Sunday, 30 September 2012

Books I'm Squeeing About in October

Oh my, how on earth is it October already? This year is passing by in a haze of fantastic books, and soon we'll be into Christmas - but before that, October is my birthday month! So expect a giveaway later on in the month to celebrate! In the mean time, here are some of the books releasing this month which have me incredibly excited and desperate to read them! October is also a fantastic month for pretty covers, as evidenced by the pretties below...

Published by: Tor Books

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask. 
It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin. 
When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help. 
Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey. 
Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

So we have a retelling of Jane Eyre, and after that blurb I am more than a little curious. Particularly to see how it can stand up as its own story whilst leaning on the original.  That and it has a gorgeous cover, which always suckers me in...

Published by: Mira Ink

She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.
Her father was right. The monsters are real….
To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….

Oh, hell, yes. Alice in Zombieland? Seriously? This appeals to the same bit of me that squeed about assassin nuns, and it sounds like it's going to be a pretty awesome ride. This has been a book I've been looking forward to for months, I just hope that it lives up to the hype!

Published by: Corgi
Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself. 

I'm in the middle of reading Mystic City at the moment, and I am completely hooked. It's a fantastic world and premise and I'm loving every minute of it - definitely a recommended read, and review to come soon!

Published by: Doubleday

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.
As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Billed as a young adult tale reminiscent of 'The Time Traveller's Wife' this is bound to pull in a lot of readers. From reviews I've seen already it more than lives up to this comparison, and I can't wait to read it and see for myself.

Published by: Cyder Press

My name's Julie Lawson - I'm an HR Manager at BMT Publishing. Nearly six months ago my est friend, Allie Rainsbury, left the business.
Recently our MD sent a memo asking all BMT employees to clear their Inboxes and, since I had access to Allie's emails after her departure, I set about reviewing hers.
Her adventures were so entertaining that I didn't want to stop, let alone destroy them forever - instead I am determined to share her story with you.
As a new year dawns, Allie needs various questions answered. Among the most urgent are: Where is her future leading? Why are relationships so complex and confusing? Can she get through a day without five cups of tea? Hilarious, touching and unique, Emailing Allie delves into the life and loves of 31-year-old Allie Rainsbury. Through emails sent to her best-friend Julie, the smooth-talking David Marshall and the enigmatic Scott Cooper (to mention but a few) we are taken on an frenetic, funny and uplifting journey that charts her daily challenges both inside and outside the office.

I finished this book yesterday, and it was completely unexpected - I loved it. It's a fantastic format, Allie's story is told through her email exchanges to her colleagues, family and friends, and it completely pulled me in. It's funny, it's poignant, and it's absolutely fantastic. A quick and brilliant read, and I can't wait to see what more people think of it!

But enough about my excitements, what are you looking forward to this month?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I've tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I highly recommend reading the book before this review. However most of what I talk about you could learn just from reading the blurb - but consider this your warning!

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

I’m gonna be upfront and warn you there is going to be a lot of gushing and love for this book in this review – there may even be glitter and overuse of italics. And probably insanely long. In fact we should probably just entitle it ‘Love Letter to Sarah Rees Brennan’ and have done with it. Just to warn you.

I have been waiting for this book for what feels like forever. Sarah is a tease with her giving out the first few chapters at a signing last October, because I have been pining for this book ever since. And then it finally arrived. And I was so smitten with both the UK and US covers that I have done something I have never done before and I have bought BOTH. That’s right, I will have two copies of Unspoken sat on my shelves, but they are just so PRETTY.

So yes, the book itself. Guys, I would read it if Sarah chose to write on the walls in crayon. Seriously, I have been a major fan girl right since the fan fiction days, so I was primed to love this book from the start, and it in no way let me down. In fact it way exceeded my (very high) expectations.

Let me state one thing first off, I love the Demon’s trilogy, they are brilliant and awesome, but Unspoken is even better. Sarah’s writing is tighter, her jokes are even funnier, and the whole thing practically sparkles it’s so well constructed. I am in awe.

Kami is fantastic. She’s feisty, she’s determined and intrepid and wickedly funny. But there’s depth and emotion and at times I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and stop everyone from being terrible. She came alive right from the first page, and she has immediately gone into my list of favourite heroines ever. She’s quirky, she’s curvy, she’s sassy and she has an imaginary friend. What more could one want? And Kami steers clear of some of the usual pitfalls of heroines in fiction, which made me cheer. For example, a point where she’s trying to work out who the bad guys are, she considers for a moment that of course Jared couldn’t be the bad guy, and then promptly puts him back on the list until she can prove (other than her fuzzy feelings) that he is innocent. I loved that she was strong enough and sure enough of herself to stick to her beliefs and core even when everything around her was turning dark and treacherous and she could really use someone to trust.

And speaking of imaginary friends, Sarah has a talent for creating fantastic bad boy (read: rugged and manly) incredibly broken, terrible yet loveable men. And Jared takes this to whole new levels. There is a vulnerability to him that stops him from being full blown bad boy, and I loved seeing the juxtaposition of the outward appearance to the Jared revealed in his connection with Kami. His devotion takes on slightly darker undertones though, and I cannot wait to see how their relationship is explored further in book two. They have such an incredibly complex relationship filled with beautiful bittersweet moments as well as the funny and darker ones.

“’How do you deal with it?’ Kami asked Jared. ‘The laughing at nothing and occasionally stopping dead in your tracks.’
‘I have a system where when I stop, I lean casually against something,’ Jared told her. ‘It makes people think that I’m a bad boy. Or possibly that I have a bad back.’”

Part of what I love best about Jared and Kami, is how Sarah turns the much used troupe of insta-love, and strange soul mate-ish connections completely on its head. She really explores the darker side of having someone else in your head. It stops being this cool, hey look, I have someone to talk to all the time! And instead shows the darker elements of having someone know all the petty, awful, childish things you ever think. Someone who knows every corner of you and can use that to hurt you.

“She could not escape, could not untangle the strands of herself from him. She tried to visualize walls in her head, shields that she could hide behind.”

The fact that you are never your own person, you’re two halves of a whole, but not in a romantic way, in a ‘I have no idea what are your feelings and what are mine’ kind of way. It’s dark and twisted and utterly brilliant. I really felt for Kami, and one of my favourite moments was a moment just after she and Jared meet for the first time:

“She felt like he’d killed the Jared she knew.”

Sarah just captures this impossible idea so perfectly and shows both the brilliant moments of humour and tenderness and companionship, against the darker moments where they can’t separate themselves and have no idea of their own identities and feelings because they are constantly on a loop to the other person. It’s horrifying and fascinating and utterly fantastic, and Sarah handles it so deftly and brilliantly that something so strange seems so completely normal and yet twisty at the same time.

Kami and Jared lead a whole host of fantastic characters, and I had a little fan girl moment of glee when the whole Scooby gang was assembled and I cannot wait to see more of them working as a team in the next book. There’s something for everyone! Delicious golden good looks from Ash, curvy bubbly fantasticness from Holly and aloof awesome from Angela – there is such a diversity in her characters, in race and sexual orientation, and it’s so great to see more of this explored in YA fiction. Some of my favourite moments where when Kami had assembled the troops to get to the bottom of the mysteries in Sorry-in-the-vale. There is quite literally someone for everyone, and whilst the set up is fantastic, I cannot wait to get to the making out in book two, and to see a bit more behind each of this band of intrepid ninjas.

There is such a deliciously dark atmosphere and sense of foreboding throughout – highlighted against some of the lighter moments and scenes, and it creates a beautiful balance. Sarah has created a brilliant blend of gothic novel, paranormal young adult with romance and mystery galore. I wish we could see more intelligent and sassy novels like this, because it combined all the elements I love in books and manages to side step all the clich├ęs pit falls you often find in YA novels at the moment.

There are the little titbits for crazy fan girls as well. There’s a family of Fairchild’s for fans of Cassie Clare, but the moment that made me squeal the loudest (actually there were two moments, but one was just me personally.) was when I got to chapter 16 and discovered it was called ‘Underwater Light’ – for all of you who have been there from the beginning I hope you squealed too. The second moment was when Rob calls Rosalind ‘Rosy’ I think I woke my mother with my shrieks they were so joyous. I have NEVER seen my name spelt properly in a book ever, not even in passing reference to a random character, and I actually had a moment over it here (and yes I am pretending that it was deliberately after me, don’t burst my bubble.)

And then we have the ending, which has created quite the emotional storm on the interwebs. Mostly people yelling at Sarah for crushing their hearts and ALL THE EMOTIONS. And yes, it is fantastic. It was the perfect end to the book, just the right amount of hook and pull into the second book with shadowy tones and oh my god moments. I loved it. And yes I did get to that last page and shriek a little bit, because really, a whole year until I get to slap Jared about a little bit for that? It broke my heart and smushed it up a little bit – to the point that having finished I stared at it for a full five minutes and then just flipped back to page one and started reading again.

So basically, I am a huge fan of Unspoken. It’s a brilliant new book (and start to a new series) from Sarah, and showcases some of her best writing to date. I will be busy buying copies and thrusting them at people at every available opportunity, and re-reading it until I can get my hands on book two…

Friday, 21 September 2012

Review: The Taker by Alma Katsu

Thanks to Random House for sending me a copy to review.

True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price…
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

This book and I, we had issues. Which is tragic as otherwise it would have been a solid four stars, as it is it barely scraped up to three.

Let’s talk about what I loved first. I loved the concept and for the most part it was executed really well. I loved the present day narrative interwoven with Lanny telling Luke about her childhood, growing up in St Andrew, her love for Jonathan and everything that came with it. Her voice was fresh and clear and I liked the slow build of the narrative. Cutting it between her past and her present kept both timelines fresh and I was desperate to find out what happened with each – although I admit I found Lanny’s account of her past to be a little more fascinating. It was vivid and it was intriguing and I was curious to see where it all went.

And then she got to Boston, and I was still enjoying the story, even when it started to get a little creepy and she fell in with the wrong crowd, and then we had Adair’s story, and I’m afraid to say I put the book down. For about a month before I finally pushed myself to finish it.

Now I liked the idea that we would find out more about Adair, but to have one big chunk that was nothing but his misery really bogged the narrative down. I didn’t care about him, not even to feel pity, and I was desperate to get back to Lanny’s story. Now I realise that some of his backstory was relevant and actually proved to be quite pivotal later on in the book, but there are ways of dumping that much information on the reader without creating such a bog of information to wade through that the reader loses sight of why they’re reading this book in the first place. It wasn’t even that it was a lot of information at once, my issue was with the content.

I have no problems with sex in a book, and yes there is quite a bit of sex in this one, and it is not the overblown romanticised accounts you often find – it’s hard and gritty and painfully realistic at points. However when we find out more about Adair we discover that he was held captive against his will, brutally beaten, punished, sodomised, raped and generally demeaned and tortured. And there is just so much graphic brutality that I lost sight of anything that I liked about the book and couldn’t really remember why I was still reading it – at which point I put down the book for several weeks before I convinced myself it couldn’t really be as bad as I remembered it. It was. But I skim read the remainder of the account of Adair’s past and then got back to Lanny.

If such graphic events enhance or add to the book, and there is a point to them, then yes ok, fair enough, stick it all in. But this felt like it was there for the sake of shocking the reader. I understand that we needed to understand that the Physick was a bad person, but there are ways of doing that without fifty odd pages of rape and beatings. There seemed little other point to Adair’s account, and at that point you kind of have to question why something like that has been put in. Particularly as this was being marketed as similar to Amy Plum’s books but for slightly older teens. Teens, really?

And after Adair’s account it felt like there were no holds barred, rape and beatings for everyone galore. And the thing I found really sickening was the fact that the characters are almost seduced and romanticised by their rape.

So yes, that kind of put a dampener on the book for me, but eventually it felt like it got back on track a little and I really liked the pace towards the end where everything started to come together and we finally had some resolutions.

The writing was exceptionally good, and as I said I found Lanny’s tale fascinating, and I found the idea of immortality and the strain that puts on the mind and soul that Katsu explores equally fascinating. However the good bits of the book were not really enough to push it up into a good book again for me.

I do have the sequel ‘The Reckoning’ and I am curious, but at the same time very hesitant to read it. I’m not squeamish and I don’t mind graphic elements to a book if it enhances the story, but as soon as it becomes gratuitous I lose my patience. So I’ll probably give the sequel a go one day, but I doubt it will be for a while.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I’m sorry, assassin nuns? Say no more, I am sold. Completely.

Really all it took were a couple of very good reviews from other bloggers and those two little words and I was completely sold on the idea of this book, and I’m relieved to say it more than lived up to my expectations.

It’s just such a fresh concept, I can honestly say I have never come across a book about assassin nuns before, and if you have, please point me in their direction! I am in a fantasy kind of mood at the moment, and this one really hit all the right areas for me. Feisty and fabulous heroine who knows her way around her weapons and poisons? Check. Fabulously grumpy hero who is secretly awesome buried underneath all that hostility? Check. Politics and intrigue and a country on the verge of war? Check. Evil undertones and villains? Check. It had everything  that I like in a good fantasy novel, and as a result it was my favourite book during August.

As I said, I loved Ismae. She was just the right amount of kick ass and vulnerability so she doesn’t come across as arrogant at all. She has her moments of cockiness, but it’s balanced out by plenty of self doubt that make her into a fantastic heroine who really drew me into the story. You feel for her right from the start of the story, and you can’t help but want her to succeed and unravel the mystery before it’s too late.

All of the characters were fully formed and three dimensional and they all served a purpose, and it was like stepping into a fantastic world that I have been waiting to find. And I love that when I find a book that it feels like I’ve been waiting for someone to write it, and they’ve dipped into my head and pulled out things I like and meshed them into a fantastic story. It was an intricate plot, full of old gods and saints and weapons and poisons and romance and I loved it. Can you tell?

I am sucker for the romance where they really don’t like each other to start with – there’s tension, there are sparks, there are long lingering looks and then everything all comes together after a suitably agonising length of time and it is pure awesome – see my love of ‘Poison Study’ by Maria V Snyder for more examples of my love of this particular type of romance. And Grave Mercy has it in bucket loads, which makes me insanely happy and I may have squeed a little bit.

My only issue is that Ismae’s doubts meant that I doubted everything, right down to all the ‘gifts’ from the god, so I kind of felt like most of the novel I was waiting for her to discover it was all lies and elaborate ploys, and that tension didn’t really relax at all. I loved the tension, but I would have liked a little assurance earlier on that some of Mortmain’s gifts were real in their own right and not just when the convent sends her out on missions.

If you’re after a fantastic romance, and a brilliant new series then Grave Mercy is definitely for you. Reminiscent of Kristin Cashore and Maria V Snyder, this is a brilliant fantasy debut full of all the things I love best about fantasy.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Reviews: Lament & Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind...

I absolutely adored my first venture into Maggie Stiefvater’s books in the form of ‘The Scorpio Races’ so I was pretty sure I was going to love anything I read by her, and I was right. Whilst Lament didn’t sweep me away in quite the same way as Scorpio Races, it was still a fantastically well crafted and sinister tale of magic and faeries that had me racing through the pages to find out how it ended.

I loved Dee, she was a fantastic character, and I loved her relationship with James – complicated as it was. But more on that in my review for Ballard…
The premise was fantastic; it was fresh and innovative, utterly engrossing and a little bit terrifying. I did find it a little bit slow to start with, and I did end up putting it down a couple of times because I wasn’t completely hooked, but about half way through everything starts getting a little bit twisty and I couldn’t put it down.

Not once did I know how it might end, and I love how Stiefvater keeps her reader guessing and plays her cards very close to her chest so that the ending could never end up being predictable.

I wasn’t completely sold on the romance. I think it was mostly that Luke just didn’t do it for me, and I never really trusted him. That and I was secretly rooting for James because I am a sucker for the best friend/underdog romance, and I was shipping them like a crazed thing. But alas, sometimes it’s just not meant to be. But due to that I just never really got on board with Luke, which was a shame.

Whilst I loved Lament, I never fully became as immersed in the story as I was expecting to be, which was a shame. It was still fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new dark faerie tale, but it didn’t quite hit all the spots for me. However Ballard on the other hand…

In this mesmerizing sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception , music prodigy James Morgan and his best friend, Deirdre, join a private conservatory for musicians. James' musical talent attracts Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together unexpectedly leads to mutual admiration and love. Haunted by fiery visions of death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soul-scorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives.

James was such a fantastic character in ‘Lament’ that I was unbelievably giddy when I found out that the second book was told from his point of view. I just wanted more of him, to find out how he thought and processed things and to see a little more of the world from his perspective, and Ballad gave me exactly that.

I love the idea of looking at the story that’s running side long to the heroine’s story, and whilst this was very much James’ story, the unsent texts from Dee and the little mentions of her story running along without James gave it that feeling that he wasn’t included in the main plot. It was like the episode of Buffy where we see Xander’s story where he gets into all amounts of hell with zombies whilst Buffy and the others are off saving the world. And I LOVE that.

There was just such a fascinating plot and so many fantastic secondary characters running through James’ story, and I loved getting more of him in all his arrogant and ocd fantasticness. I loved his writing on himself and the odd words and how they all fit into the story – it was just such a great element to bring in.  I loved Nuala and the sparks and snark between her and James was fantastic. Hers was such a heartbreakingly beautiful story, and add into the mix James and I was utterly sold.

Ballard was a beautiful companion novel, and it fulfilled my desperate wishes to see more of James and finally give him a bit of happiness. I think of the two I preferred Ballard, but without the lead in that Lament offered, it wouldn’t have been quite so fantastic, so I definitely recommend the two books as a whole, as they paint a rather fascinating new idea of faeries that was reminiscent of Holly Black and Melissa Marr’s faerie books. Fans of Stiefvater’s work will love these two, although I don’t think they quite come up to the exquisite beauty found in The Scorpio Races – but then again, I think I’m just biased…

Review: Covet by Melissa Darnell

Release Date: 25th September 2012

Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart. Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she's becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake.
Tristan can't believe Sav won't even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don't expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for.

A reckoning is coming
and not everyone will survive

There’s something mysteriously compelling about this series, because despite the fact that a lot of the book is taken up with Sav attempting to be a normal teenage girl and her day to day life, it still manages to be pretty riveting.

Crave left us on a bit of a cliff-hanger and I was pretty desperate after that ending to find out what happens next.  Covet takes us straight back in at the action we left in the first book and throws us straight into the deep end with some pretty hard hitting and emotional scenes within the first fifty pages of the book.

Whilst the plot is very good it does takes its time to get going after the initial splurge at the start, and it relies heavily on the characters to be interesting enough to keep your attention during the slower sections. Luckily Covet has two very strong leads and a host of fascinating secondary characters that kept me hooked right the way through.

After the initial set up of Sav and Tristan’s characters in the first book, as well as their romance, it was really interesting to see the two of them work more as individuals and to get to know a bit more of them throughout this book. I love Sav, who is desperately trying to balance the crazy with the normal, the supernatural and the blood lust with school and friends, and my heart really went out to her as she tries to find her centre and balance as well as dealing with all the heartbreak and trauma that is thrown at her throughout.

I love Tristan, and I love that we get to see his point of view as well as Sav’s as it helps to keep the narrative fresh and balanced. It was great to see the two separate narratives gradually weave together. Their romance is not one of the easiest, but it is definitely one of my favourites. It feels real and honest and I love the two of them and the fact that they are separate individuals in their own right, not just smushed into a couple from the start.

It was great to see more of Sav’s dad, I thought that was a fantastic addition to the story as I never really warmed to him in the first book and there was so much more to him than first appeared. I also loved the blossoming friendships and some nice new supernatural additions thrown into the mix to keep everything interesting.

The plot, whilst slow in places, keeps going at a nice pace and builds into a fantastic climax that really leaves you desperate for the third book in the series – Melissa certainly knows how to give the reader a fantastically breathless ending, and I cannot wait now to get my hands on the third book in the series.

All in all I think this sequel more than lives up to the high standard set by the first book and I strongly urge you to go and get your copy if you fancy a fresh twist on the vampire story and some fabulous star crossed romance thrown into the mix. Admittedly the cover does let it down a little, but don’t let that put you off! For fans of Crave this is a must read, and fans of well written young adult supernatural romance, Crave is a fantastic start to a brilliant new series - and Covet is even better!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Release Day: Crusher by Niall Leonard

Today marks the release of the highly anticipated young adult crime/thriller novel 'Crusher' from Niall Leonard.
This book has been on my radar since earlier this summer and has caused quite a stir of excitement in the blogging world. Husband of E. L. James (of 50 Shades of Grey fame) Leonard's debut novel looks set to be a fantastic and fast paced book that will keep you on your toes right until the end!

Don't believe me? Just check out the trailer below! And then go and pick up your copy today! Review to come soon.

To catch a killer,Finn Maguire may have to become one....

Everything changed the day Finn found his father in a pool of blood, bludgeoned to death. His dull, dreary life is turned upside down as he become's the prime suspect. How can he clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him?

Facing danger at every turn, uncovering dark family secrets and braving the seedy London underworld,Finn is about to discover that only the people you trust can really hurt you...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Review: Now is Good (Formerly 'Before I Die') by Jenny Downham

Huge thanks to Random House for giving me a copy to review

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

With the up-coming release of the film, ‘Before I Die’ has been given a brand new look, and a brand new title to correspond with the film title ‘Now is Good.’
I’m not going to lie, I cried like a small child reading this book. It’s not an easy read, nor is it particularly cheerful, but it is incredible.

There is very little I can say about the book that hasn’t been said before. It’s an incredibly powerful book, emotional and engrossing, and the fact that the ending is known before even starting the book in no way diminishes the impact.

Tessa is an incredible character, she’s strong and feisty and determined, but she’s also incredibly angry at times which could have made her less likeable, but I just found that it made her even more realistic and I warmed to her more – who wouldn’t be angry in her situation?

Her desperate search to cram as much life as possible into the time left to her wraps the reader up and completely immerses them in her impulsive and frenetic struggle to truly feel alive.

It’s a tragically beautiful story that celebrates and mourns the fragility of life, and every important aspect of it – love, family and friendships.

 “I love you. I love you. I send this message through my fingers and into his, up his arm and into his heart. Hear me. I love you. And I'm sorry to leave you.”

The film will be released on September 19th 2012, and I strongly recommend going to see it. The trailer looks amazing, but I’m certainly going to be taking a box of tissues with me…

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Review: Turf by John Lucas

Huge thanks to Random House for sending me a copy to review

Jay's life seems pretty sorted: 15 years old and already a rising member of the notorious Blake Street Boyz gang, he takes his lessons from the street. With a knife in his pocket and his best friend Milk by his side, their days are spent fiercely defending their turf.
When Jay gets the chance to step up and become a senior of the Boyz, he faces the biggest decision of his life: he must stab and kill a classmate - and rival gang member - or face the consequences.
It doesn't take long for Jay's world to spiral out of control. As the line between right and wrong begins to fade, he finds no escape. Jay has to act, but at what and whose cost?
Set against the backdrop of London's inner-city tower blocks, in a world where killing can be easier than choosing what chocolate bar to eat, Turf is a story of intense friendship and brutal gang violence, of loyalty at any cost - even to the price of your own soul. 

Turf was an incredibly strong and powerful book that completely blew me away. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that this isn’t my typical fare of book, but the premise was so intriguing, and the lovely people at Random House were so passionate when talking about this book that I had to give it a go.

The novel is fraught with tension, and Jay’s sense of entrapment is made very real for the reader – there’s almost a sense of claustrophobia the further into the book you get. Lucas creates a fascinating character in Jay. He’s become embroiled in this way of life because of where he lives and who he’s friends with – something that he never really realized he was choosing or the impact and implication of those choices, when he was a young boy. “Once you’re in there’s no way out.” The gang life dictates everything about his life, right down to which chocolate bar he can eat. But Jay is more than the sum of his part in the gang. He starts to question the rules that dictate his life, and as the layers peel back you discover a boy who really isn’t a hardened criminal or a killer. He’s just been dictated to by his status in the world, and become trapped in a desperate struggle between doing what’s right and what he’s been told, with people he cares about who would get dragged in and hurt if he makes the wrong choice.

There’s a religious and mythical tint to the story as Jay delves deeper and questions more about his life and his choices. It adds a subtle surreal glow to the events, so that some parts take on a more dream like quality.

It’s a harrowing read, and not at all easy. Lucas doesn’t shy away from some of the truly horrific people and acts committed and really paints a realistic picture of life in a London gang. There’s no pretention or stereotypes, it’s hard and gritty and painfully real.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: The Study Trilogy by Maria V. Snyder

Minor spoilers for the trilogy as I’m reviewing all three books at once, I have tried to keep them to an absolute minimum.

Book 1: Poison Study
Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear…
Book 2: Magic Study
With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better....
Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magic training—especially as she's been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.
If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies...
Book 3: Fire Study
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before....
Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

I love the Study series by Maria V Snyder, they were my first foray into her writing and they hold a special place in the fantasy corner of my heart (right between Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore.) They are one of my favourites to come back to again and again, particularly when I’m feeling rough and need a break from the real world. So a few days ago I went back into Yelena’s world for another trip round.

The first book will always remain my favourite of the series. There’s something about it that just sparks my imagination in a way that the second two books never quite recapture. It could be the fresh new concept and world that we’re being introduced to, or the (relatively) stable environment of the castle complex where the majority of the action takes place, or it could be that this book features the most of Valek that we ever see, and yes ok, I may have a bit of a soft spot for Valek. How did you guess?

Poison brilliantly sets up Yelena as a character, throwing us and her straight in at the deep end with a death or slow death option, and the action never really lets up from there. There are no pre-formed relationships, the reader finds out about the characters at the same time as Yelena, and it’s so much fun trying to work out who is trustworthy and who might be selling information. The world that Snyder sets up is both brutal but complex and a fascinating study. I loved seeing how Ixia worked and the different roles everyone plays within the construct.

Yelena herself is a fascinating character, she’s just that bit older than most YA heroines, so the book can appeal to either end of the spectrum, both adults and older teens. She’s strong and fiery and incredibly determined, but there is also something fundamentally broken about her, and Snyder doesn’t shy away from portraying that and giving Yelena the arc and space to try to come to terms with herself, her situation, and her past.

She’s supported by a fascinating cast of characters, Valek of course being my favourite. He’s a darkly brilliant character, who you never know what he might do or how he might react, with a life and character outside of the bounds of Yelena’s interactions, and I desperately want a study on Valek please. There are so many layers to him, he remains one of my favourite heroes, even though he may not come across as a hero to start with.We also get to meet Ari and Janco who are one of the best double acts ever and remind me in some ways of the Weasley twins, only a little bit more deadly.

It’s a fantastic combination of fantasy and magic with some of the darker elements of humanity mixed in. It never gets to heavy, and never lets up on the rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and leaves the reader desperate to head straight into the next book in the series ‘Magic Study.’ Which is where it then went a bit downhill for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the series, but books two and three never quite live up to the magic that I found in book one.
Yelena is out in the big wide world, freed from her position as poison taster and off to seek her family and her magical heritage in Sitia I really loved seeing a whole new side to the world and the different mis match of cultures that all coalesce in Sitia in comparison to the straight rigidity of Ixia. They are a contrast in studies and I love seeing more of the two nations over the following two books.

My three biggest problems with Magic Study and Fire Study are firstly, that the character development never seems to be tackled as well as it is in the first book. I never really warmed to Yelen’a parents and her brother Lief and her have so many issues and then suddenly they don’t. There is a passage where they look at the events that shaped their hostility towards each other, but it then felt as though those issues were dropped and never touched on again, which was really disappointing. I felt that their relationship was one of the most fascinating ones, and there were some really solid reasons for dislike between them and I wanted to see them work through those and come out the other side, not to just get a magic fix.

All the other secondary characters it felt like we got a lot of them up to a point and then they would close off and we couldn’t go any deeper. Irys for example would swing from trusting Yelena to cutting her off so quickly it practically gave me whiplash.

Secondly, Yelena adopts a ‘let’s rush headlong into everything and hang the consequences’ attitude. Which yes, works in some situations and really really doesn’t in others. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her for not trusting people or even attempting to reach out to them, because it left her isolated and making increasingly bad decisions. I understood the justification for not trusting others, but it felt like it was taken a little too far on some occasions.

And finally, there really wasn’t enough Valek, and when we did get him, it was usually in situations where there was no hope and then suddenly Valek appears in her mind and helps her out. Now if there had been some sort of bond or magical tether between the two of them or even a vague attempt to make some sense of why this kept happening then I probably wouldn’t have questioned it. However as it was it felt like it was just an easy way out, which was tragic because I wanted more of Valek yes, but not just as a save the day kind of guy. It also felt like he had lost some of his hard battle mentality in the second two books, which again was a bit sad after the pure awesomeness of the first book.

However, yes ok I have a few gripes but they are actually not big ones, it’s just because I’m looking at the three books in one go. I really do love this series, hugely, and it is one of those series I am forever telling people to read. Snyder is a genius at world building, she creates compelling and believable worlds filled with history and backstory and myths and they feel so real as you read. It’s an incredible talent and one that has only grown with each book she’s written.

She creates a host of fantastic characters, from Yelena right the way through to the smallest bit parts. Everyone adds to the story, they all fit seamlessly into the whole, and they all help to create this incredible tale. Because regardless of any gripes I may have, this trilogy really is an incredible feat of storytelling. It remains one of my favourites to come back to time and time again, and Valek and Yelena remain one of my top favourite pairings.

If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to sink your teeth into this comes very highly recommended. If you’re after fantastic world building a compelling plot and engaging characters then again, you’ll strike gold with these. The whole series is fantastic, but Poison study remains my favourite.