Monday, 30 September 2013

The Oathbreaker's Shadow

In the land of Darhan, making an oath binds you for life. Their promises are bound up in knots and carried with honour. Shouls an oath be broken, the knot will burn and brand them a traitor. And that’s not all oathbreakers have to fear; their betrayal haunts them in a perpetual shadow and they are banished to the city of Lazar. A place of no return and a journey across the deadly desert.

There was a lot to love about The Oathbreaker's Shadow but I do have a problem with the official blurb for this book. The pivotal event that is mentioned is past page 100 and I felt that I was waiting for it to happen before the story could begin for me. The world building that comes before is extremely important; I loved the Northern Africa inspired land and the cultural history of the Yun and Darhan but I think I would have enjoyed it more without that expectation. So I’m not going to mention the event in the blurb, even though you may well have read it already.

Once I got into the book, I loved Raim’s time in the desert. It is not a forgiving place and you can practically feel the blistering heat and the discomfort of sand in your mouth as you read. There are wonderful creatures and traditions. Many of the stories Raim grew up with were considered myths, but as he ventures out in the wide world, he discovers the grains of truth behind them.

It’s an interesting concept to have a physical manifestation of your wrongs displayed to the world. There is no redemption. You make one mistake and that’s it, you are shunned forever. No matter how small the betrayal, if you made an oath and break it, you have to live with the consequences forever.

Raim did come across as a bit younger than 16 though. I guess if you’ve made up a world, the level of maturity and experience can be completely alien to ours, but something in his emotional range made me think he was much younger. Certainly not someone you’d trust with the life of royalty. However it's the perfect book to give to someone a little tired of romance in young adult who is pining for adventure.

The Oathbreaker's Shadow is published by Doubleday, an imprint of Transworld Publishing, and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the author for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Serendipity Reviews

Shelve next to: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes



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, 29 September 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I've had a bit of blogging apathy the past two weeks so I couldn't be bothered doing an incoming post last Sunday. Which actually makes my little book buying binge less obvious! My slump was starting to interfere with reading too but a couple of days of playing a plague simulation game on my iPhone sorted me right out and I've had my nose stuck in books all weekend. Here's hoping the mojo is back to stay!


So, obviously very excited to have the new Jojo Moyes this week! Skulk was a pre-order (I seem to have a few of those coming my way in the next few weeks, they're like buses) it has something to do with foxes. A few weeks ago I was disappointed that no one was doing Books Are My Bag round here but the local WHSmith gave me a bag when I bought Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty retelling) and Antigoddess (something to do with Apollo and a Cassandra), so they're back to being my favourite local bookshop (even if they are a newsagents, they have the best selection).

I had a little rummage in The Works as a pick me up too. They have a whole load of Thursday Next books in which you must read and I picked up the latest in the series. I wasn't all that impressed with the first Hollows book but it was a series that was recommended, so at this price I will give it another go...three books seem long enough to get going. I am aware I also bought the second book as an ebook but I think I am more inclined to read paper.

For review:
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Penguin)
Pawn by Aimee Carter (MIRA Ink)
The Lost by Claire McGowan (Headline)

Bought:
Skulk by Rosie Best
Briar Rose by Jana Oliver
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
The Good, the Bad and the Undead by Kim Harrison
Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Best Book in the World

Is it possible to write a book that hits the bestseller charts in every category? That’s the idea washed up author Titus Jensen and radical poet Eddie X come up with whilst more than a little drunk. In the cold light of day, Titus takes the idea to his editor behind Eddie’s back. The race is on to write the best book in the world…but is Titus really the man to do it?

The breathalyser laptop had me laughing out loud for real. I would say read this book just for those bits; genius! I loved Astra, his editor. She wasn’t convinced Titus could cope but she wanted The Book and gave him a good dose of tough love. I think if you follow any number of publishers and/or authors, there’s plenty in this satire to amuse. There are many stories about writers but probably none that come this close to the truth. It does make me wonder how many books start off as drunken ideas…

The reading out from old books didn’t quite work. I can imagine it being entertaining in person but in the book it is just like a passage from a random book. This caused the pace to drag in places although I think it could work well in audio format with the right narrator. There were other segments that were potentially interesting, such as a lesson in Dali, if you’re interested in Dali. But again, it detracts a little from the plot. I suppose it’s be trying to mirror its fictional counterpart, be as many genres as possible by sneaking in art history and poetry and whatever else. I did like the “cookery” element where he’s trying to work out the four season pizza though and the thriller bits work well.

The title in itself will have people picking up the book to find out more. It may not be the best book in the world but it’s certainly an interesting read for anyone interested in books (that’s us).

You can read a Q+A with Peter Stjernström here. Originally written in Swedish, The Best Book in the World has been translated into English by Rod Bradbury and published by Hesperus Press. It is available to buy now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Nyx Book Reviews

Shelve next to: The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills



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, 27 September 2013

Q+A with Peter Stjernström

The Best Book in the World Blog Tour

Following phenomenal success with The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Hesperus Press is delighted to be publishing a wacky and witty new Swedish novel from undiscovered author Peter Stjernström.

The Best Book in the World follows two competitive authors racing against each other to write the bestselling book of all time – imagine a book so amazing that it will end up on all the bestseller lists in every category imaginable, thriller, self-help, cookery, business, dieting… a book that combines everything in one!

Peter Stjernström tells us more about what it takes to write ‘the best book in the world.’

Where did you get the idea for The Best Book in the World?

I asked myself: what would be a really good title for a book? The ultimate name? Once it popped up the whole story came to my head with a big BOOM. It happened at a restaurant and I told my family practically the whole outline in the following minutes.

How did you choose the characters of Titus and Eddie X?

If you’ve spent some time in the book industry you’ve probably met these guys several times. They start out young and bold Eddie X and end up tired and grumpy like Titus. Men (yes, they´re always men) who regardless of age think that their highly important texts are the greatest gifts to mankind. That kind of bravery interests me. Well, the more I wrote about Titus and Eddie X the more I realized that I am no different. We’re very important people, all three of me.

What attracted you to writing about writing?

I love meta stories. And I love text and the craftsmanship. So what could be better than writing a meta story about writing text? That has just got to be The Best Book in the World!

How did you make the decision to leave the financial industry to focus on writing?

The short version: I was bored.

The long version: I was utterly and fatally bored and got my creativity and life back when I quit.

Do you have a writing routine?

Yes. I get up in the morning and write all day. I start with editing the text from yesterday and then move forward in the story from there. This goes on for a week and then I have to spend time with other projects. When the week is over I get severe anxiety problems if I don’t know when the next writing week will come.

Who is your favourite character?

Do you mean in The Best Book in the World? I really love all my characters. Even the annoying telephone sales person Fabian. Because sometimes I love to hate. I need it to raise the temperature.

What do you consider the best book in the world to be?

The best contemporary book is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and for older stuff I’d say a collection of short stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

Which other writers inspire you?

There are so many! But I guess I have to thank some of the guys that made me love the adventure of reading: Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Selma Lagerlöf, Joseph Heller, Jean M. Auel, Luke Rhinehart, John Kennedy Toole and Franz Kafka.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Yes. But all I can say is that it won’t be the Best Book in the World.

Want to know more? Check back tomorrow to read my review on The Best Book in the World. The book is out today in English and you can buy it in all the usual places. And probably some unusual ones too.

Q+A provided by publisher.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dead Jealous

Poppy’s only at the John Barleycorn festival for her mother’s handfasting. Oh, and that it’s a good excuse not to go to Julia’s party, her best friend’s girlfriend. Telling Michael how she feels would be a disaster so it’s better in her mind to stay away. When Poppy discovers a body in the lake, she can’t help but want to know what really happened to the girl. Especially when the police rule it an accidental death.

I really liked Poppy Sinclair and her brand of investigating. It’s not one of those stories where you can’t fathom how the kids are doing police work. Really, all Poppy does is poke her nose in where it’s not wanted and ask questions. The police and her parents are a constant presence, so it’s fairly believable in the context of the story. Poppy is an atheist and sceptic and the story leads her down paths where she starts to doubt. The festival is spiritual in an alternative sense and you start to wonder if there is something supernatural going on. Although there is always the chance that half of the festival goers are high and imagining things.

I was giggling from the first few pages, when Poppy is trying to avoid the anatomically correct wicker man at the hippy festival she’s ended up at. Like any teenager spending time with their parents on a campsite, she obviously finds other things to do and people closer to her age to talk to. Even if that means the hot guy on the burger van. I enjoyed the Lake District setting too; makes a nice change from London and the South!

It reminds me a bit more of the books I read when I was younger and perhaps it is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the typical YA book, but it was still loads of fun and I would definitely continue reading this series.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Readaraptor | Book Angel Booktopia

Shelve next to: Hollow Pike by James Dawson



Source: Purchased

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Edge of Never

Twenty-year-old Camryn has been through a lot in her short life. She lost her first love in a car accident, her brother is in jail and her parents divorced. She wants more from her life but she just feels…nothing. When she has a huge break up with her best friend, Cam jumps on a bus to the first place that comes to mind; Idaho. She has no idea what she’ll do when she gets there but this journey is one that’s about to change the way she lives her life.

I enjoyed their time spent on the road, which does make up the majority of the novel. After they meet, the narrative is shared between Andrew and Camryn, often describing the same events from different points of view. When you’re a new adult, you like to see yourself as grown-up and mature, but through Andrew’s eyes, Cam seemed much younger. They both seem to be shunning responsibility though. Ages 20 to 25 are about the time you have to start thinking about the future in less fun terms. Maybe this is why this new category doesn’t sit right with me, people say it’s about finding your way as an adult but in reality it ends up drawing out teenage behaviour past its use-by date. Of course, they all have magical reserves of money which means they don’t have to live the “mundane life of everyone else”.

So, the sex. One thing new adult has been focused on is the sexy bits they leave out of YA. I was quite surprised by how few sex scenes there were, and it takes a while to get to them. Yeah, they talk about sex often enough, but this is pretty normal behaviour for this age group (and also YA if we’re going to be truthful). It’s neither embarrassing virgin sex nor over-the-top descriptive sex, the characters have had sex before and I thought the scenes were written quite well.

Cam comes off her anti-depressant medication at the beginning. I was a bit concerned about this being forgotten about but Andrew says something so perfect in relation to depression later on that I’ll forgive her. Her depression isn’t obvious throughout the pages but there are little signs if you’re looking for them.

I did have a problem with the violence in the novel. In the opening scenes, Cam is “rescued” by a possessive friend who beats up the guy she was just talking to. To me this said “I don’t want to be with a man like this”. Then later on in the story, on two occasions, Andrew seriously beats men up who are encroaching on his territory, i.e. Cam. OK, they were creeps but neither of them seemed particularly aggressive or even to fight back. So I felt uncomfortable with Andrew’s violent possessiveness, which didn’t really fit with the thoughtful guy he comes across at other times.

I felt the story started to drag in the last 100 pages and started to skim read a bit. I’ve never been one for reading about music so this could have contributed but most of it didn’t further the plot. It also started to get a bit mushy. Until something happens that was completely out of place and felt like it was added as an afterthought. I can at least say it’s unpredictable but looking back I can’t see any hints running up to it. Although there’s something revealed at the very end that you will totally see coming if you’re reading with your responsible adult head on.

It’s the sort of book that kept me absorbed whilst I was reading but after I put it down, there was no real desire to pick it up again. Perfect holiday read perhaps, where you can read it in one go. If it has been left untouched since it was self-published, it’s probably the most polished of its kind but I still can’t help it needed more work. I would probably give her another chance though.

The Edge of Never is now published by HarperCollins and is available in paperback and low priced ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Besotted With Books | Wondrous Reads | 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.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

All is Fair

All is Fair is the third book in the Split Worlds series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books, Between Two Thorns and Any Other Name.

Cathy’s just starting to settle into her life with William and now she’s Duchess of Londinium, with all the excruciating social engagements that brings. But she’s not got time to socialise, she’s got to free her old governess, Miss Rainer and take on The Agency, who are extorting money from all of fae-touched society in the name of housekeeping. Meanwhile Max is still trying to find out who killed his chapter with the gargoyle at his side.

Argh, William seems to make so much headway and then will go a think or say something drenched in fae-touched misogyny. He gives her a library! But he’s really not keen on Cathy making waves and Cathy is hellbent on her mission to make life better for women in their world. He also appoints her a bodyguard, Carter, who turned into a character I loved despite him being a man of few words.

As always, Max the arbiter and the gargoyle were my favourites and oh my god, they actually made me cry. When you get there, you’ll know which bit. The Battenberg. Sob. There was more of a sense of them being two sides of the same person in this instalment too. Ekstrand is losing it and there’s the introduction of another sorcerer who I really liked, even if just for his grasp of modern life. There are also glimpses that the magical world is maybe not so antiquated all over the country.

The pace was a bit slow for much of the story. I think this is caused by so many different plot threads going on. Sam’s involvement with Lord Iron doesn’t seem relevant to Cathy’s story for the most part and it broke up the pace. And there's still plenty of political manoeuvring and sneaking about. It does all speed up towards the climax and it suddenly became gripping. I do love the unique world Emma has created in this series, where two cultures collide, and there’s some great bits of humour.

All is Fair is published by Angry Robot and will be available in paperback from 3rd October 2013 in the UK and ebook formats from 24th September worldwide. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ My Bookish Ways

Shelve next to: Stray Souls by Kate Griffin



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, 17 September 2013

Top Ten Autumn TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

These are ten books that I hope will while away the miserable autumn evenings (it hasn't stopped raining today). They're either already on my actual TBR or I will be pouncing on them come release day.


Raising Steam

A new Discworld book always goes to the top of the TBR (shush, I know I haven't read Dodger yet). This one has trains in it and, um, axes?

Wild Justice

It has been so long since the last Nadia Stafford book I will be jumping straight on this. OK it's pretty much winter when it's released but I will be thinking about it all autumn.


Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream

I have pre-ordered this one as it sounds like a cosy and fun seasonal read. This also stands as proof that people sharing their new review books can result in sales.

Tainted

Gothic fiction reimagined for a younger generation (well I hope so based on the first book, Broken). I haven't really read much about this book but I loved her writing.


The Vampyre Family

I am so excited about this non-fiction book. What better way to while away the bad weather than sitting around with your chums making up shost stories... of course, in this case, that group of friends inspired generations to come.

The Elites

Everyone has been raving about this one. I haven't the faintest idea what it is about but I bought it on a whim and now I must read it.


Control

I'm behind on my must read every Strange Chemistry book ever so need to catch up. This is the sequel to Shift.

Chimes at Midnight

A must-read series, I'm thinking about holding back on this for Dewey's readathon as I know I will get sucked in and won't put it down for hours.


Dead Jealous

You have to read something a bit creepy during the autumn months... Plus I don't need to walk home in the dark any more so don't need to be worried if I end up being too creeped out. Still, how scary can YA be?

The Oathbreaker's Shadow

When the cold and dark gets too much, head towards the desert. The cover alone looks nice and warming.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

It was the launch of the Books Are My Bag campaign yesterday so I was peer pressured into buying some books. There wasn't anywhere round here taking part (I at least had already picked up a bag at LBF) but I bought a couple of books from Waterstones in town and ordered some more via Hive who donate a percentage to indie bookshops. I do think it's more important to foster a love of books in people instead of being judgemental over where they legally get their books from though. More book love = more potential customers.


The new October Daye finally showed up...I think I'm behind on reviewing this series but I am caught up on reading. Big thanks to Amy for sending me a signed copy of The Oathbreaker's Shadow for review, really looking forward to it (yeah, yeah, along with about 50 other books *flails*). I read The Secret Life of Bees years ago so am passing this copy onto my book group. Her new one sounds much more my thing as it's a fictionalised account of a real person who campaigned against slavery in the South.

For review:
The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch (Doubleday)
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Tinder Press)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Headline)
What a Wonderful World by Marcus Chown (Faber)

Bought:
Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
Control by Kim Curran
Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Dead Jealous by Sharon Jones
White Cat by Holly Black



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Introducing Weekly Facebook Giveaways

Part experiment, part TBR clearing and part giving you some goodies, now that Facebook has made it easier to run promotions on pages, I thought I'd run some weekly giveaways. Each week I will post a photo of a selection of unread books and you can choose which one you'd like enter for. The selection will change each week but if there's a lot of interest in certain books they will reappear until they're won. Also I will select extra winners if it turns out to be an amazing success. I'm going to run it for at least 4 weeks to see how it goes. At present these are UK only due to postage costs.


Friday, 13 September 2013

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse

Vivian was never a Believer but her parents were. The morning after The Rapture. She returns home to find two holes in the ceiling and her parents gone. Not knowing what to believe any more, she turns to her friends as America starts to fall apart. Is this the apocalypse?

I like stories that show that fundamentalism can exist in any religion; here it starts in the Church of America. It’s comfort to those who see the world falling apart. It is the perfect moment to take advantage of people who want or need something to believe other than believing this world is of their making. What starts off as something positive can be manipulated and snowball into harm so quickly. Especially with an actual Rapture as proof. There are enough news stories coming out of America that infringe on women’s rights, or the horror stories of gay persecution in Russia, it’s not hard to see how Vivian’s world could come into play.

There is a bit of info dumping at the start; I assume on the premise that some younger readers won’t really understand what The Rapture is. The rest of the background is fed in throughout the story which works well, so it wasn’t really needed right at the start. It felt a bit clumsy and made me worry as to what was to come. The night of the Rapture Party and Vivian discovering her parents were gone in the morning would have been a much more powerful start without the info-dump. A bit of mystery is OK, although it is more of a YA tendency to make sure the reader grasps everything in the first pages.

Vivian is in shock. It’s hard to accept that she seems to just carry on after the huge loss of her parents, but there are several moments throughout the story where you see how hard it has hit her. The road trip gives her purpose and is a coping mechanism. It also serves the purpose of showing different elements of the Church of America; including a Believer who is good and kind, if a little naïve in stark contrast to the state of hysteria pushing people to violence.

Personally, I would have liked the story to end a few chapters earlier. The events that happen right at the end felt a bit contrived and weren’t necessary. Overall a thought-provoking and page-turning read that brings something a little different to the YA table.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Stepping Out of the Page | Readaraptor

Shelve next to: The Testimony by James Smythe + The Rapture by Liz Jensen



Source: Purchased

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rabid

Rabies is one of history’s most feared and most misunderstood diseases. Despite its eradication in first world dogs, it still lives on in wild animals and in the developing world. And there is still no cure. From the battlefields of the Iliad to 21st century American hospitals, rabies has a long and varied pedigree of influencing human lives.

This is a fascinating and entertaining look at rabies throughout both history and culture. It may be obvious but if you get upset by the thought of dogs suffering, you might want to avoid this book. Rabies is after all a canine disease, one that is inherently linked with dogs in our psyche, for very good reason, which this book explores. Not only the disease is distressing but there has been a lot of violence towards man’s best friend in the name of rabies too.

The book is split up into themed chapters. After a thorough introduction, rabies is traced through Greek mythology applying our modern understanding of the disease to sudden and inexplicable rages in the Iliad and beyond. Next up, a journey through the Middle Ages and all the weird and wonderful treatments, mostly ineffective, often harmful, that physicians of the time inflicted on sufferers. If you’re faint-hearted you will probably jump ship here (and that’s for the best, rabies isn’t a pleasant illness).

I was looking forward to the chapter on the links between rabies and the myths of vampires and werewolves. From the very first page, the accounts of rabid animals bring zombies to mind and again and again, the tales of animal transformation are mentioned in its history. But the authors dismiss the link all too easily. They say that the tales of werewolves and vampires have too many differences to be describing those infected with rabies. They are missing one key element here; the human tendency to embellish stories. They change with time, especially oral folk stories. And another bit of “evidence” that they aren’t linked directly contradicts something in an early chapter. Werewolves who were captured and interrogated, were lucid once they turned back into men and this would be impossible if they were actually rabid. Yet we have already been told that nearing the end of the disease, the victim can have moments of lucidity.

My favourite chapter was the story of Louis Pasteur, who is most well known for giving us pasteurisation. Here, it follows his work on creating the rabies vaccine and the legacy he left behind. I seriously found myself getting emotional by the end. It’s amazing the difference in generosity between the early days of pharmaceuticals and now.

The book does seem to cycle back round to the fictionalisation of rabies in literature, and is much happier to attribute I Am Legend’s vampires, and the zombies that sprung forth in later works, to rabies. Which made me even more annoyed about those werewolves! But going forward, there are tales of survivors and the one experimental treatment that could save you if you don’t get the vaccine early enough. I know for sure if I’m ever stupid enough to get bitten by a rabid bat and not get post-exposure vaccinations, I’m going to be taking this book along to the hospital with me and demand to be put in a coma!

There is also a case study of Bali’s more recent rabies outbreak and a conclusion that touches on some interesting medical research that’s going on right now. It does meander a little bit and go off on tangents that seem a bit off topic at first. Still, if the tangents are things you’re interested in, they are worth it; I liked reading about Polidori and psychology of the human relationship with dogs. Just don’t expect a focused essay on rabies.

Rabid is not currently published in the UK but you can get your hands on the US paperback easily if you fancy reading it.

Goodreads | Amazon

Also reviewed @ The Book Garden



Source: Won from The Book Garden