Thursday, 7 February 2013

Steampunk Magazine reviews

Thanks to the wonderful folks over at Steampunk Magazine, I've been reviewing some awesome books - which is one of the reasons I've not been doing many reviews on here recently! But I'm trying to get back into the habit and build up my base again (starting with a review of Julianna Baggot's Fuse).

This post is just a plug for the reviews I've done for Steampunk Magazine, the links for which I've included below:

A Drop of the Venom (You can see the promo postcard and model ship above! Isn't it beautiful?)

The Art of Steampunk

That Darn Squid God!

I also currently have review assignments for a Steampunk RPG, Hive, Queen and Country, and another novel called Gearteeth by Timothy Black.

Fuse by Julianna Baggott

"Pressia and Bradwell scramble up the rubble. Mixed in with it are pieces of multicoloured stained glass. Even dusted with ash, the colours are still vivid. Pressia picks up a shard. It's sharp-edged but its surface is smooth. It was once part of something beautiful, she's sure, something to inspire people."

- Julianna Baggott, Fuse 

This picture contains my well-loved copies of the first and second novels of Julianna Baggott's post-apocalyptic YA trilogy, Pure and Fuse. They look well-loved because I have been carrying either one around with me everywhere since I received Fuse to review a couple of months ago; this trilogy is simply addictive. It's disturbing, the language and descriptions are visceral, it's everything you expect from dystopian literature; with some added extras. Watching the characters grow and develop makes the journey intense, often uncomfortable, and I can't say I haven't shed a few tears or experienced shocking, heart-stopping moments. It's essentially a book about loss, and dreading loss, and this is something you empathise with - you can't help dreading losing these characters, and the threat is always there.

However, as I've tried to explain when I've recommended the book to others, it's not simply a dark book with no hope. You watch the characters strive for the good of humanity, you see the beauty in the little things. The quote above is one of my favourites, and it demonstrates one of the fundamental ideas within the novel: beauty is everywhere, you just have to look for it. Despite the disturbing  gloom-ridden passages, the novel is full of hope. Set inside the dystopian fiction is the romantic subplot, emphasising the hope in the novel. The relationship is beautiful, and even heart-rending in places. 

Whilst I was still reading Fuse, I asked Julianna Baggott if there was any way of getting hold of her novel before it's released in 2014 (such a long wait) to which she responded: 

"There is no chance unless you break into my house, and I prefer you not do that. Plus, it's hard to get decent employment with a criminal record so... "

It's a fair point - but still disappointing! I honestly can't wait to get my hands on Burn. But, in the meantime, Pure is already available and Fuse is due to be released on the 14th February! I highly recommend you grab a copy of the former in preparation.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Kate Milford's The Boneshaker

So after helping Kate Milford with her wonderful KickStarter Campaign, I am reviewing the first novel in the series, The Boneshaker, illustrated by the talented Andrea Offermann. In the near future, I will also be reviewing The Broken Lands and it's companion novel, which the KickStarter Campaign funded, The Kairos Mechanism - both of which are out in September.

And after reading The Boneshaker, I can't wait to get my hands on them.

First of all, the genre. This is a tricky one. It's a YA, dark fantasy, clockpunk, gothic amalgamation set in an alternative universe version of America after the Civil War (or 'The War Between States'). It's very strange, very dark, very chilling. There are deals with the Devil, automata which never wind down, and strange visions of the past. It's just simply brilliant.

The main character, Natalie Minks, is a twelve-year-old girl who, after becoming caught up in many things she doesn't understand, shows evil it's place. If I had read this book a few years ago, she may well have been a girlhood hero - she's fierce, intelligent, determined. And she suits the book perfectly.

Best of all, for me, were the book's clockpunk elements. Some have described the book as steampunk - but it's definitely more gears and springs than coal and steam. From Natalie's beloved bicycle to the tiny automata, the intricacy of the descriptions left me with a buzz of excitement.

Finally, we have Andrea Offermann's fantastic illustrations - they work so well alongside the story and are very Tim Burton-esque. They will send shivers down your spine!

Now, off you go and buy this book - and mark September with an excited squiggle followed by a few thousand exclamation marks.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Crochet Workshop - Erika Knight

So for my 'Coming Home' post (i.e. I've been away from the blog quite a bit due to numerous horrible things which I won't go into) I decided to do something a little bit different. This is post one of my exploration of Erika Knight's new book Crochet Workshop! It's such a fantastic book that it really warrants something more than a single post saying how awesome it is - so I'm going to be reviewing it over a series of posts and updating you on the progress of my first project, a laptop cover.Firstly, as you can see from the slight curl of the cover, this book has already been much loved, despite having had it only a month. After teaching myself a little crochet by making some traditional granny squares, this book has certainly provided the next step to exploring crochet. It's very well laid-out, providing variations on squares, detailed explanations of how to make each form of stitch, and then splitting the projects by difficulty.

My favourite part of the project pages is the small 'What you will learn' section as I quite like to know what I'm practising and it's always good to know what the techniques can be used for in future. Ever the student, I like having a set of learning objectives when discovering something new!

Anyway, my first project from it is the laptop cover. I decided against using the grey coloured wool and went for a lovely, vibrant pink that I had in my stash from making granny squares. So far, I've only done the first two rows, after completely messing up  once before I got to the next stage. (See above) So I've started again and it's going a lot smoother now! I'm learning to increase and decrease, practising my double crochet and turning. Best of all, I'm enjoying it! It's a fun little project and I'll have something useful at the end of it. Once it's done, I'll need to find myself a brightly coloured zip to sew on. 

I'll tell you more about the project as it progresses, with plenty of photos, and probably some amusing screw-ups. So far, all I can say is, if you want to learn to crochet - buy this book, it's awesome! (Big 'Thank you!' to the wonderful people at Quadrille who sent me my copy).

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans is the debut novel of M. L. Stedman, published a few weeks ago on the 26th April.

The novel is set in 1920s Australia, after the First World War. The war is a catalyst for many of the novel's events, everything is finely interwoven, as the reader witnesses mistake after mistake, tragedy after tragedy. Despite the tragedies, however, there are so many beautiful aspects to the relationships within the pages. The way the characters are explored brings them to life in such a way that you can't help but fall in love with them, sympathise with them, and mix your tears with theirs.

I so desperately wanted to reach the happy ending. It didn't happen. It is one of the most tragic and beautiful novels I have come across.

If one thing is certain, it is that this book is certainly not light-hearted. While I encourage my viewers to read it, I do so with the caveat that they should not be expecting to 'enjoy' it as such. It is a wonderful, well-crafted, well-written novel, but it's just too sad to 'enjoy'. It rips you open at the heart and runs you down as you hope against hope alongside the characters. There is no happy ending, as such, except in that everyone settles and accepts their place, and strives to make the most of their lives and be happy as they are. The only chance of a happy ending comes late, and only causes more tears because of this.

Read it, love it, be rendered helpless and tear-stained.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Fifty Shades - My latest obsession

One month later - and I'm back! I'm so sorry but sometimes life takes over from my reading; in other words, I got a job and I had an essay due.

However, I'm back with the controversial BDSM romance trilogy from E. L. James. I'm going to make one thing clear before I begin: I love this trilogy. It's gotten a lot of stick for being inspired by Twilight and for it's BDSM overtones. I've seen critics describing it as 'dangerous'. To be fair on them, they've only read the first book. The way the story develops throughout the trilogy is romantic and beautiful, and in some cases terribly tragic and heart breaking.

Anastasia Steele is a final year university student, studying English. Christian Grey is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. It starts with their chance meeting when Ana interviews him for the university newspaper, due to his links with the university. I must admit, I was sceptical at first about the story. I bought it as an ebook before it came out in paperback last week because I heard it had been such a hit in America: I wanted to know why. And the reason why is this beautiful, broken man "who is by his own admission fifty shades of f*cked up." (James)

Lets just say, I became obsessed. I can't remember the last time I read a book so quickly. I went further into my overdraft just to read the next two books as soon as possible. Within a week, I'd already started re-reading the first book. The only reason I forced myself to start reading other things is that I have other books to read and review for this blog and SteamPunk Magazine. With much reluctance, I set it aside... but I have mentioned it to almost everyone I think will love it - and I've been spot on with every recommendation so far.

Don't be put off by the fact that it's erotica and that critics are labelling it as 'dangerous' or 'smutty'. It's beautiful.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Magic in early 1900s Alaska

I wasn't supposed to be writing this review until next week but I was so struck with this beautiful and tragic novel that I couldn't wait to share it with you all. The Snow Child is the debut novel of Eowyn Ivey, and what a debut it is. I lost a lot of time to this novel, and none of it was with regret, I was completely absorbed and I adored it. It is on a level with Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus which was the book that inspired me to start this review blog.

The Snow Child is the story of a couple in their fifties who decide to try their luck at setting up a homestead in early 1920s Alaska. Between hope and desperation, they push on past the obstacles laid in their path, especially when the 'snow child' begins to flit in and out of their lives, leaving them feeling hopeful and blessed. Throughout this tale, you will find yourself torn between happiness and grief. It teeters on the edge of fantasy in this mysterious and unfamiliar world, like something out of a fairytale, and you'll gaze with childlike wonder on the descriptions of the snow and the mountains and its delicate yet fierce wildness.

I'm afraid to admit that one thing did disappoint me - the novel ends. I didn't want it to, and I wanted it to go on and on forever, past the tragedy and I wanted desperately for it to have an entirely happy ending. This doesn't stop me from adoring it. It also doesn't stop me from recommending it whole-heartedly to you.