Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Mel's Random April

April has been a mixed month in many ways. We've had sunshine and showers both with the weather and in my personal life. Sometimes I feel like I'm on a roller-coaster which only goes down or stays flat. The only thing keeping me going at the moment is the thought of a week away in May!
Epsom Downs

Still I have started walking again for fun - a friend and I managed a wonderful walk on Epsom Downs (past the Derby Racetrack) on one of the first sunny days we had in ages. The weather was beautiful, the scenery was fantastic and we even got to see some racehorses practice gallops!

So how did that impact the reading situation?

The Revenge of Eli Monpress - Rachel Aaron
Tempest's Fury - Nicole Peeler
The Woman Who Died A Lot - Jasper Fforde (British Book Challenge)
The Silent Stars Go By - Dan Abnett (British Book Challenge)
Blood and Magick - James R Tuck
Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
The Minority Council - Kate Griffin (British Book Challenge)
The Red Tree - Caitlin R Kiernan

Weird Detectives - Edited by Paula Guran
The Time Machine - HG Wells (British Book Challenge)
Fragments - Dan Wells
Like This, For Ever - SJ Bolton (British Book Challenge)
Hot Blooded - Amanda Carlson
Wild & Steamy - Meljean Brook, Jill Moyles & Carolyn Crane
The Eternity Cure - Julia Kagawa

Audio Books
Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) - Jim Butcher

Sarah's Reviews
A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

Other Posts
Impact of Dyslexia
To Tweet or Not To Tweet?

So updating the challenges -
British Books Challenge - 15 Read

Best of the Bunch: No contest this month - The Revenge of Eli Monpress: how a series should be ended before getting tired

Honorable Mentions: Like This, For Ever, Hot Blooded, The Red Tree & Blood and Magick - it was another great month for reading!

So what was your month like? :)

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Red Tree Review

The Red Tree
Caitlin R Kiernan
 Publisher: Roc Trade
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 story is a slow building atmospheric chiller that is difficult to forget about. I have to admit from the cover I expected an UF-style investigation into the house and tree’s history with some exciting action scenes to move it forward. Instead what you get is a slow burning haunting tale that takes place mostly in one location with a leading lady who is damaged and not particularly likeable. However, something about the story just draws you in and the further you get the harder it is to stop thinking about what is happening. Who is really haunted? The writer who can no longer write, the mysterious tree yards from the back door or the young painter who becomes obsessed with painting…?
It’s difficult to try and describe what happens in the story as for large parts of it nothing of much note does happen or perhaps a lot does. It is very cleverly written with the introduction by the publisher of the final book ever written by one of their authors before her suicide. That book is less fiction and more journal like as we see what happens on the run up to her last day. There are some asides into her recent past particularly her failed relationship which help set the scene for her lonely existence at the farmhouse as well as plenty of quotes and name dropping from other haunted stories like The House on Haunted Hill. This all really adds character and atmosphere as does the stifling heat of the summer and the repetitive nature of her existence at the farmhouse. At time the sweltering heat seems to soak through the page and the whole idea of a heat mirage with the Red Tree as the focus just sticks in your mind.
 I was thoroughly engrossed by the tale and despite knowing at the beginning how it would end, I really wanted a different ending. If you like closure and everything wrapped up, then this book will sorely disappoint. There are a hundred unanswered questions and in the end you have to decide yourself if this was a ghost story or just the story of one woman losing her mind. Whatever you decide, the journey to the end is intriguing, captivating and one that will stay with you long after the book is done. Highly recommended! 
Recommended for fans of Susan Hill and Michelle Paver. 9 out of 10

Sunday, 28 April 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sundays

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!

The eagle eyed among you will also spot that this week I joined Twitter! I'm still figuring the whole thing out but I was surprised and delighted to find so many friends on Twitter and within minutes of joining I had followers! Thank you so much to those of you that made me feel welcome straight away. Now I've joined I'm actually more hopeful and positive about the whole thing (although part of me is slightly worried about that I'm being brainwashed by a cult!). So if you would like to follow me on Twitter check me out @Random_MelS

This week has been a very mixed week for me in terms of different genres I've read! I finished The Red Tree by Caitlin R Kiernan - a spooky and atmospheric read and Always There by Carol Ann Albright-Eastman - a beautiful book about opening your heart to love. I also finished Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon - an interesting YA SF story and a short story Doubled-Crossed by Ally Carter which mixes up characters from her two series - neither of which I have read!

The other good news is that for once this week I have less books coming in than I read! Yay me! Four books down and only one in for review...not bad.


A Cursed Embrace (Weird Girls #2) - Cecy Robson
Publisher: Signet
Celia Wird and her three sisters are just like other twenty-something girls—with one tiny exception: They are the products of a curse that backfired and gave each of them unique powers that made them, well, a little weird…
After Celia Wird and her sisters help master vampire Misha save his family, their powers are exposed to the supernatural community of the Lake Tahoe region. But fame comes at a price, and being “weird” isn’t always welcome.
To make matters worse, Celia desires the love of Alpha werewolf Aric, but his pack is bent on destroying their relationship to preserve his pureblood status. And once weres start turning up dead—with evidence pointing to the vampires—she must face the prospect of losing Aric forever. But the chaos only masks a new threat. An evil known as the Tribe has risen—and their sights are set on Celia and her sisters.

I adored Sealed with a Curse so I'm looking forward to catching up with the Wird girls!

What have you picked up this week?

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Minority Council (Matthew Swift #4) Review

The Minority Council (Matthew Swift #4)
Kate Griffin

Publisher: Orbit

Matthew Swift, sorcerer, Midnight Mayor, is in charge. Or so he'd like to think. And London, being London, is having its issues. Drug use is rampant. Teenage vandalism is driving away business. Violent crimes are on the rise. Once upon a time, Matthew Swift wouldn't have given a toss. Now it's his mess to clean up. Especially when the new drug on the market is fairy dust and the production process involves turning humans into walking drug labs. And when the teenage vandals are being hunted by a mystical creature. And when the petty criminals of London start dying by magical means. 
It becomes clear that not only is this Swift's mess to clean up, but someone is trying to tell him how to do his job. Now he has to sort out who's behind the crime wave and who's interfering in his business. Swift has a lot of old enemies and few friends. If he's going to save London from a rising tide of blood -- he's going to have to learn his lessons and fast

Matthew Swift is one of the few remaining Sorcerers left in London – wizards who can create spells and manipulate the magic of the city. Added to that is the Midnight Mayor, protector of that city. He is also having a bad day. When he finds out that something is sucking the souls out of teenagers in his city and a dear acquaintance calls asking for help, he decides that these things must be dealt with, no matter the cost.

Matthew is a unique character – he came back from the dead merged with the blue electrical angels of the wires and is enormously powerful and at the same time completely helpless. He is both inhuman and humane. He cares about the city, but not at the expense of the people. As well as Matthew we meet again his apprentice Penny. She is total awesome but at the same time vulnerable and realistic, with a perchance for speaking too much and swearing a lot. Matthew also gains an assistant in the shape of Kelly, who over the course of the book becomes very endearing.

Kate Griffin’s writing is once again melodic and descriptive, allowing you to fall into this London, this world and be swept along with the other debris as the story races around the city and between subplots. London is depicted as a magical place but at the same time it is not dressed up like a Richard Curtis film to look all sweet and innocent. It’s a magnificent city full of the best and worst of humanity, with some parts falling into disrepute and decay, while others thrive. I love this view and the scenes set in areas I’m familiar with add a fission of depth and colour.

This is London UF done well and done differently. However, unlike the previous instalments of Matthew Swift’s adventures, there was a certain hint of menace missing. While this threat is more personal and emotional for Matthew, it was not a threat to the city and as such seemed to miss a certain element for me. Not that this was a bad instalment in the series – just not my favourite! I would still highly recommended this series!

Recommended for fans of Anne Rice and Jim Butcher. 8 out of 10

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Throwback Thursday #82 - The Light Of Other Days

This is a great feature that Melissa at My World...in 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 Light of Other Days - Arthur C Clarke & Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Voyager
Ruthless Hiram Patterson, the self-styled "Bill Gates of the twenty-first century," brings about a communication revolution by using quantum wormholes to link distant points around Earth. Not content with his monopoly on the telecommunications industry, Patterson convinces his estranged son, David, a brilliant young physicist, to work for him. While humanity absorbs the depressing news that an enormous asteroid will hit Earth in 500 years, David develops the WormCam, which allows remote viewers to spy on anyone, anytime. The government steps in to direct WormCam use -- but before long, privacy becomes a distant memory. Then David and his half-brother, Bobby, discover a way to use the WormCam to view the past, and the search for truth leads to disillusionment as well as knowledge. Only by growing beyond the mores of the present can humanity hope to survive and to deal with the threats of the future, including that asteroid. 

I've not read much Science-Fiction for a while but my recent dips into the genre with The Time Machine and Doctor Who book have reminded me how amazing the ideas can be in this area, so why not pick up a book by two giants of the genre...? I don't know! Maybe I will...soon! :-)

What's you most recent science-fiction read...?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard #1) Review

Shakespeare’s Landlord (Lily Bard #1)
Charlaine Harris

Publisher: Gollancz

Disguising herself with short hair and baggy clothes, Lily Bard has started a new life; she's becoming a cleaning lady in the sleepy town of Shakespeare, where she can sweep away the secrets of her dark and violent past. However her plan to live a quiet, unobserved life begins to crumble when she discovers the dead body of her nosy landlord. Lily doesn't care who did it, but when the suspicion of the police and local community falls on her she realises if she doesn't unmask the murderer, her life might not just crumble; it might also end.

This is an eminently readable story with a main character that has survived the worst of human behaviour and retreated into herself. Lily Bard keeps herself isolated in the town of Shakespeare – never getting too close to any one and cleaning other people’s homes for money. When she stubbles onto a mysterious figure disposing of a body, she finds herself coming under scrutiny from the local police force...

For the most part this reads like a cosy mystery, with a main character going about their usual business but able to learn more about the murder and victim than the professionals. However, Lily Bard is different in that her past is horrific and traumatic and this impacts her whole life. Where she is living, what she does for a living, her spare time have all been shaped by her past even her self-imposed isolation have all been shaped by one event. This makes Shakespeare’s Landlord a strange beast in that it is a fluffy light story, but with some real bite. There is a certain aftertaste that stays with you...

Lily is a scarred woman but is trying her best and makes some genuine steps forward here and I’m glad I have the next books in this series to follow her journey. I hope she is able to mend herself and find some peace. Charlaine Harris’s writing is familiar to anyone who likes the Sookie Stackhouse series and is extremely easy to read with the pages turning fast. I managed to finish this admittedly slim volume in a day. It was an entertaining read.

Recommended for fans of Ellery Adams and Heather Blake. 7 out of 10  

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Audio Review: Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2)

Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2)

Written By Jim Butcher
Narrated by James Masters
Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn't been able to dredge up any kind of work—magical ormundane. But just when it looks like he can't afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses;and the first two don't count...

It’s been a while since I listened to an audible book as I haven’t been able to concentrate on listening to anything – I have a terrible habit of drifting off into my own thoughts and not actually listening to the story. So in order to try and get back into the habit, I decided to try the second Dresden Files book as I love the series and have read the book before so it wouldn’t be too difficult to focus on the story. Plus it’s read by James Masters who I have adored since his Buffy days!

James Masters manages to bring to life Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard and his trials and tribulations. It’s helped by the first person narrative, but mostly I think James just manages to capture the voice of a world weary, trying his best wizard who has the weight of Chicago on his shoulders. Harry is an old fashion guy – always protective of women and trying his best to do right and protect as many people as possible including his police friend Lt Murphy, who is in a lot of political trouble for assisting Harry in the past. Added to which the supernatural world doesn’t take kindly to mortals learning too much about them.

That’s not to say that this is perfect. Actually, Fool Moon is one of the weaker stories in the series with an awful lot of info dumping near the beginning – included a long explanation of several different types of werewolves. This is interesting as it adds a lot of colour and texture to the traditional werewolf myth in Harry’s world, but seems a little unbelievable that Harry ends up coming across every type of wolf in the next twenty-four hours! Harry’s relationships with Murphy and Susan are not particularly deep, but nonetheless there is a spark with each of them that could lead to something meaningful.

There is plenty of action with Harry literally being thrown to the wolves on multiply occasions. The mix of magic and physical fighting is well balanced and if some of the motives behind the actions are a little weak then the pacing and amusingly wry observations by Harry more than make up for it. As with Storm Front, this is a Harry Dresden that is still finding his place in the world but all the basic ingredients for one of my favourite Urban Fantasy series are there. They just need a little more seasoning and more mixing.

Recommended for fans of Ben Aaronovitch and Patricia Briggs. 8 out of 10

Monday, 22 April 2013

Early Review: The Eternity Cure

The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)
Julie Kagawa

Publisher: MIRA Ink – to be released 30th April 2013

E-Arc Courtesy of Netgalley and Harlequin

In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood 
She has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever-and possibly end human and vampire existence. 
There's a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago-and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries, if Allie can get to him in time. 
Allison thought that immortality was forever. But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could never have imagined having to make.

After saving her friends and delivering them safely to Eden at the end of The Immortal Rules, Allie is now on a quest to safe her Sire, the vampire who turned her, who has been captured and tortured by another vampire. Blood calls to blood, but can she be sure she is chasing the right blood..? After the road trip from hell (in a good way) that was The Immortal Rules (think Mad Max Road Warrior with Vampires), The Eternity Cure is less road trip and more dysfunctional family drama. But this doesn’t make it less exciting, tense or edge of your seat thrilling.

Allie is a great lead having fought against what it is expected of her, her whole life. She never accepts the status quo and figures things out for herself. Sometimes she is right. Sometimes she is wrong, but you can’t help but root for her, hoping that her relationships work out the way they should. Her father-daughter relationship with Kanin has matured and it is nice to see how far she has come since he first turned her. Add in her ‘brother’ Jackel, a vampire who has a great turn of phrase – some of his lines are hilarious – but you don’t know what his plan is. With Jackel likely to turn on her at any time, Allie has to work with him to find Kanin, a task that becomes further complicated when Zeke, the boy she left in Eden returns. Add in a new plague that threatens to kill the remaining human population (and thus all vampires as well), a psycho vampire out for revenge and the return of an old friend, Allie has enough to deal with in this book. However, it is a mark of a great writer that this story never feels too complicated or bogged down, but flows wonderfully from action to relationship and back again.

The writing is wonderfully expressive allowing us to get under Allie’s skin and feel for her as she struggles between her feelings and what she is now – how she decides on ‘what sort of monster she wants to be’. I loved the development of her relationships especially with Zeke – they have grown so much over the two books and that evolving relationship is a joy to read. The end is very much a cliff-hanger that will have fans biting their nails for the conclusion to this trilogy – I think 2014 is going to be a long time to wait to find out what happens next!

Recommended for fans of Kristin Cashore and Richelle Mead. 8 out of 10 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sundays

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!

There's been some sunshine this week! Yay! But the lure of Vitamin D doesn't mean I've neglected my reading this week. I finished Wild & Steamy Anthology by Meljean Brook, Jill Moyles & Carolyn Crane - fun, smexy action and chosen by you, Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris - a nice mystery story, The Minority Council by Kate Griffin - great London UF

Three books down this week but I picked up quite a few review books...


After Eden - Helen Douglas
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her. 
As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

This isn't the usual sort of book I would read but for some reason I thought this might be something different.

Immortal Eclipse - Sherry Soule
Kindle Book
A devoted fashionata and practical New Yorker, Skylar Blackwell doesn’t believe in the supernatural—until she inherits Summerwind Mansion. . . . 
When her uncle is brutally murdered, and the cops seem uninterested in following up the case, Skylar journeys to California to seek answers. Her search for clues is soon overshadowed by haunting nightmares of a young woman also murdered in the house. 
Now the inhabitants of Summerwind are mysteriously dying, leaving no evidence as to how or why, and Skylar finds herself in a deadly race against time to expose the killer—before they strike again. 
The problem is . . . whoever it is may not be human.
Armed with only wit and Pradas, Skylar begins questioning the servants, but the growing list of suspects includes the sexy and brooding caretaker, Dorian, a man desperately trying to forget his tragic past. And a major distraction for Skylar.
Determined to play detective—instead of the fashion police—and unravel the dark history of the mansion, Skylar is plunged into an otherworldly mystery that not even she can explain away. As the boundaries between reality and dreams blur, Skylar’s greatest challenge is to stay alive long enough to learn the truth.

I rarely accept review requests direct from authors because I have so many books on my TBR pile already I can rarely promise when I would get round to reviewing books, but this one tickle my paranormal bone so I said I would give it a go!

Always There - Carol Ann Albright Eastman
Kindle Book
In this fresh, poignant novel, Always There, Shelby Lynn LeeMaster grapples with her recent “orphaned” life and how to let down her guard to fully experience true love, allowing it in to her heart without fear. The mother, Betheny LeeMaster, struggles with dying before she could teach and guide her children into adulthood. The daughter cannot break from her own fears, while the mother cannot forgive herself for leaving her children too soon. The different narrators, the mother in Heaven and the daughter on Earth, tell their stories in alternating chapters. Can the two women reconcile their fears and remorse before it’s too late, and Shelby loses the one man she’s destined to be with?

Again I wouldn't normally accept a request from the author but the subject touched me because I lost my Mum back in December and the reviews so far have been very good so I will grab the tissues and give it a twirl! 


Queen of the World - Ben Hennessy
Publisher: Inspired Quill
In the legends, the Four saved the world from war and poverty. These incredible men walked the lands, seeking an audience with the ruler of each nation. They demanded that mankind focus its efforts on education, trade and culture. No longer would the people face starvation and terror. This commandment was enforced with displays of miraculous power. After all, it is difficult to argue with the Gods. Once finished, the Four left with a promise: If ever your people fall back into darkness, then we shall return.
Now, over five centuries later, Sarene grows tired of her village life. Suffocated by the confines of her surroundings and the overbearing protection of her family, she yearns to have an adventure of her own.
But the world outside is not as tranquil as it seems.
And Sarene is already in danger... 

I saw Karina had bought this a couple of weeks ago and seeing as it sounds really good and has had great reviews so far, I thought I'd get myself a copy as well!

So what have you picked up this week...?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wild & Steamy Review

Wild & Steamy
Meljean Brook, Jill Moyles & Carolyn Crane
 Kindle Book
This is a free anthology on paranormal & steampunk romances I picked up a while ago, but have only recently got around to reading. As there are only three stories in this collection I thought I’d review each story separately.
The Blushing Bounder (Iron Seas #0.5) – Meljean Brooks
The search for a killer puts Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth's life in danger and her assistant, Constable Newberry, in the line of fire. But Newberry faces a danger of another kind: to his heart, by the woman forced to marry him. What will it take for this prudish bounder to convince his wife to stay?
This is a nice addition to the Iron Seas world filling in some background information on Mina’s bounder partner, Constable Newberry, his wife and why they came to London. It’s the shortest story but some nice relationship development between both Newberry and Mina and Newberry and his sick wife. The weird and wonderful world of the Iron Seas is touched on briefly with a murder and some unusual cab ride across London adding some colour to the rather sweet romance. A very pleasant story and expansion of a great world. 8 out of 10.
Vixen - Jill Myles
Miko's denied her were-fox nature for far too long and turned her back on her vixen heritage. But when she meets two very sexy cat-shifters, she has to decide if she truly wants to give up on her frisky side, or embrace it. Because the were-fox in her doesn't want to choose between both men...it wants them both.
Miko is a were-fox and as such shares some of her Vixen’s personality traits – such as the inability to settle for one man. So she lives alone in the countryside, but when two were-cats turn up on her door in order to protect her from a local hunt, her instinctive behaviour can’t let her decide between the two of them. For me this was very much in the paranormal romance filter with heavy on the romance. There is some very smexy action, but overall the plot lacked any focus. I usually prefer my PR with more action and story rather than descriptions of sitting around the house. 6 out of 10
Kitten-Tiger and the Monk (Disillusionments #2.5) – Carolyn Crane
Sophia Sidway, Midcity's most dangerous memory revisionist, seeks out the mysterious Monk in the wasteland beneath the Tangle turnpike, hoping for redemption...but it turns out.
A Memory Revisionist is searching for the Monk in order to start a new life, but runs into an old flame. I’ve not read any of the Disillusionment series before but I have to admit I’m intrigued by this short glimpse into the world of Midcity! The characters are different – both damaged and unique with a complicated history, while their world is so completely different to anything I’ve seen before. I definitely want to know more about this world – and luckily I have both Mind Games and Double Cross in my TBR pile. If I can find them, I will be diving into this world again soon! 9 out of 10
Overall, this was a good mix of Steampunk, Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy which should have some appeal for most people and might even get you interested in a couple of new series!
Recommended for fans of Pip Ballantine and Kelly Gay. 7.5 out of 10

Friday, 19 April 2013

Blood and Magick (Deacon Chalk #3) Review

Blood and Magick (Deacon Chalk #3)
James R Tuck

Publisher: Kensington

Taking out hellish creatures—not a problem. Armed with blessed silver hollow-points and the ability to manipulate magick, he’s ready for anything—except betrayal he never saw coming…
Deacon Chalk knows the biggest danger in fighting monsters is becoming one. Just another day at the office for your friendly neighborhood occult bounty hunter. If keeping three helpless were-dog children safe means battling a malevolent trio of witches by any means necessary, so be it. If that means partnering with a ruthless government agent to stay one step ahead of the allies and friends he must now suspect, he’s not going to cry about it. The only way Deacon can save humans and shape-shifters alike is to embrace a power beyond his imagining, putting his team at stake—and his soul on the line...

Deacon Chalk goes out for dinner with his girlfriend and two friends, when all hell breaks loose! A triad of witches gatecrash demanding blood and it’s up to Deacon and his friends to protect their surrogate family, innocent humans and the world from a spell that could mean the end of everything. This is a page turner with all the events happening over the course of a single night – and you will have to remind yourself occasionally to breathe!

Deacon is as stalwart as ever, fighting the good fight no matter what the cost. He has unusual powers that seem to be changing and evolving. At the same time he has cares desperately about his people, the family he has gathered about him since his family were killed, but it’s become obvious that he doesn’t understand their choices all the time. Not that there is much time for deep musings as this is all action to the walls adventure with Deacon and friends firing bullets like there is no tomorrow. If you were one of the readers who finds some Urban Fantasy too slow and full of love triangles, then this might convince you that you can have edge of your seat action and character development.

It’s unusual for Urban Fantasy books to deal with religion (somewhat ironically considering the demons and other evil creatures they cover!), so it’s pleasant to see that Deacon is a true believer in the catholic church and has a priest helping him – even if that priest is a hard drinking, cigar smoking, shotgun fighter. Deacon’s girlfriend, Tiffany has also evolved into someone standing by his side at these events and holds her own. Even better is seeing Deacon complete accepting that is her place, no question or worry about protecting her.

This is UF with balls and is just plain fun to read. James R Tuck can take a timeless hard-boiled voice and make it fresh, amusing, exciting and emotional all at the same time. It’s also  a bit of a game changer in Deacon’s world in more than one way and I am curious what the next book will cover. Deacon Chalk has become someone I trust to give me a good adventure and I want more!

Recommended for fans of Kevin Hearne and Jim Butcher. 9 out of 10

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Throwback Thursday #81 - Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe

This is a great feature that Melissa at My World...in 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..

Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe - Jenny Colgan
Publisher: Little Brown
Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own cafĂ©. It should be a piece of cake, right?
Wrong. As her friends point out, she has trouble remembering where she left her house keys, let alone trying to run her own business. But Issy is determined. Armed with recipes posted to her from Grampa, and with her local bank manager fighting her corner, Issy attempts to prove everyone wrong. Following your dreams is never easy and this is no exception. Can Issy do it?

I haven't read any chick-lit for AGES!! This looks like a fun, light read with plenty if yummy food descriptions...what's not to like..? It has been a long time since I read any of this light stories - I hope I haven't moved out of this genre entirely!

Are there any genres you haven't read in a while...?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By Review

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By
Dan Abnett
Publisher: BBC Books
The winter festival is approaching for the hardy colony of Morphans, but no one is in the mood to celebrate. They're trying to build a new life on a cold new world, but each year gets harder and harder. It's almost as if some dark force is working against them. Then three mysterious travelers arrive out of the midwinter night, one of them claiming to be a doctor. Are they bringing the gift of salvation or doom? And what else might be lurking out there, about to wake up?
This was my first ever Dr Who book. While I am a BIG fan of the series, I’ve never bothered with all the additional stuff (conventions, dress up, magazines etc), but on an impulse last week I decided to try one of the books out – and I decided on this one as it was the eleventh Doctor with companions Amy and Rory joining him. They were aiming for Christmas 2011 but ended up on an alien world in the grip of winter, when one of the villagers has gone missing.
This followed the standard adventure layout for the Doctor and his companions – they arrive in the wrong place at a sensitive point in time, one of the companions is separated from the Doctor early on and then a fairly standard, chase, search and investigation plot follows. The locals are divided with some helping the Doctor and some refusing to help, there is something menancing in the snow and there is an ‘unexpected’ twist. All in all this reads very much like an episode in the TV show and I could easily picture all the events happening in front of me. However, this is both a strength and a weakness. It very much feels like a ‘lost’ episode of the show with threatening bad guys, companions in peril, the Doctor being brilliant and lots of running (lots and lots of running!). The banter between the Doctor, Amy and Rory was spot on – I could picture the actors saying exactly those words to each other and loved the joy of the discussions between Earth-like and Earth-esque, Leanish-ness of the Tardis and how it felt like Christmas. I have no issues with either the actions of the characters or their voices.
I guess my issue is that this felt like a TV episode rather than a book. We never get beneath the skin of the characters in a way that wouldn’t be possible on screen. An insight into what Rory really thinks of Amy & the Doctor’s relationship, if Amy ever thinks of leaving the Tardis, if the Doctor ever worries about the danger he brings to his companions would have been nice to see. However, we rarely get to see what any of the characters are actually thinking as opposed to what they are doing. The Doctor and Amy barely seem to give Rory two thoughts once they become separated and none of the events have an emotional resonance for our main characters. So while I raced through the pages and enjoyed the adventure, it never really made a deep impact on me – a bit like a two-minute massage. Nice but not long or deep enough to really make a difference to my muscles.
Overall, I would say that this is a fun read, spot on for those that love the TV show and would like an extra adventure and some lively banter with the Doctor. But it b=never really expands the characters or the world of Doctor Who in any novel way. (Pun intended!)
Recommended for fans of the TV show. 7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Guest Post: A Discovery Of Witches

Today my regularly guest reviewer Sarah reviews a book I had been looking forward too for a while. One of our other friends raved about it but from the sounds of things Sarah wasn't so keen on it. Hmm...I'm tempted to have my own read soon to see what I think! :-)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
Deborah Harkness

Publisher: Headline

Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. 

Oh I do hope this review will arrive when the sun is shining.  My horse is moulting like crazy, creating mini tribbles every time I groom her, and I’ve got a hankering for chick-lit set in exotic locations, so surely spring must be on its way??? 
Anyway, enough wishful thinking, I have views to impart!  Views on a book that has been called ‘the new Twilight’, and featured heavily in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list.  A Discovery of Witches is the first in the story of Diana, a history academic based at Oxford university, who is also a witch that does not want, and seemingly does not use, her powers.  This book is classic Urban Fantasy, with witches, daemons and vampires existing as unobtrusively as possible in our modern-day world.  All of these creatures feature heavily throughout A Discovery of Witches, but it is an ancient, tall and handsome vampire, that enters Diana’s life, and turns her quiet existence totally upside down.
 The premise seemed promising, as I quite enjoyed the (earlier) Twilight books, and I loved the fact it was set in Oxford.  Indeed, Oxford is lovingly and intimately described, and I could virtually smell the books of the Bodleian Library.  Even the 600-plus pages didn’t put me off at first, that is, until I got into the book.  I felt that it really, REALLY, didn’t need to be that long.  In fact, I reckon I could have edited it down to half the size, and you wouldn’t have known.  Deborah Harkness is obviously a good writer, so I was totally at a loss to understand why she labored so many points – yes, I get that Matthew is pale, yes, I get that he is tall, yes, I get that he is fiercely protective of Diana, so why mention them, hmmm, every other page?  The pace of the novel is so slow that the action/emotional scenes lack any real punch, as I had lost all drive by the time I got to them.
I also never really warmed to Diana, or indeed Matthew (which, considering my predilection for tall, dark, slightly dangerous men, is very unusual!).  Diana is stupidly stubborn, annoyingly invasive of other’s privacy, and has a very frustrating tendancy to swoon and require Matthew to carry her around.  There were side characters that grabbed my interest – the brooding, Scottish politician Hamish and the touched-by-madness pregnant daemon Sophie in particular – but they do not feature enough to drag my emotions concerning the cast list beyond lukewarm.  I do admit to loving Diana’s family home though, a house that adds rooms when unexpected guests arrive, hides secrets, and expels those it doesn’t like.
Overall, unfortunately in A Discovery of Witches I found a book that didn’t, for me, live up to the hype.  A beautiful, lavishly described setting did not make up for pedestrian pacing, and some intriguing cast members (and house) could not fill the void left by indifferent leads.  I was left with no desire to read the sequel, and therefore cannot score the book more than 5 out of 10.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Early Review: Hot Blooded

Hot Blooded (Jessica McClain #2)
Amanda Carlson

Publisher: Orbit – to be released 23rd April 2013

E-Arc Courtesy of Netgalley and Hachette Books

It hasn't been the best week for Jessica McClain.
Her mate has been kidnapped by a Goddess hell-bent on revenge --- but Jessica is playing for keeps. Because she's the only female werewolf in town...it comes with its own set of rules...and powers.
Aided by two vamps, two loyal Pack members, and one very reluctant human, Jessica must rescue her man while coming to terms with what being a wolf really means.
All in a day's work for a girl.

If the first book in this series, Full Blooded was fast paced, then this second book was Usain Bolt on skates, going downhill. Wow. There is little time for Jess or any of her friends to catch their breath as she, her brother, Tyler and their pack-mate Danny head off to rescue her mate, Rourke from the crazy goddess Selene. The only help they have are two tracking vampires and a police detective, Jess is trying to save now he knows about the supernatural world. The story is relentless action while at the same time exploring Jess’s new abilities and what makes her different (apart from being the only female werewolf of course!)

I loved Jess’s determination and how much she cares for others. Her care for Ray despite their troubled history was a nice insight into her personality especially as other supernaturals never really gave him much thought. Her growing friendship with the vampire, Naomi also shows her willing to rethink the inbuilt prejudice many supernaturals have. The relationship between Jess and Rourke feels a little more natural this time (it was a little too insta-love previously) and I really liked the way Jess’s powers are different from anything else in this world without making her too isolated. She already has family, friends, a mate and her own thoughts and opinions.

The action is frenetic and involving with each new challenge different and distinct. Jess doesn’t back down no matter what is thrown at her. At the same time she learns more about vampires in general and Naomi in particular, which helps give a wider perspective of what Jess could mean to the wider supernatural world and not just the wolves. I was hooked right from the beginning and never bored as Jess fought and thought her way to Rourke. While there is a nicely contained story here, the wider arc is not neglected and the ending will certainly have you wishing the next book, Cold Blooded was out much sooner than October!

Recommended for fans of Patricia Briggs and Jaye Wells. 9 out of 10