Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sovay by Celia Rees

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 19th August 2008
Pages: 420
When the rich and beautiful Sovay isn't sitting for portraits, she's donning a man's cloak and robbing travellers in broad daylight. But in a time when political allegiances between France and England are strained, a rogue bandit is not the only thing travellers fear. Spies abound, and rumours of sedition can quickly lead to disappearances. So when Sovay lifts the wallet of one of England's most powerful and dangerous men, it's not just her own identity she must hide, but that of her father. A dazzling historical saga in which the roles of thieves and gentry, good and bad, and men and women are interchanged to riveting effect.

Again, this is a book for my dissertation so I read it trying to focus on the historical context aspects of the novel. But even reading for analytical purposes, Sovay was a great book full of great detail and brilliant descriptions that really bought you back to 1795.

Sovay was a fantastic heroine, if a bit whiny. Stuck in a time when ladies did not do much more than parade themselves around parties and gardens, Sovay becomes a highwayman to be something different and feel useful in this dangerous world of revolution. With so many other characters to interact with, from all sorts of backgrounds, Sovay moves through London and Paris society, learning all the while more secrets about her own family and her government that threaten not just her own but all the aristocracy way of life.

As an avid reader of both young adult and historical fiction I thought I'd whiz through this, but I didn't. I'm not sure whether the incredible detail was the reason or whether there were so many characters I was getting confused. Don't get me wrong, it's still a great book but you do have to persevere quite a bit. A novel of great ambition, sometimes I think it took on a little too much. Bringing in all the historical context and politics was one thing, but adding in Gothic elements, romance and mystery, and you can see why I got a little confused! There were several plot lines that fizzled to nothing and some that appeared out of nowhere - mostly the romantic ones actually. But I was reading it for the history, which did not disappoint.

All in all, a book that has led to some contradicting opinions but I really liked it and bottom line, I read this for my dissertation and it is great for that!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

On My Bookshelf (10)

Bit of a special one today - this is my haul from winning the My Kinda Book Halloween giveaway! So many pretty new books sat on my bookshelf!

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known since childhood; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost!

Plus, the sequel Rage Within. Really looking forward to this series.

Fated by Alyson Noel
Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness her mystical powers. But it’s when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, that her whole world is shaken to its core. Now Daire is forced to discover if Dace is the one guy she's meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is--now it's getting harder. She's having nightmares of a desperate desert journey, visions of three women weeping tears of blood. And why is she possessed by the sudden, unstoppable urge to kill the handsome new boy in school, Lucas Delos?

A love written in the stars . . . A feud started in ancient Greece . . . A curse not even the gods can break.

Plus the sequel Dreamless, which I honestly haven't heard of but looks awesome.

Forsaken by Jana Oliver
Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father's footsteps. The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get—even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen.

But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart—and her life?

As well as the rest of the series, Forbidden, Forgiven and Foretold. Have been trying to get hold of this series for ages! Looks incredible! 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Kindle Debate

So you may or may not have been aware that it was my birthday last month. I don't want to talk about how I'm getting old (21 is not old!) but instead talk about the big present I got from my parents. A kindle.

As the Paperwhite was only released this last week, I got it on Saturday which is why I haven't mentioned it before. I have talked about this on my personal blog, probably a year ago now, and I can remember how opposed I was to them. Replace paperback books? How dare they! But they've been around a while now, and quite a few of my friends have them and I've come round to the idea. Especially now that I've got one!

My parents asked me if I wanted one. Mum thought it would help me stop buying so many books and not having any space for them, which I honestly don't now unless I get rid of my wardrobe. I'm obviously not going to stop buying books because I love them too much but I do like having a kindle, being able to flick through the 12 books I've got on there already and not have to worry about fitting them in my room. Plus I can just delete them if I don't like them!

I'm sure that a lot of you are still as opposed to kindles and e-readers as plenty of us book nerds were when they first came out, but actually they're not all bad. I thought one of the major problems I'd have with them was reading off a computer screen but with adjustable brightness it's not all that bad.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that even though I found a bunch of new books to read, a couple of classics and some guilty pleasure novellas, I won't be reviewing at often as I would like. Right now, I'm reading My Mad Hatter by Marie Hall on my kindle (having already finished Happily Never After by Jeaniene Frost), plus Sovay by Celia Rees for my dissertation and Sophie's Choice by William Styron for one of my university modules - on American literature if you're interested. Next up is Lost Souls by Poppy Brite for my Gothic module and Beloved by Toni Morrison, again American Lit. Fun stuff, huh?

So anyway that's my news. I got a kindle - that I love - I plan to get a classic book kindle cover, like this one, and I have way too many books to read! How about you? Reading anything interesting? Got a kindle and love it? Or not?

Monday, 19 November 2012

BlogINK entry: Rise of Historical Fiction

Hey guys! So I've been incredibly swamped with uni work, mostly catching up on reading, which I will tell you about another time. But as I'm not sure I'll get a review up this week, I thought you might like to read my entry to Mira's BlogINK competition! Not for everyone, I know, but it is a subject that I really am fascinated with.

Yes, I know, I've already written about this. Sorry, but it is kind of my thing, if you will. Well, that and mythology but let's not go there.

This time, instead of imploring you to give me titles, I wanted to discuss the rise of the genre and what I think it means for young readers. I apologise in advance if I sound rather pompous, this is my dissertation topic and I like to show off when I know something! Who wouldn't?

Now, the genre hasn't technically been rising in popular fiction, or rather it is not the current 'big thing' but it has noticeably been becoming more well-known and acknowledged by literary critics as something worthy. At least when it is done right. Authors I've loved for years are becoming more well-known for their historical knowledge and ability to transport us back to a time previously forgotten or one we should try harder to remember.

History is often used to teach about the present, as any history teacher will tell you. This is also the case in historical fiction. For example, Rose Tremain's Restoration can be called a criticism on Thatcher's policies. But what I want to call attention to is the rise of strong young women in the genre. One that immediately springs to mind is Miss Cat Royal, of Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Written by Julia Golding, this has been my favourite children's series for years, loved by both myself and my mother! This strong little girl, orphaned at the theatre, grows into an incredible young woman, writing her stories, living an amazing life with friends in Grosvenor Square and the Rookeries, France and Jamaica. I cannot tell you how much Cat inspired me as a teenager, bullied as I was, to try harder and be better than this.

I think this is what is important in young adult fiction: role models. Obviously it's not confined to historical fiction, and definitely not to girls. But the fascination that historical fiction has with strong women, not being subjected to the isolation of the household as we have been led to believe, is I think a good one. Hopefully without my inner Feminist coming out, I love that women’s history is beginning to be explored through fiction, to show that girls and women were not confined to the domestic but were strong and loving and, even though not equal to men, tried their damnedest to succeed in whatever they wanted. I have to urge to mention Queen Genevieve, who – at least according to the BBC version – was a servant girl before she became the Queen of Camelot.

I believe that the large selection of great heroes and heroines from the past can influence young readers into doing something good, whether it be change the world like their hero did, or learn from history like the author wants us to.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Devil's Bargain by Rachel Caine

Publisher: Mira
Published: 5th October 2012
Pages: 331
What's the price of a deal with the devil? Playing by the psychic underworld's rules has cost. Jazz Callender's whole life just got turned upside down. Her friend Ben's been convicted of a crime he didn't commit, and Jazz is determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting the help of dark forces.

Enter James, a stranger with a mysterious offer. If Jazz pledges to work for The Cross Society, a shadowy secret organisation, he'll help her save Ben. But as she's thrust into a world of psychic powers and dangerous magic, Jazz isn't just bargain for her friend's freedom. She's bargaining for her soul too. And how high a price is she willing to pay?

I love Rachel Caine. She has this incredible way with words that suck you into whatever world she is creating and leave you breathless until you've finished.

The whole concept for this book made it difficult to trust anyone. I wasn't initially sure of Lucia, although she turned out to be incredible. And Manny was weird but loveable, in a messed up kind of way. Even the whole situation with Ben made it hard to believe that Jazz was right to think he was innocent. The Cross Society and Max Simms threw me off and really made me look at things differently, just like Jazz was forced to after a... tense flight.

Jazz was just plain awesome. The type of young woman that you immediately rooted for, that could kick ass and handle a gun, that didn't really know her limits but fought for good anyway. And her interactions with James Borden are hilarious and heartfelt, when she begins to trust him anyway. Their scenes together were full of chemistry, I was instantly hoping for a happy ending for them two!

I do want to add that the magical element is a little misleading. Sure, it gets there but I spent the first half of the book wondering when we'd move on from creepy lawyers and start battling demons! Unfortunately this shadowy underworld isn't quite like that but still brilliant and scary and action-packed.

Caine can write for teens and adults alike and any fan of hers will love this one. Full of bad-ass heroines, good looking guys, something to fight for and loads of action, this is one you don't want to miss!

Thank you to Mira for sending me a copy!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Pure by Andrew Miller

Publisher: Sceptre
Published: 9th June 2011
Pages: 342
Paris, 1785. A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love... A year unlike any other he has lived.

I've been wanting to read this for months, but I've been putting off until my dissertation topic was confirmed! Yes, I'm writing about this, among other historical fiction novels, for my dissertation.

The stink of Les Innocents cemetery is poisoning Paris, and Jean-Baptiste Baratte has been tasked with removing the bones and demolishing the church. The young engineer is both excited and reluctant to undertake such a task but soon gets into it, planning, gathering men to dig and rid the neighbourhood of the old bones that make their breath smell.

Miller creates a realistic 18th century voice, bringing us back to the jostling streets of Paris, the strong stench of decay and the vicious tongue of gossip. Baratte is a young man, he is susceptible to influence and worries over his reputation and dress. Following Baratte through his progress over a year, you see both him and his project grow, his body feeling more comfortable in the loud city centre and even see him fall for someone a little unexpected. The other characters were just as well-formed, Miller going into detail of them retiring for the night, to add normalcy to the disruption.

Although set in pre-Revolution France, there is little in the way of politics, probably because it had so little influence in what Baratte was doing. Yet I did want some more reference to political atmosphere at that time, but that's probably just the history student in me. I also wanted some more gruesome detail in the cemetery but again, that's just me.

Beautifully portrayed as late 18th century France, the accents and names and streets add that little bit of detail and conviction to the well-researched novel. Highly recommended to fans of the genre and in fact anyone interesting in demolishing a church-yard!