Saturday, 1 November 2014

Review: Witchworld by Emma Fischel


Publisher: Nosy Crow
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: September 4th, 2014
Rating: 7/10


Amazon summary:

The witches of Witchworld have no need for old-fashioned wands or broomsticks, not when they have shiny Spellsticks and super-whizzy Skyriders instead. And no one has a cauldron anymore, just a cupboard full of Potions2Go. Flo Skritchett lives with her mother, the editor-in-chief of celebrity andLifestyle magazine, Hocus Pocus, and her witchteen sister. All is well, until her grandmother flies in to town and warns them that Witchworld is in danger from a Ghoul Attack! No one believes her - after all, Ghouls died out years ago and she still rides around on a broomstick, for goodness' sake! 

Review: 

I bought Witchworld as soon as it arrived at work - the bright green cover, purple page edges and Chris Riddell illustration caught my eye immediately. Plus, it's about witches, which is always a very good thing indeed! I read it all in one sitting and really enjoyed my little foray into Witchworld, especially because it sounds like so much fun. What a shame I'm not a witch!

Witchworld is all about Flo, a young witch with an eccentric grandma, a somewhat skeptic mother and a sister more bothered about boys than anything actually important. When grandma arrives on an old fashioned broomstick one day, convinced that the world needs saving from an imminent ghoul attack, Flo is thrown into a world of witches and magic that she's never seen before. It's up to Grandma and Flo to save Witchworld from ghouls, but first they need everyone to believe them!

Witchworld is an exciting story centred around a fully-fledged witch world created by Emma Fischel. She's made a whole community, with its own rules and history, and made it seem very believable. It's a place where ghouls are the stuff of legend, forest pixies are as famous and adored as One Direction and people travel around the sky in skyriders. It's all so cool, and I would love to live in Witchworld. I'd even settle for visiting, just so I could meet a cute little forest pixie!

Flo and her family are lovely characters to get to know, particularly her typical teen sister Hetty and wise old grandma who no-one takes seriously. Her mum takes slightly longer to get to like, mostly because she point blank refuses to take notice of what grandma's saying and instead threatens to remove her from the house. Mind you, I suppose if you thought ghouls were extinct, you might question old grandma's sanity too!

Witchworld is a good, enjoyable start to what could prove to be a hugely successful children's series. It's well written and executed, with an imaginary world that is well thought out and realistic. I'll certainly be reading the next book in the series, Witchmyth, which will hopefully prove just as good as Witchworld. I'm looking forward to catching up with the Skritchett family and seeing what they get up to next!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Blog Tour: Review - They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire


Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 14th, 2014
Rating: 6/10


Amazon summary:

Every year, the lives of ten girls at Vienna High are transformed. All because of the list. Kenzie Summerall can’t imagine how she’s been voted onto a list of the hottest girls in school, but when she lands at number five, her average life becomes dazzling. Doors open to the best parties, new friends surround her, the cutest jock in school is after her. This is the power of the list. If you’re on it, your life changes. If you’re on it this year? Your life ends.

Review:

They All Fall Down is billed as Pretty Little Liars meets Final Destination and, while it does have echoes of both, it turned out to be very different than I thought it would be. I expected it to be as fast and as murderous as the first Final Destination film, but instead it's more of a centuries-old mystery being unravelled in the wake of a slew of unexplained murders. So not a bad thing by any means, just a surprise!

Every year at Vienna High, a list is published featuring the ten hottest girls. Over the years quite a few of the list girls have died accidental deaths, which is what happens this time when Kenzie Summerall finds herself on the list at number five. She has no idea how or why it happens, but she's on it and suddenly she's fielding unwanted attention and a sense of unease. Then the other girls on the list start showing up dead, and she knows something is very, very wrong.

On occasion this book got a bit slow, but I've forgiven it because the ending is pretty great. Everything comes together and it's not at all what I was imagining. In fact, the whole book took an unusual turn in what I thought would be a straightforward teen horror story, so kudos to Roxanne St. Claire for surprising me. I just wish I'd liked the characters a bit more, but sadly I never really got friendly with Kenzie. I found her too detached and hard to reach, though she did get better as the book went on.

I love the idea of They All Fall Down and did enjoy it, but I was disappointed it wasn't quite what I thought it would be. It's still a good read that I'd recommend to anyone wanting something a bit different, especially on a day like today where horror and gore are the order of the day. I'm certainly interested to read more by this author so I'll get on that as soon as possible. I'm intrigued!

The Fall Blog Tour: Bethany Griffin Talks The Fall of the House of Usher + Giveaway!

Madeline and her twin brother Roderick have the Usher name, the Usher house - and the Usher disease. Something is wrong with the family's blood - and it seems to have spread to the house itself. Sometimes Madeline even thinks that the house is alive... When Roderick is sent away to school, the house seems to want revenge on the one member of the Usher family left behind: Madeline herself.

The Fall is without doubt one of my favourite books of 2014; it completely surprised me and has now made me want to read everything Bethany Griffin has ever written, starting with Masque of the Red Death.

The Fall is a reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, which is the topic I asked Bethany to write about for this blog tour. I hope you enjoy reading about her influences for this book, and thanks to Bethany for writing the post!


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The Original Fall of the House of Usher
by Bethany Griffin
I am a huge fan of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. I first read the story in class in 7th grade and was completely floored by the atmosphere and general spookiness. The story was my first experience with Poe’s horror of premature burial, and though there were no details from Madeline’s point of view, no details about being buried alive, I found that I could imagine the horror of it. Maybe that’s where the first bits of inspiration for my story were born, who knows? I didn’t consciously conceive of the idea until years later.
The story formed in my head much as it is on the page, madly. I see the Fall as Madeline’s life flashing before her eyes, and as readers we must piece together what happened to her. It came together for me like that too. Eventually I put everything together, there is both a chronological version and a very detailed calendar that I used to make sure each event happened in the correct season, etc.
I wanted the reader to experience a few hours of what life must be like for Madeline, as well as to enter what the world of Poe was for me—which is a world of the macabre, a world of decaying finery and tattered curtains, and despair.
Over the years of my own education, followed by a major in English Literature, and then teaching high school literature, I became very familiar with Poe’s work and his appeal. Within the Fall a careful reader will find references to may of Poe’s stories, including The Black Cat, The Tale-Tell Heart, and The Pit and the Pendulum.



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 Giveaway!

Thanks to Fierce Fiction I have one (1) copy of The Fall to give away to a lucky reader. You are in for a treat with this one!

Please do read the below rules before filling in the form. Good luck!

Rules and info:
  • Open to UK / Ireland only.
  • The book will be sent by the publisher, not by me.
  • One entry per person.
  • Closing date: November 10th, 2014.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Guest Post: Seth Patrick's Five Things About The Returned!


WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED?
Camille: A young girl wakes cold and alone on the side of a mountain, with no memory of how she got there - and no idea that she died four years' ago. When she arrives back home, her family are both thrilled and terrified. How can such a miracle be real?
Simon: A troubled young man comes back to find his fiancée is betrothed to another man. Jealous and angry, he cannot forgive that she has moved on with her life.
Victor: An enigmatic boy refusing to speak, possessed with a strange intensity that gives no clues as to his intentions. He's lost. Equally as lost as the emotionally vulnerable Julie to whom Victor gives a reason for living.
Serge: Tormented and driven by a hunger so overpowering that not even death could keep him from his desires . . .
The Returned hit the UK in July 2013 on Channel 4. It attracted nearly eight million viewers over the eight episodes and quickly became a cult phenomenon with high-profile fans such as Stephen King. It's been shown world-wide, and won an International Emmy for Best Drama. With fantastic audience support, and amazing reviews in the press, Pan Macmillan is thrilled to be publishing novelizations of the first two series written by the author of The Reviver, Seth Patrick.

The Returned is now published in the UK and is a great read - I haven't seen the show and I loved it! Seth Patrick's writing style really draws you in and the whole atmosphere and story is seriously creepy - perfect reading for Halloween!

Here's a guest post from author Seth Patrick, which lists five things about writing this tie-in novel. I hope you enjoy reading it!


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The Returned: Five things
by Seth Patrick 


1: It’s based on the award-winning French TV series. 

Included in the material I had access to were the original French scripts. I can’t speak French, so Google Translate was invaluable. Also, hilarious: as well as randomly translating the name ‘Pierre’ as ‘stone’, it could often raise a wry smile:

“Answer the questions synthetically!”
 “Over time, they have magic chopsticks.”
“This is due to the cleavage.”
“Alcide comes send us a picture Cannibal robot.”

It all reminded me of my French homework at school.


2: It has hints about the next season. 

Everything is explained through a cunning series of acrostics and anagrams! Simply by rearranging the letters of the chapters, a full explanation can be found!

OK, that’s not true, but they had to tell me some stuff. They had to. My first draft stomped all over some crucial aspects of the second series, so they were forced to reveal the broad plot. On pain of death, should I spill it.

I asked them if I could put in some hints. I thought that’d be fun. They said: No hints!

So I put in some hints. Some red herrings, too, of course. You have to, really, don’t you?


3: Writing it was great fun. 

My first novel, Reviver, took seven years to write. Were my publishers crazy to offer me The Returned, if it might be the year 2020 before it saw publication?

Of course they were crazy!

Luckily it didn’t take seven years. It turns out that being limited in what you can change makes for a hugely enjoyable writing experience. You get to tweak things, and hopefully make them work better; you get to iron out some of the inevitable plot wrinkles. But you don’t have to continually question every single aspect of the entire novel to the point of insanity.

Hence: fun!


4: Story archaeology.

As I said, I had the original French scripts of the show as a resource, so I got to see how things had changed in the final phases of production. This can be a mixed blessing, of course. George RR Martin once wrote: “Writing is like sausage making in my view; you'll all be happier in the end if you just eat the final product without knowing what's gone into it.”

For a writer, though, it’s educational to see how a story has evolved – what minor (and major) changes were made as a work developed, all the while hopefully strengthening the end result, tightening it, making it stronger.

It’s exactly the same process that a writer takes on with successive drafts of their own book, where a clunky and dull mid-section is turned into a breathlessly gripping, plot-driving powerhouse, say… And no reader would ever even think that the original version had existed, because it all fits together so naturally.

(There’s a general rule about writing that seems effortless: it wasn’t.)

Of course, there are differences between the series and the novel, and so people who have experienced both will be able to judge whether those changes work. I’m interested to find out how that goes…


5: If the series is anything to go by, the French smoke a lot. 

Seriously. Even being dead doesn't stop them.


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Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin


Publisher: Indigo
Format: Trade paperback / eBook
Released: October 2nd, 2014
Rating: 9.5/10


Amazon summary:

Madeline and her twin brother Roderick have the Usher name, the Usher house - and the Usher disease. Something is wrong with the family's blood - and it seems to have spread to the house itself. Sometimes Madeline even thinks that the house is alive... When Roderick is sent away to school, the house seems to want revenge on the one member of the Usher family left behind: Madeline herself. 

Review: 

The Fall was a complete surprise to me; I hadn't heard anything about it before it arrived in my post box for review. The eerie cover immediately caught my eye, and from that point on I knew it was my kind of book. I read it all in almost one sitting and wasn't even slightly disappointed, and it's all thanks to Bethany Griffin's brilliant writing and the overall tone of Madeline's story.

Upon doing a quick bit of research, I found that The Fall is a reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. I've since bought a book of his complete works in the hope of reading the original Usher story and seeing just where The Fall draws its inspiration from. Suffice it to say I was a complete Poe novice before reading this book, but I'm glad that's now changed because it seems I've been missing a gothic treat!

The Fall serves as a prequel to The Fall of the House of Usher, I think, and takes place when Madeline and her twin brother Roderick are growing up, culminating in their late teens. Something is wrong with the blood in the Usher family, and it seems Madeline has the illness too - she has fainting spells, she sees things and she firmly believes that the huge, imposing Usher house is alive. Roderick is less inclined to think this way, though he too notices strange goings on that can't simply be swept under the carpet.

Madeline and Roderick have an unusual relationship, very intricate and close, with an invisible line that could quite easily be crossed. I found them both weird and fascinating in equal measures, especially Madeline. She comes across as a girl slowly going mad, doomed to repeat the family curse, and blaming it all on bricks and mortar. I don't know what the original story points to, but this one didn't leave me with a feeling of madness. I actually believed what Madeline believed, and whether it's true or not I don't know. Something is wrong with the Usher house, though, and I'm sure it's as evil as Madeline suspects.

This book is so unsettling and creepy. One one or two occasions, while reading it late at night, I was reduced to listening for any floorboards creaking or shadows moving. Bethany Griffin uses foreshadowing as a successful narrative tool, as well as flitting from one time to another. The past makes the present easier to understand, as Madeline's life unravels and certain incidents become clearer. There's always an underlying sense of unease, which I absolutely loved, and the dark undertones make The Fall a perfect read for this time of year.

The Fall is a slow burner, ambling along with a portent of doom following in its footsteps. It gets under your skin in the best kind of way, and is a truly gothic tale that isn't easily forgotten. It's one of the biggest surprises of the year for me; I hope it gets the recognition it deserves, and that any Edgar Allan Poe enthusiasts appreciate what Bethany Griffin has done for the Usher story. Consider me impressed!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass by Michael Rosen


Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Paperback
Released: October 2nd, 2014
Rating: 6.5/10


Amazon summary:

Till Owlyglass (Till Eulenspiegel) is a boy who was special from the day he was baptised three times. But not in a good way. Not in a way his parents liked. He was always in trouble for his rudeness and practical jokes, and grew up to be the most outrageous trickster in Germany. Everyone told stories about him... and they still do five centuries later. 

Review: 

The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass is a very unusual book that was first published in 1990. It contains stories all about Till Owlyglass, a German trickster, known there by the name Till Eulenspiegel. Apparently the stories about him have been doing the rounds for over five-hundred years, and he's become something of a legend. Personally I think he's a bit weird and creepy looking, but entertaining all the same!

This book is split into fourteen days, or stories, which sees old man Horst telling two little boys the tales of Till Owlyglass. It's illustrated by Fritz Wegner, and makes for a quick book that doesn't have to be read all at once. I read it over a couple of days so I could savour these twisted stories, which I think made me like it more.

Till Owlyglass is mischievous right from the day he's born, soon being kicked out by his mother and travelling the world alone. He meets a varied range of people throughout his life, most of whom he tricks and, in all honesty, steals from. I like his pranks and tricks for their cleverness, but I do think Till is quite mean at times, particularly when it comes to breaking shop windows. He doesn't seem to think of the consequences caused by his actions, and in some ways he comes across as more evil than trickster.

Prior to reading this book I'd never heard of Till Owlyglass, but I certainly have now. These fourteen stories made me laugh and shake my head in disbelief, which I think is the point of Till: he's ambiguous for all of his life; people don't know whether to trust him and they don't know what to make of him. Personally I can't say I'm a fan of everything he does, but I appreciate his ingenuity.

The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass is a strange read, but one that I think children will like due to its naughty nature. Michael Rosen has written Till's stories well, most probably slightly modernising them and ensuring these old tales live on through new generations. I don't think we'll ever truly know if Till Owlyglass really did exist all those years ago, but if he did, it's safe to say he'll never be forgotten!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Deadly Pole to Pole Diaries by Steve Backshall


Publisher: Orion Children's
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: October 23rd, 2014
Rating: 10/10


Amazon summary:

This is Steve Backshall's incredible first-hand account of his 14-month voyage from the Arctic to the Antarctic via Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico and Brazil and many more amazing locations besides. Go with him every step of the way as he describes his encounters with white whales, ice bears, sharks, eagles, wolves, sea lions, eagles, crocodiles, snakes and spiders. It's the Deadly adventure of a lifetime. 

Review: 

This book unexpectedly arrived for review a couple of weeks ago, and at first I wasn't really interested in reading it. I didn't know anything about Steve Backshall and hadn't seen any of his shows, so I didn't think it was a book for me. Then I started flicking through it, noticed the amazing photos of wildlife and their locations and I started reading it straight away. I love anything about the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as whales and sharks, and this book features all of them!

Steve Backshall travelled from the Arctic to the Antarctic over a fourteen month period. In Deadly Pole to Pole he recounts his journey and the animals he saw, as well as close shaves with his life and numerous reports of the actual travelling and how gruelling it was at times. He writes everything honestly and always includes the negative with the positive, which I thought was a really great way to approach this book. Too often non-fiction can be full of hyperbole and only the good stuff, but that's not the case with Steve Backshall. I believed every word he wrote!

Steve and his incredibly brave team travelled to many different places, including South America, the Tropics and the Temperate North. Each location has its own section and is supported by lots of text and seriously brilliant photography - I was mesmerised and absolutely captivated by all the images of whales, sharks, bald eagles, wolves, bats, penguins and alligator snapping turtles. And those are just a few of the animals featured here! Some I hadn't heard of before, like the alligator gar fish, while others like the great white shark I was all too familiar with. I have no idea how Steve did what he did - I would have been petrified!

Steve writes with a very easy style that I think children will love. It's not over complicated and he explains everything going on without being condescending, which I think is important in non-fiction books. People read them to learn, so to have something explained in a quick and easy manner is appreciated, especially when you're not an expert on the subject! I learned a lot from reading this book, and I can honestly say I read every single word. I can see myself revisiting it in the future, and I'm so glad I gave it a chance!

Deadly Pole to Pole is a fantastic book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It would be great in schools and as a homework helper, though it's also just really fun to read for enjoyment. I've since watched a few of the episodes of the show that this book is based on, and they're as thrilling as I expected them to be. I'm definitely a new fan of Steve Backshall's, and reading this has spurned me on to read some of his children's fiction. I can't explain how much I enjoyed Deadly Pole to Pole - I'm still fascinated by all the animals featured in it, captured on camera forever, and I hope Steve writes more books like this in the future!