Thursday, 17 January 2019

Golden State

We are surrounded by lies, from little white ones to huge whoppers coming out the mouths of politicians. Lying is human nature. But what if it were the worst crime you could commit?

Lazslo Ratesic is a Speculator for the Golden State. He can sense lies and it is his duty to apprehend the liars. When he is made to take on an apprentice, they find themselves investigating a death which has anomalies. The truth is not clear, but uncovering it will lead them down a dangerous path.

Imagine if everyone did it. Imagine if each person was allowed the luxury of claiming their own truth, building a reality of their own in which they can live. Imagine the danger that would pose, how quickly those lies would metastasize, and the extraordinary threat that would pose to the world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this noir-style, near-future murder mystery. It's full of observations about lying and surveillance. It feels a very topical story, mixing the surveillance state with the cried of fake news, making people not know who to trust. Fiction is presented as truth and truth is now subjective. So you can see where the idea for Golden State came about, a future where they have decided that lying was our downfall.

This is not a world without small untruths, there are caveats around flattery, humour and metaphor. Everything goes on the Record, cameras watching every moment so they can be recorded as fact. People must keep a diary, a day book, and file each days facts along with evidence. Receipts, tickets, photos, the flotsam and jetson of everyday life. It all helps uphold the truth.

Fiction does not exist in the Golden State. Novels exist but they are true statements of historical events written in narrative form. The book starts with an extract of one such "novel" and it is revisited throughout the story. That "novel" is about Laszlo's brother Charlie, who died doing his duty.

People are going to lie: they want to, they need to. Lying is born into the species. You know this is true as well as I do. There is something perfect in a lie, something seductive, addictive; telling a lie is like licking sugar off a spoon. Think of children, think of how children lie all the time. We have imaginary friends, we blame our misbehavior on our playmates or our siblings, we claim not yet to have had dessert so we can cadge a second cookie.

The marketing blurb is keen to compare this to several recently popular dystopian novels, but to me it was reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451. Right down to the enforcer of the law taking home a contraband book...

I felt the ending was a little too convenient, but otherwise I loved it.

Golden State is published by Century and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 24th January 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 18. A book about someone with a superpower

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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, 15 January 2019

Top Ten New to Me Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week is all about authors we read for the first time in 2018. Last year I made a concerted effort to read more backlist, so I discovered a few more authors that everyone else had known about forever!

Neal Shusterman

I read both Scythe and Thunderhead in 2018 and I can't wait for The Toll. I also intend to read The Dry this year which he co-wrote with his son.

Pat Barker

I can't say Pat Barker's books have been on my radar in the past but I loved her retelling of The Iliad from Briseis's point of view.

Marisha Pessl

I had been meaning to read Night Film for years but it was her YA debut that queue jumped to the top of my TBR last year.

Sarah Moss

Another author I'd been meaning to read for ages, I finally read and fell in love with The Tidal Zone. I also read her latest book, Ghost Wall.

Tade Thompson

Both The Murders of Molly Southbourne and Rosewater hit the spot, and I'm eagerly awaiting The Rosewater Insurrection.

Cixin Liu

I've been quite slow off the mark with my Read the World project, but I knew I would tick China off with this brain workout of science fiction. I intend to continue the trilogy in 2019.

Victor Lavalle

I loved the darkness of The Changeling and will definitely be seeking out more of his work.

Octavia Butler

Yeah, yeah, I'm extremely late to the party. I think I was a little scared of reading Kindred and not liking it, but there was nothing to fear!

S.A. Chakraborty

I adored The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper is one of most my anticipated fantasies of the year.

Justina Ireland

I'd been aware of Justina through her blogging which made me pick up Dread Nation. Hopefully the follow up will be out this year.

Which books by these authors would you recommend? Did you discover any great, new to you, authors last year?

Monday, 14 January 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

It's been a long while since I took part in IMWAYR but my monthly round-ups were getting a bit unwieldy, so I'll be trying weekly out for a while. Sometimes I don't get round to writing reviews of everything I read, so this will be a way of acknowledging what I've read straight away, with reviews to come later, if that makes sense! I will sneak in some doggo and life updates here and there too.

This Week I Finished:

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Redemption in Indigo

Read the World: Barbados

Redemption in Indigo has the feel of a folk tale. The narrator is a storyteller, and often addresses the reader directly, sometimes even to chide you. It starts off by introducing Ansige, Paama's gluttonous husband. Paama has left him and he sets out to her home village to find her. There are several occasions where Ansige's insatiable appetite gets him into trouble, and Paama comes to his rescue with tact and common sense.

Chaos was a far subtler force than most people realised. It would be so easy to sense if it threw off thunderbolts or sent barely sensed thrummings through the fabric of reality, but it was nothing more than the possible made probable.

Many would have ridiculed Ansige, but Paama's skill in smoothing things over attracts the attention of some djombi, who gift her a stirring stick. The young djombi forgets to tell her what it's for, and not it's not for stirring stew. It is a chaos stick, allowing the user to select the best of all possible outcomes.

The stick was taken from another djombi, one who calls himself Lord Indigo, for his skin is a deep blue and he has a high opinion of himself. He wants his chaos back and takes Paama on a journey to show her how dangerous chaos can be in the wrong hands.

I told you from the very beginning that it was a story about choices – wise choices, foolish choices, small yet momentous choices – for with choices come change, and with change comes opportunity , and both change and opportunity are the very cutting edge of the power of chaos.

It shows how there are many possibilities from a single action and so much is up to chance, but also how humans have the power to control their destiny with their own choices. We are not all on a predetermined path. It's loosely based on a Senegalese folk tale, which I'm not familiar with.

I do find with this folky style, that it's difficult to find the characters wholly convincing. It is like a fable, with some humorous parts and some lovely observations. But in the end I felt a bit distanced from it (despite what the storyteller might have told me at the end).

Redemption in Indigo won the Kitschies Best First Novel award in 2012.

ATY: 1. A book that was nominated for or won an award in a genre you enjoy

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Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Silent Companions

When Elsie Bainbridge finds herself in St Joseph's Hospital, she has lost her voice and stands accused of murder. Dr Shepherd is drawn to her case and encourages her to write down whatever she can remember. Her memories take her back to 1865, newly widowed and sent to reside in the country house of her late husband, Rupert.

The truth was mad, beyond the realms of any healthy imagination. And that was why the truth was the only thing guaranteed to keep her under lock and key.

The Silent Companions has a pretty eerie premise. The title refers to figures painted on board (like life-size cardboard cut-outs) that were popular among the gentry, especially in the Netherlands. I would be pretty freaked out by them lurking in the corners of an unfamiliar house even if they weren't haunted.

Grieving for Rupert, Elsie uncovers the companions in a locked room at The Bridge. Yeah, yeah, beware of locked rooms that do not wish to be unlocked! At first they feel like they are being watched, just cleverly painted, surely? Then there seem to be more of them.

Rupert's only remaining family is young Sarah, who goes with Elsie into what they think of as exile in this house away from society. Sarah finds the diary of one of her ancestors in the locked room and learns about Anne, accused of witchcraft, and young Henrietta, born without a fully formed tongue. It does well to remember that at the start of the book, Elsie cannot speak either.

The timeline jumps between St Joseph's at an unspecified date, Elsie's time at The Bridge and diary entries from 1635. The portions of the story from 1635 take the form of Anne's diary entries, as they prepare for a royal visit. She buys the companions in an attempt to impress the visiting King and Queen, but soon comes to regret her purchase. The merchant did seem very eager to sell them to her...

A series of unfortunate events leads to paranoia and suspicion. Who would believe that painted wood could move? She must be going mad, or the servants are playing tricks on her. Right? It is very creepy and Laura Purcell does a great job of capturing a Gothic atmosphere.

I found knowing that Elsie makes it out alive but incarcerated in an asylum, gave away some of the mystery. I wasn't hungry to find out what happens next because, to me, it was clear what probably happened. I still enjoyed it but I wan't a fan of the telling in hindsight approach in this case.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 36. A ghost story

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

How Long 'til Black Future Month?

How Long 'til Black Future Month? is a wonderful collection of short stories from the amazing N.K. Jemisin. They span science fiction and fantasy from the past to the future, with strong themes of race, persecution and identity running through.

In Red Dirt Witch, the pale fae take the place of slavers, stealing away black children from the deep south, draining their life force for their own needs. But a mother's protection is a force to be reckoned with and knows ways to keep the fae at bay. There are stories about culinary delights, alien contact and artificial intelligences in a virtual world, but none of them are quite what they seem.

I done told you a million times that the world doesn't change - but I was wrong, and I'm sorry for that. You got a big fight ahead of you, but you can win it.

In The City Born Great, the city is alive and it claims its protectors. There is a dark force at play, and a protagonist who must also avoid prejudiced police as well as supernatural evil.

Some of these stories are sandboxes for trying out ideas for novels and you may recognise the Broken Earth in Stone Hunger. One story I would love more of is The Effluent Engine, set in a steampunk New Orleans and a free Haiti. I would love an urban fantasy series starring Jessaline and Eugenie!

Humans are full of interesting-but-useless features. Crying. Wisdom teeth. Dreams are more of the same.

I felt that the collection kicked off with one of the weaker stories. I'm not familiar with Ursula Le Guin's original so that might have had something to do with my feeling towards it. It's not a bad story, it just seems a little old school and might have put me off reading further if I wasn't already a fan.

There were definitely some five star stories between the covers and I'd thoroughly recommend. I also saw news that she has a new novel coming out this year and I'm excited to see if any of the threads started in these stories.

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash is the final book in the Throne of Glass series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Over the Christmas holidays I finally got the chance to sit down with this brick of a book. When I saw the size of it, I wasn't too keen, especially after the disappointment of Tower of Dawn. However, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I still think the beginning and ending could have been edited down a lot.

When you've created a series with lots of characters, I can understand the desire to give them all a send off but I don't feel they all need equal parts.

It's a book about war, and much of it is set on the battlefield. I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the epic battle scenes, I'm not usually one for drawn out action. Since she was introduced in Heir of Fire, I've loved Manon and her wyvern Abraxos. The witches were one of the best things about this series, including their part in the finale.

You are my people. Whether my grandmother decrees it or not, you are my people, and always will be. But I will fly against you, if need be, to ensure that there is a future for those who cannot fight for it themselves. Too long have we preyed on the weak, relished doing so. It is time that we became better than our foremothers.

Obviously I was eager to find out what happened to Aelin after the end of Empire of Storms. It lingered a tad too long on her torture for my liking. Yes, I get that what is happening to her is horrible and she might be driven to end it, but there's only so much torture I can take. I still don't know why Bloomsbury insist on publishing this as young adult, they even have a warning on the book that it's not suitable for younger readers. At this point it's adult fantasy.

I have completely gone off Sarah J. Maas's brand of romance. They all seem so melodramatic and mushy, when they should be concentrating on not dying. They all paired off in an earlier book and I wished it was left at that rather than trying to add in more romantic tension, it just wasn't needed.

A princess who was to live for a thousand years. Longer. That had been her gift. It was now her curse.

I did see a spoiler on Twitter one week after this 980 page book came out. What is wrong with people? I'm sure they thought what they were saying wasn't specific but it made it a bit obvious that things would play out a certain way. I would have liked to have read this with a bit more uncertainty.

Anyway, I'm glad I read it to the end. Well not the very, very end, as there seemed to be a novella's worth of good byes.

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Thursday, 3 January 2019

2018 Reading Stats

It’s time to crunch some reading stats! I read 127 books in 2018 totalling 44,849 pages, which is the most I’ve read since 2013. I put this down to finally getting the hang of audiobooks. My average page count per book was 353, so it’s not even because I read tiny books. I averaged out at 123 pages read per day. Not too shabby.

I read 33 books by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity) authors which is 26%. I was aiming for 30% so I was close, but could do better. My gender split was skewed towards women with 85 books by female authors (69%), 34 by male authors (26%) and 8 co-authored by both (5%).

My longest book was Kingdom of Ash at 980 pages and the shortest was The Only Harmless Great Thing at 93 pages. My average rating was 3.7, so generally a very good year for quality. I gave 18 books 5 stars.

I only read 29 books off my pre-2018 TBR, which isn’t so good. I did use the library a bit more this year and took in 212 new-to-me books. I spent a whopping £825.28 on books averaging at £3.89 per book (this includes ARCs, borrowing and gifts, so the real average is a little higher at £5.03).

I have been trying to reduce Amazon use but due to ebook sales they were still my top source of books, accounting for 96 of my new books. I bought 26 from Waterstones, my top source for physical books, and 19 from Wordery.

I’ve not reviewed my recently read books yet, so if you’d like to see all of 2018’s reads check out my Goodreads year in books. You can see my top ten favourites here.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Top Ten 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Happy New Year! My 2018 retrospective post (with added stats) will be up soon but first off, here's my top ten books of last year.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

I Still Dream by James Smythe

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Feel free to share your favourites in the comments or leave a link to your best of post.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The Extinction Trials

Earthasia is overpopulated and resources are scarce. The continent of Piloria could hold the answer to feeding everyone but there's one problem. It's the home to dinosaurs. The Extinction Trials give the young and healthy a chance to serve their people, to venture to to Piloria and come back with answers.

This is SO MUCH FUN. It is pretty much The Hunger Games with dinosaurs and you can't take it too seriously, but still, it was fun. It's full of tropes and is predictable in places but just don't think too hard. If you like dinosaurs, give it a go.

Stormchaser loves dinosaurs and doesn't like the government's mission to rid the world of them. She only enters the trials for something to do at first. On the other hand, Lincoln needs to win to help his family. They desperately need health care and that's in short supply, along with everything else on Earthasia.

There are some gruesome deaths and I was gripped when they venture into the heart of Piloria. I'm not sure it abides by the most recent thinking regarding dinosaurs (the velociraptors aren't chicken-like) but it'll be fine for the Jurassic Park generation.

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Book Source: Wildest Dreams Subscription Box