narrative is written with an accent, something that’s hard to do successfully. I never found Elka’s manner of speaking difficult to follow and was soon sucked into her world.

The world didn't change. There is still murder, still rape and fighting. We had this chance, this clean slate, and we just carried on the same as we always have.

There’s enough hints to get that this is set in a future Canada, for as much as it feels that it is in the past. Disaster reverts civilisation, even humanity. Elka doesn’t really know much about the Damn Stupid, but its impact is seen in the landscape. Pieces suggest there was another world war, that nukes were detonated, maybe it was the Russians, maybe not.

One thing that is clear, is this new world is a dangerous one. As Elka travels north, she stays away from the roads, keeping to the trees. She prefers to risk it with the animals who will only attack for a reason than the humans who are unpredictable. When her travels must intersect with human life, her fears are usually vindicated, yet she does make one unlikely friend. Or maybe two.

Everything looked like death to me, a bush was a hunched-over grizzly, a skinny tree stump was a wolf staring right at me.

I do have one little niggle about this book, and it’s something that is revealed at the end so I don’t want to go into too much detail. I really loved everything else about this book, so the fact that one thing didn’t fit isn’t going to put me off. Instead I’m convincing myself it comes down to the infallibility of memory. There’s plenty that Elka misremembered, so maybe her memories can’t be trusted at all.

The Wolf Road is published by The Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights




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, 11 July 2016

Q+A with Gail Carriger

I'm very excited to have Gail on the blog today, answering my questions on tea, self-defense and her new Custard Protocol book, Imprudence.


First things first, how do you take your tea?

Strong enough for a mouse to run across with a nice dollop of whole milk.

How do you go about protecting yourself with a parasol?

Generally I raise mine against the sun, the last thing I need is more freckles. My characters, on the other hand, tend to trick theirs out with explosives, acid emitters, poison darts, that sort of thing. And, of course, there is always the option of bopping your enemy on the noggin.

What’s the most ridiculous hat you’ve given your characters?

Vieve makes a hat for her aunt that is a model of the solar system as Victorians understood it in 1854. That was the result of a hat Tukerization I auctioned off for the charity Worldbuilders. The fan who won the bid collaborated with me to invent that hat and then I wrote it into Manners & Mutiny.

What are your top tips for travelling in the Aetherosphere?

Sunflower plants (cut, dried, and potted) spaced around the deck to protect the vital humours. Try not to think about what might be out in the grey, avoid Charybdis Currents, and make certain your navigator can manage a decent puffing and you should be fine.

If you had your very own dirigible, what would it look like and what would you name it?

I would call it The Spotted Custard and it would look like a great big ladybug, of course.

In Imprudence, Rue and Quesnal’s relationship is rather modern, what would their Victorian contemporaries have made of it?

They would be shocked. They are shocked. Just you wait! Rue has had an interesting upbringing it makes for a novel approach to matters romantic and carnal.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Nothing Tastes as Good

Annabel wanted to be thin, not dead. Recently deceased, she is given one last chance to get a message across to her family. She must help someone. Her first thoughts when she sees her mission is that she is fat. She knows what she must do, she must help Julia to be thin like her.
Every time you say ‘no thank you’ to food, you say ‘yes please’ to skinny.

Annabel doesn’t begin by explicitly stating she died from anorexia but it’s quite obvious to the reader that’s what happened. She’s in denial that she was ever sick and really, that’s why the Boss has sent her to help Julia. Don’t expect to warm to her immediately, I was sympathetic but her thoughts are pretty mean to start with. She’s just thinking of herself and the message she wants to send.

Annabel pushes her own feelings about food onto Julia, she projects her disgust at her own body onto other people. Annabel’s will gives permission for Julia’s behaviour to not follow a normal path. Julia didn’t come across as someone concerned with her body image at the start, maybe she wouldn’t have become so negative about it without that voice in her head. But then, what are we but the voice in our head? Even if it’s not normally from beyond the grave.

At the beginning, it’s possible to read this book and feel it is fat shaming. It is told through the eyes of a sick girl, who believes that food is the enemy and fat is abhorrent. She can’t see straight and is not a reliable narrator. Her words made me feel uncomfortable, but at the story progresses, and Annabel is influenced by Julia in return, it is made clear that Annabel is in the wrong.

In the world, when someone looks at a person like Julia they think weak. They think lazy. They see the fat and they know exactly how she got that way.

It also shows both sides of an unhealthy relationship with food. Whilst Julia being overweight is not necessarily a problem, the fact that she comforts herself with binge eating is. That she’s put a lot of weight on in a short amount of time points to something else going on. It also highlights how often eating disorders are a mechanism for control when the sufferer feels they are lacking it elsewhere in their lives.

Nothing Tastes as Good does an excellent job of showing how people don’t see us as we see ourselves. When we see another person’s perception of Annabel, she is nothing like the narrator projects herself as. And we are constantly seeing a mix of Julia’s own perceptions and Annabel’s, as being her “spirit guide” Annabel can hear other’s thoughts.

We are responsible for our own bodies, but sometimes the darkness crawls in and it lies, it lies, it lies.

I’ve seen this compared to Asking For It quite a lot, I suspect due to both writers being Irish more than anything else. It shares some of that unease, however it is much more positive than Louise’s book. It didn’t leave me feeling hopeless.

Nothing Tastes as Good is published by Hot Key Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 14th July 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Imprudence

Imprudence is the second book in the Custard Protocol series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book, Prudence.

Rue, and her family are still dealing with the political mess she started in India. Queen Victoria is not best pleased with her. And there’s something not right with the local werewolf pack, with her father acting the strangest of all. He’s getting old and that isn’t good news for alpha wolves. All eyes turn to Rue’s dirigible, The Spotted Custard to solve the problem, leading her and her assorted crew on a new adventure.

Whilst it took a while to get into the first Custard Protocol book, I fell straight into Imprudence and I warmed so much more to the characters. As the cover suggests, this time Rue is off to Egypt, although unfortunately not on a site seeing trip. She must transport her father to the one place he can grow old gracefully, even if that means saying goodbye. Of course, this means her mother must come with them on the journey, much to Rue’s annoyance.

Rue has reached her majority, in other words become an adult in the eyes of society. She’s not quite sure what happens now, but she’s very interested in learning some scandalous “French” off Quesnal whilst on their trip. Rue’s adamant she doesn’t care about the Frenchman and it’s all just casual but I think the lady doth protest too much.

You can't go round kissing coquettish Frenchmen willy-nilly. It's not done and the papers will positively float off the stands.

There’s a lot more development around the lioness Sekhmet, who is rather flirty with Primrose. Primrose on the other hand keeps getting engaged to unsuitable men. Percy has caused quite a fuss with his latest scientific paper and Quesnal is keeping something strange below decks. Not to mention Rue can’t command the respect of certain members of her crew. It’s going to be quite the journey.

Forgive us immortals our sins of pride, child. We all age like cheese, growing strong and tasty but also covered in the mould of good intentions gone grey.

There’s plenty of action and silliness, and again it touches on the British Empire’s habit of sticking its oar in where it’s not wanted.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

London Belongs to Us

A city of eight million people. Eight million lives. Eight million stories. This is just one of them.

When Sunny is sent a photo of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she’s ready to forgive him, but first she wants an explanation. To her face. But Mark isn’t easy to track down, leading to one mad night, dashing around London with her friends.

This is one of those books that I felt managed to capture a bit of what it was like when I was an older teen. Nowadays, if I go out, it tends to be to one place and I’ll have a solid plan of getting home, and will probably be in bed by 11pm! But like Sunny, once I’d go out and go round a few bars, end up at people’s houses, then maybe go to a club or wander round looking for food. OK, my nights weren’t quite as actioned packed as this one, but it had me reminiscing.

It’s more of an anti-romance than a romance. Sunni slowly starts to realise Mark might not be that amazing boy she thinks he is as the night goes on. As a reader, you want her to dump him as soon as she sees that photo, but she is far more forgiving, knowing Mark will have a good reason. Everyone around her knows he’s no good and they try and encourage Sunny to have fun instead.

However it’s hard to dissuade Sunny. She’s a girl on a mission, and some readers might get a bit frustrated with her. However, overall I found it loads of fun and would definitely recommend as a lighter read.

But you believe me, right? She was kissing me, I wasn't kissing her, and my hand kind of gripped her arse in shock. It sounds so shady, I know, but it's the truth.

Each time Sunny moves to a new bit of London, the chapter has a little bit about the history of the place. It’s a reminder at how varied the city is, especially beyond the tourist attractions most non-Londoners associate with it. It would be a fun book to read in preparation for a visit, if only to prepare you for public transport nightmares. Yup, there’s a replacement bus service, rickshaws, bicycles and extortionate taxi fares.

Oh, and Sunny’s mixed race. It’s great that we’re getting books like these where the author doesn’t default to your white, middle class teen just because. The book is not about race, although you will find Sunny talking about her hair issues and some brushes with casual racism. It’s a book about a London teen and one night of craziness.

London Belongs to Us is published by Hot Key Books and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Pretty Books




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.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Incoming!

I know this is a massive pile of books, but I haven't done an update in nearly two months and I feel like I had been rationing myself for so long. So yeah, I may have said yes to a lot of review requests! It's been really frustrating not having the time/mindset to read and blog lately, so I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, and I've been sent some pretty awesome sounding books to do that with.

I have already read a few of these too, keep an eye out for reviews of London Belongs to Us and Imprudence (I also have a Q+A with Gail and a giveaway coming up) soon. Out of the rest I'm most excited about The Race and Replica. Hunters & Collectors seems like something a bit different and both The Wolf Road and Good Morning, Midnight sound right up my street when it comes to isolation and survival in the wilderness.

My interest was also piqued by the #ReadWithoutPrejudice book. The idea is to read it without knowing the title, author or cover, or really that much of a description. I do judge, and dismiss, a lot of the unsolicited books I get, so I like the idea of this. I think it is back on NetGalley now if you want to join in.

Please let me know if you've read any of these or what you're most excited for!


For Review:

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis (The Borough Press)
Hunters & Collectors by M. Suddain (Jonathan Cape)
The Race by Nina Allen (Titan)
Replica by Lauren Oliver (Hodder)
Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi (The Bucket List)
Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige (Bloomsbury)
Imprudence by Gail Carriger (Orbit)
Shadow Rider by Christine Feehan (Piatkus)*
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah (HarperCollins)*
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Transworld)*
Watching Edie by Camilla Way (HarperCollins)*
London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning (Hot Key Books)
Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy (Hot Key Books)
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books)
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (Orion)
Can You #ReadWithoutPrejudice? by Anonymous (Hodder)
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters (Cornerstone)


Bought:

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
The Last Star by Rick Yancey



*Unsolicited titles

Friday, 1 July 2016

The Month That Was... June 2016

+ International Giveaway


What a month! We bought a house, I did a blogging talk at Winchester Writers' Festival, went to my cousin's wedding up North, there was that referendum thing and now the country is in a right state. We had a palaver with our Help to Buy ISA bonus (the website to claim was broken) but we've just had word from the solicitors that they've agreed to pay it post-completion. Hopefully they've ironed out the bugs now, but if you are relying on it to complete, pester your conveyancer to submit it early! The less said about politics, the better, although I have become fascinated with economics.


Needless to say I haven't read much at all in June. I skipped on my challenge reads; if I have any spare time in the second half of the year I will aim to make the yearly total at least 12 of each. There are plenty of classics, non-fiction and graphic novels I'm eager to read after all. I'm semi-retiring from my book group too, I would like to see people socially now and then but it's a bit far away from home now to do every month.

I've had loads of new books through the door, and via NetGalley, so I'll be updating you on them on Sunday. I'm going to try harder to offer ARC rehoming on the blog every few months, so keep your eyes peeled. Moving house reminded me how many books I have that I had kind of forgotten about.

Anyways, there's only a few books to choose from in the giveaway but there's some corkers in there. It's still international and you don't have to follow to enter. Check out the Rafflecopter for details. Don't forget to check out my other giveaway too (and there'll be lot's more to come, so don't go anywhere).

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

Book of the Month:
False Hearts by Laura Lam

Reviews:




Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Geek Girl: Sunny Side Up

How did Harriet Manners - Destroyer of International Fashion Shows, Knocker-Over of Models, Sitter-Downer on Catwalks and Compiler of Compound Nouns - get selected to participate in Paris Couture Fashion Week?

Yay, another Geek Girl, albeit a bite-sized novella! Sunny Side Up is the second Geek Girl special and sits between All That Glitters and Head Over Heels. I had read the latest earlier this year so I was a bit confused about timelines at first but really, it doesn't matter. There's no real earth-shattering series points happening, but it is loads of fun.

Harriet and Wilbur are off to Paris Fashion Week and Harriet hopes to get some time with her agent, but of course she's not the only girl he has to manoeuvre through the streets of Paris. Can Harriet actually be trusted by herself for once?

My main knowledge of fashion shows comes from Next Top Model, but actually some of the set-ups seemed really familiar to what's been on the show in the past. I loved that one of Harriet's cock-ups actually turns out beneficial for a friend and she also gets to meet a familiar face from the past.

Sunny Side Up is published by HarperCollins and hits the shelves tomorrow, in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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.