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).

 

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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Let the Challenge Begin!

Today is the 1st November and, for many people out there, that can only mean one thing: NaNoWriMo, the month-long challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation that has been encouraging writers across the world to, well, write for 19 years. I have participated in 4 of those years, winning in two.

This year will be my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo and, after two years of failing to write those 50,000 words, I’m determined to turn the tables. I have a new novel plan on my desk, a new world to discover and new characters to breathe life into.

Unfortunately, the November I am going into isn’t a November of empty nights and empty weekends. I have, perhaps rather foolishly, turned it into a fairly eventful and social month. This is going to make the challenge a little bit trickier and will require a lot more perseverance and planning on my part.

So, after careful examination of my productivity levels over the preceding few weeks and a closer look at my calendar for the coming month, I have worked out a schedule that might help me win. This mostly revolves around planning to write more words on days where I have no plans, focusing the majority of my writing on the weekend and week-beginning (my post-work productivity drops from Wednesday to Friday). I am also resolving to write more towards the beginning of the month, taking advantage of that first week burst, so that I have enough of a boost/buffer to get me through week two and any slow days which come my way. I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

The novel itself is going to be a crime fantasy, told from three perspectives. Each PoV character will have their own story, but each will play an important role in the over-arching story-line. There will be magic (in the form of telepathy), there will be murder (multiple murders in fact) and there will be knives at a gun-fight (because, why not?).

As NaNoWriMo has already begun, I have actually started to make progress with this novel. My word count at the end of today is 1,825 words and those words have been spent meeting my least-defined protagonist, one of my main secondary characters and an entirely new character who popped up completely unexpectedly (and on the first day, no less).

I will likely keep weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress, although this may vary depending on how my writing is going. If I’m falling behind, the novel is the priority; if things are going well, then I may be able to sneak in a few more updates here and there.

My NaNoWriMo page: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/razka13

 

 

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/

 

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

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