Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Panda Theory

When Gabriel steps off the train in a small Breton town, he is a complete stranger. Nobody knows where he came from or who he really is. Yet his small acts of kindness make an impression on the locals and he is soon welcomed into their community. But Gabriel may not be as straight forward as he seems, for he is troubled by his past.

The Panda Theory is a charming little French novella which might just err on the side of being a thriller. The publishers may categorise Garnier’s books as “noir” but I found the characters much more engaging than I would normally in noir fiction. Gabriel is a friendly man and the majority of the book shows how he touches the lives of several people in small but meaningful ways. All the characters seem real and remain feeling French throughout the translation. Gabriel’s past troubles are revealed in short flashbacks, slowly building up a picture of what he was running from.

The panda in question is a large stuffed toy Gabriel wins from the fair. He didn’t really want it but it seems to hang around. The panda welcomes everyone with open arms and a cheery demeanour. Is Gabriel like the panda? I’m not telling, although I really didn’t see the ending coming.

Pascal Garnier sadly died in 2010 but left behind what seems to be a large body of work, long and short, for adults and children. Gallic Books has started translating his work into English with three novellas; The Panda Theory, Where’s the Pain? and The A26. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Belgravia Books

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Guest Reviewers Wanted: Apply Within

It's that time of year again where I look at my review shelf and realise there's several books that I'm really not going to get round to reading any time soon. Therefore I would like to offer them to guest reviewers. I will post the books out free of charge to UK addresses in exchange for a review for this blog.

So what's on offer?

Sky Dragons by Anne & Todd McCaffrey (hardback)
The Cook by Wayne Macauley (uncorrected proof)
The Silence by Alison Bruce (hardback)
Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich (hardback)
Under the Same Stars by Tim Lott (hardback)
The Heart Broke In by James Meek (hardback)
England's Lane by Joseph Connolly (uncorrected proof)
The Last Good Man by A,J. Kazinski (paperback)




Reviews don't need to be positive but they should be honest and all your own words. I do not use blurb off Goodreads or Amazon on my blog so you will need to write a description of some sort. Reviews don't need to be formal, just whatever style is right for you. You should avoid spoilers and if you can't, they should be clearly marked.

Reviews remain your property to re-post elsewhere however I do ask that you hold off from posting on your own blog (if you have one) until after it has been published here. I would rather send books out to people who are not already snowed under with reviews so you really do not need to be a blogger.

Up for it? Leave a comment including which book(s) you'd like to review and a way for me to get in touch.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Rook

Dear You,

The body you are wearing used to be mine.

But you probably care little about this body’s past… After all, I’m writing this letter for you to read in the future.

If you are reading this you have already survived several immediate threats, but you are in danger. Just because you are not me does not make you safe. Along with this body, you have inherited certain problems and responsibilities.

Go find a safe place, and then open the second letter.

Sincerely,
Me

Myfanwy Thomas has just woken up with no knowledge of who she is. She is soaking wet and surrounded by dead people in latex gloves. She has two letters in her coat pocket addressed to herself. She is given a choice; claim a new life or discover Myfanwy’s secrets and carry on her life. When she is attacked again on the way to the bank, she must rethink her decisions and learn who, and what, she really is.

The Rook is a fantastic fantasy debut, centred around a special branch of the British Secret Service; The Checquy. The Checquy is populated by people with special powers with a hierarchy based on chess pieces. Those not in the Court who still have powers are Pawns and there are normal humans who work as Retainers. It is crucial that their hidden world stays hidden from the general public. Myfanwy soon learns that her previous self had earned a place in the court through her excellent administration skills.

Myfanwy left herself a series of letters and a thick purple binder to guide her way. These form an effective method of relaying back-story, all with a wonderfully humorous tone. It’s gripping and genuinely amusing in places. We learn that Myfanwy was shy and timid, but through her writing you see a different person. Indeed, I think her memory loss helped her embrace her true self. Yes, Myfanwy ends up impersonating herself (if that’s even possible), raising a few eyebrows and muddling through. I love that she has a somewhat normal job; the genre is full of kick-ass heroines that are PIs or assassins. Myfanwy is just a very special office worker. Her PA, Ingrid is pretty fantastic too, taking everything in her stride, just as any good PA should!

Oh, well, we’re totally fucked.

And I’m supposed to being going out to dinner with Lady Linda Farrier.

We’re being invaded by evil Belgian fleshcrafters, and I have nothing to wear.

There are some fantastic supernatural powers thrown into the mix. Gestalt is one person with four bodies; a huge asset out in the field as it knows what’s going on from each body’s perspective. But he is creepy. There’s sinister purple mould and a wealth of other weird and wonderful things to look forward to.

I can even forgive the occasional lapses into American-English. There is no such thing as downtown Stoke-on-Trent! At least Myfanwy manages to use lifts instead of elevators (except for one slip-up). The ending, however, relied on what I call the Bond Villain Approach; you are about to die therefore I will tell you everything. I don’t mind this to some extent but this went on for pages. And to top it off, after that was over, another character did a similar thing. An inelegant end an otherwise fantastic novel.

The Rook is published by Head of Zeus and is currently available in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. I cannot wait for the next book (there better be a next book).

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Monday, 28 January 2013

Rosemary and Rue

Changeling October Daye was living a mortal life with her human husband and daughter when she was turned into a koi carp, destined to live out her life in the Tea Garden of Golden Gate Park. 14 years later, she miraculously transforms back into her old self, but the rest of the world has moved on. Her family has mourned her and refuse to take her back. In turn, Toby has turned her back on the fae world, until she receives a series of voicemail messages from the Countess of Goldengreen, Evening. In her final moments, the pureblood had reached out to Toby and when she didn’t answer she bound her. Toby must find out who murdered the woman who was the closest she had to a friend or face death herself.

I was warned by several trustworthy sources that this series takes a while to get going. There is an info-dump approach to world-building, lots of paragraphs throwing information about the fae at you and somewhat breaking up the flow of the story. Sometimes the snippets of back-story made me feel there should be other books prior to Rosemary and Rue (there aren’t). I think if you weren’t used to the mythology of fae, you might struggle to pick up on everything. However, I am writing this having read several other books and it gets so much better. Your patience will be rewarded!

However the story really picks up in the second half and settles into the sort of urban fantasy mystery the series promises to be. I am really fond of novel featuring the fae as something to be wary of, with a mix of different races and prejudices; weird creatures lurking in the shadows. I think this series has potential to deliver a fantastic split-world between reality (San Francisco) and the Summerlands (the world beyond the veil). Devin’s whole set-up seemed really dodgy and I’m not sure there was enough supporting information to really grasp Toby’s ambivalent feelings. It sounded like he was a changeling pimp but this was never made clear, perhaps he just used the poor teens in his “care”.

I instantly loved Tybalt, the King of Cats. A Cait Sidhe who is cat-like even in his humanoid form but a grouchy tabby in his other. He probably has the least amount of back-story and I do think the lack of over-description adds to his mystique. Some of the other characters are a bit obvious (Connor) and you know I like the bad boys (even though we know they must be redeemable). There’s not really an emphasis on romance (nor sex, I don’t think there was any) but this makes any little interactions between characters all the more effective.

The books all come with a pronunciation guide, which is useful if you’re unfamiliar with the traditional fae names, however I think some of the words are a little obvious! All the titles come from Shakespearean quotes, and I think the relevant plays are connected in small ways. I promise this series gets better (further reviews to follow soon).

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

If ever I feel like I'm living in a Big Brother society, it's when I announce book buying restrictions and suddenly there are books everywhere which fall within them. White Horse has been on my wishlist for ages and I take a quick peek at the books in Tesco this week to find it's only £1.95. WHAT?! So I couldn't walk away from that even if it's a little spooky.

I also picked up a couple of digital shorts in series I'm reading and my book group read for next month. Head of Zeus kindly keep sending me finished copies of books I have proofs of, so I might have to organise a little giveaway soon.


For review:
Dead If I Don't by Urban Waite (Simon & Schuster)
The Grim Company by Luke Scull (Head of Zeus)

Freebies:
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Bought:
White Horse by Alex Adams
The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan & Pierre Rigoulot
The Witch's Betrayal by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Isolation by Dan Wells



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Groaning Wishlist

Since deciding to cut down on my book buying (let's not comment on how that's going) I've been using my wishlist more. Since the New Year I have added a whopping 23 books to it, many inspired by other bloggers and Twitter conversations. I should probably do one of those wishlist memes but they seem to imply one book a week. I'm more of a book a day wishlist adder!

The first three were discovered through Gav Reads' exciting 2013 releases post. I had a few of the other titles on my list or review pile already, so these seem like a safe(ish) bet. The Gigantic Beard that was Evil, The Shambling Guide to New York and The Demonologist all made their way onto The List.


The Trouble with Fate was added following a new releases blog post by Suzanne McLeod. Rats: A Year with New York's Most Unwanted Inhabitants was the most recommended book when I asked for non-fiction rat suggestions on Twitter after finishing The Twyning. The Lost Girl has been doing the blog rounds with positive feedback and sounds right up my street.


Next up are the four titles from the Waterstones 11 that I have already blogged about; Pig's Foot, Ballistics, Idiopathy and The Son.


The next three are all pre-proven authors; The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, The Humans by Matt Haig and And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I guess these books were all on my radar earlier but I have added them so I don't forget. Though how I could forget about the new Hosseini, I don't know. It's been so long and I absolutely adore The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.


Unseen by Karin Slaughter doesn't have a cover yet but the new Will Trent book is a must buy. Harper Voyager editor Amy McCulloch's debut The Oathbreaker's Shadow had a cover reveal recently and I know all of Twitter will be talking about it. The next two books are both Kitschies shortlisters; vN and The Method.


Keeping It Real might be a book with only a 3 star average on Amazon but Karina gave it the thumbs up and I trust her opinion on these things. The addition of Dragon Bound was inspired by either Karina or Hannah or both (can't remember now - you can see how easily my TBR gets out of hand). A bunch of people were raving about The Children's Hospital on Twitter and it sounds an interesting premise (if perhaps a bit of a Marmite book).


I am seeing Splintered all over the YA blogosphere at the moment, from its lovely cover to rave reviews. It's probably one I'll wait for the hype to die down on but its presence on my wishlist will remind me when I'm ready. Scarlet is the sequel to Cinder, which I didn't love but liked enough to want to read the rest of the trilogy. From The Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers is probably going to languish on the wishlist for some time, but it has been referenced a few times in Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales and I'd be interested in reading it at some point.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Partials

The human race is heading toward extinction. A deadly virus wiped out most the population and now those that survive, live together isolated on Long Island with one main aim; to repopulate. Only no babies live more than a few days. Their immune systems are no match for the virus that is within them all. Kira is an intern at the hospital and can’t stand watching the babies die, day after day. The mothers, young women, are legally obliged to get pregnant to do their bit for humanity even if there is no hope. Then Kira comes up with an idea. To catch a Partial and bring it back to study. For these genetically engineered soldiers are the reason they are dying.

Partials is action packed, intelligent and emotional story-telling. It’s a dystopian world with strong, well thought out politics. Whilst the enforced pregnancies are horrific to our minds, they make sense in their desperate world. Their location on Long Island makes sense, an easily defended area. There is civil unrest as well as the threat of the Partials, because everyone knows the Partials are the enemy, even if they have never seen one. It is a world in which teenagers will do jobs above their experience, solely because there are so few people left and they must pull their weight.

I also liked that their beliefs weren’t necessarily completely overturned. So often it’s the clich├ęd “your world is a lie” approach to dystopian fiction but not here. There are exaggerations and half-truths; and yes, there are things that Kira learns about her view of the world but it isn’t overdone. There is a definite ambiguity left at the end.

I do get a little bit bored with excessive descriptions of guns and other weapons. I personally don’t think that detail is really needed but it does mark is out as a more action-based story that may appeal to more boys. Overall my only fault was in the action scenes which aren’t really my thing and therefore felt a little drawn out in parts. But that’s minor and personal, it was mostly an unputdownable read.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones