Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Month That Was... May 2015

If everything's gone to plan I will now be in California, quite probably jetlagged and surrounded by far too many good food choices. We're spending a few days in San Francisco before heading down to Santa Cruz. I have a few scheduled posts but the blog will be quiet for a few weeks. Keep an eye on Twitter and Instagram for holiday updates.

Fancy reading one of the books featured on my blog in May? From now on each monthly wrap-up post will include a giveaway. See the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter and of course it's open internationally! The options include any of the books pictured below, which includes quickie reviews. It's not the books' fault their reader had been lazy.

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

Book of the Month:
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Quickie Reviews

The thing with 24 hour readathons is that they’re not very conducive to forming coherent reviews in the aftermath, but I would like to tell you a little about these books which I haven’t managed to review yet. And let’s face it, probably never will unless I do them in quickie format.

I loved Days of Blood and Starlight, so much more than the first book. It’s always hard to review second books in trilogies, but if you stalled after Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it may be worth your time to give it a second chance. Thank god we’ve got past all that mushiness between Karou and Akiva. For perhaps obvious reasons, they’re not spending much time together now and there’s none of that pesky pining you so often get. Plus there’s more time spent in Eretz, with additional world-building. I have the third book on my holiday list and cannot wait.

Apple and Rain is a story about fantasy not living up to expectations. Apple has never known her mother, being raised by her Nan. But one day her wishes are answered and her mother walks back into her life. This was the first Sarah Crossan I’ve read (I have since read the stunning One) and it deals with poor parenting, relying on siblings to look after each other, but at its heart is a tale of two sisters.

Rain feels resentment over a new person in family and her acting up is very well done even if it doesn’t endear us to her. Apple is far from perfect either and she can be selfish when it comes to her Nan. She’s desperate to fit in; a kind of middle of the road child at school, not necessarily bullied but not quite belonging. Does Apple blame her mum for her feeling that way? As the story progresses, I started to warm to these two flawed, but realistic girls.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of love for Stephanie Perkins and I used the readathon as an excuse to pick up her first book, Anna and the French Kiss. It’s sweet and easy read with a dash of humour. I liked it but I didn’t fall in love. I was imminently jealous of their school restaurant though. Mmmm fresh baked bread for breakfast every day!

I’m pretty happy that Anna gets called up on her stereotyping later on in the book. Yes, we all do it to some extent, but I’m glad it was made clear that’s just what she was doing when she made assumptions about the French, or what they would assume about her. And finally, an author that knows the difference between English and British. Thank you for calling Etienne’s accent English!

Which leads on nicely to You Say Potato, a book about accents. Written by a father and son team, it’s a conversational style non-fiction book that’s easy to pick up and read in snippets. As someone with a hodge podge accent, I loved the fact that it helped me trace different parts of my accent to different places I have lived. It also tells us a lot about Received Pronunciation English, that accent that everyone who is not British assumes is what we all talk like. It’s actually pretty new in our history and it turns out we trust regional accents more. Maybe that Jaguar ad had a point.

David Crystal is involved in Original Pronunciation Shakespeare, in which they perform the plays in an accent as close as they can get to what would have been spoken at the time it was first performed. Now I’d love to see a performance, but I felt it went on a bit too much near the end about this. There was a conversation with an actor about his use of accents that didn’t quite fit the rest of the book. However it does seem to be David’s passion so I’ll let him off. I would certainly recommend this to any American writers planning on including a British character in their next book!

I also read the Penguin Little Black Classic edition of The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, however my thoughts were pretty much summed up during the readathon here.

Monday, 25 May 2015

UK Goodreads Giveaways

Birdy by Jess Vallance
5 copies, UK only
Ends 1st July

Paperweight by Meg Haston
5 copies, UK only
Ends 1st July

Charlie Martz and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard
10 copies, UK only
Ends 18th June

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
10 copies, UK + Australia
Ends 5th June

All The Little Pieces by Jilliane Hoffman
20 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 4th June

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 17th June

Hush by Sara Marshall-Ball
10 copies, UK only
Ends 20th June

The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy
10 copies, UK only
Ends 18th June

A Pound of Flesh by Sophie Jackson
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 23rd June

Boxes by Pascal Garnier
5 copies, UK only
Ends 2nd June

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
10 copies, UK only
Ends 1st June

No Place For A Lady by Gill Paul
10 copies, UK only
Ends 1st June

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Life After Life

During the harsh winter of 1910, a baby is born, the cord wrapped around her neck. She dies before she has the chance to live. That same baby is born, this time she lives. She will grow to become Ursula Todd, she will be reborn countless times and she will witness some of the most significant events of 20th century Europe.

I’m sure Life After Life needs no introduction. Whilst everyone else is reading A God in Ruins, I thought it was about time I read its predecessor. I was glad that, for the most part, Ursula was unaware of her repeating life. She has feelings of déjà vu and often the sense that something awful is going to happen. This leads her to make different decisions. Sometimes things are fixed, sometimes they are not. She cannot make everything perfect in this imperfect world.

All those unclaimed arms and legs lost in the fields of Flanders - Ursula imagined them pushing roots down into the mud and shoots up to the sky and growing once again into men. An army of men marching back for revenge.

How such small events can make our lives change in dramatic ways. Some have described this book as dealing with time travel or reincarnation, but I like to think of it more exploring alternative realities, or as Terry Pratchett said, the trousers of time. In some of her lives, Ursula veers way off track, her life becoming tragic. In others, she seems happy and it is only the circumstances of her untimely death that brings the tragedy.

"What did science ever do for the world, apart from make better ways of killing people?"

How easy it was to die in the first half of the twentieth century. Life is portrayed as fragile. Sometimes Ursula dies of the same thing repeatedly; some things just seem inevitable. The Spanish Flu was particularly trying and I felt for the family each time they went through it. The Second World War is a large presence in her life, something that cannot be avoided, no matter what course is taken.

In all honestly I felt the book was too long and there were some parts that dragged. I really lost interest in her time in pre-war Germany, perhaps this is because it’s a period I’ve read a fair bit about. I just wanted to get back to Fox Corner or blitzed London. I was eager for Ursula to die, which is an odd feeling to have about a character you actually love.

And why oh why does it have to start with a scene that happens at the end of the book? It detracts a little from Ursula’s personal story, changing her own history. I didn’t want to be constantly thinking about her changing the course of world history, which what it implied. I also found the ending a little unsatisfying.

Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness, a conundrum that she couldn't even begin to solve.

Overall I loved her writing and can see why so many people love this book. I was drawn into war torn London, with all its grief but also the comradery. I hadn’t known much about the volunteers who scoured the rubble following bombings. It’s harrowing reading in places but told in such a wonderful way, that it never felt like something I wanted to turn away from.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Disclosure: Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Twenty-six year-old Cheryl is at rock bottom when she makes the most impulsive decision of her life. She will walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Over 1000 miles of mountainous wilderness, starting in the Mojave Desert heading north towards Washington State. And she will walk alone.

I’m not sure I would have ever picked up Wild if it weren’t a book group choice but I ended up enjoying it much more than I had expected. It’s one of those books cited as having changed people’s lives and thoroughly motivational, which I find off-putting, but I did like the idea of her solo walk along the PCT. And having read it, I did much more enjoy the parts about hiking over her life story.

Nothing bad could happen to me, I thought. The worst thing already had.

Cheryl’s life before the PCT was a sad one. She lost her mother to cancer and went off the rails a bit after that. Her family grew further apart and she pushed herself away from her husband. She turned to sex and drugs to fill an unfillable void in her life. I did find it a bit hard to grasp that she had been shooting up heroin the week before she started her hike yet had no signs of withdrawal. Perhaps she brushed over that part of her life on purpose but it really did come across blasé about drug use. She made it seem like it was something you could pick up and walk away from in an instant.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave.

Completely unprepared for the reality of hiking in extreme temperatures and at altitude, it’s amazing she actually survived to tell her tale. Her feet are ripped to shreds by her boots and she can barely lift her pack. She names her pack Monster and her destroyed feet become a recurring theme. Whilst other hikers she meets along the way have trained for years, Cheryl just marches straight out into the wilderness.

I believe she did the walk in the nineties, which makes it a much more isolated experience than now. She has no GPS or mobile phone, there’s no internet at her check in points to keep in touch with the outside world. Now, she could have taken an ereader rather than having to destroy books as she went. I imagine there were also a lot less people out walking than there would be today. However she is met with many acts of kindness from an array of characters that she meets along the way.

It was true that The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California was now my bible, but The Dream of a Common Language was my religion.

I saw that she has had a novel published and looked it up as I liked her easy style of writing. However it does seem to be heavily based on her life; a mother dying of cancer is the central plot as far as I can tell. So I’ll probably be skipping that although I do plan on watching the film adaptation.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 18 May 2015

UK Goodreads Giveaways

No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe
20 copies, UK only
Ends 20th May

If You Go Away by Adele Parks
10 copies, UK only
Ends 24th May

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
10 copies, UK only
Ends 22nd May

Only We Know by Simon Packham
5 copies, UK only
Ends 3rd June

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
30 copies, UK only
Ends 20th May

Closet Queens by Michael Bloch
10 copies, UK only
Ends 27th May

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
10 copies, UK only
Ends 20th June

The Almost King by Lucy Saxon
5 copies, UK + Australia
Ends 3rd June

Eureka: How Invention Happens by Gavin Weightman
2 copies, UK only
Ends 13th June

Sweet Caress by William Boyd
5 copies, UK + Australia
Ends 26th May

Tuesday Falling by S. Williams
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 5th June

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer
5 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 20th May

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Phoenix Rising

For as long as he has known Toby has called The Phoenix home. A pirate ship sailing the ruined seas of a post-apocalyptic Earth. His father is a wanted man, a scientist who once worked for the government and fled, taking his prize invention with him. Their survival depends on salvage, but so does that of The Banshee, their rivals and enemies. To hear the wail of The Banshee is to expect attack.

The future that Toby lives in is the earth after the eruption of Yellowstone’s super volcano, but not immediately. Those who live now have survived through the days of darkness and the ash clouds have cleared, leaving behind a harsh environment. The seas are acidic and overflowing with junk, with only the most hardy sea life surviving and the sunlight blinding.

The world-building is well thought out and didn’t jar at any point. However we only see a limited view of this world from Toby’s stand point. I was a little confused with the political situation; the back story is introduced at the start with a series of news clippings that piqued my interest but are never expanded upon.

Whilst the story follows Toby, there’s a great mix of male and female pirates and a girl that certainly doesn’t need rescuing, at least not in the traditional sense. Ayla is around Toby’s age but is second in command on her ship. She is the fighter, the one hardened to emotions and he is the one full of compassion, but a bit clueless.

Phoenix Rising is aimed at the younger end of the teen market, and I think it’s a great pirate adventure for younger readers, but one that was a little lacking in complexity for my personal taste. Toby is a bit naïve and has lived a sheltered life, despite living aboard a pirate ship and it makes him come across as a simple character.

The Captain’s advance artificial intelligence has been installed into a robotic parrot, but one made to look real so she is easily kept a secret. It’s a great ruse and had potential but there’s a point were Barnaby tells Polly (the parrot of course) that she’s supposed to predict Toby’s actions. Yet she isn’t really in a position to do anything other than tell him to be careful all the time. Was she supposed to be a mother figure to him?

Phoenix Rising is published by Stripes and will be available in paperback from 1st June 2015. 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.