Monday, 11 November 2013

Winter's Child by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Graheme Baker-Smith



Title: Winter’s Child
Author: Angela McAllister
Illustrator: Grahame Baker-Smith
ISBN: 978 184 877 5459
Publisher: Templar
Published: 1st October 2013
RRP: £12.99

Rating: 5/5

The cover on Winter’s Child gives you an insight into just how much detail has gone into the book and its illustrations.  We absolutely loved FArTHER which was also illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith.

I really wish you could bottle the reactions which were visible on our youngest's face as he turned each page in anticipation of the next magical delight.  Our youngest was in awe of the illustrations in this book.  The quality and detail of the illustrations had him exclaiming in delight before he’d started to read…which also had him more involved in the story as this visual feast continued.

As an adult watching my child reading this out loud to me – it was the first time he’d shown excitement to this level in reading and it’s lovely to see and I hope this encourages him to keep on reading as he does struggle as times.  The only downside (which is why this missed out on a merit rating) is because on one page although the colours used are absolutely gorgeous and do convey the night time scene in which it takes place, I found it difficult to see the black lettering on the blue background, which is a shame, and the only point at which I had difficulty at the book – this didn’t stop our youngest though, so maybe it was just my tired old eyes!!

Overall I highly recommend this book.  It would make a superb gift.  It is about a child who matures through the season whilst still playing but doing his best for his elderly Nana.  It tells of friendships and hardships.  On a visual level the illustrations will take your breath away.  They really must be seen.  So much work must have gone into each and every page.  The typescript used at the beginning of each part is eye catching.  This is a book that would be cherished and poured over time after time, and earns it place alongside FaRTHER as a timeless book for the beautiful illustrations and story.

Source: A copy of Winter's Child was recieved in return for an honest review.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Review: Hysteria by Megan Miranda



Title: Hysteria
Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: Feb 2013
ISBN: 978-1408834848

Rating: 4.5/5

I’ve seen both the US and the UK book covers for this, and prefer by far the UK one, I just don’t see anything interesting in a girl in a dress holding up a picture frame..the UK one is more attention grabbing imo.

Where do I start with this?  What seems to be an open-shut case of a girl stabbing her boyfriend progresses into far more in Hysteria when Mallory is sent to Monroe Prep boarding school; something or someone is following her.  Can she remember that night or will she end up going insane?  Mallory can’t remember what happened the night she stabbed Brian, so along with the building suspense, Mallory is also trying to remember.

Mallory goes to the same school her father attended decades before and recognises Reid from her father’s alumni meetings.  I watched as Mallory tried to integrate into a society who already knew her history and what she’d done.  Colleen is a faithful friend, and is so girly!

My favourite character in this is Reid; who shows his vulnerability at his father’s funeral and he is the main support for Mallory when she’s at Monroe Prep, as he doesn’t give up on her regardless what his peers think of her.

This story tilts so many times, and each time it made sense and seemed very realistic and spine chilling.  I didn’t guess the extent of the story which is masterfully told, although some part of this had me wanting to shake Mallory to her senses and remember her past clearly.

Book synopsis:
Mallory's life is falling apart. Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can't remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear . . . When Mallory's parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There's the hand that touches her shoulder when she's drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory's name is on their lips. Her past can be forgotten but it's never gone. Can Mallory live with that?

Source – Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley, an ecopy was received in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Review and Giveaway of Shadow of Time by Jen Minkman


Welcome to the next stop on Shadow of Time's blog tour.  Enter to win your own paper back copy (UK) or ebook (worldwide) after the review

Title: Shadow of Time
Author: Jen Minkman
Publisher: Indie
Published: January 2013
ISBN: 978 1480242234

Rating: 3/5

The font used on the title is what first drew my attention to this book, as well as the colours used.

Hannah is retreating to her mums holiday hideaway where her brother Ben stays.  On the way she fills up for petrol and stumbles across a mysterious, drop dead gorgeous guy – who happens to be around the same age as her brother.  Hannah’s personality had me in stitches as she came across as a bumbling teenager when she first meets him and then analyses every thing she says and did, so funny!  It isn’t until Ben brings his childhood friend, Josh round, that she realises it was Josh she met at the petrol station.

Josh isn’t all he says he is – and sometimes its frustrating to read as he tries to distance himself from Hannah for an unknown reason, which we find out as the story progresses.  
I did work out a few things before Hannah did, such as the true friendship between Ben and Josh.  The tension and thrill of the storyline and the unknown threat to Hannah kept the story a page turner, as Hannah (and us) are left in the dark for a while until Josh slowly starts to share his story with her, and Hannah realises the implications of her nightmares and dreams.

I think this is a fairly well thought out book.  The only thing I wasn’t too keen on was how easy it was to defeat their common enemy after all the history that had gone before, it just seemed a bit too convenient for me.

I adored the backdrop for this and the heritage and history that went into making the storyline, which felt authentic.  I can’t help but wonder who would play these characters if it made it to film – I see it as a cross between Dancing with Wolves and The Time Travellers Wife.

Book synopsis:
All Hannah needs is a nice and quiet vacation after her first year of teaching French at a high school. She joins her brother Ben for the summer in their mom’s log cabin in Arizona. There, she meets Josh again, Ben’s childhood friend from the Navajo reservation. The little boy from the rez has grown up fast, and Hannah can’t help but feeling more for him than just friendship.

But fate apparently has something else in store for her. And it’s not peace and quiet. Night after night, Hannah is plagued by strange nightmares about the past of Navajo Nation and terrifying shadows chasing her. They seem to come closer – and why is Josh always present in her dreams?

Sometimes, the past has a way of catching up with you
.

Source – Many thanks to Jen, a copy was received for an honest review.

Jen is giving away two copies of the Shadow of Time, just fill in the appropriate Rafflecopter form and a winner will be chosen at random.  One is a physical copy – open to UK residents, and the other is open to everyone else worldwide in ebook format.




a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 11 January 2013

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers @audioGO_UK



Title: Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin)
Author: Robin LaFevers
Narrator: Caroline Ramsay
Publisher: AudioGo.com/uk
Duration: 11hrs  51mins

Rating: 3/5
 
This review is based on the AudioGo MP3 version.  

The audio begins with 17 year old Ismae being married off by her father to a beast of a man.  Her father is cruel and this comes across loud and clear through the audio book at the start – he’s chosen the roughest tyrant of a man for his daughter to marry.  Ismae has always been treated badly and is an outcast by default as she is said to be born of blood after her mother tried to poison her whilst she was in the womb. 

Ismae’s fate then turns – she is taken under the wing of a convent who train her to become Death’s Assassin.  This does challenge pre-conceptions of how I viewed convents!!  Ismaes second assignment sees her having on the job training as she goes into Court and tries to keep the Duchess safe from harm.  What she doesn’t bargain for is falling in love, which is forbidden.

The storyline in places was a bit too dragged out – but I think that was more to do with the story rather than the audio version of it.  I did get a bit fed up with the Duchy and the politics surrounding everything she could or couldn’t do.  It wasn’t really a surprise who Ismae fell in love with, but there are still plot twists which I didn’t forsee.

It took me about half a chapter to get used to Caroline Ramsay’s narrative on the audio.  The first chapter we see Ismae as a meek yet quietly strong character; unable to control her own fate or have a say in it.  As the story progresses, so does Caroline Ramsay’s personification of Ismae, and all the other characters she comes into contact with.  I had to remind myself throughout the audio that it was only one narrator, as each character was given a very distinctive voice just for themselves, so it really felt like I was listening to a play with different actors rather than a sole narrator, which was very effective.

What made listening to this so addictive was the narrators telling of the story.  It felt so animated that I couldn’t help but be sucked into the characters and the storyline.  In retrospect though I think it could have been slightly shorter without compromising too much of the storyline as it did feel long in places.  I love the cover on this as well - the title jumps out at you and begs you to listen to it!

Audio synopsis:
Escaping from the brutality of an arranged marriage, 17-year-old Ismae finds sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts - and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must be willing to take the lives of others. Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany where she finds herself woefully underprepared - for how can she deliver Death's vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? A dangerous romance for young adults, full of intrigue, poison and passion.

Source – Many thanks to Audiogo.com/uk, an audio was received in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Review: The Chamber by Howard Gordon



Title: The Chamber
Author: Howard Gordon
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: January 2012
ISBN: 978 085720 0952


Rating: 2.5/5

I like the color of the cover on this, along with the contrast of the red title.

Gideon Davis launches his own investigation when someone comes to him with details of a terrorist attack in the USA.
He enlists the help of his brother, Tillman, who the FBI has distanced themselves from after using him.  What follows is a race against time as Gideon and Tillman work together to prevent a major terrorist attack on home soil and at the heart of America.

The Chamber kept me up well into the early hours reading as time passed so quickly. Although this is down as a thriller, once you knew the plot which was taking place there wasn’t much guess work left to fill the story, so it became less of a thriller and more like a race against time.  It made me very squeamish in places, especially when one of the terrorists showed her love of taxidermy on a living hostage <shudder>...not pleasant...not an image I wanted at one o’clock in the morning, another reason why I kept reading (to get past it!!)

Personally I think this would fare better on screen than how it came across in the book as it plays out like a movie and would look good visually imo.

Book synopsis:
Angered when the Joint Terrorism Task Force ignores evidence of an impending terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Gideon Davis is left with only one option - to launch his own investigation. Enlisting the help of his brother, Tillman, to infiltrate Colonel Jim Verhoven's white supremacist group, Gideon is thrown into the thick of a revenge plot designed not only to overthrow the government but bring an end to democracy itself. But when things get messy and the brothers are forced to play along with Verhoven's plan in order to avoid detection, they'll need the help of Nancy Clement, Gideon's old FBI colleague, if they are to slot the final piece of the puzzle into place and prevent disaster.

Source-  A copy was received in return for an honest review.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Review of Insignia by S.J.Kincaid


Title: Insignia
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Hot Key Books
ISBN: 978 14714 0001

Rating 5/5 with merits

This review is done by Shaun, the eldest of our young readers. This was a recommendation from another Blogger for our 10year old, from a Twitter conversation. I'm really not surprised at all that he finished this book within 3 days of starting it – he hardly put it down!

Space battling,virtual reality simulators,can Tom beat Medusa? the most feared combatant.

The story is about Tom trying to beat medusa in space! Medusa always wins, can Tom beat her?
(it's virtual reality so no one dies)

My favourite character is Tom because he cheats at virtual racing. And he covers Dominion arga's top men in sewage. also Blackburn make's Tom act like a dog.

My favourite characters are Vikram,Tom and Yuri because vik and Tom call themselves the Doctors of Doom. Yuri's neual processor was scrambled because he was thought to have been a spy (a.k.a. The android.)

Book synopsis:
Tom Raines is suddenly recruited into the US Army to train as a virtual reality Combatant to see if he is good enough to help fight World War Three. Equipped with a new computer chip in his brain, it looks as if Tom might actually become somebody. But what happens when you start to question the rules?

In this first part of a fast-paced, futuristic trilogy, S. J. Kincaid asks significant questions concerning the use of technology and the value of life. 20th Century Fox have pre-emptively bought the film rights for the first book in the series, which incidently Shaun has only just been made aware of – so he's eagerly hoping he'll see it as a film as well!

Source – Bought as a gift for DS

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Blog Tour and review The Queen's Vow by C.W.Gortner



I’m so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Queen’s Vow, by C.W. Gortner – I had the pleasure of reading this in 2012 and couldn’t wait to pose some questions about the book which transported me into history…….my review follows also.  I hope everyone is inspired to read this – it is a firm favourite of mine and was a joy to read.

Did you visit any of the sites from the book prior to writing it, (are there any ruins left from the castles, or the household in Arevalo?), or do you draw mostly from your experience of growing up in Southern Spain and your love of history? 

Though I often rely on my own experiences and love of history, I still think traveling to the sites where my characters lived is a must. Fortunately, Spain is one of my homes and favorite places to visit; while the landscape has greatly changed from Isabella's time, there are still a significant number of extant sites associated with her -- all of which I visited to re-trace Isabella's footsteps and are featured in The Queen's Vow . Her childhood home, the castle of Arévalo, is about 2 hours from Madrid and sits on a desolate escarpment in a truly forbidding landscape. The city of Avila, with its massive medieval walls, is about an hour from there. In central Castile, Segovia is the site of the world-famous alcazar, every girl’s fantasy palace, with its peaked turrets and curving fortifications— ironic, given how dangerous life within its vaulted halls was for young Isabella. Traveling about 7 hours south is Sevilla, and its beautiful alcazar built by the Moors and expanded by subsequent rulers, where a troubled Isabella arrived shortly after her coronation. Córdoba, capital of the Moors until the 13th century, has the exquisite red-columned mezquita, or mosque, and Palace of the Catholic Kings on the edge of the Guadalquivir River. Another 3 hours up to the mountains is the magnificent citadel of Granada, site of that most renowned of places associated with Isabella: the Alhambra.

Do you have a favourite character from The Queen's Vow?
 I try not to play favorites, otherwise I fear that it will show through in the text and reflect poorly on my other characters. When I'm working on a novel, the cast becomes my surrogate family; I like some characters more than others, naturally, given their disparate personalities, but I want to stay true to each one and give him or her my very best in terms of reflecting their reality for the reader. Even Torquemada has a reason for what he does; it may not be pleasant, but he does have his own beliefs, his strengths and weaknesses. That said, my lead character - in this case, Isabella herself - is always going to come first in my overall affection. I really felt as though I came to understand her during the process of bringing her to life for this novel; I struggled with her as she fought for her throne and wrestled with her doubts; I recoiled at times  from her sense of self-righteousness and moral inflexibility, and always stood in awe of her courage and passion. She was not an easy woman to get to know but in the end, I feel she was worth the effort.

If you had to cast Isabella and Ferdinand in a movie, who would you choose to play their roles?
This is always such a tough question for me! I "see" the characters when I write them both emotionally and physically; they become their own distinct persons and thus, it's challenging to try and clothe them in another's skin, such as that of an actor or actress. For Isabella, perhaps Emma Roberts or Lea Seydoux; for Fernando, Max Irons or Aaron Johnson. The actors would have to be young, but able to convey that complex range of experience and of maturity that both Isabella and Fernando had, even in their teen years.

Thank you so much for taking this time with me. I hope your readers enjoy The Queen's Vow. To find out more about me and my books, please visit me at www.cwgortner.com



Title: The Queen’s Vow
Author: C.W. Gortner
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: January 2013
ISBN: 978 1444720792

Rating: 5/5 with merits

The cover on this looks fairly ornate, with swirling embossed gold leaf detail to the sides of the Queen on the cover.

First off, I have to say WOW!!!  I adored this book.  This blew my mind with the stunning amount of detail and thought that has gone into each and every page.  I haven’t read much historical fiction recently, so this was a pure delight to read and immerse myself in.  If time machines were books, then this is a gem of a time machine.  I know I have to give it a rating, as with all my reviews here, but this blows the top off my rating system….that sounds really gushy…but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and my praise is very well deserved.  This is storytelling at its very best - when it feels so very real the characters aren’t just on the page anymore.

The Queen’s Vow details Isabella’s life from childhood right up to her ascension to become Queen of Castile alongside her husband Ferdinand.  Prior to this book I had a teeny semblance of an idea as to her life, mainly that of the Spanish Inquisition.  The Queen’s Vow took me on an unforgettable journey with Isabella.  Her passion for Castile was a running theme throughout the book.  I saw how she was treated, and how despicable many of the male characters were – I really wanted to reach through the pages and slap many of them for their actions!!!  I could really feel the way in which women during this time were treated, along with how corrupt and self serving many of those in Court were.  I was shocked at how little regard Isabella’s half brother had for her and how weasly those he surrounded himself with were.

I got to know Isabella and her formidable characteristics.  I saw through her eyes how women were treated, and how she strived to make women’s lives better.  I appreciated how well ahead of her time she was, especially when she commissioned a printing press and set about making learning accessible for all, as well as being totally devout to her religion and a faithful wife.  I felt her pain when she miscarried and her joy when her son was born, along with the bittersweet birth of her daughters which had less value in society even with their heritage. 

The Queen’s Vow swept me away through the passages of time so I was with Isabella throughout the book.  I really did feel like I was surrounded by history and real life characters.  This is historical fiction at its best.  Thank you so much C.W.Gortner!  What a high bar you’ve set with this book! 

Book Synopsis:
A compelling novel which reimagines the early years of one of history's most notorious queens in all their passion, treachery and bloodshed. 'I am Isabella, Queen of Castile ...' Isabella was the notorious warrior-queen who, along with her husband Ferdinand, transformed Spain forever. Popular belief has her as a religious fanatic persuaded into the horrific excesses of the Inquisition by her confessor, Torquemada; but C W Gortner paints a picture of her early life, showing us a headstrong, passionate girl who grew into the most powerful queen Spain ever knew and whose vision and imagination allowed Columbus to discover America.


Source- Many thanks to the publisher, an ARC was received in return for a honest review.