Friday 28 October 2011

Last Breath: The Morganville Vampires

Last Breath: A Morganville Vampires Novel – Rachel Caine

Pages: 447
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Release Date: 1st November 2011

Claire Danvers is concerned when three vampires vanish from Morganville without a trace. The last person seen with them is someone new to town – a mysterious individual named Magnus. Claire is convinced creepy Magnus isn’t human...but is he a vampire, or something else entirely?

Claire’s hunt for answers leads her to solving another mystery that’s long been puzzling her: why do vampires live so far out in a sunny desert when they’re sensitive to light? The answer has nothing to do with sunlight, but with water – and an ancient enemy who has finally found a way to invade the vampire’s landlocked community. Vampires aren’t the top predator on earth. There’s something worse that preys on them...something much worse. Which means if Claire, and Morganville, want to live, they will have to fight on until the last breath...

*I cannot review Last Breath without some possible spoilers from previous books.*

Man, I love this series so much. They just get better and better with each instalment and Rachel Caine never fails to make me gasp in shock, laughter and awe.

In Last Breath the stakes (pun completely intended) are raised. The whole of Morganville is on edge about Michael and Eve’s engagement and the effect it could have on the precarious balance of power between vampires and humans. And some of the reactions from characters we’ve known for all eleven books were unexpected, some obvious, but one in particular left me slack-jawed with shock. But in all honesty, that’s the least of the problems for the residents of the Glass House.

What awaits them is something incomprehensible: a creature the vampires themselves are afraid of. We don’t know what this is for a fair chunk of the novel and it’s rather unfathomable and very hard to guess at. And I definitely wasn’t expecting what was revealed and, even more so, what was to follow. My reaction was as follows: What the actual hell?! I was left stunned, sad and incredibly confused. I mean, seriously Rachel Caine, seriously? Last Breath is one of those books where you get punched in the stomach every couple of chapters and I just couldn’t put it down.

In the previous Morganville novel, we were given a perspective other than Claire’s, and with last Breath that was taken even further with the introduction of chapters in the perspectives of Shane, Michael, Eve and Amelie. And I loved it. I found Amelie’s especially fascinating. All at once she became more human and I realised just how she’d created Morganville and managed to keep it going for so long and survive – it was a brilliant glimpse into one of my favourite characters in the series. And Shane, well, I always love Shane so I did love hearing from him again. What became even more obvious in hearing the voices of Claire, Shane, Michael and Eve is just how unfailingly loyal to each other they are and how much they love each other. There is literally nothing they wouldn’t do for one another.

There was just so much going on in Last Breath and most of it I can’t even begin to put into words so you’ll just have to read it for yourself while I sit in a corner and rock in wait of Black Dawn.  


Wednesday 26 October 2011

This Dark Endeavour - Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour – Kenneth Oppel

Pages: 298 (ARC)
Publisher: David Fickling Books (RHCB)
Release Date: 5th October 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Barnes and the Brains, Silverwing, Matt Cruse, Dusk, The King’s taster, Half-Brother

How far would you go to save your brother’s life?

Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins, born just two minutes apart but with very different personalities. Along with their beautiful cousin Elizabeth, they lead a charmed life at their parents’ chateau. But when Konrad falls dangerously ill, everything changes.

Victor’s quest to find a cure leads him into the Dark Library, a secret room full of ancient, forbidden knowledge. On the spine-chilling mission that follows, he is forced to confront strange foes, alchemical forces and the most difficult torment of all – the pain of unrequited love.

Set against the turreted backdrop of eighteenth-century Geneva, This Dark Endeavour is the first book in Kenneth Oppel’s haunting new Gothic trilogy.

Frankenstein is one of around four or five novels I’ve been made to read at school and actually liked. In fact, I loved it, so I when I heard this was a prequel of sorts I got incredibly excited.

I have to admit that as in the original novel, it took me a while to warm to Victor. He’s arrogant, jealous and rather annoying and I found it difficult to like him at first. Konrad and Elizabeth were a different matter. Konrad is the opposite of Victor: soft-spoken, warm and gentle and Elizabeth is very easy to like – in fact, I think I liked her more in This Dark Endeavour than I did in Frankenstein. She’s a strong character who remains likable even though her opinions often differed very strongly with mine.

My favourite element of the novel, however, would probably be the Dark Library – I would love to explore that place! All of those books filled with alchemy and obscure almost-spells sounds like the best way to pass many rainy weekends. I would have loved to see Victor, Konrad, Henry and Elizabeth get the chance to explore it more thoroughly as I imagine there are many more secrets lurking in there ready for the sequel. The only thing I would change about it is the entry; that’d really freak me out.

With this Dark Endeavour I expected a very dark, Gothic novel. And sure, it was dark in places and has lots of Gothic-y elements, but it wasn’t nearly as full-on as I expected and wanted it to be. To me it was more of an adventure story with a subtle undertone of a doomed romance. There was none of the overly-rich description and tongue-in-cheek melodrama that defines a Gothic novel for me.

That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed This Dark Endeavour as a whole and I’m very looking forward to what I hope will be a much darker sequel.

A big thank you to RHCB for providing me with a review copy.


Sunday 23 October 2011

In My Mailbox 100

This meme was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. Check out their blogs for more information. All summaries are from the book jackets.

For review:


A face in the mirror...
Howling in the night...
A black dog at your door...
Cold hands dragging you down...

Some of the best-loved children’s authors have come together to bring you this terrifying collection of ghost stories.

There’s a lost ghost child trapped in a mirror and wanting to pull you in; an evil Soul Eater waiting for its next victim; a ghost walk with a haunting twist; and the spirit of a drowned boy who needs to be put to rest. These and many more spine-chilling tales will make you scream, shiver amd gasp. Open if you dare...

Look out for my review of this and a tour stop on the 30th October. Big thanks to Andersen Press for this.


Wednesday 19 October 2011

Verity Fibbs - Cathy Brett

Verity Fibbs – Cathy Brett

Pages: 318
Publisher: Headline
Release Date: 13th October 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Ember Fury, Scarlett Dedd

Verity is a liar.

My mum is glamorous fashion designer Saffron Fibbs and I can do whatever I like while she’s in new York. I look exactly like her and it’s totally fine for me to pretend to be her at a celebrity night spot to impress a boy. I love playing the online role-play game, Demon Streets, but I’m not addicted to it.

Unfortunately for Verity she’s not the only liar in town... At a time when ethical is the new black in fashion, verity has just found herself battling a very unethical villain, a real opponent with everything to lose. Her online gaming skills might be the only things saving her from a terrifying final game over...

Verity Fibbs is another incredibly fun novel from Cathy Brett. I really do love her style.

As I’ve very likely said in my reviews for Cathy’s previous two novels, Ember Fury and Scarlett Dedd, the mix of graphics and prose is perfectly balanced. I just love the way that they complement each other and mix together seamlessly to form a complete spread across the double page. The use of certain words as almost images themselves adds a real element of fun as well as emphasising a particularly loud, shocking or funny moment.

The narration of this novel is very different to most novels. Verity is a compulsive liar and does lots of role playing so she switches character frequently and is quite an unreliable narrator. As well as this, you have the sections with Vee as Maisie Malone, her character on the role-playing online game, Demon Streets. It’s like you’re following two stories that are vaguely related and run alongside each other – very clever, and, rather surprisingly, not confusing at all.

Among all of the action and ingenious schemes lies Vee’s mission to entrap a rather mysterious young man. Throughout the novel it’s rather hard to figure out just who he is and what exactly he wants, but I definitely saw the appeal! On paper, he’s not the type of boy you’d want your daughter chasing after, but as events unfold and we find out what he’s all about, we see the real him.

I thoroughly look forward to read Cathy Brett’s novels and I’m already eagerly awaiting what she’s got in store for me next year.

A big thank you to Headline for providing me with a review copy.


Monday 17 October 2011

Ashes - Ilsa J. Bick

Ashes – Ilsa J. Bick

Pages:  464 (ARC)
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: 29th September 2011

No, she thought. No, please God, I’m not seeing this.

Seventeen-year-old Alex is hiking through the wilderness when it happens: an earth-shattering electromagnetic pulse that destroys everything.

Survivors are divided between those who have developed a superhuman sense and those who have acquired a taste for human flesh. These flesh-hunters stalk the land: hungry, ruthless and increasingly clever...

Alex meets up with Tom, a young army veteran, and Ellie, a lost girl, and they will fight together and be torn apart. Alex must face the most difficult question of them all: in such a vastly changed world, who can you trust?

A story of high-wire tension, gut-wrenching twists and burgeoning love, Ashes will leave you breathless.

Ilsa J Bick’s debut is one of the most gruesome, atmospheric and addictive books that I've read so far this year. I absolutely loved it.

Ashes has a fascinating and very mysterious premise and I really had no idea what to expect other than awesomeness. With the state of the world as it is for nearly the entire novel, there really aren’t any authoritative explanations for what Alex calls the ‘Zap’, just educated guesses and logical reasoning’s. Usually, that would bother me, but it made complete sense and fitted the story and the events of the novel perfectly. The idea of the EMP was developed subtly with the differences between the people who died, changed or survived as a result of it – it is an extremely clever idea.

Alex is captivating character. At seventeen she’s very world-savvy and grown-up, but also dark and damaged and her development over the novel is brilliant to read. For someone so young, Alex has had to deal with a lot of crap: the death of her parents, a fatal diagnosis and then the ending of the world, but she does it realistically. She’s angry and untrusting and completely reluctant to let anyone into her world. But several people work their way in - Ellie, who initially really annoyed me; Tom, a strong, broken, army guy (yum) and Chris, a rather closed off and mysterious guy who worked himself into Alex’s heart. They all gave her something to survive in this world for.

One of the most intriguing sections of the novel was when Alex was in Rule. That place really gave me the creeps. It just seemed too strict and twisted in their alien religious notions and the control it exhibited over the people of the town. As Alex settled in and began to accept the town’s traditions, I began to worry: there was something not right. But whether I was right or not, you’ll just have to read Ashes and find out.

I adored Ashes and I’m dying to read the sequel, Shadows, after a rather panic-inducing final few pages.

A big thank you to Quercus for providing me with a review copy.


Sunday 16 October 2011

In My Mailbox 99

This meme was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. Check out their blogs for more information. All summaries are from the book jackets.

For review:

These two books had been hiding away at campus for two months! Thanks, Atom!

Circle of Fire – Michelle Zink

Two sisters. United by blood. Divided by a prophecy.

Lia Milthorpe’s determination to end the prophecy that has divided her family for generations is stronger than ever. With time dwindling, Lia sets out on a journey to locate the missing pieces of the prophecy needed to close the Gate, and to persuade her sister Alice to help – or she will have to risk her life trying to close it herself.

Lia has Dimitri by her side, but Alice has James, the man who once loved Lia – and maybe still does. James doesn’t know the truth about either sister, or about the prophecy that divides them. And Alice intends to keep it that way.

There are some things sisters aren’t meant to share. And some secrets that could destroy them both.

Hades – Alexandra Adornetto

Is love a great enough power against evil?

Bethany Church believes so – afater all, the love of her angel siblings and her boyfriend Xavier saved her from the clutches of Hell itself.

But when Jake Thorn returns to town, determined to take Beth away with him, it seems he may be able to destroy everything she cares about.

Will Jake’s actions shatter Beth’s faith in love? Or can she overcome heartache and betrayal to fulfil her role on Earth?


The Best of Me – Nicholas Sparks

They were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks – with a passion that would change their lives for ever. Butlife would force them apart.

Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip...Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past?

The epic new love story from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of The Notebook and The Last Song. Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved authors.

I do like me some Nicholas Sparks. Cant wait to get stuck in.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn’t cried since it happened.

He knows he should have – Jasmine cried, mum cried, Dad still cries. Roger didn't, but then he is just a cat and h didn't know Rose that well, really.

Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that’s just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations. Five years ago, it’s worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum;s gone and Jamie’s left with questions that he must answer for himself.

This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy’s struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

I've heard such amazing things about this that when I saw it for £1.49 in my Oxfam bookshop, I snapped it up.

Variant – Robinson Wells (ARC)

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of hid dead-end life. He was wrong. Now he’s trapped in a school surrounded by a razor-wire fence, where video cameras monitor his every move – and where breaking the rules equals death. When he stumbles upon the school’s rel secret, he realises that escape may be impossible.

In this pulse-pounding dystopian thriller, Robinson Wells artfully blends the action of Gone with the tension and suspense of The Maze Runner and Lord of the Flies. The result is a story that is unpredictable and hantingly real.

This was another find in my Oxfam bookshop and I’m really looking forward to it.


Friday 14 October 2011

Blog Tour: Glow review and Amy Kathleen Ryan Q&A

Glow – Amy Kathleen Ryan

Pages: 385
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: 7th October 2011

From Goodreads: What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue? 

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them... 

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth. 

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

I had extremely high hopes for Glow purely because of how much I’ve enjoyed the few other sci-fi YA novels I’ve read. I was a little disappointed.

The premise of Glow is flawless: a dying Earth, a selection of people aboard a ship headed for New Earth and two young lovers divided. I just wish I could have gotten more involved in it. I really can’t fault the plot because it was brilliantly drawn, but I just didn’t connect with either Waverly or Kieran. I literally felt completely ambivalent towards them. There was no affection, annoyance, desire for them to survive, nothing. I really didn’t understand as both Waverly and Kieran are complex and layered characters that really should have captured me.

I saw lots of other novels in Glow; some related, some completely unrelated. More obviously I was reminded of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe with the whole on a spaceship to a new planet and very loosely connected, Lord of the Flies with the kids left to fend for themselves. But, and don’t judge me, in one of the divides between the sections of Glow, the lyrics of Blackbird reminded me of Glee. You know in season two? Sung by Kurt? Okay, going off topic. Sorry.

One element of Glow that I really did love was how the girls communicated with each other. I thought it was absolutely genius and so, so cool that I won’t tell you about it so it’s not ruined. It must have taken such a long time and so much ingenuity for them to remain undiscovered. It made me wish I was able to do something as clever as that, especially with the threat of the terrifying Ann Mather.

I wanted to enjoy Glow a lot more than I did and I don’t know if I’ll be reading the sequel.

I would now like to welcome Amy to So Many Books, So Little Time to answer a few questions about Glow.

1.    Is there a time or place that you do your best writing in?
I like to write in the morning’s best. My head is clearest, I've just had my coffee, and I have all day to keep writing if I'm on a roll.

2.    If you could only have three books with you on a desert island, what would they be and why?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte because it has endless depths, and the story is somehow always surprising, no matter how many times I've read it. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is another book that I can reread many times and still discover something new. Middlemarch by George Eliot because I love the characters and the beautiful details in the narrative.

3.   Is there a book you wish you'd written? Why? 
There are lots of books I wish I'd written! I particularly admire the work of Philip Pullman in The Golden Compass (Northern Lightsin the UK). He's a courageous writer with a remarkable imagination much to be envied.

4.    There isn't much sci-fi around in YA. What drew you to the genre?
I've always read science fiction, ever since I was a child. I think my first sci-fi book was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. From there I went on to John Christopher, Isaac Asimov, and Douglas Adams. I love the completely different context that science fiction offers, and the ideas writers can entertain.

&5. Would you have competed like Waverly's parents to be settlers on New Earth?
No. I love to contemplate space travel and the possibilities it brings, but I could never leave Earth behind. I love this planet too much. To journey away from it, never to return, sounds just awful to me.

6.    Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell me anything about it?
I am working on the sequel to Glow at the moment. It's called Spark, and while I don't want to reveal much, I will say it is mostly Seth's story.

Thank you to Amy for answering my questions and to Lorraine for sending me a copy of Glow for review and for organising the blog tour.


Tuesday 11 October 2011

Blog Tour: A Tale Dark and Grimm and Q&A

A Tale Dark and Grimm – Adam Gidwitz

Pages: 195
Publisher: Andersen Press
Release Date: 27th September 2011

Reader: Beware!

Lurking within these covers are sorcerers with dark spells, hunters with deadly aim, and a baker with an oven big enough to cook children in. But if you dare, turn the page and come on in… It may be frightening, it’s certainly bloody, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but unlike other fairy tales you know, this one is true.

A Tale Dark and Grimm is full of fun, blood and adventure, and I loved every page of it.

I loved how Adam Gidwitz mixed both widely known and less well known of the fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm to form one hell of a story. We follow one of the most famous brother/sister teams in literature – Hansel and Gretel – from  before they were born to their happy ever after. And boy is it a journey!

Throughout their traumatic adventure the narrator interrupts regularly, putting his own spin on events, warning children to look away now and telling us just where this story should end. But doesn’t. I really do live such direct interaction between the author and the reader and in this case it felt like an authentic fairytale as they are supposed to be told orally by a storyteller and that’s exactly how A Tale Dark and Grimm felt.

Even though I didn’t end up feeling any real connection with Hansel or Gretel I still supported them throughout their quest. The characters that I really loved, now this is going to sound strange, were the three ravens who knew the future. Yes, you read right, fortune-telling ravens. They were brilliantly funny and often indignant about the actions of the humans around them. Utter genius.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Tale Dark and Grimm and it kept me completely occupied on a long train journey and when I get home I shall definitely be digging out some of the original Grimm fairytales.

I’m very pleased to welcome Adam Gidwitz himself to tell us all about his top ten grimmest ways to die. Over to Adam:

Okay, there are lots of terrible ways to die. Illness, being hit by a bus, being eaten by a shark, being hit by a double decker bus, dying of loneliness, being hit by a double decker bus full of tourists... you get the idea. But some of the worst ways to die ever were collected in a volume called “Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old,” and were published, in Germany, two hundred years ago. Those of you who thought fairy tales were sweet and cute and for little kids—enjoy the top ten Grimmest ways to die:

  1. Once upon a time, millstones were these humungous stones that millers used to grind grain into flour. They weighed about as much as a large car. In one story, a wicked stepmother has one of these millstones dropped on her head, and it crushes her to death. Which is bad, I suppose. But it is dropped by a tiny red bird. If I were the step-mother, I think it’d be the unlikeliness of it all that would really upset me. (The Juniper Tree)
  2. Would you want to be rolled into a lake trapped in a leaky barrel? No? Me neither. (Farmer Little)
  3. In one story, an old woman decides to eat a little boy. But before she does she tells his sister all about it (which is dumb, it seems to me). Well, the little girl warns her brother, and together, they run away. The old woman chases them. As she’s gaining, the little girl wishes she were a pond, and the little boy wishes he were a duck on the pond. No sooner do they wish it than it comes true. The evil woman comes to the pond and knows what they’ve done (you know, it just figured...), and so she knelt down and tried to drink the whole pond up. But the little duck-boy comes over and grabs her by the nose with his bill and pulls her under the water and drowns her. Being drowned by a duck is a pretty bad way to die. (Fledgling)
  4. There is, of course, the classic: a witch tries to eat two children, and so they trap her in an oven and bake her to death. That’s a pretty awful way to die.
  5. You know what would be a bad way to die? If, when you were asleep, someone stole into your room, cut open your stomach, filled it with rocks, and then sewed it back up. You were dead, though. You just woke up with a terrible stomach ache and seriously thirsty. You ran to a pond to drink and, as you stuck your head in the water, the rocks in your stomach pulled you under and drowned you. To death. (I know that’s redundant, drowning to death; but it sounds cooler that way). (Little Red Riding Hood)
  6. A little boy leans over a chest, and his stepmother slams the lid of the chest down on the back of his neck, slicing his head off. Then she carves the meat from his bones, cooks it in a stew, and his father, not realizing that it is his son, eats every single drop. All through the meal, the father keeps saying, “This is the most delicious stew I’ve ever tasted!” Which is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. (The Juniper Tree)
  7. Once upon a time, there was a little dude named Rumpelstiltskin, who didn’t want anyone to know his name. Well, when someone finally figured it out, he was furious. He stomped his right foot on the ground so hard that he drove it three feet into the earth. Then he grabbed his left foot and pulled it up as hard as he could, and tore himself in half. No kidding. (Rumpelstiltskin)
  8. A wicked stepmother is put in a barrel filled with boiling oil AND poisonous snakes. That’s right. Because boiling oil wouldn’t kill her enough? One of the dudes who killed her was like, “Hey, Jim, dis oil don’t look so hot. You got anything else to make it really bad?” “I got some poisonous snakes!” “Yeah, throw dose in too, what the heck...” (The Twelve Brothers)
  9. Another wicked stepmother is asked to come up with the cruelest punishment she can think of. She says, “Put the wretch in a barrel, drive long nails into the barrel, and then roll it down a hill into the water, so the wretch’ll drown.” And then exactly that is done to her. I like to think of how she felt going down the hill. Actually, no I don’t. (The Three Little Men in the Wood)
  10. Once upon a time there was this evil and jealous queen. She did all of this bad stuff to her step-daughter, who was as white snow and red as blood and whose hair was black as ebony. The step-daughter almost died, but she didn’t, and when she married a prince, the prince placed two shoes made of iron in a fire, until they glowed as hot as coals, and then he placed them before the evil queen, and made her put her feet in them, and then forced her to dance until she died. Which is the worst way to die I think I have ever heard of. (Snow White)

If you want to hear more awful ways to die, you should go out and get A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz (me!). There are so, so many more terrible, Grimm, awesome ways to die.

A big thank you to Adam and to Sarah for sending me a copy of A Tale Dark and Grimm to review and for organising the blog tour.