WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday July 17th

Okay so after June moving at a glacial pace July is moving far too quickly, YALC is next week and I still have so much more to read! Still, it’s time for my fortnightly bookish check-in!

If you want to join in with WWW don’t forget to send over a big thank you to Sam at Taking on a World of Words for keeping WWW alive and kicking.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? 

I feel slightly victimized by this question because I’ve dipped my toe into numerous books over the past fortnight as I frantically try to find the best order to read them in. My main current read is Revenger by Alastair Reynolds in preparation for YALC (and I’ve had it to read for a while). I’ve also been reading Finding Home by Hari Conner and The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neil, both of which have been absolutely healing my soul. I’ve been enjoying Revenger as well but there’s just something about the story and art styles for these two graphic novels that just soothes me, Hari’s landscape pieces transport me to beautiful forests where I can fill my lungs with sweet air and Katie’s soft edges and pastel colours lull me into a relaxed dreamland, I can’t get enough of them.

What did you recently finish reading?

Last weekend I finished Wastelands: The New Apocolypse, the dystopian anthology I was reading and Heartstream. I really enjoyed Heartstream and read it very quickly, it was a little traumatising and had some difficult parts in it but I loved it, you can check out my review here. Wastelands was a great anthology but it just felt so huge! Just writing the review is taking me ages as I made notes for every single story and there are over thirty of them! I’m glad I decided to read it but I was so pleased to finally finish it. A review should be coming next week with any luck.

What do you think you’ll read next?

For a change, this is actually super easy to answer and shouldn’t change! If it hasn’t already arrived by the time this post goes live Heartstopper volume two should be arriving and I’ll be dropping absolutely everything for that! My next YALC book to read is Do you Dream of Terra-Two by Temi Oh which will my next non-graphic novel read. I’m also lucky enough to have been accepted for the new Tea Dragon Society graphic novel due out in September so will defintley be getting to that too!

What are you reading next? What have you been reading? What are you reading right now? Let me know!! Those of you attending YALC and still working through your TBR’s for it how are you getting on?

 

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book reviews

Heartstream

43151477._SY475_Heartstream by Tom Pollock

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 4th by Walker Books

I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror. Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie. Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

This was my first Tom Pollock novel, I had heard of him before but I had no idea what kind of books he wrote or much of anything about him. Walker Books contacted me and asked if I would be interested in an early finished copy for review and after reading the synopsis I was sold. I’ve started reading a few more thriller and psychological horror books over the past year or so, having not read anything like that at all until The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James but there are some absolute gems and Heartstream is one of them.

Heartstream is told from two different points of view, always alternating back and forth with each chapter which was equal parts infuriating (in a mostly good way) and absolute genius. Often there would be a revelation of some kind of things will just start heating up and you’re dreading the end of the chapter because you know it’s going to switch to another part of the story. It creates a whole load of tension on its own, that paired with Pollock’s fantastic tension building and writing style is a winning combination, especially as things begin to develop throughout the story.

The characters were interesting but instead of being focused on them I found I was more focused on the things that were happening to them in a terrifyingly personal way, I can remember their hair colour or details about them and they’re not bad characters but in a very fitting manner for a book featuring a software that allows you to experience others emotions first hand for yourself, the main impressions I have from them are their emotions. When the book released last week I described Heartstream as being “Slightly traumatising” one reason for this is that each emotional beat feels like it leaves a mark on you and a lot of the feelings are very intense.

For me personally I find it difficult to cope with situations where I feel there is no way out or that are seemingly hopeless and/or the main character is helpless to control things around them in any degree, (I’ve never actually seen the end of Face-Off because I decided it was a no way out thing) which are things our two main characters definitely confront throughout this novel. Some parts really terrified me in a helpless kind of way and absolutely hit some nerves for me as a mother as well, it was a little like watching a horror film in that I felt scared/freaked out but in an almost enjoyable way? It definitely lives up to the description of a psychological thriller for sure.

Tom Pollock is an incredible storyteller and Heartstream is a bold intricate tapestry with a striking red thread of tension woven in and throughout the stories of both Amy and Cat, binding them together.  It captures the toxic, obsessive, abusive and entitled side of fandoms we are beginning to see more and more of lately as well as a hauntingly accurate and intense look at cyberstalking and harassment. Heartstream is gripping, yet moving, an addictive ride that will have you feeling like you’re “streaming” from the characters yourself throughout.

Have you ever experienced any fandom related moments that you felt were just too much or too far? Years ago I met with a group of other fans of “My Little Pony” and was shocked and appalled after witnessing them loudly tearing a display apart, arguing over blind bag figures and being confrontational with the staff in a toy store. I actually stopped watching the show after that and since tend to distance myself from a lot of communities since then.

book reviews, spoiler free

The Starlight Watchmaker review

44097002The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 15th by Barrington Stoke

“Doesn’t it get tiring being judged for who you are all the time?” Ada asked, “and treated like you’re less than other people?”

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

A wildly imaginative sci-fi adventure from YA star Lauren James, particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+

At the Quiet at the End of the World event a few months back Lauren announced that she would be releasing a novella with Barrington Stoke later this year and as time went on we got a title, a cover reveal and synopsis for The Starlight Watchmaker which I’ve been excited for ever since.

I don’t normally go into much detail about publishers but I really wanted to rave about Barrington Stoke for a moment. They are a fantastic publisher who have been helping dyslexic and reluctant readers for over twenty years by working with writers and illustrators to publish super readable books as well as adding little adjustments like using a unique, dyslexia-friendly font specially created to make reading easier, Accessible layouts and spacing stop the page from becoming overcrowded and even Heavier paper with a gentle tint helps reduce visual stresses, their motto is every child can be a reader and I think reading can be so daunting for young children today that we need to do everything we can to create a space and opportunity for all readers, including those who might be reluctant or have difficulty reading for pleasure. I had read a couple of Non Pratt’s books published by Barrington Stoke previously and loved the shorter book format and just how effortless they felt to read which can be really motivating and confidence building.

I reached out to Barrington Stoke about Lauren’s new title and the lovely Kirstin sent me a proof to review in exchange for an honest review. At just 128 pages it is an extremely short read but oh the wonders Lauren can work with 128 pages. The Starlight Watchmaker is set in a universe that feels like magic and science, the academy that Dorian attends and Hugo works at is incredibly diverse, full of all kinds of sentient creatures from across the galaxy. It was absolutely refreshing to read all of these fantastic descriptions of different races and species, I was fascinated in particular with one of my favourite characters, a student like Dorian called Ada (Lady Ada de Winters – short for Adedeneumdora) who is essentially a mountain that can walk around and will eventually become a planet all of her own just like her mother, the planet Zumia. She’s well spoken, smart and fantastically quirky as well as being a brilliant departure from the usual humanoid looking alien lifeforms we usually see.

Hugo is an android and an absolute sweetheart who I love, he’s a hard worker making the best of a bad situation who enjoys what he does and is mostly content but finds himself yearning for more, things like friendship and freedom, not to mention he really likes plants. Our other main character, Dorian is a fifth-year student but also a Duke who comes to Hugo for help but comes across a little brusque at first and perhaps a bit to forward which could be misconstrued negatively but I think he really grows and learns over the course of the story and you learn more about him as well as Hugo and see how they react to each other.

Somehow, even in under 200 pages Lauren managed to fit a nice little twist into the story, the plot is simple but honestly all the more enjoyable for it, the narrative is fast flowing and straight forward but conveys every detail and emotion needed. This entire book is akin to a nice chilled glass of juice on a hot day or that feeling when you step out of your morning shower, it’s refreshing and soothing and the moment I finished it after reading it the first time I managed to put it down for five minutes before I decided to pick it back up and read it all over again. The story is well rounded and unlike with some short-form works where I find myself  wanting more in an unsatisfied way, I found The Starlight Watchmaker to be the perfect bite-size piece of cake, it felt complete and whole and I felt like I’d been on a journey after reading it which is why I read, to be whisked away on adventures and feel a better person at the other end. This is a beautiful tale of friendship and I cannot recommend it enough.

The Starlight Watchmaker will be available on July 15th, don’t let it’s smaller size fool you, it’s a fantastic little read and one that can definitely be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Characters I want to be friends with

It’s Six for Sunday time! Rounding out the last of the Bookish Wishes prompts for this month is “Characters I want to be friends with” which is very similar to a prompt we had last year which was characters you think would make great friends” (You can check out the post here, this was one of my better earlier posts I think) I’ve read a good few books since then so consider this in addition to last years list and maybe a bit more tailored to me instead of just characters I think would make good friends.

Olivia from The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
I love Olivia so much, she’s so bubbly and full of energy, she plans as over the top and as excessively as me so we’d always have great detailed plans too.

Pippa Fitz-Amobi from A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
She’s loyal, wicked smart and not afraid to ask difficult questions, I feel like she would challenge me to be better and maybe I could make her laugh? We’d absolutely get into trouble.

Charlie from Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Charlie is adorable and I know he already has some pretty great friends but I would love to be one of them, he’s a little dorky which I can totally relate with and I would absolutely fuss Nelly ALL of the time.

Finnian from Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
I knew I would pick someone from the Aurora Rising crew I was just trying to decide who, it was a toss-up between Scarlett and Finian but I think even though I’d probably be half in love with him (as well as Scarlett), I think me and Finn would make better friends.

Katherine from The Next Together by Lauren James
I feel like we’d get on pretty well as we’re both pretty sarcastic, I always loved reading her parts in The Next Together because her attitude and the way she interacts with Matthew really mirrors mine and Chris’ relationship, minus the time travel and reincarnation obviously.

Lazlo Strange from Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
As someone who can also find themselves easily lost in stories I think me and Lazlo would get on pretty well although we probably wouldn’t get much of anything useful done with our heads stuck in books or talking about them.

Okay so that did end up being quite a different list and was less about who would just make good friends in general but who would I think would make a good friend for me. It was fun! Would you pick any of these for yourself? Who would you like to be your fictional best friend? I think out of all these I’d love Olivia to be my best friend.

 

Monthly Wrap up, spoiler free

June Wrap Up

Okay so I haven’t done a wrap-up since my first one in March for some reason, June though, seems like a good month to finally give it another go perhaps? As I keep saying, things have been a little hectic lately and will hopefully start to calm down for a bit over the next few weeks but we’ll see. Despite the crazy though I have managed to get some books read, some more TV shows watched and even a film! I also decided to start including books I’ve brought or received in my wrap-ups too as I thought it would be interesting. So long June, enjoy your last days.

Currently reading

Wastelands: The New Apocolypse by various authors
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Books that I’ve read

Nexus by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings (Reviewed) XXXX
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Stuart Moore (Reviewed) XXXX
Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (Reviewed) XXXX
The Girl in Red by Christina Henry (Reviewed) XXXXX
The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie (Review to come soon!) XXXX

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Books that I brought or received

Zenith and Nexus by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings
The Chosen and The Novice by Taran Matharu
The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
Wastelands: New Apocolypse by various authors – Review Copy
X-Men: Days of Future Past by Alex Irvine – Review Copy
Heartstream by Tom Pollock – Review Copy
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Men in Black International: The Official Movie Novelization by R.S Belcher – Review Copy

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo
I was lucky enough to win my copy of the Into the Crooked Place arc at the Out of this Galaxy YA event (blog recap coming soon) and I’m SO excited to read it!

Films

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – XX
I did not enjoy this film. I had been so incredibly excited about it but it just didn’t meet any of my expectations. I know you should hold remakes or retellings at different standards to their original forms but damn there was just so much wrong with this film, not to mention the fact that they screw with and mess up their own timeline? On the bright side, it did make me go back and enjoy X-Men: The Last Stand a lot more because although that didn’t fit as well either it did, for me, do a better job. Full review to come of this soon possibly.

TV Shows

Good Omens XXXXX
Damn this show. I have so much stuff to watch but I’ve just been watching this over and over. Odds are if I’m not watching it I’m probably thinking about it. I’m sad to say I hadn’t read the book before, I did start reading it beforehand with the idea that I wouldn’t watch past the first episode until I’d finished the book but I just couldn’t help myself. I have so many feelings about this show and it’s bittersweet but perfect six episodes single season and most of them are just joy or joy adjacent to be quite frank. I think I actually swooned and clutched my chest in episode three. If you haven’t checked out this show I highly recommend it, it’s addictive, beautiful, funny, quirky and honestly inspiring.

Shadowhunters Season 4 Ep 9-14 XXXX
After finishing Queen of Air and Darkness (at last), I decided to revisit the Shadowhunters TV show as it’s finished now I can see how it ends! I’d heard some people compare parts of the ending to parts of the ending for QoAaD so wanted to wait until I’d finished it to check it out although I have had two bits spoilt for me already (my fault for not keeping up and/or muting the hashtags etc). I’m enjoying it, these past few episodes have been really good, I’m especially loving what they’ve done with Johnathan although it’s really making me miss Sebastian, especially as Johnathan mentions when he met him *crying face*

American Gods S1, Ep 1 XXX
Chris wanted more after Good Omens as he’s not a big rewatcher so I suggested trying American Gods as it was by Neil Gaiman and had a similar, if not certainly more adult, quirky feel and I think he enjoyed it? I did although it’s probably not a show I’m rushing to watch as it didn’t grab me hugely but that’s probably the aesthetic and my personal taste more than anything else. I’ve also been listening to the Audiobook and have become super attached to the voice actors in that, the Mr Wednesday though is pretty amazing and I’ll certainly get around to watching more at some point.

It’s been a pretty good month, Good Omens has kind of blown everything out of the water for me at the moment, to be honest. I have really enjoyed the books I’ve read and I’m loving the different stories in Wastelands: The New apocalypse, I never realised just how broad the dystopian genre could be.  I’m hoping to keep the wrap-ups a bit more regular now with any luck as I’m really enjoying putting them together!

What book, show or film has really stood out for you this month?

 

#SixforSunday

S4S – Couples who need a sequel

Another week has gone by, another Sunday has arrived and it’s been somehow both a long week and a short one. It’s flown by but it’s been a hard one and I’m glad to see the back of it! I’m hoping things will calm down with any luck although amongst other things I’m off to Lego Land with my little family next week so we shall see. For now, at least it’s Six for Sunday time and this week the prompt is “Couples that deserve a sequel” which considering the past couple of weeks have been similar it was starting to get very difficult to pick some new and fresh ones but here we are and  I hope you enjoy them!

BRIEFING NOTE: Couple related spoilers are present throughout for Heartstopper, To Kill a Kingdom, The Mortal Instruments etc, Gemina/The Illuminae Files, Strange the Dreamer and Ouran High School Host club.

Nick and Charlie from Heartstopper by Alice Oseman.

I know they are getting a sequel and Alice updates Tapas with chapters regularly but these two will always need more because I love them so much.

Lira and Prince Elain from To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I would love for there to be a sequel with the gang all getting back together, crew and all!

Jace and Clary from City of Bones etc by Cassandra Clare

Okay so I know that they technically already have like, six books BUT I would love even just a short story about them running the institute or something. I hate to say it but I kind of miss them.

Nik and Hana from Gemina by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

I would love a story (short form or otherwise) of the two of them off on holiday or something after everything that happens. Hana just wants things to be normal so they try to go on a simple trip for a weekend, something like an exotic beach on another planet etc but then maybe there’s a hostage situation or something and things get all Die Hard? Oh my gosh. Die Hard meets Gemina yes, please.

Thyon Nero and Lazlo from Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

So I know these two aren’t really a couple but I loved the chemistry between the two of them right at the beginning of Strange the Dreamer and I think I would love a soft little story with these two just being kind, it doesn’t have to be romantic, although I think Thyron has always had a bit of a thing for Lazlo, to be honest.

Tamaki Suoh and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

So this couple is actually from a manga series I read years and years ago that ran for eighteen volumes (80-ish chapters) it was a sweet, silly series about a girl who pretends to be a boy in a male host club at a school for insanely rich kids so that she can pay back a huge debt she incurs when she breaks an incredibly expensive vase. Both Tamaki and Haruhi have trouble understanding and later confronting their feelings for each other but everything turns out okay in the end as Tamaki moves to the USA with Haruhi and unbeknownst to them until the last moment, the rest of the Host Club are their neighbours! I loved the series and it did have a really great end but I would still very much like to see another volume or maybe even a small mini-series about what the gang get up in the USA.

Let me know what your choices would be in the comments or send me a link to your Six for Sunday post for this week!

 

book reviews

The Girl in Red

43550676.jpgThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Rating: XXXXX

Published June 18th by Titan Books

“She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn’t look anything like the one she’d grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.”

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…

You know that author you keep putting off reading? Not in an unkind way, but in an “I WILL get around to reading one of their books” muttered every time you see them because you just know they’re going to be great and you then something comes up and you for whatever reason the thought slips your mind again and again and again. This is Christina Henry for me so when the lovely Julia from Titan Books asked if I wanted to review The Girl in Red by Henry and take part in the Instagram book tour in I jumped at the chance! I love retellings at the best of times but this sounded like a really interesting inspiring take on the Red Riding Hood Story.

I found The Girl in Red to be slightly terrifying, absolutely creepy as heck and wholly addictive. It reminds me a lot of the human element to the earlier episodes of the Walking Dead when you begin to realise it’s not the zombies, or in this case, the cough that are the things you have to watch your back for it’s the survivors, most of who have become desperate or cruel (if they weren’t already) since the crisis. It’s not a unique tale by any means and is a little repetitive and predictable in some places but forgivably so because the real star of this book for me (other than main character Red herself) was the amazing way Henry builds tension. I found I was holding my breath, clenching my teeth and I had trouble reading it in my house alone, at one point my phone rang (a rare occurrence) while I was reading and it was during such a tense moment in the book that I screamed so loudly I woke up my four year old. On the slightly negative side, I did personally find the ending very rushed and a little unsatisfying but the book, even on reflection was no less enjoyable for it.

Red has possibly become one of my favourite fictional characters. She is a fantastic mix of badassery and compassion, she will kill and make tough choices to survive but she doesn’t let herself become dehumanised for it which I found a really refreshing balance, when she has to fatally defend herself she doesn’t relish it, when she has to take supplies she takes what she needs and likes to make sure that there is enough left if someone else needs them etc. Red often overthinks things, often to a fault and often thinks herself round in circles to inaction which is a habit I am also extraordinarily guilty of, so seeing it portrayed in this fantastic character who acknowledged that her obsessive and sometimes paranoid thinking could be debilitating like that felt incredibly eye-opening and has really helped to keep my own obsessive thinking in check by being able to identify it.

Main character Red is also an amputee and obviously, I can’t speak to the accuracy of her experience or identify with it but I found it really enlightening and I hope it helped people who find themselves with prosthetics feel seen and represented as well as hopefully helping to educate others. There is a line that is said in relation to someone question how much Red is capable of due to her amputation and Red replies with “Stop treating me like half a person…I am missing my leg below the knee. My brain is still functioning. I know what I can do and what I can’t.” and this feels SO important and relatable for anyone who is judged, babied and looked down on because they’re differently abled.

The Girl in Red is out in stores and online today!