Saturday 31 August 2013

Vivian Versus The Apocalypse review

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse
Katie Coyle
September 5th 2013
Hot Key Books

A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-­year-­old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' -­ or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse is a weird book. When I read the first page of the prologue, I thought it was going to be a comedy. I have since read the whole book and realised that my first assumption was very wrong. Really, it's pretty dark. But in a different way to other apocalypse books that I've read, which I can't explain without spoiling it all, but I liked it a lot and if there's a second book (I'm not sure, but judging by the ending and the fact that there were loose threads, I'm guessing that there will be) then I'm very eager to read it and truly know what the actual fuck is going on.

Vivian is a really great character. I loved her a lot. When we first start the book, she's quiet and 'good', though not Church of America pious good, but she gets good grades, behaves well (even if her parents disapprove of the fact that she hasn't joined the Church). Though she is attending a Rapture's Eve party thrown by her friend, Harp, so she's not as goodie-goodie as she was before her parents and her ex-friends joined the Church. She goes through so much in this book, and she changes quite a lot into an angrier, harder version of herself to cope with the changes to her life and the uncertainty of the world. I completely believed everything that she was feeling, even if I didn't always sympathise with it, and that, among other things, really drew me into the story.

I really liked the way that Vivian's relationships with Harp, Peter and Edie were dealt with. Harp and Vivian have only been friends for a year, but because of the circumstances they ended up becoming, like, really close really fast, and I liked getting to see their friendship get stronger. I dunno, you know me and good, well developed friendships that are central to the book. I love 'em. But Peter was also really sweet and the way in which their (Vivian and his) relationship grew was also really sweet. And Edie is probably the nicest person to ever grace the pages of a book, and that can sometimes be grating, but in this instance it was not. She never came across as being some self-sacrificing, martyr type as sometimes these types of characters can. She just really cares about people. Also, I think it was integral to have a character like her, as she is also a Believer, to show that not all Believers are bad people. Every one reacts to a situation differently.

The most fascinating part for me, I think, was the actual Church of America itself. As I said before, at first it sort of seemed like a sort of satire of apocalpyses and that sort of thing, but it's actually really serious and pretty scary. The things that these people, the Believers, will do to get on the 'second boat' to Heaven are scary.  These are desperate people, and desperate people are sadder and more frightening than (almost) any alien, angel, vampire, faerie whatever. Well, just people, really. After you read this book, you'll probably see what I mean. There was one thing in particular sort of around the end that was just really horrible. And it's not scary and in creepy scary. It's just scary as in unsettling, y'know? I don't know. It was just really good.

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse was a surprise for me because I wasn't really expecting a load from it, I was expecting to be as emotionally involved or drawn in by this book as I was, and I am so excited about whatever Katie Coyle has to throw at us next.

(edit: I just realised, I forgot to mention ROAD TRIP. It's like a contemporary conspiracy road trip apocalypse book. That's how I'm going to sum it up.)

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Antigoddess review

Kendare Blake
10th September 2013
Orchard Books

The acclaimed author of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD returns with an incredible story about ancient gods, modern love and an epic fight for survival.

He was Apollo, the sun, and he'd burn down anything that tried to hurt her... Cassandra and Aidan are just your average high-school couple. Or so Cassandra believes. Blissfully unaware that she was once a powerful prophetess, Cassandra doesn't even know that god exist... Until now.

Because the gods are dying - and Cassandra could hold the answer to their survival. But Aidan has a secret of his own. He is really Apollo, god of the sun, and he will do anything to protect the girl he loves from the danger that's coming for her. Even if it means war against his immortal family...
Sexy, irresistible characters; romantic and mythological intrigue; relentless action and suspense - ANTIGODDESS is the YA novel you've been waiting for.

I really love Kendare Blake's books. I'm not totally sure why but they are just really good, though I will say that I didn't like Antigoddess as much as I liked Anna Dressed in Blood. But Antigoddess was still great. Out of all the sort of Greek mythology books that I've (which is literally about 2 including this one...) it's felt like the freshest take on it, and I struggled to put the book down after I first picked it up.

The blurb for Antigoddess, I think, is a bit misleading. It makes it sound like a kind of boring, run of the mill paranormal romance in my opinion, which it really isn't. And it also makes it sound like Cassandra and Aiden are the main characters of the book, which they kind of are but also kind of aren't. The book is all told in third person, but I think that we actually spend more time with Athena and Hermes and their journey to try and find a way to stop the gods from dying because, well, they're gods and they're dying.

For the first half of the book I was a lot more invested in Cassandra and Aiden's story, and I was kind of bored by the Athena and Hermes parts, but then they started to converge and I realised how integral they had been to Cassandra's story that I think if I read it again I would like their chapters more. Also, Antigoddess actually made me like Odysseus. Which is really impressive. From my (sort of lacking) knowledge of him, I've always thought he was just a bit of an arrogant dick, and he kind of is, but Antigoddess gave him depth that I hadn't thought of him having and I liked the development of his relationship with Athena because of their history (and boy, do they go WAY back.)

The way in which the human figures from Greek mythology (like Odysseus and Cassandra) were brought into the book was really interesting, because they're not Immortals like the gods. I won't say how it works because that would be kind of spoilery, but it did throw a spanner in the works for Cassandra and Aiden's relationship, and showed a really different side to Cassandra without completely drastically changing her personality. It's kind of difficult to explain actually without spoiling how it works, so I probably sound a bit silly, but just trust me, okay?

One of my favourite things about Anna Dressed in Blood was the fact that the horror was written so well and was genuinely scary and gory and creepy, and I sort of wasn't expecting that with this book, seeing as it's about Greek gods and stuff, but she does bring some of her horror expertise as the deaths of the gods are different for each one and some of them are just really awful. Like, some of the imagery was just really horrific and I loved it. Also, there are some really great action scenes, and I felt like the ending was horrific in it's own way, not because it was bloody or gory or anything, but just because it kind of threw me and I spent a while just sort or processing it after I finished it because I was just, like, WTF?! It was good though. I can't wait to see how it affects the next book.

Antigoddess, while, in my opinion, not being as good as the Anna books, was still a really great, gripping read that anyone who likes mythology books, or maybe someone who's not that into them should at least give a go.

Friday 23 August 2013

Soul Storm review

Soul Storm
Kate Harrison
August 1st 2013

Someone is stalking Alice Forster. She's sure it's her sister's murderer, but her parents think she's cracking under the stress of Meggie's death. Only in the virtual world of Soul Beach - an online paradise for the young, the beautiful and the dead - can Alice feel truly free. But there's trouble in paradise . . . 

Clouds are gathering.

A storm is brewing.

The killer is about to strike.

The final gripping thriller in this paranormal romance trilogy.

That synopsis there is pretty darn accurate Soul Storm is a fast paced, gripping end to this excellent series, but, especially after having read this book, I wouldn't call them paranormal romance. Definitely more of a mystery-thriller with some romantic and some paranormal elements. Though I guess disputing genre isn't really the snappiest way for me to open a book review.

Now, I always find final books difficult to write about because I'm afraid I'm going to spoil it all, particularly with a mystery like this where all of the crucial mysteries are being figured out, most importantly, who the killer is. I'm definitely not going to say it, but I will say that I'm a little disappointed as it wasn't who I wanted it to be, but it was who (upon starting this book) I thought it would end up being. Despite that, I still thought it was a good twist and it was great to just finally know so that Alice could finally move on.

Over the series, Alice has grown so much as a character. In the first book, she started out vulnerable from Meggie's murder and obsessed with Soul Beach - the virtual reality full of beautiful, dead teenagers, Meggie included. She also started to get involved with super-hot dead guy Danny. In this book, I think she starts to become a lot more grounded, even though it gets to the point where her parents think that she's starting to crack and needs professional help, as it's been a year after Meggie's death and despite their continued contact on the Beach, Alice is starting to accept her sister's death. She refuses to move on, though, until she's found out who the real killer is, which she does on a crazy trip to Thailand in an attempt to find out more about the Beach.

One of my favourite things about this trilogy is the exotic locations in contrast to Alice's life in London. First off, there's Soul Beach itself with its turquoise sky and white sand and perpetual beauty. I'm not a beach person, but the descriptions of Soul Beach make it sound so perfect even I want to go there (I really hate the beach). Also, Kate Harrison makes Thailand sound so amazing in this book, too. The luxury of the place where Alice and her companion are staying and the little details like the bullfrogs mooing like cows really just give it all depth, like, you can really immerse yourself in it.

Ultimately, my favourite thing about Soul Storm in particular was the end. I like the series a lot, but I've started so many series lately without finishing them that I've forgotten what it feels like to have full closure at the end of them, which Soul Storm definitely has. I really liked feeling like I could close that book and be fully content with the way in which it ended, and, in my opinion, it was the perfect ending for the series.

If you have never heard of the Soul Beach books or you just haven't picked them up yet, I strongly recommend that you do as they're a great UKYA trilogy with a really interesting concept and a strong story that will keep you gripped.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Thoughts on Films: City of Bones

Hello, fair blog readers! You may have noticed during our time together that, while I do indeed love books, as my blog name would suggest, I also love films and TV shows, too. And I really want to talk about those a lot. So I'm going to. Starting with probably the biggest YA adaptation since The Hunger Games, Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. 

Now, I will preface this by saying that if you loved the film and the books and you hate people who didn't think it was anything but perfect (not that I really think that I attract this kind of audience) look away now. Because, while I didn't hate it, I didn't love it either. If anything, I was just slightly disappointed by it. But, to be fair, my expectations were quite high, so in defense of my opinions (other than, you know, free speech and all that jazz) I'm not out to pan it, or hate on it. I'm just here to say what I think and they might not always be good things.

Well, now that we've got that disclaimer out of the way, I suppose it's time for me to actually write something about the film! I think that there was a lot wrong with it, I won't lie, which is really annoying because it would be really great if there could finally be a good adaptation of YA paranomal book so that people can stop hating on them all the time! Literally, all the reviews I've read of it seem to have been especially cruel. And seriously, advertising people, stop comparing things to Harry Potter and Twilight when said things are not like Harry Potter and Twilight! It just makes people want to hate it, instead of wanting to see it! And people just shouldn't compare things to Harry Potter any way because all you're going to do is draw attention to the fact that it is not as good as Harry Potter. Let things be their own things instead of awkward crossovers of other things.

The film itself, sadly, fell flat for me. It felt like, even though it's over two hours, they were trying to fit in so much stuff that they didn't really pull any of it off as well as they could have. They tried to put in some of the humour and wit (which is one of the main reasons why the books appealed to me so much) but it didn't really work because they were also trying to pull of the darker stuff and it didn't fit. They tried to put in the love triangle but they hadn't had enough time to develop the characters and their relationships in such a way that made either the potential romance between Jace and Clary or Clary and Simon just not work. And, personally, I didn't think that Jace and Clary had much chemistry any way, which was disappointing because of how much they kept on going on about their chemistry during casting. Where has it gone, I ask? Because it is certainly not in this film. And that thing about character development stands for all of the characters. I know that it's a film and that there isn't as much time in a film as there is in a book to flesh people out, but there was hardly any time spent showing the relationship between Jace, Isabelle and Alec. Alec and Jace are meant to Parabatai, but that wasn't mentioned at all and there was no time apart from being repeatedly told that Alec was in love with Jace that actually SHOWED that Alec and Jace had know each other for ages and lived with each other and are best friends. Or how close all three of them are. There's so much more to these characters than what we see in the film and they could have done more development, but they didn't, and so all we get are a load of side characters who we are supposed to like, but ultimately end up having no personality and no real purpose in the story.

Oh, and they toned down Magnus. Godfrey Gao did with Magnus what he could, but clearly they couldn't put much of him in either, so we don't get the outrageous, brilliant Warlock we all know and love, but just a Warlock in a blazer and underpants which look like a half hearted attempt to inject the joy that Magnus brings to the books, but doesn't really work. And NO CHURCH.

And, even though I was fully expecting this, there were some points at which it was just so cheesy I laughed out loud. Like, there was this scene where Jace was showing Clary the portal in the Institute (since when was there a portal in the Institute?!) and, like, his disembodied hand is stroking her hair and it was just the weirdest, creepiest attempt at being romantic in a YA film I've even seen. I am still cringing about it. And The Kiss. Oh, The Kiss. It was just so bad. I hated The Kiss. Oh, and actual quote from the film - 'I said I'd never met an Angel before. I lied.' *GAG*

*takes a deep breath* Okay, I promise I will stop slagging this film off now. Just airing my grievances.

There were things that I liked about it. I liked most of the actors, even if they weren't given a lot to actually work with. I liked the way that it looked, apart from the Shadowhunter gear which in reality I thought looked a bit silly rather than badass. But the Institute, and the actual City of Bones (though they spend a grand total of about 3 minutes in supposedly the most important place in the film going by the title) and the runes looked great. I liked the soundtrack. The action scenes were really good (my personal favourite being Jocelyn fighting off two bulky Shadowhunter Henchmen with a frying pan and a fridge door).

It was just watching it on the screen and sitting there thinking that at times it just felt like a parody of itself. Which isn't really a good thing, at the end of the day. I didn't get the same feeling of how amazing this world was as I did reading the books. In this case, the books are definitely better. It just didn't make me feel anything related to the characters or what was happening at all. The film kept on telling me what I should be feeling through the music, but onscreen I wasn't getting the same tension, the same connection, the same concern for these characters that I wanted to have.

Though, even though I was ultimately disappointed, I did have a lot of fun watching it, and fun is the most important thing, right? Unless it's a tragedy. Which this is not. I think. And I know that loads of other people loved it so maybe I'm just the odd one out. Regardless, this isn't even a review. This is just a splurgy-rambly selection of my thoughts, which you might see more of depending on how many films I watch in the future that I want to ramble about.

Friday 16 August 2013

#MurderOnTheBeach Tour: James Dawson's Cruel Summer Dream Cast

Hello, my lovelies! Today I have the pleasure of being the next stop on the #MurderOnTheBeach blog tour, celebrating the release of the final book in Kate Atkinson's trilogy - Soul Storm - and, as you could probably tell from the title, James Dawson's fabulous Cruel Summer, which he has kindly taken the time to dream cast for our enjoyment this fine (or possibly not fine, I don't know) Friday! Also, thanks James for writing a book about beautiful people so I had an excuse to trawl the internet for pictures of beautiful people. Though I will say that it was really hard finding a picture of Rob Evans wearing clothes. Rob Evans really hates wearing shirts.

I’m always wary of dreamcasting blogs because it removes some of the fun of the reader picturing the characters, HOWEVER, as I already made the Janey Bradshaw suspect files on my own site – with pictures – I don’t see the harm in casting the fake film version of Cruel Summer!
I’d love to see a film adaptation of Cruel Summer – it’d be a gloriously sun-drenched, sexy murder mystery! As such we’d need a cast of beautiful, devious young things!
Here’s my dream cast with a little bit about each character:

Antonia Thomas as Alisha Cole – Alisha, it has to be said, is a bit of a hot mess. She’s off the rails in a big way and I think the Misfits actress would capture Alisha’s loneliness and vulnerability.

Douglas Booth as Ryan Hayward – Ryan is such a unique character, it’d need a unique talent. Ryan is devious, arch and witty and I adored Booth in Worried About The Boy, so I think he’d be perfect.

Sophie Turner as Katie Grant – I always had Turner in mind when I wrote Katie, the innocent redhead. Katie is the ultimate girl-next-door and I love Turner in Game Of Thrones.

Rob Evans as Greg Cole – Alisha’s twin needs to be as beautiful as his sister so let’s cast model and ANTM judge Rob Evans. Can he act? Who cares – have you seen him? Greg needs to be brash, gorgeous and arrogant.

Joe Dempsie as Ben Murdoch – When writing romantic hero Ben I had young Ashton Kutcher in mind, but alas, he’s way to old to play Ben these days. In his place I cast Skins and Game of Thrones star Dempsie, who I think could sufficiently melt our hearts.

Taylor Momsen as Roxanne Dent – Momsen was always Rox as I wrote the book – pouty, bitchy and laconic. I wonder if she can do a British accent…to be honest I don’t care if she can't.

Frankie Sandford as Erin Smith – Again, I have no idea if the Saturdays singer can actually act, but she was very much who I had in mind as I was writing sweet little Erin.

Jessica Brown Findlay as Janey Bradshaw – As you may already know, Cruel Summer is all about ‘who killed Janey Bradshaw’, so this is a vital role as the dearly departed Janey reoccurs through flashbacks throughout the book…I’m a huge fan of Brown Findlay’s husky tones.

Of course, once you’ve read the book, I need to know your casting choices and don’t be scared to make dream-cast pictures for the Fierce Fiction Tumblr! Get creative! Use either my choices or your own and use quotes from the book, I’d LOVE to see your art work.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Cruel Summer review

Cruel Summer
James Dawson
1st August 2013

A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

A compelling and psychological thriller - with a dash of romance.

Cruel Summer was scandalously good. I've been seriously excited about it since I first heard about it because Hollow Pike was cracking, but it genuinely surpassed my expectations. If you're looking for a thrilling, chilling, and sometimes slightly melodramatic (but in the best kind of way) mystery, then look no further. In fact, I think that the thing I like least about Cruel Summer is that fact that it is going to be really hard to write about without spoiling anything (because lots of my favourite parts/things about it are majorly spoilerific and I want you all to have the joy of reading this book completely unspoiled.) So this review may be fairly short, though I've already managed to prattle on a bit...

I won't lie, Cruel Summer wasn't an instant hit for me. I started it, and it was good, but I wasn't totally gripped and it took me a while to get into the style (which is very sort American Teen drama, like, 90210 or the OC or that sort of thing) and to get used to Ryan's thinking of life as TV thing. But when the action really kicks in, I was so absorbed by the story that I didn't even notice, and I'd gotten used to it by that point anyway. But I also think that it was less obvious at that point because of the events that happen and the fact that it is their real life and the facade of them being some perfect gang of rich, happy kids who have it all is a load of bullshit.

The characters - Ryan, Alisha, Katie, Ben, Greg - were all really fun to read about. They're not all particularly likeable, but they're all interesting and it took me a while to figure out the Who because this tale is so twisted that there is at least one point in the book where it could have been any of them. But, as I've read in other reviews, the motivation behind everything is really the most interesting part, and the most difficult to figure out by far. Seriously, when I was reading it and clocked on to what was happening, I think my mouth dropped open a bit and I hit the book and was like kudos to James because I did not see it coming. It's really clever. Well, that, or I just overreact to good twists. Probably a bit of both.

There really wasn't a better place for Cruel Summer to be set than Katie's parents isolated Spanish villa, full of sangria, sexual tension and secrets (there was a time where if I had options between cheesy alliteration, and anything else, I would've gone with the anything else. I am not that person anymore.) At first, it seemed all sunny and beautiful and nice and Spanish, but that's before all the bad things start to happen, at which point it just becomes claustrophobic and tense. Though, really, if you had a choice between dying at a sunny beautiful Spanish villa and a crappy British seaside town, you'd probably go with the villa. Not that you'd want to die at all, but, you know, if you had to choose...

I'm kind of running out of un-spoilerific things to say now, but trust me when I say that Cruel Summer is the perfect summer thriller. Just don't read it if you're going on a holiday with your friends to a secluded Spanish villa otherwise you might end up being a bit paranoid. I know that I won't be drinking sangria anytime soon (though I didn't actually know what it was until I read this...)

Okay, enough rambling! Read Cruel Summer.

(P.S. As the great Flynn Ryder once said, 'Frying pans. Who knew, right?' Boy, I hope someone who reads this gets that because otherwise I'll just feel like a bit of a prat.)

Sunday 11 August 2013

Letterbox Love #38

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

This is all my stuff from the past couple of weeks, before you go off thinking that I've had a really good post week... And sorry this is up a bit late. I was, y'know, sleeping, so, that may have gotten in the way. A little bit. ;)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (So freaking excited for this book. Thank you Indigo!)
Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne (Not ready any of John's books before, so I'm curious. Also, it came with a pack of, like old timey sweets which was really cool.)
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Teardrop by Lauren Kate(Not too sure about this one. I'm not the biggest fan of Lauren's books, but I'll give it a read and then maybe give it to someone else who wants it more than me around the time it comes out? Thanks to Random House for these three.)
Into The Grey by Celine Kiernan (Ghost story. That's all I needed to know! Thanks Walker!)

Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle (borrowed this from Bella at Cheezyfeet Books. It looks like so much fun. Thank you Bella!)

Slated by Teri Terry
Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Everneath by Brodi Ashton

What did you get this week? :)
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