Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Migration

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.

Sophie's little sister Kira was one of the first to become ill. A simple case of the chicken pox, then complications, leaving her with what was to become known as Juvenile Idiopathic Immunodeficiency Syndrome. The family travels to Oxford in the hope the research being done there can help Kira's new condition.

There's a point where protection just becomes another kind of imprisonment.

The Migration ticked all my boxes, I love stories about climate and diseases, plus it was beautifully written with a very human story at the heart.
Helen Marshall specialises in the study of the Black Death, and that does feel like the basis for this story. The period of the plague coincided with extreme weather, some think that the storms pushed the black rats north into Britain. In her novel, she explores the connection between climate change and disease, and ponders if our very DNA will adapt to survive these threats.

This is how nature works. Progression, change, destruction or self-preservation. One thing changes and another responds, again and again and again.

It also explores the generational divide to a lesser extent. It's only children getting ill, and in one scene and adult confronts Sophie, telling her she is to blame. Just as many people like to blame younger generations for matters out of their control.

I wonder if reading Origins earlier in the year put me in the right frame of mind for this. Life has always found a way to survive through apocalypse, species adapt, evolve, become something new. Even if the ages of humans is coming to an end, the Earth will cleanse itself and start again.

You told me not to trust despair and I don't. But the flip side of immersing yourself in history is false nostalgia, thinking things were better before when they weren't. The planet was in a tailspin before my diagnosis. There isn't safety in the way things were.

A lot of these types of books can leave you with a feeling of despair but The Migration served up a portion of hope. I loved this book so much, and I have highlighted a huge amount of quotes. I highly recommend you read this if like cli-fi or thoughtful stories.

The Migration is published by Titan Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 5th March 2018. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a meandering novel, weaving together many elements of African mythology. You may have seen it described as epic fantasy, but's epic in the way The Odyssey is, and not like A Game of Thrones.

Tracker starts the story with an introduction to his past. I am still not sure if this is referring to female genital mutilation or not, or is Tracker intersex? He talks about how it was left too late to have the woman cut from him, that he will also carry her inside him. He also finds out that his father, who he hated, was not his father. Instead he is his grandfather's son. Yeah, it was a bit confusing at the start!

So Tracker is known to have a nose, he can find anyone. He is hired to find a boy. He bands together with a group of mercenaries, including a shapeshifter called Leopard. His travels take him all over this alternate Africa, befriending mingi children (children who have been rejected by their families due to strange defects; a girl made of smoke, giraffe boy, another whose body is ball-like). He goes to strange lands and meets all sorts of dangerous creatures.

When kings fall they fall on top of us.

It's very much in the tradition of oral storytelling, with lots of tangents and various stories, with the loose central plot being there to hold them together. I am not sure this is my kind of thing. I enjoyed many of the stories, but found there was just too much going on. I had read that Marlon James did a lot of research for this book and I fear he didn't want to leave anything out. I personally would have liked a collection of stories based on African myths rather than feeling a bit confused about how they all fit together.

I did really like the sad character of Sadogo. An ogre of sorts, his people are hated as the human women they impregnate then die in childbirth due to the size of the baby. He feels guilt at his very existence. He was read so sad in the audiobook, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

There's a lot of casual reference to rape and child abuse, and it's swept away all a bit quickly for me to accept it being there. At a few points, it seems like it is going to handle it with a bit more sensitivity, but due to the sheer scale of the story, there's just not time. Also, I find literary descriptions of sexual acts a bit absurd. There is "seed" all over the place.

There will be plenty of people who think this is an amazing piece of work. I am glad I gave Marlon James a try, but I fear his style is just not for me.

Listening Notes

Dion Graham did a fantastic job of narrating this mammoth audiobook (24 hours of it!). I do not believe I would have had the patience to finish it in print, but his performance was entertaining and suited the story.

ATY: 32. A book with more than 500 pages

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 25 February 2019

Update for the last couple of weeks

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

I didn't do an update last week as I really didn't have much to report. This week's been quite quiet on the blog too, I think being busy as work means I don't have to mental energy to write reviews when I get home. And then it was gorgeous weather this weekend just gone, so I did outside stuff.

You can catch up with what's on my radar for March and I have a couple of giveaways coming up. I've bought loads of books this month, so I better hurry up and start reading them!

Scully the Labrador sat in the woods in spring

The blossom is starting to come out where I live, and the warmer weather has meant I made a start clearing up the front garden. We have loads of self-sown poppies coming up, but it does mean it looks a bit of a mess right now, but I'm sure it'll be lovely when they are flowering.

This Fortnight I Finished:


The Migration by Helen Marshall [Gifted] ☆☆☆☆☆
Big ideas wrapped in a very human story, beautiful and thought-provoking, even hopeful. I loved it.

POPSUGAR: 41. A "cli-fi" (climate fiction) book

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James ☆☆☆
Big, meandering story, parts I liked and other times I was just confused. Just don't think his style is my cup of tea.

ATY: 32. A book with more than 500 pages

The River by Peter Heller [Gifted] ☆☆☆☆
I loved The Dog Stars by the same author and I liked this tale of two friends on a canoe trip into the wilds of Canada, with a dangerous edge to it. I cried.

POPSUGAR: 8. A book about a hobby

The Dry by Jane Harper ☆☆☆
This was a nice simple book to listen to after the Marlon James. Nothing amazing but good enough.

POPSUGAR: 47. Two books that share the same title
ATY: 36. A book featured on an NPR Best Books of the Year list

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

On My Radar: March

It's time to share some of March's releases! These are all books that have caught my attention based on the descriptions or authors. I've included early ebook releases (where the print issue will be published later) marked by an (e) but otherwise used the date of the UK print release.


1st

Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare
The Fever King by Victoria Lee


5th

The Migration by Helen Marshall
Shades of Magic Vol. 1: The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab + Andrea Olimpieri
The River by Peter Heller (e)


7th

Internment by Samira Ahmed
Lanny by Max Porter
Cala by Laura Legge
Freefall by Jessica Barry
Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff
The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton
Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear (e)
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh


12th

The Bird King by G Willow Wilson (US only)
The DNA Of You And Me by Andrea Rothman


14th

The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson

15th

A Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson (US only)


21st

The True Queen by Zen Cho

26th

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta + Cori McCarthy

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

I Was Born For This

Angel is a superfan. Her life is all about The Ark, the band currently taking the world by storm. She is embarking on what will be the best week of her life, a meet and greet with her boys and socialising with others in her fandom. All Jimmy every really wanted was to be in a band with his best mates, Rowan and Lister. But with fame comes new pressures, and on the eve of signing a new contract, meaning even more of his time dedicated to the fans, Jimmy starts to have doubts.

They just want something to hold on to something that makes them feel good. Even if it's all a big lie.

I don't know how Alice Oseman does it but I adored this book and I generally don't enjoy books about music. I Was Born For This focuses on fandom, and it's not really about music appreciation, it's something more. For girls like Angel, the band is everything.

The band also consumes all of Jimmy's time, but he is starting to resent his lack of freedom. He is a trans man, suffering with anxiety and paranoia, under the magnifying glass of the media. Every little thing they do is scrutinised by the fans.

One faction of fans ships Jimmy and Rowan, reading into their Joan of Ark song that it's a combination of their names. Rowan has a girlfriend, one whose secret is slowly slipping as the media look for the next big story. It shows to tension that fame can add to relationships and questions the sense of ownership of famous people. The fans think The Ark belong to them, but in reality they are just regular boys with lives to lead.

I loved the friendship between the three boys. Whilst not perfect, they love each other and support each other. As always with Alice's books, this is not a romance.

Angel also discovers that friendship can be hard. She made friends with Juliet online, bonding over their love of The Ark. When Mac turns up, Angel is resentful of him. It was meant to be her week with Juliet and she suspects Mac doesn't even like The Ark, he keeps bring up Radiohead after all. But does Angel really know Juliet and is she giving her half a chance? There is more to life than fandom.

It's full of complex emotions and I was gripped. Cannot wait for more from Alice (and I won't wait so long to read it next time).

Listening Notes

Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter were a joy to listen to. So often audiobooks narrators do silly teenage voices, but they sounded like actual young people I hear in southern England. Even the accents in the dialogue were decent.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 9. A book you meant to read in 2018

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

All the Lonely People

Kat's whole life is online, so when she is targeted by trolls, she faces deleting her entire existence. Little does she know that feeling invisible to the world, is the first stage of the fade. Can she find a connection to stop her fading away for good? And does she want to?

Live for long enough without hope and you'll believe that nothing can ever change for you. Maybe then you make it true.

The concept behind this reminds me a little of a Buffy episode where a girl is ignored so much she turns invisible. But in All the Lonely People, the forgotten slowly fade from existence too. Kat meets another girl fading at the same time as her, someone who might be her first real offline friend.

This is the first book I've come across that has attempted to explore the reasons why young men start trolling. It's very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and say they are just bad people, but often they are lonely and vulnerable to the real bad guys. I think we all know there are ringleaders, who manipulate their followers whilst keeping plausible deniability when things goes wrong.

Loneliness could make you reach out for company in all the wrong places, or make it seem an impossibility, even if an outlet was staring you in the face. There was comfort in being alone, unable to disappoint or be disappointed by others. Tell yourself enough, and it's not hard to believe that's the best you're ever likely to get from the world.

Wes just wants somewhere to belong, unfortunately the only place he can find that is an online community harbouring women-hating trolls. His father and older brother abandoned his family, leaving his single mother scraping by, relying on handouts and the kindness of strangers. He thinks that his father left him because he wasn't man enough, and he is determined to look after his mum and sister. David Owen does not make excuses for Wes, and his actions aren't absolved, but it does show how society is failing young men, leaving them open to indoctrination.

This book gets a lot about loneliness right and it's kind of heartbreaking that this reflects a huge chunk of society.

ATY: 24. 4 books inspired by the wedding rhyme: Book #2 Something New

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Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 11 February 2019

Is it nearly spring yet?

IMWAYR is hosted by The Book Date.

The weather over the last week has been miserable, so wet, windy and gloomy. Roll on spring! It's nice that there are signs of life emerging now, snowdrops, daffodils and crocus have been sighted and the trees have fresh buds. I'll look forward to adding garden updates to these posts! We have a tiny garden but we do grow fruit and veg in it.


I got loads of book post last week, so stop by my instagram for a peek (on that subject I'd really love to get some more followers that aren't intent on unfollowing me after a day). I got a second proof package for A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, so keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway.

This Week I Finished:


Saturday, 9 February 2019

We Cast a Shadow

Set in a near future America, We Cast a Shadow explores what happens when a country accepts institutionalised racism, when even the black people accept it. The unnamed narrator thinks the worst thing his son can be is black, that he will succeed if only he can banish Nigel's birthmark for good. Nigel is mixed race, born with a dark birthmark on his face which is slowly getting bigger.

The narrator is working as a junior associate in a law firm, hoping to get promoted so he can afford to get the new demelanization technique for his son; a treatment which will make him white. Poor Nigel, he just wants to be a normal boy but his father pushes his self-hatred onto him. The scenes where he is forced to endure skin whitening cream are hard to stomach.

The world is a centrifuge that patiently waits to separate my Nigel from his basic human dignity. I don't have to tell you this is an unjust planet. A dark-skinned child can expect a life of diminished light. This is truth anywhere in the world and throughout most of history.

In this future, black people are allowed to do low paid jobs; working in restaurants, as cleaners or maintenance. The narrator allows himself to be humiliated at work, in the hope it will please his white bosses. They only give him a chance because they want to win a client by showing how good they are at diversity. He's working at a law firm because they have quotas, not because they see him as an equal.

This is political satire, but not of the amusing kind. There's not much in this that isn't happening, or hasn't happened, somewhere in the world, from the ghettoisation of black neighbourhoods to humiliation in the workplace and privatisation of prisons. Even the demelanization, which seems the most far-fetched, is reminiscent of the cosmetic surgery Michael Jackson became addicted to. In the current American climate, this is a very timely novel, highlighting the casual prejudice people are capable of and how is escalates.

Whilst the narrator isn't very likeable, it's easy to see how he formed this mindset, how the world might be against him but he chose to capitulate rather than stand up for what's right. He wanted the best for his son, but he didn't think to ask his son what he wanted.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 25. A debut novel

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Book Source: Borrowed from library

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Two Can Keep a Secret

The town of Echo Ridge has seen tragedy strike twice and neither mystery has ever been solved. In the nineties, a teenage girl went missing after homecoming and five years ago, the homecoming queen was murdered in the local theme park, aptly named Murderland. Twins Ellory and Ezra are sent to live with their grandmother, whilst their mother is in rehab, and soon after the threats start. Is Echo Ridge about to lose another homecoming queen?

Everything looks bad when you examine it too closely, right?

This wasn't quite as good as One of Us is Lying but I still enjoyed this YA murder mystery, set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Malcolm's older brother was a suspect in the previous homecoming murder, 5 years earlier, and the family have never been free from that suspicion. He now lives with his mother, stepsister and stepdad, the town's hotshot lawyer.

Ellory is a true crime fan. Her aunt went missing in Echo Ridge and she never got any answers, fuelling her passion for solving mysteries. After reading I'll Be Gone in the Dark, I had a bit more appreciation for these true crime communities and it felt believable that she would keep sticking her nose in, rather than just leaving it to the police.

I became Declan Kelly's brother before I got a chance to be anything else, and sometimes it feels like that's all I'll ever be.

It throws in so many suspects and red herrings, especially told from Ellory and Malcolm's perspectives. Their minds are eager to jump to conclusions and Ellory has the advantage of being an outsider looking in. This means they don't seek help when maybe they should. I did not guess who did it at all.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 19. A book told from multiple POVs
ATY: 16. A book told from multiple perspectives

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Book Source: Purchased