Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Graces

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

River keeps to herself at her new school, biding her time until she can befriend them. The Graces are the perfect family and they never keep friends for long. Everyone wants their chance but River knows she will be different.

The Graces written in such a way that you're not quite sure if magic is real or not. The consequences could easily be coincidence and even the Graces flit between denying it and joking about it. There are subtle red herrings too, which make you wonder if there'll be a supernatural twist around the corner. I thoroughly enjoyed the on edge feeling and a different approach to the well-trodden witch story.

The family is surrounded by urban legend. No one from school has been invited to their birthday parties ever since once incident. The rumour mill went to work and blamed magic, fuelled by the fact they keep themselves to themselves. And then there’s the curse. Are they just a family with bad luck or could there really be something to it?

River idolises the Graces but not exactly for the same reasons as the other kids. She wants close to their magic but she becomes drawn into their family anyway, a real friendship blossoming between her and Summer. But River can't see past her obsession to see the cracks in the family everyone already thinks is perfect.

They needed these things that helped them make sense of the world; otherwise it all just descended into confused, miserable chaos. I understood the comfort of that.

River is kind of a hard character to love, but her flaws make her so much more believable. I actually felt a whole boat load more sympathy for the Graces. They can’t help the family they are born into, the suspicion and superstitions that hang round them. River is using them in a way, although I think there was some genuine affection at one point.

It's a story about wanting to belong and fix mistakes as much as about a desire for there to be more to life, that need for magic to exist. A faith in something which keeps us going...

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Book Source: Illumicrate

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Beauty

The fungus claimed the women. All of them. The men and boys left behind must live their lives with the knowledge they will be the last. Little do they know what lies in the woods, what grows in the graves of their lost loved ones…

There are signs of change, of regeneration, and I saw the first mushrooms in the graveyard on the morning after I ripped up the photograph of my mother's face.

I picked up The Beauty as I had enjoyed listening to Aliya speak at Nine Worlds as well hearing it crop up again on other panels. It’s a novella that packs a lot of punch and it’s quite hard to review it without spoilers, but I will try.

There is no longer space for gender roles, with the women gone, the men must do everything. They try now not to dwell on their loss but the memories of their mothers and sisters are carried with them. With The Beauty comes a new being, one which may at first seem to take the place of women, but soon the roles are reversed. Some fear The Beauty, some welcome them.

I’ve seen The Beauty categorised at horror and I’m wondering whether that’s more likely if you’re male. Yes, the women have all died but there are some things that happen to the men which might seem less terrifying from a female perspective. It is certainly uncomfortable reading in places when you pause to really think. There’s echoes of domestic abuse and having the right to decide what happens to your body is challenged in a different way. The men are put into the shoes of women.

Why, in the face of such suffering, do stories matter?

Nate is the storyteller of the group. They had clearly separated themselves off from the rest of society before the tragedy befalling women, so they are even more isolated from civilisation. The daily telling of stories is important to remember who they are and where they came from. But it also becomes a powerful thing, as Nathan changes, so does the slant he gives his stories, and not everyone is best pleased about the ideas he might be spreading.

Definitely something different to the norm. I did feel the finale was a bit rushed and the ending was the only let down to an otherwise fine story.

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Unboxed

Ben, Dean, Millie, Zara. Me – Alix. Five friends, five years… it feels like a lifetime.

Once they were five, now they are four. Alix has drifted apart from her friends ever since Millie’s death, she was the glue that held them together, but she made a promise to a dying girl. They would open the time capsule they’d made five years earlier.

Unboxed is a great example of how you don’t need many pages to really care about a group of characters. The story is set over a day, when the former friends reunite and fetch the time capsule from the school’s roof. It’s about friendships and memories, and letting go of secrets.

Alix never told anyone she was gay whilst Zara has her rich, older boyfriend in tow. Friendly Ben moved to an exciting new life in London and Dean’s the bad boy of the group… but maybe things haven’t been easy for any of them.

This edition is also dyslexia friendly, partly the length of the book is designed to be appealing to non-readers but also the font is apparently easier to focus on and the paper is thick and a very pale yellow, to prevent the text from the other side showing through and distracting the eye.

Good things come in small packages and I loved this little novella. Non Pratt is so good at friendship stories.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time

This is a book about our obsession with time and our desire to measure it, control it, sell it, film it, immortalise it and make it meaningful.

Rather than an in-depth study of time or a chronological history, Timekeepers is more like a collection of essays inspired by timekeeping in one way or another.

I already knew a little about how the railways forced Britain to nationalise time and the chapter concerning them filled in some gaps for me. I wonder if the act stating that clocks on public buildings must be kept accurate is still in force? Elsewhere Simon explores how artists have portrayed time and used clocks in their work, branching off to tell us about some of the more unusual calendars people have tried to adopt in the past.

I particularly liked the chapters regarding time in film and photography. There’s Muybridge (best known for his photographs of a horse galloping) and Nick Ut (famous for a single photo from Vietnam) and it talks about how photography manages to stop time. The early cinematographers could change the speed of time by their hand-cranking of the films…and then the projectionists could change it again when they showed the film. I had never realised that early film reel was turned by hand, no wonder it sometimes looks out of time.

I didn’t know that the Doomsday Clock was actually the cover of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, introduced in 1947 to symbolise how close we are to nuclear disaster. The minute hand has moved back and forward ever since, showing how at peace the world is. You can check out the current time on their website if you’re intrigued…

We want more hours in the day but fear we’d probably only waste them. We work all hours so that we may eventually work less. We have invented quality time to distinguish it from other time.

Like many of these sort of books, there’s parts that appealed to me more than others. I skimmed over some of the bits describing Swiss watches, it was more about their appearance, materials and marketing than how they actually go about keeping time. The parts about modern time management just made me glad I wasn’t one of those kind of people (and some of the mantra’s seemed a bit too similar to puppy training to be taken seriously).

If you’re more interested in the perception of time, I’d recommend Time Warped instead, but if you’re a fan of Simon’s books or just like a bit of themed history this is well worth a read.

Timekeepers is published by Canongate and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 29th September 2016. 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, 4 September 2016

Incoming!

OMG, so many books. Where are they all coming from?! I didn't do an incoming post in August and admittedly this is 6 weeks worth but it doesn't include the bookshop crawl and Illumicrate books that I did actually blog about last month. I'm rubbish at book buying bans so I really need to speed up my reading... and we've got a new puppy arriving in two weeks. Maybe she will eat half my books and therefore help me cull them!

I was super reserved at Nine Worlds and only bought one book, The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley. I had wanted to buy it direct from Unsung Stories but didn't realise the publisher stands weren't in the expo on the Sunday. So, sorry I didn't get to say hi. I also treated myself to quite a few books from Waterstones, forgetting I had loads of book buying opportunities coming up.

I've read some of these already so please do check out my reviews of the latest Spinster Club book, The Deviants, A Little Knowledge and the Harry Potter script book. Please let me know what you've loved and what you're looking forward to out of these.


I was also sent the Discworld colouring book by Gollancz with the promise I would colour and share a page. You might have seen my progress on Instagram already but here it is again. I am definitely going to do more of this book. There's a good range of repeating patterns, simpler illustrations, favourite characters and plenty of dragons.



For Review:

Timekeepers by Simon Garfield (Canongate)
A Whisper of Horses by Zillah Bethell (Piccadilly Press)
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (Harvill Secker)
Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz (HQ)
The Deviants by C.J. Skuse (HQ)
A Little Knowledge by Emma Newman (Diversion Books)
Discworld Colouring Book by Paul Kidby (Gollancz)
Mostly Void, Partially Stars by Joseph Fink + Jeffrey Cranor (Orbit)*
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe by Joseph Fink + Jeffrey Cranor (Orbit)*
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)*
Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop (Headline)*
Dragonmark by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Piatkus)*
The Bastard Wonderland by Lee Harrison (Wrecking Ball Press)*

Bought:

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
Unboxed by Non Pratt
What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong
The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore
Royal Tour by Amy Alward
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany + Jack Thorne
The Book of Tea by Kakuzō Okakura
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella



*Unsolicited titles

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Month That Was... August 2016

+ International Giveaway


August has been another busy month and I've been counteracting that with mainly comics and young adult books. I think my challenges have fallen by the wayside for this year but I do plan on keeping more non-fiction in my reading diet.


I went to Nine Worlds this month, which I haven't really blogged about. It wasn't quite as a social experience as last time, maybe because I took Josh with me and I didn't feel the pressure to go out of my hotel room to meet people. But also it was in London, so a lot of people weren't in the host hotel and it was really easy to pop out for food or just a break. I did go to some interesting panels, especially some non-book ones about rocket science, costumes and journalism. I am surrounded by book talk normally, so sometimes it seems like the book panels are just going over things I've already heard loads of times. Not that I didn't enjoy the ones I went to.

I also was on a panel about comics! And no one made me feel like an imposter which was nice and I got to meet Kieron Gillen. I moderated a panel about reviewing on the Saturday too. I'm undecided on whether to go next year, I might just do a day trip, we'll see.

Even better than Nine Worlds was the Bath Bookshop Crawl, which I have already blogged about. Considering I haven't been reading loads lately, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of books, bought and review copies. I've covered the bookshop crawl ones, but I'm missing a regular new books post for August so you can catch up with them at the weekend, if I get organised and find them all!

As always, I'm giving you a chance to win one of the books featured last month (including the comics). You don't have to follow to enter but there are extra entries available. If you "tweet about the giveaway" please make sure the link comes back to my blog and not to Rafflecopter or your email! The best way to ensure this is to use the widget from the actual blog post not in the email or elsewhere (or you can tweet manually).

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

Book of the Month:
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Reviews:






Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Deviants

They were the Fearless Five; Ella, Max, Fallon, Corey and Zane. But when Max’s sister Jess died, the distance grew between them. Ella and Max are still dating, but she’s starting to feel the pressure to have sex, something that fills her with dread. Zane’s turned into a different person, a bully, and his target of choice is Corey. And Fallon? Well they haven’t seen her for years, not since her mother lied at Jess’s inquest.
We lost touch just after she died, didn't we? We were all... ruined.

The Deviants is a dark and compelling story dealing with the tough subject of sexual abuse. Chapters start with a question, one being asked to Ella, who narrates, which gives it the feeling of her being in therapy or perhaps being questioned by police. The book starts with a body washing up on shore, then goes back to the events leading up to that point.

Ella is a star 400m runner sponsored by Max’s father but she has anger issues she refuses to deal with or talk about. She’s rather just punch something. Her relationship with Max is strained and I think it’s something that happens a lot and doesn’t get talked about. The assumption that everyone is having sex and it’s abnormal not to be, so they try and get it over and done with. Max seems to care about her though, and he ends up angry that she thinks she has to do something she doesn’t want to do to please him.

Corey is such a sweet character. He has cerebral palsy but that has never stopped him being a great friend and it’s not his defining feature. When his beloved cat Mort goes missing, the hunt brings the group of friends back together, all but one, and soon they are plotting revenge. But there are two sides to every story and the sleepy seaside town of Brynston is swimming with secrets.

I liked the twisted Famous Five vibe. There is a definite sense of loss of innocence amongst the group and a desire to go back to the simple old days, where they had picnics and adventures and they could dare Fallon to do pretty much anything.

Why bother? As soon as the picnics and the fishing are done, it's all exams, and jobs, and divorce and bullying and rejection and cancer. And death. Childhood's just one tiny little window of hope.

There were a few little details here and there which didn’t seem quite right and pulled me out of the moment, but I think that was just my picky brain. Like there’s a real food hygiene problem going on in Fallon’s basement if her mum is actually making black pudding for sale down there and Neil seemed awfully rich for someone who owns some garden centres in what felt like quite a rural place. But none of these things are crucial to the characters or plot. Neil managed to still be perfectly repugnant and smug with his obsession with how much he spends on things.

I’m not sure I liked the epilogue, it went on quite a bit about how everyone was doing after the story had really ended. It took a little bit of the wind out of what was otherwise a powerful story.

The Deviants is published by HQ Young Adult, the new name for Mira Ink, and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 22nd September 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Also reviewed @ Jess Hearts 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.