Monday, 31 March 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

OK, it's not Sunday. I'm blaming daylight saving for stealing my blogging hour. I did go into The Crooked Book on Sunday and bought two John Wyndhams. There was an old man sitting at the counter who was a fan and told me Trouble with Lichen is a right laugh. The woman serving had also read a few, it was right right old John Windy fan club going on.

The lovely Other Ellie also sent my blog a blogoversary present, thank you! Epic Detour sounds loads of fun. Also, NEW SMYTHE ALERT!


For review:
No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe (HarperCollins)
Above by Isla Morley (Hodder)
The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan (Headline)
Games Creatures Play by Various Authors(Jo Fletcher Books)
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith (Headline)
Valour's Trial by Tanya Huff (Titan)
The Rain by Virginia Bergin (Pan Macmillan)

Bought:
Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Gifted:
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Goose

Goose is the sequel to Paper Aeroplanes and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.
“Geese fall in love, like humans do. They find the One and stay with them forever. Isn’t that sweet?”
“That doesn’t mean they found the right goose.”

Renée and Flo are eighteen, coming to the end of their school lives and contemplating heading off to university, leaving Guernsey behind. But as they grow up, are these two best friends growing apart? Flo desperately want’s Renée’s company in Nottingham, Renée isn’t quote so sure about the whole university thing at all. As their friendship wavers, Flo turns to the church for support whilst Renée becomes involved with an older man.

I loved Paper Aeroplanes so I was excited to hear about a follow up novel and it didn’t let me down. Some time has passed and the two girls are on the brink of adulthood. They are still completely and utterly believable as actual teenagers. I liked how Aunty Jo had a bigger role and we got to know her a bit. There’s some hilarious bits and an incredibly sad event followed by some very touching moments. Not to forget the sex, drinking and chips.

Whilst I don’t believe in god, I can understand the appeal of the community surrounding the church and the comfort the belief can bring. As a teenager though, Renée’s reaction is probably quite common, it’s going to be hard to accept that a friend has suddenly found god. If the religiously inclined are in a minority, they are bound to be the focus of taunts in the halls. Flo did become a bit harder to relate to but I’m sure there are plenty of people that will click with this experience.

I would love another book in this series. I want to know what happens next!

Goose is published by Hot Key Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 3rd April 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



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, 27 March 2014

The Boy in the Smoke

The Boy in the Smoke is a novella prequel to the Shades of London series, originally published for World Book Day. Unlike a lot of series novellas, this one isn’t just a bit of fluff and stands up on its own as a story. It’s even readable if you don’t know what happens in the other books, although if you’re reading the series, it may contain some spoilers (at least for the first book).

The gist of the story is what happened to Stephen prior to The Name of the Star, some of which was referred to already (can’t remember if it’s in book one or two though). It’s about how privilege doesn’t always make life easy and the pressure of parental expectations. I liked the fact that Stephen had always wanted to be a police officer despite everything.

I really recommend it to fans of the series and it has seriously whetted my appetite for book three, out later this year. The paperback is a mere £1 (or free from a bookshop with a World Book Day voucher) or you can now buy ebook versions.

Goodreads | Amazon | Hot Key Books

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Echo Boy

Audrey’s father is an activist against the extreme progress of technology. She encouraged to read books and appreciate art. But he wants the best life for his daughter so he gets an Echo, Enhanced Computerized Humanoid Organism, to tutor her. A purchase that will change everything. When tragedy strikes, Audrey goes to live with her uncle, the head of Castle Industries, in a house full of Echoes. Among them is Daniel, made to look like a teenage boy and who isn’t quite like the others…

Audrey’s world is full of technology which is at the extremes of where we’re heading now. I can see where a lot of it has coming from logically, but there is so much change from now, it doesn’t feel like Earth. I did like how southern Europe has become arid and Spain was a blistering desert, with remote warehouses supporting the new industry but not much else. Also, the Resurrection Zone was somewhat relatable to London Zoo (it helps it’s in Regent’s Park). I felt the scenes in the zoo were some of the most thought-provoking and powerful.

For the most part, the narrative is Audrey’s but there are a few chapters from Daniel’s point of view, which felt a bit more contemplative. Audrey’s suffering from grief at the start of the book and uses patches to numb the pain. There is a fair amount of time devoted to this, which reflects Matt Haig’s experiences with depression. Even Daniel, could be described to have had depression at one point if you project his thoughts onto a human mind.

We are humans. It is better to feel than to be numb. To be numb was as good as being dead.

This might well be better received by those that haven’t read much robot science fiction. Somewhere in my head I was expecting another The Mad Scientist’s Daughter and emotionally this fell a bit short. Younger readers who can become enamoured with the future tech and action will undoubtedly enjoy it. But in a book about robots, I need some ethical dilemmas or moral ambiguity. The people who mistreated robots were horrible people and I think they enjoyed it no matter if they were sentient or not. We already anthropomorphise our technology and it doesn’t look like us (I feel I have to be polite to my boyfriend’s car otherwise the door won’t open). A robot that is nearly identical to us, would be a hard thing to act cruel towards, even if was an unfeeling machine. I think it needed more conflicted characters.

Actually I’m not sure what the Echoes really are. They are introduced as androids but seem to be mostly biological. I wanted a bit more on their history rather than the other tech in their world. There seemed a lot to fit in and the pace was a bit on the slow side because of this.

I think delayed instalove is becoming a thing. Just because it doesn’t happen at the start of the story, doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like instalove when there’s no real emotional build up. There needs to be a believable like going on before love. It’s especially hard to believe when it’s an otherwise awkward coupling.

Echo Boy is published by Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House, and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 27th March 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.


Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Being Anne

Shelve next to: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards + The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke



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, 21 March 2014

Organic Search: A Poem

A book about temptation to kill someone
A dead owl placed on your doorstep what would it mean?
A truth revealed in Eleanor and Park
Bereft is an emotion.

Humans are a myth
Fey dead ever after
Dead tree technology
Do androids dream of electric sheep jar?

Fabulous sherlock
Missing pretty girls
Path of needles
Passionate love.

January my first love
First last kiss how it ends
Autumn crush
Dark heroine sex.

Irma could tell exactly
What happened to Misty Kitson;
Blurred lines badgers
Buscemi pygmy mouse lemur.

Bookworm magic
Bookworm kiss
Unbroken exaggerated
Do the bookworms ever have sex?

It costume Stephen King
Mussels scream
Cruel horrow sounds
Scary clowns HD.

How to kill TBR pile
Cholera vs bubonic plague
Food found in the book "the rook"
Can mussels kill my child?

Charles Darwin is a loner
Addicted to folio society.
If being pooed by a black bird good luck
How did Pascal Garnier die?

Group souls
Liberated by giving up
Heart is unremarkable
Hyperbole and a half atom.

Curious then disenchanted meaning
Curiosity for the panda
Curiosity killed the heterosexual
Shit keeps happening!

Happy World Poetry Day! Each line is an actual search term that has reached my blog in the last year. One of the best things about having a blog is seeing what crazy stuff people search for. Don't forget to enter my blogoversary giveaway too.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Happy 3rd Birthday Blog!

Bring on the cake! I've been blogging for three whole years... I had wanted to do a week of fun blogoversary stuff but time is fast disappearing round here. Is there a relative of the sock monster who eats time?



Words of Wisdom
Most people are worrying too much about themselves to worry about what you're doing.

No one likes everything.

Or all the same things.

Ignore those who tell you you're blogging wrong, it's only their opinion.

Blogging should be fun, do what you want to do.

Saying that. Don't do anything legally iffy.*

And try not to get on the drama llama too often, he spits and kicks.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Helen of Troy + Mars vs the Starships...

Guest post by Christian Schoon + giveaway


Hey and thanks from Zenn and her author pal for making room in your blog’s parking lot for the Under Nameless Stars tour bus.

So, the starliner Helen of Troy. For the noobs here, this is the starship circling above Mars that Zenn smuggles herself aboard as the action of Under Nameless Stars begins. The Helen was built in the Delta Bay of the orbital construction platform Goliath by Tseng-Gupta Heavy Industries 60 Earther years ago. A “Diracian-Sovereign Class” luxury liner, she’s roughly a quarter mile in length (1,320 ft./402 meters) and is designed for flexible accommodation of between 1,170 and 1,540 passengers (depending on ports of call/alien race ratios and resulting cabin and suite configurations). She’s crewed by a compliment of 255 officers, engineers and hotelier staff, along with one Indra groom, her sacrist and an under-sacrist. And, of course, her Indra.

The ship conforms to the conventional design for Indra-drive starliners, with an array of dark matter collection plates at the bow, followed by the bridge, passenger decks and crew quarters, with a lengthy access shaft leading back to the pilot room, Indra chamber and Indra warren.

For those unfamiliar with Indra, or Lithohippus Indrae or Stonehorses, these creatures are vacuum-dwelling protosynapsid-like animals combining mammalian with reptilian traits. Mature adults can grow to more than 700 feet, with flattened, serpentine bodies ending in an elongated, vaguely equine head covered with inter-dimensional sensing barbels. Over billions of years of evolution, Indra developed the ability to metabolize dark matter into warping catalyst, allowing them to “tunnel” through the fabric of the space-time continuum. Emerging from the coiled interior of the Indra warren when summoned by their groom, the Indra moves into the chamber and, under direction from the groom, goes into tunneling mode to transport the ship to its destination.

After more than a century of safe operation by the Indra-drive fleet of ships, starliners suddenly began to vanish some twenty years ago. The ships, with passengers, crew and cargo, disappear without a trace. As the rate of ships going missing has increased, several high-level panels and/or investigative councils within the governments of the various Local Systems Accord planets were convened to seek answers. But as Zenn begins her journey on the Helen in Under Nameless Stars, no solution has so far been found.

So, that’s the general run down on the starships that Zenn and other people/Alien Sentients (Ascents) get around on in the two books. As for the settings of the stories, the pioneering Martian settlements of Zenn Scarlett are somewhat reminiscent of frontier areas of Earth’s American West in the 19th century, with shadings of the Great Depression from the 1930s. A trade embargo with Earth has left the colonies on Mars struggling to survive. The tech used to pressurize and terraform the deep Martian valleys is breaking down, and replacement parts are almost impossible to come by. As food supplies also grow scarce, fertile farmland is at a premium, and the social bonds of the colonies have begun to degenerate.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

It's glorious weather here at the moment. Have actually been sat on the beach in shorts and vest top today. This is reward for putting up with all that stormy weather over winter, I'm sure.


Where have all these books come from?! Slightly annoyingly, most the unsolicited ones sound like things I quite fancy reading. Maybe I can give up sleep? I'm so excited to have gotten copies of Goose and the new Rainbow Rowell. SQUEE! I did have a bit of snuffle round NetGalley last week too.

I also got my delayed Ninja Book Swap parcel (well it's a replacement for my naughty AWOL one, Bex and Hanna are the best). I got Every Day, The Dead Girls Detective Agency (I want to put an apostrophe in there somewhere) and Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind and some purple and pink wool.

For review:
Goose by Dawn O'Porter (Hot Key Books)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Orion)
The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements (Headline)
Nagasaki by Éric Faye (Gallic Books)
The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin (Headline)
Gone Are the Leaves by Anne Donovan (Canongate)
The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson (Quercus)
The Way Back Home by Freya North (HarperCollins)
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (Blue Door)
Beautiful Day by Kate Anthony (Penguin)
Heartman by M.P. Wright (Black & White Publishing)
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Bloomsbury)
The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Strange Chemistry)
The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam (Faber)
Glaze by Kim Curran

Bought:
The Boy in the Smoke by Maureen Johnson
The Madness by Alison Rattle
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon
Ghost Town by Rachel Caine

Gifted:
Every Day by David Levithan
The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox
Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Bird Box

The first incident was in Russia. Most people ignored it, but all too soon it was on their doorsteps. The internet died. The television broadcasts slowly dwindled. The only way to stay safe? Don’t open your eyes. Don’t look outside…

Warning: Bird Box may cause agoraphobia. There’s something so basic about the fear we get when we can’t see. The slightest touch can be frightening. Is that sound just the wind? Is there a presence in front of you or just your imagination running wild? This novel taps into a primal fear but one we’ve probably all experienced. When something wakes you up in the night and you’re too scared to look? That’s exactly the feeling throughout.

It’s so well done. I’m not into obvious horror or gore fests. The creatures are almost incidental. No one knows if they are purposefully hurting humans or if it’s just an accident of nature. By the end I’d made up my own mind about that, but really, they are the most mysterious, unexplained enemy you can get. Maybe people are the ones that become their own worst enemies. It’s no way to live, trapped indoors, blocking out the daylight and never seeing the sky.

There’s one excellent scene, which was maybe the first point that the book really made me unsettled (that’s the word I’d use to describe the book over scary, it’s unsettling), Felix goes out to the well. It’s a simple task, one they’ve all done numerous times, it’s only going out into the back garden. But Felix is blindfolded. Just imagine how unnerving going out into your garden blindfolded would be, even if you didn’t really think there was something out there that wanted to cause you harm? Every little sound, magnified. The mind runs away with its own paranoia.

Malorie’s parenting techniques might ruffle some feathers but she does what has to be done in her circumstances. Throughout their journey down the river, you do see moments where she really does love her children and what she has done in the past has been for their own good.

For such an atmospheric story, the ending fell a little flat for me. Well, really there’s two endings. The one of Malorie’s time in the house and the explanation of why she’s alone with her children (honestly, my mouth was open in shock). And the end to her journey down the river, which was what felt a bit anti-climactic. It’s a tricky thing to end though, and I don’t know what would have worked better, but it did take the edge off an otherwise excellent novel, a debut to boot!

Bird Box is published by Harper Voyager and will be available in a rather sexy hardback as well as ebook editions from 27th March 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Shelve next to: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham + Blindness by Jose Saramago



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, 11 March 2014

Orange is the New Black

10 years after her offence for smuggling a suitcase of drug money across borders, Piper Kerman starts her 15 month sentence at a minimum security women’s prison. She was not the sort of woman anyone expected to be there. This is her memoir.

So first off I should point out I haven’t watched the TV show based on this book, so I can’t make comparisons. I have heard it is quite different though. Certainly it’s been made more dramatic than this non-fiction tale which shines the light on the kind and generous nature of Piper’s fellow inmates. It’s not what I was expecting. She was undoubtedly a very lucky woman, to have an amazing support system on the outside but also her circumstances inside the prison weren’t as bleak as you’d imagine.

Piper’s main focus is to show the injustice of the statutory minimum sentences for drug offences in the US. Many of the women are inside for minor things and their sentences are certainly not about rehabilitation. Instead the prison makes it even harder for them to sort their lives out afterwards. In showing the positive sides of the women she befriended, it’s easier to make her argument. She felt it would be just as effective for her to have done the time in community service, working with the kind of people she hurt through her actions.

The strength of the book for me was the anecdotal nature of the way they all spent their days and the small trials and tribulations of life inside a prison where you have to look out for each other. It’s a book that’s probably better dipped into as reading for long stretches made me crave a proper story with dramatic ups and downs. Though prison is monotonous, so it can only reflect what she experienced.

I did like their creativity with the limited food they had and their microwaved delicacies. I started to crave some prison cheesecake after a while and some chilaquiles (basically tortillas cooked in salsa). You don’t expect food cravings from a book about prison!

I read this for book group and many of my fellow members felt Piper was a bit self-centred and they wanted more information on the other inmates. There are probably more in-depth books on the subject out there but this is an easy read, and is a different perspective than we usually get to see in the media. So I think it’s worth reading if you’re interested in the subject matter but not if you’re after some sort of expose or thrilling read.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ The Aussie Zombie



Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Banished

The Blackhearts are rumoured to be the descendants of Hansel and Gretel; a family who protects the Frontier from rogue fae. Kit only discovered she was part of this legacy when she was fifteen and her grandmother died. A year later, she finds herself in the middle of fae politics, and on the edge of war, when the Prince of Alba turns up on her doorstep.

The opening chapter sees Kit stalking a boy at high school, a contemporary setting with a hint of other. But soon the story moves away from that and she’s running across the country, facing mortal peril and discovering the Otherwhere. It’s a lot less urban fantasy than I was expecting; Kit doesn’t nearly have enough real world problems and lives her life in a large, secluded house. There’s plenty of time spent in Devon and London, yet it often felt like another world. I really liked the little diversions to viewpoints in the Otherwhere and started to want to know more about their history. It’s inevitable that the two worlds will collide.

Many chapters start with a snippet of information taken from the archives of the HMDSDI or the Blackheart Bestiarium. I do quite like this technique for a first person narrative in a world different to ours, as it is handy to pass over information that the narrator might not know. However, in addition to this, there is a lot of explanation given through dialogue. Kit’s not known her heritage for very long so she needs to be told a lot and in some cases the dialogue turns into a bit of a monologue. I felt this got in the way of getting to know Kit a bit. There’s a whole load of interesting world-building but I never felt much emotion towards her.

There is a romance, for most of the book it feel like a small thing. Kit quite fancies the handsome prince. Fair enough. At one point their relationship becomes pivotal to the plot however something was missing. It’s not instalove but it might well as be. I kind of wish there was some other motivation for the bits that are otherwise really good and exciting.

I don’t want to sound like I didn’t enjoy Banished; I did. It’s often the case with fantasy that world-building takes a while and I found it much pacier in the second half. I liked the mythology weaved in with elements of fairy tales but there’s a lot of it. And for me, it sometimes got in the way of the characters, who I so dearly wanted to know more about. I think I’d like Kit, if I got to know her better.

As a debut novel and start of a new series, it holds plenty of promise and I will be interested to see where the story goes next.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights | Serendipity Reviews



Book Source: World Fantasy Con freebie

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Geography of You and Me

When the power goes out, Lucy’s in the elevator. There, in the darkness, she meets Owen. They spend the night of the New York blackout together, creating a bond, or so Lucy thinks. But when she wakes up the next morning, he’s gone. Summoned to London by her parents, she sends him a postcard “wish you were here” and so does he; the start of a correspondence that spans time zones.

Overall, The Geography of You and Me is a lovely and sweet contemporary story about two people who click and then are forced apart. They don’t spend their summer pining over each other, they each have their own lives, but their correspondence starts to mean something. Owen is the rare breed of a teenager without a phone (or he has a basic one and won’t text for some reason), and the postcards become their thing as he travels across America, with his dad looking for work.

It’s interesting how more and more young adult writers are shunning technology in favour of a simpler world. In reality, Lucy and Owen would be connected constantly through phones, email and social media.

There’s some good use of short chapters, when they are completely apart, but thinking of each other at the same time. Their thoughts flit from page to page, back and forth. There’s this moment where Lucy’s mum just understands everything, which made me tear up a little. She might seem like an uncaring, absent mother but she demonstrates that she is far from it in just a few lines.

People of Edinburgh, be warned, you might get offended. Lucy (and her dad) think the whole city smells of stew. It’s mind boggling how every other location gets treated with respect but Scotland is a land of stereotypes. It’s depicted as a dull place with horrid food. Imagine going to Florence and saying the food was awful because you only ate tripe sandwiches? That’s the same as blaming Edinburgh’s bad food on there being nothing but haggis and neeps to eat. Is she incapable of finding a supermarket?

Clearly Lucy is missing home and Owen, so Edinburgh has probably got the raw deal in order to depict her sadness. Maybe she’s just happier in other places so they’re described with a bit more enthusiasm. Still, it irked me. This is becoming a pattern with this author, maybe I’ll only read her books that stay well away from Britain!

The Geography of You and Me will be published by Headline in paperback and ebook editions on 15th April 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Shelve next to: Roomies by Sara Zarr + Tara Altebrando and Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt



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, 2 March 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

The lovely Book of Ellie Moleskine came from HarperCollins for The Book of You (I got another copy of the book too, which I have given away). I've come to realise doing this every two weeks makes me look like I've had shedloads of books. It's not that bad really. Though I did go for a walk today and end up with an old John Wyndham edition from The Crooked Book in Boscombe.


For review:
Five Came Back by Mark Harris (Canongate)
Paris by Edward Rutherfurd (Hodder)
That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler (Headline)
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen(Transworld)
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristine Henríquez (Canongate)
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel (Headline)
The Copper Promise by Jen Williams(Headline)

Bought:
Bite Club by Rachel Caine
Kiss of Death by Rachel Caine
Consider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The End of Everything by Megan Abbott




Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.