Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Harry Potter #re3 2015 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hello again! And look, this is my third post for the Harry Potter #re3 2015 Challenge! Yes, my lovelies, we are onto to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! This is a mixed book for fans. Some fans LOVE this book and others aren't that thrilled over it.

Now, this reread was interesting for me as, while I am a huge fan of this book - I class this as my fave within the series, I did look at this with new eyes as I spotted things that I have noticed before, but it was only now that I stopped and went "Hang on a moment..."

I would like to thank some podcasts that helped. The main two were/are Alohomora! and Witch, Please. But I remembered a few titbits from Pottercast (I can't download the episodes in question, but  I do remember tiny bits of information).

Anyway, let's get started on my reactions to this reread!

Now, I love this book. I have said it before, but what was interesting reading it this time round was that, while a lot of things happen within these covers, not much happens at the same time.

We are told that Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and he is this dark presence throughout the book. It is hinted throughout with the Grim and then we have moments when he, somehow, got into Hogwarts. It's not until the near end when we finally meet him. But the sense of dark foreboding is throughout the book, only ever hinted at. It's not like Philosopher's Stone or Chamber of Secret where dark things happened. In Prisoner, darkness is hinted at...

And this dark sense of foreboding comes from the Dementors. To me, they are one of the most terrifying creatures ever written in children's literature. But their dark presence and their dark effect on Harry puts all readers on edge.

Which makes Lupin such an interesting character. He is a flawed character, a well loved character and such an opposite compared to the Dementors. And we see this when Lupin talks to Harry at the end of Chapter 14: Snape's Grudge. He talks to Harry and tell him that people are risking their lives to protect him and Harry is dangerously wasting their risk. Lupin points out what harry's parents did - dying to save his life. Earlier in the chapter, Snape told Harry the same thing - but in a crueler way. In a nastier way. We don't like what Snape said but we believe Lupin.

Speaking of Snape, we see in this book that Snape is a nasty person. A liar, a bully, a hypocrite and a dangerous and bitter man. He treats Neville with cruelty, bullies students that aren't within his house, shouts and screams at Hermione, treats Harry with disgust, undermines Dumbledore and Lupin on several occasions. We see that, when he covers Lupin's class, he openly tells students he would give them a lower mark than what Professor Lupin has give, tried to expose Lupin's secret to the students. And, after the events of the final few chapters, Snape "accidentally" let Lupin's secret slip, holding on to a childhood grudge.

We also hear from Snape undermine Dumbledore when talking to Fudge. Snape says "And yet - is ti good for him [Harry] to be given so much so special treatment? Personally I tried to treat him like any other student." which is a lie. We see over and over Snape treats students outside of the Slytherin house with contempt. He bullies Neville to the point where Neville is terrified of him. He shouts and screams at Hermione and as for Harry, he lets his hatred of Harry's father blind him.

And yet, fans see Snape as a flawed hero. He isn't. He is a bitter man. A man who has made his own decisions and they are very questionable!

But the main thing I spotted in this reread that I never really saw till now was how Hermione was treated in this book but both Ron and Harry. Ron treated Hermione badly throughout the course of this book, first because of Crookshank, then Harry's Fireboat before going back to Crookshank. Harry   did the same, first when Hermione reports that Black sent Harry the Firebolt and then after that, when Crookshank is framed for eating Scabbers. When he tries to talk to her about it, Hermione snaps "OK, side with Ron, I knew you would!" and it's not until Buckbeak lost his appeal when they start speaking to each other.

This is hugely different to when Harry and Ron fall out in Goblet of Fire. Hermione is stuck in the middle and, unlike Harry, she tries to stay neutral until she can't take it anymore and then she removes herself from the situation. She doesn't pick a side.

It's Hagrid who tells Harry and Ron off for being bad friends to her. And what happens when they meet after this? Ron treats Hermione badly and they are back at square one.

If the trilogy hadn't become friends in book 1, this is what Hermione's life at Hogwarts would be like? She would be busy doing work, but she would be very alone. And, also, Harry and Ron fail Hermione when they see her struggling. They fail to see that something is terribly wrong. That Hermione is acting so out of character - she slaps Malfoy and storms out of Trelawney's class. They don't notice or pay attention to her. and her problems.

And we see her finally react breaking point in chapter 17, Cat, Dog and Rat, when Lupin and Black embrace like brothers and Hermione screams, "I DON'T BELIEVE IT!". Here is where she finally creaks. After spending the whole school year using the Time Turner to make it to classes (to my math, doing the day twice with only a few hours sleep a night), struggling with Buckbeak's trial and the boys treating her badly, seeing a teacher she respects hug a murderer, shatters her resolve and makes her finally lose it.

In fact, this is the book when Harry stops paying attention. All the clues are there, but Harry misses them. Again and again. There is one moment in Cat, Dog and Rat, when Black tells Ron (who at this point has broken his leg), "Lie down... You will damage your leg even more.". When Ron states that if Black wants to kill Harry, he will have to kill Ron and Hermione too, Black replies, "Only one will die tonight." If Black was seriously going to kill the three of them - or even just Harry - why then would he care about Ron's leg? Plus, when Black broke into the Gryffindor Tower, why was he standing over Ron's bed and when he realised his mistake, why did he run away?

There are clues that Harry, and we the reader, fail to see.

Ok, am going to stop this post now. But rereading this series was a smart move, I feel, as I am discovering things I have always missed. And this shows that JK Rowling is a much smarter writer than we thought...

So... 3 books down, 4 more to go! NEARLY HALF WAY THROUGH, PEOPLE!!!!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Robin Stevens Talks Josephine Tey

I am thrilled to welcome Robin Stevens, author of Murder Most Unladylike and its sequel, Arsenic for Tea (which I have read a few weeks ago - without reading the first in the series. I am a monster!). I have been following her on Twitter for ages and I love her. During reading Arsenic for Tea, I sent a small email, asking Robin if she would be up for writing a guest post for the blog. And she said yes! And it is it!!! And it doesn't help that it's now making me want to attack my crime novels in my TBR piles!

So, a huge thank you to Robin from finding time in her busy schedule to write this! And now, over to Robin to talk about one of her favourite crime author, Josephine Tey...

Whenever people ask me about my crime fiction influences, they expect to be told about Agatha Christie. And they’d be right – I owe a huge amount to her. Her plots, her characters, the way she approached mystery stories: you can see her in every book I write. But there’s another Golden Age author who I think I’m almost as indebted to, and that’s Josephine Tey.

Tey isn’t exactly forgotten. All of her books are currently in print, and I see them get mentioned a lot in lists of the best Golden Age crime novels. But all the same, I think she’s not mentioned nearly as much as she should be. Unlike Christie, who was disturbingly prolific (her total’s somewhere in the 70s), Tey only wrote eight books over a thirty year period – but each one of those books is an absolute masterpiece of plot and atmosphere, truly brilliant examples of what a crime novel can be.

I first discovered Tey as a fifteen year old, when I picked up an old copy of Miss Pym Disposes in the Strand bookstore in New York. I didn’t know anything about it, and really had no expectations (apart from that it was set in a boarding school, and I liked books about boarding schools) – and then I started to read it. It was one of those sideswiped-by-fate, dropping-off-a-cliff, falling-in-love experiences that every reader gets about seven times in their life: the realisation that here is one of your books, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one you’ll keep going on about for years and years even when it’s clear that the person you’re talking to is really bored.

Miss Pym Disposes is a boarding school book like no other: a sharp-edged pressure-cooker atmosphere that’s almost dream-like in its strangeness, characters who are troubled and wrong and a murder plot that’s sickeningly smart and awful. Without giving anything away, there’s a twist at the end that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since the day I first read it. Murder Most Unladylike shares a huge amount of DNA with it – actually, Miss Pym is a big part of why I wanted to write my own boarding school murder mystery.

Over the years I’ve very slowly read my way through Tey’s books. There’s The Franchise Affair, the most disturbing take on a kidnap novel that you’ll find; Brat Farrar, a story where a confidence trickster is the hero (I defy you not to fall in love with both him and the family he’s tricking); The Daughter of Time, a murder mystery that makes you doubt everything you thought you knew about Richard III . . . they’re all brilliant, and strange (strange is a word that I keep using for Tey – there’s a quality to her writing that can’t really be explained any other way), and oddly sad.

I’m so obsessed with her that I even used Brat Farrar as the basis of my MA dissertation (Brat’s story is based on the real-life Tichborne Claimant, and I proved this conclusively, breaking ground in the very niche scholarship area of Which Real Historical Crimes Are Crime Novels Stealing Bits From) – and, of course, I used Miss Pym Disposes as the basis of my first book. There’s a very small Tey Easter egg that I snuck in to Murder Most Unladylike as a tribute to her: on the evening of Miss Bell’s murder, Daisy and Hazel are down at school late because Daisy wants to finish reading Tey’s first crime novel, The Man in the Queue.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying that I think everyone who loves crime should read Tey. She’s a grande dame of the genre and I wish her fanbase was hundreds of times as big. If you’re a fan of Golden Age crime, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

Thursday, 21 May 2015


Why, hello there!

Earlier this week, I was invited to an special thingy (I won't say event but it was something - keep an eye on Hot Key Books's social media outlets in the coming few days/weeks...) at Hot Key Books in connection with Garth Nix.

As you guys are aware, I love Garth Nix's writing and I love the Old Kingdom series. I adore Sabriel and I think it's time to reread the whole series (once I've done my Harry Potter reread. It's been an age since I reread Lirael!)

And those lovely peeps at Hot Key Books have given me something that I am giving away. It's kinda an exclusive as they aren't out till 4th June.

One very lucky person will win a copy of Clariel in paperback, also well as To Hold The Bridge, Garth Nix's latest collection of short stories, which includes an Old Kingdom novella (which is the title of the collection).

If you don't know the series, Clariel is a good place to start. It is a standalone, a prequel and a sequel to the series and To Hold The Bridge is a collection of short stories so if one story doesn't suit you, another will.

I am excited to host this contest!

Ok, the rules. This is a UK only contest which will end on Monday 25th May at 6pm. The winner will be picked at random via Random.org and I will email the winner for your address so I can get it sent to you as soon as I can (Tuesday or Wednesday).

New Laini Taylor Trilogy News!

As you guys know, I love Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. I love it! So when I heard this news a few days ago, I was very excited. And the lovely people at Hodder sent me a press release, I REALLY wanted to show you guys. But I have been a bit busy over the past few days so I have only just got time to do this now!

So, who wanna get excited with me?


Following the international success of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Hodder & Stoughton will publish three new young adult novels by Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling fantasy author, Laini Taylor. Kate Howard, Associate Publisher at Hodder, acquired British Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Jane Putch of Eyebait Management. The first book, The Muse of Nightmares, will be published in Autumn 2016 and is a fantasy young adult novel with a gothic flavour. Taylor describes it as follows: ‘There was a war between men and gods, and men won. The few surviving children of the gods have grown up in hiding, dreading the day they know must come: when humans find them, and end them. That day is at hand.’ The book will simultaneously release in the US from sister company Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Kate Howard said: ‘I am so thrilled to publish Sunday Times bestselling Laini Taylor’s new books across the UK and Commonwealth, starting with The Muse of Nightmares next Autumn. Laini’s imagination is second to none, the fantasy worlds she creates truly unique and I know that come Autumn 2016, The Muse of Nightmares will be the book everyone is talking about.’
Of The Muse of Nightmares, Taylor shared, ‘I’m excited beyond belief to have found the proper form, at last, for this story that’s been in my head for about two decades. I can’t say much about it, but I’ll say this: it’s about otherness, and yearning to belong in a place you never can. I can only hope that readers will respond to these new characters with the same passion as they have to Karou and Brimstone, Prague and Eretz.’

The widely acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy, for which Universal Pictures acquired film rights (with Joe Roth set to produce), is currently available in thirty-three languages. Of her experience meeting fans internationally, Taylor said, ‘The reception of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy has been and continues to be a dream come true. I’m blown away by the incredible fan art, cosplay, and tattoos from readers all around the world, who give the books new life and new dimensions every day. Fantasy readers are the best.’

About Laini Taylor
Laini Taylor is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion enovella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books, Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine. Her website is www.lainitaylor.com

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Librarian and Dead Game - Mini Reviews

Never written one of these. No, that's a lie. I think I have, but I can't remember when. Oh well... I am writing this on my day off and with Bagheera asleep on my jumper (he's been playing for the past few hours!). And I am going to blitz these two in one go. So... hang on to your hats...

The Librarian is a live recording from Welcome to Night Vale, where the team went touring with this through the US and in Europe last year (I couldn't go to the London events - COME BACK TO THE UK, NIGHT VALE!!!) so if you are huge Night Vale fans, you might have listened to this. I only listened to this today!

A terrible thing has happened to Night Vale - a librarian has escaped!

I don't know what else to say, apart from that. This is for the fans really. Newcomers to Night Vale wouldn't get the humour and might get confused over why the show is trying to make the scary normal. This is very much for the fans (which I am). And I really like it!

Which is good as an actual book is coming out at the end of the year and I CAN NOT WAIT FOR IT!!!

There's not much I could say... So, moving onto something that Michelle from Tales of Yesterday got me involved in this month, which is the Point Horror Book Club. Now, I was never a Point Horror fan while growing up. I don't like horror in general, but when Michelle asked if I wanted to read this month's read, The Dead Game, I thought why not? Sounds like fun...

Linnie, Jackson and Ming find themselves surrounded by fakers in their school. So, they decide to play a game - The Dead Game, in which they pull a name out of the hat and then they have to "kill" the target (aka publicly humiliation). But things get out of hand quickly. One target had to go to hospital and the other... the other died. 

Is the game playing itself? Or is someone playing the game, completing the list no matter the consequence? 

Ok, here is the thing. This was a quick fast read, but it's very much a product of the time. It fits the 90s and I bet that if I read this in my teens, I would have been on the edge of my seat. But, reading it now, I knew where the story was going and I just felt myself sighing over it. 

And the ending. Ok, the ending bothered me. A lot. It came out of nowhere and there was no clues to this ending. It felt like a cheap plot twist. 

I might take part in another Point Horror BookClub read soon... maybe... Next month's pick of Teacher's Pet by Richie Tankersley Cusick and I have always been intrigued by that cover... 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Non-Review of A God In Ruins

I have thought a while about writing this blog post. Now, normally, I don't write reviews for books I don't finish. I feel uncomfortable about doing it - how can I give an honest review on something I haven't finished?

But with A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson, I am going to make an exception. This is a once in a blogtime thing so don't get too excited, book peeps. I feel that I should talk about the book, my thoughts on the pages I have read and explained why I've decided to stop reading this.

So, for those of you who don't know A God In Ruins, this is a companion novel to Kate Atkinson's previous novel, Life After Life. In this, we follow Teddy throughout his life. Growing up from son and brother to would-be poet and World War Two pilot to husband, father and grandfather. As he grows through the 21st century, he will soon face a challenge in a future he never expected to have.

So, let me talk about the positives of this book (from what I have read). The writing is very subtle and it flows beautifully. Plus, this is also a non-linear book (it jumps back and forward throughout Todd's life) and it didn't feel confusing. It made sense and, for me, it's rare for a book to write in this style and it to make sense to its readers.

But, from what I read, I can very easily see readers not feeling connected the characters and might find this book a bit slow-paced (I said it was subtle, remember?) and I think some of you guys might want to read Life After Life before you read this as you "get" it.

So... why am I stopping reading this? It's a "It's not you, it's me" situation. I do want to read this! I do! But at the same time I started reading this, I got my little Bagheera (not sure who Bagheera is? Read my blog post here and, be warned, there are cat gifs. A lot of them!) and kittens are very high maintenance. And this book needs time - it's like a bottle of red wine. It needs time to breathe and I can't give this book the time it deserves at the moment when I have a kitten clawing its way up my jeans (or trying to attack the bookmark ribbon. Or sit on the book. Or try and eat a corner).

Plus, I have been trying to read this for nearly a fortnight and I have only got 100 pages in. At this rate, I will finish this in 6 weeks time. That's two months. And I can very easily see myself hating the book. And I don't want that. I want to read this book and I want to have time to read it, without panicking about my emotions changing because it's taking me longer to read than normal.

So, this isn't a review. This is me saying what I think of the first 100 pages and, hopefully, in the future, I shall read the book completely and give you guys a full review.

Limited Space Means Limited Numbers

I am thrilled to welcome Sarah Govett to my blog today! Sarah is the author of The Territory, a debut novel which has already got a lot of hype due to it being shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Prize 2014.

The Territory looks into the future where the world is flooded and the pressure to do well in your exams is taken to an extreme level. Am going to say no more than that! Before I hand over to Sarah, I just want to thank Sarah for taking time to write this post and for Jennie for setting this up!

If you fancy checking out Sarah, you can go to her website - www.sarahgovett.com - or say hi to her on Twitter (@sarahgovett).

Over to you, Sarah!

Try to imagine for a moment that it’s forty odd years from now. We didn’t cut back on carbon consumption quick enough so those icebergs went and melted just as all the scientists told us they would. Now half of Britain is under water. The flooded Wetlands are a breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying malaria and worse and you obviously can’t grow any food in what’s basically a salt marsh. So everyone wants to live on the remaining dry land, right? But there are far too many people to fit and feed. So how do you decide who gets to stay? Do you value each and every life equally and operate some sort of lottery system or do you recognise that humanity as a whole is better served if we keep the brightest and best as they’re more likely to be able to reverse the catastrophic climate change? And, if you agree with that, how do you find the best and brightest young people to keep around? By exams, of course, exams focused on the most useful subjects – maths and science – I mean they’re the best way of gauging intelligence. Aren’t they?
This is the backdrop against which I decided to set my dystopian thriller, The Territory - teens being forced to sit exams at 15 to see whether they get to stay on dry land or be sent to the Wetlands for a life of misery if not certain death. To make matters even worse, the most privileged kids have a huge advantage as they can upload information straight into their brains through a Node in the back of their necks, bypassing the need to study.
I wrote the book in snatched half hours after the birth of my first child. I’ve always been drawn to accessible novels about big ideas and my biggest influences are probably John Wyndham (particularly The Crysalids), John Christopher (the amazing Death of Grass), Margaret Atwood (too many to name), Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon – if you haven’t read it, you need to get a copy, believe me), and more recently Gemma Malley (her thought provoking The Declaration).
I wanted my novel to reflect the horrific pressure exams place on teenagers, the unfairness of our education system whereby results are as much determined by quality of school as natural intelligence and society’s elevation of logical subjects above more creative ones. It’s this last point that I want to go into a bit so please indulge me!
I did predominantly science A-levels as I was thinking of becoming a doctor (an aim quickly quashed by a sixth-form visit to a university dissection room!) I think growing up I was as guilty as anyone of seeing maths and science as more important subjects or somehow better indicators of intelligence. I mean, a stereotypically ‘brainy’ student is more associated with a lab or mathletes than poetry. I think my change in opinion has probably come through tutoring – through working closely with students who are clearly hugely intelligent but whose brains, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to process more abstract mathematical or scientific concepts. And they feel terrible about it and somehow lesser. But the Arts and Humanities help foster an understanding of motivations and empathy that I believe we need now more than ever to make the world a better place. When you think about a world without stories, music and art, you realise that whilst the Arts might not be necessary for human survival, they are necessary to preserve our humanity. Even scientists and lawyers like to relax at night with dramas and comedies – or maybe even a YA novel with crossover appeal!

Monday, 11 May 2015

GoodRead - Arsenic For Tea

I haven't read the first book in the Wells and Wong series, Murder Most Unladylike. Before you say anything, I know... I know. I am a bad UKYA blogger. This is one of those books that everyone in the blogsphere LOVES and I do have a signed copy (thank you, Foyles!) on my TBR shelf, but when I saw Arsenic for Tea, I wanted to read it. Plus, I wanted to know if I could read Arsenic for Tea without reading Murder Most Unladylike...

Best friends Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong solved one murder. But can they solve other? When they go to Daisy's home, Fallingford, for the Easter break, they should be celebrating Daisy's birthday. Expect that's not the case - so Daisy is naturally annoyed. A mystery man has appeared and his arrival upsets the balance of the household.

And when he suddenly becomes ill and then dies, everyone close to Daisy is a suspect. And when the clues point to one person in particular, the Detective Society have to discover who the killer is - no matter the consequence...

As you guys know, I do like a good murder mystery and this was delicious reading. It was as if someone had dared Agatha Christie to write an Enid Blyton story and this was the end result. A story that was fun and addictive read, strong leads (I like Hazel a lot, but Daisy is a tad spoilt for my taste but I think she's meant to be!) and a mystery that leaves you guessing till the very end.

What is interesting about this book is, because of the time this series is set - the 1930s - we see things that I think people who like to brush over. There is hints of casual racism aimed at Hazel - racism from people who are "nice" - and we see that this upsets Hazel, but it's still unnerving to see this and go "People used to think this was accepted". Am very happy that Robin Stevens tackles this and doesn't shy away from Hazel's reaction and her feeling alone.

It was a fun read, though I do think you should read Murder Most Unladylike before as the events of book 1 were mentioned.

I do think some of you guys will think this is a bit young - it could be classed as a middle grade book rather than a YA read - but it was fun! A fun read and a good crime read (which is bad as I want to attack all the Kathy Reichs I own!), but I can't wait to read Murder Most Unladylike as soon as I find time so I am up to date when book 3 in this series, First Class Murder, comes out at the end of July of this year...