Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review: The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Title: The Unmumsy Mum
Author: Sarah Turner
Publisher: Bantam Press
Release date: 11th February 2016
Genre: Non-fiction, advice/memoir

Description: The Unmumsy Mum is a blogging and Facebook sensation! Her posts are adored by thousands of fans for delivering a hilarious, unapologeticaly honest account of motherhood. From the soaring highs of life as a parent to the emotional lows of feeling like you might not be cut out for the job, this uncensored portrayal of what it's really like to be a mum has won a place in the hearts of parents everywhere. 
No subject is off limits for the Unmumsy Mum - from distinctly unglowing pregnancies to seemingly endless night feeds; from finding your feet at baby group to the reality of returning to work; from dealing with toddler tantrums to navigating around soft-play hellholes. 
This book won't tell you how to parent, what to buy or how you should feel. Its refreshing frankness is guaranteed to make you laugh, may well make you cry, and will no doubt leave you breathing a sigh of relief that it is definitely not just you...

My thoughts:
I picked this book up from someone who was rehoming it because I thought it would be full of funny, honest stories. It sat on my bookshelf for a little while, than I started it earlier this month, looking for some light reading and a change from fiction.

While the book does have some amusing anecdotes from Sarah's life as a mother, and some short funny things that some of her blog readers have written to her about, the book is much more like an honest look at all aspects of being a mother to very young children. She writes about the miserable side to being pregnant, giving birth, and not getting enough sleep. She talks about deciding to have a second child, and the adjustment needed to cope with having two children rather than one.

It's an incredibly informative book, and I think it would be a very reassuring read for mothers of young children. However, although I might have kids sometime in the next few years, I'm not at that point yet. While it was very educational to read as it went into aspects of parenthood that I didn't know anything about before, or had never even considered, I didn't find it as engaging to read as I think I will in a few years time when I'm expecting a child. I'll definitely be keeping this on the shelf until then, though, because I do think it will be very reassuring and useful when I reach that stage in my life. 7/10.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January Book Haul

My goal to read two books from my TBR shelf for every one that I add to it (and read those two before I add a new one) is off to a terrible start. Here's my video of the books I've received so far this year. 

Books mentioned:
The Night Lies Bleeding by M. D. Lachlan (Gollancz, 22/2/2018)
What Fresh Hell by Lucy Vine (Orion, 8/3/2018)
Doing It by Hannah Witton (out now)
Snakewood by Adrian Selby (out now)
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain (Walker Books, 1/3/2018)
The Goose Road by Rowena House (Walker Books, 5/4/2018)
White Rabbit Red Wolf: This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock (Walker Books, 7/6/2018)

What books have you received recently? Have you read any of these or got them in your TBR pile?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift

Title: Paris Adrift
Author: E. J. Swift
Release date: February 2018
Publisher: Rebellion
Genre: Science-fiction/fantasy
Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Description: Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. She falls in with the eclectic expat community as a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge.

Here she meets Gabriela, a bartender who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family. But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris.

Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns, as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self. 

My thoughts: I first noticed this book because of the cover, and when I read the description I thought it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy. I pictured a fairly typical urban fantasy novel, where a main character discovers there's actually magic of some kind in the world, and with the cool setting of Paris as a bonus. In fact, it's not that sort of story at all. In the opening pages, you learn that this book is about time travel. In the not-too-distant future, the world is ending, and a group of time travellers think they've identified some key points in history where events could be steered a different way, with the help of a young woman who doesn't yet know that she's also a time traveller: Hallie.

Jump back to present day Paris, and Hallie is recently arrived in the city. In many ways, this is a contemporary novel about figuring out who you want to be, and dealing with things from your past. Hallie has basically run away from home instead of starting university. Her job at a popular bar brings her into a friend group of other people who have left something, are looking for something, or just want to have fun and not think about anything for a while. They are racially and culturally diverse, but again and again you see that they have so much in common despite their varied backgrounds.

The other aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was that it brings in real-world politics. The bar staff in Summer 2018 are discussing the US president, the refugee crisis, racism. As Halliee starts to visit different periods of time, she sees the effects of different political strategies played out: people starving in the wake of the siege of Paris; occupied Paris during the Second World War; 2040 when tensions between a peaceful party and a fascist one are coming to a head. It seeps quietly in to the story, not overpowering it, but becoming a central part of the book.

Paris Adrift is a fun, clever and moving book, and I definitely recommend it. It's particularly good if you don't usually like fantasy. I love that Hallie evolves over the course of the story, as do many of the staff she works with. My one little niggle about the book is that there are some tiny set up details about how the time travel works which seemed like they were going to be bigger in the story - like they're setting up a series, rather than a single book. It makes me wonder if this is the start of a series, although the book very much wrapped up tidily. Overall, I'm giving Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift 8 out of 10.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Book Review: How to Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

Title: How to Hang A Witch
Author: Adriana Mather
Publication date: January 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: YA Contemporary/Fantasy
Source: Won

Description: The trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem's past in this thrilling, creepy and romantic New York Times bestseller.

After Sam's father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem with her stepmother, Vivian. Unfortunately, Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome in Salem is an understatement... She is particularly unnerved by The Descendants, a mysterious and tight-knit group of girls related to those persecuted in the Trials. At the same time, she must deal with Elijah, the handsome but angry ghost who has appeared in her house, and her new neighbour Jaxon only complicates things further.

When a centuries-old curse is rekindled, Sam finds herself at the centre of it. Can she stop history repeating itself? 

My thoughts: I've noticed on my last few YA reads that I was really struggling to enjoy them, and had started to think I should skip reading any for a while. Then I picked up this one: YA, contemporary, high school setting: everything I thought I was bored of reading, and yet I got sucked in to the story right away. The story opens as Sam and her step-mother arrive at the large, spooky house that will be their new home in Salem, and in fact is the house her father grew up in. Sam never had any contact with her grandmother, the last person to live in the house, and has never been to the town before. Even so, everyone seems to have it in for her.

The house and town come to life immediately as very atmospheric places - let's just say it's not somewhere you want to be telling ghost stories after dark. As people from the old Salem families start dying, everyone at school points the blame at Sam. She must race to solve the clues in her grandmother's diary and prove her innocence before someone decides to get rid of her for good.

The characters were engaging, and the landscape of Salem is as much a character itself as the people. I've always loved stories about houses with secret rooms, so Sam's house was a treat to read about. It's a very tense story, and although the escalation of the bullying seemed a bit unrealistic at first, I could understand as the story went on why people had such strong reactions.

It's an exciting story that had me whizzing through the pages - I felt a little bit like the way I did when I first read 'Twilight'. I was totally sucked into the world, and the town was brought to life perfectly. I highly recommend it for fans of contemporary YA, especially if you like a fantasy twist in books. 8/10.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Bookish and Blogging Goals

It's that time of year for making goals and planning ahead, so this is a quick post about some of my bookish, blogging, and vlogging-related goals which you might be interested in.

1) Post 52 reviews over the course of the year.
I tried this in 2017 and didn't quite make it, but now I've fully settled in to a new flat and job, I'm much more able to plan my time, and I'm giving it another shot this year.

On a related note:
2) Post 3 times a week on the blog. 
I'd like at least two of these posts to be reviews. Others might be tags, or memes like Stacking the Shelves, and I'm also planning to cross-post more of my booktube videos. I'm thinking of occasionally doing some life updates, too; I work in publishing so I figure some people might be quite interested in hearing about that.

3) Upload one video a week to my YouTube account (which you can find here). 
This is very much going to depend on managing my time. I'm thinking I'll film on Sunday afternoons while I've got the flat to myself, then either post the video that afternoon, or hold it for the following weekend. YouTube is SUPER slow at uploading my videos and tends to choke out the rest of the internet while it's doing it, so I don't think it's something I can really do on weekday evenings... but I will test that and see how it goes.

4) Read some 'classic' science fiction and fantasy books. 
By this I mean books that are sort of the foundations of the genre, and key books that followed. Authors like Isaac Asimov, David Gemel, Ursula le Guin, and people like that. I'm looking for recommendations in this category, especially for female authors, so let me know any suggestions!

And the final, possibly toughest one:
5) Read two books off the TBR shelves for every one that's added. 
And I have to read two before I can add another one! This is going to be tough to stick to, but we got a new bookshelf recently so my shelves aren't double-stacked anymore and it really highlighted how many books I own that I haven't read yet, and how many of those I'm really looking forward to reading. I need to catch up on my TBR shelves, and continue to get better at culling books I'm never going to get round to reading.

How about you? What are your reading/blogging/etc goals and resolutions for the year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.