Monday, 30 September 2019

On My Radar: October

October is another month chock-full of new releases, from big names to debuts. As always, inclusion here isn't an endorsement and books may be available on different dates in different territories/formats (and sometimes they just change). Dates stated are generally for the UK print edition unless otherwise noted.


Monstress: The Chosen by Marjorie Liu + Sana Takeda
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht (US)
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund (US)
Poisoner in Chief by Stephen Kinzer (US)
The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring (US)
Crier's War by Nina Varela (US)


In Pain by Travis Rieder


The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
The Body by Bill Bryson
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart
The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball
SLAY by Brittney Morris
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
The Places I've Cried in Public by Holly Bourne


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh


The Grace Year by Kim Liggett


Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma
Soon by Lois Murphy


The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson
Impossible Causes by Julie Mayhew
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
Doing Time by Jodi Taylor
Stillicide by Cynan Jones
Angel Mage by Garth Nix


Life Is Strange: Waves by Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi;Andrea Izzo
Supernova Era by Cixin Liu


The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
I Carried a Watermelon by Katy Brand


The Sea Inside Me by Sarah Dobbs


Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather (US)


The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde
The End is Always Near by Dan Carlin
So Lucky by Dawn O'Porter
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Love, Secret Santa by S.A. Domingo

(US) = no official UK release scheduled but US edition readily available
(e) = UK ebook release

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Giver of Stars

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.

When Alice meets the handsome Bennett Van Cleve, she can't waited to leave her boring English life behind and travel with her new husband to Kentucky. What she didn't expect was to be living in a small town in the Appalachian mountains, under the oppressive roof of her father-in-law, owner of the local coal mine and a man with very specific ideas on how a woman should behave. So when a call goes out for lady librarians to deliver books around the county on horseback, she jumps at the opportunity.

Riding all winter, a librarian would wrap up so heavily it was hard to remember what she looked like underneath.

The WPA Pack Horse Library Project was an initiative with ran from 1935 to 1943, delivering books to those without access to books and improving literacy rates in rural areas. It was a time and place where people were suspicious of outsiders and new ideas.

Jojo Moyes might be best known for her contemporary fiction, but she's already got several historical fiction books under her belt. The Giver of Stars isn't based on a specific library but there were many like them. There is even a record of one run by a Mrs Van Cleve, but it wasn't an Alice.

In Baileyville, women are expected to get married and have babies. They shouldn't be gallivanting around the mountains of horseback. Alice is having troubling fitting in, her home-life is miserable and the town's ladies view her with disapproval, especially Bennett's childhood sweetheart. The library provides her purpose and friendship, and a sense of independence. The librarians were paid, at a time when there weren't a lot of employment opportunities for women.

Alice sat on the swing seat, listening to the crickets and wondering how she could be in a house full of people and also in the loneliest place of earth.

Margery is an outsider too. She's from bad blood if you listen to the townsfolk, but that's compounded by her desire not to conform to the standards expected of her. She's an unmarried women with no desire to get married, despite a man who loves her. She does not want to be owned. At the time that was a scandalous notion to have, and soon she is being accused of spreading immoral ways via the library.

The library's mission is set against the backdrop of horrific conditions at the mine run by Alice's father-in-law. This was a time where unions were starting to form and bosses did everything they could do to keep them out. The area also suffered from severe flooding in this period which is also covered in the story. And of course, the racism of the time is rife, with certain townsfolk aghast at a black librarian in their white library.

Mr Leland says one of your librarians is with child out of wedlock after becoming crazed with lust from a romance novel.

Each chapter starts with an extract from a book that I'm assuming would have been available at the time. Certainly things that give an idea of what they might have been reading. The librarians didn't just deliver books, they also circulated magazines, comics and recipes. When books got damaged they would salvage what they could and sew together new editions.

The Giver of Stars is published by Penguin and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 3rd October 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 4. A book you think should be turned into a movie

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

Monday, 16 September 2019

The Testaments

The highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale needs little introduction. Set around 15 years after we last saw Offred, The Testaments follows three women and reveals more about the rise and fall of Gilead. It also answers some questions you might have had lingering in your mind at the end of the first book.

Reign of terror, they used to say, but terror does not exactly reign. Instead it paralyzes.

One of the women is Aunt Lydia, the leader of the Aunts and most feared of the all. I loved Aunt Lydia's chapters, which show how she ended up in her role and shaped the roles of women in Gilead. At the start of her "testament" she states that things could have been much worse without her.

The other two characters are young women, one living withing Gilead and knowing no other way of life, the other a teenager in Canada who only knows Gilead through the liberal media. Agatha is raised in a Commander's house, with three Marthas, raised to become a wife in another high-ranking home. She doesn't see anything wrong in the way they are living, Gilead only wants to protect her, to stop her being a temptation to men.

Daisy's living a pretty normal life until her parents are killed. The only thing that was ever odd was their rule about no photos. All she knows about Gilead is what she's learned in school and on the news. They're religious fanatics but nothing to do with her. Sometimes the Pearl Girls come into her parents' shop to leave brochures, spreading the propaganda of Gilead to the outside world.

Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.

I liked the change in perspective, showing much more about the inner workings of Gilead through the Aunts, the way it's perceived outside the country and about the Mayday resistance. Agatha's schooling shows how the girls are brought up to be pliable wives, or else punished accordingly.

It was such an entertaining and page-turning read. It's different in tone to The Handmaid's Tale and I can see people looking a for a Booker-worthy follow up being disappointed. But I can accept it's evolved into something else and I loved it, even if the plot gets a teensy bit unbelievable towards the end. The message is as relevant as ever.

You’d be surprised how quickly the mind goes soggy in the absence of other people. One person alone is not a full person: we exist in relation to others. I was one person: I risked becoming no person.

I haven't seen that much of the TV show, I found it too bleak, so I can't really comment on any overlap in the story. Ann Dowd does narrate Aunt Lydia in the audiobook though, and does a fantastic job.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover

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

Book Source: Purchased