Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Covet by Tracey Garvis Graves

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?

Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.

Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop, and they run into each other again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.

Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.


Tracey Garvis Graves shows us in her second novel that On the Island was no fluke, and she knows how to write a good story about love and relationships. Covet is a quiet examination of suburban life, with a wife who feels lonely enough to make friends with a man who is not her husband.

I particularly liked the different storytelling techniques that were demonstrated here - multiple viewpoints, short chapters, and flashbacks that enabled us to see the relationship between Claire and Chris before they were afflicted by difficult life situations.

What I liked less is that this was a very slight book, considering the interesting characters that moved through Claire's life with their own troubles and subplots. I would have liked more character development - people like Elisa and Julia were paper-thin, presented like sweeping watercolour snapshots rather than carefully inked-in portraits. We were given enough to be intrigued about them, but never enough to be truly drawn in.

In addition to this, Tracey Garvis Graves has an 'and then' style of writing, where everything is described - even a stomach bug suffered by three members of the family where we got to see each vomiting episode. It's too much, and leads to more telling, and less showing.

In conclusion, a read that entertained but didn't ultimately satisfy and will be forgotten within a month or so. Unlike On the Island, which stayed in the mind because of the controversial and provocative subject matter, Covet is a light read that is good for the beach in the summer.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Son of the Morning - Mark Alder

Edward the Third stands in the burnt ruin of an English church. He is beset on all sides. He needs a victory against the French to rescue his Kingship. Or he will die trying.

Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very Angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is an usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French?

But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France...



I have now read three novels by this author - Girlfriend 44 by Mark Barrowcliffe, Wolfsangel by M D Lachlan, and now this, Son of the Morning by Mark Alder (I don't think he'll mind the reveal of his pseudonyms - he's pretty open about it!) Out of the three, this is undisputedly, and by a long way, the best.

It is a fantasy novel embedded within historical events and, while I've seen this done before, I don't think I've seen a world built so realistically within fantastical terms. Honestly, it makes you believe that angels did indeed fight on the side of righteous kings. Although I sometimes got my devils and demons mixed up - they are very different entities in this novel - I was gripped from the beginning and found myself utterly engrossed in the world of high and lowborn men, affected by their worship of either God, Lucifer or Satan.

With astonishing battle scenes and some truly lovely prose - especially during the materialisation of the angels into their chapels - Mark Alder has achieved a rich tapestry of a novel. So why not a five star read?

For me personally, I find that Mark (in all his authorial guises) writes very entertaining and three dimensional characters, and yet somehow I'm not drawn to them. I feel as though there is a veil between the reader and the character that prevents them being completely engaging. They are rather clinical instead of being warm, and I felt the lack. Although Montagu, Edward, Osbert, Charles and Dowzabel had moments of dignity and honour, ridicule and humour, there was little of the emotion behind the character, in my opinion.

Despite this, I eagerly read to the end of this beast of a novel, and would very much welcome more in this world. Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Angry Robot Open Door Month

So, y'all knew that I was involved with the Angry Robot Open Door reading of manuscripts. I wrote a blog post about it HERE stating which of the manuscripts I sent through for final approval to Lee and Marc.

Today I received a rather exciting press release from Angry Robot, which explains that two of the authors who submitted through the Open Door process have been signed up. And... well... they're two of mine! I am utterly over the moon about this and I cannot wait for you to read The Mad Scientist's Daughter and The Dead of Winter. They were such different novels, but both so great!

Here is the press release in full:

Like most successful publishers, Angry Robot only accepts submissions through literary agencies. Earlier this year, however, the company ran a pilot programme to see how many unpublished – but talented – authors there were without representation. During March, Angry Robot invited all un-agented authors to submit completed manuscripts as part of an “Open Door Month”. Over 990 novels were submitted during that period.

Today, Angry Robot are delighted to announce the first acquisitions from the first Open Door Month. Two new authors, each with a minimum two book deal, have now joined the Angry Robot family.

Cassandra Rose Clarke was the first signing to come through this process. Her two novels for Angry Robot show the versatility of this important new talent.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist. The Assassin’s Curse is a fantastical romp, starring Ananna, a no-nonsense lady pirate, born into pirate royalty.

Clarke said: "I'm beyond excited to have Angry Robot publishing my first-ever novel, and not only because of the delightful coincidence that my novel involves a robot who is, on occasion, angry. Angry Robot’s reputation is stellar and their author list incredibly impressive – I’m humbled to be included amongst their ranks!"

We take a somewhat darker turn with a pair of books from Lee Collins – The Dead of Winter and She Returns From War. Both novels follow Cora Oglesby, a bounty hunter with a reputation for working supernatural cases.

Collins said: "As excited as I am at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Angry Robot's outstanding authors, publication was really a secondary goal of my submitting to them. My primary reason was the hope, however slim, of cybernetic augmentation."

Both deals were negotiated by Angry Robot’s editor, Lee Harris, who stated: “There is an enormous amount of talent out there, waiting to be discovered, and I am thrilled we have found two great new talents as part of our search.”

Both authors’ debut novels will be published by Angry Robot in autumn 2012, with their second books scheduled for spring 2013.

I'm jumping for joy - and very much hoping to be involved with the Open Door again next year!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest We Forget





Take a moment today to remember those who have fallen in the protection of the innocent.

We shall always remember.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rosebush by Michele Jaffe

Rosebush was a seriously compelling read. I started it over the course of one evening, and felt aggrieved at having to put it down to go to sleep. I then spent the next day picking it up every chance I had. I just HAD to know what was going to happen, and which of Jane's friends was responsible for what happened to her.

Jane's voice is very strong - written in the first person - and means that the reader ends up living every nightmare that Jane suffers. Her descent into doubting herself and possible madness is chilling and kept me absolutely gripped.

The whole "rich gal with secrets" thing has been done before on TV, but it was the first YA novel I'd read with that sort of theme, and it lends itself well to the short snappy chapters that Jaffe used to construct her novel. I also liked the flashbacks and the confusion that left me guessing all the way to the end who would turn out to be the would-be killer.

I felt a little strange at the fact that Jane was snogging three different guys during the time that she was in hospital - it went against the way that I "felt" she should act. I would have preferred to see just David and Pete as the guys that Jane feels drawn towards - Scott is a strange addition to the story.

This definitely has more depth than a lot of the YA that I've read, and has a deliciously dark edge. I would warn against starting this when you have other things that need to be done, because you won't be able to put it down. Enjoyable, and psychologically scary.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf – her wolf – is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: in winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human – or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.


The positive of Shiver is the prose. It is delicate and fragile, like ice crystals and the wind through leaves. It is haunting and desperate, like the best parts of Romeo and Juliet. Maggie Stiefvater writes beautifully. I found myself drowning in the loveliness of the prose - to the point where I was *almost* able to ignore the flaws of the novel. If Stiefvater had managed to take the plot to the same places as the prose - stratospherically good - then this would have been an AMAZING book.

As it is, I think the best words to describe Shiver are ephemeral and fleeting - much like the summers that the wolves experience as humans before turning back to animals. As I read it, I was drawn into this story, but I can't imagine that it will stay with me beyond a few days.

Even while reading and luxuriating in the stunning writing, I found myself frustrated by Grace's character. She loves Sam just because. Why does she love him? Why is she so obsessed? Why is she willing to overlook the fact he is a wolf half the time?

I also found the background around the story very limited. Why are there werewolves anyway? Why have they settled in Mercy Falls? Why does Beck need more werewolves? Why did he decide that Sam should be a werewolf?

Why doesn't Olivia - who is such friends with Grace, apparently - come to her friend about the issues she's having? Why is the ending so very artificial?

Ack, just writing all of these questions makes me become more frustrated. Shiver should have been a superb novel. A brilliant book. A book that you are dying to share amongst all your friends. As it was, I enjoyed it and will want to read Linger and Forever, but it wasn't the classic that it deserves to be.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Gorgeous Cover Art!

I was happily browsing the forthcoming titles available on Play.com (one of my fave activities on a slow Friday afternoon) and this gorgeous piece of artwork jumped out at me....


This comes hard on the heels of:


And:


Pierre Pevel must be thrilled.

Nice work, Gollancz! One of the best looking trilogies of recent times, IMHO!

Do you like?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

We Love This Book

Okay, so I just had a press release drop into my inbox and it's something that I figure my readers might just be interested in...

Introducing 'We Love This Book':


We Love This Book is the new, quarterly consumer book magazine, published by The Bookseller Group, alerting readers to exciting new books and providing a platform for publishers to reach readers in an imaginative and engaged way.

This is the second issue, published for the autumn, and it brings readers a crop of literary delights including an interview with Jeffrey Eugenides by Mark Lawson, a snapshot into the world of Sir Ranulph Fiennes through his ‘Desert Island Books’ selection, an exclusive piece by one of this autumn’s most hotly anticipated
debut novelists Erin Morgenstern and a glimpse at medieval life through the eyes of Peter Ackroyd as he embarks on a fascinating series of biographies looking at The History of England.

Among other highlights, Simon Barnes, chief sportswriter for The Times and bestselling author teaches us how to be a bird-spotter with our eyes closed; Alexander Masters, award-winning author of Stuart: A Life Backwards treats us to an intimate portrait of one of the greatest mathematical prodigies of the twentieth century who happens to live in his basement and Misha Glenny, author of the international bestseller McMafia explores the increasingly sophisticated world of teen hackers.

In addition to these exclusive pieces, this new issue includes We Love This Book’s regular features including the innovative ‘Book Tree’ taking us from Lolita to The Da Vinci Code, the ‘Three-Course Crush’ providing culinary delights from Dan Leppard, Matthew Evans, Jon Simon and Tristan Hogg and an extensive reviews section including both fiction and non-fiction, reviewed by booksellers and We Love This Book’s own reviewers, as well as readers’ choices of the best paperbacks.

The dedicated children’s section – with its own special cover – includes three features: looking at new innovations in pop-up books for a younger age group, the eternal popularity of dragons in children’s and young adult-fiction which includes interviews with Cressida Cowell and Christopher Paolini on their new books and a look back at the childhood of novelist and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who is writing a new series of books featuring the world’s most famous flying car,
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The associated website, www.welovethisbook.com will come out of Beta to coincide with the launch of the second issue and will have additional features, interviews, reviews and blogs including an interview with the much loved fantasy author Terry Pratchett on the publication of his 39th Discworld novel, an exclusive twitter interview with Margaret Atwood, a slot with Conn
Iggulden talking about what’s next for the Khan Dynasty in his best-selling Conquerer series and recipes from Jamie Oliver, Rachel Allen, Gordon Ramsay and The Hairy Bikers.

The website will also include extensive event and festival information and a ”find a bookshop“ guide. Additional content will be added to the website all the time including image galleries, video, competitions and a “find a library” guide.

We Love This Book are also proud to be sponsoring Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Misha Glenny’s events at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival and Christopher Paolini’s appearance at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature.

Subscribing to both the magazine and the associated newsletter can be done via the website.

I will certainly be subscribing - it looks like a lively mix of interviews and features with a good range of authors and genres being tackled.

What do you reckon?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It's Oh So Quiet.... Shush....Shush....


Y'all must have noticed it's all been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. Well, okay, a lot quiet.

I've been taking an odd break, which came about spontaneously thanks to a few factors. One is that I haven't felt the need to review the last few books I've read. Here are very short thoughts about them:

Rynn's World by Steve Parker - Good start, but ultimately tiresome with some very repetitive one-on-one combat scenes.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore - Enjoyable. Strong female character who had enough flaws to feel real.

Fire by Kristin Cashore - Took a while to get going. Fire annoyed me as a central character in this one, and I found the world building to be too insubstantial to connect with.

Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast - Hmm.... A guilty pleasure? Not sure it could even be classed as that! Awful writing, including throwing in a whole heap of "hip" teen terms that felt very awkward. The very definition of a perfect Mary Sue in the form of Zoey, who is wonderful and has loads of boys after her etc etc

Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast - Yep, I went ahead and read the second one - despite my feelings about the first. And it all just got much, much worse. Not impressed. And, with the overt sexual themes, not terribly impressed that youngsters are reading it...

Now tackling Rosebush by Michele Jaffe and you might even get a full review of that!

The other thing keeping me away from reading/blogging is that I have started to knit again, and I'm enjoying it hugely. I have two projects on the go - a lovely chunky red jumper for me, and a soft baby blanket for Mieneke's second little bundle of joy. Those are definitely keeping me busy.

What have y'all been up to?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Conjugal Rites by Paul Magrs (review by Steve Aryan)

This is the third outing for the dynamic duo of old biddies, Brenda and Effie, where they battle the supernatural in Whitby, and then go for a nice cup of tea and a slice of walnut cake in the local cafe. This time around the supernatural menace is something much closer to home and a lot more personal for Brenda. Book 2 ended on a bit of a cliffhanger when Brenda received a note from her betrothed, the person for who she was originally created in the literal sense. Her Frank is coming back and he wants them to be together forever and won't take no for an answer. But Brenda is a modern woman and after many years of moving from place to place she has finally found a place she can call home. She doesn’t want to move on but she doesn’t think he is just going to go away because she asks him nicely.

As if that wasn't enough to worry about the town seems to be turning against Brenda and other locals because of a new late night radio show run by the creepy Mr Danby. Gossip and rumours are abound and the ever glitzy and sparkly Christmas Hotel and its humongous evil owner, Mrs Claus, seems to be the nexus of all the goings on. A convention of retired and wrinkly superheroes in costume with rubbish powers adds even more fuel to the fire and by this point I was just waiting for someone to strike a match. The result was very colourful as anticipated, but the story went in a very different direction to the one I expected which was a good thing, as I don’t like it when I can predict what will happen next.

This novel was different to the previous two books in a number of ways. Firstly the novel is more traditional in that it is set around one story, whereas the previous books were split into different sections or connected novellas and each had its own mystery. That isn’t a complaint at all as there is a lot of to sink your teeth into with this book and I’ve been waiting for Frank to turn up at some point ever since I found out who Brenda really is.

The story is also more fantastical than the others. It dips into it and then just throws the characters into it head first. The supernatural and bizarre has always been present and quite often its written as quite tongue in cheek. Brenda and Effie both have a certain amount of experience with it, but they’re also quite dismissive. They have a duty, but they don’t like any shenanigans spoiling the peace and quiet of their lives and their schedules. They want to deal with it as quickly and quietly as possible, without attracting undue attention to themselves, so life can go back to normal again.

Whereas the previous books were dotted with nice Easter Eggs from literature and history, Conjugal Rites leans more heavily on what has been set up before in the series. There are still a few little nods here and there, but it felt to me like a very different sort of book. I think this story was one that had to happen at some point, and without spoiling anything, I’m glad to say I didn’t see the end coming. This isn’t the last book in the series but it’s clear from this point forward the foundations of the series have shifted a bit. Effie previously had a man-friend and that nearly ended in disaster and it upset her friendship with Brenda for a time. This time it’s Brenda’s turn to rock the boat and I have a feeling both of their beaus will end up coming between them.

Overall this was a funny, dark, silly, giddy and laugh out loud book. It’s incredibly rare that I ever laugh out loud while reading, but Paul Magrs does it at least once every book in this series. A wonderful, light hearted and very enjoyable read.