I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm free to review from Netgalley. Growing up in Scotland, my parents often read to me or I read the original, non Disneyfied versions of traditional fairytales. I can still remember being particularly horrified that, in the traditional version Snow White’s wicked stepmother was forced to wear burning hot iron shoes and to dance until she died and that Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out. At my university, one of the courses you could choose to study was Traditional Fairy Tales, which demonstrates just how deeply embedded in the European psyche these stories are.
In this collection, Pullman chooses from among the many variants of the traditional stories, occasionally adding his own spin and after each story gives a little background into each tale along with an explanation of what changes he made. it’s a fascinating read and well worth picking up.
I gave Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm four stars out of five
Having read and loved Aimee Carter’s Pawn, I decided to check out her Goddess Test series based on Greek Mythology, specifically the Hades/Persephone story. While I enjoyed The Goddess Test and felt it was a fun read, well written and with engaging characters it didn’t engage me to the same extent that Pawn did. I will probably pick up the sequels to The Goddess Test at some point though.
I gave The Goddess Test three and a half stars out of five.
In Time is a companion novella to Bracken’s Darkest Minds series and tells the story of Gabe, a young adult who has decided to become a skip tracer – a bounty hunter for escaped Psi children. Of course, the first kid he tries to recapture is our beloved Suzume… Like The Darkest Minds, In Time is beautifully written. Unlike Darkest Minds it’s written from the point of a non Psi person, and one who is taken in by the government’s anti-Psi propaganda. It’s beautiful to see how his attitude changes through his contact with Zu and that he comes to realise these kids are every bit as human as he. I would suggest reading Darkest Minds before this as it explains the world more clearly.
I gave In Time five stars out of five.
Through Netgalley I received Under the Radar, a collection of cross-genre samples from Doubleday Canada and Tundra Books. The first of these is Touched by Fire by Irene Watts, a wonderfully detailed historical novel set in early 20th century New York. Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire tells the tale of a female pilot in WWII.
From the sample Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston seems to be a contemporary YA coming of age novel. The sample didn’t grab me personally, but then again that’s not a genre I often read. Death of a King by Andrew Vanderwal was the sample that intrigued me most. This time travel historical novel seems to be in a similar vein to Connie Willis’ Oxford time travel series which I adored. Of course, time travel stories are very execution dependent, but this is one I would be interested in reading in full.
Apparition by Gail Gallant is a supernatural YA ghost story. it didn’t particularly appeal to me, but if ghost stories are your thing, you may want to check it out. Thomas Wharton’s Tree of Story is in the epic fantasy genre from what I read in the preview. The final book in the sampler is Paula Weston’s paranormal romance Shadows. The main character, Gabe, seems interesting enough, but it is perhaps a little too early to tell from the sample.
If any of these interests you, please check them out at your bookseller of choice.
Added to my library this week
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday there have been a few great deals that I have picked up this week.
I picked up both the Kindle and Audible versions of Pawn, the first in Aimee Carter’s new YA dystopian series. I absolutely loved it – expect a full review next week.
Ryan Winfield’s Park Service could be an interesting read. It was less than $1 on Kindle so I decided to give it a go. i’ve not read it yet, but the synopsis sounds intriguing: From New York Times bestselling author Ryan Winfield, a thrilling tale of friendship, betrayal, and adventure.
What would you do if everything you had been taught turned out to be a lie? That’s the question fifteen-year-old Aubrey VanHouten must answer when he stumbles onto a post-apocalyptic paradise where the few remaining humans live on the run from deadly drones controlled by a mysterious Park Service.
I’ve been hearing great things about Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, so this week I finally gave in and bought it on Kindle. In Schwab’s world, the dead are Archived and our heroine must work to prevent their escaping into our world. From reviews I’ve heard, and from the sample, Schwab’s writing style is very engaging.
Another book I picked up on an excellent deal on Kindle was Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess. From the synopsis, a group of mismatched teens must band together to save the world from a supernatural threat. It could be either appallingly bad or very good, but for just over $1 I was happy to take that chance.
I absolutely adored Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so this week I added her Fangirl and Attachments to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.
Being a sucker for gentle cat mysteries, I added Lending a Paw to my Kindle library. This appears to be a debut novel for author Laurie Cass, but I am happy to give it a try.
My second pre-order of the week was Dangerous Women, an anthology of short stories collected by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. The list of contributing authors – including Martin himself! – is incredible; Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Brandon Sanderson… The theme of the anthology is women kicking ass and taking names, so should be interesting.
One series I’ve been hearing a lot about and keeping an eye on prices is Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies. This week on Kindle the first book was priced at $1.99 so I had to snap it up. For those of you unfamiliar with Uglies, it’s a YA dystopian series in which everyone undergoes mandatory cosmetic surgery at age 16. But does the surgery only affect your appearance…?
Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is another one I’ve been price watching. This week the first book, Cinder, is available on Audible for only $6.
The final deal I picked up this week was Pivot Point by Kasie West. This has a very intriguing premise; whenever our protagonist is faced with a choice, she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes. That sounds very intriguing. Thanks to The Perpetual Page Turner for alerting me to this.
Several months back, BBC Radio made a new production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere with a cast list that was off the charts. It included Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McEvoy, Natalie Dormer. I’d been keeping an eye out for it on Audible, so when I noticed it last week, I snapped it up.
In Other News
This week Amazon made the entire internet stop for a second and emit a collective “what the…?” when it announced that it is working on PrimeAir in which orders will be delivered within 30 mins by pilotless drones. it won’t be available for several years (and what are the bets it’s a US only service?) but here is the concept video
The Dream Keeper by Mikey Brooks tells the story of Parker and Kaelyn, two teenagers who must work with Dream Keeper Gladamyr in order to defeat Fyren and save Dreams. it is aimed at middle grade readers and to be perfectly honest I struggled to finish the book. Harry Potter or Percy Jackson this is definitely not. It is the first in a series, but I doubt I will be reading the next one.
What I liked
The concept. I thought the concept was interesting and well thought out – sleeping humans being sent to either Mares or Favor and the impact an imbalance in those two realms could have. I would have liked to have seen more of the impact of dream deprivation on the human population to show just how devastating that could be. I did feel though that the author had the magic system well thought out and planned.
Gladamyr. I felt this character was interesting and intriguing. I liked his history and that it was his choices that made him what he is in the story.
What I didn’t like
The writing style. In fairness, I received an advanced readers copy of this book via Netgalley so some things may have been improved. This was by far my biggest issue with the book. The writing style was clumsy, contained grammatical errors and also metaphors that made no sense. The vocabulary used was not extensive, although that may have been a conscious choice given the audience at which it is aimed.
I felt also that the structure could have been improved. For example on learning of a certain character’s disappearance we see Gladamyr’s reaction. It’s only later that we see some of the relationship between the two to explain why he reacted in that way. It would have been a much stronger scene in my opinion if we’d seen more of that relationship beforehand.
Bland main characters. I felt Kaelyn and Parker were very much stock teenage characters. While they were consistent and reasonably relatable there was little I found to distinguish them from all the other YA characters out there. I felt more invested in Gladamyr than in these two.
All in all, I cannot in all honesty recommend The Dream Keeper. Naturally you may have a different opinion, but I gave it two stars out of five.
All Our Yesterdays by Cristen Terrill is a YA dystopian sci-fi time travel novel which tells the story of spoiled teen Marina and freedom fighters Em and Finn. The twist – Marina and Em are the same character, only four years apart in age. Em and Finn have travelled back in time to try to prevent the creation of the dystopian police state in which they are living. To do this, they must kill “the doctor” a figure with close connections to all three of them. It is the first in a two-book series although it could work as a standalone, depending on your interpretation of the ending.
What I liked
Character development. One of the great strengths of All Our Yesterdays is seeing the characters’ journey. Through time travel timey wimey we meet three characters at two separate stages of their lives, Marina/Em, Finn and James. We see how their experiences in a four-year period have changed them.
Through Em we see where Marina will end up if Em and Finn are unable to complete their task. The Marina we meet at the beginning is, let’s face it, one of the most annoying, bratty teens in YA – think of an even more self involved Bella Swan – whereas Em is a YA heroine more in the Katniss or Tris Pryor mould. The reader is then intrigued to learn what turned whiny Bella into Tris in just four short years. It’s interesting to note that Em distances herself from Marina and sees her almost as a separate person whom she needs to protect. She changes her name and cuts her hair to show this distance.
The older James, too, is very different from the earlier version we meet. In contrast to Marina/Em though we see more flashes and hints of the man he will become. I’m not certain how early on in the book James’ place in the police state was supposed to be apparent to the reader, but I picked up on it very quickly.
Of the three, Finn is the one who has changed the least in the four years. Both younger and older versions of him are very practical, loyal and level headed. There were a few times I wondered if he wasn’t another future Finn pretending to be younger Finn, but that is neither confirmed nor denied in this book. What does change though is Marina’s/Em’s relationship with him. That is interesting to watch develop, although that was done a little too quickly perhaps for my taste.
The writing style. I really enjoyed Terrill’s writing style. it is beautifully descriptive and very engaging. A perfect example of this is that at one point our characters receive a phone call telling them that another character has died. Nobody actually says the words, but from the setup and the characters’ reactions it’s perfectly clear what has happened.
What I didn’t like
Time travel is tricky. In this book Terrill goes for the standard sci-fi trope of let’s kill Hitler (or at least the relevant evil mastermind) before he becomes evil in order to prevent an apocalypse. Time travel narratives can be fraught with paradoxes and guns just happening to fail at the wrong moment. I’m not 100% certain that Terrill had the whole concept perfectly under control. Some of the explanations provided for anomalies and paradoxes seemed very vague and didn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s possible that they will be explained in far more depth in book two, so I am prepared to give her a pass on this. I did have fun with the older Em and Finn having to pose as their younger selves though!
All in all, this is a great read and I loved it. Any weaknesses in the execution of the time travel concept are more than made up for by the writing and character development. I gave All Our Yesterdays four and half stars out of five.
What with Doctor Who and the arrival of my new Kindle HDX, this has actually been a very quiet reading week. I have been rereading Crewel so that I can follow on with the newly released Altered.
Added to my library this week All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, which I picked up in Kindle format. This seems an intriguing story about time travel and consequences. It’s been getting good reviews on GoodReads and Amazon so thought it would be worth checking out.
Dangerous Women by George R.R. Martin. This is a collection of short stories collected and edited by George R.R. Martin, by various contemporary fantasy writers with a theme of strong, independent women. It sounds an interesting read.
As I may have mentioned a time or two recently, the 23rd of November was the 50th anniversary of the British sci-fi show, Doctor Who. The BBC released a significant number of documentaries, interviews and special episodes to mark the event. For me, three highlights were An Adventure in Space and Time, The Night of the Doctor minisode and the multi-Doctor Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary episode.
Today was release day in Canada for Amazon’s latest tablet, the Kindle HDX and mine was delivered as anticipated. As always with Amazon, the setup was very easy. Find and enter my WiFi details and the device recognised me.
It is a lovely device to look at – it is a little more compact than the original Kindle Fire HD which I have. The HD screen is gorgeous. It has a warmer tone than my the original and text is very crisp and clear. One thing I noticed which really made me happy is that the earphone jack now is fully compatible with my Apple EarPods so that I can start and stop my audiobooks/immersion reading with those. The placement of the volume and on/off buttons are different and that did take a bit of finding. I’m sure I’ll adjust quickly though.
I added the origami cover (in purple for those who are interested.) While it’s cool looking, I discovered that unless you fold it up even when you’re holding it in your hand, the buttons are all but inaccessible.
I will say that the Fire 3.1 OS did take a little getting used to coming from the original Fire. It took me a bit of time figuring out where everything was. The device is very very responsive to the extent that the Silk browser may actually be usable. I almost never used my original Fire HD to surf the web because it was painfully slow.
It came with the latest updates of Cloud Collections and GoodReads which are both excellent. Navigating my way around my enormous Kindle library is no longer a chore on the Fire. I’m still not 100% convinced that they are fully synchronised – I’m pretty sure they don’t match on my Kindle Paperwhite and new Fire HDX. All in all though it’s a huge improvement in content management.
For those of you with an account on Amazon.ca, MayDay isn’t available. My account is linked to Amazon.com so I was able to test this out. It worked pretty much as advertised.
One feature I could not get to work at all was the screen mirroring with the Playstation 3. I have both but for the life of me I couldn’t get them to pair. After using MayDay, it appears because my PlayStation is registered in Canada, there is no Amazon Instant Video application available. So it seems that is yet another feature unavailable to Canadians.
It’s still a very nice device although for Canadians I suspect the more open Nexus 7 may be a better bet. We certainly don’t get the full value of the Kindle in the way our US cousins do.
It’s always fun when you pick up a great read unexpectedly. I first saw Crewel by Gennifer Albin on the Tor website, where they were offering the first five chapters for free. The concept seemed very fresh (although reminiscent of the Three Fates from Greek/Roman mythology – can’t go wrong with an age-old story) and intriguing so I picked up the free five chapter sample.
Before long I’d finished the first five chapters, and happily bought the full book. It really sucked me in. The premise of a girl who has the power to literally weave people’s life stories and that of her region proved as intriguing as my initial reaction and I really like where Albin seems to be taking this in the next book in the series. The characters were engaging enough, with about the depth you’d expect from a young adult novel. Adelice is no Arya Stark, but then again she’s no Bella Swan Cullen either. The novel is written purely from Adelice’s point of view, so she – and the reader – are never entirely sure which of the people she meets can be trusted. This increases the tension nicely.
This is in a similar vein to The Hunger Games, and if you enjoyed that, you will certainly enjoy this. It’s well worth reading
As I mentioned last week, I picked up the iTunes season pass for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebration. Although neither An Adventure in Space and Time nor The Day of the Doctor have been released yet, I have been enjoying the other items on the pass such as the reboot Doctors revisited. It would have been nice to have had The Night of the Doctor on the Pass as well, but never mind.
I thought I’d write down my thoughts and predictions for the 50th and Christmas specials so that you can have a good laugh at me once it’s aired. I’ve not seen any spoilers (except for how Matt Smith regenerates) – they’ve done a good job keeping it under wraps – so I’m just basing it on previous episodes, the Night of the Doctor, the trailer and some comments by Moffat. The main comments of Moffat’s I’m thinking of here are that “the name of the Doctor” also refers to the Doctor’s reputation and that the 50th will set up the next 50 years of Doctor Who, i.e. that it’s a gamechanger.
We know that “the fields of Trenzalore and the fall of the Eleventh” as well as that of the Silence is still waiting. We know that the Time War is a key focus of the 50th in which it is assumed some version of the Doctor committed double genocide by pressing the button that destroyed the Daleks and the remaining Time Lords. It’s clear from the trailer for the 50th that Eleven knows this day is coming (because his previous Hurt incarnation witnessed it earlier in the Doctor’s time stream) and is dreading it. We know from A Good Man Goes to War that Eleven has a propensity for excessive violence and River goes so far as to warn him that the meaning of “Doctor” could change if he doesn’t rein in his impulses. Eleven says in The Name of the Doctor that the name a Time Lord chooses is a promise he makes and that John Hurt’s Doctor broke his promise. From the minisode The Night of the Doctor we know that the Hurt Doctor’s chosen name is The War Doctor and that McGann’s Doctor chose his next incarnation specifically to end the Time War.
Putting all of this together, I believe we’ll learn that the promise Hurt broke was the promise to be strong enough to end the Time War. From the trailer comment by Hurt that “good men are born in fire; it’s the privilege of lesser men to light the flame” I think it will be down to Eleven to push that big red shiny button we see in the trailer. Hurt will have done all the setup but, without River talking him down, having to make that choice will break Eleven somewhat. It may even go so far that Ten, Hurt and Clara have to actually imprison the mad Doctor at Trenzalore. The happy, feely Christmas special will be all about bringing Eleven back to sanity so that he can die/regenerate at peace with himself. I feel the Silence issue will be that until now the Doctor’s violent/genocidal streak has been kept secret so that people look to him for help. I believe that is what will be broken so that we’ll see more of the Cass type of reaction “you’re no better than a Dalek.” I think a major theme of the Capaldi Doctor will be restoring the Doctor’s good name.
So there you go! Do you think I’m onto something? Let me know in the comments. I guess we’ll find out in a few days!
Added to my library this week
Since the copy of The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom I won from GoodReads has not yet arrived, I picked up a copy from Audible. To be perfectly honest, I’m really not enjoying it so far. It has more overtly religious overtones than The Time Keeper that I did enjoy. I will of course do a full review when/if I finish it
On one of Audible’s daily deals this week I picked up Her Royal Spyness, the first in the Royal Spyness series. It sounded an amusing concept and is narrated by Katherine Kellgren whose narration I’ve enjoyed before. I’ve not listened to it yet, but of course I’ll let you know my thoughts.
From Amazon I picked up Catty Corner (Humorous & Romantic Magical Cool Cats Mysteries) by Mary Matthews. It was free on Kindle, so decided to add it to my library.
What have you added to your library this week? Let me know in the comments.
Some time after its publication, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith was revealed to have been written by none other than J.K. Rowling. It was published under a pseudonym to allow the book to stand on its own merits and not that of its author. Until the revelation, it was selling slowly but surely and gathering positive reviews. It is difficult, if not impossible, to review this book without being aware of its authorship now that the secret is out. I would like to think though that I would have enjoyed the book as much whoever wrote it. It is a solidly written book, much more engaging than The Casual Vacancy which was written officially by Rowling.
The Cuckoo’s Calling tells the story of Cormoran Strike, an ex-SIB private investigator hired to look into the apparent suicide of model Lula Landry. Initially it appears an open and shut case of suicide, but Strike’s client, Landry’s brother John Bristow believes she was murdered. Strike is ably aided and abetted by his temporary secretary, Robin.
What I liked
Meticulous planning. One of Rowling’s strengths as a writer is her detailed, long-term planning. In Harry Potter, minor throwaway lines in book two tend to take on major significance in book six. This same planning is ably demonstrated in The Cuckoo’s Calling. The clues to resolve the mystery are scattered throughout the book and are there for a sharp eyed reader to pick up.
Likeable characters. I really enjoyed reading about Strike and Robin and thought they were engaging and realistic. Strike comes across as shrewd and level headed while Robin’s efficiency and enthusiasm for the field of investigation complemented his skills perfectly. I appreciated that a man and woman were shown as working together well without the added layer of sexual attraction that is all too often a plot device in many modern novels. The mutual respect and admiration between Strike and Robin comes across beautifully.
Writing style. While not as witty and funny as the Harry Potter novels, I did enjoy the writing style. It was immediate and engaging and kept the story moving along.
The pace. The story moves along at a good clip, with narrative tension maintained.
The narration. The Cuckoo’s Calling was narrated by Robert Glenister, who did an excellent job. I particularly enjoyed his soft Cornish accent for Strike. Here’s a sample
What I didn’t like
There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Cuckoo’s Caling. I found it an excellent read and gave it four and a half stars out of five.
Following on from yesterday’s announcement of the latest update to the Kindle Fire HD operating system, Amazon and GoodReads announced an update today to the Kindle Paperwhite second generation software which brings Cloud Collections and GoodReads integration as well as Kindle Freetime. Both Amazon and GoodReads have posted press releases on the update. Note that this is only available at this point for the second generation of Kindle Paperwhite released earlier this year.
As with the Kindle Fire update, you can choose to wait until the update is sent to your device automatically, sometime over the next few weeks, or you can go to the update page, download the software and install it manually. I chose to install manually, and the instructions are very clear and very easy. It took me all of about 10 minutes to update my device.
This was announced along with the Fires and Paperwhites and was something I was particularly looking forward to. I’m very active on GoodReads (check out my profile) and was excited about a tighter integration with Amazon.
When you update the software you see the new G GoodReads logo on the top menu and when you click are prompted to connect your accounts. You then have access to your GoodReads account on your Kindle.
When you share a selection it is shared to GoodReads too as well as Facebook and/or Twitter
One of the most useful features is the ability to add books purchased from Amazon to GoodReads if you have not already done so
Unfortunately at this point, the only shelves you can add them to are the Want to Read, Currently Reading and Read shelves. I hope that integration to your other shelves is provided in the future.
When you finish a book you are invited to rate it on both GoodReads and Amazon. This is something I’m really happy about – it saves rating the book twice on two different applications. What I’m not certain about is if this will automatically switch a book from the Currently Reading shelf to the Read shelf. I have asked GoodReads the question and will keep you posted.
This is an excellent start to the Amazon/GoodReads integration. I would like to see it go further with full integration of user-defined shelves to the application. It will certainly save me some time when I am rating books. What would be even better would be to synchronise your GoodReads shelves with your Cloud Collections. Whether it’s worth upgrading to the second gen Paperwhite for this update (it’s unclear if this update will come to the original Paperwhite) is probably a matter for personal consideration.
I’d not paid much attention to Cloud Collections as I do most of my reading on the Paperwhite and the Kindle Fire. Until yesterday there was no way of managing your books on the Fire so I was content with the collections on the Kindle Paperwhite. However when both are synced I can see this being a very powerful tool. You can see here on this screenshot that the faded grey books are ones that I had put in this collection on another device but had not yet downloaded to this Paperwhite.
All in all this is a wonderful update to the Kindle Paperwhites, and well worth downloading and installing, especially if you’re active on GoodReads. If you have just the one Kindle device and are not on GoodReads it’s less exciting.
Are you excited about this update? Let me know in the comments.