A great historical mystery with a clumsy imprint of modern values – Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

Book Reviews, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts

It’s 1892. After an incident in London society leaves Sarah Gilchrist shaken to her core and ostracised, she follows her dream of studying to be a doctor in Edinburgh. She spends her evenings helping in a hospital for the most needy in society. When a prostitute she has treated at the hospital turns up on the dissection slab, she starts to investigate, putting her reputation, friendships and even life at risk.

The concept for this book was cool. I like the strong female heroine, I like that she doesn’t treat herself as a victim, and it’s interesting to be looking and learning about the first women doctors, and hey, she’s a detective too. So far so ridiculous, so fun. And the story unfolded pretty cleverly. I really enjoyed her encounters with the many classes and types of people that she encountered: rich relatives, other students, the underclass and more. And the solution was pleasantly unexpected. But Gilchrist was completely anachronistically liberal, and frustration with that overshadows my memory of the book.

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When a sequel more than lives up to the first – I can’t get enough of Katharine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower

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After running from a home that is no longer safe (after events of first book…) Vasya tries for adventure, determined to travel the world and see it’s wonders. But evil is on the loose and children are being stolen – and it seems she may be the only one who can stop it. With her ability to see and speak to spirits, her much-more-than-ordinary horse and her instinct she must try to discover what is happening and save Russia, battling evil, politics, convention and even her own family along the way.

The first book of this series, The Bear and the Nightingale, has been one of my very favourite books this year, so when I found out there was another one and I could read it I was ecstatic! And the sequel didn’t disappoint. It jumped straight back into the story and hurdled through adventure, character development and a twisting plot with a fantastic blend of the familiar and the new. The setting continues to entrance me; Vasya is a terrific heroine and basically there isn’t anything I don’t love about these books. And there will be more, hooray!

This is possibly the cleverest book I’ve ever read – The Changeling by Victor Lavalle

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A new father is obsessed with his baby. Proud, loving, caring, desperate to care for it. But it’s mother does not think it’s a baby. When she commits the unspeakable then disappears, the father is left devastated – but in the middle of his grief and anger is drawn into a far stranger world than he ever imagined, which he must conquer to recover what has been lost.

This is probably the strangest book I have ever read – and certainly one of the cleverest. And also one of the most difficult. I am thoroughly glad I read this book a few months ago and not after my baby has been born (scheduling ahead from maternity leave here…) as I could only just about cope at that moment. It crosses boundaries books don’t usually broach, but follows it up extremely well. I was left shocked, surprised, thrilled, confounded and delighted by different parts of the story, and continue to think of it with complete amazement. What a triumph!

Am I finally getting too old for YA? The (fantastic) Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy – Laini Taylor

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Stunning, secretive Karou has lived a strange life in different cities, never putting down roots or having a real family. But that’s because she lives at least half of her life elsewhere – in another world, where a strange monster who is the closest thing she has to a parent sends her on missions to collect teeth. But when angels, and one particular, very handsome angel, crash into her world and a supernatural, inter-universal war that has continued through centuries…

Obviously I can’t really summarise three action and emotion packed books above, but that gives the kind of basic setting. This is a huge, ambitious, far-reaching and cataclysmic trilogy with exceptionally strong world-building, well established foundations and sympathetic characters who weave their way compellingly through gripping circumstances. It’s got gorgeous young adults who fall passionately in love, it’s got supernatural powers, friendship, betrayal, crazy monsters… just all you could possibly need from a YA fantasy series. And in many ways, I loved it. But in the end I think I’m left feeling I’m just a bit too old.

Five reasons I’m nervous-excited about Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust

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In case you don’t keep up to date with all the latest in book news, here it is: PHILIP PULLMAN IS BRINGING OUT THE BOOK OF DUST, an ‘equel’ to HIS DARK MATERIALS. Guys, we get to adventure again with Lyra!!!!

I love Northern Lights so much, and the rest of the series not much less. Lee Scoresby. Iorek Bryrinson. The fantastic evilness of Mrs Coulter. The wonderful world Lyra lives in, then colliding with our world and others. I read and re-read these books so so many times as a teenager.

So I should be just over the moon about this, right? But my excitement is definitely tinged with some concerns… here we go:

Films have changed the way we read and write – Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

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They’ve got half and hour left. Max and Carys fell in love – but love is not allowed. In their world relationships are only ever short term, and you only live in one place for one cycle. But they’re determined that their love can beat the system and change the rules, taking their case to the highest powers. They are sent on a mission into space together – a mission doomed to disaster. Is love worth it, in the end?

In a plot woven between the present moment and the story of their love, Max and Carys’ predicament fans out around the reader, with the elements of mystery becoming clearer and clearer. This book draws you in very cleverly, with you as the reader rooting for the couple more and more as you learning more about their past, making the outcome of the present moment more and more tense.

When the Floods Came – a different treatment of a common trend by Clare Morrall

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Rosemary and her family have lived in the block of flats for as long as she can remember, safe from the scavengers and dangers of post-flood Britain. Despite the draw of Brighton, the last society around, they stick it out as a family – until a new arrival shatters their worldview. Rosemary’s world, her relationship with long-term finance Hector from Brighton who she’s only ever met online, her view of her family and her certainty in her future are all thrown into relief as they try to decipher the strange world around them.

The only other book I have read by Clare Morrall was just SO different to this!! It felt like an already established author taking a dip into the post-apocalyptic trend, but once I’ve got used to the idea, it definitely worked. It was more thoughtful and less action packed than other books I’ve read of the same premise, but all the more interesting for it. It was great!

I’m a bit annoyed that I’m hooked by Brian Guthrie’s RISE

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The mysterious queen summons a scribe to her, and entrusts her with a task. To find out the story of what happened to four of her friends, many years ago, to solve a current problem. The scribe travels between the friends: Micaela, whose Father’s interference into their planet’s water system got him killed, Sujith, the visitor from another disk who found himself embroiled in the action, and Quentin, well-meaning, but the most intractable of all. With dragons, coding, controlling governments, time-travel and more this is a vast world that we start to discover.

I’ve actually read this one and a half times. The first time was online, as Brian Guthrie, who stayed with us once, told me about it. I was suspicious, as I usually am with self-published books, but I had a look. And I got hooked. It was an extremely annoying way to read: tiny thin paragraphs on busy pages that I had to click through often – and yet I was hooked. I finally tore myself away before the end because it was too annoying to read like that – and the way it was, I had no way to see how much longer it was going to be – but when the book came out, I thought I’d give it another try.

What is it really like to be a Chinese person in America? I’m a little closer to knowing thanks to Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes

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Young Ah Ling, son of a prostitute and white man, lands in 1860s California and navigates his way through the laundries of his Chinese heritage and the railroads of the white men; never quite at home with either people. Years later Anna May Wong; Hollywood’s first Chinese film star, must take seductress roles and cannot kiss a white man onscreen – visits China, and her father, and feels alien. Years later again, Vincent Chin is murdered in a bar because he looks Japanese. And years later again, half-Chinese writer John Ling Smith visits China to adopt a baby girl.

Though in style this book was like a fictionalised documentary, it got me completely. I was hooked on every story, and so enjoyed the experience of entering into each of the four worlds it portrayed. And I think the fictionalisation probably made the points the more poignant: we were taken intoworlds and saw different themes and ideas that run through the whole thing. Like being offered the proof rather than the conclusions. I really enjoyed it!

Last year’s resolutions – a review :S

Book Thoughts, Writing


Last year I took a risk and made my New Year’s Resolutions very public! It’s beyond time to check back in and see how I’ve done. I’m about to paste the list in and comment. I’m expecting a mixed bag. There are some I definitely didn’t do, but I’m pleased with the effect the ones I did manage have had on my life. Here goes..