Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Anticipated Books June-December 2017

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So it’s that time of week again. I missed the last couple of Top Ten Tuesdays due to being away, but now I’m back! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and The Bookish, and this week’s theme is most anticipated books from the second half of 2017. Here goes!

  1. The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

    the gender games

  2. Truth Or Dare by Non Pratt

    truth or dare

  3. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

    ggtvav

  4. All Good Things by Emma Newman

    all good things

  5. A Darker Shade of Magic Collector’s Edition

    dsom collectors

  6. The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

    the furthest station

  7. All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

    all the crooked saints

  8. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

    language of thorns

  9. The House of Secrets by Sarra Manning

    house of secrets

  10. It Only Happens In The Movies by Holly Bourne

    it only happens in the movies

Do any of these make your list? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Shattered Minds

I feel like I’ve been reading a lot of excellent books lately (not that you’d know, because I have’t reviewed most of them yet!), and Shattered Minds by Laura Lam was no exception. Although I’ve been aware of Lam as a writer for years, this was actually the first book I’d read by her, but it certainly won’t be the last!

shattered minds cover

She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Set in the same world as Lam’s previous novel, False Hearts, but actually a standalone, Shattered Minds is kind of like a cross between futuristic technological thriller and, to steal a comparison from the back of the book, Dexter. Carina’s serial killer urges are not the work of a happy, healthy mind, and at the point where her colleague sends her the information needed to bring Sudice down, Carina is well down a path to her own destruction. Shattered Minds allows us to see Carina begin to recover from that, all while fighting to destroy the sinister company before they can change the world for the worse.

Shattered Minds had me gripped from the very first page, although I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure what sort of book I’d just gotten myself into. Carina is a well-drawn, complex character, and while seeing inside her mind was sometimes disturbing, it only served to connect me with the character more. Having said that, I think Dax, one of the team of hackers Carina turns to for help, was actually my favourite. For starters, I loved that he was trans, in a totally not relevant to the story way. (I’m also pretty sure he’s Native American, although I can’t find the right passage in the book to check.) But aside from that, he was just lovely. Desperately worried about his sister, he still finds time to patiently care for Carina, helping her beat her drug addiction and access the information planted in her brain. He’s quietly competent at what he does, and you can see his feelings for Carina growing, as you can see hers for him. When something happens that temporarily sidelines him, I found myself desperately worried for him and unable to put the book down (although to be honest, that was just a general problem too!). However, even though Carina and Dax are the main characters, Lam has succeeded in creating an entire cast that I cared about absolutely. And it’s beautifully diverse, without it feeling like the diversity was shoe-horned in.

Plot-wise, as I said above, I was gripped. It’s exciting and almost impossible to put down, which is a problem when I do most of my reading at bedtime. It switches point of view pretty regularly, between Carina, Dax, and Carina’s ex-boss, Roz, which allows us to see things happening that Carina and the Trust (the hackers) wouldn’t know about. This also serves to ramp up the tension at various points, as we see that Roz is about to throw another spanner in the works. The world building is fantastic too – I found that I could imagine Sudice’s labs and the streets of this futuristic San Fransisco in vivid detail thanks to Lam’s writing.

My one gripe with Shattered Minds is that it ended too soon. I want to know what happens next, to everyone! However, I’m also happy with the ending as it is – it feels right for the book and for the characters, and so, although I would like to see more of Carina, Dax and the Trust, I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t.

Shattered Minds is out on the 15th June, and you NEED to go and buy it. In fact, pre-order it (you get 2 short stories set in the same world if you send your proof of pre-order to Laura Lam!). Don’t worry if you have’t read False Hearts, because it doesn’t matter, you can enjoy Shattered Minds without it. This is such a good book, believe me when I say you don’t want to miss out.

5/5

Many thanks to Tor UK for sending me a proof copy in return for an honest review.

Book Review: The Fallen Children

I really wish life would stop getting in the way of my blogging! I was away with work last week, and unfortunately working well into the night, so any blogging went right out of the window. Luckily, I had taken The Fallen Children, by David Owen, with me, and this was a great decision because the book is brilliant. A modern retelling of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, set in an inner city tower block and told from the point of view of the young women impregnated, The Fallen Children was everything I wanted it to be.

the fallen children

Young people on the Midwich Estate don’t have much hope for their futures. Keisha has lived there her whole life, and has been working hard to escape it; others have just accepted their lot.

But change is coming…

One night everyone inside Midwich Tower falls mysteriously unconscious in one inexplicable ‘Nightout’. No one can explain what happened during those lost hours, but soon afterwards Keisha and three other girls find they’re pregnant – and the babies are growing at an alarming rate.

As the news spreads around the tower its residents turn against them and the situation spirals toward violence. Keisha’s life unravels as she realises that the pregnancy may not have just ruined her hopes for the future: she might be mother to the end of the world.

The Fallen Children is a story of violation, of judgment and of young people who must fight to defy what is expected of them.

First of all, because I know lots of you are as shallow as me when it comes to covers, there are 360 different shades of covers available. 360! God help the completists out there! But the covers are gorgeous, and so I forgive whoever came up with the idea at Atom Books. (I got number 60, which is a lovely purple cover.)

Shallowness over, onto the actual book. There are four point of view characters – three of them are the young women who found themselves pregnant after the Nightout, Keisha, Siobhan and Maida (there’s a fourth, Olivia, but we don’t get to see her pov), and the other is Morris, Keisha’s ex-boyfriend who proves to be more of a support than she could ever have expected, while also quite often being a terrible person. I liked him a lot as a character because of this – he knows he’s screwed up, multiple times, but he just keeps making mistakes, and he sees Keisha’s pregnancy as a chance to make things right – but much less as a person. I liked the different point of view chapters because it was incredibly interesting to see inside the character’s minds, and look at how they’re dealing with this terrible thing that has happened. Keisha and Siobhan feel violated, and neither of them want the babies growing at an astounding rate inside them, but Maida feels that her pregnancy gives her power and a purpose, and she is determined to do right by her child.

I loved the sci-fi/supernatural parts of the plot, but what I loved most was the way it shone a light on problems in our society, as all good sci-fi should do. The expectations of society for our teenagers, both positive and negative, teen pregnancy and slut-shaming, the way women who have been raped are so often not believed, the way we as a society too often abandon others. Keisha has worked hard to turn her life around after nearly being expelled, but as soon as people find out she is pregnant, she is abandoned and shamed. No-one bothers to find out how she’s feeling, no-one gives her the support she needs to get through this, other than those who have found themselves in the same position. Once the rumours start flying, she’s treated with suspicion, especially once it’s clear that her baby is growing much faster than it should be. Even her parents don’t really know what’s going on, and don’t really make any effort to find out – they’re all too willing to believe that Keisha has thrown her future away. The way the rest of the estate turns against Keisha, Siobhan, Maida and Olivia so quickly is genuinely frightening, because it’s so realistic.

Keisha was my favourite character, but my heart broke for Siobhan in so many ways. I felt a little less connected to Maida and Morris, but I thought they were all written brilliantly. I also really liked the way the characters we meet in the second half of the story were written, especially how we saw them develop. I also liked that all the characters had well developed families, and the background of those families made the actions of the main characters make perfect sense.

I really haven’t done The Fallen Children any justice at all this review. I’m so out of practice! My advice is to just read it. You don’t need any knowledge of John Wyndham’s original (although I highly recommend you go and read some of his books if you haven’t already, because you are missing out!), and this version of the story is a masterful retelling. I’m off to buy Owen’s first book, Panther, but leave me a comment and let me know what you think if you’ve read The Fallen Children!

4.5/5

Book Review: One Italian Summer

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton is one of those books that grabs you in unexpected ways. I thought it would be a nice, summery, quick read, and while I knew it deals with loss, I thought that would probably be a secondary thing to the love story. What I got was so much more than that, and I LOVED it for it.

one italian summer

It’s been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie’s dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer’s here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy – but what’s it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms – the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was …

With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again – gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with – or so she thinks. What’s going to happen this time? What’s more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky – Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn’t know how she fits in any more.

Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?

One Italian Summer is, on the surface, a love story. Milly’s had a crush on Luke for years, but she’s convinced she’s nothing more than a friend/potential fling for him, especially after what happened a year ago. Is she wrong? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out – no spoilers here! But on a deeper level, the book is about coming to terms with losing someone important to you – Milly’s dad has died, and no-one in the family is particularly dealing with it well. The grief suffuses every page of the book – it feels real and painful, and I knew from the first page that I was going to cry reading it at some point. I’m actually surprised I lasted to page 213 to be honest! At the same time, Milly’s sisters, Elyse and Leonie, are finding their own paths through life and this terrible loss, and it serves to illustrate the fact that everyone has their own way of dealing with events.

The relationships between the three sisters and with their mum was wonderful. Again, it felt real throughout the book, and I especially loved the way Elyse and Milly reacted to Leonie’s big secret. It was clear that however much they grew up, they’d always be there for each other – probably poking fun and embarrassing each other, but there all the same. I also loved the extended family members, their preparations for the wedding and how they knew their family so well, they knew exactly how to help them.

The setting was glorious. I could imagine myself sitting in the restaurant, sipping a glass of wine and just taking in the beauty around me. Having been to Rome ten years ago (and how is it ten years?!), I also appreciated the mentions of the landmarks. In fact, this book spoke to me on a number of levels. I definitely had a moment of ‘there but for the grace of god’, when it became clear how their dad had died, because that could so easily have been me at 14. It could be me at 37, and I’m not sure I’d cope with it any better now!

What I’m saying here is that you need to read One Italian Summer. In my opinion, it’s Keris’ best book so far. I was fully engaged throughout, and I sobbed like a baby towards the end, to the extent that I could barely see what I was reading through the tears. The love story is sweet and realistic, and I loved how sex was something the sisters actually discussed, because sex positivity is definitely something we don’t see enough of in YA. But really, what I most loved about this book was its depiction of family. I highly recommend it!

5/5

Book Review: Release

Before I start this review, I think it is only fair to point out that I am a massive fan of Patrick Ness (although I haven’t quite read all of his books yet. Yes, I know.). I was desperate to read Release, and I really wasn’t disappointed.

release

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Release is brilliant. I loved every second of reading it and I think it’s my favourite Patrick Ness book. I read it in one go, and after I closed the book I had to take a few minutes to just sit there and reflect. I said on twitter at the time that it felt like a quiet, intimate and personal book, and I stand by that, especially after hearing Ness talk about it earlier this week. Adam is a fantastic character. He practically leaps off the page, as do his best friend Angela and his boyfriend Linus. This triumvirate completely made the book for me. Yes, Adam’s home life is awful, he can’t be himself, and he can’t wait to get away, but that’s not his family. Angela is his family. Linus could be his family, if Adam lets him. And that’s what I loved most about Release. (Having said that, his blood family isn’t all bad – I ended up really liking his brother Marty, and I even had a smidge of sympathy for their dad. It’s not that Adam’s family don’t love him after all. It’s more that they love their religion more.)

There’s a superatural sub-plot that runs concurrently with Adam’s story, and I really enjoyed seeing the little ways it intersected, in much the same way as I enjoyed the chapter headings in Ness’s last book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I also enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on with faun and the queen, but I did slightly resent those chapters for not being more about Adam and his momentous day.

Overall, I thought the book was stunning. The writing is beautiful (as I’ve come to expect from Patrick Ness), all the characters feel like real people and not 2D caricatures (which would have been easy to do with, say, Adam’s dad), and the plot moves along easily. Most of all, the book is hopeful. There’s a definite feeling that it will get better, that Adam has the support of people who think he’s important, and that this moment right now isn’t all there is. And I think that’s a really important message to get to teens.

5/5

Book Review: See You In The Cosmos

Look! A book review! It’s a very overdue book review – I read See You In The Cosmos so long ago I’ve just had to look up who actually wrote it (Jack Cheng), so I can’t imagine this will be a very detailed review, but to be honest I’m just grateful I seem to have found my blogging motivation again!

see you in the cosmos

11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.

I really wasn’t sure what I was going to make of See You In The Cosmos but I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it’s terribly realistic – Alex manages to travel across the USA with very little interference, and it’s actually kind of worrying that he manages it – but he’s a great character, and the people he meets along the way acknowledge that in various ways. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried more than once reading it.

I also really liked the structure of the book – Alex is talking into his ipod to make a recording to send to space, in the hope that alien lifeforms find it and listen to it. Alex’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I think the idea of the recording brings us closer to him. Equally, his sadness seems very real, and I remember feeling very dejected, as Alex did, at certain points in the story. As an adult, I was also horrified at Alex’s backstory – he’s essentially been looking after himself for a year at the point the story begins, and that just made my heart ache.

I’m really glad this came up as a read now on Netgalley, because I’m not sure it’s a book I would have come across otherwise, and I’d have missed out. It is a MG book, but probably for the upper end of the age range, and if you know anyone who’s obssessed this space, I think they would get on very well with Alex. See You In The Cosmos is definitely well worth a read.

4/5

ARC received from Puffin Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things on my Reading Wishlist

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And so another week has gone by without me posting anything. I definitely need to get back into this blog this week, but theres so much going on offline that I’m really struggling to find the time. However, Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, seems to be a constant, so at least there’s something going up! This week’s theme is things on my reading wishlist, so here goes. (Quick list tonight, because it’s late.)

  1. More own voices books
  2. More HEAs for LGBT characters
  3. More books focused around found family
  4. More books about female friendships
  5. More books with female lead characters and no romance
  6. More UK urban fantasy set somewhere other than London
  7. More bisexual, trans and non-binary lead characters
  8. More retellings of fairytales/myths from non-western cultures
  9. More villainous lead characters
  10. More coffeeshop AU style books

At least two of those wishes are very much influenced by having been to see Patrick Ness last night, as he tours his latest book. I hope to have a review of Release up this week, but in case I don’t manage it, I would like to tell you that it’s brilliant. 🙂 I also realise, by the way, that these things exist, probably in greater quantities than I’m aware of, but it’s hard to find them among the sheer volume of new books being released. Please let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Covers That Made Me Want To Read The Book

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and this week’s theme was a cover freebie. Despite being brought up to not judge a book by its cover, I chose to go with ten covers that made me want to read the book.

1. The City’s Son by Tom Pollock

the city's son

Just look at it! I still remember seeing it on the shelves at Waterstones and thinking I HAVE to read it – and then I went and bought it on kindle because I’m an idiot. I have a paperback of it now though, and what I really love is that the covers of the trilogy all have their own, relevant, spin on the same picture. It’s actually one of my favourite books, so the cover did not deceive me! (I’ve just seen the US cover and, well, I’m glad we got this version!)

2. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

mystery of clockwork sparrow

This cover just drew my eye immediately and I knew I had to read the book. I don’t really read many mysteries, even in children’s, but when I do, they’re historical. This cover made it abundantly clear that this was my sort of mystery!

3. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

rivers of london

I love London. I love maps. I especially love maps drawn by Stephen Walter. The fact that this cover was on a urban fantasy book was frankly just a bonus!

4. Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

murder most unladylike

The cover is bright blue and makes absolutely clear that this is a murder mystery set in a 1930s school. Obviously I was going to pick it up! (I must admit that the cover was not the only reason I bought it, but it certainly helped.)

5. Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

between two thorns

Again, the cover isn’t the only reason I picked this up, but it was a contributing factor, because it’s just so pretty. I love the font and the background and the odd splashes of colour.

6. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

sin eaters daughter

Well it’s just stunning, isn’t it? I don’t think any further explanation is needed!

7. Ink by Alice Broadway

ink-cover

You obviously can’t see it in the picture, but this cover is foiled and so, so shiny and I love it. I had to buy it!

8. Strange the Dreamer

std cover

So I know I actually read this as an e-arc, but I’d known I had to have it as soon as Hodder and Stoughton published what the book would look like. I suppose it’s not just the cover, but the book as a whole, with its sprayed edges and foiled cover. I’d ordered mine online and it was a bit late in arriving so I kept going into Waterstones just to stroke it a bit. It’s so pretty!

9. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

neverwhere

I had no intention of buying a copy of Neverwhere. I’d read it years ago, and had a kindle version and didn’t see the need for another one. Until I saw this book, which honestly made me catch my breath it was that beautiful. I love it. (I still haven’t read it, but that’s a completely different matter. :)) Also, Chris Riddell’s illustrated version of The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge is just as spectacular, but I would have bought that anyway, which is why it’s not on the list.

10. Radiance by Catherynne M Valente

radiance

I was immediately drawn to this cover. I almost certainly wouldn’t have picked it up without that cover, and I would definitely have missed out on one of my favourite books last year. It doesn’t particularly tell you anything about the story, but I still had to know what was inside the pages, and I wasn’t disappointed.

So there’s my top ten covers that made me want to read the book. Which books (if any) have you read because of the cover? Let me know in the comments!