Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Publisher: Hodder
Format: Hardcover
Released: September 29th, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Review:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of those books that was published with a huge amount of hype surrounding it. Sometimes that can be a bad thing when the book unfortunately doesn't live up to high expectations, but in this case it was all deserved. Daughter of Smoke and Bone hooked me right from the start and I was soon invested in Karou's life. She's a brilliant, layered character with a lot to say, and I loved her.

Karou's life has been spent living with demon Brimstone - a wishmonger - and the chimaera that accompany him. Issa, Twiga, Yasri and Kishmish are all loyal to Karou and everything she does, as well as Brimstone and his darker endeavours. Laini Taylor makes even the chimaera endearing and attractive - I have no idea how she managed it but she did. Their traits and personalities make them so realistic they almost walk off the page. And don't get me started on Akiva, who Karou meets later in the book. He is one hot man!

As you can see, I don't want to talk much about Daughter of Smoke and Bone's plot. Everything unfolds bit by bit, and going into it would ruin the suspense and shocks that await you. I actually did guess one twist this time, which is really unusual for me. I was quite proud of myself!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is Laini Taylor's biggest publication to date and it marks her first book to be released in the UK. I hope her back catalogue will see the light of day over here one day because I have a feeling she's going to be a bit of a superstar by the time the sequel arrives next year. Her lovely, descriptive writing makes this book stand out in a crowded market and her characterisation is pretty much faultless. In fact, my own criticism of the book would be that there were one or two slow sections. That's it. Not really worth mentioning, is it?

As you can tell, I absolutely loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I knew I would as soon as I heard about it over a year ago, and the following wait was rather agonising. However, it was well worth it and I can't wait for the sequel in 2012. It's a special book for fantasy readers - if you're a fan of the genre you really should give it a read. It's got a permanent place on my shelf and I hope it will have one on yours!

Monday, 28 November 2011

US Vs. UK: Glow Covers

US // UK

I'll admit I'm not a big fan of the UK cover for Glow. I think the US cover is much more subtle and eye-catching, and I like that the model isn't the central focus. Both covers scream sci-fi, which is good, though I think the UK one gets that point across a bit better. Both fonts are really nice and quite similar, but the US placement wins for me. The US cover also reminds me by Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie, which is never a bad thing!

I don't know if it's just me, but recently I seem to be going off covers with people on them. They're just not doing it for me these days, and I'm guessing it's because I've seen so many. Still, there are one or two coming out that I can't wait to see in person... watch this space!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

In My Mailbox #148 & #149: New Books This Week


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

Here's what was in my mailbox over the last fortnight. Lots of S&S books - yay!!


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For review:

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Bought:





Happy reading!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Crossed Blog Tour: A Day in the Life of Ally Condie!




Ally Condie is the author of the international bestseller Matched, and its newly-released sequel, Crossed. Matched was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten, named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010, selected as the #1 Pick on the Winter Kid’s Indie Next List, and received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. In a starred review for the sequel, Crossed, Kirkus called the Matched series an “addictive, layered dystopic trilogy.”

A former English teacher (who still keeps her license current, just in case!), she lives with her husband and three sons outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar.


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A Day in the Life of an Author (at Home)
by Ally Condie


This is a typical Thursday…one of my better writing days. On T/Th I have two hours when all three kids (ages 8,6, and 3) are in school. M/W/F are a little bit tougher because I have to do all my writing at night. Luckily, I’ve been writing daily for as long as I’ve had kids—eight years now!— so I am used to working around their schedules.

6:45 a.m.- Wake up, get in a quick 3-mile run in before the kids are up.

7:15-9:00 a.m.-Breakfast for the kids, dress the kids, check kids’ homework, go over the day’s schedule, eat, throw a load of laundry into the wash, pack lunches, get self dressed, eat breakfast, etc.

9:00 a.m.-Older two boys to school.

9:00-10:00 a.m.—Move laundry, play with three-year-old, answer an e-mail or two if anything has come in for work that is urgent.

10:00 a.m.- Walk three-year-old around the corner to the neighborhood preschool.

10:05 a.m. – Run down to the basement, move laundry to dryer, go into next room “office” to write. I have an hour and forty-five minutes, and it’s morning—not late, when I’m tired, so these are precious, precious minutes.

11:50 a.m.- Pick up preschooler.

12:00 p.m.- Pick up kindergartener.

12:00 p.m. -1:00 p.m.- Make the two boys lunch, eat with them, clean up lunch, take three-year-old upstairs for a nap.

1:00-1:30 p.m.-Kindergartener decompresses with an episode of Go, Diego, Go while I answer a few more e-mails and move more laundry.

1:30 p.m.-Babysitter arrives to stay with sleeping toddler while my son and I go to speech therapy.

3:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.- Get home from speech therapy, pick up third grader, wake toddler up from nap. Help kids with homework, piano practicing. Go outside with them to play and blow off steam.

5:30 p.m.-Husband (Scott) home. Yay!

5:30-7:00 p.m.-Make dinner, eat dinner, dinner clean-up, etc.

7:00-11:00 p.m.- Scott takes over while I write in the basement. (I often go upstairs to read to the boys when they are in their beds. Scott handles baths, brushing teeth, pajamas, and sitting in the hallway to return various boys to their rooms until they all finally fall asleep. Yes, he is a saint.)

I will admit that this time of day is really hard for me to write, but since my kids still wake up ALL NIGHT LONG, I have a hard time getting up before 6:45 a.m. So I sit down and try to work through the fatigue in the evenings. Sometimes, I quit earlier, around 10:00, if I’m to the point where the words aren’t coming and it would be better for me to just SLEEP. ;)

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Read a Crossed chapter sampler here and see the trailer here! You can also visit the Matched website here and get the Facebook app here.


Thanks to Ally for the guest post and, if you're in the US, check back tomorrow for a very cool giveaway!

Monday, 14 November 2011

UK News: A Statistical Message from Jennifer E. Smith!

The UK cover for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, written by Jennifer E. Smith and published by Headline next year, has sadly changed, and here's a message from Jen herself with more information!


I'm so grateful to all the UK book bloggers for your wonderful early support of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. The response has been overwhelming, and it's been so much fun to hear everyone chime in -- not just about the book, but about the jacket as well. Which is why I wanted to give you all a little update. There's been a slight change of plans; as much as we all loved the UK cover, we've decided to use the US jacket over here as well. I love this cover too, and I'm thrilled to have a unified look for the novel in both the US and the UK. It's rare that the same jacket works in two different markets, so it's exciting that people have embraced it on both sides of the ocean. And those of you who have already read the book will probably agree that it fits the story really well; it's romantic and cinematic and so perfectly in sync with the feel of the book. So I'm very excited to reveal it here, and I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you again for all the wonderful posts and comments and emails from all of you. Special thanks to my early UK readers including Bliss Magazine, The Bookette, Books for Company, Cat Clarke, Cheezyfeet Books, Chick lit Reviews and News, Chloe’s Chick Lit Reviews, The Crooked Shelf, Chicklish, Dot Scribbles, Giovanna Falcone, Heaven, Hell & Purgatory, Jess Heart Books, Keris Stainton, , Liz Rettig, My Favourite Books, Miss Page Turners, The Overflowing Library, Painting With Words, Roundwood Readers, Sugarscape, Thirst For Fiction and Wondrous Reads (apologies if I have missed anyone!). I'm looking forward to the publication in January!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

In My Mailbox #147: New Books This Week


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


I didn't get many books in the post this week which gave me a bit of a chance to try and catch up. I did buy a few this week though as there were some exciting new releases. I also unexpectedly met Noel Fielding and Dave Brown yesterday (The Mighty Boosh) after queueing for four and a half hours. I LOVE Noel Fielding so I was *very* excited. They both signed Noel's new book and I got pictures with them. *swoon* I also saw Sam Stone again which was ace! Oh! And Snow Patrol's new album arrived two days early. *faints with excitement*




Here's what was in my mailbox this week:


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For review:
  • BZRK by Michael Grant (UK proof/ARC)
  • Geekhood by Andy Robb (UK proof/ARC)


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Bought:






Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin


Publisher: HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback
Released: March 31st, 2011 (new edition)
Grade rating: A/A+, I can't decide...


Amazon summary:

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men… all will play the Game of Thrones.

Winter is coming…

Review:

Like most SF & fantasy fans, I am completely enamoured (see: obsessed) with the Game of Thrones TV show. I didn't think it would be my thing at first, but it was. Obviously I bought all the books immediately and obviously they sat on my shelf for months until I had time to read all 807 pages of A Game of Thrones. I'm actually kicking myself that I waited so long to read it because I LOVED IT. So much so that I almost believe (and wish) I'm a Stark of Winterfell. Yep, my parents think I've gone mad!

I'm always a bit unsure of reading books after I've seen a TV or film adaptation, just in case I don't like it or there aren't enough differences to warrant doing both. A Game of Thrones is so worth the time it takes to read - there's so much backstory and extra information that, understandably, the show had to leave out. I understand everything a lot better now, though I'm still glad I read it after watching the first season of the show. It was a lot easier knowing who everyone was and what was going on, and I think it definitely helped me.

I won't rehash the story here as I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with this particular medical fantasy through one form or another. I will say that this story is filled with court politics and underhanded characters who will do anything to win the iron throne. There's deceit, rivalries, backstabbing and mind games aplenty, which all make for highly addictive reading. There's also elements of fantasy throughout the novel, though the most obvious (and best, in my opinion) doesn't present itself until the very last page. Talk about an infuriating but brilliant cliffhanger!

When watching the show, my favourite character is undoubtedly Daenerys. I'm rewatching it now and she's still my favourite. However, my allegiance changed when I read the book. Jon Snow is now my top character, followed by Arya and then Daenerys. Jon and Arya's were the ones I looked forward to most, though I also really enjoyed Tyrion the quick-tongued imp's. Even though this book is huge, the chapters are all fairly short and snappy and the point of view changes with each. I love books written like that so A Game of Thrones was an instant hit for me!

There's so much more I could talk about here (character casting, differences between the show and the book, the world of Westeros, George R. R. Martin's ability to shock me even though I know what's coming, his being able to continually ROCK MY SOCKS OFF), but I'll just say that I love everything about this book and the story and I'm really looking forward to reading A Clash of Kings. I'm still deciding whether to read it soon or wait for Season 2 to finish next year, but at the moment I don't think I'm patient enough to wait until summer 2012.

This is very much an adult book, but wow is it amazing. Read it if you're a fan of the show, or if you just want to be introduced to what has to be one of the greatest fantasy stories ever seen on book shelves.

Winter is coming!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Hollow Pike

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Hollow Pike by James Dawson

* Published by: Indigo (UK)
* Format: Trade paperback (UK)
* Release Date: February 2nd, 2012 (UK)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.co.uk:


Something wicked this way comes... She thought she'd be safe in the country, but you can't escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she's being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn't believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn't believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you're alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.


There are many reasons why I want to read Hollow Pike, and here are a few of them:

1. James is ace.
2. He's a UK debut author.
3. It's a thriller about witchcraft.
4. The cover is AWESOME.
5. It's published by Indigo/Orion, aka. one of my favourite publishers.
6. The main character is called Lis London. Cool or what?
7. It sounds creepy, and I love creepy!

Roll on February!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Guest Post: Ian Beck talks The Haunting of Charity Delafield!


The Haunting of Charity Delafield is now published in the UK and has such a lovely, children's classic cover look. Here's a post from Ian talking about his influences for the book. Thanks, Ian!


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Ian Beck

In a sense everything you make is part original and part the sum of many influences. In the case of The Haunting of Charity Delafield it was not perhaps the most obvious things that were brought to influence. I was not, as it might appear, intentionally referencing The Secret Garden or any of those stories where a Victorian child is imprisoned in a golden cage so to speak. The influences on Charity were at first more visual and cinematic. It was partly Edward Gorey and his hapless Victorian children that set it off. I wrote a few lines in emulation of his style, just for the fun of it, describing a young girl having her hair brushed. The choice of that particular scene was in turn I am sure influenced by the opening of Jonathan Miller’s film of Alice in Wonderland, where Alice, (Anne Marie Mallick) is having her luxurious hair brushed out by a maid. As well as the visual beauty of the scene there were the close up crackling sounds of the hair and the brush and her stiff Victorian clothes. As so often happens with little bits of ideas or individual unrelated scenes they nag at you quietly for a long time. They sit in your head and raise themselves up every now and then and demand to be developed, to be watered like a plant in a pot. Other things get added in to the mix at random and then somehow they seem to belong to that first idea too, as if they had chosen to enter that particular folder in the brain. My daughter when very young began leaving little notes for a fairy she believed was in the house. I took to leaving replies in minute handwriting for her to find. This was a nice game for a while, and I kept all the notes and typed them up and somehow they seemed also to belong to the girl having her hair brushed by the maid. So the slow process of apprehending the thing as a proper story began. I finally drew a little watercolour picture of her out in the snow, (I must have snow, I love it) in a bright red coat. After many false starts I carried on with the story gradually accumulating scenes. At one point it was going to be a picture book. Other influences came to bear on it, for instance a chance viewing at a friend’s house of the Jean Cocteau film of Beauty and The Beast, surely the greatest and most beautiful fairy tale film ever. Then that same friend later told me that a friend of hers had a cat called Mr Tompkins. This struck home straight away as the perfect name for Charity’s cat so I shamelessly stole it. So it went on until I had enough of an idea to present to my editor Annie Eaton who had always liked the image of the little girl in the red coat, I had used it as my personal Christmas card the year before. Then the real work began, and three full drafts later she was finished and was not at all the book I thought I was going to write. It was altogether darker and in the end more emotional than I had imagined. My hope is that the story is now properly child centred, those children that have read it so far certainly seem to have enjoyed it.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: Dead Inside by Lost Zombies


Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: Large paperback
Released: October 1st, 2011
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

A gradual mutation of a virulent strain of 'super flu' gives rise to millions of the undead, who quickly overwhelm treatment facilities and swarm cities around the world, leaving survivors on their own against a legion of the infected. Through found notes and messages- letters to loved ones, journal fragments, confessions, and warnings, readers can uncover the story of what went wrong, and come to know the individual voices of those affected by the zombie crisis.

Review:

Dead Inside: Do Not Enter really is just like PostSecret in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. It's a very fast read, but it's a fun one. I was surprised to feel a bit sad too, and a few pages even gave me chills. Mostly the ones where children talked about having to kill their friends and family... *shudder*

Zombies are big business at the moment, and Dead Inside has come along just at the right time. It strongly reminded me of The Walking Dead crossed with new movie Contagion (about a deadly disease), which to me is a very good combination indeed. The whole layout and idea was also brilliant, with some pages easily fitting the PostSecret bill. Seriously, I'm almost expecting them to appear in Frank's next collection!

Dead Inside is very much about survival, and chronicles a pandemic that leads to a zombie takeover. All the talk of flu and diseases made me think it's not so far away from real life, and the zombie side of things just made me think I was trapped in a field somewhere with Rick Grimes and a shotgun.

Fans of zombies will love this one, as will fans of the PostSecret formula. It's an entertaining read with an interesting, though not even slightly original, format. I hope there's more to come from Team Lost Zombies!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In My Mailbox #146: New Books This Week


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


I received some great books this week, but most importantly I FINISHED A GAME OF THRONES! I can now read some YA again, but I must say I loved it and I'm really looking forward to reading A Clash of Kings. I think GoT is actually the longest book I've ever read. Yay!

Oh, and I got Florence & the Machine's new album. AMAZING. Amazing!

Here's what was in my mailbox:


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For review:




Happy reading!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Review: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts


Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: September 2nd, 2011
Grade rating: C


Amazon summary:

Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to some people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known all her life; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost!

Review:

I wanted to love Dark Inside, I really did. I'd been looking forward to it for months, had heard countless good things about it and was pretty excited when a copy arrived. I started it immediately, and was pleased to find that it started well. Eighty pages in and I was pretty hooked, though I still hadn't made that all-important connection with the four main characters. From that point onwards, everything seemed to change. It was a chore for me to continue reading, and I literally had to force myself to pick it back up each night. It took me almost two weeks to finish, which is almost unheard of for me!

Like I said, Dark Inside started off well. Really well. There were earthquakes around the world, people got all violent and murdery, and there were four main survivors that were now on the run from everyone and everything they knew. As far as post-apocalyptic fiction goes, this book was looking like a contender for the year's best YA title. I honestly enjoyed those first eighty pages, but I'm genuinely sad to say that after that is where our relationship came to an abrupt end.

I don't often write negative reviews, as I usually like most books I read. I have a wide, eclectic reading taste, and I'm easy going when it comes to my fiction. It's a bit hard for me to pinpoint what I didn't like about Dark Inside, as overall it didn't sit well with me. My main problem (aside from a character called Chickadee), and one which is never easy to overcome, was that none of the characters spoke to me. Not a single one. Aries, Mason, Clementine and Michael all had individual stories to tell, different experiences with the earthquakes and subsequent darkness, but I felt disconnected the whole time I was reading them. Their voices seemed flat, and it's possible it's because the book had no first person narrative. I do struggle with that sometimes, especially when the protagonists don't stand out to me or come across as particularly likeable. I think third person is a hard tense to write in when it comes to YA, and often it doesn't work for me. Sometimes it does, but rarely it seems.

I don't want to be too negative here, as I know how much work goes into writing a novel and I don't want to take that away from anyone. I know a lot of other readers loved Dark Inside from start to finish, and even though I found the plot slow and drawn out, I know they didn't. I'm still a fan of this book's premise, story and multiple narration, but the execution made it fall short. I can see myself reading more from Jeyn Roberts in the future but, if this is the start of a series, I probably won't be reading the sequel. I hope you'll still give this book a chance though, as I did. Hopefully you'll find something in it that I missed!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Dead Inside Blog Tour: Extract!


When I was first asked to feature Dead Inside on my blog, I instantly said yes because it's about zombies, and I love me some zombies. Plus, it was pitched to me as The Walking Dead meets PostSecret. Cool, right? I was actually really surprised at how much I enjoyed it - it's a quick read but a clever, fun and sometimes sad one. I'll be posting my review soon so look out for that. For now, here's Chronicle's synopsis and two image extracts from the book.

'Post Secret' meets 'World War Z' in this chilling vision of the fallout following a global zombie pandemic. A gradual mutation of a virulent strain of 'super flu' gives rise to millions of the undead, who quickly overwhelm treatment facilities and swarm cities around the world, leaving survivors on their own against a legion of the infected. Through found notes and messages- letters to loved ones, journal fragments, confessions, and warnings, readers can uncover the story of what went wrong, and come to know the individual voices of those affected by the zombie crisis.


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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Immortal City

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Immortal City by Scott Speer

* Published by: Razorbill (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: April 3rd, 2012 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com:


Jackson Godspeed is the hottest young Angel in a city filled with them. He's days away from becoming a full Guardian, and people around the world are already competing for the chance to be watched over by him. Everyone's obsessed with the Angels and the lucky people they protect - everyone except for Madison Montgomery.
Maddy's the one girl in Angel City who doesn't breathlessly follow the Angels on TV and gossip blogs. When she meets Jackson, she doesn't recognize him. But Jackson is instantly captivated by her, and against all odds the two fall in love. Maddy is swiftly caught up in Jackson's scene, a world of glamour, paparazzi - and murder. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving dead Angels' wings for the police to find on the Walk of Fame. Even the Guardians are powerless to protect themselves in the face of this threat … and this time it's up to Maddy to save Jackson.


I can't wait to read this! I first heard about it about a month ago and thought it sounded really good. I love the sound of the angels being celebrities, featured on TV and in magazines etc. It sounds like a different take on the angel side of things so I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like. I've seen the US ARC cover too and it looks ace!