Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop

The Leap into Books giveaway hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Jinky Is Reading.
You can find the full list of blogs participating here.

It's a leap year! When I was little, I always loved leap years. It was like they were special. And what does special deserve more than a giveaway?

To keep things simple, I'm going to go with the tried and true prize of a book of choice from The Book Depository.
This is international so long as TBD delivers to your country.
Entries must be made via the Rafflecopter widget.
There will be 1 (ONE) winner who will get to choose 1 (ONE) book of their choice from TBD up to a value of 10 (TEN) US dollars.
Winner will be picked within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway and contacted via email. They will then have a further 48 hours to respond to my mail before another winner is drawn.
Due to laws and such, entrants must be 16+.

Good luck and happy hopping!

(Click Read More to see the Rafflecopter widget.)

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Cover Wars: The Gift / The Naming

Tara of Basically Books and I decided to get together to do a weekly meme where we would compare covers of the UK editions of books with those of the US editions.

The aim of this is to just have a bit of fun. We put ourselves in the position where we see both of these books side by side in the bookstore. Which would we choose? Why that one and not the other?

This week, our book is the first of the Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon. Together they form a fantasy series that I discovered and enjoyed as a teen.

US cover                                                                  UK cover

Rea says: This is another one where there’s absolutely no contest for me. I don’t like the style of the US cover. I don’t like the depiction of the girl’s face or how things appear to be a bit smudged. The UK cover is really very pretty when you see it face to face. Minus the detailed map in the background, it’s fairly simple. As a fan of fantasy ever since I can remember, the UK cover calls to me much more than the US version. In fact, I think that if I was faced with the US cover in the bookstore, I’d pass it by. Obviously, I didn’t do so with the UK cover as I’ve read the book twice now. UK for me.

Tara says: I don't really know if I have seen either of these books. I may have glanced at the pink one before but I am not sure. First of all the titles and their respective cover art go well together. If the UK version was called The Naming or if the US version was called The Gift I would be totally confused as to why. I’ve found that for most books out there the cover art is of a girl or a boy or both. For this reason, the UK version seems different and I feel it shows more of what the book is about. Also the UK version stands out so much better and it’s bright pink! So I am going with the UK version.


Week 6:     US: 1     UK: 2     Draw: 2

Do you want to join in too? Here’s how:
Step 1: Copy and paste the Cover Wars image.
Step 2: Copy and paste our intro or write your own but it must link back to both of our blogs.
Step 3: Copy and paste the US and UK cover images.
Step 4: Compare the two.
Step 5: Either use our score or keep your own score.
Step 6: Post it and share it!
Thanks and have fun!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Kiss in the Wind by Jennifer Bray-Weber

I received this book courtesy of the publishers from NetGalley.

Every so often, I like a bit of pirate action. I mean, I love Cap’n Jack Sparrow! Pirates give the author a lot of room to write a hero with both good and bad tendencies as well as a heroine caught up in what is essentially a man’s world (There’s a woman on board – it’s a curse!).I’m also on a bit of a romance kick. It must be because it’s February! So, pirates? Check. Romance? Check. Sounds good!

Title: A Kiss in the Wind
Author: Jennifer Bray-Weber
Publisher: Carina Press
Target Audience: Adult
Pages: ebook – approx. 80k words
PoV: 3rd person
Tense: past tense

Story: Marisol Castellan is in trouble-again. Against her pirate father's orders, she snuck off their ship to intercept a message meant for a rival captain, one that offers a clue to the whereabouts of her estranged brother Monte.

Pirate captain Blade Tyburn is not pleased to find the letter he's been waiting for is missing. He's even less pleased when he discovers the thief is a raven-haired beauty who bewitches his senses and muddles his thinking. The note gives the location of a silver-laden ship that'll make his fortune; Blade must find it, and if that means bringing Marisol along on the voyage, so be it.

Marisol believes Monte sails on the very ship Blade is to meet and strikes a deal with the handsome rogue. If he will give her passage to her brother, she will give him the exact location he needs. And both will get more than they expected…

(from NetGalley)

Thoughts and impressions: Ever since their father, a pirate captain, left her younger brother, Monte, behind to die in one of their failed excursions, Marisol has been on a mission to find him again. She’s convinced that he’s still out there somewhere and she’s determined to get to him no matter what obstacles are put in her way. So when she overhears whispers that her brother is a crew member on a merchant vessel, she tries to convince her father to go after him. He doesn’t seem all that interested, though, so she is forced to find another way of getting to the Gloria. That other way presents itself in the form of Captain Blade Tyburn.

During their first encounter she pickpockets something of his. Something of great importance to him. He’s determined to get it back at whatever cost and that cost would appear to be taking Marisol with him to intercept the Gloria. What she doesn’t know is that he’s been commissioned to protect the Gloria and her shipment of silver. Not that that would matter, all that matters to her is getting Monte back.

I admire Marisol’s determination to reunite her family. Despite her years on the sea, family is still everything to her. I wish Luc, her older brother, had had more of a role in the story or that more time had been spent on the implications of the reveal for his death. I suppose that it could be argued that at that point Marisol is drifting on a wave of dawning horror that numbs everything inside her, but it is rather glossed over due to the other reveal taking place at the same time. I liked Marisol’s spunk and how she’d stand up for herself as a woman caught up in a man’s world. She was a fun character to read about.

I’d kind of pegged what was going to go down as of fairly early on. The story did take twists and turns that I’d not expected but it did end up where I’d known it would. I have to admit that I feel it would have been more poignant on the whole if Marisol had been the one to finally take action, but no matter.

Other than Marisol’s quest to find her brother, the novel also focuses on Blade’s unconscious quest for redemption. I say unconscious because he wasn’t really on a quest for redemption but he was blaming himself for actions in his past. I was more on the fence with Blade than with Marisol. I liked him but at the same time he was just a bit too sex-minded. In fact, in the first few chapters, the novel on the whole is a bit too lusty for my tastes. I don’t mind a bit of “cor blimey, I’d do that!” but when it’s repeated over and over it gets a bit much. I understand that there’s mutual attraction there, I don’t really need it to be repeated that he’d like her squirming naked beneath him and she wants him despite her knowledge of his character.

Also, Blade’s jealousy when he sees Marisol interacting with her father, believing him to be her lover rather than her parent, was cute even though at that point he wasn’t ready to admit to feelings for her beyond his normal lusty feelings for females. Actually, their whole relationship is pretty unhealthy for almost the entire story. Of course, this also ensures that it makes for good reading.

The descriptions of life on the sea were some of the highlights of this novel. The author caught the atmosphere well, though I’m surprised that there weren’t more people suffering from seasickness at one point or another.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. It was a light easy read that insisted that I read it rather than doing the various other things I meant to do that evening.

Style: Been to the school of Yoda-speak this author has. There are genuinely sentences with that sort of structure in this story. I don’t know what possessed the author to write like that. The English language does not really allow for the object to be placed at the start of the clause. These sentences weren’t all over the place but there were enough of them for it to start to bug me.

Final verdict: I enjoyed my evening spent with this book. I look forward to returning to the author’s pirate world in the future! 4 stars

Extra notes: Some bad language. Sex is present.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Get A Taste: Crossing Over

Tara of Basically Books and I often read very different books but sometimes find interesting new books to potentially add to the ever-growing monsters that our TBR piles have morphed into. However, we know that we do not have 100% the same taste and we wanted another way of getting a look at these books...

Do you ever feel like getting a bit of a taster for a book you’ve been thinking of reading but aren’t fully sold on yet? Do you feel like sharing a taster for your current read with the world? Well, here’s your chance.

Each week the random number generator will pick a number between 1 and 100 for books with pages or 1 and 25% for ebooks. We figured that these numbers would keep us out of spoiler territory. Open your book to the specified place and pick a paragraph. Share it with the world!

This week the numbers are:
page 71 for books
18% for ebooks

My book is:

click image to go to Goodreads page

The girl stopped kneading, stared at me and laughe reluctantly. I was astonished at myself. Where had the courage come from to tease this girl - to tease any girl? With Cat Starling I had felt protectiveness, with Lady Cecilia I had been tongue-tied and oafish. The only quick wit I had ever shown was in dealings with the Dead.

Again, this week I've taken a quote from a book that I haven't started yet. It's one I bought last summer and now that I have it next to me I'll start reading it tonight before bed!

Do you want to join in too? Here’s how:
Step 1: Copy and paste the Get A Taste image.
Step 2: Copy and paste our intro or write your own but it must link back to both of our blogs.
Step 3: Find the designated page for the week.
Step 4: Type out a paragraph or so from your book.
Step 5: Post it and share it!
We would appreciate it if you'd leave a comment letting us know where we can find your post. We'll be sure to pop on by and leave a comment!
Thanks and have fun!

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Cover Wars: Haunting Violet

Tara of Basically Books and I decided to get together to do a weekly meme where we would compare covers of the UK editions of books with those of the US editions.

The aim of this is to just have a bit of fun. We put ourselves in the position where we see both of these books side by side in the bookstore. Which would we choose? Why that one and not the other?

We missed last week because I was caught suddenly ill in a way that left me unable to sit in front of the PC and we didn't have enough time to prepare. Boo! So we're using the one that was meant to be last week's cover this week. This is a book that we've both read and enjoyed (Tara rated it 5 stars, I rated it 4). This week we're comparing the covers of Haunting Violet.

US Cover                                             UK cover

Rea says: I find that I’m torn about this one. Initially, I was much more attracted to the UK version – there’s something about the purple and black together with the mist coming off the water and the bare trees that gives it a very appealing gothic look. Having read the book, though, I’m not sure Violet ever wears the black dress depicted on the cover so it’s just there for atmospheric effect. The US cover is much more true to the events of the book. The girl depicted is the one who was drowned in the pond. Unfortunately, she doesn’t look drowned. She looks like she’s gone for a float and her hair looks dry, which kind of ruins the effect. After some contemplation, I’m going to go with my initial preference here. UK for me.

Tara says: This is a really hard choice because I like both covers. The US one shows a girl as does the UK one, they both look a little creepy and haunting so that goes well with the title. Both covers have a hint of purple for Violet, and they both show a little of what the book is about. In the book 'water' is mentioned a lot so that is the only reason why I'm going with the US version.


Week 5:     US: 1     UK: 1     Draw: 2

Do you want to join in too? Here’s how:
Step 1: Copy and paste the Cover Wars image.
Step 2: Copy and paste our intro or write your own but it must link back to both of our blogs.
Step 3: Copy and paste the US and UK cover images.
Step 4: Compare the two.
Step 5: Either use our score or keep your own score.
Step 6: Post it and share it!
Thanks and have fun!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Beauty in the Beast by Christine Danse

I received this book courtesy of the publishers from NetGalley.

Considering my obsession with Beauty and the Beast, the title of this novella was always going to call to me until I gave in and read it. It didn’t take very much for me to give in to the urge to read it (read: it didn’t take anything at all). After I spent Valentine’s Day with something bordering on a horror story, I really fancied a bit of light romance next. And what better than Beauty and the Beast?

Title: Beauty in the Beast
Author: Christine Danse
Publisher: Carina Press
Target Audience: Adult
Pages: ebook – approx. 29k words
PoV: 1st person
Tense: Past tense

Story: Journeying by steam-powered sled to London's Frost Fair to perform, Tara and three friends are trapped in a blizzard in the woods. A gruff, handsome stranger offers them shelter-and wants one thing in return. Stories. 

The travellers are glad to oblige. Their host, Rolph, is especially captivated by Tara's story of an orphaned girl raised by the Fae in the world of the spirits. Equally intrigued by Rolph, and aware of an electric pull between them, Tara encourages him to share a story of his own. When Rolph weaves a tale of a man who is doomed by his own folly to turn into a wolf at the full moon, Tara suspects there is more than a grain of truth in his words. 

When the veil between the mortal and spiritual worlds is parted, and danger threatens, will Tara make the ultimate sacrifice to save Rolph?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: For a short story, Beauty in the Beast dabbles in a bit of everything! It’s historical, it’s romance, it’s paranormal, it’s steampunk. I really liked the opening where a company of four storytellers are battling their way through a snowstorm. The descriptions are poignant, all the more so because of the recent freezing weather and snow falls that we’ve had here. I could feel the cold seeping into my bones as much as it was into the characters’ bones!

There are essentially two halves to the story: in the first, the troop arrive at the cabin, beg for shelter and then take turns to each tell a story. The stories they tell are short but fun. I especially liked the story of the old man who replaced all his servants with automatons only to discover to his horror that these machines are far from the perfect servants that he had envisioned. A good moral for us all to keep in mind in this day and age!

The second half focuses on building the actual story between this particular Beauty (Tara) and the Beast (Rolph). There’s evident mutual attraction between the two of them but Rolph seems unwilling to act upon it for mysterious reasons. Tara, of course, won’t back down that easily. She knows what she wants and she’s willing to push to get it. There are some very sweet scenes when both of them are still finding their footing around the other as well as one particularly intense scene that I was rather hoping would lead to something more! It didn’t, but in this case I found that I wasn’t too disappointed because events didn’t give me time to be disappointed.

I’m a bit torn about the ending. On the one hand, I would have liked to have seen more – to get to know the characters and maybe get a glimpse into what was to come: would Tara leave the group or Rolph join in? How would they deal with Rolph’s particular “problem”? On the other hand, I recognise that it was probably the best place for the author to leave off as another ending point probably wouldn’t have been as powerful.

As for the paranormal side of things, well, the author asks the reader to take a lot on faith. She doesn’t really spend time worrying about how these things work or why they’re there. They just do and are. This worked for me but I’d understand if it didn’t work for everyone.

For a short story, the characters are very well developed, the story really caught my interest and I found it was all over far too soon. The mark of a good book is when you reach the end and wish there were still more pages to turn. I had that here.

Style: The story is set in Britain but written in American English. Usually I can ignore this fairly easily unless the author uses words that are not part of our British vocabulary. This story has a few offenders (the biggest being ‘stoop’ – the only reason I know this word is because it’s from a Dutch word) but this is a personal pet peeve. Everything flows well and I found it easy to immerse myself in the story.

Final verdict: A short but sweet retelling of my favourite fairy tale. I really liked Tara and Rolph – I just wish I’d been able to spend more time with them! 4 stars

Extra notes: No bad language. No sex.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Tag - you're it!

Last week, Eileen of Singing and Reading in the Rain tagged me. I've never been tagged before but thank you Eileen, this looks like fun! 

  • You must post the rules.
  • Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  • Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
  • Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Questions from Eileen
1. What's your favourite song and artist?
For many years now (we're talking 7 or8 years here), my favourite band has been Rammstein. There's just something about Till Lindemann's voice and that particular style of music that go perfectly together. They're even better live than on the CDs and I'm all excited because I'm going to their gig here in 2 weeks! Woo!! Anyway, my favourite song is Reise, Reise. I love how lilting and melancholic it is.

2. Which book character would you trade places with for a day?
Ooh that's a tough one. Do I get to be the same age as this character as well? If I do then I'd go with Violet Elizabeth Bott. She's annoying but she gets to spend time around William Brown and Just William was my first true book love.

3. On a scale of one to ten, how crazy are you, one being perfectly sane and ten being out of your mind?
It depends on how tired I am and who I'm with at the time. Get me in the right situation and I'm an 11. Most of the time, though, I'm probably hovering around 4.

4. Sci-fi or dystopian?
Right now I seem to be on a bit of a dystopian kick so I'll go with that one.

5. What is a crazy thing that you've always wanted to do?
You might not think it's all that crazy, but ever since I was five years old I've wanted to learn Hungarian. The thing that makes it crazy is that Hungarian is not an Indo-European language so it's impossible to figure out words from basic common roots (like, the word for 'police' is fairly similar in most European languages but in Hungarian it's "rendőrség"). This makes it a difficult language to learn.

6. Worst book ever in your opinion?
I'm going to go with Breaking Dawn. The other books in the series aren't that spectacular, but in Breaking Dawn, every single rule set up in the previous books is torn down in order to give everyone the happy ending the author wanted, the only rounded character is turned into a paedophile and there are hundreds of pages that lead up to a conflict that doesn't even sizzle - the only character that dies is very conveniently the other vampire lady who had her sights on Edward. Coincidence? I think not.

7. During your childhood, what was the thing that took the longest for you to part with?
I'm not sure. Possibly my pet stone. Yes, I had a pet stone. Alfie in the Alfie and Annie Rose books, which my mum would read to me when I was very young, had a pet stone so I wanted one too. It lived next to the fireplace until we moved to France but we weren't allowed to take things like that to France so he had to stay in England.

8. Happily Ever Afters or Big Tragic Deaths?
Happily Ever Afters. Yes, the Big Tragic Deaths stay with you longer and make much more of an impression, but I like when all the trials and tribulations the characters have been through eventually allow them to enjoy their Happily Ever After that they've come to deserve.

9. Do you have an inspiration behind everything that you do?
I don't know. Do I? I don't think I do. Most of what I do I seem to do spur of the moment and not all that much thought goes into preparing it. So I'd say no.

10. What is the craziest conversation you had with a person?
Well, once I was in the train sitting next to this group of older ladies. They were all Italian and spoke French with a very thick Italian accent, which meant that I was having some trouble following them anyway, but they insisted on drawing me into their conversation. And then all of a sudden they're talking about sex in the bath! One of them turns to me and she says "I bet you enjoy sex in the bath, don't you?" I was completely dumbfounded. 

11. Quick! Somebody threw your really heavy backpack at you! What's your response?
Knowing me, I'd put my hands up to catch it and end up in pain. >.<

My Questions:
1. Who is your favourite fairy tale character and why?
2. Do you watch a lot of TV?
3. Sweet or savoury?
4. What’s your life-long dream?
5. Who is your book crush?
6. Love at first sight or a slow burning romance?
7. Vampires or werewolves?
8. If you had to learn another language, which would you choose? (Hey, I’m a language buff ;))
9.  For valentine’s: roses (as in the flowers), chocolates or a teddy bear?
10. Lucky you, you found a genie in a lamp! What would your three wishes be? (All the normal limitations apply.)
11. If you could make one book required reading for everyone, which book would it be?

My Tags:
(I went through my GFC and picked the following 10 random people + Tara)

If you decide to participate, leave me a link and I'll check it out!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Get A Taste: The Other Life

Tara of Basically Books and I often read very different books but sometimes find interesting new books to potentially add to the ever-growing monsters that our TBR piles have morphed into. However, we know that we do not have 100% the same taste and we wanted another way of getting a look at these books...

Do you ever feel like getting a bit of a taster for a book you’ve been thinking of reading but aren’t fully sold on yet? Do you feel like sharing a taster for your current read with the world? Well, here’s your chance.

Each week the random number generator will pick a number between 1 and 100 for books with pages or 1 and 25% for ebooks. We figured that these numbers would keep us out of spoiler territory. Open your book to the specified place and pick a paragraph. Share it with the world!

This week the numbers are: 
page 80 for books
19% for ebooks

My book is:

Click image to go to Goodreads page

Karen got down on her knees. Carefully, she slipped off my sneaker and still-bloody sock. I winced as she pulled away the sodden cotton. She inspected the sole of my foot with a deep frown. "More stitches," she said with an apologetic smile. I took a deep breath through my nose and leaned my head against the backrest, my eyes squuezed shut.

Honestly, I'm not actually reading this book right now - it was just the closest one at hand. It is high up on my list of what to get to next, though! It looks good. :) I like the bloody butterfly on the cover!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Pure by Julianna Baggott

I received this book courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley.

This book came onto my radar a while ago now. It’s part of my compulsion to seek out and read as much dystopia as possible at the moment. Quite a few of the books that I’ve really enjoyed over the past few months have been dystopias.
Before I went into this I knew that Pure would be coming up against Under the Never Sky. I have a feeling that most of the dystopias that I’ll be reading this year will have to measure up against Veronica Rossi’s debut. But I sure had high hopes for this one.

Title: Pure
Series: Pure #1
Author: Julianna Baggott
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Target Audience: YA
Pages: 448
Chapters: Unknown – names rather than numbers
PoV: 3rd person
Tense: Present tense

Story: We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run. 

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again. 

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: First things first, this book was weird! That’s the only way that I can think of to describe it. It’s set in the not too distant future – Pressia’s grandfather mentions that he remembers 3D cinema from his youth so I figured the era to be 50 or so years from now. Eight or nine years before the story starts, detonations took place. Anyone who was not in the protective environment of the Dome found themselves fused to whatever was close by at the time of the bright flashes. For the main characters, this is: Pressia has a doll’s head instead of one of her hands; Bradwell has birds in his back; Pressia’s grandfather has a little hand-held fan stuck in his throat; and El Capitan is fused to his little brother, destined to give him a piggyback ride for the rest of their lives.

The fusings are many and varied – I often felt horrified by the imagery that the descriptions evoked in me… horrified that human beings would do this to other human beings. But of course they would. The author alludes to the fact that such a thing has already taken place in Japan with the dropping of the nuclear bombs. I hadn’t heard of this but then I am led to believe that it was kept quiet, in part due to shame. I’m sure that a little research into the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings will shed more light on this, though.

Back to the story.

Officially, the story is that the US’s enemy set off the detonations but we’re soon introduced to a conspiracy theory that the American elite did this to their own fellow citizens as part of a measure to purify the land. They wanted to create a “New Eden” where those who were safe can emerge and reclaim the land for themselves.

Pressia is a girl on the outside, a wretch, who is closing in on her 16th birthday. All wretches are enlisted in the OSR (Operation Sacred Revolution) when they’re 16 and are either trained to fight against the Dome or used as live bait in this same training. Pressia doesn’t want to join the OSR, though, so she hides until she is forced to flee. While fleeing, she comes across Partridge – a boy from the Dome who is unscarred, a Pure – who has escaped the only word he knows in order to track down his supposedly-dead-but-possibly-alive mother. They join forces, making a few other friends along the way, and together they all slowly unravel the extent of Partridge’s father’s villainy as well as his mother’s secrets. They have to come to terms with a reality very different from the one they had believed in for so long.

Of course, in this quest to uncover truths they come up against many surprising enemies and reluctant allies. I’m not going to even allude to them because I strongly believe that in this case each reader should discover all of these twists and turns for themselves.

For a while I was worried that even though the author had set things in motion for Pressia and Partridge to each have their own romantic interest (Bradwell and Lyda respectively) and neither had displayed even an inkling of romantic interest in the other, she would somehow twist things to bring them together. Most of the books I read do eventually bring the male and female leads together as a couple. But there’s something else going on here and I’m glad that Bradwell gets to keep his role as the boy who makes Pressia’s heart beat faster. I don’t feel so strongly about Lyda but then she had a smaller role in the whole and most of it away from Partridge. Poor El Capitan is a bit like a fifth wheel, though – maybe he’ll get his own leading lady in the sequel! Ok, so obviously I’m a hopeless romantic at heart.

Speaking of the sequel, I’m looking forward to it! The fight promises to become more intense with more on the line now that certain truths are known. It’s definitely on my TBR list already.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to point out that I did struggle to really get into this book. It took up until about the 20% mark for me to really become involved in events and desperate to find out what would happen next. If, like me, you have some difficulties with the first part of the story, I recommend soldiering on to see whether it picks up for you. In my case, in the end it really was worth it!

Style: The only way I can think of to describe this style is disjointed. It doesn’t really flow smoothly but I felt that it fit the setting perfectly.

Final verdict: I was drawn in, I was repulsed; I was fascinated, I was horrified. This book was so very different from… anything! I really enjoyed it, but I do have to keep in mind that I had to force myself to keep going until certain things clicked into place. Definitely worth the read. 4 stars

Extra notes: Some mild bad language. No sex.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Marian's Christmas Wish - Carla Kelly

I won this book in a giveaway back in early December. I meant to read it as soon as it was delivered but I’d just read another Christmas-themed historical romance and it felt a bit like an overload when I started this one so I put it on the backburner for a while.

Right now I seem to be alternating between e-reads and physical copies. When I spotted this one sitting on my shelf in the living room (there are only a handful of books on this shelf as most of the books are kept in the book room), I realised that I needed to either read it now before the Christmas season is well and truly over or put it away until the end of the year. I chose the former. Ironically enough, it is now much colder than it was in December and we actually have snow so it feels much more seasonal now than it did two months ago!

Title: Marian’s Christmas Wish
Author: Carla Kelly
Publisher: Sweetwater Books
Target Audience: (Older Young) Adult
Pages: 298
PoV: 3rd person
Tense: Past tense

Story: Christmas threatens to be bleak. Papa has been dead for a year, and his estate is heavily in debt. Marian Wynswich is determined her family will enjoy the season because there might not be another in their ancestral home. Watching her sensible sister turn giddy when she falls in love, Marian vows not to complicate matters by committing that feminine folly. Not her.

Easy to say, but what’s a young lady to do when a dashing diplomat arrives unexpectedly, a guest of her brother? Gallant Lord Ingraham couldn’t possibly be interested in unconventional Marian, who reads Greek, plays chess, doctors strays, and is too smart to fall in love. She knows her heart is safe, but does he?

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: As mentioned, before I attempted this book, I read The Captain’s Christmas Family by Deborah Hale. That book focused a lot on the religious side of Christmas to the point where it got preachy at times. At the time I had been watching a lot of The Atheist Experience online and was feeling a bit grouchy about religion after having had quite a bit of it shoved down my throat. Really, I think that I was a bit worried that I’d get the same sort of message about God’s love and his intervention in this book too…

But this book does not push a religious message! It focuses on the idea of bringing families back together, of reuniting with loved ones rather than revering a religious deity. There are, of course, some religious elements but considering the period when it’s set, this is hardly surprising. I found that I was much more comfortable with this story than I was with The Captain’s Christmas Family.

It took me a little while to slip into the style as it is made to reflect the style of the period as much as possible. As soon as I was there, though, I was completely drawn into the story.

Marian’s family seems to be caught up in a rough spot. Bertrand Wynswich, her father, died the previous Christmas, leaving the family with a mountain of debts; her mother spends most of her time cooped up in her room; her younger brother has been expelled from school; her older sister is being used as a pawn, married off to an older rich man despite her obvious attachment to another man; and her older brother is under enormous stress trying to keep the family afloat. Marian decides that it’s time for her to fix things.

Percy, the older brother, returns from his diplomatic mission with two men: one is the older gentleman in search of a wife with no long courtship involved. He is a truly odious character but because he is potentially the family’s salvation, everyone has to be polite to him. The other gent is Lord Ingraham, a man whose many diplomatic ventures have left him scarred in such a way that he is unwilling to present himself before his mother. He takes an immediate shine to Marian, though.

The first part of the novel focuses mainly on the firm friendship which blossoms between Marian and Ingraham - Gil. I really enjoyed this part – the older man’s fascination with this energetic, out-spoken girl. May only problem with it was that often Marian would come across as younger than her 16 years and Gil tended to treat her as a child. He also takes a lot of liberties touching her, nothing intimate but often enough in books from or set in that era, there will be no contact between the hero and the heroine… certainly not frequent little touches.

As soon as Marian learns that Gil is avoiding his family because of the disfiguring scar, she is determined that he should return home to his mother. She confesses this wish to her younger brother, Alistair, and he takes the first steps to get the scheme rolling, leading to many laugh-out-loud moments.

The last part of the novel is completely at odds with the first part, though. We go from a cosy, family-oriented lot to a diplomatic threat of a thriller. These two plot halves didn’t mesh that well, unfortunately. I didn’t know quite what to make of it but it felt like I’d suddenly started reading a completely different novel. I much preferred the first part and based on that only this could easily have been a 5-star read. As it is, the diplomatic threat didn’t work for me very well, especially as it all didn’t even really make sense to me. What a shame.

Style: A joy to read once I’d disconnected myself from the more modern styles I’ve been reading lately. One thing stuck out, though. The author would often use the verb “to twinkle” as a descriptive verb of what the characters were doing with their eyes.

“She twinkled her eyes at him.”

This phrasing really bugged me.

Final verdict: A very strong first three quarters let down by a mediocre last quarter. 4 stars

Extra notes: No swearing. No sex. I think that this is aimed more at adult readers who like clean romance but I’m sure that it would appeal to mature teen readers who like regency romances.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Follow Friday - 10/02/12

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison can read. Each week participants are given a prompt. This week's is:

Q: What would your prefer: reading your favorite book over and over again until you got sick of it OR reading 100s of mediocre books? And why?

That's a difficult question to answer! The problem I have with it are those six little words: "until you got sick of it". I love my favourite books because I can choose when I want to return to them for a reread. If the reread was mandatory, I suspect that they'd soon end up like school reads - hated. And I would be very sad to see my favourite book become my least favourite book. On the other hand, I also dislike mediocre books (well, unless they're mediocre romance books - I'm not sure why. It must be a personal guilty pleasure even if I rate them low). In this case, though, I think the hundreds of mediocre books are the lesser of two evils.

How about you?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Get A Taste: Working Stiff

Tara of Basically Books and I often read very different books but sometimes find interesting new books to potentially add to the ever-growing monsters that our TBR piles have morphed into. However, we know that we do not have 100% the same taste and we wanted another way of getting a look at these books...

Do you ever feel like getting a bit of a taster for a book you’ve been thinking of reading but aren’t fully sold on yet? Do you feel like sharing a taster for your current read with the world? Well, here’s your chance.

Each week the random number generator will pick a number between 1 and 100 for books with pages or 1 and 25% for ebooks. We figured that these numbers would keep us out of spoiler territory. Open your book to the specified place and pick a paragraph. Share it with the world!

This week the numbers are: 
page 90 for books
12% for ebooks

My book is:
click image to go to Goodreaads page

"Joe," she said, as he turned off the overhead light before opening the door. "Be careful, okay?"
"It warms my heart that you care."
She tried for a smile. "Well, you're better than McCallister."
Fideli leaned in and gave her that odd look again. "Like I said, you don't know him very well. Lock it."
He shut the door, and she hit the lock button. He was out of sight in seconds. Damn the man was stealthy.

This is one of those books that's been on my shelves for months now, just gathering dust. I find I'm in an urban fantasy mood right now and this was the closest one at hand! I'm 50 pages in so far and it's... odd at best, but certainly holds promise!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This book barged its way onto my reading radar towards the end of last summer. It immediately caught my attention and soon had me tight in its grip. First of all, the cover is very simple but so captivating! The leg and the shoe?... oh man! And then the concept of a fairy tale retelling – something I’m always keen to read – of Cinderella as a cyborg in a dystopian future setting. Let me say that again: Cinderella as a cyborg. How cool is that?!

There was no way I wasn’t going to read this book. It’s got my name written all over it.

Title: Cinder
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin
Target Audience: YA
Pages: 389
Chapters: 38
PoV : 3rd person
Tense : Past tense

Story: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: As of the very first page I knew that I was going to love this story. The first scene depicts Cinder removing her cyborg foot, a foot that is far too small for her, and it was everything I could have hoped for from an opening to such a story.

It didn’t let up after that, with threats from various sides, and I was lost in the action. In fact, I was so captivated by the story that I was most annoyed with my boyfriend when he tried to get me to pay some attention to him instead of the book in my hands. I mean, how dare he?! Couldn’t he see that I was so engrossed by the book that I was oblivious to the world at large?

Cinder made for a very interesting and unique heroine. She’s 16 but she only remembers the five years of her life since her stepfather adopted her and brought her to China. What’s more, she has potentially devastating secrets. To begin with, this is simply that she’s a cyborg in a society that looks down on humans who have robotic components. As the story advances and Cinder starts to learn more about who she is and her heritage, she just accumulates more and more secrets. It was quite the thrill to watch her struggle with all these new revelations each time as she had to keep reassessing her own identity. I found her reactions plausible, if a little strained on occasion.

This is part of what makes Cinder’s interactions with Prince Kai so suspenseful. It starts with her just hoping that he won’t notice that she has no foot attached to her robotic leg, hoping that he won’t be repulsed by her and who – what – she is. As things progress and she admits to herself that she’s attracted to the prince, she finds herself fending off his attentions in return. She accepts that with each new layer added to her identity, it becomes even less of a possibility that he would still be interested in her should he learn the truth of her situation.  The ending could be seen a mile off, but it adds a new dimension to this relationship and I’m interested in seeing where Marissa Meyer will take things from here.

The story is fairly faithful to the Cinderella tale excepting one of the stepsisters. Peony, the younger of the two, is actually nice to Cinder and the only person Cinder can stand. Unfortunately, it is of course her who ends up contracting the sickness that is ravaging mankind around the globe. I think that the interactions with Adri, the stepmother, were my favourites, though, as they were full of such lidded anger. I could feel Cinder seething with frustration but also how powerless she was to take matters into her own hands. In particular, the scenes after Peony is taken into isolation are fairly rife with raw emotions and I felt Cinder’s sorrow and indignant anger right along with her.

Queen Levana makes for a deliciously devious villain. She knows just what she wants and she isn’t afraid to trample over anyone who just so happens to be in the way to get it. Her kingdom is the Moon and the inhabitants of the Moon have changed in their genetic makeup so that they are no able to wield bioelectricity in order to control the senses of those around them. Levana holds many cards and she’s not afraid to play them when they’ll hurt her opponent the most. She is the epitome of an evil queen and, again, I’m very interested in seeing where her character and kingdom will be taken in future books.

And the best character? Iko the android with a glitch. I loved her!

The Lunar Chronicles is going to be a quartet with each book based on a different fairy tale and set in another area of this futuristic society.
Cinder – Cinderella - China
Scarlett – Little Red Riding Hood - France
Cress – Rapunzel –Sahara Desert
Winter – Snow White – Luna (the Moon)

Style: The author obviously did a lot of research into robotics – it made for quite the glimpse into such a world and added that extra bit of realism to everything. Very enjoyable style.

Final verdict: This book lived up to and exceeded all of my expectations. Definitely a favourite!

Extra notes: Didn’t pick up on any bad language. No sex.