Monday, 20 October 2014

Review: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

GoodReads

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood's annoyance. Bickerstaff's coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

Review

WARNING: This is the second in the series for the Lockwood & Co books and so this review will likely contain spoilers for the first book but not for the second.

I was deseperate to get hold of this book as soon as I'd turned the last page of the first novel.  It was that good and made such an impact that I didn't want to have to wait.  I did have to, in the end, as it seems it takes time to write and publish a book and they won't just 'make it happen' because I want it sooner.  Damn.

We pick up about 6 months from the ending of book one and Lucy is fully part of the Lockwood and Co team and their adventures of solving mysteries and getting rid of nasties in the night have gone from strength to strength.  They've got a little fame and interest from The Screaming Staircase case and are doing good work.  However, a new case has come along that could potentially break their success-streak and might even break their tight-knit team up beyond repair.  The case gets darker and deeper into the world of the undead and the mystery soon begins to threaten not just their livelihood but their lives too.

A page-turner at it's peak, Jonathan Stroud has written another rip-roaring success of a story that has all the chills and thrills of the first book and the added depth of characters and their relationships that build over time and develop.  I loved to see the dynamics of the team shift and change as the story went on and to see how the rest of the world of ghosts works; from the other agencies to those that turn a profit from the world of spooks.

This sets Stroud as a leader of YA Horror and Fantasy in my eyes and, quite frankly, if you have read his books yet, you're missing out big time.  This series is perfection for the Halloween season ahead so do yourselves a favour and go buy them ASAP!

Published by DoubleDay, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, and is available from bookshops and online retailers now

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffiths

GoodReads

And so began a lifelong obsession. He claims that he’s not a "Whovian", but rather a "Doctor Who fan," and rates himself a probable two or three on a Nerd Scale—while admitting "That framed set of Tom Baker bathroom tiles on the wall behind me suggests the truth may rank somewhere higher." The iconic sci-fi show was a defining factor in his childhood, and yet when Doctor Who started getting crappy—after Tom Baker basically—he nearly moved on, ready to take on more mature interests, until he discovered a small ad of someone selling tapes of old episodes, and that was the end of the plan to move on. Only in the last few years has this anti-social obsession become something he can earn a living from as a journalist, as he’s become Radio Times' unofficial Doctor Who correspondent and so interviewed a host of the show's stars past and present. Happily this coincides with Doctor Who getting good again. Anyone who grew up with The Doctor will relate to this superfan’s story and his love for the show that lets him journey back to his own childhood—his own personal TARDIS.

Review

I won't lie; I was told I had to read this book by the OH.  I've been a fan of New Who since it was rebooted and have always wanted to see Original Who but never knew where to start and how it would fair to my New Who eyes.  I needed a bit of education and was told to read this to get an idea of the world of Old Who and life as an original fan. 

Told as a memoir of sorts, this follows the life of Nick Griffiths from his younger years and follows him growing up, finding and losing love, finding music and losing Who only to rediscover it years later.  It's a funny tale about a now (at the time of publication) Radio Times journalist who seems to be their go-to guy for Doctor Who related pieces.  

This is the kind of book that unless you have a frame of reference for it, it may be hard to get to grips with.  I know what it's like to be aged ten, but not a boy at ten in the 1970s with all the cultural references that are very much "of its time".  Plus, I had no real reference for the heavy Who related stuff.  I know the older Doctors, have caught the odd repeat and can tell you roughly what era they're from, but that's about it.  It was Nick's love of music and discovery of new bands that I really gelled with, something I did myself as a teenager, and his later years as a grown-up fanboy that made me chuckle with an in-joke knowledge of what that's like.  

I think that this book would work for real Who-heads and those of a geeky leaning but unless you're prepared to embrace a lot of Who knowledge in a quick blast; it may not suit your tastes.  Sweet, amusing and very touching in places.  A book about life as a geek and coming terms with the fact that you're not quite as cool as you might think you are.

Published by Gollancz and is available in bookshops and online now

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: Book by John Agard and Neil Packer

GoodReads

“My name is Book and I’ll tell you the story of my life.” Non fiction like you've never read it before!

Quirky and humorous, part poetry, part reflection, this is the story of the book told by none other than Book himself! This extraordinary character begins by reminding us of his origins in oral story and clay tablets, then ponders on papyrus, parchment and paper, and on being a scroll who finally gets a spine. We see him lovingly illuminated by monks in medieval monasteries, then witness the massive changes brought about by the invention of the printing press, and the coming of paperbacks and e-books in the 20th century. But Book’s not a straightforwardly chronological chap; he can’t help musing – and his musings, whether they’re on the evolution of the alphabet, libraries, book-burning or blurbs, are delightful and thought-provoking. Years of reflection and observation have gone into this charming title – John Agard signed the contract with Walker 16 years ago!

Review

I was tempted to request this book after seeing another lovely blogger had received a copy and it just sounded so charming that I couldn't say no.

Written from the point of view of Book (not just a book but the idea and physical form of a Book) and tells the story of Book's life, humble beginnings and life over the years and many countries.  It charts the highs and lows of the history of Book and how Book has changed and developed since being created and how, in many ways, Book hasn't changed at all.

I think this book is something of a treat to dip in and out of and would be perfect for a younger reader with a curious mind or a bookish friend as a Christmas present.  For many people, like myself, books and stories are very real things and have a voice in them.  Book by John Agard captures that voice and gives Book a chance to tell its own story to the world.  It's a fantastic story and full of facts, tales and even quotes that will be a lovely addition to any shelf with artwork that ties all the passages in time together beautifully.

It was a quick read for me but a pleasant change of pace for me in-between other longer books.  A perfect stocking-filler and an endearing book that has been put together with love and care.  

Published by Walker Books UK and is available online and in bookshops now

Monday, 6 October 2014

Cover Reveal: Captive by A J Granger

I'm really pleased to be one of the handful of bloggers invited to reveal the final cover art for A J Granger's debut novel, Captive.  Along with Winged Reviews, Wondrous Reads and YA Contemporary, we've been presented with the fab cover and blurb to show off.  AWESOME.  I've been lucky enough to chat with Annalie on a few occasions and I'm already sold on her book and can't wait to read it.  Pitched as one for fans of Gone Girl, Homeland and Sophie McKenzie, it sounds brilliant.



Blurb

I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a splice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope.
Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.

Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.
Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .

A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Captive is published by Simon & Schuster in Jan 2015.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Feature: 20 Random Questions with ... Alex Woolf


20 Random Questions is a feature on Sisterspooky that will show you a different side to authors you may already know and introduce new ones.  I ask 20 very Random Questions and they answer them.  Simple as that.  The idea was inspired from a mixture of things in my head and a random question asked by Jim over at YA Contemporary

Today on the blog we have Alex Woolf to take on the 20 Random Questions as part of the blog tour for his new book, Iron Sky: Dread Eagle.  Can he survive them?  Let's take a look!


If you were ruler of the world what laws would you make?
As few as possible. I’d just convene lots of meetings and conferences and festivals, bringing together as many people from different backgrounds as possible. My notion is that the more people meet and chat and hang out, the less need they’ll have to fight each other.

If you were a super hero what powers would you have? Limit to three powers!
1. Time-stretching: the ability to extend time, so I can do more with my day.
2. Super-thinking: the ability to out-think and out-strategise my opponents.
3. Imagineering: the ability to imagine, create and regularly disappear into an alternative universe.

What's your favourite cheese and why?
Stilton, because it’s creamy, yet crumbly, and has a wonderful flavour.

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
A lone wolf. I’m not a pack animal, I like to be alone. I’m quite shy. I love wild and desolate landscapes and can never sleep when there’s a full moon.

If you could ask your future self one question what would it be?
Do you have any regrets?

What do you think the greatest invention has been?
The codex. Some time around the first century BC, someone (it may have been Julius Caesar) had the idea of cutting up a scroll, putting words on both sides of the paper and binding it one side. Thus was the modern book born. Simple, but brilliant!



What's your favourite type of Pie?
Shepherd’s. (My daughter would probably say ‘ice…’ as she likes playing that game.)

If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be and why?
All theft has consequences, so not sure if I agree with the premise of this question. However, if I could, I’d probably steal a jetpack. I’m writing a scene involving a jetpack at the moment, and rocketing through the sky at 100mph just sounds like a fun thing to do.

Who's your favourite Villain and why?
The Daleks. They terrified me as a child, and they still do now. It’s something about the shape of their mechanical shells, the lack of a face, and of course their voices.


Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
I am, boringly, completely devoid of superstition. And so, I’ve just realised, are most of the characters in my stories. Note to self: write about a superstitious character.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say and why?
Warning: Writer on the scene. He may:
  • steal bits of your life and use them in his stories.
  • spin a yarn rather than tell the truth
  • go off into a dream about something he’s writing while you are talking to him.
What's your preferred playing piece in monopoly and why?
The dog. I’ve always loved dogs. The playing piece reminds me of a toy Scottie dog I had when I was a child. He was black with a tartan collar and only one eye, and I called him Scottie.


What was the last thing you ate?
A pancake with lemon and honey.

Who would you want to be trapped on a desert island with? Pick no more than five people!
  • Ray Mears, as he’d be useful for survival tips.
  • A mate I can chat with.
  • My wife and kids, because they’re the most important people in my world.
What song would you say best sums you up?
‘Time’ by Pink Floyd. Some of the lyrics are as follows:
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. 

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines 

What was your first job?
I had many when I was young, including selling personal alarms to female office workers; washing up in a roach-infested restaurant in Florida; and working as an accountant.

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
Scaled a rock face in the L’Herault Valley in the South of France, on my own, without any safety equipment. I remember getting stuck halfway up and thinking what the hell am I going to do now… Another scary moment was coming face to face with a Barracuda while snorkelling off the coast of Florida.

What is your favourite comfort food?
Cheese and crackers.



What was your favourite childhood toy and why?

My little Scottie (see above), because he seemed lonely and friendless and needed someone to take care of him. Also, he had soft fur.

What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Strangely enough it came from a song lyric by ELO. The song was called ‘Boy Blue’ and the lines were (I’ve just looked them up again):
One thing, I have learned through these years,
Is that no man, should be stricken with fear.
It should be that he walks with no care in the world.
Not very profound, I know, but I heard these words during a particularly bad period in my youth when I was feeling frightened pretty much all of the time. And just hearing those words persuaded me that it was possible to live in a different way, to ‘walk with no care in the world’. And that’s what I resolved to do.

Thanks to Alex for taking part and you can find out more about Alex on his website here and his novel, Iron Sky: Dread Eagle, is available now

Monday, 29 September 2014

Review: Replica by Jack Heath

GoodReads

'Whose body is that on the table?' I ask.
She stares at me, as though the answer is obvious. 'It's yours,' she says.
Before I have time to scream, she types a command on the keyboard. My consciousness whirls away like storm water down a drain.

Chloe wakes up to find all her memories have been wiped. And the only person who knows what happened is a teenage girl who looks and sounds exactly like her.

Who is she? And what does she want?

Chloe is running out of time to discover the truth. But she's in even more danger than she realizes, and nothing is as it seems . . .

Review

First off, I was completely tempted to read this book for two reason:

The cover looks, quite frankly, brilliant.   Scary and stands out off the shelf by a mile.  Bravo to the team for that job.  Secondly, and quite shamelessly,  the author shares the same last name as me.  No relation but I think it's kinda of cool in a funny way.  (Yes, I'm odd.  Let's just both accept it and move on).

Replica is the story of Chloe, the two lives of Chloe at least, as she finds herself trapped in her own basement with a girl that looks and acts exactly like her is working on her like a science experiment.  After a bit of action and drama, Chloe is free from the basement but not from danger as her very existence is on the line every minute.  Why are the mysterious military times targeting her?  What secrets are those around her keeping?  What secrets is she keeping from herself?  

I jumped straight into this book, knowing that I'd have to stretch the edges of my logic and reason to believe it was all possible.  I'm fine with that.  Why can't a teenage girl create something hugely advanced in her basement without her parents finding out?  Happens all the time, I'm sure.  Aside from that, I was really sucked in with the idea behind Chloe's character and how, through the course of the book, we see the side of life that many of us won't ever experience.  I know I'm being very vague but I don't want to spoil any surprises.  

It's a book that asks some big questions about artificial intelligence and the progress of science versus morality as well as same sex relationships (a great addition to the plot).  I loved the high paced action but I think, by the end of the book, my interest had fallen a little and I'd stretched my realms of logic and believability as far as it could.  The final big action sequence was a bridge too far for me personally. 

However, Replica is a fast-paced action thriller that hits some really good high notes and ask some great questions that teenagers should definitely be asking of themselves and those around them.  Great characters and ideas but fell at the last hurdle to be a really great story.  Worth a look for those looking for a bit of action and thrills.

Published by OUP and is available in bookshops and online now

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Vivian versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle

GoodReads

A chilling vision of a contemporary USA where the sinister Church of America is destroying lives. Our cynical protagonist, seventeen-­year-­old Vivian Apple, is awaiting the fated 'Rapture' -­ or rather the lack of it. Her evangelical parents have been in the Church's thrall for too long, and she's looking forward to getting them back. Except that when Vivian arrives home the day after the supposed 'Rapture', her parents are gone. All that is left are two holes in the ceiling...

Viv is determined to carry on as normal, but when she starts to suspect that her parents might still be alive, she realises she must uncover the truth. Joined by Peter, a boy claiming to know the real whereabouts of the Church, and Edie, a heavily pregnant Believer who has been 'left behind', they embark on a road trip across America. Encountering freak weather, roving 'Believer' gangs and a strange teenage group calling themselves the 'New Orphans', Viv soon begins to realise that the Rapture was just the beginning.

Review

This book was a great break from reality for me because it was both contemporary but at the same time it was pure fun for the end-of-the-world road trip drama.  Viv is living in an almost too believable version of America where a cult, The Church of Frick, has nearly taken over and converted the majority of the population.  On the evening of the "Rapture" Viv parties the night away and comes home to two missing parents and an eerily quiet street.  Those 'left behind' begin to either panic or turn on each other so it's left to Viv, her best friend and a bit of end of the world eye candy to try and work out what is actually going on.

A really unique story and kinda scary as you can easily imagine it happening, now more than ever.  Plus the characters were so well written that I loved being able to travel along with them and work out the mystery around the missing people, the strange weather and the general cray-cray of people gone to extremes.  I'm rather looking forward to reading the follow up which is out now (I believe) and I hope it lives up to this first book.  It's easy to see why Katie Coyle and this original story won the 2012 Young Writers Prize.  

A great read with a twist that is far too believable for my liking.  Full to the brim with emotions and fantastic writing.  Buy. Buy. Buy.
Published by Hot Key Books and is available online and in bookshops now