The Books I Read in November 2017

There is just one month left in 2017, a crazy thought, and the penultimate month has just come to an end. November was a much better reading month for me, despite my reading time being greatly reduced in order to make time for NaNoWriMo. As a result, while I have not read quite as many physical books as usual, the books I did read were focused on the formats most suited for travelling and busy lifestyles: kindles and audiobooks.

I read a total of 8 books in November, the majority of them were books which I liked or really liked, there weren’t any major standouts. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie was easily my favourite read of the month, but that is, in part, due to it being one of my overall favourite books. This particular version was brought more alive by the narration of Dan Stevens, which was phenomenal, and really allowed me to experience this book in a whole new way. The book which received the lowest rating was Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, but that by no means implies that it’s a bad book. I enjoyed reading it and Ray Bradbury certainly can write; it just did not hit home with me the way I was expecting and others may get more from it than I did.

The full list of the books I read is 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

Best Served Cold by Jo Abercrombie – 3.5/5

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 5/5

Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan – 4/5

Kindle

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 4/5

The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz – 4/5

Rise of the Phoenix by Jamie Mclachlan – 4/5

Paperback

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – 3/5

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz – 4.5/5

 

Those are the books I read in November. My goal for 2017 was to read 100 books and, with 83 books under the belt, it’s looking like December is going to be quite reading-heaving if I am to reach my goal. Fortunately, at the time of writing, I have already read 4 books and am close to finishing my fifth. It will still be quite difficult to meet the goal, but I am hopeful. I have two weeks off of work and a couple of long train journeys coming up which will allow me to get into reading properly. I’m still going to try and read a varied selection of books but I am not going to decide in advance which they will be, rather just choosing to read whatever I happen to be in the mood for at the time. That being said, I imagine my usual Winter reading themes will dominate – magic and murder. What more can you want in December?

Bring on the challenge of reading 17 books in one month.

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Rosie Reviews: The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig

The Forever Ship

Title: The Forever Ship

Author: Francesca Haig

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian

Source: NetGalley

Review

Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon trilogy has easily been one of the best series I have read this year, so much so that I did something I rarely do and read the second book almost immediately after finishing the first. Now, I have had the chance to read the third, and final, book in this trilogy: The Forever Ship. It did not disappoint.

In this book, the stakes are even higher; with Cass’ visions of fire moving ever closer to being reality and the freedom of the Omegas as a people growing ever more scarce. I loved that Haig does not shy away from the hardship of war; the reality of starvation, violence and death is never far from the surface and the themes of oppression, war and power resonate throughout. Yet, for all the bleak atmosphere, there is hope, and this is one of the reasons why I could not stop reading. I needed to see the characters survive and I wanted to see that hope bear fruit.

Speaking of characters, there is something about the way Haig writes which makes each of the characters step off the page. It was brilliant being back with Cass, Piper and Zoe. Even Zach’s increased presence in this book helped keep me interested, particularly in the ethical and moral arguments he presents. We also get to see more of the secondary characters, and even some new ones. Yet, for the large cast of people in this story, each one comes across as real, so much so that if I close my eyes, I can almost see them. It is the way they’re written which makes this world so much more real and, as a result, so much more terrifying.

While the second book captured more of the history of the world and setting up for this final book, The Forever Ship does a peculiar trick of both expanding outwards and inwards at the same time. We learn more of Elsewhere, and the world which exists beyond that which Cass and her team have only known. Yet, at the same time, we are seeing more exploration at an individual level – we’re seeing the views of the people that live in this world while also learning more about the characters we’re following.

All in all, I thought this was a brilliant ending of the trilogy. It stayed true to the core of the first book yet also allowed the reader to experience entirely new feelings and adventures while joining Cass and her friends on their journey. My only main issues are that, at times, the novel does struggle a little with pacing and the ending did not quite work for me, although I can see and appreciate why Haig ended it as she did.

If anyone is interested in starting a new dystopian series, particularly one which will make you think and leave you emotionally reeling at the end, then this is one I’d heartily recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35011657-the-forever-ship

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Forever-Ship-Francesca-Haig/9781476767208/?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones_cover image

Title: The Beautiful Ones

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Take the Belle Époque and then mix in some romance, a fair amount of scheming and a touch of telekinesis. The result is The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book is a tale of a girl who dreams of romance, a man who longs to find his love of years gone by and a woman who sacrificed her own happiness for her family’s fortune. This novel is told mostly over the period of two grand seasons, where everyone is in the city, going to balls and courting. Only this time, there is the added bonus of ‘talents’: people with telekinetic gifts who are looked down upon by those without.

I will admit, this book was not entirely what I was expecting based on the blurb I read. I was expecting the telekinesis to be a much larger part of the book than it was and indeed, in some parts I forgot it was actually a feature of the novel. Instead, The Beautiful Ones focused primarily on the relationships between the three main characters, and their own personal development as the story went on. Even though this was not quite what I was expecting, I think the novel was probably better for it.

When I first started reading this book, I made the mistake of reading it on the bus to work. The introduction of the characters and their actions during the first part of the novel had me smiling and chuckling to myself as I read (cue the weird looks from fellow commuters). Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s treatment of the characters is beautiful, particularly in the first half. Each one is fully layered, with their own plans and designs, that you never know quite who to you want to come out on top. Personally, Nina was my favourite – her naïve vulnerability, rebellious nature and hidden strength were rather endearing, particularly as she found herself caught up in the schemes of Hector and Valerie. Unfortunately, the second half did lose a little of the character complexity as it started to focus more on the romance and plot, but it was still entertaining and heart-warming (if a little frustrating in places) to read.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a more modern Jane Austen with a little bit of telekinesis added in for good measure. While I don’t tend to enjoy romances, the book is a delight to read. The characters are a clear strength, especially when they are at their most deceptive, but the story and prose were equally as enrapturing.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33380869-the-beautiful-ones

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Beautiful-Ones-Silvia-Moreno-Garcia/9781250099068/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Rosie Reviews: Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler

Superhero Comics

Title: Superhero Comics

Author: Chris Gavaler

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Superheroes are everywhere nowadays; it is near impossible to go into town and avoid seeing something superhero-related, be it a toy, a DVD or even a logoed shirt. That being said, I am not complaining. Superheroes have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; yet, despite that, the comic side of the superhero world has mostly been a mystery to me. When I saw Superhero Comics on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I will admit, I don’t often read non-fiction. I find it hard to get into and hard to stick to. However, Superhero Comics managed to keep my attention throughout most of the book and I found myself completely fascinated by what it had to say. The book essentially covers three main topics: the history of comics, the social and cultural context of comics and the actual structure and formatting of comics.

Of these three categories, the first two were the ones which particularly interested me and it would be an understatement to say I learnt a lot. The book goes back to before the dawn of heroes to explore what it was that led to their appearance in the world; then, from there, moves forward, going through the various ages of comics before investigating how comics have evolved based on the cultural and societal pressures of the time. This includes superhero roots in the KKK and Nazi ideals, the ups and downs of comic popularity and even tackles why female heroes are drawn the way they are. The chapter which stuck out to me the most was the one which covered female and LGBTQ+ representation, whereas the final part of the book, where it starts to analyse various artist techniques and comic book structure was a little difficult for me to get into.

My main concern with the book was, simply, for a book about comics there were not that may pictures. As someone who has yet to be fully initiated into the world of comic books, a lot of the references were lost on me and so it would have been helpful to have examples of these mixed in with the text. Towards the end, when Superhero Comics was talking about the appearance of comics, this did change a little, although the fact I was reading on a kindle did make it difficult to flip back to the images when they were being discussed. This meant a lot of what was being described ended up being lost on me.

Overall, Superhero Comics is a fascinating read for anyone even mildly interested in the comic book world. It is clear and, for the most part, the terminology is described so that a layperson could understand. The pages are filled with facts that I had not even considered (such as why DC and Marvel are the only companies to use the term ‘superhero’) and, for those just getting into comics, there is also a key text section which covers the main, defining comics of each era – a great place to get started. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in comics, even if you aren’t necessarily an avid comic book reader yourself.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29565879-superhero-comics

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Superhero-Comics-Bloomsbury-Studies/dp/1474226345

 

The Books I Read in October 2017

It is hard to believe that it is November already, and October has been and gone. As with every month end, I bring to you the books I read during the preceding month. Despite my decision to read mostly spooky/creepy books to fit in with the feel of the season, I ended up reading a reasonable collection of books. That being said, the general themes of the month did tend towards either superheroes or villains/murderers.

I was pretty pleased with the range of books I read, although most tended towards an middling rating. My top book of the month was easily Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, with Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in second place. Each were both really entertaining stories with captivating characters and brilliant writing. That being said, while only receiving a rating of 4, The Dark Phoenix Saga story-line is one of my all-time favourites, and has been since I first encountered it as a child. The lower rating for this particular book is that parts have not aged too well and, as it was a collection of comic books, there was a lot of repetition as past events were caught up on at the beginning of each comic.

Of the books I read, I don’t think I was disappointed with any. Some, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies actually surprised me and I even found myself fascinated by the textbook Superhero Comics which I read on my kindle. The complete list of books I read and their ratings is 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

Paperback

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – 4.5/5

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – 4/5

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

 

Graphic Novel

The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne – 4/5

Kindle Book

Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler – 3.5/5

Hardback

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

 

Heading into November, I am reading The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I am also still (yes, still) listening to the audiobook Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. It is, unfortunately, one of those audiobooks that I just want to sit and listen to, but I simply have not been able to find the time to do so. I do only have about four hours left now, so if I don’t finish it in November I may need to re-evaluate my life. As for further November reading, I think I will probably aim to stick with my spooky/creepy theme from October as I am quite enjoying it, but also gradually move into those cosy winter reads as the days get shorter and colder. I am eight books behind in my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books this year, so these next two months will mean a lot of knuckling down, ignoring life-admin and reading (when I’m not writing, of course).

 

Rosie Reviews: Blood and Stars by Jaime Lee Mann

Blood and Stars

Title: Blood and Stars

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

Genre: Middle Grade/Children’s Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Blood and Stars is the fifth book in Jaime Lee Mann’s Legend of Rhyme series. It continues Ariana and Asher’s story started in the first book but also expands the universe out to follow multiple other story-lines, each one connected but not necessarily in the same time period. As such, it reads very much like a collection of short stories, before bringing them together in the finale. This format works particularly well as the individual stories are quite different; but my favourite part of the way the novel has been written is the fact that each section begins with a poem (rather befitting of the series’ name).

The poems are a rather enjoyable method of summarising key information relevant to the following section and provide some hint as to what is to come. This was particularly useful for me as I have only read the first two books in this series so was missing a large amount of plot. Despite that, and with the help of the poems, I was able to follow the book reasonably well. There is a glossary and family tree at the end which also helped provide key information of past plot points but, as I was reading on the kindle, I did not get to it until I had already finished the book.

As I mentioned, there are multiple story-lines within this book. We have Ariana and Asher who must come to terms with their destinies, Calla who is bound in a dying slumber and her only hope being her evil sister Elora, the mermaid Teagan who is determined to find her parents and Grimblerod who longs to be reunited with his one true love. As you can imagine, a lot happens in Blood and Stars but Jaime Lee Mann does an excellent job of keeping hold of all the various threads and tying them up neatly at the end of the book. At no point do you feel lost or overwhelmed, or even frustrated by cliff-hangers.

Even though this is a novel for younger readers, it is very much readable by anyone – the novel is easy enough for children to understand, but there is enough occurring within the pages to keep you interested. The world Jaime Lee Mann has created in this series is fascinating, with so many facets that you feel like you could keep on exploring it forever.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35482735-blood-and-stars

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Stars-Legend-Rhyme-Book-ebook/dp/B073VSBCQM/ref=sr_1_2

 

24-Hour Readathon Wrap Up

Last weekend was the 24-hour readathon and I just knew I had to take part. Not only was I about 9 books behind schedule for my goodreads goal of 100 books this year, but I was also looking for a good excuse to simply put life aside for a few hours to sit and read. The 24-hour readathon provided the perfect opportunity.

I started reading at 1pm on Saturday and, while the readathon itself did come to an end at 1pm on the Sunday, I’ll admit I continued reading. I think my favourite part of the experience was that, while it was a challenge, it was a good-natured one with countless others across the world taking part. I was sat reading, knowing that at the same time someone else was doing the same thing for the same reason. The readathon’s twitter hashtag also helped keep up the sense of community.

Getting fully indulged in a book with few distractions was also another favourite. Normally, when I read, there is always something getting in the way, be it life admin, work or just being social. Putting aside everything to read was a treat and one I will certainly be repeating. I also got a chance to read three books which have been on my to-read list for quite some time and fitted perfectly with a slightly creepy October setting.

 

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

My first book of the readathon was Stalking Jack the Ripper and this was also my favourite of the three. I’ll be the first to admit that I find serial killers fascinating and Jack the Ripper is the most famous of them all. This book was a fresh, fictional take on the story, from the perspective of a girl secretly studying forensic science at the time. Obviously, she becomes embroiled in the mystery and works to find and stop Jack before he can kill anyone else. The book itself is great fun to read with a balance of light-heartedness mixed in with the macabre. It was the perfect novel to set off the readathon and I now cannot wait to read its sequel (which I believe involves Count Dracula).

 

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

The second book I read for the readathon was also the book I half-wish I had read at another time. It is a collection of short stories created by a partnership between a number of authors and booktubers – the booktuber would provide a prompt and the author would write a story based on that prompt, but from the villain’s perspective. As an anthology, it involved a number of different stories and it was very clear when one ended (each story was published with commentary from the respective booktuber). This made it difficult to get into at first and, the very nature of it being an anthology, meant I enjoyed some stories more than others. That being said, I loved reading from a villain’s point of view and it was actually quite inspiring for my own writing.

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

While I read the first two books on the Saturday, Sunday morning was devoted to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This is where I think it had the disadvantage. After intensive reading the night before I had, rather foolishly, given myself eye-strain and was also rather tired. Even so, the third, and final, novel surprised me. I love the original (and was sorely tempted to, at the very least, watch the film adaption after finishing the book) but the addition of zombies help to liven up the story and, simply put, were a lot of fun. Some parts didn’t quite work, the zombie addition did conflict with the other storylines a bit, and a lot of the reason I enjoyed this was the familiarity of the original. This was also the only book I didn’t quite manage to finish in the period of the readathon, although I did tuck into the rest of it on Sunday afternoon.

 

Finally, some statistics! Over the course of the readathon, I read for approximately 11 hours (and slept for another 11), reading a total of 808 pages (roughly 73 pages an hour). I finished two books and read three quarters of the third. I also drank countless cups of tea and ran out of snacks on the Saturday, but we won’t go into that.

Now that the readathon is over, I am looking forward to the next one I can get involved with. Next time, I will probably aim to avoid anthologies as they are harder to get into; I’ll also try to move and rest my eyes more frequently and, most importantly, endeavour to ensure my cupboards are fully stocked before beginning. For those who also took part, I hope you enjoyed it. For those who organised it, thank you for setting it up for us!

Dewey’s 24-hour readathon: http://www.24hourreadathon.com/