Friday, 31 March 2017

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Book Title: Kindred
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Genre: Sci-Fi
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Paperback from the library

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: 
On her 26th birthday, Dana and her husband are moving into their apartment when she starts to feel dizzy. She falls to her knees, nauseous. Then the world falls away.

She finds herself at the edge of a green wood by a vast river. A child is screaming. Wading into the water, she pulls him to safety, only to find herself face to face with a very old looking rifle, in the hands of the boy's father. She's terrified. The next thing she knows she's back in her apartment, soaking wet. It's the most terrifying experience of her life ... until it happens again.

The longer Dana spends in 19th century Maryland - a very dangerous place for a black woman - the more aware she is that her life might be over before it's even begun.
What did I think?

Let me start by saying something negative: as a sci-fi novel I didn't really enjoy this one. It has a predictable and simple plot and is just not very interesting. The time travel just happens, isn't explained and doesn't seem to follow any rules.


It is interesting and frightening, downright frightening, to read about a modern (well, 1976) black woman who suddenly finds herself in the 19th century.

Butler uses this novel to talk about a not so great period in American history and by using time travel she can do so from the point of view of a woman who grew up in a world where slavery is abolished and it is painful to read how shocked and outraged she is at how she's being treated.

After a while she realises where she is and most importantly when she is and it dawns on her why she's being treated this way and that she's in a hell of a lot of trouble...

And even though she knows why she's being treated this way, she is, obviously, still horrified and the reader is horrified alongside her.

As the reader you get to ask yourself a very important question: how would I have behaved if I'd been alive in the 19th century.

"I never realised how easily people could be trained to accept slavery."

An important book, well worth a read.

The reason I picked this one up was Uma's fantastically diverse read-a-thon over at Books.Bags.Burgers.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

TTT (9) - Authors I Want to Meet (or Have Met)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up!

This week's topic is all about authors you want to meet or favourite authors you've been lucky to meet!

Their post this week can be found here.

I'm not a very social person (unless I'm on the Internet, somehow online I'm super social) and quite the introvert. Going to signings and stuffs always makes me a bit nervous. (Who am I kidding? It makes me very nervous.) So, I don't actually think I can put 10 authors together that I've met, but I can definitely put a few together that I'm interested in meeting at some point and hope to get to exchange a few words with.
I have met:

Neil Gaiman. I've seen him on stage several times. Thankfully he potters about London quite a bit. There was a Q&A at the Apple Store a couple of years ago for Trigger Warnings. And an evening with him and Amanda Palmer, though there was no meeting him personally. I got a personalised "feel better" signature in The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  And I've been to a reading of Norse Mythology.

Tom Toner. Have I mentioned this great chap from London that wrote this ultra complicated Science Fantasy that plays in the 147th century and humanity has evolved into different species and we found space travelling dinosaurs? He signed his second book a few weeks back in London and I jumped at the opportunity to tell him that I loved his book but that it also gave me a headache because it was so complex.

Hm. And... that's it... wow. I need to go to bookstores more often (while there's a signing, obviously.) And I need to stop stalking Neil Gaiman.

I'd like to meet:

J. K. Rowling. I don't think she needs an explanation.

Adrian Tchaikovsky. So far I've only read one book by him. Children of Time. But I really liked that one and he just sounds like a very interesting man. And the cover of the first book in his new series looks gorgeous, doesn't it?

Stephen King. Because of no other author have I read this many books and that man scared the shit out of me as a child... and made me cry and shiver as an adult.

Maggie Stiefvater. Maybe I can absorb some of her talent.

Diana Gabaldon. Just because she provided countless hours of entertainment in my 20's.

Could I resurrect Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, please?

Which authors would you like to meet or have met?

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Book Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: E-book from the library

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: 
In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.
What did I think?

Solid. Solid is probably the word I'd use to describe what I thought of this one. Definitely been there done that, but at the same time not bad.

Lately it seems that these sorts of books need an unreliable, if not unlikable, narrator and some alcohol abuse. Lo is no exception. She is not as whiny and annoying as the cast of The Girl on The Train but I rolled my eyes more than once.

The twist is, again, solid (and I didn't see it coming). Nothing mind-blowing but definitely satisfying enough and I enjoyed the various twists and turns the story takes.

It's a quick read with short chapters that tempt you to read on into the night, way past bedtime. The pacing is good, the dialogue crisp and I quite enjoyed the prose. If you like psychological mysteries, definitely give this one a try.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Sunday Post (11) - A Small Getaway

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

It was my birthday last Saturday and I'm now definitely at the age where I've decided I'll forever be 29. Even though I'm really not anymore.

As a small treat we went to the Peak District in England to do some hiking, reading and writing with the dogs. Well, hiking with the dogs... reading with dogs trying to sit on our books and writing with dogs trying to sit on my laptop. The weather wasn't too bad for March in England and the temperatures were perfect for hiking.
Let me show you a few pictures.

The dog on the way home, haha!

The cottage we were staying at. It was once a chicken barn and the owners turned it into a small holiday cottage.

Books I read last week, that I'll hopefully have time to review next week:
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (the second book in the Fifth Season trilogy, now I have to wait until the third comes out in August this year.)
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I took a lot of books with me and we didn't really watch any TV.

Grace and Frankie got a third season that dropped on Netflix this Friday. Whoever hasn't seen it, I highly recommend you check it out. The two lead women, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are magnificent and it's refreshing to see women in their 70's being depicted realistically and with a lot of heart.

I just started reading Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan and so far I'm liking it a lot.

I hope everyone is having a great time and I'll catch up with all your blogs throughout the week!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sunday Post (10) - 10K Run!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here

If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

I ran a 10K this week! The British Science Association is currently hosting a virtual race called Run the Solar System. Runners anywhere in the world are able to download an app and take part in this race during British Science Week. It was a slow run, lots of walking as well, but we did it. (It's done by the same people who are behind the Zombies, Run app.) We went out yesterday, but you can do your race any time between now and next Sunday.
Otherwise my week has been uneventful. The weather is average, my writing is going well, and the dogs are behaving. It's one of those weeks you can't say much about.

Last week on my blog: 
Last week in my kitchen: Pork fillet filled with basil and feta cheese, slow cooked in the oven.  That was the best dish I made this week. Otherwise my kitchen life has been pretty uneventful as well.

Last week at the cinema: Viceroy's House (British drama with Gillian Anderson and the guy from Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville, about the British withdrawing from India and in the process carving the country apart) and Logan... a gritty Wolverine film that broke my heart.

Next week a dear friend from Switzerland is visiting and I hope to still get some reading time. I wish everyone a great week!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Millie Hardiman and the Red Parrot Fever by Eddie Owens

Book Title: Millie Hardiman and the Red Parrot Fever
Author: Eddie Owens
Genre: Middle-Grade
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: A review copy provided by the author

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: Millie Hardiman is a thirteen year old from Bognor Regis, with a wild imagination, who dreams of becoming a writer.
When Millie’s scriptwriter Dad, Barry, has writer’s block, Millie becomes his muse for the daytime television soap, Double Top.
After her success on Double Top, Millie creates a Sci-Fi, teen drama, The Adventures of Martian Girl.
Millie falls in love for the first time with Wolf Van Der Beek, an arrogant, South African child actor.
This is a story about friendship, first love and growing up.
What did I think?

I would like to thank the author Eddie Owens for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Millie Hardiman and the Red Parrot Fever is not a book I'd usually pick up, simply because I don't normally read middle-grade books, but I really enjoyed the read.

The book follows a 13-year-old girl called Millie Hardiman. She is charming and creative but also somewhat of a compulsive liar who spends the majority of her time fabricating wild stories. This trait of hers becomes particularly useful once her father, who is a scriptwriter, starts suffering from the much dreaded writer's block.

The author depicts various aspects of a young teenager's life in an amusing manner: friendship, school, family. I especially enjoyed to see a girl change into a teen who falls in love for the first time. Is it the right boy? Or the wrong boy? And along the way she learns about responsibility and maturity.

The only negative thing I noticed while reading this, is that some of the plot feels wildly unrealistic in an otherwise realistic setting (though Millie's father is writing a soap opera, so maybe this is just a creative nod in that direction) and I'm sure that won't bother young teenagers who are hungry for adventures.

If you're looking for an amusing read for a kid with an over-active imagination, give this one a try.

Friday, 10 March 2017

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥
Source: Own a paperback copy

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
What did I think? I really liked the Fault in Our Stars and I enjoy YA a lot, especially contemporary ones, but All The Bright Places was a huge disappointment.

The characters aren't treated as people. They're just the textbook definition of their illness. A person with depression is still a person who has various character traits and an entire personality that isn't all defined by their illness, except for in this book. In this book they don't get to be people, they get to be their illness.

In the acknowledgments the author said, she wanted to write an edgy novel. Is mental illness edgy these days? Violet is nothing more than a prize. She doesn't have a proper story arc or a proper personality. Finch is depression and when he isn't, he's a typical nice guy who doesn't respect the girl's rejections and pretentiously quotes Virginia Woolf.

I also feel like this book glorifies suicide. Don't romanticise suicide in a book that you market to teenagers? NOT OKAY.

I honestly have nothing else to say.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Book Title: The Fifth Season
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library 
Goodreads, Amazon UK
Goodreads Summary: This is the way the world ends... for the last time.
A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.
It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.
It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
What did I think? 4.5 Stars, most likely. Though not far from a full 5 Stars. The Fifth Season is unlike anything I've read in a long time. A perfect blend of science fiction and fantasy with a fascinating world.

The prose is very pretty, the world building interesting and the characters enticing. It's been a while since I've read a book where I liked everything. All POV characters (three female protagonists), the setting, the story and the prose.

It took me a few pages to get into Jemisin's style, especially the chapters told in the second point of view. I didn't think it would work. In fact when I saw that Jemisin had written part of it in present tense and used the second point of view, I almost didn't pick it up. But it works.

The world building and magic system are both well developed and interesting. In this world some people are Orogenes and they can control seismic activity and hence move mountains, create earthquakes or even still earthquakes. Because humans fear the unknown the Orogenes are feared and often killed or trained and treated as slaves.

I think The Fifth Season is best enjoyed going in blind. If you're confused at first, don't worry, it'll all come together and if in doubt use the glossary at the end of the book.

I read this as part of the fantastically diverse read-athon that Uma put together over @ Books.Bags.Burgers and I know I'm late by now, but I don't care. I have a few more I want to read even if it takes me all of 2017.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sunday Post (9) - March, Already?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 
The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here
If you participate, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog. 
They say time goes faster once you're older and they seem to be right. I've got a lot on my plate this year and I don't think that's helping slow time down. 
I'm finally feeling better, though my cough does raise some eyebrows still. I haven't smoked in over five years now, but apparently my coughs have forever been transformed. Hopefully by this time next week, I'm good as new.
Last week on the blog: Lolita by Nabokov and Six of Crows by Bardugo.

Lolita is a classic I've been meaning to read for a long time and I'm glad I finally got around to it. Six of Crows is a great book for any heist and fantasy fan.

Last week in my kitchen: I wanted to make a curry, and ended up handling beef that has gone off. Yuck. But I've made another bibimbap and created a weird lasagna that probably would make Italians frown, but it was delicious.

Last week at the cinema: Hidden Figures and Fences. I didn't like Fences. It's a play and it didn't translate well onto the big screen in my opinion, though Viola Davis' performance is amazing. Loved Hidden Figures though, very inspiring.

I've just finished The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin and I loved it, hopefully I can put a review up this week.

My movement streak and writing is going well. I hope everyone is having a great week :) Happy reading.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Book Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: I own the paperback 
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.
What did I think? There are so many wows while reading this book. Some are positive: wow, this prose is amazing. Some are negative: wow, he's about to rape her while she's sedated with sleeping pills or wow, he's about to kill her mother in a lake, oh no, he changed his mind.

I was honestly stunned at how graphic some of the scenes are but also stunned at how easily and skilfully Nabokov manipulates the reader into feeling sympathy for Humbert. I mean, there were moments where I thought, poor guy, he just... JUST? Wow, I can't believe I almost thought that (see? another wow.)

The prose is beautiful. I don't think I've ever read a book that uses such skilled prose. I believe the author's style is incomparable. It's an easy and quick read, not dense and the portrayal of Humbert's mind is engaging and terrifying at the same time.

Part of this book reads like a black comedy and there is a surprising amount of humour within the story and within the language Nabokov uses.

I don't think Nabokov meant Humbert as a hero, I believe he's critiquing him, but at the same time he makes it possible for the reader to get inside the mind of an abusive person and listen to his justifications. Twisted but beautiful and interesting and therefore in my opinion well worth a read.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Book Title: Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, YA
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.
I read this as part of the fantastically diverse challenge by Uma @ Books.Bags.Burgers

What did I think?

I'm not really sure how to explain my thoughts on this book.

Especially because everyone is in love with it and I'm just over here giving it three stars.

Bardugo portrays diversity in a fantasy setting, which is such an important thing. A diverse cast from different ethnic backgrounds and they're well rounded, natural and come with a lot of depth.

In fact, it's a great book. It has a terrific story and the writing is tight. The prose and pacing are both excellent and I thought the characters are well written, likeable and have a lot of depth. The world building is impressive, fresh and highly creative. There's great banter and the dialogue flows naturally.

All good things. But.

It's just not really my sort of story, I guess? I couldn't really bring myself to care about the success or failure of the heist. I enjoyed the ride. I enjoyed the story. But I wasn't invested...

Does that make sense?

So, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who likes fast paced YA, who likes a good heist story and who is looking at reading some more fantasy.