Book Review

Book Review : Pantomime by Laura Lam.

PantomimeR. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass—remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone—are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star.

But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

I need to start this review by saying that I absolutely loved this book, I made myself read it slowly (something I find pretty hard to do) just so the experience would last longer. I know that we’re only a few weeks into January but I know this book is going to be a contender for a place on my Top Ten Reads of 2013 – I loved it that much. This should be an easy review to write in that case yes? No. I think this might be the trickiest review I’ve written in a long time, possibly ever. The very things that made me adore this book are the very things I don’t want to write about – I believe the experience of reading this book and the way the story unfolds need to be protected.

I loved the circus setting for the book, it’s described so well – as you’re reading you feel as though you’re actually sitting watching all the acts or walking through the carnival after the show. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, one of the reasons I forced myself to read more slowly and really soak it all in.

The book moves between Gene’s story and Micah’s story, the move between narratives never jars, and I found I was really interested in both stories so was always eager to read more of them both. There is a strong social structure in the world that provides the setting for the book, I found this really interesting particularly as Gene and Micah are at opposite ends of it.

The circus setting also makes for some really interesting characters, I found the whole structure of the company of performers and backstage members fascinating. I really enjoyed the interactions between Micah and his mentors – aerialists Arik and Aenea. In Gene’s story I enjoyed the time she spent with her brother and his friends, the bantery nature of her friendship with them was so well created.

The world that the book is set reminded me quite a bit of Victorian England, though it has magical elements that leave me finding it really hard to put a genre label onto the book. The mentions of the Vestige throughout the book, objects that have magical properties add a real sense of atmosphere to the book.

As soon as I finished reading this book I started talking to people about it, telling them about how I’d really loved it and that they just needed to read it. I think I’ll be doing this for a good few months to come which is good as it will help me pass the time whilst I’m waiting for the next book in the series!

Pantomime is published by Strange Chemistry in the UK from 7th February 2013. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book via NetGalley.com all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Meme

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To.

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature created by The Broke and the Bookish so that bloggers can share lists of bookish things.

TTT3W

Debuts is the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I love this idea for a top ten as it’s made me go and have a look to see what debuts different publishers have, I’ve stuck to books being published in the UK and aimed at children and teens. I’ve sorted my list by publication date, like always images and synopses come from Goodreads or the publisher’s website.

SplinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard. Published 1st January by A & C Kids.
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

SorrowlineSorrowline by Niel Bushnell. Published 3rd January by Andersen Press.
The past is not a frozen place. Graveyards are not dead ends. And if the Sorrowline lets you in there is a hidden world of adventure waiting behind every gravestone.

Just when 12-year-old Jack Morrow’s life is falling apart he discovers his natural ability to travel through Sorrowlines: channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death. Confused and alone Jack finds himself in 1940. He embarks on an adventure through London during the Blitz with Davy, his teenage grandfather, to find a mystical Rose that might just save his mother’s life, a mother who he has already seen die. But the terrible power of the Rose of Annwn, is sought by many, and the forces of a secret world are determined to find it first. With a league of Undead Knights of his trail, commanded by the immortal Rouland, can Jack decipher the dark secret hidden at the heart of his family? Can he change his own destiny and save his mother?

TragedyPaperThe Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. Published 10th January by Random House Children’s.
Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

PantomimePantomime by Laura Lam. Published 7th February by Strange Chemistry.
R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

InfiniteSkyInfinite Sky by C.J. Flood. Published 14 February by Simon & Schuster.
Iris Dancy’s free-spirited mum has left for Tunisia, her dad’s rarely sober and her brother’s determined to fight anyone with a pair of fists.

When a family of travellers move into the overgrown paddock overnight, her dad looks set to finally lose it. Gypsies are parasites he says, but Iris is intrigued. As her dad plans to evict the travelling family, Iris makes friends with their teenage son. Trick Deran is a bare knuckle boxer who says he’s done with fighting, but is he telling the truth?

When tools go missing from the shed, the travellers are the first suspects. Iris’s brother, Sam, warns her to stay away from Trick; he’s dangerous, but Iris can no longer blindly follow her brother’s advice. He’s got secrets of his own, and she’s not sure he can be trusted himself.

Infinite Sky is a family story about betrayal and loyalty, and love.

ZombieGoldfishMy Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara. Published 28th February by Macmillan Children’s Books.
‘Sami was still holding the goldfish. “Swishy little fishy,” she whispered, over and over. Frankie stared at her with his big, bulging, glowing eyes. Suddenly a little light bulb went on . . . Frankie was a Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and somehow he’d hypnotized my best friend’s sister!’ Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom’s new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge . . . Tom has a difficult choice to make – save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend?

AcidACID by Emma Pass. Published 25th April by Corgi Children’s / Random House Children’s.
ACID – the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.
They see everything. They know everything.
They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.
I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong.

IfYouFindMeIf You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. Published 2nd May by Indigo.
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon. Published 7th May by Strange Chemistry.
Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.

But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.

Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore. Published 20th August by Bloomsbury USA.
If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. Her father owns one of North Carolina’s most successful barbeque joints and she’s been shredding pork and basting baby back ribs since she could reach the counter. When Taste Test, a reality cooking show for teens, accepts her for their fifth season, it’s a chance for Nora to get out of her humble hometown and break into the big leagues of the culinary world. When she shows up on set at the North American Culinary Academy, however, it’s not just the New England weather that’s ice cold. Fights with her high-society roommate and run-ins with the son of a famous chef force Nora to work even harder to prove she’s a force to be reckoned with. But, despite winning challenges and falling for a fellow contestant, Nora can’t ignore the mysterious accidents that are plaguing the kitchen arena. It seems like someone is conducting eliminations of their own and Nora’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before she, or anyone else, is “86ed” for good.

Book Review

My Week In Books. [3]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in drabble form – exactly 100 words excluding title and publishing details.

Shift by Kim Curran. Strange Chemistry.
Shift opens in a way that makes you think you need to cancel all plans, sit down and read until you get to the final page. Quickly you find yourself pulled into the book, the idea of being able to change a decision you’ve made and have reality alter as a result is an intriguing one and the idea that these changes could be disastrous as well as beneficial is well explored and left me thinking long after I’d finished reading. I already can’t wait for the follow up book, this is a world I want to visit for longer.

Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott. Walker Books.
This book was a great read, it’s one of those books that has some of everything I look for in a book. There’s a strong female lead character, a loveable male character to swoon over, a thoroughly creepy and dreadful villain, a gripping plot filled with politics and warring societies all topped off with a cast of intriguing supporting characters and a generous sprinkling of well-choreographed fight sequences. I loved the world Zoe has created for this book, it’s described so beautifully that I felt as if I was transported to it rather than being on a long train journey!

Book News

Strange Chemistry’s Open Door.

I said yesterday that I’d be posting about something a little different that Strange Chemistry were doing, and here I am. They have announced that they will be holding an Open Door period in conjunction with their parent company Angry Robot.

So what does this actually mean?
Between 16th and 30th April UNAGENTED AUTHORS can send their novels in to Strange Chemistry for their consideration. They will be reading all novels that are submitted (providing they follow all of the guidelines for submission) and may end up publishing some of them.

Angry Robot Books did this last year, and so far three authors have been signed as a result of it. If you’ve got a YA novel that falls anywhere in the SF/F genres this is a really great opportunity to get your work seen. Who knows, this time next year I might be writing a post about *your* debut novel with Strange Chemistry!

This page is vital reading for anyone who thinks that they might like to sumbit their novel. It contains all of the information about what they are and aren’t looking for, how you should format your submission and a really helpful FAQ. So get reading, and get fixing up that manuscript and good luck!

Blog News

More exciting titles from Strange Chemistry.

Since announcing their first two titles a couple of weeks ago Strange Chemistry have continued to be really busy. Tomorrow I’ll be posting about something a little different they’re doing, but first up we have the announcements for two more brilliant sounding books.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond.

About the book: On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

About the author: Gwenda Bond is a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, has reviewed books for the Washington Post and Locus Magazine, and has appeared on NPR’s Weekend Edition. She won the 2010 Veritas Media Award from the Romance Writers of America for her article “Romancing the Recession” in PW, and recently guest edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online featuring work by Kelly Link, Sarah Rees Brennan, Malinda Lo, and others.

Gwenda also holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ program in writing for children and young adults, and maintains an active online presence. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, SF author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie.

Visit Gwenda online at http://gwendabond.typepad.com/ and on Twitter as @Gwenda

Katya’s World (Part 1 of The Russalka Chronicles) by Jonathan L Howard.

About the book:The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurised environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it. But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent.

Katya Kuriakova doesn’t care much about ancient history. She is making her first submarine voyage as an apprentice navigator; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career. But there is nothing nice and simple about the deep, black waters of Russalka and soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realise that her world’s future lies on the narrowest of knife edges.

For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin. And when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet…

About the author: Jonathan L. Howard has been a game designer for the last twenty years, and a full-time author for the past three. He is the author of the Johannes Cabal series of novels. He lives near Bristol.

Visit Jonathan online at http://johannescabal.com/ and follow him on Twitter as @JonathanLHoward

I really love the way that Strange Chemistry is already announcing titles that span the genre world so well, I think there will be something to please everyone.

Book News

First titles announced by Strange Chemistry.

I’m really excited today to see that new YA imprint Strange Chemistry have announced their first two titles.

Shift by Kim Curran

About The Book: When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not quite so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

About the Author: Kim Curran was born in Dublin and moved to London when she was seven. After studying Philosophy and Literature at Sussex University her plan of being paid big bucks to think deep thoughts never quite paid off. She became an advertising copywriter instead, specialising in writing for video games. She lives in SW London with her husband, if they’re not both off travelling. When she’s not writing she fences and plays guitar, both very badly.

Visit Kim online at http://www.kimcurran.co.uk/ and on Twitter as @kimecurran

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings

About the Book: Julie is an apprentice witch – or so she believes. When a dark power comes stalking out of the past to haunt her and her mother, Julie learns that she is far more than just a witch. With the help of her best friend Marcus and a rather unusual Great Dane, Julie has to race against time to ensure she can defeat the bad guy, save her mother and avoid being grounded – again!

About the Author: Sean Cummings lives in Saskatoon, Canada. He’s a comic book geek, superhero junkie, zombie fan and a total nerd. His interests include science fiction, the borg, cats with extra toes, east Indian cuisine and quality sci-fi movies/television. Sean has been writing since 1978 (as a means of liberating his “inner nerd”) and his published works for adults include Shade Fright, Funeral Pallor and Unseen World, all published by Snowbooks. Poltergeeks is his first book for Young Adults.

Visit Sean online at www.sean-cummings.ca and www.darkcentralstation.com and on Twitter as @saskatoonauthor

I love the sound of both of these books, I’m really looking forward to reading them already.

Book News

New YA Imprint from Angry Robot.

I’m always pleased to be able to blog about exciting book news, and this story has certainly got my attention. Angry Robot is launching a sister imprint Strange Chemistry that will publish YA genre fiction.

Angry Robot logoAngry Robot announces new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry

Angry Robot, the award-winning publisher of SF, F and WTF are pleased to announce their newest venture – a sister imprint, Strange Chemistry, which will publish Young Adult genre fiction.

The imprint will launch in September 2012, with five titles appearing before the end of that year, before settling down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both eBook and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times.

Running the imprint will be Amanda Rutter, until recently best known as the tireless blogger behind genre review site, Floor-to-Ceiling Books. She takes up her position in Angry Robot’s headquarters in Nottingham on December 12th.

Angry Robot’s managing director Marc Gascoigne said: “The key to any truly successful genre imprint is the personality of its editors. In Amanda we’ve found the perfect mix of editing skills and wild, wild enthusiasm for the subject. Her first signings are already making us jump up and down in excitement. We’re beyond delighted to welcome her to the team.”

Amanda Rutter commented, “Angry Robot have quickly become one of the most exciting and challenging genre publishers around, and I have so much admiration for the types of novels that the guys are bringing to the world of speculative fiction. I’m absolutely thrilled that I have the opportunity to join the team, and create a list full of Young Adult novels that share the same sharpness and passion as those in the AR list.”

More information can be found at strangechemistrybooks.com and angryrobotbooks.com. You can meet Amanda at floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com.

I’ve been following Amanda’s blog for a while now and I almost always find myself agreeing with what she has to say so I am really looking forward to seeing the books that she will bring us.