Thursday, 17 May 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

My suspicions that true crime really isn't my thing has been confirmed by reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark. It's incredibly upsetting reading this knowing these horrific acts happened to real people and I couldn't help thinks how dying whilst in fear for the person you love must be one of the worst ways to go. Both Popsugar and Read Harder require true crime books this year, so I made myself read this, and you should bear that in mind whilst reading this review. I'm sure fans of the genre will gobble it up.

The hunt to find the Golden State Killer, spanning nearly four decades, felt less like a relay race than a group of fanatics tethered together climbing an impossible mountain.

I didn't know much about the Golden State Killer, or East Area Rapist (EAR) or Original Night Stalker (ONS) as he was also known. It was too long ago and too far away to reach my sphere of paying attention, but it is clear from reading this book that whole communities lived in a state of terror for years. One of the worst things must have been that he struck couple in their own home. You should feel safe behind locked doors with the person you chose to spend your life with.

Whilst I didn't like reading about the crimes themselves, I was more interested in the investigation and ongoing support for it from cold case enthusiasts. At several times I wondered if things would have been different these days. Would news spread and links be made much sooner? Would houses be so easy to break into? Would surveillance and DNA technology trip him up?

That means that women exist who, because of change of schedule, or luck, were never victims, but like the Creature’s shapely object of obsession treading in the lagoon, they felt something terrifying brush against them.

Throughout the book you see how the case was kept alive by advancements in forensic technology, with DNA linking more cases than anyone ever thought possible. You may have heard the suspect has been arrested this year, although that is not included in the book. Sadly Michelle died before she could finish the book or see the killer brought to justice. It definitely feels unfinished, and there is a big difference between the fully fleshed out chapters and the parts that have been pieced together from notes.

It does come across that Michelle sees the victims as people and not just pieces of a puzzle. Maybe that's why it's so upsetting, beacuse she is not clinical in describing the crimes. She also touches on the impact of the rapes on the survivors, as not every couple was murdered. The book is also part memoir, as she comes to terms with what has become an obsession for her.

Falling for a suspect is a lot like the first surge of blind love in a relationship. Focus narrows to a single face. The world and its practical sounds are a wan soundtrack to the powerful silent biopic you’re editing in your mind at all times. No amount of information on the object of your obsession is enough.

I felt the introduction from Gillian Flynn was a bit pointless, it just regurgitated bits from the rest of the book, but I imagine it was put there to help sell the book. In the end, it turns out that catching the killer was the biggest publicity jackpot they could have hoped for. I'd be interested to see if they publish an updated edition once a conviction has been made.

Read Harder: A book of true crime
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 2. True crime

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Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep reminded me in many ways of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, but instead of dinosaurs, there are killer mermaids. It's set in the very near future, enough to allow for some slight technological advances and a bit more damage to the environment. There's scientific speculation and an unnerving reminder than humans's place at top of the food chain is precarious.

They weren't supposed to find anything. Mermaids aren't real.

The Atargatis set sail to film a mockumentary on mermaids in the Mariana Trench, only to never return. The only clues to what happened to them is their footage, which many dismiss as an elaborate hoax. Fast forward a few years and the entertainment company is looking to send another expedition to find the truth. Is it possible mermaids are real?

I loved all the marine biology sections and the Northern Californian setting of the opening chapters. The premise is that the "mermaids" have evolved in the deepest parts of the ocean, living separate to humans, but still affected by our actions on land. So much so, that their hunting patterns are changing. Mira Grant spends lot of time on the possible scientific explanations for the mermaids existence, physiology and behaviour.

Every mile of the ocean could be marked as the site of some 'surprising' or 'unexpected' death; humanity sailed, and the sea punished it for its hubris.

It follows a similar format to her other books under the same pen name, with extracts from different characters' lectures, notes, etc. There is a big cast of characters, all with their own reasons for being on board. Tory both loves the ocean but wants to find out what really happened to her sister, who died on the Atargatis. There is the professor who has spent her career trying to convince the world that mermaids exist. Security is provided by a pair of big game hunters, with little patience for the scientists or the TV crews.

The deaf twins are not just there to represent disability but also that communication is more than just speech, and to attempt to understand the mermaids needs knowledge beyond spoken language. Just like in Arrival, we can't just expect language between two species who have never interacted to be simple.

Science should feel urgent every once in a while. You know, half the time we're saving the world in slow motion, but days like this, we get the chance to run.

Since finishing Into the Drowning Deep I've seen a few negative reactions to it, leaving me wondering if everyone read the same book (yeah that thing again, only roles reversed). OK, if I dissected it, some bits are silly and there are a lot of different elements, which means it's slower than an average horror. If you have zero interest in marine biology and evolution of potential creatures of the abyss, maybe sit this one out. I still stand by the fact that I loved it. And I can't really blame the mermaids for what they do...

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 25 A book set at sea

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Dread Nation

You might expect the dead are rising from the battlefields of the American Civil War to change everything, but Justina Ireland uses Dread Nation to explore how minorities continue to be exploited. Jane is a pupil at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, receiving tuition in both scrambler killing and etiquette. If she graduates with flying colours, she will be able to take employment as an Attendant, protecting rich white women from unwanted attention, both from the undead and suitors.

Yes, despite the war between the living ending, black people are still don't have their freedom. The Native and Negro Reeducation Act is based on a very real programme where America forcibly sent Native American children to special schools in order to be "civilised".

As for a corset, well, every woman knows that wearing one of those things is pretty much suicide if you want to be able to fight effectively. A punctured lung if a stay goes awry, lost flexibility... I mean, how are you going to be able to do a reverse torso kick if you can't even breathe?

I loved Dread Nation, so much. I have no idea why a UK publisher hasn't picked it up. It transplants the horrors of the slave trade into a post-apocalyptic scenario. Jane may seem to have it good but her position is precarious, she must rely on the whims of the white people in power. The action goes from Baltimore to the frontier out west, where there is no place for the pleasantries of polite society and the rules are quite different.

Jane is the illegitimate daughter of a plantation owner's wife and was lucky to survive. Each chapter starts with correspondence between Jane and her mother, along with flashbacks as Jane remembers her past, painting a picture of who her mother was. I liked their complicated relationship and there is a revelation that puts it all into context.

The person poking the dead ain't always the one paying for it. In fact, most times, it's the ones minding their own business who suffer.

I'd shy away from calling them friends, but her schoolmate Katherine is her rival for the top positions. She is paled skinned and could easily pass as white. Later on, her ability to pass helps to highlight the discrimination based on nothing more but skin colour.

The Survivalists take the place of Confederates, the very definition of white supremecists, they believe they survived because they are white and the black population's purpose is to serve them. They want to rebuild America in their own image, using people of colour to get there. Jane and Katherine are expected to politely listen to so-called scientific lectures on how they are less than human. You will fume right by their side.

I know I am more than my skin colour.

I want to avoid going into too much detail on the plot because I was not expecting it to go where it does, but I loved every page. It is gripping, entertaining, thought-provoking and heart-breaking.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Notes on Novellas

I'm still totally in love with Tor's novellas, I would highly recommend to anyone feeling they don't have much time to read right now. They are small packages with complex ideas or full to the brim with fun. I've read three of them in recent months and here is a quick run down of my thoughts.

Beneath the Sugar Sky is the third book in the Wayward Children series, follows a group of Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children residents into Confection, a world where everything is made of sugar. Confection is a Nonsense world so don't expect too much logic. Rini is Sumi's daughter but Sumi died before she had Rini, and now Confection is at risk from the Queen of Cakes. The only way to right the world is to bring Sumi back.

Isn't it handy that the kids have experience of such things? Beneath the Sugar Sky is more of a direct sequel to Every Heart a Doorway than Down Among the Sticks and Bones was, bringing back old friends and new. The story is seen from Cora's a point of view, a keen swimmer who spent time in a water world. Despite her athletic ability, people from before thought she was fat and lazy. Her memories show her struggles but the present shows larger kids can have adventures too.

The second book is still my favourite but I await each new book in this series with much delight.

That makes no sense at all. That means it may well work. Go, my darlings, and bring your lost and shattered sister home.

Every time Molly bleeds, a new Molly grows from her blood. The Murders of Molly Southbourne is a horror novella, following Molly's childhood as she learns who she is and what she must do; kill herself repeatedly. Things are easier when she is little, she is taught to be careful and her parents take care of the disposal when accidents happen. But little girls grow up and start their periods. You think they're bad enough without having to worry about clones appearing and trying to kill you.

It's creepy and excellent. I look forward to reading more of Tade Thompson's work.

The rules are simple. If you see a girl who looks like you, run and fight. Don’t bleed. If you bleed, blot, burn, and bleach. If you find a hole, find your parents.

Binti needs little introduction and I am late to this trilogy. Binti is the first of her people to go to university and her family are not happy about it. She is Himba, with a gift for mathematics, she paints herself with the clay of her homeland. It grounds her, she is naked without it.

The spaceship taking the new students to Oomba University is attacked on route, by an alien race perpetually at war with the Khoush (representative of white humans). Binti is left alone, sure her lfie is about to end.

Packed into few pages are themes of discrimincation, colonialism, war and the importance of language. Familiar language is a comfort, not understanding someone does not mean they are less civilised. The Meduse have never been able to communicate to humans before, they think they are primitive killers, and vice versa.

I did want it to be longer and I am reassured by the presence of two other books that will hopefully flesh things out a bit. Maybe it's one of those trilogies best read in one go.

The people on the ship weren’t Himba, but I soon understood that they were still my people. I stood out as a Himba, but the commonalities shined brighter.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

April Book Haul

Well I thought April had been a restrained book buying month before I piled them all up for a photo. I have read four of these already though, go me! I've put all the sub boxes on hold except for Illumicrate and I feel in the mood for another big clear-out of the physical shelves. If you holiday in the New Forest, most my cast-offs end up in New Milton's Oxfam bookshop, so it's quite well stocked!

Review Books

The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp (Titan Books)
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola (Headline)*
Everything About You by Heather Child (Orbit)*

Physical Books Bought

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow + Jen Wang
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
The Witch's Blood by Katherine + Elizabeth Corr (Wildest Dreams)
White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock

Ebooks Bought

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh
The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Dark Pines by Will Dean

*Unsolicited titles

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Charmed Life of Alex Moore

The Charmed Life of Alex Moore was very nearly a DNF. Alex is the epitome of Shoreditch hipster, with a start-up that doesn't seem to actually do anything (it's a glorified forum and blog) and she genuinely believes all the hype she comes up with. I agree with her fiancé that she is indeed in danger of disappearing up her own backside.

That dangerous little crack between the Alex she used to be and the Alex she was now? The secret hollow at the heart of her wonderful transformation? Had this total stranger somehow spotted the void?

I was struggling to decide if this was satire or if we are meant to like this world, however Alex being like this turns out to be relevant to the whole story. Her friends and family believe she's not the same person she used to be. New Alex thinks old Alex was a loser, and she even has bouts of vertigo whenever she thinks about her old life.

Then things get weird, I like weird. When Alex is invited to partake in some research on a remote Orkney island, she thinks it's the perfect opportunity to find herself and prove to Harry that she can take a break from the business. Instead she finds a strange group of people intent of finding the truth about the day she woke up with a new outlook on life and started Eudomon.

The International Library Covenant of 1122 states that every story is of equal and inestimable value. It is our job to protect them.

I won't reveal what secret is hiding in the Orkney Islands but it was worth slogging through the beginning and I enjoyed the rest of the book. It explores the idea of destiny and whether or not can change your path in life. Certain events shape our very being, for better for worse. What would life be like if we weren't weighed down by the past? Sometimes we just need a nudge in the right direction...

You mean... you're saying that I have to save the world with a self-help exercise?

I scanned over a few other reviews and it does appear to be a bit of a Marmite book. Some people liked it up until the weird part, which just shows how different we all are as readers. For me, it was crucial that it starts off with the exploding mystery man as I kept reading long enough to find out what the connection was.

The Charmed Life of Alex Moore is published by Pan Macmillan and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 3rd May 2018. 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, 1 May 2018

Top Ten Books I'd Wrestle a Lion to Get Early

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I've amended the title for this top ten because slaying lions makes me think of those horrid people who shoot lions for fun and then pose with their corpses. I don't want any book that bad. But maybe I'd try and wrestle the new Becky Chambers from the lion's clutches...

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
The Sun's Domain by Rebecca Levene

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Month That Was... April 2018

+ International Giveaway

Despite having a couple of books drag on, I read eleven whole books in April and portions of three others. Obviously readathon played a big part of this, I just wish I could be a bit more disciplined with my reading time the rest of the year. The month started and ended with some fabulous books though, I Still Dream and Dread Nation come highly recommended. I'll be catching up on reviews over the next few weeks (fingers crossed).

Spring sprung, then vanished again. Josh has been focusing on getting the vegetables going and I've made a start on our front garden, which is going to have a small wild flower meadow section. I'm hoping the less it looks like a litter tray, the less the neighbourhood cats will poo on it. We are also battling slugs, the little bastards (we're trying salt water sprays, copper tape and beer traps).

Oh yeah, and the other day we had just sat down to dinner and I looked out the window to see a big bird trying to pick something up. First instinct was that a pigeon was stealing one of Scully's toys (why, brain, why?). Turned out to be a sparrowhawk eating a starling alive. This is what you get when you invite wildlife into your garden! Fortunately, it wasn't one of the nesting pair in the neighbour's roof and the little critters are still being tended by both parents.

Book of the Month:
I Still Dream by James Smythe



I will have to start reading with a bit more purpose if I intend to complete these challenges. I'm doing OK but a lot of that was chance and the remaining prompts are getting harder for me to fill without trying. I am currently reading something for one of my least favourite prompts, true crime (it annoyingly would also fit posthumous but I really want to stick to one prompt per book within each challenge).

POPSUGAR (18/50)
20. A book by a local author: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
28. A book with song lyrics in the title: I Still Dream by James Smythe

Read Harder (10/24)
A classic of genre fiction: Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet edited by Mike Ashley
A comic written and illustrated by the same person: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo (7/25)
AI: I Still Dream by James Smythe
African: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Undead: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Beat the Backlist: 17/30
Goodreads: 37/100

Sunday, 29 April 2018

#readathon finishing line

Local time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 18
Total pages read: 1344
Books read: 4

Currently reading: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Finished: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron + In Real Life by Cory Doctorow + Jen Wang

Hope you had a fun readathon. Time to put the books down and do something else, sleep, move, stare into space.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
My concentration was shot by hour 12 (midnight for me) and I just went to bed for a bit.

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron and In Real Life by Cory Doctorow + Jen Wang plus I read a bit of Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant.

3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?
All of them, especially Dread Nation. In Real Life was a bit simplistic but good for a readathon, not too much to take in.

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile?
I liked the photo a day Instagram challenge that was run last time. The hourly photo thing was a bit much to try and keep up with but I'd like soemthing more in the run up. Everything else is great though!

5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?
I take part by default really, so unless there's something really important on, yes! I usually offer to do something, even just prizes.

#readathon hour twenty

Local time: 8:00
Hours spent reading: 14
Total pages read: 1066
Books read: 3

Currently reading: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow + Jen Wang
Finished: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui + Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron.

Good morning readers! I have been awake for about 3 hours now. Went to bed about half past midnight as I just wasn't absorbing words any more and the morning chorus woke me up about 5am. Those birds are very vocal this time of year! Scully stared at me for about an hour wondering why she wasn't getting her breakfast, which was a bit distracting.

I've now finished three books. Out of the Blue was a great readathon choice. I thought it'd just be a fun book about angels falling from the sky but it's also about death, grief and searching for answers. Now for coffee!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

#readathon hour nine

Local time: 21:00
Hours spent reading: 8
Total pages read: 493
Books read: 1
Pages read since last update: 246

Currently reading: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Finished: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

I finished a book! Dread Nation was so good, I definitely recommend it. I've moved onto a graphic novel next so I should definitely be able to finish that before sleep beckons. My eyes are starting to feel a bit worn out already, I want to make another it another five hours really...

Snacks consumed: chicken, chorizo and mushroom pizza

I was going to try and do another mini challenge but they mostly seem to be a bit time consuming this time round, and I'd rather read and look at your Instagram updates.

#readathon hour five

Local time: 17:00
Hours spent reading: 4
Total pages read: 247
Books read: 0.5

Currently reading: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

I am loving Dread Nation. The action has just moved to the frontier and things are looking seriously bad. I'm just past half way and am planning on finishing it before my next update. I have spent quite a bit of time on Instagram so far, so going to try and read solidly for a few hours now.

Snacks consumed: salted caramel and pretzel tiffin bites

Scully has been zonked out for all the readathon so far. She had walkies and a bone this morning and it seems to have done her in.

All my photos look like I'm reading in the dark... Well it does seem very gloomy today, and cold! I think we've ended back in winter somehow.

Tell Me a Story Mini-Challenge

Hosted by Running n Reading

I don't read a huge amount of short stories but I do like a well-themed collection. Diving Belles is one of my favourites, weaving together mythology, the Cornish landscape and modern life together beautifully. Notes form the House Spirits was my favourite story from this collection. If you're more into futuristic projections, Children of the New World is great too.

Share your short story recommendations with #tellmeastory

Are you ready to #readathon?

Local start time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 0
Total pages read: 0
Books read: 0

Starting book: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

It's readathon time again! Books, snacks and dog at the ready. As usual I have a big pile of books to choose from and aim to read four of them.

I will be updating on Instagram, both on my feed and via stories so please follow me if you want to properly spy on my day! You'll also be able to find me on Twitter and I'll update here every 4-6 hours. I'll be doing random cheerleading across these platforms, so if you'd like me to drop by your blog please leave a comment with a link.

Find out more about Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon on their website.

Here's my opening meme answers (i'm risking it and assuming they are the same as ever):

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
New Milton, on the edge of the New Forest National Park in England.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Dread Nation! My pre-orders kept getting delayed so I'm chuffed to finally have my paws on it.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Bit of a trauma this readathon as the M&S near my work has closed down so my normal snack routine is no longer possible. And then I nearly didn't find any cheese balls (disaster averted last minute). We're making pizza later so that will be yummy at least.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
This is my 13th readathon and I've been blogging for 7 years. Scully, my dog, has been a lifelong readathon companion and it'll be her third time keeping me company. You may remember her puppy face from a couple of years ago. I mostly read science fiction, fantasy and non-fiction.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
My readathon routine is pretty honed now, best not to mess with it.

Pre-readathon walkies (she's clearly staring at a treat here not the camera!).

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Monty can't wait to leave on his Grand Tour with his best friend Percy, his last year before he must settle down and be the son his abusive father wants him to be. He should deliver his sister Felicity to her finishing school and see the sights and sounds of Europe, and drink all the drink. Oh, and Monty is hopelessly in love with Percy.

The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness.

Monty is a high born scoundrel and Percy is mixed race, raised by his aunt and uncle. Felicity wishes to study medicine but as girl, finishing school is the best education she can hope for. None of them is particularly pleased with their situation in life. Their tour should be fun but Monty's father appoints a serious bear leader, with strict rules. If there's any hint of Monty messing around with boys, his father will disown him.

Monty can be pretty insufferable, arrogant and self-absorbed. I found the "he has no idea I love him" arc a bit too drawn out. Percy gives plenty of signs and Monty goes on to pretend he's only interested in having fun. I know that at the time (18th century) it was incredibly dangerous to be openly gay, so a bit of reluctance can only be expected, but it retrod a lot of ground. Monty's the narrator and his tone and attitude can be quite abrasive. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was an act to hide his true self, but honestly, could could have done with a few more slaps at times.

Perhaps fashion is just a reinforcement of a lady’s chastity, in hopes that the interested party may lose interest and abandon any deflowering attempts simply for all the clothing in the way.

Percy was very accepting of his friend, even if they do fall out a bit. Monty often makes matters worse for Percy, not really understanding his privilege. I did like Felicity though and she is getting a book of her very own (which I'd be more inclined to read than a direct sequel). She hides her medical textbooks in trashy romances and secretly educates herself. She's not really allowed a Grand Tour, but when things go awry she gets an adventure along with the boys.

It's mostly a fun romp across Europe with loads packed in. It covers not only the attitude to homosexuality but also epilepsy, the fear and superstition associated with it as well as the slow change in medical opinion. There are the courts of Louis XV in Paris, highway robberies, pirates, sinking islands of Venice and an alchemy based supernatural element.

God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.

I'm glad an author's note was included because I was a little sceptical on the historical accuracy of somethings, but each point is explained. It's well-researched historical fiction even if it does have some modern inclinations.

One of the drawbacks to ebooks is that the length of a book can be somewhat of a surprise. I liked it well enough, but for this type of fun book I just thought it was far too long. I wanted something short and snappy and I was a little fed up of Monty by the end.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 12. A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Children of Blood and Bone

Magic is gone, cruelly extinguished by King Saran along with the majis who wielded it. The children of the maji, Diviners, were spared but left without any of their ancestral powers. Instead, they are second class citizens, subject to unfair taxes and sent into slavery when their families can't pay. To be a Diviner is to be constantly on your guard.

We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.

Children of Blood and Bone is a Nigerian inspired fantasy with strong themes of genocide, prejudice and police brutality. I loved the cover on first sight and it's received so much advanced praise so I was excited to pick it up. Unfortunately it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The narration is first person split between three characters. Zélie is the main character, she witnessed the brutal execution of her maji mother when she was a little girl. She's young, stubborn and impulsive, not thinking things through very well, but the fate of all magic ends up lying in her hands.

Amari is a princess who is a witness when the King discovers magic is returning, seeing her Diviner maid, who is also her best friend, slaughtered by her father. She runs, taking the relic which returns magic with her. She grows from the scared princess to a strong warrior, despite many people not giving her a chance to prove she's different from her family. She is the middle ground of the three characters.

I liked the fact that one perspective was from the other side. Inan is the prince sent to retrieve his sister, Zélie and the relic they've stolen. He has been brought up to fear magic and he hates maggots, the derogatory word for Diviners. His father's family was killed by maji, leading to the Raid, a genocide. I wanted to know more about what happened in the past, why did the maji target the Royal family, who at the time seemed to want to work with the maji?

They built this world for you, built it to love you. They never cursed at you in the streets, never broke down the doors of your house. The didn't drag your mother by the neck and hang her for the whole world to see.

There are a few scenes in the book where you get a glimpse of how dangerous magic can be in the wrong hands. There is a bit of you that understands the fear in these moments, even Zélie has doubts about unleashing the power. I liked that it wasn't entirely black and white with regards to magic. It isn't some benevolent force, although surely there must have been a solution that didn't involve so much suffering.

At times it really felt as though, somehow, I'd got an earlier draft than the one everyone was raving over, because with some strict editing and pruning, I think I would have liked it a lot more. And no, I didn't read a proof as I waited for my pre-order in the end.

It's a long book, not unusual for fantasy, but the pacing was uneven. There were sections which gripped me and then, they'd move on to something else and it would feel a slog again. They are up against the clock to save magic but somehow they have time to stop for a party? The parts that deal with prejudice, oppression and brutality come across as much more passionate than the plot to carry these ideas. If you read a lot of fantasy, the plot itself is quite generic.

And my biggest gripe might be somewhat spoilery, so look away now if you haven't read it. The romance was a complete u-turn. I don't mind an enemies turned lovers trope but it cannot be sudden. You cannot erase a lifetime of prejudice in a day, even if you are a mind-reader. How do you go from hating someone who kills your people to smooching after a few conversations? The romance was unnecessary, you can have a character learning that their outlook on the world is wrong without it being about a girl. And do it slower, it's not like the book was too short to draw it out.

The map of Orïsha is vaguely Nigeria shaped and you may notice that most the places names are real places, even if they're not all quite in the right positions. At least Lagos is still a bustling hub, though I'm not sure that the fictional places are intended to mirror their real life counterparts.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands is a Arabian inspired fantasy with a western genre elements, especially at the start. Amani is a sharp-shooter and dresses as a boy in order to enter a shooting competition in the local saloon. There's horse wrangling and train fights and I loved this genre mash-up (maybe after this and River of Teeth I am coming round to the idea of westerns).

We were wanting for almost everything in Dustwalk, in the whole Last County for that matter. Food. Water. Clothes. There were only two things we had too much of: sand and guns.

The reason that Amani wants to win the cash prize is so she can escape a forced marriage. Her parents are dead and the town of Dustwalk is struggling with the loss of a mining disaster. Now it houses the Sultan's weapons factory, supplying his war with ammunition. There's no future there for Amani but as a young women she has few choices. Except her mother often told her stories of a city where they could live as they please. That's where Amani wants to go.

A mysterious foreigner in town brings the Sultan's army to her doorstep, and whilst she doesn't want to turn him in, she also doesn't want him getting in the way of her plan. Yet their paths keep crossing and a friendship of sorts starts to blossom. But why is the Gallan army so keen to capture them? A runaway girl and a gunslinger?

Amani is not a swoony heroine at all, she knows her mind and sticks to her guns. She begrudgingly travels with Jin when it suits her but she isn't past ditching him, repeatedly. I felt Jin's situation was laid out, although it didn't play out quite to what I thought.

They made the First Mortal. To do what they feared most, but what needed to be done in any war: die.

Magic has become the thing of legend yet some remnants remain, like the Buraqi, a horse wrought from sand, bound the flesh only with the use of iron. The countries are fictional but hold reference to places in the real world. the fantasy elements are stronger in the later parts of the story, and a lot of new characters are introduced. I preferred the parts with a smaller cast but I'm sure I'll grow to love them all as the trilogy progresses.

The rebel of the title is the rebel prince. All the Sultan's children get a chance to compete to be next in line for the throne. The country of Mirajn is crying out for political change and when a missing prince turns up to claim his legacy, many see hope. Things are never that simple and the prince goes into hiding; claiming support in public comes with a risk.

Jin told me once there was no arguing against belief. It was a foreign language to logic.

I did read it shortly after The City of Brass and this did mean I got the djinn mythology mixed up a little. Note to self, do not start new fantasy series with similar themes at the same time. I'll definitely be giving the second book a chance.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner
Read Harder: The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series

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Book Source: Purchased