Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top Ten 2016

Once again, I feel vindicated in waiting until the last day of the year to announce my favourite books because I have read two corkers this week! In no particular order, my top ten books read in 2016...



A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
The Fireman by Joe Hill



The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall



13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt



The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders



Caraval by Stephanie Garber
The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink


These last two I haven't reviewed yet, but keep an eye on the blog over the next few days. You can also check out #bookishadvent on Instagram for more top recommendations from me, Bex and Louise.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Get Ready for #Discworldathon 2017

Fancy a reading thing for next year without too much commitment? Love Terry Pratchett or just want to know what Discworld is all about? Want to just see how many times I typo it as Discoworld? Bex @ An Armchair By The Sea is hosting Discworldathon 2017, with a pick and choose approach to participation.


I am hosting Hogfather month so I have a whole 11 months to really get prepared! Also I'm aiming on blogging once a month on something Pratchett related, reading bits and pieces including those books I've held back on because I didn't want it to be the end, watching adaptations and colouring some stuff in. I might dust off my Ankh-Morpork board game and see if I can work out how to play it, but there's not really anyone around that is that enthused by it enough to want to play. Boohoo!

There will also be readalongs, although I'll probably pass unless it's a book I fancied reading anyway at the time, giveaways and Twitter chats. If anyone would like a guest spot here to talk about their favourite Terry Pratchett moments or books, please get in touch.

Check out the schedule and then sign-up.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

When We Collided

This is where I am, somewhere between the night's total darkness and the light's utter brilliance.

Vivi thinks Verona Cove is perfect. She’s spending the summer in this Californian town with her mother and she’s just found the perfect project; Jonah. She sees the sadness in him and wants to make him happy. Jonah is keeping his family together, with one parent gone and the other not really there, he’s sure this vibrant girl will take one look at them and run in the other direction.

One thing I realised when reading When We Collided is how rare it is to have a confident main character. Vivi’s confidence isn’t absolute, as we soon learn, but it made me think how we probably warm a lot quicker to characters with obvious flaws. I might have been annoyed at Vivi but the tells are there that her exuberance may be a symptom; from the start, she is throwing her pills off a cliff.

It looks at depression from different angle. Jonah’s mum displays what most people would think of when talking about clinical depression, she barely leaves her room and isn’t there mentally for her family. Jonah is grieving too, but he is holding things together, taking on the responsibility of a parent. People, on the whole, are more forgiving of depression triggered by grief but there is still the desire to hide it from other people.

I don't appreciate how often people hide their scars and doubts. Really, it's not fair to people who are struggling, to go on believing that everyone else has it totally together.

Vivi doesn’t have an “excuse” and I think that is a good point to make. Jonah’s family can understandably be broken; people expect something to have caused depression, helps them to understand it. But Vivi doesn’t have a reason, she is just ill. As you might guess from her personality, she suffers from bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic depression. Her moods go from extremes from the numbness of depression to her high energy manic periods.

This book gets really good when things start going wrong. Vivi sweeping in and mending Jonah’s broken heart seems too good to be true, and it is. Jonah is under a lot of strain and Vivi is on a collision course with the slightest upset ready to send her hurtling into an episode. There is some powerful writing as emotions are stretched and the truths come out.

My dark days made me strong.

Jonah’s side of the story also portrays the amount young carers take on and the strain they are under. There are teens out there looking after their siblings or parents, for whatever reason, and it’s a hell of a lot of responsibility at a time in their lives when they should be having fun.

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Book Source: Illumicrate

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A Christmas Cornucopia

Christmas is a funny old time of year, where we do some odd things and no one really knows why. Never fear, Mark Forsyth is here to explain some of our festive traditions, where they came from and why Christmas carols rarely make sense.

If you love etymology (that’s the origins of words) then you really must read Mark’s books. If not, well, A Christmas Cornucopia will still arm you with plenty of festive facts to arm yourself with for even the most challenging Christmas gathering. Does everyone believe modern Santa was created by Coca-Cola? Well I’ll admit I thought that too, but you can whip this book out and explain why Santa is a result of anti-British sentiment in America despite the Puritans over there repeatedly trying to ban Christmas.

You’ll also find out why your Christmas tree should have a snake in it (I’m working on that for next year), how the Twelve Days of Christmas is inspired by a recipe and that robins are only bold birds in Britain. I had forever thought that Christmas Day was put where it was because of the winter solstice and pagan celebrations, but turns out some madman known as The Computist spent a very long time working it out with maths. He even wrote a very boring and hard to follow book about it.

Picture a man sitting beside a dead tree. He is indoors and wearing a crown. From the ceiling hangs a parasitical shrub which legitimates sexual assault. He is singing to himself about a tenth-century Mittel-European murder victim using a sixteenth-century Finnish melody. Earlier, he told his children that the house had been broken into during the night by an obese Turkish man. This was a lie, but he wanted to make his children happy.

Even the index entries are a tad amusing. Jealousy towards British balls, Crackers – what the Computist was and in-laws – strangulation of. If you’re looking for a festive read but don’t really want anything too schmaltzy, this is the book for you.

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Burning Page

The Burning Page is the third book in Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

"Someone out there wants to kill you."

It was rather sad that Irene's first reaction was not so much shock as resignation. Then she wondered whether there was a queue, and if someone was selling tickets.

After rescuing her assistant, Kai, from an alternate Venice ruled by the fae, things aren’t really going back to normal for librarian Irene. Vale’s still suffering from contamination from the high chaos world, even if he’d be the last to admit anything’s wrong, and Irene suspects the library’s put her on probation. When a door to the library spontaneously combusts, nearly taking Irene and Kai with it, they soon learn that there’s something bigger going on, something that could threaten the existence of the library itself.

Give me an inefficient murderer any day. I'd far rather have someone trying to kill me by shoving spiders through my letterbox.

Our favourite librarian is back in this third instalment of a wonderfully fun and inventive fantasy series. Irene’s job is to steal books from different realities, not only to preserve rare versions, but also to keep the bonds between the libraries and those worlds strong. If you’ve not read The Invisible Library yet, do check out my review for a better explanation of this universe.

Irene is caught between wanting to be a good librarian and wanting to help her friends. Something needs to be done about Vale, but she has no idea what the right answer is and whether he will thank her for it. With the library under threat, all librarians are deployed and Irene must travel to a version of St Petersberg where magic is outlawed. At least the Language still works.

Panic is the antithesis to good organization. Panic is messy. I am against panic on a point of principle
.

And Alberich is still out there and he’s focused on Irene. Can she possible stay safe from him, do her job and keep her friends safe, all at the same time? It’s such a fun series, you should definitely give it a go!

The Burning Page is published by Tor and is available 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.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

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

I've not been paying too much attention to next year's releases, so I've had to sneak in some books that aren't out until July to make up numbers. What are you excited to read next year?



The Cows by Dawn O'Porter (6th Apr)

I loved Dawn's two young adult books so I'm seriously excited to see what she does with this novel about three women who "don't follow the herd".

Masquerade by Laura Lam (9th Mar)

The third Micah Grey book at last! If you haven't read any of these go get yourself one of the lovely reissues of Pantomime and prepare to be hooked.

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord (1st Jun)

I'm only just getting round to reading When We Collided but I liked the sound of this one too.



The Fallen Children by David Owen (4th May)

I'll admit I was first drawn to this book as they'll be publishing it with the covers in many different colours, leaving you to hunt down your favourite or go for pot luck! Then today, I looked a bit closer at the blurb and it's actually a rework of The Midwich Cuckoos. However this is a story of the teenage girls who find themselves mysteriously pregnant, and it's set on Midwich Estate.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (28th Mar)

I think many of us have been waiting for Laini to write something just as wonderful to replace the hole DoSaB left. I've had a sampler for a while now but I don't really want to read it and then have to wait ages to finish.

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee (26th Jan)

I just think this sounds wonderfully whimsical. I shall quote the blurb as it is about "a teen aroma-expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to help others fall in love".



Forever Geek by Holly Smale (27th Jul)

It's the series finale of Geek Girl and I will miss Harriet. She's really grown over the last few books so I can't wait to see where she ends up.

Margot & Me by Juno Dawson (26th Jan)

All of the Above has to be one of my favourite UKYA books so I am looking forward to reading whatever's new from Juno. This one is about a girl who discovers her grandmother's war-time diary and, of course, a secret contained in its pages.

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan + Brian Conaghan (9th Feb)

A collaborative story of star crossed-lovers, one of which is an EU immigrant, both with their own secrets. I loved Sarah's One so this is a must read for next year.

The Sun's Domain by Rebecca Levene (13th Jul)

No cover yet for the third book in Rebecca's wonderful fantasy series, The Hollow Gods.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Lying About Last Summer

Last summer Skye’s sister died in the family swimming pool. This summer she is attending a summer camp, one specifically designed to help teens deal with their grief. When she starts receiving messages from someone pretending to be her sister, Skye doesn’t know what to believe, but she does know her sister was mixed up in something bad. I someone out to get her now?

Yellow is the colour of bereaved teenagers. The colour that doesn't suit anyone.

I picked this up because as a kid I loved reading about other kids being sent off to pony camp for the summer. That seemed like the perfect summer to me. Getting back on point, there's no ponies here and it's probably more similar to an American summer camp. Plus, this camp turns out to be far from the perfect summer.

However, the more I read it, the more I wondered about the wisdom of sticking a bunch of bereaved teenagers in one place and then forcing them to take part in team activities. A nightmare for any introverts among them. Do these places actually exist? Skye is a bit detached through the whole thing, explainable by her grief and guilt, but Fay is so out of place. My heart went out to her.

Skye isn’t the easiest character to like and she’s also not designed to be someone to hate. She doesn’t seem too keen on the camp, probably just doing it to appease her parents, although the location is also near where they used to live. Despite her apathy, she is a good person, but spends a lot of time thinking about her own problems, understandable in her situation.

The story does lead you astray and it’s not too predictable. It is a pretty quick book to read, I shy away from calling it light due to the issues involved, but it's definitely one you could read over an afternoon without straining your brain.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Versailles

Versailles is the home of the Baer family, a 100-room mega mansion built by the CEO of a prolific social media company. His daughter, Missy, has gone missing. She’s deleted her profile and gone off the grid. Her twin brother tries to track her down from inside his bedroom, a room with everything a boy could ever ask for.

Eyes forward, she took a picture with her mind for later, a blink against the sunlight streaming in the forward windshield.

Versailles has some good ideas but I just didn’t engage with the characters that much. It’s a bit surreal and I think this kind of writing can lead to the characters being more like playing pieces than actual living, breathing humans.

I think it would have said a lot more about the influence of online life if Missy hadn’t been chasing after a cult. She starts to cut down on her online life after watching a video of her favourite recording artist, one she doesn’t feel the need to share to her millions of followers. She wants to keep it just for herself. After she deletes her accounts she still sometimes thinks in terms of social media, what she would share, hashtags and framing pictures in her mind instead of on her phone. She keeps feeling the draw of it.

Stripped down, it’s about a struggling family. The mother feels dulled by the medication she is taking for an unspecified mental illness. The father seems controlling and manipulative, leaving the rest of the family to feel trapped in their multi-million-dollar mansion. It’s ambiguous whether the father is abusive or just over-protective, I didn’t really like the chapters at the end which was trying to add to his side of the story. Is it trying to say he’s just misunderstood?

The son never leaves his room and prefers to spend his time in the anonymity of online forums where he takes on different personas. He isn’t always trolling though, sometimes the characters he becomes are good people. He can be whoever he wants to be online. I got the feeling that the Baers were all very lonely people.

All those millions of followers and she hadn't posted anything in weeks... All those millions and she could count her real friends on one hand.

Yannick’s writing style has a lot of repetition that didn’t really work for me. I’m assuming the nanny is there as an outside perspective but it’s never really explained why she has nightmares, why she was fired. Is it just that the idea of this 100-room mansion with all its locked doors is frightening? Or is there something truly wrong with Casey? And then there's the poor, neglected monitor lizard roaming the corridors, which keeps cropping up. I just don’t think it was my cup of tea.

Versailles is published by Unbound and is available now in hardback 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.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Illumicrate: One Year On

So Illumicrate has been running for a whole year now and early subscribers got an extra thank you gift in November's box. When it started there really wasn't much choice in the UK book subscription box market but it seems to have exploded since. Illumicrate still holds its own and definitely has a certain brand identity now.

I haven't read all the books I've received in the boxes but those I have, I did enjoy. I only received one book I already had, Truthwitch, and I really liked Wolf by Wolf and The Graces. I do intend of reading the others! You can see all my Illumicrate posts here, but now to talk about what was in the latest box.


So the first item is something that wasn't in every box. As I have been a subscriber since the beginning, I received the sequel to the first book. I am looking forward to reading Blood for Blood. For those not familiar with these books, they are set in an alternate history where the Nazis won the war and there is a supernatural aspect as well.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Thin Air

In 1935 the summit of Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas remained unreached. Stephen Pearce joins his brother, Kits, as the expedition’s medic as they follow in the footsteps of Lyell’s disastrous 1907 attempt. But on the eve of their descent, the only other survivor warns Stephen off the route with what he dismisses as superstitious claptrap. Five men lost their lives but only four were laid to rest…

People don't cry out when they fall.

I started off thinking what a bunch of arrogant, privileged men, thinking the world belongs to them and dismissing the local people. Good riddance to them when something horrible happens! It is written in the manner of a 1930s account and the attitudes are sadly very of the time. There's a bit of a tendency to apply modern values to historical fiction to make it more palatable but all that's doing is pretending things never happened. So yes, they are racist and completely disrespectful of local culture, and this may mean it's not for you. But our narrator does start to see the Sherpas as people, at least more than his companions.

There's a lot of detail about their climb, it would be a fantastic book for someone who loves mountaineering and a lot of the less supernatural elements are taken from real expeditions of the time. I can imagine how easy it is for the brain to play tricks on you from the remote surroundings and harsh weather to the effects of altitude sickness. Just like in Dark Matter, it's an excellent subject to base a ghost story on; it would be easy to argue the men are driven mad by their situation.

I suppose it's only to be expected that I'm out of sorts. The remoteness of this place... It forces one to confront one's own insignificance as never before. And we are so very far from help.

The horror aspect of it is subtle, but insidious. I don’t think a rucksack has ever been so sinister! It’s a slow build but a lot more effective than trying to do too much. Not one to read more a climb or camping trip.

The brothers have worshipped Lyell since childhood, with his memoir describing his seemingly selfless act of bringing the bodies of the fallen down the mountain. Yet Stephen’s hero was far from perfect and whilst Kits might not want to think otherwise, Stephen’s devotion starts to wane as he gets closer to the truth. There is a lot of sibling rivalry between them, Kits always trying to belittle his younger brother.

Thin Air is published by Orion and is available now in hardback 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.