Sunday, 13 July 2014

Marking Time

Marking Time

by April White

4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything... a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transports Saira to the 19th Century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.

Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between 
centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time. 

Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.

((*psst* At the time of posting, this is free to download from Amazon - go download a copy and let me know what you think?!))
Saira is an average teenage girl.  Her mother regularly leaves her to fend for herself, and her insistence that they keep moving home makes it very hard for Saira to feel connected to anyone.
Her world becomes even more unsettled when Saira realises that she and her mother can travel through time, and her mother might well be stuck in 1888.  Only Saira and her new friends can save her.

Oh my goodness me.  I cannot explain how wildly this story swung from a two star to a five star (to be very honest, at this point I have still not decided how to rate it, and I only hope I will have decided by the end of the review!).  There were so many points that rubbed me completely the wrong way; there were parts that were so dull I wanted to put the book down as a DNF.  But then it was contradicted by completely amazing parts that had me riveted.
Normally, you find one half works better than the other; but Marking Time was constantly swinging between elation and shite.

Good stuff:
Saira is a capable heroine, she is strong, smart and fast.  She is a free-running graffiti artist, and feels original.  Even when the love interest crops up, she maintains a steady view, never turning into the dozy, doe-eyed variety that's so common in YA.
The whole plot was brilliant; a different take on the story behind Jack the Ripper.  A free-running journey through both modern and 19th Century London.
There were a couple of points that I found intriguing - namely the issue around native time; learning about the background of the Elian family.

Not-so-good stuff:
Saira.  I wanted to smack her repeatedly in the first few chapters.  I struggle with garish American characters, especially when they are transposed into a different class.  A popular (and annoying) outcome is a show of a lack of respect for the world they're entering.  It's almost like the author is trying <i>too</i> hard to make their character have conviction and a "point of view".
Followed by her reaction to being in 1888 for the first time - I almost shut the book there and then.
Then there were the "lessons".  There were sections of the book, almost whole chapters sometimes, where you are treated to a lecture.  On poultices, on herb lore, on genetics...  they just weren't interesting; they were lobbed in there, almost like info-dumps, but not information that entirely pertained to the story.  It felt like it was presenting the fact that April White assumes that her readers are all of a certain intellectual level, and need to feed their IQ.
I'm an utter science geek, with a reasonably high IQ, and I found these boring.  To be honest, I ended up skim-reading whenever the book got it's "teacher tone" on.
The big surprises that weren't all that big.  The book was great, if you switched off and followed it from from start to finish.  I'm not sure whether anything in it was supposed to be a surprise - not the truth about Archer; or the truth about Saira's family and bloodlines.  Before the big reveals, it was less about subtle hints, and more about big neon arrows pointing out vital information.

And was I the only person that found it hard to believe that Archer was in love with Saira from the very first scene, when he repeatedly stated that any of his past was blurry where she was concerned.  A useful device for why Archer can't help Saira with information when she travels back in time.  But how do you know you're in love with someone that you can't remember?  How do you know that you've kissed her before, and that she won't slap you for trying now?

Ugh, ok decision time.
I think I'll give a.... 3.5.  Let's round it up to a 4 for convenience.
I will read the rest of the series, but it's not at the top of my list.

Goodreads link

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Harlow Whittaker & The Apprentice

Harlow Whittaker & The Apprentice

by Valerie Day-Sanchez

5 out of 5

Two weeks ago nineteen year old Harlow Whittaker discovered that being able to travel to different worlds, while she slept wasn't just a weird secret that she had hidden since she was a child. In fact it meant that she was extraordinarily special. She was the first human soothsayer, the savior of the worlds. After abandoning her world and surviving the treacherous journey to Carnelian Comba, where she was finally united with fellow soothsayers. She has little time to recuperate from her imprisonment by her attacker, because just as she sits at the round table with the council members they realize they are under attack. Once again there is no time to waste, in order to survive, Harlow must leave Carnelian Comba. As Harlow begins to discover who she is, as she leads her army, she realizes that seeing the future while she sleeps was only the beginning. Unfortunately as her own abilities grow so are those of her enemy, whoever that may be. To make matters even worse, unlike last time Harlow does not have Larken by her side. He has been asked by the Soothsayers Council to discover the identity of their opponent. As Larken travels the worlds searching for the person that is responsible for the mutant Shadow Reapers and torture of clones Harlow becomes more in danger. Will Harlow be able to master her abilities in time for the impending battle? Will Larken be able to find their mystery attacker? One thing is for sure, life as the worlds' inhabitants know it is going to be forever changed.

This book picks up right where book 1 finishes.  Harlow has finally made her way to the location of the Soothsayers, but she is far from safe.  The enemies are at the door, invincible and over-whelming in number.

First of all, I think this second part is even better than the first book.  Day-Sanchez feels like a stronger, more confident writer.  There were a couple of niggles I had with Soothsayers: some of the descriptions felt long-winded and almost nervous; and the switches between Harlow's and Larken's narrations broke the flow and mostly felt unnecessary.
It's great to see the writer much more confident in presenting the world she has created.  And the switches between Harlow and Larken simply work this time; probably because they spend most of their time apart, so it fills out the bigger picture, rather than repetition.

Harlow is a stronger person in this book, after all the training and trials she has been through.  She has a very sensible approach to every situation, mainly wanting to keep her friends safe.
The Archers start to show their flaws, as they get more attached to their human friend, and some of their shortcomings are brought to light.
Elias is a very interesting addition into the mix.  I don't want to say too much about him, I'm scared to spoil anything!  But I really started to like the character - and oh, that twist!
In fact, all of the twists as you get to the last section of the book!
I've got to say, the last few pages really made me question everything.  I can't wait for the final part of the trilogy...  Autumn 2015?  I've gotta wait a year now!

Goodreads link

Good news, everybody!

Well, it looks like another of those over-stimulating weekends where I should go sit down and have a nice cup of tea instead.
I had two causes for excitement this week, and I will leave you to judge exactly how geeky I am to get worked up.

For example, over the years of wanting to be an author, and dreaming of the day when I would see a book
with my name on the shelf - I never imagined how giddy I would get over a bookmark.
But I dare you to look at it and not agree with my friend Khloe, that it is "sexy as phuck".

This is part of the promo package that popped up in my email from my cover designer Beth Syler.  She's the amazing artist who has done all three covers for the Witch-Hunter series.  I'd like to say that she's made my books look professional - but "professional" seems too sterile a word.  She's made my books look... addictive.

Anyway, as agreed, Beth had done the cover for book 3 - The Shadow Falls (which can be seen on my website, and I'm sure I'll be bragging about it here at a later date).  But then she also sent the unexpected promo images, which are frigging fantastic!
It was much to the amusement of my friends to see me bouncing around the coffee room, clutching a bookmark!

Point number two - this weekend, the paperback version of The Shadow Reigns might just have gone live on Amazon.
Now if that isn't a reason to have a glass of wine and dance around the room, I don't know what is.  (Not necessarily simultaneously.  My clumsiness, wine, and a cream carpet don't mix.)

The news of the release of the paperback has been brilliantly received.
I got goosebumps when I witnessed friends on Facebook - from Wales, Yorkshire and London; who didn't know each other a jot; but they were chatting away excitedly about the story!

It was almost as uplifting as when I told my parents, who put aside their British reservedness, to actually smile!