This week I’m sitting down with my coffee to write my round-ip of the That Fiction Life Readathon hosted by my dark twin Liv of That Fiction Life.
The Coffee: I’m drinking the Hambela Natural, a fruity filter coffee from Atkinsons coffee roasters in Lancaster. I’m excited because I’m finally able to start enjoying coffee again after being off it for a while after my operation. I’m drinking from my Platform 9 3/4 mug.
The Books: The lovely Liv hosted a Back to School Readathon, for us all to clear our decks before grabbing our owls and hopping aboard the Hogwarts Express for a new term. I have literally hundreds of books to read, and I had no idea how much reading I’d be up to (recovery is not the relaxing all day readathon I was led to believe it would be). I posted this TBR of Lies (a phrase coined by Liv) as my possible reads for the challenge.
I was also informed in no uncertain terms that if I did not read Gilded Cage my dark twin would disown me forever. Readers, I read Gilded Cage.
Here are my reviews of what I read:
The Fallen Children by David Owen
(photo featuring seriously sexy compression stockings
The Fallen Children is one of the most dark and twisty books I think I’ve ever read. David Owen took his inspiration from The Midwich Cuckoos, which I have never read (though I did used to work with a guy who said his daughters were Midwich Cuckoos, and I don’t think he meant it in a good way).
One night something strange happens in the Midwich estate. Four girls wake up to discover they have been violated; they are pregnant, and Keisha’s accidental video recording, as well as their unusual symptoms, suggest the pregnancies mught be supernatural. I don’t want to say much more about the plot as the suspense of watching it unfold is a really big part of what makes this novel so amazing.
We are sucked into the story, desperate to see how it develops. The Fallen Children is told from the viewpoints of different characters, so we get to see how each of them feels and how the experience affects them all differently, as well as how it links them. There are also other intriguing subplots: Keisha’s relationship with the teacher who helped her turn her life around, her undefined relationship with once-boyfriend Morris, Maida’s family troubles and Morris’s financial struggles. I was particularly drawn in to Keisha and Siobhan’s past and enjoyed seeing how that affected them when they were drawn into a difficult shared experience.
The Fallen Children is one of the most intense and absorbing novels I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should. It’s a five star read.
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Hello please, where is my sequel? Oh, that’s right: pre-ordered because I need it in my life NOW. Why isn’t it Thursday yet? Also, Olivia Gacka (yes, I Sunday-named you), you have recommended a book which has given me FEELINGS and I was unprepared for this.
Gilded Cage is my new everything book: it has everything I ever want in a novel. A dystopian idea with fantasy elements, characters I am obsessed with and an ending that left me reeling (if the sequel weren’t being released this week, I don’t know how I would have coped).
I honestly loved this from start to finish. The concept of the common people having to serve ten years of slave days fascinated me: they chose the time, but unless you go with your parents, you can’t start until you’re eighteen. It made me think a lot about how I would handle that; would I want to give up ten years of my youth or live it knowing I had that time hanging over me, waiting to claim me?
The undercover rebellion wanting to challenge the slave days gripped me. Rebellions are what I love most about dystopian novels: I like to see the repressed rise up and wreak havoc. I also loved the magical elements: the power of the Equals and the exploration of moral issues around using that power on others.
The characters are complex, with intriguing back stories and not one songle character is predictable in their behaviour. They are all interesting. I could talk about them all day. Silyen was my favourite though: is he good or bad? kind or cruel? generous or selfish? We don’t know. He is wonderful and I cannot wait to read Tarnished City, which is out tomorrow!
Spy Toys: Playtime is Over and Spy Toys: Out of Control by Mark Powers
These are two that were not on my TBR, but I read them with the small boy as part of the blog tour and reviewed them here. My first joint read with my small human and we will definitely be doing more because we enjoyed it a lot. He also bribed payment out of me in the form of a Lego set…which doubled the fun because we love Lego. Yes, I am an adult.
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Wing Jones is a really lovely, heart-warming, story of a young mixed-race (half Ghanian, half Chinese) girl trying to find her feet. Wing idolises her brother: to her, he is popular, perfect and has the ideal romantic relationship. When
he is involved in an accident caused by his own foolish behaviour, it forces Wing to question everything she has ever believed about him and about herself. She takes comfort in running, with her brother’s best friend and finally starts to find a place of belonging.
There are some sad themes running through the story: a family’s grief and financial struggles and school bullying. The bullying made me furious. People were so awful to Wing and it made me cross at the same time as pulling on my heartstrings (probably more so than the main event of the story did, if I’m honest).
LaoLao and Granny Dee made the story for me. Their constant bickering was hilarious and the moments of genuine care for each other that shone through were beautiful.
I loved the slightly fantastical addition of Wing’s dragon and tiger, one representing each of her grandmothers, helping to support Wing during her difficult times and spurring her on to find her place.
Wing Jones is just wonderful. I was put off reading it initially because I thought it was about running and I despise running (I choke on my own lungs every time I try it) but it’s so much more than that and I loved it. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
Moonrise is the story of Joe Moon who moves to Texas to be near his brother Ed; Ed is on Death Row, convicted of a crime he admitted to but claims he did not commit. Ed has just received notice of his execution date. We spend most of the book wondering if Ed is guilty or not, but that’s not the point with this story, his guilt or otherwise is a background element in a story about the process of Death Row, waiting to die, and the impact that it has on all those affected by it. The little details Sarah adds about the process make the story chilling: moving to the last cell to be nearer the chamber, the letter to the family to remind them to make arrangements for the body to be removed, even as there is still hope of an 11th hour stay of execution.
What I loved most about Moonrise was that it addressed the story from the perspectives of everyone, not just the convict and his family, the guards at the prison, their families and the people in the town around the prison. We see how people treat the family of the convicted, and although they have done nothing wrong, there is a sense of Joe and Angela being convicted too: they have to suffer along with Ed.
Moonrise also looks at the relationship between the guards and prisoners, which at times is almost friendly. We discover a lot about the prison warden and his feelings and beliefs. There is a real sense that people there are just doing their job, and unlike any other story I have read on this subject, you really do feel for the prison staff as much as the prisoners and their family. Sarah writes a lot about the unfairness of the system: other prisoners have been there longer but have not had their dates, people have been convicted of more severe crimes and received lesser sentences. There are comments on botched executions and the exorbitant cost “It costs around four million dollars to go through with an execution. that’s eight times more money than to imprison someone for life”.
Angela is a particlarly admirable character, showing such bravery in how she handles the situation. Their aunt, Karen, was the most interesting character for me. She is a background character for most of the story but we see the influence that she has had on the family, looking after them when their mother leaves, and there are gestures that she truly does care whilst she appears to be keeping her distance.
The story is as emotional as you would expect it to be given the subject matter, and Sarah writes about it beautifully. The chapters are quite short, keeping a fast pace to the novel. Sarah switches between the past and the present, which gives the reader some background to the family as well as a let-up in what would otherwise be relentlessly sad. There is an excellent twist; I did guess it, but it still had a big impact when it came and it adds a further dimension to the novel.
I am not a crier, but I think this would be a tear-jerker for most. It hurt my heart and I am still thinking about it long after I put it down.
And that’s my wrap-up.
I also started Charlotte Says but didn’t get through that before the readathon closed as I decided to take a nana nap instead. I think six books was an acceptable dint in Ted the TBR though, so I’m not complaining.
Did you take part in the readathon? What did you read? If you’ve written a wrap up, please link it below, because I’d love to know what everyone else read! Are you a Gilded Cage fan? Please hit me up on Twitter @charlotteswhere because I have FEELINGS to discuss.