Thursday, 31 July 2014

Book Review- Bombmaker by Claire McFall

Title: Bombmaker
 Author:  Claire McFall
Published:  1 February 2014 by Templar
Length:  336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info:  Claire has also written Ferryman, which I reviewed here and won the Scottish Booktrust Award.
Summary : The English government have closed the borders with their Celtic neighbours. Any Celt found in England is branded with a tattoo, found twice they are executed. Scottish Lizzie is the 'property' of psychopathic London gang boss Alexander. Can Lizzie escape Alexander's deadly grip and at what price her betrayal?

Review: Following bad economic times, England closes the borders with Scotland and Wales  and brings in  a new policy: Celts found in England are branded. Branded Celts in England are killed. Lizzie is one such branded Celt, who is the "property" of Alexander, a gang boss in London, who keeps her around for her bombmaking skills. as time goes on, Lizzie realises she might like a life outside the gang. Which is something that Alexander does not like at all.
I read McFall's Ferryman last year and really enjoyed it. I was looking forwards to this, especially with everything going on about the Scottish Independence referendum. Extreme nationalist governments make good reading (not real life), and so do gangs. Add in promises of a clever awesome female character and I'm sold.
You very quickly get pulled into Lizzie's world, both the political climate and the gang life that she’s part of. It’s a world that is believable, if you imagine that a yes vote leads to extreme xenophobia on the  English peoples’ part (ie just a huge ramp up of how it is now).
I love the fact that all the characters are well fleshed out really well. You really get close to them, even if that closeness is not something that you really want to be. Alexander’s creepiness seems to know no bounds. Lizzie, I liked a lot; she’s resourceful, and you want things to go right for her, even though they tend not to. I loved reading about them and how they got where they are and where they want to go.
It’s very very different to Ferryman. McFall writes well in both softer afterlife stories and gritty thrillers. I’m looking forwards to see what she does next.


Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast paced relevant  dystopia.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Book Review- Run by Gregg Olsen

Title: Run
 Author: Gregg Olsen
Series:  Vengeance #1

Published: May 2014
Length: 256 pages
Warnings: off-stage past rape and killings
Source: publishers
Summary : What if you discovered that everything you thought you knew about yourself was a lie?

Rylee is fifteen. She comes home from school one afternoon to find the most shocking thing possible - her father dead, with a knife through his heart, and a key clutched in his hand. Her mother's purse is on the counter, but she appears to be long gone. A message in blood is written on the floor... RUN.

With her brother in tow, Rylee begins a dark journey, one that will uncover horrific and chilling crimes and lead her to an unexpected and gruesome discovery about her real father and what - or who - is behind his insatiable desire to kill. By the journey's end Rylee's childhood is a long way behind her...

RUN is the first title in the new Vengeance series, following Rylee as she begins to piece together the story of her life and to avenge unpunished crimes - starting with her own. This is DEXTER with a feisty female protagonist unlike any other in contemporary young adult fiction.
Review: Rylee, having come home from school to find her father dead, her mother missing, and message that just says “RUN”, gets her brother and runs.
I was excited to read this because I’ve read bits of Olsen's Envy, and liked it, and the trailer that HKB made was quite good (music win).
It starts off very quickly, the set up from the summary happening in the first chapter, and the running happening in the second. This pace is kept up throughout, which was good, and I read this in one sitting.
The mystery as to what happened is quickly partially  revealed in favour of a thriller story, which I didn't mind. I liked the fact that we get to meet lots of characters as Rylee tries to discover how things happened to others that fits into her current situation (not very well worded in comparison to the book, but I can't explain it better without spoilers), who each brought clues to the table. The way it developed was good, but the twist at the end was predictable.
The  main reason I didn't enjoy this was Rylee. I don't know why I disliked her so much, but I just didn't care for her or her story or the way it turned out. Maybe it was her narration; there's some interjections and thoughts which are kind of obvious. Maybe it was her, she seems a little too conveniently prepared to know what to do, and I didn't think she developed. It was probably the romance; there's a short flashback and a facebook conversation with a guy in the middle of the book (and why are you even worrying about facebook when all this is happening?) and the ending just comes out of nowhere and the book could have easily done without it because it just seems like an afterthought that wasn’t properly explored.
Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a turny fast thriller, that I didn’t get into as much as I’d hoped.


Monday, 7 July 2014

News! I'm back! And...off again.

Hi, people. So for the last few weeks I have been failing to blog. I've done it occasionally, but felt like I didn't really want to.  But now I've been reading some quite good books that make me want to tell you all about them and so review writing is happening again!
I am going on holiday for  a week. Typical for me to get my mojo back the days before I lose internet connection (I think. I have no idea on the wifi situation where I'm going). I will be planning lots of things while I am gone!  And here's things  for you while I'm gone.

Books for free(ish).
I'd like to draw attention to my pile of books that I've finished with. This is because they are overrunning the area under my bed. I charge for postage and packaging. Normal payment details apply- £3 for one or two books, £1.50 for every book hereafter. This can be payed by Paypal or in the form of an Amazon voucher. Email me with your choices and we'll sort something out. Books will be sent by Royal Mail or MyHermes (thanks, Emma Maree!)  Books in the first two columns (ie the finished copies) will be going to charity at the start of September!



UK ARC share Database
I was thinking-is there anywhere where all us UK bloggers can list books we want to pass on, at a central site? Apparently there used to be one, but it got shut down. Would people be interested in me setting one up? It would be a googledocs based spreadsheet document, one sheet with all the books, and bloggers by the side of it who have that book, and another sheet with bloggers' names, contact details and any of their comments regarding postage. Should I start one? Comment with thoughts, please!

Bard to Bookshelf
This is still going ahead! I have just been lazy. I propose we move it to September. I'll email the people who signed up in the next few weeks. What is Bard to Bookshelf? A celebration of Shakespeare, and his work's influence on YA.  More info and a signupsheet can be found here.

Events
So I'm going to Edinburgh for the Fringe *dances with excitement* I'll also be at the Cat Clarke and David Levithan event, which I'm looking forwards to.  Londonwise, I might be going to either the Angry Robot Forbidden Planet Night (13th August) or the James Dawson and David Levithan event (14th August). I can't go to both and it's really hard for me to decide which one I want to go to...because LGBT YA or fantasy (ANNE LYLE!!), so I'm going to base my decision on whichever one more people I know are going to. Anyone going to either? Tell me now!

That's it from me for now.  I will be extremely jealous of everyone at YALC and LFCC. I might be reachable on facebook, email, goodreads or other internet haunts. Might. Have a great week,everyone!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Book Review: The Young Avengers: The Children's Crusade by Allan Heinberg

Title: Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
 Author: Allan Heinberg
Series:   Young Avengers, Avengers,
Published:  March 28 2012 by Marvel
Length: 248 pages
Source: library
Summary : The Young Avengers return in an epic saga by series creators Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. When Wiccan's reality-altering powers begin to rival those of the Scarlet Witch, the young hero sets out on a quest to find her that spans the Marvel Universe and pits Wiccan against both the Avengers and the Young Avengers. But will Wiccan's desire to solve the mystery of his parentage be his salvation or his undoing? With three words, the Scarlet Witch changed the world forever...and now with her return, nothing will ever be the same for the Marvel Universe. This self-contained Marvel event reintroduces and redefines the Young Avengers and the Scarlet Witch for the Heroic Age, and is essential reading for any Avengers fan. COLLECTING:UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) 526 (B STORY); AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE 1-9; AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE - YOUNG AVENGERS 1
Review: The Scarlet Witch, who once cast a spell that took powers from millions of mutants, is wanted by the Avengers and the X Men. To find her, they decide to use Wiccan and Speed, who they believe are her sons. This results in a clash with a lot of groups from the Marvel universe.
I wanted to read this because I really enjoyed most of Marvel's cinematic universe, wanted to read the comics, and the general consensus of the internet on where to start in the wide world of Marvel is pick up any book and roll with it. But, among other things recommended by Georgia(The Bibliomaniac) and Cicely (Loves Books), I was recommended Young Avengers and this was all my library had in that respect so I started with this.
It had short character introductions for each of the Young Avengers, which was useful. It also told us simply or let us easily infer the past events of the Marvel timeline.
I liked all the characters. Wiccan, aka Billy, is the main one for this storyline, and you got to know him quite well. Also features heavily was Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. I liked her story. I think some of the characters came in a bit too late in the story to knoew them in this one, but I suppose it matters les when they have extensive stories of their own. The team of the Young Avengers I liked, and I'd like to see more of them, especially Kate Bishop/Hawkeye.
The plot brings in a lot of characters from the Marvel universe. There's also a bit randomly in a future timestream, which I had to go over a few times to understand. Otherwise, it was easy to follow, and quite quick.
The art was consistently good. I liked the fact it was all in full colour (I'm used to black and white manga where colour story pages are rare) and the action pages looked really good.


Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast story that made a great introduction to the Marvel comics universe.


Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Friday, 27 June 2014

Theatre Review- Avenue Q

Title: Avenue Q
Writer: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty
Director: Cressida Carré
Performed by: Sell A Door
Major cast:  Tom Steedon, Lucie-Mae Sumner, Stephen Arden, Richard Morse,Jacqueline Tate ,  Ellena Vincent, Jessica Parker,
Seen at: Wycombe Swan
Other Info: They're still touring! Try and catch them if you can. More info here.

Review: Princeton has just completed a BA in English. He now doesn’t know what to do with his life. Moving into Avenue Q and meeting a range of colourful characters, puppets such as Kate, Rod, Nicky and Trekkie, and humans like Christmas Eve and Brian. Oh, and Gary Coleman. Avenue Q follow them all as they all wait for their dreams to come true. 
I wanted to see this because...hello, Avenue Q! It’s a brilliant coming of age show, with a few songs for which it's well known but some others that are also really good, and I was looking forwards to a night of comedy and music and adorableness.
The show started with a cute little animation to the short opening theme. The screens occasionally came on between scenes or during songs, providing extra comedy.
All the cast were really good. Lucie-Mae Sumner's Kate voice was annoying to start with, because it's quite squeaky in places, but her Lucy was really good. Tom was good as both Princeton and Rod. I would have liked to see more of Ellena Vincent/Gary. Jacqueline Tate and Richard Morse's Christmas Eve and Brian were both cute and funny and paired well together. My favourites were Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker, who are Nicky, Trekkie and the Bad Idea Bears. They worked together really well, Parker's facial expressions as... well, everyone, were really good, and I loved the range of voices that Arden did (normal for Nicky, growly for Trekkie, and quite high for the Bad Idea Bears).  All the actors put a lot of energy in, the very skilled puppeteers made the puppets come to life, and this really showed.
The music was very good. The arrangements were a little different to the one on the recording (of a different cast), which I liked, though it's a shame they only got licensed shorter versions of Schadenfreude and The Money Song. Trekkie's song was very good, with an added pause after Kate's “Normal people don't sit at home” line  which worked really well for comedy. You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Making Love) was really well staged, showing off the whole cast  (and the puppets' inventive sex).  I also really liked the way they did My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada, Fantasies Come True, Schadenfreude, and The More You Ruv Someone. 
I liked the staging, and the use of lights in windows to show where on the street each scene was taking place in.  The book is very good (someone else must have thought so too because it won an award for it). It touches on lots of themes, like acceptance,  friendship, relationships, in a way that is funny about 90% of the time, emotional the other 10%, and brilliant throughout. 

Overall: Strength 5 tea to a wonderful show with a very strong cast that made for an excellent night out.

Links: Company | Writer | Theatre

Friday, 20 June 2014

Book Review- Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Title: Grasshopper Jungle
 Author: Andrew Smith
Series:  N/A
Published:  27 February 2014 by Electric Monkey
Length: 394 pages
Source: won from FictionThirst
Summary : In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things. This is the truth. This is history. It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
Review: Austin and Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant praying mantises. They also find somewhere where they might be able to survive the end of the world.
I wanted to read this because I was told queer protagonist plus laughs plus weird stuff and this looked right up my street.
It started with one of my favourite ever opening passages. Then an introduction to Robby and Austin, and the people in their town. Then lots of weird weird things.
A lot of things happen in Grasshopper Jungle, which would seem crazy on their own, but just about work when combined into the story.
This is definitely funny in places. Austin is a sex obsessed teenager questioning his sexuality and other things in life. He's also attempting to record everything as a historian. This makes for a unique writing style, with many funny parts such as “Even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we've ever done, we’ve also managed to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit” and the chapter titles. However, this also comes with a lot of annoying things. We are told every time  he gets horny, and we also get repeated things like names and histories of people which he's already explained. Both these things get irritating after the first few instances, and  they carry on throughout the entire book.
I like the fact we get a lot of information about everything, which I think works because 1)it's interesting and 2)some things are so bizarre that not knowing as much as we can about a thing can make it impossible to understand. It felt like I was reading slower than usual, maybe to make sure I caught everything, maybe because the of the style. I don't know.
The characters are well fleshed out, though I felt I didn't really get to get close to them, maybe because of the blunt writing style. Also, regarding Austin's sexual confusion: this is why bisexuality and options of nonmonogamy need to be openly offered. (I might do a post on bisexuality and nonmonogamy and why that would solve so many problems in literature and life. More on that later maybe).
The plot developed slowly, which meant we got a chance to take it in. we also got a full history of each generation of Austin's family from leaving Poland down to Austin, which I liked.
Andrew Smith's imagination is wonderful.


Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book which was weird in an awesome way, but not entirely my thing.