Tuesday, 17 October 2017

It Only Happens in the Movies

Everyone warns Audrey about Harry when she starts working at the independent cinema. But that's fine with her because she's sworn off men since Milo broke up with her. That doesn't mean she can't help him with his zombie film...

You’re so middle class, I bet you had the Sylvanian treehouse as a child.

Audrey also hates romance films. Love didn't keep her parents together and she believes the films give people a false idea of what love is. That they are dangerous. I do remember Holly running Twitter polls about best movie kisses and this book is what that was for. Harry is a charming combination of romance cliches who wishes to show Audrey that movie love isn't all bad.

Yet there is a serious side to It Only Happens in the Movies. It talks about bad sexual experiences and how women often feel they're to blame for them. It also doesn't over-romanticise the positive experiences either. Audrey also pushes her old friends away, not feeling she's able to deal with their brand of friendship any more.

Whilst not a confirmed diagnosis, Audrey's mum shows signs of bipolar disorder. She's just received news that her ex, Audrey's father, has decided to sell the house once Audrey's at university. Needless to say she doesn't react well. I did feel sorry for Audrey being left with the burden of caring for her mum, when no one else seemed to be able to make concessions for her mental illness. I don't know if it was hidden from her father or not.

Romance films ruin people’s real-life relationships. They offer this idea of love that isn’t sustainable in normal life.

It's told in first person narrative so you only get Audrey's biased view of things, so maybe she is the one to paint her father's new wife as "evil stepmother". I can't tell if her father was just clueless or a sociopath, I'm not so sure I liked the portrayal of grown ups in this one. I mean, her mother doesn't seem easy to live with and I can see both sides on the house situation. It seemed there to help back up the idea of romance films being unrealistic rather than being sympathetic to people who have been through divorce.

Sometimes I feel like Holly wants to be writing feminist essays. Some of the chapters start the discussion of romance movie tropes, which later on is revealed to be Audrey's coursework, and they do relate to the plot. I think a lot of people would read a book of Holly's film criticism through a feminist lens, separate to a novel. I've felt this way a bit with some of her other books, that there are chunks of text that aren't really story but more something she wants to raise awareness of. So whilst I agree in concept, I'd like it to feel more natural to the story.

Is that how hearts work? Is love just a parasite that jumps bodies? It always exists, you always have to yearn for someone, and the only way to get over somebody is to obsess about someone else…?

I did overall enjoy the dynamic between Audrey and Harry and the story didn't go where I was expecting it to. There some bits I love about Holly's writing and a lot I can relate to, but sometimes I want a little less "hook" and more of the everyday life that she's good at.

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Book Source: Purchased

Friday, 13 October 2017

The inspiration behind Blue Shift

I'm delighted to have Jane O'Reilly on the blog today, talking about the birth of Blue Shift the first book in her Second Species series.

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the seed for Blue Shift was sown. It was in an Odeon cinema in Bradford in 1983. The seats were red velvet. I can remember that particular detail vividly, because I spent the entire film standing up and clutching the back of the seat in front. My father took me. It is, I think, the only positive memory I have of my childhood that has him in it.

The film was Return of the Jedi, and I was six years old.

The book grew, secretly, unconsciously, for the next thirty years, until I found myself at a cross roads in my writing career. I’d had 11 books published but I was off contract. I didn’t have an agent at that point but I wanted one, and to do so, I was going to need a book bigger and more complicated than anything I’d attempted before. I also wanted to switch genre, something which is notoriously difficult. What Return of the Jedi had given me – a love of space pirates and worlds beyond our own – was brought to life by a question on an A-level biology paper. It was about a funny little animal, the naked mole rat, which is both terribly odd and utterly fascinating in the way it has adapted to live in an inhospitable environment. Students were asked to consider how some of the unique physiological quirks of the mole rat could be used to benefit humans, for example in the development of prosthetics that could be grafted directly to bone without causing infection. I began to wonder if this will be the future – using DNA from other species to give us specific characteristics that will enable us to overcome some of the limits of our weak human bodies – and it was from this that my heroine, Jinnifer Blue, was born.

Once I had that, other things began to slot in to place. A space pirate was a given, as was an intergalactic conspiracy, and any future imagining of Earth has to include an acknowledgement of global warming and the damage that we’ve done. The Eden project inspired the Domes built on the remains of our capital cities, and the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London gave me my protagonist, Ferona Blue, a politician with a penchant for vintage couture.

Writing a book takes a long time. It’s a slow, often painful process, writing and deleting and writing again, trying to find the right way through the maze. Life influences what goes down on the page well beyond the crystallization of the initial idea. For me, this took the form of a rapid decline in my health while I was writing Blue Shift. It took over a year for me to finally be diagnosed with endometriosis, and the feeling of being trapped in a strange, unpredictable, often frightening body influenced the shape of the book and the characters in it.

But in the end it was really about space pirates.


Thank you Jane! Blue Shift is published by Piatkus and is out now in paperback and ebook editions. Here's the blurb:

The Earth is cold, dead and divided. The rich hide away from reality while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: reaching a habitable planet. But getting there means travelling in large numbers through alien-held space, something that’s politically nearly impossible. Yet for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . .

Jinnifer Blue is a rich girl on the run. An expert pilot, she apprehends criminals on behalf of the government and keeps her illegal genetic modifications a closely guarded secret. But when a particularly dangerous job goes south, leaving her stranded on a prison ship with one of the most ruthless criminals in the galaxy, Jinn realises that the rich and the powerful are hiding more than she’d ever guessed. Now she must decide if she can trust her co-prisoner – because once they discover what the prison ship is hiding, she definitely can’t trust anyone else . . .


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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Shepherd's Crown

The Shepherd's Crown is the 41st book in the Discworld series and the 5th Tiffany Aching novel and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

I've finally made myself read The Shepherd's Crown, Sir Terry Pratchett's final book. It's hard to separate that knowledge from the story especially as Granny Weatherwax meets Death for the last time. As the characters say goodbye to Granny, it feels like Terry was saying goodbye too. I cannot lie, I cried quite a bit.

It was never easy being a witch. Oh, the broomstick was great, but to be a witch you needed to be sensible, so sensible that sometimes it hurt. You dealt with the reality—not what people wanted.

I am not completely done with Discworld, I have not yet read Raising Steam which might have been a mistake as the railways play a key role in this book. However, like with all the books, I'm sure it will be perfectly readable out of order.

Granny Weatherwax's boots are hard to fill and Tiffany Aching isn't sure she's the witch to do it. However the steading was left to her and You the cat appears to have adopted her too. Soon the strain of attending both the Chalk and Lancre gets too much for Tiffany and the elves sense the weakness left by Granny's absence.

And Tiffany knew that if a witch started thinking of anyone as "just" anything, that would be the first step on a well-worn path that could lead to, oh, to poisoned apples, spinning wheels, and a too-small stove... and to pain, and terror, and horror and the darkness.

Yet the Discworld has changed since the elves last passed over. For iron is everywhere and goblins have rights. And if there's one things elves can't stand, it's iron.

In Discworld the witches were always the practical ones whilst the wizards were a little ridiculous (is it any coincidence that one is called Ridcully?). Terry's final farewell includes a message of gender equality, with a boy who wishes to be a witch and a female Nac Mac Feegle who doesn't wish to leave the mound she calls home to be a Kelda elsewhere.

Being a witch is a man’s job: that’s why it needs women to do it.

If I'm being perfectly honest, it's not the best of his books and it definitely feels a little unfinished or rushed. Which breaks my heart a little. In Rob's note at the end he does say he thought Terry would have wrote more of it if he could have. There was something Death said to Granny at the beginning that isn't quite resolved, but if you check out the Wikipedia page for the book, apparently Neil Gaiman shared the answer to this (and it completely makes sense).

Mephistopheles the goat is fantastic and I liked the side story of Geoffrey. It was nice to gather all the witches together again too, I just wanted a little bit more and sadly Death chose to collect Terry before it was all there.

Rob fulfilled his promise to Terry at the Dorset Steam Fair this year, crushing the hard drive containing any unfinished work and Rhianna Pratchett has confirmed there will be no further works. At least he left us with an awful lot of books to re-read, and what fantastical and funny books they are.

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Top Ten Autumnal Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is a pretty cliched definition of autumn, brown and orange leaves for the win! Living in a forest (well nearly) means that the leaves turning are the main indicator of autumn for me. Also, getting rained on...



Circe by Madeline Miller
Windwitch by Susan Dennard



Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton
Weathering by Lucy Wood



Autumn Rose by Abigail Gibbs
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth



Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
Eleanor by Jason Gurley



The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Sunday, 8 October 2017

A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night is the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

This series is so good. I find it takes a little work to get into it but it is so worth it once you are absorbed into the rich world-building and intrigue and danger.
But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night - if you dare to let yourself burn.

After narrowly escaping execution, Elias is on the run from the might of the Empire with Laia in tow. Helene is now the Blood Shrike, tied to Emperor Marcus and sworn to serve him. Her first task is to hunt down her friend, and if she doesn't succeed, her family will suffer.

Helene's story is the most compelling of the three. She is put in an awful position. Maybe Elias is a traitor in the Empire's eyes and she knows her love wasn't returned in the same way, but they have history and she really doesn't like Marcus. She is on the wrong side but she is not a bad person, my favourite kind of complicated character!

Most successful missions are just a series of barely averted disasters.

Elias is poisoned by the Commandant as he leaves the city. There's no cure for the seizures that leave him close to death but Laia can help extend his life with her knowledge of herbs. Elias keeps slipping into a place like limbo, the place where those with unfinished business linger before they can pass on. He meets some familiar faces there but he knows his unfinished business is in the living world. He might not be able to live for long but he can help free Laia's brother before he goes.

Again, the supernatural element isn't the main thing but is a lot more present this time. I loved all the revelations and can't wait to see where it goes.

Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.

There was an aspect of this story that I didn't really like but then I was rewarded by a turn in events, which made my not liking this character OK. Can I be vague enough? I felt the pace was a little saggy in the middle, but this was completely made up by everything that happens near the end. I want more! Well fortunately the next book, A Reaper at the Gates, has been announced for April next year.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Month That Was... September 2017

I started the month with a run of just stunning books but Tower of Dawn kind of sent me into a bit of a reading slump. I had a whole week off where I thought I would read loads and I ended up just reading two books, partly because of vet stuff with Scully though. We found out what she's allergic to at least, a yeast called malassezia which is apparently everywhere.


I highly recommend The Fifth Season, Circe and The Radium Girls. My review of Circe won't be up until closer publication but if you like Greek mythology you must add it to your wishlist!

I've also spent time on Ninja Book Swap stuff which has now entered the fun buying things stage, at last! As someone with a wishlist of hundreds of books I've been surprised how much wishlist chasing I've had to do. Sometimes I wish there were less books I wanted to read!

So October also brings with it Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, hoorah! Those who follow me on Instagram will know I've been counting down with their photo challenge, #30daysofreadathon (although I missed day one, so it's really 29 days).

#DiversityBingo2017

Non Western (Real World) Setting: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria)
Main Character with Chronic Pain: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Goodreads: 87/120


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

Book of the Month:
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Reviews:





Read and awaiting review:

Circe by Madeline Miller
Miss Marvel: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Currently reading:

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Last Hours by Minette Walters

Blogged about:

Top Ten: Autumn TBR
Quest Complete!
It's Ninja Book Swap Time!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud is so Lockhart. I suppose it's a psychological thriller, something I tend to steer clear of these days but I gave it a go because I just love Lockhart's writing style. It does also manage to avoid some of the cliches of the genre too.

Imogen Sokoloff was the type of girl teachers never thought worked to her full potential. The type of girl who blew off studying and yet filled her favorite books with sticky notes.

Jule is your ultimate unreliable narrator, reinventing herself as she hides from something in her past. She misses her friends Imogen and Paolo, yet she's in a Mexican resort pretending to be Imogen. What is going on?

Ultimately, nothing is too surprising but I liked the journey to get there, with all the little lies and truths knitting together through flashbacks. These flashbacks get older the further back they go and you start to realise how far from the truth Jule has strayed.

Jule believed that the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle. She believed that the best way to avoid having your heart broken was to pretend you don’t have one. She believed that the way you speak is often more important than anything you have to say.

In true Lockhart style, there's plenty of rich East Coast girls and trips to Martha's Vineyard. It seems surprisingly easy for Jule to pass herself off as Imogen, she has access to just enough to path the way for her fraud. I liked Jule's origin story, the idea that she is the superhero or action hero in her own story. She so doesn't want to be who she once was, that she creates her own narrative.

Remember when "new adult" was a thing? Well if it still is a thing, Genuine Fraud would fall firmly into it. The characters are college age and they have independence. The girls are orphans but it's not done just to get rid of the parental figures.
They lived their lives surrounded by all that glitter and neon, happily assuming that small, cute women were harmless.

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Far From You

Far From You follows Sophie who has become addicted to prescription medication following a car crash that left her in constant pain. Her life is wrapped up with Mina and Trev, brother and sister, the two people she loves most in the world.

Mina likes to play with fire. But I’m the one who gets burned.

Sophie witnesses the murder of Mina, the girl she loves. She doesn't have time to grieve or get answers, because drugs are planted on her at the crime scene. Despite having got clean, everyone assumes the worst, that is was a drug deal gone bad, and Sophie is whisked off to rehab.

Once she's free, she becomes determined to find out the truth and get justice for Mina. The strongest part of this book is the relationship between Sophie and Mina. It's pretty obvious early on that it was more than friendship but the full context is revealed through flashbacks. Mina resists the relationship, pushes Sophie away and tries to hurt her.

It's so sad that the two girls never got that time together where they could just be. It's implied that Mina's family wouldn't be OK with her being a lesbian, that she wasn't brought up to be OK with it, so she dates guys she doesn't care about instead.

I don’t tell him how lucky he is, that he can just sit there and admit it, sheepish, but unashamed. Like it’s his right. Like it’s okay, because she’s supposed to belong to someone like him, instead of someone like me.

The narrative jumps around in time a lot. I think you need to establish the timeline somehow before doing this as I couldn't keep up to start with. There is a lot packed in; the interconnecting relationships, Sophie's injury and drug addiction, the murder investigation.

I picked this up for the character with chronic pain square of Diversity Bingo. I didn't feel it was particularly insightful about living with constant pain and there were points it was easy to forget Sophie was suffering. I would have liked it to explore the impact of her having to give up her pain medication because of her addiction.

But this is the thing about struggling out of that hole you’ve put yourself in: the higher you climb, the farther you have to fall.

It was a reasonable book of its type but it's not something I would be particularly drawn to had it not been a challenge read.

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Potions Diaries: Going Viral

Going Viral is the third and final book in the Potion Diaries trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

I'm a little bit sad that the Potion Diaries have come to an end, it's been such a fun trilogy. I whizzed through the final instalment at record speed, especially considering how terrible I've been at concentrating on reading lately.

I've learned that there's magic in being ordinary too.

The kingdom of Nova is safe now that Princess Evelyn has married and shared her power, yet alchemist Sam Kemi isn't relieved yet. She hasn't heard from Evelyn since her wedding day and there's a mysterious virus spreading across the land, zapping talented's magic.

At the end of Royal Tour the reader became aware that Stefan was infected with the virus and wanted to marry the princess to get his magic back. I liked that this story reveals a bit more of a complicated character for him rather than an outright villain.

Meanwhile, a film crew is interested in making a documentary about the life of an alchemist. They get more than they bargained for when they follow Sam in the steps of her ancestors. She visits the spiritual home of alchemy in the hope of finding a cure and finds herself scaling an active volcano. I love the mix of adventure, travel and magic, it's just plain loveliness.

If you'd like to give this trilogy a go you can get a set of all three books for the bargain price of £5.99 from The Book People.


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Book Source: Purchased