October Book Haul!

This month I ended up with a pretty satisfying haul of books.


Now this is an odd group of books, and they were purchased for my dissertation research. However, they’re books I would be interested in reading anyway. And a book is a book!

The Female Man by Joanna Russ – (sci-fi) The concept of this feminist science-fiction book is incredibly interesting. It’s about four women from different realities in which their lives are very different. This idea instantly caught my attention and I’m curious to see what it’s like.

More Than This by Patrick Ness – (young adult, sci-fi) I don’t know much about this book, since I read a review that said it would be best to go into the book knowing little about it. I’ve heard very good things about it though, so hopefully it will live up to those high ratings!

The Man in The High Castle by Philip K. Dick – (sci-fi) Having read and loved Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I’m hoping I’ll enjoy more of Dick’s works.

Kindle Haul:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – (young adult, fantasy, sci-fi) I liked the sound of this fantasy book from the description. However, from the sounds of it, a lot of it takes place in a military academy – what is it with young adult fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal books being set in some kind of school/academy/something like that? It seems to come up a lot. We’ll have to wait and see whether I like this one.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor – (young adult, fantasy) I got hold of all three books in the series (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters) when they were on offer! Got to love a book deal.

Book Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Genre: General Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2013 by HarperCollins (kindle edition)

Pages: 320

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.

There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.

There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.

The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

The Shock of the Fall wasn’t what I expected. It was more. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes I felt like I was drowning in the words but I couldn’t stop reading. The words, so simple, but drew me in so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget this book.

I read the kindle edition, and I think it would be better to read it in paperback. It was fine reading it on kindle, but I think the experience of it would be better in physical copy. There are images and different fonts used, which I think would be easier to see in paperback.

There isn’t exactly a plot, so to say. It’s mostly the narrator, Matthew, talking about his past and life. He is mentally ill, diagnosed with schizophrenia in the book. It was a real delve into the character’s mind, of how his thought processes work and how he conveys things in his writing (the narrator is writing their story). I really felt like I was seeing things through his eyes. I was in his mind, feeling his thoughts and feelings.

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Book Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Genre: Science Fiction

Publishing Info: January 2002 by Gollancz (first published 1958)

Pages: 224

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper, and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes, until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius. But then Algernon, the mouse whose triumphal experimental transformation preceded his, fades and dies, and Charlie has to face the possibility that his salvation was only temporary.

Having enjoyed novels such as Brave New World, 1984 and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I want to read more classic science-fiction. Gollancz’s SF Masterworks collection has an eclectic mix of classic sci-fi books, of which Flowers for Algernon is the most recent I have delved into.

The book is written in an epistolary form using the progress reports that Charlie has to write before and after the experiment to increase his intelligence. I found this book very insightful and very much had a connection to the main character and their story as I was reading it. A problem I had with Brave New World and 1984 was I didn’t care all that much about the characters. That wasn’t really a problem as such for those books, as a certain narrative distance seems appropriate for them. It was refreshing to read a classic sci-fi novel in which I connected so much to the protagonist, as I hadn’t experience that with the others I have read so far.

I found it really interesting and sad how Charlie is treated by others, both because of his lack of intelligence and how he is treated as an experiment. One of the psychologists even has the view that Charlie wasn’t even human before the experiment. I haven’t known anybody with ‘low IQ’ (as the book puts it) or learning difficulties so I don’t know if the portrayal of Charlie is realistic.

The last thirty-or-so pages was utterly heart breaking and that was when I realised how into the book I had got, and how invested in the story I was.

I think this is a very important novel. It’s one of those science-fiction stories that are very thought-provoking, and make you think about the way you see the world and the society we live in.

Swoon Reads Now Accepting All Genres!

In an announcement today, Swoon Reads have revealed that they are now accepting all genres of young adult and new adult fiction for submission. Their website has also been redesigned and looks less romancy. Swoon Reads prints under the Feiwel and Friends imprint of Macmillan. Writers submit their novels to the Swoon Reads website and every few months a selection of novels are chosen to be published.

Previously, only romance novels were accepted (including fantasy romance, sci-fi romance etc.) but they are now accepting submissions for all genres. This is good news for anyone who writes YA/NA without a heavy romance aspect. It’s an interesting move by the publisher, and I think it could make the site even more popular. By opening it up to more than just romance, they may get more people reading and submitting. I’ve known of the site for a while but I don’t generally write romance novels. There’s often a romance subplot, but it’s not the focus, so none of my books would have been applicable. Now, if I want, I have the option to submit to them.

It doesn’t seem like there’s anything to lose and I reckon it’s worth a shot for anyone who’s written/writing a YA or NA book. There requirement is that the book be exclusively on the site for 6 months (i.e. you can’t submit it to other publishers or agents during that time), which seems reasonable. If accepted, it’s also apparently a standard publishing contract.

I’ll be keeping an eye on how this one develops.

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Release date: 30th September 2016

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd

Runtime: 127 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. I only read the book a few weeks ago (you can see my review here) so went in with the conscious effort in mind that I should sit and enjoy it and not make comparisons to the book the whole way through.

After his grandfather’s horrific death, Jake travels to an island off the coast of Wales which is home to the children’s home his grandfather stayed in for a time during the war. Unexpectedly, he finds Miss Peregrine and the children with ‘peculiar’ powers still there, but monsters are looking for them and Jake’s ‘peculiarity’ is key to keeping them alive.

Although I wasn’t surprised to find that Tim Burton directing the film (the book is, well, a tad peculiar) I was a little apprehensive. However, I was glad to find that it wasn’t too Tim Burton-esque and kept with the tone of the book (although there was a tad more humour in the film). As far as adaptation goes, it kept relatively well to the story with only a large chunk at the end being completely added in.

What irritated me, and which I just don’t understand, is why they messed with Emma’s character. She’s the main female character (besides Miss Peregrine), and in the book her peculiarity is controlling fire, and she has a rather fiery personality to match it. In the film however, Emma’s peculiarity is levitation/air, which is Olive’s peculiarity in the book, and Olive has control over fire. I understand that when adapting books there will always be changes in terms of plot, in order to adapt it to the screen, but I just really don’t get why they did this. It seems a completely unnecessary massive change to make.

Overall I enjoyed the film and it was a good adaptation. It had the same quirky feel as the book, which is what I liked about it. It’s a shame they messed with the characters.       

TV Review: Victoria

TV Review: Victoria

Aired: 28th August 2016 – 9th October 2016

Written by: Daisy Goodwin, Guy Andrews

Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Catherine Flemming, Daniela Holtz

Executive Producers: Daisy Goodwin, Dan McCulloch, Damien Timmer

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Paul Frift

Directors: Tom Vaughan, Sandra Goldbacher, Olly Blackburn

Network: ITV

Genre: Period Drama

Episodes aired: 8/8

Rating: 4/5

This review is a follow-up to my mid-series review. The series definitely grew on me as the episodes went on and I looked forward to settling down to watch each new episode.

Mercifully, Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of Victoria became less whiny. However it just took her too long to settle into the character, whose personality seemed quite erratic. This was perhaps an attempt to show the difficulties of being a very young queen, but it just left me annoyed some of the time. Hopefully in the next series a more mature Victoria will be presented. In terms of other characters, I liked the development of Victoria’s relationship with her mother as the series went on.

The music, especially the titular music, I liked very much and found suitable for the time period. It was visually appealing and there were some beautifully designed costumes. There was a touch of humour throughout the series, just enough to provide lighter moments.

One thing that irritated me was that Lord Melbourne disappeared. Once Victoria married Albert I guess his role did run its course but I didn’t feel he got a proper exit to the series. One episode he was there and the next he wasn’t. There was no resolution to his characters role in the series. A small scene would have sufficed.

While unsurprisingly the show focuses on the interpersonal relationships of Victoria and how she deals with being a monarch, I found the neglect of societal Victorian issues a shame. In episode 7 there was a glimpse of the potential, as Albert is interested in the development of the railways. This was an important development of the era and I’m glad it had a place in the series, but other big issues of the time were lacking representation. Of course, this isn’t about the Victorian people, it’s about their monarch, but the major events and issues of the Victorian period would have influenced Queen Victoria, and vice versa. In one of the early episodes there was some issue of protests which was good, but it was hardly dwelled upon.

The series has proved to be popular, often garnering more viewers than BBC’s Poldark, which I found quite surprising. It’s no surprise then that there will be another series. I’ll be interested to find out in what direction they take series 2. I hope they do not overly focus on Victoria’s family and forget about the social and political issues, of which there were many, during her long reign.

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Publishing Info: April 2016 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (first published May 2015)

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

At the start, I wasn’t very keen on this book. I had problems with it in the first few pages. As it went on and I got to know the characters it grew on me. Although I wasn’t completely gripped, I did want to know what was going to happen. By the end I liked it, but didn’t love it.

At the beginning of the book it feels like being dumped in the middle of the story. I guess I liked that it got straight to the point and didn’t dawdle with stretched out set-up, but this also meant that I didn’t get a chance to know the characters before they were thrown in at the deep end. The first time we see Shazi is in the palace, and there are hardly any thoughts and emotions from her for the reader to be able to get to know her before things get going. All the characters felt bland in the first couple of chapters. I didn’t care about any of them, and maybe that’s because the reader isn’t given a chance to get to know them before stuff starts happening.

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