Friday 31 May 2013

Doll Bones - Holly Black

Pages: 244
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: 9th May 2013
Edition: UK paperback/e-book, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tithe, Valiant, Ironside, White Cat, Red Glove, Black Heart

Twelve-year-old Zach is too old to play with toys. Or at least, that’s what his father thinks.

But even though he stops hanging out with Poppy and Alice, stops playing with his action figures, it’s no good. There’s one toy that still wants to play with him. A doll that’s made with the bones of a dead girl.

The only way to end the game is to lay the doll to rest for ever. It’s time for a journey to Spring Grove cemetery. It’s time to grow up.

I’m a big fan of Holly Black’s gorgeously dark books so I was expecting a lot from Doll Bones. Sadly, it didn’t quite wow me as I was expecting it to.

Though I was slightly disappointed, there’s no denying that Doll Bones is a wonderful look at growing up and leaving some of the magic of childhood behind. I felt the strain on Zach of being pushed out of playing games and making up stories before he was ready and I hated his dad for it! In the end, he started to grow up naturally and as he should have by going on a mystical quest with his best friends.

Zach, Alice and Poppy’s quest was sparked by their imagination and furthered by a ghost and I wish that had happened to me when I was twelve! The importance of stories and the imagination was reinforced as they travelled from Pennsylvania to Ohio to put The Queen, who is a supremely creepy doll, to rest. I also loved how friction began to arise among the trio as a little more than friendship began to arise between Zach and one of the girls. Zach’s utter obliviousness and confusion was brilliant and heart-warming.

Holly Black’s stark, simple prose gave Doll Bones a vivid atmosphere and the moments with The Queen gave me chills. With the addition of beautiful black and white illustrations of scenes interspersed through the novel, The Queen and the ghostly goings on came alive (excuse the pun) and thoroughly creeped me out.

Doll Bones is a quick, sweet read with added chills and is the perfect bridge between children’s and YA.

Thank you to Random House/NetGalley for the review copies.


Thursday 30 May 2013

Author Interview: Sarra Manning

We’ve done a bit of a swapsies today! The usual Thursday discussion post will be on Saturday as today I am honoured to have one of my favourite authors on the blog to answer a few questions.

Today, Sarra Manning’s most beloved series, Diary of a Crush, are being re-released in a set of gorgeous new paperbacks and Sarra’s here to celebrate the release with me! French Kiss, Kiss and Make Up and Sealed with a Kiss tell the story of moody art boy Dylan and gawky diary fanatic Edie from their first kiss to a tumultuous road trip across the US and it’s still one of my favourite series’.

1. What do you think it is about Edie and Dylan’s story that has inspired so much love and dedication from its readers?
When I wrote Diary of a Crush, I wasn’t thinking of anything other than literary wish fulfilment. Edie was the me I wished I was at 16 and Dylan was the kind of artboy I yearned for from afar but never got past the yearning stage.

With Edie and Dylan I got to go back to college knowing what I know now so I got to wear all the pretty dresses and say all of the snappy comebacks and snog the artboy!

But I think why Edie’s story is particularly endures is because she’s not perfect. She starts the trilogy as a very whiny, overdramatic 16 year old with an impossible crush but she goes on a journey and (hopefully) takes the reader with her.

By the end of book three, she’s her own person but she wouldn’t have got there without screwing up a few times along the way. I think that’s what makes her so realte-able to the reader.

(And I have it on good authority that everyone fancies Dylan.
2. What was the funniest/most aging early 2000s pop culture you found when you were preparing Diary of a Crush for the re-issues?
What was funny was all the references to Leonardo DiCaprio in the original magazine columns got changed to Orlando Bloom when I turned DOAC into books first time round and for these reissues, they got changed a third time to Ryan Gosling.

3. I loved that Edie and Dylan had a cameos in Diary of a Grace. Do you think they’ll pop up anywhere again, or have they been firmly locked away in a drawer?
Hmmm, they might have very fleetingly popped up in one of my adult books. Maybe.

4. Just what is it about those art boys that is so irresistible?
When I left my all girls school to do A Levels at college, the 19 yr old boys doing Art Foundation with their leather jackets, tousled hair, love of obscure indie bands and knowing smirks at the puppy-dog looks from awkward 16 yr old girls were all I thought about. I think it’s a timeless irresistibility.
Now a few quick ones!

5. Current obsession?
Oooh. Benedict Cumberbatch. M&S peanut butter ice cream. Modern Family. First Aid Kit. Dance Moms. Saltwater sandals. I have ALL the obsessions.

6. Favourite writing or reading snack?
Oatcakes with gruyere cheese.
7. Crush of the moment?
Mr Skarsgard, my future Nordic ex-husband.

8. What are you reading at the moment?
I’m very lucky to be reading an early proof of Ranbow Rowell’s new novel, Fangirl, which is a glorious love letter to fandom.

Thank you so much Sarra!

Out now in e-book for the first time and shiny, revamped paperbacks, the Diary of a Crush trilogy are the books you need to be reading this summer. You won’t regret it!


Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Elite - Kiera Cass

Pages: 323
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 23rd April 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles in this Series: The Selection

America Singer is one THE ELITE and Prince Mason only has eyes for her.

If she wins the competition for his heart, she will leave her pre-destined life for a world of luxury. But the outcome is less than certain; the threat of rebel violence just beyond the palace walls is escalating into war and bitter rivals are ready to take her down.

And as America’s feelings for Maxon grow stronger, ex-love Aspen waits for her in the shadows. Where do her loyalties truly lie?

Unexpectedly, I really, really enjoyed The Selection when I read it last year, even though I had a few niggles, and I've been anxious to get my hands on The Elite ever since.

Kiera Cass really stepped it up for the second book in her trilogy. There was so much more content in terms of the history of Illéa and development of Maxon and America, as well as a few other girls that are taking part in The Selection. Getting a glimpse into what led the world to The Selection and the caste system through the diaries and Maxon’s exposition really cemented the idea and gave it some ground to make it seem more like a possibility. The brutality of Illea, before and after, really came through and I understood the presence and threat of the rebels a lot more.

I loved that the tension was upped by the increasing fear of rebel attacks and that Cass included some attacks themselves. The Elite is a very relationship-dependent novel so it was a nice break, although they mostly did although for developments in said relationships. I have to admit to getting frustrated with the triangle in this instalment. I felt that America was being selfish and whiny and her playing with the emotions of Aspen and Maxon wasn’t fair at all; not that either of them was completely fair to her, however.

America kind of grew a backbone in The Elite when it came to her views on how her country should be run and how much she’d like to help restore it and I really wish she would have carried that over to her personal life. I was glad the Maxon didn’t take her messing him around and I’m looking forward to seeing her fight for him in The One. She’s a clever girl but her umming and ahhing over her feelings for Aspen and Maxon seemed to undermine that occasionally so hopefully that’ll come through more positively in the final book. The double standards held by the guys and the girls in the palace really didn't help the situation, especially when contrasted between the escapades of two of the girls in The Elite. It made me quite angry sometimes and I had to work to remember that it was part of the world and not the author’s views (hopefully)!

There’s so much potential with this series. The politics, the drama, the strength of the characters and their positions in the novel and I’m hoping that The One will finally break through and deliver what I think the story is capable of. Saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed The Elite and I flew through the book, desperate to know what was going to happen next. In fact, one of the notes I made myself while reading was: ‘I have fears and it’s stressing me out’; there were a few situations regarding the love triangle that I think could have been taken to the next step and really challenged the characters and the politics of the world.

Light, fluffy and fun, The Elite is a strong sequel and I’m really excited to see how America’s story ends. Will she become a princess? I hope so.

Thank you to HarperCollins for sending me a copy for review.


Tuesday 28 May 2013

Blast From the Past: The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

Welcome to another new feature here at So Many Books, So Little Time! In these posts I’m going to be either re-visiting or discovering books I’ve previously passed over. They could be older YA, children’s, children’s classics, classics or books considered modern classics – you never know what might turn up! The only thing you can be sure of it that they were all published before 2005 (EDIT: changed to 2008 to suit by unread shelves better).

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Originally published in 1925 by Scribner.

My edition: The Complete Works of F Scott Fitzgerald, ebook (I loved it so much that I’m going to buy myself one of the gorgeous new paperbacks!)

What’s it about?
During the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway moves to Long Island and finds himself living next door to a beautiful mansion owned by the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Famous for his parties and the fact that nobody knows what he does; Nick accepts an invitation to his next extravaganza.

He becomes tied up in Gatsby’s obsessive love for Daisy Buchanon and the fall out of their doomed relationship.

Why now?
With the new film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan hitting the big screen this year I was convinced that I’d read it before seeing it. I’ve been meaning to read it for years after all. So in the week of the film release, I downloaded it on to my Kindle and spent a few glorious hours in 1922.

The verdict:
I simultaneously can’t believe I waited so long to read this and I’m glad I waited. I honestly don’t think I would have fully appreciated this a few years ago. There’s something surprisingly subtle and gentle in The Great Gatsby that captured me.

Considering what a famous novel it is and the recent buzz and rejuvenation around Gatsby, I found I knew surprisingly little about the story itself once I started reading it. I was really surprised to find that it wasn’t Gatsby who narrates the novel, but Nick Carraway who lives next door to Gatsby. Nick is one of few characters in the novel that it’s easy to like, apart from maybe Gatsby, but I have a feeling that he’s a bit like Marmite. For the record, I love Marmite and Gatsby. Nick is interesting in his simplicity in comparison to the other characters in the novel and his often elevated narration was a pleasure to read.

I think that that’s one of the things that made me fall so in love with this book: the writing. It’s so, so beautiful. I lost count of how many passages and phrases I highlighted and went to read back over once I finished the novel. I get it. I understand why this novel has lasted so long and still remains a favourite of so many people. Fitzgerald’s turn of phrase is sometimes so beautiful it throws you out of the story, but in a good way. It makes you stop and think about the words and the rather insane world that Gatsby, Tom and Daisy live in. How oblivious they are to people, lives and consequences is mind-blowing and almost absurd with the Great War still hanging over the lives of so many.

The Great Gatsby is a gorgeous glimpse at frivolity, wealth, excess and love and I want to read it all over again.

Still not convinced?
- It’s considered one of the Great American Novels.
- Watch John Green’s two Crash Course Literature videos: ‘Like Pale Gold’ and ‘Was Gatsby Great?’ You’ll want to read it after that, I promise.
- There’s a new film out and you know the rule: book before film!

Look out for a From Page to Screen for The Great Gatsby in the next couple of weeks!

Have you read The Great Gatsby? Did it live up to the hype? Did you read the book before or after the film?