Oh yeah, I never read Twilight either – Top 5 Fandoms I Used to Be In

Oh yeah, I never read Twilight either – Top 5 Fandoms I Used to Be In

Today’s topic is quite difficult, mostly because I was never particularly into fandoms. There were series I liked, and I connected with other people because of them, but I didn’t frequent fan sites or particularly engage with other readers. Still, the approach I’m taking towards this is by choosing books that I was once a huge fan of but no longer interact with as much. Not much of an intro this week, let’s get stuck in! As always, you can find out more about Top 5 Wednesdays here, and my list is in no particular order.

1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

“Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason … HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!”

Ok yes I know, I talk a lot about Harry Potter and I obviously still love it. However, I used to be obsessed with it, to the point where I would write my own letter from Professor McGonagall summoning me to Hogwarts, and writing a reply back. I would read the books back to back, starting again once I finished the last one (this was before the entire series was published, I particularly remember doing this for GoF and OotP). I was also particularly active on the Harry Potter threads on the Neopets RPG board (the mid-2000s were a magical time), and wrote fanfic, which I haven’t done for any other book. I still love the books, and I still read the books regularly, but I’m less active now. Still hoping for that Hogwarts letter though!

harry-potter-olly-moss-covers_2466.0

2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

“In the first book of the Twilight Saga, internationally bestselling author Stephenie Meyer introduces Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, a pair of star-crossed lovers whose forbidden relationship ripens against the backdrop of small-town suspicion and a mysterious coven of vampires. This is a love story with bite.”

This pains me to write, because I now hate Twilight with a vengeance, and I critique extremely harshly. I fell down the Edward-is-perfect-hole and didn’t think about the fact that he’s controlling scum and the series largely romanticises emotionally toxic relationships. Ugh I feel so gross just admitting I loved this series, let’s just say that when I was 16, myself a group of other girls were super into it, so at least I interacted with people because of it.

Ugh

3. Wicked by Gregory Maguire (along with the musical by Stephen Schwartz)

“An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn’t so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.”

While I did enjoy the book, this mostly pertains to the musical, which a friend introduced me to while we were studying our A-Levels (she was also part of the Twilight fandom. I still like listening to Wicked, and I saw it in the West End a few years ago, but I used to listen to it repeatedly every day, and I even roleplayed as Elphaba in Harry Potter RPGs at times. I still maintain that there should be a crossover.

Wicked

4. Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu

“At the age of 5, Keitaro and his childhood sweetheart promised to meet again as students at Japan’s most prestigious university. Now 20, he can’t pass his entrance exams…or even remember the girl’s name. Stumbling into a fluke job at an all-girls dormitory may be his last chance. In the series that inspired the new hit anime, Love Hina proves that love conquers all. Even stupidity.”

I don’t really talk about manga very much, and that’s mostly because I don’t really read it. I like it, and I’ve picked up books here and there, but I find it hard to stick to. However, I was very into Love Hina, and I loved that there could be graphic novels that didn’t centre around superheroes, and focused on everyday life in Japan (with zany adventures, of course). I owned all the books and loved the art style, but I’m less interested in romance stories now, mostly because I’m lucky enough to receive all the romance I need from my relationship. Still have very fond memories though.

Love Hina

5. Pokemon

“I wanna be the very best
Like no one ever was
To catch them is my real test
To train them is my cause

I will travel across the land
Searching far and wide
Each Pokemon to understand
The power that’s inside

Pokemon, gotta catch ’em all
It’s you and me
I know it’s my destiny
Pokemon, oh, you’re my best friend

In a world we must defend
Pokemon, gotta catch ’em all
A heart so true
Our courage will pull us through2

You teach me and I’ll teach you
Pokemon, gotta catch ’em all
Gotta catch ’em all
Pokemon!”

Yes fine this isn’t a book, but I was there when Pokemon first hit. I remember watching the first episode, I remember getting my first Pokemon cards, and I remember playing my first Pokemon video game (Yellow). I wanted them to be real so badly, and spent hours learning facts about them from game guides (back when the internet existed but wasn’t widespread). I even collected cute little figurines. I still like Pokemon now, but I’ve fallen so far behind with it. Why do they keep coming up with more?!

Pika

So there’s my list for this week. If you’d like to buy any of these books, you can do so from The Book Depository (using this link will earn me a small commission). I can also be found on Facebook, Goodreads, Etsy, and Twitter. Until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

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Read-O-Rama Round Seven TBR

One thing I’ve been meaning to do more of with my reading is participating in readathons. Normally, I read relatively quickly, but I generally do other things around reading, such as job hunting, playing video games, and watching Netflix. I find that readathons help me to focus my energy and motivate me to read as many books as I can. Somehow, I’ve only managed to participate one, which was Read-O-Rama. In general, Read-O-Rama happens a couple of times a year and lasts for a week, and features different categories every year. The important thing to know, however, is that it is run by an incredibly supportive group of booktubers, and there’s a really lovely environment on Twitter when Read-O-Rama is on. As such, I spent a good part of yesterday organising my TBR for the upcoming seventh round of Read-O-Rama, which is running from 11th June to 17th June. For more information, the best central place to find information is Twitter, and I highly recommend following their account. Now, let’s dive into the challenges and my TBR!

1st Challenge – Read a book with the letters RAMA in the title and/or author name: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

“‘Look after the dead’, said the priests, ‘and the dead will look after you.’

Wise words in all probability, but a tall order when you have just become the pharaoh of a small and penniless country whose largesse – and indeed treasury – is unlikely to stretch to the building of a monumental pyramid to honour your dead father. And particularly when your only visible means of support is a recently acquired qualification from the Guild of Assassins where running a kingdom and basic financial acumen were not prerequisites for course entry… “

This challenge is in every round of Read-O-Rama, and usually leads me to books that I’ve forgotten about a little, like this one. I’m looking forward to diving back into Discworld with an entirely new set of characters and settings.

Pyramids

2nd Challenge – Read a book with water on the cover: Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

“‘Riding the Bullet,’ published here on paper for the first time, is the story of Alan Parker, who’s hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended. In ‘Lunch at the Gotham Café,’ a sparring couple’s contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maître d’ gets out of sorts. ‘1408,’ the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is ‘Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards’ or ‘Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses,’ and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn’t kill him, he won’t be writing about ghosts anymore. And in ‘That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French,’ terror is déjà vu at 16,000 feet.

Whether writing about encounters with the dead, the near dead, or about the mundane dreads of life, from quitting smoking to yard sales, Stephen King is at the top of his form in the fourteen dark tales assembled in Everything’s Eventual. Intense, eerie, and instantly compelling, they announce the stunningly fertile imagination of perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time.”

This was a surprisingly difficult one to fill, just in terms of the books I already have, as the other two books I have with water on the cover (Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch) are both longer, and I want to try to read as many books as possible. I’ve read a few of the short stories in here already, and they are both gripping and terrifying, which hopefully means I’ll be able to get through them quickly.

Everything's Eventual

3rd Challenge – Read a short book (150 pages or less): The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

“When she was still a child, Tenar was stripped of her name and family and dedicated as high priestess to the Nameless Ones, dark powers of ‘The Tombs of Atuan.’ This is the tale of the young wizard, Ged, who came to the forbidden labyrinth to steal its greatest treasure–the Ring of Erreth-Akbe–and stayed to set Tenar free and lead her out of darkness.”

Yet another difficult challenge to fill! This book comes in at 132 pages, and is the second in the Earthsea series, so although it’s small I know it’ll be packed full of content. Le Guin can be quite dense to read, but I think that this shouldn’t be a problem to get through, particularly if I’m reading lighter books around it.

earthsea

4th Challenge – Read a graphic novel: Gunslinger Girl: Omnibus Collection 1 v. 1-3 by Yu Aida

“The Social Welfare Agency in Italy is not what it seems. Yes, it rescues young girls who have been brutalized–but brainwashes them and transforms them into ruthless killers for an elite and secret counter-terrorism unite for the Italian government.

Enter Henrietta, a young girl who witnessed the savage murder of her family and barely survived. The Agency takes her in and repairs her injuries using the latest cybernetic technology, wiping her mind of all traces of her past and turning her into one of the Agency’s most lethal assassins.

Yet despite her programming, Henrietta is troubled by fragmented memories. It is her handler’s job, Jose, to keep her feelings in check and ensure that she stays on mission. This task is made all the more difficult because Henrietta bears an uncanny resemblance to Jose’s younger sister who died in a car bombing years earlier.”

This one was actually easy to fill, as I currently only have one unread graphic novel, which I haven’t been motivated to read thus far. I bought this at Forbidden Planet in Cardiff, where my boyfriend and I spent our two year anniversary (in Cardiff that is, not in Forbidden Planet), and other books have been occupying my attention since I bought it. I think this will be some light relief from some of the other books on my TBR, so I’m going to wait until I feel a bit bogged down to read it.

aida-yu-gunslinger-girl-omnibus-1

5th Challenge – Read a book you have been anticipating: The Dumb House by John Burnside

“Reader beware: The Dumb House is not for the faint of heart. This debut novel by Scottish poet John Burnside is subtitled A Chamber Novel, but ‘Chamber of Horror’ might better describe it. The central character and narrator is Luke, a terrifyingly lucid madman with a hankering to ‘know the soul.’ His deceased mother told him once that the soul resided in language, and he’s been obsessed ever since with discovering if this is true. To that end, Luke takes a page from an old fable about a king who kept babies sequestered in silent isolation in order to discover whether language is a natural or an acquired skill. For his own experiment, Luke impregnates a young stranger, takes the twins she gives birth to and locks them up in a basement where he raises them in complete silence. Eventually, however, the children begin to annoy him, and Luke feels he must ‘cut them down.’ How he does this isn’t pretty.

From dissecting live animals as a boy to his latest outrage perpetrated on his own infant children, Luke is completely unconcerned with the sufferings of others, so intent is he on his ‘scientific’ inquiries after the human soul. The fact that he is obviously lacking in this department is one of the book’s ironies. The gruesome details are plentiful enough in Burnside’s novel, but it is what goes on in the mind of this depraved character even more than what happens under his scalpel that terrifies; The Dumb House is likely to be one of those books that sticks in your memory long after it’s done, whether you want it to or not.”

Annoyingly, the book I’d been anticipating the most came out at the start of this month, and I finished reading it last week (The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey), so I picked a book that I bought a couple of months ago and have heard really good things about. Admittedly, I’ve heard it’s super dark and messed up, but I really like books like that (no bookshaming here) so I’m glad I could find a category to squeeze it into.

The Dumb House

6th Challenge – Read an Own Voices book – Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

“Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is.

At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity–a captivating heroine for our time.”

For those you aren’t aware, Own Voices books are books which aim to create a more diverse publishing environment, by celebrating books that are written by someone from a minority background featuring minority characters, e.g. a book by a disabled writer featuring a disabled character. I have a few books that fit this description, but I found that the books I had were similar to ones I read a lot of (i.e. focusing on feminism or East Asian culture), and I wanted to try something completely new, so I decided to buy Lucy. I have only a very basic understanding of Jamaican culture, and I’m looking forward to reading more about it, and the immigrant experience in America.

Lucy

7th Challenge – Read a book published in summer of any year: A Quest of Her Own: Essays on the Female Hero in Modern Fantasy by Lori M. Campbell

“This collection of new essays seeks to define the unique qualities of female heroism in literary fantasy from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the 1950s through the present. Building upon traditional definitions of the hero in myth and folklore as the root genres of modern fantasy, the essays provide a multi-faceted view of an important fantasy character type who begins to demonstrate a significant presence only in the latter 20th century. The essays contribute to the empowerment and development of the female hero as an archetype in her own right.”

Wow so this one was tough, I guess a lot of the books I like are published in the winter! This challenge led me to a book nearly two years ago at the London Film and Comic Con (an excellent event, highly recommend) where they also hold the YA Literature Convention every year. I didn’t go to any of the talks there (mostly because I’m not hugely into YA) but picked up this book as I’m fascinated by feminist criticism of contemporary literature, particularly because YA features so many female protagonists. I’m excited to finally getting to read this!

A Quest of Her Own

8th Challenge – Read seven books – Hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill this!

There’s my TBR! Let me know what you think – do you like readathons, and how do you put your TBR together?

I can also be found on Facebook, Goodreads, Etsy, and Twitter. Until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

There are No Small Parts, Only Small Actors – My Top 5 Minor Characters

There are No Small Parts, Only Small Actors – My Top 5 Minor Characters

Despite the witty (I hope) title of this post, my tone is much more subdued today. It feels wrong to be so carefree in light of the barbarity committed in Manchester, targetted against such young and innocent children and their families. You don’t need me to tell you that a huge amount of the book blogging community are young women of a similar demographic to those at the Ariana Grande concert, and as an older member (at the ripe old age of 25) I want to respect the feelings of pain and fear they may be having. I’ve written a post about the tragedy, but I haven’t shared links to it out of respect for the victims – it’s there if anyone would like to see London’s reaction and absolute solidarity with Manchester.

It’s important to take breaks and allow yourself to take breaks from the news and take your mind off things, and reading is fantastic for this. I managed to get through some really, really difficult times (as in fighting for my life in hospital, barely able to move) through escaping into a different world through reading or listening to books. So turn off the news for 5 minutes, brew your favourite beverage, and see if you’d like to escape into any of these books, all of which can be bought on The Book Depository (there are direct links throughout).

The theme this week is top 5 favourite minor characters, which gives us a great opportunity to talk about great characters who aren’t often in the limelight. If you would like to find out more about Top 5 Wednesdays, you can get more information here. As always, these characters are in no particular order.

  1. Father Chains – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch –  Under his disguise as the Eyeless Priest of Perelandro, Father Chains guides and mentors the young Gentleman Bastards in elaborate disguises, table manners, cooking, and trickery to fashion them into the most notorious thieves Camorr has ever seen. He’s incredibly witty, sassy as hell, and also incredibly kind beneath the surface. Most of his story is told through flashbacks, and I loved all of these interludes. Locke Lamora
  2. Professor Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling – Despite it being probably my favourite series of all time, I don’t often write about it on T5W, mostly because I would always include it, and I want to talk about other books too. However, there are loads of amazing characters within the HP universe, and my favourite of these has to be McGonagall. She always speaks her mind, does not bow to anyone, is a complete bad ass, and took FOUR stunning spells and still lived to tell the tale. Despite her strictness, McGonagall always has important advice and a steady supply of ginger newts. Also, I absolutely love these covers, they’re so pretty.harry-potter-olly-moss-covers_2466.0
  3. Lance-Bombardier Kat Foss from The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey – While this tale of a zombie expedition in the British countryside features a cast of twelve central characters, some play a larger role than others, and Foss stands as more of a minor character. She has great character development, from a hardline military presence to the most together and unifying member of the team, seeing through the façades of dangerous characters and organising a celebration when the mood is incredibly low. If you want to know about my thoughts of Boy, check out my review.the-boy-on-the-bridge-couverture
  4. Asmodeus from The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman – While Asmo is also in The Magician King, she’s mentioned more as a character in Land, and plays an integral part within it. I don’t want to spoil it too much for those who haven’t read it, but I love that she’s suddenly revealed, is basically like ‘bye I’m taking this’ and disappears into her own revenge mission. She’s a very minor character, but slays.The Magician's Land
  5. Amos Starkadder from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – Cold Comfort has many interesting and entertaining minor characters, and it was a hard choice between Amos and Ada Doom, the grandmother who just repeats ‘I saw something nasty in the woodshed’. Amos is a fire and brimstone preacher, which is pretty rare in rural England, although perhaps not in the 1920s when the book is set. He’s mostly a comic character, played by Ian McKellen in the movie, and strikes the fear of God into his nervous congregation at the Church of the Quivering Brethren.cold comfort farm

So there’s my list for this week! Who are your favourite minor characters? Until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

You can also find me on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey – Review

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey – Review

Sometimes, the stars align and you find yourself prepared for something unexpected. While I wish I could say that about the whole of my life (and the world in general), this has only really happened in one area: reading. Luckily reading is kind of what I’m best at (along with writing perhaps), and as such I was very excited to find out that three things had happened without me realising:

  1. A companion novel to a book I loved was being published;
  2. It had been published a few days ago; and
  3. I had read the book it was related to only a month or so before, so it was fresh in my mind.

As the name is in the title, I’m afraid you don’t win any points for guessing that the book I’m talking about is The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey, which is a prequel to The Girl with All the Gifts. For those who are unaware of Girl, it was published in 2014 and commissioned as a film at the same time, so Carey actually wrote the book and the screenplay at the same time. For more information on this, I highly recommend watching Jen Campbell’s interview with him here, as I heard about Boy from her as well. In fact, just check out all her videos – she’s an incredibly smart and charismatic person, and I absolutely love her work. Like poetry? Check her out. Like fairytales? Check her out. Like discussing issues of social justice and disability? Check her out!

Alright, now that I’ve finished fangirling over Jen, let’s get down to why you (probably) clicked on this post. Should you buy this book? In all honesty, how could I tell you what to do with your time and money? I personally wanted to get this book as soon as I heard about it (and indeed I did, even though it was only available in hardback, which I’m not a fan of), but some people have felt that they’ve been led astray by the blurb:

“Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.”

If we compare this with the blurb for Girl, we might think that the stories are pretty similar:

“Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius.’

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.”

At first glance, it seems that the stories are very similar, but actually the purpose of Boy is to serve as a different type of story within the same world as Girl (and around the same sort of time). Therefore, it’s best to view as a companion novel, rather than something intimately connected with Girl, although it does give some further details on areas that arise within Girl.

So, what is the novel really about? I’m going to start this off (finally, after 500 words) by giving a bit of background to the world and some information on Girl, although this review is spoiler-free for both books. Both books are set about ten years after an apocalyptic event wherein a fungal infection has spread through the human population, turning them into flesh-hungry zombies (referred to as ‘hungries’). So yes, a zombie book, but like all good zombie stories, this focuses more on people, and who we consider to be a person, than zombies themselves. The infection is actually the same as the one in The Last of Us, a video game that I absolutely love, centred around a young girl who may provide a cure making her way across the country, accompanied by an older man. Actually, there are a lot of similarities between the two, but they remain distinct enough that I never felt that one was ripping off the other. It’s also particularly interesting because the fungal infection actually exists, albeit in ants, which turns the ant into a host for the fungus.

Within Girl, Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau, Dr Caldwell (an epidemiologist), Private Gallagher, and Sergeant Parks are forced to journey from the only home Melanie has ever known, an old RAF base in the south of England, to the last surviving human city, Beacon, in south Kent. Through the course of their journey, they have to travel through London, where they find an abandoned mobile laboratory called the Rosalind Franklin – heavily armoured and near indestructible, the Rosalind and another vehicle, the Charles Darwin, were sent out from Beacon, and then never heard from again. Boy is the story of what happened to the Rosalind.

At the start, we join the crew of the Rosalind just after they’ve left Beacon, made up of a science team, and an army escort to protect the scientists, who are all handily listed on pages 12 and 13.

The scientists:

  1. Dr Alan Fournier – civilian commander
  2. Samrina Khan – epidemiologist
  3. Lucien Akimwe – chemist
  4. John Sealey – biologist
  5. Elaine Penny – biologist
  6. Stephen Greaves – nobody is entirely certain

The escort:

  1. Colonel Isaac Carlisle – military commander
  2. Lieutenant Daniel McQueen – sniper and second in command
  3. Lance-Bombardier Kat Foss – sniper
  4. Private Brandon Lutes – engineer
  5. Private Paula Sixsmith – driver
  6. Private Gary Phillips – quartermaster

Just as in Girl, the viewpoints switch between characters, although Carey now has to deal with a larger cast of characters. However, his writing is so carefully crafted that the thread of the story is preserved throughout, and each chapter has a purpose in furthering the story. I mean sure, sometimes it’s aggravating, but he weaves everything together in such a satisfying way. Just as in Girl, the characters are varied and complex, and even when I thought I had them sussed out, they still managed to surprise me. Also, Carey is great writing diverse characters. Of the twelve primary characters, at least two are PoC (that we’re aware of from their names, I won’t assume that because someone has a ‘white sounding’ name that they are white), and at least two gay characters in a relationship, and one who may be asexual. There are also four women in the typically male-dominated fields of science and the armed forces, and no character is ever reduced to a stereotype.

That’s all very well and good, but what happens? I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as I always like to experience a story for myself. However, now would be a good time to return to my qualm about Boy‘s blurb, as it implies (along with the cover art) that the boy is a similar age to Melanie (who is ten). However, Stephen, the eponymous character, is actually fifteen, and is a very capable scientist (it’s revealed early on that he invented the e-blocker that protects human scent from attracting the hungries) and he sets out with the rest of the crew to find a cure. While I would argue that Girl is hardly a children’s book, it certainly deals with the innocence of child and the experience of growing up and becoming aware of your place in the world. In contrast, Boy deals with hope in the face of overwhelming odds, of the importance of sacrifice, and the human resilience to survive in the harshest of conditions.

Overall, Boy is a slightly slower, more subtle story than Girl, which focuses more on the dynamics of a group rather than individual characters, but is utterly mesmerising, and slowly ups the emotional stakes to a jaw-dropping finale. Despite being connected, there is no mention of the plot or characters in Girl (apart from a quick reference to Dr Caldwell) until the epilogue. And oh dear Lord, what an epilogue it is. It was beautiful, it brought genuine tears of joy to my eyes, which hasn’t happened to me for a long time, and it absolutely thrilled me to my core. I gave this book 4/5 stars, as I did for Girl.

So left me know what you think; did you like Boy? If you haven’t read it yet, are you tempted? You can find me Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter, and until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

If you would like to buy either The Boy on the Bridge or The Girl with All the Gifts, then the links will take you to The Book Depository, where you get free delivery. If you decide to buy them using these links, I’ll also receive a small commission 🙂

May Book Haul – Trump is Actualised Dystopia

So last week, I made a mistake, by which I mean that I went to Foyles and spent £50. This doesn’t count as a mistake in my opinion (the books needed a loving home where I could care for them properly), but my boyfriend and my flatmate shook their heads at me nonetheless. As much as I had been trying to get through the books I already owned, I couldn’t resist going into the shop when we were walking RIGHT BESIDE IT at Stratford Westfield. For everyone who isn’t a Cool East London Kid like me (I am very definitely not this), Stratford Westfield is a huge shopping centre near the Olympic Park, and the chance of happening to walk past one particular shop off the main section is slim. So clearly the universe wanted me to have those books.

  Anyway, I’m sure that none of us need excuses to buy more books, so let’s get down to which book babies I took in. I bought five novels in all: two fantasy, one horror, one magical realism, and one modern classic. Without any further ado, here they are!

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch – “Thief and con-man extraordinaire, Locke Lamora, and the ever lethal Jean Tannen have fled their home city and the wreckage of their lives. But they can’t run forever and when they stop they decide to head for the richest, and most difficult, target on the horizon. The city state of Tal Verarr. And the Sinspire. The Sinspire is the ultimate gambling house. No-one has stolen so much as a single coin from it and lived. It’s the sort of challenge Locke simply can’t resist… but Locke’s perfect crime is going to have to wait.Someone else in Tal Verarr wants the Gentleman Bastards’ expertise and is quite prepared to kill them to get it. Before long, Locke and Jean find themselves engaged in piracy. Fine work for thieves who don’t know one end of a galley from another.”

Red Seas

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – “Locke and Jean barely escaped with their lives from what should have been the greatest heist of their career, in the port city of Tal Verrar. Now they head north, looking for sanctuary and an alchemist who can cure the poison that is slowly killing Locke. They find neither, but with their luck, money and hope exhausted, they receive an offer from a power that has never had their best interests at heart: The Bondsmagi of Karthain. In exchange for the chance that Locke might be saved, the Bondsmagi expect the two Gentlemen Bastards to rig an election in their home city of Karthain. They will be opposed. The other side has already hired the services of Sabetha Belacoros, the one person in the world who might match Locke’s criminal skill, and the one person in the world who absolutely rules his heart. Now it will be con artist against con artist in an election that couldn’t be more crooked, all for the benefit of the mysterious Bondsmagi, who have plans within plans and secrets they’re not telling…”

Republic of Thieves

  If you’ve been reading my Top 5 Wednesday posts recently, you’ll know how much I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora – elaborate heists set in fantasy Renaissance Venice starring a criminal gang with hearts of gold? What isn’t there to love? I’ve been meaning to pick up the second and third books for a while, so when I saw them I swooped in and nabbed them. I partly wanted to pick them up to continue the series while it’s still fresh in my mind, but I also want to read them before the awaited fourth book, The Thorn of Emberlain, comes out later this year. Lynch’s writing is witty and enjoyable, and I am hugely invested in both Locke and Jean (Jean is one of my characters I’ve read in recent years, I want all the good things for him), so I’m planning on reading these soon.

 ‘Salem’s’ Lot by Stephen King – “‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings—but not more than in any other town its size. Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed—nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow. Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror . . .”

salems_lot reprint

  One thing I do not talk about enough on this blog is how much I love Stephen King’s writing. In my opinion, his horror isn’t one of rising tension and quick jump-scares (or the literary equivalent) but of slowly consuming existential dread. It’s also to my shame that I haven’t read much of his work, and this is something I’m trying to remedy. Off the top of my head (ok I also had a quick look at Goodreads, I’m trying!) I’ve only read CarrieThe Shining, and several of the short stories in Everything’s Eventual, but he’s the master of horror for a reason. Horror is a genre I’ve only really gotten into in the last few years, as I always hated horror films when I was younger, and therefore didn’t want to read horror books either. In some ways, reading horror isn’t as scary, as you can just stop reading whenever you want, but I’ve always found imagining the scene within my mind to be more terrifying in some cases. I read The Shining about nine months ago and I haven’t read since then, and I don’t have any horror books on my TBR. I asked my flatmate for a recommendation, and he said ‘Salem’s Lot, as he had very much enjoyed it as a vampire novel. We’ve been recommending a number of books to each other recently so I trust his judgment, plus it’s hard to go wrong with Stephen King.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie – “Born at the stroke of midnight, at the precise moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is destined from birth to be special. For he is one of 1,001 children born in the midnight hour, children who all have special gifts, children with whom Saleem is telepathically linked. But there has been a terrible mix up at birth, and Saleem’s life takes some unexpected twists and turns. As he grows up amidst a whirlwind of triumphs and disasters, Saleem must learn the ominous consequences of his gift, for the course of his life is inseparably linked to that of his motherland, and his every act is mirrored and magnified in the events that shape the newborn nation of India. It is a great gift, and a terrible burden.”

Midnight's Children

  I bought this book because it’s a modern classic, and I’m ashamed that I haven’t read any Rushdie before. I am also writing a magical realism novel, so I want to expand my knowledge and read one of the most successful magical realism novels ever written. I basically picked this up because I wanted to buy another book and I’ve had it on my radar for ages, and I was never going to read it if I didn’t have access to it!

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis – “A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States – and wins. Sinclair Lewis’s chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip, ‘Professional Common Man’, who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes the country down a far darker path. As the new regime slides into authoritarianism, newspaper editor Doremus Jessup can’t believe it will last – but is he right? This cautionary tale of liberal complacency in the face of populist tyranny shows it really can happen here.”

It Can't Happen Here

  Wow, so this doesn’t sound familiar at all! Like most young adults, I am of the opinion that we are in dire political times at the moment, both here in the UK with Brexit and the looming election, and across the pond with the election of Trump (who will hopefully be impeached soon, considering his recent activities). I read this blurb, and my first instinct was to laugh, and to then feel very sad, because when dystopian ideas start happening in real life, it’s clear we’re living in some pretty dark times. This book looks extremely relevant now, and hopefully we’ll be able to combat what our great-grandparents fought so hard against.

  There are all my new book babies! Let me know if you’ve read any of these or whether you’re tempted to read them. Also, feel free to check out my new Facebook page and give it a like to see my latest content. I can also be found lurking on Twitter and Goodreads. Until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

My Top 5 Summer Reads

I have to admit that this isn’t my favourite topic, purely because I don’t really read books at a certain time of year, or when I’m on holiday. I tend to read books I’m interested in throughout the year, and sometimes I want to read something to escape from my present situation (actually, this is pretty much the main reason I read in general), so I sometimes like to read a wintery book when it’s baking outside to try to trick my body into thinking it’s cooler. However, my understanding of the theme is something easy to read, usually somewhat romantic, or something set in a more exotic location. As always, this list is in no specific order. If you would like to find out more about Top 5 Wednesdays, you can do so here.

  1. The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley – I finished reading this book about a week or so ago, and it’s a haunting and engrossing read about a group of men surviving after a mysterious fungal disease has killed all the women in the world. The protagonist, Nate, is the storyteller of the group, and tells stories to remind them of women. As he tells these stories, strange yellow mushrooms begin to grow over where the women are buried, and form into sentient fungal imitations of women called the Beauty. It’s verdant, set mostly outdoors, and only 100 pages long, so it can easily be read when you’re busy enjoying yourself on holiday. Honestly, you will not regret taking the small amount of time necessary to read this book – it gives it back tenfold.the beauty
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – As much as I try not to repeat books in these lists, this is an excellent book which is both engaging and easy to read, with fantastic characters that I cared deeply about. It’s also set in a fantasy-style Venice, for all your sunny needs, and it’s a fairly long read, for when you want to be absorbed completely into a different world. I bought the second and third in the series the other day, so I’m hoping to get around to continuing the series soon.Locke Lamora
  3. Resistance is Futile by Jenny Colgan – This is somewhat outside of my usual reading pattern, and while I thought it was a slightly different book than what it turned out to be, I still found it enjoyable. Think part Dr Who and part rom-com, this concerns a brilliant female mathematician recruited to undertake a top-secret project at Cambridge, and finding love (and other things along the way). resistance is futile
  4. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Seeing as this book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last year, you don’t need me to tell you that this is one hell of a great read, and is perfect for escaping to an exotic location, both in terms of Vietnam (which in all honesty is pretty grim when visited in the book), the Philippines, and Los Angeles. The difficulties of loyalty, patriotism and living away from your homeland are complex and nuanced, and you’ll especially enjoy this book if you’re a fan of Miss Saigon, which I am. Be warned, it’s not for the fainthearted. Books-Carnegie Medals
  5. Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy – This is the definition of a summer read; set in the fictional temple town of Jarmuli in India, it concerns the lives of several characters living or visiting the town: a young woman from Oslo, three old ladies, and a temple guide. Their stories mix and merge to create a sweltering, heady mix of the joy and sadness, with beautifully poetic prose. sleeping-jupiter

So there are my summer reads – please let me know what yours are in the comments below. Until next time, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

How to Know When to Abandon a Series

Let me get one thing clear before I get into the main body of this post: you do you. I am not a book blogger who thinks that there is one correct way to read, and I don’t confuse my personal preferences for universal rules. As with most things, a little subjectivity goes a long way, so whenever I say that I’ve been doing something correctly or not, I mean that purely within my own context. It doesn’t matter if you prefer an ebook or a physical one, a hardback or a paperback, to read multiple books at the same or not, to read YA or fantasy or poetry or erotica – if you read, then I think you’re awesome. For the record, I prefer physical magical realism/fantasy/dystopia/sci-fi paperbacks read one after another, but that’s just me. Anyway, to my point.

For the last year or so, I have been reading series wrong (for me). By this, I mean that I’ve been reading the first in the series, and sometimes I’ve even bought the rest of the series, and then moved on to other books, before finally getting around to the sequel, and realising I couldn’t remember half of the first. This has usually been because I have a tonne of books on my TBR (I also went to Foyles today and bought a load more books, which I shall also write about soon), and I want to get through as many as possible. However, it stands to reason that if I like the series, and I have the rest of the books, I should actually read them! But then, what should you do if you don’t like the first book, or if you’re on the fence? In general, I’ve tried to trust my gut, but defying it has brought me both good and bad reading experiences recently. First of all, the good, cos we all know that the bad is far juicier, and should be saved until last.

As has been made apparent in some of my early posts, I didn’t much enjoy The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and I only gave it two stars, which is pretty rare for me. I really liked the magic system and the world, but I found the main character Quentin to be intolerable, and a lot of the other characters were pretty unpleasant. I didn’t have the rest of the books in the series, and I had no intentions of buying them. However, roughly one year later, my best friend (who is also one of my flatmates) asked to borrow a few books to read while on holiday. I lent him The Magicians, A Darker Shade of Magic, and Ready Player One, and when he came back he bought the rest of The Magicians Trilogy and read them in succession. He encouraged me to give the second book a go, and I avoided it for the next nine months or so. Eventually, I decided to give it a go, and was pleasantly rewarded with an interesting plot, very accomplished writing, and excellent female characters (seriously the series should have just been about them – Quentin is such a whiny man-child). All in all, I was very happy about this outcome, and while I still maintain that Quentin is a ridiculous Mary Sue character who does not develop or deserve the rewards heaped upon him, I’m glad I finished the series.

So we should give all series a chance, right? Unfortunately no, as I discovered when I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Now then, I know that some people love this series, so let me make one thing clear – this is not an attack on you if you like it, and just cos I didn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. As I said at the start – you do you. However, I detest this series. It is dull as dishwater, badly thought through, and Riggs’ writing is as weak as the Internet’s collective attention span. I realised this after the first book, but stupidly thought that the series could improve. This was partly due to the fact that I thought that the premise of the story could have been very promising, and because I had requested the books for my birthday, and thus had the whole trilogy. This was time badly spent – I slowly grew resentful of the books throughout the trilogy, and I now actively hate it. I slogged through the last book willing it to end quickly, and got absolutely no joy from the ending. The plot was dull and lifeless, the characters were one-dimensional and I honestly did not care at all what happened to them, and the ending was too convenient. I wish I hadn’t spent my time slogging through something I knew I wasn’t enjoying, and I could have focused my time and energy on many of the great books on my TBR shelf.

So, how do you know which one is which? Well, I can’t give you all the answers (obviously), but here are three top questions to ask yourself to help you decide whether to carry on with a series you’re uncertain about:

  1. Analyse why you didn’t immediately want to read the next book – are these issues that you think could be fixed?
  2. Do you think the author is capable of fixing these issues, or do you just have a strong objection to their writing?
  3. Can you justify spending the time and money on the rest of the books, or do you have other books you want to priortise? How much energy are you willing to invest in it?

In saying this, it’s also important to acknowledge that some things are unpredictable – a great first book can turn into a terrible series, and authors can betray your trust, it’s the risk of being a reader. However, I think we can all read a little more enjoyably and save ourselves some heartache if we think critically about the books we like, which should hopefully mean that we can then find similar ones. Also, it’s not admitting failure if you deicde to give up on a series, no matter where you are within it – you are under no obligation to finish something you dislike!

Anyway, let me know if you’ve had experiences like mine, and how you decide whether to continue a series or not. Until then, may your plots be satisfying and your characters get what they deserve.

P.S. Check this photo I took of some hardback classics in Foyles – so beautiful, I wanted them all!

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