Monday, 19 March 2018

2018 Reading Challenge & Book Reviews

Before I start today's topic, thank you to everyone who dropped by my blog and offered words of encouragement and support - it was much appreciated. The Insecure Writer's Support Group certainly lives up to its name. If you're not a member, do think about joining.


I've been taking part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge since 2013, and usually set my challenge to 52 books. I made it two years and three not. I'm hoping for another win this year, but I won't beat myself up if I fail. Reading is for pleasure, after all.

Here's the books I read in January and February this year, with a short review for each.


As a huge fan of The Martian, I really wanted to like Weir's follow up Artemis. On the whole, I did. I enjoyed the setting, breakneck speed, and witty dialogue. However, I just couldn't warm to the protagonist Jazz. Morally questionable, but loved by all. Happy to put her fellow Artemians at great risk to further her own needs, but quickly forgiven. For me, what kept this from being a two or three star read was Artemis itself. I loved the moon-based habitat created by Weir and the science behind it. It's worth reading the book just for this reason alone.


The Long Cosmos was the book I bought in early 2017, and waited a year to read. Why? Baxter and Pratchett's The Long Earth series has to be one of the best series I've read, and The Long Cosmos was the final book. With Pratchett's passing in 2015, there were to be no more books in the series. It was worth the wait. A five star read for science fiction and fantasy fans.


Containing four short novels - Snapshot, Loaded, Aloft, and Rain - Strange Weather was my first Joe Hill read. The stories, as the title suggests, were linked by strange weather events. I enjoyed all of the them except Aloft, the story of a man who becomes a castaway on a cloud. I couldn't connect with the story or character it featured. Snapshot was the most original, a child stalked by a creepy villain with a Polaroid that steals memories. Loaded, with its politically charged theme of guns, resonated the most. I loved the Trump references in Rain, the story of freak weather that rains lethal nails. Add it to your TBR list.


Silvera's They Both Die at the End was an emotional read. The unique concept - you receive a call from Death-Cast on the day you're due to die - hooked me as soon as I read the blurb. The story focuses on Mateo and Rufus, two teens who receive the call and then find each other via an app called Last Friend. I struggled at first to connect with the writing - I'm not a teen or American - but the further I read, the more emotionally invested I became. This is a book I'm still thinking about. What greater recommendation can there be?


Words cannot express how much I adored Calling Major Tom. Barnett's novel about forty something Thomas Major - a man who has given up on the world and becomes the most unlikely astronaut - made me both laugh and cry. I loved all the characters, especially Gladys. I smiled at the Bowie references. Want my advice? Go get the book. 


After reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, I decided to check out Lauren Jame's debut novel The Next Together. The premise - Katherine and Matthew, destined to be born and fall in love over and over - was refreshing and different. I liked the way the story kept jumping to various points they'd 'met' in history, including the current time. Unlike some readers, I was able to follow the plot without confusion. However, I didn't feel the characters were fleshed out enough. They fell in love almost instantly every time they met, which is a pet peeve for me. Despite my criticisms, I will be reading the sequel. I have to know why they are destined to meet and fall in love.

That's it for book reviews. I'll be back with more in May. What books have you read so far this year? Do you have any recommendations?

14 comments:

  1. I take it Calling Major Tom gives a big nod to David Bowie?

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    1. There is a nod, but not as much as you might think?

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  2. Hi Ellie - thanks for these .. you've some interesting reading here ... I'll have to keep my eyes open and perhaps get them from the library in the summer - good to see you - cheers Hilary

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    1. If you can only read one, go for Calling Major Tom. A beautiful book.

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  3. Hmm, I seem to have missed your ISWG post. I hope things have settled down since then. I'm fortunate that my wife also understands the need for alone time. I enjoy company, but I also need breaks from it just to keep on an even keel irrespective of any writing ambitions.

    I remember seeing from your updates on Goodreads that you were reading The Long Cosmos pretty much the same time as me. A good read, although right at the end it seemed to be leaping ahead a bit fast for my ageing mind to keep up :)

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    1. Thank you. Things are finally starting to fall into place with my writing. A few struggles, but nothing I can't overcome. Like you, I love company. But only a certain amount. I really am happy with my own company, and that's especially important with my writing. I'm glad your wife is so understanding.

      I agree about the pace towards the end of The Long Cosmos. I'm sure there would have been more books had Pratchett had the time. If I remember rightly, Baxter had to edit and wrap up the final book by himself.

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  4. Thanks for these recommendations - I'm adding them to my wish list! Long Earth series first; I love Terry Pratchett.

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    1. I wasn't keen on the first book in The Long Earth series, but stick with it. The second book changed my mind.

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  5. I felt exactly the same about Artemis. I was disappointed. And why did you have to recommend books? Now I'm adding to my want to read list. Sigh...

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    1. Your comment made me chuckle. I hope your TBR list isn't too high!

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  6. I love your reviews! love sci fi and your opinions and info are so helpful!
    I miss Terry Pratchett. Happy to see him here.

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  7. Wow. Great books. I'm just trying to get through ONE.

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    1. It's hard finding the time. Sometimes I can go a whole week without reading.

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