Saturday, 9 April 2016

Watson Has A Buddy In Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

So Sherlock YA is a thing now. Yes it was always a thing but now it’s a thing. It’s cool, it’s now. we’re sitting at the tail end of its Zeitgeist moment swimming in an ocean of Sherlock retellings reimaginings, and revisions like a hip Scrooge McDuck.
And, so far, I LOVE them. A Study In Charlotte is no exception. I devoured this book like Charlotte Holmes chomps down tranquillisers and it has stuck with me like a particularly vivid trip.

Both James Watson (our narrator) and Charlotte Holmes are written with big fat juicy balls of character. Brittany Cavallaro is a massive Sherlockian and classic mystery fan (she even teaches Detective Fiction) and it shines through. I saw it in the way Watson romanticises everything even when he knows he shouldn't (as an aspiring teenage novelist he can’t help it) yet he is quick to fall back on his fists. And I saw it in Holmes’ blunt yet evasive answers; sending you miles in the wrong direction before realising you didn't understand her point.
These are clear echoes of the original Holmes and Watson and are essential to their characters. Like the gin in my martini, without it it’s just a few olives in a fancy glass.

The actual mystery is well layered and full of dead ends filled with red herrings stuffed with ‘That’s it!’ moments. I'm not ashamed to say that Charlotte Holmes was always a step ahead of me, I vehemently dislike having a mystery’s solution handed to me throughout the story, it’s like a receiving a pat on the head and a certificate for just turning up. No one feels good about it. That is not an issue here, Cavallaro makes you work for it and it’s worth every dissected clue.

There is a spark of attraction between the two but (considering the event Holmes is subjected to prior to the book’s start) it’s muted, besides the friendship they form is so excitingly volatile and sweet it still ticks all the feels boxes. I genuinely cared about them as people by the end and it would require no deductive skills to know I'm eager for more from these two.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

If I had been asked to think up a title for this book I would have gone with “The Amazing Misadventures of a Post-Apocalyptic Teenage Midwife!” and the exclamation mark would have been non-negotiable. But that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not a successful author and Caragh M. O’Brien is (other reasons include a severe procrastination and a fear of post-it notes)

In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.(Courtesy of Goodreads)


I do love my Post-Apocalyptic stories but a lot of the time you tend to get stuck with the same beautiful rebellious people who enter stage left ready to fight for Truth, Justice and Freedom for all! The actual logistics of maintaining Truth, Justice and Freedom for all in the aftermath is usually someone else’s problem, what do you expect? We blew up the bad guy, job done, applause accepted.


Gaia Stone is not beautiful, in a society that strives for perfection in everything (even genetics) her scarred face and position outside the wall in the shanty town of Wharfton mark her as not only unremarkable but a target for disgust and ridicule. She’s not even burning inside over the injustice of these babies being taken away from their mothers and handed over to the privileged few inside the walls; who have riddled their own children with genetic deformities thanks to their own decades of snobbery and generations of inbreeding. She doesn’t like it but she believes they’ll be better off where there are schools and plentiful food and water.


No, if the Enclave’s Protectorate hadn’t bothered to arrest her parents and threaten to execute them for no apparent reason, then Gaia Stone would have dwindled out all her days in Wharfton, delivering babies, advancing the unlucky few to the Enclave and being generally ignored or teased about her face. But her parents are taken and her decision to go find them forces Gaia to become someone incredible.


She makes plenty of mistakes, has tendency to barrel into situations when she thinks she can help and is not above falling prey to hopelessness and despair. And yet it’s these qualities and more that encourages so many people to help her along her way, she has a gift for inspiring the best in people. And none more so than the Protectorate’s advanced and disowned son Leon Grey, Captain of the Guard and all round mysterious hot loner dude.


It would have been so easy to just make Leon a nicer, funny, more likeable boy but Ms O’Brien doesn’t do easy, she does tough, like Grandma’s roast beef tough. He can be cold, secretive and refuses to sugar coat anything even when faced with the sight of a young shackled girl begging him for help. But there’s a crack of compassion in him that only Gaia manages to worm inside and pry open and when she does it’s almost magical. That boy is responsible for one of the most romantic fruit based gestures I have ever read (admittedly the competition is limited).


I’m now well on the way to finishing the third and final book and I cannot describe how exciting the Amazing Misadventures of a Post-Apocalyptic Teenage Midwife! can be. Also turns out I’m learning quite a bit about midwifery, weirdly it’s given me a new respect for midwives everywhere, although I doubt the ladies on One Born Every Minute ever had to deliver a baby while on the run and being chased by Enclave guards. Much respect if you have though.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Emperor's Edge Novels By Lindsey Buroker

Firstly let me just say that I stumbled on Lindsay Buroker by accident. Like a morosely drunk bridesmaid who went looking for a place to cry and instead found Narnia.

Upon finishing the very wonderful The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke I decided I wanted more and I wanted it immediately, but searching ‘The Assassin’s Curse’ in Goodreads (I forgot her name and I’m lazy) brought up instead a short story by one Lindsay Buroker. What is this? An Emperor’s Edge novella?

And that’s all it took, Emperor’s Edge, the phrase alone conjured up hopes for adventures, questionable miscreants, political machinations and loveable rogues. So I dived into book one, actually called The Emperor’s Edge (which is free in e-book form) and was utterly hopelessly lost in love.

Book 2
Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Even just re-reading that blurb a whole year after I started this series gives me a wobbly thrill. Never before have I wished I could forget everything I knew about a book just so I could enjoy it all over again (I’m sure I have and I’m exaggerating but, seriously, I can’t think of any other books that make me feel that way right now, they have all ceased to matter).
Book 3

Each book follows the thoughts of Amaranthe and, from book 2 onwards, one of her rag-tag team of freedom fighters which allows each story to open up so much more to the reader than a single point of view could manage. It also makes for spectacular segways when the team splits up (either by Amaranthe’s design or more usually when something explodes or goes horribly wrong).
It’s difficult to do these stories justice, I could go on about how wonderfully entertaining Amaranthe is with her diabolical plans and optimistic intentions, how brilliantly refreshing the enemies and problems they face are or how perfectly formed her team of noble miscreants become over the course of their many adventures.
Book 4

And ADVENTURES! Oh how I love books with actual adventures. Proper swinging from ropes, blowing up lairs, facing down beasts, royalty rescuing (or kidnapping), train hijacking, cross dressing adventures! Where grandiose plans go awry and last minute heroics and all the luck in the world is only enough to scrape free with your life. And maybe your boots. Possibly someone’s underwear.

Speaking of delicates, there is also romance to be had. Because it is not a proper adventure if there are no heart stopping moments that make you want to stand up on the bus and yell at your kindle “I demand you two to bloody well kiss!”. Possibly to the astonishment of your fellow passengers.
Sicarius would have been an almost impossible character to romanticise, he has killed and kills a lot of people, most are deserving but some are not, hardly a man you would like to get snuggly with (unless you’re one of those psychos who writes love letters to death row inmates, you should talk to a friend, choose a nice hobby, get a pet).
His face is a blank page, he is a brutally economical with his words and would easily slaughter dozens of people if they had the misfortune to stand in his way. But somehow, over the course of the stories Ms Buroker manages to build a real person out of all the little moments and snippets he shares with everyone and she does it properly by making his faults real, serious issues that Amaranthe has to acknowledge and accept, rather than just saying “oh he had a tough past but he is super dreamy. Swoon!” I love these two, they are not perfect for each other but they are for each other, and that is better.

Book 7
Book 6
As I said the first book is free to download and if you like what you read then you have the joy of reading all 7 books plus all the short stories in between (which you should, every word of them only adds value to this Universe) and when you are done and you look back with fondness on all the shenanigans, mishaps and derring-do’s … well then you can come join me while I wait for whatever Ms Buroker writes next. Bring snacks.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Oh if only I was a super whiz on the sewing machine! I would be able to make all the beautiful things I see everyday on those richer  more exfoliated people on the that big shiny screen. And when I finally develop the skills for frills one of the first books I'll be picking up is Ms Gregory's Sew Iconic so I can have all the Hollywood haute couture for myself.
Inside she's broken down ten of the most recognisable movie dresses into simple easy to follow steps and it will even include a CD so you can print out the patterns as well as online videos for those tricky techniques that translate better when shown. She also gives thorough advice on what fabrics to use and even how to accessorize your finished piece!
Of course the expected dresses like Marilyn's white billowy halter from The Seven Year Itch and Audrey's little black party frock in Breakfast at Tiffany's are here, but Ms Gregory has also included some of the most beautiful and (I think, more importantly) mostly wearable dresses from the following movies.
The Racing Dress from Pretty Woman.
The Green Silk Draped Dress from Atonement 
The Grecian Blue Gown from To Catch a Thief.
 The Exquisite Chanteuse dress from Gilda (love, love, love)

Some veer to the fancy dress end of the spectrum including the Flapper Jazz Singer dress from Chicago and the Red Satin and Black Lace Gown from Titanic, but that's not a bad thing and the 20's look is coming back into fashion now thanks to the success of the The Artist. In fact the boxy beige 60's shift from the The Thomas Crown Affair I found to be the only miss in a book filled with beautiful hits.
However before I can even think about attempting these beauties I will need to devote some time to brushing up on my darts, bias hems and ruching rather then just being distracted by the lovely Great British Sewing Bee's Patrick Grant when he'll be gracing our screens later this year. sigh.
Advance pdf copy was kindly provided but NetGalley for review purposes only. No pretty dresses were received in return for the review.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Wild One
Ok so this is pretty basic modern fantasy stuff. Hot babe? Yup. Giant weapon of some kind, preferably a sword? Oh yes. Determined 'strong woman' pose? God help me yes. Even down to her knee high riding boots there's really very little to put this apart from the thousands of other  tough looking women (and girls) staring defiantly out at me from my bookshelf, daring me to just try and read them. But I kind of like this one. I don't know if it's the soft dreamlike colours, the magical whisps or even the fact that she's looking over her shoulder at us (despite the fact she has a bum like a zebra) it all seems to work together.

Rebel, Rebel
Mackenzie Lewis is a college student trying hard to finally complete her degree after so many years of retakes and make up essays. A degree that's been put on hold so many times that she's not even surprised when an invisible and heavily armed fae steps out of thin air and into the middle of her exam. Why would she be, when this has been a regular occurrence for the last ten years of her life. Because Mackenzie has the sight, a rare ability allowing humans to see the fae, but even rarer she can also read their shadows, imprints left behind when they phase between places. And it is this treasured skill, letting her pinpoint the exact location of retreating fae, that dragged her into the middle of a magical civil war ten years ago. Ten long years spent serving their King and harboring illegal feelings for his sword master Kyol. However this time when Kyol comes for her so do the entire rebel army and Mackenzie ends up in the clutches of the arrogant Aren, pretender to the crown and all round evil bad guy. Or at least that's what she'd always been taught at the King's court. But after some time as a political prisoner she starts to doubt everything she's ever been told about the rebellion, and especially about Aren.

Leader of the Pack
Ding, ding ding! We have another amazing debut people! It's true I looked in to it because I just couldn't really believe it was true, this is Ms Williams' very first published novel. And it's a stonker of a modern fantasy tale, which I enjoyed immensely.

The Shadow Reader manages to pull off that rare trick of plopping you right in the middle of the action at the very start and keeps you on tenterhooks while still dropping those little bits of important information so you know what the hell is going on. We start with Mackenzie trying to retake yet another final when all round honorable fae and magnificent hottie, Kyol, fissures in to the exam out of thin air and tells her the rebels are coming to kidnap her. What follows was one of the best opening scenes I've read all year, Ms Williams is a dab hand at writing good action that flows perfectly while you read. I loved the way she took the idea of how the fae phase in and out of our world using fissures and turned it into a brilliant method of attack and ambush, it brought a whole new level to the fighting.
""You must make it to the gate, Mackenzie. You must!" 
Instinct screams for me to get inside the building, but I trust Kyol with my life, so I stop fighting and glance over my shoulder. Arrows still fly through the air. A few seconds after they leave the rebels' bows, they'll become visible to normal humans, so if a fae misses his target or doesn't hit a fissure, people will see the bolts embedded in trees or the ground or skidding across the cement. None of the student are reacting, though. The rebels are being careful. 
I take a small step forward. Some of the Court fae have fissured to the rooftops to fight; others remain on the ground, darting in and out of their fissures in smooth defensive dances. They're drawing the rebels' attacks, but it's a long way to the gate. They'll tire before I get there. Some of them might die. Kyol might die. 
"I'll be fine" he says, reading the concern in my expression. He cups my cheek in his hand. "As long as you're safe, I'll be fine.""
The fissures are also where Mackenzie's much sought after skill comes in, she can see the shadows of wherever in the world a fae has phased, which means they can be tracked. A useful talent and the sole reason she is so hotly pursued by the rebels. I rather liked Mackenzie, she wasn't a physical fighter but she had this try or die attitude that was admirable. I also loved the way Ms Williams builds the reluctant relationship she develops with Aren, it was a big point in Mackenzie's favour that she continued to distrust and thwart Aren's plans regardless of her attraction to him. Likewise her willingness to except certain unwanted truths about her beloved fae Court when she is faced with them, it's always refreshing to find myself not yelling at a book because the heroine is being a total numpty.

In addition to the main three, The Shadow Reader is rife with lovable and fully fleshed out secondary characters and it's these guys that really help expand the feel of the book's world beyond Mackenzie's immediate thoughts (no mean feat in story told from the first person!). I throughly enjoyed the fae's politics and history and what makes them even more interesting is being treated to two different versions.

It's no bad thing that The Shadow Reader reminded me of one of my all time favorites, the Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin. I'm also extremely pleased that the story has a good solid ending, it's not left completely open but no annoying cliffhangers either, an all round satisfying read.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Butcher's Hook
You may not be able to see it from this picture but you really need to grab a copy of this book and look at this cover! Some amazing soul made  of patience seems to have drawn an incredibly detailed (and hilariously annotated) map of London and again bonus points for the cover, almost lovingly, reflecting the story inside. Please do ignore the strangely titled and, while still cool, less awesome cover of the US version, Midnight Riot, as the effort and sheer detail in this cover deserves your attention!

The Knowledge
Police Constable Peter Grant is just finishing his two year probationary stint with the London Metropolitan Police and is desperately trying to avoid being placed into the Case Progression Unit. The unit where the only police skills he'll utilise are touch typing, photocopying and letting the other proper cops get the real police work done, cops like his fellow probationary PC and not-so-secret crush PC Lesley May. Then one night, while Grant and May are guarding the scene of a particularly bizarre murder, Peter finds himself face to face with a ghost, a ghost who claims to have witnessed the crime. So like a good policeman Peter takes his statement. And it is this mentally questionable act that leads him into the eccentric sights of Inspector Nightingale, sole member of the Met's vaguely named Economic and Specialist Crime unit and resident weirdo. But anything is better than a lifetime of doing other people's paperwork so Peter jumps at the offer to join. And suddenly finds himself going on ghost hunts, brokering peace between the personifications of the River Thames and their tributary children and most importantly starting his apprenticeship as a police wizard.

That's The Sound of The Police
You know what? I've clearly been reading way too many American books lately, my genres of choice are rather dominated by our US cousins and there's nothing wrong with that. But I didn't realise how much I'd been missing good old British humor until I read this book. That quietly dry, frequently foul mouthed and always self effacing wry humor that the US is always trying to replicate by remaking our TV shows with little success (don't worry it goes both ways, our sitcoms are utter balls, My Family anyone? Ergh) Anyway it wasn't the only reason I loved this book but it ran through the story so effortlessly it made it even more of a joy to read.

As a person who absolutely hates visiting the real life city of London with all it's tourist crowded transport and the fact that it’s costs about a month's wages for a pint, I love reading about it, especially when the author clearly has a deep affection for our capital city. The London in books is so much more interesting the one in real life and Mr Aaronovitch has created a fascinating London that still manages to be a pretty accurate representation of the real thing. This book is filled with Peter’s observations and almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the historical hot spots of London and I love it when a book teaches me new things like this. But even better then that is Peter's inability to stay focused, he gets distracted so easily and his mind takes him so some hilariously embarrassing places. My absolute favourite passage in the book is when he first meets the river Goddess, Mama Thames.
"Her face was round and unlined, her skin smooth and perfect as a child's, her lips full and very dark. She had the same black cat-shaped eyes as Beverly. Her blouse and wrap skirt were made from the finest gold Austrian lace, the neckline picked out in sliver and scarlet, wide enough to display one smooth plump shoulder and the generous upper slopes of her breasts.
One beautifully manicured hand rested on a side table, at the foot of which stood a burlap sacks and little wooden crates. As I stepped closer I could smell salt water and coffee, diesel and bananas, chocolate and fish guts. I didn't need Nightingale to tell me I was sensing something supernatural, a glamour so strong it was like being washed away in the tide. In her presence I found nothing strange in the fact that the Goddess of the River was Nigerian. 
'So you are the wizard's boy' said Mama Thames. 'I thought there was an agreement?' 
I found my voice. 'I believe it was more of an arrangement' 
I was fighting the urge to fling myself to my knees before her and put my face between her breasts and  go blubby, blubby, blubby."
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Peter tries so hard to concentrate but more often then not his thoughts swing wildly away from him and it made him a joy to follow.

I also have to give a standing ovation for the plot (which I will not spoil, don't fret) because after a few years of reading increasingly more and more books with supernatural or fantastical elements. I was, for the first time in a long time, presented with something that felt completely new and original to me. The ideas behind the crimes, the perpetrator's motives and the final big reveal was handled brilliantly and I already have the next in the series, Moon Over Soho, cued up and waiting for me to dive in (as soon as lovely man finishes it!)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Follow Friday

It's that time again! Make sure you head over to Parajunkie's View and check out the humungoid list of fellow book bloggers!

This weeks Featured blogger is fabulous Ems and her blog of whimsy In Which Ems Reviews Books. Be sure to head over and check her out.

So (drumroll) this weeks question is:

Q: If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Well my choice is easy but I doubt I could provide the amazing kind of food she seems to enjoy in the books! I'd totally choose Ai Ling from Silver Phoenix and Fury of The Phoenix cos that girl really appreciates food! Totally a character after my own heart, she follows delicious smells without thinking and wants to try absolutely everything! I guess I'd need to serve a massive banquet with lots of succulently sauced meats, jeweled rice, sugared fruits and fragrant tea.
But I reckon Ai Ling would be just as happy with some homemade scones with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam!