Monday, 30 June 2014

The Month That Was... June 2014

I knew June was going to be a bit of a write-off reading and blog wise. I've been on holiday to Tunisia, in London for work and had my parents staying for a week. There's a few photos up on my Flickr stream now, but I'm just as behind with them as everything else! I think I've only read five books all month.

Camels: Such Graceful Creatures Momo and Ali Baba
Dinner Time Desert Oasis

So Tunisia was full of camels, ponies and crocodiles, with lots of sand in between. We stayed on the island of Djerba, which is featured in the Odyssey (it's the island they didn't want to leave) and had a day trip to the Sahara via Matmata which is where Luke Skywalker's house is. The original Star Wars was filmed all over Tunisia but we didn't go as far as the real Tataouine.


The rest of the time we relaxed by the pool or on the beach (and watched the camels go by) and ate lots of free food and cake. I read Heir of Fire and Paper Towns whilst I was away, but I didn't get as much reading in as I expected. I'd really recommend Djerba if you just want a quiet, relaxing holiday somewhere hot and inexpensive (our hotel looked rather swanky considering the amount we paid). Just be wary of getting on a camel for a photo as they'll take you on a "tour" and ask for quite a lot of money. We got out of it by saying we only had 10 dinar on us and not getting out our wallets.

Then my parents visited and we had lovely weather down here. We went round lots of gardens and houses, went for walks and ate nice lunches out. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted now and looking forward to a break. Although I will be going to YALC on the Saturday, so say hi if you're there.

Here's what made it onto the blog...

Reviews:



5 stars awarded to: The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson and Saga by Brian K. Vaughan + Fiona Staples.

Read and awaiting review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen and The Seventh Miss Hatfield by Anna Caltabiano.

Blogged about:

I have a few giveaways on the blog at the moment; one for Blackbird and another for the highly anticipated Broken Monsters (both open to Europe) and I gave away A Shiver of Light. I also shared my top ten books so far this year and what I'd packed in my beach bag (over optimistic much?).

Incoming! (1st June)
Incoming! (29th June)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I've been super busy, so this is probably a whole month's worth of books. First up is my super lovely Ninja Book Swap gift from Kayleigh. It was an exciting package to open up with layers of tissue paper and little dinosaurs peeking out here and there. She got me two new books; The Gospel of Loki and The Girl With All the Gifts (relevant for ninja swapping, yes?) as well as some cute animal stickies (I'll use these for marking up passages in books), weird tea and some Lindt chocolate. Such a generous gift all the way from Australia, thanks so much Kayleigh!


Also new Lauren Beukes! There was a retweeting frenzy to get a proof on Twitter and I was amazingly near the front of the queue, then I went and got sent a review copy anyway. Really looking forward to Broken Monsters after loving The Shining Girls last year. I'm also excited to get the sequel to A Natural History of Dragons which was awaiting me when I got back from Tunisia.

It was so sad to hear the news about Strange Chemistry. I had been meaning to buy some of their titles for ages, but with so many books, I'd kinda been holding back. Feel a bit bad about that now but picked up a couple of the books while they're still available.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Win a proof of Broken Monsters!

The new novel by Lauren Beukes is highly anticipated and one of you lucky lot can win a copy to read before it's released into the wild!


Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city. And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Paper Towns

When they were little, Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman discovered a dead body on their street. Now they’re approaching the end of their high school lives, they are no longer friends; Q keeps to his small group of nerdy friends and Margo is renowned for her adventures. But one night, Margo rings asking Q for a favour and one last night of adventure. The next day she is gone. Missing. Knowing she always left clues when she ran away, Q sets out to find what happened to the girl next door.

If I had a nervous breakdown every time something awful happened in the world, I'd be crazier than a shithouse rat.

I’m yet to fall head over heels in love with John Green’s writing like the rest of you and Paper Towns hasn’t really swayed me. The characters felt very young in their behaviour and tone, silly little things like their perception of girls. They’re all approaching senior prom, so I’m guessing they would be 18, 17 at least? They didn’t seem old enough at all. But then we’re also used to very mature YA characters, so maybe that’s what American teen boys are like.

I did like the themes of growing out of fantasies and coming to see people who they really are. Q has always idolised Margo. She was in the cool kids crowd but it took a major event to realise she didn’t necessarily like her friends. The paper towns of the title can be read in different ways. I like to think they represented the façade that people put on; that those people might not really exist except in perceptions.

That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people would want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste.

The Omnictionary strand annoyed me a bit. It was clearly Wikipedia, but we are supposed to believe that this boy has invented it and actually nothing else like it exists. Was it written before Wikipedia was widely used? It makes it feel like it’s set in an alternate universe.

It is one of those books where I found it hard to believe in the parents. I know the adult characters are never top priority but they felt a bit 2 dimensional, especially Margo’s parents’ reaction to her disappearance. Surely they would have some sort of mixed feelings about their parting ways? Parents who don’t care that their children are missing usually have much more complex issues going on. And Q’s parents were stereotypes of psychologists, bringing their work into everything and analysing every action.

There are some wonderful, insightful lines peppered throughout and it was an easy read, but for the main part, it was nothing special. I’ll probably give Will Grayson, Will Grayson a go next, as it’s co-written with David Levithan, who has made more of an impact on me with The Lover’s Dictionary.

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Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Win Blackbird by Tom Wright

"Dr. Deborah Serach Gold died on the cross sometime during a night of freezing rain in late October of my last year at Three. It probably wasn't the worst thing that happened to her that day, but it had been over two decades in the making . . ."

The day after a terrible storm, electricity still crackling in the air, a woman is found dead on the outskirts of a Texan town. She has been brutally attacked and nailed to a cross.

The victim is Dr Deborah Gold, a psychologist who has taken a lot of people's secrets to her grave.

Which means a lot of suspects for Detective Jim Beaudry Bonham to investigate. And lately he could use some psychological help himself . . .

Want to win a copy? I have a hardback to give away to one lucky winner (Europe only). Please enter by the Rafflecopter below.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Rain

It’s a bank holiday in the UK the day it happened. People are outside enjoying the weather and having barbeques. The British weather never fails to ruin a day off work so of course, it rains. But this day, the rain is different, it kills. Soon the water supplies are contaminated and the nation is scared to go outdoors. Forever watching the skies, the survivors, 15 year-old Ruby among them, try their best to carry on.

I’ve seen a few reviews that say Ruby’s annoying. And well, she is, but she does come across as a fairly authentic teenage voice. We’re used to mature protagonists in young adult really. Heroines that take charge and show themselves in a positive light. I don’t expect the average person, let alone teen, would be prepared for what she has to go through. Ruby’s self-obsessed, naïve and also, a little bit in denial. It might hit a little close to home, be uncomfortable to see the negative qualities that so many people possess laid out, but fiction isn’t always about liking the characters.

I can see that it might ruin your enjoyment though, so if annoying characters are a big no-no, stay away. I was frustrated and angry with Ruby at so many points. Not the obsessing about the kiss, but her wastefulness of water. At one point she loots some beauty supplies (this sounds awful, but at this point in the story, she really doesn’t have a whole lot to occupy her, it sort of makes sense). She does a fake tan that goes horribly wrong, and she decides she will use the tonic water to wash it off. As Simon tells her, she has to THINK, something she really doesn’t do at times.

On one hand, I like the fact that Ruby isn’t running round saving the day, but the pace does start to stagnate. I do feel sorry for her, but then she’ll go and open her mouth and say something stupid. She can be anti-grown-up at times but with loss comes understanding. Underneath her bluster is a scared little girl, you just have to stick with her long enough to see that.

The science behind the contaminated water is a bit iffy. We’re in contact with water all the time, not just the rain, and it’s brushed off that small amounts, such as dew, are harmless. But if the pathogen needs to be in certain quantities, then why is it so fast acting? And they are going outside after it rained all the time. Sometimes I think it’s better not to explain these things. We don’t need to know the details for this particular story.

The Rain is published by Pan Macmillan and will be available in paperback from 17th July 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.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me

I knew it was love because it was easy to talk about a load of bollocks and laugh until we hurt.

Sally sings opera in her wardrobe. Since she was a little girl, she has loved opera, with its passion, drama and beauty, but after a series of events she decides she must keep it from everyone. Her parents would hate it if they knew she sang, so she hides in her wardrobe, a place of security where she can do what she wants. Living her life on the fringe of the industry she loves, one day Sally is found out. She can sing. But can she overcome her fear of performing when other people can hear and see her?

I loved Sally within the first few pages. She has this amazing talent but is crippled by fear. Lucy Robinson’s characters always feel like people I could know, not because they do the same things as me but because they are so imperfect but lovely at the same time. They’re capable of thinking stupid thoughts and saying stupid things as well as being serious and displaying the full range of emotions.

Where was he from? He sounded as if his mother was an upper-class Manhattanite and his father was a shaggy old pony from Devon.

If you’ve enjoyed her other books, you’ll love this one too, don’t be put off by the opera aspect. We probably think of opera singers as being full of confidence and outgoing, but maybe they’re just like us inside. I laughed, I cried. Fiona’s story is tragically believable, a wonderful and talented woman who doesn’t believe in herself and goes into destruction mode. Whilst there were things I could see coming, there was something rather major I did not.

Sally’s relationship with her parents is an interesting one. Fictional parents can often go to extremes, and hers might feel that way at first. But being a parent is complicated and what’s on the outside doesn’t always convey the full picture. I’m not sure if the wardrobe was meant as a metaphor but it suits the themes so well; inside and out can be two completely different people.

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is published by Penguin and the ebook is available to buy now. The paperback release will follow on 19th June 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Page to Stage Reviews | I Heart Chick Lit | So many books, so little time



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, 12 June 2014

We Were Liars

Every summer, the Sinclair family convene on their family island, near Martha’s Vineyard. Cadence can’t wait to see the Liars, her cousins, again. She missed last summer and there was an accident the year before. An accident that she can’t remember. She hopes, being back there will bring everything back. That the Liars can be together once more.

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
No one is a criminal.
No one is an addict.
No one is a failure.

We Were Liars is one of those books you can only really appreciate once you've got to the end. Most the characters I only sympathised with once I knew what had happened; privileged and self-centred comes to mind. The family is wealthy and known in society. They own a private island and they bicker over who will get the inheritance. They are isolated both by geography and by class.

Grandad is more like Mummy than like me. He's erased his old life by spending money on a replacement one.

Gat doesn’t quite belong with the cousins. He’s Indian and the story brushes on the issue of casual racism. The Sinclair’s are all blonde and pale, something the grandfather is proud of. Seen through Cadence’s eyes, Gat is an equal, but as the story unfolds, you see not everyone has the same view.

The narrative jumps about and the prose is broken in places, which suits Cadence’s state of mind. Her splitting headaches are felt though her melodramatic descriptions of violence, of blood pouring out.

It’s hard to have heard about this book without knowing here’s a twist coming. I did want to know what happened the night of the accident and that kept me turning the page. I was guessing all the way but was barking up the wrong tree entirely. There’s a turning point when I started to care. How damaged is Cadence? Why won’t anyone tell her what happened? How bad can it be?

I went back and re-read some bits after finishing. They take on so much more meaning in hindsight and the pages are dripping in foreshadow. There’s little things the adults do which are tells. I won’t tell you what books it reminded me of because of spoilers, but there are definitely similar ones out there. Perhaps the ending is more powerful if this is the first of this type you’ve read. Still, the dawning realisation broke my heart.

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Also reviewed @ Uncorked Thoughts | Readaraptor! | prettybooks



Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Landline

Neal didn’t take Georgie’s breath away. Maybe the opposite. But that was okay – that was really good actually, to be near someone who filled your lungs with air.

Georgie McCool loves her husband, she really does, but when it’s a choice between work and a family Christmas, she chooses work. Her marriage was already shaky but could this be the final straw? Whilst the rest of her family is celebrating in Nebraska, she struggles to find the right time to speak to Neal, to fix what’s broken. Then she finds an old yellow phone at her parents’ house; a phone with a connection to the past.

Landline is a story about growing apart and the compromises of marriage. It’s easy to relate to the characters, although which such a large YA audience, I wonder if all her fans will feel the same. It is a much older feeling book. It’s about an established relationship with its wobbles and balancing work life and home life. And if there’s one thing Rainbow does well, it’s realistic relationships.

The time travel landline was perhaps a bit gimmicky; it’s a bit hard to believe Neal didn’t ask more questions. Unlike Eleanor & Park and Attachments, there wasn’t a sense of nostalgia connected to the past. Instead the past represents a time without baggage, a chance for Georgie to remember the good times and maybe fix what’s gone wrong since.

I felt a bit sorry for Seth. He seems like such an amazing friend and Neal gives him a hard time, not to mention Georgie starting to flake out on him workwise. They had such a huge opportunity and I understand her choices. They’ll have loads of Christmases together in future, there’s just one where she needs to work, to make a difference. I though Neal was a tad selfish but there is clearly a whole load of backstory there and I became a little more accepting of his decision later on.

Landline is published by Orion and will be available from 3rd July 2014 in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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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.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year

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

In no particular order...



The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick



The Three by Sarah Lotz

Stray by Monica Hess



Glaze by Kim Curran

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield



No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan + Fiona Staples



Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
(review to follow)