A Change is Gonna Come – Book Review

This ARC was sent to me by Stripes Publishing – @StripesBooks in return for an honest review so thank you very much guys!

This is a book of short stories and poetry by 12 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic writers.

For someone who doesn’t often read books of short stories/poetry this was a real treat and totally hit the spot for me. The diverse range of genres in this book is amazing. There are contemporary, dystopian, magical realism, time slip and historical tales all under one gorgeous cover, designed by Lucy Banaji, her cover design is so striking.

As with a lot of short story collections, I didn’t necessarily love all of them but I did like them all, very much and the ones I did love, I really, really loved!

I hadn’t read anything by these authors before which was exciting as I love discovering new voices in literature.

Favourite stories/poems include:

Hackney Moon by Tanya Byrne. Full of warmth, humour and honesty. I wanted this story to go on and on, her writing is so beautiful and i’m pleased to see she has other books already published.

Of Lizard Skin and Dust Storms by Inua Ellams is a really powerful and moving poem, its sparse lines just say so much.

Iridescent Adolescent by Phoebe Roy is full of magical realism,(which I always love reading), symbolism and has a gorgeous fairy tale quality about it.

Dear Asha by Mary Bello is so moving and tenderly written and follows a girl who loses something precious but discovers who she really is by doing so.

If I had to pick a favourite, favourite though (and this is very hard to do)it would be the wonderfully titled:

The Unwritten Future of Moses Mohammed Shabazz Banneker King by Irfan Master. A really short, quirky, time travellish story which really grabbed me with its skillful words.How they managed to pack so much into so few words astounds me.

In the back of the book there is a mini biography of all the contributors so you can see if they have published anything else before and they even have a list of the subject matter covered by the stories and poems in case you want to avoid anything you dont like, which I think is a such a cool idea.

I’m so glad I requested a proof copy of this from Stripes Publishing, its been such a wonderful reading experience.

Its published today, and its in your local shop now so rush out and buy a copy for yourself and everyone you know, this is a an excellent collection.

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Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Original

Heartbreaking

Uplifting

Beautiful

My feelings on this book are best summed up by the words above.

I dont read a lot of Middle Grade books but I find it hard to believe that the plot of this book has been done before. Fostering and very young teenage pregnancy is not something you hear much about in books at all so that made this story all the more wonderful for me.

The writing in the shape of first person narrator, Jack is just a joy to read. He carries us with him on the journey so well and considering the nature of the story, the author avoids making this a sickly sweet read, instead its a well crafted, well balanced tale which drew me in and made me fall in love with it.

I had one small little issue which i cant really talk about without being spoilery sadly but it didnt stop me giving this a clear 5 stars and wanting to give everyone i know a copy for Christmas.

This was the first of the eight books from my Zoella Book Club bundle (a post coming soon with more about this) and if they are all half as good as this one then im in for a right old treat.

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The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This is about three friends, Dill, Lydia and Travis who live in a small town in Tennessee. The book begins in their final year of school before graduation. They all have incredibly different backgrounds, stories and lives but have become close and firm friends.

Of the three characters Lydia quickly became my favourite. I loved the way she handled herself with kids at school who taunted and bullied her, she was so at ease in her own skin but as the book went on she turned into a right little madam. She talked to her father like he was her flunky, ordering him to do this and that, the annoying thing was he did it all instead of teaching her some manners.

Dill i guess is the major character and the one we all feel the most for. His star grew as the book went on and had to overcome some terrible things. Travis was great too, probably my favourite by the end. I loved hanging out with these characters and feeling part of their lives and decisions. Jeff Zentner writes wonderful dialogue and has an ear for a good conversation. Witty and insightful and full of passion.

For the most part this book is beautifully written and just doesnt feel like a debut novel. It has the assurance of an author of many years standing.  My only gripe was that the writing was sometimes too flowery, the odd storyline a bit too sugary and one part of the plot was just way too unbelievable and ‘too good to be true’ for words but overall it kept me page turning and i really enjoyed reading it.  I gave it 4 stars and would highly recommend it.

 

 

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Well i finally finished it!

Anyone would think it was a 400 page chunker not an 80 page novella its taken me so long but, the truth is… I didnt really enjoy it!

It was fascinating from the African/Namibian heritage side of Binti’s character but the actual plot in space with the aliens was PANTS!  I never cared about any of the characters, they were all 1 dimensional and boring. The plot was hard to follow and disjointed and I feel a bit sad about the whole thing.  I really wanted to love it but its taken me 2 months to read 80 pages! Ive done it in fits and starts over that time which just proves that its not my thing.

I bought the sequel Binti Home at the same time as Binti so who knows what i’ll make of that but I can’t say I really like Nnedi’s writing. Its nothing special, but maybe she improves in the next book.

I’ll report back.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ

I got fed up waiting for a special book to arrive (which should be here today) yesterday and began reading this instead

Its one of three books from the SF Masterworks collection of classic Science Fiction that i was uber kindly sent by Stevie over at Orion/Gollancz books. This was first published in 1975 and i just adore the old style, almost cheesy covers of all the books in this set.

Its about 4 different versions of the same women from 4 different/parallel universes sort of thingy. It makes for damn confusing reading at times, there are paragraphs of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing like Virginia Woolf which is really hard to get into the groove of.

I had about a million questions and I was only 23 pages in!

I dont think im the target audience this book is intended for and certainly with it having been published over 40 years ago it reads very old fashioned, but…

…having said all that I really did quite enjoy it! Yay!

The humour in it is wonderful, very tongue in cheek in places. Full of sarcasm and wit and with a very strong feminist message. I tabbed quite a few pages as you can see. I wanted to remember some of the classic lines.

I’m not sure it was the perfect SFF starting point for me but I cant wait to read some more of the wonderful Masterworks series.

Have you read this? what did you think?

 

 

 

 

Planetfall by Emma Newman

For some reason 2017 wants me to read more Science fiction/fantasy books, dont ask me why but it does!  I’m not arguing though when Planetfall is so bloody good!

In their search for a new and better life than the one that they had on the overpopulated Earth, Suh lead a group of 1000 people – including her partner and lover Ren – to another planet. Then Suh mysteriously vanished, and only Ren and the Ringleader know the truth behind her disappearance. Now, two decades later, a stranger who looks suspiciously like Suh wanders into the colony, flooding Ren with memories of the traumatic event she fought so hard to bury. And if she reveals the secret she has kept for so long, it could ruin everything the colonists built…

 

I reckon that this is an excellent book to begin with if you are just starting to read SFF. It has just the right amount of excitement, suspense, thrills and emotions to keep you reading but not too much technical spacey stuff to put you off.

Renata or Ren is such a great character, flawed but ultimately so realistic. I felt for her on so many occasions which i why i loved the ending so much (read it and see if you agree, well i defy you not to really)

Beautifully written, the pace never slackened off for a second and for someone who hates all the world building in fantasy novels, Emma made this world come alive for me in such a short space of time I was sure I must be reading book 2 or 3 about these characters, so comfortable did i become with them.

Slowly the tension builds and builds until you just cant put the book down for a second or you’ll miss something. I read the last 80 pages in one gulp just to find out what would happen. Oh boy it was just great!

I ‘ve just bought the next book in the Planetfall series which is this baby

and im so looking forward to diving into it.

As i’m new(ish) to SFF what books would you recommend I read to keep my interest going?

What are you reading right now?

Lets chat.

 

What Alice Knew by T.A. Cotterell

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This may contain spoilers, so be warned!

I was kindly sent an early proof copy of this by Transworld so I have to thank them, which makes it even harder for me to say that this book was a big disappointment. *sighs loudly*

To be fair it has a cracking opening and the pace was kept up really well to begin with but…..

  1. I felt it was full of too many confusing and un-necessary red herrings and things to put us off the scent of solving the mystery
  2. The mystery seemed to be solved about a 5th of the way in which was a bit off putting
  3. Why did Alice’s husband have to keep denying everything, i dont know the girl, i only chatted to her for a minute, i only went back to her flat to call a cab yada, yada, yada but then cracks on the same page and admits to what he’s done.   What is Alice, a Ninja interrogator or something?

The rest of the book is about how nothing thats been said, admitted to or mentioned is the truth so we are forced to wade through mountains of alibis and lies until the final truth, (we hope) is given as an ending.

For me it lost pace after the initial revelation and i never believed in nor liked either character.

Sorry it just wasnt for me but i’m sure it will still be a big hit when its published in March 2017.

The Last Beginning by Lauren James

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CHEESEFEST!

There i’ve said it. This was one huge cheesefest.

Which means i didnt like it very much, sadly.

Her first book The Next Together was an incredibly clever concept, time travel, time loops, historical love affairs etc. and would have been an award winning novel if it had been written by a more experienced person. Sadly it came out as very tacky and the concepts were wasted with pointless drivel and cheesy love themes.   I lost count of how many times the female character said, and i quote “her toes curled” when he kissed me.  Ugghhh! just NO.

This one though had the means to be a really cool book too but this time it was just tooooooooooooooo predictable. I mean here we have the daughter of the couple above, finding out who her real parents were when she was 16 and her adopted parents just happened to be scientists too and who had created the worlds first time machine!

I mean, i ask you, even a monkey could guess where the book was going, and it did!  I didnt even read past page 62! Somehow it seemed like a waste of my life to continue to the end so i flicked through and I was right.

She also tried to create funny sequences between her main character, the rather strangely named Clove (yes, precisely) and an AI computer character. The humour was somewhat stilted though and felt rather forced. perhaps stick to scientific plots for now eh?

Are there any positives? Yes actually. Her ideas for a YA novel were really on target for originality, I loved in both books the mix of historical and modern day parts which has normally only been done in Adult novels and the covers of both books are scrummy. Hoepfully she will continue to improve as a writer in the future.

Candlestick Press pamphlet reviews

Candlestick Press, who publish gorgeous poetry pamphlets usually containing 10 or 12 poems around a central theme very kindly sent me their latest 3 pamphlets to review.

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Their pamphlets are designed to be sent as a gift card for all manner of occasions. They come with an envelope, a bookmark and a sticky label to seal the flap with, look!

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The pamphlets are beautifully designed and printed and make such an original change from a plain card. Here is a bit more about the three they sent me.


Ten Poems about Friendship

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Of the Ten poems in this pamphlet my favourites were:

  • The Pleasures of Friendship by Stevie Smith (1902 – 1971) so short but just says it all really.
  • Friends by Polly Clark, about an episode of the TV series Friends that is her favourite, so original.
  • Inventory by Lorraine Mariner, All of us of Facebook users will identify with this and its amazing how many different types of friendship there really are.
  • Friends by Alden Nowlan (1933 – 1983) Friends can be so vital in combatting loneliness, I found this very moving.
  • Fiere in the Middle by Jackie Kay, Friends being there for each other in times of need, beautiful words!
  • Friendship and Illness by May Sarton (1912 – 1995) we need friends all the time but when we are feeling unwell they can be the best medicine.
  • Friendship by Elizabeth Jennings (1926 – 2001) The true meaning of friendship, give and take and always being there.

I hadnt heard of most of these poets so its great to have discovered them and their beautiful words.


The Twelve Poems of Christmas

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Now I really love everything about Christmas so this was such a treat, though having said that I didnt like half as many poems in this one, however there are poems here to suit everyone. Here are my favourites:

  • The Christmas Robin by Robert Graves (1895 – 1985) His descriptions of the countryside are always so evocative
  • How I’ll Decorate My Tree by Liz Lochhead, This is so funny and my favourite poem, it speaks to all of us at some time or other and her forced rhyming is just glorious.

 


The Wood in Winter by John Lewis-Stempel

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This is an unusual pamphlet in that its mainly just one short story rather than a collection of poems. Its written by John Lewis-Stempel who won the Thwaites Wainwright prize with his beautiful book, Meadowlands in 2014.

It also has 2 poems: Seven Words for Winter by Nancy Campbell and Winter Heart by Jackie Kay both of which are wonderful.

The Wood in Winter is such a lovely story, detailing a walk through some woods on land that the author once used to own. His descriptions of a cold, snowy day slowly turning to dusk is a treat to read. I felt I was there with him every step of the way, watching the birds, crunching through the snow and shivering with the cold.

People claim they enjoy winter, but what they actually mean is they enjoy winter as a livener, a quick tease of the elements before resorting to their central heating. For anyone working outdoors, winter hurts.

I fear the quote above is way too accurate.

The cover is beautifully designed by Angela Harding


A huge thank you to the lovely folk at Candlestick Press for these. I have plans for the giving of them all.

rainbow spines book tag

rainbow-spines

Its been a while since i did a book tag and i do love all the colours of the rainbow so why not this one?

Slade House by David Mitchell. This is the only book of his i’ve ever read and it is phenomenal stuff! Its my top read of 2016 so far and i’m not sure it can be bettered. Magical realism, fairies, ghosts and all manner of creepiness abounds. If this don’t win all the prizes then there is no justice in the publishing world.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I havent fully read this one yet, its rather strange and not the sort I would normally choose but the writing is beautiful even if the plot is hard to fathom at times.
How hard can love be? by Holly Bourne. This is part of what i believe is called, The spinster series from Holly. I do like her writing, she can be so funny and quite smart for a YA novel. I havent finished this one yet, I am a serial not finisher of books and have loads half read. *hangs head in shame* Such a funky bubblegum pink spine though eh?
Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel. This is such a beautiful book about nature, the countryside and how its changed over the years. Its one mans diary of the land he farms and its so atmospheric that you can believe you’re there with him. I was lucky enough to get a signed copy from John himself who is a lovely chap.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (who else?) I just recently bought myself the paperback edition of this book which is my favourite of all the 7 titles in the Harry Potter series. I have it already in hardback from the day it came out but these new editions from Bloomsbury are just gorgeous so i treated myself and now i’m having a re-read.
An artist of the floating world by Kazuo Ishiguro. Its not a perfect purple spine this but the best i could find amazingly. I havent read this yet but his writing is so simple yet powerful and i’m enjoying leaving my book genre comfort zone and trying something new.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. Jen Campbell introduced me to Michel’s writing and i’m so glad she did. This book is so unusual being set partly on earth and partly in outer space with the main character being sent there to teach an alien species about God. It has the most stunning cover and spine too.

although this is a tag, i’m not tagging anybody in particular to do this as no one ever does so its not worth it.

Have you read any of these books?

what did you think?

lets chat.

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