The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries #1) by Maryrose Wood, The Duchess Of Northumberland

The poision diaries cover

foxglove

oleander

moonseed

belladonna

love

In the right dose, everything is a poison

My Review of The Poison Diaries

The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries, #1)The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What a weird little book of weirdness. It’s a bit dark and a bit gothic and was hitting just the right note for a book to read at the change of the seasons.

It starts out ok, a story set sometime in the 1700’s about Jessamine, a teenage girl living in a disused chapel with her botanist healer father. Jessamine’s father has a poison garden that she is not allowed into. Of course, that’s the only thing she really wants out of life, to get into this garden and to be allowed to take care of the plants.

Then Weed turns up, a malnourished and shy boy the same age as Jessamine, who has some strange knowledge of plants and their uses. Her father takes him in and Jessamine cares for him and brings him back to health.

The inevitable happens and Jessamine falls in love with Weed. She finds out his secret about the plants, and yes it’s odd, but not that odd, and I’m thinking: ok, I can go with this. Until Jessamine gets sick and then the weirdness is truly unleashed and at that point, it lost me. I skim read the last few chapters because I just couldn’t believe the tangent it had gone off on.

The switches to Weed’s voice just didn’t work for me and the story, in general, went too far into unbelievable silliness.

I loved the Gothic tone of the book but I just can’t get on board with the ending.

The Poison Diaries
The Poison Diaries
Maryrose Wood, The Duchess Of Northumberland
Young Adult Fantasy
May 27th 2010
Paperback
238

Books with Roller Derby in Them

roller derby books

Time for another book list! It’s been too long since I did one of these.

This time, these are books that have my favourite sport roller derby in, in one form or another.

Slam!

Slam is a bright and fun graphic novel about two young women who join a banked track roller derby team. The artwork is wonderful! Bright and bold, and it really captures the different characters personalities. The story is strong and interesting, with good dialogue. and this is all around just a lot of fun.

Whip It

This is the book that was made into the film that has helped roller derby become so popular recently. It’s about a teenager that wants to escape the world of beauty pageants and join a local roller derby team, against her parent’s wishes.

Whip it cover

The Derby Girl

A full-on romance novel where the heroine is a derby girl. There was really no way I wasn’t going to like this, the characters are smart and sassy and the story is cute and fun!

The Derby Girl Cover

Going in Circles

A more grown-up roller derby tale with about a fairly standard story about a woman that joins a roller derby team after her relationship ends and finds her inner strength.  A nice feel-good tale, even if there is nothing much original about it.

going in circles cover

Derby Shorts: The Best New Fiction from the Roller Derby Track

This is a little book full of short stories set in the world of Roller Derby. It’s produced in collaboration with London Roller Girls and the publisher, For Books Sake, is a company that champions women writers. There’s a mix of styles, so something for everyone! My favourites include the super fierce post-apocalyptic story and a quite sweet one about two teenage sisters playing in a junior Roller Derby league.

Derby Shorts Cover

Troll or Derby

Now, I wasn’t hugely keen on this one but a lot of reviews seem to really love it. Debs is a roller skater living in a trailer park with her sister and borderline abusive mother. Her sister disappears kicking off a chain of events that makes  Debs start to realise that she isn’t entirely human.

Troll or Derby Cover

 

The Bees by Laline Paull

the bees cover

Enter a whole new world, in this thrilling debut novel set entirely within a beehive.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen.

My Review of The Bees

The BeesThe Bees by Laline Paull
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the idea and the glimpse of life inside a beehive but I wasn’t convinced by the way the bees have human emotions and such human social structures.

I also didn’t like the way that Flora was always at the forefront of events. She was a bit too perfect to be likeable, she was always the first to jump into a fight and always the one to have the discussions with outsiders and be the saviour of the beehive. She didn’t care at all for herself or her own safety, just for the hive as a collective and for her children. A Mary-Jane in bee form!

It’s well written though and easy to read – it would make a good summer holiday novel. I can’t help thinking that because the story is quite simple but requires a rather large suspension of disbelief it would have been better as a children’s book.

The story is certainly something different though and it has made me think (worry!) more about bees and especially how they must be suffering this year after all the flowers have died in the long, hot summer.

So, it’s interesting but didn’t hit the mark for me, it was just too forced – the story felt like it fit around the events the author wanted to happen and not the other way round.

The Bees
Laline Paull
Fantasy
January 1st 2015
Paperback
352

The Sapphire Throne (Jewelfire #2) by Freda Warrington

The sapphire throne cover

The war appears to be over. Helananthe, granddaughter of the mad king, Garnelys, has gathered her forces and reclaimed the Amber Citadel of Parione, defeating its evil Bhahdradomen advisers…but matters are never simple. The destinies of Tanthe and Ysomir, sisters whose journeys from their village home of Riverwynde had a massive impact on the war, have driven them apart.

Ysomir is held in the Citadel, accused of killing King Garnelys. Tanthe is pulled through a portal to the realm of the mysterious Aelyr by Auriel – an Aelyr youth who insists he is her brother. And there are yet darker schemes afoot.

Tanthe faces challenges from her human friends and her Aelyr “family”. Rufryd, brother of Ysomir’s dead beloved, rages against the world and becomes Helananthe’s ambassador to the Bhahdradomen on the island of Vexor, where a terrifying fate awaits him. All will be changed forever.

In the second volume of her stunning Jewelfire Trilogy, Freda Warrington explores the machinations of the Bhahdradomen as they creep towards their ultimate aim – complete domination of the Nine Realms.

My Review of The Sapphire Throne

The Sapphire Throne (The Jewelfire Trilogy #2)The Sapphire Throne by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sapphire Throne is a huge improvement on the first book.

The Amber Citadel introduced so many characters and backstory and such a massive amount of history that the story got bogged down. The Sapphire Throne takes all the setup already done and runs with it!

The story is exciting and well paced and Freda Warrington throws surprises in almost every chapter. She turns the expected fantasy storylines on their heads and writes something a bit different with a strong personality – often sorely lacking in the fantasy realm.

The ending leaves things in such a desperate state I NEED to get my hands on the next book to find out what happens.

I have a serious love / hate relationship with the characters in this series. All of them have things about them I dislike and make me angry but I still care about them. There’s so much less whinging that in the first book that I actually quite like Tanthe and Rufryd, though they still make some very questionable choices (especially Tanthe). It’s a refreshing change to have heroes that are flawed and human instead of humble and self-sacrificing to the point of saintliness.

I’m hooked – can’t wait for the next one!

The Sapphire Throne
Jewelfire
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
2000
Paperback
527

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

the lie tree cover

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

My Review of The Lie Tree

The Lie TreeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Lie Tree is set in the time when the Origin of the Species was rocking faith in creationism. Faith’s father is a vicar and a scientist who is a firm creationist supporter. The family has good social standing and an easy life until a scandal causes him to lose his job and his reputation. All of a sudden the family have to uproot themselves and move to a remote island.

When Faith’s father dies Faith finds his notes that tell of a plant he is cultivating that can show you the truth, but only if you feed it lies. The lie tree is supposed to show the truth but I think Faith realises that it only shows us visions of things we already know to be true but we just didn’t want to face.

Her father is horrible! I hate to say it but I was willing him to hurry up and get written out. He was a nasty character and I thoroughly hated him.

Faith irritated me for most of the book. She was very naive, she didn’t look past appearances. She hero-worshipped her horrible father and she didn’t think much at all of her mother, who was the one trying to hold the family together with the only tools women in Victorian times had – charm and manipulation of the men. Faith believed that other women were weak and useless, spending their time gossiping and worrying about social status. She thought herself the only smart and useful woman, she couldn’t recognise that other women were smart too and very clever at surviving in the world the only way they could.

But the author does very well at bringing to life the awkward stage the time between child and adult. Faith was stuck between both worlds, existing in neither and both at the same time. The Lie Tree is more a coming of age story than anything else: Faith loses her father which makes her look outside herself and she starts to see behind appearances. She has some nasty shocks that show her that what you see isn’t always what you get and people aren’t always what they pretend to be.

I have to admit that she redeems herself in the end. My favourite part of the whole book is when Faith realises how blind she has been accepting standard beliefs about women. She is not the only woman that does not fit in.

“I’m not like other women but neither are other women”

I thought the whole thing about the Lie Tree was a bit daft. I don’t know if it was supposed to be magic or magical realism but it wasn’t convincing either way. The danger Faith was supposed to be in didn’t feel real either. I enjoyed the coming of age theme about Faith waking up to the world but it just didn’t make for a very exciting story.

The Lie Tree
Frances Hardinge
Young Adult Fantasy
May 7th 2015
Paperback
410

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral (Jem and the Holograms #2)

jem cover volume 2

Jerrica and her sisters face their biggest threat yet—success! Meanwhile, the Misfits aren’t taking these upstarts lying down… as they find themselves under new management. Plus, go behind the scenes and see THE HOLOGRAMS and THE MISFITS from a whole new perspective… that of music columnist Rio Pacheco!

Written by Kelly Thompson with art by Emma VieceliCorin Howell and Amy Mebberson with colors by M. Victoria Robado.

Collects issues #7-10, the Outrageous Annual 2015, and the 2015 Holiday Special.

My Review of Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: ViralJem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral by Kelly Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume starts off with a bit of fun! The girls fall asleep watching movies and each of them has a short sequence of their different movie dream!

And then it’s back to the normal programming as Shana angsts over whether to stay in the band or follow her fashion dreams to Italy, The Holograms choose a label to sign with, and The Misfits hatch plans to bring down The Holograms and become more popular.

So business as usual really!

The art is fun, bright, colourful and the outfits are still amazing! There’s a little bit more about the girls and their lives in this one, their personalities come through a lot stronger than in the first volume. The writing and story lines showcase the strength of friendships and it’s nice to read stories about women with strong bonds between them.

My only complaint – I could do with slightly less of the relationship angst between Kimber and Stormer. They are cute together and I wish they would just get on with it.

I absolutely adore the artwork and the costumes and though the story doesn’t bring anything new it’s done well and the dialogue works. I’m loving this series!

Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral
Jem and the Holograms
Kelly Thompson, Emma Vieceli, Corin Howell, Amy Mebberson, Maria Victoria Robado
Graphic Novel
May 3rd 2016
Paperback
152

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

elanor Oliphant Cover

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than…fine?

My Review of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I loved Eleanor as a character but her backstory was traumatic and chilling. It’s not the warm, funny book people say it is.

We’re supposed to find Eleanor awkward and quirky and socially awkward, but mostly a funny character; like Sheldon in the big bang theory. But her quirks were there because she had suffered abuse as a child. It’s not funny when someone is a bit odd because of trauma.

I understand from the interview in the back that the author was trying to write about modern loneliness but why did Eleanor have to have such a traumatic history just as a reason to be lonely? It made the story become about childhood abuse, not loneliness, and I’m not convinced the author knows enough about that subject and how people deal with it to be writing about. It felt thrown in there to give Eleanor a backstory to make her socially awkward.

As a lighthearted romance that touches on loneliness, I would have enjoyed this. It was very easy to read and I cared about the characters. I just don’t think it did justice to the child abuse and mental health issues that were raised.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman
Fiction
January 25th 2018
Paperback
383

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Cat's Eye Cover

Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood — unbearable betrayals and cruelties — surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years.

Cat's EyeCat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.”

Cat’s Eye is an in-depth look at the effects of childhood bullying and how it has long-term, lasting effects.

Elaine Risley escaped her bullies and went on to be a successful artist but the buried memories of her childhood still haunt her. It’s only when she returns to Toronto as an adult and reminisces as she visits the places she used to live and her old school that she realises much they still affect her and have harmed her relationships with other people in her life.

A strong theme running through the book is that revenge – an eye for an eye – is a dead end; it hurts everyone involved. Elaine got revenge on her bullies by becoming harder and meaner than them but that had knock-on effects on her relationships with other people. Elaine has to forgive herself for her actions as much as she has to forgive the people who bullied her.

“But I began to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of the other. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water.”

Time changes the way you view things, memories change and you see people and events differently as you age. When Elaine looks back on her childhood she can see that the bullies were trying to compensate for problems in their own life, it wasn’t anything Elaine did that caused it. She realises that her bullies weren’t concerned with her but with themselves. You are never the centre of other people’s stories: they are.

Margaret Atwood has a knack for telling complex and in depth stories in an accessible and easy to understand way. I think she’s brilliant at character observation: she knows exactly what to do to bring her character’s personalities to life. She also has this open and friendly writing style that just makes her stories super readable. I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read by her, and this has to be one of my favourites so far.

I loved reading Elaine’s life story, how she travelled with her family and her experience of growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Actual events from history are woven in around Elaine’s life, which really helps to ground the story in reality. I’ve never been to Toronto but I was so engrossed in the story I felt like I could imagine myself there with Elaine. Now, I feel a bit like I have actually visited the city itself!

This is another brilliant book by Margaret Atwood. It’s very cleverly done and it’s also very enjoyable. Highly recommended!

Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood
Fiction
1990
Paperback
421

Exodus (Raging Earth #1) by Julie Bertagna

exodus cover

In a drowned world, can refuge be found?

Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it has disappeared beneath the sea. Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead her people in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world.

Exodus (Exodus, #1)Exodus by Julie Bertagna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Exodus is enjoyable, intelligent and sometimes kinda dark. It’s a young adult sci-fi about what happens when the ice caps melt and the world is flooded. How does humanity survive when there is no land left on Earth?

I liked the writing style: I could imagine Mara’s storm swept island home, the refugee camp was far too real and the glass and hi-tech city in the sky felt very realistic. The dialogue was believable and the characters, even minor ones, were given personality. The world really came to life for me.

I also like that the author wasn’t scared to make the story darker – Mara loses her whole family and sees some absolute horrors in the refugee camp. It almost made me want to cry I was so scared for her. And the bit where she faces off against Tony Rex – I did not expect that! You know that’s gonna come back to bite her later on.

Environmental issues are handled sledgehammer style though. It became a bit more about making a point than about Mara’s story. And it didn’t have anything new to say about the issues (though it is over 10 years old, maybe it was more original back then?).

My other issue with Exodus is that everything was a bit too convenient. If Mara had a problem to solve solutions popped up very easily. Someone appeared to help her almost every time she was in trouble.

I would recommend this to people that like young adult sci-fi stories; probably best for the younger end of the young adult age range.

Exodus
Raging Earth
Julie Bertagna
Young Adult Sci-Fi
April 30th 2003
Paperback
320

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

Electric Dreams Cover

The stories that inspired the original dramatic series, premiered January 12, 2018.

Though perhaps most famous as a novelist, Philip K. Dick wrote more than one hundred short stories over the course of his career, each as mind-bending and genre-defining as his longer works. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams collects ten of the best. In “Autofac,” Dick shows us one of the earliest examples (and warnings) in science fiction of self-replicating machines. “Exhibit Piece” and “The Commuter” feature Dick exploring favourite themes: the shifting nature of reality and whether it is even possible to perceive the world as it truly exists. And “The Hanging Stranger” provides a thrilling, dark political allegory as relevant today as it was when Dick wrote it at the height of the Cold War.

Strange, funny, and powerful, the stories in this collection highlight a master at work, encapsulating his boundless imagination and deep understanding of the human condition.

My Review of Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick's Electric DreamsPhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Electric Dreams is a collection of short stories that were the influence for the episodes in the recent tv series based on Philip K. Dick’s work.

The social and cultural side of a lot of them make the stories feel dated. A lot of the sci-fi is the standard stuff that was doing the rounds in the 50s / 60s – human style service robots etc. I don’t mind this, I love Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov but I found it irritating here. Maybe because he’s touted as super modern and way ahead of his time? Also annoying is that the women are treated like daft bits of fluff that get in the men’s way.

He does have some very interesting ideas though and some of the stories I liked a lot. Autofac is one of my favourites, the idea of AI that runs away with itself due to thoughtless programming is so relevant to tech today that it’s chilling to read.

The Hanging Stranger is another one I liked. The suspense and the feeling of confusion the main character feels are spot on.

So some I liked and some I didn’t. Overall it’s an interesting read, especially to see where a lot of modern stories get their influences from.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
Philip K. Dick
Sci-Fi
November 14th 2017
Paperback
224