Sunday, 22 June 2014

Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway: Boneseeker

Tour schedule can be found here.

Title: Boneseeker
Author: Brynn Chapman
Publisher: Month9Books
Released: 17th June 2014
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Arabella Holmes is more or less comfortable working at the Mutter Museum, where she works with bones and artefacts and carries out experiments - a far cry from the traditional role and expectations of a lady of her time.  Henry Watson is newly arrived there to undertake a position in antiquities, but the two are childhood friends who have not seen each other in years.  Upon the discovery of a hand that falls into a wider debate, they are sent as part of a team on an expedition to determine whether the hand belongs to a Neanderthal or Nephilim, a giant race who were the product of relations between fallen angels and humans.  They discover, however, that there was another team before them, all of whom are now dead.  It is no longer solely a matter of resolving scientific debate, but a fight for their lives in a quest to discover the full truth.

Chapman presents an intriguing world where history mixes with fantasy.  Arabella and Henry are our next-generation Holmes-and-Watson duo, and instead of battling straightforward human criminals, there is also a bit of Biblical background.  This contrasted nicely with the highly scientific side that the author developed from historical context; with Darwin's theories beginning to take hold, a tension is developed between science and the supernatural.  I think it would have been nice to see the fantasy element developed to a similar level, to give it solid foundation, but it was intriguing nevertheless.  The Mutter Museum itself was a curious place, a place of oddities and not necessarily pleasant artefacts and displays.  As it turns out there's actually a Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, so for those of you across the pond who also didn't know, if you find yourself curious, that might be something to do for a day out.

Arabella bears some of the traits of her brilliant father, these combined with strong attributes of her own.  Inquisitive, intelligent, hopelessly unable to be the quiet and tactful lady that convention requires, she makes for a vivid protagonist.  A nice context is built around in her in terms of the relationship Chapman has constructed between Arabella and Sherlock, making the reader both smile and sympathise.  We only see him directly for a brief moment, but his presence is constant.  John Watson, however, is a much more predominant figure; despite being a secondary figure, he makes a welcome addition to the cast.  Henry provides an alternate PoV, and I liked how he balanced Arabella.  As bright as she is, Henry helps her expand her view of the world and tempers her highly scientific outlook with the belief in the possibility that there might be more.

There were a couple of unresolved issues that I would have liked fixed, although they weren't massive.  Overall, though, in combining mystery with fantasy and presenting protagonists who were simultaneously familiar and new, Boneseeker turned out to be a decent read.

Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Brynn Chapman is the daughter of two teachers. Her writing reflects her passions: science, history and love—not necessarily in that order. In real life, the geek gene runs strong in her family, as does the Asperger’s syndrome. Her writing reflects her experience as a pediatric therapist and her interactions with society’s downtrodden. In fiction, she’s a strong believer in underdogs and happily-ever-afters. She also writes non-fiction and lectures on the subjects of autism and sensory integration and is a medical contributor to online journal The Age of Autism.
Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Mini-Reviews: Speechless & Anthem for Jackson Dawes

Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Released: 28th August 2012
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

As usual, I'm monstrously late to the bookish party, this one hosted by and for Hannah Harrington and fans.  However, since these parties usually go on for ages - say, years - let's just say the main thing was that I turned up.  Harrington's reputation, combined with a premise that is intriguing for all its apparent simplicity, had me both wary and curious.  Ultimately, it did not disappoint.

The concept of not speaking is a difficult one for me to comprehend.  Despite first appearances, where any number of scenarios may see me sitting/standing/walking/[insert verb here] silently, and for all that I do prefer silence on occasion, I still like to talk.  Many of us like offering our opinions, contributing to discussion, even just making general chitchat.  To actively choose to stop talking, then, as Chelsea does, would be an incredible decision.  My respect for her grew over the course of the book.  At the start, of course, she was a rather typical character, concerned only with maintaining her status within the popular crowd.  Her behaviour was cliché - and deliberately so.  When one fateful decision demonstrates how harmful speech can be, she takes a vow of silence, and this marks the start of some beautiful character progression.  Harrington takes an unlikeable figure and turns her into someone you can't help but sympathise with.  Chelsea grows very gradually, forcing herself to think about things before putting her words out in the open and learning to understand what's important and what isn't.  In watching her struggle to maintain her vow even as she was being bullied and trying to defend others made me root for her all the more.

There is also a very nice secondary cast, ranging from her new friends to the other people at her new job to her parents.  All of these characters are realistic and easy to relate to.  Each friendship is subtly different, progressing in a manner appropriate to the circumstances that surround that friendship.  The romance was slow and sweet and utterly genuine.  Perhaps one of the best relationships was that between Chelsea and her parents.  It was amazing to see how supportive and loving they were of her, despite everything she's put them through.  Even better, it was lovely to see her learn to truly appreciate them.  For a book that focuses on bullying, a topic I normally don't gravitate towards, Harrington has left me impressed with the way in which she deals with such issues, bringing to life a range of characters who themselves are an accurate reflection of life.

It didn't take me long at all to get through this book, and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  Speechless consists of an interesting premise that has been well-executed, and it leaves me feeling grateful that I also have Saving June in my possession.  In fact, this review almost makes me want to re-read this book, so perhaps I'll go and do that as well.

Title: Anthem for Jackson Dawes
Author: Celia Bryce
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Released: 1st January 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm not quite sure what to say about Anthem for Jackson Dawes.  Ordinarily it's not a book I would have picked up, and yet there was something about it that suggested I should perhaps read it anyway.  Certainly it turned out to be a fairly decent read.  The novel centres around Megan and Jackson, both in hospital for cancer treatment.  Despite this, Jackson somehow manages to be energetic and lively and gets along with everyone.  The two soon become close, but Megan in particular has to learn to come to terms with the future.  As protagonists go, she is not a bad one.  On the contrary, her character is likeable and undergoes a slow progression.  Unsurprisingly, it is easy to like Jackson.  His is a vibrant character, and you want to become his friend just as much as those people within the book.  The friendship between Megan and Jackson only intensifies the emotional impact of certain parts of the book.  Going into this you're aware there is the possibility of an ending not entirely happy; in this case it is neither happy nor unhappy, but bittersweet, leaving you holding on to those last few pages.
At the same time, however, this could have been so much more.  I don't know what to say precisely because there's not very much to talk about.  Anthem is a quick read that leaves room for more power and more meaning.   While I liked the characters, and while there was some emotion, it wasn't enough.  To say that the protagonists are likeable is not to say they stand out; Megan especially could have done with a bit more fleshing out.  I wanted to know more about their lives, more about how they were affected - in short, for the book to delve deeper.  In a way its short length does work.  We are afforded a brief glimpse into both their lives, similar to how Megan is afforded a brief glimpse into Jackson's, and for the right reader at the right time, this is enough.  Nor is it completely without power.  What I would venture to say is that this is more of an in-the-moment type read, rather than one that necessarily has a lasting impact.  Coming out of it, I found myself taking away very little.
In sum, then, I thought this book a relatively decent one, but with the possibility of more.  Megan and Jackson's relationship is sweet and does have emotional consequence.  For me personally, I could have done with an added layer that would help make this more memorable and more engaging.  As such, I would recommend it only to those who are looking for something short and (bitter)sweet.