Sunday, 31 March 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I may not have made it to any blogger events this week but I did get masses of lovely post. When I started blogging, I never in a million worlds would have thought I would get advance copies of my favourite authors' books. I was tempted to do a vlog this week just to fully express my joy at receiving Kelley Armstrong's new book!!! It's the start of a new series and I can't wait to dive in.

A couple of books this week that will count towards my Translation Challenge (I know, I've been slacking somewhat), What Lot's Wife Saw sounds like a fantastic post-apocalyptic yarn and Harlequin's Costume is a tale of Russian intrigue set in 1871.


For review:
The Scarlet Thief by Paul Fraser Collard (Headline)
Harlequin's Costume Leonid Yuzefovich (Glagoslav)
Ink by Amanda Sun (MIRA Ink)
The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones (Head of Zeus)
Omens by Kelley Armstrong (Sphere)
The Humans by Matt Haig (Canongate)
What Lot's Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou (Black & White)
Shift by Hugh Howey (Century)
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury)
Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach (Vintage)

Bought:
The Rising by Kelley Armstrong



Eek, I had better get reading! I also received a non-book-shaped parcel from HarperCollins this week, promoting The Shining Girls:


Saturday, 30 March 2013

Amity & Sorrow

Amaranth is on the run with her two teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow. Exhausted after driving for days without sleep, she crashes the car, leaving them stranded. Help comes in the begrudging form of a farmer, Bradley, who lets them sleep on his porch despite their weird ways. For she is running from a cult, where she was the first wife among fifty and her daughters have never known anything other than the rule of the Father.

Amity hadn’t known the bowl could be broken. She didn’t know it was possible to break such a thing, any more than it was possible to break a church or a family.

The girls very much reflect their namesakes. Amity, once she has got past the breaking of rules, is eager to make friends and wants to help everyone. Her joyful discovery of the world beyond the confines of the cult lifts the novel from what could be a disturbing tale. For Sorrow is broken beyond repair. Older than Amity, her experience within the cult were different and she is thoroughly brainwashed. When we meet her, it is during a harrowing scene of a miscarriage in the gas station toilets and whilst it doesn’t take long to piece two and two together, the extent of her devotion to the man who, quite frankly, abused her.

Amity is an endearing character and it’s her faith in her sister that makes you want things to turn out well for Sorrow. Otherwise, her pyromania and unpleasant nature would paint her as evil, but they are far more complex than that. You can tell Amity is torn between thinking for herself and protecting Sorrow, because everyone’s always done what’s best for Sorrow. There’s a thing with a kitten which is just awful (fair warning to animal lovers) and really makes you doubt any hope redemption.

All the names appear relevant; Amaranth’s significance may not be revealed until the end but Hope was certainly a sign of hope within the cult. You certainly got a sense that the women looked after each other and the sense of community was not necessarily a bad thing, even if the end result turned disastrous. Although Amaranth’s guilt is littered through the pages; as a mother, how did she let this happen to her children when all she wanted was to be saved? Even the name of Bradley’s current crop, rapeseed, is an ominous reminder of what has passed.

The novel alternates between the present day and the family’s time within the cult. At first, the timescales confused me a little, but the past plot line runs in reverse chronological order, so it is only at the end where you come to realise Amaranth’s motivation for joining him. It is interesting to see how something escalates in reverse.

I loved the dynamics on the farm. Bradley’s wife left him and he doesn’t have much faith in women but slowly forms a quiet friendship with Amaranth despite telling them he wants them gone. His father is an unlikely participant in the family’s wellbeing, bed-bound and curmudgeonly but sparking seeds of inspiration in them. Bradley’s adopted son, Dust, is charming and patient with the girls.

Amity & Sorrow is published by Tinder Press, the new literary imprint from Headline, and is available now in hardback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ The Little Reader Library | Dog Ear Discs | Fleur Fisher
As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) | Random Things Through My Letterbox




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.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop


INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

I forgot to mark my giveaway as international on the hop sign-up so this is just to be clear, it's open to anywhere The Book Depository ships to.

The 3rd Annual Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Read Now Sleep Later. The hop runs from 29th March - 5th April and there are nearly 200 blogs signed up. Please see the bottom of this post for the full list.

So what am I giving away? One lucky winner can choose between The Name of the Star or The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson. I loved the first book but also wanted to offer the sequel for those who have already read it. Edition will be the UK paperback as pictured below.


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Jeanette was adopted by the Wintersons in the sixties and raised in a terraced house in Accrington, Lancashire. The evangelistic Mrs W was eternally disappointed in her, comparing her to the son they never had. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? is the true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Jeanette’s far from happy childhood.

I do wonder if I would have got more out of this having read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit as the first half felt very close to being a misery memoir, if a well-written one, which is something I like to avoid. Her childhood was depressing by all accounts and I was unsure if some bits were meant to be funny. It felt uncomfortable to be laughing at her mother; I guess it's a case of you either laugh or cry but I found the whole thing tragic. As I was reading it for book group, I did carry on and felt the book improved once she left home.

The wider we read the freer we become.

Jeanette does have some interesting things to say about books and reading. I liked her secret stash of books and her trips to the library to read English Literature from A to Z. I even enjoyed the parts which dealt with the history of Accrington and the culture of the North at the time. Perhaps it’s just hard for me to relate to her; the gender politics of the Thatcher era are so different from anything I’ve had to deal with. Whilst it's good to know these things, it's not really something I enjoy reading about.

I can see why this has been chosen as one of the World Book Night titles. It does show how reading and books can change your life. It will be interesting to see how people take to it with no knowledge of the author.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Emilie and the Hollow World

Emilie’s running away from home. Her plan is to stowaway on the steamship to Silk Harbour, to live with her cousin who runs a school. But stowing away isn’t as easy as it sounds and after being mistaken for a thief, she ends up on the wrong ship. A ship on a mission to travel to the world that exists beneath the world’s crust.

In all, she was enjoying the trip immensely, except for the fact that all her friends were in danger. Emilie knew she should feel guilty about that.

Emilie and the Hollow World is a wonderfully fun adventure story for the younger reader. I read it when I was ill and it was the perfect antidote. The story is a little reminiscent of The Journey to the Centre of the Earth, with a fantastical world hidden below the sea floor. Emilie finds out that seaweed isn’t always harmless, stumbles into a rivalry between philosophical sorcerers and does her very best not to get involved in all-out war.

Emilie’s world above ground, is an alternative steampunk earth. The sorcerers specialise in the study of aetheric currents which powers the ships and gives them the ability to travel to the hollow world. Emilie’s a fantastic, if a little naive, character who is learning that life isn’t always fair for girls. She has a great role model in Lady Marlende and discovers that first impressions shouldn’t be relied on. However, there’s no in-depth character development, which I don’t think matters for this kind of story. As one of the blurbs states it’s a “rollicking adventure” and the ideal book to give to a child who is between children’s books and young adult (warning: Emilie does mention her Aunt and Uncle think her mother was a whore).

I’m looking forward to more adventures with Emilie. Emilie and the Hollow World is published by Strange Chemistry and will be available in paperback and ebook formats on 4th April 2013 in the UK. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones



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, 26 March 2013

One Salt Sea

One Salt Sea is the fifth book in the October Daye series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

The fae of the land and the sea are on the brink of war. When the sons of the rulers of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist are kidnapped, all fingers are pointing to the Queen of the Mists. October must discover who’s responsible and bring the boys back safe and sound in just three days. Or the fate of her friends will rest on her shoulders.

The story starts with Toby having got together with Connor. Considering all the looks and unspoken communication between her and Tybalt in the past, this seems a bit sudden. His pyscho wife has left and that means they’re together with no build up at all. In previous books it was mentioned they were childhood sweethearts but they grew apart, especially when Toby fell in love with a human and had a child. Then she’s a fish for 14 years and comes back and thinks he’s cute but there’s not really anything there. He’s a bit of a damp squib and a romantic lead, showing none of the sexual tension that exists between Toby and Tybalt. OK, am on team Tybalt and he does tend to disappear off for long periods of time, but he’s a cat. That’s what cats do. I would be more inclined to accept the relationship were there some sort of event which got them together. I have noticed there is a short story that falls between Late Eclipses and One Salt Sea so I will have to dig that out to see if it’s expanded upon.

It doesn’t take long for Connor to be called back to the sea and I couldn’t help feeling good riddance. I made the mistake of reading an Amazon review which contained the hugest spoiler ever, however there was enough other story to keep me interested. However Toby seems really detached from her emotions when it comes to her daughter. I thought this in the previous books but put it down to her stint as a fish, numbing her memories and emotional connotations. So when her daughter is in mortal danger, she goes through the actions of what is expected but the prose doesn’t really offer any emotional distress.

The thing with the Luidheag and her past with the sea and the selkies tugged at my heart strings. She is a fantastic character and I’m glad she and Toby have formed an awkward sort of friendship. I’ve come to notice that Tybalt keeps taking his jacket back sneakily and boosting his scent in the leather. It seems his way of subtly marking his territory but it also brings a sort of comfort to Toby. There’s a moment when it no longer smells like him and it really feels like it’s marking an end. His coat has become an important symbol which added to the sense of confusion with the whole Connor thing. Toby has acknowledged there’s something there on a few occasions and he is always looking out for her. In his growly ways, he is adorable.

Sometimes you can absolutely love a series even when some of the parts are lacking. I still ploughed through the pages and can’t wait to read more (I ordered the next book as soon as I finished). I am emotionally attached to certain characters and can forgive the flaws in each individual story.

Goodreads | Amazon | Awesome Books

Monday, 25 March 2013

Among Others

Among Others Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

Magic isn’t inherently evil. But it does seem to be terribly bad for people.

Mori is one half of twins. After she loses her sister, she runs away from her home in South Wales and finds herself living with her estranged father. She’s running from her mother because she’s a witch and responsible for the death of her sister. Mori is packed off to boarding school where she can stay hidden and lose herself in the science fiction books she loves.

One of the things I’ve always liked about science fiction is the way it makes you think about things, and look at things from angles you’d never have thought about before.

From now on, I'm going to be positive about sex.


It is a book about a book lover. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t share Mori’s taste in reading matter, you will recognise her love of books in yourself. Set in 1979, her reading list is full of classic sci-fi. Whilst I recognise many of the titles, I haven’t read them, yet I still understood the way they made her feel. These are the reasons we read books. To both escape the world we live and to find answers. It’s told in a diary format and you get a wonderful commentary on the books she is reading as well as her own story.

The magic is subtle. If you are expecting an action-packed fantasy adventure you may be disappointed. In fact, Mori’s magic could be put down to an over-active imagination and coincidence. She is escaping a parent who is dangerous, she lost her twin; the magical world could easily be a coping mechanism. It’s a book you could read in two different ways; one completely believing her and the other looking for signs that it’s all make-believe.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

Move along, nothing to see here... There may have been quite a few books in this week. However, in my defense, I have been turning down a lot lately and I am going to read my paper purchases within a month. Pinkie promise! But just look, THE NEW TANYA BYRNE! STELLA GEMMELL! DRAGONS! And a wishlist book for peanuts in that pesky Kindle sale! Really, I'm doing so well for only buying the one.


For review:
The City by Stella Gemmell (Transworld)
Dragonslayers: From Beowulf to St. George by Joseph A. McCullough (Osprey)
The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill (Penguin)
The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (HarperCollins)
Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne (Headline)

Bought:
Bitter Greens by Kate Forysth
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord



It was also the week of mysterious black envelopes. The first turned out to be from Headline for The Silent Wife but the second contained an evidence bag! Go to coldkilling.com to find out more.


Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ketchup Clouds

Zoe wants to make a confession. She can’t tell her friends or family of her guilt, so instead she writes letters to a convict on death row. If anyone can understand, he can. She killed a boy and she got away with it.

The first morning of the year began with a bright red sunrise as if all my anger was burning in the sky.

Ketchup Clouds at its heart, is a story about guilt. Whether or not that guilt is justified, it wells up inside Zoe (not her real name) and forces her to hide in the garden shed to write letters to a stranger. A stranger whose reaction we never see. As she writes, we discover she has got involved with two brothers. One is a rather typical teenage boy (and how refreshing this is to see) and the other is the perfect match so often present in YA fiction. There’s this huge reality check; relationships are not always romantic.

Whilst her love life might be a bit of a disaster, she is the heart of her family, looking out for her sisters whilst her parents are going through a rough patch. I loved the family dynamics and it makes you like Zoe despite her other behaviour. Her youngest sister is deaf, portrayed as a wonderfully vibrant character and the middle sister is rather mean but with reasons that will be revealed.

Zoe’s narrative voice is spot on. Some of her actions are immature and her writing feels young. But it’s not over-simplified or patronising. I found myself laughing at times, loving the irony and her matter of factness. Then there’s the way the letters sound conversational even though there are no replies. They start off addressed to Mr S Harris and slowly become more informal until she’s calling him Stu. Her belief in the goodness in him made me want his story to turn out well too.

This structure does seem to be a growing trend in young adult fiction; the protagonist who has done something bad, revealing part of the picture from the start and using the rest of the novel as a slow reveal. Here, it is done well, but I’m not sure I’d want to read these sorts of books all the time. It helps with the pace as you want to keep reading to get round full circle but I always feel the book is waiting to catch up.

I had a proper snuffly cry at the end. It’s a fantastic book for teenagers to read. I don’t think guilt is always an obvious emotion but it’s one that can ruin lives and relationships.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | The Book People

Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez Reads | The Overflowing Library
Serendipity Reviews | Dog Ear Discs


Friday, 22 March 2013

Poppet

Poppet is the sixth book in the Jack Caffery series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for previous books. If you haven’t read any Mo Hayder yet (why not?) here’s the reading order:

#1 Birdman
#2 The Treatment
#3 Ritual
#4 Skin
#5 Gone
#6 Poppet

The hysteria is rising in the Beechway high security psychiatric unit. A spate of self-harming incidents and the death of a patient had stirred up stories of The Maude, a ghostly dwarf who haunts the halls. Left to cover for absent colleagues, senior nurse AJ starts to piece together some troubling facts, leading him to call the in the police… And DI Jack Caffery’s superior is looking for just the thing to pull him from the fruitless search for the missing Misty Kitson.

I’ve always known Mo Hayder could scare me senseless, but Poppet has one of the most disturbing first chapters I’ve ever read. The thought of a creepy little dwarf running round an asylum, sitting on people’s chests as they sleep, was terrifying and made me hesitant to turn off the lights after reading. Many of the scenes take place in bedrooms of sorts and there is something extra scary about being targeted in somewhere that should be safe. Once AJ and Jack start digging deeper, it loses its horror somewhat, yet remains a tense and gripping read.

The novel alternates between the current case and that of Misty Kitson, the missing model we were introduced to in Skin. I was torn between the two plot-lines, wanting the thrills of the main story but also hating to be torn away from Jack and Flea’s interactions. Jack is determined to bring up you-know-what with Flea and she is determined to keep things buried. For those who haven’t read the series, the lack of context may cause confusion and take away from the enjoyment of the central plot, which is otherwise a strong standalone story.

Without giving too much away, I love how Hayder manages to turn your feelings round, upside down and through the ringer. It started off with fear but ended with a few awwws for me. Little glimpses into characters’ lives make such an impact in her writing. Just brilliant. I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next instalment…

Poppet is published by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 28th March 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones



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, 21 March 2013

England's Lane

Guest review by Denise @ aroundtheworldwithahighchair.com

The next time the BBC are scouring the bookshelves for new novels to serialise in their Sunday evening 'life was harder then, but more fulfilling' slot they would probably get very excited about Connolly's England's Lane.

Set in 1959, notably before the swinging Sixties, it goes behind closed doors of the families living and working in three of the shops on England's Lane. The butchers, the ironmonger and the sweetshop. Unsurprisingly nothing is quite as it seems and everyone has their secrets. Jim and Milly have a loveless marriage, unable to have children of their own and have come up with an almost identical solution to get through the pain but go about it in very different ways. Stan and Jane have a disabled son and Jane has not spoken or left her room for years, leaving Stan to bring up their son alone. While Jonathan is a ladies man with even bigger secrets to hide from wife Fiona.

The book is very much in two parts. The first, slowly introducing each character to the point of frustration. Where few words would suffice Connolly adds even more for good measure. Each character giving a first person account as the story continues. It is a style that could easily irritate some.

But, it is a book worth persevering with as the second half picks up the pace as we discover even more secrets being revealed, which aren't necessarily what you would expect. And, by the end you're not sure what is going to happen next.

This isn't the book to choose if you are looking for something uplifting. It's bleak, violent, full of hypocrisy in a time when people really did care what the neighbours thought. As I say, perfect BBC Sunday night serialisation material.

England's Lane is published by Quercus and is currently available in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and to Denise for reading and reviewing it for me.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones

Disclosure: Denise received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Guest reviewers are asked to share their honest opinion and are under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Two Year Blogoversary!

Today my blog has been in existence a whole two years. It feels like I've been blogging forever though and I can't imagine not doing it. Even if my blog evolves over time (that's a good thing) I hope to be here for many years to come. I hope you won't all ditch me when Google Reader dies... In true sod's law, my phone line has developed a massive fault which means I have no interwebs. So for my blogoversary I would like my broadband back please. Thanks in advance!

Words of Wisdom
Don't do anything legally dodgy.
Don't act like a sociopath.
The rest is up to you.

I don't ever want to turn into one of those bloggers who dictates what other bloggers do. The whole point of a blog as a platform is that you aren't bound by traditional conventions. Lets not make cookie-cutter book blogs. Be yourself, do what you want, even if it's not what the cool kids are doing. Don't forget it's not a job. Don't let publishers or authors boss you around. This is supposed to be fun.

It wouldn't be a proper blogoversary without a little giveaway. It's been two years so I'm giving away three books to the winner (two seemed stingy) and a runner up will receive one book. 3 - 1 = 2. It sort of makes sense! You can choose from the following books which all receive a big thumbs up from me.