Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Faves of 2011 (So Far).... The Characters

So heres the next round of faves from Inkcrush's super list-o-rama, this time it's al about the Characters.

1. Best female POV - Raine Benares in Bewitched and Betrayed by Lisa Shearin. I love Raine, she's fiercely loyal and knows how to bring the pain to the bad guys. She also has the most awesome family of lovable criminals ever written and isn't afraid of taking the things she wants (like hot man kisses!)

2. Best male POV- Oh I have to choose Locke Lamora in Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. He starts this book completely broken, full of self pity and ready to give it all up. But over the course of the story (and with the help of the most wonderful hatchet wielding friend, Jean Tannen) Locke really pulls it together and his lovely mischievous brain pulls off another incredible con.

3. Best couple <3 - Mid-shipman Deryn and Prince Alek from Behemoth by Scott Westerfield. Ok so Alek STILL doesn't know Deryn is really a girl, disguised so she can serve her country from the amazing flying whale airship Leviathan. But Deryn is all too aware of her growing feelings for the hunted prince and as they become greater friends she's starting to find it harder not to cross that line. I cannot wait for the final installment!

4. Who i so want to be best friends with - Agatha Heterodyne from the Girl Genius Webcomic. Where to start? Er she's a genius, she can build amazing contraptions in her sleep, she's the last in a long line of evil mad scientists and heroic adventurers and every single person she meets wants to be her friend. Of course I may have to wrestle Zeetha Warrior Princess for the honour of BFF but it'll be worth it.

5. Who i fell completely in love with (new literary crush) - Ooooh Finn in Song of Scarabeaus and Children of Scarabeaus by Sara Creasy. He's the classic strong, silent type (can't really help the silent part at the start) with the mysterious past that may or may not make him a seriously dangerous man to know. He can also kick many shades of bottom and doesn't ever shy from doing what's right. Swoooooony.

6. Worst (best) villian - No contest, Mayor/President Prentiss from the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. He is truly a monster and the worst part is the way he beats Todd in to this hopeless acceptance in the face of all the horror he creates. And all the time he seems so reasonable, he is a dangerous evil man.

7. Best character twist (who you loved then hated or vice versa) - Vaughn from Unsticky by Sarra Manning. I really disliked Vaughn to start with, he was demanding, unfeeling and, at times, psychotically controlling (adrenalin shot to the thigh? Wack job) But thanks to him Grace finds herself growing into a tougher, more matu
re person who finally figures out what she wants. And she totally ends up bringing out the best in him, by the end I fully loved both of them.

8. Best kick-arse female - Kat from City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates. Look up the definition of Arse-Kickery in the Dictionary of Hardcore and you'll probably find a picture of this young lady wielding her beloved blades. She is a one-woman army and the only reason Tom is able to continue breathing throughout the whole book is thanks to her superior fighting skills and just full on ballsyness. One things for sure, I would never, ever, piss her off.

9. Best kick-arse male - Er still Finn, see above for reasons. Or better yet READ THESE BOOKS.

10. Broke your heart the most - One of my most beloved characters from The Dark Road To Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn. I'm not going to say who in case of spoilers but my heart completely shattered when I got near the end of this book, those who've read it will know what I'm on about and probably had their share of the weepys too, unless there's lump of poop where their heart should be.

11. Best/worst character names - Best? Eugenides for sure, I like saying it Youuuu-gen-ni-deeeeez. Awesome. Worst? Jeff MARTINI, from Touched by and Alien by Gini Koch, great fun book, awful awful name!

BONUS: 5 fave covers (from books i have read)


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Faves Of 2011 (So Far)....

This great (and extensive) list was thought up over at Inkcrush and seeing as I've read so many awesome books that haven't had a mention here yet (seeing as I only started in May!) I thought they deserved to be recognised. Rules are simple, we can only pick from books read this year, regardless of when they were published.

1. Favourite book read so far in 2011.

This is a no brainer for me, it's rare I find such a complete story and amazing writing in a single book, let alone three of them! This story was by far the best thing I have read all year, I know it's not technically a single book and this is sort of cheating but I just couldn't chose one of them. Don't make me chose!

2. Most powerful book.
On the surface this could have been just another excellent historical mystery romp, complete with murderous cousins, indecent photography and a lovesick peacock. But what made it really powerful for me were the characters I have followed so closely for four wonderful books. I won't spoil anything but this story had me in full on sob mode at the end.

3. Brilliantly funny.
A post nuclear London, a Russian student, an insane AI with an overprotective father complex and a nun with a big gun. This is only the first of three (I'm currently on two, still good!) but man I laughed like a hyena throughout this book. 

I think I must have dedicated a good two weeks of solid reading just to get caught up on this HUGE comic which was highly recommended to me by a friend (thanks Matt!). I LOVE Girl Genius, it really does have everything and the best part is the story is nowhere near over, I will be reading this till Phil and Kaja hang up their pens.

4. Best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read.
I 'm not ashamed to admit that this book made me all weepy. I loved it but man, why did Raybourn have to whip the rug from under my feet like that? If you have not yet read any of these, get yourself a copy of Silent in the Grave and you can thank me later (I also accept gifts!)

Oh Eugenides you're such a glutton for punishment! You just never give up hope on Attolia despite the awful way she treats you and just when I think you'll throw in the towel you pull the most amazing theft ever. This book totally beat my heart to pulp over all the sadness and Attolia's suspicion where there should have been affection. 

6. Delicious rainy day comfort read
So I literally just finished this yesterday, and yeah it wasn't raining but it may as well have been seeing as I did not move from the sofa till I finished it! Shockingly this was also the first ever Meg Cabot book I have ever read and for that I have to thank the awesome ladies over at Forever Young Adult and their amazing review which had me picking it up from the library Friday and devouring it within 24 hours.

7. Adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award
 The Demons Lexicon and The Demons Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
Oh yes these were certainly unputdowable. The action was non-stop and so exciting and the steamy swooning was just as rivetingly good. And on top of this I loved the characters (all of them) and completely gave a monkeys about what happened to them. Especially little sweet Jamie, you so sweet!
I've got the third on order and it should arrive any day now, I shall have to set aside a full day for it.

Special Mentions
Genius Girl - The beauty of an ongoing webcomic is you never really put it down.
Equations of Life - For most of the book the only thing keeping Petrovich alive and (mostly) upright is adrenalin!

8. The beautiful prose (and art) award
Just look at those covers! These comics have some the best art I have ever seen and it's used so perfectly within the stories, always changing to fit the action. And the writing! To be able to successfully intertwine the most famous and well loved stories into this physical universe where the written word is the most powerful weapon is an amazing achievement. And on top of this to have real feeling characters who you end up really caring about makes this my pick for this category. If you love books you must read these. 

9. Most atmospheric and vivid setting.
Another no brainer for me, the world Whates builds here is HUGE! A hundred levels of living breathing humans betraying, loving, rescuing and killing each other within this amazing structural city where the higher they live the wealthier they may be, but they're  just as cutthroat and ruthless as the lowest alley crawler. And likewise the story in this book is every big as massive and detailed as the world it is set. Another book where I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment.

10. I-so-want-to-go-there award
I'm sorry but it's a tragedy that this world is not real and I can't go there whenever I want. It has everything from giant airship flotillas, mechanical princesses, TWO love interests who require more saving then the heroine does and Othar Tryggvassen GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER! Who is really anything but a gentleman, more a giant unkillable nuisance.
I would totally spend all my holidays here.

11. Most original and imaginative.
I adored Leviathan and that love only grew with the second book in this series set in an alternative history's World War I. Imagine a world in which the Germans have developed superior steam powered mechanics, they have giant war machines that can level cities and one-man flying contraptions with mounted gatling guns. But more amazingly Britain has been playing God with the genetic code, our war machines are alive. Humungous flying whales filled with an entire ecosystem of animals all genetically created to keep the living airships afloat. Like the colony of bees that turn nectar in to hydrogen and the sniffer dogs who search for leaks on the whale's hide. How could I not pick it for this category.

12. Best under-appreciated, hidden gem book
Thanks to the glowing review I found over on Angieville for Song I decided to pick this baby up and give it a go. And I was not disappointed. So much did I enjoy this story I bought the second one before I even finished! If you like your sci-fi with a bit of steaminess and a lot of peril then you must grab these.

13. I-had-no-idea-i-would-love this-so award
Another great book I have one of Angie's reviews to thank. I'm not normally a purely chick lit reader. I usually demand a little action, adventure or something out of the ordinary to flavor my romance. But this was so perfectly written, I really fell in love with these characters and rooted for them all the way to the end.

14. Most haunting story
As I said above these volumes are so wonderful that really can't recommend then enough.

15. Outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved it
I know! It's a classic, how on earth have I not read it yet? I just don't gravitate to the classics as much as I should (naughty) my head always gets turned by the new Kate Daniels or Lady Julia Greys and I forget all about the Cathys and Emmas of the classics. This is something I'm desperately trying to rectify this year by making sure I pick up at three more classics before the end of 2011.

16. Series that I’m loving

Again I really loved the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, it was the most amazing introduction to the Gentlemen Bastards, the greatest con men the world has never seen. And the tale was so beautifully twisted around itself you never knew if anything happened by accident or meticulously planned. This book is the second in the series and is just as good as it's predecessor, but now with PIRATES!

17.  Most memorable voice award
Ok so I promised myself I wouldn't place any of the Chaos Walking books any other category seeing as I already gave them books of 2011, and it would just be way too easy to give them everything, which would be so lazy. But Men of Monsters really does deserve this particular title above anything else I have read this year. The fact that the book is split in to three first person narratives and intertwines them so wonderfully while still keeping them so true to their individual voices was an amazing feat.

18. Completely awesome premise award 
Oh god this has to be the only story I could have picked! Homicide detection Tony Chu is a cibopathic, someone who get psychic readings from anything he eats. Except, for some reason, beetroots. So he can munch a banana and see the tropical island it grew on, feel the sun, smell the sea. Or he can bite in to steak and smell the cow's manure, feel the hormones that got pumped into it and witness it's journey to the abattoir. A rather useful talent when a serial killer won't tell you were his victims are buried, useful but not pleasant. 

19.  Would make the best movie
Read my blurb above and you know this'll make the best movie ever created!

20.  Want to re-read already
Because they were all incredible.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Head-spaced and Confused
I actually love this cover, it's icy blue sky and the feverish girl's face  behind that big fat title, it made this book totally appealing to me. And a giant plus was the fact that I wouldn't be embarrassed taking this beauty on the bus, unlike the paperback they'll be issuing in August which makes me think it's one of those heinous child abuse sagas that always top the Tesco's bestsellers lists. Could she look anymore like a 12 year old Lolita? So wrong.

Seventeen year old Lena is counting the days till her next birthday, but it's got nothing to do with getting presents or going to college. Lena lives in a world where love, and it's many related emotions, have been named the one cause of all societies problems. All citizens now undergo a procedure at eighteen which removes their function to feel passion, to fear loneliness and to love, resisters are not tolerated and anti-cure sympathizers are executed. Electrified fences have gone up around the cities and literature and music is severely regulated.
Lena, forever stigmatised by her mother's suicide after three procedures that failed to correct her, cannot wait to have it done and float into the rest of her live with no worries or fears to trouble her. But then she meets a boy called Alex, and she starts to unravel the lies her whole life has been build on.

Despite the rather unrealistic set up (Love illegal? Really? How do you even officially regulate something like that?) Lauren Oliver does set a great scene in the coastal city of Portland, it's a paranoid conspiracy theorist's nightmare (or should that be dream? they do love to be right) it's a city in which all teens have a violently enforced 8:30pm curfew and where the slightest display of an illegal emotion will get you reported or worse. Those cured sort of glide around, not really feeling anything and never overreacting, it's like all the Stepford Wives (and their husbands) are sprinkling ketamine in to all their pies, it's freaking creepy. 

"In the end my sister was cured. She came back to me gentle and content, her nails spotless and round, her hair pulled back in a long, thick braid. 
Several months later she was pledged to an IT tech, roughly her age, and several weeks after she graduated from college they married, their hands linked loosely under the canopy, both of them staring straight ahead as though at a future of days unmarred by worry or discontent or disagreement, a future of identical days, like a series of neatly blown bubbles."

*Shudder* This is the stuff of nightmares for me, there's another scene later on where Lena overhears raiders, on a city wide sweep for sympathizers, beat her neighbors dog half to death for being too loud; her neighbors don't even blink, and I was thinking THIS IS UNNATURAL, FEEL SAD GODDAMN YOU!

And that was really the biggest problem I had with this story, I just didn't believe this would ever happen. Now I can suspend my disbelief for talking casseroles and shapeshifting goldfish (not that anyone has written these two amazing ideas into their books yet, but they will!) but usually there's magic or mythology involved so thats ok. But this just seems to be bog standard human shittyness deciding to make life utter crap for everyone so we can what? Be more easily controlled? For. What. Purpose?!

And why are they allowing teenagers to run around willy nilly uncured? Teenagers are a hotbed for these kinds of emotions, sure they've segregated the schools into genders but as everyone knows you can send your good-as-pie virginal daughter to the strictest catholic school and she'll still be giving out handjobs behind the bikesheds by the time she hits sixteen.

And Lena! God I really wanted to like her, I did. But ironically her character was somewhat overshadowed by her best friend, the oh-so-amazing best friend Hanna. You know, that best friend character who is always super good looking, super rich and super popular but it ends up being the mousey protagonist who really shines through in the end? Not here, at least not for me. Lena just felt a little flat to me, even when she was realising the depth of her feelings for Alex (who is rather dreamy but not in that stomach flipping hot flushy way that marks all great love interests). The only time she really felt real was with Hanna. I kind of hoped that it turned out Hanna was in love with Lena, I certainly believed it was the case for the first half of the book, but nope nothing so interesting.

So yeah, this book didn't light my world on fire and the shockingly abrupt ending just felt like it happened for no good reason, but it was still better then Matched by Ally Condie (which has pretty much the exact same set up as this book) which actively annoyed me. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Grimspace - Ann Aguirre

I do love a bit of sci-fi and anything can be improved upon by being set in space as far as I'm concerned (Pigs in Space anyone?) So I was rather looking forward to this small book which promised to be packed with exciting future-tech and amazing interstellar scenes. I was, unfortunately, rather disappointed.

Sirantha Jax is a jumper, a rare genetic oddity that means she can guide spaceships millions of light years through grimspace in the blink of an eye. However her last trip resulted in a horrendous crash, leaving everyone on board dead except for her. Now subject to endless tests and interviews by the Corp, who trained and employed her, she tries desperately to remember what happened and if it was her fault? Finally on the verge of a mental break a stranger called March waltzes into her secure cell and offers her the chance to jump again on his small ship Svetlana's Folly, but at the price of becoming a hunted outlaw. She joins up and they head to the outskirts of space to meet the denizens of the universe not happy with the Corp’s monopoly. And they have a plan to break it.

Quite set up, that plus the rather tough and trippy cover had me very interested in this book. However the actual writing never really lived up to the blurb and this story left me a little flat.

Jax is actually a quite likable character. She wasn’t born tough or kick-ass and she isn’t pathetic and in need of constant rescue. She has led a rather sheltered life as the Corp’s top Jumper. But that’s what made her development quite intriguing, watching her discover the truth about her not-so-universally-beloved benefactor. Jax tries to adjust to life as a hunted criminal when she is more used to being a darling celebrity and her resourcefulness when faced with this massive change endeared me to her. However there were aspects to her personality I did not warm to at all.

I’ve read quite a bit of fiction lately from a few differing genres, but something most modern fantasy, sci-fi, historical and crime fiction seems to have in common these days is that they all seem to think they must have a romantic element in them. Now I love a bit of romance (and sometimes I’m happy with just plain lusty hi-jinks) but the relationship has to develop realistically and the attraction has to feel genuine. My least favourite things in all romantically tinged fiction is:

1.       The instant blazing attraction that becomes fully fledged undying love 24hrs after first contact.

2.       The “clueless” heroine who can’t ever figure out why this guy (that she admits is hot every 5 pages, but only does so grudgingly) is constantly mean and grumpy at her until he dives down her throat tongue first.

Grimspace suffered from the second of these offenses, quite heavily, and a little from the first. March is overly cold to Jax at first, and this is actually understandable, because who would welcome a suspected mass murder on their ship with open arms? But she takes that first encounter and assumes that he hates her for no reason and then repeats this like a mantra “but March hates me” using it as an excuse for his odd behaviour around her, which isn’t even all that negative. They even talk it out at one point and March reveals a very good reason for initially disliking her, and yet his actions show he clearly doesn’t dislike her at all. In fact it’s obvious he feels the opposite.

"'Are you crazy?' he demands.
'Yeah.' I hold his look, and I'm just too tired to try to hide anything from him, not that I could entirely. 
He gets it all, one way or another, then with a muffled oath, he pulls me into his arms, gentle as he was with Keri.

My whole world's upside down as he runs his hands over my back. March is just never, ever nice to me. I don't have any idea how long it's been since he found me on Perlas Station, but it seems like an eternity. I can't remember not hating March at this point; it's a truth to which I cling.
'Let me go before I cut your nuts off'"

And that’s another thing, why does he like her? After what seemed like less than a week he started displaying some very affectionate behaviour towards her, and I was like ‘Huh? Where did this come from?’ I invented a number of reasons to try and explain it, they were lovers but she had her memory wiped, her dead lover’s soul was programmed into his body. Loads of silly sci-fi reasons that would have explained why he seemed so in to her, but no. He just is. Not that Jax notices any of this. Or at least she does, but she throws a big blanket over it with the words “but March hates me” stitched on it.

Thankfully the crew are vibrant and solid feeling people, especially Dina the snarky ship engineer (who I loved). As are the parade of characters they meet throughout the story, I’m definitely hankering to learn more about the alien bounty hunter Velith (who wouldn’t?).  

As a nice bonus the story really picked up towards the end (once the painfully dense relationship problems had been ironed out) and I suddenly found I was enjoying the all the big action. This great improvement in the last act means that I will definitely pick up the next book in the series just to see if Aguirre has managed to expand on her rather fascinating universe, now she has gotten over that first clumsy hurdle.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

On My Wishlist

On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted over on the awesome Book Chick City blog. Anyone can take part and lets face it who doesn't have a book wishlist? Dead people that's who. Well I'm certainly still breathing and currently I'm desperate to get my hands on these beauties.

Obviously! I can't wait to get this beauty on my shelves it feels like an age since I finished Magic Bleeds, and finally it's out now. Get me to Atlanta!

If there's one series of books I wish I could erase from my mind and read all over again and again it's the tales of Lady Julia Grey and the awesomely serious Nicholas Brisbane. The last in the saga, The Dark Road to Darjeeling, had me in tears so I wait with baited breath to see where Ms. Raybourn takes me next. Out 21st June.

Oh Miss Carriger! How you make me wait! This is one of those series I had the (mis)fortune of discovering right at the very beginning, and man, I have suffered that long desolate wait between installments. But it has always been worth it. I'm so looking forward to learning more about Alexia's father! Out 7th July.

Arhg! When is this being released? No one seems to know, not even the author it seems whose website:  still says September 2010! But goodness me, I really want to read this book, I must know what is going to happen to Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbs!

Another book I have had to wait and wait for. And there is still more waiting to be done! If you haven't yet picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora then you must. Thievery, confidence tricksters, and double..nay triple upon quadruple crossings! And then Red Seas Under Red Skies, as above but with pirates! The 17th November cannot come soon enough.