Category Archives: Books

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr

35608668I read this one months ago, as it was a YALC proof, and I was quite excited about it. But I ended up sorely disappointed, and didn’t want to review it for a while, as I really wanted to think about whether the disappointment was merited.
It’s been a good few weeks now, and Ella Black has sat in the back of my mind. It’s now available on Amazon, and the hard copy will be available in January of next year, but I don’t think I’ll be recommending this one very heavily.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr

Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .

So the proof copy of this that I got presented a totally different story to what was in the blurb which is now on Amazon. The back of the proof copy talks about Ella’s alternate person in her head, Bella, bad Ella, and the things she makes Ella do. But the majority of the story is actually what’s set out in the blurb here, that Ella is mysteriously whisked off to Rio, and when she discovers a dark secret about her past, she runs away.

This is set against the backdrop of a love story so improbable as to be farcical, and Ella’s journey of discovering who she is and how she can find her place in the world. Plus, of course, the truth of who her birth parents were.
There was so much going on in this book, and I didn’t really connect with any of it. If the story had been about Ella coming to terms with who she is as a person and what ‘Bella’ does, then I might’ve been more of a fan of it. Equally, if the story had been about Ella and how she dealt with the revelations about her past and what her parents had kept from her, I might’ve been a fan of that. Thirdly, if the story had been about Ella falling in love in Rio and how she deals with how far away that is from her home, and everything she’s known, I could’ve liked that story too. But this was a mish-mash of all three of those things, and I wasn’t really able to connect with any of them.

There were some admirable parts of this book, though. There was a really funny scene with a waiter in Brazil, while Ella apologised for not being able to speak Spanish, and the cover art is absolutely beautiful.

But I couldn’t get on board with the melodrama at the end of the book, I didn’t believe the love story, I wasn’t impressed with Ella’s resolution of her relationship with her parents, and I left this book feeling pretty flat.
Not as terrible as this review makes it sound, I did find The Truth and Lies of Ella Black to be perfectly acceptable to read, but certainly not something I’d be raving about or recommending over other wonderful books from this year’s YALC.

Three Stars
***

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Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
A Librivox full cast recording.

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Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman, living near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, near London.
In this reading, Librivox volunteers lend their voices to dramatize Jane Austen’s classic and well-loved novel.

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend in the Lake District with seven friends, where we ate great food, saw fabulous scenery, played a lot of games, and watched several films. One of those films was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but definitely felt like I was missing out by not having actually read the source material, Pride and Prejudice. So I downloaded the Librivox full cast recording of Pride and Prejudice while I was watching the film, and started listening to it a few days later.

Librivox is a fabulous site, with classic, out of copyright books, read by volunteers and then made freely available to anybody who wants to download them. The list of volunteers reading for Pride and Prejudice was extensive, and the coordination and time dedicated to this recording must have been extensive. I was hugely impressed with how well it was put together, and thoroughly enjoyed not only the story, but also the listening experience. With the exception of one character, who set my teeth on edge, the entire experience was hugely immersive, and thoroughly entertaining. Cast list as follows:

Mrs. Bennet: Beth Thomas
Mr. Bennet: Andy Minter
Jane Bennet: Elizabeth Klett
Elizabeth Bennet: Arielle Lipshaw
Mary Bennet: Tina Danh
Catherine “Kitty” Bennet: GabrielleC
Lydia Bennet: BumbleVee
Mr. Bingley: John Fricker
Mr. Darcy: Peter Bishop
Charlotte Lucas: Laurie Anne Walden
Young Mr. Lucas: Beth Thomas
Sir William Lucas: Robert Scheid
Miss Caroline Bingley: Liz Bennington
Mrs. Hurst: Elizabeth Barr
Mr. Hurst: Barry Eads
Mr. Collins: mb
Mr. Wickham: Algy Pug
Denny: David Richardson
Mrs. Gardiner: TriciaG
Mr. Gardiner: David Lawrence
Maria Lucas: Maria Therese
Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Mil Nichols
Colonel Fitzwilliam: Ric F
Mrs. Reynolds: Esther
Mrs. Hill: Nadine Eckert-Boulet
Butler: Barry Eads
Mrs. Phillips: debolee

The story itself, of course, is a classic, telling the tale of (mostly) the two eldest Bennet daughters as they navigate society and seek husbands for themselves. Elizabeth and Darcy were particularly well-acted, and sweet, reserved Jane elicited every sympathy I had to give as she and Mr Bingley traversed their relationship together.

With Mr Bennet’s witty observations and Mrs Bennet’s overexcited reactions to everything, Elizabeth’s headstrong assumptions and Darcy’s sullen disposition, the only thing this book was missing was a gratuitous lake scene.

And zombies. I reckon it might’ve been better with zombies.

Four Stars
****

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Windfall – Jennifer E Smith

I haven’t read a Jennifer E Smith in a few years, not since 2014, and I wasn’t wildly impressed with that. But Windfall, which I picked up at YALC after a great night out at a pub quiz with the author, was really so excellent, I will definitely look out for the rest of Jennifer E Smith’s back list.

34373364Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

There was so much that was great about this book. Two main characters who had a wonderful friendship and years of history behind them. The incredible windfall that is a hundreds of million dollar win on the lottery. The pain and pleasure of a first love, and that friends-to-lovers journey that can be so hard to navigate.

There wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about this book. Teddy was so believable as the down on his luck guy who has an incredible lottery win, and it goes straight to his head. Alice, struggling to come to terms with her past and who she is now as an adult. Leo, the cousin who’s more like a sibling to Alice. And Alice’s wonderful, wonderful aunt and uncle, how they took her in, loved her, raised her, and Alice’s acceptance of her place in the family.

Against the backdrop of lavish overspending from Teddy, there was so much going on in this book, but it never felt crowded or unbelievable (other than the lottery win, but come on, someone has to win sometimes!). Alice’s relationship with her aunt and uncle and cousin, her knowledge of herself, and her feelings for Teddy were all so well-drawn that I really struggled to put this book down (except when I was so drunk the words were wobbling on the page).

Having read The Statistical Improbability, I thought it was a mid-range contemporary romance, but Windfall is a big step up from that, with great characters, and a great story!

Four Stars
****

 

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There’s Someone Inside Your House – Stephanie Perkins

The second horror I’m reviewing in a row, I picked up a proof copy of this at YALC. I read the first three chapters, then got bored and put it down. Despite trying to pick it up again several times, it wasn’t until the week it was released that I actually got around to reading this slasher romance. I don’t really feel like I had missed out though.

There’s Someone Inside Your House – Stephanie Perkins

15797848Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

The final line of the blurb states that this book is impossible to put down. I definitely did not find that to be the case. In fact, I put it down so many times, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to finish it, and was slightly afraid it might end up on my abandoned shelf – one of very few to do that! But I did eventually slog my way through it, and wasn’t exactly regretful after that I had left it so long.

I think my problem with this book was that it was, in essence, a love story. A story of new girl Makani finding her tribe in high school, finding love, and accepting who she is, her past, and that her friends love her. It just so happened that while this was going on, a teenaged psychopath was running around bumping off her classmates.

The opening chapter of this book starts with the first murder. I think what made this story feel so disjointed to me was that the victims of the murders were usually introduced only moments before their death. This left absolutely no time for the reader to get to know them, develop any feelings about them, or really care that they had been the victim of a grisly crime. On top of that, the slasher themselves was so poorly developed that even after their identity and motivation were revealed, the foregoing murders still seemed pointless.

When I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I quite enjoyed the little synopses at the start of each chapter of what the Chosen Ones were up to. This was largely because it wasn’t entirely relevant to the plot, but it provided a fun little diversion, and an interesting addition to the wider context of the story I was interested in.

The murder scenes interspersed throughout There’s Someone Inside Your House felt a little like those start of chapter snippets, except this time around, they were supposed to be a major part of the plot. In fact, the most major part of the plot.

So as I said earlier, this is a romance, in truth. It just happens to have a paper-thin covering of a slasher fic on top. If you want horror, read horror. If you want romance, read Perkins’ other books. I would strongly advise you give this particular effort a miss.

Two Stars
**

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The Taste of Blue Light – Lydia Ruffles

There were so many books that I got at YALC, I’m still trying to work my way through all of them.  I picked up a copy of The Taste of Blue Light after a workshop with the author, where we used art postcards, clippings from magazines, and other things to create short works. It was great, really interesting, and walking away clutching the bright red proof copy of The Taste of Blue Light left me looking forward to reading it.

The Taste of Blue Light – Lydia Ruffles

32596689An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman’s search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.

‘Since I blacked out, the slightest thing seems to aggravate my brain and fill it with fire’

These are the things Lux knows:
She is an Artist.
She is lucky.
She is broken.

These are the things she doesn’t know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her memories are etched in red.

‘The nightmares tend to linger long after your screams have woken you up …’

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux’s time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.

If her dreams don’t swallow her first.

Lux was a hard character to like in this book. Traumatised by some unknown event at a party, she’s desperately trying to find the old Lux, and go back to what she was before.

I read most of this in a single night. After starting it when I was in the Lake District for the weekend, I only got about a chapter in, then put it to one side. A few weeks later, when I picked it up again, I devoured it.

I was drawn in by the imagery of this book. At once savage and beautiful, from the opening sentence, this book just grabs you and refuses to let go. Lux is completely traumatised, and doesn’t know why or how or what happened to make her like this. She’s lost the time between going to a party and waking up in a hospital bed, and is desperate to get it back.

But actually, Lux doesn’t really… engage with the people trying to help her. She ends up alienating her parents and her friends, as well as the faculty around her, as she fights to regain her old self, but doesn’t really know how to go about it. Although it was frustrating for me to experience that with her, it felt very real – I can totally imagine being the same way, trying desperately to solve a mystery but having no idea how to go about it.

I did have a few complaints about The Taste of Blue Light, though. The title and synopsis made it sound like it would deal with synaesthesia, and it really didn’t. Also, Lux’s school, Richdeane, was entirely implausible, in that they teach only Art and Art subjects. There are mandatory subjects for GCSE in the UK, aren’t there? I suspect that English and Maths are two of them… so I was pulled out of the book by that.

Finally, although on first reading I was blown away by the reveal of what happened to Lux to make her nightmares turn red, the more I thought about it, the less impressed I was with it. It came completely out of the blue. I mean absolutely out of nowhere. It wasn’t flagged anywhere what the traumatic event might be, and in fact, there was a fair amount of misdirection. So when it was revealed, it felt kind of jarring. Then the latter parts of the book, as Lux deals with the revelations that ensue, felt so unlike the first parts of the book as to be quite disconcerting.

Loads of potential here, and a hugely interesting story, but didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Three Stars
***

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Hekla’s Children – James Brogden

I saw Titan books tweeting about this book months ago, and thought it looked Hekla good. This awful pun was belaboured and I used it every time I mentioned or thought about this book. A few weeks ago, it was only 99p on Kindle, so I bought it, intending to read it when I got the chance. That chance was late last week, when I had some free time and my phone in my hands, and I got sucked into the story of vanishing children, a mysterious evil, and Nathan Brookes, guilty teacher, potential hero?

Hekla’s Children – James Brogden

30724961A decade ago, teacher Nathan Brookes saw four of his students walk up a hill and vanish. Only one returned: Olivia, starved, terrified, and with no memory of where she’d been. Questioned by the police but released for lack of evidence, Nathan spent the years trying to forget.

When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where they disappeared, it is first believed to be one of the missing children, but is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior, nothing more than an archaeological curiosity. Yet Nathan starts to have horrific visions of the students, alive but trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate that the warrior’s body be returned to the earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

I didn’t know what I was expecting when I went into this book, other than that it was YA. But actually, as it turns out, Hekla’s Children isn’t YA at all, and I don’t know where I got that idea. Nathan Brookes, the main character, is in his late twenties/early thirties throughout the book, and the four children who disappeared end up being sort of… out of time.

That said, though, not being YA is by no means a criticism of this book. It’s excellent. Nathan’s confusion and guilt over the disappearance of the children he was supposed to be supervising has pushed him to abandon his career as a teacher, and eke out a miserable living as an instructor at an Outdoor Education Centre, which he’s not sure he likes, but provides him with accommodation and a living. When a mysterious Bronze Age body is unearthed near where those four children disappeared, Nathan feels an irresistible urge to return to the ‘scene of the crime’ as it were, and investigate – or atone for his inattention, which resulted in the disappearance of his charges.

With a cast of characters both complex and unpredictable, relationships between the children and adults that are finely drawn and utterly believable, and a storyline that kept me entirely hooked, this book is a magnificent roller-coaster ride.

Intertwining history with fantasy, and grabbing me by the hand and dragging me into the mysterious world of Un, this book had wonderful layers to it, steeped in British history and folklore. Some touching moments, especially with the parents of one of the missing children, added a depth to the horror which balanced it out nicely for me.

Finishing in the wee small hours of the morning, I was left satisfied but also unsettled – definitely an author I’ll look out for more from.

*A note: On Goodreads, many of the reviews of this complain that it’s not enough of a horror, and too much of a fantasy. I went into it expecting a fantasy, so was pleasantly surprised by the dark undertones as well, since I thought they were pleasingly drawn, but that’s possibly a matter of both my taste and what I was expecting from the book.

Four Stars
****

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The Gift and The Riddle – The First Two Books of Pellinor

When discussing with my friend Sally a few months ago what our favourite fantasy series from when we were young were, she mentioned the Pellinor series, or the Riddle of the Treesong. I had never even heard of them before, but having read the blurbs, they definitely sounded like the kind of thing I would like. So I listened to the first two (of four) books on Audible. I’ll definitely keep going with them, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Gift and The Riddle. There’s also a prequel novel, The Bone Queen, which I’ll also probably read (or listen to), as I’m enjoying Cadvan and Maerad’s story, and I’d like to know more about Cadvan as a young lad!

The Gift (Pellinor #1) – Alison Croggon

The Riddle (Pellinor #2) – Alison Croggon

873613Maerad is a slave in a desperate and unforgiving settlement, taken there as a child when her family is destroyed in war. She is unaware that she possesses a powerful gift, a gift that marks her as a member of the School of Pellinor. It is only when she is discovered by Cadvan, one of the great Bards of Lirigon, that her true heritage and extraordinary destiny unfolds. Now she and her teacher, Cadvan, must survive a punishing and uncertain journey through a time and place where the dark forces they battle with stem from the deepest recesses of other-worldly terror.

873611Maerad is a girl with a tragic and bitter past, but her powers grow stronger by the day. Now she and her mentor Cadvan, pursued by both the Light and the Dark, are seeking the Riddle of the Treesong. This mysterious Riddle holds the key to restoring peace to her ravaged kingdom and defeating the enemies she is fated to battle. But what is the true nature of those enemies, and of the Riddle? And is Maerad herself the greatest riddle of all?

 

 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to these two books. Alison Croggon has clearly put massive amounts of thought and work into creating a world which is complex and well-developed, with characters who have believable motivations and interesting personalities. Maerad is a great heroine, filled with reluctance to accept who she is, and fighting against the difficulties of being in a woman in a world that’s not always woman-friendly. her difficult early years have left her bearing the burden of a lot of emotional trauma, and she’s far from perfect in any ways. The story of her quest to find the treesong, halfway through it as I am, has been compelling and intriguing, and I’m definitely going to read the other books in this series.

But. BUT! I have a major issue with this series. And this isn’t even the only series I have this issue with.

My issue with this series is… too much backstory.

Too much? Too much, I hear you cry? How can that be the case! World-building is so important! Paper-thin motivations and worlds which only make sense if you don’t think about them are the bane of your life!

Well yes, that is true. But Pellinor has gone too far the other way. The first half-hour and last hour/hour and a half of both books that I’ve listened to so far are random extra appendices and notes on a world that – lest we forget – doesn’t exist. Extensive discussion is had of the culture, history, and development of the world, without any real relevance to the story. It’s like it’s just trying to convince the reader that the author has really, really thought about how this world works. And I’m not here for that! I’m here for a story.

If I wanted to read a book with appendices as long as the story, I’d go back and slog my way through The Lord of the Rings again.

Here’s my opinion: if your world-building doesn’t need to be explained for the story to make sense, don’t include it in your book! One of my favourite things about the Old Kingdom series is that it’s so clear Garth Nix has reams and reams of information about the Old Kingdom and about Ancelstierre, and about the civil war that forced Southerners to flee to Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom … but he doesn’t need to lay it all out for the reader, because he integrates the important parts into the story! If it’s not necessary for they story… don’t include it! I don’t care! Stop padding out your book with information that’s totally extraneous! I’m not here for that kind of stuff.

Also, the structure of the book has meant that, because we know that the Pellinor books is a retelling of a story written by Maerad and Cadvan, we also know that both main characters will survive the story, and go on to write their book. Hello, where’s the peril for them there?? Disappointing.

That said, though, my complaints are only enough to knock a little off the ratings, and I will definitely keep going, because there’s so much that’s praiseworthy in these books.

The Gift: Three Stars
***

The Riddle: Four Stars
****

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36 Questions that Changed My Mind About You – Vicki Grant

This book was a NetGalley find. One of NetGalley’s highlighted books, I requested it, and was looking forward to reading it, especially given how cute the premise and the cover art were.

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You – Vicki Grant

35698625Two random strangers. Thirty-six questions to make them fall in love.

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for taking part in the psychology study (in Paul’s case it is the $40, in Hildy’s the reasons are significantly more complex). The study poses the simple question: Can love be engineered between two random strangers?

Hildy and Paul must ask each other 36 questions, ranging from “What is your most terrible memory?” to “When did you last sing to yourself?” By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they’ve laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back again. They’ve also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?

A cute and sweet story about two strangers thrown together by a psychological experience, this book was built around a series of 36 questions designed to make strangers fall in love. Both teenagers with their own issues, the unveiling of their lives to each other, their growing closer happens over Skype chat and a series of gorgeous illustrations of a fish called Kong.
Although I really liked the story of the main romance, I felt like the other threads were left dangling. So the unresolved issues in the background were what left this book feeling unfulfilling in the end. Some structural issues left this a little disappointing, but I’ll definitely look out for more from this author.

Three Stars
***

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September Roundup

September is always a fun month, as universities and schools start back, and the autumn leaves start turning. I started a new job in the middle of the month, lecturing a course on international business law, and it’s been really interesting so far, but it’s hard work. Because of this, I haven’t had a huge amount of time to read, but I’ve gotten a decent chunk done – largely because this has included audiobooks. They’re a godsend! I sped my way through the Raven Cycle books with the speed up at 1.7, not because I didn’t enjoy them, but because I wanted to hear more, and as soon as possible!

This month also contained my first re-read of the year. Having read A Little Princess countless times when I was very small, I listened to a Librivox recording of it in the second or third week of the month, and enjoyed it immensely. I’ll definitely be listening to more Librivox books.

Books

  1. You Had Me At Hello – Mhairi McFarlane
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  3. Underdog – Markus Zusak
  4. The List – Siobhan Vivian
  5. Xenocide – Orson Scott Card
  6. The Dream Thieves – Maggie Stiefvater
  7. Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater
  8. The Bride Price – Quenby Olson
  9. The Invasion – Peadar O’Guilin
  10. Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  11. Kill Me Twice – Simon Booker
  12. The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell
  13. Tricks – Ellen Hopkins
  14. The Raven King – Maggie Stiefvater
  15. The Thousandth Floor – Katharine McGee
  16. Editing Emma – Chloe Seager
  17. 11/22/63 – Stephen King
  18. A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett*
  19. I Have No Secrets – Penny Joelson
  20. The Possible – Tara Altebrando
  21. North and South – Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
  22. Shadowblack – Sebastien de Castell
  23. Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt
  24. 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You – Vicki Grant
  25. Fire Lines – Cara Thurlbourne

Short Stories

Cover Art

 

Favourite Book This Month

Pretty easy one this month. I really loved The Invasion, and gave it five stars.

Honourable mention to A Little Princess, which I will eternally adore, but it doesn’t make the cut this month because it was a reread.

Least Favourite Book This Month

Funnily enough, although the lowest-rated book on this month’s list is Underdog, by Markus Zusak, with an abysmal one star, the book I enjoyed the least was Nutshell. The entire book just infuriated me, and I was left much less happy at the end of it than at the end of Underdog, despite the higher rating.

Favourite cover art

I love the Raven Cycle art, and was torn between all of them. I also love the illustration on the front of The Bumblebear, a picture book my nephew got in school. I did think about giving this award to The Picture of Dorian Grey, which didn’t actually have cover art, as I downloaded a Project Gutenberg version. In the end, my favourite cover art this month was Shadowblack, because it just looks fantastic. But the Raven Cycle books were snapping at its heels!

34913716

 

 

Other…

Again, I have completely failed at my book-buying ban, having now interpreted it as being a ban only on hard copies of books. Oh well. I’m almost at half of my YALC books read. I also checked off a lot of categories on my challenge list. Quenby Olson ticks off Q for a first name, and Xenocide gives me X for title. Kill Me Twice was actually unplanned, but means that the only letter I have left to fill is Z. Nutshell only got finished because it was I for Ian McEwan, stupid book. Won’t be reading any more of his stuff!

Also, you may notice that this post is a day late, posted on a Tuesday rather than a Monday. That’s because I was away this weekend, and figured I deserved a day off yesterday. Next week will be back to schedule!

 

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Fire Lines – Cara Thurlbourn

Fire Lines was one of the heftier samplers that I got at YALC. At nine chapters, it was enough to give me a real flavour of the book, so I knew I wanted to read the full thing once it was released.

I actually signed up to be on the advance blogger list for Fire Lines, but didn’t manage to read and review the book until after it was published, so it’s available now!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a review.

Fire Lines – Cara Thurlbourn

35581157When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?

The funny thing about this book is that the sampler I received marks a very definite change in tone. The first nine chapters, which I read as the sampler, are all about Émi in the restrictive, partitioned city she lives in, as she suffers the cruelty of the system and fights to be who she really is. But the sampler cut off at the point where she crosses the wall to escape. So the rest of the book, which I read this week, has a very definite change in tone. It was a little strange – like I had read two books by dividing so clearly between the two different types of experience that Émi had.

The first half, the sampler part, was definitely the better part of the book. I felt like it became a little disjointed in the latter parts. But that said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. Perhaps I’m just more disposed towards enjoying stories about restrictive cities and strict divisions between colour classes (I do really love the Wind on Fire trilogy, and Émi’s being banished to the Red Quarter is massively reminiscent of the demotion of Kestrel and Bo’s move down from Orange in the first parts of The Wind Singer), so I felt like the first part of this book was the better part.

But that said, the book as a whole was very enjoyable. There were complex new systems introduced, several really interesting characters, and betrayals left, right, and centre. Nothing was as it seemed, and nobody was as predictable as you might think – it was certainly far from character archetypes as everyone bucked expectations and behaved like complex, flawed humans (and non-humans) (and elephants!)

Fire Lines was the first in a trilogy, so I’m very much looking forward to the second and third installments, to see how Émi’s story continues. I feel like there’s a huge amount of potential here. We’ve only seen two of the four cities – there are two more to go, so I’m looking forward to exploring more of the world of the Fire Stone!

Three Stars
***

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