Monday, 1 September 2014

The Month That Was... August 2014

August was a mixed bag, with the delights of Nine Worlds, struggling to find my reading mojo and job-hunting. I've read some great books lately and I think my mojo is starting to recover with 12 books read last month (OK, two were teeny tiny, but it all counts).

Here's what made it onto the blog...

Reviews:





5 stars awarded to: This Book is Gay by James Dawson, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel + Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.

Read and awaiting review: More Than This by Patrick Ness, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham + One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde.

Blogged about:

Check out my rambling Nine Worlds wrap-up post and see what new books came in.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Half-Blood

Alex was taken out of the Covenant, a strict boarding school for the Hematoi, three years ago by her mother. She has no idea why she left, but she knows if she goes back she’s sure to face a future in servitude to the pures. When daimons kill her mother, she has little choice other than to return. Will her uncle show her lenience and give her a chance to train to be a Sentinel? A position which will give her opportunity to seek vengeance.

I have mixed feelings towards Half-Blood. It was an enjoyable enough read, a way to pass the time but I found it all too easy to put down. I’ve seen Jennifer L. Armentrout mentioned enough across the blogosphere that perhaps I had higher expectations. Maybe I was expecting something new and different and instead I got something that seemed all too familiar.

In all honesty, Half-Blood felt like a vampire novel that refused to call them vampires. Instead, they are daimons, who feed of the life force (aether) of pure and half-blood descendants of the demi-gods. They appear to do this feeding by, erm, drinking the blood of their victims. And they can also turn pures into daimons, who then lose their souls, or at least any resemblance of humanity.

The idea of the pures and half-bloods seemed a little odd, considering they are all descendants of demi-gods. That means a Greek god got down and dirty with a human and created, essentially, a half-blood offspring. This all meant the mythology came across a bit forced just for the reason to be not writing about vampires. It’s OK to write about vampires!

Aiden and Alex’s romance was set up as obvious from the start. Are we meant to be interested in them because it’s not allowed? I couldn’t generate any enthusiasm for them and Alex was rather an abrasive character from the start. I’m not sure I‘d want to carry on reading about their forbidden love for a whole series, but there are aspects I liked more and would read on for. It all depends on the focus of further books.

I liked the idea of the Apollyon and the actual Apollyon himself. Mystical power and duty bound, there's future mileage there and the one character who did't seem to fit an obvious stereotype. Seth, despite his smaller part, came across as a more real character than Aiden who, quite honestly, was a bit boring. There's an element of high school roles too, with the pretty, popular, mean girl who Alex bickers with, but not in any way that endeared her to me. I just thought she was reckless for a large portion of the story.

I wished the book had gone more into the social structure of the Hematoi and the rather disturbing servitude of the half-bloods. It’s a missed opportunity to explore prejudice and segregation, instead relying on the core romantic relationship to highlight it. Really slavery should be a bigger motivator than smooching?

This edition also includes Daimon, a prequel novella covering the events running up to Alex returning to the Covenant. The main story was slow to start so I’m glad this material was separate. I've seen some reviewers say to read it first but I don’t think it adds anything new story wise.

Half-Blood is published by Hodder and this edition is available now in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ I'm a Book Shark | On a Book Bender



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.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

This Book is Gay

This Book is Gay is the instruction manual for all those who have ever wondered. Sex education in the UK rarely covers relationships or body issues outside cis heterosexual and this book is something to plug the gap, covering many aspects of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and * (to include the whole spectrum). Hopefully it will find its way into many schools and the hands of those you need something like this to help them feel that everything’s OK.

It lays out the facts and is wonderfully informative for anyone with questions or doubts or just plain nosy. And it’s all done with trademark James Dawson humour. Most importantly, it’s so inclusive and accepting. It may be aimed and LGBT* teens, their parents and teachers, but there’s nothing to make you feel like you’re not allowed to be reading it. Which is partly the whole point, people are people no matter what they do with their genitalia. As James says, you can identify as a carrot if that makes you happy.

As well as James’ own advice, there’s plenty of facts and testimonials from real people of a variety of ages and backgrounds. It explains terms, without any embarrassing internet search trail for others to find, and it also lays out stereotypes and why they’re bad but also why they exist. And yes, there’s a chapter on sex as well as some SADFACE aspects, such as discriminatory laws and HIV.

Lesson One
Sometimes men fancy men.
Sometimes women fancy women.
Sometimes women fancy men and women.
Sometimes men fancy women and men.
Sometimes people don’t fancy anyone.
Sometimes a man might want to be a woman.
Sometimes a woman might want to be a man.
Got that? It really is that simple.

It also has pictures! Not embarrassing, sex-ed style, photos of willies but fantastic and amusing illustrations (OK, sometimes with willies) by Spike Gerrell.


I loved the holy book interpretation section; what to do if someone uses the “it’s in the Bible” excuse (but also takes a look at other religions). James focuses on the two most problematic passages that generally get wheeled out and shows how they can be interpreted in different ways. And also how there’s plenty of other stuff that’s in there that no one follows today. The good news is, Buddhism and Hinduism both promote a general acceptance of all.

This Book is Gay is published by Hot Key Books and is available in paperback from 4th September 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.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Savage Magic

Savage Magic does stand alone as a novel, but if you were intending to read the earlier Horton books, there might be tiny little spoilers in the pages. Abigail’s situation also refers directly to an event at the end of The Poisoned Island.

London, 1814: A young, well-off man is found slaughtered in his bed, behind locked doors with no sign of entry. He wears a satyr mask. When a second man is found under similar circumstances, Bow Street magistrate Aaron Graham, makes the connection and starts his own investigation. For he sent Constable Charles Horton to the country, to investigate accusations of witchcraft from the house where his wife and daughter now reside.

Another atmospheric, historical tale from Lloyd Shepherd set against an oppressive backdrop of a less than savoury London. In addition to the witchcraft angle, we see in the innards of Brooke House a (once real) private lunatic asylum, which gave those with money a slightly more pleasant option than Bethlem. It’s also around the time mesmerism (better known now as hypnotism) was being experimented with. The fictional doctor of this tale has his own take on mind control and it all fits together, from the decadent streets of London to the docks that Horton knows best.

1814 was a tough time for women. Whilst prostitution has been something women throughout history have been driven in to when times are tough, it’s something that seemed rife in this period. Lose your job and there’s no back-up plan, even if there’s a husband in the household. Add to that, society’s perception of women as lesser in mind and ability, you’ll be feeling fortunate to live in the here and now.

Savage Magic contains several interesting female characters, especially considering when it is set. First off, Abigail Horton gets a lot more page space in this instalment. At the start of the book, she is driven to the doors of a mental asylum, following that fateful cup of tea in The Poisoned Island. It is her own choice to commit herself, which perhaps shows she’s not crazy at all, but the mad-doctors of the time wouldn’t consider that. I loved how the psychiatric doctors of the time were called mad-doctors, like they’re the ones that need treatment. Maybe by today’s standards, they are the mad ones.

What was an overheard voice from a madwoman's cell when there was only a madwoman there to hear it?
We also hear a little of female convicts who were sent to Australia, one of which ran a successful farm, and of course was viewed with suspicion by most her male neighbours. Mrs Graham is a married woman living in sin with a man who is not her husband, and whilst society disapproves, it doesn’t seem to weigh on her mind at all.

Despite being set in a time where accusations of witchcraft was illegal, the government states there is no such thing as witches, it is all too easy to see how a woman acting beyond what was expected could lead to such rumours. It was a period of great change and whilst some shed their more supernatural beliefs many, especially in rural areas, would rather blame a woman for their woes than just bad luck. There’s always someone who will serve as scapegoat.

Savage Magic is published by Simon & Schuster and is available in hardback and ebook editions from 28th August 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights | Our Book Reviews Online



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, 25 August 2014

The Woken Gods

The world after The Awakening is living in a reluctant truce between mankind and the gods. The gods must follow the rules of mysterious Society of the Sun or face execution. Once they knew they were no longer immortal, the rules changed. Kyra Locke is living with her father in the transformed city of Washington DC, accepting of the divine presence around her but more concerned with the current status of her relationship with Tam. That’s until two trickster gods corner her on the way back from school…

I’m a sucker for a story about gods and I wasn’t disappointed with The Woken Gods. The world-building is fantastic, and it completely makes sense that the gods would have set up shop in Washington DC. The lines of good guys and bad guys are blurred, with both the Society and the gods have differing motivations. It’s not a black and white world.

I liked how it wasn’t restriction to one culture’s mythology, although very Egyptian in flavour, it mentions that gods from Norse and Sumerian also came over during The Awakening. It also doesn’t feature the obvious gods that we all know about, which helps to remove preconceptions about how you think they should act. I did know about Set (or Seth) thanks to Stargate, which I feel had some influence on this world, although these gods aren’t aliens.

Any romance element is in the background to the important stuff. Kyra is a teenage girl and does have eyes, so you can forgive her a few pages of boy stuff, but I never felt it was the focus or got in the way. She was much more focused on her dad that impressing Oz. Like many of Strange Chemistry’s titles, it portrays the parents as lifelike people who are more than just constraints on kids’ lives or absent figures. It’s important that grown-ups aren’t always the bad guys.

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Also reviewed @ A Fantastical Librarian



Book Source: Won from publisher

Friday, 22 August 2014

Vestigial Tales

The Vestigial Tales are a series of short stories by Laura Lam set in the same world as Pantomime. Some feature characters from the novels and others are completely separate. Each story contains an item of Vestige, the mysterious artefacts of unknown power, left behind by the Alder, beings who have now vanished from the world. So far, there are three ebooks available, with more to come.

In The Snake Charm, we get to revisit R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic. The story follows Drystan, the white clown, in the days before he met Micah. It’s lovely to read about the circus again even if reminded of how awful the ringmaster is. It doesn't contain any spoilers for the novels but I still think you'll get the most out of it after reading Pantomime.

The Fisherman’s Net is a short fable about greed, which doesn’t feature any character overlap. I like to think it’s something children of Ellada would be told, just as we have Aesop’s fables. It tells the story of a fisherman who finds a net which never fails to bring in a good catch.

The Tarot Reader is my favourite of the three stories and centres around Cyan who we meet in Shadowplay. As with Drystan’s story it’s a prequel, showing how Cyan ended up at Jasper Maske’s theatre and the development of her powers against a backdrop of suspicion. Again, the story works by itself but I do recommend reading Shadowplay first.


If you’ve enjoyed the novels (and who wouldn’t?) these shorts are a wonderful addition and will keep us going until Micah’s future is decided. The Snake Charm is currently free on Amazon until 25th August.

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Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Station Eleven

No one paid much attention to the Georgia Flu at first, thinking it was localised to Russia. Day One, it arrives in Toronto. One week later, civilisation is collapsing. The death rate is estimated at 99%. Year Twenty, a band of travelling musicians and actors perform to the scattered towns of the survivors. This is the world now, few even remembering when planes flew and electricity brought light to the dark.

I read this excellent post-apocalyptic tale in a day; one of the things that kept me glued to the pages was the mystery of the dog. How did one of the same breed and name come to be there? This web of connections is a defining feature of Station Eleven. We are told the story of a man who died the day Georgia Flu hit North America, but he did not die from the plague. We know he is connected to Kirsten, one of the Travelling Symphony, but why is his backstory so prominent when he is no longer alive?

The motto of the Travelling Symphony is “survival is not sufficient” taken from an episode of Star Trek. I liked that the story focused on a time after the chaos of the plague had subsided and people had found ways to live to some extent. That maybe they could start to think about doing more than just surviving and the arts being part of that. They perform Shakespeare, plays from a time of a different plague, that also prove more popular than more modern offerings. Maybe they provide one small connection to the lost past.

Of course, after society collapses there will always be less than good people who rise up and take advantage. Sometimes the symphony meet these people on their travels. They would normally avoid these towns in future; their philosophy is to not get involved in the politics of others. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

The title comes from a series of comics, produced on a small scale, which struck a chord with Kirsten who was given them as a child. They serve as a connection to the before but the content shares characteristics with the after. As a side note, the UK cover is in the same hues as the comics (and is so much more inviting than the US offering).

The narrative jumps around between Year Twenty, which is the present and various points in the past. Much of it in the before but as the story progresses and the connections start to snowball, some of the immediate after is revealed. It’s not a story of heroes but of normal people, working out how to live their lives when nearly everything they know is gone.

Station Eleven is published by Picador and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 10th September 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Also reviewed @ The Whispering of the Pages

Shelve next to: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller




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.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire is the third book in the Throne of Glass series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

When Chaol sent Ardolan’s Assassin to the land of Wendlyn, it was supposed to protect her. As Calaena plans to destroy the king from afar, the magic inside her threatens to take her as well. In this new land, magic is not so forgotten, even if it is hidden, and she must learn who she really is in order to protect the land and the people she loves.

I’ll confess, I can’t give you a very in depth review. I read Heir of Fire on holiday over 2 months ago, loved it and then didn’t write down a single word of thoughts. Except I know I loved it and… DRAGONS! I was expecting this to be a conclusion, for some reason I thought it was a trilogy (YA series assumption) but there’s another book due next year, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

This instalment sees Celaena’s story move away from Dorian and Chaol. Whilst a little disappointing not to see some resolution to their parting on bad terms, it meant Celaena got a whole load of development that had nothing to do with romance, but much more to do with magical powers. She really comes into her element in this one. The king has been a very naughty boy, and a lot of the back story is revealed as Calaena comes to realise how bad things have become in the kingdom.

Anyway, where do dragons come into it I hear you ask? There are witches (iron witches maybe, they had talons at least - I told you I'd forgotten details) who have historically ridden dragons into battle. There’s a lot of sniping and backstabbing between clans as it’s time to claim the best dragons once again. The best bit of this is a wonderful underdog (underdragon?) story that grabbed my heart and made me whiz through a storyline that had little to do with the characters I’d already met and fallen in love with.

It’s a long book by YA standards, but all this meant that I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t end so quickly. If you're not a YA reader, don't be put off at all, it's such a complex world with engaging characters, filling a gap in the epic fantasy market. Fantastic characters, fantastic world-building and the story still feels fresh and new by book three. If you haven’t read Sarah J. Maas yet, go out and get a copy of Throne of Glass right now!

Heir of Fire is published by Bloomsbury and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 11th September 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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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