Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?
A Year in the Life of a Determined Reader.
‘Where’d You Go, Absent Blogger?’ I hear you ask (or maybe not, but roll with me for a moment.)
‘Does thou not read anymore? To post no book reviews?’
Why no, loyal reader. If anything, I read too much and have too many books and too little time.
It is the year 2018, the year in which I must read the books I have chosen for this 365 days, or wallow in shame for all eternity.
Disclaimer: I blame a fellow bookseller.
A reading journal seemed like a fun idea when the idea first swept by me. I have no artistic talent, so it wasn’t going to be one of those gorgeous, arty, stylish journals no matter how hard I tried (although I was determined to put at least one drawing in there, for the sake of pride.)
A couple of years ago Andy Miller gave a talk on my creative writing course about his book ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’. A left the talk full of plans – I was going to read ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Middlemarch’ would not defeat me after the first paragraph.
Alas, life got in the way, ‘The Odyssey’ was put on a back bench until after my studies, ‘Middlemarch’ was put in the loft, and bookselling and blogging introduced so many other books to me, ones that I had to review promptly, that I forgot about that promise I’d made to myself.
That is until this year, when on the 1st January 2018, my Kindle broke.
Now I am a very firm lover of the book in its original form, but for my work as a book blogger, my Kindle was an important part. My reviews came from reading egalleys from Netgalley and publishers, and I never got into reading on the Kindle App on an iPad or phone, so Kindle was the way I did it.
What to do, I asked myself. Debating on whether to buy a new Kindle (after only two years of the last one!), I stared at one of my many bookshelves.
I have a lot of books. Alright, I know people always say that. People come into the bookshop I work in and claim the same. I soon get out of them, that their idea of ‘lot of books’ is actually a pile next to their bed. My ‘lot of books’ I have accumulated in my 25 years of life, and 3 1/2 years as a bookseller consist of 10 full size bookcases double-stacked, dozens of full cardboard and heavy duty plastic boxes in two lofts, the same in a garage, in boxes under my bed, under the spare bed, in my wardrobe, in my locker at work…you get the idea. If me and my bookseller boyfriend put all our books together we’d have a nice little library.
And still I buy more.
So I decided in that moment, 2018 would not be the year of the kindle, but a year of getting through some of the books I have bought and that have sat patiently on my shelf (or in boxes) for longer than they ought to have.
I started with 18 books that I have to read this year – with some others in between, as my Goodreads reading challenge is to read 60 books.
Below is my ‘To-Read 2018’ and my ‘2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge’ when I first started. Follow the link here to see how I’ve been progressing in my journey.
And as we say at work: Books, Books, Books!
And Happy Reading!
Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy,
Release Date: 20th October 2016.
Where is home when you were born in the stars?
Aza Ray is back on earth. Her boyfriend Jason is overjoyed. Her family is healed. She’s living a normal life, or as normal as it can be if you’ve spent the past year dying, waking up on a sky ship, and discovering that your song can change the world.
As in, not normal. Part of Aza still yearns for the clouds, no matter how much she loves the people on the ground.
When Jason’s paranoia over Aza’s safety causes him to make a terrible mistake, Aza finds herself a fugitive in Magonia, tasked with opposing her radical, bloodthirsty, recently-escaped mother, Zal Quel, and her singing partner Dai. She must travel to the edge of the world in search of a legendary weapon, The Flock, in a journey through fire and identity that will transform her forever.
In this stunning sequel to the critically acclaimed Magonia, one girl must make an impossible choice between two families, two homes—and two versions of herself.
Book Review ~ ‘Aerie’ by Maria Dahvana Headley ~ 5 Stars!
How far can you go to keep someone safe, before it can tear you apart? Aerie follows up to te wonderful Magonia with this question in mind as Aza Ray returns to Earth in a new body, and struggles to find where her heart and body belongs. Her boyfriend Jason will do anything to keep her with him on Earth, but what will it cost him?
An emotional, powerful and action-packed sequel to Magonia, Aerie packs all the punches, and as before, I had tears in my eyes on many occasions. Aza Ray’s devotion to her family, yet her yearning for the clouds sends a message to teens everywhere who feel torn between which way they want to go in life. I adored Aza Ray’s return to the sky and Magonia and how new alliances were formed, as the line between good and evil blurs.
The story is again told from the dual perspectives of Aza Ray and Jason, and Maria Dahvana Headley superbly puts their original and unique voices to page. Jason’s autistic and compulsive tendencies are brilliant to read and you really get into his mind. It was great to also see that Aza Ray’s internal voice hadn’t changed despite everything she had been through. Still quirky, still fun, still confused, her voice was what drew me into the story in Magonia and I loved returning to her mind again.
New characters and songs are introduced and Aerie will take you on another adventure into the skies that you’ll never forget.
*Review copy kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Maria Dahvana Headley
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Contemporary.
Release Date: January 26th 2016.
Publisher: Titan Books.
From the editor-in-chief of io9.com, a stunning novel about the end of the world–and the beginning of our future
Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.
But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.
A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.
Book Review ~ ‘All the Birds in the Sky’ by Charlie Jane Anders ~ 5 Stars!
I came out of reading ‘All of the Birds in the Sky’ with a huge smile on my face.With equal parts charm, wit, magic, science, pain and loss, I experienced every emotion when following Patricia and Laurence as they navigate through life both together and apart.
Blending elements of fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism, dystopia, and experimental literature, All the Birds in the Sky managed to beautifully bring together storylines and concepts that shouldn’t mesh, in a exciting and dynamic way. Patricia with her life as a witch, and Laurence with his life as a scientific genius, they teach each other about parts of life that they tend to forget.
I loved the pacing of this book, particulary in how we see Patricia and Laurence as children first, and how this story isn’t swept aside as a forward or introduction to their adult lives, but as the beginning of their story, which shaped how they would be in the future. I loved getting to see the struggles they faced as children in an environment that couldn’t accept them.
There are some brilliant supporting characters that you will laugh along with, hate at sight, and wish to fight alongside during this book. You will love Theodolphus Rose (whether or not you’re meant to, I’m still not too sure), and you will smile throughout.
*Review copy was kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
~ Waterstones ~
Nod by Adrian Barnes
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopia
Release Date: 1st September 2015
Publisher: Titan Books
Dawn breaks over Vancouver and no one in the world has slept the night before, or almost no one. A few people, perhaps one in ten thousand, can still sleep, and they’ve all shared the same golden dream.
After six days of absolute sleep deprivation, psychosis will set in. After four weeks, the body will die. In the interim, panic ensues and a bizarre new world arises in which those previously on the fringes of society take the lead.
Paul, a writer, continues to sleep while his partner Tanya disintegrates before his eyes, and the new world swallows the old one whole.
Book Review ~ ‘Nod’ by Adrian Barnes ~ 5 Stars!
This book was sheer brilliance!
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you suddenly you were unable to sleep?
Day One, you’d be grouchy but fine; after all, students do all-nighters all the time.
Day Two? You’d be looking forward to a long sleep.
What about Day Seven?
Haunting, psychological, nerve-wracking, ‘Nod’ was a perfectly crafted post-apocalyptic style novel, which had me still thinking about it long after I’d turned the last page.
I’m not much into zombie fiction, because I don’t believe it’s realistic, so when I read the blurb for ‘Nod’ I was instantly excited. Insomnia causing a breakdown of society? Yes, please! It was a believable scenario, which gave the story so much more impact. We see people who love each other turn against each other as the lack of sleep kicks in, and we see morality take a backseat as everybody desperately tries to stay alive.
Adrian Barnes brilliantly questions what happens to human nature when the fundamental ability to sleep is taken away from you.
It is a rollercoaster of a ride, and I guarantee you won’t be able to put the book down until you see how it finishes.
~ Waterstones ~
A story of finding where you belong, even if it involves time travel, shape shifting, and hacking.
Helen Silverwood, fourteen, is sick of life on the run with her mom and her younger brother. Nothing makes sense. She doesn’t understand why she has recurring dreams of shape-shifting creatures, why her mother is always disappearing, and how her brother can draw things that haven’t happened yet. Most of all, Helen longs to know what happened to her dad—is he imprisoned, a fugitive, or gone forever?
When someone blows up the apartment where Helen lives, the stories of the ancient Silverwood clan—and her role in it—begin to unravel. All Helen wants is to feel like there’s someplace she belongs—but getting there will prove very, very complicated.
A young couple stumbles out the back door of a nightclub into a narrow alleyway that would look a whole lot worse in the daytime. Distant streetlights reveal a hint of the garbage strewn around, and the shadows mask the dilapidated state of the surrounding buildings. The door itself sits in the mouth of a giant, cartoonlike face spray painted on the wall.
Deafening music and red-orange light shoots out the door while it is open, bouncing off the alley walls, and muffles again as the door closes to just a crack. There is no knob on the outside of the door; someone has wedged in a piece of wood to hold it open.
The couple start out laughing and joking, leaning on each other – their shape is all skinny jeans and mohawks mixed with the glint of jewelry – but shortly their voices turn more argumentative. Maybe someone committed an offense, perhaps there’s a breakup in progress. Soon the young woman breaks away from her date, pries open the door, and storms back into the club. Loud music and lights again, muffled and dark again. The young man leans his back against the wall, his arms crossed in anger. He needs a minute to collect himself.
A lone figure comes down the alley. Unusually tall, dressed in a dark coat, crushing garbage under its motorcycle boots. Lit from behind by the street lights, it resembles a shadow that has come loose from the wall. The young man is too distracted with replaying the conversation of a few minutes ago in his head, trying to figure out what he said wrong, to notice that the figure has come within a few feet of him.
“You know you really ought not to be out here at this late hour,” the figure says.
The young man jumps, then regains himself. “Yeah, whatever.” Who is this guy telling him what to do. The only people who go out back by themselves are the ones who want to be, by themselves.
Before the young man can add anything – like a string of expletives – a needle-like protrusion shoots out from the figure’s forearm and directly into the young man’s abdomen.
The young man freezes, stares straight ahead, then looks his assailant in the face. It’s a pale face, the face of a Tromindox that has not fed in some time. The victim tries to push off from the wall, but the venom deadens his arms and legs. He slides downward into a sitting position. His skin turns black, his spiky hair becomes a mass of tentacles. Soon there is nothing left of him but a terrified pair of eyes in a puddle of writhing black.
The Tromindox reels in its prey, like a glob of oil pulling in a wayward drop. Satisfied that it has the upper hand, the creature takes on a more humanlike form, turns and shuffles away. It is already buzzing with energy from all of these new thoughts.
The door scrapes open again, the bright light temporarily blocked by a fat man in an undershirt heaving a huge bag of garbage into the trash bin. He takes a quick look up and down the alley, wipes his hands on his pants, and goes back in.
Later, the young woman will come back out and see that her date has left. She will take this as a sign that they have broken up, and will not call him for a week. It won’t be until he has missed several days at work that someone will unlock his untouched apartment, see that no one has been there, and file a missing persons report.
~ YouTube ~
Journeys Into Darkness ed. by Trevor Denyer
Genres: Anthology, Short Stories, Horror, Dark Fantasy, Sci-fi, Slip-Stream.
Remember the magazine? Remember the quality. Now the first Midnight Street Anthology is here. Journeys Into Darkness is a collection of stories from some of the best in the business. There are favourites from the magazine, fantastic reprints AND new stories.
Dedicated to the Late, Great JOEL LANE, the book features one of his outstanding and provocative stories, never before published in the UK, and appearing only once in the USA.
Also included is Trevor Denyer’s exclusive and revealing Midnight Street interview with Joel. Also: Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Stephen Gallagher, Simon Clark, Nina Allan, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Paul Finch, Allen Ashley, Gary Couzens, Ralph Robert Moore, Maynard Sims, Elliot Smith.
Edited by Trevor Denyer. Cover illustration by Nicole Day
Book Review ~ ‘Journeys Into Darkness’ Edited by Trevor Denyer ~ 5 Stars!
If you are looking for an unnerving, spooky and chill inducing set of stories just in time for Halloween, then The ‘Journeys Into Darkness’ anthology is a definite must for you. Dedicated to the late Joel Lane, this anthology is the first to be released from the Midnight Street Imprint, and contains an incredible collection of horror, dark fantasy, sci-fi and slip-stream stories by a group of very talented authors.
Every story in this book adds another thrilling dimension to the collection. No two stories are the same, yet every one manages to bring out the tingles on your skin as you chance a quick look behind you, and a moment of decision of whether or not to turn your light out when you go to sleep. I feel these are the signs of a really well-written dark story, and this collection is full of them.
Ramsey Campbell’s ‘Again’ started the collection off to a thrilling start, with the sights he witnesses inside a mysterious bungalow will leave even those with nerves of steel feeling unnerved, whilst ‘Traffic’ by Elliott Smith plays with a dark sci-fi element that seems eerily realistic of a car filled future. Gary Couzens adds an element of dark humour to his story ‘After the Party’, with some brilliantly portrayed characters and a dark tale of a suspicious death. ‘Dead Man’s Handle’ by Stephen Gallagher was another brilliantly told piece, which brings the added horror of the deadly antics of humans, as opposed to fantastical creatures.
I thoroughly enjoyed Peter Straub’s Experimental piece ‘Lapland, or Film Noir’ and was intrigued at how well this worked within the collection. ‘The Return of the Pikart Posse’ by Rosanne Rabinowitz was a beautiful addition to the collection and I adored the beautiful prose that was woven within Evelyn’s story. Simon Clark’s ‘Amen’ made me shiver and showed an incredible talent of creating a story and well-developed character in such a short word count. The emotion behind ‘I Hear His Footsteps Drawing Near’ by Maynard Sims was just breathtaking and I really felt for the characters left behind after their father and husband’s death.
As with any anthology there are a few stories that really stood out to me as a reader, possibly due to the way that the story drew me in. In particular Nina Allan’s two part story ‘En Saga’ was so profound with the switch in generation and the ghostly similarities between the mother and daughter’s misfortunes. ‘Creeping Blue’ by Allan Ashley added a eerie psychological tone to his story and I loved the way that we were given an insight into the character’s mind and the reasons behind his fear of infection. I loved the character development in ‘No Such Thing As Sin’ by Paul Finch, and I really connected with both Dominic and Simone, and really felt Simone’s pain and fear as well as Dominic’s worry for her sanity. And finally ‘Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘When They Come For You, They’ll Look Normal’ was an incredible, heart-pounding read. The way that he paced this story, making the threat become more and more fearful throughout was brilliantly done, and I loved the ways that the threat began to turn the family members against each other.
This was an action-packed, thrilling anthology which I recommend to those who love anthologies, and are looking for a collection with a little something different.
*Review Copy kindly provided by the editor in exchange for an honest review*