Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Bitter Disenchantment

Aggie McClure is heir to the Manhattan pack. Her father is divorcing her mother in a bid to produce a male heir but in the meantime, Aggie must get married. Hoping to choose her own mate, she is shocked to discover her father has arranged a marriage for her. Victor seems OK and at least he indulges Aggie’s fondness for food but things soon change once they’re married and all Aggie’s freedom is taken away.

“But when bitter disenchantment sets in, there’s no place to go but out.”

Bitter Disenchantment is a prequel to Coveted and explains exactly how Aggie came to be at Natalya’s door. The Manhattan pack has an outdated and misogynistic attitude towards the female members. I got a bit annoyed with Aggie at how quickly she went from pissed off at the situation to accepting…but when the marriage turns sour she turns back into a more modern day woman. I think her pack were a bit too obvious in their dominance over the female werewolves. They become the villains rather than complex characters you can really relate to.

I enjoyed the second half of the story more though. Aggie hatches a plan to help both herself and her mother. She starts sneaking out and connecting with others. Having read Coveted, I knew the overall outcome but it still had me turning the page. It’s a decent length novella at approximately 156 pages and worth a read if you’ve been enjoying the series.

I thought it might shed a little more light on Aggie’s eating problems but it did seem that she just enjoyed food. Her werewolf metabolism means she burns it off and she’s not bulimic, yet in the rest of the series, where Natalya suffers from debilitating OCD, the two met because they were sent away to sort out their problems. A werewolf having a healthy appetite does not equal eating disorder; I really didn’t understand why her family sent her away. Other than her father is controlling and selfish, of course.

Bitter Disenchantment is self-published by Shawntelle Madison and is available in ebook and paperback editions. Thanks go to the author for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon



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.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dead Ever After

Dead Ever After is the 13th and final book in the Sookie Stackhouse series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books.

There’s a devil in New Orleans; trading wishes for souls. Meanwhile, barmaid and now co-bar-owner, Sookie, is preparing for her brother’s wedding and spending time with her friends. She’s trying not to think about how things lie between her and Eric; in his eyes she chose Sam over him. And Sam’s acting odd too but he has come back from the dead and might need time to adjust.

Experience had taught me it’s better to be wary and feel ridiculous than to get conked on the head or abducted or whatever the enemy plan of the day might be.

Dead Ever After serves as a curtain call to the series. Everyone rallies round to help out Sookie. There are appearances from her enemies as well as those who have gone out their way to help her over the years. I loved that she seemed to be getting a bit tired of all the trouble and danger that she gets in. Even Sookie agrees the end has come. The format deviates a little from the norm, starting with chapters in third person without Sookie present. I liked that it went back to its mystery roots, with plenty of chances to piece together the puzzle, despite there being a huge array of pieces to choose from.

Throughout the series, Sookie has been very lucky with getting away with things. So she’s been tortured and heart-broken…but she’s managed to avoid the hand of human law. When she is arrested, I did start to wonder if the series was going to end cruelly, lock her away for the rest of her years behind bars. It also made me chuckle that one of the vampires was called Karin Slaughter; I’m guessing this wasn’t a coincidence. Sookie is also reading Dana Stabenow, both little nods to the crime fiction Charlaine enjoys herself.

So, the ending. I have no idea why fans got so irate; just because it didn’t end how they wanted doesn’t make it a bad book. I actually think it was the best way to leave Sookie and be assured that she wouldn’t be in future danger. There were partings that were a little sad and I got a bit emotional at the end. It’s a fond farewell to a character I have loved, through the good times and the bad. But as the author, Charlaine is the one to decide what happens to them all. In the dedication, she states she can’t please everyone and therefore she ended it the way she had always intended. The actions of the previous book would have made it very hard for things to turn around, this was the logical conclusion if not the popular one.

Dead Ever After is published by Gollancz and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thank go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. If you do click through to Amazon, beware the "reviews" contain spoilers.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Creative Deeds Reads



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, 26 May 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I really need to have a sort out of books soon. Maybe I should be harsh and say if I haven't read it in 3 years, it goes? This will get rid of hundreds of books I had before my last move as well as pre-blogging days. But what to do with them? I guess I could take a bag a week to charity shops... although I still have a bag I put together moths ago sat in the corner of my living room. Oops.

This week's willpower disaster is down to Tesco. I went in for the new Khaled Hosseini (YAY) and decided I quite fancied the new edition of Dante's Inferno. I mean, Dante in a supermarket? Who would have thought! And well, it was either £3 or I could get 3 books for £5. No brainer really. So I rummaged around the bargain books and came up with 2 books I actually wanted to read. Also I appear to be stockpiling on the Kindle again...


For review:
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris (Gollancz)
Sky Dragons by Anne + Todd McCaffrey (Transworld)
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Simon & Schuster)
The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (Canongate)
Mr Darwin's Gardener by Kristina Carlson (Peirene Press)
The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne (Headline)
The Watchers by Jon Steele (Transworld)

Bought:
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Cold Grave by Kathryn Fox
Witch Light by Susan Fletcher
Hollow Earth by John + Carole Barrowman
Busted by Karin Slaughter

Freebies:
Scarlette by Davonna Juroe



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

The 5th Wave

Sometimes I think I might be the last human on Earth.

The first wave crippled power and communications. The second wave destroyed cities. The third wave, a cruel plague and four billion dead. By the fourth wave, all trust is gone. Is the soldier a fellow survivor or the enemy? When they look like us, there is no way to tell. Cassie’s father had told her how to spot an enemy in wartime but now he is dead and she is alone. Surviving one day at a time, sixteen-year-old Cassie has one goal; to find her little brother. She promised him she would return.

The 5th Wave is brilliant. If you only read one young adult book this year, make it this one. A real page turner, it kept me up reading well past my bed time and now I seriously want alien invasions to be the next big thing in publishing. It bounces around in the timeline of the invasion and between narrators but this does not slow down the pace at all. I was as invested in the story of The Arrival as I was in Cassie’s survival.

Aliens are stupid.

I’m not talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.

No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads.

I loved the idea that humans have concocted these theories about aliens, be it benevolent neighbours or aggressors that can be taken out by the military or an underdog. Even in our most challenging stories, humanity has the upper hand by the end. But here is a vision of hopelessness against an enemy that is winning. Humanity cannot fight back; humans can’t even trust one another. Cassie thinks she’s a cockroach compared to the aliens. They are so much more advanced, what are humans to them other than something that must be exterminated?

It’s been a long time since humans were prey animals. A hundred thousand years or so. But buried deep in our genes the memory remains: the awareness of the gazelle, the instinct of the antelope. The wind whispers through the grass. A shadow flits between the trees. And up speaks the little voice that goes, Shhhh, it’s close now. Close.

But wait, it is not a depressing read. The characterisation is all spot on and the chapters weave an intimate and human tale against the backdrop of mass destruction and fear. All the characters are completely believable although it is one of those books where you can't be sure that they won't be killed off. Perhaps some people might label certain plots points as predictable but the Silencer’s point of view before a key meeting is placed exactly to lead the reader to come to conclusions. It’s more about Cassie’s doubt and awareness of the situation. Will she realise? What will she do? From despair comes some incredibly moving moments.

He is tired, but he is also Bearless. The more he tries to forget Bear, the more he remembers him, the more he misses him, and the more he wishes he hadn’t left him behind.

Oh and Bear! I love Bear. OK, he’s an inanimate object but infused with all the personality that a child places on a favourite toy. Sammy leaves him with Cassie to keep her company and she promises to return him. It is the one thing that she clings to and so she never leaves Bear behind. Then she starts to have conversations with him (I have conversations with my own Bear, it’s perfectly normal) and I started to worry about him just as if he were a sentient character.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights | Jess Hearts Books | Lost in Thought

Friday, 24 May 2013

10 Things I Have Discovered About Blogging

Guest post by Matt Haig, author of The Humans and The Radleys.

1. It is fun. I don't honestly think I would have started blogging if I hadn't been asked by Booktrust to be their writer-in-residence, and I was a bit reluctant at first. I had no idea what was required of me. But I've loved it. It is an easy and quick way to reach people. I'll definitely carry on doing it.

2. People like lists. My list blogs are always more read than my non-list blogs, so I did more of them, saying the things I was always trying to say, but in list-form.

3. Some people will always miss the point of what you are trying to say.

4. The most popular blog posts are also the most unpopular blog posts.

5. If you really want to make people grumpy, write about book snobs, or grammar Nazis.

6. People want you to reveal things. My blogs sometimes feel like a bit of brain-striptease, like I'm wondering, how far should I go? How much should I give? But I've never regretted talking about personal stuff, like depression and things, as the response has always been warm and I think talking about things like that encourages other people to do the same.

7. Reading the comments is inevitable. But it is often a mistake.

8. Blogging has its demands. It's hard to come up with something new to say every week. When you're a novelist you only have to come up with something new to say every two years.

9. If you talk about money, people pay attention.

10. It helps your writing. To make an impact in 500 words is hard. It teaches good discipline and is a weekly exercise in brutal editing. I love it.


A big thanks to Matt for stopping by the blog. You can follow @matthaig1 on Twitter and you should definitely buy his latest book, The Humans.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Matthew Quick

Guest post by Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.


Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Matthew Quick,

It’s you (me?) from the future—at thirty-nine. Yes, thirty-nine! I was only allotted two paragraphs so I can’t explain how this time-traveling letter is possible—oh, sh*t, I’ve already wasted a chunk of this paragraph. You will be okay. You leave childhood, become an adult, and it’s ultimately okay. You still get depressed sometimes, and you often need to be alone. Most people don’t get why you will always need occasional solitude and sometimes your intense feelings cause misunderstandings, but they also create art. You will use the emotional storms to write the books you now publish. Yeah, that’s right. PUBLISH! All over the world. You’re a New York Times and International bestselling author. Hollywood makes an Oscar-winning film out of your first novel. I shit you not. So keep writing! Keep working hard! And don’t listen to the people who tell you that being a fiction writer is an impossible way to make a living—that you are from the wrong town, the wrong family, that you are not smart enough, went to the wrong school. It’s all bullshit. You will rise.

People now call you Q. Fourteen-year-old girls will give you this nickname. (You coach freshman girls soccer for five years.) You will hate being called Q at first, and then you will accept it. You will become Q. When you teach high school literature classes, you will figure out who you are, find your voice. You become a new person. Q. And you will have the best life partner in the world helping you through this transitional period. Her name is Alicia. You call her Al. You meet in college. She’s the best thing that ever happens to you. You now live in Massachusetts with a Scottish Terrier named Desi. Desi climbs into bed with you every morning and snoozes on your chest. You adore Desi. You write fiction all day. You love writing fiction, even though it is very difficult and never gets easier. You will work incredibly hard to obtain the writing life, but you are extremely lucky to have it, this life that seventeen-year-old you doesn’t really believe is possible—but it is possible, trust me. We’re living it.

You’re listening to The Smiths all the time now, back in 1991. You think Morrissey is the only person who understands you. You often go to the creek at night and sit alone on the bench, watch the lights dance on the water and feel hollow, lonely, confused, and maybe even doomed. You worry that you will never feel content, let alone happy, and you struggle with these feelings because you don’t yet have the vocabulary to express yourself properly, and in your neighborhood, feelings are taboo, especially if you are a man. You are hiding the best part of you, because you have been made to feel unmanly. Hold on. You will leave your neighborhood. You will meet amazing people. Travel to Africa and South America even! You will fall madly in love with your life partner—the woman who will stand by you no matter what. And when you finally write honestly about everything swirling around in your chest, when your novels make their way around the globe, other people will respond—many people—and you will know that you are not alone, and you never really were.

I’m out of paragraphs. Already gave you one (now two) more than I was permitted. You’re going to be okay. It will often be hard. Not everyone will love you or your work. Friends will come and go. There will be haters—people who want you to fail. But you hike every day with your wife in the woods, often up the small local mountain, which calms your mind and makes you feel healthy. It will be enough. It will be beautiful. Make sure you stick around. You won’t want to miss it. Trust me.

Q (Future You)


The fabulous team at Headline are celebrating young adult fiction with LoveYA month so head on over to their Facebook page Which Book Next? to find your next YA read (and not just Headline's books). The are also on Pinterest and you can follow the goings on with #WeLoveYA.

Find out more on Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew's forthcoming YA novel.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Billy and Me

Bookish Sophie is living in a little village and working in the local teashop when Billy Buskin walks in to her life. In the area to film yet another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Billy takes an instant shine to Sophie, despite her not having the faintest idea who he is. But there’s a reason Sophie never ventured far from home, can she really build a life with a famous actor and will she ever live up to his exes?

“ I hate to tell you this but my life consists of books and baking.”

Billy and Me is quite a sweet little book about a village girl who finds herself in a world she doesn’t belong in. At first I was a little dubious about the celebrity wife author angle, but it is clear Giovanna Fletcher has taken inspiration from her own experiences. Sophie doesn’t want to change her life but she can’t just carry on being a teashop girl when all eyes are on Billy.

In hindsight, it’s clear the episode in the cupboard was my first experience of a panic attack, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew then was that I wanted to be as far away from other people as possible. The only person I cared about was Mum…but she was the only person, it seemed, who didn’t want to talk to me.

Sophie is a quiet, mad haired girl whose closest friend is the old lady who runs the teashop she works in. We know her dad is absent for some reason and her relationship with her mum is rocky. But she won’t leave her comfort zone. This lovely, kind, timid person at the start reminded me of a few people I know and she made me smile, looking after all the gossipy ladies even if she was too scared to do anything for herself.

I got a bit frustrated about her attitude once she gets to London. She has this wonderful, caring boyfriend who is happy to support her in whatever she does…so she decides to work in a crappy coffee chain. I can understand the idea of wanting independence but it just came across as a huge waste of opportunity. She’s in London and she doesn’t have to pay rent! She also came across a bit immature in handling Billy’s sex scenes. He’s an actor…the way film and TV is going these days, having fake sex people is pretty much taken for granted. I don’t doubt partners feel jealous and insecure now and then but this was a bit over the top.

I did get a bit bored in the middle but to be honest, I have no patience with celebrity lifestyles and I could see where the whole thing was going. Paul was incredibly obvious in his manoeuvrings and the narration decided to spell it out for the reader just you can’t work it out from what he says to Sophie. However I really liked that parts that were more about Sophie, her love of books and baking and her family and friendships in her home village. I’d certainly read a second book if it ventured away from the celebrity side of things. Oh and Giovanna seems to really like exclamation marks; she had characters exclaiming over sentences that didn’t need them which made some of the characters seem a bit manic at times. But there were lots of great observations about celebrity culture and its impact on the people close to them.

“Soph, what did you read? Tell me,” he urges.
“C-c-comments.”
“What comments? Wait a minute! On the internet?” he asks, as he tries to get me to let him see my face. With the amount of snot and tears I’ve been producing he has zero chance of that! “Never read those comments, Sophie. Do you know who writes that stuff? Sad, lonely people who have nothing better to do than say and write crap. They don’t know you and they don’t realize they’re talking about real people with feelings…”

Giovanna Fletcher is the wife of Tom Fletcher from McFly and Billy and Me is her debut novel. Published by Penguin, it's released tomorrow in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Reading in the Sunshine | Jess Hearts Books



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.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Digital Shorts Round-Up


The New Hunger

I can safely say this is the best digital short I’ve read. It’s actually a full novella length at 160 pages and is a prequel to the utterly fantastic Warm Bodies. You will get more out of this by reading the novel first but it’s certainly not filler material. It follows Julie as she travels with her family in search of civilisation, Nora and her brother moving from place to place in search of food and safety and one of the undead, in his first days as he slowly becomes less human. I loved this idea as in Warm Bodies, it’s all about the zombies becoming more human and it’s interesting to see this reversal and how the inner zombie slowly wipes out humanity. I really want another full length novel out of Issac Marion, but for now, this will tide me over.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive




The Witch’s Betrayal

Another prequel, this time to The Assassin’s Curse but much, much shorter at around 38 pages. It gives a little glimpse into Naji’s past and tells the tale of how he becomes scarred. There is also a bit of back story and him and Leila. Definitely worth a read if you’re reading the series, though wouldn’t work as a standalone.

Goodreads | Amazon
The Robot Trading Company




The Automaton’s Treasure

I’m guessing this is a prequel to The Pirate’s Wish which I haven’t read yet. It introduces Marjani who is a lady being taken away from her previous life on a passenger ship…which soon gets taken over by pirates. She befriends an automaton on board and hatches a plan to save herself. It’s a nice little adventure story but I wonder if it would be better read after book two in the series to give it more context.

Goodreads | Amazon
The Robot Trading Company




Crossing the Line

Set in the same universe as Pushing the Limits, this is Lila’s story and chronologically sits between the two novels. I didn’t remember much about Lila but she is Echo’s best friend and stood beside her. When she was at Echo’s brother’s funeral, she met Lincoln, grieving for his own brother, also being buried that day. They strike up a friendship, corresponding by letters and he soon becomes the one person Lila can confide in. Until she finds out he’s been lying. The main problem I found with this story was that the build-up of the relationship wasn’t there and they came across as a bit mushy. There were a few snippets of their letters at the start of each chapter which gave context but…I don’t know, not to the same standard as Pushing the Limits. They probably could have done with a whole book with time to do some proper character development as I quite liked Lincoln.

Currently free from Amazon.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

After last week's splurge, I'm kinda happy to have a small pile of paper books this week. Both were ones I'd decided not to ask for because I was trying to be restrained...and then they turned up anyway. I thought The River of No Return was going to be a bit long but, whilst the book is large, the font size is also large so I might be OK with it...I like the sound of it anyway. Pretty cover AND time travel FTW.

Very sadly, the author of The Silent Wife died recently. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a huge book this summer though, the time is definitely right for psychological thrillers.


For review:
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison (Headline)
The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway (Penguin)
Acid by Emma Pass (Random House)
Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
True Blood Volume 1: All Together Now (Diamond Comics)

Bought:
Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle

Freebies:
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.