Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Top Ten Best Books So Far 2017

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

Half way through the year already! I'll be checking in with my goals and challenges later in the week, but as today is top ten day, here's 10 of the best so far. I ahven't limited these to 2017 releases as I've been reading more backlist and my own books. I don't seem to be dishing out 5 stars as much as usual, I must be getting picky in my old age!



Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik



You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir



Fragile Lives by Stephen Westaby
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff



Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Saga Volume 7 by Brian K Vaughan + Fiona Staples



When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

Monday, 26 June 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple is excited about going to college, if she can just get through one last summer without her parents changing their mind. Her mother thinks college is a great place to find the Ideal Indian Husband but Dimple would rather concentrate on her career. Marriage and babies are just not for her.

Enter Rishi, a hopeless romantic who can't wait to meet the future wife his parents have chosen for him. Only no one's told Dimple and she promptly throws her iced coffee at him, thinking he's a random weirdo.

It's a super charming and fun contemporary romance, with characters you can't help but like. It seems doomed from the start but somehow they manage to become friends. Rishi is so old before his time but he's kind of adorable and so nice.

But that was Rishi... he was like a pop song you thought you couldn't stand, but found yourself humming in the shower anyway.

There is an underlying theme of the pressure of living up to your parent's expectations especially as someone with immigrant parents. Rishi and Dimple are American yet their parents are Indian and sometimes there is a culture clash. This isn't just about relationships but also careers. Rishi loves comics and has real artistic talent, but he refuses to see that it could be his life instead of the career path his father has chosen for him.

I think it reflects how most modern arranged marriages are carried out (well apart from Dimple's parents not telling her!). They are more of an introduction facilitated by parents who do want the best for their children. I liked how both sets of parents went from being perceived as controlling to being supportive of their child's needs. When most of what we hear about arranged marriages is their forceful nature, it's nice to see the other side. I think it's kind of sweet and definitely beats the hell out of the online dating scene.

They are both attending the same summer programme, in which participants pair up to create an idea for an app over six weeks. The prize is to get their app shown to Dimple's idol, a woman who started a social media company. I found this element a bit contrived, like it was an attempt to say coding was cool while being really wishy washy about any actual app development going on. They didn't appear to do any learning in their 6 weeks at college either, it was all talent shows and cons. Are American summer programmes actually like this?

Dimple calls Rishi a Brahmin, but later it's revealed that his father had to work his way up to where he is now. I knew roughly that Brahmin was the highest social caste in India, so this seemed odd to be so of course I looked it up. It's now used as slang, amongst younger Indians, meaning rich person.

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Out of Heart

Out of Heart is a simply told story, about grief and family. When Adam's grandfather (referred to as Dadda) dies, he donates his heart. Still dealing with their loss, two weeks later a man turns up at the door. His name is William and Dadda's heart saved his life.

Adam Shah's To Do List:
1. Meet Laila-Grey (Be cool)
2. Meet Dad (Watch him)
3. William (Try to understand why he's here)
4. Carry on working on the >big project<
5. Watch Mum (Still needs to cry)
6. Keep it real (Cans)

This book requires a bit of suspension of belief. A man walks in off the street and is accepted into a family for the sole reason that the youngest family member recognises something in him. Implying there is a connection via the heart. It is explained later how William knew where the heart came from, but it still has a sense of fairy tale to it.

William and Adam both start having dreams about Dadda and the heart. William is with the family briefly, and is a quiet unassuming man, but he is a catalyst for plenty of changes for the better. At first I though Farah was deaf but instead she had an accident leaving her unable to speak but still able to communicate.

It must be our minds. Dadda gave his heart, not a brain. There's no hard drive in the heart.

I felt it was lacking emotionally and there were a lot of different threads so no issue was looked at in great detail. One of Adam's friends make a distasteful joke about people thinking he's on the autistic spectrum and they will think he's crazy. There's a lot about Adam, that makes you think maybe there is some learning difficulty left undiagnosed. His teachers think he's capable but he just doesn't do the work. He communicates better through his artwork and creates sort of poems from jumbled letters, helping him make sense of his thoughts.

It might be better read as a middle grade book, where more complex explorations aren't required. It touches a little on poverty and domestic abuse, and there's a very gentle romance which is a very small part. I can see younger, serious readers who prefer their fiction without action liking this. Adam is fifteen and they do say kids like to read upwards, so maybe 12-14 is a good age if the topics are OK for them.

Irfan cleverly introduces the Shah's as Muslims in a scene where Yasmin and Farah are shooed away from Dadda's funeral by elder men from the community. Women are not permitted. I liked Yasmin, she repeatedly stands up for herself and by the end you can tell she sees some of this "community" as fools. I don't think their religion is ever spelled out but it is implied. This also explains why Dadda's heart donation was such a shock.

Organ donation is a topic of much confusion in the Islamic faith and as a result there is a severe shortage of donors among certain ethnic groups. It is not condemned in the Koran but some believe it will leave person incomplete in the afterlife. Yet saving a life is the greatest gift and should be encouraged.

Claret waves had crashed against a cliff-face, attacking the atria and surging through the ventricles.

The book is also illustrated, with a dot-to-dot at the end (this is relevant) and is interspersed with facts and quotes about hearts.

Out of Heart is published by Hot Key Books and is out now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Our Dark Duet

Our Dark Duet is the sequel to This Savage Song and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

There's a new monster in town and it's a greater threat to humanity than the Malchai, Corsai and Sunai combined. At the start of Our Dark Duet, Kate Harker is no longer in Verity. Instead she's in Prosperity, a city supposedly free of monsters.

FTF. Three letters that had come to mean a force, a wall, a war.

The monsters are manifests of violent crime, usually a murder or, in the case of the Sunai, a mass murder. The souls of those responsible are marked with red. While the Malchai and Corsai feed on blood and flesh, the Sunai feed on the souls of sinners by playing music. At the end of This Savage Song, Kate's soul was stained red leaving her unable to hear August's music without risking her life.

Kate has assumed a new identity and found herself involved with the Wardens, a group of less than prepared hacktivists who have found out that monsters exist. And Prosperity has its own kind. At first, they seem pretty similar to those she knows so well, they can certainly be killed in the same way. Then Kate witnesses an attack in a cafe, one which should have created monsters, instead there was already one there, practically feeding on the chaos it created. And when it looks at Kate, it leaves something behind in her.

Back in Verity, August is left trying to clean up the mess left after the death of Callum Harker. He had once provided protection for a price, but now his side of the city is under the control of Sloan and humans are either food or servants. Of course, everyone wants to be on Flynn's side of the city now. The more souls August must reap, the more he feels like he's turning into his brother.

These people looked at him and saw something not less than human, but more. Something strong enough to fight for them. Strong enough to win.

Of course, their paths end up crossing once more. I found myself tearing through the pages hoping something, anything, would happen which would undo the barrier between them. This is no romance, but you do want the characters to be happy, to not be lonely.

There's also a new Sunai on the block, created by a mass suicide. This Sunai favours ungendered pronouns, they believe gender is a human thing and Sunai aren't human. Then, of course, there's the monster created by Kate's sin...

I found this sequel much more immersive than the first book, probably because I was already up to speed with the monsters and the rules of this world. I'm a bit sad it's only going to be a duology. The ending is pretty final but there is scope for something else in this universe...maybe.

Our Dark Duet is published by Titan Books and is out now in paperback and ebook editions. 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.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Read an Extract and Win Shattered Minds

The Shattered Minds blog tour stops here today, with an extract to whet your appetite and a chance to win a copy!



ONE
CARINA
Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,
California, Pacifica


Carina awakens with a gasp and bites down a curse.

An alarm bleeps in the Zeal lounge. The clock on the flickering wallscreen tells her she’s woken two hours earlier than she should have. The room is small and close, a little grimy. All it contains is a Chair, the Zeal machine, and its body monitors. Carina paid extra for a private room with money she doesn’t have to spare.

An orderly buzzes the door and steps in, his white lab coat stained about the cuffs. ‘700628,’ he says, confused. ‘Why are you awake?’

‘Your guess is as good as mine,’ Carina replies. ‘Put me back in.’

The orderly shakes his head. His hair is short and buzzed, and he’s thin enough that she can see the shape of his skull beneath his skin. ‘If you’ve been booted out early, there’s a reason. Something’s off. It’ll need to reset, and you should stay out of the Zealscape for at least twelve hours.’

Carina knows something is wrong – that last dream of the girl on the table wasn’t hers, and couldn’t have been. It felt . . . unfinished, somehow. Like there should be more. Between that and not getting her proper fix, she wants – needs – to go right back in.

She gives the orderly a look that makes him pause. ‘Reach in my left pocket,’ she says. Her wrists are still restrained to stop her from lashing out in the dreams and hurting herself.

The orderly reaches into her pocket, his hand grazing her hip bone. He takes out a handful of credit chips. Enough to buy himself a very nice vat-grown steak dinner at a restaurant downtown.

‘Put me back in,’ she says, her voice low. The white-clad orderly only knows Carina as 700628. He doesn’t know her name, who she used to be, what she used to do before she lost it all to Zeal. He knows enough about what she does in her dreams that his eyes skitter away from hers.

He knows Carina wouldn’t mind killing him. Slowly.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Gather the Daughters

Well that was a disturbing read. Gather the Daughters is told from the point of view of several girls living on an island in what can only be described as a cult. The girls believe something happened in the wastelands in the past which means they must stay on their island, living their life the way the ancestors wanted. There is a lot that is not explicit in Jennie's writing but it's clear early on that the girls are being lied to.

Laughter for a boy, tears for a girl. Everyone at the birth is supposed to weep if it's a girl, and now everyone is dutifully crying.

In some ways, their rules are logical to preserve a community on an isolated island, but others will just leave you thinking that the ancestors must have left the wastelands to create a place where paedophiles could thrive. The psychological power of cults and domestic abuse is the only thing stopping the disbelief that the mothers would allow it. The women are all victims, they fear having daughters because they know what will happen.

Girls are married off the summer after their first period, when they are suitable for breeding. They have a summer of fruition by the end of which they will be married off, some already pregnant. The younger children are cast out during this time, living wild on the island for the summer. When a couple's daughters are married off and have their own children, they can only live for as long as the husband can work. When they are no longer of use, both take the final draft, solving the problem that would be caused by an aging population without healthcare.

We clot up the minds of our daughters with useless knowledge, instead of taking the precious time to teach them to be a solace to their fathers. Wives have forgotten how to support their husbands. We let our aged live too long, past their prime years, for the simple reason that our hearts are soft.

The island is showing the signs of a decreasing gene pool, with more and more "defectives" born. The girls are told they can't choose a husband with the same second name, obviously because of the consequences of in-breeding. More insidious is the shalt not that forbids touching of girls after they have started bleeding and before their summer of fruition, implying that prepubescent girls are being sexually abused. The shalt not is there to prevent babies born out of incest.

The girls don't know any better and it's heartbreaking and difficult reading. They are the property of their fathers and must do whatever they want. They love their fathers, they want to be good daughters. Couples are only allowed two children and there's no birth control, so after the second it is assumed that the men must find their pleasures elsewhere so not to break the rules. It's sickening. Note, if you're going to start an island community, make sure to take men that can control themselves.

She can't see the point of the repetitiveness of it all, people living to create more people and then dying when they're useless, to make room for even more new people.

Some people question the ways, even small things like asking for the girls to be older before marriage, or their husbands to be the same age. But these people seem to conveniently die of illness or mishap. Janey, one of the girls the story follows, is starving herself to stop her period from starting. Another girl, Amanda, is pregnant with her first child. When she finds out it's going to be a girl she starts to think it would be better to take their chances in the wastelands.

I think the idea is well executed but I can't really say I enjoyed this book. The undertones of sexual abuse were a bit too much and there wasn't an abundance of hope for the girls. At the least, it will make you appreciate being a woman in the here and now.

Gather the Daughters is published by Tinder Press and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 25th July 2017. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Geekerella

Will Geekerella go to the ball? In this loose retelling of Cinderella, the ball is a convention and Prince Charming is the teen heart throb cast in the remake of Elle's favourite show. Not that Elle wants to meet him, but the con was started by her father. Now he is gone, her Starfield fandom is her last connection to him.

Look to the stars.
Aim.
Ignite.

Retelling a fairy tale in a contemporary setting isn't easy and I think the wicked stepmother and stepsisters were a bit overdone. Chloe and Cal are huge fans of Darien Freeman, the star in their favourite teen soap, and would do anything to meet him. They don't care about Starfield but they will cosplay their hearts out to win the contest to meet him.

The dynamic of a stepmother and stepdaughter once the biological parents are no longer alive must be a complex one. Catherine makes Elle do most the chores and she's pretty much a servant for the rest of the family. Elle doesn't stand up to her at all and Catherine's meanness feels superficial. It wasn't very realistic but she fits the part dictated by the fairy tale.

The pumpkin is a vegan food truck and I guess Sage plays the part of fairy godmother. There's even a glass slipper. Overall it's a fun and easy to read romance. I get the feeling Ashley Poston is at home in the world of fandoms and it defends people's right to love and celebrate fictional creations. If people find comfort in fictional worlds, leave them to it. Catherine's abhorrence to Starfield is unjustified although there's a tiny crack at the end which suggests it reminds her too much of her late husband. Although as her character is a caricature, it's hard to find much empathy for her. Also, why would a massive geek marry someone who hates geekery so much?

I'm half of my father. Half of my hero. And I am half of my mother. Half soft sighs and half sharp edges. And if they can be Carmindor and Amara - then somewhere in my blood and bones I can be too. I'm the lost princess. I'm the villain of my story, and the hero.

Geekerella also suffers a bit from what I found in Fangirl. Creating a fake fandom means you have to spend time establishing it, but it was also fake in the way it was clearly trying to be something else. For some reason I kept imagining Galaxy Quest! Maybe because it felt a little false.

It was interesting to cast Elle as the kind of fan who can't accept change and goes on rants on the internet. I did feel sorry for Darien and it makes you think about all the rubbish actors go through. Give them a chance before you go on rants about their ability. I liked seeing both sides of the story although the bits about filming on set were a bit lack lustre.

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Every Heart a Doorway

Whatever happens after those children come home from their adventures in portal worlds? The trauma of living years in another world, going through puberty even, then being cast back into your earth-bound body, at the same age you left? C.S. Lewis didn't really address the mental health implications of the children he sent to Narnia, did he?

But never fear, Seanan McGuire swoops in with Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a special school for children who tumbled through a doorway, a rabbit hole or any other number of entrances to magical worlds, and came back again.

The main character comes right out and says she's asexual, something this book has been praised for. She shows that she's interested in the romance but not what comes after. Another child was rejected from his world because they thought he was a princess but on the inside he was a boy. There are twins who were assigned pretty and clever roles by their parents, now rebelling against that. It seems that magical lands like taking the children that don't quite fit.
For us, places we went were home. We didn't care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn't have to pretend to be something we weren't. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.

In essence there's a whole big metaphor here for parents who refuse to accept their children as they are when they are not straight or cis. In their magical worlds they finally found a place where they felt the belonged, when their parents try and shape them in a pre-designated image. Most the parents are in denial.

But the Home is the opposite of a "correctional" facility. Eleanor West may pretend to parents that she works to "cure" the children, but instead she listens to them and lets them come to terms with their loss in their own ways. Sometimes doors will open again, but more often than not, they don't.

We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.

The plot is more of an aside, with a murder mystery at the centre. It's more about exploring the children and how they are affected, more by our society than the other lands. I loved all the different types of places they visited, although these are just glimpses. If anything, it was a little too short and I will definitely be reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which follows Jack and Jill's back story.

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Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Names They Gave Us

Full disclosure, I'm not a fan of Christian fiction so The Names They Gave Us might resonate more with someone who likes that kind of thing, I don't know. I thought I should give this book a chance as When We Collided was excellent. From the first few chapters, it showed promise. Lucy is the daughter of a pastor and her boyfriend is strict with his beliefs, their relationship is very chaste but this is alright by Lucy. When her mother's cancer come back, he does that thing I'm suspect everyone must hate, when they say it must be what God wants and to trust in Him. Fortunately even Lucy is annoyed with this when she just wants to be angry and comforted.

For the first time in my life, I consider that I am being looked down on by no one, by nothing.

So I thought it might be about her doubting her faith in the face of tragedy, but the plot just limps along like a three legged tortoise. There are just too many threads and none of them fully developed. She usually spends summer with her parents at church camp but this year her mother wants her to do something different, to go to the "hippy camp" across the lake, where Lucy is sure they are all heathens. She is pretty judgy at the start.

Faith isn't like getting a tan from the sun. You don't get it from being around Christians.

I like summer camp stories but this part was just a bit boring. It goes from one camp activity to the next without tension or action. The camp is for kids who have problems, and the book goes through a ticky box process of including as much as possible but only superficially. There's the trans girl, the pregnant teen and the black girl who makes Lucy realise her white privilege in a single sentence. It's revealed that Luce's mother was fostered so she feels she can relate to those kids. Hrm.

Some of the writing is lovely but it's just strung together without any substantial plot. Lucy has a secret YouTube beauty channel which doesn't serve much purpose other than being able to bond with others by doing their make-up. Through all her interactions Lucy learns a lot of life lessons, that maybe good relationships aren't perfect, having friends is a good thing and that she has been lucky to have two parents who love her so much.
Because as much as I want to be the one crying, I want to be the kind of person someone can hold on to.

Whilst it was moving towards the end, the actual ending was abrupt. I know life doesn't have neat endings but did it really need to end there? I just expected better from Emery.

The Names They Gave Us is published by Bloomsbury and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Month That Was... May 2017

May, you have been so hot! Now we are growing vegetables, we really notice when it doesn't rain and it's been super dry these last few months. If it can rain at night and be sunny in the day, that would be super. Thanks weather!


If you haven't heard I'm taking over Ninja Book Swap from Bex, who is stepping aside to spend more time on her subscription box business. Please re-follow @NinjaBookSwap to keep updated and the next swap will be in October (sign ups in September).

June is holiday month! Since we've got Scully now we're going up to the Lake District and then visiting my parents in the Scottish Borders. The blog will be a little quiet, but I have a few things scheduled to keep it ticking over. Follow me on Instagram for Scully on Tour photos!

#ReadHarder

3. Read a book about books: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author: Down the Rabbit Hole* by Juan Pablo Villalobos
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: American Street by Ibi Zoboi
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead: Ms Marvel
21. Read a book published by a micropress: The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang (The Book Smugglers)

#DiversityBingo2017

Retelling with an LGBTQIA+ Main Character: The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang
Book Set in Central America: Down the Rabbit Hole* by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Immigrant/Refugee Main Character: American Street by Ibi Zoboi

*There is some debate on whether or not Mexico is North or Central America. However I think it is still in the spirit of the challenge to include it (if I read anything else less ambiguous, I will update).

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

Reviews:





Currently reading:

The Names they Gave Us by Emery Lord

Read and awaiting review:

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Blogged about:

Top Ten Most Anticipated
Summer Reading List
Incoming!