Tuesday 31 March 2015

Blast From the Past: Lolita

Originally published in 1955 by Olympia Press

My edition: the Penguin Modern Classics paperback form 2000. I want all of them.

What’s it about?
Humbert Humbert, a literature professor, becomes obsessed by twelve-year-old Dolores, whom he calls Lolita.

Why now?
I needed to read a banned book for my PopSugar reading challenge and I knew Lolita has been banned so I read the first paragraph in Waterstone’s and woah...

The verdict:
Several days after finishing Lolita I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. I had to push myself through it at times, some of the language went over my head occasionally and yet I also couldn’t put it down. It’s been a long time since a book had me so mixed up!

Humbert Humbert is recounting his relationship with Lolita for the police, and considering that, the style he chooses is completely surprising. I don’t think I’ve ever come across prose so overly-styled, flowery and verging on surreal. Humbert is a literature professor and self-proclaimed poet and it shows. It’s almost hypnotising in a way, and I think that’s the point. It occurred to me as I nearing the end of the novel that maybe he’s trying to hide the horrific decisions he made and actions he took involving Lolita; distracting the lawyers and detectives from what really happened. It almost turns him into a slight unreliable narrator, in a way.

His vision and opinions are clearly biased and very clouded, much in the way of a sociopath I think. He was able to justify his incorrigible attentions to Lolita and others that got in the way of him and his nymphet. Everything he does is a reasonable action to take in order to protect himself, regardless of the consequences. And the paragraphs go on for pages sometimes, the sentences a paragraph so you can’t even take a breath, you just trudge on, sometimes missing things and again DISTRACTION. It’s fascinating.

I think fascination sums up my feelings about Nabokov’s classic, actually. It made me uncomfortable, especially when Humbert was referring to Lolita and other children sexually, though there was nothing explicitly sexual – everything was implied or glossed over – and how he described Lolita herself. At the beginning of the novel Lolita is only twelve years old but through Humbert’s eyes she is seductive, precocious and teasing and it is profoundly disconcerting. As she aged and developed under Humbert’s watchful eye his feelings didn’t stop like he expected, though they did adapt slightly to the changes in Lo. After a particularly dramatic event near the end of the novel, Humbert seemed to slide into a sort of madness. It took a turn for the surreal and rambly and the already elaborate language heightened further and further as the panic about discovery began to set in. So beautifully done.

Though I had to push myself through Lolita at times, I really am glad I read it. It’s fascinating in topic and execution and I’d love to read more Nabokov just to compare to this. Fascinating.

Still not convinced?
- The language is truly something to be experienced.
- I want to hear your opinions on this! Read it and let’s discuss.


Monday 30 March 2015

Denton Little's Deathdate, Lance Rubin

Pages: 352
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Imminent death has never been so funny! Denton Little’s Deathdate takes place in a world exactly like our own – except everyone knows the day they will die.

For Denton, that’s in just two days – the day of his senior prom. Despite his early deathdate, Denton has always wanted to live a normal life – but his final days are filled with dramatic firsts. First hangover. First sex. First love triangle (the first sex seems not to have happened not with his adoring girlfriend, but his best friend’s sister. Though he’s not totally sure – see first hangover).

His anxiety builds when he discovers a mysterious purple rash making its way up his body. Is this what will kill him? Then a strange man shows up at his funeral, claiming to have now Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of suspicious characters…

Suddenly Denton’s life is filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers. Debut author Lance Rubin takes us on a fast, gripping and outrageously funny ride through the last hours of a teenager’s life as he searches for love, meaning and (just maybe) a way to live on…

I had really high expectations for Denton Little’s Deathdate: it promised a unique plot and hilarity, and while it was definitely unique, it missed the mark on other things.

The concept of knowing your deathdate – via DNA, bloodwork and SCIENCE – from early on in your life is fascinating. The way it could change your outlook on your life, your accomplishments, the people around you, but also the way you see other people is something that really interests me, and while Denton spoke a little about how he’d always made sure he lived as normally as possible, it was barely looked at. There was so much scope there to explore that side of things and also how scary it can be to not be forewarned about death like in the ‘before’ of Denton’s world. I would have loved a little exploration of that; whether Denton would have preferred to know that he would die at seventeen or not because I honestly couldn’t say if I would want to know or not.

I thought that maybe the lack of all that would lead to lots more humour, but I have to say that it wasn’t nearly as funny as I was promised. I think Paolo is absolutely hilarious and I love him, especially when he and Denton would get into their little best friend banter battles, but I think that’s where the humour ended for me. Luckily there were other elements of the novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Even with only a week until his deathdate, Denton is plodding along quite happily, cramming in getting drunk, experiencing a hangover, having his funeral, losing his virginity and completely confusing himself over girls. And yet the novel moved at the nice, normal pace of a contemporary, until the part of the novel. Then it all exploded. I have to admit that I didn’t really have any idea what was going on but I was enjoying the ride! Lance Rubin turns everything on its head in the close of the novel – the rules of the world, the characters and the whole point of Denton’s story, really, and it was brilliant!

When I first heard there would be a sequel I was a little confused, but after that cliffhanger, bring it on! Denton Little’s Deathdate is thoroughly good fun and I’m sure the next one will be too!

Thanks to S&S for the review copy!


Friday 27 March 2015

We All Looked Up, Tommy Wallach

Pages: 384
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 26th March 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Before Ardor, we let ourselves be defined by labels – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, the overachiever. But then we all looked up and everything changed. They said the asteroid would be here in two months. That gave us two months to leave our labels behind. Two months to become something bigger than what we’d been, something that would last even after the end. Two months to really live.

I honestly hadn’t heard too much about We All Looked Up, but I love the premise of facing the end of the world with the stigmas of high school clinging to you.

Split between four narratives, Peter, Andy, Anita and Eliza tell their increasingly entwining stories of the final two months before an asteroid crashes into the Earth. All four protagonists have clearly defined labels attached to them in high school, much in the way of The Breakfast Club: Peter is the jock, Andy the slacker, Anita the brain, Eliza the slut (I hate that word, but that’s what’s used in the novel). All four of them were dying to break out of the boxes they had been put in but they either didn’t know how to or didn’t belong in them in the first place.

As the novel progresses, the four become friends, and more than friends, their labels dissolving as Seattle dissolves into chaos, violence and fear. I find it fascinating to read about the crumbling of society, especially in the face of no consequences – the militant actions of the government, the giving up and the desperate grabbing at the last tendrils of life. The clash of reactions and the dissolving of the rules people have lived by their entire lives throws everything into the air, leaving only the very important wants, desires and people, but also the ones you least expect.

Though I adored the message of We All Looked Up and the look at the crumbling of society there were a few things that I wanted more of. The asteroid moving into alignment with the Earth’s orbit has so much potential for science and environmental discussions as well as the reaction from the rest of the world in the beginning but there was barely anything. I wanted something in the way of how the disaster was examined in The Age of Miracles – it blended beautifully and really added something special to the novel.

The range of diversity in this novel was wonderful. It took note of race and sexuality subtly. It was to make a point or as a trope, characters like Anita and Jess are just part of the story. And yet there were some words used, some turns of phrase that made me slightly uncomfortable. The word ‘slut’ was used in regards to Eliza a lot but it wasn’t particularly comdemned and then towards the end it was revealed that Eliza’s sleeping round wasn’t for herself, it was to make someone else happy for a while. I’m still not quite sure how I felt about that revelation; I kind of wanted her to own it, take if for herself and not have to excuse how she uses her body. Though there were some brilliant comments on the continued sexualising and objectification of the bodies of girls and women which balanced it out a little.

Though We All Looked Up wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a story of dissolving labels and the reign of chaos at the end of the world and it’s a brilliant read.  

Thanks to S&S and NetGalley for the review copy.


Thursday 26 March 2015

Top 10 Most Owned Authors

After watching the video by the lovely Jen Campbell, author of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and The Bookshop Book, on her top ten most owned authors, I was curious to see what mine are.

Without further ado, the books:

Rachel Caine

20 Books - Having a 15-book series really does put you ahead of the game... But you know what, I’d still read more from Morganville – that world has so much to give.

Nicholas Sparks 

18 Books – What can I say, I love a good tearjerker and Sparks’ earliest works are wonderful. I’m hoping he’ll eventually be that good again...

Sarra Manning

18 Books – Long time fan of this lady and her quirky, endearing heroines and the deliciously moody boys they fall in love with. I’ve also stocked up on her adult novels for me to binge on one day.

Scott Westerfeld

 13 BooksUglies is a dystopian from before there was YA dystopian and I’ve loved his books ever since.

Richelle Mead

12 Books – No one creates worlds and mythology like this lady. She can take tired themes and tropes and make them sparkle. Soon, The Ruby Circle will be up here too.

Cassandra Clare

11 Books – So much Shadowhunter goodness! I’m so ready for a new series from her, but if they carry on being as big as they are, Imma need a new shelf...

Julie Kagawa

11 Books – Though I haven’t enjoyed any of Julie’s books as much as I did The Iron Fey, I live in hope and continue to buy each of new releases.

Sarah Dessen

11 Books – My favourite. If my life could be written by any author I would chose Sarah Dessen – THAT’S how much I love her books. And there’s a new one coming in May! *happy dance*

Maggie Stiefvater

11 Books – Another one with a new book coming out this year! The wait for The Raven King already feels too long and it’s not even out until September...

Darren Shan

10 Books – Considering how many books of his I currently own, he is one of my most recent favourites, and definitely the most recent on this list. The Zom-B series is published as a serial with a new instalment every 3-ish months and there’s only two more to go! And then I can begin collecting his epic backlist...

So there you have my top 10 most owned authors, accompanied by terrible pictures of them on my shelves. Most of them I can’t quite reach or are so firmly wedged in that I can’t get them out very easily – that’s how I’m explaining away my awful photography skills anyway...

Who are your most owned authors? Does anyone own more than 20 books by one author?


Wednesday 25 March 2015

Shadow Study, Maria V Snyder

Pages: 416
Publisher: MiraINK
Release Date: 12th March 2015
Edition: e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Poison Study, Magic Study, Fire Study, Storm Glass, Sea Glass, Spy Glass, Inside Out, Outside In, Touch of Power, Scent of Magic, Taste of Darkness

Once, only her life hung in the balance.

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.

Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands – and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job – and his life – are in danger.

As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself, but all she holds dear, alive.

Even after so many years, I remember Yelena and Valek with a smile so news of a new trilogy with them as the stars went straight to the top of my list. I thoroughly enjoyed being back in their world in Shadow Study.

I have to admit that I did struggle to catch up at first. It has been five years since I last read the original Study trilogy and I haven’t got around to reading the Glass trilogy yet so my memory and knowledge was a little patchy. But never fear, Maria V Snyder made it so that this trilogy can be read separately; she caught us up on the important details and didn’t make a huge deal of the things I would have missed – it was nicely done and meant I soon settled back into life in Ixia.

One of the things I loved most about Shadow Study is that we finally got to hear from Valek. He’s has just as many chapters as Yelena does and he delves into his part a little, from hat led him to be an assassin, his training, his legacy as King Killer and the friendship and loyalty that made him the Commander’s right hand man. I loved learning about what made him so clinical and tough, how much of change Yelena made to him and why he’s so good at what he does. Man, I love Valek. We were also treated to a few chapters from Janco’s point of view which was very exciting. That guy is hilarious and his narration is even better than what comes out of his mouth!

I didn’t always know where the plot was going in Shadow Study. There were lots of little sub-plots running alongside Yelena’s hunt for her magic and Valek’s quest to find out what the Commander was hiding with the training of a new, surprise member of Valek’s corps and the smuggling of illegal goods and I got it all a little jumbled occasionally, but I loved how they all ended up tying together to make one big, serious problem for the Yelena, Valek and the gang.

I now feel back home in Ixia and Sitia and I can’t wait for more from Valek and Yelena, especially after that gasp-inducing cliffhanger… Evil!

Thanks to NetGalley and MiraINK for the review copy.


Tuesday 24 March 2015

Blog Tour: A Q&A with Maria V Snyder!

Today I am very pleased to welcome Maria V Snyder to the blog! Six years after her incredible Study trilogy finished, Maria has answered the calls of her readers and brought Yelena and Valek back for us!

1. What made you return to Yelena and Valek after six years?

MVS: My readers!  They’ve been clamouring for more stories with Yelena and Valek and were not content with the short stories I wrote after Fire Study.  However, I wasn’t just going to write just anything about them, I needed a good idea and I wanted to explore Valek’s history more in depth.  Then one day, I sparked on an idea and my editor liked it so when I finished my Healer series, I started writing Shadow Study.

2. Your books are set in a rich, complex world. Which are your favourite fantasy worlds to read?

MVS: I really like the Edge series of books by Ilona Andrews, and I enjoyed all of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider books – would love to be a dragonrider someday ;)  I also really loved the world created by Gail Carriger in her Parasol Protectorate series.  Soulless is the first book.

3. If you had to choose, would you be a poison taster like Yelena, a Healer like Avry or a magician like Opal?

MVS: This one is easy!  I’d be a healer like Avry.  In fact, that’s what drew me to the character. Her ability to “take on” another’s illness or injury really appeals to me as a mother. When my kids are sick or hurting, I just wanted to take all the pain away.

Quick-fire round!

4. Favourite word?

MVS: Ruckus.  Love this – it’s perfect for when Ari and Janco are getting in trouble and making a ruckus!

5. Obsession of the moment?

MVS: Skiing.  I love to ski and the weather has been good this winter so any chance I can get, I’m out on the slopes no matter how cold it is.  You’d have to be obsessed in order to go out when the wind chill is -30F (-34C)!

6. Current read?

MVS: In the Woods, by Tana French – it’s a mystery and I’m enjoying it very much!

Thank you so much, Maria! Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour and pick up a copy of Shadow Study – it’s out now from MiraINK!