Tuesday, 26 June 2012

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

This book was the very first one to pop up on my screen when GoodReads first introduced their recommendations based on what you’ve already read and enjoyed. It took a while but eventually I got myself a copy of this book, though this may have been more to do with the fact that people who like similar UF to me sign its praises!

Title: First Grave on the Right
Author: Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #1
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 315 pages

StoryA smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper
Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

Thoughts and impressions: The opening of this book was a bit… weird to say the least – a bit intense? I have to say, I usually prefer my sex scenes to come a bit later on in the book! The author does deliver with a longer, better sex scene later on, but I was surprised to find one as the opening passage.

I was obviously being particularly slow while reading this book. It wasn’t until Charley pointed it out herself that I drew the parallel between her name and Harley Ds! She was definitely as cocky and in-your-face as a Harley D so I’d say her name was well chosen. In fact, at times she was a little too cocky for my tastes but this was easily overlooked.

The narrative was meant to be humorous and there were plenty of times when it pulled it off and I’d snigger out loud, but there were other times when the humour felt forced or was too repeated. This can easily be explained away by the differences between British and American humour, but at times I found it to be more on the side of tiring than funny. Still, in the long run I enjoyed Charley’s narrative voice. Due to her role in life, she’s used to keeping everyone at arm’s length and this shows – usually by her insulting anyone who tries to get to close.

Charley is, of course, the grim reaper. The ghosts of the departed go to her to get some closure to their lives before they go into her light. She works with the local police force where her uncle Bob, Ubie, is an officer, giving the “anonymous tips” necessary to put the bad guys behind bars. She also runs her own P.I. business on the side, keeping busy with both the living and the dead (as the dead obviously don’t tend to pay).

But when three lawyers working to get an innocent man’s name cleared of a murder he didn’t commit are all assassinated on the same night, Charley finds herself caught up in an investigation that seems hell bent on getting her killed. Luckily for Charley, she seems to have a guardian angel in the form of some unknown entity that scares her shitless. I have to admit that she did get injured a bit too often for it to really be believable. I think not a single day went by without her having a brush with death. It would have been easier to accept it all if it had been set over a slightly longer period, giving her a little bit of reprieve each time.

The romance with Reyes felt rather… unfounded. The two of them never had an interaction that didn’t end up giving in to lust. I knew next to nothing about his personality, because Charley didn’t know it either – she just felt this inexplicable attraction to him. This led to me feeling that I didn’t know enough about him to be particularly interested in their relationship – or maybe invested is the better word. That said, I really liked the sentiment behind the idea that Charley is quite literally the girl of Reyes’s dreams! There are enough tantalising hints about his role in life, the universe and everything that I’m interested in finding out more about him, but I wish I’d been able to get a better handle on him in this book.

I would have liked to have seen more of Charley’s family as well, especially her father’s reaction to her stepmother’s open animosity towards her. I suppose that this could easily be explored more in future instalments but it’s one of the things I’d be interested in exploring.

A fabulous introduction to an urban fantasy that deserves its position in the fantasy market!

Style: Very catty, very chatty. Informal, but fun.

Final verdict: A fun read that had me laughing out loud at times! I’m already looking forward to reading the second book! 4 stars

Extra notes: Both bad language and sex are present.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Cover Wars: Ash by Malinda Lo

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 Ash by Malinda Lo.

US cover                                                       UK cover

Rea says: The UK cover is really very pretty with the glass slippers being an obvious giveaway as to the book’s subject. The art really draws my eye. I find, however, that the gothic, lost look of the US covers draws my attention better. US for me.

Tara Says: They both look really stunning and beautiful as they both have the girl and something which just makes it special… But the UK one is brighter and colourful, which makes me want to read that the most, so UK for me.


Week 23:     US: 3     UK: 11     Draw: 8

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, 23 June 2012

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

Mercedes Lackey seems to be one of those authors who have a few gems in her vast number of published books, but it’s a case of unearthing which ones work for you as a reader. Considering how much she churns out, this comes as no real surprise. I’ve only read one of her books before, Gwenhwyfar, which I didn’t really like. If I’m honest, the only reason I picked up this book is because it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I can’t resist such a book.

Title: The Fire Rose
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Elemental Masters #1
Publisher: Baen
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 433 pages

Story: In 1905, Medieval scholar Rosalind Hawkins is left destitute when her father dies, forcing her to accept the offer that has mysteriously come her way of becoming a governess in San Francisco. But she arrives to find a house without children, a wife, or even an employer--only a terrible secret.

Thoughts and impressions: Unfortunately, I soon found myself frustrated and uninspired by the characters in this book. Paul du Mond (Beast’s right-hand man) in particular was just too much! He’s one of those seedy guys who feed off the work of others rather than doing any work himself; he likes to “break in” the new prostitutes – quelling their spirits so they’ll be pliable for other clients – and even learnt Spanish so he could give the Mexican girls a verbal thrashing as well as a physical one. I think that the author was just trying to use this as a means of introducing the world of San Francisco’s world of prostitution at the turn of the 20th century. I certainly picked up a lot of information that I’d been unaware / half aware of, but I didn’t feel that du Mond’s character was balanced enough for this to go down well. He had no positive attributes whatsoever and that made him very unbelievable for me.

In fact, none of the characters were particularly balanced. The good were sugary good and the bad had no redeeming qualities. Moreover, the Beast doesn’t even grow as a person. The whole idea behind Beauty and the Beast is that Beauty’s love allows Beast to grow and improve as a person. It doesn’t matter whether or not he transforms into the perfect, able-bodied man, there still has to be that character growth!  This particular Beast ends up as the exact same person that he was at the start of the novel.  Don’t even get me started on Rose. She was just so… I don’t even know but I could not like her at all. On top of that she’s too much on the side of perfection for my tastes.

If you know me, you’ll know that I adore Beauty and the Beast and that I’ll eat up anything with a passing resemblance to that fairy tale. I’m very sad to say that this is the first time ever that I’ve not liked a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I was bored, put off and uninspired by the characters and on top of this Beast is called Jason Cameron. It’s often written out in full like that and I’d find myself reading it as James Cameron all the time. I had to keep stopping and rereading the name!

The book’s redeeming feature is its magic system. I rather liked the mastery of the elements and how familiars would work for their master, helping them in their spell casting. I quite liked the ritual system as well and how Magick was not just at the practitioner’s fingertips. I even liked how the Eastern magical ways differ from those practised in the West, but how they could both learn from each other.

Now, if only the rest of the book had been as good as the magic system. This is the second time that I’ve been stung by a Mercedes Lackey book. I’ll think long and hard before picking up another.

Style: I can’t put my finger on what exactly it was about the style that didn’t appeal to me but I found it pretty tough going. I even put the book down at one point for a week or so while I read some other books instead.

Final verdict: Really just not my cup of tea I’m afraid. 2 stars

Extra notes: I don't think there was any bad language. No explicit sex though prostitution and what is essentially the rape of kidnapped girls are mentioned in passing.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Blog Tour: Knee Deep by Jolene Perry

Click image to go to book's site

Buy the book: Amazon US ; Barnes & Noble ; Google ; Smashwords

Title: Knee Deep
Author: Jolene Perry
Publisher: Tribute Books
Target Audience: Older YA
Genre: Contemporary / chick lit
Length: 174 pages

Story: Shawn is the guy Ronnie Bird promised her life to at the age of fourteen. He's her soul mate. He's more uptight every day, but it's not his fault. His family life is stressful, and she's adding to it. She just needs to be more understanding, and he'll start to be the boy she fell in love with. She won’t give up on someone she’s loved for so long.

Luke is her best friend, and the guy she hangs with to watch girlie movies in her large blanketopias. He's the guy she can confide in before she even goes to her girlfriends, and the guy who she's playing opposite in Romeo and Juliet. Now her chest flutters every time he gets too close. This is new. Is Ronnie falling for him? Or is Juliet? The lines are getting blurry, but leaving one guy for another is not something that a girl like Ronnie does.

Shawn’s outbursts are starting to give her bruises, and Luke’s heart breaks as Ronnie remains torn. While her thoughts and feelings swirl around the lines between friendship and forever, she’s about to lose them both.

Thoughts and impressions: At only a couple of hundred pages, this book is a short read that didn’t take very long to get through. Despite this, it did drag a little bit in my eyes, but I suspect that is likely because as of the very start, the reader already knows how the book is going to finish. It’s merely a matter of finding out what happens in between. The problem for me was that I was aware of Ronnie’s madness and I wasn’t making room for her rationale. While I could distinguish right from wrong from a distance, the character was unable to disassociate the boy she wanted Shawn to be with the young man standing before her.

This made me stop and think. Indeed, I had a good long think about my own past. Ronnie is willing to put up with Shawn’s emotional and physical abuse because she’s latched onto the boy that the fell in love with. Though I had been aware of the fact that one of my previous relationships had not exactly been on the healthy side, it took reading this to really bring to the forefront that I had allowed that young man to emotionally blackmail me into doing what he wanted of me. Granted, he never became physically abusive but I don’t believe that physical abuse is really all that worse than emotional abuse in the long run. Both are devastating to the sufferer.

Taking this into account, though, how can I hold it against Ronnie that she was willing to put up with Shawn’s actions in the hopes that persevering will eventually bring him back to his senses, when I myself was more or less willing to do the same thing? I can’t. Emotions are fickle things and when we attach them to another we’re often willing to put up with a lot before we realise we deserve more than what we’re being given. In that respect, I found I could sympathise with Ronnie and it brought me closer to her as a character (though her personality is a far cry from my own).

There were a couple of comments in the story that made me feel as though Ronnie measured her worth against who she was dating. I got the impression that the presence of a romantic involvement when paramount to her. Honestly, towards the end I was hoping that she would finish the book alone with the realisation that she doesn’t need a guy to complete her. I wanted Ronnie to realise that she can enjoy life to the full without Shawn or Luke, that’s she’s got plenty of time to be herself, to discover what she really wants from life. I suppose that the author does try for something similar but really there’s never any doubt that the book will end with a relationship.

The story is about self-discovery and breaking the bonds you’ve tied yourself to; of realising that you’re worth more than he’s willing to give you. It’s an incredibly complicated social image of forming personalities and problems that arise when those certain things that stop us from taking steps we know to be wrong are not present in people. There are some very dark themes in the book and as such I would not recommend it for younger readers, but I would recommend it for more mature readers who enjoy this kind of read.

This review has turned out being rather personal for me. As such I’m going to leave off here. Definitely worth a read!

Style: Another author who does not know the rule of when to use “X and I” and when to use “X and me”.  I had all that grammar bashed into me as a young age, so seeing it used incorrectly (by someone who speaks English as their mother tongue) does bug me. Also, there was one point where one character says that “did used” to do whatever. Did used? Oh, how I despair! There are two verbs in a row conjugated to the same tense there. Obviously I pick up on the little things.

There were some scenes that didn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the narrative – they just slotted in around other scenes but had nothing them tied to any of the rest of the story. These could be a bit off putting for me.

Final verdict: A particularly personal read for me. It wasn’t perfect and dragged in places, but it was a very emotionally dark story that kept me glued until the very last page.

Extra notes: Some bad language present. Some themes such as rape present. I would not recommend this story for younger readers.

The author:

Jolene grew up in Wasilla, Alaska. She graduated from Southern Utah University with a degree in political science and French, which she used to teach math to middle schoolers.

After living in Washington, Utah and Las Vegas, she now resides in Alaska with her husband, and two children. Aside from writing, Jolene sews, plays the guitar, sings when forced, and spends as much time outside as possible.

She is also the author of Night Sky and The Next Door Boys.

Jolene on:

The publisher:

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Cover Wars: Partials

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 Partials by Dan Wells.

US cover                                                       UK cover

Rea says: This is a case where the difference between the covers is really very small. It’s all about which shading you prefer. Personally, I prefer the more natural, yellowy-browns to the purples. US for me.

Tara Says:  The covers are really similar apart from a few differences. The UK one is darker than and doesn’t really stand out as much as the US one, which has brighter colours and the title stands out more, so US for me.


Week 22:     US: 3     UK: 11     Draw: 7

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!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Guest Post: Vincent Zandri

Click image to go to tour page

Today we have a guest post by author Vincent Zandri.

Got What It Takes To Be A Writer?

Last evening I watched a new movie presented by HBO called Hemingway and Gellhorn. It offered a fascinating but sadly cliched view into the life of two of the 20th century's greatest writers. Both were portrayed as hard drinking, whiskey bottle by the side of their typewriter, bombs blasting in their bedroom, always traveling to exotic locales, wild sex with every sentence individuals. Like their novels, much of this is made up. But then, in some ways Hemingway and Gellhorn lived up to this over romanticized image.

Giving credit where credit is due, the literary couple were more than what was presented on the silver screen (or LCD TV in this case).

In reality they both struggled over their writing, and painstakingly wrote their articles, stories and novels, often wrestling with every word. Hemingway would produce on average no more than 250 new words a day and in the prime of his life, took three straight years off from writing altogether. That's how hard it was for him.

Martha would write alone, sometimes for three or four solid hours a day. Then she would toss it all out and start over the next morning. Like her lover, she possessed a very fine built-in shit detector and in this, she was her own worst critic. 

Truth is, they never drank booze while they wrote. They didn't get hammered the night before and wake up fresh and write like the words were simply bleeding out them. This is the stuff of Hollywood. This is romance. This is pure bullshit.

The truth about Hemingway and Gellhorn: 

Their writing came first.
It came before love.
It came before war. 
It came before partnership.
It came before car payments and mortgages.
It came before children.
It came before health and sickness.
It came before leaky roofs and broken refrigerators.
It came before school PTA meetings and dinner with the neighbors.
It came before birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and graduations.
It came before Christmas.
It came before fun. 
It came before happiness and sadness.
It came before God.

This is why fifty years after Hemingway's death and fourteen years after Gellhorn's (both of them by suicide), Hollywood is making movies about the couple. Because they were the best at what they did. And to be the best, you must make tremendous sacrifices.

Being a writer is not about being available to the world. It's about locking yourself away, at a great distance if need be, in order to work. Work alone, with yourself, without interruption. It's selfish and it is painstakingly hard work. In Hemingway's words, it is like "biting the nail." 

Do you have what it takes to be a great writer? 

Find out more about Vincent's book, Permanence:

Based upon Vincent Zandri's most anthologized Pushcart Prize-nominated short story of the same title, Permanence, is the story of Mary Kismet, a travel agent and grieving mother of a toddler who suffered an apparent accidental drowning. Now, all alone in the world, she attempts to ease the pain of her suffering by immersing herself, body and soul, into a love affair with her psychiatrist, a man haunted by his own demons. A tragic novel of obsession, dark compulsions, and madness, Permanence transports the ill-fated lovers from New York to Venice, Italy, and back again.

Buy the book:  Amazon US ; Amazon UK

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott

When I went to England recently I had this great idea that I’d take my Kindle with me and have lots of books at my fingertips to fit whatever mood hit me! Of course, I forgot to take into account that the Kindle is an electronic device and as such must be turned off for more than half the 50 minute flight time – argh! This book was my emergency purchase to give me something to read. Luckily it was one that I’d been interested in for a while!

Title: The Swan Kingdom
Author: Zoë Marriott
Publisher: Walker
Target Audience: YA
Genre: Fantasy / fairy tale retelling
Length: 263 pages

Story: When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.

Thoughts and impressions: Fairy tale retellings are one of my more prominent reading interests. This particular fairy tale is one that I’m not as familiar with as perhaps I should be. I did read Grimm’s once upon a time, but it was a long, long time ago and this is the first retelling of this one that I’ve picked up. As with all typical fairy tales there’s the princess in distress, an evil queen, a handsome price, a curse, and an absent father who allows all these atrocities to take place (unless he’s dead, but in this case he’s alive and kicking).

In The Swan Kingdom a fearsome, unnatural beast kills the loving queen then takes her place in human form. The royal children, three sons and a daughter, are protected from her mass mind control spell by their mother’s blood and set themselves the task of trying to uncover the talisman the evil queen is using to keep her human form. In doing so, they inadvertently set off an alarm and she unleashes her magic on them. The three brothers are all transformed into swans and the princess is bundled off to live in exile with her aunt in the neighbouring kingdom.

There Alexandra meets a young man, Gabriel, who shares an affinity with nature and the enaid (Alexandra herself has a powerful connection with the enaid). They sneak off together every evening to share stories and soon attraction forms between them. Unfortunately, we’re mostly just told about their evening exploits rather than seeing them, so we don’t get to observe enough of their interactions to form an interest in their budding romance. Or at least I didn’t.  I wanted to like Gabriel as well, but his character just wasn’t developed enough in those original scenes together for me to feel at all invested in it.

When Gabriel has to return home with his family, he makes Alexandra promise to meet him one year later, but the day before she was meant to meet him again she is called back to the land of her birth only to discover that is has been drained of life. This is the kick she needs to break her from the lethargy that she’s been wallowing in for the past year as she waits for her brothers to return to her (she has no memory of them turning into swans).  She realises that she needs to be proactive in order to get her brothers back from their magical imprisonment so that they can reclaim their kingdom together. The only way that she knows of doing this is to weave a vest of a particularly nasty species of nettle while keeping a vow of silence.

This was an interesting and intriguing fantasy tale but possibly a little too short to do the author’s ideas justice. I would have liked to have seen more of the interactions between the characters that would have allowed them more development. As it was, I didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters very well other than Alexandra herself.

The magic system was particularly interesting and refreshing. It was all based on the natural energies that flow through the lands. Because Alexandra’s mother never properly explained her role in this magic system, as well as that of her ancestors, Alexandra doesn’t realise how central she is to everything, how tied to the land she really is. I’m not entirely sure that it can be called original but I did like the person twists that the author put on it.

Style: Good. It flowed well and didn’t have a clunky feel to it, though this is the author’s debut novel so it should get even better as she improves with each book! (I hope).

Final verdict: Lacking in some places but overall a good read that kept me interested from start to finish! I’m now feeling particularly inspired to pick up Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, which is a retelling of the same fairy tale. 3.5 stars

Extra notes: No bad language. No sex.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Cover Wars: The Gathering

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 The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong.

US cover                                                              UK cover

Rea says: I have to admit that in this case I’m not particularly fond of the UK cover with the girl inside the girl. I like the imagery of nature with the forest and the birds, but overall the cover doesn’t really work for me. In contrast, I find that I am rather fond of the US cover, though I couldn’t say why the girl’s lips are so red! US for me.

Tara Says:  They are both pretty in different ways. The US one has a pretty girl on it and great colours, which make me think the book will be mysterious and good. The UK one is green and different. The girl inside the girl is a good and strange idea but that strange idea has made me go for the UK one.


Week 21:     US: 2     UK: 11     Draw: 7

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, 10 June 2012

The Wysard by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Buy the book: Amazon US

I wasn’t actually intending on reading this second book of the trilogy so soon after having finished the first, The Warlock. I found, however, the tantalising pull of Carin’s unsure fate to be too strong to resist and I put off my reading schedule for two days to allow myself to get caught up again in the world of Ladrahdin (I hope I spelt that right).

Title: The Wysard
Author: Deborah J. Lightfoot
Series: Waterspell #2
Publisher: Seven Rivers Publishing
Target Audience: YA?
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 444 pages

Story: After blundering into the last stronghold of magic, Carin discovers that she is right to fear the wizard Verek. He is using her to seal the ruptures in the void, and she may be nothing more to him than an expendable weapon. What will he do with her—or to her—when his world is again secure? Or has he erred in believing that the last bridge has been broken? The quest may not, in fact, be over … and Lord Verek may find himself not quite as willing to dispose of his fiery water-sylph, Carin, as he once believed himself to be.

Thoughts and impressions: In the prologue things pick up exactly where they left off at the end of the first book and the reader is afforded some answers to their questions. As of the first chapter, though, events jump forward a few weeks and the reader is fed any necessary information to paint a clear picture of what happened in that lost time mostly through dialogue.

In contrast to the first book, which was almost entirely in the stationary setting of the manor house, this second book sees the four characters (Verek, Lanse – his stable boy, Carin and the woodsprite) on a long journey through the dead of winter.  I enjoyed this new setting and the different dimensions that it gave t the characters. Myra, one of my favourite characters from the first book, was of course absent, but if I’m honest I think that this book probably profited as much from her absence as there was no temptation to allow things to get caught up in her endless inane prattlings. Besides, the woodsprite prattles as well and I’m not sure that more than one such character is really a good thing.

The Wysard felt more concise than The Warlock. The author certainly grew and it seemed to me that she had better control over what is necessary to weave a really intriguing fantasy tale in this one. I found myself more interested in events, though Carin’s inability to see past the end of her own nose when it came to the riddles she was trying to unravel was just infuriating. She latched onto all the wrong verses and completely ignored those that really drew parallels between the texts she was trying to understand.

The characters all grew in this book, each becoming more aware of certain shortcomings and repenting them. Both main characters had difficult choices to make that are like as not to come back to haunt them in the final book of the trilogy.

The promised romance does come to a head in this book but in such a way that the exploration of it has been left for the last book. I have to admit that I’m not entirely comfortable with the age difference between the two characters: Carin is in her mid-teens while Verek is in his mid-forties. It explained away by the fact that Verek is a wizard, wizards are long-lived and so it’s like Verek is only in his twenties… but he’s still lived for forty-odd years and Carin is still only little more than a child. Having Carin just a few years older at, say, 20 would have dispelled this discomfort, but at just 15 I couldn’t get over the feeling that she was just too young. Beyond this, I didn’t actually feel her feelings growing for Verek. She was still afraid of him fairly close to the end of the book, but then when she goes to save him she’s accepting of him kissing her without even questioning his actions. Verek I could sense, though, and I liked the slow evolution of him coming to terms with his feelings.

I’m not entirely sure where things are going to go in the next book, but I’m definitely interested in finding out!

Style: There are not as many lengthy, unnatural spiels of dialogue in this book, which I felt improved the style vastly. However, the author picked up a habit of opening sentences with the indirect object, though, which is something that I dislike in English.

Final verdict: A very interesting sequel that I felt improved on the first book. 4.5 stars

Extra notes: Some invented bad language. No sex.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Glimpse by Claire Merle

Buy the book: Amazon US ; Amazon UK ; Book Depository

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley.

I first came across this book quite some time ago. I admit that I found myself on the fence about it because of the concept of mental disabilities being genetically passed on from generation to generation.

Title: The Glimpse
Author: Claire Merle
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Target Audience: YA
Genre: Dystopia
Length: 432

Story: In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. 

When Jasper disappears, Ana sets off on his trail, determined to solve the mystery of his abduction. In doing so she journeys into the darkest corners of society, and uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she’s ever believed. 

Thoughts and impressions: First of all, a quick disclaimer: I read this book while I was ill with something that had me throwing up on a fairly frequent basis so I had to come and go from this book a lot. I suspect that this will have tampered with my overall understanding of events. Evidence of this is that even after having finished the book I have no clear idea of just what exactly a “glimpse” is or where it comes from!

When you start the book you soon discover that this future society classifies mental disabilities and that three in particular are called “the big three”, deemed to be worse than the others: schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. Now, while schizophrenia is undeniably a mental disorder, the other two are just part of everyday life. Who among us has never been depressed or anxious about something? I’d imagine no one. This in turn led me to believe that the whole mental health classification was just another way for the few to control the many, something that was soon backed up by revelations within the story.

This said, I find it hard to believe that just ten years or so from now, the population as a whole will swallow the information that they’re fed by those in charge about such a classification. Had it been fed to people a hundred years ago, then it would have been easier to accept, but nowadays I’d like to think that we’re too knowledgeable about such things for this to ever happen.

The story itself was a fairly good dystopian and the society presented was believable even if the way it came to power was on the far-fetched side. It was interesting to see this set in the UK as well as most of the dystopias that I read seem to be set in the US. Even though it was easy enough to unravel many of the mysteries – such as who took Jasper and why – well before the characters got that far, it was still interesting to watch them coming to the same conclusions as me.

I particularly enjoyed the stint in the loony bin. The insane were hospitalising and treating the supposedly insane in conditions that don’t even bear thinking about. Those were some powerful scenes that showed just how far society had really fallen and tested the characters the most. I personally considered them to be the highlight of the book. I would have actually been quite happy to read a whole book with such a setting!

The romance, though, did leave something to be desired. It got off to a good start but then the characters were split up and things evolved to such a point in absence that I wanted to have seen more interactions between them to support such strong feelings. I know they say that absence makes the heart grow stronger, but when I’m reading, I want to be able to observe the growing romance so that I can become invested in it myself as well. In this case, I wasn’t invested and didn’t particularly care which of the two romantic interests she ended up with.

The way that the book ends sets up the possibility of a second book, but I don’t know whether or not this will be continued. It would be interesting to see where things would go from here, though!

Style: I have nothing in particular to say about this style other than that it was nice to read it in my language! It was lovely to see things spelt as I would spell them.

Final verdict: This book was the reason why I introduced the half star system to my blog. I strongly feel that it is better than a 3 star read but not as good as a 4 star read. 3.5 stars

Extra notes: Some bad language. No sex.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Get A Taste: First Grave on the Right

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 59 for books
2% for ebooks

My book:

My stepmother was never big on the whole nuturing thing. I think she used up all the good stuff on my older sister, and by the time she got to me, she was fresh out of nurture. She did, however, give me one pertinent bit of 411. She was the one who informed me that I had the attention span of a gnat; only she said I had the attention span of a gnat with selective listening. At least I think that's what she said. I wasn't listening. Oh, and she told me that men want only one thing.

And on that note I must give praise and thanks to the powers that be. I don't want much else from them either.

 I've actually finished this book already. It was just the closest one at hand. I enjoyed it! It was good fun with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

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!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Target Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal / thriller
Length: 374 pages

Story: The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. 

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Thoughts and impressions: I’m all about things Jack the Ripper. Like many people, I share a sort of morbid fascination for these horrible crimes that were committed but never solved. So when this book came on to my radar as something playing with a present day re-enactment of the Ripper murders, I was intrigued. For some reason, though, I wasn’t sold and it took a long time before I gave in to the temptation to buy the book.

Now, though, I can honestly say that I shouldn’t have avoided it for so long. Or maybe it’s a good thing that I did as I’m now much more at ease with YA fiction than I was back when the book was first released. Nevertheless, this book is good! It’s a fascinating view of London’s dead, a gripping thriller that doesn’t lose itself in a soppy romance subplot or get embroiled in (too many) unnecessary details.

I say unnecessary details, but a lot of what I found unnecessary was probably an introduction to British culture. Here’s quite a lot of this, which I can well imagine as being of interest to readers who are not well acquainted with this culture. Being a Brit myself, of course, this isn’t really necessary for me. The author actually did very well at portraying our culture from an outsider point of view but there were a few general slip ups, such as the news on BBC1 being at 7 when really it’s the news at 6, and some vernacular slips, such as British people saying “have gotten” when we conjugate it as “have got”.

There was a little bit of a romance subplot present between Rory and Jerome, another of the students at the East End boarding school. It was fairly transparent that this was going to be built up as of the very first time that we meet Jerome, but I felt that it was well balanced within the context of the story. However, when Rory almost dies, she’s left with the ability to see ghosts and we’re eventually introduced to a number of other characters who also share this ability – one of whom, Stephen, turned out to be a very complex character and showed promise of becoming a potential romantic interest in the future. I certainly liked him better as a character than I did Jerome!

The ghosts themselves made for really enjoyable lore and I really connected with a couple of the dead characters. They were surpassed though by the characters with the ability to see them. Even though they come across as fairly shallow characters upon initial introduction, they all become very well-rounded, damaged people who were fascinating to read about.

Jazza deserves a mention as well. She was so sweet and supportive of Rory in her first few days at the school – the absolute perfect roommate. I loved her feud with Charlotte, the head girl, and how this would push her outside of her comfort zone, often egged on by Rory. I hope that she’ll be back in the next book!

Rory herself made for an interesting and original narrative voice. She’s spunky when it counts, strong when necessary and ready to make sacrifices in order to secure the safety of those she loves. I really enjoyed some of the anecdotes of her life in the Louisiana swamp that she tends to regale the reader with and how she draws parallels between these experiences and those of her new life in London’s East End.

And the ending? It was jaw-droppingly good! It leaves things in such a position that the author could take things just about anywhere in the second book and I’d read it just to find out what this will all mean for Rory. It’s definitely a series to keep your eye on. I’ll certainly be following it!

Style: I have nothing in particular to mention about the style. It was good and it drew me in. What more could I ask for?

Final verdict: I loved it, really enjoyed the book! Why did I avoid it for so long?! 4.5 stars

Extra notes: Some bad language. No sex.