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

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Swimming Lessons

Ingrid writes letters to her husband, hiding them in his books instead of sending them. After finishing her final letter, she disappears leaving her two daughters behind. Everyone assumed she drowned, but Flora has never given up hope that her mother is still out there.

The fictional setting of Hadleigh is pretty much Studland, a village on the Dorset coast best known for its nudist beach and nature reserve. I liked being able to place landmarks and the scenes capture the scrubby coastline and sandy beaches. As the title suggests, swimming is an important part of the characters' lives, something that connects Ingrid and Flora.

When Gil thinks he sees Ingrid and falls from the promenade, his daughters rally round. The eldest, Nan, fears for his health, whilst Flora's sort of boyfriend is in tow. Interspersed throughout the present day events, Ingrid's letters tell the story of an ill-fated marriage and the events leading up to the day she vanished.

It feels like one of those books for writers or for people who like stuff about writing. When Ingrid meets Gil, he is teaching her creative writing classes, yes that old trope. He is also an author, somewhat struggling in the past but it's obvious he gained success at some point between the letters and the present. His writing comes across as more important than family. The romantic vision of a writer's wife is soon demolished as Ingrid finds herself raising a daughter without any support from her husband, be that emotional or practical. They struggle for money for the sake of Gil's need to write rather than go out and get work.

‘What’s that cliché? The one all creative-writing lecturers come out with at some point?’ You gave me half a smile. ‘Let them be, and you’ll find that after a while your characters will write their own story.’

The letters are presented in chronological order rather than them being discovered by the characters. Gil does read at least one but it isn't clear if they are all found. Some of his behaviour would definitely suggest he had read enough to not want his children finding them. It does lead to a bit of a disconnect between the past and present, I would have liked there to be some sort of response to the content of the letters, an interaction of some sort.

Flora was an irritating character. I'm not sure what her age was, early twenties I think, but she was written like a naive, spoiled girl. She contantly calls Gil "Daddy" which I hate in a grown adult. Her inability to accept reality or acknowledge responsibility also makes her seem infantilised. Whilst the reader learns through the letters that her dad is far from perfect, she isn't reading them and doesn't have that character growth. Other characters have to bluntly tell her things.

Fiction is about readers. Without readers there is no point in books, and therefore they are as important as the author, perhaps more important. But often the only way to see what a reader thought, how they lived when they were reading, is to examine what they left behind.

I do like Claire Fuller's writing but I just don't particularly like reading about unhappy marriages, especially where the woman is the one to make all the compromises. As a young mother in the seventies, Ingrid becomes invisible and is actively discriminated against. Her children were never planned, instead her husband refused to use contraception and it infuriated me that she just left their family up to chance. I am not surprised she does not take to motherhood when her choices were taken away from her so often.

The ending is ambiguous. At the time of her disappearance, Ingrid's family were dismissive of it as an accident as she was such a good swimmer. Reading it, I assumed it was either a suicide or she'd faked her death, and I never felt that pull that I must read on to find out. Which is good, because nothing is obvious and I wasn't fond of the epilogue. Overall I liked it but nowhere near as strong as her debut, Our Endless Numbered Days.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 20. A book by a local author

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Book Source: Purchased

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet

The British Library’s new science fiction classics are a series of themed anthologies, exploring the history of the genre through collected short stories. The first two books look at Mars and the Moon, and I chose to jump into Lost Mars first.

The book has both a general introduction about Mars’ place in science fiction writing and individual introductions for each story, adding a little context to them. The collection contains ten stories and they are ordered in a chronological manner from earliest to latest. This structure highlights the change from optimism over life on Mars in the early days versus the realisation that Mars is inhospitable in the latter days.

As with all anthologies there are some stories that are less enjoyable than others, but overall, I liked this slice of science fiction history. I do think the later stories are generally the better, it’s harder to believe the fantastical or romantic images of Mars with a modern knowledge and there is a side-helping of European colonialism that’s sometimes hard to stomach. I did enjoy H.G. Wells’ The Crystal Egg which is the first story. You can kind of understand why people might have thought War of the Worlds was real, because his writing comes across as very journalistic.

A Martian Odyssey by Stanley G. Weinbaum attempts to imagine a whole range of Martian fauna, including speculating what non-carbon lifeforms might be like. It touches on the idea of alien language not being straightforward to translate or interpret (although watch Arrival for a really good take on this subject). Though it is mind-boggling how they couldn’t quite grasp this concept with African languages, thinking them primitive, yet are more open minded with alien language.

As time progresses and the world started to learn more about Mars, the tone gets darker and the stories look at the dangers of Mars and the exploitation of people. E.C. Tubb’s Without Bugles deals with occupational disease and hints at how America was starting to question the cost of space exploration without much to show in return. Walter M. Millers’s Crucifixus Etiam speculates at the kind of people who would be sent to work in a thin atmosphere, taking those from high altitude communities and putting them to work with great risk to their health. A lot of the stories assume Mars would be mined for its natural resources.

There is also a story from Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles which is probably the best known and the book ends with something from J.G. Ballard. As you might expect, there really aren't many women featured, however there is one story by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Quarterly Book Stats

It's the first year I've kept book stats beyond Goodreads and I've been inspired by Charlotte and Hanna to share some of the numbers so far. If you don't like stats, look away now!

In the first three months of the year I read 26 books, which is about two books per week. I had a bit of a slump in March so I'm surprised I've averaged out at what I would have said my normal reading speed is. However I have read a few comics and novellas, with my total page count at 8745. That's 97 pages per day.

My average rating is 3.9 which is excellent. The dent in my TBR is tiny though, with only 10 of them being books I had before the beginning of the year. Fantasy has been my most read genre.

I can't pick just one favourite book of the quarter, so here are four:

I've not been going out of my way to read books by women, however I must naturally lean towards them, with 65% by women, 23% by men and the remainder being books co-authored by both. 27% were by BAME authors which is a little below what I'd like.

I have gained a whopping 66 books, 12 of which were review copies. I've spent £243.67 on books which works out at £3.69 per book. If I'd had to pay RRP I would have spent £726.15! If I remove ebooks and review copies from the equation, I spent an average £9.13 per book. I started tracking this due to discussions about discounting and I have partly proved my suspicions that I would just buy less books should we go back to something like the net book agreement. It's not like I am reading them all immediately.

Because of ebook purchases my stats are skewed towards Amazon at 45%, however only 18% of physical books were bought there, with Waterstones and Wordery beating them where paper is involved. Books were generally from a wide range of sources, Waterstones being the only bookshop visited and a large portion were from subscription boxes (32% of purchased physical books). I have read 16 of the new books, meaning my TBR is still expanding at an alarming rate.

10 purchases were for books in series that I have started and I have received 7 pre-orders (I'm told these are a good thing). 6 of my review copies were unsolicited and therefore totally not my fault.

As for my challenges, how am I doing a quarter of the way in?

Beat the Backlist = 13/30 (on track)
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge = 15/50 (on track)
Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo = 4/25 (behind)
Read Harder = 7/24 (on track)
Goodreads = 26/100 (on track)

Note, all stats were taken as of 31/03/18 and do not include April's progress. Where books were part of a subscription box, I have used the RRP for the purchase price and not the price of the box.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

I Still Dream

Laura needed someone to talk to after her father disappeared, so she made Organon. It's more than just software to her, it's her friend and therapist. The year is 1997 and AI has a long way to go, but someone sees promise in her work, setting Laura, AI and the world towards their future.

Thinking, That's a word people use when they're talking about computers, It's thinking, but they don't know what they're saying, really.

I Still Dream is a story for my generation, and I don't just mean Millennials but more the older end that is usually lumped in but doesn't quite fit in either it or the previous generation. We grew up as digital technology grew up. Nineties Laura talks to her friends for hour on the landline and runs up bills on the dial-up internet. She makes mix tapes and listens to the same music I listened to. She forms a relationship with a stranger online, with no thought to the possible perils. I usually skim over music stuff in books but for once I got it. Laura could be me.

The story is structured by decades, each section jumping forward ten years. It's Laura's lifetime, with all the road bumps of adulthood along the way. It revisits the past and takes us into a possible future, and manages to capture the zeitgeist whilst doing so. With giant corporations holding so much data on us, we're starting to see the danger of that and are questioning what they are doing with it. What if we'd handed our lives over to something even more wide-reaching and insidious than Facebook?

Programmers never like the marketing department. You can spend years working on something revolutionary, and the marketers only want to know what you've created that's like something else that people liked, only a tiny bit different.

James Smythe explores the ideas of artificial intelligence in a much more realistic way than most science fiction. Despite Organon's original purpose, Laura never stops thinking of it as code, doesn't forget that it is shaped by people and how it learns is up to us. I loved the contrast between Laura's AI and that of Silicon Valley, highlighting the concerns that we have today about who is exactly creating the rules. Laura's AI has empathy of a sort, it had to in order to be what she needed. Silicon Valley's is taught how to play games. The dangers of developing in a monoculture are very real.

The book also revisits the themes of The Machine. Now we're living longer Alzheimer's is a huge concern, whether we fear losing our own memories or having to deal with the slow decline of a parent. Memories make us who we are, and they also allow an AI to learn. Yet our memories are fallible, we shape them to suit us or focus on the bad things. The nostalgia of the early chapters also feed in to the theme of memory, what else is it than warm fuzzies brought on by old memories?

It was built selfishly, built on bitterness and anger. It wasn't meant to be useful, or built as something we can be proud of. It was utilitarian. It's a servant. It's going to ruin everything.

Considering the bleakness of his previous books, I Still Dream left me feeling hopeful. I mean there's sadness, of course; you cannot go through a lifetime without loss. I'm finding it hard to write what the ending meant to me without giving too much away, but it resonated with me as an atheist. Emotional, thought-provoking and a book I could connect with at every level, I loved it.

It's set in the same reality as The Machine and No Harm Can Come to a Good Man, although they are all completely standalone. The references are just a nod and you might not even notice them if you had read the other books. There's a TV adaption in the pipeline too and I can just imagine it with a Halt and Catch Fire vibe.

I don't think humans can make a sentience. They can make an approximation of one, absolutely. They can make something that acts like it's sentient, that even thinks it's sentient.

Monday, 2 April 2018

March Book Haul

Sometimes I feel the more books I buy, the less I actually read. I am taking a break from subscription boxes other than Illumicrate. I did get the anniversary FairyLoot mostly because I am still gutted I missed the dragonscale scarf and I didn't want to miss another one (although in the end, the scarf wasn't as good as last year's).

Physical Books Bought

A few pre-orders and several books out of subscription boxes make up the bulk of these ones. I read Obsidio immediately, sometimes I wish I had it in me to read all my books that way, but usually they go on the shelves for a few weeks, months, years...

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith
American War by Omar El Akkad
Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire
Improbable Botany by various
The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (Illumicrate)
Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk (Illumicrate)
State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (FairyLoot)
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (Wildest Dreams)

Review Books

I just finished I Still Dream so keep your eye out for a glowing review this week!

I Still Dream by James Smythe (HarperCollins)
Elefant by Martin Suter (HarperCollins)
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)

Ebooks Bought

I mean, at least these aren't taking up any physical space, but do I really need so much material for the half an hour a day I spend on the train? I did read three of these in the same month as purchasing them, so that's progress of a sort.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
How to Hang a Witch Adriana Mather

Sunday, 1 April 2018

The Month That Was... March 2018

+ International Giveaway!

My blog turned seven in March but I didn't get round to a blogoversary post. It's that point in my blogging life that I just take it or leave it about posting stuff. To be honest I didn't have much to add from previous years' posts, just plodding along. If you're struggling with your blogging life, just remember we all go through ups and downs, and just do what you want to do. Even if that means blogging erratically.

March has been an odd month here with snow and ice which is pretty unusual where I live. It's probably thrown me off my reading a bit and I've not read a huge amount of late. With spring finally here, I've tried to do some gardening and catch up on other stuff.


10. A book about death or grief: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
12. A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
33. A childhood classic you’ve never read: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Read Harder
A children’s classic published before 1980: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Beat the Backlist: 14/30
Goodreads: 26/100