The Annual Migration of Clouds, a review

I requested this audiobook on a whim, I wasn’t even supposed to be browsing NetGalley (who provided the audiobook for free in return for an unbiased review) but here I was and when I spotted this cover I knew I was going to request to read it!

In The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed we follow a young woman who has received an invitation to leave her small community to travel to a prestigious school. However, the novella is set in a post-apocalyptic world where some people are infected by “Cad” (although they’re still able to live almost normal lives… to a point) and climate disasters have ruined the land so people struggle to get by.

Reid wants to go, but she’s worried about those she leaves behind. How will her mother cope with the infection as she gets older? How will her childhood best friend be now that he’s lost all of his family and friends? How will they harvest the crops and do all the tasks that are usually meant for her? And to top it all of her mother doesn’t want her to go.

This little book was absolutely fantastic. I blasted through the audiobook in two sittings (only taking a break because I was listening to it at work and took my lunch break!) and adored it. I think the narrator does a great job at inflicting each character with their own personality and emphasising just the right point in sentences. I definitely want to read more from Premee Mohamed and I’m also here for listening to more audiobooks narrated by Eva Tavares!!

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

When I got the email through from NetGalley I almost ignored it. I try not to request too many books, I have a massive tbr as it is! But something in the tag line caught me, and I opened the email up. A book about climate change? Well now this is right up my alley, I can’t not request it! I was so excited that I requested it via ebook and also audiobook, and I got both! I mainly read the book via ebook as I knew I’d want to see the graphs, but I’ll also mention the audiobooks qualities.

Lets start with the audiobook. Now you might be thinking, you just mentioned graphs, why would I want to listen to this via audiobook if I’m able to use another option? Well, Gates and the publishers thought of this! For those of you who use audiobooks due to visual impairments, the graphs are explained well and you will be able to understand the data in them from the way the information is described. For those who listen to audiobooks merely out of preference, this audiobook actually comes with a digital booklet that shows the graphs. Now not only is that pretty cool, but the “text” of the book is also a little different in the audiobook in order for it to reference those graphs and tell you to go hunt them out. I liked this little change that technically doesn’t matter, but it makes the experience of listening to the book that much more immersive. And who doesn’t love those little bits of attention to details!

Bill Gates himself reads the introduction of the audiobook, with Wil Wheaton reading the majority of the book. I personally preferred Wheaton’s reading voice, which was good for me, but I liked that this includes Gates’ voice as well. It allows you to be able to envisage the different inflictions and his tone of voice throughout the rest of the book, as well as adding a level of intimacy and relatability.

Moving away from the audiobook, but sticking with the voice of the book, Gates has a very interpersonal style throughout. It very much feels like he’s sat down for a coffee with you somewhere, going over the data that he has and making an impassioned argument. I think this was a great choice as it will stop those unfamiliar with the subject from feeling as though they are being spoken down to. It also allows for moments of humour and self-clarity which allow you to connect with the author and be more invested in the points he’s making.

Now, onto the guts of the book.

This was such an incredibly interesting read. As someone who has studied climate change from an environmental perspective I’ve always had views and opinions about what needs to be done and the steps that are currently being taken. I’d never, however, seen anything from a business perspective that was actively encouraging taking steps to go green. That? Well that was the biggest takeaway for me from this book. This book not only goes into what can be done about climate change on various levels (more on that in a moment) but it breaks it down to the respective costs, compares this to the costs of how the current methods run, and then talks about the green tax that is present and how this can be reduced through innovation and legislation.

The clear breakdown of the cost of these carbon neutral methods, as well as a clear comparison to current costs, really brings the reality of the economic side of this proposal to light. The reality is that without the backing of those with economic power, it will be all but impossible to reach carbon neutrality. Therefore, these steps which encourage and motivate greener alternatives are so important to implement. The importance of governments, on a local, national, and international level, is clearly demonstrated. With Gates even going as far to provide examples of how they could and should act in order to bring us closer to carbon zero.

In terms of those steps that can be carried out in order to reduce the carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere, these are split up into clear steps. Showing the emitters and what can be done about these. From manufacturing, to farming, to transport and more. Each polluter is mentioned, their impact demonstrated, and various options for how these can be tackled are brought to the table. The weaknesses of the solutions is also mentioned, as without those the arguments aren’t worth a penny. Gates also proposes solutions to these. Sometimes these are concrete, actual options (including options for greener concrete!), and sometimes it is simply stating that we need to carry out more research in these areas. That there needs to be more funding.

Of course Gates has been known to invest in many a start-up or a R&D opportunity. In order to reduce his bias, he doesn’t mention these companies by name throughout the book. I’m sure with a little bit of sleuthing you’d be able to match up the companies that he’s talking about to his investments, but the intent is clear. Regardless of his economic investment in these companies, his investment in the issue itself is just as strong.

This is a book that I wish more people would read. For those who state that they don’t care about the environment I believe it could offer some clarity. For those who are economically focused it could also explain not only why they should care but also how they could benefit from these changes. And overall it would raise awareness. I went into this expecting just a simple little book. I should’ve expected more from Gates. This was an in depth, well researched non-fiction that establishes many useful ground points that can be built upon in order for us to avoid a climate disaster.

Flash Forward by Rose Evereth

Having listened to this podcast for a few years now, as soon as I learnt Rose was publishing a Flash Forward book I knew I needed it! I would’ve pre-ordered it but that was only available in the US and Canada, I’d just resigned myself but then I spotted the book on NetGalley and I requested that thing so fast!!!

The book follows the same format as the podcasts, where in each section the book looks at a possible, or not so possible, future and see’s how this could play out and how it would impact everyday people. In the podcast this is done through a small acted segment and then through discussion. To transfer this into a literary medium, Rose instead went with comics! This is part graphic novel and part discussion, with there first being a strip which is the same as the acted segment from the podcast, and then afterwards Rose would have a discussion about what we’d just read and how this could come about.

There were a few futures that were taken directly from podcast episodes, but they were from older episodes, so if you’ve not listened to them all then this won’t be an issue for you, and if you have, well it’s a nice reminder! I enjoyed being reminded of these possible futures and Rose’s takes on them, as well as seeing how my reaction differed a few years on.

Overall, I recommend getting this content into you somehow! Whether that’s through the podcast (of the same name: Flash Forward) or through this graphic novel. Rose Eveleth puts so much effort and hard graft into each episode and each story, doing so much research and talking to a vast amount of professionals and experts. Also I really liked the artwork inside the book as well, something that isn’t necessarily the main part of a graphic novel like this but that’s lovely to see all the same! A very ramble-y but very positive review of this! Pick it up!

Delicates – a review

Delicates is the sequel to Sheets, a cute spoopy graphic novel about sheets coming to life as ghosts in a laundromat. Our main character Marjorie has become close to one of these ghosts, a young boy called Wendell. But when she returns to school she’s finally accepted by the popular girls and is scared of spending too much time with Wendell in case her secret comes out. Everyone would think she was a freak who sees dead people!!

Delicates by Brenna Thummler

Similarly, Delicates is a lovely graphic novel which is aimed at a MG/YA(Middle Grade/Young Adult) audience to talk about difficult topics. Whilst Sheets focuses on grief, Delicates focuses on mental health and bullying.

Sadly, whilst Sheets handled the topic with grace and, ironically, delicacy, Delicates seemed a little too forceful. The message seemed to be pushed so hard that at points it was literally on the page. I’m not sure if it’s just my age not being the target demographic that meant that I found this so blatant and obvious, but it did mean that the beauty of the message was lost for me. I do, however, think that it is of course an incredibly important message for young people to receive and maybe this delivery method would work for more people.

Overall I’ve given this read a low 3 stars (6.43 on CAWPILE to be precise), and I would definitely recommend for people to pick it up. The art style, in my opinion, is gorgeous and the message positive and important. I just don’t feel that it was that well imparted, but as mentioned above I’m not the target audience and this may have paid a part in this.

Publishing tomorrow March 23rd 2021, go check this book out and pick it up if it sounds interesting!!

Thank you to NetGalley and Oni Press for a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Touch is Really Strange – a review

I had previously read Anxiety is Really Strange by Steve Haines and Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor, so when I saw this new title within this little series available on NetGalley I decided to pick it up. Touch is Really Strange, by Steve Haines, is a graphic novel which looks at how touch changes our perception of the world, as well as how it can impact our emotions.

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Touch is Really Strange by Steve Haines

I thought that the main body of the novel was done well, the graphics have a beautiful but plain styling to them which I like and the information is interesting. There are footnotes to expand on details if you want the information, but if you’re there for the bare bones you don’t need to pay attention to those.

I like how the book covers physical responses to touch, as well as how touch as a sense allows us to feel our place in the world and also the emotional impact that touch such as hugs can have. The pandemic was mentioned in here, saying that it’s a difficult time for touch at the moment, which I appreciated, but it made the next section even more odd.

The end portion of the graphic novel is made up of exercises in touch to try… with a partner. Now I know that there will be a decent number of people who are living with other people right now, who might even be willing to do this. But there are large numbers of people living alone. After having mentioned earlier on in the novel that it’s difficult for those who crave touch due to the social distancing restrictions, why would you then put a bunch of exercises into the book which all involve touching someone else? It just felt really odd and out of touch. I know that this book needs to be relatable after the pandemic times, but in that case I think it would’ve been better to leave out any direct mention of it at all.

Without that weird touching section this would’ve been a 3 star read, but with that addition? I’ve dropped it down to 2 stars. But if you do happen to live with someone who would be willing to try out touch exercises with you, then give this graphic novel a go!

Good Night Stories Chapter Collection – a review

I was given access to Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls – The Chapter Book Collection by the Rebel Girls Group through NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. This collection aimed at 8-12 year olds contains five chapter books that each follow a woman through their formative years up to the amazing achievements that they managed in their lives. Each book comes in at 128 pages, with the collection totalling 640 pages, and at the end of each book there are some activity pages to be filled in to get the reader to actively think about the struggles that each of these women had to face and how they would have responded to the same situations.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls box set, by various authors.

I really like how the women chosen for this collection come from so many different parts of the world: the US, the UK, Japan, Cuba, and Kenya. They also come from various social classes, and look at very different “achievements” from science, to mountain climbing, to ballet, which should all combine together to show the young people reading these books that you can be a success in whatever you do. So often these sorts of motivational books for kids focus on a more science and maths based result, and I love that this collection branches out from that and looks at a wider variety of careers and paths by which someone can be successful.

Each book in this collection is a biography of the woman’s life, going through the facts of their struggles and successes. The books are, however, written in a very “storytelling” manner which keeps the reader engaged and interested in the arc of the story and this combination, as I know well from my childhood, can work wonders at getting somebody interested in non-fiction works!

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Ada Lovelace Cracks the Code by Corinne Purtill follows Lord Byron’s daughter from a young age as her mother encourages her to focus on maths in order to not be like her poet father. This develops into love for Ada who is able to imagine possibilities that nearly 200 years later inspire the digital age we’re so familiar with today. This biography summarises Ada’s long life into just enough to give the reader a taste for it and to make them want to go and research more!

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Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business by Denene Millner follows America’s first female self made millionaire. A Black woman who was the first in her family in the US to not be born enslaved, she is always working, and when she works she has her hair wrapped up. One day she notices that her hair is starting to fall out, she finds the right products for her, and then she invents something better. Marketing this product to Black women all over the US she goes on to build a booming business. I adore how this shows the hard work and dedication put in by Sarah Breedlove (Madam Walker) as well as how it focuses on haircare, a stereotypically “silly” thing to focus on. But in reality? Look what can happen if you do!

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Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains by Nancy Ohlin celebrates the life of the first female climber to summit Mount Everest. With a supportive husband who was happy to be the stay at home parent, as well as trials along the way, not just in the shape of a big mountain! Tabei’s story is one of perseverance in the face of blatant sexism and testing the limits of human endurance. Junko’s lack of natural athletic ability shows what you can achieve even if you’re not naturally gifted at something the first time you try it, something I could do to learn!

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Dr. Wangari Ma’athai Plants a Forest by Corinne Purtill follows Wangari growing up in rural Kenya, living as one with nature, to the negative influence from the corrupt government which results in the degradation of the land and the suffering of those who live off of it. She faces active resistance from the leaders of the Kenyan government, as well as sexism and racism on an international scale. Dr Ma’athai’s story, however, shows that a simple seed of an idea can replenish the soil of an entire country.

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Alicia Alonso Takes the Stage by Nancy Ohlin tells us about a young Cuban girl who struggled against her parents to follow her dreams and become a renowned ballerina on the New York stage. This all appears to fall apart though when Alicia starts to lose her eyesight and over time becomes completely blind. Despite this massive, seemingly limiting turn of events, Alicia doesn’t give up on her passion and still pursues her dancing goals. Within this book Ohlin describes some of the different ways in which Alicia navigated the stage and her classroom in order to perform and to teach her students.

Overall I gave each of these books 3 stars, with my favourites being Madame C.J. Walker, Dr Wangari Ma’athai and Alicia Alonso. This definitely isn’t a low rating for me, for a book to get 3 stars I have to have enjoyed the reading process and find the book worthwhile. The reason these books didn’t rate higher is because I personally would’ve wanted either more story or more facts. We get the basics but they got me interested in these women and now I need to know more! But I do believe that the intended audience would really love these books and treasure them. I know they would be so nostalgic for me if I’d read them as a child.

If you’re looking to buy a book (or a collection of books!) for a kid between 8-12 (middle grade for US readers) or anyone who is able and willing to read from that age bracket, then these are a great pick. Interesting, unique, and focusing on amazing women from so many different cultures, these books are a great addition to any library.

The back view of the box set

Have you read anything from the Rebel Girls publications before? Let me know what you thought of them!

Quincredible Vol. 1 by Rodney Barnes, a review

Quin’s a regular kid, he’s quiet, he gets beaten up a lot, and his parents love him. One thing not so normal about him is that he’s invulnerable. No matter what happens his body doesn’t get damaged. Or at least it hasn’t yet. Quinton West is one of many who were impacted by a meteor shower that bestowed gifts and powers on people across the city. But he’s not told anyone, because invulnerability is a pretty useless superpower if you’ve only got a one-hundred pound frame to back it up. 

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Quincredible Vol. 1 by Rodney Barnes

I picked this up from NetGalley because I just couldn’t resist that cover (I mean look at it!!!!) and I’m so glad I did! This superhero comic was brilliant, not only did I adore the art style but also Quin’s characterisation. He was an incredibly relatable kid. He’s a little stereotypical for the comic world. He’s nerdy and gets beaten up but never fights back. But he has a wonderful relationship with his parents who are loving and supportive, and he’s active in his community and wants to help in a “neighbourhood spiderman” kinda way.

I’ll admit I’m not the best for a critical review of this comic. I don’t read a lot of them, barely any would be more precise. But. If you’re like me in that you don’t delve into this medium all that often, then I highly recommend Quincredible. It drew me in, I adored the art, and I definitely want to pick up vol. 2. And considering I don’t tend to continue with comics that’s a high rating!! If you are a comic reader then I want to pre-warn you that this does contain common tropes, but it also is a fun time and I really did enjoy the story. It might be worth giving it a shot!

Thank you to NetGalley and Oni Press for an electronic review copy of this comic in exchange for an honest review. I ended up giving this comic 4*s out of 5.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed | A Review

I don’t read a lot of contemporary, so when I do I like it to be hard hitting. Hence why most of my contemporary is YA, those markets have so much potential when it comes to important issues. The Black Kids is a book about Ashley, a high school teenager in LA. She’s Black, and she’s in a predominantly white private school. Her parents have made their way in the world and they’re rich. The year is 1992, and the LA riots have started due to the murder of Rodney King by police (and unsurprisingly the perpetrators were acquitted). To avoid spoilers I won’t say anymore, but I’m sure you can guess the direction that this book goes in.

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As soon as I found out it was set in ’92 I assumed there wouldn’t be any LGBTQIA+ representation. Thankfully I was wrong! This book is wonderfully diverse, with various LGBTQIA+ characters and it also has diverse rep in terms of race.

One thing I adored about how Christina Hammonds Reed crafted the story is that she was able to give us multiple different viewpoints on the riots and race in general just from one main character. Ashley has been friends with a group of white girls since she was little, and they’ve been dating white boys. However, as she moves around different circles of people as the book progresses we also get to see what she thinks when within lots of different groups with different races, monetary status and more. This skilful writing really makes this book what it is and is a key part to why I loved it so much.

Our protagonist is the victim of microaggressions as well as blatant racism. You probably could’ve guessed that already. But she isn’t perfect herself. She actually, throughout the course of the book, does various things that we the reader will judge her for. She doesn’t shy away from this, she doesn’t pretend like she’s perfect, and that makes her so much more relatable as a person. We all fuck up, we all make mistakes.

This book also taught me about a number of events in US history. One obvious one that isn’t a spoiler is the ’92 LA riots. As a white Brit who was born in 1996 I genuinely didn’t know as I read through this book whether the riot was fictional or real. I of course did research and discovered that this was a very real riot that occurred and that Rodney King was in fact murdered by police. I have also since done research on other events that happened both in the US and elsewhere that the book mentions. I don’t know why I had never learnt about these. Whether it’s because I’m white or because I’m British (I’m assuming a mix of the two), but I’m so so grateful to this book for bringing these to my attention.

I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley, I only picked this up because it was available through the “read now” section rather than requesting it. I won’t be requesting diverse books and will only read those available on my “read now” tab as I am white and I don’t want to take the opportunity to read a book away from an OV reviewer. I can always pick it up once it’s been published!

I ended up giving The Black Kids 4 stars out of 5. I think that if I had been from the US I would have rated this the full 5 stars, but I just didn’t have the cultural connection to the book (I’m British if you don’t know). As it is I can’t actually think of anything negative so it is just that spark that’s missing for me. I really really recommend picking this book up, it comes out on the 5th August and you should definitely get a delivery from your local bookshop!

Poooosible November TBR

I’m a bit tentative in publishing this, as I don’t want to set a solid TBR in my second month back and one in which I’m starting a new full-time job. But there are a few books that I’d love to get to this month, so let’s get on with it! There is a readathon I’m wanting to take part in this month (comment and guess which one!) so those won’t be shown in this tbr as they’ll get one of their own later on. So that also reduces this tbr. I only actually have 2 books left.

Image result for priory of the orange treeFirst up is The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. This is a big boi fantasy read which honestly is kind of intimidating, but I am definitely going to at least make more of a dent in this book in November! I’m not exactly very far through it right now, but from what I can tell we follow various people around this world who all have varying views on dragons, religion and rulers. I already have my favourite person to read from, and I fly through their sections! But I’m also interested in everyone within the story so overall I’m looking forward to reading some more throughout November.

43220998. sy475 And secondly, another book which I’ve already started but am nowhere near close to finishing is The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. A historical fiction set in post-civil war Spain, this is not a time in history which I’m familiar with so I’m finding it really interesting to delve into that aspect of the book and to learn more about this time. There are already, despite me being barely into it, plot lines which are full of secrets and have me intrigued as to how they came to be and what impact they’re going to have on the story overall. This is another really big book, although it’s a smidge smaller than Priory.

Despite the fact that I’m loving them both, I’m not getting through them… as you’ll know if you saw my last post. I think it is, very stupidly, being worried about the pressure. I tend to baulk and not do things when there’s a lot of pressure on me to complete the task until the very last minute of the deadline. And of course there is no real deadline on reading these books. Not my best quality but one I’m working on and either way I’m still looking forward to reading these two books eventually!

The books are too good!!

This can’t just be me with this problem? I’ve got two loooong books that I’m just barely into but really enjoying. HOWEVER, I’m going through them so slowly!!! I’m reluctant to pick them up even though when I do I really enjoy the little that I read.

Is it because I’m in a reading slump or is it cause I’m enjoying the books too much and I don’t want to speed through them? I really don’t know.

The two books are The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon and The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys. Both are absolutely amazing, Priory is a fantasy book with dragons and assassins and magic and I love it so much!!! FoS is set after the Spanish civil war in the 1930s and I’m not far enough into it to know much more! Both have multiple viewpoints from various interacting characters and I’m just adoring them both so much. Yet.

I’m still not picking them up. Ugh what is wrong with me? Who knows. This has just been kind of a rant post because I mostly post book reviews and I haven’t been able to get through these books so I’ve got nothing to review!!! #firstworldproblems