Thursday, 31 May 2012

My Favourite Reads Giveaway Hop

This hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Rachelle Writes. You can find the full list of blogs participating here.

I have TWO favourite reads to share with you all today! They're both books that I've read so far this year and absolutely adored. One is a YA dystopian, the other is an adult romance. You can enter just one of the giveaways or both, as you prefer. Good luck!

Let's get the not so fun bit out of the way first.
The rules for both:
- Must be 16+ or have the express permission of an adult.
- Under the Never Sky is open internationally so long as The Book Depository ships to your country.
- The UnTied Kingdom is open internationally so long as you can receive a Kindle gift from
- The winner will be chosen within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway and will have a further 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be announced.

I realise that most people are probably hopping through as fast as possible, but if you're interested in sticking around for a little while then I'm also celebrating hitting the 100 review mark with a giveaway right now.

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction. 

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions. 

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

Under the Never Sky completely blew me away earlier this year. I adored it and cannot recommend it enough! Bring on book 2 already! You can find my review of the book here.

Please note that while this book is a YA read, it does contain sex. This said, I thought that the author handled these very skillfully and would consider the book appropriate for 15+ readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The portal to an alternate world was the start of all her troubles – or was it?

When Eve Carpenter lands with a splash in the Thames, it’s not the London or England she’s used to. No one has a telephone or knows what a computer is. England’s a third world country and Princess Di is still alive. But worst of all, everyone thinks Eve’s a spy.

Including Major Harker who has his own problems. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in Yorkshire. Turns out the best person to help him is Eve.

She claims to be a pop star. Harker doesn’t know what a pop star is, although he suspects it’s a fancy foreign word for ‘spy’. Eve knows all about computers, and electricity. Eve is dangerous. There’s every possibility she’s mad.

And Harker is falling in love with her.

THIS BOOK WILL BE AN AMAZON KINDLE GIFT. You must be able to receive Amazon gifts from the US site in order to win this book.

This is a title from a little known author who has published via indie means. It's true that the book is rather like a modern Mills & Boon, but that didn't matter to me: I fell head-over-heels in love with it. You can find my review of the book here.

Please note that this is a book aimed at adult readers (and set in a war-torn country). It does contain sex, gore and some minor torture but I would still consider it appropriate for 16+ readers..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

100 Reviews Celebration Giveaway


So I've reached 100 reviews! Woo!! Confetti!

If passing the 100 review mark doesn't deserve a giveaway, then I don't know what does!

Even better, because I'm feeling particularly excited about this landmark, I'm going to have three winners, upping everyone's chances of winning!

Apparently I'm fond of exclamation marks today!

So here's the dealio:

There will be 3 (THREE ) winners.

Each winner will be able to choose their book of choice among all the books reviewed on this blog by the time the giveaway comes to an end. However, this book must already be published; I will not be pre-ordering books for the winners.

The winner will receive the cheapest version of their chosen book. I will not be ordering the US hardback version if a cheaper UK paperback version is available.

The books will be ordered with The Book Depository or gifted as a Kindle ebook on Amazon depending on whether the title is mainstream or indie published.

The winners will be contacted within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway. They will then have a further 48 hours to respond to my email before a new winner is picked.

As this is a celebration of reviews, for each review comment that you leave, I will award you an extra entry to the giveaway. Comments MUST contain more than just "great review" or "I love this book!" or they will not be counted. 

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get A Taste: Troubled Waters

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!

The numbers for this week are:
Page 5 for books
21% for ebooks

My book:

Click image to go to GoodReads page

Triumph was the rarest of the extraordinary blessings - everyone knew that - and Navarr had always considered it exquisitely ironic that it had been one of the gifts bestowed upon him at birth. Or perhaps the irony had only become clear to him during those last ten years of his life. Certainly, when he was younger, when he lived in Chialto and had the ear of King Vernon, he had been considered one of the most successful men of his generation. Maybe different blessings exerted their power at different points in a person's life, Zoe thought. Triumph had governed Navarr's existence for twenty or thirty years, but it had given way to endurance at the end, Zoe supposed that there had been times during his political career when her father had displayed great courage; thus, in their way, as they always did, the three blessings proved themselves to be true.

Wow, that was a long paragraph! It gives a bit of a look at how lives work in this fantasy world. It's fairly complicated, but when a baby is born, they have three blessings bestowed upon them by three strangers. It was a very interesting view of how a life is mapped out by destiny and I found that I enjoyed the book more than I had expected to!

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!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Blog Tour: Sneak Peek: The Becoming by Jessica Meigs

Buy the book:

The blurb:

The Michaluk Virus is loose.

In the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, the Michaluk Virus has escaped the CDC, and its effects are widespread and devastating. Most of the population of the southeastern United States has become homicidal cannibals. As society rapidly crumbles under the hordes of infected, three people—Ethan Bennett, a Memphis police officer; Cade Alton, his best friend and former IDF sharpshooter; and Brandt Evans, a lieutenant in the US Marines—band together against the oncoming crush of death and terror sweeping across the world.

As Cade, Brandt, and Ethan hole up in a safe house in Tupelo, others begin to join them in their bid for survival. When the infected attack and they’re forced to flee, one departs to Memphis in search of answers while the others escape south to Biloxi, where they encounter more danger than they bargained for. And in Memphis, the answers that one man finds are the last answers he wanted, answers that herald a horrific possibility that there may be more to this virus than first suspected.

The Sneak Peek:


Brandt Evans’s scuffed black combat boots struck the wet pavement heavily as he ran down the rain-dampened street. His heart hammered wildly against his ribs, as if it were trying to beat free from his chest. His breathing was loud and harsh. His hands sweated and shook uncontrollably. His whole body was on edge.

He had been running for over half an hour.

Brandt ducked into an alley without slowing his pace. He dropped down beside a smelly, overflowing green dumpster to hide. Leaning back against the cool brick wall, he felt the solidness of it, the rough stones scraping against his back through his thin t-shirt. He closed his eyes and struggled to breathe. His lungs burned. His eyes hurt.

He was a rabbit trying to outrun a fox. Hunted. Desperate.

He just needed a moment to rest. Just one moment. He could spare a moment, couldn’t he?

Brandt leaned forward and peered at the alleyway’s opening. He took in a deep breath of the sharp, cold January air and rubbed his hands over each of his arms in turn to ward off the chill. He’d lost his jacket at some point during the chase, and he desperately wished he still had it as he hunched over and shivered. He held his breath until his chest ached, and then he slowly released it. It clouded the air before his face.

Brandt thought he might have lost them, but he didn’t want to take any chances. There was no way to know how many had followed him, how many had caught his scent. He had to assume that it wasn’t just one or two. He had to assume that he was being pursued. Always pursued. If he let his guard down…

Brandt wiped his sweating palms down the thighs of his camouflage pants and leaned back against the wall again. He knew what would happen if he were caught. He’d seen many of his fellow soldiers succumb to the plague. He knew that if he were caught, it would all end in blood and pain and death. It was not the end he had envisioned for himself when he’d taken this mission, and he refused to let it turn out that way.

The faces of the other soldiers flashed through Brandt’s mind, and guilt settled heavily over him. Even he had known the exact moment when the quarantine failed, when the mission fell apart. But rather than acknowledge the abject failure of the mission and order a retreat, those in command had continued to bark orders at those under their charges to fight and to die.

The guilt of surviving would plague Brandt for the rest of his life.

Brandt had to get out of the city, as soon as he possibly could, if he expected to stay alive. He had to run. He had to get ahead of the infection, flee, and find a safe place to hide. He didn’t care that he’d abandoned his post. His post didn’t exist anymore, as far as he was concerned. Half of the military didn’t. They’d all died or turned within the past several hours. All except for him.

A faint noise echoed from the alleyway’s entrance. Brandt’s heart jumped into his throat and choked him. Brandt leaned to peer around the edge of the dumpster again, and his hand wandered to the military-issue Beretta M9 handgun at his hip. He drew it and ejected the magazine to look inside. It was empty, as expected. He pulled back the slide. He already knew what he would find: a single bullet, the one he’d carefully counted ammunition to save. Just in case.

But Brandt was nothing if not a survivor. Even with the lone bullet in his possession, he’d never have the will to use it on himself. He snapped the magazine back into the gun as quietly as he could. The sound was too loud to his ears, and he worried that the simple action would draw unwanted attention to him.

As if on cue, a shuffling noise came from the other side of the dumpster. A quiet snarl followed it, along with an odd snuffling sound. Brandt closed his eyes and instinctively pressed his back more firmly against the brick wall. He became the rabbit again, shrinking back among the loose trash that skittered about in the stiff, cold wind; he hoped against hope that he wouldn’t be sniffed out. Another jolt of adrenaline pumped into Brandt’s veins as an ominous chill ran down his spine and raised the hair on the back of his neck. He could have sunk into the bricks and hidden inside them.

Brandt’s instincts whispered that there was not going to be an escape from this one. Brandt wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. The idea of being chased, of being caught, was slowly driving him insane. He had to do something, anything to alleviate the awful sensation.

Brandt took a deep, steadying breath and stood abruptly. His head swam at the sudden movement; his vision dimmed, and the alleyway spun around him. His heart lurched in his chest. Brandt shook his head and caught his hand against the dumpster to steady himself as he lifted the gun. The weapon felt incredibly heavy, and the barrel trembled. He swallowed and curled his finger to depress the trigger.

Time slowed to a crawl.

The last bullet left the gun with a loud bang. The bullet whipped past the blood-covered man who ran down the alleyway toward Brandt. It embedded into the wall with a splatter of brick. Shards of red stone sprayed the man and cut into his cheek. He seemed unaffected as he continued his pursuit of Brandt.

Brandt stumbled back. The emptied Beretta fell from his limp hand to the pavement. Brandt looked left and right frantically. Thoughts blazed through his mind in a flurry, faster than he could catch them. His shot had missed? How had it missed when the target was so close? He was an expert marksman, for Christ’s sake! He wasn’t supposed to miss!

Brandt’s dark eyes alternately darted from the man to the alley walls on either side of him. Should he try to run past the man? Should he fight and kill him? Either way, he was likely dead.

Brandt swore under his breath and mentally inventoried the weapons left on his person. There hadn’t been much to begin with: just the sidearm that now lay expended on the pavement and a rifle Brandt had abandoned once he’d run out of ammunition for it. The extra weight of the spent weapon had been a hindrance to his flight. He took a couple of steps back and remembered the one weapon he had left.

Brandt knelt and pulled his KA-BAR knife free from the sheath strapped to the outside of his right boot. It wasn’t much, and he wasn’t sure how much damage the seven-inch blade could actually cause, but it was all he had left. He stood just in time. The man launched himself at Brandt, hands extended, hatred in his red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.

Instinct guided Brandt as he lifted the knife sharply upwards and stood from his kneeling position. In one smooth move that should have been deadly, Brandt slammed the knife’s blade into the fleshy underside of the man’s lower jaw.

To Brandt’s dismay, the man’s gnarled hands closed in tight fists on Brandt’s shirt. The man shook his head violently to free the knife from his jaw. Trapped, Brandt struggled to pull himself from the man’s grip, but the man was stronger than he looked.

So Brandt did the only thing he could. He wrenched the knife roughly from the man’s jaw and slammed it with all the strength left in his limbs directly into the man’s left temple.

Shock invaded the man’s features as the blade struck home. His forward momentum carried him a few more steps after Brandt struck the fatal blow. He leaned heavily against Brandt and then fell to the pavement, hard.

Brandt backed away from the body, shuddering as nausea welled up in his throat. He shook the sensation off and took his first real look at the man who had attacked him. He wasn’t anyone Brandt recognized, which was the best news Brandt would get all day. This man was too old to have been a current member of the military. He was around seventy years old, thin and bony and wrinkled with age, hair white and sparse on his head. His body was clad in dirtied sweatpants and a bloodstained white bathrobe, his feet bare and torn from running without shoes on the cold, unforgiving streets and sidewalks of Atlanta. The elderly man was definitely a civilian, possibly from one of the local nursing homes. Judging by the crusted blood under his lengthening, yellowed fingernails, the man had been ill for at least four days.

Brandt leaned down and grasped the hilt of the knife, pulling it free from the man’s temple. It slid away from the bone and flesh with an indescribable sound that made Brandt nearly drop the weapon as he shuddered in disgust. He took a moment to wipe the blood from the blade onto the edge of the dead man’s bathrobe. He had no desire to continue his examination of the dead body before him. Brandt looked instead to the Beretta lying on the wet pavement. The weapon was empty; it wouldn’t do him any further good. The chances that he would find much suitable ammunition for it in a city under siege were slim, and searching for it wasn’t worth his time. The general populace had days before raided the gun shops and sports stores in the city for anything usable that had been left behind by the military, and all of the ammunition stores were most likely bare. Regardless, he scooped the gun up and jammed it into the holster on his belt.

Brandt looked around the darkening alley. Night had begun to fall, the dusk settling over the alley and making it difficult to see. He tried to center his mind and figure out where to go, what to do. He couldn’t stay on the streets in the dark; it increased his chances of being killed tenfold. The city still crumbled around him, so he needed to move fast. His options were severely limited.

Brandt turned in a slow circle and spotted a red ladder hanging at the end of the alley, almost invisible in the dark. A fire escape, he realized. It at least offered an alternative to returning to the street. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure nothing else was coming in his direction. Then he returned the knife to its sheath on his boot and jumped up. He caught the bottom rung of the ladder and hauled himself onto it, his biceps bulging as he dragged himself up. He began to climb as quickly as he dared.

The metal rungs were slick with rain and ice, and they bit into Brandt’s palms and fingers as he trekked up the ladder. His boots slipped on the icy rungs more than once and sent his heart faltering in his chest. It was only through his own reflexes that he didn’t fall from the ladder and to the pavement below. The thought of breaking bones and leaving himself helpless was enough to keep him on his guard. There would be no salvation for him if he ended up with a broken leg in a dirty alley in downtown Atlanta. In that situation, he could just slap a sign on himself that said “dinner” and lie back to wait for his end.

Brandt reached the roof easily enough and gained his footing on the flat graveled surface. From there, he took a few moments to look out across the city and plan his next step. Smoke billowed on the horizon, close to the edge of the downtown metro area. A tornado siren blasted its monotonous refrain from somewhere in the city, warning Atlanta residents to get to a safe place. Gunfire rang out too close to Brandt’s position for comfort. Screams echoed faintly through the streets nearby, but Brandt didn’t dare check out the source. An ambulance siren played its part in the symphony of a city falling in on itself.

Brandt dropped to his knees, suddenly overwhelmed by the trauma he’d experienced that day. He ignored the gravel digging into his skin through his pants and covered his mouth as he fought off the bile that rose in his throat. The horror he’d faced throbbed in his brain even as he closed his eyes. The things Brandt had seen that day were worse than anything he’d ever dreamed of seeing overseas in combat; the images would stay with him forever. It was all Brandt could do to remain upright in his kneeling position as he fought to choke back the sickness in his mouth and in his soul.

Brandt couldn’t hold it back, though, and he hunched over the gravel and vomited. His throat burned and his eyes watered as he gripped the edge of the building and dug his fingers into the stone. His chest heaved as he coughed up the remains of his last meal. Brandt rocked back on his heels, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand, and cleared his throat. The taste in his mouth was awful, but it was the last thing on his mind. He felt at his face, testing his own temperature as best he could. Brandt couldn’t tell if he was running a fever or if it was just heat generated by his climb up the fire escape ladder. He was sure he would be feeling the symptoms by now if…

Brandt shook his head, clearing his throat once more as he took in the view. “A virus did all of this?” he whispered hoarsely. He looked upon the city once more. The city in which he’d grown up. The city he had loved more than any other city he’d seen in his time in the military. It was like nothing Brandt had ever witnessed before. It was the beginning of the end of civilization, and the thought terrified him. “How can this even be possible?” he asked out loud to no one.

Derek Rivers was wrong. Derek Rivers had to have been wrong. The man who had warned him of this very possibility was long dead, one of the early victims of the viral outbreak that, even now, swept over Atlanta and beyond with a speed to rival the Black Death itself. Brandt had thought that Derek had exaggerated in his tales of test subjects and viruses and drugs. But Derek hadn’t exaggerated. Indeed, Derek hadn’t gone far enough in his description of the total devastation that the virus could visit upon the city. Brandt doubted that the man had ever thought it would get this far, that he had ever thought his worst-case scenario would come so terrifyingly true.

“Which way, which way?” Brandt whispered. He forced himself to his feet once more. It wasn’t time to be puking on a roof and reminiscing about men who were likely dead. He slowly surveyed the rooftop, searching for an escape route and a plan. He looked in every direction, uncertain which way would be safest. None of them, really. Safety was a foreign concept to Atlanta now.

Before Brandt went anywhere, however, he needed weapons. He needed food. He needed water. And he needed a place to hide for the night.

The Author:

Jessica Meigs is the author of The Becoming, a post-apocalyptic thriller series that follows a group of people trying to survive a massive viral outbreak in the southeastern United States. After gaining notoriety for having written the series on a variety of BlackBerry devices, she self-published two novellas that now make up the first book of the series. In April 2011, she accepted a three-book deal with Permuted Press to publish a trilogy of novels. The first of the trilogy, entitled The Becoming, was released in November 2011 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. It was also named one of Barnes & Noble’s Best Zombie Fiction Releases of 2011 and Best Apocalyptic Fiction Releases of 2011. In March 2012, she released a related novella entitled The Becoming: Brothers in Arms. The second novel in the series, The Becoming: Ground Zero, is coming in July 2012 from Permuted Press, with a third novel, The Becoming: Revelations, to follow. A fourth and fifth book are currently in the process of being written.

Jessica lives in semi-obscurity in Demopolis, Alabama. When she’s not writing, she works full time as an EMT. She enjoys listening to music and spends way too much time building playlists for everything she writes. When she’s not rocking out at concerts or writing or working, she can be found on Twitter @JessicaMeigs, on Facebook at, and on Goodreads at You can also visit her website at

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Blog Tour: Review of Pavlov's Dogs by D.L. Snell & Thom Brannan

Title: Pavlov’s Dogs
Author: D.L. Snell & Thom Brannan
Publisher: Permuted Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Horror
Length: 281 pages


Dr. Crispin has engineered the saviors of mankind: Pavlov’s Dogs, a team of soldiers capable of transforming into fearsome beasts. But when Crispin and his team welcome a new talented neurotechnician to the island, Dr. Crispin quickly realizes his masterwork has fallen into the hands of a man he does not trust.


Back on the mainland, Ken Bishop and his best friend Jorge get caught in a traffic jam on their way home from work. There’s a wreck up ahead. And something worse. The first sign of a major outbreak—and Ken and Jorge are stuck in the gridlock. They quickly realize that they not only need to escape, but they also need to save as many people as possible on the way.


Now Dr. Crispin and his team must make a terrible decision. Should they send the Dogs out into the zombie apocalypse to rescue survivors? Or should they listen to the new neurotechnician, who would have them hoard their resources and post the Dogs as island guards?

Thoughts and impressionsThough I watch a fair few horror films, it’s actually fairly rare that I will read horror stories aimed at the adult market. I tried Stephen King’s Pet Sematary once and ended up having nightmares about dead things rising from the grave. Not fun. I stopped part way through and haven’t touched another King novel since (though I have watched most of the films based on his books and those never give me nightmares!). This experience taught me something very important: do not treat horror as bedtime reading. My overactive imagination does not appreciate it. I learnt my lesson and, thankfully, kept it in mind with this one.

Pavlov’s Dogs doesn’t quite get like Pet Sematary. It reads like the literary version of one of those horror movies from the 80s that were pretty much just making fun of themselves. Think those old movies with incredibly unrealistic zombies shuffling around groaning about brainssssss. Kind of like that in that there was certainly a lot of tension and the worry of how survival can be ensured, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. Trust me, this can definitely be a good thing!

The book is at times quite clearly a portrait of society. Then again, don’t most zombie tales draw lines between the good of the individual and the good of the group? Each time there’s the question of whether to help others at the potential expense of risking your own life. As humans, I think we’re often torn between the two as our morals tell us we should help but our survival instinct screams that it’s in our better interests not to.

So the zombies are the kind we all know already. There’s a bus crash and those who were dead start to stand up again and attack the living. It only takes a small flesh wound to turn a living person into the living dead and we follow a group of survivors desperately trying to do just that – survive. At the same time we also follow a group of scientists on an isolated. As such, they’re not at risk of being overrun by the zombie hordes. Even better, they have their own secret weapon: military men genetically engineered to be able to shift into dogs. These are the people who are faced with the choice of sending out their secret weapon to help save those they can, or better ensure their own survival by ignoring their plight. I found the Dogs to be original in a market where there are countless books about werewolves out there. Zombies versus werewolves? Oh yeah, fun in the making!

I did have a couple of problems as well, though. My main problem with the book was all the names. There are a lot of characters and they all get named. I just couldn’t hold on to that many names in my head and keep being able to associate that name with that character, especially when most of them are just secondary characters. It just resulted in me getting confused and having to stop every so often to try to figure out just who X was happening to.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the book a lot! It was outside of my normal comfort zone but just reading it you could tell that the authors had a great time collaborating on this novel. It always shows when the authors really enjoyed writing and it’s very obvious that this is the case here.

Style: I don’t really have much to say about the style. It suited the voice of the story very well, easily creating tension but also sometimes providing a needed laugh. At the start of the book there was a “voila” that turned out to be a “viola” (spelling mistake) and that made me laugh!

Final verdict: It was good! I enjoyed myself running from the zombie hordes with these people. 4 stars

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Cover Wars: I Am Number Four

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 we will be comparing the covers of I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.

US Cover                                                 UK Cover

Rea says: What’s with that swirl on both covers? Maybe it’d make more sense to me if I actually read the book, but I have no idea what it’s meant to be. Which means that my decision this week boils down to the colour of the cover. The bright yellowy-orange of the US edition is a bit too in-your-face for my tastes. I am rather fond of the orange fading to black of the UK cover though. So UK it is for me.

Tara says: They both have that swirly design on it, and I understand why, as I have read the book and watched the I Am Number Four movie, but I feel it could have been better for both. The US is orange, boring and plain. The UK version is orange, black and more appealing to me. It’s UK for me.


Week 19:     US: 2     UK: 11     Draw: 5

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!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Better Off Dead by Danielle Blanchard Benson

Buy the book: Amazon US ; Amazon UK ; Barnes and Noble

I was supposed to post a review of this book a good ten days ago now, but due to a technical glitch I didn’t actually receive the book until the evening before the review was due. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the book read and reviewed in time so I agreed to review it at a later date. Having finished the book now, it’s time to post the review!

Title: Better Off Dead
Author: Danielle Blanchard Benson
Series: The Vamp Saga #2
Publisher: Midnight Engel Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 255 pages

Story: Welcome to Western Europe in 2020.

The International Vampire Council are in the middle of intense negotiations with the Global Six when a mysterious plot is revealed to end Manon's life and thinly veiled lies Mikkel has told his wife will be exposed once and for all.

Manon is sent into hiding with Emmerik as her protector while a deal can be negotiated to spare her life.

As the clock ticks toward a catastrophic outbreak of new virus which seeks to destroy not only the Lycan population but millions of humans along with it, two ancient vampires return prematurely from their time in the ground, and their mood is less than receptive.

What will happen? Who will live? Who will face betrayal? Who will die? Sometimes, the most devastating secrets are better off dead and buried.

This novel is not YA friendly, contains plenty of snark, supernatural creatures included, but not limited to, vampires and Lycans, not to mention a few choice scenes of sex and death.
It is not for the faint of heart.

Thoughts and impressions: When I started the book I was under the impression that it is possible to read each of the books in this series as a standalone. It soon became apparent to me that this is not the case. I was just missing far too much information from the first book that was often being hinted at by the characters. I could kind of just about follow things but there was so much going on, so many conspiracies being hinted at, that I came to feel that I suffered for not having read the series in order. For one, the novel focuses on Manon’s status as a day walker but as I’d missed out on events in the first book, I had no idea how she’d ended up as a day walker or even what that really meant for her or the vampire community as a whole.

Beyond this I felt that there was too much exposition through dialogue. This meant that characters would often start on lengthy reels that would explain things, but then the dialogue sounded like big, long explanations rather than natural speech between individuals. I usually find with dialogue that less is more. It also seemed to me that there was more dialogue than narration. This made it hard for me to form an opinion of the characters as each time I was presented a different version of them as another character perceives them. Mikkel, in particular, I found very hard to even begin to get a handle on as he’s presented as a ruthless man who makes everyone he encounters peons in his plans, a man unwilling to have a wife stronger than he is, a man with no feelings, and a man who truly does love his wife. The different images of him just didn’t fit together in my head and I never knew where I stood with it all.

Manon, the main character and the only one followed via a first person narrative (there are a number of others followed in the third person) was particularly hard for me to connect with. On top of this, her reactions to what others tell her are completely the opposite of what I was interested in. As an example, at one point another character informs Manon that her husband has been draining her of her blood while she’s sleeping and that’s the reason why she’s been so weak. What’s Manon’s reaction to this gem of knowledge? What reaction? Manon does not react to it at all. She just changes the subject or continues on with another part of the subject that they had been discussing. She doesn’t even stop to question this news in her inner monologue. This was completely the wrong reaction for me. I was interested in how she would react to the news that her husband has pretty much been stealing her blood without her consent but she doesn’t even stop to question his actions. She doesn’t even give them a second thought! I would have been pissed if I’d been the one to learn that sort of thing. That’s a pretty big bit of news to just completely ignore.

Despite all of this, the author did have a good, and very strong, idea of where she wanted to go with this story. It reads something like a television soap opera in literary form. There’s plenty of backstabbing, affairs (with stepsons), political power games, and so on. The main idea of controlling the population with a virus that will hit very specific targets was a good one and a very dastardly plan. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about using Josef Mengele as one of the vampire scientist characters, though.

Every single character is pretty much unlikeable with a few redeeming qualities that are overshadowed by, what I consider, bad qualities. There were some that I could grow to accept, but not that I really grew to like to the point where I was rooting for them, none that I could really connect with, and none that I could really empathise with.

It’s obvious that the author has a good idea that she’s working with, but as I mentioned before, I think my reading experience was affected by the fact that I didn’t know what had happened in the previous book. As such, I would recommend that anyone interested in this series start at the beginning rather than with this book.

Style: I found that the author had a case of what I term “wrong word-ism”. Often I’d come across sentences that didn’t really make sense with the word used in them, but if the word was tweaked slightly then it did make sense. An example of such is when Emmerik is telling Manon that he will be escorting her away from the vampire political power play central. He seems to be using a sarcastic tone and then he says that this will be an “honorary duty”. I suppose the author could mean honorary (= in name only) but it would make more sense if he was being sarcastic about it being an honourable (= that brings honour) duty. There are a fair number of other examples of this as well but this is the one that came to mind.

Also, it is apparent that the author does not know the grammar rule of when to use “x and I” and when to use “x and me”. Basically if there’s a verb and you’re replacing “we”, it’s “x and I”, if there’s no verb and you’re replacing “us”, it’s “x and me”. The author tended to exclusively use “x and I”.

Final verdict: A strong plot, one that I’m sure will appeal to many, but one that I felt I was unable to follow to its full potential due to not having the knowledge of what lead up to the situation in this book. 3 stars

Extra notes: both bad language and sex are present.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Audiobook Review: The Red and the Black by Stendhal

So for the past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to participate in Follow Friday. This is because last week I was in the UK with no access to a computer (we forgot the plugs are different in the UK, which is stupid considering I lived there for 13 years!) and this week I took my bike to work and didn’t get up in time to set up the post before I had to leave the house then we spent the evening putting the new fence up. A little bit more D.I.Y. and hopefully the bunny will have an outdoor run space!

Enough about personal life…

Instead, I’m going to backpost a review of the audiobook I recently finished.

The tale of social-climbing, arriviste Julien Sorel brilliantly captures the contradictions and hypocrisies permeating French society under the Bourbon Restoration. Using his formidable intellect, innate cunning and charm, Julien clambers his way to the top, manipulating and seducing those who have the power to give him the social status he desires. However, Julien's idealism and Napoleonic ambitions are always simmering just below the surface, threatening to erupt and jeopardise his designs. For how long will he be able to smother his true feelings? Bill Homewood's reading masterfully portrays the psychological tension and intrigue of this French classic.

The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Narrated by Bill Homewood

The Red and the Black is a French classic written in the first half of the 19th century. This makes it part of the romanticism movement. It does, however, also show certain characteristics that mark it as an early example of the turning point between romanticism and realism. The author, Stendhal, is one of the big names of French classic literature and this book in particular often ends up on the lists of 100 books to read before you die.

Stendhal himself participated in the Napoleonic invasion of Russia, something that gave him the necessary knowledge to write what is considered one of the best scenes about war in literature. This particular scene is in Stendhal’s other popular title, The Charterhouse of Parma, and in it the main character, Fabrice del Dongo, ends up on the field of battle at the Battle of Waterloo. The scene is completely chaotic but a very good portrait of what war really is.

The title, The Red and the Black, comes from Julien Sorel’s life caught between two extremes: the life he would have wanted as a general in Napoleon’s army (though he was born too late to have been able to participate in the glory of Napoleon’s battles) (the red) and the life he has been pushed into as a priest of the Church (the black). A career in the Church is the only way Julien has of advancement and glory in his life as the new regime in France would not have permitted military advancement to a country plebeian like himself. Julien, however, does not really understand the society that he moves in and in turn this leaves him as a peon in many other people’s political ploys.

Julien is a very passionate person and the story is in a large part a psychological examination of Julien’s character. At the same time, he’s not always a particularly appealing character. When he first sets out on his conquest of Mme de Rênal (the wife of his employer and the mother of his students), she really feels for him but the scene where he is daring himself to hold her hand shows that for him it was merely a conquest, a way of proving something to himself. His feelings for her do, in time, evolve but in the beginning it’s portrayed more as a military conquest than anything else.

In many ways Julien is a cruel character. He almost always allows his passions to dictate his actions, which of course land him in any number of sticky spots. His ambition and the way he tends to look down on those around him. He seems to live in this bubble that doesn’t really fit the societies he moves in. The way that he treats those around him often lead to him making powerful enemies, which is never displayed as prominently as at the end of the novel when he is on trial for attempted murder.

The novel is in two parts. The first is a chronicle of Julien’s life in provincial France, his affair with Mme de Rênal and his life in the Church. The second half is about Julien’s life in Paris where he works for M. de la Mole and eventually embarks on an affair with his daughter, Mathilde. This affair and the marriage that is to come of it bring to light Julien’s previous affair with the deeply religious Mme de Rênal who had confessed the whole to her confessor, who had then bullied her into passing the story on to Mathilde’s father. It had to be pointed out that Mme de Rênal is a very weak-minded character and often finds her actions dictated by the other characters around her.

I didn’t mind Julien’s affair with Mme de Rênal so much, but as things were getting going with Mathilde, I was getting very frustrated. The two of them are constantly in love then no longer in love then in love again, punishing each other with words, lack of words, actions, snubs… It’s a very complicated “courtship” that eventually got to the point where it was just ridiculous. I know that that was Stendhal’s intentions and that the book is a satire of French society after the fall of Napoleon, but it did get to be a tad too much for my tastes. Mathilde herself was fighting her feelings for Julien and the fact that these feelings were for someone socially inferior to her. To say that Mathilde is his wife, if I mention that the last line of the novel is about Mme de Rênal, I consider that that speaks volumes about Julien and his story as a whole.

Julien’s crime of passion is based on an event that actually took place and Stendhal created a whole chronicle about how our passions can be a powerful motivator in our actions. There’s no doubt that the novel is an incredibly advanced psychological look at the characters and it is, of course, one of the first examples of a novel where the characters’ thoughts and inner monologues are presented. It is without a doubt a masterpiece.

Bill Homewood does the novel justice as the narrator. All of the characters seem to speak in breathy whispers, but I’m willing to overlook that as Homewood’s diction was spot on!

I’ve read the book once in French and now listened to it in English. I have to say that the audio experience was the better of the two but that is mostly because Bill Homewood’s voice brought new volumes to the story for me. Also, while listening to it I was able to get a fair amount of work done on both my crochet blanket and my knitted one!

All in all, this was a very positive experience for me, even if Julien Sorrel (and Mathilde) drove me to distraction at times. 4.5 stars

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Thief With No Shadow by Emily Gee

Emily Gee is one of those authors out turned out to be a lucky discovery for me one day while browsing the shelves in a local bookstore. Her books caught my attention for whatever reason but in the end it was another book, The Laurentine Spy - her current new release at that time, which I chose to take home with me. I started it one night, meaning to read a page or two before bed… the light didn’t get turned out until almost 5am and even then that was only because I was so tired by that point that I couldn’t see to read anymore. I finished the book the next day and immediately ordered her other book, this book, reading it as soon as it was delivered.

Though I enjoyed this book, it didn’t consume me in quite the same way that The Laurentine Spy did.

When I went to look for another book in my read boxes recently, I found this book at the same time and was overcome by a desire to revisit it! This is how the book found itself back on my bookshelf for a week or two before I picked it up again.

Title: Thief with No Shadow
Author: Emily Gee
Publisher: Solaris
Genre: Fantasy
Target Audience: Adult
Length: 463 pages

Story: Melke is a wraith, which means she has the abilty to walk unseen. After being forced to steal a necklace, she is hunted down by the victim of the crime, Bastian sal Vere. He explains that the necklace was strung with tears, and that without it, Bastian cannot break the curse that is destroying his family. He orders Melke to regain the necklace, in exchange for her brother to be healed. But she had given the necklace to the salamanders, the fire breathing creatures that live underground. She must risk her own life. Meanwhile, Bastian becomes involved in solving a brutal murder of a young pregnant girl in the town of Theirry. This is a strong character-based fantasy, full of romantic tension and gritty storylines.

Thoughts and impressions: The world that Emily Gee has created in this book is vast and barely explored. It’s like if you read a book where all the events take place in the Scottish Highlands but the narration keeps hinting at the wonders of the rest of the world – the deserts of Africa, the fjords of Norway, the rainforests of the South Americas. Of course, it leaves you in a position where you’d really like to explore these distant destinations as well as the Scottish Highlands.

There are four mythical beasts that exist in this particular fantasy world: one for each element. Only two of the four creatures are really explored in any depth. Had she wanted to, I’m sure that the author could have returned to this world – another area of it with new characters to be sure – and woven a story that involved the other two creatures. In fact, the world is so vast that she could have set any number of books here.

As it is, I liked the psaaron of this story. For some reason when I read this story the first time, I pictured the psaaron as a genie-like creature – sort of insubstantial and distanced from anything I could have really pictured. This time around, I think I followed the descriptions more closely. The psaaron is, of course, described as being a sort of cross between human and fish with a general human build but the scales of a fish. The species is described as being very attached to their ancestors who remain with them in the form of a pearl formed by their last tear. It was the theft of a necklace of such ancestor-pearls that brought down the curse upon the sal Veres generations ago.

From my first read of this book, I remember being really frustrated with Melke for constantly going on about how she’d done the one thing that she’d always promised herself she wouldn’t do. She was constantly berating herself for having lowered herself to the base nature of a wraith (a person able to turn invisible) and stolen from the sal Veres. The fact that she’d done it in order to save her brother and then offers to follow in her brother’s failed footsteps and steal it back from the salamanders – essentially risking her life to do something her brother had already proven to be impossible – seems to get overlooked.

This time around, Melke didn’t frustrate me as much but Bastian did. His constant abuse of her and lengthy inner monologues on how horrible a creature she is got old fast but still they came. I understand where the character is coming from, of course. He needed this necklace to save his family’s legacy and have rain return to their lands, but more importantly to save his sister from being raped by the psaaron (one member of each generation being raped by the creature is part of the curse). This understanding did not allow me to be more accepting of his endless ranting. I got tired of him and wanted him to just get over himself and realise what it was that she was offering to do in order to right her wrong.

Thankfully the dog made up for everything! He was lovely. I seem to have a thing for canine companions in books. I’ve read a few books so far this year where the dog’s ended up being one of my favourite characters! The fact that this one could communicate with Bastian in the simplified way that animals are generally portrayed as having just made him all the more endearing.

To say this ended up as a two-fold romance, I was surprised at how little I observed Melke’s feelings for Bastian evolving. Right up until close to the end she felt detached from him, even scared of him. The growing relationship between the siblings – her younger brother and his younger sister – while only observed from a distance were fairly obvious. Even Bastian’s slowly changing view of Melke was clear. But I never really felt her coming to love him until right at the very end of it all. I’m surprised as this was one of the stronger impressions that I took from my first read so maybe it depends on my state of mind at the time of reading.

All in all, for a debut low fantasy, this book is very good! It has a fair few problems but I suspect a number of them are personal taste more than anything else. The story can be on the slow side at times but this allows the evolution of the characters themselves in a satisfactory manner. Emily Gee is one of my favourite low fantasy authors for a female audience.

Style: I really enjoy Emily Gee’s style. I suspect that it will appeal to female readers more than male, but on the whole I personally like it!

Final verdict: If I’m honest, my enjoyment of this book and the rating I’ve given it are likely tampered by my love of the fantasy genre as a whole. It’s probably really a 3 star book but the world building and the author’s style brought it up to 4 stars for me.

Extra notes: I didn’t remember there being any sex in this book, but that’s probably to do with the fact that the relationship between the main characters never gets physical. That doesn’t mean that the hero doesn’t get physical with others throughout the story! Sex is present. Bad language didn’t stand out.

Weigh in Wednesday (4)

Weigh in Wednesday is a meme started by Lauren over at Epilogue. Each week participants weigh in on a certain topic and give their opinions. 

This week:

Novellas Vs. Anthologies

My answer:

Honestly, I don’t really have strong feelings either way about this particular topic. I don’t tend to read many novellas and I don’t read anthologies at all. I know there are some people who like anthologies because they give you lots of little tastes from lots of different authors, but there’s usually only one or two contributing authors who interest me and I’m loathe to spend good money on short stories about characters I don’t know by authors who aren’t on my radar. Also, there’s usually at least one contributing author who happens to be on my list of ‘to avoid’s.

Novellas, however, are a completely different kettle of fish. Unfortunately, they tend to be far too expensive for what they are, especially as I have to pay import taxes on them. A 100-page novella really isn’t worth 9€ when I can buy a 500 page book for somewhere between 5 and 8 euros (depending on the book). I do, however, occasionally give in to the temptation, mind you. I was really tempted by the bright pink cover of Nell Gwynne’s Scarlet Spy and ended up adoring the book so sometimes those 9€ are 9€ well spent!

I’m going to go with novellas. How about you? Leave me a comment with a link to your WiW and I’ll do my best to get back to you asap!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Blog Tour: Spectral by Shannon Duffy

Click banner to go to tour page

Buy the book: Kindle ; Nook ; Google ; Smashwords ; PDF

Tribute Books invited me to join this tour, I saw the book cover and knew there was no way I could say no. Just look at that gorgeous cover! It was cover-lust at first sight.

Title: Spectral
Author: Shannon Duffy
Publisher: Tribute Books
Target Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal romance
Length: 242 pages

Story: Convinced she’s a part of the witness protection program, sixteen-year-old Jewel Rose is shuffled around the globe with her family like a pack of traveling gypsies. After arriving at lucky home twenty-seven, she stumbles upon a mysterious boy with magical powers claiming to be her guardian . . . and warning of imminent danger. Despite the obvious sparks between them, Jewel discovers a relationship is forbidden, and the more she learns about dark, brooding Roman, she begins to question who she can even believe—the family who raised her, or the supposed sworn protector who claims they’ve been lying to her all along. 

As she struggles to uncover who her family has really been running from, she is forced to hide her birthmark that reveals who she is. With new realities surfacing, unexplained powers appearing, and two tempting boys vying for her heart, Jewel battles to learn who she can trust in an ever growing sea of lies, hoping she’ll make it through her seventeenth birthday alive.

Thoughts and impressions: This book left me feeling torn on two very important levels. I say very important because that’s what the story focused on. The main idea behind the plot was fabulous. Books about witches have not really stormed the market yet so it’s still possible to come up with an idea and have it be very original. I found that to be the case here and I loved how witchcraft was presented. I especially loved how red herrings were put in place to lead you on a wild goose chase about the internal structure of the convent that features as a driving force behind events here. On the other hand, the romance was far too in-your-face for my tastes. I’m going to start by addressing why the romance was not for me.

The best kind of romance, to my mind, is one that evolves slowly. The two characters get to know each other, a kindling attraction becomes something more, and when it is finally acted upon you feel fulfilled as the reader. That was not the case in this book. In fact, here it was completely the other way around. When Jewel first laid eyes on Chase, it was so transparent as to be laughable. Of a group of youths, he is the only one to be described. The next day she catches sight of some other guy and again it’s lust at first sight. I’m not a fan of insta-love at the best of times but for it to be used in tangent with a love triangle already means that the romance aspect won’t appeal to me. This was reinforced by the fact that both attractions were based on nothing more than how “hot” each guy looked. Trust me when I say that each and every time that either of these two boys comes into the story, the word “hot” will be in there too. Sometimes it’s even about how “totally hot” they look. At the best of times, “hot” used as a term to describe someone’s physical attractiveness does not appeal to me, but when overused as it was here it got to the point where I wanted to remove it from the author’s vocabulary.

Beyond this, both romances never get anywhere beyond shallow. Jewel manages to witter on about them to some length, but Chase always seemed like a third wheel to me, and never really seemed to serve a purpose other than that of being “the other man”. He did play a small role in things in the second half, but that could easily have been filled by a different character who wasn’t a romantic interest. Roman had absolutely nothing substantial backing his supposed love for Jewel. Sure, I remember being a teen and living on attraction pushed upon me by my hormones, but this took things to a whole new level.

Balancing this out was my interest in the actual plot. I really liked the basis for this story and how Jewel managed to go from a character knowing nothing about anything to one who was strong in her own right and managed to uncover the answers using her own unconventional means. Occasionally she did border on being a bit too stupid for it to really sell me – like jumping into a car with a stranger while being stalked by some other stranger – but I was able to look past these small moments.

The witchcraft was what really sold me. I’ve always preferred witches to vampires and the lore behind the story did not disappoint here. The author started out with a good idea and she wove a strong plot from it that was kept going at a fast pace as Jewel uncovered more secrets about her identity, heritage and role in wiccan society. The witchcraft was not too far-fetched as to make it unbelievable and my initial reaction to how certain abilities were obviously far inferior to others was proven completely wrong when the author completely blind-sided me with how powerful these seemingly boring abilities could be.

Jewel, if you overlook her occasional moments of stupidity and the lack of vocabulary to be able to describe a man’s attractiveness beyond “hot”, was a good character who didn’t rely on others to get her where she needed to be. She discovered a fount of independence within herself and though she was in a sticky situation, she never gave in. What’s more, her pure and tender love for her little brother was so endearing that it made the character just that much more realistic and endearing to me in turn. Jayden was quite possibly the best character in the whole book!

Style: From time to time it was too informal for my tastes. I’m usually ok with informal styles, such as in the Georgia Nicholson books or Immortal Beloved, but this one just bugged the grumpy grammarian in me rather than amusing me. Possibly this was because in the other two books mentioned the narrators are constantly making fun of themselves and their situations via the narrative whereas this particular narrative took itself fairly seriously, which didn’t go hand in hand so well with the style.

Final verdict: I adored the witchcraft in the story. I really didn’t like the romance aspect of it. I’m going to meet in the middle with a brand new 3.5 stars rating.

Extra notes: Some bad language present. No sex.

Find the book on Goodreads here.

About the author:

Shannon Duffy writes young adult and middle grade fiction. She grew up on the beautiful east coast of Canada and now lives in Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of one boy, Gabriel, her angel. She loves writing, reading, working out, soccer, and the sport of champions-shopping. She is the author of the young adult paranormal romance, SPECTRAL. Her upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, GABRIEL STONE AND THE DIVINITY OF VALTA is scheduled for a January 2013 release.

The publisher: