January Reads: 3 Mini Book Reviews

I managed to read 4 books in January which I was quite proud of, though this was mainly because I had flu so was in bed for 4 days. I’m now 2 books ahead in my GoodReads Reading Challenge, woop. It meant I got through all my Christmas books though, so I suddenly feel a little bereft of books! Also known as I have no new exciting books on my still rather full ‘to be read’ bookshelf…

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 10/10 Characters: 10/10

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I fell in love with this book from the first word. I think Frances Hardinge may have become one of my favourite authors, I instantly added a few of her other books to my ‘to be read’ list once I’d finished this. She has a beautiful insightful writing style that sucked me in, I devoured this book in a day or two. A dark tale of scandal, mystery and the complexities of family relationships set on a fictional English island in the Victorian era. It centres around themes on evolution, natural history, religion and the extremes of human ambition. As a dendrophile I loved that the plot centres around a tree! It’s filled with complex, flawed and very real characters, especially the protagonist Faith whom I grew to greatly care for and identify with. I can’t really say much more without giving spoilers, so all I have left to say is go buy/read it now! Also it’s definitely worth getting the illustrated edition, so beautiful and I adore Chris Riddell’s work.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

World-Building: 7/10 Plot: 6/10 Characters: 6/10

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I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction Maddaddam Trilogy so when this speculative fiction, set in America following economic collapse resulting in anarchy and the intervention of corporations to restore civilisation, I was determined to read it. All her books are arguably a little strange but this one goes to the next level, perhaps a little too bizarre for me. It involved sex teddy bears, sex robots and Elvis Presley impersonators. The main characters, a married couple, are living in their car facing violence and starvation. But they can leave this behind if they sign up to be part of a new social experiment. But once they sign up, they can never leave. A more light-hearted approach to societal collapse than the Maddaddam trilogy and The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t like the main characters, but you’re not really supposed to. However, I’m still glad I read it, it was entertaining and centred on themes of the darkness of the human pysche. Stuff like that fascinates me.

Clariel by Garth Nix

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 5/10

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A prequel which only makes sense to read if you’re up to date with the rest of The Old Kingdom series. I adored the Abhorsen books as a teenager so, even though it took me a while to get round to it, I had to read this book. I had a few frustrations with this book in that Clariel is an impetuous self-centred teenager and there seems to be little plot just a tumbling on of events over a few chaotic  days. But I realised this is the point of the book, it’s as much about setting the scene and overloading on the world-building with one small story as being another female protagonist story in the The Old Kingdom.However, many of the potentially interesting characters felt flat and under explored. And yet this is probably one of the more realistic fantasy YAs I have read as, just like in real life, characters make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons and face serious consequences as a result. No bed of roses here! The demons are pretty awesome. Still a must read for Abhorsen fans but I’m really looking forward to reading what I feel will be a ‘proper’ Garth Nix novel in the form of Goldenhand, featuring my favourite character from the series, Lirael.

 

I also read Children of Time (amazing book!) in January, which I wrote about in my last booky blog here.

Winter Holiday Reads: 5 Mini book reviews 

At the beginning of December I went on my first ever winter holiday abroad with the boyfriend to the island of Sal in Cape Verde for some winter sun. It was glorious and I got lots of reading done! Which is one of the main reasons why I love holidays, time to relax and devour some books away from the demands of everyday life. So here’s the lowdown on the books I read.

The Martian by Andy Weir

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 9/10 Characters: 10/10


I watched the film in the cinema and loved it and two friends highly recommended the book, so when I spotted it in a charity shop I had to have it. Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2016. Vaguely set in the future, NASA is now running missions to Mars to collect samples and gain better understandings of the planet. A month into the latest mission, their work is disrupted by a violent storm in which a member of the crew is hit. Assumed dead, the rest of the team leave him, aborting mission and heading home. However, resourceful botanist and engineer Mark Watney is alive and now finds himself with the challenge of surviving on Mars alone. It surprised me how easy to read and interesting all the science was even with so much of it in this book and the protagonist Mark Watney is such a loveable and entertaining character. Interesting, funny and full of page-turning suspense I highly recommend this book. As someone who isn’t that fascinated by space this definitely peaked my interest. Perfect book to read in Cape Verde where much of our surroundings matched the red desolate landscapes depicted in the book.

When We Are Vanished by Nimue Brown

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 6/10 Characters: 5/10


Speculative fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world where the silicon computer system as we know it has been destroyed by hackers and with it most of the infrastructure of the modern world. The story begins several years after the catastrophe focusing on four women from the same family whose lives are closely linked with the new temperamental cellulose tech brought in to replace traditional silicon technology. And then people start mysteriously vanishing. Intense, surreal and eerie, I liked the thought-provoking concepts, world building and satire but I didn’t entirely get on with the main characters or dream-like and religious nature of the last third of the book. However, I did mostly enjoy it and is worth a read if you are interested in dystopia and our relationships with nature.

The Basilisk by N M Browne

World-Building: 8/10 Plot: 7/10 Characters: 4/10

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Original fantasy YA about two teenagers who dream of dragons. From vastly different backgrounds,  Rej a comber who has spent his whole life underground and Donna an Abover who devotes her life to serving the noble cause, they are thrown together on a quest to save both their worlds. I was intrigued by the world Browne had created and the politics and history behind current events it but I found the writing style awkward to read and the two main characters annoying. But worth reading for the interesting setting and the dragons!

Coastlines: The Story of our Shore by Patrick Barkham


I didn’t quite finish this on holiday and still haven’t as it’s a non-fiction I’m happy to dip in and out of it alongside whatever fiction I’m focused on reading. But I’m truly loving this book, as I adore the sea and coast, especially in Cornwall which obviously features. I’m really enjoying learning about much of the history of the British coast and reading in detail about some of its treasures. From smuggling to scenes from classic literature there are all kinds of fascinating gems to discover in this book. Barkham has a lovely writing style with stunning descriptions which really take you there to the cliff tops and crashing waves.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

World-Building: 10/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 9/10


Ok technically cheating a little bit here I didn’t read this on holiday but I did read it over the Christmas holiday on the Kindle I received as a Christmas present. Basically, WOW. I don’t know if I’m more overwhelmed by this book because I don’t read much Sci-Fi but I was pretty blown away by this. I found it intense with a lot happening and a high turnover of characters (as you follow a whole evolutionary history of an alien spider species) but maybe that just adds to the originality and brilliance of this book. Even so I was addicted and it got me obssessively using my new Kindle (even though real books are so much nicer to read). So clever and meticulously thought out, I could have happily just read about the spiders and would have liked to hear a little more about the individual spider characters. However, the story of the last of humanity alongside this was emotional, thought-provoking and equally horrifying so definitely helped make the book the marvel it is. All the stories intertwined in this novel felt original, emotional and ultimately real. They all came together with a satisfying ending. Check out my friend’s review of this book, as she sells it much better than I, here.