Ode To A Book Blogger

Apologies in advance for this – just something silly I came up with earlier and couldn’t resist posting!

Dear self

Please.

Don’t request any more books

Or buy them

Because

You know you don’t have any room for them

Or time to read them

And you’re months behind on your reviews.

I know you love them

And you just got approved for that new book

By your favourite author

But how about

You just

Don’t.

And then maybe

You can catch up

On all the books you own

But haven’t read yet.

 

Let me know what you think!

Spotlight on the Backlist: The Relic Guild Trilogy

Welcome to the first post in my new occasional series! Well, it’s intended to be a series, but the last one I started didn’t fare too well, so we’ll see how this one goes quite frankly.

The idea behind these posts is to give older titles a bit of love. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding that I’m always attracted to new shinies instead of giving older books a bit of attention, particularly on the blog when you have a pile of review copies which need to be read and reviewed. So this series will highlight some of my old favourites, as well as books that have been around for a while that I haven’t read.

We’re going to start with a series that falls into the latter category. When I started going to conventions more regularly, in 2014, there was a lot of chatter about The Relic Guild by Edward Cox. Ed was actually a participant at some of these conventions, and I remember listening to him talk about his book, which was his debut, and thinking ‘oh, I need to read that’, and then I didn’t. Because I’m a terrible person whose TBR pile was already a mountain. I did buy it on kindle, but see above re new shinies taking priority. So when I got an email from Gollancz (in August. I’m so sorry this is so late!) offering the chance to read and review the entire trilogy, just as I was thinking of starting this series of posts, well, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m very glad I did jump at the chance!

(The Relic Guild Trilogy was gifted to me for free by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review)

Magic caused the war. Magic is forbidden. Magic will save us.

It was said the Labyrinth had once been the great meeting place, a sprawling city at the heart of an endless maze where a million humans hosted the Houses of the Aelfir. The Aelfir who had brought trade and riches, and a future full of promise. But when the Thaumaturgists, overlords of human and Aelfir alike, went to war, everything was ruined and the Labyrinth became an abandoned forbidden zone, where humans were trapped behind boundary walls a hundred feet high.

Now the Aelfir are a distant memory and the Thaumaturgists have faded into myth. Young Clara struggles to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, where eyes are keen, nights are long, and the use of magic is punishable by death. She hides in the shadows, fearful that someone will discover she is touched by magic. She knows her days are numbered. But when a strange man named Fabian Moor returns to the Labyrinth, Clara learns that magic serves a higher purpose and that some myths are much more deadly in the flesh.

The only people Clara can trust are the Relic Guild, a secret band of magickers sworn to protect the Labyrinth. But the Relic Guild are now too few. To truly defeat their old nemesis Moor, mightier help will be required. To save the Labyrinth – and the lives of one million humans – Clara and the Relic Guild must find a way to contact the worlds beyond their walls.

People, the lack of love for this series is criminal! It’s so good! I’m not sure in which subsection of fantasy it should be classified – probably epic, but that doesn’t feel quite right as Labrys Town is dark and dirty – but however you want to class it, if you’re a fantasy fan, this series should be on your TBR. I raced through all three books and loved the characters and the settings. I especially loved seeing the younger versions of the Guild back in the last days of the war and realising how decisions made 40 years earlier had affected the present.

Labrys Town is a really interesting setting. Although The Cathedral of Known Things and The Watcher of Dead Time open things out somewhat, Labrys Town is always the centre of the story, and it’s a fascinating place. Cut off from all outside influences, surrounded by demons, and essentially reliant on one man for 40 years, it’s exactly the town you would imagine would develop under those circumstances. While it’s not somewhere I would like to live, it’s definitely the sort of place I like to read about! I also found the effect that living in a place like that had had on our heroes was interesting – the present day versions are much harder and tougher, not to mention more bitter and cynical, than the people we meet in the earlier story, and while I think this happens to everyone with age, to some extent, it was clear the circumstances of the last 40 years, and of course the losses they’d experienced during the war, had had a huge impact.

The story was well paced over the three books, and the two different chronologies worked very effectively in building the world and emphasising the terror engendered by the villains. There were many points in the plot where I couldn’t see a way out, and obviously that heightened the tension to almost unbearable levels. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty good at seeing where a book is going, but this series had some twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting at all, and I love it when that happens!

I’m so glad Gollancz offered me the chance to read The Relic Guild trilogy. It gave me the kick up the backside I needed to read the series. I’m not sure I’d have ever got around to it otherwise, and I would definitely be missing out – as are you if you haven’t picked it up yet either!

4/5

Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten Most Recent Additions to my TBR

top ten tuesday

I wasn’t planning on doing a Top Ten Tuesday post this week, but then I saw everyone else’s posts crossing my reader, and I couldn’t resist the theme. Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and this week’s theme is the ten most recent additions to my TBR. I’ve decided to do the ten most recent (physical) books I’ve acquired, because yep, there have been more than ten of them in January. I don’t think I’ve got the hang of reducing the TBR pile!

1. King of Scars

Bought today. Well, technically bought a few weeks ago, because I pre-ordered this one, but I collected it today. I’d say I can’t wait to read it, but I need to finish the Grisha trilogy first!

2 . The Curses

3. Oh My Gods

4. Fierce Fragile Hearts

5. Shadowscent

All bought on Sunday after the Waterstones Deansgate bloggers meet-up (more of which in another post soon)

6. Women: Our History

7. The Feminism Book

Kindly gifted to me by DK Books, as they sponsored the aforementioned bloggers meet-up.

8. This Is What Happy Looks Like

9. Afterworlds

10. The Monsters We Deserve

All gifted to me by other bloggers on Sunday as part of our unofficial book swap.

Oh my goodness. I’ve acquired ten books in the last three days! I didn’t even get far enough back to include the books I picked up at the Headline New Voices event last Wednesday. Oh my goodness. This is why I have huge book piles in front of my bookcase!

So, ignoring my unfortunate book habit, anything on my list also on yours? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

(I’m just going to go and cry in a corner while I try to figure out where I’m going to put all these books!)

Netgalley Reviews Catch-Up Part 2

My last Netgalley reviews catch up was books I’d read mostly around the time of release, but never got round to reviewing. This post is the books I’ve read more recently – and yes, most of them came out months and months ago. Sometimes life happens.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

midnight bookstore cover

I have to admit, this book was not what I expected at all, but I enjoyed it a lot once I got into it properly. That did take a significant portion of the book, but there was a moment when it all just suddenly clicked and I didn’t want to put the book down. Set primarily in the bookstore of the title, our lead character is Lydia, one of the booksellers. The Bright Ideas Bookstore is something of a haven for people who don’t quite fit in, or are acing hard times, and one night, as she’s closing up, Lydia comes across the body of one of these people after he’s hanged himself. This prompts Lydia to find out what would lead Joey, her favourite ‘bookfrog’ to do such a thing, but it leads into her own past in ways she could never have imagined. Matthew Sullivan is brilliant at drip-feeding bits of information throughout the story, and although I did guess some of the conclusion slightly before the end, I was utterly gripped by the mysteries unfolding in front of me. I highly recommend it, just be aware that it’s slow to get into, and parts of it are quite explicitly gory.

4/5

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

eleanor oliphant cover

To be fair to myself, I will point out that I didn’t get this one until a few months after its original release, so I’m not quite as late as I look. I wish I’d read it sooner, because it really is as good as everyone says it is. It’s a really hard book to try and review, because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it’s a proper life-affirming story. Eleanor is prickly and yes, a little bit strange, and she has no idea how to navigate social situations (for reasons that become very clear during the course of the book), but she’s a brilliant character with so much to love and she’s so relatable in many ways. To see her start venturing out of her comfort zone, even though it’s for slightly dubious reasons, feels like I imagine watching your child take their first steps does. There is a plot, but really this book is absolutely character driven, and it’s utterly wonderful. Read it.

5/5

Paris For One and Other Stories

paris for one

I’ve never read a Jojo Moyes book before, so I thought short stories might be a good way to start, but unfortunately I didn’t really connect with any of the stories. I suspect this is more me than Moyes, since I know short stories often aren’t enough for me, but I also think that romance stories aren’t a good fit for me in general. Although I will say that romance in these stories is very much a subjective thing. The ones I liked most were the two longer stories – the title one, and Honeymoon in Paris (which is apparently a prequel of sorts to one of Moyes’ novels). I don’t think there’s really a lot else I can say about about this book though. It was an enjoyable enough read for 90 minutes, but I’m probably not going to search out the author’s other books.

3/5

Book Review: Spinning Silver

I actually can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to get round to reviewing Spinning Silver. I loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, so I was very much looking forward to Spinning Silver and it did not disappoint. I think I might even have liked it more than Uprooted. I certainly fell for the characters in a much deeper way.

spinning silver cover

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

First of all, can we talk about that amazing cover?! I love it so much, and it is, in my opinion, so much better than the US cover. Everything you need to know about Spinning Silver is right there on the cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but you totally could here.

Anyway, to the actual book. The story is very loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, but Novik twists it to become the story of Miryem, Irina and Wanda, three very different young women whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways. It’s clearly Eastern European inspired, and it’s clearly a fairytale, but it’s very much also based in reality. I was horrified at the way the other villagers treated Miryem and her family, just because they were Jewish, but it’s a matter of historical record that this was happening all over Europe during the period the book is set. Irina and Wanda, too, have stories that ring historically true – the daughter of a duke, forced to marry a monster in order to raise her father’s stature, and the daughter of a drunk abuser, forced to scrabble in the earth for anything she can find so she and her brothers can survive. I loved the way these stories intersected, especially how Miryem claiming what she was owed gave Wanda hope and love.

I loved all three women with all of my heart. They were fantastically well-written, and I honestly felt bereft after I finished the book because I had no more time to spend with them. When I was reading Spinning Silver, I was so totally engrossed that it was a surprise to raise my head and find myself still in the office at lunchtime. I was utterly transported. I also loved the way Novik changed my opinions of the Staryk king and Mirnatius, the tsar Irina is forced to marry. They’re not good people, but they have their reasons and they can change. It was really interesting to get point of view chapters from both of them, considering they were the villains of the piece.

The writing is beautiful too. The settings are vividly evoked, to the extent that even now, months after I read it, I can still picture some scenes in my head. It reads like a true fairytale, and I didn’t want it to end. Obviously it did though, and although I know some people who did’t like the ending, I thought it was perfect for the story that had been told.

In short, what I’m trying to tell you is that you need to read this book. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourites of the year (and it’s had some stiff competition) and if you like books that sweep you away to somewhere new, Spinning Silver is definitely for you.

5/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Jamie!

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

So picture books aren’t normally my thing. I can appreciate the artwork, but they’re not something I usually review, because they’re not something I read. But when I was offered the chance to read this picture book, well I couldn’t resist! Buffy the Vampire Slayer is incredibly important to me as a show – I was roughly the same age as Buffy when it was airing, and for all that I wasn’t fighting monsters every night (or living in California), she was a very relatable character. I watched every episode, bought most of the merchandise and just generally basked in the awesome that was Buffy and her friends. So of course I had to read Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the picture book!

buffy cover

The cult classic ’90s TV show is now a charming book for the youngest fans in the Buffyverse!

In this new picture book story brought to life with enchanting, colorful illustrations, kid readers can learn about what the world’s strongest vampire slayer was like when she was a kid! What’s that strange sound coming from inside the closet? Join little Buffy, Xander, and Willow as they investigate bumps in the night, seek advice from their school librarian Giles, and encounter all your favorite Buffyverse monsters. Complete with gorgeous illustrations by Pop Classics artist Kim Smith, this sweet, silly, and not-so-scary book makes a perfect bedtime story.

Just look how cute it is! The illustrations are great throughout, and it’s a charming little story about what might be hiding in 8 year old Buffy’s closet. Personally, as a fan of the show, I had issues with the chronology and continuity of the show being messed about with, but no child is going to care about that. Just be aware if you’re an adult reading it to your children that you might feel a little frustrated.

I don’t have kids myself, but I know someone who does, so I took Buffy the Vampire Slayer round to read to little A, who is almost four. She wouldn’t admit it, but I think she did find it a bit scary, despite what the blurb says above. Even though she was scared though, she still loved the book and wanted to read it again, which I think is the ultimate seal of approval! I’ve read books to A before and she’s always got a little bored, but she was completely engaged with Buffy for the whole story and started trying to read it herself. She was also completely ready to fight any monsters she might find!

I gave Buffy the Vampire Slayer 3/5, mostly because of the continuity issues I mentioned above, which is probably slightly unfair, but I couldn’t get past them. However, from a child’s point of view, I’d say it’s probably at least a 4/5 – it’s fun and a little bit scary, with a good message about being kind to others and asking for help if you need it. Kids will love it!

3/5

A copy of the book was sent to me by Jamie at Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review – thanks Jamie!

View from a Book: Guest Post by Sophie Cameron

ootb-tour

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Out of the Blue, the stunning debut novel from Sophie Cameron which came out on the 22nd March. On the surface, Out of the Blue is a story about angels falling from the sky, but on a deeper level, it explores the different ways we deal with grief and how we can affect the other people around us. I was sent an arc as part of this blog tour, and I absolutely loved the book. Jaya, the main character, is incredibly relatable and I loved seeing her relationships with Allie and Teacake (the only angel to survive the fall) develop.

Sophie kindly agreed to be the second participant in my View from a Book feature, so without further ado, onto Sophie’s post!

View from a Book

View From a Book

  • Where are you and what are you reading?

I’m in Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, and reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  

  • Would you recommend the book?

Definitely! I’m only a few chapters in but so far it’s excellent.

  • Is there anything special about this particular spot?

It’s one of my favourite parks in Barcelona and is just a short walk away from my flat, so I come here a lot when I want a wander or some fresh air. In summer it’s too busy to read in peace, but at this time of year you can still find some quiet(ish) spots.

  • Do you have a favourite place to read?

I love reading on the beach – any beach, as long as it’s not too busy.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Out of the Blue?

Out of the Blue is about a 16-year-old girl named Jaya, who has recently lost her mother and whose father has dragged her and her sister to Edinburgh in the hopes he can catch one of the angels or ‘Beings’ that have been falling to earth for the past eight months. It’s Jaya who finds one instead – but rather than telling her dad she decides to keep it hidden from him and nurse it back to health.

  • If you could send someone to anywhere in the world as the perfect place to read Out of the Blue, where would you pick?

It’d have to be Edinburgh! Maybe in the Meadows or the Royal Botanic Garden, if it’s a nice day.

  • And finally, if you could pick any book for Jaya and Teacake to read, what would it be?

I love this question! For Jaya, I’d pick Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee, I think she’d love that. I think Teacake could probably learn to read in English really fast if she put her mind to it, but to start with I’d give her a recipe book with lots of photos of tasty cakes and puddings – maybe Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Thank you to Sophie for this fabulous post – are you all as jealous as I am of that lovely spot?!

Out of the Blue is out now from Pan Macmillan and really is a fantastic book that I recommend you all get your hands on immediately, especially if you like LGBT and disability rep in your books.

Have you read Out of the Blue? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments!

View from a Book: Guest Post by Yaba Badoe

Jigsaw tour4 copy

Today I am really excited to be welcoming Yaba Badoe onto the blog as part of the blog tour for A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, her YA debut. Published in hardback in September, this beautifully written book has just come out in paperback, and tells the story of Sante, the family she’s lost and the family she’s found.

Yaba has very kindly agreed to write a guest post and launch my new feature, View from a Book, and I couldn’t have asked for a better launch post! I love the book Yaba has chosen and I think the photograph she has sent me is gorgeous – I wish I had somewhere like this to read!

View from a Book

ViewFromABook_YabaBadoe

This is the view from a book I’m currently reading – an edition of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm illustrated by Arthur Rackhman.

The book is open at page 72, on the story of the The Goosegirl. A mild-mannered, ‘humble’ princess on a journey to marry a distant Prince is bullied by her bloody-minded Lady-in-Waiting into swapping her clothes and identity. The Lady-in-Waiting marries the Prince while the real Princess is forced to eek out a living as a Goosegirl. Eventually, the Prince’s father, the King, discovers the Goosegirl’s secret. The Lady-in-waiting is put to death and the true Princess marries her Prince!

I’m reading the story on the sofa of our basement kitchen – a great place to read and relax because it’s comfortable, and has a wonderful view of a large sycamore tree in our front garden. Depending on the season, whenever I look up from the page, there’s either a lot of sky or leaves. That upward tilt of my head to gaze out takes me deeper into a state of reverie essential for entering other worlds. And if the sun is out and I’m in tune with the story I’m reading, looking out dazzles me.

At the moment I’m working on a second book, Wolf-light for Zephyr, the YA imprint of Head of Zeus. My debut novel for Zephyr was A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – a story about people trafficking, migration and dislocation. Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. It seems she is the survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them.

Wolf-light tells the story of three young women, sisters of the heart, born within hours of each other in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall. Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of sacred sites and belong to a secret order whose task is to protect and conserve the landscapes they inhabit. When copper miners begin to plunder Zula’s desert home in Gobi Altai and Adoma’s forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy.

A couple of the characters in A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars reappear in Wolf-light – so although it’s not a sequel in any sense of the word – it revisits a theme that fascinates me: how, do individuals and communities, in an increasingly globalised world, hold on to what they treasure most.

Thank you for this gorgeous post Yaba! I’m really looking forward to reading Wolf-light in the near future!

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is out now in paperback, published by Zephyr, and is well worth your hard-earned money.

Have you read A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars? If not, are you more likely to after reading this? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour this week!

Book Review: The Eye of the North

I like to read the odd middle grade book now and again, and The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart sounded like it had the potential to be a great book when it turned up in the books of the month Netgalley email. Sadly, for me it didn’t quite live up to that potential.

teotn

Emmeline Widget has never left Widget Manor – and that’s the way she likes it. But when her scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself being packed off on a ship to France, heading for a safe house in Paris. Onboard she is befriended by an urchin stowaway called Thing. But before she can reach her destination she is kidnapped by the sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer.
Dr Bauer is bound for the ice fields of Greenland to summon a legendary monster from the deep. And he isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The Northwitch has laid claim to the beast, too. Can Emmeline and Thing stop their fiendish plans and save the world?

First of all, the things I did like. Emmeline was a very interesting character and I really liked how she was prepared for everything, and how she could adapt the things around her to be of use. I mean, it all stemmed from the paranoia instilled in her by her upbringing, but it was a good take on anxiety. I also liked Thing, and his willingness to protect this young girl he comes across by accident, even when it’s clear she’s in much deeper trouble than he ever imagined. My problem with the two of them was that they never seemed to properly connect, and therefore I never connected with their friendship. Thing knew Emmeline for all of five minutes before she was kidnapped, and I was just never sure of why he cared so much. Yes, he’s a good, decent lad but I expect a bit more motivation than that in a story with kidnappings and potential deaths! It could have worked, if we’d just seen the two of them actually being friends for a bit longer.

The other thing I liked was the idea. I’m a sucker for stories with a young heroine forced to survive on her own in a story with mythical or supernatural elements, so this should have been right up my street. It failed somewhere in its execution, although I can’t put my finger on why. Again, I’m not sure we spent enough time with our villain to work out his underlying motivations. Obviously he wanted power, but why? The same was true of the Northwitch, who could have been an awesome character.

I enjoyed reading The Eye of the North, and it’s a perfectly acceptable debut MG novel. I’m just disappointed because it still feels like it had the potential to be so much more. It also feels like there’s a lot missing in it, and I do wonder if it was heavily edited to bring the wordcount down. If that is the case, it’s a shame, because I’d have liked to have known more about the characters and setting.

Having said all of this, I will be perfectly happy to pick up Sinead O’Hart’s next book, and I look forward to seeing her grow as an author.

The Eye of the North is out in the UK on 8th February, published by Stripes Publishing.

3/5

ARC received from the publisher, Stripes Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pre-order campaign: The Exact Opposite Of Okay

Something a little bit different from me today – I wanted to draw your attention to the pre-order campaign for The Exact Opposite Of Okay by Laura Steven. This is a brilliant, funny, feminist book and I loved it when I read it!

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So, if you pre-order the book before 7th March 2018, and email proof of purchase to Laura at theexactoppositeofokay@gmail.com, on release day, she will send you an exclusive bonus chapter detailing how our heroine, Izzy O’Neill, lost her virginity. Yes, really.

I’ll be reviewing The Exact Opposite Of Okay nearer to release date, but have a read of the synopsis below, then head to your retailer of choice to pre-order!

Aspiring comedian Izzy O’Neill never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench emerge, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she must figure out who’s behind the vicious website – while keeping her sanity intact. 

Izzy is about to find out that the way the world treats girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.

This is a book for anyone who’s ever called themselves a feminist … and anyone who hasn’t. 

Pre-order at Amazon 

Or at Book Depository