GIVEAWAY: The Bone Season

Next month sees the release of The Song Rising, the third book in The Bone Season saga, from Samantha Shannon.

This gloriously-written dystopia, set in the year 2059, follows Paige Mahoney, a young clairvoyant living in Scion London, a city where clairvoyance is illegal on pain of death. Paige spends her days working for the underground clairvoyant syndicate, under the watchful eyes of Mime-Lord, Jaxon Hall, a sardonic and ruthless gang leader, who you will come to love and hate in equal measure.

But when Paige’s clairvoyance is uncovered by Scion, her world will be flipped upside down, and everything she thought she knew will be tested.

I know, I know, I talk about this book series a lot, but there’s a reason. This seven-part series is honestly one of the best I’ve ever read, and the third book isn’t even out yet! It’s a truly imaginative story, incomparable to anything else out there, and, in all honestly, before I’d even finished reading the first book, I’d completely and utterly fallen for it.

If you like brilliant world-building, wonderfully complex characters, and a story that has so many twists and turns you just can’t predict where it’s headed, then you need to check this one out.

To celebrate the release of The Song Rising, the wonderful folks over at Bloomsbury have very kindly given me two copies of the flashy new edition of The Bone Season to giveaway!

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is follow me on Twitter and retweet the following tweet by 23:59pm on February 22nd!

Good Luck!

(Unfortunately this giveaway is for UK residents only, but you internationals might want to keep an eye out on this blog over the next few weeks…just sayin’!)

#TimeToTalk

Depression has stolen my smile, and replaced it with an apology.

I’ve been noticing a lot lately how my social media presence has been very very negative. I just had a brief look at my Twitter timeline, and only 3 of my last 18 tweets were positive, and at 18, I just stopped counting, because the impact of Depression was clear.

The sad thing is, I find myself wanting to apologise to my followers for that, for spreading that negativity, and somehow this makes it even worse.

I have no reason to apologise; I have an illness that I have no control over. You don’t apologise for cancer. You don’t apologise for asthma, or chicken pox, or heart disease. So why do I feel like I should apologise for my broken brain?

But there is a reason, there’s always been a reason.

Over the past few years, the conversation in this country surrounding mental health has changed considerably, but that’s only a recent thing. I’m only in my twenties, and yet I grew up in a world where mental illnesses was stigmatised beyond belief. I look back at some of the stuff I watched as a kid, and realise how much ignorance and misinformation there was about it.

Even now, it’s still there. Far too often Hollywood presents the idea that mental illness is treatable through romance. In the real world, whenever news outlets report on murders or terrorist attacks, their default is to imply mental illness caused them to do it.

The stigma is still there, and we may not be chucking people into Bedlam, or trying to cure them with electric-shock therapy, but even in this form, it’s still having an impact, and until it goes away, everyone who struggles with their mental health has another hill to climb on top of the mountain they’ve already been dealt with.

I don’t want to feel guilty every time I post something negative on Twitter. I don’t want to have to ban myself from Facebook, because I struggle to see the bright side anymore. Right now though, I do, everyday, because I’m worried about how people view me as a result of my illness more than I am concerned about fighting the illness itself.

So if you know someone who struggles with their mental health, know that you’ll never be able to fully understand what they’re going through, but that trying to understand will not only make you a better person, but it will help your friend more than you can possibly know.

*
Links you might find useful:

A Letter To Teachers From an A+ Student

How To Talk To A Friend With A Mental Illness

Relationships and Depression: How To Support Each Other

Types of Mental Health Problems

32 Things People Don’t Know About Taking Medication For Mental Illness

 

Being Critical of The Things We Love

There’s been a lot of discussion within the book blogging community lately about judging and pre-judging problematic books.

I’m not going to go specifically into that today, (you should read this, though), largely because I don’t think my voice is relevant in that conversation, but I do want to talk about a trend that I have noticed because of it.

It’s not uncommon, when you find a book you love, to form a certain appreciation for it’s author. I’m not just talking about the acknowledgement of their talent here, I’m talking about forming a level of gratitude for them because they wrote a book that meant a lot to you. It’s understandable; after all, reading a book is an investment of your time, energy, and emotion, and you never know what you’re going to get from it, so when a book turns out to blow your mind, there’s an invisible bond created between reader and author.

You form attachments to authors you love, and you nurture that attachment through buying more of their books, until you reach the point where they become an auto-buy author: one who’s books you always pre-order and read on the first day of publication, because you just know their books are meant for readers like you.

And, surely this is one of the best things about being a reader? Finding a new author you love, and knowing that there are going to be (hopefully) many more times in the future where you will spend hours revelling in the writing that you love so much.

happybearIt’s a wonderful feeling.

Except herein lies the problem, because what I’ve learnt from the aforementioned discussions, is that it’s very easy to become blinded by this faith in an author; to fail to acknowledge the issues a book has, because, in your mind, this author could do no wrong; to miss it’s problems, because you already convinced yourself before you even picked the book up that you were going to love it. After all, how could the same author who wrote that book you fell in love, that book which spoke to you, also write a book that’s problematic?

I count myself in this as well, by the way, because I know I’ve been guilty of doing this. Hell, I’m reading a book right now which I know I would be judging a lot more harshly if it wasn’t written by an author I grew up with.

We all do it.

The problem comes when we don’t acknowledge it. When we ignore what other people are telling us, because it feels like they’re not only attacking an author we love, but attacking us. It feels personal, but it’s vital we overcome that.

Being critical of the things we love is just as important as being critical of the things we hate, perhaps even more so, because if an author writes a problematic book and we, their stalwart readers, don’t question it, they are going to do it again, and again, and again.

BUT #1

…but I still enjoyed it, I didn’t notice anything problematic, why should I be critical of something I didn’t even notice?”

And that, right there, is exactly why you should.

We live in an unequal world, that’s a fact (an actual fact, not an ‘alternative’ one), and that inequality is so ingrained in our society that often those of us unaffected by it don’t even see it. In these situations, our voice doesn’t matter, it is the voices of those that aren’t being treated equally, the voices which the book you’ve read doesn’t treat equally, that matter. If someone with that voice tells you it’s problematic, you listen, and you learn, and you don’t help to promote the voices that silence theirs.

BUT #2

…but it’s just fiction. It’s not real life. It can’t be problematic if it’s just fictional.”

A short history lesson.

In 1915, a film came out called The Birth of a Nation. In it there were depictions of Ku Klux Klan members burning crosses. Up until this point, the real-life KKK never burned crosses. After this film came out, they started burning crosses.

My point is, films, television, books, are incredibly influential. The fact the majority of them are fiction means nothing. In fact, psychologically speaking, if you create something that triggers an emotional connection with the consumer, they are more likely to agree with it’s views, whether it’s fictional or not.

We live in a very divided world right now, and, without sounding too much like a fortune cookie quote, it’s so important we allow everyone’s voices to be heard. So when, and I say when because it will happen, someone raises concerns about a book by your favourite author, listen to them, learn from them, and allow yourself to be critical of the things you love.

5 books I really, really NEED to read!

My TBR* is currently over 400 books long, and one day I will get around to reading every single one of them, but until that day, there will always be some of them that manage to creep their way up the list, on the basis of being made of awesome. These are five books that have pushed their way up so far that I cannot wait to read them!

29340182

I’ve never been a loud woman. Even when I manage to get a handle of my social anxiety, I doubt very much I will be a loud woman, but this book isn’t so much about being an extrovert, as it is about finding your own voice: the one that’s buried beneath decades of ‘that’s not very ladylike’, and your endless apologies; the one that’s convinced you you’re not worth anything because of how you look, and the one that’s taught you how ‘we don’t talk about that’.
Shrill is about women, regardless of shape, size, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender, binary or non-binary, finding their voices from buried below the ones that have kept us quiet for centuries.

30363788
One of my favourite things as a reader is unexpectedly falling in love with a book. Last year, that happened to me with Max Wirestone’s The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, an unashamedly geeky and hilarious murder mystery, which celebrated the eccentricities of fandoms, with a fish-out-of-water tale of a woman who unexpectedly finds herself embroiled in the weird wonderful world of MMORPGs. I gave it four stars, and ended my review with the phrase ‘[I] really, really hope we see more of Dahlia Moss in the future!’ Thus why I’m so excited for this follow up, The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss. I cannot wait to read more of the ridiculous but wonderful circumstances Dahlia ends up in.

22817331

Another sequel to one of my favourites of 2016, Now I Rise is the second in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White, which started last Summer with the wonderful, And I Darken. This is an AU story about what would have happened if Vlad the Impaler had actually been a woman. The result is the effortlessly vicious, Lada Dracul, who is the kind of leading lady protagonist I worship. She’s such a dark and complex character, which you simply cannot predict, and who never betrays her own morals and beliefs. We need more ladies like her in the realms of fantasy fiction!

2913377

This is one of those books I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet. Me, who laps up epic fantasy like a cat drinking milk.
If you, like me, have failed at life, because have so far not read this book, The Name of the Wind is the story of Kvothe, an all-powerful wizard, told in the style of a coming-of-age story, through the eyes of the character himself.
I’ve heard nothing but great things and five-starred reviews about this book, and the glorious style in which Patrick Rothfuss writes.
The question is: do I read it or listen to the audiobook?
As always, thoughts always welcomed!

 

shiverofsnowandskyarc

Every once in a while you hear about a book you just know you’re going to be willing to do anything to get your hands on. This year, for me, that book is Lisa Lueddecke’s debut novel A Shiver of Snow and Sky. Everything I have seen and heard about this sounds amazing, and also, incredibly beautiful. The first page preview Lisa shared back in October only confirms that. I love it when authors write with that lyrically poetic style, there’s something magical about it that only helps to further immerse you into the world they’ve crafted. The writing, the cover, EVERYTHING about this book is beautiful, and I cannot wait to read it!

* * *

*My Goodreads TBR, at least. My actual list of every book I want to read doesn’t exist as it would make me cry every time I looked at it and realised that I’ll never reach the end of it!

Literary Disappointments

Is there anything worse for a bookworm than a disappointing book?

Whether it’s a book that doesn’t go anywhere; a book that starts off well only to fall apart later; or a book that was simply over-hyped, however they disappoint, it can be really frustrating realising you’ve wasted precious hours of your life on a story that failed to inspire you.

So, with that in mind, here are a selection of books that disappointed me, that you might want to think twice about reading in the future.

Beware, I’m about to get controversial in 3…2…1…

selection-cvr

Why not throw myself right into the lion’s den with this, my first choice:
The Selection by Kiera Cass.

I read this book solely because of the hype surrounding it, only picking it up last summer because by that point the series had reached it’s fifth book, and so there had to be something worth reading there, right?

Well, it’s fair to say, I really didn’t get the hype.

It’s essentially a royal version of The Bachelor*, set in a dystopian America.

I can understand why some readers might love it, and perhaps if I had been 10/ 15 years younger I might’ve loved it too, but as it is, I just don’t think it was meant for me.

I found it too fluffy, even though it was clearly trying to be something more than that, instead of just accepting it’s fluffiness, which might have made it less annoying.

It was over-long; the fact that there are four more books to this story completely confounds me, because this story could, and probably should, have been wrapped up in one.

And finally, it has one of the most frustrating lead protagonists I’ve ever encountered, who really needs to talk to a therapist about her self-esteem issues (and that’s coming from someone who talks to a therapist about her self-esteem issues).

*

red-queen-victoria-aveyard

Next up, possibly the most over-hyped book in recent years:
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

For about a year prior to release, this book was being proclaimed by publishers and ARC reviewers alike, that it was going to be the next big thing, and perhaps that was why I was disappointed, because it needed to be pretty amazing to live up to expectations, and, put simply, it wasn’t.

The general basis for the story is a world where people are divided into Silvers: rich; magical; upper-class, and Reds: poor; powerless; lower-class, until Mare, a Red discovers she has the powers of a Silver, thus throwing the entire system into disarray.

Nothing about this book is original. In fact, it feels like a cheap knock-off of every dystopian fantasy from the past ten years.

As a result, the story is entirely predictable. There is just nothing new to get excited about, because, well, you’ve read it all before!

*

28686840

Next up we have a book that was not only disappointing, but also problematic:
Holding Up The Universe
by Jennifer Niven

I’ve written about this one before, so I’ll try and keep it brief**, but this book frustrated me, and, quite frankly, angered me, on so many levels.

This is a story about a girl once named “America’s Fattest Teen”, and a boy with Prosopagnosia, which means he can’t remember people’s faces, so he literally couldn’t pick his own family out of a line-up.

The trouble is, it’s essentially a love story, and that’s where the problems start, because here you have a boy who basically becomes obsessed with a girl solely because she’s the only person he can recognise due to the fact that she’s fat.

If that wasn’t problematic enough, at one point he literally physically assaults her in the middle of the school cafeteria.

I couldn’t get past that, because there’s no real apology; he has some pathetic excuse for doing it, but it’s just that, pathetic.

After that, their whole relationship is pretty much entirely based on the fact that she’s the only one he can recognise, and I just kept wanting her to wake up and realise that she deserved so much better.

I was disappointed, but I was also angry, because I know there will be teens out there, who struggle with their weight like I did, who will read this book and think that’s all their worth.

It’s not.

They’re worth so much more.

*

16101128

Last, but by no means any less disappointing:
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I kept hearing about this, and kept hearing about this, and then in the lead up to the publication of the second book in the series, I kept hearing about this so much that I finally read it, and, well, I really do not get why I kept hearing about this!

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Cassie is trying to save her little brother from the very aliens who have destroyed their world.

This book actually starts off quite well, which I think is why it was ultimately such a disappointment.

I was hooked; for the first third of the book it was enjoyable, not exactly great literature, but it was a good, fun, post-apocalyptic thriller.

Then, however, our lead character, who up until this point has been really focused and determined on saving her younger brother, suddenly meets a guy she likes, and she goes from being a pretty ruthless badass warrior woman, doing everything she can to survive the end of the world, to a character from a high school movie that most definitely didn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test.

Of course, when you realise it was written by a middle-aged man, it suddenly makes a lot more sense, because it soon becomes very clear Rick Yancey has no idea how a teenage girl thinks. I’m pretty sure, if the world was ending, even the most lovesick, naive, teenager would be more concerned with saving her younger brother from an alien race, than some pretty guy she just happened to bump into in a shack in the woods!

From this moment on, the book fell apart: reading these characters was like watching humans devolve into cavemen, as they pranced around lamely in a plot filled with more holes than Swiss cheese.

* * * * *

*If you want a less fluffy, albeit still problematic, but more adult version of this storyline, I recommend checking out UnReal Season 1, which is almost exactly this, but with murder, alcohol, and extreme bitching.

**I failed.

A Boy Made of Blocks

boymadeofblocks

“Life is an adventure, not a walk. That’s why it’s difficult.”

Alex’s life is falling apart. He works at a job he despises, he’s just walked out on his wife, and, above all else, he doesn’t know how to be a father to his son. But, Sam, a lonely eight-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, has just become obsessed with a computer game; one which will help Sam better understand the world, and help Alex better understand his own son.

A Boy Made of Blocks is one of those books that you just want to keep reading for as long as possible. It has such heart to it, that, from the first page, it’s clear Kevin Stuart has put a lot of himself into this book.

The result is a wonderfully thoughtful, but honest, look at how autism affects both those who have it, and those around them.

I feel that reading this book gave me a better understanding of what life on the spectrum must be like, and not only that, it did so in a way that really highlighted how, while being autistic can mean struggling to understand the world on a daily basis, it can also be an incredibly beautiful way of looking at that world.

And I think that comes across, because Stuart doesn’t want us to pity Sam, he wants us to understand him, and see what a kind-hearted boy he is. That’s a side of autism I haven’t seen explored in literature before, and it was honestly such a joy to read.

A Boy Made of Blocks is out now in paperback.

*

This post is part of the A Boy Made of Blocks Blog Tour being run by Little, Brown Book Group. Thanks to Clara Diaz for inviting me to be a part of this tour, and be sure to check out the other stops by searching #MadeofBlocks on Twitter!

Relativity

This is a story of family and physics, similarities and differences.

relativityantoniahayes

Some books just touch your heart and make you feel all the feels, and this book was one of them for me.

Relativity, Antonia Hayes’ debut novel, follows the story of a young boy, his single mother, and his estranged father, as they struggle to overcome past hurts and present differences to reunite their family.

The entire story is told from the point-of-view of the three different characters, and Hayes differentiates between them wonderfully. I’m often a little deterred by books written from multiple POVs, but, in this case, each character has a voice unique to them, which is immediately recognisable, so instead of a story that could feel broken up, the result is one where you learn to love the differences between the characters, and the individual ways in which they view the world.

Ultimately, this story revolves around Ethan, a 12-year-old with a fascination for physics and astronomy, and, for me, it was his voice and his story that made this book as touching as it is. He is an incredibly complex character, and often speaks of things very matter-of-factly, but underneath all the science talk, you can sense the vast amount of love he has to give.

“Ethan gave the vagueness of her life definition. And although Claire complained about his clothes and Lego scattered about the house, she needed them there to punctuate her existence. He made their house a home.”

This is a story of family and physics, similarities and differences. It’s heart-warming and compassionate, with characters that prove we all have something to offer, but which sometimes we need others to help bring it out.

Relativity is published in the UK on January 17th.

*

This post is part of the Relativity Blog Tour being run by Little, Brown Book Group. Thanks to Clara Diaz for inviting me to be a part of this tour, and be sure to check out the other stops below!

relativity1relativity2relativity3relativity4relativity5