Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Review - Carve The Mark

I CAN TALK ABOUT CARVE THE MARK FREELY NOW!!! HOORAY!!! (Back in November of last year, I went to a Carve the Mark event at HarperCollins HQ [write-up for that is here] where I was very honoured to receive a very early Advance Reader Copy of Carve The Mark. With this, I had t sign a Do Not Disclose Agreement - basically, I couldn't talk about the story. I can say I had a copy and was reading it, BUT NOTHING ELSE! But, now it's book's out, I CAN TALK ABOUT IT! HOORAY! [And yes, am a few days late as wanted to post on Tuesday/release date but hey-ho!])

It's hard to explain this duology so bear with me.

On a faraway planet split by war, in a galaxy ruled by the current and by the fates, people receive currentgifts, a unique power that should help shape the future. But this isn't always the case...

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant leader, Ryzek, of the Shotet people. He exploits her currentgift - she can bring pain and death with a single touch. But Cyra isn't just her brother's blade. She's much more than her brother gives her credit for...

Akos is from the peace-loving Thuvhe and his love to his family is limitless. When his brother and he get kidnapped by Ryzek's people for reasons unknown, Akos vows to save his brother at whatever cost. And then he is thrown into Cyra's life...

Honour has no place in survival.

Ok, now, where to start? (I say this as I have been reading this since November and over finished it a few days ago. This book took a while for me to read - thanks Christmas, work, reading slump!). Plus, I went into Carve the Mark a little wary. I suspected that I would like it, but with Divergent getting the fandom and the hype around it (and oh, the horror of the Allegiant movie!), I was worried this wasn't going to live up to the hype and the attention.

Well, this book isn't Divergent rehash. I think a few of us were quite worried that this is what would happen. Instead, we got a space opera that had a Star Wars meets X-Men vibe to it, a mix of characters that were new and fresh, told in a unique writing style (Cyra's chapters were told in first person and Akos was told in third person) and with the intensity level a little higher. Plus, the writing felt stronger and the world building felt more in place compared to Divergent which, at times, felt as if Veronica made it up as she went along...

Also, this felt more character-driven. Yes, there was action, but this book wasn't driven forward by action. It was driven forward by characters like Cyra and Akos, and this could be a problem to some of you guys who like stories to be action driven.

Both Cyra and Akos I really enjoyed reading. I loved that Cyra was a badass and Akos was more gentle. Very different to other sci-fi that I read where the men are badasses and the women are the kind givers. I liked how they worked together. I prefer reading from Cyra's point of view but Akos showed different elements which I also enjoyed. I wasn't a complete fan of the other characters, but I enjoyed spending time with Cyra and Akos. Am curious over Akos's brother, Eijeh. He goes through a big character change through this story and intrigued on reading that... maybe a novella or something told from his point of view, maybe?

However, this book does have a few problems. The first is that, because I was thrown headfirst into this story, it did take a while for me to find my groove. Around 100 to 150 pages is when I found it and that's when I started speeding through. Maybe if the information was spread out throughout the book more or some editing was used to keep the pace and rhythm, it would have worked better. But while in those 150 pages, I did struggle and, at one point, did consider DNFing this, even though I was enjoying the writing.

Am figuring out how to write this problem which other people I have seen and written by far better and more informed people than me (this article here might help if you haven't heard/read). There are problematic aspects over race, antagonism, chronic pain and other issues that might make some readers uncomfortable and called racist. Now, I don't believe Veronica Roth did this to offend nor on purpose (which is no excuse). But I worry that some of you guys will be offend by the issues raised and get upset while reading this so, if you are going to read this, be aware or don't read this book.

Normally, I would give you an "Overall Paragraph", summing up my opinions on if you should read this or not. But with this book, I don't feel comfortable saying one way or the other. So, I will leave it open for you to decide if you want to read this or not. It's your decision and don't let us tell you one way or the other. Just be aware of the information given before you make a decision.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

#WJPhotoTour - Memory 29

Something a little different in the blog tour world! Well, new for me! To celebrate the release of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, Walker wanted to do something a little different and, for each blog involved, we show a different photograph from Katherine's life and why it's so important to her. We are using the hashtag #WJPhotoTour so keep your eyes peeled on that hashtag!

Now, for those of you not in the loop on the Twitter buzz, Wing Jones follows Wing who is caught between two worlds due to her two grandmothers - one from China and the other from Ghana. But when a tragedy hits her family, Wing discovers that she has a talent for running. This talent could bring so much to her family, but it could also stop Wing from getting the one thing she wants...

Now, it's time to check out the photo and the memory from Katherine's past. But before we go further, I just want to thank Katherine for being so open with this tour and sharing her memories and photos. And I, also, want to thank Kirsten at Walker Books for asking if I wanted to be involved and for keeping this tour all organised (there is forty bloggers doing this over the course of January. FORTY!!! How did she keep this straight in her head I have no idea!)

Also, if you want to check Katherine out, you can pop over to there website at http://www.kwebberwrites.com and her Twitter at @kwebberwrites.

Now, into the pensieve we go to see the photo and the memory we stole from Katherine...

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

eBook Review - The Card Sharp

MY FIRST READ OF 2017!!! And because of how I schedule my posts, am only putting it up now! My first read (a novella, truth be told) of 2017! And my first story for the British Book Challenge 2017! GO ME!

Anyway, The Card Sharp. The fourth novella in the Vestigial Tales collection, a collection of short stories set within Laura Lam's Micah Grey trilogy, this follows Drystan before he became the White Clown at R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic. Here, he's a Lerium addict struggling on the streets of Imachara. But when a mysterious woman gives him a new life, Drystan jumps at it without a second thought. But when he did, he fell into the dark underbelly of the capital, Ellada, where he has to sell Lerium to powerful men and women while battling his addiction. But while at a high stakes card game, Drystan sees something no one else did: a man cheating the cards...

I forgot how much I enjoy this world. It's been a while since I read Laura Lam (though I do have her adult novel, False Hearts, on my TBR) and I forgot how much I like the world of Micah Grey. And this felt like returning to a very old friend. While I don't remember all the details of Pantomime, it was nice to revisit characters (well... a younger version of Drystan).

This isn't a must read if you are reading the Micah Grey trilogy. Like with the other Vestigial Tales, it gives you some behind-the-curtain backstory on characters and stories within the Micah Grey world, but you could read the Micah Grey trilogy (Pantomime, Shadowplay and the upcoming Masquerade) very happily without reading the novellas.

Because this is a novella, it is a fast read (I took my time and read it over a course of three days, starting on New Year's Day). But because it was a novellas, there were elements I wish were exploded further (maybe they are in the novels but I haven't read them yet!) or felt a little too easy. For example, the novella takes place over a course of several months, maybe a year, but Drystan's addiction felt skimmed over. It was there but we didn't look too deeply into it. Maybe this will be looked at in Shadowplay or Masquerade - like I said earlier, I haven't read them (I was going to but the first publisher of the series, Strange Chemistry, went busted and it took some time before the Laura got picked up by her current publisher, Tor, for not only this series but her adult series).

Perfect short for Micah Grey fans to tie them over till Masquerade comes out later this year...

Friday, 13 January 2017

Kindle Samples - Another Sneak Peek

I did this last year (link for that is here!) and I actually liked doing it. It made me actually read the sample I downloaded onto my Kindle iPhone App. So, let me show you some of the samples I downloaded onto my phone and talk to you on why I downloaded and, hopefully, I will read them and, hopefully, buy them or get them out of my library.

So, show and tell time!

WINTER ROSE by Patricia A. McKillip
I discovered this randomly on a podcast I just started listening to called Read This ****ing Book! (Link to the episode in question is here!). I have never heard of this and it sounded up my street. A fairy tale-type story but written in a dream like way. And from what I heard on the podcast, I am going to enjoy the way it messes with fairy-tales.

BAD BOY by Elliot Wake
Randomly discovered this author on Twitter and checked this out. It sounds really intrigued and, at the same time, messed up in a way that I like. A trans vlog star who, at night, is part of a secret social justice vigilante group? SOLD! There's more that makes me intrigued over this book but let me leave you with that titbit...

THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE by Philip Pullman
In one of the Christmas episodes this year, the podcast Adventures with Words did a Xmas special that took place over two episodes (Episode one is here and episode two is here, FYI). On one of the episodes (not sure which one), one of the guest hosts said that he was rereading His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and wished more people would read his other series, the Sally Lockhart Mysteries. And I haven't read this other series. I know of them but never found time to get round to them. So, downloaded to see if I would like and a reminder to get copy of book once I have finished my His Dark Materials trilogy reread...

GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
Ok, I really dislike the covers for this series. But I keep hearing people on BookTube (aka YouTube) talking about this and am intrigued over it. It's urban fantasy and most people's first book in this genre so am intrigued on why people like this series so much. I sense it's got a Sookie Stackhouse but has a bit more edge vibe to it. But I don't think I would have the patience to read the whole series (it's 25 books so far and, from people's reaction, it should have stopped around the tenth book mark). But am intrigued, but I bet it's very 90s...

BAKED FRESH by Annabeth Albert
A little out of my comfort zone (but I want to be braver on my reading this year) but I randomly requested then read a Christmas novella by the same author (Wrapped Together - review for that is here) and I was curious on what else she wrote. It seems to be gay romance novellas and the world needs a bit of love after the year we've all had. So, curious to see if I click with this (she's written others but this was the story that caught my attention)...

THE FINAL EMPIRE by Brandon Sanderson
Everyone seems to be reading this series. Is it me? Am I the only one not? All the bloggers and vloggers I follow seem to be reading this book or this series and I'm not. Am curious over why everyone is raving about it, but it seems like a long, meaty books and I'm not 100% confident in myself to commit into a series where the small book is over 700 pages-ish long!

A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA by Ursula K. LeGuin
This, in most people's eyes, is fantasy at its best. It has a lot of love and respect round this series and I have always wanted to read this. But the fear that I will be the only one going "This is awful" has always kept me back. But I want to see if I could be wrong and I should try to read at least one story set in this world.

...and finally, because this is becoming a long blogpost...

CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge
I'm sorry, but a twisted retelling of Beauty and the Beast? Where the Belle of our story has been raised to not only marry the beast but then to kill him? And with that cover? How could I not download a sampler of this!

And that's all. And am now curious on what samplers you have on your eReaders and what you think I should investigate? Leave a comment or tweet me and let me know!!!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Bedtime Book Tag

Ok, 10 o'clock at night isn't my bedtime. Let me make this clear. But what a better time to unleash this post upon the internet then at night at most people's bedtime, right?

You can blame the lovely ladies at Bedtime Book Club on YouTube for me doing this. They did a video on this tag and... well... I had to do it. I believe the original creator of the tag is Kelly's BookSpill (but can I find the video in question? Nope! Sorry, Kelly!)


Right, ok. Let's get this slumber party started, shall we....?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review - Fantastic Beasts: Original Screenplay

Another "I Read This Before Christmas 2016 so I can't Count this as one of my British Book Challenge 2017" books. Oh well... I can imagine Michelle from Tales of Yesterday (and person in charge of BBC 2017!) going "ANDREW!!!".

But look, I wouldn't be a good Harry Potter if I didn't read this. Though I admit I felt icky watching the film over the casting of [insert actor name here] to play [insert character name here] but of events that happened last year. Yes, I saw the film and yes, I still feel unsure on if I did the right thing seeing the film and supporting [insert actor's name here]. But I wanted to see if I could separate the actor from his work... Am in two minds over if I can do this or not (seeing as I wasn't a huge fan of the actor before the news broke last year so... not sure...)

I'm not going to review the movie. Because I can't 100% remember it. I did like the movie, but there were problems, which I will touch upon further down.

Set in 1920s New York (set several decades before Harry Potter), we follow Newt Scamander as he entered New York. It was only meant to be a brief stop. But when his case is misplaced and some of his fantastic beasts escaped, Newt has to stay and find them.

But something dark is stalking the streets of New York City... and it didn't escape from Newt's case...

Comparing this to the Cursed Child script, I think I preferred reading this screenplay script more (and while I enjoyed watching this, I think I prefer watching Cursed Child more, though there are huge problems with the story with both. Both aren't prefect, let me make that clear. NEITHER OF THESE ARE PERFECT).

Let's get this out of the way: this does feel like a first-time scriptwriter writing a script. Yes, I know that this is JK Rowling's first script (she admits that she asked a lot of questions to Steve Kloves who wrote all bar one of the Harry Potter films) but the plot felt predictable. We've seen this plot before. (I watched a video review where the movie was compared to the X-Men movies [link to that video review is here]). There were elements that were meant to shock or surprise us but these kinda feel flat. To most readers and viewers, these reveals could be seen coming a mile away.

Also, there's the romantic. Well, one romantic. Newt and Tina Goldstein. This felt awkward and it didn't ring true. I know this is the first in a five movie series so we have time for character and emotional development but this felt off. Now, canon-wise, fans know they get together, but it felt false somehow. And this is problematic because at the same time as we have that romance, we have another romanic playing out which is Tina's sister, Queenie, and the Muggle/No-Maj (really dislike this term), Jacob. Now, Queenie and Jacob's relationship, I was totally on board with. Watching their relationship on film and reading it in script, I was shipping them SO DAMN HARD! So, why did I feel like this with Queenie and Jacob, but felt out-of-sorts with Newt's and Tina's.

And Graves. Oh, the ending of Graves. I think that needs to explained more as it's left unfinished. And we have no idea if we are going to return to this in later movies or not. But yes, there were things that need tying up.

EDIT: Another thing that has occurred to me after I wrote this review and put in my scheduled (working about a week or two ahead of self at time of writing) is that this script is exactly like the movie. There is no deleted scenes or extended scenes that were edited down. We got no extras. What you read is what you saw.

However, saying that, I really liked this. This felt like a Harry Potter work. This felt like a JK Rowling story, and I missed this. I struggle with JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith (so much so, I have decide not to continue reading the series) and Cursed Child caused problems with canon. But watching this and reading this, it felt like I had truly returned to this world (I felt like this at the start of Cursed Child, but that feel left me very quickly while reading).

I like how we are now exploring the wizarding world. Yes, there has be problems with this with Pottermore and some of the information they have revealed, but this felt more inline with what we learnt within the Harry Potter novels.

While I wasn't in board with Newt and Tina's relationship, I did like their characters. I like Newt's awkwardness and I grew to like Tina (but I did struggle with her. She was a hard character to like). Jacob and Queenie I adored. I didn't realise that I would love them as quickly as I did. Queenie took me completely by surprise but I ADORE her! And Jacob is us - a non-magic discovering the world and I liked him very very quickly.

The character I thought I would like but didn't was Madam Picquery, the head of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). I don't know why but I always thought I would warm to her but watching her character, I didn't click with her like I hoped. But Picquery isn't Fudge and that I liked. I liked that we had a strong character in charge and I hope we are going to see more of her in future films.

The characters I liked hugely. The Niffler especially. I think everyone is in love with the Niffler. I was given a Funko Pop of the Niffler for Christmas. But I found the beasts we did see fascinating. I want to know more about them (highly unlikely that we will see them in next few movies but a TV Series would be awesome!)

Oh, before I sign off, this is written as a screenplay. It's in script form (like Cursed Child) and it is exactly like the movie. But I liked reading this as a screenplay. It added texture and, plus, I have never read a novelisation of a movie which felt right or true to the movie. Give me the screenplay from now on!

This is a mixed bag but I think I will continue reading the screenplays of future JK Rowling scripts/movie in this series. Or I might start reading more screenplays in future. It's an intriguing medium to read and I would like to dip my toe into this world more often in the coming months/years...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Audiobook Review - The Pale Dreamer

My first review of 2017 and I didn't read it this year. I audiobooked this just before Christmas so I can't count this towards my British Books Challenge for this year.

When Midas PR asked if there was any audiobooks that I wanted to listen to last month, not only did I ask for Lauren Graham's Talking As Fast As I Can (check out my review for that here), I also asked for The Pale Dreamer as well. It's a prequel to the Bone Season series and I have them on my TBR shelf and I REALLY want to try and read them this year (I admitted that I haven't read this series on Twitter and a few people - mainly @Chouett and @empireofbooks - were so shocked that they ordered me to read this series. Chouett even sent me a paperback copy of Bone Season she had spare (thank you!). I will try to read Bone Season. I will try! HONEST!

In this prequel to The Bone Season, we enter the world of the Scion London, where being clairvoyant is forbidden and punishable by death. Sixteen year old Paige Mahoney is a clairvoyant and works with one of the most powerful Mime Lords, Jaxon Hall. When a violent and dangerous poltergeist is let loose, this could be Paige's chance to join Jaxon's gang, the Seven Dials. But the dark clairvoyant underworld play by its own rules and if Paige isn't careful, her first mission might be her last...

Monday, 9 January 2017

Nathalia Suellen Chats RoseBlood Cover Art

Today is my stop on the RoseBlood tour - my first blog tour of 2017! And I am so happy to welcome  Nathalia Suellen to the Pewter Wolf. Nathalia is a well-respected artist who created the cover art of A.G. Howard's RoseBlood. 

RoseBlood is a modern-day reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera. The story follows Rune, who has a voice of an angel but a strange affliction that leaves her sick after every performance. Her mother, out of desperation, sends Rune to a French arts school - RoseBlood conservatory - which connections to Phantom of the Opera. But once there, Rune starts to believe that something otherworldly is afoot. But is it in her head, or is there a Phantom lurking at RoseBlood? And if so, why is watching Rune?

Now, before I hand over to the Q&A with Nathalia, I would like to thank Nathalia for taking time out to answer these questions about creating the cover art. I would, also, like to thank Jessica at Abrams & Chronicle/Amulet Books for setting this up and allowing me to be involved in this blog tour.

If you want to check out Nathalia's work, you should check out her website http://www.nathaliasuellen.com or check out her Twitter at @nathaliasuellen. Now, over to the Q&A!