Saturday, 31 March 2012

Not Just For Stormtroopers: Sci-Fi Group Read #4

I will admit, I nearly took the poll down this month as I was not excited about the choices myself. I'd wanted to try and tackle something that was actually set in space so asked around for some suggestions. But, part of this challenge is to try and read outside our comfort zones so that should really apply to me too! So please join me in April in reading Greg Bear's Hull Zero Three. It has been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award this year so you'll be able to join in the discussions on whether it deserves to be there too.

A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space. Its destination - unknown. Its purpose? A mystery. Its history? Lost. Now, one man wakes up. Ripped from a dream of a new home, a new planet and the woman he was meant to love in his arms, he finds himself wet, naked, and freezing to death. The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting other survivors he meets might be the greater danger. All he has are questions: Who is he? Where are they going? What happened to the dream of a new life? What happened to the woman he loved? What happened to Hull 03?

Winners Announced!

The blog is now a year and a bit old so it's time to choose some winners...

Sarah Hill

Robert Zimmermann

Mel S
Gary Dalkin
Lainy smbslt
Robert Zimmermann
Sian Smith
Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)

If you have won an ebook, there is no need to get in touch, they will be sent out shortly to the emails providied. I will be emailing the winners of the Marika Cobbold books to arrange delivery.

Me Before You

When Lou Clark loses her job in a cafe, she is faced with trying to find a new one where there just isn't work. She still lives at home, with her sister and nephew, and her income keeps the household going, just about. Her dad's job is at risk too. She reluctantly accepts a job as a carer for Will, who's an arse. He has good reason, his perfect life was ruined when he was hit by a motorbike two years before, leaving him quadriplegic and completely reliant on other people. He's alive but not living and that's the last thing he wants.

I wasn't even really planning on starting Me Before You last night, I am in the middle of another book but picked it up and started reading the first few pages. Next thing I know, it's 3am and there's tears streaming down my face. From the very start, it is made clear that Will never was never able to sit around doing nothing before the accident, which just makes his situation all the more difficult for him. As Lou becomes friends with him, she does everything in her power to make life worth living for him, but is that enough?

It's not predictable and it's one that's never going to have a perfect ending, even if you can decide what that would be. It tackles the incredibly difficult subject of a person's right to die. As a reader, you want so much for things to work out but it is a very realistic book, and there's not going to be any frivolous miracle cures. Not only is Will paralysed, but he is often in pain and the injury causes numerous health complications. It is eye-opening at the very least.

Lou is the very opposite of Will. She has lived in a small town all her life, had no ambitions and doesn't have much purpose to her life, living one day to the next. She doesn't like her boyfriend all that much and she feels under pressure to support her family. Lou might want to change Will's life but he also wants to change hers.

I'm reluctant to call it chick-lit, not because I think it's a disparaging term, but because it may put people off this fantastic novel. It is the very best of what the genre has to offer, dealing with topical issues with very human relationships at the centre.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Library Book

The Library Book is a collection of memories, stories and essays which all display a passion for libraries from a variety of writers, including bestselling authors, journalists and a songwriter. From the very first lines of James Brown's This Place Will Lend You Books for Free, I thought, this person knows me. If you love books, you will find joy amongst the pages as authors share their stories of their relationship with libraries. From a young Stephen Fry discovering Oscar Wilde to the destruction of libraries in Julian Barne's dystopian England, it's a perfect book to dip into. It also serves as a great argument as to why we need our libraries and I think copies should be given to everyone who doubts that.

The China Mieville contribution is an extract from Un Lun Dun and Kate Mosse's is a reworked version of the short story, The Revenant. I did much prefer the reminiscent pieces over the stories, where it is easy to see how writing talents were nurtured.

Royalties from the sale of The Library Book will go to The Reading Agency to fund library programmes. It is published by Profile Books and currently available in hardback. I received this copy to review for newbooks magazine.

Love Will Find a Way

In the Love Will Find a Way Challenge we're sharing our all-time favourite books. If you were stuck on an island, or in a cave, which books would you bring? We're not limiting you to bring a certain amount of books, so give us your best!

Help! There are so many fantastic books out there, can't I just fill up my Kindle and take solar panels? OK, OK. I would definitely take something by Terry Pratchett, maybe the City Watch omnibus. If I couldn't take the whole Women of the Otherworld series, I'd pack Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, the first is still the best. A recent addition to the hall of favourites, is Lucy Wood's beautiful Diving Belles, though it may put my imagination into overdrive on that island. And The Raw Shark Texts may start to make me worry about what's in the water but I'd still take it with me, it's such a great book (and different). I may even be tempted to sneak in The Scorpio Races (again, what's with the scaring myself on this hypothetical island?). I couldn't leave du Maurier's Rebecca or Atwood's Handmaid's Tale behind either. If I couldn't take Danny Wallace in person, I'd make do with Yes Man as he makes me snort with laughter.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Jubilee Giveaway Blog Hop

Those of us in the UK get an extra long bank holiday to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year and what better way to top it off than with a big ole giveaway? Therefore I give you, a UK biased, giveaway blog hop...

The number one rule for this hop is that you must allow UK residents to enter. You can go all out international (recommended) or just UK, just Europe or your country and UK. We're so fed up of seeing US only giveaways, so we hope you understand. Please think about using The Book Depository who offer free international postage or giving away gift vouchers or an ebook.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel has terminal cancer. A new miracle drug is prolonging her life but she knows that it's not going to be forever. No one lives forever, but she has a bit less than the average person. She doesn't appreciate going to the support group at her hospital but her parents want her to at least try to socialise. She's friends with Isaac, a boy who has already lost one eye from cancer and may lose the other. Then one day, Augustus turns up to support Isaac. He's lost a leg to cancer but is in remission. Oh, and he's hot.

Both Hazel and Augustus hide behind their large vocabularies, and if it wasn't for their illness, they would come across as just a couple of pretentious teenagers. It must be an incredibly hard age to deal with a terminal illness but children seem to accept their impending death a lot easier than adults. And it's much more about the people that will be left behind than the suffering of Hazel. There are some really small yet moving moments from her parents. She is so concerned that she's a “grenade” about to ruin the lives of everyone close to her.

I really felt for Isaac. When he says he would rather be deaf than blind, this was something I agreed with. So much of what I enjoy in life is about sight and the thought of knowing that is to be taken away is terrifying. His anger came across as such a genuine response and also highlighted that death isn't the only side-effect of cancer.

There's also this whole plot where Hazel and Augustus write to the author of Hazel's favourite book to try and find out what happened after the ending. The book ends mid-sentence, presumably where the narrator dies, and Hazel just can't leave it at that. The writer is a bit of a cliché of a pretentious, literary author and there were sections I could hardly bear to read. I wonder if John Green has had a lot of people asking him about what happens to characters and he felt like he wanted to have a little self-indulgent rant about it. In the end, the reasoning behind the author's actions do make sense, but didn't make up for how unbelievable a character he was.

The heart-wrenching final chapters were what made the book for me. The description of grief was so well done and you will certainly need hankies at the ready. By the end, a lot of the things that irritated me made more sense, especially when we finally see the vulnerability of certain characters. There's also a lot of truthful observations about how people deal with death. I've certainly seen the Facebook phenomena at work.

This was my introduction to John Green, not having read any of his other work. I can imagine that he is a unique voice in the young adult market but for someone who reads a bit of everything, his writing doesn't come across as anything special. I've seen so much gushing over him, I was slightly disappointed even though overall I thought it was a good book. He's yet another, American centric writer who doesn't know the difference between English and British and gets his time zones backwards. If your characters are going to have a whole exchange about time zones, at least do the 30 seconds research to find out the Europe is ahead of America, not behind. I know, millions of fans don't care, but this reader does.

Monday, 26 March 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey

What a productive week! Lots of reading done as well as lots of blogging. I've even added a highlight page to record some of the books I give four or five stars to and don't want people to miss. The giveaways tab now links to all posts with a giveaway tag so you can easily see the latest.

Books I've read:
The Mattress House by Paulus Hochgatterer
Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter
The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan
The White Oak by Kim White

Currently reading:
The Library Book

Upcoming reads:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I also blogged about:
One Year Young Today! | Blogoversary Giveaway #1 | Blogoversary Giveaway #2
Blogoversary Giveaway #3 | Popcorn Moment: The Hunger Games | Incoming!

Sunday, 25 March 2012


AKA In My Mailbox

I've been a good girl this week, only two books added to the teetering TBR and both are review books that I really wanted to read. The first is Dave Gorman's latest, Dave Gorman vs. the Rest of the World from Ebury Press. I commented on how I liked the cover for the new paperback edition on Twitter and a lovely publicist popped up and offered me a copy. The second book is Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan from Transworld, one of the books that was on my list of titles I was looking forward to in 2012. It even came with a zombie cow bookmark that I'm going to use with everything now!

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

The White Oak

Cora is attending her father's funeral when the ground caves in and she is plunged underground. Instead of being buried alive, she finds herself in a world of ash devoid of anything living. She has fallen into the realm of the dead yet she is still alive.

There's something about the writing style that reminds me of the text based RPGs of old. The world around Cora is described neatly but never inferred. Cora walks through the Underworld with no real aim but dealing with whatever she happens to find on the way. Minotaur is an artificial intelligence and Cora's brother talks of creating a game that is similar to the world they now find themselves in. It makes me think that it is perhaps all a virtual world, in which case the style works well but it doesn't give much room for character development.

Whilst the world of The White Oak is mostly based on the Greek Underworld, there are elements of Persian mythology woven in too. Unfortunately the significance of the white oak isn't elaborated on in this first instalment. The fact that the Simurgh live within its branches suggests it is the Tree of Life and that the seeds in Cora's dress are going to be important to the story...but really it doesn't go anywhere.

It feels too much like an introduction and not a finished work. The characters aren't fully fleshed out like the world is. It is the first of four books and fairly short so it may be one of those series that is best read in one go, there is certainly a lot of potential in it.

The White Oak is published by Story Machine Studio and will be available in ebook formats from 9th April 2012. The second book, Sword of Souls, will be available in July. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review via NetGalley.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Hunger Trace

After the death of her husband, David, Maggie struggles to run his wildlife park in Derbyshire with little emotional support. She attempts to befriend Louisa, her neighbour, who was close friends with David but is faced with reluctance. Louisa has seen many women come and go from his life and she still harbours an unrequited love stemming from their teenage years together. David also left behind a son, Christopher, who has problems of his own and resents his stepmother now that his father is gone.

It's a strong, character driven novel. A widow trying to run her late husband's animal park, a jealous and paranoid neighbour, obsessed with her birds, a mentally unstable teenager and a male prostitute. It's an unusual cast and an unorthodox family of sorts and their actions may not always be forgiveable but they do make you care about them. It's a great example of how you don't have to like the strongest characters to enjoy a book.

Whilst the story starts out with an amusing tale of ibex loose in a Sainsbury's carpark, the novel has dark undertones and isn't about the animal park at all. There is much more about falconry however and the title comes from a falconry term:

Diamond's story was written on his feathers – nothing sentimental or pretentious about that claim. When a falcon is undernourished, the feathers cannot grow properly. A fault line appears, even if the bird is fed again. The fault is called a hunger trace.

The characters' starvation is of a much more emotional kind, but at what point did their hunger traces occur? It soon becomes apparent that all is not right with Christopher, perhaps David saw that as his punishment but Maggie does her best with him. Maggie does fade into the background a little but her loneliness is apparent. Louisa is the strongest character of all and has been deeply affected by her past with David. Adam is simpler and kind, but still has his own problems.

The flashbacks were all well placed and at no point was it confusing whether events were taking place in the present or past. Set in Derbyshire, there is some direct speech with Northern dialect but I would hope it makes sense in its context even if you don't understand. Most of the main characters have had a more middle class upbringing and have been encouraged to lose their accents though, so it's not going to be on every page.

The Hunger Trace is published by Simon & Schuster and is now available in paperback (although I much prefer the hardback cover). Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Goddess Interrupted

Goddess Interrupted is the sequel to The Goddess Test and therefore this review will contain spoilers for the previous book. There is also a short story, The Goddess Hunt which takes place between the two.

Kate returns from her summer above ground with James, eager to see Henry again but he doesn't appear to be thrilled to see her. She might be doubting her commitment to the ruler of the Underworld but the other gods have more important things to worry about. Calliope has escaped and the Titan, Cronus, is using her to escape too. With the fate of both the Underworld and the human race at risk, Kate is left feeling helpless and a little bit unwanted. The one thing she can do, means asking Henry's ex for help.

A lot of people have criticised Kate for being a bit of a wet blanket but I disagree. Perhaps the topic of dealing with ex-wives when you've married an older man isn't traditional young adult fayre but it comes across as a very real relationship. Both Henry and Kate jump to conclusions, but being young, Kate's become a bit more out of control. She's emotional and understandably jealous of the history between Henry and Persephone. From her point of view, she wasn't entirely sure about a marriage that means eternity with a man she barely knows but she loves Henry enough to want to save him from himself. That she's hurt by her belief that he doesn't care for her is normal.

This ground is retrod a few times and maybe that is what should be criticised more than her actual reaction. There is an argument that older readers will think, yeah, I know that. Where one side is standoffish and the other flies off the handle. It's not some fairytale romance but it echoes real life. I'm over reading about strong teenage protagonists that save the world and fall in love with the perfect boy but I'll hang out with Kate any day.

Otherwise, Goddess Interrupted is action packed and entertaining. Ava/Aphrodite still comes across as a teenage girl instead of a millennia old goddess but it's best not to pick the mythology apart and just enjoy it as it is. Whilst Calliope is just off her rocker evil, Cronus showed potential to be a much more complex character but was dismissed too quickly as the bad guy. I hope we see more of him in the next book.

Speaking of the next book...not another blimmin' cliffhanger! The story comes to a natural conclusion and then a few more pages are stuck on the end leaving you feeling like you have been, well, left hanging. I know the idea is to get you to buy the next book, but I would have anyway based on the thing that they were about to do. To add the cliffhanger just leaves me feeling irritated.

Goddess Interrupted is due to be published by Harlequin Teen in the US on 27th March 2012 and in the UK by MIRA Ink on 6th April 2012. If you're looking for The Goddess Hunt ebook, it won't be available in the UK until June (I would have liked to have read it first as I think it changes some character dynamics).