31 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past - Film Review

In the future, the war is no longer between mutants and other mutants, or between human and mutants. The war is between the mutants and their human allies and the sentinels; machines developed specifically to combat mutants, able to identify the mutant-X gene and given the power to change themselves so that they do not succumb to mutant powers. The mutants are losing the war, and only a few remain. With no more time and their luck running out, they have one last hope; Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) must send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1970s to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the scientist who created the sentinels.

Rewind to the 1970s, 10 years after the events in X-Men: First Class, and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is a powerless, alcoholic mess, hiding away with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) in his home. Mystique is already set on her mission to destroy Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man who has already experimented and killed many of her mutant friends in his attempt to fight them. Eric Lensherr/ Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is being kept in a high security prison at the heart of the pentagon after executing a high-profile assassination. Wolverine must bring all these people together and convince them that Trask must be saved in order for the sentinels to never exist.

The film is all-action, hardly pausing for breath. The initial scene is an epic fight sequence between the remaining X-Men and the sentinels, culminating in a confusing shift where it all seems never to have happened. In fact, the whole plot could get really confusing, but the film makers have done an excellent job of making it obvious what has happened; where time shifts have occurred and how the powers work. The explanations are in no way long-winded, meaning that they don't infringe on the plot and the pacing. Expect a lot of visual effects and awesome fight scenes, as well as some cool new characters.

Speaking of characters, this film has a massive cast. The addition of new mutants, such as the comic relief Quicksilver (Evan Peters) actually makes this film a lot more interesting, but it is fair to say that Quicksilver should have had more of a role because his involvement was pure brilliance. Also, for any comic-fans out there, there's a certain line that is sure to amuse you when he meets Magneto. I am afraid to say that Quicksilver's involvement in Marvel's Avengers 2 may fall short due to this depiction of the character. 

Fans of all the films will love the way that the old school and new school cast have been combined in this film to make both sets of films more cohesive. Well.. ish. However, quite a few will be thinking 'but didn't Professor X die in The Last Stand?', and the answer is yes, he did. But he managed to save his consciousness by going into the mind of a patient at a hospital. This in no way makes up for the fact that he still has his own body in Days of Future Past. As of yet, I haven't found an explanation for that obvious goof and have to conclude that this is meant to be in a separate Marvel Universe. Anyway, the awesomeness of seeing both versions of several characters, as well as cameos from Rogue, Jean Grey, Scott Summers and appearances from Colossus, Iceman, Storm and Stryker really make this film a fans dream.

So anyway, the acting was fairly good, with the most convincing portrayals by James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman. However, McAvoy stand out as the clear winner of the acting trophy, as he plays a character that is struggling to deal with the loss of his childhood friend, the deaths of his newer friends and the loss of his legs. 

I had an issue though. I just couldn't find it in my heart to see Bolivar Trask as a villain. Maybe that was the point, and maybe it is also due to the fact that as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage could never be a villain. Instead, I saw Trask as a Doctor who was trying to save his species, while all the while having serious issues with his dwarfism, making him prone to overdoing it. 

Ultimately, the film is brilliant for anyone who loves action and superheroes. It completely reboots the franchise, almost making up for the anomalies and mistakes in the previous films while paving the way for some new material. I don't think we will be seeing the older generation of X-Men again, but it was nice having them around. This film gets a 9 out of 10.



30 May 2014

Water for Elephants - Film Review

Based on Sara Gruens captivating novel, this film follows the life of a young Polish man who finds himself a place in a travelling circus following the death of his parents and the loss of his family home.

For anyone who has not read the book (review here), this is a love story set in the time of the great depression, where, despite the wrath of the circus owner, August (Christoph Waltz), our protagonist, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), bravely decides to do what is right, all the while falling in love with the August's wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon).

The film was easily watchable, complete with a multitude of different emotions, from tense to horribly sad, to shocking and to sweet. While people who have not read the book may think that it a brilliant, I felt that a lot of the emotion was actually lost in translation. many moments that were so poignant in the book were glossed over, with a lot more emphasis being based on the growing romance instead of the constant confusion, the worry over other circus members being red-lighted, and the nagging idea that August is in fact a complete psychopath.

I was glad to see that no such omissions were made regarding Rosie the elephant, as what happens is truly abhorrent and needed to be addressed to build a picture of August's awful nature. This was always going to be a harrowing film, and for me the images of animal abuse brought that element to the fore, along with some of the other abusive scenes toward both Jacob and Marlena.

As far as acting goes, the person who really stood out was Christoph Waltz, playing Marlena's controlling husband. His portrayal was absolutely spot on for this character, and I would have loved to see some of his scenes elongated to show the complexity of his character. Reese Witherspoon didn't really have a chance to flex her acting muscles, given that her character is so quiet and passive throughout the film. Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, delivered a lovely performance to a very strong character. In some ways, Jacob was softened and made into a romantic lead, and while that is quite good for the film (you need to have some lovely moments in all that darkness), the book tells it a little bit differently.

The whole film actually felt quite rushed, with many scenes and poignant moments losing out or being hardly registered. Some aspects were cut out altogether (but that's very common in film adaptations) and a lot of the time the pace sped on quite dramatically. It was an entertaining film, but I felt that it didn't do the book quite enough justice. Suitable for people who like drama, romance and films featuring Robert Pattinson. A 7 out of 10.


Kyrax

29 May 2014

Book Blitz: Crane - Stacey Rourke + Giveaway




Crane by Stacey Rourke 
Publication date: May 26th 2014
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal

Synopsis:
The Horseman is unending,
his presence shan’t lessen.
If you break the curse,
you become the legend.

Washington Irving and Rip Van Winkle had no choice but to cover up the deadly truth behind Ichabod Crane’s disappearance. Centuries later, a Crane returns to Sleepy Hollow awakening macabre secrets once believed to be buried deep.

What if the monster that spawned the legend lived within you?

Now, Ireland Crane, reeling from a break-up and seeking a fresh start, must rely on the newly awakened Rip Van Winkle to discover the key to channeling the darkness swirling within her. Bodies are piling high and Ireland is the only one that can save Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.

But is anyone truly safe when the Horseman rides?



Author Bio

RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013

Stacey Rourke lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant, dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction  and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. Mark your calendars! Her latest literary adventure, Crane, will release May 26, 2014. She is currently hard at work on the continuations of this thrilling Legends Saga, as well as other literary projects.

Visit her at www.staceyrourke.com
diaryofasemi-crazyauthor.blogspot.com
or on Twitter @Rourkewrites.


Excerpt

The plush terry cloth robe slipped from Ireland’s shoulders with a whispering caress before pooling in a heap around her ankles. Marble tiles chilled her bare feet as she stepped into the walk-in shower. The tips of her fingers slid across stainless steel. With a flick of her wrist, the trio of showerheads flowed to life. Welcoming heat came at her from all angles, pulsating over her curves with a rhythmic seduction. Ireland turned, a groan escaping her as the streams massaged all the right places. Steam rose, fogging the handle and creating a cloud of humidity that hugged her frame. Tipping her head back, she let the droplets rain down on her face and across her closed lids. Her lips parted, welcoming the rush of warmth that flooded between them. Until it assaulted her tongue with a rush of coppery warmth that clamped her throat shut with a wretched heave. Her hands cupped to catch the droplets, her eyes widening as thick crimson pooled in her palms, seeping between her ivory fingers. Formerly white tiles were now smattered and smeared with blackish-red gore that sprayed from the nozzles. Ireland threw herself from the shower, her feet slipping beneath her. She reached out to steady herself, but found nothing to hold on to. Nothing there to pull her back from the brink, except her own need for self-preservation … and a shadowed silhouette in the corner. Instinctively, she covered herself with her arms. Squinting, she craned her neck to see the figure that was slowly turning to face her.
“Mason?” Her voice echoed around her before she could even speak it.

He stared straight ahead with fixed, unseeing eyes. Blood trailed down his face from various points of origin, soaking the front of his shirt. “Cloak of night, brings Horseman’s plight. His pricy toll, will be a soul.”

“Mason? Are you okay?”

A hard blink and his eyes found focus on her. A desperate panic flared his nostrils, forcing his breath to come fast and ragged. “Help me, you have to help me,” he pleaded, his teeth pink with the blood that streamed past his lips.

Her trembling hand reached for him, then recoiled at her own inept state of confusion. “H-how? What do I do?”

“You have to save us,” Mason’s words became more garbled by the fresh rush of gore that bubbled up the back of his throat. His once handsome face contorted in rage. Leaning forward he balled his fists and screamed with a force that bulged the tendons of his neck, “Save us!”



This is my own giveaway, open internationally, for one ebook copy of Crane by Stacey Rourke.

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28 May 2014

Blog Reveal: Tales From Far Far Away

This post is for something a little bit different, instead of a book or a film, I'm helping to reveal a blog where the author will publish his works in a serial form, as a procession of letters. Now, I've had a look through some of this stuff, and it's hilarious. If you're a fan of comedy and fairytale retellings, this is the blog for you.


The Blog:
Tales from Far Far Away is a parody of popular fairy tales written from 
the perspective of the main characters and taking the form of many 
letters all written in some truly dreadful handwriting. Your fond 
childhood memories of popular folklore will be erased when you enter a 
world of poisoned apples, hapless heroes and drunken horses, with the 
occasional nod towards pop culture. The first letter is due for release 
on 2 June, 2014 and a new letter will be released every Monday and 
Friday thereafter.


Now for the exciting bit! Here is an especially crafted letter to you from the author, telling you everything you need to know about how to get in on the act.

To read the introduction, please click right here.











Greetings,

Let me start by offering my apologies for interrupting on Wednesday Wishlist. My name is Far Far Away and I write to you today from Kyra's tavern. I like what she's done with the wallpaper since I was last here... it looks just like a black and white drawing of the trees here in my world.

Before I get onto the point of my visit, please allow me to explain a little bit about myself. A few months ago I was involved in a conversation with two gentlemen who claimed they had visited a circular world. They alleged they were able to travel all the way around in a matter of hours... by flying of all methods! I heartily laughed along with them before slowly inching my way to the safety of the door.

Regardless, their imaginations made me realise that there is plenty of entertainment to be gained from real life. From that moment, I vowed to see what stories could be published by simply retelling the lives of those in my world.

I wrote literally thousands of letters, asking my countryfolk to send me stories of their daily lives and destroying my tongue to stamp-licking in the process. Many of them wrote back and, after many months of compiling the letters into chronological order, I have finally been able to form several short stories.

I will be releasing these letters every Monday and Friday over at my newly-built tavern, starting on 2 June, 2014. I would be eternally grateful if you could join me on release day to celebrate the release of these stories, the first of which I recently announced was entitled The Apple Princess and the Septet of Tiny People.

I hope to see you there and, once again, my utmost respects to Kyra for being such a gracious landlady.

Yours,

Far Far Away.

27 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #7 - Childhood Favourites




1. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling
This has been a part of my life ever since I can remember, and it also was a great way to introduce kids to fantasy reading, which I obviously approve of.

2. The Witches - Roald Dahl
Anything by Roald Dahl was practically absorbed by me; I lived to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Georges Marvellous Medicine, or The Twits, but somehow The Witches always won hands down. I loved the idea that witches could be lurking anywhere, and that they could be outwitted by a grandmother and a little boy.

3. The Narnia Series - C.S. Lewis
I got this series as a present when I was young; a box-set with each book beautifully illustrated, and I read them all. But throughout I was always drawn to The Silver Chair, and I'm fairly peeved that there hasn't been any announcements for it to be made into a film. One day, someone will make every one of them into a good live action film, and on that day I will be very happy.

4. His Dark Material Series - Philip Pullman
Still one of my favourite triologies in the universe. It's fantasy, it's reality, it's sci-fi, and it's complicated, with hints of religion, life and death, love... everything I love. These books raised the bar for me in terms of reading, and I don't think I've ever looked back.

5. Dr Xargle - Jeanne Willis
I have very fond memories of flicking through a couple of these books with my sister and my mum, giggling away at their ridiculousness. Even now, I want to open it up and see what the aliens think about our planet.

6. Goosebumps (not to mention the TV show) - R.L Stine
We had a couple of these books, and they scared the hell out of me, but I read it anyway. What really got me was the TV show, which I watched religiously with my sister.

7. Famous Five - Enid Blyton
Honestly, I can remember reading these books and loving them, but for some reason now I can't remember them very well. I think this calls for a re-read at some stage.

8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
This book is so classic. I remember reading it cover to cover, anticipating when it would turn into a beautiful butterfly. The book is still such a vivid memory.

9. Where's Wally? (That may be Where's Waldo for you) - Martin Handford
I never owned a Where's Wally book, but I always wanted one. Every time someone would get it out, or I would spot it at a friend's house, I would pretty much force them to do it with me. I think I still need a copy or two.

10. Elmer - David McKee
About a patchwork elephant who wants to fit in, but always sticks out thanks to his colourful exterior. It taught me that it's OK to be different, and I did love that elephant.

26 May 2014

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James

Anastasia Steele is in the midst of studying for her final exams when her friend, Kate, asks her to interview the CEO of Grey Enterprise Holdings, where she meets the intimidating and drop-dead gorgeous Christian Grey. Ana feels strangely drawn to him and soon she finds that he feels the same way, but Christian Grey has a dark past and is hiding a BDSM lifestyle behind his perfect facade. Will Ana give in and be his submissive?

This book has been lingering on my shelf for months; just after the Fifty Shades mania broke out, I borrowed all three books, but I've always found them very difficult to pick up. The issue is that everyone knows what they look like and most may assume that I am reading them for some kind of sexual gratification. Recently I decided I didn't really care any more, and that as long as I knew I was reading for pure curiosity, I could deal with the amused looks of the people on the bus.

This book surprised me; from what I had heard from others, I expected sex every few pages, but instead there was actually a rather good story-line. Yes, it was a bit of a fantasy overload for me (a normal girl being the sub/girlfriend of an extraordinarily wealthy man with no sexual boundaries? seriously?) but it was a story nonetheless. Mostly, the story consisted of the tantalising answer to the question 'why is Christian so messed up?' but there also was a slight bit of growth for Ana and a minute character arc for Christian. I was fairly stunned by the fact it even had a real plot.

Now for the sex. As many of you know, the story has quite a lot of kinky situations involved, but if we're being honest, not much of it really floated my boat. Each person is different, so you may love it, but I found myself reading the sex scenes impassively, waiting for the moments when they would actually talk about the important stuff, for example, why Christian has severe attachment issues. Speaking of which, I had a notion that this book kind of implies that you have to be messed up to like BDSM and I'd just like you to note that it's really not the case.

I am aware that this is a complete fantasy, but I was struck by how completely unrealistic the sexual encounters were in terms of the amount Anastasia was turned on by the slightest thing, the amount she came and the fact that it's pretty much physically impossible to have sex so many times in such quick succession.

Another thing that struck me about the book is the sheer repetition. Ana's thoughts were extremely repetitive, with constant iterations of ' oh my' and 'holy [insert crap, cow, shit, here]', not to mention the descriptions; 'felt it down there' and 'my sex' - do people even use that word to describe their downstairs any more?

Apparently this book was originally fan-fiction, and I can see the hints of Edward Cullen in his coppery hair and his I-don't-want-to-hurt-you-but-I-totally-do mindset. I can see some Bella in Anastasia's clumsiness and her ridiculous decisions, but apart from that this is thankfully, totally different.

I expected the ending to be all sunshine and rainbows, to square up with the rest of the fantasy, but amazingly it did something else; it actually shocked me. It had me practically leaping for joy, mouth still wide open in amazement. E.L. James knows how to keep her audience begging for more books, that's for sure.

I judged this book by it's cover, and in some ways the book surprised me, but in other ways, it really didn't. It's a half-decent novel, a beach read for women who want to totally escape from their daily lives. Though I am intrigued as to why Christian is how he is, I don't think I will be reading the other two books, given the horrific repetition in the first and the intensely frustrating way that sex seems to be the answer to avoidance of issues. No thank you. It gets a 4 out of 10.

Best Read: In bed, where no-one can catch you getting horny (if you're into this type of thing)

Fifty Shades of Grey on Goodreads


25 May 2014

Review: The Walking Dead - Season One



I hadn't heard much about The Walking Dead until a few weeks ago when I was bought seasons 1-3 for my birthday (Thank you!). All I knew was that it was about zombies, so naturally I thought it would be about surviving a post-apocalyptic zombie world. It is about that, but it's also so much more.

The Walking Dead centres around Rick Grimes, a police officer who has awoken in hospital after being shot only to find that the world as he knew it is gone. It is now overrun with zombies, otherwise known as Walkers. The first season focuses on his attempts to find his family and take them to a safe place. It is based on a graphic novel series of the same name.

At first I did think it was going to be another 28 Days Later. It had the same set-up, with the protagonist waking up in a hospital to find the world has succumbed to zombies. However with this being a TV series, it has the time to be much more in-depth than 28 Days Later, so I gave it more of a chance.

Another massive difference is that The Walking Dead is American. At first, I just could not get my head around the accents. Especially Shane's. It's just such a thick Southern American accent that I found it difficult to understand, but I am now used to it, though sometimes I still have to think about what he just said. I was amazed to find out that Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, is British. I would never have guessed. Then I saw his film credits, and that he was in Love Actually and I knew exactly who he was, admittedly because I didn't see how Keira Knightley could possibly reject him. So I think that shows that he's pretty darn versatile.


I'm also quite sure it's been more than 28 days after Rick Grimes was shot. One rather intriguing thing about The Walking Dead is that it doesn't tell you how long it has been since the outbreak, and doesn't tell you how these people became zombies. I presume that's because eventually we will get to know this through the use of flashbacks and clues throughout the seasons, and I personally can't wait.

The characters are well developed, and you can see why they do the things they do, even if it isn't for the best of reasons. Although I think Rick Grimes is great, has an awesome name and a fantastic moral compass, my favourite character is Daryl. He is basically kick-ass. I think the only things you need to know about him is that he is awesome with a crossbow and quite impulsive but is multi-faceted too. There are quite a few characters, but they are all developed properly and allow you to have insight into what it would be like for them during zombie attacks and in the aftermath of them. Saying this, I am quite surprised nobody has gone mad yet.

There are a few characters I don't like. This is mostly because they're a bit annoying or just plain stupid, but this is a series where anyone could be killed off at any moment, so I'm holding out hope.

Themes of survival, love, betrayal, loss and moral conscience make this series more than just your average zombie-filled offering. It also has the standard gory zombie scenes you would, and definitely should expect.

The Walking Dead is, in essence, everything I could ever ask for. Its got heart (figuratively and literally), guts, gore and great character development and I very much look forward to watching the other seasons.

I'm giving it 8 out of 10. It loses some points because of the few annoying characters and because I know I'm going to have to wait a while for story-lines to be completed and things to be explained. That said, I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.

24 May 2014

The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan

Just a quick warning before I start. This review will contain spoilers from the previous book! So if you do not want to know until you have read it I suggest you put off reading this for a little bit.

With the seals on the Dark Ones prison strengthened by the One Power contained at the Eye of the World, remnants from the Age of Legends discovered that could hold the key to Tarmon Gai'don and the Dark One supposedly dead, can Rand al'Thor come to terms with the fact that he can channel the One Power and will one day succumb to madness. But is the Dark One really dead and how many of the Forsaken are now awake and roaming the world? Now, along with his friends Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara, Rand Al'Thor must accompany a group of Shienaran soldiers to hunt down a group of Trollocs and Darkfriends who have escaped with a valuable treasure. With the Darkfriends motives unclear the company of humans follow, through alternate worlds to a town at the continents farthest point to the west. Meanwhile Nynaeve Al'Meara and Egwene Al'Vere travel to the White Tower to begin their training to become Aes Sedai but have they uncovered a dark secret in the Tower that will take them to a mysterious army rumored to be in the west. As paths converge, all roads lead to Falme, but what will happen at the edge of the world and how will it affect the never ending battle against the Shadow.

The Great Hunt is even more fast paced than the first book; one continuous race to get to their goals before time runs out and the ones they love pay the price. The characters are beginning to develop, changed by their adventures as well as their upbringing away from the world. Events begin to shape around them as each battle their personal demons brought on through their individual situations. Lan and Moiraine all but disappear after the beginning of the book that leaves us to get to know our main characters' natural instincts and how they react to the world. Where the story line split for as couple of chapter in the last book this time you have two completely separate story lines with a couple of small offshoots for a couple of chapters from the boys adventure. Bringing characters into the book now that only had bit part roles in the last film in Min Farshaw and Elayne Trakand, we see events unfold from more points of view than just our Emonds Field villagers.

All in all another brilliant read! Robert Jordan followed up his first book with one that easily matched it in both drama, pace and excitement. This book drives the story forward and at the climax you are left wanting more, driving you into the third book before you can think.

10 out of 10!

23 May 2014

Book Blitz: Mary Hades - Sarah Dalton + Giveaway




Mary Hades by Sarah Dalton
(Mary Hades #1)
Publication date: June 2014
Genres: Horror, Young Adult

Synopsis:
Not many seventeen year old girls have a best friend who’s a ghost, but then Mary Hades isn’t your average teenager. 

Scarred physically and mentally from a fire, her parents decide a holiday to an idyllic village in North Yorkshire will help her recover. Nestled in the middle of five moors, Mary expects to have a boring week stuck in a caravan with her parents. Little does she know, evil lurks in the campsite…

Seth Lockwood—a local fairground worker with a dark secret—might be the key to uncovering the murky history that has blighted Nettleby. But Mary is drawn to him in a way that has her questioning her judgement.

Helped by her dead best friend and a quirky gay Goth couple, Mary must stop the unusual deaths occurring in Nettleby. But can she prevent her heart from being broken?

The first in a series of dark YA novels, Mary Hades follows on from the bestselling Kindle Single My Daylight Monsters. A spine-tingling tale with romance, readers will be shocked and entertained in equal measure.



Author Bio
Sarah grew up in the middle of nowhere in the countryside of Derbyshire and as a result has an over-active imagination. She has been an avid reader for most of her life, taking inspiration from the stories she read as a child, and the novels she devoured as an adult.

Sarah mainly writes speculative fiction for a Young Adult audience and has had pieces of short fiction published in the Medulla Literary Review, PANK magazine and the British Fantasy Society publication Dark Horizons. Her short story Vampires Wear Chanel is featured in the Wyvern Publication Fangtales available here:

Sarah's debut novel The Blemished is a fast paced young adult dystopia set in a fractured Britain. It follows the events of Mina Hart, a young Blemished girl who has a dangerous secret, as she tries to escape the dreaded Operation and get out of Area 14.

Author links: 



Five ways Mary Hades is different to your average YA series

Author Note: I'm pretty excited about this project. I find Mary the easiest character to write because she is such a free spirit. However, there's a part of me that's nervous about this series. I've mixed things up. Mary Hades doesn't follow a formula. Here are five things you can expect, and five examples that are a little different to most YA books.

1. It’s not a trilogy:
At the moment, the series is open ended, which means I’m planning to keep it going for as long as I enjoy writing it. To me, this is almost like a long-running television series, where each book will focus on a specific challenge. I will be bringing in long-arc storylines at some point, but the first few books are almost standalones.

2. Each novel is a snapshot:
Like the novella that started it all - My Daylight Monsters - each novel, and each story, is a snapshot into Mary’s life. That means that not all the books will link on from each other. The first book has a resolution and no cliff-hanger, but it sets up the rest of the series, because it shows Mary what she wants to achieve with her life. This is going to continue throughout the series. Think of them as brief instalments into her very interesting life. Characters will come and go. Not all of the novels will be set in the same place. There is a lot of scope for the series. It could go on as Mary goes to University, or a spin off with different characters could occur. There are no set rules here. Think of it as an urban fantasy series, but more contemporary.

3. The novels are short:
The main reason I write Mary Hades at a shorter length is because the tone is very deep first person POV present tense. The books are meant to be all-encompassing. I want the reader to be drawn into Mary’s world, and that is an intense ride. These sorts of novels are almost always short. Think of the wonderful How I Live Now, or the engrossing Never Let Me Go - they are both short novels and that suits them very well. The first instalment of Mary Hades will be about 280 pages. On the plus side, shorter novels means I can write the instalments quicker, so you won’t have to wait long for the next book. And, as the books are shorter, I’ve decided to charge less for them, so you won’t be paying more for a shorter novel. However, quality almost always beats quantity. ;)

4. This is dark fiction:
When I started writing My Daylight Monsters, I was very influenced by Gothic literature. That’s a very broad brush. I always loved Victorian Gothics, like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Grey. These novels always have a supernatural element and always have some sort of dark, looming presence. In My Daylight Monsters, that presence is the hospital, and the deepest fears we harbour there. In Mary Hades, that looming presence is the Yorkshire moors- of course, inspired by Wuthering Heights. Other influences could include Daphne Du Maurier. I had a few scenes from Jamaica Inn playing in my mind as I wrote this book. Mary Hades is much more grown up than my other novels. In the past, my books like The Blemished and White Hart have been more suited to younger YA. Mary Hades is best for older teens and adults.

5. Horror AND Romance?
Yup, you better believe it. In the midst of fighting a really scary ghost, Mary manages a holiday romance. Hey, call me a romantic, but I think a girl needs to take some time off from her ghost hunting once in a while. In all seriousness, I want the books to be scary AND uplifting. There’s a definite contemporary feel to the writing, and hopefully that ties in with the romance.


Giveaway

This is an International giveaway for: An Ultimate Swag Bag, a signed paperback of any of Sarah's books, three ebooks (winners choice).

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22 May 2014

Review: The Maze Runner - James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in a dark lift with no memory of what came before and only his wits to guide him. When the box finally opens, he finds himself in the glade; a camp of about 50 boys (known as gladers) living at the heart of an enormous maze. Every day, runners enter the maze to try and find away out, and every night the doors to the maze close and the horrific Grievers come out. The terrifying slug-like monsters, half animal and half machine, are deadly and dangerous, but barely come out in the day. The day after Thomas enters the glade, something unprecedented happens; another glader is sent up, this time a vaguely familiar girl who brings a message; everything is going to change. Boy is she right.

It's no wonder that this YA dystopia has been turned into a film; from the very start it seems like the action and emotion doesn't let up. The gladers are a harsh lot, and their language and demeanour take a lot of getting used to, especially for our protagonist. The reader is with Thomas all the way, finding out everything about the maze and he does. Seriously, you can't fault James Dashner for his ability to keep you guessing. He will give you clues as to the bigger picture, but you're so wrapped up in Thomas's story that you barely register them as clues until their meaning is made clear.

As for characters, although there is a massive number of boys in the glade, the author keeps it simple by allowing about 10 of them to crop up more than others. The keepers, the boys who are in charge of their sections for work (this includes looking after animals, cleaning, cooking, running, it's very well organised) are the ones who really speak for the entire glade inhabitants, but you also get their personalities slightly developed, which is a nice touch. However, overall I didn't feel that there was too much in the way of character arcs or development, especially in Thomas's case. He really stayed the same throughout.

Thomas is an incredibly stable character, considering the situation he finds himself in. Yes, he panics a bit, but never really shows it properly. Instead he tends to look around and try to work things out, which makes for a very reliable narrative; something I quite liked. A few of the boys, like Chuck, Newt and Minho, had fairly well-developed personality traits and flaws, and as time went on, I found I liked Minho more and more. Gally was a stroke of inspiration, a character you could really hate but at the same time kind of feel for. His inclusion made everything more confusing, because he actually made a fair bit of sense, and Thomas really doesn't know who he was or what he has done before. Theresa was someone I really wasn't sure about though, to me she seemed too much like a vehicle to move the plot forward. It makes you wonder whether she could have been left out of this book and inserted in at a later date, and maybe Thomas could have triggered events and had his memories slowly come to him. it is very clear that she will be a love interest at some stage, but here she was only needed for relaying information and as the trigger; a small variant to take away from a rather boy-heavy text.

This actually leads me on to the next issue (which, if I'm reading the epilogue correctly, will be answered in the next book, or the third), where are all the girls? As you can tell, I have a few theories, but sharing those would give the plot and the twists away entirely. Since the twists are really rather spectacular, I'd rather not. I'll only say that in true dystopian fashion, once you get past one problem, another bigger one always presents its-self.

A fast-paced, thrilling ride, 8 out of 10 because I really enjoyed reading it but the characters could do with some work. Needless to say, I can't wait to get started on The Scorch Trials, and to watch the upcoming film.


The Maze Runner on Goodreads

21 May 2014

Trailer Reveal: Carrier - Anne Tibbetts

This book has been on my radar ever since I signed up to the cover reveal, and now I'm revealing the book trailer too!

Carrier by Anne Tibbets
(The Line #1)
Published by: Carina Press
Publication date: June 16th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, New Adult

Synopsis:
Twenty-two -year-old Naya has spent nearly half her life as a sex slave in a government institution called The Line. When she’s kicked out after getting pregnant with twins, she’s got no way to earn a living and a horrifying choice to make: find someone to replace her, or have her babies taken in her stead.
A doctor with a history of aiding ex-Line girls, Ric Bennett, wants to help. He runs a team of rebels that can delete Naya’s records and free her forever. But when The Line sniffs out his plan, things get bloody, fast. Naya means more to them than just a chance at fresh faces—her twins are part of the government’s larger plan.
As they hide from government search parties, Ric comes to admire Naya’s quiet strength. And Naya realizes Ric might be a man she can trust. If they make it off the grid, they could build a new life. But first they’ll have to survive the long, vicious reach of The Line.
Without further ado, here's the trailer (and it's by far the best trailer I've seen for a while):




Anne Tibbets is an SCBWI award-winning and Smashwords.com Best Selling author. After writing for Children’s television, Anne found her way to young/new adult fiction by following what she loves: books, strong female characters, twisted family dynamics, magic, sword fights, quick moving plots, and ferocious and cuddly animals.

Along with CARRIER, Anne is also the author of the young adult fantasy novella, THE BEAST CALL and the young adult contemporary, SHUT UP.
Anne divides her time between writing, her family, and three furry creatures that she secretly believes are plotting her assassination.
Author Links:
http://www.annetibbets.com/https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4839392.Anne_Tibbetshttps://www.facebook.com/AnneTibbetsAuthorhttps://twitter.com/WriteforCoffee

Wednesday Wishlist #7

This week is another post on fairytales and this time there's quite a mixture!


Stolen Songbird - Danielle Jensen

A whole new take on trolls, featuring a girl who sings beautifully, an 'enigmatic troll prince', rebellion and a curse. Question: Are trolls ugly or is that all part of the myth? My bet is that this troll prince is drop-dead gorgeous. However, I can see hidden layers to this book; slavery of half human races is dealt with, as are politics of the troll court and it is all wrapped up in layers of magic, both our protagonists magic and that of the trolls. It sounds good, and with a 4.05 rating on Goodreads, I'll probably be getting my hands on it soon.

Stolen Songbird on Goodreads

Entwined - Heather Dixon

This book has been on the wishlist for ages, but I've never got around to buying it... yet. In this retelling of The Twelve Dancing princesses, just as before the princesses step into a hidden world inside their palace, where they can dance to their hearts content inside a silver forest. but one day they find themselves trapped inside this world by the Keeper. Azalea is the eldest sister, and she must fight against the Keeper to bring freedom for herself and her sisters. This appears to be a love it or hate it kind of book, so I really hope I love it.

Entwined on Goodreads

Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson

A retelling of Peter Pan entirely from the perspectives of the Neverland inhabitants, namely Tinkerbell. I've seen wonderful things about this book and I've heard that it is really deeply emotional. It follows the story of how Tiger Lily was in love with Peter Pan before Wendy Darling comes along, and the measures she went through to try and be with him. It is meant to be a very powerful and gripping novel, and I only hope that it does the same for me as it has done for many other people. I am not a cryer and I don't often get affected in that sort of way by books, but you never know, this might be a first.

Tiger Lily on Goodreads

20 May 2014

Book Blast: The Art of Lainey - Paula Stokes + Giveaway


The Art of Lainey - Paula Stokes - Book Blast



Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work!  But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?



Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Goodreads



Author Bio
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she graduated from Washington University and the Goldfarb School of Nursing. When she’s not writing, she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers! Find her online at www.authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

Paula Stokes on Facebook

Giveaway
This giveaway is courtesy of the author. It is open Internationally for ages 13+.

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Hosted by Book Nerd Tours

19 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #6 - Awesome Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where I will be picking from their top tens and attempting to reveal what my thinking is behind these choices.


This Top Ten Tuesday is actually on a Monday, but don't worry, I haven't got mad quite yet; this is to make some room for tomorrow's post! Today I'm listing some of my favourite authors of all time - I hope you agree with me!

1. Joanne Harris
I've shown my love for this lady on many, many occasions, so it's only right that I put her right at the top of my post. Her writing is emotive, descriptive and her books are exquisite. Read one, read any one, and you will fall in love as well.

2. Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Every single book I read with this man's name on the front sends shivers up my spine. Some times in a good way, sometime in an 'I'm terrified' way (depending on which book I'm reading). His stories for children are equally as good as those for adults, and the adult ones are so deliciously complex, you are completely absorbed.

3. Ben Aaronovitch
If you haven't read the Peter Grant series yet, put it on the TBR pile, because you utterly need to. It's funny, serious, murderous and full of magic; exactly what you need in a good fantasy police drama. Rivers of London (that's Midnight Riot in some places), the first book, is creepy and cool in equal measure, and I love the way I can relate to these places, because once in a while I can say I've seen them.

4. Terry Pratchett
This man has the most vivid and eccentric imagination I have ever read. His books are witty and silly and engrossing, and the world he has given life to has even been adapted into TV Movies. If that's not a sign of good literature, I don't know what is.

5. Neil Gaiman
Stardust, Coraline, Neverwhere; this author's list of adapted works doesn't seem to end. His collaboration with Terry Pratchett (Good Omens) is absolutely brilliant and his other works are beautifully strange and wonderful. I love reading Neil Gaiman, because it doesn't matter which story you read, it always manages to pull you head-first into the world he has created. Oh, and he wrote a couple of purely awesome Doctor Who episodes.

6. Markus Zusak
I know I've only actually read one book by this man, but it is the best book I've ever read in my life. I love The Book Thief like I'd written it myself. It is a remarkable book, and therefore he is a remarkable author. I'm looking forward to reading more from him.

7. Brandon Sanderson
This guy has an incredible imagination. Have you read his Mistborn series? Trust me, they're so involved and so, so good! He was also chosen to ghost-write the end of the Wheel of Time series, so he's got to be good, right?

8. Philip Pullman
How could I leave this man out? His Dark Materials is a trilogy that I'll keep with me for the rest of my life. It was the first truly epic book series I ever read, that really verged on things I had never thought about before; other worlds, souls, death, trepanning (look it up, it's gross). Ok, Harry Potter did get epic, but I read this whole series before I read that whole series, and this somehow still holds the edge. Which brings me nicely on to...

9. J. K. Rowling
When you hear that name, a mention of Harry Potter soon follows. What a remarkable mind to go from a single vision of a wizard on a train to this all-encompassing battle between the natures of good and evil, personified in a young man and a dark lord. This series is my childhood, and I have spent most of my life absorbed in a Harry Potter bubble which burst not long ago, but it will never be forgotten.

10. George R.R. Martin
My new bubble arrived in the form of A Game of Thrones (well, and Doctor Who, but since were doing authors, I'll let that one slide). If there was anything to get anyone into fantasy, this series would be it. It is possible the most bloodthirsty set of books I've ever read, but still you read on, if only to find out who dies next. I'm halfway through this series, and it doesn't ever let up, no book is ever boring and no character is skippable. The TV show is immense, but to me the books will always be better. I guess I'm a traditionalist.

Are there any authors you would add to the list, any that you disagree with? Comment and let me know!

18 May 2014

Review: The Moment Collector - Jodi Lynn Anderson

In Door County, a murderer is on the loose, and for Maggie, that's yet another thing to add to her list of excuses for not staying there. She and her family have just moved there from Chicago, and Maggie is worried about everything; a new job, gaining new friends, keeping herself occupied. Then she meets Pauline and Liam, and although they appear to be the town nutcases, Maggie keeps them close and things begin to look up. The funny thing about people being killed is that nothing ever stays good for long; fear and panic over the murders spread, and once more Maggie faces upheaval in her life. Meanwhile, a ghost watches over the three friends, knowing everything that will happen, watching and wishing things could change and that she could help...

Firstly, wow, this was quite an unexpected read. This book has such depth to it, and although I was engrossed soully on Maggie's story whilst reading, I've come to realise that she is a great person and a wonderful character. She really teaches the reader how to be human, and how to care even when you are hurting. This is such a powerful feeling now that I have finished the book, and her way of thinking is staying with me completely.

The narrative in the book switches between a third person account of Maggie (which sometimes feels more like a memory at the beginning, clever) and a first person account of the ghost. Although these two styles shouldn't mix usually, here it makes utter sense and you don't lose anything by switching between the two. The ghost lends an air of melancholy and loneliness while also letting the reader reflect on what is happening, and it also is a great way of foreshadowing events to lead the reader on.

On that point, the ghost was a really good character, and although it wasn't strictly neccessary, it still was an integral part of the story. The way that it was able to keep some distance and let us see the important, heart-wrenching moments through a dead person's eyes is really touching in a way you don't expect. So although this story does involve a ghost and scary elements, it is much more about the feelings and relationships that Maggie herself goes through.

Maggie, Pauline and Liam are some of the best-characterised protagonists I've read in a long time, especially considering that this is quite a short book. Not one of them was boring; they had their individual traits and quirks, and you could really understand how each of them felt. I loved how their relationships played out, and how Anderson captured the reality of a strain in a relationship, where we would try to avoid eachother. This is a perfect example of how well the author has captured the human element that we connect with in the story.

One thing that didn't sit well with me was the editing, or lack of. The thing is, I am unsure whether some of the loss of capitalisation was because it hasn't been edited out yet or because it was meant to be that way. So, if it is meant to be that way, please make it more obvious, or leave it to the chapter titles only. If it isn't, please get someone to fix that. I can handle the odd typo, but what I can't handle is a multitude of capitalisation errors. I think there's something wrong with the way speech was dealt with, too. Like you don't know entirely who is talking all the time. Anyway, these are easy errors to fix, so it's not a huge deal to me.

A mournful but beautiful read, the story has this impending sense of doom that actually manages to surprise you when you realise how it comes about. It is a very realistic-feeling book, being both happy and sad, but revelling in every part of life nevertheless. it tells the reader to find joy in the simplest moments and the smallest acts of kindness. Therefore it gets a 9 out of 10.



The Moment Collector on Goodreads
Otherwise known as The Vanishing Season.

17 May 2014

Cover Reveal: Fractured - Erin Hayes

Zombies on holiday, the supernatural, mysterious seizures and twins... these are all the ingredients to make a really interesting, really creepy book. I love the sound of it, and I also love the cover:



Fractured by Erin Hayes
Publication date: July 8th 2014
Genres: Adult, Horror

Synopsis:
Blinded by a mysterious seizure when she was three years old, Bash Martin has managed to carve out a normal life for herself as an adult. Yet she still yearns for a deeper connection with her twin sister Lily, who has always been jealous of the attention their parents bestowed upon Bash due to her disability.
A dream vacation seems like the perfect chance to heal their relationship, but Bash soon realizes there is something terribly wrong with Lily and that her sister is hiding a dark secret. And when a supernatural fire engulfs their hotel and corpses come back to life, the sisters are plunged into a nightmarish world that threatens not only their lives, but their very souls.

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21865341-fractured?ac=1



Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd, and wannabe manga artist, Erin Hayes writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books, like the fantasy mystery Death is but a Dream and the sci-fi middle grade book Jacob Smith is Incredibly Average.

You can reach her at tiptoegirl87@gmail.com and she'll be happy to chat. Especially if you want to debate Star Wars.

Author links:

16 May 2014

The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan

'There is a world of light and shadow, where good and evil wage eternal war. It is the world of the Wheel of Time, the greatest fantasy epic ever written.' These words I have taken from the back cover of the book to start me off as it reflects my personal opinion of the series. Written by Robert Jordan (real name James Oliver Rigney Jnr.), and afterwards by Brandon Sanderson after the formers tragic death, the Wheel of Time series consists of fourteen books released between 1990 and 2013.

The series is set it a mythical world where its occupants believe their universe is set on a continuous loop, the Wheel of Time, where events repeat themselves over hundreds of thousands of years. The Wheel of Time is powered by the One Power, which flows from the True Source, to spin out the Pattern of Ages, which is effectively the fate of the entire universe. The One Power consists of a male and a female half, Saidin and Saidar, and can be Channeled by some humans. Certain individuals are spun out by the Pattern time and time again to influence events. Despite this the Pattern is neither good nor evil, it simply represents what has been, what is and what may be. The world was created by the Creator, who plays no active part in the series, and is under constant threat from Shai'tan, the Dark One, who was sealed outside of the world by the Creator upon its creation.

After the Dark One's release thousands of years ago there was the first war in this turning of the Wheel between good and evil. This war, known as the War of the Shadow was concluded when Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon, and his Hundred Companions re-sealed the Dark One's prison. However as they did so the Dark One retaliated and managed to taint Saidin, the male half of the One Power. This eventually drove the male Aes Sedai, channelers of the One Power, mad and lead to the Breaking of the World which ended the Age of Legends. Since these events humans have lived in fear of the time that Prophecies say the Dragon will be Reborn to face the Shadow at Tarmon Gai'don, the Last Battle.

The first book follows a small company who set out from a small region known as the Two Rivers, a small forgotten corner of Andor forgotten by the world since the fall of the kingdom of Manetheren. The company is led by Moiraine Damodred, an Aes Sedai, and her Warder, al'Lan Mandragoran. Also in the company is Thom Merrilin, a Gleeman, Nynaeve Al'Meara, a village Wisdom, a young woman named Egwene Al'Vere and three young men called Rand al'Thor, Perrin Aybara and Matrim (Mat) Cauthon. With the Shadow seeming to take an interest in the three young men, the company flees their home village of Emond's Field in order to save their loved ones and try to discover why. Persuaded by evil creates including Trollocs, Myrddraal and Draghkar as well as Darkfriends (humans who fight on the side of the Shadow) they flee towards Tar Valon, home city of the Aes Sedai. During the course of their adventure the company is split up and persuaded in their dreams as well as the waking world. The characters learn things about themselves, both welcome and unwelcome, as they struggle to stay out of the hands of the Shadow who will either kill them or worse, force them to serve it. As they go further and further into the dangers of the world it becomes apparent that their fate may be decided at the Eye of the World.

The book is action packed, from start to finish, with a fast pace and several different story lines from different characters points of view to keep you on your toes. The characters are extremely likable and  Robert Jordan's amazing ability to paint a picture in your mind really draws you into the book so you will not want to put it down. This is my favorite series ever as it is always asking questions, hiding answers and doing everything necessary to hold your attention throughout, and in the Eye of the World the series gets off to a perfect start.

10 out of 10, brilliant!


15 May 2014

Cover Reveal: Sticks and Stones - Shawn McGuire

Today I've got a stunning cover design for you, though it's not exactly what imagined. In time, I'm sure it will become clear what the cover is all about. For now, though, enjoy!


Sticks and Stones by Shawn McGuire
(The Wish Makers #1)
Publication date: June 15th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:
Everyone has a dark side. Mandy’s just moved in with her.
The last time sixteen-year-old Mandy Matteo broke a rule, her sister died. Since that day she has done only what is expected of her, but life as a goody-goody has made Mandy so boring her friends have all but abandoned her. And she’s given up on ever getting Ethan, the boy she’s liked forever, to notice her. Desperate, Mandy makes a wish to simply be happy.

Her wish is granted and happiness arrives in the form of Lexi, her childhood imaginary friend come to life. Magical wishes have conditions though: Once started, the wish cannot be altered or stopped. And once Mandy is truly content with her life again, Lexi must go back to where she came from. But Lexi loves being alive and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay that way.

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22023086-sticks-and-stones



Shawn McGuire started writing after seeing the first Star Wars movie (that’s episode IV) as a kid; she couldn’t wait for the next one so wrote her own episodes. Sadly, those notebooks are long lost. Sticks and Stones is her debut and is the first in the planned five-book YA fantasy series, The Wish Makers. She grew up in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Winona, Minnesota and after graduating college moved to the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin where she lived for many years. She and her family now call Colorado home and when not writing or reading, Shawn enjoys cooking and baking, crafts, interior decorating, and spending time hiking and camping in the spectacular Rocky Mountains.

Author links:
https://www.facebook.com/shawn.mcguire1
https://twitter.com/Shawn_McGuire
http://www.pinterest.com/shawnmcguire1/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3231214.Shawn_McGuire

14 May 2014

Cover Reveal: Bound in Blue - Heather Hamilton Senter

This particular book sounds so exciting, and it's about something that doesn't get too much attention; synesthesia. I love it when people take something that really exists and twists it into a book. This cover was designed by Book Cover Artistry. Without further ado, here is the brand-spanking-new cover:


Bound in Blue by Heather Hamilton-Senter
(Sword of Elements #1)
Publication date: June 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:
Gods walk among us—all you have to do is See.
High school senior Rhiannon Lynne couldn’t get noticed even if she walked stark naked into the cafeteria and started playing the banjo. While tap dancing. As if that weren’t strange enough, Rhi has synesthesia—she feels in color. It takes being almost drowned by a Celtic river goddess for her to discover she’s been bound by a spell that has hidden her from the world and her own mysterious heritage.
As Rhi starts to see that her colors are connected to magic, she finds herself at the center of a conflict between gods, humans, and the lost world of Avalon. She’ll need to figure things out fast if she wants to be a player in the coming conflict and not a pawn. Each side has a claim on her loyalty, but each one could decide she’s the real threat.
Hopelessly in love with a god of thunder; deeply connected to a boy with no memory of his past; irresistibly drawn to a creature with a taste for flesh—Rhi’s choices could decide the fate of worlds, but their choices could decide hers.
Maybe not being seen wasn’t so bad after all.

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22021271-bound-in-blue