20 January 2017

Book Beginnings #29

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I am currently reading Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff.
My name is Maresi Enresdaughter and I write this in the nineteenth year of the reign of our thirty-second Mother. 
First, can we talk about the cover? I keep staring at it. I love how it's an island in the sea and a face with flowing hair all at ones. I love the colours and the swirls and the spot-laminate. I love the font. It's just an all-round triumph of a cover and instantly made me want to pick this up.

The first lines hint at the fantasy setting, the different world. They don't give much away. It reminds me a little of the first lines of I Capture the Castle (my favourite book ever) and that brought a smile to my face as I read them.

I am actually almost finished this book. I'll probably finish it in an hour or so. And I'm not sure why I didn't pick it up sooner. Because it is bloody amazing.

Review: The Silk Weaver by Liz Trenow

Anna Buttterfield moves from her Suffolk country home to her uncle's house in London, to be introduced to society. A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London's silk trade.

Henri is working on his 'master piece' to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna, meanwhile, is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist.

Henri realizes that Anna's designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom...

5 Words: Family, silk, business, class, love.

This book is well written, with a split narrative of two very distinct and different voices. I did find that it took me longer than usual to read this book, but that was because I spent a lot of time sitting and reflecting as I got to the end of each of chapter. The story itself is well paced, a slow build up to a fantastically fast-paced ending.

I loved Anna's character, how she kept her free will and what made up the essence of herself despite the changes in her world and circumstance. I liked how there were tiny, natural changes in her thoughts and actions, and I loved her bravery. I did want to grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shake a few times.

This book is another triumph for the author, filled with delicious descriptions of the most sumptuous silks. It is incredibly well-researched and detailed, the whole time period comes alive on the page.

18 January 2017

Blog Tour: Review: Chasing Shadows by TA Williams

Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.

The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…

1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.

As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value.

5 Words: Hope, history, friendship, travel, romance.

When it comes to time slip, I'm usually on the fence. I usually start over thinking it, I get distracted by the theory behind it, I find myself slipping out of the story rather than into different times. But in this case? I was so absorbed in the story itself that I forgot to get distracted.

And I loved it.

I loved Amy as a character, how she happened to be blind but it didn't define her. She was strong and feisty and a joy to read.

The relationships between the characters felt very natural to me, none of it was rushed. By the end I felt that I knew them and I finished wondering what would happen next for them.

Just from reading, I feel that the author is a fan of history - there was passion evident in the research and it made it all the more vivid when reading the historical parts of the story. I also liked the thread of mystery that kept me guessing.

This book is very different from the author's other works, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read this. The blend of historical and contemporary really works well.

Blog Tour: Review: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex
He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.

Meet eight-year-old Sam
Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.

When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . . When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author's own experiences with his son.

5 Words: Family, love, learning, hope, Minecraft.

When I finished this book, I actually struggled to review it.

Because all I wanted to do was play Minecraft.

I have to be honest, Alex is a bit of a douche. And he's a pretty useless one at that. He's so selfish that I found it hard to sympathise with what he was going through. But Sam? Oh man. Sam didn't just tug at my heartstrings, he pretty much ripped them out.

I wish that I had been able to experience Jody's side of the story, because even though we don't see her much I was drawn to her.

The characters are excellent and I was surprised at the emotions they provoked. I read this book slowly and savoured each page.

A Boy Made of Blocks is not an easy read. It's not light hearted and uplifting. But it is accessible in it's style and you'll likely learn something. I don't have much personal experience with autism, what very little I knew was because of my friend's brother. A side effect of this story is the educational aspect, and it wasn't something I realised until the end.

This book was a bit of a struggle at times, and I had to read it slowly, but it was absolutely worth it.

17 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #76

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books We've Read In The Past Year Or So.

You know when you read an AMAZING book and just need to talk about, so you hop on over to Goodreads and search blogs and Twitter and Instagram and Litsy, but then you find that hardly anyone has read it?

These are the books I wish other people had read, because they're amazing and I need to talk about them.

Most of these are UKYA, some are recent debuts, others have been around a while. All are excellent and deserve to be read.

Have you read any of these? Link your review in the comments and I'll pop over! Because I need to talk about them.

16 January 2017

Review: Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds.

But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had.

Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

5 Words: Family, friendship, running, love, consequences.

I saw the cover of this book revealed last year at YALC and I was like "oh, ok. It's about sport" and I didn't think much more about it. Because I am the least sporty person EVER. But then in release week it seemed like everyone I followed was reading it and loving it. And usually when there is a lot of hype around a book I'm a bit wary. But the SundayYA crowd are just the best people and I totally trust their judgement.

And so I couldn't resist.

I pre-ordered it on my kindle and waited for it to arrive.

And once it did? Well, I was blown away.

I have to admit that the first five-ish chapters made me ANGRY. Ragingly angry. I was scowling down at my Paperwhite, angrily tapping for the next page. The one thing that is a sure-fire way to get me wound up is bullying and those first five chapters had me fuming.

Then I started the next chapter and my heart was broken.

This book is an emotional roller-coaster. So you will definitely need your tissues.

I didn't "get" the lion and the dragon, but I did like the magical realism aspect they lent to the story, that are they there? lingering in my mind as I read.

As filled with heartbreak as this book is, there is also a huge dose of inspiration. I am not sporty, I don't like sport, but I've started running. Me. The girl who doesn't run. Wing just inspired me so much that I put on my trainers and ran for the first time since I was forced to in PE at school. And it was bloody hard, but actually? I loved it.

12 January 2017

Reading Lots and Reading Less

For as long as I can remember, I have read at least 200 books a year.

Reading is something that pretty much consumes my life. I can't not read. Unless I have a book in my hand, I am constantly scanning my surroundings looking for something, anything, to read. I always try to have a book and an e-reader on my person at all times, because reading road signs and adverts and number plates gets boring pretty quickly.

Some people think I must be a fast reader to get through so many books each year - I'm not. I'm a pretty slow reader. I take my time with books. I sit and day dream a little as I read, I read passages out loud, I look up and take part in discussions about them, I research as I read...

I just read all the time.

And actually? It's a problem.

Reading has become my coping mechanism. If I'm stressed or anxious I turn to books.

I'm not a very sociable person, so instead of talking I stick my nose in a book and avoid interaction. Only it's actually making it harder than ever to talk to people. Even ordering a coffee starts me shaking, reaching for a book.

When it's the work Christmas party and you're sat in a corner drinking wine and reading on the kindle app on your phone instead of socialising with your workmates? Yeah... That was me this year. Not cool, by the way.

In about August last year I thought that I was in a reading slump. I hadn't read anything for nearly two weeks, I just couldn't concentrate on the words. Then my face started to go numb and I went to the hospital for tests and a lump was found, nestling there on my brain stem, pressing on a nerve. Turns out that this is what was stopping me from reading, but then I needed to read more than ever to cope and I just couldn't.

I love reading. I love getting lost in any number of worlds, experiencing life as others do. I love challenging myself and my beliefs. I love learning. I love the pretty covers, the intriguing blurbs, the smells of the pages. I love sharing what I've read.

But what I don't love is that it's taking over my life. What I don't love is that it's my only way to cope. Because when I can't read, when I can't concentrate for more than a minute at a time, what do I do? I break down.

This year I'm challenging myself to read less. I'm going to drop it down by about one book a week and try to experience things first hand with my new-found spare time. I'm going to find new ways to cope. I'm going to talk to people.