Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Girls of Paper and Fire

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.

In Ikhara there are three castes, Paper, Steel and Moon. Each year the Moon caste demon king takes eight paper girls as concubines. For many families, it is seen as an honour if their daughter is chosen, but in reality the girls are slaves, forced to entertain the king whenever he pleases.

When the world denies you choices... you make your own.

The Paper Girls had already been chosen when the royal guards came to Lei's village. Lei is Paper but her fiery eyes make her a worthy present for the king. Torn from her family, just as her mother was years before, Lei is taken to the palace to join the Paper Girls.

Girls of Paper and Fire does not gloss over what a concubine is. They appear in so many stories, but in reality they are beautiful young women kept as slaves, with no option to say no when their master wants sex. Natasha Ngan starts with a foreword clearly stating this book contains rape, it is not romanticised, despite one of the girls' possible Stockholm syndrome.

The Paper Girls are kept separate in the court, only visited by their teachers to train them to be suitable companions to the king. Lei dreads seeing her name chosen, and she tries to deny him. Whilst they are living in close quarters, some of the girls become friends and Lei finds herself attracted to Wren, daughter of the Hannos, the only Paper tribe to have allied with the demon king.

They can take and steal and break all they want, but there is one thing they have no control over. Our emotions. Our feelings. Our thoughts. None of them will ever be able to control the way we feel. Our minds and our hearts are our own. That is our power.

I'm not sure I particularly enjoy reading books where the characters are so clearly doing something they'll get into trouble for, and not doing a very good job of being secret. The walls of the girl's rooms are described as being thin from the start, privacy is an illusion.

I liked the idea of exploring what it meant to be a concubine in this Asian inspired fantasy setting, but I never really got sucked in. There is the political situation in Ikhara, the romance and the minutiae of life as a Paper Girl. The focus was taken away from this horrible concept of someone in power keeping teenage girls as sex slaves. At least the romance is not with the abuser. The single first person narrative was slightly limiting, I would have loved to have got inside the heads of the other girls and know why they did what they did.

I would have liked this more as a standalone. The very ending is such a trope, thrown in when you think a story has concluded and I wish it had finished one page earlier.

Girls of Paper and Fire is published by Hodder and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. The paperback will be out on 11th July 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Emily Eternal

Scientists predicted the sun would die, just not how soon that would be. At MIT, the dedicated few are working on an artificial consciousness, able to access the minds of her subjects and help them come to terms with their issues. She's a virtual therapist. Facing extinction, some start to think Emily holds the answer to the future of humanity.

Emily has been shaped by her interactions with humans, encouraged to think and behave like them. Nathan creates her a dorm room and a simulation of the campus so she can live as much like a person as she can. She appears to exist to anyone wearing an interface chip, without the chips or her simulation, she blinks out of existence.

Later in the book, you see how important Emily's upbringing is. Without her perspective of humans, she would think of purely logical solutions, maybe ignoring the moral implications. She is quite naive at times, her life has been short after all and her world limited to the campus.

I'm an artificial consciousness (AC), which is totally different from artificial intelligence (AI) (Kind of? Sort of? To me at least), and was in the fifth year of this experiment when the sun began to die.

Of course, her cushy existence comes crashing down when someone tries to seize the technology. Emily goes "on the run" but she remains determined to find a way to preserve the human race in some way. She likes humans, sees herself as one.

I can get behind the idea of a neural interface being able to alter perception, even maybe controlling muscles and hormonal excretions, but the direction of the story gets a bit too far-fetched. There are good ideas in there but there is a big leap from what current biology is capable of to what Emily does towards the end.

I also found the whole chip part wishy washy, it just gets placed on your skin and then Emily has access to your whole brain processes. Oh and she is capable of doing her thing via any networked electrical device. I know we're not sure exactly how the brain works, but I had a hard time just accepting this considering it was trying to be scientific.

Since Emily has been shaped to think and behave like a human, it's understandable she might want to try a romantic relationship. She makes a mistake when going into the mind of her infatuation. What she does is a huge violation and I'm not sure I'd be so forgiving. The secondary characters weren't fully fleshed out so I didn't get behind them. I didn't believe in their love, and the sex part, well the mind boggles. Just remember, Emily doesn't exist physically.

Emily just needed some limits to her powers. It got to the point where it seemed she was capable of anything and that ruins a story for me.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 17. A book set on college or university campus

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s




Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Flatshare

Tiffy needs somewhere new to live but her editorial job at a hobby-based publisher just doesn't pay enough. After viewing the dregs of the London rental market she answers an ad for someone who wants to share a bed... Leon is a palliative care nurse who works nights and only needs the flat when the rest of the world is at work. What could go wrong?

You’ve got to say this for desperation: it makes you much more open-minded.

Ahhh such a warm and fuzzy book with a serious centre! The idea behind The Flatshare is not that far fetched and it is one of the most honest books on the state of living in London that I've read. Young publishing professionals are definitely not living by themselves in central London. Tiffy and Leon start communicating through post-it notes left around the flat, slowly getting to know each other before they've even met.

Tiffy has just come out of an emotionally abusive relationship, although she isn't aware of how bad it what. It raises the issue of gaslighting, making someone doubt themselves so much they start believing a different version of reality. Through the help of her friends, Tiffy starts to realise just how controlling her ex was.

The last time I was on a cruise it was through the Greek islands with Justin, and I was positively glowing with love and post-sex hormones. Now, huddled in a corner with three Aldi bags of knitting needles, crochet hooks and wool, accompanied by an ex-hippy and a sardine sandwich, I can no longer deny the fact that my life has taken a turn for the worse.

Leon's adorable. He is renting out his bed because he needs extra money to pay for his brother's appeal. He's not a big talker, preferring to spend time with his ill patients than the outside world. His narrative is distinguished from Tiffy's by his lack of first person pronouns, making his voice seem really natural.

Tiffy's job means she spends a lot of time discussing, and modelling, crochet and the book is filled with humorous incidents from her small publisher life. It starts off pretty light hearted but as it goes on, gets more serious.

Listening Notes

I loved the audiobook narration by Carrier Hope Fletcher and Kwaku Fortune. They were just so friendly and perfect for both the characters. I highly recommend!

ATY Rejects: Romantic element

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s




Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Devouring Gray

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.

Following the death of her sister, Violet Saunders moves with her mother to the sleepy town of Four Paths. Everyone seems to know who they are, one of the founding families, feared and respected. Why does she know nothing about her family's past? Each of the founders played a part in banishing a monster, and their families continue to keep it at bay.

She was pretty sure love was supposed to feel like growing stronger, not rotting from the inside out.

The Devouring Gray was pitched as Stranger Things meets The Raven Boys, and for once I can say that comparison actually has some validity. It borrows a desaturated other dimension with a monster from Stranger Things, but lacks the shows atmosphere and 80's nostalgia.

Each of the families has a ritual, revealing their powers and securing their place as protectors of the town. Harper has failed hers, shunned by her friends and desperate to make Violet see how she can't trust the others. The Hawthornes seem to be the big players in town and they all want something from her. Meanwhile she keeps finding herself transported to the forest, a place without colour but home to something terrifying.

It spends a lot of time introducing the key characters of the founding families before anything really happens. Once the action kicks off it's much more engaging, but it was too slow getting there. I thought it go so much more interesting when the mayor's powers were revealed and there was a shadowy secret society. Maybe there was just too much to fit into a book of this length.

Being invisible when you used to be seen... it's like being dead, but no one mourns you.

I wouldn't say I wouldn't read another book now that the world has been established, but not if it were to throw in a bunch of new characters or powers. I kinda want to know what happens next with a few of the characters.

The Devouring Gray 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.

ATY: 26. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #4 Something Blue

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s




Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Wakenhyrst

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.

The journals of painter and historian Edmund Stearne have been kept safely in Wake's End since his admittance to an asylum for the criminally insane. He admitted he did it but that he never did anything wrong. 60 years later, his daughter releases his, and her, story to the world.
The gulf between these two existences was vast. There was no in-between. Either he was a murderer, or he was not.

Wakenhyrst is a gothic style horror set in the fens of East Anglia. While the characters are fictional, much of the story is based on real historical accounts; the delirious writings of a spiritualist, the disturbing paintings of asylum inmates, and the doom, a religious mural depicting the Day of Judgement.

Through Edmund's journal, his entitlement of his position in the world is clear. He can treat those in his household how he pleases, as long as he keeps up appearances to society. As Maud's account starts, she knows her mother is constantly ill, resulting in "the groaning". Edmund's sexual desires take precedence over his wife's health, who repeatedly suffers miscarriages. Young Maud makes up her own version of events until she starts to read her father's journals.

Like Alice, Maman had never been allowed to do anything; she'd always had things done to her. She had been 'given in marriage' and 'permitted' fine clothes - although only if Father approved of them.

I loved the decision to switch between the despicable man of the times and the girl's perspective. In Thin Air, the main character was racist and arrogant, and despite it fitting for the time, it was a little off-putting. In Wakenhyrst, Edmund can have horrible attitudes towards women but it's tempered by Maud's perspective. He might think her weak minded but she's quite the opposite. It also means you're looking forward to something bad happening to him!

Maud's a fantastic character. As she reads her father's journal, her opinion of him changes rapidly and she starts to subtly annoy him on purpose. She saves and befriends a magpie, hence the cover, and she strikes up a friendship with the handsome gardener, someone below her station as far as her father is concerned. Through this it highlights the power imbalance caused by poverty.

To her the fen was a forbidden realm of magical creatures and she longed for it with a hopeless passion.

Maud loves the fen and feels at home wandering its watery wilderness. However her father is scared of it, his guilt manifesting in his paranoia. The pervasive marsh smell starts to haunt him as he becomes more and more obsessed with the rantings of Alice Pyett, ironically a female spiritualist. It's gripping and tense, and my favourite Michelle Paver book by far.

Wakenhyrst is published by Head of Zeus and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

ATY: 39. A book with a strong sense of place or where the author brings the location/setting to life

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s




Friday, 3 May 2019

April Book Haul

I've missed a month or two of book hauls, and got a bit out of the habit of tracking my new books. So this is a bit of a guess at which ones arrived April. Apologies if I've forgotten anyone's books!



For review:

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (Hodder)
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (Pan Macmillan)
Sanctuary by V.V. James (Gollancz)
The Ice House by Tim Clare (Canongate)*
The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin (Quercus)*
The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (Orbit)*

Physical books purchased:

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Trinity by Louisa Hall

Ebooks purchased:

The Half God of Rainfall by Inua Ellams
Rough Justice by Kelley Armstrong
The Passengers by John Marrs

Audiobooks purchased:

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
Emily Eternal by M.G. Wheaton

Borrowed from library:

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction by Amy Brashear

* Unsolicited titles

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Month That Was... April 2019

+International Giveaway

My monthly updates and giveaways are back! I liked the idea of more frequent life and book updates, but they were just too hard to keep up with. I know I can manage once a month at least! If anything particularly exciting happens, I will try and do some non-bookish posts. Anyone interested in posts which are really just loads of photos of Scully and the garden?

Because I have been so terrible at keeping up with reviews lately, you can win any one of the books mentioned in this post, not just the ones pictured. Please note that the giveaway is open to countries Wordery and/or The Book Depository ship to. The winner will receive a brand new copy of their chosen title.

Reviews:




Also read:

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol ☆☆☆☆
Dry by Neal + Jarrod Shusterman ☆☆☆☆
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg ☆☆☆☆
Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff ☆☆☆☆
The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman ☆☆☆
The Water Cure by Sarah Mackintosh ☆☆☆
The Happy Brain by Dean Burnett ☆☆☆☆
The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard ☆☆☆☆

Challenges:

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge - 24/52
1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: The Art of Racing in the Rain
24. A book that takes place in a single day: They Both Die at the End
26. A book that's published in 2019: Other Words for Smoke
31. A book about a family: The Water Cure
37. A book with a two-word title: War Doctor
48. Two books that share the same title #2: Dry

Around the Year in 52 Books - 24/52
11. A book related to one of the 12 Zodiac Chinese Animals: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
22. A book with a number in the title or on the cover: The One Hundred Nights of Hero
26. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #4 Something Blue: The Devouring Gray
34. A book with a person's name in the title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
43. A book related to STEM: The Happy Brain

Also blogged about:

On My Radar: May
The Inevitable Fortnightly Update
It's #Readathon Weekend!
#Readathon: Hour Five
#Readathon: Hour Twenty
#Readathon Wrap-Up
Magical Readathon Wrap-Up

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Magical Readathon Wrap-Up

Grade Achieved: E
Career Path: Magizoologist

The Magical Readathon is hosted by Book Roast.

I kinda got a bit distracted reading books that didn't fit any of the prompts, so I didn't quite make it to an O grade. So close! I did manage to get all the O.W.L.s required for the magizoologist career, so I'll be looking forward to taking my N.E.W.T.s later in the year.

O.W.L.s Passed:




Care of Magical Creatures* - Land animal on the cover

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher ☆☆☆☆

A low conflict post-apocalyptic tale that isn't quite as straightforward as it seems. Read my full review.

Herbology* - Plant on the cover

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol ☆☆☆☆

Adorable fictionalised graphic memoir about Russian summer camp. Had me chuckling all the way through.

Potions* - Next Ingredient: Sequel

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard ☆☆☆☆

If you haven't read The House of Shattered Wings, head over to my review to find out more bout this unique urban fantasy set in an alternate Paris ruled by fallen angels. The second book in this series focuses of House Hawthorn, and I loved how this plays out, with me wanting the villain to be OK by the end. I can't wait for the third book which is out this summer!

Charms* - Age Line: Read an adult work

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh ☆☆☆

I'm not sure I was in the right mood for this depressing tale of sisters who have been brought up in isolation, led to believe men are literally toxic.



History of Magic - Published at least 10 years ago

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein ☆☆

Not what I was expecting, I didn't really like the direction this went in. Read my full review.

Transfiguration - Sprayed edges OR red cover

Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin ☆☆☆☆☆

Beautifully written and deliciously creepy, I loved this supernatural, Irish coming of age tale. Read my full review.

Divination - Set in the future

Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff ☆☆☆☆

Honestly, why am I reading so many end-of-the-world books where everyone's been living on an island? They are starting to blur together but I liked this one, set a long time after the skrake (zombies) have taken over Ireland. Another sad one!

Arithmancy - Work written by more than one author

Dry by Neal + Jarrod Shusterman ☆☆☆☆

California's water supply is cut off without notice. How far will people go to get water? This tells the tale of two teenagers, one the son of a prepper, as well as other viewpoints. Gripping climate fiction and you know I love some cli-fi.

*Needed for career path

Thursday, 25 April 2019

On My Radar: May

I'm sure each month there are even more books that land on my wishlist. Here you'll find a mix of genres hitting the shelves in May.

As always, these are books I haven't read so inclusion is not an endorsement. Quoted dates are based on the UK print editions unless otherwise specified, books may have had earlier digital only or US releases,



1st

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant (US)
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan



2nd

Toffee by Sarah Crossan
Nocturna by Maya Motayne
Faber & Faber: The Untold Story by Toby Faber
The Heavens by Sandra Newman
My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
The Furies by Katie Lowe
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Tiger by Polly Clark
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane



7th

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan (US)

9th

Finale by Stephanie Garber



14th

The Plague Stones by James Brogden
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad (US)
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (US)
The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta (US)
The Things She's Seen by Ambelin + Ezekiel Kwaymullina (US)
There's Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon



16th

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali (US)

28th

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling (US)



30th

Superior by Angela Saini
Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered by Georgia Hardstark + Karen Kilgariff
Meat Market by Juno Dawson
The Passengers by John Marrs
Salt Slow by Julia Armfield
Birthday by Meredith Russo
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper