Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Crewel Blog Tour - Guest Post by Gennifer Albin

Hi everyone, hope you're all having a fab week. Today I have the lovely Gennifer Albin, author of Crewel, on the blog for a guest post! As Crewel is about Adelice, a girl who can weave time with matter, Gennifer has made a list of her favourite films that involve time-bending or shifting reality! Hope you enjoy the post :).

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Crewel (Crewel World #1) by Gennifer Albin
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Released: October 4th 2012
Find it on Goodreads

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.
 (from Goodreads)

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Gennifer’s Top 5 Mind-Blowing and Time-Bending Films

1. Inception - How much of reality is determined by the mind? Can you live a whole life in a dream? Did anything in this movie actually happen? And the visual effects are stunning!

2. Dark City - A sci-fi film with a very noirish bent. It follows a man who might be a murderer or who may be being set up in a world where guardians change reality every night. It’s funny that it’s likely one of the biggest influences on Crewel without me ever consciously thinking about it.

3. The Matrix - I saw The Matrix in the theatre and was instantly obsessed. I’m not such a fan of the rest of the series, but the entire concept was mind-blowing and the fight scenes, oh, the fight scenes. I wore a lot of patent leather that year.

4. In Time - So the metaphor in this is a bit heavy handed, but I really enjoyed how it played with the relationship of time and money and the Bonnie and Clyde vibe.

5. Total Recall - I haven’t seen the remake, but the original version of this based on a Philip K. Dick story is the reason we have movies like Inception now!

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Gennifer Albin has a masters degree in English from the University of Missouri, where she was an editor for Pleiades and The Missouri Review. She's the founder of the popular Connected Mom parenting blog and blogs about writing on her own website. Crewel was inspired by a painting by the Spanish surrealist painter, Remedios Varo. It is her first novel. (from Faber & Faber website)
Find out more about Gennifer:

http://www.genniferalbin.com
@genniferalbin
http://www.goodreads.com/genalbin
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Thanks so much to Gennifer for writing a fab post and being on the blog, and many thanks to Laura from F&F who organised everything. I hope you've enjoyed finding out more about Gennifer and Crewel! Do you like any of the films Gennifer listed? Which are your  favourites?

Don't forget to visit the next stop on the tour, Dark Readers, tomorrow, for another great post!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Breathe (Breathe #1) by Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: October 11th 2012
My Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart. (from Goodreads)

The premise of Breathe was the main reason I was really excited to read the book – a world where oxygen was a commodity rather than an abundant element seemed like a great set-up for a dystopian story. I was rather impressed with the plot and the way Crossan managed to prevent the book from being preachy – the seriousness of what had happened to the environment was prevalent throughout, but I sort of expected it to come with a rant about global warming and human greed (think Maximum Ride 4 & 5 – I felt like I was being personally yelled at in those books for not taking better care of my surroundings!). Luckily Breathe wasn’t like that at all, and was more about the story and what was happening to the characters as they found out more about the sinister world they lived in.

Breathe was told in alternating chapters from three points of view. I was initially a little wary about this, but I think overall, the POV switches were done quite well. It was a little confusing at times, but I think having three different perspectives did add to the story because we go to see several places and characters within the same timeframe, which helped to explain what was happening.  Alina, Bea and Quinn were all very different characters, and I think Alina was probably my favourite, though Bea did grow on me. Alina was part of the rebellion, working against the government who were trying to prevent the replanting of trees, and she lost someone dear to her very early on in the book, and was suffering with guilt and grief throughout. She was not used to relying on people and so didn’t want to work with Bea and Quinn to begin with, but as time went on, she gradually came to trust them. I would have liked to have known more about Alina and how she came to join the rebellion in the first place – some things were hinted at, but hopefully we’ll find out more about her past in the next book.

Bea was almost the opposite of Alina to begin with, and had always been the type to follow rules and orders without complaint. Her family were Auxiliaries and could barely afford enough air to live on, so Bea was determined to go far in life so she could help support her parents. She started off quite a passive character, but began to speak up more as the book went on, arguing with Quinn and Alina about things she disagreed with, and I liked this character development. She was also completely in love with Quinn, who was a Premium and rich enough to get more than enough oxygen whenever he wanted, but Quinn was the typical clueless best friend who had no idea about Bea’s feelings. I did feel for Bea, especially when Quinn started talking about his attraction to Alina (he wasn’t purposefully being tactless, but dear God, he was oblivious to other people’s feelings) – she tried to stay calm but she couldn’t help being upset. She felt like a coward for not telling Quinn about how she felt, but she was too afraid to ever tell him because it seemed he had never felt that way about her.

Quinn...I have no words. He really was just an idiot. I didn’t dislike him, per se, but it was really hard to like him when acted so stupidly and did his “poor little rich boy” act. The way he treated Bea at the beginning – the poor girl! He did become more likeable when he was separated from Bea and started to really worry and panic, and a certain event in the middle of the book gave him a huge shock that I think changed his way of thinking, which I think helped better his character. I liked him more towards the end, though I think his relationship with Bea was slightly rushed and I don’t know when exactly he started to like/realised he liked her – one minute Bea was just his friend and he was getting all googley-eyed over Alina, next minute, he and Bea were inseparable. I would have liked a bit more development there, but at least he stopped acting like a moron, I guess.

I really liked the setting and world-building in Breathe, and while it was a bit far-fetched, it didn’t seem too implausible that such a future may indeed come to pass. I could definitely imagine a huge corporation trying to capitalise on that tragedy as well, so I think it was written pretty well. My only concern about it, however, was the science used to explain things. It was....questionable. Some parts more than others – humans being able to breathe in air consisting of only 6% oxygen? Really? I mean, I guess it could be possible at some point, but not just through the training and exercises they did – for them to adjust so quickly – especially going from an environment of such higher oxygen levels...eh. I don’t know if I can believe that. I feel like they acclimatised way too fast for it to be realistic. But, it wasn’t the worst explanation I’d see (by a long shot, I’ve read some books where the science behind what was going on was actually just impossible) so I’m not too fussed about it. Some people may find this slightly annoying, but I think it can be overlooked if you’re willing to carry on reading for the story and character’s sake.

Overall, I enjoyed Breathe (my love for dystopian books continues!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the sequel. Recommended to dystopian fans or those looking for a pretty unique setting/world.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Spark Competition Winner!

Over the summer The Spark ran a competition to find a young singer-songwriter, band or musician to create an original soundtrack to the official Crewel book trailer. The standard of entries was very high, but one track really stood out. The lyrics of fourteen year-old Roisin's O'Hagan's haunting song 'It's a Lie' allude to the themes of the book in a really intriguing way, and the music itself stays with you – everyone will be singing it to themselves for weeks!

You can watch the official trailer, created by artist Carolina Melis, here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sbIE7eg72s&feature=youtu.be and become a fan of The Spark in order to download the track for free here http://www.facebook.com/thesparkpage/app_160430850678443.


What do you think of the trailer? Are you excited for the book?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Explanations

Soooo. I haven't posted in a while. This was not intentional. I AM going to start posting regularly soon, I promise. It's just...well. Apparently degrees require a lot of work. Apparently I am somehow behind on reading already despite the fact I have literally been working almost every day while battling freshers' flu. Seriously. I now understand the pain of people who have done/are doing law degrees. The textbooks are...o_O. Anyway, I have plans to post things very soon! So expect reviews and also a blog tour post which will be coming up this month. I apologise for my absence and lack of comments. I know I really need to catch up with it all, I'm hoping to on Sunday, so fingers crossed. Hope everyone is doing well and sorry for disappearing on you all! The blogging shall continue! :P

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: September 6th 2012
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

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

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

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America's oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance. (from Goodreads)

I didn’t know much about The Lost Colony before starting Blackwood (had to do a few Google searches), but the book was a definitely an interesting take on everything that happened. However, I found the story a bit confusing and hard to follow at times and feel like it didn’t live up to its potential.

Miranda was a character I had mixed feelings about. She was an outcast on Roanoke Island; people avoided her because they believed her bloodline was cursed, so she had no friends, no other family members (besides her alcoholic dad) to look out for her and was often teased by people who wanted to humiliate her. In short, she had a hard life. But one thing I didn’t get was that she didn’t do anything about her situation. When people mistreated her, she sort of wrote it off as “well, that’s what they do!” She just accepted their behaviour, which struck me as odd, as she seemed like the type of person who could have stood up to these people if she wanted to. I liked her curiosity, her love of the theatre and her nerdiness, but I wished maybe she had shown more emotion, more anger or hurt or anything – I think it would have made her more believable. I felt like throughout the book, I was sort of detached from Miranda and all the other characters – I couldn’t get much feeling from them, and so couldn’t feel involved in the story. That being said, I think Miranda’s reactions when she was with Phillips were quite realistic (apart from her forgiving him so easily)  – she overanalysed everything she did and got worried that things would become awkward between them and didn’t know how to act.

Phillips was an intriguing character. His ability to hear the dead was very interesting – sometimes the voices overwhelmed him so he couldn’t understand what they wanted, but other times they seemed to be whispering pieces of advice, trying to guide him in the right direction. The ability ran in the family, and I would have loved to know more about it and perhaps where it originated from. Being the son of a police chief, Phillips also knew a lot of things that most of the islanders didn’t, which helped on occasion when trying to solve the mystery. However, I found Phillips’s interest in Miranda a bit strange. He hadn’t seen the girl in years, yet suddenly had this strong desire to protect her? The relationship was a bit rushed, I felt like they didn’t really know each other well, and didn’t get why Phillips was so obsessed with helping Miranda. They never really even spoke when they were children, except for the incident when Phillips humiliated Miranda, so this rapid relationship development didn’t really work for me. I did enjoy their scenes together, don’t get me wrong – but it all happened too fast for my liking.

Plot-wise, I think the book started off strong but got confusing when the 114 people who had disappeared (just like in history) reappeared. I was confused as how their disappearance was viewed by the islanders – it was explained to us, but the regular citizens, the ones who weren’t in the know like us readers, seemed to just accept this disappearance and reappearance with no explanation. What were the citizens of the island told about the people who disappeared? Why did they so easily welcome them back with no questions? It wasn’t explained and I felt like this messed with the story, because there’s no way anyone would just accept such an event without wanting answers. I was also confused about what happened to the original lost colony – where exactly did they go? What happened to them? We were told very little about this, which affected the story later in the book, because I was wondering how on earth of all the things going on were able to happen. However, I did enjoy the way alchemy played a part in the story (though more explanation would have been nice) and thought it was very clever the way real people in history were included - it made the characters motivations and actions seem more real.

Overall, Blackwood had a great premise but I felt a little let down by the confusing nature of the story and the detached narration. However, I would recommend it people who like mysteries and who want something different and unique.

(Side note: the cover of this book is awesome. Very cool and clever, and relates to the book too. Love it!)