22 September 2017

Book Beginnings #53

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.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu.
Çeda found Brama by the river. 
She watched from within a stand of cattails, where she hunkered low, cool river lapping at her ankles.
I am just starting this now, as I type. I honestly know nothing about this book except that it's a prequel to a book I almost bought, so fingers crossed it's as good as the guy in Waterstones said!

I'm hoping it's a nice introduction to the world, because the The Song of the Shattered Sands series looks interesting but it is dauntingly long! And someone mentioned assassins.
Just when she was ready to sit up, she heard the door opening, and this time many sets of footsteps approached.
So. Yeah. I don't know what's happening here. I'm not up to page 56 yet! But skimming the page, it seems to be exciting.

What are you reading this weekend?


21 September 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place - she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands.

At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort - a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity.

As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.


Source: NetGalley Request | Subscription Box

5 Words: Family, obligation, magic, entitlement, freedom.

This came in my May FairyLoot box, but it was only because I'd guessed the book that I hadn't already pre-ordered it anyway. Phew.

I was supposed to be reading it with my buddy, but she started and just didn't stop. I barely managed to hold myself off reading it all in one go - having to go to work definitely helped because this book was hard to put down. I found myself addicted to the writing.

I liked how Mariko developed and changed, but god was she whiny. I understand that she was brought up in such a way that she would naturally be entitled and snobbish and think herself better, but I would have preferred her more humble. I did like her feminist streak and her inspiring strength and self-belief, how she pushed herself. I loved her intelligence and how she never hid it.

I won't say that this book is without problems, but I would say that calling it a Mulan retelling isn't fair on the story or the cultures it lends from. I found it easy to suspend disbelief in the fantasy setting, and I liked that the world wasn't explained; as a reader you discovered the world as the characters explored it. But I have read better books from a similar setting.

There is a romance and a "twist" that I found disappointingly predictable (Oh hey there, Broody McHottiepants! Nice to see you here.) but they fit with the story and the trope. As I expected them, they didn't add much to the story for me.

This was enjoyable and I will definitely read on and read more by the author. I loved the writing style enough to forgive anything I didn't like so much in the story itself - I liked the story and the story was good, but it wasn't exceptional. The writing however? Amazing.


19 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #100

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.

This week is Top Ten Books On My Autumn TBR.

I am terrible at sticking to a set TBR list (as evidenced by me doing #TheReadingQuest - I read a lot of books that didn't even count in any way) but here are some that I would love to get to this autumn and read as the nights draw in.

And yes, some of them are rereads.
  • Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
    This has been on my TBR forever, but somehow I've never got round to it. With the author's #SexyHistory posts I am now more eager than ever to read it.
  • Fir by Sharon Gosling
    This. Book. It is excellent! The whole Red Eye series was made for reading in autumn, and this on particularly for that first snow. I reviewed it here.
  • Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena
    Taking back the identity of the outcast, unruly woman and reclaiming it as a positive, empowering lifestyle? GET IT TO ME NOW.
  • Hands up if you loves A Little Princess! I can't wait for this story about Lottie, the power of friendship, and female empowerment. Sensing a theme here?
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
    I love stories inspired by mythology and folklore, so I can't wait to see Gaiman's take.
  • The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
    What's this? Another interpretation of Norse gods? Well, you can't say I'm not predictable. after hearing the author talk a little at YALC I can't wait to get stuck in.
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Fun Fact 1: I actually hate Jane Austen's writing. Can't stand it.
    Fun Fact 2: I bloody love the stories and retellings and interpretations.
  • I have purposefully been putting this off and waiting until autumn to read it, which has been very difficult considering it's excellent cover and rave reviews. Friendship and demonic possession? Yes please.
  • The Fandom by Anna Day
    I absolutely love anything about fandoms. I love the passion and how people are brought together, the feeling of belonging that comes with being a fan of something.
  • The Extinction Trials by Susan Wilson
    So uh... I don't actually know anything about this book. But the buzz around it is incredible and everyone is saying it's amazing. So naturally I want to read it.

15 September 2017

Blog Tour: Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women's freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who's grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?


10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About The Suffragettes 

by Sally Nicholls

1. There was no such thing as a single ‘suffrage movement’. Like the environmental movement, it was made up of lots of smaller organisations. Some were local groups like the East London Federation of the Suffragettes, some religious like the Friends’ League for Women’s Suffrage, while others were organised by profession like the Actors Franchise League. More militant groups were generally members of Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, while those who preferred peaceful methods generally joined Millicent Fawcett’s National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. 
2. The colours of the WSPU were green, white and violet – which stood for Get Women Votes. 
3. Suffragettes weren’t all white and middle-class – although Emmeline Pankhurst preferred to recruit from the middle-classes as she thought educated women with time on their hands made better soldiers. East End women and Lancashire mill-girls were some of the most active Suffragettes, however, as were women like Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. In 1920, Sylvia Pankhurst hired Britain’s first black journalist, Claude McKay, to work for The Worker’s Dreadnought, (formerly the Suffragette newspaper The Women’s Dreadnought.) 
4. Suffrage campaigners weren’t all women either. There was even a Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage who participated in many marches and rallies. Famous male suffrage supporters include HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and the Labour MP Keir Hardy. 
5. Modern feminism tends to concentrate on the ways in which men and women are similar, but Edwardians saw men and women as very different creatures. Men were more rational, more brave, but also more impulsive and less morally steadfast – women were encouraged to forgive drunk husbands, for example, because they ‘couldn’t help it’. Women were more timid and weaker physically, but they were also angels of patience, virtue and negotiation.
Men argued that it wasn’t fair to taint these saintly figures by allowing them into the rough-house world of politics. Women argued that if they really were so steadfast, virtuous and good at finding peaceful solutions to problems, why the hell wouldn’t you want them to have political power? 
6. You might have heard that women were given the vote as a ‘thank you’ for their war work. This, however, simply isn’t true. It was already clear in 1914 that women had won their battle – the only thing left was for the government to find a way to concede without looking weak. The war provided that. Under previous legislation, men had to be resident in Britain for the twelve months before an election in order to vote, a law which disenfranchised most of the armed forces. Since it was clear that the law would have to be changed, giving women the vote as a ‘thank you’ was simply a way of saving face. 
7. In fact, many Suffragettes were vehemently anti-war. Emmeline Pankhurst came out very early on in favour of the war, as, somewhat reluctantly, did Millicent Fawcett. However, one of the tenets of the movement was that once women got the vote there would be no more war, as women would never vote to send their sons to be slaughtered. Many suffrage campaigners felt betrayed by Pankhurst and particularly by Fawcett, and many resigned their membership in protest. 
8. The International Woman Suffrage Alliance did more than just campaign against the war. They organised a Women’s Peace Congress in 1915, with representatives from neutral countries and all countries involved in the war. Over 200 women from Britain were supposed to attend – but the British government cancelled all North Sea shipping to prevent it. The women who attended the conference arranged meetings with government representatives up to and including Woodrow Wilson. The warring nations agreed that – in principle – they would try to negotiate a peace if a neutral nation would facilitate and Sweden agreed – in principle – that they would. Sadly, however, nothing came of it. 
9. The Suffragettes had many grand ideas about what would happen when women began using their vote. Equal pay for men and women! Pensions for spinsters! Old age pensions for all! State orphanages! Financial support for carers and parents! Divorced women to have the right to see their child, and even retain custody! Reading it now, they sound like fantasists. Except… 
10. In the hundred years since women gained the right to vote, every one of those predictions have come true.

14 September 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The arranged marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed... 

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works even harder to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

When Dimple Met Rishi is a frothy, funny contemporary romance told from the dual perspectives of two Indian American protagonists. While Dimple is fighting her family traditions, Rishi couldn't be happier to follow in the footsteps of his parents - could sparks fly between this odd couple, or is this matchmaking attempt doomed to fail?


Source: NetGalley Request

5 Words: Family, passion, attraction, friendship, ambition.

This was a really sweet read, a lovely story. I loved Dimple and Rishi.

I just didn't like the writing style.

This book had been hyped up so much that my expectations were sky high. I was expecting lots of tech and coding and I was a little underwhelmed by the lack of tech and coding. It was a lot more sweetness than I was expecting, especially with the fantastic start. I thought Dimple was going to be harder, stand up for her convictions a little stronger. She threw an iced coffee in Rishi's face and I practically cheered. But honestly, that was the high point of the story for me.

I liked the way the narrative switched between characters, showing both of their thoughts, their feelings. This was probably my favourite aspect of the writing. It was funny seeing all of the misunderstandings, and I liked the frustration of knowing more than the characters themselves.

I was a good book, a good story, and I would recommend it. I just didn't get on with the writing style, I found it a little too simple to stay engaged. My own high expectations likely lessened my enjoyment, and that's all on me.

12 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday #99

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.

This week is Top Ten Older Books I Love.

All of these books have been out for at least ten years. I'm apologising now if any of these are out of print, I just love them so much I couldn't help but share.
What's your favourite older book?

11 September 2017

Blog Tour: The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you--secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She's still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can't shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning.

In the beginning, Bryn's husband, Guy, couldn't have been more supportive. But soon after moving in together, Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on? she wonders. Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn's world unravels--and yet another woman in town is slain--she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may in fact hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.


EXCERPT

A moment later I’m surfacing, struggling through webs of sleep. It’s only a dream, I realize. Another one of those nightmares. Though I’m fully awake now, my heart’s still thrumming. My skin is hot, like I’ve sat too long in the sun, and the T-shirt I’m wearing is damp with sweat. 
I glance around, not sure at first where I am. It’s daylight, maybe late afternoon, and then I know. I’m on the screened porch in the house we’ve rented in Saratoga Springs, New York. From outside I hear the distant, buzzy drone of a lawn mower and one short bark from a dog. 
I hoist myself up and take long deep breaths, in through my nostrils and out through my mouth, a technique Dr. G taught me when I started having sessions with her. 
Finally my pulse slows. I reach for a pencil and pad lying on the coffee table, and jot down fragments from the dream: hotel room, smoke, dissolving doorknob, the wall of flames. It’s the fourth dream like this I’ve had in the past few weeks. Dr. G suggested I keep track of them because they seem to be about the car accident, the one I was in three months ago. She thinks writing them down will help calm me—and if I’m lucky, ultimately fill in some blanks. 
I close my eyes again, trying to recall more details, but the dream begins to unravel in my memory, like a pile of dried leaves lifting apart in the wind. If it was trying to tell me something, I have no clue what it is. 
I force myself off the daybed and traipse into the main part of the house. It’s Victorian in style, built a hundred-plus years ago. Though there aren’t a ton of rooms, they’re spacious and elegant, with high ceilings and dark, intricate moldings and paneling. Not the kind of house I would have picked for myself—it’s so prim and proper—but I’m okay with being here for the summer. 
I wander back to the kitchen, with its white subway tiles gleaming in the June sun, and pour a glass of iced tea. I drain it in four gulps. Though the tea quenches my thirst, it does nothing to quell my unease. I glance at my watch. Four thirty. Guy will be home by six, and I’m already looking forward to seeing him. Maybe we should eat on the patio, since it’s bound to be a beautiful night. 
I will myself up from the chair and clear the soup bowl and utensils I used for lunch. Next I take two chicken cutlets out of the freezer and begin snipping the green beans I bought earlier. 
Finished, I head upstairs and straighten the duvet in the master bedroom. For the first time I’m struck by the sheer ridiculousness—and irony, too—of me snapping the fabric into place. Until now my life has been, at least literally speaking, a litany of unmade beds, beds I’ve always been far too busy to fuss with and happy to just stumble into at the end of crazy days. I know why I’ve given myself this little task each day. It’s a way to avoid what I’m really supposed to be doing. 
Coming to Saratoga for the summer and renting a nice house here was meant as a chance for me to get my mojo back now that my broken bones have mostly healed. I was also going to conceive and pound out a proposal for my new book, the one that had been delayed by the car accident and recovery. But it’s just not happening. I alternate between bouts of panic and feeling totally jet-lagged, like a traveler who’s stumbled off an airplane after crossing a dozen time zones. 
And then there’s the writer’s block. I knew it might take a while to get back in a groove, but 
I’ve spent days now staring at a blank computer screen. It seems at times as if my brain’s been sucked dry by aliens. At my most panic-stricken I worry that I’ll never squeeze out another word, never again share what I’ve learned, never again command a room of appreciative readers. 
As I give the duvet a final shake, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror above the dresser. Because, until recently, I needed to negotiate shampooing and blow-drying with a cast on my arm, I chopped my light brown hair fairly short. The cut is cute enough, I guess, but because of the weight loss, my overall appearance leans toward beleaguered. I look like I’m ready to board an orphan train. 
My cell phone rings, startling me from my thoughts. I tug it from the pocket of my sweater. I smile to myself when I see Guy’s name.

GIVEAWAY

Win an ebook of The Secrets You Keep by Kate White! This will be available in mobi, epub or PDF format.