Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor Blog Tour: My Ideal Robot Assistant!


Frank Einstein loves to tinker, build and take things apart. He loves to observe, hypothesise, experiment and invent. Frank Einstein is a kid genius who loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment with a garage-lab artificially intelligent RoboBug, a lightning storm and a flash of electricity, Frank's inventions--the robots Klink and Klank--suddenly come to life. Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wise-cracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank are a help nonetheless as Frank attempts to perfect his Dark Energy Drive ...that is until Frank's arch nemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! With the help of his friends, Frank sets out to rescue the robots and stop T. Edison from carrying out his twisted plans!

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is now published in the UK by Amulet Books and sounds like a really fun read for anyone interested in science and inventions.

I'm excited to be part of this blog tour because I've had the opportunity to think about what I'd want my own robot assistant to be like, and I've even attempted to draw a picture. Here's what I came up with...


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My Ideal Robot Assistant

I think it would be pretty amazing to have my own robot assistant, mostly for purely selfish reasons that would make my life easier! It would also be cool to have a friend too, kind of like droids R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars.

Here are my top reasons for wanting a robot assistant:
  • He would obviously have an excellent memory/general knowledge and would be an asset to our pub quiz team.
  • He could set up any and all electrical equipment - I'm useless!
  • He would make my sandwiches for dinner the next day. It's a job I loathe.
  • He could go food shopping for me. Another job I also detest.
  • He could clean the house. Need I explain that one?
  • It would be like having my own personal SatNav in my car. I'm terrible when it comes to knowing where places are, so this would be very useful indeed.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, he could help me sort my books out and keep them in nice orderly piles. He has four arms, after all - just what I need!

And here's what my ideal robot would look like:


What would your perfect robot look like? Let me know!

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: Darcy Burdock - Sorry About Me by Laura Dockrill


Publisher: Corgi
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: July 31st, 2014
Rating: 9/10


Amazon summary:

Ten-year-old Darcy sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her. This third book sees Darcy encounter extra-large-amounts of drama - mice have invaded her house, which means the family must get a cat. Cue a mega-meltdown in a pet shop and then the arrival of Pork, an angry dumpling of a cat who terrifies Lamb-Beth. And while chaos rules at home, Will's long-lost dad has turned-up and taken him out of school. Who will Darcy be friends with now? Must she hang-out with school secretary Mavis EVERY DAY FOR ALL ETERNITY? 

Review: 

The Darcy Burdock series is one of my absolute favourites for younger readers. It's clever, funny and so very charming. I laughed my way through Sorry About Me, revelling in Darcy's kookiness and her ability to see the world the way she does. Surely she's now a literary icon for the 9+ age range?!

In Sorry About Me, Darcy writes more (excellent) stories, deals with the possibility of her best friend leaving, befriends Mavis the school secretary and begrudgingly comes to like the family's new pet cat, Pork. Like Darcy herself says, she can never just have a normal weekend at home!

For me, the best parts of Sorry About Me are Pork the giant grumpy cat and Darcy's family drawn as ducklings. I heartily laughed at both. Laura Dockrill does a great job all round - with the story as well as accompanying illustrations - and these books deserve all the attention they're getting.

Darcy is a character to love, as is her whole crazy family. The Burdock's are just so enjoyable to read about, whether they're catching mice or having a shouty rant at a horrid pet shop owner. Whatever they do, they always do it with style, and that's what makes them memorable. Sorry About Me is another genius addition to the Darcy Burdock series and I can't wait for more. I say that at the end of every book, but it's true: they're *that* good!

Eren Blog Tour: Simon P. Clark's Favourite Mysterious Beings!

People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him why his dad isn't with them. Where is he? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, but then he finds a secret of his own: he discovers the creature that lives in the attic. Eren. Eren is not human. Eren is hungry for stories. Eren has been waiting for him. Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what's happening downstairs with his family. But what if it's a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth - or abandon himself to Eren's world, forever.

Eren is officially published in the UK on September 18th by Corsair, and it looks set to be an unusual story (with a great cover!). Thanks to Simon for writing this post for me and I hope you enjoy reading it!


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My Favourite Mysterious Beings (In no particular order)
by Simon P. Clark
Who doesn’t love a good monster? Or a good hero, for that matter. Books are filled with tales of beasts, men, women, and ... well, things that don’t fit into those categories. Creating Eren was incredibly fun for me, but it didn’t happen until I’d spent years reading legends, myths, and plenty of great books. Trying to narrow down a few favourite characters has proven tricky, and I’m sure I’ve missed out plenty that deserve to be here. Forgive me, readers – and forgive me, future Simon, should you be reading this and shouting angrily at the computer.
The Sleer from The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
In a book set in a graveyard full of ghosts, ghouls, a (maybe) vampire and other beings, The Sleer remains the scariest and least understood creature in Gaiman’s brilliant reworking of The Jungle Book. What is The Sleer? (Should I say what are The Sleer?) The Sleer sleeps in an old tomb, forever waiting the return of a master who has clearly long forgotten whatever spell created the poor thing in the first place. We never get a clear picture of what The Sleer is, what it does, or what it wants – but that doesn’t stop it being scary, powerful, and amazingly written.
Dracula from Dracula by Bram Stoker
Sometimes you can’t beat a classic. Dracula’s one of those books, along with Frankenstein, that’s been told and retold so many times it’s become part of our cultural fabric. Everyone knows Dracula – many without having ever read the book. That’s what makes the original so powerful: Dracula of the novel is far more cunning, ruthless and threatening than any film makes him out to be. Few authors can say they’ve created something iconic, but Stoker’s Dracula is, without a doubt, just that.
Skellig from Skellig by David Almond
Skellig, perhaps more than any other book, inspired me to become a writer, and Almond’s mysterious hero (if he is a hero, really) remains a bit of an enigma. What is he? Angel? Man? Owl? The book doesn’t tell you, but you don’t need to know: it’s his ability to dream, hope and inspire the kids when it’s most needed that makes him such an enduring figure.
The BFG from The BFG by Roald Dahl
Mysterious figures don’t have to be mean about it. The Big Friendly Giant (who, thanks to Quentin Blake’s illustrations, I will always being able to picture in an instant) is one of my favourite Dahl stories. Dahl’s love of language – Snozzcumber! Frobscottle! Whizzpopping! – shines through in this story, and the BFG’s solo mission to protect children and give them good dreams makes him a hero with few equals (he is, after all, 24 feet tall).
The Monster from A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
A Monster Calls is the kind of book that would have inspired Eren, if it hadn’t been published after Eren was finished. It’s a sad, funny, poignant, scary tale, and at its heart is the monster who visits Conor, telling him stories and warning of things to come. The monster’s real strength is that he’s something far bigger and older than Conor can understand, and thanks to Ness’ writing, that life crackles of the pages. He’s a wise monster, but one with compassion and kindness in the end.
Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Calcifer – a cantankerous fire demon bound by a mysterious contract to work for the magician Howl – has to be one of the most original and loveable magical beings to appear in children’s literature. He’s a bit mean, a bit cowardly, and a bit clever. He’s also very powerful – but just how powerful is he? Where did he come from? You’ll have to read the book to find out – but trust me, that’s a good thing. Howl’s Moving Castle is fantasy at its best.



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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Blog Tour: Review - Age of Iron by Angus Watson


Publisher: Orbit
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: September 2nd, 2014
Rating: 8.5/10


Amazon summary:

LEGENDS AREN'T BORN. THEY'RE FORGED. Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution. Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed... It's a glorious day to die. 

Review: 

Age of Iron is pitched as a book for fans of Game of Thrones, which I do have to agree with. It's very different to the world George R. R. Martin has created, but it's similar in its scenes of bloody, gory action and multiple character arcs. I read it over a couple of weeks because, while being very readable, it does boast a 500+ page count. That being said, the chapters are short and fast, making it a very easy, gripping read.

The first chapter propels the reader straight into a time long since past, and one we as a people still know hardly anything about: the Iron Age. Set in 61 BC, Age of Iron tells a story just before the time of the Romans and their subsequent four-hundred year reign. The author's historical note at the end of the book proclaims the historical content to be as accurate as possible, which I'd guess to be true, considering how little is known about this period in history. I was fascinated to learn more about an age and a people I confess to being very ignorant of, and I only hope I'll learn more as the series progresses. It's hard to compute just how long ago this book is set, but Angus Watson somehow makes it easier to imagine. That alone is reason enough to pick up this book.

Dug, Spring and Lowa are the main three characters in Age of Iron, but really there's a huge amount of people and places featured. These three take centre stage from the beginning, their paths crossing almost straight away and bonds forming that will have the potential to last a lifetime. Dug is the oldest and most experienced in battle, with a wry sense of humour and a devil may care attitude. Lowa is in her mid-twenties, skilled with a bow and one of the strongest women of her time, destined to be hunted until she no longer breathes. Spring rounds off this unlikely trio as a young girl with a strong mind and a bad attitude, who takes a shine to Dug. She's all-round brilliant and reminiscent of young Arya Stark - badass!

I don't want to give too much away about Age of Iron's plot, but rest assured it includes lots of murder, bloodshed, revenge and battles. The main gist is that King Zadar and his massive army are intent on protecting their kingdom from the coming Roman invasion and, with a powerful Druid on his side, that looks set to happen. Dug, Lowa and Spring have other ideas though, ideas that could bring Zadar's army crashing to the ground. As the back cover says, it's a glorious day to die...

Fantasy magic features in Age of Iron, though not heavily. It's subtle and sparse, but when it's there it's fantastic and all too powerful. I hope there's more of the fantasy side in the next book, though it honestly wouldn't bother me if there wasn't - there's enough going on without needing magic to maintain reader interest, though the fantasy element would be somewhat lost without it. I'm intrigued as to how it could be used against a Roman invasion and how that would deter an army that size... bring on the next book!

Age of Iron is surprisingly good and a book I very much enjoyed all the way through. It's blood-soaked, gruesome, entertaining and not recommended for the faint of heart. Littered with memorable characters and exciting action, it's a fantasy epic that I'm all too happy to recommend to those aforementioned fans of Game of Thrones. I for one can't wait to get my mitts on Clash of Iron - roll on 2015 and the Roman invasion of Britain!

Please note: This book includes adult content and isn't suitable for younger readers!


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In My Mailbox #224: New Books This Week



In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and any links take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!

Thanks so much to all publishers/authors who sent me lovely books to review. Some ace unexpected surprises arrived this week!


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For review:
 

  •  Betty Goes Bananas by Steve Antony
  • The Snail's Tales by Shirley Hunter
  • How Strong Is an Ant? by Mary Kay Carson
  • Why Did T.Rex Have Short Arms? by Melissa Stewart
  • Why is the Sea Salty? by Benjamin Richmond

  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (UK signed proof/ARC)
  • Lucky by Chris Hill
  • Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell
  • The Boleyn Bride by Emily Purdy

  • Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson
  • Skink No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
  • Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young (bound manuscript)
  • The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper
  • Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

  • The Roar by Emma Clayton
  • Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
  • Winter's Bullet by William Osborne
  • The Winter Wolf by Holly Webb
  • Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong

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Bought:

  •  Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (US hardcover, yay!)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (Love this cover!)


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Gift:

  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo - lovely Nina at Orion sent me this little surprise and made my day!




Happy reading!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

US vs. UK: Maybe Someday Covers


I haven't read Maybe Someday yet so I don't know how these two covers represent the story, but I do think they're equally as good as each other. The US maybe just inches forward in a comparison, but that's only because I like the effect of the cut out title with the image behind it. I also like the author name placement more but prefer the main UK image. Hmm!

The UK cover strikes me as more summery and lighthearted than the US one, though whether the book is like that I don't know. There's something about covers like these - I love them, even though I hate summer and am rarely seen outside during those months. The UK title font is  a great choice for this cover and the image of the girl and boy promises a romance of some sort. I'm now a bit torn over which I prefer... I think I'll stick with the US cover, but only just!

What would your choice be? US or UK?

Review: Squishy McFluff - Supermarket Sweep! by Pip Jones


Publisher: Faber and Faber
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: August 5th, 2014
Rating: 9/10


Amazon summary:

Can you see him? My kitten? He has eyes big and round His miaow is so sweet (but it makes not a sound!) Imagine him quick! Have you imagined enough? Oh, good, you can see him! It's Squishy McFluff! When Mum drags Ava to the supermarket, her invisible cat Squishy McFluff can't resist coming along, with hilarious, chaotic and surprising results! 

Review: 

I love this series about Ava and her mischievous invisible cat, Squishy McFluff. It's lovely to read, rhyming throughout, and comes complete with some gorgeous illustrations that effortlessly make Squishy and Ava come to life.

In Supermarket Sweep!, Ava goes shopping with her mum, and of course little Squishy isn't far behind. Chaos soon ensues, and Ava ends up covered in all kinds of stuff, including foam and toilet roll. It's a fun shopping trip like no other, though Ava's mum is less than impressed!

Besides being super cute, Squishy McFluff is a great little cat that has a really special bond with Ava. They're like partners in crime, always together and causing trouble wherever they go. Pip Jones has created two highly memorable characters here, which I'm very fond of, and I look forward to more invisible antics from Squishy the Wonder Cat.