Book Review – Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.

Review:

For those that have read my “Down the TBR Hole” posts, you’ll recognise this as one of the books I chose to request from the library in order to finally get it off my TBR list (it’d been on there since 2011!). I’m super grateful that I started doing that challenge as I ended up loving this book and I probably would never have got around to reading it if not for that.

So as is very obvious, this is a historical fiction novel focusing on that of Madame Tussaud, or Marie Grosholtz as she is known for the majority of the novel. The main focus however is less on Marie and more on that of the French Revolution. Marie’s story is entwined with that of the revolution as her family straddle both sides for as long as possible and Marie’s main focus is less on the revolution and more on her wax models.

Marie is a fun character to read as I’m not actually a huge fan of her and found myself disliking a lot of the decisions she made but to me, that is a mark of good characterisation as I still wanted to read more about her. This novel is also very informative and I feel I’ve learnt a lot about the French Revolution that I didn’t know before. There are a lot of historical notes at the end and it also mentions aspects that weren’t included too so although it’s not strictly accurate, it’s still accurate enough to give me a very brief overview of the events as this is a period of history I’ve not studied that much.

Reading this novel also really made me want to go to Paris and to visit Versailles as the descriptions are just fascinating. I’ve been to Paris before and so was able to picture quite a few of the settings which I feel greatly helped my enjoyment of the novel.

I’m a big fan of Michelle Moran’s books and so would definitely recommend this to fans of historical fiction. I’m really glad I finally read it, and now I plan on getting some non-fiction about the French Revolution because of how fascinating I found it.

Book Review – The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

Review:

I received a copy of this from Netgalley to review based just on the “ragtag group of survivors” because I love books centered around that and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I started reading this book before going to bed, and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it because I was enjoying it so much!

The plot follows Jamie and the group of survivors she ends up with that include a former priest, a prostitute, the captain of a ship and an autistic boy. Along their travels they meet other groups of survivors until they eventually reach their final destination.

Obviously, in a book like this, the main focus is going to be on the characterisation and the interactions between the characters. They were all fantastic and I really enjoyed the tensions between them at times. However, the character I’m going to focus on for this review is Finn. Finn is an autistic boy and I adore him. He is written very well and at no point is he ever treated as a joke, most of the characters accept him the way he is (one doesn’t, but she’s not happy with most of the survivors). I was just so happy to see a positive representation, and see how the crew were just so accepting. At one point, Jamie gets very upset because he’s wandered off without telling her but she doesn’t yell or shout at him and the captain just calmly goes “Hey, tell us next time okay?”. Another survivor that we meet briefly is also very likely to be Aromantic and Asexual based on the conversation she had with Jamie and again, she was portrayed in a positive manner, perfectly happy the way she was and the situation she was in. These positive representations just made me love the novel even more and just made me feel so happy to read.

The worldbuilding is something that we don’t see much of, because it’s focusing mostly on the characters. We get a small glimpse at the history that involves forced emigration from Earth based on social classes and we see a couple different planets. What we do see is certainly very interesting and because of the nature of the book, it’s something that isn’t as important. One thing the book doesn’t address is how they travel through space, other than a mention of needing fuel, but as it’s a very character-based novel this lack of information isn’t that important as it doesn’t relate to the plot.

I don’t want to say too much more, because part of the enjoyment was just being along for the journey and so it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.

I would highly, highly recommend this novel as I was just so charmed by it and any book that keeps me up until 3am reading deserves to be recommended! I enjoyed this book so much I’m planning on buying a physical copy when it comes out so I can force my friends to read it.

Book Review – Inside Job by Connie Willis

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Professional debunker Rob, proprietor of the Jaundiced Eye magazine, considers himself incredibly lucky to have Kildy as his sole employee. Smart, dedicated, gorgeous, and, thanks to her last movie before she hung up on Hollywood, rich, she’s a pleasure to oblige when she says Rob has to witness this channeler Ariaura’s act–on her, not the Eye’s, nickel–despite channelers being so last year. It’s quite a show, all right, for in the midst of Ariaura’s particular ancient wise guy’s basso spiel, a gravelly baritone interrupts (both voices emanate from the channeler’s female mouth) to berate the audience as “yaps” and the act as “claptrap.”

Why is Ariaura undermining herself? Or is she? After all, she angrily accuses Rob and Kildy of scheming to destroy her. Could the baritone belong to a genuine channeled spirit?

Willis, one of sf’s most spirited writers, rounds on the New Age; pays tribute to a great, skeptical journalist; and affectionately parodies pulp fiction at its best in this irresistible entertainment.

Review:

This is a charming novella that I got in the Humble Nebula Bundle and if it’s a reflection of the quality of the rest of the books in the Bundle then I’m very excited as I absolutely adored this.

The novella follows Rob and Kildy as they work on debunking Ariaura’s channeling act. However, during her show she starts channelling a negative spirit which Rob identifies as Mencken, who was a famous skeptic. They are puzzled as to why she would choose to channel him and why she is also accusing them of destroying her. Rob does research into Mencken in order to try and catch Ariaura out in a lie.

The three main characters are excellent and I really enjoyed reading the interactions between them as they work to expose Ariaura. The setting was excellent and I was hooked from the start and read the entire book in one sitting as I really enjoyed the writing.

I would highly recommend this novella, it’s a great fun and short Fantasy read that won’t take much time but is very rewarding. I’m definitely also going to be checking out more of her work now!

Book Review – The Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A scavenger robot wanders in the wasteland created by a war that has destroyed humanity in this evocative post-apocalyptic robot western from the critically acclaimed author, screenwriter, and noted film critic.

Humankind is extinct. Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by One World Intelligences – vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle – a loner and scavenger, focused solely on survival – is one of the holdouts.

Only, individuality comes at a price, and after a near-deadly encounter with another AI, Brittle is forced to seek sanctuary. Not easy when an OWI has decided to lay siege to the nearest safe city.

Critically damaged, Brittle has to hold it together long enough to find the essential rare parts to make repairs – but as a robot’s CPU gradually deteriorates, all their old memories resurface. For Brittle, that means one haunting memory in particular . . .

Sea of Rust boldly imagines a future in which no hope should remain, and yet a humanlike AI strives to find purpose among the ruins.

Review:

I received this as an eArc and was drawn to it by a combination of the cover and the interesting description. I’ve been wanting to read more novels with sentient AI and this one was great.

This novel is really divided into two stories. One is the story of Brittle in the present day as she travels around, scavenging parts from robots that are about to die. She gets injured by a robot called Mercer who is the same model as her as he is dying and needs her parts to survive. Of course, this now means that she is also critically injured and he is the only source of parts for her. The other story is that of her past and the robot uprising. The novel alternates between these two which I really enjoyed as we slowly learnt more about the world as we progressed through the novel.

The characters are all excellent and I enjoyed reading about all the different types of robots and what their original purposes were. The worldbuilding is very strong and was slowly revealed throughout the novel. I got a very mad-max vibe from the “Sea of Rust” during the travelling parts which I thoroughly enjoyed and I feel a very good film could be made out of this novel – this might be partially due to the fact that the author is a film critic and I feel it has influenced him in a very positive manner.

I would highly recommend this novel and when it comes out, I plan on buying copies for some friends that I know would enjoy it. If you’re taking part in the Fantasy Bingo, this could also potentially count for a couple squares (depends if you want to include it or if you think it’s too Sci-Fi to count)

Book Review – The Power by Naomi Alderman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

‘She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.’

Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed, and we look at the world in an entirely new light.

What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands?

Review:

So this was the final book from the Bailey’s Prize shortlist that I read and I adored it. I already had a feeling it would be my favourite from the blurb and would have read it faster but there was a huge queue for it at the library. I’m glad I finally got to read it as it’s such a good book and I hope it wins.

As the blurb shows, the concept of the book is “What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands” and it does this by following four different characters. Two are young girls who have the power, one whose father is a crime lord and the other who has bounced around the foster system. The third is a young man from Nigeria who ends up recording the events as a journalist. The final character is a politician who receives the power through her daughter. Together through the four of them we chronicle the events that happen from when the power first starts appearing until the final “cataclysm” at the end.

The novel contains a frame-tale where the story itself is describing the historical events and between chapters, there are sometimes inclusions of images of historical finds which I really enjoyed.

The characters are all very interesting and well developed and I really enjoyed seeing their growth and their motivations and how they personally used the power. They all seemed very realistic and the events that happen in the novel due to women gaining this power is definitely very believable and interesting.

I highly recommend this novel and it’s an excellent depiction of an interesting concept. Just like the rest of the Bailey’s Prize shortlist it is definitely worth a read and I look forward to seeing how it does.


		

Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew.

Review:

One of my personal goals this year is to read more Scottish literature and when I saw this book on the list, I fell in love with the cover. It’s so beautiful I want to buy my own copy of it (and it was good enough that I’d happily have a copy to lend to people).

Before her death, Dylan’s mother travelled to a small fictional community in Scotland, called Clachan Fells, and bought a caravan in cash knowing that the family business was deep in debt and this way Dylan would have somewhere to live after his home was repossessed. He moves into the caravan and soon falls for his neighbour Constance. Constance has a young daughter called Stella and the story focuses primarily on the three of them and how they cope with the winter as it gradually gets colder and colder.

The characters are all really interesting and I loved how unashamed Constance was about being polyamorous and how accepting she was of her daughter when she came out as trans. The setting of the slow encroach of winter was fantastic and evocative and although Clachan Fells is a fictional setting, it was really brought to life and felt like a real place somewhere not far from Edinburgh.

Overall, I’m really glad I picked this as my choice for reading more Scottish literature and I really loved this novel. I would definitely recommend it as the writing is beautiful and the setting and story are fascinating and it’s a chilling look at what global warming could potentially cause without ever feeling like it was trying to be preachy.

Down the TBR Hole #4

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

So last week, I managed to get this down to 760 books and throughout the week I’ve managed to get it down to 752 which means that not only have I already achieved my goal of 755, but I should be able to get it down to 750! I managed this by having a wee clear out of some sequels of books I didn’t enjoy (I was originally just looking to get rid of a few to balance out ones I added, but ended up finding more to remove than I thought!)

Anyway, let’s look at the books this week!


 

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So we’re still at the point I was in my historical fiction phase and although I really like Boudica, I’m not sure if I’m really in the mood for reading a huge trilogy about her.

Verdict: REMOVE

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More historical fiction. I’ve read quite a few of the books in the Tudor series and I think this is one of the only ones I haven’t read but again, not really in the mood for it and I don’t even think I own it.

Verdict: REMOVE

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So this is a sequel series to another one that I’ve read and loved and for some reason just never got around to reading. I remember loving the first one and it includes weather magic which is something I adore. I would go request this straight away, but I think I want to re-read the first duology to remind me of the world and characters.

Verdict: KEEP

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So this is another historical fiction novel, this time about pirates, however the author is one I really enjoy and I actually own this book and I’m always more reluctant to remove books I own as I’d have to physically get rid of the book (as if I take it off Goodreads but leave it on my physical TBR that’s just cheating). I think this is one that can stay but that might get removed later if I’m in desperate need of trimming my TBR.

Verdict: KEEP

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More historical fiction! I promise we’re almost finished with it now. This is another book I own so again I feel that I should keep it. It was also a gift from my mum so I’d also feel bad about getting rid of it without at least trying to read it.

Verdict: KEEP

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I’ve managed to get rid of two books this week which brings us down to 750 for the week which is fantastic. I’m super proud of that number and hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up this pace and hit my goal of 700 books sooner than I thought.

Looking at the books for next week, I think I might struggle getting rid of them which means I need to try and read as much this week as possible!

Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my choices? Any books you’d recommend based on what I kept?

Book Review – Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel follows vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.

Anno Dracula is a rich and panoramic tale, combining horror, politics, mystery and romance to create a unique and compelling alternate history. Acclaimed novelist Kim Newman explores the darkest depths of a reinvented Victorian London.

Review:

So this is a book that has been on my TBR list for a long time. I got the third novel for free and eventually, I decided that it had been sitting on my shelf for long enough and that I should read this to see if I want to continue the series or not. I also figured that this would be a perfect choice for the horror square on the Fantasy Bingo as that was a square I hadn’t thought about much yet.

The novel itself follows several characters beyond the two mentioned in the synopsis. This is an alternate history containing lots of references to victorian literature. Not only do we have all the characters from Bram Stoker’s novel but we have references to Bram Stoker himself. We have a brief cameo of Dr. Jekyll, Jack the Ripper is now murdering vampire prostitutes and there are even mentions of Sherlock Holmes. One of the fun things in the novel was spotting the references that I got, and I know that there will be plenty more that went over my head.

The characterisation of all the characters was excellent and in particular, I really enjoyed reading about Jack the Ripper and his motivations. The vampires in the novel are all descended from various bloodlines and so have different attributes based on this – for example, a lot of the vampires created by Dracula are all diseased.

As for the story, the main plot revolves around solving the Jack the Ripper murders which are causing tensions between humans and vampires. As readers, we know the identity from quite early on as he is one of the POV characters and so it is enjoyable to see how he remains hidden.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and can’t believe it took me this long to get around to reading it. The next two are definitely high on my list to read next and I’m looking forward to finally getting Dracula Cha Cha off my to-read shelf.

If you’re doing Fantasy Bingo, this book is excellent for it as you can use it for several different squares and I did always have a soft spot for Vampires when I was younger so it’s nice to read another well-written Vampire novel.

Book Blogger Hop: May 19th – 25th


Book Blogger Hop

So I’ve decided to take part in the Book Blogger Hop this week as the question was one I found quite interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody’s answers.

What do you do with books you no longer want? Do you donate them? Do you take them to a half-price bookstore? Does a friend or family member benefit?

For me, the main thing I do is donate them. There are multiple charity shops near me and as they’re where I buy a lot of my books, I find it only fair to donate the ones I don’t want. My city also has a charity that provides books to homeless readers and so I’ve donated to them too although they only accept paperbacks in good condition and as I buy many books used, they’re often not good enough quality.

A lot of my books from when I was younger were all given to my half-sister and I’ve done one giveaway on Twitter with a book I loved. I’m also planning on attending some book swap events as I’ve done that before and it was a fun way to both get rid of a book while getting a new one.

Book Review – Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous

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Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s 2005. The Italian secret service has received intel that a group of Muslim immigrants based in the Viale Marconi neighborhood of Rome is planning a terrorist attack. Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, goes undercover to infiltrate the group and to learn who its leaders are. Christian poses as Issa, a recently arrived Tunisian in search of for a job and a place to sleep. He soon meets Sofia, a young Egyptian immigrant dressed in a burqa who lives in the neighborhood with her husband Said, a.k.a. Felice, an architect who has reinvented himself in Italy as a pizza cook.

Review:

So, to start off with this book is not really to do with divorce at all. It does feature it slightly and explains how divorce works in Islam which I found particularly interesting however the primary focus is on the immigrant experience in Rome. I found this book randomly while browsing through my library catalogue and I thought the name was so interesting, I just had to check it out!

The novel focuses on Christian who is posing as a recent immigrant and so through him, you get a glimpse of immigrant life in Rome as he is living in an overcrowded apartment and the friends he makes are all struggling with the bureaucratic system that make things very difficult for immigrants. Another main character is that of Sofia who has moved to Rome to join her husband who works in a pizza restaurant. Sofia doesn’t love her husband and instead has ambitious plans to be a hairdresser instead which she does part-time. The novel switches between the viewpoints of the two characters until their lives intertwine.

The novel is a very fun lighthearted tale that also is not afraid to tackle the issues facing immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants, in Rome. I really enjoyed this novel and would highly recommend it. It’s also great for those doing the Book Riot Read Harder challenge as it is ideal for number 5, a book with a central immigration narrative.