Sunday, 30 November 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

I imagine this will be my last incoming post before Christmas. Symbiont was a pre-order, but other than that, I'm not allowed to buy books in case someone has bought them for me already. So I just have to buy books for others ;)

I took part in the non-fiction book swap this month and got a very generous three books that have been on my wishlist for ages. So I'm looking forward to making some time for them over the holidays.

Our Endless Numbered Days arrived in a mysterious survival kit tin, which left me confused for a few minutes until my brain kicked in and went of course it's book post! Sometimes I love the weird ways publicists present proofs more than getting the book.


For review:
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Penguin)
Murder by Sarah Pinborough (Jo Fletcher Books)

Gifted:
Brother Mendel's Perfect Horse by Frank Westerman
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

Bought:
Symbiont by Mira Grant



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Waiting for Doggo

Dan’s girlfriend has left him. She’s also left him their dog. They never got round to naming him so he’s just been known as Doggo. Dan’s life doesn’t really have time for a dog, but somehow the two bond over work and love.

Awww, poor Doggo, everyone keeps calling him ugly. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked at a dog and thought they were ugly, even if do have mismatched body parts. Anyway, I did like the parts about Doggo but, despite what the marketing blurb says, he’s not the star of the show. It’s really a story about Dan, a freshly single, advertising man.

There was a point in my life where I might have enjoyed the ad agency storyline more but I found myself not really caring about Dan’s work. When they get the pitch for the ugly but functional car, it’s so obvious what’s that is set up for. They didn’t come across as very clever creatives for taking so much time over it. Dan jumping into bed with his ex’s sister straight away also got me off on the wrong foot. It just felt a bit off, especially for a book that I was expecting to be about a lovable dog. It’s not even like Doggo causes that much trouble.

Doggo does have some great moments though. His story is a sad one and he’s clearly an intelligent little dog. Dan decides he can’t possibly hand him back because that means the snip. He couldn’t do that to a fellow male. Actually Doggo’s a little bit laddish himself at times, including a crush on Jennifer Anniston. Maybe Waiting for Doggo is meant to be a doggy book for blokes.

I’ve seen a lot of bloggers really love this book, which makes my disappointment greater. It’s an easy read but was lacking that fuzzy feeling I’d expect from an underdog story.

Waiting for Doggo is published by Headline and is out now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ Uncorked Thoughts | Beadyjans Books | Page to Stage Reviews

Shelve next to: Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace



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, 20 November 2014

The Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea is the sequel to The 5th Wave and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.

Holed up in a derelict hotel, Cassie is waiting for a promise to be kept. It might be impossible but she will wait for Evan Walker, the impossible boy. Her companions aren’t so sure, with danger lurking around every corner. And the aliens aren’t letting up their assault on humankind. They are unleashing new, more despicable, weapons onto the planet.

If there was any hope left, it lay in love's hopeless promises.
I feel I should have had a proper recap of The 5th Wave before I started this. I had forgotten who Ringer was so couldn’t place the first narrator. I just knew it wasn’t Cassie but it meant it took longer than it should to get into the flow of the story. The viewpoint changes a lot, and I did have difficulty keeping track at times, the voices weren’t that differentiated.

However, I did still enjoy the second instalment. If it’s possible, things are more bleak than before. For some reason unknown to the few surviving humans, the aliens are determined to torment them, drive out all humanity and make them trust no one. They can’t even take in a poor defenceless child without doubting them.

I’m not convinced that a bomb triggered by carbon dioxide could be hidden in someone’s throat. Wouldn’t they be breathing out carbon dioxide all the time?

There’s a lot of important information given out near the end and it seemed a bit rushed. This is much shorter than the first book and I have a sneaking suspicion there was a looming deadline. I went through stages of thinking what a cop-out to not understanding and then going back to where we started like maybe it was all a big con. You know how you can’t trust anyone? So maybe it’s all genius but I was left feeling bit confused.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive



Book Source: Gift from Ellie @ Book Addicted Blonde

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Circus of the Unseen

Rosie’s annoyed that her grandmother won’t share her past with her. The last thing she does before she dies is give Rosie a doll, one that she must always keep with her to keep her safe. Wanting to know more, Rosie sneaks into the cabin where she died, finding a letter moments before the floor caves in. Next thing she knows she’s in the middle of a mysterious circus and no one wants to help her get home.

Joanne Owen weaves together aspects of Slavic folklore and the circus into her own unique mythology. Each section of the story opens with part of a fairy tale; that of a doll which keeps its owner safe. The dolls become a common motif throughout both stories.

The fairy-tale also included Baba Yaga, a well-known witch in Slavic mythology. I’m not sure if Mother Matushka was meant to be a re-working of Baba Yaga or not. Before Rosie crosses the threshold, there are plenty of references to chickens and eggs, so I was expecting there to be more to this connection. There were some similarities but then her name seems to suggest she is more connected to the Matryoshka dolls. Plus she’s not chomping down on children’s bones. I did have a look to see if the dolls were connected to any folklore, but was disappointed to find they are relatively modern (1890).

Whilst I thought the weaving of the fairy tale was wonderful, Rosie’s character development left a lot to be desired. On one hand, fairy tale characters aren’t usually well developed, but the action of modernising her, and giving her a family and real world fears, suggested that she wasn’t meant to be a cardboard cut-out. She made me feel like the book is aimed at a much younger audience.

Rosie uses the word crazy so liberally. Her mother is crazy for being annoyed at her. A horse that bolted is crazy. The acts in the circus are crazy. She feels mad-crazy. With first person narrative, it could just be an affectation of hers, but it’s hard to separate from the writing.

So I loved the fairy-tale feeling and the world-building. For the most part, it felt like it could have been a traditional folk tale. I just didn’t care at all for Rosie and found her presence a bit irritating. Plus she was amazingly slow at picking up on stuff, but not in a way that she was just buying into a magical world. I worked out what the circus stood for quite early on and I didn't feel it needed Rosie not understanding for so long. Again, it's like she was much younger than she was.

Circus of the Unseen is published by Hot Key Books and is available now in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Hot Key Books

Also reviewed @ Readaraptor



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 November 2014

Incoming!

AKA Showcase Sunday

We gave ourselves a week to buy things off our wishlists before the cut-off for us to start buying Christmas presents. I was very good and bought one actual book and 3 ebooks (plus a pre-order) despite having birthday money burning a hole in my wallet. I got some lovely old Windies from Josh and The Other Ellie sent me two books (one of which I've read already). Thank you lovelies!


I am giving away the Julie Shaw books because they are not my cup of tea at all.

I also got a mysterious evidence box in the post. I am yet to go through and read the sampler whilst examining the evidence, but I shall do a separate post when I get round for it. The box was to publicise the new Patricia Cornwell novel. I used to read her Scarpetta series but stopped quite a few years ago now. We'll have to see if this tactic works.

For review:
Circus of the Unseen by Joanna Owen (Hot Key Books)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books)
Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills (Headline)
Our Vinnie by Julie Shaw (HarperCollins)
My Mam Shirley by Julie Shaw (HarperCollins)
My Uncle Charlie by Julie Shaw (HarperCollins)

Gifted:
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
An English Boy in New York by T.S. Easton
Web by John Wyndham
Chocky by John Wyndham
The Outward Urge by John Wyndham

Bought:
Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong
Solitaire by Alice Oseman
The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne
The Card Sharp by Laura Lam



Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Win the Notorious Hudson Family Trilogy

Our Vinnie, My Uncle Charlie and My Mam Shirley chart the lives of three of the most infamous members of Yorkshire’s real-life notorious criminal family, the Hudsons.

Dramatic and shocking, these three explosive true stories document a community forsaken by society - one brother’s unrelenting determination to take justice into his own hands, one man’s ascendancy to power, and the tragedy that brought it all crashing down, and, finally, the vivid account of the ‘Tucker’ girls; the resourceful women at the helm of a notorious Bradford family who will never be forgotten.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Horrorstör

There’s something not quite right at Orsk. The Cuyahoga store has been open less than a year; sales are down and employees opening the store each morning keep finding broken furniture. And there’s an odd smell about the place and a “substance” on a Brooka sofa. Tomorrow a Consultant Team is being sent to investigate so store manager Basil only has one night to solve the problem. He chooses a select (read: whoever’s available) team to stay in the store overnight and take down the culprits. Meanwhile, two other employees have broken in to film some paranormal activity. But ghosts aren’t real, are they?

Horrorstör was much creepier than I was expecting! The first sentence introduces the zombies walking into the store…but this is not a zombie story. Those are just the staff. Don’t expect to jump straight into the action, there’s a long, tongue-in-cheek build up, describing the store, its products and the daily toil of its employees.

Customers entered Orsk through a towering two-story glass atrium and ascended an escalator to the second floor, where they began a walk of the labyrinthine Showroom floor designed to expose them to the Orsk lifestyle in the optimal manner, as determined by an army of interior designers, architects, and retail consultants.

We are so used to horror stories taking place in old mansions, abandoned warehouses and other old and falling apart locations. It’s such a contrast to set it in a bright and spacious, modern setting. We all know what an Ikea looks like, and it doesn’t take much to make that familiar setting become eerie. Imagine it empty. Imagine it dark. Imagine the fake doorways aren’t really fake… And there’s something moving behind them.

I imagine Amy’s mentality is that of many retail workers. Yes, some like Ruth Anne, take pride in their jobs but for others it’s just a way to pay the rent and put dinner on the table. It pokes fun at consumerism but also looks at how people become trapped by their own minds. Yet it’s amusing and scary at the same time. It’s an awful lot to achieve in one book, especially such a short and snappy one.

For some crazy reason we visited Ikea the weekend after I finished this. In some ways it is so right, if you walk off the Bright and Shining Path, then you get turned around, go round in circles and end up walking twice as far as you would have done if you didn’t take the short-cut.

I’m always impressed with the production at Quirk Books. The paperback really does look like an Ikea catalogue. I was so tempted to go and leave it in amongst the catalogues in store! Each chapter has a product page, similar to those on the Ikea instructions, with an inspirational marketing blurb. But look closely as you read through the book as these items of furniture aren’t always what they seem.

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Also reviewed @ guiltless reading | Wordsmithonia



Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Madness

Somerset, 1868: Crippled by polio as a small child, Marnie lives with her ma and not her pa, Smoaker, in a seaside village famed for its sea cures. The sea is her life and she looks forward to being as well respected a dipper as her ma. However, shunned by the local children due to her limp, her life is a lonely one, until she meets Noah, who is staying at the mansion with his family. They are worlds apart but as he takes notice of her, Marnie starts to dream of a different life.

I live in a town whose existence owes thanks to Victorian bathers and I love the old photos they have on the pier of the ridiculous contraptions ladies used to get carried down to the water in. I absolutely loved this aspect of The Madness, with the bathing machines, dippers and livelihoods built up around the notion that the sea cures all ills.

The dippers lined up ready in the sea, their skirts floating round their waists, and the horses trundled up and down the shingle with sweat foaming on their flanks.

It’s a suitably gothic tale of obsession. Noah’s diary entries make it clear he’s only interested in Marnie as a “distraction” and he has a love interest back in London. We can but hope, but his tone implies Marnie’s in for some trouble. She on the other hand is oblivious. She is reluctant at first, having been shunned by locals because of her disability, she distrusts this handsome, rich boy.

Her town and life is strangely claustrophobic, considering it is a beach-side town, with plenty of space. But she doesn’t have much choice in life; her class and disability means she is lucky to even have the life she does. She has a future, but she’s willing to risk all that for a boy she hardly knows. She is literally on the outside, looking in on his life, separated by more than she will ever know.

I liked the contrast between the propriety of the bathers and Marnie’s wild abandon. She is more worried about covering her disfigured leg than showing too much skin for decency’s sake. She seems wild and part of the environment. She sometimes dreams that she is a mermaid, and her father is a fisherman who will return to her and whisk her away from this life.

The sea is rolling over me and it's cold and beautiful and it's washing away all me hurt.

For the most part, the story is told in third person, with extracts from Noah’s diary. However towards the end, as tensions rise and Marnie’s obsession increases, it switches to first person narrative in Marnie’s voice. I’m so glad it wasn’t all told by her as she has this annoying trait of replacing my with me. I know this is to highlight her class and the period but I find it hard to read in large doses. Like I want to get my red pen out and correct it!

I really recommend The Madness for anyone looking to add a bit of darkness to their YA reading.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Book Angel Booktopia | ireadnovels



Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bloodsucking Fiends

Jody is walking home from work when she’s attacked. Next thing she knows, she’s waking up underneath a dumpster with a burnt hand. The knock to her head has done strange things to her vision and smell and she’s starting to act like a different person. When she finally gets back to her apartment, her boyfriend has had enough. She’s on her own and soon she’s going to realise what she’s become…

I have been meaning to read some Christopher Moore for years, and have several books dotted around the flat, from various series. I think they’re all set in the same universe but there are some more standalone and not all characters are in all books. Bloodsucking Fiends is the first in his vampire trilogy.

It was off to a good start. Jody has the sort of reaction to becoming a vampire that I can imagine myself having. She’s not up and running with the whole bloodsucking business straight away but she is rather practical about it. I liked Jody’s character despite the odd hiccup like not being able to cope without a man. For once in her life (or un-life) she has a valid reason for keeping a man around. She needs a day person.

Tommy, I liked much less, and he was probably at the root of my problems with the book. It’s funny how humour actually ages. Maybe some of it is timeless, but a lot of this 90’s humour is still based on women being a different species to men. Tommy has some excuse, being a naïve 19-year-old who has never really been around women much. But he’s clingy and needy and overreacts far too much. Plus he’s an aspiring writer, who favours the Great American Novel, which isn’t a character occupation I’m over fond of.

Scott and Zelda the snapping turtles were fantastic though. They should have had their own spin-off series. Fate is so unfair! Tommy also spends some time testing out the vampire theories from various books, to Jody's disapproval, often when she's dead to the world. (On this note I thought there was one scene that was going to be creepy rapey and I was prepared to put the book down but Tommy thankfully comes to his senses.) There were some great bits about life in San Francisco and on the drudgery of work too.

There were some parts of the storyline I felt had great potential but I wanted them treated with a bit more sensitivity. It’s more than just a humorous vampire story but the failures in the humour got in the way a bit. I am always quite fond of reading about 90s opinions on computers though (really minimal here but it still made me chuckle).

I doubt I’ll read any more of his vampire books but I do still want to read Lamb and I have the Christmas one in the Pine Cove series. If you’ve read his books, I’d love to know your thoughts. I do realise humour can be one of those things that's very subjective!

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Shelve next to: Robert Rankin



Book Source: Purchased