Monday, 30 January 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read. Feel free to leave a link to yours in the comments. I always mean to visit more blogs than I ever get round to but I do try!



Books I've read:
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach 3/5
Vanished by Liza Marklund 3/5
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter 4/5
Tideline by Penny Hancock 3/5

Currently reading:
The Zona by Nathan Yocum

Upcoming reads:
Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I also blogged about:
New Imprints | Not Just For Stormtroopers: Sci-Fi Group Read #2
3 Star Rating Event | Incoming!

Tideline

Sonia lives on the edge of the river Thames in Greenwich. Her husband works away and her daughter has flown the nest. When fifteen year old Jez, a nephew of one of her few friends, comes round to borrow a CD, she feels an overwhelming urge to keep him safe. She gets him drunk and convinces him to sleep it off but the next day she does not let him leave. She starts making up excuses for him to stay and soon Jez finds he cannot leave.

It's an uncomfortable read. The narrative is told in first person, split between Sonia and her friend, Helen. For some reason it seems easier to relate to a criminal that knows they are doing something wrong. Sonia obviously has become a bit unhinged but she also comes across as naïve, not really realising the consequences of what she's doing. At the start, the loss of a loved one is hinted at and in flashbacks we learn of an unhealthy relationship she had as a teenager herself. At times she mistakes Jez for someone else and occasionally her actions towards him seem completely at odds with her need to “keep him safe”.

Whilst most the book is devoted to Sonia, Helen comes across as selfish and not particularly believable. Even if you do not like your sister, surely you would be worried when your nephew goes missing? Alcoholism is to blame but her drinking doesn't come across as extreme in the text. Perhaps the fault of first person narration, Sonia is too wrapped up in Jez to comment and Helen is in denial.

Do not get me wrong, Tideline is not badly written but the sense of unease I had towards Sonia's actions put me off a bit. It's not a gripping “oh my god they're going to die” type unease but just that what she is doing is wrong and she can't see that. It did put me in mind of Stephen King's Misery at times. It is Penny Hancock's first novel and I would certainly read more from her in the future if the subject matter were different enough.

I did enjoy the setting on the banks of the Thames. It is something Sonia is fond of, refusing to sell the house as she can't bear to part with the river. It holds memories of a past best forgotten and I think her family sees that. There is the contrast of the beauty that Sonia sees with the reality of its grime and danger.

Tideline is published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and is currently available in hardback and ebook editions (paperback due out 19th July 2012). Thanks go to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Incoming!

AKA In My Mailbox

Only one paper book this week, I was doing so well until I discovered The Lewis Man in Tesco for a fiver. As I bought The Black House as a direct result of wanting to read this one, I was pretty happy.

After the previous week's NetGalley request binge I had quite a few accepted titles in too.

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Zona by Nathan Yocum
The Bird Saviors by William J. Cobb
Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter
Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk






In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

3 Star Rating Event

Hosted by Bitten by Paranormal Romance

I signed up for this event a couple of weeks ago as people often get the wrong end of the stick when I give a book 3 stars. If you feel the same way you might like to join in, it's not just for readers of paranormal romance (obviously). You will have to click past a warning that the blog contains adult content but I can't see anything too risque on there!

Thursday, March 29, 2012, will be for book reviewers to discuss in detail and educate our followers, authors and publishers on what a 3 Star rating means to us since so many people seem to react differently to seeing this much maligned rating. It is also an opportunity for our followers to tell us in their comments how they feel about reading, or the possibility of reading, a book we have given a 3 Star rating.

Friday, March 30, 2012, will be a single post containing a paragraph or two from several authors and publishers on their honest thoughts about receiving a 3 Star rating on their work; not what their ego feels but how they take the news of rating and what that rating means to them.

If you are an author or someone that represents an author and would like to have your say please contact me. You can remain anonymous but please stay civil. If you would like to be named you will receive a link to your website, social media and/or book.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Not Just For Stormtroopers: Sci-Fi Group Read #2

The people have spoken. This month I set a poll with a few choices for our optional group read, with a trend towards classics. It looks like a lot of you want to read Philip K. Dick's science fiction masterpiece or want to revisit it because it beat the others hands down. Yes, in February we will be reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the book that inspired Blade Runner.


Being a classic, there are a variety of covers out there! Do share if you find a good one. Some of these really do give the wrong impression of the book, either futuristic farming or android erotica. Don't worry, it's neither of those things! Unless Blade Runner was a huge departure from the original...







As before, this readalong is entirely optional, you can carry on reading your own choices for the challenge. I do ask those of you who have not yet linked up your January reads, to do so by 3rd February in order to qualify for the giveaway (a sci-fi paperback of your choice).

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? should be easily available from your usual retailers or second hand sources. If you are in the UK and fancy reading a selection of classic science fiction titles, you could do worse than the Gollancz 50th Anniversary Fantasy Collection from The Book People; £8.99 for 8 books including this one.

New Imprints

Last year it seemed all the naysayers were predicting the demise of the publishing industry in the face of digitisation. However, from where I'm sitting, they industry looks healthy with lots of new imprints popping up all over the place.


Angry Robot are launching their young adult imprint, Strange Chemistry, in September and there are plans for a crime imprint in 2013. Strange Chemistry is headed by ex-blogger Amanda Rutter and has already announced its first two acquisitions, Kim Curran's Shift and Sean Cummings' Poltergeeks. You can read an interview with Amanda at Civilian Reader.


Quercus, best known for their international crime fiction and Publisher of the Year in 2011, also have a newbie imprint on the scene. I don't know when Jo Fletcher Books got going but it is another welcome addition to the speculative fiction scene, Jo having previously worked at SFF behemoth, Gollancz.


Then yesterday there was the exciting announcement of Bloomsbury's Circus imprint. Even better, the launch book has a circus theme but there are several titles I am really looking forward to from their catalogue including Liz Jensen's The Uninvited and Jane Rusbridge's Rook.

A circus, like a square or an avenue, is, of course, a place. Bloomsbury Circus will be a place of fine writing from all over the world. There will be exciting debuts and brilliant new novels from established writers. There will be ambitious writing and high-wire acts, too. There will be much to entertain, amaze and enjoy. Roll up, roll up...

Are there any new imprints I've missed?

On Twitter: @strangechem | @JoFletcherBooks | @circusbooks

The Goddess Test

Henry (previously known as Hades) has released Persephone from their marriage and he has been left alone to rule the Underworld. However it's too much for him to handle by himself and he is given 100 years to find a replacement wife. Each girl must undergo a series of tests to ascertain her suitability for the role but each time they die before they get to the end. Kate is his last chance. Her mother is dying and she would do anything to have more time to say goodbye.

A lot of people have described this as a retelling of the Persephone myth but it is only inspired by it. In the original myth, Hades fell in love with Persephone and abducted her. Her mother, Demeter was distraught and put all her effort into searching for her, neglecting her duties to tend to crops on earth. Plants stopped growing and people began to starve. Eventually Helios told her what had happened and she went to retrieve her daughter from the Underworld. Hades, fearing he would lose his love forever, tricked Persephone into eating some pomegranate seeds and under the rules of the Fates, those who eat in the Underworld must remain there. Having only eaten a few seeds, a deal was struck that she would spend half the year in the Underworld and half the year on earth. This myth was used to explain away the seasons. Whilst in modern references, she spends winter in the Underworld, originally it would have been summer when droughts hit ancient Greece.

I've always thought Hades got a raw deal in mythology, he sounds misunderstood and lonely so I loved the character of Henry. Like I said before, the myths are only a basis for this story so don't expect them to be the same characters. However, the Greek gods liked nothing more than hiding their identities and playing games with mortal, so it's not an unbelievable story from that point of view. If you're a bit of a mythology geek like me you will also enjoy playing Guess the God (answers, conveniently, at the end of the book). There's enough subtle references to feel like you're being clever but it's also an enjoyable story with a girl meets boy angle too. Just don't take it too seriously.

The sequel, Goddess Interrupted will be available this March and I will be reviewing it next month. There will also be a novella ebook, The Goddess Hunt, which takes place between the two novels.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Vanished

Last year I read The Bomber as part of the Transworld Book Club and whilst I had reservations, I said I'd give Annika, the main character, a second chance. I took the offer of a review copy of Vanished as a sign. At this point, I need to point out I am not reading this series in chronological order and you may very well enjoy it more if you start at the beginning.

Vanished is, chronologically, the second book featuring Annika Bengtzon and these events happen years before those of The Bomber. Annika is working as a copy editor at the Evening Post in Stockholm. It would seem that after the events of the previous book, she has been demoted because she killed a man in self defence. Bear with me here, I was rather confused at first. There's a friendly little note saying the story follows on from Exposed but the books can be enjoyed by themselves. Fair enough. Yet if you have read The Bomber (published by Corgi last year), it might make more sense to go right back to the beginning. Otherwise you'll be spending the first 100 pages working out what hasn't happened yet or what has happened but you didn't read about. Confused yet?

Once I'd got my facts straight, I did worry that it was going to focus on newspaper politics again but this does tail off after a few chapters. Whilst she might well work in a sexist environment, Annika isn't the model employee, keeping secrets and disappearing out the office without informing her colleagues. For a young copy editor I think she is very lucky to have succeeded in her job and it has nothing to do with her being a woman.

Fortunately for me, the bulk of the book deals with the mystery of Paradise, an organisation which promises to help women in need. They help these people vanish in the eyes of the world. After an initial meeting with the founder, Annika comes into contact with a terrified young woman, convinced that she is being hunted. She directs the woman to Paradise without thinking. Later, she starts to suspect that the organisation isn't quite as benevolent as it seems and worries she's sent the woman to a fraud. I found the main storyline pacey and enjoyable.

I'm not entirely sure the personal parts fitted in with the rest of the plot but again this might be caused by my reading out of order. Possibly Marklund just wanted a few reasons for Annika to have a breakdown, but she already seemed fragile to start with and adding bereavement, a horrible mother, abandonment and other personal issues seemed a bit much. She also didn't seem to be the kind of person I'd expect to fall in love in one night, let alone when she didn't like the man much a few days before. Knowing what happens in her future, I was expecting it, yet it still was all too sudden.

I have softened towards Annika. Maybe I would have been kinder to her before had I read the series from the beginning.

Vanished will be available in paperback and ebook formats from Corgi on 16th February 2012. Thanks go to Transworld for providing me with a copy for review. Please note it has previously been released in English under the title of Paradise.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I have been making random comments about dead bodies recently. That is because I've been reading Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. One woman's search to find out all the things that could possible happen to your mortal remains after you've vacated them. It's a fascinating mixture of history, scientific research and anecdotal stories.

Not one for the faint of heart although if you are a fan of TV shows such as Bones and CSI, I don't think you have much to worry about. I would advise not to read on an aeroplane, or at least skip chapter 5 if it's the only reading material you have. I don't know if I should be worried that I knew quite a lot of the information already, especially the European history and more than I should really know about decomposition. This it what television does to a person!


If you insist on driving around in vintage cars with no seatbelt on, try to time your crashes for the systole portion of your heartbeat.

The section I found most difficult to read was around decapitation and head transplants. The information on beheading was something I knew about but had done my best to forget. The idea of being aware your head has been cut off is just too much for me and I found some of the experiments described in this section stepped over the mark of enjoyable reading.

Sometimes she comes across as trying to be funny and not quite getting there. There are plenty of things that are amusing in themselves, the thought of scientists catapulting guinea pigs across the lab for instance (though not so funny for the poor creatures). I should add that if you are sensitive about research on animals, this is probably a book to avoid. The tone didn't seem entirely consistent throughout and it dragged a little at times, notably on the “religious research” chapter. Maybe it was just a lack of interest on my part. I don't think it's as funny a book as people make out, more morbidly fascinating.

The ability to perform brain surgery while traveling full tilt on a cobblestone street is a testament to the steadiness of Laborde's hand and/or the craftsmanship of nineteenth-century broughams.

I think it's important to bear in mind that whilst classified as a popular science book, it is written by a reporter. There are some good sciencey bits (technical term) but when left to her own devices, Mary sometimes gets things wrong. For instance she describes bile as an “acidy substance” when it is indeed alkaline, something most of us learned in biology as it helps neutralise stomach acid. If you're reading this for the science, mistakes like this will make you question the authenticity of some of the statements made.

An excessive use of footnotes also spoiled the flow a bit. I feel they should mostly be used for reference points or definitions and a few excellent writers manage to use them for comic effect but here they seemed to be paragraphs that could easily have gone in the main text. Instead they stop you reading halfway through a sentence.

Overall great content and some really fascinating stuff but let down by a few niggles.



Also reviewed @
Literary Lindsey
Gabriel Reads

Monday, 23 January 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


IMWAYR is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and is a little round-up of the week for bloggers that read.



Books I've read:
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz 4/5
Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson 5/5
Hitchers by Will McIntosh 2/5
Soulless by Gail Carriger 5/5

Currently reading:
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Upcoming reads:
Vanish by Liza Marklund

I also blogged about:
Waterstones 11 - Release Dates | Literary Giveaway Blog Hop | Incoming!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Incoming!

AKA In My Mailbox

This week I received two crime novels, Tideline by Penny Hancock from Simon & Schuster and The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi from Quercus. Just my luck, I gave the first Varesi book to a lovely guest reviewer but I'm sure I can work out what's going on. I've got quite used to reading international crime fiction out of order and to think, I used to be such a stickler about it!



I also made the mistake of going on to NetGalley to update my profile and add a completed review. That meant I just had to have a little look at their listings too...

Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald
Erebos by Ursula Poznanski
Emerald City by Alicia K. Leppert




In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.