Friday, May 17, 2019

May Reading Goals


One of the reasons I've not been blogging much recently is that I've been talking about books on my YouTube channel as well. As I get back into the habit of writing out my reviews, I'm going to be cross-posting my videos to here as well. So without further ado, here are my May reading goals!



Books mentioned:
Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphries
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Leaf By Niggle by J. R. R. Tolkien
Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think of them! And if you have a booktube channel of your own, leave a link in the comments and I'll check it out.

~Ailsa

Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Review: Smoke in the Glass by Chris Humphreys


Title: Smoke in the Glass
Author: Chris Humphreys
Publication date: 16th May 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Description: A thrilling new dark fantasy series about immortality, war and survival, from the bestselling historical author Chris (CC) Humphreys
Three lands, peopled by humans and immortals. In Corinthium a decadent endlessly-lived elite run the world for profit and power. But when a poor, honest solider dies, and is reborn, everything changes. In wintry Midgarth, where immortals are revered as deities, one of them has realized that something - or someone - is killing the gods. And in Ometepe there is only one immortal, for he has murdered every other. Until one woman gives birth to a very special baby. Yet there is a fourth, hidden land, where savage tribes have united under the prophecy of 'the One': a child who is neither boy nor girl. Now they plan to conquer the world. Unless a broken soldier, a desperate mother and a crippled god can stop them...


My thoughts: 
I thought the concept of a society where everyone knows immortals exist, but you don’t discover someone is immortal until they die, was really interesting and I couldn’t wait to see how the story unfolded. Told in third person, it dips into other narrators from time to time but for the most part we follow three people: Luck, an immortal in the cold country that sounds quite Nordic; Atisha, in a warm but mountainous country with volcanoes nearby; and Ferros, in a slightly less-defined country that has hills, grasslands and some sea areas. There are four countries in this world, each divided from the others by unclimbable mountains, uncrossable seas, etc etc, so while people might suspect that there is something else beyond their borders, no one has ever come from or gone to those places. In each country immortality works slightly differently, which I enjoyed seeing too.

At first, the stories of our three main protagonists exist slightly separately, but very quickly Chris Humphreys starts to connect them with the impending threat from the mysterious fourth country. As the reader you can see how the events in one place will affect the others, and for me that made it more compelling and added to the tension in each person’s storyline.

It’s a book about tyrants (and how to overthrow them), bringing diverse tribes together (when all they want to do is fight) and coming to terms with a new life path (when you we’re perfectly content before). And it’s about the enduring power and effect of hope.

I loved that the ‘gift’ of immortality had slightly different forms in each of the counties, and that within the plot Chris Humphreys explores how that has lead to different developments of society, without the exploration slowing down or detracting from the overarching plot. I think it’s a very clever idea, and not one I’ve come across before.

Chris Humphreys skilfully weaves together several different storylines without any feeling like they’re rushed over and still manages to keep the momentum of the plot going throughout the book. It’s an intriguing new look at immortality in a fantasy novel, and I highly recommend it. This is the first in a series, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequels. I’m giving Smoke In The Glass 8 stars!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Earl's Countess of Convenience by Marguerite Kaye


Title: The Earl's Countess of Convenience
Author: Marguerite Kaye
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Publication date: 4th April 2019
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description: Eloise Brannagh has witnessed first-hand the damage unruly passion can cause. Yet she craves freedom, so a convenient marriage to the Earl of Fearnoch seems the perfect solution! Except Alexander Sinclair is more handsome, more intriguing, more everything, than Eloise anticipated. Having set her own rules for their marriage, her irresistible husband might just tempt Eloise to break them!

My thoughts: The book opened with several pages of serious info-dumping as Eloise and her family discuss their past and set up the facts of the story opening: that the Earl has written to propose a marriage of convenience with Eloise. The slew of telling went on to the point that I completely lost track of who was being talked about. Despite that quite off-putting start, I did quickly get drawn in once Alexander Sinclair arrive at Eloise's house and they started talking. Each had formed various opinions about the other and now found that not only were those ideas quite wrong, but actually the other person was quite attractive and they were really enjoying talking to them.

I loved that the drama of the story is totally built around their relationship. Often in the historical romance books I've read, there is some kind of dramatic event near the end - a duel, a kidnapping, blackmail - that causes the hero and heroine to realise their true feelings for each other. In The Earl's Convenient Countess, Marguerite Kaye keeps the focus on the evolving relationship between Eloise and Alexander, looking at how time changes their opinions of each other, how they modify their behaviour based on what the other is saying or doing, and how they questions their own plans and desires. It gets so much more into the little actions that affect dynamics of a relationship than some historical romance novels do.

Marguerite Kaye's writing really flows, and I thought her descriptions of people and places were just right: bringing a scene to life without it feeling laboured or overdone. It's not a book full of glamorous parties (although there are some nice dinners and a shopping trip) or too much intrigue, but I don't think that detracts from the story in any way or made it feel like less of the kind of historical romance I was expecting. Overall, I'm giving The Earl's Countess of Convenience 7 out of 10. I found it a really interesting study of a relationship and it definitely lived up to my expectations of Marguerite Kaye's writing, which I've always enjoyed in the past.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Book Review: White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock


Title: White Rabbit, Red Wolf
Author: Tom Pollock
Publication date: 3rd May 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Source: Review copy from publisher
Genre: Young Adult Thriller

Description: 
Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength.

My thoughts:
I’d read one of Tom Pollock’s other books before, which has a strong fantasy element, and while this is very different I knew going in that I liked his writing, and I was intrigued by he fact it deals with an eating disorder and other mental health issues. White Rabbit, Red Wolf gets started very quickly, and is one of those books that's packed with twists and turns, making it very hard to talk about without spoilers!

The portrayal of Peter's panic attacks and how they link in to compulsive eating and other actions was fascinating. I've read that Tom Pollock has an eating disorder himself, and I wonder if that's part of what made it feel so authentic, understandable and real. Peter's best friend in the book, Ingrid, also has OCD and their mutual problems are part of what help them bond so strongly.

While there was the odd twist that I could anticipate, for the most part, I was completely surprised by them. Unlike some books where the 'surprising twists' just seem to crush the story so far and laugh at the reader for how they've been misdirected, the turns in White Rabbit, Red Wolf felt totally believable within the story. It's fast paced, dramatic, and one of those books that when I finished it, I immediately wanted to reread it knowing what you do by the end of the book. I completely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a thriller, even if you wouldn't normally read YA. Overall I'm giving it 8 out of 10.
 

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