Wednesday, 30 May 2018

This Week in Books | 30/05/18

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

Now: I've been bitten by the Bardugo bug. This year I finally read and ADORED the Six of Crows duology, it's now easily one of my favourite series of all time, and even though I'm still not as interested in the Grisha trilogy I think Bardugo's world-building is superb and I'd like to read the trilogy so I have all the background information when the first book in her next duology is released next year.

Then: Crooked Kingdom made me laugh and it made me cry. I didn't love it as much as I loved Six of Crows, because Six of Crows is such a fun heist story, but the entire duology is masterfully done in terms of the world-bulding, the characters (and their development), and the fantastic, intricate plotting. It's been so long since I've finished a series I'd forgotten how bereft I can feel when I don't have a new adventure waiting for me with characters I love, so I'm feeling a bit lost right now. I know I'm not going to love the Grisha trilogy as much as I loved this duology, but I'll gobble up anything else I can set in this world.

Next: I'm hoping I'll be able to power through the whole trilogy once I start it. This year feels like the year I'm returning to fantasy and Six of Crows has cemented my love of the genre. I want to consume all the fantasy I can. Because of when it was published I have a feeling this trilogy is going to fall into some of the tropes that a lot of YA trilogies fell into a few years ago, but as I've mentioned I'm fascinated by Bardugo's world-building and I'd like to explore Ravka.

What have you been reading recently?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | Fictional Places I Would NOT Want to Live In

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. 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 'Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In', which I found to be a really fun topic! So often when I love a story, particularly a fantastical one, I can find myself thinking 'I wish I'd gone to Hogwarts' or 'I wish I lived in The Shire', but I've never given too much thought to the places I really wouldn't want to live in.

For my list this week I've decided to stick with fictional places. I thought of mentioning The Book Thief because I would have hated to live in Nazi Germany, but in the end I felt like, for me, it was a little disrespectful to mention real places because some people really have had to live through that. Anyway, on with my list!

Panem from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Let's just get this one out the way with because it's probably on most lists this week, right? Pretty much any dystopian novel has a setting I wouldn't want to live in, but Panem in particular I'd hate because if I'd been chosen to take part in the Games when I was younger I'd've been the first one to die.

Airstrip One from Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell: Carrying on with that dystopian theme, Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the most depressing novels I've ever read and I would hate to live somewhere where the government was quite literally watching me all the time.

The town from The Lottery by Shirley Jackson: There's a reason why The Lottery is one of the most famous American short stories ever, and this story alone earns Jackson a place as one of the best horror writers in my opinion. I can't say much without giving anything away, although this story's so short I recommend you reading it asap, but trust me when I say I wouldn't want to live in that town and I guarantee you wouldn't want to live there either.

Neverland from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: Disney Neverland looks fun, but the Neverland in the book is just as creepy as everything else. I don't understand the whimsy around Peter Pan, it's so strange and unnerving, and even as a child I don't think Neverland would have appealed to me unless Robin Williams was there.

The Other World from Coraline by Neil Gaiman: Having everything I want in exchange for having buttons sewn into my eyes? Yeah, no, that's not happening.

Westeros from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: Admittedly I haven't read the books but I watch Game of Thrones and no amount of money could convince me to live there. It's so brutal and I wouldn't last five minutes.

Wonderland from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Unlike Peter Pan, I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and I've always been fascinated by it. Having said that, the world is just so bizarre that I think I'd go mad and, while I love stuff that's a bit weird, I think Wonderland would be just a bit too weird for me.

The Stillness from The Broken Earth by N.K. Jemisin: There's no way I'd want to live in a world where the earth decides it doesn't want you there every few years and has a little apocalypse to wipe a few million people off it.

Giant Country from The BFG by Roald Dahl: This is going to sound ridiculous, but I'm terrified of giants. I know they're not real but the idea of them scares the crap out of me so Giant Country is my idea of hell. I don't want to be anyone's dinner, thanks.

The Fifteen Realms from Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder: There's a plague spreading across this world killing thousands at a time and even the healers can't do anything about it. No thanks.

Which places made your list this week?

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | What's in a name?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. 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 'Best Character Names' and as soon as I read that I forgot every clever/fun name I've ever heard. I thought of doing some kind of theme, but in the end I decided to go for ten character names I just happen to like for various reasons. These aren't necessarily my favourite character names but the first ones that came to mind - on with my list!

Orc Dave from Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists: I love Rat Queens, it's like World of Warcraft meets Dungeons and Dragons and a lot of drunk women, and one of the things I loved most about the first volume was the introduction of a group who call themselves the 'Four Daves' with each member being distinguished by their race. I love the idea of four men in a high fantasy world sharing the name Dave, and Orc Dave is adorable.

The Dragon from Uprooted by Naomi Novik: It's no secret that I didn't enjoy Uprooted as much as I hoped I would, but I did like The Dragon a lot purely because he was such a grumpy git and, therefore, very deserving of the name.

Kaz "Dirtyhands" Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: I fell in love with this book earlier this year and I think Dirtyhands is such a brilliant nickname for a gangster.

Atl from Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: There's such a unique take on vampires and various vampire species in this novel and I love Atl, but I also love her because I don't think I've read a novel before that's included a character with an Aztec name.

Sabriel from The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix: This one's just a pretty name! I've always liked it; the title of this book is what first drew me to it when I was around 13 or 14.

Stanley Yelnats from Holes by Louis Sachar: If my surname was Yelnats, I would not hesitate to call my son Stanley if I had one. It's just a wasted opportunity if not, right?

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Katniss is another name for the sagittaria or arrowhead plants, which is a very fitting name for an archer, I think, without being an obvious link!

Sirius Black from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Speaking of obvious links, as much as I love Remus Lupin I'm never going to get over the fact that Rowling essentially named her werewolf Wolf McWolf. I do love Sirius's name, though; I like the name Sirius anyway, but that Sirius is the dog star is a nice touch for a man who can transform into a dog, and a much less beat-you-over-the-head touch than Remus Lupin.

Dolphin from The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson: I loved Wilson's work when I was younger and I never forgot Dolphin and the simplicity that her mum named her that because she likes dolphins. As a little girl I couldn't help thinking it'd be a very cool name to have.

Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: There are all kinds of fairy tale-inspired Easter eggs throughout this series, but I loved the tip of the hat to Rapunzel when the witch pushes the prince out of the tower window and he's blinded by thorns with this one.

Which names made your list this week?

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | It's not you, it's me (but also you)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. 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 'Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read'. I thought this would be a tricky one because usually if I really didn't like a book I wish I hadn't wasted time on it, and most of the time these days I don't! If I'm really not liking something I'll DNF it. I did manage to find ten books that fit this week's theme, though!

Five I had to read for school or university, and therefore needed to finish, while others I didn't hate enough to put down while I was reading them but I definitely wouldn't say I liked them either. Anyway, on with my list!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare: I had to read this in school and then again in university, and it's probably my least favourite of Shakespeare's plays because I had to read it so much and also because I just find it boring. Hamlet's irritating and the whole story feels like it should be on an episode of Jerry Springer, which I suppose could be said for a lot of Shakespeare's plays. It is said to be the most quoted play in the world, though, so I'm at least glad I can say I've read it. I'd much rather see it performed, though.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: UGH I hate this book so much. I had to read it in sixth form and I despised every minute. The only reason I'm glad I've read it is so I can tell people I don't like it when they tell me I should read it.

The Were-Wolf by Clemence Housman: This one I read for my Victorian Gothic course at university and I found it really interesting! It's one of the earliest examples of werewolf literature that sparked the love for monster stories in the 19th century. I enjoyed studying it, but the story itself I didn't like; the titular character is a woman, interesting when so many werewolves in modern fiction are men, but she's also the villain and to be honest I was rooting for her. The protagonist is so boring in comparison.

Regeneration by Pat Barker: I had to read this one while studying the First World War in literature during sixth form. This is another book that I enjoyed studying more than I enjoyed actually reading, when it comes to historical fiction I'm just not all that interested in modern history, but it's stayed with me a decade later so I guess it can't be that bad!

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: I read this one for my Popular Victorian Fiction module at university and didn't like it at all, it's so sinister, but I'm glad I know the origins of Peter Pan!

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley: This was Talley's second novel after Lies We Tell Ourselves, which I loved, and sadly I didn't like it very much at all. You can check out my review here if you'd like to know why! That being said I do like that it included a genderqueer protagonist and I'd like to read about more non-binary protagonists, especially characters written by non-binary authors.

Angelfall by Susan Ee: There was so much hype around this one when it came out but I just found it really boring? I also wasn't a fan of the way the protagonist's mother's mental health was portrayed. This book did help me realise I'm just not into angel books, though, so I'm glad I read it.

Among Others by Jo Walton: This is my biggest disappointment on this list, because I put off reading this one for the longest time thinking it was going to become a new favourite when I got to it. I was very wrong. You can read my review here, if you like.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: I love the concept of this book SO MUCH, I just didn't like the plot. Why it had to become a really obvious whodunnit I don't understand, because I think it would have been far more powerful as character study.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer: I'm not going to sit here and pretend I wasn't swept away by the Twilight craze, because I totally was, but I remember finishing Breaking Dawn and being so disappointed that nobody important had died. What kind of finale was that? I'm glad I followed the series to the end, though, and whatever we think of it now it played a huge part in getting publishers to take YA publishing seriously.

Which books made your list this week?

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Top Ten Tuesday | Yellow, is it me you're looking for?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. 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 'Books With My Favorite Colour On the Cover (or In the Title)'. So I have two 'interesting' facts for you: 1) my favourite colour is yellow and 2) I'm slightly colourblind. Usually I don't struggle with it at all, but from time to time I'll find it difficult to tell the difference between two very similar colours or a top that's a really bright lime green or light orange will look bright yellow to me. The only time I really had a problem was the first time I had my own TV in my room when I was younger - I was convinced it was purple but according to literally everyone else who came in my room it was actually blue. Oh well.

Anyway, I just thought this would be worth mentioning just in case you look at any of these covers and think 'Uh... that's gold/green/orange' - I promise I'm not being dumb, it just looks yellow to me.

P.S. There seems to be this weird urban myth that only boys can be colourblind - it's much more common in boys, but it does happen to us gals too from time to time.

P.P.S. Why aren't there more bright yellow books?

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: I love it when bright colours like yellow are paired with greys and blacks. This is still Talley's best book so far in my opinion, but if you're interested in checking out some wlw YA stories Talley is definitely an author you should seek out.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: It's in the title and on the cover! I haven't read any of Adichie's novels yet but loved her short story collection, so hopefully I'll get to them soon.

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀: This was one of my favourite books of 2017, and my edition also has beautiful, bright yellow sprayed pages.

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O'Toole: I'd like to read more non-fiction this year and this one's been on my radar for a while now. I love the cover.

Pages for You by Sylvia Brownrigg: I've only heard of this one in the past few months and it sounds amazing, I'd like to get my hands on a copy soon.

Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger: I haven't actually started Carriger's Finishing School series yet, but I think the covers are so fun and I love this one in particular. I'm like a magpie; I will gravitate towards any book that's bright yellow.

The Bees by Laline Paull: I've owned my copy of The Bees for a while now and still haven't read it. Oops. It does sound interesting and I do want to cross it off my TBR at some point, but I can't deny I mainly picked it up because of the cover.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier: Not my favourite novel of du Maurier's, but Jamaica Inn is still a lot of fun - it's the perfect book if you're not feeling dark enough for Rebecca or light-hearted enough for Frenchman's Creek. I recommend reading it over Christmas if you are going to pick it up!

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers: It's mainly blue, but I was probably more excited than is normal to see a bit of yellow sneaking onto the cover of Chambers' latest sci-fi. I'm looking forward to this one!

Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland: I was very kindly sent an ARC of this book by the author and I still haven't read it because I'm a terrible human being. I was sent this back when I was starting to blog regularly after uni and I'd never been offered an ARC before, so I said 'yes please!' without realising that I'm the kind of person that doesn't always do that well with reading ARCs. I still have it, though, and one of these days I'm going to read it because it sounds so fun.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Review | Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

by Leïla Slimani

My Rating:

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul's idyllic tableau is shattered...

I came across Lullaby in an issue of The Bookseller not long before its publication, and as soon as I saw it I knew I'd want to read it. Not only do I want to read more translated fiction but I was fascinated by its incredibly dark premise, which was giving me The Hand That Rocks the Cradle vibes. Lullaby is essentially a whydunnit which opens with the death of two children who have been murdered by their nanny, and then travels back to before the nanny's employment to explore how things come to this horrific conclusion.

Firstly, this is an excellent translation. Sam Taylor did a wonderful job of translating from the French and still making the book dark and lyrical. If you are French or a French speaker, however, I imagine this book is absolutely stunning in French.

Because we already know what happens to Myriam and Paul's children, the first half of the book was so tense and I found it hard to put it down; Louise, the nanny, is unnerving and simply too perfect, like a Mary Poppins gone horribly wrong. Supercalifragilisticshe's-secretly-atrocious. To call Louise evil, however, doesn't seem right, especially not in the first half of the book. What she ends up doing is vile, but Lullaby is clever in the way it explores how the people we let into our families can change things and also how parents who can afford to hire nannies can sometimes take advantage of them or patronise them without realising.

Sadly, I do think Lullaby has been the victim of dishonest marketing. I keep seeing it marketed as a thriller and, to be honest, I don't think it is. Yes there's a murder, but this story is much more social commentary than anything else. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you go into this book expecting a thriller and find instead a very domestic, quiet and short novel about social politics you're bound to feel a little betrayed.

For me I also felt as though the book lost its way in the middle and I wasn't as interested. I don't have children and therefore I've never been in the position of having to trust someone I don't really know to look after them, so perhaps I would act the same way as Myriam does in this novel, but there were quite a few times when Louise's behaviour was disturbing enough that I would have let her go. The tragedy is that Louise's life hasn't been easy and she's suffered a lot, but Myriam's continued employment doesn't come from a place of compassion but a place of pity and those aren't the same thing at all. We'll never know if things would have been different if Myriam and Paul had treated Louise a little differently, but however much I felt sorry for someone I'd like to think I'd still remove them from my life if I felt like my children weren't entirely safe. That's not to say I blame Myriam and Paul for what happens, the only person to blame is Louise because she is the murderer, but at times I found it hard to believe that they would continue to employ her - particularly after one instance in which Louise takes a chicken carcass out of the bin and makes the children eat all of the meat on it until it is literally bone dry. Uh, get away from my children please!

I was hoping to like Lullaby a lot more than I did. I didn't hate it by any means and there are lots of good things about it, but what's made me the most uneasy is that Lullaby is actually based on a true story. This is something I didn't know until I'd finished reading it, but a nanny was found guilty of killing two children, very similarly to the way Louise kills Myriam and Paul's children, in New York in 2012. In fact when I looked into it I discovered she has only been sentenced this year. This is just a personal thing, but I really didn't like that I'd read a novel that is so close to something that happened very recently about this topic. Those parents in New York will be grieving for the rest of their lives, but it must still be so fresh having to wait six years for their nanny to be found guilty and now there's this novel bouncing around heavily based on their story that's trying to make the nanny look sympathetic. For me it just felt a little insensitive, and I felt as though the novel could have been publicised without mentioning the true crime it was based on. If Slimani found this story inspiring then I don't think she should have not written it, but I can't help feeling sorry for those real parents whenever I see the book mentioned in magazines in relation to the crime that inspired it.

Would I recommend it? Yes, if you can handle the subject matter. The way it's written is beautiful and it does have a lot to say about race and class and the way we sometimes take advantage of our employees, but unfortunately I didn't like this one as much as I'd hoped I would.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Review | Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

by Joy McCullough

My Rating: 

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Artemisia Gentileschi is my favourite artist, and the moment I discovered Blood Water Paint existed I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. This is one of those instances where I hoped a book would be wonderful and my hopes were fulfilled. This is the best book I've read so far this year.

Told in verse, something I didn't realise until the book arrived but loved once I started reading, Blood Water Paint follows Artemisia through what must have been the most difficult part of what must have already been a difficult life for a woman in the 17th century. The daughter of a painter, Artemisia showed far more talent for art than her brothers and was taught to paint by her father after her mother's death. Later, her father would hire fellow painter Agostino Tassi to tutor Artemisia privately. Tassi took advantage of his position and raped her and, remarkably for her time, Artemisia pressed charges against him.

For a long time Artemisia has been remembered as nothing more than the victim of sexual violence despite her amazing paintings, and now Joy McCullough has done her bit to restore Artemisia's voice. Her poetry is interspersed with sections of prose told as though Artemisia's mother, Prudentia, is telling her stories the way she did when Artemisia was a girl. While her father has allowed her to paint, in the novel it's Artemisia's mother who inspired the brutal, real ways she chooses to portray the biblical women she paints, and as the story progresses these women themselves step out of the paintings to offer Artemisia comfort and strength during her literal and metaphorical trials.

I sat down and read this in one sitting, it flows beautifully and I couldn't put it down. McCullough not only presents Artemisia as both groundbreaking artist and ordinary girl, but also considers Artemisia's unique take on the biblical stories that were so commonly painted during the Italian Renaissance. Unlike the many male artists who portray women the way they like to imagine them, Artemisia paints women as they are and even takes inspiration from the way her own body moves and the horrific events she experiences.

I don't think I can put into words how much this story is still relevant, how much we seem to prefer to believe that the men we know are incapable of causing people harm rather than listening and believing the women they have harmed. It's heartbreaking that, 400 years on, so many of the struggles Artemisia faced are still faced by women now, but this book is beautiful and raw and empowering and you should read it immediately.