Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | More Anticipated 2017 Releases

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 'Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For The Second Half of 2017', so below are the ten books, published between July and December of this year, that I'm most looking forward to!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Ng's debut, Everything I Never Told You (reviewed here), was the best book I read last year, so I can't wait to get my hands on her second novel. She has a real talent for writing families and I'm hoping this book's going to be just as good as, if not better than, her first.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: If you've been following my blog for a while then you'll know I'm a big fan of Moreno-Garcia's work. Her debut, Signal to Noise (reviewed here), is one of my favourite books of all time and I really enjoyed her second novel, Certain Dark Things (reviewed here), too. Her third novel seems to be a kind of fantasy of manners book - it's giving me The Night Circus vibes - and I can't wait to read it.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant: Grant is the author of one of my other favourite books, Feed, and Into the Drowning Deep is a novel-length sequel to her horror novella, Rolling in the Deep (reviewed here). I must thank Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies for bringing it to my attention, because after reading Rolling in the Deep I remember thinking I'd love to read something longer about Grant's killer mermaids.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin: The final book in Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy which is simply fantastic. I can't wait to see how Jemisin concludes this story.

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann: I love me some Tudor history, and this book sounds fascinating. When we think of Tudor England we imagine a very white England, but Kaufmann has written a book about the black people who were very much around during this time. October is Black History Month in the UK, so I'm aiming to read this book this autumn.

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins: I haven't read any of Perkins' novels, Anna and the French Kiss etc. don't really interest me, but I did enjoy her short story in My True Love Gave to Me and I'm very interested in checking out a novel described as Scream meets YA. I really enjoyed Riley Sager's Final Girls (reviewed here) earlier this year, so I'd love to read more novels that play on slasher movie tropes.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw: Urban fantasy doesn't tend to be a genre that reels me in, but every now and then I'm in the mood for it and this sounds interesting! I love it when stories play around with the Dr. Helsing figure.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge: This has a beautiful cover, ghosts and it's released on my birthday - what's not to love? I've also read virtually no historical fiction set during the English Civil War, so this should be interesting.

The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera: Eastern-inspired high fantasy and girls kissing. It's all I need in a book.

The Orphan of Florence by Jeanne Kalogridis: If a story's set in Florence then I'm already sold, and if it's set in Renaissance Florence I want it even more.

Which books made your list this week?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | 2017 Summer 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!

Every year I find myself making seasonal TBRs, usually made up of books that suit the season (floral books for spring, ghost stories for autumn etc.), but this year my summer TBR consists of two kinds of books: books I'm just in the mood to read right now, and books that have been on my TBR for far too long.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't read this and I definitely should have by now. I've been hearing amazing things about the new adaptation, but I want to read the book first and I'm determined to cross it off my TBR this year.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: Greece always makes me think of the summer, probably because I was lucky enough to go to Crete with my parents several times during my childhood early teens, and yet I don't think I've ever actually read any fiction set in Greece. I've been in an Ancient mood recently - the warmer weather makes me want to watch films like Troy and Pompeii - and I've heard so many brilliant things about this book that I think it's about time I read it.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: This has been on my TBR for years. Years. Every year I say I'm going to read it and then I never get around to it, but I've been lucky enough to have several city breaks over the past couple of years so I'm definitely in the mood to read a book set in Barcelona now that the weather's warming up. One of my colleagues read this recently and loved it, so I'm hoping I love it too!

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng: This is another book that's been on my TBR for at least a year or so, and this past year I've been trying to make more of an effort to read books set in Asia written by Asian authors. I know so little about Asia thanks to my history lessons at school being so Britain-centric but there's nothing stopping me from doing my own research, and I learn as much from fiction as I do non-fiction. This book, in particular, sounds really interesting to me and I'm looking forward to getting to it.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant: So I went to Florence last year and it's become my favourite European city. It's the first time I've come home and felt homesick for the place I've left, and now I want to revisit it as much as I can in fiction. I picked up my copy of The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery giftshop after having just seen the real Birth of Venus painting - how could I not? - and I'm looking forward to reading it soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This book has been everywhere and I still haven't read it, but I want to get to it this year. I love the idea of exploring how a family's history, of being enslaved or of being involved in the slave trade, can impact a family throughout the generations, and I think this is going to be a very eye-opening and important book.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi: I read my first Oyeyemi last year, White is for Witching, and unfortunately I didn't like it, but I want to give her another chance because I think she writes beautifully. This book follows a male writer who keeps killing off his female characters, only for one such character to turn up at his door. I'm looking forward to it!

Florence in Ecstasy by Jessie Chaffee: More Florence! This is a very recent release and I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into it.

Stay With Me by Aọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀: I've heard brilliant things about this debut novel and it's another one I'm hoping to get to fairly soon, especially as I think there's a good chance it's going to be the winner of the Bailey's Prize this year.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Like The Shadow of the Wind, this book has been on my TBR for far too long and I've had countless people recommending it to me, so it's about time I bloody read it. I've heard amazing things and I'm sure it's going to make me cry, but I'm looking forward to reading it.

What did you talk about this week?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Things I Want My (Hypothetical) Daughter to Read

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 Mother's Day freebie, which is weird for me as Mother's Day's in March in the UK. I remember doing something along the lines of my favourite mothers in fiction some time last year, it doesn't feel like long ago anyway, so today I'm going to talk about the books I'd want my daughter to read.

I don't have any children, and I don't know if I'll ever have any, but if I ever have a daughter I hope she reads these books:

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: If I ever have a daughter, I want her to know there's nothing wrong with the word 'feminist' and there's certainly nothing wrong with identifying as one. Feminism means equality, not misandry, and I want her to grow up fighting for the equal rights of everyone, in whichever way she feels most comfortable doing it. This little book is an ideal introduction to feminism, and I hope, if I ever have a daughter, she doesn't have to fight as much as I've had to, and her daughters after her have to fight even less.

How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis: I really, really enjoyed this memoir about Samantha Ellis's relationship with her favourite heroines throughout her life; she thinks about the effect these heroines had on her growing up, and returns to them to see if they still make her feel the way they once made her feel now. It got me thinking about the heroines in my life, and I'd love to share that with my hypothetical daughter, too.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman: This is the first novel I can remember reading that made me bawl. Noughts & Crosses is something of a British children's classic now, I'm not sure how well-known it is outside the UK but I think it's fairly well-known, and it's the first book that really made me think about race and terrorism and how to see something from both sides. It's still one of my favourites.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: There are some books in the world that are perfect books, and Rebecca is one such book. Daphne du Maurier has quickly become one of my favourite authors after I started reading her work a few years ago. You can only read Rebecca for the first time once and it's an experience I think every reader should try.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic, but the picture book I remember loving most when I was little is The Rainbow Fish. It's a lovely story with a lovelier message and I adored it.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling: Does this warrant an explanation? I was lucky enough to grow up as part of the Potter generation, it'd be great to share that with my children.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent: This novelisation of the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland is fiction, there's no way of knowing if Agnes Magnúsdóttir was simply a murderess or a woman who wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but this book is a brilliant reminder that there are two sides to every story, and sometimes people are forced into criminality by situations they can't help and are then punished for it. I want any children I might have to be able to consider both sides of a story.

The Good Immigrant ed. by Nikesh Shukla: I'm proud to live in a multi-cultural country and recent political events have frightened me a lot. I don't want to live in a country built on ignorance, discrimination and prejudice and if I ever have children I want them to be open-minded, kind and aware of the struggles other people might face simply because they're viewed as 'other'.

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson: Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite writer growing up, she was never afraid to tackle issues like bullying, foster care, mental health, terminal illness and many others. The Illustrated Mum was always my favourite.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: The relationships between mothers and daughters are fairly toxic in this novel, which was my favourite read of last year, and if I ever have a daughter I'd want her to read this so she'd know that sometimes parents make mistakes, sometimes they make terrible mistakes, and it's okay for her to tell me how she feels and to pursue the things in life that will make her happy. It's her life to live, not mine.

What did you talk about this week?

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

This Week in Books | 10/05/17

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

Now: I've returned to one of my favourite authors, Daphne du Maurier, to read My Cousin Rachel ahead of the film adaptation starring Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin which is due to be released next month. I'm enjoying it so far, but that's no surprise - du Maurier's work is always a treat.

Then: I picked up The Doll's Alphabet after receiving it from Moth Box, and after recently reading Diving Belles (reviewed here) I was in the mood to read more short story collections. I read a little bit from this to get the feel for what it was like and then couldn't put it down, but I can't say I loved it. Camilla Grudova writes beautifully, her stories read like weird, grotesque dreams and there were some stories I don't think I quite 'got'. I did like it, though - look out for my review soon!

Next: Natalie @ A Sea Change and I are taking part in our own version of Elena @ Elena Read Books' BookBuddyAthon - check out my TBR here! - and this is the book Nat chose for me out of three options I gave her, all of which I've received to review from NetGalley. See What I Have Done is a novelisation of the story of Lizzie Borden, and as I recently watched a documentary about murder in the 19th century I'm definitely in the mood to pick this up. However, The Doll's Alphabet was very dark and My Cousin Rachel is quite gloomy so far, so I might opt for something more cheerful once I've finished My Cousin Rachel.

What are you reading?

Sunday, 7 May 2017

BookBuddyAthon TBR!

The BookBuddyAthon is back! Hosted by Elena @ Elena Reads Books over on Book Tube, this is a week-long readathon that encourages you to read with a friend and, luckily, I've managed to rope the lovely Natalie @ A Sea Change into doing this with me.

Unfortunately Nat and I are both a tad too busy to try and complete five reading challenges in a week, so we're bending the rules a little; we're going to take on the BookBuddyAthon challenges and try to complete them by the end of the year. We like taking things at our own pace, as right now I have a busy job and Nat's in the midst of a PhD, so deadlines make us twitch.

Essentially the five books we pick for this challenge we need to try and finish by the end of the year. Will it be the end of the world if we don't? No, but I hope we can!

Read a book with your buddy

Nat and I have chosen The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, which has been absolutely everywhere lately. We both love historical fiction and we both love ladies pursuing science when everyone else is telling them they shouldn't be. I've heard quite mixed reviews so far, so I'm keen to see what I think of it and I'm hoping Nat likes it - I got her copy for her for Christmas, so I hope I didn't choose a rubbish book for her!

Read a book that's your buddy's favourite colour

Nat's favourite colours are blue and red, so I decided to go with my edition of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood because I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't read it. I've heard fantastic things about the recent adaptation but I'm determined to read the book first. I do want to read it, I just know it's going to make me angry and upset.

Read a book that begins with your buddy's first initial

I was quite surprised by how few books I own that begin with 'n', but I'm going to listen to the audio book of A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (NATural - I get bonus points!) which is a book Nat actually recommended to me very recently, so it feels fitting to go with this one and read about more ladies who love science.

Choose 3 books on your TBR and read the book your buddy picks for you

I decided to give Nat three of my NetGalley reads to choose from because, as always, I'm behind with my reviews: Gone by Min Kym, New Boy by Tracy Chevalier or See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Nat chose See What I Have Done, a novelisation of the story of Lizzie Borden, which also happens to be the book I was leaning towards most, too, so I'm very happy with that choice! I'm hoping it'll give me Burial Rites vibes.

Read something you feel like reading

A nice and simple challenge! For this one I'm choosing The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman because Nat very kindly bought it for me a couple of Christmases ago and I still haven't read it which is ridiculous because I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it.

Are you taking part in the BookBuddyAthon?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Review | Diving Belles by Lucy Wood

by Lucy Wood

My Rating: 

Straying husbands lured into the sea by mermaids can be fetched back, for a fee. Trees can make wishes come true. Houses creak and keep a fretful watch on their inhabitants, straightening shower curtains and worrying about frayed carpets. A mother, who seems alone and lonely, may be rubbing sore muscles or holding the hands of her invisible lover as he touches her neck. Phantom hounds roam the moors and, on a windy beach, a boy and his grandmother beat back despair with an old white door.

In these stories, the line between the real and the imagined is blurred as Lucy Wood takes us to Cornwall’s ancient coast, building on its rich storytelling history and recasting its myths in thoroughly contemporary ways. Calling forth the fantastic and fantastical, she mines these legends for that bit of magic remaining in all our lives—if only we can let ourselves see it.

Short story collections are something I've been trying to read more and more of in recent years, because if a writer gets short stories right they can be exquisite. That there are so many collections out there based on fairy tales, myths, legends and folklore is brilliant for someone like me who absolutely loves retellings and old, local stories. This collection, the author's debut, promised a collection of stories inspired by Cornish folklore, so I knew I had to get my hands on a copy the minute I first heard about it.

I'm from the UK and I'm lucky enough to have been to Cornwall a couple of times; it's one of my favourite places in the UK because it feels like its own little world, like the hidden corner of England, and it's bursting with fascinating history and folklore galore. When I think of Cornwall, I think of smugglers, mermaids, giants, piskies and King Arthur, so I couldn't wait to dive into this collection when I visited St. Ives last year.

That I only finished Diving Belles recently probably tells you what I thought about it. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

Now in fairness to this book last year was a rubbish reading year for me, which definitely contributed to me putting it down, but the main reason was that this collection left me with very similar feelings to how I felt when I finished Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (reviewed here). Most of the stories didn't really seem to go anywhere, and while I understand short stories aren't necessarily plot-driven in the same way novels are, I still would have liked some sort of plot, some sort of reason for the story to be there other than that Wood got an idea that she didn't quite know what to do with.

The sad thing is I can't fault Wood's writing. This woman can really write, some of her descriptions in this collection are exquisite, but personally I like story; when I read a collection of short stories, I want a collection of short stories - not a character study or something that feels like an extract from something longer, which so many of these stories did to me. Like Russell's debut collection, I felt as though Wood wasn't sure how to end most of the stories in this collection so, instead of coming up with an ending, she simply stopped writing and it left me feeling cold.

I also had an issue with the inspiration behind these stories. If it weren't for the fact that it's mentioned in the blurb, I never would have guessed these stories were inspired by Cornish folklore. Sure, I associate giants, mermaids and little people with Cornish folklore more than any other - though my favourite story in the collection, 'Blue Moon', set in a retirement home for witches, featured folklore I associate more with Wales than Cornwall - but these stories could have been set in any coastal UK town. I currently live in one myself, and her descriptions of the coast felt so generic to me that these stories could have taken place down the road from my house.

This is a real shame considering Wood grew up in Cornwall herself, so I was expecting Cornwall to seep through the pages. The folklore was certainly Cornish enough for me, but I would have loved to have seen Wood play around with Cornish dialect, to mention specific place names that really centre the reader in a time and place. I wanted to see mentions of St. Ives and Bodmin and Zennor and Lizard, not description after description of the sea. Her descriptions were beautiful, they just didn't sing Cornwall to me in the way I was expecting them to.

I was also frustrated to see this collection being compared to Angela Carter. Now that is neither the book's fault or the author's, so I'm not actually holding this point against my rating, but I wanted to mention it all the same because it seems like every fairy tale or folklore-based collection I pick up is being compared to Carter. Just because something is a retelling or is inspired by an older story doesn't mean it's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. It's unfair to new and emerging authors, who are constantly being compared to someone who is considered a literary great, and it's unfair to Carter - The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is probably her most famous work, but that's not all she was. She played around with Shakespeare and her commentary on gender and its fluidity is fascinating, so let's stop narrowing her down to one body of work, shall we?

Also, this collection isn't like The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories at all. Wood's stories are quiet, creeping stories that use the fantastical to highlight just how mundane normality is, Carter, on the other hand, wrote about mothers riding on horseback to save their daughters from homicidal husbands, women who can be licked into tigers and maids who are robots. I really don't think there's much comparison to be had.

So, if you like slow stories that aren't plot-driven, this book is for you. I wish I was sophisticated enough to love a book like this but I love a plot and there wasn't enough of it here for me. Having said that, I'd still recommend picking this up if it sounds interesting to you because Wood's writing is lovely and she's definitely an author I'm going to keep my eye on - she has the potential to be fantastic.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Top Ten Tuesday | Cover Lover

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 cover theme freebie, so I thought I'd share my ten favourite historical fiction covers!

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre: I still haven't read this, I haven't heard the best reviews, but I will always love that cover. It reminds me of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette with that juxtaposition of the historic and the modern.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier: Daphne du Maurier's books have many pretty covers, and rightly so, but I love how nautical this edition of Jamaica Inn is. I didn't love Jamaica Inn a huge amount when I read it, though all of du Maurier's novels pale in comparison to Rebecca, but it's a fun book and a great one to read if you happen to be visiting Cornwall.

Witch Child by Celia Rees: The cover of Witch Child is what convinced me to pick up a copy in my early teens, and it's thanks to this book that I love historical fiction so much now. This cover is haunting and I can't help but be drawn in to those eyes.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge: I will love anything that has some of Chris Riddell's art on it. I haven't read this one yet, but I'm glad to have this edition on my shelves.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: This cover has so much character, and I think it's certainly one of the many reasons this book did so well when it was released. If you haven't read this one yet I recommend giving it a try - it's a very good book!

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: My favourite covers are simplistic ones, and that's why I love these editions of Waters' novels. This edition of Fingersmith, in particular, I like a lot; I don't own many books with grey covers at all, but this book uses the colour well.

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown: This book is even more beautiful in person because it's textured. I haven't this one yet either, but it's a recent release and I'm planning to pick it up soon.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: I really like these editions of Margaret Atwood's books too, with bold colours and a black and white image in the centre, and this edition of Alias Grace always catches my eye.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry: I own the normal hardback edition, which I think is beautiful, but I love the colours on this special edition, too.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon: Again, I love a simplistic cover and this one's as simple as they come.

What did you talk about this week?