Sunday, 30 June 2013

Bookish Goals for 2013 Revisited: We're halfway through the year already? What is this madness?

After today June is over, as is the first half of 2013.  To mark this passing of time, I thought I'd post another update on my bookish goals that I set for 2013 all the way back in January.  My previous recap post can be found here.  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'm still using the system!  It's working, but because I've had a few weeks where I've been away and not had so much time to read, I seem to end up with a backlog of library books.  Hopefully things will quieten down in the next few months and I'll get back on track.
2. Read more books from our own bookshelves.
I've read 2.5 of my own books in the past 3 months.  Not so good.  I'm thinking of maybe laying off the library orders for a month in order to read some of my recent purchases that have been left strewn across the house. 
3. Update blog at least three times a week. 
Currently I'm averaging about 3.9 posts a week, not to mention that I've already passed my total of blog posts from last year!  The posts may not always be reviews, but I still try to share book-type things that happen to me during my week.
4. Purchase more books from independent shops
I've got a book on order from Topping & Company and I bought two books from Foyles this past week.  You may argue that Foyles isn't really an independent shop.  However, they are based in London, with only one store outside of the city in Bristol.  Therefore, my purchases can be added to my non-Waterstones/WHSmiths/supermarket tally. 
5. Try to read and finish a book on my KindleFire. 
I'm currently having a break from my Kindle to give my eyes a rest.  I finished Mila 2.0 and Ink, and have a few more galleys lined up, but unlike everyone else in my family I can't get the brightness setting right on my device, which results in hurty eyes. No fun.
6. Find a YA with absolutely no romance! 
I think I've only read one more YA without any romance since my last post. Other than Code Name Verity, every YA I've read in the past 3 months has been pretty romance heavy.  If anyone could point me in the direction of some non-ro YA, it would be much appreciated!
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.  
Got my books back from Lucy!  She loved Ready Player One and has been spreading the word to make sure more people read Ernest Cline's delightfully geeky quest novel.  I now need to develop confidence into imposing books onto other people!  I'm always worried that they wont like what I've recommended; although I'm starting to think that even if they don't enjoy the book, it would lead to a good discussion as to why.
9. Do something on World Book Night. 
I failed miserably on this one!  Nothing was done by me this year for World Book Night.  I'm determined that if there's a book that I'm passionate about on the giving list next year then I will get involved somehow!  Moving forward from my failure, I'm going to set a new goal: 9. Write at least 2 reviews a week.  I know I can do this one, but sometimes I find writing down my opinions ridiculously hard.  Mainly because I have plenty of thoughts while reading, and then they all disappear or sound stupid when I get to the computer.
10. Read more.
I'm still aiming for quality over quantity with this goal.  I'm broadening my genre scope, even if I'm still a paranormal girl at heart.  In the last month alone I've read something from: Classics, SF, Literature, Crime, Horror, YA and Bio.  As long as I'm reading well written books and interesting books then I'm a happy camper!

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

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Graveyard Book

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a perfectly normal boy.  Well, he would be perfectly normal if he didn't live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living or the world of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and so much more.

But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod's family.

I wish I hadn't read The Graveyard Book on a beautiful June day.  Neil Gaiman's wonderfully weird story probably would have benefited from me reading in a dark and cold place (normal British summer weather) to heighten the atmosphere of the graveyard in which a young boy named Bod resides with many ghosts and strange creatures.
For me, The Graveyard Book reads like a fairy-tale, with each chapter containing a moral story that could be a singular short in a collection, but instead are linked together by the sinister man named Jack who has been looking for Bod.  Instead of being just an enjoyable coming-of-age read, there's plenty that Gaiman leaves the reader to think about without ever being heavy-handed with the themes which he wants to explore.  The only distraction I had while reading is that when you say Bod, I think of this guy

A fantastic concept that has been beautifully executed through both the prose and illustration, I would definitely recommend The Graveyard Book.  In fact, why aren't more stories set in graveyards?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

You sound like you're from landan!

Lots of travel happened again, hence lack of updates as I never prepare posts in time.  Over the weekend I was in Jersey (which all the adverts say is the hottest place in the British Isles.  I have yet to see any evidence of this, and have therefore deduced it is all lies. Lies I tell you, lies!) and then on Tuesday I went on a trip to London with Matt. 

We had a round about idea of what we were doing for the day.  I wanted to go to the Forbidden Planet megastore, as I had missed out going the last time I was in London, and on the way we finally found Denmark Street.  Bear in mind that Matt loves guitars and that this road is basically just guitar shops.  Expensive guitar shops.  He was in heaven.  Luckily for non-musical me there was a Foyles bookshop across the road.  I was basically like a kid in a candy shop, that place was HUGE!  Not to mention the vast selection, including books that I haven't been able to find anywhere else in the U.K, bar online.  I knew it was a sign, and who cares if I have plenty on my TBR list already, how could I pass up the chance to own/read Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and the Zombies VS. Unicorns anthology?   

Moving on, or after Matt dragged me away from the books and the Doctor Who merchandise, we found Forbidden Planet, after bypassing a massive tool shop, had a look round and I managed not to buy anything...just.  We then went to Fopp, to peruse their vinyl selection, before heading to lunch and then having a break in Hyde Park.  Or should I say Matt had a nap while I continued reading Mira Grant's Feed.  It was a lovely afternoon, but we weren't done yet.

The main reason for the trip was that last week I had won tickets from SFX to go to the Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter event at the IET, where they would be discussing their new book, The Long War. 
It was a really good event, even if answers to questions sometimes took such an indirect route that I was often left wondering what the original question was!  However, if you know me, that's my kind of answer!  Pratchett was full of wit, quantum bollocks is a rather good phrase, Baxter highlighted the process of how a single book by two authors whose styles are rather different, and Terry's assistant Rob was a great mediator.  Shame we never got to use the microphones for a group sing-a-long! 
I had a fantastic day, I'm more enthusiastic about reading The Long War and I really can't wait to go to another book event.  I just wish there were more local ones with authors whose books I have read so I'm not completely clueless as to what they are on about!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

As always The Broke and the Bookish host Top Ten Tuesday.  This week the topic is the TT books I have read so far in 2013.  It was hard to whittle my picks down to 10 this week, as I've picked and read some great books already this year! 

1. Katya's World - Jonathan L. Howard
2. The Lost Girl- Sangu Mandanna
3. Etiquette & Espionage - Gail Carriger
4. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
5. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
6. A Monster Calls- Patrick Ness
7. Bad Monkeys - Matt Ruff
8. Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
9. Prodigy - Marie Lu
10. Pantomime - Laura Lam
What books made it onto your list this week?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Red Shirts

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the flagship Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid.  It's a prestige posting, and life couldn't be better...although there are a few strange things going on...
  • every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces
  • the ship's captain, its chief science officer and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these encounters
  • at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed
Suddenly it's less surprising how much energy is expended below decks on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned an Away Mission.  Andrew's fate may have been sealed...until he stumbles on a piece of information that changes everything, and offers him and his fellow redshirts a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives...

 I had heard about Redshirts and had been waiting for the U.K release for what seemed like an eternity.  A send up of the people who are basically cannon fodder?  Sounds like Hell Train in space to me, I'm in!  So when I finally spotted it for sale in Waterstones last month, it was a case of I HAVE TO HAVE NOW!

While I'm not a Trekkie, I have a basic understanding of the Trek universe as Mum was pretty much into it all.  This means I know what a Tribble is (Matt thought it was a hamster/porcupine...)and that Benedict Cummberbatch wasn't a Klingon in Into the Darkness (Matt's brother Rob had seen the movie twice and provided that nugget that I will always cherish. Especially as it comes from the boy who is smarter than us all, what with his 1st and all his MAs.).  You may be wondering why all this is relevant, but I think it goes to show that Redshirts can be enjoyed without too much prior knowledge of the Trek universe, though a little may be handy.  Redshirts may not have been the all out camp-crazy I was expecting, but it was a fun read nonetheless. 

In fact, rather than just being a zany romp, Scalzi takes his redshirts down the Stranger Than Fiction route about a third of the way in(a comparison I was thinking about during reading, and which was acknowledged in one of the three Codas included at the end), with the overall narrative becoming much more self aware than I expected it to be.  I was surprised as to how it got me thinking about...spoilery stuff that I don't want to ruin for you!  Although if you've seen Stranger Than Fiction (and if you haven't, why not?!), you can pretty much guess what happens.

Overall, I thought that Redshirts had an intelligent plot hidden behind ridiculous situations and over-the top characters.  Straight after reading I had been disappointed that it wasn't solely focused on redshirts in perilous situations.  However, the more distance I get, the more I realise that I did admire that even when dealing with some mind dribbling stuff, Redshirts still didn't take itself too seriously.  So if you want a fun read, with a dash of intelligence dropped in for good measure, then maybe you should track a copy down.   

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

In 1930, 15-year-old Theodora Attwell is sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls for reasons of a scandalous nature.  While trying to adapt to her new surroundings in the mountains of North Carolina, Thea recalls the events that led to her banishment from her privileged, yet isolated, life in Florida with her beloved family.

The title for Anton DiSclafani's debut novel is misleading.  The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls is less about the everyday life at a boarding school, and more about a young girl entering adulthood, turning a bit risqué in places.  The narrator Thea is complex to say the least, and reads older than her 15 years.  I thought it was interesting that DiSclafani chose to portray Thea in an almost unlikeable way.  Thea has snobbish tendencies that have resulted from her isolated upbringing.   She treats others horribly if they are unnecessary, and her fatal flaw is making rash decisions, putting her own needs before that of others.  For all her faults, and they can be infuriating at times, this makes Thea a much more interesting character to read about.

What stood out for me was Anton DiSclafani's prose, which is wonderfully atmospheric; although this makes for slow reading as every detail has to be savoured.  DiSclafani has successfully captured the essence of two completely different places through her writing, as well as effectively detailing the uncertainty that the Great Depression caused for people in that era.

The only problem I had was with the lack of originality plot-wise.  I was hooked by the mystery of why Thea had been sent away in disgrace, DiSclafani teasing me with hints for the first portion of the book.  However, once I found out the reason, and then reading about Thea's subsequent actions at the Riding Camp, I found myself less in a hurry to finish the book and more of a struggle to stick with it until the end.

Overall, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a decent summer read, but probably nothing than that.  Still I look forward to reading more of Anton DiSclafani's writing in the future, as she certainly has a fantastic writing style.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week I'm sharing all the books I can't wait to read, a.k.a. the top ten books at the top of my summer TBR list.

1. The Blue Blazes Chuck Wendi

2. iD - Madeline Ashby
3. Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch
4. Omens - Kelley Armstrong
5. The Glass Republic - Tom Pollock
6. MaddAddam - Margaret Atwood
 Fun Fact No.1: I am still upset that I can't go to the event at Ely Cathedral in August. I have to go to Matt's cousin's wedding instead. The things I miss out on for him...
7. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane - Neil Gaiman
 Fun Fact No.2 : As payback for missing out on the Margaret Atwood event, *fingers crossed that it goes ahead* I've booked a ticket for the Neil Gaiman event for at Ely Cathedral and making Matt come along. Fair deal I think!
8. The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes
9. Fuse - Julianna Baggott
10. NOS4R2 - Joe Hill
 What books are on your summer TBR list?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Blast From The Past

Yesterday, my library card went missing amongst all the junk I keep in my bedroom.  Panic doesn't even begin to cover it.  What would I do without my precious?  Good thing I was in a proactive mood and decided a clear out was needed in an attempt to find the card and get rid of some junk that makes me look like a hoarder.  Luckily my card turned up pretty quickly; though how it moved from inside a book on one side of my room, to being on its own on the other side of my room, I'll never know.  The silver lining to clearing out my room was discovering all my old stuff that I'd stored under my bed, especially a few of my books!  Anyone remember any of these? 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Mila 2.0

No one suspects what she’s made of…
After the sudden death of her father, Mila’s at a new school, trying to fit in and falling for mysterious sexy Hunter. But her world slams upside down in a heartbeat when a car accident reveals a secret she never knew; a secret about herself.

Mila is devastated to learn that her memories are just chimeras, her dreams untrue. She can’t even rely on her emotions to tell her who she is. So how can she grieve for her father or feel the way she does about Hunter? And why is her mom running scared?

Worse still, who are the creepy stalkers so desperate to get their hands on her…?

I had high hopes for Mila 2.0, as the blurb for Debra Driza's debut novel sounds unique and interesting.  Obviously I overlooked the part that mentions 'mysterious sexy Hunter'.  I wonder why my brain always skips over certain phrases in blurbs that I should recognise as red flags and sirens saying avoid...

Lets start of on a good note.  I thought that the airport sequence was rather clever.  I've not read anything set in an airport before, so it was pretty cool to imagine Mila and her mother navigating their way through a busy terminal.  Unfortunately, that was about all I liked. 

While the plot may be interesting, the character of Mila is that of a stereotypical YA heroine.  Whines a lot, life is so unfair, friends who would stab her in the back in an instant, you know the type.  In the beginning, when it was just Mila moaning about her mother and trying to grieve for her father, I could put up with the who woe is me shtick.  However, once Mila meets the new boy with the lop-sided smile (don't even get me started on lop-sided smiles....), I knew my interest in Mila 2.0 would fade rapidly.  Even though there's much more Mila should be concerned about, all she cares about is getting back to the boy she has JUST met.  I found myself repeatedly screaming, "There's more to life than Hunter, you idiot!" for the majority of the book.

I hated Mila's narration so much that even though I finished the book, it was more a case of going through the motions and not actually processing what was happening in the story.  I couldn't honestly tell you what happened in the final third of the book, which is a shame as there are some great ideas hidden within the annoyances.  I hate to be harsh but Mila 2.0 was simultaneously infuriating and disappointing.  Why go to all the effort of creating a fascinating situation and then wasting it on a crappy, cookie-cutter character that I can find in multiple other YA books?  If only Driza could have created a different character, someone with a spine (or at least grew throughout the book to have a spine)and who wasn't prone to instalove, then maybe this could have been an infinitely better read.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Darkness Rising

It's so hard to talk about a trilogy without spoiling major plot points.  Therefore, I'm going to amalgamate my review of The Gathering, The Calling and The Rising, all which comprise Kelley Armstrong's The Darkness Rising series.  This Young Adult series is set in the Otherworld and follows on from her previous YA trilogy, The Darkest Powers.  Due to me being a bit lazy this morning, here's the blurb from goodreads for the first book (I wont share the others as they are often spoilery if you haven't read the first book.  Look them up on goodreads if you want!):
Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

The lasting impression I had from The Gathering was that the ending was weak, making me very glad I didn't read it upon release and had the second book on hand to continue the story.  In fact, book one and two could have been combined as The Gathering was all about introductions and nothing else.  Don't get me wrong, I liked both the setting and getting to know Maya.  She is a great character in that she's outdoorsy, not so fussed about boys and has a male best friend.  Who is just that.  A friend.  She's also not hung up on being adopted, the family that raised her are her family, end of story.  Plus, as a long time fan, I liked all the hints about the Otherworld, and the prospect about learning more about the St Cloud cabal, but nothing about The Gathering wowed me.  However, the day I don't like Armstrong's writing will be a sad one, but plot-wise, she's following the normal formula of her previous books.

Moving onto The Calling, and here are when my review gets vague in order to avoid spoilers.  The plot finally begins to move forward, even if again, it's following the same sort of story line from The Darkest Powers series.  More action, dark secrets being revealed, as are true personalities, this is the type of story that I have come to expect from Armstrong and was missing in The Gathering.

The final book in the trilogy, The Rising, was probably my favourite out of the three.  Lots of action again with the characters having to make hard choices, and the addition of some cameos from previous Armstrong novels. I was kept pretty happy, although I'm not sure about the final resolution.  It's hard to convey my disappointment without being spoilery.  Lets just say that while I wasn't surprised, I would have preferred something a little more open ended.

If you're a fan of The Otherworld series, but haven't tried any of Armstrong's YA books, then I would thoroughly recommend reading them some time soon.  I'd still recommend them even if you've never heard of Kelley Armstrong before!  The Darkness Rising is a solid paranormal series with some great characters and no vampires in sight...not that I dislike vampires, but I like when authors introduce me to different types of supernatural creatures...and that's as spoilery as I'm going to get.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Top Ten Beach Reads

I've been away, and didn't prep any ahead of time, so I've missed the past two TTTs hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week I'm ready to tackle and share my top ten beach reads!  Admittedly I'm not really a beach person as fair skin and sun never mix well.  Plus I don't really have a single type of book that I normally take away with me.  My only criteria for holiday reads are that they have to be in paperback, and they have to be something that I can read it either in a couple of days without my brain turning to mush from overwork.
1.  The Dead - Howard Linskey
 If you like crime, but not too much violence, Howard Linskey's The Dead is a good mob-boss thriller.
2. John Scalzi - Red Shirts
 Really funny! I took this on holiday with me last month and it kept me amused while Matt was swimming in the sea.
3.  John Dies at the End - David Wong
 If you like your holiday reads crazy...
4. Any Tess Gerritsen Book
 I think I said it before, but I find Gerritsen books extremely easy to read and very engaging.  Great if you don't want to stress out your brain too much, but keep it ticking over with her cleverly plotted crime thrillers.
5. Blood Red Road - Moira Young
 Fantastic YA Dystopian.  Although you may want to pack the sequel...
6. The Book of Summers - Emylia Hall
 This was a lovely read mostly set in rural Hungary.  Hall's prose is extremely evocative, so if you're holidaying in a place where the weather isn't great, this is sure to take your imagination to warmer climes. 
7. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
Be warned, you may loose a few days of your holiday while reading this...
 8. 'Salems's Lot - Stephen King
 Fun Fact: I read this on a beach in Corfu and a wooden stake washed up beside me!
9. Emma - Jane Austen
I read this in Cyprus.  For some reason, I find it a lot easier to read classics while on holiday.  Maybe because there are zero distractions? 
10. Bossypants - Tina Fey
Although if you're on a cruise, skip the bit about her honeymoon! 
Not long after finishing I realised that I could have totally cheated this week.  I live about a 10min walk from the beach...a pebble and grey sea beach, but a beach nonetheless!  I could have just done a top 10 of what I normally read! 
What beach reads would you recommend?

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Gift of Darkness

In Seattle, a few weeks before Christmas, a family of four are horribly murdered in their own home.  All evidence points to one man.  A man already wanted by the police, but who had also been through a traumatic event years earlier with one of the victims and was supposed to be one of his closet friends.  It's up to Detective Alice Madison, who has only been with the Homicide unit for little over a month, to untangle the secrets and impossibilities of this strange case.

V. M. Giambanco's debut novel gets off to a slow start.  There's a lot of information to process regarding not only the crime scene and the resulting investigation, but core character back stories, too.  However, don't let this put you off, as halfway through the majority of the explaining stops and all of those details begin to make sense.  This is when The Gift of Darkness becomes a proper page-turner.

Giambanco has created fantastic characters, all with their own set of moral ambiguities, and placed them within a clever plot.  I was kept guessing why the Sinclair family was murdered for the majority of the book.  When Giambanco finally revealed this information, I found the reason behind the murders slightly anticlimactic; although I did wonder if this made the killers actions even worse?  In the end it is not so much the reveal of the killer's motive, but as to how the final show-down unfolds provides an exciting, and somewhat horrifying, conclusion.

After reading I am still left with questions about certain aspects, but I always welcome a book that makes me think long after I have finished reading.  I would love to read more from V. M. Giambanco in the future, especially if she carries on with Alice Madison as her lead character.

Cool Covers of the Future

The lovely Strange Chemistry released the cover art for Jonathan L. Howard's follow up to Katya's World, Katya's War, which will be released in November this year.  I wasn't sure at first, but the more I look, the more I find to like!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Level 2

Felicia Ward is dead.  Trapped in Level 2, the waiting room between earth and heaven, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend...and of the guy who broke her heart.  The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.

Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing in Level 2, and it seems she is the key.  Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice.  Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.

I picked up Level 2 because the blurb sounded interesting, while skipping over the part where it mentions a love triangle.  All I can say is, what an idiot!  I took Level 2 with me on holiday, managing to read it in a day.  I was left with the notion that Lenore Appelhans debut novel wasn't terrible, yet I'm not inclined to recommend it to any one either. 

For starters, there were so many typical YA tropes. In such a short book, that's a real achievement.  However, my main problem was with the sections that took place in Level 2; a sort of purgatory where the dead can hook into pods to relive memories they accumulated from their time on Earth.  For me, Felica's memories were far more interesting, and better than the convoluted mess of her after-life.  Remember, this is coming from someone who's not a fan of contemporary YA.

After reading this, Mila 2.0 and the Darkness Rising Trilogy pretty much back to back, it got me wondering what happened to all the decent female friendships in YA novels?  Why are these girls all backstabbers?  Especially over BOYS?!?  Can't they be backstabbers for more imaginative reasons?  Like you stole my favourite pen?  Pretty please?  If anything, these types of books make me thankful and appreciative for the characters the inhabit Gail Carriger's books.  If Dimity ever dumps Sophorina, or vice verse, over a boy, I don't know what I'll do, but it will probably include Hulk like smashing.

I don't want to sound harsh, and I'm sure if you like any of these: love triangles, girls who are so beautiful that boys fall at their feet without the girl realising her Helen of Troy like beauty, a bitchy best friend, and some angels thrown in for good measure, then Level 2 will be the book for you.  It's just not a book for me.