Thursday, 30 September 2010

Book Chick City: All Hallows Eve

Book Chick City kicks off her Annual All Hallows Eve event tomorrow - it's a month long celebration of  "all things that go bump in the night - from werewolves to demons, vampires to ghosts, and of course not forgetting zombies!!!"

There will be reviews, guest posts and ghastly giveaways so if you have  time check it out - I'll be popping by daily! :-)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Black and White (Icarus Project 1) Review

Black and White (Icarus Project 1)
-          Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge
Publisher: UK – Piatkus
Jet, the darling good girl of the city, uses her shadow-power to battle the forces of evil. But her shadows also mask the fierce demons that only she, her mentor, and her former best friend - and now arch-nemesis - know about. Iridium is that former best friend: able to wield the power of light, she trained as a hero only to become one of the most infamous villains in the city - for what she feels are truly heroic reasons. Alternating between the present-day threat and their past exploits as friends, and later rivals, at the Superhero Academy, the novel brings these two women to vivid life, portraying the complexities of being a true hero in a world determined to categorise you in a neat box of good or evil - black or white.
First up, I’ve never read a book by either of these authors before but if this is any example to go buy I will be stocking up on Jackie Kesslers & Caitlin Kittredge back catalogue as soon as possible! The story rips along at a quick pace with flashbacks to Jet & Iridium’s early friendship and time spent learning to be a hero before their paths diverged into arch-enemies.
This novel has so many layers to enjoy – there’s a superhero action adventure with heists, secret identity’s and roof top action sequences. There’s a coming of age teen angst (in a similar style as Twilight but without the brooding vampire/emo connotations). There’s the story of what it means to be a hero and what it means to be human. Do people need heroes if there aren’t villains? (That age old question – what is Superman without Lex Luthor?) And do people need to ask for help or should it be there ready for them? These are quite deep thoughts but they don’t impose on the story or the characters.
The characters are great as well – despite the title, there are no Black and White characters. They are all painted in shades of grey (funnily enough that’s the title of the sequel!) with good and evil just extremes which doesn’t cover any one persons motivations. There is some beautiful imagery to this book -  from the way Jet and Iridium have opposing looks, characters and even powers – one with shadow powers and one with light – yet the shadow powers are the ‘good’ powers. I loved the juxtaposition of this and realised that superheroes are people too! Please give this book a try – it’s a great read.
Recommended for fans of Smallville and those who like their heroes with a bit a dark in them. 9 out of 10

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Time Raiders: The Avenger Review

Time Raiders – The Avenger
-          PC Cast
Publisher: UK – Mills & Boon Nocturne
Alex thought communicating with the dead was the worst of her troubles. She couldn’t have been more wrong!
She’s just been sent to 60 AD by a secret army unit to recover missing pieces of a medallion that could change the world.
Alex must use her gifts to entice Druid Caradoc into helping her. Yet soon she’s torn between duty and the man who’s been haunting her dreams. Returning to the present is the noble thing to do, but her heart tells her to stay in this enticing new world of goddesses and warriors.
This was the first Mills and Boon I’ve ever read -  romance isn’t my normal reading genre - and while this wasn’t bad I’m not going to be rushing out to buy any more. The main thing that attracted to this particular Mills & Boon book was the author – PC Cast. I loved her Parthelon series especially the first one – Divine by Mistake. (Small confession – I haven’t read any of the House of Night series yet but Marked in on my TBR pile). To be honest my love of Divine By Mistake is probably want held me back from enjoying The Avenger as much. Basically the story is very similar only instead of being dragged into another world our heroine, Lax is sent back to past where she discovers her affinity for a Goddess and learns to use her powers to over come the bad buys intent on defeating the good guys. And it’s not a bad story, but I have read it before – and I’m sorry to say Divine By Mistake did it better with more characters, more fun and a better emotional journey.
That’s not to say that The Avenger is bad – indeed it is easy to read and the story moves swiftly, but some areas are merely brushed over. Boudica and her daughters were good characters, vastly underused – a great introduction for all three but then they are just forgotten about as Alex focuses on her growing romance with Caradoc. There is a a lot of spirituality in the book, something that I don’t mind but not exactly what I was expecting. To be honest I was disappointed there wasn’t more steamy scenes – this is a Mills & Boon book after all! Overall, this is an perfect beach novel – light and fun but not a story that will linger with you for long. Personally, I’d recommend Divine By Mistake before The Avenger!
Recommended for Chick-Lit fans and Traci Harding fans. 5.5 out of 10

Monday, 27 September 2010

Book Discussion - What books do you re-read?

This post is inspired by Tia Nevett’s recent visit to Fantasy Cafe where she shared books that have touched her over the years. As this is something that I explore in my semi-regular feature, Books Remembered, I pondered the next step – if you like a book a lot what do you do?

I tend to re-read it. A lot. There are a selection of books that I pick up on a semi regular basis and have lost track of the number of times I’ve read them. So I thought I’d share with them with you (in no particular order).

1. Sati -  Christopher Pike
Great story and philosophy that I first read as a teen and have never forgotten. I may have raved about in Books Remembered recently...

2. Watership Down - Richard Adams
My pet rabbit was never as clever or cuddly as Fiver or Hazel! I loved the film and iot got me into reading at a young age

3. The Ancient Future – Traci Harding
Time Travel, romance, action, druids and ancient gods – what more do you need?

4. Bitten – Kelley Armstrong
My first Urban Fantasy novel – it drew me into a new genre!

5. Kushiel’s Dart -  Jacqueline Carey
Historical fantasy in a very different Europe. Beautifully written!

6. The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice
My first vampire crush! I've discussed this at length previously

7. Codex Alera – Jim Butcher
Okay, technically it’s a series but it is so well done with so many great
characters and a great over-arching storyline

8. Wild Magic – Tamora Pierce
I first read this as a teen but I still love it and try to read it and her other Tortall books every few years, I always purchase her new books each year.

9. Obernewtyn Chronicles – Isobelle Carmody 
Please can the final two books be released soon!! I became addicted through the Sci-Fi books as a teen as think the books have matureed as the main the character and I have.

10. The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
This books is so funny and original! Everyone should read the Thursday Next books

What do you think of my selection? Do you disagree? What book have you read more than once? Are there certain books that you pick up every year or two and re-read gaining a different insight each time? Or does it feel like a visit to old friends? Enquiring minds want to know! :)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fire Review

-          Kristin Cashore
Publisher: UK – Gollancz
In a world of stunningly beautiful, exceptionally dangerous monsters, Fire is one of the most dangerous monsters of all - a human one. Marked out by her vivid red hair, she's more than attractive. Fire is mesmerising. But with this extraordinary beauty comes influence and power. People who are susceptible to her appeal will do anything for her attention, and for her affection. They will turn away from their families, their work, and their duties for her. They will forget their responsibilities to please her . . . and worse, crush nations, neglect kingdoms and abuse their power. Aware of her power, and afraid of it, Fire lives in a corner of the world away from people, and away from temptation. Until the day comes when she is needed - a day when, for her king, she has to take a stand not only against his enemies, but also against herself . . .
Graceling was a decent story with some great characters, an interesting premise and  a story that swept you along. I enjoyed it but thought it was slightly overhyped. Fire, a semi-prequel, set in the same world but in a different land with one cross-over character is better. The characters more memorable and different – a variety of soldiers, princes and archers of both sexes with the main character Fire, herself a truly unique character. She is called a human monster, but she is perhaps one of the most human characters I’ve ever read about. Throughout the novel she struggles to come to terms with her history and upbringing and to get to grips with her unusual powers .  She is markedly different from everyone else and aware of how much she can influence people both for good and ill. Compared to another character who also impacts everyone, she struggles to do the right thing in a world where politics means that sometimes it’s the case of the lesser of two evils.
This book has elements I love – politics, unusual powers and a believable romance. Perhaps where Fire loses a little is a lack of characterisation of the ‘bad guys’ and their motives. In general, they are depicted as  anti-royalists and simply want to gain power, but this isn’t explored fully. As the novel is told primarily from Fire’s point of view this could be excused, but I am intrigued by some of these bad guys – especially Lady Murgda – I can’t help feeling there is a story behind her and her brothers actions that I’d like to know more about. Overall, though I really enjoyed this book – it swept me along and allowed me to think about the nature of humanity.
Recommended for fans of Jennifer Fallon and Twilight. 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

On My Wish List #6

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I keep track.

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker - Leanna Heiber
Publisher: US Leisure Books (September 2009)
What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

Having recently finished Blameless by Gail Carriger (review here), I'm keen to try some more Victorian style novels. Add in mysterious schools and the supernatural and I'm there!

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts 1) - Stacia Kane
Publisher: UK - Harper Voyager (May 2010)

The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen and constantly attack the living. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit.

Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch and freewheeling Debunker and ghost hunter. She's got a real talent for nailing the human liars or banishing the wicked dead. But she's keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that's landed her in hot and dangerous water.

Chess owes a murderous drug lord named Bump a lot of money. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust with a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump's ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah!

Another book I've heard a lot of positive buzz about. When I first read the blurb my initial response was I don't really like drug addicts, but I've read so many positive reviews I think I should Chess a chance!

The Gods of Amyrantha (Tide Lords 2) - Jennifer Fallon
Publisher: Australia - Tor Books (August 2007)
Arkady is in exile in Ramahn, the repressive Torlenian capital, where she makes some unexpected friends and some powerful enemies, all of whom seem bent on using her to wreak vengeance on each other.
Back in Glaeba, the King’s Spymaster, Declan Hawkes, has recruited the canine Crasii, Warlock, to spy on the Tide Lords attempting to steal the Glaeban throne. Warlock, desperate to get back to his pregnant mate, is forced to witness an unthinkable crime.
But things are not going smoothly for Declan, either. The Empress of the Five Realms and her family have turned up in Caelum, and Jaxyn Aranville wants any opposition to his plans for the Glaeban throne out of the way. That includes fabricating charges against Arkady’s husband, Stellan Desean, the Duke of Lebec, which are likely to bring her down, too.
And in the stark deserts of Torlenia, Cayal meets up with the enigmatic Tide Lord, Lukys, who convinces him he’s found a way for the tormented immortal to die. All he has to do is convince some of the other Tide Lords to help him. But with eight thousand years behind him in which to make enemies, that’s not going to be easy…

I love Jennifer Fallon books - her Wolfsblade trilogy was fantastic and I've never read one of her books which has bad characterisation. This is the second of a quartet that I've been desperate for ages but it's sooo difficult to get her books in the UK as she's Australian and not enough of the Aussie books make the journey over here!

So what's on your wish list?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Books Remembered #3: Christopher Pike's Sati

This is a new feature where I reminisce about books or even series that I read over and over again. Or even a book read once that changed the way I looked at life. It can be a book from childhood or a modern series I just can’t get enough off. It’s not a review of the book(s) but merely remembering the impact it had on me and how it’s shaped my reading habits and likes –what made that book(s) memorable. Feel free to join in with your own books remembered!

This week I remember Sati by Christopher Pike. As a teenager a devoured all the Christopher Pike books I could get my hands on. In the early 90s they were one of the few books that gaped that bridge from children books to adults – the now hugely popular Young Adult culture. I also loved the range of story Chris Pike could produce – everything from a teenage murder mystery such as the Final Friends trilogy to the more supernatural bent like Witch or Remember Me to time travel with . And the best thing about them was the main characters were teenagers like me. Not the Sweet Valley high teenagers (goody two-shoes) but these teenagers drank, smoked pot and had underage sex. Not that these were a main focus of the stories at all – they were just normal teens and this is what teenagers did. So I was a big fan Christopher Pike before I even read Sati.

Sati was different.
The main character wasn’t a teenager. He was a long-distance truck driver. One day on his way home he picks up a hitch-hiker in the middle of the desert – a beautiful blond girl. She says her name is Sati. She also says she’s God. Most of the book is about how Sati changes the guy’s life and the life of his closest friends. It doesn’t preach at you. It doesn’t even really settle the question of whether she is God or not. In fact it’s really religious at all. But it makes you question what you want out of life. The real question isn’t whether Sati is God or not, but how do you want to live? Do you want to be stuck in a job you can’t stand? Do you marry your long term girlfriend? What do you need to do to be happy?

As a thirteen year old girl, these seemed like huge question (they still do!). And the story really moved me. I liked the moral of how to live, to try and be happy. It was as deep a philosophy as I could understand at that age and probably one of the first times I thought about a book beyond the excitement of the story. It made me ponder the meaning of life and what I wanted to get out of it.

The book has moved with me over the years – I still have a dog-eared copy on my book shelf. Occasionally I’ll re-read it and it cheers me up. I’ve lent it to many friends over the years and they always tell me how much they love it – I’ve struggled to get in back off some of them! Still Sati is one of those books I’ve always remembered for being the first book to get me to think.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Barracks Review

The Barracks
- John McGahern

Publisher: UK – Faber Firsts

Elizabeth Regan, after years of freedom – and loneliness – marries into the enclosed Irish village of her upbringing. The children are not her own; her husband is straining against his job in the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose. Moving between tragedy and savage comedy, desperation and joy, The Barracks is a novel of haunting power.

This is a far cry from my usual type of book. It’s a modern classic. It’s a story about real life. Real life. That means boredom, routine, peoples every day thoughts and fears. And it feels real. This book doesn’t involve a kick-ass heroine, or an ordinary guy caught up in a vast conspiracy, or even a pretty 20-something, kooky-but-successful woman looking for love. So straight away it falls to the bottom of my TBR pile. However, I wanted to challenge myself and I’ve had this book on my shelves for a while. Plus it’s a mere 232 pages so I decided to squeeze it in between by usual reading fare.

However, this wasn’t a quick read. It’s not a light read at all. The main story follows the final year of Elizabeth Regan’s life and her struggle with cancer. This causes her to reflect on her life and the decisions she’s made – most especially on her relationships with those around her. I really felt for her, but growing up in a different age, I really wanted her to stand up for herself a bit more – be independent and not spend the whole time looking after everyone else. I know this is a generational thing but I couldn’t bring myself to connect with Elizabeth completely because of it - some how I feel more connected with the vampire hunting heroines I usually read about!

It is beautifully written – the descriptions of life in Ireland in the fifties really brings the whole period to life. Everything, from the routine, the sights, smells and season are invoked and I could picture Elizabeth’s world vividly. But I never really relaxed into the writing; I was aware the whole time that I was reading and not swept along into a different world.

Overall, it is a good book – I can see why it’s become a modern classic. It’s exactly the type of book your English teacher would read to the whole class and make you write essays about. However, I didn’t really get into it – it took me a long time to read such a short novel. While I can appreciate the writing and the exploration of one woman’s life, it’s not the type of book I will re-read.

Recommended for those a literary bent. Writing  - 8 out of 10. Personal enjoyment – 4 out of 10

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Halfway To The Grave Review

Halfway To the Grave (Night Huntress 1)
 - Jeaniene Frost

Publisher: UK – Gollancz

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership. In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side … and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

This is a series that has a lot of passionate fans and after reading this book I can see why. At first I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about – it seemed pretty predictable: independent kick-ass girl meets dangerous vampire, they fight, they start to fall in love, problems arise etc. Pretty formulaic so far, but about half way through I started to change mind. Bones, who seemed to be one ‘cor, blimey gov’nor’ short of a Dick Van Dyke cockney accent at first, soon stopped using these annoying phrases - or I was able to overlook them! Once I heard more about his past I really warmed to him and the way he tried to protect Cat was sweet. Cat is a prickly heroine at first – the product of a rape and a mother who thinks she is half evil - but she starts to open up to Bones and by the end I was really routing for the two of them. They had reached a true partnership of equals and I was wishing for a happy ending. In my opinion they were the only two characters that were really fleshed out – all the others, even the villains, were little more than sketched out plot devices, but it didn’t really matter. This book is the story of a relationship that rescues the people in it and the difficulties brought by their differences to each other. The ending seemed right to me and I definitely want to read the next book, One Foot In The Grave.

Recommended for Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison fans. 8 out of 10.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Blameless Review

Blameless (Parasol Protectorate 3)
- Gail Carriger

Publisher: UK – Orbit

Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season. Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all the London vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead. While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires - and they're armed with pesto.

This book arrived in the post recently from my preorder and jumped to the top of my TBR pile. Alexia Tarabotti, a half Italian in Victorian England where her foreign blood and extra-ordinary ways is more frowned upon than Vampires or werewolves. She has such a strong character it really comes to live as does the effort Gail Carriger has put into her steampunk Victorian world blended with the Supernatural – where the state of your soul has an impact on whether you will survive the change to an immortal state or not. The world seems slightly familiar but at the same time with the emphasise on manners and society so different. The world is one I would happily spend a lot of time in and I thoroughly enjoyed time here.

Having said that, it’s not a great book for new comers to start with as so much of this novel is a direct continuation of the cliff hanger at the end of Changeless. In part this book doesn’t answer all the questions raised – there are loads of loose ends hanging. This is something you expect from a lot of series now where the overriding arc is spread over a collection of books and doesn’t impact my enjoyment – although it makes me impatient for the next in the series! This novel like Souless and Changeless is a lot of fun and very readable. The pages just fly by and if you’ve read the previous books you’ll enjoy this as well.

Recommended for KE Mills fans and Terry Prachett fans. 8 out of 10

Sunday, 19 September 2010

My Book Haul/In My Mailbox

Being new to the Blogging universe and learning more each day, I recently discovered that The Story Siren hosts a weekly meme where bloggers can share what goodies they've purchased/received this week - which is pretty much what I've been doing My Book Haul posts. So I've decided to join in. If you get a chance head over to The Story Siren and check out what everyone is up to!

I've had a bit of a bumper week this week as I gave into temptation on Amazon and purchased 4 books from my wishlist - most of them sequels of continuations of books I've read recently!

Raven's Strike - Patricia Briggs (Ace Fantasy)
I read the first in the duology Raven's Shadow a little while ago (read my review here) and there were enough loose ends that I wanted to pick this up pretty much straight away.

The Mage In Black (Sabina Kane 2) - Jaye Wells (Orbit)
I enjoyed Red-Headed Stepchild, the first Sabina Kane book  with reservation and it happened to be the first book I reviewed when I relaunched this blog in August (read my review here), so I want to see how the story progresses.

The Enchantment Emporium - Tanya Huff (Daw Fantasy)
This is the only book I bought that isn't a second in the series, but it's Tanya Huff and love her Keeper trilogy and Blood Series so I'm really looking forward to reading this!

Hell Fire (Corine Solomon 2) - Ann Aguirre (Gollancz)
Another sequel, this time to Blue Diablo, a book that left me wanting to know more (reviewed here) - and now I get to find out! :)

The final book I received this week is another gift from Dr KL - a birthday present a week early but much appreciated! (Thank you!)

Tracking The Tempest (Jane True 2) - Nicole Peeler (Orbit)
I had this on my wishlist since I read the first Jane True Book, Tempest Rising. The first book was less urban fantasy and more rural fantasy with some great characters and a lead character who is a little different.

So what do you think of my haul? What do you think I should read first? Have you read anything recently? Let me know! :)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

On My Wish List #5

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I keep track!

This week I'm having a zombie theme as I'm a recent convert to sub-genre thanks to Feed :-)

The Passage - Justin Cronin
Publisher: UK - Orion (May 2011)
Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she's the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn't think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He's wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is. THE PASSAGE. Deep in the jungles of eastern Colombia, Professor Jonas Lear has finally found what he's been searching for - and wishes to God he hadn't. In Memphis, Tennessee, a six-year-old girl called Amy is left at the convent of the Sisters of Mercy and wonders why her mother has abandoned her. In a maximum security jail in Nevada, a convicted murderer called Giles Babcock has the same strange nightmare, over and over again, while he waits for a lethal injection. In a remote community in the California mountains, a young man called Peter waits for his beloved brother to return home, so he can kill him. Bound together in ways they cannot comprehend, for each of them a door is about to open into a future they could not have imagined. And a journey is about to begin. An epic journey that will take them through a world transformed by man's darkest dreams, to the very heart of what it means to be human. And beyond.

This looks like a cross between Stephen King and zombies. While it's out in hardback at the moment I think I'll wait for the paperback version. Definitely one to watch out for!

Married with Zombies - Jesse Peterson
Publisher: UK Orbit (January 2011)
Meet Sarah and David. Sarah and David are like any other couple. They met, they fell in love, but now they're on the verge of divorce. On a routine trip to the marriage counsellor, they notice a few odd things -- the lack of cars on the road, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counsellor, Dr Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat. Meet the zombies.Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But just because there are zombies, it doesn't mean your other problems go away. And if the zombies don't eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

A slightly more lighthearted look at the zombie apocalypse - looks like a lot of fun!

Dust - Joan Frances Turner
Publisher: US - Ace (November 2010)
Nine years ago, Jessie was in a car crash and died. After she was buried, she awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. Now Jessie is part of a gang. They fight, hunt and dance together as one - something humans can never understand. There are dark places humans have learned to avoid, lest they run into zombie gangs. But when a mysterious illness threatens the existence of both zombies and humans, Jessie must choose between looking away or staring down the madness - and hanging on to everything she now knows as life.

This looks like an Urban Fantasy with a zombie as the lead character - could be an interesting read.

So that's what I'm wishing for - what's on your wishlist?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books  and is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! 

This weeks question: In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, let's take time this week to honor our favorite book bloggers and why we love them!

Wow - what  big question for my first time on the blogger hop! I have a huge list of favourite blogs (just have a look at my Blog Roll Call on the right to check them out), but I guess I have to highlight one or two lesser known ones here...

My first would have to be Graeme's Fantasy Book Review because it was the first blog I ever discovered. Graeme is a lovely guy - even to someone who lurked on his blog for so long before becoming a follower! What first appealed to me was the fact that he was another British book read and I could sympathise with him for a long commute to work in the morning which gives plenty of time to read! While our tastes in books can be quite different, I have discovered some cool books through his blog. He is a self confessed zombie nut and finally after reading his zombie reviews for so long, I cracked and read a zombie book recently - Feed by Mira Grant   and I loved it! It was my first 10 out of 10 read for my blog so I admit that Graeme has been a huge influence on me. Check it out!

My next would be Kay from Dead Book Darling which first attracted me with her banner being similar to the Kelley Armstrong The Darkest Power series book covers! I love Kelley Armstrong books and knew I had to read DBD in detail. Kay's reviews are always insightful and not too long (I get bored with some of the long reviews!) and her taste in Urban Fantasy is fantastic!

I wish could mention all the other blogs I check each in more detail - Book Chick City, Floor To Ceiling Books, Literary Escapism and a hundred others but I'll keep it short and sweet for my first time! :)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Feed Review

Feed (Newsflesh 1)
- Mira Grant

Publisher: UK – Orbit

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

I am now a zombie convert! No, I’m not going to try and eat your brains or shamble around moaning softly (actually I do the shambling already, but the brains thing is definitely out!). I’ve read books about vampires, werewolves, witches, psychics, telepaths and other miscellaneous supernatural creatures for years but I’ve avoided zombies up until now. Partly because they weren’t that many on the shelves I liked the look off and partly because they didn’t interest me. The other creatures explore humanity and what it means to be human but zombies tend not to have much to say about the human condition. I will hold my hand up and say I was wrong. And if you’re not convinced than I recommend Feed by Mira Grant.

Feed isn’t really about zombies but it is set 26 years after the zombie rising became a reality and George Ramano’s horror films became survival guides. The world didn’t end. We learned to adapt. The zombies and the way world is portrayed after this disaster is superbly done. A lot of thought has gone into the world and you can see the basis for it all is based in our world today – everything from the rise of blogging (something I can now relate to!), the fear of terrorism and the giving up of freedom for safety.

It’s not just the world building that is great but also the characters - Shaun, George and Buffy are relatable and I could emphasise with them easily. Add in a political race and conspiracy and I was hooked. I didn’t want to get of the train on my way home so I could read what happened next. There are some great action scenes involving zombies as well as some thought provoking musings on the truth and family. The ending is very moving and I had gulp back tears. This is one of the best books I've read this year and I highly recommend that you give it- and zombies - a try!

Thanks to Graeme at Graeme Fantasy Book Review for pulling my name out of a hat and Orbit for sending me a copy. I can’t wait for the next in the series!
Recommended for everyone! 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

My Book Haul

This week I've bought two books and received one as a gift.

First up the purchased books -
The Vampire Diaries 6: Shadow Souls - L.J. Smith (Hodder Children's Books)
I read the original 4 Vampire Diaries as a teenager and loved them. With the latest interest in the series thanks to the Twilight craze, I re-read them all recently as well as the first of a new trilogy, Nightfall and I was sooo disappointed. I didn't rush out and buy this book because I really struggled with Nightfall and it tarred much of my fond memories of the original books. However, I came across it in a charity shop and thought I'll give LJ Smith a chance to make it up to me. Hope I'm not disappointed...

The Book of Tomorrow - Cecelia Ahern (Harper)
Cecelia is always an interesting read as she usually combines chick-lit with something a little different if not completely fantastical! Looking forward to trying this book.

This is the book I received as a gift from my lovely friend Dr KL - great friends always know which books you'll love!

Spy Glass (Opal Cowan 3) - Maria V Snyder (Mira)
This is the book I received as a gift from my lovely friend Dr KL - great friends always know which books you'll love! I loved the study series but due to my inability to start trilogies until all books have been released I've been sitting on the Opal Cowan books for the last 18 months. Now the last one has arrived - expect me to read all three soon! 

What have you bought recently? :)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

May Contain Traces of Magic Review

May Contain Traces of Magic
- Tom Holt

Publisher: UK – Orbit

There are all kinds of products. The good ones. The bad ones. The ones that stay in the garage mouldering for years until your garden gnome makes a home out of them. Most are harmless if handled properly, even if they do contain traces of peanuts. But some are not. Not the ones that contain traces of magic. Chris Popham wasn't paying enough attention when he talked to his SatNav. Sure, she gave him directions, never backtalked him, and always led him to his next spot on the map with perfect accuracy. She was the best thing in his life. So was it really his fault that he didn't start paying attention when she talked to him? In his defence, that was her job. But when 'Take the next right' turned into 'Excuse me,' that was when the real trouble started. Because sometimes a SatNav isn't a SatNav. Sometimes it's an imprisoned soul trapped inside a metal box that will do anything it can to get free. And some products you just can't return.

Tom Holt has written in the these area of comic fantasy for years and he’s one of those authors that I occasionally find myself picking up in order to read something slightly different. The last few books he’s written has combined a boring, normal job in a world where magic can happen, your boss can be a goblin and at any point you might be trapped in a repeating loop. This books follows a similar theme with the ‘hero’ Chris a salesman trying to flog rubbish magical items to real magic shops. (I use the inverted marks over hero as Tom Holt’s heroes tend to be less heroic than just lazy, useless or just plain ordinary. It’s this ordinariness that tends to make Holt’s book sparkle as anyone can relate to the boring office job with repetitive tasks. This time though something was a little lacking for me. Some of the observations were spot on, while a lot failed to hit the mark for me. What kept me reading was the intriguing stop involving continual demon attacks and how Chris was involved. However when I got to end of teh novel, a lot still failed to add up for me. The Sat Nav bit seemed interesting at first but that plot point fizzled out and didn’t really go anywhere. While the ending was sweet, the separate points didn’t make a complete picture and I felt slightly cheated that the plot was a bit incoherent. Overall, this was a different read but not one I’ll remember in a few weeks.

Recommended for fans of Terry Prachett and KE Mills – but I’d read Tom Holt’s The Portable Door first. No real relation to the characters here but it was a better book! 5 out of 10

Monday, 13 September 2010

Raven's Shadow Review

Raven’s Shadow
- Patricia Briggs

Publisher: US – Ace Fantasy

For many years the city of Colossae was a haven of magical study. As generations of wizards pushed the limits of their abilities, an evil entity was unleashed that could only be contained by the sacrifice of their city.From the ashes of Colossae, the Travelers emerged - roaming the world to ensure that the Stalker would remain imprisoned forever.
Seraph is a Raven mage and among the last of the Travelers. Unwelcome among those who fear magic, the wizard clans have been decimated by the very people they've been sworn to protect. But Seraph is spared a similar fate by the ex-soldier Tier - and together they build a life where she is no longer burdened by her people's responsibility.
But now Tier is missing - or dead - and Seraph's reprieve from her duty is over. Using her magic to discover her husband's fate, Seraph realizes the Stalker's prison is weakening - and only she can fulfill her ancestors' oath to protect humanity from destruction...

I’m a big fan of Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series which Urban Fantasy all the way (Werewolves, shape-shifting coyotes, Vampires the whole nine yards)– as well as being much fun to read. However before Mercy, Patricia wrote straight fantasy novels and this was my first trial run at her back catalogue. First off this is a much smaller page count than most fantasy books – no big 700 pages tome that can double for a door stop, but a nice light 300 pages. This makes it an ideal fantasy novel if you want to stretch your reading zone a little but you’re been afraid of some of the weightier fantasy novels out there – as an introduction to fantasy you can certainly do worse! In addition the hero and heroine weren’t young twenty-something’s’ finding their way in the world but a mature couple with a family. Add to these an easy to read style, likable characters and a slightly different magical structure based on 6 elements or birds and it is a book that can probably be described as fantasy ‘lite’ which I enjoyed thoroughly. I sped through the pages, following Seraph and Tier, learning about a threat first of all to their family and then watched as the threat widened to include the Traveller race of people and later the whole Empire. While this book has a decent ending there are still some threats hanging over our heroes and I’ve ordered the next book Raven’s Strike to find out how it ends! It may not be the best example of fantasy but it was an enjoyable journey and one I would recommend for a few fun hours

Recommended if you’re a fan of Mercy Thompson or Karen Miller’s Awakened Mage series. 8 out of 10

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Books Remembered #2: The Magic Faraway Tree

This is a new feature that reminiscing about books or even series that I read over and over again. Or even a book read once that changed the way I looked at life. It can be a book from childhood or a modern series I just can’t get enough off. It’s not a review of the book(s) but merely remembering the impact it had on me and how it’s shaped my reading habits and likes –what made that book(s) memorable. Feel free to join in with your own books remembered.

This week on Books Remembered I want to talk (or write as the case is!) about one the first fantasy books I ever read – the Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. These days Blyton has fallen out of favour for her old fashioned views and outdated treatment of women among other things. In fact, that was all pretty much true when I read these books about 22 years ago. But being seven/eight years old, I never really noticed those things. What fascinated me was this massive tree in the forest where all these strange people lived – all sorts of different people including Moon-face and Silkie the fairy and Wassisname – who no-one could remember his real name. There was the guy who was always snoring and Saucepan Man who wore saucepans. Every day a different land would come to rest at the top the tree, so when the three children who lived near the woods climbed to the top they found themselves having all sorts of fun adventures – from the Rocking land, to the land made of sweets to the school land run by a very strict headmistress. Each day would bring something different – literally a land of possibilities and they never knew what would happen. To a young child starting to use her imagination this was beautiful story telling – fantasy indeed. Even leaving the tree once you got to the top involved a slide down to the bottom again!

There were three books about the Magic Faraway Tree and their adventures and I loved them all. I would get them out from my local library as often as I could and re-read them over and over. It was a literal escape where any world you could think off could happen – at the same time the children learnt about themselves and were punished for being naughty. While it was a very black and white world – it helped shaped my imagination and has certainly impacted my reading habits since. I haven’t read these books in a long time and I don’t really want to – the idea of picking through these books with older, more cynical eyes would somehow ruin the fond memories I have of them. I prefer to remember The Magic Faraway Tree as the first books to show me that books were about more than words – they could contain whole worlds – as sometimes more than one.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

On My Wish List #4

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I keep track! This week has a wolf/hound theme...

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: UK Scholastic (October 2009)

Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Every winter, she watches him but every summer, he disappears. Sam leads two lives. In winter he stays in the frozen woods, with the protection of the pack.n summer, he has a few precious months to be human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. When Grace and Sam finally meet they realize they can't bear to be apart. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, for ever

I've heard a lot of positive buzz about this book on line and would like to give a go myself - maybe I'm just bowing to peer pressure but I want in on the 'Twilight with werewolves' craze!

Must Love Hellhounds - Anthology
Publisher: US Berkley (October 2009)
In these hound-eat-hound worlds, anything goes... and everything bites. Follow paranormal bodyguards Clovache and Batanya into Lucifer's realm, where they encounter his fearsome four-legged pets, in Charlaine Harris's The Britlingens Go to Hell. Seek out a traitor in the midst of a guild of non- lethal vampire trackers, one that intends to eradicate the entire species of bloodsuckers, in Nalini Singh's Angels' Judgment. Find out why the giant three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades has left the underworld for the real world-and whose scent he's following-in Ilona Andrews's Magic Mourns. Embark on a perilous search for the kidnapped niece of a powerful vampire alongside her blind- and damn sexy-companion and a hellhound in Meljean Brook's Blind Spot.
These four novellas by today's hottest paranormal authors will have hellhound lovers everywhere howling.

I have to admit I want this more for the Ilona Andrews short story and Charlaine Harris is always a good read. I've not read anything by Nalini Singh or Meljean Brook but anthologies like this are a good way to explore authors I've not heard off before.

Wolfsangel - M.D. Lachlan
Publisher: Gollancz (Paperback March 2011)
The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory. But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands. And so begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives.
I like a bit of historical fiction and it seems strange that no-one has combined Vikings and werewolves before (too my knowledge) - can't wait for this in paperback! Hardback is too much like weight lifting on my daily commute...
So what are you wishing for?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Midnight's Daughter Review

Midnight’s Daughter (Dorina Basarab 1)
- Karen Chance

Puiblisher: UK – Penguin

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir, the daughter of a vampire and a human woman. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs are born barking mad and live very short, very violent lives. So for five hundred years, Dory has been fighting to maintain her sanity by unleashing her homicidal tendencies on those demons and vampires who deserve killing. But now Dory’s vampire father has come back into her life. Her uncle Dracula, notorious even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped from prison, and her father wants Dory to work with the gorgeous vampire dueling champion Louis-Cesare to put him back there. Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on earth that truly scares her, and when Dory has to go up against him, she’ll take all the help she can get...

I really enjoyed Karen Chance’s other series in the same world feature Cassandra Palmer so I was a little worried about starting this series in case it didn’t match up. I’m glad to say it did! As a heroine Dory certainly fits into the strong independent woman who kicks ass and has a dark past mould easily but brings something different. She has a history as long as any vampire and certainly doesn’t seem to spend any time weeping and moaning about it. She’s driven and cares about her friends – her search for her friend, Claire, wasn’t anything that was forgotten about despite Dracula’s escape. And her relationship with Benny’s wife was actually quite sweet.

The writing is as dense as the Cassandra Palmer series – not difficult to read but circumstance change so quickly, there’s no speed reading this book – but you wouldn’t want too. This Dory book was more linear than the Cassie books with a beginning, middle and end rather than just a series of events as part of wider story. There are a few cameos and staring roles from the Cassie books but nothing that feels too out of place. Lots of action and a slight hint of romance of Louis-Cesare keeps the pace throughout and I can’t wait to pick up the next book - Death’s Mistress, which luckily for me is sitting on my book case at the moment...

Recommended for fans of Cassie Palmer and Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series. 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

My Book Haul this week

I've been restrained this week and have only purchased two books:

Blameless - Gail Carriger (Orbit) - I've read the first two in the Parasol Protectorate series already this year and loved them so I pre-ordered Blameless and it arrived in post this week - can't wait to read this - it might jump to the top of my TBR pile!

Tall, Dark and Hungry - Lynsay Sands (Gollancz) - This isn't a book I've heard a lot about but I found it reduced in one of the book stores this week - 99p for a book on vampires? How could I say no?!

So what have you picked up this week?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Lost Symbol Review

The Lost Symbol
- Dan Brown

Publisher: UK- Corgi

It was the Capitol Building, Washington DC. Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon believes he is here to give a lecture. He is wrong. Within minutes of his arrival, a shocking object is discovered. It is a gruesome invitation into an ancient world of hidden wisdom. When Langdon's mentor, Peter Solomon - prominent mason and philanthropist - is kidnapped, Langdon realizes that his only hope of saving his friend's life is to accept this mysterious summons. It is to take him on a breathless chase through Washington's dark history. All that was familiar is changed into a shadowy, mythical world in which Masonic secrets and never-before-seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth.

This was another one of my best sellers guilt trips and I wish I hadn’t bothered. I read and enjoyed Angels and Demons long before The Da Vinci Code came out – it was a great summer action book – nothing too serious. Then The Da Vinci Code came out and it was OK – if not worth the fuss and bother everyone made. There are plenty of other books combining ancient mysteries out there – and some of them are done a lot better (My favourite is James Rollins!). The Lost Symbol is Dan Brown’s follow up – featuring Langdon star of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code – but Brown has forgotten that in order to a classified as a thriller something has to happen. The first two thirds of this book involved people standing around talking and arguing. A lot. Most of the characters barely have anything to distinguish themselves from another – no personalities at all. Even the villain doesn’t really prove himself as anything more than a cut-out pantomime villain. Some of the science doesn’t really make sense – why do the experiments have to be done in a giant isolated hanger with no light...but mobile phones are OK?

Brown also seems determined not to annoy the Masons – they are portrayed as mis-understood and true American patriots (not sure how Masons in the rest of the world will react to the fact that it’s all about the US!). Not that I want them to be bad but a little more grey would be nice and add mystery to the plot. However this is a fairly dull by the numbers thriller, passable if you don’t want to think too hard on the beach but not really memorable. Recommended if you don’t want to think too much. 3 out of 10

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blue Diablo Review

Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon 1)
- Ann Aguirre

Publisher: UK – Gollancz

Right now, I'm a redhead. I've been blonde and brunette as the situation requires, though an unscheduled colour change usually means relocating in the middle of the night. So far, I'm doing well here. Nobody knows what I'm running from. And I'd like to keep it that way. Eighteen months ago, Corine Solomon crossed the border to Mexico City, fleeing her past, her lover, and her 'gift' - for Corine is a handler: she can touch something and know its history, and sometimes, its future. Using her ability, she can find the missing - and that's why people never stop trying to find her. People like her ex, Chance . . . Chance's uncanny luck has led him to her doorstep. He needs her help. Someone dear to them both has gone missing in Laredo, Texas, and the only hope of finding her is through Corine's gift. But their search is going to get dangerous as the trail leads them into a strange dark world of demons and sorcerers, ghosts and witchcraft, zombies - and the blackest of black magic.

Blue Diablo introduces Corine Solomon, her ex, Chance and a new world where there are gifted – people who can read emotions, sorcerers and mediums, and handlers. Most of this novel is set on the border between Mexico and the US – which is a new area for me. Being a Londoner I don’t know much about the border and how people live there but to me there was a certain atmosphere about the border that added to the feel of the story. The book reads more of a mystery and detective novel rather than a paranormal romance and while there was some sexual tension – both between Corine and Chance and with Corine and Jesse, a local cop who helps them out, it is not the backbone of the story. There are some interesting action scenes – especially towards the end. Overall, it adds something slightly different to the crowded Urban Fantasy genre

Corine isn’t the only one who can save the world – she’s just a regular person with a troubled past and I liked that. The world isn't even at risk - this a very personal apocalypse to the main characters. The cast of characters is varied – I really liked Chuch and Eva, who feel like a real couple and I love the way they actually help out and add to the story rather than just act as comic relief or get kidnapped. Eva especially helps out and I’d like to see more of her. (One of my pet peeves in a lot of Urban Fantasy is the feisty heroine who is tough, independent and surrounded by men – AND NEVER MEETS ANOTHER WOMAN! Come on! There are as many flavours of women out there as there are men – why just have one in a novel, even if she is the kick-ass heroine? Ok, rant over). It’s not a perfect novel – the ending feels kind of rushed and the reason for  the kidnapping doesn’t ring true to me – I’m hoping that can be explored in future books as I think Min is hiding something...but I’m just speculating!

There is still a lot to explore with Corine and Chance and I’m looking forward to finding out more about her past and future. One quibble – the UK cover has a girl in shadow with a blue tattoo – not related to the story at all (unless I missed something) – what’s with that?
Recommended for fans of Mercy Thompson and Sabina Kane. 7.5 out of 10.