October 31, 2010

We Have A Winner (Shade Giveaway)

Normally, my giveaways (such as they have been) attract a very manageable amount  of entries - leaving me able to scribble names on bits of paper and then pick one out of a hat. However, it would appear that the lovely Jeri Smith-Ready (quite deservedly) attracts a lot of interest as my competition to win a signed copy of her YA debut, Shade attracted a whopping 415 entrants.  Clearly, I don't have a hat big enough for that many names so it is with great delight, with the much needed assistance of Random.org and the lucky number 347 that I can announce that the winner is....drum roll....

All entrants were asked where they would go if, like the ghosts in the book, they could return to a place previously visited then where would they go and why.  Andrew's answer was:

“It depends on the importance of the place in question. There are so many places that I would like to return to. One of them is the Empire State building in New York because my sister got married there and it was one of the happiest days of my life”.

Thanks to all entrants and congratulations to Andrew!

And, a special thank you to whoever suggested a random number generator instead of a giant hat.

All Hallows Read

As you all know, I am all about the book-sharing love. It's the way forward and I regularly force people to leave my house laden down with books. And no, this is in no way a nefarious plan to unburden my overworked book cases.  Not at all. Nope. No Way. Well, maybe just a little bit.

But I digress... I recently read this blog post by the phenomenal Neil Gaiman in which he proposes a new Halloween Tradition, one for which you gift a friend with a spooky story on the run up to Halloween (or indeed on the day itself). Now, Mr. G is one of my all time favourite authors and has been for nearly fifteen years so I would most probably let him persuade me into just about anything. However, this suggestion ties in nicely with my love of gifting people with books. What could possibly make a better present (many things, I hear several friends, family members and at least one ex-boyfriend reply)??  

Halloween is an excellent time to introduce someone to a new book. There are so many fantastic scary stories out there. From my own personal favourite, The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) to Henry James' The Turn of The Screw to Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven there are a plethora to choose from. Period stuff not your thing?  Then look to Stephen King, Peter Straub or Neil Gaiman, himself for some relatable chills.

In the Young Adult world there is also plenty to choose from.  Zombies your Halloween monster of choice? Look no further than Carrie Grant and Charlie Higson. Werewolves?  We've got 'em in abundance from heart-wrenching Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater) to wolves with possible mob connections in 13 To Life (Shannon Delany). Let's not forget how awesome good ghost stories are - try checking out Rook Hastings, a new master of the craft. I also hear that there are a few vampire stories out there somewhere (who knew??).

So, in doing my part for this new tradition, I gifted two books.  To my friend Beth, a fan of the old-fashioned ghost story, I gifted The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestly (review here) and to my friend Joe, I passed recent modern gem, The Radleys by Matt Haig (review here). They were both pleased if slightly befuddled and allowed me to take their pictures for this post. Trust me, Joe was just as excited as Beth, he just decided to show it on the inside. And yes, when people visit me I make them all sit on the floor.

Halloween is nearly over for this year, but perhaps you have company this evening (which would beg the question of why you are sitting reading this, but pish posh) - nip to your bookshelf, grab your most terrifying title and pass it on. No company?  Then do not lose heart: traditions take time to form and you can pick this one up Halloween 2011.  In preparation, you can read more about All Hallows Read here. In the meantime, pick up a bone-chilling book yourself and huddle down somewhere warm, with not too many shadows.

Happy Halloween - don't have nightmares...

IMM (#24)

In My Mailbox is a meme created and hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea at Pop Culture JunkieAll book titles link to further info at Goodreads.  All books in this IMM post have been received for review/bought/gifted/loaned/sent by UK Book Tours/acquired through nefarious means.

Carrie Jones
Bloomsbury 2010
I actually got this last week but totally forgot to include it in the previous IMM post.  I'm fairly ambivalent about this series.  I adored the first book but really detested the second - book three has it all to play for so fingers crossed it's a return to book one form.

Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
David Fickling Books 2009
I have had this on my wish list forever and was ever so pleased when the lovely Emma, of Asamum Booktopia gave me her copy.  It looks sinister, frightening and intricate - like all good fairytales should be.

Jonas (The Beautiful Dead, book one)
Eden Maguire
Hodder Children's Books 2009 
On loan from the same lovely Emma, this is a series that I have been meaning to have a look at.  Other than Emma's hearty recommendation, I know little about it but expect that it will be jolly good if she likes it so much.

Heavenly, Penitence, Absolution
Jennifer Laurens
Grove Creek Publishing 2009/2010
Another series that I've been wanting to read for a while and yet more lovely loans from Emma - from her own, personal, permanent and very loved collection (I shall not be reading these in the bath, then).  They look great, Jen Laurens seems like a great gal and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.

Vampire Academy - books 1-5
Richelle Mead
Because I have so much spare time (HA!) I somehow found myself agreeing to read and review the entire Vampire Academy series (including book six, to arrive later in the month, confidentiality agreement included) by the first week in December. Yep. I am not quite sure why I thought that was a good idea except that these books look great and have been on my radar for a while without me ever getting round to reading them. Looks like I'll be reading them now, folks...

So that's it for this week.  I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to get through them all but there are, after all, 24 usable hours in every day and things will slow down after my essay deadline passes.  Ho hum.  Hope everyone got lovely titles this week and that you all have more time on your hands to read them than I do x

October 26, 2010

Buffy and The Seven Hot Brothers (Review: Out For Blood; A. Harvey)

Out For Blood
Alyxandra Harvey
Bloomsbury 2010

Hunter Wild is the youngest in a long line of elite vampire hunters, a legacy that is both a blessing and a curse at the secret Helios-Ra Academy, where she excels at just about everything. Thanks to her friendship with Kieran Black, Hunter receives a special invitation to attend the coronation of Helena Drake, and for the first time, she sees the difference between vampires that must be hunted and vampires that can become friends—or even more. When students at the academy fall victim to a mysterious illness, Hunter suspects they are under attack from within. She will need someone she can trust to help her save the future of Helios-Ra . . . help that shockingly comes in the form of Quinn Drake, a drop-dead gorgeous vampire. Who said senior year would be easy? (blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

Hot vampire brothers! I've said it before and I am sure I will say it again: the idea is genius. I could just end my review there, really – I'm pretty sure that the mention of seven vampire brothers should be enough to get most of you to at least flick through a copy. Especially as, in this latest installment of The Drake Chronicles, they are likened to a “room full of Johnny Depps”. What's not to love? Nothing, that's what. If you've read my reviews of the first two books in Alyxandra Harvey's massively original vampire series (My Love Lies Bleeding and Blood Feud) then you will already be aware that I am quite the fan of both. Out For Blood is no exception with the action moving slightly away from the Drakes family home and focusing on vampire hunters, and recent and reluctant allies of the Drakes, the Helios-Ra. As with the first two books Out For Blood has a duel narrative structure, this time taking the duel points of view of Quinn Drake (brother number three from youngest) and Hunter Wild, a member of the Helios-Ra's school for vampire hunters.

Hunter is a great character with just the right mix of kick-ass moves, sharp wit and girlishness – she could so easily have come across as tom-boyish or even a bit butch, but instead she is entirely well rounded. I also liked that she was smart as well as tough. Despite being from a long line of hunters, she is intrigued by the new treaties between the Helios-Ra and the Drakes and keen to move with the times. As she slowly realises that things are not all they might seem at her school (which sounds pretty excellent, by the way) her disappointment is palpable. Having been brought up to believe that the Helios-Ra stand for all that is good, it is interesting to watch as she slowly begins to view them more objectively - not least her much loved grandpa, the epitome of a company man. Quinn is, as you would expect, enormously swoon-worthy. He's flirtatious to the point of sleaziness, but the charm exhibited by all the Drake brothers luckily pulls him back from the brink. He also seems a mite more thoughtful than previous Drake narrator Logan, particularly when it comes to Solange. While he is just as (often hilariously) protective of his sister as the rest of them, he at least tries to talk to her about what she is going through. Hunter and Quinn's relationship is fun to watch develop and pretty believable. Hunter is certainly an interesting addition to the ever increasing Drake inner circle.

While the storyline of Out For Blood mainly revolves around the Helios-Ra school, there is still much going on in the Drake household. All is not well with Solange, who is struggling with recent events and reacting to her blood change in ways not foreseen. Nicholas and Lucy are also present. However, I found Lucy rather irritating this time round, particularly her blithe assumption that she is perfectly safe living in what is essentially a nest of vampires. As Quinn muses on this several times, I can't help but wonder if Lucy is in for a bit of a nasty shock at some point in the future. Elsewhere, Helena has been crowned, Hyacinth is still hiding in the attic (or somewhere) and the vicious Hel-Blar continue to roam the area causing havoc and concerns regarding discovery by the world at large. While Logan and Isabeau do appear briefly, they are a quiet presence in the background as rather suits their characters. Certainly there are lots of intriguing story threads ready to be picked up in book four.

Which brings me to my only complaint, which is that the next book will not be released for a whole year. Meh. This is really far too long, but what can you do... The Drake Chronicles has fast become one of my favourite series. Possibly because, while skillfully written, they don't take themselves too seriously. I love the characters (again, SEVEN HOT VAMPIRE BROTHERS!), the plotting and the quick pace at which each story progresses. Alyxandra Harvey manages to combine complex world building and heart-in-mouth romance with thrilling action sequences and a fantastically dry humor. Her writing is some of the most enjoyable out there and I defy anyone not to find themselves drawn into her excellent stories. Bring on another Drake brother – I'm ready and waiting!

Out For Blood is released on 1st November - thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this title to review.

October 24, 2010

IMM (#23)

In My Mailbox is a meme created and hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea at Pop Culture JunkieAll book titles link to further info at Goodreads.  All books in this IMM post have been received for review/bought/gifted/loaned/sent by UK Book Tours/acquired through nefarious means.

Ally Condie
Razorbill 2010
I've already read this title (in fact, I seem to have three copies of it now so look out for a giveaway in the near future).  It absolutely lives up to the hype that is surrounding its release - beautiful writing and a haunting storyline. Review coming soon.

Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero
Rick Riordan
Puffin 2010
I was ridiculously excited about this book and am happy to say that it has lived up to and exceeded my expectations as you can see in my review.  The world that Rick Riordan has created is a place that I love disappearing into.  All I want for Christmas is to be a demigod so get on it, people.

13 To Life
Shannon Delany
St. Martin's Griffin 2010
Another really excellent book - werewolves, the CIA and the Russian Mafia.  Yes - you read that correctly.  It's a completely new take on the paranormal and I'm loving it.

Magic Or Madness
Justine Larbalestier
Razorbill 2006
I recently read the lovely Lauren's post on this title over at I Was A Teenage Book Geek.  As I've never met a Lauren-recommendation that I didn't like I went online and ordered it straight away.  It is sure to be good. If you don't already follow Lauren's blog then stop reading this one and go and sort it out - she rocks.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
Alan Garner
Harper Collins 2010 (new edition)
One of the reason that I love blogging is that I get approached to read titles that I probably would never have picked up.  This is one of them and I really can't wait to get started on what looks like a magical, old-fashioned fantasy story.

The Cinderella Society
Kay Cassidy
Egmont 2010
This is another book that I probably wouldn't have looked twice at in a book shop but am now quite excited to read.  It's not my usual sort of read but I've read a lot of positive buzz about it so am curious to see what I think.

And that's all, folks!  I've been keeping my book acquiring to a minimum  over the last few weeks as I've had a lot of studying to do and a huge TBR pile. However, I'm now settling into a workable routine (albeit one which requires me to do nothing every evening but read, take notes, read, write reviews ad infinitum) and should at least make some headway into my towering pile of novels.  I've also got some interesting ideas for blog posts so keep your eyes peeled and, until then, happy reading!

Another Fabulous, not to mention international, give away!

I recently read the rather excellent Raised By Wolves (review here) and highly recommend it as a great, detailed, refreshing take on the traditional werewolf story.  If you haven't already picked up a copy then head over to the Quercus blog where you can now listen to the first chapter - it will certainly whet your appetite for more.

Now with your appetite fully whetted I am delighted to offer, thanks to Quercus, a signed copy of Raised By Wolves to one lucky winner - and yes, you can enter no matter where you live because this give away is international!

To enter, just fill in the form below by 14th November and good luck!

October 19, 2010

All Roads Lead To Rome (Review: The Lost Hero; R. Riordan)

Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero
Rick Riordan
Puffin 2010

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper. His best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea. Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood.  Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. The place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. (blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

I love Rick Riordan – I tore through the Percy Jackson novels earlier in the year and was delighted that I had joined the PJ party rather late as it meant I could read them all straight away. The mix of Greek mythology, humour and often thoughtful commentary on growing up and discovering who you are was a joy to read and, most importantly, a barrel load of fun. The Lost Hero, returning to the world of Camp Half-Blood, could have been a bridge to far but actually exceeds the Percy Jackson series in it's size, scope and story telling.

The Lost Hero employs an ambitious triple-narrative structure, rotating the story telling between Jason, Piper and Leo (all written in the third person, a successful stylistic shift from Riordan's usual first person point of view). Each character has a clearly defined voice and therefore the chopping and changing never becomes confusing, rather it propels the book a long really well.

Amnesiac Jason is clearly the leader of the group, despite his confusion over who and what he is. He comes across as a genuinely nice guy with good intentions and a true desire to help his new friends. However, there is always the question of his past lurking and the possibility that he may turn out to be an enemy of the other demigods. It's cleverly written, with the potential for Jason to end up being not so nice being something that torments him more than it torments his friends. Leo is a lot of fun as a character, providing a lot of the levity in the story with his ceaseless wise-cracking. However, he is not without pathos as his memories soon start to prove – of all the characters he is probably the one who develops most over the course of the story and will clearly have a large part to play in future installments. Of the three, Piper was by far my favourite. A beautiful girl who doesn't care that she's beautiful and a girlfriend who realises that, actually, she wasn't a girlfriend at all she is really interesting. She's kick ass without being obviously so and intelligent without being a genius. Her interaction with the two boys is touching and her relationship with Jason subtly written and at times both entertaining and excruciating.

For fans of the Percy Jackson series, there are plenty of old faces included in The Lost Hero. I had assumed that we would see these characters from afar but they all play an integral part to the plot. While largely relegated to the sidelines in this installment, Annabeth and Thalia in particular are clearly going to be major characters as the series progresses. Percy Jackson is, importantly, nowhere to be found but as book two is called The Son Of Neptune, I suspect he will show up sooner rather than later.

The plot of The Lost Hero is vast and all encompassing introducing new enemies, referencing old and leading us ever further into the annals of Greek, and now Roman, mythology. By introducing the Romans, Riordan has cleverly been able to stick with characters recognisable to Percy Jackson readers and yet give them a whole new aspect. It's a genius approach and gives the heroes' world further depth and potential. For lovers of Greek/Roman myths there is an added dimension, with much fun to be had trying to figure out who each new character is from their clothes, language or general demeanor.

I really can't recommend the Rick Riordan books highly enough. While his last tome, The Red Pyramid, was very entertaining it has nothing on his return to Olympus. You don't have to read the Percy Jackson series to enjoy this book – you can just jump right in, although I guarantee you will be returning to the book store to pick up all available stories featuring the Heroes of Olympus. Fantastic, educational and fall-down-funny, sit down and prepare for a bumpy ride!

Heroes of Olympus - The Lost Hero is available now. Thanks to Puffin for sending me this copy to review.

October 17, 2010

And The Moon And The Stars And The World (Review: Beautiful Darkness by M. Stohl and K. Garcia)

Beautiful Darkness
Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia
Razorbill 2010

Beautiful Darkness is the sequel to Beautiful Creatures.  If you haven't read the first book then do yourself a favour and skip this review until you do as it may contains spoilers.  

Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful supernaturals for generations. Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. (blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures (review here), and would go as far as saying that it is one of the most instantly gripping debuts that I have read. While excited about Beautiful Darkness, I had vague worries that the series may fall into the trap of being slightly repeatative in tone with the same old song portenting doom. I needn't have worried as, while just as good, Beautiful Darkness is quite a different book to its predecessor.

Characterisation in this sequel is actually stronger than it was in Beautiful Creatures, particularly in terms of protagonist Ethan whose voice remains as strong and authentic as ever. While in Beautiful Creatures he sometimes seemed a little like a cipher for the paranormal escapades of Lena, Beautiful Darkness is very much his book. The authors certainly drag him through the mill yet he never fails to respond in a believable manner. I particularly liked the fact that he at times seems completely overwhelmed, confused and upset at the circumstances he finds himself in, rather than just taking everything mindlessly in his stride. His attitude towards his ever challenging relationship with Lena is interesting. At times I felt like he could do with a little more backbone when dealing with Lena, but at heart he really is just a nice southern boy, who wants to treat his lady nice. It's sweet.

Not so sweet is Lena. At the start of the book she is entirely conflicted and not a little unstable, due to her actions at the end of Beautiful Creatures. Actions which Ethan knows nothing about and about which she cannot tell him. This kind of pressure and inner turmoil turns Lena, to put it bluntly, into a bit of a bitch. While I could sympathise with her, it wasn't enough to make me like her and it's going to take time for me to accept her as my book buddy again. This, in all probability, says more about my slightly unforgiving nature than it does about Lena's characterisation. The authors bravely leave her character remaining fairly murky throughout the book and I really have no idea who she really is. This actually works really well, as neither does Ethan.

Much like Beautiful Creatures, there are some great secondary characters. Amma is as infuriatingly inscrutable as before, yet also pretty kick ass; the Sisters continued to make me laugh out loud, although I was sad at the lack of baby squirrels and Ridley and her lollipop appear and quickly become one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Villains abound and show plenty of promise for the future, particularly one whom I will refer to only as Colonel Sanders. Ethan's best friend, Link also has a far larger part in this story and I really enjoy their friendship with its simple honesty and loyalty. Finally, can I just say: I love you, Lucille Ball.

Whereas Beautiful Creatures was played out mainly in the mortal world, this book takes us far deeper into caster territory. In some ways the story reminded me of the decent quest games that you get for consoles (think Zelda or Final Fantasy) with Ethan travelling through rapidly changing scenery fighting bad guys and picking up interesting information along the way. This is not a criticism, as it all works very well and certainly sets things up nicely for the next book. What impressed me the most about Beautiful Darkness, however, was that there were at least four separate instances where the story took such a twist that I gasped out loud – I really did not see a lot of stuff coming, which I loved because usually I can see a twisty-turn coming a mile away and generally figure them out pretty quickly. Not in this case, oh no... I was in genuine shock.

If you enjoyed Beautiful Creatures then I see absolutely no reason why you wouldn't have a ball (if at times a rather sad one) reading Beautiful Darkness. The storyline is fab, the characters great and the writing beautifully lyrical – the prologue on its own is a work of art, setting the tone with real sophistication. I'd like to take a guess at where Ms's Stohl and Garcia might take Ethan, Lena and their ever growing band of brothers next but I'm not even going to try as these writers are two of the most original on the YA block.... I'm just going to imagine myself a glass of ice tea, a sunny porch to relax on, a neighbour to gossip with and sit back to enjoy the ride.

Beautiful Darkness is out now in America and is released in the UK at the end of October.  Thanks to Penguin for sending me this copy to review.

October 13, 2010

...And Dance By The Light Of The Moon (Review: Claire De Lune; C. Johnson

Claire de Lune
Christine Johnson
Simon Pulse 2010

Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday. Her pool party is a big success, and gorgeous Matthew keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she's the only girl there. But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy: she's a werewolf. As Claire is initiated into the pack of female werewolves, she must deal not only with her changing identity, but also with a rogue werewolf who is putting everyone she knows in danger. Claire's new life threatens her blossoming romance with Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt. Now burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, Claire is struggling to feel comfortable in either skin. With her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, she will make a choice that will change her forever? (blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

This is the second werewolf title that I have read recently, which is unusual as I haven't read a lot of were books prior to this. The first I one was Raised By Wolves (review here) – an interesting and indepth take on life in a werewolf pack. It was well researched, had an unusually sparky female protagonist and took some interesting plot turns. Claire de Lune is a whole different kettle of fish. It's not a bad book and it has some interesting mythology of it's own, but neither is it hugely exciting.

Protagonist Claire is your standard female lead. Sixteen, slightly on the edge of the cool crowd at school (yet not unpopular) with a crush on an equally standard male-love-interest. The story starts of at her 16th birthday party, which is disbanded due to a reported werewolf sighting – in Claire's world (which is identical to ours in every other respect), werewolves are a recognised phenomenon, and not a welcome one. Other than feeling disappointed at the departure of hot boy, Matthew, Claire is not too bothered about the rogue wolf, being more concerned with her itchy hands and odd rash. Yep, Claire's turned 16 and is about to turn wolfie. Her erstwhile rather absent mother appears to inform her that she is indeed a werewolf and from then on in things take a turn for the predictable.

Claire is nice enough as a character, but nothing new. She can be quite funny but in general just moans a lot about being a wolf (fair enough) and wonders if she can still make it with the lovely Matthew – whose father is a bit anti-lupine, to say the least. Matthew is also pleasant, but pretty two-dimensional. Very likeable, though, and I certainly found his actions and reactions to be slightly more believable than Claire's as the story progressed. Claire's mum is nothing less than irritating. Even when the author attempts to inject her character with signs of warmth, I found her to be cold and aloof. While there are attempts to explain this, none of them rang particularly true to me – I still thought she was a pretty crappy mother. The character of Lisbeth seems completely superfluous and Matthew's father is a flat villain who could have done with some padding.

The plot isn't one of particular depth, although it's fine if you don't think about it too much. The storyline moves along fairly pacily and the story of a rogue wolf would be interesting if it wasn't so entirely predictable. I'd figured out what was going on within three chapters and was absolutely right – the the very last detail. And I wasn't even trying. Saying that, there are some interesting aspects surrounding the werewolves. They are all female, for one thing, which surprised me – although the whole Goddess circle palaver started to get old really quickly. The final pages seemed to leave open a lot of loose ends and the inevitable sequel (Nocturne) is on it's way next year.

I should state however, that despite all of the flaws that I have mentioned, Claire de Lune was an enjoyable enough way to pass a few hours. It falls into the easy, escapist pleasure category of books and that is not necessarily a bad thing. While I wouldn't actively seek out the sequel, I would certainly read it if it were to fall into my lap. This is partly to do with the fact that I am aware that this is a début novel, and the first of a series so future instalments offer definite room for improvement and partly to do with the fact that, slight as they may have been, I genuinely liked Claire and Matthew and would like to find out what happens to them next. If you are looking for something new and exciting in the werewolf range, then this is not it, but if you want a fun story to pass a quick afternoon with then pick this up. Just don't expect to be overwhelmed by any genre-busting ideas.

October 10, 2010

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Review: Revolution; J. Donnelly)

Jennifer Donnelly
Bloomsbury 2010

Andi lives in New York and is dealing with the emotional turmoil of her younger brother's accidental death. Alex lives in Paris and is a companion to the dauphin, the young son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, during the violent days of the French Revolution. When Andi is sent to Paris to get her out of the trouble she's so easily enveloped by in New York, their two stories collide, and Andi finds a way to reconcile herself not only to her past but also to her future. This is a wrenchingly beautiful, evocative portrait of lives torn apart by grief and mended by love. (blurb courtesy of Amazon)

As I have mentioned before, I don't really read much historical fiction. I was, however, nearly converted to the cause after reading Donnelly's A Gathering Light (review here) and her new book, Revolution, has done more to convince me. If nothing else, I am absolutely a convert to Jennifer Donnelly as Revolution is one of the best books that I have read in a long, long time.

Set mainly between contemporary Paris and the Paris of the French revolution of 1879, the story charts periods in the lives of modern day Andi and latter day Alexandrine. As protagonists they are both exceptionally strong. Andi is a whirlwind of grief and anger, actively pushing her pain out into the world to hurt others, her only solace being found in her beloved guitar. While it is instantly clear that she blames herself for the recent death of her younger brother it is unclear exactly why this is and Andi lurches from bad to worse often teetering on the brink of suicide, surviving only due to luck and her excessive use of prescription drugs. Her main aim, it would seem, is to escape. Her discovery of Alex's diary provides that escape, albeit to a dark and violent world. While Andi is, at times, a frustrating character to read, her inward-looking torment is so viscerally written that she got right under my skin. While I was more sure of Alex's story and how it might end, I can honestly say that I had no idea what would happen to Andi.

Alex is equally strong as a character. Her sections of Revolution are in diary form and written in an entirely different tone – one that has a very distinctive French tone in the sentence structure and imagery. Her story is extraordinary. Due to a series of chance encounters she gains the favour of Marie-Antoinette during the run up to the revolution and finds herself as companion to the young prince, Louis-Charles. Through her eyes we see first hand the bloody taking of Versaille and the fate of its inhabitants. Alex is driven, strong and caring yet also conflicted, often seeming confused by her own motivations. This confusion and self-doubt lead her to extremes of action that are both dramatic, desperate and admirable. The story regarding herself and Louis-Charles is so moving that I found myself hoping that the author had taken liberties with history in some way – there are certainly many instances in Revolution where it seems like she might allow Louis-Charles the ending that he deserved but you will have to read to find out where Donnelly takes both his and Alex's story. There are twists and turns that I could never have seen coming.

I cannot think of the last time that I encountered such skilled storytelling as that which I have found in Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly is gifted in her ability not only to immerse the reader in history but also to write stunning contemporary fiction. As well as Andi and Alex's narratives, running through the books are the story of (fictitious, I think) composer Malherbeau and also the tracking of DNA tests on a heart reported to be that of Louis-Charles (non-fictitious and a fascinating story for those looking for further reading). Both of these story lines help to meld the modern and latter day aspects of the story together and are interesting in their own right. I was also extremely moved by the portrayal of the French royal family and their complete ignorance and innocence – they truly had little idea of what was going on and certainly had their faults, yet were still a family as bound by love as any other. Revolution is a beautiful, tragic, exciting book that has stayed with me in the days since I finished it. It muses on themes of love and loss but mostly on the futility and also the inevitability of war, suggesting that wishing for the world to change is useless but enabling change within yourself entirely possible and worthwhile. Revolution may make you laugh, it most certainly will make you cry and above all it will leave you with much to think about – I cannot recommend this title highly enough.

Revolution is released on 13th October (UK) – many thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me this title to review. There is a blog tour for Revolution taking place this week with interviews, information and more - please check out the button on my sidebar to find out who will be hosting the tour and be sure to go along and have a look!

IMM (#22)

In My Mailbox is a meme created and hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren with inspiration from Alea at Pop Culture JunkieAll book titles link to further info at Goodreads.  All books in this IMM post have been received for review/bought/gifted/loaned/sent by UK Book Tours/acquired through nefarious means.

Beautiful Darkness
M. Stohl and K. Garcia
Razorbill 2010
Beautiful Creatures was one of my favourite reads this year (and still is, as I'm currently re-reading it before starting the sequel).  I have high hopes for Beautiful Darkness and am sure that it will be just as intriguing and atmospheric as the first book.

Birth Of A Killer
Darren Shan
Harper Collins 2010
On the urging of my young cousin, I read the first couple of Darren Shan books several years ago. I remember being quite shocked by the level of gore and not hugely impressed by the level of writing.  This arrived as a surprise through the post this week and is the first in a prequel trilogy. On first glance it actually looks pretty good so fingers crossed.

The Deathday Letter
Shaun Hutchinson
Simon Pulse 2010
I suddenly realised last week that we are now into October and I still have a few books on my list for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. This is one of them and I think the premise looks excellent.  Hopefully the story will support the great jumping off point.

The Emerald Talisman
Brenda Pandos
Obsidian Mountain Publishing 2010
I can't say that I know an awful lot about this title bar the fact that, again, it has a nice enough premise. I suspect that vampires may be involved and I haven't read a vampire book for ages having been traumatised by the awfulness of Marked - hopefully this will reignite my blook-sucker love.

And that's me for this week. I have a ridiculous TBR pile at the moment, am back to studying and also trying to start some Christmas shopping so have put book purchasing on indefinite hold until I clear all of that! I know that I have some nice titles on the way from friends and the phenomenal UK Book Tours though, so lots to look forward to! Have a great week, everyone and enjoy yer reads.