Sunday, 31 March 2013

Bookish Goals for 2013 Revisited: 1st Quarter Edition

Happy Easter everyone!  As we're on the cusp of being done with a quarter of 2013, which is quite scary as it still feels like February with all this winter weather hanging about, I decided to do an update on the bookish goals I set for 2013.  The original post was part of Top Ten Tuesday which, as always, is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

1. Stop ordering so many books from the library. 
I have a system now and I have been sticking to it.  I can reserve 5 books and then take out a further 3 from the stacks per month.  Writing the list down in a notebook has been really handy, and I love reserving lots of things at the end of the month and writing them all in!

2. Read more books from our own bookshelves. I've read three books from my own collection already this year.  This may be a tiny number, but it's better than having read none at all.  If I can carry on reading at least one of my own books per month I'll be more than happy.
3. Update blog at least three times a week. 
Including this one, I am on 49 posts for the year. The average is about 3.7 posts per week which is great for a person who gets severe writers block from time to time.
4. Purchase more books from independent shops
This is still a work in progress, and very dependent on how much cash I can spend on more books, but I've bought two from Jarrolds in Norwich and I have one pre-ordered from a shop in Ely.
5. Try to read and finish a book on my KindleFire. 
I've not only read one, but three!  It may burn my eyes sometimes, but who ever said reading should be easy?
6. Find a YA with absolutely no romance! 
I've found three fantastic YA's with no romance: Katya's World, Emilie and The Hollow World and Etiquette and Espionage.
7. Embrace the book blogging community and comment on other people's blogs more. 
I try, I still struggle, but I try and this is something I can constantly improve on.
8. Recommend books to friends, and don't be afraid to lend them to friends.  
I recommend a whole bunch of books to my friend Lucy, and I've already heard back that she loved one of them!  Yay.
9. Do something on World Book Night. 
This one has been elusive.  I wasn't a huge fan of any books that were on the giving list this year, so I didn't want to take a spot from some one who did.  Yet, I am still on the lookout to see if there will be any events on the night that I can take part in.
10. Read more.
I haven't been taking this one literally but I've accomplished it through the type of books that I have been reading.  For example, I've read more YA than ever before this year and I'm finding some brilliant novels in a genre that I would normally overlook.  I'm also reading books that I have been putting off for years.

How has 2013 been for you?  Have you kept to your goals?  Have you rebelled against them?  Let me know!    

Thursday, 28 March 2013

More Books!

Got these two last week!

I have wanted to read John Dies at the End for ages and kept putting it off, but put it off no longer I shall. I started reading a few pages after I'd exhausted all my other books that I had packed for a week at Matt's, and boy...that is some crazy narrative. Yet I don't care....I LOVE IT! I've had to put this tale of what happens when you're on Soy Sauce down so I can finish reading Life of Pi before it goes back to the library, but I'm eager to get back to reading Wong's tale as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  The topic this week is about books that I would recommend the most.  I've tried not to included the usual suspects (Dresden Files, Parasol Protectorate, Blackbirds, vN etc) on this list because it's a given that I would recommend those books to complete strangers, not to mention that my TTTs have started to look a little samey.   
1.  Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
2. Katya's World - Jonathan L. Howard
3. The Lost Girl - Sangu Mandanna
4. The Teleportation Accident - Ned Beauman
5. Hell Train - Christopher Fowler
6.  The Troupe - Robert Jackson Bennett
7. The City's Son - Tom Pollock

8. The Diviners - Libba Bray
9. Bossypants - Tina Fey
10. Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick
Have you read any of these?  Have you got any recommendations for me?  Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Book Thief

I don't know why I hadn't read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak until recently and I couldn't tell yo why I decided that it was finally time to read it.  I did a little bit of research beforehand and had seen a comment on Goodreads that this wasn't a book you could read quickly.  I'd argue against that as I steamed through the Book Thief like a locomotion on it's way to get Anna Karenina.  I thought it was one of the most beautiful pieces of fiction that I have ever read. 

Here's the blurb from Goodreads (the picture is from there too as I forgot to take one of my copy, d'oh!): HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH. It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES

Captivating and harrowing at the same time, I thought that Zusack had found a perfect voice in which to tell his story.  The narrator, Death, wasn't a characicture like you'd expect, just an observer who had become fascinated with Lisel's story.  The reasons for this are left unclear.  Did Death follow Liesel and those who lived on Himmel Street to prove to itself that there was some good in humanity during a time when there appeared to be none?  Or as a prime example of the evils that others can do to each other? 

Even though it may have been heartbreaking, there were proper consequneces for everyone in this sad tale.  The narrative was set up like a stack of dominoes that the Zusack was waiting to flick at just the right moment, so that they all topple.  When he knocked his dominoes down I was in tears, heartbroken for Liesel and all of the people I had grown to love over the course of the novel.  Yet even in death there was beauty and I'm definately going to buy my own copy of this tremendous book.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Rebel Heart

It took me a few days to read Blood Red Road, and I thought that the same reading time would apply to it's sequel, Rebel Heart.  Not the case.  I read this thing in a day.  It was a couldn't put it down, didn't look at page numbers, totally in the Dustlands with everyone, situation.  Here's my warning that there may be spoilers ahead...but I'll try my best to be as vague as I possibly can.
There's a price on Saba's head.
They call her the Angel of Death. She defeated a tyrant, but victory has come at a cost. Haunted by the ghosts of her past, she needs Jack. His moonlit eyes, his reckless courage, his wild heart. But Jack has left, and a ruthless new enemy searches for Saba across the Dustlands...
While not as action laden as Blood Red Road, Moira Young's second Dustland book features plenty of character development.  Rebel Heart has a lot in common with Lauren DeStefano's Fever in the sense that just because you defeated/escaped the big bad of the first book doesn't mean that all of your problems will fade away and your happily ever after will appear out of nowhere.
For a start Lugh and Saba's once close relationship has completely fractured by the events of Blood Red Road.  It's frustrating because throughout the book there's no communication between any of the characters.  If only Lugh would tell Saba of his experiences of being held hostage by the Tonton.  If only Jack could tell Saba his plan.  But then if these secrets were divulged, Rebel Heart would be rather boring... 
Lugh's not the only one with problems.  Saba's own guilt has been manifesting over all the girls that died during her stint as a cage fighter and also over her part in Epona's death.  It's a tough choice to take your strong narrator and show her weaknesses, but it pays off by making Saba appear human.  The only grating part is when Saba tries to go off on her own again, only to be chased down by the rest of the gang.  You'd think that by now she'd realise that her friends and family aren't going to let her go that easily.
Then there's the developments between Saba and DeMalo.  I sort of knew that Young was going in this direction ever since DeMalo's first appearance in Blood Red Road, so it wasn't a big shock.  I'm not one for love triangles, but people do silly things when they feel that they've been betrayed.  At least Saba realises that she may have made a mistake, and the portrayal of that is at least an adult, and real, representation of what life sometimes throws at you.  Though I am interested as to who the heart stone was directed at in the last scene, and to have DeMalo's ambiguity of character cleared up.  Just what does he want?
Rebel Heart isn't as thrilling as Blood Red Road, but that's not to it's detriment.  If anything I have a clearer idea about who these characters really are.  I do wonder what direction Young will take the plot and her characters in for the third book.  It's a shame I've got to wait until January 2014 at least until I find out.  Bah.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread

It's Top Ten Tuesday time again and as always is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  Today's topic is all about books that I HAD to buy, but still haven't read yet.  I'll be the first to admit that my name is Emma and I have a library problem.  I have a book hierarchy, which means that library books are more important because I only have them for a limited time.  Therefore my own books tend to get neglected.  I've changed my habits this year by limiting what I can take out/reserve from the library and so far this has helped me make a dent in my stack, but there are still a lot of books to get through.

1. The Night Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko
2. A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness
3. Ghost Story* - Jim Butcher
4. Dead Harvest - Chris F. Holm
5. Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
6. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
7. Vegas Knights - Matt Forbeck
8. Vampire Zero - David Wellington

9. The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson

10. The Invention of Murder - Judith Flanders

*I read all my Dresden Files over the course of two years and I got used to always having a new adventure on hand. Hence why I've been putting off reading Ghost Story until I had another case file to enjoy straight after.
What books are on your list this week?

Monday, 18 March 2013

Blood Red Road

In the Dustlands, you fight or you die.
There are no laws in Saba's world.  When her twin brother is stolen, she pursues his captors through a wild, wasted land.  She must become a warrior to survive.  On this dangerous road she can trust no one.  Not even the handsome thief who saves her life - and steals her heart.
Prior to reading Blood Read Road, I had heard lots of good things about Moira Young's Dustland series.  From what I could garner from goodreads The Dustlands was a better executed version of Lauren DeStefano's The Chemical Garden Trilogy.  Now that I've finally read both Blood Red Road and Rebel Heart (and Wither and Fever) I just can't see the parallels between the two series. Yes, they both feature twins, one of whose job it is to locate the other, but that's where the similarities end.
Where the Chemical Garden trilogy is set in a recognisable futuristic America, where all the states are still intact, the Dustlands could be set almost anywhere, on a different planet even.  I sort of wish that there hadn't been the few dystopian elements to root in our world (like the sky scrapers) and that Young had made this into an all out, foot stomping, cut throat, futuristic western. 
Saba's quest to find Lugh is a brutal journey that goes in directions that are unexpected and thrilling.  From the moment Lugh gets taken I wasn't expecting anything but peril for these characters.  And this isn't the type of danger where everyone magically lives at the end.  No, this was a world where tragedy happens and it sticks.
I thought the dialect would be grating, but after a while I didn't notice.  However, I am fed up with love interest having a lopsided smile, and then there's the whole heart stone maguffin...But even I have to admit that it did set up some interesting dynamics for the next book.  Plus Saba's a hard headed as a stubborn mule.  She doesn't want to accept that she could be falling in love, so maybe Young did some reverse psychology on me in that I was actually rooting for Saba and Jack by Blood Red Roads end.
What stood out for me was the relationship between sisters Saba and Emmi.  Young's duo are a reflection that not all sisters get on, and not just on a superficial 'they'll grow out of it' level either.  The disdain that Saba shows towards Emmi in contrast to her unconditional love for Lugh made Saba a real person with complex feelings that aren't always considered to be the right ones.

And don't even get me started on what should have stayed on Saturn...

I could go on all day about the different things I loved about Moira Young's novel (I haven't even mentioned Nero and The Free Hawks) but I'll stop here and leave some surprises.  Blood Red Road is an extraordinary start to what hopefully will be a thrilling and unique series.  I just can't believe I waited so long to start reading it! 

Friday, 15 March 2013

This is not a review of The Iron Wyrm Affair

I had a strange reading experience this week.  I started off on such a high finishing both Blood Red Road and its sequel in one day.  The next morning I started Lilith Saintcrow's The Iron Wyrm affair.  This had been recommended to me by my mum and I was looking forward to it.  Set in an alternative Victorian London with witchcraft and steam punkesque hijinks, it's safe to say that this should have been my type of book. 
Then I started reading.  I don't know if I'm having an odd head space week, but for the life of me I couldn't connect to the story at all and was thinking about everything else bar the words written on the page. I had to force myself to finish The Iron Wyrm Affair.  I knew it was bad when I began page counting.  Every time I turned the page I looked to see what number was at the top and how much longer it would take for this to be over and done with. 
Normally it takes time for me when I start a new series to absorb everything that's going on but this was madness because there was nothing I hated about Saintcrow's story.  I wish that I could remeber something that made my blood boil, or a character that I found fascinating, but I can't.  Maybe on a different week I would have loved this book.  Maybe if I give it time and come back to the Bannon and Clare series I will grow to love it.  Or maybe I should have put The Iron Wyrm Affair down as soon as I started to grow ambivalent about reading it. 
 However, I feel reluctant to accept that last maybe.  A few years ago, I was all ready to put down Stephen King's Bag of Bones after 200 pages of nothingness, but I stuck with it and suddenly I was reading a great story.  So while I'm glad I followed through with reading the rest of The Iron Wyrm Affair, I just wish that I had received a similar pay off.  Has anyone else had similar troubles? 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Emilie and the Hollow World

I got an advance copy from Strange Chemistry (via Net Galley) of Martha Wells new book Emilie and The Hollow World.  I thought it would be good company for me on my usual train journey up to Norwich.  1 hour and 45 minutes later I was lucky to have got off at the right station.  

While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.
Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.
With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

Reminiscent of Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre of The Earth, with a sprinkling of Gail Carriger, I found Emilie and The Hollow World wonderfully imaginative.  Wells' plot takes Emilie down to the depths of the sea only to pop up in a place where merpeople exist, among other interesting creatures. This brilliant story was adventurous and light hearted, but most of all a lot of fun to read. 

The introduction is fantastic, and within a few pages I knew exactly what to expect from this book, where the plot was headed and what kind of characters I would be reading about. I couldn't stop my self from laughing every time Emilie found herself in a situation more perilous than the last.

Once the action moves to the Hollow World, as a reader you have to use your imagination to interpret Wells' fantastically written creation.  It is completely different to a lot of YA titles where my brain just goes into auto-pilot because most of the plot is set somewhere that is vaguely familiar.

Yet Martha Wells' story is not all action; but there's certainly no romance either.  In fact Wells offers something more interesting all together and that's the relationship between Emilie and Miss Marlende.  An apprentice and teacher bond forms between the two, Miss Marlende being a great example of a strong women who has a career and no time for smoochies.  It was interesting and somewhat refreshing to have not one but two characters who were not completely focused on the opposite sex.  This meant that these characters could be defined in their own terms, rather than those of what would impress the object of their affection.

If you've read Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's World (another great Strange Chemistry title that is all adventure and no romance) and fancy trying a bit of steam punk then give Emilie and the Hollow World a read.  I'm hoping this is the start of what could be a wonderful series.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR list!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  It feels a bit ridiculous writing a Spring TBR list when there's snow outside (not to mention the fact that my fingers can barely type because they're frozen) but I suppose that's just how British weather works.  At least it's super sunny...

1. Pantomime - Laura Lam

2. Zenn Scarlett - Christian Schoon
3. Peregrine Harker and The Black Death - Luke Holland
4. Insurgent - Veronica Roth
5. Cursed - Benedict Jacka
6. Level 2 - Lenore Appelhans
7. John Dies at the End - David Wong
8. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
9. Sever - Lauren DeStefano
10. Days of Blood and Starlight - Lani Taylor
Who's on your list this week?  Any new spring releases you can recommend to me?

I Love Post

Got a nice surprise this morning from Waterstones!  The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence is part of the Waterstones Eleven, which is the shop's pick of the 'most promising debuts of the year.'

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cool Covers of The Future

Artwork for Chuck Wendig's latest novel has been released via The Founding Fields.  The Blue Blazes is out in June and, like Wendig's previous two books for Angry Robot, the cover has been designed by the extremely talented Joey Hi-Fi.  There's so much to look at, and as per the art on both Blackbirds and Mockingbird, I assume that every detail must relate to something in the story.  It is certainly a proper eye catching, please buy me now cover.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Cool Covers of The Future

Bizarrely, I found this via Adam Christopher's tweet to check out iD is Madeline Ashby's follow up to her debut novel vN, and is released on June 25.  I honestly can't stop staring...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Top Ten Series I'd Like To Start But Haven't Yet

Top Ten Tuesday Time, as always hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  It is a great topic this week as it is all about series that I would like to start but haven't just yet.  Funnily enough, I've made a bit of progress through my way through my SILTSBHY list this year, but there are still plenty of others that I haven't got round to starting yet.

1. The James Bond books by Ian Fleming
Bought most of these for my BF.  Waiting for him to read them all so I can steal them.

2. Nadia Stafford by Kelley Armstrong
 Armstong's two books about a hit woman were released before I found her Otherworld Series.  I really want to see what her non-paranormal fiction is like, yet I can never seem to remember to order them from the library.  The third book is out later this year, so maybe it's time I checked them out...

3.  The Dustlands - Moira Young
Blood Red Road caught my eye one lazy afternoon in the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library.  From what I gathered The Dustlands series is dystopian and is supposed to have similarities to the Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano.

4.  The Night Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko
Have you noticed that my book list on the right never changes?  I'm determined to make a dent in that list this year, as I've wanted to read The Night Watch for two years now!  I heard good things about the series from a friend, and I mean Russian Vampires?  Yes please!
5. The Collector - Chris F. Holm
Love the cover, premise sounds good, just got to make a start on this Urban Fantasy Noir!
6. Codex Alera - Jim Butcher
 I haven't read many books in the epic fantasy genre, but I'm think Butcher's series may be a good way to start.

7. Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
This is terrible.  I should have read all of these by now.  By the end of the year I am determined to have at least started reading some Sherlock stories.
8. Miss Marple - Agatha Christie
I've grown up in a house that adores Agatha Christie mysteries, both in book and T.V form, but I've never attempted to read any.  I'd like to try and attempt making my way through all of them at some point.
9.  Darkness Rising - Kelley Armstrong
 I've been waiting for all three books of Armstrong's latest YA series to come out so I could read them in one go.  With The Rising coming out in April, it's go time...
10. Alex Versus - Benedict Jacka
Jacka's Alex Verus series is marketed as a cross between Rivers of London and The Dresden Files.  This is technically a cheat as I finally started the series last week...but I like to break rules every now and again.

That's my list for this week!  What series are on yours?