Category Archives: Books

Reviewing the Unreviewed – May/June 2018

Once again, I’m back with very short reviews of books I didn’t get around to reviewing in full! Let’s be real, this post is mostly pictures and star ratings, but that’s okay.

  • Holding – Graham Norton
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR #3.5) – Sarah J Maas
  • The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) – Philip Pullman
  • All Our Wrong Todays – Elan Mastai
  • The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella*
  • The Parent Pact – Laurie Kellogg
  • When it’s Real – Erin Watt
  • In Search of a Love Story (Love Story #1) – Rachel Schurig
  • La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) – Philip Pullman
  • The Power – Naomi Alderman
  • The Children Act – Ian McEwan
  • My Sister’s Secret – Tracy Buchanan
  • Surprise Me – Sophie Kinsella
  • Beyond Grace’s Rainbow – Carmel Harrington
  • Letters to my Daughters – Emma Hannigan
  • The Belles (The Belles #1) – Dhonielle Clayton
  • A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Aline Sáenz
  • Time Bomb – Joelle Charbonneau
  • Beautiful Broken Things – Sara Barnard
  • The You I’ve Never Known – Ellen Hopkins
  • Clean – Juno Dawson

34837664Holding – Graham Norton

Graham Norton’s first venture into fiction writing (I think he’s had a few memoirs before) was an enjoyable, if not stunning, venture into rural Ireland, an old murder, and a tale of hiding things in families. Fun, but not particularly memorable. Well-written, just not instantly a favourite.

Four Stars
****

36048256A Court of Frost and Starlight (ACOTAR #3.5) – Sarah J Maas

I know this was only a novella, so I shouldn’t have expected too much of it, especially as it seemed like its entire point was to set things in motion for the spinoff trilogy which is coming for ACOTAR, but there really was nothing of substance in this book. What a disappointment, it was just a load of smut and nice clothes.

Three Stars
***

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) – Philip Pullman*70949

Gosh, how much do I love this trilogy? So much. one of my favourite series from when I was a child, on rereading it’s just as powerful. The culmination of Will and Lyra’s stories includes secrets about Dust, killing God, falling in love, and discovering the settled forms of Pan and Will’s as-yet-unnamed daemon. So much to love in this book, so much that I still do love. I read this so that I’d be prepared for La Belle Sauvage, which I also read in that month, and laughed and cried all over again at this one.

Five Stars
*****

All Our Wrong Todays – Elan Mastaiallourwrongtodays

I got this book thinking that it would be really great, about time travel, considering the impact of our actions on the past and the ripple effect, while also considering the inevitability of love, the way different people find each other over and over again, and all that fun stuff. But what I actually got what a really whiny, frankly very annoying protagonist who complained that our world isn’t as good as it could be, but never really did anything more than that. I couldn’t warm to him, and as such, also couldn’t warm to the book.

Three Stars
***

The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella*undomesticgoddess

Fair disclosure, I love this book.

This was the first Sophie Kinsella book I ever read, and it was such a wonderful introduction to how her books go. The impulsive, slightly scatty, main character who makes decisions on the fly and then compounds them with more terrible ideas, the utterly delicious love interest, the slow burn romance, the ridiculous employers, and Sam’s realisation that, actually, happiness can be found in the strangest of places, all of those hallmarks of Kinsella’s book make for a fun, hilarious, and heart-warming read that I love to return to every now and then.

Five Stars
*****

The Parent Pact – Laurie Kellogg30977380

This book was terrible, predictable, and that’s really all that I remember about it. And the cover art is really, really, really bad. Like so bad. Who designed this cover art?

Two Stars
**

When it’s Real – Erin Watt35272870

Look at how great this cover art is! It’s so sparkly! The colours are so gorgeous! Compared to the previous one, it’s a breath of fresh air. The story itself, well, it was better than the Parent Pact, but it still wasn’t wonderful. Nothing wrong with this story of fake love becoming real love, but nothing really memorable about it either. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up anything else by writing duo Erin Watt.

Three Stars
***

In Search of a Love Story (Love Story #1) – Rachel Schurig22082281

This was really… not memorable. I think this was the book where the main character tries to follow the advice of classic romance books and films in order to find her happily ever after, but I don’t care enough to look it up on goodreads. Not one that I’ll seek out the sequels of.

Three Stars
***

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) – Philip Pullman34211746

After so long, it was really exciting to return to Lyra’s world. Set twelve years before the His Dark Materials trilogy, this behemoth of a book tells the story of Malcolm Polstead and his interactions with baby Lyra, who’s only just been born. I loved this. Thought it was a really strong return to Pullman’s most famous world, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next instalment in the Book of Dust trilogy.

Five Stars
*****

The Power – Naomi Alderman33871762

I really loved this. I don’t know why I didn’t review it in full. I thought it was such a great imagining of a world where gender stereotypes were thrown on their heads, and it was wonderfully written. I read this during the summer, in Edinburgh, mostly sitting in parks and eating picnics, and thought that it was totally worth the time. I will definitely seek out other books by Naomi Alderman, because her incisive writing bled through the pages and lingered in my mind long after I had finished The Power.
Four Stars
****

The Children Act – Ian McEwan23482832

I borrowed this book from a colleague, and took months to get around to actually reading it, because I hadn’t really enjoyed the last Ian McEwan book I read – Nutshell. But when I actually did sit down and start reading this, it was so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be! Quiet, introspective, and powerful, this is probably why Ian McEwan is so popular, and I begin to understand his success. This is a very powerful book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Four Stars
****

My Sister’s Secret – Tracy Buchanan25768566

Two stories intertwined here, one of three sisters, Faith, Hope and Charity (I mean, really??) and one of the next generation, Willow, who is the daughter of one, raised by another. Most of the time this worked quite well, with a good balance between the two stories, but sometimes it struggled. Also, the secrets were just ridiculous, most of the time. Some nice imagery of underwater forests, and plenty of information about scuba diving, too, which I’m not sure was entirely accurate. In fact, if I recall correctly, I’m sure there was something daft in this which was totally inaccurate.

Three Stars
***

Surprise Me – Sophie Kinsella35627164

Sophie Kinsella’s newest book is a step away from most of what she’s written in the past. Rather than being the start of a relationship, like The Undomestic Goddess, Surprise Me focuses on a couple who’ve been married for several years, trying to ensure that their marriage survives. Plenty of fun moments in here, some touching scenes as well, but just a couple of missteps means that this isn’t Kinsella’s best.
Four Stars
****

Beyond Grace’s Rainbow – Carmel Harrington34664798

You can really tell, in reading this, that it’s very early in Harrington’s career. Lots of stylistic flaws which are smoothed out in her later books, and a lack of character development which is also not visible in her newer books. That said, though, I think this was Harrington’s debut, and there is a certain amount of depth there which made this worth the read.
Three Stars
***

Letters to my Daughters – Emma Hannigan35534637

It’s so refreshing to read a women’s fiction book where everything doesn’t magically come out right in the end. This book unflinchingly looks at the relationship between mother and daughters, and the foundations we lay in childhood, as well as how they echo into our later lives. This was Hannigan’s last book before she died, and it’s a fitting tribute to her skill as a writer. Except for the bit where one of the sisters (who’s very slim) conceals a pregnancy that’s at term. What.

Four Stars
****

The Belles (The Belles #1) – Dhonielle Clayton38636641

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Belles are the only magical people in a world filled with the Gris. This fantasy New Orleans appears beautiful and serene, but is actually seedy and dangerous, as Camellia slowly uncovers. Some romantic interests and a princess who’s a lunatic set the scene for future books that I will definitely get my hands on.
Four Stars
****

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle33574273

I didn’t love this. I think it was probably because I came to it as an adult, with all of my cynicism. How do you spell that word?? Anyways. It was fine. Not wonderful.
Three Stars
***

Atonement – Ian McEwan5324495

This was somewhere in between how much I hated Nutshell and the surprising amount I liked The Children Act. That ending though. Oooooft.

Three Stars
***

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Aline Sáenz21142051

Gay Mexican love story! I loved this! So cute! There was lots of strugglign to come to terms with what you’re feeling, whcih I appreciated, as well as some nice discussions on what it means to be Mexican. How hard is it to assess your own cultural identity? Especially when you’re trying to figure out how much of it is just because it’s what all the people around you are? Some good family dynamics in here too. There’s a sequel forthcoming, I believe, which I will consider picking up eventually.
Four Stars
****

Time Bomb – Joelle Charbonneau35721258

I really like Joelle Charbonneau. Not least because what a cool surname! Time Bomb was tense and multi-perspectived. It actually felt a lot like This Is Where It Ends, although with bombs instead of a shooter. Still though, well worth the listen, and I devoured it within, I think, a single day. A little disappointing that I figured out who the bomber was, but in fairness, I had a very limited field of suspects.
Four Stars
****

Beautiful Broken Things – Sara Barnard25437747

I loved this! Sara Barnard’s first book is a story of fierce, fragile friendships, of the dynamics between girls, of trying to help but actually hurting someone you love. The three main characters are so beautifully drawn and the dynamics between them are so wonderful, I read this book and just cried. Sara Barnard’s next book is actually a sequel to this, so I’m glad I read her books out of order, because it means I don’t have to spend too long waiting to come back to this one!
Five Stars
*****

The You I’ve Never Known – Ellen Hopkins30312837

I don’t actually remember what this book is about. Judging by the fact that it’s written by Ellen Hopkins, it’s probably about abuse… maybe drugs. And I’m sure it definitely doesn’t have a happy ending. I’m not going to look this up on goodreads to see what it was about. Clearly it wasn’t memorable enough for any of it to stick in my head.
Three Stars
***

Clean – Juno Dawson38333054 (1)

This story of a society rich girl being unwillingly thrown into rehab was great! Acidic and biting, Lexi is a terrible person, stuck in a terrible situation. With parents who are so rich that they think they can pay other people to love their kids and an absolute lack of connection with anyone in the last year, Lexi’s time in rehab means she has to dive deep inside herself and confront what she’s been running from in her drug-fuelled binges. Witty and biting, but also touching at times, this is definitely one of Juno Dawson’s best books.
Four Stars
****

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How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne

I’ve had this book sitting waiting for me for months to get around to it. I was really looking forward to it, especially because Holly Bourne’s YA is so on point, but I just got distracted and never picked it up. Last week, then, I decided I was finally going to go for it, and devoured it within two days. Holly Bourne’s first foray into adult fiction is about being in your thirties and seeing everyone around you settling down, finding your groove, and accepting who you are and what you deserve to be.

How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne

34538386‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’

Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?

There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.

But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.

Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.

When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.

It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?

The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.

My sister actually read this before I did, and she said she was a little frustrated with it, because the main character so obviously needs to break up with her boyfriend. And I agree, books where the main character obviously needs to break up with the boyfriend but inexplicably refuses to do so can be intensely frustrating. But what I found really wonderful about this book was that it didn’t flinch away from WHY Tori didn’t want to break up with her boyfriend.

That insecurity, the sunk cost fallacy, the reluctance to admit that she was on to a loser, the idea that things might be able to go back to how they had been in the beginning – all of those things rang so true, and made Tori reluctant to admit to herself just how miserable she was. In her thirties, Tori felt like she should know who she was and what she was doing, and the Man on the Rock was part of that.

Tori’s own situation was compounded by the fact that she wrote a bestselling book which mentioned her relationship, and so when she was doing promotional events, the faith of others in her relationship was making her even more reluctant to admit that it was terrible.

This book wasn’t the same kind of vein as lots of the other books I’ve read about terrible boyfriends, though. Those ones are mostly fuzzy, warm chick-lit, where the main character grows as a person, finds another man, and has some hilarious adventures along the way. This, however, was much more introspective, and much less… fuzzy.

How Do You Like Me Now? is raw, unflinching, and will resonate with a lot of people who feel like they’re falling behind on the conveyor belt of life (don’t worry, I do too…). Not all of it resonated with me – the stuff about projecting an image on SM and weight issues wasn’t really on my wavelength, but I don’t doubt, given how spot-on accurate her relationship stuff was (because I’ve stayed in a relationship far too long rather than admit that it wasn’t working) that for someone who struggles with those issues, this would be a searing reflection of it.

This wasn’t as enjoyable as Bourne’s YA fiction. But it was every bit as relatable, and was definitely a sign that Bourne is versatile enough to straddle both markets.

Four Stars
****

 

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Zombies vs Unicorns – edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Have you ever looked at something which is made up of things which you like, and nothing you don’t like, yet you end up thoroughly disliking it? That’s exactly what happened to me with this edited short story collection. It was a theme I liked. It was edited by an author I liked. Plenty of the stories were written by people I like. But it just did not work for me at all.

Zombies vs Unicorns

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It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

I don’t know what it was about this anthology that really put me off. It really should have worked for me. I like zombies. I like unicorns. I like Holly Black. I really like Garth Nix. I like Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot… everything about this collection should have been golden.

And, in fairness, the stories were perfectly fine. Some of them were very good. There were some fun interpretations of zombies and of unicorns. I particularly liked Bougainvillea, by Carrie Ryan. I haven’t read anything else of hers, so I’ll have to look her up now, as I really liked this one.

THE HIGHEST JUSTICE BY GARTH NIX was a crossover, with both zombies and unicorns. Pick a side, man!

LOVE WILL TEAR US APART BY ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON was a gay love story about a zombie and the son of a zombie killer. Not bad!

PURITY TEST BY NAOMI NOVIK was a snarky, funny story of a unicorn looking for a virgin to help him defeat an evil sorcerer.

BOUGAINVILLEA BY CARRIE RYAN was set on Curacao after a zombie apocalypse, and was probably my favourite.

A THOUSAND FLOWERS BY MARGO LANAGAN was about unicorn bestiality, and I really didn’t enjoy it.

THE CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION BY MAUREEN JOHNSON was utterly bizarre, but still sort of … funny?

THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR BABY KILLER UNICORN BY DIANA PETERFREUND was a really interesting take on unicorns, as they’re killer animals, but felt a little underdeveloped. I think it was too much for a short story.
INOCULATA BY SCOTT WESTERFELD was set on a pot farm, and told of a tiny group of survivors surrounded by the six billion.

PRINCESS PRETTYPANTS BY MEG CABOT was a story of a teenager who gets a unicorn called Princess Prettypants for her birthday, and was class.

COLD HANDS BY CASSANDRA CLARE was a fun story of love, and death, and was probably my second favourite.

THE THIRD VIRGIN BY KATHLEEN DUEY was about a unicorn who heals, but can also steal life, which I just… didn’t get.

PROM NIGHT BY LIBBA BRAY tells the story of the last surviving teens trying to live something like a normal life, and eke some happiness out of their existence.

Lots of the stories were really great, although there were one or two that I didn’t get or didn’t like. I think my main issue with this book (and it was overriding and ever-present) was the awkward, stilted ‘banter’ between the two editors which sat between each story. Written like a script, it felt like the two editors were co-hosts and rivals on the worst daytime television show ever, with a faux-friendly, faux-hatred, awful page and a half of ridiculous discussion which got old before the first story started. We get it, you like unicorns, you like zombies. This kind of conflict is manufactured, dull, and utterly mind-numbing. Why not just pitch this book as a collection of stories about zombies and unicorns, instead of the pointless face-off, and its horrendously awkward results? Even the explanation for the chapter header graphics (so that you can avoid whichever you don’t like, because obviously you can’t read both!) was cringe-inducing. And also irrelevant, because one of the stories was wrongly labelled (Bougainvillea, by Carrie Ryan, has a unicorn graphic, but is actually a zombie story).

The pointless conflict in this collection turned me off enough that it massively took away from my enjoyment of the stories themselves, which were not only not bad, but actively very enjoyable, and left me with a really disappointed feeling from the collection as a whole.

Two Stars
**

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The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson

I’ve seen lots of stuff online in the last few weeks about the publication of My Mum Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson’s newest book, which revisits one of her oldest characters, only now grown up with her own child.

Tracy Beaker has spawned three sequels and four television series, but I’ve actually only read the first two books (The Story of Tracy Beaker and The Dare Game), because I’ve had them since I was a child. I decided to get out The Story of Tracy Beaker and see how it held up after such a long time. I’m still thinking about getting the sequels.

The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson

1901111Introducing Tracy Beaker, 10-year-old girl-wonder and the daughter of a famous Hollywood actress . . . sort of.

Tracy Beaker’s not exactly sure what her mother does, because Tracy has been in foster care for as long as she can remember. She has a picture of her mother, who’s pretty enough to be in movies, so maybe she is. And maybe one day Tracy’s mother will show up and reclaim her long-lost daughter, and together they’ll have fabulous adventures. Then again, maybe she won’t. In the meantime, Tracy’s doing everything she can to take care of herself, even though she has to share her birthday cake with silly Peter Ingram just because they have the same birthday… and even though the other girls she lives with are mean and nasty and rude and horrible. Mostly. Then a journalist shows up to write a story about their orphanage, and she and Tracy strike up a special friendship.

In a story written with humour and sensitivity, Tracy emerges as a spirited girl who’s not quite as tough as she lets everybody think she is.

I was surprised, in rereading this book, how complex it is, but also how little of it I retained. It was short, and it was funny, and cleverly displayed a non-traditional family setup without ever being schmaltzy.

It’s definitely not my favourite Jacqueline Wilson book (I think that honour has to go to Double Act) but it stands up very well after almost 30 years, and I’m certainly tempted to keep going with the rest of the series. There’s definitely a lot to chew on in this short instalment alone, and it’s a good introduction to the concept of an unreliable narrator, too!

An oldie, but a goodie.

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Soulbinder – Sebastien de Castell

Today is publication day for the fourth book in the Spellslinger series, Soulbinder and also for the paperback version of the third book, Charmcaster.

I’m not quiet about the fact that I’m hugely enjoying this series. As well as that, Hot Key, the publisher, hosted a bloggers brunch last weekend where we got to meet Sebastien de Castell, ask questions, and eat doughnuts. Is it safe to say that I’m a fan of all these things? Does Reichis like to eat eyeballs? That’s a hard yes.

I received a NetGalley copy of this book.

Soulbinder (Spellslinger #4) – Sebastien de Castell

soulbinderThe fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series. 

Kellen and his murderous squirrel cat, Reichis, are on their own. They’ve heard rumour of a mythical monastery, known as the Ebony Abbey. It’s a place that outsiders can never find – but Kellen is getting desperate. He’s been told that the monks inside the Ebony Abbey know more about the Shadowblack than anyone else – and that they even know how to cure it.

Then Kellen and Reichis are separated and for the first time, Kellen must face the world alone – and venture deeper into shadow magic than he ever knew he could.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

The fourth installment in the Spellslinger series, this one takes a step away from previous books, and Kellen is very much on his own. Out in the desert with Reichis, by a very early point in the narrative, Kellen is faced with new dilemmas, new choices, and nobody to bounce his ideas off. The development of his character up to this point is really something I admire, as he’s becoming a person he never thought he would be, but also accepting who he is and what he wants to do in his life.
I have very few complaints about this book. We saw more of the world that Kellen lives in, and met a host of new characters who were massively interesting. Kellen learned more about the Shadowblack, and what it can eventually do to you (spoiler alert… it’s not pretty), and makes new friends and experiences new betrayals. There is not a lot of Reichis in this book, which is sad, but also mandated by the narrative. The one good thing I can say is that there is eyeball eating – after three books of threats, we finally do see a scene, which is gruesome and gross, but so Reichis.
Soulbinder is the fourth in a series of five, but the stakes at the end of this book don’t really feel like they’ve been ramped up enough to build to a massive climax, which is interesting. It’s not disappointing, because the ending of this book was very satisfying, but I’m hugely interested to see how the tension is ratcheted up in Queenslayer to give us a sufficiently satisfying ending.
Although I don’t recommend reading this book without having read its predecessors, I do heartily recommend it as a wonderful instalment of the series, and am impatiently awaiting the finale

Five Stars
*****

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September Roundup

September is done. October has begun. Hallowe’en pervades the air. Aislinn has no measurable goals achieved and is still in freakout mode. This might explain why there was a grand total of four blog posts in September… Don’t judge me. I’m busy!

Books

  1. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
  2. Outside – Sarah Ann Juckes
  3. Slated (Slated #1) – Teri Terry
  4. How I Lost You – Jenny Blackhurst
  5. Hidden Figures – Margot Lee Shetterly
  6. The Fire Queen (The Hundredth Queen #2) – Emily R King
  7. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  8. Summer’s Child – Diane Chamberlain
  9. Elena Vanishing – Elena & Claire B Dunkle
  10. Burned (Burned #1) – Ellen Hopkins
  11. Unwind (Unwind Dystology #1) – Neil Shusterman
  12. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  13. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) – Sarah J Maas *
  14. Suitcase Girl (Suitcase Girl #1) – Ty Hutchinson
  15. Turf Wars – Michael Dante DiMartino, Irene Koh
  16. North and South – Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino*
  17. More of Me – Kathryn Evans
  18. Soulbinder (Spellslinger #4) – Sebastien de Castell
  19. The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5) – Sarah J Maas*

Short Stories

None this month. Unless you count The Assassin’s Blade, which is a collection of five short stories, but I’m just lumping them all together as one book.

Cover Art

 

Favourite Book This Month

 

soulbinderSome great books this month. But top spot easily goes to Soulbinder, the fourth Spellslinger book. I am really enjoying this series, and Soulbinder delves deep into family dynamics and eyeball eating.

 

 

 

Least Favourite Book This Month

34604009I don’t know what it was that made me decide to get Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Whatever it was, I wish I could excise it from my brain, because reading this book (and I wasn’t even reading it, I was listening to the audiobook) was a slog which took massive chunks out of my life which I will never get back. I’m sure there are plenty of people who thought that this book was a masterpiece – a comedy of manners, an examination of a fictionalised English society, a masterclass of how magic would integrate into Regency England. But it was not for me. I hated it. Every minute was a pain, which I inflicted on myself through sheer stubbornness and and unwillingness to leave a book unfinished. This was decidedly not for me, and I will definitely not ever be reading or thinking about it again.

 

Favourite cover art

I have two winners this month for favourite cover art, because I think they’re both so beautiful for different reasons. Soulbinder, the fourth book in the Spellslinger series, wins for its wonderful attention to detail, the way Kellen has evolved throughout the series, and the gorgeous playing-card-style art, and The Fire Queen wins for its wonderful colours, gorgeous composition, and, again, evolution from the first in the series. I couldn’t pick. They both win. Gold stars for everyone.

 

Other…

It might only be the first day of September, but I have a confession to make – I bought Christmas things on Saturday. I love Christmas, and I know that it’s far too early to be thinking about it, but I don’t care. I have bought my first Christmas tree decorations. This year will be the first time that I have my own Christmas tree, as although I’ve lived away from home before, I’ve never had a space where I could really put up a tree, and I haven’t really been in a position to have full charge of the home, so I’m excited to decorate this year. Yes, I know, it’s only October. I’m sure I’ll calm down about it soon. But for now, eeee, I’m having a Disney tree. Can’t wait!

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Outside – Sarah Ann Juckes

I was lucky to get an advanced copy of Outside, which doesn’t actually publish until January 2019. This was another proof giveaway from YALC, this time from Penguin. It took me a few months to get around to reading it, even though I liked the look of it, but in the end, it just didn’t do it for me. It also doesn’t have cover art yet, so the picture in this post is of the proof cover, as tweeted by Penguin Platform.

Outside  – Sarah Ann Juckes

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Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives.

Outside felt a lot like Room, by Emma Donoghuem which I read in 2016 but apparently never reviewed. A story told by a child of a captive existence, the writing style is the majority of the appeal of this book. Specifically for Outside, Ele believes that Outside is a fairy-tale world, as she hasn’t learned to distinguish between fiction and reality. The story follows her attempts to prove that the Outside is real.

I didn’t really enjoy Outside. I thought it was quite disjointed, and didn’t know where the actual plot was – it was unbalanced between the first act and second act, and never seemed to really know where it was going in its entirety. The writing style was designed to showcase the lack of knowledge that Ele has, because of the way that she has grown up, and her lack of experiences.

I’m sure there are some people who will totally love this book. It’s emotionally written, and certainly has the power to draw you into Ele’s world. It’s secretive and mysterious, with some big reveals in the later parts of the novel which don’t feel forced at all, because of how Ele develops as a person.

But it just wasn’t right for me. The writing style annoyed me, the capitals everywhere annoyed me, the plot felt disjointed, and the impact was kind of lost on me. I think this was very much an issue with me, rather than the book.

But it is a very specific type of book, and probably worth having a flick through to look at the writing style before picking it up. It might work for you, but it definitely did not work for me.

Three Stars
***

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A Numbers Game

I realised last night, as I wrote Burned by Ellen Hopkins onto my paper copy of The List, that I’ve almost equalled my number of books read last year. Burned was book number 188, and I read 189 books last year.

My biggest year ever was 2017, in which I read 192 books.

I don’t know why I put such store in the number of books I read. It’s not like reading more books makes me a better bookworm. Actually, it probably means that I absorb less of the books that I read.

With, for example, dystopian books, I’ve read so many that they all blend together. I can no longer remember the details of the main characters from the Bumped duology or the Matched trilogy, or of their love interests, because they’ve blended into one indefinable soup of dystopia. Whereas someone who reads more slowly, savours their reading experience more, really connects with the books they’re reading, probably has a better understanding of the books and would be better able to discuss their books than I can my books.

And yet even though I know that, I still take a perverse pleasure in seeing the number of books that I’ve read tick upwards, and in outdoing what I’ve done in previous years. I’m hoping to read more than 200 books this year, and given my track record so far, I can’t see why I wouldn’t manage that. The likelihood of me not reading eleven more books this year is so small that I would think it nigh on impossible. But you never know. I might suffer a terrible accident and lose all my linguistic skills. Or some kind of rising movement might forbid women speech, or permission to read, like in the Handmaid’s Tale and Vox.

But failing that, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll read more than 200 books this year. And I’m really weirdly proud of that fact. But I don’t really understand why. It’s not something to be proud of. Nobody would go around boasting that they’d watched 200 films in a year. Nobody would be delighted to say that they’ve watched 200 episodes of a tv series. So I don’t understand why I have this internal glee at managing something which, really, isn’t all that remarkable. Especially when you consider that I don’t generally watch tv or films (with the odd exception), so reading really is what I do with my leisure time. Well, that and mindlessly browsing the internet.

At any rate, I’m still racking up the numbers on books read. My current read (or actually, listen) is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I’ve been listening to for 23 hours, and in which nothing has really happened yet. I have another nine hours to go, and can’t really see that changing. It’s more of a musing on human nature and a social commentary, with some magic thrown in there for good measure. But… I don’t know. It’s just not doing it for me.

Also, footnotes, in an audiobook, are weird.

We continue onwards and upwards to books 200+ this year. I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m still excited about it.

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Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

I can’t remember what it was that made me think I’d enjoy this book. Perhaps I saw a clip of Trevor Noah’s stand-up, or saw him interviewed while promoting it? At any rate, I knew when I saw the synopsis of this book that it was something I would be really interested to read. I don’t know a whole lot about South Africa, and a book written from the perspective of a mixed South African was something I really wanted to know more about. It took me a couple of months from then to actually buy it, and get around to downloading it, but eventually I got there, and I’m really glad I did.

Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

29780253The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

I’ve led a very sheltered life. Growing up in a middle-class family, in a mostly white town in the suburbs of Dublin, the understanding I had, and indeed to some extent still have, was limited to my own perspective. As I’ve gotten older and realised the privileged life I’ve had, I’m actively seeking out more stories of and by marginalised voices, people with disabilities, neurodivergent authors, and authors of colour. Although I largely read fiction, I was really interested to read this story of a childhood as a mixed-race child growing up in the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. Trevor Noah’s frank, funny, and searing account of stories from his childhood is compelling and hilarious, and well worth the time it took.

I listened to the audiobook of this, which was read by the author himself. I think this added a lot to the joy of the book, as the stories were being delivered with the cadence, pacing, and emphasis that Noah himself wanted, and had written, not being interpreted by another. Humour ran through the book in droves, and interlaced each story.

Noah is an extremely funny man. His stand-up is massively entertaining, and this seeps through into his memoir. But what I didn’t expect was how emotionally compelling the book would be also. Stories of growing up with his mother’s family, of stepping away from the unconditional love they gave him, and of turning to his mother when he needed her all resonated with a depth of love which seeped through every word of this book, and resonated deeply with me.

Plus, I didn’t know much about apartheid and post-apartheid-era South Africa, and this book was really informative.

Like many memoirs, it’s a collection of anecdotes, rather than having a solid narrative arc, but that’s something you kind of expect in these circumstances, so it’s not a major difficulty.

Thoroughly recommended, especially the audiobook version.

Four Stars
****

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August Roundup

Another month over. This keeps happening. Time marches on while I, bewildered, insist that surely it’s still April? The new school year is starting, all my siblings (they’re ALL teachers) are back at school, and I’m really feeling like I haven’t gotten any of my summer writing goals completed (I totally haven’t). This may explain why the blog has had no posts recently – I’m busy freaking the frack out.

Books

  1. The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2) – Katharine McGee
  2. That’s Not What Happened – Kody Keplinger
  3. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
  4. The Iron Chariot – Stein Riverton
  5. Sadie – Courtney Summers
  6. Don’t Close Your Eyes – Holly Seddon
  7. The Burning Maze (Trials of Apollo #3) – Rick Riordan
  8. Tradition – Brendan Kiely
  9. This Could Change Everything – Jill Mansell
  10. All Rights Reserved – Gregory Scott Katsoulis
  11. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) – Rick Riordan*
  12. One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) – Kendare Blake
  13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K Dick
  14. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) – Rick Riordan*
  15. The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) – Rick Riordan*
  16. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) – Rick Riordan*
  17. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) – Rick Riordan*
  18. The Wish List – Jane Costello
  19. Peter Pan – JM Barrie
  20. The Summer Guest – Emma Hannigan
  21. Overheard in Dublin – Gerard Kelly
  22. You Only Live Once (Gracie Dart #1) – Jess Vallance
  23. The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) – Alexandra Bracken

Short Stories

None this month

Cover Art

 

Favourite Book This Month

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I really loved Sadie by Courtney Summers. It published this week, so should now be freely available, and I thoroughly recommend it. It was hugely enjoyable, dark, infuriating, confusing, and enthralling.

 

 

 

Least Favourite Book This Month

 

33507There were actually loads of books this month that I didn’t really like. However, the one which tops the list for me has to be Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I think it’s largely because the majority of the book was great, but it was padded out with interminable lists of marine life. One of the characters was a classifier, and he just reamed out lists of classifications of fish, fish, more fish, seaweed, fish, and more fish. Nobody wants to read a list of fish, do they? I know I certainly didn’t.

 

 

Favourite cover art

This was a tough one, because none of this month’s cover art really jumped out at me. In fact, I think most of them are quite dull, and not worth shouting about. My eventual pick was Tradition, by Brendan Kiely, because the clean image does convey something of the plot of the book, but I don’t think it would’ve won if the field hadn’t been so poor.

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Other…

I bought a new bookcase, and put it together this weekend. I should have bought oak, which I realised when I unpacked the beech bookcase, but by the time I had humped it up the stairs to my flat and unwrapped it, I was overcome with apathy, so now I’m just dealing with slightly mismatched bookcases. It’s not the end of the world. Next, I need to sort my books, so this has involved comparing quicksort and merge sort to see which is more efficient. I blame my sister, the nerd, for giving me links to these kinds of things.

I also watched To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, on Netflix, and loved it. So cuddly, so pure, so enjoyable.

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