Friday, 30 November 2012

November review

I have finally hit a wall when it comes to reading for this year. After 3 months of being in a housebound broken legged state I have managed to read about 100 books and I've finally hit a slump earlier this month. I got myself out of it by picking up some new adult titles in a bid to have a go at reading something completely different which ws nice. I'm now scheduled up with reviews for the blog until the end of the year and am now concentrating on reading all the lovely 2013 release books that are now coming my way.

Read in November
Harry Potter and the Philsopher's Stone (Reread)
The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriot
Clockwork Angel (graphic novel) by Cassandra Clare
Hit Squad by Sophie McKenzie
Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw
Easy by Tammara Webber
Taking Chances by Molly McAdams
The perfect game by J Sterling
Down to you by M Leighton
Broken by AE Rought (DNF)
Through to you by Emily Hainsworth (DNF)
Reached by Ally Condie
Burning Bright by Sophie McKenzie
The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
The Disappeared by CJ Harper

Book of the month

Easy by Tammara Webber


I loved it entirely. Such as good read. I cannot wait to read more of her stuff.

Book events
None. Still broken legged :(

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Review: A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton


Anna still finds it hard to believe that Seth loves her and has vowed to suppress her powers, no matter what.

But magic – like love – is uncontrollable. It spills out with terrible consequences, and soon, Anna is being hunted.


***

I thoroughly enjoyed a Witch in Love. The sequel was just as exciting as the first book and has left me excited for the final book in the series.

I found this instalment just as compelling as the first and I whizzed through it finishing it in one sitting in a matter of hours.

The story kicks off a short while after the first book. Anna has been trying to avoid magic to keep under the radar but it has been difficult. At times she slips up and the magic seeps out. After a while it becomes apparent that carrying on that way isn't going to be practical especially once Anna's house gets attacked.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Anna and Seth develop as the book went on. I also loved getting more into the background of Anna as she starts to find out more about her mother's side of the family and where it is that she has actually come from.

The last part of the book is where it all kicks off and is really fast paced and exciting and makes the story line become lot darker. The revelations that come with it are brilliant and I cannot wait to see how they develop in the last instalment.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review: Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick


1910. A cabin north of the Arctic Circle. Fifteen-year-old Sig Andersson is alone. Alone, except for the corpse of his father, who died earlier that day after falling through a weak spot on the ice-covered lake. His sister, Anna, and step-mother, Nadya, have gone to the local town for help. Then comes a knock at the door. It's a man, the flash of a revolver's butt at his hip, and a mean glare in his eyes. Sig has never seen him before but Wolff claims to have unfinished business with his father. As Sig gradually learns the awful truth about Wolff's connection to his father, Sig finds his thoughts drawn to a certain box hidden on a shelf in the storeroom, in which lies his father's prized possession - a revolver. When Anna returns alone, and Wolff begins to close in, Sigs choice is pulled into sharp focus. Should he use the gun, or not?

***



This book is a prime example of what makes Marcus Sedgwick a brilliant author.

Revolver is a thriller set in the Arctic circle with a small cast of six characters and starts with the death of the father of the family the story is about. Shortly after the father dies a man arrives at the family's remote home and everything suddenly becomes much complicated for the children to deal with as the man accuses the father of something the children haven't got a clue about and starts threatening them. As the story evolves secrets emerge which are devastating.

For me this relatively short novel really packs a punch. Not a word is wasted in the brilliant writing style and through it you really gets a sense of atmosphere and feel of what life is really like for the family faced with the strange man and his revolver. The book also features a series of chapters which are flashbacks to the past which help to give brilliant insight into the present story. I really enjoyed these chapters and loved how they added to the story.

A brilliant book which is a perfect example of everything that makes a Marcus Sedgwick novel a joy to read.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: Blink Once by Cylin Busby


West is a high school senior who has everything going for him – until an accident leaves him paralysed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, moving in and out of consciousness, West is isolated and alone. Until he meets Olivia.

Olivia is the girl next door – though not the typical girl next door. She is in the hospital room next to his, and before long, she’s sneaking into his room to talk with him. Only Olivia seems to know what he’s thinking, and even dreaming about. Yet certain questions haunt him: Why is Olivia in the hospital? And how is she connected to the terrible dreams he’s been having? But the biggest shock of all comes when West must face the possibility that the girl he’s fallen in love with – and who’s done more to aid his recovery than anyone else – may not even be alive.


***

I have mixed feeling about this book. There were some things I really enjoyed about it but other things I wasn't as keen on.

Things I liked
I enjoyed following the story from the perspective of the main character West. I really liked his voice and I loved the relationship he developed with Olivia and I enjoyed seeing that relationship develop in the very unique way it did.

I really enjoyed the twist and didn't see it coming at all and thought it was unique.

What I was unsure about
Due to the nature of he book the storyline is very slow. I therefore found that at times my interest waned at times.

The more I think about it the more uncomfortable I feel about the subject matter and the appropriateness of writing about it in the way it was. I'm certain the author hasn't intended to be controversial or insensitive but I have been left uncomfortable nevertheless.

All in all I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Maybe one to spend some time thinking over.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Lydia Syson

Chaos and order battle it out on the bookshelves in my house.  There are six of us – me, my partner and our four children – and we’re always swapping books with each other, and borrowing them or lending them to other people, so there’s a lot of movement, and plenty of interlopers.  And I find it almost impossible to get rid of books. What follows then is a snapshot of some of the shelves this week, starting at the bottom and working up to the top of our Victorian terrace in south London. 



Last month we did some filming here for the enhanced iBook edition of A World Between Us, (link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/world-between-us-multi-touch/id576421338?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 ) so I got together as much of my Spanish Civil War research as I still could lay my hands on.  Poetry books nestle alongside technical weaponry manuals and CDs as they did in my research.  (I nearly always had a song in my head when I was writing.) By shifting a lamp and various bits of children’s pottery, I managed to colonise a whole new shelf.  Shhh!  I’ll keep those books there until somebody notices. 

Since then a few more have arrived: my stepfather gave me a novel called The Adventurers by Margot Heinemann (link: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPheinemann.htm), to whom the beautiful poem at the beginning of A World Between Us is addressed. 



And I picked up In Time of Trouble by Claude Cockburn just a few weeks ago: he covered the Spanish Civil War for the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker (now The Morning Star) and joined the Republican army himself so he could report through a soldier’s eyes.




Jessica Mitford’s Hons and Rebels set off my fascination with the war when I was a teenager myself, and made running away to Spain seem the most romantic thing in the world to me.



We’ve managed to squeeze another bookcase onto the stairs on the way up to the tiny study, supposedly for gardening and travel books.  As usual though, intruders of all kinds have sneaked in. Now that I can’t travel that much, just the sight of old guide books brings back lovely memories of places I’ve been in the past.  At the top, just out of sight, there are lots and lots of maps.



There’s always a little row of books at the back of my desk in my tiny study on the first half-landing – whatever I’ve been referring to recently.  I’ve just written a conference paper proposal about Dr James Graham, the eighteenth-century sex therapist who invented an electrical, magnetic and musical bed to help couples conceive perfect babies, so my biography Doctor of Love is there right now, alongside some recent Spanish Civil War publications – like Richard Baxell’s brilliant Unlikely Warriors where you can find out all about the real people who went to Spain.  Spot the clues to my next book here and elsewhere…



Poetry on the next landing….



What’s this?  Some of my Timbuktu collection, some books by two of my great-grandfathers, and look – there’s ‘The Russian Century’, an extraordinary photographic history which I’ve been trying to find for my daughter for months.  Why didn’t I look up there?




This has gone out of focus, just as I do when I enter the chaos of my teenage daughter’s room, but lots of the books on her shelves are my old books, or ones we’ve read together.  We have a mother-and-daughter book group to thank for introducing us to the brilliant ‘Spud’ books. 



This is already history, as we’ve just redecorated my oldest son’s room, and these books are now heaped up and down the stairs waiting to be sorted.  His early obsessions have certainly fed mine – I wouldn’t be writing the book I am now, were it not for one of them – but his Horrible History days are now long gone... 



We left ‘paperback fiction, a-o’ in our twins’ room when we moved into a loft conversion above, emptying just the lower part of an entire wall of shelves.  But that's now overflowing uncontrollably with their books so this room is reaching book crisis stage. Here's a typical pile:  a library book or two, a few of my own childhood favourites which the boys are now enjoying (Geraldine Symons, Elizabeth Enright, James Thurber, Arthur Ransome), some of their own ‘nostalgia’ reading (there’s a good reason to hang on to children's books forever) and a couple of new books the boys have seen and commented on from early drafts thanks to my writing group – Atticus Claw and Guinea Pigs Online.  Other recent productions from our group, Keren David's Another Life, and Becky Jones' Bumper Book of London, are probably beside someone else's bed right now.   
 



And finally, my favourite bookshelf of all, which I designed myself, fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition in the process… It runs under the sloping ceiling of my bedroom. (I tend to do nitty-gritty writing in bed, where I also read to my twins most nights, tucked up with one on either side.) Most of the books here are already in double layers, books just read, waiting to be read, half-read all shelved higgledy-pickledy in front of ‘paperback fiction p-z’.  But one section is too shallow for that.  Yes, you’ve probably spotted those hinges.  It’s a door into the eaves.  The perfect size for the Kipling, Hardy and Conrad collections gathered together over years by my father, this bookcase/door gives me a little thrill every time I open it.  And now my secret is out.  One of them, anyway.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington


Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.


***

This book made for an interesting read.

Chelsea has learnt the hard way that spreading gossip can hurt people. Up until the fateful party where she spread gossip to disastrous consequences Chelsea is part of the popular crowd and suddenly after speaking up she's no longer welcome and suddenly finds herself isolated from everyone else. To show how sorry she is about her role in the incident she decides to take a vow of silence.

For me the real star of the piece is Asha, the girl who strikes up a friendship with Chelsea when everyone else is ignoring her. She forgives Chelsea in a heart beat and makes a real effort to extend the hand of friendship to her despite the fact that the rest of her friends are not as keen to follow suit.

The story also tells you a lot about bullying and role it can have in destroying someone's life. The way in which Chelsea's former friends turn on her is really telling in how nasty teenage girls can be. I loved seeing the way in which Chelsea's new friends were so different in the way they treat her and it made me question why anyone in high schools strive to be popular.

A real thoughtful story. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Review: The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff


On the morning of her wedding, Pell Ridley creeps out of bed in the dark, kisses her sisters goodbye and flees -- determined to escape a future that offers nothing but hard work and sorrow. She takes the only thing that truly belongs to her: Jack, a white horse.
The road ahead is rich with longing, silence and secrets, and each encounter leads her closer to the untold story of her past. Then Pell meets a hunter, infuriating, mysterious and cold. Will he help her to find what she seeks?
With all the hallmarks of Meg Rosoff's extraordinary writing, The Bride's Farewell also breaks new ground for this author, in a nineteenth-century, Hardyesque setting. This is a moving story of love and lost things, with a core of deep, beautiful romance. 


***

The Bride's farewell is a interesting different book from Meg Rosoff. It is completely different from her other books.

The book is the story of Pell. She decides to leave home the morning of her wedding day as she doesn't want to be like her mother and have a tough life of a wife of a farmer producing hoards of children becoming older and more tired. What follows is Pell's journey across the country as she tries to stay away from her father and works to make enough money to feed herself.

The book gives you a real feel of the historical period it is set in and the sheer struggle of life for poorer people where the difference between earning enough to eat or not enough and starving is a real issue. The story goes along quite slowly and at times I found myself losing interest but it was nice to see where it finally ended up as it tied up quite nicely.

Not my favourite Meg Rosoff but certainly worth a read.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review: 1.4 by Mike Lancaster


Thousands of years in the future the divide between humanity and technology has become nearly unrecognizable. Each thought, each action is logged, coded, backed up. Data is as easily exchanged through the fiber-optic-like cables that extend from fingertips as it might be through ordinary conversation. It's a brave new world: A world that the Straker Tapes say is a result of many human "upgrades." But no one is sure whether the Straker Tapes are a work of fiction or an eerie peek into an unimaginable past.
Nearly sixteen-year-old Peter Vincent has been raised to believe that everything that the backward Strakerites cling to is insane--an utter waste of time and potential. Since his father is David Vincent, genius inventor of the artificial bees that saved the world's crops and prevented massive famine, how could Peter believe anything else?


But when Peter meets Alpha, a Strakerite his own age, suddenly the theories about society-upgrades don't sound quite so crazy, especially when she shows him evidence that another upgrade is imminent. And worse, there may be a conspiracy by the leaders of the establishment to cover it up. A conspiracy spearheaded by Peter's own father.


Gripping and full of unexpected twists, 1.4  takes the unsettling questions raised in 0.4, and flips them entirely. What if we knew that the very way we live was about to be changed in an instant, and we could stop it? And what if everything we are sure we know is entirely wrong?


***



1.4 is the second book is the 0.4 series. It is a sequel in that both books are set in the same world and they are based about the same ideas about the human race but they is a millennium's time difference between the two and therefore a cast of new characters and could easily be read as a standalone. While I didn't enjoy it as much as 0.4 it was a nice add on to book one and left me thinking in the same way the first book did.

In the world of 1.4 the story of Kyle Stracher is a mere myth. Many people believe in the tapes made by the boy a thousand years ago whilst other dismiss it as rubbish. The world has developed along with the development of technology. People live in towns which are the clones of other towns and spent much of their time online to connect with others, shop and learn about whatever they need to. Peter lives in this world with his scientist father who detests the stacherites and someone just doesn't add up for Peter and he is determined to find out what it is.

I won't tell you too much about what happens in the book because quite honestly I can't begin t do it justice. The ideas are clever and give the reader an awful lot to think about. I like how the story is told through transcripts and really enjoyed finding out more about Peter and the world he lives in. The revelations are exciting and clever.

While not as good as book one certainly a book I enjoyed with clever ideas leaving you much to think about.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles


Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as "criminal" and "freak." Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.


***



Leaving paradise is the story of Caleb a teenage boy who has just been let out of prison for a hit and run accident and the girl who he hit with the car called Maggie.

Caleb returns to his old life and finds it a struggle. He can't relate to his friends and family in a similar way to before as his outlook on life has changed so much. His has to catch up on the year of school he's missed and his friends have moved on without him. Maggie equally finds life a struggle. Since the accident she has had to give up tennis and therefore lost the connection with the social circle she had through that. She's having to go through painful physiotherapy regularly. She's also lost her best friend (the twin of Caleb) and is finding life to be a lonely existence.

Caleb and Maggie are obviously quite keen to avoid one another but get put together when the pair end up working for the same old lady. It was brilliant to see how their relationship changed and developed as the book went on especially when you consider how similar the two of them are in their lives since the accident.

The end of the book throws out loads of revelations and leaves lots of things up in the air for the sequel which I cannot wait to read. A fabulous read and exactly what I expected from a Simone Elkeles. 

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author KA Laity



Because I'm living a bit of a gypsy life, I offer up some shelves from my office which -- cough -- also shows the signs of my itinerant existence, still being in the midst of unpacking all the things that had to be packed away while the office was given over to a replacement while I was off in Ireland for a year. Without meaning to do so I seem to accumulate tchotchkes of various kinds: medieval stuff, female action figures, pirate thingees. There's the viking my dad carved for me, the Cthulhu my pal Jan Kozlowski made and the sock zombie my pal Mildred gave me. Oh, and the nun doll Alice Loweecey made for her mystery series! I have mostly medieval books here. There's the Anglo-Saxon and medieval women shelf then the Old Norse and Chaucer and oversize shelf. Because our offices are in converted houses, I also make use of the closets in my office. My vinyl collection has found a home here on the way to being discarded (cough, five years it's been there...) and some of the teaching DVDs and oh yeah, the devil puppet maraca.






My office is a little oasis. People always come in it the first time, look around with surprise and usually say, 'wow, you have a nice office' or 'I must alert the authorities' or something like that. I have a lot of theatre posters and lobby cards as well as favourite art, degrees and posters that encourage me to get work done, i.e. Mark E. Smith shouting 'Stop mithering!' or the wonderful poster for Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. Johnny Depp plays William Blake. He's only pointing the gun at me if I have the door closed. The three Ms: motivation, motivation, motivation. I try to get work done in my office. It doesn't always happen, but if it does I have plenty of books on hand to help, including something like sixteen copies of Beowulf.



Friday, 16 November 2012

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.


***

I really enjoyed this book. It was super cute and the perfect Christmassy read.

The story revolves around Lily and Dash, teenagers in New York, who meet via a read moleskine notebook Lily leaves in a bookshop with a series of instructions and is found by Dash. Via the book they pair exchange dares and challenges over the Christmas period.

I really enjoyed this book. Both characters are really interesting in their different ways. Dash is quite independent and cynical about christmas while having a really soft edge underneath it all while Lily really does just wear her heart on her sleeve. Both have been left to have Christmas without their parents in new York and get completely drawn into the other person via their back and forth messages via the notebook.

I found myself fascinated with the idea behind the main story and couldn't wait to see where it was going next. I loved seeing where their interactions would take them next and loved seeing how they slowly became friends over the course of the book before they'd even met each other. The secondary character in this book are also worth a mention. There are so many quirky and funny characters dotted about the places in this book that it's hard to mention them all but I will say they all really added something to the story. The amount of times I ended up chuckling away as I was reading was untrue.

A brilliant Christmas read. I highly recommend it as a stocking filler!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review: The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick


It is 1915 and the First World War has only just begun.

17 year old Sasha is a well-to-do, sheltered-English girl. Just as her brother Thomas longs to be a doctor, she wants to nurse, yet girls of her class don't do that kind of work. But as the war begins and the hospitals fill with young soldiers, she gets a chance to help. But working in the hospital confirms what Sasha has suspected--she can see when someone is going to die. Her premonitions show her the brutal horrors on the battlefields of the Somme, and the faces of the soldiers who will die. And one of them is her brother Thomas.

Pretending to be a real nurse, Sasha goes behind the front lines searching for Thomas, risking her own life as she races to find him, and somehow prevent his death.


***



In all honesty if you want a book about the horrors of the trenches, the impact of world war one on people left behind or the role of nurses in the war the are far better books out there to read. However despite this statement I do think this book is worth a read.

For me the magic in this book isn't the story as such, although it is engaging enough, it is in the beautifully unique writing style of Marcus Sedgwick. I don't think there are any other authors out there that I can compare his work too. There's just something about it which is so simple yet so poetic which evokes such a Gothic feeling for the reader and a real sense of the characters and events that it raises the hairs on the back of your neck.

There's nothing quite like a Marcus Sedgwick that's for sure. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor


Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.


***

I have been waiting excitedly for this book since I finished The Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

This book was beautifully written and spends a huge amount of time getting deep into the story that was started in book one. It focuses on switching between looking at the two sides of the ongoing war between the angels and the chimaera and gives the reader a real insight into the two different worlds and the pressures they face.

However for me this book really suffers from being a middle book in the series and I going that I was losing interest regularly despite how beautifully it had been written because I just felt that everything was being set up for a final book but that in fact very little was happening. It seemed to me to be a lot of angels plotting in one camp and karou stuck in another camp making working her bottom off to reanimate her people whilst being treated like the enemy by the rest of the people in her camp. I think the problem for me is I really enjoyed the relationships in book one but in this book they weren't really there.

So am I still looking forward to book three? Yes but with not the enthusiasm I had before but I'm still hopeful that the series will be as brilliant as I have hoped it will be. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: Double Cross by Sophie McKenzie



Narrated by Nico, Double-Cross is full of telekinetic action as the Medusa Project team arrive in Sydney, Australia, for another exciting mission - and unexpectedly come face-to-face with two more Medusa teens: Cal, a boy who can fly, and Amy, a girl who can shapeshift... but who is double-crossing who? And how many others are out there carrying the Medusa gene?

***

Double cross is the 5th instalment in the medusa Project series. I've really been enjoying them and think they just keep getting stronger.

I won't say too much as I could so easily spoil the book for someone. I will say that there are loads of twists and turns and revelations thrown in which are brilliantly unexpected and exciting and much as been set up for the last book. I literally cannot wait to see when the series finally ends up in the next and final instalment. I particularly enjoyed the addition of Cal to the story.

Roll on the final book!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Blogger Sarah from Feeling Fictional

Hey everyone, I'm Sarah and my blog is called Feeling Fictional (http://www.feelingfictional.com/). You can occasionally catch me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/sarahsreviews) but I seem to have cured myself of my tweeting addiction so you're much more likely to catch me on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3344685) if you want to talk about books :o)

I've been promising Kirsty a Bookcase Showcase post for months now but since I now have my very own library (it's my favourite room in the house!) it was about time I got around to taking some pics for her. I'll be the first to admit I'm not the world's tidiest person - I'm messy, I hate my hoover and you can probably write your name in the dust (if the dust bunnies don't eat you first!) but I'm actually surprisingly organised when it comes to my books. You see like many other book bloggers I have a book addiction - I seem to be constantly acquiring new books because I can never resist a bargain! It doesn't help that I have such varied tastes when it comes to books, I love both adult and YA titles across a whole selection of genres and my reading tends to go in cycles. I've not been on a crime or horror kick for a while but I hate to get rid of the books I haven't read in those genres because I know I'll want to read them one day. I've been on a paranormal kick (including paranormal romance, urban fantasy, steampunk, science fiction and dystopian) for most of the time that I've been blogging but I also enjoy historical stories and this year I've rekindled my love of contemporary romance.

 
"2012 / 2013 releases"

The shelf above can be found in my front room, this is where I keep most of my review copies and this years releases. The books look like they have been shelved at random but there is method to my madness and they are sorted by publication date, I even have a spreadsheet that I can use for reference when I'm struggling to find a book (yes, I am a geek and I'm proud of it!). I even have dividers (or pieces of cut up old calendars if you want to get picky about it) to make it easy to find the month I'm looking for.

 
"Books on these shelves are organised by release date"

When I moved into my new house I invested in seven massive new bookcases from Ikea (a whole afternoon and evening spent building them has given me mad hammer skills so you know where to come for help next time you've got to put together flat pack furniture). My spare room has dutifully been turned into a library and I love going in there just to stroke the pretty book covers. One wall has a row of 4 really tall bookshelves and those contain the majority of my current to read pile (I'm embarrassed to admit my TBR pile has crept back up to over 1000 books if you include the contents of my kindle - eeek!). The books are organised alphabetically by author surname and then sorted into series order because that makes it pretty easy to find whatever I'm looking for. As you can see from the pictures below these shelves are crammed quite full and I'm going to struggle to fit much more on them. I love having plenty of books to choose from though - I never know what I'm going to fancy reading next and every time I finish a book I get the excitement of browsing my shelves to pick out my next book - it's like a mini trip to the book store every time.




 
 "My never ending to read pile (Part 1 & 2)"
 
 
On the opposite side of the room I have another 3 massive bookcases and this is where I keep my read books. I find it much easier to be ruthless with books after I've read them so these shelves house my favourite books and signed copies, these books are also organised by author and then in series order. When I've read books they tend to do the rounds of my friends and family - I'm very happy to share my books but if I'm lending books that I want to keep then I do update my spreadsheet to show who they have gone home with (that's my inner geek showing again!). Nobody visits my house and doesn't leave with an armful of books and it will quite often take months for them to be returned which doesn't bother me at all but would make it impossible for me to remember where specific books were if I didn't make a note of it. Once they come back to me I'll decide if I really want to keep them or nor and then they are either shelved or piled up to be given away. Friends and family always get first refusal of books I'm not keeping and after that the adult books are either donated to my local library or to a charity shop while the YA books are to be boxed up and given to Kirsty so she can had them out to the kids at school. I feel much less guilty about giving so many books away now that I know they are going to good homes.


 
"Read books - favourites and signed copies only (Part 1 & 2)"

You can see there is more space available on my read shelves so I tend to fill up the gaps with silly nicknacks like these Mandeville and Wenlock Olympic Mascots. (If you want to know more about my Wenlock & Mandeville obsession you can read my blog post about them here http://www.feelingfictional.com/2012/10/london-2012-olympic-geek-out-hunt-for.html)

"Wenlock and Mandeville - I had to sneak them in this post somewhere!"

Along with the tall bookshelves I also have 3 half height cases in this room, two of them fit underneath the window and they will eventually contain my collection of children's books, coffee table type books like the Simon's Cat series by Simon Tofield and any other books that I want to have more on display. The third one is hidden behind Big Ted who is sitting comfortably in the library because I can't fit him in anywhere else in the house. At the moment this shelf is home to some of my fantasy books - just my collection of Terry Pratchett and David Eddings books for now but this will be added to later. I still have about 10 boxes of books in storage at my Dad's house and I have no idea what treasures are in there waiting for me to rediscover them so unpacking them is high on my priorities list.


 "Fantasy shelves - Terry Pratchett & David Eddings

Well I hope you've enjoyed taking a virtual tour of my shelves - I did warn you in advance that I have a book addiction and I think I've proved my point lol. I don't think it's possible to own too many books though - all I want now is a bigger library with custom built floor to ceiling shelves and one of those sliding ladders - I've always dreamed of having one of those!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Review: The Returners by Gemma Malley


London teenager Will Hodge is miserable. His mother is dead, his father's political leanings have grown radical, and his friends barely talk to him. To top it off, he's having nightmares about things like concentration camps. Then Will notices he's being followed by a group of people who claim to know him from another time in history. It turns out they are Returners, reincarnated people who carry with them the memory of atrocities they have witnessed in the past. Will realizes that he, too, is a Returner. But something about his memories is different, and with dawning horror, Will suspects that he wasn't just a witness to the events, he was instrumental in making them happen. Set in the near future, with the world on the verge of a new wave of ethnic cleansing, Will must choose to confront the cruelty he's known in his past lives, or be doomed to repeat it…

***

I was very keen to get my hands on a copy of this book after loving Gemma Malley's The Declaration. I must say while it was as well thought out and clever I really didn't engage with it as much as I would hope.

The returners is set in the near future. The recession is hitting hard and the extreme political parties on the far right are getting more of a voice with their racist views about immigrants as the population struggle to find work and want someone to blame. This means people living in England who aren't white are often targeted and subject to prejudice and discrimination both from ordinary people and from the authorities.

The story follows Will. Will is concerned that he is being followed and has been for a while. Will gets to the point where he decides to take the problem on and confronts the people follow him and the things they tell him are mind blowing to the point where he doesn't believe it.

The story that then follows gets more into the revelations they tell him and are really clever in the way they work. They gave me a lot to think about and were totally unexpected.

All in all while it wasn't the book I expected it certainly was a thinker.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Review: Hunted by Sophie McKenzie


Dylan, the daughter of the scientist who created the Medusa gene for psychic powers, has never felt she really fits into the crime-fighting Medusa Project. But then she makes a discovery about her father's death which changes everything. As she and the other Medusa teens search for the truth, Dylan meets Harry - a boy who seems to know more about Dylan's past than she does. But can Dylan trust him? While Dylan searches for the mysterious legacy that her father has left her from beyond the grave, her dad's killer closes in. But just how far is the murderer prepared to go to keep Dylan from finding out the truth?

***

Hunted is another cracking instalment in the Medusa Project series.

I loved to have a book in this series from Dylan's point of view because I have found her to be a bit of a mystery over the series. She is standoffish and keeps herself separate from the rest of the group and I enjoyed having the chance to see the world from her perspective.

This instalment was just as fast paced and exciting as previous instalment with loads of twists thrown in which keep you guessing from the first page until the last. As the book goes on you get the chance to find out even more about the project and all the different people involved and all the things that happened in the past that the group is slowly starting to find out. The revelations they find are stunning and throw a whole new perspective on everything the group thought they knew up until this point.

I can't tell you too much about the twists that are thrown in this time as it will spoil the book for you but be rest assured that they are brilliantly done.

A fab instalment in an enjoyable series. I'm looking forward to the next instalment already.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review: Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd


Holly’s story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.
Memories of mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school, and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blond locks she feels transformed. She’s not Holly anymore, she’s Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the supersharp talk. She’s older, more confident—the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland, and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head-on.

So begins a bittersweet and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self and unlocking the secrets of her past.


***



I really enjoyed Solace of the road and thought it was really poignant and thought provoking read.

Solace of the road follows the story of Holly a teenage girl who has decided to run away from her foster home and to track down her mother in Ireland. She leaves dressed up as Solace a girl older than herself and uses Solace's confidence to travel her way across the country.

For me this book was all about Holly coming to terms with who she was and the terrible things she had gone through in her past. It was starling to see how naive she was and how she tried to play this much older role but didn't always quite get it right. I really enjoyed following her journey and the experiences she had on the way and what those experiences reveal about her. I must be getting old because all I wanted to do was scoop her up wrap her in a blanket and shield her from the world. I must admit I was expecting such a sad and moving read. Make sure you are prepared with a box of tissues before you start reading.


All in all a brilliant book which I'd certainly recommend.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac


If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss.
She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps.
She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia.
She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place.
She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief." She'd get all his inside jokes, and maybe he wouldn't be so frustrated with her for forgetting things she can't possibly remember.
She'd know about her mom's new family.
She'd know about her dad's fiancee.
She wouldn't have to spend her junior year relearning all the French she supposedly knew already.
She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her.
She wouldn't have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads.


***

I enjoyed this book and found it to be an easy read which kept me happily interested throughout.

I loved the main premise. The main character Naomi had an accident and knocked her head and as a result she gets amnesia and forgets the last four years of her life. I found it fascinating to see how Naomi deals with life after her accident. It was interesting to see how she made changes to the things she was doing and the people she hung out with.

I particularly liked Will as a character. I loved the boy entirely and would have loved to have a best friend like him when I was a teenager. I loved his quirky habits and the way in which he did all the sweet and thoughtful things he did for Naomi.

All in all a quick and interesting read.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Alex McQuay






Well I wasn’t quite sure where to start with this as, from what I can see here at the overflowing library, one glance at my bookshelves would not necessarily mark me out as much of a bookworm. I certainly don’t own several of those lovely Billy Bookcases and while they are overflowing in part, that’s not entirely for the normal reasons. So behold, the first of them, the main bookcase in the front room.




I know, right? It looks like there’s a lot of empty space, but that really could not be further from the truth. You see, this is the bookshelf of a parent with young children, hence the thick board-books at the bottom that after the thousandth time we’ve given up on tidying properly, while the top three shelves are home to things expensive, fragile or potentially dangerous. Between those though this shelf is home to our almost-complete collection of Terry Pratchett novels, assorted historical fiction belonging to my wife and a great deal of horror, assorted fantasy and autobiographical gangster tales by the likes of Chopper Read, along with cook books and music related stuff on the bottom. Please don’t be alarmed by the juxtaposition of the gangster novels, cooks books and that thick tome on the bottom entitled “knots and ropework” if you can see it in the picture. They are all mine, but their presence is entirely unrelated. Honestly.
Aside from Pratchett there isn’t much in the way of a grouping by a particular author here, as this is less than half of our book collection with many more still being in storage owing to the need to find room for the children. I attempted to argue there was plenty of room in the garden, but apparently children are an indoor breed. Go figure.
In essence though, this is virtually all genre fiction. I simply don’t have much of an interest in literary fiction and while some might scoff at that, there are simply so many books out there I want to read that I don’t feel I’m missing out by ignoring the next “modern classic” or anything from the Booker Prize nominations list. Each to their own of course, but personally I’ll take Orcs, vampires and all manner of escapist fantasy any day of the week.




Have to give a special mention here to Nigel, the Hoardless Dragon. Bless him. A present from my wife and very much the life and soul of our bookshelf, reminding us that when people make creatures who breath fire out of flammable materials, there’s really no point in taking life too seriously.
 


And this one? This is where all of the military science fiction is kept, which is a great love of mine. Almost everything here is set within Games Workshop’s intellectual property setting and it has been a vast source of inspiration and drive for me over the last few years, eventually culminating in my decision to take this writing lark seriously and get some words published. Now military stuff might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but when you write anything with combat in it it’s useful to see how many ways you can actually describe one person hitting/kicking/shooting/stabbing/blowing up another. Aside from the prose there are also several role-playing rulebooks, which really are a fascinating source of information for any writer and I’d urge you to take a look for one good reason: character profiles. Of course these are weighted towards combat stuff in some cases, but as a template for creating a dense, nuanced character with their own world, culture, mind, abilities and attributes, they are essentially an idiot’s guide to character creation.


Not much more to go on about than that, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my showcase. It was a lot of fun writing it!
 




Alecmcquay.wordpress.com is my blog, I’m @vampiricchicken on Twitter and easily found on FaceBook thanks to a name that has largely died out in the British isles.