Wednesday, 30 September 2015

This Week in Books | 30/09/15

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

Now: Thanks to MIRAInk, I received an eARC of Robin Talley's next novel, What We Left Behind, from NetGalley and I've already started it - I need to get better at reading the books I receive through NetGalley, and I really enjoyed Talley's debut Lies We Tell Ourselves (reviewed here!) so I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this!

Then: This might be the first time I've actually read a book I've said I was going to read the previous week. I picked up The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton on a whim and breezed through it, I absolutely loved it - look out for my review on Friday!

Next: It's the first day of October tomorrow, which means it's officially time for me to make a start on my Halloween TBR! I work at Seren Books in south Wales and Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray is one of our novels; throughout October my colleague Rosie and I will be reading the book together and we're encouraging anyone and everyone to join us! Follow Seren on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with all that we do, and follow the Seren blog, too - I write the majority of the stuff that goes on there, so if you ever feel like you don't see enough of me on this blog you can go searching for my charisma and wit over there.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday | Books to Read if you like Jane Austen

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Ten Books To Read If You Like This Super Popular Book/Author'.

I'm not a big fan of Jane Austen, but there's no denying that one of the reasons Austen's work is so popular is because it's still relevant today. There's a reason her novels have been adapted into more modern variations such as Bridget Jones's Diary and Clueless; if you gave the settings and some of her characters a few tweaks, then all of her stories could easily be 21st century romantic comedies.

For fans of Pride and Prejudice:

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton: Imagine if Jane Austen had written a book in which every single character was a dragon...

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South is another classic, later than Pride and Prejudice, with another central couple who at first dislike each other, and then grow to love one another. Also Richard Armitage is in the BBC miniseries and looks very dapper in his top hat.

For fans of Sense and Sensibility:

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal: To me, Shades of Milk and Honey is what would happen if someone added a little magic to Sense and Sensibility. Anne is older and plainer than her beautiful sister, but she's very talented in the magic department. Add to that a Darcy-esque love interest and you have the perfect book for any Austen fan.

Girls in Love by Jacqueline Wilson: This is an ideal book for younger readers, from around age 12 and up, by one of my favourite childhood authors. I've often seen Sense and Sensibility recommended as a great classic to read for anyone going through boy (or girl!) trouble, and Girls in Love is a good read for that, too.

For fans of Emma:

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis: This is a middle grade novel set during the Regency period, with a little bit of magic thrown in. With a child protagonist at the centre, it's a fresh look at a period of history that's so often written about in cheesy historical romances. Kat has two older sisters and likes to concern herself with who the two of them are going to marry - she's an Emma in miniature!

For fans of Mansfield Park:

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë: I've talked about Anne Brontë before and how much I love her. She wrote two novels during her lifetime: Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall outsold Wuthering Heights upon its publication and was incredibly successful, but after she passed away Charlotte Brontë decided not to republish it, and Anne has been the lesser known of the three sisters ever since. Not cool, Charlotte, not cool. Many critics have said that, had she lived longer, Anne Brontë could be as well known to us now as Jane Austen is. While Charlotte and Emily seemed to enjoy writing about the Gothic - though not all of Charlotte's work is like Jane Eyre - Anne was much more interested in society, and particularly in how society treated women. Agnes Grey is a short, subtle and beautiful little novel about the titular character who becomes a governess to support her destitute family, and the struggles she faces. It would be a disservice to both sisters to try and compare Agnes Grey to Jane Eyre because they're entirely different, and both excellent. I particularly love Agnes' relationship with her student, Rosalie, who enjoys making men fall in love with her just so she can reject them. Seriously, give it a read.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison: Obviously The Goblin Emperor and Mansfield Park are very different novels, but, as I said when I did the Jane Austen Book Tag, both of them have a rags to riches storyline at their heart. More importantly, both of these books feature protagonists who feel like outcasts, and who feel like outcasts in the very place they should feel at home. Both protagonists grow and find their own feet, but they don't sacrifice their naturally kind natures to do it.

For fans of Northanger Abbey:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Here we have two Caths, both of whom are far more interested in fictional characters than what's going on in the world around them. This is the ideal contemporary read for a Northanger Abbey fan!

For fans of Persuasion:

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: This is a sci-fi retelling of Persuasion. Basically, it's Jane Austen in spaaaaaace!

The King's General by Daphne du Maurier: This is one of du Maurier's lesser known novels. Set during the English Civil War, it tells the story of Honor Harris who is wooed by the proud and reckless Richard Grenville. The two of them part ways after an accident leaves eighteen year old Honor crippled, but reunite years later after Richard has risen up in Charles I's army. This is an ideal read for people who like stories about lovers getting second chances, like Persuasion.

Which books made your list?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Book vs. Adaptation | Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Today I'm back with another Book vs. Adaptation post! If you missed my previous post in this ongoing series, where I talked about the BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, you can check it out here!

I read Northanger Abbey in July - you can check out my review here if you like! - and watched the adaptation fairly soon after. Though I'm not the biggest fan of Austen's books, I do quite like watching adaptations of her novels; they're pretty and so easy to watch. This adaptation is from 2007 and is 86 minutes long. It was originally broadcast on ITV as part of their Jane Austen season in which three of her 'lesser known' novels were adapted: Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park (starring Billie Piper and Blake Ritson) and Persuasion (starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones).

Not sure why it says BBC, it's an ITV production I swear!
When it comes to adaptations, the most important thing for me is the casting. I love a good plot, don't get me wrong, but I love engaging characters more, and if I feel as though a character I love (or even a character I hate!) isn't going to be portrayed well it makes me very nervous for the adaptation. For example I didn't think I was going to like the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre; I couldn't picture Michael Fassbender as the brooding Mr. Rochester and I hadn't been all that impressed with Mia Wasikowska's performance in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but it's now one of my favourite adaptations!

I was curious to see what I'd make of the casting for Northanger Abbey, and after watching it I ended up with a rather mixed bag of feelings, which is similar to how I felt after I read the book.

Those of you who have read the book may have imagined her differently, but personally I thought Felicity Jones was the perfect Catherine. She looked how I pictured her - pretty, but not stunningly beautiful, and still a little dorky and gullible - and I thought she acted the part very well. I think it'd be easy for an actress to take a character like Catherine and portray her as nothing more than a silly little girl, but Felicity Jones didn't do that and I was glad she didn't do that, because while Austen teases Catherine a little in the book she never belittles her.

Cutie patootie
I thought Felicity acted the added scenes of Catherine's saucy dreams particularly well - she really captured the melodrama of the Gothic novel!

Our romantic lead, Henry Tilney, is by far my favourite of Austen's love interests. He's funny, and I value humour far more than I value a leading man's ability to brood, and I think JJ Feild played him wonderfully; he was perfectly sassy and never unkind. I'm surprised I haven't seen JJ Feild in anything else, though I can't help thinking he looks a little bit like Tom Hiddleston.

I was interested to see what Carey Mulligan would be like in the role of Catherine's shallow friend Isabella, especially after seeing her play the heroine, Bathsheba, so fantastically in the recent adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd, but she played the part well, and I imagine it was fun for her to play the kind of character she doesn't usually play. Plus I think this adaptation did a good job of making Isabella more of a sympathetic character, rather than dismissing her like Austen does.

The only people I felt were miscast were Henry's family. I expected his sister to be younger - closer to Catherine's age rather than older than her - and I didn't find General Tilney that intimidating. Perhaps that's because I'm so used to Liam Cunningham playing such a sweetheart in Game of Thrones, but I feel as though the adaptation could have tried a lot harder to make him a sinister figure; in the book I could understand Catherine's speculations, even though they were a little wild, whereas in this film they seemed to come out of nowhere.

As for the story itself, I thought it was very close to the book; there were the odd differences here and there, but they were so minute they didn't take anything away from the original story. It did do something which irritates me slightly in that the beginning and the end were narrated by 'Jane Austen'; I'm not a big fan of films with narrators, particularly when the narration is taken directly from a book because I think adaptations should embrace that they're a completely different medium to a book, and when they add narrators like that it's almost as though they're beckoning criticism from book purists.

Despite that I enjoyed the adaptation, and I think any Austen fan would too!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review | Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

by Becky Albertalli

My Rating:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

YA contemporary is one of the genres I tend to read the least of - the majority of the books I read nowadays aren't YA and I'm much more inclined towards the speculative than the 'normal' - but every now and then I stray back into the genre, and I almost always enjoy it when I do. This instance was no different.

I've heard nothing but praise for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so when I saw the kindle edition was relatively cheap I bought a copy and if I hadn't started reading it in the late hours, with work the next morning, I easily could have read it in one sitting; I read it for about an hour before I went to sleep and breezed through almost a third of it. I finished it the next day. I flew through this book, it's so much fun and surprisingly funny; as in 'I-actually-laughed-while-reading-this-and-got-weird-looks-from-my-family' funny.

This is one of those YA books where the characters feel like real teenagers. Some of the characters in this book reminded me of some of the people I went to school with, and as someone who so often finds it difficult to relate to the characters in contemporary YA this made for such a wonderfully nostalgic reading experience. I knew my fair share of Abbys, Taylors and Martins when I was at school.

Simon is a fantastic protagonist. He's funny and adorable and also genuine; he feels like a real boy (no that's not a Pinocchio reference) and the way he reacts to the pretty horrible situation he finds himself in is perfectly realistic. Considering she's a (presumably) heterosexual woman, Becky Albertalli has written a young gay man very well. I loved his relationship with Blue, too; the two of them have electric, honest chemistry and their emails were heartwarming, heartwrenching and hilarious all at once. Even though Blue was a little frustrating at times, he was never unlikeable, and even though I guessed who Blue was just over half way through it didn't take anything away from the ultimate reveal.

This isn't the best book I've ever read, but it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. I was glad that characters like Martin and Leah didn't get their ideal happy endings in a romantic sense because the two of them still have some growing to do; both of them were pretty shitty towards Abby, and what Martin does to Simon is, quite frankly, horrific. Blackmailing someone by threatening to out them is disrespectful and dangerous; some people don't come out because they don't feel safe in doing so, and Martin never even considers that.

All in all it was a fabulously entertaining book that I loved from start to finish and couldn't put down - 5 stars from me!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review | Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

by Robin Talley

My Rating: 

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
Somehow Robin Talley has completely passed me by, though considering I don't read much YA nowadays I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. It's not even that I don't read YA out of choice, I've just been drawn to a lot more adult fiction this year. I wanted to check out some of Robin's work after I discovered As I Descended, which is one of my most anticipated releases of 2016, and then I stumbled across her debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, and just had to read it.

I haven't read many books set during the '50s - if any - so it was refreshing to read about a time period I don't stray into that often; I love historical fiction, but I'm drawn to earlier history much more than modern history, mainly because of my lifelong love of the Tudors. I also very rarely read books in which racial issues are such a focal point; again, this is not something I do out of choice, but something that just kind of... happens. The only books I can pluck from the top of my head that deal directly with racial issues are Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and I've loved them both, so I guess that's proof that I should read more books like this one.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is difficult to read in the best kind of way. Does that make sense? The racism and abuse and outright cruelty that Sarah and her fellow black students, and the black population in general, face is sickening. It's awful to know that people were treated this way (and that, in some places, they still are) but stories like this one are so important. It's so important for us to remember the difficulties some people faced, and still face, purely because of the colour of their skin. I will never understand racism - I never want to understand racism - and I hope one day we'll see the day when colour no longer matters. If any of you think racism is a thing of the past, I implore you to open your eyes.

I really enjoyed Robin Talley's writing, particularly the sections in which Sarah thought about her relationship with God and whether or not God meant to make her feel the way she feels, whether the Bible says there's anything wrong with women loving other women, were so touching and beautifully written. To be honest I fell completely in love with Sarah - she's a wonderful heroine, and I just want to give her a hug.

This book also passed the Happy Lesbian Test - hooray! (If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, there's a trend in queer stories, whether they're in books, films, or on tv, where lesbian relationships almost always end in disaster. One of the women dies or they split up or one of them realises she's actually straight. It's bullshit.)

There were a few little niggles that meant I couldn't give the novel five stars. For me the ending seemed to wrap up very quickly; I was hoping for more of a climax, more of a 'BANG!'. Instead we were told a lot which was then never realised: for example, I was hoping for more of a confrontation between Linda and her awful father. I didn't want to see her getting hurt, but she seemed to get away from him very easily considering how hopeless she'd made her situation out to be, though I suppose a lot of Linda's issues were more insular than anything else.

I could also totally understand why Linda had feelings for Sarah, my little cherub, but I couldn't always understand why Sarah had feelings for Linda. I appreciated the idea that Sarah could argue with her and feel more like herself, and I really appreciated that Talley didn't write Linda as a super special snowflake who had none of her father's beliefs; she's had her father's views imposed on her all her life and people don't change their beliefs overnight. But she is racist. There's no denying that. Linda is racist and her racism gets people hurt. She does change her views - which is also an important message, because everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves the opportunity to be given the time to develop and change their views; I said some stupid things when I was 18, too - but she is a racist when Sarah develops feelings for her, and though it wasn't entirely unbelievable I sometimes had a difficult time understanding why Sarah found her attractive in more than just a physical way when some of the things that came pouring out of her mouth were so ignorant and hurtful.

Ultimately, however, this is a brilliant debut novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I flew through it and I'm really looking forward to reading more of Talley's work!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

This Week in Books | 23/09/15

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

NOW: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. I usually stay away from the books on the Man Booker Prize longlist, not on purpose but simply because the books that get longlisted aren't usually the kind of books I like to read, but after seeing Jen Campbell's review of The Fishermen I really wanted to pick it up. I've been on a bit of a debut novel kick recently and I want to read more books set outside Europe and North America.

THEN: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I picked this book up on a whim and it was a completely pleasant surprise. I really, really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to whatever Becky Albertalli releases next. Just before that I read Robin Talley's debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, and thoroughly enjoyed that, too. Look out for my reviews of both books on Friday and Saturday!

NEXT: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Continuing on with my debut novel theme, I'd quite like to read The Miniaturist soon because I've heard amazing things. If not The Miniaturist, however, I'm going to pick up The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester, Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan or The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

What are you reading at the moment? Read anything good recently?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday | My (very over-ambitious) Halloween TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is all about the books on our Autumn TBR. As I've said many times before I'm not a fan of TBRs - I often feel bogged down by them and I feel like I've 'failed' if I don't read the books on my TBR or if I read a book that isn't on my TBR at all - but I do like seasonal TBRs. I love these because I don't pressure myself to read all of these books, but I love the chance to talk about books that fit a certain theme.

In Autumn I like to try and read as many spooky books as I can during the build up to Halloween, so those are the ten fifteen books I've picked today!

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier: Is this book spooky? No idea, I haven't read it yet! But it does include a possible murder, and it's been likened to Rebecca, which is most definitely a psychologically spooky read. Plus I love Daphne du Maurier and I want to read more of her work.

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray: This book is published by the publishing house where I work, Seren! It's a ghost story set in the border between England and Wales during the '50s, so perfect for this time of year. One of my colleagues and I will be reading it throughout October - come and join us!

The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson: Shirley Jackson is my favourite horror writer. I love her. I now own all of her novels, and one of her short story collections, that have been published in the Penguin Modern Classics editions and I'm slowly working my way through them all. This one's next!

Carrie by Stephen King: I don't like Stephen King's books. There. I said it. There's just something about his writing style that means he and I don't get along, and it irritates me that his main characters are almost always writers. Seriously dude, write about someone else for a change. Having said that, I did enjoy Misery when I read it because there was nothing supernatural in it - as much as I love supernatural elements in the stories I read, I don't like them when King writes them - but I'd really like to give Carrie a try because I'm pretty sure it was the first novel of his that got published, and the concept does interest me. I've got it on my kindle, so we'll see what I think of it!

The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell: This little novella is the story of a family curse. I've read one of Gaskell's ghost stories before and enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to this one.

The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland: I think this is Karen Maitland's most recent novel, and I still haven't read anything of her's which, as a lover of historical fiction, is practically scandalous. She writes historical crime/mystery novels set in Medieval Europe, and this book sounds particularly spooky!

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix: This is a haunted house story, set in IKEA. IKEA! Okay, so it's not actually called IKEA in the book but we all know it's IKEA, right? Right. What I love most about this book, though, is that it's set out like a department store catalogue. It's the same size, shape and feel as a catalogue, and it even has an order form in the front. It's adorable! Even if I don't end up liking this book (it seems to have very varied feedback on Goodreads) I'm still glad to own it because I love it when publishers do something different like this.

How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back and White Trash Zombie Gone Wild by Diana Rowland: I love this series, and with the fifth book coming out next month I'm looking forward to getting all caught up with the series so far!

This Strange Way of Dying by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: As you know if you've been following my blog for a while, I adored Silvia Moreno-Garcia's debut novel, Signal to Noise, and now I'm really eager to check out some of her short stories. This collection sounds like the perfect collection to read as Halloween approaches!

Half Bad and Half Wild by Sally Green: I've been meaning to start this trilogy for the longest time (I meant to read Half Bad with Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight earlier this year and completely failed) and after I picked up a copy of Half Wild for just £1 at the weekend I figured I might as well give the series a try!

Demon Road by Derek Landy: I pre-ordered a signed, limited platinum edition of Derek Landy's latest book and I'm very excited to read it - I'm saving it for October!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: I'm pretty sure I put this book on my spring TBR, and I still haven't read it. I really want to, though! I did read the first chapter and I got distracted by something else, but considering it basically opens in a graveyard I think it's a pretty good read for this time of year.

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst: This is more fun than spooky, it sounds like a very entertaining reading experience and I'll turn to it when I'm in the mood for a giggle.

Which books made your list?

Monday, 21 September 2015

My Debut Novel TBR!

Lately I've really been in the mood to read some debut novels, to read the work of someone whose career as a published novelist is only just beginning, and I own quite a few debut novels that sound fantastic that I still have to read, so today I thought I'd share them with you!

I'm going to see how many of these I can cross off my TBR in the next couple of months!

by Jessie Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

I've heard nothing but amazing things about The Miniaturist since it was published, including some fantastic reviews by several of my friends whose taste in books I trust entirely. I've owned my copy for months - I managed to find a beautiful brand new hardback edition for only £5! - and I think it's about time I got around to it. Considering it's autumn setting I think it'll be a great book to read at this time of year.

by Chigozie Obiama

Four brothers encounter a madman whose prophecy of violence threatens the core of their family in this exciting debut novel.

Told from the point of view of nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river, they encounter a madman who predicts that one of the brothers will kill another. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact — both tragic and redemptive — will transcend the lives and imaginations of both its characters and its readers.

I don't usually pay much attention to the Man Booker Prize, even though I should, purely because often the books that are long-listed aren't the kind of books I'm interested in reading. After seeing Jen Campbell's review of The Fishermen, however, I bought myself a copy for my kindle because I love the sound of the fairy tale elements to this book, and I want to read more books set outside Europe and North America.

by Becky Chambers
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.
But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful - exactly what Rosemary wants.
Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They'll earn enough money to live comfortably for years... if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful.
But Rosemary isn't the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.
I received an eARC of this from Netgalley and still haven't gotten around to it - oops! It sounds really cool, though, and I'd like to read a little more sci-fi, plus I think that cover is gorgeous.

by Lucy Ribchester

The suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch but for broke Fleet Street tomboy Frankie George, just getting by in the cut-throat world of newspapers is hard enough. Sent to interview trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, Frankie finds herself fascinated by the tightly laced acrobat and follows her across London to a Mayfair corset shop that hides more than one dark secret.

Then Ebony Diamond mysteriously disappears in the middle of a performance, and Frankie is drawn into a world of tricks, society columnists, corset fetishists, suffragettes and circus freaks. How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory?

From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the drawing rooms of high society, the missing Ebony Diamond leads Frankie to the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined...

This debut is set in the early 20th century and involves the suffragette movement, lady journalists and trapeze artists. It sounds wonderful and I've owned my copy since the beginning of the year, so I should really get to it soon!

Have you read any good debuts this year? Have you read any of these books? Which one do you think I should read first?

Friday, 18 September 2015

Review | Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of our Hidden Genes by Emily Urquhart

by Emily Urquhart

My Rating: 

Like any new mother, Emily is thrilled when her first child, a daughter, is born. The baby, Sadie, is healthy and stunningly beautiful, with snow white hair and fair skin. Even the doctors and nurses can’t help a second look at this magical child. But soon a darker current begins to emerge—something is amiss. After three months of testing, Sadie is diagnosed with albinism, a rare genetic condition.
Emily, a folklore scholar and an award-winning journalist, is accustomed to understanding and processing the world through stories. With Sadie at her side, Emily researches the cultural beliefs surrounding albinism and finds a curious history of outlandish tales of magic, and of good and evil reaching back through time, along with present-day atrocities. In some parts of the world, people with albinism are stalked; their condition is seen to bring luck and health as well as danger and death. Investigating the different reactions, in different cultures, to those with albinism, Emily begins to see her child as a connection between worlds.
Part memoir, part cultural critique, and part genetic travelogue, Beyond the Pale is a brave, intimate investigation into the secret histories that each of us carries in our genes and an inspiring and beautiful memoir about parenting a child with a disability—and building a better future for that child.
I feel like this year is the happiest I've felt with my reading habits for the longest time. When you step into book blogging it feels as though you must read what everyone else is reading, not because anyone else tells you that but because, naturally, you want to join in when other bloggers are really excited about a book they've been reading. I really tried, but I don't read primarily YA so a lot of the books that are very popular in the book blogging community tend to pass me by. For a while that bugged me, and now it doesn't because all that matters is that I enjoy blogging and I enjoy reading.

This year I've really gotten into non-fiction. For a while I was convinced non-fiction just wasn't my thing. When I was younger I was interested in stories, in fiction, I wasn't interested in reading a memoir. As I got older most of the non-fiction I read I encountered at university, and when you associate non-fiction with essay writing it can be hard to seek out non-fiction purely for enjoyment's sake. Over the past year or so, however, I've really begun to enjoy non-fiction. I love non-fiction centred around history and historical figures - I'm a huge history nerd - but I've also enjoyed reading some literary criticism and memoirs, and recently I read and enjoyed Beyond the Pale.

I had no idea whatsoever that this book existed until I saw Jen Campbell mention it on her YouTube channel and it sounded fascinating. I knew very little about albinism, but I had encountered it a little during my MA while I was researching witchcraft, and the idea of a folklorist exploring the beliefs surrounding albinism and looking into her own family history sounded right up my street.

Emily Urquhart's writing style is very readable. When she's discussing the early stages of her daughter's diagnosis and the different types of albinism there are it could have been easy for me to get lost - I'm not scientifically minded at all - but I was never confused, nor should I have been. This book isn't a science book, it's a memoir and a travel book and criticism all rolled into one, and while albinism is the focus Emily pays so much more attention to the people with albinism than the condition itself. Everyone she meets is treated with such respect and her daughter, Sadie, is just adorable.

There's a real spectrum of beliefs in this book, from the biblical suggestion that Noah had albinism and therefore the condition is associated with being the child of an angel in Christian theology, to the more heartbreaking realities in Tanzania in which people with albinism literally live in fear of their lives. Some of the stories may be a little hard to read but they're worth reading: it's incredibly important that we don't remain ignorant to some of the atrocities that people with albinism are forced to face on a daily basis.

I really enjoyed this book. It satisfied the craving I've had for non-fiction all year, and once again reminded me to continue to broaden my reading habits. The only reason I gave it four stars rather than five was because I was hoping for a little more along the lines of folklore; after a while it seemed to disappear from the narrative completely other than the times in which Emily reminded us she's a folklorist, but I still really enjoyed reading about her trip to Tanzania and her research into her family history.

Super interesting read, I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

This Week in Books | 16/09/15

This week I'm joining in with Lipsy @ Lipsyy Lost & Found to talk about the books I've been reading recently!

NOW: Right now I'm reading Robin Talley's debut novel, Lies We Tell Ourselves, set in 1959 Virginia where, for the first time, black students are being admitted to a previously all-white high school. It's tough to read. I'm really enjoying it so far, but it's so awful to know that black people were treated this way and that, in some places, they still are. I don't think I'm ever going to understand racism, and I don't want to, but stories like this one are so important. It's also an LGBT* novel, so our protagonists have homophobia to deal with too. 

THEN: My copy of Saga, Vol.5 arrived yesterday so I read it last night and now I have to wait for the next volume. Le sigh. I enjoyed it, I love this story and the art so I'm always going to enjoy it, but it felt a lot more bleak than some of the other volumes. Obviously this is a story about war so it's never going to be sunshine and rainbows, I just hope it's a story with some sort of happy ending at the end of it all.

NEXT: Continuing on my Sarah Waters binge I think I'm going to pick up Tipping the Velvet next. I recently bought myself the BBC adaptation on DVD but I want to read the book first, plus I've heard it's Waters' most fun novel. If I don't go for this one I may read either Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist or Lucy Ribchester's The Hourglass Factory - they're both debuts I want to cross off my TBR!

What are you reading?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday | Mum's the Word

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is a freebie, and I'm always a little reluctant when it comes to freebies because I feel like there's so much pressure to do a really cool topic, but it's only pressure that I put upon myself because I'm actually insane.

It was my mum's birthday on Saturday, so this week I thought I'd share my top ten mothers, and mother figures (because let's face it, so many characters have dead mothers), from fiction!

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Come on, Molly is the ultimate mother. She's a Mother with a capital 'M'. She'd mother the world if she could, and she certainly gives it a good go throughout the series. I love her.

Kat Hall from If I Stay by Gayle Forman: I thought Kat and Denny were such fun, fantastic parents. Kat seems so laid back and wise, and I love how she was portrayed in the film adaptation, too.

Auntie Barbara from Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson: I loved this book when I was a little girl, and I have such fond memories of Auntie Barbara. I almost feel a little cruel putting her on this list when Jayni - or Lola Rose, as she prefers to be called - has her mother, but Auntie Barbara is amazing.

Marmee from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Like Molly Weasley, I think Marmee is another staple of fictional mothers. She wants her daughters to do well and grow into accomplished young women, but she wants them to find their way in the world their way; she supports Jo when she wants to write, she supports Meg when she chooses to marry for love over money, she supports Amy when she decides to pursue art in Europe, and she supports Beth by letting her take each day at a time, and never forcing her into anything that will make her uncomfortable.

Alana from Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: What I love about Alana is that she's the heroine of the story, not the heroine's mother. Just because Alana has a child it doesn't make her any less Alana, and it's good to see the struggles that come with parenthood (especially if half the galaxy is trying to murder you) rather than a saintly mother figure.

Grace Goodwin from The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe: I love Grace because at first it seems like Katherine Howe is doing something stereotypical with the hippie, new age mother and the studious daughter who just doesn't understand her, and then it's revealed that Grace is a lot wiser than people assume, she just shares her wisdom in a different way.

Hannah Thornton from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: She might not be particularly likeable, but any woman who can survive in the 19th century, and raise two children well, after her husband loses all the family's money and then commits suicide is a pretty good egg in my book. This woman's got steel in her blood.

Miss Honey from Matilda by Roald Dahl: Who doesn't love Miss Honey? I always loved that Matilda ended up with the kind of family she deserved, and that Miss Honey did, too.

Narcissa Malfoy from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I think Narcissa's a fascinating character, and I love that we can never quite place her. She's not good or bad, she's many, many shades of grey, and she's a pretty fantastic mother.

Michelle Benoit from Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: I really wish we'd learned a little more about this lady! When I realised Marissa Meyer would be doing a sci-fi retelling of Little Red Cap I was curious about how the grandmother would be handled, and the fact that she used to be a military pilot is just so cool. Michelle was amazing, and I thought her relationship with Scarlet was lovely.

What did you talk about this week?