Sunday, 31 March 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sunday

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

Happy Easter!! Hope you are all having a lovely day!
I had an ok reading week, not great, but they were big books this week! I finished Fragments by Dan Wells - dystopian sequel which answers some question and raises more - and The Revenge of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron - a rip-roaring fun fantasy that turns epic!

Last weekend I discovered a monthly charity book sale in my local shopping centre. New Books for £1 and second hand books for 10p...I was very good and only picked up two books though! I suspect I will be a regular visitor at the sales though...

For Review

Like This, For Ever - S.J. Bolton
Publisher: Bantam
Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved ... And no chance that she can stay away.

I picked this up on Netgalley - many thanks to Transworld for this! I'm looking forward another crime filled, haunting story from SJ Bolton.


The Death Instinct - Jed Rubenfeld
Publisher: Headline
Under a clear blue September sky, America's financial center in lower Manhattan became the site of the largest, deadliest terrorist attack in the nation's history. It was September 16, 1920. Four hundred people were killed or injured. War veteran Dr. Stratham Younger and his friend Captain James Littlemore of the New York Police Department are caught on Wall Street on the fateful day of the blast. With them is the beautiful Colette Rousseau, a French radiochemist whom Younger meets while fighting in the world war. A series of inexplicable attacks on Rousseau, a secret buried in her past, and a mysterious trail of evidence lead Young, Littlemore, and Rousseau on a thrilling international and psychological journey-from Paris to Prague, from the Vienna home of Dr. Sigmund Freud to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., and ultimately to the hidden depths of our most savage instincts. As the seemingly disjointed pieces of what Younger and Littlemore learn come together, the two uncover the shocking truth behind the bombing.

I read a previous book by Jed Rubenfeld and enjoyed it so when I saw this in the second hand book sale, who was I to say no...?

Touch of Power - Maria V Synder
Publisher: MIRA
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.
Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...

I've already read this book and loved it (read my review here) but I only have a copy on kindle and when I spotted this in the book sale I had to pick it up! Does anyone else also buy paper copies if they like the ebook...?

With All My Soul (Soul Screamers #7) - Rachel Vincent
Publisher: MIRA Ink
What does it mean when your school is voted the most dangerous in America? It's time to kick some hellion butt...
After not really surviving her junior year (does "undead" count as survival?), Kaylee Cavanaugh has vowed to take back her school from the hellions causing all the trouble. She's going to find a way to turn the incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another in order to protect her friends and finish this war, once and forever. But then she meets Wrath and understands that she's closer to the edge than she's ever been. And when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realizes she can't save everyone she loves without risking everything she has...

I pre-ordered this and it arrived this week! I haven't started the series yet but I figure I can read the whole series in a short space of time just as I did with the Vampire Academy books!

So what did you get this week?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Mel's Random March

This has been a loooong month! Not only was I manically busy at work, but the weather has been nasty (cold - and who expects snow in London in March??!). Generally March has been a pretty rubbish month - with a couple of exceptions: one - I made it to 1000 posts on my little blog! I'm so happy to still be going after so long and happy to be part of this wonderful world. Even if I only sit in the corner occasionally and watch everyone else dancing... I'm happy with my blog. I may not get the post page views or a lot of review books but that's why I blog! :-)

And two - I didn't read a bad book throughout March! Honestly, it must be some kind of record as most of the books were strong reads and several were brilliant! My only fear is the Gods of Reading Karma will want to balance this out in some way and give me only boring books in April...

So what was I reading in March...?

His Dark Lady - Victoria Lamb (British Books Challenge)
The Fault In Our Stars - John Green
The Farm - Emily McKay
Taken (Alex Verus #3) - Benedict Jacka (British Books Challenge)
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) - Marissa Meyer
Gunmetal Magic - Ilona Andrews
Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman (British Book Challenge)
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) - Marissa Meyer
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Through Dead Eyes - Chris Priestley (British Books Challenge)
Garden of Stones - Sophie Littlefield 
Black Feathers - Jospeh D'Lancey (British Book Challenge)

Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels #5.5) - Ilona Andrews

Author Visits
Victoria Lamb: 5 Things You Never Knew About The Tudors
Marissa Meyer: Author Interview

Sarah's Reviews
The Demon Trappers: Foretold - Jana Oliver

Other Posts
The 1000th Post!
Same Book/Different Cover looked at The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

So updating the challenges -
British Books Challenge - 10 Read

Best of the Bunch: While I read a lot of great books there was one clear winner with a perfect score from me - The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Funny, moving and highly recommended!

Honorable Mentions: So many! Garden of Stones by Sophie LIttlefield, Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews were all stand outs!

So what was your month like? :)

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Throwback Thursday #79 - A Bad Day For Sorry

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while which looks at those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves that we haven't got round to reading yet...

A Bad Day For Sorry - Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Stella Hardesty, our salty, unlikely heroine, runs a sewing shop in rural Missouri. She also has a side business helping battered women with their abusive boyfriends and husbands. When Chrissy Shaw asks Stella for help, it seems like a straightforward case, until Chrissy’s no-good husband disappears with her two-year-old son. Now Stella finds herself in a battle against a more formidable enemy as she risks her own life to recover the boy.

I have become a big fan of Sophie's writing in the last couple of years but her crime novels are one area I haven't yet read. Knowing her though I doubt it will be a straight forward read though! Looking forward to finding some time I can devote to this book in the near future!

What crime stories are you wanting to read soon...?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs

Publisher: Quirk

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here - one of whom was his own grandfather - were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive...

This was the book you guys chose for me to read this month and once again you picked a book that I probably wouldn’t have picked up from the TBR pile any time soon, but has turned out to be a good choice! This really is a book of two halves. The first part is spooky and atmospheric with our main character, Jacob, going through a big emotional upheaval as well as struggling to figure out what he wants from life - as opposed to what everyone else has planned for him. The mystery of his Grandfather’s past and what happened to him is intriguing and compelling and Jacob’s fragile emotional state gives a nice question over what is happening – is it real or just in his head...?

However, the second half of the book changes tracks completely and moves it to a familiar plot for many YA stories – the discovery of  hidden skills and a clash of good and evil hidden from the world and should come as a startling revelation. But the discoveries on the island and what Miss Peregrine’s home really are follow a track that seems very familiar to many readers of YA. The bonus is that it is done very well here and it takes a while to realise that the haunting atmosphere has changed to the recognizable design of adolescent discovery of magic. However, there is enough skill in the characters and events that helps balance with the slight disappointment that the story isn’t as unique as you first thought.

The writing hits the right balance between modern and timeless. The haunting photos add to the atmosphere and I did find I spent a lot of time staring at them, trying to read details for the plot into them. While I preferred the first part of the story, I was never less than invested in Jacob’s journey and I’m curious about what a sequel will bring – hopefully it will be able to take the familiar and make it seem new and different.

Recommended for fans of Laini Taylor and Erin Morgenstern. 8 out of 10

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Same Book / Different Cover: The Iron Duke

This is an occasional feature where I compare different covers of the same book...
This month I wanted to look at one of my favourite books - The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. It's a great read with a mix of romance, action, steampunk, invention and political intrigue with two memorable lead characters - highly recommended! Considering that it covers a complete mix genres I was very curious to see what types of covers it would inspire!
Italian Cover
French Cover

German Cover
UK Cover

Polish Cover
US Cover

Italian Cover: This looks more like a vampire book than steampunk. It's very dark and I'm not sure I get the connection to the story.

French Cover: This cover has close up of Mina which I quite like. She give it quite a lot of attitude in that pose and the fashions are what are described in the book

German Cover: This looks like an anime cover or a scene from one of those swashbuckling films

UK Cover: I like the mix of fog, clockwork, the Duke and Mina on the cover giving it plenty of attitude. Nice.

Polish Cover : I like  the clockwork motif of the cover and the picture of an airship over Big Ben, but the girl just doesn't look like Mina to me - there just isn't enough stubbornness in her stance

US Cover: What a male chest! The trouble is having read the book this model is not masculine enough to be the Duke - he should be hairy and broadshoulders. The guy on this cover, while nice just doesn't have a certain je ne sais quoi...

My Verdict? I like the UK Cover best - has the best of everything!

So what cover do you like best...? :)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Early Review: Black Feathers

Black Feathers
Jospeh D’Lancey

Publisher: Angry Robot – Released 4th April

Black Feathers is a modern fantasy set in two epochs: the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, and generations into the future in its aftermath, the Bright Day.
In each era, a child undertakes a perilous journey to find a dark messiah known as The Crowman. In their hands lies the fate of the planet as they attempt to discover whether The Crowman is our saviour… or the final incarnation of evil.

This is a story of two parts woven together like a piece of rope, strengthening and complementing each other. One element focused on a young boy, Gordon Black set in the recognisable future where everything is breaking down as the world seems to be coming to an end. Certainly the world as we know it! The other thread is on a young girl, Megan in the distant future, where humanity lives much simpler lives, close to the land. They are both on a journey to find the Crowman, but whether he is real or not, good or evil no-one is quite sure...

Gordon’s story is the more disturbing and compelling one for me. The breakdown of society, the Ward’s rise to power and one small boy’s attempt to come to terms with the world has a wonderful mix of secrets, revelations, action and thought provoking conundrums. Not to mention destiny and magic! It was tense, intriguing and involving – I really wanted to give Gordon a hand at times! Megan’s story is also interesting, but much more sedate following a traditional apprentice learning about her powers story. She is a gentle character at heart, if a little impatient and I did like her. However, the story in the future didn’t have the same intensity or urgency that the current day scenes had.

While both stories focus on young people coming into their powers, this is definitely NOT a YA book. There is a lot of extreme violence and the end of the known world does not occur without a fight. The writing was involving and descriptive painting two very different worlds without overloading the background. This was very much a case of the author showing us the world rather than telling us – and that slower exploration of the world builds into a wonderful panorama of humanity. This worked as an apocalyptic novel, a fantasy novel and one that I want to read the sequel too as soon as possible!

Recommended for fans of Peter V Brett and Jennifer Fallon. 8.5 out of 10

Sunday, 24 March 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sunday

This is Books, Biscuits and Tea's Showcase Sunday where I 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 finished Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs which started out haunting and finished in a very different place from where it started. I also enjoyed The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper which was a fun historical novel. Also completely on whim I picked up The Time Machine by HG Wells - very intriguing story.

I had one of those weeks where I just needed to buy books. Does anyone else have those weeks when just looking at books isn't enough and despite the fact that the TBR pile is HUGE, new books are needed now!


The Woman Who Died A Lot - Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
The BookWorld's leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you'd expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple. 
Thursday is faced with an array of family problems - son Friday's lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday's difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity's promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn't exist.
And that's not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday's Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday's retirement is going to be anything but easy.

I loved the first couple of Thursday Next books and while recent additions haven't been as strong, I still enjoyed the imaginative world and quirky characters!

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) - Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Orbit
Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic change. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…. 
After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted. Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

I love Mercy & Adam and plan to sit down and read this book in one day over Easter...

Stray Souls (Magical Anonymous #1) - Kate Griffin
Publisher: Orbit
London’s soul has gone missing. Lost? Kidnapped? Murdered? Nobody knows – but when Sharon Li unexpectedly discovers she’s a shaman, she is immediately called upon to use her newfound powers of oneness with the City to rescue it from a slow but inevitable demise.
The problem is, while everyone expects Sharon to have all the answers – from the Midnight Mayor to Sharon’s magically-challenged self-help group – she doesn’t have a clue where to start. But with London’s soul missing and the Gate open, there are creatures loose that won’t wait for her to catch up before they go hunting.

Kate Griffin has a melodic way with words and her descriptions of London are fabulous.

Tricked (Iron Druid Chronicles #4) - Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Orbit
Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert. But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

Ok, ok so I haven't even started reading this series yet - but I'm pretty sure I will like it so I bought book four to add to the TBR pile! 

City of Dragons (Rain Wilds Chronicles #3) - Robin Hobb
Publisher: HarperCollins
The dragons and their keepers have discovered Kelsingra but so far only Heeby has succeeded in flying over the river to enter the fabled city. The other dragons, with their deformed wings and feeble muscles, are afraid to risk failure and humiliation. 
But wondrous things await in Kelsingra, a city built for dragons and their Elderling keepers. Alise, overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, records her finds for posterity. Once the rest of the world knows about the riches the city contains, nothing will ever be the same again. 
Already, rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. As is Hest Finbok, Alise’s husband... 
And here is Tintaglia, the great sapphire-blue dragon, when all have such need of her? Has she really abandoned her beloved Selden and the fledgling dragons forever? Or will she too return to seek the wonders of Kelsingra?

This is another series I haven't started reading yet but I loved Robin Hobbs Liveship Traders trilogy.


Blood Before Sunrise (Shaede Assassin #2) - Amanda Bonilla
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
For months, Darian and her Shaede guardian, Raif, have searched for the Oracle who attempted to overthrow the Shaede Nation--and kill Darian in the bargain. But now that they've finally found the half-crazed Oracle, they are granted a possibility too painful for Raif to imagine and too enticing for Darian to ignore. 
Darian is determined to reunite Raif and the daughter he thought was dead, but her mission quickly proves dangerous when her lover, Tyler, is almost killed. And when a brooding and mysterious Fae warrior offers his guidance--at an extraordinary price--Darian finds herself willing to risk everything. As her single-minded hunt turns into an obsession, and she and Tyler grow further apart, Darian finds herself caught between the man she loves like a brother and the man whose love she can't live without.

I won this from the wonderful Suzanne Johnson over at Preternatura. This is a series Mellanie has been raving about for ages so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in!

So what have you picked up this week?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Choose Your Own Adventure Review: Beyond Escape!

Choose Your Own Adventure #15: Beyond Escape!
By R. A. Montgomery

Publisher: Chooseco

The new nation of Turtalia is caught in a death struggle with the evil Doradan state.  Warfare has spread to San Francisco, where a determined band of guerrillas is holding out in the hills watching the destruction of this once-beautiful city.  With the stakes high--for freedom, democracy and the rule of law and not men--the struggle against the police state of Dorado is fierce.  But the spectre of none of these freedoms is worse.  Don't give up!

I remember borrowing a lot of these Choose Your Own Adventure stories from the local library when I was younger. I loved the excitement and feeling of power from deciding how the story would progress – after all we’ve all had those moments when you just want to reach into your current book and either give the characters a big hug, shake some sense into them or kick the bad guys on the shins. I received this particular book recently as a gift from a friend who had visited the Strand Bookshop in New York (I plan to make a pilgrimage there myself at some point!) and I was excited to dive into some nostalgia and ‘choose my own adventure’!

In this story, the US has been split into two new countries: Turtalia, a democratic country and Dorada, an evil dictatorship. You work for the country of Turtalia and immediately have to decide whether to look for your missing spies deep in Doradan or go after an escaped spy who has stolen top level files from your base. After that the adventure splits and you keep making decisions going to different pages depending on what you decide. My first read through I ended up being blown out of the air in a helicopter by an alien spaceship. Not exactly what I was expecting. My second time I ended having my mind wiped and having the brain capacity of a three year old! A few further choices and I ended up rescuing my lost spies along with critical information about Doradan’s invasion plans, trapped with rebels deep in Dorada, lost in the wilderness, captured by Doradan forces and offering an alien civilisation refuge on Earth in return for their help beating Dorada.

I have to admit that after a while flipping between all these pages was a little wearing – especially as characterisation was limited. ‘You’ even end speaking to yourself a lot in the story to remind the reading what you have chosen. Sometimes the different directions you end up in are so bizarre – your choice seems to be what makes aliens good or bad, whether Dorada invades or not. Other people aren’t consistent with their actions and characters – one guy will be a rebel if you decide one thing and the same guy will be a spy if you decide something else while in ‘real’ life he would be one thing or the other no matter if you decide to sit at the table or leave. Overall, this was a fun little diversion but there is a reason this time of story doesn’t work for adult readers.

Recommended for young readers. 7 out of 10

Friday, 22 March 2013

Garden of Stones Review

Garden of Stones
Sophie Littlefield

Publisher: Harlequin

Review Copy Courtesy of Netgalley and Harlequin

Lucy Takeda is just fourteen years old, living in Los Angeles in 1941, when the bombs rain down on Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, she and her mother, Miyako, are ripped from their home, rounded up—along with thousands of other innocent Japanese-Americans—and taken to the Manzanar prison camp. Buffeted by blistering heat and choking dust, Lucy and Miyako must endure the harsh living conditions of the camp. Corruption and abuse creep into every corner of Manzanar, eventually ensnaring beautiful, vulnerable Miyako. Ruined and unwilling to surrender her daughter to the same fate, Miyako soon breaks. Her final act of desperation will stay with Lucy forever...and spur her to sins of her own.

I was a huge fan of Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime trilogy and while the historical setting of Garden of Stones is completely different to post-civilisation zombie-invested world, the strong writing and involving characters remains constant. The story is split between the teenaged Lucy, the daughter of two Japanese immigrants shortly after Pearl Harbour and Lucy’s daughter, Patty in the late seventies finding out that there might be more to her mother than she thought.

As a teenager Lucy is very young and naive. Her mother struggles with manic depression and as such Lucy feels the need to take care of her. This is complicated by the fact that all those with Japanese ancestry are rounded up into internment camps. I’m British and this was a big surprise to me as I wasn’t aware that happened in America – it even raises some disturbing parallels to the early concentration camps (although thankfully it doesn’t go to that extreme). The way in which the guards and staff take advantage of others is disturbing and horrifying. Lucy’s experiences are heartbreaking and would have a huge impact on her life.

One of the major themes of the book is mothers and daughters as Lucy’s relationships with her own mother is examined in detail and how her mother tries her best to protect her despite the consequences. Patty then realises there is a lot her mother has been trying to protect her from other the years and there is a slow reveal of Lucy’s secrets. The whole story reminds you that while Lucy is mother, she is also a person outside that single relationship. While the elements set in the camp are stronger, the story needs Lucy’s recovery as a chambermaid to balance her experiences and bring her back to life again.

The writing is melodic and hypnotising. I was just swept along and struggled to drag my eyes away from the pages. I just adore Sophie’s style and was swept up into Lucy’s life. Usually when I read historical novels I approach them as fiction first but this felt so recent and well researched I almost felt like it was real and wanted to give Lucy a hug. An emotionally moving story set in a fascinating period of American history – high recommended.

Recommended for fans of Jojo Moyes and Philippa Gregory. 9 out of 10

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Throwback Thursday #78 - The Red Tree

This is a great feature that Melissa at My words and pictures has been doing for a while which looks at those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves that we haven't got round to reading yet..

The Red Tree - Caitlin R Kiernan
Publisher: Roc
Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant-a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks her health and her sanity to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago...

This is one of those books i bought a couple of years ago on whim having never heard of it before. I liked the cover and the story sounded like an interesting psychological thriller with some possible supernatural elements...? However, various other books caught my attention and this has been languishing on my TBR pile for far too long. 

I've seen any reviews of it online - has anyone already read it? What did you think...?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) Review

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)
Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Puffin

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. 
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner

Scarlet is a very different type of story to Cinder – set over just a few days immediately after the end of Cinder, this has the unenviable task of carrying on the story started in Cinder, move it forward and introduce us to both new characters and the wider world. All in all a big task and Scarlet manages to do this rather well.

Cinder and her trials are more the sub-plot this time around with most of the action focusing  on Scarlet and her missing Grandmother...following a rather similar story to one Red-Riding Hood. Scarlet is a very different character to Cinder, slightly older and with a temper issue, she is feisty and doesn’t take no for an answer. She is just as likely to swing a punch at you rather than think her way out of troubles. While I appreciated the differences between the two characters I found it harder to emotionally connect with Scarlet than I did with Cinder, as she was much more independent from the start, but she definitely grows on you! Wolf was also a very different hero to Prince Kai (who is kept in the background for the most part) – he has secrets and a temper too. Wolf is much more of the Alpa male and instinctual rather than calculating. I actually thought Wolf and Scarlet made a good couple -somehow balancing each other nicely.

As the story takes place over just a couple of days, the pace is pretty frenetic with some emotional turmoil to balance the action. The light relief is given in the form of Iko, Cinder’s android friend who has trouble adjusting to her body and Captain Thorne, a renegade American who attempts to flirt with Cinder, more from habit than actual emotion I think! This nicely balances the high emotional story if Scarlet and Wolf. And not forgetting the Lunar Queen who hasn’t forgotten Cinder or her plans to control Earth. The story and plot seems to be getting bigger and more complex and I’m really looking forward to what Cress and Winter have in store for us. It will be a long wait to the next book release!

Recommended for fans of Rachel Hartman and Cassandra Clare. 8 out of 10

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Author Interview: Marissa Meyer

I recently finished two fabulous books that were a lot of fun, and managed to be both traditional and new at the same time - Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. She is even in the UK next week to sign copies of her book, so if you are based in the UK and can get to the Waterstones in Bromley on 26th March, please go say hello. Unfortunately I'm working at the other end of the country that day so will miss out L

But to console me I have a wonderful quick Q&A with Marissa. I hope you like it!

First of all welcome to Mel's Random reviews - it's great having you here and I’m very excited as I adored Cinder!

Thank you so much for having me!
There are many great characters in these books – do you have a favourite to write for and why?
I love writing the funny characters, largely because they tend to take on a mind of their own and I’m never entirely sure what they’re going to say or do next. Iko was a ton of fun to write – an android with a crush on the prince and great fashion sense, who knew?! I also really love writing Captain Thorne, who shows up in Scarlet. He can be ridiculous and arrogant one moment, and sweet and charming the next. I like characters who make you fall in love with them, while driving you crazy at the same time.
Did you plan the whole Lunar Chronicles series in advance or did you start not knowing where the story will end?
I’m definitely a planner, so yes, I had all four books planned out before I wrote a single word, and then I wrote the first drafts of Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress back to back. I found that it really helped me figure out the world-building and what important elements needed to be set up in the beginning of the series. It also allows me to put in fun foreshadowing that I hope readers will be excited to discover as the series unfolds. (All that said, a lot has changed since those initial drafts, so I always try to be flexible with my original plans.)
What’s been your favourite fairy tale interpretation (TV/Film/Book)?
Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose!! I adore Ella Enchanted, both the book and the movie. I really loved Entwined by Heather Dixon, which retells The Twelve Dancing Princesses in a really brilliant way. And I’m a sucker for Disney movies!
 What would be your ideal holiday?
A relaxing stay at a log cabin in the mountains, with a roaring fireplace, picturesque windows overlooking snow drifts and a pine forest, and lots and lots of hot cocoa. And I would just snuggle under some cozy blankets and read and read and read.
Wow - sounds ideal! Can I join you? J
 What is your favourite saying or quote?
“Luck plagues the diligent.” ~My Dad
Wise words to live by.
 Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Grimm Tales Reviews

Grimm Tales For Young and Old
Philip Pullman
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Two hundred years ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now, at a veritable fairy-tale moment—witness the popular television shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time and this year’s two movie adaptations of “Snow White”—Philip Pullman, one of the most popular authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.
From much-loved stories like “Cinderella” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “Briar-Rose,” “Thousandfurs,” and “The Girl with No Hands,” Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination
This was an interesting collection of stories to read. Philip Pullman has reinterpreted some of the classic fairy tales collected by original Grimm Brothers. As a long time Pullman fan and a fan of fairy tales, I was very happy to receive a pretty hardback version from my long-time friend and occasional guest reviewer, Sarah for Christmas. (The cover looks a lot nicer in real life than it does in this picture!)
There are a lot of familiar ideas and stories in this book – but there are plenty of not so well known ones that are a joy to discover for the first time. The ‘new’ writing of them is easy to follow and feels very traditional. It was fun to see that the original Cinderella didn’t have a fairy Godmother or a pumpkin coach for example. I was fascinated as well by Pullman’s notes at the end of the story which delved into the changes he made or the different interpretations of the story over the years. This also served to remind me that even the same basic story can be flexible enough to change – even in the lifetime of the Grimm Brothers. One of my favourite ideas lies in the idea of repetition with many elements done three times with only slight variations as well as the idea that being kind to strangers and creatures usually brings a reward.
However, there I found I couldn’t read too many of the tales in one sitting as by their very nature there is little character beyond general strokes of ‘lazy’, ‘cheerful’, ‘evil’, ‘innocent’, ‘clever’. The stories are only ever a few pages so there is no time to get to know or develop character (in fact few even have names) and the plots don’t have the same complexity as modern novels. As a result I ended up reading this book over a month, slipping in a few stories between my main reads which meant I was never bored or just flipping through.
This is a very different type of book and almost needs to classed separately. Overall though, this was a joyful read which brought make many memories of listening to my parents read to me when I was younger and is definitely a book I want to keep to read to other children when I can.
Recommended for fans of Marissa Meyer and Malinda Lo. 8 out of 10