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Book Review: Survivor Song

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

I actually read this book way back in July. Because what’s better than reading about a deadly pandemic in the midst of lockdown?

This was actually pretty different from a lot of other pandemic novels. Okay, it was about a zombie virus (even if it’s not officially acknowledged as that) but it was so realistic. The lockdown, the overrun hospitals, the lack of PPE… It was really similar to what I’d heard and experienced in the height of our own lockdown. It was weird but it shows just how plausible and well-thought-out the book actually was.

So the outbreak in this book refers to a new strain of rabies that infects humans and causes changes in behaviour – especially increased violence. And in the middle of it all is Natalie. Natalie is pregnant, due to give birth any day. But then her husband is killed in their own home, and Natalie herself is bitten by a rabid madman. If she’s infected, the clock is ticking.
Natalie tries desperately to get to a hospital to be cared for and try the experimental vaccine. She does eventually make it into a hospital and is due to have a C-section performed. But then things start happening in the hospital and she’s sent to another – but the ambulance doesn’t make it. So with the help of her friend, a doctor, Natalie tries to get herself and her baby to safety before her time runs out.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This had one of those bittersweet endings that I really appreciate. I won’t spoil it, but it’s… different. I kind of had my suspicions about this conclusion from quite early in the book, but it didn’t feel overly predictable or anything. It was well-written and gripping.

Overall, this was a really good book. There was a good level of emotion, and lot of anticipation and excitement. A strong 4 stars!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: The Girl from Widow Hills

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

When Arden Mayes was six years old she was swept underground in a storm, where she remained for days until she was finally found. After the whirlwind of media coverage and even her mum’s book on the event, Arden decides to leave her home town – Widow Hills – and start over. With a new name, Olivia, she sets off to make a new life.

Before long, Olivia receives news of her mother’s death. She doesn’t grieve, not really. Their relationship was a complicated one.

Everything seems fine until Olivia wakes up outside – next to a dead body. This opens up a lot of questions. To complicate things more, it turns out this body belonged to the man who rescued Arden all those years ago. How did he find her? What was he doing outside her house? And why is he dead?
Things only get more complicated from there. Olivia thought she had left her past behind, but it doesn’t seem to be true. She begins to dig up secrets, huge secrets. It’s about time the world knew the truth about what happened in Widow Hills.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This was a really gripping book, with so many interesting discoveries and twists. There was a good amount of emotion, too, and definitely a fair bit of loss. Definitely a good read if you’re into thrillers. 4 out of 5 stars!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – ebook, Published September 10th 2019 by Orbit

At a time like this, I think we all need to be whisked away into another world. This book is perfect for that!

January Scaller is “a perfectly unique specimen”. In other words, she’s not white, but she’s not entirely coloured, either. Her father is a dark-skinned man from somewhere far away – January doesn’t know where – and her mother is no longer around. While her father travels the world for work, rarely returning home to her, January lives with the man who hired her father and practically saved their lives. His name is Mr Locke. He is wealthy, white, and the nearest thing January has to family most of the time.

One day January finds a book titled The Ten Thousand Doors. As she reads, she discovers the amazing truths about the world around her – and the thousands of others – as well as herself.

But January isn’t the only one who knows about the Doors to other worlds. It turns out the people closest to her already knew – and some of them aren’t happy about her finding out.

So January spends time in a mental asylum, is attacked by a man-slash-vampire, almost loses her beloved dog, and ends up travelling to places she could have only dreamt of.

This was a truly magical book. It had a sort of Inkheart-like vibe to me in some ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were twists and turns, beautiful imagery and emotional moments and development.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

As this was a sort of historical fiction novel, there was a lot of emphasis on race inequality. Sadly, this feels all too relevant right now. The difference between how January is treated when she’s with Mr Locke – wealthy, upstanding, and most importantly, white – compared to when she’s alone is shocking. But of course, it’s real. And it’s still happening to some extent today.

Anyway, I really liked this book. It took a little while for me to get into it, though, so I’m giving it 4 stars. Definitely worth a read!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Eden

Eden by Tim Lebbon – ebook, Published April 7th 2020 by Titan Books

Something I did not realise from the cover of this book is that it’s actually a thriller/horror. It’s not exactly scary, but there are some creepy elements and emotional moments around the last half of the novel.

The book is set in a not-so-distant future where humans have, to put it frankly, ruined the earth. In order for nature to begin to recover, ‘Virgin Zones’ have been set up – areas where nature is left to thrive, and where it’s illegal for any person to enter. But of course, people still do. Some of these people are a particular type of thrill-seekers, racing across these wild zones. Our protagonist, Jenn, is a member of a group of these travellers. Along with her father, boyfriend, and a few other friends, she sets out to cross Eden, the first Virgin Zone, with little more than a compass and some energy bars.

But Jenn another motive, too. Her mother – who left her and her father years ago, and only contacts Jenn to show her the Zones she’s crossed – has gone missing. And she was last seen crossing into Eden.

It turns out Jenn isn’t the only member of the group with ulterior motives, though. Legends of a mysterious, almost magical orchid have been spreading from various Zones. It’s believed that these ghost orchids have healing powers, possibly even immortality. And one of Jenn’s companions is hoping to find one.

What he doesn’t know is that the orchids are the centre of Eden. The centre of the horror, the fear, everything. And She – the very spirit of nature itself – will do anything to protect them.

The group face numerous hurdles, hunted by beasts working together in unnatural ways. As they find more and more corpses in odd states, their own group begins to dwindle.

I found this really interesting, not least because the whole setting is so plausible. The atmosphere gradually becomes tenser and tenser, as Jenn’s hunt for her mother well and truly comes to an end.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

While I did enjoy this, I felt something was missing. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but I didn’t really click with Jenn, or feel her emotions all that much. 3.5 stars!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Cat and the City

The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

Everything about this book appealed to me. My family are huge animal-lovers, and we all have a particular soft spot for cats. I would also love to visit Japan someday – the culture, the language, the scenery… It’s all so beautiful!
So I’m sure you’ve realised by now that this book is centred around a cat, and set in Japan. It’s quite hard to explain the book properly, as it’s a collection of separate narratives that all connect in various ways. And every person’s story features a particular cat, too.
Every character and narrative was extremely unique which I loved – from a renowned tattooist to a translator from America, to a homeless man living on the streets of Tokyo. There was also a large amount of Japanese terminology and cultural references. Some of it I wasn’t actually familiar with, and I have no existing personal knowledge or experience to compare it to, but it felt authentic to me.
One small complaint I have is that I didn’t find the passage of time particularly clear – were these stories taking place simultaneously, or in sequence? Or was there a longer length of time between each? The further I read, the more it kind of made sense to me, but I was a bit confused for quite a while.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

This was a really interesting book, with some really lovely moments. There was also a slightly eerie, almost paranormal atmosphere following the cat, which I really loved!

Overall, I’m giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. Perhaps, if/when I ever get to visit Japan and learn more about the culture, I’ll read this book again and be able to appreciate it even more!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Staunch

Staunch by Eleanor Wood – Published March 19th 2020 by HQ

I finished this book over a week ago now but didn’t get round to writing up this review because so much has been going on. You would’ve thought the lockdown would bring weeks of relaxation and boredom, but apparently that isn’t quite the case in my house.

Anyway, onto the book. I honestly could have read the whole thing and not even realised it’s a memoir. It’s written in such a fantastic, rather comical way – it is thoroughly entertaining read despite the number of hardships and misfortune the author endures. These difficulties include bulimia, a break-up from a long-term, very serious relationship, surviving and escaping a pretty damn toxic relationship, and having her step-dad (who she is extremely close to) leave her mother, and thus, her.

Wood alternates between the ‘current’ day, where she is on holiday with three older female relatives in India, and the past – anywhere from her own past experiences to the childhood and history of her family members. It’s amazing how much detail she includes, and the anecdotes from her grandmother’s and great aunts’ pasts sound like stories in their own right. It’s quite amazing that it is all based on reality.

Side note, it’s quite funny to me that the author’s name is also Eleanor, and that she suffered with an eating disorder. It made me feel a kind of connection to her, I guess. I definitely related to her in a fair few ways.

Eleanor offers some surprisingly positive insights and revelations, especially toward the end of the book. For example, she describes how she has begun to accept the uncertainty of life and the impossibility of perfection all the time. She also mentions how she stops relying on disordered eating behaviours, as she realises that there is far more to life than shrinking yourself.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

I really, really enjoyed this, which is quite surprising as I don’t usually read memoirs or anything like this, really. Eleanor is portrayed as a really likeable and relatable character, and definitely very down-to-earth and raw in discussing her experiences and thoughts. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

This was certainly an interesting book.
It begins with April May discovering a giant metal robot sculpture. As an artist herself, she appreciates how much effort this must have taken, and is appalled to find no one else paying any attention to it. So she calls her best friend, Andy, who makes videos and podcasts. They upload a video of April and the robot, which goes viral. This may seem a bit odd – it’s just a video of a sculpture, right? But it turns out there’s one of these robots in every major city on Earth, and absolutely no witnesses or footage of how they got there.
Anyway, it turns out these ‘Carls’ as they come to be known are a pretty big deal. And quite possibly alien.
April and Andy are caught up in all of this, inexplicably linked to the ‘alien’ robots forever. Fame and wealth overtake their lives. Their story is really quite remarkable (hah! I get the title now).
The first thing I noted was that April is in her twenties, which I liked a lot. So many YA novels have younger protagonists, and I struggle to relate to them now I’m getting a bit older. I loved having a YA story full of mystery and excitement that begins after the age of twenty. (Perhaps there’s still hope for me yet, eh?)
I also liked the narrative format – April is writing it as an account of the past, it seems, with some insight she would only gain from experiences later on.
As with any good book, there are a ton of subplots, too. April’s relationships are extremely complicated – she messes them up on a frequent basis. She also struggles to maintain her humanity with the sudden fame she acquires, which is so often the case in these circumstances. As she is telling the story from the ‘future’, this means she is able to identify and comment on her mistakes, too.
The ending was both extremely unexpected and kind of predictable. I was both refreshed and annoyed by how many things were left unresolved – especially a lot of April’s relationships. I think it’s purely a matter of personal preference as to how you take the ending of this book.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

As this was an ARC, I did notice quite a lot of typos, grammatical errors and also some dodgy formatting that impacted my reading a bit. However, I assume most of these would not be present in the final publication, so won’t let them alter my final rating.
Overall, I really did enjoy this. It was unique for sure, and though I didn’t actually like April all that much as a person, she was a pretty good character. 4 stars!

Book Review: Little White Lies

Little White Lies by Philippa East – Published February 6th 2020 by HQ

This is another thriller (can you tell I like them?) but I actually found it really quite unique.
Seven years ago, Anne lost her daughter. She went missing at a train station: caught on CCTV climbing the steps out to the street, and then gone without a trace. But now she’s back, and Anne is happy – isn’t she? Her family is finally back together, her twins have their big sister back, and they’re going to find out who did this.
But Anne isn’t happy. Everything isn’t right. There are secrets holding her back from being happy.
As is often the case, everything is not as simple as it first seems. Abigail (the daughter)’s case seems to be solved; the abductor has been found, Abigail is home. But there are still so many questions to be answered, so many holes to be filled. Everyone seems to be hiding something – sometimes without even knowing.
I really liked the approach of this book. Ok, it’s not the first time that the family has been hiding something. But the ‘secrets’ that come to life are… different to usual.
Actually, I kind of thought it was a bit exaggerated, honestly. As in, the secrets weren’t that bad. But I won’t say too much in case I spoil it for any potential readers.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was excited to find out more, to discover the truth of what happened. 4 stars.

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Review: At the End of Your Tether

At the End of Your Tether by Adam Smith – Published (first published November 12th 2019)

I’m only going to write a fairly brief review of this graphic novel, simply because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away for any other potential readers. This means I might have to keep it quite vague, too, so I apologise in advance!
An extremely simplified summary of the plot is that Ludo’s girlfriend goes missing under rather peculiar circumstances. When a body is found alongside the burned wreckage of her car, most people accept that she is dead. But Ludo doesn’t – he’s sure something is wrong with the whole situation and is determined to find answers.
And he does eventually find answers. But I was left with so many questions; I really would have liked more detail and information about how it all worked and why it happened. I was just left confused, honestly.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing was great and I did enjoy it. The premise was really unique and interesting, too. I just would have liked to understand things a bit more.

Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

The art was great, too. It was detailed and clear, and generally really quite pleasant to look at.
I’m giving this book 3.5 stars overall.

2019 in Review

A new decade has officially begun! It’s crazy how fast 2019 went by. And what better way to welcome in the new year than by looking back at all the books I read last year? Plus, I’ll let you see some of the books I’m planning to read this year, too! (Not my whole TBR pile, of course – just the highest priority and imminent reads!)

You probably all know that Goodreads provides a Year in Books summary for users, with tons of cool statistics and highlights. If you’re interested in seeing what mine looks like, feel free to go check it out. Sadly, I did not reach my goal of 100 books, nor did I beat my record of 82 books read throughout 2017, but I did beat last year; I managed 58 books in total. That’s more than a book a week, so I guess that’s still pretty good!

Here are a few of the most noteworthy books that I read this past year, and a short summary of why I liked them so much:

  • The Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I finished the first two and am partway through the third at the moment. I adored The Mortal Instruments series, and just love how these books follow a different group of characters, while still updating us on the original characters that we know and love. Seeing how everyone has grown up is just lovely, and I’m really growing fond of the new group, too. I’m invested in their issues, and I really feel their pain. The ending of Lord of Shadows near killed me; I’m still so shaken and sad.
  • The Astonishing Colour of After (which I reviewed here). An interesting angle on grief, with strong fantasy elements. The writing was just wonderful and the whole book was incredibly emotional.
  • The final two books in Alice Broadway’s Skin Books trilogy. (I loved the first one, too, but I read that in 2018 so thought it didn’t belong in this post.) A unique story, intriguing and exciting. The plot really did thicken throughout each of the books, and the series ended nicely, too.

And finally, here are some of the books I plan to read over the next year. I’m aiming for 100 books again, so I obviously won’t be listing them all here!

How many books did you manage to read this past year? Any particularly noteworthy? And what’s your goal for 2020? Do you have any specific books you’re planning to read?

I hope you all have a wonderful new year, and that everyone finds a new book love!