Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Last Five Books Read by Vic James

So here we are at the last stop on the Gilded Cage blog tour. As you can see from the list above, debut author, Vic James, has been on a very busy tour! Today Vic shares with us the last five books that she has read. 

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
This is the third in a series that began with The Invisible Library, and which has a premise to delight book lovers everywhere – a transdimensional library, staffed by kickass, magical librarians who rescue rare editions of books from across the multiverse. Our heroine is a librarian spy, Irene, and her sidekick is a dragon prince in disguise, Kai. While I loved book 2, which took us to Venice, this instalment is equally thrilling: Irene and Kai are in St Peterburg where her old nemesis is re-emerging. I heart libraries, I’ve been a volunteer and a student librarian, but they were never this cool. 

The Reader by Traci Chee
Another special book about books – I’ve obviously got a sort of subgenre fandom thing going on! And also, magic – because just as in Gilded Cage, everything becomes more special when sprinkled with magic. The Reader is a multistranded story set in a world without the written word or reading, in which a girl left orphaned and alone realises that an object once belonging to her father is a book. What follows isn’t just a heartstopping adventure with shocking revelations at the end, it’s also a magical reading experience, as the book contains ‘pages’, ‘burnt parchment’, atmospheric ‘ink blots’ and a gorgeous map.  

The Book of English Folk Tales, by Sybil Marshall
This was an impulse buy at my local indy bookshop, Queens Park Books, just before Christmas. It has the most gorgeous embossed cloth cover, and is full of exquisite woodcuts. (Yes, I’m a geek for physical books, if you hadn’t figured that out yet!) It’s a book to dip into, rather than read cover to cover. The titles of individual stories tempt you to pick it up again and again: ‘T’Girt Dog of Ennerdale’, ‘The Devil’s Armful’, ‘Get Up and Bar the Door’. My Dark Gifts trilogy has deep roots in British history and folklore, and books like this make great soil for ideas to grow in!

Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn
Hearn wrote the YA Tales of the Otori series, and she returns to Japan for this adult dualogy inspired by the Japanese classic The Tale of Shikanoko. I lived in Japan for nearly six years, studied the language, and travelled around the country, and Hearn’s tale, told in crisp, precise language, takes me right back to the mountains and forests I loved hiking in, and the dark intrigue and dangerous magic of traditional Japanese tales. I’ve just got the follow-up book, Lord of the Darkwood, and can’t wait to step back in.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
I’m only just starting this one, but my god it is good. I’ve always loved science fiction, as well as fantasy, and this book has the flavour of both. It’s set on an alternate earth cyclically devastated by geologic upheaval. There’s a whole ton of worldbuilding going on, but Jemisin grabs you from the very first line: “Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.” Jemisin won the Hugo Award for this last year, and she’s part of a wave of female and diverse authors who are reaching the top of their game in the SF and fantasy worlds. (I’m excited for Aliette de Bodard’s House of Binding Thorns, coming in April.)

For readers of Victoria Aveyard and George RR Martin comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are doomed to serve.


Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? 
A boy dreams of revolution.
Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy? 
Author Bio
Vic James is a current affairs TV director who loves stories in all their forms, and Gilded Cage is her debut novel. She as twice judged the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, has made films for BBC1, BBC2, and Channel 4 News, and is a huge Wattpadd.com success story. Under its previous title, Slavedays, her book was read online over a third of a million times in first draft. And it went on to win Wattpad’s ‘Talk of the Town’ award in 2015 – on a site showcasing 200 million stories. Vic James lives and works in London.

To find out more about Vic James:

Monday, 23 January 2017

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood: The Book Of Bera Part One: Sea Paths by Suzie Wilde

Bera reached the waymark and took the path towards the Ice-Rimmed Sea. Marsh reeds and grasses whispered, husky in the frosted air. It was dawn, at the tipping-point of the autumn solstice; the end of fishing and trading and the start of hunting. Until Winternights, no one had time to visit the sacred sites, too busy making provision for the barren months ahead.
Only someone who needed to.
Her mother’s rune-stone sat on top of a hillock at the edge of their inlet, the place she had chosen at the height of her power. It was close enough to be reached from the village where Ottar had brought his daughter, leaving behind the rest of their folk to die from the red-spot sickness. Closer to the Seabost raiders, too, who needed his boats and would trade. Folk resented Seabost arrogance and feared their battle-scars but they needed meat, so deals were struck.
Bera paused while she was still quite far away and gazed at the grey sentinel in a bleached landscape. Beyond it, a skein of whale paths stretched to the flat horizon, with furrows and cat’s-paws where the wind whispered on the water. She sensed the distant swell of long waves, their slow tumble in the deeps. The edge of the Known World.
This was the seventh time she had come here on the day of her mother’s death. Her brother had killed her by being born and not lived long afterwards; but Bera was too young to remember much more than the heart-shape of her mother’s face. She walked on and the warmth of her skern, nestled into her neck, was a comfort. For once, she was glad he was silent.

Cover by Joe Wilson
Published by Unbound 2017
298 pages in hardback

Summary and excerpt from Unbound

The Book of Bera is a standalone Viking adventure fantasy novel, the first of a forthcoming series following Bera: a feisty young woman with an inherited gift of Sight. Since her mother's death, Bera has struggled both to control her gifts and to help her people endure assaults from cruel nature, sea beasts and the unburnt, walking dead.
In Part One: Sea Paths, we enter Bera’s stark world. During long Winter nights, when fires should hold back bloat-corpsed Drorghers, Bera has to defend her village alone. Her twin spirit offers no assistance and Bera's failure to understand and control her power leads to her childhood friend’s slaughter. Bera swears to make his killer pay. When her father immediately weds her to a rival clan, Bera gets her opportunity sooner than even she had hoped.
Now Bera must learn how to be a wife - and stepmother to a hostile boy - whilst all the time honing her skills to kill her foe without being caught. The trouble is, Bera’s gifts are growing every day and her predictions are becoming more and more ominous.
Will she be able to get her revenge and safely lead her folk across the perilous Ice-Rimmed Sea before it's too late?
First off – do judge this book by its cover. So Norse, so epic in both senses of the word – and so striking. Joe Wilson’s artwork sweeps you off into a Viking world of dragon-prowed boats and daring voyages. Look too at the colours – spare, and as if made from natural pigments. This all absolutely suits Suzie Wilde’s first book in her YA series. 

The Book Of Bera is dramatic and yet simply told; credible with a touch of magic deeply rooted in the Icelandic Sagas. There’s violence and courage, the harshness of survival and a spirited young woman making mistakes, friends – and enemies.

How to Tame Your Dragon it is not. But there is humour from Bera’s camp and waspish skern or twin spirit. Reminiscent (in a good way) of Pullman’s daemons, it’s a fickle yet loyal being which adds much to Bera’s character. Bera has much to deal with in this harsh world – and learns a great deal, along with the reader. Suzie Wilde know her stuff – yet keesp it underplayed. Not an historical treatise.

The prose is as simple and unaffected as you’d hope it to be, and the adventures suitably bold and exciting. Ideal for someone who loves the Vikings! TV series, it would sit rather well beside Joanne M. Harris’s Runemarks and Runelight (though they are set in alternative future). A little older in tone than Oskar Jensen’s The Stones of Winter, it is not for the faint-hearted, what with the hideous Drorghers and traumatic things happening to our heroine.

Recommended if you want a strong story showing a brutal world with a brave protagonist beset by many difficulties. Bonuses – dry humour, convincing magic and great heart.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Tour - #wjphototour

I'm thrilled to be part of the Wing Jones photo tour for Katherine Webber. Wing Jones was one of my most anticipated reads and is definitely one of my favourite books after getting my hands on a proof last year. It's a stunning debut and I urge everyone to get a copy. 

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!
Here's today's photo for the tour with a description underneath. Back when I was living in Hong Kong, making friend with bookish people on Twitter, one of the people I met online was Anna James, who at the time was a a school librarian and book blogger living in Birmingham. We bonded over books, chatted quite a bit, and really clicked. Then we both happened to move to London in the same month, met at a book party, and became good friends. We even ended up with the same agent and both of us will have our debuts published in 2017. Getting to know online friends in real life, and going through the publication journey with them, has been a highlight of my own path to publication.
With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.
To find out more about Katherine Webber: 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Raven Child and the Snow Witch by Linda Sunderland and Daniel Egneus

If you walked for one hundred nights and one hundred days across the frozen Lonesome Lakes, over the Shimmery Mountains…
…and through the Forest of a Thousand Eyes…
you would come at last to the Snow Garden. Here, safe from the dangers of the icy wilderness, lived little Anya with her mother and father.

Summary From Templar
A haunting, lyrical fairytale, beautifully illustrated by Daniel Egneus.
Anya lives with her mother and father in the shadow of the icy glacier where the Snow Witch reigns. Every spring, Anya's mother journeys to the glacier to pick the blue gentian flowers that grow there. But this time, she does not return. She has been captured by the Snow Witch and imprisoned in the ice. Anya and her father set off with the ravens to rescue her. It's a treacherous journey, and there is no knowing what they will find… Will the strength of Anya's love conquer all?
Raven Child and the Snow Witch is a poignant, powerful story with dramatic and striking artwork.
Raven Child and the Snow Witch is a picture book for older children – a rare and very welcome thing! I've often wondered why children are denied large, coloured pictures once they reach a certain age, so hooray for Templar for flying in the face of convention!

This slightly scary story is told in poetic, descriptive and mystical language. It's set in the far distant, fairytale world of the Snow Garden and, like all fairytales, it has darkness at its heart. Of course we know that Anya will triumph over the Snow Witch, but that doesn't stop us feeling afraid for her when she sets out to rescue her mother. 

Ravens and wolves add to the strangeness and menace of the story, as if the Snow Witch wasn't threat enough…

Daniel Egneus's abstract illustrations are perfectly matched to the text and add another element of darkness to the story with their whirling snow storms, spiky buildings and shadowy trees. My only criticism relates to the book's front cover. It glitters so invitingly that I was taken aback by the story inside because there's no hint that it will be scary. The back cover's a different matter though, with a creepy white figure who I guess is the Snow Witch herself. 

This is a memorable book and one that deserves to be widely read.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson ( You Decide Challenge 2017)

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson
Chosen by Virginie Busette

It is the amusing and enlightening story of four characters who live in a maze and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy. Cheese is a metaphor for what you want to have in life, for example a good job, a loving relationship, money or possessions, health or spiritual peace of mind. The maze is where you look for what you want, perhaps the organisation you work in, or the family or community you live in. The problem is that the cheese keeps moving.
In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change in their search for the cheese. One of them eventually deals with change successfully and writes what he has learned on the maze walls for you to discover. You'll learn how to anticipate, adapt to and enjoy change and be ready to change quickly whenever you need to. 
Discover the secret of the writing on the wall for yourself and enjoy less stress and more success in your work and life. Written for all ages, this story takes less than an hour to read, but its unique insights will last a lifetime.
So it's only January and already this challenge has gone horribly wrong. This is why I don't do challenges. As you may recall, last year I asked for you to pick twelve books that you thought I should read in 2017. The books you chose are listed here. As you can see January was supposed to be The Truth by Terry Pratchett, as chosen by Katharine Corr. I had all good intentions of that being the first book, but I had trouble getting hold of it. Instead I ended up reading Who Moved My Cheese as I had bought it for my husband for Christmas and as he loved it so much, he insisted I read it there and then. 
I really hope to stick to the rest of the plan but it has all now moved back a month. and I now have The Truth ready to read for February. 

Anyway back to Who Moved My Cheese? Firstly I have to admit to being a real sucker for a self improvement book. I love learning more about myself and trying to change things to make life better. And this little beauty is and ideal read to see who you really are. The book follows a simple parable, about four different characters who live in this maze and look for cheese to keep them nourished. When the cheese disappears, we watch how each one will react. As stated above, cheese is a metaphor for anything in life that you really want. How you go about getting it. 

On reading this book, I was extremely surprised to realise how much I am like the character, Hem, who sits tight and doesn't change anything, hoping it will all work itself out in the end, even though the situation is looking dire. To be honest, I was shocked. I knew I wasn't like Sniff and Scurry, the two mice, who realise quite quickly that things are changing and head off as soon as they can to find something better. However, I always hoped I came across as Haw, who might leave it far too long, but eventually adapted to the changes around him. 

It's made me reevaluate what I want. This tiny little book has made me realise I must always be ready for change, because you never know when circumstances may alter your journey in life. I hate change and now I realise I must learn to love it. No one can continue in the same way forever, because things do become dated and worn. Change is the only constant in our lives.

I think this is a brilliant self help book. So short and simple, yet it really gives you all need to know. I would highly recommend it, to those in need of the motivation to help deal with the changes occurring in their lives. 

Thanks to Virginie Busette for recommending this book as part of my You Decide 2017 challenge. 
Next month's read will be The Truth by Terry Pratchett, as picked by Katherine Corr.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

#ZoellaBookClub: The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I've been dating Lily for almost a year, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get her brother to like me, trust me, or think I was remotely good enough for his sister. So it was a shock when he told me he wanted to meet for lunch, just the two of us. 
Are you sure you have the right number? I texted back to him. 
Don't be a dick. Just show up, he replied. 

Published in October 2016
Pages 240

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life.
Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.
Out of all the books chosen for the Zoella Book Club, this one was my least favourite, which really surprises me. I absolutely adored Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - it still is one of the loveliest Christmas books I've ever read and one I will return to again and again. Unfortunately, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily just doesn't live up to it's predecessor.
I'm not saying I hated it, because I didn't. I gave it three stars. Those three stars were for the whole idea behind the book, of having twelve days to make Lily remember how much she loved Christmas, even though the story seemed to stray from this idea a bit as the book progressed. I loved Lily's family and how they all banded together to try and make her happy again. And having just come back from New York, it was brilliant to be able to picture the places mentioned in the book. 
What I didn't love this time around, was Lily and Dash. Unbelievable! I know! I think it's because they were such a perfect couple in the first book and I loved seeing them come together. Where as in this book, they were so disjointed, which is understandable as their relationship had hit the rocks. I think that's what I hated the most - watching this perfect relationship, turn to meh. I found it really sad. Lily comes across as quite whiny too. I know she is going through a really hard time, but it felt like she was taking it out on all the ones who loved her and I felt sorry for them, not to mention Dash. 
As much as I would love to say, buy this book because you will love it. I'm really sorry but I'm going to say, buy the first one instead as this doesn't compare. That's really harsh for me. *lies down to recover from harshness* But I have to be truthful. Sorry. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson

When you have a kid, don't call it something stupid. 
Don't call it Apple, or Pear, or Mung Bean.
Don't call it Owl. 

Published by Macmillan Children's Books in January 2017

Pages - 327

It's bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl, but when you've got a dad you've never met, a best friend who needs you more than ever, and a new boy at school giving you weird looks, there's not a lot of room for much else. 

So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she's tempted to just burrow down under the duvet and forget all about it. Could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she enters the magical world of winter for the first time?
This book is the perfect accompaniment to Winter. Snuggle up in the warmth as the frosty world creeps around outside, creating beautiful patterns as it takes hold of the scenery. Get lost in an unusual and unique twist to the story of Jack Frost. 
Owl is a brilliant protagonist. In the beginning, she doesn't realise she is different. On meeting Alberic, she starts to see that she has more in common with him than she does her best friend, Mallory. Her body starts to do strange things and she soon realises it has something to do with the mystery surrounding her father. When she discovers who her father is, everything begins to make sense and you are quickly invested in Owl's journey. Forget that Owl's birthright is impossible and pure fantasy, because the author makes it real and completely believable. 
I love how this book dips into the fae world and the personification of the elements and seasons. The scene where Jack Frost and the North Wind, messing around, is ingenious.  I think the author has worked extremely well at bringing them alive.
 I love the connection to the Owl, which at first appears to be such a trivial name to be given, but turns out to have so much more meaning. 
I really enjoyed reading this book. It sucked me into the storyline and I felt invested in Owl's quest to clear her father's name. 
The writing is beautiful, especially the fairytale snippets which show the journey Owl's mum took. 
Even though this book is set in the world of Jack Frost, Amy Wilson's writing is brimming with warmth. A Girl Called Owl would suit readers who love Emma Carroll & Katherine Rundell. I'm intrigued to see what her next book will be about.