Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Top Ten: Autumn TBR

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

I am pretty dreadful at sticking to TBR lists so this is really ten recent or forthcoming releases I have some hope of reading by the end of this year. Links go to Goodreads.

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
Sleeping Beauties by Owen and Stephen King

Grave Matter by Juno Dawson
Into the Drowning Deep by Seanan McGuire

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Tarnished City by Vic James

The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan
It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Tower of Dawn

Tower of Dawn is part of the Throne of Glass series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

When I first heard that Sarah J Maas was writing a book just about Chaol I was pretty excited. He was one of my favourite characters in the earlier books and I had been disappointed he hadn’t featured much of late. Whilst there was definitely some story worth reading about there just wasn’t enough to warrant 660 pages of it.

Anyone who thinks the Fae are prancing creatures given to poetry and singing needs a history lesson.

After his spinal injury at the hands of the Valg, Chaol travels south to Antica, home of the famed healers of the Torre. With him, the new captain of the guard, Nesryn who also shares his bed. The healer assigned to him hates the very idea of him, a man who serves the kingdom who killed her mother. Yet she is professional and she agrees to assist him.

Antica is a much more modern society than Ardalan, they have free education and healthcare. Nesryn who has suffered prejudice in the north is much more at home here, where cultures and races mix freely. The khaganate has an interesting rule of succession, with the heir chosen by the current khagan but tradition suggests that the heirs that weren’t picked should be removed to prevent problems. This is important for some of the character relationships as no one really wants to be attached to someone with such an unreliable future.

I am starting to regret not finishing all the novellas as characters from them having been popping up in the last few books and this is no exception. Yrene Towers does not know she has crossed paths with Aelin, and I didn’t know either until it’s revealed, but you would know if you had read The Assassin and the Healer.

Anyway, when it comes to Yrene, the lady doth protest too much and it’s so obvious what will happen. She starts to get to know Chaol and that maybe not everyone form Ardalan is evil. There is so much repetition in the first half, with the healer constantly reminding us of her reasoning. And Chaol is so grouchy. People in the book seem to be very good at reading entire sentences from a single look, even people they don’t know very well.

It’s important to bear in mind that Chaol’s injury is partly magical because I don’t think there’s much medical accuracy is his recovery. Yrene discovers the shadow of something evil lurking inside him, preventing her from healing him fully. I found the healing scenes got a bit tedious after the first one or two.

It is really set up for Chaol and Nesryn to break up. SJM seems obsessed with pairing up all her characters romantically and I know some readers love this but it’s starting to make things very predictable. Plus, they are at war, can they concentrate on defeating the Valg first?

This sea where no ships would ever sail, some men would look upon it and see only burning death. He saw only quiet - and clean. And slow creeping life. Untamed, savage beauty.

There were things I liked and part two got much better, with a little bit more focus on Nesryn, the ruk riders and some more insight to the ongoing series stuff. The ruks are giant birds, and one of the princes leads an army of ruk riders. They are a bit like a much friendlier version of the Iron Witches, with similar bonds between rider and animal. There are also evil giant spiders.

The book is worth reading for revelations! Some good stuff but it was a long slog to get to it and I’m sure the returning characters can easily inform the others of these in a quick conversation. Hey, Chaol went to get healed and he also discovered some stuff whilst he was there, it’s really useful.

But I am really excited for the next Aelin book now, I cannot wait to find out what happens with her and Maeve. I just kind of wish this had been half the length, why did her editors let her do this? I suppose because it will sell no matter what.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Akata Witch

There is a lot to love about Akata Witch so it was a bit frustrating that the story didn’t get going until really half way through. Sunny discovers she is a Leopard Person later than most of her kind do. She’s always been an outsider, an albino, American born and now living with her Nigerian family in Aba, Nigeria. Her parents are Lambs (non-magical people) and therefore don’t know about her magic, and she must keep it that way.

We embrace those things that make us unique or odd. For only in these things can we locate and then develop our most individual abilities.

Fortunately for Sunny, some other teenagers notice her power and take her under their wings. She can also learn from the Fast Facts for Free Agents guide which has extracts throughout the story. The bulk of this first instalment is worldbuilding, with Sunny trying to learn all the customs, rules and how to use her power.

Both the Lamb and Leopard communities are on edge with a man known as Black Hat abducting and killing children. This is mentioned at the beginning and then it is hinted at about half way though that it’s something the kids will have to deal with. The blurb gives this away so it’s not a spoiler, it just takes so long for the main plot arc to get going. I loved the last third, so perhaps the second book will be a bit pacier.

Along with three other magical students, Chichi, Orlu and Sashi, Sunny learns what she needs to pass through the levels of the Leopard People. She is introduced to Leopard Knocks, the West African capital of their kind, hidden from the Lambs but full of everything they could need. They enter by showing their spirit faces, something they must never show a Lamb.

Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom.

Learning is rewarded with chittim which magical rain downs on them when some new knowledge is gained. This is a wonderful reward system especially as chittim is the currency of the Leopard People. Sunny goes through the motions of learning the basics, and you know when she has nailed it as chittim falls upon her.

I love Nnedi’s adult science fiction and her creativity is visible here but it just wasn’t as good as I was expecting. It is fantastic to see fantasy in non-western settings and I loved how she combines West African customs and superstition into this.

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Quest Complete!

Hosted by Read at Midnight, character art by CW @ Read, Think, Ponder.

Last month I signed up for The Reading Quest and I had high hopes of doing more than one quest. Hah! Well today is the last day and I have just finished my last book for the Mage path. So I'm happy I finished it and remind myself not to have too high expectations of these things.

I finish up on level 3 with 100 XP and 205 HP. I read 6 books, with three of them being from diverse authors. My favourite was definitely The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.

One Word Title: Release by Patrick Ness
Contains Magic: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Based on Mythology: Circe by Madeleine Miller
Set in a Different World: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
--> Expansion: The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo
First Book of a Series: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I still need to review Akata Witch and Circe. It will be a while for Circe as it isn't out until next year but if you love Greek mythology add it to your wishlist. It follows a few different myths from the point of view of the witch (she's the one in the Odyssey who turns men into pigs) and pulls them together in such a fantastic way. There are the back stories of the Minotaur and Scylla and a completely different take on Odysseus.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

It's Ninja Book Swap Time!

I'm sure most of you know by now that I've taken over Ninja Book Swap from Bex. If you haven't already, go follow @ninjabookswap on Twitter to keep up-to-date and get gift ideas. Sign-ups close 23rd September so don't leave it too late if you'd like to join in. Remember to use the #ninjabookswap hashtag when chatting about or sharing the swap!

I've included some photos from past swaps to whet your appetite and give you an idea of what gets sent.

Sign up for the Original Ninja Book Swap

This swap is just like Secret Santa, just not at Christmas. You'll need a wishlist somewhere public so your partner knows what books you want and there's a bunch of questions on the sign-up form to help with the gift buying. You'll be expected to send at least one book and a gift but it's up to you how much extra you do.

We try to match people up with vaguely similar interests/taste but this swap is a lot less structured than Trick or Treat...

Sign up for the Trick or Treat Swap

Fancy reading a book outside your comfort zone? That's what your trick will be, chosen by someone who loves that genre. You'll also receive a treat in the form of a wishlist book and gift. For this swap you will be expected to send at least two books and a small gift.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Radium Girls

After radium was discovered by the Curies in 1898, it was considered a wonder chemical, curing cancer, glowing in the dark and invigorating the health of those who imbibed it. As we know today, radium is radioactive and incredibly dangerous. In 1920s America, two factories employed young women to apply luminous paint onto watches and military equipment. This is the story of those girls.

You would be a hard-hearted soul not to shed a single tear over The Radium Girls. We know a lot about the effects of ingested radiation now because of these women, but at the time that thought would hardly be a comfort to their suffering. It's a heart-breaking and riveting read, and one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in radiation, occupational diseases, industrial lawsuits or social justice.

The girls shone ‘like the watches did in the darkroom’, as though they themselves were timepieces, counting down the seconds as they passed. They glowed like ghosts as they walked home through the streets of Orange.

Everyone wanted to work in the dial painting studios. Young women who had the skill could easily make more money than their peers and there was an element of glamour surrounding them. When the women stepped out at night, their clothes and skin would glow. No one worried, radium was said to be good for you, and they weren't provided any specialist equipment to work with it. In order to get a fine enough tip on their brushes to be accurate, the women would dampen them in their mouths. Yes, that's right, they were putting radioative paint into their mouths. I was seriously gobsmacked at the cavalier attitude reading the first few chapters.

You could forgive the companies for not knowing in the early days but as the cases pile up, their ignorance is breath-taking, turning into gross negliance when they knew very well what they were doing. The women didn't matter much to them, they could always employ more, and there is always this feeling that they thought no one would believe a bunch of working class girls anyway.

Yet the tragedy and pain were part of the appeal for the captivated public. Radium poisoning – with its child-killing devastation and disfiguring symptoms – ‘seemed to destroy their very womanhood’.

One by one the women fell ill. Doctors and dentists were mystified but the cases weren't connected for a long time as the radiation poisoning manifested in different ways. The suffering of the women is hard to read, as the radium acted like calcium, being transported into their bones to do its worst. The death certificates never identified the culprit, never said that their occupation was to blame. The companies had plausible deniability.

To add insult to injury, the medical bills financially crippled the affected families. With the women unable to work, some of them turned to lawyers to try and make the companies take responsibility. Having got to the end of this book I can undoubtedly say the people in charge were evil. They ignored the advice of scientists, they continued letting girls put paint into their mouths because it was less wasteful (of paint not of human lives), then they denied this was what they told the girls to do. They demanded medical examinations and then never shared the damning results with their employees. They lied and lied and lied, all the while whilst their ex-employees were dying by their hands.

Radium had been known to be harmful since 1901. Every death since was unnecessary.

There are reasons industies are regulated. Those who wish to deregulate it should maybe read into the history of worker compensation. The radium girls' legacy is one of better workers' rights and more respect for the dangers of radiation.

I'm not even going to object to the use of girls in the title. They were so young when they started working, many only teenagers eager to be independent women. So many didn't even reach twenty-five. I feel like crying just thinking about it. Need to put your emotions through the ringer? Read this book.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season is the best fantasy I've read in a long time, it's just outstanding. If you're interested in geology and seismic activity as well as epic fantasy, this is the series for you! I had only really heard about N.K. Jemisin in relation to the Hugos, an award I generally haven't had much faith in, so I don't really run out and buy the shortlists. I'd noticed a few more people on bookstagram reading this trilogy, especially with the recent release of the final instalment, so I bit the bullet and gave it a go. I'm so glad I did!

This is the way the world ends... for the last time.

This is a world in constant preparation for a major ecological event. Called the Stillness, the earth is never still for long. There is a huge amount of seismic activity causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. The people live in secure walled comms, easier to defend when the season comes. They stockpile food and everyone has a use caste which determines their use when the end of the world happens. Only, this time, this will be the last time the world ends.

Even the hardest stone can fracture. It just takes the right force, applied at the right juncture of angles. A fulcrum of pressure and weakness.

The story is told from three perspectives, Essen, Syenite and Damaya. They all have something in common, they are oregenes. This means they can sense activity in the earth and control rocks and minerals. In such an unstill world, they are a useful tool, and in Yumenes, they are enslaved to serve the stills. In the comms, people have been taught to fear them and free oregenes hide their power or risk death or capture.

It is a story of prejudice. In this world, the majority of peeople have dark skin, which would make sense in such a unpredictable climate, so it's not based on skin colour. Parallels can be drawn between the treatment of the oregenes and slavery, but it is never heavy handed. Oregenes are called, roggas, a derogatory term, but one which some claim for themselves. They are treated as less than human, bred for power and exploited time and time again.

Why all who come out of that place seem so very competent... and so very afraid.

The people live by something called stone law. I loved how this was incorporated, the sense of something being written in stone both literally and figuratively. The laws aren't questioned, they are assumed to be complete and unchanged. They are written in stone to survive the seasons and pass on knowledge to survivors after all.

Essen's chapters are written in second person present tense, which sounds horrific but it just goes to show how good this book is that I was sucked in enough to barely notice. The other narratives are also present tense, but it just works. When a character talks of something in the past, it makes it so much more final. It is gone.

And then he reaches forth with all the fine control that the world has brainwashed and backstabbed and brutalized out of him, and all the sensitivity that his masters have bred into him through generations of rape and coercion and highly unnatural selection.

There are also mysterious obelisks in the sky, stone eaters who can move through stone, cruel Guardians and a whole bunch of threads that are coming together already. Fortunately, I don't have to wait for the next book!

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Month That Was... August 2017

August has passed by in a blur of barbeques and unpredictable weather. I finished 11 books, although two were very short ebooks. After saying I was cutting down on YA, I seem to have read a lot again but I do feel like I had a better reading experience overall. I think not just reading new, buzzy stuff is a good thing.

I went book shopping in Oxford on the summer book shop crawl and a work boat trip to Swanage. Scully was spayed and she's recovered well (after sporting a snazzy jumper for a few weeks). She's still on her elimination diet although we're starting to think her itchiness isn't food related.

The two books I am currently reading are SO good, I'm close to finishing The Fifth Season, which is amazing and counts towards the reading quest. There are so many books coming out in the next few months, I have loads of pre-orders and then there's Ninja Book Swap followed by birthday book buying bans. Psst, sign-up for the swaps opens later today!

I jumped on board The Reading Quest last minute and I am highly likely to complete the Mage quest. I think it was a bit of a stretch to think I could do a second one in the time though! Here's my challenge progress:


XP = 65 / HP = 164
One Word Title: Release by Patrick Ness
Contains Magic: Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Set in a Different World: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Expansion Pack: The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo


7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie


Deaf/Hard of Hearing Main Character: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Goodreads: 79/120

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

Book of the Month: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan


Read and awaiting review:

The Potion Diaries: Going Viral by Amy Alward
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark

Currently reading:

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Blogged about:

Book Box Unboxing Bonanza
Top Ten Science Fiction Books to Read if You Think You Don't Like Science Fiction
The Reading Quest
10 Reasons It's OK If You Don't Get That ARC
Oxford Bookshop Crawl

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Grisha Trilogy

I finally got round to reading the rest of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, only five years after reading the first book. There was plenty I had forgotten in the meantime, like the first book was called The Gathering Dark when I read it, not Shadow and Bone! Maybe that's why I couldn't find my review... Anyway, I wasn't hugely enamoured with the whole thing back in 2012, but I want to read Six of Crows, and as people have told me that it has spoilers for Grisha, I felt I had better at least try and finish it rather than get annoyed about spoilers.

Thankfully Recaptains exist, and I jogged my memory from their fantastic recap. I pretty much remembered the Darkling, the Fold and the stag, but not much about Alina and Mal. I have my suspicions that I didn't like their relationship that much (why didn't I write this down?), because as I started reading Siege and Storm, I just didn't feel any chemistry between them.

Beware, the rest of this post may contain spoilers for Shadow and Bone, so if you haven't started the trilogy yet but want my opinion, it gets better after the first book. Also I didn't read much fantasy set in a secondary world back when I started, so I may well have found it easier to get into if I had picked it up now. Or maybe not.

What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.

So onto Siege and Storm, which is much fresher in my mind. Alina and Mal are on the run having escaped the devastation wreaked by the Darkling, but the leader of the Grisha Army is never far behind. Alina now carriers the first of Morozova's amplifiers round her neck, and the Darkling wants her power maximised by getting the other two. The search for these amplifiers, whilst trying to avoid the Darkling, is the main driver for the rest of the trilogy.

So back to the relationships. Honestly, could Mal stop moaning? The love of his live is trying to save the world and not become a slave to a power-hungry Grisha, but he's always thinking about what he wants, how his life doesn't fit with Alina's path, how it's not fair on him. Once Nikolai pops up, Mal also spends a portion of his time being jealous. Mal does redeem himself a bit in the third book but I just didn't feel like there was much for Alina to lose in Siege and Storm if he were to flounce off.

I really liked Nikolai though, he's humourous but also good without being too shiny perfect. He likes to think that he's perfect though! For a land so plagued by tragedy, it is so hopeful in a story to have a potential leader who would be good. It also meant that the thing that happens to him in Ruin and Rising had my heart in my throat. He elicited the feelings that I felt I should have had for Mal.

Ruin and Rising finds Alina and her ragtag group prisoners of the Apparat and a bunch of religious fanatics who claim to serve her but seem to want to keep her to parade round as a saint. Everyone wants to use Alina. I liked the story arc, although I was a bit worried she was going to end up with everyone as enemies.

You know the problem with heroes and saints? They always end up dead.

Sometimes the bad guys in fantasy seem to have all the odds in their favour. If you've got monsters of darkness at your fingertips, it doesn't seem like there is any chance for good to prevail. I suppose what gives Alina a chance is the fact that the Darkling wants her by his side, perhaps he really is lonely. A human weakness that makes the climax just a little bit easier to believe.

OK, I totally guessed about the third amplifier. The ending was all a bit too neatly tied up though, especially after a long run up and it was over very quickly. However I'm glad I went back and read these books. There are a lot of characters who have their own complexities, and sometimes I felt I wanted a bit more that wasn't just about Alina.

I also picked up a companion story, The Witch of Duva. You can completely read this as a standalone, it doesn't share any characters and you don't need to know about Grisha. It has a Hansel and Gretel kind of vibe, but it turns out not to be what you expect. It was a bit darker in tone than the Grisha trilogy feels which makes me more interested in her forthcoming story collection.

Siege and Storm:
Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Ruin and Rising:
Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery

Book Source: Purchased