Monday, 28 July 2014

Our Lady of the Streets

Our Lady of the Streets is the concluding part of the Skyscraper Throne trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

It’s been four months since Mater Viae passed through from London-Under-Glass and claimed her throne. In those four months, the city has sickened and its occupants divided. London is on the brink of a civil war like no other.

If you’ve not experienced Tom Pollock’s London yet, go and get yourself a copy of The City’s Son right this minute. The third book does not disappoint at all and I can’t remember the last time a trilogy has delivered so well in every single book.

From the opening pages, the streets are closing in, literally as windows and doors are disappearing, leaving nothing but brickwork and the fading screams of those trapped inside. The outlook seems bleak for both the city and Beth, who now must feed off sickly streets. Loyalties are divided and refugees are camping out in Selfridges, one of the last safe havens from a city that is slowly consuming itself.

Tom’s characters don’t come out of their adventures unscathed. It’s not just their inner selves that are transformed, but when bad things happen in this world, they also have physical impact. Pen still holds her scars from the Wire Mistress (who you can expect to see more from in this book) and has another chance to address her internal scars. Beth’s transformation is more fantastical, but comes with many new challenges.

And there’s loss. Not just of the city they call home, the streets lost to a malignance, but also to those they hold dear. Beth visits the baby Pavement Priest that is all that is physically left of Fil and she carries his stolen memories in a flask. Pen learns how her parents, who no longer remember her, think they are going insane. This is a world of tough decisions, unknowns and living with the consequences.

There’s a nod to some of the creatures from the past, some who side with them and others that see the Mirror Mater as their true Goddess. Alliances are shifting, and not always in the direction that you expect. It feels a much more familiar world by now, less of a learning curve getting to know Tom’s stunning world-building.

The ending is dramatic and emotional. I was so thrown by one bit with the cats, where I was thinking aww, isn’t that lovely, only for the scene to pan out and be something else. It really manages to play with your heartstrings if you’ve come to love this world and the characters.

I’m not sure I was ready for it to end. Pitched as a trilogy, Our Lady of the Streets does feel like a conclusion but this world is so multi-layered and creative, it’s going to be hard to let go. Despite the hardships, I was left with a feeling of hope; that something will live on beyond the pages. Beth and Pen, the Railwraiths, London-Under-Glass, the Pavement Priests and Gutterglass are so real to me that they can’t stop existing, in the corners of our imaginations and in the bricks of London Town…

Our Lady of the Streets is published by Jo Fletcher Books and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 7th August 2014. Thanks go to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Night School: Resistance

Resistance is the fourth book in the Night School series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Allie and Rachel have been shipped across Europe, moving from lush residency to lush residency. Finally, Allie feels somewhere safe when she reaches Sylvain’s family home, but the calm cannot last. Somehow Nathaniel’s people find her and she is forced to return to Cimmeria. Nowhere is safe, she might as well be home.

The long game is being played out, which kind of means not a lot of anything is happening much at Cimmeria apart from waiting for Nathaniel to do something again. I have loved the other Night School books but struggled to get into Resistance, as it takes a good long while for anything happen (bar the opening scene).

With the pupils getting so involved in protecting Lucinda’s interests, the ambiguous motivations of the Orion group (not to be confused with the publishers) had less justification. Yes, money, power and all that but I wanted some more concrete information. The heredity aspect of it gave me pause for thought, maybe Nathaniel is onto something. Night School is blindly protecting something they don’t even understand, or at least the reader doesn’t.

This also meant the focus was on Allie’s relationships. She's conflicted, again. It felt like she had decided on Sylvain at the end of Fracture and that she loved Carter as a friend. So why is she all confused again at the start of a new book? I liked the way the previous books portrayed her indecision but this just draws it out too far. Series should be allowed to develop and move away from the same character arc every book. It’s OK for a protagonist to be content in her relationship.

I enjoyed the second half much more and I will certainly be reading the next book (due next year) which I think is the concluding part. There’s some interesting character developments in the final chapters and a whopping cliff-hanger.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Love Like the Movies

Kenzi thinks she has her life sorted, a successful career and newly engaged to Bradley, she can’t wait to plan her fairytale wedding. The her boss tells her the firm is struggling and if she can’t close the deal with their newest client, her job’s on the line. Little does she know that the client is her ex and he has very specific ideas on how the brief will go. He gives Kenzi a list of ten movies and makes her promise to re-enact scenes from all of them. Or the deal’s off.

The hook of Love Like the Movies is one you’ll most likely appreciate if you’re a fan of 90s chick flicks, such as You’ve Got Mail, Pretty Woman and Sleepless in Seattle. There are a few more modern ones thrown into the mix, including at least one I hadn’t seen, but mostly it made me want to re-watch all those old, indulgent favourites. It was a bit forced how she always pointed out the scene and which film it was from, I would have preferred the reader to be left to make the connections. There is a list after all, it’s not that hard to match them up.

Kenzi seeks approval from her family, her engagements seems to be more about scoring points with them than marrying someone she loves. I never felt any love between her and Bradley, it was as if he was chosen as someone her mum would approve of. I didn’t quite understand why her mum was more attached to her daughter-in-law than her actual daughter either. It was a bit over the top.

However the point of these sort of scenarios is for the protagonist to realise their life isn’t going so well and to make changes. It was a bit predictable, but once I got past her family issues, it was a quick and enjoyable read.

The list of movies is:
  1. Sleepless in Seattle
  2. Pretty Woman
  3. Bridget Jones’s Diary
  4. 27 Dresses
  5. Dirty Dancing
  6. Sixteen Candles
  7. Love Actually
  8. Say Anything
  9. You’ve Got Mail
  10. My Best Friend’s Wedding

Love Like the Movies is Victoria Van Tiem's debut novel. Published by Pan Macmillan, it's available to buy now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ I Heart Chick Lit | kimberleyfaye reads



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Q+A with Anna Caltabiano

What’s the inspiration behind The Seventh Miss Hatfield?

Even before I came up with the story, I came up with the character of Henley. After Henley, I dreamed up Miss Hatfield. I fell in love with these characters and built a story around them.

The concept of the story was largely inspired by my curiosity with why we as humans are always so equally fascinated and frightened by death. One interesting way to examine mortality is to write a story about immortality, and explore how the characters deal with such issues as identity, love, and loss. These are among the central issues of all stories, but by introducing immortality into the mix I was able to have fun seeing what changed, and conversely, what is unchanging in all of us. I hope that I created an enjoyable story, but left the reader something to think about when it is all over.


Do you think time travel and immortality go hand in hand?

To me, the time traveling, along with the immortality, was a vehicle to further examine what it means to lose your childhood, your family, and your friends—everything that roots you to a particular time and place. I wanted to explore what it meant to know that we are going to one day die. One interesting way to examine mortality is to write a story about immortality, and explore how the characters deal with such issues as identity, love, and loss. These are among the central issues of all stories, but by introducing immortality into the mix I was able to have fun seeing what changed, and conversely, what is unchanging in all of us.

This book avoids the modern day, what made you choose the 50’s to take Cynthia from?

Though actually quite recent, to me the 50’s are ancient history. From the vantage point of my generation, this was a period of traditional values, white bread, a supposed golden age in the US, but probably quite bland. It seemed to be a good launch point for the story.

Can we expect more from Miss Hatfield in the future?

Miss Hatfield wouldn’t be able to stop influencing Cynthia’s life even if she tried!

Writing two books by the age of 17 is impressive. How do you find time to write?

I always joke with my friends that writing is my sport. I just don't get any exercise out of it. If my friends can spend hours practicing their sport for the love of it, I can make time to write because I love it too. I try to write a little every day even if it is just punctuating a sentence I wrote the day before. What's important to me is that I'm making progress, however small.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I really didn't intend on getting books at YALC, although I did take a book along for Hot Key's book swap. Then I spied early copies of Vivian Versus America for sale so I just had to grab that and whilst I was there why not get something else off my wishlist? I also went for a wander round the LFCC stands and came back with the next volume of Saga. I think I did very well not to buy a replica sword or comic strip dress. It was tempting, but it was also too busy to browse comfortable (you've probably heard about the crowds already).


I went to the Fringe event in the evening and as they were holding a raffle in aid of Siobhan Dowd Trust, I bought a strip of tickets. Of course, not being too bothered my ticket got drawn, and got a bundle of three books. Actually two of my tickets were drawn but I declined a second bundle, beacuse I was already over my one book allowance.

I'm not writing up more on YALC. I did only go for one day and whilst I met lots of lovely bloggers there were loads of people I didn't get a chance to chat to. I have my fingers crossed for a more relaxed affair next year. YALC organisers did a great job but I think Showmasters messed up somewhere with the main event.

Anyway, aside from that, I got the new Tom Pollock for review! And Station Eleven! And an incredibly sexy hardback proof of the new Michel Faber, who I haven't read, but loads of people seem excited about.

For review:
Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker (Penguin)
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Canongate)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Pan Macmillan)
Ayoade on Ayoade by Richard Ayoade (Faber)

Won:
Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nichols
The Hidden Princess by Katy Moran
All Bones and Lies by Anne Fine

Bought:
Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle
Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton
Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn + Fiona Staples
The Fisherman's Net by Laura Lam

Swapped:
The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Say Her Name

She thought of the girls in her year: drinking, smoking, eating junk as if none of it mattered, simply because they were young. They all assumed that bad things only ever happen to other people – old people.

In five days she will come. It’s Halloween at Piper’s Hall for Young Ladies and Bobbie’s sat round listening to bad ghost stories. One of which is that of a girl who supposedly committed suicide at their school and has become the legend of Bloody Mary. Of course, none of them believe it’s real, but it’s Halloween so they decide to gather round the mirror in candlelit and say her name.

Make sure you don’t need the bathroom when you start reading Say Her Name. There’s some seriously creepy moments all interspersed with nuggets of wisdom and wit from the newly crowned Queen of Teen. The story still manages to touch on a number of real world issues without them being the focus.

It’s interesting to see a horror story with some compassion for the ghost, whether or not they’re doing evil things, they are supposed to be troubled spirits. Maybe they had a tough time in life. I liked that Bobbie investigates who Mary was and the events that trapped her in the mirrors.

As always. James’ characters feel like real people, the kind that you went to school with (or are at school with now). They’re easy to relate to even if they are at a private school. They’re all imperfect, even those who might like to project otherwise.

Bobbie had always subscribed to the idea that teachers went to sleep in Tupperware boxes in their store cupboards.

The ending, from the main characters’ point at least, all felt a little too easy. After Cruel Summer, which is brilliant, I suppose I was expecting something else. That’s my only fault of this otherwise entertaining and unsettling read.

See how that spooky cover was designed here.

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Also reviewed @ Jess Hearts Books | Page to Stage Reviews | A Dream of Books



Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Win Audiobooks!


To cut a long story short, I want to cancel my Audible subscription but have unused credits on it. I'm pretty bad at listening to audiobooks myself, so why not give them away? I can't transfer the credits direct but I can gift you a book. I have three credits to use, so there will be three winners.

Winners can chose from any available audiobook on the site. You will need to have an Audible UK account (Amazon owned) to claim the gift. I think you may be able to access it from other countries, but it's up to you to work out if you can use the gift or not. You can have an account without a subscription.

Also I want to cancel my subscription before I'm charged again so winners must contact me with their choice before 01/08/14.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Strange Chemistry Reading Month

*Sniff sniff* Writing up my list of reviews for this post has reminded me how many great books Strange Chemistry published. If you didn't know, the imprint folded last month but their existing books are still available to buy. In remembrance I will be taking part in Little Lion Lynette's Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A Reading Month in August. I do have a number of Exhibit A books on my TBR but I'm not really feeling the crime/thriller vibe these days so I'll be sticking to Strange Chemistry titles. I aim to get through:


Skulk by Rosie Best
Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Cracked by Eliza Crewe
Control by Kim Curran
The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Seventh Miss Hatfield

When Cynthia takes a parcel round to her neighbour’s, little does she know she’ll never see her parents again. Miss Hatfield tricks her into drinking a drop from the Fountain of Youth and Cynthia become immortal. She has become the seventh Miss Hatfield but first, she must complete a task; to retrieve a painting from 1887. And immortality always comes with a price.

This is Anna Caltabiano’s second novel, written by the age of seventeen! She should be praised for a light and enjoyable Victorian tale, with a dash of fantasy. However, based on the blurb, I expected more of a focus on the fantastical but once Miss Hatfield has travelled back, she’s there for the long term. Her immortality might sway her final decision but she could be any imposter in a Victorian home.

Saying that, I liked the imposter story. She’s attempting to steal a painting from the Beauford household when she is mistaken for Mr Beauford’s niece. She goes along with it, as does his son, Mr Henley, who is quite taken with the mystery of it all. She does seem to fit quite well in the time, I would have liked a little more awkwardness on her part, trying to adjust to a different way of life. Maybe that’s why Anna chose to take her from the 50’s and not now. Less of a culture shock.

I felt the writing improved as the story progressed. It could be argued that the simplistic voice of the first few pages is that of the young Cynthia, as the sixth Miss Hatfield does say her speech and mannerisms were aged too. The style suits a prim and proper young lady of the turn of the century. However, the case falls through a bit when you remember Cynthia was displaced from the 1950’s.

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is published by Gollancz and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st July 2014. Pre-orders on the ebook are only £1.99 (offered by a variety of retailers including Hive) so make sure you order early! Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Shelve next to: Soulless by Gail Carriger + The Falconer by Elizabeth May



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Book of Life

The Book of Life is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy therefore this review may contain spoilers for A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night.

It all started with a book. Diana and Matthew may be back in the present day, but his past holds many more secrets, one of which will soon threaten their future. With Baldwin and the Congregation already unhappy at their relationship, there is only one solution to all their problems. Diana must once again find Ashmole 782 and put back its missing pages.

The All Souls books have never been fast paced and this is no exception, however the world is so absorbing and once you get settled, you won’t want to leave her world. There’s such detail put into everything, from the locations right down to the furnishings and everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea. I think this has always been part of the charm of these books, but it does mean they’re not always pages turners.

Deborah has said that her plan for a trilogy meant she would get a go at writing three different genres; fantasy, historical and thriller. The Book of Life certainly does have its thrilling moments, but they are tempered by everyday family life. The story returns, at times, to the research lab and the libraries full of antiquated books; along with all the procedures that must be followed. The interweaving histories of all the characters and creatures is so complex but I love learning all the links.

Of course, one of the best things about ending a trilogy is following favourite characters through their journeys. I’m possibly fonder of some of the supporting cast by now than Diana and Matthew. I love Gallowglass and really felt for him in this; he is so loyal and could make anyone feel safe. I like Phoebe, who manages to be the voice of modernity among so many old souls. I never felt Diana was really of our time. And then there’s Jack, whose part is small but manages to pull on the heartstrings.

It’s getting all exciting and then, well, then there’s babies. OK, babies do interrupt life and adventure, but there was just a bit too much on the labour and the days running up to the christening, that it killed off the pace. I admit, I’m particularly adverse to baby talk, but these chapters didn’t feel necessary to the whole plot.

It was a satisfying ending, with lots of loose ends tied up and the answers to many questions that made sense. They felt right. Yet, there’s still that urge to read more about these characters, maybe a few years on, what will become of them and the whole world of creatures. Maybe we can revisit the world in the future? I would be happy for a book that didn’t focus on Diana and Matthew.

The Book of Life is published by Headline and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 15th July 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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