What Makes you Happy Tag

Today I’m taking part in a book tag! This is the 5 things that make you happy tag. Thanks Helen, from Helen’s Bookshelf  for tagging me in it.

I’ve illustrated this with pictures from my life of all these things so you get an extra peak.   It was hard to just pick 5!

5 Things that Make Me Happy  (excluding reading)

1)  Gaming

I’ve always loved computer games.  Being able to switch off for a while and just game.  Then I got into MMOs and loved the social side of playing with friends.  I usually play  MMOs, role-play, city-builders and adventure games but I dabble with all kinds.

 

2) Individualism – Crafting and art

I have a real passion for arty things that express my individualism.  I do a range of fibre art crafts including knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving.   I love to cook and bake.  I  dabble with drawing, writing and creative colouring.  This also extends onto my own body as I love doing weird colour mixes on my hair and adding more body art/tattoos.

3) My Dog

Cuddles, playtime and adventurous walks.  Plus shes an adorable little terror.

4) Live music gigs

Music is food for the soul.   It clears my head and lifts my spirits. I tend more towards the alternative music scene.  Metal, goth, industrial, punk and rock bands.  I love going to gigs,  having a dance/jump around and enjoying some live music.

5) Geocaching

I tried out geocaching with a friend a few months ago and was immediately hooked.  I love random adventures, challenging myself and exploring new areas and there’s plenty of that when out hunting for treasure.

My instagram features many of my geocaching adventures.  Official website.

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Book Review – Lagoon – Nigerian alien tale

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

Why I read:  Book club pick for June

Book Quote “A star falls from the sky.  A woman rises from the sea.  The world will never be the same.”

Book blurb: “When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

Lagoon book review. #book #booknerd #tattoo #scifi #bookblogger #reading #fantasy #ilovebooks #bookstagram

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My review

This was an unusual book which played with the normal first encounter tropes.  Shapeshifting water-loving aliens land in the waters of Lagos. The main alien  is able to switch into varying shapes and gets named Ayodele.   The book is filled with vivid and evocative imagery such as tentacled sea monsters.  ” ..a three-tentacled sea beast leaped over them, spiralling wildly through the air.  It splayed all its think purple fifty-foot tentacles wide for full effect, splashing loudly into the water.

The story is told from a wide range of different viewpoints.  With more of a folk tale/history vibe than that of a story.  Unfortunately all these viewpoints come across as a mishmash of confusing views some of which seem to have no relevance to the plot and there was a lot crammed into the book that did not help the story along.  Some parts were written in dialect and I did not discover the glossary at the end until I reached it (this would have made sections more coherent).  That said I particularly enjoyed the perspectives of the creatures that gave short almost morality tales woven through the book.

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Aliens are coming out of the ocean in contemporary Lagos, feminist women, the blend of folk law, sci-fi, eco-science, and speculative fiction are all right up my street.  But unfortunately the entire story did not gel together for me.  I’d have loved to have more featuring the main alien as she was a fascinating character.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the combination of African fiction and sci-fi.

***

 

 

Book Review – Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge – Magic and Mixology

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Kreuger

Why I read – Book club pick for May.

Book blurb: “A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore. “

 

 

My review

Cocktails giving secret powers to kill demons was really fun and I enjoyed this part.   The teen romance was too much for me so I skimmed over a lot of it and I didn’t feel the plot really went anywhere. I loved the diversity of the characters – a good blend of people all with distinct personalities.  However it seemed like the cocktails were the star of the book rather than the characters.   I was left feeling though that the idea of the book was better than the actual book itself so I think I had some disappointment as I was really looking forward to reading it and wanted much more.

The highlight of the book for me was the Devil’s Water Dictionary which had extracts interspersed throughout the book.   This fictional mixologist’s guide to alcohol and magic included recipes, secret histories, and effects of all the various cocktails. These were interesting and engaging with a good dose of humour thrown in. I can’t wait until our next cocktail evening so we can have fun trying the recipes in the book.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants some lighthearted fun young adult reading with a cocktail twist.

***

Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Quirk Books
Book bloggers never stop reading.  I even managed a few chapters of this one whilst having my foot tattooed:

 

Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – Weirdly delightful fiction

Borne  by Jeff VanderMeer

Why I read: Weird fiction and I enjoyed  the Southern Reach trilogy by this author.

Select Sentence “.”

Book blurb: “”Am I a person?” Borne asked me.

“Yes, you are a person,” I told him. “But like a person, you can be a weapon, too.”

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts—and definitely against Wick’s wishes—Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.

“He was born, but I had borne him.”

But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same. “

My review

Borne is set in a wonderfully weird and creepy dystopian future.   Rachel lives in an abandoned apartment with her lover Wick.  Here she survives in a surreal city filled with strange biotech, alien creatures, giant flying bears and scavengers.  During a scavenging mission Rachel finds Borne,  a strange green lump, and takes him home.  Rachel teaches Borne what she can and this relationship is the heart of the book.   The world building is dark and amazing.  I loved the relationship between Rachel and Borne, the exploration of motherhood and teacher that is described.  Rachel is a well written character, strong, capable and complex.  Borne is totally fascinating, weirdly complex yet still a believable alien.

This book is disorientating, Vandermeer does not explain but rather paints a picture for you to imagine.  And that picture is a vivid complex otherworldness, dark and frightening, filled with destruction but also love.   If you like plots to be all nicely tied up give this one a miss.  But if like me you love to explore strange new worlds, unique concepts and don’t mind being left with some mystery you will find this a satisfying read.

I’d recommend to fans of weird fiction, X-files, strong women and sci-fi.

****

I read an ARC in exchange for an honest review

EDITION Hardcover  325 pages

ISBN 9780008159177

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)

 

 

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky – Quirky beautiful fantasy

All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Andres

Why I read: I read a wonderful review of this book on Helen’s Bookshelf .   Helen’s description:  “its odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book” sent it to the top of my to-read pile.

Book quote: ”“When Laurence was old enough to do what he liked, he would be old enough to understand he couldn’t do what he liked. ” ― Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky

Book blurb: “Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse “

 

My review

A quirky book with touches of humour and imagination running through-out it really was a magical read.   Its a book about friendship and love, magic and science and the end of the world. Two outcasts who grow up together, grow apart and then come back together again.    One a witch who talks to birds and the other a mad scientist who at the start invents a 2-second time machine.  The book tells the tale of their lives, their friendship and adventures in an imaginative near-future setting.  Sometimes hopeful and entertaining and sometimes sad and thoughtful its a book that reflects life.

I  enjoyed the blend of magic and science that ran throughout this quirky book.  Some parts of the plot were hard to follow or see how they fit together but this added to the whimsical quality that the book has.  Both of the main characters were likeable and believable.  I enjoyed the charming dumbness and realness of Patricia and Lawrence and this had me shaking my head at them or willing them along.  I’m not a big fan of romance novels but there was enough other elements that this book was readable for me.

I  struggled with the writing style.  There was a young tone, almost as if reading a book aimed at children/ young-adults although the story itself is billed for adults. It also seems to be written to appeal to a hipster crowd which could date the book quickly.  However I did like the quirkiness which ran throughout the book and the ideas and overall weirdness was enough to keep me reading to the end and still overall enjoying the book.

I don’t think its a book for everyone.  You have to suspend your belief and just go with the flow and enjoy the story.   I’d recommend if you enjoy magic realism and lighthearted romance/tales of friendship.

****

  

One of the dogs helping me write the review whilst we sit out in the garden:

 

Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 26th 2016 by Titan Books
WINNER OF BEST NOVEL IN 2016 NEBULA AWARDS
FINALIST FOR BEST NOVEL IN THE 2017 HUGO AWARDS

You can read the fist few chapters of this wonderful book at Tor.com 

 

Book Review: Spanky – a fun Daemonic read

Spanky by Christopher Fowler

Why I read:  Who can resist reading about a daemon called Spanky…..

I loved the original cover when I first read this book in the 90s so had to include this.  (The e-book is more modern):

Book blurb: “23-year-old Martyn has a dead-end job, a miserable family, few friends, and no love life. Then he meets a Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae, his own personal demon. Spanky’s friendship brings confidence, the good life, a better job, a girlfriend. But Spanky is a demon, and Martyn has a price to pay.

My review

A fun twist on the Faustian Pact.  The story has the soul and greed of 80/90s London, the cravings for an expensive perfect life filled with wine, women and wealth. It reminded me of my first delightful horror reads as a teenager, very tongue-in-cheek but with some cringy descriptions of women.   Darkly British humour, some graphically violent passages, a sprinkling of sex, and social commentary are all mixed together to form an entertaining cocktail that was a quick and easy read.

Martyn’s short-sighted naivety made him hard to have sympathy for but certainly fit into the plot.  I loved  the daemon Spanky, in my head he was a cross between Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, all delicious swagger, a true cheeky bad-boy. Definitely the star of the book.  Is it wrong that I was rooting for the deamon to win?

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys fun, light-heart 90s British horror.

I received a free ARC of this book via Netgallery and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

***

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352 pages    Ebook    ISBN: 9780399180439 Expected Pub Date: 20 Jun 2017

We had some glorious weather in London last week so I couldn’t resist going out for a coffee and sitting outside to read this fun book.

 

 

 

The Earthsea Trilogy

I was recently introduced to Ursula K Le Guin’s wonderful prose and speculative fiction.  So I just had to read her fantasy Earthsea trilogy to see if I loved these books as much.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book Blurb: “Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.”

My review

The Wizard of Earthsea is a beautifully crafted fantasy story that tells of the coming of age of young Sparrowhawk. Throughout the tale he learns the skills of a mage and how to wield his power and come to terms with darkness. Along with a convincing magic system Ursula K. Le Guin creates the wonderful world of Earthsea which is written in an almost lyrical prose. This is classic fantasy and true escapism on the surface but woven throughout is an exploration of themes including cause and effect, keeping the world in balance and what it means to be oneself. A truly magical read.

Oh and if that doesn’t inspire everyone to read this book. There are dragons, epic fire breathing dragons and cute pet bracelet “dragons”.

****

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The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book blurb:  “When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.”

My review:

A beautifully written short book filled with mystery and awe. It is a coming-of-age tale of a young girl Tenar as she becomes the Eaten One, guardian of the Tombs of Atuan. The writing is captivating as you feel the depth and darkness of the oppressive tombs. Tenar is a wonderful strong female character who has to question everything she has known in a struggle to discover who she is.

*****

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The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book Blurb: “Book Three of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea: the world and its wizards are losing their magic. Despite being wearied with age, Ged Sparrowhawk — Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord — embarks on a daring, treacherous journey, accompanied by Enlad’s young Prince Arren, to discover the reasons behind this devastating pattern of loss. Together they will sail to the farthest reaches of their world — even beyond the realm of death — as they seek to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it.”

My Review:

My least favourite of the trilogy as it returns to focus on a middle aged Ged.  The story is one of death and magic dying out.  The writing was beautiful but I didn’t feel a connection to these characters or feel that the story was as strong as the other two books.

***