The British Books Challenge 2018

So it’s that time of year again. I’m not quite sure how it’s New year’s Eve already, but there you go. Apologies for disappearing again – I promise to do better in 2018!

Anyway, I’m still looking at which challenges I want to do in 2018, but I know The British Books Challenge will be one of them. I didn’t do a great job of reviewing my eligible books in 2017, but I did, according to my goodreads shelf for the challenge, manage to read 77 books by British authors. Which is slightly above the target of 12. I’m well chuffed with that number to be honest. I knew I read a lot of British books, but it’s nice to have a number to look at! I’m not going to set an actual target this year, but I’m hoping to get somewhere near 77 again.


The British Books Challenge has been going for a few years now, and this year is again being hosted by Chelley over at Tales of Yesterday. It consists of reading 12 or more books by British authors over the course of the year, reviewing them on my blog and linking them on the monthly link up page. Let’s see how this goes!

Click here for more details, or to sign up to the challenge yourself

Books by UK authors I would like to read in 2018

Even though I read 77 books by British authors in 2017, there were four books from my original challenge list that I didn’t manage to get to, so they’re back on this year’s list with a few extra.

I’m a little bit behind on what’s due out in the new year, which is why there’s a gap at the end, but 11 is a good start. Follow my progress below, where I will hopefully be updating every month, and don’t forget to sign up yourself!

Book Review: Blackwing

Blackwing by Ed McDonald has been gathering a fair amount of hype in the last few months. A debut released on the 27th July, it’s epic fantasy in the tradition of grimdark, and the proof copies are just magnificent – so when Stevie Finegan at Gollancz offered some out to bloggers, I jumped at the chance. And you know what? It deserves the hype.


It’s been a while since I read an epic fantasy, but Blackwing was the perfect book to get back into the genre. The worldbuilding is stunning – I was able to vividly picture The Misery and Valengrad, as well as the various heroes and villains, and I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as creepy a bad guy as the Darling. There’s plenty of blood and guts too, and the very real consequences of the war being fought are clear. I also loved the idea of the Nameless Ones, and the way they’ve mostly abandoned the general populace, just when they need them most.

The plot rockets along and is full of surprises. There’s a definite Game of Thrones-y sense that you don’t want to get too attached to any of the characters, because there’s a higher than average chance they’re not going to last very long. It did take me a little while to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I had plenty of things I needed to be doing last Sunday, but not one of them actually got done, for which I entirely blame Ed McDonald for writing such an addictive book!

The real strength of Blackwing, though, is in the characters. Galharrow is a bit of a bastard, yes, but it’s born of the things he has done and witnessed. I loved the hints of his past with Ezabeth, and how it affects his present. I especially loved his relationships with Nenn and Tnota – this is a group who have been through thick and thin together, and it shows in their every interaction. Nenn will call Galharrow on his bullshit, but trust him when it counts, and he will do the same for her, and I loved that you could see that came from their experiences together, without it needing to be explicitly said. They’re a fantastic group of characters, and I’m hoping it’s not too long before I get to meet them again.

In short, if you are a fan of epic fantasy (or, y’know, books in general), you need to read this book. It’s a stunning debut novel and it absolutely deserves the hype it’s been getting.


ARC received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Stevie!

Book Review: The Descent of Man

It took me a very long time to read The Descent of Man, by Grayson Perry. I started it at the end of March and finished it at the beginning of June. That’s a ridiculously long time for me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It’s actually a very good book, but the combination of being non-fiction (which I don’t read a lot of) and on my kindle made it something of a struggle. I’m glad I got the chance to read it though, thanks to Netgalley and the publishers.

the descent of man

Grayson Perry has been thinking about masculinity – what it is, how it operates, why little boys are thought to be made of slugs and snails – since he was a boy. Now, in this funny and necessary book, he turns round to look at men with a clear eye and ask, what sort of men would make the world a better place, for everyone?

What would happen if we rethought the old, macho, outdated version of manhood, and embraced a different idea of what makes a man? Apart from giving up the coronary-inducing stress of always being ‘right’ and the vast new wardrobe options, the real benefit might be that a newly fitted masculinity will allow men to have better relationships – and that’s happiness, right?

Grayson Perry admits he’s not immune from the stereotypes himself – as the psychoanalysts say, ‘if you spot it, you’ve got it’ – and his thoughts on everything from power to physical appearance, from emotions to a brand new Manifesto for Men, are shot through with honesty, tenderness and the belief that, for everyone to benefit, upgrading masculinity has to be something men decide to do themselves. They have nothing to lose but their hang-ups.

I found The Descent of Man to be a thoughtful exploration of masculinity and feminism, but thought it lost its way a little towards the end. Perry certainly has some interesting ideas, and I loved the artwork poking fun at some of the more obvious problems with the way masculinity is often seen as the only way to be a proper man, but he doesn’t really take those ideas to their full conclusions. And while this is a criticism, I make it in the full knowledge that I would definitely not have been able to do any better!

The parts I really enjoyed were Perry’s anecdotes, whether from his own upbringing, forcing him to look at his own prejudices and points of view, or from people he met while filming the TV programme on similar themes. He’s an excellent writer, able to paint a vivid picture with a few words, and I definitely plan to read his other work.

This is quite a short review, mostly because it took me so long to read the book I’ve forgotten most of the thoughts I was having back at the beginning. I’d recommend it, with the disclaimer that it might not fully live up to your expectations.


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

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.


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!


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!


Book Review: Ink

I have a confession to make. I picked Ink by Alice Broadway up almost entirely because of its shiny cover. It’s gorgeous! I’d also heard a lot of buzz about it though, all the way from YALC in July right up to release, and I was intrigued by the premise, which is that if all significant life events are tattooed on your skin, what happens if you have a secret?


Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

I found Ink a very interesting book indeed. I hadn’t realised the theme of faith was quite so deeply embedded in it as it was – in fact my only inkling that faith was an aspect at all was because of the UKYA chat themed around the book – so it was a bit of a surprise to find that faith was pretty much at the centre of the plot. The people of this world, you see, believe that by inking their lives onto their skin, they will always be remembered. The skin is kept and bound into books that the family keep – as long as the person who has died is found worthy in the weighing of the soul ceremony. If they are not, they are deemed to be ‘forgotten’, their book is burned, and their family is forbidden to talk about them ever again. Belief in this concept is constant for Leora and everyone she knows – until new acquaintances and discoveries about her father push her to question what she’s always been taught. There is also a community of people who don’t believe in this concept, known as the Blanks, who were expelled a number of years earlier to live in what is essentially a ghetto, cut off from the rest of the population, and about whom horror stories are told.

The book starts off a bit slowly and I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. Because it’s told in the first person, but there’s a lot of world building to get in, it sometimes feels like Leora is telling a story, rather than living the experience. However, within the world of the book this kind of makes sense – stories are so important to this world, I quite like the idea of Leora narrating her own. (My favourite story is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which just has the best ending. I think I shouted out loud when I read it!) Once I got into it, I found it very difficult to put down, and the world building is incredibly detailed and well written. I’m really fascinated as to how this dystopian society actually came into being, because the myths that have obviously built up around it are very detailed.

As for the characters, I did find Leora a bit annoying sometimes. She believes so absolutely in the ideas the society is based on that when she finds evidence to contradict what she’s being told, she won’t believe it, even if she sees it with her own eyes. I also think her mum could have headed a lot of trouble off at the pass if she’d just explained things properly (but then there wouldn’t be a story of course!). I loved Verity and Obel though, and it was nice to see Leora at least start to question things through the book.

By the end of Ink I was desperate for the sequel, whch I assume I will have to wait a year to read. I have no idea how many books are planned for the series, but on the basis of this first, I will be eagerly awaiting all of them!


Book Review: We Come Apart

I’m going to come right out and tell you that I loved We Come Apart. Written in free verse and alternating view points, it’s the story of Nicu, a Romanian immigrant, and Jess, a troubled British teen and it is wonderful.


Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan have joined forces to tell the story of Nicu and Jess, two troubled teens whose paths cross in the unlikeliest of places.

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?

The word I’ve used most to describe We Come Apart is painful, but it’s painful in a good way (if that makes any sense at all). It was painful for me because I felt what Nicu and Jess were going through, because the writing was so good. I don’t know how the authors split the writing, but I wish I did. They both have very troubled lives – Nicu finds himself an immigrant in Brexit Britain and is increasingly targeted by his peers, but he doesn’t particularly like being at home either, where his parents are obsessed with finding him a bride back home. Jess has a very worrying home life which she daren’t tell anyone about, and she has the worst friends in the world. And then they meet, while taking part in a young offenders’ programme, and despite Jess’s reluctance to get involved, they become friends and more, giving each other hope.

I will tell you right now, I wanted to reach into the book and remove Nicu and Jess from their terrible situations and just look afte them. Nicu in particular is just the sweetest, but I really liked seeing the way Jess’s friendship with him changes her for the better. She becomes that little bit less cynical, and a little bit more accepting.

It’s hard to talk in too much detail about We Come Apart, because I feel there are so many potential spoilers, and I don’t want to give too much away, but believe me when I say you should read this book. I really, really loved it, and I wish I’d been able to sit down and devour it in one sitting.


ARC received from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: The Painted Dragon

Another week, another illness. Only another cold, but it left me with no energy to even think about blogging, and I have so many posts I want to write! In the meantime though, a review of The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, which I was very excited to read, having read and enjoyed the previous books in the series.


When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead . . .

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

First of all, just look at that cover design – isn’t it gorgeous?! I love how it perfectly encompasses the Edwardian setting of the book and I must admit that the cover was the first thing that attracted me to The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, which was the first book in the series (although ironically, I ended up buying it in ebook format!). I love that they’ve kept to a similar design throughout the series.

I really enjoyed The Painted Dragon, and thought it was the best yet. It’s always nice when you’re reading a series to feel that you’re watching the characters grow over the course of each book, and that’s certainly true here. Sophie and Lil are still friends, and still building their reputation as detectives while trying to maintain their day jobs (or in Lil’s case, evening job), but they each also have their own concerns. Lil is worried about her brother, Sophie is worried that Lil is getting too busy for her, and that her work at Sinclair’s is slipping. Fortunately, a case comes along that brings them back together and tests their abilities as detectives. There’s also a secret society and Sophie’s obsession with The Baron and what happened to her parents to deal with, which seems like a lot, but Woodfine ties everything together brilliantly. I will say that I guessed who the culprit was pretty quickly, but there was still plenty to keep me engaged.

What I really liked about this book was the introduction of Leo, an art student who is connected to the case. Leo walks with a crutch, but doesn’t let it stop her doing anything she wants, and we get to know her really well at the start of the book. I hope we get to see a lot more of her in future books, in the same way that we got Mei and her family recurring in this book from the last. I also liked Jack a lot, and I suspect there is romance in the offing for some of the characters, although as it’s a Middle Grade series, I’m sure it won’t be a main driver of the books.

The Painted Dragon is a fun, well written Middle Grade mystery that moves the series on without sacrificing the plot of this novel. I highly recommend it, and the previous books in the series!


ARC received from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Who Let The Gods Out

When I was in town on Saturday, I decided I needed something quick and light-hearted to read. I knew Who Let The Gods Out was not only Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, but Maz Evans was also the featured debut author over at the British Books Challenge, so I’d heard quite a bit about the book and thought it was exactly what I wanted. This wasn’t quite the case, but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and there are a lot of funny moments.


Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

First off, the book *looks* lovely. There’s lots of shiny on the cover, and there’s a sprayed edge with a lightning bolt outlined (and I’m a sucker for a sprayed edge.). Obviously this means that the moment I put it in my bag the pages got a little damaged, but never mind. I like a book that looks like it’s actually been read!

Aesthetics aside, I really liked the story. It wasn’t the laugh-a-minute I was expecting, and actually had some quite serious themes – Elliot is essentially a young carer for his mum, with no support, and as a result is doing quite badly in school – but when it was funny, it was really funny. I liked the idea of the Greek gods retiring and ceding control to a bureaucratic council mired in rules and regulations (I’m also a sucker for anything that brings the ancient Greek/Roman Gods to present-day Britain – I’ve been reading Tom Holt books since I was 13!). I liked Elliot a lot too. He’s just a kid trying to look after his mum and cope with an incredibly surreal situation. I must admit that I found Virgo more annoying than anything, but she does improve as the book goes on, and the rest of the characters more than make up for her. I can’t decide which of the gods I love the most, but I did love them all.

Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth picking up Who Let The Gods Out. It’s a really enjoyable, middle grade book and I’m looking forward to the sequel.