Saturday 27 April 2013

Spoilers, Sweetie -Embracing My Inner Geek

The week off has been so useful! I have written a few reviews and read and come up with some story ideas. I have also been using Memrise, a website that is stupidly useful for learning vocabulary and things, to a point of addiction, mainly because there's a leaderboard feature and I plan to beat Katy at all of it. And she plans to beat me. It's excellent motivation!

I'll do a post or two a week while my heavy revision happens. Email replies will be slow but
will happen in time.  I'm planning the Rainbow Reads (LGBTQIAetc) event, and have some ideas-if you have any or would like to be included when I email things out, please share them in comments/emails. 

Anyway, it's Lucy the Reader/Queen of Contemporary's blogoversary week, and she asked us all to make an Embracing My Inner Geek post. I am totally in favour of this being a full on meme, by the way. It might actually make me write a discussion post. So, for the first feature, I'm talking about...well, you can tell. This was totally not an excuse for having a picture of River Song on my blog. Ok, maybe. Onwards.

Stories are great. They should grip you from the beginning and hold you until the end. And often they do. And so your friend wants to share their love of this thing, and you're listening and thinking "this is rather good" and getting into it and.... ARGH. They've given away an important plot twist! SPOILERS!!!

So, what's the problem with spoilers? There's a difference between knowing and ending to a story because you've read it and loved it, and knowing the the ending to a story because someone told you. Going into a story knowing what happens, who survives, who doesn't, takes away a little of the thrill of the ride, the suspense, the terror, the anticipation. 

I try and avoid sharing spoilers as much as possible. I think it's a simple courteousy to anyone who hasn't enjoyed the story and  wants to. If I enjoyed it for it's twists and turns, and then told someone all these twists and turns, then they can't enjoy the story for its twists and turns because they won't be a surprise.

I know some people like knowing endings to books. There's a feature,  Happily Ever Endings by Down the Rabbit Hole, devoted to them-more for the purpose of  refreshing before book 2, but if you stumble across it by accident, you may ruin a book (I'm NOT saying there's anything wrong with this feature. It's extremely useful. Go check it out. But be careful). And  some things are just so well known that it's not a spoiler, more common knowledge.

Sometimes, spoilers are really really hard to keep. Or hard to determine whether or not they're a spoiler. Or are from older sources so more people may have heard of them. Marking a spoiler is tricky in certain cases, and I for one feel bad if I accidentally spill  a plot twist.

What if it's the catalyst for the main events? For example, something in Will Grayson Will Grayson regarding Will's boyfriend that he has been chatting to online. Does it count if it gets the rest of the plot going?  I'd say yes, particularly in this example as it was kind of important to Will's self esteem/mental health/happiness and marked a kind of turn for him.

Plot twists- if it happens early enough, I'd say that it isn't a spoiler.  For example, I found an angry person complaining about being told about someone's death in Supernatural. Said death happened in the first few minutes of the first ever episode. It was not a spoiler in any way, and was really amusing seeing that person getting worked up about it. My general feeling is if it happens within the first 10% of the novel/story, it's fair game, if it's an addition to the plot such as a character or subplot opening, say it, if it's something that made you go "whoa. What. That was unexpected", it's a spoiler.

Age of source comes into it aswell. Aiden Turner was being interviewed about his role in the Hobbit as Kili, and someone asked him "have you got any spoilers for film two, that you're filming now?" His response went along the lines of "It was written in 1937. There'
s not much to spoil." And I get where he's coming from. Things that have been around for such a long time may have seeped into common knowledge, and if they havent, have existed long enough for you to get your hands on it. Sarah and I have a rule- no spoilers on anything that's older than 50 years.

The only rule that I think everyone should keep is TAG YOUR SPOILERS. That way, you can say what you want, and those who want to know things can, and those who don't want to know can walk away. That way everyone's happy.  

So, yeah.  That's a basic sum up of my spoiler rules. If it's old, early, or not that surprising, then it's not a spoiler. If it's something surprising to you,  it is  a spoiler, so either keep it quiet or tag it.  I hope that helped, Sweetie.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Another week of not much

Hi guys. I have even less news! I think... *checks reader for things she's starred as vaguely important*

It's Lucy, Queen of Contemporary,'s blogoversary! There'll be a week long thing of celebration. Go say hi!

You know how I watch Supernatural now? Well, this episode I'm on currently has Brad Majors in it. Well, at least his actor, Barry Bostwick.  The Rocky Horror fangirl in me approves and cannot stop laughing.

We have a trailer for Chelsea Pitcher's The S Word. I'm really looking forwards to this one, because the whole slut-shaming topic is an interesting  and relevant one. The trailer looks cool too.

I'm not sure how I missed this but we have a title to Book 3 of Divergent! It's called Allegiant and some beautiful person on the interwebs made this

That's not the official cover. We won't get that for ages. But look at that beauty!! 

I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging for a week. Or three. I'd like to concentrate on my French and Latin. And have a chance at textiles. I'll still read and write reviews and write stories and be hanging around on the internet. I just need to cut something out for a short period of time. Saying that, when telling myself not to do it, I'll probably become amazing at writing posts on time. It's what always happens.  I don't know. 

Awesomeness of the week!

See you all some day. Not sure when. Some day. 

Saturday 20 April 2013

Book Review- Department 19: Battle Lines by Will Hill

Title: Department 19: Battle Lines
 Author: Will Hill
Series:  Department 19 #3
Published:  28 March 2013 by Harpercollins
Warnings: a LOT of Graphic Violence
Source: netgalley
Other info: Book one, Department 19 was reviewed here and book two, Department 19:The Rising was reviewed here. Book four should exist some day. There’s a set of novellas.
Summary : It's always darkest before dawn.
Secret government unit Department 19 is recovering from evil vampire Valeri Rusmanov's deadly attack on their base. The Department’s newest member, teenage operator Jamie Carpenter, is tasked with training up a new squad, as his friends and colleagues desperately search for ways to try to stop what is coming.
The timing couldn’t be worse for a coordinated, global attack on a number of maximum security prisons and hospitals—with the already-dangerous inmates now on the loose and turned into vampires. One of the escapees has a deep connection to one of the darkest moments in the history of Department 19 and embarks on a quest that threatens to expose the existence of vampires to the public. And with each day that passes, the regenerated Dracula gets stronger, bringing Zero Hour closer.

Review:  The book begins with a load of prisoners and mental patients becoming vampires and breaking free. Of these newly made vampires, Albert Harker, enlists the help of some journalists to expose the world of Vampires. Also, there is a traitor within the department, and Kate and Paul have the task of finding them. Also, there are 52 days to Zero Hour.
I love this series. There’s so much happening, so many characters  to take into account of. Also, the stakes (no pun intended) are always so so high that you can’t stop reading. There’s quite a few subplots woven into this that contribute to the panic of the Department.
The characters, both new and recurring, ware continually well developed. I liked meeting the new vampires, and seeing how their existence affects the Department.  Albert and Mckenna were very interesting. I really liked seeing Larissa on her own, growing even more and finding new things and being independent and such. The splitting up of the main teens lets them develop really well.
It’s really fast paced. Like in the Rising, the action changes settings and focus often, keeping you both engaged and on your toes and reminding you that the situation is crazy for everyone. The action doesn’t stop for one moment, which is amazing for 700 pages of it and the action literally beginning on page one.
I love the length of this series. But I am thinking... how  long is this series going to be? Somewhere it said four books, but I really can’t see that happening. Not without skipping a whole load of stuff. Or letting book 4 qualify as a murder weapon.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to another great instalment in one of my favourite series.

Friday 19 April 2013

Book Review- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina
 Author: Rachel Hartman
Series:  Seraphina #1
Published:  10 July 2012 by Random House
Length: 367 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: There's a prequel short, The Audition. Book Two, Drachomachia, should come February next year. 
Summary : Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Review: It’s been 40 years since the treaty ws signed, bringing peace between humans and dragons, in the medieval fantasy land of Goredd. Seraphina is a sixteen year old musician at the palace, hiding a secret. One day,Prince Rufus is murdered, in a method that points highly to dragons. The tension between humans and dragons rises, Seraphina gets dragged into this, and discovers that this may be just the beginning of the end of peace. Oh, and she also has to deal with the people in her head, visions of her mother’s memories and keeping her secret secret.
DRAGONS!! The mythology in this is amazing. The dragons are intelligent, have their own civilisation, and are able to fold themselves down into human form.
Seraphina is really well fleshed out, like all of the characters. You learn a lot about all of them, with little hints being dropped in steadily throughout.
The people in Seraphina’s head! I loved that element. The interactions are always informative, and a bit of comic relief. The supporting characters brought their own things to the story, especially Glisselda and Lucien. My favourite character was either Seraphina herself, or Orma, her mentor/dragon/guardian/teacher/cool person.
I’ve said about the mythology of Seraphina, but then there’s also the society. It’s a very easy to belive in medieval fantasy society, with segregation by species and a  full court.
The romance between Lucien and Seraphina was really sweet, and happily didn’t detract from the rest of the novel.
The writing is excellent. Really descriptive, with fitting language, and generally beautiful. There’s also some inworld expressions that really add to the culture and the atmosphere to this. I am so thankful for the glossary and the dramatis personae at the back.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a beautiful medieval fantasy. Highly looking forwards to book 2.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Waiting on Wednesday-Prince of the Icemark by Stuart Hill

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:  Prince of the Icemark-Icemark Chronicles prequel
Author: Stuart Hill
Release Date: 6 June 2013
Link to / Summary from Goodreads:Brave young Prince Redrought must defend his country from a supernatural invasion force of ferocious werewolves, vampires and zombies.

When his brother, the King, is killed in battle, Prince Redrought must rally his people and learn to defend his tiny kingdom against savage supernatural invaders – werewolves, vampires and zombies. Redrought must take the fight to enemy territory in The-Land-of-the-Ghosts, and it’s there he will fall or stand for ever in the legends of the Icemark.
Why I want it: I read Cry of the Icemark (book one) when I was about ten, I think. I quickly read the other two. Because it was awesome. 
Then I got a catalogue from Chicken House. Oh, they're recovering Cry of the Icemark. That's nice.

Yeah. I'm a little excited for this. Just a bit.

What are YOU waiting on this week?

Monday 15 April 2013

Book Review- Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Title: Swim the Fly
 Author: Don Calame
Series:  Swim the Fly #1
Published:  9 May 2011 by Templar
Length:336 pages
Warnings: Sex references, kind of adult things, 13+
Source: Publisher
Summary : Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time — quite a challenge, given that none of the guys has the nerve to even ask a girl out on a date. But catching a girl in the buff starts to look easy compared to Matt's other summertime aspiration: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) as a way to impress Kelly West, the sizzling new star of the swim team. In the spirit of Hollywood’s blockbuster comedies, screenwriter-turned-YA-novelist Don Calame unleashes a true ode to the adolescent male: characters who are side-splittingly funny, sometimes crude, yet always full of heart
Review: Each Summer, Matt, Coop and Sean have had a goal. This year, see a naked girl. Then there’s Matt with his own goal-impress Kelly, the girl he wants to date. Method-win at the championships for the 100m butterfly.
About 0.2% of my real life interactions involve teenage boys. It really makes a change reading something from a boy’s point of view, where there isn’t crazy, fantastical things going on.
Matt and Coop and Sam are kind of crazy, in the good way. Their quest leads them to do things that...really aren’t normal (and from me, that’s saying a lot) but are great entertainment. Despite some of them being really really disgusting. I think that teenage boys, or people with stereotypically teenage boys’ humour,   would really enjoy this.
I liked the characters. They’re full of, well. Character, and it’s a good friendship. Matt comes along a bit. Valerie was really sweet. Swim teacher Ulf was my favourite because as wlell as providing hilarity in his treatment of Matt, he also gives him good life lessons with sticking with things and providing space for Matt to develop.
The writing is first person, chatty and honest. I really liked the chapter titles for some reason.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that wasn’t my thing, but still enjoyable. I’ll read the sequel, Beat the Band, because it seems a little more my thing.

Sunday 14 April 2013

News-the Pretty Books Edition

Hey. My week has been procrastination, blog wise. I finished maybe two or three books, and have written zero blog posts (what you've had this week has been things written ages ago).
 I have read about 5 novel's worth of fanfiction plus three folders of revision plus Good Omens-again. 

This whole "let's not do anything particularly useful" has led to this. Colour coordinated book/dvd/cd shelves.

My bookbox runneth over. Again. Majorly. And I am slightly in love with Harriet from Random House (in the oh my gosh thank you for your awesomeness way). I now have all the Wardstone Chronicles (The Spook's XXX) by Joseph Delaney. That I will hopefully read before book 12 comes out. Hopefully. I shall try!

I also went to London this week. And I went to Foyles. And to stop Mum complaining about me spending 50 minutes in there without actually buying anything, (because honestly. You at home-"I want ALL THESE BOOKS SO MUCH." You at bookshop with one of the biggest selections ever-"I have no idea what to get. What did I want??") I got Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger.

There's been loads of cover reveals this week.

Emma Newman's Split Worlds book two- Any Other Name. I'm reading Between Two Thorns and I'm loving the faerie and crossover to the "real" world and I have a lot of love for Cathy, who's request is to go off to uni, when everyone expects her to ask for something shallow. You'll get more of that when I've read it. And here, the cover.

Kim Curran's Shift book two- Control. I really liked Shift (my review is here), and this cover amps up the awesomeness completely.

Neil Gaiman's Fortunately The Milk. This looks like so much fun!

There's going to be a book by Stuart Hill called Prince of the Icemark and it comes out in June. Why am I excited? I LOVED THE ICEMARK SERIES. So yeah. Fangirling over the promise of more adventures to this great fantasy world.

Amy is having a giveaway! Sky Song by Sharon Sant-enter here.

I need help with this writing. In a YA fantasy novel, when the protagonist is most definitely in school doing their Alevels, when should they best go off adventuring? Drop out? Weekends only? I can't decide and I think I need to!

Your weekly installment of awesome. Blind date with books at a library. If they ever let me help out at my library, I am totally making this happen at some point.

Friday 12 April 2013

Book Review-What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Title: What’s Left of Me
 Author: Kat Zhang
Series:  Hybrid Chronicles #1
Published:  18 September 2012 by Harper
Length: 343 pages
Other Info: Book Two should be called Once We Were. Book Three is expected.
Source: Publisher
Summary :  I should not exist. But I do.
Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . . For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Review:  Eva shouldn’t exist, but she does. In a world where two souls get born into each body, and  one fades after time, she’s the weaker one out of her and Addie. After faking through tests, Addie is declared dominant and Eva gone, but they both know she’s not. After meeting Hally and Devon, and finding a way for Eva to take control of their body, they try to take it. But then they get shipped off to another hospital, where they’re in more danger.
Ever since I heard of this, I was really excited about this. It’s such an original idea and really interesting-sharing bodies with others,  having to live like that, not having control over what your body does, and such. Then there was the whole persecution thing, and i was very happy at the differentness, the newness of this book.
It didn’t take long to get the hang of Eva and Addie’s relationship. The whole, I love you but sometimes I dislike you, which you get from being around one person  for a long time, so it’s easy to see that it was taken further when they’re together for the entirety of their life.
I love the supporting characters. Hally and Devon are really cool. The romance between Eva and Devon and Ryan is really sweet, but a little annoying in places.
Eva really takes the stage here, despite the fact that she is the weak one in her world. I love her voice, her determination to hang onto life with everything that she’s got, and her strength to keep fighting even though it would theoretically be best for her life to not.
I’d like some more world building. There’s mentions of hybrids in other countries running around like normal, so I’d like to see why America thinks they’re a threat. I’d also like to see how they came about.             
The writing is good. It’s simple, but it gets across all the emotions really really well. There’s also little things like using me and us which show how they change their views about eachother.
The whole concept really makes you think. What if it happened to me? What if a part of me was going to disappear one day? What if I was hated and  threatened  for not letting go of it? Then you realise exactly how scary this concept is.
Finally, the amazingness of the cover. As in, there’s two girls in that one shape.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a beautifully original book. looking forwards to the next one.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Blog Tour- Top Ten Historical Novels by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil

So, today, we have Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil, authors of Black Arts. It's set in the Elizabethan era, with a load of magic, murder and mayhem. Definitely my kind of thing. So, seeing as the series will be a set of time-travel a
dventures, I have Prentice and Weil to talk about their favourite historical novels.

We started on this without realising it was a Top 10, and got a bit carried away on the first two. Doing the rest to the same level of detail would have meant writing a small book, so we had to cut things down to a shortened top 5 and a ‘best of the rest.’ No disrespect intended to Dumas, Tolstoy, Homer et al . . .

1. Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian
The adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and the secretive surgeon/naturalist/intelligence agent Stephen Maturin are the greatest historical epic ever written. Roll over Hornblower; never mind the Iliad; you can keep Wolf Hall: this is the true heady wine of historical fiction.

The stories take place in a time of war, and both main characters are warriors – Aubrey the frigate captain, leaping over smoking cannon to board the enemy quarterdeck; Maturin the spy, caught up in the lethal web of secret intelligence. O’Brian captures the tension, horror and joy of combat like few other writers, but the real strength of the series lies in the overarching stories he is telling. These are trials of love, career, money, honour and friendship that we all go through, even though we live in a less heroic age than Aubrey and Maturin.

So O’Brian gets us twice over. It’s impossible to put down any one of these books without finding out whether Aubrey will succeed in saving the East India convoy from Admiral Linois, or if Maturin will escape the murderous wiles of the French in Boston. It’s impossible not to pick up the next one because we are always left with other questions: will Aubrey lose all his fortune to canal-building conmen? Will his wife find out he’s been cheating? Will Maturin ever win the heart of the beautiful, man-eating adventuress Diana Villiers?

O’Brian uses real letters, log-books and reports from the Napoleonic period; his dialogue is pitch-perfect; and his writing captures not only the things he is describing, but the mentality of the people who are looking at them, too. This is something very few writers manage quite so well, and it is what makes these books such a delight.
There’s a quote from Evelyn Waugh that Penguin include on their editions of P. G. Wodehouse:
‘Mr Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.’
Jeeves and Wooster might be a very different kettle of kippers from Aubrey and Maturin. But still, this is exactly how I feel about Patrick O’Brian: ‘he has made a world for us to live and delight in’ – a magic escape hatch from captivity.

2. Flashman

I always wonder when George Macdonald Fraser first got the idea: taking the villain from one famous novel, and making him the hero of another. He must have known early on he was onto a winner. From the very first pages of Flashman, what shines through the most is how much outrageous fun he is having writing it.
Harry Flashman is the school bully in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, a pious Victorian account of boarding school life by Thomas Hughes. Tom Brown goes to Rugby School where Dr Arnold, the headmaster, is drumming up the ideal of “muscular Christianity”, hoping to mould a class of heroic “paladins” to run the British Empire. Young Tom laps it up. Flashman does not: he is a coward on the sports field and never the slightest bit Christian. He is finally expelled for ‘getting beastly drunk’ – and this is where George Macdonald Fraser takes up the story, written in Flashman’s own words.
Flashman is now an old man, with an utterly undeserved reputation as a hero. He takes perverse pleasure in the thought of the truth coming out after he is safely dead. If only those pious hypocrites knew what he was really like: well, now they will.

And so we get the disgraceful truth about the Charge of the Light Brigade, Custer’s Last Stand, and many another “glorious” episode – all told from the viewpoint of a cowardly, womanising shyster who is desperately trying to escape getting shot, stabbed, tortured or boiled to death (among many, many other Hideous Fates that Flashman narrowly avoids).
Flashman is scathing about genuine heroes, even when they’re helping him out – ‘mad and dangerous’ is how he describes John Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, as the latter sets off to rescue Mrs Flashman from head-hunting pirates. The one thing he hates more than an imperial glory-boy is the armchair historian who judges our colonial past from a safe distance. Flashman has earned the right to be cynical: the rest of us can shut up and listen.
In fact, you can learn a lot from reading these books: Fraser has a lot of fun adding his own footnotes and appendices to Flashman’s “papers,” weaving his anti-hero into the tapestry of real historical sources. (In once case he even cites a famous painting, ‘by a celebrated Victorian painter of military scenes, T. J. Barker. The mounted figure raising his hand in acclamation may indeed be intended to be Flashman.’)

Harry Flashman has everything you need in an anti-hero: a real streak of villainy, along with enough charm to make us root for him in spite of everything. And as the series progresses, I begin to get a sneaking suspicion that he isn’t quite the coward he claims to be. Once his reputation is (falsely) established, it feeds off itself. At the battle of Ferozeshah, enduring a ferocious artillery bombardment and staring the largest army in India in the face, Flashman wants to cut and run: he only stays because he is ‘under the eye of his Chief.’ In true Flashman style, he explains that this is yet another example of his cowardice: ‘I hadn’t the game for it.’ Maybe “real” heroes are actually no different – overcoming gut-churning terror because they fear disgrace even more than death.
Flashman has his own answer to this sort of amateur psychologising. Years after his expulsion from Rugby, he meets Tom Brown by chance in a London pub. Flashman is freshly returned from Afghanistan, the hero of the army. Tom wants him to join his cricket team. He thinks he has finally seen the real Flashman:
‘ “I’m beginning to understand you, I think. Even at school . . . you were going out of your way to have ’em think ill of you. It’s a contrary thing – all at odds with the truth, isn’t it? Oh aye . . . Afghanistan proved that, all right. The German doctors are doing a lot of work on it – the perversity of human nature, excellence bent on destroying itself, the heroic soul fearing its own fall from grace, and trying to anticipate it. Interesting.” ’
Flashman’s first reaction is ‘to tell him to take his offer along with his rotten foreign sermonising and drop ’em both in the Serpentine.’ But the chance to win glory on Lord’s cricket ground is too tempting, so instead he accepts. On the day, of course, Flashman cheats – and wins yet another gloriously undeserved, flashy victory.

3. War and Peace

Tolstoy’s masterpiece centres around the warm-hearted, aristocratic Rostov family, whose world is torn apart by Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. At the heart of the story is one of the greatest heroines of all time – the courageous, headstrong and captivating Natasha. We also get two very different heroes in Pierre Bezukov and Prince André Bolkonsky, as well as a huge cast of lesser characters (‘lesser’ only in the context of a book like this: other writers would kill to have any one of them as a full-fledged hero or heroine).

Reading the book for the first time aged twelve, I found the first chapter hard going. It is set at a fashionable society gathering, where various characters are discussing the political situation, and the opening sentence – ‘ “Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes” ’ – didn’t exactly set my blood racing. The next scene, with a drunken officer teetering on a windowsill to down a bottle of rum while his friends romp around the room with a young bear, was more promising. The one after that had the thirteen-year-old Natasha in it; I fell in love, and that was that.
This is another story that you can lose yourself in – another escape hatch, another magical door. You may find, as I did, that there’s a bit of a doorstep to get over; but once you’re through, many treasures await. Love, romance, treachery, the passion of loss, the agony of remorse; long, starving marches through the snow; torch-lit cross-dressing sleigh-rides at Christmas; drunken revels and disasters at the gaming-tables; the thrill of a girl’s first ball, and the exhilaration of a boy’s first battle. It’s a famously long book, but you’ll wish it went on forever.

4. The Three Musketeers

The ultimate swashbuckling heroes, often imitated, never surpassed – like James Bond, Mr Toad or Sherlock Holmes, the three musketeers have attained the status of legend. You don’t have to have read the book to know who they are: I first came across them aged about five, watching Dogtanian on Saturday mornings.

If all you know of Athos, Porthos and Aramis is the legend, it’s worth taking time to ride with the originals too. The book buckles more swash than any film version could ever fit in, and nothing but the book can do full justice to Milady de Winter, Dumas’ unstoppable, multi-murdering villainess.

5. Sword At Sunset

Rosemary Sutcliffe’s retelling of the Mort d’Arthur takes place in the dying days of the Roman Empire. The legions have withdrawn, and the Saxon barbarians are invading: for Britain, the Dark Ages have begun. Arthur is a Romano-British chieftain, trying to keep the light of civilisation alive.
Sutcliffe isn’t the first modern novelist to have had a stab at the Arthur story. T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone is a brilliant earlier example – but it is a fantasy novel, complete with chivalric trimmings and magical interventions. Sword at Sunset is historical: Arthur and his knights come alive as real people, in a living, complex world that is in danger of total destruction. The legend is all the more heart-wrenching as a result: the desperate struggle, the tragedy and the ultimate redemption by heroic sacrifice have never been more powerfully told.

. . . and the rest.

6. The Iliad by Homer

. . . OK, it’s not a novel. But it is a ripping old yarn – and it’s interesting that the book that many see as the wellspring of Western literature is itself looking back in time to a glorious heroic past . . .

7. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
It was almost impossible to pick which one of Heyer’s historical romances to include here – but this one just ‘shaded it’ because it has my favourite male lead: the devilish, dashing rake-hell the Duke of Avon. Very few romance novels would dare to begin with the hero purchasing the heroine (who is disguised as a boy) from a tavern-keeper.
You know from the first chapter how it will end: but with Georgette Heyer that simply doesn’t matter. Her eighteenth century is vividly alive. Her dialogue is sharp, her frocks are splendid, and she is very, very funny.
8. The Happy Return by C. S. Forester

Forester’s much-loved hero, Horatio Hornblower, tackles megalomaniac South American potentates, overwhelming enemy forces and ill-starred love in this breathless page-turner. Without Hornblower, could there have been an Aubrey?

9. The Lion of Janina, or, the Last Days of the Janissaries by Mór Jókai

Subtitled ‘A Turkish Novel’, The Lion of Janina deals with what was at the time recent history; yet it reads more like a compendium of fairy tales than a “historical” novel. The central figure is Ali Pasha of Janina, the daredevil Albanian brigand, general, ruler and rebel who brought the mighty Ottoman Empire to its knees in the early nineteenth century. The telling is highly episodic, with whole chapters where Ali never appears that could be short stories in their own right. A rich brew of shipwrecks and smugglers, magical caves, warrior maidens, treacherous sons – you won’t have read anything else quite like it.

10. Leviathan by Boris Akunin

Erast Fandorin, a cross between James Bond and Sherlock Holmes in the service of Imperial Russia, investigates an unusual murder mystery aboard the steamship Leviathan. Fandorin is a charismatic hero who will have you laughing out loud with delight, and the mystery is heightened by the fractured narrative, told from the perspective of all the main characters including the murderer.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Book Review -Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Title: Blackwood
 Author: Gwenda Bond
Series: N/A
Published:  4 September 2012 by Strange Chemistry
Length: 416 pages
Source: Publisher
Other info: This is Gwenda’s debut.
Summary : On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.
Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Review: Many many years ago, 114 people disappeared for no reason from Roanoke Island. Modern day Roanoake, anotoehr 114 people have gone. Miranda and Phillips are two random teenagers, both outcasts due to her connection to the island and his hearing voices of the dead, who take on the task of finding out what happened to them, both the many years ago and today.
I love books with modern takes on history and legends. Especially legeneds that I haven’t heard of. It’s set up really well. The opening scene tells both the legend and gives a quick view of Miranda. The whole opening was really exciting, and a fantasy/mystery book was starting to come along well.
Miranda, I liked. She’s determined to find out what happened, mainly because her father got killed at the same time as these new people disappeared. Phillips, I found a bit annoying and I’m not sure why. Roswell and Bane, I really didn’t get at all.
I t was all about the two thirds mark when things srarted happening that weer really weird. I liked the introduction of John Dee and the alchemists but we get told things and go in multiple ddirections that didn’t always make sense and were quite hard to  follow. The ending, I was just...what.
The writing was ok. There’s a lot of Fraks, which makes the actual F word look really out of place.  The pacing is good to begin with, but towards the end, it’s hard to understand.
I’ve read a few things with Dee and Elizabethan-era magic crossed over with contemporary things. I like this mix, both in general, and here, and the mystery and the setting works.
Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book with really nice ideas that I couldn’t get into.

Monday 8 April 2013

Book Review-Devil's Bargain by Rachel Caine

Title: Devil’s Bargain
 Author: Rachel Caine
Series:  Red Letter Days
Published:  5 October 2012 by Mira
Length:331 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Rachel is best known for The Morganville Vampires, and has also written Weather Warden, Outcast Season and Revivalist series.                                                                         
Summary :  Jasmine "Jazz" Callender is on the downhill slide to ruin. Once a decorated homicide detective, she's lost it all: her former partner's been convicted of murder, she's been cashiered out, and she's drinking away what little self-respect she's got left.
But Jazz has a talent for trouble, and somebody knows it. When a mysterious, sexy stranger comes looking for her with a fateful red envelope in his hand, she's about to make the deal of her life...for good or bad.
The deal requires her to enter into a partnership with a stranger and investigate cases that arrive in special red envelopes...which is odd enough, but gets weirder as she and her new partner Lucia realize that they may be working for someone with supernatural abilities.
And maybe they're not on the side of the angels anymore.

Review: Jazz Callender isn’t doing well. Having lost her job as a homicide detective when her partner gets convicted of homicide, she has nowhere to go. So, one day, James turns up. He’s a lawyer and comes with an offer- to save her Ben, she’ll have to work for a strange society which may or may not have psychic powers.
It started kind of well. There’s a lot of mystery when James shows up and you get quite intrigued as to what will be required of Jazz. The mystery builds when Jazz and her assigned partner Lucia do things which they weren’t really expecting, such as observing ordinary going ons. The action doesn’t really kick in until just over halfway, when someone gets killed.
The psychic element, in my opinion, should have been more prevalent if you were going to market it as a psychic paranormal book. It just didn’t seem like much of a threat, even when we met XXX and understood how things were playing out and why. For a romance, there wasn’t that much of it either. It did work really well as a thriller, with intriguing trails, action of realistic physical fights, and the mysterious red envelopes.
The characters are good. Jazz and Lucia are both independent, strong and intelligent, and work really well together. Manny, the tech guy, was a little bit of comic relief, as well as providing useful things.  Borden isn’t that interesting in terms of character, but in terms of what he does plotwise, I liked it. Lucia was my favourite.
The world, the society, didn’t really captivate me that much. The writing, Jazz was a good narrator but there wasn’t anything particularly special about it. The pacing, I would have liked a few more big important things to come along a bit earlier, as you wait a long time for things to happen.
Overall: Strength 3 to a mystery thriller with good characters but not so much plot.  

Sunday 7 April 2013

To avoid confusion, a tour of my bookshelves. Plus news.


So, awesome M at We Sat Down sent me a copy of Clockwork Princess! Nice nice people. I've met M and Little M twice and they are both awesome. This is further proof.

You can follow this blog via: bloglovin, RSS, email, networkedblogs, linky and GFC.

I'm thinking of holding a LBGTQIA etc in YA event some time in the second half of August. Not sure how long it would run, it depends on how many people would be up for it, but there has been some interest from people around the interwebs. Give a shout if you'd read/participate.
Vague planning around my timetable- Planning, ideas circulating, next week, lighten up for two weeks for internal exams,  hold off planning May and June due to actual real exams, proper planning late June and July and August.

I know racism exists still, alongside multiple other isms that should be gone. But today, I was generally shocked by the fact that there's still segregated proms happening. Faith in humanity lessened a bit more.

Sad news regarding Iain M Banks and terminal cancer. Wishing him the best quality of life possible for what remains of it.

James Dawson needs a survey filled out for his book, Being A Boy. If you are a person between 14 and 24, go and fill out this survey. From the questions, it looks like interesting topics will be raised. Looking forwards to it, despite my not normally reading nonfiction and my nonfiction reading material normally being very very different.

Also,the question "Do you feel your SRE at school addressed violent or abusive relationships and rape?" got me wondering about how rape&violence are covered generally. It'll be interesting to see inthe book, but I was wondering if any school ever sits down their pupils (because anyone nomatter their parts can be a complete failure of humanity) and says "Don't rape. Respect everyone's privacy and consent and lack of". Really not related to books, but  that's a serious thought of the day.  

I have no idea how to design this thing for the exam. A fabric educational product based on the theme "world transport". I believe someone at AQA was high when they thought of this.

Those pretty, colour organised shelves, aren't mine! I am nowhere near organised nor dedicated enough to do something like that and maintain it.
Case in point, here are my books.

Books that I have read and honestly could not get rid of. And CDs. And DVDs. And glasses cases. And lucky cats. 

Books that I books that I have read and will review, will read soon and review, and books that I read ages ago and really need a review writing so will reread soon.

And here, my to read box! Normally, that stack is on top of the box... 

A far far cry from the organisation of those bookshelves. Maybe I'll try sorting out my "keep forever" shelf into prettiness. One day.

 I am really behind in CampNaNoWriMo. But I have a way to keep going. I think...maybe. 

And for your weekly "random image that might be interesting to some" Someone on the internet is a godsend and made this.
I'm going to leave now while I die either of laughter or sweetness overload that there is almost a whole foot's difference between Clara and The Eleventh Doctor.

Have a good week, everyone. 

Friday 5 April 2013

Book Review-Summertime of the Dead by Gregory Hughes

Title: Summertimeof the Dead
 Author:  Gregory Hughes
Series:   N/A
Published:  30 August 2012 by Quercus
Length:304 pages
Warnings: really graphic violence, mentions of prostitution, suicide, lots of things
Source: publisher
Other info: Gregory also wrote Unhooking the Moon, which won the Booktrust prize
Summary : Yukio's two best friends are dead. Tormented and blackmailed by the Yakuza - the Japanese mafia - they have taken their own lives.
Yukio is a kendo champion and he knows all the stories of the samurai. Heartbroken and furious, he is determined to avenge the deaths of his beloved Hiroshi and Miko.
And so begins a deadly struggle between Yukio and the Yakuza, and between Yukio's capacity for love, and his thirst for revenge.
Review: After being blackmailed by the Yazuka, Miko and Hiroshi kill themsleves. Yukio, their best freidn, is determened to avenge them. As a result, he goes out to kill all those he holds responsible for their deaths.
First thoughts on Yukio-whoa, overreaction much? Yes, you do kendo. I understand you’re upset. But actually killing someone? You’re fourteen.These honour things are a bit outdated (not living in 21st centuryJapan, I don’t know how common it is for a teenager or anyone to hold the views that someone messes with your friends you mess them up even more). And even if you are going to live by the way of honor, you have gone much too far. And yeah, you’re fourteen. How the heck did you guys get into that club that started it to begin with? And then casually get hold of swords and bikes? I had issues wth the age in this. Also, issues  with Yukio. He needs someone around him.
Mikazuki aka The Lump, Yukio’s cousin, is a really sweet but a little annoying. It’s nice seeing her tryand keep Yukio from going completly batcrap insane, but it doesn’t really work.
I suppose you could call it a coming of age story. There’s a few firsts for Yukio, some very big firsts. After a certain amount of kills, it got a bit boring.
You really can see Yukio go off on his own spiral of depravity in the killings, and I liked getting inside his head.  It doesnt’ really bother him, which I find an interesting point. a fourteenyearold, whose first experience with death is traumatic and sudden, going off and killing more people, and not getting too worried could have been really interesting. but t wasn’t.
The writng style was quite simple, but got across the story well. I liked the way the setting of gangland Japan was brought together.

Overall:  Strength 2 tea. A nonsympathetic main character and a bloodbath that went too far.
Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Thursday 4 April 2013

Book Review- Ferryman by Claire McFall

Title: Ferryman
 Author: Claire McFall
Series:  N/A
Published:  1 March 2013
Length:334 pages
Source: publisher
Summary : When Dylan emerges from the wreckage of a train crash onto a bleak Scottish hillside, she meets a strange boy who seems to be waiting for her.
But Tristan is no ordinary teenage boy, and the journey across the desolate, wraith infested wasteland is no ordinary journey.
Life, death, love-which will Dylan choose?

Review: Dylan is on her way to meet her father that she’s never really known. Unfortunately, the train she’s on crashes. She thinks she’s the only survivor. She’s the only one who died. Once out of the tunnel, she ifnds Tristan-her ferryman, her guide through the wasteland towards the next part of the afterlife. On  their journey together through the wasteland, a harsh environment filled with wraiths waiting to drag her down, Tristan and Dylan soon fall in love, and Dylan needs to decide what she’ll choose.
I’m always on the look out for new afterlives. The idea of a ferryman is not new, but Claire has made it a very personal affair, with the ferryman being there every step of the journey.
This wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting something a bit more romancy or a bit more actiony. Yes, there’s romance, but it’s less romance more forming a really really deep bond. There’s tension and moments of danger, but you can’t really call it action. Instead, it’s calmer, but at the same time, moving.
Aside from the first thirty pages or so, the first two thirds are very insular. There’s only Tristan and Dylan.  You get really close to both of them, and see their relationship progress from the normal, a bit detached,one that’s expected to one that’s a lot closer than is good for them. I’m glad that the last third brings in a few more people to get to know for a short time anyway.
It’s a very quick read. There’s all sort of things going on in the wasteland, with all the wraiths trying to stop you and  the general danger of not getting across. Either because of the writing or the attachment to the characters of both you get invested in the story, you do get a bit worried for them at certain points, you get emotionally pulled in.
The descriptions are really really vivid. You have the picture of the wasteland, both the one that you normally see plus the one that Dylan sees without her ferryman, really clear, and the setting comes alive.
Also, generally irrelevant,, just want to say that quite a few of us loved the shininess of the cover.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an beautiful  take on the Afterlife.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Waiting on Wednesday-The Testing

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:  The Testing
Author:  Joelle Charbonneau
Release Date: 4 June 2013
Link to / Summary from Goodreads: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 
Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 
But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

Why I want it: It looks like a really interesting dystopian world, and the plot looks quite cool.

What are YOU waiting on this week?

Also, sadness over Iain M Banks who is "officially Very Poorly". Thoughts with his family and friends. I've never read anything by him, but I've heard excellent things. And from his personal statement, he seems like a wonderful man. 

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Book Review- Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet
 Author: Marissa Meyer
Series:   Lunar Chronicles#2
Published:  7 February 2013 by Penguin
Length:452 pages
Source: Publisher
Other info: This is book 2 in the Lunar Chronicles series. Book one was Cinder and was reviewed here. Books three and four will be Cress and Winter.
Summary : Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other. Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana. As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner . . .

Review: The police have given up on finding Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother, but she hasn’t. She’s at the cagefights where she meets Wolf, a fighter who she wants to trust, but isn’t sure she should. The whole book leads straight on from the end of Cinder, so Cinder is in prison as a fugitive despite her being who she is. With Thorne, another prisoner, she escapes to find Michelle Benoit, who might have information to stay out of Queen Levana’s way. Various things happen and there’s many more mysteries to unravel.
I was so ready for this. I absolutely loved Cinder (review here) and Scarlet didn’t disappoint in mixing scifi and fairytale elements. Once again, you get major plot points of Red Riding Hood, but moved around to fit the plot and cyberpunk world.
 I love the fact that we get more Cinder! I’m looking forwards to the way this series is working-as well as bringing in a cool new girl, we get the cool ones from before back. Looking forwards to the fourth one where we get (hopefully) four kickass heroines.   
Scarlet is just as epic as Cinder. She’s very assertive, really determined and really believes in finding her grandmother. Wolf is someone I halfliked to start with, liked more as we got to know him, then less at various points. End feelings were mixed. The grandmother is so so awesome. Kai, I feel sorry for-he’s obviously being manipulated by Levana and  he goes against what he really wants to do.
There’s lots of plot twists. They’re a bit predictable, but I loved them all the same. So much happened and the action just kept coming.
We get lots of scene changes, which would normally be annoying but doesn’t mess with the flow too badly when done here. You know the trick of cutting off a chapter at a cliffhanger? Normally, this gets resolved in the next chapter. Not so here-you get a chapter of someone else doing important things, dragging out the waiting time. the rest of the writing is really good too.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to another perfectly blended science fiction fairy tale.  A  whole year to wait??? Damn.