Thursday, 19 November 2020

Cold war dragons and leaky wellies... a weekly check-in

I finished the Popsugar Reading Challenge this week! Just one left on ATY and I'm freeee! Which is a silly thing to say because I choose to do these challenges, but it's been a year. I'm looking forward to catching up with some of my recent purchases and a couple of festive books.

If the only bad news I have is that my wellies split, them I am doing OK! I wasn't impressed at the time. I stepped into a flooded path with complete faith in my footwear only for my welly to fill up with icy, muddy water. So I had to walk back home with a squelch in my step.


I want to talk about Patrick Ness' Burn which I don't think has had enough attention this year. I bought it because Patrick Ness and dragons, but only just got round to reading it and it is so much more. It's set in 1957 during the Cold War, and in a universe where dragons just exist. Sarah is mixed race and just trying to get by in a small town with a racist deputy when her father hires a dragon to work on the farm. Meanwhile an assassin from a dragon-worshipping cult is on his way to stop a prophecy and the FBI are on the trail. The country as a whole is just worried about the Russians spying on them with Sputnik.

So much going on and it was great! It's such a different take on dragon fantasy. Plus is had great characters and plenty of twists and turns in the story. If you like Patrick Ness or dragons, please give it a go.

I also read A Cheesemonger's History of the British Isles by Ned Palmer which was full of cheese facts as well filling me in on gaps in my British history knowledge. It's starts way back in Neolithic times, talking about history in relation to cheese, from how society was shaped by cheese and cheese shaped by the history of the British Isles. Plus each section has a cheese being made now in the traditional manner as its mascot, so you can go and search out that cheese later. And trust me, I will!


My final book for Popsugar was Yuval Noah Harari's 21 Lessons for the 21st Century which was a bit disappointing. I loved Sapiens and I do prefer him when he's writing about history. His predictions need to be taken with a pinch of salt, there is very little criticism of Big Tech and the Cambridge Analytica scandal only got mentioned in passing. Some of it is very relevant, and your mileage may vary, but I didn't think there was much new to me.

Lots of new books this week:

The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon (review copy provided by Bloomsbury)
The Betrayals by Bridget Collins
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman
Monstress: Warchild by Marjorie M. Liu + Sana Takada
Dying With Her Cheer Pants On by Seanan McGuire (ebook)
Someday at Christmas by Lizzie Byron (aka Tanya Byrne) (ebook)
The Nesting by C.J. Cooke (ebook)
Countless by Jennifer Niven (ebook)

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Let snoozing dogs snooze... a weekly check-in

Not much going on this week but I did write a blog post about boarding school stories. I read and loved The Year After You by Nina de Pass at the weekend and it made me think of how many boarding school stories I'd read lately.

And then I remembered I could make a list on bookshop.org (affiliate link) for them. This website is designed to support independent book shops in the UK. If you buy direct from a book shop's page they get all the profits, so it's a much better deal than Hive. I think if you just buy by searching or via a non-shop affiliate, shops get a small chunk of the overall site profits. So please feel free to use the book shop lists rather than mine. They need all the help they can get right now.


Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Boarding School Stories FTW

I've found myself reading a lot of books set in boarding schools recently. I've always enjoyed this kind of setting, maybe its appeal stems from when, as a teenager, I daydreamed of being sent away to a more exciting place, with new opportunities for friendship, and the possibility of having horses on site. Hah, adult me is under no illusion, but I still like books set in them.

From a literary point of view, a boarding school is one way of getting the parents out the way without killing them off. Hundreds of teenagers all under one roof, living alongside people they wouldn't normally interact with, gives an author all sorts of dramatic possibilities.

Years ago I compiled a list of my top ten boarding school books, but what have I been reading lately? First up is The Year After You by Nina de Pass, a book I had on my Kindle for 18 months that ended up being one of my favourite reads of the year.



Nine months after the death of her best friend, and suffering from PTSD and survivor's guilt, Cara is packed off to a Swiss boarding school. Her roommate is determined to make Cara feel welcome, even if Ren is an outsider herself. Cara is very resistant to friendship and I just loved the care put in by her new aquaintances to help her adjust to this new reality. The romance isn't central, but it was slow burn and it was exactly the kind I wanted to just work, even if things were difficult and nothing seemed certain.

In this case, the school setting separates Cara from her old life, although her guilt and fear is not something that can be run from. Her new friends would never have been her friends in another setting, and the remote mountain location means she is more trapped than at a normal school.

A Deadly Education is set in an even less conventional school, the Scholomance, where manifestations try and kill all the students. The school magics up their assignments based on the languages they're learning. But what endeared me to this story was that El is an outsider, who doesn't immediately get a new set of best friends when she goes off to school.

At the start of the book, she has been there some time and is resigned to getting through it by herself. People just don't warm to her; even her mother's family, thinking she is part of some dark prophecy, want her gone and her magical affintiy bleeds into her ideas of what others will think of her. She might be considered one of the "bad wizards" in any other story, but she tries not to use her power to cause damage. Allies are a strategy for survival, not company. So when she very slowly starts to form relationships, it's all the more rewarding.



Even the Poirot mystery I picked up to fulfil a challenge prompt ended up being set in a boarding school. Cat Among the Pigeons is set at the prestigious, but not necessarily traditional, Meadowbank school for girls. There's not much Poirot in it, he just rocks up at the end to solve it. The premise was a bit silly at times, a Middle Eastern prince, expecting revolution, asks his friend to transport some jewels out of the country and he choses the belongings of his sister and her daughter to hide the jewels. Back in England, various suspects work out the jewels must be at the school, but no one there has any idea why the teachers keep getting murdered.

For an Agatha Christie novel, I felt the headmistress was surprisingly progressive in some of her views. She wanted the girls to learn more than just how to be a wife and she would correct some dodgy opinions that seem to be prevalent in Poirot stories. I felt like one of the school girls was the hero of this one.

Last year I read Ogliarchy and Vita Nostra and I'm looking forward to getting to The Magpie Society soon. I just can't help myself, these settings are like catnip. What are your favourite boarding school stories?

Affliate Link: Check out my boarding school story recommendations on bookshop.org and support independent book shops.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Crisp mornings, autumn colour and a muddy dog... a weekly check-in

Well, back to lockdown. Things are not too different for me to be honest, I've been working from home since March and we tend only go out to walk Scully, which we're still allowed to do. I don't know how crazy she would get if she couldn't have her walks...


I did go out for a birthday lunch in Lymington this week. Ooh and I finally finished my Ankh-Morpork puzzle that I started nearly three years ago! Honestly trying not to think about world events too much, puzzles help.

The temperature has turned cold, and the first frosts have brought beautiful crisp mornings. So much nicer than soggy rain.


I'm getting close to finishing the Popsugar reading challenge, just need to finish my current two books and one more, so hopefully I can do that before the new list is out. This week I read Cat Among the Pigeons a Poirot mystery without much Poirot in! It's set in a girl's school and was quite enjoyable if a bit silly. I thought the headmistress was surprisingly modern for an Agatha Christie!

I also read These Witches Don't Burn which was a cute, queer, witchy YA. This is the first book in a series but it kept referencing a couple of things that happened prior to the story in a way that made me feel like I'd missed something. The before action could have been presented better but overall I enjoyed it, and will probably read the next one.

I also read Becoming Unbecoming for a bit of a cheaty "bildungsroman" because I don't think it technically fits the definition since it's a graphic memoir, but there's no challenge police to tell me off. It's about sexual abuse and victim blaming set against the Yorkshire Ripper cases. Very impactful.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Beware, octopus... a weekly check-in

Thanks to the readathon, this has been a pretty good reading week, including one of my favourite books of the year, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I also posted On My Radar for November if you want to keep up with new releases.

So on top of my readathon books, I finished off Puddin' which was my Popsugar "touch a book on a shelf with your eyes closed" book and I stuck to it and didn't cheat. This one follows Millie and Callie (of all people) and I liked the theme of acceptance and giving people a chance. Forgot how lovely these books are, and I'm looking forward to Pumpkin' next year now.


I also finished listening to The Diabolical Bones, the second book in the Bronte sisters mysteries, in which the Bronte sisters solve mysteries that no one else is interested in. This one has an element of the occult and was perfect listening for this time of year.

Here's a photo of Scully sat in front of a giant octopus. My town has a public skate park and a wall for street art behind it and I think the octopus is new...or I have just been oblivious to it for months, it is possible. Sometimes, when there is no one in the skate park, we run round with Scully, she loves it.


I'm down to five prompts left on each of my reading challenges after some creative wrangling of books into prompts. If you're interested in joining in, Around the Year in 52 Books has now finalised the list for next year. I wanted to read in order but the order isn't really working for 2021 releases, so I'll see how it goes when I get to it.

It's my birthday next week and I have a five day weekend, with the weather looking dreadful, so hopefully I'll knock out some more books during my time off. I'm not doing anything for Halloween however I think people are missing out by not having a slingshot to fire sweets in a socially distanced manner. I might watch Rebecca, the second part of It or The Haunting of Bly Manor...or all three!

Speaking of films, I finally watched Parasite which was good and surprising!

New Books Through the Door:

Greensmith by Aliya Whiteley
The Magpie Society by Amy McCulloch + Zoe Sugg
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari (audio)
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (ebook)
The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward (ebook)

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

On My Radar: November

You're gonna need a lot of books to get through winter, right? Well here are a whole bunch more to add to your TBRs to keep you going!

Please do consider supporting an independent book shop this present buying season. Many will post books out to you if they are closed or you don't live nearby.

As always, inclusion here isn't an endorsement (I haven't read them all yet, haha!) and dates stated are generally for the UK print edition unless otherwise noted.


1st

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

3rd

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer (US only)

5th

It's the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of? by Professor Adam Roberts
Zeus Is A Dick by Susie Donkin
The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey
The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis


10th

The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich
A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey (US only)
Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett (US only)
Odessa by Jonathan Hill


12th

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley
The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas



17th

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
God 99 by Hassan Blasim

God 99

24th

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (US only)
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black + Rovina Cai

26th

The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman
The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens
Strange Beasts of China by Ge Yan
Letters from the Dead by Sam Hurcom
The Sacrifice of Darkness by Roxane Gay + Tracy Lynne Oliver

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Readathon: Book Spine Poetry

Welcome to my mini challenge for Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, Book Spine Poetry!

I hope you are having a great readathon. If for some reason book spine poetry has passed you by, it's basically a poem made out of book titles. If you want it to be a photo challenge, just stack up your books to spell out your poem and take a photo of the spines. Easy peasy.

If you're reading digitally, or just don't have the books to hand, you are more than welcome to just type out the titles in poem form. Here are a few examples of my book spine poems from past readathons:



Close your pretty eyes,
Let the games begin.
Truth or dare, do no harm.
Only we know it can't happen here.
Warm bodies, shattered minds.
Dead ever after.



Oh, dear Silvia
Wicked business!
Bad girls hidden behind the sofa
The other hand among others...

I'd love to see your poems so please tag @patchworkbunny if you're posting on Twitter or Instagram. If you'd like to be entered into the prize draw* for a book of your choice, please pop your details into this form so that I can track you down easily. Please, please if you're sharing on your Instagram stories can you tag @patchworkbunny as otherwise I might not get to see them before they disappear.

*This is open internationally as much as possible, ideally Wordery or The Book Depository will ship to you, however if not I will try and find an alternative prize. Maximum prize value £20.

Since we are approaching the final hours, if you'd rather do this as a post-readathon challenge, I will keep the entries open until the end of Sunday.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

The One Stop #Readathon Update Post

Latest update: 12:00
Hours spent reading: 14.5
Pages read: 864
Books finished: 3


The End
Local time: 12:00 GMT
Pages read: 274

I read a couple of very short books, Memento and Serpentine and then moved on to Puddin' which I knew I wouldn't have time to finish. Really loved reading about AIDAN again but I just wish it had been longer. Considering I did co-hosting and sleeping I'm happy with how much I read.


Closing Survey

How would you assess your reading overall?
I read a fantastic book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue which I loved, although I usually prefer to read shorter books during the readthon, it was nice to absorb myself into just one book yesterday.

Did you have a stategy, and if so, did you stick to it?
I just took it easy, and knew I would take time out of reading for co-hosting and sleep... But I had planned on finishing a book by hour 8 and that didn't happen.

What was your favorite snack?
My home-made brownies were pretty good, if I say so myself!

Wanna volunteer for our next event?
Sure, although I might mix it up what I volunteer for. Co-hosting is fun but I also read a lot less due to it.

Hour Twenty-One
Local time: 08:00 GMT
Pages read: 325
Slept: 7 hours


It's my mini challenge hour and it looks like I managed to schedule it right! Clocks have now changed, I've had a full night's sleep (oops) but I finished a book before I passed out. I LOVED Addie LaRue, 5 stars, review will appear in the distant future. Haha.

Now reading Memento which is an Illuminae Files novella.



Hour Nine
Local time: 19:00 BST
Pages read: 69
Eaten: PIZZA


Spent the last two hours co-hosting so not much reading done plus I stopped to shovel pizza into my mouth!

Hour Five
Local time: 17:00 BST
Pages read: 196
Eaten: brownies and jacket potato


I am loving Addie LaRue! But it is quite a long book for me to choose for readathon so I will probably spend the rest of today reading it and then I can read some of my short choices in the morning.

Scully has been sleeping cuddled up to me but keeps fidgeting. Now she's staring at me trying to get me to feed her early. So demanding!


Hour One
Local time: 13:00 BST

I'm starting out reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Potatoes are in the oven baking for my lunch. Scully has been walked. It is miserable weather today so I've changed into comfy PJ bottoms rather than my damp outside clothes. What else is there to do other than read all weekend?

Good luck to everyone joining in, have fun, chat to people and read some great books!

Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Hampshire, UK

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I've been saving Addie LaRue for this weekend!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I made brownies. Though I may have eaten some already, but I am looking forward to eating more.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I am a software tester by day, Labrador servant by night. Who am I kidding, not I work from home I have to bow to her wishes all day long! You may have seen Scully's warm up post last week.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? After nearly a decade of readathons this is a well oiled machine. Hah well more like an old jumper. I'm co-hosting and running a mini-challenge.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Readathon TBR

It's Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this weekend!

I am trying to finish up Popsugar and ATY challenges so of course I have compiled a readathon TBR completely ignoring my remaining prompts. OK, OK, I threw in some last minute additions that will help, but this is a weekend of fun!



The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo
Serpentine by Philip Pullman
The Burning by Laura Bates
Puddin' by Julie Murphy*
Summerwater by Sarah Moss
2084 by various authors

*Why yes it was on my previous readathon TBR...and probably several before that too!

Queued On My Kindle...

Memento by Amie Kaufman + Jay Kristoff
The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi
These Witches Don't Burn by Isabell Sterling

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Tumble weeds... a weekly check-in

I don't have much to report this week, I haven't finished any books :( However I have been preparing for Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and will be co-hosting hours 7 and 8 and running a mini challenge in the later hours.

I did post a review though! You can read my thoughts on Ninth House here. Spoiler, I loved it. And if you'd like to read Scully's warm up post, it's over on the readathon blog.

I'm currently plodding through Gods of Jade and Shadow which has not captured my attention at all. I really wanted to like it but the characters don't seem to have much depth, it's more of a fairytale style. I probably would have put it aside but I want to use it for the set in 1920s Popsugar prompt (and I would like to finish my challenges before December).

Monday, 19 October 2020

Ninth House

Alex Stern does not belong at Yale. When she awakes as the sole survivor of a multiple homicide, presumed a drug deal gone wrong, she is given an unlikely offer. Come to Yale, join the House of Lethe and oversee the rituals of the other eight houses, each one specialising in a magic that has kept generations of alumni in power.

The Houses of the Veil had too much power, and the rules they had put in place were really about controlling access to that power, not limiting the damage it could do.

Ninth House seems like the natural progression of Leigh Bardugo's writing. Six of Crows was darker and more grown up than the Grisha trilogy, and this has gone one step further. Drug use and addiction has never been a stranger to her stories either. I liked the darkness of Ninth House. I put off reading it for almost a year as I'd seen how many people just didn't like Alex Stern, but I feel they are harsh on a young woman who has suffered a great deal. Who would be a well adjusted human being after what she's been though? She's a survivor.

So I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner, I loved it and I hope there will be more. Alex is one of the few people who can see ghosts, better known as grays. She didn't know this growing up, seeing people no one else could see. Being assaulted by someone no one else can see... You can see why a traumatised Alex would turn away from her hippy mother and seek out drugs, which is where she is when Lethe finally find her.

With little formal education she struggles with her classes, she needs to at least appear to belong even with the help of the secret societies. Darlington, the current Dante of Lethe House is supposed to be her Virgil, her guide into the underworld of Yale but he is missing, sucked into a portal to who knows where. When called to the site of a homicide, she can't just leave it be. That dead girl could so easily be her, so she ignores warnings from above and investiagtes further by herself.

But would it have mattered if she'd been someone else? If she'd been a social butterfly, they would have said she liked to drink away her pain. If she'd been a straight-A student, they would have said she'd been eaten alive by her perfectionism. There were always excuses for why girls died.

Transported to a place of privilege, Alex doesn't become instantly happy or find a place where she belongs, it's not one of those stories. That makes her begrudging friendships seem all the more valuable. She has reasons to be suspicious, but slowly she defrosts to a few individuals.

Part murder mystery, part a story of corrupt power, generational privilege and class divides, with a backdrop of sinister occult rituals and magical drugs. There are several instances of sexual assault in the story, but they are not casually thrown in. Drugs used to coerce and control are treated with horror, as they should be.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 23. A book that won an award in 2019

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



Illumicrate edition spine: Leave the dead to the dead. Turn your eyes to the living.