This Week in Books – 12-04-17

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

TWIB - 2017-04-12

The last book I finished reading was Ararat by Christopher Golden – I’ve been feeling the need to read something horror related, and Ararat, which will be published on 18 April, was exactly what I needed.

Meryam and Adam take risks for a living. But neither is prepared for what lies in the legendary heights of Mount Ararat, Turkey.

First to reach a massive cave revealed by an avalanche, they discover the hole in the mountain’s heart is really an ancient ship, buried in time. A relic that some fervently believe is Noah’s Ark.

Deep in its recesses stands a coffin inscribed with mysterious symbols that no one in their team of scholars, archaeologists and filmmakers can identify. Inside is a twisted, horned cadaver. Outside a storm threatens to break.

As terror begins to infiltrate their every thought, is it the raging blizzard that chases them down the mountain – or something far worse?

My current read is See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt – there has been a lot of noise about this novel already, and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty-two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

The next book that I will probably read, and continuing with the horror theme, will be Sarah Lotz’s latest novel, The White Road, which will be published in May.

Adrenaline-junky Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only one place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon’s luck is about to run out.

And that’s my week in books!

Defender by G. X. Todd

defender

Defender is one of the novels I picked up at February’s Headline Blogger Evening, and one that I’ve been looking forward to reading since then.

It is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the cause of our demise isn’t entirely clear.  Eight years ago, people began hearing voices.  Whether real or a mass auditory hallucination, the voices caused the majority of people to kill themselves, leaving behind a few individuals who now fend for themselves as well as they can.

Lacey is sixteen, and was shielded from much of what was going on eight years earlier by her grandmother.  Now alone, she now wants to travel from her home in Texas to Mississippi to find her sister, who she hasn’t heard from for years and who may or may not have survived.

Pilgrim, as his name suggests, has spent the last eight years travelling and avoiding other people, his only company the voice in his head.  But when he comes across Lacey, he is encouraged by this internal voice to help her, and the two set out on Lacey’s quest, falling into a whole world of trouble along the way.

Given Lacey’s age and the recent trend for post-apocalyptic novels to be aimed towards the young adult market, you might expect Defender to also fall into this category.  It doesn’t.  This is a dark and often brutal story which very much satisfied my need for a bleak apocalypse to sink my teeth into.  Given the lawlessness of the world as it is presented here, there are those who seek to take advantage of those weaker than themselves, and Lacey and Pilgrim run into some thoroughly bad people on their journey.  It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and Todd throws in a bit of dark, wry  humour along the way to lighten the tone.

Even now that I finished the novel, I’m not sure how I feel about Lacey.  She’s young and has been sheltered from much of what has happened in the world, and so comes across as being extremely naïve, and she seems a little too pure and wholesome to survive in a world such as this.  Survive she has though, which suggests an inner resilience, and whilst I personally prefer protagonists who are a little more kick-ass, she was certainly an original character and quite different to the sort you usually find in novels of this kind.  She’s in for some rough times, however, and whilst the reader knows that there’s something special about her, it’s not clear what it is at this stage.  I think it will be interesting to see how she develops as the series progresses.

If I didn’t really warm to Lacey, I made up for it in my love of Pilgrim, however.  Pilgrim is exactly the kind of lone wolf style character that I like – someone who doesn’t look for trouble, but is more than capable than dealing with it if, and when, it comes looking for him.  Ha also has excellent taste in books.

Defender is a novel in which the cause of the end isn’t explained, at least not in this first instalment.  No one knows where the voices came from or why the result was as it was, and the little that people do know is largely rumour and hearsay.  Whilst some people may find this a little frustrating and may want to know the how and why, I thought that this was reflective of how it would be if such a thing were to actually happen.  With no communication infrastructure left, we’d have no way of knowing what has happened elsewhere, or how, or why, and we’d have to try to piece things together from the snippets of information that we came across.  And this isn’t really a novel about the end of the world – it’s a novel about how those who survive it manage to deal with the aftermath, and I think that Todd did a brilliant job of exploring how such a world might look, and what people would need to do to survive, and that is exactly why I love this kind of novel so much.

Defender is the first novel in a planned series of four, and as such it poses a great many questions whilst answering very few of them.  There is clearly a bigger story to be revealed, however, and I’m expecting another fantastic read when the sequel, Hunted, is published in January 2018 – I already have it on pre-order! 😃

Many thanks to the publisher, Headline, for my copy of Defender, and to Gemma for taking the time to talk books and things with me at the blogger event.

Rating: ★★★★★

Three Weeks Dead by Rebecca Bradley

three weeks dead

Three Weeks Dead is a novella which is set prior to Bradley’s two novels featuring DI Hannah Robbins – Shallow Waters and Made to be Broken.  Whilst I haven’t read either of these novels (yet!) I’m told that the novella can be read either before or after these novels – it features some of the same characters, but is set at an earlier point in time.

It features a young DC Sally Poynter who has recently joined Nottingham’s Major Crimes Unit and it’s a case of baptism by fire as she is assigned to an investigation in which Jason Wells has been arrested for stealing software worth millions from the company he works for.

In his interview, however, Poynter and Robbins discover that he has been coerced into the theft by individuals who have taken his wife, Lisa.  The wife he buried three weeks earlier.

Three Weeks Dead is a fast-paced and intriguing tale which, as a novella extending to some 140 or so pages, can be read comfortably in a single sitting.  There are multiple short chapters which are told from the perspective of either Sally or Jason, and this keeps the pace up as they try to get Jason’s wife back.

As a novella, the case isn’t as complex as some police procedurals, but I felt that it was at the right level to be interesting without the narrative feeling rushed in any way.  And there are some wonderful little twists to keep you guessing as to what is going on and who is behind it all.

I found Sally Poynter to be an interesting character.  In Three Weeks Dead, she has been in the Major Crimes Unit for less than one month and is suffering from “new starter” nerves – her desire to succeed is matched only by her fear of failure, and it will be interesting to see how Sally has progressed and developed within the team in the full-length novels.

I thought that Bradley did well to capture so much context in Three Weeks Dead but without this feeling forced or unnecessary to the story.  Sally’s home life with her supportive if not entirely approving partner helped to give some colour to the character, as did her experiences of having to deal with a colleague who seems completely against her for no obvious reason whatsoever.

I picked up Three Weeks Dead as part of a giveaway that Bradley did to her email subscribers (thanks, Rebecca!) and I will definitely be checking out Shallow Waters and Made to be Broken off the back of this novella.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This Week in Books – 05-04-17

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

TWIB - 2017-04-05

I’ve recently finished reading Three Weeks Dead by Rebecca Bradley – a novella featuring a young DC Sally Poynter.

How far would you go if someone took your wife? Especially if you buried her a week ago. When Jason Wells is faced with this scenario, he is confronted with the prospect of committing a crime that will have far-reaching consequences. Can young DC Sally Poynter get through to him before he crosses that line, or does a desperate husband prove to be the case she won’t ever forget? A prequel novella, set before Shallow Waters, the first in the DI Hannah Robbins series.

I’m currently reading Defender by G. X. Todd – a post-apocalyptic novel that has drawn comparisons to The Stand by Stephen King and that I am absolutely loving so far!

Defender by G X Todd is an imaginative thriller that draws on influences from Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman to create a new world – where the biggest threat mankind faces is from the voices inside your own head. If you loved The Stand, you’ll love Defender, the first in a four part series.

In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Defender pulls you on a wild ride to a place where the voices in your head will save or slaughter you.

My next read is probably going to be Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel – the sequel to the brilliant Sleeping Giants.

An unknown vessel, not of this world, materialises in London. A colossal figure towering over the city, it makes no move. Is this a peaceful first contact or the prelude to an invasion?

Every child has nightmares. But the only thing scarier than little Eva Reyes’ dreams – apocalyptic visions of death and destruction – is the habit they have of coming true…

Scientist Dr Rose Franklin has no memory of the last few years. The strangers she works with say she died, and was brought back to life. The question is not just how … but why?

Kara Resnik and Vincent Couture fell in love during war, and have found peace since. They are the thin line of defence against what is coming. But they do not know they have been living a lie.

And a man who claims to have the answers has his own agenda. There are things he cannot say – and others he won’t.

All pieces of an epic puzzle. One we have been trying to solve since the dawn of time…

What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments!

The House by Simon Lelic

the house

I would normally write my own synopsis as part of a review, but I’m struggling to do this one justice without giving anything away, so I’ve decided to “borrow” the following from Amazon:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

The House is told from the alternating perspectives of Jack and Syd, and takes the form of a diary of sorts in which they both write their accounts of how they came to live in the house and what they’ve been through since then.  I found this to be an interesting and successful narrative device – the reader doesn’t know, at first, who they are writing for or why, and it was an interesting twist when their reasons for committing everything to paper become clearer.  Additionally, it soon becomes apparent that they are both hiding things from each other, yet both insist that the other should trust them.  This made me question the strength of their relationship which at the outset seemed strong, but as the story progressed, I couldn’t help but wonder as the cracks started to appear.

This was enhanced by Jack and Syd coming across as being the very definition of “opposites attract”.  Their differences are initially highlighted through their respective writing styles and the language they use, although the reader soon learns that it goes deeper than that.  Syd is something of a wild child, at least partly due to her traumatic childhood, whilst Jack comes across as being seems calm and sensible, the sort of person you might describe as being “as steady as a rock”.  He’s the practical one, the one who will deliberate over something whilst Syd seems more impulsive and flighty.  Whilst I felt sympathy for Syd and what she had been through, I struggled to engage with her at first and much preferred Jack’s perspective of events, although this did change as the novel progressed.  Whatever their differences, I did find them both to be extremely interesting characters.

When I requested The House from Netgalley, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – there was something about the description / title / cover that hinted, to me at least, at something vaguely supernatural or horror-related, although this proved to be incorrect.  It’s a clever psychological thriller, and whilst there are some creepy moments, they aren’t of the paranormal variety.  I have to admit that I did have a suspicion as to the twist, although it wasn’t confirmed until the end of the story and it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the novel at all.  I think that this is a very clever tale which offers something a little different to the reader.

I absolutely loved The House, and halfway through I was checking Amazon to see what else Lelic has written (I’m particularly intrigued by The Facility) and I will definitely be picking up his other novels.

The House will be published by Penguin on 17 August as an eBook and on 2 November in paperback.  Many thanks to the publisher for approving my request on Netgalley.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Liebster Award

liebster 2017

I’ve been nominated for The Liebster Award by the lovely Natalie who blogs at The Owl on the Bookshelf, and if you aren’t a follower of Natalie’s blog, then you should go and check it out.  I love the variety of books that Natalie reviews as well as the gorgeous Owl that makes a regular appearance.


Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person/blog who nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions they wrote for you
  • Nominate 11 people
  • Give them your set of 11 questions to answer

Without further ado, here are the questions that Natalie posed:

What was the last book you bought?

Devotion

The last book I bought was Devotion by Ros Barber, a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Set in the near future where religious fundamentalism is on the verge of being classified as a form of mental illness, Finlay Logan is a criminal psychologist who must assess the sanity of April, a young woman who has blown up a bus and killed fifteen teenagers, citing religious reasons as her primary motive. At the same time, Logan is grieving over the death of his daughter who died in a terrible accident. When Logan comes across the radical psychological practices of Dr Salmon, he feels her controversial techniques may be able to help him understand April’s behaviour. But when he discovers that Dr Salmon is able to communicate with the dead, his own life begins to unravel, especially when he begins to suspect that a former romantic rival might have been involved in his daughter’s death. Weaving together a moving story of grief with a gripping and topical narrative about religion, science and the role that psychology plays to bridge the gap, Devotion is an ambitious and highly readable novel that asks fundamental questions about the nature of reality when balancing the emotional and rational sides of human experience.

What book(s) have been on your TBR the longest?

long dark dusk

The book that has been on my TBR the longest (I bought it in April 2016) is Long Dark Dusk by J. P. Smythe.  I bought it when it was first published as the first novel in the series, Way Down Dark, was one of my favourites of 2015, but I decided to wait until the third and final instalment, Dark Made Dawn, was published before reading it.  Big mistake, as I’ve not managed to read either of them yet!  These titles are both in my Beat the Backlist Challenge, however, so I definitely will read them soon!

What is your favourite book of 2017 so far?

It’s so difficult to pick just one, so I’m going to cheat (sorry, Natalie!)

Narrowing it down to three, I would say:

  • The Dry by Jane Harper – a riveting read about a small Australian town which follows an investigation into an apparent murder-suicide
  • The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown – a stunning debut giving a ficitional account of infamous Witchfinder, Matthew Hopkins
  • The Wanderers by Meg Howrey – a beautiful novel about the experiences of three astronauts and their families as they are picked for the first manned mission to Mars

Three very different novels, but all exceptional.

What book are you most looking forward to that is being published this year?

waking-gods

There are quite a few that I’m looking forward to this year, but the standout one is Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel, the follow up to Sleeping Giants, one of my favourite novels of 2016.

Luckily for me, it’s being published on 6 April, so I don’t have too long to wait now!  😃

What book do you want to re-read the most, if any?

I don’t do a lot of rereading, but I will reread George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series when the next novel in this series, The Winds of Winter, is released.

What book would you recommend as a perfect book to join you on holiday? (Looking for inspiration for my forthcoming holiday!)

For me, holiday reads tend towards dystopian, post-apocalyptic, fantasy, and psychological thrillers i.e. the books that I typically read when I’m not on holiday.  I like something that you can absolutely lost in, be it a new world, or a narrative that it is utterly gripping.

I’m going on holiday later this month (woo hoo!), and my current plan is to read:

  • The Revenant by Michael Punke
  • The Method by Shannon Kirk
  • Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick

This is subject to change, however – I find it really difficult to plan what I’m going to read in advance, as I always feel differently once I’m out there.  Hurrah for Kindles and being able to take as many books as I want with me!

What is your favourite book that is a sequel/part of a series?

a conjuring of light

I’m thoroughly enjoying V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series that began with A Darker Shade of Magic and continued in A Gathering of Shadows.  I do have the final instalment, A Conjuring of Light, which thinking about it now, I may also try to read on holiday!

What book do you wish had a sequel/was part of a series?

I’m going to cheat a little here, as these books are part of a series, but I’m still waiting on the next instalment in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle, which started with The Name of the Wind and continued in The Wise Man’s Fear.  There has been a novella published in this series, too – The Slow Regard of Silent Things – but Kvothe’s tale is not yet complete!

What book would you love to see adapted for film/television?

My stock answer for this has always been The Handmaid’s Tale, but it feels as though I’d be cheating to say that now that it HAS been made into a TV series (which I am extremely pleased about, even as it seems to be getting closer to being a documentary given recent events).

Slade House

As such, I would love to see David Mitchell’s Slade House brought to life (although not by whoever produced the film Cloud Atlas, which did nothing for me whatsoever, despite it being one of my favourite books!)

Time to judge a book by its cover! What book features your favourite cover art?

There are quite a few options for this, but one that sprung to mind (and if you ask me on a different day I’ll probably give you a different answer) was Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes.look who's back

I just love the simplicity of the design, but how it says quite a bit about what the book is about.

Who is your favourite fictional character, and why?

My favourite fictional character is Susan Sto Helit from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series – Death’s granddaughter, no less.  I can’t really tell you why, she just is!


I nominate:

And my questions are:

  1. A nice easy one to start you off – what are you currently reading?
  2. Who is your favourite author?
  3. What was your favourite book of 2016?
  4. Where do you like to read?
  5. Are there any fictional characters that share your name?
  6. What books did you like to read as a child?
  7. What is your favourite bookish quote?
  8. What book would you recommend to someone who doesn’t enjoy reading? (Yes, I believe that there are such people out there!)
  9. Why did you start your blog?
  10. More generally, what do you like to do when you’re not reading?
  11. If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?

 

Beat the Backlist Challenge Update

beat-the-backlist-2017

My participation in Novel Knight’s Beat the Backlist Challenge was aided significantly this month by the BTB Readathon, and I managed to read four books over the 3 day period:

  • Nod by Adrian Barnes – a unique tale in which the majority of people stop sleeping, causing wide-spread psychosis and a rapid deterioration in civilisation
  • A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth – a dark and gripping story about obsession – I thoroughly enjoyed Ashworth’s debut
  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter – for me, this was a somewhat disappointing tale about the discovery of a series of parallel earths
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli – humorous and a little odd, I can honestly say that I’ve not read anything quite like it…

I now have 36 backlist titles to read by the end of the year, and it feels as though I’ve made slow but steady progress.

TBR Watch

Whilst I can’t honestly say that my TBR has decreased this month, I can at least say that it hasn’t increased either, and I’m counting that as progress! 😃

TBR 1 Apr 17

This isn’t due to any kind of restraint on my part, however – I’ve just managed to read more than I usually do!  I’d make some kind of promise about requesting and buying fewer books this month, but to be honest, I wouldn’t believe it, and neither should you.

Happy reading!