Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Places I've Cried in Public

A school project gives Amelie the idea. She'll create a memory map of all the places he made her cry.

I've run out of words to use that mean "crying", and we're not even at the Cube yet. I'm going to have to thesaurus.com the word. By the end of this, I'm going to be bewailing and lamenting just so I don't bore you with the word cry.

The Places I've Cried in Public chronicles the highs and lows of an unhealthy teenage relationship. It never fools you into thinking it's going to be a romance, the current timeline narrative clearly lets you know it went sour. That narrative is second person, directly addressing Reese.

When her dad is made redundant, their family is uprooted from Sheffield to the South of England, meaning Amelie leaves her friends, and boyfriend behind. She and Alfie have an agreement, they'll meet again at university but in the meantime, they are free to live their lives apart. But this story isn't about Alfie, the boy who is there as an example of a healthy relationship.

The "it" that I'm working through now. The messy line of biro. The dots on a map where you made me cry - I'm sure it's all my fault somehow. If only I'd done things differently. Been... less me, then I wouldn't have driven you away.

Amelie is just starting to make friends when the whirlwind that is Reese enters her life. Alfie appears to be distancing himself from her, and Reese says and does all the right things. He makes her feel intoxicated, not like the steady love she had before. She ignores the warnings of her new friends, and jumps in head first into a new relationship.

What happens between them is told through flashbacks, connected to all the places she cried in public, mostly because of him. It shows how an abusive relationship doesn't need to involve black eyes and broken bones, it can be emotional and insidious. She finds herself changing herself to please him, to stop him getting angry with her. Like many young women, she is manipulated into things she really doesn't want to do, just because he says it's what everyone does. Doesn't she want to make him happy?

I wish I had listened to my gut. It takes guts to listen to your gut, though. It takes bravery to walk away from something because part of your bowel tells you to. I mean, who does that? That is crazy.

It's pretty upsetting in places. Holly Bourne does have the knack of hitting the nail on the head when it comes to the harsh realities of being a teenage girl in the here and now. This is so far from the fluffy romance that a lot of people think YA is.

ATY Challenge: 2. A book by an author whose last name is one syllable

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 13 January 2020

Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Kaz's crew are left reeling after their daring break in to the Ice Court. Nina's fighting withdrawal and Wylan's stuck with the face of a stranger. The stranger who holds secret of jurda parem and is safely in their custody. Kuwei is Ketterdam's most wanted man, can they smuggle him out the city or will they hand him over?

We meet fear. We greet the unexpected visitor and listen to what he has to tell us. When fear arrives, something is about to happen.

My love of the Grishaverse has certainly been slow to bloom. I wasn't that impressed with the first book (which was called The Gathering Dark at the time) but didn't write off the trilogy. In the meantime, the fan following grew and eventually I gave in and read the others. Six of Crows really was the turning point though, and Crooked Kingdom is my favourite by far.

Even though I went and read King of Scars first, so I had quite a big thing spoiled. I don't know what I was thinking, I'd got it into my head that it was a prequel and, well, it wasn't. Now having read Crooked Kingdom, I wish I had read in order as Nina's continued story would have had more oompf. I got to the end and I was desperate to know what happens next, even though I'd already read what happens next!

The characters are what make this duology so good, and having had their personalities established in advance, I could fall straight into rooting for them. They are all flawed, fighting with their personal demons, addictions and personal intimacy issues. And the fact that they all care for each other, this band of criminal teenagers, even if they don't always show it.

I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting.

I also love that it's like Mission Impossible in its tropes. What genre is that, like they're not spies and it's not simply a heist? Anyway, it was oodles of fun and emotional, and I wish there were more books set in Ketterdam.

It'll be interesting to see what Netflix do with their adaptation. I'm not sure how they're going to smoosh Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows into the same season, they're not meant to be happening at the same time and they are such separate storylines. Her later books feel much darker and more grown-up, and I'd really like to see that in the TV show.

ATY Challenge: 1. A book with a title that doesn't contain the letters A, T or Y

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Thursday, 9 January 2020

The Starless Sea

When grad student Zachary finds an untitled book in the library, he is shocked to find it contains a chapter about him. An event that happened years ago, that no one else could have known about. The day he found a painted door on a wall and didn't go through it. This mysterious book leads him to the world it describes, one of silent acolytes, guardians and keepers, of bees, swords and keys, of stories kept safe in a harbour on the Starless Sea.

I wasn't the biggest fan of The Night Circus, but I liked the sound of a secret underground book cult enough to give Erin Morgenstern another chance and I'm glad I did! Now don't expect to be sucked in immediately, it takes a while for the seemingly unconnected stories to come together.

Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.

The Starless Sea is metafiction, several books within a book. The opening chapters are from a book Zachary finds, and it alternates between his story and "Sweet Sorrows". The fictional book is not all that linear either, but at some point it just clicks. There are other fictional books used in the same way, giving up new bits of the story. It is a story about stories, whether written, oral or in a game...

I'd heard that this book was a kind of ode to video games, and at first I thought that it was just her character's choice of study that was the tribute, but then the game tropes start appearing. A character must get something for another character in order to continue with their quest, found objects reveal a little bit of story, the visual symbolism, putting things in conveniently shaped holes reveals a hidden stairway... Those kind of things. Knowing the game connection made me much more accepting of these plot devices, it's just like a game! There was one point when I thought they might actually be in a game.

Reading a novel, he supposes, is like playing a game where all the choices have been made for you ahead of time by someone who is much better at this particular game.

I quite liked the stories from "Sweet Sorrows", "Fortunes and Fables" and "The Ballad of Simon and Eleanor" by themselves. They are myths and fairytales, almost standalone short stories until you piece together the players. I totally understand why some people went back and re-read it straight away. There are some things I don't quite have connected, and I had to do a bit of flicking back and forth at points near the end. To be honest, the things I'm not clear about don't really matter.

Morgenstern's writing is beautiful and there are plenty of quotable lines. I thought the characters and plot were much stronger in this than The Night Circus, and her prose had more purpose.

Occasionally, Fate pulls itself together again and Time is always waiting.

The ending was a teensy bit unsatisfying. I suppose the point was that whilst stories have endings, there's always more story possible. I just don't see Fate accepting it considering what they were trying to achieve.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 21. A book published the month of your birthday

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

The Rosewater Redemption

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.

The Rosewater Redemption is the conclusion to the Rosewater trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Mayor Jack is handing over the dead of Rosewater to the Homians, allowing them to supplant their consciousnesses in physical forms. The Mayor's wife is on a mission to prove that the reanimates are not truly gone, going up against Rosewater's policy, which was put in place to keep them safe. But it will only last so long, eventually humans will be replaced on Earth unless someone can find an alternative.

Part of this instalment is told in first person from the point of view of Oyin Da, otherwise known as Bicycle Girl. This reveals her back-story and her part to play. I'll admit I wasn't in a great headspace whilst reading this and there's a lot happening, so I'm not sure I absorbed it all. I didn't completely understand what was going on with Bicycle Girl. Was it the xenosphere giving her the ability to time travel or was she not even time travelling?

Kaaro's keeping his head low whilst Aminat works for what's left of the authorities. The Synners are Homians taking things into their own hands, suicide bombers of sorts, speeding up the transfer process by taking more lives. Aminat wants something to be done, a punishment to those who get away with it, given a new body without consequences.

Death has to mean death, otherwise Rosewater, Nigeria, heck, the world will just be a video game for them where they will just re-spawn and humans will be non-player characters.

Rosewater, now independent from Nigeria, makes the choice to decriminalise homosexuality and the endgame plays out against their first, yet very small, Pride march. This was a nice touch. However for such an innovative alien invasion, I felt the solution was a bit cliched. Overall I enjoyed the trilogy but I think the other books were stronger in plot and pacing.

The Rosewater Redemption is published by Orbit and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Sunday, 5 January 2020

On My Radar: January

Happy New Year! Are you ready for all the new books 2020 is going to throw at you? January seems a slowish start to the publishing calendar, but there are still some goodies to tempt you.

As always, inclusion here isn't an endorsement and books may be available on different dates in different territories/formats (and sometimes they just change). Dates stated are generally for the UK print edition unless otherwise noted.

7th

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (e)


9th

One Of Us Is Next by Karen McManus
The God Game by Danny Tobey
Followers by Megan Angelo (e)


14th

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

23rd

Pine by Francine Toon
The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes
The Other People by C. J. Tudor
Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer


28th

Prosper's Demon by K J Parker
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel by Octavia Butler + John Jennings


30th

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

(e) = early ebook release

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Win a 2020 Pre-Order


Are you overwhelmed by the number of amazing sounding books coming out next year? No idea how you'll get your hands on them? Let me help out! The winner can pick a pre-order of a 2020 release (up to maximum value of £20). The giveaway is open internationally to anywhere Wordery ships to. Please note you will not get the book until the release date.

If you've not got a 2020 release in mind, here are some titles I'm personally looking forward to (descriptions from publishers). Keep going to enter via the rafflecopter.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Best Of 2019

As we approach the end of the year, it's time to share my favourite reads from 2019. I gave 19 books 5 stars this year, so it's been hard to whittle this list down to ten.


The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Witches seem to be a common theme in my best of list this year, with the first of them being a fascinating historical fiction based on the Pendle Witch Trials.

Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

A wonderful combination of beautiful writing and a creepy atmosphere, set over several Irish summers.


The Migration by Helen Marshall

My top climate fiction read of the year.

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

It seems creepy has also been high up in my list of likes this year, with this great historical horror making the cut.


War Doctor by David Nott

This book broke me. A heartbreaking account of the realities of being a doctor in war zones and the huge damage that modern conflicts inflict on innocent people.

Sanctuary by V.V. James

A modern witch hunt with actual witches.


The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel

I cheated here and included a whole trilogy as one book, but I loved every one of these volumes about giant space robots and their affects on planet Earth. The last one is very topical right now. I haven't reviewed these yet as I've just been enjoying reading without the pressures of writing about them, but I might do something in the new year about the trilogy.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

A fantastic little moral tale about what happens when we become complacent.


The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Awww such warm fuzzies, a lovely book with a serious centre.

The Heartland by Nathan Filer

A hugely compassionate book on schizophrenia, dispelling myths and prejudices. I feel like I have a much better understanding of this condition now.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Oligarchy

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.

The daughter of a Russian oligarch, Natasha is sent to an English boarding school on the outskirts of Stevenage. All the girls there are rich, and thin. They swap their tips for getting thinner. They are left unchecked until one day tragedy strikes.

If you had to choose between being ugly and happy, or beautiful and miserable, which would you pick?

Oligarchy is an unflinching look at eating disorders with an edge of dark humour. Whilst it is set in a boarding school, the fact that it's not marketed as young adult allows the characters to be uncompromising. They don't set a good example, yet they do portray the warped thinking that goes hand in hand with eating disorders. The myriad of myths they absorb about food are both ridiculous and heart-breaking.

When one girl dies, an outbreak of anorexia is declared at the school. This doesn't seem to deter many of the girls but through their frankly dreadful counsellors, the book can highlight some of the thinking patterns connected to eating disorders. The teachers don't appear to be doing a very good job of handling things and as the situation escalates, you really start to doubt the motivations of the school. An outbreak of suspected norovirus among a group of unready malnutritioned teenagers is handled shockingly.

That her friends' diets are so secret and weird that you could never, ever discuss them with an adult? Why is that? Because they are ridiculous. Because their diets, and everything they think, and everything they do, is ridiculous when compared to real life.

Tasha's father might be an oligarch but she didn't grow up in that world, and her mentality isn't quite as bad as the other girls. This starts to show when she's in group therapy and the worst she can think of was throwing away a box of chocolates. I loved Tiffanie and her dib-dob obsession. The girls, these "bad apples", have their own private ways of speaking, and there is warmth between them that only makes you wish they would support each other in ways that wasn't about their diets.

None of the girls are given anything to aim for in life, they are the daughters of the rich, expected to be pretty, but not to carve out a career or meaning. Left detached to life, they seek something to control, something that will make them better. That is their weight and the calories they consume. The internet has given new avenues to those seeking advice on extreme weight loss. And throwing these susceptible girls together at boarding school just intensifies the problem.

Every night after supper the girls - the bad ones, the rotting apples from the attic dorms - walk past the pictures of Princess Augusta in the lake and into the headmaster's study where he reads to them from Great Expectations, a story of a boy called Pip who will do anything for a beautiful, thin, rich girl called Estella, who never eats and who lives in a house full of cobwebs.
This book isn't going to be for everyone, if you have a difficult relationship with food or body image it might be hard to read. The girls think that being fat is about he worst thing you can be, and whilst that is part of their illness, it does mean they can come across as fat shaming.

Oligarchy is published by Canongate and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Wednesday, 4 December 2019

The Month That Was... November 2019

Another month of pathetic blog activity has whooshed by! I barely made a dent in my planned TBR for November and mostly just listened to audiobooks. I'm so thankful I finally learned the knack of listening to stories as it means I can at least get through some books on my commute.


I'm getting antsy to start on my 2020 challenges though, they've helped me focus my reading a bit this year and I'm all adrift without any to follow. I'll be doing Around the Year in 52 Books and Popsugar properly and then I'll tick off Book Riot's Read Harder prompts if I can but am not fully committed. I call it the Read Not Much Harder challenge.

Oh yeah, and one of my suggestions made the Popsugar list! It's an author with flora or fauna in their name.

If you missed it, check out what was on my radar for November.

Reviews:



So what did I read?

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Urban Fantasy - Werewolves
Verdict:
Re-read of the first book that got me hooked on fantasy. Older me doesn't like Elena so much in this first book, she really jerks around the men in her life. I'm not re-rating this though as I try to use my first impressions, and I did previously love it. Still tempted to re-read the rest too (Elena gets better).
POPSUGAR: 7. A reread of a favorite book

The Toll by Neal Shusterman
★★★★★

Science Fiction - Immortality - Season Finale
Verdict:
I've listened to this whole trilogy on audio and I highly recommend. I've seen a few negative reviews on the final instalment but I love being absorbed in this world and it surprised me with where it went. I guess if you're just in it for the main character arcs and not the world-building and politics, it might have dragged on a bit. But I loved it.

Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs by Monty Don
★★★★

Dogs - Non-Fiction - Memoir
Verdict:
Lovely book about Nigel and dog-ownership in general, narrated by Monty himself on audio. Does not shy away from the fact that dogs die, as he talks about dogs he's had in the past.

Underland by Robert Macfarlane
★★★

Non-Fiction - Caves - Natural History
Verdict:
Not sure this is my thing, I don't really need poetry in my non-fiction, although I can understand why people like him. The descriptions of people going into caves got a bit repetitive. More interesting to me were the parts about the ice and the nuclear waste storage.