ARC TBR Pile Review: She Who Became The Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan

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Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 22nd 2021 by Mantle 
ISBN1529043395 (ISBN13: 9781529043396)

Blurb

She’ll change the world to survive her fate . . .

In Mongol-occupied imperial China, a peasant girl refuses her fate of an early death. Stealing her dead brother’s identity to survive, she rises from monk to soldier, then to rebel commander. Zhu’s pursuing the destiny her brother somehow failed to attain: greatness. But all the while, she feels Heaven is watching.

Can anyone fool Heaven indefinitely, escaping what’s written in the stars? Or can Zhu claim her own future, burn all the rules and rise as high as she can dream?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan is a re-imagining of the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu was the peasant rebel who expelled the Mongols, unified China under native rule, and became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. 

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Review: Girls Who Lie, by Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir

PUBLICATION DATE: 22 JULY 2021 | ORENDA BOOKS | PAPERBACK ORIGINAL | £8.99

At once a startling, tense psychological thriller, and a sophisticated and twisty police procedural from a rising star in Icelandic literature.

When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, it is assumed that she’s taken her own life – until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?

Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to tragedy.

Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the list of suspects grows ever longer and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

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Children’s Picture Book Review: Bertie at the Worldwide Games, by Wendy H. Jones, Illustrated by Barry Diaper

Blurb

Bertie the Buffalo is having fun on the farm where he lives in Scotland. Then a mysterious letter arrives inviting him to represent Scotland in the Worldwide Games. Bertie and his friends fly to Tokyo where they meet new and exotic animals and try to win first prize in all the different events. Bertie is sad when he isn’t winning any medals but finds out if he works together with his friends, he will be a winner in the end.


My Review

Thanks to the author and publisher for a copy of this book. I read a Bertie book last year and was so pleased to see another, Bertie is an adorable little buffalo.

Aww, this is so cute! Bertie and friends represent Scotland in running races in Tokyo, and learn the importance of team work.

I think the writing and illustration have improved since the first book. There’s something more vibrant about the illustrations. The story has a strong rhyme and I’m sure it’s ever so slightly more complex than in the first book. Maybe Bertie is getting a bit older so the prose is getting more complex?

I like it! The colours of the pictures are eye-catching the writing is fun and bouncy, and the message is good.



Author Bio

Wendy H. Jones is the award-winning author of the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries and Cass Claymore Investigates. She lives in Scotland and is also an international public speaker and the president of the Scottish Association of Writers.

Illustrator: Barry Diaper  

Barry Diaper is best known for his cartoons and caricatures for The Beano. He was once short-listed for the Daily Mail’s ‘Not the Turner Prize’. He lives in Salisbury, England.

Review: This Us How We Are Human, by Louise Beech

PUBLICATION DATE: 10 JUNE 2021 | ORENDA BOOKS | PAPERBACK ORIGINAL | £8.99

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days
old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy, and she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking
only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care.
Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide, and intertwine in unexpected ways,
everything changes. For everyone.

Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, This Is How We Are
Human
is a powerful, moving and thoughtful drama about a
mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think
we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family
and to survive.

‘Storytelling at its finest, Louise Beech is a beguiling wordsmith’ Amanda Prowse


“Though This is How We Are Human is fiction, the premise was inspired by my friends, 20-year-old Sean, who is autistic, and his mum Fiona. Fiona had spoken to me about how much Sean longed to meet a girl and have sex. No one talks about this, she said – the difficulties navigating romance often
faced by those on the spectrum. It ’s an issue that I wanted to explore. Fiona and Sean encouraged me and guided me through the book; Sean regularly consulted on dialogue, rightly insisting that his voice was heard, was strong, and was accurate. I cannot thank my extraordinary friends enough for their help and support
.” Louise Beech

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Review: This Fragile Earth, by Susannah Wise

Published by Gollancz
24 June 2021 (NEW DATE)
Hardback £14.99 also as eBook and audiobook

Blurb

Not long from now, in a recognisable yet changed London, Signy and Matthew lead a dull, difficult life. They’ve only really stayed together for the sake of their six year old son, Jed. But they’re surviving, just about. Until the day the technology that runs their world stops working. Unable to use their phones or pay for anything, Matthew assumes that this is just a momentary glitch in the computers that now run the world.

But then the electricity and gas are cut off. Even the water stops running. And the pollination drones – vital to the world, ever since the bees all died – are behaving oddly. People are going missing. Soldiers are on the
streets. London is no longer safe.

A shocking incident sends Signy and Jed on the run, desperate to flee London and escape to the small village where Signy grew up. Determined to protect her son, Signy will do almost anything to survive as the world falls apart around them. But she has no idea what is waiting for them outside the city…

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TBR Pile Review: 30 Days of Worldbuilding Workbook, by A Trevena

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Paperback
Published December 23rd 2019
ISBN:1677313129 (ISBN13: 9781677313129)

Blurb

Overwhelmed by creating fantasy worlds?

Lost in your world? Unsure where to go next?


30 Days of Worldbuilding breaks the task into manageable chunks. By following 30 creative prompts, this book will guide you from idea, to full world.

This workbook will help you to:

* Break the epic task of worldbuilding into easy steps
* Build a full and complete world with prompts you may not have thought of
* Tie your worldbuilding into your story to increase tension and conflict
* Bring your worldbuilding back to your characters to get your readers hooked

This book also includes a bonus lesson on building magic systems that work. By completing just one prompt each day, you can have a fully created fantasy world in a month. You will also have an invaluable book of worldbuilding notes to keep beside you as you write.

Get 30 Days of Worldbuilding today, and stop getting lost in your world.

Available as both an ebook Guidebook and a paperback Workbook with space for answering each prompt. 

My Review

I bought this book on a whim yesterday and it arrived this afternoon while I was out swimming. As some of my long-time readers might know, I occasionally write fantasy.

I know the world I built, Erce, from the core upwards, but I don’t know know how I know. I have written some of it down on here. There have been some changes to the world since then, and I’m working on a massive rewriting project. The main character of Lizzy remains but the world is changing a touch, with more obvious magic and fantasy elements.

In July I’m running a four part fantasy writing workshop through The Faraway CIC, and I needed some ideas for writing exercises. I wanted to check I had enough content as well. There are bound to be things I’ve missed if I don’t check it against other people’s work.

As it happens, this book has been quite though-provoking both for my own worldbuilding and for the workshops. I’ve ordered a couple of other books by the author because I think this workbook will be very useful to me as a writer. The author is a massive fantasy fan and a writer of speculative fiction herself, so she knows what she’s talking about (I have doubts about her taste – Narnia, really? Everyone knows Tolkien was the best Inkling!). I think I will return to this book every time I build a world (there are a couple sitting in my notebooks and several stories waiting to be written in those worlds), and I will be using it to work on the re-writes of the Erce stories.

I’m not going to write in the book itself, although there is space in the book for that. It’s the sort of book you can dip into and work on an aspect of your worldbuilding or work your way through it over a month, perhaps in preparation for NaNoWriMo, or a writing retreat. The author always brings it back to the question of ‘how do these aspects of your world affect your character?’ How does a particular law or cultural event affect them and their lives? What conflict does it bring? The author reminds the reader that you have to keep these things in mind even if you don’t use it in the story. It gives the story depth, by implying that there is a history and culture that is totally normal to the characters even if it is alien to us as readers.

Very happy to recommend this book and I’ll be happy to read the other books I’ve ordered.

Review: Stephen From The Inside Out, by Susie Stead

Publication date: 2 Apr 2021
Category: Biography / Memoir
Paperback price: £9.99
Page count: tbc
ISBN: 978-1-911293-68-2
E-book price: £3.99
ISBN: 978-1-911293-67-5

Stephen struggled for most of his life with severe mental health issues, endured 25 years inside British psychiatric wards and never felt acceptable outside, in the ‘normal’ world. People found him difficult and demanding yet on the inside was a man with wide interests, deep longings and an integrity that would not be compromised, whatever the cost.
This is his story, inside and out; a story of grave injustices, saints and bigots, a faithful dog, a wild woman, a fairy godmother and angels hidden in plain sight.
It is also the story of the author, Susie, who started off by wanting to ‘help’
Stephen ‘get better,’ and instead found herself profoundly challenged by a
friendship she did not expect.
Idiosyncratic, unorthodox, tragic, yet at times hilarious – this book not only tells a compelling and important story but will be vital reading for anyone who cares about mental health in our contemporary world or who might just be open to a different way of seeing: from the inside out

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TBR Pile Review: The Gendered Brain, by Gina Rippon

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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 28th 2019 by Bodley Head
ISBN:1847924751 (ISBN13: 9781847924759)

Blurb

Do you have a female brain or a male brain?
Or is that the wrong question?


Reading maps or reading emotions? Barbie or Lego? We live in a gendered world where we are bombarded with messages about sex and gender. On a daily basis we face deeply ingrained beliefs that your sex determines your skills and preferences, from toys and colours to career choice and salaries. But what does this constant gendering mean for our thoughts, decisions and behaviour? And what does it mean for our brains?

Drawing on her work as a professor of cognitive neuroimaging, Gina Rippon unpacks the stereotypes that bombard us from our earliest moments and shows how these messages mould our ideas of ourselves and even shape our brains. Taking us back through centuries of sexism, The Gendered Brain reveals how science has been misinterpreted or misused to ask the wrong questions. Instead of challenging the status quo, we are still bound by outdated stereotypes and assumptions. However, by exploring new, cutting-edge neuroscience, Rippon urges us to move beyond a binary view of our brains and instead to see these complex organs as highly individualised, profoundly adaptable, and full of unbounded potential.

Rigorous, timely and liberating, The Gendered Brain has huge repercussions for women and men, for parents and children, and for how we identify ourselves. 

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TBR Pile Reviews: More MurderBot!

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This short story is told from the point of view of Dr. Mensah and follows the events in Exit Strategy. Kindle Edition, 19 pages
Published April 19th 2021 by Tor (first published May 5th 2020)

My Review

I enjoy MurderBot and this short story kept me going between novels and novellas. Here we read about Dr Mensah’s reaction to being held hostage once they have returned to Preservation Station. Dr Mensah doesn’t want to admit that she’s traumatised. MurderBot doesn’t know what to do but in its own way tries to help.

I enjoyed reading about events from a different perspective and this short story shows how one of the main characters is affected by event without the intermediary of MurderBot. A good addition to the canon.

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No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

Hardcover, 168 pages
Published April 27th 2021 by Tor.com
ISBN:1250765374 (ISBN13: 9781250765376)

My Review

I had this book on pre-order but forgot when it was due to arrive so finding it in the post pile on Tuesday afternoon as I was leaving for swimming was a great surprise and a very happy one. I read it yesterday afternoon, to relax and because I needed my sci-fi fix.

We’re back on Preservation Station with MurderBot and its human friends. There’s been a murder! So MurderBot helps the Station Security investigate. Station Security really don’t want MurderBot around and initially suspect him, but it soon becomes clear that there are other things going on that no one knew about and a local has been suborned by the Corporations.

In this novella we see an expansion of MurderBot’s relationships and the world around him as the strangeness of Preservation in comparison to Corporate space is explored. As usual events are filtered through MurderBot’s experiences and thoughts, and are told with humour and panache. The final showdown is rather explosive. I love it.

Review: Self Contained, by Emma John

Cassell
6 May 2021 | £12.99 | Hardback

Raw and hilarious memoir of a life-long single from award-winning author
and journalist, Emma John.

Emma is in her 40s; she is neither married, nor partnered, with child or planning to be. Self-Contained captures what it is to be single in your forties, from sharing a twin room with someone you’ve never met on a group holiday (because the couples have all the doubles with ensuite) to coming to the realisation that maybe your singleness isn’t a temporary arrangement, that maybe you aren’t pre-married at all, and in fact you are self-contained.

It explores the unpartnered life as never before, joyfully celebrating individuality in a world built for two. This is the book to confront the commonly held assumption that life is less full and less-fulfilled if lived singly.

‘I wrote this book because I don’t want to be haunted by the word “spinster” any more!’

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