The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: July 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the star chart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

I just clapped my hands together and shouted ‘SO’ to an empty room because I have a lot to say on this beauty of a book.

My expectations were fairly low; I rarely wander to adult sci-fi with space and spaceships and aliens because either I find the plots fairly similar and boring and copy cat versions of what they imagined space travel to be like in the 60s. But in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just a story but a commentary told through an highly imaginative and distinctly different storytelling that was just…WOWIE.

cropped-2017-03-13-05-03-25-11.jpgSo The Long Way is told over a good few years or ‘standards’ which I believe is longer than 12 months, where a crew have a job waiting for them on the other side of the galaxy. This is the over-arching plot that kickstarts everything, but the real stories are tucked inside the very characters on the Wayfarer where each person is given depth and development but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never read a character study that’s also paired with a whole new setting; writers like to explore deep characters and the flaws of what it means to be human in a setting we understand to better ground the characters in a more familiar place that won’t divert from the things the author is trying to do. But here, Becky Chambers manages to successfully juggle the two at the same time, WHILE not all the characters are even human.

Yeah. Incredible.

So we have these incredible characters, many of whom aren’t human, but are still telling this greater story of humanity and the greater good. How, we as sentients, need to look out for one another and respect customs, cultures and other languages. In the story’s universe, it’s a known fact that humans are a self-destructive and competitive species and that it had to change when allying with other species that were far more compassionate and advanced. It was amazing to read about these other fictional species who were just so different from other imaginings of aliens where, I often found, the aliens were still just humans but green, or blue or even were exactly like humans in every way. These species were nothing like humans; they had different languages, customs, body parts. Some had scales and feathers, some communicated through coloured lights in their cheeks, some didn’t wear clothes, some changed biological sex through age. There were differences in family dynamics and they way children were reared (as you can tell, the Aandrisk species was my favourite to learn about). It was just so interesting to read about and watching this crew grow into a family made my heart grow warm and fuzzy.

The Long Way definitely felt like a series of episodes, rather than one large quest, and so if any networks are looking for a sci-fi book to adapt into a show which is kind of like Firefly but SO much more imaginative, then this is your book. Get on it.

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: July 1993
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
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Plot: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.

So I read a lot of YA. And when I say a lot, I mean almost exclusively.

It’s not really a thing that’s done on accident either; I get a lot out of YA. I find the stories and the characters are a lot more diverse. I genuinely think that YA is paving the way to progression in novels. You don’t believe how many general fiction books sound so similar to each other and yet get published. My time working in a bookshop meant casually reading the blurbs in the gen fiction section and rolling my eyes at the honestly tiresome tropes and stock characters.

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And so when I picked up The Secret History I did expect certain things. First off, I wasn’t a fan of the characters. I know these characters aren’t supposed to be likeable, but there’s a line that crosses over into “I’m ready for them to die or at least stop talking.” – this was Richard all over. At points he’s either just a walking camera so that we can peer into the lives of other, more interesting characters, or he’s got an inner dialogue that makes me want to strangle him. I feel, without him, I would have given The Secret History 5 stars because I loved all of the other characters…even Bunny (I know).

I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the style of writing too. I mean, I read the first page and thought “Well shit, this is A Level English Lit all over again,” but I was actually able to follow along and it really added to the ‘posh’ feeling you get from the characters who, let’s face it, are quite elitist. This is the stuff they would be reading and how they would be reading it. And it was gripping too, despite the lengthy prose and the insufferable protagonist, I was eager to make it to the end, to see what became of these characters who had found themselves in such an awful situation when it was often so easy for them to get out of stuff usually.

I don’t think I’m interested in reading Tartt’s other novels, but I’ll definitely be finding more literary style general fictions that have more interesting plots like The Secret History!

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Valentina by S.E. Lynes

Publisher: Blackbird Books
Release Date: 1st July 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: When  Glasgow journalist  Shona McGilvery moves with her partner  Mikey  and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness. But with Mikey working offshore, the  frightening  isolation of the Aberdeenshire  countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…

I received an eARC from Blackbird Books in exchange for an honest review. This is the first time this has happened and I may have got a lil’ giddy when it did. Yay!

COVER - Valentina by S. E. Lynes (1)I am not a fan of people.

It’s not that I don’t understand them, or that I can’t empathize or sympathize, I just see the things that they do and say and think and I have come to the conclusion that people are bad people.

I’m an optimistic girl, I know.

So when I began reading Valentina I was intrigued; I knew this was a psychological thriller, I knew these people would be bad people within the context of the story. But I didn’t realise how personally hurt I would feel.

Shona McGilvery is a very unobservant protagonist. I was continually yelling at her throughout the book to open her eyes, to not be so deceived. We are supposed to know these things and she does not, but with everything just there in front of her, it was hard for me not to want give her a good shake and tell her to wake the fuck up. But, while I wanted to do that, I felt everything that she felt.

And so when things….without spoiling anything, go awry, I became very angry for her. For the last half of the book I was cheering her on; I wanted her to do everything and anything horrible. I needed aggression, and while I feel Shona let them off easy, I know that many readers would have found Shona an unrelatable and unlikeable character if she went further.

I think it’s very powerful when a story can make you not just sympathize with a character but empathize; this shit was happening to me, and I had to constantly remind myself that I’m sat in my house in South West England reading a book, I’m not actually in remote Scotland having my life taken away from me by actual psychopaths (I’m still angry). I needed to write this review right now (half past midnight) just so I could get the passion across.

I really enjoyed this story, despite my seething rage, and it’s such a strong debut!

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