Science fiction

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Blog Tour – Black Knight (The Inventory #3) – Andy Briggs

Published April 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dev and his friends are back with more mind-bending tech in this third installment of the Inventory series.
The World Consortium is recruiting more agents to defend the most advanced technology the world isn’t ready for, and it’s up to Dev, Lottie and Mase to train them up for action. But will they be ready before Shadow Helix’s next strike? And has Dev uncovered all the secrets of his past, or is there more to know about his special abilities?

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on the blog tour for the latest book in the fantastic Inventory series by Andy Briggs. The series began with Iron Fist which you can see my review of HERE and continued with Gravity which I also hosted a guest post for HERE. Today, Andy has been kind enough to tell me his favourite children’s books whilst he was growing up. This is what he has chosen:

ANDY BRIGGS – FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S FICTION

There are many books that inspired me while growing up, but I have selected a few:

STIG OF THE DUMP – by Clive King

I must admit this was a title I hadn’t read for a long time, but even now, at the grand old age of *# I still remember my first impressions on reading this spellbinding book. All you need to know is that it’s about a boy called Barney who discovers a caveman called Stig living in a dump in an old chalk quarry (presumably before his future race driving career). The rest is pure magic.

THE LOST WORLD – by Arthur Conan Doyle

Yes, the same Arthur Conan Doyle who created Sherlock Holmes, it’s not that common a name. This has always been my favourite Doyle book and, although not strictly an MG book, I read it when I was 11 or 12 and it captured my imagination so much that, when I became an alleged adult, I eventually travelled to the very flat-topped mountains in Venezuela that inspired Doyle. Eccentric Professor Challenger leads a party of explorers into the depths of South America to discover that dinosaurs still exist. It’s an exciting adventure story and one that instilled a sense in me that the world is still a wondrous place with many amazing things left to discover…

CAPTAIN COBWEBB – by Gordon Boshell

When David and Tony’s uncle Septimus Cobwebb sits in a fairy ring and vanishes into another realm, the fun begins. This is a magical series of books in which our heroes are sent on missions to various fantastic places, encountering amazing creatures and people…

Sadly, these books are no longer in print, which is a crime in my view. You just can’t have much more fun than Captain Cobwebb and the Red Transistor, which got me through a particularly terrible bout of chicken pox. Find them, read them!

WARLOCK OF FIRETOP MOUNTAIN – by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

I distinctly remember buying this book (from a sadly long extinct indecent bookstore in Prescot, Merseyside called Reading & Writing). I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This was the first book that launched the Fighting Fantasy series and showed me that a book can be so much more than passive story.

For those who don’t know, this was one of the first books in which you made decisions by turning to different pages, thus affecting the outcome of your story. You were able to fight monsters using a clever system that decided you fate on the roll of a dice. It was, and still is, the perfect form of escapism… and all without a computer.

Finally, I have to put in an honourable mention for the ASTERIX books by Goscinny and Uderzo. They are fabulous graphic novels – beautiful art, wonderful characters, exciting stories with a grounding in history.

The world is split between Tintin and Asterix. But only one has a magic potion which makes them invincible…

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.

Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.

He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has 16 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world.

He has written 20 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world. In 2016 his latest feature, Crowhurst, will be released.

Website: http://www.andybriggs.co.uk

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/aBriggswriter

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour and to Andy for providing me with his favourite children’s fiction (and possibly some ideas for my Kid Lit challenge!) Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? Black Knight (The Inventory #3) was released by Scholastic Press on 6th April 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now.

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34704550-black-knight?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inventory-3-Black-Knight-ebook/dp/B06XGKFMPK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493055078&sr=8-1&keywords=black+knight+the+inventory

 

Sever (The Chemical Garden #3) – Lauren DeStefano

Published April 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.

What did I think?:

I was recommended the Chemical Gardens trilogy by my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and I believe it’s one of her favourite YA dystopian series. After finishing the final book in the trilogy, Sever, I can definitely see why. If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you know how I dread reviewing second and third books in a series as I’m very wary of giving away spoilers but I’ll do my best to be as vague as possible. I love the world Lauren DeStefano has created in these novels and her characterisation was really on point with fantastic fictional people that you could really see growing and developing over the course of the series.

The Chemical Gardens trilogy is based in a future, dystopian society where a virus with no known cure wipes out the population – women at twenty years old and men and twenty-five. As a result, many girls are forced into marriage at a very young age and encouraged to reproduce as quickly as possible to ensure a future generation while scientists (and the obvious rogue elements that pop up) desperately work to try and find a cure. In Sever, our main character Rhine has escaped the clutches of her villainous father in law Vaughn and is living with Vaughn’s brother, the noble Reed while she tries to hunt for her brother, Rowan and the man she originally escaped with, Gabriel who she developed strong and conflicting feelings for. In this final novel, Rhine finds out a lot more about herself, her family history and about her adversary, Vaughn than she ever could have imagined. However, it is crucial that she treads carefully while seeking her wayward, rebellious brother as Vaughn is determined to imprison her once more for what he believes is the greater good.

The first book in this trilogy, Wither was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The second, Fever was a great addition to the series but I found myself slightly less captivated by it although it was still a good, solid read that I would highly recommend. I approached Sever with slight trepidation wondering if I would get answers to the many questions I had and curious as to how the author was going to wrap it all up. I needn’t have worried as once again the brilliance of Lauren DeStefano’s writing and fascinating plot shone through. I love that this book isn’t all about the romance – a young adult book heavy on romance gives me a bit of the ick factor so it was refreshing that Rhine could stand on her own as a strong young woman who didn’t really need a love interest to tell a compelling story. There isn’t as much action in this series as your average dystopian adventure story but to be perfectly honest, it really didn’t need it. The characters and world they live in are exciting enough without having battles and bloody violence thrown into the mix. If you’re a fan of dystopia and love reading about characters that go on real, emotional journeys this is definitely the series for you. I  actually cannot wait to read more from this wonderful and gifted YA author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Published March 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) all about?:

The final story in this collection is set in the future on Planet Lucina and is told from the point of view of one of the beings living there exploring their relationship with love, death and Earthlings.

What did I think?:

The stories in I Am An Executioner have been an absolute delight to read and On The Banks Of Table River was another example of an outstanding piece of fiction that I was thoroughly immersed in and didn’t want to end. His stories might not be for everyone, they’re a bit quirky, downright strange in points and of course, as with every short story collection, some are better than others. If like me however, you like your fiction a bit different and exciting, Rajesh Parameswaran is the way to go. Particularly as this is his debut collection which is so unbelievably strong that I am assured he will be doing amazing things in the future.

I Am An Executioner: Love Stories (to give it the full title) focuses on love and often death in each narrative (hence the executioner part!). Some of the stories in this collection are narrated by animals, others by quite unreliable narrators and even one from a painting but they’re all unique and special in their own way. On The Banks Of Table River is another blinder. It is set in the future on an alien world, Planet Lucina which humans are welcomed to visit, live or mate with the local species, depending on your tastes! Our story is narrated by one of the local species, an insect-like creature with a proboscis, feelers and six legs but increased in size compared to your regular bug.

Our narrator, Thoren has a daughter called Nippima and she is causing him no end of grief, in the typical teenage fashion. She is moody, distant, keeps disappearing without telling him and worse of all has starting exhibiting quite human behaviours like wearing the latest Earth fashions (miniskirts made for six legs) and offering tours of the planet to any humans eager and willing. She becomes quite attached to one particular male human and is devastated when he sees what her father does for a living as like some fascinating science experiment. Her father prepares corpses of the native species that have died and arranges funerals for them, much like a mortician in our world. Things start to go a bit wrong after the meeting between Nippima and the human and her father reminiscences about the time when Nippima was conceived bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “love you to death!”

This strange little bit of science fiction was the perfect way to end an absolutely amazing collection of stories that has to be one of my favourites so far in my Short Stories Challenge. I loved the way the author transported us to a different planet where WE were the alien species and we learned about love and death in a whole new fashion. The story is told so beautifully and with so much passion, you could be forgiven for thinking that the author had been acquainted with one of these insect-like beings beforehand! I also loved the relationship between Thoren and his daughter Nippima which was startlingly similar to parent/child relationships here on Earth. It came so, so close to getting the full five stars from me – ever so close! I just think the ending could have done with slightly more clarification…. I think I know what happened but it turned a bit vague and had so much potential to end with a bang.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

4-5-stars

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Published March 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Erase Me all about?:

In the latest edge-of-your-seat episode of “Positron,” the Byliner Serial by renowned author Margaret Atwood, the dystopian dark comedy takes its darkest turn yet, pitting husband against wife and the human impulse to love against the animal instinct to survive.

Stan and Charmaine should have known better when they signed up for Consilience, a social experiment in which it’s the lawful who are locked up, while, beyond the gates, criminals wander the wasted streets of America.

The couple understand that to break the rules in so strictly regimented a place is dangerous; but, driven by boredom and lust, they do it anyway and betray each other and the system. As comeuppance, Stan finds himself the sexual plaything of a subversive member of the Consilience security team and in no time is made a pawn in a shadowy scheme to bring Consilience crashing down.

Meanwhile, his wife, Charmaine, is being held indefinitely at Positron Prison for her own sins. How far she’ll go to regain her good name and position is anyone’s guess, especially Stan’s. When he winds up paralyzed and tied to a gurney in the prison wing where Charmaine works, injecting toxic cocktails of drugs into troublesome Consilience citizens, will she save his neck or her own? Will she “erase” him permanently?

In “Erase Me,” it’s every man–and woman–for him or herself. Erotically charged, morally complex, wickedly funny, and hailed as “shockingly believable” by “The Globe and Mail,” Atwood’s “Positron” stories remind us that when a totalitarian state gets its grip on the human heart, marriage can be murder.

What did I think?:

If you’re familiar with my blog and my reading tastes, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. She’s one of the authors where I am desperate to read all of her back catalogue and certainly intend to do so in the not so distant future. She has a talent for writing kooky, dystopian worlds that feel startlingly familiar combined with controversy and her trademark black humour. I was lucky enough to see Margaret speak when she came to the U.K. to promote her book, Hag-Seed, a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest and long-listed for this years Baileys Prize For Women’s Fiction. I’m delighted to tell you that she was just as witty and intelligent as I had hoped for and it was fascinating to hear her speak.

But, I digress! Back to Erase Me. This is the third in Margaret Atwood’s Positron series which were released serially but have now been re-vamped in a novel by the author called The Heart Goes Last. I downloaded them as e-books when they were released one by one so I’m happy to continue reading them this way and then, of course, they count towards my Short Stories Challenge! If you haven’t come across this series before, you may want to check it out – the first is I’m Starved For You and the second, Choke Collar but I’ll try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible.

It follows Stan and Charmaine, husband and wife who sign up for a revolutionary new programme that involves two communities – a town Consilience and a prison Positron. By entering the programme they agree to spend some of their time in prison (with a paid job and relative comfort) and alternately in a home in the community, again with a paid job and guaranteed happiness. However, this programme is not all it seems. In Erase Me, we see husband and wife pitted against each other and their marriage and loyalty to Positron tested in the worst possible way. Neither Stan or Charmaine are able to contact each other and are completely unaware what the other is doing, thinks, etc so have to rely on a rogue element/double agent who are fighting to overturn the system and bring back democracy. Of course, they want the couple to be a part of it. But can Stan and Charmaine be brave enough to risk everything and return to a life that they were unhappy about in the first place? Especially as when they signed up for this experiment they were told unequivocally that there was no going back.

Okay, I have to admit when I first started this series of novellas I really didn’t know what to think! It was brash, funny, erotic in places (oo-er!) and I hadn’t the foggiest what was going on. By the end of Choke Collar however, I was fully invested in the story. The eroticism has been toned down, I must say if that’s not really your bag and I’m kind of relieved as the story seems to focus more on the characters and the system that they are involved in, which of course is what interested me and made me pick up the series in the first place! We don’t really see too much of Stan and Charmaine as a couple for one reason or another but I actually enjoy this more as we get to see their lives, thoughts and aspirations as separate individuals. Once again, Margaret Atwood comes up with a cracker of an ending and I am definitely intrigued now to see what is going to happen in the last part of the series – The Heart Goes Last (don’t be confused, it is the same title as the novel that has come out under her name!).

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Checkmate (Noughts & Crosses #3) – Malorie Blackman

Published January 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

What did I think?:

Checkmate is the third book in the fabulous Noughts & Crosses series by a woman I’ve come to think of as a YA genius – Malorie Blackman. I am going to try and write this review as spoiler free as I can for anybody who hasn’t started the series yet but it gets harder with each successive book in the series. I heartily recommend anyone who is interested in dystopian fiction, prejudice and racial tension to read these books and discover the magic of them for yourself.

Our main character from the first book, Sephy is back and she has had a daughter, Callie Rose whom she is raising by herself with the help of her mother and Callie’s father’s mother. Callie is growing up in tough times where black people (known as Crosses) are the “superior” race and whites (known as Noughts) are treated with scorn and derision. Callie’s problem is that she has a Cross mother and a Nought father, so in effect is mixed race and suffers terrible prejudice from both sides of the divide. Checkmate is Callie’s coming of age story as she grows up in a hostile world, tries to connect with her often emotionally distant mother and finds out things about her family that may have been better left hidden and may have dangerous consequences.

To be perfectly honest, this book did not have as much of an effect on me as the previous two books in the series, Noughts & Crosses and Knife Edge, Apart from the ending that is, which is quite literally explosive and incredibly tense, paving the way for a potentially devastating final book in the series. I loved Callie Rose as a character and could see a lot of her mother in her young self but found myself becoming quite frustrated with Sephy at times as her wariness around her daughter was truly heart-breaking to read. I loved the way that this novel was told from the perspective of multiple characters once again, this is one of my favourite ways to read as I feel it gives you a much deeper insight into the mind of certain characters, especially ones where you can’t quite accept their motives. Say no more….apart from please start this series if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood

Published December 17, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood’s position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to New Books Magazine and the Real Readers program for sending me a copy of The Natural Way Of Things which was not only a stunning piece of cover art as you can see from the image of the book but was also a thought provoking and, at times, terrifying read. The horror in this novel isn’t from anything supernatural or paranormal however, the monsters in this case are humans that commit the most atrocious crimes and appear to be completely lacking in moral fibre or decency. These are the scariest creatures to encounter, because it reminds you that these type of people do actually exist.

The Natural Way Of Things was inspired somewhat by The Hay Institution For Girls, a real life prison in Australia in the 1960’s that locked up young girls that wouldn’t comply with the strict regime in the Parramatta Girls Home. The routine that the girls had to go through was completely inhumane. They were forced to keep their eyes on the ground at all times, they were kept in cells better fitting an animal and made to undergo hard labour on a daily basis. This is pretty much the situation that two of our main characters, Yolanda and Verla find themselves in when they wake up drugged and isolated with just the Australian outback and a high electrified fence for company.

The two girls find they are part of a larger group of young women whom have all been taken away from the lives they once knew because of some sort of sexual scandal. Each girl is punished immediately by having their heads shaved and their diet severely restricted whilst undergoing back-breaking work in the vicinity of their prison. Their jailers are Teddy, Boncer and Nancy (who masquerades as a nurse, but believe me, doesn’t have a caring bone in her body!) and the girls are constantly mocked, threatened and even beaten if they step out of line. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot but I will say that things are not always as they seem. The jailers themselves end up in a tricky situation that they hadn’t anticipated, one girl becomes a plaything for brutal Boncer in order to receive greater favours and other girls start to go slowly and irrevocably mad.

There is so much darkness and despair in this novel, I fear it might not be for everyone. Some parts you’ll need quite a strong stomach, other parts might make you shake your head in disbelief at the humanity (or lack of) it all. What I can guarantee is that you won’t be able to stop thinking about this book. Parts of it might re-play in your heads for nights to come and the shocking ending might have you wondering, like me, what on earth would happen next if the author chose to continue the story? I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Wood before and this is in fact her fifth novel. What I am certain of is that I’ll be checking out her back catalogue now because if her previous novels are half as disturbing as this one, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #4 – Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category

Published November 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post on my blog, where I try and catch up on my immense backlog of reviews by posting a quick review on a post it note. Today’s post is going to focus on a few books that I’ve placed in a random category, as I couldn’t really pigeon-hole them all into one genre. Hope you enjoy!

1.) – In The Kingdom Of Men by Kim Barnes

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What’s it all about?:

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin’s life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin’s world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.
Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans—a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman’s quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) – Among Others by Jo Walton

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What’s it all about?:

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) – Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu

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What’s it all about?:

We think we know China. The world’s most venerable and self-confident civilisation, home to the largest unified race of people on the planet, China manufactures the objects that fill our lives. We see a country peopled by docile and determined factory workers, domineering ‘Tiger Mothers’ obsessed with education and achievement, and a society that has put the accumulation of wealth above political freedom. Above all, we see a superpower on the rise, destined to overtake the West and to dominate the 21st century. But how accurate is this picture? What if, as Ben Chu argues, we are all engaged in a grand game of Chinese Whispers, in which the facts have become more and more distorted in the telling? We have been getting China and the Chinese wrong for centuries. From the Enlightenment philosophes, enraptured by what they imagined to be a kingdom of reason, to the Victorians who derided the ‘flowery empire’, outsiders have long projected their own dreams and nightmares onto this vast country. With China’s economic resurgence today, many have fallen once more under the spell of this glittering new global hegemon, while others foretell terrible danger in China’s return to the centre of the world stage. CHINESE WHISPERS tugs aside this age-old curtain of distortion in a powerful counterblast to modern assumptions about China. By examining the central myths, or ‘whispers’, that have come to dominate our view of China, Ben Chu forces us to question everything we thought we knew about world’s most populous nation. The result is a surprising, penetrating insight into modern China.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) – Tampa by Alissa Nutting

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What’s it all about?:

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON ON MY MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS – Four YA novels.