Library Haul (2019)

I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about it on here, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ve been working in my local libraries since October last year. I love a lot of things about working in the library, and of course, one of the main perks is being surrounded by books all day.

The only problem (not really) is that I’m constantly being tempted by the books on the shelves, and so often leave work with an armful of books from all genres. I’m not going to go through all of them because that would make for an enormous post, but I’m going to dive into some of my most recent borrows.

You're invited to an (1)

leviathan-wakesLeviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

This is an adult science fiction space opera that I first heard about over on Thoughts on Tomes’ channel and was totally intrigued. It’s a blend of obviously sci-fi, but crime noir as well, which I’m always down for. I’m very new to the science fiction genre, and in true Abby fashion, I’ve decided to jump straight into a seven-book series with each book being over 500 pages each. I don’t know what to do with myself, either.

I’m actually currently reading this beast. I’m 100 pages in and I’m definitely hooked. I’m having to stop myself from abandoning this post and picking it up right now, but I’m going to be strong and ignore the urge.


believe-me-j-p-delaney-9781787472402Believe Me by JP Delaney

Believe Me is an adult crime thriller that I’d heard amazing things about when people were returning it to the library, so I slipped it onto my ticket instead of back on the shelf. At the time of me writing this, this is my most recent finished read and whoaaa, I don’t know what to say.

The book follows an aspiring actress called Claire, a Brit living in New York. For extra money, she looks to cash-in-hand jobs that won’t flag up the fact that she doesn’t have a green card, and so legally work in America. The job she settles on is for a private investigating firm, where she is hired by women to meet with their husbands in bars, to test their fidelity.

But when one of these women ends up dead the night Claire meets with her husband, suspicion falls on both Claire and the man. Claire is then hired by the police to use her skills to lure the husband into a confession, and everything goes from there.

I was completely hooked throughout this whole book. Everything from the writing style, to the deeply developed characters and twisty plot, was just great. I do think the 60-70% mark dipped a little, but the first half and the ending were brilliant.

Warnings for a lot in this book, notably violence towards black women. I’m going to go more into it in my review, but just bear that in mind if you decide to pick it up.

Continue reading “Library Haul (2019)”

Advertisements

YA Contemporary: Mini Reviews

I read pretty widely across target audience and genre, but I went on a little YA contemporary splurge recently, and I loved all of them. So let’s dive in!

You're invited to an (1)

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

This book follows a black teenage girl named Jade, who feels she has to take every opportunity given to her, to get out of her poor neighbourhood. One of these opportunities was a scholarship to a mostly white private school, and join a Women to Women group, in which she is given a mentor. The plot follows Jade as she navigates all of this, while trying to be a ‘normal’ teenage girl and maintain who she thinks she is / wants to be.

I had such a strong vision of Jade as a character. She’s flawed and real, and has very real and relatable struggles balanced with those really great moments of being a teenager. The book confronts racism, intersectionality, white privilege, economic privilege, and the central theme of learning from your mistakes, and accepting that those mistakes are going to be made, both by you and the people around you.

Piecing Me Together is a very character-focused, thought-provoking and ultimately entertaining book that I inhaled in one sitting and would recommend without a second thought.

Continue reading “YA Contemporary: Mini Reviews”

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult Review

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 12.07.56

In a rush? Scroll to the bottom for my snapshot thoughts!

2

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

3

Jodi Picoult is an author that I’ve always been familiar with, and really enjoyed her previous book Small Great Things. Picoult’s books always tackle difficult or controversial topics, which is something I really admire about her works. This particular book, A Spark of Light, definitely falls into the category of controversial, as it follows a hostage situation in an abortion clinic.

Even though I’ve enjoyed her books in the past, I was a little nervous going into this book, given the subject matter, as it is so timely and sensitive. I will say that in my personal opinion, this is one of those instances where a ‘perfectly balanced’ argument isn’t what I was looking for as a core theme of the story. I think I would have struggled with the book if that was its purpose and its execution, because I am so firmly pro-choice that a book with a ‘decide for yourself’ sort of message, wouldn’t personally satisfy me as a reader. This is a topic I’m going to do a full discussion on in the future as I’m aware it is a controversial one.

Continue reading “A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult Review”

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer Review

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 16.49.46

In a rush? Scroll to the bottom for my snapshot thoughts!

2

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.

3

The Girl in the Red Coat uses a dual-POV structure, switching every few chapters between Carmel, the little girl, and Beth, her mother, both leading up to the disappearance and after. As you can gather from this and the synopsis, you are aware of every detail of Carmel’s experience, including who has taken her and where he has taken her to. This removed the core mystery component for me, but there was somewhat of a mystery to figure out the motives behind the abduction.

I was actually surprised that I found myself enjoying Beth’s narration much more than her daughter’s, despite Carmel’s narrative being the main plot. While it was frustrating at times when the police and Beth are trying to piece together what happened when you know, it was Beth’s internal struggles that I was invested in. I honestly felt for her, felt her pain and grief and guilt and frustration. Beth also has a pre-existing anxiety disorder, and watching how that impacts/impacted her daughter was interesting. I felt like it could have gone deeper, but that would have slowed down an otherwise quick read.

Continue reading “The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer Review”

Blackathon TBR

Information about the Blackathon can be found on the Twitter page here!

The hosts are:

  • Francina Simone and you can find her Blackathon TBR here!
  • Lauren @ The Novel Lush and you can find her Blackathon announcement video here!
  • Jesse @ BowtiesandBooks and you can find their Blackathon recommendations video here!

Give them a follow and get stuck in!

Details:

  • The readathon runs from 11th-25th February.
  • There are six challenges:
    • FEEL THE LOVE – Read a book (any genre) featuring romance between two black people (or one black person + a person of colour).
    • WAKANDA FOREVER – Read a graphic novel/comic w/ a black or African MC
    • HEAR US  – any work by a black/african author.
    • FEEL THE BEAT – Spoken word: listen to these 4 poems. Share your favourite on social media/with a friend. Discuss what it means to you & why it matters.
    • MORE THAN A COLOR. We house complexity within us. Read a book starring an intersectional black character (black & LGBT, black & neurodivergent, black & disabled, etc)
    • Read the group book – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Now, I know, I know.

Abby, you’ve failed at too many readathons and you’ve just posted about participating in the Year of the Asian Readathon, so why are you stressing yourself out with another?

Because I’m self-destructive, and I have a ton of awesome books by black authors I’m desperate to get to. I am going to be lenient as my February is totally packed with work, so I’m going to spread it out over the whole month rather than 11th-25th, which I’ve seen a few people planning.

Continue reading “Blackathon TBR”

The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 16.49.55

 

2

Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

3

Like a lot of people I’ve seen talking about this book, I was brought to The Lola Quartet through a love of Station Eleven. I will say that if you’re going into it looking for a similar story, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you’re looking for more of Emily St John Mandel’s well-crafted characters and engaging writing style, you won’t go far wrong.

The Lola Quartet consists of Jack, Daniel, Sasha, and Gavin, all musicians in their senior year of high school, and Gavin’s girlfriend, Anna. The story isn’t told chronologically, so we only get glimpses of them in high school, meaning this doesn’t read YA, as the majority of the story is told ten years later when they are all adults. This format really worked well for me, and I found that I enjoyed slowly building up each of these characters through their points of view and different ages.

Growing up and loss of innocence are main themes in this book, and I think it was done incredibly well. I’ve never read a book that seemed almost like a neo-noir, something that the book seems to be aware of but doesn’t overdo. Gavin believes he is born in the wrong era, growing up watching crime noirs and wanting to be a private detective, but Mandel does a great job of showing how the real world likes to laugh at fantasies like Gavin’s. He ends up being a journalist for a failing newspaper, and he is just the first of the characters we are introduced to facing redundancy, budget cuts, and uncertainty. His progression as a character and the cyclical nature of it all was just very, very clever.

Continue reading “The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel”

Year of the Asian Reading Challenge

Check out Vicky’s post for the official announcement and details!

Abby? Participating in a readathon? Unheard of?

Well, here I am, signing up and clocking in for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge!

I’m not usually one for read-a-thons but I’m really trying to change that in 2019, and by participating in a year-long one, maybe it’ll encourage me to try out more! This particular readathon looks like so much fun, and actually fits into a lot of my reading plans/TBR for the year, which is always beaut.

YARC was created and is hosted by the wonderful:

And the gist is to read as many books by Asian authors as you can in 2019! There are different levels depending on how many books you want to read, and I’m going for 21-30 which means my badge is…

Continue reading “Year of the Asian Reading Challenge”

January Wrap Up (2019)

Welcome to the first wrap up of 2019 from me, and the first post after my hiatus! So happy new year and let’s get into it!

You're invited to an (1)

17669036The Bear by Claire Cameron

This was a mixed one, for sure. This story is inspired by the true events of a bear attack, in which a couple on Bates Island in 1991 were killed. In the foreword, Cameron claims she took the story and ‘added the children’. The book follows these two children, Anna and Stick, trying to survive in the wilderness after their parents are killed. I was a little bit uncomfortable finding out that it was based on a true story but tried to put that aside to focus on the book itself.

At first, the tension was great, but then began almost bordering on traumatic, and there were moments when I had to put the book down. However, once the attack is over and it’s just the children trying to survive, I have to say I started to get bored. As the book is narrated in first person by a five year-old, it has that child’s inner monologue that slowed everything down so much, which was a feat for such a small book.

In the end, I was glad to have finished it. This was just a random book that was accidentally sent to me by the library, or I don’t think I would have picked it up.


23589309The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel

This was a huge improvement on The Bear, another one I finished in one sitting. The Lola Quartet follows a group of musicians of the same name – consisting of Jack, Daniel, Sasha, and Gavin, and his girlfriend, Anna. When Anna disappeared at the end of senior year, Gavin moves on, despite rumours that she was pregnant. Ten years later, Gavin is given a photograph of a ten year old girl who looks exactly like Gavin’s sister. What follows is a story of love, desperation, poverty, a pissed off meth dealer, and a stolen $120,000.

I loved the tone, the characters, and the questions it raised in me. This is one of those books that the longer I sit on it, the more I see how clever it is.

Continue reading “January Wrap Up (2019)”

November Wrap Up (2018)

I’m writing this after a nine hour philosophy studying session, so my brain is a bit fried but I thought I could use talking about the books I read this month to wind down!

Books read: 7

Pages read: 2059

DNF: 1

You're invited to an (1)

51CBSQW0CbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

The first book I finished in November was inspired by the movie of the same name that came out this year, directed by Alex Garland. I absolutely fell in love with the film, how dark and fascinating it was, so I was very happy to find the book in a charity shop for 50p!

The premise of this science fiction story is that there is a stretch of land called Area X, a complete mystery behind its ever encroaching border. The only knowledge gleaned from the many, many failed missions to investigate it, is that there is a lighthouse inside Area X, perhaps where the centre of its energy lies. Each of the missions has ended tragically and there were no survivors as they each tried to make their way to the lighthouse. Now, four women are tasked with the twelfth expedition into the deadly and undiscovered Area X.

I was so engrossed with this book that I didn’t even look up from it for the first hundred pages, which for a book only slightly over double that length, is an achievement. The suspense and the nervous energy was so high, even when we hadn’t reached the climax of the scenes. My heart was pounding.

I would be pretty comfortable calling this a thriller as well as science fiction, because it is dark, and you are constantly looking over your – or the characters’ – shoulder. There’s such a presence Area X has, that was just so well done and made for a fantastic reading experience.


27366528Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3) by Seanan McGuire

As this is the third in the Wayward Children series, I won’t give a spoilery synopsis, but if you don’t already know, the WC series follows children who return from portal fantasy worlds, back into our world. The stories are really about what happens when these children return, the idea of home and identity, and what lengths you’ll go to to hold onto those values.

I read Beneath the Sugar Sky for Lalathon, and decided to go the audiobook route, as I was already physically reading a book. I have to say that maybe that wasn’t the best idea, because I was a little let down by this?

I have no issues with the audiobook, I thought it was narrated brilliantly and I did enjoy listening to it, but it just didn’t have that same oomph the other books gave me, so I think physically reading the Wayward Children series is the way forward for me from now on.


8d6be556f1d456393d10e8deb861a77e.jpgRevival by Stephen King

This is the first Stephen King I’ve read in a while, after I burnt myself out reading all of his massive books (I’m looking at you Under the Dome, It and The Stand).

Revival follows a man named Jamie Morton through childhood to late adulthood, and how his old pastor Charles Jacobs and his obsession with electricity haunt him through his life.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this book, mostly because there wasn’t as much of the thriller aspects as I’d been expecting, and so when I was reading pages and pages of this guy just living his life, I was left wanting more.

However, I have to say that when those thriller moments jumped up, they were suitably creepy. Not quite as terrifying as some of his other books, but I think this book was more rooted in reality than previously – that is, until the ending, which I’m still not sure what to think of.


A1IwQuYSFFL.jpgA Room Away From The Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

I listened to this book on audio through Scribd after reading and absolutely loving Nova Ren Suma’s other book, The Walls Around Us. I have to say that I did enjoy Walls more, but I still really enjoyed A Room Away From the Wolves. 

This book centres around Catherine House, a place for wayward girls, with dark secrets. When Bina runs away from home to the big city, to pursue the dreams she once shared with her mother, she finds herself on the doorstep of Catherine House, and entangled in a history she had no idea about.

It had all the creepiness and atmosphere of Nove Ren Suma books, but as with Seanan McGuire, I think I’m better at physically reading her books.


34433755Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire #1) by Natasha Ngan

Ohh, wow. Maybe new addition to my favourite fantasy list? Maybe new addition to my favourite book of the year?

I loved every second of reading Girls of Paper and Fire, and I can’t wait to see where Natasha Ngan takes this story, and anything else she writes. I just connected so much to the writing, the plot, and these characters.

I have a full review here full of my thoughts, but I highly recommend you pick up this book at the first chance you get. Trigger warnings for violence, sexual assault, and rape.


51DXoB9h2eL.jpgBridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I won’t get too far into my thoughts on this book as I have a review coming out this week, but I absolutely adored it. This book had me bawling at midnight, and then kept me up until the early hours long after I’d finished, just thinking about it.

Bridge of Clay follows five brothers and their failed relationship after the death of their mother. The story jumps between present day with the brothers, and back to their parents’ childhood, and how they met. It’s a story about dysfunctional families, grief, and forgiveness, and totally broke my heart.

I know there are a lot of mixed reviews and I will say that if you go into it expecting it to be like The Book Thief, you’ll be disappointed. It’s very slow and very character driven, and a bloody big book, but I thought it was amazing.


51QKsHAoy0L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

I barely made it through 10% of this book before I knew it wasn’t for me. Ragdoll is a crime thriller, and it really didn’t pull me in. I had the biggest problem with the writing. The was so much purple prose and redundant filler words that really slowed down the pacing.

The characters just were not likeable. Either they were immature and insensitive, or just purely unrealistic.

I could go on, but I don’t see the point and don’t want to criticise something that is cleared up after the point I stopped reading.

images

Well, I loved pretty much all of what I read in November! I can only hope for another beaut reading month in December too!

What did you read in November? Have you read any of these books? Let me know and we can chat! 

go explore (26)

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Review

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 14.20.20

2

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

3

TW: sexual assault, rape, violence, death.

I flew through this book so fast, considering I was sick when I read it, and when I couldn’t pick it up, the story and the characters were always on my mind. I don’t often stay up late because I’m always exhausted, but this book kept me up long into the night.

I have to say that Girls of Paper and Fire is definitely harrowing at times, to the point where I was cringing for pages, and wanted to just reach inside the story take the characters out of the horrible situations they found themselves in. That being said, I think Natasha Ngan did a very good job of making these difficult scenes effective and painful, without ever dipping into romanticisation or the violence becoming gratuitous. I found everything to be done with a great deal of respect, while also delivering that gut punch when it needed to.

Continue reading “Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Review”