Wednesday 31 October 2012

Books I'm Squeeing About in November

Welcome back to The Review Diaries monthly look at the books ahead!

I can't quite get over that we're now coming in to November and this will be the last month before the Christmas countdown begins - crazyness I know! And to add to the celebrations November also sees the celebration of my two year blogiversary!  I know, I can't believe it either! So expect plenty of giveaways, guest posts, interviews and excitements at the end of the month! Next month will be filled with books both Christmassy and not, and plenty of stocking fillers, but for now let's have a look at some of the goodies we have arriving on our shelves this month - it's going to be a good one, some of the best has definitely been saved up until last this year!

'Tis the season for an investigation! Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane return for a Christmas caper at Bellmont Abbey.
After a year of marriage—and numerous adventures—Lady Julia and Brisbane hope for a quiet, intimate Christmas together—until they find themselves at her father's ancestral estate, Bellmont Abbey, with her eccentric family and a menagerie of animals.
Nevertheless, Julia looks forward to a lively family gathering—but amongst the celebrations, a mystery stirs. There are missing jewels, new faces at the Abbey, and a prowling ghost that brings back unwelcome memories from a previous holiday—one that turned deadly. Is a new culprit recreating crimes of the past? And will Brisbane let Julia investigate?

Oh my, the next best thing to a new Lady Julia novel? A Lady Julia novella! And back at Belmont Abbey! For Christmas! This has the makings of unbelievable glee for me. My only worry, as someone who lives in the UK, will I still be able to get hold of it? Let's hope I can!

In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller's boy called Klaus. It isn't Klaus's fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a dead man in Frau Drecht's lodging house, or that Frau Drecht and her murderous son want it for themselves.
He has nothing to do with the Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion who turn up out of the blue looking for it, or the Professor of Anatomy who takes such a strange interest in it. No, Klaus doesn't want any trouble.
But when he finds himself with the diamond in his pocket, things really can't get much worse - that is, until the feathered man appears. Then they become a matter of life... and death.

I first heard about this book at the Random House book bloogers brunch back in June, and I couldn't wait to read more. Everything about it intrigued me, from the cover and the title to that fabulous blurb, and it did not disappoint  This book is absolutely fantastic, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Who says fate is written in the stars? Set in seventeenth-century Europe, JEPP is the coming-of-age story of a teenage dwarf limited not only by his height but by his destiny. Seemingly bound for a life of misery as an astronomer's court dwarf, Jepp must prove himself to be a capable and trustworthy student in order to escape his fate. Willing to defy the stars to win the life he wants and the woman he loves, Jepp must choose his own course and become the man he wants to be. Thrilling, romantic and in turns heart-warming and heartbreaking, JEPP is a highly original and unforgettable story about one young man's struggle to escape his destiny. Based on a real seventeenth-century historical figure, Jepp's story includes violence, love, astrology, astronomy, and even a beer-drinking moose.

This book crept onto my radar when Angie over at Angieville was talking about it months ago, and I have been desperate to see whether it would live up to my expectations. It's another artful blend of cover, blurb and title and I absolutely adore it. Jepp's story is one of those that will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Yes, just yes. 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' was one of the top books of last year for me, and I literally cannot wait to get my hands on the second book in this series. There are no words to accurately describe how unbelievably excited I am for this release.

Imagine waking up in a snow globe. . . 
That's how travel journalist Krista feels when she arrives in magical Quebec to report on Canada's glittering Winter Carnival.
Over ten sub-zero days Krista's formerly frozen heart begins to melt as she discovers an enchanting world of ice palaces, husky dog-sledding and maple-syrup treats galore. And then she meets Jacques, a man as handsome and rugged as he is mysterious. . .
The two share a secret that could bond them forever, but can they find a way to break through the protective layers around their hearts to warm up this winter wonderland?
. . . let the snow-spangled adventure begin.

I know, I know, I promised to wait on the Christmas extravaganza until the end of November, but I just can't wait, a new Belinda Jones book is on the horizon! I love her steamy summer reads, so the prospect of one for Christmas makes me a very happy girl. Jones always brings a brilliant mix of escapism, romance and fantastic settings to combine into escapist reads that I adore.

Spooky, chilling and twisted, the highly anticipated sequel to award-winning author Leanna Renee Hieber s darkly romantic debut For Natalie Stewart, a normal life has never seemed so far away. Her only solace, Lord Jonathan Denbury, is wanted for murder. To clear his name, Denbury s must return to England and assume the role of his demon doppelganger. But Natalie begins to doubt his true motives, especially as a new gentleman begins whispering in her ear. Natalie and Denbury may be able to visit each other in their dreams, but they can t escape the darkening shadows. Amid spontaneous explosions, friends turned enemies and dangerous secrets revealed, there's still a demon who has Natalie's scent, and someone is trying to resurrect the ultimate evil.

Darker Still was one of the unexpected surprises of last year, and I absolutely adored it, and now I can't wait to see what's in store for Natalie next. The novel really captured my imagination and now that Jonathan is a little less confined to artwork I can't wait to see his and Natalie's relationship blossom. But added to that are demons! Doppelgangers! And Magic Most Foul! What more could one want?

Scarlett O'Brien, utterly addicted to romantic films, has found her leading man. She's convinced Sean is Mr Right, but the day-to-day reality of a relationship isn't quite like the movies. With Sean constantly away on business, Scarlett and her new best friend Oscar decide to head to New York for the holiday of a lifetime.

From one famous landmark to the next, Scarlett and Oscar make many new friends during their adventure - including sailors in town for Fleet Week, a famous film star, and Jamie & Max, a TV reporter and cameraman. Scarlett finds herself strangely drawn to Jamie, they appear to have much in common: a love of films and Jamie's search for a parent he never knew. But Scarlett has to ask herself why she is reacting like this to another man when she's so in love with Sean...

I absolutely adored 'From Notting Hill with Love... Actually' it was one of the wittiest and best chick lits I have ever read, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw that a sequel is being released! But there is always a little voice that worries with things like this. Just like Pocahontas 2 (terrible film, don't see it) will the happily ever after be thrown over for a new 'one true love?' I can't help but worry, but I have faith that Ali will do what she's so good at doing - blowing me away with how fantastic her writing is, so I'm sure all will be well!

So those are my squeeful books, what about yours? Are there any here that you're excited for, or even some new ones you're looking out for now? And what did I miss? Tell me the books you're excited about in the comments below!

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Vampire Diaries Review: The Rager

Spoilers for the episode below!

So this week’s Vampire Diaries continued the awesome streak they’ve got going on. It didn’t thrill me in quite the same way as last week’s, but it was still a really fantastic episode. I’m loving the storylines coming together and the character developments we’re starting to see already. So here is my compiled list of the top five moments/things about this episode that I loved.

“Tell me that is not a bomb.”
“Ok. It’s a kitten. An adorable, exploding kitten.”
“Why didn’t you call your brother?”
“Because I’m proud. And stubborn. And, oh look! You’re already here!”
This whole scene was just fantastic. We’ve never really gotten to see Meredith and Damon together without Ric to act as a Damon buffer, or Meredith attempting to steal Damon’s blood. And they just had this fantastic dynamic between them. Not romantic in anyway, but I could totally see Meredith and Damon teaming up and being awesome – they have witty banter, medical skills, and bad assery on their side after all. It’s also really good to see someone  really see Damon, he’s seemed so lonely since Ric died and Meredith looks like she could really be a good friend for him.

Speaking of awesome teams, who’d have thunk that Damon and Klaus could be quite so fantastic together? I’m a bit sad that Klaus was brought back so quickly, not because I don’t love Joseph Morgan, every episode he’s in makes me unbelievably happy, but I thought that a bigger break from Klaus would have probably been a good thing and given his return more of an impact. That said, I love The Damon and Klaus team up, it was absolutely fantastic. It wasn’t so much good cop, bad cop, as ‘bad ass and more bad ass.’ Which always makes me smile.

It was great to see the werewolf venom hallucinations – both the hot make out with Stefan turning into Damon (and then giving her some sound advice about why she keeps seeing him) and that heart stopping (literally) moment with Rebekah and Matt. Oh my god you guys, I thought Matty was a goner for a second. I loved that the hallucinations were a bit more about home truths rather than just random things. We never really knew what Rose saw, and Damon saw a lot of mixes of Katherine and Elena, so it was really great to see Rebekah realize how quickly she resorts to violence when she feels hurt and Elena finally beginning to show the first glimmers of recognition that she isn’t human now, and she needs to start to learn and understand the difference in her and her outlook and beliefs and world. (Although I really felt awfully squicky at the start of the episode – did you see the size of that needle!!??)

I’m so excited to see the rekindling of the Stefan and Caroline friendship. That was such a fantastic element in Season 2 and then we lost it and we haven’t see the two of them interact really since then, which is tragic given how fantastic they are, so it was lovely for Stefan to come to her and acknowledge that Caroline really blossomed as a vampire and to ask for her help in his dark moments.

And finally, I am loving Elena’s vampy rage. We saw hints of it in episode one, and it definitely started to surface a little last week, but we’re really getting to some of the darker elements of her character now. It’s so fantastic to see a more selfish and darker side to her because human Elena had started to feel a little bland for me. The scenes with Rebekah were fantastic, that showdown in the bathroom? And Rebekah stealing Elena’s daylight ring? It’s so good to see Elena standing up and fighting for once, and actually getting angry about it. We saw it briefly last season when she stabbed Rebekah in the back, but it looks like it’s really coming out to play now, and I love it.

Was it just me or was Stefan being kind of condescending? Given the rage/blood bender that he was on for a good portion of last season, he really seems to be on Elena’s case an awful lot. I get that we don’t want her to go on a bender and kill people because the guilt might then cripple her, but he seems to be keeping her on an awfully tight leash – particularly at moments when the darker elements of her personality come through. The point is that those darker elements have always been a part of Elena – they didn’t surface very often when she was human – but they were there, and maybe it’s just that they came out more often when Stefan was off on his blood bender so he isn’t used to seeing them, but to me it feels like he’s trying to stifle those parts of her for fear of how she might change. I mean the way she reacts to him finding her when she’s feeling murderous is like a child about to be scolded. Yes ok, he was right and it was great watching him talk her down, but something about the two of them just doesn’t feel quite right to me at the moment.

I loved Stefan and Elena together when she was human, they were one of my favourite tv couples to watch, but after how Stefan treated her last season, and how Elena relinquished a lot of her self-respect begging him to come back, I’m a little tired of their relationship. I want to see her grow into herself and experiment – be that with Damon or another character. Although let’s face it, Damon is a very sexy option. And given the promo for next week’s episode it looks like we’re going to get plenty of darker Elena and plenty of sexy Damon. I loved him finally stepping up and saying to Elena at the end of the episode, this is silly, you’re not adjusting, and I can help, and her finally admitting that she does really need him. He can offer that support and guidance that Stefan can’t, because he has learnt moderation, whereas if she were to go to Stefan he would either demand they hunt bunnies or over indulge and go back to being a rippah, which is never good. 

So for me, I’m loving this development between the two of them, the development of both characters and where this might lead in the next episode. Somewhere very, very sexy from the looks of it… And it really felt like Damon offered to teach her how to be a vampire with no ulterior motive, other than a love and desire to see her not destroy herself.

So that’s me. What did you think? Any moments that I’ve missed that you loved? And are you loving this new darker side to Elena that we’re seeing? And are you excited about next week’s flashbacks! Elijah!

And in the long, long wait for next week, check out these other fantastic reviews: Postcards from Mystic Falls by Price Peterson and Zap2its Carina.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Release Date: 25th October

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

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.

When a book is compared to an all-time favourite of mine I tend to get a little bit nervous. ‘Time Between Us’ was billed as a young adult tale for fans of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’, which I loved, so I was a little bit nervous going in as to whether it would live up to the hype and such a huge comparison. I shouldn’t have worried, Time Between Us is a beautiful, layered tale that more than compares to the heady comparison of The Time Traveller’s Wife.

It’s a beautiful tale that draws you in and weaves this gorgeous, soft and at time utterly heart breaking love story around you. Once I started I couldn’t put it down, it was such an engrossing story with a brilliant concept and a host of really well developed characters.

It’s in some ways a very slow and quiet story, but that in no way diminishes the impact the story will have on you. I found myself thinking about the concepts and the characters for days after I read it, and wanting to go back and re-read key passages.

Anna was a fantastic heroine, I loved her from the start, for her sense of self and determination, and I fell in love with Bennett along with her as she uncovered more about him, and as their bond deepened.

The time travel is unique and explained piece by piece to the reader the further into the story we got. I loved gradually unwrapping this mystery along with Anna and seeing how Bennett’s gift worked. I also loved that there were consequences, and whilst they weren’t quiet as gore and destruction filled as my imaginings of them, they were still powerful and heartbreaking. There was method to it and order, but that in no way diminished the emotional impact and my heart broke on several occasions whilst reading this book.

‘Time Between Us’ is a gorgeous standalone in a world that is peppered with series and trilogies. It’s filled with passion and love and a desperate struggle to overcome obstacles to find happiness. Quite simply put, I loved it, and I cannot wait for more people to discover it once it’s released in two days’ time.

Monday 22 October 2012

Review: Emailing Allie by Julie Lawson

Release Date: 25th October

Huge thanks to Cyder Press for sending me a copy to review

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.

Emailing Allie is a fun chick lit told through a ‘diary’ of sorts – Allie’s inbox and sent mail tells a brilliant and funny tale of the last year of her life. The romances, the intrigues, and the many, many cups of tea.

I loved how the story is told through the emails that Allie sends and receives, it gave the whole book a real lift and made it a light fun read. It never got bogged down in too much detail, but when as a reader I wanted more detail, for example when Allie had been on a date, there was always just enough to satisfy. It’s a novel that very much relies on the reader’s imagination, and because I picked this up when I was having a bit of a reading slump it was really nice to breeze through a book that was on the whole light and not weighed down by too much detail and explanation. I also loved how we as the reader never actually see any of the key scenes, they are always told back through someone else’s eyes, and sometimes the details were unbearably slow to come out – details please! It felt like I was there, being copied in on all the emails and living vicariously through someone else’s gossip and I loved it.

You immediately get a sense of who Allie is, and whilst I felt a little bit strange and voyeuristic reading her emails, I quickly became so immersed in the story and just wanted to find out what happened, that I stopped noticing that it was someone’s personal emails.

I loved the humour, the lighter moments and the way that characters were constructed. A lot of the draw for me remains in the brevity and quick pace that the emails opened up.

It wasn’t all fluff and giggles though, I wasn’t expecting some of the darker and more emotional elements to creep in, but they did and added a certain weight to it that I actually really enjoyed and helped to balance everything out.

The one thing that I wasn’t as fussed on was the love triangle. It was quite stereotypical of the genre, and the rest of the book was such a fresh and entertaining concept I really wished that the romance could have been too. I also really struggle with the actions/attitude of one of the men in the triangle, but then I suppose that is always the way, people looking into a relationship can see how awful some people are being, whereas whilst you’re involved in it you don’t see it. So yes, I think it showed the relationship really realistically, but it still didn’t make it any more fun for me to watch – it was like watching someone walk out in front of a car and not being able to do anything about it.

It’s the sort of book that you can read in one sitting, or dip in and out of over a few days. Light but with some heavier undertones to give it a little more substance, but filled with brilliant humour, fantastic characters and a great heroine, I loved ‘Emailing Allie’ and will definitely come back to it again. For anyone after a bit of a lighter read, or fans of ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, ‘Emailing Allie’ is a must read.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Review: Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.
At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.
As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

There was so much buzz floating around the interwebs in the build up to the release of ‘Defiance’ that I couldn’t believe that it could possible live up to the hype, but with a blurb and cover like that there was no way I was going to wait long to find out, and it absolutely blew me away.

Defiance is an absolutely stunning debut novel from Redwine. It smoothly combines elements of dystopia and fantasy and wraps it all up with a fantastic heroine, a gorgeously clever hero and a brilliant plot and delivers it with a bow on top.

The plot races along at a stunning rate, and I was engrossed from the first page. I loved the alternate view points of both Rachel and Logan who offered such different insights on this world that they lived in. The view points meant that we really got to see all of the elements playing out together and unfolding around each other, and I loved the difference between Logan’s thought process, very logical and methodical but in no way any less determined than Rachel who blows straight into everything with blind stubbornness and strength. I loved both of them for their differences and for their similarities in that they were both so dissatisfied with this life they had been given and wanted to make it better. Be it finding her father or freeing the people, or just getting out. And I loved the sparks and the chemistry between them…

It definitely had the same feel for me as ‘Poison Study’ by Maria V. Snyder, which was a very good thing, just on the other side of the Commander’s fortress walls…

The world building is fantastic. There’s enough set up and detail to really push this novel on its own, but with enough that is built up and left open to explore in the next book. I really believed the world that I was pushed into and I loved this exploration of the idea of women needing protectors and the limitations and punishments that are placed along with that. It was a fantastically galling and restricting view, and I loved seeing Rachel and even to a certain extent Logan, push and chafe against these restrictions.

I was able to forget where it might be going or second guessing the plot and just immerse myself in the experience of reading this book. I loved it, I raced through it in a single sitting and after finishing immediately wanted to go back into the world again. Redwine has stunned me with this new novel and I cannot wait to see where she takes the series next.

Saturday 20 October 2012

The Vampire Diaries Review: Memorial

Spoilers for the episode below!

So with a complete lack of time to spar my reviews of The Vampire Diaries stopped mid season three and I never really got the energy to go back and catch up. But now season 4 has started and it is just so good that I want to talk about incessantly to everyone. But that could get a little bit long and boring so I’m going to talk about my top five favourite moments/scenes/elements of the episode and then point you in the direction of some of my favourite (more thorough) recaps to tide you over until next week.

So the premier was pretty epic, it really laid the groundwork for a fantastic new season. I love that four seasons in Vampire Diaries effectively comes in, throws down, and says ‘this is how it’s done.’ There are no half measures here, and the show is just as engaging and funny and swoon worthy as it was all the way back in season one. But my only problem with the premier lacked some of the punch I’d hoped for because we all knew that Elena was going to turn, so some of the drama and tension was removed. However it was still a really strong opening, and laid plenty of ground work for this, episode two, and up there as one of my favourite Vampire Diaries episodes ever.

Ok in at number five is all the bloody vomit. And by bloody vomit I mean the plot line that Elena can’t keep anything down. Yes it was gross, but it certainly made everything a hell of a lot more tense about her transition than I felt last week. I love that we got to see her literally try everything before tapping a vein, and I loved that we got to see Elena really start to lose it and fall apart, something that the cool, calm and compassionate protagonist rarely seems to do on this show. I really, really hope that we get to see more of this side of Elena. I want to see her lose it, to see her maybe put a toe on a darker path, and see how she evolves and develops, it would make some fascinating storytelling. I also love that Matt was her first real feed, and how that came about. Although when did she learn how to be such a neat eater?! Their connection is something else that I want to see explored more this series, whether it’s romantically or platonically, I have always loved the scenes between Elena and Matt, and I think after the events of the finale the dynamic has shifted so much that it’s going to make their relationship even more intriguing to watch unfold.

Number four has to be Connor, who is terrifying and brilliant. Seriously, this guy likes to get stuff done, and he is a much more focused Hunter than we’ve seen before. He’s mean, terrifying, utterly ruthless (I actually gasped when he stabbed April) and brilliant. He’s certainly upped the stakes on what we can hope for in the current big bad, and he definitely is coming across as a lot scarier than some of the other big bads that we’ve seen on this show. I cannot wait for his plot line to unfurl and see how Jeremy factors into this. He’s scary, he’s brilliant, and he has bad ass bullets and gloves, I love him already.

I can’t help it, but number three is that scene between Elena and Damon, yes you know the one. No not the one where he’s being very sweet with her outside the church (although seriously, very cute.) The one in the bathroom of the Mystic Grill (which sees almost as much action as the Gilbert front porch.) Through little spoilers I knew that Elena was going to drink Damon’s blood, but that still didn’t prepare me for the onslaught of sexy that Dobrev and Somerhalder bring to this scene. Their chemistry is just through the roof. Yes ok Damon knew more about what ‘personal’ meant, but I think Elena had a pretty good idea too given the way she was writhing against him throughout, so she can’t really pull the entirely innocent card at Stefan later on.
Really it all comes down to the look on Damon’s face throughout, which just made the scene feel incredibly hot and sexy and intimate and I felt like a bit of a perv for watching it, but at the same time, yes, just yes.

At number two is the scene in the church which had so many elements combined to make me shriek like a crazy person.
I loved that we got the cast working together on a scene, we so rarely get everyone in one scene that it really made it a fantastic ensemble scene where we got the majority of our cast working together in this awful situation, and everyone was involved in one way or another. Which leads me into one of my big loves of this scene, vampire hearing. Yes I know, we know they can hear things that other people shouldn’t and we frequently get demonstrations of this in solitary moments where say, Caroline hears Finn talking across the square, but never have we gotten to see the characters using it to have a full on conversation together whilst at separate points across the room. I loved the initial moment where they all smell the blood and we have Elena up on stage and Tyler and Caroline freaking out on one side of the church and Stefan and Damon on the other side. I loved that the conflict included all of them even though it was specifically Elena losing the plot, and the shots of each of them reacting to moments like Elena feeding for the first time and Matt offering himself up as a tasty snack were just so brilliantly played. I also loved the choice of music, to have a hymn playing to disguise the conversation and the way the music swelled when Elena finally bit Matt – I got tingles, not gonna lie. It drew out the ensemble element and really made this scene stand out for me, all the elements came together to create a brilliant, high stakes and high tension scene that will go down as one of my favourites.

Number one has to go to that beautiful closing scene. I’m so glad that they finally took a step back and acknowledged the sheer number of friends and family that these characters have lost over the course of three series’ – I mean seriously, that body count is insane, and it was so nice to take a beat and remember them, all the way back to Uncle Zach. I was already starting to well up with the lantern lighting and acknowledgement of all the people they’ve lost, and there was a bit of me that was really sad that Damon ran off and refused to play, so I loved that they then showed Damon doing his own version of this with Alaric. The whole scene was just pitched so beautifully with him sat drinking at Alaric’s grave and talking about how they’re all children and he’s there because he knows that Ric would want him to help look after them and protect them, and then the camera pans out and… I cried, like a small child.
It was just so beautiful and poignant and perfect, and such a fitting tribute/goodbye to one of my favourite relationships on this show. Ric’s original goodbye in ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ packed a similar emotional punch (and dissolved me into similar amounts of tears) and I was ready to say goodbye to him after that. But then we had him turn into this big bad scary (which was fantastic) and I loved seeing that. But then he was gone and it felt like we didn’t really get that goodbye between him and Damon. So to have Damon grieving and missing him, and for his ghost to be sat there listening and grieving and missing him right back, was just so perfect there almost aren’t words. It all summed up so brilliantly with the only words Ric speaks throughout the entire scene “I miss you too buddy.” At which point the fandom as one, cried like small children. 

So those are my five favourites of the episode, what are yours? And what are you most excited about going into this season? In the mean time whilst we wait for next Thursday to roll around check out two of my favourite reviewers, Postcards from Mystic Falls by Price Peterson and Carina over at Zap2it

Review: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

Spoilers below – I recommend reading the book first!

Huge thanks to Harriet at Random House for sending me a copy to review.

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.

This book is a brilliant cross between Romeo and Juliet and X-Men, and has more than earned the reputation it is garnering as such. Lawrence really excels at world building and plot and Aria was a great character to take us into this world. She’s strong and for the most part quite clued up and determined. Yes there were moments where I could have shaken her for not acting, but on the whole she was definitely a heroine that I could get behind and root for.

I absolutely loved the world building, the idea of these two factions marked out by their tattoos was great, but what blew me away were the mystics down in the Depths. I loved exploring this world and finding out more about the politics and power plays, it really was a fantastic setting.
I loved the mystics powers and I look forward to seeing more of them in the next book – it definitely gave it a bit of an x-men vibe which I loved. My only slight issue was that it felt like Mystics were supposed to have one power each, and that varied from person to person, but Hunter seemed to pretty much be able to do whatever the situation called for. I dislike when ‘powers’ are used to provide an easy route, so I could do with a little more clarification on the powers in the next book.

I’d also love to see more of the secondary characters, the world was such a fantastic construct and it felt like this was very much a book of self discovery for Aria, so I’m looking forward to the world expanding in the next book.
Everything rockets along at quite a pace with some staggering twists and turns, some of which I never saw coming. It’s definitely an action packed read that will keep you on your toes throughout.

My biggest problem with the book is Hunter, who was kind of a crucial element, and is the reason that the book knocked down from a four star to a three star rating for me. He never really came alive for me, there was no real spark or chemistry and it just never felt truly real. My biggest shudder moment was when Aria discovered the letters from Hunter and I didn’t find them romantic at all, they were downright creepy, and as a result I kept thinking that they couldn’t be real and they must be something that her parents had planted for her to find.
I also struggled a bit with the inconsistency between Aria’s ‘first’ meeting with Hunter as her rescuer and then his demeanour towards her when they meet again. I know that they have a prior connection, but that still does not explain the dramatic shift between these two meetings, and that really threw me.

So with the romance missing for me the book didn’t quite bowl me over like I was expecting it to. However there were so many other fantastic elements to the novel that I still loved it and will definitely be coming back to see where Lawrence takes the second book in the series.

Review: The Summer Before I Met You & The Spring Before I Met You by Sarah Rees Brennan

The two prequels to Sarah Rees Brennan’s brilliant new novel ‘Unspoken’ are fantastic. I’m loving this new trend to release novellas prior to a new book, it starts the hype about the book, it gives you a taste of what’s to come, and in this case it offered two unique and beautiful new insights into our characters from sources that we would have never otherwise seen.

Let’s start with ‘The Summer Before I Met You’ which is Kami’s story, even though it is told through Liz who ran the fateful summer cricket camp. It gives us an outsiders look at Kami and Angela and Sorry in the Vale and how Kami might seem to someone who isn’t used to her odd moments of ‘awayness’ with Jared. It also gives us a brief look into an event that shapes the Kami we know from ‘Unspoken’ with a family death. Everything gravitates towards Kami, she is like a little sun that pulls everything and everyone into her own orbit. I loved seeing these characters, a bit more of Rusty and the previous boyfriend and Angela, and the sheer insanity that seems to happen around Kami whether she means for it to or not. It’s a fantastic novella and one that works really well to set up and offer that little look at what Kami must seem like to outsiders.

However my real love lay with Jared’s novella ‘The Spring Before I Met You.’ We see so much of the inside of Jared’s mind through Kami in ‘Unspoken’ that it was jarring and fascinating to see him from an outsider, an unqualified guidance counsellor Mariel, who wants to help the obviously troubled Jared, but genuinely has no idea how to do so. Mariel is so completely baffled by him, and how she might be able to help him, but seems unable to stay away. She, like the rest of us, seems to fall prey to the study in contrasts that is Jared, both capable of destruction and terror, but kindness as well. There were some really lovely moments that I loved witnessing that really screwed up Jared’s bad boy image. It was heartbreaking to see him in this setting, to see more of his dysfunctional unit with his mother and the desperate determination to cling to ‘Kami’ and his acceptance of Mariel only when she wants to talk about his imaginary friend. The novella was darker and more heartbreaking than ‘Summer’ and yet the perfect study in contrasts to lead us into Unspoken.

I really hope that we get to see some more novellas with the release of books two and three in the trilogy, because I loved the added insight and little corners that we get to see that we never would have had access to just from Unspoken. For fans of Unspoken these novellas are a must read, and for those of you debating whether to launch into Unspoken, these two will give you a free and fantastic taster of what’s in store for you.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Review: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

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….

There appears to be a little bit of confusion surrounding this book – namely people thinking that it’s going to be some sort of re-telling of Alice in Wonderland, only with zombies (similar to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies et al.) This is not the case, so if you’re looking for a faithful retelling this book is really not for you.
However, if you’re after a good story with a fresh take on zombies and a kick ass heroine then please pick up this book!

Alice in Zombieland and I really did not get along to start with. The first fifty pages or so really took its sweet time to get going. Yes ok there were zombies, there were scary things and ick factors and death, but none of that really grabbed me. I just felt disconnected from it and wasn’t all that inclined to keep reading. Alice herself wasn’t driving the story and I was really worried that this book that I’d been so excited was going to be a disappointment.

And then Alice got to school, and things got good. And when I say good, I mean really good. Suddenly there was a purpose and a drive, both for me to keep reading and for Alice to get up in the morning. This of course had nothing to do with Cole, fantastic bad boy Cole. Ok I’m lying, it had a lot to do with him, but this isn’t one of those books where we’re with the heroine but the real life and soul of the book is the hero. It was like the book found itself with the introduction of Cole. Suddenly there was drive, there was plot and Alice found her snark. She went from being this flat and not particularly likeable character to a ballsy and snark laden girl who could take care of herself. Which I loved. Now this could be that we’re supposed to see how disconnected Alice feels in the first section of the book, hence the lack of awesome, but if that’s the case this book runs the risk of loosing a lot of potential readers with a flat heroine. However, please please push on, because once she gets her groove back I loved her. In fact sassy girls are definitely in abundance in AiZ, which was fantastic. And the eye candy really wasn’t bad either.

I loved that the bad boy trope was taken in another direction. We’re given a group of big, muscled (very sexy) tattooed, partying, school skipping (highly sexy) boys, and yet all their terrible ways are actually due to them trying to protect others who can’t defend themselves, which I loved.

I love the uneasy and highly volatile relationship that develops between Cole and Alice. It was sexy and funny and I loved that he tried to protect her but didn’t stick her in a corner and tell her to let the big boys fight. I would have liked maybe a little bit more time with them getting to know each other, but the rest of the book is so action packed that I’m not sure where more could have been crammed in. However it sets this up really brilliantly for the next book in the series and I can’t wait to see how the two of them get on with some more time and space for development.

The zombies were intriguing. It’s definitely not what I was expecting and not a concept I’ve seen before, and it has real potential to be fantastic. I think I probably need a little more convincing and I look forward to seeing how they are developed in the next book. There were some really fascinating concepts and ideas explored though, and I loved this book for its individuality and originality. I’m curious to see what others make of the twist on the zombie trope though.

I had one problem with this book and that was the adults, most notably Alice’s grandparents. The dialogue between them, with Alice and with any boy that comes within a thirty foot radius of the house not only felt completely unnatural but horribly cringe worthy. I really loathed it, to the point that I tried to skim the bits with her grandparents for fear of needing to wash my eyes with soap afterwards thanks to the mental images they brought up.

All in all the book had a shaky start but quickly redeemed itself with a fascinating take on the zombie genre and some great interweaving of some of the classic Alice in Wonderland elements. Cole takes bad boy to a whole new level and I loved seeing the new kick ass version of Alice emerge. Definitely a book to read in the run up to Halloween.