Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Silence

Guest review from Yvann @ Reading with Tea.

He looked around to see Elizabeth Martin herself eyeing him. She was a woman in her mid-fifties, with grey-flecked blond hair and a passion for knitwear. Skirt, top, scarf; all knitted. Even her boots had a roll-over top that looked knitted too. Beach holidays must be tricky.

When a student in one of the myriad student houses in Cambridge is found dead after a quiet weekend, suicide is the obvious verdict; particularly given the assortment of substances lying around her she could have used to overdose. When DC Goodhew meets her housemate Libby, whose two older siblings also committed suicide, he's not so sure about this one any more. Could there be a terrible theme connecting the unusually high number of accidental deaths recently?

This took a little while to get going but I was absolutely gripped once it did. The "cold open" scenes were too disjointed and took a long time to fit into the rest of the story; then Libby seems to have a long Facebook conversation with a dead girl. After 25 pages I was quite disappointed, thinking this crime noir was just teenage witterings that didn't make any sense. DCs Goodhew and Gully to the rescue.

Goodhew is a great police character - stubborn, prepared to bend the rules a little bit to get to the truth, passionately determined to hunt down the killer, particularly when on suspension, but underneath everything just a really good person. I'd point the "this character is too good to be a human" finger at him if he wasn't so stubborn. And Gully is a sweetie with a core of steel; too embarrassed to experience actual emotion in the context of other humans, as soon as someone else is threatened, she's in there sorting it out with nary a thought for her own safety. More please.

Plotwise, this simmered along at just the right level for most of the book; as I said, it took a while to get going, and then the bodies really piled up at the end. That might have been me reading faster and faster though as I got to the dramatic climax. Murder weapon of choice was unusual (always good), and Bruce clearly knows Cambridge inside-out and gave us a very strong local grip on events.

A solid, enjoyable thriller - I'd love to read more by Bruce, particularly if it involves Goodhew and Gully!

The Silence is the 4th book in the DC Gary Goodhew series and is published by Constable in hardback and ebook formats. The paperback will be available 18th July 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and to Yvann for reading and reviewing. You can also find Yvann on Twitter.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Monday, 25 February 2013

A is for... Afanc

I didn’t get very far last time I started an A-Z of mythology feature here on the blog. I was far too invested in finding and reading books to go with each post. This time round, I’m going to choose some of the more obscure creatures that you may think authors have just made up. OK, someone made them up in the distant past, but they were probably trying to scare the locals off wandering off in the night/woods/with dark handsome stranger and not writing a novel. If I get through 26 posts, I will cycle round and might cover more well-known myths alongside book recommendations.

afanc : cattle-devouring aquatic monster in Celtic countries, from Celt. *abankos "water-creature," from *ab- "water" (cf. Welsh afon, Breton aven "river," L. amnis "stream, river," which is of Italo-Celtic origin).

To my knowledge, I’ve only encountered this creature in the October Daye series where it’s described as a sort of crocodile/beaver cross. Also known as the Addanc or Abhac, its origins are Welsh and dates back to the Middle Ages. All entomological signs point to it being a giant beaver; which isn’t that scary although they could probably do a lot of damage with those teeth. However there are also descriptions of it being a crocodile, water demon or dwarf (how you can get a dwarf and giant beaver mixed up, I don’t know).

There's one snag with this feature. Finding images to illustrate these weird and wonderful creatures. So I drew my own, don't laugh...


The poor Afanc of the River Conwy was blamed for the flooding in the area and a plot was hatched to rid Llyn-yr-Afanc of him. Can a mythical beast have no peace? Like many Celtic stories, there is iron and a pretty girl involved so you can see why he might have been adopted as fae. You can read a version of the folklore at Historic UK. If you do happen to see an angry Afanc, try singing him a soft song and he will fall asleep. He now appears to be living up Mount Snowdon so hikers should take care when passing Lake Glaslyn; there have been Nessie like sightings in the lake.

Did you know Wales has its very own version of Noah’s Ark? The Anfac of Lake Bala got a bit over excited and broke the banks with all his thrashing around. Dwyfan and his wife, Dwyfach, were lucky enough to have a boat on hand and bundled aboard two of each kind of living thing. When the floods subsided, Britain was born.

In Arthurian legend, the Afanc of Llyn Barfog was a bit more ferocious, eating anyone who came near his home. So depending on who you ask, either Pryderi (the Welsh Sir Percival, who let’s face it, has a track record with mythical monsties) or King Arthur himself (much more like the tourist board making out Arthur waz ‘ere) was brought in to sort the Afanc out. The knight in question bound the Afanc in magical chains and used his faithful steed to hoist him out the water. The horse pulled so hard (really those knights barely did any work) that he left a hoof print in the rock (now known as Carn March Arthur). There are two endings, one happily ever after for the Afanc and the other, imminent death. As most the stories end with him getting a nice new home in one of the lakes of Snowdonia, I like to think they let him live.

Interestingly, a lot of these Welsh tales may have been concocted by Iolo Morganwg (also known as the less mysterious sounding Edward Williams) who was a bit of a literary forger. However the basis of The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales came from existing folklore and he probably only continued the great tradition of livening things up a bit and adding influences from other cultures. I think the bards of the past would have been proud of him.

The Afanc did get a guest appearance on BBC’s Merlin however the special effects department weren’t kind. I like to imagine him as an oversized puppy, a bit clumsy but not malevolent in nature. When you’re a giant, you’re bound to break some things or displace a bit of water here and there.

Have you encountered the Afanc in your literary travels?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

It's one of those weeks where I doubt my sanity. I received a prize that I don't remember winning or entering for but it's lovely, and glossy and full of amazing photography so I'm not complaining. Then there was one of those NetGalley request granted emails that made me think, what's that book? Did I request it? I must have and Gameboard of the Gods sounds pretty amazing but it now has a little "high request volume" note on it, leaving me feeling a little guilty.


For review:
The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd (Simon & Schuster)
Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead (Penguin)

Won:
Africa (Quercus)

What is "adult" fiction?

Revolutions, family dinners, tyrannical fathers, faery courts, dimension hopping, bad boys, murder, scandal, history, cryogenics, revenge, weirdness, laughter, genetic engineering, family obligations, death, gods, the underworld, top secret magic schools, A CUDDLY TOY, lost memories, multiple personalities, secret government organisations, mind control, grief, hidden worlds, college pranks, first loves, betrayal, misunderstandings, long-standing grudges, abortion, missing persons, time travel, lost love, nostalgia, heartbreak, rats, vampires, sex, curses, internet dating, broken legs, transmogrification, prejudice, scientists, ice storms, coming of age, robots, the meaning of life, best friends, break-ups, make-ups, guilt, thieves, adventure, war, injustice, single parenting, lost and found, missed opportunities, awww moments, argh moments, WHY OH WHY moments, obesity, self-reflection, the great outdoors, consumerism, dystopian society, the future, discoveries, hope, writers, austerity, foreign lands, lunatic asylums, shocks, fun, werewolves, mental illness, serial killers, road trips, ghosts, books within books, anonymous letters, isolation, hardship, space travel, being out of control, worlds in our heads, oppression, running away from home, horses, the circus, wizards…

And that’s just based on what I’ve read in the past six months. So please, stop it with the sweeping statements on what books for adults are. They are without boundaries.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Mystic City

New York is flooded and the city is ruled by the upper classes. Below, the mystics live in the depths, in buildings threatening to crumble into the sea. But mystics must have their powers drained for they are dangerous and a menace to society left free to do as they please. Aria is engaged to Thomas; a union that will build a bridge between two rival families. The only problem is, Aria can’t remember falling in love with him, or much about him at all. Her memory ruined by an overdose, she meets a boy in the depths; a mystic. Is he the key to unlocking her memories and will she fall in love with Thomas all over again?

What if Romeo and Juliet were a lie? Set against a backdrop of a flooded New York, it held so much promise but just fell short. Mystic City is one of those books where I really should have taken heed from all those blog reviews. I had managed to pre-order and forget all about it, so by the time it turned up I was a bit meh about it. It fell into so many of the traps of dystopian YA, the world built for the sake of it being a "dystopian setting", rather than having something political to say using the dystopian society. You may know by now this is one of my pet peeves...

I liked the idea of a future New York that has been flooded and its resemblance to Venice (gondoliers replace taxis) but the world didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It becomes clear that it is only partially flooded as there is one place where they still have grass and trees. This means that just a little bit further in land, everything is peachy (not that it’s mentioned, we are to assume New York is the entire universe of Mystic City). So why do all these rich bigwigs stay in the city? Why wouldn’t they resettle elsewhere? Confining themselves to the penthouses instead of starting afresh seems just a little bit odd.

The story does touch a little on the oppression of a group deemed lesser by those in charge. The mystics are segregated and drained. What makes them, them, is taken away. I liked the idea of the Romeo and Juliet story being used as a sort of propaganda between the warring families. They will unite the righteous against the rebels. It’s just that the surrounding story was a little bland and predictable. It’s easy to read but nothing to write home about.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Friday, 22 February 2013

Some wandering thoughts on crime fiction

255:365 Death Becomes Her

Those of you who pay attention to me may have noticed I’ve been in a bit of a grump regarding crime fiction. It partly stems from all the review requests I get for crime as well as unsolicited copies of books I just have no interest in. It’s a hazard of having the word “killed” in your blog name and a great big blood splatter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-crime fiction, I’ve just lost interest in a lot of the generic crime out there. You know the ones; dead person, damaged detective figure (sometimes a reporter or other person with no business in solving crimes), there’s some detecting, some red herrings, detective goes down dark cellar by themselves in the face of doom, detective gets bashed over head but somehow survives to arrest/kill/permanently disable suspect.

I used to really enjoy those books but I think with time, my tastes have changed. However I do have a few favourite crime authors who I will still read even if they go down that (dark and dangerous) path. There are also a few authors I personally want to read more of but never get round to because the few times I am in the mood for crime, I always feel I should grab something off the overdue review shelf.

So I asked a few publishers to take me off their crime lists. I felt better already and hopefully this will make room for a newbie blogger somewhere to get my cast offs! Then I promptly picked up a crime book to read. There’s no logic sometimes but actually there is potential for new ideas in crime and thriller writing and I am prepared to squirrel them out in my own time and with my own money.

Saying that, I then got a polite email from Emyln Rees who is heading up the new Angry Robot crime imprint, Exhibit A. He was very understanding of my plight and promptly presented me with two titles which he thought I might like the sound of. And you know what? They piqued my interest immediately. Then I get home to find out Mo Hayder has a new Jack Caffrey novel coming out! I am so unbelievably excited as I thought the series was over. So really, it’s not the whole genre that’s got me in a funk.

I’ve never been a fan of James Patterson or Lee Child. I struggle with books that rely too much on action and have never managed to engage with noir or "hard-boiled" protagonists. I do adore Karin Slaughter, Mo Hayder and Tess Gerritsen; Kathy Reichs having fallen off the podium with her last few books (but she got me into reading crime in the first place). I’ve been drawn to more psychological thrillers such as Before I Go To Sleep and those exploring the effects of crime on the victims such as Split Second as well as cross-genre fiction which just happens to centre round a crime as seen in historical fiction and urban fantasy. There’s also an emerging young adult crime sub-genre, which I’m still a little sceptical about but has produced some gems such as Heart-Shaped Bruise.

I’m not writing crime off but I am removing it from my review policy preferences. I hope this post explains this better than my Twitter ranting (of the mild kind). This might even result in more crime being featured on the blog if I’m making time for the kind that interests me.

Photo by me. See more on Flickr.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Mussel Feast

A mother and her two teenage children are preparing a feast of mussels, their customary meal for celebrations. The daughter doesn’t much care for mussels, nor does the mother, but this is what they do. They must act like a proper family. But the father doesn’t come home when expected and the truths of their proper family come out.

The Mussel Feast is narrated by the daughter and starts off with the actions of preparing and cooking the mussels. There is a fantastic passage where the mussels start to scream and she contemplates them being cooked alive. When the father doesn’t return, her thoughts start to wander and the novella is a slow reveal of their lives. A normal family on the outside but living under a controlling father; one obsessed with being proper. When alone the family can act how they like but as soon as he is present, they put on their masks.

The Mussel Feast is one of the most studied texts in Germany. Written just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it shows a family that have escaped the East, trading one form of control for another. Birgit Vanderbeke wrote it to explore how revolutions start, how one thought can snowball into realisation and defiance. There are quite a lot of run-on sentences and paragraphs that run into pages, which reflects the daughter’s train of thought. It’s a short yet completely absorbing read.

This is the first of Peirene’s three titles for 2013 in their Turning Point: Revolutionary Moments series, with Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson and Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall still to come. I love the sound of all of these and if you do to, the best way to support Peirene Press is via subscription. This edition has been translated into English by Jamie Bulloch and is currently available in paperback. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Peirene Press

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

An Artificial Night

An Artificial Night is the third book in the October Daye series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Are the fae ever sane? We live in a world that isn’t there half the time. We claim that windmills are giants, and because we say it, it’s true. Our lives become myth and legend, until even we can’t tell what we truly are from what we’re told we ought to be. How can we live that way and be considered sane?

Children are going missing, and it’s not just the fae. When Stacy’s youngest are snatched from their home and her teenage daughter left in a sleep so sleep she cannot be awakened, she immediately calls Toby into help. She must once again go to the Luidaeg for help, starting her on a journey beyond the mortal realm. There are only three paths which will take her where she needs to go and back again, but she can take each only once. Meanwhile, a harbinger of Toby’s own death has turned up on her doorstep. Will this be her last job?

“I am so tired of this gothic crap,” I muttered. “Just once, I want to meet the villain in a cheerful, brightly lit room. Possibly one with kittens.”

An Artificial Night is where this series really kicks off. It’s dark and otherworldly and our heroine is put in all kinds of mortal peril. Toby has always used nursery rhymes for her spellcasting so it is appropriate that one shapes the plot here. “How many miles to Babylon” is used to devise a way into and out of Blind Michael’s realm. And he’s a proper evil, child-snatching fae who does horrible irreversible things. There are childhood fears that come to light and the never-ending night is something to be afraid of. You really do fear for Toby’s life and those of the children. The whole other realm has an unreal and unsettling feeling to it too.

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light.

The idea of a fetch is genius. May Daye (a bit of death humour there) is an identical replica of Toby, sent to escort her to her death when the time comes. Her arrival is an omen of her imminent death and she starts to follow Toby around. Only she’s not quite exactly like Toby at all and starts to become a character in her own right. Knowing that she is about to die, Toby can throw herself into deadly situations and it highlights her desire to stop existing in her less than fulfilling life.

My favourite characters are of course those that show promise of redemption, rather than being a goody-two-shoes from the start. Read that as I love Tybalt and the Luidaeg and don’t like the obviousness of Connor. Spike the rose goblin is especially adorable, even if I imagine him as a sort of pink echidna rather than the thorny cat he is described as. I just love his quirks and his loyal presence, not to mention his love of riding in the car. There are plenty of events in this instalment that pave the way for future developments…

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Specimen

The year is 1866 and Mrs Pemberton is on trial for the murder of Mr Scales. Seven years earlier, Gwen Carrick meets Edward Scales on a Cornish beach. They soon start up a flirtatious acquaintance; Gwen introducing Edward to her love of the natural world and Edward hanging on her every word. But Edward’s life is full of secrets and Gwen struggles to live with her spiritualist sister who despises Darwin’s theories. From Cornwall to the rainforests of Brazil, the web of deception becomes ever more tangled.

Despite staring out to sea for much of my life, the fact of its vastness had somehow, somewhere slipped from my imagination: now I am surrounded by this ever moving, ever changing & never changing grey swell of fathomless water, without the security of a rock at my back. The wind, a different animal out here, tugs from all sides - and I had never imagined how swift the shift in temperature might be.

Gwen is a wonderfully modern woman in a society where her outspokenness makes her inconvenient in polite society, never mind her support of Darwinism. If it were just Gwen’s story of succeeding in a man’s world, I think I could have loved her story but the plot is all over the place. Effie’s spiritualism could have been the perfect opposite to Gwen’s scientific nature, although both passions pushing them outside of what is socially acceptable. Yet Effie is suddenly painted as mentally unstable, with no indicators running up to the event, she does something shocking even by today’s standards. Considering the Victorian propensity for packing loved ones off to asylums, it’s odd that she’s just left alone.

Edward is completely inconsistent. There are so many elements to his life that I don’t know where to start. At first he seems charming, if a bit simple but certainly enamoured with Gwen. Then there’s this whole subterfuge thing in the summerhouse; leading me up to be very confused for a while until I realised what had happened. There’s a rough diamond that keeps cropping up but its relevance is never revealed. When they go to Brazil, he suddenly wants to be the man in charge and starts patronising Gwen, at odds to the relationship in England. There’s the wife and the woman with hypertrichosis, deaths, disease, marriages and births. Secret books and spying servants. Not to mention a very weird section at the end regarding sexual dysfunction. And is the thing in the cellar what I think it is? I got to the end thinking I must have missed the point of the book. Is there some thread connecting all the elements?

The book had creaked a greeting at her. The fanning sections had kissed the air, the open lower edges sucking in space. When she closed the book with a disregarding flick, the cover said fphphphf.

I can understand Gwen falling for Edward in the first place. Here is a man who is actually interested in what she has to say about the natural world and emerging theories. I can even understand her running off with him as an unmarried women; she is ahead of her times remember and I’m sure she doesn’t believe a woman must be married to get along in life. Even when she finds herself in above her head, she still made sense to me, under the circumstances. It’s just everyone else around her didn’t.

I found the sections about the murder trial a bit awkward to read. They were set in newspaper style columns and in a very formal language, mimicking what would have been reported at the time. In contrast, I enjoyed Martha’s more natural prose; I think she has the potential to write beautifully once the plotting elements are ironed out. By the end, I had started to enjoy the silliness of it all, although I’m not sure that was her aim. The ingredients are there for a fantastic book, Darwinism, Victorian scandal, murder, exploration and betrayal, but something went wrong in the baking.

The Specimen is published by Canongate and is now available in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. Below is Martha's stop-frame animation book trailer that she made herself.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

A couple of lovely covers this week. The Last Banquet has a fanastic bewigged tiger gracing its cover and Pretty Girl Thirteen is not much to look at on the screen but it has a very pretty spot varnish pattern on in person. I may have made a tiny order with The Book People... I actually forgot all about them and was feeling very smug and restrained until I noticed them perched on the edge of the bookcase. And thanks to Dan for sending me his spare copy of Butter!


For review:
Pretty Girl Thirteen by Liz Coley (HarperCollins)
The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (Canongate)

Gifted:
Butter by Erin Lange (DogEarDiscs)

Bought:
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric

Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Aquariums of Pyongyang

Kang Chol-Hwan was 9 years old when he and his family were taken to Yodok, one of North Korea’s gulags. The whole family sent away for one person’s political views. He grew up in the camp, imprisoned by cruel guard and the very geography of the site, hills that he once thought beautiful. Toiling through forced labour and balancing on the brink of starvation, The Aquariums of Pyongyang is the first account of its kind to come out of the country.

I’m afraid this was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve just finished typing up the notes from our book group discussion thinking we sound like a heartless bunch but the book just didn’t live up to its promise. I probably knew enough about North Korea that the events weren’t surprising but I do think it would serve as a general introduction to the political climate of the country (at least 13 years ago, although I’m not sure much has changed expect more people have got out and a famine has ravaged the population further).

First off, I’ll give you a bit of background on the birth of this book. Kang, a translator and Pierre Rigoulot sat down in a room in South Korea. Kang told his story in Korean and it was translated verbally into French and Pierre wrote it down (also in French). It was published in France and then picked up in America to be translated into English from the French. It’s been through the ringer. I’m not even sure the end translation is to blame as it feels like the story is pretty much the original transcripts. No dramatic tension or narrative flare has been added. This makes it factual but not gripping.

So we were all left with a slight feeling of guilt for being bored by Kang’s terrible story. Although, I think he had it easy compared to others. They managed to mostly keep out of trouble within the camp and some of the family ended up with what were considered the cushy jobs. This is all relative though; Yodok itself was one of the camps for less criminal prisoners. Kang’s crime was merely to be related to someone who spoke out untowardly towards the regime. The whole thing is horrific, but the telling of it is just so unemotional, I just didn’t feel anything. And you know me, I cry at books all the time. I finished this completely dry eyed. I only bothered to read to the end because it was 1) for book group, 2) short and 3) fairly easy, if uninspiring, prose.

There were lots of bits and pieces I wanted to know more about. Wikipedia managed to engage me more on the subject of pellagra for instance (and how it was prevalent in the early days of American colonisation). So much had potential to be expanded up but it was just glossed over. Perhaps Kang’s desire to get the truth out meant that he stuck to the bare facts that he could remember, not allowing any embellishment whatsoever. That is understandable, really, but it doesn’t make for an engaging read or emotional connection. It doesn’t inspire any passion or outrage in the reader. Kang’s goal has succeeded in that we know what’s going on; did he not want us to be egged into action too?

All the book group write-ups can now be found on our new blog (Vicky has written the majority). Beware, they do contain spoilers as we always discuss the ending and important passages.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Friday, 15 February 2013

If I Stay

Mia’s life was going pretty well until one day. The day her entire family is involved in a car crash. She can only stand by and watch as the ambulance crew bundle her damaged body into the back and rush her off to hospital. Is she dead? As she follows herself, she comes to realise there is a choice to be made and only she can make it.

I pretty much wept my way through If I Stay from start to finish; what a touching portrayal of family life set against the most awful tragedy. The narrative is split between Mia’s out of body experience and flashbacks her past. Oddly enough, it was those past memories of her family, and the things they did for her, that got me teared up most. Knowing that they were gone made them all the more poignant. Her time in the hospital feels a bit detached, but that reflects her physical detachment from her body. It’s an effective way to follow a character in the aftermath of trauma, both mental and physical.

I thought the boyfriend aspect was going to be excess to requirements but he ended up fitting with the overall story. Mia’s mother comments at one point that it is such an inconvenient time to fall in love, and that is so true. Your late teenage years are full of life-changing decisions and the complication of another person having to make their own choices, really muddies the waters. Mia’s choice to stay or go is two-fold. She had a similar choice to make before the accident, the one that will be familiar to many teens making decisions about their education and futures.

Her current choice is one we hope we would never have to make. The story is a way to address the feelings of not being able to go on after tragedy without having the character being actively suicidal. It skirts around the topic of suicide quite well.

Music is also a repeating theme throughout. Mia is a talented cellist, Adam is in an up-and-coming band and her father gave up his life in music for the family. There are plenty of references to music but it never felt forced or trying to be cool. Indeed, Mia’s favourite music is classical and for once I could play the soundtrack to her story in my head.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Topping up the Wishlist

Since I last updated you on the state of my wishlist, I have added another 23 books! As I use Amazon to maintain this rambling wishlist, there are a few things on it besides books (shocking I know) but there are a whopping 242 items on it. Most of them are book-shaped. So this is partially an exercise in reminding myself why I put books on there. I'm guessing the first candidate was a Karina influence; Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander. Etiquette and Espionage is Gail Carriger's first foray into young adult but I believe set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series. There is barely any info on Tempt the Stars by Karen Chance yet but it is the next Cassie Palmer book and I am desperate for more Pritkin! I discovered War with the Newts via Farm Lane Books; weird, dystopian fiction and a translation for bonus points! I'm not sure I would have ever picked up 13 Little Blue Envelopes if I hadn't read any other of Maureen Johnson's books but I like her style so will give it a chance.


I spied The Falconer by Elizabeth May on the Gollancz blog. It's historical young adult urban fantasy set in Edinburgh with fae. Tick, tick, tick! I found Katharine Kerr at the back of one of the Seanan McGuire books I've been reading lately and plopped License to Ensorcell onto the list for further investigation. A Fantasy Medley 2 has also made it on thanks to Seanan as it contains a Tybalt story I would like to read. Hoping an ebook edition comes out soon. I have ummed and ahhed over reading Jaqueline Carey for a while now but at least I have worked out where to start although Kushiel's Dart is massive!


The Healer by Antti Tuomainen sounds like a dystopian Scandi-crime mash-up (found on Crime Fiction Lover). Maureen Johnson tweeted about Paper Aeroplanes when she was in London and it turns out Dawn O'Porter's young adult novel is set in the 90s. That's when I was a teen! Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas is the sequel to the fabulous Throne of Glass. The Bone Season marks the start of a fantastic sounding, near-future fantasy series from Samantha Shannon. Not only does Zenn Scarlett have the most beautiful cover, it's also about a young vet who specialises in aliens. Another intriguing title from Strange Chemistry! I also added on When the World was Flat (And We Were in Love) by Ingrid Jonach.


I've been reading The Bookseller recently which has resulted in me finding out about titles that I would normally never see. The next two books are both non-fiction titles that intrigued me; Nijinsky: A Life by Lucy Moore and Permanent Present Tense by Dr Suzanne Corkin. I overheard Dan praising Butter by Erin Lange on Twitter and likening it to Wonder. Black to Blackbrick is another Twitter discovery and sounds like a wonderful and different young adult read.


I so nearly bought Where She Went from The Book People the other week and didn't because I hadn't read If I Stay yet...only now I have read it and so want to know what happens next! I was first attracted to Infinite Sky by the pretty cover and was swayed by Kirsty's review. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson is my next book group read (so this will be moving to purchased pretty quickly). We were all disappointed in the last one, Aquariums of Pyongyang (more on that later), and so I wanted to find another book on North Korea with a different angle. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea sounds like it could be just that.


Have you read any of these? Any you think should go to the top of the list or others that maybe aren't as good as they look? Feel free to leave links to your reviews in the comments!