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Showing posts from March, 2013

Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Once Upon a Time...was there ever a more perfect beginning to a story? From those first four words I was mesmerised by Dreams and Shadows. Lots of books are compared to fairytales, but for me, this is the real thing. The first chapter is so perfect. Time is condensed, moving swiftly to get to what matters. Extraneous detail is pushed aside, as in all the best fairytales. What's important is that Jared and Tiffany meet, fall in love, and have a child. Their life is perfect and full of promise. Until the night their child is swapped for a changeling. The swap is lingered over, so we miss no detail. Only Tiffany can see what has been left in her beautiful son's place. A horror, destined to destroy her, feeding off her fear and distress lies in Ewan's crib, whilst Ewan is carried off in a sack to live amongst the fairies.

Ewan and his changeling, Knocks, are one part of this tale. Colby Stephens is the other. A largely neglected eight-year-old, self-sufficient by necessity, m…

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

I loved Amity & Sorrow so much; I was caught up in the vivid and powerful story-telling. This is a book to treasure.

Amity and Sorrow are sisters, the children of First Wife Amaranth. Their father is a charismatic and manipulative leader of a cult preparing for the end of the world. He surrounds himself with adoring women - fifty wives and counting - who bear and care for his children while he tours the land looking for more converts. If you detect a hint of cynicism in my assessment of him, good. I hate him as much as I love this book. He collects damaged women, such as Amaranth, and co-opts them into his warped fantasy. The community is shut off from the outside world, the children raised with no education beyond his Word. Peggy Riley has created a character I can despise for all my days!

Amaranth has been in his thrall for too long, but even she has a breaking point. The danger to her children becomes immediate, so she flees, driving across the country until she drives straigh…



Time for an update...

Come on everybody, let's Bloggiesta!

Natasha from Maw Books Blog came up with Bloggiesta  - the idea of devoting some specific time to perfect your blog and connect with other bloggers. It's now co-hosted by Suey andDanielle. The little mascot is PEDRO (Plan, Edit, Develop, Review Organize) - how cute!

I only found out about Bloggiesta today from Judith at Leeswammes' Blog but it sounded just what I needed. There are a few little housekeeping things I've been meaning to do on the blog, and this is the perfect opportunity. What is so great about Bloggiesta is that you can do as much or as little as you have time for over the weekend. 

I have created a modest to do list:

DONE Update my profile picture - I have a brilliant new chibi-style picture drawn by my friend Michelle to use.DONE Update the 'About Me' page.DONE Add a Search toolbar to the blog.DONE Investigate becoming a Waterstones affiliate.I MANAGED TO DO ONE Check out the mi…

An Evening With Lauren Oliver

I do enjoy a good author event, and last night I was treated to a very good one indeed. Lauren Oliver was at Waterstones Piccadilly, doing her first public event in the UK. It was obviously something that many people had been waiting for, as it was very well attended. Lauren's visit coincides with the publication of the final part in her Delirium trilogy - Requiem.

How gorgeous do those cover look all together?

Lauren's talk ranged much more widely, and the insight into her writing process was fascinating and a little inspiring. She talked about growing up in a house filled with books, with writer parents who encouraged and validated creativity and a deep and abiding love of reading. Her own writing started at a very young age when she would write to sequels to stories she had read and loved, and was therefore reluctant to let go of the characters. Lauren was writing fan-fiction before the term was invented!

Having parents who wrote helped with the discipline of writing - and it …

Five New Arrivals...

I had an excellent 'book post' week last week, so good I feel it is only fair to show my spoils. The first four are all published next month, and the last one comes out in May.

Two gorgeous new YA books arrived plippity-plop through the letterbox, both of which I am so excited about I may burst before their official publication. I mentioned Silent Saturday in my round-up of the Blogger Brunch I went to at Random House last week. Well, this little beauty arrived, and I devoured the whole thing...
Not only is it a thing of no little beauty to behold, it is also exciting, scary, tense, and brilliant. I will say no more about it, but my proper review will be forthcoming along with publication on 4th April.

Also published on 4th April is Black Arts, in paperback. I may also have read this in a greedy, slightly obsessional kind of way over the weekend - I may have done, OK, I absolutely did. In my defence it is set in Elizabethan London, it does have sinister priests and saucy scall…

The Emperor of All Things by Paul Witcover

Welcome to 1758, a tumultuous time in English history, a time of war and invasion fears. Also a time of reason and Enlightenment, as knowledge blossomed. And a time of magic, the unexplained, fearsome dragons and treacherous clockmakers. Hang on, something's not quite right there, this is not the 1758 I've read about in history books. In The Emperor of All Things time is taking a different turn.
We begin in an attic overflowing with timepieces, all slightly out of sync with each other, and there is a hint of alchemy around the room. A curious mouse runs amongst the objects, a grey-clad thief slips silently through the window and an elegantly-dressed gentleman emerges from within a clock. A battle of wits turns quickly into one of swords and pistols, as Lord Wichcote defends his property against the infamous Grimalkin. But, Grimalkin gets the prize and escapes, only to have it stolen by yet another intent on owning it. 
We're quickly led to the Worshipful Company of Clockm…

Catch Your Death by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

Recently I read a review of Louise Voss & Mark Edwards new book All Fall Down over at The Little Reader Library. I really liked the sound of it, but it is the second book featuring virologist Kate Maddox. As I prefer to read things in the correct order I sought out Catch Your Death, which introduces Kate.

I don't read a great deal of contemporary crime, but the medical twist is a real hook for me. Kate has a very personal reason for studying viruses; her parents were killed by a rare but deadly virus that almost took her life too when she was a child. After finishing her Finals at Oxford, and with time on her hands before starting on her Master's research, Kate spent the summer at the CRU (Cold Research Unit). Run by an old friend of the family the worst thing that Kate should have been exposed to was the common cold. The devastating fire and subsequent amnesia sent her life off onto a new path, that led to Harvard, marriage and motherhood.

Fast forward sixteen years and …

Women's Prize for Fiction 2013

I've had a little hunt round today, looking for copies of the books on the Women's Prize Longlist. I've already read Alif the Unseen, Gone Girl and Bring Up the Bodies, and I have found my copies of The Light Between Oceans, The Forrests and The Marlowe Papers. Those last two I have started, but they both got put to one side. The Forrests did not suit my mood at the time, and although I thought The Marlowe Papers was wonderful the poem format meant I couldn't read as speedily as I usually do. I read quickly, and poetry has never been a natural fit for me. But, I intend to give each another go, and if either is on the shortlist then I will definitely read it cover to cover.

I managed to get N-W and Honour from the library today. At first glance I'm looking forward to Honour more. There are a few others I would like to get hold of, and I am certainly buying the Kate Atkinson Life After Life.

Of the three I have read Alif the Unseen is by far my favourite. It is a cle…

The Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2013

The Carnegie Medal Shortlist has been announced today, and I have made the bold decision to read them all. Well, actually I have a little headstart as I read two of the eight last year. I have one other one on my TBR pile ready for me to pick up and get on with. The rest I am going to try and borrow from the library. This year I want to make a real effort to use the local library more. They have a good ordering system in place, and not bad stock on the shelves. I would also hate to see any cuts to its budget, so I ought to be part of the 'use it' gang. I'll never stop adorning my house with books, but it makes sense financially and logistically to borrow more and buy fewer. Having said that, if I love anything I borrow so much I can't bear to part with it I will obviously buy a copy anyway. But, on to the shortlist...

These five are the ones I have not read yet - I'm particularly looking forward to reading the bottom two. I've heard amazing things about Code Nam…

Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle

Seoul Survivors is a full-on, non-stop near-future apocalyptic fertility-dystopian scare of a novel. Seriously, it does not let up for a moment. There are three main storylines, that connect and converge at points throughout the novel but are also fundamentally enmeshed together. Sydney has come to South Korea to persue her dreams of modelling. Damien hopes his trip will earn him enough money to escape the end of the world. Mee Hee just wants to live somewhere where she can be safe from constant fear and famine. All three of their lives are touched, for good or ill, by Dr Kim Da Mi, genius and possible saviour of the human race.

Sydney's blonde, Canadian good looks make her a hot property in South Korea. Her rapport with photographer Jin Sok helps her establish a career and a life, neither of which she really had at home. She's in South Korea with her boyfriend Johnny Sandman, a vicious thug who is even more repellent than he seems. Sydney adores being in front of the camera; …

Blogger Brunch at Random House

Yesterday I had an amazing time at the Random House Blogger Brunch. I met some lovely people, both fellow bloggers and the team at Random House. We were presented with the upcoming YA children's list, plied with coffee and cake, and heard from two fantastic authors. Oh, yes, and there was a goody bag!

 How glorious! I've heard about The Last Minute, it sounds like a very exciting, tense read, and I'm looking forward to it very much. And how brilliant to have a copy of Where The Wild Things Are. More about the other goodies shortly.

Random House have a few books out over the coming months that are real highlights for me. Silent Saturday by Helen Grant sounds amazing. Set in Brussels, 17 year old Veerie stumbles upon a secret society that breaks into unoccupied buildings for kicks. It's an exciting if hazardous pastime, but the stakes are raised when someone disappears. The Hunter has returned, and is not satisfied with one single victim. The book was described as Jo Nesb…

The Silurian Gift by Mike Tucker

On Thursday I had my own little World Book Day celebration and read a Quick Reads story. It seems like only a year or so since I first saw the Quick Reads appear in my old bookshop, but actually they've been going since 2006 - time really does fly. The laudable aim behind the publisher is to get more people reading. The books themselves are slim volumes of around 100 pages, with big print well-spaced out on the page. The layout makes it easier to focus on the words, and the length means more reluctant or less confident readers are not put off by some massive tome that looks as if it will require both a lot of effort and time to conquer.

But, the project can only be a success if the stories themselves are up to scratch. Over the years some seriously big names have contributed stories. This year's authors include Kathy Lette and Andy McNab. The one I chose yesterday was a Doctor Who story by Mike Tucker. Tucker has worked on the series and written Doctor Who spin-offs, so knows t…

The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn

Everything about The Memory of Lost Senses says 'read me'. The cover art is beautiful, evoking days past, with lush colour tinged with melancholy. The sundial in the centre of the fountain tells of time passing; rippling water disturbs the tranquility. Normally I might not dwell on a cover so long, but this one speaks of the story inside so much. Most of the narrative is told from 1911, as two old friends meet up to reminisce about their younger selves. But there is also a story happening at that very moment too, one that takes us forward. At the heart of all these stories is Cora, an ex-pat happier in Rome or Paris but now returned finally to England. To Temple Hill in the heart of the English countryside. Cora is an enigma to the villagers, a stranger with an air of the exotic and mysterious. She certainly harbours a great many secrets about her life.

It is those secrets that Sylvia has come to mine. An author, she has been piecing together Cora's life story for decades f…

The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

I am currently composing a little song that goes like this: 'I love The Split Worlds, I love The Split Worlds, Emma Newman is fab, read this book.' OK, so I probably am not destined for a cool music award anytime soon, but I think it conveys my enthusiasm. In case there is any lingering doubt in your mind: Between Two Thorns is brilliant, I loved it, please read it.

Down to the serious business of the storyline then. Sam is an average bloke who's had a skinful and sneaks behind a tree to answer a call of nature. Even in his inebriated state he hadn't expected to see a scary spider-like man and a glowing dragonfly hoisting a very suspiciously body-shaped package through the trees. It's OK though, because he can't remember a thing about it the next day.

Cathy is not an average young woman, balancing study with work in an emporium. The Emporium of Things in Between and Besides to be precise, a shop that sells charms and the like. She's avoiding her family qui…

The Holders by Julianna Scott

I like the cover of Julianna Scott's The Holders. That luminous huge green stone and sinuous Celtic decoration shout out 'we're going somewhere a little out of the ordinary, someplace with history'. Isn't it great when you CAN judge a book by its cover!

The story starts in Pittsburgh, as Becca comes home from work to find her little brother Ryland hiding in his treehouse. Inside the house two men are discussing his future with his mother. This is not the first time people have tried to 'help' Ry; unfortunately their help usually takes some form of institutionalisation. He hears voices. He may be different but he's Becca brother and she'll take on all comers. But there is something different about this pair, as much as she is loathe to admit it they may actually be able to help.

Their proposition is a school in Ireland, St. Brigid's Academy, run by Becca and Ry's errant father Jocelyn. He left their mum high and dry years before, and much to…

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

Today I'm saying hooray for steampunk! More specifically I'm feeling all loved-up about A Conspiracy of Alchemists.

Paris, 1903. Eleanor Chase, pilot, walks into a sinister cafe to meet with Patrice, her docking agent. He has an unusual job for her, some unexpected cargo that needs delivering to England. It's all a bit suspicious, but the job pays well and Elle likes to fly. Unfortunately, events very quickly take an unpleasant turn and Elle finds herself in a whole heap of danger.

Elle may not have set out looking for trouble, but once it found her there was no way she was going to back away from it. She's a brilliant character, determined, resourceful, clever and (dare I say) feisty. I adored her. In an age of female fragility she's kicking some serious butt. Her decision to fly illustrates her willingness to flout convention. For her, flying equals freedom, and is essential.

Added to the strong female lead, which I'm pre-disposed to enjoy, is the otherworldl…

A Treacherous Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

Our hero Charles Maddox is back, and once again embroiled in some very unsavoury matters. This time he is dragged into the orbit of Mary Shelley. It is not a comfortable place to be. Mary's only surviving son, called Percy after his father, calls upon Maddox's professional services. Maddox pays a visit to the Shelley residence; he meets a man ruled by his wife, a shrine to the Dear Departed Percy Bysshe Shelley, and a case requiring him to act as spy. Someone has some papers concerning the late Shelley that his family would like in their possession. Maddox reluctantly takes the case, but there is so much he doesn't know.

Lynn Shepherd has drawn upon the many mysteries surrounding Shelley's life to create another wonderfully atmospheric and chilling detective novel. The starting point in 1850 are the sensitive papers, which could undo all the hard work the current Lady Shelley has done in rehabilitating Shelley from pariah to icon. Mary's daughter-in-law, her son&#…