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My Top 10 New Releases of 2016

I’m getting in early with my Top 10 New Releases for this year for three reasons.

  1. I don’t think I’ll read any more new releases this year, and I suspect that any I do won’t be up to the standards of my top ten.
  2. I’ve started studying again and blogging takes up a lot of time (if you let it), so I’ve written this in the past (i.e. last week) before my class starts so I can prioritise reading loads of boring stuff. This is probably going to be my last post for a while which means there will soon be tumbleweeds rolling through this little corner of the internet.
  3. I’m helping you guys out! Maybe there’ll be a book on here you can ask someone to sneak under the Christmas tree for you (or you can sneak it under there yourself), or maybe there’s the perfect book on here for a reader you know. If you don’t do Christmas, maybe there’s a book on here you can buy just because (which, as we know, is the best reason for buying books).

2016 has, I think we can all agree, been a pretty shitty year for a multitude of reasons that I won’t go into now because do we all really need a reminder? The release of some truly excellent books this year has been a shining light, though, and it’s been nice to be reminded that as shitty as the world gets there are still people out there creating and making wonderful things to bring a little bit of joy into our lives or perhaps enlighten us. So keep reading, friends.

10. The Dry by Jane Harper. [Goodreads]
thedrycoverI read this one pretty early in the year and all but devoured it in the space of a weekend – I probably should have reread it though because I flew through it so quickly that I didn’t give myself enough time to let it sink in so I could write a proper review of it, so here’s one from a newspaper. A thriller set in rural Australia, I’m not at all surprised this had been optioned for film rights before it was even published: the plot is ideal thriller fodder; the setting of a small town in the middle of a drought gives the book heat and intensity; and the writing and editing are sharp. I was convinced that something else would come along to knock this out of my top ten, but The Dry has proved itself a stayer. If you like thrillers then you can’t go past this one.

9. The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley. [Goodreads]
birdmans-wife-9781925344998_hrThis is the second of three books by female Aussie writers on this list (the first being The Dry), which I’m really happy about – and all of them are debut novels. I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover, which isn’t always a good thing – there’s even a saying about books and covers – but I wasn’t let down in this case. A solid piece of historical fiction based on the real life of artist Elizabeth Gould, The Birdman’s Wife has done amazingly well in Australia, and I’m pretty sure it entered its second printing in the last couple of weeks, which I think is pretty great since it was only just released at the start of October (but I’m no expert on these things). Also, check out this photo I took of my budgie sitting atop the book – it’s delightful. [My review]

8. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch. [Goodreads]
the-hanging-treeI’ve spent most of November doing a reread of the first five books in the ‘Peter Grant’ series by Ben Aaronovitch and I’ve had such a great time reliving the adventures of PC Peter Grant, his boss, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (who I’m a bit in love with), and all the various beings of the demi-monde they interact with. The publication of The Hanging Tree has been pushed back several  times, so when it was finally available I was so excited I could have burst. The book more than delivered, particularly in the final chapters when my heart was beating so hard and so fast I thought it’d leap out of my chest. It was all very intense. So many things happened, so many questions were answered, more questions were raised, and even better – the book had an open ending which means THERE’LL BE ANOTHER ONE.

 7. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. [Goodreads]
TheCityofMirrorsJust like The Hanging Tree, this is another delayed installment in a fantastic series. Fans of Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ trilogy had been waiting for this third and final book since 2012 when the second book was released. So it’s been a long wait filled with false starts. Was it worth waiting four years? Absolutely. The City of Mirrors was probably the perfect way to end everything. I have so many feelings about this book that I can’t even articulate them properly – but it did break my heart several times over and I’d recommend having some tissues at hand from page 462 onwards because TEARS. And you should absolutely read all three of these books back to back so you can fully appreciate how amazing the characters are (you’ll also become incredibly attached to them which will add to the TEARS). [My little review]

6. Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. [Goodreads]
mrsplitfootcoverI’m pretty sure this was first released late last year in the US, but it wasn’t published here in Australia until about January this year, so I’m counting it. This might have been the surprise book of the year for me. I thought I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did. It was smart, mysterious, weird, creepy, original, and most of the time I had no idea where the long road in the book was taking me. But it was the end of that long road that has stuck with me and put this book in my top ten – it was unexpected and put everything else that came before it in a completely different light. It was final, but also not. I don’t know. If you like weird stuff (or just generally excellent books) and haven’t read this yet then you should go rectify that problem. [My review]

5. The Mothers by Brit Bennett. [Goodreads]
themotherscoverOk. I knew I’d like this one because LOADS of readers who I’D TRUST WITH MY LIFE (or at least my reading life) absolutely loved it. I listened to the audiobook on Audible, so I’d be 100% ok with receiving this as a gift if anyone feels so inclined, because I know it’s a book I’ll read again and again. Having said that, the audio was amazing and I think that even people who aren’t fans of audiobooks will have no problems listening to this one because it’s the most perfect combination of story and narrator you could possibly get. The ending of The Mothers left me wanting more, not because the ending wasn’t right, but because it felt so real and don’t we always want more from reality? I’m excited to read more from Brit Bennett (or listen if it’s narrated by Adenrele Ojo). [My little review]

4. The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. [Goodreads]
9781760291860This is third of the three books by female Aussie authors on my list this year. I don’t have any more words for this book so I’m just going to copy and paste from my review: “I can’t really pinpoint why I loved The Museum of Modern Love so much. I don’t think it’s a novel that has any one thing that stands out above everything else; all the individual parts just fit together so beautifully to make a novel that’s both thoughtful and moving, without being over the top. It didn’t leave me elated and it didn’t leave me curled up in bed weeping. But I hugged it when I finished because it gave me that feeling – the one we readers sometimes feel at the conclusion of a book, but can’t quite put into words. It’s about so many things: relationships, life, and art; but it’s also about how these things work together.” [My full review]

3. Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink by Stefan Zweig. [Goodreads]
Messages from a Lost WorldThis book has sat quietly at the back of my mind since February being a quiet achiever and the book on this list I’d most like to thrust into the hands of everyone I meet. Zweig witnessed two of the most horrible events of human history – WWI and WWII – and it’s these events that are largely the focus of these essays, but there are also some lovely ones about art and history that were definitely the highlights for me. The essays were written in the period between 1914 and 1941 – many of them originally given as speeches at various events – and this year Pushkin Press published them in English for the first time (a little loophole to get the book on my list). Despite some of the essays being over a century old, this collection could have been written a year ago. They could have been written today. They are as relevant now as they were then and in them you can see Zweig’s devastation at what the world was doing to itself. But. He also offers hope. I’ve said before that no one writes human nature like Zweig does, and I will stand by that assertion until the day I die. He doesn’t necessarily present solutions in Messages from a Lost World , but he does go a little way in helping us make sense of things that don’t make sense. [My review]

2.
The North Water by Ian McGuire. [Goodreads]
TheNorthWater CoverThis book is wow. I received an ARC of it from NetGalley all the way back in the latter part of 2015 (and then purchased a lovely hardcover of it when it was released in February), read it in November of that same year, and ever since then it had been sitting in the number one position for this list, all the way up until October of this year. So for nearly twelve whole months, nothing came close to matching my opinion of this book. The North Water is as dark, gritty, and gory a historical fiction as you can get and I unashamedly love it. On this list it stands out as my “definitely not for everyone” book. It’s super graphic in parts and I know it will make even those with the strongest stomachs a little uncomfortable. It’s setting is largely in the Arctic, giving it a bleakness that almost amplifies the moments of violence – it’s really quite horrifying. It’s also a lesson in sharp writing and editing as it packs a hell of a punch in just 270 pages (or 336 depending on which edition you read). I loved it, many people will hate it, but it’s a great book nonetheless. [My review]

1. The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John le Carré. [Goodreads]
thepigeontunnelIf you’ve been reading this blog for a significant amount of time you’ll know that Mr le Carré is my absolute favourite author, so the fight for the number one position on my list of Top New Releases for 2016 was never going to be a fair one. This is probably the one book I was most looking forward to this year since it was first announced last year and it thankfully both met and exceeded my expectations.  John le Carré covers everything in this collection of remembrances, including his time working for British Intelligence; his childhood and early teen years; time spent researching his novels in various – sometimes war torn – countries; and anecdotes about the people he’s met and known. I’ll forever shake my head about the Jerry Westerby thing (this will only make sense if you’ve read The Honourable Schoolboy, sorry), but after reading The Pigeon Tunnel it’s nice to think that le Carré perhaps shakes his head about it too. On its own The Pigeon Tunnel is an insightful and entertaining glimpse into the life of a brilliant author, but when looked at alongside his novels I feel like there’s now another layer I can explore whenever I read le Carré’s fictional work. [My little review]

I’d love to hear what your favourite books (new releases or otherwise) were this year or if you agree/disagree with any of my choices, so leave a note in the comments and let’s chat! (But it might be ages until I respond…sorry.)

Top Ten Tuesday: The last 10 books added to my Goodreads TBR

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is to post about “Ten Books I’ve Added To My To-Be-Read List Lately”. I decided to focus on the ten that I’ve most recently added to my ever growing to be read shelf on Goodreads. Surprisingly they’re a bunch of books that I will more than likely read, rather than some that I’ve just clicked “Want to Read” for the heck of it.

10.

The Damned Volume I: Three Days Dead by Cullen Bunn. [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: because NetGalley likes to tempt me every now and then with an email FILLED with new graphic novels and comics and they got me this time. Also, it’s written by Cullen Bunn who is the writer for another comic I read, Harrow County, which is super creepy and amazing. Also ALSO, the main character in The Damned has no soul; add to that the demons that appear in it and the pretty snappy looking noirish artwork and I can’t think of a reason to not add it to my TBR.

9. hyggeThe Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because the cover is delightful, the title is delightful, and why would I not want to live well in the Danish way?

8. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because I like books about science that are relatively accessible for non-sciencey people like myself. Also, I accidentally purchased it the other day (along with another book by Harari, Sapiens) and I have this thing now where I add the exact edition of a book to my shelf in Goodreads as soon as I get it so that I don’t have to go searching for it later.

7. voynichThe Voynich Manuscript edited by Raymond Clemens. [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because Julianne from Outlandish Lit mentioned in a post that this edition of The Voynich Manuscript was being published this month. If you don’t know what The Voynich Manuscript is, then I suggest you get googling because it’s only the most mysterious book of all time in the history of the whole world and you are missing out just by not knowing what it is.

6.On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best mentioned it in her review of McEwan’s latest book, Nutshell, and I decided that I’d like to read it because I never have, despite it sounding excellent.

5. uraniumUranium Wars: The Scientific Rivalry that Created the Nuclear Age by Amir D. Aczel [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because Gabriella reviewed it and sold me on it because it sounds like another of those books about science that makes science (and its history) accessible for me.

4.The Evenings by Gerard Reve (translated by Sam Garrett) [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: Because Pushkin Press kindly alerted me to its presence in a newsletter that appeared in my email inbox. I find a lot of books I didn’t know I wanted to read in this way.

3. lesmisLes Misérables by Victor Hugo [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: This is one of those that I added because I recently purchased it. ‘Les Mis‘ is one of my favourite novels, but I’ve never owned a copy of my own. I rectified the situation when I found this nice edition by Word Cloud Classics.

2. Hot Milk by Deborah Levy [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT:
Because it was also reviewed by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best. I’d seen it around a lot because of its Booker Prize shortlisting, but it wasn’t until I read Kate’s review that I wanted to read it (she’s a book pusher – in a good way).

1.whoistoblameWho Is to Blame? A Russian Riddle by Jane Marlow [Goodreads]
WHY I ADDED IT: To be honest the biggest riddle here is why I added it to my TBR. I have no idea where I heard of it and decided I wanted to read it. I suspect that I may have spotted it while perusing NetGalley and I felt that I had a connection to it/saw it as a sign because I was reading War & Peace at the time and what are the odds of a book set in Russia being on NetGalley at the same as I was reading another book set in Russia? The answer: the odds are super high when reading War & Peace because do you know how long that is? No doubt if I go back through all of the books added to my Goodreads TBR since January (when I started reading W&P) there’ll be loads more books set in Russia.

Six Degrees of Separation // ‘Never Let Me Go’

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It goes like this:

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.”

Then you head on over to Kate’s blog and link up. Easy.

sixdegreesbooks

Unsurprisingly (if you happen to have seen my last two Six Degrees posts), I haven’t read this month’s starter book, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Neither have I read the book I’m linking it to, this one another of Ishiguro’s – The Buried Giant. I do own a copy of that book though, so it’s a start.

The link to the next book is fairly obvious – it too has the word “giant” in the title. In The Giant O’Brien by Hilary Mantel, two characters are facing off: the titular giant, Charles O’Brien (based on a real life giant named Charles Byrne), and the famed surgeon and anatomist, John Hunter, whose work in real life contributed a lot to modern surgery (in some unashamed self-promotion, feel free to read this post about The Giant O’Brien, in which I write about seeing the real giant’s skeleton, along with a bunch of other delightfully horrifying things).

Now we move from one man of science and cutter up of bodies to another: Mary Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein. The opening chapters of Frankenstein take the form of a series of letters, which is just how The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society starts (and continues).

Set during and post WWII, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has a large focus on books. If you’re like many people in the world, you will have read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; if you haven’t read it, then I’ll tell you that it is also set during WWII and has a large focus on books.

Probably my most favourite thing about that book is the disembodied and omniscient narrator, something it has in common with one of my favourite new books this year, Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love. But I won’t tell you who the narrator is because that’d take the fun away from it.

Book Review – ‘Wayward Heroes’

waywardheroes2Title: Wayward Heroes
Author: Halldór Laxness (translated by Phillip Roughton)
Genre: Fiction (literary)
Release date: 1st November, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

This reworking of Iceland’s ancient tales, set against a backdrop of the medieval Norse world, complete with Viking raids, battles enshrined in skaldic lays, saints’ cults, clashes between secular and spiritual authorities, journeys to faraway lands and abodes of trolls, legitimate claimants and pretenders to thrones, was written during the post-WWII buildup to the Cold War, and Laxness uses it as a vehicle for a critique of global militarism and belligerent national posturing that was as rampant then as now. This he does purposefully, though indirectly, by satirizing the spirit of the old sagas, represented especially in the novel’s main characters, the sworn brothers Þormóður Bessason and Þorgeir Hávarsson, warriors who blindly pursue ideals that lead to the imposition of power through violent means.
The two see the world around them only through a veil of heroic illusion covering their eyes: kings are fit either to be praised in poetry or toppled from their thrones, other men only to kill or be killed by, while women are more mythic than real— they are the shieldmaidens of old lore, wearing swan dress and “fixing men’s fates.” Replete with irony, absurdity, and pathos, the novel takes on more of a character of tragedy than anything else, as the sworn brothers’ quest to live out their ideals inevitably leaves them empty-handed and ruined.”
(Archipelago Books)

Wayward Heroes by Halldór Laxness is part of the body of work for which Laxness was awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature (coincidentally, I started reading this book on the day the most recent recipient of this award was announced, but I won’t go into detail about my opinion on that). I had a much more enjoyable time reading this than I had anticipated, and found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. My initial feelings were that this would be a good book to read, but not necessarily fun. In the end I was correct on the former and completely wrong on the latter.

Þorgeir and Þormóður (the “Þ” in their names is, I believe, pronounced like the “Th” of Thor) are the titular wayward heroes. They are born at a time when Icelandic men are moving away from the tradition of pillaging marauding and pillaging for riches, and are instead amassing riches through more peaceable means. Having been raised on stories of blood and glory, and being convinced that the attaining of glory through blood is the manly thing to do, the idea of peace is not exactly to the taste of Þorgeir:

A little farther down the road they found a farmstead, where no one was stirring yet. […] Þorgeir went to one of the windows and shouted that there were visitors outside, and that those inside were to open the door. A woman asked who went there.
“Champions and warriors,” said Þorgeir.
“So you are not men of peace?” asked the woman.
“I hope that we will never commit such a howling offense as to sue for peace with others, said Þorgeir.

Þorgeir’s tendency to become affronted at the slightest things, or to take offense for no reason was particularly funny to me. He seemed to be at the extreme end of the stereotypical Viking scale: quick to anger, not wanting to admit weakness, and would literally prefer to plunge off a cliff than ask for help.

… if Þorgeir had called out even a little loudly, Þormóður could easily have heard him. Yet on this, the old books all tell the same story: nothing could have been further from Þorgeir’s mind at that moment, hanging as he was from the cliff, than to call his sworn brother’s name only to beg him for help.

Þormóður brought a more fantastical element to the novel, as he comes into contact with Fates (or the Nordic iteration of them anyway) and trolls, has encounters with Valkyries and witches, and just generally lives a much dreamier sort of life. Of the two I probably preferred Þorgeir, but that’s mostly because he made me laugh with his ridiculousness.

It was this ridiculousness and the deadpan humour throughout that was probably my favourite thing about Wayward Heroes. I wasn’t necessarily expecting it and it gave levity to a book that I think would have been lacking without it.

Although some books state that the Norsemen had axes so sharp that they could cleave men from head to toe, the way wooden rafters are split, or cut men’s heads off and slice their limbs off their bodies without needing a chopping-block, or halve a fleeing enemy with one blow, making him fall to the ground in two parts, we believe all this to have been dreamed up by people who actually wielded blunt weapons.

I found the historical aspect of the novel very interesting. Not being overly knowledgeable on the history of Iceland and Scandinavia, I can’t really comment on it in terms of how accurately it was portrayed, or how it fits in with Laxness’s commentary on the world at the time in which he was writing, but it’s whet my appetite for more historical fiction set in Iceland and Scandinavia, and probably some non-fiction too.

Although the allegorical aspect of the novel might be beyond my novel, I can safely say that in the centuries between now and when Wayward Heroes is set, politics hasn’t become any more sensible, particularly if the current political climate is anything to go by. Laxness’s work is definitely that of the enduring sort that is relevant no matter which decade you happen to be reading in. But does this speak highly of the reach of his work, or show the lack of change in humanity? I’d like to think it’s the former, but perhaps it’s a little of both.

My only issue with the book is that coming in at 500 pages, it started to feel a little long towards the end and my interest began to wane in the parts that were more about politics and less about the two sworn brothers. I can understand why these things were included, but with so many kings/wannabe kings to keep track of, it got to be a bit of a struggle. It’s definitely one of those books that would benefit from a slow reading – maybe a couple of chapters a week rather than trying to get it all out of the way in as short a period of time as possible, which is perhaps where I went wrong with it. I’d definitely reread it, but I’d take my time with it.

I should warn you that there are lots of place names in the book that are in Icelandic; I felt like I stumbled over these a bit  in the early stages of the novel and I found them distracting and a bit jarring to read, but I became used to it in the end and I actually came to enjoy reading these wonderful place names, such as “Hrafnsfjörður” and “Sviðinsstaðir”.

Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland” (nobelprize.org). After reading Wayward Heroes I have to say that I 100% agree with the phrase “vivid epic power” and I’ll definitely be looking for more of his work.

Many thanks to Archipelago Books and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.

Teaser Tuesday // Rivers of London

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Jen at Books and A Beat. Anyone can play along! All you have to do is grab the book you’re currently reading, open to a random page and share two sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

RiversOfLondon

This week (I hope) sees the release of the next book in the ‘PC Grant’ series by Ben Aaronovitch. So it seemed like a good time to set out on a reread of the entire series (actually, I should have started this months ago, but the release date of the new book kept getting pushed back, so I procrastinated), starting out with the first book, Rivers of London.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this series, it’s kind of like ‘Harry Potter’ meets ‘The Bill’. It’s magical and dark, and definitely not for the kiddies. So if you’re after a new series to read I can highly recommend this one – you’ll devour it in no time. Here’s just the first sentence (it’s a long one) of the book to encourage you to read it:

“It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the East Portico of St Paul’s at Covent Garden.”

What are you reading this week?

The round up // October 2016

Another month has gone by in a blur. Surely someone has hit the fast forward button on the last two months of 2016, which can only be a good thing. This year has been like a scary rollercoaster ride with loads of ups and downs that doesn’t seem like it’s going to end, but then all of a sudden it’s over and you just walk around in a daze for a bit, coming down from the adrenaline rush.

October was ok, I think. I got loads of reading in, was reasonably productive at work and around the home, and that’s all there is to report really. Oh, I did participate in my first Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon which was fun. I had a much more casual approach to it than I have for the 24 in 48 Readathon; I was so casual about it in fact, that I didn’t even keep track of how much time I actually spent reading over the 24 hours, and I didn’t write a wrap up post. It was really nice to just read – I can highly recommend it.

Some reading things from October:

  • chamberofsecretsJohn le Carré’s sort of memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, finally found its way into my hands and it was just perfect. It was definitely the highlight of my reading this month and I’m just so happy that he wrote this book. It’s quite literally everything I hoped for and more.
  • Some other reading highlights: The Mothers by Brit Bennett, which definitely fits into the ‘must read’ category of books; the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

shakespeareandcoA pretty exciting thing that happened was the arrival in the post of the bio of the bookshop Shakespeare and Company in Paris. It’s one of my favourite shops so buying this book seemed necessary. I ordered it all the way back at the start of September and ended up taking me about six or seven weeks to get to me, after it was returned to the store once, and then resent. Naturally I was excited to finally receive it – that shop does book mail so well. They have a bunch of different customisations available, including having your book stamped with the store stamp; having a photo keepsake included; and/or a memory mark, which is something that has been left in the shop by a visitor. I got the nicest handwritten note included in mine. Anyway, I had a little photoshoot of my book and some of the goodies, put it on Instagram and Shakespeare and Company shared my photo on their account! It was pretty excellent and now I kind of feel famous by association.

November plans? I don’t have that many aside from getting in as much reading as I can as I’ll be starting uni at the end of the month and I really need to focus on that if I want to finish my degree before 2020. This will also likely mean less blogging for me, maybe not so much in the next three months as I’ll just be doing just the one unit, but come March I’ll be doing two units at once, which is the equivalent of doing full-time study, plus my full-time job, and working sleep and stuff around that. The next couple of years are going to be pretty hectic, but if I stick to my plan I should complete the final unit of my degree the month before I go to Scotland (in August 2019) and to be honest I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Did you read anything good in October? Any big plans for November?

Bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts // 29 October, 2016

‘Bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts’ is hosted by Christine at Bookishly Boisterous – go say hi!

1. Wonder Woman in the U.N.: a great symbol of empowerment, but more power would be nice.

2. I’m now a Book Ninja and damn am I excited about it. Gotta start practicing my stealth mode.

3. Last year I participated in a postal Secret Santa run by The Broke and the Bookish. It was so much fun putting together a Christmas gift for a complete stranger. It’s happening again this year if anyone wants to jump on board.

4. There has been a huge load of science stuff that happened in the last few weeks that I’ve barely even read about, let alone shared with people. So today I want to make sure you all know that the FIRST EVER FOSSILISED DINOSAUR BRAIN HAS BEEN FOUND.

5. I’ve been spending the last few days putting together a most awesome playlist of songs for one of my best friends (music is probably my second love behind books even though I don’t have a musical bone in my body). I really pride myself on my playlists, and I spend hours putting them together, making sure all the songs flow together properly. But I never before knew about the “Crossfade Songs” option in iTunes. It’s changed my life and taken my playlist to a whole other level.

6. Speaking of music, if you haven’t watched ‘The Get Down‘ on Netflix yet, do yourself a favour and get to it. I was distracted by a bunch of other shows and so I missed it when it was first released, but then I watched all the episodes in a couple of days. The show is amazing, the acting is amazing, and the soundtrack….perfection.

7. Another Netflix party I’m just arriving at is ‘Bloodline‘. I heart Ben Mendelsohn in that so much.

8. Here’s a bunch of expiration dates for random things that aren’t food.

9. I went to a special screening of ‘Doctor Strange’ the other night (before the official release date – I felt really cool) and it was so excellent. The graphics were amazing and even though I’m not a fan of 3D films, this is one I’d recommend seeing in 3D because everything just looked amazing. Even though his American accent could use some work, Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect Stephen Strange and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. The film has some pretty dark themes, but there were enough funny moments to give it the usual Marvel film levity. I’ll be watching it again before its run finishes at the cinema.

10. Ok so I said earlier that music is probably my second love behind books (the rest of my top five loves are tv/film, food, and sleep) and something that I like to do every few months is go through the Shazam app on my phone to find all the little treasures I’ve tagged and then fill up my iTunes with some fresh music. A treasure I found this week is ‘Fate Don’t Know You’ by Desi Valentine, which was used in the most recent series of ‘Suits’. Below is a video of him singing it live, and you should also check out his cover of Adele’s ‘Hello’.

Little reviews // October 2016

I’ve got three little reviews this month – one a new release that I’ve been waiting for for a year, and two audiobooks that were spur of the moment downloads and were both fantastic. ALL OF THESE WERE FIVE STAR READS!! Can you believe that??

thepigeontunnelinstaThe Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life

Author: John le Carré
Genre: Non-fiction (autobiography/memoir)
Release Date: September 8th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★
[Goodreads]

I wanted to dedicate a whole post to this book, because it’s so special to me and it deserves it. But the reality is that a post of any great length would have just been a gush fest with very little substance to it. So a short post it is – being succinct is sometimes best with books we love.

Although this book falls best into the memoir category it isn’t really a memoir; as the title suggest it’s more like a collection of stories. Any fan of le Carré is guaranteed to enjoy this book. Not only are we given an insight into his writing process, but along the way we meet the inspiration and accidental real life counterparts of some of his most famous characters, including Alec Leamas (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and Jerry Westerby (whose main appearance was in The Honourable Schoolboy). It’s definitely more suited to those who’ve read a few of le Carré’s books as he makes references to many of his books that have more meaning with context. This really was everything I’d hoped for and will definitely be a treasured book in years to come.

barucormorantThe Traitor Baru Cormorant

Author: Seth Dickinson
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★
[Goodreads]

I listened to the audio of this and when I started I thought that 14 hours might be stretching the Heather/Audiobook friendship a bit. But halfway in I was completely in love with it and by the end I would have been happy for it to go for another 14 hours (but apparently there’s a sequel on the way so I guess I’ll settle for that).

It’s fantasy with political intrigue (think Game of Thrones but without dragons), loads of untrustworthy characters, blood, betrayal, A HUGE ENDING, and just a really excellent story in general. I can’t remember the last time I was genuinely surprised by a book, but this one had loads of unexpected moments and it was nice to be kept guessing. I thought the audio was quite good. I found the narrator a little annoying at first, but whatever it lacked the story more than made up for and by the end I didn’t mind the narrator. So it can’t have been that bad otherwise I would have listened to the whole thing. (I have to pass along my thanks to Julianne at Outlandish Lit for encouraging me to listen to this – you can read her review of it here.)

themothersThe Mothers

Author: Brit Bennett
Genre: Fiction (general)
Release Date: October 11th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★
[Goodreads]

This book is absolutely everywhere at the moment and with very good reason. It’s giving the above book from Mr John le Carré a run for its money as my favourite new release of 2016 – which is kind of a big deal you guys, because I LOVE THAT GUY.

Anyway, I don’t think I have anything new to add to plethora of information out there about The Mothers, but I’ll reiterate what just about everyone has said – you have to read this. Or be like me and listen to the audio. It was absolutely fantastic. I found the narration easy to listen to and completely engaging (obviously this was helped by an excellent story), but not once did I get annoyed while listening. So if you’ve got a few Audible credits burning a hole in your pocket, I can highly recommend this.

Book Review – ‘The Mystery of the Three Orchids’

mysteryofthethreeorchidsTitle: The Mystery of the Three Orchids (Commissario De Vincenzi #12)
Author: Augusto De Angelis (translated by Jill Foulston)
Genre: Fiction (mystery/crime)
Release Date: 8th August, 2016 (first published in 1942)
Rating: ★★★

“Death is in the air at one of Milan’s great fashion houses. As a new collection is unveiled, and the wealthy rub shoulders with the glamorous, owner Cristiana O’Brian escapes upstairs to discover the strangled body of her servant slumped on her bed – a single orchid by his side.
When Inspector De Vincenzi is called in to investigate, the brilliant detective is puzzled; why is Cristiana behaving so suspiciously? And what is her estranged ex husband doing there? As two further corpses appear, each accompanied by an orchid, De Vincenzi must see through dirty tricks and slippery clues in order to uncover the real killer.
Augusto De Angelis’s notorious sleuth returns in a cryptic murder mystery teeming with blackmail, deceit and revenge.” (Pushkin Press)

This is the third book in the ‘Inspector De Vincenzi’ series that I’ve read (the others were The Murdered Banker and The Hotel of Three Roses). As with those other books, The Mystery of the Three Orchids is a fast paced crime thriller, with a plethora of potential killers and not a lot of character building; what we do learn about the characters is the bare minimum to enable us to determine whether or not they’re the perpetrator of the crime. If you like your detective novels to be a slow burn, then this isn’t the series for you. The reader is immediately thrown into the action – there is no slow build up – the detective arrives within pages and immediately gets to work with very little rest.

The Mystery of the Three Orchids has probably been my least favourite of the series so far. That’s not to say it was bad or unenjoyable, but in comparison to the others I’ve read, I just had a less good time reading it. In the last two books, I’ve been stumped on who the killer was almost to the last pages; the clues that De Angelis left strewn throughout them weren’t overly obvious, and neither were the motives for the respective crimes. The opposite was true this time around, and I pieced it all together quite easily.

I also felt this instalment was a bit negative towards women, there being several instances in which women were portrayed as being little more than devious liars. It’s not something that I’ve noticed in the previous books and while it made me laugh more than anything else, it seemed strange to me to repeat the same thing over and over again. I came to the conclusion that maybe the author was having love troubles at the time, and allowed some of that to creep into his work.

Although I believe there are better books in this series, in the end I got what I expected: a fast paced crime novel that reaches its conclusion in a fairly short space of time (you could easily sit and devour one of these books in an afternoon). While I do enjoy taking my time with crime novels, sometimes I just need to know who the killer is and I don’t want to have to wade through pages of superfluous plot to find out and these books meet that need perfectly.

Many thanks to Pushkin Press and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.

 

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon // October 2016

IT’S READATHON THIS WEEKEND YOU GUYS.

This’ll be the first time I’m participating in Dewey’s. The last couple I’ve had something on so I haven’t been able to participate. BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT THIS TIME. What is Dewey’s? You can check out all the details on the official website (you should sign up while you’re there), but basically it’s, wait for it, a 24 hour readathon. Whuuuut?

Yes. For 24 hours you just. have. to. read. (and snack.) Thrilling, right? This one has an official start and finish time so everyone reads together. SOOOO if you’re in Australia, please come read with me! It starts at 11pm Saturday night Sydney time, so it’ll be a slightly earlier starts for those of you in Brisbane and the westerly states. I’ll be having midnight mac & cheese which I’m really excited about.

Here’s a picture of my potential reading stack:

deweysstack

I’ve got a few books on the go at the moment so I’d like to make a dent in those – War & Peace in particular – but I might dip in and out of some newbies as well. I’ve got a bunch of comics for when I want some lighter reading, as well as an audiobook to listen to while doing some crafting (I have a baby blanket that needs to be finished by next weekend, so this seems like a good time to work on it). So I’ll pretty much just be dipping in and out of books at my leisure, rather than aiming for any particular goals. It’s going to be super relaxed and excellent.

I might not be updating much on here – I’ll probably just do a big wrap up post at the end – but I’ll be on many of the other social medias if anyone’s joining in on those. Here’s where I’ll be:

  • Twitter (quite a bit)
  • Instagram (a little bit)
  • And my new favourite place, LITSY (a lot)!! I can’t link to my profile for this, but if you want to be friends on there, just leave your username below, or search for me – I’m @heather_reads on there.

So if you’re not doing anything this weekend, or you are doing something but don’t really want to do it, come and join a bunch of other readers for the Readathon. Here’s a direct link for the sign ups for your convenience.