Nyx Book Reviews

fantasy ♥ paranormal ♥ horror ♥ science-fiction

Interview: Simon P. Clark (Eren)

The Eren book tour is here! I’m hosting both an interview and a review today to celebrate the almost-publication of the book (it releases tomorrow!). To find the other blogs participating in the tour, either go here or click on the tour banner below. To find out more about the book, you can check it out on Goodreads.

The Interview

Nyx Book Reviews: Hi Simon, welcome to Nyx Book Reviews! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Simon: Thank you for having me – this is my first ever blog tour and I still can’t believe people are actually reading Eren. About me: British by birth, now living in New Jersey, USA. My wife’s from here (though we met while both working in Japan). Interests: Books (obviously), music (drums and piano, mostly. I like instruments I can hit), and baked goods (the way to my heart is through an oven). Currently work as a writer.

Could you describe Eren in one sentence?

Eren wants Oli to tell him stories – and Oli doesn’t realise how dangerous that might be.

In many ways Eren is a book about stories. Was this your intention all along, or was it something that the book evolved in gradually?

It started as a story about the gradual taking over of one life by another. In the very first draft, Oli was a girl, and the whole book was set in the 1800s. It was written as a diary, the entries getting slowly darker as the girl lost control of her own writing. A few years later, as I returned to Eren, the ideas about stories got more and more interesting (to me, at least), so that became more of a focus.

eren bannerAlthough Eren is a children’s book, it’s also interesting as an adult. Who was your intended readership when writing?

Eren was always meant to be a book for children first of all, though the recent discussion online and in the papers about adults reading YA has been interesting to watch. I hope readers of all age enjoy the book. I do think, though, that children will have a very different impression. I’ve had several adult readers question the ending, and some of the creepier parts. Kids, as a whole, haven’t worried so much.

Physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

Physical books for me, but no judgement on ebooks. As for audiobooks – love them. When my wife and I take long car journeys we always rent audiobooks from the library. Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books, and Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle are all fantastic audiobooks.

What was the hardest thing about writing Eren?

Good question – but I don’t know if I can pinpoint one thing being harder than the others. Perhaps finding a balance between backstory and action. Takeru and Em and Oli’s dad all have lives beyond the things we see, but I never wanted that to be a focus. On the other hand, my editor was eager that they be more than just supporting characters. It’s always amazing seeing how other authors blend things together, never being heavy handed but never sparing too many details. Writing’s definitely a balancing act – one I hope I’ve managed to get right.

Thank you for answering my questions!

You’re welcome, and thanks again for having me!

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Review: Eren by Simon P. Clark

Title: Eren
Author: Simon P. Clark
Series: None
Rating: 3 Stars

208 pages
Expected publication September 18th 2014 by Constable & Robinson
Review copy received from the publisher

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Eren. This review is incredibly hard to write, because I barely have any thoughts on this book. Unlike the characters in Eren, I’m not much of a storyteller.

Suddenly Oli is whipped away from his home and friends in London, and has to go live with his uncle in a small town. The grown-ups keep telling him lies, and when Oli discovers the creature in the attic he decides to keep a secret himself.

Eren subscribes to a rather particular brand of meta-fiction. The core of the book is talking about stories and what stories are and how important they are (mainly in conversations between Eren and Oli), but I honestly just didn’t get it. I have to disclaim though that for me stories are just that, things people tell each other. Fictions. I don’t think there is anything magical or special about it at all – telling stories is natural to humans, just like eating or sleeping. If you do want to philosophize about the nature of stories, Eren might be very interesting for you.

The story itself was good. It had a beginning. Solid middle. Strong ending. There was some foreshadowing and a grand finale. The ending itself is rather vague, but it’s not “open ended”. Depending on your expectations, it might not be very satisfying though (as several other reviewers have pointed out).

Overall my feelings towards Eren are decidedly neutral. It didn’t grasp my attention, nor did it bore me. It had some nice creepiness going on at times, but it was never truly scary. If the premise interests you, I’d say, go for it.

Blurb

People are keeping secrets from Oli – about where his father is, and why he hasn’t come to join them at his uncle’s house in the country.

But Oli has secrets too.

He knows what lives in the attic. Eren – part monster, part dream, part myth. Eren who always seems so interested, who always wants to hear more about Oli’s life. Eren, who needs to hear stories to live, and will take them from Oli, no matter the cost.

Other reviews you might be interested in

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Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Attachments
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: None
Rating: 3 Stars

323 pages
Published Apil 14th 2011 by Dutton Adult
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Since everyone has been raving lately about Ms Rowell’s work, I thought I would give it a shot. Her young-adult novels didn’t very much appeal to me, so I picked up Attachments in a Kindle sale. This review contains some mild spoilers towards the story.

Lincoln has to read through the emails of the paper he works at. Jennifer and Beth’s conversations tend to get flagged often, and he gets caught up in their lives, and eventually becomes infatuated.

Romance books and movies often walk this fine line between adorable and creepy. Attachments, sadly, fell into the creepy category. Lincoln is weird, awkward, and falls in love with a woman whose emails he has been reading for months. At night, when most of the newspaper peoples have gone home, he likes to go to her work station and sit behind her desk. Whee-ooo-whee-ooo, STALKER ALERT.

Beth isn’t much better. Even though she has a boyfriend, she follows Lincoln around only because she thinks he’s cute. She obsesses over him and tries to catch glimpses of him. For all she knows he could be a complete ass-hat, but for some reason she thinks he looks nice, and that’s reason enough to act like an idiot.

I had a hard time believing Lincoln and Beth were actual adults. If it wasn’t for the fact that Beth really wants to get married, you could easily replace them with teens, and turn the office into a school. At one point they actually come face to face, but instead of Beth talking to the guy she has been interested in for weeks, she just smiles and goes off. Really? You’re an adult, and that’s your reaction? On top of that, Lincoln still lives with his mom, only sits in a chair all day and eats a lot, yet somehow he’s not fat. Right.

The form of the novel is nice, a combination of Lincoln’s point of view and the email conversations of Beth and Jennifer. The writing is decent enough, but nothing to write home about. Throughout the book I was vaguely entertained and slightly repulsed at the same time. There was nothing very offensive in Attachments, but nothing profound either.

Blurb

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

Other reviews you might be interested in

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The Sunday Post #1

Sunday PostThe Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba from The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Okay, so I have been messing around with all of these weekly memes, especially mailbox memes. Honestly, none of them ever worked for me – and I’ve realised it’s not that I don’t want to do a weekly meme, but rather that I’m just terrible at showcasing my book hauls. I hate doing them! My books are constantly spread between my mum’s and my own apartment and having them in one place to count/picture them is just too much work. Instead I’ll just do The Sunday Post, which is also great for just sharing some news and talking about what’s happening on the blog this week. Sounds perfect!

This week on Nyx Book Reviews

Blogging-wise this week was a bit slow. I’m still getting used to the fact that there is a lot of studying and commuting to be done, and I’m already feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the stuff I have to get done. However, I’m super excited to be doing Epic Recs this month!

This week on Irresponsible Cactus

Just the one post over at the Cactus, but a fun one. I’ve been reading so much lately! Probably to escape all of the class work, ha.

Read this week

post1How was your week?

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Epic Recs: September 2014

Epic Recs is a monthly feature by Judith and Amber where they pick a book that the other one has to read. Everyone can join in as long as you have a recommending partner. Renae from Respiring Thoughts was looking for an Epic Recs buddy on Twitter, so we’re pairing up to recommend each other some books!

epic recs septemberMy pick for Renae is Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn. This book is just sooooo good. It’s very weird and quirky which is a bit concerning because (eep maybe she won’t like it), but I’m hoping she will. I especially love how the book has this really creepy atmosphere of teens going on killing sprees, while on a different level it also deals with loss, identity, drug abuse, and other interesting topics. It’s one of my favourite books of this year, and just talking about it makes me want to reread it!

Renae’s pick for me is Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe. I asked for a preferably standalone book, not too long, light on the romance. Ghost Flower seems perfect for this, and I’m quite excited to be reading it this month. It’s a YA thriller with a hint of ghosts and plenty of action. Sounds great :D

Have you read either of these books?

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Review: The Witch of Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper

Title: The Witch of Salt and Storm
Author: Kendall Kulper
Series: None
Rating: 4.5 Stars

384 pages
Published September 4th 2014 by Orchard Books
Review copy received from Netgalley

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

The Witch of Salt and Storm manages something that happens rarely for me in a book – full immersion into the world the author creates. Set on an island that is connected to the sea and whaling, this book is moody and lyrical, and very different from the usual voice in YA.

Avery is the youngest girl in the Roe family, and supposed to be the next Roe witch. She has been stolen away from her grandmother by her mom, who refuses her birthright and keeps her from being a witch. Together with the help from a mysterious sailor boy, Avery tries to break the curse to become the next Roe witch to protect the island.

The Witch of Salt and Storm (also called Salt & Storm in the US) was one of my most anticipated releases of this September. It was so different from what I was expecting, and so good! I love how even though there is the typical “mysterious bad boy arrives” trope that is so insanely common in YA, the course of the rest of the book is very atypical. Especially the last 30% will keep you on the edge of your seat because you just don’t know how it’s going to end.

Just as Prince island and Avery is so closely connected to whaling, likewise this book is drenched in whale. There are so many mentions and metaphors concerning whales and the sea that the book almost feels like a fantasy, even though it’s more of a paranormal story. The prose itself comes and goes, waves and wanes in lyrical expressions and sidesteps, just like the sea. Whether you enjoy this element of the book or not is extremely personal – either you’ll enjoy it and be swept away, or you’ll think it’s dull and circumspect.

There is one small complaint I had with the message in the book, which I won’t go further into here. It’s so closely tied with the resolution of the book that it’s impossible to talk about without major spoilers. It is however, the reason I gave it 4.5 stars instead of 5.

I feel like that the YA publishing is really picking up lately, stepping away from the 2000s style of story (like in Twilight, Fallen, Hush, Hush) and instead experimenting with prose and themes in a (forgive me for the terminology) more mature way.

Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the sea witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother – the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic – steals Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roe’s power.

The one magical remnant left to Avery is the ability to read dreams, and one night she foresees her own murder. Time is running short, both for her and for the people of her island who need the witches’ help to thrive.

Avery has never read a dream that hasn’t come true, but a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane tells her he can help her change her fate. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected. And as she falls in love with Tane, she learns it is his life and hers that hang in the balance.

Other reviews you might be interested in

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Graphic Novel Review: Imagine Agents by Brian Joines

Title: Imagine Agents
Author: Brian Joines
Series: Imagine Agents #1-4
Rating: 4 Stars

97 pages
Published December 9th 2014 by Boom! Studios
Bought

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Summary: Imaginary friends are real – and quite a pest sometimes. When a figment acts up, the I.M.A.G.I.N.E. agents come to clean up the mess. Six year old Elliot and his best friend Furdlgurr get wrapped up in a wayward figment master plan, and it’s up to the I.M.A.G.I.N.E. agents to save them.

What I liked:

  • This is so cute! I love the drawings of the figments, and the contrast between the fantasy-like figments and the stark agents
  • The feel reminds me very much of Men in Black, and I love Men in Black
  • Can I get three cheers for useful female characters? There are still plenty of miles to cover in the graphic novel genre for gender equality, and Imagine Agents show that you can have female characters that have actual agency within the plot without it having to draw away attention or lower credibility of the story.
  • Well-rooted in pop and geek culture
  • Eluded some sniggers from grumpy old me

What I didn’t like:

  • Although this comic looks colourful and cuddly, it’s not appropriate for children because the language (although clean) is quite complicated
  • Imagine Agents made fun of a lot of clichés, but didn’t manage to completely separate itself from them

Verdict: A super fun, sweet and exciting comic that I recommend to everyone that loves cuteness and Men in Black.

Blurb

Ever try to wrangle an illiterate, 30-foot tall rock monster away from his 5-year-old best friend? Or calm down a 400 pound muscle-man rag-doll during her daily temper-tantrum? For Dave and Terry, it’s all in a day’s work. As agents for I.M.A.G.I.N.E., they are responsible for keeping your imaginary friends in-line… Little do they know that six-year-old Elliot and his best bear-friend, Furdlgurr, are about to be entangled in a plan to change everything!

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Deborah Harkness Signing in Utrecht

I lost my book signing virginity! Because of my locale and taste in books (the Netherlands and fantasy) there are hardly any interesting book signings to attend. Authors from overseas rarely stop by in our little country, and when they do, they do it in Amsterdam (which is nowhere near where I live). So, when I found out that Deborah Harkness was coming in Utrecht, I knew I had to go there!

In true Dutch fashion, Deborah was late because of a train delay. Since we could sit I didn’t mind much, and I had a fun time meeting Ciska from Ciska’s Book Chest, another Dutch blogger.

Then, after about twenty minutes of waiting, Deborah arrived, and she climbed the (admittedly tiny) stage. She talked about her books, without spoiling anything of the third book (I love that), and then answered questions from the audience. After that it was signing time, and I got my two books and planner signed. Deborah was super nice, and she took the time to take pictures with everyone that wanted to.

DSCN0039

Someone from Penguin (I think) on the left to translate if necessary and Deborah holding the microphone

I really enjoyed seeing her talk about her books, even though (shame on me) I haven’t read them yet. I wasn’t very concerned about spoilers and apart from the death of one character I’ve come away pretty unscathed. I’m excited to read her books now, knowing what ideas went into them.

DSCN0041Have you ever been to a book signing? Or have you read any of Deborah Harkness’s books? Let me know in the comments :D

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Review: Age of Iron by Angus Watson

Title: Age of Iron
Author: Angus Watson
Series: Iron Age #1
Rating: 4 Stars

560 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Orbit
Review copy received from the publisher

Goodreads | Book Depository

We barely know anything about the Iron age in Britain – all the information we have we got from archaeological finds. This shows us what people wore and how their day to day life looked like, but we don’t know anything about their culture or what motivated them. We know even less about the Roman invasion, except for the diaries of Julius Caesar. Age of Iron tells a story of what could have been in this rather dark age, wrapped in a nice fantasy package.

Dug is an old warrior, and he hopes for a comfortable life in the army of Zadar, a growing power in Britain. Lowa is a fighter in Zadar’s army, until she is betrayed. Together with the mysterious little girl, Spring, these three get caught in wars bigger than their personal grudges.

The biggest strength of Age of Iron is that it’s just so easy to get into. There are no big info-dumps, no complex world building sequences or dozens of families to get used to (I am looking at you, Mr Martin). It drops you in the action, and shows you the ropes of the setting through the eyes of a handful of characters, without losing the momentum. Age of Iron is one of the most accessible fantasy books I’ve ever seen, and I can tell Mr Watson is a fan of Joe Abercrombie, has a similar approach to world-building.

I really liked the characters, especially the girl, Spring. I think she’s the most interesting one, maybe also because we rarely see through her eyes. In many ways she reminded me of Arya, from the Song of Ice and Fire series. She’s just as feisty and stubborn, and yet is still a kid. The other characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be – Dug, the warrior from the north, was a great guy but a little shallow. Lowa had had very little emotions, which is understandable for someone that has killed as much as she has, but she still felt empty.

One of the reasons that Age of Iron is so readable is that the characters speak in a very modern way. In a sense I think this is fine, we don’t know how people back then spoke anyway, so there is no reason to act like they speak like 19th century aristocracy. At times though, the speech became way too modern or even contradictory. Coins and money are a new invention, brought to Britain by the Romans. Yet, when Dug sees a rich looking woman, he thinks to himself that she looks like “old money”. How would he ever think this expression when they’ve only been using coins for a few months? EVERYONE is new money. I felt like some of these glitches were jokes meant for the modern reader, but for me they were jarring.

This book should come with a few warnings. First of all, they’re not very dainty concerning sex – there are plenty of rapings (though not on-page), whores, and even the main characters are all very casual about humping here or there. Although I quite liked that the heroine for once isn’t a cleanly virgin, but someone that just has sex when she feels like it, it might be a bit much for other people. The sex scenes aren’t explicit by the way, it’s just mentioned a lot. Secondly, there is quite some gore. At one point a man is forced to eat pieces of his wife. A strong stomach is recommended for this story.

The world of Age of Iron is pretty brutal, and it’s a very entertaining and engaging story.

Blurb

POSTER-page-001(3)Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar’s army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people.

First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar’s most fearsome warriors, who’s vowed revenge on the king for her sister’s execution.

Now Dug’s on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that’s going to get them all killed…

It’s a glorious day to die.

Other reviews you might be interested in

This review is part of the blog tour; click on the banner in the blurb to make it larger. Age of Iron by Angus Watson (Orbit) is now available as a paperback and eBook.

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