Thursday, 31 March 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live when she is kidnapped by the Gatherers and forced into a polygamous marriage. Now she has one purpose: to escape, find her twin brother, and go home – before her time runs out forever.
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb – males only live to age twenty-five and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape – to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian young adult fiction recently, so despite my huge excitement when receiving this book, I did have a brief sinking moment of ‘another one? Really?’ But then I started reading, and I couldn’t put it down.

Wither is completely unlike all the other dystopian society’s I’ve read recently. For starters, they’re living in a life of luxury. Yes it’s a gilded cage, but there are so many books where they’re either living in refugee poverty, or carefully doled out government approved portions, that it was a refreshing change to see these girls pampered and treated, and yet still captive and miserable.

I love the cover, it put me in mind of Miss Havisham, which immediately appealed. There has been a sudden flurry of really exciting and imaginative covers sweeping through book stores, and I’ll put my hands up and admit that the first thing that drew me to this was the cover. 

Actually, no, I tell a lie, the first thing was the sheer amount of excitement this book was generating on sites like Twitter. There were so many reviews and excited posts from people who had got hold of advanced copies. So I googled the book, saw the cover, and immediately started demanding that the states send me a copy – because the UK were being lame and not releasing Wither for another few months.

So yes, excitement, cover, blurb! Who is not attracted by that blurb?! It’s awesome! And as I said, I’m starting to feel a little like I O.D on dystopian fiction, but I started reading and I couldn’t stop. The writing is excellent, the voice completely compelling, and I found myself being drawn into the world. It’s not that far from our own, enough changes that it feels futuristic, but it also satisfies the little girl in me that demands palaces and pretty ball gowns. There are plenty of them as well.

The prose is clean, beautifully constructed with moments of sheer brilliance. Rhine is incredibly likeable, and very relatable, and you truly feel for her and the awful situation she’s been placed in. I did kind of feel like she should just ask for her brother to brought to live there as well and a lot of the problems would be solved, but as I got further into the story and I became more and more terrified of Vaughn, I was all for her running away.

Aside from Vaughn, all of the characters have enough facets to keep you busy. They aren’t just background characters, they leap off the page, and no one is all bad. They’re well rounded, fully formed people, and I ended up feeling sorry for people that I hated at the start. I also loved how the relationships developed, not just between Rhine and Gabriel and Linden, but also between the three sister wives. It was such a twisted situation to be put into, and it was fascinating to see what grew from the shared experiences prior to the marriages - one that DeStefano handles impeccably. 

Whilst the end was a little predictable, there were plenty of twists along the way to keep the story fresh and new. And there were uncertainties right up until the end; ever since reading ‘Delirium’ by Lauren Oliver, I don’t trust even remotely happy endings to happen when I expect them to.

I cannot wait for the sequel, I loved this book and I’m eagerly anticipating the next instalment. I highly recommend Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel – we are so lucky at the moment with a flurry of new authors gracing us with their talent, and once again, I’m just so happy that she’s shared her story with us, and I can’t wait to see how it continues.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Review: This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James

Wedding bells celebrating the arranged marriage between the lovely Duchess of Beaumont and her staid, imperturbable duke had scarcely fallen silent when a shocking discovery sent Jemma running from the ducal mansion. For the next nine years she cavorted abroad, creating one delicious scandal after another (if one is to believe the rumours).
Elijah, Duke of Beaumont, did believe those rumours.
But the handsome duke needs an heir, so he summons his seductive wife home. Jemma laughs at Elijah’s cool eyes and icy heart—but to her secret shock, she doesn’t share his feelings. In fact, she wants the impossible: her husband’s heart at her feet.
But what manner of seduction will make a man fall desperately in love…with his own wife?

When I am ill, I always return to chick lit. It soothes me, it’s predictable, and it reassures me that there is still romance in the world, when I’m feeling at my worst. When I’m really ill I turn to regency romance, and there are three authors who do regency the best. Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Suzanne Enoch. They are the trio of awesome when it comes to regency bodice ripping and beautiful seductions that always end in ‘I love you’s.’

One of my favourite series is the ‘Desperate Duchesses’ series by Eloisa James. They’re historically accurate, witty, heart breaking and ladies, I assure you some scenes will leave you breathless and desperate for a cold shower.
I reviewed the fourth book in the series ‘When the Duke Returns’ way back in December, and have been itching to get back to the series with the fifth book ‘This Duchess of Mine.’ And it was so worth the wait.  One of the biggest things I love about this series is the interlinking characters and storylines, for example a scene covered from two characters points of view at the end of the last book, is gone over from a different angle at the start of this book. We get to see different characters grow and develop, and my favourite pairing has always been Jemma and Elijah – the main pair explored in this book.

There are always side storylines, and Jemma and Elijah have taken a slight backseat in the previous books, but they finally have their chance to shine. And I have been desperate to see more of their story. A lot of the gaps in their past are finally filled in, we learn a lot more about what drove them apart and the events leading up to it – and we finally get to see them have their happy ending. And I’m a sucker for happy endings. Also, we finally get to see the much talked about blindfolded chess game in bed, and it was so worth the wait. I gave up caring about the chess long before Jemma did – the bits happening in between the moves was far too distracting!

Most of the romance books I read are about singles finding love, and there have only been two series that I’ve read that cover love in marriage so brilliantly – ‘The Dark Road to Darjeeling’ by Deanna Raybourn, and The ‘Desperate Duchesses’ series. To watch characters who are already in love, already bound by marriage try to work through problems and overcome obstacles and still come back to that love and intimacy, is sometimes more amazing to read than first love. It shows that love can last.

The writing is as brilliant as ever – James has a way of immersing you completely in the world, and to bring it to life. The characters are completely believable and loveable, even when they’re being infuriating. And they are completely real – they never do anything out of character or inexplicable – and even though you know that it has to have a happy ending, James still leads you on a heart breaking tale full of twists and turns and bleak outcomes that might just happen.

I literally did not stop smiling throughout the book (apart from the bits where I was crying…) It made me laugh, it made me breathless, and it made me cry from how utterly heart breaking it could be. And I loved it. This and the very first book in the series are tied for my favourites of the series. I can’t recommend this series enough. If you haven’t ever read any regency romance before, start with this series – they are a brilliant way to ease into the genre. And if you’re already right here with me on the guilty pleasures, then get yourself a copy and get into the series. The next book in the series is ‘A Duke of Her Own’ where we finally get to see who tames Villiers and his unruly brood…

Monday, 28 March 2011

Review: The Dead - Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Gabry lives a quiet life, secure in her town next to the sea and behind the Barrier. She's content to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. Home is all she's ever known and, and all she needs for happiness. But life after the Return is never safe and there are threats even the Barrier can't hold back. Gabry's mother thought she left her secrets behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but, like the dead in their world, secrets don't stay buried. And now, Gabry's world is crumbling. One night beyond the Barrier . . . One boy Gabry's known forever and one veiled in mystery . . . One reckless moment, and half of Gabry's generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry knows only one thing: if she has any hope of a future, she must face the forest of her mother's past.

Carrie Ryan’s writing is incredible, no question. The first book ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ was genuinely terrifying and beautiful and the sequel ‘The Dead Tossed Waves’ is, if possible, even better.

I love that we get a second insight into Mary’s life, without another book based entirely on her. Instead we follow her daughter Gabry, who has been raised in safety and is terrified of the world beyond the barrier. Gabry’s transformation throughout the course of the book is fascinating to watch. She turns from this meek little mouse of a girl into a fighting spirit who is desperate to protect anyone she loves. I occasionally got a little frustrated by her whining, but just trying to put yourself in her situation and you can understand why she’s struggling so much.

We don’t get to see much more of the world than we did in the first book, but there’s a lot more explanation and fleshing out of details that were only touched on in the first. It made the world a lot more real and terrifying, and suddenly the threat doesn’t just come from the unconsecrated, it comes from the people who are policing this broken world. The threat is on all sides, and I was on tenterhooks all the way through.
Ryan has proven before that she isn’t afraid to break up love, that killing people is not a problem, and that makes everything that bit scarier, because no one is safe.

Her writing is a thing of beauty. The prose is incredible, the emotions are spot on, and you really feel the writing. You feel every heart wrenching moment when Gabry feels as though she might break apart from the wrongness of it all. You truly feel the struggle as she tries to reconcile the feelings that she had with the feelings she used to have. There are circles that are joined up, completed and extended from the first book so that some storied are brought to a close, whilst opening up the possibilities of new ones.

It looks like the third book will be picking up shortly after this book left off, so I’m looking forward to seeing how all the different storylines will pan out. ‘The Dark and Hollow Places’ is going to be released on the 7th April 2011, so put the date in your diary when questions will be raised, hopefully some will be answered, and I may pass out from the sheer stress in the book. But it will so be worth it.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Archer: Placebo Effect Review

I haven’t reviewed Archer on here before, but after last night’s episode, I have to throw in my opinion into the mix.

If you haven’t yet discovered the genius that is Archer, Series 1 is being released on 1st May 2011, and the second series is currently airing the states.

It follows Sterling Archer – a self-centred, egotistical  yet hysterical, wanker of a man, who is basically a James bond for agency Isis. Whilst Archer is the title character, the supporting cast are absolutely amazing, and the dark witty humour is truly on another level to most of the animated series out there.

So last night’s episode was the second in a two parter tackling breast cancer – Archer’s breast cancer to be precise. The first episode jumped into the gags over him being a man with breast cancer, and using it as an excuse to be even more of a bum than usual. It has the cavalier attitude that he’s the hero, of course he can’t die. But at the end of the episode when we learn that the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, it isn’t looking quite so cheery.

I watched them back to back, and launched straight into the second episode, which is possibly the darkest, funniest and best episode in the history of the show.

Of course Archer is convinced he’s just too much of a man to have the usual side effects of the cancer treatment, and his shock that they’re not the real drugs and are just placebo’s is brilliant, and sparks one of the BEST RAMPAGES EVER.

It’s a combination of things that make this so brilliant.
1) The violence is way above and beyond the usual level in Archer, but it’s also punctured with some of the best comedy of the show. Watch it. Family Feuds? BEST. THING. EVER.

2) The fact that once Archer starts taking the real cancer medicine, the side effects kick in, and it’s heart breaking to watch him deteriorate so quickly. But incredible to watch and see the humour that comes out of it as well as his own reaction to his condition. I love him psyching himself up for the next stage of the rampage and getting his drip caught in the car. Genius.

3) The cannabis induced flashbacks to Ruth, an elderly cancer sufferer who was also taking the fake medication, and who Archer bonded with before she was admitted to hospital and later dies. It provides a reason for the rampage other than Archer’s own selfish desire, which takes it to a whole new level to the usual episodes which are completely selfish on Archer’s part.

4) Lana. Oh my word, that girl is secretly so sweet. She normally just gets peeved at people and yells a lot (as well as looking incredibly sexy) and watching how she helps Archer to reek his vengeance, even though she doesn’t always agree with the level of violence, was brilliant character development. I liked her before, but now I love her.

And then we get the ending… Where everything is ok, and Archer will probably not have learnt anything at all. But it is a cartoon, and I suppose any more dark and heavy episodes and it would stop being the light hearted cartoon we know and love. But I love that they took this direction, that they made it so dark and yet got such brilliant humour into it. And seriously, if you haven’t found Archer yet, go and watch it. It’s complete genius.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Books I'm squeeing about in April

So April looked like it was going to be a quiet month - to start with Cassandra Clare's 'City of Fallen Angels' was the only book on the list. So I started digging and realized there was actually a gold mine of new releases (admittedly some of them are being released in April in the U.S with a later release date in the U.K) but I am now so unbelievably excited about April you would no believe. 
So without further ado, here are the awesome new releases I will be pawning my belongings to purchase. And they are good...

Wither – Book 1 of The Chemical Garden Series
By: Lauren DeStefano
Released: 22nd March 2011 U.S.A
              4th August 2011 U.K

Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery has only four years left to live when she is kidnapped by the Gatherers and forced into a polygamous marriage. Now she has one purpose: to escape, find her twin brother, and go home – before her time runs out forever.
What if you knew exactly when you would die?
Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb – males only live to age twenty-five and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape – to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

I seem to be gradually making my way into the dystopian new society novels (see Matched and Delirium) and this blurb creeps me out and intrigues me. Mostly the intriguing. What more can I add to that blurb, except it looks so awesome I’ve given up on UK release dates and already have a copy winging its way to me across the Atlantic – and I cannot wait to get my sticky little mitts on it.

City of Fallen Angels – Book 4 of The Mortal Instruments Series
By: Cassandra Clare
Released: 5th April 2011 U.S.A
              7th April 2011 U.K

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and – most importantly of all – she can finally call Jace her boyfriend. But nothing comes without a price. Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine's Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. And when Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

I get chills just reading that. HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE WHEN FACED WITH THE WHOLE BOOK??? I don’t care. It will be epic. And worth any amount of spine tingles. I love all of Cassie’s books, she has an incredible imagination, and I feel so privileged that she chooses to share it with us. So when the original trilogy of books for The Mortal Instruments was suddenly bumped into six books, I had to lie down for a little while. This is book four, the start of the new cycle, and I am just so excited to see where the characters go, and what’s going to happen next. And so relieved that I don’t have to say good bye to them just yet.

Red Glove – Book 2 of the Curse Workers Series
By: Holly Black
Released: 5th April 2011 U.S.A
              16th June 2011 U.K

Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

I don’t think I can explain my love for this series. I love all Holly Black’s books, but this series is by far her best. White Cat is incredible, and I can’t wait to re-immerse myself in it in preparation for Red Glove. This is another one I’m going to cave and get early from America – but if any book is worth it, it is this one. If you haven’t tried Holly Black yet, go and read White Cat – magic, mobs and awesome, and all with Holly’s trademark horror twist that makes everything that bit more real, dark and terrifying.

The Dark and Hollow Place – Book 3 of The Forest of Hands and Teeth Series
By: Carrie Ryan
Released: 7th April 2011 U.K
              22nd March 2011 U.S.A

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?

I adore this series, Carrie Ryan’s writing is such a beautiful mix of lyrically haunting prose and high terror that makes you want to turn on all the lights in the house. The first book was amazing, and I’m in the middle of the second book at the moment, and I can’t wait to launch straight into the third book as soon as it’s released. A genius dystopian society with zombies thrown into the mix, Ryan’s books offer you a terrifying glimpse into a world destroyed – which is even scarier to read with the world falling apart around us.

My Soul To Keep – Book 3 of the Soul Screamers Series
By: Rachel Vincent
Released: 15th April  2011 U.K

When teenager Kaylee screams, someone dies. And Kaylee s about to scream her head off... A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them. Until something does. Demon breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends one of whom is already hooked. But so is someone else. Nash.

Oh I’m excited. I adored the first book in the series – literally could not put it down – but found the second book to not be quite as gripping. However, with a synopsis like that, I can’t wait to get my hands on the third instalment. It looks like the set up from the second book is really going to pay off, and I’m curious to see how the golden boy falls…

The Goddess Test
By: Aimee Carter
Released: 19th
April 2011 (U.S.A?)

EVERY GIRL who has taken the test has DIED.
Now it’s KATE’S TURN.
It’s always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall. Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests. Kate is sure he’s crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.
If she fails…

This book went on to my pre-order list without even reading the blurb. I knew nothing about the book apart from the title, and the fact that so many people were saying on Twitter how awesome the book was. I was intrigued. So this is my wild card of the month, the one I know very little about but makes me curious. And having since read the blurb, I am so glad it’s on my list – it sounds awesome.

The Last Little Blue Envelope
By: Maureen Johnson
Released: 26th April 2011

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.

The amount of love that’s out there for this series is awesome to see, so I have Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes all queued up to read on my kindle, and am looking forward to reading the sequel at the end of the month.  I’ve loved Maureen Johnson’s books in the past, and can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get round to these, but given the reviews out there, it will have been well worth the wait. 

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Review: My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers Book 2) by Rachel Vincent

When teenager Kaylee screams, someone dies...So when teen pop star Eden dies onstage and Kaylee doesn't wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can't cry for someone who has no soul. The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad's ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend's loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld - a consequence they can't possibly understand. Kaylee can't let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk.

Ok before I start wittering – it’s late, my brain has switched off, I cannot guarantee sense! – let me say I really enjoyed the book. There were a few things I wasn’t so fussed on which I’ll get into below, but I want to start on a positive and say that I really love the series and they are well worth a read.
The first book was sheer genius. It was fresh and exciting and a new angle on the urban fantasy genre, and it completely swept me up in the story, so I was really excited to get the second book in the series. 

This second book didn’t quite get to me in the same way though. It was slower – yes we had a big mystery to solve and by the end it really was a race against the clock, but I found the story less compelling, so it took me a lot longer to get involved.

Whilst the first book was all new and exciting, the second was working on expanding those ideas, which was great and I loved seeing new element to a world we’d barely glimpsed in the first book, but it meant that I struggled to become invested in the book in the same way. Spoiled pop stars are dropping dead after selling their souls. It just felt a little bit, hm, there choice, they’re morons. Whereas the girls dying in the first book had no choice and it was all a little omg, someone save them!

The concept is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, it just took me a lot longer to care about these new characters. Some of them longer than others. Kaylee keeps saying that she has no reason to help these people, she can’t just stand by and let them die though. And it really felt like that – there was no real investment for her, why was she being a moron and endangering not just herself, but Nash too?
It just was all a little bit forced for me.

However, once we really started to get into the race, I fell in love with the series again. Rachel Vincent writes brilliantly, I love her books, and whilst I was a tiny bit disappointed with the first half of the book, she really makes up for it with the second half.

Whilst the steam between Kaylee and Nash was still there, it only happened occasionally, and I was a bit grumpy with Nash in general. The first book he’s all clever and involved and super hot and exciting (I know, I know, I’m incredibly shallow when it comes to fictional guys…) but in this book he was a bit… Boring… Which was sad, because I love him, and I wanted him to be all kick ass again. I’m hoping the kick ass returns in the third book.

So I feel a bit mixed. On the one hand I completely recommend Rachel Vincent’s books in general, but particularly this series, they’re brilliantly written, fast paced, exciting and engaging. On the other, I don’t feel that this book was as good as the first book. I still really enjoyed it though, and am really looking forward to the third book being release in the UK next month. Lets hope Nash gets kick ass and takes his shirt off more in the third one…

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

The summer of 1889 is the one between childhood and womanhood for Amelia van den Broek – and thankfully, she’s not spending it at home in rural Maine. She’s been sent to Baltimore to stay with her stylish cousin, Zora, who will show her all the pleasures of city life and help her find a suitable man to marry.
With diversions ranging from archery in the park to dazzling balls and hints of forbidden romance, Victorian Baltimore is more exciting than Amelia imagined. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset – visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. Newly dubbed ‘Maine’s own Mystic’, Amelia is suddenly quite in demand.
However her attraction to Nathaniel, an artist who is decidedly outside of Zora’s circle, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own – still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. And while she has no future seeing the futures of others, she cannot predict whether Nathaniel will remain hers.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her being to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause of them.

The other day I finished ‘The Vespertine’ by Saundra Mitchell. I put the book down. I stroked the cover. I sighed, and thought about the beautiful prose. And then I picked it up and started it all over again. After two reading’s I still don’t really want to stop reading it, but I feel slightly more capable of making coherent sentences over it instead of just ‘flehnin, beautiful, love, book!’
It’s been a quiet few days.

As I explained on twitter 33 pages into my first reading, I was irrevocably in love, and completely ruined for all others – THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS BOOK. Ahem.

So the most important thing here, is that you should go and read this book now. No seriously, I’ll even lend you my car to drive to the book store RIGHT NOW.

But some of you less persuadable people probably need a little more convincing…

Six reasons why you should go and read ‘The Vespertine’
1)      The cover. Not just one, but two! The pretty picture on the front and the old style hardback underneath. I swooned a little when I peeked under the jacket.

2)      If you liked Libba Bray’s ‘A Great & Terrible Beauty’ you will love this. That’s how I came to realize that I would need this book in my life pronto, because I adored Bray’s writing and wanted to find something similar.

3)      The Writing. I could go on and on over how exquisitely beautiful the writing is and it still wouldn’t convey just how amazing it is. I love funny writing, I love solid and well structured writing, but most of all I love poignantly beautiful and evocative writing. This falls firmly into the latter. Carrie Ryan describes the writing as ‘truer than truth – you feel them (the descriptions) rather than know them.’ You feel every word, every moment, every breath. It’s as though Mitchell has taken all of the moments you’ve watched and felt and put them into words you never even realized could express how you felt until you read them.

4)      The Characters. I adore Amelia, and it’s one of the most important things in the world to have a loveable heroine. I also love the relationship between her and Zora, which is summed up so perfectly in the opening chapters :
“In that moment, I suppose we could have decided to be rivals. Instead, Zora took my hand and said, ‘We’re too grand to stay indoors today, I believe.’”
Their friendship is so natural, so teasing and wonderful to read. It’s completely believable – as are the relationships that develop between the other girls in the circle and the delectable boys they come into contact with. And oh the boys… No triangles, no mess, just lust and sparks and gorgeousness, and the right people falling in love with the other right people. And Nathaniel. Oh baby. I loved him from the start, but there is one scene in particular that made me swoon. And be absolutely terrified for a moment, but mostly swoon. For those who have read the book – boys who ask you to jump, definite yes.

5)      The Premise.  I love fantasy, but I love subtle fantasy, and this falls firmly into that category. It’s such an exquisite idea, seeing visions in the sunset. An extraordinary gift that just adds that extra spark of magic to an already brilliant novel. Seriously this novel was amazing already, but this adds that extra dimension that makes into a wow novel.

6)      The Setting. I am a sucker for period settings in books (note to self to provide picture of the ridiculous numbers of regency books on my shelves.) and I am even more of a sucker when it’s all about the first season of the characters. There is something magical about a debutante’s season, and Mitchell conveys this perfectly. The cycle of visits, teas, picnics, dress fittings and most importantly balls – I love it. I want it. I want to climb inside this book and live it.

So if I haven’t made it clear already, I loved this book. In fact it may well be my favourite book of the whole year, and we’re only in March. I will come back to this book again and again – it’s one of those ones that as soon as I’ve finished I just want to plunge straight back in again and immerse myself in the world for as long as possible.

Books like this are true gems, and (saying this a lot, but the standard is so high this year!) I cannot wait for Saundra Mitchell’s next books.
Go out, read it, love it, and pass on the news, that ‘The Vespertine’ is the book to be reading right now.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Review: The Vampire Diaries: The Return - Midnight by: L. J. Smith


In Midnight, golden girl Elena Gilbert is back from the Dark Dimension, having successfully freed her vampire boyfriend Stefan Salvatore from imprisonment. Saving Stefan had an unlikely consequence: his vampire brother Damon Salvatore has become a mortal. While the trio reels from this latest twist, they must still deal with the demons that have taken over Elena's hometown, Fell's Church. ‘Midnight’ takes Elena, Stefan, and Damon to their darkest moments yet...

This book is insane. I mean this in a good way, but still, insanity is most definitely the name of the game. The Vampire Diaries have always been crazy, but this and the previous two books have surpassed themselves. I mean, I can’t even try to explain a vague idea of the plot to you.

Book One? Sure! Girl meets new boy in town. Boy is strange and resists all her charms. Mysterious deaths keep happening. Other new boy (equally sexy if not more so) shows up who turns out to be original new boys brother. New boy turns out to be a vampire! Shock! So does his evil brother! Book ends with evil brother kidnapping nice brother. Oh and there’s some kissing and near kissing liberally sprinkled into the mix for good measure. See? Easy enough to follow. The next three books, leetle more complex, but can be summed up similarly.

Let me try to tell you about book seven…
Bad boy vampire has been turned human, so he steals this magical ball of power to get him back to the dark dimension so he can become vampire royalty. Accidentally takes human girl with him who simply cannot follow orders and ends up getting herself kidnapped and sold into slavery to the evil fox who is part of an incestuous brother/sister duo who are wreaking havoc on remote American town. Luckily she gets rescued just in time by the evil bad boy vampire (with a not so secret heart of gold) and everything is ok with them for a while. Phew.
MEANWHILE: Back in the remote American town children are turning into terrifying creatures and killing things and doing very bad scary things. Matt gets arrested by a bunch of werewolves for a rape he never committed on old school friend Caroline who is actually carrying a littler of werewolf puppies from another different school friend. Meredith discovers that she’s actually got a twin brother who is a full vampire and she’s part vampire, oh and she’s got a super cool stick with poison in it because she’s part of a long line of vampire hunters. Elena and Stefan continue to be useless, except when Stefan leaves the house to go see how bad everything is in town, and then comes back twice. Only neither of them are him, they’re actually both the fox twins PRETENDING to be him, cos you know, people are silly. But apparently not these humans, because they sniff them out and try and keep them as prisoners. Only then the house starts falling apart because of these terrifying demons that eat people and they all run away.

Are you still with me? Just about? Given up entirely? I don’t blame you if you have. The plot gets weirder and weirder. People die, children are terrifying, there’s semi nakedness by several people in a sleeping bag, and Mrs Flowers turns out to be one of the coolest people around.

But it’s awesome. I love this series. I love the characters. I love that anyone can have a dark secret, and just because the character that’s come in looks like a good guy, doesn’t mean it necessarily is. Hell, anyone can turn out to be bad, and no-one is safe. The children are completely terrifying – there’s a little innocent boy hanging from a tree, eating his live guinea pig? I mean, oh my word, nothing is safe! Smith’s writing is incredible and she has a brilliant ability to make me genuinely terrified. Something I haven’t felt since I first read about the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings.

There are a few moments of ‘what the hell just happened’? But mostly the twists and turns are clear and brilliantly executed, and the book is filled with a rollercoaster of emotions, battles, and high terror. As well as plenty of steam… The only thing I disliked was that we didn’t see much relationship development between Damon and Bonnie and Damon and Elena. It just was said or happened. There was a lot of Elena and Stefan, which I suppose was to make up for the sheer Delena fest that was the previous book ‘Shadow Souls.’ That said, there are still some truly heart breaking moments, I just wish there had maybe been a few more.

The end is possibly one of the most frustrating things. Not in a bad way exactly – it’s a brilliant cliff hanger, and L. J. Smith has made a habit of brilliant cliff hangers for each book. The frustration comes with the fact that this is reportedly the last book in the series that Smith will write. The series will most likely continue with a ghost writer taking over. And it’s frustrating to know that Smith’s vision will not continue as she had mapped out and planned. God knows what is going to happen next.

I can’t decide if there was another book, not written by Smith, whether I’d want to read it. My curiosity will most likely get the better of me, and I’ll probably cave. But I’ll wait and see. In the mean time, I will keep my curiosity in check, and simply enjoy the ends that have been tied up and the completions we’ve been allowed.

Of all the books I still think that book six ‘Shadow Souls’ is still my favourite, but ‘Midnight’ comes a close second. It was just a shame it was tainted with the knowledge that this was it. No matter what the end, this was all we’d be allowed from L. J. Smith herself, and that to me is the truly tragic.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Gossip Girl Review: Empire of the Son

'Empire of the Son'
Parties, blackmails and kisses -
oh my!

Right, that was a little more like it. Gossip Girl still isn’t up to her previously high standard, but the latest episode was a hell of a lot better than any of the other offerings. I mean I was actually interested in storylines that didn’t involve Dan or Blair. I still think Ben should have worn a bag over his head for the entire episode, but we’re making progress – I didn’t throw things at the screen every time Lily came on!

"Oh, and only I get to
 joke about the hotel.
Still too soon.”
Man bangs is actually sort of in a story! Admittedly it involves him sleeping with someone, but it’s better than him just mooching around in the background of their bachelor pad muttering about how he used to bang Blair Waldorf. His storyline does involve people either talking at him whilst he blinks, or telling him he’s smarter than he looks. But I think he’s just happy to have screen time.

Talking of people happy to have screen time – Vanessa! I think Serena sums it perfectly when she looks at her disdainfully, crosses her arms like a petulant child and whines “get out.” You heard the woman V!

However, Rufus is finally crawling out of the pit of unhelpful bag carrier to Mrs Van Der Woodsen/Bass/Humphrey. He actually escorted Lily to an event, and to give a statement, and he tried his hand at that parenting thing again! And best of all, he still up to Daddy VDW. Although I’m more than a little excited about his return. 

“We’re closing the wagons.” Oooo I just got a little shiver. The whole clan is descending to protect their own. And if there’s one thing that GG does well, it’s the ranks closing to protect a loved one. Also, it means Daddy VDW and Cece are back in the picture which you just know is going to be good.

Lily surprised me today. She actually owned up to the naughty things she’s done (although the plot holes in using that damn piece of paper that proves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING make me feel slightly nauseous, it was nice to see her do the right thing.) She was more maternal with Chuck than she ever is with her biological children, and she talked about Serena being proud and SMILING at her. Wow, there’s something we haven’t seen in a while. Serena her been looking grumpy of late. Probably because she finally gave it up to Ben who then never called her back. Tsk. Men.

Ben, I really really hope you’re gone now. It was a lovely speech, really, and you did the whole teary eyed thing brilliantly. Now can you please leave? Seriously, this guy does not get better the longer he’s left in the show. He is not wine.

Although so glad Daddy Thorpe has gone. His smile scares me. And he’s a bum for ruining Chuck’s perception of Bart. But it’s mainly the smile. I’m reserving judgement on Baby Thorpe staying, I will hold fire until I see what move she makes next. The only thing that really peeved me about this storyline was how a throwaway scandal from Season 2 got brought up again randomly, in a way that didn’t make much sense, and no one has really explained what Mummy Thorpe was doing in the building anyway?! And how do you keep something like Mummy being dead secret from a child?? Urgh. Whilst I liked that he had a motivation – and the spiral this seems to be sending Chuck into – it’s frustrating that it was something so throwaway and random like that.

“Something is different –
I have a sixth sense.”
“You’re too happy – content –
I am worried you join cult!”
Chuck. Finally some remains of the old Basstard. He made a lot more sense today, which makes a refreshing change. And I loved the end with him drowning his sorrows and ranting that Blair is the only one who can help him and understand. We’ve seen a lot of Blair needing Chuck and wanting Chuck and continuing to love Chuck. But not a lot of that in return. Instead we see Chuck pretending/falling in love with another girl, chasing said girl, and using Blair to get her. Which doesn’t exactly smack of true love. But then again boys work in retarded ways. Anyway, it was nice to see a little of that back – and particularly because Blair is so beyond it right now.

“Who are you talking to?”
“No one – maybe your sixth sense
 is picking up voices from the other side.”
Before I get bogged into the Dair stuff, I want a shout out to Dorota. I’ve missed her, and she was brilliant this episode, the banter was coming thick and fast, and I want more of her!

Right, Dair or:
Blair: And not "us." Dan and Blair. Individual entities. Two nouns separated by a conjunction.
Dan: Or a comma, if mentioned in a list.
Blair: Which is rare. Since we have nothing in common and are in fact, opposites.

Lies I tell you, all lies – they have awesome chemistry in common. Fact. I love the secret meetings once everyone had gone out, I love that Dorota was onto them, I love that they stood each other up at the same time! Great minds think alike.

And I particularly love that Dan shows up at her door/elevator to sort of half way almost say he’s attracted to her.
Dan: I've been walking around the city all night with one all-consuming, paralyzing thought.

Blair: "Why am I walking around the city when I live in Brooklyn."?

One thing that peeved me about the moment? FREEZE FRAME? GOSSIP GIRL YOU’RE EVIL. I did love the awkward lead up and the sort of shoulder brush, and I love the analytical almost business like approach to it. And I even love that when it comes to it Dan just stares at her, and Blair is the one to make the first move. I mean I’m all for romantic smushy gestures, but it kind of worked that actually she grabs him.
Dan and Blair finally kiss

And the fact that Serena and Chuck are on their way over and are about to come face to face with their back up plans kissing just adds to the tension.

Typically as soon as stuff starts to get good, we’re on hiatus. I really don’t get why shows insist on doing this. If there’s a valid reason please someone enlighten me, because at the moment it just makes me grumpy that we don’t get to find out what happens next until APRIL. And with the promo for the next episode out already, everyone’s more than curious which kiss Blair is talking about having changed her life. Because there are a few contenders…

In summary: Parents bucked up their ideas, storylines got better, and the episode was actually pretty good, and may (dare we hope) lead to an awesome run of episodes to the season finale?
We can but dream…