Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Middlegame

Roger and Dodger are the embodiment of the Doctrine of Ethos. Separated at birth, they're not entirely human but an experiment by shady alchemists. Roger is gifted with words and language, Dodger is a maths genius, together they could be gods, and Reed wants that power for himself.

Heredity is not only in blood. It is in the sympathetic vibration of the universe, in the places where atom becomes alchemy.

I absolutely loved Middlegame, a unique premise with the unmistakable mark of Seanan McGuire on it. The story starts at the end, with blood and imminent death of the twins, before taking in their lives from childhood to academia. Roger and Dodger are each other's invisible friends, accidentally forming a bond across the country. They won't meet for years but they help each other with their homework; Roger is useless at maths and Dodger struggles with spelling. They are the friends they wouldn't otherwise have at that stage in life, where their intelligence makes them unusual.

Numbers are simple, obedient things, as long as you understand the rules they live by. Words are trickier. They twist and bite and require too much attention.

The twins are just one of many experiments carried out by Reed and his team of quite disturbing alchemists. He follows the teachings of his former mentor, who hid them in children's books, in plain sight for anyone who wished to look hard enough. She had different ideas of what alchemy could do for the world, Reed is more of a sociopath, not flinching at the sacrifice of children to reach his goals. These alchemists are not just turning lead into gold, but turn body parts into magic. The cover is a Hand of Glory, something which comes up throughout the story and is grim in its creation.

Other kids got Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. She got Ian Malcolm and a world where mathematicians could be rock stars.

I loved the sibling relationship between Roger and Dodger, even though they don't grow up together together. They are repeatedly separated throughout their lives, partly because that's how Reed thinks his project will succeed, but also due to fallings out. They are still there for each other when it matters.

Middlegame is a celebration of nerds, of a love of a subject that goes beyond work or hobbies. Intelligence that makes you superhuman, but still a child in need of affection. It is also gripping and creepy, and full of love.

The fictional children's series about the Up and Under is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, but it also reminds me much of Seanan's own portal fantasy, the Wayward Children series.

Words don't mean anything without someone to understand them.

Seanan says this is the best books she's ever written and I'm inclined to agree. You can currently grab the ebook for peanuts, and I urge you to do so! And to get meta, Over the Woodward Wall by "A. Deborah Baker" is going to be published as a complete book later this year.

ATY: 26. A book from the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Blackwell’s




Book Source: Purchased

Friday, 1 May 2020

The Month That Was... April 2020

Lockdown continues, food supplies seem to be getting back to normal and I've finally managed to concentrate on reading some books!

I've been lucky enough to be able to take my exercise through bluebell woods which are a short walk from my home. I've seen a lot of people missing them this year, but the lack of visitors is probably doing them good. The rain held off for most of April too which has really helped, it's easier to be isolated in the sunshine than when the days are dark and gloomy. I am trying to be positive because I do have it easy, but I also have little wobbles now and then.



Not so much progress on the writing reviews front but I'm going to try and ease back into that in May. At least for things I super loved, like Middlegame and A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. Please poke me if my blog is still empty half way through May!

I've been enjoyed reading Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series too. I felt a bit like I'd burnt out on her books after Cainsville went a bit down hill, but I love the premise of this one and it's not fantasy so it's a bit of a change, even if the male lead is so Clayton!

I bought 28 books in April but lets not dwell on that... I've been playing games as a distraction too, Two Point Hospital, Tropico 6 and Jurassic World. I tried watching Devs, but it was a bit slow, intriguing but slow. No wonder I'm not writing reviews, as I'm still working full time too.

Bonus Scully Collage:



I only reviewed one book:



Also read:

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson ★★★★★
Atlas Alone by Emma Newman ★★★★
City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong ★★★★
A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong ★★★★
Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo ★★★★
One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton ★★★★
Barking by Lucy Sullivan ★★★★
The Switch by Beth O'Leary ★★★
Black River by Will Dean ★★★

Blogged about:

On My Radar: May
Lockdown #Readathon TBR
The One Stop #Readathon Update Post

Thursday, 30 April 2020

On My Radar: May

So a lot of publication dates have been changing lately, for obvious reasons, but I've scraped together a few releases I believe are still going ahead in May. I know not everyone is overjoyed by the premise of the new Hunger Games novel but I'm totally into reading the villain's backstory in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

I also have Aurora Burning (Illumicrate are still taking orders for their edition) and Read with Pride pre-ordered.



5th

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff

6th

Destination Anywhere by Sara Barnard

7th

Making Wolf by Tade Thompson
Of Ants and Dinosaurs by Cixin Liu
Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva



14th

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

18th

Greensmith by Aliya Whiteley

19th

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

26th

Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford



28th

Read with Pride by Lucy Powrie
All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Wonderland by Juno Dawson

Saturday, 25 April 2020

The One Stop #Readathon Update Post

Latest update: 09:30
Hours spent reading: 15.5
Pages read: 744
Books finished: nearly 3


Currently reading: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Hour Twenty-Three

Local time: 12:30
Pages read since last update: 138
Ate: cookie dough ice cream

Half an hour to go and I'm feeling like I need a break but I'm gonna finish Middlegame later today. I want to fully appreciate the end. Wrap up post will come later!

I'm going to update this post throughout the readathon rather than doing multiple posts (unless it gets unwieldy, but I very much doubt that). You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Hour Twenty-One

Local time: 09:30
Pages read since last update: 84
Ate: Buttered crumpets
Drank: Coffee

I'm just remembering innocent days when I thought I could read for a full 24 hours. Haha! Now it's just nice to spend some solid time with a book, and I'm happy with 12 hours of reading and a good night's sleep. I am absolutely loving Middlegame, but it's a bit of a chunkster so I am not convinced I'll finish it by 1 o'clock. Sometimes it's nice just to get absorbed in a long story over readathon.


Hour Nineteen

Local time: 07:00
Pages read since last update: 0

Emerging from sleep. Need coffee!!!

Hour Twelve

Local time: 00:00
Pages read since last update: 103

Quickie update to note my pages read before I fall asleep! Ate some cheese puffs and drank some Pepsi. Words starting to not make sense...

Hour Nine

Local time: 21:00
Pages read since last update: 258
Read: Barking by Lucy Sullivan
Ate: Garlic chicken, chips and salad
Drank: Mint tea

Barking was a quick read about mental health, which meant I could move onto Middlegame, which will probably keep me going for a good chunk of the readathon. Loving it so far, feels like a unique concept but also very Seanan. Josh made dinner so I am fully charged for the late evening stretch.


Hour Five

Local time: 17:00
Pages read since last update: 245
Read: One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
Ate: Nachos
Drank: Coffee + raspberry and apple juice (to match my book)

Finished my first book, woohoo! I took ages to settle, tried reading outside for a bit but wasn't that warm in the end and everyone else being out in their gardens wasn't conducive to me concentrating! So indoors with a Scully shaped lump squished into me right now (she wants her dinner).

One Italian Summer was the perfect first read, but not as fluffy as I'd expected, so some sad but overall uplifting, and a cute summer romance at its heart.

Lockdown #Readathon TBR

Local start time: 13:00


It's time for the first Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon from lockdown, which actually makes it easier to dedicate the weekend to reading. I even have managed to procure snacks! It's also Andi and Heather's last readathon so they've asked us for our #deweymemories. Having looked through my old posts, it was clear that bookstagram was very dark and dingy in the olden days! I'll be sharing a few memories throughout the weekend (and never fear, we've been promised that readathon will carry on under a new leader).

So onto my TBR. I picked our some physical books but at the moment I'm not even sure I know what I want to read, so I might resort to my huge ebook reserves (I don't know what's in there to be honest) or pick something completely different from the shelves.


I love how my garden bench now looks like a photo backdrop that one might buy for this purpose, I should thank Josh for all the paint spills.

In addition to those pictured, these ebooks are high on my radar:
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (Murderbot #3)
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (Murderbot #4)
This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (Rockton #3)
Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (Rockton #4)
Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong (Rockton #5)

You can also follow extra updates on my Instagram stories if you follow me there. Bonus dog photos included.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Book of Koli

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.

Beyond the walls of Mythen Rood is a world full of plants and animals that will kill you. Koli Woodsmith has lived all his life there, dreaming of becoming a Rampart and protecting his town, and the girl he wishes was his. But when he starts to doubt the word of the Ramparts, he uncovers truths that are better kept hidden, as well as finding a very special friend who will guide him through this unrecognisable world.

It's not a stretch to imagine plants turning against us, we have brambles that tear our skin and nettles that sting us, not to mention the carnivorous plants who currently make do with insects. In Koli's world, seeds bury into flesh and hollow you out as they grow. Trees will snare you as you walk past. They are dormant in the dark and winter months are safer.

One by one, behind me and up ahead and all around, they sprung their traps, lashing up out of the dirt with their spiked ends curled like sickles, to catch animals as was running there.

The book is of two parts, firstly setting the scene of the town in which Koli was brought up and its social structure. It shows how tech from the past is in short supply and is used to keep the town safe, but only if you have the gift to use it. I was glad to move away from Mythen Rood in the second half, as it had covered enough about the dystopian nature of their settlement and their power struggles.

The second half was more interesting to me, with more of the world at large explored, how the plants behave rather than Koli explaining it to us. He sees how others choose to live, how they manage to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. And I loved Monomo, despite her concept seeming to have come straight from a Black Mirror episode. I don't really want to spoil who she is, but I loved her chirpiness and she mirrored my reactions to Koli's naivety.

It never stops amazing me how a story can deliver you out of your own self, even in the worst of times.

Sometimes it does come across that Carey is a screenwriter. I would have liked more information on the flora and fauna of this world, which is a future version of ours. A little is told about what happened and there are hints that more might be revealed in future instalments. Without further information there were things that seemed odd, like how they still eat apples, yet it's implied that all trees are to be feared. Would tree fruits not be too high risk? They spend months steeping the wood they use to make sure it's dead, why would you go round eating their fruit?

I probably would have enjoyed this more as an audiobook as it is written in first person from Koli's point of view and his grammar is purposefully flawed, to make him sound from a different time. It's consistent throughout, but this isn't my favourite thing to read for a whole novel. I noticed how much more absorbed I was when Monomo or Ursala was explaining something in their more current day language.

The Book of Koli is published by Orbit books and is out now in paperback and ebook editions. It's the first book in a trilogy and all three books are planned for publication this year, so not long to wait to continue the story. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

ATY: 22. A book with the major theme of survival

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Blackwell’s


Please also consider ordering through your local independent bookshop.



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Month That Was... March 2020

Well obviously, March was the month that the world changed. We now cross the road when we see someone approaching from the opposite direction, yet still call out a cheery "Good morning!". Scully is enjoying the social distancing from other dogs, 2 metres seems to be the perfect distance for her to gawk at said dog but not have her bum sniffed. Still, it's hard not being able to take her on nice long walks, especially since it's been so sunny. What cruel twist of fate the weather is playing on us.

Scully the Labrador looking fed up

I haven't really been reading much though. Audiobooks are down to almost nothing, I've tried listening while working but it's not the same as walking at a brisk pace. And the constant news cycle has been badgering my anxious brain to look at it rather than the books I want to read. I seem to be getting a bit back into reading now, and I actually wrote a review the other day! So we'll see if I keep the blog going or not. Not to mention that book buying opportunities seem to be drying up all over the place. Haha, like I'm going to run out, but still, it seems hard to encourage people to buy new books.

I hope you and your loved ones are safe, and have enough food to satisfy your mental health as well as physical. Here's what made it onto the blog...

Reviews:

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

Also read:

Monstress: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu + Sana Takeda ★★★★
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton ★★
Grief Angels by David Owen ★★★★
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott ★★★
Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan ★★★★
The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson ★★★★

Blogged about:

On My Radar: April

Challenge progress:

Goodreads: 37/100
Around the Year: 13/52
Popsugar: 17/50
Book Riot: 5/24


Grief Angels by David Owen

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

On My Radar: April

As we know, authors with books out during lockdown really need our help, even if that's just shouting about their existence. The availability of titles here might change, but this is what I've previously rounded up for the month of April.

If your local bookshop has been affected by the shutdown of Gardners (a major book distributor who also runs Hive) you can still pre-order physical books from Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwell's and Wordery. And of course there are ebooks and audiobooks to keep you going.

As always, inclusion here isn't an endorsement and dates stated are generally for the UK print edition unless otherwise noted.



2nd

Pretending by Holly Bourne (h)
Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna (h)
Department of Mind-Blowing Theories by Tom Gauld (h)
Most Likely by Sarah Watson (p)



7th

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (p)
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker (h)(US)
American Harvest by Marie Mutsuki Mockett (h)(US)
Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (h)



9th

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang (h)
Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth (p)



16th

The Switch by Beth O'Leary (h)
If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley (h)
Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O'Connell (h)
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold (h)



21st

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman (p)
Kept Animals by Kate Milliken (h)(US)



28th

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova (h)(US)
Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar (h)(US)



30th

Goldilocks by Laura Lam (h)
Fake Law by The Secret Barrister (h)
Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters (p)*
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (h)
The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis (p)*
Q by Christina Dalcher (h)


(e) early ebook release
(p) paperback
(h) hardback
(US) US only
* ebook already available