Monday, 31 December 2012

The Song of Achilles - Book Review

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear. (Synopsis from Amazon)


The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad for a modern audience, written in a literary style rather than a historical epic. In a lot of ways it’s similar to Mary Renault’s books, but I’m going to avoid comparing this to Mary Renault at every turn as, let’s face it, no author is really going to come out of that well.

Madeline Miller writes with a beautiful, almost lyrical style that at the same time is very easy to read, like a gentle breeze. This immediately gives the book a wistful, almost dream-like quality which I thought was surprisingly effective. It may be based on The Iliad, a very brutal and earthy book, but this novel does something completely different with the subject matter. I found that the dreaminess emphasised the idea that this is a semi-mythical story, slightly vague and ambiguous from so many retellings and so many years of history. However, despite this the characters felt very solid and alive, and their fears and longings were real. Often a dreamy book can create passive, dull characters, but this never happens here. Madeline Miller handles this difficult style perfectly, creating something both lovely and moving.

Rule 34 - Book Review

DI Liz Kavanaugh: You realise policing internet porn is your life and your career went down the pan five years ago. But when a fetishist dies on your watch, the Rule 34 Squad moves from low priority to worryingly high profile.

Anwar: As an ex-con, you'd like to think your identity fraud days are over. Especially as you've landed a legit job (through a shady mate). Although now that you're Consul for a shiny new Eastern European Republic, you've no idea what comes next.

The Toymaker: Your meds are wearing off and people are stalking you through Edinburgh's undergrowth. But that's ok, because as a distraction, you're project manager of a sophisticated criminal operation. But who's killing off potential recruits? So how do bizarre domestic fatalities, dodgy downloads and a European spamming network fit together? The more DI Kavanaugh learns, the less she wants to find out. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Okay, so I’ll admit that part of the reason I wanted to read this book was to see if it really was written in the style of an internet puppy. For those baffled by that comment, see Priestgate 2012. However, that’s not the only appeal of the book. It’s a detective story set in the very near future, with minimal but incredibly interesting science fiction elements. It’s also not set in the USA or London, which makes a nice change. The story takes place mainly in Edinburgh, and the culture, the people, the language, etc, were all quite familiar to me, bringing back happy memories from four years at university in Scotland (I was 1 hour from Edinburgh by train). So, lots that grabbed my interest.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

A New Split Worlds Short Story from Emma Newman - A Fair Exchange

Today Emma Newman has stopped by with a guest post and a very special treat - a short story from The Split Worlds! I was lucky enough to read a review copy of the excellent Between Two Thorns, the first novel in The Split Worlds trilogy coming out next year, and you can read my review here. To sum up - I adored it!

Over to Emma...

In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called "Between Two Thorns". This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra tit-bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It's also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

Friday, 28 December 2012

I Shall Wear Midnight - Book Review

It starts with whispers. Then someone picks up a stone. Finally, the fires begin. When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer...

Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren't sparkly, aren't fun, don't involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

I Shall Wear Midnight is the fourth book in the series of Tiffany Aching novels by Terry Pratchett, set in the Discworld. I’ve enjoyed all the other ones, and this didn’t disappoint either.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Thank You Santa!

Woohoo, it's been a very bookish Christmas this year! Want to say a big big thank you to my UKYABB Secret Santa, who sent me three gorgeous hardback books that I've been longing to read... can't wait!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Delivery from the Brownie Fairy!

In the post today...


(they are yummy)

Charmed Life - Book Review

“There is one absolute rule,” said Chrestomanci. “No witchcraft of any kind is to be practised by children without supervision. Is that understood?”

No witchcraft? Gwendolen Chant - a gifted witch in the making - has other ideas and is determined to get the better of the great enchanter. Her brother Cat, who has no magical gift, is powerless to stop her. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Diana Wynne Jones has been one of my favourite authors ever since I was a little girl. There’s something almost indefinable about her books, something so magical that makes reading them a truly special experience.

And yet for some reason I have never read the Chrestomanci series. Don’t ask me why – they’re some of her most famous books. Perhaps they simply never had them at my library as I was growing up, and so I wasn’t aware of them. Still, thankfully I’m now putting this right, beginning with book one: Charmed Life.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

2013 Witches and Witchcraft Challenge - Sign Up Post

I'm signing up for my first challenge of 2013! I really enjoyed participating in a few challenges this year - it's been a great way to get a new blog going and to discover other blogs too. Looking forward to joining in with a variety of challenges in 2013... and it'll be nice to actually be able to begin in January this time, too!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Between Two Thorns - Book Review and Cover Reveal

Between Two Thorns is a fantasy novel by Emma Newman, first in an exciting new series due out in 2013. The cover has now been revealed and it's gorgeous! This is from the same cover artist behind the fabulous covers for Cassandra Rose Clarke's books, beginning with The Assassin's Curse.

Monday, 17 December 2012

UKYABB Secret Santa

Squee! Look what arrived today... a present from my Young Adult Book Bloggers Secret Santa (front present). Yay!

I'm going to be very restrained and put it under the tree, and wait til Christmas to open it.

Thank you Secret Santa! And thanks Lynsey of Narratively Speaking for running the whole thing. It must have taken a lot of organising.

The Magnificently Magic Readathon Wrap Up

This was my first read-a-thon, and I really enjoyed it! I'll definitely be taking part in more of them in the future. It was hosted by Faye at A Daydreamer's Thoughts, and you can see her wrap up post here. There were mini-challenges (all huge fun!), giveaways every day, a twitter chat (which unfortunately I couldn't join because I already had plans to see The Hobbit), and of course, lots and lots of reading. The theme was magical books, either stories about magic or stories that just feel magical. Everyone picked great books - a lot of Christmassy romances! - and I saw quite a few that I'm going to search out for myself.

So how did I do? Well, of course, as soon as I decided to do a read-a-thon, about everything that could distract me did distract me! But I'm still quite pleased with how much I read, and I did manage to meet my personal goal. I read 2 books and got about 15% into a third:

I also took part in all the mini-challenges. You can see my efforts here.

I want to say a big thank you to Faye for hosting the challenge, to the people who came up with mini-challenges and ran giveaways, and to everyone who took part. It's been so much fun!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Hobbit - Film Review

This probably doesn’t need much introduction, as it would be pretty hard not to be aware of The Hobbit by this point. The news that the story has been split into three films has been met with quite a lot of scepticism (the book is shorter than any one of the three Lord of the Rings books, and those only got one movie each). So, was it a good decision? And does the film live up to the magic of the book, a beloved childhood classic?

Well... not quite. And I think I managed to go into the cinema without too high expectations. The Hobbit isn’t bad, it just isn’t as good as it should have been, and I don’t think the 3-film decision was a good idea.

My husband and I were talking about it before going in, wondering just how on earth they were going to get three long movies out of the book. I joked that it would probably take an hour for them to even leave the Shire. Oh dear, be careful what you joke! It wasn’t an hour exactly – more like 50 minutes. As in, if this were a TV series, one whole episode would have been dedicated to setting the scene, meeting the characters, and then setting off on the quest. This would actually have been great if it were a TV show, but it wasn’t, and I do think things need to move a little quicker in movies.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Railsea - Book Review

Railsea, by China MiĆ©ville: On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea–even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict—a series of pictures hinting at something, somewhere, that should be impossible—leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers. And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Ding ding ding! We have a new favourite book of 2012!

Friday, 14 December 2012

MM Readathon Mini-Challenges

I decided it would be better to create a separate post for the Magnificently Magic Readathon mini-challenges, otherwise the first post will get very long!





Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Magnificently Magic Readathon Has Begun!

The Magnificently Magic Readathon, hosted by Faye over at A Daydreamer’s Thoughts, begins today! The goal? Read books about magic, books that contain magic, or books that feel magical in some way.