Rosie Reviews: Yesterday by Felicia Yap

Yesterday

Title: Yesterday

Author: Felicia Yap

Publisher: Headline

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Source: NetGalley

Review

Yesterday by Felicia Yap was just the novel I needed to break me out of a reading slump. The concept was refreshing, fascinating and added whole layers to the story while the characters were deplorable yet you ended up rooting for them regardless.

It is a thriller, set in world divided in two: those who can remember the day before (Monos) and those who can remember two days before (Duos). Due to their limited memories, the Monos tend to be treated as second-class citizens and marriage between Monos and Duos are both rare and frowned upon. As well as this, people can only remember their lives by writing ‘facts’ down in their journals, to be gone through the following morning. Add a murder to the mix and you have the recipe for a compelling novel about memory, society, fact and fiction.

There are four principal characters in Yesterday, all of which have their own point of view. Mark is a famous Duo novelist running for a political seat whose position stems heavily on his advocacy of mixed Mono-Duo marriages, being in one himself. Unfortunately, his Mono wife, Claire, feels inferior to him and unhappy in their marriage as a result of their memory differences. Enter Sophia, a woman who has just been released from an asylum after 17 years, who claims to have full memory capacity and blames Mark and Claire for ruining her life. Finally, we have Hans who is the detective tasked with solving the central murder of the novel, and whose whole career rests on the fact everyone thinks he is a Duo when, in fact, he is a Mono. This combination of characters makes for an intriguing cast, with conflict, emotion and revelations appearing in nearly all their interactions.

All in all, despite the characters and the intrigue surrounding the central mystery, what really drew me into this novel were the questions it raised around fact vs. memory. Hans, being a Mono, must solve the case in one day in order to be fully aware of all the facts. These facts, however, are mostly defined by what other characters have written down, and people could write down anything. The inability to remember gives people license to change the past but also allows that past to be taken away from them.

The novel itself isn’t perfect. The society is difficult to get your head around and the characters are very difficult to like. I also didn’t enjoy the ending and, if I were to read this novel again, I will probably stop reading before the epilogue, which just felt a little bit unnecessary and added a reasonable amount of confusion when it should have been rounding everything off. However, the writing and concept of this novel did capture my attention and, ultimately, Yesterday was the perfect novel for helping me to get back into reading.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33140164-yesterday

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Yesterday-Felicia-Yap/9781472242228?a_aid=rosienreads

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The Books I Read in September 2017

For most of August, I was stuck in a reading slump. This September, I have been able to break out of that slump, at least partially. One of the main hold-ups was the 45-hour long audiobook I was listening to – while I enjoy long books, I don’t like feeling like I’m not making any progress and, with audiobooks, it is very easy for this to happen. Especially when they’re long ones. The lesson has been learnt, however, and I’m planning to stick to shorter ones from now on.

In terms of books, those I read were a fairly mixed batch. I enjoyed most of those I read although would not necessarily say I have found some new favourites. My favourite reads of the month were The Power by Naomi Alderman which was a brilliant novel exploring gender hierarchies with the added bonus of electrical powers, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which, despite the sheer length, was a fantastic fantasy with multiple POVs and world I could really get into.

The main disappointment of September was, unfortunately, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I enjoyed the first book in this series although was not amazed by it; the second one just did not grab me and I did consider DnFing it once or twice. The saving grace was the final 50 pages or so where the story came together and the action picked up. From what I remember of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it was a similar experience of a slow-moving start coming together towards a more thrilling conclusion.

Those books, with their ratings, along with the other books I read are below. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 4.5/5 (audiobook)

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas – 4/5 (audiobook)

Kindle

Yesterday by Felicia Yap – 4/5 (kindle)

Blood and Stars by Jaime Lee Mann – 3.5/5 (Kindle)

 

Paperback

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs- 2.5/5 (paperback)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 3.5/5 (paperback)

The Power by Naomi Alderman – 4.5/5 (paperback)

 

It is now October, the month of Samhain/Halloween, when the veils between worlds are at their thinnest, and the colder, darker months start to creep in. As such, it’s a great time to get stuck into some of the more magical and creepier books on the bookcase. I’m still not completely sure what my reading plans are for the month, but I have three books on the go currently and, when they’re finished, I am fairly sure I’ll be choosing books with witches and ghouls and murderers in mind.

Going into October, I am reading the YA fantasy novel Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi; a non-fiction examination into the history of Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler and I’m also listening to the grimdark novel Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. The three of which, I’d say, are a decent way to start the month’s reading.

Rosie Reviews: The Border by Steve Schafer

The Border

Title: The Border

Author: Steve Schafer

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Source: NetGalley

Review

With Trump’s proclamation of building a wall between America and Mexico, and the general anti-immigrant climate occurring across the world, The Border by Steve Schafer is incredibly pertinent. It follows four Mexican children who, following the brutal murder of their families and while hunted by the perpetrators, must make the treacherous journey to the one place that they can find safety – the United States.

Lots of facts and figures about immigration and refugees are being thrown around in the media today, so the shift of focus to a more personal (albeit fictional) story is refreshing. The four main characters are forced to cross the deadly Sonoran Desert, with very little in the way of money and supplies. The Border allows you to join their journey, from the very incident which sets it off, all the way to the conclusion. It explores the different techniques they try to survive, details the many hardships they endure while still retaining a focus on who they are as people.

That being said, for a novel which is primarily about these four people’s experiences, I did find it difficult to connect with them and, after reading, I can only remember two of the characters names (Gladys, the sole female character, and Marcos, whose character felt the most well-formed). The main narrator, unfortunately, was quite passive and served more as a conduit for the reader than as a character in and of himself. While the personalities were not as fully fleshed out, their experiences were poignant and you couldn’t help but feel for them when the going got particularly tough.

For me, at least, the book did a good job of highlighting the struggles of escaping across the desert for an uncertain safety on the other side. It was well paced, balancing out the slower and more expansive parts of the novel with sections of action and gun-fire. While the characters did not stand out particularly to me, their plight did catch my attention and, while I have fortunately never been in their situation, I could really visualize what they were going through. While not an own voices novel, it did feel like Schafer had done his research and I do recommend this novel to anyone who is in any way interested in the topic at hand.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29542264-the-border

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Border-Steve-Schafer/9781492646839/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Books I Read in August 2017

August was not the best reading month for me. After returning from holiday, I ended up in a massive reading slump – I had very little motivation to read and ended up forcing my way through the books I had on the go. Part of this was likely due the fact I was, and still am, listening to a 45-hour long audiobook, so spent a lot of time prioritising that. As a result, I only actually finished 4 books in August.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew – 4/5 (Paperback)

Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun- 4/5 (Paperback)

Monstress: Awakening by Marjorie Lu and Sana Takeda – 5/5 (Graphic Novel)

The Border by Steve Schafer- 3.5/5 (Kindle)

 

I am hoping to read more in September. Although there are plans to finish the audiobook (The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson) and as much as I am enjoying it, I am debating taking a break from the story in order to give my other books some love. In future, I think I will probably stick to shorter audiobooks and keep the long novels to paper format. I don’t have a reading list for September at the moment, as, given the bad reading month of August, I want to have a bit more flexibility in book choice. That being said, given that I have four books currently on the go that I have not even looked at in the last few days, this could be an interesting month.

Rosie Reviews: Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang

Magpie's Song

Title: Magpie’s Song

Author: Allison Pang

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Magpie’s Song is a fun, steampunk-esque novel about a girl with a clockwork heart who finds a dragon. In this novel, Allison Pang creates a world plagued by a mysterious rot to which only the even more mysterious moon children are immune. The girl with a clockwork heart is one such moon child. Raggy Maggy, orphaned and defined by her distinctive white hair, is a member of the Banshee clan, forced to scavenge for snacks in order to survive. The discovery of a metal dragon in the scrapheap, however, leads Maggy down a road of conspiracy, discovery and betrayal.

The novel itself is the first in a series and, as such, it involves a lot of world-building. We, as readers, are introduced to the social structure, the impenetrable meridian and those that live in its shadow. Unfortunately, this set up means that it does take a good two-thirds of the book before the main story kicks off. That being said, a lot does happen during those first parts, helping to set up the novel with action as well as description; as Maggy is forced from her normal, everyday life into playing a part for plan we’ve only seen the surface of.

Nothing feels completely safe and plenty of questions are asked, some of which are answered but some we will have to wait for the sequels. What is particularly interesting is the mystery which revolves around Raggy Maggy; the mystery of where she comes from and the reason for her clockwork heart.

Maggy, as our lead character, is reckless and also prone to mistakes, but she also has a heart. These traits make her an endearing lead. It is strongly implied, but never actually stated, that she is bi- or pan-sexual (and, indeed, there are a few diverse characters in this book). Those she teams up with are also quite distinct: Ghost, who lives up to his name; Lucian, the careful doctor with a hidden side and Molly, the harsh brothel-owner and scrap-dealer. Each contributes to the novel in their own way and each feels integral to the plot.

This novel does have a dark side, one with death, torture and hopelessness, but Pang handles it well, keeping the novel’s heart even when things take a turn for the worse. As such, it can be enjoyed by people of most ages (although it is more orientated towards teens); the writing is easy to understand and helps the story flow. If you enjoy steampunk novels with action, mystery and compelling characters, then you may enjoy this book too.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35428398-magpie-s-song

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Magpies-Song-Pang-Allison/9780998534312/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Books I Read in July 2017

This post is a little late – I was away the first week of August, and it’s taken a week to get back into the swing of things. July was a fairly good reading month; it really helped being away in the last week to knuckle down on some of the books I’ve been dying to read. I discovered a few new favourites, but also found myself reading books which, while not hooking me completely, were simply enjoyable to read.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Hardback

Windwitch by Susan Dennard – 5/5

Paperback

The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig – 5/5

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson – 5/5

The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson – 3.5/5

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King – 4.5/5

Kindle

Darien by C.F. Iggulden -3.5/5

Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang – 3.5/5

 

Audiobook

Just Kids by Patti Smith – 3/5

Those are the books I read in July. August is currently underway, and I am mid-way through a couple of books at the moment, with high hopes for the rest of the month.

Rosie Reviews: Darien by C.F. Iggulden

Darien

Title: Darien

Author: C. F. Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

C.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.

Plot

The novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.

Characters

As I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.

World/Setting

That being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.

Final Thoughts

While it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.

Darien is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33245839-darien

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Darien-C-F-Iggulden/9780718186463?a_aid=rosienreads