Monday, 27 September 2010

Review: 'Glass Houses' by Rachel Caine

Rating: 3 stars

Format: eBook

Source: Gift

Genre: YA/Supernatural fiction (or something to that effect...)

Published: by Allison & Busby in May 2008

What the blurb said:

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls just never let her forget just where she ranks in the school's social scene: less than zero. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life but they come out fighting when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood....

What I would say:

I always think that, unfairly, there is a certain degree of snobbery when it comes to the reading of YA fiction and, as an extension of that and because of the undeniable success of the delicious Edward Cullen et al, supernatural/paranormal YA fiction in particular. So, before anyone skulks off mumbling about "reading real books..", let's share the love for fun, fast-paced stories that are a delightful way to spend a day or two when the darkness is creeping in, shall we? :) Ok!

I first picked this up for a number of reasons. Firstly, my sister bought this for me and she has been an unstoppable nag force ever since. To clarify, my younger sibling is not a big reader - in fact, until recently, if wasn't Jacqueline Wilson, she didn't want to know. Then Edward Cullen happened and she will read occasionally if there are more delicious vampires or similar for her to swoon over - any book which fulfils this is the "best book ever" - ah, the exuberance of youth...Secondly, I needed something lightish that I could romp through on a train journey to stop me getting distracted by and/or being depressed about the other miscreants in my carriage!
This filled its brief: the book reminded me very much of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which I loved as a teen. The characters were sharp and witty and the way they interacted was how I wished I'd been able to interact at that age, i.e. full of sarcasm and way-too-quick comebacks! Claire Danvers is obviously the main focus and her perspective as a new resident of Morganville (much like the reader in fact) provides just the right amount of detail.

I think one of the things that made this story work so well was that it never dawdled - at the time I thought Claire's almost instaneous acceptance of the existence of vampires and all sorts of other things-that-go-bump-in-the-night was unrealistic (in context) BUT it actually meant that there was no time wasted in pointless denials: "But vampires don't exist" "Yes, they do..." "Oh yes, actually they do here...". The action is sustained right up until the last page and I was finished before I knew it! Also good for recalling a bit of the teen angst that we all miss a little bit if we're absolutely honest (and quoting your age as, "I'm nearly seventeen..." with a tone of desperation") - what's life without melodrama every now and then?!

Overall: There are some unique elements that make this different from "just another vampire novel" (vampire bureaucracy, for example..) and the 'Glass house' and its residents are perfectly charming - definitely recommended to those looking for something just a teensy bit creepy on the run up to Hallowe'en!

Read-A-Thon Round-Up

This was my first Read-A-Thon and I had high hopes but, because I had an inkling that things would be busy during the week, I didn't post my ambitions at the start. Just in case I fell way short and looked silly...

I actually feel like it went quite well for my first one, although I was less than great at ignoring everything but the page! Distractions included: the arrival (and subsequent un-flat-packing) of our long awaited dining room furniture; a 'neglected' boyfriend and the birth of my godparents' daughter's itsy bitsy baby boy...

I managed, however, to finish and review John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and finish Rachel Caine's Glass Houses (Book 1 of the Morganville Vampire series), which I will hopefully be able to review later tonight. I also made a start on Shadowlands by Rhiannon Lassiter so I'm rather jolly about it all :)

I know that might seem meagre to those of you who get through way more than that but two books a week (particularly this week!) is good enough for me - longer working hours and tiredness are my excuses, if you need them...

Hope all the other participants had great reading weeks - I can't wait to see what everyone else managed!!

Thanks as ever to Michelle @ The True Book Addict for hosting!!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Review: 'The Book of Lost Things' by John Connolly

Rating: 4 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: Local library

Genre: Adult fiction/fantasy fiction

Published: by Hodder Paperback in April 2007

What the blurb said:

"Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother..." As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world start to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters and his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.

What I would say:

The beginning of this book is incredibly moving and very reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. David tries to help his mother's fight against cancer by performing "rituals" that he hopes will save her - if everything he does is in even numbers, his mother will be fine and that's that. The child's perspective is exceptionally poignant and an incredible start to the book.

After his father remarries and he and his new wife have another son, David resents his new family and seeks solace in his attic bedroom with the books that whisper to him, begging for their stories to be told. When a German bomber plane crashes into his garden, David jumps through a hole and lands in a fairytale world.

Now, when I hear 'fairytale' I think Disney. Disney this book is not. Think more the Brothers Grimm and you're there! Snow White has succumbed to morbid obesity and Prince Charming didn't stick around with the communist dwarves, Red Riding Hood had an affair with a wolf to produce some just lovely wolf-human half breeds and the trolls are sharing their bridge with harpies.

Oddly though, despite all the gore (of which there is plenty), it is like a coming-of-age fairytale and David faces foes very familiar to him (and the reader) from the stories he loved. David is a fantastic character and the development from child to adult left me feeling very involved in the story. The range of supporting characters make the book and it feels genuinely magical. It can be harrowing but that only makes the release of tension all the better and I swear, at times, physical.

John Connolly is best known as a crime writer and, being a self-confessed pansy in that department, so this was my first experience of his writing and I was very pleasantly surprised! The version of this book that I read had an interview with Connolly after the story in which he said, "I've written the best book that I could possibly write, being the person and writer that I am". And it is one remarkable book!

Overall: This novel is fantastically unique - I would recommend it to someone looking for a dark twist on old favourites but with a health warning - there is violence and there is gore and it definitely isn't suitable for the younger readers out there!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Banned Books and a Mini-Challenge

As part of the Fall Read-A-Thon - a mini-challenge/task type thing was posted about Banned Books. This sparked my interest so if I find myself rambling, I'm sorry! The task was/is:

To look at the list of 'Frequently Challenged Books' here at The American Library Association's website (check out the left hand list) and select a book that you've read and discuss why you read it, in particular, if this was because of its banned status etc. Then, share your thoughts on
the book and any other comments about whether you would recommend it etc.

The lists themselves make for some very interesting reading and I was genuinely surprised at the kinds of books that get challenged and/or banned and how many of those books I've actually read. Either I'm subliminally searching out controversy or I have a taste for books that upset everybody else...actually, what I suspect it is is that any book that's popular for any length of time is challenged by a group of people who resent the influence that book may have over its generation. Take Harry Potter for example - I read and loved them along with most of the population but every time a new instalment came out, someone would try and taint it by moaning about its promotion of sadism and the occult...huh?!

Anyway, I chose the Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.

Why? Two reasons:

1. It turns out it was the second most challenged book of 2009 (I hadn't read #1...); and

2. I remember hearing about said challenges not long after I'd read them so I read at least one of the books in knowledge of their challenged status.

So, in line with this task: Why did I read [them]?

Unfortunately, this isn't a great story about fighting Dad bought them for me when I was about 15...

My thoughts: These three books start in Oxford, England and follow the adventures of Lyra and her animal-daemon Pantalaimon as they embark on a dangerous rescue mission to the ice kingdoms of the far north, where they begin to learn about the mysterious particles known as 'Dust', which could just start a war between worlds...

It was criticised, if I remember rightly, by Christian groups as some characters openly criticise institutional religion, the story flounts the traditional concept of heaven and there are somewhat wayward angels.

I loved the series and thought they were an amazing fantasy series that are suitable to young adults (and adults). I would recommend them to anyone who even remotely mentions a passing curiosity about them!

But, I suppose the key question would be, were the criticisms justified? No! I am pretty open-minded when it comes to what I read and I don't take offense if a book contradicts my own opinions. With this, the story is so fantastical that any criticisms of religion are set up and fit in the story and, as Pullman himself said about the issue, they're characters...not real people and not a way for him to air his views. Enjoy them for what they are and you'll be fine :) And you should read them - they're fabulous!

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Fall Catch-Up READ-A-THON

This wonderful blog happening is being hosted over at The True Book Addict and is perfectly timed for me - not only am I way behind in the reading stakes but I have a couple of big train journeys this week which are ideal for a good few hours' guiltless reading!

So, if you are like me and have a stack of books you've been yearning to read for what seems like months, why not join in too? All you have to do is head over The True Book Addict's blog using the link above, fill in your details, leave a lovely comment and get reading! She's also hosting some fab giveaways and mini-challenges throughout this week so I'm looking forward to it :)

Hopefully see some of you there!

First day UPDATE: I'm making some really good head way with 'The Book of Lost Things' by John Connolly since I started Read-A-Thon-ing this morning and it is, quite frankly, fantastic so I'm extremely glad I got a push to get going properly!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Review: 'Daughters of Fire' by Barbara Erskine

Rating: 3.5 stars

Format: eBook

Source: Library's eBook site

Genre: Historical fiction (with a fantasy-type twist)

Published: by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd in August 2006

What the blurb said:

This sweeping novel switches between Roman Britain and the present day where history dramatically impacts on the lives of three women. Two thousand years ago, as the Romans invade Britannia, the princess who will become the powerful queen of the great tribe of the Brigantes, watches the enemies of her people come ever closer. Cartimandua's world is, from the start, a maelstrom of love and conflict; revenge and retribution.

In the present day, Edinburgh-based historian, Viv Lloyd Rees, has immersed herself in the legends surrounding the Celtic queen. She has written a book and is working on a dramatisation of the young queen's life with the help of actress, Pat Hebden. Cartimandua's life takes one unexpected turn after another as tragedy changes the course of her future. But the young queen has formidable enemies -- among them Venutios, her childhood sparring partner, and Medb, a woman whose jealousy threatens not only her happiness but her life. Viv's Head of Department, Hugh Graham, hounds her as she struggles to hide her visions of Cartimandua and her conviction that they are real. Her obsession grows ever more persistent and threatening as she takes possession of an ancient brooch that carries a curse. Both Pat and Hugh are drawn into this dual existence of bitter rivalry and overwhelming love as past envelopes present and the trio find themselves facing the greatest danger of their lives.

What I would say:

I love historical fiction and usually I at least have an idea of the background which can work to the good (I know some of the surrounding details) or to the bad (when said details are deviated from). Roman Britain and Celtic traditions, however, were new to me so that was an ace right from the start!

The best thing about this book for me were the characters, both past and present. Cartimandua is an amazing woman and if half of what was in the book is actual history, I'd love to know more about her. She is commanding and strong but with a tragically soft side. I found the idea that before the Roman's invaded England women were leaders and as strong, if not stronger, than their male counterparts really interesting. The Roman characters later on in the novel are surprised that the "barbarians" allow themselves to be ruled by a Queen and hints at the patriarchal society that was to come. The other "past" characters are as richly exotic: Venutios is a chauvanist and devilishly primitive and Medb (apparently pronounced as 'Maeve') dabbles in the black arts and is a constant source of power and evil.

This trio are the source of much concern for our modern day characters, which is where the novel touches on fantasy - possession amongst other things. Although some of the ideas about the nature of the soul hint that actually it's more touching on spirituality but that could lead to an essay so enough said there! Viv starts 'hearing' Cartimanda and is haunted by her 'memory', who wants nothing more than for her story to be told. The tension that builds between the Viv, Hugh and Pat compliments the Celtic story perfectly and I was hooked!

If I had one criticism, it would be that I would have preferred more consistent tellings of the 'past' storyline - the present day characters were brilliant but a little one-dimensional when compared with the Brigantians. Sometimes the momentum was lost a little bit and I was wrenched away from a heart-breaking moment at just the wrong time - but I suppose the fact that I cared so shows how great those moments were...

Overall: This book is tragic, atmospheric, chilling, exciting and romantic and I would recommend it to fans of historical fiction looking for something a little left of the field or a complete change of time period - it's haunting and exotic and stunning for it!

Friday, 17 September 2010

My first September Book Blogger Hop: 17-20 September

Once again, book bloggers are hopping around the net and adding copiously to their wishlists (if their anything like me, that is) thanks to the brilliant blog Crazy-for-Books. And by golly am I glad it's Friday...

If you're hopping by for the first time, I hope you have a lovely time here! If you're a more frequent visitor, it's always great to see you again!

The question/theme this weekend is:

In honour of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, let's take time this week to honor our favourite book bloggers and why we love them!

This is a tough one because I really do have a lot of love for other blogs. But, if you're going to force me, these are a selection of my favourites:

The Book Stop - this was one of the first blogs I discovered and I still love it - it contributed to my final decision to cave and get an eReader and I love that! I look forward to reading the reviews because CurleyGeek always goes for a wide range of books and I find myself yearning for a collection that diverse!

Musings of a Bookshop Girl - Again, one of the first blogs I started regularly reading and I pretty much read all of the posts here because they're always bright and funny and relate to books I really want to read.

What Red Read - I love that this blog is simple and doesn't have glitsy bits and bobs everywhere but focuses on what I want to read about: books! It's always witty and I get a lot of my new read ideas from over there.

So I'm so sorry if I missed anyone - I probably do follow you (and love you if I do)!

What blogs do you love?!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Up and coming (or: A Delayed 'In My Mailbox' type post..)

As per usual, I fully intended to join in with the ever so popular 'In My Mailbox' meme yesterday but I instead ended up bumbling around all evening being domesticated - boo! Rather annoyingly, this week has actually been quite a good week for the old letterbox/inbox, which is typical...

So to start with, I got a couple of my Librarything books through this week. Namely:

Shadowland by Rhiannon Lassiter

I mentioned this in a post a couple of weeks ago when I found out I was being sent it as part of the Early Reviewers thing they have going on over there and it arrived from the publisher yesterday which was great. Hopefully I'll get on to that this weekend. Or actually what I'll probably end up doing is scouring libraries for the first two in the trilogy for the rest of the week and indulging myself with a Big Read day on Saturday when no doubt my village will stay true to form and rain continuously..which oddly I actually quite like when tucked up inside with coffee and a book! Anyway, moving on...

The Last Key by Rob Steiner

I also 'won' this one as part of the Member Giveaway scheme so it came straight from the author and is a self-published first novel so this should be a bit of a curveball and I'm quite excited about reading a story that is so new to the world :) - here's what the author had to say about it:

Raven Byrne is a novice dahkshari warrior-priest about to complete his training when his mentor, Jelan Drummond, is killed by a mad war hero named Thallan Brael. With the death of his mentor, it falls to Raven to to stop Brael from using an ancient, destructive magic called the Reaping Key to avenge the deaths of his family and commit genocide against an innocent nation.

This one should be a completely different type of read so I'm definitely intrigued! Aside from via Library thing, I also got:

The StudyTrain (Vol. 1): Reunion of the Untouchables by Kurt Frenier

I've read a couple of great reviews elsewhere in the blogosphere so that should be another good one to line up for the wet weekend!

I don't have anything for a blurb here but it looks great and I'll be reviewing it here shortly so I guess you'll just have to wait until then!

Before these landed, I also got a couple from my local library but I think we'll leave it there for one night - I obviously have to stop writing about these little gems and start reading at some point!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Review: 'Fire Study' by Maria V. Snyder

I'm such a terribly sporadic blogger these days - it always seems like The Boyfriend and I want our laptop at the same time and since he, quite legitimately, always raises the argument "I'll make you coffee, why don't you just read?", I'm weak and my blogging waits another day...I vow to be better over the coming weeks..

What the blurb said:

Again, I'm going to skirt around what I would usually say here so I don't ruin anything, particularly seeing as this is the last instalment in the 'Study series'. So, for a kind of recap: I've reviewed Poison Study (Book #1) and Magic Study (Book #2) and, as always, the description of Fire Study can be found at the lovely Goodreads here.

What I would say:

I adored Poison Study and, as is my usual habit, have chain read my way through the remaining two books of this series - a habit only worsened by the arrival of my eReader which basically forces me to download the next instalment instantly!

Firstly, I want to make it clear that, although it might not seem like it, I did very much enjoy the trilogy and would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of light fantasy fiction with fantastic characters.

That said, I'm pretty sure I only loved the final instalment because I already adored the characters and I was driven to find out what happened to them. As a stand-alone novel, it tried to do too much. As soon as the book started, we were thrown straight into world-threatening-level action and it didn't let all. By saying that, I realise I sound like a pansy but I like getting to learn more about the characters and see them develop before they get their lives and civilizations thrown into mortal peril.

This story does bring together a lot of the threads from its predecessors (which probably lends the book its hasty feeling..) and wraps everything up beautifully - the ending is kind of like one of those films where you think the good guys are all out, the sad music plays (..I cry..) and then something rousing happens. In context, this is brilliant, but I did think that either another book should have been written or this one should have been longer - evidently Snyder just had too much left to do in 317 pages...All told though, the series is still great and the characterisation is absolutely fantastic (I swear I could live happily ever after with our dashing male lead!).

Overall: Read as part of the trilogy, this book is a great conclusion to the Study series - as with the earlier two, there's plenty of evil vs good, romance and magic and it's fabulous - go start at the beginning right away!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Review: 'Magic Study' by Maria V. Snyder

First weekend in September (how crazy!) so here's my first September review:

Ordinarily I would include all or bits of the blurb but, as this is a follow-up to Poison Study (reviewed here), I'm breaking from tradition. If you want to, feel free check out the Goodreads description here. I'll cut straight to my thoughts and try to keep what I give away about the first book in the series to a minimum - apologies if that makes my review sound a tad odd...

What I would say:

For some reason, I'm struggling to sum up how I feel about this one. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it - just not as much as the first and I'm not sure why - hence the struggle. I actually suspect I just missed some of my favourite Ixian characters from the first...

The story moved from Ixia to neighbouring 'country' Sitia which was fantastic for a couple of reasons. One: there was a lot of character development as family members were discovered and relationships developed; two, there were (and forgive the potential over-analysis going on here) some really interesting political points being made.

Upon arriving in Sitia's main city, our favourite lead female encounters a group of beggars and fails to grasp the concept - why? Because it seems beloved Ixia is in fact a communist state - where "basic necessities are provided to all by the Commander's military". The Sitians fail to comprehend how this is possible because the beggars surely were just lazy and got themselves into their plight? Add into this some discussions on the nature of crime and punishment - Ixia: all judged by the Commander with capital punishment prevalent; Sitia: all judged by a group of officials with high-tech prisons the norm. All of which led me to love the book all the more - not just your average fantasy fodder!

Forgive my digression, the lawyer in me couldn't help it! Political undertones aside, this novel is also brilliant as a fantasy tale - the magic element is the focus here and the mix of new characters and old favourites is perfect! Again, we have a truly bad 'baddy' - a serial murderer/rapist no less - and it makes parts of the story really strong.

Overall: A fantastic sequel for those who loved the first -again, prepare for more than just light and fluffy magic spells - it gets dark but it's awesome for it! Roll on #3: Fire Study.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Early Reviewing Excitement!

So this week's been a busy week in the Lit Addicted Brit household - I'm leaving my current job tomorrow (boo hoo..) to start a new shiny job on Monday (yey!) so I've been Mrs Social where ordinarily I'd be Mrs Cosy-at-Home-with-a-Book. Which has meant both very little time for reading and, consequently, blogging - I know - excuses, excuses, right?

ANYway, I checked into my LibraryThing account this afternoon as is my usual habit because I'm addicted to making lists and this little beauty lets me make lists (which I love) about books (which I obviously also love) - winner! I only recently signed up for the Early Reviewer/Member Giveaway section and found out today that I'm to get a copy of Shadowland by Rhiannon Lassiter and I'm super excited!

A bit about the book:

"'What happens here is real and dangerous. You have stumbled into a darkness you don't understand.' They thought they could handle it. They thought they understood the rules. They were wrong. Now four of Earth's teenagers are trapped in new and unfamiliar worlds - paying for their part in destroying the city of Shattershard ...and almost destroying each other. Each thinks they know their friends from their enemies, but who can they really trust?
And will they ever find their way home? Shadowland is the third part of a fast-paced fantasy which shows what it might really be like to travel into
another world"

So I'm really looking forward to receiving, reading and reviewing this one as it looks right up my street - although it is the 3rd in a series and I'm not sure if I even possess the ability to start mid-series and I may well end up cruising libraries this weekend to find the 1st and 2nd...ah well...

Also, I finished Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder last night and am rocketing through Fire Study to complete the set so will be reviewing at least one this weekend - see you then!