Tag Archives: 2016 release

Mini Reviews: Man Up and Queer

My aim this year is to read more non-fiction – I started off the year with two great reads from Icon Books, which were both related to topics I study in school (being a sociology and media student). It’s been a while between reading these and writing about my thoughts, so enjoy these mini reviews!

Man Up by Jack Urwin

Published 2nd June 2016 by Icon Books.

29611402Goodreads Synopsis: Jack Urwin’s father died just before he turned 10. Being male, he never really learned to talk about this with any kind of sincerity. His grief stayed with him through his teens, slowly becoming depression.
Now 24 and a journalist whose recent Vice article A Stiff Upper Lip is Killing British Men – described as ‘fabulous’ by Irvine Welsh – became a viral sensation, Urwin explores what it means to be a man now.
He traces crises of masculinity from our grandfathers’ inability to deal with the horrors of war, to the mob mentality of football terraces or Fight Club, and the disturbing rise of mental health problems among men today.

My Review: Do you ever read something, and even before you’ve finished, you want to yell about it from the rooftops and push it into everyone’s hands? Well, that’s how I was with Man Up. This title is absolutely fantastic.

The social construct of masculinity is something that’s interested me a lot, as someone who is dedicated to discussing issues about gender and equality. It’s very hard to talk about, especially when there’s so much misinformation about the topic, and how it intersects with feminism (heads up: feminism is about gender equality. It requires focus on all genders). This is where Urwin’s book comes in; books like this are rare.

Urwin himself has felt the impact of masculinity; his father suffered in silence with an illness, and the writer himself struggled to cope with this because boys aren’t encouraged to be open about their feelings. Following the writer’s viral VICE article, this book explores gender in great depth, from historical events that have constructed how we view masculinity today, to the issue of male mental health and the alarming rates of men committing suicide. Books like this, topics like this, are more important ever, and I know Man Up will help to open up a conversation about it.

Urwin’s writing is what makes this book so memorable. He writes so clearly about such a complex issue, with a hint of wit sometimes and the right emotions in all the right places. This book is so accessible; it can be read and understood by people without much prior knowledge of the topic of gender, and that’s why I’m so grateful for it. I’ll be recommending this endlessly, in the hopes it encourages readers of all genders to become more engaged in the conversation.

My Rating:

five

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Published 8th September 2016 by Icon Books.

28957268Goodreads Synopsis: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.
Along the way we look at key landmarks which shift our perspective of what’s ‘normal’ – Alfred Kinsey’s view of sexuality as a spectrum, Judith Butler’s view of gendered behaviour as a performance, the play Wicked, or moments in Casino Royale when we’re invited to view James Bond with the kind of desiring gaze usually directed at female bodies in mainstream media.

My Review: I absolutely adored this! I own a few Graphic Guides on my A Level subjects, and haven’t actually gotten around to them yet – but Queer went to the top of my to-read pile as soon as I knew about it. I’m currently studying sociology, and I’m really interested in learning about sociological theories – queer theory is totally overlooked in my school’s course, which is saddening. I was really excited to use this as some wider reading, and it was such a brilliant read!

It’s so easy to devour this in one sitting, but I think I need to re-read it to fully digest all of the information that’s packed into it. The graphic element of it kept me engaged and interested with every chapter; the illustrations are fantastic, often witty, always useful in providing visuals for theories. Queer explores many key theorists and concepts across history, in great detail, despite sections being quite brief. I didn’t actually realise how fact-heavy this would be, and I’ll admit I didn’t take in as much as I thought I would – but that’s why I’m really looking forward to reading this again. It’s also a fantastic resource for, well, all things queer. I’m excited to use it as a reference in the future, as I’m hoping to write an extended project on queer theory next year.

My Rating:

four

I received both books from the publisher. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

The Map of Bones Paperback Release | Extract

Related Posts: Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Tomorrow, The Map of Bones is being released in Paperback! It’s the thrilling sequel to The Fire Sermon, a fantastic fantasy debut I enjoyed a while back. To celebrate the second book’s paperback release, here’s a sneak peek inside the book if you haven’t delved into it yet – an extract I posted last year for the blog tour.


Spoilers for Book One

Piper and I sat near the entrance to the cave, watching the sun shrug off the night. More than a month earlier, on the way to the silo, we’d slept in the same hidden cave, and perched on the same flat rock. Next to my knee, the stone still bore the scuff-marks from where Piper had sharpened his knife all those weeks ago.

I looked at Piper. The slash on his single arm had healed to a pink streak, the scar tissue raised and waxy, puckered where stitches had held the wound closed. At my neck, the wound from The  Confessor’s knife had finally healed, too.

26174866In the deadlands, it had been an open wound, edged with ash. Was the ash still there, inside me, specks of black sealed beneath the scar’s carapace?

Piper held out a piece of rabbit meat skewered on the blade of his knife. It was left over from the night before, coated with cold fat, congealed into grey strings. I shook my head and turned away.

‘You need to eat,’ he said. ‘It’ll take us three more weeks to get to the Sunken Shore. Even longer to get to the west coast, if we’re going to search for the ships.’

All of our conversations began and ended at the ships. Their names had become like charms: The Rosalind. The Evelyn. And if the hazards of the unknown seas didn’t sink the ships, then sometimes I felt that the weight of our expectations would. They were everything, now. We’d managed to rid the Council of The Confessor, and of the machine that she was using to keep track of all Omegas – but it wasn’t enough, especially after the massacre on the island. We might have slowed down the Council, and cost them two of their most powerful weapons, but the tanks were patient. I’d seen them myself, in visions and in the awful solidity of reality. Row after row of glass tanks, each one a pristine hell.

That was the Council’s plan for all of us. And if we didn’t have a plan of our own, a goal to work for, then we were justImage result for the fire sermon scrapping in the dust, and there’d be no end to it. We might forestall the tanks for a while, but no better than that. Once, the island had been our destination. That had ended in blood and smoke. So now we were seeking the ships that Piper had sent out from the island, months  before, in search of Elsewhere.

There were times when it felt more like a wish than a plan.

It would be four months at the next full moon since the ships sailed. ‘It’s a hell of a long time to be at sea,’ Piper said as we sat on the rock.

I had no reassurance to offer him, so I stayed silent. It wasn’t just a question of whether or not Elsewhere was out there. The real question was what it could offer us, if it existed. What its inhabitants might know, or do, that we couldn’t. Elsewhere couldn’t just be another island, just place to hide from the Council. That might offer us a respite, but it would be no solution, any more than the island was.

There had to be more than that: a real alternative.


The Map of Bones paperback edition is released tomorrow (January 26th) from Harper Voyager.

Book Review: Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

Related posts: Blog Tour: Lisa Selin Davis on the novels that inspired her

Published 16th October 2016 by Hot Key Books.

31328363Goodreads Synopsis: In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.

My Review: First things first – I read this book at the wrong time. It was a really great story, and I did enjoy it very much, but I stupidly started reading it as my mock exams started. It took me nearly a month to find the time to finish it! So, maybe, I would have loved it even more if I had read the book in one go: it’s definitely a book you can get completely immersed in.

What I loved the most about Lost Stars was the characters. They were so wonderful and real-feeling. They’re still in my head, long after I put the book down. I quite liked Carrie and how complex her character was – the story is centred around her anger issues, and how her mother’s absence has played into it. I did tear up a little at the resolution.

The gang of teenagers Carrie hangs out with were my favourite. I loved how Selin Davis takes the time to explore Soo, who I could’ve read a whole book about! The love story… I didn’t enjoy so much. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just really cynical.

Another aspect of the book I adored was the setting. Selin Davis’ debut is such a fantastic trip back to a few decades. I love books set in the 70s-90s – the atmosphere is just so great and nostalgic even if I’m a millennial. I loved all of the pop culture references, and the frequent mentions of iconic songs. It just made the book.

I do think I would’ve been able to enjoy Lost Stars even more if I’d read it at a better time, but I also think it has quite a few similarities to books that were already favourites of mine. It seemed very much in the same vein as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Love Letters to the Dead, in terms of the atmosphere and the similar topics of grief. It reminded me of those books a lot in places, but that’s not to say it’s not really original and compelling itself. I’m sure fans of those two books would adore Lost Stars.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable book and quite a fantastic debut novel. Lisa Selin Davis is definitely an author to look out for – I would love to read more from her in the future. Lost Stars intertwines grief, hope and love into a really thought-provoking and poignant story. I’d definitely recommend it to contemporary fans!

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of Lost Stars from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Reasons to Read: Unboxed by Non Pratt

Published 15th August 2016 by Barrington Stoke.

I thought I’d make today’s post in an infographic form! I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut recently (school, life, lack of motivation to do anything but binge netflix and sleep) and although I could write so much about this book, I wanted to summarise it really briefly and give it a pretty looking post. I mean, look at that cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Unboxed unexpectedly moved me to tears. It’s an incredible book, and I haven’t been completely able to stop thinking about the characters. I cannot recommend it enough.

unboxed

Book Review: The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Published 1st November 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

30542863Goodreads Synopsis: Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.
When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

My Review: This book arrived as a complete surprise – I hadn’t even heard that SJ Kincaid had written a new book – so I absolutely hit the roof when I opened the package! I was so excited to start it; SJ’s INSIGNIA trilogy is one of my favourite series ever, and SJ’s debut novel was one of the first review copies I read (and also quoted in whoop whoop). Needless to say, I was excited to get stuck into another inventive Sci-Fi world.

Once I’d started it, I didn’t want to put it down – a cliche phrase maybe, but an apt one. I absolutely adored the concept – it takes the much used idea of humanoid characters created to serve people, and puts a fantastic new twist on it. It’s original and captivating. ‘Diabolics’ are genetically engineered humans, designed to kill anything that endanger the humans they are bonded to. Nemesis is a Diabolic – bonded to Sidonia, daughter of an important but rebellious figure in the galaxy. Nemesis finds herself on a terrifying mission, impersonating Sidonia in order to potentially spare her.

Nemesis was such an interesting character, and I adore dreading from her narrative. It’s implied that she’s not considered human, even by herself, because she was bred to defend and kill. It was really cool over the course of the plot to see how she develops, and discovers things for herself and begins to feel, in a way.

Perhaps my favourite thing about the story was Sidonia, and her chemistry with Nemesis, her Diabolic, who was bonded to her and essentially trained to kill in order to defend her. It’s hard to detail on this without spoiling anything, but the story started to go in the way I was excited for it to – and then absolutely tore my hear to PIECES. I’M NOT OVER IT. GAAAAHHHHH. I wish it had been detailed on more, as it’s an important story line to have in such an epic sci fi story.

I absolutely adore SJ Kincaid’s world building. I loved her last trilogy for the imaginative concept, set partly in space – I didn’t think her fictional worlds could get any better, but this one is incredible. It’s set entirely in space, and the whole universe is set out so brilliantly and originally. Kincaid’s ability to craft unique worlds, and her incredible attention to detail, is admirable. It’s implied that some sort of global disaster happened on Earth many years ago, and the “Excess” humans live in poverty on planets, whilst members of a higher status live grand lifestyles on ships. The universe Kincaid has crafted is intricate and captivating – as soon as I’d finished the book, I wanted to read more about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Diabolic, and cannot recommend it enough. It’s an epic and adventurous story of space, conflict and what it means to be ‘human.’ Although I must say that the romance part was a little sad to me, as it could have taken such a more interesting route – the whole book left me completely speechless. I was blown away! I cannot wait to see what other people think of this  – it’s got the potential to be the next big thing.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Diabolic from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Shadow Magic Blog Tour: A Day in the Life of the Author

 

I’m welcoming author Joshua Khan, author of SHADOW MAGIC, onto the blog today! Read on to hear about his new book and his daily process:

shadow-magicAbout the book: Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

JOSHUA KHAN: A DAY IN THE LIFE

I am woken as 7am by the soft harmonies of the choir, and the gentle breeze peacock fans. Somewhere, far from the kitchens in the east wing, drift the spicy scent of cinnamon. There is the buzz of the helicopter landing on the lawn with figs, fresh from the slopes of St. Enta in Sicily.
My butler arranges my wardrobe for today and I rise, carried aloft on the shoulders of the players of the Swedish volleyball team to the bath.
Ah, such is the life of an author…

Actually, no aspect of that is remotely true. So, reality check. Up at 7am. Tell the kids to get up. Down to sort out their breakfast. Make sure the hamster cage is well sealed, let the cat in. Cat tries to hug the hamster for a minute, then gives up. Tell the kids to hurry up, breakfast is ready. Start making their sandwiches. Get my wife’s bike out as she cycles off to work. I tell the kids to get a move on.
Tidy up breakfast. Get the kids’ bikes out. Tell them it’s 8am. Check on the hamster. Check on the cat.
Wave bye to the kids, telling them to put on their helmets. Look at the mess in their rooms and sigh deeply. Vaguely tidy up. Find the iPod the youngest thought she lost.
Shower and whip on my clothes. Add shaving if its Tuesday or Friday.
Okay, we’re not quite at 9am. Start working.
I plan the week on Sunday, writing goals, paperwork, and domestic chores. I try and keep the mornings to writing and nothing else. My aim is 2,000 words a day if I’m at the first draft stage. I don’t work weekends as that’s madness. I’ll get the first 1,000 done by lunchtime. I either eat or do some chores (there are always chores. People who work in offices don’t really understand the concept of working from home. But there are only so many hours in the day.). If I can get the chore done within the hour, I do it. If not, I don’t. Otherwise you’re losing writing time. I then hit the keyboards until about 3.30pm, then start sorting out supper.
Emails and random correspondence is done over the day. Now we have a tablet I do some of that correspondence work in the evening. I do not do any writing after 3.30pm, I shouldn’t need to if I’ve hit my 2,000 words. If I haven’t I will do another hour around 9pm to get it done.
So, supper for the kids and wife. Help with homework where I can, and where it’s needed. Evening activities, depending on the evening. Up till midnight browsing the social media, FB and Twitter. It’s not my fave past-time, but a lot of my readers are US-based, so there is the time-zone thing.
Discipline’s the thing for me. Right now I’ve two novels to finish, one to write from scratch, a proposal for a new book to create, two comic series to work on. I can’t dilly-dally. Why should I? The stories are so much fun! I’ve grand quests across the deserts filled with monsters and nomads and ancient cities, then sci-fi cricket adventures, retelling of epic myths and belly-dancing cyborgs. And I get paid for all this. I spent twenty years doing a job I loathed, so feel I’m owed this. I never answer the phone during the day and never, ever put the TV on. I remember losing a whole summer watching Breaking Bad. If there’s tv to be watched, books to be read, that’s at night, quiet time away from the keyboard.
Time off is critical. Weekends, except in emergencies or other constraints. I’ve a trip to Italy and a fortnight around the US in November, so that’ll be events and airports. The evenings tend to be dinners with people so there’ll be no writing done. Thus I’ve decided to put in a few hours every Sunday to cover. Pen goes down for Xmas and the summer hols. You need to recharge.
That’s it!

joshua-khanAbout the author: 

Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.

*Tintagel, in case you were wondering.

Book Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Published September 2016 by Bloomsbury.

30367320Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate.

My Review: This book arrived unexpectedly, and I was really excited based on what the synopsis had to say! I knew of Danielle Paige’s work as Dorothy Must Die looks like a fantastic read, and has been on my radar for a while. So I started this not hugely knowing what to expect, not having read anything by this author before, but excited to see what it was like.

For the first 75 pages or so, I was hooked – I adore the set up for the story, from the slightly eerie institution Snow is locked away in, to the really well developed characters in the wards with her. I really loved exploring that world- the characters were all so interesting to me.

Unfortunately, a little way into the fantasy world of the story, I suddenly stopped getting as into the plot as I was at the beginning. I was incredibly absorbed at the beginning, but for some reason I’m just not sure of, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the sort in the way I thought I would. The world of Algid and the magic and characters within was really intricate and detailed, but for some reason I couldn’t engage with it.

Snow was a really interesting character, because like with the whole story itself, I felt really involved with her in the beginning, but less so for the rest of the book. I think the story swept the detail away a little, and all I could really be told about her throughout most of the story was her newest insta-love feels. I feel like a lot of people will really love Snow, as she’s got many likeable aspects and I think that she’ll become an awesome heroine later in this series, given this book’s set up.

Overall, I would recommend Stealing Snow to high fantasy fans, like fans of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by S.J. Mass. Sadly, this book just didn’t click with me. It may partially be because I’ve been getting into contemporary fiction more and more lately, but I just couldn’t find myself engaging with or being excited about this book as much as I’d hoped. However, I’m sure I’m probably in the minority of people who disliked it, and that many fantasy fans will adore it 🙂

My Rating:

two

I received a copy of Stealing Snow from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.