Currently Reading

Currently reading: Vulture by Bex Hogan.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Raining Fire Blog Tour: Into Darkness, Searching for the Light

Time for something a little different now! I'm lucky enough to be taking part in the Raining Fire blog tour, so today we have Mr. Alan Gibbons joining us to talk about the inspiration behind the darkness in his work. Read on and I think you'll agree when I say "WOW!"
Into Darkness, Searching for the Light by Alan Gibbons
An interviewer once asked me why I wrote about such dark subjects: racism in Caught in the Crossfire, war and terrorism in An Act of Love and The Defender, bullying and suicide in Hold On, domestic violence in the Edge, bereavement in the Lost Boys’ Appreciation Society. I explained that you only walk into a darkened room to find a candle to guide you to the exit. In my fiction, I am constantly tempted into darkness, searching for light.
Ethan and Alex, the main protagonists in my new novel Raining Fire, begin their journey in the darkness of an inner city street. They are flirting with a local gang. Its leader, Mattie passes a gun round the group. Ethan is repelled by it, Alex drawn to it like a moth to a flame. A seed is sown that night that will sprout into an evil growth. It will lead Ethan to a terrible dilemma, the cruellest of choices. He can save his brother from injury, even death, but to do it he must take a man’s life.
As a young man I lived in Manchester and Salford before moving to Liverpool where I now live. I taught for many years in Merseyside schools. In the course of my career I occasionally observed young people whose lives were blighted by crime and a lack of purpose. Once or twice I came into contact with youngsters whose experiences seemed to have desensitised them to the point of amorality. I was aware of a bleak hinterland in our great cities where the gang can become the family, the beating, the knife and, in thankfully rare and extreme situations, the gun can become the symbols of belonging. In hollowed out communities where services are crumbling and joblessness is common, some youngsters find a purpose in savage postcode battles.
Two events brought my concerns into sharp focus. Six years ago eighteen-year-old Sean Mercer fired three shots from a Smith and Wesson handgun. This senseless, brutal act, shocking in its callous casualness, took the life of an innocent boy, eleven-year-old Rhys Jones. On Boxing Day, 2011 another young man, Kiaran Stapleton, took the life of talented student Anuj Bidve, on a night out with friends in Salford. Stapleton adopted the nickname ‘Stapleton.’ It was another random killing, the shocking, pointless theft of a talented man with a wonderful life ahead of him. At first I felt numb with depression as I tried to discover an explanation for these shocking events.
I have lived in Liverpool for over thirty years. I act as Master of Ceremonies for the Salford Book Award. I am immensely proud of my North West roots. Here, however, two events had occurred that made me feel ashamed. That sense of deep unease at the sub-culture of a minority of youngsters led me to try to find an explanation for their actions. That search laid the foundations of my Raining Fire.  I took two brothers. One, Alex, is aimless, uneasy with himself, in search of some kind of purpose. The other, Ethan is bright, academic and a promising footballer. The contrast between them is the main driving force of the narrative.
The book was a struggle. I went through two pretty sub-standard drafts. I strayed into territory with which I was unfamiliar, came up with characters and settings that were unconvincing. Finally, I found the key to turning the book around. I returned to what I know and rooted the tale in my own upbringing as the son of a factory worker and a shop assistant, but with a key difference. Ethan and Alex, in a way, two aspects of my own personality, grow up in a North from which most traditional industries have fled. They are working-class without much prospect of work, certainly jobs in which they can have pride. I was examining the detritus of the kind of working class community of my childhood and youth. In the absence of the discipline of the working day, the more dangerous discipline of the gang takes over.
If all this sounds bleak, it is because the lives of many youngsters are just that, harsh, dangerous and sometimes tragically short. Gun crime is a fraction of the levels in the US, South Africa or Brazil, but it is a feature of some communities and a menace that cries out for artistic examination.
Raining Fire is my answer.
Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons is published by Indigo on 7 March 2013
trade paperback £8.99, eBook £4.99
Alan Gibbons is a full time writer and organiser of the Campaign for the Book.

Thanks to Alan for an awesome, thought provoking post and to Corinne at Orion for organising this! 

Friday 15 March 2013

Cover Art: Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan

I kind of think the title for this book speaks for itself, and the cover would surely disappointing if it didn't actually show, well two boys kissing... right?

It's due out in August and sounds great so check out the cover and synopsis below!

"New York Times  bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS. While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other. This follow-up to the bestselling Every Day showcases David's trademark sharp-witted, warm-hearted tales of teenage love, and serves as a perfect thematic bookend to David's YA debut and breakthrough, Boy Meets Boy, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2013."

Divergent Movie News: Four is cast...

I am a huge fan of the Divergent books... well the first two that are out already, and I am dying for the third one which isn't out until October (welp...) but we also have the Divergent movie to look forward to. It starts shooting in the next few months and is due for release next March and there is obviously a lot of excitement surrounding the project. There's a big ol' Divergent fandom out there and it's growing by the day, and as with other fandom's they're quite protective over the series and want to make sure things are done right.

And casting is a very important thing to members of any fandom! 

We already knew Tris had been cast. Actress Shailene Woodley with play the lead. And we know that Kate Winslet is due to appear in the film somewhere, somehow, many suspecting she'll play Tris's mum or Jeanine...

Well now we have Four! There's been a lot of rumours about Four. Alex Pettyfer has long been mentioned to be in the running and a few weeks ago someone said he'd been confirmed and there was a bit of an uproar. Personally, I don't think Alex is right for the role, and thankfully neither did the makers of the film. Because one Theo James has now been cast as Four. Check him out below looking all moody and dark - kind of Four-ish, right? He is 29, so 10 years older or so than the character... but it's the movies, they can make people look older, so why not younger?! I personally think he could be good. He looks a bit like I imagined Four, only a bit older but that, like I already said can be sorted out.

What are your thoughts on Theo? He was in The Inbetweeners Movie a few years back and was good in it. I for one just cannot wait to see this film!

Infinite Sky by C. J. Flood [Review]

Written by: C. J. Flood.
Published by: Simon and Schuster.
Format: Hardback.
Rating:  5/5.

Official synopsis: "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."

Sometimes when you read a book you just have to write your review down as soon as possible, because there are so many feelings and so many thoughts running through you that you don't want to miss a thing.

Infinite Sky is one of those books.

Where do I even begin? First off, lets take a look at the cover. I mean WOW! Right? Beautiful. And the jpeg doesn't even do it justice. In your hands it's even more beautiful - a stunning little casebound (no dust jaket) hardback. A true wonder to look at, and what is inside is even more beautiful. C. J's writing is fluid, beautiful and lyrical. It's like melted butter it's that smooth. I was just cast adrift on her prose and floated through the story as if I were watching from a cloud above. It honestly is written so well and so lovingly.

The setting is beautiful - the way the cornfields, the paddock, the brook are all described evoke such strong imagery and you can tell that it's been well thought out.

Infinite Sky deals with a few different themes, or ideas. Travellers, gypsies, move into the paddock behind the house that Iris has lived in all her life. She doesn't seem to see much problem in it. She finds the travellers enchanting, in particular the mother and a boy who she believes to be around her brothers age. Trick, he calls himself. Soon they strike up a friendship but all is not well. There is building tension. Iris's father is furious that these travellers are living on his land illegally and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get them gone - soon Iris finds herself not being completely honest with her own father and finds her feelings about Trick becoming more and more confusing.

It deals with prejudice, honestly, integrity and love. First love. Forbidden love. But what I like here is that it's somewhat relate-able  It's not of the vampire/werewolf/fairy/supernatural in love with a human kind of love story. It's a story of modern day forbidden love - forbidden between two completely different cultures - this I believe gives this book such a depth that many books in it's style can only dream of. 

It also deals with the situations that can arise when parents separate - who keeps the children, or in some cases who even wants them, who has to pick up the pieces, who takes responsibility.

And soon, things take a turn for the worse. Iris's brother is getting deeper and deeper in with the wrong crowd, and soon consequences for all follow - not just Iris's brother, but for herself, her warring parents and Trick too.

Towards the end of the book, it is such an emotional roller coaster that I can't even begin to explain it. So many feels! So, so many! I can't say much more without spoiling it. It's so hard. Just whatever you do get it, read it, feel all the feels and love it. C. J. Flood, you are amazing - you made me have a few tears as I have already confessed on Twitter, and you have created something so beautiful, so wonderful, you should be so proud!

Thursday 14 March 2013

Zom-B City by Darren Shan [Review]

Written by: Darren Shan.
Published by: Simon and Schuster.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 14th March 2013.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "How many survived the zombie apocalypse?Where do the living hide in a city of the dead? Who controls the streets of London? B Smith is setting out to explore..."

This review begins with a question... Darren Shan, just how amazing do you actually want to be? Because you have floored me with Zom-B City!!! I don't know what it is you do, who it is that inspires you or how or why... just whatever you are doing, please never ever EVER stop. Ever.

This series is going from strength to strength. We're only 3 books in and yet it's gone from amazing (Zom-B) to freaking amazing (Zom-B Underground) to freakishly, clownerificlly - is that even a word? - amazing (Zom-B City). I just cannot express my love for this series enough. 

B Smith has escaped the Underground building in which she has been kept captive, only to find her home town of London completely changed, ravaged by zombie hordes - a lawless city, a dead city where few remain - few that are living anyway...

It seems the series is only going to get gorier as it goes on. We get to see more of that horrific creature that adorns the front cover, and he is not a very nice man at all. In fact I think I'd go as far to say he is probably one of the scariest, if not thee scariest, character Mr. Shan has created. I've never liked clowns anyway, I doubt many of us have - they're just so creepy. But this guy, Mr. Dowling, takes the biscuit. He's terrifying, ruthless and bloody. Honestly speaking, this book actually gave me nightmares! So thanks, Darren. Thanks a bunch! A sleepless night was caused by your good self. Mission accomplished right? To scare the life out of folk?! Ha.

No, I loved it. It's just so hard to review. Again it weighs in at around 190-200 ish pages and some of those are taken up by the fantastic illustrations  by Warren Pleece. So it's a quick read. A fast paced, pages-turned-so-fast-they-blur, read that could be spoilt so easily and I don't want to risk that. Just know that the series is taking off at break-neck speed and there are no signs of slowing down just yet.

And as with the last 2 books it appears that they're going to be ending on cliff-hangers. Argh! I find that so annoying. In a good way I mean. Because the next book is not here already in my hands so that my questions can be answered, so that my hunger for what happens next can be quenched as easily as the zombie's once they've feasted on those lovely, mushy brains they're so fond of. It makes me stir-crazy and writing this review isn't helping. Gah. Dear Lord I need Zom-B Angels now. I need to know. ARGH! I need help. 

Wednesday 13 March 2013

The Department 19 Files have been opened...

Okay, so first off, apologies. I thought I'd posted about this before. I definitely meant to. Gah.

Anyway, if you've followed the blog a while or if you follow me on Twitter (@empireofbooks) then you will know that I am a big fan of Will Hill - I'd even go so far as to say I love him. His books are incredible. His monsters are... well... they're exactly that... Monsters! His twitter is brilliant and definitely worth a follow - he tweets interesting things and is also pretty funny. You can find him @WillHillauthor. So, being such a big fan of Will I'd want to own everything he does, right? Right! 

As is becoming common place today, extras are being made available by authors and publishers, normally in eBook only form. A little pick me up in between books, something just to remind you of the world you're in whilst reading a certain series, a look at some point from the story from another characters point of view, and so on. And thankfully Will now has his own little eBook exclusives. The Department 19 Files.

Now these do not feature Jamie, Larissa, or Dracula for that matter. No, these are the tales of people out on the front lines - the ones you don't know about, the hidden members of Department 19 that are keeping you alive, every single day.

Two have so far been released... The Devil in No Man's Land: 1917, and Undead In The Eternal City: 1918. Both have been awesome - love them. They're only little. They're quick reads and designed to be so. I'd say about half an hours worth, more or less depending on your reading speed, but for me about half an hour, three quarters with interruptions (don't get me started... family, pft!). And later on this week, the third and final instalment of the little mini-series The New Blood: 1919 will be unleashed and I for one am chomping at the bit to get a hold on it! In fact, writing this I've just realised that it's out tomorrow! Buzz, or what?! 

So yes, the point of this post is to tell you to go and check them out ASAP. If you haven't read Department 19 yet, if you're new or just not gotten around to it yet, you won't have anything spoiled for you at all. These books pre-date the main series and there's nothing here that would ruin the plot of either the first two books (I can't comment on Battle Lines yet as I haven't read it yet...) so read away and enjoy!

Friday 8 March 2013

The Fall of Five UK Cover Reveal

All day the UK publisher of the Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore has been releasing the cover art for the fourth book in the series. It's called The Fall of Five, and a little piece of the cover puzzle has been released every hour on the hour since 10am... and just a few moments ago the sixth and final piece was unveiled and... well... folks, we have a cover!

Ooh! Exciting! I like it. It's different to the others, but I like the Loric symbol in the background and I wonder what all the beetles mean... Hmm... Roll on 29th August!

"The Fall of Five is the heartstopping fourth installment in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore.

After facing near annihilation at the hands of the Mogadorian ruler we've learnt our lesson and we won't be caught unprepared and outgunned again. We have our Legacies and we have each other. We'll master our powers and stand united. The battle may have been lost, but the war for Earth's survival is far from over."

Erased Cover Reveal!

Eeep! I am so excited for this book!

Erased is the sequel to Altered by Jennifer Rush which I read earlier in the year and absolutely adored. I cannot wait to see how it continues! And just now Jennifer released the cover for it! Argh! It's steaming! Cannot wait for Jan 2014 to read it!

James Dashner's Mortality Doctrine gets UK home

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner marks the start of a new series, or trilogy should I say, entitled The Mortality Doctrine. Set to be published in the US by Dashner's long-term publisher Random House. And it has just been announced that Random House UK will be publishing the series over here in Blighty, and not Chicken House who published his last trilogy, the awesome Maze Runner trilogy.

I for one am very excited about this and it sounds like Random House are too. They're going to be publishing it in October alongside the US publisher so thankfully there are no massive waits! Buzz! I hope they keep the US cover too. It's so cool. And hardback please Random House! Thank you! :D

"An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Mindsis the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. 
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. 
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever."

Wednesday 6 March 2013

New Malorie Blackman *SQUEEL!!!!* right now! There's a new Malorie Blackman book coming out this year. In June! That's only 3 months away! Eep! Not long. There's a cover and a synopsis and I shall be posting them below for you to feast your eyes on... Can't wait!

Years after a violent war destroyed much of the world, Kaspar has grown up in a society based on peace and harmony. But beyond the city walls, a vicious band of rebels are plotting to tear this peace apart. It is up to the Guardians - an elite peacekeeping force - to protect the city, without ever resorting to the brutal methods of their enemy.

When Kaspar joins the Guardians, he has a chance encounter with a rebel - a beautiful girl named Rhea. Haunted from that moment on by strange visions and memories - memories that could only belong to Rhea - he realises he hasn't been told the truth about what the rebels really want, and what he's really fighting for.

Harken by Kaleb Nation [Review]

Written by: Kaleb Nation.
Published by: 
Format: eBook.
Released: 13th January 2013.
Rating: not rated.../5.

Official synopsis: "After surviving an assassination attempt, teenager Michael Asher discovers that he is at the center of a worldwide conspiracy reaching higher than any earthly power. A supernatural organization desperately wants him dead. He doesn't know why. Everyone who might have the answers has already been killed. Tumbling into a web of international secrets, Michael is forced to fight back and dig up the truth. He begins to question how much of the world is truly as people are led to believe it is. Are there things that humanity is not being told? Who is the puppet master? And how far into the maze can he venture before he is lost forever?"

Lord, give me strength because this review is going to be a tough one to write! Yikes. How do you even review a book you didn't finish?

I pride myself on honest reviews, as do most bloggers out there. So it pains me when I actually don't like a book because I know I'm going to have to say so rather than just say "yay, this was awesome..." because that would be a lie.

I'll be honest this review may be waffly, but bear with me...

Okay, so... Harken. Not going to lie, when it was announced I was freakishly excited to read it. I'd never read any of Kaleb's previous works but I had heard a lot of good things about them out there on Twitter. Everything about this sounded amazing. Conspiracy. Supernatural beings. Fancy cars. I was hyped up to the max, it's safe to say. The promotion for the book was amazing, the fact that not a lot was revealed but just enough to pique some interest - the videos revealing the artwork, title, just so cool. It was marketed well and it definitely got people talking.

But where Harken fails for me is in itself. I just couldn't find it in myself to continue reading. Yes, there was action but it felt stilted... staged. I just couldn't get into it. After the initial action in the first chapter it just stopped. It stalled. The foot came off the gas and I plundered through several more chapters before in the end I just gave up. 

Yeah. That's right. I didn't finish Harken. It annoys me, because I hardly ever stop until I've reached the end of a book, but occasionally I guess a book just comes along that doesn't really gel with you and you just can't continue any further. I really wanted to love Harken. I truly did. Like I mentioned earlier, I was so hyped about it's release, so much so that as soon as I'd downloaded it onto my Kindle I cleared my reading pile to the side and started. 

I don't even know what it is about the book that made it so hard for me to finish it. I just couldn't. I found myself struggling for ages to read even a page because I just couldn't muster any want to go any further. And that irked me. The idea is amazing. The conspiracy theory idea and the idea of Michael being able to see peoples true thoughts and intentions just by glancing into their eyes. Amazing. I guess it was just the delivery that let it down for me. As well as the action feeling a bit stilted, so did the writing in places. It just didn't seem to flow well...

I didn't particularly take to Michael as a character though. I like cars. Well, some. I'm not that car-y. But Michael seemed almost too fixated on his car being a certain make and the fact that he couldn't really afford it. He seemed materialistic and kind of turned me off a bit in that sense.

Please don't be put off reading this. There are a lot of reviews that state how awesome this book is and there is a lot of love out there. I wish I could join the masses but for me, Harken just didn't hit the mark. Cue sadface...

Saturday 2 March 2013

Siege and Storm cover art

Blimey. It's a busy time for cover reveals! There have been tonnes the last few weeks. Add another one to the list...

Siege and Storm is the second book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I'll admit I haven't read Shadow and Bone, the first book, originally published over here in the UK as The Gathering Dark but being re-released as Shadow and Bone with the original US artwork later on in the year. However I did today get a hardback copy in from the US which I am super excited about. It's such a gorgeous book and I cannot wait to get stuck in. 

Anyway... back to Siege and Storm! It's out in June and the cover is stunning! Check it out!

I am deliberately avoiding any synopsis' that are floating around for this as I don't want to spoil anything that might happen in Book One for myself. But if you google it, or check out GoodReads I'm sure something will show up! 

Such a stunning cover and I bet it'll look amazing on the hardback next to Book 1 on the shelf!