Wednesday, 12 December 2018

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Read the World: Nigeria


Korede's sister, Ayoola, is beautiful, charming and possibly a serial killer. How many murders does it take? Ayoola's third boyfriend in a row is dead and Korede is there to help clean up the mess. Because that's what being a sister is all about.

Ayoola lives in a world where things must always go her way. It's a law as certain as the law of gravity.

Korede works as a nurse and has a crush on one of the doctors at the hospital. Of course, the day her sister walks in, he is immediately drawn to Ayoola, wants to ask her out. Korede likes this man, she doesn't want him getting hurt, so how can she warn him away.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is fantastic piece of dark comedy, but ultimately is about sisters and the lengths you'll go to, to protect those you love.

I loved how Korede confesses everything to a coma patient, never even considering he might wake up and remember everything. Whilst Ayoola isn't a likeable character, she's also not what you'd expect from a serial killer. Except for the fact everyone loves her, she's a fairly regular person who just seems incapable of ending a relationship the normal way.

Is it in the blood? But his blood is my blood and my blood is hers.

There are some great observations on human behaviour. Korede does get annoyed with her sister and I liked that she acted in a logical manner. Sometimes with these kinds of stories I get irritated at the stupid things they do, but she was sensible and her motives (protecting her sister) were understandable.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is published by Atlantic Books in the UK and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 3rd January 2019. 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.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Pride

Pride transports the well known story of Pride and Prejudice to a Brooklyn neighbourhood overshadowed by the risk of gentrification. Zuri lives in an apartment with her four sisters, across the road from a newly refurbished "mini-mansion". When the new family move in, they are excited by the presence of two hot boys.

Of course, the family across the street are the Darcys. Zuri (the Lizzie of this version) takes an instant dislike to Darius Darcy. He doesn't act the way she thinks a boy in the 'hood should act, and his distance and money come across as arrogance. Her older sister Janae (Jane) takes a shine to Ainsley Darcy though and neither of their siblings are happy about it.

It's a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too.

It's incredibly close to the original plot, without feeling stale. Scenarios are tweaked to make them believable in the modern world. Instead of fearing homelessness due to their marital status, they are seeing their 'hood being gentrified. Rents going up, families being pushed out. I appreciated the point at the end that they should make the place better, but better for themselves so they don't have to "get out". Earlier on it seemed liked Zuri was nostalgic for bad things but letter she clarifies that this is just what she knows.

The characters' names are all slightly similar to the originals, helping you to place who'll do what, but it doesn't matter if you don't know they story. Marisol is obsessed with money rather than God (Mary). Layla gets a slightly modernised version of Lydia's personality and story-line, involving Warren (Mr Wickham). There's even a Charlotte and Mr Collins!

I'm not so sure about making the Mr Bingley character Darius' brother though. Isn't it a bit weird for two sisters to be dating two brothers? I suppose there were not many relationship scenarios which would have allowed for them to be spending so much time together.

Listening Notes

Elizabeth Acevedo's narration makes a world of difference, I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed this book quite so much if I'd read it. She's perfect for Zuri and reads her poetry beautifully.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

The Light Between Worlds

During an air-raid, three siblings are transported to another world, one with talking deer and an empire intent on destroying the natural world. There they live and help the people of the Woodlands for years. When they return to the real world, their lives will never be the same again.

I may be young, but I've lived for years in a world where the language of force is the one used most readily. I don't like the shape of its words. I don't like the way it tastes on my tongue.

I love the idea of books that explore what happens to children who have spent years in a portal world only to return to their child bodies in the real world. The Light Between Worlds explores the associated depression and guilt, and perhaps a touch of PTSD.

The official blurb centres gives away something that happens a good halfway through the book. The first half is told by Evelyn, the youngest child who felt like the Woodlands was home. She grew up there and was suddenly returned into her eleven year old body. It doesn't talk about going through puberty twice, but that can't have been enjoyable. She struggles to find her place in the real world, feels abandoned and betrayed by her sister and suffers from depression as a consequence.

I don't know how to live in this grey country - how to find the light and shadow when they all run together so.

The second half is from Philippa's perspective, the older sister who promised to protect her family and always wanted to return. She had to make difficult choices and feels guilty about her sister. This second half was much stronger and made me feel quite emotional.

I didn't care at all for the sections taking place in Woodlands. It was trying hard to be like Narnia and it felt unrealistic, like it could have been made up by a child wishing to escape the war.. Yet her brother and sister remember it too, so it's not just in her head. It was a bit like having Narnia fan-fiction sandwiched in between a quite beautifully written story about not belonging. Having to read these sections distracted me from Evelyn's story, hence why I preferred the other half.

I am thawing in this overheated, crowded kitchen. I can feel my winter melting into spring.

For more of this kind of thing, make sure you check out Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children novellas.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Month That Was... November 2018

+ International Giveaway

Are you feeling the festive spirit yet? The last few days has started to feel very Christmassy and I'm nearly done with my present shopping already. Woop! I have been a bit slack on blog stuff though, only doing about half the Nonfiction November prompts and I still have a pile of reviews to catch up on. At least I have half of December off work, so hopefully I can start next year all caught up.

I've not much bookstagram stuff either so I'll just leave you with a photo of Scully surrounded by autumn colour. I got a new phone this month too, I'm loving the photos from it but it did mean moving from iOS to Android, so I'm still having to learn where everything is.


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

Book of the Month:
East of Croydon by Sue Perkins

Reviews:




Thursday, 29 November 2018

#NonFicNov Wrap-Up

I've not really kept up with my Non-Fiction November this year but I did read four non-fiction books and I wrote two reviews. I promise the rest of them will be up next month when I have more time.

This week's prompt is hosted by Doing Dewey. Most of what I added to my wishlist was from the Goodreads Choice awards although so many participants recommended Educated, I am certainly going to try and read it next year. The others , I have no idea where I heard about them. I say every year I need to make a note when I add books to my wishlist but clearly I did not do that once again.

Wishlist Additions:



Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Vita Nostra

Read The World: Ukraine

Sasha Samokhina is a straight A student looking forward to going to university. When on holiday with her single mother a strange man starts to follow her. He sets her a challenge to repeat every day, to go swimming naked the same time every morning. If she doesn’t oblige, she will be stuck in a time loop or worse, her family will be hurt. And hurt in a way no one can prove was anyone else’s fault… When she succeeds, Sasha is offered a place at the Institute of Special Technologies. An offer she cannot refuse.

The afternoon sun was just as scorching, but Sasha's instant chill felt like a lining of frost in her stomach. Not really sure of why she was so afraid of the dark man, Sasha shot up the street, her sandals drumming a feverish rhythm and passersby hastily moving out her way.

What on earth was this? It’s either genius or insane. Metaphysics, philosophy, the trials of growing up and going to university, a totalitarian regime at a mysterious university where they learn “special technologies”, emotional blackmail... You’re either going to love it or hate it.

The beginning captures the feeling of street harassment so well, that second sense that someone is watching you and the paranoia that something really bad will happen. Sasha asks Farit Kozhennikov if he is a pervert, because that is the initial reaction of anyone sane. And then suddenly it changes direction, but there is this huge sense of anxiety in the background. Whatever is happening cannot be good.

Sasha slumped at the edge of the cot, laden with the firm conviction that something terrible had just happened. Something unidentifiable, inexplicable, some unknown threat - and thus, her terror grew in a geometric progression.

Usually when characters in books get whisked off to a secret, magical school, they love it. They are being taken out of a life they hated and given new opportunities. But Sasha does not wish to go to Torpa, a place she has never heard of, and explain to her family why she’s suddenly changed her mind about her education. No one at the special institute seems to want to be there. At one point her mother becomes convinced she has been brainwashed by some cult. Her first year there is not a cheery experience.

So it gets really weird but I also found myself trying to do the exercises along with Sasha. She doesn’t know the point of what she is doing. Her family’s health is held hostage, bad things will happen if she doesn’t comply. I liked that it intertwined normal university life, like not getting on with your roommates or dealing with a communal kitchen, with the metaphysical weirdness.

I never ask for the impossible.

I did find it dragged a little in the middle, the only thing stopping me from giving it 4 stars. The exercises are repetitive for a reason, but I did want the story to move just a little bit faster. I think I love it, but I’m not sure I understand all of it.

I’ve seen a lot of people call this a Russian fantasy but it’s Ukrainian, maybe that’s a political distinction considering the Crimea. The seaside town it starts in, Nikita, is in the Crimea and the authors are Ukrainian but it was originally written in Russian and has been a bestseller in Russia. There is a bit of a Soviet vibe to it. Vita Nostra has been translated into English for the first time by Julia Meitov Hersey.

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 26 November 2018

The Mortal Word

The Mortal Word is the fifth book in the Invisible Library series therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

The dragons and the fae are considering a peace treaty, but the talks are disrupted by the murder of one of the diplomats. Vale is brought in as an independent investigator, to be accompanied by a representative from each of the interested parties. The future hangs in the balance, can the talks be saved if one side was responsible?

If I were going on a heroic quest I'd probably start off by making a list of things I'd need on the journey. Including some books to read during the dull bits.

Ahhh these books are so much fun. Irene is chosen as the Library investigator of course, she is the perfect person with connections on all sides. They are transported to an 1890s version of Paris, similar to Vale’s world. All fingers point to a murderous fae, the Bloody Countess, her narrative formed from the legends surrounding Elizabeth Bathory. But what Irene really needs is some solid proof before she risks derailing the peace talks.

Irene must fight against the pull of powerful fae, their narratives trying to pull her in. On the other side are the environmental effects of the dragon royalty attending. And to make things worse, there’s a possible traitor in the Library…

After all, dragons and Fae possibly signing a peace treaty, was already one impossible thing before breakfast. Why not a few more, while she was at it?

She has to try and separate herself from Kai too. He’s no longer part of the Library but Irene makes her excuses to see him. It might not be a good idea for everyone else to know how close she is to a dragon.

It's a good who-dunnit mixed with the wonderful world of the Library where worlds hold power if you know how to use the Language. Reader of this blog, buy the book called The Mortal Word! Did I use the Language right there? I did get the feeling this book was written as a possible series ending, but good news, Genevieve has signed for another three books. Huzzah!

Just because you've had a near-death experience with a powerful kindred of mine down here in the cellars, all on your own, and you didn't even get to drink any of the brandy yourself, does not mean that you get to take it out on me.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Tamed: Ten Species That Changed Our World

I often wonder how humans someone how managed to invent things, like cheese or bread, was it all a big accident? In Tamed, Alice Roberts takes ten species and looks at how they became domesticated into what we know today.

The book is ordered in a chronological way, with the oldest cases of domestication first, based on archaeological findings and carbon dating. The first being dogs and it explains how the wolves may have become friendly with humans in exchange for food and then they became beneficial for hunting. In each case, there is quite a lot of dry data to go with the hypotheses, and Alice is often clear that we don’t have absolute proof.

It also covers cows, chickens and horses and well as plants such as wheat, maize, potatoes and rice. These foods don’t necessarily come from where we think they do and they quite removed from their ancestors. There's quite a lot of history mixed in with the archaeology as we follow the parts these species played in the lives of humans.

The reason for the late adoption of this vegetable seem to include some deep-rooted but rather odd superstitions. Potatoes, perhaps because of their odd, misshapen tubers, like deformed limbs, were linked to leprosy. The fact that potatoes were not mentioned in the Bible was also a source of suspicion.

I found the parts about genetic modification fascinating. It looks at both sides of the argument, the environmental concerns and the involvement of big businesses that take advantage. But it also had case studies of crops that have helped poorer countries feed themselves. At what point does it go beyond selective breeding and into dangerous territory? And is it as dangerous as we have been led to believe. I didn’t feel Alice was arguing for either side which was very refreshing.

I wasn’t that clear on why apples were included as being instrumental to human success. Yes, they can be stored over winter and transported easily compared to other fruit, but it felt a bit like she was running out of species to get to a round number.

As human society evolved, and our ancestors began to live more densely, as well as relying on extensive social networks to survive, it seems that we may have - quite inadvertently - domesticated ourselves.

The tenth species is actually humans, which seems a bit of a cop-out and is used to round up the rest of the book. At this point I felt it was getting repetitive, but overall it was an interesting read that gave me some theories to my questions. I would say you’d need some basic biology knowledge before going in but overall it was an accessible read on a fascinating subject.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 18 November 2018

East of Croydon

Since it’s Nonfiction November I should probably share some non-fiction reviews! East of Croydon follows Sue Perkins on her travels around Asia whilst filming documentaries for the BBC. It also covers her father’s terminal cancer and coming to terms with death of a loved one.

Historically, the Perkins tribe were neither explorers, nor adventurers.

I want to be friends with Sue, she is funny and kind, and I loved spending time with her by way of her audiobook narration. I laughed, I cried. I laughed whilst crying (honestly, she’s the only person I know that’s made me laugh whilst recounting time spent by a parent’s death bed).

If you’ve watched Sue’s travels down the Mekong River or in India, you may find some parts familiar as this is kind of a behind the scenes version of those documentaries. However, I loved the interactions between her and her film crew, the countless bouts of food poisoning and all the times they are not on the same page when it comes to the film they are actually making.

There are sections on translations between what a producer says and what they really mean. At one point Sue talks about which words for vagina are suitable for which BBC channels, which is relevant because she finds herself in classrooms on several occasions, often shouting out the English words for body parts…

The most glorious and the most difficult thing about my job is that I get to observe. I get to watch some of the most exciting, breath-taking and curious things on the planet; I also get to watch some of the most cruel and heart-breaking too.

It’s not all laughs, there are times when she sees through the fa├žade that travellers are often presented. She meets the street kids of India, whole families living beneath bridges and I remember her breaking down on the TV show. She is saddened by poverty and environmental damage.

I am usually not fond of writers sneaking in personal trauma into books seemingly about other subjects, but I’ll let Sue off. She needs to vent about some things, and the parts about her father are done with tenderness and humour.

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019

The Popsugar Reading Challenge for next year has been released. There are 40 regular and 10 advanced prompts to interpret as you wish and a fantastic Goodreads group to keep you motivated.

The list has been out for a week now so I've had time to consider the list. I'm not too happy with the book recommended by a celebrity, another posthumously published book, over a million ratings or LitRPG, but the others are all do-able without straying too far into books I don't want to read.

I've felt a little lost these past few weeks without my challenge reading to guide me, so I'm definitely doing this again next year. Do join the group for weekly check-ins, help with prompts and just general bookish friendliness.

Here's the list in full: