Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Lost Plot

The Lost Plot is the fourth book in Genevieve Cogman's excellent Invisible Library series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

To be honest, she was having fun being Jeanette Smith, Crime Boss. It was much less nerve-racking than being Irene Winters, Librarian.

It's a sign of how much I adore Irene and company that this book when straight from doorstep to the top of my groaning TBR. For those that don't know, Irene is a Librarian who collects books from alternate worlds in order to strengthen The Library's connections to those worlds. Her apprentice is a dragon, Kai, who spends most of his time in human form.

If the worst that comes of this is you being stuck in a cellar for half an hour with nothing to read, then we've been lucky.

The Library prides itself on its neutrality, not getting involved in fae or dragon politics (the fae thrive in high chaos worlds, and the dragons prefer high order). So when Irene is approached by a dragon with news of a Librarian helping a bid for the throne, she knows she must act fast to prevent the downfall of The Library. They cannot be seen to be for hire. And she'd be a handy scapegoat if anything went wrong...

This instalment takes Irene and Kai to an alternate prohibition America, where gangs and illegal alcohol are not hard to find. I loved this setting! A case of mistaken identity gives Irene a suitable disguise as they hunt down the rogue Librarian.

Irene hoped that none of her enemies ever realized how much she was driven by an urge to find out how, what, where, when and, in this case, who.

These books are loads of fun and they poke fun at tropes as well as being pacey fantasy adventures. There are cab chases, gangsters molls, speakeasies and a lot of books. Whilst the other books have focused a little more on the fae, here we learn more about the dragons, and how some of them go about their courts. I liked that Alberich didn't suddenly reappear this time and the story could go in a different direction, although I suppose he *could* still be alive...

The Lost Plot is published by Tor and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 14th December 2017. 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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Obelisk Gate

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for The Fifth Season.

After devouring The Fifth Season I was eager to continue Essen's story and when The Obelisk Gate dropped into my lap via my generous Ninja Book Swap partner, I knew it had to go to the top of the TBR. I was not disappointed.

No part of this comm gets to decide that any part of this comm is expendable. No voting on who gets to be people.

Essun has kind of resolved herself to not seeing her daughter again, but this instalment also follows Nassun's path after the death of her brother. Her father is conflicted with his hate, his daughter is both a rogga and his little girl, how can he reconcile the two. He takes her to the far South where he has heard rumours of a cure.

Schaffa is still alive but a changed man, his paths becoming entwined with Nassun's. She hates her mother but befriends the man responsible for making her that way...yet is he still the same man? He no longer serves the Fulcrum, the lines between sides becoming blurred every second. This is one complicated family.

Alabaster and Essun are reunited once more, but Baster is also not the man he once was. He's slowly turning to stone and his stone eater companion appears to be eating him, yet is also fiercely protective. More light is shed on the stone eaters, revealing that they don't all have the same agenda, just as all people from one race don't. I hope the third book answers my questions about these people.

There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both - taken and taken and taken, until there's nothing left but hope, and you've given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, or avoid attachments altogether, than lose one more thing.

Whilst in the first book, the points of view were all different versions of Essun, the actual narrator is revealed in this book, which is even more intriguing. There is still some second person narration, and with the context of the narrator it seems so much more natural. It makes sense that the whole thing is being recounted.

There are so many elements wound together, and you discover who the overarching narrator is to the series, which add context to the second person parts. Love, grief, fear and persecution all at the end of the world, what more could you want? Seriously, if you are still to discover N.K. Jemisin, wait no longer, this trilogy is stunning.

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Book Source: Gifted

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Freedom Hospital

Read the World: Syria


Freedom Hospital is a mix of fact and fiction, based around an underground Syrian hospital which tends to injured rebels. At the start of the book, it feels like the rebels wanted a peaceful solution to the country's problems. As time goes on, and the death toll climbs, they are turned to violence too. This leaves a space for extremists to recruit those who feel failed by both sides and we see how Isis tried to take advantage of the situation.

As well as these three factions, of course there are those who just want to get on with their lives (along with their human rights so quashed by Assad). The daily death count printed at the top of the pages is a saddenign reminder of the senseless loss of the conflict.

Assad's regime is propped up by foreign weapons, and throughout the pages, the tanks, planes and artillery are tagged by who provided what (a lot from Russia, but tother countries aren't innocent either).

If you're quite well-informed of the Syria situation, I'm not sure reading this will add much, but it serves as a good introduction. It's not an intensely personal approach as Hamid has used anecdotes from many of his friends who stayed behind, rather than writing an account of his own experience.

I'm not a huge fan of the artwork but its sparseness does fit with the subject matter here. Originally written in French, this edition has been translated into English by Francesca Barrie.

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Illuminae

If you've spent any time around the YA community you'll have heard of Illuminae. Why did I take so long to read it? I honestly don't know because it is perfect for me. If you're not aware, it's a sort of futuristic epistolary novel, told through logs, transcripts, messaging and personnel files.

Kady and Ezra are not speaking to each other the day their planet is attacked. In the evacuation they are separated, placed aboard separate ships in the mismatched fleet that comes to their rescue. Fortunately they don't spend their time mooning over each other and they get on with their, somewhat restricted, lives.

Part of being alive is having life change us. The people around us, the events we live through, all of them shape us. And that's what I think you're afraid of. Maybe not of dying. But of this you, the you you've become, ceasing to exist.

Kady has also been separated from her mother, who is on the third ship of the fleet when it is attacked and destroyed by the Lincoln, the nuclear-armed BeiTech ship which is in hot pursuit. Or that's what everyone is supposed to think. It was actually the AI onboard the Alexander, AIDAN. The people onboard Copernicus were suffering from a virus which could not be stopped. AIDAN's only looking out for them...

So yay, space virus and artificial intelligence, I'm here for you, I stayed for the amazingly fast past and gripping plot. I thought the format might be a bit clunky but it does an amazing job of setting the scene just enough and lets the story roll without the unnecessary padding of formal prose. If you don't read much science fiction, I can understand the world-building might be a bit on the light side but I just fell into it, and didn't come out until the final page.

Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.

AIDAN is great, manipulative and clever but also grows as a sentient being. How far is an AI expected to go to protect people and what rights does he have of his own?

I liked that Kady was shown to be struggling emotionally too. There are the undercurrents of a universe where corporations are so big they can go to war over resources. They are only in the background but I can't wait to see where this series goes. I'm not buying books until after Christmas, but one of the first I'll be getting is Gemina and then I can look forward to the third book next year!

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A Gathering of Challenges

Read at Midnight hosts the cutest of reading challenges (remember The Reading Quest?) and this December brings a casual Animal Crossing themed one. I have not been playing the game because I know what a time suck it will be if I start, but that won't stop me jumping on board with #ReadersCrossing!


I kinda want to do the Natural path but I don't think I have any Wilderness books on my TBR and I can't really buy anything this time of year. So I'm going to do the Cute path for starters. For most of these I have a lot of choices so my list isn't set in stone. This runs from 10th to 31st December.

Graphic Novel or Manga: Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu + Sana Takeda
Pink Cover: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Main Romantic Plot: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Middle Grade or Children: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Contemporary: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Further ahead are challenges for 2018. I'm hosting my own, so of course I will be ploughing through Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo. To be honest, it's not too challenging as they are mostly things I read anyway. I am also tempted by the POPSUGAR list, which I might do casually like I did with my 2017 challenges. I am keeping an eye out for Book Riot's Read Harder but I suspect it will be a bit too obscure to fully enjoy completing.


One I have picked out is Beat the Backlist which is pretty aligned with what I wanted to do next year PLUS it has weekly bookstagram prompts. It's an easy one to combine with the prompt-based challenges too. Win win!

My TBR is over 500 books so I'm sure I'll have plenty to read for this! I will aim to read at least 30 backlist titles next year and spend a bit of time talking about books I've read and loved in the past.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Arrival of Missives

I've been putting off writing this book because the reason I loved it so much is somewhat of a spoiler. It's a novella that packs a punch though, so I hugely recommend it even if this review ends up incoherent.

Mr Tiller has fought a war, and he has returned a changed man. Something terrible, beyond my experience, has befallen him.

The Arrival of Missives is set in a rural village after the end of WWI. Many villages and farms lost so many men of working age to the war, and this story is told from the view of Shirley, a teenager who senses this is her opportunity for change. She doesn't want to be a farmer's wife and she's infatuated with Mr Tiller, the new teacher in town. She sees him as a chance to better herself, they can both be teachers together, but she is warned by the villagers that he was not left whole by the war.

Of course, the assumption is that he was traumatised by the war like so many other, physically or mentally or both. But the story takes a stranger turn and he brings a prophecy, one he wants Shirley's help in thwarting.

There will be nobody to keep me warm if I do not find a way to make myself what men want.

The war triggered huge social change, and in part this story explores that, against a backdrop of May Day, an old pagan festival and the symbol of the old days. But there is also a feminist commentary on science fiction, a conclusion which left me with a big grin on my face.

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo 2018

Welcome to my low-stress, super relaxed reading* challenge for next year! You can choose to do a line, try to do as much as possible in your preferred genre, attack it randomly or go for the full house, it's really up to you. Some of the squares are geared more to one genre but all are open to interpretation. I've laid out the card so that a down line is more easily done in a single genre if you so wish.


Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Month That Was... November 2017

I have been so enjoying delving into backlist titles of late and one of my goals for next year is to read less of the new, shiny and popular books that so easily distract all of us. I started reading V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic books and I loved the fact I could pick up the next book straight away. I also finally read, and loved, Illuminae and continued with my reading of The Broken Earth trilogy. Sometimes it's nice to read books that you know are good because people still talk about them ages after publication.

I think the part of my brain capable of review writing has gone into hibernation for the winter. I read two books for Nonfic November but didn't blog about them and I didn't do all the weekly prompts. I feel like I've been on a blogging break but somehow still had things on the blog.

I read 9 books last month although I haven't reviewed most of them. I liked the act of writing reviews so I will try and get something up before the end of the year even though they are mostly personal reads.

I'll shortly be posting my Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo Card for 2018! It's going to be a low pressure challenge for anyone wishing to join in. Or I'll just do it by myself! :D

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

Book of the Month:
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Reviews:





Read and awaiting review:

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin
Freedom Hospital by Hamid Sulaiman
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Currently reading:

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

Blogged about:

Q+A with Bluestocking Books
Top Ten: Winter TBR
#NonficNov: Making of a Favourite
My Indie TBR
#NonficNov: Book Pairings
Win Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Top Ten: Winter TBR

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

My winter TBR plans are usually scuppered by me desperately trying to meet my reading target over the holidays*, but here are ten books I'd like to get round to reading soon! It's a mix of review copies and recent purchases.



The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
The Book Of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch



Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black



Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter



Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman



The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty


*This is not necessarily a bad thing, I get to read loads of comics instead!