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.

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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

May Wrap-Up

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.

Book Review – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its
magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something
from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires‘ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

Review:

This is a book I chose to start reading for a very trivial reason but I’m so glad I did because it’s fantastic. Every time I go to a bookshop, I play a game in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section where I see how many shelves I’ve read a book from. Last time I did this, there was only one shelf I didn’t “have” and so naturally I just had to read a book from it (actually I read two, just to be extra certain). This book sounded fascinating and the cover is just beautiful so I just had to read it. Best part is that since it’s urban Fantasy and the author lives in France, I’m counting this as my French entry for my Read Around the World challenge.

The setting for this novel is absolutely fantastic. It’s set in Paris, but not the Paris we all know and love. This Paris is the decaying remains of the once great city with ruins everywhere and the Seine is now a lurking source of danger. In this novel, many of the characters are either humans or Fallen, who are the Fallen Angels from Heaven that have been cast out.

Our main characters are Philippe who is neither mortal nor a Fallen and Isabelle, a newly arrived Fallen and together they are bound by some sort of link. Isabelle is rescued by house Silverspires and the novel focuses on both her and Philippe as they, along with other members of the house, work on trying to figure out what is haunting House Silverspires.

There is quite a bit of diversity in this book which is always great to see in Urban Fantasy. Philippe himself is from Vietnam and quite a few of the major characters are in same-sex relationships.

What originally was chosen as a book just to complete a personal challenge turned out to be a fantastic Urban Fantasy which I absolutely adored and I’m definitely planning on both reading the next in the series and of trying to get the rest of her books as I was a huge fan of both the plot and the writing itself which I found very descriptive.

For those looking to get into Urban Fantasy, this is a book I would highly recommend. It’s a genre that I don’t read much of but from what I’ve read, this is by far one of my favourites.

Book Review – An Oath of Dogs by Wendy N Wagner

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Kate Standish has been on Huginn less than a week and she s already pretty sure her new company murdered her boss. But extractions corporations dominate the communities of the forest world, and few are willing to threaten their meal tickets to look too closely at corporate misbehaviour. The little town of mill workers and farmers is more worried about the threat of eco-terrorism and a series of attacks by the bizarre, sentient dogs of this planet, than a death most people would like to believe is an accident. When Standish connects a secret chemical test site to a nearly forgotten disaster in Huginn’s history, she reveals a conspiracy that threatens Standish and everyone she’s come to care about.

Review:

I received this as an e-Arc from the publisher as I’m a big fan of Angry Robot and as soon as I saw the cover for this, I just had to read it. It’s a sci-fi novel set on the planet Huginn which is earth-like but with very different native flora and fauna. Kate arrives to find her boss dead and so she slowly tries to figure out what happened as she learns more about the society which compromises mill workers and a group of religious people called Believers.

Kate’s story is also interspersed with entries from the diary of one of the Believers back when they first settled on the planet and these are very fascinating as one aspect of Sci-Fi that I love is the early settler period where they are discovering all the differences from earth and trying to figure out how to make a living on the planet.

The characters are all fantastic and I just adore Kate. She has a service dog, Hattie, who is by far one of my favourite characters because I adore dogs. I’m breaking my no-spoilers policy here to mention that Hattie does not die. I spent a lot of the book worrying about that and I would have enjoyed it much more if I’d known that going in, and I also know that some people might not want to read it unless they had that guarantee so don’t worry – the dog lives! The other characters are all very interesting too and the Believers in particular are very interesting to read about – especially as you slowly learn more of their history through the diary.

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s exactly the kind of Sci-Fi that I adore with strange alien biology, stories of settlers trying to make a living and it has an adorable dog in it. I would definitely recommend this novel to those that enjoy Sci-Fi as it’s just excellent and I can’t wait for it to be released to I can make my friends read it.

Book Review – Godblind by Anna Stephens

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Fantasy’s most anticipated debut of the year

There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. The Dark Lady and her horde dealt in death and blood and fire.

That time has long since passed and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. The only blood spilled is confined to the border where vigilantes known as Wolves protect their kin and territory at any cost.

But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable.

Vulnerable to the blood-thirsty greed of the Warrior-King Liris and the Mireces army waiting in the mountains…

GODBLIND is an incredible debut from a dazzling new voice of the genre.

Review:

I received an e-ARC of this from the publishers and I was quite excited due to it being marketed as Fantasy’s most anticipated debut of the year and the title just grabbed me. It’s also exciting as it’s a Grimdark novel written by a women when up until now, most of the well-known Grimdark authors were men.

The story itself is told through a variety of POV characters spread throughout the kingdoms of Rilpor and Mireces. We have characters from both kingdoms although it’s made very clear which characters are “good” and which are not. The chapters in the book are very short, jumping around a lot between all the characters which was slightly difficult at first as it didn’t give much time to get used to a character before jumping away to yet another one, however as you get deeper this lets you progress much faster and I definitely fell into the “just one more chapter” trap multiple times. It also means that if you’re not a fan of a particular character then you don’t have to spend ages with them until you get back to a chapter of your favourite.

The characters themselves are all excellent and well-written and I adored seeing their growth throughout the novel. In particular, my two favourite characters are Rillirin and Crys as they really grow throughout the novel.

I won’t say too much about the plot because part of the enjoyment came from it slowly being revealed and constant twists that made it very hard to predict what would happen next but it was very enjoyable.

The writing is excellent and very descriptive – I was able to really picture many of the locations mentioned and the world building was excellent – I very much enjoyed learning about the various Gods in the world and their goals. The book is almost 500 pages long however it doesn’t feel long at all and I just sped through the second half of the book.

The one thing that disappointed me was that this is the first in a series which wasn’t made clear when I requested it. I feel if I’d known that, I would have given it a higher rating as I would have read it differently. However, I still really enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the rest of her books when they come out.

I would definitely recommend this book to any fans of Grimdark Fantasy, particularly those wanting Grimdark with strong and well-written female characters. Because it’s Grimdark, there is obviously a lot of gruesome aspects involved and so I need to include trigger warnings for rape, torture and violence.

Down the TBR Hole #6

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

It’s time for another TBR post!

So, last week we got down to 728 books and I’m now at 723 which is excellent as it means I managed to remove 5 during the week – two of those were books I read and so got off the list, and I deleted a couple more books. I actually ended up getting rid of two historical fiction books I kept in previous weeks (I kept them due to owning them, but I decided to donate my copies instead)

Anyway, as you all probably know by now, this tag was started by Lia  and the rules are:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Now, this week isn’t going to be as exciting as the rest because it turns out the next five books on the list are all classics and so I’ll be keeping them all as part of my goal to read more classics.  This means I won’t be doing my usual “Keep/Remove” part as it’ll basically be the same each time. Instead, I’ll just show you the five books that I’m keeping.

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These are:

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I’ve read a couple of Dickens already and always meant to read more. It’s one of my “one day I’ll read this” books.

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer – I have a really cool old copy of this and so I need to get myself a modern version to actually read (because I don’t want to damage my copy)

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Another of those classics that everybody knows that I just haven’t got around to reading.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – This is the third book in the Sherlock Holmes collection as I read the first two years ago and adored them. I think I didn’t have the third one at the time and then I just forgot about reading more. Shall definitely need to change that as I really enjoy them!

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens – Another Dickens. I think I might read this one before Great Expectations as I’ve seen the film and adored it.


 

So, as you can see my TBR list remains at 723 but it’s slowly going down due to my pruning the middle of the list. I’m going to stop removing books from it now except for this tag as I no longer feel as much pressure and my goal of reading books to get them off the list has been very effective so I think I’m going to focus more on removing books by reading rather than deleting them. Because of this, I’m thinking of doing a feature on Sundays where I post about the books I read that week and mention any that I read thanks to doing this tag. I figure since I read so many books that I can’t discuss them all in detail at my monthly wrap-ups, a weekly wrap-up will make more sense, especially as I don’t always review all the books I’ve read and this gives me a way to talk about them.

Have you read any of these classics? Which would you recommend I read first? Any other classics you think I should add to my list?