Friday, 31 October 2014

The Month That Was... October 2014

I was about to say "Happy Halloween" but if you're doing it right it should be "Scary Halloween!" Anyway, I hope you have a terrifying (yet safe) time if you're celebrating tonight. October brought with it Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and a chance for me to get a bit caught up. I'm rather tempted to set myself a low reading goal for next year just so I don't feel so behind most the time. I think as bloggers we can forget that a book a week is still pretty good going. Yes, yes, don't look at that toppling TBR. Don't even think about it...

November brings with it dark evenings, my birthday and co-habitation! I'm not taking part this time, but do check out The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop this weekend, hosted by Leeswammes.

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


5 stars awarded to: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang + Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan + Fiona Staples.

Read and awaiting review: The Madness by Alison Rattle, The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll + Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore.

Blogged about:

Ninja Book Swap and other stories...
And the #Readathon begins
#Readathon Hour 5
#Readathon Hour 8
#Readathon Hour 13
#Readathon Hour 19
#Readathon Complete!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ninja Book Swap and other stories...

I know, I know. It's wrong day for this sort of post! But I'm busy at the weekend and wanted to say thanks to my ninja swappee before I forget. Thank you Kelly @ Paper Obsessed! First up, I wholly approve of the wrapping paper. Dinosaurs FTW:

And then inside there were DINOSAUR SOCKS! I love them. One of my books was from the depths of my wishlist so I applaud Kelly for having a good look through. This is why we need ninja swaps. I'm looking forward to starting the Incryptid series which is the only one of Seanan McGuire's (aka Mira Grant) I haven't tried yet. There was some yummy looking chocolate and speech bubble sticky notes. There was also a note to say that this wasn't everything and I would have an extra little treat arrive separately. Exciting!

If you missed out this time, there are three ninja book swaps each year (Valentine's, Summer and Halloween). Follow @NinjaBookSwap to keep up-to-date.

I've been trying hard not to buy books in October what with the swapping and my upcoming birthday. I did have a little slip up as I wanted Horrorstör before Halloween. I think the comic is from a Kickstarter I pledged to ages ago and forgot all about. It looks pretty suitable for Halloween reading too though.

I'm meant to be winding down on review books for the year but a few still crept in. After all the excitement of twin finding on Twitter, I really wanted in on The Fire Sermon action. For some reason I thought it was epic fantasy but I was wrong (although it could be epic) and it's post-apocalyptic fantasy by the sounds of it. Also looking forward to finishing off the Magicians trilogy.

For review:
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (HarperCollins)
The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (Harper Voyager)
Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (Headline)
The Islanders by Pascal Garnier (Gallic Books)
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Random House)
The North by Sean Cummings

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Pumpkinface: Origins/The Seal of Soloman by Graeme Buchan
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go

It’s the summer of 1972. Whilst America is at war in Vietnam, the teenagers of Elephant Beach, Long Island carry on their lives regardless. Katie wonders if this is the summer she will finally get it together with Luke, but he has returned from Vietnam a different man. What does this summer, on the cusp of adulthood, hold for her and her friends?

It feels more like a collection of character studies than a fully formed novel, strung together by being mutual acquaintances of the narrator, Katie. The girls chatter about losing their virginity and face the consequences of unprotected sex. Teen pregnancy is rife and some choose to keep their babies while others risk back street abortion or put them up for adoption.

Katie and her friends are all reaching that point in their lives where they need to make decisions about who they want to be. Their stories have common themes of moving on, either physically out of Elephant Beach, with its lack of prospects, or choosing new friends or purpose. In some cases, the changes are more tragic. Katie's a bit of a dreamer, a bit naive, but at times she shines.

There’s some pieces of beautiful writing, but I think the lack of strong plot will be a let-down for many people. Some of the dialogue could be taken as offensive but it fits the era. No one would expect the young men to be well-spoken so why should the women be too? Adolescence can be a harsh time, and that fact hasn’t changed much over the decades.

I would have liked to have seen more focus on the young men returning from Vietnam. Luke, the object of Katie’s affections appears to be deeply troubled, but really she’s only ever admired him from afar. She isn’t close enough to really know what’s going on. Mitch is closer to her, and more outspoken, but it’s still something that is an undercurrent in the town. Perhaps the point is that people distanced themselves from the war. It was happening elsewhere and life just went on as normal.

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go (does it win the longest title ever award?) is published by Tinder Press and will be available from the 30th October 2014 in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

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.

Monday, 27 October 2014

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Jamie’s sister lives on the mantelpiece. She gets cake on his birthday. She is very much a presence in their home but Jamie doesn’t really remember her. Jasmine was 10 when she was killed in a terrorist attack. Years later, they still haven’t said goodbye to her ashes. They’ve moved house, but she’s still with them, a constant reminder of how their family isn’t complete.

I was expecting My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece to be much sadder than it was. It is a heart-breaking situation but it is cleverly told from the point of view of Jamie, who was only 5 years old when his sister died. He didn’t really know her to miss her or to really mourn her. What we do see is how his family deals with it, or rather doesn’t deal with it.

It’s interesting to explore the subject of a child’s death from the point of view of the siblings. So often it’s told from the parents’ perspective, where losing a child is the worst thing that could have happened, that shouldn’t have happened. Yet, what about the children left behind? Do they suffer more from their parents’ grief than the loss of the sibling? I felt for Jamie in that he was expected to be sad when he wasn’t, that it just wasn’t something he was old enough to fully grasp.

The father blames Muslims for killing his daughter, so when Jamie befriends a Muslim girl at school, he is torn between loyalty to his family and actually having a real friend. The lack of logic to his dad’s hatred is highlighted by the friendship, but it also makes things difficult at times. Jamie is scared of being "caught out" but also has to deal with how his dad makes him look bad by association.

Later on, there is a very moving scene around an event that does drive it home for him. His family’s pain is put into context and I think his realisation at this point is the part that will really make you cry. Jamie's a fantastic narrator, and there's a warmth to the writing despite the difficult subjects.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez Reads

Book Source: Free from newbooks magazine.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Boy's Don't Knit

Ben’s on probation. It’s all because his friends wanted to steal booze from Waitrose and he was the look-out. But it all went horribly wrong and an incident with a lollypop lady, a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso and a Porsche lands otherwise do-gooder Ben on the wrong side of the law. To make amends he must complete some community service and attend a course at the local college. His options are limited but when he sees the teacher he fancies is running a knitting class, he swallows his pride and signs up. Just as long as no one finds out…

Boys Don’t Knit is a fun and delightful read of one boy’s discovery of knitting. And he’s bloody good at it, I was a bit jealous of his very quick progress. I’m still struggling with knitting in the round. Ben goes to great lengths to hide his secret, but very few people would guess; when he slams down his laptop it’s not to hide porn like his mum thinks, it’s because he’s looking at a knitting website. He nearly gets caught out reading a knitting magazine in the newsagents but recovers by pretending he’s using it to hide Loaded.

On a more serious note, it’s good to see a book highlighting the fact that gender stereotypes can be harmful to men and boys too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with men knitting (my boyfriend does it); it’s relaxing and creative. But poor Ben feels he needs to hide it in order to not be ridiculed or hated, not just from his school mates but also from his dad. Ben tries to talk about football in a clichéd way so that he’s got something to talk about with his dad, which reminded me of The IT Crowd episode where they pretend to be “real men” and end up involved in a bank robbery. There’s a theme here, be true to yourself or risk living a life of crime!

Do you have to leave room for boobs? How big should the boob-room be? Is 'boob-room' the correct technical term?

I did like his parents’ silly innuendo at the dinner table. It’s a humorous book but with Ben coming across as a serious sort of boy, who really doesn’t want to get into trouble. He regularly writes to his probation officer and is the last person you think would get into trouble for stealing. I guess that’s the one thing that lets the story down, it’s hard to grasp that Ben would have been put on probation at all, especially as the accident seemed to mostly be the lollypop lady’s fault!

I’ve never known knitting to be so edge of the seat as the grand finale either. There’s a sequel out now too which I will definitely be getting hold of.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Hot Key Books

Also reviewed @ prettybooks | Queen of Contemporary

Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 20 October 2014

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts

Rachel’s life is unravelling fast and she’s just inherited her aunt’s estate; including kennels and a pack of dogs in need of rehoming. Single mum Zoe is always the one to say no to her sons, and she is fuming when her ex-husband gives them a puppy. Toffee the Labrador puppy is adorable but won’t stop weeing and chewing. Meanwhile Natalie and Johnny are trying to start a family and don’t have room for a dog. What will be the fate of Bertie the Basset hound, Lulu the poodle and Gem the intelligent Collie?

I sort of have the feeling I was tricked into reading a book about having babies. Dogs are presented on several occasions as baby substitutes. There’s also some kind of weird message about not being able to have dogs AND kids. Then there’s two main pregnancy storylines, one who can’t and one who accidentally does.

Natalie is one of my most disliked types of characters ever; the woman whose life can only be given meaning through having children. I get that plenty of people can relate or enjoy these kind of stories but, by god, they irritate me to the core. I was hoping the dog would knock some of it out of her but instead she starts to take it out on other people and her relationship suffers. Perhaps the problem with having three main characters here is that there’s not enough room to do character development outside of their core roles. So she just comes across as obsessed with getting pregnant and doesn’t have a chance to expand.

On the subject of multiple main characters, it seems to be a bit of a trend with chick-lit lately. I don’t mind it now and again but it always feel like you’re being dragged away from the stories you like to the stories you’re not that interested in (just like Game of Thrones, but less death). Bring back sole protagonists!

There are plenty of dogs within the pages too and I enjoyed Rachel’s storyline of inheriting the kennels, learning her aunt’s secrets and learning to love dogs. Though some of Dot’s backstory felt very rushed at the end. Like she’d been concentrating on the love stories and suddenly remembered Rachel was meant to be uncovering secrets in the house.

Overall it was an easy and engaging read but I'm not sure I'll be adding Lucy Dillon to my comfort reading list any time soon.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Chloe's Chick Lit Reviews

Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 19 October 2014

#Readathon Complete!

Local time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 19.5
Pages read: 1188
Books finished: 4
Feeling: Successful

It's over for another 6 months, hope everyone enjoyed themselves and gets a chance to have nice, relaxed rest of the weekend!

Read: My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher, The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon, Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton + Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Pages read since last update: 452

End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you?
I started to struggle in hour 13 (1am my time) and thought I was going to fall asleep on my book. Did go to bed at hour 15 and then didn't feel all that tired. But sleep was sensible!

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Boy's Don't Knit was fun and really easy to read.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope :)

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I kept a bit to myself and Twitter this time round.

How many books did you read?

What were the names of the books you read?
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher, The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon, Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton + Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Which book did you enjoy most?
It was great to get back into Scion with The Mime Order. Was nice to finish off with Alice which I managed to get to the end just in time (plus my copy is illustrated - good for tired eyes).

Which did you enjoy least?
Actually I enjoyed them all.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
This was my 7th readathon so definitely will carry on doing them. I think I'd like to host a challenge again next time and maybe do more stuff other than reading.

#Readathon Hour 19

Local time: 07:30
Hours spent reading: 15
Pages read: 736
Books finished: 2
Feeling: Groggy

Good morning! I actually just typed "readathong" in the title for this post. I think I need coffee. I finished The Mime Order around 3am and went to bed for 4 hours of sleep. I'm letting the butler have a lie in ;)

Well done everyone who's been reading 18 hours straight. Don't be too jealous of my sleep.

Currently reading: Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton
Read: My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher + The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Pages read since last update: 112

#Readathon Hour 13

Local time: 01:00
Hours spent reading: 12
Pages read: 624
Books finished: 1
Feeling: Tired

Half way! I've topped up on the caffeine and eaten a scone. It's past my bedtime now so starting to flag a little and it's getting harder to concentrate. I'd really like to finish my current book before getting some sleep but we'll see how it goes.

Josh is back and reading The Tale of Two Cities (and apparently it's getting exciting).

Currently reading: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Read: My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher
Pages read since last update: 242

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?
The Mime Order

2. How many books have you read so far?
One and three-quarters ;)

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Boys Don't Knit

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not really, just snacking-related interruptions which don't count!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I've done enough readathons now that I know what to expect from myself.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

#Readathon Hour 8

Local time: 20:00
Hours spent reading: 7
Pages read: 382
Books finished: 1
Feeling: Better

It's dark here now. I've run round and shut the curtains and had spicy Thai soup for dindins. Am really getting into The Mime Order but don't feel I'm reading very fast now. We're not even half way! At least my cold is easing off a bit. Huzzah! I've been left alone for a few hours, which probably means I'll get distracted with some menial task. Onwards...

Currently reading: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Read: My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher
Pages read since last update: 118

#Readathon Hour 5

Local time: 17:00
Hours spent reading: 4
Pages read: 264
Books finished: 1
Feeling: Warm

I've finished a book, broken Blogger, had an amazing sausage and pancetta bap, eaten a boyfriend-made white chocolate cornflake cake and started book two. Not too shoddy a start. Josh keeps telling me off when I put my book down for a second, so I better get back to it pronto!

Currently reading: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Read: My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher

And the #Readathon begins

Local starting time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 0
Pages read: 0
Books finished: 0
Feeling: Congested

It's Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon time again!!! It's my 7th readathon but the first time I'll have company. I have roped my boyfriend in to be my butler (and he's going to be doing some reading too). You can send him encouraging "make Ellie a coffee" messages on Twitter.

I seem to have a Perma-Cold since I started my new job, so hopefully that won't hamper my reading too much. There will definitely be some sleep involved. I did so well last time, read one more book than normal so I've chosen another one with pictures in this time round. Plus one book I'm dying to read and 3 fairly short YA novels. Though really, if I finish two I will be more than happy in my current state.

Josh is planning on finishing A Tale of Two Cities.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Bournemouth, England (not so fine, rather dark and damp at the mo).

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon - SQUEE!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Josh baked me scones! And they smell really good so I'll be looking forward to tucking into them fairly early on.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I always feel I should put something different here each time.
I'm possibly addicted to fennel seeds (I ran out last week and all the shops were out of stock, it was stressful). I put them in everything.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?

Possibly hacking my lungs up... on a brighter note, having someone to talk to now and then.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Quickie Reviews

Just a quick tidy up before the readathon of books I’ve read lately but don’t think I’ll get round to writing full reviews for. First up, the good:

The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

The 8th book in the October Daye series and as always I devoured it. A slow start but once the pace picked up, I enjoyed the additional back stories for some of the supporting characters. Simon Torvill had always been painted in black and white terms as a villain, the evil man who turned October into a fish and ruined her life. We learn a bit more about that story though and also how October realises that her life is no longer ruined. She has Tybalt. I am so happy that they have this wonderful functioning relationship now; no more throwing obstacles in their way. I love Tybalt so much even without the sexual tension lining some of the earlier books.

Goodreads | Amazon

Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan + Fiona Staples

The third collection of Saga comics and just as good as the first two. I bought a paper copy this time round and I’m so tempted to go get the others in physical form too. Lying Cat is still amazing; there’s a scene where Sophie is sat with him and is saying she’s dirty because of the past and he says it’s a lie (if you’re not familiar with the comics, the cat pretty much only speaks when a lie is being told). And then they snuggle up and it is so perfect. Alano and Marko are hanging out with their literary hero and it’s gripping and beautifully illustrated and I can’t wait for volume 4 in December.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

So there were a couple of books I didn't quite read all of lately, but this does not mean that they won’t be right for you.

Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie

The story of the invention of the printing press and the work behind the Gutenberg Bible told from the perspective of his apprentice. I found the subject matter genuinely fascinating and there’s some wonderful passages. Perhaps I was reading it at the wrong time (new job, trying to read on lunch breaks) and just didn’t get fully immersed. However the politics of the church and the situation in Mainz at the time is fairly relevant to the motivations and resulting history. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to be that interested in it. Coupled with the fact the characters are pretty unsympathetic (you can’t make real people nice or witty just to suit modern whims, I know) and a slow pace (this was the church’s fault for holding up progress!) I just kept putting the book down. Still I liked A LOT of what I read and there was plenty of little snippets that I took note of.

The world is flooded now with crude words crudely wrought, an overwhelming glut of pages pouring from the scores of presses springing up like mushrooms after rain. Churning out their smut and prophecy, the rantings of the anarchists and antichrists – the scholars of the classics are in uproar at how printing has defiled the book.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Struck by Genius by Jason Padgett + Maureen Seaberg

This is a non-fiction account of a man who became a genius after a head injury. The main problem with this was the writing style; one of the things Jason says he lost after the injury was the ability to concentrate on reading and writing. So this book is a joint venture between him and Maureen Seaberg but is told from first person all the way through. The inner workings of the brain are a complete mystery and the science bits trying to explain what happened are interesting. However the chapters around the rest of his life, though somewhat saddening, left me struggling through the pages. Then about half way through it started to hit the hard mathematics and I was lost. I wanted to know about the miracle that happened in his brain, not the work he did afterwards. I skipped ahead and did read some of the later chapters, including where he finally gets a diagnosis. So possibly more interesting to those with an interest in maths AND brains.

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Disclosure: I received Gutenberg's Apprentice and Struck by Genius 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.