Saturday, 13 October 2018

On My Radar: November

I'm not reading a huge amount in advance of publication these days, but I still want to tell you about exciting forthcoming releases. This list includes November releases that have caught my eye. Some might be read and reviewed in November, some might be pre-ordered and some may remain on my wishlist forever looking at me with puppy dog eyes.



1st

Vita Nostra by Sergey + Marina Dyachenko
Trinity by Louisa Hall
The Light Between Worlds by Laura Weymouth
Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Black Wings Beating by Alex London



6th

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

8th

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean



15th

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
The Lingering by S.J.I. Holliday
The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson
Not Just for Christmas by Natalie Cox
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold



29th

How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman
The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Burial Rites

Sentenced to death for her involvement in the deaths of two men, Agnes is sent to stay at a remote farm, living and working with the family there. At first they are skeptical about housing a murderess, but as Agnes proves herself useful, she starts to recall her life leading up to the night Natan died.

I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold what has not yet been stolen from me. I cannot let myself slip away. I will hold what I am inside, and keep my hands tight around all the things I have seen and heard, and felt.

Agnes Magnúsdóttir was the last person to be executed in Iceland and Burial Rites attempts to tell the tale of her final months. It is beautifully written, depicting the harshness of Icelandic winters and as well as the despair of Agnes. I liked the details about rural life in 19th century Iceland. They are very dependent on dairy products, mostly drinking whey. Rye bread is considered a treat.

Through Agnes's past, the reality of being a woman, and a poor one at that, is laid bare. She has no family to fall back on and she is at the whims of her employers, farmers mostly. The cottages are barely enough protection against the winter storms and you get the feeling of how precarious life was.

Knowing the inevitability of Agnes's fate meant I found the whole thing depressing. Not much about the trial is revealed but the way the facts are presented it seemed there was very little evidence against her. It's hard to tell how much is speculation and how much actually came from accounts that have survived.

Poverty scrapes these homes down until they all look the same, and they all have in common the absence of things that ought to be there. I might as well have been at one place all my life.

Many chapters start with a letter or legal document and these have been translated from the originals. I feel ambivalent towards these fictional yet very personal stories about real people from history. The author has to make up a lot and I think I prefer straight non-fiction or fictional characters in an otherwise real moment in history. However personal preference aside, Hannah Kent wrote a very accomplished debut novel.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 3A. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Top Ten Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I'm not too keen on super long books, but it was interesting to delve into my stats to see what the longest books I've ever read are. There were some surprises and a lot more variation in genre than I expected. The page counts are taken from the edition I have shelved as read on Goodreads so may not be 100% accurate.

In reverse order, here are the longest books I've read...


693 pages
Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

The final instalment is looking like it will jump to the top of the list but for now, Empire of Storms takes 10th place. They just keep getting longer!

694 pages
Duma Key by Stephen King

You'd expect a Stephen King novel on this list, right? I actually haven't read that many, I thought about reading It but it's soooo long.


695 pages
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

Looking back at my (very old) review, I felt this book didn't need to be as long as it was. I don't think I've read another Nesbo since...

704 pages
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I cannot remember what happens in this book.


724 pages
Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton

I can't even believe I read over 700 pages of vampire porn... The earlier books were so much better (and shorter).

739 pages
Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

I remember reading this for book club and shortly after we introduced a rule that chosen books had to be under 500 pages.


756 pages
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

Poor Twilight gets a lot of bad press but I enjoyed the series for entertainment value at the time.

768 pages
The Fireman by Joe Hill

My favourite book from this list, it really didn't feel like it was this long.


819 pages
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I've only read of GRR Martin book, I started on the second but I just preferred the TV show. Sorry books!

885 pages
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

And a real surprise winner, it's not even fantasy!

Do you enjoy reading long books? What's the longest book you've ever read? Feel free to leave a link to your TTT post in the comments.

Monday, 8 October 2018

What the Dog Knows

Cat Warren's German Shepherd Solo was a singleton, the sole puppy in his litter. He's just not going to have the same social skills as a pup from a larger litter so she decides he needs work to do. So begins her journey into the world of cadaver dogs, training him to find dead bodies.

Love of the putrid is inherent in canines. So why not take that love and channel it toward something more socially useful than rolling in dead squirrel?

This was a fascinating read on a rather macabre subject. Any dog owner knows how tempting a smelly corpse is (roadkill, of course!) and their noses are tuned into such scents. Despite the subtitle, it doesn't go into the science of smell all that much, instead concentrating on the history of cadaver dogs and how they go about training, interspersed with anecdotes from Solo's own training and work.

It also touches on some other working dogs, mostly law enforcement but also search and rescue. The cadaver dogs are mostly supplied by volunteers but they do valuable work, finding victims and providing answers to the families of missing persons.

Solo, who has just spent his time throwing himself with delight into muck-and-algae-filled swamps, will tuck his tail and lay his ears back tight against his head, trying to seal them against a single drop of clean water.

Cat's involvement with cadaver dogs leads her to work with and talk to some of the pioneers and she includes their stories in the book. It also spends a bit of time talking about the cases where people have over-relied on the dogs, not backing up with extra evidence, or believing the dogs are infallible.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 7A. A book by an author who has the same first or last name as you

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Sawkill Girls

On the island of Sawkill, it's not that unusual for girls to go missing, especially the pretty ones.

You are a small girl. You are mighty. You are fragile. You can move mountains. You are breakable. You will never break.

I wanted an atmospheric listen for my commute without it being too scary, so I thought this young adult horror would be a good fit. I was pretty disappointed in it, that might be partly down to the audiobook narration, but it just didn't provide the atmosphere I wanted.

Marion has just moved to the island with her mother and sister, her father having died in an accident. It's a new start for them and Charlotte catches the attention of the beautiful and rich Val Mortimer. The Mortimer family is matriarchal, the women keep their names and men don't stick around for long.

Zoey, daughter of the police chief, doesn't trust Val, all the missing girls have been linked to her. She blames her for the death of her best friend. Oddly all the missing girls are assumed dead rather than runaways and no one seems to be concerned that so many teenage girls vanish from this place. I liked Zoey's dad the most but I was probably projecting Jim Hopper onto him. Actually there are a few things that seem very Stranger Things inspired near the end, I'm just not sure it fit this story.

Tragedy had touched Sawkill, again and again and again, but after each girl’s disappearance, once a respectable amount of time had passed, everyone seemed to stop caring.

Lots of weird things happen; trees dripping blood, animals acting odd, talking moths... Marion has terrible headaches, which she starts to call the "bone cry". Zoey seems affronted by the fact her father has a secret room, I think parents are allowed to have some privacy from their kids. And for some reason the answer is in A Wrinkle in Time. Huh?

I don't expect young adult horror to be that scary (although it can be) but there was also no mystery. Except why the horses were suddenly freaked out all the time when they'd been living with the demon around for so long. You find out shortly after meeting Val that her family is aligned with some evil force making them lead girls to their deaths. So I was left waiting for the rest of the characters to catch up.

I might have missed bits due to zoning out on the audiobook, but the plot seemed all over the place. I just did not care what happened to the characters. And considering what Val did, the romance didn't feel right.

Plenty of people are loving it though, so I suggest you take a look at Goodreads reviews if it's something you think you'd like, it just was a bit of a disappointment for me.

Listening Notes

Lauren Ezzo's narration is incredibly slow. I usually listen at 1.25 speed but ended up at 1.75 for this and bits still seemed drawn out. I looked up this narrator and it sounds like she specialises in romance and I think this might have been her romance voice. I don't need it to sound like the narrator is swooning over the horrors of the island. When bad things happen to a character it shouldn't sound like a sex scene. It was OK once I sped it up but it was lacking in atmosphere. She wasn't the right choice for this book and I would probably avoid her in future. Although the parts from the island's point of view sounded much more normal and suitable.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Thunderhead

The Thunderhead has started to worry about the fate of the human race. Population growth might just be a problem once again, but it also does not agree with the new order Scythes. Of course, bound by its own rules, it cannot interfere with the scythedom, but it can manipulate certain humans enough to set its plan in motion.

I will do everything in my power to save them from themselves, but if I am unsuccessful, at least I can take some comfort in the fact that I would then be free.

So what's been happening since the end of Scythe? Rowan has been serving his own brand of justice as Scythe Lucifer, gleaning the lives of corrupt Scythes. Citra is now Scythe Anastasia and has her own way of doing things. She gives each person she gleans a month to get their lives in order before they die. This has ruffled feathers but is not against the rules. Oh and someone is out to kill her and Scythe Curie, permanently.

So. Much. Drama. I might say there was too much going on but it all fits together in this complex world. There is plenty of focus on corrupt politics, as we can expect from books written in the past couple of years. A certain Scythe comes back from the past (I did not see that coming) and is good at telling people what they want to hear, which does not always translate to running an organisation well.

An arrogant head of state gives permission to all nature of hate as long as it feeds his ambition. And the unfortunate truth is, people devour it. Society gorges itself, and rots. Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom.

Instead of extracts from Scythe journals, there are passages from the Thunderhead's point of view between chapters. Its personality comes through and you get the sense of everything it is doing to keep the world going. It shouldn't have favourites, but it clearly does. I did feel frustrated at times by its insistence on following the rules. It would be so easy for it to fix things!

Poor Grayson. He is a new character, raised by the Thunderhead after his parents got bored of him. Grayson loves the Thunderhead, so he can't think of anything worse than being shut out. With its metaphoric hands tied, the Thunderhead has no choice but to use his loyal ward to do what it can't.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was that I found the unsavory sub-culture a little contrived. Most things in this world are well thought through and reflect on society. The unsavories just felt like they were created as a plot device so Grayson could go undercover. They supposedly exist because some people just need to cause trouble and the Thunderhead wants everyone to be happy. The unsavories came across as children playing at being bad, knowing there's no severe consequences.

However I did laugh at the part where they keep a dysfunctional Washington DC to keep the moaners happy. People do love to moan!

That’s exactly what the scythedom is: high school with murder.

What an ending! It has made me speculate when the next book will be set. Will the scythedom have changed dramatically or will it be a quick continuation? I cannot wait!

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Hidden Figures

The Popsugar challenge wanted me to read a book of a film I've already seen and Hidden Figures ended up to be a great choice because it has so much more scope than the film it inspired. If for some reason it has passed you by, this is the story of the black women who worked as NASA mathematicians or "computers" during the space race.

I changed what I could, and what I couldn't, I endured.

Actually as the book opens, NASA doesn't exist yet. Instead there was NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) and the women were employed as part of the war effort. It focuses mostly on Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson but also acknowledges the many other women who were involved in the early days of NASA's achievements.

It's obvious that the film condenses the timeline and focuses on the space race, whilst in reality the events happened much further apart. By the time they were working on the Mercury project, Katherine was ignoring the segregated toilets (and the toilet issue is only briefly mentioned in the book but I can understand why it was used as a way to show the unfairness of segregation).

Virginia, a state with one of the highest concentrations of scientific talent in the world, led the nation in denying education to its youth.

What I found the most interesting about the book is how it interweaves the social change of the time. These three woman lived with prejudice in daily life and Virginia seemed to be particularly dragging its heels despite the situation at Langley.

It's crazy to imagine that there was this huge drive for women mathematicians from the 1940's and now there is a the struggle to get and keep women working in STEM. Maybe if these talented women were celebrated earlier, things could have been different.

Sometimes, she knew, the most important battles for dignity, pride, and progress were fought with the simplest of actions.

If you've seen the film and were left wanting to know more, I'd definitely recommend the book.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 1. A book made into a movie you’ve already seen

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 1 October 2018

The Month That Was... September 2018

+ International Giveaway

Another month has whooshed by and it's definitely feeling autumnal now. The jumpers are out and the nights are drawing in. At least this means it's the perfect time of year to curl up with a book and Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is just around the corner.


I did the Illumicrate unboxing challenge on Instagram and won my next box, woohoo! I've not been keeping up with challenges even though I feel like doing them at the start of the month, I just don't seem to have time to do them justice. And I really need to start using my studio lights this time of year.

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

Book of the Month:
By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts

Reviews:




Challenges

I'm so close to finishing the Popsugar challenge, it's a miracle. The Goodreads group has been a huge motivator. I'm also pretty close to my overall target for the year but I purposefully set that lower so Goodreads wouldn't nag me about being behind all year.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge (48/50)
1. A book made into a movie you've already seen: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
11. A book by a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
2A. A cyberpunk book: By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts
3A. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
7A. A book by an author with the same first or last name as you: What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren
8A. A microhistory: Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo (15/25)
This is Totally Going to Happen One Day: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch
Cyberpunk: By the Pricking of Her Thumb by Adam Roberts
Epic: Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Alien Invasion: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

I've bowed out of Read Harder (again). Next year I will do Around the Year instead which seems more open to interpretation.

Goodreads: 95/100