Monday, 28 May 2018

Out of the Blue

Shortly after Jaya's mother dies, angels start falling from the sky. Her father become obsessed, tracking the angels and predicting where the next one will fall. None of the angels survive their descent to earth, not until Jana stumbles across one on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.

What I thought would be a quick, fun read about fallen angels turns out to be a touching story about death, grief and searching for answers. Jaya has been dragged to Edinburgh with her sister, who is more of an enabler of their father's obsession. Angel mania has spread across the world and there is a big market for those who would like a piece of a real angel. And of course there's a cult that has risen up, sucking in the vulnerable.

Sometimes, I imagine alternate endings to the story: last-minute miracles, touches of magic. I picture how things might have gone, if I wasn’t there. If I’d left just a few minutes later. If I hadn’t been alone. It doesn’t make any difference. One way or another, the crash always comes.

Jaya decides to hide the angel, to protect her from those who would exploit her. She struggles to communicate, with no shared language other than a fondness for Tunnock's Teacakes, leading to the affectionate name of Teacake for the angel.

Along the way, Jaya befriends a brother and sister, Calum and Allie, who help her hide Teacake from both her father, the cult and everyone else who wants a piece of her. Allie has cystic fibrosis and is a great representation of someone who is more than their illness. Sick kids can have adventures and romances too.

It's an own voices LGBT+ book and it feels unashamedly Scottish, from the streets of Edinburgh to the glen where Jaya's life changed for ever.

Don't expect to find out much about the angels, it's much more about the human relationships and how people might react to such a phenomena. It's a short book and doesn't go into huge amounts of depth but it suited it. I found it sweet and sad.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The City of Lost Fortunes

Jude Dubuisson has a magical gift, to find lost things. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, so much was lost, his power overwhelmed him. Since the storm he's been lying low, until he is drawn into a card game where his fate becomes the ante.

Morđor is the death that should not have happened. It is a wound in the world.

Each section begins with a paragraph about myths that overlap different cultures and beliefs, giving you a big hint about what this is all about. Jude's magic came from his father, a god unknown to him. At the card game he faces New Orlean's fortune god, Papa Legba, an angel, a vampire and Thoth from Egyptian mythology.

Jude was dealt a blank hand, and slowly the tarot cards are revealed to him, showing how his fate is intertwined with these deities. Each god gets their part, and some show more compassion towards him than others. It is always in the back of his mind that one of them could be his father.

I liked the concept behind The City of Lost Fortunes but I didn't really care about the main character, he was lacking in emotion and he didn't seem much of a person beyond his magical abilities. However the story really picked up for me when we encounter the underworld and the purpose becomes apparent. Personally, it was a bit on the long side for a book where I wasn't invested in the main character.

He'd hated his gift after the storm, called it a curse. Now that he was being forced to live without it, he fervently, urgently wanted it back.

I do always love it when a city is a character in itself and there is some of that here. New Orleans suffered a great deal and that is reflected in the cracks in the supernatural world within.

The City of Lost Fortunes is published by Titan Books and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018


A demon-slaying boy band? How fun! Kim Curran's new book follows Milly who has been transplanted to America by her opera singing mum. She isn't allowed to listen to popular music but she still knows who SLAY are, how could she miss their adoring fans at school. When Milly's mum is possessed by a demon, she gets a mysterious email offering help. The last thing she expected was a boy band to turn up at her door.

There was only one thing that came close to the high of performing onstage and that was dusting demons.

Milly joins the boys as they try to work out which demon they're dealing with. She feels alone now but working with them helps distract her grieving mind. They're like the Scooby gang but with more money and contacts, and no school to deal with.

JD isn't keen on Milly joining the team. They usually just get Tom to charm and hypnotise people wo they forget all about demons. He's worried he'll disrupt his close-knit group, the only people he has left in the world. But Milly is also all alone now.

The truth was, Milly didn’t belong anywhere. Her mother was French, her dad British-Chinese, and she had never stayed anywhere long enough to be able to call it home.

It's mostly a bit of fun but there is a little bit about making a family with the people around you even if they aren't related. The band were introduced very quickly and it took me most of the book to be able to tell who was who. I think I would enjoy a second book more because it wouldn't have so much work setting the scene. Short books shouldn't have too many characters with an active role.

One of the band members is deaf and so was Milly's father, so she is welcomed when she knows sign language. I felt it was a bit rude of some of them not to learn sign language, even just the basics. Their manager was permanently injured by demons and the ending has an inclusive message about disability.

I'm using it for the challenge prompts where I need to dislike the cover, not that it's that bad, but it did put me off buying a paper copy (and I really don't like reading books with terrible covers, call me shallow if you like, so this will have to do).

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo: Demonic
Read Harder: A book with a cover you hate dislike
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 38. A book with an ugly cover

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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