Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Natural History of Dragons

Lady Trent is a world renowned expert on dragons, whose scientific study helped the world understand these remarkable beasts. Her memoir tells the tale of how she went from a bookish, dragon-obsessed girl to a young woman, bound by the rules of Scirland society yet defying everyone to travel to the mountains of Vystrana.

“Dragons, smugglers, ruins – is there any danger you won’t go running to meet?”

Written in the style of a memoir, A Natural History of Dragons is set in a world similar to Victorian England and its legacy of scientific exploration. It’s not quite steampunk, perhaps in the very early days before everything is steam powered, it could have easily been in our world but with dragons. Of course, it’s a time when ladies are supposed to act ladylike and not traipse off to heathen lands on expeditions.

The memoir style allows Lady Trent to look back on some of her thoughts and actions with hindsight. Perhaps we can’t expect a 19 year old woman from a high society background to be completely free from naivety or ignorance, and the older narrator can point out where she has since come to think otherwise. She references her other works, reminding us that the world exists outside the pages of this book.

“Ponies!” I dismissed these with a snort. “Can ponies fly, or breathe particles of ice upon those who vex them? I think not. Ponies, indeed.”

It’s odd, the narrative voice is one I thought I wouldn’t have warmed to, but by the end I was invested in her character and moved by her honesty. She cares about dragons but she has the sense to put people first; good people at least. I loved the relationship between her and her surly ladies’ maid, Dragmira. She might be the farthest she can get from the staff at home but she ends up exactly what she needs. A Scirling maid surely wouldn’t have put up with her running after dragons and strange men.

It’s not your average dragon story. I’d recommend to fans of Gail Carriger as well as historical fiction readers that don’t mind a bit of make believe.

A Natural History of Dragons is published by Titan Books and is now available in paperback. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ The Ranting Dragon

Shelve next to: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier



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, 25 February 2014

The Wicked We Have Done

There’s a controversial new technology that will determine whether criminals should live or die. On trial for acts of terrorism, Evalyn chooses the Compass Room, convinced she will meet her end within the confines of the prison.

I know I don’t usually like comparisons, but parts of it did remind me of The Hunger Games, others made me think of Criminal Minds and there was a constant reminder of Cabin in the Woods in the back of my head, which is a poke at horror clichés anyway. Add to that a new adult vibe, and you might get an idea of what The Wicked We Have Done is like.

At first, the description of the characters as deviant criminals didn’t fit with how they were portrayed, maybe with a couple of exceptions. As the story unfolds, this makes more sense. How often does a crime have complex motives? Is a person evil because of one bad thing? The Compass Rooms were designed to discover if the accused were lost causes. It’s described as a prison, but it’s more of a trial and, if found guilty, executioner.

What is hard to stomach is how people who are victims themselves are treated. Maybe they do deserve some punishment, but making them relive what drove them to the point of murder, seems cruel and unusual torture. In the case of the guilty, it proves they are beyond redemption and that’s that but to those who are more borderline cases, the trial is punishment enough.

It’s a short book, with quite a few characters, which meant it really only touched the surface of some quite interesting issues. I didn’t quite get emotionally invested with the characters, feeling they had potential, but were a bit on the two-dimensional side. Their crimes were glossed over a bit, considering they were quite important to the rest of the plot. Evalyn’s flashbacks could have been skipped altogether for all the understanding they contributed. I still don’t get how you go from not liking your best friend’s boyfriend to becoming involved in a terrorist plot, and what was the point of their terrorism anyway?

Many of the horror aspects were over a bit quickly, although there was one point where I did get a bit creeped out. Maybe it was the accumulation, or maybe just girls with bleeding eyes are just plain scary.

I’m starting to think I should cut some stars in half, then I could give it 3.5. It’s great to see some new adult branching out into different genres and not following the standard, sexy contemporary stories. And it was a page turning read. I just wanted a bit more depth from it. Definitely worth a read for existing new adult fans and those a bit wary of this “new” category.

The Wicked We Have Done is an ebook only release from Headline and will be available from 18th March 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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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, 24 February 2014

Hello Bookbridgr!

Today see’s the launch of bookbridgr, a new online resource for bloggers from Headline. Yet another site that has lost a vowel, I here you say. However, you can use it to request review copies, both ebook and print, direct from the publicists as well as content such as interviews and extracts, even giveaway copies. There’s also a section to check out upcoming blog tours and sign up.


Most of us are used to NetGalley by now and this just seems a bit more of a flexible, blogger friendly alternative, albeit with just the one publisher on at the moment. However, for those of you forever stressing about your NetGalley stats, bookbridgr gives you the option to “bridg” content on your blog even if you didn’t get the book through them. Every time you bridg something, you get a gold star, which is shown on your profile. This means, coverage such as giveaways and articles mentioning the book, also count towards your overall “score”.


To bridg posts for titles not on bookbridgr, you will need the ISBN, which adds an extra layer of faff but is a small price to pay for making your profile look a bit busier. Going forward, I would probably only bridg Headline titles and anything I’m particularly proud of. Of course, if the rest of the Hatchette Group jump on board, it’ll be a different matter.


Your profile isn’t public and can only be viewed by the publicists involved. You do need to provide your address (so they can send you physical books) and this is shown underneath your blog description. I personally have my address on NetGalley, but there it is an optional thing (no weirdo publicists have turned up on my doorstep yet).

There’s no keeping count. In fact, the one thing that is lacking is the record keeping side. It won’t tell you what books you’ve requested or had approved (you will get a friendly email from a publicist). Ebooks will be sent straight to your Kindle (no other ereaders are currently supported) by the publicist (so make sure you’ve added the bookbridgr email to your safe senders list). On the bright side, this means there’s no scary number making you feel like you’re behind or been over-enthusiastic with your requests!


There is a little bit of customisation available which means you can choose to only see the genres you're interested in on your "featured" page. Of course, you can always browse all (which is where's you'll find the search function if you are looking for something in particular) so you're not bound to the categories you signed up with.

Ahh, the dreaded terms and conditions. Plenty of people won’t bother reading them, but I’m sure a handful will stop at the we have rights to everything type clause in there. I’m pretty sure this is in there so they can store and administer your data AND have permission to reproduce on book covers. If they start doing anything suspicious with it, we’d soon leave in hordes. One thing you could do if worried, was just submit your most quotable bits along with the links.

Time will only tell if the hardworking publicists can keep up with the demand. Unlike NetGalley, you will need to have your registration approved, which will weed out those just looking for free books. Registrations will be staggered to begin with, so don’t worry if you don’t get approved straight away.

You can read up a bit more about the site on the bookbridgr blog

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Attachments

The year is 1999. Lincoln’s job is to read the newspaper employee’s emails. Well, at least the ones that are flagged up by WebFence. He’s meant to send them warnings, but there’s something about Beth and Jennifer’s exchanges. With nothing better to do on the night shift, he feels like he’s getting to know them through their words. He knows he should stop, but he likes her…

I loved the emails between Jennifer and Beth; they were lovely and natural. Lots of laughter and random going off on tangents. If the whole book had been liked that, it might not have worked, even if it is entertaining, but their conversations are split up by a more normal third person narrative from the point of view of Lincoln. It might seem far-fetched to employ someone to read employee emails, but I’ve worked at a few places where I could imagine it. I had a good laugh about the Y2K stuff; remember the panic everyone had back then?

Lincoln’s story is a little slow in places. I got a bit bored of his history with Sam. I knew they weren’t together anymore and I don’t think I cared about the how. I much preferred his time spent chatting with Doris in the break room, his Dungeons and Dragons group and his awkwardness at knowing too much about Beth. The scene in the carpark is just wonderful.
His mother had a special disdain for margarine. Finding out that a family kept margarine in the butter dish was like finding out their pets weren't house-trained.
There’s just enough cynicism to stop it being saccharine and completely unbelievable. There is some caricature going on and I’m not quite sure I got Chris. His explanation to how he was just seemed woolly and I wanted Beth to smack him. I mean, she was a wonderful, understanding girlfriend and he just had an odd, and fairly selfish, attitude, that he liked to think of as love.

Lincoln could have been creepy. But he is such a nice guy and his decisions come out on the right side by the end. I think we’ve all had a work crush at one point in our lives, and I thought Beth’s side was spot on. You know, you give them a name, you make excuses to be places where they are but then, actually, don’t do anything about it. But it’s fun to have one.

The ending really resonated with me. I had a few sniffles, at a couple of points, but it was overall much more an uplifting story than Eleanor & Park turned out to be (I did some Twitter research before picking this one up, just to be on the safe side).

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Book Addicted Blonde | Booking in Heels

Shelve next to: e by Matt Beaumont



Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Win The Book of You!


Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won't leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there. Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can't be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.
You want me.
You love me.
You need me.
You'll be the death of me.
Got your attention? Want to read it now? The Book of You by Claire Kendal is due out 24th April but I have a spare proof to give away to one lucky reader. Open to European residents only and entry is via Rafflecopter below.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Shock of the Fall

I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake. Whenever I learn something new, it learns it too.
I really don’t want to give too much away about this wonderful book, but I will urge you to read it. Many reviewers have disclosed Matthew’s illness, which is fair enough if you want to discuss the implications, but I think it gives the reader a preconception about him and means you might expect certain things earlier in the book.

The way Matthew’s narrative tells the story is meandering, just like how a person talks. You get side tracked and jump about in the timeline. But it is never confusing, it works, because it reveals Matthew’s story bit by bit, keeping you turning the page despite knowing that in the end, Simon is dead and Matthew is in a psychiatric facility.

I think what makes it all the more heart-breaking is that Matthew is such a kind and good person. He loved his brother and there are moments that demonstrate how good a brother he really was. All siblings will fight and fall out now and then, but there was a real bond between them. So often, people with serious mental illnesses are portrayed as the bad guys. Despite one worrying event in school, Matthew comes across as harmless, at least to others. Just a series of awful events and a genetic predisposition triggered his break, maybe not helped by mild drug use.

There is a huge helping of grief and guilt within the pages. His mother is the one who struggles the most, with Simon’s loss, partially blaming her younger son, but maybe no more than he blames himself. But then to raise a child with Down syndrome, to lose him and then lose part of your other child to mental illness, that has got to hit hard. His father is an amazing character, who has a small part but is so compassionate. There are moments I just wanted to hug him.

The Shock of the Fall is published by Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, and is available to buy in paperback and ebook editions now. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Lovely Treez 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, 16 February 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I've already read The Shock of the Fall and loved it (review coming soon) although it has left me wanting to read something upbeat. I've also started Attachments already, gone are the days of books lingering unread on my shelves for years (hah, I can kid myself). The One Dollar Horse is such a pretty edition, it has bright pink edging on the pages! Orange is the New Black is for book group; it's one of those things I keep meaning to watch on Netflix but I didn't know it was a book first (non-fiction too).

Apparently I already have a copy of Someone Else's Skin but I can't for the life of me find it. If I unearth it, I might give this copy away. I also got a creepy Valentine's gift...


For review:
The One Dollar Horse by Lauren St John (Orion)
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (HarperCollins)
The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman (Penguin)
Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent (Penguin)
Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary (Headline)

Bought:
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Every Day by David Levithan

Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Dead Lake

The joy of the steppe, the joy of music and joy of childhood always coexisted in Yerzhan with the anticipation of that inescapable, terrible, abominable thing that came as a rumbling and a trembling, and then a swirling, sweeping tornado from the Zone.

Yerzhan is a young boy, growing up on the remote steppe of Soviet Kazakhstan where nuclear weapons are tested on his doorstep. He intends to marry the girl next door, the only girl next door for miles and he has a talent for music. But when he dives into a polluted lake, the water changes him. Yerzhan will never grow into a man.

The writing is beautifully evocative, creating a vivid picture of the wildness of the steppe and the culture of Yerzhan’s family. Their life in isolation is simple and timeless, the period only set by the Cold War and its atomic legacy.

The explosions are both a horror and something in the background. Something that just is and the families get on with their everyday lives against a backdrop of dread. Uncle Shaken argues that the nuclear experiments are their communist duty; they must not be left behind the Americans, but mostly, the explosions don’t impact their simple lives as much as you would think. Not until Yerzhan goes for his swim in polluted waters. It’s interesting to think that something we would be terrified of, nuclear bombs, is just part of normal life.

Of course, it is also a story about a boy and a girl. A boy who doesn’t grow up whilst she becomes taller than her father. A boy who is left behind; a common fear of adolescence. Yerzhan also becomes obsessed with the stories of Gesar, relating them to his life.

The Dead Lake is the first in Peirene's Coming of Age series, translated from the original Russian by Andrew Bromfield and is available from 27th February 2014 in paperback. Hamid Ismailov was born in Kyrgyzstan and has lived in Uzbekistan and now the UK, writing in both Russian and Uzbek, although his books are banned within Uzbekistan. He is definitely a writer I would like to read more of. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review, this is my favourite Peirene to date!

Please check out Peirene's subscription model, perfect as a gift or a treat for yourself.

Goodreads | Peirene Press | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ findingtimetowrite



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, 12 February 2014

The Seers

The Seers is the sequel to The Holders and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Ciaran Shea could be Becca’s only clue to finding out what Darragh, the man who nearly destroyed her, is up to. In a bid to find him, she must attend a gathering of the Bhunaidh, a group of elite Holders with aristocratic ways. Travelling with her Jocelyn, Alex and Cormac, they face a web of politics and deceit. Who can they trust?

Becca is a great narrator for these books, she seems so real and likeable. A normal, well-adjusted girl who just happens to have some very unusual powers. Her voice carries through the text and makes The Seers really readable, even though the pace was too slow for me. There’s a lot going on, which takes a while to all come together.

I liked seeing a platonic friendship form between girl and boy for once. This thread was my favourite part and probably made me slightly more annoyed with Alex and his jealousy. The strength of the anam bond means he has nothing to worry about and, whilst a twinge of jealousy is kind of understandable, his actions don’t make sense. Logically, Becca is open and doing what needs to be done and it practically impossible for them to cheat on each other.

We all want to stand up for ourselves when the hateful people of the world put us down, unfortunately most of us rarely do. We’ll defend others to the grave, but when we are the ones attacked, most of our snarky comebacks and witty retorts go unsaid to everyone but our own bedroom mirrors.

It is difficult to carry on an interesting romantic storyline once the characters have got together and I get that this was an attempt to put some relationship stuff in. Yet I don’t think it was really needed. They could be getting along fine and dandy and focusing on the mystery and danger.

It’s great to see the Holder powers being explored a bit more and the climactic rescue was great. Down to a hair incident that I disproportionally loved. And I do like the world. It just took a long time coming. Hopefully in further adventures, Alex and Becca will be more sure of themselves and get on with living this exciting life they have.

The Seers is published by Strange Chemistry and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | The Robot Trading Co.

Also reviewed @ Uncorked Thoughts



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

It's that time again. This is the 10th Literary Giveaway Blog Hop as hosted by Leeswammes. Make sure you check out the rest of the participating blogs, listed at the bottom of this post.


I usually offer a selection of favourite new releases, but I've decided to do something different this time. The Day of the Triffids is one of my favourite books and it seems that everyone is reading it at the moment. So I could offer that, but I realise a lot of people likely to stop by already have it. So, the winner can choose any John Wyndham book (currently available in paperback). I have been pretty bad in reading any of his others, and I want to, so maybe this will remind me to do so. You can choose either the Penguin Modern Classic edition or the regular Penguin paperback (providing it is available).




Giveaway open internationally.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Roomies

EB has been brought up by her single mother since she was little and her dad announced he was gay. On the other side of the country, Lauren helps look after her five siblings and dreams of a room to herself. At the end of the summer, they will both be heading off to college. When they’re assigned as roommates, EB sends of an email to say hi, which soon turns into a summer of correspondence that teeters on the edge of real friendship.

It’s nice to see a story about friendship now and then. There are love interests involved, but Roomies is mostly about how you can get to know someone you’ve never met. How sometimes it’s easier to tell that person things but also how easy it is to misunderstand people through emails. It’s all about tone, or the lack of it.

Having two authors helped Lauren and EB’s voices to be distinct, although I got the feeling they became more similar as the story progresses. It’s an easy read, and enjoyable enough, but lacked any real oomph.

I did feel there was maybe a bit too much going on, perhaps neither author wanted to sacrifice their drama. The parental woes, and even some of the romance aspects could have moved aside to focus on the preparation for moving out. There are some lovely moments that sum up the contradictory feelings you have when making such a big step.

Race. It’s so tricky, even though we’re all supposedly enlightened and color-blind. I don’t want it to be a Thing. But it kind of is a Thing, isn’t it?

There were several occurrences of the characters wondering if they were having racist thoughts or acting “too white”. I don’t even know what acting white is (middle class it seems but that has nothing to do with skin colour). I don’t know if they were trying to make a point about interracial relationships being OK but it just came across as a bit weird and that maybe they think no one is truly OK with it? Perhaps it’s a cultural thing but I can’t imagine ever “warning” people before an introduction that they’re black. That just seems strange. People are people. The sooner that is just second nature, the better.

Roomies is published by Little, Brown in the US (and Hodder here in the UK) and is available now in a variety of formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ A Dream of Books | Wondrous 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.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Q+A with Christopher Golden

Co-author of the new graphic novel series, Cemetery Girl (out now), with Charlaine Harris.


There were lots of people involved in Cemetery Girl, how did you go about pulling it all together?

CG: That's always the case on a comic book or graphic novel. It's a wonderfully collaborative medium in which no end product can be artistically successful unless all of those contributing are giving their all.

What was the best thing about collaborating with Charlaine Harris?

CG: Charlaine is a fantastic writer with a great sense of humor. She's also gracious and patient, which sure doesn't hurt when I'm behind on delivering my next bits of the script. I've been a fan since I cracked the first Sookie novel years ago, and I was honored when she asked me to collaborate on this project with her. Figuring out Calexa's story and world together has been such a pleasure.

Calexa doesn't have much choice in the matter, but cemeteries still seem a bit draw to teens, why do you think this is?

CG: Speaking from experience, cemeteries call to teenagers because they're private, quiet places, whether you're going there for a walk, to make out with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or to drink alcohol somewhere nobody will catch you. Not that I'm recommending teenagers drink alcohol...but it's been known to happen on occasion.