Saturday, 18 November 2017

One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying is loosely based on The Breakfast Club, but with a more sinister edge. There's the geek, the jock, the criminal, the prom queen and the outsider. Five enter detention but only four leave alive. I read this during readathon and it kept me turning the pages, eager to know who did it. I am not super familiar with the film it's based on.

Simon is the creator of a gossip app that reports on the secrets of Bayview High. There are few people who don't have a reason to kill him, but what are his fellow detentionees hiding? They might all start out as stereotypes but of course, people are so often different from how they present themselves to the world.

Cooper is the jock and his secret is nothing to be ashamed of, it's society that is the problem, especially the attitudes in the sporting community. I think for him, although he lost the choice of telling friends and family, it wasn't altogether a bad thing.

That's the kind of person you can get away with killing: someone everybody else wants dead.

Addy is the prom queen character and seems a bit air-headed at the start but you soon learn her relationship with her boyfriend is controlling. She has relied on him too much and she must earn not to be co-dependent. What she did wasn't right, but maybe it was good for her.

I liked Nate who is the least advantaged of the bunch. He lives with his alcoholic father and makes ends meet by dealing drugs. He is not a bad person but driven by shitty circumstances. He's on probation when the death happens and obviously, everyone thinks he is the prime suspect.

Bronwyn's a straight A student with aspirations of Yale. Her secret will put that at risk. She felt like the main character in this, but maybe the hardest to feel sympathy for. I don't think what she did was dealt with properly either. The media are overly intrusive in all cases though, it's a real problem that people are tried through the media before things even get to court.

I guess we're almost friends now, or as friendly as you can get when you're not one hundred percent sure the other person isn't framing you for murder.

Each character has chapters in first person narrative but the voices aren't that distinct so I did rely on the headings to tell me who was talking at times. These four teenagers who didn't have reasons to mix normally, start to forge friendships, despite lingering suspicion. By the conclusion, it's a sad reminder of the brutal social environment that high school can be. It's so hard to come out of it unscathed.

Read Hanna's review @ Booking in Heels.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 16 November 2017

My Indie TBR

Bex @ Ninja Book Box is challenging herself to buy only independently published books next year. I am rubbish at such buying restrictions and I do want to read more of my TBR in 2018, so I may just stick to pledging to buy one indie book a month. However I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you some of the indie books already on my TBR.

There really is a lot of variety and doing this has helped me to remember what I already have on my shelves! Please do feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments if you've read any of these.

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (Canongate)
2084 by various authors (Unsung Stories)
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (Walker)
The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (Salt)

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (Granta)
The Cut by Anthony Cartwright (Peirene Press)
Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley (Head of Zeus)
Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones (Elliott & Thompson)

Seal Skin by Su Bristow (Orenda Books)
Empire of Booze by Henry Jeffreys (Unbound)
Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi (Barrington Stoke)
The Book Collector by Alice Thompson (Salt)

Blood: A Biography of the Stuff of Life by Lawrence Hill (Oneworld)
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
The Most Beautiful Book in the World by √Čric-Emmanuel Schmitt (Europa Editions)
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Granta)

Thursday, 9 November 2017

This Mortal Coil

You know when someone has lots of cool ideas of future tech and projections about what life could be like in the future, so they think they'll write book about it? I have loads of those ideas but I also know my limitations and couldn't come up with a plot to hold that all together. That is exactly how I felt about This Mortal Coil.

Bear with me, this will take a while to lay out. In the future, a terrible virus has spread across the world. The victims explode, the resulting clouds of red mist carrying the pathogen. However, you can temporarily vaccinate yourself by eating some flesh of the infected. I'm always all over a book about super viruses, so I was expecting to like this a lot more on that basis...

Humans have come to rely on technology for everything, implanted with gentech, seemingly a mix of nanobots and something with DNA that's not really changing it but "wrapping it" and this keeps them healthy. Their panel can also be used to change their appearance, provide VR services and make tasteless food taste good. People can run apps in their own bodies. Traditional medicine has now been forgotten about, of course. I can get down with gene therapy but the explanations of what the gentech was doing was a bit contradictory.

There's nothing so dangerous as an Agatta's best intentions.

Enter special snowflake Catarina Agatta. She is somehow allergic to gentech, but she can have some basic stuff. With all the technology they have, they can't cure an allergy? Hrm, well you'll find out more on that later (did someone say Everything, Everything?). Her father is a genius scientist who is taken away by Cartaxus to work on a vaccine for the Hydra virus.

Cartaxus is essentially a huge pharmaceutical company, just relying on code rather than drugs which does raise questions around the ethics of patenting medicines and also propriety software. During a year of living by herself, Catarina joins a group of rebel hackers and passes her days nibbling on infected human flesh. Turns out she's a skilled coder and has been helping to deliver medical hacks to those left behind by evil big pharma. Then one day a mysterious soldier turns up with a message from her father.

There's a special place in hell for whoever came up with DRM for food.

There is just so much going on, it felt like there was a plot twist every few chapters, and there's far too many explanations of tech, with some repetition, just to drive the point home. There is no leaving things for the reader to work out for themselves. I had thought it was a standalone, but it's not. There was enough material to spread over a few books in this one, so I'm not sure where it will go and I don't think I'll be finding out.

It was quite light on the romance, although there's still some weird love stuff going on (I can't tell you why it's weird without spoilers). It appears to be a bit of a Marmite book looking at Goodreads, so if you don't mind super twisty stories with a lot of information on the tech, then it might still be for you.

I've known him less than two days, but there's already a bond between us, forged in blood and urgency. Part of me feels like we know each other now on some fundamental level.

It did make me laugh grimly a few times on the old software development lifecycle stuff, probably the one thing that can be inferred. I mean you really don't want to release untested code into the world... But people still do.

This Mortal Coil is published by Penguin and is available now in paperback 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.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Short Reads, Short Reviews

This is pretty much a catch-up post for a bunch of comics and novellas I’ve read over the past few months. I find these hard to review fully sometimes without giving too much away, so here are some brief thoughts. Links go to Goodreads if you'd like to find out more info.

Miss Marvel: Generation Why is the second volume of G. Willow Wilson’s Marvel contribution about a young Muslim superhero. I am reading this as not much of a Marvel fan and I wasn’t that keen on Wolverine appearing to give sage advice as an ageing superhero. I was wary that is was going to veer into the territory of the main universe, but fortunately it stayed pretty turn to its original vibe. I did love Lockjaw, the giant dog, though, who is sent to help out Kamala.

The ending of this volume seemed laboured in getting the point across, just in case you hadn’t noticed it was about younger generations feeling left behind, used and underappreciated. I liked the theme, I just don’t think readers need it to be spoonfed to them. There was a change in artists at episode 8 and I much preferred Adrian Alphona’s artwork. It seemed less generic comic book style and more expressive, with a beautiful, rich watercolour style. 4/5

I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young is fun, sweary and gory. Gert entered Fairyland when she was 6 years old, 30 years later she is still there, and she’s still a little girl. She is pretty terrible at completing the quest that will send her home. She’s in a terrible mood and anything that gets in her way will pay. So colourful, so not for kids! 4/5

I liked the concept of Frostbite but it seemed a bit rushed and didn’t go into too much character development. In the future climate change has thrown us into a new ice age. With that comes a plague which freezes people from the inside out, called frostbite, leaving victims little more than frosty zombies. I think it might just be a single volume comic (it’s called a miniseries on the blurb) and I would have been more forgiving if I knew there was definitely some more story to come. 3/5

A Dead Djinn in Cairo had potential but it felt like just a bit too much information to take in for such a short story. Set in Egypt in 1912, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigates any supernatural crime and this story follows Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi. I would have totally been interested in a longer book or series, I could have just done with a slower introduction to all the supernatural beings. 3/5

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live is exactly what’s written on the high school bathroom mirror in this novella from Sacha Lamb. Yet Avi doesn’t think anyone but him knows that name yet. As a trans boy, most of his schoolmates think he’s a lesbian or just weird. The message in the mirror leads to a knew friendship and the discovery of something more supernatural. I really liked this short novella and I loved the resolution. 4/5

Grave Matter is the latest young adult novella from Barrington Stoke designed for reluctant readers. Juno Dawson returns to her love of horror with a story about bringing a girl back to life. It had vibes of Buffy about it (both when Dawn tries to bring their mum back and the start of season six). It is also illustrated with creepy black and white drawings by Alex T. Smith. 4/5

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Win Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe!

Let Melissa de la Cruz get you in the festive spirit with her new book, Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe. You guessed it, it's a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a Christmas twist from the author of Something in Between and the Blue Bloods series. I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader (open to UK and Ireland only).

As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy's only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she's too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas... let alone to allow romance into her life.

But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet - the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy's enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry... well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love - or will her pride, and Luke's prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?

The ebook is also available right now with the paperback release on 16th November 2017. If you don't win you can buy it from all the usual places. Thanks go to Hodder & Stoughton for providing the prize.

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Monday, 6 November 2017

#NonficNov: Book Pairings

This week's Nonfiction November prompt, hosted by Sarah's Book Shelves, is book pairings . I love finding out more about the real aspects of novels I read. I have read a lot more fantasy lately so had to scrape the barrel for related novels this time (I must read those books about folklore to prepare for next year).

Soviet Space Dogs / Laika

This is a super obvious pairing, the graphic novel of Laika is somewhat based on fact but has a lot of fiction mixed in and it tells part the story from the dog's perspective.

You Will Not Have My Hate / My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Antoine Leirene writes so raw and honestly about the loss of his wife in a terrorist attack, and how he decided to raise his son with love not hate in his heart. In Annabel Pitcher's novel, the family is also living with a similar loss. The father in the story chooses hate whilst the main character befriends a Muslim girl at school.

The Outrun / Island of Wings

These are set on different Scottish islands and one is contemporary and the other historical, however they both capture island life, the hardships, the natural beauty and the role of religion, whether it be organised or something more personal.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Q+A with Bluestocking Books

I've invited Lauren from Bluestocking Books to talk about her fabulous London Book Shop tours. Be sure to check them out if you're visiting London.

How much do you love books?

Beyond the totally normal – I’m sure food tastes better when reading, a bath is improved by a book, as is travel (and not travelling, too). Even my exercise is story-based – I use an app called Zombies Run featuring an unfolding story written by Naomi Alderman, author of The Power. If my partner would read to me in bed I’d be delighted, but I cheat and listen to audiobooks, currently The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman.

I love books and readers enough to have built three careers around them: first at The New York Public Library, second as a librarian in North London, and now as a tour guide taking book lovers to the most unique bookshops in the city.

What's the story behind Bluestocking Books?

The original Bluestockings were a women in Georgian England who ran salons encouraging literary conversation and encouraging women to write and publish. They were considered outrageous in a time where women were rarely educated or publicly outspoken. More recently “bluestocking” has been used as a derisive term for women who pursue education and enjoy reading and writing. It is fun to reclaim the word, and I always wear blue tights when I’m leading tours!

What can people expect from your tours?

Walking, talking and browsing books – about 2 – 2.5 hours of exploring London via a selection of bookshops, learning a bit of local and literary history along the way. The scheduled tours are open to everyone, just book via the Bluestocking Books website. I also offer bespoke tours, for groups visiting London and book clubs.

Do you have any tours that are suitable for family and friends who might not be super bookish?

There is always a lot to see along the way on the Shoreditch Creative tour – the street art is an extra bonus. Teens into comics or superhero films would find plenty to enjoy on the Comics and Illustration tour.

What if family and friends are really stubborn, are the tours OK for lone book lovers?

Absolutely, many of the people who come on the tours are Londoners or visitors on their own. I’m happy to chat during the bookshop browses and as we walk along; everyone tends to get enthusiastic and share their book and magazine recommendations.

Are bookshop tours a good way to see London? Which areas do you cover?

A great way to see London! We explore narrow side streets you’d normally walk by, and visit specialty bookshops that feel more like clubs. Tours focus on central and east London – Bloomsbury, Soho, Charing Cross, Shoreditch, Brick Lane – my plan is to keep expanding. I have my eye on Broadway Market and also a luxe tour around St James.

What do you love most about book shopping in London?

The variety of shops. There are amazing second-hand shops, from antiquarian to treasure trove basements. London is a publishing hotspot, with myriad small book and magazine publishers represented at local bookshops. Booksellers and owners (often one and the same) are generous with their time, and many share a bookshop history that goes back over 100 years.

Will there be opportunity for cake?

Yes! Every tour ends at a bookshop with opportunities for coffee, cake, tea or drinks. On one unseasonably warm day there was an ice cream break.

What books do you find yourself recommending the most?

After ten years as a librarian I have accumulated a huge repertoire of recommendations. During one recent tour I recommended Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, The Politics of Design by Ruben Pater, Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl, Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic and The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. If I could create a cult hit it would be Soho DJ Scarlet West’s autobiography, I’d Like to Thank Manchester Air Rifles. Her diary is a story of addiction, music and devotion to London - bleak and funny.

What was the last book you bought and where did you buy it?

Not to be named. We all make mistakes, especially at airports while waiting for the gate to be announced. Recent airport purchases I have loved are Marian Keyes’ The Break, and Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life. Before the airport I bought The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, at my local Muswell Hill Bookshop.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

One shop that I love to introduce is bookartbookshop near Old Street Station, because it is a new realm of books for most people, and the owner is fantastic. But I don’t have a favourite shop, only a favourite reaction - a widening of the eyes and a whoosh of air as the person by my side disappears to look at books.

To find out more or to book a tour go to

Follow @bluestockingldn on Twitter.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Month That Was... October 2017

I don't really know what happened in October other than I ended up reading some books that weren't really working for me yet didn't put down. I have also been reading Godsgrave forever, not because I don't like it but it's just a big hardback that I can only seem to read in small portions.

Thanks to Readathon, I read ten books last month, although you may have noticed I am so behind on reviewing them. I'm looking forward to activating my read-whatever-I-bloody-well-like policy for the rest of the year (although I will still try and meet my Goodreads target, I'm not sure about my other challenges).

This month is Non-Fiction November and I'll be doing the weekly prompts for that, and I'll try and squeeze in some non-fiction reading too. I plan on having a bit of a breather on the bookstagram challenge front although I have been doing the short GollanczFest one this week. I think it's nice to have some time to recharge and just do whatever.

I also have a festive giveaway coming up and a fab Q&A with a book shop tour company, so stay tuned! Hopefully things will pick up with my reviewing once all the Ninja Book Swap stuff is out the way.


10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location: The Last Hours by Minette Walters

Goodreads: 97/120

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

Book of the Month:
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir


Read and awaiting review:

Grave Matter by Juno Dawson
The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Frostbite by Joshua Williamson
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb

Currently reading:

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Blogged about:

#NonficNov: My Year in Non-Fiction
Ninja Book Swap
Get ready to #readathon!
#readathon hour seven
#readathon 10 years in 10 books
#readathon complete
The inspiration behind Blue Shift
Top Ten Autumnal Covers