Friday 31 May 2013

Armchair BEA-Ethics and Nonfiction

I'm sorry about missing the past two days...Looks like I missed genre and literary fiction, and blogger development. I'm not sure how much I would have been able to say anyway. But anyway.

Today is nonfiction and ethics. I'll try and do a little on both.


I read  non-fiction from time to time. I don't review them, because aside from interesting facts and a wider exploration into the area and maybe a love for the writing style, I don't have anything else to say.

Topics I find interesting include feminism,  sociology, and psychology/sciencey things.

Some of my favourite non fiction books

  • How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Her take on many issues and situations are mixed in with her own anecdotes and wrapped up in a big dose of funny.
  • Doctor Who:The Inside Story by Gary Russel. I got this when it first came out and I was so excited and hyperactive over it. Years later, I still am, mainly because it brings back memories of a decent show. 
  • The Equality Illusion by Kat Banyard. It highlights the inequality still present in what we percieve to be gender-equal, in terms of expectations, wages, birth choices and so on. A very interesting read.
  • Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersley Williams. I'm not sure why. It was just good. 
I actually can't think of any more at the moment. I might do another post on this when I can. 

It's very easy to fall into peoples' bad books if you're a book blogger, isn't it? Here's some things that I've found that make people not want to kill you.
  • Don't plagarise. There's been many scandals involving people ripping off other people. People then give the plagarist unbelievable amounts of flack and it genrally starts off a cycle of people being mean to eachother. In a non blog setting, it can be really serious-as in, university/job possible losing out on serious.  Also, it just isn't nice! People put a lot of work into their blogs. Taking it and passing it off as your own is disrespectful to them, and not making your blog look good.  It's difficult to avoid, with multiple sources of info coming left right and centre, 
  • Give credit where it's due. I realise I'm terrible at this here when it comes to random pictures around the internet, where I save pictures to my computer then upload them, but sometimes I remember. I will try and change. 
  • Use pictures sensibly. If someone asks you to take their image down, do. Don't pass it off as your own. You can get into bad situations, like Roni Loren, so if in doubt about a picture, maybe don't use it. Stock image sites are safe, flickrs good if you check what licence they're sharing under.
  • Be honest, about your opinions and sources and things. Noone wants to read about how much "OMG THIS WAS AMAZING BECAUSE REASONS" and then find you were paid for a good review. Sure, I get free books for review, but that doesn't affect my review. If I don't like something, I give it a bad review. Same thing goes for being friends with authors. It hurts to give someone you like a bad review, but for me, I prefer that than lying about my thoughts on my blog. I list the source of my books in the review, but that doesn't change my view of the book. Just how I got it.
  • Negative reviews, I'm not sure what to say. I personally like them-they bring up good points and I generally like reading contrasting opinions. I know some people don't like posting negative ones, but I don't get how you can not want to rant about things. Anyway, regarding negative reviews, do what you want, but don't be mean to those who do other things.
  • nice. Make friends. Banter. Ok, this is less ethical, more don't be someone that people don't like, but still a good tip. Blogging is, for the majority of us, just a hobby, a thing in addition to our normal lives. Don't do things you'd be ashamed of doing in public or that you wouldn't want your off-internet circle of people knowing. Ethics are always going to  cause discussions and disagreements. These are just my views and I'm  looking forwards to carrying on the discussion.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Armchair BEA- Classics

So, for Classics day at Armchair BEA, I'm going to ramble a bit about  why we read them. No matter the reasons, we love books that have been around for ages. And there's some great books that are waiting to become classics in many years (John Green. I'm looking at you). And some people dislike them And some people are unwilling to try them because they're old. But somehow, we get into them. And here are some reasons why.

Most of us get our classics fed to us from school. I got given Lord of the Flies by William Golding, after I read it and already decided I disliked it.  The other classes got given To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, after I read it and decided I liked it. In Latin, we got given parts of the Aeneid and something from the only Latin novelly thing involving witches, adultery and murder. Both these extracts get me interested  a bit more in the wider source material. I know some people love the books they study for school, others hate them. School is not the best way of choosing your classics.

Making it into mainstream, for a month or so, often has an effect on how many people read them. Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations have all been given relatively recent film or 'TV redos. Their appearance in more accessible formats than bricks with old language gets people interested in the plot, and then they decide maybe having a go at reading it won't be so bad after all.

Retelling, modernising or resetting basic plotlines  makes it easier to get intrigued, and are often done beautifully. Two of my favourite retellings are Falling for Hamlet and The Song of Achilles. There's also a variety of fanfics on the internet and you cannot forget The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I'm not sure where I was going with this paragraph. Just that you can get into classics via someone else telling it to you.

The way that I get into classics most, other than recommendations, is genre. When I first got into the goth scene, I hunted out as much gothic literature as I could. I read Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde and a collection of Edgar Allan Poe over summer of year 7. I have since read Carmilla and The Picture of Dorian Gray and Interview with the Vampire, Psycho  a few other big things in the gothic/horror genre. Also, I really like classical (greek/roman) stuff, and I read the Odyssey a few years back and I have some more classical stuff on my TBR.   I think you can do this with other genres too. Romance (Pride and Prejudice), sci-fi (Philip K Dick, I am Legend), adventure (Robert Louis Stevenson and some other things) and some more. I think this is the best way to get into classics because it means you know you're getting something you're vaguely interested in, and you also get to see where some of the stereotypes and cliches in modern books come from.

I am bad at conclusions. But yeah. This has been four ways we get into classics. Why do you guys read them?

Armchair BEA Introduction

Hey, it’s  BEA! Or will be tomorrow. As I’m stuck on the other side of the pond, I’ll have to go another time. I tell myself that. It’s on that list along with ComicCon and Vidcon and many other things in America I’d like to go because I probably won’t have the time nor money. But there’s an internet version of it, and I’m really looking forwards to participating and hopefully making new friends. And nice people at Armchair BEA  have put together some questions for introductions.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
I’m Nina, and I’ve been blogging here at Death Books and Tea for two years and three months. I got into blogging because Stephanie told us all about hers, and I thought “that sounds fun. I should try.” I started mainly blogging paranormally things, but my tastes have expanded quite a bit over the years. I’ll still always love death and tea, though.
Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures. 
I’m blogging from my bedroom, in my flat, which is in England.  Random fact about my room- I have really random things on my walls-pictures from around the internet and my terrible artwork. Here, picture.  

Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event?
Since my first year of blogging, I’ve wanted to participate. The idea of everybody coming together and mingling always seemed interesting.  But I’ve always been on holiday at the time, and unwilling to take my laptop or spend tonnes of money on internet cafes. Now I’m not on holiday, and I can actually take part.  
What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?  I’m currently reading at least ten books, due to my habit of wandering into bookshops and reading things there. My main book at the moment is Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a beautiful retelling of the Illiad that  my enjoyment of is slightly marred by the fact that I know the Illiad and that the narrator, if it’s true as the rest of the book has been, should soon be horribly killed. Favourite book of the year? Er, I really enjoyed Pantomime by Laura Lam (review to come) and Equus by Peter Shaffer (review here). Go with whichever you're more comfortable with.
Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s).
Urgh. Damn. *tries not to miss anyone off*  Raimy, Christy and Cait always have interesting new things. Viv  is very well informed about things. Cicely, Bella, Iffath, Catherine, Amber, Lucy and Amy are awesome teen  bloggers. Lisa and Demention have things from sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia/generally great spec fic. Andrew’s levels of craziness and use of gifs are  good cheer uppers. And not technically a blog, and not entirely book related,  but generally awesome anyway, are mookychick, which covers pretty much all of my interests. Ever.
If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
That’s a really hard choice... Just going to go with Crowley from Good Omens because I love his sarcasm and style and everything about him.
What is your favorite part about the book blogging community?
The fun. The friendship. The really crazy discussions about everything, even things not remotely related to books.  
Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
Book blogging community wise- less bitchiness and plagarism and complaints. I know not everyone’s perfect but it seems like every month someone makes a big fuss over something. Especially author-reader-reviewer relationships. In general world terms- equality, women’s rights and things should be sorted out,  and Doctor Who needs a giant (and when I say giant, I don’t mean big. I mean flipping enormous) dose of quality.  Other than that, I hope that  I can keep blogging and chatting to you guys just as much as I have been. 

So. Yes. Thank you for reading. Please stick around for a chat.  If you want to participate in  my LGBTQIA+ event in August, signups for RainbowReads are here. You can follow Death Books and Tea in many ways, such as bloglovin and networkedblogs. Anyway, if you got through this, please leave a comment and I’ll come stop by yours to say hi and hopefully be good friends. Thanks!

Monday 27 May 2013

Book Review-Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Title: Les Miserables
 Author:  Victor Hugo
Series:  N/A
Published:  1862 by A. Lacroix.
Length: Anywhere between 800 and 1300 pages.
Warnings: child abuse, a lot of violence
Source: free kindle download
Other info: It has been made into films, musicals over the world, and has gained a rather large fandom.  Victor Hugo also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a few other things.
Summary : Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830

In accordance with the no-spoilers-on-things-over-fifty-years-old policy, I have summarised the entire book in the first paragraph.  Also, details and things may have slipped my mind and I refuse to be pedantic over a thousand-page book where I can’t remember half the characters. For a better plot summary, see lemonlye’s condensing of the book.

Review: Jean Valjean has, said by Becca, “been unfairly imprisoned for stealing a load of bread”. John Valjean has, said by me, “had a s*** life. And it gets worse. Follow him as he gets kicked out of places, gets taken into places, takes in a girl as his adopted daughter, watches her grow up and fall in love, watches her boyfriend join in a failing revolution, takes part in a failing revolution, watches her marry, and dies. Also, watch everyone else you love  die along the way.
I think I was a bit late to the party with this one. Oh well. I only started it after the hype had died down a bit, and after a lot of persuading from Sarah.

The opening is ridulously slow. It picks up a bit, but you still wonder when something good’ll happen. At around 10%, Cosette is given to the Thenadiers and it all gets going.  The narrator’s thoughts just wander and wander and I was considering giving up a bit.
At the start of each volume, and at quite a few books, there’s a lot of rambling about everything.  The worst case of this was Book 1 of volume 2. That was just so much on the topic of Waterloo and only the last few paragraphs had any relavence to the rest of the story.

The narration swings between good, action packed, and ugh-why-are-you-telling-me-this. Some of their thoughts are interesting. Most of their thoughts are too longwinded to enjoy. I understand the rambling, when it fits the characters and the situations, and the history lessons are useful, but really. Not in the middle of the barricade scene full of excitement! Also, regarding length of waffling- I read on my kindle with the smallest font, smallest line spaces, as much on the page as possible. In a few memorable occasions, descriptions of things and Grantaire rambling and Jean Valjean making lots of speeches, there has been three screen’s worth of pure text. No paragraph breaks or indents. I don’t know if it was the formatting or something but long pieces of text are just…no. I can’t deal with this I’ll lose my place and my head hurts. And, having just flicked through my QI 1227 facts book, it’s told me that there’s one sentence that is 823 words long. If that’s not rambling, I don’t know what is.

Characters. Where do I begin? THERE’S SO MANY I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO TRY AND REMEMBER THEM ALL BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT THAT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. Jean Valjean is a really good protagonist, going through a lot and still winning in terms of parenting.  Javert is one of possible ten policemen in the entirety of France, who should not be funny but is. The Thenadiers are really evil and don’t provide any comic relief. Don’t believe the musical. Cosette is a strong little girl going through all that when she was little. When she grew up, she got a little less awesome, fitting into the feminine stereotype of the day. Gavroche, the little kid revolutionary, was my favourite character for courage and adorableness reasons. Eponine, the one who loves Marius and crossdresses to get onto the barricades, comes a close second. I feel so sorry for her, what with her treatment by Marius and everything . The Barricade Boys, I love them all. Enjolras just needs a huge hug. Marius was nice at times, at other times stupidly annoying, at other times, a complete dick.  He’s very moodswingy. And forgetful of the fact that all his friends die. The criminals are amusing. Ok, maybe that does include Thenadier. But he’s not funny in the way that you get told he is. Fantine was too cute, until...yeah. The old guy who I’ve forgotten the name of is epicness.. let’s just go back to the Barricade Boys again. Ok moving on.

Emotions. Broken. There were times where I just had to stop and think “why why why”.  All your favourite characters die. There’s like, five in one paragraph one after another.  Worst part was near the very end, where...ugh. Jean Valjean and Cosette feels. That was hard. And then Mel, beautiful girl that she is reading it in French (due to it being her first language) tells me how much worse it gets because of the swapping between pronouns and it’s all “how can you do that to me Victor Hugo?”

There’s some more things I probably could say. But I actually can’t due to fingers and emotional breaking and stuff. You get the idea from this, right?

Overall:   Strength 4 tea. A beautifully emotional story, but the rambling is just too much to enjoy.                          
PS. Rambling is contagious. Apologies regarding the length.

Sunday 26 May 2013

News-post Textiles edition

I've finished Textiles forever!! Me in my head after exam:
Me actually after exam: "No, I don't need ten minutes. I'll do my Latin now thanks." Which was also ok.

I now have three Latin exams. But I'm less worried about them, so that means I'm back! 

Just in time for Armchair BEA XD  So yes. Looking forwards to hopefully meeting new people. 

I will finally get round to answering emails this week. 

Lisa, Effing Rainbow, has an idea for a week in August where anyone can contribute.  Go check out her blog for details. 

The Bone Season got a  trailer. And it looks very intriguing. And it's also being made into a film, something very easy to envisage. Watch the trailer here

Since my last one of these posts, I have gotten hold of Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez from the library. Also, Random House were nice and sent me Doll Bones by Holly Black, and Titan were nice and sent me Deadbeat-What Makes You Stronger by Guy Adams.

I have opened signups for Rainbow Reads. 

Finally, awesomeness of the week. Brodo Swaggins and the Fellowship of the Bling.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Rainbow Reads Sign Up

Hi people. I've talked some time about doing this, and now exams are over, I can finally properly start.

Anyway, what I'd like to run is an event looking at all forms of gender and sexuality in YA literature. Edit: actually, any literature. As long as it's readable by teens, ie no content marked 18+. The easiest thing to tag this as is LGBT, but I find that that doesn't really cover it all. Lots of other people find this too, and  this leads to all kinds of abbreviations such as LGBTQ and LGBTQIA and QUILTBAG and I don't even know. So let's just say that Rainbow Reads will cover all forms of gender and sexuality outside of "gender equals sex person is born with =" and "attracted soley to the opposite sex".

I plan to start it on 19 August and keep it running for as long as it needs to be.

I have some reviews and posts thought out. But I planned this as a "hey everyone, get involved!" thing. So yes. Call for posts.  Talk about any part of the spectrum would be appreciated, especially related to non-gender binary/asexuality (topics that tend to get overlooked).  But anything, reviews, guest post, interviews, giveaways, would be appreciated. If you want to be involved, fill out the form below. If you want to, spread the word and there's a badge here.

Edit: if you don't want to write a post, but do want to participate, please fill out this form to contribute to discussions! 

Signups will be open until the 5 August. Organising will be an ongoing thing.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Interview with Dana Fredsti, author of Plague Town and Plague Nation

Hi guys! Today, we have an interview with Dana Fredsti, who wrote zombie novels Plague Town and Plague Nation.
Apologies for the lateness.

Plague Nation
The undead have been defeated in Redwood Grove, CA, but reports of similar outbreaks are coming in. What seemed to be an isolated event is turning into a pandemic. The last thing Ashley Parker wanted when she went to college was to join the military, but she is one of a select few who are immune to the virus. Gifted with enhanced speed, strength, and senses, she’s recruited by a shadowy international organization that’s existed for centuries, its sole purpose to combat the zombie threat.
Dark secrets begin to emerge, and when an unknown enemy strikes, Ashley and the other zombie hunters—known as “wild cards”—embark on a desperate mission to reach San Francisco. If they fail, the plague will sweep the nation unchecked. And the person she cares for most may die. Or worse.

What makes your zombie story different?
I like to think that every writer brings his/her own unique style and vision to the zombocalypse, whether it be their specific take on the zombie mythos (that sounds really pretentious, so please forgive me for that), or characters they introduce. I tend to use a lot more humor in my novels than the majority of authors who write about zombies, and I've been accused of Pop Cultural Tourette's (a fair cop) and I think both of those elements serve to separate my books from the pack a bit.  And to my knowledge, no one has introduced anything like the wild cards to date.  For those who haven't read the books, a wild card is part of a very tiny percentage of the population immune to the virus. They're not immune to the sickness that develops after being infected (the mother of all nasty flu bugs), but if they survive that stage, they do not turn into a zombie and they can't be infected again.  They also have somewhat enhanced physical skills and senses - faster, better, stronger and all that.  Not like a super hero, but enough to make them very effective at zombie killing at close courters.   

What's your favourite zombie story/film?
Favorite film will always be the original Dawn of the Dead as it really kickstarted my love of zombies … and was also my very first movie date, with a guy paying my way and buying me popcorn and candy.  
Who's your favourite character in this series?
After Ashley?  Definitely Nathan.  Although JT, who was just introduced in Plague Nation, is also really fun to write. 

How have your characters developed between Plague Town and Plague Nation?
Ashley has definitely matured between the two books.  She started out as a 29 year old trying to fit into a college environment with most of her peers a decade younger, but by the end of the book and into Plague Nation, she's grown up emotionally quite a bit.  The relationship dynamics between various characters are shifting and either deepening or cracking. Lil definitely goes through a lot of emotional hell and not even Ashley can fix things.  And that's all I'm gonna say right now because what I don't think of as a spoiler invariably turns into a spoiler. 

What external sources (books,tv, films, family) influenced this series?
THe first three zombie films by George Romero, Buffy, and pretty much everything I've ever seen/read as far as pop cultural references.  Things just pop up in my memory at random.  Also, so many friends and family have been so enthusiastic and supportive and some of them have given me some fantastic ideas (the deja vu darts, for instance) and helped me out when I was stuck on a plot point.  Real people inspired a lot of the characters (Lil, Tony, JT, G. Funk, just to name a few).  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Steve Saffel, my Dark Editorial Overlord (he had DEO added on his business cards after I called him that), who has invested a lot of time and energy working on these books with me. 

What is your favourite thing about the zombie genre?
Despite what a lot of people say about zombies being a lazy writer's horror trope, I find them a very creepy monster, creepier than vampires.  Being eaten alive is about as nasty a death as I can think of, and being eaten alive by things that used to be us?  Mega nasty!  I like being creeped out and I also love  apocalypse stories.  Zombies combine both.  And as long as writers and filmmakers continue to come up with compelling stories and unique characters, I don't see why zombies shouldn't last as long as vampires, lycanthropes and over-sexed faes.  

If you were in Ashley's place at the beginning of Plague Town, what would you do?
Pretty much the same thing.  I like to think I've seen enough zombies movies and read enough books that I wouldn't be one of those people who just can't believe what's happening and therefore dies stupidly.  WHen I wrote the picnic scene, I admit I was channeling a bit of myself in there. 

What are you reading right now?
Dog Days by John Levitt, Cat's Claw by Amber Benson, and Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore.  Actually I just finished Dead Things this morning and can't say enough good things about it.  I'm at the vey beginning of Dog Days and mid-way through Cat's Claw.  I tend to have two books going at once - one for the house and one when I'm out and about on walks.  

What's your favourite thing about writing?
Two things:  1. The times when the writing just flows and it's fun and I remember why I used to write all the time as kid in all of my spare time, and 2. meeting other writers and readers because of my work.  The writers community is amazingly supportive and fun to hang out with, and I can't tell you how much every fan letter I've gotten (okay, fan email) means to me.  

Any hints as to what will happen in book 3?
The plague goes global.  :-)   Beyond that, I'm not at liberty to say other than things get worse for our heroes, and I'm still not sure who will or won't make it to the end.  My outline is for suggestion purposes only.  Shhh… don't tell my editor! 

Anything else you want to share with us?
Nothing springs to mind other than thank you so much for having me as your guest, and I really do love hearing from readers!  

Plague Town: Goodreads | Amazon
Plague Nation: Goodreads | Amazon
Dana Fredsti: Website\Twitter

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Book Review- Call of the Jersey Devil by Aurelio Voltaire

Happy World Goth Day, guys! 
Title: Call of the Jersey Devil
 Author:  Aurelio Voltaire
Series:   N/A
Published:   28 May 2013 by Spence City
Length: 331 pages
Warnings: Comical gory violence, strong language, homophobic slurs. Definitely not for little people.
Source: Spence City Share Group (Thanks Kayleigh)
Other info: Voltaire does a lot of stuff. Comics, music, animation, writing.
Summary : Five suburban mall rats and a washed up Goth singer find themselves stranded in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they discover two horrifying truths: The Jersey Devil, hellspawn of folklore and legend, is real; and New Jersey (as many already suspected) is the gateway to Hell!
With the help of one lone witch, this small group must face off against their deepest fears and the most unholy monsters in a battle where their very souls, the world they live in, and any chance of returning to Hot Topic in one piece is at stake!

Review: AJ, Prudence, Stuey, Ari and Aleister are on their way to a Goth festival they see advertised at the mall. Villy Bats, the musician is stranded there. As the Goths' minivan crashes, they get stranded in the Pine Barrens and soon discover that the Jersey Devil is real, and that in New Jersey there is a gateway to Hell. As monsters start to pick them off, it's up to the Goths, and witch Caroline, to battle their way out.
Having been a fan of Voltaire's music, I've been waiting for this since the moment he announced it existed.
It starts off well. Chapter one is a flashback in which young girl Caroline is called upon to banish the Jersey Devil. And then tells it it is an asshole(justifiably). Chapter two sees a (I think theistic) Satanic ritual being interrupted on the basis that a gift store is no place for it, introduces characters and has a lightsaber fight. Excellent opening.
The characters were mostly rich and full. Aleister, the devil-worshipper, is an irritating dick throughout- his throwaround of homophobic and demeaning slurs and just him made me really hate him. AJ is really really cool! He's sassy and funny. Random aside- I'm wondering if these two characters are named in honour of Crowleys (the infamous occultist and the  angel who sauntered vaguely downwards). Prudence was ok. Stuey, I loved-he was cute in a puppy dog ohmygoshyouneedahug way. Ari had a sad backstory making her what she is, and I think developed most. Caroline and Villy the for most generally awesome. You also feel at some point for the Jersey Devil. Villy and AJ and Aleister are beautiful masters of sarcasm.
The first third is learning more and more about the characters. The middle is setting up the threat. The last half is dealing with it, mainly with a spade.
I love the writing style. As promised, it's facepalmingly funny-see earlier juxtaposition of Satanic ritual and lightsaber fight. AJ and Villy are the funniest. Even when there's the serious backstory parts, there's soon something to make you laugh. The first bit in particular is filled with multiple nods to Gothic subculture, so I was just sitting there all I understood that reference :) The latter part of the novel, the bit with everything and the spade, went really really quickly. The ending tied things up nicely. The epilogue, all I can say is-HELL YES.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a goth fantasy story that is very definitely on my "books to read when I need a good laugh" list.

Monday 20 May 2013

Dystopia Love by Cricket Baker

 Hi guys. Sorry for absence. Also sorry for lateness of this post-didn't press schedule for a few days ago and didn't notice till today. Sorry. Anyway, today, we have Cricket Baker, author of The Ghosting of Gods, talking about why we all love dystopian novels. 

Dystopia: a society characterized by human misery.

Why are dystopian novels so...compelling?
If you’re a fan of YA dystopian novels, I’m convinced I know you. You’re the sort who loves a story with a flair of weirdness about it. Definitely. But you’re also the sort who is, either overtly or subconsciously, attracted to the wild idea that your world can be something different from what it is.
Both of these things mean you are open to being wild and different.

I’m sorry if you disagree with my assessment of your character. Doesn’t matter. I’m right. I know you because I know what you read. Did you seriously believe you like to blend in? (I’m laughing.)
Being different can be uncomfortable. Scary, even, like when your internet service fails. But it’s what the world needs. You know this, right? I mean, have you ever hoped a character in a dystopian novel would refuse to change their dysfunctional world by refusing THE CALL to be different? (Note: different = who you are.) Please read the following quote, one of my favorites:

You become mature when you become the authority of your own life  ~Joseph Campbell, mythologist

With that, you’ve got the essence of the YA protagonist’s journey in a dystopian novel.

By the way, you’re not only secretly in love with how different you are, you’re not only thrilled with the idea of changing your world, but you’re also an intellectual. What compliments I’m throwing at you!! Feel free to accept them.

Current and popular dystopian novels share much in common with those esteemed works of classical literature which long-ago authors penned with stunning sincerity (authors need to believe they’re writing really good stuff). Flaws in society are showcased (authors tend to have a critical eye so as to help others change). Flaws in human nature are exaggerated and examined (authors love to lie and gossip). If a novel brings you insight into the workings of your life or world, it’s gifting you not just with entertainment, but also with transformation. Books are great that way. Dystopian novels, especially so.

A secret: I know why YA authors write dystopians. We’re brilliant (wink, wink), so it comes naturally. More important: We seek to prompt everyone, but especially younger generations, to SEE. 

(OMG please, please, please, SEE.)

To change the world, you must first see it as it really is, and not how you’ve been instructed to see it. It’s critical that you see it for yourself. And think about it for yourself. And envision it anew for yourself. The possibilities are wild...can you see that?

You know that song, We Are Young? Sing it. Surrender to your secretly weird and intellectual self.

Set the world on fire.

(Warning: If you were just reminded of The Girl Who Was On Fire, you’ve got Dystopia Love.)

The Ghosting of Gods
Jesse is an apprentice exorcist who defies his priests when he learns his sister is in danger even though she’s dead. When he’s exiled to a haunted world, Jesse must unravel the mystery of ghosts if he is to save her. He plunges into a deadly game of hide-and-seek. The players include denizens draped in monkish robes, ghosts with matted eyes, the dead who tunnel underground in terror, and...Elspeth. 
A coven scientist, Elspeth is both respected and feared for her abnormal spiritual powers. Jesse needs--craves--the knowledge of ghosts which she possesses. Elspeth tempts him in other ways...but is she a spiritual prodigy, or dangerously insane? The coven scientist begs him to trust her. He doesn’t. But he wants to. 
Caught in a world on the brink of spiritual evolution, Jesse struggles to understand Elspeth even as frightening contacts from his sister force him to face the secret, shattering meaning of a verse he knows well: Blessed are the poor in ghost.

Cricket can be found here, on facebook, tumblr and youtube. The Ghosting of Gods can be found on Goodreads and Amazon

Thursday 16 May 2013

Book Review-The Savages by Matt Whyman

Title: The Savages
 Author: Matt Whyman
Series:  N/A
Published:  6 June 2013 by Hot Key Books
Length: 288 pages
Warnings: bulimia, possible suicide attempt, cannibalism, comical gory violence
Source: publishers
Other info: Matt Whyman has written  quite a few other books such as Boy Kills  Man and Goldstrike.
Summary : They'd love to have you for dinner . . .
Sasha Savage is in love with Jack - a handsome, charming ... vegetarian. Which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that Sasha's family are very much 'carnivorous'. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha's father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother's culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel - as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .
Review: The Savages are a fairly happy family. There’s Titus and Angelica, a loving couple, grandfather Oleg, teenagers Sasha and Ivan and new baby Katya. They deal with normal troubles-money, schools, brother sister pranks, and the fact they’re cannibals. Yeah. Sasha then brings home a boyfriend, who happens to be vegetarian. While Sasha’s having a bit of an eating identity crisis, the Savages have another problem. An accidental death of an actress at their house leads to a body that can’t be disposed of in the normal way, a detective starts digging, and maybe they can’t go on like this...
The concept of this, I loved. Cannibals in a wholly modern setting, with relatability and school and things, I was really excited to get started on this.
It’s a LOT deeper than it sounds. It may be because I read it on a history trip where it’s all analyse things, but I saw half the events as metaphor. Jack’s devotion and the whole extreme veganism is funny, but could also be taken as a symbol for other  extremist groups. There’s other elements as well such as figuring out where you belong in this world, and rebelling against family values, adding a bit of seriousness.
Sasha was the most relatable for me, with the age and the working out who she is. It’s nice meeting a character like that.  My favourite character was probably Ivan, because his sense of humour is really in-line with mine jack was ok to start with, but then started getting really really irritating.
There’s lots of plots fitting together nicely. The detective one adds a bit of serious tension. The Amanda/Beyond Vegetarianism  one  furthers Sasha’s character development and conflict. It all comes to a climax as the Savages prepare a feast for Katya’s first time eating human flesh.
The ending (as in the climax) was really good. It all gets wrapped up really nicely and in the style befitting the rest of the book (amusing, ironic, gory). The ending (as in the epilogue) was really unsatisfactory. I think some people might like the ambiguity, but I would have preferred a more definitive end.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a family/identity book that is a beautiful example of dark comedy.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Book Review-The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Title:  The Hit
 Author: Melvin Burgess
Series:  N/A
Published:  4 April 2013
Length: 303 pages
Warnings: rape, drugs, heavy violence
Other info: Melvin has written many other things, including Junk.
Summary : Take it. Live it. F*** it.
A new drug is out. Everyone is talking about it. The Hit. Take it, and you have one amazing week to live. It's the ultimate high. At the ultimate price.
Adam is tempted. Life is rubbish, his girlfriend's over him, his brother's gone. So what's he got to lose? Everything, as it turns out. It's up to his girlfriend, Lizzie, to show him...

Review: There’s a new drug going round. Death. Giving you a week to live, and an eternity to not. Adam’s life is going very badly when he is given the chance to take it. Drawn in to a dangerous gang world, protesters, extreme violence and high stakes, Adam will discover what he has to live for.
I was really excited about this one. I’ve not read Junk or anything by Melvin before, but I feel like I should. The premise of The Hit was instantly eyecatching and exciting, and one that I could see going in any number of directions. Melvin took it in a good way.
Adam is a character that you get very close to, probably because of the intimacy and intensity of the things we go through with him, you know, thinking he’ll die being the major one.  He is immature at times, but also real. Lizzie is the saner girl, even though she is forced into the world of danger that Adam gets involved in. Christian is horrible, and scary in the way that real properly evil horrible people are. The mob network and the opposing group, the Zealots, were well fleshed out.
Plotwise, it works. It’s kept moving at a good pace. Things come round in funny ways. The ending-the outline was predictable, the exact workings of it, not so. The writing-really good.
I was surprised that after the emphasis on Death in the press thing and on the internet and thing, it was plot driven by the gang and action like that. It worked as a story, but with the concept, it wasn’t what I was expecting and I think I would have liked to see a  bit more questions being posed as a larger component of the story.
That said, it did  raise  quite a few. Would you take it? How would you spend your last week? Would you think it was worth it?

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a gritty and real book with a thoughtprovoking look at death and life.

Friday 10 May 2013

Who would Joy cast as Amber? The Sweet Dead Life Blog Tour

Today, we have a quickie from Joy Preble, on who to cast as Amber Velasco. I'm currently a third of the way through The Sweet Dead Life, and I think Amber's really cool. It's nice seeing author's picks of a cast, how they envisage their characters often disagrees with my first thought-case in point, here. But still.

Amber Velasco is Casey’s angel boss. She also makes a living at her ‘cover jobs’ of EMT/bartender. She is a sexy tough Texas woman who was in her early twenties when she bit the dust and came back as an angel. She’s loved and lost and has some dark secrets and a wild side that mostly don’t get revealed until book 2, THE A WORD. Casey Samuels is her first newbie angel to shepherd. And he is quite the handful for her.
I am torn about who I think could play this role. My first choice was actually Jennifer Lawrence and I still think she’d kick butt as Amber. But if she was still busy with the Hunger Games franchise, I would pick Allison Williams from GIRLS. She is the right physical type and I think she could definitely play that mixture of surface tight ass mixed with tough girl who wants what she wants and who would be totally unexpected once she broke loose of following the rules.

The Sweet Dead Life “I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”

So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.

The Sweet Dead Life releases on 14 May from Soho Teen. You can buy it from Amazon and the Book Depository, find it on Goodreads and find Joy Preble here.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Book Review- Gearteeth by Timothy Black

Title: Gearteeth
 Author: Timothy Black
Series:  Gearteeth Trilogy #1
Published:  9 August 2012 by Red Rose Publishing
Length: 607 pages
Warnings: violence, racism
Source: Author
Other info: Timothy wrote us a guest post on squick. Gearteeth is the start of a trilogy.
Summary : "In 1890 a disease that turned sane men into ravenous werewolves erupted in the United States and soon spread to the rest of the world. On the brink of humanity's extinction, Nikola Tesla and a secret order of scientists known as the Tellurians revealed a bold plan: the uninfected would abandon the Earth's surface by rising up in floating salvation cities, iron and steel metropolises that carried tens of thousands of refugees above the savage apocalypse. The remnants of mankind huddled fearfully in the clouds, waiting for the werewolves to devour each other. Yet twenty years later only one salvation city remains aloft, while the beasts still rule the world below. Time has taken its toll on the miraculous machinery of the city, and soon the last of the survivors will plummet to their doom. But when Elijah Kelly, a brakeman aboard the largest of the city's Thunder Trains, is infected by the werewolf virus he discovers a secret world of lies and horrific experiments that hide the disturbing truth about the Tellurians. When the beast in his blood surges forth Elijah must choose between the lives of those he loves and the city that is humanity's last hope of survival."

Review: In a world where people have fled to the sky to escape the werewolves down below, Elijah Kelly is a teenager working on a thunder train when an attack claims friend Henry, and infects Elijah. Choosing to leave his home for the safety of his fellow citizens, Elijah soon comes across secrets concerning the Tellurians, the scientists that got them up there, and the safety of society.
This is an amazingly imaginative steampunk setting. The trains and goggles and gear are typical steampunk fare, the derelict cities and the savageness of the werewolves aren’t. Everything has a spin on it, and my favourite part was seeing the flips side of prosperity and the technology reflecting that.
The characters are cool. My favourite one by far is Maude, Elijah’s grandmother, who is clever and completely off the scale badass.  Elijah is clever, with  a good heart, and a character you keep rooting for after getting attached. Also, this got me realising how little diversity there is in steampunk in terms of mixed-race/asian/non white main characters, and therefore points to Gearteeth. Maggie, the girl who  we meet halfway through, stuck up for herself a lot. The Tellurians and werewolves are very interesting. All the characters are interesting, and you always want to know more about them.
There’s a lot of action. Really, a lot.  It’s all well written and gripping and easily imaginable. The world is drawn very vividly, and you can easily imagine the point of canon divergence and how that affected this world, and you can see the roots and realistic issues such as the extreme poverty and horrible conditions, and the backstory fuelled by racism in rural areas.
This is very much in the horror genre as well as the steampunk one. There’s the werewolves, the Tellurians and the reason for their masks, and then a particularly memorable scene involving wolves and a young girl with a metal attachment in her brain. Yeah.  

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a novel bringing more awesomeness to multiple genres.

Monday 6 May 2013

Hi guys! Bank Holiday Edition

How's your bank holiday going? Mine's  been violin, ukulele and typing... I think my fingers must hate me.

I've been getting on well with a lot of books and things. Lots of reviews to type up now!

Books I have received recently:
 -- The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McColluch
-- The Drowning by Rachel Ward
-- Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctrow and Charlie Stross
--Lockwood and Co by Jonathan Stroud
--Call of the Jersey Devil by Aurelio Voltaire

Thank you to all publicity people and also to Kayleigh (K Books) for these!

I should be able to have a bit more bloggy things come up now! Things are scheduled and I have a lot to type.

I had a ridiculously fun time on Thursday.  I went to see Voltaire and Joe Black do a show in Windsor and afterwards everyone was able to stay and get things signed and have chats and hugs. I won't bore you with gory details of songs, but I did get some stuff signed and hugs from both of them!

Me and Voltaire

Signed book!


There's an auction for Chelsea Pitcher's book The S Word happening, and the proceeds go to funds for Boston Bombing victims.

I have figured out a little more for the LGBTetc event. I missed Faye's LGBTReadathon but there were lots of people and interesting discussions and I have a bit better idea as to what to cover in the event in August. Sign up sheet and info will come one day, hopefully before June.

Cait has an international giveaway going for Code Name Verity or Out of the Easy. Go take a look.

It's Headline's LoveYA May! For starters, there's a Pinterest board of YA books and why we love them, and there should be more coming later.

Can't think of anything else. So here, now, have some words of wisdom.