Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mel's Random June 2012

June is over and 2012 is now half way over! I have to confess it's been a very busy month as I've had family visiting from overseas, a hen weekend and a week off that was full of catching up with friends. The hen weekend was a real highlight as it included a chocolate feast, a night dancing away to the cheesiest of songs and some fun at the seaside! Yep, I had a great weekend in Brighton - although brunch on the beach was a little windy!

Brighton's West Pier
I decided last month to dedicate June to Joyful reading and focussed heavily on books I wanted to read for a while - one reason why there are so many books that are part of a series. It was a lovely change to read book that I wanted to rather than on review copies. This meant I read a lot more books than normal - something to be said for happy reading! 

So how did this impact the reading situation?

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Thursday Next #6) - Jasper Fforde (TBR Reading Pile Challenge and British Book Challenge)
The Enemy - Charlie Higson (TBR Reading Pile Challenge and British Book Challenge)
Magic In The Blood (Allie Beckstrom #2) - Devon Monk
Mastiff (Beka Cooper #3) - Tamora Pierce (TBR Reading Pile Challenge)
Sins of the Demon (Kara Gillian #4) - Diana Rowland
Blood and Bullets (Deacon Chalk #1) - James R Tuck
Divergent - Veronica Roth (TBR Reading Challenge)
Bloodlines (Bloodlines #1) - Richelle Mead (TBR Reading Pile Challenge)
The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) - Richelle Mead

Closed Hearts (Mindjackers #2) - Susan Kaye Quinn
Blue Blooded Vamp (Sabina Kane #5) - Jaye Wells
The Unholy (Krewe of Hunters #5) - Heather Graham
Waiting For Midnight - Merrie Destefano
The Spirit War (Legend of Eli Monpress #4) - Rachel Aaron
That Thing At The Zoo (Deacon Chalk #0.5) - James R Tuck
Spider's Lullaby (Deacon Chalk #1.5) - James R Tuck

Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Sarah's Reviews
Rogue (Shifters #2) - Rachel Vincent
Reckoning (Strange Angels #5) - Lili St Crow

Regular Posts
Same Book/Different Cover looked at Storm Front by Jim Butcher

In addition there were the usual wishlist posts, in my mailbox and Throwback Thursdays.

So updating the challenges -
British Books Challenge - 17 Read

2012 TBR Reading Pile Challenge - 25 Read, 5

Best of the Bunch: Lots of great reading this month but my favourite was The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron!

Honourable Mentions: The Enemy, Sins of the Demons and Blue Blooded Vamp were all fantastic reads as well!

Bookish News!

In addition to all my personal news I also wanted to share a couple of Bookish News bits I spotted around the web.

Transworld Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Transworld, (one of my favourite publishers for non-genre books!) is running a summer challenge to read and review a wide variety of historical fictions! Just pick the four book you want to read and they'll send you your first pick. Once you read it and publish your review, they'll send you the next book! Interested? Find more details here!

Become a Character In A Book!
Dakota Banks is running a fantastic competition where you can name a character in the next Mortal Path book! How cool would that be? You can put your own name in and star in the story yourself! I've already entered but if you are interested have a look here...

15 Years of Harry Potter!
It's been 15 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published! For some reason I was sure it had been longer as Harry and his friends are such an important part of popular culture these days - even for us muggles! To celebrate Bloomsbury have launched a competition to find the UK's biggest Potter fan (sorry international peeps!). The prize is a family holiday to teh Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida AND a leather bound, signed, dedicated and numbered 15th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone!
What do you have to do?  
Bloomsbury is inviting fans to write a letter of no more than 50 words explaining why they love HARRY POTTER. We are looking for the most creative, clever and entertaining reasons and, while the word limit is set to a strict 50 words, entrants are encouraged to draw, doodle and make their letters as elaborate as possible.
HARRY POTTER fans canonly enter by visiting a local bookshop or library and posting their letter in the specially designed postboxes. Over 1800 bookshops and libraries have already signed up to take part. The competition will run from Tuesday 26th June to Tuesday 31st July 2012 after which we will name the UK and Ireland’s biggest HARRY POTTER fan. The winner and runners up will be announced on Saturday 1st September.
The competition is an ideal opportunity for fans to show how much they love HARRY POTTER as well as supporting their local bookshop or library. Details of how to enter and a list of participating bookshops and libraries can be found on the website:
So that's it for my month - how was yours?

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)

-       Richelle Mead

Publisher: RazorBill

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

I honestly can’t tell you how comfortable it is to fall back into Richelle Mead’s Moroi world – it’s like collapsing into a soft armchair at the end of a long day and putting your feet up. This time we follow alchemist, Sydney as she continues to protect humans from the knowledge of vampires while hiding Jill from those who would use her against Lissa, the Moroi queen.

Sydney isn’t a physical heroine like Rose – she can’t fight, but she does use her brain and knowledge a lot. She even starts taking some self defence lessons here so she won’t be as vulnerable and always waiting to let someone rescue her. I like that element of her character. Kick-ass heroines are always a lot of fun – but a brainy heroine who loves learning? That’s someone I can relate to! She is fairly clueless in the social arena and it was fun to follow her on dates and complete miss some social clues. Adrian as well appears to have finally started growing up. There is some heartbreaking insight into his family life – and it was good to see Adrian finally taking control of his own destiny at last. I loved seeing Dimitri away from Rose and from another perspective as well!

Again, I found this a rather slow burn – always appealing, but slow with some exciting action towards the end. There was some great relationship development and the last page had me feeling so much for our characters – I wanted to give them a big hug! Sydney continues to struggle to reconcile her alchemist upbringing insisting that all vampires are unnatural with her developing friendships with the Moroi and dhampires and I really want to see how this develops over further books.

Richelle Mead’s biggest strength is the ease at which it is to keep turning pages and how absorbing the world is – I want these books to be longer, despite being over 400 pages each. It’s going to be a long wait for the third book in this series.

Recommended for fans of Jennifer Estep and Lili St-Crow. 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Spider's Lullaby (Deacon Chalk #1.5) Review

Spider’s Lullaby (Deacon Chalk #1.5)
- James R Tuck

Kindle Book – received courtesy of the author (Out now!)

He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities take out any kind of unnatural threat. But between this bad-ass bounty hunter and rescuing the most helpless of victims stands the one evil he can't defeat...
For Deacon Chalk, loyalty is worth dying for. And now that something has taken were-spider Charlotte's un-hatched children and one of his closest friends, he'll tear up the human and supernatural underworlds to find them. But with his allies stripped away by an invincible Yakuza hit man and time running out, Deacon must face down the most ancient of demonic entities. And his last hope means surrendering to the inner darkness waiting hungrily to consume him...

I have to admit I think I have a slight crush on the imposing, tattooed monster hunter Deacon Chalk. He is fiercely protective of his friends and innocents, scarily intimidating and yet he’s a good catholic and prepared for anything. After a night out with Deacon discover that his were-spider friend, Charlotte’s egg-sack has been stolen. Even worse, it is due to hatch soon and when it does without Charlotte around, the baby spiders will kill and devour all around them. They have until dawn to find out who took the egg-sack and why…

Once again Deacon Chalk is confident and strong in his actions and leading others. As the story is told from his point of view we get to see little chinks in his armour with regard to what happened with his family and his guilt over their deaths. There is also some subtle acknowledgement of his relationship with Tiffany but this short story is less about emotion and more about a quick mission between books. It’s still extremely absorbing – even more than the previous novella as I feel I know Deacon better now. The writing is smooth and tasty – in fact this novella is like a tasty cinnamon bun – full of flavour, texture and smells delicious! I can’t wait to read Blood and Silver, the second full length Deacon book!

Recommended for fans of Jim Butcher and Kate Griffin. 8.5 out of 10

Throwback Thursday #55 - Dead Witch Walking

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while and I wanted to jump on board! There are plenty of books out there I desperately want...

But what about all those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves?
Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison
All the creatures of the night gather in "the Hollows" of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party...and to feed.
Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining - and it's Rachel Morgan's job to keep that world civilized.
A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she'll bring 'em back alive, dead...or undead.
A quick glance around this blog should tell even the newest of visitors that I love my Urban Fantasy series, but the Hollows series is one I've never gotten around to reading. I think the series is up to nine (or is it ten?) books now so if I do like the series I'll have a lot of reading to catch up?
Any fans out there?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bloodlines Review

Bloodlines (Bloodlines #1)

-       Richelle Mead
Publisher: RazorBill
Sydney protects vampire secrets - and human lives.
Sydney belongs to a secret group who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the world of humans and vampires. But when Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, she fears she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. What unfolds is far worse. The sister of Moroi queen Lissa Dragomir is in mortal danger, and goes into hiding. Now Sydney must act as her protector. The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one...
From the first page I was reminded how much I enjoyed Richelle Mead’s writing and the Moroi world she created with the Vampire Academy series. Sydney isn’t a vampire – she’s an alchemist, raised to believe all vampires and magic are unnatural and evil and that her duty is to protect the human world from both Moroi and Strigoi alike. When she is awakened in the middle of the night for a new duty to help protect the Moroi Princess Jill as she hides among humans, Sydney is torn between her upbringing and her growing respect for the Moroi and dhampir she now has to live with.
Most of the main characters here are ones we have run into before in the Vampire Academy series – Sydney, Adrian, Jill, Eddie and it is great to see such supporting characters getting more the spotlight. Adrian in particular is given much more time and development. I loved the relationship he and Sydney share considering their polar opposite viewpoints. Sydney is all about duty and responsibilities while Adrian is about instant gratification. They both rub off slightly on each other and I’m excited to see how this develops over the series. I really liked that even Adrian’s friends don’t hold a lot of expectation from him, while Sydney wants him to accept some responsibility.
I loved the characters and the different viewpoint – Sydney is a great heroine who has a similar need to protect as Rose had, but her focus is all on humans rather than Lissa. I liked her dislike of magic and how she sees the vampire world from the outside. However, I did feel there were a couple of issues with the story – the tattoo storyline was very obvious from early on and I can’t believe it took Sydney so long to figure it out. The whole books also had a large element of setting the scene and background rather than a fully coherent story on its own. Not necessarily a bad thing – the first Vampire Academy book was the same! I am excited about this series though and what Adrian, Sydney, Jill and the others will face in coming volumes! This was a great introduction to the world – readable even if you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series, but I would recommend reading them as well – just because they are well worth a read!
Recommended for fans Jeri Smith-Ready and Kelley Armstrong. 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Guest Review: Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)
- Lili Saint-Crow

Publisher: Razor Bill 

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She's battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha - rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires - the worst is yet to come.
Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she's ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?

Any of Mel’s regular readers will know that I love Lili St Crow’s Strange Angel books, and I was devastated to learn that Reckoning is the last in the series, Ok, so we’re not talking Booker Prize winners here, but they are just so damn readable! Look up ‘unputdownable’ in the dictionary and there’ll be a picture of these books. Honestly, I not only walked whilst reading Reckoning, I even DROVE whilst reading it (ok, ok, I was in a very slow moving queue, but still!) I didn’t want the series to end, but end it has, and in style.

Strange Angels stars Dru, an uber-vampire slaying svetocha, and her protectors/friends/lovers(?) dangerously beautiful djamphir Christophe, and Asian geek loup-garou Graves. They, and a host of side characters so likeable that I want them to be my friends (sorry Mel!) <Mel: Humph!>  must battle not only the vampires and their ancient, evil and ruthless leader Sergej, but also the hex-flinging Maharaj who can’t decide where their loyalties lie.

Dru may now have fully come into her powers, but she is most definitely still mortal, and most definitely still a teenager in a love triangle. Throughout this series you have not known which way she will turn, and when she does decide I can guarantee that at least half of all readers will go ‘Noooooooo!!!’. St Crow made her choice truly difficult, and you feel for Dru at every turn.

The action is fast-paced, descriptive and very real, and to my delight, unlike the previous couple of books politics takes a definite back seat. Give me swords, blood and rolling heads over governmental double-deals any day!

All in all a superb series ending in a superb way. If you love YA/fantasy/action/romance then read these books, you won’t be disappointed. One for fans of Richelle Mead, 9 out of 10.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Divergent Review

-       Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger.

This book has had a lot of hype in the blogosphere – first when it was originally released last year and more recently with the release of the second book in the series, Insurgent. And...I think I got pulled into the hype. While I liked it, I didn’t love it.

Tris has to make the choice of which of the five factions she wants to live in. After growing up in Abnegation, the selfless one, she finally chooses Dauntless the brave and starts her initiation training. The training was interesting and liked the hints at the differences between learning to face fear and bullying – it’s a subtle but important difference. The emotional journey as Tris comes to terms with who she is and what she wants from life was intriguing and I loved the way she bonded and competed with her fellow initiates. There is a romance which I confess I didn’t really buy into as it happened a little too quickly – the initiation was only a month long!

Then about 70 pages from the end the tale of self-discovery suddenly changes entirely into a full revolution action adventure. I don’t want to give too much away but the final part of the book is a full on adrenaline rush which rushes about at break-neck speed. While I liked the pace and could tell that something big was building, it still felt like a very sudden change from the book style up to then – I nearly got whiplash!

Overall, this was a nice, diverting read but I didn’t really fall for Tris, Four and the others as much some people have. I will read Insurgent but I think I will try to borrow it off Sarah rather owning a copy! I might have liked it more if I didn’t know much about it before hand though...

Recommended for fans of Veronica Rossi and Suzanne Collins. 7 out of 10.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

My Book Haul/Showcase Sundays

I've decided to join Books, Biscuits and Tea's Showcase Sunday to share my lovely book hauls each week. Have a look back at Vicki's link up to see what everyone is up too!

This week I visit a couple of secondhand book stores and had some great bargain finds!
Shakespeare's Champion - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Christmas - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Trollop - Charlaine Harris
Shakespeare's Counselor - Charlaine Harris

I already have the first book, Shakespeare's Landlord and now I have the whole series for the bargain price of £5!

Cold Magic - Kate Elliott
Publisher: Orbit
Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised, unaware, on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world.
Cat and her cousin Bee are part of this revolution. Young women at college, learning of the science that will shape their future and ignorant of the magics that rule their families. But all of that will change when the Cold Mages come for Cat. New dangers lurk around every corner and hidden threats menace her every move. If blood can't be trusted, who can you trust?

This looks like a interesting combination of steampunk and fantasy - and again a bargain at only £2!

Green Rider - Kristin Britain
Publisher: Gollancz
On her long journey home from school after a fight which will surely lead to her expulsion, Karigan G'ladheon ponders her future as she trudges through the immense forest called Green Cloak. But her thoughts are interrupted by the clattering of hooves as a galloping horse bursts from the woods, the rider slumped over his mount's neck, impaled by two black-shafted arrows. As the young man lies dying on the road, he tells Karigan that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary messengers of the king, and that he bears a "life and death" message for King Zachary. He begs Karigan to carry his message, warning her not to read it, and when she reluctantly agrees, he makes her swear on his sword to complete his mission "for love of country." As he bestows upon her the golden winged-horse brooch which is the symbol of his office, he whispers on his dying breath, "Beware the shadow man..."
     Karigan's promise changes her life forever. Pursued by unknown assassins, following a path only her horse seems to know, and accompanied by the silent specter of the original messenger, she herself becomes a legendary Green Rider. Caught up in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination

I've been thinking about buying this book for ages and when I saw reduced I couldn't resist!

Snuff - Terry Prachett
Publisher: DoubleDay
According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.
And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.
He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.
They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.
But not quite all...

Terry Prachett is just a constant - a british comic fantasy writer with a sharp eye for cutting through anything and making it funny! This has just come out in paperback so I had to spring for a brand new copy!

Slated - Teri Terry
Publisher: Orchard Books
Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.
She’s been Slated.
The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

This just sounds so cool so I had to treat myself! :-)

What did you pick up this week?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

On My Wishlist #92

This is a meme from Cosy Books. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I can keep track! This week I'm lusting after some books with cool shifters in them...
 Full Blooded - Amanda Carson
Publisher: Orbit (September 2012)
Born the only female in an all male race, Jessica McClain isn’t just different—she’s feared.
After living under the radar for the last twenty-six years, Jessica is thrust unexpectedly into her first change, a full ten years late. She wakes up and finds she’s in the middle of a storm. Now that she’s become the only female full-blooded werewolf in town, the supernatural world is already clamoring to take a bite out of her and her new Pack must rise up and protect her
I do like my werewolves and this sounds like a neat twist on the usual male dominated creatures. Plus Melissa from My World in Words and Pages had a great review of the prequel novella!
Darklands (Deadtown #4) - Nancy Holzner
Publisher: Ace Fantasy (July 2012)
They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its border—but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…
Boston’s demons have been disappearing, and Vicky’s clients are canceling left and right. While fewer demons might seem like a good thing, Vicky suspects foul play. A missing Celtic cauldron from Harvard’s Peabody museum leads her to an unwelcome conclusion: Pryce, her demi-demon cousin and bitter enemy, is trying to regain his full powers.  But Pryce isn’t alone. He’s conjured another, darker villain from Vicky’s past. To stop them from destroying everything she loves, she’ll have to face her own worst fear—in the realm of the dead itself.
Deadtown is one of my favourite series and I can't wait for the fourth book to come out!!
Kitty Steals The Show (Kitty Norville #10) - Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Gollancz (August)
Kitty has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. The conference brings together scientists, activists, protestors, and supernatural beings from all over the world—and Kitty, Ben, and Cormac are right in the middle of it.
Master vampires from dozens of cities have also gathered in London for a conference of their own. With the help of the Master of London, Kitty gets more of a glimpse into the Long Game—a power struggle among vampires that has been going on for centuries—than she ever has before. In her search for answers, Kitty has the help of some old allies, and meets some new ones, such as Caleb, the alpha werewolf of the British Isles. The conference has also attracted some old enemies, who’ve set their sights on her and her friends.
All the world’s a stage, and Kitty’s just stepped into the spotlight.

Kitty's coming to London!! I love this series - while the quality does vary by book, on the whole I like Kitty and her friends and can't wait to see what they get up to in my home town!

What are you wishing for this week?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Blood and Bullets Review

Blood and Bullets (Deacon Chalk #1)
 - James R. Tuck

Publisher: Kensington

He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities help him take out any kind of supernatural threat. But now an immortal evil has this bad-ass bounty hunter dead in its sights. . .
Ever since a monster murdered his family, Deacon Chalk hunts any creature that preys on the innocent. So when a pretty vampire girl "hires" him to eliminate a fellow slayer, Deacon goes to warn him--and barely escapes a vampire ambush. Now he's got a way-inexperienced newbie hunter to protect and everything from bloodsuckers to cursed immortals on his trail. There's also a malevolent force controlling the living and the undead, hellbent on turning Deacon's greatest loss into the one weapon that could destroy him...

This is a complete anecdote for all those fed up of Urban Fantasy love triangles and unsure heroines. Deacon Chalk is big, determined and scary as hell – he’s as alpha as you can get without growing fur and howling at the moon. His family were attacked and killed monsters five years ago and ever since Deacon has hunted down evil and destroyed it. He has his team – all with their own reasons to fight the good fight but they mostly provide support while Deacon faces these monsters on his own. This is bloody, gory and violent – and I loved every minute of it. This is more Blade than Buffy with the good guy just as scary as the bad ones, but he has a heart and is a good catholic (even down to no meat on a Friday). The cracks into his head and thoughts are intriguing and add some real depth to what could easily be a Terminator style character.

Deacon gets things done – from start to finish this novel takes place over two nights and throughout that time Deacon never stops. He powers through. The fighting is quick, intense and very exciting, while the characters interactions are a lot of fun. Yes, Deacon has a mouth on him, but he does listen to others and the way his relationship with Larson and Tiffany changes is actually nice to watch. The writing is just like Deacon – at first glance stark and intense but with hidden depth and a promise of more to come. Reading it, I found myself completely swept up and on the edge of my seat as I wanted to know what happens next.

This is real urban fantasy with testosterone and a slight noir seasoning. The world is pretty dark with vampires the big bad, and some intriguing were-animals introduced. There is a paragraph near the beginning that is hilarious in-joke if you like vampire books and may throw you a little but overall this opts for action over comedy. If you like the new Bond films then this is a great introduction to Urban Fantasy and I for one will be looking forward to the release of Blood and Silver this summer! This is like an action film that delivers exactly what it promises on the cover – dark fun!

Recommended for fans of Harry Dresden and Rob Thurman. 8.5 out of 10

Thursday, 21 June 2012

That Thing At The Zoo Review

That Thing At The Zoo (Deacon Chalk #0.5)
-       James R. Tuck

Kindle Book
Shredding monsters is his stock and trade. He sniffs them out, tracks them down, and corners them. End of story. But when the tables are turned, expect the unexpected. Knowing his enemy is a rule Deacon Chalk swears by. But he's never seen anything like whatever is leaving the Atlanta Zoo's most dangerous predators bloodless, skinned, and hanging high in the treetops. And he's only got until sunrise to keep it from turning the entire city into a slaughterhouse. Now Deacon is in zoo lockdown with a handful of staffers to save. His zookeeper backup has more guts than monster-hunting experience. And the only chance Deacon has to run this thing to holy ground is to unleash his darkest, most uncontrollable instincts

This is an enormously fast-paced, frantic, fun and entertaining read. Deacon Chalk is one hard-assed monster slayer. His family were killed by monsters five years ago and ever since he has dedicated his life to fighting the things in the dark that threaten humanity. When something starts skinning creatures at the zoo, Deacon Chalk is called in to figure out what did it and solve the issue.

Deacon is like Buffy but without the soul searching. He knows who he is and what he does. He fights hard and fast, but he thinks as well. He knows preparation is half the battle so he prepares and has a team that supports him. And once he goes in, he goes in strong and determined. While short, That Thing At The Zoo is a great appetiser for what promises to be a good anecdote to all those with Urban Fantasy fatigue. A hard hero with a trouble past, plenty of action and fantastic writing makes this a great introduction to a new series. In fact I picked up Blood and Bullets, the full length novel as soon as I finished this novella!

Recommended for fans of Jim Butcher and Faith Hunter. 7.5 out of 10

Throwback Thursdays #54 - Immortal Beloved

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while and I wanted to jump on board! There are plenty of books out there I desperately want...

But what about all those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves?
Immortal Beloved - Cait Tiernan
Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiledrealizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

I do like my vampires so most books with a vampire in them always catch my attention! I picked this up about a year ago and despite some positive reviews, I haven't read it. Any vampire lovers out there able to persuade me to read it...? :-)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Sins of the Demon Review

Sins of the Demon (Kara Gillian 4)
-       Diana Rowland

Publisher: Daw Fantasy
The homicide beat in Louisiana isn't just terrifying, it's demonic. Detective Kara Gilligan of the supernatural task force has the ability to summon demons to her aid, but she herself is pledged to serve a demonic lord. And now, people who've hurt Kara in the past are dropping dead for no apparent reason. To clear her name and save both the demon and human worlds, she's in a race against the clock and in a battle for her life that just may take her to hell and back

My first thought on finishing this book was ‘Oh, my god – it can’t end there! When’s the next book out?’ (yep, there is a cliff-hanger ending!) and my second thought was, ‘Why aren’t there more people raving about this series?’ Seriously, this is good Urban Fantasy with a likeable heroine who isn’t all powerful, but curious and has a unique ability. There are some yummy romantic leads as well as a strong mystery, detective element with each book. Added to which Kara is building a fun family of friends around her – everyone from her best friend Jill to her Aunt’s boyfriend, Carl to her demon roommate, Eilahn are great characters willing to work together and protect Kara. Why don’t I see more reviews of this series around? Well, the rest of the blogging community is missing out!

In this latest instalment Kara is still struggling with what she learnt in Secrets of the Demon when people she had a reason to hate start dropping dead around town. Is someone trying to ‘help’ her or frame her? Needless to say, I really enjoyed this story! Kara is feisty but has a wonderful group of people around her and I just adored the banter between them all – from Ryan attempting to get Kara to watch geek shows (which I think was Firefly!) to Jill’s light name calling all felt like real friendships and just made me relate to Kara more – even if I can’t summon demons from a nearby world!  

There are some exciting demon attack scenes and some tense scenes at Kara’s home when the police arrive to search her place – I love that Kara doesn’t have any magical abilities outside of her summoning circle – it means she can be shot, attacked and injured like anyone else. And the way in which Diana Rowland has created a unique demon race is fascinating. Honestly, this is one of my favourite UF series, an automatic must buy and I really want to find out what happens next when the last few pages change everything!

Recommended for fans of Patricia Briggs and Jim Butcher. 9 out of 10

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Same Book/Different Cover - Storm Front

This is an occasional feature where I compare different covers of the same book...while usually I compare foreign edition, this particular book has be re-published so many times if I included all the copies we could be here all night! So what's the book this month?
This month I'm looking at the first book in one of the most consistently brilliant Urban Fantasy series out there - Storm Front: Book 1 in the Dresden Files. I adore this series as after a couple of  setting  the scene books it explodes into some of the best quality UF out there!
So enough gushing about the books, what do the covers look like?

US Cover
UK Original Cover

French Cover

Spanish Cover
Greek Cover

Limited Edition Cover

US Cover: This is ok, but a little bland. The storm in the background is cool  and Harry does look like he is described in the books, but I'm not really feeling it.

UK Original Cover: (Recent covers have followed the same as the US covers) This is the copy I owned and I actually like the old fashioned file style cover. It's very film noir and the blood splatter tell you that it will not be a normal book. Plus I like the tag line.

French Cover: The Polaroid of the storm over the city is beautiful and I like the detail of the photo mixed with the paperclips and magical symbols in the background.

Spanish Cover: Is Harry balding in this cover...? This reminds me of a dirty cop film somehow - very boring.

Greek Cover: Again this is how Harry is described but the brown over tones and not seeing Harry's face doesn't do it for me.

Limited Edition Cover: I have to admit this is beautiful - loads of colour, the storm, the giant scorpion and magical symbols. I do like it but it feels more graphic novel or film than book cover.

My favourite? I like the French cover best!

What do you prefer? :)

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Spirit War Review

The Spirit War (Legend of Eli Monpress #4)
-       Rachel Aaron

Publisher: Orbit (Kindle only in UK until November)
Eli Monpress is vain. He's cocky. And he's a thief.
All Eli Monpress wanted was the biggest bounty in the world. He never meant to have obligations, or friends, but master swordsman Josef Leichten and Nico, the daughter of the dead mountain, have saved Eli's life too many times to be called anything else. But, when a friend upsets your plans and ruins all your hard work, what's a thief to do
What started as a simple side trip to help a friend is rapidly turning into the most dangerous job of Eli's career, but he can't back out now, not when Josef needs him. But when you're under attack from all sides, even the world's greatest thief can find himself cornered, and it's going to take all the fast talking Eli can muster to survive the next few days

Eli is back! After what feels like a far too long a break, Eli, Josef and Nico are back, but before they can think up a new heist Josef’s bounty is raised – to more than Eli’s! Eli won’t let this stand but first they have to return to Josef’s home in order to confront his past. Meanwhile Miranda is learning some deep secrets at Shaper Mountain, and somewhere across the seas the Immortal Empress is stirring...

I have to admit I’ve missed Eli and friends. I really enjoyed the slow way in which each of their pasts and motivations has been revealed over the course of this series – answering questions but also raising more. This time Josef is the focus as we discover why he wants to become the world’s greatest swordsman and what drove to leave behind his family – and has called him home again. The Shepherdess is also more prominent as we learn a lot more about her and how the spirit world works. While Eli is as charming as usual there isn’t as much as before for him to put his charm to good use, as this time he and his friends are not skulking in the shadows but have themselves embroiled in politics at a global scale. Some of the light-heartedness has gone in exchange for full on war with the stakes much higher than ever before.

The writing is involving and drags you along – I really couldn’t stop reading at times. I loved the action and the story. I loved Miranda’s principals even as I rallied against them. I finally felt she caught up with the rest of us here as to what was going on with Eli and the spirit world. Plus Gin was a great protector as ever.

This is very fast moving with many more characters than ever before – which really rounds out the world. Even the bad guys are given time to explore their motivations. There are a lot of shades of grey – which if your hero is the greatest thief in the world is expected! A truly exciting read, with so many elements adding to a breath-taking finale. And my, what an ending! Yes, it’s a cliff-hanger! I want to read Spirit’s End now! But I have to wait to until November...*sob*

This is fantasy with a intriguing magic system, compelling characters, fast action and an element of fun. Just what I love!

Recommended for fans of Michael J Sullivan and Kristin Cashore. 9 out of 10.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

My Book Haul/Showcase Sundays

I've decided to join Books, Biscuits and Tea's Showcase Sunday to share my lovely book hauls each week. Have a look back at Vicki's link up to see what everyone is up too! I actually had some time off this week so I might have gone a little mad with the shopping! Still book buying is a better obssession than many others...

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Vintage Books
 The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

This looks like an interesting story and I've heard a lot of wonderful reviews so I was very pleased to win a copy from Donna and Jess at Book Passion For Life!

Tranquility's Blaze - Krista D. Ball
Publisher: Mundanian Press
“What will I do? What I do best. I’ll find him and I’ll kill him. And then I’ll kill Garran’s murderer.”
Even if the killer is my sister.
A half-breed and a female, Lady Bethany clawed her way to the ranks of the Elven Service’s top military elite. They only knew her as their champion against Magic, and not the daughter of a Goddess. She’d expected a long, rewarding life protecting those under her care. But that was before her twin sister returned from exile, addicted to brutal Magic and human sacrifice, twisted inside, and abusing ancient prophecies to overthrow their mother and destroy everything Bethany holds sacred.
The world will burn in flames and innocents will die, unless Bethany can stop it. Unless she can take the life of her own sister.

I won this from the lovely Melissa at My words and pages  - I have been on a bit of a fantasy kick recently so this will fit in perfectly!

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines 2) - Richelle Mead
Publisher: RazorBill
Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students--children of the wealthy and powerful--carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.

I got this for review. I was a huge fan of Vampire Academy series and I have Bloodlines in my TBR pile so I have a little while to go to catch up - but that won't be a hardship! :-)

Blackout (Newsflesh 3) - Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Rise up while you can. -Georgia Mason
The year was 2014. The year we cured cancer. The year we cured the common cold. And the year the dead started to walk. The year of the Rising.
The year was 2039. The world didn't end when the zombies came, it just got worse. Georgia and Shaun Mason set out on the biggest story of their generation. The uncovered the biggest conspiracy since the Rising and realized that to tell the truth, sacrifices have to be made.
Now, the year is 2041, and the investigation that began with the election of President Ryman is much bigger than anyone had assumed. With too much left to do and not much time left to do it in, the surviving staff of After the End Times must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies-and if there's one thing they know is true in post-zombie America, it's this:
Things can always get worse.

Feed was one of my favourite reads of 2010 and I had to pre-order Deadline and Blackout as soon as possible! Sadly I haven't had a chance to read Deadline yet - and now Blackout is out so at least I won't have a long wait between books! :-)

Shadow Bound (Unbound 2) - Rachel Vincent
Publisher: MIRA
Kori Daniels is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she's ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if it means taking it from someone else....
The job? Recruit Ian Holt-or kill him.
Ian's ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he's on a mission of his own. Ian has come to kill Tower's top Binder: Kori's little sister.  Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they'll have to choose between love and liberty.

Rachel Vincent is one of those authors I must buy - even if I haven't started the series yet!

The Dead (The Enemy 2) - Charlie Higson
Publisher: Puffin
A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets.Nowhere is safe. Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren't the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them.Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids, nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he's immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won't all survive...

After loving The Enemy I was lucky enough to swap one my books for The Dead on ReaditSwapit! I think this might be a read for the All Male Genre Review in July!

A Quick Bite - Lynsey Sands
Publisher: Avon
Lissianna has been spending her centuries pining for Mr. Right, not just a quick snack, and this sexy guy she finds in her bed looks like he might be a candidate. But there's another, more pressing issue: her tendency to faint at the sight of blood . . . an especially annoying quirk for a vampire. Of course it doesn't hurt that this man has a delicious-looking neck. What kind of cold-blooded vampire woman could resist a bite of that?
Dr. Gregory Hewitt recovers from the shock of waking up in a stranger's bedroom pretty quickly—once he sees a gorgeous woman about to treat him to a wild night of passion. But is it possible for the good doctor to find true love with a vampire vixen, or will he be just a good meal? That's a question Dr. Greg might be willing to sink his teeth into . . . if he can just get Lissianna to bite.

I haven't read any Lynsay Sands books but I seem to be collecting them!

The Court Of The Air - Stephen Hunt
Publisher: HarperVoyager

When streetwise Molly Templar witnesses a brutal murder at the brothel she has recently been apprenticed to, her first instinct is to run back to the poorhouse where she grew up. But there she finds her fellow orphans butchered, and it slowly dawns on her that she was the real target of the attack. For Molly is a special little girl, and she carries a secret that marks her out for destruction by enemies of the state.
Oliver Brooks has led a sheltered existence in the backwater home of his merchant uncle. But when he is framed for his only relative's murder he is forced to flee for his life, accompanied by an agent of the mysterious Court of the Air. Chased across the country, Oliver finds himself in the company of thieves, outlaws and spies, and gradually learns more about the secret that has blighted his life.
Soon Molly and Oliver will find themselves battling a grave threat to civilization, an ancient power thought to have been quelled millennia ago. Their enemies are ruthless and myriad, but the two orphans are also aided by indomitable friends in this endlessly inventive tale full of drama, intrigue, and adventure.

This is another swap as I thought sounded interesting and a little different! Has anyone read it?

77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz
Publisher: Random House
The Pendleton stands on the summit of Shadow Hill at the highest point of an old heartland city, a Gilded Age palace built in the late 1800s as a tycoon’s dream home. Almost from the beginning, its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder, and whispers of things far worse. But since its rechristening in the 1970s as a luxury apartment building, the Pendleton has been at peace. For its fortunate residents—among them a successful songwriter and her young son, a disgraced ex-senator, a widowed attorney, and a driven money manager—the Pendleton’s magnificent quarters are a sanctuary, its dark past all but forgotten.
But now inexplicable shadows caper across walls, security cameras relay impossible images, phantom voices mutter in strange tongues, not-quite-human figures lurk in the basement, elevators plunge into unknown depths. With each passing hour, a terrifying certainty grows: Whatever drove the Pendleton’s past occupants to their unspeakable fates is at work again. Soon, all those within its boundaries will be engulfed by a dark tide from which few have escaped.

Dean Koontz is one of my favourite authors - I always enjoy the ride and it's often a nice break from my usual reads!

Secondhand Spirits - Juliet Blackwell
Publisher: Signet
 Lily Ivory is not your average witch. Her spell-casting powers tend to draw mischievous spirits while keeping normal humans at a distance. But now her vintage clothing store could give her a chance to make friends in San Francisco....
Lily hopes for a normal life when she opens Aunt Cora's Closet. With her magical knack for vintage fashion -she can sense vibrations of the past from clothing and jewelry—her store becomes a big hit. But when a client is murdered and children start disappearing from the Bay Area, Lily may be the only one who can unravel the crime. She tries to keep her identity a secret while investigating, but it's not easy—especially under the spells of sexy "mythbuster" Max Carmichael and powerful witch Aidan Rhodes. Will Lily's witchy ways be forced out of the closet?

This was another swap, but it's been a book I wanted for ages! It's looks so cute! :-)

The Gathering Dark - Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

I've heard a lot about this book recently and have definitely been feeling the fantasy vibe so I couldn't resist picking this up when I saw it!

What did you pick up this week?