Saturday, 25 April 2015

#readathon: getting ready to rumble

Local start time: 13:00
Hours spent reading: 0
Pages read: 0
Books finished: 0
Feeling: ready for action!
Raised for charity: £129.00


I'm going to stress, sleeping is not a failure. I thoroughly recommend a nap, especially for those of us starting in the afternoon. It's just since I am reading for charity, my boyfriend came up with a forfeit system to encourage me to raise more money. I am only glad that he budged on making me read Jordan's biography and instead, for every hour I sleep, I will have to read 60 pages of Zoella's book (which I might even like considering it's ghost-written). I am reading in aid of the Alzheimer's Society again, and donation links are all over the place if you'd like to help out.

I will donate:
£1 for every hour I stay awake
1p for every page read


Josh is staying up with me and having his own code-athon. It's possibly top secret stuff, so I won't say what he's working on just yet. Just in case one of you pinches the idea and sells it to Facebook for $1billion... He'll also be making me coffee, playing games and reading if he needs a break from the code.

I'll be aiming to post an update here every 4 hours or so, plus I'll be on Instagram and Twitter throughout. Find out more about the readathon at 24hourreadathon.com.

P.S. Don't forget to pee!


I'm Reading for Alzheimer's - Donate Here


Starting Questionnaire


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
By the sea in Bournemouth, England.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I only just read Daughter of Smoke and Bone the other week (I know, I know) so I am looking forward to Days of Blood and Starlight which I bought just for readathon.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
We're dieting so readathon means I actually get to be a little bit naughty! Josh is currently making cinnamon buns, I can't wait! We are ordering pizza for dindins but we also have some new-fangled tortilla Pringles. Even the healthy option watermelon looks good from where I'm sitting...

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I am the owner of a 5 legged leaf insect called Steve McQueen. I have been blogging for 4 years and read a wide range of books but lean towards SFF and YA. Or my books lean towards me, there are towering piles everywhere. I break software for a living.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
I reckon I'm getting this readathon lark down to an art form. I wasn't reading for charity last time, so I guess I'll make more of an effort to read longer. I'm also hosting a mini-challenge (not Book Jenga this time, something different). Check in at Hour 20!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

More UK Goodreads Giveaways




Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins by James Runcie
10 copies, UK only
Ends 1st May

Nelly Dean by Alison Case
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 8th May

The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena De Blasi
20 copies, UK only
Ends 17th May

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
5 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 30th April



No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary
10 copies, UK only
End 13th May

Hunted by Carla Norton
5 copies, UK only
Ends 18th June

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner
5 copies, UK only
Ends 29th April

Imperatrix by Russell Whitfield
5 copies, UK only
Ends 22nd May



Biocode: The New Age of Genomics by Dawn Field + Neil Davies
10 copies, UK only
Ends 5th May

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
30 copies, UK only
Ends 20th May

Single Woman Seeks Revenge by Tracy Bloom
10 copies, UK only
Ends 21st May

The Dressmaker of Dachau by Mary Chamberlain
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 12th May

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Pure

The year is 1785 and young engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte has been charged with removing Les Innocents, along with its cemetery, from the heart of Paris. The scent of the graves permeates the lives of those living by, perhaps corrupting the entire area. The job will have its challenges, but Baratte is determined to succeed, and show the King that he has what it takes to be a top engineer, just like those he idolises.

The ambiance of 18th century Paris comes seeping through the pages. One member at book group said she felt a bit nauseous because of the smell, it was that effective at depicting the awful state of the old church at that time. Many of us are familiar with the catacombs of present day Paris, and this is a fictionalised story of how they got there. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t based of real life, historical characters.

Baratte starts off unsure of himself in this changing world. He goes drinking with Armand, someone who lives for The Future, and he gets swept away, partially by drink. This leads him to purchase a pistachio green suit, which becomes a symbol. As he wears the suit he is pretending to be a modern man, desperate to make an impression. It frankly sounds like a ridiculous suit to be attending grave digging sites in. As he becomes more comfortable in his own skin, and starts to see his priorities, he wishes for a plainer suit, but one still an improvement on that his father gave him.

Whilst I found the history interesting, and had a slightly morbid fascination with their task, the overall story was lacking something. There are some excellent pieces of writing, but overall it lacked something for me. It’s a short book, something that seems uncommon for historical fiction, and each element didn’t get as much exploration as I would have liked. It’s very much from Baratte’s point of view, and it skims over things that affect the other characters.

The cover blurb mentions rape, but this doesn’t happen until near the very end. Which does mean you are waiting for it all the way through. It is also brushed over very quickly and whilst handled by the characters probably as best as it could considering the period, the attitude is irritating. Also, I don’t believe it was relevant to the story, unless we are to believe the Les Innocents was corrupting people. But this was all very wishy-washy, and not concrete enough to justify the inclusion of the rape in my opinion.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Literary Relish



Book Source: Purchased

Monday, 20 April 2015

Day Shift

Day Shift is the second book in the Midnight, Texas series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

The residents of Midnight, Texas are not happy about the renovation of the old, abandoned hotel. It will bring strangers to the town, where everyone has something to hide. Manfred’s on a business trip when one of his clients drops down dead in the middle of a reading. Her unhinged son points the finger at the psychic and accuses him of killing his mother to steal her jewels. Not wanting to draw attention to the town, Manfred’s neighbour Olivia steps in to lend her own special brand of help.

If you were thinking Midnight Crossroad was missing some characters from the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, well never fear, Day Shift has a couple of cameo appearances from Bon Temps. I’m not going to spoil it and say who, because half the fun is them turning up randomly. Day Shift is also a lot more fantasy than its predecessor, with a lot of the inhabitants revealing what they are.

An old hoodlum just popped in to promise us he’d keep silent in return for scones. Mr Snuggly has uncovered bad doings at the hotel. And I still need to clear my name of these bogus theft charges, which draw attention to Midnight, and therefore all this other shit that should remain secret.

Manfred is dealing with false accusations that come along with the attitude that all psychics are con-artists, and the resulting publicity. In steps Olivia and much skulking about ensues, plus some entertaining old folks from the new hotel, which doesn’t seem entirely above board either. It turns out Olivia’s hidden life is a lot less supernatural than the others but still out of the ordinary.

Closer to home, the Reverend has a guest, a boy who appears to be growing at supernatural speed. There are things in Midnight that not even these residents are prepared for.

“I was going to say ‘How is that possible?’” Manfred shrugged. “I should have known better.”

These books are all quite sweet and stamped with Charlene’s voice, but they may be disappointing for those who like more meat to their fantasy or mystery. They feel indulgent, harmless fun. I liked this one more than Midnight Crossroad, it was pacier and had more characters I knew already. The town really pulls together, this time without suspicion turning in on itself.

Day Shift is published by Gollancz and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 7th May 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



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.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Humans have gotten glimpses of things over time. Just enough to make the rest up. It's all a quilt of fairy tales with a patch here and there of truth.

Karou lives two lives. In one she is just a blue-haired art student in the city of Prague. But when she walks through the doors to Brimstone’s shop, she enters a world of monsters, where she runs errands for the only family she has ever known. She doesn’t know what the teeth she collects from around the world are for, but she wouldn’t refuse her family.

I finally got round to starting this trilogy which has seemed to get universal praise from amongst blogging friends. Beautiful angels are good and monstrous beasts are evil, right? I enjoyed the play on the traditional assumptions on good versus evil and the exploration of the pointlessness of endless war. Is the similarity of the words of Chimaera to Crimea on purpose? When I saw their war referenced as the Chimaeran War, I misread it as Crimean.

This first instalment is very much about the back story, or at least the discovery of it, which reveals itself in snippets until it all comes tumbling out. I enjoyed Madrigal’s story, which explored more of the other world, its customs and struggles. Learning about the chimaera and the relevance of the teeth was riveting, and it all ties back to little hints during the book. The ending broke my heart…

Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I've seen things, angel. There are guerilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make space for beasts to grow inside.

Before Karou gets all mushy, I liked her attitude and her best friend Zuzana. Their conversations were authentic and they were blasé about boys, even if Karou is annoyed about Kaz. She treats him in a way one would expect, well if we could wish itches on our exes. The story sets out with Karou as leading a very nearly normal life, and establishes her love of art and her limited social life in the streets of Prague.

I’d forgotten how rampant instalove used to be in young adult books. I understand there’s some sort of justification for it here, but there must be a better a way to write a bond between too people who barely know each other. It’s very intense and I know it’s arguable that’s because teenagers feel everything intensely, but then what’s Akiva’s excuse? I dunno, I just felt the romance was the weakest part of an otherwise amazing book.

Fantastic world-building and touching, non-romantic relationships mean I will definitely be reading the rest of this trilogy.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Winged Reviews | prettybooks | Once Upon a Time | Booking in Heels



Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 16 April 2015

UK Goodreads Giveaways

I used to maintain a list of UK Goodreads giveaways over at Win All the Books but it kind of dwindled away along with my spare time. So, I thought every now and again I'd draw your attention to some giveaways on Goodreads offered in the UK. Often these have very good odds of winning, with multiple copies and not huge numbers of entrants. This won't be a definitive list but hopefully will draw your attention to some potential reads...


Crashing Heaven by Al Robertson
20 copies, UK only
Ends 1st May

Skin by Ilka Tampke
20 copies, UK only
Ends 1st May

Barricade by Jon Wallace
10 copies, UK only
Ends 30th May

Man on Fire by Stephen Kelman
5 copies, UK only
Ends 27th April


Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
30 copies, UK only
Ends 20th April

You, Me and Other People by Fionnuala Kearney
10 copies, UK + Ireland
Ends 29th April

Boo by Neil Smith
5 copies, UK only
Ends 30th April

Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson
5 copies, UK only
Ends 6th May

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Uprooted

Agnieszka lives in a small village in the valley, bordering on the corrupted lands of the Wood. No one willingly enters the Wood, and if they are taken, they would be fortunate not to return. Those who do, come back changed, corrupted like the Wood itself, and their only hope lies within the wizard who lives in the tower. He is known only as the Dragon, and like all dragons, once every ten years, he takes a maiden from the valley. No one knows what he does with them, but they never wish to return home once their time is done.

I picked this up thinking it contained dragons, but it doesn’t, only a wizard who bears their name. It does however play with the idea of a dragon taking a tribute or sacrifice, something that is common in folklore. The Dragon keeps the villagers safe from the Wood, but only if they offer him what they need.

Uprooted is firmly rooted in Slavic fairy tales and folklore. The Wood is a living, sentient thing, malicious in its actions. It is the thing that the people most fear. I’m not sure if the heart wood trees are something that have been around in folklore for a long time or if it’s borrowed from A Song of Fire and Ice, however these trees are not ones you would pray to. The idea of being trapped in a tree for months, years, but still alive is terrifying.

Traditionally, trees played an important part in Slavic religions, before Christianity came along. Each village would have a sacred tree, but they would also believe that some trees contained malevolent spirits. Baba Yaga is one of the best known characters from Slavic mythology and she gets a nod here, even if she isn’t in the story. Witches were always feared and here they have respect, perhaps out of fear, but do good for the land.

Agnieszka’s first forays into magic do not go well and the Dragon exasperates over her. As her abilities grow, it becomes clear that her magic is more organic in nature rather than the more academic style the registered wizards and witches prefer. Agnieszka has raw, unstructured magic, rather like the Wood perhaps.

Kasia is the girl everyone expects to be chosen by the Dragon. She has spent her whole life knowing what her fate will be and being groomed by her parents. She’s Agnieszka’s best friend and they worry about being separated. Kasia seems like the perfect fairy tale maiden but her role grows and grows, and she becomes a much more interesting character.

I liked the theme of being attached to a place, despite its dangers. And the walkers are basically giant stick insects but actually made out of wood. They were one of my favourite bits, and I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved their closing scene. It’s amazing how much a creature can evolve during a story, without it being the focus.

Uprooted is published by Tor and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 21st May 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



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, 12 April 2015

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I'm meant to be on a diet and I go requesting books about cake. There's no hope for me! Maybe reading about food will fill the void... I'm also looking forward to reading about space and Bryony Pearce's new book.

Day Shift has been read already and I can confirm there are characters from the Sookie Stackhouse books appearing this time.


For review:
Phoenix Rising by Bryony Pearce (Stripes)
The Confectioner's Tale by Laura Madeleine (Transworld)
A Space Traveller's Guide to the Solar System by Mark Thompson (Transworld)
Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (Bloomsbury)
The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle (Head of Zeus)
The Valley by John Renehan (Head of Zeus)
The Detective's Secret by Lesley Thomson (Head of Zeus)
Day Shift by Charlaine Harris (Gollancz)
Delete by Kim Curran



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Dish

After fleeing one bad marriage, Laura took up a job as a secretary at The Voice magazine in London. Little did she know, she’d end up writing their popular food column, The Dish, anonymously. Everyone assumes she’s a man, but this is how she prefers it, she can eat out without anyone giving her special treatment. She definitely shouldn’t be handing out her secret identity to her dates, especially when one turns out to be a chef. One bad review can change everything…

Warning, this book will make you hungry! If there’s one thing I like as much as books it’s food and there are some sumptuous descriptions in this foodie chick lit. Custard doughnuts and bacon sandwiches can lead anywhere. Laura spends plenty of time in cafes and restaurants and she’s not shy in telling us what delight she’s eating. I did feel it was a bit overdone in places, but overall it’s an easy and entertaining story, if a little predictable.

I consider the halves on the plate, each spilling out heavy vanilla-flecked custard. How on earth am I going to sit opposite such a fine looking man and eat such a messy, all consuming thing without looking like a wildebeest?

The narrative is a mix of Laura’s first person and email conversations with her friends, family and colleagues. I like the fact that a few of the emails weren’t particularly relevant, it made them seem more natural.

There’s a secondary theme running throughout regarding Laura’s missed chance to say goodbye to her mother. She holds a grudge against her family for hiding her mother’s illness and this taints many of her day-to-day relationships. She gets a chance to make amends even if she’d never get that chance again with her mother.

The extravagance and ridiculousness of the LuxEris restaurant is somewhat exaggerated, but I’m sure there are plenty of restaurants that go for style over substance. I did feel her review was a bit out of character. I’m not convinced a magazine would run with it if they were used to such a down to earth critic. Perhaps her review also suffered from style over substance.

Anyway, it was there for a purpose and it led to what I felt was a fairly realistic argument. So often an author will make them seem one sided rather than both sides coming across as a bit irrational and with some valid points at the same time. I’m not sure I liked the whole, “don’t tell your date too much” style of dating advice. If they can’t accept you for what you are, what’s the point in wasting time on dates only to call it off later?

The Dish is published by Headline and is available now as an ebook with a paperback edition due on 21st May 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



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.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Recommended Readathon Reads

So you've signed up to read for 24 hours straight and it's time to start thinking about your readathon TBR. I know a few people like to use the day to tackle something meaty but for me, and many others, I like a variety of books that make me feel like I'm achieving something throughout the event. Although, however much you read, as long as you're having fun, you're doing great.

Short Stuff

I like to start off with a shortish book, just so I can tick one off earlier on in the day. Check out more of my novella reviews here. If you're an ebook reader, now would be the time to check if any of your favourite authors have digital shorts out too.


Page Turners

Here's a few books I've sped through because I just can't put them down. This is the best way to get through the day as you'll hardly notice the hours ticking past. It can be hard to tell which will be the most gripping books though, so please leave your page turning recommendations in the comments!


Pictures!

Sometimes you just need to give your eyes a rest and give them a bit more variety. Graphic novels and illustrated works are a nice diversion (plus they're usually quick to read). If you've never read a graphic novel before, now's a great time to go get one from the library and give it a whirl.


Palate Cleansers

If you suffer from book hangovers and take a while getting into the next story, why not pick up a book in between novels like a non-fiction work with bite-size chapters or a short story collection? This time round I'll be borrowing You Say Potato from my boyfriend to read between courses.


Old Favourites

I don't often re-read, but this can be a good opportunity in the later hours, especially if your sleep deprived brain is finding it hard to take in much detail. I often pick up a book in a series from a favourite author, as I don't need to spend much time getting into the world, learning the characters and what not.

Are you joining the readathon this April? What are you planning to read?