Thursday, 29 January 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (3): A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
First in the A Darker Shade of Magic duology
Publication Date: 24th February 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 400 pages

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming events that we're eagerly anticipating.

Official Blurb from Goodreads:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Why I'm looking forward to this book:

Parallel Universes! Multiple Londons! Lady Thief! Magic! What's not to love???

Saturday, 24 January 2015

This Book could be Ours (3): Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire
First in The Maddox Brothers series
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary
Published: 1st January 2014
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 337 pages
Format: Paperback
Source: My local library

Tell me more, tell me more...

Cami's took the weekend off from bar tending to spend time with her boyfriend, only for him to tell her he's tied up with work. Instead Cami goes out with a friend and gets hit on by Trenton, one of the infamous Maddox Brothers... How will she stop herself from falling for him?

Why did I read this?

I was craving a book all about the romance and found this when looking at my local library. After reading Fangirl and Just One Day I was curious to see what else the New Adult genre has to offer.

What I liked:

Events from prior books were explained well: When I picked up Beautiful Oblivion I didn't realise that characters and event from Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster were incorporated in the same timeline as Beautiful Oblivion. Initially I was worried about this due to the latter being the first novel I've read of McGuire's, but my worries were for naught. I don't feel like learning a little about Travis' and Abby's relationship spoiled the two books they're featured in for me. Rather, after getting a glimpse of the two I'm curious to go back and read their story.

The book isn't just a romance: I confess I've of a stereotype of the New Adult genre that hasn't featured in the three books I've read: endless sex. Beautiful Oblivion is focused on the development and then maintenance of of Cami's and Trenton's relationship in addition to each character's family strife. As I picked up this book primarily for the love story, it was pleasantly unexpected that the romance wasn't bloated.

Cami: Our narrator is a tough talking, hardworking woman whose personality and situation is realistic of a college student's. She relishes being independent, yet knows the importance of close relationships with her loved ones.

Trenton: The love interest sure delivers! It's hard not to like Trenton with his combination of confidence and kindness. I like that he's portrayed with flaws and has problems of his own, as well as his tattoos.

Who might like this?

Readers looking for a realistic college aged narrator falling for an attractive, thoughtful guy who is not the sole concern of her life.

Final Thoughts:

Beautiful Oblivion more than satisfied my craving to read a romance. This novel captivated my attention, taking only a weekend for me to read. I'm looking forward to checking out McGuire's other novels and can't wait to read Beautiful Redemption!

What New Adult books have you enjoyed?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (3): Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Stand Alone
Publication Date: 3rd February 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 352 pages
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming events that we're eagerly anticipating.

Official Blurb from Goodreads:

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Hugo-Award winning author Elizabeth Bear offers something new inKaren Memory, an absolutely entrancing steampunk novel set in Seattle in the late 19th century—an era when the town was called Rapid City, when the parts we now call Seattle Underground were the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes bringing would-be miners heading up to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront. Karen is a “soiled dove,” a young woman on her own who is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts into her world one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, seeking sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper-type story of the old west with the light touch of Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

Why I'm looking forward to this book:

I'm a sucker for anything Steampunk or anything compared to Jack the Ripper. From the blurb Karen's voice sounds distinctive. I'm hoping it'll be written from first person narration point of view as I've read a lot of books written from third person narration point of view lately. Although I've enjoyed the former, some variation is needed!

Monday, 19 January 2015

This Book could be Ours (2): Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic by Lauren Oliver
Stand Alone
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Published: 4th March 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 408 pages
Format: Hardback
Source: My local library

Tell me more, tell me more...

Heather and Dodge are stuck in Carp: a complete dive of a hometown in the summer after their graduation. Both teens end up playing in Panic: an insane game unique to Carp where players compete in challenges and face their fears in the hope of winning the prize money. Will Heather and Dodge survive the game and the difficulties in their lives this summer?

Why did I read this?

I love Lauren Oliver's debut Before I Fall and was obsessed with Delirium (the first in a trilogy of the same name). However, Pandemonium and Requiem weren't for me. I saw this book at the library and thought I'd give it a try.

What I liked:

Oliver's prose: 
I thought this book shone most brightly when the author described Heather's and Dodge's emotions when they were participating in the challenges of Panic. My heart raced not knowing if they would be successful. I had to put the book down a couple of times as it become too intense for me!

The dual narration: Heather's and Dodge's voices sounded distinctive from one another. There was no way I would have mistaken which character was narrating the chapter I was reading. Dodge's voice sounded like an authentic average teenage boy's with his cussing and lack of motivation to shower. I connected with Heather more however, as we're both women who have just graduated high school and share several of the same worries.

What didn't work for me:

Why hadn't anyone spilled about Panic before? People have died and been severely injured in the game's history. Wouldn't friends who knew how competitors ended up that way felt guilty enough to tell the injured/dead person's family or tattle to the authorities for revenge?

The jump between the last chapter and the epilogue: Without spoiling anything, the epilogue seemed a bit too neat for my liking.

Who might like this?

I'd recommend Panic to people who don't mind breaks between bouts of action, who appreciate characters' psychological battles with themselves and who won't pick at a couple of minor details of the story.

Final thoughts: 

While I liked Panic, it didn't rate up there with my favourite books of Oliver's. In spite of that I think I'll pick up Rooms (the author's adult debut) sometime.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (2): Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Stand Alone
Publication Date: 3rd February 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Length: 336 pages

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming events that we're eagerly anticipating.

Official Blurb from Goodreads:

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things--which includes a never-before published American Gods story, "Black Dog," written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction--stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013--as well "Black Dog," a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In "Adventure Story"--a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane--Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience "A Calendar of Tales" are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year--stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother's Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale "The Case of Death and Honey". And "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we're all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements,Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.

Why I'm looking forward to this book:

So far I've loved all the Neil Gaiman books I've read, especially his last anthology Fragile Things. Savouring each short story was a truly magical reading experience. I'm sure Trigger Warning will offer more of the same. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

This Book could be Ours (1): Hawkeye Volume One: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido

Hawkeye Volume One: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Javier Pulido
First in the Hawkeye Marvel NOW! run
Genres: Graphic Novel, Adult Fiction
Published: 19th March 2013
Publisher: Marvel
Length: 136 pages
Format: Trade Paperback Kindle Ebook
Source: Brought from Kindle Amazon

Tell me more, tell me more...

What does Clint Barton do when not being superhero Hawkeye for The Avengers? Get into trouble whilst helping others of course! Follow Clint's misadventures aided by fellow Hawkeye Kate Bishop.

Why did I read this?

I've been wanting to try out a current Marvel comic series for a while now, but didn't know where to start. After reading up on Panels, I decided My Life as a Weapon was a good place to start, due to critical acclaim and knowing from The Avengers who Clint Barton is.

What I liked:

Clint Barton: I really don't know what I was expecting from the hero. I mean, he didn't really have a big part in The Avengers - pretty much all we saw was him being brainwashed! Maybe I expected a hint of sass Ironman style? 

In retrospect this quality would have greatly impaired Barton's character. His outward stoic, tough, in usually in control nature contrasts well with his sometimes insecure thoughts, reminding the reader that although he's an Avenger, he's only human.

I also liked the hints of Barton's back story Fraction gave, like that this Hawkeye grew up in a circus. These little tidbits made me want to delve into Barton's other appearances in comics.

Kate Bishop: I can't believe there's a female Hawkeye that I previously knew nothing about! She's just as skilled using a bow and an arrow and does she do so! I love her sharp one-liners and dedication to helping her counterpart. I love that the two Hawkeyes share the series focus equally. The last issue of this trade paperback shows Bishop's and Barton's first meeting, as well as a glimpse into The Young Avengers. Again, the hints at Kate's past enticed me to read up on it.

The artwork: In one word it is STUNNING! Aja's covers for each issue are brilliant in all their stark geometrical glory. Pulido's artwork suits the story's tone perfectly in its sketchy outlines of people, objects and muted colours, with the obvious exception of purple. The touches of this colour popped out effectively, highlighting the Hawkeyes' in their surroundings. I now immediately associate the colour purple with this series.

Who might like this?

Newbie comic readers like me looking for a familiar character to follow at the start of a new series. Familiar comic readers would also enjoy this trade paperback for its well defined characterisation, and gorgeous artwork.

Final Thoughts:

A wonderful read! I'm looking forward to reading Volumes Two and Three very soon.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Bout of Books 12.0 Goals, Updates and Wrap-Up

Bout of Books 12.0 starts tomorrow! It's a low key readathon running from Monday 5th - Sunday 11th January in whatever timezone you're in hosted by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading Paranormal. This is my first time participating and I'm pretty excited!

I'll update each day on this post on my progress and might even do a couple of challenges on this blog.

Here's my TBR for the readathon:

Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as A Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido and Alan Davis

I've heard nothing but great things about this comic. I love the pitch of the adventures of Hawkeye when he isn't being one of The Avengers. I'm about a quarter of the way through this one so far and plan to finish it in the first couple of days of the readathon.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

I'm halfway through this book and really enjoying the characters and rich world building so far. It's due back to the library in about a week... Perfect timing to finish it in this readathon! 

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

I'm enjoying listening to my first ever Brandon Sanderson book via audiobook. I've just reached the beginning of Part 2 and would love to listen to about half an hour to an hour per day.

I'm not going to be upset if I don't achieve my goals as the motto of the readathon is 'flailing, not failing'. I'm just looking forward to some quality time reading!

Are you participating in Bout of Books 12.0?

Day 1: Hawkeye Volume 1 Pages 71 - 137
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Pages 197 - 225
Half an hour  listening to The Rithmatist

Day 2: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Pages 226 - 260
40 minutes listening to The Rithmatist

Day 3: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Pages 261 - 346

Day 4: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Pages 347 - 398
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett Pages 1 - 17
20 minutes listening to The Rithmatist

Day 5: Fall of Giants Pages 18 - 43

Day 6: Half an hour listening to The Ritmatist

Day 7: Fall of Giants Pages 43 - 70
1 hour listening to The Rithmatist

I achieved my goals! I'm about 3/5 of the way through The Rithmatist right now. I've been meaning to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Hawkeye Volume 1 for ages, plus they count towards two of my reading challenges. Fall of Giants is over 800 pages so it'll take me a while!

What have you been meaning to read for a while?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2015 Graphic Novels and Manga Reading Challenge: My Master List

I've gotten into Graphic Novels and Manga in the last couple of years - easily one of the best decisions I've ever made reading wise. I'm looking forward to catching up with existing series and discovering new ones in 2015.

But there's so many zillion books from other genres out there to tempt me. I'm so easily distracted...
Which is why I'm signing up for the 8th annual Graphic Novel and Manga Reading Challenge hosted by Nicola at her blog of the same name.

I'm aiming for the Bronze Age Level: to read and review 24 books during the year. If all goes to plan, that's roughly 2 Graphic Novels and/or Manga a month.

Here's my rough TBR idea list for the challenge - it's very liable to change:

* = Not yet released

  • Ms Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why* by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt and Adrian Alphona
  • She Hulk Volume 2: Disorderly Conduct* by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido
  • Saga Volumes 2 - 4 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
  • Batgirl Volumes 3 - 5 by Gail Simone and Various Illustrators 
  • Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido and Alan Davis
  • A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Volumes 2 and 3 by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson
  • Sandman Volumes 2 -12 by Neil Gaiman and Various Illustrators
  • Chew Volumes 3 - 9* by John Layman and Rob Guillory
  • Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez
  • The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel by George RR Martin, Ben Avery and Mike S. Miller
  • Library Wars: Love and Wars Volumes 5 - 14 by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa
  • Ouran High School Host Club Volumes 3 - 18 by Bisco Hatori 
  • Dawn of the Arcana Volume 1 by Rei Toma
  • Black Butler Volume 1 by Yana Toboso and Komo Kimura
  • Midnight Secretary Volume 1 by Tomu Ohmi

Are you interested in Graphic Novels and/or Manga?

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Master List

I've always had a thing for witches. The Salem Witch Hunts was one of my favourite topics in History. Whether they have black cats, broomsticks or potions, set in the medieval times or in our modern day world I'll read it!

So when I saw that Melissa at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf was hosting the 2015 Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge I immediately knew I was going to sign up. As I'm over committed to other reading challenges I'm only aiming for the Initiate Level, which is read 1 - 5 Witchy Books. I'm going to aim to read five.

Here's my tentative list (the official blurbs are all from Goodreads):

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini (The Worldwalker Trilogy 1)

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

As someone with several life threatening allergies I love the idea that it means I could secretly have witch powers!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy 1)

When Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript, it's an intrusion of magic into her life. Though she is a witch of impeccable lineage, the death of her parents while she was a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than witchcraft. Now Diana has exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years.

I started reading this one in September while I was on a class trip to Japan and didn't get a chance to pick it up when I came home due to end of year exams. With only about a third of the book left I've got to finish it!

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (The Cahill Witch Chronicles 1)

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

I get the impression of Jane Austen with witches from this blurb. How could I resist??

Steadfast by Claudia  Gray (Spellcaster 2)

Nadia, Mateo, and Verlaine have saved Captive's Sound from the dark Sorceress Elizabeth...or so they thought. Despite their best efforts, a crack opened and a new, greater evil seeped through. With Mateo as her Steadfast, Nadia's magic is magnified and she is more powerful than ever. But there is still so much she doesn't know about the craft, leaving her open and vulnerable to a darker magic...which has begun to call Nadia's name.

I love characters' struggling to choose between good and evil! It fascinates me.

Half Bad by Sally Green (The Half Bad Trilogy 1)

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan's only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it's too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.

I like that the witch in this case is a guy. The civil war element is intriguing. 

Have you read any good books about witches?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge: My Master List

I've got around 20 books I've brought in a towering stack by my bedroom door. Every time I come in and out of the room I feel guilty for not yet having read them.

It's the same story on my Kindle: another 20 or so books I've brought still unread.

Every January I tell myself that this is the year I'll finally make a dent in the pile. Shameful confession time: I don't think I even read one last year... Too busy trying to get through the ridiculous amounts of books I borrow from my local library!

So I've decided that this year is going to be different. This year I'm going to make a dent in that pile, which is why I've signed up for The Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

The aim is to read 12 books from your TBR; you have the entire year to do so. All the books have to be published before 2014 and have been on your pile for a minimum of a year. You can crossover the books you're read to other challenges. Check out the link for more info.

Without further ado, here's my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006)
  2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (1996)
  3. The Bone Season by Samatha Shannon (2013)
  4. These Broken Stars by Amine Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (2013)
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (2008)
  6. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (2012)
  7. Taken by Erin Bowman (2013)
  8. The Time Travel's Wife by Audrey Niffenger (2003)
  9. Poems of Tennyson by Tennyson (1916)
  10. Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix (2013)
  11. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (2000)
  12.  Reboot by Amy Tintera (2013)
  1. Lady of Devices by Shelly Adina (2011)
  2. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (2012)
Are you like me and have a stack of books you brought you're guilty about not having read?