Sunday, 10 July 2016

Top 6: Boaty Books

This rainy summer, why not sail away on a sea of words/flood water with one of these wonderful boaty books!

The Gracekeepers- Kirsty Logan 

This book is set in a version of the world, which is now mostly underwater so some people live on islands, Landlockers, but most people, Damplings, live on boats. North lives and works on a circus boat, which travels around islands, where she performs with her bear as one of the acts. Callanish lives in a house in the middle of the ocean, where she conducts funerals for Damplings. Their paths cross and they are drawn back to each other because they share something special in common. I especially loved the book for its selkies/seal-people element, which may or may not be the special thing in common. I think it'd make for a good film, but only if it had a weird director to bring out the surreal-ness of the story. Perfect boaty reading!

The Girl From Everywhere- Heidi Heilig

Nix Song lives on a pirate ship with her father and their crew, spending their days using historical maps to time travel to those places and times collecting fantastical creatures and mythical objects from all around the world. Nix is sixteen, and is particularly good at finding the perfect maps for time travelling, as each map can only be used once. The story begins in India in 1774, travel to present day New York, and then to Honolulu 1883. Most of the story plays out in Hawaii, where Nix's late mother once lived, her father desperate to find a map to take him back to the time before her death. Definitely recommended reading for anyone who loves Pippi Longstocking, Lyra of Northern Lights fame, and pirates. Boaty AND summery! 

A Gathering of Shadows- V.E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows is the much anticipated sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, so definitely read that one first, also SPOILERS ahead! This sequel takes place four months after the events of book one, and spans several months too, so we get a real feel for the wider world. Lila is the more central protagonist this time and she has essentially become a pirate and it's great. She has also been practicing magic under the tuition of her ship's captain, Alucard Emery, and learning as much as she can about Red London. Back in the city itself, Kell and Rhy are under much closer protection after both almost dying to defeat the Dane twins in White London, with Prince Rhy busy planning the massive international event, The Element Games, to be hosted in the city, and Kell essentially just pining after Lila. Perfectly piratey!

Riverkeep- Martin Stewart

The story follows fifteen-year-old Wulliam, who is about to inherit his father's role as Riverkeep, which involves tending to the river's ice in winter and a lot of fishing out corpses too. A dark spirit possesses his father one night, which sets Wulliam on a journey away from his one know corner of the river, to row down the river's mouth and hopefully find a cure in the belly of a giant sea creature called the mormorach. Wull picks up fellow travellers along the way, each on their own journeys, with their own problems to solve and wisdom to share. This book is so boaty that the main boat, Wull's bata, is essentially a character in itself. 

We Are Pirates- Daniel Handler

This is the first Daniel Handler book I've read, having of course read a lot of his work as Lemony Snicket. On the cover there is a quote from Neil Gaimen saying it is "the strangest, most brilliant offering yet" from Handler, and strange it truly is! It is dark, witty, weird, disturbing, charming all at once, which is fairly disconcerting, but it's an entertaining read throughout. Handler's quirks are ever present in his writing as they are when he's Lemony Snicket. It takes place in such a 'normal', mundane, modern setting that the story really takes you by surprise. It is certainly not piratey in the way you might expect, but definitely boaty!

The Summer Book- Tove Jansson

I read this in one sunny day, sitting in a particularly good spot in the park. I love Tove Jansson for both moomins and her novels, so I've been ticking off and rereading her adult fiction. It is beautiful, simple, witty (I was caught giggling a few times, the Study of Angleworms particularly tickled me), set on tiny holiday island in the gulf of Finland with the relationship between six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother the focus. It doesn't grip you with action and adventure, but instead enchants you with its humour and charm. The quote on the back from Esther Freud sums it up rather well: "Eccentric, funny, wise, full of joys and small adventures. This is a book for life." Plenty of lovely boaty island adventures to sail away on. 

Monday, 4 July 2016

Books I read in June!: The Girls, This Savage Song, Gotham Academy, Shrill, Harry Potter, And I Darken

I definitely began the month reading Emma Cline's The Girls in the glorious sunshine in the park, and ended it sheltering from the heavy winds and rain reading Kiesten White's And I Darken. Now I think about it, perfect settings in which to read each of these books! June in Scotland is just so autumnal, sigh. (So is July apparently, it has rained x1000000 today) In between these I read This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, which was very enjoyable and monstery (full review of which can be found by clicking here), Gotham Academy for some Gotham meets Hogwarts vibes, listened to Lindy West's Shrill on audiobook, and finally got round to reading the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone! So without further ado, it's review time!

The Girls
I saw The Girls recommended by Candice on YouTube in her review of the book, and was very intrigued- think dreamy California hippy summer vibes of 1969, murder cults included. The story is from the point of view of Evie, and is set partly in the present day reflecting on this pivotal summer of her life in 1969, where most of the story takes place- when she was 14 and drawn into a hippy cult. Based on, or drawing a lot of influence from the infamous Manson family murders, the cult in this story lives out on a ranch, with enigmatic wannabe songwriter Russell at its centre. There is sex, drugs, and petty crime, and eventually a horrific multiple murder, which Evie is thankfully not a part of. The focus of this story is not on Russell or really on the murders, but on Evie and the other girls in the cult, who she spends so much time with, especially Suzanne, who is so alluring to Evie and ultimately the reason she becomes drawn into the cult. It is fairly dark and grim in places, but so beautifully written. There is a real sense of reflection and almost remorse in the present day set chapters, with Evie clearly still struggling with how to come to terms with that summer. Certainly not a fluffy beach read, but if you are interested and intrigued by this period of recent history, I'd definitely recommend it.

This Savage Song
I love V. E. Schwab's writing, in particular her Shades of Magic series, and this book did not disappoint. Monsters! Reading the blurb, I had fully imagined another medieval-esque setting, but I was so wrong- we're deep in a future American but with whole new cities situation...

Read my full review here! It'll be worth it I promise! Just click here! Thank you!

Gotham Academy
This month's graphic novel read- a bind up of the first 4 volumes of Gotham Academy, which is essentially Batman's world meets Hogwarts. I was recommended this as Harry Potter fan, and indie comics reader, who doesn't usually love the artwork of traditional super hero comics. This is meant to be DC's attempt at indie-ing itself up and appealing to the Lumberjanes demographic of readers- and they're currently doing a Gotham Academy/Lumberjanes crossover- I approve! I'm totally sold on this, the story is great, with an awesome ensemble cast of Gotham Academy students. Olive is so cool and Maps is just great. Aesthetically it gets pretty close to a more indie-comics style, all it's missing is the 'quirk' of extra details you get in Lumberjanes bind ups, and also the physical paper quality and cover design you'd expect from a good indie comic or graphic novel. All they'd have to do is make the covers matte with some shiny bits, but pages a thicker more matte quality, and I'd be 100% sold. It would just make it feel more satisfying and like a more quality object. Buuuuuuut that's all physical- awesome story, which I'll deff be reading more of!

I'd seen Louise O'Neil mention this book a couple times on twitter, and after Lindy featured on an episode of This American Life (and I recalled her previous appearance on the podcast, which I had super enjoyed), I was sold and got the audiobook, like immediately. Shrill is a memoir by writer, journalist and humorist Lindy West, covering her childhood as a shy, invisible fat girl to her adulthood as an outspoken, unashamed fat woman not afraid to Take. Up. Space. Her writing is at once eloquent, funny, raw, and unapologetic. I would definitely recommend this on audiobook, as it is read by Lindy herself, and she just lends such an ernest voice to her accounts of things like calling out her boss on his fat-shaming, and confronting twitter trolls head on. Great voice, great storytelling, solid message.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- Illustrated

Ok so I'm not going to review Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone obviously, because everyone knows its a beautiful, wondering, precious masterpiece. But I can review the illustrated reading experience- Just beautiful! As expected it really brings the stories to life. The illustrations are lush, detailed, expressive pieces from full double page spreads to tiny paint splatters on pages of text. Jim Kay is an enviable illustrator and you may now see lots of Jim Kay inspired techniques in my work! When I read Harry Potter I usually have my own imagery in my head, interspersed with a bits of film imagery, and now I have these beautiful illustrations to add to all that. I am soooo looking forward to the illustrated Chamber of Secrets, and I am already slightly concerned with how much bookshelf space the whole series will eventually take up! 

And I Darken
I have loved the marketing surrounding the release of And I Darken in the UK- essentially drawing attention to lots of great fictional heroines from Buffy and Jessica Jones to Arya Stark and Hermione Granger. I absolutely loved this book and I've actually already lent it out to a pal. Set in the Ottoman empire, around the 1450s I believe, this story provides a sort of alternative history to Vlad the Impaler, creating instead Lada, born in Transylvania to a father nicknamed 'the dragon'. Lada is fierce, not beautiful, and ruthless, and along with her beautiful, sensitive, younger brother Radu, she is abandoned by her father in the Sultan's court, essentially as ransom to keep her father in line with the Sultan's rule. Together they are raised in the courts of the Sultan along with one of his sons, the eventual heir to the throne. In Lada we find a brilliant anti-princess, and an anti-prince in her brother Radu. Both use their own unique skills, be that brains or brawn, to work the royal system to their advantages. Themes of loyalty, sexuality, religion, strength and weakness are explored very artfully within this alternative historical fiction. If you love great female characters, this book is definitely for you- equally it provides a great sensitive male character.

Phew! Hopefully some of these have tickled your fancy! I'm currently finally reading Naomi Novik's Uprooted, and it is wonderful so far. Apologies for any typos or grammars issues- I may have had a couple of wines (a girl's gotta live!).

I received physical proof copies of This Savage Song and And I Darken, and an ebook copy of The Girls on NetGalley. All in exchange for honest reviews. 

Review! This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

I love V.E. Schwab's writing, in particular her Shades of Magic series, so I was very excited to receive this book and it did not disappoint. Monsters! 

Reading the blurb, I had fully imagined another medieval-esque setting, but I was so wrong- we're deep in a version of a modern/future American but with whole new cities and real live monsters situation. Kate Harker is the daughter of the fearsome ruler of one side of the city, and August Flynn is the sort-of-son to the good-hearted leader of the other side. 

In this world, there are three types of monster who feed of human flesh/blood/souls, and each side of the city has its own ways of dealing with these monsters. Harker allows the monsters to run free under an agreement that the humans who pay for his protection will not be harmed. Flynn's side is more about keeping the monsters out entirely to keep the people safe- apart from August and his two 'siblings' who are the soul eating kind of monster (but only if those souls are bad/evil souls). 

Kate and August end up having to work together when the lines between the two ruling sides and good and evil become corrupted. Kate is an awesome character, trying to win favour with her father by being as cold-hearted as he is, whilst also dealing with some post-traumatic shock memory repression and battling with the timeless struggle of what is morally good or evil in war. August is such a vulnerable, sensitive, and morally strong character, who is battling with his own identity as a 'monster' and his loyalty to the questionable morals of his brother, while trying to figure out what his place is in their human and monster world. 

SO much identity and soul searching, all tangled up with questions of good and evil. A totally thrilling read, with very strong characters. Part one of the Monsters of Verity duology, and I have no idea where it's going, but I'm very excited. This Savage Song was out on 7th June in the UK and is out in the US 5th July.

Reviews of other books I read in June can be found HERE!

I received a copy of This Savage Song from the publisher in return for an honest review- which this is!