Here are some pretty pictures from the Skin party I was lucky enough to have been invited to. I met some fantastic people, got hyped about the novel, all in the beautiful setting of Hachette’s six floor- plus the goodie bag was AMAZING…
Skin by Ilka Tampke, will be published on the 6 August 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton.
Plot: Imagine a world where everyone is born with a ‘skin’ name. Without skin you cannot learn, you are not permitted to marry, and you grow up an outsider amongst your own people.
This is no future dystopia. This is Celtic Britain.
It is AD 43. For the Caer Cad, ‘skin’ name determines lineage and identity. Ailia does not have skin; despite this, she is a remarkable young woman, intelligent, curious and brave. As a dark threat grows on the horizon – the aggressive expansion of the Roman Empire – Ailia must embark on an unsanctioned journey to attain the knowledge that will protect her people, and their pagan way of life, from the most terrifying invaders they have ever faced… and it is this unskinned girl who will come to hold the fate of her people in her hands.
SKIN is a standout, full-blooded debut which invokes the mesmerizing, genre-transcending magic of novels such as Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cavebear; it combines epic storytelling with a strikingly unique plot set during a fascinating period of Britain’s history.
Quick description: Smart, critical fiction on social networking and its society.
Plot: When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
So this is one of the non-romance books that I have read and I think deserves a review on here. It has so many raving reviews from all the big cheeses, Economist, Guardian, The Times, and won ‘Book of the Year’ in 2014, that there might not be much point in mine. However, if you scan Goodreads and Amazon, there is a bit of a mixed reception. So lets see if I can settle the score.
The 2-star vs 5-star reviews, in my opinion, is what makes this novel so good. At least people are talking about it, debating and defending. Novels are supposed to make people obsessed or rub them in the wrong way. The reason I think people are peeved may be because this novel talks a lot of about current society and at first comes across as typical ‘oh-no-technology-beware’ kind of genre. I think the book gets really good halfway through, and the reader understands the mechanics of ‘The Circle’.
‘The Circle’ is like Google times ten. One password, one identity and you log into everything. To be honest that sounds quite good. And in the book, there were benefits, such as no more seedy corners in the internet where trolls live. But of course no one really has privacy. I guess it wouldn’t really work for me, considering my pen-name.
And then the Circle starts inventing devices like ‘See-Change’, which is like Google street-view times a hundred. So these are obviously the ‘red-alerts’. As part of the Circle community Mae has to be online, basically ALL the time. She has a ranking, that only gets improved when she has posted, zinged (tweeted), joined, commented, check-in- everything; if its not online its not real and a wasted opportunity. I could see this as disturbing, and it is. However, she is working for a social networking company, so er- its her job, get over it?
There is a hint of an older generation who hate social media trying to warn the young-uns with their prophecies. But it is interesting to see how something innovative and creative transform into totalitarianism. And how everyone is clueless to it even when it starts becoming violent. As Mae becomes more immersed into the company, its starts to get suffocating. It really does feel like the Circle closes in. The more she is active online, the more she gets inundated with endless zings, smiles, frowns; the info-dump is overwhelming for her and the reader. She gets that clammy exhilarated feeling we can all associate with.
Its not so much the idea of technology being dangerous. There are many good things about the Circle, your artwork can be sold in a blink, criminals can be tracked in 1 minute, wheel-chair ridden people can experience mountain climbing. But the attitude that people have when using the Circle echoes what is happening now; they have to know everything, they are always waiting for a reply, things are done just to be put online. If you aren’t on the Circle, you are pretty much out of the grid, you can’t pay your bills or send an email. The ‘C’ in Circle turns into a tight-fisted grip. What does democracy mean if, yes everybody has a voice, but you can only give it IF you are part of the system. But its the people who encourage this tyranny. It only starts working if everyone is on it. Once that happens its hard to reverse a circle, if that makes sense?
The slogan-language they create (‘Privacy Is Theft) echoes 1984‘s Newspeak, but I think The Circle on its way to take-over the classic as a literary landmark. I was never too fond of 1984, just so bleak! I may have connected more with Mae’s character rather than Winston, being also a young woman starting a new job. The Circle offers something new, everything is so bright and clear, and instead of mystery there is just too much information.
Published by Pan Macmillan, 2 July 2015, 448 pages, £7.99.
Quick description: Book 11 to the Princess Diaries series, Mia and Michael are grown up and ready to tie the knot.
Perfect for?: Anytime, anywhere
Steam?: squeaky clean
Plot: Princess Mia’s life in New York City is one glamorous whirlwind. Not only does she have to deal with nosy gossip columnists on a daily basis and the paparazzi following her every move, she’s also expected to enchant wealthy strangers at royal engagements. Speaking of engagements… Mia’s gorgeous long-term boyfriend Michael has finally popped The Question on an exotic Caribbean island. Finally they’re ready to settle down… or so she thought. When Mia and Michael return from their romantic hideaway, they discover that they are embroiled in a scandal of majestic proportions! A scandal that could turn the normally calm Michael in to a runaway groom… Worse still, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Mia may be ready to wed, but is she ready to rule as well?
O.k, so the moment we have been waiting for has arrived! Mia is back!! I was so ecstatic getting my review copy- thank you Macmillan! Who would have thought back when the PD series was ending I would be part of its reunion?
So, if you are a fellow POG (Princess of Genovia) follower, have already read Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, you are probably going to get this no question. And trust me, you won’t be disappointed, Meg Cabot delivers the goods. You don’t really have to read this review any further- its going to be brilliant. So I would recommend this book for PD fans only, or those who have read most of the series, otherwise you won’t really get the inside jokes.
The novel reveals many changes in Mia’s life, good and bad. Cabot drops a huge bombshell, basically right on the first page- so watch out for that! And several revelations follow suit- the book is non-stop! It already got me in hysterics a few pages in, a skill I really admire Cabot for having. It takes a lot to make a reader cry, but much more to make them laugh. So the style is pretty much how we loved it. Also the really fun formatting- alternating between diary entry, newspaper articles and text message; although no lists (Mia’s top ten etc?) which I missed.
The whole gang is there- Lily (so crazy), Tina (love her!), Fat Louie- you name it; and great new characters are introduced. Mia is her usual self; loving, smart, funny and mental. But she is older (26) and more mature compared to the former diaries. She has more self-esteem, confidence and is finally self-actualized. If you are a reader who has grown up with the PD series and are also in your twenties then the book speaks perfectly to you.
Its not just the wedding Mia and Michael have to deal with, a scandal breaks out- on top of a hundred issues that are already happening. If you have read Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, don’t worry you haven’t spoiled anything. This novel expands on the events that happen. If you are thinking of reading it after, you wouldn’t get any more plot points, it is just a nice companion to Royal Wedding with its illustrations.
But that isn’t it! There are also further surprises towards the end of the novel- truly never a dull moment with Mia. Thanks Meg for the amazing read ❤
Published by Penguin, 4 June 2015, 449 pages, £7.99.
Quick description: Everybody is saying it has a Devil Wears Prada feel but with role reversal, which I agree. The fashion world and tech world, two cut-throat multi-billion industries go head to head.
Perfect for: NA and up.
Plot: Imogen Tate, editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine, is a legend in the fashion world. But when she returns from a sabbatical to find her twenty-six-year-old former assistant, Eve Morton, behind her desk, she realises times are changing. Armed with a business degree, naked ambition and an iPhone, Eve announces she has been brought in to turn Imogen’s beloved magazine into an app. With herself at the helm.
In this terrifying new world, Imogen is almost invisible. In place of her team of dedicated staff is a constantly evolving line of twenty-something bloggers at their desks day and night (‘Only losers need sleep!’), amateur snaps instead of elegant photo shoots, and a URL address in place of Imogen’s glossy pages. But Imogen isn’t ready to give up her hard-earned career without a fight. Where Eve has Twitter followers, Imogen has experience, talent and real relationships, and she’s prepared to fight for the fashion world she knows and loves. Even if it means going to war with a ruthless Techbitch . .
So this novel was great fun to read and veeery fresh. I mean, the time frame starts in August this year, so it is actually one step ahead of us. And this is what the novel is partly about; trying to keep up, keep current, keep it new, in fashion as well as tech. The plot is exciting, compelling and quite intense at times. Reading this book as a twenty-something or a ‘millennial’, as we are dubbed, I can safely say that readers of all generations would enjoy it. You don’t really need to be a fashion or a tech fan to understand the references.
It is filled with smart humour and some hilarious moments, especially when Imogen is trying to learn her tech-speak. Although I am not sure if the jargon is entirely spot-on. I mean, do people use LOL and ROFL anymore, especially in caps? And I don’t use apps to cater my every single need. Maybe its a New York thing. The detail and characterization is pretty pro. The prose is deep and carefully crafted. There are many interesting personalities circulating and in-depth flashbacks. However, I do think Eve’s character may have been OTT. But I do like the allusion to the movie All About Eve (1950)and the idea of a sinister younger/better version planning to take over.
Imogen is a very warm and lovable character. Many readers can relate with her, and not just 40-somethings. Her struggle to maintain respect is endearing and I was definitely cheering her on to succeed. But I do think the novel has a lot of labels, and seems to divide the working world into two generations: 20 vs 40. There seems to be a stick against ‘fierce female millennials’ who seem to be successful sociopaths. What about the men? And also, I can vouch that graduate life is anything but. Like in These Days Are Oursby Michelle Haimoff, there is a strong vein of unemployment and meaninglessness.
I do think the novel is very sharp in addressing the imbalance in today’s society and many problematic issues such as renovation vs ageism, social networking vs physical contact, eco-friendly vs energy usage. It doesn’t have to be one of the other, and the novel does well to prove that. It also covers the ‘be better’ lifestyle that is enforced on us to compete with others. Self-confidence and insecurities are pushed to extremes. And the novel also looks at the seriousness of cyber-bullying.
I read the book on the side of tech. I am not a sav, but I do think we should embrace technology, not look down on it. It irritates me when people don’t take social networking that seriously, perhaps because it reminds them that they are getting older. I mean, I would probably feel the same way in twenty years time. What people don’t seem to get is that the internet is not a side-dish. It exists on its own. It has its own language, culture and grows by itself. The novel does well to reconcile negative attitudes.
Can I also say I love the UK cover! Plastic inserts and twitter speak on the inside cover really match the themes of creativity and innovation- which really, when everything is changing, are the two things we will always cherish and nurture.
Published by Headline Review, 4 June 2015, 481 pages, £7.99.
Quick Description: Heartbreaking historical centered around three stories during the Turkish invasion of Famagusta (Cyprus) in the mid 1970s.
Plot: In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island’s most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city’s façade of glamour and success, tension is building. When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.
I became a fan of Victoria Hislop after reading The Islandaround 7 years ago and fell in love with her writing again when I read The Return. Hislop has a gift for weaving stories about passion, heart-ache, and suffering. We readers are so moved by the inspiring and courageous characters she spins to life. Our hearts lift they they feel joy and plummets when they weep. Her writing is emotional dynamite. The fact that the settings are always based on real events; leprosy, Spanish Civil War and now the Turkish-Greek aggression in Cyprus, makes the stories even more endearing. They also educate readers and makes us more empathetic and socially aware.
Even though The Return is still firmly my favorite, I can assure fellow Hislop fans or any historical fans, they would not be disappointed with The Sunrise. The author provides multiple POVs. Each character is given great depths of detail and complexity; their stories starting decades before and after the invasion. The novel focuses on three main stories, that of Aphroditi and her husband Savvas who own the newly constructed luxury hotel: ‘The Sunrise’, the Georgious’- a Greek family, and the Oskan’s- a Turkish family. All three families are connected to each other in ways they do not realize. When their world crumbles before them, those they can trust and those who betray are not as they had expected.
There are beautifully crafted sentences about the dazzling and dynamic Famagusta; its gorgeous beaches, its culture, the food and the people. This makes the destruction of the tourist haven even more heartbreaking and shocking. There is some romance and passionate scenes. But it takes a backseat compared to love between friends and families. There isn’t really a happy ending but a sense of acceptance and new beginnings for the characters. And learning that the situation in Famagusta has not really been resolved, leaves us still feeling glum. This isn’t a light novel, it packs a punch.
This novel covers the extremes of human kindness and cruelty; proving what Hislop concludes in her ‘Afterthought’: that it is the individual choice, not ethnicity, which plays the greatest role in distinguishing ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
Published by Harlequin Teen/MIRA, June 4 2015, 496 pages, £7.99
Quick Description: Beautiful and innocent good-girl discovers a dangerous side to her family and meets hot biker dude during the summer.
Steam?: Intense scenes but nothing too graphic that is NA level.
Plot: Seventeen-year-old Emily has always known that her biological father is a dangerous man but since she lives far away with her mother and adoptive dad, she’s never given it much thought. But when news of a death brings Emily’s family to Kentucky for a quick visit, Emily finds herself in the middle of a feud—and drawn to a guy she should have nothing in common with.Recently out of high school, Oz is consumed with the fact that a recent screw-up might cost him everything. He has one shot at redemption: keeping Emily safe while making sure she doesn’t learn the truth about her father’s past.Even as forbidden feelings spark to life, Oz and Emily will face an adversary that threatens not only their relationship, but their lives…
This is a perfect summer YA romance. It has everything you need really and is hotter than the sun your reading it in. Apart from steamy teen romance, it is also filled with mystery, drama, action and strong secondary characters. I didn’t actually read the plot before, so I had not expected to fall straight into biker gang warfare in Kentucky. I don’t know anything about bikers, so it made a really interesting subject. It is a very compelling and heart-warming read and I loved the protagonists. I had a slow start at first to get my bearings, but I completely got into the swing of it. I love that moment when a book gets so good its like a lifeline.
The novel is split into two POVs (Emily and Oz), if you are fellow fans of Sarah Alderson, you will know that this form works really well. It digs up the different emotions to help the reader understand but also frustrates them when keep clashing. I was definitely racing through the pages.
Emily is a typical nice girl. She has nice parents, nice house, nice school- nice. The only problem is her real father, who had abandoned her and shows up every year looking super dodgy and unreliable. She is happy with her life, so much she doesn’t ever want to leave her home. So when she finds herself in Kentucky, amidst the Reign of Terror crew, piercings and tattoos galore, her whole life flips. She starts to discover pieces of a past her mother has kept from her, and begins to question everything she believes. On top of this, she runs into a smoking biker dude (er-HELLO?) trying to join the family business.
Oz has been brought up to believe Emily is every bit the spoilt rich girl whose mother was a traitor and would wreak havoc on everyone he loves. But he finds it harder and harder to admit he is not attracted to her. So the tensions and chemical sparks start flying before anything has even started really. All he wants is to follow his father’s footsteps and join the gang. He accuses Emily of her inability to take risks, but is he really any different following a lifestyle that is all he’s ever known?
Emily and Oz embark on a crazy adventure, full of passion, danger and unpredictable revelations that forces the reader to hit the breaks. Bring on the next Thunder Road novel, Razor’s story 😉 !