Top Ten Tuesday: Books for when I’m sick of reading.

Nobody’s ever sick of reading, really, but the term “reading slump” makes my teeth grind involuntarily so…

Anyway, as I’ve spent god knows how many weeks now reading nothing but fanfiction, this seems appropriate. If you’re also a victim of this particular pit, my sympathies.

Since I’m rusty I’ve only done five books that I can pick up to get back into the game. I suggest reading it twice.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I can’t remember the last time I became so heavily invested in a series and a character. The only thing stopping me from reading this again right now is that there’s a whole series of them I haven’t read.

It definitely helps that the books are set in Edinburgh. As someone who works in the city I love trundling past places I’ve read about

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This is the most deliciously dark and all-consuming and evocative story I’ve read for a long time. Leigh Bardugo has created such a grubby yet gorgeous universe and set of characters.

The Disaster Artist 

the disaster artist

I’ve read this account of the filming of cult movie sensation The Room several times, and it’s still one of the few books that makes me actually wheeze with laughter. Knowledge of the movie isn’t necessary but strongly recommended.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen The Room, I’d thoroughly recommend gathering some of your closest friends and watching it. It’s the only time in my adult life I’ve come close to peeing myself.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is my ride or die. She’s my idol. Speak is a book that not only shuts me up for at least a day, but it also reinforces my belief that YA is the most vital of all genres.

The Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

the singing

Everyone’s heard me screaming about this series by now, but I love it so much and it’s my go-to when I really can’t be arsed reading anything else. I always have time for Maerad and Cadvan.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript for On the Road on a single, continuous piece of paper. In three weeks. Goals.

Because of this, the language feels like it’s dropped straight out of Kerouac’s brain into the pages, and it’s so authentic and glorious that every time I read it I feel completely alive with how great writing can be. Hugely pretentious sounding, but true.

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What other books are good for when I hit the wall? GO.

Book Spotlight | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Yes! Rejoice! I’ve finally read this book after buying it last October. I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get into, but OH BOY was my initial disappointment blown away.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat story about a heist, about feuding and crime, but that’s not even the best bit. The more I found out about the six characters – criminals, a barbaric hunter, a privileged boy – the more my heart grew and broke at the same time.

 

It had love, it had drama, it had a world so dark and grubby and evocative that I wanted to have a bath at multiple points. The characters shine through it like diamonds.

Basically, I loved it. I’ll be buying the sequel for my holiday.

Oh and also, “I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.” Hold me.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. 

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights..

northern lights

Confession time: prior to this month I hadn’t read any of this series. I’d picked up bits and pieces of this book, and I’d seen the film (which put me off completely for several years, that shit was BAD), but everyone from Twitter to my mum has been telling me to read it for years so THANKS UKISA BOOK CLUB for giving me the push I needed.

Thus I borrowed my mum’s copy (which I’m pretty sure was mine, once upon a time) and read it, and boy do I have thoughts.

First of all, I want to know exactly what Philip Pullman is.

I like to think I’ve got a vivid imagination. Fantasy authors in general blow me away but this was on another level. Books like this make me feel like a dribbling mess. The worldbuilding so deep and the characters are so deliciously evocative that I’m led to the conclusion that Mr. Pullman either isn’t human or can see some otherworldly shit that mere mortals cannot.

Second of all, this is the darkest effing book. They kidnap kids and rip away their souls so they can make a magic bridge to a hidden world? They keep their souls in a room in little cages?

Damn.

Lyra is a great heroine, not least because she has no superpowers, she’s “The Chosen One” but she’s not allowed to know it, and therefore neither are we. It makes a change from Harry Potter, for example, where we find out bits and pieces of Harry’s fate at the same time he does, but there’s a nice little undercurrent of menace on top of all the other dark stuff because we know something Lyra doesn’t. DELICIOUS.

In conclusion: disgustingly creepy villains, an incredible world, ARMOURED POLAR BEARS and a flawed heroine. I loved it. Now I want a daemon, although god knows I’ve got a cat with separation anxiety so I have some idea what it’s like. I bet Pantalaimon doesn’t rip up carpets or pee in Lyra’s washing basket though.

Final thought: Iorik Byrnison is a BAMF and I love him. Please come back in a later book Iorik.

Rating: ****

Book Review | The Fandom by Anna Day

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands …

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

the fandom

As a solid fandom-goer from my very early teens, I knew I was going to read The Fandom before I’d even read the synopsis. Such was my excitement that I dispatched my mother to Blackwell’s in Edinburgh to pick it up for me. Thanks Ma.

The Fandom is a book I’d loved to have written for a hundred different things, a story set inside a world that’s been lived in through fanfiction and YouTube videos and hyperactive conversations. It’s a hot plot twist in what has the potential to be a dystopian story all on its own, with characters you’re never sure you can trust and a really grubby, grimy setting.

I loved the fact that even in the middle of peril Violet et al were still fangirling at recognising moments from canon, and discovering new things in the fabric of their favourite story, which is 100% what I’d be doing in her situation. In fact, I spent a lot of the time while I was reading it thinking about how well I’d do if I was sucked into the world of some of my fandoms, and the answer was almost universally “be picked off in about five minutes”. Still, I can dream.

Overall, 4/5 stars – I’m going to stop reading hype for books because it taints the way I read them, and nine times out of ten I end up being disappointed. But I really liked The Fandom, and I loved the idea of fandom becoming reality and vice versa, and my heart was left bereft. I won’t spoil it by saying why – if you want to weep with me, find me on Twitter and let’s hook up.

Oh, and Katie’s insults. Speaking right to my soul, girl.

Rating: ****

Top Ten Tuesday: Love Freebie!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is on the theme of “love”, with no restrictions…so for fun I thought I’d find someone I loved and get ten books THEY loved. As Sean and I had a weekend in Derby where he was unable to escape my wheedling, I took the opportunity to make him my special guest.

me and sean

I bent the rules a little and let him pick full series instead of a books in some cases, because he was angsting about it and let’s face it – we all know that pain.

This, therefore, is Sean’s Top Ten Tuesday – his favourite books (or book series) of all time.

White Wolf – David Gemmell

white wolf

“I was recommended both White Wolf and Legend by David Gemmell by a friend at university – whilst both are brilliant, the character of Skilgannon reminded me a lot of Drizzt Do’Urden from Baldur’s Gate, one of my favourite games I played as a kid. The quality of the character development of Skillgannon from start to finish is amazing, and I would recommend picking it up if you haven’t yet.”

Legend – David Gemmell

legend

“While I grew to prefer Skilgannon as a character (compared to Druss in this book), Legend is still a brilliant book with one of the best battle scenes I have ever read.”

The Empire Trilogy – Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts

feist

“Feist is probably more well known for the Riftwar Saga book Magician than this duet with Wurts. The depth of the individual characters and the world’s political atmosphere is something very akin to Game of Thrones and having a female protagonist is awesome. The experiences Mara goes through from book to book gripped me and I already want to go back and experience them again.”

Gameplayers – Stephen Bowkett

gameplayers 2

(This is the book that I tracked down and bought for Sean for Christmas – find out more about that here! – Kirsty)

“Out of all of the books on the list, Gameplayers is probably the least technically well written – but it still appeals to me, pure because of the nostalgia. I first read the book when I was around the same age as the characters and found myself going through lots of similar experiences that John went through. It also led me to loving RPG games and trying to play Dungeons & Dragons with people when I could. I’m still trying to D&D today!”

Riftwar Saga – Raymond E. Feist

magician

“My grandad Adrian knows of my love of high fantasy and one night in 2005, while my family were visiting, he asked if I had read Raymond E Feist’s Magician. I said no, and that weekend we went out and I got a copy. Before I had travelled home, I had read the entire book, and already bought Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon on Amazon. From there I was hooked on Feist. Whilst Kirsty has issues getting into High Fantasy, i love losing myself in 6 pages picturing the fjord around me.”

(This is one of my biggest bugbears with high fantasy – yes I’m sure that’s a pretty hill and you’ve described it wonderfully and I know that the setting in a lot of stories is a character in its own right but come on.)

The Two Towers – JRR Tolkien

the two towers

“I’ve always favoured the Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Events of Helms Deep and since the first book is primarily two chapters of Tom Bombadil and lots of character development and Frodo whining, i found it to be the perfect balance of building up to the events of the third book and having enough context to keep me gripped.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

azkaban

“It’s time to admit it, Sirius Black is a man-crush i had throughout Prisoner of Azkaban similar to those man-crushes people supposedly had on Keifer Sutherland when he did 24. Things just kicked off straight from the start in this book, and its always been my favourite in the series.”

Talon of the Silverhawk – Raymond E. Feist

silverhawk

“Talon of the Silverhawk was the final Feist book I really enjoyed – I finished the full Conclave of Shadows saga, but as I got through each book I started to find them harder to read. There are three books that Feist wrote that I’d love to see as a film or series and those are the three in this list. Talon was just sufficiently distancing from the ever present story surrounding Pug and I enjoyed the aspect of how Talon grows from the start of the book.”

The Hunger Games trilogy

hunger games

“The first non-High Fantasy book/series on this list! i picked them up before I had a long weekend from work, and by the time I had to go back all three books were finished. Out of the three, the second book was my favourite. The games like a clock was just such a cool system that I have to give a nod to it.”

The Goosebumps series

goosebumps

“The Goosebumps books my brother’s, but I read them all as I grew up. They are aimed at young teens, so obviously the writing style is focused at that, and they aren’t the type of book I’d be looking to go back and read now as i’m in my mid 20’s (mumble mumble…. 29) but I wanted to capture my full reading history on this list. These were essentially an introduction to reading for me, and they mean a lot to me.

SEAN’S HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Narnia – C.S Lewis

Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller

Romance of the Three Kingdoms – Luo Guanzhong

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In case it’s not obvious, I’m marrying a big fantasy nerd. Thanks Sean!

Throwback Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Take to a Desert Island

Surprise! I’ve decided that when I’m struggling with a Top Ten Tuesday topic instead of dropping something mediocre (my greatest fear) I’ll go back into the Broke and the Bookish archive and pick a previous topic instead. Won’t find me slacking, no sir.

Since the very first prompt was “Childhood Favourites” and I’m pretty sure I talked about mine not long ago, I’m going for the top ten “Books I’d Take to a Desert Island”. Commence!

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

If the words in On The Road were a drink, they’d be a good gin, just the right amount of tonic, bit of lime, ice and a sprig of mint. And I’d put my entire face into it forever.

The Singing – Alison Croggon

The Singing

Hello. If we haven’t already met, I’m the one that bangs the Pellinor drum at every opportunity I get.

The Singing is the final book in the series, but it’s my favourite. I finished The Crow on a train and spent some time furiously tagging onto crap WiFi to download The Singing with the last of my student loan money because I couldn’t bear the idea of having to WAIT and go to a BOOKSHOP before I could read it. It was a good decision.

I think I might need a Pellinor anthology just in case.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

Radio Silence

Radio Silence is the book I wish I’d had in school, when I was struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. Plus I want to pick Aled up and put him in my pocket.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson was my introduction to YA, when I was a kid and I read the Wild at Heart series. One of my favourite series when I was younger, and I made A Loud Noise when I realised later – after I’d read Speak – that LHA was the author.

If you haven’t yet read Speak, please read Speak. USYA gets an unfairly bad rap as being Not Realistic and Not Relatable, but Melinda is a character that will get under EVERYONE’S skin regardless of whether you can relate to her trauma or not.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is one of my favourite books of all time. Grubby, gritty, written by a teenage girl, I read the whole thing on the plane back from Florida last year. Essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in YA as a genre. Stay gold.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

the hobbit

I’ve had the full LOTR set of books for like, EVER, and I’ve never managed to get stuck into them (high fantasy generally tends to not be my thing) so being trapped on a desert island with a finite amount of reading material seems like decent encouragement.

Insomnia – Stephen King

insomnia

The Shining is one of two books that has ever actually terrified me (the other is by Joe Hill, King’s son, so go figure) but I love Insomnia. I’m due a reread as I’ve only tackled it once, but it was lingering sinister…ness rather than outright freaky freaky, and it’s long so it’ll be good for afternoons if there’s sharks or something and I can’t go swimming.

The Disaster Artist

the disaster artist

The Room is the pinnacle of cinema. Nothing will ever compare. Second only to the viewing experience is the book about the making of the film by actor Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

Never has a book had me in full on tears of mirth like The Disaster Artist. Definitely watch the film first, but if you enjoy trying not to howl on public transport then this is the book for you.

I keep forgetting that there’s a pretty well rated film adaptation and I didn’t catch it at the cinema, so that’s on my list. Oh hi Mark!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

hps

As if I’d ever not take a Harry Potter book. If I’m only going to take one, it’s going to be my signed first edition for pure nostalgia. Might be difficult to keep it in good condition on a desert island, though.

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What would you take to a desert island? Why are we on a desert island? Does anyone know how to build a boat? Let me know!

Book Review | Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert

Good morning folks! This time I’m looking at Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert. I was provided with a free e-copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review – thanks Fennel!

late night partners

Late Night Partners is an urban fantasy novel set in an American cityscape, centring on Roger (an average guy looking after his paranoid great uncle) and Doris (pictured – a vampire who’s escaped from the slave trade). It’s really very refreshing to not have vampires painted as paler-than-pale Snow White characters that hang around in castles or sparkle a lot.

You know what I’m talking about.

Urban fantasy is in my top genres anyway, so I was already going in strong, but I found it creepy and full of heart. Roger for me was essentially the companion in Doctor Who. taking on the role of the reader in his confusion and eventual resignation as he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the strange new world that so closely resembles his own.

Steuert’s descriptions made the locations so real I could almost taste the dew in the air, and while there’s a lot of really sublime lines, the idea that “in this particular universe, managing to be OK was kind of grand” was my favourite, because come on, who DOESN’T feel like that at the moment.

Put that on my gravestone.

One thing I would have enjoyed is a more in-depth background on some of the characters, namely Mab and Argyll, as I found some of their scenes a little confusing. Mab, Argyll and Doris could definitely have a book each on their pasts and the journey that led them to cross paths with Roger. It’s a rich and sinister background.

Overall, I enjoyed it! Fennel Steuer is also the author of Reality and Me All Capeless, and I’ll definitely be picking that up at some point. If you want to jump into Late Night Partners, the Kindle download link is here.

That’s all for today. PBPR out!

Friends Reunited: The Lost Book

Gather round everyone, it’s time for the heartwarming story of a boy who loved a book, and why occasionally the internet isn’t a total cesspool.

A couple of years ago, while on a weekend away in Peebles with Sean, the conversation turned to a book he’d read and loved as a child. He couldn’t remember the title or the author, just a few fragments from his memory. The front cover, a young boy doing his homework while scenes from the game dance around him. The main characters. Plot points.

“Let’s Google it!” Said I, because obviously Google has all the answers.

We uncovered a plethora of books vaguely matching the description. None of them were the right ones. We spent a long time trawling the internet, me adamently refusing to believe that this book could be impossible to find, but it certainly looked that way.

peebles
You’d never guess we’d been up half the night on a book hunt.

Every now and then in the following months and years it would come up in conversation and we’d look again, dozens of different search terms, wording them slightly differently, scrolling through Goodreads and forums and Google Images. Sean had started to wonder if the book was something he’d made up, a writing prompt that had snaked its way into his subconscious. I wasn’t so sure. The details he could reel off to me were too precise.

It was hugely annoying. I’m a stubborn crow and I have great faith in the internet, both of which were being tested strongly by this bloody nameless, formless book.

After it raised its head again late last year, I suited up and went in. But this time, I had a different plan: Reddit.

There’s a subreddit called r/tipofmytongue, where you post things you can’t remember the name of with a few descriptive details and hope that someone will recognise what you’re talking about and enlighten you. Reddit can be a…questionable place, so I wasn’t sure how well this would work. Or if it would at all. Or if I’d be soundly flamed.

But would you believe it, within a few hours I had a single, solitary response, from a user called GitaTcua.

It must be Gameplayers by Steven Bowkett.

I looked it up. Immediately checks out.

gameplayers 2

If I’d been alone, I would have screamed. As it was, I was with my Granny, and I didn’t want to give her nervous breakdown.

For the grand total of £3.72, I was able to secretly acquire a copy (HUGE shout out to Abe Books and The Children’s Bookshop for stocking it and delivering it so promptly) and present it to Sean as a belated Christmas present. He’s notorious for not doing big emotional displays but the level of carefully contained joy he exuded was high.

Basically, tenacity pays off and I am the best fiancée ever. Happy Christmas Seanathon!

gameplayers
His childhood book with his childhood teddy bear. Glorious.

TTT: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

It might be 2018, but I read so many good books last year that I’m not done talking about them yet, so let’s live in the past for a moment.

This Top Ten Tuesday is going to be an easy one. As I said yesterday, the biggest reading slump ever came to an end, so almost every book I read in 2017 was by an author new to me. The only difficult bit was picking ten!

Alice Oseman

radio silence

Fun fact: I stumbled across Alice Oseman because I was in the process of lightly planning a book that I’d tentatively been calling “Radio Silence”. I Googled it to see what came up, and was quite distraught to discover I’d been beaten to it. I’m OK with it though, because it’s one of my favourite books, and one that I wish I’d had when I was in school. This book was my introduction back into the UKYA scene and I’m very fond of it.

Sara Barnard

beautiful broken things

Want to have your still-beating heart ripping out and solidly wrung? Read anything by Sara Barnard. A Quiet Kind of Thunder spoke to my anxiety-riddled heart and Beautiful Broken Things was so relatable that I wanted to take it out for coffee and tell it everything was going to be OK in the end.

Angie Thomas

the hate u give

The Hate U Give was my favourite book of 2017. Powerful and well-written and unforgiving. The other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s really like to be black and American. It’s a must read.

Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

I’ve always found the classics to be impenetrably dull. Likely a side effect of learning some of them in school. To christen my new Kindle at Christmas I downloaded A Christmas Carol, so I could be on flavour, and I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the lines really tickled me, particularly the one about the houses playing hide and seek.

Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

You can read my review of A Shiver of Snow and Sky here. I read it before Christmas when the weather was something like -7 degrees, there was frost on the ground so thick it looked like snow and every word was steam in the air, the Skyrim soundtrack on in the background. The ultimate experience.

Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Editing Emma was one of my favourite books on 2017. It was funny, it was brilliantly written and it had me simultaneously cringing for Emma and cringing for myself because, well…we’ve all been there.

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I LOVE FANGIRL. So brilliantly written, everything was almost tangible, the characters felt like my best friends by the end and I wanted to move in with Cath and Reagan. It was the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Alice Broadway

ink

I hadn’t even read the blurb of Ink when I picked it up. I looked at the front cover and the title, went YUP and bought it. Easiest way to my heart is a cool front cover. Really enjoyed the book as well – I’m sure I read somewhere there was going to be a sequel, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cassandra Clare

city of bones

I’d heard of the Mortal Instruments serious because I knew it was a film, and it had somehow escaped me that it was a book too. I picked up City of Bones to give it a go and…I don’t love it. I know that I’ll probably get slaughtered because it’s so well-loved but it didn’t light my fire at all. I’ll restart it at some point in the near future and give it another go, and hope it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end.

Raymond Feist

magician

This was a Sean recommendation. Sean loves high fantasy novels, whereas I can’t be doing at all with a book that takes five pages to discuss what the countryside looks like. He tried to persuade me with two books: Magician and Daughter of the Empire. Both of them I abandoned halfway through, but as I hate DNFing any book, like City of Bones I’ll likely feel compelled to have another go. Maybe I can skip the lengthy descriptions of all the trees in the garden…

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This year I’m going to be a book consuming machine, which is great in a lot of ways…but it might make next year’s list harder. Challenge accepted.

Book review | A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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Buying books based on the cover can be a hit and miss approach. I’ve read some turgid books because they look pretty. Fortunately, A Shiver of Snow and Sky is both stunning AND excellent.

There’s fantasy, there’s magic, there’s heart. Beautiful book, beautiful words. Lisa Lueddecke dumps you headfirst into a crisis and it doesn’t really let up until the end.

The heroine, Ósa, will break your heart and have you punching the air in the same breath. The world is so deliciously chilly and evocative that you can imagine every burn of he snow and boat on the water. The switch between the points of view in the narrative is awesome because it lines up the contrast between Ósa’s surreal journey and the much more grim events in the villages. My only negative takeaway was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt, which was disappointing, but it was a very minor blip in what was a brilliant debut.

There’s still time to pick one up as a gift for a reader you know – it’s the perfect book for a chilly holiday night. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Skyrim, so if you know anyone who’s ever had their life consumed by The Elder Scrolls, why not send them a copy of this for the holidays?

Serving suggestion: Christmas tree lights, hot chocolate and Baileys, gentle snowfall.

asosas pic