Sunday 31 August 2014

Monthly Round-Up: August

Hello! So it's been another month (they go so fast), and I still haven't been up to much on the blog. I have no excuse, I think this is just how I do now so. I'm pretty sure any one who still reads my blog knows the deal by now. Anyway, apart from that, August has been a pretty good month for me! It's pretty much just been a whole month of doing nothing and reading, and it was my birthday. So that was nice. And there was a whole bunch of events which were a lot of fun and which I am going to tell you to much about at some point in this post. 

Books read

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Sue and Kate Rorick
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y S Lee
Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton
This Book is Gay by James Dawson
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (reread)
Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy

Total: 9

Actually a good reading month for me! I was getting a bit worried about being able to meet my target of 90 books this year because I can't do maths (and I still don't know if I'll actually be able to do it because uni is a thing that is happening and I don't know what will happen to my reading habits then!) But I only have to read 30 more books to reach my target with four months left to do it in, which seems doable.

Books reviewed

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

TWO more than last month so it totally counts as an achievement.

Book of the Month

Once again, I've had a really good month in terms of book quality, too, so I'm a bit torn, but I think we all know where I'm going with this...

No explanation necessary, I think!

Books Acquired
(I stopped doing this because of shitty laptop problems and will probably stop again because of how stupidly long this post is going to be, but WHAT THE HECK. IT'S MY BLOG AND I WANT TO SHOW OFF MA BOOKS)

Bought: Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light by Derek Landy (only the LAST BLOODY BOOK. NO BIG DEAL. I'M NOT CRYING OVER IT YOU'RE CRYING OVER IT SHUT UP); Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins; Shadow & Bone and Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo; The Copper Promise by Jen Williams; Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan; Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson; The Falconer by Elizabeth May; Solitaire by Alice Oseman; The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne; The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham; The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey; Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb; The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch; Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. (Not pictured) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan; This Book is Gay by James Dawson. As you can see, I bought a lot of massive adult fantasy novels that I'm probably never going to read.

Review: A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher (Chicken House); Winterkill by Kate A Boorman (Faber); As Red as Blood by Sally Simukka; Boys Don't Knit by Tom Easton (Hot Key Books).

Borrowed: Red Rising by Pierce Brown (thank you Stacey!) and Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton (not pictured because I have given it back, but thank you Jim!)

Events What I Went To: I promise this is almost over. I went to four wonderful events this month, three of which were at Waterstones Piccadilly, so I shall go over those first. The first was an event with James Dawson and David Levithan, which was a lot of fun, plus there were early copies of This Book is Gay which is just such a good book. I cannot wait for it to be released upon the unsuspecting public. The second was a blogger event with Leigh Bardugo, and she is seriously one of the nicest, most fun authors I have ever met. She's also such an engaging speaker, and I really enjoyed the event even though I've still only read Shadow & Bone. But I did by a new copy there to get signed because it's pretty and I want to reread it and there's a MAP. There isn't a map in the other UK editions! And it's such a pretty map. I NEEDED THE MAP. And then there was the Maureen Johnson/Sarah Rees Brennan event. I don't think I've ever laughed so much at an event in my life. Plus I got the chance to share my knowledge of all the weird self published erotica that there is in the world (it's a long story. Don't even ask.) AND there were early copies of Unmade. There was also a small meet up with Victoria Schwab which was VERY EXCITING and I may have gotten a bit shaky every time I actually said words to her (probably about twice). But she is so lovely and she signed my books and GAH. IT WAS THE BEST.

AND as well as all that I also got into uni so I will be going off to do university and be an 'adult' or whatever which isn't at all worrying or exciting or terrifying *screamcries*

SO! How was your August?

Friday 29 August 2014

Through the Woods review

Through the Woods
Emily Carroll
July 15th 2014
Margaret K. McElderry Books

A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of Grimm Tales, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and the works of Neil Gaiman 

'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...

I adored Through the Woods. I've always liked Emily Carroll's webcomics, so this isn't exactly surprising, but I've been anticipating this book for a while so it's nice that it fully lived up to my expectations. Through the Woods is a stunning anthology of five truly chilling comics and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to start reading comics who are perhaps looking for something a bit creepy.

The five comics in this book are all really good, and they're all wonderfully unsettling if not outright creepy, but everyone will have their favourites and some of the stories are definitely stronger than the others. I'm just going to go through them all because I don't really know how to review comics. Or anthologies. FUN!

The first story, Our Neighbour's House, is the shortest story (I think), but it sets the tone for the book perfectly. It tells the story of three sisters, left at home waiting for their father to come home from a hunting trip (and no, it does not turn into a genderbent version of Supernatural with an extra added sibling, but that would have been awesome). It's eerie, but subtle, and I think it's definitely the best story of the book to ease the reader into Carroll's style of creepiness and sets the atmosphere really well.

The second story - A Lady's Hands Are Cold - was one of my favourites, though I did genuinely like them all a lot. It's the most fairy taleish of the stories, telling the story of a woman who gets married and is then haunted by a ghost. It is magical and creepy and it's a tiny bit gross and I loved it. There is a sense of otherwordliness to all of these stories as some of them feel like horror-fairytale hybrids, but I think A Lady's Hands Are Cold is where I felt this the strongest.

His Face All Red is the only one of the stories that was originally a webcomic (you can still read it online so if you're not sure you could read it to get a taste of Through the Woods). It's actually the first one of her comics which I read, but I still enjoyed getting to read it again in a different format, even though I will say that I think it might actually work better as a webcomic? There's something about the way that it's formatted, that the screen is all black apart from the panels, and you just keep scrolling and scrolling down which creates this real sense of unease. But it's still great in the book, and it's one of my favourite of her stories.

The last two stories were, respectively, my least and most favourite stories in the collection. My Friend Janna was still good (in my opinion there isn't really a bad story in this book), but for me it lacked something, even if I can't put into words exactly what I think it was missing. It just didn't have quite the same impact or uneasiness about it that the other stories had by comparison. Nesting Place, on the other hand, was just so good. It's longest of the stories, and probably the most horrific (by which I mean there are some quite horrifying panels, but nothing *too* scary). Emily Carroll is just so good at cultivating a sense of dread, where you're both too eager and too scared to turn the next page, and I think that that feeling is most present in Nesting Place.

I think that as a whole text it is just so well put together. The stories felt like they were in the right order (though it doesn't really matter what order you read them in), and I loved the fact that there was an introduction and conclusion, too, to really make it feel like one cohesive thing rather than bitty stories that didn't really go together, you know? And I love these kinds of more psychological horror stories, anyway. It's not about seeing the monster, or even knowing what the monster is/if there is a monster. It's all about the power of suggestion, the hint of something terrible and leaving your own imagination to fill in the gaps. It's also just a beautiful book. The artwork and panelling all really suit the stories and the colouring is so stark and simple and it all just works so darn well.

I think it's pretty obvious by now that I loved this book. It's the kind of book I want to force into peoples hands whether they want to read it or not. It's a pretty quick read, too, but they're the kind of stories that you can come back to, and it's just such a beautiful book that you want to own it even if you do only read it once. So yeah. Go read some creepy comics, guys. DO IT.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Since You've Been Gone review

Since You've Been Gone
Morgan Matson
May 6th 2014
Simon & Schuster

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just...disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.
On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?
Apple picking at night?
Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn?
Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger?
Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she'll find?
Go skinny-dipping?

I have loved all of Morgan Matson's books so far, so it will come to no surprise that I loved Since You've Been Gone, too. It's just as sweet and heartfelt as Amy & Roger and Second Chance Summer, and I highly recommend all of Morgan's books to any one who has yet to discover their brilliance (and if they like contemp YA).

Since You've Been Gone really balances three of my favourite things in contemp YA (really three of my favourite things in ANY book, let's face it) - sweet romance with a person who is actually nice, friendship (FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX), and awesome character development. That being said, I can't think of any aspect of the book which I actively disliked or didn't enjoy. Also, it had playlists in it. Playlists in books are my weakness. Even if they're not the kind of music I would normally listen to, like in this book for most of Emily's running playlists, I have to make them. Odds are I won't even listen to them more than once, but I just like to have them. Playlists and maps. All books should have them. Seriously, if you find me a book with a playlist AND a map I will probably cry with joy.

Anyway... I liked Emily a lot in this book. It's really important to me in books like this that the main character has some sort of personality so that the book doesn't just read like some OC fanfiction because I, personally, am not about reading books picturing myself as the MC. I don't get that. But to each their own! I liked Sloane a lot, too, which you might think sounds a bit odd considering that she's not actively in the book that much, but most of the chapters have a flashback of when Sloane was there, so you really get the backstory and key moments of Emily and Sloane's friendship. I love important friendships in fiction (and real life), ones that shape people, and I think I am justified in saying that this is one of those pivotal friendships. The whole time that I was reading the book I was worried that it was going to turn out that Sloane was kind of a terrible friend and that the book was going to be about Emily realising that and making new friends, but I did not have to be worried. That wasn't the case at all. I was so happy that they were both just normal human people with flaws who sometimes make poor decisions. I was so happy that Emily was just as important to Sloane as Sloane was to Emily. I really feel like this was a book about Emily finding Sloane, but also about Emily finding herself without Sloane, in a way that benefits both herself and their friendship. If that makes sense. 

I will admit that as much as I loved the friendship (which I really did. It was one of my favourite parts of the book), and as much as I loved Emily's growth as she started to do the things on Sloane's list, starting with the easy things and moving further and further outside of her comfort zone (which was awesome. Character development, hooray!), I also loved Frank a lot. I've already said this, but Frank is just so great. And Emily and Frank together are so great. I loved their development from sort of knowing each other to friendship to romance. And I also just felt really involved in the book. I felt really awful for Emily in the part of the book where everything is messed up (because there is always a part in these kinds of book where everything is messed up before everything is happy), because I felt like she'd grown so much and she was trying so hard, even if what she did was kind of wrong? I was still on her side.

Since You've Been Gone is a really lovely book, and it's probably my new favourite of Morgan Matson's books (well, really they're all tied for first place because they are all amazing), and I am just so excited for her next book. I don't know what it's about or when it will happen, but I know that, like with all her other books, it will be great.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Ancillary Justice review

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
Ann Leckie
October 1st 2013

Winner of the Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, nominated for the Hugo and Philip K. Dick Awards. 

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance. 

Ancillary Justice was kind of an odd choice for me, because I don't read a lot of adult fiction and I don't read a lot of science fiction (most of my experience with sci-fi books are dystopia which I'm not really that keen on. I'm more of a fantasy person, really). But I do try to be a fairly open minded reader and I'm always looking to read outside of my comfort zone, and I'd heard a lot of really great things about this book so I thought I may as well give it a go! And I actually enjoyed it a lot.

I will admit that it took me a while to get into, as it is quite confusing. Most of the book is told in alternating chapters between the present and past events which lead to Breq's present situation back when she was the Justice of Toren. I generally find books told like that take me a bit longer to get into just because there's really two storylines to adjust rather than just the one, and it's getting into both of them that takes a while. As well as that, the actually concepts are pretty hard to get your head around straight off the bat. Breq is an artificial intelligence who was a spaceship named the Justice of Toren, but also had these ancillaries, which are human bodies that she would use, and it is one segment of these ancillaries named One Esk that is the viewpoint character for the past timeline. Kind of. Because even though most of the events are told from One Esk's perspective, it's still the Justice of Toren, so it's constructed in such a way that there are parts where one event is seen through the eyes of all the parts of Breq. Which I think is the best way I can explain it. So, yeah. It's pretty confusing, but once you kind of get your head around it it makes some sense and is actually really well done. The other confusing thing is that in Breq's language (it's told in first person), they don't really differentiate between gender so everyone is referred to as 'she'. However, even though this was a bit confusing, it was actually one of my favourite parts of the book and, in my opinion, one of the most interesting. It really made me think about how important I consider knowing the gender of a character in a story, which is apparently more important than I'd thought as I kept trying to figure out the gender of every new character. I still don't know the gender of a lot of the characters in the book, but I'm okay with that now. I think.

I did find the plot itself a bit confusing too, but I think I get it now after having more time to think about it. I do think that I would really benefit from rereading it maybe before the second book comes out? And now that I do sort of get it, I think that it's actually a really clever book that isn't clever in that kind of full of itself, better than you kind of way (Inception, anyone? That film was so up its own ass I'm surprised it even managed to make it out). I liked how the two timelines came together and I'm really looking forward to seeing where Breq's story goes next. Despite the confusion, though, it's actually an enjoyable book. I didn't think it was too dry or boring and I had fun while reading it because it's just such a cool concept and it's executed so well. It's not actively funny or anything, but it is still fun.

Another one of my favourite parts of the book was Breq herself. Which kind of surprised me considering that she's an AI and I guess I didn't really expect her to have much a personality. But that's actually a large part of the book, and Breq really does stand out as an interesting and complex person. Plus she was a SPACESHIP. So there's that. She's one of those people who acts like they're all stoic and like they don't care about anyone when they really do which is one of my favourite types of characters. I also liked her relationship with Seivarden (which is NOT romantic I would just like to point out) and the way it developed over the course of the novel. I just think that they have a great dynamic. For some reason I think that in sci-fi character will be sacrificed for the sake of a cool concept, or at least come second to it when really (in my opinion) I think that cool concepts really need to be grounded by interesting, well developed characters. Though this might just be because I LOVE CHARACTERS SO MUCH GIVE ME ALL THE GOOD CHARACTERS PLEASE. Any way, I think that that is something that Ancillary Justice does well.

I don't know if I loved Ancillary Justice, but I did like it a lot. So many aspects of the book were just carried out so well and it was so well constructed that I think it's difficult to at the very least accept that it's a pretty good book whether you liked/enjoyed it or not. I will definitely read the second book even if I'm still not a massive fan of sci-fi. I do like it a bit more now, though.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Landline review

Rainbow Rowell
July 3rd 2014
Orion Books

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Okay, so I'll admit that most of the reason why I read this book was because it was by Rainbow Rowell. Like with Attachments, it's not the sort of thing I would usually read. I think even more so in the case of Landline because it's really about marriage and all that jazz, which is just not the sort of thing I am usually interested in reading. However, I do trust Rainbow Rowell, and considering that I've liked/loved all of her other books, I thought I'd probably like this one a lot, too. And I did, so! I didn't love it as much as Fangirl, but let's be real here. I haven't loved any of Rainbow's books like Fangirl (nor any other books, really. That book is damn special to me.)

Landline is a book about Georgie McCool (yes, that is her real name. I *wish* my name was McCool.), a TV writer, whose marriage is struggling a bit when we meet her in the book. However, after her husband, Neal, goes on a family trip to Nebraska (which Georgie does not go on because of her work committments which was kind of the last straw for Neal), Georgie is somehow able to connect to the Neal of past using the landline at her parents house. So that's why I don't write summaries in my reviews. Long story short, breaking marriage, magic phone. That's pretty much all you need to know. 

There were lots of things that I liked about Landline, not least the magic phone itself. I just think that it's such a cool and simple concept that works so well in the context of the story, and I love that it's just this one weird, magical thing that happens at this one time. And also because it appeals to the time travel geek in me, because even if it's not literal time travel, the sort of direct interaction between past and present is good enough for me. Plus I loved the fact that, as a result of this and the structure of the story, really, we only get to see present Neal at the very beginning and ending of the book. The reader really only gets to know him as he was in the past, not just through the phone calls, but also because a lot of the novel is Georgie thinking about her relationship with him retrospectively. I also loved the parallels between the point of the past that Past Neal was from, the last time their relationship had been in trouble, and the present, and the fact that these phone interactions were what had changed them and affected their relationship both times. Past and present. I just have a lot of feelings about time, guys. 

I also really appreciated that it was super Rainbow Rowell, you know? Like, she just has this brilliant, distinct style of writing that somehow always manages to make me care about these characters even if they're in situations that I can't relate to or have little interest in. Which is a skill that most good writers have, I guess, but you know what I mean about Rainbow, if you have ever read a Rainbow book before. As such, I found myself rooting a lot for Georgie and Neal. Which, I guess it wouldn't be great if I found myself actively rooting against them, but whatever. I can't really explain properly about Rainbow's writing and the way it just so perfectly encapsulates the characters. You know exactly who these people are, you know their flaws and their good parts (what is the opposite of flaws? There must be a better way of putting it, but my brain can't think of it right now apparently.), you just know them. So I actually found Georgie to be a really engaging character, as well as Neal and Seth and Georgie's kids (sooooo cute), and the rest of Georgie's family. 

Even though I did really like the book, it lacked that magic quality (for me) that some books just have that make them favourites for me. Which is annoying, because I like to know why I did or didn't like a book, rather than just having an inexplicable feeling of love for a certain book for no apparent reason, but you know. I think the only thing which I actively disliked was that one scene. You know, with the pugs. I mean, it was fine, but COME ON. That easter egg (sort of?) at the end more than made up for it, though! 

So yeah, I really liked Landline a lot and would definitely recommend it to anyone who liked Rainbow's other books, or who maybe reads a lot of YA contemp and are looking for something slightly different, but that still has that same draw of a cute love story, even if it is from the other side of getting together. Getting back together? I don't know. It's good, is the point here.

Friday 1 August 2014

Monthly Roud-Up: July

Funnily (or sadly) enough, July was actually the most I posted on the blog in ages, and I only did five posts. I have no excuses this time, guys. Just general laziness. But, I do feel good about August. I might actually be productive for once! But I wouldn't hold your breath.

Books Read:
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Illusionists by Laure Eve
Total: 8
(All the Sarah Dessen's are rereads. You know how it is in the summer, when you're kind of ina reading slump and all you really want is some Sarah Dessen.)
Books Reviewed:
Book of the Month:
You know, I liked pretty much all the books I read this month, and I don't know how to choose. If I had to go with one, it would probably be Skulduggery. Or maybe Landline. Or The Illusionist. Or Since You've Been Gone. (I CAN'T CHOOSE)
I haven't really been up to much else this month, apart from, you know, YALC. Which was such a big deal that I wrote a whole blog post about it instead of just mentioning it here like I would usually do. HERE is that post about YALC if you haven't read it yet. I also did a random post about books which I want to see adapted, which you can read here.
In August, I'm really hoping I'll get around to doing some more reading than usual, because boy do I have a lot to catch up on! I'd also really like to blog some more, but I said that after YALC and still only managed one other post. Sometimes I think about maybe doing some more author interviews, because the two that I've done (yep. Only two!) I really enjoyed, and I would like to do something different every now and again. But I don't know. And I have a whole bunch of reviews to write. I think I'd also like to read some Adult SFF this month maybe? So we'll so how that goes. I'll do pretty much anything to distract myself from Results Day...
Anyway, how was your July? Read anything AMAZING?

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