Monday, May 14, 2018

Mini Book Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman


Title: The Lost Plot
Author: Genevieve Cogman
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Publication date: 14th December 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Borrowed

Description: In a 1930s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can't extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They'll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn't end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene's job. And, incidentally, for her life... 

My thoughts: First of all, this is book four of the series. I knew that, but my boyfriend who bought it didn't. However, it stands alone very well, and there are only vague references to the events of the previous books, so I don't feel like it spoiled them. The book kicks off with Irene trying to trade a book with some vampires, and getting into more difficulty than she'd hoped. While making her escape, she's approached by a dragon who asks for her help in retrieving a book, a task that's been set as part of a question of succession. When Irene points out that the Library and it's employees remain neutral in such issues, as this dragon should know, the dragon hints that another librarian is already involved.

Irene and Kai head back to the Library to report their suspicions of librarian involvement, and from there end up in the alternate universe New York. It's a very fast paced book with a lot of twists, and I really enjoyed it. I love Irene's sense of humour and the spark between her and Kai. I'd recommend the series in particular to those who have been missing Gail Carriger's books, with their humour, whimsy and excellent plots. I'm definitely going to hunt down the rest of the series. Overall this gets 8 stars from me.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman


Title: Planetfall
Author: Emma Newman
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown. 

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi. 

The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…

My thoughts: This book has been out for a couple of years in the USA, and I've heard good things about it, and that it represents mental illness well. So, I was really pleased to hear that Gollancz were going to publish it in the UK, and I jumped at the chance to review it.

The book switches between what's happening in the present, and flashbacks to both life on earth and to when they were first arriving at the new planet. Although it's science fiction, I felt like the book was really an examining of society, what a society is built on, and what people might choose to do to maintain that society. You get little snippets of what Earth is like, what society and politics have descended to on earth that prompted this group of people to try to build a very idealistic culture on this new planet.

Each of the characters you meet throughout the book has a very distinct personality and different motivations for why they came to the new planet. They were all so well built, and I would have enjoyed getting to hear more about any of them. I think that's a good example of how well written this book is. Although you really don't see much of the planet they're living on, you still get a very clear picture of the area that they are in.

Ren has some anxiety problems, which manifests into certain other behaviours, and she keeps this hidden from the other colonists. Given what I'd heard about Emma Newman's handling of mental health problems in her writing, I was expecting it to be a little more prominent than it is in the story. While aspects of it play a big part, it just didn't come in to Planetfall the way I'd anticipated it might. But that's a good thing, that I was surprised in a lot of places in this story. It really didn't do what I expected from what I'd read on the back, or what I imagined in the early pages of the book.

Planetfall was a really interesting read, and such an interesting look at the consequences of our choices, regardless of what the intentions behind those choices might be. The ending also surprised me a lot, although I was content with it. That said, I'm really keen to read more set on this planet. I'll definitely be looking in to other things which Emma Newman has written. Overall, I'm giving Planetfall 8 out of 10.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Book Review: Make Me Want by Katee Robert


Title: Make Me Want
Author: Katee Robert
Publication date: 22nd February 2018
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Review copy via NetGalley

Description:
Lucy Baudin’s ex dented her self-esteem and it’s time to regain control. In her job as a lawyer she’s bold, confident. But in the bedroom…she needs inspiration to reawaken her inner seductress. Asking her friend Gideon Novak for help seems wrong, yet so deliciously right!

My thoughts: 
Lucy split up with her ex a couple of years ago, and her confidence has yet to recover from the damage he did. Although she's a successful lawyer, she feels like she needs a partner to be taken seriously for further promotion at work, so she hires Gideon to help her find a husband. He's known as a good head-hunter, but finding a husband is quite different. Then there's the fact that his former best friend is Lucy's former boyfriend, and he hasn't seen her since the break up. On top of everything, Lucy doesn't just want him to find her a husband, she's also asked him to teach her how to get better with physical relationships.

The entire set up sounded fun, and the book jumps right in to the action, with Lucy negotiating with Gideon over her proposal that he find her a husband and give her sexual lessons. You can feel the tension between them straight away, and once it flips to Gideon's point of view, we learn that he has always found Lucy attractive. The main issues which the couple face over the course of the story are Gideon's guilt over how badly his former friend treated Lucy; Lucy's damaged confidence from her last relationship; and how determined each of them is to stick to their initial agreement of the rules of their interactions.

It was a fun and fast read, frustrating at times when the characters chose not to talk about certain things with each other, or jumped to (wrong) conclusions. Of course they ultimately end up together, and I enjoyed the way that was worked out. For all that there is a fair amount of sex in the book, it was actually quite a sweet romance. Which brings me to another point: although this is part of the new Mills & Boon range 'Dare', which is meant to be their sexiest books yet, it didn't stand out to me as particularly more sexy that other things I've read. It's perhaps more detailed than some of the others in the Mills & Boon stable, and it was steamy & well written, but nothing out of the ordinary really.

Overall, Make Me Want is a fun, sexy romance novel, perfect to cheer up a gloomy spring weekend. I'm giving it 7/10.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book review: Because We Are Bad by Lily Bailey


Title: Because We Are Bad
Author: Lily Bailey
Publication date: March 2018 (paperback)
Publisher: Canbury
Genre: Non fiction: Memoir
Source: Review copy via publicist

Description: 
As a child, Lily Bailey knew she was bad. 

By the age of 13, she had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and spied upon her classmates.

Only by performing a series of secret routines could she correct her wrongdoing. But it was never enough. She had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and it came with a bizarre twist.

This true story is from a startling new voice in non-fiction. It lights up the workings of the mind like Mark Haddon or Matt Haig.

Anyone who wants to know about OCD, and how to fight back, should read this book. Immerse yourself in a new world.

My thoughts: 
I've read a few books (fiction and non-fiction) which look at OCD, but Lily Bailey highlights a whole new angle of the illness in Because We Are Bad. The book flows as though it were fiction, following Lily's life chronologically from when she is a young girl through to her early twenties. And for most of that period, she has a second voice in her head, telling her what to do. This other person in her head gives voice to the OCD thoughts - you should wash your hands again to make sure you don't spread that disease. You're horrible, you need to do this thing to make up for it. 

It was quite hard to read in places, because the reader can see how much harm Lily was doing to herself, and how much she needed help. Even once she starts seeing a therapist, the OCD remains severe. I found it really interesting to read about the therapy sessions, what people tried to do to help, and the effects (or sometimes lack of them) on Lily and her illness.

It's a very different sort of book than Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon, which I read in the autumn & is about her journey with OCD. Lily's experience with OCD, with the voice in her head being a distinct, separate, constant presence, is not something I've read about before. But because it's so different, I think it's very worth talking about. The more people talk about what their experience with a particular issue is, the higher the likelihood that someone reading these books will be able to identify themselves in one of them.

Overall, it was a very well written book. I found it very readable, which isn't always the case with memoir, or non-fiction more broadly. I admire Lily Bailey for how open she has been with this book, and I hope that it will help people living with OCD. Overall, I'm giving it 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz


Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
Author: Liesel Schwarz
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication date: August 2013
Genre: Steampunk/Fantasy
Source: Bought

Description: In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

My thoughts: I love this sort of fantasy novel: a slightly historical setting, lots of steampunk creations, and a female lead who knows what she wants from life and won't let the fact that she's a woman stop her. The book begins with Elle in Paris, meeting a contact who gives her a mysterious package to take back to England. Unfortunately, she's attacked before she can leave Paris, and this kicks off a journey where she and the enigmatic Mr Marsh are chased to her Cambridge home, then across Europe, to Constantinople.

The chase added a sense of urgency to the book, which I think might have lacked a little otherwise. Although there is a deadline driving the bad guys, our good guys are just trying to keep one step ahead of the danger. In a lot of places, then, Elle is forced into action because of outside factors, rather than her own drive. The events of A Conspiracy of Alchemists affect her a lot, however, so I'm optimistic that she'll be different in the rest of the trilogy.

The descriptions of the settings and scenery around our main characters are very well done. Liesel Schwarz brings Paris, Venice and Constantinople to life. I hope book two has as much traveling for Elle, because I'd really like to see what else Ms Schwarz can conjure up for the reader.

Overall, this was a great book. The plot carried me along, I feared for the characters' safety, despaired over some of their decisions, and cheered at their successes. I love the world Liesel Schwarz has created, and I found it a lot of fun to read this book as well. It's not written to be funny, as Gail Carriger's books are, but there is a certain sarcasm to some of the interactions which made it very entertaining. I really enjoyed the book, and I'm looking forward to the sequel when I can get a copy. I'm giving this one 7/10.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Book Review: Doing It by Hannah Witton


 Title: Doing It
Author: Hannah Witton
Publication date: 6 April 2017
Publisher: Wren & Rook
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Swapped with a friend

Description: Sexting. Virginity. Consent. The Big O ... Let's face it, doing it can be tricksy. I don't know anyone (including myself) who has sex all figured out. So I've written a book full of honest, hilarious (and sometimes awkward) anecdotes, confessions and revelations. And because none of us have all the answers, I've invited some friends and fellow YouTubers to talk about their sexuality, too. My book is for everyone, no matter what gender you identify as or who you fancy.

We talk about doing it safely. Doing it joyfully. Doing it when you're ready. Not doing it. Basically, doing it the way you want, when you want. So. Let's do this ...

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Doing It candidly and openly explores topics like masturbation, slut-shaming, pornography and consent, as well as how to maintain healthy relationships in a digital age.

My thoughts: Doing It is a guide to all things relating to sex, relationships, and bodies. It's broken down by topic, and I found it to be very accessible easy reading. What made it particularly interesting to me was that it's full of personal stories from Hannah Witton and her friends about their experiences with a certain thing. It's very frank and open, which I think is important in a book dealing with these subjects.

I did find that a lot of it wasn't so relevant to me, because it was things I'd learned in high school or already experienced and learned how to handle. So from that point of view, I'd say it's a book for people in their tweens or early teens, and definitely a good one to have in high school libraries. That said, with the personal anecdotes I found some bits particularly interesting because they were about experiences very different from my own.

Overall, the book really does what it says in the blurb. It's hard to rate, because it wasn't so relevant to me but still interesting, and still a very useful book for many people. So, I'm giving it 6/10. I liked it, it was interesting.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: Ivan by Kit Rocha


Title: Ivan
Author: Kit Rocha
Publication date: 31st March 2018
Series: Gideon's Riders, book 3
Genre: Post-apocalyptic Romance
Source: Review copy

Description:
As the sheltered princess of Sector One, Maricela’s life is defined by duty: to her people and to her family. Her wealth and influence have allowed her to build a better world, but they come with a price—the responsibility to secure political stability with a practical marriage. Maricela cherishes the idea of marrying for love, but there’s not much romance in the endless line of suitors interested only in prestige and power.
And her handsome, brooding new bodyguard isn’t helping the situation.
Ivan is the perfect, deadly warrior, a man trained from childhood to be the ultimate protector to the Rios family. His focus on keeping her safe is intense–and a little intoxicating. When the threat of danger cracks his icy control, Maricela realizes she’s not the only one fighting against temptation.
Ivan knows that the blood on his hands makes him unworthy of the pure-hearted princess. But from the first kiss, their forbidden affair feels inevitable. He can give her a glimpse of life outside her gilded cage and a lover who wants the woman instead of the crown. The only thing he can never do is promise her forever.
Because spurning her noble suitors to marry her bodyguard wouldn’t just be a scandal. It could set off a political firestorm that would tear Sector One apart.

My thoughts:
This is the third book in the Gideon's Riders series, and I feel like we're really starting to get stuck in to things now. The lay of the land has been set, the political landscape painted, and now Kit Rocha is starting to poke at those foundations and show us where the weak spots are. Is it all going to tumble down around the ears of the Riders, our main focus in the series? Or will they manage to build something better in place of it? Let's be honest, this series, and each individual book in the series, is a romance, so I know there will be a satisfying conclusion, but it's all about the journey, isn't it? And Kit Rocha writes the journey very well.

There have been hints of the romance between Ivan and Maricela brewing so far in the series, and of the boxes Maricela is being pushed into by her family and the role she was born into. Now we get to explore how she feels about aspects of the role, and what's going on behind the dutiful front which the public see. She's a princess, she's beautiful, she's the perfect role model, and she does 'her duty', including being expected to make a marriage which will be helpful to the stability of the area they live in.

I loved the simmering tension between Ivan and Maricela. She wants some kind of fling, and overcomes her shyness to try to pursue it, but Ivan is determined that it's a bad idea - he knows he would care too much. Lots of the fun in this book was seeing them each fighting to hold out against what they wanted, especially when the other was encouraging that want!

As usual with a Kit Rocha book, there's a lot of sexual tension and a lot of steamy scenes. A new aspect of society, expectation, and loyalty is examined in each book, and with Ivan, it's really demonstrated that the series is going to be just as good as the 'Beyond' series (which is set in the same world). Overall, I'm giving this 8 out of 10.
 

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