Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book Review-Unrest by Michelle Harrison

A bit of pre-review amble... Sorry for the week long disappearance!
To all those participating in The Month Before Halloween, the linky works now! You can add your link to the linky at the bottom of this post.
Title: Unrest
 Author: Michelle Harrison
Series:  N/A
Published:  26 April 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Length: 375 pages
Source: Library
Summary : Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless - but to Elliott they’re terrifying.
Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again - and it wants Ophelia, too . . .

Review:  Ever since Elliot was killed and revived in a car accident, he's dreamed of ghosts and out of body experiences-and not in a nice way. To try and understand these, he works at Past Lives, a haunted museum. He and fellow worker Ophelia later discover another ghost, and this one wants both his girl, and his life.
Ghost story! Yay! It starts off a little creepy, with Elliot dreaming of the girl who used to live in his apartment before she killed herself. Getting through basic backstory and starting work at Past Lives only took a few chapters and the whole book is well paced in terms of things happening throughout. 
In terms of my interest levels though, it took about half the book for me to fully care. The first bit's ok, but it takes a fair bit of time for the out of body experience mentioned on the back cover to happen. After we get to know the spirit, Sebastian, that wants something off Elliot, it picks up a lot.
Elliot's average but likable, and you'll end up wanting everything to go well for him. Ophelia had to grow on me, which she only did just about. Their romance is the stereotypical meet, intensely dislike, somehow fall in love, but for Ophelia's personality, it worked.
The thing I enjoyed most was getting the backstories for the spirits, Tess and Sebastian. Both are sad in their own rights, and you do feel for them. They also ended up being the most developed characters.
XXX being the bad person was quite predictable, but there were other things that were a  surprise-the circumstances of Sebastian's death particularly.
I liked reading from Elliot's point of view. You get a good sense of how much he's put off kilter by the hauntings, but you also get the normal teenage boy feelings. I personally don't get why he'd want a girl he thought was a complete ... but I suppose it beats instalove.
There's quite a few twists and turns that keep you locked in Unrest for a bit of time, from the middle onwards. And once you have become invested in it, it's worth it. I was mildly interested at the start of Unrest. My heart was racing at the three quarter mark as things were revealed.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a ghost story that really keep you in once you're there.
 Links: Goodreads | Author website

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Waiting on Wednesday- Snow White Sorrow

It seems like such a long time since I've done this...

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where we show off books that we want to read but have not been published yet. 

Title: Snow White Sorrow
Author: Cameron Jace
Release Date: 30 October 2012
Link to / Summary from Goodreads:  What if all you knew about fairy tales was wrong?
Sixteen year old Loki Blackstar is no Prince Charming. His mother is a ghost. His only friend is a red Cadillac that talks to him through the radio. He looks like an Angel but acts like jerk. No wonder he has been banned from Heaven, which is the least of his troubles. Loki needs a job to pay for school and support himself.Still, Loki has a rare gift: He is a Dreamhunter. One of the few in the world who can hunt and kill immortal demons in their dreams so they never wake up again.When Loki is sent to kill a sixteen-year-old vampire girl the locals call Snow White Sorrow, he is pulled into a magical but dangerous world. The locals believe the monster to be Snow White.
The real Snow White... living in the ruins of an ancient castle in a small town. She is described as horribly beautiful, terrifyingly enchanting, and wickedly lovely.What he finds instead is a beautiful monster girl filled with rage and hurt, who has an epic untold story to tell of things such like why the Brothers Grimm altered the fairy tale, who the Evil Queen really is, where the mirror came from, and who possessed it.Snow White has killed every person who has dared come near the castle where she once lived with the queen. Mysteriously, she lets Loki live. 

Why I want it: I always love fairy tale retellings, and Snow White has been my favourite since forever. However, there's also a lot of suspicous similarities between this and a couple of other books I really really enjoyed. *cough Anna Dressed in Blood cough*.  So it may be cliche and a composite book...or it may not.  I can't tell right away if I'll enjoy it  or not, but it'll be an interesting enough read. 

What are YOU waiting on this week?
PS: Does anyone else want to take celebrate with me in the Month Before Halloween? More info here...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Book Review- Heartless by Gail Carriger

Title: Heartless
 Author:  Gail Carriger
Series:  The Parasol Protectorate #4
Published:  1 July 2011 by Orbit
Length: 385 pages
Source: Library
Other info: The others in the series are Soulless, Changeless, Blameless and Timeless. There is a graphic novel adaptation of Soulless. Gail is working on The Finishing School series for young adults.
Summary : Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant. Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?

Review: So, Alexia's baby's nearly due, and they have to find somewhere for her to live. Luckily, Lord Akeldama agrees to take the child in, leading to arguements in various forms. In other news, there's a plan to kill the Queen and the only source of info is a fading ghost, and Madame Lefoux seems to be building something that really has nothing to do with hats.
From start to finish, I was laughing. The first paragraph was enough to set me off, and seeing as I started Heartless in the middle of a bookstore, I got quite a few strange looks from those who couldn't understand what was so good. Poor them.
Alexia's pregnancy seems to have made her even more sharp and strong willed, much to the exasperation of the three men who are most heavily involved in her life. Their traits too have gone to the next level,   with Conall being more irritable at little things in a comical way, Lyall being more organised and ready for everything, and Akeldama being nope...Akeldama. If you've read these books, you'll know.
Lyall gets a huge amount of backstory revealed. As well as the plot to bring Conall to Woolsey, we also delve into Lyall's personal life. This leads to me shipping LyallxBiffy for all it's worth, as well as putting Alexia in an awkward situation regarding her husband's best friend and her father.
After gallavanting off to Scotland and Italy, it's nice to return back to the more familiar London. Madame Lefoux's steampunk designs are a huge part in Heartless, with a dramatic showdown near the end. We got good insight into (vampire) hive dynamics, and ends with some very unexpected events.
I love Alexia's fighting spirit. Throughout, she's almost into labour (and actually is in labour by the end). But she still keeps going, regarding her child as, while it is still inside her, a minor inconvenience.
Gail's writing is a bit more mature, featuring a lot of more adult references. Conall's attempt to phrase why Lyall and Biffy would not make a good couple ("both too much the Beta") is particularly note worthy, as are half the things that Akeldama comes out with. It's not enough to mark this as 18 and over, but for innocent little people, some things may go over their heads. And as always, there's the wordy jokes and sarcasm and general attitudes of the characters that make this a thoroughly enjoying read.
Important to note-at a gathering with London's important vampires, when a giant octopus is on the march,  treacle tart is the thing most deserving of protection.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to the most engaging, most interesting, and by far the most fun book in the series so far.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Book Review- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One
 Author: Ernest Cline
Series:  N/A
Published:  5 April 2012 by Arrow
Length: 384 pages
Warnings: violence, sex references, 13+
Source: Library
Other info: Ernest has also written a set of poems about his life. Ernest is also running a similar contest onlne, for adults in the USA, but not Florida and Columbia, and the prize is a car.
Summary : It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win.  A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

Review:  Wade is a Gunter. One of many who, since the death of Virtual Reality OASIS's CEO and founder Halliday, has been hunting for Easter eggs scattered all over the virtual galaxy. Finding them, and keys and gates before any other Gunter means that they will gain inheritance of OASIS. Many a dedicated Gunter wants this. But as well as playing against OASIS, they're playing against IOI, a company that will do anything to win-even kill.
From the start, I was pulled in. It's a premise that's different from anything I've read before, except maybe Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and that didn't take part on a computer generated universe.
The 2040s world is built up quickly, explaining what went wrong in the 10s, and how Earth went downhill from there. The concept behind the Hunt and the OASIS is also quickly explained, and is easy to pick up.
You get a large cast of characters. Wade is our protagonist, appearing in OASIS as Parzival. In addition to him is Art3mis, well known Gunter with a highly successful blog, best friend Aech(despite never meeting in real life)and Japanese duo Daito and Shoto. None of them are who you think they'd be when you meet them properly, but Aech, Art3mis and Wade are built up really well, and I got really attached to all five gunters, even though for the majority of the novel, we know four of them as online avatars.
Wade is clever, resourceful, thinks outside the box and is very likable. Once IOI make their intentions clear, he does quite well at staying one step ahead of them, and is obviously very dedicated to the hunt. He's also gone through major character development by the end, with a really cute ending. 
Although most of Ready Player One is set in OASIS, the cuts to the real world are great. They give a sense of reality, and remind you that there's a person playing this game. What I don't understand is if they're in the middle of an energy crisis, why are they, as in the whole world, stuck on a computer?
Not that I blame them. In Oasis, anything could happen. Most of what we see is connected to 80s geek culture. Dungeons and Dragons and other video games are the most prevalent, but for anyone who grew up in the 80s or who has/had an obsession with that time, this is amazing. And if you didn't, it's still amazing. Not knowing the D&D games inside out isn't a problem for the reader, because Wade does. There's so many references to so much stuff, it's unbelievable. And while it's less than 400 pages, there's so much happening (both storywise and to do with the fact the print and spacing is small) that it seems so much longer. In a good way.
And the whole scale of it I said, IOI will kill for the win, a fact that's made clear once Wade gets a lead. The stakes are so high, the writing so gripping, the characters so engaging, the plot so exciting, that it's impossible to tear yourself away.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a truly epic story that everyone will find something to love in.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Happenings! #21

It's actually been a rather slow week...

Big thanks to Quercus and Harpercollins! I got Shadows by Isla J Bick (the sequel to Ashes) and What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang. Both look really good!
I also got Doctor Whom by A R.R.R. Roberts from the library. It's really insane...

We have a cover and title for Department 19 book 3! It's called Battle Lines and you can find it here. Both Katy and I are getting a bit bored with the re-using the cover in differnt colours. We hope the next one will be light blue but we highly doubt it-all the colouring schemes we've seen (Black Butler, Chronicles of Nick) tend to use yellow for book four...

Kristy Berridge has a giveaway for book two of the series, Damned. I really enjoyed Hunted and so I'm looking forwards to this!

Strange Chemistry are starting a subscription service! I think this is a really good idea-awesome books at a marked down price and you don't miss one? I think if you're assured about the quality, then go for it. More info here.

Speaking of Strange Chemistry...I will be at the Strange chemistry event on Thursday. Who else is coming?

That's all I can think of at the moment...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Book Review- The Blessed by Tonya Hurley

Title: The Blessed
 Author: Tonya Hurley
Series:  The Blessed #1
Published:  2 August 2012 by Hodder
Length: 232 pages
Source: Publisher
Other Info: Tonya also wrote the Ghostgirl series!
Summary : Brooklyn teens Lucy, Cecelia and Agnes find themselves in the emergency room at Perpetual Help Hospital at the lowest point in their lives. Lucy, the superficial party girl; Cecelia, a drop out rock chick; and Agnes, a hopeless romantic. All rebels running from their lives and themselves, plagued by broken hearts and broken dreams. Enter Sebastian. Mysterious, compelling, seductive. He seems to bring each of them what they long for...But in the battle for his heart, will they lose their souls?

Review: Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy are three girls brought together by low points in lives. They meet Sebastian, who seduces them, makes them all fall in love with him. And then they find out that they’re not just three random girls brought together by failed lives. They’re reincarnations of saints Agnes, Cecelia and Lucy. and they’ve got jobs to do.
I really liked the idea. It wasn’t one of my “I must read this asap” books, but it was definitely intriguing. Saints, and religion to a general extent, don’t tend to get brought up in YA so I thought this could really work out nicely. I also kind of enjoyed the Ghostgirl series.
We start seeing the three broken girls arrive at a Catholic hospital following suicide attempts and drowning and whatnot. It takes a bit of time for me to care about them, despite their circumstances. We do get a lot of backstory which is nice, but at times I did just want the main story to move on.
Which it hardly did. A good deal of The Blessed takes place in a church. The three girls and Sebastian in a church.  They spend this attempting to be strong and failing, learning about the Church and Christian history, and flirting with Sebastian. I think. I only read this a few days ago and I’ve already forgotten what happened. The first thing I have a problem with is the way they all get htere. After being all together in the hospital, which I understand, I really don’t get why they’d just be casually out in a thunderstorm and happen to seek refuge in this particular church. And all three of them? I know they need to for plot working outness, but honestly.
The only character I really liked was Agnes, and even that was at a push. Still, she’s better than Cecelia and Lucy, two semi-famous teenagers with separate half-careers. Put all three of them together and you end up with a tonne of whinyness. Add in a boy and you get a lot of bitchiness too. Lucy in particular, I don’t like. she’s annoying, and she mucks around in the church in a way this is, quite simply, disrespectful.
The whole saints thing only comes in to play during the last eighth of the novel, which is too late to develop anything properly.  The rituals and the latin was nice, but the way they all suddenly gain the strength to do everything without needing time to adjust was unbelievable. The ending seemed rushed and it wasn’t a very satisfying end.
Good liked the premise and the chapter titles and the cover.  Oh, and since I looked at the finished copy in a bookshop, I quite like the pictures of the saints. 

Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book that had a really good premise, but didn’t work out for me.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Book Review- Steampunk

Title: Steampunk!
 Author: Various
Series:  N/A
Published:  11 October 2011 by Walker
Length: 432 pages
Source: Library
Summary : Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the steampunk genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, Ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.

Review: As always with anthologies, I’ll give each story its own rating, and the book’s rating will be the average.
When I first heard about this, I knew I wanted to read this. Steampunk is a rising genre that I can’t get enough of. Seeing familiar and new authors tackle it should be good. And then we’re told that the authors weren’t allowed to set it in Victorian London. Very nice idea.
Some Future Day by Cassandra Clare. This follows Rose, her dolls, and wounded soldier Jonah. It’s a nice little love story with a bit of timetravel included. It#s pretty, but short andnot enough happens to make me care. 3
The Last Ride of the Glory Girls by Libba Bray. Focuses arond a gang and a big religious system. Like all of Libba’s stuff, I just coldn’t get into it. But the religion was nicely fleshed out and it’s a good read for fans. 2
Clockwork Fagin by Cory Doctrow. Canadian steampunk! Win! Crippled children murder their evil overseer and build themselves a clockwork replacement. I love Monty and Sian. Great idea, good writing and characterisation for such a short story. 5
Seven Days Beset by Demons by Shawn Cheng. A week in the life of an inventor where he is visited by all seven deadly sins. I really nice graphic novel that puts across all the emotion of this inventor. 4.
Hand in Glove by Ysabeau S Wilce. A girl leads a murder investigation in which the murders are seemingly commited by the dead... I enjoyed this one. It’s a good story but the names were really awkward and annoying. 4
The Ghost of Chimlech Manor by Delia Sherman. What it says on the tin. It’s a nice story, but really long winded. 3.
Gethsemane by Elizabeth Knox. Another longwinded story centred around a witch. Good characterisation but I got a bit bored. 3
 The Summer People by Kelly Link. Fairy tale meets modern day America. Slow start but not much happened. And who names their child Fran in this day and age? 2
Peace in our Time by Garth Nix. This was really confusing, but I liked the characters. There was something about a war but I don’t really know where it was all going. 3
Nowhere Fast by Christopher Rowe. Future! I’m not sure what was meant to be happening. I liked Luz and Fizz and the really cool horses at the end, but aside from that it wasn’t one for me. 3
Finishing School by Kathleen Jennings. The other graphic short. Gwen and Cecile, both outcasts,  make friends and build things. a really cute story with clear friendship and a good conclusion. 5
Steam Girl by Dylan Horrocks. Boy meets weird girl at school who tells him stories of adventures as Steam Girl, travlling round planets. I really liked our two main characters, who have a lot of background to them. The plot is slow and steady. 5
Everything Amiable and Obliging by Holly Black. Automatons! Yay! Sofie has been asked to talk to Amelie about her love. Because said love is not human. Very nice story with good characters  and steampunky feelings prevalent. 4
The Oracle Engine by M T Anderson- Ancient Roman Steampunk- all the awards! The tale of Crassus with a really original twist. Great setting and device, with happily gory end. 5

Overall:  I’d like to hunt down more from M T Anderson. Dylan Horrocks and Cory Doctrow. Strength 3.6 tea rounded up to 4.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Book Review- vN by Madeline Ashby

 Title: vN
 Author: Madeline Ashby
Series:  The Machine Dynasty #1
Published:  2 Aug 2012
Length:488 pages
Source: Publishers
Other info: Madeline has been published and writes for various magazines. This is her debut novel.
Summary : Amy Peterson is a von Neumann machine- a self-replicating humanoid robot. For the past five years, she has been grown slowly as part of  mixed organic/synthetic family. She knows very little about her android mother’s past, so when her grandmother arrives and attacks her mother, little Amy wastes no time: she eats her alive. Now she carries her malfunctioning granny as a partition on her memory drive, and she’s learning impossible things about her family history-like the fact that he failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed. Which means everyone wants a piece of her-some to use her as a weapon, some to destroy her.

Review: In this futuristic world, robots are a fast-growing demographic in the population, mainly due to vonNeumann machines, aka vNs. They’re robots that look human and do many things the same way- eat, grow, and self-reproduce. Amy is one such robot. After being brought up by an android mother and a human father, she’s been fed specially to keep her aging as per human speed. Therefore Amy spends the first twenty-something pages as a five year old. All this changes when Portia, her grandmother, shows up and attacks her daughter (Amy’s mother). Amy then eats her grandmother. Due to this sudden influx of food, Amy gets a growthspurt and becomes physically about twenty (I think). Having broken the failsafe that keeps robots from harming humans, or anyone,  With Portia’s voice  constantly nagging her, and with the help of fellow vN Javier, Amy is now on the run from lots and lots of people.
A robot eating her grandmother. Sign me up. Proper sci-fi doesn’t make up a huge bulk of my reading, but I love it when I get it. from the start, we get a really good world built up. I love the idea of major food companies making things to cater for vNs, and the way that these robots are becoming integrated properly into society. I love the smaller scale world that’s built up too- the close knit family that isn’t quite conventional but still tight and happy and loving and generally great.
I found the plot chopping and changing really quickly, which was nice because lots of things happened. However, they it all kind of chopped and changed a bit too fast, and there were some things I got confused about at various points in the novel. There’s a bit about Rory that I didn’t really get and I feel that may have been a bit significant. There were other really random things that while good on their own, were just a bit too crazy and  a  bit incoherent.
I loved Amy and Javier. Both are strong personalities that are easily likable and Amy develops a lot throughout. I suppose you have to when going through all that stuff.
A lot happens. Within the first few chapters, Amy has eaten her gran, broken out of jail and watched Javier give birth to a baby version of himself.  We then get to some other sci-fi conventions, such as robots not being meant to be able to harm others, and intelligent robots and debates around that.
The writing’s good. It effectively conveys the idea of Amy learning things from start to finish, and each character has their own  quirks and speech and such. vN has a really nice ending that round the story off well. The thing that made me just think “win” most of all was the fact that Ashby put the chapter numbers in binary. I’m easily pleased.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a fun sci-fi adventure with a lot of family and friendship and a little bit of love thrown in.

Links: Goodreads

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Book Review- Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings

Title: Poltergeeks
 Author: Sean Cummings
Series:  Poltergeeks #1
Published:  2 October 2012
Length: 320 pages
Source: Netgalley
Summary : 15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.  In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.
Review: We start off meeting Julie, a teenage witch, and her friend Marcus as they investigate a house that’s been messed around with by a poltergeist. This isn’t the normal kind though-it’s a bit malevolent and tries to attack Marcus. After trapping it in a teddy bear, Julie goes home and shows her mother, who also doesn’t like it. Things build from there as a spirit gets loose again, and takes Julie’s mother with it. Julie is put on a mission to get her mother back, discovers her heritage and gets caught up in a hunt for a Witchfinder...
Of all the Strange Chemistry titles to start with, this was the one that I really wanted to read. Ghosts, witches and a badass heroine? My thing exactly.
From the start, it was slyly funny, with Julie calling out the poltergeist with unconventional words. She also explains her situation with humour and a voice that I knew I’d love throughout. From the writing, Julie is smart and sassy. From her actions, Julie is this and more. She takes initiative all the time, and she produces amazing comebacks. She’s a really likeable character, and you do find yourself rooting for her.
Marcus too. He’s not your average hero, “not suitable material for the cover of a romantic novel”, a bit awkward when it comes to social etiquette, taking Julie’s magic in his stride, but he’s really funny and sweet. Oh, and his text alert tone is the Doctor Who theme tune. Win! His feelings for Julie are so cute, and I really wanted them to get together. As a couple, both magically paired and otherwise paired, Julie and Marcus work excellently. Both of them are fresh, unpreoccupied with love, and the kind of characters that I really want to be real because they’d make awesome friends.
Other characters are good. Marla, school goth, is nice, and I liked seeing her try for Marcus’ attention while knowing that he was in love with Julie. Having Julie’s father be a ghost was excellent. Matthew Hopkins brings the right amount of evil to this, while still keeping it light hearted. And having magic tutor/guardian Betty changed into a talking dog...
Plot develops well, at just the right pace. Some things seem to work out a bit too well, but it’s easy to over look these as it doesn’t happen too often and you’re just so caught up in the fun. the action at the end was well written, with magic and intensity well fitting the drama.
Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a story that’s full of phantoms, fantasy and fun. I really really want a sequel soon, or just more from Sean! (although I think in the author’s notes, there was something about a sequel.)

Book Review- Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Title: Such Wicked Intent
 Author: Kenneth Oppel
Series:  The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2
Published:  August 2012 by Random House
Length: 372 pages
Warnings: romantic situations, violence
Source: publishers
Other info: Book one in this series is called This Dark Endeavour. Review can be found here. Kenneth has written the Silverwing trilogy, the Airborn series and other things.
Summary : When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen year old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again, just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed. If only these things were not so tempting. When Victor and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with their friend Henry, they venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Frankenstein and This Dark Endeavour, I knew I’d have to read this at some point. It starts quite quickly, with Victor’s first attempt at conversing and resurrecting the dead happening within the first twentyish pages. A very short time later, Victor is in the Spirit World, conversing with his dead brother. He then makes an even more feverent go at bringing his brother back to life.
Victor’s characterisation is extremely strong. In everything he does, you can see his longing for power, and the way he manipulates things is very clever. Elizabeth is a little bit more boring than she was, because now she’s really quite set on going to a convent to become a nun, but she still has a small touch of rebellion in her.  Konrad is once again likable, even though he’s dead. I like Henry best because he’s rational, clever, but still not boring. Victor develops the most, with him gradually acquiring knowledge and building up the want / need to bring back his brother. You can see his ambition growing from the start of This Dark Endeavour, through this, and you can see how it’ll end up in Frankenstein.
The butterflies are a very nice touch. As well as being pretty little things, they have a lot more meaning than you’d first think. Little details like seeing them in the painting are nice additions. As well as that, the Spirit Cards that Kenneth has been putting on facebook are really pretty.
The mystery-kind of...plot line maybe?-  concerning the dead housemaid and the big monster in the spirit world was good, but a little simple. Anelise was easy to see through and the big revelation wasn’t a revelation at all for me.
The writing style is consistent to the previous book, with Victor’s lust for power  coming through as well as the narration of what was happening. There’s also a bit of archaic language that makes this a bit more believable and interesting.
I really like the subplot with the growing a body for Konrad and that working out how it did.  I was wondering though how the thing they found ages ago got through to the spirit world and such. This is probably a result of my bad memory and quick reading, but I’d still like to know.
Like This Dark Endeavour, the last few paragraphs of Such Wicked Intent lead onto Victor’s next obsession. With it being what it is, I wonder if the next in this series (because the ending just screams for a next book) will be the final one before this series is meant to lead into Frankenstein. It’ll be interesting how this is played further down the line.

Overall: Strength 4 tea to a good follow on to a really good prequel.

Monday, 13 August 2012

News update!

So...I know I tend to post these on a Sunday and that this is a day late but that's only because I spent all yesterday watching the Closing Ceremony and random youtube videos and doing all kind of random stuff. But I've not done one recently and I think I need to because there's a lot of cool stuff going on...

First, what I got over the last two weeks...

  • Foretold by Jana Oliver. Thanks to Macmillan! I'm reading this at the moment and enjoying it quite a lot.
  • Gods and Warriors by Michelle Paver and Dark Eyes by William Ritcher. Thanks to Penguin!
  • Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr. Thanks to Harpercollins!
  • Crusher by Niall Leonard. Thanks to Random House!
  • The City's Son by Tom Pollock. Thanks to Quercus!
  • Timeless by Gail Carriger and Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Thanks to the library, who bought both of these after buying the rest of both of these series and bought these two to complete them at my command request.
And here's what's been happening!
Hot Key Books are running a drawing competition for Sarah Mussi's Angel Dust. Signed copies and art from Sarah up for grabs! Go look here.

Faber are running a music competition! 13-18 year olds that feel they are up to it can compose some music and the winning entry will get used in the film trailer.  More info here.

Emma is running a month long Classics Carnival. She and a load of guest reviwers have been sharing thoughts on modern takes on Classics. To see this general excellency, go here.

Leakycon will be coming to London!! *deletes random keyboard spazzing* It'll run August next year, and booking opens on September. More info here  and thanks to Andrew for telling us!

Laura has a good post on her thoughts of 50 Shades...

There's a huge list of booky tumblrs. That's a large proportion of my life gone.

Constable and Toop has a trailer! Watch it here. I'm also amused to find that there's an actual funeral parlour called this.

Two great bloggers, Liz and Raimy, have giveaways! Congrats to Liz for TWO YEARS of blogging and congrats to Raimy for life!

That's all I can think of at the moment...Have a great week!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Guest Post- Emotobooks

Emotobooks: The Fusion of Written Fiction and Expressionistic Art by Ron Gavalik

Thank you to Nina for allowing me to guest post.

As a writer and publisher, it’s always been a goal to bridge the gap between the cerebral gratifications of well-plotted fiction writing and the visual stimulation of illustrative art. The one day I had a mini-epiphany. Insert expressive, emotionally representative imagery in written stories, during moments of emotional consequence. By delivering a visual of what a character feels, the reader becomes more intensely immersed in the story.

Emotobooks are written fiction stories, not comics or graphic novels. The few emotional abstract images woven in the stories are the dream-like visuals each of us experience in the middle of the night.

The term Emotobook is a portmanteau word I conjured as a memorable label for the very first fiction medium for smartphones and tablets. For the first time, readers can now see actual representation of character emotions right on the page for a fun, interactive experience.

Stories are published as EmotoSerials or EmotoSingles. EmotoSerials are monthly-released, continuing stories, much like TV dramas or miniseries that continue until their climactic ends. EmotoSingles are individual experiences.

I launched Grit City Publications in July of 2011, with the first Emotobook series titled Grit City, a seven-part story about Dillon Galway, an idealistic freelance journalist, who scrapes out a living reporting on corruption. Since then, we’ve grown the Emotobooks Catalog into an array of fun genre fiction titles in Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, and Horror.

Each Emotobook title consists of three creators: the author, editor, and illustrator. It’s our philosophy that three contributors on each Emotobook delivers a richer, more flavorful story. The creators even offer Autograph Cards and suggest mood settings, such as food, drink, and music. This way our fans can achieve a full-bodied experience.

Emotobooks accommodate a new audience, who desire a fast “full story experience” on smartphones, iPods, computers, or tablet readers in about 30 to 60 minutes. They can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Our editors are currently seeking the best genre fiction for the Emotobooks transformation. It’s required that fiction writers read our submission guidelines and the free handbook, How to Create Emotobooks, before submitting. Our publishing model is unique and we require long-term participation from authors for everyone’s success.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the Emotobooks Revolution, I hope you’ll join our Readers Cult and begin collecting the coolest titles. We even offer free Autograph Cards to our fans. What it really comes down to is we write, edit, and illustrate the best modern fiction for our fans. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Thank you.

Ron Gavalik’s Bio:
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ron Gavalik is a seasoned freelance journalist and fiction author of the successful Grit City thriller series. As Publisher for Grit City Publications, he oversees the Emotobooks Revolution. Ron holds an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and a B.S. in Marketing Communications from Point Park University. When not writing, you can find him in the outdoors of Southwestern Pennsylvania on his trail bike, hiking, or fishing.

I love the idea of these. I've seen other publishers dabble in this, but never anyone completely devoted to it. What's your opinion on technology merging with books? 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Book review- Moriarty & The Hound of the D'Urbervilles by Kim Newman

Title: Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the DUrbervilles 
 Author: Kim Newman
Series:  N/A
Published:  4 October 2011 by Titan Books
Length: 476 pages
Warnings: violence, references to prostitution, 13+
Source: bought
Other info: Kim has also written the Anno Dracula books, as well as other things
Summary : Imagine the twisted evil twins of Holmes and Watson and you have the dangerous duo of Prof. James Moriarty - wily, snake- like, fiercely intelligent, unpredictable - and Colonel Sebastian 'Basher' Moran - violent,politically incorrect, debauched. Together they run London crime, owning police and criminals alike. Unravelling mysteries -- all for their own gain. 

Review: Moriarty and Moran-the criminal equivalent of Holmes and Watson. This collection of short stories charts their running around London and the rest of England, living with a woman who runs a brothel, and taking on their fair share of cases. 
Literary mashup galore in here! Obviously, the Sherlock-verse is the major recipient of Kim's treatment, but there are characters from many other Victorian stories. The titles are all plays on the more-known Sherlock Holmes stories, and all feature
In the author's note, we're told that the first to be written was A Shambles in Belgravia. In my opinion, this one was the best. The opening line is my favourite in the whole novel: "To Professor Moriarty, she is always that bitch." Compare this to the reverance that Sherlock holds for the same woman, Irene Adler, and you should understand why this book is amazing.
A Volume in Vermillion keeps introductions a rather neat parallel to A Study in Scarlet, before putting Moran in his first spot of trouble. I didn't really enjoy The Red Planet League.  It just didn't hold my attention. The Hound of the D'Urbervilles was good at bringing together various literary characters from everywhere, as was The Adventure of the Six Maledictions. The Greek Invertebrate is the best paced story, and The Problem of the Final Adventure brings back characters from the previous stories. It also leaves Sherlock and Moriarty's fates really, really ambiguous. 
The stories are written as a set of diaries from Moran. The writing style is very entertaining, with most of it about the case, but a lot of interruptions pertaining to Mrs Halifax's girls and what Moran wants to do with them.
Sebastian Moran is fully built up characterwise, and the kind of guy that you might want to be friends with if you like people loud, strong opinioned and a little mad. It's also good to see his character and his attitudes to things develop with exposure to Moriarty.
Professor James Moriarty. Painted very well, much more elaborately than Conan Doyle ever did. His attitudes are strange and roundabout, and you can't always understand him. I really like what Newman has done-given him two brothers also called James. The Moriarty family are all as eccentric as eachother, but the Professor was my favourite of the three.
He's not my favourite character in the whole thing though. That goes to Sophy, a Greek woman who joins Moriarty's family of crime and is a really good actress. Close second is Irene Adler, who has remained as an opera singer, albeit one that caused a man to kill himself after her performance. In addition to these two women,  there's a large cast of criminals and clients making up the supporting cast. Interestingly, Watson is quoted a couple of times as Moran gives his uncomplimentary view on the same event, and Sherlock is reduced to being only "The Thin Man".

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a book taking many things I love and throwing them together.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Book Review- Shattered Dreams by Ellie James

Title: Shattered Dreams
 Author: Ellie James
Series:  Midnight Dragonfly
Published: 5 July by Quercus  
Length: 300 pages
Source: Publishers
Other info: This is Ellie’s debut. The next will be called Broken Illusions then Fragile Darkness.
Summary : Trinity has never known who she really is. Strange dreams haunt her nights, and she has always been able to sense things that others can't. When Jessica, the most popular girl at school, disappears, Trinity realises she will have to draw on her secret abilities to help find her. Soon, Trinity is subject to visions that terrify her and make the police sceptical. As her dreams grow darker and the visions more frightening, Trinity realises she must risk her reputation and her sanity to save a girl who hates her.

Review: It was just a game in a haunted house. Teenagers daring each other to do things in the abandoned house soon takes a darker turn when Jessica goes missing and the investigation soon becomes a murder one. Trinity gets dreams. She doesn’t know why, but she can see things happening. Which then actually happen. while being pulled into the police investigation, Trinity also gets pulled into another-the one looking behind her family.
I didn’t know about this before I got hold of it, so I can’t say I had high(or any) hopes for it. The whole psychic-mystery thing isn’t that new, but I always like reading these kinds of things.
The first half is good.  it’s a quick start, and there’s a lot of intrigue. My favourite bits were the parts in the haunted house. The writing is exceptional in those bits and I felt both a little bit creeped out and really wanting to know more. The visions are also done well.
The missing-girl line is carried on. obviously, Trinity is the only one who can solve it, but she doesn’t know what her visions really properly mean. I really enjoyed the mystery, the guessing, and all that.
The other part is Trinity’s personal life. Romance with Chase, the hot guy developed nicely, but it wasn’t the main thing, so that was good. more emphasis was given to Trinity’s past, about her mother and her psychic powers. These were nice, but weren’t amazing. And then there was something else that I don’t really get...somehting about Pitre and Dylan and so on..I really wasn’t following any of that.
The characters were good. Trinity is very inquisitive, and takes everything in good stride. Chase is a little boring, but I didn’t really care about him when he might have been in danger. Some characters seem to appear randomly, just to clear something up, make something else more complicated and leave, for example that fortune teller girl. I hope she comes back.
The pacing isn’t great and the scenes are a bit random, in a bad way. Something happens and then something completely different happens and it’s hard to understand. The big final scene seems a bit rushed. The guy who took Jessica especially seems to have come out of nowhere and I didn’t really care.
The paranormal bit takes the back seat, which you may or may not like, depending on your preferences. The murder mystery is the main thing. I’d like a bit more of Trinity’s psychic-ness in the next book too.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a thriller that really pulls you in, but also messes with your head. I’ll read the sequel in the hope that it gets better.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Guest Post- Bethany Griffin on Creating the World of Masque of the Red Death for a Modern Audience.

I'm pleased to welcome Bethany Griffin to Death Books and Tea today! I really enjoyed Masque of the Red Death (review can be found here) and this is a great post on reimagining Eggy Ally's story for readers of today.

Creating the World of Masque for a Modern Audience

I love creepy gothic literature and I love modern YA literature, and I love doing what I can to combine the two. The world of Masque, (both mine and the Poe short story) is VERY dark. I don’t think anyone would want to live there, but there’s also a faded romantic beauty to it (I mean, once you get past the corpses in the street).  I like accessible literature, so while I love Poe,I do think that sometimes modern audiences struggle with his work…and my goal was to expand his very short story, to add characters the reader could sympathize with and to make the story move fast and have some action and adventure.

In Masque I created a world that had not just been devastated by plague, but was still in the grips of it. Characters have to wear masks everywhere they go. Death is always a possibility. I tried to paint that bleak world as realistically as possible because history was bleak and this book is, at heart, speculative history.

A huge theme in Poe’s story was the division between the rich and the poor during a time of plague, the idea that the rich would try to escape from the horrors. In my story there is definitely a separation between the rich and the poor—they live in different parts of the city, the poor cannot afford the protective masks, and in book 2 the poor will not be invited to the great masked ball to forget about the ugliness outside. One of the main setting of the book is a gentleman’s club called the Debauchery Club. It’s been opened to girls since most of the original members died, but it’s that classic upper class club, very exclusive, but with teens who are trying to forget the horror of the outside world.

Masque’s setting is inherent to the story, they are completely inseparable, this story couldn’t take place anywhere else, so as I decided what type of story I wanted to tell the world was always in my mind. I think this sort of bleak world is fascinating to modern audiences. So many great stories focus on bleak futures…and I love reading those, but for this particular story I was captivated by the idea of creating a bleak alternative past.

I think it’s definitely a world with appeal to modern readers. At least I hope so :D

Monday, 6 August 2012

Book Review- Torn by Cat Clarke

Title: Torn
 Author: Cat Clarke
Series:  N/A
Published:  22 December 2011 by Quercus
Length: 378 pages
Warnings: sex, murder, suicide 13+
Source: Bought
Other info: Cat’s other novel, Entangled, was reviewed here.
Summary : Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt. Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…  Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.  Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...

Review: Alice, Cass, Polly and Rae are put in a cabin together on a school trip. The four of them together may be a bearable combination, but there’s another. Mean girl Tara has been placed in the same cabin and the teachers refuse to move her. She’s generally hated by the girls who aren’t in her social circle, so much so that Cass wants to teach her a lesson. But then that lesson goes wrong. And the four girls are left with a body.
Like Entangled, it places girls in situations that are improbable, but still intriguing to read about. From the start, I was hooked. From the  point of view of Alice, we are told about the public’s view of Tara’s death, what really happened, and the way she’s haunted by Tara. Actually, the haunting comes first, which is nice because it leaves you wondering exactly what happened.
The characters are the main feature of Torn. The four girls involved all have different reactions, different scales of guilt. It’s really interesting seeing how they deal with it, and it shows that Cat is excellent at writing well developed characters with depth and multiple dimensions.
About a third of Torn is the story of Tara, from the start of the trip to the sudden end. Although it’s technically set up for the rest of the novel, it’s still interesting and you feel like the girls are justified for getting Tara back. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone that far, but  from the way Tara treats them all really makes you want to kill her too.
The supporting cast are equally built up, with differing personalities. Everyone has something hidden about them, even Tara, who it’s revealed isn’t quite as bad as you thought from how she treated everyone. The two girls that were part of Tara’s entourage also don’t seem as bad when you get to know them, but they aren’t quite as well fleshed out as the rest of the cast.
The romance in this is done well, with the general awkwardness of Alice having a hand in her boyfriend’s sister’s death. Yet another part of Alice’s character is revealed in the fact that she knows she’s guilty and that she knows Jack won’t want her after he knows what she did, but she still tries to carry on a relationship anyway. This leads to an ending that’s both sad, but makes you think Alice gets what she  deserves.
The writing carries all sorts of feelings with it. Guilt, love, doubt. The fairly short chapters all end at points that either leave you wanting to read on because there’s a cliffhanger or leave you wanting to read on because there’s a beautiful little quote.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a gripping novel with a great premise and cast.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Book Review- Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle

Title: Kissing Shakespeare
 Author: Pamela Mingle
Series:  N/A
Published:  14 August 2012 by Random House
Length: 352 pages
Warnings: suggestive situations 12+
Source: Netgalley
Summary (abridged): Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: However, after her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.  Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. He wants Miranda use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lose its greatest playwright.  Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

Review: Miranda has spent her life growing up with Shakespeare. So when Stephen, boy from her drama group, offers her the chance to travel back in time, meet William Shakesperae and keep him on a writing path. This leads to her taking on the disguise of Stephen’s sister, Olivia (but for purposes of continuity, she will only be known as Miranda throughout this review),  dodging religious fanatics of Elizabethan times, and as the title suggests, kissing Shakespeare
Time travel stories involving real people are always nice to read. I wasn’t sure if I’d love it, but the premise was interesting to fans of romance, historical, and Shakespeare alike.
It starts off really quickly, which is nice. We get an establishing scene of Miranda working playing Kate in her school’s production of The Taming of the Shrew, but it’s obvious that this isn’t the point. Miranda’s love for Shakespeare’s plays is revealed as we go further on, saving boring character building and working it into the plot.
It’s really fun how Miranda and Stephen have to try not to be discovered having dropped in from modern day America. Miranda’s reactions to actually being in 1581 are understandable, and even more understandable are Miranda’s actions when adjusting to life in the 14th century and when she is told that she’ll be seducing Shakespeare. I wouldn’t want to be pulled back to a time when women are seen as possessions or suddenly be told to chat up my idol either.
Miranda develops a bit. She becomes more mature over the course of Kissing Shakespeare,  and a bit more interesting. The other characters are also good, Stephen and William especially. The other supporting ones are interesting, but not that great.
The plot is good, without being overshadowed  by the romance, even if that was part of the main plot. Shakespeare being tempted to join the church was a major part. It wasn’t all that interesting though. This is a rare book where I enjoy the romance more than anything else.
I found it really cute seeing Miranda and William work together on The Taming of the Shrew, with him telling her the early version and she telling him the lines that she’s learnt, hundreds of years later. This then creates an awkward paradox which, quite simply, makes my head hurt.  
There’s one scene in which Miranda goes off with Shakespeare, being fairly successful in her task of seducing William. And they get kind of on. and then he calls her Anne. Way to kill the mood. But it also is a nice bit of character building for him, especially as we know that he ends up marrying Anne Hathaway. It also furthers their relationship, as just friends. The romance between Stephen and Miranda is done nicely.
Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book with good potential, but not amazing results.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Book Review- Insignia by S. J. Kincaid

Title: Insignia
 Author: S.J. Kincaid
Series:  Insignia #1
Published:  2 August 2012
Length: 444 pages
Warnings:  violence, romance, suggestive situation 12+
Source: publishers
Other info: This is S.J’s first novel.
Summary : More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
 Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?

Review: Tom Raines, fourteen years old, spending life in a virtual reality parlour, trying to win a living. His life isn’t really going well...until one day, he’s picked out to join the Combatants-teen soldiers fighting World War III.  But it’s not like they’re going out getting killed-they’re safe on Earth. As WWIII is fought by robots in space. He soon fits in with friends, makes enemies, and gets by in the way that teenagers do in a stepped up boarding school. But then Tom starts finding out things about the other side. And then questions the rules.
I was expecting something good. I got even better. We skip easily through Tom’s normal VR gambling life, and soon end up at the US Military base. Action happens frequently, friendship bonding happening between that.
The school-style setting is really nice, and you get the stock characters that go with it-the couple that may or may not get together, the bully, the insane teacher. But this being Insignia, we get a technological twist on all of these. For example, one of the assignments is to use viruses on your fellow classmates.
Tom, Vik, Wyatt and Yuri make a great friendship group. Vik especially knows what to say, what to do, and the one that everyone loves. I’d love to be part of this world just so I oculd have friends like these.
I don’t normally enjoy romance, but Wyatt and Yuri make such a perfect pair. Yuri, with all the suspicion surrounding him due to his Russian background, and his misunderstanding at most things, at least in the first part, makes you feel really sorry for him, and his fail attempts at chatting Wyatt up (partially due to her romantic obliviousness) adds to this. I love romantically awkward geniuses. 
The whole idea of Tom falling for Chinese soldier Medusa was slightly predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. It’s really interesting seeing romances form when you can’t tell who you’re talking to and so on. 
The technology in this is mindblowing. Anything can happen. We start learning that all military personnel have computers implanted, meaning they can process large amounts of information quickly, and pick up on details such as names and ranks of everyone nearby.  This can also be used in a darker way, with Tom’s computer being used against him later on. Also-an entire war fought in space-how amazing is that? There were times when I wondered how S.J. Kincaid got to the conclustion that America and India would form an alliance though...
There’s so many twists and turns that further the plot and character development. The sense of competition and high stakes is prevalent, and keeps your heart racing. Action happens on many levels, from interfriendship fights to world war scale.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a great mix of action, technology, and friendship.