Carp is a small town with small town traditions and Panic is one of them. Every year, high school seniors take on dangerous dares in order to win a large monetary prize that will help them escape their town for good. Heather thinks she’s too sensible to get involved, but she finds herself caught up in the rush anyway with her best friend Natalie. Dodge, another student, has always known that he would participate in Panic, although for different reasons than Heather. The book alternates between the points of view of these two students while the game gets ever more dangerous.
I felt decidedly “meh” about this book. I had anticipated something more along the lines of Before I Fall and Delirium. Both of those struck me hard, especially the first; I love the concept of living over and over again and learning as you go (see also Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, another big hit with me). They were interesting and innovative and they made me excited to read Panic, too.
But as soon as I started I knew it was different – this is just an ordinary town. The concept of high schoolers taking on a life-or-death game isn’t really the same as a world without love or a girl who lives the same day over and over again. It’s something that could actually happen in the real world. I suppose for some that might be an advantage, but for me it was a drawback. Some of the games are ridiculously dangerous and outrageous, yes, but none beyond the realms of our actual real world. This wasn’t what I’d expected and I wasn’t as impressed with this as I was with the other two books I’d read by the same author. It didn’t suit my own personal taste and it wasn’t a book that I felt went above and beyond.
Is it worth your time? That’s a separate question, I think. This is more in the style of a thriller than the other two and I have seen positive reviews floating around. It has its positive points – I think the characters grow over the course of the book, the romance is okay, and it does keep a reader’s attention – but it just didn’t work for me. I would start with Oliver’s other books in any case.
I received this book for free for review.
I had so much fun actually getting through the books on my summer reading list that I thought I’d make it a bit of a seasonal ambition and put one together for autumn, too. I read all but one of those books and I’m reading the final one now, The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan. The focus it added to my reading was really nice – I didn’t have to pick through the shelves to decide what I wanted to read next because I’d already done the job for myself. I would like to call that a bookish success, and so I thought I’d try and get some of the same success going for autumn, too.
Plus, this one was easy. This season we have #diversiverse, which starts today, and RIP IX, which started on the first of September. I have been gleefully thinking of books I’d like to read for both of these for weeks. Add a few books that I know I also would like to read soon, and we end up with this:
I got ambitious as I was putting this together, as you can see – the summer pile was a little bit smaller. I have however already read Lagoon so we’re on our way.
- Iron Kin by M.J. Scott – this is the third in an urban fantasy alternate world series I haven’t written anything about yet, but which I do like. It has vampires and similar types of monsters so I’m going to count it for RIP.
- Written in Red by Anne Bishop – this was actually an impulse purchase but again sounds like a new urban fantasy series (no, I clearly don’t read enough of these) and I thought it would be a good fit for autumn. Even the title reminds me of leaves and the cover has the heroine wearing a hoodie in a wintery environment.
- Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews – this is actually a review copy that turned up unsolicited but looks really intriguing. More dystopia, but I think I’ve avoided that for long enough to return to the genre a little bit refreshed.
- The Silvered by Tanya Huff – Werewolves! And I love Tanya Huff. I have read the latest book in her Gale series so it’s time to move on to the next book I have by her, which is this one.
- Midnight Alley by Rachel Caine – to be perfectly honest, I haven’t particularly enjoyed the first two in this series, The Morganville Vampires, but I bought all 4 of them years ago at a discount shop. I should probably just send them all to a charity shop but they’re short, fast reads and for some reason I keep thinking I should like Rachel Caine’s books. So I stuck it in the pile.
- Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang – Jung Chang is the woman who wrote Wild Swans, which I read out of the library a few years ago, so picking this up recently felt natural. I haven’t read any Chinese history for a while now so I’m keen to get back into it. Also, #diversiverse.
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – I forgot I had this in the UK with me until I was pulling various options out of my bookshelves. Right on the stack – this has been waiting far too long.
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – I read The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri earlier this year and, sadly, didn’t write about it, so remember very little other than how much I liked it. I thought it was time to read her first collection of short stories. I’m never sure how I’ll get on with short stories, but they are worth a try.
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I feel like everyone is talking about these books but me! I finally bought the first one last month and I do want to get to this one soon.
- A Kiss from Maddalena by Christopher Castellani – this is another book I’ve had for a long, long time but sounds very appealing. I’m going to Italy next month, so I thought it would be a great idea to actually get some themed reading in before that happens.
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – this is purely in the pile because I can’t wait to read it.
- Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – believe it or not, after I took this picture I immediately took this book out and read it yesterday, as I’ve mentioned above. I just needed an excuse and it was very easy to give myself one!
I would like to get to all of these books before the end of December. I think I can – and then I can make a winter reading list!
What are you going to be reading over the next few months?
It’s that exciting moment in the life of a series reader – the book that you’ve been waiting for has finally come out, and whether it’s arrived in the mail or you’ve gone to pick it up from the bookstore or the library, it is in your hands and you can’t wait to open it. In fact, you start reading it immediately. Right?
Not so much.
I’m not going to deny that getting a new book in one of my favorite series on release day is genuinely exciting. I am a huge series reader. I love so much about books in a series; interconnected stories, characters I can continue to revisit again and again, the opportunity for expansive world-building that can rarely happen in a single book. Years before I blogged, I fell headlong into love with epic fantasy and invested hours of my life reading The Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Kushiel’s Legacy, and the Farseer books among others. I have always felt that a talented author can often do more with a series than they can with a single volume, although there are plenty of stand alone books that I love too.
But that very interconnectedness and world-building means that I am hesitant to start that new book. I always have a compulsion to reread the rest of the books in the series before I start the new one. You see, I am also a reader who likes to read books in one sitting. I like to experience everything as close together as possible, mainly because I am forgetful. If it’s been a year since I read the last book, multiple years since the ones before, I know I will miss something. I’ll be disappointed because I’ve forgotten how the author has managed to tie volume 7 into volume 3. There are recaps, but they are never as good as just reading the books again.
I also know that I’m going to love rereading that series. For instance, Robin Hobb has just released Fool’s Assassin, a book featuring FitzChivalry Farseer, a follow-up to what has to be one of my favorite series of all time – in memory. But I’ve forgotten so much about these books because I read most of them over a decade ago and I don’t actually think I’ve reread any of them, ever, despite mostly keeping up with the newer releases. I’m half excited to reread them and half daunted by the prospect of rereading at least 9 books before I can get to the beautiful hardcover I bought a month ago. I hope I’m going to love them again, but 9 books, and large ones at that.
Seriously, it’s ridiculously gorgeous.
The other two I have waiting? Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews and The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire. I love these series. I want to reread them actively and they’re short, too, so I think I can just sneak them in between newer books.
I know I should just give in and read these books I so anticipate already, and in fact that’s probably what you readers are thinking. But there’s always that temptation, and this time I do want to give in to it.
I think I need a rereading month. What do you think? And am I the only one with this particular bookish dilemma?
Books I have read recently that I would like to write some thoughts about:
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I loved this. I loved how Ifemelu found her way back to herself, to her roots; that she needed her childhood and her identity to remember who she was, rather than giving it all away to be someone else. And even though my own immigration is really different, and came about for far different reasons, and resulted in different things, I could still identify with that clash of cultures in a way that spoke to me but also made me think about how this must be for others who don’t share my advantage of the same skin color as the native population (and a wider culture gap). I should have written a review for this book, but instead I’ll say you should go read it and leave it at that.
The Suffragette Scandal, Courtney Milan – I will continue to auto buy each and every book Milan writes. Such different topics, incredible characters, beautiful love stories. No exceptions here.
Skin Game, Jim Butcher – This book FINALLY went in a direction I’ve been waiting for since very early on and I was so pleased. It’s also got capers, and fantastic bad guys, and lots of Harry’s signature humor along with those answers. It was great fun to read. If you enjoy urban fantasy and haven’t read the Dresden Files, you should (along with my lengthy list of other favorite urban fantasy reads like October Daye and Kate Daniels).
A Darkling Sea, James Cambias – This sat on my wishlist for a good few months before I fortuitously grabbed it at Forbidden Planet. Sci-fi is still a genre I’m not as familiar with, much as I’m coming to love it, and for the first few chapters I struggled to get into this book. You’d think I could assimilate other worlds easily enough due to my years of reading fantasy, but not so much. Eventually, though, I started to understand the characters and the culture clash and I found the book really interesting. It’s a first contact novel and the world that Cambias creates is truly bizarre but fascinating. It’s not first contact for humans, it’s first contact for the Ilmatarans, complete with their dissection of a human; it’s so cool to see this flipped and a human as a “victim” of a completely innocent group of Ilmatarans. Very well done.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?
It’s the last day of August and, to me, this means that summer is over. For the most part we had a really nice summer this year, lots of sunshine and warm days, although most of August has been pretty dreary in true English style. The fall has its charms, though, so I’m not too disappointed to see the summer go. We have several exciting plans for the rest of the year, including a trip to Florence and Pisa, completely paying off all debt except for student loans, and my husband finally finishing his university course after six years. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, in a couple of months I hope to feel a lot freer and happier and ready to embrace more of the possibilities my life contains. I hesitate even saying that, because I know I should be embracing the moment rather than always waiting, and my life has been excellent at throwing bad things at me as soon as I think everything is okay, but never mind. It’s true.
As seems to be my regular refrain these days, I’ve spent a lot of this month not blogging. I’ve done plenty of other stuff, in particular a lot of crocheting while watching various things on Netflix. I finished watching Call the Midwife and we watched the first season of Orphan Black and now I’ve started watching Mr. Selfridge. Mostly I have made piles of granny squares, not sure exactly what to do with them, but when I figure that out I will share.
I read a surprising 15 books this month, with a lot towards the end of the month. I realized that I wasn’t going to hit my goal of 150 books if I kept reading at my current pace around the middle of the month, so essentially, I started devoting more time to reading. I don’t necessarily like reading just to hit a random number I picked out of the air, but I can prioritise my free time and I have plenty of books I can’t wait to read, so it wasn’t a difficult choice. I also had a work trip to London, which meant both a visit to Forbidden Planet and an evening spent mostly on my own reading. This always helps.
- Song of the Vikings, Nancy Marie Brown
- Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach
- Paris at the End of the World, John Baxter
- The Sandman, vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
And I can’t really choose a favorite. It’s easier to choose books I didn’t like because I did like the majority of them, honestly. Maybe The Martian was my favorite.
Coming Up in September
Mostly this month on the blog I’m excited for A More Diverse Universe. I will definitely be reading several books by authors of color and possibly putting together some recommendations as well. This is something I feel strongly about so I hope I will be able to pull myself out of my blogging slump in enough time to actually write as much as I’d like to.
I’d also like to participate in RIP IX but I’m not sure what I’m going to read yet. If I can get my head together, I will do a post about it.
If you can’t tell, though, I’m really struggling to blog these days; I’m actually even still reading books I’ve been sent for review but then completely failing to write about them. I’m not sure where my desire to write has gone, or rather, I still have a desire to write, but I seem to stare at a blank screen for a long time before any words come out. I just don’t have the energy any more to come home and blog after work, and even weekends seem mainly devoted to doing things I enjoy more than blogging. Maybe the time has come for me to give it up, but I honestly don’t actually want to. I like blogging and writing and I love books and I still don’t have anyone regularly in my real life to share any of those things with. So for now, I intend to continue with a half-hearted presence until I decide what I actually want to do.
What’s ahead for your September?
In July 1914, Vivian Rose Spencer is a twenty-two year old young woman who has finally been given permission to go on her first archaeological expedition. In the shadow of coming war, she falls in love and is forced back to England, where her life seems on hold until she’s not sure how it can continue. At the same time, Qayyum Gul is fighting in the war, losing an eye at Ypres. He and Vivian meet once, unaware how their lives will change around each other, until fifteen years later their fates are united again in the search for a historic artifact and a second fight for independence.
This review has been difficult to start writing. I didn’t feel the way I expected to after reading this book. Burnt Shadows was powerful. It left an impression on me and it took a long time to get out of my head. I mean, I read it nearly five years ago and I still have feelings about it. By contrast, I finished A God in Every Stone towards the end of July and I’m struggling to recall any feelings I had towards it besides indifference.
I think part of the reason I didn’t appreciate it so much was because I didn’t get on very well with the main character. Viv irritated me. Unfortunately I think I am one of those readers who generally has to at least sympathize a little bit with the main characters in a book to actually enjoy the book itself; this isn’t always the case, but I couldn’t really recover from a decision she makes towards the beginning of the book. The very beginning of the book seemed like it would be perfect for me – an archaeological expedition, a burgeoning love story, and the shifting uncertainty caused by the approach of war. Because Viv’s expedition is comprised of her and Turks and Germans, I initially thought this would be a book which demonstrated how people are just people, no matter what country they come from.
It kind of is, but doesn’t really get there. The characters in the book are certainly people with all the flaws inherent in that and I spent most of the end of the book worrying about the fate of one particular character, but I suppose in the end it just didn’t connect with me. Which is a shame, because a lot of people seem to think highly of it. Shamsie is a beautiful, skilled writer with a real talent for getting into her character’s minds and evoking atmosphere. It makes me feel as though I missed something, but for me it did fall short. As you can probably tell, it’s difficult to articulate just why, and I don’t think I’ve succeeded in this review.
I would still look forward to Kamila Shamsie’s next book with eagerness, but I would recommend Burnt Shadows before A God in Every Stone.
All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.
Arturo Rivera, his wife Alma, and their daughter Maribel arrive in the United States with close to nothing. Unlike many immigrants, who come to the United States out of poverty and desperation, the Riveras have arrived in the hopes of getting Maribel into a special school for children with brain damage. Beautiful sixteen-year-old Maribel hasn’t been the same since a terrible accident and Arturo and Alma would do anything to help her recover. They find themselves in an apartment building full of other immigrants. Entwined with the Riveras story is that of the Toro family, whose son Mayor falls in love with Maribel on first sight and only loves her more when he gets to know her better, and snapshots from the lives of other immigrants from all over Central and South America.
I really loved The World in Half, the first novel I read by Cristina Henríquez, so when I was offered The Book of Unknown Americans for review consideration, I immediately accepted. Although I’ve forgotten the details, I still remember how beautiful that book was and how much of an effect it had on me. This book was different, but again had an impact and slightly shifted my worldview.
One of the things that stands out most, again, is Henríquez’s beautiful, clear writing. The very first scenes of the novel, when the Riveras are arriving into their new apartment for the first time, are surprisingly moving. We learn the details of their lives – the cracked windows, the cupboards with bedsheets tacked on instead of doors, the mattress a discarded relic they found on the way – and even when the story gains more heft, we know that this is in the background, not only for the Riveras but for the other tenants in the building.
Their story is interspersed with those of the other people in the apartment building. They all have different reasons for arriving in the United States, some legal, some illegal, and this is what the book is trying to convey. There are so many of these people, all Americans, who are unknown, who don’t count as much because they have slightly darker skin, who slip beneath the radar. Like immigrants in what seems the world over, especially those who aren’t white, they suffer simply for being slightly different and are held accountable for all manner of ills. I found this passage really powerful:
I mean, does anyone ever talk about why people are crossing? I can promise you it’s not with some grand ambition to come here and ruin everything for the gringo chingaos. People are desperate, man. We’re talking about people who can’t even get a toilet that works, and the government is so corrupt that when they have money, instead of sharing it, instead of using it in ways that would help their own citizens, they hold on to it and encourage people to go north instead. What choice do people have in the face of that? Like they really want to be tied to the underside of a car or stuffed into a trunk like a rug or walking in nothing but some sorry-ass sandals through the burning sand for days, a bottle of hot water in their hands? (p.241)
I didn’t get tired of these parts of the book, even though I liked the main story too. All of them were different and had stories worth hearing. Although they were brief, and for the most part had settled in that apartment building and left the more difficult parts of their immigration behind, I personally found them really moving and a perspective I hadn’t encountered often enough.
Very highly recommended and I will continue to keep my eyes open for Henríquez’s next book!
All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review consideration.
Time // Sunday afternoon, 14:25
Place // At home in an apparently severe rainstorm – flood warnings in full effect
Eating // Roast chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner later on, yum
Drinking // Tea
Reading // I’m getting slowly into graphic novels. Here’s my nice and tiny TBR which consists of just three volumes:
That’s the second volume of The Sandman and first each of Fables and Saga. This week I read the first Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes, and was sufficiently excited by it to immediately buy the second one.
I have held off on the graphic novel front for a long time. The main reason is because they’re expensive and I wasn’t sure such a lengthy investment would pay off in the end. I’d rather get them from the library if possible. But my main central library is now closed until the autumn and doesn’t have any of the series that blogger friends like (see, the above ones I chose). Secondly, I finally finished reading Bone, which was a series I did get out of the library until we capitulated recently and bought the whole thing. After reading that, and remembering some of the amazing graphic novels I’d read a few years ago like Maus and Persepolis, I decided to give the longer series a try.
In regular book format, I’ve just finished A Darkling Sea by James Cambias and Skin Game by Jim Butcher. I’m almost guaranteed not to review the latter, so I will just say that I still really love the Dresden Files and I was so pleased with the outcome of this one. I want to review A Darkling Sea.
I’m currently reading Song of the Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown. It’s so cool how much of our stories still contain references to Viking legends and sagas. Fascinating.
Watching // I finished Veronica Mars! I haven’t really known what to do with myself since. I loved it; I am simultaneously glad I didn’t get into it until the movie wrapped everything up and disappointed that I couldn’t have been part of the huge fannish excitement surrounding its release.
Next I plan to finish Call the Midwife and then we’re going to start a completely new series. I hope it will be Orphan Black which has just appeared on Netflix. A couple of friends and I have almost finished watching the latest series of Game of Thrones.
Cooking // Have I made anything exciting in the last few weeks? I don’t think I have. We’re still on low maintenance mode here. I’m hoping the stress will die down in September, but we’ll see.
Learning // Not started Italian yet. I have continued crocheting, though. I made this little cutie recently:
At least, I think he’s cute!
Gaming // Still no gaming, although after reading the first Sandman I’m thinking about trying Arkham Asylum.
Loving/Hating // Loving my city, as usual, where you can walk along to a vegetarian cafe and a gaming shop and encounter this in the masonry of York Minster:
Mostly hating how stressful my life feels right now.
Anticipating // Seeing Robin Hobb tomorrow at my Waterstones! I feel like I need to reread all the Farseer books before I get to Fool’s Assassin because it’s been so many years, but it’s not every day you get to meet one of your favorite authors.
Credit goes to Kim for the Currently format!
July! It started out really well. The first weekend in particular was great, seeing a good friend and watching the Tour de France go by just two minutes away from my house. We decided on and booked our holiday for the year, which I always find particularly exciting. I love planning our trips and knowing that I’m going to see a bit more of the world soon. We had a two week stretch of amazing weather, too, so although it rained on the weekend in between, it actually felt like summer.
Then the second half of the month crashed and burned, with another family member in the hospital and an inordinate amount of stress for other reasons. At the moment it seems every time I think a break is coming, something else happens.
In other positive news, though, I’ve gotten up the courage to start driving to work half of the time, which is a big step for me, and I’ve started to feel more like doing healthy things like cooking and exercising. We’re missing the 10k we had planned to run tomorrow, but I think my shin splints have finally healed now that I’ve given them weeks of no pressure. I’m hoping that by the time I write August’s wrap-up, I will have started moving again without any pain.
As always, anyway, books keep me company. I finished eleven books this month. They are:
- Bone by Jeff Smith
- Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
- Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach
- Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
- Heart of Venom by Jennifer Estep
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- The Devil’s Playground: A Century of Pleasure and Profit in Times Square by James Straub
- Hild by Nicola Griffith
- A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Fury of the Demon by Diana Rowland
Favorites of the Month
Obviously, I loved Fangirl, because I even managed to write a post about it without having any reason besides the fact that I loved it. But Americanah was pretty amazing too. Both of them got five stars from me although for different reasons. Just behind is Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach, which was a fantastic follow-up to Fortune’s Pawn.
Only three books are left in my summer reading stack. I’m hoping to read them before summer is over! How has your summer been so far?