Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Month That Was... July 2013

I think I only managed to squeeze ten books into July but I did start a new job and had a huge clear out of stuff. So at least I know why. And look, there have been some pretty amazing books lately, can't believe how many five star reviews I've been dishing out. It looks like August is going to be a mega month for book releases too, so many I want to read, it's a good thing I've made a head start!

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

Reviews:





5 stars awarded to: Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead, Winter Damage by Natasha Carthew, Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce, Omens by Kelley Armstrong and Cruel Summer by James Dawson.

Disappointed with: Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale and Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn.

Read and awaiting review: The Cambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater and Night School by C.J. Daugherty.

Blogged about:

I confessed to being scared of big books and gave you my top ten most intimidating books. A major squee alert as I got to interview one of my favourite authors, Karin Slaughter. I also discovered than Jack London wrote about more than just dogs when I had a look at forthcoming re-issues from Hesperus Press. Rounding off the month with a Q+A with Bryony Pearce.

Memes, events + challenges:
Incoming! (14th July)
Phoenix Trailer + Giveaway
Incoming! (21st July)
Incoming! (28th July)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Q+A with Bryony Pearce

Author of The Weight of Souls.


How did you come up with the idea of Taylor’s power of marking souls?

I wanted to write a ghost story with a difference, so I came up with the idea that Taylor should be forced to avenge the death of any ghost that touched her. Then I hit a stumbling block, what could an otherwise ordinary teenage girl really do to avenge a death?

I could have her be a ‘chosen one’ and go around kicking butt, like Buffy, but that would probably get her in trouble with the law and inevitably lead to injuries and the increased likelihood of her getting shot, stabbed etc. So I dismissed that idea.

I could have taken her down the ‘Nancy Drew’ route to solve the crimes and pass the information onto the police. But the problem with that was that she would have to provide incontrovertible evidence, which often wouldn’t exist, she couldn’t go to the police with ‘the ghost of the murder victim told me whodunnit’ and as I couldn’t be sure that human law would always find the criminal guilty, it wasn’t a foolproof way of avenging a death.

So I had to find a way for Taylor to punish these murderers, without endangering her too much and without needing to involve human law.

The origin of the curse was always going to be the Egyptian god Anubis, so I decided to go one step further and make him the agency of vengeance as well. Taylor simply had to find the killer and indicate to Anubis that this was the individual to be taken away. As Anubis was the judge of the underworld (the book title The Weight of Souls references his role in weighing the soul of the deceased to see if it was heavier or lighter than a feather) he would be an infallible judge of each killer (no ‘getting off on a technicality’).

I had to find a way for Anubis to take the killers away. That was how I came up with the Darkness: a physical manifestation of Anubis in the real world. Finally, I needed to find a way for Taylor tell the Darkness who it had to take. That was where the Mark came in. Once it has been activated by the touch of a ghost it wakens the Darkness. As the Mark darkens, the Darkness comes nearer until it arrives to take away the bearer of the Mark. The catch is, if Taylor still hasn’t found the killer by the time the Darkness arrives, it’ll take whoever is wearing it – in this case, Taylor herself.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Cruel Summer

Smiling, Ryan said, “It sounds mad, but I like to pretend we’re all in a big TV show.”

It’s been a year since they left school. Ryan, Katie and Ben went their separate ways to university. Greg has a promising football career ahead of him. And Alisha has been resitting her last year. It’s been a year since their friend Janey committed suicide. But putting the past behind them, a reunion is in order and they head of to Spain for two weeks in the sun. It doesn’t take long for sunscreen and sangria to turn to horror… and a summer they will never forget, if only they survive it.

Cruel Summer has James Dawson’s personality stamped all over it. Several of the elements that made Hollow Pike so popular are present; a diverse cast in a book that isn’t about diversity. Something the YA community is screaming out for. The holiday to Spain is a key part to growing up in Britain which means whilst it’s not set in the UK, it’s still incredibly British. Just don’t get any ideas about ways to spend your first holiday as a grown-up!

There was a question mark looming large over last summer. Loose plot ends that needed tying up. Viewers had been waiting on tenterhooks for a whole year. In TV you can’t leave loose ends; everything has to be resolved or you end up with a mess like Lost.

On one hand, it’s a book for the Scream generation. Of course, we’re grown up now and I hope today’s teenagers can appreciate the irony. Ryan likes to describe his life as if it were scripted. There’s lots of references to clich├ęs and tropes but it’s done in a manner that it’s meant to be obvious. Ryan is pointing them out after all. Yet, the story still managed to avoid being clich├ęd itself. It’s a wonderful homage to the days of teen horror before it got gory. Think Point Horror (check out James' Point Horror Book Club) but better. Hugely entertaining.

The narrative keeps you guessing right up until the dramatic climax. Ryan likes the predictability of TV land but it doesn’t apply here. It’s one of those books that will take you a while to recover from too. What an ending!

Cruel Summer is published by Indigo, the YA imprint for Orion Books, and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from the 1st August. If you pre-order a copy, be sure to claim your signed book-plate from James. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and keep your eyes open for the blog tour.

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, 28 July 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

Behold, I have bought no books in the Kindle Summer Sale! There are loads that are on my wishlist but I'm pretty sure I've read none of the ones I bought in any of the sales. I did have a tiny hiccup on The Works website but I think I've bought everything they've got that I want now. Here's to a month of not indiscriminately buying books!

I've also updated WIN ALL THE BOOKS! Please check it out if you want to enter oodles of UK giveaways.


For review:
The Food of the Gods by H.G. Wells (Hesperus)
Earth Star by Janet Edwards (Harper Voyager)

Bought:
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
Rebel Heart by Moira Young
Still Alice by Lisa Genova



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Omens

Olivia Taylor Jones is living the perfect life. Engaged to the perfect man, heir to a department store fortune and contemplating going back to college, little does she know all that can change in an instant. When journalists uncover her heritage, Olivia not only learns she is adopted but she is the daughter of notorious serial killers, Todd and Pamela Larsen. Fleeing from the press and desperate to live without hand-outs from her adoptive family, Olivia soon finds herself in the isolated town of Cainsville. A town where outsiders aren’t welcome…but maybe Olivia is.

I know, we’re all a little sad after the end of The Women of the Otherworld series but Kelley Armstrong knows how to make everything better. Omens marks the start of a great new supernatural thriller series and I have to say I loved every minute of it. There’s really only a hint at the otherworldly in this opening instalment, but something’s definitely odd about Cainsville and Olivia’s talent for spotting omens treads along the line of explainable. There are so many bizarre and conflicting superstitions out there, I loved this take on them (also handy for weather forecasting).

It starts off a little like a glossy chick-lit story, until the news breaks and Olivia basically goes on the run from the press. She has nothing to be ashamed of but they are looking for every reason to compare her to her parents. Socialite turned sociopath would be the perfect headline. Olivia starts to doubt herself, pondering nature over nurture and shunning the people from her old life. So she must find out as much as she can about her biological parents; just so she can know the truth. Whether guilty or innocent, she wants to know what her genes are capable of and unlock the dormant memories she always thought were just dreams.

Whilst Gabriel Walsh is nothing like Lucas Cortez, it’s interesting that there’s another lawyer as a main character. A lawyer who is instinctively disliked by Olivia but manages to prove his worth, whatever his motives. I loved that he was described as having weird eyes but that made him creepy. How often in books do the characters swoon over the unique eye colouring of someone that we know would really be unnerving in real life?

It’s a real page turner, with loads of elements that all weave together perfectly. Intrigue, conspiracies, betrayal and curtain twitching neighbours. I am excited to see where this series goes.

Omens is published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, and you will be able to get your mitts on it on 20th August 2013 in hardback and ebook editions. A huge thanks go to the publishers 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.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Weight of Souls

Taylor is just trying to get through high school like any other girl her age. But Bethany inherited a curse from her now deceased mother. The dead will hunt her out and mark her. If she can’t pass the mark on, she will be sucked into…well she doesn’t know what but it’s nowhere she wants to go.

First off, The Weight of Souls is a book I enjoyed a lot; in fact it’s one of my favourite offerings from Strange Chemistry so far. However I have been struggling putting together my thoughts into a review. The central relationship is, shall I say, unorthodox. I feel going into details will be a bit spoilery but it’s something a bit different that tiptoes along a thin line of things that might not be OK. But it is all done in such a way that you accept it. Can I be any vaguer?

Central to the story is the topic of peer pressure. Even without Taylor’s supernatural abilities, there’s a strong plot revolving around the stupid, and often dangerous, things teens will do to fit in. The school setting is so believable, right down to the level of meanness from the kids. There’s nothing dramatic, but the actions and words build up into what amounts to bullying in the long term. It shows how easily they can fall from grace, from being normal and accepted, to being at the bottom of the social pecking order.

Taylor’s curse has been passed down over generations from a tomb raiding ancestor. The modern day story is interspersed with passages from a journal that used to belong to her mother. Those of you familiar with the history of Egyptian archaeology will know of the tales of the cursed, and I liked the idea that they are still around, trying to live normal lives.

The Weight of Souls is published by Strange Chemistry and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 1st August 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley. Bryony has also organised a huge blog tour which will be stopping here next week. Make your you check out her website to follow the tour and win goodies.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Uncorked Thoughts



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, 24 July 2013

Rediscovering Classics with Hesperus Press

With all the new titles coming out each year, it's easy to forget about books from the past. Of course, we all know about Austen and Dickens but Hesperus Press are re-issuing some less well known classics. These are books I didn't know about but actually sound fabulous.


First up are four re-issues of Jack London's work. Best known for White Fang and Call of the Wild, his body of work sounds really quite varied! In The Scarlet Plague, the Red Death struck in 2013 (hope it's not ominous) and 60 years later, the few survivors have established their own civilisation. Before Adam is a tale of a man whose consciousness has become entwined with that of his Mid-Pleistocene ancestor; a book that questions eugenics. The People of the Abyss is a non-fiction work looking at the poor in London in 1902. Jack London rented out a flat in the East End and lived amongst them to discover how they live which resulted in this piece of investigative journalism. I think this has special relevance when you look at how so many are living in poverty once more. The Sea Wolf is an adventure at sea, with mutiny, shipwrecks and love.


I'm usually quick to point out Dracula came along way before Twilight when people start comparing vampire novels, but did you know there was a book before Dracula? Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is a Gothic tale which pre-dates Stoker's work by 25 years! H.G. Wells is pretty well known but I hadn't heard of The Food of the Gods before; a cautionary tale of science meddling with the food chain. When researchers happen upon a growth substance, they unwittingly unlease giant chickens and wasps on the world...and the growth spreads.

Twelve Years a Slave is a memoir written by Solomon Northup, a man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. First-hand accounts of the horrors of slavery are rare and this sounds like a unique book. I'm obviously not up-to-date with film news as this is being adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender so I'm sure the book will be everywhere next year.

Have you read any of these? Or are there any neglected classics you would like to see given a second lease of life?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Someone Else's Life

After watching her mother deteriorate and die from Huntington’s disease, Rosie must face up to the fact that she has a 50% chance of inheriting it. She knows that she can’t bear not knowing but then her neighbour drops a bombshell. Rosie isn’t Trudie’s daughter. Armed with this new knowledge, Rosie knows she can’t have Huntington’s but should she try and find her real mother? Rosie’s search for the truth brings with it some tough choices. Does she continue living a lie or risk ruining the lives of others?

It’s apt that one of the characters ends up a soap star in Someone Else’s Life because that’s exactly what the plotting and pacing felt like. There is so much going on and it moves from one revelation to the next. There are secrets and lies, but all of a sudden they’re out in the open and then there’s something else. And drama at every turn. Which is fine, if you like soaps, but I didn’t think it allowed for any real tension to build up and none of the topics were dealt with in much depth. Yet it was still rather compulsive reading and I made it to the end.

The narrative is shared between Rosie and an anonymous teenage girl who is facing an unplanned pregnancy. Rosie’s story leads you to make assumptions about the second narrative that may not be true. One thing that was realistic, even if it meant for less of an enjoyable reading experience, is the self-centredness and selfishness of the teenage girls. The world revolves around them and they can’t seem to put themselves into the shoes of others. I’m not quite sure this gels with Rosie’s role as a caregiver. Often teenagers in that position grow up very fast.

And as for Rosie. She doesn’t take long to get over her mother’s death. I don’t care if she did have a shock at finding out she wasn’t her biological parent, she would still grieve. But no, she goes off on her own adventure, her only thought for her mother that she’s relieved she won’t face the same fate.

There was a whole other story to be told; one where Rosie gives up her education in order to care for her dying mother. I thought there would be more flashbacks but after the background is set, it’s only mentioned in passing. Whilst the book gave a basic impression of Huntington’s disease, it did seem to make it look like a common condition. Both main characters go to a clinic that appears to specialise in it and with waiting rooms full of patients displaying symptoms. I’m pretty sure most people would go to their regular doctor and are unlikely to come into contact with other sufferers without seeking them out through help groups.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ A Librarian's Library | prettybooks | Jess Hearts Books | Sister Spooky | Choose YA

Monday, 22 July 2013

Phoenix: Trailer + Giveaway


Lucky thinks he's an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing - and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him.

Now he's on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew - and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair.

Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way . . .

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

Just about surviving in the heat (yeah yeah I know some countries this is normal, but not for us pasty skinned Brits). I've got to the point where I want it to go a bit cloudy today so I have an excuse to skulk inside and build Ikea furniture!

I started to wonder if I was sleep-ordering books from The Book Depository this week but I am pretty sure my mystery books were from my Ninja Book Swap ninja, so thanks, whoever you are! I do look like a I went a bit mental with the ebook buying but those four Sarah J. Maas books are novellas and I have been meaning to read them for a while. After reading the amazing Crown of Midnight, I need something to keep me going until next year...

I also started WIN ALL THE BOOKS! I'm going to list a bunch of UK giveaways on there; at the moment there is a big list of current UK Goodreads giveaways, so get over there if you like winning books and start clicking.


For review:
Cruel Summer by James Dawson (Indigo)
The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore (Simon & Schuster)
The Fire Witness by Lars Keppler (Blue Door)
Precious Thing by Colette McBeth (Headline)

Gifted:
Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton
Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Bought:
Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn
Amityville Horrible by Kelley Armstrong
The Falling Sky by Pippa Goldschmidt
The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas
The Assassin and the Desert by Sarah J. Maas
The Assassin and the Underworld by Sarah J. Maas
The Assassin and the Empire by Sarah J. Maas

Won:
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (Books Underground)

Freebies:
40 by various authors




Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.