Book Review – Hustlers, Harlots and Heroes by Krista D. Ball

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Get ready to step into the back alleys of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens’s London, and explore the alternative worlds of steampunk in this new guide book by fantasy author Krista D. Ball. Ball takes readers on a fascinating journey into the world of the Have-Nots, and explores the bustling, crime-ridden London during the Georgian and Victorian eras. Discover the world of knocker-uppers (it’s not what you think), mudlarks, and costermongers. Learn how to scrub floors and polish knives, pick for bones, and catch rats. Learn about race and social status, and the difference between a lady’s maid and a scullery maid. With her usual wit, insight, and snark, Ball gives historical, romance, and steampunk authors the tools to create vibrant, realistic worlds. Whether you’re an author, a Janeite, or just a fan of history, Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes gives you a fresh look into the dark past.

Review:

So, one of the Fantasy Bingo squares is non-fiction relating to Fantasy and so this was my pick for it. I got a free copy from the author during a celebration of 2 years since she quit her job to focus on writing and finally got around to reading it.

This is a very well researched book and I would highly recommend it to anybody thinking of writing a novel in this time period. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it and the endnotes and bibliography are fantastic (I adore books with great bibliographies and the bonus for this one is that a lot of the books mentioned are now in the public domain)

What makes this stand out though is the author, it reads like you’re sitting with your friend in the pub and she’s excitedly telling you all these awesome facts that she recently learned while doing research for her novel. The author has such a great voice and includes plenty of humour amongst the facts – I also particularly enjoyed reading about trying to re-create the experiences such as follow old recipes and cleaning in a period outfit. I’m a big fan of history and this was a fantastic and vivid way of bringing it to life, it almost makes me want to start writing a novel set in Victorian London just so I can use all this new knowledge!

If you’re taking part in the Fantasy Bingo, I highly recommend this for the non-fiction square. If you enjoy history or are planning on writing a novel set during this time period then I recommend this as a source of excellent information with a good bibliography to lead you to further sources. Finally, if you don’t like reading non-fiction because you think it’s not as interesting, I recommend this as it had me hooked! Basically, I adored this book and would highly recommend it to everybody.

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Book Review – Embassytown by China Miéville

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language. When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

Review:

I’m a big fan of Miéville’s work and am slowly working my way through all of his books. This one was recommended to me because it focuses on Language and well, that sounded fascinating so I just had to read it! Like all his books, these are novels that you don’t read quickly as there’s just so much to take in. It took me ages to read this book as I got interrupted halfway through and as it requires a lot of concentration, I’d just been too tired from work. Finally though, I finished it and it was absolutely brilliant, as I’ve come to expect from him.

The main character, Avice, is a simile. When she was a child, the Hosts or Ariekei, made her perform certain actions so that they could then use her in their language to express abstract ideas. In the Ariekei language, speech is thought and so they cannot lie and rely on the humans to express more complex ideas. The main focus of the novel is that of Language and how it works. It’s linguistically fascinating due to the fact that it requires two humans, in perfect sync, to be able to speak it and these are known as Ambassadors. These Ambassadors are usually bred specifically for the task and are identical clones of each other, undergoing alterations each day to ensure they continue to look identical.

I was absolutely enthralled by this novel and honestly, even if the plot was awful I would have enjoyed it just for all the interesting analysis of how language works. Luckily, the plot is excellent and explores what happens when a new Ambassador arrives who is unlike any of the previous ones.

It’s rather difficult to talk in too much detail about what happens but the worldbuilding, as always with Miéville is absolutely fantastic and is the main reason I continue to read his work. The descriptions manage to constantly convey that slightly alien feeling about the world and the inhabitants. We slowly learn more as the book goes on and it’s a constant delight and full of surprises.

I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of SFF, as I’m a huge fan of Miéville. His work is challenging so I recognise that it’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely worth it and I recommend sticking with it as it just kept getting better and better the more I read.

Book Review – The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. 

Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.

Review:

Despite being a big fan of Harry Potter, I somehow never got around to reading it when it came out and then just kinda forgot about it. Luckily, thanks to the Down the TBR Tag I decided to request it from the library to get it off the list, especially since it’s a very short book so didn’t take me long at all.

The stories in this book are okay, they’re nothing particularly special compared to most fairy tales. However, where this book really shines is the fact that the tales contain commentary written by Dumbledore with comments about the academic value of these texts and the history of the various translations. This is actually very similar to what I did at Uni (except I studied medieval Irish tales instead of ones from the Wizarding World) and so I loved it. There’s also various little notes and lovely illustrations in the book.

I can’t believe it took me this long to finally read it, and I would definitely recommend this to any fans of Harry Potter. If you’re not a fan, it’s probably not something you would enjoy as on their own as there are much better fairytales out there but you might still enjoy it for the comments afterwords.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 Update

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Right! We’re halfway through the year so it’s time for an update on the #ReadHarder challenge!

First, let’s have a reminder of what the list is!

The List:

  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel.
  3. Read a book about books.
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper)
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay, bestselling author of Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, Marvel’s World of Wakanda, and the forthcoming Hunger and Difficult Women)
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng, author Everything I Never Told You and the forthcoming Little Fires Everywhere)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, including The Unquiet Dead, The Language of Secrets, and the forthcoming Among the Ruins)
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension)

Update:

As you can see, I’ve completed 14 books so far. Not all of them have reviews so might add some for those. A couple of the ones not completed yet may actually already be done but I’ll need to double check for 7 and 16. I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far and some of the other ones won’t be too difficult (such as 23 and 18). I’d been neglecting this recently for the Fantasy Bingo but I think this month I might aim to cross another four books off this list. One is to re-read a book so that should be easy enough and gives me a reason to re-read a book to review it.

Are you taking part in the #ReadHarder challenge too? How’s your progress going? Any books you’d recommend for some of my remaining goals?

Book Review – The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people “jaunte” a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men – and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive. “The Stars My Destination” is a classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enchantment by an acknowledged master of science fiction. 

Review:

As I mentioned in my review for The House of Shattered Wings, I like trying to read a book from every shelf at my local bookstore and so along with reading a Fantasy novel, I also chose a Sci-Fi novel from the same shelf to read – especially as this had actually been on my to-read list for quite a while.

I went into this book knowing almost nothing beyond the synopsis. The world is ours, but in the future where we have space travel and colonies on other planets. There is a dispute between the outer colonies and the original planets over resources and that is the backdrop to the novel.

The main character, Gully Foyle, is the sole survivor on his ship and and when a nearby ship passes by and doesn’t stop to rescue him, he is consumed by thoughts of revenge on that ship. He becomes determined to survive and will learn as much as he can in order to achieve this goal.

The book follows Gully throughout his travels to get his revenge as he learns more about the ship that passed him over and the reasons behind that decision. Along the way, we meet several other characters that aid him in this quest, each with their own motivations.

The ability to “jaunte” is something that plays an important role in the novel, this allows users to teleport around and Gully Foyle is particularly skilled at this. Various methods have been devised in order to prevent jaunting and this leads to some interesting worldbuilding.

I’m very glad I picked this book up and I really enjoyed reading it and seeing the development of Gully throughout the novel. It’s definitely one I’d recommend to fans of Sci-Fi and I definitely plan on trying to read more of Bester’s work.

June Wrap-Up 2017

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It’s that time again! It seems like June has just flown past for me as I’ve been so busy. This post is a little late, as I currently don’t have internet this month and so can only update sporadically.

The main news I have this month is the fact that I’ve moved! Hence, the lack of internet. My new flat is really nice but there’s less storage space so I’ve been doing a lot of culling of books to save space. I’m planning on taking most of them to a swap-shop and then plan to release some onto Book Crossing along with giving away others to friends. I’ve made good progress so far – I think I’ve found almost 50 books to get rid of. We haven’t fully moved everything yet as I’ve basically just been going back and forth on the bus with a suitcase, backpack and shoulder bag but I have moved almost all my board games and clothes and enough books to keep me busy for a while (plus my Kindle which will keep me busy for a long time)

I’ve also got a job now! It’s pretty cool although very tiring as I’m not used to being on my feet for 8 hours at a time (especially since I need to get supportive shoes as mine as not the greatest) – one of the best parts is that I get a commission so I can pick something I want and then aim to get enough commission to buy that. My first goal is the current Humble Book Bundle!

As for blog news, because I’ve been so busy with job hunting, moving and working I’ve not posted as much as I’d like. However, there is a coffee place near my new flat so I plan on going there at least once a week on a day off to write some posts for the week – I already have one queued up and hopefully can get a few more done to make sure I still post semi-regularly. My phone isn’t the greatest otherwise I’d write posts using that.

Anyway, it’s time for the books!

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I read 20 books this month which I’m pretty pleased about! 4 were the Giver quartet as I read the first one and just had to know what happened, then I read Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton for the Fantasy Bingo and fell in love with her writing so read a couple more by her (and have more on request at the library)

Quite a few of the books I read were also ones from my TBR list as I’m making good progress on that. I’ve missed the TBR tag but plan on doing it again once I have regular internet. I also haven’t had the chance to start my Sunday book posts as again that’ll wait until I have the internet so this month will mostly be a mix of reviews and some challenge related ones as I meant to do that last month but never got around to it.

Anyway, hopefully, I can still maintain a semi-regular presence for the rest of the month and in August I should be back to being much more regular plus I’ll have more money for books which is always great!

Book Review – A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.

Review:

I received an ARC of this from Angry Robots as I was immediately intrigued as soon as I saw the cover of this book and the description sounded fascinating. It says Science Fiction although this could also easily be classed as Urban Fantasy and would definitely appeal to fans of that sub-genre.

The best part of this book is the setting, which is absolutely stunning. The city is split into two sections – Dayzone and Nocturna. In Dayzone, the sky is made up of layers and layers of brightly coloured bulbs so that it is always day, while in Nocturna it’s almost permanently dark and the constellations are made up of the few remaining bulbs high up. To travel between the two halves, you need to take a train that travels via Dusk which is the shadowy region between the two.

Many characters, like Nyquist, have homes in both Dayzone and Nocturna letting them choose when they wish it to be night. Another excellent addition to the world-building is the concept of time. The idea of having permanent day and night is already enough to play with the usual concepts of time, but in this city everybody is also on different timelines and you can choose which ones you want and change as you travel. Nyquist is always fiddling with his wristwatch to update it to the timeline of his current area such as updating the time in the pub so that he’s able to drink.

The plot of the story starts out as your basic missing persons case, but develops into much more than that as Eleanor Bale, the missing woman, turns out to be much more important to the city than first thought. I won’t mention too much of the plot as being a mystery, I wouldn’t want to spoil it. The main character is Nyquist who I really enjoyed reading about, and the rest of the side characters are all fantastic and well-written with interesting backgrounds and motives. Eleanor in particular was really enjoyable to read about and I loved it as we slowly discovered more about her and her background.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would have recommended it just for the amazing world-building alone, however having fantastic characters and an excellent plot means that this is definitely a novel worth reading and I struggled at times to put it down.